Steve and Chris Rabi
Number of Cruises: 19
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Legend of the Seas
Sailing Date: February 1st, 2004
Itinerary: Panama Canal We
The following day, people from three RCI ships (one
having to be bussed to Ft. Lauderdale for their embarkation) were all gathered
in a fairly small lobby area. Luggage everywhere...only two porters at the hotel
to handle the mess. It may have been a premonition of things to come.
The Embarkation process was exceptionally smooth. After identifying our luggage as it was moved off the bus storage compartment, a surly porter demanded $2 per bag as a tip. Everyone appear perplexed but forked over the money. We then walked about a city block to the passenger terminal and were able to walk directly to a counter where we presented our passports and credit card to set up the onboard account. We were handed Sea Pass cards and these were used at the gangway entrance to the ship. Our photo was taken and we were welcomed on board. We found it odd that no one assisted us to our room: we were on our own. Once at the cabin on deck 8, we sought out a couple from England whom we had taken the cruise to meet. They had planned the Panama Canal cruise and we had wanted to share in the experience with them (it had been a dozen years since last we saw each other).
Although we had given our reservation and those of our UK friends to RCI to ensure we were seated at the same table for dining, the Sea Pass cards showed different tables. So, we went to the dining room and sat for more than an hour while no less than 50 people waited to coax the dining room manager to change their dining reservations. We were placed at a table for 12 and when we inquired if we would get good service at such a large table, the manager stated emphatically “he’s got only the one table.” We found out later than the waiter and his assistant actually had a total of 28 diners to wait on.
The food quality on the Legend of the Seas was noticeably poor through our 14-day sailing. The Windjammer café on deck 9 provided the same breakfast fare each day without any variation. There was no afternoon tea. Instead, there was a “snack” hour where one would get watered down ice milk, cookies, and cherry cobbler…cherry cobbler every day but two days when peace cobbler was served. Bread pudding was also served and nothing resembled the nice afternoon teas one gets accustomed to on other ships. Considering that there were 252 people from the United Kingdom on the cruise, they could have done much better. Additionally, they served a buffet which only those who cared not to dress up in more than swim trunks for dinner two hours later (for main seating) would find interest in. At these times, crew look haggard and sleep deprived.
The dining room menus for lunch and dinner were odd compilations of food where nothing paired. The waiter’s recommendations attempted to convince that certain offerings were disasters (obviously from the main seating since we were second seating). The soups were the only things on the menu that all of our tablemates agreed was good, above average fare. Beef meals (especially steaks) were never cooked to anyone’s satisfaction and, by mid-way through the cruise, many surrounding tables were missing diners. We found out later than many chose to eat in port and avoid the disappointment of food quality all of us were subjected to on the ship. More than one veteran cruiser mentioned that they had better food in their high school cafeterias or on Carnival ships!
The idea of cruise travel being based upon food offerings is not our idea of cruise travel. We either find the ship the highlight (layout, activities, personnel, etc.), or the ports. Sometimes we find both enjoyable to the max. The Legend, however, fell short in several areas.
The tender use in Cabo San Lucas was so totally mismanaged that we stood in a crowd (rather than a respectable line) on the stairway leading to the tender for more than 45 minutes. Some people walked to the lower deck and some used the elevator. These people clashed with one another when it appeared that it looked like people were cutting in front of others. Realistically, the process was horrible…just issuing tickets with numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.) do not mean much.
The entertainment on board the Legend of the Seas indicated to us that RCI does not spend very much in this area. While the cruise director, John Blair, may have touted that “there is more entertainment on the Legend than most any other ship on any other ocean,” the quality was substandard. A weathered tenor, Renato Pagnilli, who has apparently been with RCI for a number of years, did all he could to muster attention. One evening, he even broke out in song over loud speakers in the dining room—just as our entrée was being delivered. What noise to accompany dinner! We opted to miss more than half of the shows since they were pretty dull stuff. We believe we can get the same entertainment watching re-runs of the Ed Sullivan Show on cable television! And each entertainer had his/her own CDs to sell. In fact, Renato was hawking his CDs on the pool deck and discounting cash sales!
If you book on this ship (or any of the others in this class) stay away from deck 8. It is located just below the pool deck. You hear everything from above! Same goes for the cabins all around you on either side. When someone sneezes you want to respond, “God bless you.” The ship appeared to be made out of cardboard.
Speaking of the ship itself, there was much vibration felt throughout the cruise. Could this be a sign that they have the same problem with their propellers as other ships in this class?
Another disappointment was the lack of an alternative dining experience. There is just the one formal restaurant (Romeo and Juliet) on deck 4. And don’t expect the Baked Alaska parade. The Legend of the Seas had a horrific experience less than two years ago. A table caught fire and diners were injured with critical burns. There is no tableside preparation of anything flaming (we were told this is fleet wide but could not verify it). So, cherries jubilee were not prepared with gusto. Two stations near the entrances to the dining room were where this type of offering was handled. The head waiter must be taking a hit as we did not find any reason why a gratuity should be rendered to him. We had no idea other than his walking around and smiling (especially the 2-3 days from the end of the cruise) to include him in our gratuity offerings.
My wife had a birthday during the cruise and the head waiter approached me the evening of the birthday as plates were cleared and dessert menus were handed out. “Do you want a cake for your wife’s birthday? We’ll charge the $7.95 for the cake to your shipboard account.” I was flabbergasted but nodded in agreement. Several waiters arrived as the exceptionally small cake arrived with three candles and sang “Happy Barfday.” Yes, I felt sick enough to ‘barf’ by this experience!
Talking about prices: the Legend’s prices for drinks are as high as any five-star restaurant. And though we told our cabin steward that we had no need of two large bottled waters in our small inside cabin (along with a six-pack of soft drinks), he did not take the hint and find someplace for them. We had to see them each and every day of our cruise! The photographs at the formal night required purchase of a “set.” This included the photo of the two of us and one called a “postcard” that we just did not want (showing the ship in a collage). The price was just $19.95. And the formal night was a photo at table—not one of those ‘formal portraits’ with a background. The regular prints were $9.95 for all the usual things these shipboard photographers try to do to sell prints. In the end, the vast majority of them were not purchased and those at our table mentioned that they thought the quality of the photographs did not justify any purchase at all.
The disembarkation process in San Diego was yet another opportunity to see what happens when one expects a smooth transition from ship to airport and it does not work out that way. We noticed that no RCI employee checked the order of those leaving the ship. We were in the second group of about 12 or so and it was dependent upon the departure of the flights, etc. Yet, people got off at will and all sorts of color-coded tags indicated that it was a mass exodus. We could hardly blame them since the disembarkation was 75 minutes behind schedule. We arrived at our gate exactly one hour prior to the departure time and had a difficult time getting our boarding passes since the flight was oversold. While we could have understood that the ship had not been cleared in a timely fashion, it was waiting for people with our color-coded tags to follow those who ignored the ‘order’ of disembarkation. We sat on the bus waiting for it to fill for more than 45 minutes before leaving for the nearby airport.
Those ports we visited included Aruba, the transit from east to west through the Panama Canal (during a daylight transit), Panama City, Costa Rica, Huatalco, Mexico, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The shore excursions we took were interesting and mostly worth the money. We have come to expect that the cruise lines can hardly be responsible for the quality of the tours but that they try and get operators to perform more professionally and give passengers a value for their services.
The praise on this cruise goes to our waiter, Christopher Pino (from India). He performed his duties so professionally and always had a sincere smile to go along with his Herculean responsibilities to serve 28 diners. He was observed helping his assistant, Agnello, who was shy to the point of distraction but always pleasant. Chris has been with RCI for seven years and Agnello is on his third six-month contract with RCI.
Additionally, the purser staff was efficient and helpful. Our mattress was as lumpy and uncomfortable as lying on sandbags and when we both had backaches each morning, my wife finally asked for some consideration. That afternoon we returned to our cabin to find a new mattress replacement. Voila!
Does our future cruising include Royal Caribbean International? After having experienced another RCI product, Celebrity Cruises, and one of the new mega-ships, Infinity, we do not see the RCI fleet in our future cruise travels. For us, the difference is clear: Celebrity has a superior product.