Monarch of the Seas
April 14, 2006
Here's my review from our 3 day Monarch trip to Ensenada. We arrived at the LA port around 11:30am and gave our bags to a porter to check, more on that later. We went into the terminal and no one was in line so we immediately checked in, a very easy process. There was a special room for Suite and Diamond+ members but it does not include Jr. Suites, although you do get priority boarding. We then went into the holding area where there was a group of 50 travel agents waiting to go on board for lunch along with about 30 passengers. It was a bit confusing as the staff didn't announce there was one line for passengers and one for the TA's. But we got on around noon and went straight to our cabin, JS1580. Even though it was not going to be ready until 1:00pm they allowed us to drop our bags off. The egg-crate topper was on the bed as promised but it was pushed together so we requested them to be separated which was taken care of later that afternoon. Our room steward was Herman and did a great job.
We went to the Windjammer to have a light bite to eat and the food was very nicely presented. There were hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, pork roast, fish and other nice items. We didn't eat too much as we wanted to have room for dinner. I went to the dining room to check our table. We were at table 494, next to the Captain's table but he never ate there. We heard he prefers to eat sushi in Jade every night.
It was raining quite heavily off and on so the top decks where empty and had huge ponds of water all over them. But this also gave me a chance to walk around and take a lot of pictures with no one in them. The overhang from the pool deck protects the balconies nicely even in heavy rain.
As for checking your bags, if you can manage to do carry-on I would highly recommend it. We boarded at 11:30am and by 2:30pm the bags were still nowhere to be found even though I saw many bags being delivered in the hallway. I finally decided to search for them and found them in the HUGE pile by the elevators waiting to be delivered. The attendant was more than happy that I claimed them as it was 3 less for her to deliver. The only real problem I had was the hanging bag with our formal wear was piled on the floor with everything else so it had major wrinkles... .I just put the clothes in the bathroom and turned the shower on hot for 30 minutes and they were fine, but beware, you should probably just take your own luggage if you want it quick and wrinkle free. I did take one bottle of wine in my bag more as a test than anything else. It arrived with no problems. Not sure what would have happened if I did carry it on.
At 4:30pm we had muster and made our way to deck 7. I'm confused why our muster station 6 was so far away from our cabin location and why when it was over we had to go toward the front of the ship to get to our cabin located near the aft??? Also, it was a little annoying watching all those late comers just lazily strolling on-board unconcerned with all of us in lifejackets. Apparently it's not THAT mandatory to do muster after all. Not to sound like a whiner, muster is important and we had fun doing it... just some points.
At 5:00pm we went to the Royal Suite for sail-away having been invited by Larry & Nancy from the CC board. Also there were John & Celia, LaVonna and her daughter, Paige and Paige's 2 children. There were wonderful plates of cheeses and some sushi as well as wine and champagne. It was very elegant and fun to meet everyone and a great way to kick of the cruise. The ship was about 30 minutes late sailing so we had to let Larry & Nancy escape early for 1st seating at dinner. After that Mom and I went to the Viking for the rest of sail-away and got some great pics as we pulled out of port.
As we were enjoying it a family sat behind us and made it known to the waiter that it was their first cruise and they had no idea how to tip or anything else about sailing. It was very plain they were going to be loud and crass the entire trip so I prayed they weren't at our dinner table. As it turned out we had amazing dinner companions!!! Barry, who had been on the inaquaral Monarch trip along with at least 37 other RCCL cruises and an additional 40+ other cruises!! His how life must have been spent waiting for the next sailing. He was wonderful. We also had Deniece and Joan from LA, two great gals out for fun. Our head waiter was from Turkey, our main waiter was Ivanov from Bulgaria and the assistant waiter was Hilario from India. All gave wonderful service. The food was great and I'm so glad I knew what to order from reading here. The garlic soup and scallop risotto were awesome! I had 3 servings of the escargot, they were that good! Even the girls and my mom, who had never eaten escargot, loved them. The filet was great too. I expected a full steak and was pleased when two nice slices showed up so I didn't have to eat a cow! I didn't have desert but tasted the tiramisu and it was very good. I ordered a bottle of wine for $21.00 and it lasted me all three nights and was a much better deal than buying glasses at $7.00+ tip each time. They kept the bottle for me.
I went to the showroom to see the comedian, Bruce Gold. While he had a few funny moments I felt he would be better as an opening act instead of a headliner. It just wasn't funny enough to last 45 minutes. I later went to see the dueling pianos, sorry I do not have names, and that was a bit boring as well. In their defense there were only about 20 people in the room and they weren't very responsive. On the other hand, there were several requests being made that any GOOD players would have known and they had no clue how to play them (Pinball Wizard by Elton John for example) so they weren't winning fans over. They second night wasn't much better. I did find out that indeed, the dueling piano players change out every 3 to 4 weeks as they are not crew and have to leave. They either go to other ships or come back in a few weeks.
We pre-ordered breakfast from room service and had eggs, bacon, sausage, danishes and coffee and it was wonderful to have it on the balcony as the sun came up and we headed into Ensenada. Both of us thought the room service coffee was nice and strong, very good. They called before they delivered both mornings and were on time.
We got off for the 8:45am winery tour. It was quite cool as it was overcast and about 60F. It was a nice drive and we had Esperanza as our guide. We drove through the countryside and through the hills into a valley with the vineyards. The first winery was L.A. Cello. We drove around the vineyard to the bullring and as the bus went up a steep hill the wheels started spinning and it was clear we weren't going to get up that muddy hill. The driver started to back down and slid into the wall!!! So here we were, stuck on a muddy hill on the backside of the vineyard! We decided it was an ADVENTURE TOUR. So we all had to get off and walk to the bullring in the mud as they tried to get the bus out. Eventually one of the workers got a chain and attached it to a tractor to pull the bus out. We all had a great laugh about it and it didn't really bother anyone. We made it to the wine tasting room and had some nice wines, champagne and brandy. Our guide there was a very hunky Umberto that all the girls, and a few boys, loved. They also make a wonderful olive oil and jars of olives they grow there. For a bottle of olives, one large olive oil and a bottle of brandy I paid $14.00US. Make sure you look for the many peacocks on the grounds, as well. The second vineyard was Bodega de las Misiones. It was a nice tour and tasting but nothing so special I had to buy any. When we got back to the ship they put everything through metal detectors but there was a guy on the side asking if we had alcohol. I said "No, just some olive oil" and he let me through. So if you don't want to I don't think they are very strict about taking your booze when you come back on in Ensenada.
After putting our things up we caught the shuttle to town about 2:00pm and went to the fish market so I could take some pictures. We then went to Hussongs on Barry's recommendation and it was a great place for ambiance. There were peanut shells on the floor, a mariachi band and lots of drunken tourists. There were great pics and caricatures all over the walls. Fun place and an older crowd compared to what we saw on the balcony at Papa's & Beer.
We did a little more shopping, Mom was able to get a beautiful embroidered dress for $30.00US, then made our way back to the shuttle at 4:00pm for the ship. I decided to head to the promenade deck to take pics of those late comers running for the ship that had been discussed here. I was NOT disappointed and got to watch some people hauling ass as the ship blew its horn and security was putting down the doors. Very funny!
We were supposed to sail at 5:00pm but for some reason we ended up letting the Carnival Paradise leave first so we ended up not sailing until 6:30pm. I had wanted to get pics of the crew letting the ropes go but I had to get ready for formal night. We got ready and met the Captain at 7:30pm. Very brief and he didn't seem in the mood to talk. We went into the theatre for the Reception show and had several free cocktails/champagne.
Even though it was Easter Weekend and there were a lot of families I was surprised how many people dressed for formal night. I honestly didn't even look to see if there were any "offenders" in jeans or otherwise so I guess it didn't matter. After dinner we went to get our formal portraits taken. There were 3 different places you could do this and we did all 3. I was a bit annoyed at the photographers INSISTANCE that they knew how you should pose better than you did. As a photographer myself, I thought they were a bit pushy about that. Only one of the pics ended up looking good as a result so they lost our money over it. Other than that, it was a lovely night.
Mom went to bed and I went to see the last of Mike Wilson, a comic impressionist. I didn't catch enough to give a review but he got a very warm ovation from the crowd. I was then invited to the Crew Talent Show after midnight that no passengers are usually allowed to. I will NOT give details or post any pictures from this show, but let me say it was the BEST show of the entire trip and Skippy has never looked better! If they charged for this show I think passengers would be MORE than willing to pay and it would be PACKED! I will fondly remember it for the rest of my life.
Day 3 was Sea Day. We pre-ordered breakfast for 9:00a-9:30a and when it came we both left it where it was and went back to sleep! Mom finally got up at 11am... her idea of heaven and that's what this trip was for. I got up, showered and went to the deck. It was very windy and cold and people were up there wrapped in towels and sweatshirts, basically looking like Nanook of the North tanning!! I guess they figured if they paid that much they were going to lay by the pool no matter what. It did finally warm up around 1pm and more people came out but it certainly wasn't a chair-hog kind of day. I spent most of the day walking around, taking people shots and laid out for about an hour getting some sun. Make sure you have the pineapple delight cocktail poolside... .yummy. Also, if you like Mojitos, make sure you go to Bolero's and order them. The menu says it has a "hint of spearmint" which almost kept me from ordering them. But they have a LARGE amount of mint and just a splash of soda... ..PERFECT! At 12:30pm we did the backstage tour of the showroom. It's very small, as I expected. My other half was a stage manager for the "Fame" tour so it was fun to see a miniature mock-up of the taxi from the show.
We got ready for dinner and went to the Spectacular Farewell Showtime. The cast put on a great show with lots of energy. They are 6 weeks away from ending this contract and they all found out last week where they are going. Only one of the current casts is staying with the Monarch. Most of them have been on the Monarch for 9 months so they are all ready for a new adventure. 3 of them are going to the Legend together.
At dinner we had a great last night with our dinner companions. Also the waiters did the parade through the dining room with cakes (and one guy with a ketchup bottle!) on their heads. We had 3 little birthday cakes delivered and our waiters sang to us and danced with us and we took lots of pictures with them. They were a great team and we really enjoyed the service. After dinner we went to Quest... ..boy did I get some GREAT pictures of this! I am going to post them on my website but it will be in a separate gallery so that those that don't want to know what Quest is don't have to see them when they see the trip pics. But for those who do, you can. Unfortunately, Moe did not do it that night, and I hear he is taking vacation soon, but it was still fun. Mom went to bed and I finished the bottle of wine I had brought on the balcony looking at the reflection of the full moon on the water as we sailed. Lovely end to a great trip.A few final notes.
Some of you may remember I joked about them not having "Two Buck Chuck" Trader Joes wine on board... ... they DID!! I never saw a price, but there was a bottle on display in the Viking! I did pre-tip Herman $20.00 cash as I had several initial requests. I thought it was worth it. I also included $5.00 on top of the pre-tips in each envelope for our waiters. While they were good, I didn't think they went "above & beyond" for more than that. I also tipped my main bartender, Chris in the Schooner, $20.00 for taking such good care of me the entire weekend. I did not add tips to the bar bills.
There are TWO electrical plugs in the JS. JS1580 & 1080 are BETWEEN lifeboats and have a very large space between them so you can look straight down on the water, very nice as you sail. Also, it is below the stairwell on the pool deck and a walkway so there was minimal thudding from above.
The shower is NOT tall. I am 5'9" and only had about 3" between my head and the ceiling in the shower. Not good for tall folks but at least you'd have a tub, about 4' long.
The curtain in the JS does indeed close off the entire half of the room. The beds and bath on one side, loveseat, chair and balcony on the other. Very nice if one person wants to nap and the other wants to use the balcony. I didn't notice any bad smells I went anywhere on-board. It seemed there was always someone cleaning somewhere. I did notice a bit of a "trash building up" type smell by Sorrento's on sea day.
The ribs and cole slaw on sea-day by the pool are some of the best we'd ever had!
The mini-bar was just a small refrigerator with 2 bottles of water, 2 Cokes, 2 Diet Cokes and 2 Sprites. It cooled my wine just fine; there was a shelf to lay the bottle on. You could easily take everything out and place it on the cabinet with no charge as it does not "monitor" you.
18-20 year olds may have beer and wine but you must be 21 to have cocktails. They do have Red-Bull... ..I just wanted to see the guys faces the next day after drinking Jaegermeister and Red-Bull all day at the pool... YUCK!
There were a few people who were putting their own rum in the Coke cups and having the bartender fill them with Coke. I didn't have a problem with that but PLEASE FOLKS!! If you are going to do this at least have the DECENCY to tip the bartender who is still making you a drink even if it is on a card! Also, I felt the bartenders were abused having to put up with all the little kids constantly coming up to get Shirley Temples while the bartenders weren't getting any tips for it. I put on the comment card that folks with the Coke cards need fountains to get refills from and the kids should have ONE bar on board for them. All in all we loved the trip and would do it again and highly recommend it.