June 29, 2006
Itinerary: New York, San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola, New York
After changing our 2006 summer cruise plans several times for various reasons, we decided to cruise on our favorite Carnival ship, the Carnival Legend on an 8 day cruise from New York. This would be our third time aboard her, the second time on this itinerary. We were able to book a category 11 suite for the same price we had booked a junior suite on the Explorer of the Seas for a 5 day Bermuda cruise. Easy to see why we cancelled the Explorer. It was like getting 3 days free!!!! This was to be my 20th Carnival cruise, but the first one in which I was able to enjoy the platinum status perks. We have also cruised on Cunard, NCL, Premier, and Celebrity, but we seem to enjoy Carnival the best!!
For this cruise, we decided to make the 45 minute drive into New York and park at the pier. The Carnival Legend was the only ship in port this day, so traffic was not to bad at all. We arrived at 11:15 am, and after dropping off our bags with the porters, we drove the car upstairs and paid the $180 fee for the 8 days. They now accept credit cards for payment. As we pulled into the pier 90 parking area, security asked us to stop and open all the doors so that a dog could sniff for explosives. We were told not to take any pictures or video from the parking deck, and warned not to loiter!! Pretty scary stuff!! We proceeded downstairs to the check in area, and since we were platinum members, we were directed to the chairs in the VIP check in area. After waiting only 5 minutes, check-in began, and we were among the first to board the ship. A completely painless embarkation!!
Even though Carnival says that your cabin won't be ready until 1:30, we went to ours to drop off our carry on bags, and ran into our room steward who said ours was all ready. Our category 11 suite was cabin # 6195 on Empress deck, mid ship, a good central location. This cabin was about 1 ½ times the size of a standard cabin, with loads of storage space, a good size balcony, whirlpool tub, separate dressing area, & VCR. We absolutely loved the Carnival Comfort bedding on our king size bed, and we will be ordering a set for home very soon!! Kevin slept on the sofa bed, and Ryan had the upper berth. Upon entering the cabin, we noticed some goodies on the bed from our favorite cruise TA. Stuffed animals for the boys, a beach towel for Patti, and bar credits for me!!! Thanks so much!!!! We also enjoyed some of the platinum perks this week. These included canapés one evening, petit fours another evening, a free entry into the slot or blackjack tournament, a concierge club beach bag, personalized stationary, and priority debarkation. There were other perks which we didn't utilize, such as spa treatments upgrades, or priority tender boarding (not needed). But Patti's favorite perk was the free wash & fold laundry service which she used several times during the cruise. Just a warning, don't use this service for your extremely delicate items, or those items that may shrink easily!!
We then went up to the Unicorn Café for our embarkation lunch. We ate all of our lunches here, since we love the variety of food available. There is the Taste of the Nations, where a different cuisine is presented every day, a great deli for sandwiches, a rotisserie, the Asian corner, 24 hour pizzeria, and salad bar. Hot dogs, burgers, and steak sandwiches were available at the Avalon Pool lines. There is something here for everyone. Ryan's favorite is the free ice cream, available 24 hours a day at four different locations. We also ate all our breakfasts at the Unicorn Café. It's the usual standard buffet style stuff, and nothing special, so we always ordered the made to order omelets.
We spent the afternoon relaxing on deck, enjoying a few frozen thingees, and the boys were off exploring. We were very happy to be back on board the Legend. Then things became a little somber. We had returned to our cabin a little after 3pm to get ready for the muster drill at 3:30, when over the intercom came a frantic plea calling for "operation starlight, lido deck aft" (or something similar). Apparently, an older gentleman collapsed by the Avalon pool bar, and was unable to be revived. This kind of put a huge damper on the sail-away festivities. The muster drill was delayed an hour, and the ship sailed over 3 hours late, as the man and his family were removed from the ship. It was good to see all the other passengers so understanding of the situation. We made sure to say a prayer for him as we pulled away from the pier.
After unpacking and freshening up, it was time to go to the Camp Carnival orientation meeting. Camp Carnival is broken up into 4 age groups: 3-5 years, 6-8 years, 9-11 years, and 12-15 years. Ryan and Kevin were both in the 9-11 or Intermediates group. Children ages 8 and under must be signed in and out of the program, while children ages 9 and above can sign themselves in and out of the program if you allow them. For those children that need to be signed in and out by a parent, be warned that the same parent that signs the child in must sign the child out. On sea days Camp Carnival is open from 9am – Noon, 2pm – 5pm, and 6pm – 10pm. On port days Camp Carnival is open from 7am – 5pm, and 6pm – 10pm. These hours may vary slightly depending on the port of call. Carnival suggests that a child's attendance on port days be limited to six-hour intervals, and if you are onboard during lunch, you should pick up your child. After 10pm, there is a slumber party for the younger children, (up to age 8), and an after hours party for the older children, (ages 9-11). These are available for $6 /hr. for the first child, and $4/hr for each additional child. They charge to the nearest ¼ hour. These parties last until 3am, though you may pick up your child at any time. All children signed into the after hours parties, must be picked up regardless of age!! On one night, (the night after leaving Tortola), the 9-11's have a late night party, which runs from 10pm to 3:30am. They do many activities all over the ship, and at 3:30 they are delivered back to their cabins by the counselors. The boys really loved this, and so did we, since we didn't have to pick them up!!!
We had asked for, and received, late sitting (8:15pm) dinner. Our table for 4, (#320), was located on the port side of the upper level of Truffles. Our waiter was Larry from Costa Rica, and his assistant was Mario from Peru. They both were very friendly, and always smiling, but…Dinner the first night was a disaster. Service was slow and disjointed. Kevin got his appetizer 20 minutes after we got ours, he never got his salad, and Ryan never got his chocolate milk. In addition, our meals arrived lukewarm. I was ready to make a beeline over to the maitre 'D, when our waiter came over and apologized profusely for all of the problems. I decided to give them a second chance the next night (formal night), and they came thru with flying colors!! However, the rest of the week they were just adequate, and I can truthfully say that this pair was the worst that I have experienced on Carnival. Mario was obviously fairly new, and he tried very hard, but even after 7 days he still didn't get the fact that I liked coffee with my dessert. Larry was on his last cruise of his current contract, and his mind was obviously on going home for the next two months. Hopefully, when he comes back in September, he'll have his act together. As always, with the exception of the first night, the waiters did the usual singing and dancing routines. Some people don't like this practice, but even after 20 Carnival cruises, I still enjoy it. To me it's what Carnival is all about…Fun!!
To me, the best part of this itinerary is the amount of sea days. Two plus days, on the way down to San Juan, and two plus days, on the way back to New York from Tortola. Plenty of time to do nothing at all, or partake of the many activities that are going on at any given time. There is something for everyone. Though I've seen or participated in some of the activities before, I never get tired of them, since the people doing them are different. Patti entered the slots tournament, and qualified for the finals. Lady luck didn't smile on her though, but she got a free t-shirt and some trinkets for her efforts. I entered the blackjack tournament, and also qualified for the finals with the highest total. But, as luck would have it, I lost on the last hand of the finals. Boooo!!! More t-shirts and trinkets!! Kevin got into the act also!! First, he won the infamous 24K imitation gold ship on a stick, for moving the winning horse at the horse races. Then he won $100 playing bingo. At least he was lucky. Patti and I didn't fare to well in the casino this trip!! We spent a good amount of time on our balcony, soaking up the sun, and a few buckets of beer. Very relaxing!!
Even though we left New York three hours late, because the weather was good, and the seas were calm, the captain was able to make up the time. In fact, we arrived in San Juan at 1:30pm, a full 1 ½ hours ahead of schedule. The Carnival Destiny and Adventure of the Seas were in port today, (Sunday), embarking their passengers for their weeklong cruises. Kevin decided that he didn't want to get off the ship, so Patti, Ryan, and I took a cab up to El Morro, ($10 for the 3 of us). After exploring the fort for an hour or so, we took a nice leisurely downhill walk back to the ship, stopping along the way to browse in the shops. There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat if you wanted to, but we decided to go back to the ship for dinner. At 11pm the deck party began, with a Mexican buffet, for the midnight sail-away from San Juan. Quite a party!!!!
When we awoke the next morning, we were already docked In St. Thomas. The Carnival Destiny had followed us over, and the Explorer of the Seas arrived later, after her 2 day journey from Cape Liberty. We decided that today would be a beach day, so we went to Sapphire Beach for the day on our own ($10./pp each way by cab or safari bus). There is a beach shop for chair and water sport rentals, along with shower and changing facilities. There is also a beach bar, but it wasn't open the day we were there. Bummer!!!! We all had a great time swimming, snorkeling, and hanging out on the beach. There were plenty of fish to be seen. Soon it was time to head back to the ship, as we had to make sure Patti got her shopping fix in!!
The next morning at 7am, we arrived at our final port of call, Tortola. Because the ship is only here 7 hours, and sails at 2pm, we booked our only ship excursion here. Don't want to worry about missing the ship!! We decided to go to Virgin Gorda and visit the Baths. We boarded a high speed ferry in Road Town, for the 30 minute ride over to Virgin Gorda, and once there we had to board safari busses for the15 minute ride over to the Baths. The rock formations and the beaches were awesome. We had great time here, but you really only get about 2 hours at the Baths, as so much time is eaten up getting there and back. Word of caution here, anyone who has difficulty walking or is a bit unsteady shouldn't do this excursion, as the path down to beach is very uneven. For me, this excursion falls into the category of been there, done that, and I wouldn't repeat it. We got back to the ship just in time for sail-away, which we enjoyed from the comfort of our balcony.
The night after we left Tortola, Patti and I booked a quiet dinner for two at the Golden Fleece, which is the Carnival Legends supper club. The boys ate dinner with their new found friends, and they were both going to participate in the late night party, so we wouldn't see them until 3:30 am!! The Golden Fleece is well worth the $30/pp surcharge!! Patti and I both had the GIANT tiger shrimp for our appetizer. For our entree's Patti had the Lobster tails and I had the 24oz Porterhouse steak, which could be cut with a butter knife!! Both were to die for!!! For dessert we both ordered the Apple Tart Tarte, which came in a shallow dish the size of a wash basin!!! OMG, there was no way we could have finished that!!!! The Golden Fleece is a must do!!!
After two more wonderful sea days, with mostly good weather, and fairly calm seas, we arrived back in New York. Our debarkation was the best we've ever experienced in New York. The people who could carry off all of their own luggage unassisted, were let off first at about 9:15am. I was surprised by the amount of people who took advantage of this. This would not be an option for us!! After our last breakfast at the Unicorn Café, we went back to our cabin to relax. At 9:45 we made our way down to the Dream Team bar, where all the platinum members would meet to debark. Promptly at 10, before any other colors were called, we were led off the ship and to the VIP area where our luggage was. Since we were the first group off the ship claiming their luggage inside, there were plenty of porters available to grab our luggage, and take it upstairs to the parking level. From Dream Team bar to car, in about 10 minutes. Unbelievable!!! Then it happened. The first glitch!! I went to start the car and……nothing!! The battery was dead. My darling son Kevin had turned on the reading light when we went through the Lincoln tunnel on the way in, and had forgotten to turn it off!!! But very soon all was forgiven. Remember those scary security guys on the way in? One of them saw my problem, jumped on his little golf cart which had a battery jumper, and proceeded to jump start my car…for free!!! You can be sure I slipped him a nice tip!! Less than an hour later we were home!!!
This is one cruise I could do every year. Great itinerary, great ship, and (for the most part), great crew!!!! Eta, (Avalon pool bar), and Mariya (Casino waitress), you guys are the greatest!!!