Date of Trip: September 2009
I just got back from my very first cruise ever with my DW, celebrating my 10th anniversary aboard the Monarch of the Seas, sailing from 9/28 to 10/2. I will try to answer some of the questions that I had, and hopefully this will help any other newbies that are looking forward to sailing on the Monarch.
We drove to Port Canaveral, arriving around 1 PM. We thought we could carry our own two bags (a garment bag and a large duffel with wheels), so we did not drop off any bags where we were guided to and went straight to parking. $60 for a 4-night cruise, paid up front in cash (though ONLY MC/Visa accepted, additionally). At 1 PM, we were parked on the 5th deck – last level before being in the sun. The elevators were not designed to carry many people and their bags – shortsightedness on the part of Port Canaveral. Needless to say, we had to wait a few rounds before we got our ride down.
We then proceeded to Security where they examine your ID and confirmation information. Having it out was appreciated by the staff. At this point we were told to take our large bag all the way to the other end of the terminal building and have it checked. I then realized that we should have done that to begin with. You should only carry with you what is easily passed through a standard X-Ray machine. Note that the Port Porters are salaried, and tipping, though appreciated, is not required.
After security, we took the stairs up and went to check in. A HUGE waiting room, but none of the queue was being used at the time we were there, so we went straight to check in. This is where they take your credit card information to tie your sea pass to. After obtaining our sea pass, we show it to another lady then proceeded through the glass walkway to our first of MANY irritating and non-refusable photo ops. They take your picture in front of a backdrop of the ship and then send you on your way. Next stop is picture time so that they can match your sea pass to your mug everytime you get on and off the ship. After walking the gangway, you’re welcomed aboard and they help you find your stateroom if necessary. Not too bad for us, ‘cause we entered deck 4 and our room was on deck 5. Very easy to find our way around the ship. Nicely laid out and LOTS of maps/ship diagrams. We went to our stateroom and freshened up, hoping to get lunch in Windjammers. An announcement came out, telling us of a presentation to tell us about touring in Nassau where all participants will receive a charm bracelet. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME unless you LOVE JEWLRY and want to spend LOTS of money in Nassau. If that’s you, then definitely go. We enjoyed it for the cheesy giveaways in the presentation and the coupons/drawings offered in Nassau. The charm bracelet was goofy and my wife won a watch from EFFY which was nice, but definitely a cheesy promo piece. Got some free rum punch, coke, and water though, so that was neato. Some may find true value in the $25 coupon book they pawn off in the show. Show was cut short for the muster drill at 3:30. Still no lunch.
Muster drill was about 20 minutes, and lifejackets were NOT required. YAY! Nice view of the Vehicle Assembly Building (where they assemble the space shuttle) off in the distance. Amazingly, many young ‘uns were already sloshed and mocking the drill. There’s one in every crowd…
Muster drill ends around 4 PM and we’re HUNGRY! Finally head up to Windjammers and EVERYTHING is closed! We finally found pizza up stairs (deck 12) and “Grab & GO” and it was very yummy and well worth the wait. At 4:30 we cast off and sailed away. We had a nice view spot on the bow end of deck 12 and stayed up there until we were in deep sea. We returned to our stateroom for a nap. Our dining time was at 8:30, so we had plenty of time to get settled. I highly recommend the later dining time, as going to bed before 12 never happened and it just seems to help open up one’s day.
We ate in Claude’s every night. Our waiter was Mehmet from Turkey and was terrific. He gave us each an “evil eye” charm. Very nice touch. Susana from Peru was our assistant waitress and did not speak much English, but nice. My water glass went empty several times – the service was just a wee bit slow but no major complaints. Steak was wonderful! My wife returned to her room and I just mulled around the ship until about 12 and then watched TV for about an hour before finally falling asleep.
On Day 2, we arrived at CocoCay. It was a very small island compared to the other ones, but it wasn’t bad. It was just the right size. We walked along the beach and collected shells (then told it was a no-no!) and enjoyed wading in 10”-deep water. There were thunderstorms all over the place and so they would not rent out snorkeling equipment. We had lunch on the island at around 11:30 and it was great – hotdogs, burgers, ribs, and chicken. Only complaint was lack of extra bbq sauce (which there may have been, but I didn’t see any). Lots of fruit, tea, water, and lemonade plus the sodas, beer, cocktails and cocolocos. Have I mentioned how irritating the photographers were? A cute older couple were sharing a cocoloco and then using the straws to make elephant sounds. FUNNY! Never did get a cocoloco, but they sure looked good! At around 12:30 we took the tender back to the Monarch around 12:30. Seas were much rougher, we were on the top deck of the tender and it was raining pretty heavily. Getting off the tender onto the ship was like walking in one of those fun houses at the local carnival. I thought it was fun! Rest of the day was filled with miscellaneous things on board – all fun, all relaxing. That night was formal night and we were back in Claude’s with our dining friends, Kelly, Paul, Mike, and Kenya.
Only being around 70 miles or so from Nassau, we cruised at around 9 knots and arrived in Nassau about 6:30 AM on Wednesday. I enjoyed watching the ship reposition on channel 36, doing its 180 turn and then docking. The Norwegian Sky came in right after us and I got to watch them do the same maneuver. We had breakfast in Windjammers and got to see one of the US Navy’s newest San Antonio-class amphibious assault vehicles depart. That was a treat. Note that this class of warship includes the USS New York which was built from steel recycled from the World Trade Center. Very neato! We disembarked at around 9 AM and hit the shops. Didn’t spend much money, but enjoyed looking around. Note: I found the same $15 Tortugas rum cake available in the ship’s store for only $5.99 at the local grocery store. Hmmm… We did the previously mentioned tour of “Authorized Jewelers & Stores” and got our little free tokens. Not hardly worth the plastic it was packaged in. But, we got to meet a couple other CCCruisers. Hit the straw market and a nice little bookstore (my wife’s a teacher) then went back to the ship for lunch. After lunch, we went back out and rode the #10 Jitney full circle for $1.25 per person, each way. A nice $5 tour for the both of us. If you don’t get off, you can take ANY Jitney and return back. Total trip time was about an hour. Coming back, we stopped at the fish fry and had some fried conch. Nice, but for $10, I wasn’t super impressed. It’s a great “locals” spot, though, and few tourists hang out here.
We got back to Bay street and everything closed at 6 PM. Went to a little internet café near the Harley store that was open until 7 and called home for 10-cents a minute. WAY better than the $2.49 on the cell phone and $7.99 onboard the ship! Kids were fine, so we were fine.
Since the $3 water taxis and the jitneys stopped running between 6 and 7, we had no cheap way to get to Atlantis and back, so we didn’t go. We could have walked up and down the island a bit more but we were getting tired so we returned to the ship. Had dinner at Claude’s and then enjoyed The Quest game show. We left port at 11:30 after a call went out to two cruisers who apparently hadn’t gotten back on board yet. Don’t know if they ever made it.
After The Quest, we went back to our stateroom watched another 30 minutes of the same movie we watched 30 minutes of the night before, but unfortunately, it was the same 30 minutes.
We set out of Nassau cruising at nearly 11 knots (13 MPH) back towards Port Canaveral. The next day we just enjoyed the ship, tried our luck at bingo twice and played the scavenger hunt. We bought Champaign for our table to celebrate our 10th and then called it a day. OH YEAH – about Bingo. For most games, you can pay $32 for 4 games of 6 cards each or $45 for an electronic gizmo that gives you 4 games of 30 cards each – and keeps track of all the dots. We noted that in all the games we watched EVERY winner was on an electronic system. Paper players got 1-away a couple of times, but never won any of the games we watched. On the last game of the last day – a $2000 jackpot – we were one of two teams that were one away…and the other guy won. Drat! Whatta bummer!
Enjoyed the Can’t Stop the Beat farewell show [before dinner] and later had a good night’s sleep after having our checked bag outside our room by midnight.
Day 5 was nice. Again woke around 6 and got to watch the approach back into Port Canaveral and the 180 turn. We were probably docked by 7:30. I totally was wrong in the whole gratuity thing. Even though it’s prepaid, it’s NOT AUTOMATIC. You get vouchers and envelopes in your room on the last day, and then YOU put the vouchers in the right envelopes and pass them out yourself to those who served you. It left me scrambling on Monday. And that was interesting. By 8 AM, armed border cops were all over Deck 4 corralling folks towards the gangway. If you don’t watch it, you could end up off the boat before you’re ready! After getting the gratuity envelopes taken care of, we went to Windjammers for breakfast and not being in any sort of hurry waited until around 9 to disembark. Getting off the ship was very easy – a couple of Sea Pass checks and immigration and that was that. I advice folks who are parked in the lot not to buck the system and to stand across the street with their bags and allow a 2nd person to get the car. It’s makes it much easier to ride the elevators, and pick up is a piece of cake.
All in all, it was a terrific experience. Our expenses were as follows: Tickets and taxes – $375 Parking – $60 Onboard Expenses (Casino, Bingo, drinks, gratuity, etc) – $250 Shore Expenses (Nassau shopping, snacking, and jitneys) – $250 Total – $935
Could have been done for as little as $500 with discipline.