My wife and I were making our annual visit to family in the UK, and this year decided on a leisurely return trip rather than our usual flight home. We had used frequent flier miles for our business class flight over so the comfortable sail home seemed an ideal way to wind up the visit. We used a car service from Barnet (just north of London) to the port, arriving at about 11:00 AM. After a few minutes wait, and a well-organized check-in process, we were on the ship before noon, and were delighted to find our cabin available (often not the case with other lines). Our bags wre delivered before 1:00PM, and we went to Kings Court for a light lunch. Altogether, the embarkation process was about the best we have experienced.
CABIN: We had a through-the-hull verandah, not quite as attractive as the usual (with a plexiglass barrier which lets in more light) but it had ample space and allowed us to be "on deck" while enjoying the privacy of our cabin. The cabin was spacious and well laid out, with ample storage space and a comfortable bed. Our cabin steward was very efficient and helpful.
DINING: We had early seating (6:00 PM)with three delightful couples (we always choose a large table and traditioal dining). The selections were good, the food was served hot and reasonably promptly. Our waiter seemed distant and did not appear to enjoy her work -- but provided good service. The wine steward was competent but seemed overwhelmed - it took too long for requested wines to come to the table. The only negative was that there was not the standard alternative dishes which most other lines seem to make available if the day'smenu does not entice.
ENTERTAINMENT/ENRICHMENT: These were far superior than any experienced on other lines. There were interesting lectures, planetariium shows, and evening entertainment of Broadway-quality. The library/bookstore was marvelous. There were many public rooms - for various purposes, with ample space.
NEGATIVES: The Kings Court buffet was a confusing maze of stations strung out for a long distance, with small, separated ares where tables were somewhat crowded together. It was a challenge to find out what the selections were, to get ones food, and to find a comfortable spot to enjjoy it. This is one area which should be re-thought. One small, curious thing, experienced in a number of areas were the soft spots in the deck -- in many spots as one walked it seemed that there was no deck under the carpet -- your foot just sank in - so much at times that you almost stumbled -- it may have been deteriorated under-matting, but in some places your foot wood sink in inch or more - almost as though the carpet was over an open hole in the deck below.
DEBRKATION: THis was handled very well - with groups, essentially by decks, were assigned particular areas - with ample seating - to await their turns to leave the ship.
OVERALL: A beautiful ship, a bit over-formal for my preference, with four formal nights in the week -- but still far preferable to the fast-food atmosphere experienced on some other lines, which I will leave nameless, and an experience I hope to enjoy several times in the future as I cross to England on a regular basis and now find myself with sufficient time to spend seven days rather than seven hours in the process.