We got up at 8:30 and had breakfast delivered. We ate it on the patio overlooking Monte Carlo. It was rainy, but our balcony was totally protected. We headed downstairs to get on a boat; we had to tender again because there was another ship in port. The waves were pretty high, so we bounced all over the place on the way there.
We walked out of the dock area and headed up the stairs along the coast, which led up to the oceanographic museum. There was a great view of the port and city from the hill.
The rain stopped about half an hour later, and the sun started to peek out on and off.
Around the back, there were more stairs leading up to the back of the aquarium building. From there we had to take two sets of escalators, and finally reached the plaza at the top. There we found the tourist train waiting, so we went to get tickets. I’d seen it described as the best entertainment that could be had cheaply in Monaco, and that ended up being true. Tickets were only 6 euros apiece.
We boarded the train and set off on a loop around the city. It headed downhill from the aquarium and onto the famous Grand Prix route. It was only a few weeks away, so the barriers, signs, and stands were mostly constructed at that point. We were really excited about that!
We circled the city on the train, which took us to all the major sights. We decided not to get off, and just figure out where things were so we could walk there later. From the casino, we went through the Grand Prix tunnel and headed back up the hill to Monaco-ville and the Palace. A half-hour later we were back at the oceanographic museum, so we hopped off to walk around.
Monaco-ville is the older part of the city, on top of the hill with the palace. It’s crowded, with narrow alleys and little shops everywhere. There were huge groups of Italians wandering around there from the Costa ship in port.
The flag was flying at the palace, which meant that the prince was home.
From the left side of the palace, you look down onto the other side of Monte Carlo, with Nice right beyond it.
We stopped to use the bathroom, which had a way-too-long line at the women’s room. There were three stalls, but one was handicapped and the attendant really did not want to let anyone in there. She also refused to acknowledge anyone who wouldn’t tip her for a towel (most bathrooms were like that in Italy/France… if there was an attendant, you’d give them a coin and they’d give you a towel to wash your hands after using the restroom). Finally the women in line were so disgruntled that she opened the other stall, and I was the first to use it. I soon discovered why she didn’t want to let people in there… there was a separate sink supplied with towels inside.
We did some souvenir shopping near the palace, then went to head down the giant hill into the city. I was glad we hadn’t climbed up that way.
We walked through the little farmers market at the bottom and found our way back down to the Grand Prix route we’d driven on in the tourist train. We headed up the hill in the direction of the casino, following the harbor the whole way. The yachts in port were amazing.
It was Sunday so most of the businesses along the way were closed, except for a few restaurants. It was a different story near the casino, though. That’s where we found a huge crowd of tourists standing around gawking at cars out front.
(I confess that we did the same. Monte Carlo was every bit as over-the-top as I wanted it to be.)
The casino wasn’t open yet, so we went to the cafe next door, at the Cafe de Paris casino. (I love that there’s a casino named after a restaurant.) We got a table outdoors on the huge patio, and our timing was perfect: the sun had just fully come out for the first time since we’d left Rome.
We had beers and lunch, and sat there enjoying the people-watching in Monte Carlo. It was mainly tourists, but it was still really fascinating. It was also the first free wifi we’d found in Europe, so we sent some pictures to the internet. Once we were done, we stopped into the souvenir shop and then circled the area around the plaza before heading back toward the casino.
The sad part of the Casino at Monte Carlo is that you can’t take pictures inside, so we just have to remember it. Admission is 10 euros, and it’s well worth it just to see what it looks like. Off the central lobby, you head into the salon area. The first room you enter is a huge parlor with the most ornate granite-topped art deco bar possible. The bartender is very, very fancy, and you feel out of place even though everyone else there is a tourist, too. We ordered cocktails, and they weren’t even as ridiculously expensive as we expected. (We’d later have drinks at the Ritz Paris that were close to three times the price.) We took our drinks to some armchairs and giggled to ourselves about hanging out in the most famous casino in the world.
After a while, we went to check out the salons. Matt was interested in blackjack, and I was looking to make some bad decisions playing craps. The tables were already pretty full, which was fine because the lowest-minimum blackjack table was 25 euros. They had 200 euro baccarat as well. That’s out of even bad decision range for us, so we wandered around some more. It turned out that there were really only eight tables or so including roulette, and we couldn’t figure out where anything else was. We finally asked at the cage, and he said the salon with craps was closed for renovation. It was probably for the best!
We went back out to the outer salon, which was full of Game King machines. We decided to do that just to have gambled there, and Matt ended up winning his entrance fee back. SUCCESS.
It was time to head back in the direction of the ship, so we went to go back down along the port the way we came. On the way we passed the Hotel De Paris, and a ton of people were standing outside taking pictures of this lady who was posing on the steps. We still have no idea who it is.
As we got down to the bottom of the hill, we found a way to cross under the Grand Prix bleachers so we could walk along the harbor. On the far side, we found our destination: Stars’n’Bars. It’s a well-known sports bar that supposedly had a cocktail lounge upstairs, so we figured we’d go kill some time before we absolutely had to be back on board.
It turns out that the upstairs was closed, so we got seats at the bar instead, right near where Mikka Haakkinnen’s car was embedded in the wall. The menu featured a drink called the Williemeister, which was obviously a red headed slut mojito (We dubbed it the slujito.) The service was incredibly slow, and the servers (who all wore fanny packs) were way more interested in talking to each other. We finally ordered a cider and a Negroni and sat watching soccer, which was pretty much the only thing going on live during the day there.
After a while, we decided to walk back to the tender dock and return to the ship, because it was getting really overcast again. We arrived about 4:45 and went to the cabin to clean up.
It was then happy hour time, so we stopped at the bar. I ordered their drink of the day, a grappa martini. We went up to get some pizza and sat out on the Lido deck watching a group of people we assumed were swingers in the hot tub. (They’re always swingers in the hot tub.)
We sailed around 6pm, so we went to the back rail to take pictures. It had gotten incredibly hazy again, so we were lucky to have been out having lunch during the only sunny part of the day.
From there we went to the Ocean Bar for happy hour, where we had the best server ever, Ronnie. He gave us a pound and served us two drinks apiece. After that, went up for a quick dinner at the buffet, where I had a cheese plate I still fantasize about regularly.
We went down to the Queen’s Lounge to play trivia, which was hosted by DJ Stylez from the club. A few of the teams were already pretty drunk, so that was amusing. We came in second by only a point, and the winning team had 6 players. It was a moral victory, at least.
Then it was time for the pub crawl. It started in the Crow’s Nest. We checked in and they gave us name badges, so that we could all be anonymous if we wanted. Matt’s was the best. (Mine was Snow Princess.)
We took a seat, and after a while they started making announcements. There were apparently around 70 people there, though everyone was too sober to start making friends yet. The guy in charge of the pub crawl was Red, the beverage manager, and it was clear right away that he was awesome. He said that there would be a drink in each bar, and it was our job to finish it before he did, or there would be a penalty (you’d get wrapped in toilet paper, and generally ridiculed). They found the youngest and oldest people in the room and give them prizes, then they handed out our first drink.
We didn’t find out til later what the drink was. It was pink and sort of mai-tai-flavored, and it was delicious. The staff harangued us to drink them up quickly so we could head on to the next bar. (We later found out the story behind the drink – the Wang Wang – and why they started us with it… it had 6 shots in it, and was stronger than a Long Island.)
We headed off to the next bar in parade formation, with Red chanting up front and us shouting in reply: “PUB!” “CRAWL!” “PUB!” “CRAWL!” The looks on the faces of the unknowing passengers we walked by was hilarious. We walked across the Lido deck and ended up at the pool bar in the back, where it was immediately clear what was happening: we were playing flip cup, and it was men versus women.
We took our spots and got going. The women were ahead halfway through, and there was one reason: we helped each other out. It took each of us a few tries to flip the cup, but someone was always waiting there to set up a new one right away. The men had to retrieve and set up their own cup, so it slowed them down.
After a flawless victory, we were all handed Coronas. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time in my life I’ve ever had a Corona. We then watched as Red challenged a passenger to a wine-drinking brain teaser of a challenge that ended up being pretty awesome.
From there, we were set off toward the elevators and told to meet on deck three at the Ocean Bar. Matt and I took the opportunity to run to the restroom, and we arrived at the Ocean Bar to find a conga line in progress. Since it was a good after-dinner spot, too, there were a bunch of REALLY confused old people trying to figure out what was going on.
They passed out mai tais for our next drink. A woman from North Carolina came up to me and excitedly asked about my chest tattoo, and I was thrilled that she knew it was James Joyce. We started talking to her and a couple people she was hanging out with, and learned that one of the couples was from Shoreview, which is only twenty or so miles from us. We met a few more people they were talking to, and we all headed down to the last bar together: the club.
When we got there, Red told us we would have to dance to earn our drink. I immediately knew what was going to happen next: the Cupid Shuffle. We almost died of hilarity. We shuffled for our drink, then filed up to the bar with everyone else. We had a choice of a tequila shot or Woo Woo, so I took the tequila shot. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t 100% sugar either.
Matt and I went to the casino to gamble. I went to the craps table and he headed toward blackjack. Craps went pretty well until a guy cleared the entire table with a horrible roll that wiped everyone out. I went to check on Matt, and he was doing well, so I went to get him a drink at the bar. Once the craps table filled up again I went to play, but had horrible luck yet again. I brought Matt another drink and headed back to the club to hang out with the group we’d met at the pub crawl. He found me there a bit later, and we headed back to the cabin to sleep.