Monarch of the Seas
by Doug Roberts
November 28, 2008
First a Disclaimer: We loved this cruise and had a great time. There will be several comments in this review that are negative toward the ship, its staff and the direction RCI is going. So, RCI cheerleaders, consider that we would not hesitate to sail with RCI again before you savage me for negative comments.
We chose Around the Clock (ATC) to transport us from Orlando International Airport; they were prompt, courteous and efficient. We were well pleased with their service.
All we got were lukewarm greetings and stern fingers pointing the direction in which we should go to board. There were no hitches or delays and we got some smiles and warm welcomes after crossing the gangplank.
Once onboard we proceeded to the Windjammer buffet for lunch. We found a great table at the very front of the ship with a panoramic view and chose to sit there every meal we took in the Windjammer.
The Monarch of the Seas is a gracefully aging lady who is clean and well maintained. The main indication of her age is the lack of balcony cabins, so highly in demand these days. The only other evidence of age was the wear and tear obvious in the shower in our cabin.
Our cabin seemed miniscule at 122 sq feet compared to Princess and Celebrity. However the bed proved to be quite comfortable. Our cabin steward Connie was on hand to greet us, however, we rarely saw her afterward and were never greeted by name as on other cruises.
Muster drill was at 4pm and the highlight was a bride and groom in full dress with life jacket on who were assigned to our muster station. Nothing like a bright orange vest to complement a wedding dress.
Again, here I have to express preference for having muster in a public lounge, like Princess.
Can You Hear those Glass Ceilings Shattering?
Shortly after we sailed it was dinner time as we had main seating. We ended up at a table for 12. Our table mates were a varied group ranging from a brother and sister and their respective spouses to a couple from Nebraska and 4 single ladies. One of the single ladies I dubbed Larry the Cable Guy's sister, she was loud and boisterous and a source of great amusement throughout. She would have horrified the most prim and proper, but we thought she was great fun. I kept teasing her good naturedly but was careful after finding out she was both a postal worker and a biker. She was always on the case of one of the couples who were perpetually late for dinner, all in good fun.
Carl, our waiter, and his assistant, both from St Vincent, were a good natured and fun wait staff. They not only remembered our names, but our preferences throughout the cruise. This is the sort of thing you miss with anytime or freestyle dining.
Food in the dining room is where RCI's cutbacks are obvious to veteran cruisers. The food was uniformly well prepared, artfully presented and delicious. The portion sizes have been cut, which is not always a bad thing. The selection was good with more pasta and chicken dishes than I remember. The first night Caesar Salad was served family style. Lobster night is gone for shorter cruises as well as Baked Alaska and Crème Brulee.
Dress in the dining room was decidedly casual, even during formal night. Although I own a tux, I opted for a jacket and tie. I only saw one tux that night. Formal night was ill-timed as we were still docked in Nassau and were not scheduled to sail away until midnight. RCI should seriously consider dropping formal night on cruises of 5 nights or less.
After dinner, we played bingo for a $500 prize and an upgrade to a junior suite. We took the 9 chances for $36 and used the automated handheld which automatically checks off the numbers. We were one number away when someone called bingo. We rationalized that we would have lost it faster in the casino.
Drink prices seem to have gone through the roof on RCI. The drink of the day which included the glass (real glass not plastic) to keep was $9.50. A soda sticker for your sign and sail card good for unlimited soda was $24 for a three day cruise.
RCI has prohibited all alcohol being brought on board including wine. That is the first time we encountered that restriction -- another example of seeking new revenue.
The first night saw a combined show for both dinner seatings featuring Kivi Rodgers, a very funny comedian.
Hey! Where Are Our Gifts and Compass?
Captain's Gala Dinner (AKA Formal Night)
This night there was a separate show for each dinner seating and featured a comedian and impressionist who put on a very good show. On to Coco Cay.
Unlike Princess' private island Princess Cays, which is just a small section of a much larger island, Coco Cay is a small island. We were tendered in by large tenders from the island, not the smaller boats from the ship. This made tendering quicker and kept the lines and wait times shorter. The day was gloomy and overcast, but there were breaks of sun and pleasant temperatures. A buffet bbq lunch was served on the island with the usual suspects (chicken, ribs, burgers and dogs) served as well as a decent variety of sides, salads and fruits. Marj and I explored the island and found the alleged grave of Blackbeard the pirate which is in disrepair, along the path around the island. Activities available include scuba, snorkeling and parasailing. Marj and I decided to partake of the most popular activity, lounging. Showers popped up in the afternoon and we returned to ship. We departed early from Coco Cay due to an impending storm and gale force winds.
The last night's entertainment at the theater featured a production show, nothing special but enjoyable. By the end of the evening the ship was noticeably rocking and we had to reassure some nervous first-timers that this was nothing to worry about.
Our gifts for being past passengers, Crown and Anchor Society hats, finally appeared the last night.
We were among the last to disembark as we were spending the night in Orlando before going home. We noticed several pieces of baggage left out overnight had still not been collected. All of them were in our color group (departure order is by color). Ours was gone before we returned from the show.
Would we do it again? Most definitely!