There were 19 of us on this cruise, with 6 under 18 years old.
The best thing we did was to book our own group excursion in San Juan Puerto Rico with Legends of Puerto Rico. Our driver, Jaime, was knowledgeable and relaxed. The bus comfortably carried 22 so we had ample room. Debbie booked the bus and driver for us. She was professional and did exactly as we asked. I have organized visits for the current First Lady and Mrs. Clinton when she was in the White House, and this bus driver could have easily done it for us. They are that good and the price is much more reasonable than paying the per person price charged by the Navigator or other companies. We visited the Bacardi House, drank rum, toured Isla Verde and Condado and ended up with a great visit of Old San Juan and the fort. Although traffic caused the bus to be behind the schedule we had accorded, they did not charge us more (although to express our appreciation we did tip the excellent driver well).
The worst excursion was the one organized by the Navigator in Nassau which goes to the Atlantic Hotel on a boat. The boat was overloaded (to the point of being dangerously overcrowded), the fumes were horrible and the chairs were those cheap movable plastic chairs that were so low one could not see anything. It was a rip-off and a dangerous one at that. DO NOT take that excursion! There were some elderly members in our group and the tour guide arranged by the Navigator walked so fast that we had to drop off the walking tour! I would highly recommend you simply negotiate a cab ride ($4 per person) from the pier and go directly to the Atlantis Hotel is that's what you want to do. Then pay the fee to walk around the hotel on your own. No need to get the tour. They say nothing of interest.
After you walk leisurely around the hotel, visit the casino and stores near the lobby. Those are nice. I wish we would have done that and saved all the money we paid for the fume-filled dangerous harbor boat tour. It was so bad that we dropped off the group and took our own cab back ($4 per person) from the front of the Atlantis Hotel and got back to the ship on our own. The small boats used to transport you back to the harbor (part of the tour) are also very small and not nice. Beware!
The organized tour in St. Marten was also another disappointment. We did the City Tour. The bus sat at the pier for nearly one hour before we departed. We simply drove from the pier (on the Dutch side) to the French side and got off and walked. We could have done this in a cab or a small bus and left promptly and enjoyed the extra time walking and shopping. Another waste of money. Do this on your own! Negotiate a price to drive you and your party to the French downtown and walk around the fruit market, the shopping area, the small mall, the coffee shops, and then take the taxi or small bus back to the Dutch side. Ask the taxi driver to drive you around the island on the way back and you have the tour for hardly no money. Our tour guide spoke about the island but again, said nothing that you do not already know from reading the basics of St. Marten. Save your money.
Another horrible land tour was the one in St. Thomas. DO NOT go to Coral World. It is poorly maintained and has nothing you cannot see at the Miami Seaquarium, or any other aquarium in the U.S. It is NOT a nice place to visit. Then we were driven to Magen's Bay Beach which was overcrowded with all the ships at port. Seems that all the planned tours go there. I recommend you hire a small bus or a taxi driver to take your party to another more secluded beach or to simply drive you to Magen's Bay Beach. Again, waiting for everyone to assemble was very time consuming. Do not waste your time or money on a planned tour of Coral World or Magen's Bay Beach. If you do hire a taxi driver ask him/her to stop at the lookout point overlooking the port/bay for some great photos and then just drive around. Taxi drivers know where to go.
Now that I have sunk the Navigator-organized excursions for being expensive, crowded, always delayed, and useless, let me RAVE about the ship itself. Honestly, consider staying on the ship and enjoying it more. The prices for liquor are lower on the ship! DO not waste your time carrying it back aboard. I priced the top sellers in St. Thomas and St. Marten and found the best prices on the ship liquor store. One exception was the Bacardi store in San Juan with great prices on souvenirs (superb caps, umbrellas, shirts with he Bacardi logo) and the best 18 year old rum you have ever had which you can only buy at the Bacardi plant. That was great plus you get free Bacardi drinks at a breezy and nice bar before and after your tour.
The restaurant service was great. Our main waiter was NAVIN, from India and his assistant waiter was also Indian and the other assistant waiter for our party of 19 was Turkish. Those gentleman were superb. They did everything they could to make you enjoy every dinner. On lobster night I just wanted lobster (no side dishes) and they brought just what I wanted. The last night, I was so full I also wanted the NY Strip Steak with no accompaniments and they brought me the perfect steak! They were attentive to such things as having water in your goblet, bread when you needed it, and serving everyone at once. It was perfect.
The breakfasts and lunches in the dining rooms were open seating. It was OK to sit with others (because the entire group of 19 did not eat breakfast and lunch together). We ate at the buffet on the 11th floor at the Windjammer twice and found the dining room dining experience much nicer. The buffet was always sort of rushed and more crowded and could have been served anywhere. You paid for a wonderful cruise so enjoy the wonderful service offered in the dining room. You also eat much less if you go to the dining room because, although you can order as much as you want, you do not over-serve yourself as you would in a buffet. Also, I found that some of the food that appears at dinner the prior night, re-appeared in the buffet the following lunch in a modified form. My brother and the kids enjoyed the buffet more because it was quick, crowded, and noisy. I recommend going to the dining room.
The pools were beautiful and great. I enjoyed the adult pool very much. Once on the last day did I see children in that pool (prohibited) but the staff did not do anything about it. Maybe it was the last night! The main pool was always crowded and noisy but ful to see. The adult pool (Solarium) is salt water which is nice. The bar is right nearby and you can enjoy your drink while soaking in the nice pool.
I even did a step class and it was superb. Don't be afraid and try the step class or the aerobics class. It is not difficult and the choreography you can follow easily even if you are a beginner. It is a great morning work-out, as if the morning stretch!
The sauna and Turkish Bath were great and always empty. If you like that, enjoy them, they are always clean and filled with towels. I noticed that men kept on their bathing suit in both the sauna and Turkish Bath.
The SPA looked great and the services varied. The prices were comparable to US prices. The hair salon was packed on the two days of the gala dinners. Book early if you need to have your hair done.
The rooms were great and kept clean and filled with fresh towels. Although the bathrooms are small they have everything you might need.
The entertainment was varied and abundant. Our favorite by far was the Ice Show. Be sure to get tickets for the Ice Show and there is a coupon behind each Ice Show ticket for drink discounts as you enjoy this superb show! We also enjoyed the other shows. It is very casual. Go to all of them. If you do not like what they offer on a particular night get up and leave. It is very relaxed. I enjoyed all of them.
The casino was fun. The bartender Ernesto from Uruguay was superb. What a nice helpful young man. He makes great drinks. Tip him well...he deserves it..and they live only on tips! The slot machines were fun. No one in our party won anything but the money we all lost was spent enjoying playing the games. Blackjack is the simplest card game to learn and play.
We also enjoyed some of the other special activities. The gala buffet was beautifully presented. Do not miss seeing it. Also the pool caribbean night party buffet was nice and well-attended.
The art auctions were fun but the items seemed a bit high for what you get. Compare the prices on eBay and other art auction websites before you buy anything. If you do win one of the auction raffles and get "free cash" to buy something, then buy something with what you won. I buy and collect a lot of art and did not find there were any good deals to be had. Do not get carried away and overbid for something you really do not want. Also remember that most items are sold unframed and framing is very expensive. It was fun seeing the auction and enjoying the free French champagne that flowed abundantly...Go and enjoy the free champagne and ask your wife/husband/SO to slap you if you bid on something!
The embarkation was smooth although the lines were VERY long. If we had arrived later (we arrived at 2:30 PM) we would have waited much less. Folks who arrived at 3:30 or 4 PM had no waiting time!
Disembarkation was smooth...smoother if you are with someone on a wheelchair! Tip the stewart well who helps you skip those long lines if your party is traveling with someone who needs a wheelchair. The wheelchair stewart picks up passengers needing help at the Boleros Cafe on the 4th deck. If you have any elderly folks in your group consider doing it because the lines are long as is the walk to immigration and luggage pick-up. The immigration officer was wonderful. It was an African-American lady and she is the best I have ever seen. What a kind friendly person! The passenger pick-up is chaotic! I would recommend you plan to meet your party somewhere nearby but not at the main exit area. There are "shark" tour guides that seem out-of-control and preying on innocent travelers who probably would prefer to get a city taxi. I saw no one from RCL controlling these "sharks."
When you pack, pack less than you think you need! The stateroom closets are small and you can wear the same thing again and again. Although we thought we packed light, we took things we never wore. Comfortable shoes are a must!
If I did not cover anything you'd like to know please let me know.