Monarch of the Seas - Baja Mexico
This review is written by Amy Blume.

Our cruise began as many do, at the port of Los Angeles at San Pedro.  Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas was parked on this fine sunny day at berth 93, her usual haunt.  The cruise is one of two that Monarch sails every week, going from Los Angeles to Ensenada and back.  The boarding process went very smoothly from the helpful luggage handler to the presentation of our Sea Pass cards.  We had done the online registration and the check in only took a moment.  I wanted to take a couple of photos of the ship from the gangway, but they don't like you taking photography of the boarding area.  So one shot of Monarch's Bum was all I could sneak from the berth.

The first order of business is playing the game we have all come to know and love, Find the Cabin.  Our cabin was on Six Deck which is the Tween Deck on Monarch of the Seas.  It is a strange deck that only crosses half the ship, which makes it difficult to access from many stairways.  Really, the Centrum (the central lobby of the ship) and the nearby stairway are the only two ways to get to it.  The Centrum is a vertical area with sweeping stairways that lead to the two formal restaurants onboard Vincent's and Claude's.  You enter the ship just forward of this area.  There are shops and often someone playing music at the bottom of the grand staircase.
Once we glanced around at the as yet closed stores, we tried to find our room.  It wasn't easy.  Our room was an interior room, and the way they are organized on six decks is in rows with hallways that cross the center of the ship.  Once we found the room we were at first startled by the miniature size of it.  Perhaps six by twenty it was very narrow and deep.  The bathroom was tiny and there really wasn't enough storage space for two people and their luggage.  When our luggage appeared soon after, we spent a few minutes unpacking it so that our formal wear didn't become too wrinkled and we stowed our suitcases under the bed.  Then our Stateroom Attendant appeared.  A quiet-spoken Filipino man, he introduced himself and let us know about the ingenious Do Not Disturb/Make Up The Room signs that fit into your key slot on the door.  Whenever you want him to make up the room you put it out....etc.  He was very nice and always made sure we had ice in the room.  He turned out to be just as wonderful as any of the stewards we had on Cunard, which I really appreciated seeing as we were in teh cheapest cabins and we could have been ignored.  The most dreaded event of any cruise has to be the Emergency Drill.  You all have to go through it.  The drill on Monarch was much longer than on QE2 or QM2 mostly I believe because they were not quite as well organized.  Once they found the "missing" passengers we could then set sail.  Jason and I returned our life vests to the cabin and then ran out on deck to watch the ship leave.

As you looked back toward Long Beach we realized we were being stalked by Paradise, a Carnival ship.  She would follow us to Ensenada and back.

The first night we ate dinner at our formal restaurant.  It was casual night so we changed from our t-shirts into something a little nicer.  When we arrived we realized that it had been unnecessary, because most people looked like they were getting ready to go to a baseball game rather than have a nice dinner in a restaurant.  Apparently the suggested dress codes in the daily schedule were more or less ignored and casual was really casual.  Being used to Cunard, we found ourselves repeatedly overdressed for everything, including the formal dinner the next night.  We were assigned by some unknown means to Vincent's restaurant.  The service at dinner, however, was excellent.  We had requested a private table but were seated at a table for eight at which at most there were ever six of us.  However, our waiter took that in his stride and was really wonderful.  The service of the wait staff was on par with the service in the Britannia on the QM2.  Not quite as good as the service aboard QE2, but considering the difference in price I was really impressed.  The food was as excellent as the service, and I was happy that the Sommelier left us alone when we said we weren't interested in the wine selection.  The only thing that was a little cheesy was that they made the poor waiters sing for us.  They weren't bad but I still felt pretty sorry for them.  We decided to go to bed early that night.  We were pretty tired and I wanted to make a full investigation of the ship the next day in Ensenada.  Only one ominous thing that happened was as we walked down the well sheltered boat deck before bed; the glittering figure of Paradise was still stalking us off our port bow.  Ensenada is one of those places that probably only exists because of the cruise industry.  I'm sure that at one time in its history there were other reasons, but one would be hard pressed to come up with them now.  In order not to be charged American taxes, a cruise ship has to have one port of call that is outside the boundaries of the United States, and so a new industry was born.  Monarch of the Seas and Carnival's Paradise as well as the ships that go to Hawaii from Los Angeles, San Diego and other ports on the west coast, all stop at Ensenada for this reason.  Jason and I have never bothered to get off the ship in Ensenada except to go into the little store right by the pier and buy a shot glass.  My sister wasn't fond of the city when we landed here last time with
QM2 and since I'm paying good money to be on a ship, and I love ships, I really want to spend my time on the ship.  If I want to go to Ensenada I'll drive there.  It's just about as far away as San Francisco!

Here are some pictures of the ship that we took while we were at Ensenada.

We decided to head out to see the ship from the outside in Ensenada and couldn't resist taking a photo of the resident sunken liner, The Catalina.

Impossible to ignore was that we had been followed to Ensenada by Paradise.  And since I had the opportunity to stalk it I did.  A link to photos of Paradise at Ensenada are at the end of the review.  We sailed first from Ensenada and headed for our day at sea.  That night was formal night and again we were very impressed with our waiter and wait staff as well as the food.  What we weren't impressed with was the way the rest of the ship interpreted formal wear, as the nearby heavy metal fans, for example, wore their leathers to dinner regardless.  In retrospect, I wasn't all that bothered that everyone wasn't dressed up, because I hadn't been expecting Cunard formality, but I was a little embarrassed by the disrespect and behaviour that the crowd (mostly Los Angeleans) sometimes projected at the crew.  I was used to people being more civilized and I have to applaud the staff of the ship for taking it in stride.  That night was the disco party at sea, including a flashy mango rum drink.
We spent the entire next day by the pool and in the Jade.  The pool was marvelous except that they kept the music up too loud most of the time.  There was lots of drinking including my favorite glass of the trip, a pineapple filled with a rum and sorbet mixture that was perfect for being in the hot sun.
We ate lunch in the Windjammer cafe.  It was a little crowded as everyone it seemed was interested in being informal on this last day and spending as much time near the pool as possible.

Then it was dinner again and time to pack up for tomorrow.  In the middle if the night I was awakened by the sound of the ship's horn blowing every five minutes.  I got up and dressed and onto the boat deck to see what was going on, but it was only the fog.  I did get to see the last drunken revelers wandering around the ship, which unlike QE2 and QM2 at night, had a far more dangerous feel because of the unpredictability of the other passengers.  But all too soon we were coming into dock and it was morning in San Pedro.

After talking to the staff I decided that were I to travel on Monarch of the Seas again, I would do so during the week which is purportedly less of a booze cruise.  The ship itself and the staff were pleasant and I think I would enjoy the trip.  It's too bad they rarely vary their itinerary, but it's very popular or I suppose they wouldn't keep doing it.  This experience leads me to believe that what you read on the boards is true, that there are different types of people for different cruise ships.  However, I wonder if another RC ship that wasn't on a booze cruise and had a longer itinerary would be something I would thoroughly enjoy.  So I will give them another try.  As mentioned earlier in this review, I stalked Paradise and you can see the pictures here.

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© Amy Blume 15th-18th September 2006 & 20th January 2007
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