Checking in at the ship was relatively painless but we wonder why cruise documents state that earliest check-in is at 1:30 p.m. when the Legends Cafe officially opens at noon, followed by the tour desk and dining room inquiries at 12:30. As a result, we barely made it to the main (Truffles) dining room in time to request wheelchair accessible seating.
Due to the throngs of passengers already on the ship, we had a very difficult time finding a place to eat our first lunch. Although most people had finished eating, they stayed at their cafe tables with their luggage because their cabins were not available until 1:30. Getting through the crowded cafe areas with luggage lying about everywhere was quite a challenge in a wheelchair. After circling every area indoors and out several times, I finally begged for space at a large table that was already partially occupied by another family. They were gracious in making room so that we could eat.
We found our cabin, which was an inside guarantee, to be on the small side for someone with a (narrow) wheelchair. (No handicap accessible rooms were available even though we inquired months in advance.) Our TA had pushed for us to sign up for a cabin category guarantee but we will never do so again because we ended up very close to the bow of the ship, which meant not only a lot of motion and noise throughout the cruise but LONG treks down lots of corridors and sometimes multiple elevators in order to get anywhere near the stern, which is where the dining room and pools are located and most of the action takes place. Another problem with our cabin was that the beds sagged in the middle, making them so uncomfortable that we never slept through the night for the entire cruise.
On the first day our luggage did not arrive until after 8 p.m., so we had little to do in our cabin before dinner but put away the few items we'd brought in our carry-on. During muster drill we never made it onto the deck of the ship because when they saw my wheelchair the ship's crew shunted my husband and me off to the side indoors. All we learned about muster was that there was not enough room on the deck for everyone. We were told, however, that if we were in our cabin during a real emergency we were to stay put and "someone" would eventually come to assist me. I concluded that keeping wheelchairs out of the narrow corridors was likely the main reason for this policy. All the same, it wasn't very reassuring.
Sailing out of Tampa Bay is a slow process. We watched from the deck for awhile but eventually had to go to our early dining room seating at Truffles and during that time we missed the evening pass under the great Sunshine Skyway Bridge. There was no mention of the bridge by our wait staff, so our hopes to take a photo of the event were dashed. This might be a reason for others to skip the formal dining room on the first night, at least for the early seating.
Overall, we found dining in Truffles to be comfortable and very satisfying, more so than the less dramatic food offerings and minimal service of the Legends and Unicorn Cafes, although we did enjoy both of the latter for most breakfasts & lunches while on board.
We were VERY disappointed by our experience at the upscale Golden Fleece supper club. Although we'd asked for a sea view, we were seated in such strong sun that we had to have the curtains closed for the entire dinner. There were tables available on the shady side of the ship but we were not allowed to move. Then I was told I could not have the kind of dressing I wanted for my Caesar salad, this despite the fact the same dressing was available for other kinds of salad. So I ended up eating my romaine completely dry. When our entrees arrived we found they were nothing at all similar to the portions of meat and seafood shown on the sample cart. Instead of a large broiled lobster I received three tiny tails that had been grilled to the taste and consistency of dry burnt cardboard. My husband's surf and turf combination was no better. Dessert was also disappointing, with unripe fruit for me and a chocolate combo for my DH that still had paper sticking to the back of the chocolate. After an hour of dismal service and worse food, we left the Golden Fleece not only hungry but feeling fleeced by the "nominal" $60 charge. The only response to our written complaint about this fiasco was a form letter from the purser apologizing for our "disappointment with some aspect" of our cruise.
Despite that dismal waste of time and money, my husband and I did enjoy most of our time aboard the Legend, finding lots of places and ways in which to relax. We didn't much care for the cruise director, Jen, or the shows we went to, but we only encountered real problems at the ports of call.
Grand Cayman: A tornado turned into a water spout shortly after we arrived, so we went right back to the ship via one of the tenders. When the storm moved on it seemed too much trouble to disembark again with the wheelchair. We do hope to see more of Grand Cayman someday.
Cozumel: We tried to shop here but were both electrocuted when my wheelchair rubbed against a rusty pipe in the middle of the pierfront sidewalk that was apparently electrified by 220 volts. Thank God the amperage was low or we both would have been killed. Needless to say, we returned to the ship as soon as we were physically able. But we will never return to Cozumel due to the laughter of the shopowners when they witnessed this extremely painful event. Never have we met with such a lack of compassion.
Belize: We enjoyed a nice cave tubing excursion with Major Tom of Greenwood Adventures, who gave us our own guide so my disability wouldn't slow down the rest of the group. We did see one poisonous snake in the water ("One of the nine," Major Tom said.) but were kept at a safe distance from it. The only real glitch occurred when we nearly missed the last tender boat back to the Legend due to a horrific traffic accident that closed down the highway back to Belize City.
Roatan, Honduras: This is a jewel of an island best seen from a distance. Our taxi driver charged us $40 to drive less than 5 miles to West Bay and then forced us to pay another $10 to get access to the public beach where he and his driver buddies drank at a bar all the while we were there. Once again, we were grateful to get back to the ship alive.
A note for the handicapped: despite what the ship's excursion desk people will tell you, none of these western Caribbean ports are really wheelchair accessible. Getting on and off the ship with a wheelchair is also problematic, as there are stairs involved and ship's personnel are not allowed to carry passengers. Most tender boats are not WC accessible, either.We did not see any that had a ramp.
RE other shipboard matters, our cabin steward, Rito, was friendly and efficient, though certainly not "invisible" as it seemed that he and other stewards were in the halls of the Empress deck for most of the day. Every time we wanted to leave or go back to our cabin the corridors in all directions were a virtual obstacle course of service carts, abandoned room service trays, laundry & trash bags. We often had to move some nasty things so my wheelchair could squeeze through and I don't know what we would have done had my chair been a wide one. Sometimes we also had to come back to our cabin at a later time, because Rito and/or his assistant were inside. Our cabin was attended to twice a day, with ice being refilled both times, and we found a new towel animal on our bed nearly every night after dinner. When our cabin was not being serviced, Rito would often unlock the door for us if he saw us coming. This made it easier for me to exit my wheelchair and hobble inside to the nearest chair. Only once did Rito attempt to call one of us by name and then he got it wrong, but this was certainly a minor matter as no other ship's personnel, including our nightly dining room staff, ever bothered with our names, so we appreciated his effort.
We encountered numerous challenges using the elevators on the ship. The elevators are fairly small and often so much in demand that we had to wait several turns to find one with enough space for my wheelchair. It didn't help that sometimes people would rush ahead of us to get on. There were also a few incidents of "unaccompanied minors" tying up the elevators by pushing all the buttons, racing one another and playing hide & seek. Ship's personnel were frustrated in their attempts to catch these kids.
FYI for handicapped passengers: There are only three wheelchair accessible public restrooms available on Carnival Legend, located on decks 2, 3 and 9. The one I finally found had just one grab bar in the HC stall and that was inappropriately installed behind my shoulder. There are also no paper seat covers for the toilets in any of the stalls. Beware, especially, of using the restrooms near any of the pool areas as the floors are invariably puddled with water from people changing out of their swimwear.
As for shipboard entertainment, we found it to be okay but nothing we would bother to go and see again. Neither would we attend any of the shopping excursion talks again since they are replayed continually on the cabin's television. Every promised "free" gift for attending these talks requires a visit to the shop at the featured port, a difficult and sometimes impossible task for someone who cannot get there easily. Many taxis cannot accommodate folded wheelchairs and even if we found one that did the cab fare cancelled any savings of the "special" coupons.
Photographers on the Carnival Legend were plentiful but not obtrusive as we have read they can be on other cruiselines. It seemed there were more than enough to serve the needs of everyone who wanted portraits taken on the two formal nights.
We had no children with us so we cannot judge the children's programs except to wonder why one young group from Camp Carnival was sent on a running scavenger hunt throughout the ship without supervision. And the few teens we met didn't seem interested in going to the Club O2 that had been set up for them, but that may not be Carnival's fault, given the ages involved.
During our cruise we often wheeled through the casino, holding our breath as much as we could due to the heavy cigarette smoke. The small section of "nonsmoking" slot machines is a joke as there is no partition between them and the fully ashtrayed ones. Even though the slot machines were incredibly tight every single night, the main reason we never stayed for long was because of the smoke. I felt sorry for the ship's staff who are forced to work in such an environment every day.
The Legend's retail stores located on "Rodeo Drive" carry a variety of products, most of which my husband had to report on to me because wheelchair access was impossible unless the stores were completely empty, which they never were. Duty free items, particularly liquor, were especially reasonable compared with prices at home, but the allowances set by customs are quite strict. In addition, if you want a particular item or brand, be sure to buy it early in the cruise as the shops can run out of inventory long before disembarkation. Liquor purchases are delivered to your cabin on the last evening of the cruise.
As did most passengers, we set our luggage in the hall outside our cabin the night before disembarkation, wondering a bit about the security in doing so. The next morning we found that we had plenty of time to shower, dress and enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the Lido deck before returning to our cabin to pack our carryon items and check the cabin one last time. Although the written instructions we had been given about disembarkation for "special needs" passengers were conflicting, on our way to the gathering lounge we were told to just disembark right way, eager as the staff were to empty the ship of passengers as quickly as possible. Finding our checked bags and passing through customs was an equally easy affair, though we wondered about security again when the customs official didn't even glance at our passports, choosing instead to wave us on through after we handed him our declaration form.
Finally, if you are driving away from the port in your own car and are not familiar with the area, it would be wise to have a map printed of your return trip, as several vital signs (such as one pointing to the Interstate) appear to be missing in this direction. Just as at Disney World, these mega-corporations give you plenty of signs to find them easily, but do not seem to care if you have a difficult time getting home again.