This was not my first cruise, but this was my first Royal Caribbean cruise. I wanted to try another line and I am glad I did, I had a wonderful cruise. This time I was a solo cruiser. I enjoy cruising alone, I can do what I want, when I want and I meet many people onboard.
I drove from Charleston to Port Canaveral because the air fare was more than the cost of the cruise. It was about a seven hour drive. I stayed at the La Quinta on Atlantic Ave. Check in was 3:00 but I got there at 1:30 and they had a room ready. They kept my car for the length of the cruise, breakfast included, and offered a free shuttle to the port, all for $89. If you do not leave your car at the hotel the shuttle is $4 per person. The staff was very friendly and the room was quiet and clean. I imagine if you had a room by the pool or bar it could get pretty noisy, But, I was on the backside and did not hear a thing. I would definitely recommend this hotel, it is one block from the beach and about three miles from the port and the shuttle leaves at 10:45 am.
The buffet at La Quinta had coffee, tea, and juice. Food included; make your own waffles, eggs, sausage, cereal, pastries, bagels, toast, and fruit. Typical hotel/motel food, but it was tasty and filling. The shuttle left promptly at 10:45 and were at the port by 11:00. Check in was a breeze and I was done by 11:15. Employees were very friendly and I never thought I would say this, but it was a pleasant experience. We were directed to chairs and the ship started boarding at 11:30.
The ship was beautiful and well maintained for an older ship. Some people were a little confused about why the elevators in the Centrum only went to odd numbered decks but once I saw a map, it really did make sense.
Rooms were open by 1:00, luggage followed about 1:30. I went to my stateroom and was surprised at how small it actually was. My stateroom location was perfect. I had an inside stateroom on Deck 6 and it was fine for me alone, but the room across from me and next to me had three adults in it. I do not know how they managed. The only complaint I had was the lack of a nightstand, I like a snack before bed and I had to put it on the bed. I later found that some of the rooms had them and some did not.
I had main seating for dinner at 5:45, which was perfect for me. I was in Vincent's Dining Room on Deck 3 at a table for six. There were only three of us but I had the most wonderful tablemates, a couple from Florida.
I got on the 1st tender to the island at 8:30 and staked out a beach chair by the snorkel beach. I got my vest and rented a locker. The give a wristband instead of a locker key and you scan the wristband to open and lock it, brilliant idea; no key to lose. I was worried that there would be too many people in the water but there is so much room and plenty of chairs and hammocks. Lunch was about 12:00, burgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken, salads, and fruit. It was good but seating was scarce. It was a very relaxing, enjoyable day.
I left the ship at 8:30 and it was interesting trying to get away from the port. Very pushy tour guides and taxi drivers, they follow you and try to talk you into a tour. Once I got away from the port it was better. I was planning to walk to Ardastra Zoo and Gardens, Fort Charlotte, and Fort Fincastle. It was about 2 miles to the zoo and the ship was in port from 8:00am until 11:30pm so I had all day and could take my time.
There are uniformed police everywhere. There are few stop lights, stop signs seem to be optional, and you take your life in your hands trying to cross the street. I watched locals crossing the streets to figure out how to do it without getting killed and most people wait for a little break in the massive traffic and dart across the street. That won't work, I am not that fast. I figured I would walk a little while and see if the traffic thinned out a little. Also horns are constant; the people really seem to be impatient.
The walk was not bad; I would not recommend it with children or on a really hot day. I was alone and felt safe walking. There are very few signs so you need to know where you are going. I got to the zoo and it was a nice, little, well-kept zoo. Admission was $16 and well worth it. The marching flamingos really to follow commands, it is not just some trainer chasing them around in a circle. There are some animals in cages; they have 42 animal exhibits and so many more birds wandering around the grounds; Flamingos, peacocks, and ducks everywhere. The gardens are beautiful, with benches to rest tucked into little areas. The Zoo and Gardens are on five acres so do not expect a big zoo that many people may be used to. I would definitely go again.
I asked for directions to Fort Charlotte and it was about a five minute walk. Admission was $5 and worth it. The fort is not restored and is in its natural condition. You can choose to take a guided tour or do it on your own. I did it on my own and there were many signs that told the history. I worked my way toward Fort Fincastle and the Queen's Staircase which were next to each other in downtown Nassau. The map was not as accurate as it could have been and I stopped and asked one of the many policemen for directions. I was only off by two blocks. Admission was $1, it was a small fort and not as interesting as Fort Charlotte. The Queen's Staircase is pretty impressive. Vendors everywhere, which takes away from the beauty though.
Many of the outdoor activities were canceled because of the rainy weather and the activities crew did a wonderful job of moving some activities indoors and adding others to keep the passengers entertained. I cannot say enough about the crew of the Monarch, everyone said hello and went out of their way to ensure all the passengers had a great time.
My assigned station was the Sound of Music Theater on Deck 5 so I went there about 8:30. They made an announcement that we would be called shortly and sure enough we were called at 8:50. I walked down the stairs and off the ship. I flashed my passport at a very nice customs agent and out the door I went. It was the easiest, most well organized debarkation ever. As I was walking out through the terminal I saw a couple and the customs agents were going through their luggage one garment at a time. I had to wonder what was up. I followed the signs to the shuttles and easily found my shuttle to the hotel.
I loved the Monarch of the Seas. She is well maintained and the crew amazing. We only got towel animals on two days and I really love them so I wish there were more. There is something to be said about the charm of a smaller ship. I never felt the ship to be crowded although it was full. The only wait for elevators was on the first day. I saw lines at guest relations at times but it was open 24 hours, so I just went back before going to bed and there was no one waiting in line. Captain Trond Holm is funny and personable. He told stories of how he became a ship's captain and you could tell he really loves his job. Cruise director was Marc Walker. He is just back on the ship and is very good at making sure the guests are having a good time. The food was very good; the Vidalia Onion Tart was probably my favorite although I never had anything I did not like. The deserts were a little weak but they were still tasty. I loved Coco Cay but would not be unhappy if I did not go back to Nassau again. It was a fabulous cruise and I enjoyed every minute of it. The Monarch does not have all the bells and whistles of the newer, larger ships but there are times when I do not want that. I had a relaxing time and did not feel like I had to rush to see everything.