This ship is a winner. My wife and I just got back from the June 27, 2003 sailing. We first sailed the Monarch back in 1996 for our honeymoon and were completely surprised to find the ship better than it was before. Royal Caribbean refurbished the ship at a reported cost of $26 million. Embarkation was smooth. RCI took over the larger San Pedro port building, so there is plenty of room and tons of agents to check you in.The ship is 12-years-old, but you'd never know it. We had a lower level porthole room that was 122 sq. ft. Small by today's standards, but perfectly nice and comfortable. The bathroom had gleaming new fixtures and the shower delivered nice, hot water with no waiting. There was new carpet, drapes and bedding. A hair dryer is in the dresser drawer, but still no in-room safe.The common areas of the ship are excellent and feel larger than some newer RCI ships. New (since 1996) is an ice cream/coffee parlor, the Bolero's night club, a rock climbing wall, and the "Jade" restaurant. The movie theater is gone, but not missed. The cabins have TVs with movies, television shows and news. This cruise we skipped the dining room and ate only at the Jade. The food there was good, not great, but I have no complaints whatsoever. The Jade features, in addition to standard buffet items, an "Asian" section featuring a variety of Asian foods. The Asian menu items changed each night of the 3 night trip. Also, RCI has installed high tech machines which dispense a GOOD fresh cup of coffee. Good job, Royal Caribbean. If you want even better coffee there is a shop selling (at a nominal charge) Seattle's Best gourmet coffee, pastries, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Not free, but pretty cheap compared to real world prices. (2 cups of gourmet coffee and 2 pasties for $4.98). Entertainment was fair. The stage is small and there are some bad seats because of the support columns in the room. The ship's resident singers were good however.The new Bolero nightclub is impressive with walls of cherry wood and a good Latin band. The place got full but did not feel crowded. Cuban mixed drinks and upscale brand "Milagro" Tequila drinks are available here. The Monarch replaces the Vision of the Seas for the 3 and 4 day Baja cruises. The Monarch, though older and slightly smaller than the Vision is, in my opinion, better.(We sailed the Vision twice in the last 6 months, including a balcony stateroom). The common areas of the Monarch are larger and much more spacious. There are kids programs and a large Casino on board. The rock wall looks challenging and for those into fitness there are organized exercise programs, a gym and a spa.We're lucky to have this ship in L.A. and I hope RCI keeps it here for a long time. When the Monarch was first christened it was the largest ship around. Although now surpassed in size, it is nonetheless a ship that provides style, comfort, and enjoyment.As Royal Caribbean says "get out there."
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