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Royal Caribbean InternationalMonarch the Seas ReviewBaja, MexicoMelanie Ottosen

Age: 37

Occupation:Art Gallery Sales

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Monarch of the Seas

Sailing Date: May 5th, 2006

Itinerary: NOT FOUND

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

Melanie Ottosen

My husband and I just returned from the four-night Baja Cruise on the Monarch of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. This was my first cruise, and my husband’s second. He first cruised with Holland America back in June 2000, on their Norwegian Fjords & North Cape Cruise.

Since this was my first cruise, I can’t compare Royal Caribbean to any other cruise lines, so I’ll start by saying I had a wonderful time. Royal Caribbean made a great first impression, and I am definitely addicted to cruising now!

Our itinerary included stops in San Diego and Catalina Island (California), and Ensenada (Mexico). Here’s a rundown of the different aspects of the cruise and what I thought of everything.

THE SHIP:
It takes awhile to get used to the ship. Finding your way around can be tricky until you learn where the staircases lead to. The back stairs only go from the Top Deck down to the Promenade Deck (Deck 7). The front stairs do give you access to more decks. The elevators in the Centrum just go up and down between the Centrum Floors. The main elevators, near the front staircase, go from Deck 1 to Deck 12, so they tend to be very busy and can be quite slow. My suggestion is to explore the ship, learn your way around, and then you’ll have no trouble.

Monarch of the Seas is not a new ship… she’s been around awhile, and she makes the trip to Ensenada twice a week (once Monday through Friday and again on weekends), so she gets used a lot. But the crew does a great job of keeping the ship clean. Carpets were cleaned each night. The Promenade and Pool Deck were sprayed down every night, the ship was sprayed down at every port, and I even saw crew touching up the paint a couple of times.

The ship offers lots of places to sit and relax. There are several lounges you can sit in and they all offer spectacular views. The pool deck was crowded during the day and very quiet at night, but there were always empty lounge chairs. The Windjammer Café and Jade Sushi Bar offered ample seating, and there are other areas where you can just sit and take in the ocean air.

THE STATEROOMS:
One word… small. But ample for our needs. We really weren’t in our room much, though, so it was okay. We had an inside stateroom on Deck Six. Royal Caribbean’s website shows a little love seat in the layout for interior staterooms… ours had no love seat. It was the bed (two twins pushed together to make a queen), a small vanity area with a mirror, a small medicine cabinet and four small drawers, a small closet, and a bathroom (toilet, mirror shower). Did I mention it was small? I suggest that you unpack your clothes and hang them up in the closet, put your shoes in the closet on the floor, put your toiletries in the medicine cabinet and the vanity drawers, and slide your suitcases under your bed. Seriously… “move in” as much as you can. That’s what we did, and we had plenty of room.

Our room attendant, Kadek, was great! Even though we never saw him clean our room or turn down our bed, he was available every day to take care of anything we might need. We saw him every morning and every afternoon. He was great at keeping our room clean, and he made us great towel animals! One afternoon, my husband left a shirt he had worn laying on the bed, and when we returned to the room in the evening, Kadek had been in to turn down our bed, and he had taken the time to hang up my husband’s shirt. He really did an excellent job, and he was very personable.

THE FOOD:
We chose late dining (8:00 p.m.), which actually ended up being later than we wanted. We were hungry every day after our shore excursions! We only had dinner in the Dining Room one night, but it was very good. I had an herb-crusted halibut, and my husband had the Prime Rib. He ordered it medium rare, and it came out perfect. It was very tender and flavorful. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very nice, and made us feel special the one night we ate in the dining room. Even if you don’t want what they have featured on the menu, there are always alternative items available every night. The next cruise we go on, we’ll sign up for the earlier dinner time so we can take advantage of the special attention and pampering you get from the staff there.

Even though we only dined in the main Dining Room one time, we never had trouble finding food on the ship! I have read some reviews that said people had trouble getting food on the ship, and I just don’t understand how that’s possible. The Windjammer Café served breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the selections were always plentiful. In between meals, there were snacks available in the Jade Sushi Restaurant (and not just sushi… everything from sweets to hot dogs and hamburgers, to a taco/nacho bar). At least once, there was a fresh fruit buffet on the pool deck between lunch and dinner, and Sorrento’s Pizza was open late-night when nothing else was.

Overall, the food wasn’t the best. It was typical buffet food. It was never really hot (temperature-wise), but it was good. Expect gourmet, and you’ll be disappointed. Expect a typical buffet, and you’ll be fine.

Water, lemonade, iced tea and coffee are always free on the ship, and were almost always available. Soda and juice were extra, and you can buy unlimited soda/juice for $6.00 a day, but you have to carry a cup around with you and get it filled. We just stuck to the free stuff. We don’t drink alcohol, so I can’t give a review about the drinks served in the bars.

THE ENTERTAINMENT:
The comedians on the second and third nights were great. Very funny, both of them. The other two nights were singing and dancing, show tunes, etc., but we didn’t see either of them. There were game shows every night, hosted by Mark, the Cruise Director. He was very funny and seemed like he really loved his job. There were always activities on the ship, so if you need to be entertained non-stop, you can be. Dueling pianos, ice sculpting, a belly flop contest at the pool… it seemed there was always something going on.

The casino was pretty cool, too. We’re not big gamblers, but my husband turned $10.00 into $125.00 at a slot machine, and we decided to quit while we were ahead. Had we decided to stay, though, we could have chosen from slots, blackjack, poker, roulette, or craps. The casino was only open at night.

THE PORTS:
Every day we were in a new port. We arrived each morning at 7:30 or 8:00 and left every day at 5:00 p.m.

San Diego – We’ve been to San Diego many times. We know the waterfront and we know what we like to do there, so we didn’t do a shore excursion. We just did our own thing. The ship offers plenty of choices for whatever your tastes may be. From Sea World to the San Diego Zoo, the USS Midway or the Maritime Museum, there is always stuff to do in San Diego!

Catalina Island – We loved it here! It’s such a pretty place! We have even talked about going back and spending a weekend there at one of the many Bed & Breakfasts. We took the semi-submersible Shore Excursion, which was just okay. I’m a serious hobby photographer, so I was a bit disappointed with spot we went to. The water was murky, and all we really saw was kelp and seaweed, and three or four very boring species of fish; nothing bright or tropical like I had hoped. I wouldn’t do this excursion again. After the semi-submersible ride, we rented a golf cart and explored Catalina Island for an hour. That was a lot of fun. The company gave us a map of the scenic route we should take to see the best and most scenic stuff, and we got some great photos of the harbor and the island in the hour we had the golf cart. The route they tell you to take is exactly one hour with no stops, and includes a drive up to the Wrigley Mansion and Gardens, which we skipped, so we had time to stop for photos. We did the drive in about 58 minutes, and we paid $40.00. If you want to, you can take your time and keep the golf cart for a second hour. The second hour is only $30.00, and they pro-rate it for you based on how long you have it (1/2 hour is only $15.00, 45 minutes is $23.00, etc.) so it’s actually a good deal, and a great way to see the island. After touring the island, we just walked along the waterfront visiting the various shops. We ate lunch at a small café and returned to the ship mid-afternoon.

Ensenada – very disappointing. Just like Tijuana, but further south. We did the La Bufadora Excursion, which was only okay. La Bufadora itself is pretty cool, but the bus ride was long and our guide was boring. As everyone else says in their reviews, the people who run the market area between the tour bus and La Bufadora are very pushy. tons of pharmacies offering drugs for very little money and requiring no prescriptions (welcome to Mexico!!), and lots of junk for sale. The night before we sailed into Ensenada, the comedian on the ship said, “So, Ensenada tomorrow… this will be the first time I take a ship to a garage sale.” That’s the perfect way to describe Ensenada.
I hated it there. It was dirty. I wouldn’t be sad if I never saw Ensenada again. We got back from La Bufadora and went back to the ship (we had no desire to see downtown Ensenada). Perhaps it would have been more fun if we were drinkers… there seemed to be an abundance of beer and tequila for those who wanted it. It’s just not our thing.

SUMMARY:
We really enjoyed our cruise on Monarch of the Seas. My only real regret is that we didn’t have any days at sea. With a new port each day, it was a very busy vacation, and it would have been nice to have a day or two without a planned excursion. It would have been nice to have a day to sleep in and just relax on the ship. The only other thing I would have changed is the weather. We had sunshine in Los Angeles before we ever got underway, but then it was overcast and cloudy the entire time. But that had nothing to do with RCCL. I was very pleased with them, and would definitely recommend them for anyone thinking about a cruise. In fact, just this morning, one week after returning from our Baja Cruise, we made a deposit for our next cruise, a Western Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, in May of 2007 – including two days at sea! We’re really looking forward to our next adventure with Royal Caribbean!

To see my photos of our cruise experience, you can visit my photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/meleniephx and look for my “Baja Cruise 2006” set.
 

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