Carnival Cruise Line
MS Carnival Legand
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Operator: Carnival Cruise Lines
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 2002 / 2002
Length / Tonnage: 963 / 86,000
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 1,062 / 2,124
Officers / Crew: Italian / International
Operating Area: Bermuda & Canada in the Fall, Southern and Western Caribbean from Miami during the rest of the year.
Review by Malcolm Oliver, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor - Europe
I got my first chance to experience newbuild Carnival Legend, when she arrived at Harwich, United Kingdom, in late August 2002. For the uninitiated, Carnival are of course are the worlds most successful cruise line.
Legend cruised directly from the Kvaerner Masa shipyard, in Finland. A 'Carnival' ship has never graced British shore's before. Her arrival was very apt, because Carnival is celebrating three decades of cruising, this year. Acclaimed Actress, Dame Judy Dench, had been chosen to be the Godmother of the ship. (Unfortunately, she ended up getting a face full of champagne, but that's another story).
As a Brit, I feel rather proud that Carnival picked the port of Harwich. An obscure historical fact overlooked by most, is that Christopher Jones, Master and part owner of the Mayflower, was a citizen of Harwich in the early 1600's. In 1620 Jones captained the Mayflower on her transatlantic journey from England, bearing the Pilgrim Fathers. Some three hundred and eighty-two years later, a very different vessel arrived in Harwich, soon to be bound for America.
At 86,000, gross tons, Carnival Legend dwarfed the Harwich International Cruise Terminal, the dock cranes, and the adjacent railway station, built in the late 1920's. Carnival Legend represents a new class of vessel for the line, combining elements of the Fantasy and Destiny-class vessels. She offers passengers, Carnival's special blend of entertainment, good food, and a diverse clientele.
Externally, Legend looks rather more angular that some other newbuilds, such as RCI's 'Brilliance of the Seas'. Although I must say that her row upon row of private balconies, with their wooden furniture, looks extremely tempting indeed. Her very distinct red, white and blue winged funnel visually signified that the first 'Fun Ship' had truly arrived in Britain.
The embarkation procedure was quick and efficient. However, I was surprised to have my photograph taken on embarkation by the security staff and not just by the ship's photographer. I later learned that when the boarding card is inserted in the security machine at various ports of call the image appears so the security staff can cross reference the identity card with the person using it. In these turbulent times, this makes very good sense.
As my fellow guests and I stepped up the gangway, to board the ship, we knew that we were about to experience something very special indeed. I understand that Mr. Joe Farcus, Carnival's legendary naval architect, refers to his work as 'Entertainment Architecture'. Well this being the case, it was now 'Showtime'!
We quickly found ourselves in the 'Legend Lobby'; the first floor of the 11 story towering 'Colossus' Atrium. My jaw fell open with amazement, along with those guests around me.
Many modern Atriums actually remind me of my local shopping mall. However Legend's Atrium has lots of dark wood, in a French style, rather than a retail therapy style. There are of course the obligatory glass elevators, but what a view!
I must admit that I'm not a big Atrium fan. In my opinion they are usually big empty wasted spaces, where little seems to take place apart from guests cricking their necks and going 'wow! Legend's atrium had more activity than most.
The ground floor of the Atrium houses the information desk, the shore tours desk and a very popular bar, with a stage where live classical musicians were performing for our pleasure. In fact the guests at the bar seem to be having so much fun, that I seriously doubted if they will ever get to see the rest of the ship? My only criticism of it, if that there is extensive use of rather dark heavy wood (effect?) making it appear to be a dark cold space, rather than a light warm one.
The central theme of the architecture onboard this ship is historical and legendary figures and locations. Mr. Farcus has incorporated many influences from ancient Greek, to Gothic, juxtaposed with 20th century glitz and neon. The décor is so rich in content and diverse in nature that it simply floods the senses.
I have visited many ships in the past, but I have never before found myself, so actively exploring the architecture, itself. For example, one simply could not count the number of Grecian Urns that supported the handrails of the atrium staircases and balconies. In fact I started to suffer from 'Repetitive Urn Syndrome'!
As I walked around this ship I began to feel like those two 'time-tunnel' guys on TV who used to tumble each week and emerge in a different period of history. One minute I was in classical Greece, then Las Vegas, next the medieval period, and then an enchanted forest. I was in dangers of sensory overload.
Carnival Legend has eleven passenger decks. I will now take you on a tour of each of those decks.
Deck one, Riviera Deck, is entirely composed of cabins, apart from the 'Medusas Liar', Disco, towards the stern. This features a giant Medusa's head, but what else would you expect? Towards the bow is the 'Firebird Lounge'. This cabaret-style lounge takes its theme from the Russian folk tale about a seamstress who is turned into a bird by an evil sorcerer. The Firebird is decorated with Russian style lacquered boxes, highlighted by lamps with frosted glass globes. There are plenty of comfortable seats with small tables for drinks.
Deck two is curiously called the Promenade deck. This is curious because the promenade is not on this deck, it is on deck three? What deck two does have is public rooms spread along its entire length. At the stern is 'Truffels' Restaurant, the main dining room. Moving forward from stern to bow is the 'Atlantis Lounge', a curiously empty and simplistic space, apart from lounge chairs. We then have the upper level of 'Medusas Liar', Disco. We pass into the Legend lobby, as already descried. Walking through the lobby brings us into the 'Club Merlin Casino'. This is of course one of the largest at sea (aren't they all?) and offers the regular range of temptations: blackjack, roulette and a variety of slot machines. However, the decor is decidedly more interesting than the pure Las Vegas glitz, offered by most other nautical casinos.
Beyond the Casino are three smaller public spaces. The first is the 'Dream Team' Sports bar, with a multitude of video screens and sports memorabilia. The second is 'Satchmo's Club', a jazz bar dedicated to Louis Armstrong, featuring suitable memorabilia and a small dance floor. This is a particularly charming bar and an oasis of intimacy on this giant ship. The third is the 'Legends Café', offering speciality coffee and pastries. Continuing forward is the small 'Trump Card Club' and the 'Follies Theatre'. The theatre is used for lavish Las Vegas-style shows. It is of course very big and it extends upwards for three tiers. Although it is very colourful, the design is pretty traditional. Surprisingly for a new theatre, it has some poor sight lines.
Deck 3, Atlantic deck, is another deck which comprises entirely of more public rooms, and a magnificent teak promenade deck, however it is not the completely 'wrap around' type. To some extent it is wasted as there were no loungers on it, but it does provide a nice ocean view walk.
At the stern of the ship is the upper level of 'Truffels Restaurant'. Moving forward we have two smaller rooms, the Odyssey Lounge, a popular choice for cocktails, and the 'Round Table' conference room. We pass via the atrium through the photo gallery, to the 'Rodeo Drive' shopping arcade - need say more? Next we have Billie's Piano Bar. Carnival describes it as for those who love 'sing-a-longs'. I'm not sure who Billie is (Billie Joel, maybe?) but as promised, he does have a piano! Unfortunately the guy, who played the piano on the first cruise, was certainly not of Billie Joel's standard!
Next we have the wedding chapel, which features stained-glass windows and Old Testament scenes, along with a central aisle leading to the stage and a private dressing area for the bride. The Gothic-style facility will serve as the venue for weddings taking place during embarkation day, while the ship is docked at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It will also be used for the renewal of wedding vows.
Holmes Library, is a small room with mainly Internet enabled PC's. Although it had some fake books on shelves, the one thing that it seemed to be missing was a good stock of real books! Located at the bow is the second tier of 'Follies' theatre.
The 'enchanted forest' is without doubt the most unusual space that I have ever seen on a cruise ship. It is a U-shaped tunnel that wraps around 'Follies' at the bow of the ship. Its walls are decorated with replica trees. There are comfortable chairs, and tables representing logs, adjacent round windows looking out to sea. I'm not sure if this space is aimed at children or adults, or both, but I do know that it is great fun! A staircase deep within the forest takes you up to 'Gigabytes Games Arcade'. This features a wide choice of video and virtual reality games and is aimed at hyperactive children and adults alike, interested in the virtual death and destruction.
Deck four, Main Deck, is mainly cabins and suites, with private balconies. However, the third level of 'Follies' occupies the bow. Decks five, six, seven and eight solely accommodate hundreds of cabins, the majority of which have a sea view.
Deck five, Upper Deck, is the primary area for children's activities, known as the Camp Carnival program. The room is called 'Noah's Arc'. The 2,400 sq. ft. area is divided into three distinct areas catering to different age group and is decorated in a theme highlighting the wonders of the sea. The remainder of the deck consists of passenger accommodations.
Deck nine, Lido Deck, no less than three pools, one with a retractable glass roof, and three outdoor whirlpools. The stern has a large Fantail and the 'Unicorn Bar' which is a very pleasant place to location to have a drink and watch the wake disappear into the horizon.
Moving forward, we come to the 'Unicorn Café', which is the casual buffet dining area. The well equipped 'Fountain of Youth' Spa and Gymnasium takes up the forward part of the Lido deck, deck 9, and above, Sun Deck, Deck 10. Equipment in the gym area includes treadmills, Keiser exercise machines, free weights and a stair masters (as if the 11 decks does not offer enough stairs). Services available include sauna, steam, beauty salon, and "European-style" style therapies. As with the other ships in the fleet the spa is operated by Steiners.
Deck 10, Sun Deck has the mind-blowing décor of the 'Golden Fleece', an intimate, reservations only restaurant. Finally we reach the Sports Deck, deck 11, is where the jogging track is located forward, and the Sky deck, deck12.
Now I must admit that I am a traditionalist when it comes to evening dining. I always prefer to have my evening meal in a dining room which is not reminiscent of a Las Vegas Casino. Fortunately, I can report that 'Legend's main dining room, 'Truffels Restaurant' is absolutely charming. It is one of the most attractive that I have seen onboard a new ship (along with Brilliance's 'Minstrel' dining room).
It is a two-tier room, with very pretty railed balcony. There are large columns, which support very impressive light fittings. I was particularly impressed how deceptively intimate the dining room appeared to be, although it could accommodate 1300 guests. In order to achieve an efficient service, the galley was positioned below the restaurant using escalators for service.
I was also impressed with the high proportion of tables for two and four, the latter having comfortable bench style seating. A number of giant portholes offer impressive views of the Ocean. It is the type of dining room that one looks forward to dressing up and spending each evening in.
I can confirm that the service is good, but perhaps not outstanding. Main courses include a variety of seafood, filet mignon, prime rib, turkey, etc. However, it was a bit of a surprise when the Maitre D started singing as the desert was served. It was rather more of a surprise when the waiters re-appeared in coloured wigs and dark glasses costumes and commenced singing and formed a snake and parade and sing through the dining rooms. In fact our waiter danced on top of one of the serving stations.
The alternative fine-dining room, the 'Golden Fleece', was particularly mind-blowing, in terms of its decor. It is located on deck 10 at the top of the 10-deck atrium, housed in the forward part of the winged funnel. It has a tinted glass roof allowing only red light to filter in. A 12ft reproduction of Michelangelo's David is the centrepiece which is suspended above the dinning room. It gives the room almost has a Church like feel. It really is quite astonishing.
You will need a reservation to eat there, and unfortunately there is a $20 per person service charge. I personally would not pay to eat there on principle, but I am informed that the food is excellent and the service is top notch. This is also where you will find the crab claws from Joe's Stone Crab restaurant in Miami.
The Unicorn Café, on deck 9, Lido deck, is the ships the casual buffet dining area. This area is most popular for breakfast and lunch. It has plenty of seating and tables, with medieval themed décor. I must admit that initially I found it difficult to actually find the food! The food serving stations are strangely hidden in corners, rather than being in the middle of the floor space, as with most similar areas on other ships. However, I must say that it does not have the 'motorway service station' feel that many other similar areas do on other ships.
I was pretty unimpressed with the cups that are provided for hot and soft drinks. They look just like young children's plastic beakers. The plastic trays were a little more decorative than usual. However, I was impressed when a server filled my beaker with orange juice as I sat down, no charge! The food was good and I particularly enjoyed the 'Chinese' selections from the 'Asian Corner' food station. Free ice cream is on tap all day, in case you get the urge. There is also 24 hour Pizzeria and I can confirm that the piazza is very good. However, there are few excuses if they could not get, what is essentially cheese on bread, right, on a luxury cruise ship.
The midnight buffets are not as elegant as many other cruise lines. The desserts were also a little disappointing. Unlike other cruises, there were no candles, no flaming baked Alaska, & no flaming cherries jubilee. Maybe fire regulations now spoil all of the fun?
Room service was very fast & a good alternative to the 'Unicorn Café'. The Captain did not seem to attend his welcome aboard party. However, the nibbles and free running drinks put other cruise lines to shame.
The Carnival Legend has lots of cabins. Based on double occupancy she has capacity of 2,124 passengers. However, with hundreds of upper berths this ship can and does sometimes carry about 2,500 people. The standard cabins, are 190 square feet, which is bigger than many ships in this market niche. The inside cabins are a more modest are 185 square feet. All the cabins have a lot of storage space. Surprisingly they are tastefully decorated, apart from a salmon pink bed covering which clashed with everything else. The bathrooms have a large shower and excellent water pressure.
Eighty percent (80%) of the staterooms are outside and most (64%) of the staterooms have verandas. All cabins feature colour television, wall safe, and phone.
The Carnival Legend will please people of all ages, you'll find people from 90 days to 90+ years of age here, remember that fleet wide about 30% of the passengers are under 35 years of age. Kids love this ship and parents always appreciate the chance to drop off their young and know that they will be well looked after at Camp Carnival.
2002/03 - 6 Day Bermuda (from Baltimore, Md and Philadelphia, Pa), 11 day Canada (from New York), 8 day Caribbean (from New York), 8 day Southern Caribbean and 8 day Western Caribbean, (from Fort Lauderdale).
Carnival Legend is clearly an astonishing ship. Her unique style of décor signifies that she could only be a product of the Carnival stable. I can guarantee that everyone will be moved by the ships interiors, but not necessarily in a positive sense. For example, the traditionalist, who expects to see brass portholes and a display of rope knots, is likely to very disappointed with Carnival Legend's 'fantasy world' interiors. One British passenger described the ship as 'vastly over decorated'
Carnival are 'mass market', they are 'populist', and their good value fares reflect this. Their style of entertainment is not dissimilar from that of a British 1950's/1960's holiday camp. There 'fun' philosophy will not suit everyone. For example; don't expect white glove and silver service. Legend had singing and dancing waiters and a photographer dressed up as a 'Carnival funnel'. I cannot bring myself to describe the hairy chest competition, which encourages the men's female partners to remove items of their clothing, for the men to dress in them. I rest my case!
Carnival's continuing success clearly suggests that they are doing something right. If you can keep an open mind, there is a wonderful onboard world to explore. In fact being onboard this ship is like being in a 'film set', with the crew being the actors. The guests are not just the audience; they are the extras, in this movie.
Legend is another jewel in the Carnival crown, although not everyone will want to wear this particular style of crown.
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