We sailed on Monarch over the holiday weekend - January 16th through 19th, 2009. We had sailed on Sovereign on this same weekend last year.
Since we live in the area, we both worked Friday morning, then headed over to the port around 1:45 pm. We paid our $45 for parking, and went quickly through security and check in. I asked if there were upgrades available, but the ship was full! We were in our cabin before 2 pm. Quick and painless check in.
Our cabin was in Steerage :-D - on deck 2 - 2104. It was really small. We normally book balconies, but given the price difference it was fine for three days, but too small for anything more than that. It was clean and in pretty good shape for an older ship.
After checking in we went up to the Windjammer for lunch. TIP: go to the back of Windjammer. There are food stations and there always seemed to be many open tables with a beautiful view off the stern of the ship. Lunch at WJ was the same as always - hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwich stuff, the ever-present honey stung chicken, etc.
Muster Drill was at 4. Then we headed up top for sailaway. IT WAS COLD and windy! It was about 50F with nasty wind. Bahamian cocktails don't hold much appeal in that weather. I settled for hot chocolate!
Had dinner in the dining room, deck 3, main seating. We were at a table for 6 and were seated with another couple from Florida. We had great conversations with them each night. There were also two young women from New York and I think they were pretty disappointed to be seated with old people like us (we're in our 40s). They ate elsewhere on the other two nights, and I hope they found some fun because I suspect our conversations about politics and the economy were pretty dull for them.
Our waiter was Junior ("call me JR"). He was friendly, as was our assistant waiter. Service was good … not quite as attentive as on Celebrity, but it was fine. The first night I had Caesar salad (served family style), turkey with dressing, and chocolate ice cream. I dislike mashed potatoes and every night they brought me either a baked potato or rice.
Also, I am allergic to shellfish and was pleased to see that there wasn't a shellfish platter or lobster night. I know many people love those dishes, but it was nice to not have to worry.
After dinner we went to the show. It featured a comedian named Rodney Johnson. He was VERY funny. There were none of the usual cruising jokes, so that was refreshing. After the show we went up to the Viking Crown Lounge for a drink. I was surprised by how few people were up there!
Saturday morning we were enroute Nassau, arriving around 11:30 am. We had breakfast in the dining room at about 7:30 am , which was a nice change. Again, we were seated with nice people from New York. The C&A event was at 10:30, but I forgot about it. For lunch that day they had freshly made stir fry on the pool deck, which was different. We wound up having hamburgers and salad back in Jade. Then we went ashore and just wandered around. The weather was much better today - probably around 72F. It was cloudy and windy in the afternoon, which didn't make for good beach or pool weather. We have been to Nassau before, so it was more a chance to get out and walk. I can't believe that the jewelry stores are doing well these days. There were four other ships in port that day and most of the stores had maybe one patron looking in the cases. The slowing economy is doubtless hurting those types of shops.
Saturday night was formal night. I wore a cocktail dress. DH wore a jacket and open collared dress shirt. There were a couple of people in tuxes and gowns, but most women were in dresses and men in a jacket or shirt and tie. I had the pear soup, filet, baked potato, asparagus, with Grande Marnier soufflé for dessert. I'm a chocoholic, but that soufflé is always excellent!
The Captain's reception was after dinner that night (between main and late seating). We had the requisite free drinks and listened to the Captain talk about the ship. There are a lot of Canadian crew on this ship! (Being Canadian myself, I notice these things ?).
I didn't want to go to the show that night because I dislike juggling acts, but was coerced with the promise of cocktails. I was really, really surprised because the performer, Steve Carte, was hilarious. After the show we went back to the Viking Crown Lounge, had a martini, and watched them set-up for the midnight buffet. The prices for martinis have gone up … $9.50 for a Cosmo, $8.00 for a Bombay Sapphire. Highballs were still $5.50. That's the way to go!
The ship was due to leave Nassau at 11:30 pm, and at 11:25 there was an announcement that came through to the cabins asking for a man and a woman to report in. About 20 minutes later there was ANOTHER announcement in the cabins, but this time they just mentioned the woman's name. That was strange … it is so rare for them to put announcements in the cabin. On Sunday morning I overhead several people complaining about being woken up by the announcement. We never heard what happened.
Sunday morning we arrived in Coco Cay. The weather was perfect! Beautiful blue skies, calm winds and gorgeous blue seas. We ate in the Windjammer and tendered over around 9:30 am. There were plenty of beach chairs available so we sat out and read until around 12:30 when we went back to the ship and had lunch in the WJ. There was the usual buffet on shore, but I felt like eating something different. Plus I was getting a sunburn so it was time to get out of the sun.
The best conversation we overheard was on the beach when a woman saw someone she knew and exclaimed loudly, "this is my neighbor!". Then she said, "I'm here on a cruise with my girlfriend". The neighbor said, "we're on a cruise, too!". She then said, "OMG! What ship are you on?!". The neighbor replied, "Monarch of the Seas". Then another "OMG! We're on the same ship, how bizarre!". I guess she didn't get the part about this being a private island.
That afternoon DH worked and I wandered through the shops, lost the last of my cash in the slots, and sat by the pool. We watched part of the Eagles/Cardinals game in the Schooner Bar, then went to dinner. It was Italian Night and I had the Caesar salad, chicken Marsala, and Tiramisu. The chicken was good, but it wasn't like the one Carrabbas serves. After dinner we packed then went to the show ("Can't Stop the Music"). It was usual cruise ship fare, but some of the singers were quite good and it didn't drag like some of the shows do.
On Monday morning we pulled into the canal at around 5:40 am, and the ship docked around 6:10. We had priority disembarkation so went to Claudes and had some pastries and coffee while waiting to leave. We were off the ship and through Customs in about 5 minutes, but waited 20 minutes for our luggage [Note to Self: bring less stuff next time!]
Overall, it was a really nice weekend break. We really enjoyed our dining companions and talked to a lot of nice people over the course of the weekend. The many children and teenagers were not noticeable, which says their parents were doing a great job! The food was good, service was good, and even the weather turned out to be good.
Comparing Sovereign to Monarch: Monarch is in considerably better shape, from the staterooms to the dining rooms. Sovereign really reeked of cigarette smoke, but on Monarch I only noticed it in the casino and parts of the Schooner bar. The crew seemed to be quite happy and willing to please, although you don't have much interaction with most of them on a 3-nighter.
We'll definitely do the same sailing again in the next few months, and I'd be happy to stay in another lower level oceanview stateroom. Given how little time you spend in the cabin over the course of 3 days, there was sufficient space.