Introduction: Right back where we started.
In December 2008 my wife and I took our very first cruise with Royal Caribbean aboard the Monarch of the Seas. I suppose it’s only fitting that our first cruise as Diamond Members also be on the same ship we started on. Since it has been two and a half years since that first pictorial review I thought it would be nice to do an update, plus a few new things tossed in. Anyone wanting to check out that original Monarch trip can inquire here:
My wife and I arrived at the pier around 1:30 PM. The embarkation process was fairly smooth. The terminal was in full swing, so we were happy to make use of the expedited embarkation offered to Crown and Anchor members at or above Platinum level. Getting from the parking lot to the ship’s lobby took about a half hour. Not too bad considering we arrived during the busiest part of embarkation day.
After getting settled in, we headed to the Windjammer for some lunch. Nothing much had changed since last year, and the food was the usual buffet stuff. Later in the day I met up with the folks from our Cruise Critic roll call thread. After the muster drill, some of us met back up in the Viking Crown Lounge for sail away. They were also having the nightly Diamond Event there, so my wife got a few glasses of free wine, and I got 25% off a cocktail.
In the evening we had dinner in the main dining room. We were originally supposed to have traditional dining, but decided to switch to “My Time Dining” so we could have a table for two. The food was very good, and the service was fairly quick. After dinner I went back up to t he Viking Crown Lounge and checked out the “Club 20” party. The same sort of event was held in the Solarium on Freedom OTS, and I felt that it worked much better as a deck party. I enjoy the VCL more as a calm place to relax to soft music, not so much as a noisy nightclub. I didn’t stay long, and enjoyed the rest of my cigar out on deck.
Day 2: My favorite way to enjoy Nassau
I would love to be able to provide a review of Monarch’s Diamond breakfast here, but we slept in late Saturday and totally missed it. Instead we jumped right into lunch in the Windjammer. Since the ship had not yet docked it was very crowded with folks getting a meal in before going ashore.
After lunch we headed up on deck to watch our arrival in Nassau. We joined Carnival Fascination, Disney Dream and Carnival Imagination in port. The Disney Dream and its new Aqua Duck water coaster seemed to be the talk of the ship though. I overheard several conversations over how amazing it looked.
Since we had been to Nassau several times, we opted to stay on the ship and enjoy its sparsely populated pool deck. My wife got some sun while I enjoyed the empty hot tubs. An empty hot tub is a rare occurrence on ship with over 2000 people sharing just two small whirlpools. Generally they become warm, bubbly kiddie pools. But not this day! I had one all to myself for the better part of an hour. I then had a nice long swim in the nearly empty pool. Enjoying the abandoned pool deck on port days is getting to be a habit for me. Therefore I encourage all of you to get off the ship and experience the lovely ports of call.
That evening was the Captain’s Reception, so I wore my formal jeans and a collar shirt. That’s about as elegant as I get on a three-night weekend cruise. After the Diamond event we had dinner in the main dining room again. I had multiple orders of the escargots, one of my favorite cruise dishes. The beef tenderloin was also excellent; I wish I had gotten two orders since the lobster ravioli wasn’t very good.
Day 3: Coco Cay Cabana Club
I learned about the new cabanas on Coco Cay from Cruise Critic. As soon as we got on board we booked one. After our tender over to the island, we headed to the Cabana Club. The area surrounds the faux lighthouse, and has it’s own bar and massage rooms. It also has a separate dining area just for the cabana guests. The cabanas themselves are available in different configurations. We got a two-person “clamshell” style cloth cabana that came with two loungers, floating mat, bottled water and the dining. The larger wooden cabanas can accommodate two or more and offer full shade, extra floating mats and champagne. The whole experience was very nice. Just having a semi private area to lounge and eat was worth the $35 price tag (the wooden cabanas are more). I think they will definitely expand the program, since all of them were sold out. I just hope they don’t raise the price. That’s about all I’m willing to spend on an island where the other loungers and food options are free.
My only complaint was that the area doesn’t have a beach. You have to walk out of the Cabana Club to one of the other beach areas. If it had a private section of beach it would be perfect. The package was also supposed to come with a photo. A photographer never came around to take a picture, and the Cabana Concierge didn’t know anything about it. So my wife went to the Shore Excursion desk later and they gave us the Coco Cay arrival photo for free. The arrival photo was a better deal in my opinion, so we were both happy.
Back on the ship we got cleaned up and went to the last Diamond event. Afterward we had dinner at the Jade Steakhouse, which was an interesting experience. Upon arrival, I noticed that the “Jade” sign looked very nice, but the “Steakhouse” lettering beneath it looked like adhesive mailbox letters that weren’t even placed properly. This would foreshadow our dining experience there. We were invited in by the hostess and asked to sit in some chairs near the door. She said we would need to wait a few minutes for a table. She then returned about 5 seconds after we sat down and asked up to follow her. We were then seated, and then waited about 15 minutes for someone to come back and give us water. Another few minutes went by, and our waitress finally showed up to take our order. We ordered two sushi rolls, and each ordered the filet mignon as the main course. The sushi came fast, within 5 minutes or so, and was very good. The steaks were a different matter. We waited another twenty minutes or so for the raw steaks, and hot stones to cook them on. Once we got the steaks, we placed them on stones and watched them sizzle. Once we cooked them, the steaks were delicious. Even better than the filet mignon Chops served me on Freedom OTS. If they can get the service kinks worked out, the Jade Steakhouse will be a fine addition to Royal Caribbean’s portfolio of fine dining alternatives.
Debarkation and final thoughts:
We received a letter along with the last days Cruise Compass explaining that we were free to enjoy staying our cabins until our debarkation time. It also said that there would be no cabin announcements to enhance this enjoyment. Well, this was a non-issue since were treated to a loud banging on the door at exactly 7:45. Apparently the crewman wanted to check our mini bar, he wasn’t warmly welcomed. I can’t understand why it was so important. The Seapass bill had already been issued, so any usage would be a separate charge. Too bad I already turned in the comment card.
Since we were up, we headed to the Windjammer for a final breakfast. After that we went down to the lobby and exited the ship. The entire debarkation process took about fifteen minutes, and was very smooth.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable cruise. The ship is still in great shape, and our two days of relaxation were badly needed. We really appreciated the Diamond benefits. It was great to have a few free drinks each night. The coupons are also very nice; the two free photos saved us $40, and the free internet would have been over $30. I am looking forward to our cruise on Allure of the Seas, now more so since she has a dedicated Diamond Lounge.
If anyone would like to check out the pictures from this cruise, a link to my pictorial review on the Cruise Critic Message Boards is listed below: