By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/17/2019
Occurred: 1/7/2008
Topics/Keywords: #Cruise #Carnival #RoyalCaribbean #Travel #MonarchoftheSeas Page Views: 4030
All about how we got off our cruise ship and extended our vacation by NOT visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Cruise: Day 4

Our ship had docked at San Pedro before we woke up. When we did wake up, it was to a shocking surprise. Michael's infirmary bill, which the nurse had told us would run $108 dollars plus a little more for any medicine administered, was just shy of $1000…and it was going to hit my bank card, which didn't have a balance anywhere near that, as soon as we got off the boat.

I had no idea what to do. I wasn't even certain they would let me off the boat. I had visions of myself being shanghaied, force to serve out an indenture in the ship's galley until the bill was paid.

Upset, I could barely get down the omelet, bacon, and pancakes with guava juice I ordered. But I needn't have worried. Barbara and Peter came to the rescue, as they so often do, practically walking me to the Guest Relations desk. I explained the situation to the woman there, and the fact that we had paid extra for trip insurance which was supposed to cover exactly this sort of situation. The trip insurance was underwritten by Royal Caribbean; so there really was no excuse for requiring me to pay the bill up front and file for the insurance later.

Now, here's what was odd. The woman was polite. She politely repeated that we had to file for the insurance; and that I had to pay the bill first. It didn't matter what I said. She remained ever polite, but was never sympathetic, or kind, or rude, or even interested. It was like talking to a well-mannered robot. I never even got the feeling that she had built a picture in her head of what I was trying to say. It was all by script, as if I were on the phone with a technical help desk in India.

Suddenly I realized that the same had been true of our room attendant, our waiters, the guy at the pizza stand, the girl at the rock wall, even the mistress of ceremonies at the karaoke venue. Everyone was uniformly and unfailingly polite, but not one person struck me as caring about me or what I wanted. No one had a twinkle in the eye; no one seemed to be having fun. The Monarch of the Seas seemed to be the Stepford Ship, manned by automatons cleverly designed as human beings but not completely able to pull of the charade.

This was the biggest difference between the Carnival Legend and the Royal Caribbean Monarch of them all. On the Legend, the crew seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs and the passengers. When they remembered our names, it seemed as if they wanted to. Zachary's room attendant, Ming, actually cried to see him go. We really felt like the Carnival crew had become friends; we still remember some of their names. But there was no such warm feeling here. There was no icy feeling, either. There was no feeling at all.

Fortunately, Peter had a plan. When it was clear that Guest Relations had no interest in having a real relationship with this guest, Peter had them move the charge to his card, which I would take care of later.There's a lot to be said for having such wonderful friends, especially when they have good credit!

So we disembarked the Monarch of the Seas. I had a good time overall; but it was because I was with people I love and the pleasure of being able to see a new place, rather than due to ship or its crew. My next cruise is far more likely to be on a Carnival ship, or perhaps another cruise line entirely.

By the way, when I got home I checked the safety records of both ships. The Carnival Legend has had quite a few "incidents". In 2005, it suddenly listed 14 degrees starboard while underway, which must have made the passengers feel like they were aboard the Poseidon. In fact, there were a number of minor injuries. Passengers were told it was the result of a "computer glitch". Last September, there was a complete loss of power for about an hour. And most famously, in May 2006, a passenger had a fight with his wife in their cabin, in front of their kids, at the end of which he jumped off the balcony. His body was never found. But, hey—these things happen.

The Monarch of the Seas has also had a few "incidents" which, in my opinion, were more severe. In 1998, she grazed a reef while departing. The ship started taking water and began to sink. Three of her watertight compartments were completely flooded and several others partially flooded. The captain cleverly grounded her on a sandbar to prevent further sinking. All passengers were evacuated and no lives were lost. "Nearer My God, To Thee" wasn't played (though I bet that some passengers hummed a few bars).


And in January, 2006, a pool pipe burst, flooding at least 10 suites on Deck 10. (Passengers were given a $150 credit for the privilege of having their belongings drenched and their electronics destroyed.) Three days later, the captain was found dead in his cabin, apparently of natural causes. More serious was the gas leak in 2005 which instantly killed three crewmembers and injured another 19. The ship was preparing to debark passengers; they did so amid the smell of sewer gas.

So, after we had disembarked and loaded the two cars, we hugged Surya and Barbara and Peter goodbye. They were heading back to Phoenix; we were to take one more day to visit Six Flags Magic Mountain in nearby Santa Clarita.

Keeping Peter's dad's GPS for the remainder of the trip, it was easy to drive to Los Angeles Airport to pick up another daughter (and Zachary's mother) Jennifer, who'd been unable to join us for the cruise itself. In fact, it was so easy that we had to parking in the airport lot and go inside to wait for her plane to land, despite the fact that on the way in we were stopped by the police to do a random search of the car. They did it quickly, by virtue of opening the hatch of the van and allowing all our luggage to crash onto the pavement. Fortunately hardly any of our belongings were broken.

So we parked in the airport lot for about 40 minutes; I had to pay $5 for the privilege, which I put on my credit card.

We'd driven for about 40 minutes when Jenny announced she was hungry. It was lunch time; so I asked the GPS to find us a nearby Denny's, which it did and where we had a lovely lunch. But when I went to pay, I discovered my credit card was missing. Fortunately I had enough cash on me to pay the bill. But I had to wrack my brain to remember the last time I'd used my card; and of course the answer was at the airport parking lot. We had to drive all the way back, while Karen on her cell phone worked to locate the card. By the time we reached the airport, she had gotten directions to the specific office that was holding the card. I retrieved it and we headed, once again, north.

We drove to Santa Clarita, up I-405 which I'd driven so many times during my truckin' days. We got a room at a Hampton Inn and settled in. Karen was delighted to find the place had free wireless Internet. So was I; we had already bought and printed our non-refundable Magic Mountain tickets online, but I wanted to see how early the park would open. If we got there as early as possible, then we might be able to leave at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and make it home by a reasonable hour. It wasn't easy to find a page on their site with their operating hours. But finally, I did…and there weren't any. Magic Mountain was closed for the winter except for weekends. We had the tickets, good to the end of 2008, but no way to use them.

I admit I toyed with the idea of breaking in, like Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's Vacation. But sanity prevailed; and I was very proud of the way everyone worked together to come up with some other interesting thing to do in the Los Angeles area, that we could afford. Even Zachary took the news calmly, far better than some adults might have (though I shouldn't have been surprised; Zach is far more mature than most people his age, or indeed of any age).

When the voting was through, we had our next day's destination: Hollywood!


From Surya: Itís interesting to read your experience of the cruise, especially in light of it being very different to my own. I saw our head waiter quite often and spoke with him several times. Monique and I joked with one another, as I did with Noel. And there were activities of all sorts to enjoy, including short seminars. Ted Arison, founder and (for many years) owner of Carnival Cruise Line, also founded and owned Anchor Bank (now defunct) in New York City. I worked for that bank quite a bit (I was a permanent "temp") and was requested back on long term assignments (up to six months at a time by one of the vice presidents until the bank closed) and I got to know how Mr. Arison and his corporations run their businesses. Iíve never been tempted to sail on one of his ships although I had the opportunity to do so. "Carnival" is an appropriate name for Mr. Arisonís cruise line. Since I have "cruised" 5 or 6 times, I thought nothing of Monarch of the Seasí personnel being extremely polite, impersonal, and professional. I enjoyed the cruise immensely.

The shaking of the boat when we started off could have been caused by how much depth there was under the keel or rather lack thereof when the motors where powered up to move the ship.

You wrote about the former captain of the ship but nothing about the captain with whom we sailed. There was a film made some years ago about 4 women making successful careers in the maritime. She was one of them. Barbara, Peter, and I went to the reception with her and I actually had an opportunity to speak briefly with her. I am in awe of her professional achievements especially in light of how impressive it is in an almost exclusive male environment. I know personally how difficult it is to get men to accept that a woman can sail a boat/ship. (Once, in Marstrand, Sweden, the harbor master came and asked where my husband was. I told him somewhere on land and didnít know when he would be back. He told me that my boat had to be moved to another place in the harbor. I said that was not a problem and to show me where he wanted it. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind and asked if I intended to move it. When I said that was the case, he asked, "Does your husband allow you to sail the boat?" I informed him that my husband had nothing to say about it since the boat was mine and I was the skipper. He did not like hearing that at all.)

Barbara, Peter, and I stopped by the Crystal Cathedral, where we also ate lunch. It is very beautiful. It also has one of the most luxurious and impressive (in marbles of different sorts, including the toilet seats) ladies room I have ever seen. The prayer chapel was also impressive and serene and built by "Mary Todley Hood." We also stopped at Hadleyís where we bought trail mix, marmalade, dried cranberries, and wonderful date milkshakes. Then we drove to Quartzsite, where we visited Hadji Aliís (Hi Jolly Ė the camel herder) gravesite.