Cape Liberty Cruise Port
I did not like it at all. While they have attempted to make it decent, and the check-in process itself was fine, it just comes across to me as a poorly-located, converted warehouse [which I realize that it is]. The location in NJ is fine, but the building being separated from the ship and requiring a shuttle just doesn't appeal to me. And disembarking, with the accompanying "sorrow", and going into that dingy warehouse for customs, luggage retrieval and transportation is a downer. I will say that Royal Caribbean grouped the luggage in small lots and made it very easy to find. And the In/Out traffic vying for space in that narrow roadway makes for a circus. A covered parking garage would also be nice. It would not stop me from cruising out of there again, but every other port I have cruised from is better, including Red Hook in Brooklyn. But don't miss the Teardrop Memorial if you sail from there.
I liked the ship a lot. The Promenade was appealing, I thought it was easy to navigate. Elevator service was pretty good. Windjammer, though crowded at the predictable times, was really fine. And seas were very smooth.
I have three complaints:
First, having the main level of The Palace Theater exit out into a small lobby that requires everyone to use the stairs or the elevator to go anywhere is poor - make that DUMB - design. And think about that on a CNE route, in September, when the average age was about 65 with many walkers and mobility scooters.
Second: Why would you have a Solarium on a ship used for cool weather routes that does NOT have a roof - retractable, or at least installed/removed by the ship's crew as indicated by the itinerary?
Third: Minor, but a nuisance - the elevator call button lights on the floors are hard to see if lit, and the floor indicators in the cars do not brighten enough to clearly show the current floor, or the bright light are burned out. This resuled in unnecessary confusion and delays with the elevators.
Cabin #7320 - Balcony on the hump, starboard
It was great! I am so glad I followed the recommendations on the CC Board to go with a hump cabin. QUIET; no noise from the elevator/stairs lobby. And considerate cabin neighbors. So convenient for the elevator/stairs to MDR directly below - we were on Deck 5, down 2 - or to the Windjammer, 4 decks directly up. And easy to get to the Promenade. My only complaint is that it felt a bit cramped, perhaps because my most recent cruise was in a MiniSuite on Island Princess. But I would choose it again in a minute. Great Cabin Steward.
We had early seating in the MDR. The table, for our party of 6 traveling together, was just great. top level [quietest], by the window, away from the waiter's station. Our TA requested upper level; I'd like to think that is why we got it. Food was fine. Not great, but 25% was excellent, 50% was very good, 15% was good, 10% I wish I had gotten something else [and could have, but didn't]. I think the quality overall is down a bit from years earlier, as many have observed, but I was satisfied, as were all of our traveling companions. Waiter was very good and Assistant was excellent, after a rough start on day 1 which resulted in a change of Assistant Waiters; that saved the day! Early seating was 5:30 on this itinerary; we would have preferred 6:00, but didn't want to change to Anytime.
Pretty predictable; nothing memorable. The ice show was good, especially considering that the ice was soft and wet - the skaters handled it well.
Park/Stay/Cruise at Hilton Garden Inn, Staten Island
This worked out very well for our 1-day pre-cruise stay. Drove in from upstate NY day prior, arrived about 2:30. The room wasn't ready [short-handed, they apologized], so we left our luggage with the desk and drove to the Staten Island Ferry with another couple; we did not use the hotel shuttle for the trip to/from the ferry, but could have. Within 1 hour, we were at Battery Park. I had obtained tickets to the WTC Memorial, just opened; it was magnificent and touching; a highlight of the trip. Followed with dinner in a local restaurant, back to the ferry and back to the hotel by 10. Next morning, we had reserved the shuttle for 11:00, got to the lobby at 10:50 and it was ready to go. On the ship by 12:15. Disembarkation, we had reserved 10:30, so had a leisurely breakfast in the MDR, went to the waiting area and were off at 10:35. Since the disembarkation was a little behind, the shuttle was also, so we had to wait until 11:00. But, all in all, worked out well. Car was safe and sound.