Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 302 out of 500
Accommodation: 117 out of 200
Food: 223 out of 400
Service: 260 out of 400
Entertainment: 64 out of 100
Cruise: 245 out of 400
Overall Score: 1211 out of 2000
Size: Large Resort Ship
Cruise Line: Pullmantur Cruises
Former Names: Monarch of the Seas
IMO Number: 8819500
Builder: Chantiers de l’Atlantique (France)
Original Cost: $300 million
Entered Service: Nov 1991/Apr 2013
Registry: The Bahamas
Length (ft/m): 879.9/268.2
Beam (ft/m): 105.9/32.3
Draft (ft/m): 24.9/7.6
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel (21,844kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 11
Total Crew: 858
Passengers (lower beds): 2,384
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 31.0
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.8
Cabins (total): 1,192
Size Range (sq ft/m): 118.4-670.0/11.0-62.2
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 62
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 4
Wheelchair accessibility: Fair
Cabin Current: 110 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 2
Hot Tubs (on deck): 2
Self-Service Launderette: No
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: Euros
A modestly large, busy ship, good for a first cruise
Overview. This floating resort provides the basics for a well-tuned, but somewhat impersonal, short cruise experience for Spanish-speaking families. The range of facilities is decent enough, with consistently sound, highly programmed service from a reasonably attentive young staff. In April 2013, the ship was transferred from Royal Caribbean International to Pullmantur Cruises to operate family-friendly cruises for Spanish speakers, and renamed, simply, Monarch (ex-Monarch of the Seas).
The Ship. Monarch is almost identical in size and appearance to sister ship Sovereign but actually has a slightly improved internal layout and better public room features, and passenger flow. The ship, whose hull is painted a deep blue, sports a lounge and bar that is wrapped around the blue funnel and provides a stunning view (it’s a great place to sit and enjoy a decent coffee from one of its 320-plus seats). The open deck space itself, however, is very cramped when the ship is full, as aboard any large ship, although there seems to be plenty of it. There is a basketball court aft for sports lovers.
The interior layout is a little awkward, as it is designed in a vertical stack, with most public rooms located aft, and the accommodation forward. There’s an impressive array of spacious and elegant public rooms to play in, although the decor brings to mind the IKEA school of interior design. A spacious five-deck-high Centrum lobby has cascading stairways and two glass-walled elevators. You may be overwhelmed by the public spaces, but underwhelmed by the size of the cabins.
The ship has a good array of spacious, smart public rooms, including a conference room, library, and card players’ room, plus a Monte Carlo Casino for the more serious gamers, as well as shops and an Internet-connect center. The decor is accented with wood paneling, and some bright color splashes. Children and teens are well catered for, and there’s a whole team of youth activity staff, together with a range of rooms for children and teens, including a chill-out lounge and an open aft sundeck with a dance floor.
The dress code is ultra-casual. All gratuities and port taxes are included in the cruise fare. Passengers can embark at Panama’s Colón, Colombia’s Cartagena or Venezuela’s La Guaira on a seven-night year-round itinerary that also includes Aruba and Curaçao. Although Pullmantur Cruises markets this ship in Europe it focuses more on Latin America, where it provides a visa-free alternative for many nationalities. This provides an opportunity for South Americans to cruise the Caribbean in their winter.
Accommodation. There are numerous categories, priced by grade, size, and location. Note that there are no cabins with private balconies.
Suites. Thirteen suites on Bridge Deck are fairly large and nicely furnished (the largest is the Royal Suite), with separate living and sleeping spaces. These provide more space, with better service and more perks than standard-grade accommodation.
Standard cabins. The standard outside-view and interior cabins are very small, although an arched window treatment and colorful soft furnishings do give the illusion of more space.
Almost all cabins have twin beds that convert to a queen-size or double bed configuration, together with moveable bedside tables. However, when in a queen-bed configuration, the bed is typically flush against the wall, and access is from one side only. All standard cabins have very little closet and drawer space. You should, therefore, pack only minimal clothing, which is all you really need for a short cruise.
All cabins have a private bathroom, with a shower enclosure, toilet, and washbasin.
Dining. The two large dining rooms, Claude’s and Vincent’s, are located off the Centrum lobby. There are tables for four, six, or eight, but none for two. There are two seatings, and the dining operation is well-orchestrated, with emphasis on well-timed, programmed service. The cuisine is typical of mass banquet catering that offers standard fare comparable to that found in family-style eateries ashore. While menu descriptions are tempting, the actual food may be somewhat disappointing and unmemorable. Many items are pre-prepared ashore to keep costs down.
A decent selection of light meals is provided, and a vegetarian choice is also available. The selection of breads, rolls, and pastry items is good. The wine list is not extensive, but the prices are moderate.
For casual breakfasts and lunches, the Café is the place to go, although there are often long lines at peak times. On the aft of the upper level of the venue is a pizzeria.
Entertainment. The Sound of Music is the principal showlounge; it has both main and balcony levels, with banquette seating, although sight lines from many of the balcony seats are poor.
A smaller entertainment venue, the April in Paris Lounge, is where cabaret acts, including late-night adult comedy are featured, as well as music for dancing.
The entertainment throughout is upbeat - in fact, it’s difficult to get away from music and noise. There’s even background music in all corridors and elevators, and constant music outdoors on the pool deck. If you want a quiet relaxing holiday, choose another ship.
Spa/Fitness. The Spa del Mar features a gymnasium with aft-facing views and a selection of muscle-pumping equipment. There is also an aerobics studio, and classes are offered in a variety of keep-fit regimens, a beauty salon, and a sauna, as well as treatment rooms for pampering massages and facials. While the facilities aren’t extensive, they’re adequate.
For the sports-inclined, there is activity galore - including a rock-climbing wall with several separate climbing tracks. It is located outdoors aft of the blue funnel and wrap-around panoramic lounge.