Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Monarch of the Seas
Sailing Date: 03-6-2009
Itinerary: Port Canaveral - Bahamas
First of all, let me qualify my review. I have never been on a cruise before and I hope to never go on one again. I do not consider myself a cruising person. There are those for whom cruising is enjoyable and appropriate. Then there are those of us who feel trapped by being on a cruise ship. My impression of the ship was that it is was a cross between a resort and a shopping mall. Everything was done to try to get you to spend more money. Buy this, taste that, duty-free, 40% off, and drink, drink, drink. Alcohol was the social lubricant that made you tolerate your shipmates, purchase overpriced, unnecessary trinkets, and encouraged you to drink even more. I found the ship's crew to be a pleasant and, generally, much more tolerable than my fellow cruise passengers. Whereas my cruise passengers were arrogant, the crew was helpful. Where as the passengers were self-centered, the crew was accommodating. The crew was such a pleasant delight. We were traveling with a one year old and the crew went out of their way to make her smile. They showed her a level of caring and concern that "wowed" me as certain members actually sought her out to wish her a "good morning" or give her a "high five." They knew her by name and if they spotted me without her they would question me as to where she was. The passengers on the ship ran the gamut from trailer park trash to people whose wealth would have dictated they should be on a better cruise line. Being early March there was a good amount of spoiled, rich, college kids on spring break, spending daddy's money freely on liquor, rendering them drunk. There were also the required amount of retired persons. The food turned out to be slightly better than what I expected. Nothing great, a good deal of inconsistency, but, for the most part, well prepared, high quantity food. Again, I should qualify my review: I have attended culinary school, have worked in many different kitchens, ranging from high-end corporate chains to ultra-high end celebrity chef owned establishments. I am highly critical when it comes to food, though, having worked in the industry, I am going to be realistic. I was not expecting food on par with The French Laundry or Blackbird and I didn't receive it. However, the food on ship was better than average and better than I expected. First of all, if at all possible, eat in the dining rooms. The food here is significantly better than the buffet (i.e. "Windjammer Cafe"). The buffet had a lot of hit or miss items: the roast pork was very good, tender, and with a nicely seasoned crust, while the roasted potatoes sitting next to it were soggy, under-seasoned, and mixed with undercooked peppers. The buffet was also a dumping ground for left-overs: left over beef from the night before was sliced, mixed with peppers and transformed into a cold "beef salad." Burgers, eggs, hash browns, meats and everything else was pre-cooked and set on to steam tables or under heat lamps to await the greasy, grubby hands of some fat American to slop onto their plate. If you eat in the buffet and complain about the quality of the food, it's your own fault. The dining room at least prepared your food to order. Special orders were gladly accommodated. The menu changed daily and provided a wide assortment of options. Two beef dishes, another two seafood dishes, a pasta, a chicken, maybe a lamb, a vegetarian, an ethnic dish (typically Indian) and, what RCI called a "Vitality" option, which was basically a healthier preparation. Five or six different appetizers and the same number of desserts. The appetizers tended to be lackluster as did all of the steak options. Personally, I felt the better dinner choices were the ones that were less popular because there seemed to be much greater care in their production. My one year old daughter had no issues with the menu. The cruise ship provided a high chair for her and each night our waiter presented her with a bowl of mixed, diced fruits, which my daughter was quite enamored by. Room service was also good and I would recommend anyone considering eating at the buffet to simply go back to their room and order room service. Everything received from room service was hot, fresh, and arrived surprisingly quick. Drink prices were reasonable. $3.75 for a 12 oz Miller Lite. $4.75 for a 16 oz Bud or 12 oz import. $6 - $10 for most fruity drinks, cocktails, and shooters. Wine was grossly overpriced. I do not recommend either the wine beverage package or the soda beverage package. Our stateroom turned out to be larger than expected. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about a ballroom or anything here, but the room just wasn't the little itty-bitty box I expected to find. Our stateroom had a window which I believe helped in both actually giving the room a bit more size as well as giving the appearance of a bigger room. Otherwise, the room consisted of a double bed, a small round glass table, a chair, and a "desk" in front of a mirror. The closet was also surprisingly ample, though to use the space adequately required creativity. The bathroom, however, was small, but served its function fine. I noticed many other reviews indicate the rooms were "dated." I disagree. In general, I saw nothing wrong with the rooms that wouldn't logically be expected on a cruise ship of this age for this price category. Furthermore, the rooms were clean. Not spotless by any means, but acceptably clean. I will admit, there is a LOT to do on this ship. Anything from lounging out by the pool, to gambling, to shopping, to wine tasting, to flat out binge-drinking. The activities could (and should) keep everyone, from children to retirees occupied at all times. We were traveling with a 1 year old. This made things a little more difficult, but, with that said, the ship provided supervised playtime for infants twice a day. An area near the aft of the ship was set up with infant friendly toys and a large area where little ones could crawl around (this being difficult to accomplish in most other areas of the ship). The cruise ship provided an "instructor" who interacted with the children. And every playtime was just a little different. Different toys and different activities. For example, one playtime the instructor provided (washable) markers and the children attempted to color paper masks while another came with interactive toys and soft objects for the children to crawl in, on, or around. Nassau is Nassau. As far as I could tell, it's not much more than an extension of the cruise ship with hundreds of shops trying to sell you something "duty free." I imagine there are much more pleasant areas to the Bahamas Islands, but our short stay did not allow me to find them. I will say though, I probably didn't give Nassau a fair shake. As I mentioned previously, we were traveling with an infant and we just didn't feel comfortable straying too far from the ship. Coco Cay is RCI's private island. It is well manicured, clean and, for such a small island, offers quite a bit of diverse activities. Of course, there is more commercialism and is yet another attempt to part you from your money. Unfortunately, the beach is quite rocky and can be a bit uncomfortable (if not down right painful) to navigate, but it is easy to avoid and not necessarily the best part of the island anyway.