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Carnival Legend--the good, the not so-good & the in-between!
Cruising with my DH and 3 sons (20, 17 and 13), this review reflects our family's experience aboard the Carnival Legend, August 12-19, 2012.
Tropical Storm Ernesto pounded through the Caribbean just the week prior to our sailing. This caused the Legend to cancel its port tops to both Belize and Roatan as the ship diverted to Montego Bay, Jamaica instead. On the tail of Ernesto was another storm brewing--Tropical Storm 7. It was this storm that threatened our cruise plans as it was projected to follow the same path as Ernesto. Not knowing if this storm would cause another change to the Legend's itinerary or not, we did not know what surprises would lay ahead for us. Luckily, while waiting in the airport, we discovered that TS 7 had dissipated. This was good--no--this was wonderful news for us! Actually, weather-wise, we were very lucky. We cruised right after Ernesto and before Isaac. We had great weather, calm seas and no changes to the ship's itinerary.
After sailing More
on two Destiny class ships in the past, this was our first time on a Spirit class ship. We did notice that although the Legend is a large ship, it is smaller than the Victory and Triumph (the two Carnival ships we previously cruised on). However, my first impression on seeing the Legend docked in Tampa was, "wow, does that ship ever look long!" In fact, it is long. The Carnival Legend is 963 feet long, which is 70 feet longer than the Destiny class ships. The Carnival Legend is also one of the fastest cruise liners on the water!
Embarkation was smooth and moved fairly quickly. It took us approx. 20 minutes from the time we passed through security, to waiting in the seemingly long registration line (which continually moved), before we boarded the beautiful Carnival Legend. BTW--we had no trouble bringing cases of soda or bottled water onboard!
We did not have to wait for any zone numbers to be called. After registration, we got our embarkation photo taken, and then with our S & S cards in hand, we stepped onto the Legend before 1:00 pm.
We entered the ship from the Legend Lobby on Deck 2. As soon as we stepped onboard, we could see what a true legend this ship actually is. The ships lobby is uniquely decorated in an ornately neo-classical design--and yes there are urns everywhere. The railings on the stairs are Greek-style urns. Urns are used as pillars, urns are used as a base on lamps and tables and you can even see urns used as stool pedestals.
We had two adjacent ocean view cabins on the Riveria Deck. Our cabins were always kept very clean by our room steward Luis and I did not notice any signs of wear and tear.
Our ocean view staterooms on the Legend where equipped with a small bar fridge. This came in very handy for keeping our bottled water and soft drinks cold. Of course our room steward did a great job filling our collapsible cooler with ice so we could keep our drinks cold whenever we went ashore.
In general, the entire ship was in great shape and so clean, it literally sparkled! It amazes me, how a ship, so large with over 2000 passengers onboard, could always look so clean and stay in such great shape. I noticed one day that a piece of canvas over the drain area by the Camelot pool was coming loose. Well, the next day there was a crew member cutting a brand new piece of this material to replace the worn out one!
When it came to food, it was always good and there was always plenty of it! From the Unicorn Cafe on the Lido Deck, down to the MDR, everything we ate was hot and tasty and we did not notice any "bacon" police at breakfast either! Our MDR waiter, Slavisha, worked hard to please, but with staff cutbacks, we could see he was extra busy running and darting back and forth as he served from table to table. Even so, our soups and dinner were always brought to the table, served the way they should be--hot! Kudos to Slavisha for a job well done!
Unfortunately, I did notice on this cruise that Carnival had made noticeable cutbacks in this area. I was disappointed by the lack of Caribbean atmosphere by the non-existence of Caribbean music and live bands on the Lido Deck. This was so different from our experience on previous Carnival cruises. The music was either played by DJ's or was simply recorded music playing hip hop, pop and rap songs. The music was really not that much different to what we would hear playing on the radio here. The closest Caribbean or island type music played was the occasional Bob Marley song. On top of that, the music played was always very loud.
I also noticed a change to the main show offerings. On our past cruises we have always enjoyed watching grand Vegas-style magician/illusionist/light shows and spectacular juggling/acrobatic/comedy shows in the main show lounge. On this cruise, this type of entertainment was not to be. My DS's always looked forward to the magician and juggling shows on past cruises and this time around they were disappointed that these shows were no longer part of Carnival's entertainment program. In general, the shows that Carnival did offer were either stand-up comedy acts or singing and dancing performances. We noticed there was not as much variety in the different entertainment venues as there was in the past. My family are not big fans of stand-up comedy (although Tommy Drake was great) and although I do not mind watching singing and dancing shows, this type of entertainment is not engaging to everyone--like my DH and DS's who do not find these types of shows very appealing. Additionally, the day we were in Belize (besides the Marriage Show), there were no other shows that night--that's right, no comedy, no singing and no dancing performances. Although Carnival cruises still offer a good value for the money, we were disappointed how much the cutbacks affected the live music and entertainment department. We really missed the entertainment we grew so much to love and looked forward to from our previous cruises.
New VIFP Program and More Carnival Cutbacks
The new VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) program is another noticeable cutback. Although we were invited to the past guest party on our last cruise, we did not receive the invitation this time. In fact, we will not receive this invite again, until we reach Gold status. The Captains Reception Party, now called "Captain's Celebration" is another victim of cutbacks. No longer are complimentary beverages provided. Instead take $1.00 off any drink you order from the bar.
We received debarkation tags #18 the evening before. This is also the number we attached to our large luggage.
Before debarkation can begin, all non-US citizens are required to meet in the Follies Lounge at 7:30 am for a mandatory customs inspection. Since we are Canadian citizens that meant us!
Once in the Follies Lounge we had to wait until after 8:00 am. before the custom officials came onboard. The officials were set up on stage and once they were ready, the rows were dismissed one by one. The rows filled up the aisles but the officials worked fairly quickly checking passports and custom declaration forms to assure everything was in order. 1 hours later, we had our turn and cleared customs. We were out of the Follies Lounge by 8:45 am.
Debarkation began sometime after 9:30. By 10:30 our number was called. Dragging our carry-on's behind us, we walked through the Atrium Lobby one last time, and exited the Carnival Legend.
Ports of Call
The Carnival Legend's Western Caribbean itinerary took us to new exotic destinations and new exciting adventures. In Roatan, we were able to zipline on the Pirates of the Caribbean, Extreme, Extreme zipline--the highest and longest lines in the Americans. In Belize we experienced the only place in the world where cave tubing can be done. We also handled pre-historic-looking creatures in Grand Cayman and enjoyed the amenities and floating toys at Paradise Beach--a beautiful tropical beach in Cozumel. The Legend's 4 port stops and 2 sea days gave us a nice balance between busy and relaxation. Sure, some of our tour operators, did not live up to our expectations, and we were not able to do everything we liked to have done (I guess this gives us a good reason to come back again someday), but they were there to greet us with a smile, they kept us safe and they brought us back to the ship on time. More importantly, the time we spent together as a family was precious and valuable and contributes to special and lasting memories that we will always share together.
Legendary Decor & Closing Thoughts
The Carnival Legend is a mid-size ship--smaller than the Dream, Conquest and Destiny class, yet larger than the Fantasy class ships. Throughout her 12 decks are creative, custom-made pieces and artwork depicting legendary, historical and mythical characters and stories. I have read that some people think the Legend's decor is "over-the-top", but in all honesty I think this all adds to the Legends charm and uniqueness. Sure, there are neo-classical urns (with a flower basket on top), all over the place, but I think this is what makes the Legend so memorable and contributes to an interesting "legendary" cruising atmosphere.
The Carnival Legend is like a floating museum, waiting for you to discover all the stories and legends she has to offer! Appreciate the Legend and take the Legend Adventure. Explore the ship. Check out the elevators and stairways, the nooks and crannies. What legends and stories can you discover?
You can read my full review with lots of photos on CC here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1704270 Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We booked our cave tubing adventure with Cave Tubing R Us. We chose this company because they use tubes with headrests that link together--so there is no foot/armpit hanging on required! We also read wonderful reviews about this company on Trip Advisor. Once on shore we quickly met up with our tour operator Dave and Henry from Cave Tubing R Us. Henry led the way to a large van/mini bus where 2 people were already waiting. Another group of 7 joined us shortly after. Dave greeted everyone with enthusiasm and excitement. He originally said he would be spending the day with us, which we thought would be wonderful, but then said he had to pick someone else up and took off.
We arrived at the Cave Tubing Park in the rain--it was not a heavy downpour, but it was steady. We hiked for 5 minutes in the rain before crossing the river.
Then we hiked for another 35 min along a well-kept trail, through the rainforest, again in the rain--all the while carrying inner tubes over our heads. (They worked well as umbrellas!) Henry said the rain is actually nice, as it can get quite hot and humid walking through the rainforest.
Our hike through the rainforest, did feel somewhat rushed. I could tell Henry really wanted to get ahead of the other tubing groups already ahead of us on the trail. Whereas other groups stopped along the trail to learn about different trees, plants etc., we walked passed it all. We didn't see the termite mound or the tarantula nest which we read so much about! We stopped once in a dry cave that had bats in it and Henry provided a narration about that--and that was about it with the rainforest tour.
Once we got to the river, the rain stopped. Our other guide Marcel, approached us holding out his hand to reveal live termites crawling all over it--this was kind of gross! The termites were much smaller than I imagined them to be. He asked if anyone wanted to taste a termite. My DH was brave and tasted some--he thought they tasted "minty".
Then Henry and Marcel divided the group up into two groups of 7 and linked our tubes together. Then with Marcel as our guide and with our helmet light to illuminate the way, we enjoyed floating for 35 minutes through the ancient Mayan caves. We saw interesting crystal formations as well as stalagmites and stalactites and even got splashed by the cave waterfall. After we exited the cave we were able to swim in the cool river and floated downstream for another 15 minutes before heading back to the van.
We read many reviews on Trip Advisor about Dave taking his groups to a local place called Cheers for lunch. We were hoping that we could go there too. My DH asked about stopping at Cheers and Henry said we wouldn't have enough time as it takes 30 minutes for them to prepare the food once you place your order. We were somewhat disappointed by that, but what can we do when time works against us?
Dave showed up and thanked everyone for booking with him. Although we only met Dave briefly, we could see that he has a very dynamic, joking and outgoing personality. To us, both Marcel and Henry were much more serious and business-like. Although we still had a good time cave tubing, I know our tubing experience would have been completely different and much more "lively" and memorable had Dave been a part of it.
On Tuesday we arrived in Puerta Maya, Cozumel shortly before 9:00 am. Again we were greeted with sunny skies and tropical heat which made spending a day at the beach just the perfect thing to do. Today, we had no private excursions booked; rather we planned to spend a day enjoying the facilities of Paradise Beach. Being this will be our first beach stop, we looked forward to feeling warm, tropical sand between our toes while hearing the peaceful rustle of palm fronds gently swaying in the wind. Add water toys and a cool drink from our collapsible cooler...and we've got paradise!
At Paradise Beach, it costs $12/person for use of the water toys and floats and another $2/person for a chair and umbrella. What makes this beach so special is the abundance of inflatable water toys which are located in the ocean. We noticed there were even more water toys since we visited here last in 2007. From the giant 14 foot iceberg to the water trampolines and slides, the boys had an blast somersaulting into the water, slipping, sliding and jumping to their hearts content into the warm ocean water below. The use of kayaks was also included in the price.
Our server took our lunch order from the beach and delivered our lunch about 20 minutes later. While we waited, we enjoyed lounging under the shade of tropical palm trees. Our food was delicious--everything tastes yummy under a palm tree!
Please Note: Entering the water was quite rocky with sharp rocks. Wearing water shoes here would have been a good idea.
We had an awesome day. This was certainly the perfect place for us to go with our DS's.
We visited Rum Point Beach as part of our Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion with Nativeways. When we arrived at Rum Point we could see how very scenic this beach really is. Large casuarina pines gracefully cascade over the beach and lounge area, providing shade from the Caribbean sun, while large netting hangs across the tree branches. I am not sure how much of this netting is to keep birds out as it is to prevent pine needles from falling onto the tables and sand below.
Although Rum Point is scenic, we were not totally impressed with the actual beach area and water. We found the actual beach area to be quite small and the water was somewhat murky and seaweedy--not clear like it was at Stingray City or like our last experience at 7 mile beach in 2007. I do not know if the murkiness of the water is typical of Rum Point Beach or if we were there on an "off day". We also found it quite rocky entering the water. This is another time when beach shoes definitely would have come in handy.
We enjoyed a very good lunch on the beach (which was included in the price of the tour), swam in the warm water, relaxed on hammocks and rested on the complimentary lounge chairs for the 1 1/2 hours we were here.
We booked the Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion with Nativeways. We climbed aboard a large boat and made our way up to its upper level. The rest of the group (about 20 of them) arrived soon after. We were the only ones on the boat who booked the Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion but since all the others booked the Rays and Snorkel we shared the same boat to Stingray City.
There were four crew members on the boat. Our captain was Thomas and JC was the photographer. We found both of these guys to be friendly, funny, professional and informative.
Both Captain Thomas and JC were in the ocean handling the stingrays. JC took hold of a large female stingray and showed us her stinger. I couldn't believe how large the stinger was. It was about as thick as a pencil and a good 6-8 inches long. In order to get stung by a stingray, the stinger must puncture right through your skin--oww, that would really hurt! JC also told us to notice the eyes on the stingray and how they look like the eyes of an alligator! While in the water, stingrays floated gracefully all around us and we even felt their smooth, slippery hide, brush against our legs.
We all got to hold a stingray, get a stingray massage and yes, even kiss a stingray! Then we were all given a piece of calamari to feed the stingrays. The stingray sucked up the calamari like a vacuum! I couldn't believe what strong suction those creatures have!
We spent 30 minutes in the water with the stingrays before it was time to go. From Stingray City it was a short boat ride to the reef. We put on masks, snorkels and fins and jumped into the warm, clear, turquoise blue water of the Caribbean Sea.
For 2o minutes we enjoyed snorkeling and looking below to see the many colorful, tropical fish swimming around in their underwater paradise. Then it was off to Rum Point!
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our day and time with Nativeways. From all the tour operators we encountered on this cruise, Nativeways offered us the best tour guide experience. Not only did they deliver everything we expected to do on this excursion, but they were also jokey, funny, friendly, professional, helpful, and outgoing while providing us with a top-notch service.
We had a freestyle tour booked with Rony's Tours. Our plan for today was to go ziplining on the Pirates of Caribbean Extreme, Extreme Zipline, visit the monkeys at the monkey stop, stop for lunch at Rony's mothers restaurant and then head to the Mayan Princess for some beach time.
After making the trek up and down the hill outside the Mahogany Bay Village, we met our tour guide Tia (Rony's mother) and our driver Pedro. Although Tia could speak English very well, Pedro could only speak Spanish. Once in the van, Tia informed us that we would not be able to have lunch at her restaurant because she closes it down during low season (summer months). Although we understand the expense of keeping her restaurant opened during this time, we would have appreciated Rony informing us about this when we made our booking. This was one of our three disappointments with Rony's Tours.
Enroute to the zipline, we stopped at French Harbour. We had to be careful where we stepped, as there were dog droppings everywhere. I do not really know what the significance of this harbor was, but overall we did not think there was much to see here.
Our next stop was the Pirates of the Caribbean Extreme, Extreme zipline. This zipline zips the rider from mountain top to mountain top. Although the Pirates Extreme, Extreme zipline only has 8 zips, it is known as having the highest (328) and longest lines (1,980 feet) in all the Americans!
Besides seeing a few monkeys, we did not see any other visitors there. We paid for the excursion and were quickly harnessed up and then climbed aboard an open-air safari type truck. Our ziplining guides were Dwayne and Iron.
After a brief stop on an overlook which offered us a panoramic view of Coxen Hole and area, we were off to the Monkey Stop.
Admission into the Monkey Stop was $8/person and included the services of a local guide who took us through this zoo. On the way to the monkey cage, we passed cages which housed spider monkeys, a Tamandua, some "squirrel"-like animal and toucans. The most exciting part was going into a cage with two cute, little Capuchin monkeys. We enjoyed having those curious little critters jump and crawl around on us. After our time of interaction with these inquisitive little creatures, we were able to hold a parrot and saw island rabbits, a lemur and deer.
After this stop we were supposed to have at least 2 hours to enjoy West Bay Beach at the Mayan Princess. By the time Pedro got us there, we realized we would only be able to spend 45 minutes here before it would be time to head back. Since the resort charges a $10 fee per person, we decided it wasn't worth the money for our family to spend such a short time at this beach. We asked Tia to take us back to the port so we could at least enjoy some time on Carnival's private beach in Mahogany Bay (which is right next to where the cruise ship docks). Not being able to experience West Bay Beach at the Mayan Princess, was our second disappointment with Rony' Tours. Before I booked with Rony, I specifically told him that we wanted to be back at the port by 1:30 (because I wanted to have some time to check out Mahogany Bay). I asked if we would have enough time to do the zipline, monkey stop, lunch and beach. He responded back saying, "yes we would." When I asked him how much time we would get at the beach if we do all those stops, he informed me "2 hours." Considering we skipped the lunch stop, spent a little under 1 hour ziplining and the monkey stop was no more than 20 minutes, how come we did not have enough time to go to the Mayan Princess as Rony assured us we would? We guess our driver Pedro may have had something to do with this. You see, Pedro drove the van as slow as a turtle. I am sure we could have walked faster than he drove. DH sat in the front seat and noticed Pedro drove only 20 miles per hour the entire day. No wonder cars were honking and passing us by! It is one thing to be cautious, but this was a little extreme. Our ride in the open-air safari truck at the Pirates zipline went faster than that! We believe Pedro's extra slow driving made the travel time from getting from one spot to the next much longer than it should have taken which ended up cutting out our beach time at the Mayan Princess. This was our third disappointment with Rony's Tours.
Since we did not have enough time to spend at the Mayan Princess, Tia did offer to take us to a local restaurant for lunch instead. She said we could have 30 minutes there. Since we were already short on time, we decided that it would be too rushed to stop for lunch. We rather spend this time at the beach in Mahogany Bay.
Although we had an awesome time ziplining and thoroughly enjoyed our time at the monkey stop, we were somewhat disappointed with Rony's Tours. We have read many glowing reviews about Rony's Tours and how people mentioned their day with Rony was the highlight of their entire cruise. Although Tia was very sweet, pleasant and informative, I cannot say that our experience with this tour company was the highlight of our cruise. Again, I am sure that if we had Rony himself, our experience would have been completely different.