Monday, December 31, 2012

Cozumel 12.12.12

On December 8th, we took off for Cozumel, Mexico to join up with 8 friends for a week of fun in a rental house. Here is the link to the house. Our first stop was Pancho's Backyard to wait for everyone's  flights to come in - a margarita and guacamole is a great way to start vacation. Here was our view! 

After everyone was assembled, we headed to the house. We were not disappointed. The house was perfect: five bedrooms each with their own bathroom plus a great pool and rooftop deck. 

We settled in and then Edgar and his wife arrived to make dinner. We had elected to have a chef prepare breakfast and dinner each day except Sunday. The food was amazing! We ate so well! 

Sunday, Glenn had arranged a tour with Cozumel Bar Hop. A van picked us up and we headed to the "other" side of the island. This side is barely developed - no electricity or running water. A few bars have popped up over the years. We visited five of them and had a terrific time. Some of the highlights: 
Seaside tables 

Swings instead of bar stools
We headed back home to catch sunset from the rooftop deck. 

Monday was a lazy day around the pool. We walked down the Carlos and Charlie's beach club for lunch. Then we had a great night hanging in the living room playing games. Tuesday, Tom, Margaret, Glenn and I went to a cooking class. It was so much fun! We went to the market to buy the ingredients and then Josefina taught us how to make her family favorites. 

Wednesday was my birthday and it just so happened that Glenn's sister was in port from her cruise ship so we all met up at the Town Square for lunch.  I even got a special birthday corsage from a tiny clown. 

Then a monsoon hit and we took cover in a dive bar until it was dinner time. Glenn had arranged for a birthday cake. It was a terrific birthday. Thursday was a rainy, rainy day so we all hibernated in the house - reading and playing card games. Friday, we headed to the Playa Palancar.   It was awesome. It was like we were staring in our own Corona commercial. 

Then we enjoyed our last sunset on the rooftop. 

It was so hard to say goodbye to one of the greatest vacations I have ever had. Some tips for next time: invest in having the house stocked with food, beer and tequila before we arrive. It will be worth it. Don't forget to include the $2 per person day tip for Edgar and his wife in the equation. Pesos are not necessary, but helpful because the exchange rate can change widely. Consider securing a taxi for a the week. We spent $35 one way to town every day so getting a taxi to agree to be on call for $100 per day may be worth it. I can't wait to go back! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Monarch of the Seas Review 11/30/12

Delightful Cruise on the “Old” Lady of the RCCL Fleet

Booked a 3-night Bahamas cruise with my wife.  We live in Florida and can reasonably drive to four ports.  This time was Port Canaveral.  Ports of call were Nassau and CocoCay.  The ship is about to be sold to another cruise company in April 2013 so this is one of the last cruises.  We were in Outside Cabin 2026 forward starboard.  It has small porthole.  Perfect size for a short cruise but would want larger for a 7-night.  No issues with the room itself but we did have some loud “banging” below and around our cabin on two of the nights.  We never did find out what it was, but since the ship is 21 years old, we wrote it off to old age.  The staff and crew onboard were so friendly.  The cabin steward welcomed us which was a very nice touch.  The ship was nicely decorated for Christmas.


Bar and restaurant service was top-notch.  The food in the main dining room was the best I have had on any cruise.  Standouts were the pork medallions, beef tenderloin and sautéed mushrooms.  They have a fantastic lunch menu as well.  They have a salad bar setup in the dining room where you have the attendants add the greens, toppings and dressing you want. They had four types of greens, grape and Roma tomatoes, several proteins including bacon, prosciutto and chicken along with several dressings.  Then they chop it up for you and serve.  It is a really wonderful idea.   The lunch menu option had a lot of good choices including tomato risotto and grilled barramundi which was nicely spicy.  We had embarkation lunch in the buffet and found it just okay.  It is a smaller ship so the selection is limited by size.  The burgers were good.  Pizza just average – maybe better as a late night snack.    Room service breakfast was okay but coffee was cold which was disappointing.  We wondered if they realized the thermos’ didn’t work  - or maybe they poured the coffee hours earlier.  We only got to try it once because on the second day, they didn’t pick up our room service ticket even though it had been placed on the door by Midnight  (the ticket stated it would be picked by 3AM).  Only continental breakfast was on the menu and it was decent but they need to work on the coffee.

We attended the welcome aboard show and they had a funny comedian who we later saw on the last night for the adults-only show.  Attended the Love and Marriage game show and surprisingly they had a new list of questions from what I had seen before on past RCCL, Carnival and NCL cruises.  Well done for not having the same old questions!!  Our second port was CocoCay and we had to miss that port because it was not safe to tender.  The cruise director (Marc) had to change the day’s activities to a Sea Day and it was surprising how seamlessly it went since it wasn’t announced until 8AM in the morning.  We went to a lot of activities including Napkin Folding and many trivia contests.  I enjoyed the movie theme trivia the most.  We saw the belly flop contest at the pool which was fun since they allowed everyone poolside to vote on each “flop”.  They had other pool activities (Sexiest Man and Pool Games), but we were at other activities and missed them.  We went to the piano bar and didn’t like it.  The player didn’t have a list of the songs he knew which has been a staple of other piano bars.  He seemed more interested in promoting his business since the piano was littered with his business cards.    He was also drinking shots which I didn’t think was appropriate.  The ship has a great Canadian band called Hounds of Liberty which played several times.  Once was an acoustic set before dinner which I thought was their best.
  We attended the Crown and Anchor returning guest party.  It was really nice.  Tasty appetizers including mini bruschetta, chicken wings and spicy mozzarella sticks.  Drinks were free-flowing and we heard you could have ordered what you wanted although we were fine with the champagne and rum punch.  They had a nice presentation for frequent cruisers including one women who have 750+ plus cruise points – and only since 2006.  She is the definition of frequent cruiser!!

Cleanliness and Upkeep

Given that the ship is 21+ years old, it is in very good shape.  The furniture in the lounges appears to be very new. Carpeting and flooring in good shape.  Perhaps because of the upcoming sale?  Didn’t experience any cleanliness issues.  Public bathrooms were always immaculate and often being cleaned. 


My wife and I aren’t loyalists to any cruise brand – we always go based on price point.  Will we be back on an RCCL cruise again? Yes.  I was impressed with the experience and if the price is right, we’ll book another cruise.   I also will be curious what the new owners of Monarch will do with her.  I heard onboard she was headed to the Southern Caribbean.  It would be interesting to see what changes the new company makes.