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This was my 8th cruise - my previous cruises have been on Carnival (once), Princess (three times), Celebrity (twice) and Premier (once). My previous Carnival cruise was in 1991 on the Fantasy and I will say right up front it was my least favorite cruise experience. I had been hesitant to cruise with Carnival again because of this; but decided to give the new Spirit-class ships a try with a longer itinerary and a different ship design from the Las Vegas neon-like ships of the previous Carnival classes.
I spent one day pre cruise in Fort Lauderdale; stayed at the Amerisuites on 17th St. As has been stated before this is a nice place for a one night stay.
I must say I think Carnival could learn from some of the other cruise lines here. Other lines have places on line where you can fill in all your information allowing you to expedite the check in process (Princess, Celebrity, RCCL.) I arrived at the port at 11:00 am to be met with lines snaking outside the doors to the terminal building. The line moved slowly down a long wide hallway until you turned a corner and you were then split into two lines to go through the x-ray machines (two machines for more than 2200 passengers.) Then it was into another line to wait for check in; then another line to get your sign and sail card. Then you sit in the terminal and wait for them to start boarding the ship. Then into another line to do the embarkation photo and another line to get the picture for your sign and sail card. It took 2 hours to go through this process.
The Ship -
the Carnival Legend is the third ship in the Spirit Class. She is 88,500 GRT and is commanded by Captain Claudio Cupisti. I entered the ship on deck 2 (Promenade) right into the atrium. The first words out of my mouth were "What were they thinking?" Which soon turned into "Well it takes a few minutes but it does begin to grow on you." I am going to get this out of the way right now - yes, there are urns EVERYWHERE! Urns are used as barstools, door handles, stair rails, table legs - you name it, they use an urn for it. After a few days, you don't notice it anymore.
The Cabin -
I had booked a Cat 4A guarantee and ended up with cabin 1109 - a Cat 6 on Riveria deck - it was a nice sized outside cabin (185 sq. feet) with two "twin" beds (really a lot narrower than normal twin size beds), a couch and a table, a vanity with a small stool and the bathroom. There was plenty of storage in the cabin - 2 full closets, one closet with shelfs in it, drawers at the vanity (the top drawer on the right held the hair dryer and yes it was strong enough for normal use), the next four drawers were empty. There was one long drawer where you would sit at the vanity. There was a mini fridge in the cabin and above it was another cabinet with the safe in it (need a card with a magnetic stripe to used the safe) and above that was the TV. The bedside tables were really small and practicall worthless to put anything on top of them or inside them. There was also a cabinet to the left of the mini fridge which had two shelves in it that was also used for clothes storage. I thought the bathroom has plenty of room for storage and the shower was large enough for me to use (and I am not a petite person) without the shower curtain clinging to me. The water pressure was good and the temperature stayed relatively stable while in use.
Pubic areas -
I won't go into every area here - just the ones I used and enjoyed. The Holmes Library held the internet cafe. The Odyssey Bar on deck three just before the Truffles dining room - went there a couple of nights for a pre-dinner drink, but it is one of the bars on the ship where smoking is allowed, so be aware of that. The Atrium bar is where I hung out a lot - one of the bartenders there (Claudia) was a hoot and was always talking and joking with the passengers and after 1 day remembered our names and preferences. The pool areas on Lido deck are nicely laid out....there are three adult pools and one children's pool. And yes, there were children on this cruise and with one exception they were all well behaved and their parents were around and aware of what they were doing. There are also three outdoor hot tubs and one hot tub up in the gym/spa area that was not used as much because I think people really didn't know it was there til later on in the cruise.
Dining Room, Unicorn Buffet and the Food -
The Truffles dining room is a large, two storied dining room. It is a very beautiful room, but the layout tends to make the dining room very noisy. Also, the dining room was kept fully illuminated during the whole meal except for the times when the waiters were doing their little show every night. Personally, I prefer it when the lights are dimmed a little during dinner (just a personal preference.) The food in Truffles was good - not excellent but good (and please remember that everyone has their own tastes and likes and dislikes, and this is my personal opinion only.) The meat and pasta dishes were uniformally done very well - if a steak was requested rare, it came rare. Where I was a little disappointed was in the salads and chilled soups. Neither were served chilled but at room temperature - that is unacceptable; if it is chilled Strawberry soup, it should be served chilled, not at room temperature.....I tried the chilled soups twice and then gave up. I did report this to the maitre'd but there was no change after the first night. The desserts were pretty good also, especially the flourless chocolate cake (mmm mmm good!) The Unicorn buffet is set up in sections, and each section serves different food. There is the deli, the Taste of Nations, the pizzeria, the grill, the roasted meat carving station, the dessert station. Lots of beverage stations with nice plastic glasses. Plenty of seating and never had trouble finding a place to sit. The food up here ranged from good to excellent. The grilled burgers and minute steak sandwiches were excellent as were the french fries.
Ports of Call -
first stop was St. Maarten. Really did nothing here as I had gotten a little too much sun the day before so I basically just went in and shopped and then went right back to the ship. The only ship in port with us that day was the Sea Dream (the former Song of America from RCCL.) Barbados - had arranged for a private tour here, but for various reasons we never found the tour operator (miscommunication on both of our parts.) So I ended up shopping here also and enjoyed a drink at Coconuts bar at the cruise ship terminal. We were one of six ships in port that day: besides the Legend there was the Braemer (of Fred. Olsen Cruise Line), the Mona Lisa, the Fairwinds, the Sea Cloud II and the Stavros A. Niachros. Martinique - I had originally just planned to stay on the ship in this port after reading a lot of negatives about this stop on the internet, but I decided after not getting the tour on Barbados to do a tour here. I chose the Jeep Safari adventure - and it was a wonderful excursion. Our driver was Sandrine and she took us up and out of Fort-de-France up to a banana plantation, we then did some off roading and then went up through the tropical forest, down to St. Pierre and Mt. Pelee and then to the De Paz rum distillery. It is here that I found my dream home - it is called Chateau de Paz - it sits in the shadow of Mt. Pelee (a dormant volcano) overlooking some manicured grounds, some sugar cane fields and the ocean and there is a gorgeous breeze that blows there every day. We then went back down the coast back to Fort-de-France. The shopping here at the terminal and in Fort -de-France is not geared towared tourists, to say the least. And Fort-de-France is an industrial port and city, not really geared to tourists, so to get the true flavor of Martinique you need to get out of the city.
All in all I did have a good time on this cruise - Celebrity is still my favorite cruise line, but Carnival has made great improvements in both their customer service and their food since I last cruised with them. Would I sail Carnival again? Yes, on a Spirit class ship (I think the Destiny and Conquest class ships are too big, that is my personal opinion) if it was an interesting itinerary and I got a good deal. Would I recommend Carnival? Yes.
A special hi to: Cliff, Brendon, Claudia and the gangs from CM and CC!
Just a few additional notes here: The service on the Legend was absolutely fantastic - it rivaled that on Celebrity, especially our waiters Daniel and Servotor. Our room stewardess, Ni Made, it was her first week on the job on her own and she did a very good job - yes, she missed a dirty glass one day, but I don't sweat the stuff like that. The room was cleaned, our towels exchanged, our beds turned down, the chocolate was on the pillow and we had the cutest towel animals every night except the first and last. Also, I had to change flight arrangements while I was on board and the staff at the pursers desk were phenomenal - Jorge and Carole, thank you! I couldn't get the satellite phone to work in my cabin, so they let me use their cell phone to call the airline and when I was finished I handed my sign and sail card over for them to charge the minutes - they refused to charge me for the 15 minute phone call. Kudos to them!