This was our first cruise on the Monarch of the Seas. She's the oldest cruise ship (1991) we have been on and was filled with 2600 "Guests" for this trip visiting San Diego, Catalina and Ensenada. Our previous were the Sea Princess (Mexico) followed by two on the Radiance of the Seas (Pacific Northwest and Alaska).
We booked this trip as a Disneyland/ cruise package through BCAA (AAA). We left home at 0430 (YUCK) on March 11 for the 0700 flight to LAX, arriving there by 1000. We had four good days at Disneyland, but after that my feet needed a cruise!
Embarkation: It took about an hour from when we got off the bus till we got to our cabin. Check in was easy although timing is everything as they opened up the second check in area as we got there. Then it was through security and get your SeaPass card. We were in the Windjammer by 1PM.
Cabin: We had an outside, 3018. It was small at 122 sq.ft. yet functional. The bathroom was also quite compact. George, our Stateroom Attendant stopped me the first day and asked how we'd like the room set up. He did an excellent job keeping our room clean.
Our daughter had the top bunk and the 2 lower beds were pushed together underneath it. We put one 29" suitcase under the TV table and the other against the outer wall by the window with the backpacks. We also had a garment bag in the closet - Remember we were gone over a week! The only "choke-point" was getting past the desk, which had a big mirror and teenage daughter in front of it!
Public Areas: This ship underwent an extensive renovation last year. The public areas are quite nice and look "new". The only down side seemed to be some corridors leading to the cabins which had an odour which may be poor air circulation, or maybe just the age of the ship.
The Centrum reminds me of the Sea Princess in layout. It is quite bright and it has good traffic flow. The Schooner Bar aft of the Centrum was a good place for "refreshments" after donating to the casino. Ben & Jerry's was a good combo with Latte-tudes coffee bar. Boleros lounge was a nice venue for smaller activities. The Rock 'n' Roll Duelling Pianos Show was an interactive show and very entertaining.
The Sound of Music lounge was nice, except if you were off to the sides then you may have a pillar between you and the stage. RCI entertainment is generally good - and there's always something going on. The Captain's reception was also held there. The Captain, Trym Selvag had a good sense of humour and said we could be in Hawaii in 4 days (In lieu of Ensenada) except that since he had to pay for the free champagne he couldn't afford to pay for the extra fuel. Guess where we all wanted to go!
The pool deck was busy when the fog burned off. It seemed larger than that of the Radiance as there is no indoor pool. If it was too crowded there was lots of space on the Promenade deck, which was generally less windy.
Restaurants& Food: This is highly subjective as we all have different tastes: Vincent's Dining Room. Nothing stands out. The main dishes were ok to good. The appetizers and desserts were very tasty, as usual. The coffee was good too. Our Dining Staff provided efficient and friendly service - an excellent team. Claude's Dining Room. We ate breakfast there once. I would rate the Eggs Benedict as spectacular as it was the first time on a cruise that I did not need a chainsaw to cut through the English muffin! WOW! Windjammer Café. The layout of, and space between the food stations was good for traffic flow. They do a good job of clearing tables and keeping the place clean. Our lunch the first day was good and one night I had a late dinner there in which the pasta and cod was excellent. Avoid the scrambled eggs (runny, tasteless) and omelettes. The coffee was like mud. It reminded me of the Horizon Court coffee on the Sea Princess- and that's not a good thing! Sorrento's on the Windjammer 2nd level served tasty pizza. We did not try Jade Sushi.
Service: Overall I would say the service on this ship was good. The staff was generally quite friendly and helpful, as we've had in our past experience on RCI.
Ports: When we arrived in San Diego the fog hadn't totally lifted. We took the Trolley tour and spent some time in Old Town before continuing for lunch at Seaport Village. We then walked back to the ship, about 15 minutes away. From what we saw San Diego's worth another visit
Catalina: We took a quick tour of the area followed by the Glass Bottom Boat tour. We had lunch at Coney Island West (Good Burgers and Rings) then did some shopping. I imagine Catalina is beautiful when not in the fog. It never burned off completely.
Ensenada: We took the shuttle to town then bought tickets for the Blowhole. So we took some pictures of the Blowhole, got sprayed, shopped at the market, had a buffet lunch in town and window-shopped till our 3PM shuttle back to the ship. Our tour guide provided a good narrative and shopping advice. It was better than wandering aimlessly downtown.
Disembarkation: The usual "Hurry up and wait" routine. All I can say is if you don't have a passport be prepared for another long line outside the terminal. There is a line for passport holders and one for non-passport holders. We breezed through our line with passports in hand.
All in all it was a good cruise and I would rate it about 6.5-7 out of 10. The Monarch may not be the newest vessel but does provide good value for a short get-away or an extension of your vacation if you are in the LA area.