I booked this cruise through an Internet agency and got it at a very good price with free parking at Dover. This was my first 12 night cruise. My longest cruise prior to this had been a 9 night cruise in the Caribbean and another to Canada and New England and earlier this year I had done a 9 night cruise to the Canary Islands. Also, I had never sailed from UK before and hence there were no flights needed as I live in London and a drive to Dover only takes about 2 hours.
We travelled as a family of 3 with 2 balcony cabins. On the day of sailing, Sunday 1st September, we left home at 9am and got to Dover around 11.15. I dropped off the luggage and my family members at the cruise terminal and was shown to the nearby car park area where I was to park my car for the next 13 days. I was then taken back to the terminal in a shuttle. I met up with my family and went upstairs for registration. This was very easy as we had checked in online and were given our cabin cards which are also used for any purchases onboard. We were straight away asked to proceed inside the ship. This was one of the fastest check ins I had seen. After a quick photo we were inside this beautiful ship in less than 10mins. As we were very early onboard we were asked to go and and have lunch at the lido restaurant as the cabins would not be ready till around 1pm.
The atrium was around 9 decks high and had a very dark feel to it. I quite liked it but it may not be to everyone's taste. We went straight to the lido in the glass elevators. There was plenty of choice for lunch including freshly made hot and cold sandwiches, salads, pizzas, car very dishes, oriental dishes, desserts etc. Burgers and chips were served by the inside pool. Plenty of choice for everyone. Being vegetarians we were pleased to see that every dish was labelled as being vegetarian or not. So no need of asking anyone about this. Lemonade, water and ice tea together with coffee and tea were complimentary. After enjoying our lunch we quickly went on the outside decks to explore the ship. The ship had 3 pools ( one inside), plenty of hot tubs, a private adults only area called Serenity located on deck 9 at the aft, a basketball court, mini golf, gym, and plenty of sun loungers through out the upper decks. However as we were sailing towards Norway we knew we won't be using them much expecting the weather to be much colder.
We were about to go and explore the bars and lounges on lower floors when we were advised that the rooms were ready. We went to drop off our hand luggage and the rooms were 2 balcony cabins ( starboard side) located next to each other on deck 7. Really nice rooms with a good size balcony, seating area, dressing area, plenty of storage space and a well appointed bath room. The shower area was much larger compared to some ships. There was a shower curtain instead of a shower panel but at no point did any water drip into the rest of the bathroom whilst showering. We were quite pleased with our cabins and had a view of the white cliffs of Dover.
We then went to explore the ret of the ship. There were plenty of bars and lounges, casino, a huge theatre, a discotheque, another small theatre called firebird lounge whereby all the stand up comedians performed their shows, a bright dining room on 2 floors ( upper floor was for anytime diners and lower floor was for fixed seating). The whole ship was very well appointed and didn't show many signs of ageing despite being over 10 years old.
After a quick safety drill, we set sail at 5pm from Dover. As there were 8 ports of call and 3 sea days in between this was going to be a very busy cruise for most however we looked forward to the sea days for some relaxation time. As we were on anytime dining we could choose to dine anytime between 6 and 9.30 in the main restaurant or could go to lido. We normally dined between 7 and 8pm. There was never more than 10 mins queuing time and you could get a table for your party or could share with others if you preferred. On the first few nights we were given different tables but once we got to know one of our head waiters, Olana, we always asked for her table. It is nice to dine with the same head waiter every night which is normally difficult for anytime dining. However the lady who gave us tables always ensured she got us a table with Olana which made it a great dining experience each evening. As we were vegetarians, there was always an Indian vegetarian choice and also another choice which changed daily. In addition they also asked if we would like anything else in particular and we asked for hot soups with vegetable stocks as they mainly used chicken stocks to prepare the soups. This request was recorded and whenever we were given a table a note was printed which was given to the head waiter of the table so we didn't need to tell him or her everyday. I think this was excellent as in other cruises we had to let the head waiter know about our choice at the start of each meal.
For breakfast and lunch we went up the lido and there was plenty of choice there. The tables were easy to find generally however the queue at omelette or sandwich counter was usually long. On the whole we enjoyed all parts of our dining and had no complaints. The desserts were all mouth watering and we all put on a few pounds at the end of the cruise.
One positive and one negative now about the cruise director and captain respectively. Our cruise director, John Heald, was the best cruise director we have ever come across in the 12 cruises we have been on. He is so interactive with everybody and is always visible in shows and on the tannoy. He is very funny too and together with his sidekick Calvin, this made it a very enjoyable experience. Loved their live morning shows on tv and also their game shows like a quiz game show in the theatre and another marriage show. I wish I could have a cruise director like John in every cruise. He just took the cruising experience to another level. The negative was regarding the captain who was only heard a few times on the tannoy system and was never seen in public. I couldn't even see him on the captains night. Usually in my previous cruises captains have been visible throughout the ship. So my one advice to the captain, Giuseppe Donato, would be to be more interactive with his passengers and be more visible like his Cruise Director.
The other shows in the theatre were mostly very good. Welcome aboard show by John was brilliant and set the scene for the entire voyage. Whoever attended that show won't be able to forget passengers like Zorro and Ish due to Johns excellent performance at this show. He was also very good at the port talks and made them very humorous. The production shows were good but nothing out of the ordinary. The 4 singers were good but were not given good numbers to sing in the shows. Their talent was seen one night in a concert held in the firebird lounge one night when they all sung very well. Loved the girl who sang the Whitney Houston number from Bodyguard. The dancers were good and the orchestra was brilliant. The head of the orchestra plays the flute brilliantly as was seen in one of the other shows.
Most of the guest entertainers were British and they were all top notch. Piano man Brett Cave was a good entertainer and bit of an eccentric. Philip Hitchcock did well with his magic. The magic and dance of Justin Illusion was a brilliant show. Penny Mathisen was a brilliant singer and sung mostly opera and west end numbers. Hypnotist David Knight was entertaining but looked a bit staged. Musically talented Samantha Jay was brilliant on the 4 musical instruments she played and got a standing ovation from most. We missed show by Malcolm Pitt but heard good feedback from others. The only show that we didn't like was by juggler Neil's Duinker from Holland and we left half way. There was no show during the final night in Le Havre which was a big disappointment. This was because we were looking forward to seeing John for one last time together with Calvin, other dancers, singers and the hard working Orchestra band. Most ships have a goodbye show hence not having one on this ship was surprising. Instead they had a movie playing in the theatre.
All the 4 Norwegian ports of call were brilliant. Surprisingly we got the best weather in these ports. Alesund was breathtaking. We did a hop on hop off tour which was short but took us to top of a Mountain which gave us great views of this wonderful place and the ship. In the afternoon we walked around the town in the sunshine and explored the shops. Bergen was our favourite port. Very pretty and once gain had brilliant weather there. Did the hop on hop off tour again and went up the funicular which gave us great views of the city. Once again we walked around the town and the various markets in the afternoon sun. Loved this small city. As there was no hop on bus in Stavanger we did a last minute tour with Carnival which turned out excellent. We went to see the countryside and the fjords. Loved this tour. In he afternoon, we once again walked around Stavanger but it was definitely not as pretty as Bergen and Alesund. We had the warmest weather in Oslo which was another exciting city. We went round in the hop on bus and explored the sculpture park followed by visiting some brilliant museums. In the afternoon we explored the castle and the fortress and walked around Oslo city which is a great buzzing city. All of Norway is very expensive so we made sure we came back to ship for lunches and went out again. Apart from some souvenirs didnt shop anything else. If once wants to go to Norway, best to go via a cruise. I would like to do Norway on a smaller ship which takes you round the bigger fjords in the future.
Hamburg was the next port and unfortunately it was pouring with rain all morning. We did the hop on tour but couldn't see much of the city due to the rain. Hence I would rate this port as my worst out of the cruise but I think it was mainly due to the horrible weather. As the rain cleared in the afternoon. It was time for us to sail away down the river Elbe and I was expecting some cliffs and castles on the way which John had described in his talk. However there was none of that and the land on both sides of the ship was mainly flat with farms and houses and some farm animals.
The next port was Amsterdam. Loved going through the lock and sailing down to Amsterdam. The weather was ok with some showers but plenty of sunshine in between. We did the hop on hop off canal cruise which was nice and then explored the city by foot. In the evening, the heavens opened and by the time we walked back to the ship, we were all drenched and tired.
In the last 2 ports Zeebruge and Le Havre we did excursions with Carnival as there was nothing much to do around the ports. In Belgium, we did a tour to Brussels and luckily we got decent weather with not much rain. However I heard from those who went to Bruges that there was quite a bit of rain there. We saw the atomium, palaces, the grand square and Manekin Pis. This was a full day tour and just got in time for the ships departure. Unfortunately our guide on this tour was not very informative and rushed around everywhere.
In Le Havre we did a tour to see the Benedictine palace and factory and see the needle and eye on the beach at a nearby town. We did this tour as we had been to Paris just last year and didn't want to go back. Would have loved to do the tour of D day landing beaches but it was very expensive. It was mostly a dry day.
The sea days were all dry but on the first sea day the sea was very choppy and several people suffered from sea sickness. However it calmed down as the day progressed.
On the whole I loved sailing out of Dover, loved the beautiful Legend, loved the food, loved the service from all ship personnel including the Cruise director who was brilliant and loved the ports of call. It was my first time on Carnival but surely won't be the last.