Embarkation at Baltimore was flawless - we dropped our large suitcases off at curbside (we carried aboard our meds and a change of clothes, including winter jackets), check-in was quick and efficient, and we checked into our Large Oceanview Stateroom ("large" appears to be a misnomer - despite paying a premium price, our cabin was just as big as the regualr Oceanview Stateroom down the hall - the only difference being that our cabin has a third and fourth berth, which made our stateroom seem all the more smaller).
We headed to the grill for departure - we sailed past the historic Fort McHenry (with her flag still flying) and under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at sunset. That evening, a slight swell rocking us to sleep indicated we had exited Chesapeake Bay and entered the Atlantic.
The next morning was a sea day and we had breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. Although the setting offered a scenic view forward, there were far too few seats and tables for a ship carrying over 2200 passengers, especially on a sea day when everybody is onboard and the vast majority plans on taking their breakfasts at 9 am - despite the efficient staff's efforts to clear tables as soon as possible. The same phenomenon happened at lunch, where the Windjammer and the restaurant were the only venues available for people who wanted to eat at noon. It wasn't until halfway through the cruise and numerous complaints that the staff opened up a hidden overflow seating area aft of the Windjammer.
Although the ship was extended in 2005 to add 151 mid-ship cabins, the dining areas didn't receive a commensurate expansion in capacity, nor did the main showroom. The seats for both evening shows filled up thirty minutes before showtime, so if you wanted to take advantage of the ship's headliners, you had to subject yourself to a half-hour of vigorous pull-tab sales. Even the late-nite adults-only comedy show was packed to the gills, but then again, this was not a port-intensive cruise with 6 am shore excursion calls.
Heavy winds prevented the use of the rock-climbing wall and trampoline while the ship was at sea, which constituted over half the cruise, and on the days the ship was in port, we'd rather spend our time ashore than doing activities we could do at home, like climbing walls and jumping on a trampoline. We took full advantage of the Adventure Ocean kid's center, whose staff did an outstanding job of keeping the kids occupied with various scheduled activities during all hours of the day - one night they dressed the kids as pirates and led them through the ship chanting pirate slogans. Although RCL claimed the indoor Solarium pool would be open to kids on sea days when weather caused the Splash Pool to be closed, it remained adults-only for the duration of the cruise.
The restaurant and housekeeping staff couldn't have been more helpful (with the exception of the Windjammer management who kept the overflow area locked up) and the food in the main dining room and specialty restaurant met our expectations. Our only complaint about the food was its availability after 9 pm. The only food available on the 990-foot ship (besides waiting for room service) was the tiny little "cafe" at the very back of the ship, tucked away in the rear corner of the solarium. The cafe's sparse selections were limited to warmed-over pizza, leaden hot dogs, and uneaten desserts from the dining room. On the bright side, however, it's a strategic way to avoid the complaint of gaining weight on a cruise.
Despite these minor inconveniences, the cruise offered a rewarding and relaxing final boost of sunshine before winter set in, and we dreaded the mid-way point in the cruise where we began counting down the hours before we returned home.