First, we would like to thank previous reviewers for their helpful advice. We found their observations regarding the ship and its crew to be very accurate. There truly is only ONE outlet in the entire stateroom; this is not a dual outlet, mind you, but a single AC outlet, so plan accordingly by charging your devices on a rotating schedule, or bring a small power strip. We also found that the air conditioning was inadequate. The cooling unit was working, but the amount of air stream and coolness was not enough to cool the stateroom on days when it was above 85 degrees outside. The public areas were always comfortable, but the stateroom was unavoidable when it came time to sleep! Most nights, I would go to sleep with no covers on, then find myself waking @3am when the temp finally dropped to necessitate some light covering. We were extremely lucky that outside heat and humidity conditions were ideal throughout our trip; had it been much warmer or more humid, we would have been miserable all night long. When this ship goes in for remodeling next year, I hope this ventilation issue is addressed.
We agree also with others that this ship is showing some signs of wear and tear, but not so much as to detract from its overall elegance. The stateroom bathroom showed the most wear, especially the basin, which showed crazing and cracking of the finish. Our toilet functioned well as long as we were careful not to put too much paper in it at one time. We overheard other passengers complaining about their toilets backing up and spilling; this seemed to be a system issue that worsened in the final days of the cruise. Aside from these potentially serious issues (again, we were lucky with the weather and very careful with the toilet), we found the entire cruise experience to be very positive.
A key advantage to the size of this ship is that it can clear under all the bridges necessary to reach Montreal. I learned from a tour guide in Quebec that most cruise ships must terminate in Quebec City because they are too tall. At 719 feet and 12 decks, this small ship maneuvered well into and out of each port, ducking under low bridges and steering in between bridge pillars. The captain and crew needed to stay attentive to achieve this, plus, navigate the St. Lawrence as it narrowed into shipping lanes. With a total of 1200 passengers, it was possible to meet up with people that you had met and conversed with earlier, thus making for a familiar friendly atmosphere.
All the public areas seemed plenty spacious enough, so we never felt crowded, with two notable exceptions. One was the piano bar. Thanks to a very gifted pianist, this bar was a real hit. It is walled off in the middle of the ship, with no windows. It is the smallest bar, and many people who wanted to sit in there found that there simply wasn't room. The other space allocation issue I would raise was that the Casino area "spilled over" into the central concourse of deck 8, upper promenade. The upper promenade is the most elegant of all decks, with big picture windows, a classy library, well appointed coffee bar, some shops, the stately explorations lounge where the string quartet would play, the upscale dining restaurant, and the upper levels of the live theatre and formal dining room. All these areas are beautifully appointed, but the whole atmosphere is somewhat cheapened with the presence (and noise) of the Casino area clearly having been extended beyond its originally intended boundary. The Casino area was much more properly situated on the slightly larger Zaandam that we took on our Alaska cruise in August of 2006.
Lest I sound too negative, please let me emphasize that this was a wonderful experience that I would recommend to others and do again myself. Among the positives: our stateroom was compact, but large enough for all four of us to reside at night and to have in room breakfast. The beds and linens were very comfortable. The staff was ALWAYS attentive and courteous. The ports of call were interesting, and there were plenty of on board activities. My wife and daughter signed up for a culinary class for a fee of $29 each. They both really enjoyed and learned from the experience, and felt this was well worth the price, which also includes a subscription to food and wine magazine. Another good "investment" for us was purchasing a wine card on the day of embarkation. My wife and kids don't drink, but I like a glass of wine with dinner. Purchased separately, each glass of house wine would have cost about $7, but with a 10 glass wine card that cost $41, each glass cost just $4. This was enough to have a glass with each dinner, plus a couple more as an occasional aperitif.