Originally, I had planned to do as you said and have all the labels be taken out of the map as opposed to floating above it. However, I soon came to realize that several of the labels wouldn't work that way, such as Weret Bay, Bay of Narliss, Eleryn Sea, Lisaris Ocean, the Dregnol, etc, because they would've had to be floating off of the steel. Since I am a fan of consistency and was going to end up making some floating labels anyways, I chose to make the concession to design all but the rivers as floating labels.
And to everyone else, thanks. It was never my intention to 'out-do' the first version of the map. In many ways I like the first version better as well, so I take no offense whatsoever to having the first version better liked, haha. This version simply fits better with my office decor. I'm taking it right after this to get printed. Once it's framed and hanging in my office, I'll take a pic to post up on here.
And fatherhood is amazing. I can't say enough about how wonderful it is.