Carnival Legend March 2012
Travel: We flew to Tampa the evening prior to sailing and stayed at the Marriott Springhill Suites downtown (on Cypress). The hotel provides breakfast and has a shuttle bus to the cruise terminal for $5 per person. Reserve at the front desk. The bus stops at several area hotels, so call and ask because it was far easier and cheaper than a cruise transfer. We needed a few "supplies" for the cruise and found a surprisingly good convenience store at a Shell Gas station on the corner next door to the hotel. They stocked decent wine, champagne and snacks!
Packing: We took the advice of previous cruisers' suggestions. We brought a collapsible cooler to hold a 12-pack of sodas and 2 champagne bottles for check-in. Security did check the drinks in the cooler. I packed an extra 3-prong plug, 6 plug extension strip, as well as my hair flat iron in my carry on luggage. I passed right through security without a problem. Our checked bags had the carefully packed 4 "rum runners" with wine, rum and scotch. No confiscated bags!
Embarkation: We caught the 10 am bus and arrived at Cruise Terminal 2 about 10:30 am. There was no line. We were told the ship was a little behind schedule (possibly due to time change to DST?), but were processed immediately and waited in the lounge area. Once the boarding began, "zones" were called quickly. We boarded about 12:30 pm with our carry-on luggage. Nice lunch buffet. The Deli is highly recommended!
"Carnival Legend": Overall we thought the ship was very nice and enjoyed the entire cruise. Due to previous comments/reviews we were expecting worse. Keep in mind this is a Carnival ship and they market "fun." All decor is over-the-top stimulating. However, it was very nice considering the theme (i.e. Legends). The food was good too. Again, it is Carnival. If you want FINE DINING you need to go on a much more expensive cruise. The service in our stateroom and our dining staff was outstanding.
Dining: For casual dining we found the "Deli" to be the best. "Off the Grill" was consistently good for hamburgers, chicken tenders and hotdogs (kids would love this). We ate breakfast in the Unicorn Cafe (Lido Deck, main buffet) about half the time. You can order almost any specialty egg and they varied other offerings from day to day. Note: We ate breakfast in the Truffles Restaurant (Deck 2) only on the last day. It is nice to get waited on and very relaxing, but don't expect completely different food. For lunch, we usually ate a sandwich from the Deli or items from "Off the Grill." They changed the theme of the food at the noon buffet every day, but we don't eat a big lunch. There were no shortage of desserts and the "Swirls" (soft-serve ice cream) machines are open 24/7. We ate dinner every night at the Truffles Restaurant. We were with a travel group, so we had dinner companions that we didn't know previously, but shared the same interests. We had a wonderful experience at dinner each time! The food was very good. If you didn't care for what you ordered (or it wasn't cooked to your satisfaction) the waiters had no problem bringing you another of the same or different item. If you couldn't make up your mind, they would bring both! I usually don't eat (need) dessert, but how could I resist? We found the sugar free desserts to be as delicious as the regular ones. We did not eat at the "Golden Fleece" restaurant.
Group: We were traveling on a "Theme Cruise" arranged by a travel agent. It was a fundraiser for a St. Petersburg, FL library that hosted an author we like. There were several special activities set up for the group. Carnival was really good about arranging rooms and socials so that we got to do more than we planned with the group.
Room: We went with a Balcony (8210)! Awesome! We had coffee in the mornings, lounged in the afternoons and got to see most of the ports from the port side. We also used room service many times. It was always prompt. We especially like to have breakfast delivered when we don't have to rush off for a port call. The steward was very good and kept ice in our collapsible cooler to keep our extra drinks cold!
Amenities: We used the gym a lot and ran on the deck several mornings. We did not use the Spa.
Grand Cayman Island: Quaint. Reminded me of St. Thomas (go figure). We booked the Carnival 2 Tank Certified Scuba Dive excursion. Carnival uses Don Foster's Dive Cayman which is quite well known and very professional. Don Foster's price for the same excursion was almost the same amount, so I booked through Carnival to "guarantee" timely transportation to and from. We were bussed a very short distance, filled out our paperwork (this tour was only for certified divers), outfitted with gear and boarded on a dive boat. There were only 17 people on the tour and we had a lot of room on the boat. We split into two groups so there was ample supervision and lots of room on the dives. Don Foster's provided water and a cooler of ice if you brought your own drinks. They also had clear water tanks to rinse cameras and personal equipment. The personnel couldn't have been more helpful and friendly. The dives were fun and we saw a lot of marine life. Keep in mind we were on a schedule (the downside to cruising), but the divers kept us on time and got us our maximum dive times in. We enjoyed it so much, we will definitely return for a week to the Island just to scuba.
Cozumel: We have been here several times, so we didn't book an excursion. We went bar hopping (outside the protected cruise shop area) with our tour group and had a ball. Found an interesting place a few blocks up on side-street. It was a barbershop, complete with barber pole and bar! It was more a restaurant/bar and maybe former barbershop, but the beer was cheap and cold.
Belize: I reserved a cave tubing excursion direct with "cave-tubing.com" as recommended by everyone else! Yes, it was awesome and Â½ the price for 2x the fun! Speedo and gang took awesome care of everyone. The bus was waiting just as advertised (the ship was late getting clearance to disembark.) It didn't matter what tour you signed up for, it is all in the same area so you meet up again eventually. However, if you participated in more than one activity (zip-lining, ATVs, or cave tubing) you have to accomplish it all in the same amount of time. My advice is to just do the cave tubing in Belize. See Zip-lining next. The bus trip is to the western interior of Belize, so we were given a great 'city' tour along the way! We were treated to a sample of Belizean Cashew Wine and lots of local information from Speedo. The drive was just short of an hour. We were allowed to leave all our belongings on the bus (guarded and locked). There is quite a long walk from the public parking lot to the place where you enter the river. It isn't very hard or hilly, just long. You are walking in the rainforest, so it is quite interesting. Wear bug repellant!
The cave tubing, no matter who you book with, is all at the same "Federal" (national) park in Belize. There is an entrance fee, a requirement for a guide, lights, tubes and life vests - all covered by the tour. Just FYI if you think you are going somewhere different....
The actual cave tour is quite relaxing. You sit in nice inner-tubes with a light on your head. You won't even get your hair wet! The staff was quite knowledgeable with regard to the caves and the archeological history. Once you get out of the water, it is a very short walk back to the lot. There are nice changing facilities and showers. Cave-Tubing.com takes you back to their "hut" and feeds you lunch, usually homemade tamales. It was very good and will stave off hunger until you get back to the ship.
They got us back to the tender on time. Keep in mind this tour will take all your time in port. "Butts-up!" to Speedo and the entire staff!
Roatan Island: I reserved an excursion with Clip'N'Zip as recommended. It is literally across the street from the entrance of the cruise facilities. We leisurely walked off the boat and over to the shop and were the first ones there! We completed our waiver paperwork on-line ahead of time so we were good to go! The staff outfitted us with gear (harness, helmet and gloves) then we set off in a tiny pickup truck. I forgot to change my shoes, so I was wearing flip-flips. They recommend closed-toe shoes, which I would have been more comfortable in, mainly because I was worried I'd lose a shoe over the trees! Otherwise, it was fine and did not interfere with the zip lining.
Our guides were Paul, Ismael and Marlon and they were awesome!! It was quite easy to learn "the ropes." The first few lines were short and easy so you could get accustomed to the experience. Stopping was easy and in many cases, the guys could slow you down manually. We had families with children about 8-12 years old and they all handled it easily. The zip-lining was really fun and beautiful. The course is set up wonderfully so you end up at the shop. There was a short uphill walk at the beginning and several stairs to reach some of the higher platforms. The entire experience lasted about an hour, so there was plenty of time to ship or hit the beach afterwards. I highly recommend this tour. You might want to go twice!!
Arrival: Return was sunny, but windy (March/spring). We arrived in port on time and left our room to wait in a designated "area." I recommend the 2nd deck where you disembark. We were among the first to leave (we carried our own bags) at 9:05 and sailed through Customs. We purchased a shuttle to the airport ($22 for 2 people), but it might have been quicker to get a cab which was advertised for $25 no matter how many people. Both options are right on the corner of the terminal when you exit. It was easy to obtain transportation if you do not have anything prearranged. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for our 12:05pm flight.