I was a first time cruiser, but I have been around the industry for a while as my husband has worked on many cruise lines.
Embarkation at Tampa is complicated and drawn out, but all the staff portside were helpful and it was very clear where you had to go next, which queue to get in etc, as a Non US Citizen I was expecting hold ups but the process went smoothly and simply. Took me about 15 mins to go through security, get my sign and sail card and actually get on the ship. Muster Drill would have been much faster if people didn't insist on seeing if they could get out of it - they do a room to room check, just deal with it - give up 15 minutes of your life and go listen to the safety information... it wont kill you!
I thought the Legend was beautiful, yes I can see where other people have said you can tell she is an older ship (the odd bit of flaking paint under the lifeboats, chips on doors etc) but unless you are looking for the flaws you wont actually notice them. The lobby area is gorgeous, everywhere is clean and well signposted and the image of a floating hotel is definitely correct.
I had my first DOD within 20 mins of being on the ship up on Lido deck. The staff are attentive, well presented and courteous. Some are friendlier than others, something I put down to their confidence in spoken English, but everyone was polite and well mannered, and very helpful if you asked for assistance.
I had a 4K interior cabin with french door, really good value for money as you get all the natural light and fresh air without balcony prices. My steward, Krisna,knew my name, came and introduced himself and treated me like a princess all week. LOVE towel animals! LOVE having my bed turned down, room cleaned, fresh everything - if I could have smuggled him in my suitcase and brought him home to take care of me here I would have!
I chose any-time dining, and was really surprised when a window table was saved for me every night, without me asking as it turned out I was always in around 5.45pm. Our waiter Elmer was a sweetheart, he got me a glass of milk every night (heartburn, so much rich food...) remembered how I liked my food cooked, and even told the odd joke!
I tried the casinos, never having been inside one before. It's not for me, I dont really 'get it' but the girl in there helped me set up my S&S card and showed me how to work the machines without making me feel stupid. The casino has a large plus point as it is an area you can smoke whilst you play, so I think a lot of people go in there to play the slots just so they can have a cigarette. It never smelt smokey however and there was live entertainment in there most evenings too.
I saw some of the shows and they were OK. I laughed and tapped my feet so they must be doing something right. I have to mention the Showband as they are very very good, they move around the ship playing in Satchmo's, the theatre, the lobby etc and never disappoint.
The live entertainers also move around the ship, everything from Karaoke, Cocktail Piano and 3 different guitarists to close-hand magic, I preferred the Live lounges to the shows as they are more personal and you can interact with the Entertainment Team. You will never be bored, there is always something to do. The shops have some amazing duty free prices, and daily offers on jewellery, handbags, fragrance etc. There are even social hosts to direct you around and tell you what is going on
We went to the Steakhouse on the Wednesday and I was blown away! Seriously, the service is impeccable, the food is out of this world, the best steak I have ever eaten in my life, glorious side dishes, fantastic starters, my only word of advice is that the portions are very generous, and the New York Cheesecake is as big as a house brick - not for the faint hearted! If you do nothing else whilst you are on the ship VISIT THE STEAKHOUSE!! You wont be disappointed.
I have to come on to the food at this point, as this is something which was a constant source of surprise to me..... NEVER in my LIFE have I seen so much food, all day, every day! I swear one family didn't have a cabin as they were up on Lido eating every single time I went up there, they must have lived on Lido....! Some things are better than others, the salad bar is fantastic, a big mention has to go to the sous chef who is responsible for the invention of BLT mini quiches for breakfast (OMG.... sooooo good!) pizza is always fresh, deserts are hit and miss, mousses tend to be a little tasteless, and sponges a bit dry, but everything else I tried was lovely. The grill that changes every night is definitely according to taste, I liked French and All American, didnt think too much of the Chinese or Caribbean. The sheer volume of food, available 24 hours a day dictates what can be done so don't be complaining if your hollandaise has dried out, or your potato dauphinoise is a little bland. They cook for 2000 people so a lot has to be 'dumbed down' if you dont like it - try something else, there really is no shortage of choice on Lido alone!
The food in the dining room is of a higher standard and tended to be hotter. I did witness a gentleman next to me order 6 starters (yes 6) and his wife have 4. Then he complained that 2 were cold (well they would be if you order so many at once). This was before ordering a fish course and then a Chateaubriand!!
I also watched a table of 2 order 6 lobster and shrimp main courses between them, then refuse to buy a drink and bring their own (pre-corked) wine from their room!!! Unbelievable!
I actually think you could die of over eating on this ship! I had heartburn after 3 days because I simply am not used to eating that much food so often. Amazing value for money, no other All-Inclusive holiday supplies this much. The tea, coffee, hot chocolate etc included in the price are all available 24 hours a day also. I found the lemonade a little sweet so did half and half with water and it was very refreshing then.
Yes, you pay for alcohol - no it's not dirt cheap. However the glasses are large and the service is perfect - as you are not paying for anything else I didn't feel the prices were too high at all. AND I got a whale tail cup!! This incidentally is a pain to pack in your case but do persevere!! Mine is now on my kitchen shelves and looks brilliant!!!!
I personally like to dress for dinner each night. It is an event for me, I found most people did too. On Cruise Elegant nights the photographers are out in force and we got some lovely portraits taken. There is no need to scream - 'go away - you are not making money out of me!' at them (yes, seriously that did happen) if you don't want to buy the pictures nobody will force you! I saw most people had dressed up for Elegant nights, there were the hard core few who refused and went to eat on Lido, but for me it was a lovely evening each time and there was a real 'buzz' in the air with people walking about looking great and everyone smiling.
Ports of call : Cozumel was interesting, we went out of the port into town and there are some real bargains to be had for shoppers. Very cheap here. We stayed on ship in Belize as it rained, and from everything I had heard it is only the port area that is worth going to anyway. Next time I will try it myself and make my own decision. Isla Roatan is simply amazing, beautiful, lush and friendly.
We booked the Turtle Farm excursion (via Carnival) for Grand Cayman, and again having read many reviews on it I can see why some people would be non-plussed. If you are the type of person who loves nature and animals, can appreciate the wonder of snorkelling with Sea Turtles, watching sharks and having tropical birds eat out of your hand then this is the place for you. The guide is brilliant and you can spend the rest of the afternoon swimming with the turtles, going around the area yourself and it is a tranquil and stunning place to be. If you want someone to entertain you all day, and are not a real nature lover then you may be disappointed. For me it was one of the best days I have ever spent, I held so many turtles, got some incredible photos and loved every minute.
At the end of my cruise I tipped my room steward, I tipped the waiters in the dining room every night, I tipped the regular bar tenders who served us, I tipped when I felt like it on top of my gratuities paid direct. I do not understand anyone who say the staff on these ships do not deserve it, or that they will only tip those who they see giving them exceptional service. How do you tip the people that wash your towels and bedlinen if you remove your grats?? Every member of staff I dealt with, be it walking past them on a corridor or dealing with them face to face was polite, respectful and couldn't do enough to help. I watched waiters who got changed 3 times a day to do a morning shift on Lido restaurant, then run round Serenity all afternoon and then again in the restaurant each night. They were still smiling every time I saw them. No holiday I have ever been on has such attentive and hard working staff.
Complaints? Perhaps the glasses on the tables up on Lido could have been cleared quicker on Sea Days.... (I'm really trying here..) as it wasnt always easy to find a clear table when it was busy.
Camp Carnival.. I found myself asking groups of teenagers to walk not run and did feel intimidated a couple of times at 1am or 2am when they are still up and congregating in big groups around the lifts. Apparently it is OK for them to have the run of the ship when Camp Carnival is finished and I personally would want my teens in bed. That's just my humble opinion.
Oh and finally - the couple 3 staterooms down from me...... If you want to climb out onto the lifeboat walkway and start taking a 'Reader's Wives' style set of pornographic photos on your holiday - you go ahead.... just please don't do it at 5 in the afternoon when everyone has just come back onto the ship and there are kids about... you know who you are......!
I had a wonderful time, would go back tomorrow if I could. Your holiday is what you make it and if you are going to look for problems I am sure they are there, for me I found it relaxing, the service exceptional and would definitely recommend it to anyone. Enjoy your cruise!!!