Well, this was our first cruise, as well as flight, and it was quite an experience. It was not as family cruise, thank goodness, but just the two of us. Our adventure started at the Newark, NJ airport on Saturday morning! We arrived in plenty of time, however, after waiting over an hour in the line to check-in, we were told by Northwest that Continental was now carrying this flight and that we had to go two terminals over to check-in. After running through the airport, luggage in tow, we then had to wait in Continental's line to check-in. After the girl waiting on us had seen how late we were at this point, she rushed us to have our luggage x-rayed, and as we buckled our seat belts on the plane, it took off. For a first flight ever, it was quite the experience!
Upon arriving at the Miami airport, we found our luggage and caught the Super Shuttle to what we thought was the Ft. Lauderdale Pier. The porter took our luggage and we went to the desk to register. Upon arriving at the desk, we found that we were not at the Ft. Lauderdale pier, but the Miami pier, and this was not the Monarch, but the Explorer! Oh No!!! We immediately explained the situation to someone there and they rushed us to the Pier Coordinator, who confirmed that we should have been in Ft. Lauderdale and that Super Shuttle had made a mistake. However, since our luggage had already been placed on the conveyer belt for the Explorer, we could not retrieve it. (New regulation from the Coast Guard is that nobody can retrieve luggage until it is delivered onto the ship). We asked if we could just switch to this cruise, however, new Coast Guard regulation state no passenger may board without 24 hrs. notice. As our luggage had a different tag than the others, and our room number did not exist on the Explorer, they felt they would be able to find it. It was a good thing we arrived so early (1pm) and our ship did not depart until 5pm. We waited on the pier until 4:00, while they searched for our luggage. They could not find it, so off we were to the Monarch for a five day cruise, with just the shirts on our backs and my camera! Unfortunately, we had given the porter our carry-on bag with the extra clothes, when we believed we were at our ship! They called the Monarch and told them we were on our way, so they held the ship, thank goodness!
When we arrived at the Monarch, they were on the sidewalk waiting and rushed us right onto the ship. Run up the gangway, "Smile" (yeah right!) to get your pic taken, and straight to the pursers desk. We were advised that they would try to have our luggage shipped to the port of Cozumel (our first port--Tuesday--second day out). We figured--ok, not so bad. They gave us each a shirt and toiletry kit and led us to our room. The embarkment took less than 5 minutes! When we arrived in our room, we put down our supplies they had given us, said "ok--we are unpacked" and headed straight for the nearest bar! ARE YOUR SURPRISED? The following day we checked back with the purser only to find out that nobody would take our luggage to Cozumel! Again, new regulations since the Sept. 11th incident are that no luggage can be transported in any way without a passenger attached. They were going to attempt to have it Fedex-ed to Cozumel or Grand Cayman (our second port--Wednesday), but they would not take it either!
Well, we had already decided that we had paid for this trip and were going to enjoy it! And that we did. When we got to Cozumel, we bought some cheap shorts and shirts, and had the time of our lives the rest of the trip!
The purser, Sinead, and the Guest Relations Manager, Jorge, on the Monarch were great. When it came time for formal night, they comped Pete a tux and also lent me a gown to wear. On semi-formal night, they lent Pete a shirt and jacket. They kept in constant contact with us to see how we were doing. They were very surprised that we were not grumbling--but actually enjoying ourselves! Jorge made arrangements to comp us our excursions as well as any laundering we needed, which was daily under the circumstances. Our dinner mates certainly had a story to tell about us when they got home!
Now, on to the fun parts. In Cozumel, we walked the beach in the morning and had a beer under a grass hut on the beach. Then we proceeded back to the dock for our snorkeling trip. Wow! What an hour. It was wonderful. Being nature buffs, it was surely the best experience of our lives. Then back to the ship. Cozumel was great.The next day we went to Grand Cayman where we took a land tour which included the Turtle Farm, Hell and an underwater adventure with the stingrays. It was fantastic. We would highly recommend both of these excursions at both ports, especially the snorkeling in Cozumel--it is not to be missed. We had the best time ever!
The service on the ship was great. We did not have to ask for anything twice. We requested a pot of coffee every morning at 8am. This served as both our wake-up call and gave us coffee as we got dressed for breakfast. The food was excellent. Dinner was wonderful every night and any time a steak or prime rib was ordered, it was cooked to perfection. Our dinner companions were also very nice.
The entertainment was really good. Comedians were hilarious and the game shows were definitely funny. We even attended an art auction, which was fun. We are awaiting the arrival of the paintings we bid on.
We cannot recommend Royal Caribean highly enough. The ship was lovely and they tried very hard to take care of us, even though they were not responsible for the initial error which got us into the luggage mess. It was truly beyond their control, but they certainly made our vacation a huge success. Princess will definitely have to do some great stuff to match the trip we just took. (We have an Alaskan cruise booked for June 2002 on Princess)