Monarch of the Seas Entertainment
There is no shortage of activities -- or announcements -- onboard. (I admit I was caught off guard, momentarily, when the cruise director come over the PA system unexpectedly and said in a very official voice, "Everyone stop what you are doing ... This is a very important announcement. Stop what you are doing. It is time for Bingo!")
In the Centrum, there might be a cooking demonstration or a towel-folding class. Scattered throughout the ship, you'll find games from "Name that Tune" to trivia. And, at the same time the movie matinee is playing, there will also be the "Men's International Belly Flop Contest" up by the pool deck. There are so many choices and so little time on a three-night cruise!
In the evening, there is a good variety of live music popping up as you walk through the public rooms. A pianist plays in the Schooner Bar in a convivial sing-along, and rock and roll, Latin or line-dancing music is played in Boleros. At some point during the trip, partying and entertainment will be everywhere. Even the Centrum hosts a big party one night, and deck parties by the pools spill over late into the evening.
One of the most popular nightspots onboard is the aforementioned Latin-themed Boleros, which rocks till the early hours of the morning. With a sunken, relatively large dance floor in the middle and comfortable chairs on an upper tier looking out onto the promenade, the room manages to be intimate and cozy without being excessively dark. Stylish and tasteful with a steady flow of Mojitos coming from the bar, this room is a great example of how a refurbishment can keep a ship relevant and attractive.
At night, beyond the bar scene, you'll find comedy shows (some for families, some not) and games like "The Marriage Show." Perhaps the rowdiest event is a game called "The Quest." Teams frantically search for (and do whatever is necessary to find) a variety of objects announced by the cruise director. Expect adult passengers of all ages to run around frantically, ripping various articles of clothing or emptying purses onto the deck in a mad, frenzied effort to win.
Of course, there are typical production shows in the Sound of Music Theater. (Again, don't expect the lavish production shows you find on newer ships. This theater and its shows are decidedly less sophisticated.) Nightlife will also be in full swing upstairs at the disco -- The Circuit -- with Karaoke earlier in the evening and a D.J. until the late hours.
At Casino Royale, passengers can try their luck at blackjack tables, starting at $5, as well as roulette, Caribbean stud poker, craps and slot machines. New gamblers can learn when to fold 'em and when to hold 'em during free gaming lessons. For a $20 entry fee, there are morning blackjack and afternoon slot tournaments.
Monarch of the Seas Public Rooms
A product of the early 1990's, Monarch of the Seas is awash in champagne and pastel colors, with a healthy dose of brass, chrome and glass. Dramatically linking the ship is the seven-story Centrum. One of the first seagoing atriums, the room now looks muted in comparison to some of today's truly expansive interior spaces. Unlike many modern atriums, however, it functions well in addition to being visually impressive. A network of stairs throughout the Centrum links many of the public rooms, making traffic flow and navigation around the ship fairly straightforward.
Surrounding the Centrum are a variety of shops, constantly offering deals on perfume, liquor and cruisewear along with the ubiquitous gold and silver chains sold by the inch. Nearby is a sit-down coffee and ice cream parlor, Cafe Latte-tudes, which serves Seattle's Best Coffee, specialty drinks, tasty treats and multiple flavors of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream at prices similar to those you'd pay onshore.
Of all the public rooms onboard, none are as unique as the Viking Crown Lounge. Perched around the funnel like an impaled UFO, the Viking Crown Lounge adds a distinctive touch to the ship's profile and promises spectacular 360-degree views. With its floor-to-ceiling windows and detached location, this lounge has a real floating-above-it-all feel. It is one of the most dramatic spaces from which to watch the ship plow through the ocean below -- especially during sunset -- and its location keeps it out of the hustle and bustle. (Before dinner, the forward part of the lounge is reserved for passengers who are part of the Crown and Anchor Society, Royal Caribbean's past passenger organization.)
It's a good thing there's a view, as the lounge's dull colors are a bit reminiscent of a Holiday Inn. Unfortunately, like other spots on the ship (including the Windjammer Cafe and the Schooner Bar), a TV screen constantly spews forth news or sports and detracts from the otherwise quiet ambience.
An attractive and modest business center on Deck 7 features three individual meeting rooms -- Voyager, Explorer and Adventure -- which accommodate 240 people in total. Conferees can enjoy sun and ocean views from large windows that line the outer rooms. There are several computer terminals and a fax machine there. Ten more terminals are located at the Internet Cafe on Deck 4. The rate for both is 55 cents per minute, although better-priced package deals are available.
Monarch of the Seas Spa & Fitness
To work off that chocolate donut from breakfast, nothing beats the rock-climbing wall on Deck 12. Donning a helmet, suede climbing shoes and a harness, passengers scamper or huff-and-puff their way ten meters to the top, where they ring a bell in triumph. Located one deck below are two busy Ping-Pong tables and a popular basketball court, which is the site of free-throw shooting contests and pickup games.
The appealing ShipShape Fitness Center and Spa on Deck 9 is well worth a visit. In addition to a sauna, the day spa menu includes standard massages, as well as more unusual treatments like a seaweed massage, a hydra-lift facial and hot volcanic stone and aromatherapy massages. At the salon, passengers can get haircuts, manicures and pedicures. To avoid disappointment, schedule spa treatments upon boarding. Though there are 11 treatment rooms, appointments fill quickly. Several spa rooms have great views overlooking the sea.
In the gym, wrap-around windows deliver panoramic views over the Atlantic. There's a good selection of weights and cardio equipment, and personal training sessions are available (30 for $40 or 60 minutes for $75). Pilates, yoga, stretch and tone, indoor cycling and relaxation classes run throughout the day. (Relaxation and stretch and tone are complimentary; Pilates, indoor cycling, yoga and fit ball cost $12.) Bring your own water bottle. Tall people: heads up! If you're taller than 6'3", you will hit the ceiling while running on the treadmills.
Two swimming pools with an accompanying pair of crowded whirlpools on the top of the ship form the center of the social scene. While the forward pool is ostensibly reserved for those 18 and older only, enforcement is pretty lax.
Monarch of the Seas has a unobstructed wrap-around Promenade Deck, complete with shuffleboard, so passengers can have the old-fashioned pleasure of a full circuit around the ship. The tiered aft decks are great spots for getting away from it all and watching the wake disappear into a tropical sea. However, save for a small section, there are no deck chairs to sit on while enjoying the view!