I chose this cruise for the itinerary and the size of the ship. I wasn't interested in some behemoth that had 5000+ pax.
We arrived in Tampa on Sept 22 and stayed at the HIXpress on Rocky Point. I got the Stay and Cruise package which was 144.00 taxes etc. in. It included a pickup at the airport, a shuttle to the port, free brekkie and a shuttle back to the airport on your return. The room was spacious, quiet and comfortable. We went to the Bahama Breeze next door for a mid-afternoon snack. Good vibe, seemed like a lot of locals, which is always a good sign. GD was thrilled to see dolphins frolicking in the bay as we ate on the deck. Tip: there is a fully stocked "market" just beyond the tennis courts (it's part of the condos) where you can pick up wine, beer, toiletries and OTC meds.
Later in the evening we took a cab to the International Mall so I could get my Pandora fix. We ate at an Italian restaurant (can't remember the name) food was good, lots of it but they didn't seem to know what a debit card was so I had to pay with a credit card, since I was saving my cash for tips and destination shopping.
The next morning we had breakfast, nothing special but fine to tide us over until lunch on the Lido. We got to the port without any delays but we did stop at several hotels to pick up other passengers. Apparently, the hotels no longer have their own shuttles so they use Big Blue 1. BTW, I always tipped the drivers.
Once at the port the lines moved fairly quickly and I would say we were onboard within 30-40 minutes. Of course the Lido was crowded but we used the time to check out other decks to get the lay of the land (so to speak). Contrary to other people's criticisms, I found the Legend a lovely ship, she's well laid out, with very little rust. Yes, the decor is a little over the top but everything seemed in good repair. I didn't see any stained, ripped chairs in any of the lounges, or stained carpets. Any marred surfaces appeared in the elevators, courtesy of Carnival guests.
At 1:00 we went to our cabin on the Empress Deck, a balcony starboard aft. Lots of storage for a weeks worth of clothing and snorkelling equipment. Mind you, on the way to port we did pick up a passenger who had FOUR pieces of luggage so she may think it inadequate. The bathroom was spacious, even with all the "stuff" a 13 year old apparently needs. The balcony was a perfect size. Could we have had 2 loungers on it, no, but I wasn't planning on spending that much time there, anyway. I asked our steward, Solly, who was great by the way, to remove all items from the fridge so we could put our own refreshments in it. I had several bottles of wine ordered through Carnival's Bon Voyage program as well as juices and sodas. There was always fresh ice in the bucket and regardless of when we returned to the cabin it was always refreshed. We tipped Solly extra at the end of the cruise for a job well done. Don't those people ever sleep?
The first cruise day we spent at the pool which was pretty crowded. We didn't arrive until after lunch but we still managed to snag a couple of loungers in the first row. Later, in the cruise however, I did remove some articles from loungers which were obviously unused. I didn't get any flack from anyone so they must have been gone for ages. The pools are small so anyone who has visions of swimming laps needs a reality check. I never went in the hot tub, it was full of children whose parents obviously never read the rules to take children for frequent bathroom breaks. I figured that water was warm because it was 50-50. Yuck!
The first night we had reservations for the steak house. A wonderful surprise was a complementary bottle of wine. Yay!! The food was very good. We both had the same thing; shrimp cocktail, surf and turf but GD had the chocolate medley dessert and I had the sorbets. Thankfully, GD let me help her eat all that chokkie. The food was so good we made another reservation. This time we had the same main but had crab cake and french onion soup for an app. I also brought my own bottle of wine. Tip: let the dining room know if you are eating at the steakhouse, apparently my table mates waited 20 minutes the first night for us to arrive before they started their appetizers. I was unaware and apologized for that blunder.
In Cozumel, we went to Chankanaab Park to swim with the Manatees. They are 800 pounds of cute! I booked this excursion online directly with Dolphin Discovery for 59.00 USD each. It cost 10.00 USD there and back in a cab. The park is very well looked after since it is the equivilent of a state or provincial park. There were less people in the water with the manatees than the dolphins so we got more time with them. I think we fed them about 20 heads of lettuce. The only down side is that you are not allowed to take your own pics; they have their own photographers and you buy a CD. You choose your pics on a screen, ours cost 109.00 USD. Pretty steep, I know, but I may never get the chance again and I figure it's going to a good cause. Afterwards, we went snorkelling and saw quite a few great fish. We had quesadillas for lunch, no booze, which cost about 22.00 USD.
Next stop was Belize. Since it was just me and my GD, I'd planned to stay on the ship since I had read several reviews of the port being a little dicey, with fencing around the port area. I had a what-the-hell moment, and decided to go anyway. The tender is about 15-20 minutes, less than I had expected. Once at port, it did seem a little dangerous, with guys hanging over the fencing trying to get you to buy stuff or go on some tour. If I had been with my husband I would have gone outside the fencing but decided to be safer than sorry.
We shopped or should I say GD shopped and added to Belize's GNP. We also ate at some place, sorry I don't remember the name, it was upstairs and crowded with lots of happy people. I ordered coconut shrimp which were very runny and tough and I didn't eat any of it. The waitress, who could have been a linebacker, stood over us, hands on hips, staring a hole through those shrimp for a good 20 seconds before removing them. I thought she was "gonna kick my ask"!
Roatan was next. We docked at Mahogany Bay which is very Disneyesque, kind of fake but very pretty. We did not go on the chairlift, seemed kind of pointless since we booked the Tabyana Beach Break. I booked this through Carnival since the price was right and really all you are doing is paying for a ride there and back.
Roatan is very beautiful and tropical looking. Because we arrived at port so early, the town we went through on our way to Tabyana was deserted and looked very poor and disadvantaged with hundreds of skinny mangy dogs curled up on pavements. Very sad. How I wanted to stop and help them. (I am giving to the Roatan Humane Society which is trying to end the canine overpopulation).
Once at the beach we found loungers, put some stuff in a locker and went snorkelling. A uniformed guard patrolled the area to ensure no-one absconded with your belongings. The snorkelling was pretty good here as well, you had to go out further than at Chankanaab, but we still saw lots of fish. There were a few people walking up and down the beach trying to sell you stuff but we ignored them. I ordered a drink and didn't have enough cash so the waiter said he'd make the bill out for 40.00 so I could tip the guard and him in cash. When he came back he had made it out for 140.00 and tried to hide it under the card but I noticed and he went back and corrected it. An honest mistake? Who knows, but he was awfully smooth about it and once back home, I checked with the card to ensure no unauthorized purchases were made in Roatan.
We got back on the bus several hours later and in plenty of time not to miss the ship. On the ride back, the deserted town we had previously gone through was now bustling with hundreds of people with lot's of little kids in school uniforms, women shopping and unfortunately, a few dead dogs on the road. Roatan is beautiful and I would definately go back there for a longer period.
The next day was Grand Cayman. It is a very short tender ride to the port. I did not feel like I was in a foreign port at all. Every sign in English, KFC, Mickey D's; all the usual trappings. Well maybe driving on the other side of the road seems foreign, but I'm originally from England anyway, so it doesn't seem foreign to me. I booked an Stingray Excursion online through Moby Dick Tours and it was really great. You pay in cash once you arrive so if you don't make it to Grand Cayman due to weather, etc. you're not out any money.
We took a bus to a yacht club and the driver was very knowledgeable about Grand Cayman. I didn't know that the Cayman Islands are the tips of underwater mountains and that the ocean drops off beyond the reefs to a depth of 24,000 feet. Yikes!!
It took us a good 35-40 minutes to get to the sandbar where the stingrays are and during this time we were given an overview of stingray behaviour, how to behave when they approach you, the history behind the rays being there. They used a toy stingray to show us where the stinger was and ahem, the male genitalia (they have two). The crew could identify many rays and have named them. In fact many of them were there in the water with us, probably because they fed them copious amounts of squid. There was a Carnival excursion nearby and we didn't see many rays in the water with them, maybe two; I think they said Carnival excursions don't feed the rays. I can't verify that, however. I loved this excursion and would probably do it about 20 times again. The rays are so soft and beautiful. We picked them up and kissed them.
The next day was a sea day, and the pool area was even more crowded since the forward pool was closed off with netting. Again, the hot urinal, I mean hot tub was full of kids. I found the pool area during the cruise kind of annoying since there were lots of loud announcements from the activity director. I felt like I'd wandered onto a floating Shopping Channel, since most of the "activities" seemed intent on you spending more money on bingo, art auctions, blah blah blah. I thought a cruise was supposed to be restful.
I haven't really touched on the food except for Truffles steak house. I thought the main dining room was fine, most of the food we had was decent, nothing really original but good. Thankfully, it was hot so I didn't have to deal with that issue. Our waiters were very good, anticipating what you like even after only one meal. We were seated by the window so had a great view of the sunsets. We did get dressed up on formal nights which my GD loved, since there's not much opportunity for that at home. I would say most people wear resort casual attire which is fine.
I have to say the MDR was great for breakfast, uncrowded with quick service plus you weren't searching for a place to sit before your meal got cold and I got perfectly cooked poached eggs. If I do this cruise again I will probably have breakfast more often in the MDR. The Lido deck was crowded and the food in my opinion was just okay. Omelettes were good and hot since they're made to order. Everything else was barely warm and I don't think I ever got a slice of toast that was toasted on both sides plus it was cold. There seemed to be a lot of energetic eaters on the Lido deck with plates piled high with a mish mash of food. Not my style, however.
Overall, I thought this was a good cruise for first timers especially with a young person. If it had been a special event cruise like a honeymoon or anniversary, I think I would have been disappointed, there was zero romance. If my husband and I do try another cruise it may be with another cruise line. I would like more dining options,less constant noise and cheesy entertainment, although I thought the two family comedians were pretty funny.
One final observation, on our last night I'd misplaced my S & S card so we went to guest services to get another and the man in front of me was trying to get out of paying his gratuities since he and his wife had brought their own sheets and towels and made their own beds, etc. Wow, really?! I was stunned, did they vacuum, clean the bathroom, empty the garbage pail and wipe down the balcony?? How crass and cheap. Just stay home buddy if that is how you treat such hard workers. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.