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Cruising into the New Year: A Monarch of the Seas Review (with photos)!


Hollybelle

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So I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since we rang in the New Year from aboard RCI’s Monarch of the Seas. I’m past due for a cruise review and ready to get things started!

 

Introductions!

 

I’m Holly… fairly new to cruising but completely hooked! Alongside me you’ll find Brett, my other half! Over the last five years the two of us have spent most of our vacation time at Walt Disney World… we’re truly crazy fans of all things Disney. In addition to that, we’re big foodies, are admittedly addicted to great TV (and Netflix for that matter), and we love live concerts (upcoming shows include David Gray, Norah Jones, Ingrid Michaelson and most excitedly… Ben Folds with the NC symphony orchestra :D).

 

Here we are being silly at Disney World in early December:

 

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With us were my parents, Rick and Kim. Not only are they the most fantabulous parents (and grandparents) ever, but they’re also a lot of fun to vacation with and I hold them responsible for this new addiction we must feed! It’s been about three years since they took their first cruise and they haven’t looked back since; I think they’re averaging two to three cruises a year now! My mom’s the planner/organizer of the two and the true source of my own OCD tendencies; the apple surely didn’t fall far from the tree here! And her skills of course, landed us a great deal on this cruise!

 

Here they are enjoying an island off the coast of Belize:

 

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Itinerary

Sunday December 27: Travel Day

Monday December 28: Port Canaveral

Tuesday December 29: At Sea

Wednesday December 30: Nassau, Bahamas

Thursday December 31: Coco Cay, Bahamas

Friday January 1: At Sea

Saturday January 2: Port Canaveral

 

This was everyone’s first cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean ship (all others have been on Carnival) and I just have to say… there are way more similarities in the two lines than differences. So while I might allude to our thoughts on these every now and then throughout the report… the focus isn’t going to be on comparing and contrasting the lines. There are other threads for that!

 

Oh yeah, it might take a week or so before I get the whole thing posted. So feel free to entertain yourselves with my review of our May 2009 cruise: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=989561&highlight=first+timers+review+carnival+liberty

 

I’m going to attempt to be less long winded this go round and make it more of a photo review. We’ll see whether or not that’s even possible for me. :eek:

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Day 1 – Sunday December 27: Travel Day!

 

Unlike our last cruise adventure… travel day wasn’t nearly as hectic or stressful this time around because we were within driving distance of the port and we were heading down a day early. No frantic running to the terminal a la the Amazing Race! The eight hour drive was a bit like déjà vu for Brett and I considering we’d just made the trek to Disney World a week prior. No matter, though. It was more than worth it for two holiday vacations!

 

We arrived in Port Canaveral a little after 3pm and made our way to the Radisson Resort at the Port. Having read nothing but superb things about the Radisson we figured it was a good choice. And it certainly was.

 

Radisson Resort at the Port:

 

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Check-in was scheduled for 3pm and we arrived at approximately 3:30 that afternoon. The desk attendant appeared a bit frazzled and let us know that due to some unforeseen circumstances that morning, they were running behind and it would be 30-45 minutes before our room was ready for us. No worries. We figured we’d just head out and grab a quick bite to eat. What was great though is that she gave us a voucher for four free drinks at the bar for any inconvenience this caused. Heck yeah! Two enthusiastic thumbs up for customer service at the Resort at the Port!

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We headed out to Quizno’s to get some subs and by the time we got back our room was ready.

 

Because I’m always curious about hotel value/pricing, here’s the rundown for anyone who is interested. We booked the Two-room Whirlpool Suite with cruise parking/transportation and internet access for four adults. For one night, with taxes it came out to $167. Certainly not bad when you consider the price of port parking alone.

 

We were quite satisfied with the room. It had a kitchenette area, living space and a nice big bedroom. Oddly enough, the whirlpool tub was smack in the middle of the bedroom. Me thinks they might like to consider this a honeymoon suite! ;) The pull out sofa bed wasn’t exactly comfortable, but let’s be real here, what pull out sofa bed is?

 

Oh yeah, and while most of the rooms had exterior access, the two room suites had interior hallways. Always a plus in my book!

 

View from the entry:

 

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Living area and pull out sofa bed:

 

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Kitchenette area and entry:

 

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Bedroom:

 

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Whirlpool tub with vanity/bathroom to the left:

 

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After checking out the digs we went to the local Ron Jon shop. Seriously, who hasn’t been to Ron Jon’s? I mean, it’s only advertised on every other billboard between Jacksonville and Cocoa Beach! :rolleyes:

 

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When we got back we all headed up to the lobby bar for our free drinks! Woohoo… what could be better than margaritas, you ask? Why, free margaritas of course!!

 

Here's a scrapbook page I've already put together for our free drinks:

 

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While it’s certainly not something that would ever stop me from booking another stay at the Radisson, the lobby bar leaves a little to be desired… namely, a widescreen TV. And some tropical ambience wouldn’t be so bad, especially considering the rest of the resort has it in spades. The bartender, however, was great and she mixed a perfect margarita. And that’s what’s important.

 

 

Up next: Embarkation!!

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Day 2 – Monday, December 28: Embarkation Excitement!

 

Our morning was quite leisurely considering our shuttle didn’t leave until noon. Now we’re the “be the first in line for the fun” type and like to arrive early for things so it was hard waiting until noon to head over to the port. This was my own fault though, because I called only two days prior to our stay to secure shuttle spots for the four of us. Next time I’ll be sure to book those the same time we book the room.

 

Waiting patiently for the shuttle:

 

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The shuttle process was extremely well organized and we were at the port by 12:30. Even more organized was the grounds crew when we got to the terminal.

 

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First we decided to find our rooms. Each of the stairwell areas had fun little ship displays in the middle:

 

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Crazy enough the cabins were already accessible to guests, which was a nice surprise. Now, I must admit I was a bit weary of the size of the interior staterooms on the Monarch, mostly because Brett has a tendency to feel somewhat claustrophobic. We knew ahead of time that the cabin would be about 2/3 the size of our interior staterooms on the Carnival Liberty so it didn’t come as a shock to us when we saw how small they were. None of us had a problem with the size of the stateroom. The area where I noticed it most was in the lack of closet/storage space. But we made do just fine. And I must say… I get the best sleep in those pitch black rooms. Heavenly!

 

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This next picture is a complete mess photographically and blurrier than all get out, but I kind of love it because it shows our excitement to finally be aboard… that and I have a thing for mirror shots:

 

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Eventually, we found ourselves on Deck 11 at the Windjammer Café! Lunch was a lot less chaotic than on embarkation day on our Carnival cruise. I’m thinking it has a lot to do with the fact that we could get to our cabins and stow some things so early. This probably kept people more dispersed throughout the ship and not all holed up in the Windjammer with bags and backpacks hanging off their arms.

 

With full tummies we got some cold drinks and started exploring the ship!

 

Hooray, Beer!

 

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It was cool out, but people weren’t letting that stop them from getting some sun:

 

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One area of the ship that I really liked was the Viking Crown Lounge. We didn’t end up spending a lot of time up there, but the view certainly was great.

 

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View from the Lounge:

 

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After checking out the lounge, we wandered around the ship a bit more. The following photo is one of my personal favorites from this cruise.

 

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Brett and I split off from my parents and went down to check out the public areas on some of the other decks.

 

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Below is a picture of The Circuit… a lounge that I don’t think was used for anything over the course of the cruise. This was the first and last time we were in here:

 

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On the other hand, the casino was quite frequented throughout the course of the cruise:

 

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At some point, we walked back past our stairwell area and noticed a slew of suitcases being unloaded into the hallway. With approval from the staff we grabbed all of ours and drug them off to the cabins. Soon thereafter around 3:30 or so we heard the call for muster drill and headed off to our designated spot, which was in the comfort of Boleros.

 

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I was shocked none of us had to wear or even carry our life jackets to the drill. Is this the way it goes on all Royal Caribbean cruises? I much preferred it, but being the picture taking/scrapbooker I am, I was somewhat sad to miss the silly photo op. :eek:

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Muster drill out of the way, we made our way to the top deck to stake our claim against one of the railings for sail away; it was quite chilly up there. And of course once we made our way out to sea and the sun went down it became much cooler.

 

Awaiting sail away:

 

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My favorite people:

 

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And we’re off!

 

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My parents stopped in on the Nassau excursion discussion taking place in the show lounge just to see if anything might be said about taking safety precautions or warning cruisers of the criminal activity that had recently endangered tourists in port. And nary a word was said, which surprises me on some level.

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Once we hit open waters, we turned our attention to unpacking and getting ready for dinner. And wow, was the boat a rockin! I’m prone to motion sickness and started feeling pretty queasy. So did my mom, more so than on any of her past cruises. We made it to the Welcome Aboard Show where our cruise director, Drew Devine was much more entertaining than the comedian who followed. Not a good sign if you’re the comedian. We heard many a cricket in that lounge.

 

We left the show a little early to get to dinner where we met our rock star servers, Lloyd and Agung. Feeling worse as the evening went on, my mom headed back to the room prior to dessert. Lloyd, of course, wouldn’t take no for an answer and brought some dessert for us to take back to her. What service!

 

Throughout the week Agung shared some magic tricks with our table, some of which he took the time to teach us. On this first night he built this nice little contraption:

 

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Soon thereafter we experienced the very best entertainment of the whole week. The servers came out to sing some Italian song and the whole time Lloyd was mumbling incoherencies as loudly and as off-key as possible. “Aye..yaiy..yaiy..aye... yaiy!” Seriously descriptions cannot do it justice! The funniest part is that Agung was so tickled by Lloyd’s beautiful voice that he couldn’t keep a straight face and by the end he was doubled over in laughter and unable to catch his breath. Dad, Brett and myself (along with Agung) were wiping tears from our eyes it was so funny. I’m so sorry mom missed it because throughout the rest of the cruise at various times one of us would break out in our own rendition of “aye.. yaiy..yaiy’s.”

 

We wandered around the ship for a bit and checked out the Viking Crown lounge before turning in for the night.

 

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Up next: our first day at sea!!

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Can't wait!

 

Keep it coming Hollybelle. As you can see, it's not long before we go on the Monarch.

 

Thanks, wishful thinking! You're going to have so much fun!!! Which itinerary are you doing? Coco Cay was definitely my favorite part of the whole cruise.

 

I'm so excited for you to finish your review!! We will be on the Monarch in 6 weeks!! Love ready any & everything about the ship!!

 

I'm the same way... I love finding all the pictures/reports I can just prior to getting on a ship. It ups the anticipation that much more!

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Awesome! Waiting for more! Taking my first ever cruise on the Monarch April 12!

 

Oooh first time cruiser... that was me less than a year ago! You're going to love it!

 

Love your report!

 

Fellow Disney addict. We are not taking our WDW vacation this year and instead taking our first cruise.

 

Looking forward to seeing more of your photographic journey!

 

Yay!!! I love my fellow Disney addicts. Will your first cruise be with Disney or another line? We booked the Disney Dream for next March and I really can't wait to combine my two vacation loves! It's definitely more expensive but I know we just have to try it.

 

an update :D

 

Well, I do aim to please... our first day at sea should be up shortly!!

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