Took my wife of 30 years on a belated cruise from Port Canaveral, FL on the Monarch of the Seas for a four nighter to Coco Cay and Nassau. It was promoted at a very fair rate for outside view cabin, $179 pp, so we went for it. When you added the taxes, trip insurance (optional but my wife wanted it), prepaid gratuities it came to about $315 pp or about $80 a night for each of us. We parked at Cruise Parking of Port Canaveral on U.S. 1 about 10 minutes west of the terminal and paid a very reasonable $4.99 + tax for that. The shuttle got us there in a very timely manner and, upon our return, picked us up quickly. Well worth it compared to what folks told me they paid to park within the confines of the port.
We had pre printed the cruise documents online so the paperwork was easy as was the check in although there were countless folks there who must have gotten to the terminal by 10:00 AM and just sat there. How silly.
By the time our group was allowed to board and pass the obligatory photo station we got on board and went up to the lunch buffet. As most of the folks were already on by the time we were allowed on there was nowhere anywhere in the buffet area, the level above, or nearby to sit. We had to carry our food some distance to the front lounge (which was a sushi bar by night) and found a counter to eat at. Not very comfortable. I hoped this wasn't a glimpse of what was to follow.
We found our way to our cabin (2584) on the 2nd deck from Leonardo DiCaprio's room, and our bags were already waiting on the deck to be delivered. I grabbed them and pulled them into our cabin only a few feet away. Our closeness to the elevators proved to be a plus as we got on when the elevators were empty and had no problem accessing any deck on the way up during the trip. I guess it was a plus. Since breakfast was served in the Vincent dining room on deck 3 it was a short walk up the stairs to get there. Also a plus. The cabin was dated but clean, the beds were two twins pushed together but reasonably comfortable. There was ample hanging space and storage in the cabin and the bathroom was typical for small cruise ship staterooms. Our cabin attendant was excellent and kept everything tidy, brought us ice for our overpriced bottled water in the room, but my wife had to drink water so we went for it.
Our meals were in the Claude dining room on deck 4 (very nice) and our server, Ricardo, was a real nice gent and kept the food coming and knew the menu inside and out as he had been on the Monarch for years. That proved to be a plus. Food quality and selection was top notch and although the portions were not huge they were more than adequate. As it was our anniversary celebration cruise I asked my beloved if she wanted to sit at a table for two or a larger table. She opted for the table for two and we were sat at one which was, unfortunately, directly behind a serving station which totally blocked our view of the dining room. Next to our table was a bunch of high chairs and other seats. Not that appealing but the food and service made that a minor issue but we never asked to be moved and ate our dinner meals there.
We tried to stay away from the buffet. It was generally crowded and I don't like standing behind folks who pick through the food. Ugh. There was a pizza joint that served most all through the day and free soft serve ice cream although there was a Ben and Jerry's (for a cost). The bar service was good and my wife, a wine lover, prepaid for a five wine ticket that could be used just about anywhere except in the dining room that saved a fair amount as did the unlimited soft drink ticket. Ice tea, lemonade and coffee was always available for nothing.
The shows were OK but I have seen better. The performing Monarch of the Seas troupe were good and the two comics they had were funny. The cruise director, Mitch, kept everything moving and did a great job as did his right hand man, Irky from Turkey.
The casino was OK but featured few slots that you see in most FL Indian casinos, Vegas, Biloxi or Atlantic City. They were older three or five reelers for the most part with some older games that most casinos have long done away with (Texas Tea, Hexbreaker, Cleopatra, Zeus, etc.). Most machines spit out quarters when you cashed out that had you scurrying for containers to scoop them up into to cash in at the cashier. Only a few machines had paper receipts which was much nicer.
The Coco Cay stop needed to be handled by a tender. This was no problem as the tender was quite large and easy to get on and off. Unfortunately when we arrived at Coco Cay it was drizzling and our beach time there was not fully enjoyed. The buffet lunch they served there had plenty of stations so you didn't have to wait to get your food (jerk chicken, ribs, burgers, salads, fruit). It was OK and there was plenty of table seating in the area.
Our Nassau stop was good. We took a taxi to Atlantis and gambled there all day. Some folks we spoke to said they paid $1.25 each and took the local transit bus and drove all around New Providence island seeing lots of stuff. Cheap touring I guess. Atlantis was nice but the casino seemed larger the last time we were there. I guess I get confused in my old age.
I got to use the pool and hot tubs a couple of times. Regretfully the pool staff was unable to keep unescorted kids out of the two hot tubs but I was able to access them when there were few if any in there. They were relatively clean and moderately hot. The pools were nice as well.
There was plenty to do on board if you wanted to do it. We did not avail ourselves of much of what was offered but that was our choice.
Getting around the Monarch was no problem but the showroom was on the far side of the casino and you had to walk through the smoking Schooner bar or smoking casino to get out and go elsewhere like to dinner. There was never a problem getting a good seat at the theater but the center section seats had a very low back which made seating less than comfortable. We opted to sit way in the back one level up where there were higher backed seats or in the side sections of the orchestra. The on board orchestra was very good by the way.
There were plenty of announcements regarding what to do to get your bags picked up for the disembarking process and that went smoothly. We were the very last group called to go for our bags (number 32) but it went much faster than they anticipated and we exited the ship by 9:15 AM and had our bags come out within a few minutes.
It was, all in all, a very nice cruise and a good value as far as I am concerned.