My wife and I accompanied by her sister and husband did the four night cruise on Monarch of the Seas during the last week of October 2007.
This was our 15th cruise overall and the third time we did this particular cruise. We have used Carnival, Princess, NCL, Celebrity and of course RCCL. In our experience Celebrity Constellation is the best ship in all areas and we would rank RCCL next then Princess, NCL and lastly Carnival.
We took a direct flight from Columbus Ohio via Skybus to the Burbank airport. We explored several options for transport to the pier at San Pedro including taxis which gave us an estimated cost of $90. The dispatcher did not have a fixed fare taxi to the port and we didn't want to risk a metered cab in LA traffic. We decided to use one of the shuttle services for a price of $90 for the four of us. I discussed the transport with a Prime Time shuttle driver when we arrived but in his broken English the driver explained (I think) that he was there to pick up a group already holding reservations and couldn't accept us so we used another company in a yellow van. RCCL representatives informed me that they do not do shore transfers from Burbank. The drive to the port was uneventful but the driver did have to stop at a gas station to get directions when we could all see the Monarch at the pier from that spot.
We arrived at the terminal around 10:30 AM and waited until 11:00 AM until the check in staff reported for duty. The check in went very smoothly probably because we had completed the paperwork electronically prior to the cruise. I highly recommend doing this. We were escorted to the priority waiting area to wait further because of our Crown and Anchor status. A very much appreciated service. We boarded at 11:30 AM and since access to cabins on each floor was closed and manned by a staff member until 1:00PM we went to the Windjammer for lunch. There were no crowd issues at the buffet and we enjoyed a very pleasant hour or so touring the ship until the cabins were ready. We would recommend that when visiting the Windjammer and encountering crowds that cruisers continue aft of that area and take a seat in Jade. This is a nice area in which to have a relaxing buffet meal for breakfast or lunch.
The ship was in very good condition and all areas were clean and free of rust, litter, etc.
We were assigned the early sitting for dinner at Claudes with pleasant with tablemates at a table for eight which is our preferred size for dinner. The food was very good to excellent and our overall grade for the meals would be a B+. The wait staff was excellent as is our expectation on RCCL Our table mates complained to the waiter that no lobster was offered but he explained that RCCL does not offer lobster on four night cruises. Since none had been advertised or promised I saw no problem with that but our tablemates planned to follow up with a letter of complaint. The chocolate midnight buffet was spectacular.
The ports we visited were very nice, and except for Ensenada not at all foreign. There were some remarks about this but again the itinerary was well known in advance and this cruise "is what it is".
Entertainment was uneven. The performances in the main showroom included a comedian we had seen before Carl somebody and his act was only so-so. The second night's performance was advertised as a variety show but it was a one man performance by the cruise director Johnny O playing a kind of electronic woodwind instrument for 45 minutes. We left after five minutes to find something more entertaining to do although our tablemates stayed and raved about it afterward. The production company's act on the last night was strong,typical of cruise ships.
On October 31 the ship had a costume event featuring guests parading in their outfits. This was amusing except for one male passenger whose costume was essentially an athletic supporter. The cruise director's staff did not pick up on this and when the person went on stage for the judging of costumes Johnny O awarded him a prize when he should have called security and had him removed. Our friends and tablemates were scandalized by this exhibitionism and deeply bothered that children were present and visually assaulted in this way. With the exception of this boorish behavior the cruise was great and we would recommend RCCL and Monarch to anyone wishing a short cruise to familiar ports.
Disembarkation was very smooth and we employed the take your own luggage off the ship with you procedure.
We used Enterprise car rental when leaving the ship and booked a car one way back to Burbank after doing some sight seeing in Hollywood and Santa Monica. The rental cost $84 plus gas and Enterprise has a van service from the terminal every 15 minutes or so.
The flight back to Columbus was uneventful but for those thinking about using Skybus be prepared for culture shock when food brought onto the plane is confiscated by the airline staff and ALL food and drinks on the plane must be purchased. The cabin crew sells souvenirs (yes that's right SELLS), they solicit tips and they make very loud superfluous announcements during the flight awakening passengers trying to sleep. Skybus is a cheap way to fly but the operative word for them is bus, picture your city's metro with wings.