My husband and I are 45 and my son is 15 and my daughter is 12. This was our first cruise and our first vacation (other than Disney) not in our camper. We have a Dually Diesel Truck and 5th Wheel and spend weeks camping in the summer as a family. We love it but we were very excited to try something new - cruising.We decided to take a shorter cruise, as we had never taken one before. We wanted a cruise out of Port Canaveral, as we were staying in Cocoa Beach in a condo on the beach right after the cruise, then heading to Orlando for some touristy fun. We decided to save on airfare and drive our van from Illinois to Florida. So we signed up for the RCI cruise on Monarch of the Seas. Our cruise was from June 13th to the 17th with a stop in Coco Cay and in Nassau Bahamas.
I'm a major planner and got started on this adventure back in November of last year or so. I read the reviews, posted a question or two, and read all the newbie advice my brain could take in. We decided to get passports, in the event of an emergency in the Bahamas and received them back in early May. We did all of our cruise confirmations online and purchased a Swim with Dolphins excursion online as well. We waved goodbye to our home on Friday afternoon, June 10th, and drove until Sunday afternoon to Cocoa Beach. We stayed in Cocoa Beach at the Condos on the Beach Resort - lovely unit, lovely view, awesome pool. We headed over to the cruise terminal Monday AM around 10- easily found by using the overhead signs and their electronic displays. We were so excited when we saw our ship - albeit the smallest one in port, especially docked next to a huge NCL ship - but excited just the same. We were greeted by friendly luggage staff, who helped unload our many suitcases and put them on the luggage carts. We then headed up the walk way and had our paperwork/IDs checked by a very friendly RCI staffer and walked through the metal detectors. My husband accidentally had his pocket knife on him, so they had him fill out a form and told him he could retrieve it at the end of the cruise. They were very kind and apologetic - cause it was a very little knife.
Then we headed up the stairs and got into line to check in. It was crowded, but moving. After about 15 minutes in line, it was our turn. The gentleman was very nice. We checked in and were sent to chairs and given numbers to wait until called. Some people were cranky and complaining - still cannot understand it - but we were happy and taking pictures. A nice lady came and called our group and we were on our way. After the obligatory picture, we entered the ship.
Our first impression was "WoW - we are actually on a ship" It sure didn't feel like it. We knew we were early, so we headed to lunch. It was about 11:30. We found the windjammer easily and found the buffet stocked with an amazing selection of food. Fresh salads, sandwich fixings, fruits, burgers, hotdogs & other hot food items. Everything was quite good and very filling. I could feel the first couple ounces of weight being added to my body.
We then explored the different decks around the ship and elected to search out our room. We had adjoining rooms on deck 6. I believe they were 6553 & 6551. Oceanview. Our prepurchased soda cups and water were right there. We were not shocked at how small the rooms were. Definately not a hotel, but kind of like our camper. Clean with fresh linens. I was so thankful we were not all sharing the same room. My son is 6'3" and about 180. There would be no room for all of us.
So we unpacked our clothes. Room for everything. Our kids' beds were made into a queen, but a quick request to our wonderful cabin attendant, and they were changed to twins. Jose was so nice and friendly and helpful. He was from the Philipines and did a great job. My kids decided to chill and watch a cartoon, while my husband and I went to the Schooner Bar and enjoyed a yummy cocktail. No more pricey than a nice resturant. I was impressed at the staff and their eagerness to get to know us. We then headed back to join our kids for the muster drill. Quick, easy, painless. Enjoyed heading out to the open sea away from the crowds on deck 7. Then we headed to Claudes Dining Room to speak to the reservation desk.
We had chosen My Time dining as we wanted to enjoy dinner just the 4 of us and when we wanted. The gentleman at the desk was handling a very difficult lady who used the words "I've never been on such an awful cruise ship before in my life...and I've taken FIVE cruises". Poor guy. He was so nice and smiled through it all. After handling whatever ailed her, he spoke with a manager and it sounded like they were going to do something special for her to ease her situation. He gracefully moved on to us like nothing ever happened. He took our reservations for the next few days and we went on to explore more of the ship.
At dinner time, we dressed nicely and enjoyed our wonderfully prepared dinner. We enjoyed appetizers. I had a wonderful tender chicken dinner and a glass of wine. Our waiter and his assistant were so very nice. I cannot remember their names. Quick & helpful. I had decided to take some ginger pills and Dramamine before we got on the ship & continued to take them through the cruise. I do get car sick and didn't want to get sea sick. The ship was definately moving a little, but I was fine and so was the family.
After dinner we attended the welcome show & a comedian. He was so funny my face and sides hurt. It was fun and just long enough. The Cruise Director was a fun guy. After, my children chose to go to the kids area and hangout so my husband and I went to a lounge and enjoyed a singer there. We then snuck up and enjoyed a late nite snack of OK pizza. My kids liked it though. When we headed back to the room, we found our kids there watching cartoons. They felt excluded by the group of kids there, who all seem to know each other and were traveling together. They had no interest in going again. I felt bad for them, but we love hanging out with my kids so it was okay. While we were out our tickets to our Dolphin Swim were delivered.
The next morning, my husband and I arose early to watch the ship head towards Coco Cay & enjoy some coffee. Then we got the kids and enjoyed a great breakfast in the windjammer. Around 10 we headed down to board one of the tenders to Coco Cay. A beautiful day with spots of clouds. We rented snorkle gear and had an awesome day snorkling among the fish. We spotted a stingray and followed it around for a while. The lunch BBQ was awesome. Totally fresh and good. We headed back to the ship around 3 or so. Tired and a little burned. It was formal night! We opted to take the professional pictures and were so glad we did. We ended up buying 3 of them. We enjoyed another lovely dinner in Claudes with our same servers. They put on a little show, it was cute. Our waiter found out it was our anniversary and they sang a song and served us a plateful of desserts. Oh my. We enjoyed a bottle of wine. It was grand.
We attended another show. The performers were talented, but it was oh so long and songs from the different decades, so not interesting. So glad it was over. The kids wanted to swim, so we headed down. One of the pools had been closed but was reopened.
The next morning we arose early early and watched the ship come into port in Nassau. Very cool process. Oh it was soooo hot here. I wasn't prepared. It was 54 when I left Illinois. We enjoyed another breakfast and met our group for the Dolphin Swim. We enjoyed a nice boat ride over to Blue Lagoon Island -the island in the opening sequences of Gilligans Island. Very cute and tropical. The swim was great. Of course we bought the pictures! We snorkled in the Lagoon
and decided to head to the ship to eat as it was $20 per person for lunch there. We could have stayed all day after our swim if we had wanted. On the way back on the Ferry we witnessed a tornado touching down in Nassau. First one I'd ever seen. Scarey. I was so glad it wasn't near us and we had no problems with weather.
We ate lunch around 3:30, so we skipped our fancy dinner. We chose not to go to Nassau because of the incredible heat. So we stayed at the pool together. Later, we enjoyed a Bolero show. He was so talented and hysterical. Then we had a small dinner in the Windjammer. Very good. I don't eat like this, so it was getting more difficult everyday to be surrounded by so much food. I know I was gaining weight everyday. That evening my husband and I attended a very cute Love & Marriage show & also witnessed(for lack of a better word) the late scavenger hunt. We must be getting old. Different.
Then, the day at sea. Very very hot & humid. We went to the pool. We took a nap. We kind of felt a little trapped. There was nothing to do but gamble, eat, drink & lay in the sun. Not our kind of vacation - but heck, it was only one day. We went to dinner and enjoyed the farewell party. I had the steak and yes it was pretty tasteless. At this point the ship was moving around alot, so I loaded up on bread and crackers. My husband took some dramamine before dinner. After dinner the ship was really moving. My daughter took some ginger and dramamine.
We skipped the goodbye show in the theatre. I think we were tired of being around groups of people. We instead, enjoyed the pool as the sun set. The waves in the pool really started to get big. The boat was really moving more. No bad weather anywhere. It was about 10ish, so we headed down to our room to pack. After 10 min my daughter was feeling sick, so my husband took her up to the top deck to get some air. About 30 min later my son said he wasn't feeling too good and also went up. So I packed both rooms, 4 people, to get our luggage out by midnight. Around 11:20 my husband came down and said my son was throwing up and my daughter was crying that she wanted off this stupid ship! :0!!! At one point my son asked my husband if the moon was moving in circles and my husband said yes and my son said good I thought it was just me. Poor kids were so sea sick. I didn't feel too good and found it hard to walk around the cabin without holding onto the walls the ship was rocking so much. After my packing was done, I joined the family up top and on the way saw many many green travelers. Everyone was feeling sick. I went to get gingerale(ontap was gone, they were using cans) for the kids & asked what was going on and if this was normal. I was told the Captain was "riding the tide" because he was running too early.Wow! Talk about ruining a nice experience for soooo many of the people on board. It was soo bad the water was all out of the pools and they were closed. You couldn't walk down the hallways without putting your hand on the wall.
Finally around 2am we headed down to drop into bed.
Leaving the ship was easy peasy. Our time to debark was 8:45. My kids were feeling much better and ate some breakfast, then we headed out and were off the ship and to our van by 9:30. On the way out the staffers were not so friendly - kind of like "Get the heck off the ship & don't let the door hit your backside on the way out". I think the heat was getting to everyone. Customs were suprisingly nice though.
All in all, Monarch of the Seas is a great ship. It is showing signs of aging, but in no way is it a terrible ship, as some reviewers say. Its not brand new. Never will be again. The staff was awesome and helpful and lovely. The food was super and more than plentiful. We really enjoyed our cruise, although we have found for us, unless we have a port everyday, as a family we probably will choose to not do another one. The days at sea are just too long. Now as a couple or with some girlfriends...that may be another story.