We cruised a 7-day itinerary on the Freedom of the Seas a few months ago, and thought we'd try a weekend cruise when my wife and I managed a few days off around the weekend. We kept an eye on prices and then a few weeks before the sailing, RC offered Oceanview staterooms for around $230/each so we got them.
We drove in and stayed in Orlando the night before. There are some great deals on hotels in Orlando right now (nearing off-season), and it's worth it to get in a little early to walk around Downtown Disney. The next morning, we drove towards Port Canaveral and arrived at about 11:30. We did the online check-in this time and got through to the boarding line within about 10 minutes of arriving at the terminal.
Upon entering the ship, we went straight to the Windjammer and enjoyed lunch and wandered the ship. The ship of course shows it's age, but it was clean and constantly maintained (for example, during one of the stops, they were re-staining/re-coating the wooden railings in the pool area).
The rooms were ready promptly at 1. Yes they are tiny but me and my wife are normal-sized people so it was totally adequate space. The shower was bigger than the one on the Freedom I think. The only drawback to the room was that the water flow in the sink was very light and sometimes wouldn't get warm until you turned the shower on to help get the hot water flowing. Our room attendant (I wish I could remember his name) was was very attentive, and every time we saw him in the hall he would check-in with us on our cruising experience so far and made sure we were happy. I think some other guests on our floor may had had some issues with leaks or something, because we saw large floor dryers in and around some staterooms. Luckily we had no such issues.
We did the early seating for dinner and were in the dining room soon after departing. The menus are pretty much uniform throughout the fleet it seems, and the choices were the same as we had on the Freedom, which was a good thing since the choices were all pretty good. The Prime Rib was on par with any good restaurant and the service was impeccable. I have to say, we thought the food on the Freedom was good for sure, but the food on the Monarch was noticeably better. It was a trend we noticed throughout the cruise, from the Windjammer to the Main Dining Room. Everything was a notch better. They also had a juicy Prime Rib in the Windjammer one night. The last night, they had a roasted garlic soup which was delicious. Also, the soft serve machine was available late into the evening which was great, because on the Freedom it was closed after 7 or 7:30.
In Nassau we did an island tour with a very friendly tour guide. It was worth it and I recommend it.
Coco Cay was great and we were just relieved we could make it in this time since we had to skip it on the last cruise due to rough water. The snorkeling is great but you have to get there early. We were on the early first boat out before it got busy, and finished our snorkeling by about 10AM. Some people saw sting rays, but we didn't. There isn't really any coral, so you won't see much in the way of Parrotfish, but you will see a lot of other cool stuff. The fish seem to be very comfortable around people, and yellow-striped sergeant majors will be swimming almost at the surface all around you. Around noon, they did a huge BBQ buffet with ribs, burgers, Caribbean food, desserts, drinks, etc. Was basically a windjammer buffet with BBQ.
We didn't have high expectations for the entertainment since this was only a 3 night cruise, but I have to say that they jampacked the trip with a lot of great shows and blew our expectations away. Each and every one was great. The comedian was great and the cruise director did a fantastic job. The last evening they had a broadway show and one of the girls did a Whitney Houston rendition that was incredible.
On a side note, the temperature in the ship was way better than the Freedom. The public areas on the Freedom of the Seas were always kept freezing cold. On the Monarch, the temperatures were very comfortable and you could enjoy the public areas without a jacket!
All in all, this was a great cruise for the money and we're already planning a 3rd RC cruise. Bravo to the staff, the chef and cooks, and the crew.