Carnival LEGEND Inaugural Cruise

Old Sep 12th, 2002, 08:10 AM
Lew and Fanci
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Carnival LEGEND Inaugural Cruise

On August 15th, Carnival Cruises took delivery of the second in their Spirit class ships, the 86,000 ton Carnival Legend -- a ship twice the size of the battleship USS Missouri. On August 24th, a 12 day Baltic shakedown cruise left Harwich, England for Copenhagen, Berlin, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Amsterdam.

That the ship is a giant is an understatement with a capacity of 2,900 passengers. The ship is not pleasant to be in, with all public spaces decorated in black, gold, silver, topped off with chartreuse ceilings and weird blue chandeliers made of hundreds of pigtails. The decor was, in the words of one Brit, “over the top.” My own opinion is that the decor might be termed Early Hong Kong Whorehouse. Throughout were gaudy pictures of Greek legends…Medusa, Leda and the swan, etc. all designed to complement the basic decor.

Little thought was given to acoustics, making the ship a noisy place, especially the two level dining room. Worse, not much thought was given to the systems of operation, as the kitchen was placed one or two decks below the dining area, requiring the staff to carry trays up escalators, thereby assuring cold food. An attempt was made to provide 5-star dining, complete with charger plates, but both temperature and taste were sacrificed in the food's trip from kitchen to table. No drink stations were located near serving areas, so even for a cup of coffee, two decks had to be traveled.

But worst of all, the crew, which had been drawn from the whole Carnival fleet, was disheartened, and did not hide their confusion and unhappiness from the passengers. Supervision was spotty and the idea of customer care was completely lacking. Bar service was almost non-existent. On one occasion in a sparsely filled lounge, three bartenders stood talking and glanced at us as we took a table but none walked over to take our order. Similarly, looking for coffee on the Lido deck, I saw a group of three staff chatting beside a coffee dispenser and told them that that particular urn was empty. They simply directed me to go to a different drink station. Routinely, tables were left uncleared for long periods of time, there were periodic silverware shortages, empty ice cream machines, etc.

No attempt was made to match shipboard activities to the demographics of the inaugural cruise passengers, most over 50 years of age. Carnival traditionally aims for the 25 to 35-year old "fun" crowd so they rolled out their stock fun and frolic activities such as kneeling with hands behind back and eating ice cream out of a soup bowl on the floor, hairy chest contests, and breaking beer cans on your head. Despite being in the Baltic surrounded by the heritage of Nordic seafarers, one of the photo ops was a picture with the Carnival Caribbean pirate. However, this was topped by a photo op of passengers standing beside a cardboard cut-out (black-and-white, no less) of the captain!

In the Carnival tradition, there were many opportunities to spend your money for things normally included in the cruise fare, such as cafes and pastries. There is an up-scale dining "experience" (ironically named “The Golden Fleece”) for an add-on charge of $25 per plate.

In passing, we might mention we're not first-time cruisers ... 181 days on Holland-America, plus several cruises on other lines including Cunard. We didn't expect a 6-star experience -- but it seemed this was a particularly inauspicious beginning for a new ship.

Old Sep 12th, 2002, 09:34 AM
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Not at all surprised you experienced service problems on a "shakedown" cruise, especially if there were 2900 passengers aboard. This is far in excess of Carnival's published guest capacity on this ship of 2124. No wonder the ship personnel were overwhelmed. We recently sailed on a Carnival ship for the first time, the Pride, sister ship to Legend. We liked the bold decor of the ship, found service in the dining room outstanding, the food tasty, and served hot. A large % of the dining room staff were Indonesian, so I felt I was back on HAL. I believe the problems you cited may have been due more to staff inexperience and confusion, rather than location of kitchens/drink stations etc. This is a management problem and correctible.
Your opinion as to the ship's decor are noted, but in fact, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I've only seen pix of the Legend interior, but the decor loked "interesting" to me. Too each his own.
We too sail extensively on HAL, and their new Vista class of ships seem to be built on the same, or very similar template to the Carnival Spirit class of ships. I'm sure the HAL ships will have slightly larger staterooms and a more subdued/mature decor. But Carnival does cater to a younger crowd, and that's the focus of their cruise experience. I'm a "seasoned citizen," but DW & I had a ball on the Pride.
Old Sep 12th, 2002, 01:31 PM
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A shake down flight on a plane with a new captain that crashed would not be why should I forgive poor management
Old Sep 12th, 2002, 01:51 PM
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Lew: 2 Questions!

How much was the cruised discounted from the published rates? It's usually substaintial on a shake down cruise, BECAUSE IT'S A SHAKE DOWN!

Did the ship sink? I got that impression from your airplane analogy.
Old Sep 12th, 2002, 02:09 PM
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Regardless of the price, one expects a level of performance not merely limited to staying afloat. Discounts are only to fill beds....not due to shake down or not. If you insist on forgiving poor management, you only get that....
Old Sep 12th, 2002, 04:27 PM
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Lew, was it really that bad? Come back to earth.So you didn't like the decor.Others do like the decor. I've never been in an early Hong Kong whorehouse, so I don't have your frame of reference. But is that an appropriate comment?
You took a shakedown cruise and then your primary complaint is that the staff was out of sync? That's the purpose of a shakedown cruise. When I take my cruise in 4 weeks, I do expect those problems will be worked out. And that's why your cruise was so heavilly discounted.
You appear to like HAL. But have you read the reviews of the inaugural (shakedown) cruise of HAL's Prinsendam? All agree that was a horrible cruise experience. But I'm sure the problems will be resolved, and that doesn't mean HAL's management sucks.
I just read a review of your Legend cruise that was just posted on Cruisecritic.That reviewer had a 180 degree different experience than you did. I suppose that's why they make chocolate & vanilla. Perhaps in the future you should not sail on vessels as large as the battleship USS Missouri. I suppose you also reduced your tips to staff as a way of showing your displeasure.
Old Sep 13th, 2002, 02:38 AM
Paul Therault
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No doubt Carnival, or any cruiseline for that matter, can run efficiently on its maiden voyage. All ships are "training ships" for the first couple of months. I am surprised the shore tours weren't mentioned. The ports are also a new venue for Carnival.

Decor is a matter of taste. I am sure some passengers will find it outstanding. I sailed the Pride (the plastic ship) and did not care for the decor but others loved it.

The escalators should not have an effect on the quality or temperature of the food. On the Pride the staff worked efficiently using the escalators. I would say give it a chance for perfection.

Old Sep 13th, 2002, 06:45 AM
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This is my first review....and this board seems to be populated by apologists. By definition, a shakedown cruise is to test the equipment ... not the operators. It is assumed that everyone onboard knows their job. If my six diamond resort staff acted as described, heads would roll. I would know as we have "secret shoppers" on property to avoid such problems.

The assumption that the cruise was deeply discounted is invalid. Even if deeply discounted, that should not excuse mismanagement and operational flaws.

Old Sep 13th, 2002, 07:08 AM
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Please don't be offended. I appreciated the directness of your review--good info. I run a small (50 employee) company and I can't imagine having your job--managing a luxury resort. (I can remember being awed by attention to detail by a hotel that had someone not only empty lobby ashtrays every 30 minutes, but they also pressed an imprint of the hotel's logo in the ash tray...)

But I have to ask: if you were given a brand new resort to run, with a staff that hadn't worked together before and on your opening week you were not only full but 20% over capacity--would service be up to your current standards? While you can invite a few guests for trial runs, they can't pay the port charges to sail the boat around empty.

Anyway, if you can say "yes", my hat's off to you. Guess that would be the difference between 6 Diamond resort and a mid-priced cruise line.

As to your dissatisfaction with this board--just be glad no one attacked your intelligence, sexual predilictions, or your personal grooming habits--all of which I have seen here.

Thanks again, good luck, and I hope your next cruise meets your expectations.


Old Sep 13th, 2002, 07:26 AM
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Lew, I hope I didn't offend you with my earlier post. That was not my intent. Only to point out that decor is a personal opinion, and that opening nights, whether at a broadway show, restaurant, hotel or shakedown cruise, are repleat with errors. If they are not worked out, the show will close. I'd really appreciate your comments on the comfort/cleanliness of your stateroom, and service and food quality of the "upscale dining experience" In your opinion, was it worth the $25 PP?
Old Sep 13th, 2002, 08:24 AM
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I did not participate in the upscale restaurant after reviewing the menu...which emphasized dry aged beef--an acquired tast I have not acquired--and crustations. I did chat with the maitre d', and the restaurant did include a s'amuse bouche and sorbet service expected in fine dining. The same wine list used in the main dining rooms was used.

The cabins...we had balcony on deck 8 midship...were confortable, tastefully decorated in neutral colors. Steward service was night ice, the next no ice, one night 4 pillows, the next 2...etc. Storage was less than in the same category on other lines...2 full closets vs three, and fewer drawers. The bathroom was small, but functional, but without tub...another item on other lines [which made no difference as we are shower people]

Old Sep 13th, 2002, 11:05 AM
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Thanks for the follow up. We recently did a 7 day on the Pride after 6 straight cruises on HAL. We also had a balcony stateroom, and were amazed that our balcony stateroom was comparable in size and amenities to the mini suites we've occupied on HAL, and at about 1/2 the price. Very tastefully done. I recall a third closet on the Pride, but it was set us with shelves rather than for hanging garments. Perhaps they changed things on the Legend, but IMHO quite adequate for a 7 day cruise. The only discernable difference was the lack of a tub (and we too are shower people.) I am looking forward to comparing the staterooms in HAL's new Vista class of ships with the Carnival staterooms. On Pride, the alternative restaurant served an outstanding selection of veal and lamb, service was impeccable and the wine list was markedly different than that served in the dining room. ie. we dtank a bottle of Opus. Overall, dining at that restaurant was well worth $25 PP for the food, service and ambience. Trust me when I say that you may have missed out on an exceptional experience.
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