Cruised with multigenerational family members. First time cruise for all.
The flight from Philadelphia to San Juan was unremarkable. We had a prepaid transfer to the cruise terminal. The traffic was very heavy so we decided not to venture out to Old San Juan after dropping off our luggage. We arrived at 1:30 and we were able to get into our room right away. We went to the oceanview cafe for lunch. Lots of selection of tasty food and reasonable variety from day to day. We mostly ate here for every breakfast and lunch. It was easy to find a place to sit, often by the window. The other passengers were very polite even when it was crowded. The ice cream was available here from about 11am for most of the day. They changed flavors (about 5) every day. Very yummy. There was a sandwich bar at lunch with really good chicken salad. Lots of different breads available. The other meats looked a little mysterious for my taste. The grill by the pool served hamburgers and hot dogs with fries. They were really good. There is coffee, iced tea, fruit punch and lemonade (no charge) always available either at the oceanview cafe or by the pool. The pool staff and bartenders were always around taking orders for drinks. They were available but not annoying. Always an abundance of towels poolside.
Ports...St Maarten..the port is Phillipsburg on the dutch side. We decided to take a taxi to Orient Beach. We had 6 people so we took our own van. When we arrived and saw that the water was rough, the driver asked if we'd like to try a cove where it would be more peaceful. He took us to Le Galion Beach, very close to Orient Beach. What a beautiful day. A group of locals and not too many cruise passengers. Chairs and umbrellas are available for rent at all the popular beaches. A note about finding a taxi. At each port, there is a guide putting your group on taxis or open air buses. Not sure if he is official but it seemed safer than the guy standing by himself asking if you need a ride. The fare is standard (about $7-8pp each way here) but we saw people negotiating. Our taxi driver came back to the beach to pick us up at the designated time. It's best to make arrangements with your driver although most times there were taxis/buses waiting to take cruise passengers back throughout the day. We were very happy using taxis instead of booking excursions for a tour which was similar. If you would like to enjoy the beaches, this is a great way to save money.
St Thomas..went to Coki Beach...great snorkeling...we brought our own gear but you can rent at the beach. $9 taxi ride pp each way.
Tortola..beautiful island..very peaceful. We went to Cane Garden Bay. Lots of people but it was fine. The ride to the beach had steep hills but it was very scenic. I tried the drink called the painkiller. Not impressed. The nutmeg was very overpowering.
Bermuda..we went to Horseshoe Bay. Just incredible. We bought a bus pass and enjoyed the scenery. We went to Gibbs lighthouse, very quick bus ride to Horseshoe Bay, where you can view part of the island from a higher elevation. The next day we took the ferry to Hamilton. Probably would skip it and go to St. George if I had to do it again. The shopping isn't all that exciting.
Other observations about the trip...the shows were all very entertaining. There could have been more activities during the day where they weren't trying to sell you something. The family feud game in the lounge was a wii game where we basically watched 2 people play. Dancing with the stripes and the newlywed game were really funny. The band at the pool was very good. It was amusing how they promoted events with the captain. I'd rather that he steer the ship and not have dinner and take pictures with the passengers. Not sure how he became such a celebrity. The Cosmopolitan restaurant (main dining room) was fabulous. The staff works very hard and the food was so good. The portions were standard restaurant size but you can alter the size to try more than one entree. The inside room was adequate but one couple in our group had a balcony which was very nice too (but $500pp more). The ship is really nice and never seemed crowded. Great vacation!