We have cruised many times in the Caribbean but have always wanted to try an Alaskan cruise. We had a marvellous time! My review is quite long but here are some special notes if you don't want to read the whole thing:
- Don’t try to schedule your Lyft ride the day before your cruise
- Check on possible excursion openings (which may have previously been fully booked) as soon as you board: openings and cancellations occur
- Book the Tracy Arm Fjord Glacier Explorer excursion if you can!!!
- Inside cabins are VERY dark when the lights are off, so I advise bringing a night light
-The coffee on Lido varies from fairly good to awful and there’s no way to tell until you take a sip
- The Nouveau Restaurant (Steakhouse) is well worth the extra cost
- Pack for ALL weather and plan to layer your clothes. We had days as cool as 54 degrees Fahrenheit and others as warm as 89 degrees.
- The wildlife and scenic beauty are surreal. We saw humpback whales, bald eagles, cascades, waterfalls, harbor seals and their pups, icebergs, black bears, raging rivers, pristine lakes, harbor dolphins, orcas, otters, sea lions, jagged snow-capped mountains, blue-tinged glaciers, glacial fjords and valleys, totem poles, lumberjacks, sled dogs and puppies, and so much more!
- Most excursions provide binoculars but it is nice to have your own set or a monocular.
Now on to the full review and log of our trip:
PRE-CRUISE: If possible, plan to stay in Seattle for a few days! A City Pass ($99) provides entry into six or eight select sites. In 2 days, we visited the Seattle Aquarium, the Pacific Science Center, The Woodland Park Zoo, The Argosy Harbor Cruise, and the Space Needle (one daytime and one evening visit). The Knight’s Inn in Tukwila near Seatac Airport offers Park and Cruise (stay the night there then leave your vehicle parked in their lot for the duration of your cruise). It was clean, if slightly run-down, but their fee for transportation to the cruise dock was $25 per person each way. We used Lyft instead and paid $27 for both of us, plus a tip. (Note: don’t try to schedule your Lyft ride the day before.)
DAY 1: JUNE 25, 2019. SEATTLE: Our check-in time was noon, so we got our Lyft ride at around 11 a.m. The Lyft driver had to drop us off at the end of the pier so it was either walk a long way with luggage or take their shuttle (another tip needed), but the shuttle was fast and easy. Just outside the check-in door, luggage porters could take your bags (for a tip) or you could go through the doors and drop them off yourself.
As a platinum VIFP guest, I got a few perks, but this was the easiest boarding ever. One person verified that our boarding passes showed the right time, another scanned our passports and stamped the boarding passes, then we went through security. They pointed us to the gantry - we never stopped walking and strolled aboard. We wore swimsuits under our clothes so we were in the Lido hot tub by noon. The tub was more “a little warm” than “hot” but still relaxing.
After soaking for a while, we claimed a nearby table before the throngs arrived. Because the mid-aft pool area is covered by glass, it was sunny and warm but there was no danger of sunburn, making it very pleasant. While we were drying, we got a burger from Guy’s Burgers and tacos from the Blue Iguana Grill, both only steps from our table. We both used the Carnival Hub App but it was slow and buggy (just as we noted on our last cruise).
At 1:30 p.m. our cabin was available. This was the first time we’d ever had an inside cabin, 7293, just forward of the aft elevators. It was small but well set up with lots of storage - more drawers and countertop space than our usual balcony cabin. The only downside is the lack of natural light. (Note: the cabin is VERY dark when the lights are off, so I advise bringing a night light.)
Our cabin steward, Raja, came by to introduce himself and dropped off our excursion tickets and platinum and gold level gifts. According to the info on the cabin TV, an excursion I wanted (but which had been completely booked) now had openings, so I immediately booked the Tracy Arm Fjord excursion.
At 3 pm we headed to Muster Station C. Because I walk with a cane, we were able to sit in the restaurant rather than stand outside on the deck. (Note: Most of our previous Carnival cruises allowed all passengers to sit in large common areas during muster drills rather than line up out on the deck, but perhaps the Legend is too small to do so.)
After the briefing, at the spa for my manicure, I was seated in the Relaxation room where iced water (regular and orange sliced) was available. Guilia came to welcome me. I received a shellac manicure and booked a couple of seaweed wraps. We ate some Mississippi Mud Pie which Shawn said smelled too good to resist. I got everything unpacked and our cabin neat and tidy - important in such a small space!
The Legend has undergone some redecorating since I was last aboard. The decor is not as flamboyant and seems more elegant. The size of the Legend has pluses and minuses. Its being slightly smaller than ships like the Vista makes getting around it easier. Having the Serenity deck, pool, and spa on Lido Aft is nice, too. Unfortunately, Legend is also missing quite a few of the amenities we saw on other ships: ropes course, sky ride, outdoor movie screen, Imax Theatre, Pub Grab, and separate Chinese or Italian restaurants.
We figured out how to use the internet on all our devices, before preparing for our Steakhouse dinner at Nouveau Restaurant (cruise elegant dress suggested). Our reservation was for 8 p.m. but we arrived early, so they seated us in the main gallery rather than at the more “romantic” window-side tables. Because it was the first sailing night, we received a complimentary bottle of Merlot. The meal was outstanding. We started with small rolls and breadsticks with butter; they were so good we could have eaten just those. The chef’s complimentary “sliders” were elegant and delicious. The stuffed mushrooms were excellent. We had a beautiful caesar salad and the baby spinach salad with mushrooms and bacon. For our entrees, we had the grilled halibut and the filet mignon sided with Yukon gold mashed potatoes with wasabi, garlic rapini, and macaroni and cheese. Both entrees were delicious. The potatoes were wonderful and the mac and cheese, amazing. Despite being very full, we chose to share the Chocolate sphere for dessert - it was lovely and delicious, without being too filling.
The restaurant sits at the base of the signature Carnival tail fin and windows above us illuminated the huge Odyssey painting as the sun was setting. After finishing dinner, we strolled out on the deck to watch the sunset, but the wind made it uncomfortably cool. We sheltered in a glass stairway and watched and photographed. Being late June, the sun didn’t set until 9:15 p.m.
DAY 2: JUNE 26, 2019. AT SEA: Shawn arose about 6 a.m. to do laps on deck 10. We headed down to Sea Day Brunch in Truffles, 2 Aft. The brunch menu has changed and even the servers are not completely familiar with it. We were disappointed that the brunch pasta was unavailable but settled for the “Signature Tower” with smoked salmon and egg salad (incredible!) as well as a fresh and delightful yoghurt parfait. We split a delicious bloody Mary for which we had a complimentary coupon.
After breakfast, we went to the Follies Theatre for a naturalist’s lecture about Alaska and glaciers. The lecture seemed to be aimed at a much younger crowd, but we found the session to be very informative, nonetheless. We stopped by the excursions desk to verify when the Fjord excursion tickets would be delivered to us (they never were). Raja came by around 11:30 to clean the cabin so we went up to Lido where folks were lining up for lunch. We checked to see if the hot tub was any warmer, but it had been emptied.
A whale blew only 200 yds away but too fast to identity. We took turns getting lunch from Chopsticks buffet and watched for critters. We split a chocolate layer cake. (Note: Carnival does chocolate well!) We went back to the Serenity Deck to relax and saw a humpback whale spout very close to the ship!
We went back to the cabin because it was a little chilly (this was one of the few days during the cruise when it was cool!) then I headed to the spa for a seaweed wrap. I waited in the Relaxation room but the water dispensers were empty and there were no clean glasses. Giulia came and sat me in a pedicure massage chair. She brushed my calves then rubbed warm seaweed mixed with milk bath on them before wrapping them in plastic and a towel to “bake.” I enjoyed the massage chair and watched out the wall of windows for wildlife. Guilia washed off the seaweed and sent me on my way.
I stopped on Lido and watched for whales. We spent some time trying to deal with strange issues sending messages; my iPhone 6S had problems sending and receiving messages. We dressed for dinner then sat in the Atrium/Colossus Lounge (2 mid) to listen to music by a solo guitarist and to Evano Strings, a violin trio.
We went to Truffles Restaurant on 3 Aft for “My Time Dining“ only to be told there was a fifteen to thirty-minute wait. We settled into easy chairs to watch the parade of Cruise Elegant attire as folks went to dinner or had portraits taken. We were paged for dinner prior to the 30-minute marker and were seated at a table for two next to a starboard window. We both ordered the Roasted Wild Mushroom Bisque which was excellent. I also had a spinach salad and spaghetti carbonara. Shawn had a Caesar salad and the fried oyster appetizer. We munched on the breadbasket provided while we awaited our dishes. Everything was delicious although the servers seemed tired and overwhelmed.
We reset clocks back an hour (Alaska time!) before going to bed.
DAY 3, JUNE 27, 2019. TRACY ARM FJORD: Shawn was up and walking his laps by 5:15. I followed shortly thereafter, and we watched for wildlife as the ship sailed into the fjord. We sat by the windows on starboard, despite being overheated from sitting in the sun, as we had breakfast, so we could hear Jessica the ship Naturalist when she pointed out animals or gave interesting tidbits and information. We saw dolphins and otters and orcas and even a mother humpback and her calf!
It was almost time for the Tracy Arm Fjord Glacier Explorer excursion, so we awaited the tour boat in the Firebird Lounge, 1 Fwd. The weather was perfect with blue skies and a pleasant temperature. There were a comfortable indoor sitting and a viewing area surrounded by windows as well as an open deck upstairs. As we drew away from the Legend, the catamaran took us up the fjord where we saw many bald eagles flying past us and in trees on both shores. Initially, the steep slopes were densely forested with fir trees, but as we motored further into that Alaskan wilderness, only scrubby brush and rocks lined the narrow waterway. We saw cascades, waterfalls, harbor seals, and a black bear on the bank who seemed to be unbothered as we cruised close to see him. The boat motored near many blue icebergs and other ice floes. We got very close to the gorgeous Ice Falls, one of 2 true waterfalls in the Fjord. The pilot backed the boat into the “nook,” a small cascade-carved cove where we could see beautiful wildflowers. We cruised past Sawyer Island where, 200 years ago, the 2 Sawyer glaciers were connected as one. The captain informed us that he always maintained a wide distance (100-500 yards) from marine mammals, but we went right over the top of one seal, whom we assume the captain didn’t see. We also scraped and went over numerous floating pieces of ice (mini bergs) which was disconcerting. (Since the boat was a catamaran, no seals or icebergs were harmed.)
We navigated the icy waters, past many harbor seals and their pups upon the bergs, to get within a quarter-mile of the Sawyer tide glacier. We saw it calve repeatedly, with huge chunks as well as small pieces falling into the water. The visible face of the glacier is a ½ mile wide and 200 feet high, but the tour guide assured us that the face actually extended 900 feet below the surface. We left the iceberg-filled area to visit the smaller arm of the fjord and North Sawyer glacier (much smaller and less active). All too soon, we were taken back to the Legend so another tour group could board.
We had a late lunch at the deli since not much else was open. From the rear Serenity deck, we watched the Fjord slowly retreat as the ship pirouetted then moved back to the bay where we began the day. It was surreal to see icebergs drift by while people played in the pool and spa. The breeze was chilly, so we moved into the Unicorn cafe on Lido.
We went to dinner at about 7:30 - a private table next to a window. (The Your Time dining really works well for us!) The Alaskan food specials, a seafood Cobb Salad and the baked flounder, were excellent and beautifully presented. The lentil pumpkin chorizo soup was surprisingly good as was the crispy portobello entree.
DAY 4, JUNE 29, 2019. SKAGWAY, AL: Shawn was up early to do laps on deck 10. I packed our backpack and met him for breakfast on Lido. We watched the Norwegian Jewel come into dock, before heading to the Follies Lounge to meet for our excursion, The Ultimate Yukon & White Pass Railroad Adventure.
We were on our bus by 7:05 a.m. Our driver CJ introduced herself and our tour started with a short bus ride through Skagway to the train. CJ commented and narrated continuously and also made many jokes.
The train climbed over 300 feet and the guide narrated the history. (Note: If you want the breathtaking views, ride on the left side on the uphill portion!) We passed over a 120-year-old trestle bridge and through 2 unlit tunnels. Carmac Peak and Carmac Glacier loomed over the valley while the Sawtooth Mountains provided a beautiful backdrop. The Skagway river rushed and tumbled alongside the track, even showing some class 6 rapids. The creeks and rivers varied from milky green with glacier flour to crystalline clearness in some of the lakes. As we neared Fraser, a small black bear (it may have been a cub) gambolled beside the train.
In Fraser, we had our passports checked by a Canadian border guard. We debarked and reboarded our bus with CJ, who drove us north to the Yukon. We stopped for pics beside Lake Totshi, the longest lake in the chain, and saw a jackrabbit go hopping by. We passed into the Yukon Territory and stopped at the Caribou Crossing (Carcross) Trading Post for a BBQ chicken lunch. After eating, we had an hour to wander through the “trading post“ which had a small wildlife museum, a petting zoo with sled dog puppies, a gift shop, and an ice cream parlor.
Back on the bus, we went a bit further north to see the pristine Emerald Lake and nearby Spirit Lake. We returned to the very small town of Carcross and wandered through the shops. We all got back on the bus and headed south to Alaska and Skagway. Along the way, a bus was stopped on the roadside so we slowed too, allowing us to spot a black bear standing on the far side of the road.
As we approached the border crossing into Alaska, a Canadian guard (the same guy who checked our passports on the train) stopped CJ for going a little fast, then proceeded to rip into her for not being respectful enough to him. The constantly-joking CJ was quiet for a while thereafter, but she apologized if she made anyone uncomfortable and started joking again.
We were dropped off at the end of the dock and strolled back to the Legend, only a short walk. We had full cell service so we caught up on calls and messages before going to an early dinner. We were seated immediately but service was slow due to many large groups and “parties.” Our servers, Richard, Bisu, and Marvin were very friendly and worked hard to keep up. We had the Tenderloin which was tasty if not tender, and linguini with Italian sausage. We ordered roasted broccoli with cheese not realizing it was a soup (Carnival doesn’t always notate which appetizers are soups) and the Alaskan smoked salmon and cream cheese pate. We skipped dessert and retired quite early. One huge benefit of the inside cabin is that sunset at 11:22 p.m. doesn’t keep you awake!
DAY 5, JUNE 29,2019. JUNEAU, AL: We rose early and grabbed food when the breakfast buffet opened. (Note: The coffee varies from fairly good to awful and there’s no way to tell until you take a sip.) We headed back to the cabin to gear up for our Mendenhall Glacier & Wildlife Quest excursion.
We had to go to the forward elevator to reach deck A then out to the pier and up a long gangway to the dock to meet our excursion. We were led to our bus and told we’d be going whale-watching first, then to the Glacier. Lynn, our driver/guide, gave lots of great info about Juneau and how to take iPhone pics using the down-volume button. At the Auke Bay Allen Harbor, we boarded the St Herman (3rd bus-load to get on the boat). Richard, the tour naturalist, gave us lots of info on the wildlife, as did the guide, Kathleen.
We found seats on the inside upper deck and could wander out to the open upper deck to see whales and other wildlife. Capt John took us up Favorite Channel past Shelter Island. As we went, we saw bald eagles, sea otters, humpback whales, harbor porpoises, and many sea birds. The boat’s galley sold a Glacier Margarita colored a lovely blue, and also offered a sample of smoked salmon flavored with pickled kelp - unusual but excellent!! The captain and crew mentioned several times that they only saw orcas about once a week, so we were all delighted when, as we cruised back into Auke Bay, a pod of 6+ orcas was swimming and jumping all around boats in the harbor!!
We disembarked and found our way to another bus, with a new driver/guide, Lacy Bear. The bus was quite warm. (Note: the area has been experiencing a heatwave with temps in the 80’s though their normal summer temps are in the 50’s-60’s.)
Lacy told bear jokes as she drove us to the Mendenhall Glacier where we had an hour to explore. We took the long, winding ramp rather than the stairs or elevator up to the visitor’s center, reading about local flora along the way. Inside there were many informative displays and telescopes, as well as rangers giving presentations and answering questions. They even had a chunk of glacier ice (age was estimated at 200 years) “caught” recently that could be touched. Large windows looked out over Mendenhall Lake toward the glacier and Nugget Falls. A couple of small “icebergs’” were floating on the lake, but the ranger told us that it was very rare to actually see Mendenhall Glacier calve.
The 0.3-mile trail to the ViewPoint was a slightly up-and-down paved path to a point of land jutting into the lake and had a great view of the glacier and the Falls. That area of the lake itself was blocked from use due to the Arctic Terns nesting there. Many people hiked the 2-mile round-trip trail to Nugget Falls and we could see them across the lake at the base of the roaring torrent. (Note: I thought we’d get to walk on the glacier because the excursion description isn’t completely clear, but you never get closer than about ½ mile.)
As we left Mendenhall Glacier park, we saw a beaver’s dam, and some folks even caught sight of the beaver. During our ride back to port, Lacy pointed out eagles and drove the bus across the bridge into Juneau proper, so we could say we’d been there and get pictures of the Legend as we returned.
We returned to the ship and had lunch on Lido at Chopsticks (which became the Seafood Corner in the evenings); they had some of the best Tom Ka Gai soup I’d ever eaten. After the ship headed away from Juneau, we went up to Lido to whale-watch. We saw a group of 4 whales (odd since they usually travel in groups of no more than 3) and a couple of humpbacks diving, showing their tail flukes, very near the ship. We were on the port side, so we only heard about the whale that totally breached on starboard. We took a walk around the whole 9th deck to find the forward observation platforms we’d noticed from the dock. Since we were underway, the area turned into a wind tunnel as we reached the bow and we had to tilt into the high wind to make it to the platform!! We made it all the way around and back to the Unicorn Cafe Lido buffet area where we snacked before retiring for the night.
DAY 6, JUNE 30,2019. KETCHIKAN, AL: We ate breakfast on Lido at 6:00 a.m. then went back to the cabin to pack up before we headed to the dock to meet our Saxman Village and the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show excursion. We met our bus and our driver/guide Sam and learned that Ketchikan is an island. Sam drove us through the small town and out to the Tlingit village of Saxman which hosts the largest extant collection of standing totem poles. The many carved and painted totem poles stretched high into the sky. We watched a 13-minute video to learn some of the history and culture then hiked through the rainforest to the Beaver Clan House. We were welcomed by an elder who spoke first in Tlingit then English. A group of villagers from different clans performed dances and songs to welcome us. At the end of each dance, the Dancers all turned their backs so that we could see their ceremonial capes showing their different clans. Afterwards, we went outside to view the collection of totem poles and Sam described the different types (funerary, shame, heraldic, historic, guardian, and clan). He also told the stories behind most of the poles we could see. One had a grumpy looking man in a potlatch hat atop a pole. This was Seward, who purchased Alaska (Seward’s Folly). There were many stories and incredible art. We went into the carving workshop where an apprentice carver explained their artisanship, then we walked down to the gift shop for a quick shopping spree. Sam drove us back into town and dropped us off near the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.
I stopped in a nearby shop before we went into the GALS facility. Four Lumberjacks competed, two versus two, and it was fun, loud, campy, and pretty amazing as well. There were six various skills/contests; all were difficult and fun to watch. We left the show with just 15 minutes to reach and reboard our ship a few blocks away. Many folks were disappointed in the shortness of the Ketchikan stop. It’s one of the largest towns we visited on this cruise, so I would have preferred to stay in Ketchikan another 4-5 hours and skipped the Victoria cruise stop scheduled for tomorrow. (In Victoria, the ship arrives around 7 p.m. and leaves by about 11 p.m., making it a less than ideal or welcoming port for most of us.)
We had lunch at Bonsai Sushi. It was different from a similar restaurant on the Vista. For example, the Bento box provided only miso soup, salad, 6 California roll pieces, and 3 varied sashimi pieces, with no main entree. It was very tasty though. We went back to Lido for dessert and wildlife watching. Sitting on the port side, Shawn saw 2 large jellyfish, which we learned were Sea Nettles. The naturalist, Jessica, came by and chatted, answering questions, and she also explained why the ship MUST stop in a non-US port (in our case, Victoria). I saw swirls of movement and fantails of water beside the ship and Jessica confirmed it was a pod of Dall porpoises.
Cruise Elegant night is always a treat, both for us to wear nicer clothes and to see what the other passengers wear. And the food is usually special. We were seated with Richard and Biso as our waiters again and they remembered us and were incredible servers. We had the stuffed mushrooms (very similar to those in the steakhouse) and clam chowder. For entrees, we had the jumbo shrimp (not really jumbo sized but good) and the filet mignon (also small but very tender and so tasty!). For dessert, we shared the chocolate melting cake. Finally headed back to the cabin to set our clocks forward to Pacific Daylight Time.
DAY 7, JULY 1,2019. AT SEA WITH A BRIEF STOP IN VICTORIA: Shawn got up at 6 for laps and saw a mama and baby humpback very close to the ship. Then we hit a fog bank and visibility died. Truffles restaurant 2 Aft opened a little early and we were seated quickly. Our waiter seemed tired or angry or both and we didn’t receive our meals until after 9. The parfaits were excellent as were the egg salad and smoked salmon on the “Tower” breakfast. I wish the iced tea onboard was brewed but it’s “canned” and only ok. The coffee in the restaurant is usually good but that on Lido varies greatly from weak to walking on its own.
I walked through Lido and saw whales on my way to a seaweed wrap appointment in the spa. I sat in the relaxation room (where the water containers were full of ice but no water yet again) until Guilia came to get me. She sat me in a massage pedicure chairs, brushed my legs then coated them in a seaweed masque before wrapping them in foil-like sheets and leaving me to bake and enjoy the massage chair for 30 minutes. Guilia unwrapped and washed my legs with milk bath. I tipped her and went to Unicorn Cafe where we tried the Blackberry Chocolate Mud Cake (BCMC), part of the Chocolate Extravaganza. After this treat, we decided to eat a late lunch so I checked out the sales in the Shops then met Shawn by Guy Fieri’s Burgers. We shared a cheeseburger then got a tuna sandwich from the deli and shared that, too.
We headed to deck 3 to try to get a cell phone signal. After we caught up on messages and voicemail, we went to the Firebird Lounge, 1 Fwd, to watch "The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part." After the movie, we stepped outside to watch our docking in Victoria, British Columbia. A seal watched the ship as the waters swirled and rushed during docking. Because the stay in port was so short, we chose to remain aboard and have a relaxing evening. We dined at Truffles and requested Richard and his crew. Richard, Bisu, and Marvin were attentive and entertaining, singing and dancing as part of the Final Evening showtime. Upon learning that we were celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, they brought out a pretty, little cake and sang to us.
We decided to carry all our bags off ourselves, so I packed everything up that evening.
DAY 8, JULY 2, 2019. DEBARKATION IN SEATTLE. We woke early and Shawn had just enough time to complete his final laps, finishing with a grand total of 66 (slightly less than 20 miles). We ate breakfast on Lido then gathered all our belongings and went to Truffles Restaurant where the self-assist Platinum and Diamond passengers were gathered. Debarkation was fast and simple and even Customs was a breeze. By 8 a.m. we were on the pier waiting for our Lyft. This was one of our all-time favorite cruises! Read Less