The one problem with the design is that you can't get very close to the water unless you have an outside balcony. We felt like we were in a hotel; not on a ship. There are very few views of the water except on the 15-16 floors; way high above the ocean. We might as well have been in a hotel looking down on a beach. :(
One problem with this boat is that the elevator traffic in the middle of the ship is way overloaded due to the fact the Windjammer, Viking Lounge, Boardwalk, 3 main dining rooms, Guest Services, sports deck, and casino are all aligned with the mid-ship elevators. Poor traffic design. This could be mitigated somewhat if they install upgraded logic on the elevator firmware to keep them from bunching up. But there is a lot of mid-ship traffic due to the design.
There are definately some sound management issues that need to be re-engineered. The Champagne Bar and Schooner bar both open onto the Promenade. This means that the music in these three venues overlap and the ambiance is poor in the bars. Schooner and Champagne really could be walled off for better acoustics and ambiance. Similarly, the sound control between the Aqua Theater and the Boardwalk was not balanced. A few times, there was loud music playing mid-ship during the fountain show.
The food was very good. Great selection. Great value.
The crew was very helpful, nice, knowledgeable, and well intentioned.
The shopping guide (Jennifer) was awesome. We bought jewelry and she saved us a bundle. Kudos to Jennifer! DEFINATELY work closely with her if you plan to buy any significant jewelry. She negotiated our price down another 15% from their "best offer".
The entertainment was great. Hairspray, ice show, water show, acrobat show, comedy show ... all great.
Favorite quiet hangouts: Vintages, central park, solarium, park cafe.
However, there are some significant management issues. The fault is in the management, not the crew. Here are some things to watch for:
Avoid "My Time" dining if you eat late. There are not enough tables for the late seatings and the staff cannot move people through fast enough. We often waited 30-45 minutes for a table after 8pm. If you like to eat early (6-ish), you should be fine. If you like to eat late, then stick with the 8:30pm standard seating.
Avoid Chops. It is loud, crowded, and not the same service you would expect from a white tablecloth steakhouse. This is my third Chops experience on three different boats and FAR FAR worse than the other two. The steak was good. The side dishes were bland. The staff were aloof. The acoustics were horrible. We were seated 30 minutes late and then rushed through.
Giovanni's Table was good food but terrible atmosphere. The acoustics were horrible. It was loud and busy which distracted from the food. It is supposed to imitate a family style Italian restaurant, but it just doesn't work. It just seems unnecessarily crowded and loud; not very pleasant.
We had MAJOR delays getting off the ship. It took over an hour. Too many people bunched up after 8am. Baggage was a mess. They were not prepared to handle over 6000 guests. Try to get off early to avoid delays.
During the last day seating on the acrobat show they let a lot of people stand in the back of the theater which was very distracting and rude. Whatever crew member made this decision made a big mistake. Lots of people were upset...both the ones that found out they had to stand and the ones who had to sit and listen to all the distraction.
The Promenade was often over crowded in the evening and the Boardwalk was WAY under utilized. The back half of the ship was like a ghost town. What a shame. The views are great. The crew really should try to find more ways to pull more people back there.