Yes, Monarch is an older ship - we also sailed on Monarch when it was new in the 90's. We've been on old ships (Celebrity's Century is a favorite) and new ships like Solstice -- in inside cabins and balcony. This time was a lower deck Ocean View.
We got a great last-minute deal & luckily got free time for a quick getaway to the Bahamas.
I'll start with what was done right.
The crew was professional & polite -- tried hard to fill all requests.
Musicians (Monarch Orchestra) top-notch & we especially loved the jazz sets and salsa in Boleros Lounge. Production shows not so much. Guest comedian and also Billy (juggler/comedian) were both funny.
Food in Dining Room better than remembered from Navigator OS & Sovereign cruises in past few years. Windjammer, not so much. Coffee, Seattle's Best excellent - but finding milk anywhere except MDR not so easy.
Cruise started great. Coco cay is lovely and not crowded. We've been to Nassau B4 so picked up a couple of Christmas gifts.
Now the reasons we'll look into other cruise lines for future cruises. We do still love Celebrity but choices are limited. We are booked on the Eclipse but hate the drive to Miami.
We tried to overlook the little things like the mold on the shower curtain & on the shower itself, stains on the rug, very smoky areas, etc.
I guess it is the company policies that most made us rethink RCCL.
First, on Coco cay day, we were told to go to another floor for towels B4 disembarking. An inconvenience especially since the elevators for our floor did not go up where the towels were and we had to zigzag around the ship to get them. Then present your card in case the towels were not returned (we would be charged). On Celebrity, a towel is left in your room for beach days and if you don't return it to your room, then you are charged. Makes sense. The worst part is after beach time we needed to drag the dirty towels up to deck 11 (waiting forever for elevators, trekking across decks -- why?) Celebrity & RCCL are part of the same company. This is a paid vacation, don't understand why RCCL is not more accommodating to their guests. By the way, there is a sign in the pool area on 11 that asks guests to return their dishes to a box mid-deck. If I have dishes & there are cans nearby I'm likely to do it without being told -- but I didn't go on a cruise to clean up.
One of the things we like to do is drink coffee and don't mind paying for cafe au lait's at Latte-tudes. But the seating area is often (such as the whole last day) taken over by a flea market type atmosphere (chairs are taken out)-- so no room for coffee. Very crowded, merchandise all over including the floor -- not a nice place to relax. There are constant announcements encouraging guests to shop, bingo, gamble, spend money -- including loudspeakers at 20 to 10 pm for bingo. These things are on the Cruise Compass given daily and mentioned by the Cruise director & staff all the time. In fact, we attended an "information on ports etc." for maps and it was like "Let's Make a Deal" carnival barker with throwing beads at the audience, etc. We left the room - no maps except where the diamond stores are - not our thing.
What really convinced us we were on the wrong cruise line was the last day, a sea day, when we were enticed to get a drink at the Viking Crown Lounge where there was a string performance. We had tried this B4 on our first day & found the best view area roped off for "Diamond". OK, we are Platinum members, the mid-level loyalty level with 5 RCCL cruises & 5 Celebrity. But returning days later to find the area closed to us again, and not able to see the entertainment, and the rock climbing wall blocking more of the view -- why deny admission of the ship to ANY passenger? Also blocked off is a seating area in the Theater for VIP's. This does not make me want to become a "Diamond" -- I thought this elitist, class system was over on ships except for Cunard -- all RCCL's guests should feel like VIP's. After a while, all we felt like was one big pocketbook to the management of RCCL. If that is true, then give me that relaxing coffee shop and the Viking Crown. Maybe I'll spend more money.
I hope this policy does not extend to my future Celebrity cruise. We did speak to the future cruise RCCL person the last evening to tell her why we would not be booking the future cruise as we thought we would -- she said this is RCCL's policy. Perhaps this is a moot point since I overheard a crew member talking about the fact that he heard the ship may be for sale. RCCL has really changed its focus -- and the focus is not on us. We do not need all the rock climbing walls, flea market sales on board, flow riders, etc. that they push. We just need a place to relax, a little music, coffee, etc. -- we are ship people, just not RCCL's ships.