by John Gawne
December 12, 2002
Arrived in FLL late due to rainstorms, with the plane routed via Bimini! Taxi to Port Everglades $11 with tip. Arrived at pier about 1:40pm, along with most of the passengers at the same time, apparently. Lines moved along, but formed outside, wrapped inside, into security, then into long ropes queue at check-in, short stop for sign and sail card, past boarding photo (numbered for ease of locating later) and aboard in 1 hr 20 min. There are plenty of Carnival staff to work the crowds, but the terminal is not set up well for handling large crowds. The new ship in port does not have the best setup.
Day 1: We were berthed in cabin 5299, an 8C centerline stern cabin on Upper Deck. 3 closets, 2 large drawers under the extra bed. Short on drawer space in vanity. Hair dryer in drawer. Safe, and stocked refrig (soda was only $1.50 a can, same as at bars). Room steward nowhere to be seen, and no name card. Robes and beach/towels provided. The TV has some U.S. TV from TN and NY, free and pay movies, cruise cams, travelogues, and a sign and sail account summary.
Quick lunch (12-2:30 daily) in Unicorn Cafe on Lido deck, where service is divided into 8 stations to avoid lines, including poolside grill open daily till 6pm(hot dogs, burgers, chicken breasts, steak sandwiches), Chinese, Taste of Nations (countries change daily - Italy, India, Caribbean, Japan, America, France, Mexico, Greece), Deli (reuben, turkey, roast beef, pastrami) open 11-11, Pizza (open 24 hours), Rotisserie (three or four selections changes daily), Salad and Fruit bar, dessert station. After lifeboat drill went to Lido deck for sail away, which was about 30 minutes late due late boarding. We were interviewed by the Travelogue video crew and for much of the cruise people greeted us with "we saw you on the video", which plays on the TV. We made our Golden Fleece reservations for later in the week on day 5, 8pm, and got a great table for two by the windows.
For our 8:15pm dinners in Truffles Dining Room, we were assigned a table for 2 on the balcony level, deck 3. The dining room has a terrific layout with all service stations on the sides, not among the tables. It cut down on noise. Our table overlooked the main floor from the balcony, as did most of the table for 2, and there a lots. Our team was Jelena from Croatia and Roberto from the Philippines. We brought our own wine all week, and corkage was $10, but was only charged 5 of 8 nights. We also brought extra champagne for sipping on the balcony. Dinner was rack of lamb and tilapia. We skipped the welcome show and enjoyed Satchmo's Lounge with the Music Society, a 4 person Philippino band playing 60's - 90's hits for dancing, and the Johnny Favourite band in the Firebird Lounge playing slow dancing music and jazz.
Day 2 At sea: Enjoyed room service breakfast, prompt delivery. Checked our arrival photo, the shops, enjoyed the sun on the aft Lido deck by the pool. This was were the hot tub was supposed to be reserved for adults, according to the Cruise Capers and to the signs posted there, but was filled for days with age 7 and under children, many without adult supervision all cruise. Attended a reception in Satchmo's Lounge at 2pm, the first Carnival has hosted, for over 40 people from a cruise board. They served iced tea, lemonade and Champagne, thanks to Sandy Schindler of Carnival. Participated in a "state" gift exchange and met folks we spoke with for the remainder of the cruise. This was the first formal night, with the Captain's Welcome Reception in the lounges forward and in the Follies Lounge. Dinner included lobster, prime rib, and a Japanese plate with a petite filet mignon, cherries jubilee, and singing waiters. The after dinner show was "Jazz Hot".
Day 3 At Sea: Eggs Benedict in the dining room, and a lazy day on our balcony except to view ice sculpture. Dinner included 3 great soups, escargot, salmon, roast sirloin. Went to Satchmo's again instead of attending the first of three comedy shows. They did have Big Band dancing before the show, but we were the only ones dancing! Also had late night dancing in Firebird Lounge, which was mostly empty but intimate at night...loud/overdone when the lights were on. My wife enjoyed the piano work of the Mike Mallon, an accomplished pianist for 22 years and 3 original CD's in the lounges at various times all week.
Day 4 St. Maartin: Arrived 7am, and berthed stern first so we had a view of Phillipsburg from the balcony when we woke up. Did our first breakfast in the Unicorn cafe, where eggs to order, including omelets, were available daily. Taxi from pier to Philipsburg was $3 per person. Taxi to La Galleon beach on the French side, east of Orient Beach, which we had found on the internet was $18 for up to 3 persons, each way. Arranged for taxi to return to pick us up. This was a nice uncrowded beach. Fair snorkeling, great windsurfing and sail boarding. No hustle by vendors. Chair rental was $5. There was a restaurant and bar, and restrooms available. Tops optional. Back to Philipsburg to shop (Marigot is closed on Sunday even when ships are in). Liquor is $3-4 per bottle cheaper than on the ship, and cigarettes are $4-5 cheaper per carton. So...we bought my wife a ruby ring there for our anniversary. Ended the afternoon at Everyt'ing Cool, and had my first Big Black Banana there. Great! Taxi back for $3 per person at 3:30pm. Long line boarding caused sailing 15 min late ( a trend here: long lines boarding and late sailings). They still had lunch open aboard, too. Dancing waiters again at dinner (Macarena), filet of sole, Beef Wellington. The show was a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra by Christopher Allen Graves, and received the only standing ovation I can ever recall on a cruise. He was great, started as a player in shows, then producing, now starring. He alternates between the Spirit and the Legend. He got the audience involved in the show. Finished the night in Satchmo's again, and in late night dining in the Unicorn Cafe, where the jambalaya was great.
Day 5 Barbados: Had champagne and room service breakfast on the balcony, as we were not due in Barbados till noon. It was a long run at 21 knots for 20 hrs to get there. As a result, scheduled in port till 10pm. Unfortunately, because we were the last to arrive, we were berthed on the breakwater. The Sea Princess, the Costa Mariner, and SeaDream were already berthed closer to the terminal. After lunch we walked into town, about a 20 minute walk. We located the bus terminal across from St. Mary's church, and for 75 cents per person, each way, we rode about 20 minutes to Folkestone Park, the national underwater park and beach just beyond Holetown. Entrance is free, and there are restrooms, showers, souvenirs and refreshments, picnic tables, a children's playground, and chair rentals ($5). At high tide the sandy beach is limited, but there are plenty of sunny areas. Snorkeling is best over the reef about 100 yards offshore to the right of the beach in front of the rocks to the right. Nice coral and schools of multicolored fish..hundreds in a school. Water was very clear. Took the bus back to town and shopped at Harrison's, downtown, then took a taxi for $5 to The BoatYard, a beachfront bar and grill with water sports, trampoline, rock climb, and a great bar/music with inexpensive drinks ($2 beer and $3 rum punch). Taxi to ship $6 at 7pm. Most shops in the cruise terminal closed at 7pm, but a few were open till 8. After a dinner of turbot and beef tenderloin, they had music on deck at 9:45, a buffet at 11:30pm and games at 11:45..island night.
Day 6 Martinique: Arrived 7am. 8am cleared to go ashore. We left at 9am, took a taxi for $8 per taxi to the town, where the ferry landing was located, off the city park. For $6 each, round trip, we took a 20-minute ferry ride from Fort du France, to Pointe du Bout. Two hotels make their beaches available to the public, and we chose the Meridian. The famed black sand beaches were not here, as they had soft white, probably imported, sand. Chair rental was $5 each. Some topless. Snorkeling was excellent around the rocks and a nearby rocky point of land. Saw many fish and a few schools of larger ones, and even a sea snake on the bottom. The resort town there had many little shops and restaurants. After returning on the 12:15 ferry, we went into Fort du France to locate a CD of French popular music for our daughter's French teacher. We asked a woman on the street where we could have a glass of wine, and she walked three blocks to lead us there. Despite frequent forewarnings, on this our second visit to Martinique, everyone we met was polite. Not as much English spoken here, but pidgeon French will do. We stopped at a waterfront place near the newer pier in town, and had great French wine for $1.50 a glass. Taxi back to port for $8 per taxi. The Destiny had come in while we were ashore. After the early sail away at 2pm, we relaxed until the Past Cruiser receptions at 6:45. We told the Cruise Director, Mike Mullane, that it was our anniversary when he greeted us at the door. They put the invitations into a bucked and had a child pull out one. We were selected and went on stage. The captain came out, and congratulated us, gave us a bottle of Pierr-Jouett Champagne ($99 on the wine list aboard), and asked how many cruises. We said 16 and that my wife had been on 8 Carnival and I on 7, and we reeled off the names when he asked: Tropicale, Jubilee, Fantasy, Inspiration, Sensation, Destiny, Triumph and Legend. As a result, for the rest of the cruise we were greeted by strangers with "Happy Anniversary". Then we went to dinner at the Golden Fleece, the premium restaurant with $25pp cover charge and jackets required for men. The musical duo, Just Duo, is outstanding. The Captain was having dinner with his officers at the adjacent table and cheered us with a "Salute" as we sipped our champagne. A 6 course meal, including appetizer, starters, soups, Caesar salad prepared tableside, 18oz Porterhouse steak and 12 oz Maine Lobster tail, an anniversary whipped cream cake, and dessert including triple crème Brule and a cheese and fruit tray, accompanied by a good Wolf Blass Australian Cabernet that was only $22. A great time dining, dancing, and photos. Finished the evening dancing in Satchmo's.
Day 7 At Sea: A casual day. Breakfast in the Unicorn Cafe, and sun on the balcony. Late lunch in Unicorn Cafe.Mexican today. They held a 4pm Christmas show with children performing and photos with Santa and his elves. The Banger Sisters with Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon was the TV movie of the day. This was the second formal night. We had not posed for formal shots till not, but there are multiple locations all over the ship and the lines were shorter than on any cruise we have been on. Another struggle in the dining room with lobster, snow crab, Chateaubriand and baked Alaska. Finished at Satchmo's again. Met our board friend, Cruisebuggie and her husband, finally. Tonight was the only Grand Buffet, available for photos in Truffles from 11:30pm to 12:15, and open at 12:15am.
Day 8 At Sea: Truffles Restaurant for Eggs Benedict, and sunning on the balcony again. Had a nearly 2 hour meet with Cruisebuggie and her husband and toured their Cat 11 suite with extended balcony. Then at 1:45 the group of cruisers from the bulletin board had arranged a group luncheon in Truffles. Before dinner we began to pack and struggled through prime rib at dinner. Visited Satchmo's one last time. I did not use the internet cafe in the library at all, for a change. Cost is $3.95 one-time set up charge, a needless charge in my opinion, and 75 cents a minute plus 50 cents per page for printing. Packages of minutes can be purchased: 30min for 55 cents a minute or 60 minutes for 40 cents a minute.
Day 9 Ft Lauderdale: Ship was not cleared till almost 9:30am, but there was no push to get us to vacate cabins. And there seemed to be no lines at stairs or overcrowded lounges, for a change. Leisurely breakfast in Unicorn, vacated cabin and waited till our tag color was called. No problems debarking or locating luggage, and we got a taxi within 5 minutes of arriving at the curb. Couldn't do curb checkin at airport due to a close connection, but it was not problem despite a marginally acceptable 62" bag. The radar went down and we sat in plane at the gate for 2 hours, missing our connection in Charlotte, and arriving home two hours late and without any checked luggage. However all was delivered by 9:30am the next day.
Overall: Decor: 4 stars. The Legend theme is carried effectively throughout the ship, elevators, lounges, art, etc. It is NOT over the top as some Europeans termed it. There is no "neon" as is noticeable on Destiny and other Carnival ships. The sight lines in the Follies Lounge, especially the balcony, are terrific. Cabin decor was very different than that on the older ships.
Service: 4 stars. The room stewardess never introduced herself, but was very efficient and accommodating, provided extra ice and put our champagne in the fridge. Our dining room staff was excellent, and bar staff spoke to us often. One night when the waiter was ill, the assistant filled in admirably. They brought things we used every night without having to ask again a second time. The Cruise Director was very personable and one of the best we have had. His wife is aboard as an entertainer, and looks like a red haired Liza Minelli.
Food: 5 stars. Dining room was absolutely superb at any meal. The tremendous selection at lunch in the Unicorn, with extended hours for the grill, deli and great pizza, made lunch an adventure every day. And any cruise with eggs benedict available every day in the dining room is great. And bagels with lox and crème cheese from room service. I shop and cook at home, and this was superb. The best in 16 cruises, bar none.
A great anniversary cruise. Can't wait for the next one in 111 days.