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Royal Caribbean InternationalMonarch the Seas ReviewBaja, MexicoRobert Smith

Age: 34

Occupation:Professional

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Monarch of the Seas

Sailing Date: May 1st, 2006

Itinerary: NOT FOUND

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

Robert Smith

My wife and I just returned from a cruise on Monarch of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. This was a five-day, four-night cruise, with departure from Los Angeles (Monday) and with stops in San Diego (Tuesday), Catalina Island, California (Wednesday), Ensenada, Mexico (Thursday), and back to port in Los Angeles (Friday). Because you board the ship Monday at 2 and disembark Friday around 8, the voyage is closer to four days and four nights.

This was our second cruise. Our first was a seven-day cruise with Royal to the Caribbean. The other cruise was on Navigator of the Seas, one of the humongous, voyager-class ships.

The cruise cost about 400 for each of us, 800 total, not including airfare or ground transportation to and from the airport. Shuttles or cabs are easy to find to and from LAX and relatively affordable, so there is no need to reserve a shuttle in advance. We used SuperShuttle to get to and from the pier; this was 54 for four people (we traveled with two family members also) one way, plus tip.

We had a stateroom on deck 8 with ocean view. The view from this deck is directly into the lifeboats--not a good view. We had family members on deck 9, and their view was clear and considerably superior to ours, but their room also cost a little more (but was also larger). On a shorter cruise like this, you probably won't spend that much time in your room anyway, so getting a great view is probably not a huge priority.

On Tuesday, we purchased the shore excursion to Sea World. Cost was about 67 each, including transportation to and from Sea World. You could get a slightly better price if you found your own shuttle or cab, but admission to Sea World is about 53 a person, so this is an expensive excursion no matter what. Sea World was fun, but May is not the best time of year to visit. Several of the attractions were undergoing remodeling or were not yet open for the year. We assume their busy season starts in June. Besides the Shamu/killer whale show, be sure to see the dolphin show. Also, feeding the dolphins (free, except you have to buy dolphin food for five dollars a "tray") was very enjoyable. The show called "Pets Rule" left something to be desired (in fact, it totally sucked), but would be good for children.

On Wednesday on Catalina Island, we went on the kayaking shore excursion. This was about $40 a person. Kayakers paddle their kayaks perhaps a mile or so total distance along the shore in the bay and are accompanied at all times by a guide, who explains some of the natural ecology there. If you aren't that active, don't be turned off by the word "kayaking." The kayaks are basically two-man canoes and are virtually impossible to tip over. The water is very gentle, like being in a pond. We got wet (it's impossible to stay dry), but the company that runs the tour lets you borrow sandals and shorts, so we were able to change back into our own dry clothing at the end. We saw some fish in the water and a beautiful bald eagle and enjoyed our guide, who was a biologist by training. You could get a slightly better deal by renting the kayaks yourself and going without a guide, but we found it useful to go with a guide and to be in a group. This was a worthwhile excursion and some nice exercise to counterbalance all the eating and vegetating that goes on whilst on the ship. We also shopped afterwards. You get to and from the island on tender boats, as the ship has to lay anchor a ways out in the bay.

Thursday in Ensenada we went ashore later, around 11. We didn't buy any of the ship-sponsored excursions. Instead, for $15 a person, we went on a group tour (by bus) run by some locals to La Bufadora (a blowhole). It is easy enough to find such excursions in Ensenada without needing to buy the ship-sponsored trips. The drive by bus is about an hour from downtown Ensenada to the blowhole. Going to this site includes visiting a large flea market near the blowhole. The vendors there are all pushy, as you would expect, but there were some decent items for sale--some nice leather goods, dresses, food, for example. Of course, a lot of the silver is fake and the "Gucci" bags are imitations. We particularly enjoyed the tour guide, a Mexican woman who was very funny and kind and informative. We would recommend a tour such as this in Ensenada. It was nice to go on a drive and see some of the countryside and meet a few of the locals, instead of just hanging out in the downtown area right near the ship.

By the way, we aren't drinkers, so I can't comment on the tequila or other attractions along the way.

We happened to run into some cloudy weather for the entire week--nothing that can be done about this. It was a little cool, in the 60s and 70s, but I didn't mind personally. I was still able to wear shorts and T-shirts the entire time.

Some of the cons of this trip were that our stateroom was not very clean. The bathroom had visible mildew and smelled like mildew the entire trip. The shower curtain hung down limply and could not keep the water in, and was also a primary source of the mildew stink. The carpet on the floor in our room was filthy, and we were loath to walk on it in bare feet. Also, the food, though plentiful and adequate, was not nearly as good as we had enjoyed on our previous cruise with Royal. For example, many of the bread items were dry, as if they had been prepared several days beforehand. The beef served in some of the formal dinners was nothing near the "steak" it purported to be. I got an Angus "steak" the first night that was about 1/4 inch thick and exceedingly tough, perhaps like slice of roast. The steak "fillets" on the second night were fillets only in the sense that they were perhaps cut using a fillet knife. The food in the Windjammer (the casual buffet dining) was good, perhaps even better than much of the food served at the formal dinners.

Our waiters were excellent and very kind.

The entertainment on the ship was pretty good. The comedian (Kevin Jordan) was excellent, but the dance/song teams (performed two nights) was only adequate--the sound system was too loud and distorted, and the singers were not always in tune.

All in all, I would give this cruise 2.5 out of 4 stars. I would go again and I would recommend it to you, with the caveat that if you have been on one of the voyager-class ships, you will probably be a little disappointed.

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