Legend of the Seas
September 17th Cruise - Hong Kong to Beijing
First let me say that I view cruises on the basis of value for money. If I pay a lot for a Cruise I tend to expect a lot and if I pay little for a cruise my expectations are lower. This is the only way to view satisfaction now that the base price for many cruises is lower than it was 4 or 5 years ago. It is easy to understand why the Cruise lines "nickel and dime you to death" on cruises because it is those "extra's" which provide the profit.
Embarkation on this cruise in Hong Kong was relatively easy. I arrived at the Port at 10.30am and by 11.15am or so we were checking in. Staff were not particularly fast and seemed to be somewhat inexperienced but never-the- less the queue I was in for Diamond class passengers got us on board by 11.45am. I always cringe when they take away my passport - especially as most Government's warn you never to let your passport out of your sight. Given that they gave it back to me 2 days later when we left Hong Kong to go through Immigrations/Customs I am at a loss to understand the purpose of keeping it at check-in. All this did was have us line up to pick up our passports only to pass through Immigration on departing and hand them back in to the cruise line again.
The Legend of the Seas is an older ship and is generally well maintained although she is showing her age and for the second time on this ship there were two or three times when there was a definite smell of sewage on decks 2 and 3. The ship is in need of upgrading to LCD TV's with access to your account and shower cubicles with doors so that you don't have to mop the bathroom floor every time you have a shower. Cabins on the lower decks at least did not have refrigerators, which I missed.
If you cruise on this ship dont buy the internet packages or try to use internet on board ship. Most of the time it didnt work and when it did it was so slow that the actual cost was something in the region of $2 per minute. It was to say the least a very frustrating experience.
Nothing wrong with cabins except for the aforementioned lack of shower doors and refrigerators and TV's that did more than take up space. Beds were comfortable and there was sufficient space for suitcases under the beds and enough wardrobe/drawer space for the average traveler. The cabin steward kept the room clean and left ice BUT while I left the "make up my room" card in the door rarely was it made up by the time I returned from my morning walk and breakfast. On previous ships this was nearly always the case. In fact I never saw cabin stewards until well after 9.30 am so maybe they start later!
Food Whatever happened to the multiple-choice menu and the special "lobster dinner" on formal night? The menu had about 5 starter choices and only 3 main course choices each night. While there was the usual "fish, steak, pasta" alternative available every night the food was at best average. While the food was ok there wasnt much imagination. As I like to eat well and great food is a big part of my vacation I really missed the specialty Restaurants available on the larger ships and I don't mind paying the extra for superb food. The food in the Buffet Restaurant was ok with reasonably good selection and it was hot and fresh most of the time. Finding a seat however was quite another thing.
Service throughout the ship was very good. It seems to me however that rather than make staff "terrified" of a bad review that senior management can accomplish the same level of service in a much more positive manner. I noted that some supervisors were positively rude to their staff and at times in front of guests.
The lounge for Diamond Guests where free wine and soft drinks are served in the evening was in the Sky Lounge and as this lounge became more popular with other passengers the service level diminished. I had to bring this to the attention of the Supervisor and made suggestions of how to remedy the situation. It did get better with additional staff added after my complaint.
Leaving the ship was quite an experience. Local Customs and Immigration Officials at the Port were slow (if dedicated) and too few. Given that all passengers had been through Chinese customs in Shanghai the need for such scrutiny was not apparent but the whole world has gone overboard with security these days so you cant blame the ship. Everyone was about 60 minutes behind the posted departure time.
I was taking the ship's transfer from the Port to Beijing and dropped my luggage off at a large truck and boarded Bus #1 for the airport. There were 3 buses. As bus #1 left the Port they were still loading the luggage into the truck and it became apparent to everyone but those in charge that if buses left 30/40 minutes before the luggage that it would not be waiting for us at the airport as we were being told. Low and behold after all three buses arrived at the airport (the last bus arrived almost 50 minutes after the first bus) the luggage had still not arrived. Finally, almost 90 minutes after we arrived at the airport the luggage turned up and although some people missed their flights, luckily I managed to get mine ok. Solution- half fill the buses with passengers and load the passenger's luggage on the same bus OR have a separate van for each bus and let them leave at the same time.
Most people on the cruise paid little more than $1500 each for a 13 night cruise from Hong Kong to Beijing. That works out at only a little more than $100 per day and on that basis this cruise was good value for money. I traveled single and after discounts paid about $2500 so it was a little more expensive for me but still all in all reasonable value for money. Having said that I think I want a little more selection and amenities and hence in future I will likely pick a larger ship with a few more modern facilities and optional restaurants. As for the Ports of call - GREAT.