Dennis and Debra cruise Oct. 31 thru Nov 4, 2011 on Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas
Quality Service provides Quality Cruise experience
My wife and I just arrived home from our cruise aboard the Monarch of the Seas and I wanted to let everyone know what a wonderful experience it was. Let's start with the arrival, we are from Orlando so it is an easy one hour drive to get there we chose offsite parking for less than half of the Port rates..check out ParkCruise .com. At the terminal the service and friendliness begins...WOW...great organization and Crew members, we arrived at the terminal at 10:45 and were on the ship enjoying the buffet at Windjammers by 11:45. Royal Caribbean even provides free hot and cold refreshments along with pastries and cookies while you wait. The terminal is spotless and the procedure painless and efficient. You are guided into your proper sections until on the ship...notice the crew members they are truly happy in their jobs.
On the ship...we started with lunch at Windjammers on the 11 deck. This is a buffet style restaurant with very good food choices. The food is good and plentiful while you may not like everything it is your own fault if you leave hungry.
By now it is 1:00 and you can get into your stateroom, first impression... it is smaller than Disney, but it is spotless and smells fresh. Remember the last guest just left the room not 5 hours earlier, they had already converted the two twin beds into one queen size for my wife and I and they were comfortable, firm, and provided a good night's rest. If you prefer two twins they will gladly accommodate your request. The small the ocean-view window fills the end wall and really brightens up the room and gives the appearance of more space. Our view was looking under the life boats but it is such that the view is not blocked, you see ocean and shoreline when at sea and in ports. The bathroom is manageable, small but serves the purpose and is very clean without any odors. The shower is great and can be as hot as you would like, the stream of water is not just a trickle but plenty strong enough to satisfy. Our stateroom attendant was marvelous, very attentive and full of good humor. He went out of his way to make sure our cruise was special from having our clothes pressed in time for formal night to making sure the room was made up and spotless. He also noticed we were trying to keep our water cold with the small bucket of ice he brought and on his own would fill up a larger container, we would come back to our water covered with ice not just sitting on top of it.
Now on to the ship, our room was near the elevators which was very nice, we never experienced more than a 5 minute wait ever during the cruise as there are more than enough elevators serving the ship. We noticed some guests that if the doors didn't immediately open when they pressed the button would grumble and use the stairs; patience seems lacking in our microwave society. Royal C. does it right, enjoy the guests and scenery around you if there is a slight wait. OK, where to first, well we took a quick tour of the ship starting with the Spa and the pool areas. Yes, this is an older ship and if you really look for it you can find signs of its age. Kinda like if we really looked in anyone's house we could find dirt or dust of some kind. The Monarch is in great shape and makes you feel special, of course the warm smiles and great service from its crew accents the atmosphere greatly. The Spa areas are very pleasant and the services many, we did not get to try any of them out as we were on a budget this cruise and as with all ships they are a little pricey. They did have a free raffle thou for many of their treatments, we were not one of the lucky ones, maybe next time. The pool areas were spacious very clean and we never had a hard time finding a chair, you may have to wait a short time to get one near the water but use another till your special one opens up. The wife swam and tried their hot tubs she liked both but is not a big fan of salt water pools. The hot tubs were not especially hot but then again these are for everyone to enjoy and safety is always a concern. OK it is time to leave port and the deck party, unfortunately the day was cloudy windy and cool, but the party was lively and all had a great time even the sun came out just as it started. I don't think RC can take credit for that but I'm sure they played a part in it somehow. Their island drinks are very good, not too strong and not too weak. The live music was very good and they played a good mix and were supported by the ship's show members. Of course the Cruise Entertainment Director, Mark, was ever present and really makes all events special, funny and enjoyable, THANK YOU MARK. Off exploring the ship again, we are now out to sea and the stores are open. My wife likes to shop but will only buy good deals and there many to have. The pricing was good and there were many specials, take advantage of the specials as they really are special. I purchased some spirits for the upcoming holidays and saved considerably, the ship's prices were even better than in port. There are just enough shops as we were on vacation, not mall shopping, and they covered anything you would want for souvenir or keepsakes.
OK, it's about time for dinner well we had chosen the "My time Dinning" at 7:15 and it worked out perfect, for us. Now we sailed on October 31 and being Halloween had decided to dress the part. I am sorry to admit but this was the first time I had ever dressed up for Halloween since I was 12..57 now, and I have missed a lot of fun. We were pirates, what else on a ship??? I'll get to that answer later, there were a few other adventurous souls dressed up and we never felt out of place. We did receive many compliments and smiles from guests and crew along with the many ARRRRRRRRR thar be Pirates aboard comments. It was great, so how was the food and service? Let me say I miss it already. The food choices were plenty and the taste exceptional. The staff could not have done anything better if they tried, from filling your drinks without asking to bringing more butter when you were down to one. Now that sounds strange but they have a never ending supply of breads and rolls, the sour dough rolls are so fresh and delicious you could live on them alone. Now our waiter Chris really goes above and beyond to make your meal special, especially when he places extra plates of shrimp, pasta, or seafood for you to enjoy....again if you leave hungry it is only your own fault. The desserts were from OK to GREAT you only had to find your GREAT, and you could as you may order as many as you want. We always had our each picks and then one to share, careful if you ask how something tastes and don't order it because it will also be provided for you to sample. Now our headwaiter and assistant waiter were top of the line and provided us with very special attention. They remember what you drink and your special interests; with the never ending rotation of guests it is remarkable how they do that.
OK, now we are stuffed what to do, well we are dressed up in costume so photos would be nice. Again WOW does RC provide, there are multiple setups for photos and the quality really is top of the line professional. They take their time with each guest to get the proper poses and take multiple shots so you will have that special one to buy. Your only complaint may be there are soooo many exceptional photos to choose from at the end of your cruise. RC helps with that offering a $249.00 package price where you receive all pictures taken during the entire cruise. I even think if purchased on line prior to the cruise they offer a small discount.
Well now we have been fed and photoed so it's off to the shows, we were not able to catch all shows as we have cruised before and have learned to be selective so you don't feel rushed. The shows on RC don't disappoint we were very impressed and haven't laughed that hard or enjoyed ourselves that much anywhere else. Remember the first night we are dressed as Pirates so had to go to the Adult Costume party, there was also a family party earlier, what a riot. I have never seen so many professional and detailed homemade costumes. There was everything you could imagine, even Pirates, the dancing and music never stopped for over an hour. Also a must are the comic shows and the marriage game show along with the song and dance performances. Yes all ships have those but these were hilarious and the Cruise Director couldn't have been funnier. If chosen to participate, let go your inhibitions and enjoy we are all laughing with you not at you. Now it's after midnight, so what do we do go to bed or check out the Casino. Well we are not gamblers and do not cruise for the gambling but decide to at least check out the casino. We had a good time, only complaint is we don't smoke and smoking is allowed so be aware before you go in it is reminiscent of days gone by where the bars were smoke filled. The casino appeared to have many choices and we heard many guests laughing and cheering as we were there. Our luck was not with us we eventually lost $5.00 at the slots but the entertainment was worth it. Oh another note, they also have many free raffles and you must be present to win so your odds are better, the gifts range from spa treatments, money for games, to champagne and food.
Well we are now tired and off to bed, as I noted earlier we slept soundly what I had not mentioned earlier was our itinerary had changed. Instead of going to their private Island we would have a day at sea. Two hours after leaving port a guest became very ill and the ship turned back to Port Canaveral so they could be taken for medical treatment, our prayers go out to the family as it appeared the elderly gentleman could have been the grandfather. RC had emergency vehicles standing by and they were quickly transported away. That put us slightly behind schedule and the Captain did not want to take away from our island time so switched the day at sea with the day on the island. This actually worked out for the best as the weather was perfect for our day on their island, Cococay.
This brings us to shore excursions, only stopping in the Bahamas we have been there before so only chose to get off the ship and shop in the Straw Market. If you have never been it is allot of fun with all the colorful Bahaman souvenirs you could ask for. Be aware they expect you to dicker on price, an example was the beach handbag my wife bought started out at $15.00 she ended up paying $9.00, I don't win many arguments with her and she always does it with a smile.
So onto day four and their Island Cococay, our 3rd Port, from the ease of the shuttle boat to lunch this is a great day. There is also a small straw market setup with many of the items offered in Nassau, but be aware BRING CASH as the markets are run by the Bahamas and don't accept the ship's cruise card or any credit cards. Cococay has everything you could ask for white sand and crystal clear turquoise water. There are plenty of lounge beach chairs, hammocks and picnic tables for all. If you have never been walk all the areas before deciding which is best for you as there are some with all sun to ones that offer almost all shade. You will always be close to the live music and food, did I mention food again their barbecue lunch is very good and as always plentiful. The only problem with this day is it goes by so fast, the last tender is at 4:30 so get up early to enjoy most of the day on the beach or doing some of the many water activities, parasail, jet skis, snorkeling.
Well here we are at the end of the cruise, ahhhhhhhhhhh the hardest part, we have to leave for the real world. The last night on the ship there are plenty of sales to take advantage and of course there is the departure show. A word of advice, pack early in the day as you need to place your luggage outside the stateroom by 11:00 PM, if you pack first thing in the morning or most of it the day before you won't feel rushed and you can enjoy your last day on the ship. Disembarkation what a breeze, fill out your customs paperwork ahead of time, it will be placed in your room the night before. Watch the ship's TV station for instructions that are very helpful. It only took about 10 minutes to go thru Customs, get luggage and be outside the terminal.
As a summary, remember I have only sailed with Disney before who is noted for their exceptional guest service and quality of products so I was a little skeptical to chance anyone else. Well I must say Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas provided every bit the quality of service, accommodations and professionalism as experienced on Disney. As Arnold would say "We Will Be Back" RC THANK YOU for a GREAT vacation....Dennis and Debra