Royal Caribbean InternationalMonarch the Seas ReviewBaja, MexicoDan Y
Number of Cruises: 1st Cruise
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Monarch of the Seas
Sailing Date: April 7th, 2006
Itinerary: NOT FOUND
Royal Caribbean International
Monarch of the Seas Cruise Review
We just returned from a 3 Night
cruise on the Monarch of the Seas. We embarked at the LA Harbor in San Pedro on
April 7 and returned to the same port on April 10. There were 14 of us in our
group. We celebrated our parents’ 50th anniversary. I’m 48 and my wife is 46. My
parents are in their 70s and my siblings & their spouses are all in their 30s
This was our first cruise for all of us. Maybe as a novice cruiser this review will help other first-timers.
Overall the cruise was OK, but I had several disappointments. Based on reading reviews, I was expecting much more “service” from Royal Caribbean. They just didn’t deliver when they had their chance with me. The non-dinner food service and on-ship customer service were especially disappointing. But there was good with the bad. Here’s my honest assessment.
#1 Compliment – Evening dining in Vincent’s. The dinners were spectacular. The food, the service, the presentation were all definitely 5 star plus. Evening dinners exceeded our expectations and were a highlight of the cruise. Dress was less formal than requested in the literature. But that was fine with us. Some of us dressed up and others didn’t. Either way we were comfortable, well-served at dinner and we had fun.
#2 Compliment – Entertainment. The shows were exceptionally good. They covered a variety of themes geared for audiences of all ages -- comedy, music, dancing, singing and audience participation. We were overwhelmed by the high caliber talent demonstrated in the nightly shows. The dueling pianos in the Boleros bar were incredible. All performers and shows – featured events and quieter bar and Centrum area performers - exceeded our expectations. Kudos to the performers!
#3 Compliment – Quarters. We had an outside cabin on deck 5. It was small, but very comfortable. Our stateroom attendant, Gustavo from Costa Rica, was very attentive to our needs. The cabin was clean, comfortable and we had adequate space as expected.
#4 Compliment – Photographers. We expected the cheesy & pressured photo sales pitch. It didn’t happen. On formal night, we decided to get a group photo. There were 14 of us. Three separate photographers took at least 20 shots of our group. They were patient and detailed in the settings and shots. They even took shots on our own digital cameras when we asked for that extra service. Out of 20+ shots we found 6 good photos which we purchased in multiple quantities. There was no pressure at any time – just a quality photo service provided on the ship.
#5 Compliment – Ensenada. We took the shuttle from the ship to downtown – cost is $2.00 per person for the shuttle. The entertainment just from the ship to town was worth much more than $2.00 per person. Our guide on the bus was a full-fledged Mexican comic and had mucho fun with the gringos. We then booked the shuttle trip to La Bufadora for $13 each. Again, the tour guide on the bus makes the trip fun and informative. La Bufadora was a fun experience, but prepare for the vendors along the street when you get there. To get to the La Bufadora cliff, you have to walk the gauntlet of stores and street vendors. I say have fun with it. If you make it fun, it will be fun. If you are irritated by constant pleas to “check out my junk” you won’t like the walk past the stores. The leather products and novelty gifts were reasonably priced. I wasn’t that impressed with the silver and jewelry prices. I had to keep saying “no” to the offers for free Viagra or other meds they peddle. Plan to buy something on the street. I suggest a purchase at the bottom of the hill closest to La Bufadora. Then you can tell them on the way back that you spent all your money. We were back to Ensenada about 3 hours after leaving on the shuttle bus. Half of our group stayed in Ensenada and the other half returned to the ship. I stayed in Ensenada and was very disappointed with the downtown tourist area. It is Americanized. Food prices were extreme for Mexico (3 tacos cost me over $15). Also the street singers/entertainers wanted at least $5 per song to perform at your table. I think we gringos need to stop requesting songs. I bought 2 songs and then turned away half a dozen other singing groups because they wouldn’t perform for less than $5 per song – they walked away when I offered $3 for a song. On the Caribbean side of Mexico, the singers hug me when I tip them $1-$2 per song. Just say no to these greedy guys in Ensenada. They can perform 12-15 songs per hour which comes to $60-$75/hour at $5 per song. That is good pay wherever you are – especially since many of them really don’t play or sing that well.
#1 Complaint – Food Service. Dinner in Vincent’s was awesome. But... room service and other meals left much to be desired. I had high expectations because I had read and heard about the wonderful food service provided on cruises. I didn’t realize that there is a “Light Service” menu from 11 PM to 7 AM. I was very disappointed with Monarch & Royal Caribbean on this front. For breakfast, lunch and midnight buffets, the food quality was comparable to a Denny’s buffet – acceptable, but not really that exciting. Midnight buffet was a taco bar and was offered on just one night of this 3-night cruise. I would recommend passing on the midnight buffet. On a longer cruise, I’m sure we would have found opportunities to try the specialty restaurants for breakfast and lunch. I would advise cruisers to look for those opportunities early, since I feel we may have missed out. The buffets were unimpressive. Room service on this cruise was confusing and very disappointing. Monarch cruisers need to know that they cannot get a hamburger or fries after 10 PM. I’m a bit of a night owl & I had the impression that 24-hour room service was a serious commitment of a cruise ship. Your only room service option after 10 PM is a hot dog if you want a warm meal. Otherwise, it is a cold pita or a cold turkey sandwich. There is pizza available later in a restaurant on the ship, but I wanted a hamburger and couldn’t get it at night.
#2 Complaint – Customer Service. Royal Caribbean says they are there to provide for your every need – “just ask – we’re here to make this a special experience for you”. When I read their light service menu that said hamburgers are on the menu from 11 PM to 7 AM, I missed the small print about hamburgers & fries being discontinued after 10 PM – which is odd since the light service begins at 11 PM. Why do they even put burgers on the menu if they really don’t provide them?? I spent nearly 2 hours with the Guest Relations desk between 10:30 PM and 12:30 AM trying to find out if I could get a hamburger ANYWHERE on the ship. The short answer is “NO”!!! But it took me 2 hours to get that answer. The front desk at first told me that room service was wrong and I should be able to get a burger 24 hours a day. But after multiple calls, including a conversation and appeal to the Maitre D’, I learned that “just ask” doesn’t work if you want a hamburger after 10 PM. Since neither Guest Relations nor the Maitre D’ himself could produce a simple hamburger after 10 PM, I concluded that their customer service promise is just lip service. Don’t ask for anything extra – you probably won’t get it.
#3 Complaint – Crowded. The deck at the pool area was crawling with people. There were far too many people and not enough space in the pool area. I gave up on finding my spot in the sun.
Overall – I was pleased with the dining & entertainment on Monarch of the Seas. I was VERY disillusioned with their room service and guest relations on the ship. Maybe we were just on the wrong ship or itinerary – I’m not sure. We are very likely to cruise again, but never again on this ship. And the next cruise will not be with Royal Caribbean. I want to try another cruise line for comparison – I just wasn’t “wowed” on this one. Before my next cruise I will ask if I can get burger after 10 PM. I think that’s a reasonable request. If service is not better on other cruise lines, I will likely not cruise much more. My ground options are superior to what I just experienced on this cruise. I’ve never stayed at a hotel where the front desk and Maitre D’ combined couldn’t help get me a hamburger after 10 PM.