Great trip... here is a few of my thoughts from a first time cruiser.
Arrival/departure: I would NOT use RCL transfers in the future. Our flight schedule was terrible and we found that ground transportation was easy to get (taxi). Next time I will book the flights myself. Boarding the boat was very quick... we arrived at the RCL terminal at 2:00pm and was on the ship about 20 minutes later. I really helps to have all your document and credit card ready when checking in. They required a credit card to charge sea pass (onboard credit) purchases at the end of the week.. although, family that we traveled with paid by cash at the end of the week. Departure was easy also. We had to be out of the rooms by 8am.... breakfast was served till 9am and you were able to wait in any public area of the ship till your time to depart the ship. Each cabin was assigned a color coded luggage tag that represented the time you were to depart. Our family had three cabins and each was assigned a different color... our cabin attendant was able to change it so we all departed at the same time. We were scheduled to leave at 11am but was called to depart at 9am.
Tipping: Easy... don't worry about it. They give lots of information on what they suggest for tipping. it adds up to be $68 per person. That included your head waiter, waiter, assistant waiter and cabin steward. You are able to add it to your sea pass account or they deliver envelopes to your room if you prefer to hand the tip to the staff. We tipped a little extra to our waiters because we just loved them! We asked our waiter if he got to keep the tips he recieved and he said yes... I have read many messages on this site about how underpaid the staff is on the ships.... I tend to disagree.... our waiter has a degree in computer science and a family of three ( had his third son the week of our cruise) and chooses to spend 6 months at sea? There has to be some incentive.
Food: Average... I would discribe it as banquet style. Don't get me wrong... you will not go hungry. I just would not discribe it as 5 star meals.
Activities: Shows were great... we enjoyed then all. Many things to do during the day... you won't be bored. Most things were free... some exercise classes( spinning, yoga) was an extra fee.
Ports: We booked no excursions.
NASSAU - we were there on Sunday and many of the shops were closed... would like to have been there during the week. Was only there till 2pm so we didn't go to the beach.
ST. THOMAS- My favorite port. We left the ship and found many taxi's to take you into town($3 per person). We shopped and arranged for our taxi driver to pick us up a noon to go to the beach. He arrived promply and we paid him $20 per person for a tour of the island and tranportation to the beach and back to the ship. It was a wonderful tour... many stops to take pictures and he was gave up much information about the island. We went to Coki beach.... many people but beautiful. Colorful fish swam around us the entire time we were in the water...... great!
SAN JUAN- Was in port till 10pm due to the fact that our stop in Labadee was cancelled.
We did not like San Juan. We were a few miles away from the shopping district and taxi's were $10 into town. We made our way to the Bacardi Distrillery via taxis and a ferry. I did not feel comfortable in the parts of the city we were in. Tour of Bacardi (free) was great... free drinks and all... if you go, just remember that the liquor on the ship is cheaper. We paid $10.75 at Bacardi and the same bottle was $7.75 on the ship. The ship did take the liquor we purchased upon reboarding and held it till Friday. We did not shop in Old San Juan.... my parents did and they had a good time.
Drinks: Beer (cans) $3.45 (including tip which is added to each bill) Drafts - $4.23
Mixed drinks $6.04 (specialty drinks were more) Johnny Rocket milksakes $3.60 and pop anywhere on ship $1.73 per can. We did not purchase the soft drink package but it was about $28 per person. These people was given and insulated (probably 20oz.) cup to be used for the beverages. I would probably purchase this on another cruise.
Service: Very good ..... they really push the liquor..... free beverages are not easy to get if you are not in the dining rooms.
We had an inside stateroom, nice and clean. Many kids/teenagers on board (winter break in the north).... some were distructive/ noisy/rude. Running in the hallway at 2am - 3am, tearing up room service menu that had been left outside of rooms, etc.... security was called who then talked with the parents and the parents told them there was nothing they could do... they could not control the children. We will certainly not pick the same week if we go again.
Overall, I give this vacation 4 stars.... I would certainly sail with RCL again!
Sorry this is so long... if you have an questions.... please ask!