Hey Cruise Critic Gang!
Ok, this will probably turn out to be a rather lengthy review. I must say that CruiseCritic has been a very helpful resource during the planning process of my last couple cruises so it's my turn to write a thorough review. I hope this review is helpful for you if you're considering a voyage on the Carnival Legend.
A bit about me first. I'm 28 yrs old, single, and have gone on four cruises now. Carnival remains my choice line because of the price. If I'm taking a family someday, I may opt for a different line but I'm more than satisfied overall with Carnival as a single guy.
We were a small group of four singles 23-35 yrs old. Three of the four of us went on the exact same cruise last year. Same ship, same itinerary, same week of the year. When researching which cruise to go on this year, we kept coming back to the Legend because we had a pretty good experience last year. I think it was even a bit better this year.
PARKING First, parking. We drove down from Atlanta and parked again at the Sheraton Riverwalk Hotel. After staying the night there last year, we decided not to stay this year (nasty rooms) and just parked the car there for a week. Their "parking special" if you stay overnight is $16 for the first night and $5 for each additional night. Awesome deal. However, I went directly through the valet manager and asked if he would allow us to park even though we weren't staying in the hotel. He gave us a straight $5/day parking for the whole trip. Amazing. That includes valet service, underground secure parking, and a shuttle to/from the port. Threw some nice tips their way and they were wonderful. It sure beats $14/day at the port.
EMBARKATION We learned from last year to arrive early at the port. I think we arrived around 11:30am this year or maybe a bit earlier. There was practically no line getting through security and then about 10 minutes until we actually checked in. The longest part of the wait was waiting until the door was actually opened to get on the ship. Still, we were on this ship just after noon.
Had a decent lunch on the Lido deck. My first impression was that the ship was a little grimier than last year. Although the crew generally keeps the ship pretty clean, it showed noticeably more age than a year ago. Nothing to fret over, just an observation.
Make sure you're one of the highest decks when the ship passes under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The ship clears the massive suspension bridge but just 5 feet. It's quite an experience. You'll set sail around 4pm and you'll go under the bridge within the first couple hours.
STATEROOMS My buddy and I had an extended balcony in room 5129 and our two female friends had an obstructed view balcony in 5179. Both were excellent rooms. It's true what they say - once you have a balcony room, it's hard to ever go back. This was my first balcony room and I spent more time on the balcony than I thought I would. I brought a travel hammock (Eagles Nest Outfitters - get one!) and fell asleep gently swaying in the hammock almost every night. There are very few extended balconies on the Legend. If I'm not mistaken, they're only on deck 5 forward and a few on the aft. The extra room actually makes a huge difference. All four of us were able to comfortable sit on the balcony with a small table in the middle and eat a meal. The hammock would not have worked in the regular balcony.
If you haven't been in a standard Carnival stateroom, they're actually quite roomy compared to other lines. 185 square feet or thereabouts. The layout of the room provides more than enough space for two or three people to live comfortably. Airplane-style jet engine toilet. No ventilation fan - bring something to freshen the air! Also, I learned to bring a power strip since there's only one power outlet in the room and one in the bathroom. Brought some computer speakers this year for music which was made a huge improvement over the handful of music channels on the dinky television. The room steward was awesome (they always are) and hooked us up with whatever we needed. I brought a small collapsible cooler and he kept it filled with ice. I added some extra tips for him at the end of the week. Those guys work harder than just about anyone else on the ship I think.
Comfy beds, lighting is fine, and the balcony of course made the room great. We heard our neighbors sometimes but it's a ship and it's expected. As long as you don't go on a cruise expecting the stateroom to be like a hotel room, you'll be fine. Also, I suggest getting a room midship or forward because the sounds and vibrations of the engine are really annoying in the aft.
DINING I'm a passionate eater so this is a vital portion of any cruise for me! Sadly, we had a poor experience the first night in the main dining room. The four of us were seated in a booth and were assigned to a waiter who had no personality. He didn't introduce himself, didn't ask us any questions, and was never around. We ordered dinner at the same time that other people in his section ordered and we only had half of our appetizers when they were already on their desserts. I'm not in a rush to eat on a cruise of course but it was over an hour before we had anything to eat. I had a conversation the next morning with the assistant maitre D'. Although he offered to seat me in a different section, we switched to the "your time dining" and it worked out beautifully. I suppose the reason that I never tried it previously is because I truly love developing a relationship with the same waiter each night. Here's what I learned though: you can still request the same waiter in the "your time dining" section each evening if/when you find someone you connect with! We were seated with a waiter from Thailand called Pituck (Pee-Tock, not Tuck). He was absolutely incredible and we requested to sit in his section each night. I would recommend asking for him by name if you select the "your time dining" option. Also, we tipped him in cash because the "your time dining" waiters all pool the tips and get an even cut.
Like any Carnival cruise, the food is hit-or-miss. Food is largely about personal preference but I think that most folks are generally satisfied with the food in the main dining room. My only gripe is that many of the dishes are way too salty. I think they must try to cater to the salty pallets of Americans and sometimes overcompensate. Otherwise, pretty darn good. The seafood always tasted very fresh. I had some wonderful ribs, duck, Cornish game hen, lamb, and lobster. Don't forget that cappuccinos are free at dinnertime in the main dining room.
The Lido deck has great food - sometimes better than the main dining room. The salad bar is excellent. Pizza is so-so but I did enjoy the Le Chevre (wild mushroom and goat cheese). Never messed with the sandwich/deli line. The hot foods were generally great. Carving stations, some foods made-to-order, etc. The lines can get a little long sometimes but never more than 5 minutes or so. Made-to-order omelets in the mornings were wonderful. I often made a breakfast tray and enjoyed it on my balcony. The Asian line was pretty good. There's a line that has a different international cuisine each day and the Caribbean day was especially tasty. Keep in mind that the Lido buffet is in full swing only for a short period during lunch. If you're planning on eating lunch in the Lido, keep an eye on your watch and make sure you arrive during the main lunch window. We had breakfast in the Lido every morning and lunch on each of the sea days. Overall, very good.
We did have dinner once in the fancy steakhouse. Do yourself a favor and splurge on a dinner there once during the week. Yes it's $30 but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the upgrade from the regular dining room. I had escargot, steak tartare, filet mignon, Maine lobster tail, salad, a side, and a dessert sampler. WOW. The best service and very high quality food.
We do sneak a little alcohol on board just to help with the budget for the week. I carried on 12 Coronas carefully sealed into a Coke 12pack container. Brought a small bottle of Vodka in the checked-in suitcase and mixed it with some Crystal Lite. Not my choice in drinks but it cuts down on sneaking on liquid mixers and it's calorie-free. I did buy at least one or two drinks on the ship each day and they were always good. You can always order the drink special of the day in a regular cup instead of the souvenir cup to save a few bucks. Oh, and my friend did get caught sneaking in some Rum in her checked-in luggage. They took it on the first day and then returned it the last night of the cruise. No biggie. I would recommend trying the martini taster (available all week at any of the main bars). You choose 5 martinis in half-size glasses for $15.
ENTERTAINMENT HUGE improvement over last year. I didn't like a single show last year and didn't care for most of the live music. I went to four main shows this year and they were all outstanding. The Legend has a few new star singers that made the week excellent. Barbi is a young blonde girl who can sing opera better than the opera singers I pay tons to see in Atlanta. (Yes, good Opera on a Carnival ship - crazy, I know). We had Marcus Anthony fly out for one night (backup singer from The Supremes) and did one of the best Motown shows I've ever seen. The physical comedy juggler guy almost had me wet myself I was laughing so hard. I particularly enjoyed Matt who had a solo act on his guitar at various spots around the ship - lots of 90's alternative mixed in there. It was nice wandering around and always finding some nice live music. I do miss the Asian rock band from last year that wailed on some 60's music. Hearing the Beach Boys in a slight accent was hilarious.
I'm not really into the games and activities that Carnival does so I can't really comment on those. I did get suckered in to the art auction because of a silly raffle and free champagne. Waste of time. After 45 minutes, they still hadn't pulled the first name for the raffle. When they did start raffling, it was for garbage Carnival branded stuff that none of us need.
I didn't play Bingo but I sat in some of the games because they were wrapping up just before a show. Seemed like a waste of money to me. $20 to play for a $700 prize? No thanks.
The gym was fine. Bigger than expected. Just the basics to get you through the week.
This particular cruise was comprised mostly of couples and families. We saw very few children, teens, or other singles. From what I've heard, it's the same way for all cruises out of Tampa. It would have been nice to meet some friends to hang out with but we didn't and so we just did our own thing.
Jen was our cruise director last year and this year. I must admit that I despised her voice by the end of the first day last year. Every time I just started to relaxed I'd hear her voice and start grumbling. Well, I'm happy to say that Jen has really improved since last year. She greatly cut down on the frequency of her announcements and had just a little less cheese in her delivery. I actually enjoyed seeing and hearing her this year since she wasn't too overboard in her enthusiasm and frequency. Perhaps she read some of last year's comments card and made some necessary changes.
DEBARKATION Do the self-assist and you'll have no issues. Slow down, eat breakfast, let the people who are in a hurry get off first, and then stroll off the ship.
I'll write some port reviews as well..
So overall, it was a great cruise. The food is hit-or-miss. The entertainment may or may not be your cup of tea. It's not a five-star cruise line by any means. The Legend will treat you well if you'll find your niche, go with the flow, and keep a positive attitude throughout the trip. Best bang for the buck.