For those who won’t read it all, I’ll take the big miss first. Off Jeju, anchoring out, the captain in his wisdom decided that tender operations were to take place on the port side only. The booked tours got off first, and for the rest, we hade to queue up for tender tickets (I had to stand in line for 45 minutes to get tender ticket 1 – because we had a private appointment ashore). During the subsequent two-hour wait I had lots of time to observe the handling of the tenders. Total ineptitude, no standard procedure, each tender crew had its own way of doing things (tender 8 was best but still sub-standard)). At least six minutes wasted just maneuvering and mooring, each time. The deck officer in charge of training tender crews simply hadn't done his or her job. Also, apparently there was no signalling to show that a tender was loaded and about to cast off – not until the tender actually moved away, the next tender began maneuvering to line up for the platform. This, and the Captain's decision, was the main reasons for the intolerable delays. The result: some passengers just caught the shuttle bus, managed in town to go to what euphemistically is called “bathroom” – and then it was time to go back to port. Even the tour participants, who were let ashore early, had to be rushed though the sights. The result of this was that there were 400-500 people queuing up for the return tenders when we arrived in due time for the last tender, and several more buses came after us. At sunset it got very cold and some people were in shorts and t-shirts. Some on-the-ball passengers persuaded the local guides to recall a few of the tour buses to give us some shelter from the cold wind. Royal Caribbean staff did nothing. We heard that there actually was a ship representative on the pier, but he or she stayed hidden, understandably. We got a tender 90 minutes after “last tender” time, but some say they had to wait for 150 minutes. Each and every comment was answered by the same mantra: “Our first priority is the safety of the passengers” – Apparently the policy training officer had done his or her job. Another ubiquitous answer was “Our tender crews are extremely well trained”. Well I know a thing or two about small passenger craft – and there were few signs of proper training.
Having got this off my chest, I'll get on with my comments. The ship was in beautiful condition, the maintenance superb, the sailing smooth, nothing out of order. Our cabins 2576-78 were in perfect order and extremely well kept by Achilleus, from India. I believe the cabins on deck 2 are the best, no noise. Alas, no tubs, only showers, which I personally feel belong in prisons and on campsites. But we were mentally prepared for that, and didn't mind roughing it for 8 days.
Our assigned table for four was crummy, under the stairs and hidden behind a service counter. We rapidly shifted to My time dining. There, the service was excellent, and they always made sure that the food was hot enough, after we had pointed out that it was a priority for us. Special thanks to Nikolina from Croatia, who always found us a good table. The food was average, soups were bland, luncheon salads excellent, hors d’oeuvres so-so, beef dishes quite good (and if we asked for rare it was rare, applause!), pasta dishes “come si deve” (which really means high praise), vegetarian dishes tasteless, the desserts predictable. At the Windjammer buffet the choice was large enough to make for adequate meals, but the fight for a table every time was unpleasant. Luckily most passengers were Japanese and thus polite, no jostling. A lot of the teas that were on offer (teabags!) were not even tea, but some kinds of herbal tisanes. Not one bag of green tea! I hope somebody checked the demand and adjusts it to suit non-American tastes. Drink staff didn't have much to do, so one was always on hand when needed. Activities: Loved the climbing wall, surprising variety of difficulty, great Canadian handler. The gym was ok, too crowded during the conducted classes.
Internet: The Legend has the best Internet setup of all the ships I've sailed with (if you discount the fact that there was no LAN/WLAN in the cabins). The instructions for setting up the connection package were admirably clear, so I did not have to ask the ship's guru for help – a good thing because I never saw one.
Shore excursions: The Water village tour was worth the money. It turned out later that the tour in English was far better than the tours in Japanese, and it was not just due to the guide because the meal was also better. Both cost the same though. The shuttle bus in Shanghai would have cost us four times as much as taking taxis. We made sure we had our destinations written in Chinese, and the drivers all took us where we wanted, the payment was by taximeter and honest. Busan had a reasonably good, free shuttle bus service with two stops along the loop. It was clear that the planners and the crew were unprepared for the strange ethnic mix, 1543 Japanese, 70 Europeans, 71 others. I hope they do their homework and adjust the offerings. The Californian sushi chef must have been the busiest man on board. The temporary staff from Miki travel played an important role in keeping passengers happy – great job guys! Leaving the ship in Yokohama, an hour's drive from home, I did not feel the sadness I feel every time I'm leaving a Seabourn ship, rather I felt “whew, nice to get home and have a proper bath”. Still, I do not rule out taking a Royal Caribbean cruise again, if the destinations are right for me.