> Cruises > Monarch of the Seas

Monarch of the Seas, Baja Mexico, November 11, 2005 - November 14, 2005

Skip the reading, take me to the photos right now!

Our most recent cruise prior to this one was 2.5 years ago. Since then we've been to China to adopt an adorable little girl, who has kept us pretty busy. But as any new parent can tell you, no matter how much you love your little one, eventually you need a short break to relax and recharge. Of course, we chose a cruise, but we had to make it a short one. We left our daughter with family.

Our first cruise on Royal Caribbean was on the Viking Serenade in 1994, which even at the time was an older, smaller, not very exciting ship. Our second Royal Caribbean cruise was on Sovereign of the Seas in 1995, and ever since then, I have been hoping that Royal Caribbean would move a Sovereign-class ship out to the West Coast. I had to wait eight years but they finally did it in 2003 when Monarch of the Seas took over the three and four-night cruise itinerary from Los Angeles.

Monarch of the Seas is one of the oldest ships currently in the Royal Caribbean fleet and the major downside of their older ships is the tiny (really, really tiny) standard cabins. We side-stepped that issue by booking a category JS junior suite (previously known as category C) which was exceptionally large. This is the same category cabin we had for our honeymoon cruise on Sovereign of the Seas but at the time Sovereign did not have balconies. Monarch does! (We love balconies.)

The Port of Los Angeles is less than a two-hour drive from our house. Since Carnival pulled out of Los Angeles and moved to Long Beach, Royal Caribbean now gets to use the recently-remodeled terminal at Berth 93 and this was our first experience there. The terminal is very nice and there was a special check-in area for repeat passengers. We arrived slightly later than we had intended but were on the ship and in our cabin by 1:30.

Overall we were very impressed by and pleased with Monarch of the Seas. We found it relatively modern looking and it has held up well. The public areas are very nice (although the Centrum atrium looks a little dated). The ship underwent a refurbishment in 2003 when it was brought to the West Coast.

The food was hit-and-miss. We had some entrees that were very good, especially the steaks, but some other items just didn't measure up. The caesar salad was the worst we've ever had. TIP: If none of the "regular" entrees appeal to you, we found the steak listed under "Alternate Selections" called "Grilled Black Angus Top Sirloin with Herb Butter" to be excellent -- never mind, on a subsequent cruise on Monarch a year later, the quality of all steaks served on board had markedly declined).

The Asian and Indian food selections in the Jade buffet at lunch were very good also. But the Jade sushi bar was a big disappointment. We went there one night before dinner for "appetizers". We were literally the only customers there other than a table of ships' officers. We spent $14 and the sushi was very average. The sushi bar had very limited hours, probably because of low popularity. Rather than a-la-carte pricing, I'd prefer to see a price for "all-you-can-eat" sushi. TIP: The restaurant called Jade is confusingly both a buffet (on deck 11 forward of the Windjammer) and a sushi restaurant on deck 12. "Buffet Jade" is a nicer, quieter place to sit compared to the hustle and bustle of the Windjammer, and seating is available here even when Jade's buffet lines aren't open.

This will sound contradictory but it seems as though there is less emphasis on eating yet food is more available than ever. From 6am until 2am the next morning the only time food is not available is from 11:30am until noon. and even during that short break, room service is available (also from 2am to 3am). No food at all from 3am to 6am, though, so plan accordingly if you won't be sleeping. There was only one midnight buffet; on other nights you'd have to make do with pizza from Sorrento's on deck 12.

We had only been on the ship for a couple of hours before we heard what we consider to be the "official cruise theme song": "Hot Hot Hot" by Buster Poindexter. We hear this song at least once on every cruise usually, as was the case here, played by the band at the pool. We also heard it playing as background music for the ship's TV system on the last morning right before we left our cabin as a fond farewell.

We got off the ship in Ensenada only long enough to visit the shops right there on the dock... and then got right back on the ship. We never even made it into town. If you plan to buy booze in Mexico, make sure you know the prices back in the States so you can compare. At the dock side shops, some of the booze (e.g., Herradura Tequila) was the same price as back at home.

Toward the end of every Royal Caribbean Cruise, they have two "games", one is called the "Love & Marriage" game, and the other is called "Quest". We try not to miss these games as they as both a lot of fun. "Love & Marriage" is like the Newlywed game show, but instead of all newlyweds they have one newlywed couple, a couple married for 5-10 years, and a couple married for 50+ years. The Quest game is a team-based scavenger hunt that starts off slow with items like "today's cruise schedule" and can get pretty racy. We usually watch, not participate. We had a blast at these games.

Overall we had a really great time and got in a lot of good relaxation. We considered our cruise a very good relaxation value, meaning we got a lot of relaxation in a relatively short time. Teri in particular was amazed at the relaxation value of a short cruise (after steadfastly refusing to take a short cruise for the last three years). We spent a lot of time in the cabin and on our balcony and on the pool deck, just reading and napping. Which was just what we needed.

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Copyright © 2005 Teri & Allyn Fratkin, All Rights Reserved.