By Ben Lyons, Cruise Critic contributor
Monarch of the Seas Overview
How the mighty have fallen! When it launched in 1991, Monarch of the Seas and her sister ships were the largest cruise ships in the world, generating significant media attention and a new buzz in cruising. The second of a three-ship class that started with Sovereign of the Seas (which is no longer in Royal Caribbean's fleet), Monarch's multi-story atrium, two large swimming pools and sheer number of passengers made it innovative and daring. Ultimately, this class spawned the growth of the mega-ships that followed over the next two decades.
Today, though, this once-trendy ship has definitely slipped off the hip cruiser's map. It now doesn't even break the top 100 on the list of the largest ships in the world; the ship's newest fleetmate, Oasis of the Seas
, is three times as large. You have to look at Monarch of the Seas now with almost a fond sense of nostalgia.
So why sail on Monarch of the Seas? In many ways, it offers a pleasant compromise, mixing some of Royal Caribbean's perpetual fun with more toned-down, quieter escapes. Well-maintained, the ship provides a good introduction to cruising for first-timers on its three- and four-night Bahamas itineraries out of Port Canaveral, Florida. For more experienced cruisers, Monarch provides an inexpensive, dependable and satisfying vacation.
While considered midsize today, Monarch of the Seas has many big-ship amenities (including a few alternative restaurants, a decent spa and a rock-climbing wall), as well as some classic touches, including a real wrap-around promenade deck. (And, to show how standards have changed, her profile -- once derided by some as "boxy" and "ugly” when the ship was first introduced -- is now considered classic and attractive.)
But make no mistake -- Monarch of the Seas is a fun-in-the-sun ship. No more than 10 feet from the gangway, you'll be greeted by waiters pushing tropical drinks (and see plenty of people buying them well before they even reach their cabins). The pool deck is full of sunbathers with foo foo drinks during the day; by night, the nightclub pulses well into the wee hours of the morning. A quiet, staid cruise this isn't (although the four-night cruises are somewhat calmer and have an older clientele than the three-night weekend cruises).
Still, the ship is big enough to offer a variety of programs and settings, so you can seek out the experience you want. There are an ample number of sedate activities that range from cooking demonstrations to lounging on sunny beaches in the Bahamas. And, with discounted prices sometimes showing up for around $60 a night, why wouldn't you go?
Monarch of the Seas Fellow Passengers
With its bargain rates, short itineraries and relatively easy access, Monarch of the Seas attracts a variety of cruisers -- from grandparents who bring their grandchildren onboard to Florida retirees who see good deals and sign up last-minute. The ship is very popular with families, especially as it sails from Port Canaveral and offers a cheaper alternative than pricey Disney Cruise Line
. It isn't uncommon to have anywhere from 200 to 600 kinds younger than 18 on a given voyage.
While most die-hard party groups will naturally gravitate toward Carnival, you'll find plenty of 20-, 30- and 40-somethings (and maybe even older) grinding away, en masse, all night in the nightclub or packing away the drinks in the bars. The good part about Monarch of the Seas is that you can often escape the noise if you want to.
Monarch of the Seas Dress Code
Like all other three- and four-night Bahamas ships, Monarch of the Seas is definitely casual. During the day, you'll see plenty of people walking around in shorts and T-shirts, enjoying the tropical weather. But on one evening, the dress code is formal, suggesting cocktail dresses for women and suits and ties or tuxedos for men. That doesn't mean that the dress code is rigidly enforced -- the number of men without jackets outpaced the number in tuxedos, but I was surprised to see just how many people did dress up for the occasion.
After dinner, however, few keep their formal attire on, and dress reverts back to Bahamas casual.
Monarch of the Seas Gratuity
Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.
I decided to take this cruise as a mother-daughter trip with my 19 year old. Looking back on this, I blame myself for not thinking this through. Of course my daughter was on spring break but I wasn't thinking about all the other kids on breaks! At ...continue
Taking a cruise was on my "bucket list" and so I decided a winter break to the Bahamas was the perfect way to check this item off the list. My travel companion was an experienced cruiser so I let her help me with choices and recommendations. This ...continue
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People are too critical here! Good grief folks, what do you expect for a couple of hundred dollars? The bang for the buck is awesome!
We are not first timers. We have cruised with several cruise lines for the past 8 years. We took a TA from ...continue