Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Farewell to Monarch (Sept. 28 - Oct. 1, 2012)

aboard Monarch of the Seas

This was our third cruise on Monarch of the Seas and it will be our last because she is leaving the Royal Caribbean fleet in a few months. Built in 1991, Monarch was one of the biggest cruise ships at the time but now she’s looking pretty small and tired. And after three cruises on the same ship, I’m definitely looking forward to checking out Monarch’s replacement, Enchantment of the Seas, next year. On the other hand, Ron and I never get tired of weekend trips to the Bahamas. So when Ron heard that there was a company offering an all-inclusive (open bar) package this weekend, he signed us up.

We’d decided to leave our car with Park N Cruise instead of parking at Port Canaveral since it would only cost $25 instead of $60. The Park N Cruise lot was easy to find but once we got there, it seemed to take forever for them to fill up the shuttle. We watched in amazement as the shuttle driver loaded huge suitcase after huge suitcase into the van. I whispered to Ron, “How many cruises are these guys taking?” Seriously people, it’s only a 3-day cruise!

But FINALLY we were at the port and flew through security and check-in. We were issued our Sea Pass cards and heard that wonderful “PONG” sound as the crew scanned our cards. We were on the ship! By then it was 12:30 and I was starving so we joined the chaos at the Windjammer buffet for lunch.

At 1 o’clock, the staterooms were ready so we made our way down to our cabin on Deck Two, also known as the bowels of the ship or the “Poop Deck”. Ron always jokes that people down there have to help row. But actually Deck Two is not a bad location. It’s nice and quiet. The main disadvantage is that it is 9 floors away from the pool deck so you pretty much have to take the elevator. And the elevators stop at EVERY SINGLE FLOOR.

But anyway, when we got to the cabin, our keys wouldn’t open the door! Back up two floors to Guest Services where they issued us new Sea Pass cards. We’d booked a Guarantee cabin so I asked if maybe we had gotten moved to a different room. They said, “No, you are still in 2128.” 2128! I thought we were in 2028! Well, that explained why the door wouldn’t open. Doh!

Back at the cabin (the right one this time), we unpacked and looked through the goody bag we’d gotten from the Open Bar Cruises group. It had a couple of captain’s hats and invitations for various parties throughout the weekend. We put on our hats and headed up to the pool deck to join the fun. There were a lot of other people wearing captain’s hats so it was easy to spot who was in the group. I was happy to find out that mojitos were included in the drink package – with Bacardi too, not just house rum. Ron stuck with his usual Miller Lite.

pool bar
Captain Ron

pool bar

At sail away time, we went up to the bow to watch the ship leave port and head out into the blue. We could see the Cape Canaveral lighthouse in the distance. Two dolphins swam under the bow of the ship. Cool!  Sail away is my favorite part of cruising. Even though Ron and I prefer all-inclusive resorts, there’s something special about a ship setting out to sea that you just can’t get at a hotel.

Port Canaveral
Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral
Heading for the blue

Cape Canaveral lighthouse
Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

people on top deck watching sailaway

After the sail away, we cleaned up for dinner. We had My Time Dining, which meant that we could eat at any time instead being assigned to the traditional early or late seating. When we checked in with the host, he told us that we should have made reservations because if we just showed up, we might have to wait for the table. We just said OK and ignored him. The whole point of My Time Dining is that you can be flexible and eat when you get hungry. Reservations defeat the whole purpose! At any rate, we never did have to wait for a table, and after the first night the host didn’t say anything more than a friendly “welcome back”. We were seated at a table for four with another couple. I was disappointed because I really prefer tables for two. It’s hard for me to enjoy my meal when I have to concentrate on making small talk with strangers. But the couple was very nice. They were from Crystal River and were scuba divers so we talked about diving and fishing and manatees.

Next it was on to the casino for some Black Jack. There weren’t any $6 tables so we settled in at a $10 table with an awesome dealer named Marijana (pronounced Mary Anna, not Marijuana.) It was a great table and everyone was winning and happy. I ended up winning $180! Ron didn’t even count up his winnings but he had a huge stack of chips. Eventually, I had a feeling that the luck was going to turn and just then a new dealer showed up to take over so it seemed like a good time to leave. The smoke was starting to get to me anyway. I really wish Royal Caribbean would have non-smoking casinos. The smokers argue that “real gamblers” all smoke and the cruise line would lose money if they didn’t allow smoking. But Celebrity has non-smoking casinos and they seem to do just fine.   

We went up to Sorrentos, the pizza shop on Deck 12, for some fresh air and chocolate chip cookies and then headed to bed.

Monarch of the Seas pool deck at night
The Pool Deck at night

Monarch of the Seas pool deck at night

Day 2 - Nassau

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