We arrived in Tampa the Saturday before the ships' departure. Three of us flew in from Detroit, one flew in from Toronto. Having never been in Tampa before, we arranged for "Tampa Bay Shuttle" to pick us up. The driver was very nice, drove us all over town, showing us, but we couldn't seem to get on the same wavelength as to where we were with all of our luggage, and it took about a half hour to finally connect. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Ybor City, which was a really neat little neighborhood, but kind of strange on a Saturday night. I was really impressed with the security of the hotel, and would definitely stay there again. The Hampton Inn shuttle drove us all over the place, and the driver was awesome. We had dinner at the Columbia in Tampa, which was delicious, and picked up some wine for taking on the ship.
Embarkation went really well. The hotel shuttle loaded up with the four of us (4 females, in our 20s) and a few older folks, heading out on the Veerdam, and 20 minutes later, we were deposited at the port. Easy peasy. We basically just waltzed right in, with no problems. We all had liquor in our carry-ons, and no problems. The staff at embarkation was really nice…we had a nice older lady, who was adorable. As she heard a boarding number called, she decided that we would be that boarding number, and just let us right on. We were on deck enjoying lunch and cocktails by 11:45.
I've been on a number of Carnival cruises, and was probably the least impressed with the Lido Deck food on this one. Don't get me wrong, what a great selection, the staff was ALWAYS awesome, but there was very little WOW-factor in the food. It was buffet food. Few more cocktails, and we were off to our room. The four of us were sharing an inside quad. I won't kid you. It was tight. We also brought pretty much everything we owned. We figured out how to do it well by the end of the week. The room itself was pretty spacious, and would be more then adequate for 2 people. The bathroom really impressed me. It was a lot bigger to the bathrooms I remember from some of the older ships. The lighting was nice and bright, and sometimes you could forget you were sleeping in a closet. (Not THAT small..) Our room steward was Wilmer, who I believe we worked to the bone. He was what all great room stewards are - there when you need them, but sneaking in and cleaning up after 4 very messy girls when no one was looking. Wilmer got a hefty extra tip from us on the last day for all he did.
Our first day at sea was pretty uneventful. A bit of lying on deck, a number of cocktails, nice and relaxing. We didn't participate in any of the on-board activities, but rather spent the day lounging by the aft pool, soaking up the rays. Grand Cayman was a good as always. On previous visits, I had remembered that travel to 7 mile beach was at your leisure, however, not so on the Legend. Our transport to the beach was for 8am, and we didn't show our mugs on shore until 9:00. (Perhaps had we gone to the Grand Cayman talk we would've known this.) The people from the Shore Excursions desk from the ship were not very helpful. They kind of pawned us off on the local tour people. Tracy from The Tour Company was awesome. She put us in with the people from the Princess ship going to the beach, and we wound up getting free umbrellas! WOOT! A Little bit of shopping, some rum cake, some tanzanite, and some knock-off designer handbags, and we were back on the tender to the ship.
The next day was Cozumel. Two of us did the Kayak & Snorkel Tour, and the other two did the dolphin encounter - both through the ship. We all had a great time. I was told that the snorkeling was amazing, and that the locals who were running the kayaking were great. I did the dolphin excursion, and it was amazing. Chakanaab (SIC) is a BEAUTIFUL facility. The dolphins were really amazing. I want to be a dolphin trainer! We spent the afternoon at Senor Frogs, and staggered back to ship on time. Somehow. 'Nuff said. We had arranged for cave tubing in Belize through Cave-tubing.com, and it worked out really well. The tender was far. I was surprised by that. We kind of made our way through the port area, and there were the guys from Cave Tubing, holding a sign with my name on it! Whew! They led us to a bar across the street, were we sat for a few minutes and waited for stragglers. We were on the bus in no time. Richard gave us a nice tour of the area on our way to the cave tubing location. It was a nice country, but I'm not sure that I would go back. I got a really "Rastafarian" vibe there - just driving through. Our tour guides were awesome, leading us through the park on a gravel path. Be careful with the shoes you wear on this excursion…our walk was probably about 40 minutes, and we were wearing water shoes, which don't provide much protection from the gravel. Youch! You have the option of jumping into the water, or falling in. My butt was too big. They upgraded my tube, and told me to "blame my mum." Sigh. We linked up, and everyone was in the water, and we were off! The water was a bit cooler then we were expecting…especially in the caves where there was no sun, but it was really a beautiful experience. Lots of fun. The bus ride back to the ship was hilarious. Something was wrong with the bus, and the horn would just spontaneously honk through the Belizean countryside. Too funny. This tour was about half the price of the Carnival tour. We got to go through twice as many caves, and we weren't just floating about willy-nilly, running into walls. I recommend this method for tubing in Belize.
Honduras was something…as we arrived, it was gorgeous. However the poverty was plainly evident. We booked the Tabayana Beach excursion through the ship. We were a bit early on dock, and headed down the road to the shops, where we found lots of gorgeous woodwork. Amazing. We arrived back at the meeting spot just in time to get on the bus. For $36 per person, I was a bit disappointed in the transportation…it was adequate, but surprising. Honduras was beautiful to drive through, but you really, really get a feel for the poverty. The beach was amazing. Great beach chairs, snorkel equipment for rent…good snorkeling…it was great. It rained. Everyone huddled in the bar (where else!!) until it cleared, and we were all back out there again! They were selling some nice art on the beach. I was really impressed with the security of the beach. There were security guards everywhere, taking care of us cruisers.
Our last day at sea was just as relaxing as the first one. Disembarkation is always a pain as a foreign national (Canadian). We were up and in the lounge at 615…and sat in the Lido Deck until almost 10…it was a long wait to get off the ship.
Our waiter was Gerson, and Olena was his assistant, and they were great. Gerson always brought us extras of the good stuff, and Olena could open a bottle of wine like none other. I was quite impressed with some of the dining room food, and am glad that Carnival had done a bit of a re-vamp. We were the late sitting, which worked out quite well for us. We visited Franklin and his wonder-sushi almost nightly. The bars on board were good. A couple of the girls that were with us really enjoyed Michael in the piano lounge, and spent some (ahem) quality time there. No complaints. This ship was just what the doctor ordered for this vacation. We found the drinks to be a bit strong, but who's complaining about that? There weren't a lot of people from our age group, but we just adored a lot of the older folks - who had more chutzpah then a lot of the 30 year olds I know! Already planning our next cruise…