(First, let me say that this was our first cruise, so we have no point of reference with any other cruise line or ship.)
Embarkation: We flew in to Orlando 2 days early and stayed with friends who drove us to the port so we didn't get there until 2:00 which made boarding very easy because the line was short and we were able to go straight to our cabin without waiting like those who come really early.
Nassau, Bahamas: We did the Dolphin Swim at Blue Lagoon Island excursion. Although it is quite expensive, I recommend it to anyone who likes dolphins. Everyone at Dolphin Experience was extremely nice and although there were quite a few people on the ferry ride out there, there split you up in to groups of 8 to go in the water with 2 dolphins per group. So you get plenty of time to pet and play with the dolphins. And being pushed 100 feet at 25 mph by 2 dolphins is a pretty awesome experience!
St. Thomas: We did the Sea Blaster Snorkeling excursion here because some friends of ours did it and had a blast. The Sea Blaster is a good sized (it has 2 bathrooms and seats about 40) speed boat and the crew tries their darndest to soak everybody on the trip out to St. John for snorkeling! The people in the front of the boat had their masks on they were getting sprayed so much - fun rise. The snorkeling in a cove at St. John was good but I was hoping for more brightly colored fish. On the ride back there was PLENTY of very good rum punch!! OK, maybe TOO much rum punch! :)
St. Maarten: We did our own excursion here. We walked off the ship and went to the rental car places right at the pier. Rented a Jeep Wrangler from a very nice guy at Avis. (When he found out we were from Colorado he said he has always wanted to go there to see the mountains and snow and try snow boarding - he has never felt temperature below 60 degrees which just blew us away!) We drove to the French side of the island and went to Loterie Farms (http://www.loteriefarm.net/) to do the Fly Zone. This is a combination obstacle course and zip line set up in the trees near the top of the mountain. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend this to anyone looking for something different to do in the Caribbean!! My wife (40), son (16), and daughter (14) all have issues with heights, but even they had an awesome time. They also have an Extreme course with zip lines over 200 feet long and 100 feet off the ground, but we stuck with the regular course due to the previously mentioned height issues. Everyone was nice and helpful here, even in dealing with a lady in the group ahead of us who seemed to be petrified of heights. Then we took a drive around the other side of the island (so we circled most of the island) to see the sights followed by a quick stop at the beach to walk in the white sand and see the blue water up close.
Food: We had an awesome waiter who brought us extra food every night - either an extra appetizer, entree, or desert each night. He was always in a great mood, cracking jokes and having as much fun as we were. The food was great. The buffet for breakfast & lunch was good also with only short lines each day. The pizzeria (at midnight many nights) was very good as well.
Days At Sea: we played min golf, ping pong (a little tough outside in the wind, should be inside!) volleyball, did a free throw contest (I made final 10), went on the water slide, and laid out by the pool. (I'm the tannest I have been since high school and college when I went to the beach once or twice a week all summer long!)
Entertainment: If you are going to go to the shows in the Amber Palace go at least a half hour early as it does not hold anywhere near the number of people that the ship holds and most of the shows were only once per night - they really should have 2 showings!! The comedians were great and the magic shows were pretty good. Dancing - not so much! The late night, R-rated comedy shows were even better! We did a lot of the red/white/blue team challenges and helped our white team win for the week.
Disembark: We were number 22 to get off since we had an afternoon flight so we had plenty of time to get breakfast and take a few last minute pictures around the ship. Getting off the ship and through customs wasn't too bad and we didn't have to wait too long to get our luggage. We caught a Budget shuttle to their rental car place in Cocoa Beach and had some time to go to the Cocoa Beach Surf Shop (to see their large aquarium with sharks) and the World Famous Ron Jon Surf Shop! Renting a car is definitely the way to get to and from the airport - about $30 each way as opposed to $30 per person each way ($120 each way for our family of 4) for a Carnival shuttle!!
All in all this was an awesome vacation, could not have been any better, and we hope to go on another cruise before the kids graduate college.