Let me start by saying a few things about us and Carnival Cruises. We are a married couple in our early 30's. This was our 7th cruise. Carnival is a bargain brand, not a luxury brand. If you're looking for amazing food and extravagant service, then cruise on another line. If you're looking for a cheap cruise without very high expectations, then choose Carnival. Our cruise was alright. Nothing spectacular or over the top. Just alright. Do we love Carnival? No. But, would we cruise with them again? Yes, if the price and itinerary were right.
Check In and Boarding - We arrived at the port at approximately 10:45am. There was a special line for those who had purchased the Faster to the Fun and there was no wait. We walked right up to the counter to check in. The regular line at this time was not long and I would have estimated a 5-10 minute wait to check in had we been in that line. After checking in we were directed to find a chair to wait in, no one was allowed to stand, everyone had to be sitting. There was an area for priority/VIP/Faster to Fun people to sit, but it wasn't really separated from everyone else, so it was full of a mix of passengers. At 11:30am the boarding began with those with status, followed by the faster to fun, and then I assume everyone else.
Luggage -- although we had purchased the Faster to the Fun our luggage did not arrive in our stateroom until approximately 4pm...which seems extremely slow to me since we dropped off the luggage at 10:45am.
Lido Food -- We didn't care for the lido buffet set up of several small buffet areas rather than one or two larger buffet areas that we have had on other ships. It was difficult to get the variety of food we wanted because we had to go to multiple locations and wait in multiple lines and then have to find each other again. The only times that we saw long lines were at the prime time in the morning when everyone was in a hurry to eat and go ashore and in the late afternoon when everyone got back on board and rushed to the lido buffets. The pizza was better this time than a few years ago. The 24-hour access to ice cream was delicious. The buffet food was sometimes lukewarm and sometime hot. The inconsistency was disappointing.
Dining Room -- Wow, were we over dressed! I guess we missed the memo about leaving our dress pants and shirts and home. Jeans, shorts, and t-shirts were all over the dining room. It was just plain tacky. Things were better on the official formal nights, but even then the dress was lax compared to prior Carnival cruises. I forgot that the wait staff sang and danced during dinner on Carnival, so that was a nice surprise.
Serenity deck -- LOVE LOVE LOVE this over 21 area of the ship! (Princess Cruises offers a similar adult only area, but you have to pay a per day fee to use it...I'm hoping that Carnival doesn't go that direction!) On sea days, it was pretty much impossible to find a chair in the sun, but any other day there were always chairs to be found. The only downside to this area is that the slide over looks this area, so although the area itself is kid free, you're not really free of kids and kid noise because of the slide.
Deck Chairs -- Difficult to find on an at sea day, especially on the lido deck. I was always able to find at least one free chair a deck higher on the sun deck, however, that deck also comes with a lot more wind and wasn't as enjoyable to lay/sit in the sun as the lido. My advice is to arrive early in the morning and stake out the chairs you want leaving behind someone to guard them from being stolen. By 9am, most all of the deck chairs were reserved with shoes, towels or other personal items on our at sea days.
Comedians -- Tim Young was awesome. We wished Tim were on every night! Thea Vidale was also good. Al Romero was horrible. Absolutely horrible. This was actually our third time seeing him on a Carnival cruise and he did the exact same show that he did the other two times we had seen him, which wasn't very good. There was also a ventriloquist, Jerry Goodspeed,who was ok, but just wasn't our thing.
Shows -- The singers on the Legend were outstanding -- the best cruise ship singers we've ever had! The dancers were also good. The live band left something to be desired as there was a very squeaky trumpet that never sounded quite right during any of the shows. The Jazz Hot show was good. The Big Easy show was really good! We also had the Justin Illusion show, which was good.
Cruise Director -- James Dunn. We rarely saw him. This was his last week on board, so I'm guessing that since his contract was almost over he didn't really care anymore and so he put forth a weak performance as cruise director. John Heald was on board, and was taking over as cruise director after our cruise. We were disappointed that John wasn't our cruise director. However, John did host the marriage show on board, which he did a fabulous job with!
Cruise Staff -- there were not as many of what used to be the "fun patrol" who run the games, bingo, trivia, karaoke, as what I remember. The assistant cruise director finished his contract mid way through the week and stopped helping at activities, which was weird. There were two others, Matey and Taylor, who ran most of the activities until the last two days when two other girls showed up and started running activities, or should I just say trivia, as well. Matey did a great job. Taylor on the other hand we did not enjoy.
Activities -- Carnival continues to cut corners in this area. Ten years ago there were tons of activities, lectures, arts and crafts, games, etc. going on...now the activities are trivia, trivia and more trivia. Yes, there was still the hairy chest competition and the ice sculpture carving, but it seems like more activities are missing each time we cruise with Carnival.
Room -- We had an inside cabin in the 4A category. It was exactly what we expected. There was some noise from a bar above us, but we were so exhausted at the end of the day it didn't really matter. We had plenty of room in the closets for our clothes and shoes. But we did have to ask for extra hangers. The one outlet on the desk wasn't an issue because brought along a power strip. They still have the tube TVs in the rooms, not sure why they haven't upgraded them to flat screens yet!
Lido Music -- No live music, just a DJ. Loved it! So glad to be rid of the horrible live music they used to have - finally something up beat, young, and fun!
Belize - We booked cave tubing with VIV tours independently from Carnival. This was half the price of the similar Carnival excursion. There were only 13 of us. We didn't have to carry our tubes until we reached the caves. Our tubes were far superior to those from the other companies that we saw. And the best part was that our tubes clipped together...if you take the Carnival excursion you'll be linking your tubes with your feet under someone else's armpits...and someone else's feet will be in your armpits. Gross. (Side note, because we had Faster to fun, we were on the first tender to go ashore in Belize, which is good if you have an independent tour booked.)
Isle Roatan, Honduras -- We walked from the ship to the beach area. This was approximately a 5 minute walk, don't pay the $12 for the chair lift. The beach and shopping area seemed safe and clean. There were tons and tons and tons of chairs at the beach area. After being at the beach, we noticed later that we had red spots all over our legs...we were bit by sand fleas...so put on your bug spray.
Cozumel, Mexico -- We had been there 10 years ago and WOW had it changed, definitely built up and roads improved on the main land. We took the Carnival Coba ruins excursion. They combined the guest from the Legend and the Glory on this tour. After about an hour on the bus we stopped for bathrooms and shopping for 30 minutes and then we were off to the ruins. It was quite a walk to get to the main ruin that you can climb. Within a year or two it will be closed to climbing, so climb while you still can! Our guide was also very good! We were given water, chips, and a sandwich when we got on the bus after visiting the ruins.
Costa Maya, Mexico -- There isn't much here. It isn't built up at all like Cozumel. We took the Carnival Glass Bottom Boat Snorkeling excursion. This was good. There was a lot of snorkel time in the water and we saw lots of fish and rays. If you are looking for cheap souvenirs this was the best port for that type of shopping.
(We were supposed to go to Grand Cayman, but because of issues with the propulsion system on the Legend, we were given Costa Maya instead, which really wasn't a fair trade, but was better than another day at sea.)
Debarkation -- Those with the Faster to Fun were given luggage tags of #1 and waited with the status people to disembark. There were a few internationals who didn't show up at the scheduled time to clear immigration/customs, so we had to wait slightly longer than expected to disembark until they were cleared. The first group to disembark were the status and faster to fun people who were doing the self assist with luggage and this was at slightly after 8:30am. We were in that group, quickly got off the ship, grabbed a cab for $25, and were at the airport before 9:15am.