Just returned from our 4 night Monarch Cruise. This was a surprise gift for our son and his girlfriend. He just graduated from College on May 6th and he knew nothing of the cruise till that night.
Departure: We flew to LA on Sunday and spent the afternoon in Long Beach doing tourist type things. It was mothers day so it was very busy. We spent the night at the Best Western Sunrise Hotel. Not a bad hotel and very easy to the pier. Just a note: there is a grocery/liquor store a few blocks away as well as a Enterprise Rental agency. We got to the pier at 11:15 and walked in right up the the counter. No lines at all. We were then shown the area to wait to board. The ship did not start boarding till noon but we were in the 1st group to board the ship and were at lunch at 12:15. No problems at all!!
Ship: We have cruised on both Carnival and Royal Caribbean and even though this ship was smaller and older we enjoyed it more then some of the new ships we have been on. Some wear and tear but certainly nothing that would cause us to complain!! Rooms (outside) were tiny, but once we got over the shock (our last cruise was a balcony on the Carnival Spirit) we realized we were quite comfy. Bathrooms were small but worked well, even for out 6'3" son. Our room attendant Joel from Trinidad was the best we have had in all our cruises.
Entertainment: We went to all but one show. Just too tired and had to stop by the casino that night to win back the money we lost on the first night. All the shows were great. Ok a little like Vegas but who cares. They were very entertaining and Sound of Music Theater was nice. I do agree with some previous posts... the seats in the middle are bench type and not very comfy.
Ports: We love San Diego but we had a small problem with the engines (per the Captain who was quite humorous,, our water broke:) and we did not dock in San Diego till almost 11. We changed our plans a little and still had a nice time. Catalina was very nice. Weather a little cool but we rented a golf cart and off we went. It was a nice way to see the island. The tendering process went off without a hitch. No problems at all.
Ensenada: We were not expecting much from this port since we had read numerous posts. But it was much better then some ports were have stopped at in Mexico. We did the shopping thing and stopped for Margaritas and Chips at a streetside bar. Had a nice time. That was the best day for weather so we got back to the ship early and sat in the sun for several hours. We did not do any ship excursions and chose to do our own thing.
Dining: We had early seating because we all are so used to eating at that time. It's hard to stay up otherwise. Our Waiter was Aldwin and assistant waiter was Cendrix. Both were great. We had been given a table for 4 in the back of the dining room near the kitchen which seemed dark when we saw it. We asked if we could switch to something by the window (not really expecting to) but they gave us a great table right next to the window. It was very nice and we saw lots of dolphins. Food was great. No Lobster (which we knew ahead of time) but otherwise food was well presented and tasted great.
Disembarkment: We were off the ship at the time listed on the disembarkment list which was 9:30. It took about a 1/2 hour to get thru customs. One note: the passport line and birth certificate line were separate but no one had an advantage. Both lines arrived for inspection at the same time. This took longer then previous cruises but being such a major port it seemed like the customs agents were a little more serious.
We had Enterprise rental car pick us up and rented a car to LA. We dropped the car the next morning at the airport. Note: the drop off fee to LAX is $40 however, we let Enterprise know when we dropped off the car we had rented on Sunday/Monday that we were not renting on the return trip because of the $40 drop off fee and they dropped it to $25. So all in all it was about the same price to rent a car as the shuttle but a lot nicer trip and we had the car the whole day to sightsee. All in all this was a great cruise and a nice way for our son to start his "cruising career".