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World’s largest cruise ship still at a premium

Waiting for prices to come down before booking Royal Caribbean’s much-ballyhooed Allure of the Seas? You could be waiting for some time.

A year after its debut, the 225,282-ton vessel and its slightly older sister, Oasis of the Seas — the world’s largest cruise ships — continue to command significant price premiums versus most other mass-market vessels sailing in the Caribbean, and industry watchers don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

“Unless Oasis and Allure start sailing at much lower capacity of filled berths, I don’t see a huge reduction in price,” says cruise seller Chuck Flagg, of The Flagg Agency, a Cruise Holidays franchise in Canton, Ga. “Because of supply and demand, they can command a premium.”

Flagg says that when it comes to pricing, Oasis and Allure remain in a class by themselves. “It is almost as if Royal Caribbean has a separate, two-ship cruise line.”

PHOTO TOUR:  A look inside Allure of the Seas
RELATED:  See cabins on Allure of the Seas

Indeed, the least expensive cabins on seven-night Allure and Oasis sailings in the Caribbean sometimes sell for 50% more than similar sailings on other Royal Caribbean ships. Allure of the Seas sailings to the Eastern Caribbean in July, for example, currently start at $1,369 per person, a 51% premium to the starting rates for similar sailings of Royal Caribbean’s smaller Freedom of the Seas.

The starting rates for Allure sailings in July are nearly twice as high as the starting rates for similar sailings on Carnival ships. Other than luxury vessels, only Disney’s new Disney Fantasy commands a similar price.

Nearly 50% larger than the next largest cruise ships, Allure and Oasis have wowed vacationers with their wide array of on-board eateries, shows and other activities, sparking positive word-of-mouth that is fueling demand, industry watchers say. The vessels boast such never-before-seen-at-sea features as an open-air “central park” with live trees and a family-friendly amusement area called Boardwalk, as well as four separate pool areas, rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, surfing simulators and a zip line. See photos of Allure of the Seas’ hottest features.

“Clients are coming back extremely pleased,” Flagg says. “Usually their only complaint is they couldn’t do everything in a week.”

The ships, quite simply, were a “home run,” says cruise seller Amber Blecker, of CruiseOne in Aurora, Colo. With so many new on-board options, they’re “appealing to people who Royal Caribbean hasn’t appealed to before.”

Before Allure and Oasis began sailing, many cruising regulars worried that the vessels would be too big and too crowded to enjoy — worries that have all but dissipated.

“The flow is remarkable,” Blecker says. “I have been on much smaller ships that have felt extraordinarily more crowded.”

Even during the evening rush when restaurants open for business and shows are in full swing, “the waits for elevators are very short (and) there are no lines,” Blecker says. “I feel like I have more room (on Oasis and Allure) than most other ships afloat.”

Blecker says she highly recommends Allure and Oasis, with a caveat. “I generally don’t suggest (the ships) to someone who says they really want to get away from everything,” she says. “They really are more for people looking to have activity on their vacation.”

Cruise Loggers, have you sailed on Allure or Oasis? Share your thoughts below.

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