I was one of the lucky travel agents that won the booking contest which gave us one night on this marvel of human engineering on November 19-20 before she goes into service for real on her inaugural voyage December 12, 2009. The new $75 million pier built exclusively for this event delivered. 60 agents got us on board pronto. The experience reminded me of black and white movies when people were riding in a car and the backdrop was pasted and cut into the scene. It felt like the Atlantic Ocean was pasted and cut into "some" scenes and that is the only way you could ever possibly know you were on a ship! It truly was a city unto itself. Upon arrival into the Royal Promenade, way bigger than any promenade on other classes of ships, you really felt the elegance and luxury that money can buy and knew you were in for a really really big treat! With a vintage boat tailed Auburn greeting you, followed by a dedicated cupcake shop, I was in no hurry to find my way to my cabin. One venue was more special than the next, for instance, Sorrento's Pizza now has a dedicate station so you can make your own pizza; On Air, the karaoke bar has layers of neon ticker tape motif at the entrance that makes you feel like a star the minute you walk in; Boleros lounge is designed to be hot and magical; Dazzles nightclub is exquisite with a two story view outside behind the bandstand that is breathtaking.
Ladies, what does over a billion dollars buy? Attention to detail for half the humans on the planet...Finally, in those bank teller canister shaped showers the expanded the shape and built in a bar so the ladies can have a ledge to shave their legs!
The suites were over the top incredible. I think my favorites were the Aqua Suites, only 6 on each side, facing the Aqua Theatre and ocean like private balcony booths at the opera with lots of room and chairs for friends. The two story suites were elegant and a unique experience. Although beautifully appointed, the balcony staterooms were smaller than freedom class ships. I love the new color scheme with aqua everywhere. The marble surrounding the carpet at the entrance to the three story dining room was an exquisite aqua color shimmering in a way I have never seen before. The dining room had great artwork and it was a thrill having dinner when no one had ever used a fork or spoon or glass in that dining room previously. All was pristine and the staff was so gracious. I thanked them for showing up for work today!
The specialty restaurants were surprisingly small. I take large groups on ships and with my Italian background, dinner with 20 is usual. They are not designed for groups at all, unless you are happy to be in the same dining room at the same time. Most tables were for two or four. 150 Central Park was elegant to die for, Chops Grille was very spacious, Giovanni's Table was quaint and I was flipping over the prosciutto slicing machine from Parma! They were not open for dining while we were on board, so I will have to wait until I take a week long trip January 2 with a few friends.
The Solarium Spa was beautiful and the whirlpools outside the most incredible I have ever seen. Huge double whirlpools, overlooking the ocean with flat screen TV's to relax with.
The gym...state of the art. Some machines looked they were from NASA...I have no idea what they are or how you use them, but you could get a private fitness consultation in two dedicated booths at any time. Vitality Spa? It's own restaurant and so zen sprinkled with aromatherapy you know no matter what service you get, you won't want to leave when it's over. Children and their families from Make A Wish Foundation were on board with us and a private concert for them by Rianna was wonderful. We watched from the Aqua Theatre on huge screens that did the job.
I don't know what the noise level would be in the balcony staterooms over the Boardwalk, but that is where the action is. The balconies over Central Park are the "uptown" staterooms and look over the specialty restaurants in quiet elegance. If you have been on Voyage or Freedom class ships, you would probably expect one long promenade..this had one on top of the other on top of the other. Rising Tide bar, a marvel of design; Technologically more advanced than even the Navy, near every elevator is a huge touch screen so you can see what is happening on the ship, where you are, how filled up the restaurants are, and it gives you directions to where you want to go.
I could go on and on, but that's enough for now!