Jul
26
Monaco: Not just for breakfast anymore

Well, we made it through our first port pretty much intact. We started off with a leisurely breakfast at 9, and after breakfast we went to the Starlight Lounge to get a tender ticket. Our number came up at 10, and I got my first surprise of the day when we went to the gangway. Unlike in the Caribbean where tender service is provided by local boats, we rode to shore in the ship’s own lifeboats. Another odd thing was that the boats are rated for 150 passengers as lifeboats when everyone is wearing a life vest, but only 90 people as a tender when we all have normal clothes on. Note to seasick-prone people (luckily I am not): the little tender boats bob up and down a lot when they’re up next to the ship.
Although the ship’s Daily Program said we were going to land on one side of the harbor, we were actually on the other side. This turned out to be good for us because we were much closer to the palace. If you’ve only done Caribbean cruises, you’d be in for another surprise getting off of the tender: no free drinks (although the ship was selling small bottles of Evian at $2 a pop), no one asking to braid your hair, no taxis…in short, nothing. In fact, they dropped us off in an area that was under construction. As we passed out of the construction zone, we saw signs saying “Access Prohibited” and “Wear your hardhat!” There was absolutely nothing which identified it as our boarding area; you just had to know it was ok to enter that area. As we walked down the quay, we passed by Stars and Bars where they were just setting up for the day. We wound up not going in, but I did take a picture of the sign later on.
I think I mentioned early on that Monaco wasn’t #1 on our list of important stops. It’s a beautiful little principality (and yes, J, that is a country even if that rather pretentious woman refused to answer you), but it doesn’t have much draw for me. I can vaguely remember when Monaco was so important to my mother because of Grace Kelly, but not so much since GK died. Enough excuses: we followed the herd (or the hoard, but never that other word) and they led us uphill to the Palace. After some meandering, we decided to buy tickets for the Napoleonic Museum and the Royal Apartment tour. For €8, we got to do both with included audio guides, something that’s usually extra. One gripe about the audio guide is that not too much was said about the Napoleonic Museum, so we spent almost as much time looking for "press #x to hear more" signs as we did looking at the artifacts. It was interesting enough and included at least 2 of Napoleon’s hats and baby clothes from his son who was known as the King of Rome. The Royal Apartment tour was quite interesting, although again they could have recorded more for the guide. In some small rooms they described everything in detail, and then we’d walk into a large, full room and the narration would be something like: "Upontheleftisapictureofsomeguynowgotothenextroomandpressthegreenbuttontocontinue." After the tour we did a little souvenir shopping and then bought some sandwiches so we wouldn’t have to run back to the ship to eat. At €2.80 a piece we thought the sandwiches were a good value, but the €2 cokes were a “little” overpriced.
Here’s a Tourist Trap Tip: DON’T GO TO THE WAX MUSEUM! The €3.80 per person would have been better spent on another sandwich and 1/2 coke or maybe something else like paying someone to poke out your eyes with a fork. It was small, hot, not lifelike, and fairly boring.
After that little adventure we made our way back to the construction zone, along the way fulfilling Ted #?’s wish when we saw topless sunbathers. They technically might not have been 13 yet, but we’re counting them!