I have cruised many times before but I am basically a fan of river cruising. My previous sea cruises were Bahamas on RCCL Sovereign of the Seas, Pacific Coast and Alaska repositioning on Celebrity Infinity and South America on Celebrity Mercury, so this was my fourth sea cruise.
I have booked this cruise on board of Mercury. The advantages were reasonable price for outside single accommodation, shipboard credit in amount of 200 USD and free membership in Celebrity Captain's Club. It was hard to resist.
St. Petersburg - Auckland
I live in St. Petersburg, Russia. Needless to say it is very far from New Zealand and it took some time to get there - 1 hour St. Petersburg to Moscow with Aeroflot, 3 hours Moscow to Frankfurt with Lufthansa, 12 hours Frankfurt to Singapore with Singapore Airlines and 10 hours Singapore to Auckland with Air New Zealand. I enjoyed the service on Singapore Airlines - it's much better than one provided by most other airlines, they have individual monitors even in economy class and many other things that make a long flight comfortable. The thing I liked on Air New Zealand most was the good selection of wines.
Hotel in Auckland
I spent the first night in Beat Western Airport Travelair Motor Inn. I booked this hotel independently. They provided free transfer from Auckland International airport, breakfast, comfortable stay and good price so independent arrangements were reasonable. The room was spacious with private balcony. The hotel is situated in quiet area far from the city center but it was even better for me as all I wanted was to sleep after all these flights.
On the next day I hired taxi and went directly to Prince's wharf where Legend of the Seas was docked. Embarkation was a breeze. At 11.10 am I entered the terminal and 30 minutes later I was on board. This was the best embarkation procedure I had ever seen.
Legend of the Seas is not the newest ship in Royal Caribbean fleet. She was built in 1995 but everything looked like very new. The ship was very clean and spotless. The main feature of the ship is abundance of natural light inside. Walls in many public rooms are made from glass and it provides very good contact with air and sea. Interiors are colorful and even glitzy. I know that many people enjoyed Legend's decor and for me it was OK but I like stylishly decorated interiors of Celebrity ships more.
Two-level dining room with glass walls is very impressive, and again, there is very good contact with outside air and sea. Windjammer Cafe with panoramic windows is situated forward and some passenger unofficially used it as an observation lounge. Solarium area with the pool and two whirlpools is covered by the glass roof that can be removed if necessary. Open-air golf course with trees, grass and bridges can be covered by the Solarium's roof when required.
Other premises are Entertainment theatre with balconies, Anchors Aweigh lounge with its own stage, Viking Crown lounge that is situated on deck 11 and provides very good observation around, library, casino, card room, Internet center, conference premises, several bars and lounges, beauty salon, boutiques and gym with sauna and steam room.
An impressive atrium is a trademark of all Royal Caribbean ships. Legend's atrium is seven decks high, decorated with steel sculpture and connected with the Viking Crown Lounge with panoramic elevators.
Internet service (10 computers) is available 24 hours for 50 US cents per minute. Three more computers work separately free of charge and provide connection with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises official sites so that you can check availability and prices for future cruises. Future cruise consultant is also available.
My cabin was outside on deck 2. The size was good, there even was a small seating area with a sofa. On the other hand, the shower was small. Storage space was adequate.
As a whole, Legend of the Seas is a very comfortable ship to spend there two weeks.
Food and service
I usually had breakfast and lunch in Windjammer Cafe and on sea days I also had barbecue on open deck.
Buffet-style dinner in Windjammer Cafe was also available but I preferred to dine in impressive Romeo and Juliet dining room. The service there was very good. Our waiter Ignatius Gomes from India and his assistant from Indonesia tried hard.
The food. After two cruises with Celebrity whose cuisine is one of the best afloat it is very hard to please me with food on a cruise ship. On Legend there were several very good dishes like lobster tail, some meat dishes and desserts, but generally the food was edible but nothing special.
As to the drinks, the selection of wines and alcoholic drinks was standard. There were no wine stewards in the dining room and wines could be ordered through your waiter. At the same time bar servers were available in the dining room. Our bar server Danny Caling from Philippines was incredible, very personable and friendly, and he really highlighted my cruise. Complimentary ice cream was available throughout the day in Solarium.
Ports of call and shore excursions
I really liked the itinerary. We visited 7 ports and had several days at sea and everything was enjoyable. Shore excursions on the ship were a bit overpriced if to compare to those you can buy ashore, but they were not more expensive than on any other cruise. Australia and New Zealand are very tourist-friendly countries - I mean that visitors of these countries have no problems with purchasing of tours of any kind and tourist information centers are available everywhere. There is plenty of opportunities to buy tour ashore so the choice is yours.
Auckland - overnight stay. I bought all-day pass to Auckland explorer bus. This bus visits 17 places of interest in Auckland and operates the whole day. You may stop in each of these 17 places to visit them. The information about city sights that the bus passes is recorded to the tape so you can listen it during the ride. I visited Kelly Tarltons (Antarctic and Underwater World museum). It was good if not to take into account the big line at the entrance. There are many places to visit in Auckland including Sky Tower, Zoo, Victoria park market, several museums and so on, but I didn't go there because I was still tired after the flights and also because of the 10-hours time difference with St. Petersburg.
Tauranga. I purchased Scenic Goldmine Railroad tour on the ship. Actually it was the 9-hour bus tour with the 25 minutes train ride. We visited small New Zealand towns Katikati and Waihi, took a walk through the beautiful natural reserve, observed the Martha gold mine and took the scenic train ride. The lunch was served in the restaurant in one of the villages on our way. The day was very enjoyable.
Christchirch. I did the Christchirch and countryside tour purchased on the ship. We visited Christchirch and the traditional sheep farm where the farmer and his wife showed us their farm and animals.
Dunedin. I purchased Dunedin highlights tour on the ship. The town was very nice. We visited Dunedin historic museum which was very interesting. The very interesting part was the visit to the Olveston historic home which reflects an era of gracious family living in Dunedin.
Ducky sound, Doubtful sound and Milford sound. This was the kind of sea day but the scenery was very impressive. We consistently passed through the beautiful sounds called Fjordland National park. It was great.
Hobart, Tasmania. I purchased Hobart highlights tour on the ship. We visited Hobart and its vicinities.
Melbourne. On the first part of the day I went to Kangaroos and Koalas tour purchased on the ship. We went to the park that is situated far from the city where we saw many kangaroos, emus and other exotic animals. To observe koalas was a little more complicated task. These nice bears prefer to sit on the trees so you need some attentiveness and patience to notice them. Local guides had the large knowledge of animals life so the tour was very interesting. After lunch on board the ship I visited Melbourne center. The best way to go there from harbor is to use the local tram.
Sydney - overnight. I purchased the all-day ticket to Sydney sightseeing bus. This was the tour similar to one I did in Auckland. The bus had an open second floor and made 22 stops in different interesting places. This was very inexpensive and informative way to visit Sydney. The next morning I went to the Northern beaches and airport drop-off tour.
Most of the passengers were retired American couples. There were also passengers from many other countries including Russia (five persons including me). I had no idea who are the rest four Russians on board. On one of the sea days our bar server Danny had acquainted me with them. They were businessmen from Moscow travelling with their wives.
During sea days I preferred to spend my time on the open deck or swimming in one of the pools. I visited gym several times. If to compare with other ships I have been on, the gym equipment on Legend of the Seas is rather old, treadmills sometimes were out of service.
Our table in the dining room was big and I had 9 tablemates. All of them were Americans and very nice people. All of us really enjoyed our table.
Our captain Hakan Lindegren from Sweden was young (he was only 39 years old), very personable and with great sense of humor. He frequently could be seen throughout the ship talking with passengers.
The biggest disappointment were the shows. They were nothing to talk about. An exception was the crew talent show, it was something unusual and enjoyable.
You could prepay your gratuities from your shipboard account. It was only possible to buy the standard package and the price was 136 USD for 14- night cruise. I prepaid my gratuities and several days later special vouchers were delivered to my cabin together with envelopes. These vouchers were used instead of cash when tipping.
Disembarkation and the day of departure
Disembarkation went very smoothly. I purchased an airport drop-off bus tour that started at 9.00am. We visited Sydney northern beaches, walked through resort area and watched people swimming and surfing in the ocean. The only disappointment was the duration of the tour. It was only 3 hours instead of 4 hours they had promised. I had plenty of time before my flight so I have prepared to spend uninteresting time at the airport of Sydney. Fortunately I met there our ship's bar server Alexander from Latvia who was waiting for his plane home. We spent several hours together waiting for our planes and talking about everything. He is a very nice person. His contract with Royal Caribbean was over and he decided not to sign a new one but to continue his education in Europe.
My Lauda Air flight to Vienna was delayed due to engine problem. The flight with one stop in Kuala Lumpur took 21 hours. The Boeing 777 was comfortable with individual monitors and everything and service was good but the bad part of the flight was the constant lines to the toilets. If you want to visit toilet you should go there in advance because 20 minutes waiting was guaranteed. I didn't like Vienna airport. It was very crowded and uncomfortable so I decided: no more connections in this airport in future. Flights from Vienna to Moscow and from Moscow to St. Petersburg were pretty uneventful.
The cruise was great. There are always several components of a good cruise experience. For me in this cruise these components were the interesting itinerary, beautiful ship with all necessary on board, my great tablemates, my excellent waiter Ignatius Gomes and my incredible bar server Danny Caling.
I recommend Legend of the Seas to anyone who are looking for the great cruise vacation on the beautiful ship for the reasonable price.
Some pictures from the cruise are available here: http://library.riverships.ru/Legend/pics.htm.