Embarkation: We drove to Cape Liberty and parked in the port's parking lot for the duration of the cruise. A shuttle bus picked us up immediately and drove us to the terminal, where we were greeted warmly. We were checked in immediately - no lines and no waiting. We were again greeted warmly once we boarded the ship and were met with complimentary glasses of champagne. We were told that we could eat lunch or go to our cabin which was ready for us. We chose to walk around a bit first and our bags arrived shortly after us in our cabin.
The ship itself: We loved the size and scale of the ship. It was small enough that getting around the ship was very easy and getting back to the cabin from any point on the ship was quick and easy. And, although the size made for a warm and intimate feeling, we never felt crowded or at a loss for privacy. We were able to find a private spot whenever we chose to do so. The decor is one of understated elegance with traditional and contemporary elements nicely combined - lots of polished wood, warm velvets, teak, leather, and other elegant fabrics. We were relieved that there were no towers of glass/chrome/mirrors/garish colors which seem to be prevalent on some of the larger cruise ships. It was often too cold in the common areas on the ship and I was glad we brought sweaters. The pool was small and there are two small jacuzzi tubs in the pool area. There are plenty of deck chairs on the pool deck and the top deck as well. There is a jogging track around the deck above the pool. We very much appreciated the no smoking policy on the ship. Both the Looking Glass Lounge and the Library are very pretty spaces. The Library was supposed to turn into Michael's Club at night, but we stopped by there on several occasions in the evening and there was nothing going on there.
The cabin: We had an ocean view cabin with a large round porthole covering most of the outside wall. The cabin was small but not uncomfortably so. There was more than adequate storage for our things and we brought alot of clothes and accoutrements. The bedding was very lush and comfy - high thread count sheets and down duvet. The towels were very plush. The bathroom was tiny but we managed fine with it. There was a flat screen TV mounted on the wall showing a few channels.
The food: Overall, the food was very good to excellent, and the selection was fine. There were a few "misses" in Discoveries, the main dining room, a few soups that we did not enjoy come to mind. There were small pastries and tea sandwiches in the Cova Cafe available all the time and they were yummy. The coffee in the machines in the Windows Cafe far surpassed the quality of the coffee in the dining room. The beans are freshly ground with each cup. My husband made iced cappuccino's for us with the machines every day and they were out of this world. By the end of the trip, they had run out of cream, which was a problem for us and seemed an unnecessary slip-up. The same selection of bread, rolls, and bread sticks came with each meal in a bread basket. I would have preferred a little more variety in this area, but we really loved all the breakfast rolls and pastries available every morning in Windows, especially all the different flavors of croissants and the brioche was delicious. Smoked salmon was at breakfast every morning and it was delicious.
Beverages: We bought a bottle of wine with our meal at Aqualina and fell in love with the wine. We ordered it again the next night and were told that they had run out :( Alcoholic drinks were relatively generous and of good quality, but they were overpriced at $8 apiece. We felt that the coffee and tea at the Cova Cafe should have been complimentary, but these were all extra and a bit expensive as well.
Service: From the moment we boarded the ship until we left, we were consistently impressed with the gracious service we received. The ratio of crew to passengers is nicely high and the entire crew were sincere and attentive. We didn't see that much of our butler, but he was friendly and helpful, and our cabin was kept spotlessly clean. We received small surprises in our cabin every day like chocolate covered strawberries, canape's, chocolates, etc. We were especially impressed with Dominique, the Maitre'D who made us feel very special.
Entertainment: The musical and comedian entertainment was of professional caliber and enjoyable. The Cabaret where the shows and other events took place was a lovely space. We enjoyed the cooking demonstrations and enrichment lectures as well.
Specialty Restaurants: We ate at both Aqualina and Prime C. We enjoyed both, but preferred Aqualina. The foie gras appetizer at Aqualina was stellar and the steak fries at Prime C were addictive.
Open Seating: It worked out quite well for us. It was important to be able to be on our own schedule for this precious vacation time and it was nice not to be tied to the dining room at a particular time every night. We were seated immediately at a table for two (at our request) in every case but one when we were asked to come back in 1/2 hour.
Disembarkation: Everything went very smoothly. We disembarked in groups spaced about 15 min. apart. We went through customs in a minute w/no wait and then met our bags in the terminal and were taken to our car in the lot, again w/no wait.