My husband and I just returned from a weekend cruise on the Monarch of the Seas. We have taken this cruise seven other times, as we live very close to Port Canaveral and can sometimes catch very good rates. We had a perfectly great time and enjoyed all the Monarch had to offer. Most of the staff was excellent. We think the ship still looks great; there is minimal wear and tear.
One note of caution.... This was the first time we encountered SO much partying and drinking on a cruise. It was very different from the seven other weekend cruises we've taken. Don't get me wrong, my husband and I love to party and drink, but our focus is different now as we have two small children (thank goodness they were not with us to witness this). There was a noticeable difference in passenger drinking. Perhaps it was the low rates, the weekend cruise, or the "open bar" cruise packages offered. We tried to ask around and learned the "open bar" package is not available through Royal Caribbean, but through companies and travel agents. I don't know if this information is correct. We didn't care enough to research it further. But, I've not encountered SO many drunk people on a Royal Caribbean cruise ever. There was also something called a "New Year's Eve Party" where all the drunk people bring out noise makers and hats on the last night of the cruise. Again, I'm not familiar with this, but heard people talking about if this cruise was going to be a New Year's Cruise. Between this and the drinking it made for a really rowdy last night. I wish Royal Caribbean would enforce the Code of Conduct they talk about during the muster drill. We saw security out during the "New Year's" night but they were not really doing anything.
Here were our highlights:
Embarkation and Cabin: Embarkation was not a problem (this cruise or really ever). We slipped into the priority line and were onboard within minutes (we arrived around 1pm). We headed directly to the back of windjammer near jade to avoid the crowds. Works perfect every time. We had outside window cabin #8000 with an obstructed view (the view really was much obstructed, but the price was right). The sink was jammed in the cabin, but was fixed within minutes of us calling it in. We had the incorrect versions of the Crown and Anchor coupons in our room. We called it in and were told to report to the loyalty desk. This was kind of a pain and I felt we were really put through the ringer just to get the correct books. It was their mistake, but we had to pay the consequence in time and effort. Not a massive deal, but something we will watch out for in the future.
We have been to Nassau many times and can always find something to do. We love to gamble and this time opted to return to Atlantis for the casino. We opted for the water taxi and for $4 per person we arrived. The price is the same for the return trip, but a one-way ride with the tour guy was enough for me. His voice was loud and booming and no one seemed to enjoy him demanding tips at the end. We returned to the ship in a taxi (also $4 per person). The taxi can pick you up right at the entrance to the coral towers of Atlantis, whereas the water taxi drops you off through the back area. Not a big deal unless you are in a hurry. The water taxi also leaves every half hour. Beware of the taxi trying to fit more people, and wait for more passengers. We actually got out of one cab because the driver was waiting for more people to take back to the ship. We didn't feel like waiting and when someone finally did come, they were very intoxicated. Not the way I wish to spend my vacation time. Getting your own cab will only cost $3 more ($11 in total for a couple) and it was worth it for us.
Coco Cay is lovely and we always have a great time there. We have visited Norwegian Cruise Line's private island (which is one island over from Coco Cay) and didn't like it at all. Coco Cay is a really nice place with lots of great amenities. We love Barefoot Beach and we love the hammocks. The beaches are very nice and it makes for a great day. There is also plenty of shade and the BBQ buffet is always delicious.
Food: We like the food on Royal Caribbean and always receive good service in the dining room. I find the service is a little slow on the first night of the cruise but it gets better over the next few days. We like the menu selections and the staff is very accommodating.
Casino: We love the Royal Caribbean casinos as the table minimums are nice and low. Craps, Blackjack, Let it Ride, and a few others had great minimums and some of the dealers were fun and energetic. Some of the gamblers were very drunk which made things either very entertaining (if you were winning) or very annoying (if you were losing).
Disembarkation: Yes, the line does back up all the way past Deck 4 on the ship. But, the line moves fast and we were past Customs in about 30 minutes. They seem to have improved this process. We always opt for self-carry off and never have a problem.
Although we'll continue to cruise with Royal Caribbean, I'll think twice about taking the weekend cruise and I probably won't take our children on this cruise.