This morning, we attended the resort orientation where they explained a few of the details about spending a week at the resort. They had sign-ups for various activities including a trip to Stingray City coordinated through their on-site watersports shop. We also signed up for the grocery trip, which worked out well since we were able to get about US$100 of groceries that we expect will last the five of us most of the week. Prices were expensive (as expected) but not outrageous given where we were. Milk was ~US$6/gal, bread ~US$3/loaf, sliced turkey ~US$9/lb.
After the grocery trip and a quick lunch we set out to meet the Stingray City tour. This is key: the watersports shop only runs the Stingray City tours on Monday and Fridays. This is because the cruise ships come with Gaussian density throughout the week. Monday: 0 ships, Tuesday: 2 ships, Wednesday: 5 ships, Thursday: 4 ships, Friday: 1 ship. Going on a trip to the most popular tourist attraction on the island when the majority of the tourists are not yet on the island is a stroke of brilliance for the Resort. The Resort residents benefit tremendously from this scheduling and we were able to take full advantage. We signed up for the Monday excursion to Stingray City.
A total of 8 people, including myself, my wife and my dad went on the trip. It turned out way better than we expected. The 40 foot boat took the eight of us to out to the Stingray City sand bar and we were the only ones there. My wife and I had previously visited Stingray City while on an eastern Carribean cruise with Norweigian and it was mobbed. There had to be a half-dozen tour boats with about 50-80 people in the water at any give point while we were there. This time we had all the stingrays to ourselves. Our tour guides claimed they started out about an hour earlier than any of the other tour companies for this reason. We got out there earlier and were able to head in earlier. It was amazing. We were swarmed by the stingrays!
I highly recommend trying to visit this attraction in this way. If possible, use SMB Resort's watersports shop since they do start out earlier than the other outfits. We did notice as we were running out of squid to feed the rays other boats started to pull up with other tourists ready to join in.
After departing the Stingray City sandbar, we went to a second snorkeling site and spend about 30 mins looking at a rich variety of marine life. This was one of the better sites we've been to given that the coral was still mostly alive and unharmed and there was a great diversity of species including rays, fish, eels and coral.