Background: Madeleine and I were accompanied by her cousin Jean and Jean's husband John Campbell; the four of us cruising together for the fifth time. We introduced Jean and John to cruising by taking a roundtrip Inside Passage cruise to Alaska, in 1997, on the same ship we would travel on through the Panama Canal, RCI's "Legend of the Seas". This would be our ninth cruise and the Campbell's sixth cruise.
It has always been a dream of mine to transit the canal and that opportunity presented itself when I initially came across this cruise on the RCI website. What caught my eye was the combination of the ship and the itinerary. The four of us had thought the ship was wonderful on the Alaskan cruise and thought it would be a wonderful way to experience the Canal. I did some background research on the Canal and found that David McCullough's book "Path between the Seas" was an excellent source of the history and building of the Canal. I strongly urge anyone interested in the Panama Canal to read this book.
We booked about a year in advance through a local TAthat has provided us with wonderful service and prices in the past. Being "Crown and Anchor Society" members, we received a coupon reducing the cost of the cabin and a senior citizens discount on top of that. We ended up paying significantly less per day than on a cruise in February 2003 on the "Voyager of the Seas". Watching airfares very carefully, we choose to book our air with RCI, although in the past we have made our own air arrangements on a number of cruises, and found that cost effective considering we had non-stop flights both ways.
Saturday, February 28th:
We left for Logan International Airport in Boston at 6:00AM via a limo. Arrived at the airport at 6:20 AM, used curb-side check-in and proceeded to the very long security lines inside. To our surprise, our departure gate was off to the right away from most of the other gates. Consequently our line to pass through security was almost non-existent. Through in a flash! AA flight #1361 left on-time at 8:15 AM and arrived in Miami at 11:15AM, a full 40 minutes early. We used the "Super Shuttle" for a quick transfer to the "Miami Intercontinental Hotel for the night.
After a nice lunch by the pool at the "Blue Water Café", we decided that we would meet in the lobby at 4:30 PM to walk to the Bayside Marketplace, with the idea to window-shop, people watch, listen to music, and have dinner in a restaurant. We did all of those things ending up for dinner in "Lombardi's". We had an excellent meal along with excellent service and would highly recommend it to anyone. We then walked around, rather rolled around, for awhile and then walked back to the hotel.
Sunday, February 29th:
We awoke to a very nice day with temperatures in the low 60's with a forecast of temperatures reaching the mid 70's.; certainly a big change from New England!! We joined the Campbells for very leisurely brunch in the "Indigo" restaurant and then went to our rooms to catch the bus to the ship which was scheduled to leave the hotel at 12:30 PM. Outside the hotel had become a marshalling area for a very large parade celebrating the fact that this was "Leap Day". Well, the parade also tied up traffic making our departure at 2:30 PM rather that the scheduled 12:30. "What, me worry??!!"
Check-in at the ship was quick and we were in our cabin (Cat. D, on deck 7, starboard side forward). We immediately headed for the "Windjammer Café" for sustenance. We knew, with a second seating for dinner, we wouldn't have any food until 8:30 PM; need to keep up the energy levels. After the life boat drill we joined the Campbells in the "Viking Crown Lounge" for a sail-away drink. To our surprise it was packed. Madeleine's explanation was that most of the passengers had sailed before and knew about our little secret.
Dinner was a lovely table (#117) of 4, located on the starboard side balcony section of the "Romeo and Juliet" dining room. Our waiter was Anil (Aneil) from southern India and his assistant was Maynard from the Philippines. It was obvious from the first meal that Anil was a superior waiter with plenty of experience. He was, by far, the best individual waiter we have had on any cruise. Maynard appeared to be very inexperienced and needed prompting from both Anil and another waiter that Maynard worked with. To his credit, Maynard did improve over the course of the two week cruise. Our head waiter, Ernesto, also from the Philippines was excellent, serving wine, clearing and serving where needed; a definite plus to the dining room.
Dress was casual for the evening and we went to the "Welcome Aboard Show" in the "That's Entertainment Theater", which is a one level room with excellent sight lines. The audience was introduced to our Cruise Director, John Blair; my wife and I found John to be an exceptional Cruise Director. After the show, "The Oscars" were shown on a large screen in the theater and also on the TV in the cabin. My wife and I watched the proceedings in the theater until 10:30 PM and then the rest of the show in the cabin. We noticed that the ship was beginning to move around a little as we sat in the theater; a hint of things to come. Last thing I did before retiring was to set my watch ahead by one hour per instructions of the ship. The next several days we would be on Atlantic Standard Time.
Monday, March 1st:
During the night I was awakened by the motion of the ship; things were beginning to creak a little. I was up at 6:30 AM and went out to get coffee that was available 24/7 on the Pool Deck, along with ice tea and lemonade. I then went to the internet lounge on Deck 8 but found that they were not functioning due to satellite troubles. Brought coffee and a pastry back to the cabin for Madeleine; a routine I followed for the rest of the voyage. Seas were quite rough with a very strong wind that would increase as the day worn on. The glass doors to the balcony were constantly wet from the wind-driven spray over the next two days. After breakfast in the "Windjammer", Madeleine and Jean spent a lot of the day reading and sleeping in the "Solarium Pool" area which has a roof that can opened/closed depending on conditions. The roof remained closed for the entire allowing it to be air conditioned; a blessing to some as we sailed closer and closer to the equator. John and I won a "Team Trivia" contest held in the "Schooner Bar"; our prize a coveted RCCL ballpoint pen!! We would enter every other trivia contest on the cruise in hope of getting a second matching pen.
The Captain announced everyday at noon our position, speed, and direction along with the present weather conditions and a weather forecast. At noon, today, the seas were running 15-18 feet with a wind out of the Northeast at 35 knots, partly cloudy skies and the ship cruising at 21.5 knots. He indicated that a strong high pressure system off the East coast of Florida was causing the conditions and the forecast was for it to continue into Tuesday. From experience, I have seen seas in the ten foot range cruising along the North coast of Cuba before and some roughness passing between Cuba and Hispaniola. Once into the Caribbean Sea it usually became calm.
Evening events were highlighted by Captain Hakan Lindegren's "Welcome Aboard Party" followed by a wonderful dinner. I had rack of lamb that was excellent, while watching the wine in my glass move about. Instead of going to the show, starring Freddie Roman, we enjoyed the music of the "Denise Canby Trio" outside the "Champagne Terrace" in the "Centrum" area. We found this trio and another group the "Foster Duo" to provide a wide variety of excellent pre and post dinner music. We called it a day around 11:15 PM
Tuesday, March 2nd:
During the night awakened by ship motion, this time some real pounding as the bow met the waves head-on. I assumed we were passing between Hispaniola and Cuba. Up for my morning coffee run I found very few people up-and-about. I went to the "Windjammer" for breakfast, as Madeleine had ordered breakfast in the cabin. My GPS receiver indicated we were some 70 miles off the coast of Jamaica moving along at 21 knots. I walked for three miles on the walking/jogging track on Deck #10. When I started my walk there was very little wind, but the ship was moving around some. By the time I finished my walk, 45 minutes later, the wind had picked up to a point where it was almost impossible to walk into the wind. Returned to the cabin, where my GPS indicated the ship had slowed to 18 knots. The Captain soon announced that Decks #5, the Promenade Deck, and Deck #10 were closed due to the rough weather. Seas were running 15-20 feet with winds out of the Northeast at 55-60 mph. The scheduled entertainment for the evening had been canceled and the substitute was the movie "Lord of the Rings - Return of the King" which would be shown in the theater and on TV.
I went up to the "Viking Crown Lounge" around 11:00 AM and found it deserted except for several of the crew who were cleaning and polishing. The view towards the bow was something. You could see wind-driven spray coming over the forecastle every so often. On one occasion, the bow hit a wave just right; causing a great spray of white water off the port bow. The wind picked up much of that spray and hurled it towards the stern. I had sat in the "Viking Crown Lounge" on many occasions, and thought it was too high above the sea to get hit with any water except rain. All of a sudden my view was almost blocked out as that spray hit the windows in front of me. The small number of people down on the pool deck below me got soaked with the spray. Went down to check on Madeleine and think about lunch. On my way to the cabin, I ran into a cabin attendant who had cabins down the way from us. He said that Lea was sick and that he would get to do our cabin as soon as possible. I told him not to rush as I thought we would be using the cabin quite a bit in the afternoon.
We went to the dining room for lunch which was opening seating for both breakfast and lunch. Not too many people in the dinning room. After lunch, Madeleine and I stayed in the cabin for most of the afternoon; reading and snoozing. John and I did make it to the "Team Trivia" for the day; placed third!!! Also noticed the difference in motion between our cabin on Deck #7 and the "Schooner Bar" on Deck #4; much less movement on Deck #4!!
Dress was "smart casual" for the evening. We enjoyed a cocktail before dinner listening to the "Foster Duo" at the "Champagne Terrace". Had a very enjoyable dinner, but noticed many people absent from dinner this evening. After dinner we listened to the "Denise Canby Trio" in the "Centrum". Went to our cabin around 10:30 PM; ship moving around quite a bit.
Wednesday, March 3rd:
We awoke to a warm, calm, clear day entering Oranjestad, Aruba harbor. We had breakfast in the dining room with Jean and John. We sat with very two interesting couples; one from Wisconsin and the other from the state of Washington. We had decided not to book an excursion, but to go out on our own and "play it by ear." It was a short walk from the pier to the downtown area, which was typical of most any port in the Caribbean; "Diamonds International" etc. John and I wandered around while Madeleine and Jean looked in several shops. After about an hour of walking and looking, Jean spied a "Dunkin Donuts" shop across the street. John and I left the ladies in the "Dunkin Donuts" while we went on a quest for a jeep. Found a reasonable rental of an a/c jeep for the day in a few minutes. Picked up the ladies and headed out exploring.
We headed out to one end of the island to towards the "California Lighthouse." Unfortunately we missed most of the hotel properties as we took a road somewhat inland from the beach. I found the area around "California Lighthouse" to be quite beautiful; the colors of the land in contrast of the ocean and the sky. Saw our first wildlife in the form of goats grazing in the brush and a number of small lizards scampering around.
We continued our journey, stopping at the "Casibari Rock Formations". Being a retired geology and earth science teacher, the landscape will tell a story. To my surprise, I found the large boulders that make up this area appeared to be a granitic type of rock, rather than the expected volcanic rock. My guess is that the large boulders are the result of a long period of weathering in this arid climate. Have to do some research when I get home!!
We continued on the to the natural bridge formations on the North side of the island. As we traveled the gravel road to the site, we passed a number of people on four-wheel ATV's moving along the gravel road in a cloud of dust, followed by a group of open-air jeeps lost in the dust cloud of the ATV's. Our a/c jeep rental looked better and better. The natural bridges were spectacular; made even more spectacular due to the large waves pounding the shoreline. Again I saw some more interesting geological exposures that caught my eye and mind, more research!! By this time it was close to noon, so we decided to head back to the ship for some lunch. Unfortunately we sort of got lost and didn't make it back to the ship in time for lunch. We had to settle for food at "Afternoon Tea" instead.
Balance of the afternoon was spent onboard, resting, swimming, reading, and playing another "Team Trivia" game; came in second this time!! We departed Aruba during our dinner, approximately 9:00 PM, bound for the Panama Canal in two days. Dinner was again excellent followed by listening to the music and watching people dance in the Centrum.
Thursday, March 4th:
Our third day at sea we were greeted to clear skies and a following sea of 10-15 feet with the wind blowing at 25-30 mph out of the East. We had breakfast in the dining room; sitting a table with a couple from New Jersey. Madeleine and I spent most of the morning on Deck #10, as most of the lounge chairs by the pool were occupied, while Jean read and John worked on another NY Times crossword puzzle and the daily trivia questions. We started out in the sun but moved into the shade fairly quickly as the sun was very hot. After lunch, Madeleine, John and I watched "Master and Commander" starring Russell Crowe" in the theater; the only complaint was that the theater wasn't darker enough; otherwise enjoyed the movie. We all met for "Afternoon Tea" at 4:00PM in the "Windjammer" We enjoyed drinks and music before dinner and a great meal.
By this time, we were forming somewhat of a routine: eating breakfast in the dining room, picking up the daily trivia questions in the Library, discussing trivia answers at lunch or dinner, going to Afternoon Tea, and swimming in the pool around 5:00 PM.
Friday, March 5th:
Today I was up at 5:15AM, awaked by light peaking between the drapes covering the balcony door. The light was a bright floodlight on a tugboat that was beside us as we made our approach to the Northern entrance to the Canal. Leaning out over the balcony rail, I could see in the distance lights marking the entrance; while behind and off to the starboard side were the lights of a number of ships. It looked like we were second in line to enter the locks. I quickly dressed and went up to Deck #10, thinking I would be one of the first to be on deck. To my surprise, there were several hundred people already occupying most of the vantage points on the deck. I think some people slept on lounge chairs overnight. I took a couple of pictures and brought coffee back to the cabin.
Over the past several days John and I had met two couples from Sheffield England while playing Team Trivia. Both husbands had served in the British Merchant Marine and had been through the Canal a number of times. They suggested for us to find a spot that had some shade, otherwise we would end up like a burnt piece of bacon. In addition they said the most thrilling aspect of passing through the Canal was the feeling of going up/down as you might on an elevator. That convinced Madeleine and me that the Promenade Deck would be our main observation point. On our Alaskan cruise in'97, I found that the Promenade Deck does "wrap around" the stern of the ship, providing us with a shaded and relatively unknown observation area as we passed through the locks.
We entered the first Gatun Lock at approximately 7:00 AM local time. We watched as small, man-powered "dories" transferred the steel cables from the eight "mules" (electric locomotives) to the "Legend." The mules would guide the ship through the locks, while the "Legend" provided the power to move forward. A large neon illuminated arrow pointed are way into the Eastern or left lock; while a large container ship was moving into the lock to our right. That container ship, the "Sealand Charger" would be right with us all the way through the Canal. Madeleine and I spent most of the next several hours watching our passage through the Gatun Locks on the Promenade Deck, particularly at the stern. The stern view gave us a close-up view of the opening and closing of the lock gates. We exited the Gatun Locks at about 9:30 AM and proceed to an anchoring spot on the Northern end of Gatun Lake to await permission to continue our passage southward. Both of the Gatun locks were being used to transport ships Southward into Gatun Lake. Ships were making their way Northward through the Miarflores and Pedro Miguel Locks in the same manner. Once those locks were cleared of Northward moving traffic, we would be able to proceed across Gatun Lake.
At approximately 10:30 AM we began to move slowly, maintaining about six knots, across Gatun Lake, part of a procession of several ships heading to the Pacific; passing a number of ships at anchor waiting to pass out into the Atlantic Ocean. The shores of the lake appeared to be a thick tropical rain forest doted with navigation signals. We passed a variety of ships, both large and small. Near the end of Gatun Lake we slowed down as we entered an ever narrowing channel. Passing by the Town of Gamboa, we came upon a small yawl rigged vessel of approximately 50 fee in length, heading to the Pacific. Onboard, were five adults, a young boy about ten years old, and a teenage girl around 14-15 years of age; not your Sunday afternoon sail. I wonder what wonderful adventure they were on? We also saw a long freight train of the Panama Canal Railroad passing trough Gamboa on its way to Colon, as several boats belonging to the Canal kept us company as we headed toward Gaillard Cut, the narrowest part of the Canal.
As we passed through Gaillard Cut, you could see where large debris slides had occurred in the past. In fact off our starboard side, we could see a crew of earth-moving equipment moving, what appeared to be, a recent slide. In addition there was a large mechanical shovel mounted on a barge that was loading rock and mud onto a large barge. We were told later in the day that Gaillard Cut is being widened to accommodate two-way passage of even the largest ships in the near future. Just before exiting the Cut, the new "Bridge of the Americas" came into view being built by a German construction company. When completed it will one of the largest "cable-stay" style bridges in the world; and provide the Panamanians with a much easier route to the Western part of their country than the present, much smaller bridge.
At approximately 1:45 PM we entered Pedro Miguel Lock beginning our passage to the Pacific Ocean. As we proceeded through the Pedro Miguel Lock and the Miarflores Locks, the process we had seen earlier was repeated; the only difference was the ship was lowered down instead of rising up. Dories connected the cables from the mules to the "Legend" and guided us slowly along. We exited the final Miraflores Lock, at about 3:30 PM and slowly sailed out onto the Pacific Ocean passing under the present "Bridge of Americas".
We dropped anchor off of Fuerte Amador about 4:30 PM, which is on an island at the end of a causeway built from debris taken from Gaillard Cut during the construction of the Canal to protect its Pacific entrance from storms. The Panamanian government has provided incentives for developing this area as an attraction for tourism. Madeleine stayed onboard while the rest of us went on an evening tour of the Canal; visiting the Miraflores Locks. The tour provided us with glimpses of Panama City, many of the old buildings in the "Canal Zone", and an explanation of the operation of the Canal. After returning to the ship around 9:30 PM, we all met in the "Windjammer" for a late diner followed by sampling the "goodies" at the "Sailing Out" party as we left Panama bound for Costa Rica.
Saturday, March 6th:
A wonderful sea day with a good breakfast, reading sleeping, good lunch, reading sleeping, afternoon tea, reading, swimming and an excellent "formal" dinner..
Sunday, March 7th:
We arrived at Puntarenas just before 7:00 AM. The town is built on a spit that projects out into the Gulf of Nicoya. There is a single long dock that projects out from the beach that runs along the shore in front of the town. John, Jean and I left the ship after breakfast for the "River Adventure Tour" that promised us a land rich for flora and fauna". After a 1.5 Hour ride on an air conditioned bus, we arrived at a location near the Tarcoles River that is South of Puntarenas. Our guide told us that we would have a chance to have a short "party" before we boarded the riverboat for our trip on the Tarcoles. The party consisted of the freshest pineapple, bananas, coconut, and watermelon you could imagine. They were also serving hot Costa Rican coffee, coke and orange soda, along with "Imperiale" a local beer. After a few minutes to relax and use the "facilities", we proceeded over a boardwalk for about three hundred yards to the river. Along the way, our guide pointed out large termite mounds that formed on the lower roots of many of the mangrove trees. We also saw many "mangrove crabs"; bright multicolored crabs that burrow into the mud along the river bank.
The Tarcoles River flows into the Gulf of Nicoya, and is a tidal estuary, with dense mangrove trees along its banks. Upstream, the mangrove trees change to a variety of tropical hardwoods when the river changes to fresh water. We headed downstream towards the mouth of the river, where the river opens out into a broad area of low grass and gravel bars. We saw many types of birds both in the air and on the ground. In the water were a number of saltwater crocodiles, ranging in size from several feet to almost twenty feet. We stopped in a number of locations, as our guide and boat driver pointed out many species of birds. There were a number of people onboard who were devoted bird watchers. They were in "watchers heaven." As we headed upstream, we made a number of stops looking at both animal and plant life along the way. Our guide seemed to be very knowledgeable about the area and did an excellent job of pointing out things to all of us and attempting to answer the myriad of questions that came up.
After about two hours on the river, we returned to the "party" for some more food and drink before returning to the ship. After getting back to the ship, we had lunch with Madeleine. She had an enjoyable day sitting beside "her pool" as most everyone left the ship. Madeleine decided not to join us as we went off the ship to see the town. Being Sunday, vendors of all sorts of crafts had put up tents along the walkway by the beach. The town was crowded with many people from the area along with people from the ship. We saw wonderful examples of products carved out of wood and leather, vendors selling different kinds of foods cooked on the spot, fresh fruit, and, of course the ever present tee-shirt table. It was an enjoyable walk along "soaking up the atmosphere". John offered to buy us each our cold drink of choice; mine was "Imperiale". After getting back to the ship, John and I went for a nice swim and then proceeded to shower and dress for the "casual" evening ahead. I took some pictures of the beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Nicoya as we departed right on time at 7:00 PM bound for Mexico. We all had a pre-dinner drink in the "Centrum, followed by a delightful meal. After dinner we enjoyed the music in the "Centrum" before retiring at around 11:00PM.
Monday, March 8th:
We spent a beautiful day at sea sailing along the western coast of Central America, with all the normal activities; eating, reading, walking, trivia, eating, and still more eating. The ship bounced around a bit at night, as we sailed across the Gulf of Tehuantepec; know for some rough water at this time of year.
Tuesday, March 9th:
We tied up at a brand new dock extending out into Santa Cruz Bay, Huatulco around 9:00 AM, and an hour earlier than scheduled. As advertised, we could see several of the nine bays that comprise the area from the ship. The land rises up quite steeply along the headlands dotted with homes and condominiums that separate the bays with their beautiful beaches from each other.
We walked to the end of the dock and took a taxi ($4.00) to La Crucecita, which is the actual town in the area. Huatulco, like so many other locations has been picked by the Mexican government as an area for tourism. Several people on the ship said it reminded them of what Cancun was like 25 years ago; still quite undeveloped and very pretty. It took us about five minutes to arrive at the plaza in the center of La Crucecita. Surrounding the plaza were a number of stores and restaurants along with a church that had, to our disappointment had been built in 2000. My wife wanted to see an old Spanish mission on this trip. Inside the church we found beautiful fresco-style decorations done in vivid colors. The center of the plaza was occupied by a formal garden area, with beautiful beds of flowers, a wide variety of shade trees, and in the center of the plaza a very nice bandstand.
After walking around the area for about an hour, we sat and had a cold drink. We headed back to the ship; having arranged for the same taxi to bring us back. At the dock, we turned to the right and walked about 100 yards across a beautiful beach and found some beach lounges with shade. This became our resting point for about four wonderful hours of sunning, swimming, and relaxing; all within 200 yards of the ship!! In retrospect, this period of time was, in my opinion, was the best part of the trip save passing through the Canal. We finally made our way back to the ship around 3:30 PM to have our lunch at "Afternoon Tea". We left Huatalco around 5:00 PM and sailed into a beautiful sunset.
Wednesday, March 10th:
Sailed into Acapulco Bay at sunrise and docked around 7:30 AM. After breakfast in the "Windjammer" we headed out on an excursion "Historical, Traditional and Picturesque Acapulco", a four hour tour via van. During the trip we visited the Hotel Flamingo high on the cliffs in the old section of town, drove along the Bay passing from "old" to "new" Acapulco, and climbed the heights of Las Brisas where we visited the "Chapel of Peace" and the "Trouyet Cross" before heading back to the ship. Our last stop was at "Fort San Diego" which overlooks the cruise facilities. The tour of the fort was very interesting, explaining the historical importance of Acapulco and the surrounding area going back to the earliest presence of the Spanish explorers. We returned to the ship around 1:00 PM for lunch and an enjoyable afternoon of sitting by the pool and going to a team trivia match.
That evening we met before dinner in the "Centrum" for a drink, followed by another excellent dinner. After dinner, we took a nice walk outside on the Promenade Deck looking at the city at night. The ladies headed to the cabins around, while John and I enjoyed the views as we departed Acapulco at 11:00 PM and the food at the "Pool Market" poolside.
Thursday, March 11th:
Another day at sea, sailing along the Mexican coast toward Cabo San Lucas, enjoyed by all. Madeleine attended Mass for the third time on the trip; conducted by a retired priest. She has found both the priest and the Masses wonderful. Late in the day, we heard about the tragedy in Spain; the terrorist bombing of the trains in Madrid.
Friday, March 12th:
We arrived and then anchored off Cabo San Lucas at 8:00 AM on a sunny, slightly cool morning. There were two other ships anchored nearby; the "Silver Wind" and the "Pride." John and I went on a whale watch trip which was not too successful; one whale and six or so dolphins. We saw many whales and dolphins from the ship on our days at sea, so we were not too disappointed. After walking around the tourist area and marina, we headed back to the ship in time for lunch.
We all spent the afternoon around and in the pool. The water was so delightful; Jean made her one "plunge" of the cruise into the pool that afternoon. Our last formal evening started by watching dancing and listening to the music, while enjoying a drink in the Centrum. After dinner, we tried to walk on the Promenade Deck but found it too chilly; a hit of things to come. We all retired early that evening.
Saturday, March 13th:
We awoke to find that it was quite cold on deck with a strong wind. We had a quiet last day at sea, performing the miserable task of packing early, winning another 'team trivia" contest and reading. I spent about two hours sitting out by the pool in a sheltered spot after breakfast. I wanted to see the "Parade of Flags" which is nothing more then members of all departments of the crew parading around the pool area carrying the flags of 46 nations represented by both crew and passengers. John Blair, our Cruise Director, was the Master of Ceremonies introducing a number of the crew and asking for a moment of silence in memory of those that had been killed in the recent Madrid bombings. He also offered the comment paraphrased here: "There have been two thousand plus passengers and crew, from forty six different countries on the "Legend" for two weeks. We have all gotten along; why can't the rest of the world do the same?" It was a somber moment that produced teary eyes of many in attendance.
In the afternoon we went to the "Passenger Talent Show" which was a definite surprise! There were five acts which were all very good entertainment and fun.
Our last evening onboard, included saying goodbye to many new passenger friends; our cabin attendant Lea, our waiter Anil, our assistant waiter Maynard, our head waiter Ernesto, and our favorite barman James Bong 00.5. We enjoyed for the last time the music of the Denise Canby Trio before dinner.
Sunday, March 14th:
I think a loud noise woke me up around 3:30 AM and too my surprise we were already docked in San Diego. I went back to bed a got up about 6:30 AM. Madeleine and I went up to the "Windjammer" for breakfast and met John and Jean in the "Crown and Anchor" Library to wait to leave the ship. RCCL had set up the library as a waiting area for "Platinum" and "Diamond" members of the "Crown and Anchor Society" to wait. They provided us with juices coffee, tea and an assortment of pastries to nibble on; very civilized. We left the ship around 9:30 AM and john went off to get a car he had rented. We were on the road about 10:00AM and headed out to Coronado Island with the idea of looking around the Hotel del Coronado. What a fantastic place!! We ended up having "Sunday Brunch" at the hotel, which was on the expensive side, but it was worth it!! After walking around the grounds, we headed north to La Jolla for the afternoon; we saw beautiful cliff-side homes and views, along with wonderful scenes along the shore. We all agreed that this area was a place we would like to return to some day.
We headed back south to the "Old Town Historical Park", where we walked around seeing the sites for awhile. We ended up eating in a very nice Italian restaurant in the area. We then drove to "Humphrey's Half Moon Inn" on Shelter Island, where we had reservations for two nights. We found the accommodations very spacious and clean and the grounds very delightful.
Monday, March 15th:
We had a very nice breakfast at Humphrey's and then headed out for Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument. It was a beautiful day, with very good visibility, and the scenery was eye-popping!!! The visitor center at the Monument is excellent, providing you with a wealth of information about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the west coast of the US and the history of the Point Loma area up to the present day. We walked to the famous Point Loma Lighthouse and to the large monument in memory of Cabrillo that overlooks the entrance to San Diego Harbor; where we saw a missile destroyer and a nuclear submarine departing the harbor.
We headed towards downtown San Diego and the "Gaslight District", but got diverted by a complex of very light colored buildings high on a hillside in the distance. We finally made our way to that area and found it to be the campus of the University of San Diego. I have been to many collegiate campuses over the years and this is the one I want to attend in my next life; it was spectacular.
We finally arrived at the "Gaslight" and wandered around for quire awhile before having lunch in an "authentic" Irish pub, "The Field." We had a very enjoyable lunch followed by some more walking around the area before heading back to Humphrey's for an afternoon siesta.
We headed back downtown around 5:00 Pm to "Seaport Village" to tour the shops and have dinner. We had no problem parking and found the place jumping. Being next to the convention center, there were many people attending a large convention walking over to the "Embarcadero" for an outdoor function. Madeleine and I found the village very delightful. We had a very nice meal at "Buster's", one of four full-service restaurants in the village. We headed back to the hotel; early wake-up for flight home.
Tuesday, March 16th:
We had an 8:30 AM flight out of San Diego non-stop to Boston. We were about an hour late taking off because of fog and haze. We had seen on TV at the hotel that the Boston area was supposed to get snow starting around 4:00 PM, our scheduled landing time. That hour delay in San Diego caused us to be in the thick of the snow when we got to Boston. We ended up being delayed and additional 1.5 hours in the air while other traffic landed or took off and they plowed the runways; we finally landed; late but safe at about 7:30 PM. Thanks to John, we had a limo. to get us safely home.
To me any cruise, no matter what ship or itinerary is heaven. However, this particular cruise was extra special. The Panama Canal was spectacular, the ports were very good especially Huatulco, the ship was superb, and my fellow passengers were delightful. This cruise ranks equal to and may surpass our cruise to Alaska; time will tell.
I want to start my review on a positive note. The ship was clean and well kept. The crew was professional and very friendly and helpful. The entertainment was very good, and the Legend of the Seas singers and dancers were awesome. The Legend of the Seas singers and dancers put on some spectacular shows. The best part of the cruise.
The reason for my poor experience and the reason I cannot recommend the cruise is the Windjammer Cafe Buffet. We suffered with pancakes that made noise when they hit your plate, with scrambled eggs so loose they were swimming in water, and spare ribs so dried out and over cooked that they literally broke my dental bridge.
I didn't know whom to report to when I discovered that the dried out meat had broken my bridge so I didn't say anything until I was asked to fill out a mid-cruise survey. The only response I got from customer service was that I didn't report it at the time of the incident and I never showed my broken bridge to any of the crew. They didn't believe me!! They might just aswell have called me a liar to my face! I don't think that is how you treat a 3 time customer who is retired with plenty of time to do more cruises. I decided to write my story in a review on the RCCL web site. RCCL pulled my review and refused to print it and suggested I contact customer service. I was provided with an email link and sent my story to customer service again. That was over a week ago, and I am still waiting to hear from RCCL.
Bad buffet in the Windjammer Cafe, bad treatment of longtime customer, bad follow-up by cutomer service makes me give this cruise a poor experience.
What an awesome cruise ship!
Third cruise with Royal Caribbean, and this by far has to be the most tastefully decorated ship I have ever been on.
The staff was fantastic, as was the food.
I would recommend this ship to anyone looking for a great cruise and great food.
I cannot comment on the islands, as we were not too impressed with Martinique and Guadalupe. They were awful islands and people.
Anyone get the call from Royal Caribbean that someone paid 8 million dollars to charter this boat for the 6-24-07 cruise and kick all the booked passengers off. Royal, in all their generosity, is offering $200.00 per cabin on board ship credit plus pay up to 200 bucks if your airline reservation had to be changed. This line is the worst I have ever dealt with and I have been on 8 prior cruises.
Talking to these people was unbelievable with their workers playing dumb, cutting me off, leaving me on hold and just generally actintg ignorant. I have already talked to a lawyer and American Airlines told me that they have never heard of a cruise line doing this before. It feels like when an airplane is overbooked and they give you a low ball offer to get off the plane.They acted with me like this was just something normal to be expected. Celebrity, Princess, NCL ,and even Carnival never treated us like this.
Going to Europe in May 07 (from Australia) to attend my daughter's wedding my partner and I also decided take the opportunity to book a Med cruise.
We were date constrained so had to choose a cruise that met our somewhat demanding schedule. Though we did have some choice between lines the best option was a 12 night foray with Royal Caribbean. To say we were hesitant at first would be an understatement as we had once previously sailed with RCI back in 2000 on a three day mini cruise out of Miami. That was on Majesty of the Seas and was noteworthy for the tiny cabin, ordinary and tasteless food and a ship sans personality. In short, it was all very ordinary and hardly inducive to getting us to experience RCI again.
Thus we did not expect that much when we boarded the Legends of the Seas at Civitavecchia which is the port of Rome for a cruise that would take in Mykonos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Cyprus, Alexandria, Athens and finally Naples. Well, Maureen and I have between us done more than three dozen cruises/ocean voyages including a dozen in the lastdecade and to say we were blown away by the current era RCI product is an understatement.
I don't think I have ever been on a more tastefully decorated and well set out ship as Legends and that includes P&O's beautiful Oriana and Aurora. I just wish I could drag the interior designers of the latest designs from NCL to see how a ship interior should look. But that's another story. Also beyond compare was the variety and quality of the food at every level. Usually the buffet breakfast and lunch I can generally (be good!) and pass up but in RCI's case not so. As strong as I like to think I am when it comes to not overeating I was tempted each day to the point of giving in. The overall quality and variety of food in both the main restaurant and Spinnaker buffet was of such a high quality that it left any other ship's cuisine for dead. Well done RCI.
Something else we particularly picked up on was the very high 'morale' of the crew and staff. Most were Eastern European and Asian and they continually provided just the right amount of service without being in your face or overbearing as is often the case. At one stage we had a noise complaint and this was also dealt with sincerely and effectively, something that on most ships would be simply shrugged off.
We would also like to compliment RCI on their innovative wine packages which can save upwards of 25% on the cost of wine. We always enjoy wine with dinner but on some lines (particularly NCL, which seems to use alcohol purely as a cash cow to bleed every cent they can from their customers, not a smart long term policy as we and our friends now avoid them) you simply cannot afford wines that you know are marked up by as much as 500%. RCI's wine package allows you to prepurchase your selected wines via three packages of varying quality and the savings are significant.
Despite its size (70,000t) Legends never seemed to be crowded and tendering was also better organised than what we have experienced in the past. Our standard internal cabin was also of a good size and well designed. The soft warm colours and art deco style lights and design gave it a particularly welcoming and calming ambience. What would have made it excellent, and RCI are not alone here, is if it had a small fridge and more importantly simple tea and coffee making facilities. The latter consists of a small electric jug, two mugs, a small tray and two spoons and some satchels of coffee and a few teabags. Not a big deal but something that would be greatly appreciated by every passenger and also cut down on needless calls for room service tying up personnel and galley time unnecessarily. Is this so hard to do?
One bugbear, and RCI aren't alone here, is smoking. In Australia less than 15% of the adult community now smoke. I appreciate that that figure is higher in Europe but it is also low in North America. Considering the demographics of cruisers I would suggest that in most cases smokers would account for less than 10% of passengers. So why have small bars where smoking is even remotely tolerated. In a small area, a single smoker, albeit even in a corner, will still affect the vast bulk of non smokers who enjoy breathing fresh non stench filled air. Consequently we were never able to enjoy drinks in either the Schooner or Champagne bars. It simply wasn't worth it.
There will come a time when all ships (like enclosed public areas elsewhere nowadays) will be totally smoke free and quite frankly that will be looked upon as a major positive by far more people than it will be derided by. There is also the fire risk. Most ship fires in the past have been started by a smoker, usually falling to sleep in bed whilst smoking. I am sure Princess Cruises understand this problem since it has already cost them several hundred million dollars in dealing with just such a situation less than two years ago. A smoking room could still be thoughtfully provided, like at airports, for those who can't kick the nicotine addition.
We will definatly be cruising with RCI again. In fact, we have already booked their positioning cruise from Hawaii to Sydney via Tahiti this September aboard Rhapsody of the Seas.
Round trip from Tampa, FL with stops in Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Belize City and Cozumel
BACKGROUND -- I went on this trip with my boyfriend (his second cruise), my grandparents (have cruised many times), my dad (his second cruise) and my stepmom (has cruised many times). This was my fifth cruise, first with Royal Caribbean. I previously sailed the Southern Caribbean on the Carnival Destiny (2005), Western Caribbean on the Celebrity Mercury (2000) and Norwegian Wind (2003). I sailed the Eastern Caribbean on the Holland America Westerdam (1998). I am 24 years old. For background purposes, I've sailed to San Juan, St. Thomas, Dominica, Aruba, Barbados, Costa Maya, Key West, Half Moon Cay, Belize, Roatan, Cozumel, Cancun and Grand Cayman.
EMBARKATION We flew into Tampa a few days early to stay with a friend. He dropped us off at the port around 1:30pm. We decided to carry our own luggage onto the ship due to sheer confusion when arriving at the port: we couldn't tell who was "official" and who was just looking for a quick buck. Escalator takes you to the second floor holding room. First you must go through ascanner similar to the airport. The staff person said we should have given our luggage to someone at the entrance, but agreed to let us put our bags through the scanner (they barely fit). We entered a line based on what floor our cabin was on. The line was about 10 minutes long. After bypassing the photographers, we were on the ship and in our rooms about 10 minutes later. Guests enter in the atrium where it can become cramped - just keep walking towards the elevators to get out of everyone's way.
CABIN -- Our "Large Inside Cabin Category K" was very small but designed well with cabinets and drawers to fit everything we had with us. Closet was divided into two sections with 20 total hangars and four wire shelves. Bathroom had plenty of counter space around the sink, lots of shelving in the shower for toiletries and the mirror opens up with large shelves for other personal items. The toilet is very loud - we covered our ears every time we flushed. Shower is very small (I could not bend over to shave my legs), but the shower head is removable and has nice water pressure and the knob locks to prevent you from getting burned by hot water (you can manually unlock the knob to get really hot water). Room included a vanity with nice lighting and storage space, a safe accessible by a credit card (it is not charged to your credit card), a cushioned chair, TV and glass table. Twin beds were pushed together to make a queen and there were two nightstands with two drawers each. Drapes can be pulled across the room to separate the bed from the TV area. As I've read in previous reviews of this ship, the air conditioning doesn't work. Our room was always warm and the air conditioning only sporadically blew out a small amount of cool air. My grandparents room was always cold and the heat only sporadically blew out a small amount of warm air.
STAFF - Dining staff were friendly and very professional as well as staff at Purser's Desk. We thought our cabin steward was unprofessional - he seemed awkward around us, did not give us daily newsletter everyday, did not give us a survey at end of cruise and was joking with staff in hallways, often not acknowledging us. I only make this complaint because I'm comparing typical cruise staff etiquette from other cruises, not because I expect this level of service in everyday life. Our assistant waiter (Igor) was the most professional and friendly staff member I've ever encountered on a cruise ship, and quite good looking too. Much of the staff didn't seem to enjoy their job. One opened up to us and complained about how hard they are forced to work. I also witnessed one buffet staff member making fun of a mentally challenged guest. We opted to pay our tips manual as we usually do. Royal Caribbean has a voucher system in which you can agree to the set amounts for tipping and they will give you pre-written vouchers to physically hand to staff members or you opt to do everything manually. The only disadvantage to manual tipping is that it must be done with cash. But there is an ATM near the Purser's Desk.
FOOD - If asked to compare food on Carnival, RCCL, Norwegian, Celebrity and Holland America, I would say that RCCL is near the bottom. Dining Room Breakfast was a nice change from the buffet. It was more relaxed and the food was better. Fruit was fresh and choices included eggs, bakery items, pancakes, granola, turkey sausage, pork sausage, bacon and omelets. Grapefruit juice was always on the menu and every time I ordered it, they said they don't have any. Buffet Breakfast was good if you can maneuver the sometimes chaotic buffet area. Included cereal, yogurt, eggs, sausage, bacon, omelets to order, fruit (always terrible and mushy, pineapple chunks were bitter and most of them were hard, core pieces), bran muffins, croissants, pancakes, French toast among other items. RCCL's breakfast buffet was one of the better cruise buffets I've had. Free juice with breakfast including lemonade, ice tea, cranberry and orange juice and usually a fruit juice like Guava Passion. Buffet Lunch was ok. Some items changed daily such as soups, desserts, pastas. Many were good. We enjoyed couscous, raisin scones, salads (which had low-fat dressing options), great oatmeal raisin cookies. Sandwiches were good but were only labeled as "assorted sandwiches" and I could not tell what type of meat what on some of them. Dining Room Dinner had great appetizers, soups, awesome Cesar salad and desserts but I was never very pleased with the entrees. I highly recommend the Pepperpot Soup, Duck Consume, Lobster Bisque, Cesar Salad (under the healthy section), all the chilled fruit soups, Low-fat Key Lime Pie, Low-fat Cheesecake. I enjoyed the Thai BBQ Chicken entrée and the Norwegian Salmon (on the healthy section), but was disappointed with the Snapper and the Mahi Mahi Tempura (tasted like fish sticks and ketchup which was suppose to be sweet and sour sauce) Sometimes I was put off by the vegetables that accompanied the entrees such as bok choy (which our waiter said nobody likes) and steamed celery (which is a strange vegetable to steam) To put the cruise lines in order of best food to worst, I would order them this way: Holland America, Celebrity, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian. My issue with Norwegian was expired yogurt, soggy scrambled eggs and bad fruit.
FITNESS CENTER - I enjoyed the fitness center two times during the week. It was never very full and all the machines face a large picture window off the star board side. Machines included elliptical machines, treadmills, some stationery bikes, some stepper machines, weight training machines, two rowing machines and an area for stretching that included free weights, balancing balls and floormats.
GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN This was my third time in Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman is a tendering port. It is a beautifully clean island with great beaches. I previously did Stingray City and an island tour of the Turtle Farm, Tortuga Factory and Hell. My boyfriend had not experienced Stingray City, so we booked with NativeWay Sports on their Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion for $55 each. After a 10 minute ride to the marina we boarded a boat for a 15 minute ride to Sting Ray City. Along the way we were given a menu to choose our lunch from. My boyfriend ordered the Jerk Pork and I ordered the Catch of the Day which ended up being Mahi Mahi. These are the best choices because they are the most expensive lunches on the menu (and it's included in your excursion price). Both came with rice and beans, a pineapple salad similar to coleslaw and iced tea. The Mahi Mahi was grilled and came with a saffron butter sauce. It was very good. The tour guides called in the lunch orders as we put on our snorkel gear. The guides did not give instruction on snorkeling and a handful of people stayed onboard the boat to watch. Unfortunately it was windy and the waves were rough, making it difficult to stand still at the sandbar. The water is about 3 - 4 feet deep. I would highly recommend NativeWay Sports, they did everything possible to make sure everyone had a good time and the price was right, especially compared to the ship's price.
COSTA MAYA, MEXICO This was my first time in Costa Maya and I learned the port was only built for cruise ships. You cannot walk outside the tourism village, but you can take a shuttle ($3 each way) to Majahual which is about 3 miles away along the coast. It is a small town with a dirt main road, a couple shops and a restaurant owned by a Canadian woman (The Cat's Meow). The tourism village is full of souvenir shops with pushy staff as well as an area with lounge chairs on a man made beach and a large restaurant with a freshwater pool attached to it. We booked a tour of the Chaccoben Mayan Ruins with The Native Choice for $43 each. Our tour guides David and Ivan were very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about the Mayan culture. I highly recommend this tour company, the guides are very passionate about their culture and eager to share with you.
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE This was my second time in Belize. We wanted to try cave tubing and booked with X-Stream for $60 each. Our guide was Elisa. She was very knowledgeable and kept track of our small group of six as we went through the jungle, stopping often to tell us about the various trees and plants, and as we went through the caves. She was a lot of fun. You should be in decent physical shape to do the cave tubing since it requires some "rowing" with your hands and feet. I highly recommend booking cave tubing with an independent tour group such as X-Stream or Coral Breeze. Both these companies charge $60 while the ship charged $98. After tubing, we were given some time to explore a couple shops at the trail's head and eat at the restaurant. For only $5 you were given a large piece of barbecue chicken, some coleslaw, rice and beans and chocolate or banana cake. Great experience, felt like a summer camp.
COZUMEL, MEXICO This was my third time in Cozumel but first since Hurricane Wilma went through. We received a free snorkeling excursion from the online cruise agency that we booked our cruise with. Cozumel has lots of damage, on land and at sea. The water is cloudy, the sea floor full of soot and a majority of the trees have been ripped away. The ships have to "wade" out in the water since it's too deep to drop anchor and the cruise ship pier is heavily damaged. The free snorkeling excursion was at the Blue Angel Dive Shop located just down the main street from the pier a couple miles. Our guide did not speak English but made the most of what ended up being a snorkeling tour of the hurricane damage (not on purpose of course). He pointed out a couple barracudas and a Bahama star. The snorkeling was directly off the main road on a damaged beach looking out at a couple cruise ships. Unfortunately, I was stung by a jellyfish, but the staff had a "sting rub" that helped out. Many, but not all, of the shops are still open along the main drive.
PUBLIC ROOMS - We found Legend of the Seas to be a beautiful ship considering its age. In fact, of all the ships I've sailed (Celebrity Mercury, Holland America Westerdam, Norwegian Wind and Carnival Destiny), I enjoyed this ship the most. The Solarium was an especially beautiful area of the ship with a glass covered pool, Romanesque pillars and comfortable lounge chairs. The room felt like a bath house. The dining room was beautiful morning and night.
DISEMBARKATION - Went pretty smoothly as we were in no rush to get off the ship. We had a 7pm flight out of Tampa and planned to spend our day at the Florida Aquarium, located a block from the port (the Aquarium will hold your luggage during the day) You receive colored luggage tags the last night and as your color is called, you report to the atrium to exit the ship. Colors were called promptly at 8am. We were one of the last groups off the ship, getting off at about 10:30. The only rule is that you have to be out of your room by 8am. I don't recommend waiting near the atrium because it is loud, the staff people are yelling out instructions and it's crowded.
ENTERTAINMENT -- Royal Caribbean's show schedule was different than what I have encountered on previous lines. There were two shows for the dinner crowd; on some nights the show for the late dinner seating was actually before dinner. We enjoyed the magic show very much and an acrobatic-type show from a former Olympian. The Broadway-style shows were ok and very similar to those you see on all the ships that are variety shows of famous musicals.
IN SHORT - I enjoyed the Legend of the Seas because it was designed well, making it easy to find public rooms and your cabin. I was disappointed with some of the staff (except our dining staff) as well as the itinerary (days were too short) and the dinner entrees. I would sail on Royal Caribbean again if I was tempted by a great itinerary.
If you have questions about my review, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After my 4th cruise on Royal Caribbean, I will not cruise with them again due to the fact that they changed the debarkation port on this cruise from Los Angeles to Ensinada, Mexico without so much as an Email. I only found out about the change, prior to the sailing date, because I was checking the weather for all ports of call and noticed the changed itinerary on their website.
Customer service first tried to sell me a transfer and then later ignored my emails requesting transfer information. There were a lot of surprised and disappointed passengers on this cruise.
We went from Hawaii to Mexico on a trip that cost $5,000 with air, but what happened to us can not be believed. One morning when I got out of bed, I stepped into water when I put my feet on the floor - our rug was filled with water, my luggage under the bed was all wet. A pipe broke in the wall and flooded our cabin and part of the hallway - maintenmance said they would clean our rugs - we spent the next four days with hugh fans inour cabin and the slidding door open to try and keep the smell our raw sewerage out of the room - it didn't work.
When the maintenance supervisor came to our cabin, he wouldn't come in because of the smell. We finally got a different cabin and was told to contact Royal Caribbean when we got home - I sent a letter and phone calls and finally was offered $500 for my wife and I towards a future cruise - I said I would never cruise again and wanted it put as a credit on my charge -I was told to take the future cruise credit or nothing. This is some customer service - I have to spend thousands more to get a small future cruise credit or get nothing. I can see Royal Caribbean does not care for their customers satisfaction on one of their cruises - just the money
This was our third cruise this year and our fifth with RCCL. We departed out of San Diego with port stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Of our cruises this year, this one was the best in several respects (food and friendly service being standouts). The others were a 4-day to Mexico on Monarch in January, and a spring break cruise 7-day eastern caribbean on the new Mariner of the Seas.
San Diego We had travelled the day before from LA to Carlsbad and took the kids to Legoland and spent the night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Carlsbad. On Sunday morning, embarkation day, we stopped to pick up some water and juices for the kids, then headed to the port arriving about 11:30. My husband dropped me and the kids and the bags off and went to park the car (about 1 block away). Several porters with empty carts passed us by, don't know what the deal was there, finally one stopped and loaded our bags. Then my husband arrived on foot and we entered the building probably around 11:45 am. There were very short linesand since we're Platinum Crown and Anchor Society members we had special check-in with no wait whatsoever.
We were told that our cabin wouldn't be ready for an hour, so we headed to the welcome aboard lunch. I always forget that they don't have kid food at that first lunch, but we had lots of snacks for them and they survived.
After lunch we headed to our cabin, an aft balcony on deck 7 and met our cabin steward, Avalon. He was new and did an adequate job. I don't think we ever got the second child's lifejacket. We were only given two beach/pool towels and only had enough towels in the bathroom for two. Over the course of a few days we got most of this straightened out. The worst was that half of our bed did not have a mattress, it was just a piece of foam. One half of the bed was visibly lower than the other and not comfortable. After several complaints, they put a foam pad on top of the foam mattress. More complaints with the manager of housekeeping, finally they put one big mattress on top of the ones that were there. This was half way through the cruise and it was more comfortable so we just left it at that.
Our head waiter, waiter, and asst. waiter were all very friendly and capable. We were seated with another family with whom we were very compatibly matched, making dinner for kids and adults a real pleasure. The food was above average, never a bad dish, just liked some better than others. The escargot and lobster were extremely good, think high priced restaurant good, tender and flavorful. The shrimp scampi I had was also excellent, I almost wished I'd have ordered two of them, but I would have been too full, so didn't. It was our asst. waiter (Gilberto's) first week and he did very, very well.
The ship is older but has been kept up pretty well. It's still really beautiful, I love the artwork on this class of ship and the size is nicer, I think than the Voyager class. Easier to get around. The kids loved Adventure Ocean and the mini-golf. My 6 YO also tried the rock wall. One thing we missed was the specialty coffee stand (for purchase) and absence of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Also, on Mariner they had a free coffee, tea, and dessert place on the promenade which was something we missed. Still, there was never a lack of available food with 24-hr pizza and hot dog stand as well as room service (don't forget to tip in cash if you use room service).
We didn't do any excursions, just enjoyed the ship and shopping and site seeing in the towns. It was hot and steamy. Hurricane Howard was out in the Pacific but we had a very smooth cruise with only a little rain, mostly at night.
We had fun buying art at the auctions and had no luck at bingo. Didn't bother with the casino. Only went to the comedy shows. Entertainment could have been better. One of the comics was pretty good. I never go to the broadway style shows, I never enjoy them.
Disembarkation. We also had priority due to Platinum status. We were off the ship by 9 am. Again a problem with the porters, very disorganized, we just rolled the bags ourselves. My husband retrieved the car and picked us up and we were on our way home by 9:30 am.
For an older ship, Legend still has a lot of class and a lot to offer. I was surprised by how friendly the whole staff was (not the case on Mariner) and the superiority of the food.
We chose the one-night prior pre-cruise package through RCI. Our flight from Albuquerque to Miami included a plane change in Atlanta. Once we arrived, we had to haul our luggage to the curb and try and find the shuttle company the cruise line uses. Two hours later, we arrived at the Wyndham in Coconut Grove (the shuttle made several stops dropping off people at their residences). The hotel room itself was pretty run down and people there were not very friendly. The following day, people from three RCI ships (one having to be bussed to Ft. Lauderdale for their embarkation) were all gathered in a fairly small lobby area. Luggage everywhere...only two porters at the hotel to handle the mess. It may have been a premonition of things to come.
The Embarkation process was exceptionally smooth. After identifying our luggage as it was moved off the bus storage compartment, a surly porter demanded $2 per bag as a tip. Everyone appear perplexed but forked over the money. We then walked about a city block to the passenger terminal and were able to walk directly to a counter where we presented our passportsand credit card to set up the onboard account. We were handed Sea Pass cards and these were used at the gangway entrance to the ship. Our photo was taken and we were welcomed on board. We found it odd that no one assisted us to our room: we were on our own. Once at the cabin on deck 8, we sought out a couple from England whom we had taken the cruise to meet. They had planned the Panama Canal cruise and we had wanted to share in the experience with them (it had been a dozen years since last we saw each other).
Although we had given our reservation and those of our UK friends to RCI to ensure we were seated at the same table for dining, the Sea Pass cards showed different tables. So, we went to the dining room and sat for more than an hour while no less than 50 people waited to coax the dining room manager to change their dining reservations. We were placed at a table for 12 and when we inquired if we would get good service at such a large table, the manager stated emphatically "he's got only the one table." We found out later than the waiter and his assistant actually had a total of 28 diners to wait on.
The food quality on the Legend of the Seas was noticeably poor through our 14-day sailing. The Windjammer café on deck 9 provided the same breakfast fare each day without any variation. There was no afternoon tea. Instead, there was a "snack" hour where one would get watered down ice milk, cookies, and cherry cobbler.cherry cobbler every day but two days when peace cobbler was served. Bread pudding was also served and nothing resembled the nice afternoon teas one gets accustomed to on other ships. Considering that there were 252 people from the United Kingdom on the cruise, they could have done much better. Additionally, they served a buffet which only those who cared not to dress up in more than swim trunks for dinner two hours later (for main seating) would find interest in. At these times, crew look haggard and sleep deprived.
The dining room menus for lunch and dinner were odd compilations of food where nothing paired. The waiter's recommendations attempted to convince that certain offerings were disasters (obviously from the main seating since we were second seating). The soups were the only things on the menu that all of our tablemates agreed was good, above average fare. Beef meals (especially steaks) were never cooked to anyone's satisfaction and, by mid-way through the cruise, many surrounding tables were missing diners. We found out later than many chose to eat in port and avoid the disappointment of food quality all of us were subjected to on the ship. More than one veteran cruiser mentioned that they had better food in their high school cafeterias or on Carnival ships!
The idea of cruise travel being based upon food offerings is not our idea of cruise travel. We either find the ship the highlight (layout, activities, personnel, etc.), or the ports. Sometimes we find both enjoyable to the max. The Legend, however, fell short in several areas.
The tender use in Cabo San Lucas was so totally mismanaged that we stood in a crowd (rather than a respectable line) on the stairway leading to the tender for more than 45 minutes. Some people walked to the lower deck and some used the elevator. These people clashed with one another when it appeared that it looked like people were cutting in front of others. Realistically, the process was horrible.just issuing tickets with numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.) do not mean much.
The entertainment on board the Legend of the Seas indicated to us that RCI does not spend very much in this area. While the cruise director, John Blair, may have touted that "there is more entertainment on the Legend than most any other ship on any other ocean," the quality was substandard. A weathered tenor, Renato Pagnilli, who has apparently been with RCI for a number of years, did all he could to muster attention. One evening, he even broke out in song over loud speakers in the dining room-just as our entrée was being delivered. What noise to accompany dinner! We opted to miss more than half of the shows since they were pretty dull stuff. We believe we can get the same entertainment watching re-runs of the Ed Sullivan Show on cable television! And each entertainer had his/her own CDs to sell. In fact, Renato was hawking his CDs on the pool deck and discounting cash sales!
If you book on this ship (or any of the others in this class) stay away from deck 8. It is located just below the pool deck. You hear everything from above! Same goes for the cabins all around you on either side. When someone sneezes you want to respond, "God bless you." The ship appeared to be made out of cardboard.
Speaking of the ship itself, there was much vibration felt throughout the cruise. Could this be a sign that they have the same problem with their propellers as other ships in this class?
Another disappointment was the lack of an alternative dining experience. There is just the one formal restaurant (Romeo and Juliet) on deck 4. And don't expect the Baked Alaska parade. The Legend of the Seas had a horrific experience less than two years ago. A table caught fire and diners were injured with critical burns. There is no tableside preparation of anything flaming (we were told this is fleet wide but could not verify it). So, cherries jubilee were not prepared with gusto. Two stations near the entrances to the dining room were where this type of offering was handled. The head waiter must be taking a hit as we did not find any reason why a gratuity should be rendered to him. We had no idea other than his walking around and smiling (especially the 2-3 days from the end of the cruise) to include him in our gratuity offerings.
My wife had a birthday during the cruise and the head waiter approached me the evening of the birthday as plates were cleared and dessert menus were handed out. "Do you want a cake for your wife's birthday? We'll charge the $7.95 for the cake to your shipboard account." I was flabbergasted but nodded in agreement. Several waiters arrived as the exceptionally small cake arrived with three candles and sang "Happy Barfday." Yes, I felt sick enough to 'barf' by this experience!
Talking about prices: the Legend's prices for drinks are as high as any five-star restaurant. And though we told our cabin steward that we had no need of two large bottled waters in our small inside cabin (along with a six-pack of soft drinks), he did not take the hint and find someplace for them. We had to see them each and every day of our cruise! The photographs at the formal night required purchase of a "set." This included the photo of the two of us and one called a "postcard" that we just did not want (showing the ship in a collage). The price was just $19.95. And the formal night was a photo at table-not one of those 'formal portraits' with a background. The regular prints were $9.95 for all the usual things these shipboard photographers try to do to sell prints. In the end, the vast majority of them were not purchased and those at our table mentioned that they thought the quality of the photographs did not justify any purchase at all.
The disembarkation process in San Diego was yet another opportunity to see what happens when one expects a smooth transition from ship to airport and it does not work out that way. We noticed that no RCI employee checked the order of those leaving the ship. We were in the second group of about 12 or so and it was dependent upon the departure of the flights, etc. Yet, people got off at will and all sorts of color-coded tags indicated that it was a mass exodus. We could hardly blame them since the disembarkation was 75 minutes behind schedule. We arrived at our gate exactly one hour prior to the departure time and had a difficult time getting our boarding passes since the flight was oversold. While we could have understood that the ship had not been cleared in a timely fashion, it was waiting for people with our color-coded tags to follow those who ignored the 'order' of disembarkation. We sat on the bus waiting for it to fill for more than 45 minutes before leaving for the nearby airport.
Those ports we visited included Aruba, the transit from east to west through the Panama Canal (during a daylight transit), Panama City, Costa Rica, Huatalco, Mexico, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The shore excursions we took were interesting and mostly worth the money. We have come to expect that the cruise lines can hardly be responsible for the quality of the tours but that they try and get operators to perform more professionally and give passengers a value for their services.
The praise on this cruise goes to our waiter, Christopher Pino (from India). He performed his duties so professionally and always had a sincere smile to go along with his Herculean responsibilities to serve 28 diners. He was observed helping his assistant, Agnello, who was shy to the point of distraction but always pleasant. Chris has been with RCI for seven years and Agnello is on his third six-month contract with RCI.
Additionally, the purser staff was efficient and helpful. Our mattress was as lumpy and uncomfortable as lying on sandbags and when we both had backaches each morning, my wife finally asked for some consideration. That afternoon we returned to our cabin to find a new mattress replacement. Voila!
Does our future cruising include Royal Caribbean International? After having experienced another RCI product, Celebrity Cruises, and one of the new mega-ships, Infinity, we do not see the RCI fleet in our future cruise travels. For us, the difference is clear: Celebrity has a superior product.