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Royal Caribbean InternationalMonarch the Seas ReviewBaja, MexicoRBW

Age: 49

Occupation:physician

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Monarch of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 17th, 2006

Itinerary: NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International
Monarch of the Seas Cruise Review
Baja, Mexico

RBW

This was our first cruise and we researched as many reviews as we possibly could before booking. We settled on the 4-night cruise out of Los Angeles: Los Angeles - San Diego -Catalina - Ensenada - back to Los Angeles for our family of four (my wife and I, and two “tween-agers” of 13 and 14 yrs old). We were looking for a family-oriented, short cruise to try out. We would have preferred a Disney cruise for Spring Break, but decided late and couldn’t afford the late booking choices, airfare and overnight hotel necessary. The rock-climbing wall and on-board Ben & Jerry’s were attractions that finalized the decision to book the Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas.

Boarding the ship was really effortless. We arrived dockside around 11:30 and were aboard by noon in time for lunch. I’ve read many reviews that slammed the boarding process, but frankly it reminded me of boarding a plane at an airport. You arrive, check in your luggage at the curb, submit your paperwork and credit card at the counter, then wait in the boarding gate for a short time before your group number is called to board. We completed our check-in online and printed it out which I am sure speeded our check in. I HIGHLY recommend having a passport to speed the process both getting on and eventually getting back off the boat in Los Angeles.

We booked two Superior Oceanview Staterooms on deck 9 toward the front of the ship. I have a little problem with claustrophobia and felt anything smaller than the 157 sq ft room would be uncomfortable. I also wanted to be able to look out a window and see the ocean gliding past as we sailed along. Only trouble was, we sailed at night and woke up in a new port each morning, so there was nothing to look at. In retrospect, for the limited time we spent in our rooms, even an interior room would have probably been okay. The beds were comfortable enough and the cabin service was excellent. We would leave for breakfast and our rooms were always cleaned by our return. Turn down service and towel animals occurred when we went to dinner. Very nice!

The Monarch of the Seas reminded me of “Las Vegas in a ship” with its color scheme and abundance of mirrors. Everyone on board seemed genuinely very friendly and anxious to please. Getting around the ship took a day or two to figure out. Some elevators only served a few floors which was confusing but we figured out the forward elevators were the best for getting around. One of the lounges (Circuit nightclub) was only accessible by walking past staterooms on Deck 8 (I feel sorry for those passengers!). Once we figured out where the pool, restaurants, and theater were, we were set.

The ship rumbled and vibrated more than I expected for such a big ship whenever we got underway (maybe that’s normal for trying to get close to 75,000 tons moving). There was also a slight rocking that could be bothersome at times. Otherwise the cruise itself was reasonably smooth. I would, however, recommend Scopolamine patches for anyone affected by motion sickness as they seem to work well and have few side effects.

The food was very good, though not gourmet. I would definitely skip the sit-down breakfast at Vincent’s. Instead, go to the Windjammer breakfast buffet for a larger selection, suit yourself portions (!), and generous hours of operation (7-11am). Similarly, casual lunch at Vincent’s proved very enjoyable with the pools just aft of the dining room. We didn’t see much shellfish on the buffet lines: no crab or lobster, little shrimp which surprised me, though salmon was served often. The pizza bar had odd hours (4-7pm and 9-3am) so the kids only tried it once (late the last night). They said the pizza was good! There was even a barbeque cook out (hamburgers, hot dogs, and ribs) by the pool one afternoon, though we skipped it (started at 3:30!).

We ate dinner at Vincent’s each night and were pleasantly surprised to find our table for the entire cruise was a window table! The waiter (Jeetendra from India) and assistant waiter (Rolando from the Phillipines) were very attentive and pampering! Anything not perfect was whisked away and a new plate brought out immediately. I asked for an extra portion of prime rib one night and was brought an entire new plate. The menus were varied each night, though I did notice steak was available every night if you wanted it. We couldn’t wait to get dressed up a little and “go out” for dinner every night. “Formal Night” wasn’t as formal as I had expected, thank God, and I didn’t see many (if any) in tuxedos. The dinners were always very good and even my VERY picky son ate almost everything on his plate each night. Considering the number of meals the kitchen was putting out, I think they did a phenomenal job!

We attended the nightly showtime activities (comedy on two nights, snippets of Broadway musicals the other two nights). All were above average, but not great by any means. We also played Bingo in the afternoon (“Skippy” the activities director was a blast). My only complaint here was that the seats in the Sound of Music Theater were uncomfortable. Either the low-backed couches or the theater-style seats that seemed to be tilting downward made you glad the show was over. Still, for the price and for our first experience, particularly with the kids, the shows were very enjoyable. The music at the Circuit nightclub was lively and varied.

Regarding tourist stuff, anyone visiting San Diego for the first time, I would recommend the Gaslamp District if you like to visit galleries, some trendy shops and restaurants or bars. I’d skip Seaport Village (tourist trap “mall” on the waterfront). The San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park are good bets, but there are some killer hills at both and be prepared to walk a lot. Golf and other tours are also available through Royal Caribbean, all over-priced in my opinion. You’d probably do better contacting the San Diego Visitor’s Bureau or look up some activities on their website at http://www.sandiego.org – most are readily accessible by foot or short taxi ride. Click on “What to Do” then look for Pre/Post Cruise Itineraries under Features. We’re from San Diego, so we just went for a walk, played in the pool, and got an airbrush tattoo for fun.

Catalina was okay. I suppose we would have had more fun renting a golf cart and puttering around the island a little more. We went into a few shops and walked around to the Casino (actually a large art deco ballroom), but didn’t pay to get into the museum. We were content with walking along the waterfront and having a drink along the way.

Ensenada was a disappointment. It was dirty, smelly, and far too many street vendors/beggars wanting the gringo dollars. This includes the ubiquitous 3 year olds selling Chiclets or the countless teenage girls wanting to braid your hair. If you go, however, there are bargains to be had. Look for real leather purses, stained glass, and kitschy souvenirs for the folks back home. Skip the jewelry unless you really know your stuff. If you’re not the adventurous type, there is a “gift shop” dockside with prices that are similar to town, but with far lower selection. Beware, slingshots (and other weapons) are not allowed back on board!

There were a couple of activities I’d skip while on this cruise. One was the midnight dessert buffet on the third night. The cakes and pastries were certainly well-prepared and looked delicious, but the LONG line to get to the tables and similarity with the lunch buffet desserts left it a “non-event.” The other was the art auctions. I’ve been to Park West auctions on land and know the art I’m looking at. I was surprised they didn’t give a catalogue at the beginning to fully describe the art they were auctioning. For example, the difference between a lithograph and a serigraph is substantial, not only in appearance, but in value. But it seemed it was “buyers beware” here.

A couple of other recommendations: bring some sodas or bottled water with you for your room. Both are available, for a price, from the ship, but we had a small refrigerator in our room, so it makes sense to just buy some for late night or whenever. If you are a big soda drinker, pony up the cash for their unlimited soda package ($4/day for kids under 17, $6/day for adults); I think you’ll save in the end! Expect to be photographed every time you get on or off the boat (photos available for a fee) but Formal Night is a great opportunity to get dressed up and have a formal family portrait in the Centrum if you want. And don’t forget the sunscreen! We saw lots of sunburned people by the end of the cruise.

Disembarkation was much faster and more efficient than I had expected from reading other reviews. We got up, showered and dressed, had breakfast and returned to our room for the final packing. We were just about to head poolside to wait for our group to be called (they assign colors for disembarkation) when our color was announced. We went through immigration and customs, and our bags were waiting by the curb. We were off the boat and in our car by 8:30am! Enough time to head over to Disneyland for the day to finish out the kids’ Spring vacation. I only wish they could have started the disembarkation a little later to allow us to sleep in on our last morning!

All in all, we had a wonderful time on the Monarch of the Sea! The others who have written bad reviews either went into their cruise naively or have a bad attitude to begin with. For them, nothing will ever be good enough. For our family, we look forward to our next cruise! We may even book Monarch of the Seas again!!
 

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