I booked this trip as a Christmas gift for my mother and of course I decided to go on as well. I scored a tremendous deal by booking a few weeks before departure ($119 a person!) I must admit I was scared after I booked it when I read the so-called horror stories on board the Monarch. From gas leaks to uncleanliness, I was prepared to be on the Budget Inn of cruising vessels. I thought this would bring back memories of staying at a dilapidated hotel off of Interstate 95 in rural North Carolina en route to Philadelphia heading back to school. This was not the case.
For those "local" to the Port Canaveral area, I highly recommend staying at the La Quinta in Cocoa Beach a night before the ship's sailing date. For $89 you get a clean hotel room, continental breakfast, parking at the La Quinta lot for the duration of your cruise and travel to and from the port.
The staff at Port Canaveral in all seriousness needs to retire. They were crabby and acted like disgruntled TSA agents. Typical people that let a plastic badge go to their heads, but once on board I completely forgot about the elderly woman yelling at me in a gruff voice to sit in a specific seating area after checking in.
I booked an interior cabin (#6023). It was my first time staying in an interior cabin as well as my mother. IT WAS TINY! I've stayed at a hostel in Europe with three other students that was bigger than the cabin on the Monarch, but then again, as my mother would say, "You're rarely in the cabin so it doesn't matter." The TV was smaller than a kitchen TV (think security monitor) and the shower was as big as one you would find in a small RV. Water pressure in the sink was very poor, but these short comings didn't mean the end of the world to us.
The Monarch really does pack a lot for a 4 day cruise (It actually felt like we were gone on a 7 day trip). The ports of call were great. This was my first time visiting Coco Cay and I loved it. I highly recommend finding Barefoot Beach. It is less crowded and more relaxing. The BBQ that they have on the island isn't bad. Typical outdoor BBQ fare such as burgers and hot dogs. However, one I gripe I did have was a sign that said "Pork Ribs" when I took a bite they were beef. Not a problem for me, but it could have been for someone who has issues with eating beef. The straw market on Coco Cay was just alright. Mostly t-shirts and other trinkets. My mother and I didn't buy anything. Nassau was well, Nassau. This was my second time in Nassau so I knew what to expect. It is a fun place to just walk around and enjoy a nice iced cold Kalik (the local beer) but just be on the look out for scammers. My mother and I got scammed when a woman put necklaces on us in front of Senor Frogs and told us to give donations for disabled children. When we gave her a few dollars she demanded more. I later saw a few more women doing the same thing to other tourists near the straw market and Hard Rock Cafe.
Entertainment on the ship was pretty good. The Quest was certainly a highlight as well as the Secret Agent night in the Casino. Stage productions were just alright, sort of high school caliber. The comedian that did two shows (one all ages and one adult) had very old and hackneyed material, but this is coming from someone who is a comedy writer and in her mid 20s. The older folks seemed to think he was funny.
The food was pretty good. I can't say how the food was in the dining room because my mother and I didn't eat in the dining room. We prefer to eat whenever we want to eat and not being a part of the cattle call into the dining room at 5:45 and 8:30 respectively. Yes, there was something called "My Time" dining but we preferred the Windjammer which was pretty good for what it was. We were on a much needed vacation and wanted to go at a leisurely pace and the Windjammer provided that. Staff at the Windjammer was very friendly. The only gripe I had were that the desserts (with the exception of the key lime pie and cookies) were lacking a little something.
Make no doubt about it, the Monarch is old and there are weird smells that sometimes pop up on the pool deck and near other parts of the ship, but they weren't so offensive that I needed a clothespin for my nose. The ship was packed and it really surprised me that a lot of younger people were on (I seriously thought It was going to be a bunch of Florida retirees). Some younger people acted obnoxious in the hot tub on the last day of the cruise. They were smoking, drinking and swearing uncontrollably that the staff had to come over four times to tell them to stop. Like I said earlier, I'm only in my 20s, I have gone to college, I have done spring break and I am by no means a prude, but they were acting out of control; the staff should have put a stop to this but I guess they see the dollar signs when they're pouring Jagerbomb after Jagerbomb at, I'm guessing, $12 a pop.
The trip was great and the staff was very friendly, however, we did have a tragedy on board. On our way to Nassau, a crew member jumped over. Our ship as well as the Carnival Sensation, Disney Dream a Norwegian ship and the US Coast Guard were searching for the man who jumped. We arrived in Nassau later because of this. It certainly wasn't the best way to wake up in the morning when the Captain came on the loudspeaker saying that a crew member jumped overboard, but I guess it had to be done to explain the delay. Besides this, it was an excellent getaway especially for what I paid. In fact, even if I had to pay more it would have been worth it. I highly recommend booking a cruise on the Monarch especially if you can get a great deal.