We did the Atlantis Aquaventure, which cost a fortune but was a great day. Choosing the Aquaventure excursion gave us access to the entire water park, including the fantastic water slides and lazy river/rapids. Our 12-year-old daughter and our 15-year-old son and his friend had a blast! We left the ship at around 12:15, got to the park at around 1:00 and had several hours until the last shuttle bus back to the ship at 6:00, which was plenty of time to do everything. We had stayed at the Atlantis a few years ago and were familiar with the property, so it wasn't as overwhelming as it might have been if it had been our first time there. Towels are provided at the Atlantis, but no food or drink is included, so you need to bring cash. We also needed to bring our passports. Being afraid to leave passports and cash unattended, we had to take turns swimming and doing the slides and rapids/lazy river, which was tough because it was a sweltering hot day and the only free lounge chairs we could find were in the sun. One other thing I'll mention is that the entire water park is very slippery. Everyone is wearing a ton of sunscreen, then they get wet and the sunscreen runs off leaving every surface super slick. Toward the end of the day, my daughter slipped, her feet went out from under her and she hit the back of her head on the concrete. I brought her to the nurse on the property, who gave her an ice pack and described concussion symptoms to watch out for. Thank God she was ok, but it was very scary. Not the Atlantis' fault but definitely something to be aware of if you go!
We did the Afternoon Beach Bash excursion through NCL and it was fine. You get on a big bus and take a somewhat harrowing drive to Orient Bay beach resort. Your fee includes a cushioned lounge chair on the beach. You have to bring your own towel from the ship (and ride home on the bus with a big wet towel) and you can pay $3 for a beach umbrella (we got 2). The beach was very pretty with white sand and warm water, but there were substantial waves, which was fine for me, my husband, and our pre-teen and teens, but our friends and their preschool age sons stayed close to shore and built sandcastles. There was a little bar set up with fruit punch and rum punch, which were included in the excursion fee. You could also sit at the resort's bar and order beer or mixed drinks on your own dime. No food was included. Clothing is optional at St. Maarten's beaches, but everyone from the Norwegian ship was wearing a bathing suit, with the exception of one woman who took her top off.
We did the St. John Champagne Catamaran Snorkel & Sail and it was a great day. We boarded open bench buses and took a long ride to the marina. I was surprised at the poverty, even at the marina. I've never seen so many boats in such sad condition. The catamaran used for the excursion was in excellent condition, though. The crew members were friendly and professional. It was a hot day and they served plenty of cold water as soon as we boarded. Champagne, rum punch, and juice were included, but I was thrilled that they had water available. Sailing from St. Thomas to St. John gave us a scenic tour of both islands and some smaller nearby islands. The crew members shared island history, points of interest, and their personal experiences of living on the islands. We anchored at Honeymoon Beach, which was picture perfect with white sands and palm trees. It was like something you dream about. The crew provided each of us with flippers, a mask, a snorkel, and a flotation vest that you had the option of blowing up or wearing flat. You're anchored in 30 feet of water and can go right off the ladder, but a few people preferred to be brought to shore on a little inflatable boat. The snorkeling was pretty good. My son and his friends saw some lobsters and we all saw big turtles and plenty of fish. On the return trip home, the crew provided fresh bread, cheese and fruit, along with the drinks. One thing I will mention is that everyone is pushing for a tip, including both bus drivers and the crew. A crew member told us that the majority of their income is from tips and that 15-20% of your excursion cost is appropriate. That would have been $40-$45 for our party of 5, plus additional tips for the bus drivers and I definitely hadn't brought that much cash. They did a nice job and deserved a tip, but I would have preferred to have it factored into the cost of the excursion rather than finding out on the boat when I think I'd only brought $20!