First let me say this was my first cruise. It was my wife and I, plus our 6 year old son. I have been to Sandals, St. Lucia and Beaches, Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean before.
We flew into San Juan the day before the cruise and stayed at the Caribe Hilton. I'd say the Caribe Hilton is pretty much ideal for a pre-cruise hotel with its pools and bay and proximity to Old San Juan and the port.
On the first cruise day morning, we checked out Castillo San Felipe del Morro. It is a must see. We left the hotel at about 3pm for the port. It took us about 45 minutes to get onto the ship. Lines were not long at all. Our cabin was 9558. It is an ocean view cabin with a balcony. The cabin had a sofa that converted to a bed for our son. The room was in absolutely great shape. I have rarely seen a hotel room in as good a shape as the room was in. The room was extremely quiet.
For breakfast every day we did the windjammer. It had an OK selection for breakfast, nothing extraordinary. I found it obscene that they charged for fresh squeezed orange juice. We hit the windjammer for lunch on two of the afternoons and it had a very good selection of food.
The second cruise day was a sea day on the way to Grenada. We did the Portofino pasta demonstration lunch and hung out at the pool most of the day. The pool is ridiculously small. Formal night was on this night.
At Grenada we took a water taxi to Grand Anse Beach and hung out for the entire day. It is a very beautiful beach, but we were swarmed at first by chair and umbrella vendors. Once we settled down and picked a vendor, they left us alone and got drinks and food for us with no problem. At the end of the day, we took the water taxi back to the ship.
At St. Lucia, we had already been there years ago, so we just took a taxi to Rodney Bay and hung out at Spinnakers restaurant for drinks and lunch. Then we took the same taxi back to Mourne Fortune to overlook the ships in Castries. Then the ship took us back to Castries.
At Antigua, we took the Excellence catamaran tour around the island, it was awesome. You snorkeled and had lunch at Green Island and then also stopped at Ffryes beach on the way back. My son was able to snorkel here with no problem. There were about 150 people on-board, but there was plenty of room. We didn't step foot in town.
At St. Croix, we took a taxi over to Christiansted and then got on the all day sail to Buck Island with Big Beard's Renegade catamaran. I highly recommend this excursion. The sail to Buck Island was about an hour and then you stopped on turtle beach for a while to enjoy the awesome white beach. Then we sailed over to the reef and they guided you snorkeling for about 15 minutes and then let you snorkel as much as you wanted for an hour or so. My son did snorkel here, but was scared of the coral, and only did the 15 minutes. I snorkeled for another 45 minutes or so here and saw schools of blue tangs and some barracudas among many other fish. It is the best snorkeling I have ever done. After snorkeling, we sailed back to a beach on the main island where they have a barbecue setup for burgers, hot dogs, fish, chips, drinks and my son was able to play on the beach and in the water some more. After sailing back to the dock, we caught a taxi back to the ship.
At St. Thomas, we just did a small amount of shopping and then took a tour of the island with just the three of us on a giant open sided tour vehicle. The tour was about two hours and he took us to breathtaking views of the island. What a beautiful island.
Dining: We did My Time Dining, but that was kind of pointless, because we ended up eating at 6:15pm every day except for the first day. We had the same waiter and table every day anyway. The food was of excellent variety with choices of about six appetizers and six entrees every day with no repetition between days. The food was of good quality with some excellent thrown in, but I felt food at Sandals and Beaches was of higher quality. Certainly any decent restaurant in the US has better food than was provided on the ship.
Drinks: It is absolutely silly that you have to pay for sodas and other juice drinks. Beer selection was OK, for non-craft beer. The mixed drinks were of OK quality. We did do a 7 bottle wine package, but maybe that saved us $20 in total. I wouldn't do a wine package again, and that would free us up for the whole wine menu.
Photography: We paid $250 and that allowed us to get all of our professional photos for the cruise. I had a stack of nearly 100 8x10's of excellent quality. I thought this was a good value.
Conclusion: This was an excellent trip to get a sample of many islands. I think it was a bit hectic of a schedule for a vacation. The ship was of excellent size for cruising. Not too big, not too small. Very little to do on-board as compared to bigger ships, but that didn't matter, since most of the days we were out exploring. For my family, the total costs of the vacation ended up being a little more than an all-inclusive resort for 7 days. Certainly, you can save money by picking an inside cabin, not drinking, and not doing any excursions, but what is the fun in that. Frankly I'm not sure how you could sail without a balcony. I loved listening to the waves as we slept with the door cracked open at night. In the end, I prefer a nice Caribbean resort with gigantic pools and excellent restaurants over cruising. We will cruise again, but only to sample other islands we haven't been to. I would have no problem sailing with Royal Caribbean whenever we do sail again though.