My husband and I have been on 20 cruises, the bulk have been with Princess and Carnival. In Oct of 2013 I was on the Legend and was very disappointed due to it's needing a complete overhaul of furnishings. I was happy to hear that they are now in a much needed drydock.
The cruise we just left was on the Freedom. We usually go with CCL because for the price, we usually get great service, great itinerary, and great food. The service remains wonderful, with Jordon our waiter going above and beyond to make us happy. He was for breakfast only. Our dinner waiter, I Made, seemed overwhelmed. It appears that they have cut staff and now each waiter services 28 people at dinner! The service was good, not great. The food, was just a 7 out of 10. Every evening the wait staff had to perform for us. Not appreciated. They also stopped the parade of Baked Alaska. Cutbacks everywhere. The Lido deck's buffet for lunch on all prior cruises offered 4 stations, each offering a different ethnic food. The menu selection changed daily and I quite enjoyed it. This ship, all 4 stations served the same selections which changed daily. If you didn't like the offerings, you did have a deli, grill or Chinese made to order (prepare to wait in line). There was a fish and chips station on a different level with no access for the disabled. 20 years ago they offered tours of the bridge and galley. Now, for a hefty price, you can do it. It also seemed like everything had a little extra $$ attached to the activity.
What bothered us most was the layout of the ship. After 8 days we were still getting lost. It was the layout of the ship, not us. Over the years the entertainment has fallen a great deal. This trip only 1 show interested us, the Beatles, and we walked out 10 minutes into it. We did enjoy the XXX comedian, but if you go, arrive 45 minutes early or you will not get a seat.
As a Gold cruiser (over 25 sea days on CCL) we received 1 free drink at breakfast, in the dining room only. How many want to drink before going onshore? What difference does it make where you get the drink, but yet, this was the "free" drink offered? Cheap!
Another negative was the fact that the ship no longer provides a daily newsletter. Years ago it was delivered nightly to your cabin. A few years back they provided it only at the reception desk. Now nothing. The explanation is that they are concerned about paper waste. If that were true, how about the daily barrage of flyers promoting various "sales" or activities on board? Even the TV that was offered in the cabin had 28 channels. Sounds great? Yep, although 14 were specifically CCL related, 3 movie channels offering Alvin and the chipmunks EVERYDAY, 3 national channels, CNN but no Fox or CNBC as in years past. They even discontinued giving you the opportunity to critique to cruise, staff and activities at the end of the cruise.
I did enjoy 1 excursion in St Thomas booked through the ship: Captain Nautica's ultimate snorkel expedition. Amber and the captain did a wonderful job (just remember to bring tip $$). I saw about 20 green turtles at one site and the traditional coral/fish at the other. Well worth the $76 until I found out that CCL takes 52% of the price of the excursion. (Rarely do I take on board excursions because the prices usually are marked up). The casino was nice as well.
We will continue to sail on CCL, but they do seem to be cutting corners wherever possible. The only line I haven't sailed on is RCL. Maybe next time. Maybe all lines are cutting corners. I don't know but I do know that I love cruising and could easily live in a ship.
After getting off the pier we were approached by multiple tour shuttle operators but all had to wait to fill their 12 person vans. We didn't wait. A bit further down the road a regular taxi approached us and for $20 a person they left and gave an island tour with just 6 folks. Nice. The island itself doesn't have much to offer except interesting vegetation. Save your money. Not a great island to explore.
We didn't take an island tour as the CCL ship itself warned of possible trouble on the island. We just walked a bit around town. The shopping area is a bit of a walk from the ship w/o transport for the handicapped. The prices were much higher than St. Thomas. Do your shopping there instead. Cleaner than St Thomas. Paradise Island Resort looked nice from a distance.
Captain Nautica's Ultimate Snorkel Expedition was fabulous visiting 2 locations for an hour each. I saw at least 20 turtles and multiple rays and barracudas. Lots of fun. Remember to bring tip money which is not included but deserved.
$20 for an island tour on a large open air shuttle bus. Don't bother. They have tall/large hills overlooking a scenic harbor. A few photo opportunities to take pics; a few stops to buy drinks; and 30 minute stop at the beach/vendors. Total waste of time and money. Folks said that Virgin Gorda's snorkeling was nice.