To start this review, I first want to state that if you're looking for an elegant and plush ship, this is not the ship for you. Monarch of the Seas is an "Oldie but a Goodie" in my eyes. The ship is small and aging and within the next 9 months or so the ship will be sold. 10 years ago my family and I took our first cruise on Monarch's sister ship, Sovereign of the Seas, and this cruise brought back lots of memories! This cruise was my 11th cruise and I look forward to many more!
My family and I drove to the Port Canaveral area and parked at a local "park and sail" lot. I paid a total of $27 for the 4 days parking which saved us more than 50% of what we would have paid @ the port. After arriving at the secured lot, we were shuttled to the port, dropped off, thru check-in and on board the ship within 45 minutes!
My husband, daughter (age 21) and son (age 18) took this cruise to celebrate my son's high school graduation and his 18th birthday. I booked cabins 5096 and 5098 (oceanview cabins) which were the perfect rooms. The rooms are just around the corner from elevator, stairs and the atrium! We were smack dab in the middle of the ship! The Monarch's cabins are small. There is no way that I would want to try to spend 4 nights in the small cabins with 3 other adults, but if I had small children, I don't think it would be an issue. The cabins do have plenty of closet and drawer space for 2 adults. The bathrooms are the typical cruise ship bathroom...toilet, sink and shower. Nothing fancy, but functional. The bed was very comfortable, but with the small size of the room, my side of the bed was pushed against the wall. I had to crawl out of the foot of the bed to get in and out. The furnishings are somewhat worn and there was an old 13" tv one a corner shelf. I will mention that your shipboard accounts are not accessible from the tv like they are on other Royal Caribbean ships.
My family and I chose the "Your Time" dining plan because it allows more flexibility of when you want to dine. We did make reservations for 2 different nights in the main dining room because it does allow you to request a particular waiter if you found one that you like. We made reservations during the day for each evening. The "your time" dining plan does require you to pre-pay you tips for the entire cruise, but I would prefer to do that. We did leave additional money in envelopes for our cabin steward and our waiter because both had done great jobs! Food in the dining room was yummy and plentiful, and the service was very good. One evening we ate in the Windjammer and were very disappointed when we arrived about 45 minutes before the buffet was opened. I have never been on a ship where the buffet is totally shut down so that change-over from meal to meal can be done. The only thing available during that 45 minutes was some very poor quality pizza..I've had better frozen pizzas from the grocery store. Once the Windjammer was opened, the food was delicious and plentiful. I was pleasantly surprised to find Gyros on the buffet which were absolutely delicious!
This particular itinerary had a stop on Coco Cay and in Nassau. Coco Cay was a little dirtier than I expected. There was very little tide which may have made for perfect snorkeling but the sand was dirty. We enjoyed the meal (ribs, burgers, hot dogs, mac & cheese, fresh fruit, etc...) was plentiful while we were on the island and the bar staff was available for drinks. While in Nassau, we visited the straw market which is just a few blocks from the port. I was surprised to see that the straw market is no long hundreds of tents, but a nice open building. Vendors were busy trying to sell their products, but not as pushy as vendors that I have encountered in other ports. My family and I did choose the Seahorse Sailing and Snorkeling excursion while in Nassau. The excursion lasted about 4 hours and the water was warm and clear. I did see some beautiful fish and riding on the catamaran was very relaxing.
Activities were your normal cruise ship activities...trivia, pool games, bingo, etc.. Cruise director's staff was pleasant and kept the activities well organized. The shows in the theater were someone disappointing and I felt like the Monarch had been given the saddest costumes I have ever seen.
I definitely enjoyed the cruise and would sail on this ship again. It was kind of like a well worn t-shirt...comfortable.