Pros: Clean ship, great service and food, smooth cruise, excellent execution by every carnival employee.
Cons: Shore excursions were a bit expensive
We just returned from our seven day Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Legend. The cruise line and every one of their employees not only dispelled every myth I had heard about traveling on Carnival Cruise Lines since my booking but they pleased us to the highest degree.
Embarkation - Disembarking Process
This should have been a positive indicator right from the start. We left from the Port of Tampa where the process could not have gone any smoother. Getting to the port by car was easy and while there were several ships boarding that day, the only problem I encountered was deciding which port entrance our ship was leaving from. We were never advised as to which terminal to enter. Parking was a bit expensive. The port parking was $110.00 for the week but I actually pulled right up to the entrance and paid an extra $15.00 for valet parking and handed over my keys. Our checked baggage was taken away right on the spot and we walked 25 yards away to get in line with our carry-ons
The process moved along relatively quickly through security and all the way onto the ship. We arrived at the dock just before noon and made it to our room where our luggage showed up promptly and we found ourselves eating a lunch on the Lido deck in short fashion. This allowed us plenty of time to begin exploring the ship well before the 4:00 sailing time.
Disembarking the ship was similarly simple. Instructions were offered the day before leaving on how and when to prepare for getting off the ship. You are given the option to carry all your luggage off the ship or set them out the night before for Carnival to move off the ship for you. We chose to "self assist", meaning we moved all our bags with us to one of the two decks we were to wait. "Self assist" passengers end up being called by deck before the rest of the people. Two good choices of the port valet and electing to carry off our bags meant we walked out of the terminal no more than 20 feet and were reunited with our vehicle within 10 minutes of clearing customs.
Sign and Sail Card
Everything on the ship was purchased or must be charged to your "Sign and Sail" account that you set up previous to your cruise. At first I really didn't like this idea but it ended up being a great way to manage your budget. You have the option of using a debit or credit card to fund your account or as we did, with cash. Once on board, I added cash to our account which can be added to at any time during your voyage.
Not only will everything you purchase come out of this account but you will be required to pay 11.5% gratuity on the cost of your trip off the top for stateroom, dining and other crew members. Also, each purchase in the bars or dining areas will find a 15% gratuity added on an on-going basis. The cost is upfront and detailed on each purchase receipt as you buy. Your account can be viewed on your stateroom TV at any time on your trip. The evening before we left the ship, as a cash account holder, a detailed summary and an attached check for the balance was delivered to our room.
The Legend Ship and Crew
The ship was... well... in ship-shape condition. Every part of the ship was clean and particular attention obviously being was paid to public areas to avoid any possibility of spreading norovirus to the passengers. The ship's done for the most part in a very ornate style that took me by surprise as I first entered the lobby area on embarkation. Lots of dark woods and black lacquer finishes, glass and visual murals adorn a good portion of the public areas. The entire crew was attentive to the guests and every aspect of the ship was amply staffed. As we headed out of Tampa, we did notice a bit of side to side sway for the first half day but after that, it was smooth sailing to the point that you nearly forgot you were cruising on a huge ship.
The stateroom was about what I would have expected. We selected a balcony room on the Panorama Deck. A balcony room is a must and once you have had one, I don't believe you will want anything else. The bathroom was small but the shower was not unreasonably tight. Your room was visited twice daily by the stateroom crew. Cleaned early on and later, you were brought fresh towels and the next day's activity brochure. A nice little touch was the "towel animal of the day". Each evening we were greeted by a towel twisted and folded into a different animal shape.
Our room had a small refrigerator stocked with soda and bottles of common alcohol drinks which could be consumed... at a cost of course. The room was also furnished with a flat-screen television with basic TV stations. News was available through CNN, there were the regular broadcast stations and one or two movie channels. We spent little time watching television so the very limited choice was not an issue.
There was generally no personal service from this portion of the ship's crew as I remember years ago on my last cruise experience. That being said, everything was done well and any specific requests were quickly fulfilled.
Around the Ship
The Carnival Legend had plenty to see and experience for passengers of every age. Most of the evening entertainment areas could be found on the Atlantic and Promenade decks in the lower portion of the ship. Truffles restaurant were the main meals were served stretched across portions of both decks as well as a number of theme based bars. Satchmo's jazz bar, Billie's piano bar and the Dream Team sports bar were all available and rarely if ever crowded. For those interested in gambling, the Club Merlin Casino was available with slots, card games, roulette and craps tables. We spent a several evenings in the Follies Theater for evening shows and even more time at Punchliner's in the Firebird Lounge for comedy shows.
On decks four and five there were several places for the youngsters to spend some time. Gigabytes Arcade and the Enchanted Forest were spots for youngsters to meet.
Three different pool areas are supplied depending on your desires. The Serenity pool area was available for an adult oriented quiet time with extra comfortable chairs but getting a spot there was rather difficult. The Avalon Bar area anchored the main pool deck area and was the place for the most action. A grill was conveniently located for lunch on the deck and drinks could be found at the bar or the wait staff that were always willing to serve. The Lido and Sun decks had ample chairs available at all times, even on the last At Sea day when most passengers found themselves drawn to the pool and sun areas of the ship we found a nice spot to enjoy our final day. The upper-most decks featured the spa, gym jogging track and mini golf and basketball.
Even though we were thousands of miles from California, my wife did find her way to Rodeo Drive where the ship had plenty of duty-free liquor, perfumes, cigarettes and her favorite... a fine jewelery store. The duty free prices on liquor on the ship were as good or better than what you might see in port.
The cruise line did it's best to offer a variety of activities and entertainment around the ship throughout the day and evening. Each of the lounge areas had entertainment at times and tried to get passengers involved in activities like trivia or fun competitions. Some were sparsely attended and others were worth spending the time at. Several of the lounge entertainers were worth sitting around and listening to but there were also a few typical mediocre "lounge acts" that just weren't worth wasting the time with or the price of an expensive beverage.
The ship's casino, Club Merlin, had a good array of table games and slots. I had no problem ever finding a seat at a Blackjack table with minimums from two to twenty-five dollars with rules on par with most Las Vegas casinos. The slots were beyond what I would term tight. I suggest taking a pass on the slots and save some time and money by just dropping half of your playing cash overboard and proceeding to another entertainment location.
The shows that we saw at the Follies theater were variety style shows. We caught the welcome show and a juggler that put on an entertaining show beyond his juggling ability. The Firebird Lounge offered one or two different comedians each evening who ran several show each while they were on board. We loved them all and made it a point to check each of them out.
Each day, a Fun Times pamphlet was left in your room which listed each and every activity around the ship throughout the next day.
Our Experience on the Carnival Legend
We found our first cruise experience to be better than expected. We found ourselves having both breakfast and lunch when not in port up on the Lido deck areas in the Unicorn Cafe. Breakfast was buffet style with most anything one could want. Eggs, bacon, sausages, breads, bagels and toast and the like were provided every morning. Continental items and omelets made to order were also always available. Juices, coffee, cocoas and ice water were also supplied. Specialty latte and mocha style drinks could be purchased most of the day at an additional cost but the above mentioned drinks were available all day and night for free.
We generally also had lunch in the same areas of the ship preferring not to head to the more formal dining in the Truffles restaurant. Deli style sandwiches were good and the salad bar was well stocked and fresh. We did not eat there but Chopsticks did offer an Oriental style food for those interested. A full American style buffet was also an option on each day of the cruise.
We ate several times at the grill area near the pool which offered cheeseburgers, dogs, fries and the like. In each case, the food was good but not fancy or out of the ordinary. The folks at Carnival also provided a pizza station that was open following breakfast and ran into the very late evening. This was great for any time from lunch to a late night snack. They had a choice of about eight different pizza selections which could be prepared fresh and on your plate in just two or three minutes. I personally liked the Napolitana pizza with just about everything on it. Next to the pizza station, the Sweet Spot offered up a decent selection of desserts again, from lunch to well into the late night. Both the pizza station and sweet table were well stocked, loaded with excellent choices and very convenient... too convenient!
We ate dinner in the main dining restaurant known as Truffles. Prior to beginning your voyage, you are asked for a dining selection: early at 6:00PM, late at 8:15PM or any time dining between 5:45 and 9:30PM. We opted for open dining, another good choice. I do feel we gave up some of the personal service of a set dining time, table and wait staff member but service was none the less superb. Some days we chose to eat at a table by ourselves and on other evenings we chose the option of being seated with other guests. Your choice... we liked the mix of both but it is a nice way to meet others on your cruise.
The food at the restaurant was excellent. Each dinner started with a nice choice of appetizers. Let's see, I had oysters Rockerfeller, escargot and shrimp cocktail just to name a few. The main meal was also just as good. Lobster tail, broiled salmon, seafood Newburg might describe where my tastes were for dinner. Each was prepared and presented in a high class style. My wife enjoyed her prime rib, Chateaubriand and other dishes also. The meats were cooked to order and also presented well. I heard very few complaints from any of the other guests when we were seated together, each enjoying a wide variety of foods beyond what I mentioned including pork tenderloin, rack of lamb or steaks to name a few.
Each meal was topped off with a dessert which was also up to par with the rest of the meal. My wife got hooked on their melted chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream which I loved. I decided to wade into the dessert pool so to speak each day with a different selection. Baked Alaska, Amaretto cake and everything else I tried was equally good.
Itinerary and Shore Excursions
Once you have booked your cruise, you will receive occasional emails suggesting you book your tour excursions early before they fill up. As expected, the shore excursions offered through Carnival Cruise Lines were on the expensive side. We did book several while we were on board, two of which were booked the morning we were in port so don't feel rushed to book your tours. Our cruise took us to Grand Cayman Island, Cozumel Mexico, Belize City and Isla Roatan off Honduras.
We were on a relaxation vacation and spent much of our port time on the beautiful beaches that these destinations offered. We took the Belize City sightseeing tour to try to get a taste Central Amercian life. The sights were quite eye-opening and the guides did a good job offering the Belizian point of view. The tour was more expensive than one you might find outside the terminal gate but we had peace of mind we would be safe and back to the ship on time. Some on our ship used the stop at Belize for snorkeling but actually found the sights better off the free beach in Roatan.
We enjoyed the all inclusive trip out of Cozumel to Passion Island by catamaran where we were treated with a Mexican style buffet lunch and open bar along with full beach amenities. The beaches were superb and, at least on our trip, not crowded.
If you haven't enjoyed the beaches by the time you hit Roatan, you will find the free beach absolutely wonderful. If snorkeling is your thing, there is an area within walking distance from the ship that equals the $69.95 tour and totally free to those with their equipment. The bar and entertainment is just a few steps behind your back and the bright blue Caribbean water is directly in front of you.
So, Are we going back?
You bet we are. From the moment I booked the cruise I heard plenty of people question my booking on Carnival Cruise Lines. Some told me that it was a party ship with too young of a crowd. We would not have a peaceful trip. Others suggested we had booked on the economy line and the ship, service and food would not be worth the price. None of these complaints ever came to fruition. As a matter of fact I felt as though I would have to be dragged off the Carnival Legend kicking and screaming. Another week sounded like a great idea and you can believe there will be one in the near future.