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Steve Duncan

Age: 42

Occupation:Creative Director

Number of Cruises: 16

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Monarch of the Seas

Sailing Date: June 18th, 2004

Itinerary: Mexico

This cruise was my 16th cruise, my third sailing RCCL and my first 3-day cruise. Here’s my review of our cruise on June 19th Monarch of the Seas cruise to Ensenada. I’ve sailed on RCCL, Celebrity, Princess, Carnival and the now defunct American Hawaii and Sitmar Lines. I’m 42 years old, a creative director by trade and live in San Diego.

Appearance: For an older cruise ship, the Monarch looks pretty good outside and in. She’s big, brassy (lot’s of brass everywhere) and well kept. A Hyatt-Regency (circa 1990) on the high seas. RCCL has taken good care of her, keeping her public rooms clean as well as her staterooms. She shows some wear and tear on her carpets and upholstery, but it is minimal and expected for a ship that hasn’t been refitted in over a year. Maintenance workers were retiling her aft swimming pool as we arrived, but by sailing they had finished and the pool looked as good as new (except for the water, that is seawater and because of it coming from the Pacific Ocean, it’s greener than Caribbean water).

Embarkation and Disembarcation: Wonderful, easy and fast. Kudos to RCCL. We booked a suite so there was a line just for suites and Platinum members of the Crown and Anchor Club (previous cruisers on RCCL). The regular line was not massive and everyone was on board in at least 30 minutes. Disembarcation was quick and painless and we were to the car by 8:30am.

Staterooms: We had a suite on deck 10, number 1048. It was nicely appointed, roomy (for RCCL standards), had a nice balcony with two chairs and a chaise lounge. There were plenty of storage space and the bathroom had a bathtub with shower massage and there were big bottles of shampoo, lotion and other accoutrements. Our cabin attendant was outstanding and unobtrusive. He always greeted us with a big smile and hello. The downside of the cabin was the dated color scheme, the mold on the shower curtain and bathmat, and the door keys that wouldn’t work most of the time. Our neighbors were experiencing the same problem with their keys. On newer ships the keys are electronic, these were plastic holed punch keys that you slip into the door. We did peek into a few staterooms and all I have to say is “Tiny”! I don’t think there was more than 2 feet of extra room in front of the bed to the wall. These were the smallest rooms I’ve ever seen.

Dining: We had the late seating in the Vincient Dining Room. The food was good, much better than I expected, but the choices were much more limited than on any other cruise that I have sailed on. The food was well prepared, warm and plentiful. I liked some of the entres better on Monarch than on Celebrity's’s Millennium, which is known for its dining. The dining rooms are nicely decorated, though not very grand, like other newer ships. The wait staff was wonderful and accommodating. The only negative comments I have about the main dining experience is that in the main dining rooms lobster, prime rib and crab were all left off the menus. This was the first cruise that these entres were not offered. Also the seafood selections are limited to salmon and fried fish. Also, we requested to be sat at a table for 10 (we love to socialize) and were sat at a table for two. The Windjammer Buffet was much, much better than I had heard about. The choices were good, with beef, chicken, fish entres. There were also Indian and Thai entres served in the forward, Jade portion, of the dining room. Jade, the alternative sushi restaurant is on two decks, with the upper deck of the Windjammer dining room being the exclusive, reservations only portion of the restaurant. We did not eat there, however we did check the menu and the sushi prices compared to those on land. And lastly, this is a total “booze cruise”, which we weren’t really aware of at booking. There is no doubt about it, so if you don’t like loud drunks you are not going to like this cruise. Our first night out most everyone around us was very intoxicated and very loud. Luckily they calmed down on the following nights or never showed up from passing out after Ensenada.

Entertainment: It was good to average. The shows were fun, fast paced and typical of cruiselines. The Sound of Music Showroom’s sight lines are not very good due to pillars holding up the balconies. The rooms were never filled to capacity so it really wasn’t a problem. Here’s a problem that I felt was very bad. The DJ out by the pool plays rap and techno music all day/night long (If he’s not there it’s on reel). There were at least 300 kids on board and they were had a blast. They were pretty well controlled and no problem. The DJ, however, kept playing Rap songs with explicit lyrics that were not appropriate to be played in front of kids younger than 17. I’m not a prude and I have a teenage son so I am familiar with popular music pretty well, but I feel that songs saying “Mutha F**ker” that were being played was totally inappropriate at 7pm in the pool area.

Bars and Lounges: My favorite hands down was Boleros. Located mid ship it was always a happening place to be. It is also the only bar that makes mojitos, a tasty Cuban drink that I love. At night Boleros plays salsa music with a great salsa band. The Viking Crown Lounge, atop the smoke stack is dramatic and wonderful. It has a 360 degree view and is a great place to watch the climbers on the rock climbing wall. The Windjammer bar is nice, very nautical and has a pianist and singer in ti nightly.

The Casino: This is a very happening place and fun to lose your money at. Not as nice as the casinos on some of the other ships (no fun slot machines like Wheel-of-Fortune and Monopoly) Quarter slots are the minimum and they are not very liberal. It would be best to play BINGO if you plan on taking any winnings home, at least one person brings home the jackpot each cruise in BINGO...unfortunately few jackpots were being won in the Casino.

The Spa: There is an adequately equipped spa on board. It’s small but attractive, with treatment rooms facing out over the bow of the ship. I singed up for a $159, 70 minute hot stone massage. It was good and relaxing, though I find massages on land to be better. There are daily specials and a 20% discount on treatments done on the first day.

Shopping on Board: One word, dismal. The shops on board are so bad. There is not a very wide selection of merchandise. Nothing name brand worth buying. The liquor shop however, has good deals on alcohol and cigarettes. This was the first ship that I’ve been on that didn’t at least sell Lladro.

Ports: Ensenada is small, very arid, not very attractive and has a street six blocks long that has t-shirt shops, pharmacies, liquor stores and bars all carrying the same stuff. If you want to drink Papas and Beer is the place to go. There’s not that much to do in Ensenada and it in no way compares to Cabo, Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco. A shared van in an out of town costs $3.00 round trip. We walked the 5-6 blocks to help burn off the calories we were acquiring on board.

Summary: The Monarch experience was a good 3-day get away. It is a good value if you want to just go nowhere and relax. Compared to other ships I’ve been on she is fine but less sophisticated (even the 7 day carnival trips I’ve been on seemed more sophisticated). This is an all out booze cruise. Most people are on it to get drunk, unwind and have fun. The cruisers are mostly younger, teens to mid 50’s; families and couples. From those we talked with most people on board seemed to be less traveled and prefer a weekend trip to Vegas over an extended multi-destination vacation. I thought RCCL did a good job catering to everyone. I don’t think I will ever take another 3-day cruise because I prefer more dining options, better shows and multiple ports. I thought it odd that instead of docking at Catalina or San Diego for the third day, we just lay anchor out in the middle of the ocean and waited. It was June, so there was the annual “California June Gloom” so it was always in the 60’s in the day, a little too cold to swim or layout by the pool. Don’t book this cruise in May or June if you want optimum tanning weather. It won’t happen. People do not dress up on this cruise like they do on others. There were few tuxedos worn. Many of the guys wore polo shirts to the formal nights. Women dressed more formally then men. The guys on both sides of us wore shorts to dinner even though it is stated that it is forbidden.

If you have cruised before and had a wonderful time on a Celebrity or Princess 7-day or longer cruise then you may be shocked at how laid back and unsophisticated this cruise is (RCCL is supposed to be fairly upscale). If this is your first cruise or you want to just have fun and hang loose then the 3-day Monarch experience is of great value. She is a beautiful ship and has a lot to offer. Just don’t expect the same things you expect on the longer cruises, especially the variety of food and that special touch of sophistication that adds to the romance on the high seas (it’s “Dos XX’s instead of Moet on this cruise, baby!) Bon Voyage, dude!

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