My husband and I just returned today from a 7-night cruise from Tampa on the Carnival Legend. This was our first cruise, and we had an absolutely wonderful experience.
Our plane arrived in Tampa around 10:30 am on the morning of the cruise. We got a van shuttle to the ship port for $11 per person. We booked the shuttle right outside of the baggage claim area and waited about 20 minutes for the van to arrive.
Once we got to the port, embarkation was pretty easy. There were a lot of people in line, but it moved pretty fast, and we were on board by noon. We enjoyed a full lunch buffet as soon as we boarded.
When we went to our room after lunch, we were very excited to find that we had a balcony (we booked an oceanview room)! The room was much bigger than I expected, and the bed was extremely comfortable. Our dining experiences throughout the trip were great. There was always plenty of variety for breakfast and lunch at the Lido buffet, and the dinners at Truffles were all very good. I'm a vegetarian, and there was a different veg entree each night. The one complaint my husband had was that the steaks weren't great quality. We had the late dinner seating (8:15), which worked out well for us. We liked going back to our room in the late afternoon to nap and relax for awhile before dinner. As others have said, the chocolate melting cake was fabulous! I only had it one night though, because I wanted to sample the other desserts too. The waitstaff is very accommodating, and they do a short song and dance routine at the end of most dinners.
Other notes about the ship: Drink prices weren't as outrageous as I expected them to be. We didn't experience the deck chair shortage that others have mentioned. We were always able to find two chairs next to each other in the pool areas. My husband is an avid poker player and was excited to find out about the daily Texas Hold 'Em Tournament right outside of the casino...and he won two out of three tournaments! We only went to one of the evening shows, mainly due to other comments on cruise critic. But the show we went to was a lot of fun (Legends show on the last night)...it was fellow cruisers impersonating famous singers - very entertaining! The cruise director was great and gave very informative talks in the Follies lounge, which were conveniently re-ran several times on one of the tv channels in our room. There were always plenty of activities going on, so there's never a shortage of things to do. And you get a Carnival Capers delivered to your room every night, so you know everything that's going on the next day. Our room was always promptly cleaned in the mornings, and when we returned to our room after dinner each night, our bed was turned down, and we usually had a new towel animal waiting for us as well.
Ports of call: Grand Cayman - Due to several cruise reviews we read, we chose not to book any shore excursions through Carnival. We knew we wanted to snorkel with the stingrays at Cayman but because we were trying to book last minute, we weren't able to secure a reservation before we left. It turned out that the minute we stepped off the ship, there were several different tour companies offering stingray/coral reef snorkeling excursions for $40 per person. We were a little wary at first but decided to go for it, and it turned out to be a great decision - the tour company was totally legit and we had a great experience (for much less than what Carnival charges for the same tour). Swimming with the stingrays was a blast, and we visited a coral reef as well, which was beautiful. We had a little time to wander around some shops and have a Caribbean beer when we got back to the port area. Very fun!
Cozumel - Although we had a good time here, this was probably our least favorite of the four ports we stopped at. Instead of doing an excursion, we first took a cab ride downtown for $2 a person (another couple took the cab with us), and we wandered around the shops downtown for a couple hours. You can get Coronas for $1 each in some shops. We then took a $13 cab ride to Paradise Beach and hung out there for a couple hours, had a couple drinks and some chips, salsa, and guacamole. The drinks and food were pretty expensive, but it was a nice, relaxing afternoon.
Belize - This was our favorite port! We booked a zipline/cave tubing combo tour with Dennis Perez (his website is explorebelizecaves), and it was the same price Carnival was charging for just the cave tubing excursion. This was a fabulous excursion. We were a little worried in the morning because we were afraid we would get pushed to the back of the line since we hadn't booked with Carnival, but we got really lucky. We got down to the Follies Lounge around 7:45 (we were due to port at 8) and they announced that all cave tubing people should go to the Firebird Lounge. We got to the Firebird Lounge, and they told us to line up at the entrance to the lounge (which is where we were standing, so we were basically right at the front of the line) with our ship cards and tickets ready. We didn't have tickets since we hadn't booked our tour with the ship, so we were a little nervous that we wouldn't get through right away. However, we were lead to the gangway to get on the boat ferry to the port, and nobody even checked to see if we had tickets or not. We were on the first ferry to the port and met Dennis and our tour guide Eric right outside the port by 8:15. It was just my husband and I with Eric (Dennis was meeting another group from another ship), so Eric drove us out to the rain forest. Talk about personal service! We went ziplining first and were the first people of the day to zipline. Eric introduced us to our ziplining guides and we were on our way. It was just the two of us with the guides hiking through the forest to the first platform, so it was very peaceful. One of the guides was pointing out some different trees and plants along the way. Ziplining itself was very cool, and at the end, we rappelled down a rope from the last platform. Then Eric took us to the cave tubing portion of the tour. After a leisurely 45 minute hike through the rain forest (in which Eric pointed out several points of interest), we arrived at the entrance to the cave. There were a lot of other ship tours there, so it was pretty crowded, but Eric chained the three of us together and paddled us through the cave. Cave tubing was a very cool experience...I HIGHLY recommend booking a small tour. We passed large groups of cruise ship cave tubers. Their tours seemed very impersonal, and they had to paddle through the cave alone, whereas our guide paddled and sometimes walked us through, and we just sat back and enjoyed the ride. We then went to lunch at Amigo's, a place Eric recommended. It was excellent! I tried a traditional Brazilian dish of rice, beans, and coleslaw, and my husband had a burrito. When we got back to the city, we wandered around the flea market outside the port area and made a few purchases. I highly recommend Dennis's tour...it's extremely personal and worth every penny.
Costa Maya - We weren't expecting a whole lot out of this port of call, but Costa Maya turned out to be our second favorite stop (although Grand Cayman was a very close third). There is a large shopping and bar/restaurant area right at the port terminal, so we wandered around there for awhile before taking a $3/person bus ride to "downtown", which ended up being a blast. It was a long stretch of beach with shops, restaurants, bars, and massage offerings galore. We walked the whole strip, made a few purchases and had a great time bargaining with the shop owners. We then stopped at the Cat's Meow for a delicious lunch with Hugo as our waiter. I also enjoyed an excellent 45 minute massage on the beach for only $20. Back at the main shopping area at port, we found a pool party going on at one of the swim up bars, so we hung out there for awhile before returning to the ship.
Debarkation - We had a noon flight from Tampa, so to be on the safe side, we chose to do self-assist debarkation, meaning you take all your luggage off the ship yourself. Debarkation was VERY quick...at 7:30, they announced we could leave the ship, and by 7:40, we had already boarded a van shuttle back to the airport. We were at the airport by 8:15.
Overall, this trip was fantastic, and I still feel elated about everything we experienced. We would definitely cruise on the Legend again, and we feel very grateful that we had the opportunity to take such a fabulous vacation.