This was our first cruise,...
Monarch of the Seas Cruise Review to Caribbean - Bahamas
Ship: Monarch of the Seas
Cabin Type: Oceanview
Traveled As: Large Group
Reviewed: 7 years ago
This was our first cruise, so I don't have anything to compare it to, (although I have toured other cruise ships. Just never been a passenger). We booked the package through the "Way More Than A Cruise" website and got a great price for a combi cruise / Universal Studios Vacation.
There was a major scare upon arriving because there was no RCCL rep. at the baggage claim to take us to the bus. We went frantically looking for someone as we were a bit late and luckily happened to run into a guy with a RCCl folder who would not stop to answer our questions. He told us to "walk and talk", which we did at a very fast pace with our baggage. Even though we had a reservation and voucher, he referred to us as "walk-ons", which leads me to believe they somehow lost our reservation. What would have happened if we hadn't gone looking for them? We would have missed the cruise. He was not very accommodating, would not stop for even a second to let me get something out of my bag, and just kept walking faster and faster no matter how far behind we got. As he referred us to our bus driver, he IMMEDIATELY reminded us that he should be tipped. Ya, right!?!
That was the only bad experience, and has nothing to do with the ship itself. On to the good stuff.
The Monarch is actually much bigger than it appears in pictures. It's classic old design without rows of external balconies makes it appear small, but it is still quite a large ship in comparison to many other. I guess it is the oldest in the RCCL fleet, and although it was missing many of the bells and whistles that newer ships have, it didn't really seem "tired" to me. More like a well maintained old limousine. If you have been to Vegas, compare the design and feeling on the Monarch with the Flamingo or Harrah's, (and less like Bellagio or T.I.). Our cabin and all public rooms were impeccably clean.
Cabin. Our cabin was small, and did feel cramped when both of us were trying to get ready, (and I am a shorter than average guy who doesn't need a lot of space). Good thing there is so much to do on the ship that you really are never in your room! I was a little suprised that the cabins are still equipped with old-style televisions and not flat screens. These TVs take up more space, are heavier, and are more prone to shattering into pieces should high-seas cause them to fall! I don't get it. Not a big deal, but somewhat puzzling. Overall, adequate, clean cabin, but cramped, even for shorties.
Food. We thought the food was average. The other people at our table were very impressed, but since we live in a large European city with access to tons of really great restaurants, I guess we are kind of hard to please! If your idea of a great night out is dinner at "TGI Fridays" or "Cracker Barrel", then you will probably be pleasantly surprised by the food on the Monarch. (And please don't get me wrong because I LOVE TGI Fridays! I just mean in comparison.). For the price that we paid, it was definitely adequate, and there were memorable delights in the main dining room as well as the buffet, including for me: a picky Vegetarian. We also really enjoyed the occaisional late night pizza or ice-cream snack from Sorento's. We didn't try any of the specialty restaurants, so can't report on that.
Pools. The pool deck was awesome and never felt too crowded, even on our sea-day. Just as a reminder, the pools are filled with salt water out of the ocean, so don't be surprised! It was always so warm on our cruise, (in October), that I couldn't imagine getting into one of the hot tubs, but they were very popular. Be sure to catch the belly flop contest. Very entertaining!
Shows. Really exceptional. These kids are on the ship for 6 months at a time, working basically every day, and doing the same few shows in rotation every night, and they still gave their all like it was their opening night. They did an outstanding job and I can only recommend going to see one of the musical shows if you enjoy live music and dancing. There were also a guest comedian and a juggler, who were both entertaining, but we preferred the musical shows.
Entertainment. Already mentioned the great shows. Being our first cruise, I was worried that it was going to be "boring" hanging out on the ship at night and on the sea-days. WRONG! There is so much going on, and it was all really fun. We played Name That Tune twice (Rock and 80's), Bingo once and won $222, spent time in the casino (no luck), participated in "Quest" which is hilarious. I recommend getting there early to get good seats, especially if you want to play! The belly flop contest was highly entertaining, and we also caught the Culinary Showcase and the Cocktail Mixing show on the pooldeck.
Drinks. We had some beers, some wine with dinner, and some cocktails at the pool and during the evening. The "standard" wines with dinner are so-so, and overpriced at that. The cocktails were great, although WARNING: the cocktails waiters were constantly trying to up-sell us. I understand, they work for tips and the tips are automatically calculated into the price of the drink, so they actively try to get you to buy the most expensive version of whatever you order. For instance, on the first day, I ordered 2 margaritas and got two Patron margaritas for almost $3 a piece more than the "basic" margarita. That left me feeling tricked and angry. RCCL should really address this. If the margarita listed in the menu says $5.50, (or whatever it was), then the waiters should not be allowed to bring you something that costs more unless you specifically ASK for it. Right? I'm assuming this is so on every ship and not just the Monarch.
Overall, we really had a great time on the Monarch and think it is a great ship for first-time cruisers because it has everything you want, but just enough that you don't feel like you're missing out on something. I've posted some video links down below so you can see more of the ship and what we experienced first hand.