by Jim Bragg
Trans-Atlantic, Harwich To New York
September 5, 2002
We boarded Carnival's newest ship, Legend, in the port of Harwich, U.K. on September 5 for a 15-day transatlantic crossing, stopping at Le Havre, France; Cobh, Ireland; Greenock, Scotland; Reykjavik, Iceland; and St. John's, Newfoundland before finishing up in New York City. Combine those ports with several days at sea and you have a cruise that was legendary as well as historic!
The crossing followed an inaugural 12-day Baltic cruise, the first time Carnival has tested the European market, and it appears it was quite successful. More than 100 passengers actually sailed both legs covering 27 days! This inaugural cruise went very smoothly with no serious problems. There were some lighting problems with the fixtures in the main dining room, but the propulsion plant, azipods, air conditioning and other systems seemed to function perfectly.
The Legend rode the waves exceptionally well, taking some pretty heavy seas (eight to 12-foot waves) with very little rocking and rolling. The crew was a mix of experienced and new, but after the first few days they performed like old hands who had been working together for years.
Carnival put its top-ranked cruise director, John Heald, onboard with a staff he hand picked to entertain the guests -- a wonderful show extravaganza and some tried and true outside entertainers made this a voyage to remember.
The Legend is the third ship in Carnival's Spirit Class, and as far as I am concerned, the nicest. The decor is dedicated to legends throughout history--biblical legends, Greek mythology, Knights of the Round Table, up to the movie legends of the last century. Legend's main promenade deck is at level 2. You can stroll from the three-level Follies show lounge in the bow through the card room, Legends cafe (specialty coffees and treats for a nominal fee), Satchmo's Club (nightly dancing), Dream Team sports bar and the Club Merlin Casino (with a wide, unobstructed walkway) to the Legend lobby. There you'll find the Purser's Office and Shore Tours desk as well as a large sitting area and bar beneath the Colossus Atrium, which rises nine decks. You can take glass elevators up to the top, where you'll find the Golden Fleece Specialty Restaurant.
Continuing from the lobby toward the stern, you go through the Atlantis Lounge piano bar and the entrance to the bi-level Medusa's Lair (the disco). Next comes the main dining room with its adjoining private club. The dining room, filled with displays of plates and china from different countries, is well lighted and laid out, covering two decks; the center of the room is open to both decks, creating a spacious feeling.
The ship's many public rooms also include the Odyssey Lounge (where cigar smoking is allowed), the Round Table room, the photo gallery, several shops, Billie's Piano Bar, the Chapel and the Holmes Library, which also contains the Internet caf‚. On the Atlantic deck is the outside Promenade, and all the way forward is a small, quiet nook called the Enchanted Forest. All the way forward the next two levels up are the video games and Camp Carnival area. The Firebird Lounge (late-night entertainment and art auctions) is forward on the first deck along with passenger cabins.
Decks 4 through 8 are passenger cabins (80 percent of the cabins are outside or balcony cabins). On Deck 9 you'll find the spa, pool and Unicorn Caf‚, with deli sandwiches, "Taste of Nations" (ethnic food from a different country each day), pizza, salad bar, Oriental food and a rotisserie. Another pool and two ice cream stations are located aft. The Golden Fleece is on Decks 10 and 11. Also on Deck 11 is the kids' pool and the entrance to the water slide, which towers above the entire ship.
The Legend is elegantly designed and laid out for easy access to all areas. Rich, dark woods prevail, along with paintings and murals of 'legends.' My only problem was the overuse of 'urns' in the decor. These darn things are everywhere, and in all sizes! We sometimes felt like we were in a crematorium!
I have always felt Carnival has some of the best food in the industry, and this was also true on the Legend. The lunch menu on the Lido deck seemed to have something for everyone's taste, from Asian style to American to the ever-changing ethnic cuisine offered daily. I was particularly fond of the soups; it wasn't unusual for me to take two soups and a platter of samplings from the other areas.
The dining room fare was excellent and varied. We even tried Ostrich -- red meat that tasted like venison. Seafood and beef were the staples; all tasted fresh and well prepared. Soups were outstanding. Service was a little slow, but the crew was still getting to know the ship and each other. We were at first seated in the private club dining area; we didn't like it because we felt pushed aside, and I personally do not like rectangular tables. I approached Ken, the maitre d', and asked for a table for six in the main area--and that's just what was waiting for us the next evening.
The dining room staff puts on entertainment every night, including a couple of special evenings; one was a traditional Scottish serving of Haggis, complete with bagpipes and ceremonial trappings. The maitre d' also treated the dining room to his singing each evening.
We were fortunate that our cruise had the famous John Heald as Cruise Director, along with his hand picked staff of favorites. His assistant of two years, Carlos, was there, and a young man from Scotland named Ralph (better known as "wee Jimmy," since he is quite short and from Scotland, where everyone is called "Jimmy"). John, his wife Heidi and Carlos have been our friends for years. They are a wonderful bunch who have the interests of passengers in mind and go out of their way to be approachable. John made arrangements for a back-stage tour for those who wanted to see how the shows are produced; well over a hundred people showed up when he expected about 20. We met many of the performers and talked to them about their lives onboard. It is amazing how hard they work to put on these shows.
In Ireland and Scotland, John arranged for local talent to come onboard and
perform, so we were treated to an Irish dance troupe of young people aged 8 to
18. They stunned the audience with their performance a la Riverdance. We also
While we usually tour on our own, we opted for the ship's tours in every port, simply because we had never been to these places. Besides, pricing was very similar for individual vs. ship tours. I would recommend these tours for anyone, especially those who have never been to these locations. Without going into detail on each port, suffice to say one should attend the excursion talks and read the brochures carefully, choosing those trips that fit your ability and desires.
Most tours were full day (eight to 12 hours) and there was quite a bit of traveling; most ports in Europe are basically industrial in nature and you must travel some to get to the good stuff.
Carnival did an excellent job considering this was its first visit to these ports. The buses were comfortable, and tour escorts seemed very knowledgeable and easy to communicate with.
The average age on this cruise was considerably older and the income level
was somewhat higher than your typical Carnival cruise -- no doubt because this
was a fairly long cruise, designed more for the experienced traveler. Average
age would probably come in around 59 vs. Carnival's normal 48. Very few people
Most of the passengers were wonderful people and we made many new friends, but to our surprise, there were quite a few rude people onboard. We saw many people in the Lido dining area during lunch and breakfast who were not eating but just sitting--reading or playing cards while others were looking for a place to sit down and eat. This was just one example of several awkward experiences. We even saw people wearing blue jeans in the dining room on casual nights -- something we had never seen on our previous 12 Carnival cruises. And all of these instances involved older people, many of whom were pretty wealthy.
Carnival has a winner in this ship, and in the idea of cruising in Europe.
Jim & Sylvia Bragg