Just got back from a week on the Legend. If you were on the boat with me, I was the tubby guy who pretty much wore goofy t-shirts the entire cruise (and had a grumpy 11 yr old in tow….he got better with the more sleep he got). And if you were on any excursions with me, I have tons of video from everything we did. Will post links to such if you want video (not the raw video…there’s almost 16GB of shaky video lots of swearing and wondering if the camera was working).
A few things about me. I’m a 42 yr old dad with only one kid left at home. My wife and my 11 year old decided on this cruise based on the ports, the timeframe, and the price. We have a friend who is a cruise agent and has always gotten us a good deal on the cruises we have booked. It was an opportunity to check off “Central America” from the bucket list while fitting in all the things the wife and kid wanted to do.
Was on the Glory back in 2008 and this ship was a bit more disappointing than the Glory. The staff told us “oh you were on the Glory, that’s a great boat!”. The layout was a bit odd, much different than the Glory. Also, this boat apparently is going to Australia in a few weeks so it seems everyone is winding down for the big cruise down under.
Camp Carnival seemed to be an afterthought, my kid went for movie night and never went back (he’s 11). There were activities planned, but being 11 he fell in-between the “little ones” and “pre-teens”. He ended up spending most of his time in the pool (for a record 7.5 hours on Thursday afternoon/evening). As I’m writing this section, he’s still passed out from playing with his friends on the boat (hint Carnival, maybe it would make sense instead of having kiddie activities to simply have a “get together” for smaller age groups or based on activities like “hey all 9-11 yr olds…meet up on the basketball court for a bit of fun”).
The pool. I hope someone at Carnival reads this. This seems simple to me.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE AN ADULT POOL, DO THE ADULT POOL ACTIVITIES IN THE ADULT POOL. Not a single kid related time (but they had “18+ pool games”). I think this is simple. Lido forward, geared towards teens/adults and kids of adults acting like kids in the afternoon (seeing as how it’s the open smoking area as well). Lido mid, All ages but mostly geared towards kids and adults acting like adults.
Faster to the Fun. GET THIS ON THIS CRUISE. And if you are impatient, in a hurry, or just don’t want to wait around GET THIS ON ANY CRUISE!!!! When it comes to Belize, this is critical. The tenders to Belize are a 20 min ride and ANY tour in Belize will get you back about five minutes before the last tender leaves.
The food was “ehh”. I’m not a guy for over-the-top extravagance. If you saw me on the boat, I was probably wearing various odd t-shirts for the entire cruise. Still trying to figure out the whole pizza process (guy throws flour on table every 15 minutes, squishes dough, walks into the back, *magic*, pizza comes out). And it’s not even that great of pizza. I think pizza is one of those things that is hard to screw up, and Carnival does it. Same with other things. I understand cooking for 2000+ people is tough, but the food on the Glory was far better. Just lots of things when it comes to food that just don’t make sense, or that are “over the top” for a silly thing like pizza. The food seems more geared towards “presentation” rather “substance”. This seems like a backwards policy as people takes tons of food, and then waste it because it isn’t that good. My wife made the comment that the food at Golden Corral would be better than here and I honestly would have a hard time debating that. And we aren’t fans of Golden Corral…
The other big problem I had was the odd hours of the various restaurants closing (along with pool closings, etc). Stuff seemed to close at random times and seemed to be less and less available as the cruise went along. Breakfast was stable and good, lunch we barely saw due to our excursions, and dinner varied from “wait, that closed at 6?” to “well, at least its meat”. :-)
The staff was very cordial, and some of them really enjoy this job, or have done it long enough to know about customer service. And some echoed the sentiment “glad to be going home soon!”.
Booked a tour through cavetubing.bz, which for $35 each got us a nice tour through the cave, a great lunch, and a rushed run back to the port. If you are doing anything in Belize, get the early tender or book through Carnival. Because even though we got back in time, we literally had 10 minutes to spare. A traffic jam at the wrong place, and we get an extra night in Belize.
But back to the cave tubing. Memorable, wonderful, and worth every penny. The drive from Belize City is LONG. About an hour, and that does not include any delays waiting for people, being held up in traffic, etc. The bus ride is always an eye opener of what life is like behind the cruise ports (which is something I want to see…cruise ports are like shopping malls, not what the country is really like).
Once you get to the site and pay for the trip (we paid $35 a piece), the bus drives you up to the cave site. The site is well managed and it takes about 5-10 minutes to get off the bus, hike up to get your helmet and lifejacket, etc. Then the walk begins. You end up crossing the river three times on rocks that are smooth from the river, but still tough to navigate if you have soft soled shoes. GET HARD SOLED WATER SHOES. Not kidding about this, my feet felt like they went through a full 12 rounds with Mike Tyson of the 1980’s and I walk two plus miles every morning. The hike is about 45 minutes (which I recorded the entire walk…tons of shaky video to sort through…this cruise video is going to take a month to edit).
The tubes are nice, comfortable, and you get a great view of the cave system. The water is refreshing (i.e. cold…about 70 degrees) but you get used to it pretty quickly. We had a set of great tour guides, and their personalities played well with each other. Nadie seemed to keep things moving, Walter kept digging for interesting bugs to find, and Barry as the MC. They were great and worked hard to keep us from banging our heads on the rocks and let the more adventurous of our group do some things that would be frowned upon by insurance adjusters and OSHA back in the states. Never really worries about safety at all during this tour, as long as you get the right water shoes and can handle the 45 minute walk, you will be fine.
Drive back to the main office for lunch outside which might have been the best meal I had on the entire cruise. Chicken and rice and Coke in bottles. Something nostalgic about drinking c\Coke out of a real glass bottle, kids of course didn’t get that piece. There is a gift shop corner in the building and the prices seemed reasonable compared to the port. I highly recommend doing any shopping here because of the next paragraph.
We piled into the van around 2:45 ship time and headed back into town. What was a 45 minute ride in the morning ended up being an hour plus ride back to the boat. Hint for those of you with off stomachs…use the bathroom BEFORE you get on the bus. We took the same route back to the port but pulled in at 3:50 ship time, leaving us 10 minutes to get in line with everyone else. Faster to the Fun does not help you here, but at least you got off before everyone else (and the two tours behind us did make the boat but it is a bit nerve-racking).
This was the highlight for my son, he wanted to go deep sea fishing and saved up about four months allowance to cover his “half” of the boating trip. Picked Tres Hermanos based on the great reviews on Trip Advisor and on here. Got to the harbor with a taxi ($15 each way) and got a bit lost. The security guard at the port spoke English thankfully and another guy called Oscar and pointed us in the right direction. Didn’t have any details of “which boat” we were supposed to have but Oscar directed us to the Grand Slam and the two guys (who I forget their names, my apologies) who ran the charter.
On the boat, threw the lines, and away we went. For the first 2.5 hours, we had one nibble. A half eaten piece of bait was all we had for the tuna (although we saw plenty of tuna flying through the air…nothing was biting). I know these guys were trying any/everything to get something to hook and we did get a bite on what appeared to be a barracuda at hour 3. Unfortunately the fish threw the hook and while that was exciting, we dreaded that was going to be the highlight of the trip.
Thankfully, about 15 minutes later, we did hook a barracuda and my son got his first salt water fish.
On the way back, we were lucky to drive past a small group of Bottlenose Dolphins which made my wife’s day. Got back to the dock and didn’t have a ton of cash for a tip. Gave the guys a $20 and they pointed us back towards the front entrance to try to hail a taxi. Hint, THIS IS NOT ENTIRELY EASY TO DO….especially is you don’t speak Spanish that well. Thankfully a local flagged down a cab and away we went. $15 back to the boat and goodbye Cozumel.
So the last day in this marathon is Grand Cayman and seriously, it’s the best for last. Love this island, and will hopefully be back. Because of the lack of addresses, the average person won’t know exactly where the Dolphin Excursion place is. It’s WAY THE HECK AWAY FROM THE SHIP. The tender ride in is less than five minutes and bus ride is about 40 minutes. Plan accordingly and book your time based on that. Also remember that Grand Cayman is on Central time, so everything is one hour later than ship time. My recommendation would be to book the 11:00 dolphin swim which really is 12:00 ship time. If the boat gets in at 10:00, you will have plenty time to get in and grab a bus.
The buses on Grand Cayman are large vans that run routes around the island. The #2 bus will get you there for about $5US per person. Far cheaper than a taxi in most cases and you get to see more of the island than just West Bay Drive. We had to stop for air for a tire on the way up, so just keep that in mind as well. :-)
Got to the site way early. Also, this is the place to get online…the Caymans are wired up far better than any island so if you want to upload pics, update FB, etc…go to any local restaurant and grab 30 minutes of sweet wi-fi. The wi-fi is free in the dolphin overlook area and there is a restaurant there. The food they served the workers looked far better than what they offered, didn’t ask if they sold it to the general public.
We got there very early and our admission included a trip to the turtle farm across the street. The turtle farm is well laid out, but it was a bit sad to see these large animals clawing over each other for a few morsels (kind of like carp near the beach). Lots of sad shaky video of that as well. My kid was in heaven finding spotted geckos and all sorts of other critters “LOOK DAD, CHICKENS!”.
The turtle farm did have some small turtles which you could grab out of their various pools. The smart ones just sat under the water while the ones that weren’t so smart swam near enough to get grabbed by little hands. Yes the 11 year old loved that (although I’m sure PETA somewhere is planning a large turtle heist).
Back across the street to the dolphin excursion and walked in waiting for our time at 1:00 (2:00 ship time). Plenty of lockers in there but be warned the locks are all keyed the same. Better to leave the really expensive stuff you might worry about elsewhere. The dolphin place is large and has 11 dolphins to work with. We had Darwin and Constantine for the Royal Swim which is a combination of various photo poses and a few rides that you only get to see the trainers do at Sea World.
So, to those rides. Whoa. Seriously kiddies, if you are going to spend the $$$$ on the Dolphin Encounter, spend the extra $30 and get the Royal Swim so you can do the dorsal swim and the Superman pose. Damn…kid and wife had a great time and there’s something unsettling to see two very LARGE dolphins coming at full speed to put your stinky feet on their heads and push you down at 20+mph. Kind of like what someone thinks when a cruise missile is about to obliterate their tank… “Oh $%#@ this is real and it’s heading right towards me”. One side note for guys, make sure that set of trunks is really tired down well. No wardrobe malfunctions allowed at the dolphin swim.
Great staff there and they were constantly making sure we were having fun. Seems a bit scripted at times but I’m sure that’s done to ensure a consistent experience. Got done in about 40 minutes and ran over to shower, change and get out the door. Of course, you can’t just leave after 40 minutes of “smile here!”. We were offered “all the pics on CD” for $120 which we took quickly. Even though there are pics that should never see the light of day on there, it’s easier just to grab the disc and go. Also Gus & Family who was there at the same time, if you happen to read this by any weird chance…contact me. Got a few of the kid which you might want.
Took the bus back which took far longer and was busier than the morning ride up. PLAN ACCORDINGLY. We got back to the port with 10 minutes to spare (left at 3:40 ship time from the part, got back at 4:50 ship time). Didn’t have time to enjoy the sweet wi-fi, but that’s what awaits the millisecond we are back home.
Recovering from the fun in Belize, the next mooring you wake up in Roatan. The port Carnival uses was built by Carnival and is well designed and expensive as compared to other ports. If you are going to do any shopping, this is probably the “easiest” to do it at. Spent over $60 on a shirt, towel, trinket, and shark tooth necklace for the kid.
We booked a barefoot snorkeling tour through Carnival based on the reports of issues in Roatan and the desire to just have someone else run the show in case things went bad time wise. The boat was a five minute walk from the Legend and once we signed our forms in the rain (hint Jolly Roger ink-jet printed forms run in the rain…get a laser printer for next time).
Boat pushed off with 60+ people on board and away we went. Takes about 35 minutes to get to the reef and from the surface it does not look like much. A very brief safety review and the masks/snorkels/fins are handed out. The more experienced people go first, so if you have snorkeled before head towards the back of the boat. And if you do not want to use the fins, by all means tell them. Also, if you have a waterproof video camera (thinking GoPro) by all means bring it. You will thank me later for this.
The reef is incredible and we saw tons of various fish. Would have been nice to know which fish are what and what we might see out there…even a pic of one of the T-Shirts they sell onshore would have went far. Went through some very shallow and deep areas and saw a wide variety of fish, eels, etc (again, 8GB of shaky video to sort through). And then back on the boat for lunch which was the second best meal we had on the trip. A leisurely ride back to the dock and then the short walk back to the boat.