Sunday was the first formal night and everyone participated enthusiastically. There was a champagne reception on the Promenade which was lovely and provided an excuse for all to promenade in their finery. Most all the ladies were in nice dresses and gowns. Lots of tuxes. The second formal night, on Wednesday, was largely unobserved. There were a very few tuxes. But most everyone treated this night as any other night in the dining room.
Photographers were everywhere with painted backgrounds or with attractive ship features providing a backdrop. But the location of setup/posing for shots and the lines to be photographed created unreasonable congestion. It's a well designed ship; easy to get around. But sometimes you had to get creative to find a path that didn't provoke "Excuse me, we're taking photos here!" (say with affronted entitlement to personal ship space).
19 bars. We did not go to all of them. It seemed that most of them allowed smoking so we preferred to sit in the outlying areas and rely on the servers to let us know what was available. On the first day the waitress listed the following: Bud, Coors, Heineken, Corona, and Guinness. So, although we normally enjoy relaxing with a beer in the evening, we did not frequent the bars. At 11pm on Friday evening (!) we discovered that they do have a wider selection (including Sam Adams, etc) but the waitress didn't think it was important.
Vintages Wine Bar. This bar is sponsored by Mondavi. So that is pretty much all they serve. The bar has a Caymus crate and a Jordan magnum out front, but they do not serve these wines at this bar (rather misleading we thought). We did hear that the Champagne bar was serving Caymus by the glass. So that might be a better place to sip. The main dining room also has a nice list.
A comment on tipping. I took a stack of $2 bills and rolls of shiny new $1 coins for incidental tipping. The coins did not work out well. In Grand Cayman we were told that US coin was not negotiable. We don't know if it was really worthless or if taking the coin to the bank was not convenient.
Stateroom We had a D(1 or 2, I can't remember) Superior Balcony room. Our room was great. We loved having a balcony. The room had lots of storage. The bed was very comfortable.
Dining We did not have high expectations for the Windjammer buffet. So we were very impressed with the variety and quality of food at the buffet. We had higher expectations of the Dining Room. It seemed to us that the Dining Room would offer higher quality food than the buffet. That taking the trouble to dress nicely and appear at the appointed time for seated dinner would be rewarded with better food. But frequently the exact same dishes were offered at both venues. In fact we took to previewing dinner options by walking through the Windjammer before our second-seating dinner. So that was disappointing. Our waiter, Ayden from Turkey, was great and brought us the best selections in addition to what we had actually ordered! He filled our table with every dessert every night. And our assigned table companions were delightful.
Chops was delish and our best meal onboard. It was well worth the surcharge. Their wine list is more selective than the one in the main dining room. They offer Opus1 and Sutter Home (as an example of extremes). But if you want something in the middle you may have to request a specific bottle from the Dining Room. Portofino was good too.
We did go to open seating in the Dining Room for breakfast once. We were seated with 2 couples from Texas that talked politics (!) and opined on how no one should ride a motorcycle due to safety issues. Maybe if I'd advertised my screen name they'd have gotten the hint that their comments did not have a receptive audience. But I doubt it. We didn't even finish our food. And we didn't go back.
Entertainment Most of the production shows were high quality and entertaining. The performers are quite talented. However, although they appear to be singing most of the time, I don't believe they were actually singing everything. Maybe the barbershop set but the Swingle singers set must have involved significant recorded vocal backup.
The Liberty of the Seas orchestra was very very good.
The "Somewhere in Time" show could be subtitled "As if this would ever happen in any time". I'm as much a fan as any girl of "Rock me Amadeus" but the faux-Mozart set was oddly disturbing. Other sets in this show were delightful in their incongruency.
The "Ever After" show is well planned and executed. It is a retelling of common fairytales with popular songs. This is a fun show for all ages. I think it was this show that culminated with a finale of "I just wanna RUN 'N' dance". Well, the vowel sounds are correct. And I understand that, with a family audience, changes would be necessary when performing a selection from The Jerry Springer Opera. I like the opera, the song, and the show. But I'm still trying to figure out why the writers chose this song for the finale.
The "In the Air" show contained some really cool concepts with suspended hoops and acrobatics. The show could have been a really great 10 minutes, because that is about when their repertoire of acrobatic stunts was exhausted. Unfortunately the show was about an hour long. (It felt like longer.)
The ice show is very impressive. Not to be missed. The guest acrobats, Laeticia & Artur are amazing.
Comedians Darrell Joyce was very funny both in the family show and the adult late night show. We were sorry he left the cruise mid-week.
Scott Record's impressions were fairly amusing. And, since I have no tap dance talent, I do appreciate any level of ability in others. But he should really cut the serious singing bit. It doesn't work.
John Ferrentino entertained us for the final 2 shows. He is very droll, laid-back, and funny. We enjoyed both his shows.
Spa I had a hot rock massage. It was pleasant but not what I needed (which would have been an elbow ground mercilessly into my hip). Yes it was overpriced, $193 + tip. But I would have been fine with the price if it had been a good massage. Also, FYI, apparently you are supposed to dress following the massage without removing any of the oils with which you have been coated.
Activities I took a yoga class which was great. And a Stretch and Relaxation class while the teacher yelled across the gym to other teachers/friends/etc. Not so relaxing.
DH loved the FlowRider. Advice: Do this early in the week. The water is visibly disgusting by the end of the week. We both tried the rock climbing. I used the gym. It's busy early in the week and I had to show a "fakationer" how to operate a treadmill. The equipment is very nice and new. But some machines do not adjust to a smaller frame, ie. not a man.
Ports of Call and Excursions We did the AM excursion to Malfini Beach at Labadee. It was idyllic. It was quiet, clean, and the snorkeling was beautiful. We were loathe to return to the main beach when our time was up. If we ever go back to Labadee we will purchase both AM and PM Malfini excursions.
In Jamaica we did the Canopy tour. First we were driven out to a remote compound in the jungle. The tour leader, Keifa (?), welcomed us and gave us instructions. We couldn't understand a word he said, which seemed to please him. I'm sure I wasn't the only one questioning whether I could trust this guy with my belay, my life. Then the group was split and we were led by two very capable young men (not Keifa). The zip lines are always double strung and safety measures were impressive. This is a very fun excursion.
In Grand Cayman and in Cozumel we went on scuba diving tours.