NHL hockey can be a good for cruise ship fans. While reading the LA Times on-line when my Devils were playing the Mighty Ducks during the Stanley Cup Finals last year I entered a contest to cruise out of LA on RCCL. I won! Picked my school's spring break week from teaching for our five-day cruise to San Diego, Catalina, and Ensenada Mexico out of the Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro.
Since we were going to arrive a couple of days before and after the Monarch cruise we decided to fly in from NJ and stay in San Pedro at the Marina Hotel to relax for a day or so then head to the ship. The former Hilton hotel provided good services and its location on the marina, nearby ocean environmental center and beach provided enough to see and do. You could take the local "trolley" street and rail to the cruise ship dock or a 5 min' hotel shuttle.
Embarkation was slow process cause' the Monarch arrived late and it took about 45 minutes to board. We saw two school groups lining up to board and we shuttered, some spring break from kids. Turned out we saw very little of them except crammed in the two pool deck hot tubs. When we got our first look at this recently refurbished RCCL ship and were quite pleased. Our ocean view stateroom was amidships on deck 6 was adequate. My one request to RCCL booking was that I wanted a quiet location, not to be near any ice machines or elevators. The agent who was excited I won the trip assured me she would get me in the right place. Yup, the cabin was near both, and did not hear either! Our hallway was three cabins long; it was very quiet with no late night foot traffic. The agent knew the ship. The seas were smooth on our trip and we actually missed ship movement rocking us to sleep.
We had main seating for dining our waiter from Hungary was very competent. Eva could have been an LA movie starlet, she was stunning. The food was standard cruise fare I would say a notch above NCL but not near HAL. Lets say better than average. The duck was excellent, the end cut of the prime rib was great with the desserts pleasing all at the table. We were surprised to see most people dressing for formal night, it adds to the cruise experience. We did do the dinner buffet one evening and found it adequate. Our tablemates from CA were wonderful people were one of the highlights from the trip. We did not attend any of the ships shows so I can't comment on them. The pool calypso band was excellent and brought me back to the islands with the sounds of the pans mon !
Other cruise highlights were Catalina Island with all it's sights, from the Avalon's art deco Casino to the Wrigley Botanic Gardens. In San Diego we took the Trolley around town to get a general idea of what the city has to offer. We got off in Balboa Park came to the conclusion that we needed a few days in San Diego.
Ensenada, Mexico well.if ya can't say anything nice.
The crew on board Monarch were extremely accommodating and interesting, another highlight. The ship's size seemed to work, Monarch never felt too big or too crowded on this sold-out cruise. The 360 degree view from the Viking Crown lounge was just what we needed after a day of touring. We did miss the days at sea with the length of this cruise being five days. This is a great first time cruise and for people on the west coast who need a getaway. Monarch's crew does it's best to provide a pleasant cruise experience and she is in fine shape with last year's refurbishments. I am looking different too, I gained 8 lbs. and that was taking the stairs the entire cruise. I shutter to think what my waistline would have been if I had used the elevators.
With some time on our hands before our flight back too New Jersey we stayed overnight in Long Beach on the Queen Mary. A stay on the QM is not to be missed by cruise fans. That's a whole other review...