Carnival Legend ~ May 31, 2004 sailing from New York Eastern Caribbean ~ San Juan, St. Thomas and Tortola Overall Cruise Rating: 2 out of 5
The Carnival Legend is my third cruise experience and my second on Carnival. Previously, I have been on the Carnival Triumph and the Norwegian Dawn. Overall, the Legend is a fair cruise experience, but the management failures of Carnival shine through in almost every aspect of the ship's services. They clearly have the resources to provide us with a better cruise experience, but it is the mismanagement of those resources that causes all of the problems.
A cruise ship is really just a segregated marketplace on the sea. This is a dream come true for any manager since all the money spent in any of the shops, cafes, casinos, etc. eventually comes back to the cruise company. The cruise companies have full control over the market and all its activities and therefore control both the supply and to some extent, the demand as well. This allows them to have precise command over the level of service they can and will provide to their customer while still beingable to maximize their revenue in every case.
Embarkation from New York City
Embarkation is always tough from New York. Since we have sailed on Carnival previously and had a Category 11 penthouse, we were entitled to VIP "Skippers Club" embarkation; unfortunately almost none of the staff knew what that was and gave me blank stares as I asked them about "Skippers Club." We finally found a man who knew what he was doing and he directed us to the correct VIP line. How convenient! We only had two or three people ahead of us on line compared to the 20-30 people we would have had standing on the non-VIP line. The hostess taking our information refused to accept dining preferences at that time so we had to contact the Maitre'D once on board. When I called the purser's desk to see how I could speak with the Maitre'D, they told me he did not have a phone. Very strange. I had to go down in person, stand on yet another line, until the dining staff would even listen to my requests. Very unfriendly. Shame on you, Carnival.
I was in cabin 6258; empress deck aft. This is supposed to be a category 11 penthouse . HA! The room is much smaller than a comparably priced category I sailed on in the Norwegian Dawn. NCL also offered huge bonuses such as Butler and Concierge services with their room. Carnival has never heard of these. NCL also gave us a flat screen TV and a DVD player - nothing like this was on the Legend. For a newer ship, such as the Legend, I would expect at least a DVD player, not just the VCR they gave us. The "refrigerator" is actually a mini bar that has no room for personal items. The room itself is actually not very comfortable. The lamps where nailed into the tables - not very classy at all. However, other features of this cabin, such as the double sinks, the whirlpool tub, oversize balcony and storage spaces were all welcome additions.
When we arrived at the cabin, it too had several problems. The electricity was not working right, the air conditioning was inoperable, and we found several items in our cabin that were left behind by past cruisers. I should note that all problems were promptly solved after phoning the purser or seeing our room steward.
A new policy on Carnival is pay-as-you-go beach towels! I have never heard of this before. They actually leave your beach towels in the room for you and make you responsible for returning them to your cabin before the last day of the cruise. And what if you don't? Twenty dollars is charged to your on-board account! Beach towels are no longer available freely on the deck. It's a BYOT policy; Bring Your Own Towel - whether it be to the decks or to the shore.
Another thing that made the room very uncomfortable was the fact that the ship was extremely unsteady. There was lots of rocking and vibrating throughout the 8 days. It was so bad that we couldn't walk straight at times and bumped into each other often. The Captain claimed that since we had a lot of sea to cover (New York to the Caribbean), the ship had to travel faster than normal resulting in extra motions. I disagree because even when the ship was not required to move so quickly (like in between the ports-of-call), we still had the same problem.
Our room steward, Atthaya, was very friendly and efficient. She was always around when we needed her and was able to answer all of our questions with ease and accuracy. You can just tell when people love their job and are highly motivated - she was one of them.
I remember our cruise director, Chris Jefferson, from when he was a social host on the Triumph. Chris is a wonderful performer and a natural on stage, but it seems he may be a better follower than a leader. The entertainment on the Triumph was far superior to the Legend. Although very funny, the entertainment organized by Chris just wasn't enough. His social hosts were also hilarious, particularly Adam. The games they organized were just too good to stay away from: Who wants to be a Millionaire, trivia games, Name That Tune, The Newlywed Game just to name a few. However, the number of events available throughout the day just didn't measure up to the other ships I have been on; there were plenty of opportunities to get bored and nap. As far as nightly entertainment, the "Las Vegas-style" shows Carnival boasts about where only in existence for two of the nights. The remainder of the evenings we fell victim to cheap (and not funny) comics, soloist singers, big bands and guest talent acts. On occasion, there were also late night shows but they started at midnight and lasted for just 20-30 minutes. Expect to go to bed before 1 every night.
The Legend's idea of a movie theatre is a Karaoke lounge (Firebird Lounge) with a screen in front of it. The timing was also not well planned at all. Our movie was set to start as the ship left one of the ports of call. Well, the lounge just happens to be right above the engine room. Needless to say, I missed the beginning of the movie and eventually had to walk out. Don't expect any popcorn either.
The Legend's main entertainment lounge is named Follies. It has a similar design to other entertainment lounges in the Carnival fleet and has the same problems as well. The first level of seating is not raised, so short guests will have a problem seeing over taller ones. The top level features seats that are, in fact, raised. However, most of the seats in the upper level feature obstructed views as in all Carnival ships. The same barriers that keep guests from falling over obstruct their line-of-site. It's a wonder they have not fixed this problem yet. This is not a problem on other cruise lines and is a simple problem to fix at Carnival. This architectural design issue could have been avoided if Carnival paid just the slightest bit more attention to the guest's point-of-view.
Dining / Bars
Two words that prevent Carnival from ever being the world's leading cruise line: freestyle dining. They have wised up and now offer it on some of their ships but we have yet to see it on any Spirit-class vessels including the Legend. This is the main reason for the notoriously long buffet lines we constantly see on Carnival over and over again. The ship, for some reason, insists that all passengers eat at the same time - so they do! On other cruise lines, such as Norwegian, freestyle dining and a variety of restaurants allow guest to choose when and where they dine. This lessens the strain on buffets and keeps the lines short almost all of the time.
The quality of the food on the Legend, however, is superb. The chefs deserve kudos. Nonetheless, they should know that no matter how good the food tastes, the management and serving of the food make the entire experience horrible. The long lines do a huge disservice to the end product. The Unicorn Café is the home of all the buffets and all the long lines. The Rotisserie, Deli, 24-hour pizzeria, The Grill, Taste of the Nations (featuring a different country's cuisine everyday) and Asian Corner are just some of types of food you will find there for lunchtime. Unfortunately, almost everything shuts down for dinner and all you're left with is the pizza, deli and rotisserie.
The 24-hour pizzeria, for instance, constantly has a line except for breakfast time. This is due to the pizzas not being ready when the customers ask for them. They feature about six different types of pizza and four of the less popular options are never ready. You've got to take what they've got or wait some more. And sometimes they don't have anything. It is common for the server to ask you to wait 4-7 minutes for the next batch.
There is absolutely no excuse for this amount of wait time to be fed on a cruise ship. Cruise ships, as we all know, are segregated marketplaces. It is very easy to predict demand for certain products based on previous behavior. The Legend needs to prepare their pizza and other foods based on these measurements - this is how they know how much staff and ovens they will need to use at any given time so the guests don't have to wait. There should constantly be large quantities of all different kinds of pizza pies available during the peak times. Similar predictions can be made for the demand for buffets and room service to avoid long wait times. Apparently, no one at Carnival bothered to take these simple measurements to make the predictions.
The poolside section of the Unicorn Café is a high-traffic area, but unfortunately the tables don't have much of a high turn around. The tables need to be cleaned and reset much more often since it is so difficult to find a table by the pool. What's worse is the ongoing problem of guests saving deck chairs. Other fleets have gotten security involved in the enforcement of the rules regarding this, but Carnival has yet to jump on this bandwagon.
Room service at Carnival is still the worst on the seven seas. The wait time for room service is regularly one hour. And, you can only choose from a limited menu of cold cuts and wraps - it's pitiful. You can't even use your fountain soda card through room service. Especially with the limited menu, there should not be that long of a wait time. In fact, the wait time for room service on any ship, no matter what the menu, should never be an hour! Moreover, room service does not accept the fountain soda card. Other fleets have far surpassed Carnival when it comes to room service menus; their menu is simply not worth the trouble. Here's an idea: why not take advantage of the 24-hour pizzeria and incorporate it into room service? It would be a wonderful addition and effortless to implement.
Speaking of the fountain card, it's not worth it unless you drink more than 5-6 sodas a day. Carnival has also tightened their policy and will absolutely only serve one fountain drink at a time per card. Still, the bar waiters and waitresses hate serving fountain card holders. This is because it is more worth it for them to serve mixed drinks for the tips. Sure, fountain card holders pay their tip when they purchase their card but apparently that's not enough to change the servers' minds. During a show at Follies I had to order my diet coke 3 times before anyone would bring it to me - and even then they brought it at the end of the show. The next day, I wore my fountain card around my neck on a key chain - this made me invisible to all of the bar waiters and waitresses. They would not even come up to me to ask me if I wanted anything. Roel and Samson were among the bad bartenders; don't hesitate to complain to the bar manager if you come across them are or any others that don't cater to fountain card holders.
Dining at the main restaurant, "Truffles," was always a pleasure. The staff was always friendly and efficient and the food was great. If you do eat there, be sure and ask for a table served by Luis - he can't stop smiling and will always make you feel like family. Listen to his recommendations, too! You won't be sorry!
The Internet Café
The internet café is run by an extremely friendly and knowledgeable manager - Jay. The prices are comparable to that of other ships. Jay even gave me an extra 10 minutes just for signing up on the first day. Woo hoo!
One of the reasons I chose the Carnival Legend is because it is a new ship and I was expecting wireless internet service. Indeed, this was the case and I had my laptop ready to go when I saw the huge ad that said "Surf and Swim Wirelessly" picturing a gentleman with his laptop by the pool.
Oh, how easily I was misled. The wireless access is only available in the internet café! The signal does not reach anywhere else on the ship - not even highly used areas like the atrium or the pool. What makes this worse is that when I did not have my laptop with me, I could not even use the desktops since I only had a wireless account. These accounts really should be one-and-the-same. The logins used for wireless should be the same logins used on the desktops. This is how Norwegian does it. Take a lesson from the Norwegian way, Carnival.
Shopping On Board
The stores on board have very limited selection. I was not able to find a stick of deodorant when I needed one. When I came down with a cough, they only had one type of cough syrup. Come prepared with everything you might need, don't expect to find anything on the ship. The other experience I had was with the Legend's Formalities store where you can rent tuxes, buy flowers or decorations for any event you are celebrating on board. The complimentary birthday cakes Carnival used to give upon request in the dining room no longer exist - they are now going to cost you ten bucks. For $32, you can even have your cabin decorated as a surprise for that special someone. I ordered birthday decorations for our cabin to be decorated between 7:30pm and 8:00pm one evening while I knew we would all be out having dinner. Well, those sharp Carnival employees decided to stop by at 9:30am instead. I sent them away and demanded a refund.
I also had a problem with one of my photo frame purchases in the gallery. After I stood on a long line and asked the clerk to replace the frame he told me to come back tomorrow since he was the only one on duty and instead needed to take care of the customers behind me. How rude. And very poor management of staff!
Ports of Call
Our cruise offered a healthy variety of ports of call including San Juan, St. Thomas and Tortola. Tours and shopping in San Jan and St. Thomas are a must. Don't miss it! However, don't waste your money purchasing shore excursions on board. You'll find all the major ones for sale at the port for 30-40% off what you would've paid on board. Tortola, on the other hand, is almost not worth visiting. The ship is only in that dock from 7am-2pm anyway. Get off, stretch your legs, take a few pictures and get back on the ship. It's not a very interesting place to visit nor will you find any worthwhile shopping opportunities.
All-in-all, we had a good vacation but know that it is such a pity that it couldn't be better. I hope Carnival can take a look at the management of their ships and make the small changes that in turn make huge differences for the guests. If you have specific questions about the Legend before booking your trip, I'd be happy to entertain them via email. Happy sailing!
The first thing I should point out first that my wife and I prefer white table cloths to McDonalds, bottled wine to bottled beer, and service consistent with our willingness to pay a premium.
Carnival may not be the best choice for our tastes, but it may fit your needs. We have cruised four times, once 20 years ago on Carnival, twice in the last 14 months on Norwegian, and most recently on the Carnival Legend, a southern Caribbean itinerary that included St Marten, Martinique and Barbados. I choose the Legend based upon the itinerary and the availability of a balcony cabin. The cruise price per person was very reasonable, ($699 per person on Carnival for an 8-day cruise, same on Norwegian for 7-day cruise, but a suite).
I only booked the cruise about 3 weeks in advance and the paperwork arrived promptly. I recommend that you handle the informational requirements online as soon as you receive your paperwork as it speeds up the boarding process.
We live in upstate New York, so we flew to Fort Lauderdale a couple of days in advance of the sailing to enjoy the sunshine. We stayed onthe strip in Lauderdale at the Double Tree Hotel. Keep in mind that the Double Tree is typically a higher end business class hotel, but units placed in tourist areas rarely offer the full amenities you may find at their typical locations. The Double Tree here has seen better days; the restaurant was palatable, but only opens for breakfast and lunch. There was another restaurant under the pool area fronting the beach but we choose alternative restaurants in town. All in all, Fort Lauderdale was interesting, but only worthy of a couple of days. The night scene (it was during Spring Break), was also interesting but beyond a couple such as us in our late forties.
Our cruise was scheduled for a Sunday departure. The Carnival paperwork noted an embarkation time of 2:30 PM for this port but when we arrived at the port at noon the line extended around the building and they were already loading people on the ship. Can't blame them for this because the sooner they get you on, the sooner you will start charging drinks, etc. This was similar to previous cruises we had taken. They leave themselves some time leeway but the loading process always seems efficient. From port arrival to walking on the deck took less than 45 minutes.
One thing we loved with Norwegian was their 'free style' cruising which allows you to choose when you eat, and if you dine with others at a 'group' table. Our first Carnival cruise, 20 years previous, gave us assigned seating and unfortunately the later seating. This part of the cruise agenda totally turned us off to cruising as we like to eat early and we are not late night players. We remember trying to change to an earlier sitting, but essentially being refused.
Our most recent Norwegian cruises were wonderful with multiple restaurant choices and multiple premium restaurant choices (you pay an added cover charge for a more intimate dining experience). The charge, depending upon the cruise line can be from $15 to $25 per person. One of the reasons I booked Carnival this trip was their new offering of a premium restaurant choice, they call it their 'Supper Club'. As soon as we could, we made a reservation for all cruise nights except one.
They tell you when you board that your room may not be available until 1:30 PM but ours was available earlier. Our luggage also arrived promptly, allowing us some time to get acquainted with the room. We had a hall-end room, with a cabin on one side but not on the other. The room spacing was more than comfortable with a balcony with one lounger type chair, one standard plastic chair and a small table. This room was better than the first Norwegian ship we were on, which was an outside cabin, but had no balcony. The second Norwegian cruise had a balcony, and was also a mini-suite. This Carnival room was similar to the Norwegian mini-suite, except the Norwegian room had a full bathroom (tub and separate sink area, instead of just a shower stall).
The steward service on both lines was wonderful. The rooms were made promptly, towels were always exchanged, and the amenity items such as shampoo, etc., were always stocked. My wife made some special requests, like an additional change of deck towels, and wine glasses for the bottles of wine we ordered for the room. The requests were filled promptly. Turn down at night, on both lines, always included some sort of special character, made from the towels, and their creativity was commendable. Steward service on both lines was virtually equal, but I would give a slight edge to Norwegian as their people were slightly more personable. Carnival also used that 'heavy knock' on the door to let you know they were ready to service your room, especially on the last day when the 'heavy knock' came at 7 AM (I guess that was our hint to get moving as we would be off the ship by 9:30). Our Norwegian stewards always seemed to be in the vicinity of their room assignments. Norwegian stewards also seemed to pick up on your personal timing, even generating small talk as we left or returned from dinner.
Unfortunately we were informed about 5:30 PM the first evening by Carnival that the premium restaurant would not be open that night as they did not take enough reservations. Oh well, at least our dinner seating assignment was the early one (5:45 PM, and printed on your onboard identification card). The dinner wouldn't be the premium type, but we had noted in the Carnival literature that they were now more inclined to accommodate those that preferred alternate seating arrangements. As we entered the restaurant my wife made a request for a table for two, at which point she was curtly informed that such requests would have to be made directly to the Matre D. We decided to bite the bullet and see where we would be placed. We were seated at a table for three couples, in the middle of the dining room. Only one of the other couples came that night and we made the typical small talk that fosters from being placed with people you most likely have nothing in common with. We ordered a bottle of wine, they of course choose water (soft drinks and alcoholic beverages always incur a charge and can easily add up to more than the cost of a cabin over 7-8 days). The entire meal took less than 45 minutes and the experience was just short cafeteria level. There was no small talk with the wait staff, presentation was lacking, and the food quality was mediocre.
Although we opted for the premium restaurants on the Norwegian cruises, we did use their main dining restaurants a couple of times. We were offered a table for two, or the option of sitting with others. We choose the table for two intimacy, and were very satisfied both times. The presentation was professional, the food was palatable, and we did not feel rushed at all. The staff also exhibited personality. I should also note that Norwegian did not close down their premium restaurants but accommodated the few that did make reservations the first night of the cruise. Despite 27 foot waves (the weather was rough for that particular cruise out of New York) we were able to enjoy a full level of service on night one, and through the entire cruise.
The Carnival itinerary we choose gave us two days at sea on the way to the islands and an additional two days at sea on the way back. Sitting on deck, going to any exotic location when you are escaping the cold of the Northeast is always enjoyable. In this respect Carnival and Norwegian provided plenty of locations to relax, chairs/lounges were comfortable, and there were always waiters to service your refreshment needs. We did find the drinks on the Norwegian had a little more kick to them. Norwegian also offered chairs on a lower deck which afforded a few of the ocean through an open rail barrier. On both lines, the upper decks had a Plexiglas barrier which inhibited the water view somewhat. Not a big deal and the feature was there for passenger safety.
The other thing we did notice on our days at sea was that Norwegian rarely closed any venue down. While at sea, you could choose any of the lounges to enjoy company or a drink as they were all operational. Carnival had 2 or 3 lounges that only opened only at night, even though the lounge number was equivalent ship to ship.
The second evening we dined in the Carnival Fleece (premium) restaurant. The service, the food preparation and presentation, were wonderful. We found the multiple servers and wine steward to be among the best we have experienced. The food quality and preparation was superior to the Norwegian, but Norwegian should be given the edge as their wait staff was slightly more conversant and personable. There was more of a language barrier on Carnival; the Norwegian attendants were more fluent in English. We would highly recommend that others make the premium restaurant choice on either of these cruise lines. Norwegian also provides multiple premium choices (IE: steakhouse, oriental cuisine, etc.).
I will not detail our onshore activity here as they are usually contracted services and can vary from port-to-port. We rented a jeep in one location, did some downtown shopping in another, and did one of those catamaran type sailing excursions in another (always a good choice). In Barbados we also enjoyed one of their special restaurants, Pisces, which we would do again if we return to Barbados.
My wife needs her beauty sleep so she enjoys room delivery (no additional charge) of coffee and light breakfast items. When we did this on Norwegian, we would receive a confirming call that they were bringing your room service. This was a nice touch as you could at least throw a brush through your hair or otherwise be semi-presentable when answering the door. You would fill out the typical room service card and request a specific time of delivery. Norwegian seemed to always be within 5 minutes of the requested time. On Carnival they did not call beforehand, and although given a half hour window of delivery they missed that window more than half the time. Although we did not avail ourselves of any other room service dining period, we did note that the Carnival room service menu for lunch/dinner items was very limited. Norwegian, virtually matched the dining room offerings.
On the last night we ordered coffee for the morning. It was supposed to be delivered between 6:30 and 7:00. At 7:15 I noted the message light on the phone. The message, noted as being left at 6:56 AM (we were both up and never heard it ring/buzz), said they were running 45 minutes behind and that if we still wanted the room service we should call back. I did, but they never delivered (we were in the room until 8:50 AM). I had the feeling they just didn't want to do room service on the final morning. If this was the case, they should just have said so, or noted that room service was not possible on the final morning of the cruise.
We choose to eat in the main dining room for breakfast on two occasions, and of course, we were grouped with others, once with two other couples at a table for six, and the next time with another couple in a booth. The first time, the food was good. I choose multiple menu items, including eggs benedict. It was prepared in the typical fashion with two English muffins, etc. Although not outstanding it was a pleasurable breakfast, including the company in both cases.
The second morning, we entered the main dining room only 1 half hour before they were scheduled to close for the morning. This time the eggs benedict included only one muffin, all other portions were much smaller and the plates were being removed almost before we were finished.
We also tried the main dining room for one of our lunches just to be sure we were giving the experience a fair chance. It was 12:07 and we were led to a long table that already had 10 people sitting at it. I looked at the menu, wherein I could not find a choice to suit my appetite (I think it was Indian theme day or something). With those at the table already being served, and trays of dishes banging over our heads, and less than two minutes at the table, my wife read my mind and we were out of there in a flash. The Matre D was local at that point and he questioned why we chose to leave so quickly, but we apologized for leaving and just noted we changed our minds and were heading for the buffet deck.
We went to the Lido deck, where although very crowded with long lines, the food was of good quality and prepared nicely. Tables were also cleared in a timely fashion and there was a good choice of tables for the number of people choosing to eat at this venue.
The next day we opted for a late lunch, and remembering the good experience on the Lido deck, we returned to this area. Even though we were only half way through the lunch schedule, most of the serving lines had already been shut down. This forced more people to fewer serving locations, and hence, longer lines. We stood in line for about 10 minutes, with no movement. We then left to find another serving venue and found that the line was much shorter by the pool service area. We noted through the rest of the trip that the lines were always shorter here although we did not eat in this area again.
I believe we were also spoiled by Norwegian with their scheduled entertainment. On every night, even through the rough water portion of the cruise, they ran two complete Las Vegas style shows. We have been to Vegas, multiple times, we have seen shows in New York City and other major cities, and we were as pleased by Norwegian Cruise Lines Shows as almost anything I have seen. Each night show was offered at 7:30 and 10 PM. The early show coincided with our dinner reservation standard of 5 PM (the Carnival did not serve in any dining room until 5:45 PM and the premium restaurant opened promptly at 6 PM).
We started to watch one of the shows on Carnival but the music schedule for that night was not to our liking (Norwegian also had one night where the genre of music was not our style). The rest of the week, on Carnival, sometimes one show was scheduled, sometimes two shows. From the show titles in the ships daily newspaper you could not determine the genre on Carnival. One Carnival show title was Take II. I asked the purser, and someone else at the information desk what the genre was and they couldn't tell me. (Norwegian would state that the genre was Andrew Lloyd Weber music, or 50s / 60s theme, etc., along with a show title). On Carnival, one night the show consisted of Karaoke from the audience, hosted by the cruise director (a man with a very entertaining personality). I think I have watched American Idol for a total of about 10 minutes, imagine my take on this entertainment offering.
One item that stood out on Carnival was the receipts that you received for drinks. The Carnival receipts were always totaled at the bottom, including the cruise standard of 15% gratuity per order. On the first bill we tried to tip extra and the server told us it was not necessary. On Norwegian they left an area for an additional tip on each receipt, which left you feeling that additional was expected. We usually tipped more, and even tried not tipping extra on a couple of occasions. The return service of those that were tipped extra was always at a higher level than those that were not. Norwegian should follow Carnival's lead here, although a couple of extra dollars on each receipt does not add up to a lot over the extent of the cruise. It was just an annoyance.
Another positive Carnival feature was the offerings in the gift shops (and daily trinket specials). We found the pricing on par with shopping at home with some items being in the class of a bargain. On Norwegian my wife purchased a watch (economy level) and a piece of jewelry. We considered both items reasonably priced but not necessarily bargains. On Carnival she purchased a watch (even though two were returned while we were shopping because the purchasers said they were defective). Ironically, when we arrived home the watch had already stopped working, no real problem here as it only required a $2 Radio Shack battery. It is our guess that the cruise lines purchase bulk, and that some of the items may not have been the hottest of sellers in stores, hence the battery expired based upon the length of time from product assembly to actual sale. Carnival offered logo tee shirts at 2 for $20, and other Carnival logo items at very reasonable pricing. They even offered a Carnival carry-on type bag (with wheels) for $24. On the last day of the cruise we also opted for a couple of 'professional' backdrop style photos for $20 for each 8x10. Earlier in the cruise they actually offered 8x10 'roving photographer' type photos for only $11, typical for both cruise lines.
Debarkation was very smooth and took less than an hour. Port ratings as follows: Boston # 1, Ft Lauderdale 2, and New York 3 or further down the list (terrible).
The overall performance of the cruise lines on a scale from 1 to 10 based upon our experience? We used this scale;
1 - Camping for a week in a pup tent, with rain the whole week 3 - Roadside sleep cheap on major US Interstate highway with trucks engines running outside all night 5 - Standard economy business class hotel, with breakfast buffet 7 - Upper level business class hotel with full service amenities 9 - 5-star luxury service in all respects 10 - Incomparable adventure, book your next before you get off the boat
Summer 2004, Norwegian Majesty, Boston-Bermuda-Boston; 9
Fall 2003, Norwegian Dawn, New York, Bahamas, New York; 8
Spring 2004, Carnival Legend, Ft Lauderdale, exotic Caribbean, Ft Lauderdale; 6
Please enjoy whatever venue or line you choose. Carnival offers more bargains, and draws the first time cruiser. They also own Princess, Cunard, Costas, Holland America, Yachts of Seaborne and Windstar. I understand that Princess line is more like Norwegian. We may try a Princess cruise but most likely will avoid Carnival. Cruisers talk, and I heard interesting things relating Royal Caribbean experiences. We even docked next to their ships, and they were all impressive. As of yet I don't have enough to foster an opinion (we will try them someday). I'll be checking Norwegian for another cruise this summer.
We just returned from the 8 day Western Caribbean Cruise on the Legend. We booked an extended balcony room on the Panorama deck. (deck 8). This was the top deck of cabins. We assumed that this was he best position on the ship. However above is the Lido deck and pool area. The sounds of the band , people dragging chairs across the deck and the midnight deck/ line dance party can all be heard in your cabin loud and clear, from 6 am when the breakfast service starts until at least midnight. So my only real criticism is this inherent defect in the ship. There is apparently no sound insulation between the Lido deck and the cabins below. I was not the only person to recognize this. So if booking this ship, get a cabin on deck 7 or below and this problem takes care of itself. Now let's get to the good stuff. We chose this itinerary due to the ports of call. These are not like the ports one is used to in the Caribbean. If you want 2000 jewelry stores, duty free liquor, and 5 starresorts do not take this cruise. If you want nature, adventure, and intellectual stimulation take this cruise.
Belize: I arranged a tour online before the cruise. We took a local water taxi to Caye Caulker. Belize is surrounded by coral island. Some small, some not so small. The resorts and activities are on these islands. So from Belize City one must go by boat to snorkel. These boats are not your average tender. The are long and narrow with 2- 200 HP outboards. They go REAL fast to get to these islands. They are an excursion in themselves. Once on Caye Caulker we found the tour company shack. My wife and I went with another couple snorkeling off this island. This island is a lot like Gilligans' Island, primitive. Our tour guide was Ramsey. He took us to snorkel over the coral reef. The water was crystal clear. The fish were abundant. After two stop on the reef, we went to Shark/Ray Alley. Here we snorkeled with 8-10' nurse sharks (docile) and huge stingrays. Ramsey picked the sharks up and we pet them. The same with the sting rays. He claims to have named them and talks to them while there. I did not hear them answer. In my opinion this was superior to Stingray City, Grand Cayman due to the fact that we were the only ones there. Unlike Stingray City where there are dozens of boats and hundreds of people. We then took the water taxi back to Belize City, making several stops along the way. One of them being at Caye Chapel, an island entirely covered by a beautiful Golf resort. The ultimate golf experience for golf nuts. They fly you in from Belize City to golf here. From Belize City we took the tender back to the ship, anchored 5 miles off shore to protect the coral reef. Virtually no shopping here.
Costa Rica: Here we took the Sloth Sanctuary/Canoe tour .offered by the ship. This tour was brand new. I highly recommend this fascinating tour. We went by air conditioned bus thru the city of Limon to the rain forest to the sanctuary. It is in a beautiful, lust jungle setting. We viewed a short video that has been featured on Animal Planet. It explains their work there. Then we met Buttercup, A 3 toed sloth. She is a permanent fixture there at the sanctuary. We were able to pet her and take photos with her. We also saw the baby sloths and Millie a mature 2 toed sloth, who also lives at the sanctuary. After and delicious tropical fruit platter and ice cold lemonade, we boarded a small canoe for a peaceful ride thru the jungle. Our guide pointed out iguanas, birds and other wildlife in the rain forest. Wild bananas, bamboo and coconut palms were everywhere. The tour ended with a leisurely walk thru the rainforest. There we saw blue land crabs, fluorescent fungi , cutter ants. and sloths . The sloths were high up in the canopy . One the way back to the ship we saw the Dole banana plantation. Further on the bus driver spotted some howler monkeys up in the trees by the roadside.. We got off the bus for a look at them. They truly live up to their name. They raise a terrible ruckus. A great way to end our tour. Back at the dock there is a flea market where beautiful, unique, exotic wood handicrafts can be purchased for reasonable prices. No diamonds just handicrafts. Also the coffee they are famous for is here. We bought beautiful hand made rosewood boxes . Costa Rica also grows exotic hardwoods as a renewable crop.
Panama: Here the ship docks in Colon, the port on the Atlantic side. Here we left the ship and after passing the naked people we made our way to where the local tour guides wait to take people on tours, mainly to the canal. They are very aggressive so beware. We found a fellow who had a SUV type vehicle, as there were four of us. Our guide took us up to Gatun Locks. Here we saw the lock operation up close. We watched as the ships are led into the locks by the locomotives they use to guide them. The doors close behind them and the water is pumped causing the ship to rise. This is an incredible site to see. Then we crossed the locks and went up to Lake Gatun. Here we see the amazing sight of ships sailing above sea level. We then went all around the canal zone viewing the former US military installations. From there he took us into Colon for some shopping. Once again, no jewels but lots of bargains. He would have taken us anywhere we wanted to go. The ship charges a minimum of !00 dollars for a canal tour. We paid 100 for all four of us and as our guide said, he took us places where the tours never go. Don't be afraid to go out on your own. Just use your head and tell the guide what time you have to be back . The canal is a must see!!!
Now about the ship. The room was nice and comfortable. Our room steward, Alberto from India was the best. The room was always perfect and he was never intrusive. Except for the afore mentioned problem, the room was fine. The balcony is private and is a real nice place to relax and have a cigar or your morning coffee. The decor of the ship is a bit over the top but who cares. The food on the Lido deck is plentiful and delicious. The variety was endless. There is a midnight buffet every night. All food served on the Lido deck was superb. Service there was great there too. The dining room is 2 tiered. The food there was also great. The desserts were especially good. However Carnival no longer offers free espresso and cappuccino after dinner, as was the case in the past. Also the dining room has a lot of tables for 2. We prefer to dine with others so we were able to switch seating assignments. However we had to switch to early seating. Not a big deal. This cruise has made me take back most of the negative things I've said about Carnival in the past. The service on this ship, to a man, was outstanding . I was really impressed. Keep up the good work Carnival. If anyone has any questions feel free to email me. BON VOYAGE !
It's difficult to describe the full experience aboard a Carnival ship since it varies from exceedingly good to awful. First, don't expect Carnival to pamper you like some Cruise Lines. They spend a great deal of time explaining why things are the way they are instead of fixing them. For instance, my electronic access card demagnitized three times while i was using the internet cafe, each time my card was replaced they went to great length to tell me the things i must be doing wrong, instead of preventing the problem.
What else, I stood in line for 20 minutes waiting to order a cup of coffee and left disgusted. Ah...then there was a fire in the galley....Room Service at breakfast only offers unheated items. Drinks in the bars were generally weak and $5 each. Try the Casino bar for the standatd shot and 1/2, otherwise the drinks are weak. It is a wonder that anyone could afford to get drunk, but there were many more drunks than I've noticed on other cruise lines.
The food at the buffet was usually better than the food in the dining room, but careful dodgingthe crowds. I saw one staff member hit a passenger in the head with a full pan of dirty dishes. While using the restroom I noted a couple of male employees who failed to wash their hands after urinating. YUK. One was a waiter.
The cabins are spacious, the ship is beautiful. As another person wrote its better to skip the casino as payouts seemed few and far between. Bingo jackpots were absurdly low. Most shows and events directed by the cruise staff started late.
Luggage was handled competently. Check in is arduous and slow compared to other cruise lines. Tips are automatically charged to your cabin account, so be sure to visit the purser to adjust them as you feel the need. I heard one passenger complain that she did not feel like paying $7 per day in tips to the cabin steward for "turning down the bed"
We gave our cabin steward $11 per day because she was EXCELLENT. If you want to have an experience similar to staying at a luxurious hotel with poorly trained employees and food then consider carnival. Otherwise there are MANY better ships and cruise lines out there.
PRE-CRUISE: This was the sixth cruise for my husband, Roger, and I. We flew to Fort Lauderdale a day early via US Airways. This was our first time on US Airways, and we were disappointed with how little room there was between seats and that we had to seat separately on both legs of our trip to Fort Lauderdale. Otherwise, the flight was uneventful and arrived safely on time.
We had booked our pre-cruise stay at the Ramada Fort Lauderdale Airport/Port Everglades free due to multiple stays at like hotels. Their website claimed a restaurant, bar, and free transportation to and from the airport and pier, so we figured this was a deal we couldn't beat. After picking up our luggage, we phoned the Ramada to ask where to catch the van, and they directed us to an area to wait nearby. We waited . and waited . and waited . almost an hour. Others waiting on other hotels had waited more than an hour. We were one of the lucky ones picked up within an hour.
Upon arrival, I was very disappointed in the appearance of this Ramada. As Rogerattempted to check us in, they asked for a credit card for the stay. Roger called me over to the desk to discuss the problem, and the clerk explained to us that they had been unable to verify this as a free stay, so he simply wanted the credit card to get us checked in. He said he would continue to get it verified, but the credit card would be required. I told him that we wouldn't be staying if this wasn't free, so get it verified or we're leaving. Within fifteen minutes, they had it verified, and we were in our room. The room was fine.
We had reservations that evening at the Blue Moon Fish Company, a dinner recommendation from Chris, aka "IAmCruising", so we decided to catch a taxi over to that area and then just wonder around until time for dinner. The taxi driver asked us how we ended up at that "dump" referring to our hotel. The taxi dropped us off at the restaurant, and we strolled down Commercial Avenue.
We eventually ran into Athena's Grill by the Sea, with doors wide open, good music playing, and a bar. We asked the host at the door if we could just have a seat at the bar for a while, and he welcomed us in. We both ordered a drink, but when offered table, explained that we weren't eating there. Within just a couple of minutes, a server placed a basked of pita bread and humus dip in front of us - complimentary. This appetizer was delicious, and we stayed longer than we'd intended. We enjoyed interacting with the bartender and the various servers dashing by. They invited us back at 10:30 pm, when they had belly dancers performing with guests! This invitation sounded good to us, so we headed out at just the right time for our dinner reservations. We strongly recommend a visit to Athena's Grill by the Sea during your visit to Fort Lauderdale - the food looked great, too!
We strolled back to the Blue Moon Fish Company, where we were immediately seated at a table overlooking the Intercoastal Waterway. We had read about this on the website, and I was worried that it would be chilly eating by the water this time of year. Not a problem as they had large sheets of transparent plastic between us and the outside, a perfect solution to allowing us to enjoy the view without the chill. Everything on the menu looked great. We had a fabulous Soft Shell Crab Claw and Sushi appetizer. This appetizer was huge and delicious. Our entrees were equally delicious. The restaurant was really busy this evening, and yet our server was attentive and personable. We also strongly recommend this restaurant, but remember to make reservations before you go!
After dinner, we strolled back to Athena's and ordered drinks again at the bar, but by then travel fatigue was starting to settle in, and we were still 45 minutes from the belly dancers' performance, so we caught a cab to return to our hotel. We were really tired, but we were awakened repeatedly throughout the night by a man who seemed to be fighting with his girlfriend by cell phone in the courtyard outside our room.
DAY ONE: The next morning, we joined a crowd at the entrance of the hotel restaurant to be seated for breakfast. One server was working the entire restaurant, seating and serving guests. We strongly do not recommend this hotel or restaurant! As we visited with other guests during breakfast, we were told the van was taking two separate trips to the pier with guests, and they were loading first come, first served, without guarantee that you would get a seat on either trip. At this point, we decided to simply catch a taxi again. The taxi arrived and whisked us away before the hotel van had even loaded up for the first trip. We had good experiences with every taxi driver in Fort Lauderdale.
We arrived at the Carnival terminal by 11 a.m. Carnival representatives were milling around in the crowd outside the terminal, and one of them indicated that we should go on in the terminal. As we and several other guests attempted to enter the terminal, a Carnival representative instructed us all to go back outside until our documents had been processed by the Carnival representatives on the sidewalk. So, we all poured back outside. The Carnival representative out there said that wasn't true and went back inside to talk to the Carnival representative. Shortly, she returned, and all the Carnival representatives outside started processing our paperwork on the sidewalk. There was no order, just who could shove their paperwork in front of a rep just when she completed those of the previous guest. The "Fun Passes" had no purpose in this chaos. Once we had a green sticker on our boarding passes, we were allowed to enter.
We walked past the terminal desks where this process normally occurs, and no one was there. I'm not sure why this procedure was so different, confusing, and inefficient, compared to our other cruises, but this was our first time leaving from the Fort Lauderdale terminal. We were among the first to get our Sail 'n Sign cards and have a seat in the terminal. At about 12:30 pm, they allowed us to board the ships, getting our pictures taken by the ship photographers and security as we loaded. We had no difficulty finding our room, an 8I balcony in the front to mid-ship area. Our cabin steward indicated that our room wasn't quite ready, so we dropped off our carry-on and headed up one set of stairs to the Lido deck for sun, drinks and food!
At the top of the stairs we went up to the Lido deck was the Salon. Roger realized he had forgotten something in our room, so he ran back down while I lingered at the Salon, looking at their specials and contemplating making a manicure appointment. One of the salon girls approached me asking if I had ever had the Seaweed Massage, pointing to it on the specials. I said, no, noticing it was $176, and she said that their model, one of the dancers, for the spa tour today was sick and they needed a model. She offered me the massage free if I would allow people to come and go as I was given my massage. YEAH! So, by the time Roger returned, I was booked as a massage model in an hour and had a manicure booked for the next day.
We found our way to the casual restaurant and ordered pizza and drinks. What a great way to start the cruise. We had a brief time to tour the ship before I had to report to the salon. That massage was so wonderful! And, the people touring the salon were interesting. Some of the people touring were embarrassed to come in the room where she was working on me. That was funny, because I was mostly covered and nothing inappropriate was showing . after they left, the masseuse said, "Americans are so funny about this!" Another time, a group was making sarcastic remarks about the prices, which hurt her feelings. If you're touring the salon remember the workers there have feelings, too . no need to be rude! She finished my massage just in time for the muster drill, ordering me to drink one of those 44 ounce bottles of water before drinking anything else to complete the cleansing! My skin felt so smooth, and I was so relaxed.
The muster drill was fairly painless, and the ship didn't start sailing until well after we were all back on deck without our life jackets. But, it was chilly! We had planned a meet with some BB friends, but didn't connect with any of them, and quickly moved into a part of the ship that was more sheltered from the chilly wind.
We moved on to karaoke - no one was there all week; the first time we haven't enjoyed karaoke. We went to the liquor tasting at the gift stores. Then we got ready for our late dinner seating. We were seated at a table for four in the upper level, and no one joined us at our table the first night. Our servers were Davor and Margarette. They were wonderful, remembering our likes and dislikes and making excellent recommendations.
I was so relaxed from my massage and so tired from traveling the prior day and having my sleep interrupted the night before, I said I was ready to make it a night, so we missed the rest of the activities that first night.
DAY TWO: We love sea days, but the weather was still chilly, so I opted to stay inside most of the day, while Roger wondered out for some sun off and on. We rested well and woke up refreshed and opted for breakfast at the Unicorn on the Lido deck.
Late morning, we listened to the Travel and Adventure Talk by our CD, Brett Alans. We quickly realized that Brett was our CD on our very first cruise in 2000 on the Sensation, and Brent, the assistant CD, was on our most previous cruise on the Paradise - small world! We had planned to do our own thing at two of the ports, but we were undecided about Martinique. This talk helped us pick a great ship excursion in Martinique - more about that later.
We again visited the Unicorn for a light lunch before our afternoon activities. The Unicorn has four stations: Asian, Deli, American, and another that changed each day. Plus a salad bar, dessert bar, and pizza were available. The food was great there!
After lunch, Roger and I went to the Art Auction Preview before I left for my manicure appointment. I rejoined Roger for the remainder of the Art Auction and found that he had purchased a lovely piece of art by Tarkai. We're anxious for it's arrival at our home. The auctioneer was Charlie, who we had met at previous art auctions on the Paradise - small world!
Tonight was our first formal night, so we quickly got ready for the Captain's Cocktail Party at 6:45. We enjoyed the free drinks and appetizers, and we visited every photography station to have our picture snapped. We did this every night, getting some great pictures to take our memories back home.
We again returned our late dinner seating and again we were alone at a table for four. We were very disappointed, because we love getting to know people over dinner. At that point, though, we felt obligated to stay with our servers. After dinner, we went to the first of the ship's big shows - Christopher Alan Graves in Singin' with the Big Band. It was a very good show.
DAY THREE: Our second sea day - did I tell you we love sea days? The weather was getting warmer as we traveled south, and we loved it. We again ate breakfast and lunch in the Unicorn, laying out on the deck in between. The pool sections are so segmented on this ship that there are a limited number of deck chairs in that area. All of these were "reserved" early in the day. Unfortunately, there were so many people in the pools and hot tubs, we were afraid to take the reserved seats for fear they were those of people nearby. So, we were constantly relegated to deck chairs in the hinder regions of the ship. We really don't mind, but we would have liked to occasionally be near the action. The shopping talk was the morning, but we didn't consider these strong shopping ports for things we look for. We had lots of sun time, relaxing, dozing, reading books, drinking, and eating. We got ready for the evening, spent some time in the Sports bar with one of our favorite bartenders, Danquala, and made some friends. Dinner, again alone at our table, we simply didn't enjoy our dinner experiences much because of this. After dinner, we wondered around the ship and decided not to go to the show this night, which was The Magic of Brett Alans & Roger Homefield. Instead we visited the Colussus Lobby Bar, where David Davol was playing some great tunes on his guitar. We and some other couples visited with one another, tapped our toes, and danced to his tuned, and we all had to buy one of his CDs before he called it night and so did we.
DAY FOUR - ST. MAARTEN: Our first port day was 7 am to 3:30 pm. We slept in a little, had a light breakfast in the unicorn, and then caught a water taxi ($5 for trips all day) into the city. With six ships in port, the city and taxi drivers were busy. We visited all the shops we were interested in and took our purchases back to the ship, and then changed clothes to head over to Orient Beach. We road the water taxi into the city again, then caught a cab there to Orient Beach. The taxi driver said, "Turn right for the nude beach, and turn left for the less-nude beach." We turned left. Orient Beach was a hub bub of activity. Lots of chairs, umbrellas, restaurants, and bars lined the beach, with music, food and drinks. Parasailing and jet skis were available for rental.
We wondered down the beach until one of the restaurants tempted us. We shared a large plate of grilled swordfish - delicious, and settled into chairs for a relaxing afternoon with rum punches and sun. We did see some nudity along this beach, but it was really no big deal . really. When we returned to the ship, and the ship started pulling away from the port, a guy was running up the pier shouting for the ship to wait. Lots of people took his picture, so I bet he can find it on the Internet somewhere. I doubt he'll ever be late for a ship again.
Upon returning to the ship, we got ready for the evening again, and once again enjoyed our dinner meal alone. Tonight was the next big show with the Carnival Legend Dancers performing Jazz Hot. It was a great show.
DAY FIVE - BARBADOS: Our second port day was Noon to 9:30 pm. Another relaxing morning to wake up slowly, have a leisurely breakfast, and sun until we were pulling into port. It was fun watching the ship dock. We shopped at the port shops, then caught a taxi for a tour of the island. Our tour guide was only so-so, but this is a beautiful island. At the conclusion of the tour, we asked him to drop us off at the Boatyard.
The Boatyard is such a happening place. We arrived after 3 in the afternoon, and the crowd was already clearing out. We were about to use their facilities to change into our beach wear. Our entrance fee got us chairs, umbrellas, and a couple of drinks. Again jet skis and parasailing was available, and there was a trampoline and rope swing for play out in the water.
We were approached by several native vendors, and I'm a sucker for those folks. Ended up buying some jewelry and a really cool small painting! The drinks were strong. We had our very first ever fried flying fish - wow, great stuff. Someone said happy hour was starting in the bar, so the crowds starting moving up to the bars. We were the last to leave the beach after we enjoyed a wonderful sunset.
Taxi drivers were wondering up and down the beach looking for fares, and we asked each of them where the best restaurant was on the beach. They all recommended Lobster Alive that was in walking distance down the beach. So, we gathered our stuff to go there. It was a small hut right on the beach, with tablecloths and candlelight, soft music and ambience.
Here's how their menu describes the "Main Event (Live from the Tank)": "Southern Caribbean lobsters are mostly big and well meated. Our prices are by weight per serving as in our suggestions below. Servings are usually one half of a split lobster. Par-boiled in seawater, to order, then finished in the shell on the barbeque with heaps of garlic butter!! Variations at your request." The small serving was $70 and the extra large serving was $100.
On our first formal night aboard the ship, I sent back the lobster again, and I intend to never eat the lobster in the dining room of a Carnival ship again. It simply is not good! The lobster served at Lobster Alive was fabulous, and I was so happy to enjoy it. Lots of cruise ship passengers were there with us, and we were all taking pictures for one another. The servers in the restaurant were delightful and personable as well. When we were ready to leave, they had a taxi driver right outside to return us to our ship. We were so tired, we went straight to bed, with wonderful dreams and memories of our day in Barbados! We missed the Talent Show this night.
DAY SIX -- MARTINIQUE: This was a short port day from 7 am to 1:30 pm. We had heard so many negatives things about trips into the city, we opted to take a ship excursion called Fun, Sun, and Sailing that didn't leave until 10:30 am. That allowed us to sleep in and again enjoy a nice breakfast, before joining our excursion. Two catamarans picked us up right next to the ship. We sailed for about 45 minutes across the water, while the catamaran's French crew entertained us and served us drinks and snacks. One of the crew posed each couple for pictures all around the catamaran. During the return trip back home, he showed us our digital pictures, with options to buy a CD of the pictures - they were really good pictures, but his prices were high. The sail across the water was very relaxing and we enjoyed the sun and the water.
We anchored in a small cove of a black sand beach. Some of the passengers, including Roger, snorkeled right off the boat up by the cliffs. The rest of us, including me, took a small skiff ashore. After about an hour, we all boarded again to head to the bat caves. We took turns visiting the bat caves in the small skiff. They were both interesting and smelly. Then we took another 45 minutes to sail back to the ship. A wonderful day in Martinique! We arrived as the ship was sounding it's horn signaling it's impending departure.
When we arrived at dinner tonight, we asked our waiters to invite another couple they were serving who were also eating alone if they'd like to join us. They did, and it was our most enjoyable dinner in the dining room all week. After dinner, we went to the show to see Hypnotist Mike Harvey, a very interesting show before bedtime.
DAY SEVEN: Our third sea day was also our second Formal Night. We enjoyed hanging out on the deck all day, with breakfast and lunch in the Unicorn nearby. Earlier in the week, we had asked our lead server, Davor, which night would be best to book the Golden Fleece Supper Club. He suggested either the night we were in St. Maarten or our second formal night, so we had booked a table in the Golden Fleece Supper Club for this night.
The food was very good, and the service was excellent. Eating at the Supper Club made me realize what I missed in the dining room. The servers are moving so fast and furious all the time trying to move every person at every table through all the courses. When we were seated in the Supper Club, we were informed that this was our table for the whole night, no hurry. There were so many good selections in each course, it was hard to select just one. I settled on the Surf and Turf, trepidatiously, but both the steak and lobster were good. It was well worth the $25 charge for the food and service we received. Unfortunately our table was behind a divider where we couldn't see the entertainers or the dance floor. So, we only wondered out to the dance floor once, even though we both love to dance. After dinner, we went to the show, Take II, starring the Carnival Legend Dancers, which again was very good.
DAY EIGHT: Our last sea day - our last leisurely breakfast and relaxing day in the sun. We went to try to "Win a Cruise" at bingo, before the Debarkation talk. There was no early disembarkation on this ship, so we had to get tags to allow us to be among the first to leave the ship, because our flight home was at 11:30 am. After lunch, we opted to relax on the deck in the sun for most of the afternoon, and one last dinner with Davor and Margarette, who were wonderful. We visited a couple of bars after dinner, but decided to go to bed early after packing our bags and placing them outside our doors.
DISEMBARKATION: We awoke early and grabbed coffee and a quick bite for breakfast before joining the early departure group. We had no problem finding our luggage, because we tied the Carnival bags from all the pictures we purchased on the handles. We caught a taxi back to the airport and only waited a short time before returning home in time to relax in our own home watching the Super Bowl. On our return US Airways flights, we were seated together all the way home - very nice.
All in all, another wonderful cruise. Our activities were much different on this cruise than on others, but still a wonderful cruise.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Golden Fleece Supper Club, David Davol playing his guitar in the Colussus, Danquale the bartender in the Sports Bar, Orient Beach in St. Maarten, Boatyard in Barbados, a meal at Lobster Alive at the Boatyard in Barbados, eat some flying fish in Barbados, Martinique ship excursion "Fun, Sun, and Sailing", the Blue Moon Fish Company and Athena's Grill by the Sea in Fort Lauderdale
THINGS NOT TO DO: Ramada Fort Lauderdale Airport/Port Everglades, US Airways
Pictures can be seen by following this link: http://community.webshots.com/user/judyjbest
We were on the December 15, 2003 cruise to Belize, Limon and Colon. We have been on over 20 cruises and feel that Carnival gives you your monies worth. The embarkation at Port Everglades was a little over two hours long. That was not great for anyone but the elderly travelers were having a bad time with it. I do believe that the identification cameras were broken, I do know that there were only two working as we boarded. We were very happy with our cabin and our cabin stewardess was fabulous the whole 8 days. Our dining room table was well located and we had no problem with the wait staff. One time they did forget to bring me an appetizer, but you eat too much anyway on these cruises. The food was good but not fabulous and I have had better on Carnival. Do check out the deli on the lido deck as the sandwhiches are great.
The entertainment was OK, not as good as we have had on Carnival, but better than some cruise lines. The casino was great the first night. Then I should have justused it as a walkway to dinner. We had two preteens with us and they had a good time. A good group of kids, this time, except the last night a small group of ruffians tripped my son on purpose as he was going to the arcade. We have been on the Spirit also and I must say I do not like the location of the ardades on both of these ships. The kids have to walk in a walkway around the theatre and it can be an area where trouble may brew. I did call the pursers desk about this and they informed me they were aware of this group of teenagers and security had taken them away from the area. The only shore excursion we booked was in Belize to the Altun Ha Mayan Site. It was one of the best tours I have been on. Well worth the money. Even though we did not have great weather on the cruise we had a good time and would book again.
This is my opinion on the October 4 Carnival Legend cruise. First some background. My husband and I, both in our late 30's traveled with five other family members. My husband and I had an extended veranda cat. 8 room on the Panorama deck at the mid to back section of the ship. The other people in our group had cat. 8 rooms as well, one mid ship Panorama, and one forward on the Riviera deck. I only mention the others so that when I get into my comments on the "ride" you will know where the others were as well.
My husband and I have been on Disney, Princess, Premier and other lines, our most recent cruise being on HAL's Zuiderdam. Let me start by saying The Legend was everything HAL was supposed to be but wasn't. I can only think of three negative things about this cruise, and none are a "deal breaker." Let me get them out of the way quickly so I can tell you about the awesome time we did have.
First, the ride out in the Atlantic and the ride back in, basically the first dayand a half and the last day and a half, were really rough compared to ships that only cruise in the Caribbean. I did need to take Meclizine (Bonine), but I take that no matter how the waters will be. It was hard to walk, and especially hard to sleep since if you slept on your side, it was so rocky that it felt like you were constantly in danger or rolling out of bed. All members of our party experienced that feeling, regardless of location on the ship. Of course this is not a Carnival issue, but rather an issue of the ocean and the timing of the trip.
The second negative was that for some reason, the ventilation system in our room seemed to suck in odors from other areas of the ship. We often had a cigarette smoke odor or cooking odors permeating our room. It was annoying, but not such a big deal. I don't think it's possible when a bazillion rooms share the ventilation system, that this won't happen worse in some rooms than others. I mean, we WERE right under the Lido buffet, so of course we would get some cooking odors. The location under the Lido brings me to the only other negative thing. We constantly heard noise from the buffet area above us. We heard every fork drop, and every tray trolley rolling by. by the second night this was not really an issue and we had adapted. And again, that's the price you pay for being in such a convenient location.
EMBARKATION: We arrived at the terminal about 1:00, and although the line looked long, it moved continually and it seemed as if in no time were checked in and aboard the ship.
DECOR: Enough about the urns, think of them as hidden Mickey's and it turns into a game. This was our first Carnival cruise, and we anticipated a certain amount of "tackiness." I didn't find the decor to be tacky at all. Instead I noticed an immense attention to detail, from the intricate mosaics in front of the Colossus elevators, to the life like rings on the tree stump tables in the Enchanted Forest, to the back lit frescos decorating the sides of the Follies Lounge. I enjoyed how each separate area of the ship had an entirely different ambiance to it. Having so much to look out really made us want to get out of our room and walk around just to admire the ship. The different murals at each stairway, along with all the different hand blown glass vases also showed that attention to detail. Here is a hint. Stop at the purser's desk early on your first day and grab a map of the ship. They are out in the open, so you won't even have to wait in line. The only thing not on the maps are restrooms, but they are so plentiful that you can't walk more than a few yards without finding another set of them.
ROOM & ROOM STEWARD: The room was a nice size compared to older, smaller ships and on par with the newer larger ships of the other lines. I believe only Disney offers larger rooms in a similar cat. There was plenty of storage space, and much of the closet space could be adapted from shelves to hanging areas to meet ones needs. Each room (of the three I saw at least) had different art on the walls. That was a nice way of keeping the rooms from having a cookie cutter feeling. An interesting thing was that our bed was never made with a bedspread covering the whole thing. We noticed that instead of a bedspread, we had a modified coverlet type of thing that was made to fit over and cover only the bottom quarter or so of the bed. I have a feeling this is probably being phased in (some rooms we peaked into did have complete bedspreads) as an answer to the Norwalk problem. Also, it makes one less paranoid about the whole, when do the wash the spreads thing. by the way, they did wash blankets during the cruise. I often noticed them in laundry carts in passing.
Our room steward was great. We called to ask for a lounge chair for the balcony and to have the minibar unlocked. She said she was helping with luggage but would come by later. She managed to get to us within fifteen minutes. She also brought us the chaise for the balcony. The balcony was large enough to hold the lounge, a regular chair, a chair with a reclining back and a table. There was still room to open the door and move around as well. The room steward was pleasant, friendly and efficient. She kept the room immaculate and stocked and worked around our schedule so well that only once during the trip did we come to the room while her and her helper were finishing up. We had towel animals every day, and she kept the bath gel and shampoo stocked in the shower. I wanted to take that shower home with me. The pressure was so perfect, that I don't think I ever was able to wash my hair so quickly.
FOOD: Let me begin this topic by saying that eating on this ship was a full contact, extreme sport. I believe that is a good thing because I was able to taste some of everything and not feel like a pig. If you agree with the idea from the old days of cruising that eating is one of the most important things to do on a cruise, you will not feel out of place on the Legend. I haven't felt hungry in eight days, and to be honest, there were days where our group ate five or six complete meals AND snacks. We never made it to the open seating breakfast in the dining room, but did go to the breakfast buffet a few times. If the lines inside seem long, go outside by the pool area to the "late risers" breakfast. They serve the same things there including the eggs to order.
We also never made it to open seating lunch since there was such a huge variety at the lunch buffet, we would have worried we were missing something. Each day there was a different featured country at the "Taste of Nations." In addition to that there was a full salad bar, an Oriental section and the Rotisserie which had a daily selection of changing items. There were several desserts to choose from as well. If somehow you can't manage to find something from all that, there is the pizzeria offering at least six different types of fresh pie, calzones (more like a stuffed pizza) and Caesar salads. Not only that, but there is the Deli that is open from 11:00 am till 11:00 pm offering a variety of hot or cold sandwiches. Make sure you do a once around recognizance mission before deciding on what you want to eat.
The quality of the buffet food was above most other cruise lines buffets and actually above most of the land-based buffets I have been to. The "Taste of Nations" selections were as close to authentic as you could get when serving so many people. Some people have said the desserts were not so good at the buffet. While they were not of the higher quality as served in the dining room, they were still great and better than other ships buffet class desserts. The pizza was great, and that's hard to say being used to New York pizza. Fruit juices, lemonade, ice tea, milk, hot chocolate, coffee, tea and ice water were available at all times basically all over the Lido. Also, at most times, yogurt and boxes of cereal were also available.
Tea was served on sea days, but besides being to full, there was always a crowd, so we didn't do that. A variety of sandwiches and teas were available at that time. Also on sea days between 3:00 and 4:00, outside by the children's pool, all sorts of ice cream toppings are available. You can ask the attendant for whipped topping as well. Ice cream and frozen yogurt is available basically all around the lido 24 hours a day.
During dinner hours, the buffet operates as a "bistro." They offer some of the same selections as the dining room, and alternative selections as well. If the beef they are serving from the carving station is too rare, they will even throw it on the grill for you. They also offer chicken and steak upon request, and the desserts are basically the same as what's offered in the dining room.
Every night there was some sort of midnight buffet. There seemed to be a theme to each with one night featuring Oriental dishes or another featuring authentic Caribbean style dishes. There was also a dessert selection at the midnight buffets. Through the entire cruise, I can't think of a time when I saw an available dessert that had been offered previously. The last night featured the Gala buffet with the ice sculptures and fruit carvings cruising is famous for. There was a selection of desserts as well as appetizers, hot dishes and fresh fruit. While we encountered pretty short lines most nights, the Gala buffet line was extremely long and appeared to move slowly. Then again, I have never seen such high attendance at midnight buffets on other lines, and I am sure that is a factor.
If you somehow couldn't find anything at the midnight buffet, the 24-hour pizza area was available, not to mention the relatively quick delivery of room service. The room service menu was not as limited as other cruise lines, and our order arrived accurately, tasty and well presented.
WAIT STAFF AND DINNERS: Our wait staff was amazing. Some of our party are picky eaters, but they did their best to accommodate whenever possible. Our water and ice tea glasses were never empty, and when the waiter learned I liked the ships chocolate chip cookies (listed only on the children's menu) he brought a plate of them to the table each night as he gave us the dessert menus. Our mealtime (main seating, lower level) was neither rushed nor long and drawn out. Despite some of the party playing a joke on the rest of us by changing the seating order a couple of nights, this didn't confuse the wait staff. They were efficient, friendly and had no problems bringing us second entrees (thirds and fourths on lobster and crab leg night for some) and making sure we enjoyed our meals. If we wanted to try every appetizer or every dessert, it was not a problem. The fresh, warm bread selection varied to some degree from night to night, and although the basket was never left on the table, we were continually offered from it through the meal. The appetizers were tasty and well presented, and the soups were very good and tasted fresh and homemade. Try the chilled soups, as that is an interesting change from the norm. The salads varied little from night to night, and the dressings were plain compared to other lines, but I had my fill of Caesar salad from the pizza station. The beef entrees were always served at the doneness we ordered, and were well seasoned. The poultry entrees varied from chicken, to duck or quail, all with different sauces and accompaniments. There was always one of two seafood selections and a pasta offering that was also available as an appetizer. Veal, pork or lamb was also offered each night. There was often an offering from a foreign cuisine, and again the taste was authentic. This is unusual as most lines shy away from using spices to the degree recipes call for, since many people are not used to the different cuisines. The taste of India plate offered one night was amongst some of the best Indian food I have ever had. The amount and variety of vegetables was lacking, but some nights when I actually craved green food, the waiter was more than happy to bring a separate bowl of vegetables.
The dining room deserts ranged from very good to excellent. If I found I didn't care for one offering, there was always something else on the menu to tempt me. The warm flourless chocolate cake (similar to a chocolate soufflé) was so good that many of us had seconds of that. If you really take a liking to it, we were told it's available every night at The Golden Fleece.
We did not try the Golden Fleece since there was such a variety of food in the dining room, we couldn't pick one menu we were willing to miss.
ACTIVITIES: There was plenty to do or you could spend the day with a book or magazine. There were poolside activities on sea days, as well as indoor activities such as arts & crafts, the inevitable bingo, or game show type activities. There were art auctions on sea days with a special animation art and sports memorabilia auction the afternoon we were in Tortola. Currently the auction company is Park West. To be honest, I prefer (insert cruise line name here) Fine Arts, currently on Princess and supposedly being phased into Carnival. I like the other company's auctions better because they seem to have a larger variety of artists available, most offerings are framed but similar starting bids, and they emphasize buying art because you like it, and not just as an investment. That said, we did enjoy every auction and I'm currently trying to find the wall space for several new acquisitions ; )
CASINO: Aside from the usual table games, there are slots in basically every denomination from pennies to $5.00 and in every configuration from traditional cherries and bars to South Park or Harry Potter. We basically broke even on the slots. Although we didn't win any jackpot, we spent an enjoyable evening using little of our own money.
ENTERTAINMENT: There were three production shows as well as variety shows and comedy shows. "Take II" was the first production show. Although it seemed as if the writers were grasping with a plot, it was basically a tribute to all genres of movies and musicals. The special effects were pretty amazing (and at great cost we found out from attending the backstage tour). The singing and dancing were on par with most cruise lines with Disney outshining every line, and who wouldn't expect that?
The second show didn't seem like it was one of the major production shows by the way it was described in the Capers. It was "A Tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., featuring the Legend Dancers and Music by the Legend Orchestra." If I had been able to see beyond the Sinatra and Davis part and skip the orchestra thing, I would have taken the dancer line more seriously and realized it was an actual production show. Unfortunately not being too into those singers and kind of tired, we missed this show. Don't make that mistake too. The third production show was "Jazz Hot." It featured quite an extensive set, and the singing and dancing were really quite good.
We were told in the backstage tour that the lighting, sound, special effects, wiring, etc. cost Carnival so much and are so technically involved that we can expect to see these same shows for at least the next seven years on the Legend. A hint if you are traveling with children. The shows by their nature probably won't appeal to many kids. Also, be advised that these are Vegas style shows (two literally are from Vegas) meaning the dancers wear thongs and feathers. If you don't want to explain to your eight year old why the lady's butt is showing, you may not want to bring the kids to these shows. On that note, Camp Carnival did bring the group to each production show during the early show time. We happened to be sitting near the kids and noticed much fidgeting and some gawking.
PORTS: Having been to most ports, we did not take any shore tours electing to wander around on our own. The rest of our party took the basic tours at each island (coast to coast drive, scenic island tour, etc.) They were not too thrilled at those tours and said they seemed long and sometimes boring. I would guess the more active tours would probably be more engaging. Enough has been said about the ports that I will only comment on Tortola. True, not a lot to do there, but take it for what it is, a beautiful and yet to be spoiled Caribbean island. Although all we did there was walk to the main street and back, stopping at a craft market type thing on the way, it was truly our most enjoyable port.
DEBARKATION: Be warned, the "self assist" program is no longer a secret and many people did take advantage of it. The "self assist" program is for anyone choosing to somehow get all of their luggage off the ship themselves without checking bags the night before. We were left to gather in two lines, one on each side of the main lobby. We were in the casino, and some people's "New York" was starting to show by some comments people made regarding cutting the "line." In actuality, it was not a line but rather a mass. Still once that mass started moving, it moved quickly and before we knew it we were on the street looking for a cab. To give you an idea of how well the self assist program works, we were on line to leave at about 9:30. The line started moving by 9:45, and we were outside before 10:00. We were lucky getting a cab, in that a yellow cab driver approached us and in exchange for some walking to where he had parked, we bypassed a line of people waiting for their number to be called. Where it not for the self assist program, you wouldn't be seeing this review so soon.
The rest of our party used the traditional checking baggage method to disembark. by the time the couple who live a mile away from us called to say they had gotten in safe, we were unpacked, laundry sorted, food shopping and other errands done, and had our one-hour photos developed and in hand. They had not been able to get off the ship till sometime after 11:00, and that being on the highest deck as well.
SUMMARY: We booked this cruise because it left from New York. We really didn't have high hopes because we had heard so many comments about Carnival being "tacky" or the "Wal-Mart of cruising." When we attended the opening night show, the Cruise director (Brett Alan) told us he hoped his staff, the ships staff, and the cruise in general would exceed our expectations, and that was certainly the case. I have sailed on lines noted for their attention to detail, on lines noted for their food, and others for their "sophistication." This cruise got excellent marks in every one of those areas, not to mention all the wonderful, friendly and interesting fellow passengers we came in contact with as well. After cruising the Carnival Legend, I now know why Carnival's previous passengers are so loyal to the line. You can bet I will be sailing on Carnival's larger classes of ships in the future.
About us - We are in our very early 50's with a 21 year old son. We've each been on 10 previous cruises. The three of us went on this cruise. The itinerary and the convenience of sailing out of NY really appealed to us. If you were on board - I was the guy wearing the Cruise Critic hat all week.
Getting there and embarkation - We had sailed out of NY 5 times before this cruise and thought we had the routine down pretty well. Figured we would leave the house about 11:30 AM and be on board by around 1:00 PM. Wow, were we wrong! There were 5 ships in port that day and traffic was a nightmare. I was finally able to drop off my wife and son with the luggage around 1:30 PM and go park on the roof of the terminal. The line inside the terminal led first to the "Welcome Aboard Picture" and then snaked around to the actual check-in lines. The lines were long and moving slowly. The Carnival reps were checking paperwork as we got on line, but somehow the ladieswho wound up ahead of us on the check-in line got that far without filling out any paperwork. So we had to wait while they stood there filling out the forms. We finally boarded a little after 3:00 PM, and for the first time ever, all our luggage had gotten to our room before us. We were in cabin 5299, which is an aft facing cabin on the upper deck, with an extended balcony. The cabin was very nice, had two twin beds pushed together plus a sofa bed. Closet space was ample for the three of us. We had a bite to eat and went off to explore the ship.
The ship - The Carnival Legend is a beautiful ship! I had read about "the urns" but found that all the décor was really nice, including the urns. There are more lounges than I can remember, a nice size casino, a library, a chapel, and the fastest elevators on the seven seas! The layout and design were generally pretty good, but there were a few things I did not care for. In the Follies lounge, where the nightly shows are presented, there are several poles which obstruct the lines of sight; there is very little, if any, slope to the main floor so viewing from the rear of the lounge can be somewhat difficult at times with all the heads in front of you; and there is no bar service on the upper level due to the layout and design of that level. The Truffles dining room is two levels and the majority of the seating is designed for 2's and 4's. There were not that many large tables and the ones they had were taken by larger groups. We were disappointed by this design because we enjoy sitting at a large table and meeting people. We had a booth which sat just the three of us. On the outside, there is a lack of lounge chairs in the shade, which is something we have always enjoyed on other ships. But all in all, we really liked this ship!
Service - This is an area where I feel Carnival is lacking. Most of the service we received (purser, cabin steward, dining room, Lido buffet, and bar waiters) I can only describe as adequate but very perfunctory. On other lines (Royal Caribbean and Celebrity in particular) we have always felt pampered. I don't know whether this has anything to do with the automatic tipping, but the attitude of many of the staff was not very caring or hospitable.
Our cabin steward was a complete idiot. Other than cleaning the room and turning down the beds at night she obviously didn't want to be bothered with anything else. We asked her several times to unlock the mini-bar, but she never did. After the second request, I went to the purser and removed all the automatic tips for the cabin steward from our account. We asked the steward why there were no bathrobes in the cabin and after 2 days of stories and excuses we went to the purser to find out why there were no bathrobes in the cabin. It was news to the purser, and after making a few phone calls the purser had room service deliver bathrobes to our cabin. Carnival also provides beach towels each day to take ashore if you are going to the beach. One night she took the used beach towels from our room but didn't replace them. Unfortunately we didn't find out until about 11:30 PM when we came back to the room. The problem was we had to be off the ship and on the pier in Tortola at 8:00 AM the next morning for our excursion. We paged her, but since she was off duty the call was rerouted to room service who told us the laundry was closed and they couldn't help us. So, it was back to the purser who also didn't want to be bothered. At this point I asked for the hotel manager but he was also unavailable, so I left a message. I also asked the purser to inform the cabin steward that if we did not have beach towels when we left the ship then I planned to purchases towels from the gift shop at the beach and the cost was coming off her tip. I went back to the room and not 15 minutes later there was a knock at the door and someone from room service was standing there with 3 beach towels. Finally, on the last night, I had to call to find out where the liquor was that we had purchased and she was supposed to deliver to our room. She gave us some lame excuse about the "do not disturb" sign hanging on the door. I pointed out to her that was the "please make up room" sign which had been hanging there since the morning. I was going to leave her no tip at all, but my wife and son made me feel a little guilty so we agreed to put back some of it on the account.
Food - The dining room food was not spectacular but was pretty good. Unfortunately, the dining room service was very inconsistent. Our head waiter and assistant at our assigned table for dinner were superb! However, at the open seating for lunch, the service left a bit to be desired. We had to continually ask to have our water or iced tea refilled, and had to request coffee with the dessert. One afternoon the waiter actually brought coffee for my wife and me and ignored the other 4 people at the table. I'm still waiting for the salad that guy was supposed to bring me.
The Lido buffet was good, but we found it repetitious and it became boring after a few days. The burgers and hot dogs were good and the pizza was very good. It seemed that whenever we went to get lunch there, the lines were long and weren't moving very well, so more often than any cruise before we ate lunch in the dining room.
We did not try the Golden Fleece or the midnight buffets so I can't offer any opinion on those.
Room service had us laughing the whole week. I give them an A+ for promptness and C for accuracy. We ordered room service breakfast five times and some occasional snacks. Breakfast always arrived at the exact time we requested and the snacks came very quickly. The only problem was we never knew exactly what they were going to actually deliver. They would leave out items, add items, forget cups or napkins or silverware. On three mornings they came back a second time (on their own) with the missing cups or food. It became pretty funny. Upon uncovering the dishes one morning we discovered that they delivered enough food to feed a small army. They must have combined our order with 2 or 3 others and delivered it all to us. We had enough fruit to fill an orchard and a platter of Danish and croissants big enough to open our own bakery. They did get the cereal correct. The eight coffee cups should have tipped us off (since there were only 3 of us) but we were still half asleep when it arrived.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Legends café where they serve (for a small charge) specialty coffees and some yummy desserts. I particularly liked the black forest cake.
Activities - The assortment of activities on board were fun but I felt there should have been more, especially geared toward adults. Maybe after 10 previous cruises a lot of this stuff is old hat, but at times I was actually a little bored. It felt like they took the activities from a typical 7 day cruise and stretched them into 8 days instead of adding some extras considering all the time we had at sea.
Entertainment - The entertainment was great! From the shows in the Follies lounge to the music in the various other lounges. Whatever your taste in music it seemed there was something for everyone.
Fellow passengers - We had a very diverse group of passengers and everyone we talked to was really nice.
In our section of the dining room, the dress code seemed to be anything goes. On formal night most men wore suits and some tuxes. But there were quite a few wearing dockers and polo shirts and a few with jeans. On nights designated as "casual elegance" quite a few interpreted that to mean clean jeans.
There were a lot of little kids on board, but we hardly noticed them. I wonder where camp Carnival hid them? Some of the older kids were running around the ship and at times were a bit obnoxious.
On the last night, around 10:00 PM, as we were packing we heard a series of loud banging/crashing noises outside. We went out on our balcony to see what had happened and it turned out that someone had attempted to throw a lounge chair overboard. It hit several balconies on the way down and came to rest hanging over the rail of the balcony next door to us. Thank goodness nobody was hurt! We called security to report it and we later heard that there was a bunch of drunk teens up on the Lido deck creating a ruckus. It's a shame security couldn't throw them overboard.
The ports - We were lazy this time around and booked all our tours through the ship.
San Juan - We arrived in the afternoon which limited what we could do. We took the Bacardi Rum Factory tour since we had never done that before. It was actually pretty interesting and of course we bought a few bottles. After bringing the liquor back to the ship, we walked over to Senor Frogs for a few drinks and appetizers. Then it was back to the ship for dinner.
St. Thomas - We decided on the St. John island tour, which was basically a trip to Trunk Bay. Trunk Bay was beautiful! Wish we would have had a little more time there. Back on St. Thomas we took a taxi downtown for some shopping and got back on board about an hour before sailing.
Tortola - My wife and I took the excursion to Virgin Gorda and the Baths. It was well worth the money! The walk down the path to the beach (and back up) could be an excursion all by itself! The beach is beautiful and the boulders and rock formations are spectacular. We explored "the caves" and also found a nice shady spot on the beach to lay out and relax.
My son did the dolphin swim excursion and loved it. A word of advice - the dolphin swim sells out fast. If you want to do this excursion, book it as soon as you get on board.
Summary - The ship is beautiful, the itinerary was great and we had a truly wonderful time. The only downside is the subtle differences we felt with Carnival compared to other lines we have sailed. Would I sail on the Carnival Legend (or any Carnival ship) again? It wouldn't be my first choice, but if the itinerary and price were right - yes I would!
Before you cruise on Carnival Lines, read this first.
I am an avid cruiser and have been on about twenty cruises before. Here's my experience on the Carnival Legend. Our trip left from NY going to San Juan, St. Thomas, and Tortola.
BON VOYAGE! We met in NYC. Here we find hundreds of other passengers hurrying around trying to be sure that all their papers are in order. Once that task was accomplished we were ushered into lines very much like those at Great Adventure. We spent at least two hours on line. It was finally our turn on line when we find out that our dinner seating was incorrect. Those at the desk were unable to remedy the situation at that time but assured us that the maitre'd would "take care of us."
Once on the ship we were again shuffled around. We tried to find the maitre'd and was told he was "not available." In the meantime we found our cabin. We figured we would lock up our valuables. Our room safe would not open. We read the directions many times and made numerous attempts to open it. Weasked the cabin attendant; he gave us quick instructions from the hallway and then replied "I'm very busy now." We then went to the Purser's Desk and waited in another long line. We were "greeted" again with another mad face. We asked for a safe deposit box. She said, "Just use the one in your room." Finally after we explained she reluctantly gave us a box. So far our first three encounters with Carnival crew were negative. Hasn't anyone at Carnival heard of FIRST IMPRESSIONS??? Apparently not.
BON APPETITE The assistant maitre'd, Freddy was available at 3:30. We went to see him and found another LONG LINE of very agitated and upset customers. I watched as every customer walked away unhappy. I don't know why I thought I'd be treated any different. I explained that there must have been a mistake; we were given the wrong seating for dinner. I explained that we requested and were promised the late seating. He said "who promised you that?" He repeatedly said "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." I said if you are "sooo sorry, fix the problem." He said, "What do you want, you just booked this cruise, the customers who booked earlier take priority." He then went on to patronize us further and offer us a bottle of wine. AMAZING! Never, ever, ever, have I seen such TERRIBLE SERVICE! This all transpired one hour into the cruise.
I then convinced myself that this was not a sign of things to come. We all have "off"days, maybe it was just a bad day. As time went on we quickly realized that every staff member had a "bad day" EVERY day of the cruise! Staff members greeted you with an unhappy face, never eye contact or a smile.
We figured at least we have dinner to look forward to. It had been a TRYING experience so far. I'd have been better off staying at home! After complaining to the maitre'd about the treatment by his assistant we insisted on the late seating. We waited a long time to be served dinner and the restaurant was reminiscent of a large cafeteria with help scurrying around. Dinner was by no means worth the wait. The food was cold, the presentation was mediocre at best, taste and quality was poor. The chateaubriand tasted just like pot roast, lumpy potatoes, and frozen broccoli - And of course ICE COLD! YUCK! We were never asked if we liked the food, cared for more or different, etc. It was plopped in front of us, and if you didn't like it, too bad. Every night - the same thing. We ate because we were hungry, not because we liked the food or service.
Lunch was a similar experience. A crowded room, we could not sit alone. More TERRIBLE SERVICE! The food was a little better at lunch, but not much. Not surprisingly, the maitre'd did not circulate to the tables. Never did he ask how we were doing. My boyfriend explained that this is the first cruise he'd been on where he did NOT WANT TO EAT!
On the bright side dessert was usually very good. We really enjoyed the crème brule and soufflé dishes. The cappuccino and espresso was also a nice touch. My advice: skip dinner and go right to dessert.
You Get What You Pay For We learned another important lesson while cruising on Carnival. ANYTHING REALLY GOOD COST EXTRA MONEY.
We were recommended to try the Supper Club. It was touted for its elegant, top-notch cuisine and service. This is what I had expected for the entire cruise. Of course this was for an additional charge. The food at the supper club was delicious, beautifully presented, and even HOT! It was truly the only good meal we had in eight days. We had no worries about gaining weight on this cruise! While having dinner at the supper club we noticed the maitre'd dining there too. I don't blame him for not eating in the regular restaurant, Truffles. Obviously he expects a higher quality of food for himself than that of his guests.
Home Sweet Home (Our Cabin) Our cabin was decent sized and clean. Cabin service was also poor. Our server kept the cabin tidy, but did not appreciate requests made by us. It took FOUR HOURS to get laundry bags. He also mistakenly threw away or sent in to wash "Romance Champagne glasses" we bought. He put regular champagne glasses in their place. When we approached him about this he apologized and replaced them four days later. I called once to ask for an ashtray and he replied "didn't you call me once already?" I didn't realize that we were limited to one request per day. No special towel animals, etc appeared. Room service was crummy. The menu was limited to boxes of cereal and sandwiches. It took one hour to deliver 6 slices of cheese with crackers. Again, no smiles. I felt like a total IMPOSITION, not a guest.
Land Ho! The reason for our trip was due to the itinerary. The ports of call were San Juan, St. Thomas, and Tortola. San Juan was nice, did some shopping and sightseeing via horse and carriage. We passed on all Carnival excursions. In St. Thomas we visited Magen's Bay, considered the nicest beach. We met up with friends who were vacationing in St. Thomas and enjoyed the very scenic beach. More time in St. Thomas would have allowed for sightseeing. We only had until 2:00 PM in Tortola. We went to the beach again, not much to do there.
Lights, Camera, Action. SHOW TIME I must admit, the dancers were good and the singers were especially talented. The reggae band at the pool was really very good. The dancers should stick to dancing; not running other activities in which they seem annoyed to do. Bingo was TERRIBLE, only one game at a time. Hardly worth the walk there or getting up from the pool. Prize amounts were very stingy, almost comical. Three people split a winning of $100.00, hardly a win! Bingo cost $20.00 to play one game, very anti-climactic. A real disappointment for many. I won $8000.00 on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Although a smaller ship, they gave back much more to their guests. (Everything was top notch and the service was outstanding on Royal Caribbean, I am pleased to advertise their cruises.)
The health club was very nice but too small to accommodate this large ship. Only one machine was out of order, but all others seemed new and in good condition. We had to wait on lines to use machines.
The "parties" left a lot to be desired. The Captain's Party was crowds of people sitting and waiting for a drink that never came. (MORE POOR SERVICE.) The recreation staff overall did not make a good effort, or any effort to interact with the guests. On one port of call, several staff was on the tender with us and did not acknowledge any passengers in any way. I guess when they are "off" (duty) they are really OFF. In my opinion, when they are "ON" they are still "OFF!!!"
A guest talent show as nightly entertainment is not acceptable. I would never pay money to see that! No offense to the guests, but REAL entertainers should be paid, not using the guests whom you so badly treat.
The pools were really nice, but entirely too small to accommodate 2,500 guests. The chairs were spaced about ½ one-half inch apart so that you had to practically straddle the stranger sitting next to you to get up. The hot tubs were filled with children who snorkeled with goggles between your legs while you are trying to relax. (I'm not kidding either! ) Also, there is no staff to enforce the rules and regulations.
Home Sweet Home Our "vacation" ended back in New York. To our surprise three other ships docked at the same time. It was even worse than our arrival. TOTAL MAYHEM! It was as if the flood gates opened and annoyed, screaming people were let out. A big herd of cattle. In keeping with the true Carnival tradition the staff was totally unhelpful with our departure. Chaos ensued and it took almost three hours to get out of New York.
Last Impressions Overall the level of service was not commensurate with the physical structure of the ship. The ship itself is a little over a year old and is one of the nicest I've seen. It is very palatial in its appearance but very meager in its service. If another crew worked on this ship (those at Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress) it would be a perfect experience. Out of the 900 employees I only found ONE to give exceptional service. Her name is Tracy and she is an assistant maitre'd. (There are two on this ship..) She is the epitome of customer service. She made constant effort to assist guests, greet them, and be sure that they were happy. She takes a genuine interest in the guests, is hard-working, kind, well spoken, and friendly. Unfortunately the other staff members did not follow her lead. She should be put in charge of employee training and be held up as a role model. If the Carnival Legend had 900 Tracys, it would be an impeccable ship. Customer service overall was not lacking, it was totally ABSENT. After all, isn't this considered the HOSPITALITY industry?
I tell two friends, and they tell two friends. It seems very obvious to me that Carnival is not concerned with repeat business. They said this cruise will be memorable, and it was but not for the right reasons. This is my FIRST AND LAST experience with Carnival Cruise Lines. I know that most guests I spoke with echoed my thoughts. One comment was particularly striking a guest said, "I AM TRYING TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT." You make the best of a tragedy, not a vacation! We work to live, not live to work. We work all year to have a great vacation and unfortunately this one fell well below our expectations. Carnival is not "the only game in town." Carnival is not a monopoly in the travel business. Competition is one great aspect of our capitalistic society. I think Carnival should consider changing their outlook or they may feel pains in their pocketbook. Carnival's competitors are CRUISING RIGHT PAST THEM.
Many good aspects of this cruise not the least of which is the friendly staff and great buffet areas. The down side was the dining room service style. For my review and some photo's please go to
George in NY