We were two families and all first time cruisers. Our children ranged from 6-17. We arranged to stay at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale and take the charter bus to the port. The hotel was nice with pool, hot tub and sauna. There were plenty of restaurants and stores (even a dive shop) nearby for last minute items.
The bus was an hour late picking us up. This lead to our late arrival at the port. We were through the boarding process in about a half an hour. We were rushed to get to the Windjammer buffet and eat before the muster drill. We dined during the second seating and met our wonderful waitress. Bettina was great with the children and had a trick or challenge each night for them.
The second day was at sea all day. It was cloudy, windy and raining. The ship was tossing enough to have the pools drained and the deck was empty. Some "seasoned" cruisers said it was the worst they had seen. Below deck it was not bad and sleeping was not a problem. Day three was San Juan. We did the Barcardi and fort trip, which was fun. The fort was closed so we ended up shopping in old San Juan. I filled out a form and RC was great about refunding half our money since the fort was closed. Next stop was Saint Martin. This was our favorite port by far. We did the full day tour. The bus was fairly new with AC and was clean. The second part was a catamaran ride around the bay to Marigot. The boat was clean, stable and drinks were served. We celebrated my sons 17th birthday in Marigot. We had lunch at the Tropicana restaurant. The Tropicana is near the dock and overlooks the bay. I can not recommend this small French restaurant enough; it was moderately priced and served great French food. The open air market was hard to find but had a great assortment of local vendors. The bus then takes you to Pinnell isle for snorkeling. This was great. Equipment was provided and guides swim out with you and feed the fish. There was no food or drink on the island and no place to change until we returned to the ship after a 45 minute ride. This was a great day!
In St Thomas my son and went on a SCUBA diving trip with underwater safaris. The staff was great and the equipment was in new condition. We dove in turtle bay on Buck Island. The two dives were disappointing. They could easily been combined into one since the boat was not moved in between dives max depth was 52'. It may be because the discover diving class was on board and they dove off the same boat in different groups. The bay was crowded to the point we had to swim through a group of BOBS. This dive was not worth the money. At night we watched a "Beatles" concert that was fun. The next day was at sea on the way to Nassau. Poolside chairs were all "saved" by 8:00 and above deck chairs were gone by 10:00. We spent another day with Jimmie playing BINGO. This is a lot of fun and the bingo crew does a great job. We also watched a wonderful ice skating show before dinner.
We arrived in Nassau and went on another SCUBA trip. This time we were with Nassau Dive Center. We took a 35 minute bus ride to the dive shop. The ride went by quickly and allowed us to see some great beach views. When we arrived, the dive center was OK with used but, well maintained equipment. We were asked what we wanted to see. Mark from the dive shop yelled out, "SHARKS We want to see sharks!" So we tied up out by a wall and dove down to about 90'. We spent most of the dive swimming with 15-24 black tip sharks. It was great. Our guide insisted upon a strong buddy system and a mandatory safety stop. The second dive was in search of spotted eagle rays. We did not find any but, did visit a sunken airplane. We raced back to the ship and were the last to board. This was a great dive! Nassau looked a bit rough and crowded.
This was our last formal dinner night and Bettina was her typical great self. Our drink waiter was "Doctor Feelgood". He did a great job and always delivered our drinks with style. We used the tip envelopes and added where we felt it was appropriate. We disembarked easily. We would cruise with RC again.
Here are some tips we learned. Bring Ziplocs for snacks in your room. We had no outlets in our bathroom. Bring a 8' extension cord. Bring "Crystal light" and some 1 liter Nalgene bottles. Although you can't bring big liquor bottles back on board, cordials are OK. We used Barcadi cordials and coke for drinks in our room. On board shopping is as good as anything on shore. Bon Voyage!