by Vishal Khubani
May 31, 2004
Carnival Legend ~ May 31, 2004 sailing from New York
The Carnival Legend is my third cruise experience and my second on Carnival. Previously, I have been on the Carnival Triumph and the Norwegian Dawn. Overall, the Legend is a fair cruise experience, but the management failures of Carnival shine through in almost every aspect of the ship's services. They clearly have the resources to provide us with a better cruise experience, but it is the mismanagement of those resources that causes all of the problems.
A cruise ship is really just a segregated marketplace on the sea. This is a dream come true for any manager since all the money spent in any of the shops, cafes, casinos, etc. eventually comes back to the cruise company. The cruise companies have full control over the market and all its activities and therefore control both the supply and to some extent, the demand as well. This allows them to have precise command over the level of service they can and will provide to their customer while still being able to maximize their revenue in every case.
Embarkation from New York City
Embarkation is always tough from New York. Since we have sailed on Carnival previously and had a Category 11 penthouse, we were entitled to VIP "Skippers Club" embarkation; unfortunately almost none of the staff knew what that was and gave me blank stares as I asked them about "Skippers Club." We finally found a man who knew what he was doing and he directed us to the correct VIP line. How convenient! We only had two or three people ahead of us on line compared to the 20-30 people we would have had standing on the non-VIP line. The hostess taking our information refused to accept dining preferences at that time so we had to contact the Maitre'D once on board. When I called the purser's desk to see how I could speak with the Maitre'D, they told me he did not have a phone. Very strange. I had to go down in person, stand on yet another line, until the dining staff would even listen to my requests. Very unfriendly. Shame on you, Carnival.
I was in cabin 6258; empress deck aft. This is supposed to be a category 11 penthouse . HA! The room is much smaller than a comparably priced category I sailed on in the Norwegian Dawn. NCL also offered huge bonuses such as Butler and Concierge services with their room. Carnival has never heard of these. NCL also gave us a flat screen TV and a DVD player - nothing like this was on the Legend. For a newer ship, such as the Legend, I would expect at least a DVD player, not just the VCR they gave us. The "refrigerator" is actually a mini bar that has no room for personal items. The room itself is actually not very comfortable. The lamps where nailed into the tables - not very classy at all. However, other features of this cabin, such as the double sinks, the whirlpool tub, oversize balcony and storage spaces were all welcome additions.
When we arrived at the cabin, it too had several problems. The electricity was not working right, the air conditioning was inoperable, and we found several items in our cabin that were left behind by past cruisers. I should note that all problems were promptly solved after phoning the purser or seeing our room steward.
A new policy on Carnival is pay-as-you-go beach towels! I have never heard of this before. They actually leave your beach towels in the room for you and make you responsible for returning them to your cabin before the last day of the cruise. And what if you don't? Twenty dollars is charged to your on-board account! Beach towels are no longer available freely on the deck. It's a BYOT policy; Bring Your Own Towel - whether it be to the decks or to the shore.
Another thing that made the room very uncomfortable was the fact that the ship was extremely unsteady. There was lots of rocking and vibrating throughout the 8 days. It was so bad that we couldn't walk straight at times and bumped into each other often. The Captain claimed that since we had a lot of sea to cover (New York to the Caribbean), the ship had to travel faster than normal resulting in extra motions. I disagree because even when the ship was not required to move so quickly (like in between the ports-of-call), we still had the same problem.
Our room steward, Atthaya, was very friendly and efficient. She was always around when we needed her and was able to answer all of our questions with ease and accuracy. You can just tell when people love their job and are highly motivated - she was one of them.
I remember our cruise director, Chris Jefferson, from when he was a social host on the Triumph. Chris is a wonderful performer and a natural on stage, but it seems he may be a better follower than a leader. The entertainment on the Triumph was far superior to the Legend. Although very funny, the entertainment organized by Chris just wasn't enough. His social hosts were also hilarious, particularly Adam. The games they organized were just too good to stay away from: Who wants to be a Millionaire, trivia games, Name That Tune, The Newlywed Game just to name a few. However, the number of events available throughout the day just didn't measure up to the other ships I have been on; there were plenty of opportunities to get bored and nap. As far as nightly entertainment, the "Las Vegas-style" shows Carnival boasts about where only in existence for two of the nights. The remainder of the evenings we fell victim to cheap (and not funny) comics, soloist singers, big bands and guest talent acts. On occasion, there were also late night shows but they started at midnight and lasted for just 20-30 minutes. Expect to go to bed before 1 every night.
The Legend's idea of a movie theatre is a Karaoke lounge (Firebird Lounge) with a screen in front of it. The timing was also not well planned at all. Our movie was set to start as the ship left one of the ports of call. Well, the lounge just happens to be right above the engine room. Needless to say, I missed the beginning of the movie and eventually had to walk out. Don't expect any popcorn either.
The Legend's main entertainment lounge is named Follies. It has a similar design to other entertainment lounges in the Carnival fleet and has the same problems as well. The first level of seating is not raised, so short guests will have a problem seeing over taller ones. The top level features seats that are, in fact, raised. However, most of the seats in the upper level feature obstructed views as in all Carnival ships. The same barriers that keep guests from falling over obstruct their line-of-site. It's a wonder they have not fixed this problem yet. This is not a problem on other cruise lines and is a simple problem to fix at Carnival. This architectural design issue could have been avoided if Carnival paid just the slightest bit more attention to the guest's point-of-view.
Dining / Bars
Two words that prevent Carnival from ever being the world's leading cruise line: freestyle dining. They have wised up and now offer it on some of their ships but we have yet to see it on any Spirit-class vessels including the Legend. This is the main reason for the notoriously long buffet lines we constantly see on Carnival over and over again. The ship, for some reason, insists that all passengers eat at the same time - so they do! On other cruise lines, such as Norwegian, freestyle dining and a variety of restaurants allow guest to choose when and where they dine. This lessens the strain on buffets and keeps the lines short almost all of the time.
The quality of the food on the Legend, however, is superb. The chefs deserve kudos. Nonetheless, they should know that no matter how good the food tastes, the management and serving of the food make the entire experience horrible. The long lines do a huge disservice to the end product. The Unicorn Café is the home of all the buffets and all the long lines. The Rotisserie, Deli, 24-hour pizzeria, The Grill, Taste of the Nations (featuring a different country's cuisine everyday) and Asian Corner are just some of types of food you will find there for lunchtime. Unfortunately, almost everything shuts down for dinner and all you're left with is the pizza, deli and rotisserie.
The 24-hour pizzeria, for instance, constantly has a line except for breakfast time. This is due to the pizzas not being ready when the customers ask for them. They feature about six different types of pizza and four of the less popular options are never ready. You've got to take what they've got or wait some more. And sometimes they don't have anything. It is common for the server to ask you to wait 4-7 minutes for the next batch.
There is absolutely no excuse for this amount of wait time to be fed on a cruise ship. Cruise ships, as we all know, are segregated marketplaces. It is very easy to predict demand for certain products based on previous behavior. The Legend needs to prepare their pizza and other foods based on these measurements - this is how they know how much staff and ovens they will need to use at any given time so the guests don't have to wait. There should constantly be large quantities of all different kinds of pizza pies available during the peak times. Similar predictions can be made for the demand for buffets and room service to avoid long wait times. Apparently, no one at Carnival bothered to take these simple measurements to make the predictions.
The poolside section of the Unicorn Café is a high-traffic area, but unfortunately the tables don't have much of a high turn around. The tables need to be cleaned and reset much more often since it is so difficult to find a table by the pool. What's worse is the ongoing problem of guests saving deck chairs. Other fleets have gotten security involved in the enforcement of the rules regarding this, but Carnival has yet to jump on this bandwagon.
Room service at Carnival is still the worst on the seven seas. The wait time for room service is regularly one hour. And, you can only choose from a limited menu of cold cuts and wraps - it's pitiful. You can't even use your fountain soda card through room service. Especially with the limited menu, there should not be that long of a wait time. In fact, the wait time for room service on any ship, no matter what the menu, should never be an hour! Moreover, room service does not accept the fountain soda card. Other fleets have far surpassed Carnival when it comes to room service menus; their menu is simply not worth the trouble. Here's an idea: why not take advantage of the 24-hour pizzeria and incorporate it into room service? It would be a wonderful addition and effortless to implement.
Speaking of the fountain card, it's not worth it unless you drink more than 5-6 sodas a day. Carnival has also tightened their policy and will absolutely only serve one fountain drink at a time per card. Still, the bar waiters and waitresses hate serving fountain card holders. This is because it is more worth it for them to serve mixed drinks for the tips. Sure, fountain card holders pay their tip when they purchase their card but apparently that's not enough to change the servers' minds. During a show at Follies I had to order my diet coke 3 times before anyone would bring it to me - and even then they brought it at the end of the show. The next day, I wore my fountain card around my neck on a key chain - this made me invisible to all of the bar waiters and waitresses. They would not even come up to me to ask me if I wanted anything. Roel and Samson were among the bad bartenders; don't hesitate to complain to the bar manager if you come across them are or any others that don't cater to fountain card holders.
Dining at the main restaurant, "Truffles," was always a pleasure. The staff was always friendly and efficient and the food was great. If you do eat there, be sure and ask for a table served by Luis - he can't stop smiling and will always make you feel like family. Listen to his recommendations, too! You won't be sorry!
The Internet Café
The internet café is run by an extremely friendly and knowledgeable manager - Jay. The prices are comparable to that of other ships. Jay even gave me an extra 10 minutes just for signing up on the first day. Woo hoo!
One of the reasons I chose the Carnival Legend is because it is a new ship and I was expecting wireless internet service. Indeed, this was the case and I had my laptop ready to go when I saw the huge ad that said "Surf and Swim Wirelessly" picturing a gentleman with his laptop by the pool.
Oh, how easily I was misled. The wireless access is only available in the internet café! The signal does not reach anywhere else on the ship - not even highly used areas like the atrium or the pool. What makes this worse is that when I did not have my laptop with me, I could not even use the desktops since I only had a wireless account. These accounts really should be one-and-the-same. The logins used for wireless should be the same logins used on the desktops. This is how Norwegian does it. Take a lesson from the Norwegian way, Carnival.
Shopping On Board
The stores on board have very limited selection. I was not able to find a stick of deodorant when I needed one. When I came down with a cough, they only had one type of cough syrup. Come prepared with everything you might need, don't expect to find anything on the ship. The other experience I had was with the Legend's Formalities store where you can rent tuxes, buy flowers or decorations for any event you are celebrating on board. The complimentary birthday cakes Carnival used to give upon request in the dining room no longer exist - they are now going to cost you ten bucks. For $32, you can even have your cabin decorated as a surprise for that special someone. I ordered birthday decorations for our cabin to be decorated between 7:30pm and 8:00pm one evening while I knew we would all be out having dinner. Well, those sharp Carnival employees decided to stop by at 9:30am instead. I sent them away and demanded a refund.
I also had a problem with one of my photo frame purchases in the gallery. After I stood on a long line and asked the clerk to replace the frame he told me to come back tomorrow since he was the only one on duty and instead needed to take care of the customers behind me. How rude. And very poor management of staff!
Ports of Call
Our cruise offered a healthy variety of ports of call including San Juan, St. Thomas and Tortola. Tours and shopping in San Jan and St. Thomas are a must. Don't miss it! However, don't waste your money purchasing shore excursions on board. You'll find all the major ones for sale at the port for 30-40% off what you would've paid on board. Tortola, on the other hand, is almost not worth visiting. The ship is only in that dock from 7am-2pm anyway. Get off, stretch your legs, take a few pictures and get back on the ship. It's not a very interesting place to visit nor will you find any worthwhile shopping opportunities.
All-in-all, we had a good vacation but know that it is such a pity that it couldn't be better. I hope Carnival can take a look at the management of their ships and make the small changes that in turn make huge differences for the guests. If you have specific questions about the Legend before booking your trip, I'd be happy to entertain them via email. Happy sailing!