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Carnival Legend
British Isles Cruise Review
September 13, 2013

Image: Carnival Legend © Keith Henderson
by Keith Henderson

My wife and I sailed on the Carnival Legend leaving on September 13th, 2013 out of Dover, England as a 12-day cruise to several ports around and near the British Isles. The cruise's original itinerary had us leaving from Dover, England with stops in five countries that started with Norway (Stavanger), then Scotland (Invergordon, Edinburgh, and Glasgow), Northern Ireland (Belfast), Ireland (Dublin), and France (Le Havre) before returning to Dover. It was to be our first visit to Norway, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

This was our 6th cruise with Carnival and 21st overall. We have sailed with Norwegian Cruise Line 14 times and Royal Caribbean once.

We had booked this cruise as soon as it was listed by Carnival in mid-2012. I have always wanted to visit Scotland. Finding an affordable cruise that let us start in England and see so many ports around the British Isles was very appealing. We do not understand why the major cruise lines do not offer these more often. Our only concern was the length of the cruise which made it the longest trip we had ever attempted. The Legend is a sister ship of the Carnival Miracle. We had sailed on the Miracle and liked its layout, so we knew we would be comfortable while on board the Legend.

Arrival in England
We flew into London Heathrow landing on a late rainy evening two days before our cruise out of Dover. We wanted to spend a day in London before our cruise and hopefully recover from the jet lag of our flight by spending two nights there. I do not sleep well on flights, so we chose an early morning flight out of Newark that landed at Heathrow around 9:30 pm. A bonus with this flight is that going through Heathrow immigration is much faster when arriving at night versus first thing in the morning when most flights are arriving from the States. The local currency is the British Pound where one £ equals about $1.55.

Our original plan after getting luggage was to take the Heathrow Connect train (£9.50/$14 each) to its last stop at Paddington Station which was near our hotel. But due to construction on the line, the service was limited late at night. We decided to arrange for a taxi to take us to the hotel (£29/$47).

The Stylotel was only a few blocks away from Paddington Station in Sussex Gardens. We booked a 2 night stay there for £230/$348. It was a room with 2 twin beds and included a full English breakfast. We booked the hotel for its location. The room was cramped for space and had an ensuite bathroom (with shower) that was smaller than what we would have on the Carnival Legend. But, it served its purpose as a place to sleep and being close to the Tube stations in London.

Our day in London started as a slightly rainy day that then turned to just overcast in the afternoon with temps in the high 60's F. After our breakfast, we walked back to Paddington station. We bought one day travel passes (£9/$14 each) for our London transportation needs for the day exploring the city. I have been to London a few times, but this was only the second trip for my wife. We wanted to visit a few places that we had not seen on our previous trip together.

Using the Tube (subway), we first headed south to the Westminster Station and walked to the Queen's Horse Guard Parade building and grounds to view the changing of the Queen's Horse Guards. (We had seen the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace on a previous trip). We watched as 12 horsemen arrived from Buckingham Palace to the Horse Guard Quarters. After the ceremony, we walked down Whitehall Street past Downing Street (home of the Prime Minister with very heavy security) and then went to visit nearby Westminster Abbey (£16/$24 each) which has so much history associated with it. We had walked by it on a prior trip, but now we had the time to go inside that amazing building which includes the tombs of several English kings, queens, and other notable persons. We were not allowed to take photos inside the actual church, only outside and in the cloisters/garden areas.

After leaving the church, we walked across the Westminster Bridge to admire the view of the Parliament Building and the tower with Big Ben. From there, we took the Tube north to the St. Johns Wood Station which is the closest stop to Abbey Road. We walked across the road and then sat on a wall as we watched group after group of Beatle fans stop traffic in order to have their pictures taken as they walked across the iconic zebra stripes.

Our last stop for the day was to take the Tube east to visit the British Museum where I showed my wife the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles (pieces of sculptures from the Greek Parthenon). Just a note regarding National Museums in Great Britain; most have no admission fees. There is a box at the entrances asking for donations, but you are free to just walk inside.

We ended our afternoon by heading back west to Paddington Station to have an early dinner in a local pub. We did stop by a market we found in the station to pick up some 6-packs of Diet Coke to bring with us to the ship.

Day 1 – Embarkation Day Dover, England
In the morning, we woke up and went downstairs for our breakfast in the hotel. It was a rainy day with temps in the low 60’s F as we checked out of the hotel. I had arranged for a driver through to pick us up in a sedan at the hotel and bring us to the Dover cruise ship terminal for £130/$196. We thought of taking a train from St. Pancras station to Dover, but after looking at the costs of buying tickets for the tube and train as well as a local taxi in Dover, the cost would have been near £110. We figured not having to schlep our luggage on the tube and train was worth the extra £20.

It was a 2 and 1/2 hour ride from the hotel to Dover. It took almost an hour to cross London before getting to the highway towards Dover. The cruise terminals are on the western docks opposite from the ferry terminals which are located on the other side of the harbor. We could see parts of the famous white cliffs and Dover Castle behind the ferry terminals. We arrived at the terminals at 12:45 pm; the Legend was the only ship in port that day.

When we walked into our terminal, there was a very short line for security before lining up for the sign-in process. I had previously registered on line and provided all of our information, so we only needed to wait to get our keycards. Next, we went to the door leading to the pier. It was here that they took our photos to match with our keycards. We walked onto the ship in less than 15 minutes after entering the terminal. This was easily the fastest processing prior to boarding a ship we have experienced.

As we came on board, we thought it was odd that they did not have the day’s Fun Times. We went to our cabin to find that it was already cleared for us to use, so we dropped off our carry-on luggage and headed up to grab a bite and then explore the ship. Our room for the cruise was an inside cabin (room 5255) which was near the aft stairwell on the upper deck.

As we were in the Unicorn Café buffet on the Lido deck, we heard a lot of passengers mumbling about a changed itinerary and then heard an announcement from the Cruise director that there would be a quick discussion in the Follies Lounge Theater at 3:00 pm to go over the details. Around this time, they had started to handout Fun Times newsletters with the updated information including the meeting in the Follies Lounge at 3:00 pm.

Since we had planned for this trip quite a while ago, we were nervous about the potentially bad news. On our last Carnival cruise, our ship was diverted to 2 different ports of call due to a hurricane in the Caribbean. The Follies Lounge was packed with passengers eager to hear the news. The CD, John Heald, came out and explained that due to a large fierce storm forecasted for the North Sea, a decision was made to change the itinerary of our cruise. They had been spending the last day finding cruise ports to switch with. They were competing with other cruise lines trying to do the same thing with their ships that needed to be diverted from Norway as well. He announced that instead of starting our cruise by heading north to spend a day crossing the North Sea before visiting Stavanger in Norway, we would now be heading south to go around England to visit Liverpool, England on the west coast. We would visit all of the same ports as originally planned except for the cancellation of Belfast in North Ireland, which Liverpool replaced. The order of the ports visited and dates would be changed though. We had not many any real plans for Belfast, so we did not miss seeing that port, but it would have been nice to visit as we have not been there before. We were actually really happy to hear the news about our visit to Liverpool as we are big Beatle and British Invasion music fans. Liverpool is the home to so many of those groups.

Our only concern was for two ports in Scotland where I had arranged for private tours and were worried that the guide would not be available for the new dates. I had made the arrangements to have 3 other couples from the ship join us and they were concerned as well. I went to the internet cafe and bought a time plan (which I had to planned to do anyway). I then sent off an e-mail to the guide in Scotland to check for his availability with the new dates in port. I left a message with the other couples that I would get back to them as soon as I had heard from the guide.

We continued exploring the ship a bit more before heading down to our assigned station for the muster drill at 4:00 pm. We did not have to bring our lifejackets to the muster which was located outside by the lifeboats assigned to our cabin area. After the drill, we headed back topside to find a spot in the aft Serenity area under cover from the rain for the 5:00 pm sail away.

For this cruise, we had chosen the “Your Time” dining option. We went to the Truffles Restaurant for dinner, which is the only main dining room on the ship. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. The show for the evening was the “Welcome Aboard Show” show in the Follies Lounge at 10:15 pm. The Follies Lounge holds almost 1,200 people. The show was hosted by Mr. Carnival himself. John Heald is the senior cruise director for Carnival and has a funny blog site with Carnival. He welcomed us to the ship and then asked a few guests to come up on stage to participate in a fun game which had everyone laughing.

Day 2 – Day at Sea
It was a partly cloudy day with temps in the 60’s F, but very windy. The day was spent sailing around southern England and Wales. By noon, we had reached Lands End and were heading north into the Irish Sea. There, we saw quite a few dolphins chasing after schools of fish.

The ship has two large pools mid-ship on the Lido deck. One pool had a cover closed over the pool which cut out the wind and made it comfortable. This was one cruise where finding a chair by the pool was not a problem. There were a lot of activities during the day that included trivia contests (which we enjoy) as well as pool games on the Lido deck, cooking and food demonstrations, seminars, and even a movie shown on a big screen in the Firebird Lounge.

I went for a 5-K run on the deck 3 outer promenade in the early afternoon. Checking for e-mails, I did get a reply from the guide in Scotland stating that he was available for both ports on the new dates which made our day. I contacted the other couples right away.

Since we did not have a chance to research the port of Liverpool and wanted to be sure that we visited Beatle sites, we went to the excursion desk and booked an afternoon tour covering the Beatle sites in the city ($89 per person). We normally make our own arrangements in port.

For dinner in the Truffles Restaurant, the dress code for this evening was Cruise Elegant. On the menu was lobster and prime rib which is always a big hit with everyone. The evening’s entertainment in the Follies Lounge was a production show called “Jazz Hot”. We thought it was a good one. The show band had 10 pieces and they sounded terrific. The dancers and singers worked well together. After the show, we went to see the comedians the Punchliner Comedy Club in the Firebird Lounge. They had comics performing on a few nights during the cruise. The comedy club offered family friendly shows early in the evening and adult humor in the later hours.

Day 3 – Liverpool, England
It was a dreary day with occasional rain and temps in the 50’s F and very windy. We arrived at the dock by 08:00 am and were the only ship in port which is where the River Mersey meets the sea. I was told that this was the first time the Legend ever visited Liverpool and may be the first Carnival ship to so as well.

We slept in and had a late breakfast before I headed up to the Sun deck 10 for another run during a break from the rain. At 1:00 pm, we headed out to get onto the Beatle tour excursion bus along with a lot of other excited Beatle fans that would be taking the same tour. After we got onto the bus, we were all disappointed to hear the tour guide explaining that the tour around the city was being cut short due to a scheduling conflict with the Beatles Story Museum which we would visit as our last stop of the tour. We started off with a brief visit to Mathew Street, the location of the former and new Cavern Club which was where the Beatles and so many other Liverpool bands made their mark as they achieved fame. After that, we drove by the schools where John, Paul, and George attended when they met and then the building where John married his first wife. Next, we drove to Penny Lane where we got off for a short walk and to take photos. Before we went back to the port to visit the museum, we drove by the gates to Strawberry Field (an orphanage where John played in his childhood). The Beatles Story Museum (located a few blocks away from the ship) was interesting and we wished we had more time to look over everything that they had on display.

Looking back, we could have gone off the ship on our own, walked over to the Beatles Museum and then hired a cab to take us to all of the Beatle sites in town for probably half the price of what we paid. We just did not realize how close everything was to the piers. We got back to the ship after the tour around 05:30 pm before the last call to come back on board.

Sail away was at 06:00 pm. As we left the port and headed into the open water, it was very windy. Passengers in the open on the forward top decks had to hold onto the railings with both hands. We passed by wind farms and saw many oil platforms as we sailed north to our next port of call which was Greenock, Scotland. The sea was rough that night.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. The main show in the Follies Lounge was an entertainer named Brett Cave. He played piano and sang along with the backing of the Legend Show Band (10 pieces). He very funny and it was a very good show with plenty of Billy Joel and Elton John songs being performed.
The comedians were back in the Firebird Lounge. But, we decided to get some rest before our port day.

Day 4 – Greenock & Glasgow, Scotland
It was a windy day with off and on rain and temps in the 50’s.

Greenock is the cruise port center for Glasgow. It is located about 30 miles west from the center of Glasgow. Glasgow itself is only 71 miles west of the capital, Edinburgh. Glasgow is reachable by train and bus service from Greenock. Since Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, the local currency is the British Pound. This was our first visit to Scotland, a land where my great-great-great-grandfather had emigrated from in the mid-1800’s.

We arrived at 07:30 am and they started letting passengers off the ship by 08:00 am. We were the only ship in port. While they had a small cruise terminal building, the dock area by our ship had cargo containers stacked next to each other to create a barrier to prevent us from walking around the pier area beyond the ship and the terminal building.

I had made prior arrangements with a tour guide for the day. The guide, K Thomson of Exquisite Scotland Tours, has a van that can accommodate 8 passengers. He lives near Invergordon, but agreed to drive down to Greenock to give us a tour of the area. I had posted the tour I had arranged with K on cruise and 3 couples from our ship signed on with us for the day’s tour as well. We met in a lounge before getting off the ship to meet K at 08:30 am in a parking lot near the dock. He arrived a few minutes after we reached the parking lot and after introducing himself, we climbed into the van and headed out for our day's tour of the area.

We started by stopping at a place called Luss located on the shore of Loch Lomond. It was a quaint little village with small houses and a charming church. After our visit we headed east towards Stirling to visit the famous castle located there. On the way, we passed through a town called Alexandria where K pointed out a large building that was formally a tobacco factory. Once we reached Stirling, we drove up a back road located behind the castle from where we walked up to the entrance. We had purchased Scotland Explorer passes prior to leaving home for £29 each, so we did not have to get in line for tickets. As we walked in, we met up with a group of visitors that had a Castle guide explaining the history of the place. We stayed with group for a few points of interest before we split off to tour the rest of the grounds alone with K. The tour of the castle took a few hours. As we left, others in our group asked about making a stop for a quick lunch. K drove into Stirling and stopped near a shop that had sandwiches.

Next, we headed to the Falkirk area. On our way, we stopped in Dunmore region where we visited a large estate near Airth that had a building called the Dunmore Pineapple (built in the 1760’s to raise pineapples in greenhouses for the wealthy). The building has a huge stone pineapple on top of its center building. The estate had lovely gardens and trees all around the building. From there, we drove to Falkirk where we saw the amazing Falkirk Wheel in action lifting a canal boat up from one canal to another. Our guide K is very well versed in the flora and fauna of Scotland as well as its history. We returned to Greenock via the highway just getting back to the ship before the last call to be on board. We had passed a Carnival excursion bus at the last few miles before the port, so we knew we would be okay to make it back onto the ship (whew!). Our cost for the day’s tour with K. Thomson was £50/$79 each.

We arrived back at the pier by 05:30 pm and sail away was 06:00 pm. While we were away on our tour, they had a show in the Follies Lounge with Scottish pipers and dancers for those people that did not get off the ship. As we sailed away, there were pipers at the dock to see us off. That evening we were sailing southward to our next stop; Dublin

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. In the Follies Lounge, they had Scotty McLean doing jokes along with some magic tricks. He was funny at times and then not quite so.

Day 5 – Dublin, Ireland
It was a rainy day with temperatures in the mid 50’s F.

The ship arrived in port by 8:30 am due to the tides. Our planned sail away was 08:30 pm for the same reason. Passengers were walking onto the pier by 8:45 am. The Legend was the only cruise ship at the docks located in an industrial area of the city. Just like Greenock, they had improvised a secure dock area for the ship with stacks of containers lined up to form a parking lot for buses, vans, and taxis. There was a trailer with a sign that said tourist information at the edge of the area. The local currency is the Euro where one € equals about $1.32.

We have been to Dublin a few times, so we did not have any tours booked. They had shuttle buses making runs from the pier to Kildare Street in the center of the city near Trinity College which was a few miles away from the port. The ride into town was free, but you had to buy a return ticket for €9 in advance to be able to use the shuttle to get back to the ship. (In hindsight, we could have grabbed a cab back to the ship for about €10 for the both of us)

We got off the ship in the late morning and got onto the shuttle. Once we reached Kildare Street, we started walking north past Trinity College and go over the O'Connell Bridge to get to the Pro-Cathedral for the last mass of the day. After that, we walked backed towards the Liffey River and walked across the Ha' Penny Bridge into the Temple Bar area. We stopped by a few shops for some souvenirs after which we popped into two pubs (Auld Dubliner and Gogarty's) on Fleet Street to have a few pints of beer and to listen to local musicians play. We enjoyed our time in Dublin that afternoon. The shuttles were only running back to the ship until 05:30 pm that day. We walked back to Kildare Street and jumped on a shuttle at 4:30 pm. Sail away was at 08:30 pm.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. The main shows for the evening were the MacDonald Brothers. They were two brothers that were finalists in the European X-Factor show. One brother sang and played the violin. The other sang and played several instruments (accordion, guitar, and piano). They were tremendous and everyone we spoke with afterwards thought they had the best show of the entertainers we had seen on the cruise.

Day 6 - Sea Day
Oh my gosh, the sun came out! It was a nice day with mostly sunny skies. The temps were in the mid 50’s and it was very windy with choppy seas as we sailed north to go around the northern and then the eastern sides of Scotland on our way to our next port visit at Invergordon. By noon, we were halfway to Invergordon and entered the Shetland Channel. Around 3:30 pm, we passed the Isle of Skye that seemed to have the sun put a spotlight on it between the clouds.

With it being so windy, I decided to run on a treadmill in the gym located on deck 10 forward. The treadmills were facing forward and this would have given me a wonderful vantage point of the water except that each treadmill had a silly TV monitor in front of my eyes and could not be moved. It was a shame missing the view I could have had. When running on a treadmill you have to be paying attention to the rolling of the ship and not watching a TV show.

We played a few trivia games including a Motown Music game by the pool where we answered every question correctly and won the coveted 24 carat gold covered plastic ship on a stick. So now we have one from each of the 6 Carnival ships we have sailed on. For some reason, they seemed to be short of the trophies and were handing out Carnival medals instead most of the time. But after winning a bunch of these, we just wanted a ship on a stick.

The main show in the Follies Lounge was an illusion show called “The Magic & Dance of Justin Illusion”. The show was your basic illusion act, but with loud rock music and the show dancers to add to the atmosphere. About 10 minutes into the show, the lead dancer (contortionist) had gone into the box that has the people push multiple blades into her while she ducks into a compartment underneath. When she did not appear after they pulled back the blades, the illusionist went up the box and open the front door slightly and then waved to the side of the stage before walking off the stage. They abruptly ended the show at that point. They cancelled the second show as well. It turns out that the dancer had injured her ankle getting into the box. They did announce the next day that she was okay and that they would put on the show again at the end of our cruise with a new dancer doing the contortion tricks. They had comedians in the Firebird that night. Since we had a port day the next morning, we just watched one of the comedians before heading back to our cabin.

Day 7 – Invergordon, Scotland
Entering the harbor at 6:45 am, there was a pretty pink sunrise that turned into a showery morning that cleared in the afternoon. The temps were in the mid 50’s F with a calm breeze.

Invergordon is located on the Cromarty Firth and is about 180 miles north of Edinburgh. We pulled into the pier at Invergordon at 7:30 am and we were able to walk off the ship shortly afterwards. Once again, we were met by the tour guide K. Thomson and his van. He came from his nearby home to meet us. The same couples as the Greenock tour joined us for that day’s tour of Invergordon and points south and east. He was waiting for us at the pier in his kilt and soon we were heading off in his van.

Leaving Invergordon, we first stopped at a small village called Evanton and drove down a single lane road where we pulled off to park near a trail. We walked down the trail for a half mile to reach what is called Black Rock Gorge. There were two bridges we crossed to view the Gorge 40 meters below us. The River Glass has been carving the gorge since the ice age. Next, we were heading south to cross the Cromarty Firth towards Inverness. We saw seals basking along the shore even though it was raining.

Our next stop was at a place named Munlochy where we visited the Cloutie Well. The well goes back to ancient Celtic days and it is believed that drinking the water from the well has therapeutic abilities. People would leave pieces of their clothing as part of the tradition.

Heading south, we stopped in Inverness to visit the cathedral there before we continued to a place called Dochgarroch which has locks as part of the Caledonian Canal which connects the west coast to the east coast in Northern Scotland. We watched as the lock master opened up one side to allow 2 boats to enter and then be raised up to the next loch. A short drive away was the northern end of Loch Ness. We stopped along the roadway to look at Aldourie Castle located on the opposite side of the Loch. Before stopping for a quick lunch, we drove up a side road that gave us a nice vista of Loch Ness.

For those that wanted some food, we stopped in the village of Drumnadrochit (try saying that 3 times fast) located found about halfway down the 23 mile length of the Loch. We went into a quaint pub called the “Fiddler’s”. While others ate, I had a delicious pint of a black stout from a local brewery that was on tap. After our break, we went to a nearby roadside spot that overlooked famed Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness. The castle was destroyed in the late 1600’s and has been in ruins since then. Not much to see except the ruined walls, so we not waste time going down to visit it.

We left Drumnadrochit to make a stop in Balnain. On the way, we pulled over when we spotted some Highland Cattle taking a rest in a field. These shaggy haired cattle have large horns and have adapted to the harsh conditions of the highlands. As we drove through the tiny hamlet of Balnain we drove up a narrow lane to a house located on top of hillside. Our guide has an acquaintance that owned the property and he wanted to show us the view from there. It was an amazing sight as we got out of the van. We were overlooking the Glen Urquhart and the River Enrick below. It was something out of a postcard.

Our final stop of the day was at the beginning of Glen Affric where we drove down another single lane road where we had to stop to open a gate (that kept the cattle within the property) to drive through to a hamlet called Tomich. We got out and walked about a half mile up a trail and its steep hill to reach the Plodda Falls. The roaring falls are about 50 meters high and the sight was quite breathtaking. Leaving the falls we drove past ruins of where the first golden retrievers were bred.

Checking our watches, we saw that we needed to head back to the ship before the last call for boarding. We rushed down the narrow lanes before reaching the highway north of Inverness. We pulled up to the pier at 5:30 pm, just in time for last call. But, it would have been nicer not to have cut it so close. K was very knowledgeable and wanted to show us as much as possible. We would suggest asking him to go the farthest point and work back during the day to allow oneself time to get back with plenty of time. I know using the Carnival excursions have the security of the ship waiting for you, but our tours with K Thomson could not have been made with 50 passenger buses. Our cost for the day’s tour with 8 passengers was £42/$67 each. We walked onto the ship at 05:40 pm. Sail away was 6:00 pm as they had pipers to send us off as we pulled away from the pier.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. In the Follies Lounge was a juggle named Jonathan Stamp. His show was okay, but not worth seeing again. The comedians were back in the Firebird again. And again, since we had a port day coming up, we left after one quick show.

Day 8 – South Queensferry & Edinburgh, Scotland

It was a day that was mostly sunny with a steady breeze and temps in the 50’s F.

We arrived at the port of South Queensferry around 7:00 am. This would be the only port on our cruise that required tender service to go ashore. It is located about 7 miles north of the capital city of Edinburgh and is on the south shore of the Firth of Forth. We were anchored near the iconic Forth Bridges. On the north shore of the Firth in North Queensferry, I could see a small cruise ship which may have been the Black Watch of the Fred Olsen cruise line. Off in the distance to the south, I could see the city of Edinburgh with its famous castle dominating over the city.

Around 7:30 am, they were lowering the ship's tenders into the water. They were bringing guests to shore by 08:00 am. The tender ride would take about 15 minutes once they cast off. But, with about 70 passengers per tender, the 5 tenders could only bring over a limited number of guests per hour.

Our plan for the day had been to just go into Edinburgh on our own. We knew it would be awhile to get off the ship as passengers with booked excursions and priority status would be the first to get off. We took our time having breakfast before preparing to head off the ship. I just could not see paying for an excursion for each of us in order to get off the ship sooner.

They made announcements that any guests not assigned to an excursion had to report to the Follies Lounge with their entire party before being assigned a tender number. We showed up at the Follies Lounge at 9:45 am to find the theater filled with guests already waiting for a tender number to be called. We had to wait 45 minutes before our number was called. We finally arrived at the tender pier of the port around 10:45 am and it was low tide so the whole pier was exposed above the water. This allowed multiple tender boats to dock and unload guests.

We had planned to take the train into Edinburgh. Facing the shore, we walked to the end of the pier which faced the Hawes Inn. There was a piper playing at the end of the pier to welcome us to the port. We took a left and headed a short distance to a walkway on the right that led us to steps up a long and steep hill that ended up at the Dalmeny train station located near the end of the Firth of Forth Rail Bridge. At the station, they only had a vending machine for tickets which required a European credit card with a computer chip and pin number. We purchased return (round-trip) off-peak tickets for £4.20/$6.50 each on the train from a conductor. There was a train to Edinburgh leaving every 15 minutes or so for the 20 minute ride to Waverly station in the center of Edinburgh (third stop from Dalmeny). They did offer a shuttle bus that left every hour (20-30 minute ride) for about £8 each.

Edinburgh is a place of two cities; the old and the new. Leaving the train station, we immediately headed left over to the Edinburgh Castle located at one end of the old city. It took about 20 minutes to walk up the steep hill in order to reach the castle situated on a huge rock formation that rose above the rest of the area. We used the same Scotland Explorer Passes we used at Stirling Castle for visiting the castle so we were able to avoid the long lines queued up at the ticket window (about 100 or so people were waiting).

We spent about two hours at the castle exploring the many rooms and halls. The only real line we had to get into was to wait to go inside a building to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Scone (Scoon). The Memorial Hall for the fallen Scottish soldiers was very dramatic. At one o'clock, they had a firing of a cannon at one point of the castle wall. This day, they had a U.S. Army Sergeant from Ohio having the honors to shoot the howitzer.

Leaving the castle, we headed down hill and walked along the area known as the Royal Mile for a little while. Here is where we visited a few shops for souvenirs and went into St. Giles Cathedral which was very interesting. Before heading back to the train station, we paid a quick visit to the Hard Rock Cafe located on George Street in the new city area. It was my 65th different HRC site to visit. We walked to the end of George Street with the Melville Monument towering over the street and turned right to go back to the train station.

We reached the pier area at 3:45 pm. It was now high tide and most of the pier was submerged. This only allowed one tender at a time to dock to pick up guests. We waited about 45 minutes before being able to get on a tender. A couple we met on the tender said that they waited 1 1/2 hours to get on board the same tender. Just as we were getting onto the tender, a local excursion boat (Maid of the Forth) pulled up onto the other side of the pier and starting to take on guests to bring them to the ship. The last tender back to the ship was scheduled to be at 05:15 pm. Sail away was delayed until 6:30 pm to gather up the tender boats before we headed north to our next port of call, Stavanger, Norway.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. Later in the Follies Lounge, they had a show singer/violinist named Simone Welsh. She was entertaining. With a sea day coming up, it would have been fun to have comedians late at night. But, they did not have anyone this night.

Day 9 – Sea Day
It was a partly cloudy day with calm seas and temperatures in the 60’s F.

We slept in late and after going up for breakfast we saw on the monitors that the ship was only going at a speed around 12 to 14 knots per hour which is much slower than her top speed. But, we were easily halfway to Norway. As we sailed along, we passed several oil platforms. By the end of the day, it seemed that we would have to start doing circles outside of Stavanger before pulling into the port the next morning. The day was spent playing trivia and going for a run on the deck 3 promenade.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Elegant. In the Follies Lounge, they had another production show called “The Big Easy” which was very good. It was the best production show we saw on the cruise. Down in the Firebird Lounge that night, they had the ship’s solo guitarist (Edd Carr) along with the 10 piece show band playing rock songs. It was well received as the lounge was packed and he got a standing ovation at the end.
Day 10 – Stavanger, Norway
We arrived in the port of Stavanger around 08:00 am. It was raining with steady winds. the temperature was in the low 50's F. We were the only ship in port.

Stavanger is a major oil industry port for the country. The local currency is the Norwegian Krone where one US$ equals about 5.5 NOK. We were told that they do not accept Euros or other foreign currencies there. But, we saw signs in the few shops that were open (it was a Sunday) that they would accept Euros, Pounds, and Dollars.

Near our pier, they had excursion boats that you could take to view the nearby Lysefjord and a rock formation found there called the Pulpit Rock. The trip takes about 3 hours and they were charging NOK 400/$72 per person (paid in advance online or on the boat itself) versus $149 for what Carnival was asking for the same excursion. With the rain and fog for the day, anyone that tried to buy a ticket at the pier was told not to bother as there was nothing to see. But, those with the excursion tickets went and came back complaining about the limited visibility.

While Stavanger itself is the fourth largest city in Norway, the old city center is one you can easily walk around in a short period of time. There are a few museums and shops to visit. Most of the buildings in the old city area found right off the cruise ship docks are from the 17th and 18th centuries and were very quaint. I had brought a Norwegian phrase book with us. But, the few people we saw in the shops spoke English, so language was not an issue.

We walked off the ship to go to a mass at a local Catholic church located about 3/4 of a mile from the ship. The mass was in Norwegian (There was one in English earlier in the morning), but we were able to figure out what to do. The population in Stavanger is diverse due to the oil industry. For example, this church offered services in Polish, Vietnamese, and Filipino.

Leaving the church, we headed back towards the port passing by a small lake that had a large fountain in its center. The lake was called Breiavatnet. It was surrounded by a park and was located next to the Stavanger Cathedral. The large church built by a British Bishop in 1125. It was destroyed by fire in 1272 and it was rebuilt in a Gothic style.

We walked back to the port passing a Burger King where the price of a Whopper was $15. The cost of living is very high in Norway and their prices reflected that. Since it was the end of the cruising season in Norway, the few souvenir shops that were open had limited inventory to sell. We ended our day in the port walking up and down a few streets in the old city area. By the end, we were soaked from the knees down even though we had umbrellas.

Once back on board, we changed into dry clothes and shoes and found a spot for the sail away. Just before sailed away at 6:00 pm, the sun came out! As we left the port, we had wonderful views of the lush green landscape as we headed south towards France and our last port of call in Le Havre. It was one of the prettiest sailaways we could remember. Other than the scenic beauty of the nearby fjords, Stavanger is not an exciting port of call. I would have been more interested in Amsterdam or Hamburg as a European port of call from Dover.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. In the Follies Lounge, they had a show with a mentalist named Alex Crow. It was not very entertaining for us, so we left after about 15 minutes. Down in the Firebird Lounge that night, they had the 10 piece show band back the 5 vocalists from the production shows. Again, the lounge was packed and everyone seemed to enjoy the show.

Day 11 – Day at Sea
It was an overcast day with calm seas and temperatures in the low 60’s F.

That afternoon, they had 2 receptions for Past Guests with Gold, Platinum, and Diamond status in the Follies Lounge. We so many on board, they needed to have 2 separate ones. They offered free drinks and small hors d’oeuvres. They had the show band and a singer performing during the reception. In the middle of the reception, John Heald came out to thank us for our continued support and then showed a small film about the history of Carnival and all of the ships they have had in their fleet. The captain did not make an appearance and they did not give out any prizes.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. In the Follies Lounge, they had a show with a singer named Sinead Blanchfield who was very good. Down in the Firebird Lounge that night, they had different comedians. But, with a port day coming up, we left early.

Day 12 – Le Havre, France
It was beautiful mostly sunny day (hurray!) with little wind and temperatures in the low 70’s F.

The ship arrived in port by 6:30 am and passengers were walking onto the pier by 7:15am. There were no other cruise ships in port. A few passengers debarked to spend their last vacation days in Paris. Le Havre is one of France’s busiest ports and is located by the mouth of the Seine River. The cruise terminal is about 2.5 miles from the center of town and its railway station. Just like Ireland, the local currency is the Euro where one € equals about $1.32.

The planned sailaway was 8:00 pm. For passengers wanting to visit Paris, it would require at least 3 hours of travel time each way. Even though we had a few extra hours before leaving port, time to explore Paris would be limited for those deciding to make the trip there and back.

For this port, we chose to go out on our own. We had made prior reservations for a rental car with “Rent A Car” which has a counter at the Welcome Center inside the cruise terminal. We had arranged for a small Fiat Panda (standard transmission) and a GPS unit for the day at a cost of €100/$134 plus gas and tolls. I had picked up an International Drivers Permit through our local AAA office a few months prior to our trip. I had read conflicting reports about needing an IDP, but got one anyway just in case.

Our plan was to drive south to visit the city of Bayeux and then go over to the Omaha Beach area before driving back along the coast with a brief stop in Honfleur. We walked off the ship around 8:45 am and walked into the cruise terminal to find the rental car counter. There was one couple in front of us and they were asking a lot of questions. By the time we had our contract and inspected the car, it was 09:30 am before we were in our car and heading towards the highway.

Leaving Le Havre, we went over two huge bridges that crossed the Seine River near Honfleur. We then followed a toll highway passing Caen and arrived in Bayeux about 90 minutes later after driving past wonderful scenery of the countryside. We visited the museum (€9/$12 ea) that has the Bayeux Tapestry on display. ( The tapestry is a large embroidered cloth (230 ft. long) made in the 1070’s that describes the story of King Harold of England and William the Conqueror with the events that led up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This is when King Harold was killed and William become the new King of England. We were given audio guides that described what you were seeing for the 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. After that, we walked over to the nearby Bayeux Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux) which was impressive with its architecture that contains Norman, Romanesque, and Gothic features. The center of Bayeux had narrow streets and was very quaint.

Leaving Bayeux, we drove 10 miles north to the seaside town of Colleville-sur-Mer where we visited the American Cemetery located there. This is the cemetery shown in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” with almost 10,000 crosses marking the graves of fallen soldiers. The cemetery overlooks parts of Omaha Beach. You could see how difficult it must have been for our soldiers to make it up the hill after landing on the wide open beach area.

We drove back to the ship arriving around 04:30 pm in Le Havre where we stopped by a gas station to fill up the tank for our rental car. Our cost for the day’s drive in addition to the car rental was €19.40 for tolls and €26 for gas. Driving on the highway was such a different story that what we experience in the States. In France, everyone stays in the right lane unless they are passing someone. After getting the gas, we drove back to the cruise terminal and parked the car. The rental car counter was closed until 6:00 pm, so we boarded the ship and packed our suitcases for next day's debarkation in Dover. Just before 06:00 pm, we walked off the ship and checked in with the rental car agent.

Sail away was scheduled for 08:00 pm for the short cruise across the English Channel to return to Dover, England. But, we were delayed waiting for an excursion bus to return from Paris. By 8:30pm we were sailing out of the harbor.

We had been given luggage tags and information on disembarking the ship the next morning. If you wanted to have your luggage brought down by the ship’s porters, you had to have your luggage outside your cabin with your luggage tags attached before 10:00 pm. You also had the option for self assist debarkation which allowed you to carry your entire luggage yourself and leave the ship prior to others that wanted to use the porter service. The luggage tags had assigned numbers.

After dinner, we put out our luggage for the porters to take away. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. In the Follies Lounge, they had the illusionist show repeated with a new lead dancer. Since we were not impressed with the beginning of the show from the first time, we chose to just listen to music in the lounges instead. Down in the Firebird Lounge that night, they had the comedians performing.

Disembarkation Day – Dover
It was an overcast foggy morning with temperatures in the low 60’s F in Dover. This would be the Legend’s last stop in Dover as it would be sailing back to the United States after our cruise.

We were scheduled to arrive in Dover by 5:00 am. Our instructions had told us that we needed to be out of our cabin and off the ship by 8:30 am. This was to allow the cabin stewards to have their cabins cleaned and ready for new passengers later that day.

Our flight home out of Heathrow was not until 04:00 pm this day. I had made arrangements with for a driver to pick us up at the cruise terminal in a sedan and drive us to Heathrow with a short stop in Canterbury (£130/$196). By 4:30 am, the ship was in the Dover harbor and was docked at 5:00 am. By 5:30 am they were making announcements that passengers using the self assist debarkation process could get off the ship on deck 2 midship. Around 7:00 am, we headed up for breakfast before returning to our cabin to finish packing our carry-ons. Around 08:30 am, we heard the call for our tag number and we headed down to deck 2 to walk off the ship.

In the terminal, we easily found our luggage and then walked out of the terminal to find our driver waiting for us. As we were walking out, several new passengers for the next sailing were arriving. This was the Legend’s last port of call in Dover and the European market. After our cruise, she would be returning to the States where she will be based out of Tampa for the rest of the year and most of 2014 before being repositioned to Sydney, Australia in August of 2014.

From Dover, it was a quick ride to visit the cathedral in Canterbury which we toured for an hour. The Cathedral is found in the center of the old walled city area with tight narrow streets. It cost £9.50 each to go into the church. This was the church where Saint Thomas Becket was murdered and they have the spot marked and they also have a candle noting the site of his shrine that was ordered destroyed by King Henry VIII. They had the tombs of King Henry IV and Edward, the Black Prince in one area. After that, it was a 1 and 1/2 hour drive to Heathrow to end our vacation.

The ship –
The ship was built in 2002 as part of the Spirit class for Carnival and had renovations in 2011. The godmother of the Legend is Dame Judi Dench. Her sister ships are the Spirit, Pride, and Miracle.

The capacity of the ship is close to 2,100 passengers along with 960 crew members. The theme of the ship is based on the great legends of the world. All over the ship, we found examples of places and people from legends such King Arthur, Jason and the Argonauts, Robin Hood, etc. The ship is scheduled for an upgrade in the near future.

Fitness and Spa –
On the lido forward is a large fitness center which equipment on two floors. It gave wonderful views of the front of the ship. To find it, you had to walk through the Fountain of Youth Spa area. There are a wide variety of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and other pieces of equipment available at all times at no extra charge. All of the equipment faced out to windows. They offered spinning and pilates classes for a fee of $12 a session. There was an indoor hot tub found here as well that was available to everyone. The Fountain of Youth Spa has several treatment rooms. They offered spa treatment specials during port days.

I enjoy running and the running track was found on the Sports deck. A sign posted stated that it takes 15.2 laps to complete a mile. On the same Sports deck was a small basketball court surrounded by a net and the mini-golf course.

My favorite place on the ship was the outside promenade on the Atlantic deck. It wrapped around the ship from the Enchanted Forest on the port side to the aft and back to the starboard side of the Enchanted Forest which was about 2/3 of the ship. I have always enjoyed watching the waves go by on sea days. Like other carnival ships, there were no deck chairs to be found, which is disappointing. We enjoyed walking along this part of the ship where the only sound you heard was the waves going by the ship. For my 5k runs, I only had to make 6 laps (port to starboard and back to port) on this deck compared to 48 laps on the sports deck where I had to dodge people playing mini golf or just walking around.

Pools and Serenity areas–
The Legend has 3 main pools. The Avalon Pool and Camelot Pool are found mid-ship on the Lido deck while the Serenity Pool is found aft. The Avalon Pool has a retractable roof cover and this is where all the poolside activities occur. All of the pools are 4 ft 6” deep. There are hot tubs next to each pool. There are no covers over any of the hot tubs to provide shade on sunny days. On the Sports deck was a small kid’s pool that was not near anything and the entrance to a water slide that did not end up in a pool. An Adult-only Serenity area is found aft on the Lido Deck with a swimming pool and a hot tub along with lounge chairs, hammocks, clam shells, and a drinks bar.

Music –
They had plenty of musicians on board to entertain people at various locations and times. They had rock and pop hits played by a solo acoustic guitarist named Edd Carr who was good. There was a male guitarist/singer and female singer act called the Dimas Duo that played international pop hits along with pre-recorded music. In the Billie's Piano bar, they had Bruce playing sing-a-long songs. The dance band was a quarter named the Highlights. The best band on the ship was the Legend show band with its 10 musicians. They were terrific and as tight as any show band we have ever seen on our cruises. They played once in the Atlantis Lounge with a singer which was a terrible forum for a band to play in. The walkway to the dining room goes right through it which limited the seating and dancing area. They had the Highlights play here quite often also. IT seems that people complained about noise when bands played in Satchmo's, so they were relegated to this spot near the dining room. They had DJ's playing on the Lido deck by the pool and in the Medusa's Lair disco. We miss the days when a live band would play by the pool.

Our cabin –
We prefer inside cabins. With the Legend, the inside cabins, ocean view cabins, and most of the balcony cabins are all 185 square feet inside. Our cabin had more than enough room for the two of us. There were three closets. Two came with bars with 10 hangars each while the other closet had shelves. We stored our luggage under the beds. There is a safe and a small fridge in the cabin. The safe could be locked with a credit card or a driver’s license that had a magnetic stripe. You could not use your room keycard.

The bathroom had a shower with a cloth curtain with dispensers for body wash and shampoo. It has a European style shower head that allowed you to adjust the height or hold it in your hand. The hair dryer was located in a drawer by the mirror inside the room. The TV was an old tube one and will be replaced in the upcoming upgrade.

The location of our cabin (5255) was only a few steps from the aft stairway on the Main deck. It was 4 decks below the Lido deck and 2-3 decks above the decks below with dining and lounges. We tried to use the stairs as much as we could. My morning routine was to walk up to Unicorn Cafe buffet with insulated mugs to get our morning tea while getting ready to face the day.

Public areas for entertainment –
The main show room was the Follies Lounge located forward on the ship. It holds close to 1,200 passengers and has entrances on 3 decks (Promenade, Atlantic, and Main). There are some poles to contend with. We always tried to arrive 30 minutes before a show to get a decent seat on the side of one of the main aisles. By show time, most people coming in were scrambling for a seat.

The Firebird Lounge found forward on the Riviera deck was the location for the comedy shows as well as a few other activities during the cruise. The stairs to the lounge were on the Promenade deck next to the entrances to the Follies Lounge.

Satchmo’s is located on the Promenade next to the Dream Team Sports Bar. They had the dance band play there during the first few days of the cruise.

Billie’s Piano Bar is found on the Atlantic deck forward by the Hollywood Boulevard promenade.

There is a disco called Medusa’s Lair that has a light-up dance floor. The entrance was found next to the Atlantis Lounge. As you walked in, there is a bar area that overlooks the dance floor below. You had to walk down a circular set of stairs to go to the dance floor and additional booths, chairs, and tables.

Other general info –
A nice quiet area of the ship with seats and views of the water is found on the Atlantic deck forward. It is called the Enchanted Forest Interior Promenade.

We found navigating around the ship was easy because of having just the one large main dining room that is situated aft. For the most part you could walk the length of the ship on each deck.

The hallways with odd number cabins were on the starboard side while the even numbered cabins were on the port side of the ship.

The ship has a large atrium area. On deck 2, there is a lobby where they have a bar with a small stage behind it for musicians. But, there were limited seats and tables there. On deck 3, they had a wraparound area that overlooks the lobby below. This is where they had the photography department located.

Laundrettes – There are 5 small laundry rooms located around the ship. They each have 2 washers, 4 dryers ($3.00 per load using a key card) along with an ironing board and iron. They also had dispensers for soap packets ($1.00 each with a key card).

Dining –

As with most cruise ships nowadays, there were several dining options on the Legend. Lunchtime provided the most options.

For breakfast, you could go to the Truffles Dining Room for a sit down meal or to the Unicorn Cafe buffet on the lido deck. The Lido buffet offered multiple stations where you could get omelets made to order along with other hot foods such as grits, oatmeal, sausage, potatoes, beans, bacon, and toast. They had plenty of different pastries and cold cereals as well.

For lunch, you could go to the Truffles Dining Room for a sit down meal or to the Unicorn Cafe buffet on the lido deck.

Inside the Unicorn Cafe, they had several stations which included an Oriental station, a Deli sandwich bar, a salad bar, a carvery station that offered different carved meats each day long with a fish and chicken option, an Italian station, and a 24 hour pizza bar. They also had a coffee bar where you could buy Starbucks style of coffees. They also had grills on the Lido deck by the Avalon pool that offered hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries.

For dinner, the Legend has only one large main dining room with assigned early and late seatings, the Truffles Restaurant. It is found aft on the ship and takes up two floors. Those with assigned dining times, used the first floor on deck 2. For those that had signed up for “Your Time Dining”, you could show up at the restaurant on the second floor on deck 3 anytime from 5:45 pm to 9:30 pm and when they had an available table, you would be seated for dinner.

In addition to the Truffles for dinner, they have the Unicorn Cafe buffet style restaurant on the Lido deck and the Golden Fleece Steakhouse found on the Sun Deck.

The Golden Fleece Steakhouse had an added fee of $35 per person and required a reservation. Its dress code was cruise elegant every night. We did not dine at the Golden Fleece, but we did speak with fellow passengers who enjoyed their meals there.

For dinner, the choices of foods in the Unicorn were very limited compared to what was available at lunch. They only had one station open along with the deli sandwich station and pizza bar. You had a choice of a carved meat, a fish and then either a chicken or pork selection with limited salads. There was no Oriental or Italian food option, or even a chance to get a hamburger and fries.

They offered 24 hour room service with a limited menu.

There is a taste bar (no fee) just outside of the Dream Team Sports Bar and the Legends’ coffee and pastry bar from 05:30 pm to 08:30 pm. Here they offered small samples of different types of food. The Legends’ Cafe on deck 2 forward offered coffees and pastries for a fee.

For those that wanted a more full cuisine experience, they also offered “The Chef’s Table”. For a fee of $75 per person, you would have a personal meal with the executive chef who would provide a private galley tour and a multi-course meal for a small group. You needed to make a reservation for this event.

During breakfast in the lido buffet area, they had fountains with OJ, Passa-Guava Juice, Apple Juice, and unsweetened ice tea along with water. For the rest of the day, these fountains offered lemonade, iced tea, and water.

Bar Service –
There were plenty of places on board to buy alcoholic drinks.

On the promenade deck, you had Satchmo’s Jazz Club, Dream Team Sports Bar, Club Merlin Casino, Legend Lobby under the atrium, Atlantis Lounge, and Medusa’s Lair Disco.

On the Atlantic deck, you would find Billie’s Piano Bar and the Odyssey Lounge.

On the Lido deck, you could go to the Avalon bar between the main pools and the Serenity area bar.

In addition, you could have bar service in the Golden Fleece Steak House and Truffles Restaurant when they were serving food and in the Follies Lounge during shows.

At the beginning of the cruise they offered the “Cheers Beverage Program”. For $43 a day each person could order as many alcoholic drinks as they wanted. The price did not include tips and all adults in a cabin had to buy into the program. I guess this may make sense if one drinks the expensive drinks like martinis or Scotch. But, we would never come close to drinking enough beers per day to justify that cost.

We are beer drinkers and Carnival offered beer bucket specials where you would get 4 beers (mix and match) with a $2 discount for the bucket. But, you could only buy buckets at the lido deck bar, the Firebird Lounge, or the Sports Bar. A few days into the cruise, they started offering $5 off on beer buckets of either Miller Lite (ugh) or Coors Light. Towards the end of the cruise, they started offering 2 for 1 specials for pints of the Carnival Thirsty Frog Red Ale at any bar that had it on tap. My wife did not care for it. I thought it was a decent ale, but tasted much better when it was cold. So, I always had one sitting on ice in the bucket we bought.

They did have daily drink specials as well, but I never paid attention to the types and prices.

Past Guest Program –
We are rated as Gold Members of Carnival’s Past Guest Program (VIFP) and we were invited to the Past Guest party that was offered to Gold, Platinum, and Diamond members. We were each given a free drink certificate ($9 value) which could only be redeemed in the Truffles Dining Room during breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Activities –
There were plenty of other things to do on aboard for all interests. They had the usual bingo games, art auctions, poolside games, and informational seminars. We took advantage of the several trivia games (which we enjoy) they offered during the cruise.

The casino is open during times at sea. We do not gamble, so we cannot comment on the slots and gaming tables.

Crew –
John Heald (England), the cruise director was always at the stage shows and a few other gatherings. With his duties as senior cruise director for Carnival and his blog, he has his team take care of the day to day activities on board. The assistant CD, Calvyn (Canada) has the dourest appearance of any CD staff member we had ever seen on our cruises. But, he had a clever wit and was funny to listen to. He and John had a daily morning show on one of the TV channels that was amusing at times. The rest of the cruise staff were very friendly, especially Keely (England), Matey (England), Katie (England), Taylor (USA), and Stevie G (Canada).

We did not see the captain on this cruise. He may have been in the lobby during the first elegant night sea day for photos with passengers.

Our room stewards, Dasna and Wayan were assigned 28 cabins to service during our cruise. They took care of any requests we made which included getting an ice bucket and having it filled twice a day.

Overall –
We enjoyed our cruise on the Legend. It was a treat to visit some many ports even if it was so rainy. But, we do not feel the need to return to Carnival unless there was an itinerary that appealed to us.

We do not understand why they do not have more cruises going around the British Isles and Ireland. We would definitely return if they did.

Photos we took on our cruise are here here.

Photos we took of the Carnival Legend and her public areas can be found here.

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