We returned this past week from the 8-day Southern Caribbean itinerary on the Carnival Legend. Our trip was fantastic, with just a few questionable points, but so good that we’re already looking at next year. There were 4 of us, my wife, my 13 y/o son, and 9 y/o daughter. Our last cruise was on the Disney Magic for the Millennium… and this WON’T be our last!
We left a blustery Chicago on Saturday morning, and in order to use our free miles, we had a layover at LaGuardia. This turned out to be one of the slowdowns, as there was substantial bad weather along the east coast – forcing a 2-hour delay on the tarmac. There were people leaving THAT day who were concerned about missing their cruise! I have learned to now travel the day before – always. (By the way, the ex-Chicago Bull Scottie Pippin was on the flight from NY to FLA).
We arrived later in Ft. Lauderdale, around 4ish instead of the planned 130. I picked up my rental car while the family snagged luggage- then off to the Hampton Inn Airport North. I highly recommend this hotel. A Great staff, easy to get to, and close to both the airport and the port. We spent that evening with my wife’s grandmother, and then got a great night rest prior to the cruise.
We returned the rental, and then cabbed it to the cruise terminal. We were there by about 1030, and had our documents checked outside the terminal. Then into the first line… we watched 4 wedding parties board, along with a wine-tasting group. Then, around noon, Carnival opened up the terminal. Well, then we went through the security checkpoint, and then up to the Skippers Club. We got our Sail-and-Sign cards, and were assigned “group 1” for boarding. Within 15 minutes we were on our way! A quick pre-boarding picture, then on to the SnS-picture taking for security, and then suddenly we were there!
As we walked aboard, we all dropped our jaws as we looked up at the expanse of the atrium. We first got our drink cards for the kids, did a quick once-over, and then up the glass elevators to our room – 8214 on the Panorama deck. We had booked a GTY Balcony in May (we plan WAAAAYYYY ahead) and got this cabin assignment about 3 weeks before sailing. We were under the Unicorn Café so we did hear some rolling of the dish containers, but not horrible. Our room was ready, so we dropped our luggage and explored the ship.
We changed from late to early seating, and ended up on the main floor (go team Blue!) instead of upstairs. No biggie – but we ended up with a GREAT waiter. Winston was fun, and enjoyed the mind-games with my daughter – miss picky eater. Winston figured out in a hurry that it would be Cheeseburgers and Chocolate Ice Cream on a daily basis…The Dinners were always good. I enjoyed the variety in the appetizers and entrées, but would have liked a more ‘thematic’ dining – perhaps one night Italian, one night Continental, etc. There were slight themes, but it seemed to have been half-hearted. Nevertheless, the food was good…and the desserts were tasty! YUM!
The grill by the pool makes a great steak sandwich – it’s not ‘listed’ – and their garden burgers are good too. The Unicorn buffet at the café was always good. The Rueben sandwiches at the deli are great. We liked the buffets, but didn’t walk away with glowing reviews. However, considering that they need to cook for 3000 people, I’d say the crew does a great job.
Room service was prompt, hot, and tasty. The afternoon Ice Cream Sundaes (3 pm, Unicorn Pool side) was a nice treat, and the pizzeria was a fave! My son discovered the calzones there…and did his share of damage to the food pantry. The last night, we even got a ‘whole pie’ to help with packing. We re-discovered the pleasure of a splash of lemonade added to a glass of iced tea.
CASNIO & SHOPPING ON BOARD:
The casino was good to me. Very good. J The casino is nice sized, and I had no problem getting a seat at the blackjack table. I didn’t partake in the tournaments – maybe next time. But it was so good to me that I bought my wife a ring onboard – courtesy of Carnival.
The shopping was good on the ship. I bought my son a silver “by the inch” bracelet, and a gold one for my daughter. A few other trinkets for the wife, and magnets for the folks who work for me. I did buy the “towel animal” book. What fun… we’re going to go buy a few cheap white towels for when guests come to our house. The booze prices were in line with any we say ashore, and the stuff that was available was a nice variety.
The shows were fun, as expected. We saw the Village Idiots (juggling) and laughed till we had tears in our eyes. The production numbers were great for a shipboard – with its limitations (size, space, etc). Jazz Hot and Take II were a lot of fun. Even our kids enjoyed them. A pleasant surprise, having read both good and bad…
Our cabin steward was excellent, as was our waiter (see DINING above). YO RICHIE and OUTBACK ADAM seemed to have a lot of fun with the crowd – including during bingo (especially when my 9 y/o yelled SHIP! When she didn’t get a number during bingo). They kept everyone going all the time.
OVERALL SHIP CLEANLINESS & “SHAPE”:
The ship is still beautiful. A few rough spots, but then, if I had to travel that much, I’d have a few, too! We noticed a few spots of peeling paint above our balcony, and in the Follies lounge, the backs of the main floor benches are worn. We didn’t make the connection until just yesterday when we remember the fixed tables in each row, forcing people to rub up on the back of the row in front of you. Duh!
We went on the Lido deck, thru the glass door, to the very front and above the bridge for departing and arriving in each port as best we could.
The slide was out-of-commission during our trip, which was a disappointment to our kids – and me. No reasons, and no work going on with it... hmmmmmm
St Martin/St Maarten – Yes, the best shopping. We did the St. Maarten Island Tour. Our guide (X) was great! He kept us entertained, and showed us quite a bit of the island. Next time, we’ll do a more ‘active’ excursion, but nevertheless, we had a fun time. We did some quick shopping, a few little trinkets, and we were done.
Barbados – The shopping was one step down. We did the Barbados Coast-to-Coast tour. HORRIBLE! Our guide was horrendous. At one point, someone on the bus asked ‘what is the population of this area?’ and his answer was “I don’t know- that’s not my job”. ???? We were astounded! We stopped at one bathroom/beach location where his friends had set up shop, and no one bought anything. Less then 5 minutes later, we stopped on top of a hill, at another “shopping” point! We all laughed on the bus that if we stop one more time, we’d each buy something just so we didn’t have to stop again! We did complain on the ship, and also on our comment card. I may still write Carnival, as we booked these online weeks before leaving home.
Martinique - Worst shopping, but most lush of the stops. At the museum displaying artifacts from Mt. Pelee’s eruption, we bought raw sugarcane, and had a treat! We saw Mt Pelee, and did the winding-road trip through the island. Be warned, the motion back-and-forth can hit people, even more than boat rocking. The island is however, beautiful.
We went to the Follies at the prescribed time, 9 am… and were expecting a looooong wait to disembark. At about 9:30 they called our tag color, and we went through the atrium for the last time (at least for now) and walked to customs….got our bags and a porter (well worth the $5), got a cab, and were at the airport in no time flat!
40 minutes from being called to being at the gate!
When we arrived in St. Maarten, we awoke to a sight to behold… the Queen Mary 2 had dropped anchor just offshore. It is so large, that it cannot fit into the pier! Quite impressive. A great image I have is walking up to the pier in St. Maarten and seeing 4 behemoths waiting for us…
This was our first trip on Carnival. We are looking at the Destiny for next March, because of its size, itinerary, and the experience we had. We’ve taken our children on our annual Spring Break trip to Hawaii (Honolulu area), twice to Mexico (all inclusive), and now this cruise. I absolutely rank this way up there!