Let me first start by saying that I've cruised Carnival for many, many years. I've been on just about every class of ship they offer. I have very realistic expectations when it comes to Carnival and expected this cruise to meet them, at the very least.
My last Carnival cruise was in 2008 on the Glory, so it has been awhile. So much has changed. We chose the Legend for the great ports (this is a fun, port-intensive itinerary) and the excellent price. We've been cruising Royal Caribbean the past several years but this cruise was a great value and the lure of leaving from Tampa (our home port) was too much to pass up.
Rather than going into minute detail about the entire cruise, this review is to let those familiar with Carnival know where the Legend falls short. Way short.
Food and Dining Room Service
I don't go on Carnival expecting fine dining, but I do expect reasonable (and recognizable) food and good service. On this cruise, the food was lackluster. The menu has changed over the years to have a standard menu of simple food (grilled chicken, basic steak, fish) that you can get every day plus daily features. I remember the good old days when there was an appetizer, a salad or soup, a pasta course and main course, followed by dessert. I never ordered from every course, but loved the great choices available. Today's Carnival has a few appetizers, one or two salads, one or two soups, rarely a pasta (as an appetizer) and 3 or 4 main dishes each night. This wouldn't be so bad if they were good. One night meatloaf was gray. Another at my table was served undercooked chicken. Pork cutlets were almost unrecognizable.
Probably I would have excused some of the iffy food if the service was fantastic. A good waitstaff goes a long way to making the overall cruise experience. Ours was mediocre bordering on bad. In all my cruises, this is the first where I elected to reduce the dining staff gratuity.
Bread came once at the very beginning of the meal and never came again.
Water was hard to get refilled.
If you ordered an appetizer and salad, they were served at the same time with one perched precariously on the bread plate.
Main dishes were lukewarm at best.
We splurged one night and went to the Golden Fleece Steakhouse. We've done this before so knew to expect excellent food and service. The food was great - the best we had on the ship. However, our three servers managed to lose the paper with our order. Instead of just coming to us to verify, they guessed on the order and ended up serving three of the four side dishes incorrectly! I don't understand how this is even possible at the premier dining establishment on the ship. I would think that these servers are the best of the best on the ship.
We live for the awesome piano bars on Carnival. Imagine our disappointment to find that our particular piano entertainer spent more time talking than singing. When he did sing, he made each song "his own," pretty much negating the ability to sing along. By the end of the cruise, he was averaging about 5 guests at a time in this bar.
This is a very small area far forward on deck 5 (at least for the 2-5 age group, which is where my 5 year old son was). Every time we dropped him off, we were greeted not with a hello or any excitement, but rather with a reminder of when to pick him up (at least 15 minutes before the official closing time). My son had a good time here, but I felt that the counselors did not measure up in enthusiasm or friendliness to other lines.
On the child end of things, I find it a little annoying that the ship only receives Boomerang and Cartoon Network for kids. There is no looping daily movie oriented to kids and it left us with not much to watch in the stateroom (for my son). Nick JR or even Disney JR would be a welcome addition for littler kids.
Overall Ship Condition
Old-style televisions in the rooms and a bathroom light that took a full 30 seconds to come on were interesting. Our room had the most uncomfortable beds of any of our past cruise experiences and we woke up daily with back pain. Our balcony had decent chairs, but the floor was dirty and rusty and just didn't give an overall impression of cleanliness.
Overall, our vacation was a success. We wanted to get away and we did just that. We relaxed, we read, we had some great shore experiences (all but one booked independently of Carnival). We had a great cabin steward and had lots of fun with the karaoke hostess. I'm not saying we won't go back, but it won't be anytime soon. Our next two cruises are already booked and they're Disney and Royal Caribbean.