This was my second time sailing with Royal Caribbean. This sailing was on one of their smaller ships, and I still am amazed by all that is offered.
PORT CANAVERAL: This port is absolutely great. I have sailed out of here 3 times, and each time has been so easy and efficient. As a Crown & Anchor member, you are able to get pushed to the front of the check-in line. We were inside the ship within 3 hours. For this cruise, we only had our birth certificate and drivers license, which worried me quite a bit. However, we were able to get through without a problem. There are both deck and lot parking available, which is nice when you are going to park your car in a very hot Florida port.
ACTIVITIES: From reading reviews, Monarch offered many of the same activities as other ships did. However, the passengers on the ship are truly what make those simple activities a blast. Things included the "Sexiest Male" competition and the "Belly Flop" competition. HILARIOUS. Also, the Love & Marriage game show was hands down the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. Mark the cruise director with his British accent made it all so much more hilarious.
SERVICE: Service was EXCELLENT everywhere we went. We booked an interior stateroom, which as you know is the smallest and cheapest room available. However, we were still treated like royalty everywhere we went. On this sailing, bartenders were on POINT. Drinks were some of the best I've ever had.
CABIN: While small, it was sufficient for what we needed it to do: provide a place to sleep and shower. We were never in the room simply because the activities were absolutely amazing. The rooms were extremely clean, and we always had enough towels and wash cloths.
DINING: Our chef was just simply amazing. Everything I had was on point. The scallops...my God they were to die for. I wish I could remember our chef's name. He was Australian, which was even more entertaining as he introduced himself on the night of the Captains dinner.
DISEMBARKATION: As unpleasant as this was simply because we didn't want to leave the cruise, the port made this fairly quick. As long as you had documentation complete, customs was a breeze. We decided to carry our own luggage off instead of getting it picked up. This sped things up considerably. I would say that it took about 30-45 minutes after we lined up to get off of the ship and through customs.
CocoCay is BEAUTIFUL. There were always plenty of chairs available for all passengers on the ship. Workers that worked on the island were also workers on the ship. Again, drinks were great. I highly recommend the souvenir cup. They were only a few more dollars, and they helped keep the drinks cold. We did not book any excursions here because we did not have to. The beaches had very shallow water for many feet before it became deeper, which allowed us to see all the sea life such as conches, jelly fish, and fish. I know, I mentioned jelly fish that seem scary. However, these were very interesting that floated upside down and did not harm any of us. Lunch was provided on the island, which was nice because you did not have to go back to the ship for lunch. There was also a nature tour which was very interesting as the tour guide told us about some of the differences in ocean water based on color, animal life, and plant life on the island. The island also has hammocks around so that passengers can use.
Nassau gave me very mixed opinions about that port. When you get off the boat, you are hassled from taxi drivers who want to offer you a ride to take you to Atlantis and Paradise Island. While they seemed relatively harmless, it's not exactly what I want to experience as I come off the ship. The straw market also had many merchants who also hassled you. Some of the merchandise was interesting, like the hand carved decorations. We purchased one of these simply because the man selling them was actually outside making them, so we were able to see that they were truly made by locals. That being said, there were many merchants who were selling cheap t-shirts. When I say cheap, I mean cheap in quality and not in price.
We did a snorkeling excursion, which I honestly enjoyed. It was not anything special, but for a $25 snorkeling trip, I feel like we received a lot for our money. A small boat piled in a large number of people and handed everyone a sanitized snorkel and goggles. You also received a very basic life jacket and flippers that were nothing special, but did their jobs. The boat took us out to a coral reef away from the main island. We were able to see many different types of fish and coral. Again, nothing extravagant but very interesting. We were able to spend about 30 minutes in the water, which honestly was enough time. Some may think it was short, but 30 minutes was plenty of time to swim around and look at the coral. We went in March, and the waters were fairly cold. However, it was not too cold to swim in. Our guides were great. On the way back to the main port, there was a tour guide that also provided a tour of the area showing us different celebrity houses in the are. At the end, he did ask for money as a tip. We did not give him any even though he was great. We simply did not ask for his service, so we did not feel the need to give anything.
Later that evening, us and our friends decided to check out Señor Frogs. It was a little crowded and hectic, but they had really good drinks. However, keep in mind that Nassau turns very sketchy at night. There are still military officers on the main strip. However, we were still approached by a man trying to sale us drugs. There were also some passengers that were caught trying to bring drugs back on the boat, which got them in trouble with both Royal Caribbean and the Nassau officials. I'm still unsure of what happened about that situation.
Nassau does offer discounted alcohol. We saw prices, and they were fairly good compared to American prices. We were not interested in buying bottles of alcohol to take back to the States, so I cannot vouch for my experience with that.