Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Legend of the Seas
Sailing Date: October 10th, 2001
Itinerary: 12 night Mediterranean
My husband is an artist, which prompted us to choose the itinerary that included the most options from an artistic perspective- can't go wrong with the ports of call we were privileged to enjoy on this cruise. The cruise departed from Barcelona, stopping at the following ports: Venice (overnight), Florence, Naples, Sicily, Marseilles, Villefranche, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Dubrovnik (Croatia). It seemed as every port was more scenic and historic than the previous one. The itinerary was certainly a "high point" of the cruise!
Travel plans; however, were a bit difficult. Considering the state of the world at the time we cruised, we were amazed that each of our six flights were "on time." Royal Caribbean made our flight arrangements for our as we, unfortunately, had to take three flights each way. We were expecting to take two. This was quite an inconvenience, but we were certainly glad to arrive there (and back home) safely and on time with all of our luggage accounted for. The routes were rather convoluted, as we had to fly west to Chicago from Cleveland, only to turn around and fly east again. On the return, we had to fly east to Germany from Spain, only to turn around and fly west again back to the U.S.-- Again, the flights were not the high point of the trip. Perhaps the extra money to have more "direct flights" as offered by Royal Caribbean would have been worth it, but oh well. Actual flight time on the way back was nearly 13 hours between all three flights.
Upon arriving in Barcelona, we were fortunate enough to have a wonderful "tour guide" (even though we didn't pay for a tour) who showed us all of the Olympic sites and other highlights on the way to the cruise ship. The embarkation process was very quick and very organized, as we had remembered it to be from our last cruise. We have not taken other cruise lines before as a means of comparison, but RCCL certainly seems to have this process down to a science.
We were upgraded to an ocean view room, which was a wonderful surprise. The room was more than adequate in size (I believe it was approx 153 square feet)- it had a small love seat and end table as well which made it seem more like a "room" and less like a "prison cell." The bathroom was about as small as you can imagine, with the shower barely big enough to turn around in, yet we were expecting this and it was adequate. The color scheme was pastels, light blue and peach mainly. The bed was comfortable, closet space adequate and the room was spotless and was kept that way throughout our trip. When we returned home, I realized how much cleaning our house needed.
RCCL seemed to step up security measures with the world's events in mind, which we appreciated. We felt very safe on the cruise and, due to the events, the cruise was only about 2/3 full, so we had a little more "attention" as well- which never hurts. Seemed as though a lot of the staff was working extra hard to achieve tips that they are missing out on due to lower numbers of passengers and the "hit" that the travel industry has taken. But that didn't bother us- the extra attention seemed sincere.
The ship itself is very nicely laid out and well kept. At each port, you were able to see the maintenance of the ship (painting, cleaning, etc) being done. It was apparent that this is an ongoing effort. The centrum area of the ship is very attractive as are all of the common areas. I especially liked the spa area with the indoor pool- it was done in a Romanesque architectural style and was very elegant. The ship is several years old, yet it is still quite attractive. The dining room is two levels and boasts three story windows on each side with a grand staircase leading from one level to the other and a beautiful chandelier above a baby grand piano. Live piano music was played each evening during dinner, which was a nice touch. The other common areas were more than adequate and the ship hosts a lot of gorgeous artwork. Even the artwork in our room was tasteful and elegant. The ship has a mini golf course on the top level. This was a nice feature and was free of charge to use, which we were not expecting. It did; however, seem to be having some drainage problems that they were working on during our cruise. This was the only area of the ship that seemed to need some intensive attention. Also on this deck were shuffleboard courses and a nice running track.
Other common areas included the show area (more on that later), the Anchors Aweigh Lounge, the Champagne Bar, the Schooner Bar, the card room, the Library, and the RCCL signature bar - the Viking Crown Lounge, perched 11 decks above the sea. Each of these areas was comfortably and elegantly furnished, never over crowded and nicely appointed. No complaints with the ship itself whatsoever. It was a beautiful ship, maintained nicely.
The ship's workout room, which we spent much time in- trying to work off all of the extra food that we were eating, was adequate. Some days it was more crowded than others but never "packed." I can imagine, on a full ship, that this may be a problem, however. The ship also has a solarium (indoor pool) and an outdoor pool with 4 whirlpools as well. These areas were never over crowded, as they tended to be on our previous cruise. The weather on our trip was between 72-80 degrees daily, but I guess that most passengers were more interested in the "sites" than the "sun tan." The ship had a very complete spa area, which I did not use. The spa personnel seemed professional and knowledgeable. Other passengers who utilized these services were happy with them, but we could not afford to pay "extra" for them. They also had a personal trainer for the weight room. She was extremely helpful and offered "free advice" seminars as well as exercise classes. Certain classes, yoga and kickboxing, were at an additional cost. But the "fitness and health" related seminars as well as other classes were free of charge and very helpful. She was a great asset to the staff of the Legend.
Other staff were very helpful as well. We only encountered one or two crew members that were "less than pleasant." The rest, including our cabin attendant and two servers, were exceptional. As mentioned, the service could not have been better and it is amazing that the crew can keep such positive attitudes with the extraordinary hours that they work. I often wonder how much they "depend" on tips. I have no idea what they are paid by RCCL, but in my mind, I am sure that it is not enough for the long, tiring hours they put in. Additionally, they only see their families once every six months. They work in six month rotations and then are off for 2 months- it is a difficult life and I give them a lot of credit. I urge you to be as generous as possible when tipping, if you feel it is deserved, of course.
Moving on to the entertainment aboard, this was an area that we thought could have been improved upon. And others we spoke with agreed. One of the crew members told me that this is where RCCL is trying to "cut costs" and it was apparent. The RCCL Singers and Dancers left " a lot to be desired." The dancing was actually quite good but the singing, namely the designated "soloists" were sub par. Other acts were not impressive either. There was not a lot of variety, as most of the shows were singers. Two nights there were magicians/ juggler. And one night there was a pianist- I believe there was an impersonator one night as well. Anyway, the entertainment was nothing to rave about; however, it did not RUIN the cruise either and we actually did find some of it "entertaining" only because of it being "bad," it gave us something to laugh about.
On to the food. We thought that the food was good. We would not say "excellent," but it was certainly very very good. Some dishes were better than others, of course. Something that we always try to keep in mind is that they are serving over 800 people at one time. This is no easy task. The highlight of the food was usually the desserts. They were almost all exceptional! With the exception of the night that I ordered the angel food cake, against our server's recommendation. He warned me that I would not enjoy it and when it came out and I tasted it, he was correct. Behind his back, he had a "back up" dessert for me. Now, that was good service! Anticipating my needs, for sure. The menu was always quite varied, and even for me, quite a picky eater who does not eat sea food, I was always able to find something to my liking. Our table mates were quite particular and our servers were always accommodating to their wishes as well. The service was excellent, as mentioned. Breakfast and lunch buffets were a definite "step up" from the selections on the Monarch of the Seas. The food was more elegantly presented and there were many many more choices. We were impressed by the breakfast buffets and the lunch buffets in the Windjammer cafe much more so than on the Monarch. Perhaps RCCL has taken customer "complaints" and improved the selection and quality. We did not eat in the Windjammer at all for dinner. We did eat in the main dining room for breakfast and lunch most of the time. The breakfast menu was always the same and was adequate. The lunch menu seemed to often include "leftovers" re made from the previous night's dinner. For example, one night there was potato soup and it re appeared at lunch the next day as potato and corn soup. That didn't bother me that much, however. I can only imagine how much food is "wasted" if not "recycled." The lunches were adequate but not as impressive as some of the dinner selections. The presentation of the food was very professional and attractive. Although the ship doesn't have "midnight buffets," they do offer "midnight snacks" in the lounges and bars. We did go to the chocolate buffet and the gala buffet, both at midnight on the two formal nights. Both were amazing and very very impressive. There didn't seem to be any cutbacks there. Presentation, quality and portions were amazing! These are a definite "don't miss"! Overall, we had no problems with the food. The ship was mostly filled with "veteran cruisers" who seemed to be a bit more critical of the food, indicating that it had "gone downhill" in recent years, but again, we had no problems with it and definitely "ate our money's worth." The ship offers 24 hour room service (complimentary with tipping encouraged). The room service menu was expanded since our last cruise with RCCL. The food was good and service was punctual. They also will serve you the lunch and dinner that is being served in the dining room (during certain hours only!). There is also a bar and grille in the solarium that serves hamburgers, chicken, french fries, hot dogs and ice cream bar nearly 24 hours a day- now that is dangerous!
Who cruised with us? The ship was over 2/3 Americans (passengers). If you count Canadians, it was over 80% Americans. Certainly on this particular itinerary, the main age group was senior citizens. It seemed as though it was mainly wealthy, veteran cruisers. I would say that the ship was nearly 3/4 "older" passengers. (over 50). There were probably 30 or so honeymoon couples but very few "in betweeners". Most were either 50+ or honeymooners.
High point of this trip -- definitely the ports of call. This is an amazing part of the world and you cannot go wrong in these areas. Each was amazing and I will not even attempt to explain why. The architecture, natural landscape and history in every single port is amazing. You must go if you have not already. We did excursions, provided by RCCL, in each port with the exception of Marseilles and Sicily. All of the excursions were well planned and the tour guides were very informative. We were less than impressed with the excursion in Venice, as it was "cut short" for some reason, but we brought it to RCCL's attention and did receive a 20% refund. RCCL is very attentive to "constructive criticism." Be prepared, the cost of excursions in the Mediterranean is very expensive. For the six that we took, we paid nearly $1,100 total (over $500 a piece.) We figured it would be difficult; however, to see all the things that we wanted to see, having never been over there, without the excursions. So we felt it a worthy investment. If you can afford it, we recommend the excursions but warn you that they are overpriced. In many areas; however, such as Rome, you need to travel over 50 miles from the port to get to Rome. So, if you don't take an excursion, it would cost quite a bit to get to the areas. Basically, they have quite a money making thing going on with the excursions. But, at least you don't come home wishing that you had "seen more." Again, the ports of call are amazing on this cruise!!!
One last point, if this is your first cruise, you must be careful. The ship will try to get your money any way they can. The casino, (which I failed to mention until now because we don't spend much time in there), is open whenever at sea. The alcohol is expensive. If you order a soft drink for room service, they charge you (although they don't charge you for soft drinks in the dining rooms.) There are extra charges for buying bottled waters. There are extra charges for some of the events on ship, or exercise classes as mentioned earlier. If you are a compulsive spender, they WILL get your money. However, if you are good with money and resolve that you have spent enough on the cruise already and are not a big drinker or gambler, you can have a perfectly wonderful cruise without extra costs. Our bill at the end of 12 nights was a whopping $8.95!!
I recommend that you do attend the Captain's welcome party, a cocktail hour prior the first formal night. It was nice to hear the captain speak and have a few "free" drinks for once!
The activities on the ship were well planned and varied. Some were funnier than others. The "not so newlywed game" was a lot of fun while the "Liar's Club" could have been a lot better, for example. They offered a few dance classes, which we participated in (free of charge) and really enjoyed! The theme nights (Western and 50's, I believe) were fun as well. There seems to be something for everyone, depending on what you like. There was even a "grandparent's bragging hour" which I thought was a cute idea. There were horse races, walking groups, bridge parties, shuffleboard and miniature golf tournaments. All kinds of things going on. Lots to choose from depending on your interests. There were also 5 art auctions on board. We went to each of them but didn't buy anything. They were entertaining, however.
All in all, we would definitely recommend both Legend of the Seas, Royal Caribbean and particularly this Mediterranean itinerary. It was a memory of a life time and I get choked up thinking of all of the memories. It was a dream vacation for us. Although we have suggestions of things that could be better, we enjoyed every minute on board (except maybe the night of the thunderstorms when I got sick.) Less Drowsy Dramamine really works, by the way. The service was wonderful, the ship well appointed, our cabin was great, the food was very good (much better than we eat normally, that is for sure). The staff was very friendly. Other passengers, although some a little over bearing, were great to meet. We suggest that anyone looking for the history, beauty and masterful art works of the world travel to the Mediterranean. Happy cruising and God Bless. One last word of "advice"-- regardless of the complaints that you may have on your cruise, live every moment to its fullest and consider each day on board a blessing, because cruising is truly a luxury vacation and lifestyle! Dwelling on the negatives will only hamper your enjoyment of your cruise-- try to always keep focused on your vacation- it will be over all too quickly!