Cruise in Review
Royal Caribbean Interntational
Ship: M/V Monarch of the Seas
Cape Canaveral, Florida
(Revised due to inclement weather):
: Port Canaveral, Florida
: At Sea/Nassau
: CocoCay, Bahamas
: Port Canaveral, Florida
This was a quick 4 night cruise for spring break for us and it really exceeded my expectations in a variety of ways. First of all, the Monarch of the Seas leaves little to be desired in a small ship on a short itinerary. Its clean, the staff are friendly, and it possesses almost all of the necessary amenities of its larger sister ships. The food, cleanliness, hospitality and value were all on key aboard our 4 night cruise. A few interesting facts about the monarch:
• Monarch of the Seas is nearing 18 years old, her maiden voyage was November 17, 1991
• She weighs in at 73,937 gross tons, is 880 feet long, carries 2,744 passengers, and has a top cruising speed of 21 knots but comfortably sails at 19 knots.
• Monarch of the Seas is currently mastered by the only female captain of any major cruise line.
• Monarch sails alternating 3 and 4 night Bahamian cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida, having moved from L.A., California to replace the now defunct Sovereign of the Seas.
• Monarch of the Seas has, in this cruiser’s opinion, the best teen facility my cruising experience.
• Monarch is the oldest and smallest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, matched in size by her sister ship, Majesty of the Seas, which sails on 4 and 5 night trips from Miami, Florida.
The Ship, Condition, and Public Spaces:
The Monarch of the Seas is remarkably well kept for a ship of her age. Recently, she underwent a major upgrade dry-dock, in which many of her aging focal points were removed, replaced or updated. The centrum, located midship between decks 3 and 7 is stunning and greets first timers and returning cruisers with a classy reminder of the grandeur aboard the Monarch of the Seas. Guests will find deck 4 to be the central point for Monarch. The guest relations desk, located on the port side and shore excursions desk located on the starboard side. Royal Caribbean Online, the ship’s internet café’ is located next to the purser’s desk and offers high speed internet connections either via the ship’s computers or your own personal wireless-capable laptop. Finally across from the internet café’, on the opposite side of the atrium, is the ship’s library where guests can kick back, relax and read a classic novel or play one of the many board games available daily.
The Monarch’s pool deck is smaller than her sister ships’, but still boasts plenty of open space and deck chairs to relax and soak up some rays in. The pool deck has 2 pools, a forward one reserved for adults and an aft pool open to all ages. In the center are two whirlpools that are continually filled with college students and older passengers alike. The ship could do with a couple more whirlpools, but the two they have manage to appease most crowds. One fact to remember is that the monarch does close its pools at night. Each night they drain, pressure wash and net each of the two large pools. The hottubs are usually open 24/7. The pool deck has two bars, one on each side of the pools, but the aft bar doesn’t open, which means lines are usually long for the pool bar during sea days and what not.
Some other “Stuff to Do”:
• The Rock Wall is located on deck 12 on the back of the ship and has decent opening times for a short cruise. One thing to know is that if your kids are under 6, they can’t climb, and teens 13 and younger must have an adult present during their climb. Anyone under 18 has to have a parent or guardian to sign their waiver.
• The “back deck” has a half court basketball court, 3 ping pong tables, shuffleboard and is located on the back of the ship on deck 11. Our cruise had a ton of basketball players on it, so the court was put to good use. Additionally, activities are held back here all the time such as dodgeball, volleyball, 3on3 tournaments and all kinds of other activities. Make sure you bring your tennis shoes because you don’t want to play barefoot on this court. Its located on the back of the ship, under the funnel, so there’s frequently a layer of black soot/grease on the court….fun
• There are additional shuffleboard courts and games located on the outside deck, deck 7 which wraps all the way around the ship. Joggers be wary, however, that you can’t jog on the 7th deck until after 10am.
Formal Dining Room
: I suppose its difficult for me to make a comment on this particular venue, seeing as how we didn’t eat in the dining room. Royal Caribbean did disappoint many guests as they don’t offer lobster on any of their voyages under 7 nights. The formal dining room holds a different theme each night: Bon Voyage, Venetian Feast, Caribbean etc. and the selections reflect the theme. Prior cruises on the Monarch have left our stomachs satisfied and our palettes pleased.
Located on deck 11, at the front of the ship, the Windjammer is the ship’s buffet dining venue and has something going on almost all the time. The food in here was among the better buffet experiences we’ve had on Royal Caribbean. It still doesn’t compare to the variety and quality we had on the Grandeur of the Seas, but the food was very good. There was a constant change in variety of dishes and something for every taste. I did notice the RCI has now devoted an entire line to asian cultural cuisine: “Passage to India” and has several Indian indigenous dishes such as Aloo Gobi and Roti.
: The Monarch offers Jade as an alternative dining venue, which comes with an additional charge. Its located above the windjammer at the very front of the ship and serves freshly prepared sushi and Asian fusion dishes. We tried Jade one evening for dinner, and were rather disappointed. Perhaps it was “too authentic” but the tastes weren’t to any of our likings. One should definitely inquire about seeing the menu before they commit themselves to the experience, and the subsequent charge associated with it.
- Another disappointment for this ship; in my experience, Royal Caribbean has always had great pizza, but this was much like the pizza you’d get in your school cafeteria. The dough was neither soft, nor crunchy more…gooey and they absolutely loaded it with so much cheese that it was like biting into gum. The pizzeria stays open almost 24/7 with periodic hour intervals for breaks for the staff. They don’t however offer the Caesar salads, calzones or desserts that other ships do. The bar next to Sorrento’s is one of only 2 that stay open past 1am, the pizza bar and the casino bar.
- This is the ship’s Latin lounge and is also used to host a variety of activities like ballroom dance classes, bingo and live band performances. Its located on deck 7 in the middle of the ship and is ALIVE at night. In my opinion, this had more activity and excitement than the circuit lounge (see below).
- The Circuit is the ship’s top-40 nightclub, but it really doesn’t have a nightclub feel to it. Its actually an auxiliary showlounge that they’ve recommissioned as a dance club. The Circuit is a venue for performances and gameshows during the day and evening, but at night, the lights go out, and the music goes up as the lounge becomes a nightclub. Cruisers who have been on Voyager or Freedom class ships will be disappointed with the choice in venues for the nightclubs on this ship in comparison to the larger vessels.
The Sound of Music Theatre
- This is the ship’s main showlounge and is impressive given its size and the size of the ship. Located on the back of the ship on decks 5 and 7, this double decker performance venue is the place to be for showtime onboard the Monarch of the seas. Our cruise featured 2 headline acts and 2 productions: Signed, Sealed, Delivered (a Blues and R&B Review) and You Can’t Stop the Beat (80s Rock Revue). Our Headliners were a comedian, who was surprisingly very good. I’ve become cynical towards cruise ship comedians, because almost all of them tell the same jokes. This guy was original and had some funny material for both the family-friendly first night show, as well as the R-rated adult comedy show on the last night. The Comedy/Magician act was pretty good as well, but was a 1 time act.
- Located on deck 5, midship, this nautical themed bar is a gathering place for many of the ship’s guests. It has a piano at one end, a bar in the middle and a giant screen tv at the other, perfect for catching Monday night football or whatever game happens to be playing.
- A standard ship’s casino, this one is in the heart of the ship and has all the favorites, blackjack, craps, roulette, Caribbean stud and 3 card poker and a variety of slots, including 3 of the wildly popular Wheel of Fortune slots. One thing for gamblers to take note of is that the card games on this ship aren’t regulated by US Gambling laws. We found out that the blackjack table we had been playing on was being played with 5 decks rather than the traditional 7, giving the house an unforeseen advantage. Be aware of such little details.
- The shops onboard Monarch of the Seas covers most every type of gadget and souvenir one could imagine. The jewelry shop offers reduced prices on diamond and rare stone jewelry as well as on inch of gold/silver sales. The perfumery has designer perfumes and colognes at reduced prices. The boutique has name brand products at ridiculous prices. Royal Caribbean’s logo shops have all of the usual items- ship models, Monarch of the Seas memorabilia, magnets, post cards, t-shirts etc. The general store is the source for liquor and tobacco purchases especially given the US’s recent tobacco tax increase. The store also has a decent sundries selection as well as plenty of salty and sweet snacks. Finally, the photo shop offers onboard prints, photo cds and digital camera/accessory packages.
Lattetudes/Seattle’s Best Coffee/ Ben & Jerrys-
Located within the shops onboard area, this shop has a FREE bakery case full of sweets, as well as selling coffee products and ben & jerry’s ice creams at increased rates.
Viking Crown Lounge
- At the very top of the ship is Royal Caribbean’s signature lounge. The Viking Crown lounge is a relaxed atmosphere during the day and at night becomes a quaint jazz bar accented by a ceiling of stars and a 360 degree view of the ocean below.
Monarch’s Teen Program:
I was onboard Monarch for their largest teen group since July 4th last year when they were still in L.A. We had 673 teens between 12 and 17 and of those we had 455 teens between 15 and 17. For spring break we had 2 band trips, a high school choir and a dance company from Indiana. It was absolutely nuts. First off, I’m very pleased with all facets of the teen program. The teen club has the best sound system of any ship I’ve ever been on and the atmosphere is really heightened. The teen staff are good at what they do and….one of ‘em is pretty dang hot. The schedule included all of the typical RCI activities: Quest, Battle of the Sexes, Icebreakers, Dusk, Pool Parties and such. On the 3rd night, however, Nassau night, they had a rather cool new activity. On the back deck of the ship, they turned out all of the floodlights, set up a 20’ inflatable screen and the basketball court became a theater. For a while they had some Wii® games going on the screen and then some rock band and such, and then they played Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby on the big screen. Needless to say…..it provided for some opportune cruise memories. Dusk on the last night was pretty insane as we packed probably 300 kids into Fuel, loaded down on glow necklaces and let the good times roll. The teen crowd was amazing and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a club that was more packed, hot, sweaty, or had so many people grinding in my life. The best part was that the teen directors did their jobs, didn’t bother people and kept deck patrol and parents outside of the club. If someone was needed, a phone outside the club could be used to call the DJ booth and the person could be paged, easy and parent-free.
Overall my experience on the Monarch of the Seas was excellent and I’d recommend the ship to anyone seeking a weekend or short vacation. The Monarch of the Seas and her staff not only make for a great time, but create memories. The ship Is timeless and will indefinitely go into my record books as being one of the better cruises of my career. I hope the review has been some good reading to those of you who’ve made it this far. For anyone who has questions about the Monarch or any other aspect of the cruise, ask away, sharing is fun!