This was my DH's third and my fourth Royal Caribbean cruise, seventh overall. We arrived in LA around 9:30 and were greeted by a friendly and organized Royal Caribbean representative. We boarded the first shuttle at 10:30 and arrived at the Port at 11:00. Check in was a breeze and boarding started at 11:45.
In San Diego we went to the Zoo - we planed the trip on our own. The taxi was about a $15 and we purchased our zoo tickets online, which was great. No lines, we just walked right in. The Zoo is great for all ages. One suggestion - plan to go a bit later in the day as the school groups dominated from about 9am till noon.
Unfortunately due to weather we missed Catalina Island.
Ensenada was about what we expected, the usual shops etc...The weather was not very nice so we did not venture out too far.
The staff on the Monarch are wonderful, some of the best in the fleet! The only issue we had was with the cruise director. We were not sure if he was the regular cruise director or not, but he was not very friendly or social (strange considering his profession). He also did not add any additional activities for our unexpected day at sea, which was surprising since Catalina is missed from time to time because of high seas and the tenders. To add insult to injury that night the punch line to one of his jokes was about how hot it was outside on the pool deck that day - the top temperature that day was 50f.
The ship itself was in great shape and well maintained. The staterooms had their usual bumps and bruises you would expect on a ship of the Monarch's age. The layout was a bit awkward, but this was because of additions to the ship.
On this ship we preferred the Windjammer to the dining room. We loved the service in the dining room but it felt cramped and claustrophobic. Windjammer was beautiful, open and had many of the same food offerings which we all yummy.
Disembarkation was easier then expected, since we were on the airport shuttle we were organized and brought off quickly.
Overall it was a good experience minus the weather, which we accepted because it was out of our control We will we definitely cruise with Royal again (we're already booked), but maybe not on the Monarch.