Four of us flew to Daytona Beach two days prior to the cruise, from Michigan, just to warm up a bit on the beautiful beach there. The other four drove down Thursday evening. Friday morning we crammed into our 8 passenger minivan for the hour-and-a half drive to Port Canaveral. Along the way we noticed billboards for a hotel that offered parking at a third of the Port rates but declined since we hadn't researched this prior and didn't have time for a last minute change in plan.
Checked bags after parking and proceeded through medium size lines to check in, around 3:15 or so, which took another 15-20 minutes. Since we were the last group to come aboard there weren't many staff to greet us (and no one offered pretty drinks!). Went straight to our staterooms (deck 6, inside) where most of us found our luggage waiting and stateroom ready. A couple gals found there luggage back in the main hall, without problem. The bachelorette's room was quickly decorated, as were our stateroom doors, and the party began...
We had 'late seating' for our dinners so most of us found snacks in the Windjammer to tide us over. The 'maid of honor' brought along many games to keep everyone amused (including other passenger-friends we made over the weekend), and started out with a 'scavenger hunt' so everyone got to know their way around the ship. I like the smaller size of the Monarch, and didn't get lost nearly as much as I have on other ships! Most of the decor may be a bit dated, but it wasn't much different than other ships I've cruised on. Everything was in good repair and kept very clean. Occasionally we encountered the 'sewage odor' that others have mentioned, as we approached the hallway to our cabins, but it never smelled bad in my cabin. We had more than enough storage space for our belongings (with two women to each stateroom) - might be tight with 3 or 4 people. But my roommate and I were able to unpack everything and our suitcases stored easily under our bunks. The linens were clean and high quality (ie very soft) but I found the mattress a bit firm (no one else complained). Our shower ran fine - always enough hot water and pressure. Jennifer, our cabin steward, kept our room looking clean and fresh every day. Only had one towel animal: a cute monkey hanging from the ceiling!
Our first stop was Nassau. We visited the 'straw market' which was moved to a better protected building near the old location. Most of us had been here before so we only shopped about 40 minutes. Then we walked down the street to a nearby beach where we spent most of the afternoon. There was music playing and a tiki bar set up nearby, and a safe, comfortable atmosphere. The water was a little cool but pleasant as the temperature was probably close to 80 degrees F. I packed a couple of inexpensive floats and enjoyed the day! Our group ranged in age from mid-twenties to later 50's, and the younger ones managed to set up a game of 'flip cup' using beer buckets 'borrowed' from the tiki bar, much to the bartenders amusement. Coconuts were carved into beverage holders as our drinks were ordered! Very nice afternoon for all before walking back to the ship.
The 'under 50' members decided to eat a quick dinner at the Windjammer before returning to the island and spending the evening at Senor Frog's. My roommate and I opted to return to Clauds Dining room for our 'formal night' dinner. We dressed in simple dress and skirt, and had the best meal of our cruise: roasted duck and a few other choices that were equally delicious. I ordered two appetizers each evening, and loved them all! Desserts were a little hit-or-miss. Our waiter tried to steer us to the strawberry covered cheesecake but we ordered two others that sounded better, neither of which we liked at all! He smiled and quickly brought us a slice of the cheesecake and we vowed to listen to his suggestions from then on!
The entertainment on this cruise was typical and no better or worse than my previous cruises on any line. The juggler-comedian was good at juggling and half-way funny (about half of his jokes were good!). We had a great time at the Love & Marriage show, and they had chosen 3 terrific couples to play this game. We were pretty tired after that and just headed to bed, wanting to get an early start to our day at Coco Cay. Saw our friends had safely returned from their evening at the Frog and called it a night.
The ship was rocking a bit the first evening aboard, and a couple of the gals were a bit sea sick. I always take ginger tablets prior to and during my cruise. This time I used a scopolamine patch as well, due to other problems I'm having, so I never felt sick. The second day was much calmer, but apparently when the ship approached Coco Cay the waves were too rough to allow us to visit the private island. So disappointing as this was going to be the highlight of the weekend for me! We ate breakfast in Clauds since we had extra time on our hands, and everything tasted much better than the buffet food, especially the coffee! By the way, beware of the 'specialty coffee drinks' on the dinner menu as there is a stiff charge for these little cups of goodness... We spent the day poolside and it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. Watched the typical 'belly flop' contest and women's 'bicep' competition (which one of our friend's participated in!). The drinks were flowing and the bachelorette games continued on deck... By dinner time, the ship was rocking pretty significantly. We packed our bags and tried to get some sleep, which was difficult with all the rocking.
We chose to carry our bags off the ship with us after breakfast. The line was incredibly long and blocked most of the stairway making it difficult and chaotic. We used the elevator at the other end of the ship and were able to find our way to the line. RC has a somewhat complicated system for debarkation and it appeared that no one really follows it. We spent about 45 minutes getting through this process, but Customs was very swift at the end of the line. Our minivan driver had gotten debarked ahead of us and pulled up close to the exit, and we were on our way back to the Daytona Airport all too soon, arriving there by 10:30am for our 2 pm flight. The others began their 7 hour drive back to Atlanta.