Monarch of the Seas Dining
First-time cruisers expecting copious quantities of food will not be disappointed. From the 24-hour buffet and late-night pool deck parties to a small pizzeria, you'll find plenty to keep your stomach full on Monarch of the Seas. While there is little that you'd call gourmet, the ship delivers mostly consistent, satisfying meals.
Most passengers eat their first meals in the Windjammer Cafe, a buffet venue located all the way forward at the top of the ship, spread out over two decks. Open virtually around the clock, this is the spot to visit when those persistent hunger pangs strike -- whether only an hour before dinner or at 3 a.m.! At every meal, there are a variety of food types, including Indian and Mexican themes, as well as a few soup options. Upstairs, a small pizzeria is popular at all times of the day. (Even well past midnight, expect to see a small line of slightly inebriated passengers heading there for some late-night comfort food.)
Annexed off the Windjammer Cafe is Jade, an Asian restaurant only open for dinner. Prices are a la carte, and it's often less crowded on the first night of each sailing. A fun alternative to the main dining room, it is definitely worth a visit. Of particular note was a sizzling black lava rock, which waiters bring to cook shrimp, salmon, steak, scallops or vegetables -- right at your table. The black rock surf and turf costs $14, and a selection of sushi is also available at $4 a serving.
The two main dining rooms, Vincent's and Claude's, are located lower down on Decks 3 and 4. Each accommodates approximately 700 passengers, and in comparison to the modern cruise ship dining rooms with their multi-level designs and striking architecture, these are somewhat bland, although not unpleasant, in their appearance. One restaurant serves the traditional two-seating dining at 6 and 8:30 p.m.; the other is split between "My Time Dining," RCI's flexible option, and traditional two-seating dining. The restaurant is open seating for everyone at breakfast and lunch every day. RCI's "Vitality" program offers a lighter, healthier option at every meal.
Introduced to Monarch in the fall of 2009, the "My Time Dining" option is quickly gaining popularity, with several hundred passengers usually opting for eating whenever they please. While the maitre d requested that reservations be made earlier that day, I felt planning in advance took away some of the reasons for "My Time Dining," so I simply showed up when I wanted to eat. Both times, I was seated without delay. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.)
Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock, via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, Continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items from the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a dollar or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.