We arrived in Oahu after 12 hours of flying (luckily we had a short layover in Dallas), but it was only around 5 PM in Hawaii, so too early to go sleep. We just managed to get a quick bite and then a small walk around the shopping area and beach in Waikiki. It is a very busy place with lots to do. The next day we slept late then did our souvenir shopping to get it out of the way and visited the lovely beaches. The plan was to parasail but the winds were very high so we skipped that this week as every day the surf and winds were high. We also decided to send our Christmas cards from Hawaii, and went in search of Hawaiian types, then we met our friends for dinner and drove around a little after dinner. We ate dinner at the Aloha Towers and watched a few ships sail away. Santa was also there and he greeted all of us. The next day was out big outing, we hiked up Diamond Head, what a walk. But we managed to survive and nothinghurt afterwards (what a surprise). The view is spectacular, well worth the effort. If you have a hard time, you can go slow, but there are points when it extremely steep. Anyone afraid of heights should think twice! Then we drove to the other side of the island and had lunch at the Crouching Lion Inn and bought some lovely prints in the gallery.
The next morning we sent out the Christmas cards and sent the gifts home by priority mail to save luggage space.We found a Cheesecake factory and had a wonderful lunch along with cheesecake of course! We did some more driving around and saw the pipeline and all sorts of interesting sights. . We had dinner in the Ko Olina. We also had drinks at the famous pink Hotel, quite a lavish old style hotel. The next day we did the Arizona memorial drove up to Pali. And around some more to see different sights like the blowhole and various beaches.Then we ate lunch in small shop and went off the Hilo Hatties when of course I have to buy a little something for myself In the evening we went to the Luau at paradise cove. That was lots of fun as they had a number of exhibits, games and crafting workshops before the dinner. We made bracelets and headwreaths adorned with flowers the dinner was proceeded by the royal court parade and the digging up of the pig. The food was excellent, but I decided that the poi tasted like wallpaper paste after a taste. The last day we drove to the pier but when we saw the long line decide to go off and come back later. We went to the Dole plantation, and then back to eat at the crouching Lion. When we got back there was no line so we walked right onto the ship. But if we had arrived 10 minutes later we would have missed the muster. Not that we really minded, but the rental car was still sitting out on the pier and had to be brought back. but one of the porters had watched it for us. I was happily surprised when we got on the ship. After doing the Radiance and the Adventure I was sure this would look old by comparison. But I was very wrong, the ship was lovely and airy and a very pleasant place to spend the next 10 days. The ship is very well laid out and very easy to navigate. In a few hours I could find anything on the ship quite easily. The ship was decorated so beautiful for the holidays, the cenrtrum was awash with garlands and lights and festive decorations with the centerpiece being a village made out of gingerbread; it was very welcoming. After the first dinner which was very good, I watched as the ship pulled out of port, a wonderful sight. The first stop was Maui and we rented a car and we traveled all over the island taking in as many sights as possible. We drove to the North side of the island where rental cars a re not supposed to go and carefully eked our way along the steep and narrow single lane roads which were precariously perched in the cliffs. Maui is a very lush island and a very beautiful island. We also went into a lovely valley with a rock formation that looked like Kennedy, and then on to the falls where we hiked around a little bit. Then we headed back to the ship. We were dressed in shorts and hiking things so I wanted to eat in the Windjammer, but the men in the group wanted to eat in the dining room because they only had open seating that night due to the overnight stay. I am still annoyed, because I do not feel comfortable dining in a restaurant dressed like that. Some people may find that relaxing, but I am uncomfortable feeling like a sloppy, but that is my personal preference. I was not dirty per se, but would have preferred to take a shower and dress decently, but the dining room was closing at 8:30. I will never be talked into that again! The next day we drove up to Mount Haleakala. This was a breathtaking ride up into the clouds. The crater looked like something from a moon landing and was big enough to put Manhattan inside of it. The height was literally breath taking as it took a few moments for your lungs to get used to the thinner air. We drove around and explored as many roads as we possibly could and even found a section called Christmas Lane where very house was lavishly decorated for the holidays. When we returned to port, we walked around had a late lunch a Bubba Gump's Shrimp Factory, a very pleasant eating experience. We did a little more browsing in the shops and then back to the ship. Then the next Island was Kauai. The first thing we did after getting our rental car was to go on a helicopter flight thru the canyons. It was a 60 minute flight and every minute was exciting. We took pictures and videos and very sight was more beautiful than the last. We did some driving and ate dinner at a plantation and walked on a few beaches before heading back to the ship for the first formal night. Our next stop was Kona where we went on a waterfall hike up in the mountains on the North side. The ledges were quite narrow but the hike was very exhilarating and afterwards we were treated to lunch on the beach. The waves were extraordinarily high this week and the winds whipped up some amazing surf. Our friend Jim had befriended some of the crew and the had done some fishing and came back to the ship with a 40 pound Ono. They also had sightings of whales that just rolled over and sun bathed and turtles and dolphins galore. Ordinarily you cannot bring your catch onboard but since the head of the restaurant services (who does the food buying for the ship along with cooking) was with them they brought it onboard cooked it for us and served it to us in the Windjammer along with fine china, tablecloths, candles and wine. Because the staff members are rarely invited to go on such outings, they were really grateful and treated us like Kings and Queens all week. We made some lifelong friends. On Hilo we did the Valley of the Kings excursion, and while it was very nice, I think I would have preferred to go up to the volcano. We were taken by van down into a step valley where the natives lived and toured real homes and tarot farms. Our next four sea days were very relaxing, but the most fun was had when we entered and won the Quest! This game is not to be missed. During the sea days it was quite cool and windy so rock climbing and mini golf were out of the question. We did manage to get to some of the midnight buffets on the pool deck. We did however skip the midnight buffet as we have seen many of them before and were not hungry. there was so much to do inside the ship on sea days, you could not be bored. Santa arrived to give the kiddies gifts and we also received a very nice gift, a large duffel type piece of luggage on wheels and a tote/cosmetics bag. We were happily surprised there were a number of Holiday shows and a religious observations that were quite lovely. They also had a caroling session. All of the entertainment was very good, I am not sure we saw any that we did not like. The trip back from Ensenda to San Diego was quick and uneventful, but one piece of our luggage was put on the wrong green bus and we had to go to one of the other terminals to retrieve it. But since we had a few hours to kill, it just gave us something to do. Coming home the flight was smooth and fast, but as we flew into JFK, I was feeling sad that the trip was over. Even though we were away fro 15 days, I could have stayed for more. This was a wonderful vacation that was probably the best I have ever been on. My hawaii pics can be seen on: http://community.webshots.com/user/abridalmaven
Well, we're back from a 3-night stay in Vancouver followed by an 11-night cruisetour on the Legend of the Seas. We had such a wonderful time. Although the Legend is older, I found her to be quite nice, with new upholstery and carpeting, and an extremely professional crew. We even got to see Hubbard Glacier (something that I've heard doesn't happen often with RCCL)! The following is a day-by-day review of our entire trip, from the first flight to last night. Here it goes...
Day 1 Washington - Chicago - Vancouver (Beginning of Vancouver leg of trip)
When we first reserved our airline tickets, (we got two free with miles. YAY) we were booked on Air Canada 699, wich was a non-stop flight from DC to Vancouver. However, we later found that AC699 had been cancelled, so we now had a 3-hour layover in Montreal. This was not good. We wouldn't even get into Vancouver until 4 Pm, and we wanted to spend as much time there as possible. So we called United, (who we booked the ticket with) and they rebooked us on a United flight through Chicago. Although we hada tight connection, everything worked out and we arrived in Vancouver dazzled by the beautiful airport. Yes, the Vancouver airport. Although there were long lines and relative chaos at the Baggage Claim area, a porter helped us (and our 9 bags) through it. But on the walk to immigration, we really liked the nice touches of the airport, such as the raised walkways, glass jet-bridges, waterfalls, and nature areas. I'm sure it also helped that we arrived on a day where no cruise ships were leaving.
We got a taxi driver (much nicer than the ones in other parts of the continent) and were driven to the Vancouver Marriott (Delta) Pinnacle. Now, here's the story with our hotel choice. We had been booked at the Fairmont Waterfront, but switched to the Pinnacle simply for price reasons. We thought we had booked one of the big xx19 rooms, with the corner wraparound windows (the room was described as a "corner view room"), but were suprised to find a room with a city view and a little corner facing the harbor. We explained what had happened, and the switched our room to on overlookinh Canada Place, Stanley Park, and everything in the harbor. It was a little small, but the view was great, the hotel staffers were extremely professional (left over from the Delta chain, a Canadian luxury hotel chain), and the hotel was in a great location right near Canada Place (even though our ship wasn't leaving from there). That said, next time I would probably stay in the Fairmont Waterfront or Pan-Pacific. Their locations right on the water seemed dazzling. Anyway, after exploring the city a little that first day, we ate at Romano's Macaroni grligg at the Mansion. Very good restaurant with excellent food and a nice setting.
Days 2 and 3: Vancouver
We went to do all the various attractions like the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mntn. (Mt. Roberts Tram in Juneau is better), Granville Island, and Stanley Park. We had mostly good (Great!) weather, and enjoyed everything. WE LOVE VANCOUVER. It is such a great city and really has everything to offer. We would go back even if we weren't going on a cruise.
To start with, I just want to emphasize how much we loved Vancouver, and also to note some great restaurants. The 2nd night we ate in a litle brewery right on the water behind the Renaissance hotel and near the mini-waterpark made up of various fountains. sorry, I forgot the name, but it was an extremely relaxing place to eat right on the water. On our last night in Vancouver, we splurged and ate at Cloud 9, the revolving restaurant on top of the Empire Landmark hotel on Robson St. The views were incredible, as was the food, but the prices were a little high. That said, it was worth it.
Now. Before I get to the vast majority of the Cruise (which was EXCELLENT), I do want to note some minor things that were annoying on the Legend of the Seas.
Embarkation: It was a little dissapointing that the Legend left from Ballantyne pier as opposed to Canada Place. Although Ballantyne is still close to downtown and check-in was as smooth as could be, it would have been nice to leave from a better neighborhood.
Elevators(Very Minor): For some reason, the two sets of elevators in the Centrum (the glass ones and the normal ones) were on two different sets of call buttons, so you had to press both elevators if you wanted to get the first one. As a result, the elevator you didn't get on would stop on the floor after you had left, and this slowed the elevators consistently. Again, ths was not a big deal AT ALL, just a little annoyance.
Shore Excursions: This was probably our biggest complaint. Although the Misty Fjords Seaplane Adventure with Promech Air was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we would repeat again and again, the White Pass and Yukon Route was a little slow for us, and took a LONG time. Also, we all got seasick on the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest in Sitka. In addition, the Helicopter Glacier Walkabout was not what we expected. We thought it involved a long hike, when it was really just a little tour. The Trek probably would have suited us better. Oh well, better luck next time Wink !
Embarkation Embarkation at Ballantyne Pier went as smooth as can be. We arrived at Ballantyne arout 11:30 - 12 NOON, and were #2. We were on the ship by 12:45. The only thing that annoyed us was that, while RCCL had 25 check-in positions, there were only 4 US Immigration officers, and that line was a little long. So, after taking our picture with the "We're Alaska Bound!" sign, we were on the beautiful Legend of the Seas.
Cabin: We were in cabin 8526, a Cat. C handicapped cabin which was a "Superior Ocean View Suite with Balcony." Because it was a handicapped room, it lacked a few things (no marble bathroom, no tub) but also was much more spacious and had a slightly different layout than the other Cat. C rooms. (the sofa bed was facing the bed, as opposed to being next to it). The balcony was indispensable on the Alaska cruise. Not only did we have our own private place to view the beautiful scenery of Canada's Inside Passage and the port in Skagway, but we also didn't have to fight for a place on deck when the ship was viewing Hubbard Glacier. The decor was very nice, and it seems that RCCL has taken a leaf from the Navy/Gold decor on the Radiance Class, as the bedspreads were that color. Note that the Legend was reupholstered and recarpeted last year.
Public Areas: I'll say it once and I'll say it again: THE LEGEND IS A BEAUTIFUL SHIP. It really is. Actually, we found the layout and decor to be extremely similar to Celebrity's Galaxy, with many greens, a LOT of glass (perfect for Alaska) and use of wood tones. The Romeo and Juliet Dining Room was pretty standard (but the glass walls were a nice touch), and the Centrum (as well as rooms off of it) was an excellent place to sit and relax. The That's Entertainment Theatre, although it was only one deck, had very comfortable chairs (so comfortable we fell asleep during a Naturalist lecture) and good sightlines from every seat. The Windjammer was a little small and it was often hard to find a table, but that wasn't a big deal at all, as it had big glass windows and great views of the bow. Both the Adventure Ocean and Optix kids areas were wll designed, our son loved the RCCL kids program. The Solarium and Spa areas were really truly beautiful, and we loved the ancient Greek theme, complete with statues of Greek Gods and Godesses. Also nice was a 2.5-D diagram of the ship by the Centrum areas, it really helped you get your bearings the first couple of days.
Food: Let me say this: Our family does not go on a cruise for the food. We go for the travel experience on a floating city. That said, the food, although we thought it was good if not great in the dining room, was not as good as Celebrity. In addition, the lunches in the Windjammer Buffet Restaurant were very heavy and not great. Breakfast was quite good, as were the Pizza and Burgers in the Solarium. We heard so many people complaining about the food. IMHO, What was their problem? The food was FINE, if not great (in the dining room) and was certainly not BAD at all. If you want gourmet food, go on Celebrity. Otherwise, don't worry about the food so much. Food does not make or break a vacation. (However, in the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, the food was overpriced ($30), and tasted like water.)
Service: We found the service to be quite good, especially with our Stateroom Attendant, Arturo, who had been on the Legend since 1995. Towel animals were expertly made, and Arturo was very pleasant to be around.
Stop 1: Ketchikan Other Ships in Port: Ryndam and Crystal Harmony Ranking: 2nd best port Since we had 4 hours until our Misty Fjords Seaplane Adventure left at noon, we had time to explore Ketchikan a little bit. It was a cloudy, misty morning, but at least it wasn't raining as it does so often in Ketchikan. We explored the town, walking around and going to places like the West Coast Cape Fox Lodge, which has panoramic views of the whole town and is accessed by a free elevator at Creek Street, a little causeway of wooden planks with cute shops and Dolly's House, the most famous woman in Ketchikan's old red-light district. We also went to the Salmon Ladder and looked in some of the souvenir shops by the ships. However, the most fun part of our trip to Ketchikan was the Misty Fjords Seaplane Adventure with Promech Air. Right as we were taking off, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Besides the fun of sitting in the copilots seat of a tiny little DeHavilland Beaver, the views were exquisite, and the pilot was able to land on the most beautiful and secluded lake I've ever seen, which he could only access in the excellent weather we had that day. It was worth every penny we spent. I highly recommend any Misty Fjords flightseeing tour: you WON'T regret it.
Stop 2:Skagway Other Ships in Port: Summit and Infinity Ranking: 3rd/4th We had absolutely gorgeous weather in Skagway, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky when we arrived at the railroad dock between exquisite mountains and beautiful waters. However, Skagway seemed to small to be crowded with so many tourists, and, although the tiny town was picturesque, it seemed to crowded with tacky shops and stuff that it was almost ruined. We took the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad, which was a little long and slow.
Juneau Other ships in port: Norweigan Sun and Sky, Island Princess, and Ryndam was anchored offshore. We very much liked the city of Juneau, as we had ample time to explore it before our Helicopter Glacier Walkabout at 12:30pm. We walked all around the city, and up to some charming residential areas near the Governor's Mansion. We very much liked taking the Mt. Roberts Tramway, as there was very good hiking and spectacular views from the top of the hiking trail. The city is worth a look around, as it was much bigger than Skagway (where we had been the day before), and has some very interesting places. After our mini tour of the town, we went on our Helicopter Glacier Walkabout, which was not all as I had expected. We thought we were actually going to have to hike, when all we really did was look around a little. The Trek would have probably suited us better. Thems the breaks!
Sitka Other Ships in Port: Statendam and Amsterdam Sitka was probably our favorite port of call. Although cloudy in the morning on our Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest (which was nice except for the seasickness), the sun came out in full force by 11, and we loved exploring this delightful town. Sitka was nice for many reasons: A): It had historical significance that didn't involve gold. After having an overdose of Gold Ruch history on the White Pass Railroad in Skagway, Sitka offered incredibly interesting Russian and Tlingit history, and contained many historic sites. In the gorgeous weather the views from Castle Hill were spectacular. B): No touristy merchandise or atmosphere. In Juneau, Ketchikan, and even (especially) quaint little Skagway, the only things we could find to buy were t-shirts and the like, all made in China. Why would I come to Alaska to buy something made in China? In Sitka, on the other hand, we were able to find charming handmade gifts made in Alaska and Russia, all in an authentic Russian setting. The town was charming and beautiful. That being said, it is a shame that many cruise itineraries bypass Sitka. It is such a great place to go, and steers away from the Little Switzerlands of the world.
Hubbard Glacier Other Ships in Port: Ryndam Yes, we actually got to see Hubbard Glacier!!! This is something that apparently doesn't happen often with RCCl, as they need to save the sea-pups. (???) Altough it was cloudy and misty, the Ryndam stepped aside and we got a spectacular view of the calving glacier from our balcony. Although the weather could have been (much) better, it was great all the same.\
Seward Other Ships in Port: Ryndam Disembarkation in Seward was a little annoying but nothing to get too upset about. So we could have slept for 45 extra minutes while we were waiting for our color to be called. You win some, you lose some. Anyway, we were on Royal Celebrity Cruisetour #6 which went from Seward to Anchorage via bus, Anchorage to Fairbanks via plane, Fairbanks to Denali via bus, Denali to Talkeetna via train, and Talkeetna to Anchorage via train. We spent one night in each place. Royal Celebrity Tours was FABULOUS!!! Everything, from the buses to the gorgeous glass-domed trains to the great lodgings were impeccable. Our Tour Director, Shelley, was excellent and extremely knowledgeable about everything.
Now: I KNOW THAT WE COULD HAVE CHOSEN A BETTER TOUR. (and it drives me CRAZY)!!! We only had four days and would have stayed for seven if we could have. We didn't even see ANY wildlife in Denali. Oh well. Save the best for our next trip! Wink The only reason we chose our tour is because it ended in Anchorage and we got two FREE tickets on United!!!
Day 1 Seward to Anchorage to Fairbanks Hotel: Pike's Waterfront Lodge We got off the boat in miserable rainy weather and were directed to the Alaska Airlines Check-In line in the Seward terminal so we could check in for our flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks. The line was long, but we finally checked in and boarded our bus, which was extremely comfortable and had huge windows so we could enjoy the beautiful scenery around us on the way to Anchorage. At the airport, we were on the first of two flights which were chock-full of people on our tour. There were so many people that there were four different buses doing our itinerary!!! It was a good thing that we were on the first flight as the second was cancelled and the people on it didn't have the chance to see the Alaska Pipeline or the University of Alaska/Fairbanks Museum, both of which we saw after getting off of the plane and claiming our luggage. We had GREAT weather in Fairbanks both days, with partly cloudy skies. Both were excellent attractions to see. We ate dinner in the casual part of Pike's Landing, which was extremely good despite its VERY casual feel. Our hotel room in Pike's Waterfront Lodge was small, but had a balcony and a very nice view of the calm, peaceful Chena River.
Day 2 Fairbanks to Denali Hotel: McKinley Village Lodge In the morning we took the Riverboat Discovery Tour, which we thought was quite nice. It was an extremely relaxing was to spend our morning after the relatively hectic day we had had the day before. The trip down the Chena River was extremely scenic, and the visit to the Athabascan Indian Village was interesting, if a little touristy. Also interesting was Susan Butcher and her dogs. The boat stopped in front of her property and we watched how she trained them. It was very relaxing. We went into downtown Fairbanks for lunch, and then continued onto Denali, where it was pouring rain.
Day 3 Denali to Talkeetna Hotel: Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge We didn't see much in Denali. We were only on the Natural History Tour to begin with, and it was so foggy that we couldn't see anything. Oh well. However, things started to look up as we got our first glimpse of the "Wilderness Express" traincars. Royal Celebrity really did a great job with those trains. The leather seats were SO comfortable right nextt to the glass domes. The food was impeccable, and the scenery was amazing. For lunch, I highly recommend the Mandarin Chicken Salad. To make things even better, the sun started to come out as we approached Talkeetna. After settling in at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, we took the free shuttle into town of Talkeetna. There's not much there.
WARNING: DO NOT EAT AT ANY OF THE RESTAURANTS IN THE TALKEETNA ALASKAN LODGE. We ate at the VERY expensive restaurant for dinner ($90 for the three of us) and the service was horrible as was the FOOD!!! Eat in town at the Roadhouse. You won't be sorry!!!
Day 4 Talkeetna to Anchorage Hotel: Anchorage Downtown Marriott We had most of the day free for optional excursions in Talkeetna before the train came at 5 PM. we went on a Float trip down the Talkeetna River which was extremely relaxing and beautiful, although it became cold towards the end. Then it was back aboard the Wilderness Express for an extremely scenic trip to Anchorage. For dinner, I recommend the Fettucine. After we arrived in Anchorage around 9 PM, we went to bed for our 4:30 (OUCH!) transfer to the airport.
Although that may seem like the end, I have one more thing to add. On our flight from Anchorage to Chicago, the pilot got a rare flight path that took us directly over the Wrangell-St. Elias Natl. Park. He even lowered his altitude so we could get a closer look. It was like our own (free) flightseeing trip. The scenery was the most amazing I have ever seen. We saw the largest glaciers and icefields in the world, and saw all the mountains, including Mt. St Elias, in all their glory. It was the perfect touch to end a (near) perfect trip.
This was cruise # 9 for me and in many aspects was the best yet ! (I think I've said that before in reviews, but it is amazing how they seem to just keep on getting better.). I've sailed with Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland America in the past.
Pre-Cruise / Hotel Accommodations / Waikiki Dining
We left Vancouver on Thurs May 15 so we could spend some time in Waikiki before the cruise left the following Monday 19th. I believe it's far better to be relaxed and laid back when embarking on a cruise than just running off the plane to catch the ship and spending the first day or so jet-lagged. The flight over on Aloha Airlines was just fantastic. The service was great and lots of leg room for Paul's long legs. (sure beats Air Canada all to hell . LOL) Very service oriented friendly crew, lots of refreshments and great meal, more like a dinner than the breakfast that it was. Choices, even, where am I ??? I had braised beef short ribs (for breakfast yet!) and they were delicious, just melted in your mouth andcut with a fork.
We stayed for 4 nights at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. It was a really nice room with a great view of the beach. Due to renovations being done on the hotel we lucked out and got an upgrade to a Diamond Head oceanview room on the 10th floor. Participated in the lei making on Friday morning after breakfast before heading down to the beach for some sun, sand and surf. Great weather the whole time we were there. Some of the more memorable meals were at Sunset Grill in our hotel where we had calamari for appetizer and then the catch of the day macadamia nut coated "ONO"; at the Beachside Café in the Sheraton Moana Surfrider where they serve a dinner buffet which features Prime Rib and Crab Legs ; seafood pasta at the Tiki Grill @ the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel ; and at the Ocean Restaurant at the Outrigger Reef on the final night we had a delicious dish of the catch of the day there which was "Opakapaka" .... yum, yum all this nice food to get our tastebuds juicing for the upcoming cruise (not to mention to start tipping the weigh scales already..)
On Monday after checking out we had the bell desk call us a cab to the Aloha Tower Pier and to our surprise it ended up being a stretch limo. Certainly was a nice way to arrive and I suppose was an omen of all the wonderful times ahead as well.
Embarkation We arrived at the pier at around noon. I had figured this was going to be a long, long wait after the crowds of people last year on the Radiance on this same itinerary. It seemed then that everyone arrived at the same time and the organization was not all in place. This cruise went smooth as could be. Our suitcases were taken to one part (to be security screened before being loaded) and we then took our carryon and documentation up to another door. A new piece of paperwork to be filled in was the "S.A..R.S." form --- questioning whether or not we'd been in a country (or City in the case of Toronto, Canada) where the outbreak had been prevalent, or whether we'd been caring for anyone with that particular disease. Simple form and sign, hand in to girl right there in waiting room. We were in a Cat "C" suite which gave us priority boarding according to the workers there. (I had thought one needed a higher category suite than that for priority boarding, but heh...who am I to argue, especially when it will work to my advantage..)
Boarding was handled quickly and we were shortly in our stateroom which was 3rd back from center on the starboard side beyond the Crown and Anchor Study / Future Cruise Booking Area. We immediately met our great cabin steward Brian from Trinidad and Tobago, who informed us what time muster drill would be, made sure we were comfortable and advised us of his services etc..
The cabin was very nice - larger than I'd stayed in on Rhapsody and Radiance and this balcony was larger as well. The balcony had room for two small chairs as well as two lounge chairs and a table. We do enjoy the balcony at times for breakfast, coffee or just to watch the world go by. Marine life which we saw off our balcony this trip included flying fish, pods of dolphins, and on the final night coming back we caught a whale around 5:30 pm or so. (this would have been off the coast of Washington state, most probably on it's way to Alaska for a good summer feeding)
Legend of the Seas -
I love the design and flow of this ship. You never feel crowded in any areas. Part of that may have been due to the fact that the sailing was NOT full by any means. Apparently there were only around 1450 of us sailing on this cruise, as opposed to the prior one (from Ensenada, Mexico) which had been full. The artwork around the ship is very nice. The "That's Entertainment Theatre" is wonderful in that there is not a bad seat in the place. So many theatres on ships have many "bad" areas, pillars etc...this is perfect. It's on one level. The Anchor's Aweigh Lounge is a nice place as well. The Romeo and Juliet Dining Room is quite beautiful on both levels. We had originally requested a small table at the main seating ; however once onboard we checked the dining layout and found that they'd put us at a table for 10. I have a hearing problem and can't hear when there are several conversations going on at same time, so prefer the small tables. We went to the Maitre'D on the first afternoon (who was making the final arrangements in the Library) and were immediately given a choice of small tables if we'd go to the late seating. We said fine and managed to get a nice table with what turned out to be great couple with whom we intend to keep in touch.
There is a well stocked Library which is very cozy. British, Australian, French, German, Spanish, U. S., and Canadian news faxes as well as the daily trivia quiz are available. Across the hall from the Library on the 7th floor Centrum is the Card Room on the Port Side which had a lot of use on the many sea days in the Pacific. I really must learn how to play bridge one of these days.
Boutiques are set out nicely as well, back of the Purser's Office and Shore Excursion Office.
Photo Gallery is located on a floor with only cabins unlike most ships I've seen. One usually has to walk through the photo gallery to get to somewhere else, on the Legend one must go specifically to the 6th floor centrum area on both sides.
Gymnasium is well equipped and the saunas / steam rooms are good.
There is a nice additional touch of "the Legends of the Links" on the Aft end of Compass Deck 10. This is a miniature golf course (free of charge) which is quite fun to play and was never too busy.
As usual, I enjoyed all the food on Royal Caribbean. We were very fortunate in that we had wonderful staff looking after us in the form of Marlito from the Philippines as our Waiter, Cenk from Turkey as our Asst. Waiter, and Ernesto from the Philippines as Head Waiter. (who also had a great voice and could burst into song at any moment and did!) These staff, the great food, and our great dinner companions Ron and Randall from Peachland in the Okanagan made these the best dining experiences we've had to date. Mind you, we both put on a few pounds yet again from all the good food and those extra desserts.
We've done this itinerary a few times already, so it is becoming harder to pick things to do.
In Nawiliwili, Kuaua we took an enjoyable Kayak trip down the Huleia River and a bit of hiking afterward. Forgot to put suntun lotion on our legs and burned from knees to toes.
In Lahaina, Maui, Paul went on the Lanai Wild Dolphin and Snorkeling Adventure and I went to the Maui Ocean Center and Iao Valley. His catamaran girls decided it was too choppy so they rerouted to the north end of Maui to another snorkel spot. They saw spinner dolphins on the way. Maui Ocean Center is a nice aquarium and worthwhile seeing. Iao valley is a short ride away inland in the rain forest and involves a short hike there as well to the picture taking lookout. Our second day in Lahaina we didn't plan any excursions but went out for shopping on our own. The "Infinity" was docked in the harbour as well and tendering in people so the town was hopping. They had a craft fair on in the "town square" under the huge banyan tree there. We managed to pick up a couple of prints from a local artist and some CD's of Hawaiian music.
Another anchor / tender spot - I didn't do excursions this time here, but rather stayed and caught some sun on ship and enjoyed having that extra space available when others onshore. Paul went snorkeling on the Pawai Bay Snorkel Tour, which he said was better than the one in Maui along with more fish to see.
We both went on the Circle of Fire & Waterfalls Helicopter Flightseeing tour. Spectacular scenery of the lava flows and molten rocks. One can see the smoke still emitting from the volcano and see where whole towns have been covered over and roads cut off. Fascinating narration and most enjoyable tour. We purchased a live video taken onboard our very own flight with the 6 of us pax and our pilot. Having done the flightseeing on Kauau before as well as this one now - I think I preferred the scenic beauty of Kauau, but I have to say they are both worth their cost in my estimation.
Entertainment on Board:
We found the three Production shows with the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers fair but not up to the quality of other shipboard stage productions we've seen.
Entertainment was as follows: Day 1 Welcome Aloha Show Day 2 Joey Van - Comic Impressionist Day 3 Movie - "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" Day 4 Craig Dahn - 'Showman' (think Liberace) Day 5 Production Show - "Rythym Nation" Day 6 Livewire Day 7 Production Show - "Film to Footlights" Day 8 Nick Lewin - Comedian Day 9 Matinee - Charles Brunner - Pianist Day 9 Lenny Welch - Singer Day 10 Production Show - "Jump, Jive, and Swing" Day 11 Farewell Show - Los Pampas Gauchos
Of course a few deck parties, midnight buffets and all the usual festivities...
Attire was as follows
Day 1 Casual/Hawaiian Day 2 Formal Day 3 Casual/Hawaiian Day 4 Casual/Hawaiian Day 5 Casual/Hawaiian Day 6 Casual/Country&Western Day 7 Formal Day 8 Smart Casual Day 9 Casual/50's & 60's Attire Day 10 Smart Casual Day 11 Casual
A Slight Glitch - Quickly Remedied
I decided on this particular cruise to rent a tuxedo (my old one no longer fits, and I didn't want to pack along dressy suits to Hawaii , just an extra sports jacket)
I rented online about a month before the cruise and sure enough it was there waiting for me in the cabin upon boarding as promised online. I don't know what prompted me to open it up and check it out immediately, however it was good that I did. To my utter amazement, BOTH white shirts had NO collar buttons on them !!! What was even worse was that the slacks were DIRTY as if someone had dropped some dessert in the inseam area and ironed it right in. I was aghast and worried they wouldn't be able to fix by day 2 (formal night) . Not to worry though, as a quick call to room service brought someone up immediately to whip them away and within a half hour I had another set delivered to the cabin. Pays to check out before getting dressed on formal night .
A few notes people might be wondering.
Pool Towels --- a special towel is provided for each of you in your stateroom for use at the pools onboard or to take to beaches onshore. These can be changed poolside or from your room attendant. A charge is levied if not returned to cabin.
Having your embarkation forms completed online beforehand DOES save time and makes for a much for pleasant embarkation experience for all.
Soda Card - (fountain pop only - not cans) For 11 day cruise $32 for age under 18 , $50 for adult
Cruise Critic Party What this is supposed to be is a get together put on by Royal Caribbean for members who post on the Cruise Critic message boards. This was very poorly organized in my opinion. A little card was placed in the stateroom on Day 4, the day of the "party" advising to be in the Anchor's Aweigh lounge that evening between 8pm and 8:30. (late seating is 8:30) We arrived on time only to find out that the lounge was being used as a honeymooners tribute party as well, which is what the cruise director and social hostess paid all their attention to. The cruise critic people were herded to one corner and sat where they could not converse except with those at their own table. It was real nice to meet Karen and Gray at our table. At around 8:15 the bar staff asked what people would like to drink. It turned out that the contribution from RCI was Iced Tea or lemonade (which can be had for free for anyone elsewhere onboard) and nobody even passed around a plate of snacks. Had to run for dinner anyway..Oh well, the pin is kind of cute I suppose LOL I think the fault lies with the social hostess in this case and the fact that the Legend doesn't seem to get many of these that attain the minimum 25 people signing up required. In the future I would not bother going to that particular party at all.
Crown and Anchor Society Welcome Back Party This party on the other hand was very nice. It was held on a formal night and was very well attended. Ruth the lovely Loyalty Ambassador (who actually booked us this cruise last year while we were on the Radiance) told us that there were about 50% past passengers on this particular cruise. Waiters were everywhere with complimentary cocktails / mocktails and many trays of canapes around.
Legend of the Seas has the type of room safe where you use a credit card to open and close the safe, rather the type which is controlled by you assigning a "code" to it. Personally I don't care for this type as then you always have to carry around a credit card as well as your sea pass card. I like locking up my wallet in the safe and carrying just my sea pass card , unless I'm going ashore. A funny thing happened to our safe - we could not get it to open one night when we wanted to put some things into it. The purser was very quick in coming up to our room as he could not get a maintenance man at that moment. He opened it up somehow with a master and then changed what appeared to be some batteries inside which had apparently died on us. I asked him about the credit card versus "pin codes" and he said from their point of view it's easier with the credit cards as so many people program a number into the other types of safes and then can't remember what they programmed it in as.
People may or may not know that Royal Caribbean has a policy where people can now charge their gratuities to their shipboard account if they so desire. I believe it is only for the "set / standard" amounts. I prefer the old way and used the envelopes which are still provided in the cabin.
There did not seem to be a "draw" prize this time for filling out the guest survey forms and dropping them off at the purser's desk. I may be confusing my cruise lines, but I thought RCI did that in the past.
As far as cleanliness goes --- the whole ship is spotless !!! It looks as if you could eat off the floors and railings. There are always people constantly cleaning everything and the Norovirus warning signs are posted in all the public facilities as well as health info on both Norovirus and SARS in the Compass. The "bread/bun" plates are no longer on the table for passengers to pass around or grab their own bread from, but the assistant waiter is constantly coming around ready to give you any should you want some.
I really don't know how to sum up this particular cruise other than to say that it has been spectacular yet again to travel on Royal Caribbean and the people who work on the Legend of the Seas are a fun and fantastic bunch. I would definitely recommend this ship to anyone, and hope to cruise on her again myself some day.
I have cruised many times before but I am basically a fan of river cruising. My previous sea cruises were Bahamas on RCCL Sovereign of the Seas, Pacific Coast and Alaska repositioning on Celebrity Infinity and South America on Celebrity Mercury, so this was my fourth sea cruise.
I have booked this cruise on board of Mercury. The advantages were reasonable price for outside single accommodation, shipboard credit in amount of 200 USD and free membership in Celebrity Captain's Club. It was hard to resist.
St. Petersburg - Auckland
I live in St. Petersburg, Russia. Needless to say it is very far from New Zealand and it took some time to get there - 1 hour St. Petersburg to Moscow with Aeroflot, 3 hours Moscow to Frankfurt with Lufthansa, 12 hours Frankfurt to Singapore with Singapore Airlines and 10 hours Singapore to Auckland with Air New Zealand. I enjoyed the service on Singapore Airlines - it's much better than one provided by most other airlines, they have individual monitors even in economy class and many other things that make a long flight comfortable. The thing I liked on Air New Zealand most wasthe good selection of wines.
Hotel in Auckland
I spent the first night in Beat Western Airport Travelair Motor Inn. I booked this hotel independently. They provided free transfer from Auckland International airport, breakfast, comfortable stay and good price so independent arrangements were reasonable. The room was spacious with private balcony. The hotel is situated in quiet area far from the city center but it was even better for me as all I wanted was to sleep after all these flights.
On the next day I hired taxi and went directly to Prince's wharf where Legend of the Seas was docked. Embarkation was a breeze. At 11.10 am I entered the terminal and 30 minutes later I was on board. This was the best embarkation procedure I had ever seen.
Legend of the Seas is not the newest ship in Royal Caribbean fleet. She was built in 1995 but everything looked like very new. The ship was very clean and spotless. The main feature of the ship is abundance of natural light inside. Walls in many public rooms are made from glass and it provides very good contact with air and sea. Interiors are colorful and even glitzy. I know that many people enjoyed Legend's decor and for me it was OK but I like stylishly decorated interiors of Celebrity ships more.
Two-level dining room with glass walls is very impressive, and again, there is very good contact with outside air and sea. Windjammer Cafe with panoramic windows is situated forward and some passenger unofficially used it as an observation lounge. Solarium area with the pool and two whirlpools is covered by the glass roof that can be removed if necessary. Open-air golf course with trees, grass and bridges can be covered by the Solarium's roof when required.
Other premises are Entertainment theatre with balconies, Anchors Aweigh lounge with its own stage, Viking Crown lounge that is situated on deck 11 and provides very good observation around, library, casino, card room, Internet center, conference premises, several bars and lounges, beauty salon, boutiques and gym with sauna and steam room.
An impressive atrium is a trademark of all Royal Caribbean ships. Legend's atrium is seven decks high, decorated with steel sculpture and connected with the Viking Crown Lounge with panoramic elevators.
Internet service (10 computers) is available 24 hours for 50 US cents per minute. Three more computers work separately free of charge and provide connection with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises official sites so that you can check availability and prices for future cruises. Future cruise consultant is also available.
My cabin was outside on deck 2. The size was good, there even was a small seating area with a sofa. On the other hand, the shower was small. Storage space was adequate.
As a whole, Legend of the Seas is a very comfortable ship to spend there two weeks.
Food and service
I usually had breakfast and lunch in Windjammer Cafe and on sea days I also had barbecue on open deck.
Buffet-style dinner in Windjammer Cafe was also available but I preferred to dine in impressive Romeo and Juliet dining room. The service there was very good. Our waiter Ignatius Gomes from India and his assistant from Indonesia tried hard.
The food. After two cruises with Celebrity whose cuisine is one of the best afloat it is very hard to please me with food on a cruise ship. On Legend there were several very good dishes like lobster tail, some meat dishes and desserts, but generally the food was edible but nothing special.
As to the drinks, the selection of wines and alcoholic drinks was standard. There were no wine stewards in the dining room and wines could be ordered through your waiter. At the same time bar servers were available in the dining room. Our bar server Danny Caling from Philippines was incredible, very personable and friendly, and he really highlighted my cruise. Complimentary ice cream was available throughout the day in Solarium.
Ports of call and shore excursions
I really liked the itinerary. We visited 7 ports and had several days at sea and everything was enjoyable. Shore excursions on the ship were a bit overpriced if to compare to those you can buy ashore, but they were not more expensive than on any other cruise. Australia and New Zealand are very tourist-friendly countries - I mean that visitors of these countries have no problems with purchasing of tours of any kind and tourist information centers are available everywhere. There is plenty of opportunities to buy tour ashore so the choice is yours.
Auckland - overnight stay. I bought all-day pass to Auckland explorer bus. This bus visits 17 places of interest in Auckland and operates the whole day. You may stop in each of these 17 places to visit them. The information about city sights that the bus passes is recorded to the tape so you can listen it during the ride. I visited Kelly Tarltons (Antarctic and Underwater World museum). It was good if not to take into account the big line at the entrance. There are many places to visit in Auckland including Sky Tower, Zoo, Victoria park market, several museums and so on, but I didn't go there because I was still tired after the flights and also because of the 10-hours time difference with St. Petersburg.
Tauranga. I purchased Scenic Goldmine Railroad tour on the ship. Actually it was the 9-hour bus tour with the 25 minutes train ride. We visited small New Zealand towns Katikati and Waihi, took a walk through the beautiful natural reserve, observed the Martha gold mine and took the scenic train ride. The lunch was served in the restaurant in one of the villages on our way. The day was very enjoyable.
Christchirch. I did the Christchirch and countryside tour purchased on the ship. We visited Christchirch and the traditional sheep farm where the farmer and his wife showed us their farm and animals.
Dunedin. I purchased Dunedin highlights tour on the ship. The town was very nice. We visited Dunedin historic museum which was very interesting. The very interesting part was the visit to the Olveston historic home which reflects an era of gracious family living in Dunedin.
Ducky sound, Doubtful sound and Milford sound. This was the kind of sea day but the scenery was very impressive. We consistently passed through the beautiful sounds called Fjordland National park. It was great.
Hobart, Tasmania. I purchased Hobart highlights tour on the ship. We visited Hobart and its vicinities.
Melbourne. On the first part of the day I went to Kangaroos and Koalas tour purchased on the ship. We went to the park that is situated far from the city where we saw many kangaroos, emus and other exotic animals. To observe koalas was a little more complicated task. These nice bears prefer to sit on the trees so you need some attentiveness and patience to notice them. Local guides had the large knowledge of animals life so the tour was very interesting. After lunch on board the ship I visited Melbourne center. The best way to go there from harbor is to use the local tram.
Sydney - overnight. I purchased the all-day ticket to Sydney sightseeing bus. This was the tour similar to one I did in Auckland. The bus had an open second floor and made 22 stops in different interesting places. This was very inexpensive and informative way to visit Sydney. The next morning I went to the Northern beaches and airport drop-off tour.
Most of the passengers were retired American couples. There were also passengers from many other countries including Russia (five persons including me). I had no idea who are the rest four Russians on board. On one of the sea days our bar server Danny had acquainted me with them. They were businessmen from Moscow travelling with their wives.
During sea days I preferred to spend my time on the open deck or swimming in one of the pools. I visited gym several times. If to compare with other ships I have been on, the gym equipment on Legend of the Seas is rather old, treadmills sometimes were out of service.
Our table in the dining room was big and I had 9 tablemates. All of them were Americans and very nice people. All of us really enjoyed our table.
Our captain Hakan Lindegren from Sweden was young (he was only 39 years old), very personable and with great sense of humor. He frequently could be seen throughout the ship talking with passengers.
The biggest disappointment were the shows. They were nothing to talk about. An exception was the crew talent show, it was something unusual and enjoyable.
You could prepay your gratuities from your shipboard account. It was only possible to buy the standard package and the price was 136 USD for 14- night cruise. I prepaid my gratuities and several days later special vouchers were delivered to my cabin together with envelopes. These vouchers were used instead of cash when tipping.
Disembarkation and the day of departure
Disembarkation went very smoothly. I purchased an airport drop-off bus tour that started at 9.00am. We visited Sydney northern beaches, walked through resort area and watched people swimming and surfing in the ocean. The only disappointment was the duration of the tour. It was only 3 hours instead of 4 hours they had promised. I had plenty of time before my flight so I have prepared to spend uninteresting time at the airport of Sydney. Fortunately I met there our ship's bar server Alexander from Latvia who was waiting for his plane home. We spent several hours together waiting for our planes and talking about everything. He is a very nice person. His contract with Royal Caribbean was over and he decided not to sign a new one but to continue his education in Europe.
My Lauda Air flight to Vienna was delayed due to engine problem. The flight with one stop in Kuala Lumpur took 21 hours. The Boeing 777 was comfortable with individual monitors and everything and service was good but the bad part of the flight was the constant lines to the toilets. If you want to visit toilet you should go there in advance because 20 minutes waiting was guaranteed. I didn't like Vienna airport. It was very crowded and uncomfortable so I decided: no more connections in this airport in future. Flights from Vienna to Moscow and from Moscow to St. Petersburg were pretty uneventful.
The cruise was great. There are always several components of a good cruise experience. For me in this cruise these components were the interesting itinerary, beautiful ship with all necessary on board, my great tablemates, my excellent waiter Ignatius Gomes and my incredible bar server Danny Caling.
I recommend Legend of the Seas to anyone who are looking for the great cruise vacation on the beautiful ship for the reasonable price.
Some pictures from the cruise are available here: http://library.riverships.ru/Legend/pics.htm.
As a veteran cruiser of more than 20 sailings, this was our first to Alaska. We chose the Legend because friends who had sailed her before told us of their positive experiences. They said the ship was lovely, food and service very good, and--most important to me, since I'm an entertainment booking agent--the entertainment was excellent. We were not disappointed.
Friday, Vancouver: When we boarded in Vancouver we were delighted by the efficiency of the RCI staff. Within minutes, we were on the ship, settled in our balcony cabin and heading off to tour the ship. She is lovely, and in wonderful condition. Royal Caribbean truly pays attention to detail, and the public rooms are comfortable and inviting. Wonderful piano music was playing in the Centrum, so we enjoyed a drink from the Champagne Bar and listened for awhile.
Evening Entertainment: We saw an entertaining "welcome aboard" show, including a ladder balancing act that was quite fun. Also on the bill was a small demonstration by the revue dancers and singers that we enjoyed.
Saturday: Our first day was at sea, so we relaxed and took in the ship. We met our table matesthe night before and made instant friends with them, so we all decided to spend the day getting to know one another. We found that we had many things in common, and made plans to take shore excursions together. This is one of the wonderful things about cruising--new friendships. We all went to the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception and then had a delicious dinner.
Evening Entertainment: The revue show "Make Mine Broadway" was an excellent production--well choreographed, sung and performed by the troupe. I was impressed by this energetic group of performers. The theater itself is nicely laid out, with not a bad seat in the house. After the show, we went to the "Almost Original Village People" presentation by the cruise staff. This is not to be missed; it was hysterical.
Sunday, Ketchikan: We walked around town and explored on our own. We did not have any shore excursions planned.
Evening Entertainment: Michael Eric Hall, a singer and comedian--again a good show, talented performer.
Monday, Skagway: We took the glacier landing tour, probably the highlight of the cruise and an amazing experience. You can't imagine the scope of the glacier until you are standing on it.
Evening Entertainment: Revue show, "Rhythm Nation"--Probably one of the best shows I have seen afloat, with an excellent, unusual concept.
Tuesday, Juneau: White Pass Railroad trip. The scenery is spectacular and the story behind the building of the railway and the Gold Rush makes it all come to life. Highly recommended.
Evening Entertainment: Joey Van. I have seen him before, and the show was the same as the last time I saw him. He needs new material. We ended up in the Schooner Lounge enjoying the piano music of Anne-Tina.
Wednesday, Sitka: We tendered into Sitka and just explored and shopped. We took in the Eagle Rehab Center, a must-see, in my opinion.
Evening Entertainment: Revue titled "Jump, Jivin', Swing." I felt as if I was back in the Big Band era. Well done, with extremely energetic and talented dancers and singers. After the show, we attended the Love and Marriage Game Show; it is quite something what people will reveal, very funny.
Thursday, Hubbard Glacier: Unfortunately, we had very bad fog and it was disappointing not to see much of it. The fog lifted a bit and we saw the glacier from far away, but we all understand that in Alaska, weather is never guaranteed, although the weather on the rest of this cruise was very good. We won a little money at bingo, then attended a backstage tour and lecture that I found very informative, explaining how the revue shows are developed, how the dancers and singers are hired, and what goes into the audition process.
Evening Entertainment: I have to mention a show performed in the afternoon by the musical director Charles Brunner. It was excellent. He performed classics on piano such as Beethoven's 5th in a disco style, Hungarian Rhapsody, Rhapsody in Blue, all accompanied by the Legend Of The Seas Orchestra. I enjoyed it very much.
Overall, this was one of the best cruises I have taken. Service was excellent, the crew very friendly, ports interesting and the entertainment outstanding. My only complaint was that the quality of the food was somewhat inconsistent--good, but not particularly notable. We are thinking about cruising on this ship again on its New Zealand itinerary. The number of young people on this cruise surprised us, since we were expecting an older crowd. We are in our 40s, and found ourselves among our peers. One of our table mates had a nine year old child who raved about the children's program. I highly recommend this ship.
We had originally booked this Australian itinerary on the late, great Renaissance Cruise line, our favorite. But when Renaissance went bankrupt, we turned to RCCL, on which we'd cruised twice before. Our primary interest was the ports of call in New Zealand and Australia.
All in all, our experience was a positive one. The ship was lovely; the public spaces were attractive and spotlessly clean. RCCL had upgraded us to a stateroom with a private balcony instead of the outside with window that we'd been expecting, which was a nice surprise. The room was a comfortable size, even the bathroom. The sofa (which could have been made into a bed) and the bedspreads would have benefited from a good cleaning.
The food was, at best, good; it never rose to a level of excellence. Breakfast menus never changed. Lunch, which we always took in the Windjammer Café, usually featured a carved meat and several hot dishes, a pasta bar, and a made to order sandwich bar. Pizza (fair) and hamburgers/hot dogs were available elsewhere. After a rather boring meal and fairly slow service in the main dining room, we decided we'd eat inthe Windjammer Café after the first night. Except for the Chinese buffet nights (which were pretty awful), we always were able to have a nice meal. The self-service, informal atmosphere was pleasant. Desserts were pretty, but not particularly tasty.
Service personnel were generally very efficient and personable. A few of them "adopted" us and gave us outstanding service. Arturo, our room steward, was outstanding-the best we've encountered in many, many cruises.
Ports of call were without exception interesting and enjoyable. Shore excursions booked through the cruise line were well organized and seemed to me to be a good value, though some were better than others. Our add-on stay in Sydney, at the ANA Hotel, was wonderful (though we had a heat wave). The hotel was beautiful, and our room had a spectacular view of the Opera House. The included American breakfast buffet was delicious. Sydney itself was a delight-a clean, friendly city, with lots to see and do. It's easy to get around, and a wonderful city for walking. Throughout the entire cruise, every port offered lots of clean, free toilet facilities-something our American cities generally lack.
A few sour notes: our next door neighbor needed to get in touch with us for an emergency, and was completely unsuccessful in her attempts to e-mail, phone or fax us. She's a travel agent with decades of experience, and had never encountered similar problems communicating with cruise passengers. RCCL did not help her in her efforts. As a result, the emergency message took five days to get to us as a fax to the hotel. Also, we found RCCL's information on visa requirements for Australia to be at best unhelpful, and at worst, deceitful. Their pre-cruise literature referred us to a commercial visa service that wanted more than $50 per person to issue us ETA visas that are available free from the airline. Phone calls to the cruise line gave only vague and evasive answers as to why they failed to inform us that the service could be had gratis. Likewise, my travel partner was unsuccessful in getting any true information about seat assignments on the flights to and from our embarkation/debarkation points. RCCL insisted that United was in charge, while United insisted that it had no control over the flight that was an RCCL charter. United advised us to get to the airport early to assure an aisle seat for my partner, who needs to move around frequently because of a back problem. We arrived seven hours before flight time, and were told that RCCL had already assigned all the seats, and since the plane was full, no changes could be accommodated. The return flight was the same story-seats assigned by RCCL, and no changes permitted. On the flight over, we weren't even seated together; on the flight back, we had inside seats. We had called RCCL/United at least six times in the weeks preceding, and everyone to whom we spoke was either uninformed or purposely untruthful. One was actually rude-she pointed out that we'd called several times already and asked, "so what's the problem? Why are you calling again?" The flights themselves were fine-12 hours direct from San Francisco to Auckland and 12 ½ back from Sydney. Comfortable seats and edible food. Luck of the draw gave some passengers accommodations in business or first class on the way over.
The entertainment was pretty awful-the cruise staff shows especially were very amateur, and often embarrassingly bad. One in particular I found offensive because of what I, at least, perceived as some blatant ethnic stereotyping. The purser's office was abrupt and a bit unpleasant. A mix up about shore excursions we had pre-booked via fax and internet was promptly remedied at the shore excursion office. All in all, a nice cruise, but not an outstanding one.
I travelled on the Legend of the Seas for the xmas and New Years sailing with 9 other family members. On Wed 2nd Jan, 2002 my 3 year old son was followed across the ship and then down 6 decks of stairs by an unknown man approx 35 to 40 years old. Upon reaching level three this man grabbed my son for reasons that are still unknown to us. Upon seeing this I pushed this man in the chest and caused him to break contact with my 3 year old. This man then came at twice forcing me to use physical force to repell him. As a result the Captain has asked both the unknown man and myself to leave the ship at the next port of call. I was told " We are not concerned how this incident ocurred. We are only concerned that it does not ocurr again. To ensure this we are asking you to leave ". I was never offered the opportunity to explain to the Captain the circumstances of what had taken place. My father who also saw the incident was denied any opportunityto provide evidence. My requests for the Police to be contacted and enquiries made into the offending male was also denied by the Captain. I also made numerous requests for Royal Caribbean to supply me with the details of the man who assaulted and followed my son. These details were not and to date still have not been supplied to me as they say they are confidential information.
I am totally and absolutely disgusted with Royal Caribbean Cruises and in particular the Captain onboard the Legend with reagrds to their total and utter disregard for the safety and welfare of my son on that sailing. I have cruised numerous times with RCI before and they have always been excellent. I believe perhaps that the senior staff on board the Legend of the seas were more concerned with keeping a lid on this issue rather than making reasonable and appropiate enquiries as to what was this mans agends in stalking and then assaulting a three year old child.
Needless to say the ten family members who sailed on this cruise were upset and angry. I doubt wether any of us will ever sail on Royal Caribbean again. The only compassion shown to us was from our excellent Cabin stewards and Dining staff.
Flight and embarkation.
We booked a deviation on American Air Lines to insure our frequent flier mileage and so that we could chose our isle seats both going and coming back. Diane and I both need seating on the isle because of physical demands. She must have extra legroom for her right leg or she gets back pains and I am a large man and need some extra shoulder space on long flights. Boy did this trip qualify there. Needless to say we had to get up well before dawn to catch a flight to Dallas so we could wait about 4 1/2 hr. for a flight that was held on the ground for a thunderstorm.
The flight to London went well in the new 777 and other than the fact we were covering 6 time zones plus the two from Sacramento, which plays hob with eating schedules and gets you into Gatwick airport at 9Am with no sleep at least for us, neither of us can sleep on a plane, and a further 2 ½ hr. bus ride to Harwich to catch the ship. The check in at Harwichwent much faster and was more organized than when we sailed from here on the Splendor Of The Seas about 5years ago. Practice pays off.
The Ship has been reviewed many times in the last 6 years so I will not tour the ship again as it would be repetitious at best. This is our second time on the Legend. We sailed from Hawaii to Ensenada in 95 when the ship first came out. They have kept the ship in very good shape and it hardly shows any wear for 6 years of service. The only change I noticed was the removal of the hot grill for hamburgers and hot dogs that was attached to the Solarium bar has been removed an now is just a order stand which serves hamburgers from a steam tray reheated and if you order a with cheese its not even melted. McDonalds has nothing to fear, in fact after a couple of these dried out wonders a big Mac looks good. I lament the loss of the hot juicy, made to order, double melted cheeseburger of yesteryear. Some changes are not for the better even if they are labor saving. I know the ship is being heavily pushed in the European market especially the UK and they like their burgers cooked dry and bland. A compensation is the addition of an ice cream sundae stand which is open all afternoon every day with a selection of flavors, not good for the diet but truly addicting.
In general we were not impressed by the new International Menu. We found the it tobe limited and uninteresting. I used to look forward to the appetizers but they have cut back and now offer less choice. The salads are uninspired and were just greens and a house dressing most nights. I can only hope RCI dose not spread this menu and style to the whole fleet since their our favorite line and we are Diamonds Club members
The wave review dancers put on very energetic shows, which were pretty good but not as good as many, we've seen in the fleet. As to headliners there was a quick-change artist who was interesting but not great and a magician act that was pretty run of the mill. The other headliners were all very talented but their acts went on longer than my interest. I can only listen to so much violin or harmonica before I get bored and there was a pianist who had truly amazing repertoire and played for 45 min. non-stop without a word who had me dying for a break. The Europeans in the audience loved it. We noticed the same mix of entertainment in 95 except then they had an opera singer.
We booked our excursions in advance based on the material sent before the final payment. Since I know I would have liked to have a more objective idea as to what I was buying before I put my money down, here is my opinion of what I got. Remember its just one mans opinion and reflects my tastes not nessaceraly everyone's.
Since we have been here before we chose the Norwegian Seafarers & Folk Museums tour that visited the Seafarer Museum, which is located on the grounds with the Kon Tiki and Polar explorations buildings. The Seafarers is filled with ship models and while interesting could be included in the Kon Tiki, Polar, and Viking ship tour. The second part of the tour went to the Folklore Museum, which consists of a group of early Norwegian farm units dating back to the Vikings, all-empty. The end of the walk on the grounds is up a steep long hill to the Stake church of the early Christian period. The climb is a killer especially if you have difficulty walking, which we do. While the tour continues down town and drops you off at the city hall the ship isn't docked a short walk away as your led to believe, unless you're in good hiking shape. First time visitors should take the Viking Ship tour its better for the money.
Here we chose the Historic Stockholm And Sigtuna tour mostly because it was longest and seemed to promise the most sights for the money. We were wrong what we got was a walk through some narrow old streets to the city hall and back on the bus with out seeing any thing really interesting. The next stop was the Vassa museum to view the largest wooden war ship ever built. This was the highlight of the trip but we could have gotten their a lot cheaper, I mean a lot cheaper. The ship is well worth seeing and is in amazing shape considering it sank over a hundred years ago. The ride to Sigtuna took about 2 hours and was like a trip on most freeways not very interesting. Sigtuna itself is a bout 3 blocks long with the usual overpriced local crafts and boutiques in small buildings with plaques on them claming to be built in the 13 and 14 hundreds but not architecturally unique in anyway. The lunch served was a local fish dish and a salad, which I thought was ok but not outstanding. Over all I would say the trip wasn't worth 1/3 of the cost.
Again we booked an 8hr tour for the same reason as in Stockholm and this was even a worse waste of time and money. We were whisked around Helsinki and then a long boring ride to Povoo where I could only wonder why we went and the worst lunch of my life in an old mill that served salads with local flower buds in it and a meat concoction that looked like liverwurst but tasted awful, there had to be a better tour than this.
here we took the all day tour of the city that went to St. Peters Cathedral where the tsars and their families are intomed, it is being restored and the interior is beautiful. Then on to various sights within the city including the bleeding heart church, which has been beautifully restored at least on the outside, which was all we saw because it was Sunday, and the church was in use. We made several stops where souvenirs were available especially the nesting dolls and lacer boxes. Caution! Don't buy at the first stop as the price goes down at each stop. Diane bought dolls early and later saw the same for less than half. The lunch was a chicken Kiev that was the best tour meal I've ever had, it includes vodka. The last stop is at a park to see a statue of a man on a horse where weddings take place for non-religious Russians and a long long walk to the huge parking lot of the Hermitage. Stay on the buss if walking is difficult. The following day we could only go to the Hermitage because of time. The place is really four palaces all connected. It is vary ornate and is mostly restored, but you can still see many signs of the neglect of the Communist years. The fact is the whole city has only a false face-lift look to it and only looks good at a distance. Driving through the living parts of the city decay is evident along with years of grime and soot covering the lower floors of the apartment houses. Window casings are far gone with rot and should have been replaced years ago. It will be years before the city is really restored and will take a lot of money. They hope to get tourist dollars, as the ruppel is not worth much.
Tallinn Estonia is by comparison prosperous and clean, a fact the Estonians are happy to point out. There is no love lost for the departed Soviets. The old city is well worth the trip but the walking is a killer. The tour goes to the upper city only and if you want to see the old walled town you must walk down a long hill and after seeing the shops and houses you must walk about a mile to get the shuttle back to the ship as no busses can enter the medieval village.
The first night was a layover and we went to Trivaly Gardens like all good tourists should. It's all lit up with lots places to eat but as an amusement park it is really second rate we spent most of our time just watching people from the outside table in front of pub across the street drinking beer and enjoying the atmosphere. For our full day trip we went to the Castles of North Zealand. We have been to Copenhagen before so this time we wanted to go out into the countryside. Boy did we go out, North Zealand is about 1.5 hours bus ride to the first stop at a small village with a large castle with a moat and all. The bus parks about 3 blocks away from the entrance to the main part of the Castle and then be warned there is a long clime up a turret to the upper floor where room after room is filled with huge portraits of Danish royalty all painted in stile of the Dutch masters ala Van Meier. Or at least that's the impression I got. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling with them. I'm sure that when the Castle was occupied there were less paintings and more furniture. After leaving the Castle we went to a Summer Palace that was being restored and could not be entered, I thought why bother except to fill time before lunch which was served at a fancy marine and resort complex. The lunch was a smorgasbord with a large selection of local dishes and a bottle of Torburge beer. We then went to Elsanor Castle, which is supposed to be Hamlets Castle. There is no entry into the castle itself only a walk around the grounds and I can only say the reason for coming is to say you've been there. The ride back to the city takes a different route and passes through some quaint villages with thatched roofs and past the new long bridge to Sweden the Danes are so proud of.
The trip home was uneventful and long. I began to write this in early September and got side tracked by sudden trip to Oregon. Then the Sept 11th disaster made it seem frivolous to finish. Since then we have taken a cruise on the Carnival Spirit to Belize, which I intend to review and have a trip booked to go down the Amazon the end of Jan. I got back in the mood to finish even though the memories are less sharp.
This review is being submitted to Cruisemates.com with the hope of providing insight, especially to first-time cruisers. Before embarking on this trip we had many assorted questions whose answers were found in one form or another on this website, and we wish to return the favor.
We were first-time cruisers, celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. Our past vacation travel experience has been many dive trips in the Caribbean. Our reason for selecting a cruise for this vacation was not for the cruising experience, but rather as a convenient method of transportation between many cities. In other words, our priorities were destination-based and not ship-based. The cruise fulfilled our expectations nicely. We felt comfortable, safe and cared-for while seeing a part of the world unfamiliar to us.
We really weren't seeking a "cruise experience": extensive pampering, luxury, a fabulous experience on board. And to be honest, I didn't find the cruise to have these qualities. Perhaps I'm jaded by spending too much time in hotels for business. Mind you, my typical hotel is Marriott Courtyard so it's not like I'm used to Hyatt Regency or Four Seasons level pampering. But maybe because I spend so muchtime on the road for business, with other people making my bed, serving my food, giving me clean towels and a mint on my pillow, and hauling my luggage, these events on the cruise didn't feel like a pampering experience. Our cruise was perfectly satisfactory, and we will probably cruise again in another part of the world. But we will be seeking only a reliable, comfortable, consistent place to eat and sleep while the ship carries us to various destinations.
Because this was our first cruise, I don't know if another cruise ship or cruise line would have felt more pampering.
The food was good and often excellent. We always had dinner in the main restaurant (Romeo & Juliet). Dinners included a nice selection, really superb soups, usually excellent main dishes, a variety of fresh baked goods, and so-so desserts (but of course I ate them anyway). Our waiter and assistant waiter did a good job; the waiter always recommended his favorite items, and after a few nights remembered that whatever was on the dessert menu, I would want the chocolate item! They always remembered I drink decaf coffee. On shore one day we came across our waiter in a shop (he had the day off) and he greeted us warmly. We always brought our own wine to dinner, purchased locally that day on shore, and it seemed excessive to pay an $8 corkage fee for each bottle when we had so many bottles. One night the assistant waiter accidentally poured the second glasses of our wine to the same-size table next to us. An honest mistake, but the waiter and assistant waiter denied it lavishly. We chose not to make any more fuss but their denial was silly. After that, they kept our open bottles on our table.
Somehow I expected constantly-available lavish buffets. I was disappointed that there was only one night of fancy buffet, and it started at 11:30pm. We really weren't interested since we had the late dinner seating, and had just finished dinner at 10:30pm. A couple of days, we wanted to eat around 2pm, because we'd had our fill of the shore experience and hadn't found appealing local restaurants. Unfortunately the only food on board at that hour was burger/hot dog/pizza option in the humid solarium. The burgers were pretty good, but still, when you have dinner at 8:30pm you'd like to think you can get a "real" lunch option at 2pm. There was a "death by chocolate" midnight buffet one night, and it was good but not fabulous. I heard poor reviews from shipmates who tried the buffet restaurant instead of the dining room for dinner. We used the buffet restaurant regularly for breakfast, and found a good selection of hot food, fresh fruit, and healthy alternatives. The baked goods were always fresh. We usually sat in the same area and the waitress often remembered that I need soy milk for my cereal.
We created a bit of a challenge on our first night at dinner, trying to change our table assignment at the beginning of the first dinner. We were traveling with another couple and had been assigned to two different tables, and wanted to be seated together, preferably with others. After about 15 minutes waiting at the headwaiter's table outside the restaurant, we two were told to follow a waiter inside. There we were taken to a table for 10 with only two open seats. (And furthermore, the 8 seated people were speaking only Chinese, so that didn't look too friendly to us). Realizing there wasn't room for four, the waiter told us to wait and we stood for another 10 minutes in the aisle of the restaurant, dodging busy waiters trying to serve tables. Finally we were taken to a table for six. We had to hail the headwaiter again to get the explanation that the following night we would be seated at a table for 8 along with our companions. Indeed that was the case, and we were delighted with our permanent table assignment. But boy, it was uncomfortable and confusing for a while there. By the way, our one-night temporary table was on the center platform of the dining room, and it vibrated so badly that all the liquids in the glasses jumped visibly throughout the dinner. The waitress for that table (who, incidentally, seemed like she needed a vacation) replied impatiently that was perfectly normal. We do recommend that you request a window-side table in the Romeo and Juliet dining room on the Legend of the Seas to avoid the vibrations of the center of the dining room.
I took many step aerobics classes, and was pleased that the instructor was pretty good. Due to my business travel I've got lots of experience taking classes at gyms all over the country, and based on that experience I didn't expect much of the teacher on board, but he presented a simple but adequate class. The exercise room was pretty small, but luckily there weren't too many participants in the class or in the room. The exercise equipment was up-to-date and well maintained. Our dinner tablemates indulged in massages, manicures, and facials from the spa, and were delighted.
It seemed that the ship as a whole lacked a sophisticated level of coordination for the guest's experience. For example, attire at dinner. First of all, I called the cruise line about a week before the cruise to ask how many formal nights to expect. After sitting on hold for a long time, an impatient operator told me there would be three. Onboard, it turned out there were only two. The other nights were either "casual" or "smart casual," as listed in three places: the first newsletter, each day's newsletter, and each day's TV info channel. Unfortunately, these resources tended to conflict. But it didn't really matter, because you saw a mix of attire from shorts/Tshirts to dresses and suits/ties on every night. (On most casual nights, many people's dinner attire was what they had worn during the day.) They had two "costume nights" (toga and western); very few people participated but no wonder since we weren't told about these in advance of the cruise and who packs a cowboy hat on a cruise to Italy? Strangely enough, these nights were not coordinated with the dining room menus or the waiters' uniforms. On "western night" we had Greek food at dinner, and the waiters wore Caribbean flower-print vests. Yet the following night's dinner menu featured steaks. Go figure. Somehow I had the feeling that if we were really in the lap of luxury, someone at Royal Caribbean would have thought to coordinate these details.
After the cruise, there was a mysterious $10 charge on our credit card bill. To inquire the source of the charge (it turned out to be Internet usage fees) I had to dial two different 800 numbers, and talk with four different people at Royal Caribbean. At least they were toll free numbers!
To our pleasure, the ship seemed spacious and we never felt crowded onboard. The ship was not fully booked (about 1625) but felt more empty than that. The Legend has a generous ratio of public space per passenger and it shows. We inevitably found space in the lounges, casino, restaurants, internet cafe, bars, theatre, library, and various seating alcoves throughout the ship. The only hard-to-get premium spots were lounges adjacent to the indoor solarium pool (for the most part it was too cold or windy to sit at the outdoor pool), and the elevators adjacent to the gangplank at the beginning and end of port calls. Oh, and there was usually quite a line at the ice cream bar.
Our cabin was quite comfortable. Much to our delight, we had been upgraded from a deck 2 outside cabin to a deck 7 balcony cabin. Living proof that upgrades do happen, even to first-time cruisers. We found generous storage space and a very nice desk/makeup counter with good light. The bathroom was moderately-sized and again had lots of storage and good light. The shower (no tub) had a built-in clothesline; I took Woolite and washed a few items myself. (If you're going to do this, take your own clothespins.) There's no self-service laundry on board the Legend. The cleaning service is expensive but reasonably reliable; I heard only one guest complain about a close call when the formal wear was almost not returned in time for formal night. The bed was comfortable. The mini-refrigerator in the room was wonderful for storing drinking water; it was easy to buy bottles of drinking water while strolling in the shopping or tourist district of each port (and a fraction of the on-board price). We never could figure out the speaker system, sometimes missing captain's announcements and other times being awakened by them. Hairdryer is provided. Electrical outlets in the cabin are "normal" - no adaptor required. Our big suitcases didn't fit under the bed, but we heard later that if you ask, your cabin steward will whisk them away until the end of the cruise.
Our cabin could have been cleaner upon our arrival. Again, remember I'm kind of picky due to too many hotel experiences. But the mirrored cabinets were fingerprinted, and I found many long hairs in the drawers, and two pairs of shoes from the former occupant under the bed. A generous coating of dust on the chair rail above the bed went untouched during our tenure in the cabin. The cabin steward vacuumed daily, attended our bed and towels twice daily, and left us a bucket of ice each morning. But why in the morning? Eight out of ten days were at port. Inevitably - and I mean every one of our 8 port days - my husband took the ice bucket to the hallways upon returning to our cabin around 5-6pm, seeking the cabin steward to ask for ice. (You can't get your own.) If the cabin steward wasn't in the hall or an open adjacent cabin, my husband had to keep popping his head into the corridor until he was found. This is an example of the difference between adequate hospitality and pampering. If we had been pampered, the steward would have figured out after a couple of days that we wanted ice at 6pm and not 10am.
On the last day, the pitch from our servers wore a little thin. We were reminded in the daily newsletter, in a letter to our room, and in person by our waiter and cabin steward, of the procedure for evaluating their service and tipping. As the cabin steward (a really nice guy) told us, "Be sure to fill out my survey, and at Royal Caribbean they really like those 'EXCELLENT' ratings!" Our waiter took time to explain which of the questions on the survey referred to his service. The letter left in our cabin gave us the option of charging the customary tips to our room. Some fellow cruisers reported being offended by this suggestion, but we chalked it up as a convenient way of paying for one of the expenses of the cruise. They sure do make it easy to charge things to your room... from expensive drinks to sale items in the on-board shops.
Room service definitely was not adequate. We ordered a vegetable platter on two different days around 5pm. Once it never arrived at all (at least not before 8:20 when we left for dinner), and once it took about 90 minutes. Yes, the veggies were very nice and fresh upon arrival. I wonder if they were busy digging radishes somewhere on deck during the 90 minutes. My husband made a habit of ordering a pitcher of cranberry juice; once he got pineapple juice, once a small glass of cranberry juice, and once nothing at all. I think he got a pitcher of cranberry juice once, when he sent the pineapple juice back. We met a honeymooning couple that paid extra for the "honeymoon package" consisting, among other things, of room service appetizers before dinner and desserts after dinner. Their story of no delivery, botched delivery, and interaction with various levels of catering staff is hilarious. It ended with the manager personally visiting their cabin to apologize and say they didn't know where the platters were going, but they had determined they were leaving the kitchens. Happily, Royal Caribbean refunded the couple's fee for the Honeymoon Package.
Before leaving, I was concerned about ease of keeping in touch with our children back home in Dallas. I'd like to reassure first-time cruisers that this was not a problem. The internet cafe on Legend of the Seas was easy to use and never crowded. Once we figured out how to access our Earthlink Email address, it took us about 10 minutes to open Email, read a message from the kids, and respond. At $.50 per minute that was about $5 per message, charged to our charge card or our room. To phone home, we used our cell phone. Cell phone service sometimes worked on board the ship while at sea, but don't count on this - the cell towers are located on land! Be aware that you must have international cell phone service to phone home from Europe; your average cell phone won't work. Call your cellular service provider to learn how. Alternatively, many people told us it was easy to call from most ports by purchasing phone cards from vendors in port. These cards work in the public phone booths sprinkled all over the port cities.
When beginning research for this trip, I wondered whether to book on my own, or through a travel agent. We booked through a cruise-specialist agent and would recommend this. We traveled with another couple from another part of the US, who booked on their own about the same time. We both paid the same price for the same category cabin. We, however, had someone to answer our last-minute planning questions (Such as, how do we get a Visa to Turkey? The cruise line says we need one! His answer: you don't need one for a same-day visit off the ship. He was right.) And we got a generous cabin upgrade (our friends didn't). Our wonderful cruise-only agent warned it was more luck than his influence but, hey, I'm willing to give him credit. They say the best way to find a cruise-only travel agent is by referral, but I couldn't find anyone with a recommendation. So I called agents from the yellow pages and interviewed them over the phone. Anyone who asks me now will be referred to Cruise Holidays of Carrollton, TX.
Another uncertainty before our trip was shore excursions. Which is better, to book the ship's shore excursions or wing it? We did some of each, and in retrospect that was a good solution. Two of our destinations (Rome & Florence) were 90 minutes from port. The comfort of the "motor coach" (bus) was appreciated. The interesting tidbits offered by the tour guide at the sites certainly added to our understanding of what we saw. However in those large groups, you have to be pretty aggressive to get close enough to the guide to hear, and it does feel like a cattle-herding exercise. In other ports, the ship docked sufficiently close to the sites to arrange our own transportation and guide. It was no problem to get a cab in Kusadasi (for Ephesus), Santorini, and Naples (for Pompeii and the Amalfi coast). (Be prepared to negotiate with the cab drivers. The tour desk on board can tell you how much to expect to pay the cab in the next port. Cabs accepted the American dollar without question everywhere we went, except Barcelona. Do read up before hitting the port to determine tipping conventions in that country, because they vary widely.) In almost all locations we had no problem snagging a local guide on-site without advance planning. Being a part of a very small group, looking at what interested us, was much more enjoyable than shuffling with the herd following the lady holding the lollipop sign bearing our group number.
Also be aware that pre-booked shore excursions lock you into a specific plan regardless of weather. Royal Caribbean says the shore excursions are not refundable due to bad weather. We had pre-booked the "hot springs swim" on Santorini, and unfortunately faced rainy cold weather. We all agreed it was worth $40 NOT to jump from a tender boat into the Mediterranean sea and swim to the lava-crusted shoreline on that chilly day, so we simply stayed in town, wandered the streets, and drank Greek coffee to warm up. Yes, you can book shore excursions on board, but of course you risk limited availability. Generally we preferred the do-it-yourself-when-you-walk-off-the-ship method.
Being very prone to seasickness, I was worried about the prospect of spending 10 nights hanging over the edge of the balcony, feeding the fish. In the past, riding a small dive boat out to a dive site has rendered me pretty miserably queasy, but I had no experience with large ships. I can reassure all you seasick-prone potential cruisers out there: it's not bad on a cruise ship. The first several days I felt intermittently dizzy on shore, especially indoors. Happily that affect faded with time. (My husband said I should just drink more and then wouldn't know the difference.) The last day of our cruise was a sea day, and the seas were pretty rough; I bounced pretty heartily around the inside of our cabin, trying to pack. Going up on deck in the cold wind for an hour relieved my dizziness and green tint. I had one of those battery-operated wristbands that zaps you with an electric pulse to prevent seasickness, but I'm not sure that made a difference. They say you should try to go mid-ship (horizontally and vertically) to minimize seasickness, so you might think about that when booking your cabin. Our companions had a cabin low and center, and ours was high and forward; we all seemed to do okay. I did, however, meticulously avoid the theatre after dinner on the nights with rougher seas. The theatre is in the bow, and it was just too much to see that large room pitching back and forth.
The entertainment was inconsistent. We were surprised at a couple of shows in the theatre, one of which, a comedy singer, we simply left because it was so awful. The one song-and-dance show we saw was quite entertaining. There were some pretty talented dancers and live music. (How do they jump around so vigorously on a moving stage, anyway?) No, I wouldn't have rated even the best show we saw as "Broadway quality," a phrase thrown around generously when reviewing cruise ship shows. We attended two game-show events in one of the lounges, and personally I found those more enjoyable than the shows in the theatre. The "YMCA" dancers in the Viking Crown Lounge on Disco Night were a hoot, and they did a good job of getting people onto the dance floor that night.
So, after all the nit-picking comments, I have to summarize by saying our cruise on Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas was a wonderful experience. We found a comfortable, convenient way to explore many cities quickly. The hospitality was adequate but not lavish, according to the standards of someone who spends 8-10 nights a month in hotels. We hope to take another cruise someday, and might select Royal Caribbean again - it just depends on the itinerary. But we wouldn't cruise just for the sake of cruising.
This was our third Mediterranean cruise since 1996. Our other Mediterranean experiences have been with Princess. We have been on 24 cruises. We arranged our air and land package with RCI.
April 17 and 18, we went from Miami-JFK-Athens on Delta. Flight was good. A RCI Rep greeted us in Athens with a luggage cart, whisked us through customs, and transported us to the Athenaeum Inter-Continental Hotel. The hotel provided a beautiful suite with all the amenities of a fine hotel. We had a very good dinner at the hotel that night.
April 19, we went to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. We asked for calm seas and good weather. We got both. That evening RCI arranged a very nice dinner with entertainment at an exclusive waterfront restaurant for all the Legend passengers. It was a nice beginning.
April 20, we went to Delphi to visit the Temple of Apollo and museum. It was once considered the "navel of the earth" and the Oracle held court there. It was an 11 hour tour, but well worth the time. That evening we went to a dinner and show at "The Old Stables",a taverna outside of Athens. We had taken this tour in 1996 and it was just as enjoyable this time.
April 21, RCI did the ship registration at the hotel and we received our boarding passes. RCI took our passports and kept them until Lisbon. RCI took all passengers for city tour of Athens and the Acropolis. We arrived at the port at 1 PM, but did not board the ship until 3:30 PM. The people handling the boarding were inept, and had no idea how to handle an embarkation.
April 22, we arrived in Kusadasi, Turkey. This port is very clean and passenger friendly. We were greeted by young women in native dress who welcomed us with candy treats. We took the History and Religion of Roman Ephesus tour. A definite "must see" in this part of the world, very impressive. Complete excavation will probably take another 50 years. It is a city of marble. Lots of great sites to see, especially the library of Celsus. Included in this tour was the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers, House of Mary and the Church of St. John. We had lunch at a magnificent resort right on the Aegean Sea. They had the best food and coffee we had during our entire trip. Entertainment was provided by a troup of 15 young people in native dress. They were all excellent dancers and musicians.
The area of Kusadasi has and is building many beautiful resorts catering at this time mainly to Europeans. They are built overlooking the Aegean Sea. We even saw 2 water theme parks being built.
At the end of this tour we were taken to a rug making "school". We were shown the whole process from the silkworm to the finished rug. We were then brought into a hugh room and were offered every type of refreshment. Then beautiful rugs of all sizes were thrown at our feet. The salesmen came in and they closed the door behind them and started the hard sell. Some people did buy, we did not. We along with 6 other people decided to leave, and as we made for the door, rugs were being thrown at our feet. It was an experience, but we don't care to repeat it. On our way back to the Legend, we went jewelry shopping. Prices were excellent.
April 23, we arrived at Santorini. We toured Akrotiri and went to a wine tasting. Tours really not needed for Santorini, very easy to do on your own. You can either go up the mountain by cable car, donkey or walk. We went by cable car. Local people are very friendly and helpful. We were fortunate to be there until late evening, so we had lunch a dinner in 2 different tavernas overlooking the Legend and the sea. Jewelry prices were better than in Athens.
April 24, we arrived in Rhodes. We took the Medieval to Modern Rhodes ship's tour. Medieval tour took us to Palace of the Grand Masters an ancient fortress within the fortress city of Rhodes. We stood where the fabled Colossus of Rhodes, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world was said to be located. We never got to see modern Rhodes on this tour (when we told RCI about this, they credited our account). We saw it when we were on the ship sailing out of the harbor. We had lunch at a taverna in the ancient city. Shopping was good there.
April 25, arrived in Crete. We toured the Palace of Knossos, Retymno and the Cretan Coast. We had a wonderful lunch at the Grecotel Creta Palace Hotel in their beautiful outdoor courtyard. The island of Crete has beautiful resorts.
April 26, finally a seaday and a chance to explore the Legend. First formal night on ship.
April 27, we arrived in Naples. We took the Amalfi Drive-Sorrento and Naples tour. The drive was a thrill seeker's paradise, road was very narrow, winding with heavy traffic. We saw Positano and had a very good lunch in Amalfi. The tour was about 10 hours, mostly riding in bus. At the end of our tour we were taken to a Cameo factory.
April 28, we arrived in Civitavecchia and took a " Walk in Renaissance Rome" tour. It includes the fountains, plazas and Spanish Steps. Since our last visit there, Rome has been cleaned up a lot. The Trevi fountain was absolutely beautiful. Our luncheon in Rome at a 5 star hotel left a lot to be desired. Shopping in Rome was expensive. City was very crowded, and pickpockets and gypsies were working the whole area. Heavy police presence all over Rome.
There was a parade in the harbor for a local saint, which kept passengers and crew from reboarding Legend after tours. The harbor was blocked from 4 PM until 7:45 PM, causing frustration and anger by not only Legend passengers but ferries and cargo ships. Legend had to have open seating for dinner because of this problem.
April 29, we arrived in Livorno. It was at this point we stopped using ship's tours. We hired a minivan with 2 other couples and went to Florence. We walked the city and went to Ponte Vecchio for shopping. Florence was expensive. We had a good lunch at an outdoor cafe.
April 30, seaday, got a lot of rest poolside. Second formal night.
May 1, arrived in Barcelona. Had massages in AM and went into town for lunch at a small restaurant off the Las Ramblas Promenade. Barcelona had May Day celebrations. Day off for most people.
May 2, seaday, more time to relax on ship. Third formal night.
May 3, arrived in Gibraltar. For the first time during this cruise we had slight rain in AM. This port has lots of new housing and a new dock area since 1996. We had planned to go to the top of the Rock, but it was misty and visibility was poor. We walked to the old part of the city, had lunch in a Pub, shopped and returned to the ship by cab.
May 4, our last seaday. Some relaxation before packing to go home.
May 5, arrived in Lisbon. RCI handled departure very well. Airport was efficient. Our TWA flights had 2 delays, but were good. Food on returning flights was tasty and served hot.
Legend of the Seas Comments: We were in a cat. D and were able to enjoy the balcony because we had very good weather and calm seas. Ship was going into dry-dock for a refurbishment, but it was very clean. Service and entertainment was very good. Our only complaint with Legend was the food. The food with the exception of 1 evening was tasteless and hot food was served cold (not warm, cold). The waiter tried his best by offering exchanges, but replacements were not better. Security was lax compared to our other ship experiences. There were about 1700 passengers, mostly Americans, Europeans (mainly Spanish, Brits, Germans ) and Asians.
We had a very good table for 10 and we enjoyed sharing our experiences every evening. We had a wonderful time being in such great ports.