Needless to say, we are pretty loyal to Royal... we have had some ups and downs, but overall, we have had pretty consistently good times on each ship!
This is our 2nd time back on the Monarch of the Seas. We booked with my office for our yearly company get-away. I was concerned because we have been on Oasis... I was worried that there just would not be enough to do to keep us busy... soon our fears were put to rest.
Day 1 - Embarkation
My husband and I live about 2 hours from port, so we drove in and arrived in the area about 11:45am. We decided this time around, for the first time ever, to use a park and ride service to save a little money. We found it just off the main highway with no issue and took advantage of their 1/2 off prices as compared to the terminal's lot. We were only there about 5 minutes before a bus came to pick us up. We waited about 10 minutes to fill the bus and then we were on our way to the ship! We arrived around noon. The bus driver took our stuff off and handed it to the porter, then we were on our way though security. After several security checks downstairs, we were walked to the Platinum and above check in area and went straight to the counter. All said and done, the whole process took us very little time and we were at the Windjammer eating by 12:30pm!
While we are on the Windjammer, I must say they aren't awful, but the food has definitely gone down hill there since our first RC cruise in 2007. My husband and I found the cinnamon-covered corn on the cob especially strange, but we both found something to eat just fine. We both had the soda package and never had any trouble with refills the whole time. We never encountered any rudeness from any of the bar staff when asking for the refills. They were always very pleasant. Since at this point it was just after 1pm, we decided to go to our room. We stayed in an Oceanview stateroom (8508) which was on the port side of the ship. Yes, the room is very small. It consists mainly of a bed with a very small area at the foot of it for standing. For us, this was just fine. We had a partially obstructed view from our window, but since we were between lifeboats, it was slightly better than others I had heard talking about their views. At least it was not on deck 7, which was right on the walking track. There were times out on the track that I had accidentally seen into someone's room who left the curtains open! Get your mind out of the gutters... all I saw was their room! Geez!
After the mandatory muster drill, my hubby and I stayed around deck 7 for sail away. We don't love crowds, so this area was perfect for us! We just chilled out, enjoyed a few drinks and walked around the ship until the comedy show. The comedian was decent, not the best I had seen, but nowhere near the worst. He put on a pretty good show. After this was done, it was time for our late dinner at 8:30pm. Dinner the first night was solid. My only complaint was that the garlic shrimp were still in the shells and quite tough to get out of the shell while still trying to look lady-like. Nonetheless, I got through it with a few good laughs. My hubby and I decided to go back to the cabin after dinner to watch a movie and call it a night. We were pretty tired from the early start and since we are parents of a 2 year old,(who stayed with my mom for the time we were gone) we needed desperately to catch up on sleep!
Day 2 - Coco Cay
In the morning, we decided not to get off the boat as soon as we could, but instead decided to hang back til about 10am. This was perfect, since we were able to walk right on a tender and get over to the island fairly quickly. This was our 3rd visit to the island, but we had not been since they added the private cabana area. We decided to give cabana rental a try, even though we did not know much about what we would get. We rented a cabanette for $50, and I would have to say it was very much worth the money! When we arrived, we were given a wrist band and escorted to our cabanette, #1, which was prime real estate! It was about 20 steps from the bar and buffet! We were were given floating mats as well as a $10 off voucher per person for snorkeling gear. We had brought our own masks and fins, but had no vests. This allowed us to rent the vests for free.
We set up shop in the cabanette, listening to music and the waves lapping the shore. Now I must say, there is no direct beach access from the cabanas, but all we had to do was exit the area and go to the left, which took us straight to the snorkeling beach. We just relaxed until lunch, which was served at noon. All the while, our bartender Savio kept our drinks filled and brought us anything we needed (such as the waters that come with rental).
The buffet itself was upgraded from the usual burgers/dogs/ribs. We had all of that, but in addition we also were given a baked potato bar, steaks, shrimp and chicken kabobs. I think just that alone was worth our while! After lunch we decided to go snorkeling. We went to all of the sites where they had set up stuff to see on the bottom and saw plenty of fish. Swimming back, we saw 2 giant jellyfish and one very large barracuda... at that point we decided we had enough of swimming and went back to relax. The bar in the cabana area closed tabs at 3pm, so after this, we went back to the ship. We only had to wait about 5 minutes in line before we were on a tender. After showering and changing clothes, we took a nap (again, we are parents of a toddler! LOL). We decided once we woke up that we did not want to dress up (it was formal night), so we went to the Windjammer instead. I didn't find a ton of food that I liked, but I was able to get the lobster bisque that I enjoy from the MDR so I was happy. We went to a show after this which was a production show. It was ok, but not really my thing. They did a Motown review with dancing and singing. Once the show was over, we decided to go back to deck 7 to sit under the stars and relax. This made us a little too relaxed, so before long, we went back to the cabin for a movie and called it a night
Day 3 - Nassau
We decided this morning to wake up just as the boat was docking at 8am to get a jump on the day. We booked a room at Comfort Suites on Paradise Island which allowed us access to Atlantis' facilities, including Aquaventure. We had done this before, and since it worked so well, we did it again without hesitation. Depending on what time of year it is, you can save a substantial amount by doing this instead of booking through the ship. All I can say is we saved a ton. We played at Aquaventure for most of the day. We did eat at Atlantis, which was a little pricey, but the food was good so I cant complain.
At around 3:30pm, we were wiped out from all of the sun and fun, so we went back to our room at CS. We showered and napped there for a little bit before taking a cab back to the ship. We wanted to stay longer, but we really didn't feel like paying a lot for dinner at Atlantis. We returned and decided to go to the comedy show. The show featured an amazing comedy juggler. I laughed my bottom off! After a trip back to our room to freshen up, we went to the Windjammer since it was just after the start of our MDR seating. I found more offerings that I liked as compared to the night before, but it was just good food, not great. We had every intention that night to go back out for Love and Marriage as well as The Quest, but we ended up going back to the cabin and falling asleep (yeah, I know... boring).
Day 4 - Day at Sea
Since we had gone to bed quite early the night before, we didn't sleep in too late on this day. We hung around the ship, mainly just exploring and taking in things as we stumbled across them. We started off by eating in the MDR for lunch, which I must say was a nice change. The food was really enjoyable. I especially liked the beef carpaccio! I had enough sun for the time being, so we did not hang out too much by the packed pool. We did go there for the belly flop competition as well as for the World's Sexiest Man.... those guys were HILLARIOUS! We had a great time watching them make fools of themselves for medals. My hat is off to each of you for making me laugh so hard that my stomach hurt! After this was done, we went to play a few rounds of air hockey in the arcade which was quite fun and allowed me to get out of the sun. We continued the day just hanging out, usually on deck 7, just watching the tide go by. We participated in Win-A-Cruise bingo, but unfortunately we did not win anything.
That night, we went to the last production show, which was again OK but not really my thing. After the show, we went back to the MDR for dinner. As with the first night, the food was solid but not spectacular. I especially enjoyed my NY strip. Was it Morton's or Bern's quality? NO... but I wasn't expecting it! It was most certainly good enough for me! At the end of dinner, we had very little time to get to the adult comedy, but managed to make it. The show was so-so. I think the comedian struggled slightly through it. It was definitely not the best late-night act we had seen, but it was enjoyable anyway. Once this was done, we went up to deck 12 (yes, we switched it up!) watched the moon on the water for a bit, had some Sorrento's and called it an night.
We woke up around 8am and began to pack, as we did not do it the night before. We decided that since we did not have our toddler, we would give self assist debarkation a try. It was a breeze! We walked off the ship within 15 minutes of leaving our room and was on the shuttle back to park and ride shortly after. I was sad to see the cruise come to an end, but happy to be going home, back to our rambunctious toddler!
I must say that while there was some apprehension about going on an older, smaller ship after Oasis, this proved to be unfounded. While the ship is 20+ years old, it is very well maintained and the staff is EXCELLENT. I would especially like to mention Marc "Bing Bong" Walker who was our fantastic cruise director. He started just this week on the Monarch, but it was such a seamless transition that I would not have known unless he had mentioned it! Big congrats to him as well since his wife is expecting! Also of note was Sindy (with an S!) who was probably the "most sarcastic Asians" (her own words!) I had met, but made Bingo and Finish the Lyrics more fun than I had ever experienced. Finally, a big thanks to our sweet cabin steward, Aris. He was very soft spoken, but always pleasant. He kept our room spotless and always made the cutest towel animals! I am about to go on Allure with my hubby and son next week and while I'm very excited about the big ship, I will fondly remember our little sleepy Monarch getaway as great time!