I have been an avid cruiser since I was young. My family first sailed on the NCL Skyward, which was one of the first family cruises. I have been on every major line at least once. This was my third RCCL cruise.
Being a huge cruise fan, I decided that for my bachelor party I would do a weekend cruise. The Monarch was an easy choice because I trust RCCL, and the price was right.
My friends and I hired a car service from MCO. For the 6 of us. Worked quite well. We arrived at the pier around 1230. The bag porters demand to take your bags. Don't forget to bring small bills. If you don't tip them, your bags are most likely going to end up in the ocean.
Getting on-board was very easy. Make sure you fill out all the paper-work before you get there. Makes your life a lot easier. "Security" is a joke. We were all paranoid about sneaking alcohol in our bags because we were told they were very strict, especially with "water bottles." Well, sure enough, one of my friends walked through security with a huge 1L water bottle (it was actually water) and they never said anything. If only it had been vodka! From arriving to on the boat was max 20 minutes. When we got on the ship, we were greeted with workers frantically trying to fix a pipe that had burst in the atrium. Because of this burst, all the plumbing was turned off. Yep, no toilets working. Luckily this problem was fixed a few hours later.
The Monarch is from the early 90s, which in today's cruising, equates to the prehistoric era. It doesn't have the glamor of the new ships, but for it's age, it looks really good. They are constantly cleaning and painting. It has an ample supply of bars, lounges and seating areas. The pool is fine. I did notice a pretty foul smell near the pool bar on one side. I assume this is just from years and years of mildew build-up. We avoided that area. The club on the first night was packed and a ton of fun, the second night it was much quieter. The viking lounge (bar on the top/smoke stack) is a nice place for an early night drink. Really cool views from up there. The gym is fairly spacious, but very dated. Only used it once and then I realized I was on vacation.
We had two inside rooms. They were the smallest rooms I have ever been in. Three guys in one room was an extremely tight fit. But in all honesty, it really didn't matter. We were only staying on-board for 3 nights. We were much happier spending the money we saved at the bar than on a room with 20 more sq ft. We each had a bed, and that's all we needed. If this had been a week, then it would have been an issue.
Overall, we were all impressed with the quality of food. Considering it is a short cruise, I figured they would cut back on the quality. We were all supposed to be late seating, but our booking got screwed up and 1 room was on early, the other was on late. We all decided to switch to any-time, which for a short cruise, I think is much better. We ended up having the same waiter (Savio) all three nights. The speed of service wasn't the greatest, but we weren't in a hurry. Savio didn't even take our orders, he just brought out everything on the menu for us to try. It was great. The buffet area is so-so. Much of the grill food was usually cold. The pizza was actually one of my favorite things. We ate that at about 6 different times during the day. Nothing like pizza at 3 am after the bar.
Nassau is a pit. Simple as that. I had read earlier reviews about going to the Hilton. The hotel is visible from the pier and a short 10 minute walk. It cost $40, but you get a $30 voucher to use towards food or drinks at the pool bar. This proved to be a very smart decision. The hotel was beautiful, and we got to use the beach and the pool. We planned on getting drinks anyways, so we only paid $10 in the end. I highly recommend doing this than some dumb tour to Atlantis.
We weren't able to go into Cocoa Cay Beach because of "sea conditions." This was a bummer because I had hyped it up to my friends. I have always been a big fan of CC. I am sure this has happened on many cruises, and the 4 day cruise includes a day at sea, but despite this, there was very little planned. The sun was out, but temps with the wind were quite low, so we couldn't be out on the deck for very long. We ended up spending a lot of time wandering around and at the casino. I wish there was more planned.
No better, no worse than other ships. Customs was really slow, but that's not the ships fault. Left the pier around 845.
1. Drinks are fairly reasonable. Beers are 4-5, mixed drinks (usually pretty strong) are 6-7. Being from a city, these are actually good prices for me. You also have to remember, there is no competition, so it could be a lot worse. Drinks at Senor Frogs at the Nassau pier were actually much more expensive.
2. Sneaking alcohol on board is pretty easy. We wish we had brought on more.
3. Casino is rather small, and very smokey.