Embarkation: Leaving from Bayonne, NJ for the first time was interesting. We drove to the the port, and the port crew was very quick to get us parked and our luggage out of the car. The car driver was then directed to parking and any other passengers waited under a large white tent for that driver. Parking at Bayonne is very expensive - $177 prepaid for 9 days parking. If you live close enough to have someone drive you it may be worthwhile. Inside the registration area, the regular lines were pretty long. We were booked in a Junior Suite and were able to go through a shorter line queue. Definitely fill out the guest information online before you arrive - it's much smoother. Also have the credit card you intend to have the ship charges billed to handy.
Room: We were in a JS stateroom category, a mini-suite. Biggest difference was a bigger bathroom with a full bathtub, a wider room (about 5 feet wider than a oceanview balcony room) and a larger balcony. The twin beds were together and made a nice size bed. My husband is 6' 3" and the bed was shorter than him but he said it was fine. The mattress was very firm. The sheets were smooth and the duvet kept us warm. The shower had great water flow and ours had a shower wand as well. The bathtub was very deep, about 18-20 inches, and filled pretty quickly. I brought some bath salts to soak in knowing we had a tub. The closet was huge in this room and there were more cabinets and drawers than we could possibly fill. The room safe worked easily. We did not use the mini-bar but it was there and stocked.
Food: Dinners were excellent. We ate in the main dining room each night. There were always great choices and the food came with very good presentation and at adequate temperatures. The worst dinner was actually the one we were looking forward to the most - the lobster tail dinner. My family all got the lobster tail and it wasn't firm but rather mushy. The taste was okay but the texture was too odd for our liking. Lunches at the main dining room were slightly above average. Lunches at the Windjammer Cafe, a buffet style dining, were average. We're not very picky so it was great for us. The food presentation was exquisite, with ice carvings and fruit carvings galore. The burgers on the ship were really tasty for some reason - so they were a staple for our lunches. I wished there were more beverage choices while dining - you will get charged for sodas or juices (except breakfast for juices). Room services choices were few and the food average. Cafe Promenade sandwiches were average. We did not eat at Portofino's or Johnny Rockets.
Service: I have to rate this as Excellent. All crew, staff and officers we met were service oriented and seemed to genuinely care about the guests and the ship. There were crew members cleaning, shining, replacing; and fixing parts of the ship 24 hours a day. The captain wants the ship to appear brand new for each new voyage and that caring atmosphere is obvious. My husband got to meet the captain and talk with him and he said he was highly impressed.
Entertainment: The shows were great, the headliners okay. Don't miss the Love & Marriage gameshow or Quest. It will be worth your time. There were soooo many things scheduled to do during the day that we couldn't possibly get to everything that sounded interesting to us. The children's program is excellent. After age 12 the kids are under less supervision and are free to come and go from Optix, the teen hangout and disco. The on-board arcade is enormous even by land based arcade standards.
Disembarkation: We opted for the self-service option where you carry your own bags off the ship. The ship was docked and the gangways ready at 8am. We were off the ship, through customs and in our car before 8:15. Wow. So very smooth process. Not sure how those who had to wait on the ship for their color to be called worked out.
Once you've seen Bermuda a first time, the second time doesn't make it better. The food on the island is not worth mentioning other than 'stay away.' Everything has to be shipped to the island so the prices are high and the taste pretty low. The larger cruise ships like the Explorer dock at King's Wharf on the western side of Bermuda. There is a nice snorkel beach right within walking distance of the docks. The nice pink sand beach at Horseshoe Beach is not easy to get to and is pretty far from the Wharf. The fish are not really colorful in Bermuda but the coral reef formations are beautiful.
Beautiful island. There are pristine beaches very close to the docks in Phillipsburg. The shopping area is well known and I walked around by myself while the hubby and daughter were fishing. The shopping district was clean and inviting. I had heard a lot about the shops at St. Thomas, but in hindsight I like St. Maarten much more. Don't miss The Yoda Guy's Shop, a one of a kind place. The water taxi from the pier to the town was 5 minutes - get a day pass for $6. Be prepared to return before 5pm because that is when the water taxi's typically close for the day.
St. Thomas waters were incredible. We went on a snuba excursion at Coral Bay. Never having been scuba diving wasn't an issue - it was easy to pick up. Highly recommended because the sea life was incredible. Plus we had heavy showers that day, but that didn't stop us one bit since we were 25 feet below the water level.
The driving and roads in St. Thomas are treacherous. If you're looking for excitement, get a taxi ride. The shopping area close to the RCCL pier are okay, but there was a lot of foot traffic and it was not as nice as St. Maarten. I would not have walked around that area by myself.
We took the skyride to Paradise Point. It was a nice view, but there's not much at the top, or not as much as the advertisements led us to believe. Not sure if it was worth the cost but hey, we did it once.
We docked very near Old San Juan. On that day, the heat and humidity was oppressive to say the least. We were scheduled to take a Segway tour of the old city and we were not disappointed. San Juan has a lot of traffic and bricked roads and hills. It was by accident that we scheduled a motorized tour for this port without knowing about the roads ahead of time. It was a great way to see the Old City, get facts and be able to enjoy and listen. Those that were walking around were exhausted. Having never ridden on Segways before, they were easy to learn and the staff/guides were excellent - highly recommended.
El Morro fort is living history. There was graffiti around the walls in places so you've got to wonder how well the country will maintain it, but it dates back to before the 1700s. I'd like to see some of the jungle/treed areas of Puerto Rico next time.