We were really anticipating this cruise on the Monarch. We have put several groups on this ship as cruise agents and we were anxious to experience her for ourselves. I was especially interested in seeing the small cabins that this "Sovereign Class" ship is known for. I was not disappointed. They are tiny! Just like everybody says. Aside from the tiny cabin, we really enjoyed our 4-night cruise with Royal Caribbean.
Kim and I are experienced cruisers in our mid forties sailing with our 4-year-old son, Christian. Due to its extensive refurbishment in May of this year, the Monarch looked to be in great shape. All the carpets were fresh and new and all the furniture was either new or reupholstered. The restaurants, public rooms and Centrum (atrium) all looked beautiful. The pool deck is great with two large pools, two hot tubs and a Reggae band playing in the afternoon. Completely new and sparkling are the fitness center, spa, beauty salon and children's facilities.
Production shows were good in the theatre and featured two outstanding singers as well as two other fairly good ones. The comedians and variety act were average. Entertainment was also held in the Circuit nightclub and Boleros lounge. Boleros featured dueling piano players and a salsa band, both quite enjoyable and fun. Karaoke, live music and a DJ were featured in the Circuit. The Schooner Bar featured "ancient" Al at the piano bar. I was happy to see he remained alive throughout the cruise. Plus, it seemed there was always some sort of live music being playing in the Centrum. Even though there aren't any sea days on this itinerary, there are lots of activities scheduled for those still on the ship.
Jose and Ja Ja, our waiter and assistant waiter in Claude's dining room took good care of us. Shrewdly avoiding the Ranch Steak, which we have read many poor reviews on, we enjoyed several very good meals including roast lamb, New York steak, Duck L'Orange, prime rib, chicken marsala and roast turkey. The buffet was standard cruise fare but quite good and tasty. There was good variety and always fresh fruit and many salads available. One thing we missed was the grill on the pool deck. They only had this on debarkation day and we didn't get to it that day. All the other days you had to go into the buffet for lunch, even if you only wanted a hot dog or burger. They kept the hot dogs, burgers and fries upstairs in some warmers where few people ever saw them, hence they were not too fresh, especially the fries. The upstairs deli featured different sandwich concoctions each day, some of which were very tasty. We didn't try the sushi or the pizza station. We did miss not having self-serve ice cream but I managed to struggle through until dessert at dinner. What stamina!
Everyone looked great on formal night in the dining room, with ladies in long dresses or skirts and men wearing dark suits or tie ensembles. Royal Caribbean describes the dress for other nights in the dining room as "casual" instead of "resort casual" on other lines. And casual is what they got. I have never seen so many people wearing jeans on a cruise ship. One man wore his bathing suit in the dining room one night and no one said a word to him. I know people love their jeans. I wear mine at home, too. But not in the dining room on a cruise. To me, it takes away from the specialness that is a cruise. A cruise is something to look forward to, savored during the experience and fondly remembered when it's over. It is something special - our fantasy life come true for a few days. Many people looked like they were going to a Little League game or Burger King, instead of dining in a beautiful restaurant on a wonderful cruise ship. Just my opinion.
Having been to Ensenada and Catalina many times, we didn't do too much in these ports. However, we did rent a car from Avis in San Diego. They picked us up right at the ship and drove us a few blocks to the Avis office. There was only one car left so I'd advise booking a car in advance if you know San Diego or like venturing out on your own. We were very lucky with our weather the whole week and San Diego was no exception. We drove up to La Jolla and enjoyed the spectacular scenery. It was gorgeous.
Christian enjoyed participating in the Adventure Ocean kids program. And we enjoyed having some time to ourselves. There are separate areas for each age group with age-appropriate activities for each group. We also used the late night sitting for $5/hour a couple of times. That let Kim & I go to a late show and dancing a couple of times. We even went for the salsa dance lesson. It was a hoot.
This ship & cruise is a great get-away if you only have a short time. We'd go again in a heartbeat! We would recommend booking a superior oceanview cabin on Deck 9, or better. These cabins are 157 sq. ft. with a sitting area. They are much more spacious than the standard, tiny 119 sq. ft. cabins. Bon Voyage!
Terry McInerney MrMacCruises