Port Arrival/Embarkation: As usual we arrived into Tampa the day before our cruise. We have always gone a day earlier than the cruise departure to eliminate stress and delays. That way the morning of the cruise we just go straight to the ship and enjoy the vacation.
We arrived The Port of Tampa via the hotel shuttle and were immediately queued up into the security line. We noticed that things at the Tampa port were a little disorganized at first with all the arriving passengers. If you do go out of Tampa be sure to grab one of the porters immediately to get the correct baggage tags for all your bags. Fill them out and give them directly to the porter so you can get in line right away. Carnival does NOT supply the usual baggage tags anymore prior to the cruise. They only send paper tags in your package which you make copies of and fold/staple onto your bags. It's crazy because while the bags are being stacked and transported to the ship anything could happen to those paper tags. So just wait until you get to the port and get the regular tags from the porter.
Once we got through security we immediately found the VIP desk for check-in. We were in our usual suite accommodations which gives you expedited check-in privileges which literally took seconds and we were on the ship and in our cabin. So overall, the check-in process was uneventful.
First Impression of the Carnival Legend: I'll be honest, we cruise at least once a year and always at Halloween with a very large gay group (300 people). We are friends with the President of Aquafest (who handles all our arrangements). Last year when Tom told us we'd be on a Carnival ship this year I thought, "Oh HELL no!" But he guaranteed us that he and his partner had already gone on a cruise on The Legend and loved it. I have to tell you, we DID love it!! It's a VERY classy ship, older, but classy. And I'll probably mention this again in the review but the entire ship is PRESTINE!! I mean, it is seriously one of the most tidy ships I've seen in the industry. So we knew as soon as we walked through the doors that things were going to be nice. Also, Carnival has refurbished many of their ships (like The Legend) and ensured they no longer have that "spring break, Wal-Mart" feeling that Carnival has been known for having over the years. They still have several of those ships in their fleet but have some of their smaller ships as more elegant and catering to a different crowd. It was good that we immediately felt that change.
Our Suite (6157): We almost always opt for a suite when we cruise. It's just something we enjoy and frankly the money isn't an issue and is worth every dollar for what you get with the suite accommodations. Suite 6157 was no different. It was AMAZING! The layout was perfect and exceeded our expectations from what we saw online. The online 360 pictures make it seem MUCH bigger than it really is but it's WAY more space than two people need for a week. TONS of storage throughout the cabin and plenty of hanging space for all our clothes and changes of outfits for the week. Since we participate in themed nights that our group has arranged we need extra space for stuff. All the counters and vanities are granite and beautiful! The bathroom is great. I'm 6'4" and love the extra space so I don't feel like I'm always banging my head on something. Plenty of room for me. The bathroom has two sinks and plenty of individual storage space for two people. I happened to notice that the floors, cabinets, walls, tiles, etc. were extraordinarily clean which is a must for me!! The shower has a fantastic sliding door that snaps shut so no water leaks out onto the floor. The bathtub is also a Jacuzzi tub which is nice. And finally, there were plenty of towels and the bath products were REALLY nice as well. In the main cabin there is a stocked mini bar that has pretty much everything, plenty of seating if you have guests over, etc. Also, in the dressing room there is another seated desk/vanity area with plenty of drawers and power for laptops, recharging cell phones, etc. And yet another set of huge closets (I particularly liked the little dressing area as a private getaway)! Ha-ha! The balcony was huge and had 4 nice chairs and a table. We noticed that the privacy walls were really private and you couldn't even lurch your head around the sides and see onto the other balconies for those of you who like to play! ?
Our Cabin Steward: Our cabin steward Roger was really nice. He was from India. We really enjoyed him but he really didn't come around unless we needed him. All I had to do was open the door and say his name and he was there. And with most cruise lines the stewards always know when to come in and clean things when we're away. Nothing overly out of the ordinary with the stewards but that's a good thing. There's only so much they can do and as long as the bathrooms are restocked and the beds straightened twice a day I'm a happy camper. We keep a VERY tidy stateroom so there's really not much else for him to do.
Room Service: We always enjoy breakfast in our cabin so we can wakeup quietly. And while we did the same on The Legend we noticed that you could only order continental breakfast for room service. In other words, you couldn't order eggs, meats, pancakes, and the like. Frankly we didn't really mind because we don't eat a huge breakfast anyway. As long as there is coffee we're good to go. So we had nice bagels, toast, some fruit, yogurt, etc. By the way, as many of you already know, it doesn't cost anything for room service but we do offer a nice tip to the person bringing the food....it's not mandatory but it's a little extra service that deserves a tip.
Truffles Restaurant (Main Dining Room): The main dining room was classic and very nice. And like our friend told us when we were leery of Carnival service and food, the food was AMAZING and really good. We also noticed that the portions were huge. I will fess up and say that my partner said he wasn't overly impressed and felt the food was "ok" and made note of that on the comment card. He also went onto say that he thought all the desserts were not made on board (something I didn't get a chance to verify). We are traveling with several other people and the first night two of us ordered ribs and let me tell you, I thought I was home in Texas. They were HUGE racks of ribs and we ended up dividing them amongst everyone else because we couldn't finish them. The service is great and we really didn't have any problems. For those who are reading this that have never cruised but thinking about it, I always have to say in my reviews that eating in the main dining room of cruise ships is a must! It's a great way to try new foods that you might not try other places. If you don't like something, simply order something else. Be open minded and I think you'll find that you like foods with an international flair more than you thought you might.
I was able to enjoy a nice breakfast in the dining room as well as a wonderful lunch with a friend of ours from Italy. We enjoyed a nice bottle of wine with lunch which was fantastic. If you want a smaller table simply ask. We requested a table for 4 during lunch and had no problems getting a secluded table.
The Spa: Our tour group had arranged a special spa night for us which was great. Normally I steer clear of the spa's on most ships these days because we have a fantastic massage therapist at home and I get weekly massages there. Being a massage therapist myself I'm always disappointed with most of the spa treatments on ships. ESPECIALLY since at the end of a relaxing treatment they always try selling you the products they used which sorta ruins it for me. Again, nothing overly noteworthy to write about the spa...it wasn't bad it was just typical.
Ports of Call: The ports of call on this itinerary was The Grand Cayman's, Cozumel, Belize, and Rotan Island (Honduras). My partner and I have cruised the Western Caribbean several times so these ports of call really didn't interest us at this point. The last few cruises I haven't left the ship and this was no different. I only left the ship once and it was for a group outing at Senor Frogs in Cozumel. Otherwise I was on the ship the rest of the cruise so I can't really speak to any of the ports of call for this itinerary.
Bar Staff: What can I say? Nothing overly noteworthy regarding the bar staff. I will say that our group was 300 total and had several private functions in The Firebird Lounge. We all complained that there were only about 3 bartenders at our private functions for 300 people. It just didn't work. We told the staff more than once but they too have their fare share of staffing issues due to the economy so they said they would do the best they could. Still, it was slow going and frankly they lost a LOT of money with 300 gays clawing their way to the bar and could only get half of what they would have normally drank. We told the staff it's an opportunity to make a lot of money but they didn't really work with us on this issue. We laugh because some of the bartenders will tell us they make more money in the week we're aboard than the other 3 weeks of the month put together! Ha-ha! Cracks me up.
Gay Friendly: We travel with a wonderful cruise company that typically has between 200-400 gays and lesbians on board at any given time. This year we had about 350 in our group. It's not an all gay cruise so we are mixed in with the general population of the ship. We have our own private venues for our events so not much anyone can get in. Especially since we have our Halloween event which brings out all the crazy over the top costumes that the general population might not appreciate! Haha! Still, we have so many straight folks waiting at the doors to catch a glimpse at our fabulous parties and to see the different costumes that go in and out of our private venue at any given time. We even had a "Bollywood" night this year and some of the costumes (including my own) were amazing! If you'd like to travel with us sometime, go to www.aquafestcruises.com and check it out! Other than our group, the crew, staff and general population of the ship overall were very gay accepting and didn't cause any problems. We laugh because most of the straight women want to hang with us so they can leave their husbands in the cabins! Haha!
Disembarkation Process: We were in disembarkation group 4. We had no problems getting off the ship and immediately found our bags in the baggage terminal. Keep in mind that in the best of conditions, the baggage terminal is always crazy and seems out of control but somehow it works.
Summary: Like I said in the beginning of this review, the Carnival Legend was an unexpected surprise that's for sure. I absolutely LOVED it. I was on the ship the entire week and didn't do one port of call so I got a lot of use of the ship services and common areas. Every afternoon I sat down near the coffee cafe at a nice window and read or just watched the folks go by. The classic layout and feel of the ship really makes it "cozy". I would DEFINITELY sail this class of ship again and in particular The Legend itself. I highly recommend this itinerary and ship if you're after a nice, quiet getaway without a lot of craziness on board. If you have any specific questions that I didn't address in this review, please feel free to contact me - Scotty - firstname.lastname@example.org.