Legend of the Seas
by Jim Thorn
May 19, 2007 A PLEASANT SURPRISE
Going to Europe in May 07 (from Australia) to attend my daughter's wedding my partner and I also decided take the opportunity to book a Med cruise.
We were date constrained so had to choose a cruise that met our somewhat demanding schedule. Though we did have some choice between lines the best option was a 12 night foray with Royal Caribbean. To say we were hesitant at first would be an understatement as we had once previously sailed with RCI back in 2000 on a three day mini cruise out of Miami. That was on Majesty of the Seas and was noteworthy for the tiny cabin, ordinary and tasteless food and a ship sans personality. In short, it was all very ordinary and hardly inducive to getting us to experience RCI again.
Thus we did not expect that much when we boarded the Legends of the Seas at Civitavecchia which is the port of Rome for a cruise that would take in Mykonos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Cyprus, Alexandria, Athens and finally Naples. Well, Maureen and I have between us done more than three dozen cruises/ocean voyages including a dozen in the last decade and to say we were blown away by the current era RCI product is an understatement.
I don't think I have ever been on a more tastefully decorated and well set out ship as Legends and that includes P&O's beautiful Oriana and Aurora. I just wish I could drag the interior designers of the latest designs from NCL to see how a ship interior should look. But that's another story. Also beyond compare was the variety and quality of the food at every level. Usually the buffet breakfast and lunch I can generally (be good!) and pass up but in RCI's case not so. As strong as I like to think I am when it comes to not overeating I was tempted each day to the point of giving in. The overall quality and variety of food in both the main restaurant and Spinnaker buffet was of such a high quality that it left any other ship's cuisine for dead. Well done RCI.
Something else we particularly picked up on was the very high 'morale' of the crew and staff. Most were Eastern European and Asian and they continually provided just the right amount of service without being in your face or overbearing as is often the case. At one stage we had a noise complaint and this was also dealt with sincerely and effectively, something that on most ships would be simply shrugged off.
We would also like to compliment RCI on their innovative wine packages which can save upwards of 25% on the cost of wine. We always enjoy wine with dinner but on some lines (particularly NCL, which seems to use alcohol purely as a cash cow to bleed every cent they can from their customers, not a smart long term policy as we and our friends now avoid them) you simply cannot afford wines that you know are marked up by as much as 500%. RCI's wine package allows you to prepurchase your selected wines via three packages of varying quality and the savings are significant.
Despite its size (70,000t) Legends never seemed to be crowded and tendering was also better organised than what we have experienced in the past. Our standard internal cabin was also of a good size and well designed. The soft warm colours and art deco style lights and design gave it a particularly welcoming and calming ambience. What would have made it excellent, and RCI are not alone here, is if it had a small fridge and more importantly simple tea and coffee making facilities. The latter consists of a small electric jug, two mugs, a small tray and two spoons and some satchels of coffee and a few teabags. Not a big deal but something that would be greatly appreciated by every passenger and also cut down on needless calls for room service tying up personnel and galley time unnecessarily. Is this so hard to do?
One bugbear, and RCI aren't alone here, is smoking. In Australia less than 15% of the adult community now smoke. I appreciate that that figure is higher in Europe but it is also low in North America. Considering the demographics of cruisers I would suggest that in most cases smokers would account for less than 10% of passengers. So why have small bars where smoking is even remotely tolerated. In a small area, a single smoker, albeit even in a corner, will still affect the vast bulk of non smokers who enjoy breathing fresh non stench filled air. Consequently we were never able to enjoy drinks in either the Schooner or Champagne bars. It simply wasn't worth it.
There will come a time when all ships (like enclosed public areas elsewhere nowadays) will be totally smoke free and quite frankly that will be looked upon as a major positive by far more people than it will be derided by. There is also the fire risk. Most ship fires in the past have been started by a smoker, usually falling to sleep in bed whilst smoking. I am sure Princess Cruises understand this problem since it has already cost them several hundred million dollars in dealing with just such a situation less than two years ago. A smoking room could still be thoughtfully provided, like at airports, for those who can't kick the nicotine addition.
We will definatly be cruising with RCI again. In fact, we have already booked their positioning cruise from Hawaii to Sydney via Tahiti this September aboard Rhapsody of the Seas.