First, don't read this and assume I'm the type to find something wrong with everything. I'm not. See my review of our Thanksgiving cruise on the Freedom last year if you don't believe me. There's far more negative in here than my last review, but it's honest feedback. None of this ruined our vacation, either, I just wanted to be fair in my review and call out things that need improving. We simply didn't find this cruise as good as past ones in many areas.
Booking: We booked through CruiseQuick, a place many people seemed to fear. We got the room for a couple hundred less than anywhere else (even taking incentives in to consideration), and had zero issues. I'd totally use them again.
The port: This was our first time going out of Tampa, and I wouldn't be sad to skip it in the future. Embarkation was faster than last year, which was a positive, but getting off was a pain compared to last year. We do self-assist, and last year we were off the boat and on the highway by 7:30am. This year, self--assist didn't start until ~9, and was very poorly organized. Took quite a bit longer to get off. Also not a fan of how the port area is laid out, driving around down there was a bit confusing compared to Miami and Lauderdale. Going under the Skyway bridge was cool though. We were an hour and a half late leaving port, so it was completely dark by then, which was pretty cool too since the bridge was all lit up in green lights.
The ship: There are some who swear by the Legend and sail it more than once as a result. I'll agree that the ship never felt crowded like larger ships do, which was nice. The decorum, which some reviews complain about, is really no different than other ships. The whole "urn" theme was actually kinda interesting. Would I sail it again? Only with a more relaxing itinerary and a different entertainment staff.
Our room: I went against last year's vow that I'd only stay on upper decks, all to try out a balcony for the first time. We were in 4204, which was a nice room. No other balconies right in front of us, so we didn't have any smoke blowing back towards our balcony. Also, for those looking at this room in the future, yes there is a lifeboat right where the room next to you would be, but don't worry about it messing with the view, 99% of the time it was a non-issue. If you want to see what the view looks like from that balcony, search for the image named "Roatan, as seen from our balcony" on photosynth.net (upload date is 12/1/2012). Good room, nice and quiet, but I really don't get the "once you go balcony, you'll never go back" stance. Yea, it was nice to be able to get up and go outside and enjoy the sea, or even to pop out there any time you wanted, but it's by no means a be-all-end-all requirement for us when cruising in the future. It may be that we just don't spend enough time in our room to properly enjoy it.
The staff: Here's where it went downhill. Compared to our last experience on the Freedom with Brad and the rest of his entertainment staff, this year's entertainment staff was a bust. An earlier review of the Legend mentioned that the CD was heard more than he was seen, and kinda came off like a Diva. That fit Brian perfectly. We rarely saw him, and he hardly hosted any of the stuff we've seen past CDs host. He seemed to leave the majority of that up to his staff, and for much of it, they just weren't up to the task. The "be a game show star" show was really funny last year, but the hosts this year just sucked all the fun out of it by being completely out of sync. Additionally, the "adult game show" was awesome last year, and had a ton of participation. This year, it lasted 15 minutes and the girl hosting it seemed like she'd rather be elsewhere. We were warned that it was adults only, but she never got to any of the good stuff before they cut it off and brought the house band back up on stage. The saving grace of the entertainment staff was the comedy club manager, Kelly. She was pretty funny, even when hosting Bingo. Moving on, the MDR staff was a disappointment as well. We arrived to find that we were stuck at a little table all by ourselves off in the corner (we prefer to be at larger tables and meet other people), so the next morning I went to the MDR to ask the Maitre D if we could either move tables or move to Any-Time dining. He took my cabin number and said he'd get back to me, but we never heard a peep out of him. Checked in the next day, and the hostess said there were no other options. Considering the location of the table and our less-than-stellar head waiter, the MDR was kind of a bust for us this year. We ended up skipping a couple of nights, something we never do. We also had late seating for the first time on a cruise, something else we'll never do again. Live and learn :)
The food: About the same as last year (not bad overall), although the midnight (11:30) Mexican buffet is nothing to write home about. That, or the chocolate buffet. Those are two of my favorite things on a cruise, and this year it just felt like they were the victim of cutbacks.
The shows/activities: Another definite miss. A previous reviewer mentioned that the dancers seemed out of sync. Yea, that'd be accurate. Honestly, it seemed like they'd only been dancing together 10 minutes. I ended up walking out of the Jazz show about half way through as I just couldn't watch it go on anymore. Really didn't enjoy any of the shows this year. Shame, too, the Beatles show last year was entertaining. Outside of the shows, our other favorite thing to do, trivia, was hit or miss. The various hosts sometimes seemed unprepared, and in some cases like they really didn't want to be there. We attended almost every one, and it was amusing to see how seriously some people take those. It's a fun way to spend sea days, but you'd think there was serious money at stake based on the way some participants act :). The one good thing in this area were the comedians. We missed the first two on board, but caught multiple shows of the last two guys, and both were very funny.
Kids activities: A bright spot once again this year. My daughter met quite a few other kids in Club O2, and loved the counselor in charge. Not really sure they participated in scheduled activities, but with the older age group, that's a hard thing to plan anyway.
The itinerary: We absolutely loved last year's on the Freedom, with 4 sea days and 3 stops. This year on the Legend, 4 back-to-back stops felt like too much. Those 4 days were all a blur, so it's not the type of itinerary we'll be looking at in the future. Not complaining, we chose it, but it just never felt all that relaxing. See my review of the individual ports for more. Oh, I should also mention the tendering experience, since we had two ports of it this year. Neither was a hassle, we got off pretty quick. Here's a tip: the Fun Times says that you can get tender tickets starting at 9:00am. My recommendation, get there early. We knew the private excursion we were doing in Belize would be tight, so we all got down there ~8:30 and discovered they'd already started handing out tickets, and we got assigned group 2. As soon as tender operations started, we were off the boat on the first tender out. If you wait to get your tickets, you could be in a later group, and based on what we saw in Cayman, those in groups 4 and up had to wait a while to get off since Carnival excursions get priority. All in all, no issues for us tendering at either port.
Another thing we found interesting this year is that the ship just felt dead. I'm not sure how to explain it, but after the sun went down, the crowd disappeared. Not sure what the deal was, but the shows were never full like they were on our past few cruises, and of the comedy shows we went to, only one was standing room only. There were a ton of kids on the ship, so I certainly can't blame it on an older crowd, just felt like a less-involved crowd this year.
All in all, we had a good vacation. Any day you can be standing on a ship or on a beach instead of being at work is a good day. Yes, the experience on the boat wasn't as good (mostly due to staff issues), but it's all stuff that we never let bother us.
No other balconies right in front of it, so we didn't have any smoke blowing back towards our balcony. Also, for those looking at this room in the future, yes there is a lifeboat right where the room next to you would be, but don't worry about it messing with the view, 99% of the time it was a non-issue. If you want to see what the view looks like from that balcony, search for the image named "Roatan, as seen from our balcony" on photosynth.net (upload date is 12/1/2012). Overall a good room, nice and quiet.
We just got off the boat and took a cab to the beach, like we always do, but it rained a good chunk of the day. We still had fun and got in a few hours of snorkeling. We were going to be wet anyway, so the rain wasn't an issue. This year we went to Playa Mia. Nice, would definitely go again.
We did cave tubing as a private excursion through one of the more popular vendors. They were fine, the guides were funny and helpful, but none of us really saw what the big deal is with cave tubing. People say this is the one must-do activity here, but I just don't agree. I grew up river tubing out west, and to me, river tubing is where you get in the tube and float gently down the river with the current carrying you. Here, it seemed the current wasn't strong enough to move you, so the guides pulled you all the way through. The tubes were comfortable, with headrests, and they were tethered together with ropes and clips, not using the feet-in-underarms approach some companies have. The river was also packed, which didn't help. That, and we were always behind schedule thanks to the 45 minute wait in line to actually get in the river after the hike. It felt like we were being rushed the whole time. Part of that is because Carnival leaves port earlier than other lines in Belize, but still, you know when the ship leaves, plan the bus trip accordingly, and maybe find another spot to put the tubes into the river that allows for more than one person to get in at a time. I'd love to see more of Belize, so if we go back, that's an excursion we won't be doing again. Oh, and for those who do it, don't freak out about getting back to the port late. We got back shortly after the time given as the last tender departure, but it wasn't an issue. The Carnival sponsored cave tubing busses were almost an hour behind us, so there was nothing to worry about. The ship actually left Belize 45min late due to the late return by the Carnival excursions. Seems like Carnival should just extend the stay another hour or so.
One of my favorite places in the world, and this is not the first time we've been. We did the Maya Key excursion, one of the few cruise sponsored excursions we've ever done. We only did it because it was the only way to get there. It was a bit pricey for what you got, but we had a blast. Easily the best stop of the cruise. Spent the day snorkeling, walking the private island, we did the sea lion encounter (extra $$), and also got to hold a monkey and small crocodile (that part was not extra $$). Had a blast. This is the first time we've docked at Mahogany Bay, and frankly, I prefer the normal port better. I like to get a taste of the real culture of somewhere I'm visiting, and Carnival's port is just that, Carnival's port. They built it and keep it secluded, so it feels more like a shopping mall at any beach here in the US. Still, an outstanding day.
On the stingray portion of the excursion, our guides were awesome. We got plenty of the time in the water, and they made sure that everyone got to hold/pose with stingraysView All 795 Stingray Swim Reviews
The turtle farm was cool, even though people seem to have a hard time following simple directions. When they tell you to hold the turtles over the water, there's a reason. Amazed me how many English-speaking people just ignored them. One note: "snorkeling" at the turtle farm is a waste of time unless you have little kids who've never done it before, so skip it and enjoy other parts of the place. Unless you bring your own, you don't get fins, and it's all a man-made pond anyway, with average fish.View All 329 Turtle Farm Reviews