I will start this out by saying that I am frustrated that CC does not have the Pullmantur Monarch on its automatic cruise review page so this will have to be done by hand. There is very little out there on the web as far as reviews of this cruise line.
Pullmantur. Monarch May 11, Cartagena to LIsbon
Room 1578, Junior suite
Second cruise on this ship in the last five years
I will go through things step by step but I want to start with the fact that this cruise line is probably the best value for the money on the open seas, but you must go in with your eyes open. It is a 3.5 to 4 star ship that is a little older. It is a Spanish owned company, that serves the Latin American and Spanish market. It is a primarily Spanish speaking cruise. The entertainment will be in Spanish, but that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the voices or dance. Almost all crew can speak a minimum of three languages and if you ever have a problem you can get it resolved, just have a little patience.
The boarding process has always been a problem for Pullmantur and I am not sure why. It is chaotic and somewhat frustrating but you can work your way through it. First have your printed off confirmation in hand, filled out, and signed. In Cartagena where I boarded, you must then go to the line, one for foreigners the other for Colombians, to have your passport checked and to pay the exit fee. They will stamp the passport, but this is not immigration, that will come later. For those in Junior Suites or above, you will then need to find a Pullmantur employee to direct you to the area where you will be shown to immigration without having to wait in the line. For everyone else, just get in the immigration line. After immigration and security, you will be given your room key and they will collect your passport. You can then take a shuttle or walk to the ship.
On my first cruise on the Monarch, I was a little surprised at how small the rooms where, but it had everything you needed. On this trip I was in a Junior Suite with balcony and it was a very nice surprise to see the size of the room. The room was in very good shape and appeared to be recently remodeled. The bathroom was a nice size with full tub. The balcony was really large, but be prepared that there was an overhang of about two meters from the pool deck above. Only mild complaint, the satellite connection for TV stations did not work the whole trip, but I was on vacation who had time for TV, the movie channels worked.
As part of purchasing a Junior Suite you are given free access to the Waves Yacht Club which is a lounge area on deck twelve above the buffet area. It had great views, very nice seating and was a quiet place to get away. There were appetizers through out the day, as well as a bar. The Waves Club program had just gone through a major revamp and there was some confusion on the part of the staff as well as the passengers for the first few days. While it is an all inclusive cruise, if you wanted to upgrade the brands of liquor you could pay a small fee. Free wi fi was included for all those with in the club. The outside deck area within the Waves Yacht Club was reserved for those that had purchased the Royal Suites.
The nightly shows are not my thing so I can't tell you much other than they are primarily in Spanish, but some of the singing is in English. The bands all sing in Spanish and be ready for some latin beats. I have to say watching the crowds sing along was just as fun as the preformance. There is also a lot of dancing. If you don't know how to Salsa there are lessons by the pool every afternoon.
Food, on our first trip we did not eat in the formal dining room. This trip I ate there nearly every night. There is breakfast in the formal dining room everyday, but it is a buffet style just like upstairs. I always ate lunch in the buffet and it was always good. Unlike many other cruises you do need to watch the time for meals. Breakfast is from 7:30 to 10:30 or 11 and then things close down until lunch about an hour later. The lunch buffet is closed at about 3:30 but there is a place upstairs where you can get pizza until dinner time. The dinner seatings are late by American standards. 7:15 and 9:30 while in the Carribean, later when in Europe. I never had a bad meal and I had a different main course every night.
Bars, each one has its own atmosphere and you will find something you like. Remember the alcohol is free. However, I have never seen so much coffee being ordered on a ship before. The disco opens up at 11 pm and goes until 3:30 am and there is a wide variety of pop/latin music. There were several nights where there parties out by the pool that started around 11pm with the bands playing and everyone dancing. Going back to the free alcohol thing. I never, in 15 days, saw one person drunk or out of control even with the liquor being free.
The gym has everything you need even if you need to be a little creative for certain exercises. There is a small sauna in the mens and the women changing room. The spa was excellent and very well priced for a cruise ship. Internet was average, better to find a place in port to chat and up and download. The tour packages looked like they were well priced as well, but I never used them, just got off the boat and walked or took a cab.
Overall, Pullmantur is really an incredible value for what you pay. Just have your expectations in check when you book. This is a 3.5 or 4 star older ship but has been well maintained. It is primarily Spanish speaking but if you are openminded and a little adventurous, you can have a great time.