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Carnival Legend Cruise Review
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Copyright 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman


Carnival Legend
NYC-Caribbean 
June 6-14, 2003

by George Hall

BACKGROUND
George and Linda, early 50's late 40's, forty cruises since first cruise in 1984. Multiple lines including NCL, Celebrity, RCL, Royal Viking, and Carnival. Obviously we are cruise-aholics and have been since our honeymoon cruise on board The NCL Skyward. The smallest ship sailed would be the Skyward, 16,000 tons, the largest the RCL Voyager at 100,000 plus tons.

We have never had a bad cruise, some are just more memorable and enjoyable than others. The only previous Carnival ship we sailed was the Celebration in 1988. Had a great cruise and met fellow tablemates from Texas that remain close and dear friends who have shared some cruises in later year with us. Although the Celebration cruise was a memorable one for us, we came to the conclusion that we leaned more towards other lines, notably Celebrity and RCL only as a matter of personal taste. With Carnival commencing a NY to Caribbean itinerary it seemed time to give them a try once again, hence our June Legend sailing. (As an aside, am I the only one that thinks that cruise lines should be somewhat more creative in naming there ships or is age making me easier to confuse? I mean the Legend immediately makes me think of the Royal Caribbean Legend of The Seas.)

EMBARKATION
Sailing from NY has always been a pleasure for us since we live but a 40 minute drive away from the piers in Manhattan. I certainly applaud that so many ships are commencing sailings form NY this year but I am also aware that what has always been nice and easy may go by the wayside in the future because of congestion. Hopefully this will not be the case, but simple logic dictates that NY is a congested city and limited space is always a factor. Our day of sailing was a Friday, as the Legend sails an 8 day itinerary the day of sailing changes each week. This day we were the only ship in port so traffic and drop off were not adversely effected but normally I would expect to find plenty of long term parking available. This time I found that they now designate two lots long term, one is the original long term, fenced and secure, lot. The other is one of the normal day parking lots. It is also notable that the rate is now $22 per day versus the $18 per day rate for past recent years. It was strange to see the secure lot almost at capacity. The cause of course was simply that several of the Bermuda bound ships leave Saturday and Sunday and naturally their cars are still parked. Supply and demand, what can you say. The real concern that I have is that as more and more ships sail from NY that the lots might actually eventually reach capacity and since the parking agency does not accept reservations, a problem could be had. There is no easy place to park a car in Manhattan. It is more the future and high summer season that concerns me.

We arrived and drove up the pier ramp to find a somewhat bottlenecked drop off area. Despite being the only ship in, the Legend was berthed at the very first drop off point close to the ramp entrance. We drove around and parked a little way down, but many were confused as to what to do so stopped and tried to wait until others had completed their drop off and moved away, hence bottleneck. Not one traffic person was noted, must have been on lunch break. Removing our luggage, we brought it to where lines were forming, there for a new security procedure. Carnival staff were playing like the airlines do, making you identify your luggage and checking your papers. They would them stamp your luggage tags with a rubber security stamp. Next you tried to grab a porter, few seemed on duty yet, nonetheless, within a reasonable time our luggage was taken and moved off to board. Wish it was as easy for us to get on. I understand security and that delay is often unavoidable, in fact I am a retired security professional so I also understand that having a good system can go far in making security actions less tedious. Many security operations that have sprung up since the tragedy of September 11th create needless time consuming lines. I say needless only in that many operations cause bottlenecks, in fact are designed to do so for various reasons. However, many create the bottlenecks but offer nothing toward security. This appears to be one of those that simply creates problems in an effort to make it appear that security is being enhanced. So many things are done merely to make us all "feel better" or to attempt to limit liability, not to actually make any of us more secure. 

We arrived at 1 PM normally a perfect time. On days when numerous ships are in I sincerely doubt that there will be a "good" time to get there to avoid crowds. We always make sure that we fill out all documents before hand to avoid slowing down a line. This time we received no immigration forms and we were told naturally that we didn't need any for Puerto Rico or St. Thomas. We figured we would get ones for the British Islands of Tortola while we were on board, sent to cabin and picked up by cabin steward--makes sense since we had days at sea to do this. NOPE, we were all given immigration forms AND forms swearing that we hadn't been out of the country or in any area that SARS was a problem. Now everyone could scramble for pens and fill these out while in line. The line was for ID check entry and then another line for metal detectors, then more lines for actual checking in. Aha says us, we have priority boarding, something called SKIPPERS Club for cat 11 and 12. Unfortunately no one wearing a Carnival uniform apparently ever heard of it. The best answer, of the 6 or 7 answers we got from different people was, "As soon as you are onboard ask the Pursers desk where priority boarding is." No he wasn't kidding, he advised us with a straight face. So at the end of the last line before the ticket booth lines we asked one final time about priority boarding. We were pointed to a desk area at the beginning of desk areas. Of course there was a line there but what the heck. Anyway, since "priority" boarding station is farthest away from all the machines that print the boarding cards it takes the two checkers longer to process you than the regular desks. We know this to be the case because the couple in front of us had people with them that did not have priority boarding. They were done and standing there waiting for them 15 minutes before they were ready to board. Then there is the embark photo line and then the take your picture for boarding pass line. Took about an hour and thirty minutes to board all in all. Not good even in post 9/11 New York. The bottom line is that if you do have a cat 11 or 12 and "special boarding" don't count on it!

THE SHIP
The Carnival Legend is a gorgeous ship, well designed and the decor grows on you rapidly. You don't even notice the "URNS" after the first day. I'm actually writing this on the fourth day of our voyage. Already I have become enamored with the design of this ship. She is long and while that necessitates some walking at times it is easy to get around and elevators always seem to be around the next corner, as do bathrooms, which is great. Plenty of seating areas all over the place, never have to hunt down a place to park it. I think the design and decor of this ship are both excellent.

CABIN
We were in suite 6162, category 11, Empress deck or Deck 6. Location wise 3 up or 3 down from everything. 3 up to food and pools, 3 down to shops and lounges 4 down to Casino or dining room. Actually 3 down for us since we are in the upper dining room. Unlike some lines this category suite comes with no extra service such as Butler on Celebrity, or FREE cocktails and such in a private Concierge lounge on RCL. You do get PRIORITY boarding though, right? Basically you pay a couple thousand more for more space and cabin amenity only. Frankly, we have come to be spoiled of late and for us it is worth extra to have what is basically double the cabin space.

The cabin is well designed and roomy enough with two large closets, a cosmetic area into the bathroom, and a large balcony. Again, basically it is space of two cabins made into one. The bathroom features a double sink and a Jacuzzi tub. The closets are roomy and lighted when opened. There is more than enough drawer space throughout. Lots of track lighting and regular lighting in cabin. You also have a desk area and couch area, we were very happy with the cabin. The balcony is the width of the cabin and can easily fit four people at a time. A chair and lounge chair are provided with two small tables. All are made out of plastic and are not very comfortable to sit in as there is no padding provided. The large bed was firm and four pillows are provided, no complaints about the bed it was comfortable. TV and VCR (would have thought a new ship would have gone Disk player instead) are provided and worked well. Bed is high enough to be able to store our large width hard shell suitcases without a problem. Out Cat B on Voyager was too low for them so we were happy to see that they fit under easily.

A cabin safe is also provided which was locked by the previous occupant despite the reminder for guests to leave it open upon leaving at end of cruise. This took until the second day to get someone to come and open it. Locked safes require an Officer to open in case guest had left something of value. In this case it was empty. The safe requires you to use a credit card to open and close, I much prefer the safes that allow you to program a number in rather than make you carry around a credit card with you. I used a gas card in case it was lost it wouldn't be a major headache.

A drawer was broken and jammed half in a cabinet. I fixed that readily enough with my Swiss army knife. A track had unscrewed and fallen, easily repaired, could have been easily done before we came onboard. The Jacuzzi also didn't work. It was repaired quickly AFTER we convinced staff that it wasn't that we were too stupid to operate a Jacuzzi, that it was actually broken. Apparently the engineer has to deal with Jacuzzi malfunctions everyday, so he told us, and he isn't all that happy about it. Once he saw that this one's motor was kaput he was right on it and it was replaced. If it sounds like I am complaining, please, I am not, simply reporting. Things break and as long as they are repaired you can't complain. Let's face it, like most anyone, if I am paying extra for extra, I want my extra :)

STAFF
Can't say enough good about staff. Almost without exception everyone is friendly and will go out of there way to assist you, most have good command of English which helps a lot. Service has been very good and very pleasant. Although dining room service staff are very hard working the dining room service STYLE is very different from the other lines we have sailed, different from our years ago Carnival sailing as well. I can only describe it as local diner style. Our cabin stewardess kept our cabin clean and tidy providing several very well done towel animals at turn down. She did an excellent job throughout the sailing.

DINING & FOOD
Let me start with the exceptionally good--the buffet area. Not only is the food extremely good it is also extremely bountiful and available during most hours you are looking for it. RCL and Celebrity could take a lesson on this from Carnival Legend. The separate stations provide a unique buffet style with Deli, Pizza, entrees, Chinese, and so forth are located in different corners. Ice cream and pizza are available 24 hours a day as are drink stations. Deli hours and grill hours are long and available when most would be looking for them. It was nice for a change to return from off ship and find plenty of food readily available. Celebrity and RCL could both learn from the Legend's buffet style and operation.

Alas the dining room, Truffles, you can keep it both in design and operation. Evening dining has always been a high point of any cruise for us. Both meeting new friends as tablemates, something precluded here because of the numerous two and four person tables and booths. You definitely feel that you are seated in a diner. If the booth effect doesn't do that for you, the type of service provided will! In 40 cruises I have never seen an evening dining operation that made me feel less special or less served. This is so unfortunate since so many other features on this ship are top notch and better done than many lines I have sailed through the years. I could list many examples of service that wasn't up to my local restaurant but for just a few. First as is generally customary on a cruise, neither the waitress or assistant ever introduced themselves to us. We were greeted with a "Hi" and handed a menu.

We were surprised to note that there was only one set of silverware at each place, a knife, fork, spoon, and butter knife. A stark variance from the standard multiple utensils found on cruise ship dining tables. We were to find out that these would be the only utensils provided each meal. Same fork for salad, entree, whatever. Next no bread basket for the table, instead the assistant waitress brought the bread around once, get it now or forever hold your peace. On several occasions the waitress apparently didn't know where the bread handling utensil was so merely put the bread basket out in front of us and said, "you can just take what you want." At least the assistant usually had a set of tongs and served the bread you selected. Bread never appeared again unless requested and then it might show up by dessert. Two nights the waitress either forgot or decided we didn't really need the soup course and skipped it despite the fact that we had ordered soup. Although we occupied a table for four and there were only the two of us, the other plates were never removed. In fact the bread plates were never removed even after dessert was served. During one meal the waitress handed me the dessert menu and wanted me to order despite the fact my wife was still eating her entree. Actually she also wanted Linda's dessert order while she was still eating her entree and despite the fact that she had yet to even see the dessert menu. Fine dining service not, doesn't even come up to what I expect from our local family restaurant. I could go on but you get the point. Dinner was so quickly served that that one evening we sat, dined, and had coffee in under an hour. Usually we would expect to conclude dinner just in time to proceed to the evening show, here we couldn't believe we had an hour and fifteen minutes to kill before the show. Shorts were numerous in the dining room at dinner, even saw jeans shorts and tank top. Not a word was said by the dining room staff. The staff were all friendly, and polite, just very poorly trained in the art of dining room service. Never saw the Maitre d' but then if I were him I would have stayed hidden too.

This might sound picky by some, but I am sorry I have come to enjoy the ceremony of dining at sea onboard cruise ships. I expect my dining experience to be at least comparable to a good restaurant at home, not so far less. Yes the dining staff work hard but it is obvious that they are poorly trained. I will also note that the Officers tables in the dining room were set as we are accustomed to seeing all tables set in cruise dining rooms. Apparently when they dine they expect far better than the passengers are to be afforded. 

ODDS & ENDS
Lido deck buffet area features cloth napkins wrapped around silver on each table. At first I thought this might prove to be a problem if service staff wasn't up to replenishing the service ware, I need not have worried. Each area had a station and staff member that quickly cleaned tables and replenished napkin/silver service as each table was vacated. Each table also had bottles of ketchup and mustard, salt and pepper on it, none of those pain little plastic packets. It was great to be able to pour the amount of ketchup on your burger without spending 5 minutes trying to open those annoying foil packets. Once again the Lido buffet area exceeded all expectations and surpassed those found on other ships.

Portrait photos are handled by having numerous small offset areas with various backgrounds located throughout the ship. None of those long lines waiting for a portrait photo and hence bringing corridor traffic to a halt.

Entertainment was also better than on most ships we had sailed. The singers and dancers appeared to be far more professional than some and the entertainment was more varied. Shows featuring a juggler (I know, juggler? Yes and he was funny and quite good), hypnotist, magician (the Cruise Director) and a comedian made for a nice change from simply dance numbers with different costumes each night.

Room Service was always very prompt and courteous whether ordered by door card for next day or called for. Ordering for between 8 and 8:30 am arrived each morning at 8 am with exception of when in port, then before 8:30. When called for, it arrived in 11 minutes. The GREAT benefit was that room service was also available on disembarkation arrival day back in NY.

Attire is varied but you can safely leave the tux at home. A suit, even a sport jacket combo, will do even for FORMAL night. Yes there was a tux or two, but really outnumbered. The other ELEGANT Casual and SMART casual evenings were pretty much whatever you cared to wear. Jeans and shorts were not all that unusual in the dining room for evening. The last FORMAL evening seemed much more dressy than the first, however. I think many that preferred shorts and so forth decided to eat at buffet area or decided to dress to take advantage of portrait photos and such.

Passenger mix was quite good ranging from some seniors, many middle aged, and many younger 20's. Some young kids, but not a great amount. Although this will certainly change as schools end and regular family vacation times start.

INTERNET
The ship offers an internet cafe/library which is small but comfortable. You can buy minutes packages which are the most economical per minutes rates.

  • 100 Minutes for $55

  • 250 Minutes for $100

  • Basic non-package per minutes rate is $.75 per minutes plus activation of $3.95 for account.

Ship also offers WIRELESS connection for your laptop. I brought my laptop and it is equipped for wireless networks so this was the best option for me. Using your own machine set up with outlook express or another mail reader gives you the ability to pop on and download your mail like at home and then pop off and answer therefore using minimal minutes. However if you are not already equipped with a wireless card it would be easier to buy one before you go as they range in $49-$7 area now, On board they charge you $10 a DAY to rent wireless card and then offer insurance for $3 a DAY. They also will rent you a lap top for $20 a DAY, far too expensive especially if just emailing home is your desire.

DISEMBARKATION 
Was again less than it should be. The positive side is that room service is available on arrival back home day. Since no mention was made, which has been pretty much standard on cruises we have sailed, that room service is not available the last morning we took a chance and put out a breakfast door card. We were pleasantly surprised to have it delivered promptly early in the morning as we sailed into New York. This is a big plus in our book! There is also no notation about getting out of you cabin by a certain time either!

We arrived and tied up at 9am but disembarkation doesn't commence until between 10:30 and 10:45am. This creates a situation in that by the time you are getting off ship and claiming luggage some people are already arriving for that day's sailing. Since we arrived on a Saturday there were also two other ships in port, The Zenith and Horizon.

You are disembarked on the lowest level meaning that you must claim your luggage and then walk outside and take a freight elevator up to the next level where the taxis and cars are. This is bad enough but add a shortage of porters and the fact that one of the two elevators broke and ceased operation and it was one big madhouse crowd. When we finally got up to pickup level I then went up to claim my car in long term and found a traffic jam to get around back to the pickup area where my wife and luggage were. Again Legend is berthed at the first pier coming up ramp and created one big traffic jam.

I am happy that more and larger ships are sailing from NY, but this has pretty much ended what we knew as an easy on and off. It would be impossible to predict what would be a good time to arrive at NY piers now, in fact there may not be a good time at all. Remember, people being picked up cannot have transportation just sitting there waiting for you. They must either park and then face jam getting back or do a go around which in Manhattan can be easier said then done.

Interestingly, Carnival is trying what they said was a new system which I presume did help somewhat. If you are willing and able to carry off ALL your own luggage (meaning nothing left night before outside door) you can disembark at 9:30am and proceed right off and out to pickup area level. It's a bit of a walk, the length of ship once you disembark, and you MUST carry all with you because you cannot get back into terminal luggage area to claim anything. We saw many doing this.

Custom forms, one per family are collected as you disembark. Immigration, US citizens do not have to report, non-US do onboard ship on morning of arrival.

For photos, see George in NY


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