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Royal Caribbean International: Legend of the Seas

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • New

May 7, 2015

San Diego-Panama-Ft Collins

Six years ago on this run things were great--3 or 4 stars.Denise and I were looking for a "cruising home" and past performance led us back to RC. BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE--IN SPADES. Categories of substantial deficiencies include service, quality of food, failure to train help(especially in the dining arena) and huge undercapitalization--i.e., big items not working . The first half of the trip the food was actually lsse rewarding than Denny's..

Late in coming, lukewarm. Had to return at least two dinners. Seasoned table mates volunteered " We paid a lot of money for this, we expected better than a TV dinner" I articulated my issues first with the Maitre 'd , and was ambushed the next night by the waitress. What a scene. She shaped up for a couple of days, and the structure just would not allow for hot, good quality entrees. The steak was an embarrassment had to be returned. So, the last half of the trip, we just gave up, and did the buffet half of the dinners. Fine cabin, except upon arrival the trash can was full!!! and not of champaign--what a welcoming gift from RCL Fine activities, except 3 times a scheduled event was attended by us, and 2 of the times no one from the vessel showed up. I had to go get the bartender to make calls and then tell me it was cancelled. And the huge presentation screen(motion picture size) was so fuzzy as to be unreadable for the whole cruise. This was a daily irritant as this was being used for the plenary historical lectures. If you like good food and fresh and hot with good service, beware. Until we decided to just let it go and totally roll with the punches, it was a huge disappointment. One last--Getting anyone to minister to one's needs in the Windjammer Buffet took going up 2 layers of folks to the manager on duty. These folks arent trained, feign non understanding of English, or at least cannot or cared not to help. Traqgic, buzz kill

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By Rob_CR

  • New

Feb 26, 2013

South east asia

The Royal Caribbean line legend of the Seas catering for some 2000 passengers sailed on February 17th 2013 from the new, spacious and stylish Marina Cruise Centre in Singapore. The larger Mariner of the Seas is said to be locating to Singapore in June 2013. Embarkation for the 5-day Asian cruise which would navigate the Straits of Malacca was smooth and efficient with luggage collected as you alight from your taxi. You are able

to advance print your luggage tags and other documentation. Cabins were clean and well-maintained through out the cruise. Aside from the first lunch after boarding when one was asked to buy drinks 8 times within 15 minutes of being seated, the casual dining Windjammer restaurant is thoroughly recommended . It is well laid out and the food was always of very good quality. There is really no need to eat anywhere else. The more formal Romeo and Juliet (no shorts for evening dinner) was quite frankly a waste of time, the Windjammer being more than adequate. Whilst the Romeo and Juliet was a pleasant dining atmosphere we were over-serviced with the waiter asking every minute or so at breakfast everything was ok. This was well-intentioned but unnecessary and annoying. The ship also has a Park Cafe where a good variety of free snacks together with free tea, coffee, water and a lemonade are available at certain times. The ship was always clean and everything was well-maintained. The Casino however was a simply a basket case. All currencies had to be changed into $US at rip off exchange rates. Some slot machines used a printed voucher ticket when monies were collected whilst others used $US quarters - annoying and highly inefficient. Casino staff, almost exclusively of Chinese origin, left much to be desired in terms of customer service. Young children wandered unchallenged through the casino. Where staff from China throughout the vessel exhibited forced greetings, staff from a plethora of other nations (e.g Philippines, Mauritius, Dominican Republic, Bulgaria, Australia, Indonesia) were genuinely pleasant and polite and performed their tasks exceptionally well. Staff seem to be paid minimal wages and are seemingly encouraged to seek and rely on guest tips to provide them with a reasonable income. The shows in the theatre were of average quality however the Australian cruise director Dave Chapman gave a very talented performance of 70's music in the Centrum (middle of boat ) area. Royal Caribbean take note - the practice of making announcements exclusively in Chinese, for whatever reason, is a NO NO ! It is unprofessional and disrespectful towards guests who do not speak Mandarin / Cantonese. Whichever rocket scientist thought this was appropriate should really give up their day job. Disembarkation was well organized and efficient. All in all the cruise would be rated higher than a similar experience on Star Cruises Superstar Virgo and we would rate this 5-day Asian cruise with Royal Caribbean and 8/10. In the casual dining Windjammer - very good quality and variety. Clena and functional. Shows were of average quality. see above

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  • New

Feb 15, 2012

Singapore

Pleasant and nice. No Wow-moments or thrills but serene and ok. Food was great. Large enough stateroom with aging worn-out furniture. Flat screen tv in suites, others still have a old box-tv. Small ship makes it difficult to avoid the never-ending rackuss from the Centrum - a mid-ship stage where one woman keeps singing every day this song : "Todo, todo, todo...". Drove me crazy. You'd think they had better venue for that. Shopping

is a horror. They push these worthless watch gift boxes to the Asian guests causing a chaos, sort of a Moroccon bazaar on the seas. Price level in general compared to European is fairly high. There was a minigolf course and a rock climbing wall. Shows onboard were high school production level at best. Apparantely they had employed their best singing waitors to perform. Entrance to ship was really sad. There are ferries between Helsinki and Stockholm where passengers are greeted with live grand piano music and jogglers when boarding but on Legend you need to squeeze thru a narrow entrance into a dim-lighted stairway. Otherwise good activities but kids activities were none. Our 3-year old could've stayed at the onboard kindergarden but she's on a holiday, too. Something Gordon, the cruise director didn't seem to appreciate. Our daughter enjoys dance and song shows and loves to dance herself again at the Theater. She was running along the corridor at the theater when Gordon decided to stop her by asking her mother to restrain her. That little girl didn't bother anybody. In my eyes she was clearly stealing the show anyway. Well, Gordon, let me ask you: That long stick up there - hurt much? Our daughter didnt fly 10.000miles from Finland to Singapore to sit in a room drawing pictures. And Gordon's deck party looked like a joyless aerobics class. Another incident happened when my father-in-law, a hosopital administrator and surgeont, who had purchased a premium drinks package wanted me have a beer on him. Short after a drink police, nazi in a uniform came to "remind" of the rules of the package. It was totally uncalled for and humiliating. My father-in-law, a class act all the way didn't mind but I find that kind of policing intolerable on a cruise ship where people try escape that sort of thing. And yet another thing, why you don't serve Fanta? Soda Package: Coke and Sprite? What's up with that? Even the cheapest gas station have the holy fountain soda trinity but the Legend. My nephew pretty much only drinks Fanta wanted the have a pineapple juice insted.... Nooo can do. They serve that juice for breakfast but bars will charge for it. I understand the ship policies but it's the little things, doing a little extra that makes the cruise.

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By AC_CR

  • New

Feb 12, 2012

Sin-KL-Phuket-Sin

I've cruised several times with RC, always have pretty good things to say, until they screwed up my vacation this time. I travelled alone on this trip, took a cabin by myself & they pre-arranged for me to sit at dinner with an entire big family who has dietary restrictions due to religious reason. Had to endure an awful dinner with a group of almost 20 who vented their frustration at me for being an "intruder" to their group. Well I got "reassigned"

to another table after I feedback to their guest service who unfortunately forgot to apologize, & I found out d following evening that I wasn't d only victim of RC's clueless random dinner seating arrangements, my new dinner mates, 2 couples, had interesting stories to tell too. RC unfortunately needs to learn that d whole dining experience is not just about food or dining room deco, seating arrangements is very important.

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By AC_CR

  • New

Feb 12, 2012

Sin-KL-Phuket-Sin

I've cruised several times with RC, always have pretty good things to say, until they screwed up my vacation this time. I travelled alone on this trip, took a cabin by myself & they pre-arranged for me to sit at dinner with an entire big family who has dietary restrictions due to religious reason. Had to endure an awful dinner with a group of almost 20 who vented their frustration at me for being an "intruder" to their group. Well I got "reassigned"

to another table after I feedback to their guest service who unfortunately forgot to apologize, & I found out d following evening that I wasn't d only victim of RC's clueless random dinner seating arrangements, my new dinner mates, 2 couples, had interesting stories to tell too. RC unfortunately needs to learn that d whole dining experience is not just about food or dining room deco, seating arrangements is very important.

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Feb 23, 2010

Spice of Southeast Asia

The itinerary was Singapore-at sea-Phuket-Lankawi-Port Kelang-Singapore. The sights were wonderful the endless ocean and the sunset. We had the first seating dinning at six o'clock there is another seating at 8:30. The food in the Romeo and Juliet Restaurant was excellent it was three course. They changed the menu every evening. Every evening I ate fish as the main course and it tasted delicious. As a starter you could have fine cheese and even

crab. Mostly I had an ice cream for dessert and on Christmas Eve the waiter of my table gave me a chocolate cake also. Which would normally not be possible. However in the Windjammer Cafe the food was not so good. We had room service one morning in our suite an d the food was appalling the bacon was totally burnt and the toast you could have used as a hammer because it was so hard. The juice on the cruise was from a concentrate because it was always very sweet and unnatural. I had the soda fountain package which allowed you to drink as mach soft drinks you wanted it cost US$4 for age up to 17 per day and US$6 per day for 18 and above. One time at dinner you could see the spectacular sunset through the huge windows. the champagne bar is very exclusive and has good service. I had the Royal suite on deck 8 it was 1020 square feet inside and it had a 155 square feet balcony. In the entrance there was marble flooring with bar area and mood lighting. Further inside there was a lounge are with two sofas and two arm chairs. There was also a dinning table with four chairs. The TV's were not LCD but were quite clear. Next to the entrance was a small toilet with a bidet. Next to the small toilet there was an adjoining marble bathroom with a steam shower and a jetted tub.There were Gilchrist and some Amenities. In The bedroom there was a king size bed and above the bed there was a domed ceiling with mood lighting. The bedroom also had an armchair and a TV with a DVD player and speakers aroud the room. In the living room there as a white colored player piano (a piano that plays itself) which I know how to use. There was only one disc inside the piano with old songs it was only on the last day that i found the others in the seat of the piano. The whole day there were noises from the trolleys from the restaurant above. Our suite attendant was very friendly. The picture n the bathroom was the original from 1995. the design of the suite was a little dated. Overall 75%. I didn't do many activities and went only to the pool once in the five days of the cruise. They had lots of activities like rock climbing and they had a kids club for ages 12months to 17 years. I enjoyed the show in the That's Entertainment theater. they had different shows every night. Once they had a magician which could do amazing card tricks I went of the ship at Phuket and Lankawi. In Phuket we didn't go on a guided tour because we went there before. The ship was tendered at Patong bay and we took the shore excursion boat to a pier near the beach. the sand was as white as it always is there. however the water has tiny creatures (probably some sort of plankton) that bite you and it hurt's a lot so you can only stay in the water for a few minutes. In Lankawi we went on a Guided tour which was Island hopping quite literally if you sat at the front of the boat because the sea were quite choppy. We went to two islands at one of them we had to follow the steps over a small mountain to a lake at the lake you could swim but I didn't instead I drove a solar powered boat with my mum and dad. There was also another island with a beach but it had lots of shrubs and twigs in the sand and there were lots of rocks in the water. Recommend that you go to the Romeo And Juliet restaurant. And remember if you don't stay in a grand suite or above you need to take your own shampoo and conditioner. if you book a grand suite or owner suite try and book the one which is furthest from the front of the ship because of the noise from the trolleys from the Windjammer cafe above on deck 9. The furniture is quite dated on the ship the sofas in the public areas are very old. If you have a grand suite, owner suite or royal suite you get complimentary champange and a fruit basket.

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Jan 14, 2010

singapore to singapore

I was on Legend of the Seas for a 4 day cruise with my whole family, 14 of us. I have been to other cruise ships, but I found the crew members are not very friendly, except for the ones who serve us, no one says hello when you walk by. I think this is a great route and I understand that Legend of the Seas is going all around Asia, I am sure they try to capture the Asian market, but they have to improve the management or cleanliness of the public

areas; especially the gym. Cups are not replaced, no one oversees people on treadmills with proper shoes, there are kids running around, there's no time limits on the equipment. I think the food on this route is below average, there are lots of choices, but not very good. Considering they are in South East Asia, they could have offered more food with local flavor. They do offer Singapore noodles at one dinner, but it's totally not what Singapore noodle is. Instead of rice noodles, they use spaghetti noodles with red sauce. The only good dish on the whole cruise is the salad bar served at lunch time in the main dinning room. I have the grand suite, the room is spacious enough, but the amenities are minimal. There are no Q tips or cotton pads. The suite is on 8th floor right below the buffet restaurant, so every night between 12 am to 1am you hear dragging of furniture as well as early morning between 4 to 5am, which sounds like thunderstorms. I was really disappointed with Royal Caribbean. I have been on a lot of cruises with Crystal, Princess, Holland America and even Carnival. This is my 10th cruise. I thought the food could be better. They probably think most Asians are not sophisticated enough to know the difference since 97% on this cruise is Asian.

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  • New

Dec 2, 2009

Singapore-Port Klang-Phuket- Sin

It was my 1st cruise ever. I never believed in going on cruise as I cannot imagine a holiday confined within a ship. Now married with 2 young kids, I was willing to try out on a cruise trip where it should be less taxing with less moving around with the kids from place to place for sight seeing. Indeed, it was a wonderful experience. My kids were so willing to be on their own and they persistently asked to be put in the kid's club in the day and

night. I have the peace of mind with cruise staff managing them and keeping them occupied . Though there were some hiccups in giving clear directions on how to get to ferry that took us to Phuket, the lack of direction from staff to guide us to decks 4 & 5 when direct access to these decks were cordon off for emergency drills meant for cruise staff only. These irritations can soon be overlooked by the good PR skills put up on the last night of cruise. The song item put up by the waiters on the last night and their ra-ra-ing were indeed very effective in getting us emotional. Representatives came on stage (at the night performance) to thank and bid farewell. This was also a very good and effective move to buy us over. It's all tastefully executed, it appears sincere and it moves us that indeed their effort ought to be appreciated. It's tough when not all cruise staff can speak Japanese, Korean or Chinese. Other than language barrier, serving a group of cruisers coming from diverse cultures can be challenging too. Taking these into consideration, I must say that they have done a very good job. The Singapore service sector ought to take a leaf from Royal Caribbean in this respect. The fine dining at the Romeo & Juliet restaurant was excellent. My family and extended family in all made up 10 people, occupied a table of our own. A waiter and an assistant waiter were assigned to serve our table exclusively. The waiter had good knowledge of wine and gave good recommendation from the collection of wine. The food presentation and food quality were excellent, especially the beef steak and lamp shank - very well handled, fabulous! We had all our dinners at the R&J restaurant during the 4 night cruise. We had the option to have our lunch at the fine dining restaurant for the last 2 days and the option for sit-down breakfast at the restaurant on the 2nd last morning. The other days were buffet style breakfast and lunch. The buffets were a little boring with the same spread of food each day. Then again, with such good standard - be it food quality or service - at the fine dining restaurant, I should not be asking for more! I must say that my first impression of my stateroom size was disappointing. Mine was the ocean view with balcony at Deck 7. Based on the rotary view of the stateroom from the Internet, I kind of perceived the room to be bigger in size. However, this initial disappointment was soon masked by the good service given by the stateroom keepers. The rooms were made TWICE a day. Once in the morning after you leave for breakfast and once in the night after you leave for dinner. You will also be pleasantly greeted by the "animals" seated neatly on your bed upon your return from dinner daily. Each night a different animal. The towel folding into animals is something pretty unique. As we are 2 adults and 2 kids staying in the room, the room keeper will convert the sofa into a bed during his 2nd housekeeping and, the sofa-bed is big enough for 2 to sleep. So, with such service, I am won over from my initial disappointment. I love the night performances, my kids love the kid's adventure club. My kids aged 6 and 7, simply pester me to deposit them back to the kid's club after each meal they have with us. They can't wait to finish breakfast, lunch, and dinner, just so to join the kid's club activities in the day and night. Kudos to all staff in the kid's club who kept our kids happily occupied. Even now back home, my kids are playing the games they played on cruise! They treasure the medals they won during game time. The little mini tee off is a good option for adults and kids and those on board courses (such as dancing), an portrait photography are good options too. Don't miss every fine dining because there's a variety of good food to choose from. Don't miss the night performances. Don't miss the final night partying too! What more can I say, simply fabulous. Royal Caribbean has won me over from a "no" to cruises to a "yes, why not!" If I wish to go for another cruise, it will be the royal Caribbean line. I believe the non-Asia routes should be even more fabulous.

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Mar 14, 2009

Singapore to Shanghai

We just finished our first cruise today. We enjoyed every moment fron Singapore to Shanghai. It would be difficult to fault the service on The Legend. The food is excellent in quantity and quality, the staff are friendly and helpful - every aspect of ship service runs like clockwork. The entertainment is superb and the whole package a real treat. We will be back! A couple of negatives just for balance. The Windjammer buffet does not have adequate

seating so you can find yourself wondering around with a plate of hot food for twenty minutes wanting a table. When you get one you have to take turns in going to the buffet for fear of loosing it. The Romeo and Juliet restaurant is lovely but the food is not quite that good esp the steaks. Aussies like good steaks! We would prefer a completely non smoking cruise. The land based trips were all educational and enjoyable but why do they insist on calling jewlery and other shops- factories when they are clearly retail outlets. Overall this was a great vacation and good value, if we had had the sense to stay out of the casino it would have been even better. Always next time and there certainly will be a next time. Always fresh and plentiful with loads of variety. Was not like the picture but was adequate, a little musty smelling but OK. There's so much to do on this ship, you don't spend much time in the cabin. Something for everybody. This is up to personal choice. Shopping in Hong Kong is awesome. I had shirts made in 24 hours and the quality is super. Cambodia and Vietnam are both interesting especially if you want to see a million motorbikes all wanting to kill you! We started in Singapore and sailed to Bangkok, we are frequent visitors to this city, but never from the sea before. Thence to Cambodia where we visited a fishing village. Take a few dollar bills for the beuatiful kids here. Next stop Vietnam, what a place and the driving....crazy death zone!!! Hong Kong and the ride to the peak - can't miss - and the Stanely Market shopping. Girls-you should see the dresses and silk. Finally Shanghai. The lights along the river are astonishing and....this is the only place where I've seen a man drop his pants and do a number two in a public streetside garden (maybe I've not been to the right places). We will soon be home in Aussie and planning our second cruise, I'm sure it will be with the Caribbean Line again.

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By LJC_CR

  • New

Oct 11, 2008

Mediterranean

My husband and I are adventurers and we were in our element on this cruise. We have travelled regularly on Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC, and of couse Royal Caribbean which is my favorite. We adore luxury and quality and we found it on this trip! We recommend this itinerary to everyone! We began our trip in Rome before the cruise. Then we departed for Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Naples, Egypt! The only thing anyone needs to know is that

we would so love to go on this cruise again. This itinerary was absolutely superb. The dining room food was good provided you were selective and followed the guidance of the waiters as we did. However, the best food - ever - was the buffet! The broad range of international selections was unprecedented! There was an ample choice of Indian, British, Asian, American regional, Mediterranean, North African and Caribbean selections. Delicous! We were provided a generous array of fresh vegetables, salads, condiments and fruit - perfect! The international service personnel were gracious and helpful. Water is my primary and favorite beverage. The stateroom staff graciously provided us with pitchers of water every day. Our balcony state room was fabulous. We were impressed by the architectural design innovations that allowed considerably more storage than we needed. I should add that my husband overpacked and loves closet space. El Exigente was pleased! The bed was perfect for light sleepers like me and the decor was just right! Comfortable and colorful. Again, the Attendants were excellent in every way. We started the day with coffee from room service and completed breakfast at the buffet where omlets and breakfast choices hit the spot. Cool! There was a musical group on he pool deck and another in the music bar who were breath-taking. One handled eclectic mix of contemporary Caribbean sounds and the other Latin-Jazz popular music. I hope to hear them each on future cruises. Everyone enjoyed these musicians! I get refreshed by exploring and experimenting: the deal makers were the rock-climbing wall and miniature golf. Of course I used the gym to work off extra calories consumed at the buffets. I also appreciated having church services available aboard. The excursions were excellent, and definitely worth the money. The guides were brilliant and well-prepared. They took care of everything we needed and it was outstanding to have physically challenged passengers join the excursions with us. My advice is only that if you are not well-travelled, expect to discover that, in general, major cities throughout the world are big and "dirty." And we should know that the "dirt" is a consequence of geo-political decisions that inflct damage to our ecology. I have seen this problem in Hong Kong, New York, Rome, Egypt, Mexico, Tokyo, and this trip in particular highlights the importance of our unified responsibilities. Cyprus was great for catching a cab and seeing the city. Caveat! Two couples at our table took a commuter train in Naples and got their pockets picked. So don't kid yourself, be city smart! This was a cruise of a lifetime! We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit these ports. We met wonderful people and learned a lot about our Country, our World, and ourselves, in the process. And I should add, this was our second cruise on the Legend of the Sea, the first was Christmas through New Years, and she is gorgeous!

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Aug 26, 2005

Mediterranean

Legend of the Seas August 2005, Classic Mediterranean (14 nights) Two adults (30’s) and two children (8 and 5) My wife and I and had previously sailed Celebrity’s Constellation (Caribbean February 2004). We liked the idea of taking the children on a cruise from our local port Southampton (we live in Salisbury), so we were intrigued when RCI offered us the chance to sail the Legend from Southampton, with the kids going for free!

We were a little concerned as to how this cruise would shape up against the wonderful cruise we had on the Constellation. We tried our best not to compare the two, especially as the price we paid for a family of four for two weeks on the Legend was not much more than we paid for an outside cabin for two in the Caribbean on the Constellation. However the comparison was inevitable and my comments should always be viewed from that perspective. Pros • Excellent value for money (kids travelled for free) • Excellent overall holiday experience • Proximity to home! • Good waiting and cabin staff • Children enjoyed the Kids Club • Interesting ports of call (Rome, Monte Carlo (Cannes) and Vigo were our highlights • Food was good (although there was no silver service and all dishes came pre-plated) Cons • Ship is over 10 years old and is showing its age through poor design • Despite recent refurbishment, certain areas are a bit drab • Our inside room was very cramped for four, was very dreary and showed its age • Not a ‘resort’ ship, and more demanding families should look to newer, better designed, and bigger ships Minor points • The Guest Relations staff were poor and seemed to be just going through the motions of providing customer service. You had to be very persistent to get anything done. • The difference in staff numbers is quite noticeable in the pool area; e.g. cups, plates and food were left hanging around for quite long periods of time and sometimes it was difficult to get bar service. • You will be sailing with the great British public (out of 1975 people on board on this sailing 1800 were British). • Plastic cups and plates are used in the Windjammer and around the pool area (Glass and china were used on Constellation). • Our cabin girl was very good, although I felt that she almost shared the cabin with us! She was ever present. The corridor to our cabin was always littered with trolleys of towels, Hoovers, ice buckets, etc. • No trays available in the Windjammer, so there was a lot of getting up and down to get food, especially if you had to help a child select food • The sun loungers were ‘bagged’ very quickly on sea days and would be very difficult to get one • The Windjammer got very busy at peak times and it was sometimes difficult to find a table • Again, the internal design of the ship is poor. For example, if you are in a bar, you have to walk miles to find a loo. Likewise if you are in the theatre or dining room you have to walk up (or down) flights of stairs to find a loo. (Not a problem for us, but there was many older guests, for whom this was no joke). Suggestions/tips if you are considering this cruise If you have a very young family (under 3’s) look for a larger ship with better facilities. We spoke to a number of families who felt their very little ones were not being catered for, i.e. the pool was 5ft 6in deep, etc. If you are looking for a child free cruise do not book this cruise in July or August or whenever RCI offer free kids places as there will be lots of children on the ship. I lost count the number of times I (over)heard mutterings of disgruntled passengers concerned about the number of children in the pool/solarium/lift/corridors/dining room/using sunbeds, etc! This may look a minor point but I did witness a couple of altercations between the older and younger generations over the conduct or even just the visibility of children! RCI Shuttle buses are available at most ports of call to take you into the centre of the port. The charge is £4. Pay for these on the day at the bus, that way the children will travel free! (We learnt the hard way and had to argue hard to get a refund from ‘Guest Relations’) Drink prices: Wine from £10 a bottle, G&T c£2.20, Cocktail of the Day £2, Stella £2 Summary We had a good holiday, met some nice people and did enjoy ourselves. Even my 5 year old daughter cried when she had to say goodbye to the cabin girl!! The cruise was very good value for us as a family. However, I would not have been happy paying any more for this cruise/cruise ship and I would look for a larger/modern ship if this were the case for a family or a more select ship as a couple.

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Jun 18, 2005

Mediterranean

We had never been on a cruise, so had absolutely no expectations at all. Our group was represented by a wide age group (all first time cruisers), the youngest being 2.5 years old and the oldest 60. The check in process at Southampton was very smooth, and despite the fact that we hadn't pre-booked parking, had no trouble booking on the day. We had booked a balcony room, which was located at the rear of the ship. The room was pleasant,

if not a little tired, but wardrobe and bathroom space was well thought out. The bed was like a put me up with very threadbare sheets and a sad looking brown blanket. Our daughter slept on a sofa bed which she seemed to like. Ash from the engines unfortunately fell on to our balcony which by the morning was filthy. The food was excellent with a choice of semi-formal waiter service and a buffet. I was impressed by the healthy choices on offer, with no junk food in sight. A good selection of wines were available, but with the cheapest at £14.00 a bottle, there weren't many takers. One tip I wish I'd known before was to take our own and pay the £6.00 corkage. Service by the waiting staff was top class (and in fact everyone on board) and all clearly work as a happy team. We all used the Spa and had some good treatments performed by polite and capable therapists - although one was subjected to a sales pitch at the end. We attended the evening entertainment most of the time and enjoyed some top class shows - our youngest daughter was mesmerized. Despite Royal Caribbean being a family focused ship, the vast majority of guests were elderly and were clearly irritated by the presence of children - my suggestion to them is go on a child free cruise next time. We also didn't anticipate the very rough seas sailing through the Bay of Biscay , which all left us feeling very deflated at the beginning and end of the cruise. Karaoke nights and children's discos were fun, but there was a distinct lack of entertainment for toddlers - any kind of daycare was for 3 years and up, although there was a 1 hour session for the little ones in the morning. We enjoyed the stops and found our own way around using local taxis - the boat is out to make as much additional revenue from excursions as possible. Internet services were 27p a minute when the service actually functioned. We were lucky to have a balcony so we could sit and enjoy some sun - otherwise on the top deck there was a bun fight for sun beds, with most guests lying in the sun from 9am to 5pm. There was clearly a lack of sun beds for the number of guests on board although they do try and enforce a "no bed booking policy" All in all, we had a nice time, not the most relaxing, and I'm not sure whether we would cruise again. The final point I'd like to make is gratuities. Not only having to pay a substantial amount for the holiday we were then faced with additional "suggested gratuities" of £3 per person per day for housekeeping and similar for bar and waiting staff - prepare yourself to add an additional £200 plus for tips. This is payable on top of the 15% that's slapped on each spa treatment, drinks bill, you name it, where there's a bill, there a tip!

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May 21, 2005

UK

The Americans have launched one of their ships into the Mediterranean to capture some of the growing cruise trade, but MERVYN HANCOCK found some unpleasant surprises aboard the Legend of the Seas Take a spectacularly large and luxurious American ship, fill it with mainly British passengers, launch it into the Mediterranean from Southampton, and you should have the formula for a perfect two weeks cruising without the hassle of flying. But

although my two weeks aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Legend of the Seas was an enjoyable break, I found many aspects of the voyage both disappointing and not particularly good value for money. And with thousands more people booked on the same ship for the same itinerary for the rest of this year, the Miami-based company will have to pull its socks up to avoid a stream of complaints. My wife and I were lucky enough to be able to treat ourselves to a Junior Suite onboard the vessel which can accommodate over 1,800 guests, and we had our own veranda which included two sun loungers, chairs and a table. But the majority of our fellow passengers were scrambling for deck space and somewhere to sit for two initial days at sea, around two large pools which were dominated by hoards of children. You could find peace and quiet in the comfortable bars and lounges, but unfortunately the first of a series of unexpected surprises awaited you – extortionate prices for drinks, ranging from over £3 for a pint of beer, and £5 to £7 for a cocktail. That sent people scurrying to the onboard shop to purchase bottles to enjoy in the privacy of their cabins – a ploy which RCI had probably expected, and remedied by charging £6-50 corkage for every bottle taken out. Further shocks awaited the unwary in the two magnificent dining rooms – the wine list started with mediocre non-vintages at £13-50p and then soared into the realms of unaffordability. The company added a stomping 15 per cent tip onto every drink served onboard, and wanted £5-50 corkage if you took your own bottle into dinner. In fact it seemed that someone was hiding around every corner to extract cash from the unwary. The 24-hour room service was excellent, but provided by crew members who expected a handout for each and every visit. That was all on top of the £150 per cabin tip that was expected from passengers at the end of the voyage! The first port of call in Portugal showed up another flaw in the company’s organizational skills. Passengers had to be tendered ashore in the ship’s lifeboats – a procedure which took over three hours, and resulted in those passengers (many elderly, disabled and families with children) being left in a queue ashore, in hot sunshine, for over an hour to make the return journey. The Captain did apologize and order additional, shore-based vessels for the next ports of call. But even with our feet on terra firma the quest for our cash didn’t end. We were told that shops were a 20-minute bus ride away from the port, and RCI had provided a shuttle service. In fact the ride lasted just over four minutes at a cost of £4 each – rather more expensive than fares on the late lamented Concorde. The itinerary – a journey of almost 5,000 miles, which took us to Italy, Corsica, the South of France, Spain and Portugal was excellent. The onboard facilities, which included a Roman-style spa area with steam room, sauna, and a large pool with an innovative glass cover for inclement weather, were faultless. The Legend of the Seas even has a climbing wall, 18-hole miniature golf course, and a magnificent theatre with excellent entertainment to keep guests happy. Which is just as well – for one of the main disappointments of the holiday was the standard of the food being served in the main Romeo and Juliet Dining Room. “Sumptuous food, sumptuous food, wherefore art thou,” seemed to be the cry from hungry guests. The three course main meal left many diners guessing at what they had eaten! The expected treats were on the limited choice menu, but the sea bass served to our table for six was merely warm and dry, jacket potatoes were overcooked at every meal, and the US version of Steak Diane turned out to be an ordinary steak, followed some minutes later by a jug of sauce, delivered by an apologetic waiter who explained that the chef had forgotten it. The vegetables on every dish were hard and inedible, and on the night of the Asian Duck few passengers were able to extract the tough meat from the bones, and most portions were returned to the kitchens. One chap on my table opted for the alternative steak choice 12 times during the 14 day voyage, while the rest of us pondered on the reasons for such sparse and dubious fare. The mainly Eastern European crew were helpful and pleasant, but again there was an obvious lack of experience in the dining room. Plates were whipped away as each diner completed his or her meal, leaving the slow eater to eat alone. It also took at least 45 minutes from sitting down for the first course to arrive at the table. Each night the menu was delivered with a warning from the waiter to avoid particular dishes which were “not up to standard.” Believe it or not both my wife and I enjoyed the cruise, despite the moans and groans. Our cabin, with a Queen-sized bed, bathroom with tub and shower, double settee, two chairs, table, and large balcony, was comfortable and kept spotlessly clean. The breakfasts (full English) delivered daily to the cabin were excellent and piping hot. Guests forced to breakfast in the dining room though, described the experience as chaotic! We carried on supplies of snacks and drinks from our stop in Gibraltar, where a bottle of whisky cost just over £4, and organised our own cocktail parties in our cabin – saving us and our guests about £700 throughout the voyage! Mean or sensible I care not to think about, but enjoyable none the less. More and more of us are cruising these days as it becomes affordable, but Royal Caribbean International will find the Mediterranean uncomfortable unless it improves. It was not just me who felt that the Legend of the Seas might not be up to the standards expected by the American cruisers, and that it had been sent to England with a reduced level of standards, because the Brits will put up with almost anything. We won’t!! Mervyn Hancock paid £3,300 for himself and his wife to take a 14 night cruise on the Legend of the Seas in a Junior Suite on Deck Eight. The price included a private limousine from Frome to Southampton return, all food and facilities onboard. Guests are advised to leave £150 in gratuities, but most reduced this amount. The company encourages passengers to pay this amount up front – most didn’t! A 15 per cent service charge is added to all beverages, and shore excursions come as an extra. Inside cabins on lower decks start at £950 per passenger.

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May 7, 2005

UK

Although I am new to cruising and do not have any experience on other cruise ships, I can honestly say that my partner and I have come back from our cruise feeling like we had the holiday of a life time. >From arriving at the port in Southampton everything went very smoothly, hardly no queuing and we were on the ship within about 20 -30 minutes from the time we parked the car. Once on the ship we were surprised at how luxurious

the ship was, obviously some places more so than others, the Centrum especially was something that I was fascinated with. We settled in and decided to walk around the ship to see all it had to offer, we were very impressed. The service and reception we got from the staff was excellent, they do a very good and professional job. Getting on and of the ship at ports of call was very hassle free too, the only time we had to queue was to get back on the ship but that was only if a lot of coaches all arrived at the same time. The food was excellent, we ate in the windjammer café most of the time, although the dinner in the Romeo & Juliet dinning room was outstanding and the service was the same, my partner had the lobster one evening and the waiter offered him another one once he had finished he’s first. The only thing I would have to complain about is the pricing of the drinks and goods on board, they had changed the currency from dollars to pounds, which worked out to be a lot more expensive. But I think they will have many complaints about this and may reconsider. So in total it was a great holiday and I would recommend it to anyone, especially if it is going to be your first cruise. Happy Cruising :-)

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Apr 10, 2005

Transatlantic - Ft. Lauderdale to Lisbon

I arrived at Port Everglades early – about 11.30am and it was chaos. There were many people just milling around and finding someone at all interested in taking your baggage was almost impossible. I carried my luggage into the check in area standing in line to do so, only to find that once inside, there were no facilities to take this luggage and in fact had to leave the check in area and return to the curbside, when after some searching

I managed to find someone willing to take the baggage away from me – telling me “I am responsible to get this luggage to your cabin – a tip would be appreciated. I gave him $5 and returned to the check in area. Check in was not difficult, although at the top of the escalator, you were in danger of being trampled to death as it was so congested. I was on board at around 12.15 and found a comfortable seat on the 4th Floor Centrum area where I waited until 1pm for the room to be ready. Cabins My cabin was an outside ocean view on the 3rd floor. It was clean and comfortable if a little worn and tired. The bed was ok. but obviously at the end of its comfortable life and hopefully will be replaced shortly. There was no refrigerator, which I missed. The cabin was however noisier than any other cabin I have ever cruised in. During the day it seemed fine for my short afternoon naps, but at night it creaked and groaned obviously showing its age. Worse, and something confirmed by other passengers on the floor, was the scratching noise, which sounded (if it was not) exactly like mice running around and scratching the ceiling of the cabin. This only happened at night and could not be heard during the day, suggesting it was in fact mice. In summary not a wonderful experience. The Ship No doubt once a very nice ship it was obvious to all that it has seen its best days. It’s a little worn and creaky and after being on Brilliance in October something of a let down. Following this cruise the ship was going into dry dock and having some renovations, new carpet, chairs, sofa’s and some painting I gather. It might look a lot better on the next cruise but I am not sure how they get rid of the creaking. Service Excellent all round. Itinerary The whole purpose was to travel across the Atlantic – achieved. We were late getting to Bermuda and hence spent much less time than we expected. The first day at sea was awful and many passengers were sick with motion sickness. Only 6ft waves but not very comfortable. Happily the rest of the trip-even with 6ft waves most of the time was just fine. Food Food in the Main Dining Room was good to very good as was the service. There was lots top eat and it was varied, nicely presented and of good quality. It was always hot and included steaks, prime rib, lobster, rack of lamb etc. Food in the Buffet, where I like to have breakfast was spoiled because rarely was the bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs etc hot. It was warm at best, a great pity because the quality was fine. Overall It was o.k. I would not travel on this ship again but it would likely be fine for those who have NOT been on the larger newer Cruise Ships.

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Sep 26, 2004

Mexico

We were not happy about our week on the cruise - I will only list the things that our intire family did not like. I tried to contact R.C but with no luck - · On the 2nd. Floor, the hallways to the rooms smelled like dirty diapers / bathroom every day. · On the 5th & 6th floor, the hallways smelled of smoke. This was in the carpets, walls and furniture. · Very little pool service. Had to ask for someone to come by and

when they did it was like we bothered them. · They told us we couldn’t drink while in the hot tub, but there were only no smoking signs posted, but not any (no drinking) signs. We have been on other cruise lines that allowed this function why not you! · Buffet being closed down so the only place to get something to eat was the place by the pool. One can only eat only so many hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, salsa and pizzas. · Dinner was below average / many items were cold / the crème brulee was never cooked right / Service was great. Our waiters were excellent – Marian, Arvel & Z, they made the trip bearable. · In the theater, tried to get soda or juice served in a regular glass. The “stemmed” glasses kept getting knocked over and spilled on us. We were wet and the seats were wet. This happen every night. When we ask for a different type of glass they refused to serve us. We came in and there were towels and napkins on seats trying to soak them up. · We ordered room service (turkey sandwich- buffet was closed again) and received ketchup to put on it and nothing else. Was too hungry to wait for mayo. · Many of the public bathrooms were very dirty and smelled so bad that they couldn’t be used. I brought this up to different employees and no one paid attention or seemed to do anything about it. · No bathrooms outside the dining room or the theater. I was on this trip with my Mother (she’s 88) who was using a scooter to get around. After dinner or the show we had to take the elevator down for her to use the restroom and that was very inconvenient. · Breakfast and lunch had no variation. Same thing on the menu every day. Buffet had some variation (scrambled eggs with peppers, scrambled eggs with cheese, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, ect. I guess that’s a variation) but we didn’t want to be herded in and hunt for a table. We like sitting down all together and enjoying our meal. · Had a terrible time getting cranberry juice. Every morning (in both the dining or the buffet) requested it and was told they were out, or that they did not carry on ship. Had to hunt down the supervisor on deck and they went and found it. One time I was asked if I would rather have PRUNE juice instead –yuck! · Nobody to help us when we were boarding. Had a lot of difficulties locating our rooms · Requested to sit with my family. This was taken care of before we left only to find out when we did check in that we were not sitting together. They did offer us tables next to each other · The scrambled eggs were always runny every day. It was gross! Waffle and French toast were rock hard and ice cold. The regular toast was like a brick of ice (cold and hard), again. Very disappointed. · The ice cream machine was used I think all of twice and it had allot of ice in it. It was like snow cones. I love ice cream but it was hardly offered. The machine should be available the whole time the buffet is open. · We tipped our room attendant and our roommates tipped her separately, when we gave her our half she looked at my fiancé and said is that it… · After that she seemed very cold shouldered and asked us to be out of room before 8 a.m. so we had to drag our carry on items around till breakfast………… …. NOT HAPPY ABOUT THAT…

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Jul 18, 2004

Mexican Riviera

The Set up Joanie and I were the seminar leaders and escorts for a group of travel professionals aboard the Legend of the Seas 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise departing from San Diego, California. Getting to the Ship: This was just one of the many great things about this cruise. We live on a ranch in N.E. San Diego county, so getting to the ship was just as easy as our normal drive to the airport. In fact, we parked at the same parking

lot that we use when we fly (Airport Connection on Harbor Drive). The ship docks at the "B" Street pier, which is right in the downtown area of San Diego only a few minutes from the airport. Since Surfline's Mexico surf forecast called for a new south swell of 6 to 8 feet during the week in mainland Mexico, we had decided to take surfboards with us and hit the spots in each port. Because of the surfboards and all the luggage, we dropped our stuff at the pier and then parked and took the shuttle back; it was painless. San Diego's Downtown Area and "B" Street Pier We had arrived at the terminal by 11 am and the Legend of the Seas began their check-in process shortly after our arrival. Check-in was a breeze and we were through the terminal and on the ship in less than 20-minutes. If for no other reason than to get on the ship early and without pain, I would suggest that you arrive at least the day before the ship’s departure. Folks flying in the day of departure had to scramble to make it to the ship in time and were then greeted with lots of people in the same boat. While our cabin was not going to be available until 1 pm, we were able to drop our carry-ons and surfboards in our cabin and make our way up to the Windjammer for a quick bite to eat. The First Impressions: The Legend of the Seas Atrium This was my first cruise on the Legend of the Seas, but I have sailed most of her sisters in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. The Legend is the epitome of Royal Caribbean, as she features absolutely beautiful public areas, interesting itineraries and traditional dining in a wonderful restaurant with excellent service. The passenger make-up on this cruise was different from any other Royal Caribbean cruise I have taken. The Legend's was noticeably younger than most other Royal Caribbean passenger loads I have seen. There were well over 350 children and numerous young couples in their 20s and 30s. The second you board her and enter the Grand Atrium, you realize that this is a very special ship. Cabin #8560: Junior Suite Interior We were located on deck eight in a Junior Suite and were really glad we were when we entered its 236 square feet. Junior Suite Balcony The balcony (another 75 square feet) was large enough for the surfboards and still left tons of room to enjoy the four chairs that occupied it. The cabin offered full length windows along with a full length glass sliding door leading to the balcony. It seemed much more spacious that the square footage indicates and I would highly suggest folks wanting more space look at the junior suite category as a reasonable upgrade. There was a queen size bed (converts into two twins) with nightstands on either side. There were also nightlights on each side with separate controls. A large mirror beside the bed makes the area seem larger than it is and is also very handy when getting dressed. The sitting area of the cabin is very comfortable with a good-sized sofa on one side and two comfortable sitting chairs on the other. A large coffee table stood in front of the sofa. The entertainment/storage area was directly across from the bed and offered a color television with remote (CNN, first run movies, lots of programming) and a good amount of drawer storage for two people. There is a safe hidden from view on one of the three shelves mounted above the television set. Next to the entertainment/storage area was the desk area that offered ample room for my computer, printer, speakers, digital camera stuff and so on. There were two separate 110v outlets (as well as two 220v) The two mirrored side cabinets open towards the large mirror over the desk so that folks can use them to see their hair and other views generally hidden from sight. Looking into the Hallway The hallway offered even more storage areas. The main closet area offered two large closet areas for hanging clothes. The men's side offered two levels while the ladies side only one to accommodate full length gowns and other long dresses. A small bar area resided by the door into the bathroom and by the doorway leading to the ship, another series of enclosed shelves resided. Bathroom in Junior Suite The bathroom was wonderful! First the amenities that were provided were complete (including cotton balls, Q-tips, large bottles of quality shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath gel and lip balm) Bathrobes were provided for the entire cruise, as well. The mirrored cabinets by the the sink offered substantial storage (even though we used our toiletry bags instead) and there was a full sized bathtub/shower combination. I especially enjoyed the bathtub. Dining: The Romeo and Juliet Restaurant, decks 4 and 5, aft: This is the main dining venue on the Legend of the Seas serving a formal breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Breakfast and lunch are generally open seating, while dinner is served in two seatings, main and late. Main seating sits for dinner at 6 pm, while late sits at 8:30. On almost every evening, there is a pre-dinner show for late seating passengers so that everyone is done with dinner and a show (no pun intended) by around 11 pm. The Romeo and Juliet Restaurant The Romeo and Juliet Restaurant features a full dinner menu with appetizers, soup, salad, pasta, entrée and traditional deserts. Everyone found the quality of the food and the presentation extremely good. Every meal I had left me quite satisfied and wanting for nothing. Our waiters made it quite clear, that they would correct any element of the dining experience that was not up to par, but no one took them up on it, as the meals were simply wonderful. Joanie had a birthday celebration onboard and we were treated like family with a huge layer cake and a birthday song. The Windjammer Café, deck 9, forward: The Windjammer is the Legend's buffet venue and is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks, and dinner. I loved the Windjammer, as there was always fresh fruit, yogurt, juice and other healthy choices in ample quantity to make even the most demanding health nut happy. Lunch continued the healthy offerings with fresh steamed vegetables daily along with an excellent salad bar. Here Royal Caribbean stands out as exceptional, in my opinion. The Windjammer Cafe There are also traditional breakfast offerings such as eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, cereals (hot and cold) and several other choices. Outside the Windjammer Cafe, a breakfast buffet was set up serving hot food items and also included an omelet station. Lunch always saw many different selections. On the main buffet there was always a fish and meat selection, as well as a specialty carved meat, potatoes, soup, bread and other selections. A specialty buffet line was also offered daily. Asian fare, Indian cuisine, Thai noodle dishes and so were offered on some days. While crowded during peak hours, the Windjammer was a comfortable place to enjoy a casual meal. While we didn’t dine in the Windjammer for dinner, we heard that it was a pleasant experience. The Solarium Bar The grill next to the Solarium Bar also served lunch and snacks all day long. Hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches were a favorite with many of the passengers. In the afternoon, cookies (and other treats) were made available for those that wanted them. One of the favorites with everyone was the unlimited ice cream cones that were available by the main pool bar. Offering two different flavors every day (and a blended selection as well) every afternoon saw numerous people walking around licking their ice cream cones. Coffee, iced tea, milk and water were available all day long at the same area and juice in the morning, replaced by lemonade in the afternoon was always available in the Windjammer Café. Joanie and I used room service frequently for coffee in the morning and had exceptional service. Of course, we tipped early and often. HINT: If you use room service you should tip at least 1 or 2 dollars each visit. If you do not tip, you will find room service gets slower and slower on any ship. The Entertainment Venues The "That's Entertainment" Theater, deck 4, forward: The Legend of the Sea’s main entertainment showroom is an excellent venue for the production shows that are presented almost every evening. Excellent sight lines and acoustics add to the enjoyment of the performances. In order to get a front row seat, however you must arrive early. Late arriving passengers will find it difficult to find seats easily, as once the lights are dimmed, the terraced nature of the showroom makes it uncomfortable to negotiate your way to a seat. HINT: If you plan to attend a show, make sure you allow 5 to 10 minutes in advance of the start of the show to find seats and get settled in. That's Entertainment Theater The Anchors Aweigh Lounge, deck 5, forward: The Entrance to the Anchors Aweigh Lounge This lounge is one deck above the That's Entertainment Theater and is used for many of the shows (especially the comedians) Anchors Aweigh Lounge Once again I would recommend arriving early as the seats in the rear of the lounge are subject to the noise at the bar in the rear of the room. The Anchors Aweigh Lounge is an intimate venue allowing you to feel personally involved with the performance. This is also the scene of the repeater's party and other functions. The Champagne Bar, deck 4, midship: Every evening before and after dinner a group plays dance music in front of the Champagne Bar. Couples enjoy the slow dance tunes (especially on formal night.) The music produced by the group is excellent and the surroundings are beautiful. Joanie and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out here and on evenings when we did not have plans to meet other members fo the group, would relax here with a fine glass of wine before dinner. The Legend's Champagne Bar The Viking Crown Lounge, deck 11 aft: The Viking Crown Lounge This is Royal Caribbean’s signature lounge that resides on every Royal Caribbean ship. It is a great bar, a disco, scene of the ship’s karaoke nights and an all around fun place to be. The Viking Crown Lounge Piano Bar At the rear of the Viking Crown Lounge is an area designated for cigar smokers and it was heavily used during this cruise, however the scent, nor the smoke never made it to the public bar side of the room. The Viking Crown Lounge is an excellent place to meet and our group took full advantage of it. The intimate piano bar area is also very special. The Schooner Bar, deck 4, port, midship: The Schooner Bar The Legend of the Sea's Schooner Bar was the place to enjoy an after dinner cocktail and to relax to the piano bar's wonderful entertainer. It was always active and a great place to meet people. The Casino The Casino, deck 4, midship: The Legend offers a huge casino for the ship’s size. There is row after row of slot machines and many gaming tables and folks seemed to be winning. Several in our group gambled the entire cruise and ended up ahead of where they started. While always active, the casino didn’t seem to be over crowded, as one sees during the evening hours on some ships. The Card Room The Card Room, deck 7, midship: This is easily the coolest card room on any ship that I have seen. It is large, offers tremendous views, and is isolated so that one can really get into their card games. The Library, deck 7, midship: Again this is a really outstanding library offering lots of books in a beautiful setting. The Legend of the Seas Library The Internet Café, deck 8: midship: While the Internet Cafe is beautiful, the connection is slow and it ends up being very expensive if you need to stay in touch. The Legend does not offer "in cabin" access so if you need to go online, the Internet Cafe is your only choice. Fortunately, there are Internet Cafes in every port with reasonable rtes and broad band access. The Internet Cafe The Loyalty Ambassador’s Office, deck 8, midship: The Crown and Anchor Society Office Royal Caribbean has an excellent loyalty program for its Crown and Anchor Society members. Joanie and I are “Diamond” (more than ten cruises on RCI) members and the benefits are very meaningful. From discounts on board, to priority tender passes, to priority embarkation and debarkation, Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program is tops in the industry. Be sure to join, as it costs nothing and you will immediately reap the benefits. The Pool Areas: The Legend of the Seas Pool Area and Viking Crown Lounge The main pool is a great feature on the Legend. It offers a good amount of lounge chairs. two Jacuzzis, afternoon entertainment and piped in music the rest of the day. The Legend of the Seas Pool Bar The waiters from the main pool bar serve the pool area and one never has to wait for the opportunity to order a libation if one so desires. The Legend of the Seas Pool Area The fully enclosed Solarium pool is open 24-hours per day (so are its 2 Jacuzzis) and is always a comfortable temperature for relaxing and swimming. While we didn’t spend much time in the Solarium, many folks made it their location of choice on sea days. The Solarium The Fitness Center: The Fitness Center The Legend has a sufficient fitness center with everything you will need to maintain your work out. There are treadmills, a ski machine, a step machine, high and low stationary bikes, free weights, exercise balls and bands and enough Cybex machines to exercise all major muscle groups. Additionally, occasional classes were offered (some with a $10 fee) Fitness Center Weight Machines The Rock Climbing Wall on the Legend of the Seas In addition to the Fitness Center, the Legend of the Seas also has a Royal Caribbean's signature rock wall to get your work out on. The rock wall is so popular on this ship that you need to make appointments to scale its formidable face. The Legend's Miniature Golf Course If the Fitness Center and rock wall are too much for you, try a round of miniature golf up on deck 10. It is free and no reservations are required. The Cruise Sunday July 18th, 2004; San Diego, California (God’s Country) We arrived at the cruise terminal and boarded almost instantly. We had packed a carry-on with our bathing suits and toiletries and wasted no time changing and making our way to the pool area to enjoy the stellar day. Joanie and I laid out in the sun and when it came down to cool down, went into the solarium to enjoy the pool’s cooling qualities before returning to the sun. We were joined by other friends and spent an entirely enjoyable afternoon enjoying the Legend. Considering most folks were wandering about looking lost, we considered this afternoon as a complete bonus cruise day. About 4 pm we made our way to our cabin to get our life preservers for the dreaded “SOLAS Life Boat Drill”. While absolutely necessary, I always grade a ship and crew as to how painless they can make this drill without impacting its obvious importance. The Legend did an excellent job of expediting the drill, yet covering the important information the drill is held for. We had decided since our balcony was on the starboard side of the sip, that we would spend the departure on our balcony and enjoy the departing vistas of Harbor Island, Shelter Island and Point Loma as we made our way to the open ocean before turning south for the run to Cabo San Lucas. For those that have not sailed from San Diego before, it is a fabulous city and port. The “B” Street pier is located right at the foot of the heart of downtown San Diego and one is treated to a fabulous overview of the San Diego Harbor area as you depart the harbor. As a San Diegan, I think it is the best part of the entire cruise (but then I am very partial to San Diego). We had arranged for a non-host cocktail party (for those interested in our group) and we met for the first time in the Viking Crown Lounge. I was impressed that virtually everyone in the group attended the party and we all got to meet one another before making or way to our first dinner together. Dinner was absolutely wonderful. We enjoyed excellent service and a great menu. I enjoyed the baked cod with vegetables and would highly recommend it, if you see it on the menu. Since we lost an hour this evening moving the clock forward, and I needed to be up early to do the first of our two seminars in the morning, I decided to turn in right after dinner and slept like a new born baby, as did Joanie. Monday, July 19th, 2004; Day at Sea When the call came in the morning announcing our coffee was about to be delivered, all I wanted to do is roll over and continue my very peaceful night’s sleep. However, I got up, enjoyed some coffee and then made my way up to the Windjammer Café for some fruit and yogurt. This was the morning of the first of our two seminars, so after a quick breakfast, I made my way to conference room 1 in the Conference Center. Everything was prepared perfectly and the seminar participants began showing up in time for a timely start. We had a great time getting to know one another and before we knew it, the three hours had passed and it was time to conclude the meeting. Joanie and I then planned to spend the afternoon in the wonderful sunshine that had blessed our day. We were not disappointed. Evening brought us to the first formal night and the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party. We had great fun socializing with some of the members from our group and then made our way to the Romeo and Juliet Restaurant for a wonderful formal dinner. The dinner conversation continued into the evening and we ended up being the last table to leave the restaurant. One of the couples in our group had sailed the Majesty of the Seas on a previous cruise and had recognized the entertainer in the Schooner Bar’s piano bar as someone with exceptional talent. A number of us joined the couple to enjoy the entertainer. Joanie and I were bushed, so after one set, we turned in for the evening. Tuesday, July 20th. 2004; Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico The Surf Break Known as "The Rock" as Seen From Zippers Restaurant We awoke to a beautiful day with the sunshine calling for us to enjoy the day. Before the cruise, we had check the surf forecast and found that there was a moderate south swell expected to fill in on Monday and slowly drop during the week. Based on the good news of a swell, we planned to surf at each port of call and brought our surfboards with us. We were off the ship tendering into shore with high hopes of enjoying some quality surf. While no swell was apparent in the Cabo area, we negotiated for a van to take us the 20 some odd miles to the surf area known as “Costa Azul”. As soon as we dropped down the road into the Costa Azul area, we were greeted with quality walls wrapping around Palmilla Point. We continued to the wash that marks the southern-most point of Costa Azul and quickly got our surfboards and other paraphernalia and started the trek down the beach. Joanie and Debbie Relaxing at Zippers Restaurant We decided to leave the ladies in our group in the hands of Zipper’s Restaurant where they enjoyed a great view of the surf, lounge chairs to enjoy the warm sunshine and a very friendly bar and restaurant to fill any requirements they might develop while we surfed. We enjoyed the somewhat inconsistent 3 to 4 foot surf and had a good number of quality rides. Andy, my son, even managed to get barreled on a set wave right in front of me, which is a feat, as the waves at Costa Azul rarely pitch. We surfed for a good amount of time and then got out to enjoy a fabulous lunch at Zippers Restaurant. While Costa Azul and Zippers Restaurant is far from Cabo San Lucas, if one surfs, or wants an experience that shouts the ambiance of Baja, a visit here is well worth the trouble. The Surf Break Known as Zippers, Zipping We finally met our van driver at the appointed time for the ride back to Cabo San Lucas where some of the guys took the surfboards and went back to the ship while I went with Joanie and another lady that had joined us, to find an Internet Café to clean up some business that needed attention. All in all, it was a great day. Back on board, I headed straight for the Jacuzzi to soothe my aching muscles from a day of surfing. The Solarium Jacuzzis were just the ticket and after a bit of relaxing, I returned to our cabin to work on the computer for a while. The Royal Caribbean repeater’s party was scheduled right before late seating dinner, so Joanie and I attended the function. It was amazing to me just how many repeat clients Royal Caribbean had on aboard. The RCI loyalty program is truly one of the best. After the cocktail party, we made our way to the Romeo and Juliet Restaurant for another wonderful meal with many of the members of our group. The service. quality of food and presentation was simply wonderful. We switched tables among our group each night and were able to experience three different serving teams and all were wonderful. We were bushed from the exercise and sunshine and decided to turn in right after dinner. Wednesday, July 21st, 2004; Mazatlan, Mexico We had originally planned to negotiate a panga to take us out to Stone Island's point for a surf session, but based on the reality that the promised swell just had not materialized, we decided to visit the Golden Zone instead. There is an excellent left point right in front of Valentino’s disco, and the beach in front of the Oyster Bar also holds some reasonable beach break waves. One of my favorite breaks in Mazatlan, Cannon's Point turned out that the swell had too much south in it to get it to break. The point in front of Valentino’s was the only thing breaking in Mazatlan, and was therefore, very crowded, while not having its usual quality because of the steepness of the swell. We ended up hanging at the beach for the day before making our way back to downtown Mazatlan. A couple of the guys took the surfboards back to the ship while Joanie and I shopped for prizes at Mazatlan’s “Mercado”. We later joined up at the Shrimp Bucket for a late lunch and libation. While the shrimp was good, it couldn’t hold a candle to the excellent meal we had enjoyed the day before at Costa Azul’s Zippers. Back on board, we had just enough time for a Jacuzzi and short swim before getting ready for the evening’s meal. We met in the Champagne Bar for a glass of wine and then made our way to the restaurant. After a wonderful meal with lots of laughter and camaraderie, we decided to join a good number of our group in the Schooner Bar to enjoy the piano bar. Once again the sun had taken its toll and Joanie and I were off to bed. Thursday, July 22nd, 2004; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Ahhhh, Puerto Vallarta. Joanie and I love the Puerto Vallarta area and have vacationed north of Puerto Vallarta a number of times. The surfing north of Puerto Vallarta, while difficult to locate, is excellent. We had decided to visit one of our favorite breaks on Punta Mita, known as Dinosaurs located at Los Veneros. Dinosaurs is a quality right point/reef that is very similar to Swamis in San Diego (our home break) and breaks on a south swell. It was our hope that the current swell would penetrate the coastline and that Dinosaurs would be breaking with enough size and energy to enjoy the break. After a 45-minute taxi ride we arrived at Los Veneros, entered its facility and made our way down to the vanishing horizon swimming pools for our first look at the break. Sigh, again, no surf. There was a little swell with 1-2 ft. sets, so we decided to paddle out and enjoy the miniature waves for what they were. Most folks think that surfing large waves is the most dangerous thing about surfing. The truth is, that surfing small waves over shallow reefs is a thousand times more dangerous. My son Andy hit the reef while duck diving a small set wave and not only dinged his board deep enough to penetrate the glass, he also acquired a rather nasty reef burn. The View From the Upper Pool at Los Veneros Beach Club Los Veneros is a wonderful beach club that not many cruisers find out about. It has a $12 access fee that includes one free cocktail, towels, use of the wonderful showers and restroom facilities, swim up bar and restaurant. There are two separate “vanishing horizon” swimming pools (the top one for adults only) and an excellent beach. The best part of Los Veneros is that it overlooks an first-rate surf spot. This is an superb choice if some in a group surf and others want an easy-to-enjoy beach club. Some of the Group Members Hard at Work at Los Veneros Beach Club We eventually called it a day and made our way back to the ship to drop off our surfboards and change for a late afternoon shopping adventure in Puerto Vallarta’s old section shops, boutiques and markets. We were not disappointed with the shopping and the overall experience. After an hour and one half of hard negotiating, we had accumulated enough prizes or our upcoming seminar and started to make our way to “Roberto’s Restaurant,” a restaurant that a group of us had found on my last visit to Puerto Vallarta. We arrived to find other couples from our group, so we took over a large table and began to consider the cocktail and dinner menus. While we had a great dining experience, the magic that had materialized on the last visit failed to appear. The lobster was so-so and the service was, oh well, lackluster, at best. I was disappointed, being the one that organized the event. While I would give it another try during lobster season, I am going to modify my recommendation of the restaurant on PortReviews.com. After a full meal and cocktails, some of us decided to simply walk off dinner by making the trek back to the ship on foot. This turned out to be an excellent decision and the Malecon was packed with the local population, as was the area (south of the river in the old section of P.V.) leading the way back across the river to where the tourist markets were located. It was a humid and balmy evening, and the lengthy walk let everyone enjoy Puerto Vallarta’s wonderful nights. Once back on the ship, Joanie and I turned in for the evening ready for a good night’s rest. Friday, July 23rd, 2004; Day at Sea We awoke with the arrival of our morning coffee at our cabin door and after tipping the server, settled onto our balcony to enjoy the early morning. The sun was already bright and there was not a cloud in the sky. We spent the entire day by the pool relaxing. It was glorious. As this was the second formal evening and the time for our group photograph, many in our group had arranged to meet for cocktails in the Schooner Bar before taking our 8:30 pm photograph right before going into dinner. Unfortunately, the photographers had grossly overbooked themselves and there appeared to be folks simply demanding pictures even though they had not made a reservation. The guy that was helping the photographer had the management skills of a 12-year old and our group waited quite a while suffering his inadequacies. One in our group nick-named the guy "Franz" from the Steve Martin movie "Father of the Bride". It was a perfect name for him. Finally, we simply pushed out way onto the stairs like everyone else was doing and got the shot taken. This was actually the only event I could complain about on this cruise. The Legend's photography team is lousy, to say the least. We enjoyed our last formal dinner (lobster, of course) and then moved on to the Schooner Bar for more piano bar music. It was a great evening. Saturday, July 24th, 2004; Day at Sea The morning started with our usual coffee via room service, but we found the morning covered with a cold haze much like San Diego's famed June Gloom. It didn't promise to be a pool day, so I made the decision to do seminars all day for those that wanted them. Our second seminar was scheduled for the morning from 9 am until noon in the Conference room, but we were able to secure the room until 2 pm. The seminars went extremely well and the group had bonded the way only cruise groups can. I finally called it quits around 2:30 pm and went for a sandwich to hold me over until dinner. We had arranged for a hosted cocktail party for the group prior to dinner in the Viking Crown Lounge and met everyone there at 7:30 pm. By now, everyone had bonded and was having fun with one another. In addition to the business card exchange, we held a "White Elephant Auction" so that those that purchased things they now wondered why, could make them available to the group member with the highest bid. It was nothing but fun and everyone enjoyed the interchange. The last day of a cruise is always the most depressing for me. It seems like you have fallen into "cruise mode" and now it is time to pack to return home. We had made some new friends on this trip and I was sad to see them move on with their lives and us ours. The last night's dinner went very well and a good number of us continued on to the Schooner Bar for one last cocktail together. Joanie and I turned in. Sunday, July 25th, 2004; San Diego, California We were up early, had a quick breakfast and were off the ship by 8:30am. After a quick telephone call to Airport Connections and they dispatched an entire van just for us. It was a good thing, as we had a substantial amount of luggage and surfboards. After a quick 45 minute drive, we were home.

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Jun 20, 2004

Mexican Riveara

June 20th 2004- San Diego, California: I was staying at a hotel when i previously flew to San Diego and borded the ship thinking " Wow, this is a big ship! I got on and was awed at the size of the ship, there was so much to do! I went to dinner and met my waiter and assistant waiter and my mother and I were so happy! I went to the Schooner bar that night and fell asleap early that night. Day 2- At Sea Today My mother and I went

to the spa and were so relived, we later ate lunch at the Solarium, a pool next to the spa, and were so happy with the service! I went to the art auction. After I took a nap and woke up just in time for dinner. After dinner, i went to the party at the Crown Viking Lodge and I had so much fun! Day 3- Cabo San Lucas Woke up early and went to a excursion in a glass bottom boat and was so happy! Then we went to the down town and at The Hard Rock Cafe, then at 3:00 we got back on the ship and we didn't go to dinner that night, we had room service because we were so tired, then i got a few drinks at Champaine and met a girl named Jean Aux from France. Day 4 Mazatlan Me and my mother visited our friend who owns the El Cid and boy did we go down memory lane! We later went to Senor Frogs and then it was time to go back on the ship. It was time for dinner and we got dressed up and we had a good time. I later saw a show in the theatre and had a lot of fun! I then went to the casino for the first time and had fun at the slots and the black jack table and learned how to play carabbean stud poker! Day 5 Puerto Vallarta We hung out in the port and went to a resturaunt across the street and shoped in the market next door but we didn't want to do much that day. We then found out there was a night club near so we went there at 8:00 and didn't have fun so after that, we fell asleap on the ship. Day 6 At Sea I acted like a kid that day and went to the arcade then i went to the pool and swam then got a soda then I went to the casino and saw a movie in the theatre. I went to dinner and it was lobster night so i was exited and it was good! I then went back to the casino and then I partied at the Viking Lodge again. Day 7 At Sea I was sad it was the last day so I went to the Schooner bar and then went to the spa for a massage, then it was around 2:00 and I sat on my balcany and looked at the beauty of the ocean and then went to dinner, after i went to Ancor's Aweigh for a show and then i went shopping in the shoping area and then i went to Champaine with my mom and then she fell asleap and then i partied at the viking crown and then at 2:00 I went to bed. Day 8 San Diego I flew home very sad it was over, but i booked another cruise that goes to Bermuda next year!

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May 7, 2004

11 Night Honolulu to Ensenada, Mexico

We just got home a few days ago from a two week Hawaii trip aboard Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas. Just to give you some insight, this review will be a very long, detailed review! I learned so much from the cruise critic Hawaii board, that I feel I have to “pay it forward” to anyone else that is considering this cruise, and give as much information as I can to help answer anyone else’s questions out there! We started planning

this cruise over 2 years ago and put a lot of research and work into! Thursday, May 6th – Flying to Honolulu, Oahu We had a car pick us up at 4AM to take us to LGA for our 6AM flight. We had been up since before 3AM and were so excited that our trip was finally here after 2 years of planning and waiting!! When we arrived at LGA, we did curb side check in, hoping they would not weigh our luggage! (a 12 day trip requires a lot of clothes!!) We were right; the man just picked each one up and then said “ok” and gave us our boarding passes. As we had been planning this trip for over two years, we managed to save up enough airline miles to fly first class to Honolulu for FREE!!!! We then made it though security and waited to board our flight. We flew from LGA to ORD on a 6AM flight and then connected with an 8:55AM Flight from ORD to HNL. The flight from LGA to Chicago was quick and painless. We made it to Chicago with a little over an hour before they would start boarding our connecting flight. We walked around the terminal for awhile to stretch out our legs as we knew the next flight was going to be long. Soon it was time to board the plane and we were greeted with champagne and juice! We found out seats which were huge and reclined 180 degrees! We got settled in and soon it was time for take off!! The flight was a little over 9 ½ hours long. We were served lunch and a snack and watched 2 movies. We tried to sleep but even with those big seats it was still hard! We landed at 1PM in Honolulu and were one of the first off the plane. We were greeted by the car service that was taking us to the hotel and he helped us get our luggage. Within 20 minutes of landing, we were leaving the airport and on our way to the hotel for our 1 night pre-stay! Our hotel was the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Originally I had booked the Outrigger Reef, but every once in awhile I would check the rates at the HHV and eventually I found a rate that was cheaper then what we were booked in at the Outrigger, and for a few dollars more we even got the breakfast included! We arrived at the hotel and we checked in right away. The HHV had even upgraded our room to an ocean-view room in the Rainbow Tower! We then headed around the hotel to check out our room and it was awesome! We were on the end and had two balconies and a great view of the ocean! We then walked around the hotel some more and met up with two of our Cruise Critic friends Pat and Eileen (pkexton & ebk2795) from Philadelphia who were going to be sailing with us also. We checked out their room in the Tapa Tower and then got a cab over to the Ala Moana Shopping Center to have dinner at Bubba Gump’s! There was no wait and we were starving since we a little jetlagged. I had the Mahi-Mahi and DH had the Coconut Shrimp! It was good! The restaurant was nice, but we felt that the one in Miami stuck the movie theme a little more. We walked around the mall a little more and then headed back to the hotel. Once we got back to the hotel, we walked around the beach admiring the view and stuck our feet in the Pacific Ocean! As it got dark, it then hit us that we had been up for almost 24 hours straight with the time distance and we decided to go to sleep! Friday, May 7th – Embarkation Day!! I woke up around 3AM and made myself sleep until 6:30AM! By then the sun was starting to come up and the view was amazing! We got up and showered and then headed over to the Tapa Tower to have breakfast with Pat & Eileen. The HHV had a really nice buffet breakfast that included everything from eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast & fruit to having a lot of Japanese specialties like rice, sushi, miso soup and some other things that I did not recognize. We ate a leisurely breakfast and then headed over to the Harley-Davidson store that was within the HHV. We bought some t-shirts and souvenirs for our nieces and nephews back home (we buy them a Harley Shirt on every trip that we take!). We walked around and visited a few more stores that included a Honolulu Cookie Co., and ABC Store, and a Crazy Shirts store and took some pictures of the HHV. We then went back to the room and finish packing everything up. We had to check out of the hotel at 11AM and we needed to get all of our cruise documents ready! After we checked out, we took a cab from the hotel to the pier (a $15 ride). We arrived at the Aloha Tower Market Place Pier at 11:15 AM to find out that they were not ready for us to board yet. We had to stand on a line with all of our luggage by a gate to be x-rayed. We were 10th in line and within 15 minutes, the line was all the way out to the curb. We waited for a few minutes when we realized that 2 of our cruise critic friends were behind us inline. We introduced ourselves to Susan & Ray (Murphy) from Chicago and talked with them for a few minutes about their week in Kauai and then the line began to move. Everyone pushed their luggage up to the front where the X-ray machine was and we then got inline to go through security and check in. After waiting another 5 minutes in that line it began to move. We had to show passport & cruise documents at the door and then security allowed us to go through the security check point. We then headed over to the priority check-in for Platinum and Diamond members. We got a new girl who was a little slow and soon we had our documents handed in and our Sea Pass in hand!!! I asked if there were upgrades available and she said yes to check with the pier coordinator. We were currently booked in cabin 7550, a category D, Balcony cabin mid-ship. When we got to the pier coordinator, we found out that there was a lot of category C, Junior Suites available, so we upgraded to Jr. Suite Cabin 8552! We then had our welcome aboard photo taken and our Sea Pass picture taken and we went up to find our cabin. All the fire doors to the hallways were closed to block access to the cabins. There was a sign posted stating “Your cabin will be ready at 1PM”. We opened the door and found our cabin to put DH’s Lactose Free milk in our refrigerator and the cabin attendant told us our cabin would not be ready until 1PM. We then headed up to the Windjammer for lunch and to check out the rest of the ship. We made spa appointments, found our table in the dining room and confirmed DH’s special dietary needs and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking because our luggage arrived very quickly, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We had early seating at the beginning of the cruise, but we switched to late seating 3 days into the cruise because we were so rushed to get back on the ship and always missed the sail away’s. Dinner the first night was casual/Hawaiian but I don’t remember what we had to eat. After dinner we walked around the pier looking at the small shops but didn’t buy anything. We were still really tired & jetlagged and had to be up early the next morning, so we went to bed shortly after dinner. Saturday, May 8th – Honolulu, Oahu We were up early and had breakfast in the windjammer. We did the Arizona Memorial and Oahu sightseeing tour through the ship and had to be in the terminal by 7:15AM. We all lined up and boarded a coach bus and went straight to Pearl Harbor. We had an hour to wait for our group to be called for the movie so we walked around and took pictures and looked at the small museum that they had. Then at 9AM we were called into the theater to watch a 20 minute film about the events leading up to the attack in Pearl Harbor and actually footage from the attacks. We then boarded a small boat and were taken out to the memorial. You could still see the oil on top of the water. It was very emotional seeing the ship still there. We then boarded the small boat and headed back to the main building. From there we all meet our bus driver and re-boarded the bus. The driver then drove us around the island point out several things and making stops at the Napali Lookout, Ionali Place and the original statue of King Kamehameha. We also drove through Chinatown before getting off at the pier. Once we were back on the ship, we had lunch at the windjammer and took a nap. The muster drill was at 5:30 and everyone had to be onboard by 5PM. There was a sail away party on the pool deck as we left Honolulu and the ship gave everyone a real Hawaiian lei. They even had people in the dining rooms giving them out since the party started when the first dinner seating was. Dinner again was casual/Hawaiian. After dinner we had our first Cruise Critic get together. Because we did not have enough people for a M&M party, we had set a bunch of times for us all to meet up. Our first meeting was in the Schooner Bar between dinner seating and we meet up with CruisinTrish, HFP, and Pat and Eileen & Saltyswife. Our meeting overlapped with TV Tune Trivia so we formed a team together and one the first of several trivia games together! Sunday, May 9th – Nawiliwili, Kauai This morning we had breakfast delivered to our stateroom. As we pulled into the pier, it was clear and we could see far out into the mountains. We finished our breakfast and headed off the ship. We booked a helicopter tour of the island through Island Helicopters. It was recommended to us from friends who did it on their honeymoon and said it was the best way to see the entire island. They were so right! We signed up for the 9:15 tour and were greeted at the pier by a driver at 8:30. He drove us to the airport where we paid and were given a complimentary video of the tour. Two more people then joined us and we were off to the helicopter pad. Once there, we were strategically seated in a special order and given life vests and instructions on how to use them. Then two more people showed up and we boarded the helicopter. The tour took us all over the island through Poipu, Waimea Canyon, the Napali Cliffs, Hanalei, Lumahai Beach, the Princeville Resort, Mount Waialeale, and the Wailu Falls. It was absolutely breath taking and I don’t think there is any other that you can see the entire island, then by helicopter. After the helicopter tour we returned to the ship. DH grabbed a quick burger from the Solarium and got ready to go golfing with friends. I had lunch in the windjammer and then meet up with Pat & Eileen. We caught the Wal-Mart shuttle from the pier and went over to Wal-Mart and then walked over to Hilo Hattie’s. I had read on the boards that Wal-Mart was the best place to buy coffee and macadamia nuts, and souvenirs. After a little searching, I found that Wal-Mart and Hilo Hattie’s had pretty much the same prices and I would think the quality and freshness would be better from Hilo Hattie’s then Wal-Mart. We bought all of our postcards and a few other Hawaiian souvenirs from the stores and headed back to the ship. It had rained on and off the whole day after the helicopter tour so once we were back on board we spent some time writing out all those post cards and spent some time in the solarium with more cruise Critic friends Herb & Trish (HFP & CruisinTrish) before my massage at the spa. Tonight was the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Reception and the first formal night. We missed the Captain’s party because I was getting me massage and DH got back from golfing at 4:45. We also had to dress up because it was the first formal night. After dinner we check out the photos that had been taken of us and then wrote out more post cards! Monday, May 10th – Lahaina, Maui We booked the Lanai Wild Dolphin & Snorkel Excursion through the ship. Because we were tendered in Lahaina, we had to be in the theatre at 7:15 for our tour. So we were up early again and had breakfast in the Windjammer and then our group was led to the tenders together for our shore excursion. Once we got off the tender, we were lead to a large catamaran where we all boarded. Even though it was called a dolphin snorkel, we did not see any dolphins, but we did see a few whales, even though it was the end of whale season. The water was a little on the cold side compared to snorkeling in the Caribbean, but we did see a nice reef, sea turtles, and some fish. The crew was great and I really recommend this excursion! After the excursion we walked around Lahaina a little and visited a few souvenir shops and Hilo Hattie’s again! Getting back on the ship took awhile because the tenders were very slow loading and unloading and it took almost an hour to get back on the ship. So we all changed quickly and got ready for the Luau because we did not know how long it would take to get off the ship again. So at 4:30 we all meet in Pat & Eileen’s cabin for the luau and got off the ship together. Trish and Herb had rented a car and offered to drive us all there. We booked The Old Lahaina Luau and we seated at table 2. We had a great view of the stage. The food was buffet style was good, but by the time we got our food and sat down, we were eating in the dark. The show was great and explained the history of Hawaii and the Hula. However, afterwards, when we got back to the pier, the line was extremely long and took over an hour and ½ to reboard the ship. All of the luau’s must have ended at the same time and we thought the ship would have been prepared and had enough tenders running, but that was not the case. Tuesday, May 11th – Lahaina, Maui We had originally booked the Maui Downhill Sunrise tour, but when we called to confirm the reservation, they told us the meeting time had been changed from 3:30AM to 2:25 AM. The tender schedule over night was just 1 tender every hour leaving the ship on the ½ hour and the pier on the hour. This meant that we would have had to have taken the 1:30 AM tender and sat on the pier for a good 45 minutes in the dark. We tried to cancel our reservations, but would have been charged the full amount because it was within 24 hours, so we opted for the 7:45 AM Tour. We met our driver at the Pioneer in at 7:45 AM and he drove us to the office where everyone got their gear. We were then driven to the top of Haleakala where we took some pictures and looked at the crater. It was a little chilly at the top, but soon everyone loaded up and started the tour downhill. I stayed in the can while DH did the bike part. It was very clear when started the trip up, but on the way back down it got very cloudy and started to rain and pour at times. By lunch everyone was wet & cold but they continued on down to the bottom. It was very well coordinated between the driver and the bike leader to make sure that everyone was inline and safe. But DH was not to happy with the quality of the bikes and felt that for the money we had paid, that they should have had better equipment for everyone to use. Once we returned to the ship, we found our Matire’d Yasa and asked to switch to late seating. While at the luau, we found out that Herb & Trish were at the same table at us and there were 4 empty seats, so we switched to late seating so we wouldn’t have to worry about always rushing for dinner. And since we were seating at the same table, we had the same waiter Jose and assistant waiter Alex! We then hung out at the Solarium and rested before dinner! Dinner was Casual / Hawaiian again and afterwards, we all went to the Love & Marriage game show, of which our tablemates, Sharon & Ted won!!! Wednesday, May 12th – Hilo, Hawaii We did two excursions though the ship in Hilo. First was the Best of Hilo which included the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, Nani Mau Gardens & Akaka Falls. The Nut factory was really just a gift shop, but the prices were the lowest that I had seen anywhere on any of the islands so we stocked up there. We then arrived at the Nani Mau Gardens for a 20 minute tram ride through their gardens. It was pretty, but it was as if there was just 1 of every plant planted in the ground with a sign. It felt as if it was more of landscaping then a tropical garden. The last stop was at the Akaka Falls. This required some walking on a paved trail to view the falls. It was well worth it to see the view, but some people, mostly the elderly, could not handle the walk or the heat. Afterwards, the bus dropped you off at either pier or Hilo Hattie’s! We waited online to clear security and grabbed a quick lunch at the solarium before heading back out for our next tour, the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens. Several Vans met us at the pier and drove us along the coast to the gardens. We were each given a map of the gardens and told to meet back at the top in an hour & ½. This was more of what I was expecting. It was a tropical rainforest filled with all kinds of Hawaiian plants. We walked around the gardens for an hour taking pictures before heading back up to the top! We really enjoyed this tour, but don’t forget your bug spray! After returning to the pier we spent some time in the solarium pool before dinner. Dinner tonight was Casual / Hawaiian again and afterwards we all went to Trish and Herb’s Balcony to view the volcano as we sailed from Hilo to Kona! We could see the lava, but not that much and it did not come out in our pictures unfortunately. Thursday, May 13th – Kona, Hawaii We had no set plans for Kona, just that we wanted to see Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge). Herb & Trish had rented a car and said that we could go along with them for the day. The ride from the pier to the car rental place took about 15 minutes and there was a little line so we had to wait awhile to get the car. Once we had the car we headed south. We stopped at the Royal Kona Coffee Museum and store, but no one bought anything. The prices were much cheaper in Hilo Hattie’s. We then arrived at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) and we walked around and took pictures. The main building was under construction, but we got pictures of everything else. We even saw 2 Hawaiian Sea Turtles in the bay along with some fish. After walking around for an hour, we got back in the car and headed back into Kona. We had lunch at Bubba Gump’s and had seats right on the water. We saw another turtle and tons of fish. We also had a great view of the ship! After lunch we stopped at Long’s Drug store (right behind Hilo Hattie’s). They have the best prices of anywhere on Macadamia Nuts, Maui Potato Chips, Kona Coffee, Pineapple Wine and any other Hawaiian food souvenir that you could think of. So we stocked up there before heading back to the ship. Once back on board, we spent another afternoon in the solarium before dinner. Dinner’s theme was Smart Casual / Country Western. (We turned our clocks back 1 hour) Friday, May 14th – Monday, May 17th – At Sea The sea days were filled with a lot of activities to choose from. There was always Bingo twice a day, academy at sea which were classes where you could learn about certain things on the ship like how they run the shows or photography, hotel & restaurant management. But we pretty much spent most of our time in the solarium and participating in the trivia games that they had everyday. Friday night they had the Quest game and the Sock Hop. We participated in the Quest game, but were in the back of the room so we never made it up there in time. Dinner was casual / 50’s&60’s. (We turned our clocks back 1 hour) Saturday night they had The Coasters perform which was really good and it was the formal night and the Crown & Anchor Society Get together. They also had the Gala Buffet. Sunday night was smart casual and the show of Jump Jivin Swing which was good. (We turned our clocks back another hour) Monday night was casual with the farewell show. Our luggage had to be out in the hallway by 10PM. Tuesday, May 18th – Ensenada, Mexico Everyone was given color luggage tags and a sheet with where all the luggage tags were supposed to meet and at what time. We were up at 3:45 AM and had breakfast. We were white with green stripes and had to be in the theater by 5:30 AM to disembark at 5:45. We sat there until 6AM when they finally called us. They then walked us down through the ship to deck 1 where we were escorted to buses that matched our luggage tags. All of our luggage was already under the bus and we just got on the bus. There were only 27 of us on the bus, so we each had our own seat pretty much for the ride. We drove up the coastline which was very pretty. However, our driver Jesus did not speak a word of English. When we got to the boarder, we crossed into the US at the Otay Messa boarder. We only had to take our carry-on’s with us and show them our passports and claim form. They then x-rayed our carry-on’s. Our bus then came around to the other side where we reboarded. 20 minutes later at 9:40 we were at the San Diego airport. We then spent the next 5 hours at the airport for our flight home to JFK. The Ship Review Ship This was our first time sailing on a Vision Class Ship. We have sailed on the Nordic Empress (Empress of the Seas), Sovereign Class, Radiance Class & Voyager Class. We found the ship to be very much like Celebrity’s Century in size and in amenities. We really enjoyed the Solarium where we spent most of our time. The lounges were nice, especially the Schooner Bar and the Viking Crown Lounge. The Ship was in excellent condition and the only places where we saw any signs of its age & wear, was in the cabin in our bathrooms where there was a lot of rust on the door frame, the wood floor in the entrance was badly scuffed and there was some rust on the balcony. Otherwise, the ship looked great! We did miss the signs in the elevator that told you what day of the week it was. You definitely could use them on an 11 day cruise!!! Cabin As I mentioned before, at the pier we upgraded from a D balcony cabin to a Category C Junior Suite cabin 8552 at the pier. It was well worth it for the 11 day cruise. We saw our original cabin because none of our stuff was transferred to our new cabin. So we had to find the cabin attendant to help us find DH’s tux, our C&A coupon books and our shore excursion tickets. We saw how much smaller the D room was and were really glad we upgraded to the jr. suite! It also took 3 days for everything to get straightened out with our shore excursion tickets, out C&A packet, and to find DH’s tux. The cabin had a regular sized couch that pulled out into a bed, 2 chairs, 2 ottoman’s, a 20” Sony TV, a desk with 6 drawers, a full size closet, but it had no shelves in it. The bathroom had a large tub in it and lots of room to get around in. The balcony was the largest yet with 2 chairs, 2 lounge chairs and a table. And all this was kept nice and clean by our 2 cabin attendants Lincoln and Edison. I think that they cleaned all of the C cabins on the floor because we always saw them, no matter what side of the ship we were on. The only thing that I suggest they improve or invest in, are new mattresses. It was the worst! It felt like the springs were popping out! Dining Room and Food Service We were seated at table 123 located on the deck 5 of the ship. We had a great window table and our waiter Jose Tolentino was great, along with his assistant Alex Ani. They were very kind and friendly and got you anything you asked for. The food in my opinion has gone down a little since we cruised RCL in August. I am not saying that it is bad; I am just saying that I thought the quality was a little better on the last cruise. Some days there were 3 things that you wanted off the menu and other days there was nothing that you wanted. But overall, the dining room food was average. The windjammer food was the same as all the other ships, nothing special to write home about. But the Solarium Snack Bar was the best yet. They had a large menu from hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs to rotisserie chicken, chicken fingers, fish tenders, pizza and the best French fries. Sometime there were more people getting food from there then the windjammer! Also, the menu for lunch and dinner was on a TV channel 24 hours a day. You could order anything on the menu for room service as long as it was during that time frame. I.e. Lunch was served from 11:30-1:30, so you could order anything off the lunch menu during that time frame to be delivered to you room. Overall We chose this cruise for the price and the itinerary. I would recommend sailing from Honolulu to Ensenada so you have the sea days at the end to rest. Believe me, you will need them!! I would also suggest spending 1 if not 2 says pre-stay, to get adjust to the time change! We loved all the islands and would do this cruise again in the future because there is so much to see on the islands. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions and thank you to all those that helped me plan our vacation. Without all your reviews and answering my questions, I would have not known where to start!

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Apr 27, 2004

Ensenada to Hawaii

Michele Dalton Embarking: We arrived in San Diego about 11am. We quickly collected our belongings and got in a very long line in order to catch one of the RCCL buses to Ensenada. The line moved relatively quickly (less than an hour) considering the number of people who were waiting to board the buses. We were told the ride could take anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours depending on traffic. We were very lucky and did not encounter

any traffic whatsoever. It took us just under 2 hours to arrive at the hotel they use to register passengers. Once at the hotel we were moved through quickly. Much quicker than the cruise I went on last year. Than we got back on the buses and were taken straight to the boat within just a matter of minutes. We got off the bus and right on the boat without any lines at all. Accommodations: We once again got a room with a balcony and once again I cannot complain that the rooms are small. We had enough room to put all our clothes for an 11 day cruise with room left over if we needed it. There was a queen size bed, a sofa bed, TV, small ice box and a desk with a make-up mirror. However I was disappointed with the steward, although the room was always neat and clean and service was good, they lacked the personal touch we received last year. Last year our steward would open the door for us when he saw us coming and greet us by name, this year we received none of the extra attention. I guess the stewards from the Grandeur spoiled us. Four Days at Sea: I was looking forward to the four days at sea just to lay around and rest. I had read a review that said how cold it was in April on the ship and I had a hard time believing it. Believe me, the first two days are very chilly. You would be wise to bring pants, jackets and warm shoes for the first two days. After that it was heaven for the rest of the trip. Hilo: We rented a car from Budget before hand and although I had read in another review that Budget did not go to the port to pick you up, it did for us. We were late getting off the boat and a volunteer at the port called Budget for us and they did send a van back to get us. I did have problems with Budget later in the trip but more about that later. We drove out to the Volcanos National Park and it was very interesting, we saw several craters and many steam vents. People who took the shore excursion talked about an under ground tunnel that they went through but we never did see it, we must have went a different way. Kona: The boat does not pull into a port in Kona it tethers out in the water and we were shuttled back and forth to the pier. We didn't go on any excursions in Kona or rent a car, but it's a nice area to walk around with many shops on the street, there are buses that take you back and forth to Hilo Hatties for free. On the ship that night they had a volcano party, as we slowly passed by an active volcano, you could see some streaks of lava flowing. Kauai: We again rented a car from Budget with no problems. We drove out to the Waimea Canyon which was absolutely beautiful. It's hailed as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific although smaller. I have longed to go to the Grand Canyon but never made it there, the people in our group all agreed it was more beautiful than the Grand Canyon because of the greenery. Maui: Wow each port just gets better and better. The boat again tethers out at sea and you have to be shuttled to land. As you get off the boat there is a large park type area across the street to your right. At first glance it looks like a park with many trees, but it's the second largest Banyan tree in the world. Maui is a shoppers paradise. Many shops line the streets, I really love the Hawaii clothing they have such vibrant colors and unique styles. I was happy I waited until here to buy gifts for the kids at home. OK, here is where we had our problem with Budget rental. We saw shuttle buses from every car rental place imaginable as we got off the water shuttle, except that is, Budget. I called the office and they informed us they had just left and would not return for an hour. I was furious, when I made reservations I made certain that the shuttle buses ran to all ports and there would be no problems, I should have been advised in advance that they only run there every hour. They told us we could take a taxi but they would not reimburse us for the fee. We chose to wait. We intended to drive the road to Hana but by the time we got to the rental car place it was just to late. We did start the journey and if your planning on traveling the road to Hana, maybe a shore excursion is best, the road is very beautiful but very dangerous, we turned around about an hour into the trip. At one point the road is so narrow that two cars cannot pass, so if a car is going one way and your going the other, one must pull off the road as best they can to allow the other to pass, the only problem with that is one side of the road is a mountain and the other side is a cliff. We went to the Old Lahaina Luau in the evening, the people who handled my reservations were extremely nice and helpful and the experience was enjoyable. I'm happy I did not leave Hawaii without going to a Luau but I believe I would be able to skip it the next time. Honolulu: Disembarking took a bit of time as someone was repeated page by immigrations and refused to answer the page, stopping everyone else from being allowed to leave the ship. Once this was taken care of it went smoothly. We booked a shore excursion to Pearl Harbor before going to the airport to catch our flight home. I loved Pearl Harbor and would highly recommend it everyone to at least visit once if possible. There was a rather long wait at the park to be allowed back to the memorial but the wait is well worth the experience. Once at the memorial it was amazing how solemn the experience was, people were not talking loudly or laughing and cutting everyone seemed to feel the tragedy of so many years ago while visiting the memorial, I was surprised to be able to still see small bubbles of oil still coming up from the Arizona after all these years.

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Apr 27, 2004

10 night Hawaii Cruise

Introduction There's no argument that a Hawaiian vacation has the potential of being the most extravegant experience of a lifetime. I never dreamed that I would be taking such an incredible journey -- and frankly, all of it happened all so suddenly. I'll tell you my story and in the process I hope to help some of you decide whether Royal Caribbean's LEGEND OF THE SEAS is the best way to enjoy your trip to the Hawaiian islands. I'm

going to try to cover all aspects of the cruising experience so that I may familiarize those who have never taken a cruise before. Of course, since this is my third cruise with Royal Caribbean, I hope to give some sound advice to experienced cruisers. The Cruising Experience So, the big question for all the novices who haven't gotten their sea legs yet is whether it's worth taking a cruise vacation. The answer is a resounding YES! For most of my life I had avoided taking a cruise. I thought it was too expensive for its value and frankly, I didn't consider myself a sea person. All of that changed two years ago when I took my first cruise to the Caribbean aboard VOYAGER OF THE SEAS. I loved it so much that a year later I found myself back in the Caribbean aboard EXPLORER OF THE SEAS. I loved the cruising experience so much that I promised myself that I would do this every year for the rest of my life. Here is my review of last year's cruise aboard EXPLORER OF THE SEAS.... http://www.cruisereviews.com/RoyalCaribbean/ExploreroftheSeas15.htm For those of you that feel taking a cruise is too expensive, I hope to prove you wrong. Think of a normal vacation -- the cost of a hotel, food, transportation and entertainment. It's costly. On a cruise ship, all of that is included in the price. You board the ship, unpack once and spend anywhere from 5 days to almost 2 weeks sailing from port to port. I couldn't even imagine the cost of doing a Hawaiian vacation across 4 islands for less of a price of a cruise that takes you to a new port every day. My Last-Minute Hawaiian Hurrah! (or how to find the best prices) I never expected to end up in Hawaii. A co-worker of mine just returned from a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean and was raving about the fact that she got a great deal by visiting a discount travel website. I went to the website and priced out a Mexican Riviera vacation aboard LEGEND OF THE SEAS. Soon afterwards, I found a great last-minute deal on a Hawaiian vacation for not much more. So, what would you do in this case? Damn Right! I went for the Hawaiian vacation deal. It was a last-minute deal at a great price since the ship was sailing in less than 2-weeks. I booked the cruise through Royal Caribbean via an Internet website called LASTMINUTETRAVEL.COM (which incidently did an outstanding job). They booked the airfare and even added an extra day for us in Honolulu since I figured we would want to see some sites after we disembarked (more on that later in the review). The secret to finding the best prices on these cruises is to scour the Internet. Oddly enough, I found the HOT PRICE for my cruise right on the Royal Caribbean site. Naturally, if you book a cruise within 90 days you are going to find outstanding deals. We met this terrific couple who sailed with us on a Alamo Rental Shuttle. They both are heavy-duty cruisers. The wife gave us some great tips for getting the best cruise rates which included a visit to CRUISESBYJOHN.COM (Check out Happy Hour prices on Tuesdays). They booked with an on-line agency known as CRUISE411.COM and absolutely swear by them as being very efficient. So, as you can see, the best way to cruise at a bargain is to plan your trip within 90 days when ships are hot to sell rooms that they could not fill. Legend Of The Sea I have to tell you, even though my vacation to Hawaii was the best I ever experienced, I wasn't overly impressed with LEGEND OF THE SEAS. I should also tell you that this decision is mostly based upon my age and the fact that I previously sailed with VOYAGER and EXPLORER, Royal Caribbean's top-of-the-line Voyager-Class ships. The best way to describe LEGEND OF THE SEAS in a single sentance is that it's an old ship full of old people. I would estimate that 80% of the people aboard that ship were retired. There were scooters, walkers and wheelchairs to be found everywhere. Now, before someone writes me an angry letter saying that I am badmouthing the elderly, let me explain my situation.... I am 40 years of age. I have nothing against elderly people. I will be one myself one day. However, this cruise was a disasterous experience for a fellow like me who is single and seeking to sail with women my age. I should have realized that a Hawaiian cruise not only best suits the pockets of the retired, but also the availability to have so much time away from work to be on a cruise like this one. Let me just politely say that I didn't mind sailing with people my parent's age, but as a result, the cruising experience moved a little more slowly than I was used to. LEGEND OF THE SEAS was inaugurated in (I believe) 1995. The ship is nearly 10 years old and it shows its age. Don't get me wrong -- it is still a beautiful ship but a real big step down from the VOYAGER class ships. Let's first talk about the condition of the ship.... The carpets are worn, the walls and panelings have various scuff marks and the artwork is bland. If you have sailed a Voyager-Class ship you will certainly miss things like the indoor skating rink; Johnny Rockets (which is fantastic!); the promenade street; and even the 24-hour Pizza/Snack Bar (which has been reduced to a measly Hamburger and Pizza stand at the Solarium Bar on LEGEND). To make matters worse, there doesn't seem to be enough of anything. There aren't enough treadmills in the gym (you need to go at off-hours and are limited to 20 minutes); not enough whirlpools (they are ALWAYS crowded) and ALWAYS a slow-go at the Windjammer buffets (more on that coming up). Worst of all, the suite cabins aboard this ship will guarantee you won't get a single night of peaceful bliss. Any rooms on DECK #8 are a guaranteed nightmare. More on that right now.... The Noisest Cabins At Sea Since my very first cruise I have always chosen the "C" (or as it is now called) "JS" suite. It's a little pricier than the normal balcony decks but certainly a bargain compared to the general suites above it. It is the lowest class room to give you breathing room as well as a decent sized bathroom with tub and shower combined. I would recommend if you are going to do this vacation right, book a "JS" cabin. I understand that as of 2004 if you book any suite you get an additional voyage credit in your CROWN & ANCHOR membership. If I understand this correctly, this means that 1 cruise in a booked suite equals 2 cruises towards promotion in your CROWN & ANCHOR status. Having said all these great things about the "JS" cabins, let me warn you about the cabins on LEGEND OF THE SEAS.... Horrendously noisy! Our cabin was located on deck #8. The pool is on deck #9 and the runner's track is on deck #10. Every single night we experienced banging on the ceiling from the runners jogging two decks above us. We heard chairs being shuffled around and the crew rolling all sorts of supplies across the ship floors at all hours of night. In addition, the fixtures in the room creaked loudly as if screws were loose all over the place. It was just an ungodly experience sleeping at night, and from what we heard from other passengers that shared our floor, we weren't the only ones to lose sleep. Service with a Smile? We weren't too happy with the service aboard the ship that didn't seen overly personalized. Our stateroom attenant, Barrie, never seemed anxious to make sure we were happy. When we found there were no bathrobes in the room and asked for some, he simply quirped, "If you aren't a Diamond or Platinum member you don't get any." Well, Barrie, the stateroom attendants who gave us bathrobes on EXPLORER and VOYAGER got a far better tip than you did. As a matter of fact, I remember a time when bathrobes were standard in all suites -- not just for DIAMOND and PLATINUM members. I must admit that the crew was always friendly. There was hardly a moment that a RCCL staff member wouldn't pass you by without a smile or hello. At every dinner we enjoyed in the Windjammer our table was personally visited by the head manager who greeted us by name and asked how our day was. A very nice touch indeed! The food! How was the food?! Let me be frank. The best thing about cruising is eating. Take my word for it, eating will be your #1 priority throughout this vacation. You cannot avoid food. It is everywhere at all hours of the day and evening. Expect to put on up to 10 lbs. during your cruise. On LEGEND OF THE SEAS you have two options for dining. Either eat in the dining room or at the Windjammer. ROMEO & JULIET is the name of the two-story dining room aboard this ship. It's quite beautiful (though pale compared to the Voyager class ships), and offers equisite dining every evening. This is a great experience for those that want eat fine foods with personalized service. Your head waiter will get to know you from the first day you boar, learning your name and eating habits. There are designated formal nights, semi-causal and casual nights. Personally, I grew tired of the dining room experience after my first cruise. You see, I like to eat. I like buffets. For that reason I chose to eat at the Windjammer. Let me talk a little about the Windjammer Cafe.... Every RCCL ship has one of these cafes. It's the place where you can go most anytime of the day in casual mode for a buffet-style meal. Breakfast is the same every morning. Hot foods include scrambled eggs, bacon, pork and turkey sausage, oatmeal, grits, corn-beef hash, pancakes, waffles and french toast. Cold foods include a wide assortment of cereals, yogurt and fruit. Breakfast is not my favorite meal. The eggs almost seem powdered. The pancakes and waffles are rubbery from sitting in a steaming hot dish. Worst of all, the RCCL staff feels the need to personally dish out your pancakes/waffles/french toast as if they don't trust you to do it on your own. Lunch is quite good. During the days at sea there is always a lunchtime buffet poolside. They have a Mexican theme one day, a German on another, and even a pasta buffet. Dinner at the Windjammer was my favorite. There was always some sort of steak, chicken or fish item on the menu and since it was served buffet style, I could eat as much as I wanted to. It wasn't uncommon for me to eat 3 four-ounce steaks a night. The food was always above average. The two biggest problems with the Windjammer were the hours of breakfast operation while at sea and the long lines at the buffet. While at sea, breakfast would not begin until 7:30am. Many people complained about this as there were many early risers who were hungry at 6:00am. Really, to make people wait that long for breakfast was not very accomodating. Then there were the buffet lines. Part of the problem was the amount of walkers, wheelchairs and strollers because of the age group. That's fine, I don't mind, but the staff should anticipate the needs of people who need a little more time to get through the line. Secondly, you have this really nice african-American gentleman cooking steaks to order which is terrific - but he can't keep up. The line often came to a stand-still while people waited for their steak to be cooked to their liking. On VOYAGER and EXPLORER there was just a tray full of steaks that you can take and go. If you needed one especially prepared then you asked. Furthermore, as stated in my breakfast summary, the RCCL crew is too fixated on serving you the food on the buffet line rather than letting you do it on your own as a buffet should be. When you are a heavy eater like me (I only weigh 160 lbs.) it is quite embarrasing to make a pig out of yourself when you have a RCCL staff member serving the portions. The highlight of our dining experience in the LEGEND OF THE SEAS Windjammer was a beautiful, young Phillipine woman by the name of June. She took care of us from the first day we entered the Windjammer. Of all the ships I have sailed I have never had someone attend to our needs as well as this woman did. She knew what we ate every night. She held our table when she saw us on line. She had our beverages waiting for us by the time we sat down. She even brought us seconds from the buffet line. If any of you ever see June in the Windjammer on any future LEGEND OF THE SEAS cruise, be sure to point her to this review. We'd love to keep in touch with her and never left her our email address. Look for her -- she usually tends the first few front tables against the window on the right side of the dining room as soon as you come off the buffet line. One thing I should add here....the RCCL staff was verry attentive to the elderly who came in with walkers, scooters and wheelchairs. They helped them get food from the buffet line as well as getting to their table. We were very impressed with the amount of help that was given to these seniors. Bravo! Okay....let's get on to the Itinerary.... Day #1: Boarding in Esenada Boarding and disembarking the cruise were the two most frustrating experiences of this cruise and I really hope that Royal Caribbean gets their act together on these two procedures. There isn't much RCCL can do about boarding the cruise in Esenada. It's the law. You see, a ship cannot sail from one American port to another. It must touch foreign soil somewhere inbetween. From what I heard, this law was created to protect the U.S. shipping industry as well as to bring in more tax money. We flew into San Diego airport around 11am. At baggage claim we found an RCCL representative holding up a sign. The rep told us to get our bags and drop them outside at airport curbside. This was easily accomplished as we laid our suitcases at a designated area of the curb as we watched staff members hoist them onto a small moving truck. We then went to another area of the airport where we obtained an identication sticker and then to a bus that was to take us into Mexico. Okay, that part of the trip went rather smoothly. The bus ride into Mexico was another matter. It wasn't the fact that it was a bad experience, but an inconvenient one. Here you are on the first day of your vacation and you are placed on a bus for a 90-minute minimum (3 hour max based on traffic) ride to Esenada that is 90 miles below the San Diego/Mexican border. The bus is large, well air-conditioned and has a bathroom. After 90 minutes, however, your back gives out. It's just an unpleasant ride through some of the the poorest territory in the country as well as some of the more wealthier coastal territories. Once in Esenada you stop at the Coral hotel, get out of the bus and wait in line as you go through your check-in process. Have any special requests such as changing your dining or room priorities? Can't do it here. The check-in is all done on laptop computers and is severly primitive compared to the other check-in experiences I have had. After you check-in and receive your SEA PASS CARD you are placed back on a bus and brought to the pier located 5 minutes away. You know, looking back on all of this, I couldn't help but to feel sorry for RCCL. They are stuck in a situation they can't really make better. By law this is the best port they could find on foreign soil. It's a rather inconvenient way for anyone to start their vacation. Day #2-#5: AT SEA Four days with nothing but ocean around you. Be prepared. Since I am not an activities person (and most were geared towards the elderly) I spent most of my time in a deck chair either sleeping or watching movies on my portable DVD player. I must admit that it was a relaxing experience, but too much time on my hands lent to a good amount of eating. I had food in front of me at all time of the day. The buffets at the pool certainly didn't help the situation nor did the sweets that were constantly on hand at the Windjammer. Day #6-#7:The Big Island: Hilo/Kona Let me begin by saying the two best Islands on this trip were the Big Island of Hawaii as well as Maui. We found the experiences here to be the most enjoyable. The biggest tip I can give all of you is to opt to rent a car on these two islands rather than do the overly priced excursions. Sure, the excusrions are great for convenience as well as getting background information on all the sights -- but they are just terribly overpriced when you consider the profit that RCCL is making on them. Rent a car. Furthermore, arrange it in advance. Most importantly -- DO NOT use Budget car rental. We had an awful experience with them after they promised we would be picked up by a Van to the rental facility on Hilo and then told on the day we arrived that no such service was available. We used ALAMO. We also van pickups for NATIONAL, DOLLAR and AVIS and HERTZ. An economy car cost us $35 (plus another approx. $20 for prepaid gas + $10 taxes) for the day. We had a blast driving around the Island and found EVERYTHING that the excursions were attending. Furthermore, the roads in HILO and KONA (Route #19) are so very easy to drive on. Traffic is minimal and often you feel like you own the road. What to do? When in HILO be sure to visit the Volcano National Park and take a walk through the Lava Tunnel and then on to the Kilauea volcano. Now, I'll admit we took the EXCURSION and were not disappointed. You really do need to hear the history of this area so the excusrion is your best bet. However during our day in KONA we rented a car from Alamo and then headed SOUTH on Route #19 to the other side of the Island. A 2-hour drive on Route #19 will bring you to the Akaka Falls State Park gorgeous waterfalls that you MUST see! It's a really nice walk to take and the view is outstanding. Best of all, it's FREE just like most everything on the Islands as they are all State or National parks. As I stated, this is a great 2-hour drive from Kona airport car rental. Stay on Route #19 and you can't get lost. The drive around the winding roadways of the three major gulches are worth the trip alone. Day #8: Nawiliwili (Kauai) You can't rent a car here so we took an excursion to Waimea Canyon which is actually quite beautiful to see. It's known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and is very breathtaking. Another highlight of this trip was a stop at the "spouting hole" which was quite interesting. Day #9-10: Maui Ahh, my favorite Isle. From the moment you arrive you'll know this is paradise. Spend one day shopping and rent a car the next day. Let's start with shopping. First of all, do most ALL your shopping here. The shopping is at its finest and cheapest here. Furthermore, it's most accessable. There are always FREE shuttles that will take you to various malls and stores. HILO HATTIES is a must only for the fact that they are one of the only stores that sell authentic Hawaiian goods. All the other souveniers found elsewhere are shipped from other countries (mostly Taiwan). We took a shuttle to Whaler's Village. It's a really beautiful shopping plaza at the foot of a resort. Great place to walk around with access to one of the most beautiful beachfronts on the Island. However.... We found all the same stores right on the ship's pier with prices that were significantly lower. Do all your souvenier shopping at these stores. Prices are VERY good -- especially Hawaiian shirts. On our 2nd day in Maui we rented a car from ALAMO (we will never use BUDGET again) and took a drive down Route #30 towards Kahulai. Take this route and you'll run into the famous Maui Ocean Center Aquarium which despite its hefty $20 entrance fee is just awesome! Give yourself an hour to walk through it. Next, we found ourselves quite by accident heading towards the Iao State Park. You must absolutely find your way to this park where you'll have a breathtaking view of the Iao Valley, Needle, and the cascading waterfalls. Quite a treat. Be prepared for rain -- it usually is wet up there. Day #10: Honolulu (Oahu) Our disembarking day was here. Our biggest mistake was arranging an extra night at a nearby hotel. It was sort of useless. You see, you can't take any of the excursions (such as Pearl Harbor) if you are not leaving AIR that day as all the busses drop you off at the airport. If you are not going on any of the excursions don't expect to get off the ship till around 10:30am. By the time you get your luggage (a real MESS - read on) and get to the hotel, the entire day is shot. You can't even get to Pearl Harbor because it closes at 3pm and the lines are very long from what I hear. So, we spent an extra day in Honolulu doing basically....nothing. The BIG highligght was that since our hotel was arranged through RCCL, they put us up at the Hilton Hawaiian Village for only $120 for the night. Let me tell you, this hotel is an experience. If you can arrange RCCL to book this for you at $120 a night you will be staying at a first-class resort that you will never forget. If you are there on a Friday night don't miss the King's Jubilee show complete with fireworks on the beach. Disembarking Hell: You know, you would think that a company like RCCL would have their act together when it comes to disembarking in Honolulu. Be prepared for a hellish experience. First of all, RCCL kicks you out of your staterooms by 7am. They turn off the TVs and you get the feeling they want you OUT. Passengers who sailed with other cruise lines were talking loudly about not having this rude experience while sailing on other lines. You are asked to wait in a public area -- sometimes for up to 3.5 hours. Everyone is given a color tag which notes your order of departure. Thing is, unless you are sitting in the hot sun on the outside deck, you can't hear the announcements of which colors are being called. Despite numerous passenger complaints, they would not make the announcements any more audible. We were the last group off the boat. We arrived at the pier warehouse to find luggage scattered in rows all over the floor. Passengers walked atop each other trying to find their luggage. It was an absolute zoo that was so poorly coordinated. To make matters worse, there was no securitry watching to be sure people didn't take the wrong luggage? You know whay this offended me? My luggage was taken by someone else before I got there. It took 30 minutes for them to find my luggage that a passenger took and returned (and in the process changed the color/name tage on). There was absolutely no security overlooking this process and RCCL did nothing to make the process convenient. It doesn't get better.... Once you get your luggage you walk out to the sidewalk where dozens of people are scattered amongst the half-dozen busses that will take them to their final destination be it a hotel or airport. The problem? No signs. People have no idea which bus goes where. Ever want to see a crowd in chaos? Put them in all in a small area and have them try to find the right bus to their destination with no signs to guide them. It's as if 7am came around, RCCL decided your vacation was over and that you were now out of their care and on your own. I felt like I was being hurried off the ship and then put in a chaotic unsupervised situation where I was forced to find my own way. Final Thoughts You know what? I got what I paid for. I traveled at a bargain price and to be honest, I got what I paid for. LEGEND OF THE SEAS is a ship due for a major overhaul. It's an old ship that is best suited for the older crowd. It has less of the pizzazz found on the newer Voyager Class ships, and getting a good night's sleep in an expensive suite cabin is just not going to happen. On the other hand, I did manage to enjoy the cruise. It was relaxing. The food was good and there was always plenty of it. The RCCL staff was very friendly. Look, RCCL is not the best cruise line nor is it the worst. It's basically the best bang for the buck. Most experienced cruisers I met gave nods to PRINCESS and HOLLAND AMERICA as being the better cruising experiences -- especially with dining. Problem is, unless you have money to burn you can't readily afford those cruise lines. I'm sort of stuck with RCCL. I am a CROWN & ANCHOR member and I want to get 6-12 cruises under my belt to get some of the perks (which includes a bathrobe for God's sake). I really feel that despite the problems I had, RCCL are pleasurable. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend an RCCL cruise to anyone. I'm just very dismayed that they don't have their act together when it comes to organizing things. They can't keep a buffet line moving. They can't make boarding or disembarking easy. They throw out of your stateroom and off the ship as soon as possible and let you figure out the rest. In closing, I must say that Hawaii is the place to visit. It is far better than the Caribbean islands. In fact, compared to Hawaii, the Caribbean is downright seedy. Hawaii is more upscale and you never get the feeling you have landed in a tourist trap area where seedy vendors are calling you into their shops. The Hawaiian Islands are paradise. It is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. You absolutely must experience them once in your life. The natives are very friendly and they go out of their way to say Malaho (Thanks) for the money you spend there. The people are so laid back. Nobody is in a hurry for anything. The songs they sing are full of love and it doesn't take long to realize that you are in the ultimate paradise. Best vacation I ever had. PS: Had no time to proofread this review. Please excuse me for any typing or grammatical mistakes. It took me hours to write this review. Please, if this review was helpful to you drop me an email and let me know. Will be happy to answer any questions I can. Aloha!

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Feb 29, 2004

Panama Canal

[email protected]  Background: Madeleine and I were accompanied by her cousin Jean and Jean’s husband John Campbell; the four of us cruising together for the fifth time. We introduced Jean and John to cruising by taking a roundtrip Inside Passage cruise to Alaska, in 1997, on the same ship we would travel on through the Panama Canal, RCI’s “Legend of the Seas”. This would be our ninth cruise and the Campbell’s sixth

cruise. It has always been a dream of mine to transit the canal and that opportunity presented itself when I initially came across this cruise on the RCI website. What caught my eye was the combination of the ship and the itinerary. The four of us had thought the ship was wonderful on the Alaskan cruise and thought it would be a wonderful way to experience the Canal. I did some background research on the Canal and found that David McCullough’s book “Path between the Seas” was an excellent source of the history and building of the Canal. I strongly urge anyone interested in the Panama Canal to read this book. We booked about a year in advance through a local TA that has provided us with wonderful service and prices in the past. Being “Crown and Anchor Society” members, we received a coupon reducing the cost of the cabin and a senior citizens discount on top of that. We ended up paying significantly less per day than on a cruise in February 2003 on the “Voyager of the Seas”. Watching airfares very carefully, we choose to book our air with RCI, although in the past we have made our own air arrangements on a number of cruises, and found that cost effective considering we had non-stop flights both ways. Saturday, February 28th: We left for Logan International Airport in Boston at 6:00AM via a limo. Arrived at the airport at 6:20 AM, used curb-side check-in and proceeded to the very long security lines inside. To our surprise, our departure gate was off to the right away from most of the other gates. Consequently our line to pass through security was almost non-existent. Through in a flash! AA flight #1361 left on-time at 8:15 AM and arrived in Miami at 11:15AM, a full 40 minutes early. We used the “Super Shuttle” for a quick transfer to the “Miami Intercontinental Hotel for the night. After a nice lunch by the pool at the “Blue Water Café”, we decided that we would meet in the lobby at 4:30 PM to walk to the Bayside Marketplace, with the idea to window-shop, people watch, listen to music, and have dinner in a restaurant. We did all of those things ending up for dinner in “Lombardi’s”. We had an excellent meal along with excellent service and would highly recommend it to anyone. We then walked around, rather rolled around, for awhile and then walked back to the hotel. Sunday, February 29th: We awoke to a very nice day with temperatures in the low 60’s with a forecast of temperatures reaching the mid 70’s.; certainly a big change from New England!! We joined the Campbells for very leisurely brunch in the “Indigo” restaurant and then went to our rooms to catch the bus to the ship which was scheduled to leave the hotel at 12:30 PM. Outside the hotel had become a marshalling area for a very large parade celebrating the fact that this was “Leap Day”. Well, the parade also tied up traffic making our departure at 2:30 PM rather that the scheduled 12:30. “What, me worry??!!” Check-in at the ship was quick and we were in our cabin (Cat. D, on deck 7, starboard side forward). We immediately headed for the “Windjammer Café” for sustenance. We knew, with a second seating for dinner, we wouldn’t have any food until 8:30 PM; need to keep up the energy levels. After the life boat drill we joined the Campbells in the “Viking Crown Lounge” for a sail-away drink. To our surprise it was packed. Madeleine’s explanation was that most of the passengers had sailed before and knew about our little secret. Dinner was a lovely table (#117) of 4, located on the starboard side balcony section of the “Romeo and Juliet” dining room. Our waiter was Anil (Aneil) from southern India and his assistant was Maynard from the Philippines. It was obvious from the first meal that Anil was a superior waiter with plenty of experience. He was, by far, the best individual waiter we have had on any cruise. Maynard appeared to be very inexperienced and needed prompting from both Anil and another waiter that Maynard worked with. To his credit, Maynard did improve over the course of the two week cruise. Our head waiter, Ernesto, also from the Philippines was excellent, serving wine, clearing and serving where needed; a definite plus to the dining room. Dress was casual for the evening and we went to the “Welcome Aboard Show” in the “That’s Entertainment Theater”, which is a one level room with excellent sight lines. The audience was introduced to our Cruise Director, John Blair; my wife and I found John to be an exceptional Cruise Director. After the show, “The Oscars” were shown on a large screen in the theater and also on the TV in the cabin. My wife and I watched the proceedings in the theater until 10:30 PM and then the rest of the show in the cabin. We noticed that the ship was beginning to move around a little as we sat in the theater; a hint of things to come. Last thing I did before retiring was to set my watch ahead by one hour per instructions of the ship. The next several days we would be on Atlantic Standard Time. Monday, March 1st: During the night I was awakened by the motion of the ship; things were beginning to creak a little. I was up at 6:30 AM and went out to get coffee that was available 24/7 on the Pool Deck, along with ice tea and lemonade. I then went to the internet lounge on Deck 8 but found that they were not functioning due to satellite troubles. Brought coffee and a pastry back to the cabin for Madeleine; a routine I followed for the rest of the voyage. Seas were quite rough with a very strong wind that would increase as the day worn on. The glass doors to the balcony were constantly wet from the wind-driven spray over the next two days. After breakfast in the “Windjammer”, Madeleine and Jean spent a lot of the day reading and sleeping in the “Solarium Pool” area which has a roof that can opened/closed depending on conditions. The roof remained closed for the entire allowing it to be air conditioned; a blessing to some as we sailed closer and closer to the equator. John and I won a “Team Trivia” contest held in the “Schooner Bar”; our prize a coveted RCCL ballpoint pen!! We would enter every other trivia contest on the cruise in hope of getting a second matching pen. The Captain announced everyday at noon our position, speed, and direction along with the present weather conditions and a weather forecast. At noon, today, the seas were running 15-18 feet with a wind out of the Northeast at 35 knots, partly cloudy skies and the ship cruising at 21.5 knots. He indicated that a strong high pressure system off the East coast of Florida was causing the conditions and the forecast was for it to continue into Tuesday. From experience, I have seen seas in the ten foot range cruising along the North coast of Cuba before and some roughness passing between Cuba and Hispaniola. Once into the Caribbean Sea it usually became calm. Evening events were highlighted by Captain Hakan Lindegren’s “Welcome Aboard Party” followed by a wonderful dinner. I had rack of lamb that was excellent, while watching the wine in my glass move about. Instead of going to the show, starring Freddie Roman, we enjoyed the music of the “Denise Canby Trio” outside the “Champagne Terrace” in the “Centrum” area. We found this trio and another group the “Foster Duo” to provide a wide variety of excellent pre and post dinner music. We called it a day around 11:15 PM Tuesday, March 2nd: During the night awakened by ship motion, this time some real pounding as the bow met the waves head-on. I assumed we were passing between Hispaniola and Cuba. Up for my morning coffee run I found very few people up-and-about. I went to the “Windjammer” for breakfast, as Madeleine had ordered breakfast in the cabin. My GPS receiver indicated we were some 70 miles off the coast of Jamaica moving along at 21 knots. I walked for three miles on the walking/jogging track on Deck #10. When I started my walk there was very little wind, but the ship was moving around some. By the time I finished my walk, 45 minutes later, the wind had picked up to a point where it was almost impossible to walk into the wind. Returned to the cabin, where my GPS indicated the ship had slowed to 18 knots. The Captain soon announced that Decks #5, the Promenade Deck, and Deck #10 were closed due to the rough weather. Seas were running 15-20 feet with winds out of the Northeast at 55-60 mph. The scheduled entertainment for the evening had been canceled and the substitute was the movie “Lord of the Rings – Return of the King” which would be shown in the theater and on TV. I went up to the “Viking Crown Lounge” around 11:00 AM and found it deserted except for several of the crew who were cleaning and polishing. The view towards the bow was something. You could see wind-driven spray coming over the forecastle every so often. On one occasion, the bow hit a wave just right; causing a great spray of white water off the port bow. The wind picked up much of that spray and hurled it towards the stern. I had sat in the “Viking Crown Lounge” on many occasions, and thought it was too high above the sea to get hit with any water except rain. All of a sudden my view was almost blocked out as that spray hit the windows in front of me. The small number of people down on the pool deck below me got soaked with the spray. Went down to check on Madeleine and think about lunch. On my way to the cabin, I ran into a cabin attendant who had cabins down the way from us. He said that Lea was sick and that he would get to do our cabin as soon as possible. I told him not to rush as I thought we would be using the cabin quite a bit in the afternoon. We went to the dining room for lunch which was opening seating for both breakfast and lunch. Not too many people in the dinning room. After lunch, Madeleine and I stayed in the cabin for most of the afternoon; reading and snoozing. John and I did make it to the “Team Trivia” for the day; placed third!!! Also noticed the difference in motion between our cabin on Deck #7 and the “Schooner Bar” on Deck #4; much less movement on Deck #4!! Dress was “smart casual” for the evening. We enjoyed a cocktail before dinner listening to the “Foster Duo” at the “Champagne Terrace”. Had a very enjoyable dinner, but noticed many people absent from dinner this evening. After dinner we listened to the “Denise Canby Trio” in the “Centrum”. Went to our cabin around 10:30 PM; ship moving around quite a bit. Wednesday, March 3rd: We awoke to a warm, calm, clear day entering Oranjestad, Aruba harbor. We had breakfast in the dining room with Jean and John. We sat with very two interesting couples; one from Wisconsin and the other from the state of Washington. We had decided not to book an excursion, but to go out on our own and “play it by ear.” It was a short walk from the pier to the downtown area, which was typical of most any port in the Caribbean; “Diamonds International” etc. John and I wandered around while Madeleine and Jean looked in several shops. After about an hour of walking and looking, Jean spied a “Dunkin Donuts” shop across the street. John and I left the ladies in the “Dunkin Donuts” while we went on a quest for a jeep. Found a reasonable rental of an a/c jeep for the day in a few minutes. Picked up the ladies and headed out exploring. We headed out to one end of the island to towards the “California Lighthouse.” Unfortunately we missed most of the hotel properties as we took a road somewhat inland from the beach. I found the area around “California Lighthouse” to be quite beautiful; the colors of the land in contrast of the ocean and the sky. Saw our first wildlife in the form of goats grazing in the brush and a number of small lizards scampering around. We continued our journey, stopping at the “Casibari Rock Formations”. Being a retired geology and earth science teacher, the landscape will tell a story. To my surprise, I found the large boulders that make up this area appeared to be a granitic type of rock, rather than the expected volcanic rock. My guess is that the large boulders are the result of a long period of weathering in this arid climate. Have to do some research when I get home!! We continued on the to the natural bridge formations on the North side of the island. As we traveled the gravel road to the site, we passed a number of people on four-wheel ATV’s moving along the gravel road in a cloud of dust, followed by a group of open-air jeeps lost in the dust cloud of the ATV’s. Our a/c jeep rental looked better and better. The natural bridges were spectacular; made even more spectacular due to the large waves pounding the shoreline. Again I saw some more interesting geological exposures that caught my eye and mind, more research!! By this time it was close to noon, so we decided to head back to the ship for some lunch. Unfortunately we sort of got lost and didn’t make it back to the ship in time for lunch. We had to settle for food at “Afternoon Tea” instead. Balance of the afternoon was spent onboard, resting, swimming, reading, and playing another “Team Trivia” game; came in second this time!! We departed Aruba during our dinner, approximately 9:00 PM, bound for the Panama Canal in two days. Dinner was again excellent followed by listening to the music and watching people dance in the Centrum. Thursday, March 4th: Our third day at sea we were greeted to clear skies and a following sea of 10-15 feet with the wind blowing at 25-30 mph out of the East. We had breakfast in the dining room; sitting a table with a couple from New Jersey. Madeleine and I spent most of the morning on Deck #10, as most of the lounge chairs by the pool were occupied, while Jean read and John worked on another NY Times crossword puzzle and the daily trivia questions. We started out in the sun but moved into the shade fairly quickly as the sun was very hot. After lunch, Madeleine, John and I watched “Master and Commander” starring Russell Crowe” in the theater; the only complaint was that the theater wasn’t darker enough; otherwise enjoyed the movie. We all met for “Afternoon Tea” at 4:00PM in the “Windjammer” We enjoyed drinks and music before dinner and a great meal. By this time, we were forming somewhat of a routine: eating breakfast in the dining room, picking up the daily trivia questions in the Library, discussing trivia answers at lunch or dinner, going to Afternoon Tea, and swimming in the pool around 5:00 PM. Friday, March 5th: Today I was up at 5:15AM, awaked by light peaking between the drapes covering the balcony door. The light was a bright floodlight on a tugboat that was beside us as we made our approach to the Northern entrance to the Canal. Leaning out over the balcony rail, I could see in the distance lights marking the entrance; while behind and off to the starboard side were the lights of a number of ships. It looked like we were second in line to enter the locks. I quickly dressed and went up to Deck #10, thinking I would be one of the first to be on deck. To my surprise, there were several hundred people already occupying most of the vantage points on the deck. I think some people slept on lounge chairs overnight. I took a couple of pictures and brought coffee back to the cabin. Over the past several days John and I had met two couples from Sheffield England while playing Team Trivia. Both husbands had served in the British Merchant Marine and had been through the Canal a number of times. They suggested for us to find a spot that had some shade, otherwise we would end up like a burnt piece of bacon. In addition they said the most thrilling aspect of passing through the Canal was the feeling of going up/down as you might on an elevator. That convinced Madeleine and me that the Promenade Deck would be our main observation point. On our Alaskan cruise in’97, I found that the Promenade Deck does “wrap around” the stern of the ship, providing us with a shaded and relatively unknown observation area as we passed through the locks. We entered the first Gatun Lock at approximately 7:00 AM local time. We watched as small, man-powered “dories” transferred the steel cables from the eight “mules” (electric locomotives) to the “Legend.” The mules would guide the ship through the locks, while the “Legend” provided the power to move forward. A large neon illuminated arrow pointed are way into the Eastern or left lock; while a large container ship was moving into the lock to our right. That container ship, the “Sealand Charger” would be right with us all the way through the Canal. Madeleine and I spent most of the next several hours watching our passage through the Gatun Locks on the Promenade Deck, particularly at the stern. The stern view gave us a close-up view of the opening and closing of the lock gates. We exited the Gatun Locks at about 9:30 AM and proceed to an anchoring spot on the Northern end of Gatun Lake to await permission to continue our passage southward. Both of the Gatun locks were being used to transport ships Southward into Gatun Lake. Ships were making their way Northward through the Miarflores and Pedro Miguel Locks in the same manner. Once those locks were cleared of Northward moving traffic, we would be able to proceed across Gatun Lake. At approximately 10:30 AM we began to move slowly, maintaining about six knots, across Gatun Lake, part of a procession of several ships heading to the Pacific; passing a number of ships at anchor waiting to pass out into the Atlantic Ocean. The shores of the lake appeared to be a thick tropical rain forest doted with navigation signals. We passed a variety of ships, both large and small. Near the end of Gatun Lake we slowed down as we entered an ever narrowing channel. Passing by the Town of Gamboa, we came upon a small yawl rigged vessel of approximately 50 fee in length, heading to the Pacific. Onboard, were five adults, a young boy about ten years old, and a teenage girl around 14-15 years of age; not your Sunday afternoon sail. I wonder what wonderful adventure they were on? We also saw a long freight train of the Panama Canal Railroad passing trough Gamboa on its way to Colon, as several boats belonging to the Canal kept us company as we headed toward Gaillard Cut, the narrowest part of the Canal. As we passed through Gaillard Cut, you could see where large debris slides had occurred in the past. In fact off our starboard side, we could see a crew of earth-moving equipment moving, what appeared to be, a recent slide. In addition there was a large mechanical shovel mounted on a barge that was loading rock and mud onto a large barge. We were told later in the day that Gaillard Cut is being widened to accommodate two-way passage of even the largest ships in the near future. Just before exiting the Cut, the new “Bridge of the Americas” came into view being built by a German construction company. When completed it will one of the largest “cable-stay” style bridges in the world; and provide the Panamanians with a much easier route to the Western part of their country than the present, much smaller bridge. At approximately 1:45 PM we entered Pedro Miguel Lock beginning our passage to the Pacific Ocean. As we proceeded through the Pedro Miguel Lock and the Miarflores Locks, the process we had seen earlier was repeated; the only difference was the ship was lowered down instead of rising up. Dories connected the cables from the mules to the “Legend” and guided us slowly along. We exited the final Miraflores Lock, at about 3:30 PM and slowly sailed out onto the Pacific Ocean passing under the present “Bridge of Americas”. We dropped anchor off of Fuerte Amador about 4:30 PM, which is on an island at the end of a causeway built from debris taken from Gaillard Cut during the construction of the Canal to protect its Pacific entrance from storms. The Panamanian government has provided incentives for developing this area as an attraction for tourism. Madeleine stayed onboard while the rest of us went on an evening tour of the Canal; visiting the Miraflores Locks. The tour provided us with glimpses of Panama City, many of the old buildings in the “Canal Zone”, and an explanation of the operation of the Canal. After returning to the ship around 9:30 PM, we all met in the “Windjammer” for a late diner followed by sampling the “goodies” at the “Sailing Out” party as we left Panama bound for Costa Rica. Saturday, March 6th: A wonderful sea day with a good breakfast, reading sleeping, good lunch, reading sleeping, afternoon tea, reading, swimming and an excellent “formal” dinner.. Sunday, March 7th: We arrived at Puntarenas just before 7:00 AM. The town is built on a spit that projects out into the Gulf of Nicoya. There is a single long dock that projects out from the beach that runs along the shore in front of the town. John, Jean and I left the ship after breakfast for the “River Adventure Tour” that promised us a land rich for flora and fauna”. After a 1.5 Hour ride on an air conditioned bus, we arrived at a location near the Tarcoles River that is South of Puntarenas. Our guide told us that we would have a chance to have a short “party” before we boarded the riverboat for our trip on the Tarcoles. The party consisted of the freshest pineapple, bananas, coconut, and watermelon you could imagine. They were also serving hot Costa Rican coffee, coke and orange soda, along with “Imperiale” a local beer. After a few minutes to relax and use the “facilities”, we proceeded over a boardwalk for about three hundred yards to the river. Along the way, our guide pointed out large termite mounds that formed on the lower roots of many of the mangrove trees. We also saw many “mangrove crabs”; bright multicolored crabs that burrow into the mud along the river bank. The Tarcoles River flows into the Gulf of Nicoya, and is a tidal estuary, with dense mangrove trees along its banks. Upstream, the mangrove trees change to a variety of tropical hardwoods when the river changes to fresh water. We headed downstream towards the mouth of the river, where the river opens out into a broad area of low grass and gravel bars. We saw many types of birds both in the air and on the ground. In the water were a number of saltwater crocodiles, ranging in size from several feet to almost twenty feet. We stopped in a number of locations, as our guide and boat driver pointed out many species of birds. There were a number of people onboard who were devoted bird watchers. They were in “watchers heaven.” As we headed upstream, we made a number of stops looking at both animal and plant life along the way. Our guide seemed to be very knowledgeable about the area and did an excellent job of pointing out things to all of us and attempting to answer the myriad of questions that came up. After about two hours on the river, we returned to the “party” for some more food and drink before returning to the ship. After getting back to the ship, we had lunch with Madeleine. She had an enjoyable day sitting beside “her pool” as most everyone left the ship. Madeleine decided not to join us as we went off the ship to see the town. Being Sunday, vendors of all sorts of crafts had put up tents along the walkway by the beach. The town was crowded with many people from the area along with people from the ship. We saw wonderful examples of products carved out of wood and leather, vendors selling different kinds of foods cooked on the spot, fresh fruit, and, of course the ever present tee-shirt table. It was an enjoyable walk along “soaking up the atmosphere”. John offered to buy us each our cold drink of choice; mine was “Imperiale”. After getting back to the ship, John and I went for a nice swim and then proceeded to shower and dress for the “casual” evening ahead. I took some pictures of the beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Nicoya as we departed right on time at 7:00 PM bound for Mexico. We all had a pre-dinner drink in the “Centrum, followed by a delightful meal. After dinner we enjoyed the music in the “Centrum” before retiring at around 11:00PM. Monday, March 8th: We spent a beautiful day at sea sailing along the western coast of Central America, with all the normal activities; eating, reading, walking, trivia, eating, and still more eating. The ship bounced around a bit at night, as we sailed across the Gulf of Tehuantepec; know for some rough water at this time of year. Tuesday, March 9th: We tied up at a brand new dock extending out into Santa Cruz Bay, Huatulco around 9:00 AM, and an hour earlier than scheduled. As advertised, we could see several of the nine bays that comprise the area from the ship. The land rises up quite steeply along the headlands dotted with homes and condominiums that separate the bays with their beautiful beaches from each other. We walked to the end of the dock and took a taxi ($4.00) to La Crucecita, which is the actual town in the area. Huatulco, like so many other locations has been picked by the Mexican government as an area for tourism. Several people on the ship said it reminded them of what Cancun was like 25 years ago; still quite undeveloped and very pretty. It took us about five minutes to arrive at the plaza in the center of La Crucecita. Surrounding the plaza were a number of stores and restaurants along with a church that had, to our disappointment had been built in 2000. My wife wanted to see an old Spanish mission on this trip. Inside the church we found beautiful fresco-style decorations done in vivid colors. The center of the plaza was occupied by a formal garden area, with beautiful beds of flowers, a wide variety of shade trees, and in the center of the plaza a very nice bandstand. After walking around the area for about an hour, we sat and had a cold drink. We headed back to the ship; having arranged for the same taxi to bring us back. At the dock, we turned to the right and walked about 100 yards across a beautiful beach and found some beach lounges with shade. This became our resting point for about four wonderful hours of sunning, swimming, and relaxing; all within 200 yards of the ship!! In retrospect, this period of time was, in my opinion, was the best part of the trip save passing through the Canal. We finally made our way back to the ship around 3:30 PM to have our lunch at “Afternoon Tea”. We left Huatalco around 5:00 PM and sailed into a beautiful sunset. Wednesday, March 10th: Sailed into Acapulco Bay at sunrise and docked around 7:30 AM. After breakfast in the “Windjammer” we headed out on an excursion “Historical, Traditional and Picturesque Acapulco”, a four hour tour via van. During the trip we visited the Hotel Flamingo high on the cliffs in the old section of town, drove along the Bay passing from “old” to “new” Acapulco, and climbed the heights of Las Brisas where we visited the “Chapel of Peace” and the “Trouyet Cross” before heading back to the ship. Our last stop was at “Fort San Diego” which overlooks the cruise facilities. The tour of the fort was very interesting, explaining the historical importance of Acapulco and the surrounding area going back to the earliest presence of the Spanish explorers. We returned to the ship around 1:00 PM for lunch and an enjoyable afternoon of sitting by the pool and going to a team trivia match. That evening we met before dinner in the “Centrum” for a drink, followed by another excellent dinner. After dinner, we took a nice walk outside on the Promenade Deck looking at the city at night. The ladies headed to the cabins around, while John and I enjoyed the views as we departed Acapulco at 11:00 PM and the food at the “Pool Market” poolside. Thursday, March 11th: Another day at sea, sailing along the Mexican coast toward Cabo San Lucas, enjoyed by all. Madeleine attended Mass for the third time on the trip; conducted by a retired priest. She has found both the priest and the Masses wonderful. Late in the day, we heard about the tragedy in Spain; the terrorist bombing of the trains in Madrid. Friday, March 12th: We arrived and then anchored off Cabo San Lucas at 8:00 AM on a sunny, slightly cool morning. There were two other ships anchored nearby; the “Silver Wind” and the “Pride.” John and I went on a whale watch trip which was not too successful; one whale and six or so dolphins. We saw many whales and dolphins from the ship on our days at sea, so we were not too disappointed. After walking around the tourist area and marina, we headed back to the ship in time for lunch. We all spent the afternoon around and in the pool. The water was so delightful; Jean made her one “plunge” of the cruise into the pool that afternoon. Our last formal evening started by watching dancing and listening to the music, while enjoying a drink in the Centrum. After dinner, we tried to walk on the Promenade Deck but found it too chilly; a hit of things to come. We all retired early that evening. Saturday, March 13th: We awoke to find that it was quite cold on deck with a strong wind. We had a quiet last day at sea, performing the miserable task of packing early, winning another ‘team trivia” contest and reading. I spent about two hours sitting out by the pool in a sheltered spot after breakfast. I wanted to see the “Parade of Flags” which is nothing more then members of all departments of the crew parading around the pool area carrying the flags of 46 nations represented by both crew and passengers. John Blair, our Cruise Director, was the Master of Ceremonies introducing a number of the crew and asking for a moment of silence in memory of those that had been killed in the recent Madrid bombings. He also offered the comment paraphrased here: “There have been two thousand plus passengers and crew, from forty six different countries on the “Legend” for two weeks. We have all gotten along; why can’t the rest of the world do the same?” It was a somber moment that produced teary eyes of many in attendance. In the afternoon we went to the “Passenger Talent Show” which was a definite surprise! There were five acts which were all very good entertainment and fun. Our last evening onboard, included saying goodbye to many new passenger friends; our cabin attendant Lea, our waiter Anil, our assistant waiter Maynard, our head waiter Ernesto, and our favorite barman James Bong 00.5. We enjoyed for the last time the music of the Denise Canby Trio before dinner. Sunday, March 14th: I think a loud noise woke me up around 3:30 AM and too my surprise we were already docked in San Diego. I went back to bed a got up about 6:30 AM. Madeleine and I went up to the “Windjammer” for breakfast and met John and Jean in the “Crown and Anchor” Library to wait to leave the ship. RCCL had set up the library as a waiting area for “Platinum” and “Diamond” members of the “Crown and Anchor Society” to wait. They provided us with juices coffee, tea and an assortment of pastries to nibble on; very civilized. We left the ship around 9:30 AM and john went off to get a car he had rented. We were on the road about 10:00AM and headed out to Coronado Island with the idea of looking around the Hotel del Coronado. What a fantastic place!! We ended up having “Sunday Brunch” at the hotel, which was on the expensive side, but it was worth it!! After walking around the grounds, we headed north to La Jolla for the afternoon; we saw beautiful cliff-side homes and views, along with wonderful scenes along the shore. We all agreed that this area was a place we would like to return to some day. We headed back south to the “Old Town Historical Park”, where we walked around seeing the sites for awhile. We ended up eating in a very nice Italian restaurant in the area. We then drove to “Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn” on Shelter Island, where we had reservations for two nights. We found the accommodations very spacious and clean and the grounds very delightful. Monday, March 15th: We had a very nice breakfast at Humphrey’s and then headed out for Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument. It was a beautiful day, with very good visibility, and the scenery was eye-popping!!! The visitor center at the Monument is excellent, providing you with a wealth of information about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the west coast of the US and the history of the Point Loma area up to the present day. We walked to the famous Point Loma Lighthouse and to the large monument in memory of Cabrillo that overlooks the entrance to San Diego Harbor; where we saw a missile destroyer and a nuclear submarine departing the harbor. We headed towards downtown San Diego and the “Gaslight District”, but got diverted by a complex of very light colored buildings high on a hillside in the distance. We finally made our way to that area and found it to be the campus of the University of San Diego. I have been to many collegiate campuses over the years and this is the one I want to attend in my next life; it was spectacular. We finally arrived at the “Gaslight” and wandered around for quire awhile before having lunch in an “authentic” Irish pub, “The Field.” We had a very enjoyable lunch followed by some more walking around the area before heading back to Humphrey’s for an afternoon siesta. We headed back downtown around 5:00 Pm to “Seaport Village” to tour the shops and have dinner. We had no problem parking and found the place jumping. Being next to the convention center, there were many people attending a large convention walking over to the “Embarcadero” for an outdoor function. Madeleine and I found the village very delightful. We had a very nice meal at “Buster’s”, one of four full-service restaurants in the village. We headed back to the hotel; early wake-up for flight home. Tuesday, March 16th: We had an 8:30 AM flight out of San Diego non-stop to Boston. We were about an hour late taking off because of fog and haze. We had seen on TV at the hotel that the Boston area was supposed to get snow starting around 4:00 PM, our scheduled landing time. That hour delay in San Diego caused us to be in the thick of the snow when we got to Boston. We ended up being delayed and additional 1.5 hours in the air while other traffic landed or took off and they plowed the runways; we finally landed; late but safe at about 7:30 PM. Thanks to John, we had a limo. to get us safely home. Final Thoughts: To me any cruise, no matter what ship or itinerary is heaven. However, this particular cruise was extra special. The Panama Canal was spectacular, the ports were very good especially Huatulco, the ship was superb, and my fellow passengers were delightful. This cruise ranks equal to and may surpass our cruise to Alaska; time will tell.

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Feb 1, 2004

Panama Canal We

chose the one-night prior pre-cruise package through RCI. Our flight from Albuquerque to Miami included a plane change in Atlanta. Once we arrived, we had to haul our luggage to the curb and try and find the shuttle company the cruise line uses. Two hours later, we arrived at the Wyndham in Coconut Grove (the shuttle made several stops dropping off people at their residences). The hotel room itself was pretty run down and people there were

not very friendly. The following day, people from three RCI ships (one having to be bussed to Ft. Lauderdale for their embarkation) were all gathered in a fairly small lobby area. Luggage everywhere...only two porters at the hotel to handle the mess. It may have been a premonition of things to come. The Embarkation process was exceptionally smooth. After identifying our luggage as it was moved off the bus storage compartment, a surly porter demanded $2 per bag as a tip. Everyone appear perplexed but forked over the money. We then walked about a city block to the passenger terminal and were able to walk directly to a counter where we presented our passports and credit card to set up the onboard account. We were handed Sea Pass cards and these were used at the gangway entrance to the ship. Our photo was taken and we were welcomed on board. We found it odd that no one assisted us to our room: we were on our own. Once at the cabin on deck 8, we sought out a couple from England whom we had taken the cruise to meet. They had planned the Panama Canal cruise and we had wanted to share in the experience with them (it had been a dozen years since last we saw each other). Although we had given our reservation and those of our UK friends to RCI to ensure we were seated at the same table for dining, the Sea Pass cards showed different tables. So, we went to the dining room and sat for more than an hour while no less than 50 people waited to coax the dining room manager to change their dining reservations. We were placed at a table for 12 and when we inquired if we would get good service at such a large table, the manager stated emphatically “he’s got only the one table.” We found out later than the waiter and his assistant actually had a total of 28 diners to wait on. The food quality on the Legend of the Seas was noticeably poor through our 14-day sailing. The Windjammer café on deck 9 provided the same breakfast fare each day without any variation. There was no afternoon tea. Instead, there was a “snack” hour where one would get watered down ice milk, cookies, and cherry cobbler…cherry cobbler every day but two days when peace cobbler was served. Bread pudding was also served and nothing resembled the nice afternoon teas one gets accustomed to on other ships. Considering that there were 252 people from the United Kingdom on the cruise, they could have done much better. Additionally, they served a buffet which only those who cared not to dress up in more than swim trunks for dinner two hours later (for main seating) would find interest in. At these times, crew look haggard and sleep deprived. The dining room menus for lunch and dinner were odd compilations of food where nothing paired. The waiter’s recommendations attempted to convince that certain offerings were disasters (obviously from the main seating since we were second seating). The soups were the only things on the menu that all of our tablemates agreed was good, above average fare. Beef meals (especially steaks) were never cooked to anyone’s satisfaction and, by mid-way through the cruise, many surrounding tables were missing diners. We found out later than many chose to eat in port and avoid the disappointment of food quality all of us were subjected to on the ship. More than one veteran cruiser mentioned that they had better food in their high school cafeterias or on Carnival ships! The idea of cruise travel being based upon food offerings is not our idea of cruise travel. We either find the ship the highlight (layout, activities, personnel, etc.), or the ports. Sometimes we find both enjoyable to the max. The Legend, however, fell short in several areas. The tender use in Cabo San Lucas was so totally mismanaged that we stood in a crowd (rather than a respectable line) on the stairway leading to the tender for more than 45 minutes. Some people walked to the lower deck and some used the elevator. These people clashed with one another when it appeared that it looked like people were cutting in front of others. Realistically, the process was horrible…just issuing tickets with numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.) do not mean much. The entertainment on board the Legend of the Seas indicated to us that RCI does not spend very much in this area. While the cruise director, John Blair, may have touted that “there is more entertainment on the Legend than most any other ship on any other ocean,” the quality was substandard. A weathered tenor, Renato Pagnilli, who has apparently been with RCI for a number of years, did all he could to muster attention. One evening, he even broke out in song over loud speakers in the dining room—just as our entrée was being delivered. What noise to accompany dinner! We opted to miss more than half of the shows since they were pretty dull stuff. We believe we can get the same entertainment watching re-runs of the Ed Sullivan Show on cable television! And each entertainer had his/her own CDs to sell. In fact, Renato was hawking his CDs on the pool deck and discounting cash sales! If you book on this ship (or any of the others in this class) stay away from deck 8. It is located just below the pool deck. You hear everything from above! Same goes for the cabins all around you on either side. When someone sneezes you want to respond, “God bless you.” The ship appeared to be made out of cardboard. Speaking of the ship itself, there was much vibration felt throughout the cruise. Could this be a sign that they have the same problem with their propellers as other ships in this class? Another disappointment was the lack of an alternative dining experience. There is just the one formal restaurant (Romeo and Juliet) on deck 4. And don’t expect the Baked Alaska parade. The Legend of the Seas had a horrific experience less than two years ago. A table caught fire and diners were injured with critical burns. There is no tableside preparation of anything flaming (we were told this is fleet wide but could not verify it). So, cherries jubilee were not prepared with gusto. Two stations near the entrances to the dining room were where this type of offering was handled. The head waiter must be taking a hit as we did not find any reason why a gratuity should be rendered to him. We had no idea other than his walking around and smiling (especially the 2-3 days from the end of the cruise) to include him in our gratuity offerings. My wife had a birthday during the cruise and the head waiter approached me the evening of the birthday as plates were cleared and dessert menus were handed out. “Do you want a cake for your wife’s birthday? We’ll charge the $7.95 for the cake to your shipboard account.” I was flabbergasted but nodded in agreement. Several waiters arrived as the exceptionally small cake arrived with three candles and sang “Happy Barfday.” Yes, I felt sick enough to ‘barf’ by this experience! Talking about prices: the Legend’s prices for drinks are as high as any five-star restaurant. And though we told our cabin steward that we had no need of two large bottled waters in our small inside cabin (along with a six-pack of soft drinks), he did not take the hint and find someplace for them. We had to see them each and every day of our cruise! The photographs at the formal night required purchase of a “set.” This included the photo of the two of us and one called a “postcard” that we just did not want (showing the ship in a collage). The price was just $19.95. And the formal night was a photo at table—not one of those ‘formal portraits’ with a background. The regular prints were $9.95 for all the usual things these shipboard photographers try to do to sell prints. In the end, the vast majority of them were not purchased and those at our table mentioned that they thought the quality of the photographs did not justify any purchase at all. The disembarkation process in San Diego was yet another opportunity to see what happens when one expects a smooth transition from ship to airport and it does not work out that way. We noticed that no RCI employee checked the order of those leaving the ship. We were in the second group of about 12 or so and it was dependent upon the departure of the flights, etc. Yet, people got off at will and all sorts of color-coded tags indicated that it was a mass exodus. We could hardly blame them since the disembarkation was 75 minutes behind schedule. We arrived at our gate exactly one hour prior to the departure time and had a difficult time getting our boarding passes since the flight was oversold. While we could have understood that the ship had not been cleared in a timely fashion, it was waiting for people with our color-coded tags to follow those who ignored the ‘order’ of disembarkation. We sat on the bus waiting for it to fill for more than 45 minutes before leaving for the nearby airport. Those ports we visited included Aruba, the transit from east to west through the Panama Canal (during a daylight transit), Panama City, Costa Rica, Huatalco, Mexico, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The shore excursions we took were interesting and mostly worth the money. We have come to expect that the cruise lines can hardly be responsible for the quality of the tours but that they try and get operators to perform more professionally and give passengers a value for their services. The praise on this cruise goes to our waiter, Christopher Pino (from India). He performed his duties so professionally and always had a sincere smile to go along with his Herculean responsibilities to serve 28 diners. He was observed helping his assistant, Agnello, who was shy to the point of distraction but always pleasant. Chris has been with RCI for seven years and Agnello is on his third six-month contract with RCI. Additionally, the purser staff was efficient and helpful. Our mattress was as lumpy and uncomfortable as lying on sandbags and when we both had backaches each morning, my wife finally asked for some consideration. That afternoon we returned to our cabin to find a new mattress replacement. Voila! Does our future cruising include Royal Caribbean International? After having experienced another RCI product, Celebrity Cruises, and one of the new mega-ships, Infinity, we do not see the RCI fleet in our future cruise travels. For us, the difference is clear: Celebrity has a superior product.

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Dec 28, 2003

11 night Hawaii

5 days at sea Day 6: Hilo, Hawaii Day 7: Kailua Kona, Hawaii Day 8: Kaui Day 9: Lahaina, Maui overnight Day 10: Lahaina, Maui Day 11: Honolulu, Oahu Disembark in Honolulu We decided to do the Hawaii trip on Legend of the Seas b/c we had taken a trip on the Legend in fall of 2001. That itinerary was hard to beat- all around the

Mediterranean. Four weeks after “September 11th,” the ship was less than two thirds full. That was certainly an advantage…I think we were spoiled on that trip because this trip to Hawaii on the Legend didn’t quite live up to the Mediterranean trip; however, it was still a fantastic value and wonderful cruise. Flights: all scheduled by RCCL Two flights each direction Cleveland to Houston and Houston to San Diego and then Honolulu to Chicago and Chicago to Cleveland Remember to have your travel agent or yourself call the airline ahead of time to book your seats…we did this and were separated anyway…but it is worth a try. Embarkation: This was the weakest embarkation we have ever encountered (especially with RCCL). Due to Immigration regulations, we had to fly into San Diego but then be transported to Ensenada, Mexico via motorcoach to get on the ship. This process was highly unorganized to say the least. And our flights, transfers, trip insurance were all purchased through RCCL. We arrived at the airport and waited nearly an hour to load the buses. Our bus was “over filled” and our driver had no idea where he was going. We had to pull over to the side of the freeway for 10 minutes approaching the Mexican border to wait for a driver who was familiar with the route so that we could “follow” him. Once we arrived in Mexico, we were alerted that there was a broken down bus, also hired by RCCL, to get passengers to the Legend of the Seas. We, along with the bus we were following, stopped TWICE to help those passengers and ended up picking up 22 of their passengers and driving them the remaining 45 km to the hotel where we had to check in…this was another “downer.”…once we were in Ensenada there wasn’t ample facilities at the pier to check in, so we had to check in at a hotel and then RE load the buses to get to the pier. On the upside, our transfer fees were refunded to us (after complaining) and our luggage was delivered promptly after arriving in our cabin. The purser’s desk was particularly helpful on the Legend. Cabin: We chose an outside cabin on the second deck. I believe it was approximately 153 square feet. We had stayed in an outside cabin on the same ship before, only on deck 6. The cabin was very clean. Our cabin steward was fantastic. There is plenty of closet and drawer space and a nice love seat by the television. The bathroom is very tiny and the shower very difficult for my six foot 4 inch husband to use…but overall, we like the rooms on the Legend. Food/ Dining rooms/ Windjammer: I found the food in the Windjammer to be “average” to above average. We ate in there every day for breakfast, many days for lunch and 3-4 times for dinner. Often times, it appeared as though the food had been out a while by the time we ate it. They also serve hamburger/ hot dogs/ chicken and pizza in the Solarium café at certain times of the day. This food was average as well. There is only one employee who works there at a time and service is somewhat slow. The food in the main dining room (which is a beautiful two story feature of the ship) was about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. We were disappointed that on an 11 night cruise there was no “lobster night” and were told that it was because they had a special “New Year’s Eve” dinner and menu. We didn’t find that particular menu anything special however. The food, overall, was very good in the dining room for both lunch and dinners. Lunches tended to be a lot of ‘leftovers’ however. One complaint that we have about the dining room is that soft drinks are no longer complimentary even in the dining room as they used to be on RCCL. There was only one elaborate “midnight buffet” as well which is less than usual on an 11 night sailing. It was a “chocolate buffet” and was very pretty and tasty as well. The service in the dining room was good, but not excellent. They were very accommodating of my husband who is known to order a few appetizers, two entrees and often times two desserts. The poolside BBQ’s and luau were an exception to the average food in the Windjammer as the food was always very good at these events. Room service menu is very limited and not very good (at least it is included though). Public areas: We find the Legend to be a very attractive ship with beautiful public areas. The centrum is very attractive and we especially like all of the windows. The ship holds about 2,000 passengers so it is not a “mega ship”…The pool area was absolutely crowded all of the time- especially on the ‘sea days…’ people started reserving chairs (which you are not ‘supposed’ to do but many did it anyway and we heard several ‘fights’ over chairs- go figure?) Anyway, people would reserve their chairs starting at 6 am…it was quite ridiculous actually. If you got on deck for a chair past 10 am you were basically out of luck. On port days, this was not the case. The jogging track and exercise areas were more crowded than I have seen on any ship. You had to wait no matter what time of day it was and they didn’t offer “sign up” sheets although the trainer in the exercise area did reinforce the “20 minute rule” on aerobic equipment. Maybe everyone made New Year’s resolutions to exercise? We like the layout of the Legend and the look of the public areas. Even though the ship is approaching 10 years old, it is kept up pretty well. Entertainment: We found the entertainment on the ship to be much improved over entertainment we have seen in the past. The entertainment included comedians, singers, a violinist, pianist, “cirque de soleil” type performance, vocal impersonator and than the typical “Royal Caribbean singers and dancers” shows…I found these shows to be of the poorest quality. It is very evident that they were choreographed and produced MANY years ago and haven’t been updated much since. The caliber of the talent was good but the production and music selection is very poor. Almost laughably so…Again though, the entertainment as far as guest entertainers was very good. The high point of the entertainment were the “Spirit of Polynesia” Hawaiian dance troupe which were on board the entire cruise…always very visible and interacting with the passengers, etc…since we were at sea for 5 days, they really reminded us that we were headed to Hawaii. Everyone seemed to love them, their shows and just their presence on board. There were a lot of on board activities including pool games, evening events such as the “not so newlywed game” and other types of entertaining games, guest talent show, horse racing, LOTS of bingo, art auctions, etc…we attended the art auctions and always enjoy them although we don’t purchase anything. The other activities are fun but we find other ways to spend the day relaxing. Crown and Anchor (return guest) benefits: We were impressed by all of these- they offered a wine tasting event which was very professionally handled. A “welcome back party” which was nice as well (similar to the Captain’s welcome aboard party). They also gave us a hip sack (commemorative gift) and a book of coupons to use on board which saved us some money. Spa: I utilized the spa for a pedicure (cost $50) and an “up do” on formal night for my hair ($45). The services were pricey but the staff seemed to be experienced. A bit unprofessional but experienced. The massages and other treatments/ facials were too overpriced so I didn’t utilize any of those. There were some “sea day” and “port day” specials, however. I would suggest doing those. Service/ crew: We found the crew to be helpful yet they all seemed very tired and many seemed “burned out”. Perhaps it was due to several full ships in a row. We had a full ship and I believe that the Christmas cruise the week prior was full as well. They work very hard and I am sure it is a very tiring career. Ports of call/ excursions: We booked all of our excursions through RCCL and were pleased with them all. Our favorite was the Hanalei/ Bali’hi tour in Kawai (which was also our favorite island, incidentally). I highly recommend taking a tour on the last day- it helps expediate the disembarkation process and is a great way to see Honolulu rather than sitting in an airport all day. Hilo: Mule Drawn Wagon ride through Waipi”o Valley- beautiful scenery and a nice way to see the beautiful Waipi’o Valley- recommend it ($75 pp) Kona: excursion cancelled due to weather- immediately refunded Kaui- Hanalei/ Bali’hi tour was wonderful with lunch at a splendid resort- we loved it and had a wonderful guide ($69 pp) Maui- day one – Lanai wild dolphin and snorkeling adventure (approx. $75 pp)- great excursion with 4 naturalists on board our catamaran- fresh food included. We saw a TON of whales, spinner dolphins and got to snorkel. Very good excursion as well. Maui- day two- Valley Waterfall Hike (through Hike Maui)- great excursion- $125pp. The hike was VERY rigorous unless you are used to hiking (and we are young). Beautiful garden of Eden tour and a very well trained and educated professional “hiker” as our guide. Long drive halfway up the famous “Road to Hana” (take your Dramamine)….took 1.5 hours each way to get to hiking destination but it was a lot of fun and worth the experiences. Honolulu- Natural Highlights tour ($47 pp)- great tour- like I said, better than sitting in an airport all day for sure…felt like we really got to see Honolulu and it’s natural beauty. Conclusion: Hawaii is an absolutely beautiful place! We adored our time there. RCCL seemed to have ‘dropped the ball’ in a few areas since our last cruise with them but we would be willing to give them another try. The tendering, which I haven’t mentioned, even tended to be a bit disorganized which is rare for them. The embarkation was a nightmare but otherwise, RCCL was still rather organized and we enjoyed being in their care. The food wasn’t splendid but was good and enjoyable. The itinerary was good although the 5 sea days to get there were rough. (literally and figuratively). We enjoyed the ship and the entertainment. All in all, I would recommend the cruise if you are able to get a good value (we paid $3616 for BOTH of us including air and the cruise and taxes)…for 11 nights, we felt this was good for a holiday / New Year’s sailing. Hopefully RCCL isn’t developing a trend of cutting corners… Make every vacation a good one! You only live once. God bless!

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Aug 8, 2003

Alaska, Northbound

David E. Well, we're back from a 3-night stay in Vancouver followed by an 11-night cruisetour on the Legend of the Seas. We had such a wonderful time. Although the Legend is older, I found her to be quite nice, with new upholstery and carpeting, and an extremely professional crew. We even got to see Hubbard Glacier (something that I've heard doesn't happen often with RCCL)! The following is a day-by-day review of our entire trip, from

the first flight to last night. Here it goes... Day 1 Washington - Chicago - Vancouver (Beginning of Vancouver leg of trip) When we first reserved our airline tickets, (we got two free with miles. YAY) we were booked on Air Canada 699, wich was a non-stop flight from DC to Vancouver. However, we later found that AC699 had been cancelled, so we now had a 3-hour layover in Montreal. This was not good. We wouldn't even get into Vancouver until 4 Pm, and we wanted to spend as much time there as possible. So we called United, (who we booked the ticket with) and they rebooked us on a United flight through Chicago. Although we had a tight connection, everything worked out and we arrived in Vancouver dazzled by the beautiful airport. Yes, the Vancouver airport. Although there were long lines and relative chaos at the Baggage Claim area, a porter helped us (and our 9 bags) through it. But on the walk to immigration, we really liked the nice touches of the airport, such as the raised walkways, glass jet-bridges, waterfalls, and nature areas. I'm sure it also helped that we arrived on a day where no cruise ships were leaving. We got a taxi driver (much nicer than the ones in other parts of the continent) and were driven to the Vancouver Marriott (Delta) Pinnacle. Now, here's the story with our hotel choice. We had been booked at the Fairmont Waterfront, but switched to the Pinnacle simply for price reasons. We thought we had booked one of the big xx19 rooms, with the corner wraparound windows (the room was described as a "corner view room"), but were surprised to find a room with a city view and a little corner facing the harbor. We explained what had happened, and the switched our room to one overlooking Canada Place, Stanley Park, and everything in the harbor. It was a little small, but the view was great, the hotel staffers were extremely professional (left over from the Delta chain, a Canadian luxury hotel chain), and the hotel was in a great location right near Canada Place (even though our ship wasn't leaving from there). That said, next time I would probably stay in the Fairmont Waterfront or Pan-Pacific. Their locations right on the water seemed dazzling. Anyway, after exploring the city a little that first day, we ate at Romano's Macaroni grill at the Mansion. Very good restaurant with excellent food and a nice setting. Days 2 and 3: Vancouver We went to do all the various attractions like the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mntn. (Mt. Roberts Tram in Juneau is better), Granville Island, and Stanley Park. We had mostly good (Great!) weather, and enjoyed everything. WE LOVE VANCOUVER. It is such a great city and really has everything to offer. We would go back even if we weren't going on a cruise. To start with, I just want to emphasize how much we loved Vancouver, and also to note some great restaurants. The 2nd night we ate in a litle brewery right on the water behind the Renaissance hotel and near the mini-waterpark made up of various fountains. sorry, I forgot the name, but it was an extremely relaxing place to eat right on the water. On our last night in Vancouver, we splurged and ate at Cloud 9, the revolving restaurant on top of the Empire Landmark hotel on Robson St. The views were incredible, as was the food, but the prices were a little high. That said, it was worth it. Now. Before I get to the vast majority of the Cruise (which was EXCELLENT), I do want to note some minor things that were annoying on the Legend of the Seas. Embarkation: It was a little disappointing that the Legend left from Ballantyne pier as opposed to Canada Place. Although Ballantyne is still close to downtown and check-in was as smooth as could be, it would have been nice to leave from a better neighborhood. Elevators (Very Minor): For some reason, the two sets of elevators in the Centrum (the glass ones and the normal ones) were on two different sets of call buttons, so you had to press both elevators if you wanted to get the first one. As a result, the elevator you didn't get on would stop on the floor after you had left, and this slowed the elevators consistently. Again, ths was not a big deal AT ALL, just a little annoyance. Shore Excursions: This was probably our biggest complaint. Although the Misty Fjords Seaplane Adventure with Promech Air was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we would repeat again and again, the White Pass and Yukon Route was a little slow for us, and took a LONG time. Also, we all got seasick on the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest in Sitka. In addition, the Helicopter Glacier Walkabout was not what we expected. We thought it involved a long hike, when it was really just a little tour. The Trek probably would have suited us better. Oh well, better luck next time Wink ! Embarkation Embarkation at Ballantyne Pier went as smooth as can be. We arrived at Ballantyne arout 11:30 - 12 NOON, and were #2. We were on the ship by 12:45. The only thing that annoyed us was that, while RCCL had 25 check-in positions, there were only 4 US Immigration officers, and that line was a little long. So, after taking our picture with the "We're Alaska Bound!" sign, we were on the beautiful Legend of the Seas. Legend INFO Cabin: We were in cabin 8526, a Cat. C handicapped cabin which was a "Superior Ocean View Suite with Balcony." Because it was a handicapped room, it lacked a few things (no marble bathroom, no tub) but also was much more spacious and had a slightly different layout than the other Cat. C rooms. (the sofa bed was facing the bed, as opposed to being next to it). The balcony was indispensable on the Alaska cruise. Not only did we have our own private place to view the beautiful scenery of Canada's Inside Passage and the port in Skagway, but we also didn't have to fight for a place on deck when the ship was viewing Hubbard Glacier. The decor was very nice, and it seems that RCCL has taken a leaf from the Navy/Gold decor on the Radiance Class, as the bedspreads were that color. Note that the Legend was reupholstered and recarpeted last year. Public Areas: I'll say it once and I'll say it again: THE LEGEND IS A BEAUTIFUL SHIP. It really is. Actually, we found the layout and decor to be extremely similar to Celebrity's Galaxy, with many greens, a LOT of glass (perfect for Alaska) and use of wood tones. The Romeo and Juliet Dining Room was pretty standard (but the glass walls were a nice touch), and the Centrum (as well as rooms off of it) was an excellent place to sit and relax. The That's Entertainment Theatre, although it was only one deck, had very comfortable chairs (so comfortable we fell asleep during a Naturalist lecture) and good sightlines from every seat. The Windjammer was a little small and it was often hard to find a table, but that wasn't a big deal at all, as it had big glass windows and great views of the bow. Both the Adventure Ocean and Optix kids areas were wll designed, our son loved the RCCL kids program. The Solarium and Spa areas were really truly beautiful, and we loved the ancient Greek theme, complete with statues of Greek Gods and Godesses. Also nice was a 2.5-D diagram of the ship by the Centrum areas, it really helped you get your bearings the first couple of days. Food: Let me say this: Our family does not go on a cruise for the food. We go for the travel experience on a floating city. That said, the food, although we thought it was good if not great in the dining room, was not as good as Celebrity. In addition, the lunches in the Windjammer Buffet Restaurant were very heavy and not great. Breakfast was quite good, as were the Pizza and Burgers in the Solarium. We heard so many people complaining about the food. IMHO, What was their problem? The food was FINE, if not great (in the dining room) and was certainly not BAD at all. If you want gourmet food, go on Celebrity. Otherwise, don't worry about the food so much. Food does not make or break a vacation. (However, in the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, the food was overpriced ($30), and tasted like water.) Service: We found the service to be quite good, especially with our Stateroom Attendant, Arturo, who had been on the Legend since 1995. Towel animals were expertly made, and Arturo was very pleasant to be around. Stop 1: Ketchikan Other Ships in Port: Ryndam and Crystal Harmony Ranking: 2nd best port Since we had 4 hours until our Misty Fjords Seaplane Adventure left at noon, we had time to explore Ketchikan a little bit. It was a cloudy, misty morning, but at least it wasn't raining as it does so often in Ketchikan. We explored the town, walking around and going to places like the West Coast Cape Fox Lodge, which has panoramic views of the whole town and is accessed by a free elevator at Creek Street, a little causeway of wooden planks with cute shops and Dolly's House, the most famous woman in Ketchikan's old red-light district. We also went to the Salmon Ladder and looked in some of the souvenir shops by the ships. However, the most fun part of our trip to Ketchikan was the Misty Fjords Seaplane Adventure with Promech Air. Right as we were taking off, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Besides the fun of sitting in the copilots seat of a tiny little DeHavilland Beaver, the views were exquisite, and the pilot was able to land on the most beautiful and secluded lake I've ever seen, which he could only access in the excellent weather we had that day. It was worth every penny we spent. I highly recommend any Misty Fjords flightseeing tour: you WON'T regret it. Stop 2:Skagway Other Ships in Port: Summit and Infinity Ranking: 3rd/4th We had absolutely gorgeous weather in Skagway, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky when we arrived at the railroad dock between exquisite mountains and beautiful waters. However, Skagway seemed to small to be crowded with so many tourists, and, although the tiny town was picturesque, it seemed to crowded with tacky shops and stuff that it was almost ruined. We took the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad, which was a little long and slow. Juneau Other ships in port: Norweigan Sun and Sky, Island Princess, and Ryndam was anchored offshore. We very much liked the city of Juneau, as we had ample time to explore it before our Helicopter Glacier Walkabout at 12:30pm. We walked all around the city, and up to some charming residential areas near the Governor's Mansion. We very much liked taking the Mt. Roberts Tramway, as there was very good hiking and spectacular views from the top of the hiking trail. The city is worth a look around, as it was much bigger than Skagway (where we had been the day before), and has some very interesting places. After our mini tour of the town, we went on our Helicopter Glacier Walkabout, which was not all as I had expected. We thought we were actually going to have to hike, when all we really did was look around a little. The Trek would have probably suited us better. Thems the breaks! Sitka Other Ships in Port: Statendam and Amsterdam Sitka was probably our favorite port of call. Although cloudy in the morning on our Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest (which was nice except for the seasickness), the sun came out in full force by 11, and we loved exploring this delightful town. Sitka was nice for many reasons: A): It had historical significance that didn't involve gold. After having an overdose of Gold Ruch history on the White Pass Railroad in Skagway, Sitka offered incredibly interesting Russian and Tlingit history, and contained many historic sites. In the gorgeous weather the views from Castle Hill were spectacular. B): No touristy merchandise or atmosphere. In Juneau, Ketchikan, and even (especially) quaint little Skagway, the only things we could find to buy were t-shirts and the like, all made in China. Why would I come to Alaska to buy something made in China? In Sitka, on the other hand, we were able to find charming handmade gifts made in Alaska and Russia, all in an authentic Russian setting. The town was charming and beautiful. That being said, it is a shame that many cruise itineraries bypass Sitka. It is such a great place to go, and steers away from the Little Switzerlands of the world. Hubbard Glacier Other Ships in Port: Ryndam Yes, we actually got to see Hubbard Glacier!!! This is something that apparently doesn't happen often with RCCl, as they need to save the sea-pups. (???) Altough it was cloudy and misty, the Ryndam stepped aside and we got a spectacular view of the calving glacier from our balcony. Although the weather could have been (much) better, it was great all the same.\ Seward Other Ships in Port: Ryndam Disembarkation in Seward was a little annoying but nothing to get too upset about. So we could have slept for 45 extra minutes while we were waiting for our color to be called. You win some, you lose some. Anyway, we were on Royal Celebrity Cruisetour #6 which went from Seward to Anchorage via bus, Anchorage to Fairbanks via plane, Fairbanks to Denali via bus, Denali to Talkeetna via train, and Talkeetna to Anchorage via train. We spent one night in each place. Royal Celebrity Tours was FABULOUS!!! Everything, from the buses to the gorgeous glass-domed trains to the great lodgings were impeccable. Our Tour Director, Shelley, was excellent and extremely knowledgeable about everything. Now: I KNOW THAT WE COULD HAVE CHOSEN A BETTER TOUR. (and it drives me CRAZY)!!! We only had four days and would have stayed for seven if we could have. We didn't even see ANY wildlife in Denali. Oh well. Save the best for our next trip! Wink The only reason we chose our tour is because it ended in Anchorage and we got two FREE tickets on United!!! Day 1 Seward to Anchorage to Fairbanks Hotel: Pike's Waterfront Lodge We got off the boat in miserable rainy weather and were directed to the Alaska Airlines Check-In line in the Seward terminal so we could check in for our flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks. The line was long, but we finally checked in and boarded our bus, which was extremely comfortable and had huge windows so we could enjoy the beautiful scenery around us on the way to Anchorage. At the airport, we were on the first of two flights which were chock-full of people on our tour. There were so many people that there were four different buses doing our itinerary!!! It was a good thing that we were on the first flight as the second was cancelled and the people on it didn't have the chance to see the Alaska Pipeline or the University of Alaska/Fairbanks Museum, both of which we saw after getting off of the plane and claiming our luggage. We had GREAT weather in Fairbanks both days, with partly cloudy skies. Both were excellent attractions to see. We ate dinner in the casual part of Pike's Landing, which was extremely good despite its VERY casual feel. Our hotel room in Pike's Waterfront Lodge was small, but had a balcony and a very nice view of the calm, peaceful Chena River. Day 2 Fairbanks to Denali Hotel: McKinley Village Lodge In the morning we took the Riverboat Discovery Tour, which we thought was quite nice. It was an extremely relaxing was to spend our morning after the relatively hectic day we had had the day before. The trip down the Chena River was extremely scenic, and the visit to the Athabascan Indian Village was interesting, if a little touristy. Also interesting was Susan Butcher and her dogs. The boat stopped in front of her property and we watched how she trained them. It was very relaxing. We went into downtown Fairbanks for lunch, and then continued onto Denali, where it was pouring rain. Day 3 Denali to Talkeetna Hotel: Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge We didn't see much in Denali. We were only on the Natural History Tour to begin with, and it was so foggy that we couldn't see anything. Oh well. However, things started to look up as we got our first glimpse of the "Wilderness Express" traincars. Royal Celebrity really did a great job with those trains. The leather seats were SO comfortable right nextt to the glass domes. The food was impeccable, and the scenery was amazing. For lunch, I highly recommend the Mandarin Chicken Salad. To make things even better, the sun started to come out as we approached Talkeetna. After settling in at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, we took the free shuttle into town of Talkeetna. There's not much there. WARNING: DO NOT EAT AT ANY OF THE RESTAURANTS IN THE TALKEETNA ALASKAN LODGE. We ate at the VERY expensive restaurant for dinner ($90 for the three of us) and the service was horrible as was the FOOD!!! Eat in town at the Roadhouse. You won't be sorry!!! Day 4 Talkeetna to Anchorage Hotel: Anchorage Downtown Marriott We had most of the day free for optional excursions in Talkeetna before the train came at 5 PM. we went on a Float trip down the Talkeetna River which was extremely relaxing and beautiful, although it became cold towards the end. Then it was back aboard the Wilderness Express for an extremely scenic trip to Anchorage. For dinner, I recommend the Fettucine. After we arrived in Anchorage around 9 PM, we went to bed for our 4:30 (OUCH!) transfer to the airport. Although that may seem like the end, I have one more thing to add. On our flight from Anchorage to Chicago, the pilot got a rare flight path that took us directly over the Wrangell-St. Elias Natl. Park. He even lowered his altitude so we could get a closer look. It was like our own (free) flightseeing trip. The scenery was the most amazing I have ever seen. We saw the largest glaciers and icefields in the world, and saw all the mountains, including Mt. St Elias, in all their glory. It was the perfect touch to end a (near) perfect trip.

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By Sue_CR

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Aug 1, 2003

Alaska

This cruise departs from Seward, AK, a pleasant and scenic 3-hour bus ride from Anchorage. Embarkation in Seward was smooth and efficient; just be certain to have a passport or your birth certificate and photo ID! We had a roomy oceanview cabin on deck 3 which was centrally located amidship and convenient to both the elevators and Romeo & Juliet dining room. On this trip we elected to book all shore excursions online prior to embarkation

which was a plus since it allowed us to avoid long lines at the shore excursion desk. In addition to the receipt I printed after booking the excursions on the RCI website, all shore excursion tickets and another receipt were promptly delivered to our stateroom. The floatplane trips we booked for Juneau and Ketchikan were outstanding and well worth the cost! While the cabin steward, waiter, and assistant waiter were extremely friendly and provided excellent service we were disappointed in several aspects of this cruise. For the first time in nine cruises on RCI (including 3 on the Legend of the Seas), the food was really not very good. The scrambled eggs at breakfast tasted as if they were made with powdered eggs and the hash browns were like eating cardboard! If you really like eggs in the morning I would strongly suggest ordering a "made to order" omelet (quite good). At dinner the beef tenderloin and prime rib were fine but most of the fish dishes were terrible and not fresh (even fishy tasting)! On the formal nights, the social hostess no longer introduces you to the captain and there were no opportunities to have your photo taken with the ship's master as in the past. While complimentary drinks were served at the captain's party, the hors d'oeuvres have been eliminated taking away from the "specialness" of the event. Debarkation was a mess! Passengers were called in groups off the ship only to have to wait 45-minutes halfway down the gangway due to a "luggage mix-up." We then got on a beautiful new coach for the trip from Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle, WA only to learn that half our personal luggage did not arrive (approximately 15-20 pieces of luggage were missing for the passengers on our bus)! After filling out the requisite RCI claim form for lost luggage and being assured by the RCI representative that it would be brought to our Seattle home later that day, it never arrived. After numerous calls to RCI (not much help) and to the ship's port agent in Vancouver, I was finally able to track down the shoreside baggage handling company and locate our missing suitcase in Seattle three days after getting off the ship! I was then told that I could wait an extra two more days to have the bag sent to my home via FedEx or could drive to the airport on my own to pick it up if I wanted it sooner. When I suggested that RCI send it to our home via taxi, I was told that that was not an option as it was "too expensive." Overall we had a wonderful cruise and the itinerary was great but the problems with debarkation and the subsequent lost luggage hassle really left us with a poor impression of RCI!  

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Jun 13, 2003

Alaska

We were very disappointed in some of the things that occurred on this cruise. It was a family cruise, three B suites booked almost a year in advance. We embarked in Vancouver at the Ballyntine pier which is in an "industrial" area and difficult to access from the downtown area. Embarkation was a MESS. It took two hours and was very stressing. Even though we had suites and were repeat passengers there were no separate check-ins until

the last stage. SARS checks were being done since some passengers were from Asia or Toronto. Once on board there was a buffet lunch. Our first problem was with our dining. We were a family of 11 and were divided between three tables. It was so messed up! They even had my four year old daughter at another table. My parents were at different tables. The Dining room manager was very rude when we asked for this to be straightened out. We were told they would "try" and to check back after 4:30. No promises. We had booked a year in advance but it did not seem to matter. They kept telling us that they could not guarantee a change. I laughed and said that someone on my four year old's table would have to butter her bread for her! Only after my sister (a diamond repeat passenger) bumped into the Head Housekeeper did we get any action. It was finally resolved at 5 p.m. The B suites were very roomy. Ours was extremely worn down. There were worn spots on the carpet, stains on the couch, bedspread, etc. Our room steward was very distant to the point of being rude. When you said "good morning" he would just glare. If he was talking with another staff member and you needed something he would act annoyed. On the final day while packing he knocked on our door and said he had to clean our rooms. I asked for 30 minutes so we could finish. He said "I'll give you 20". The room got cleaned but to just a minimum. The glass doors were never wiped down, etc. Our waiter and asst. waiter were very nice but they had too many tables and were stressed. The food was average to mediocre. The Windjammer buffet was a joke. The breakfasts were powdered eggs, etc. On one day in port there was no dining room service for lunch and the Windjammer could not handle the crowds. Room service was adequate but they never got the order right and would have to go back and forth (no silverware, no ketchup, etc). Activities on the ship were fun. The casino and shows were enjoyable and the kids program was great. Lots of activities and fun for the kids. Our biggest disappointment was the so called "cruising of Hubbard Glacier Bay". On our daily activities sheet it announced we would be sailing the "majestic" Hubbard Bay glaciers from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. on our last full day of the cruise. EVERYONE in my family woke up at 6:30 a.m. to be ready to sit on our balconies and watch the beautiful glaciers go by. The ship got about seven miles from the opening to the glacier bay and STOPPED. A Holland America ship that was behind us cruised right into the bay and we just sat there. Hundreds of passengers complained and misinformation circulated. We were told that we would enter after the Holland America ship left, etc. We NEVER went in. The ship simply continued on the way to Seaward. The Purser's desk was flooded with angry passengers. Later that day a pre-printed form was put on our doors explaining that because it was sea lion "pupping" months the ship was going to "respect" that and would not go within 500 meters of the glaciers. Well, we did not go within SEVEN MILES of the glaciers and it was finally disclosed that RCCL KNEW this weeks before our cruise but still put in the daily schedule that we would be sailing the glacier bay. They knowingly misinformed passengers. If I had known we were not going to see the Glaciers I would have booked a glacier helicopter tour for my kids. I also would not have woken up at 6:30 a.m on the last day of my vacation! It was a total scam. Disembarking in Seaward was much more organized and our transfers to Anchorage were very enjoyable. But I will never cruise RCCL again because I feel that the service and misinformation were really shameful.

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Apr 18, 2003

HawaiiFirst a

summary (from best to worst): 1. The itinerary was great 2. The service was very good 3. The food was O.K. 4. Entertaining was so-so. Now more details. This cruise is a 10 day cruise with the first 4 days sailing and the following days at different ports. This was a different format than I had done before which has sailing days intermixed with port days. Having the sailing days to relax is a nice way to start, but having rest days

in between is good for resting, so both have their advantages. We lost our first port day because of a bomb threat. We supposed to have spent 2 days on the big island, but just got 1. I went body surfing and my wife went shopping, so both were happy. I had fish and chips at a close by restaurant with Ono, a local fish, which was excellent. We rented a car in Maui, Kauai and Oahu. I kind of have mixed emotions about renting a car. On the one hand, it's a very economical way of exploring the islands and you can control when and where you'll go, and for how long. On the other hand, it's stressful, which counteracts one of the points of a vacation. The islands were quite different from one another, which was interesting given they were all so close together. They are all beautiful with lots to do and see, so I don't think you can go badly regardless of what you choose. If you're on a budget, there are visitor booths at each of the stops where you can decide what you want to do. And the car rental option is available. (I didn't have any trouble getting a car, but may have been lucky. If you know you're going to be renting a car, reserving ahead of time would be prudent.) Where the car rental option really paid off was in Oahu. Our flight left at 5:00 PM, so we had a few hours to explore things. They did a good job getting everyone off the ship, so we were ready to go shortly after 9:00 AM There was a shuttle to the car rental place (it went to Waikiki beach, but you could drop the car off at the airport at no extra charge) right at the port. Here are some suggestions at the various stops. 1. Hilo. Can't help here. Try to get a cruise without a bomb threat. 2. Kona. Great body surfing at Magic Sands beach. (not a surfing beach though). Snorkeling nearby too. An interesting art coop in the hotel right there where the tender lets you off. The artists themselves run the store, so if you have an interest in art your sure to get informative help. The fish and chips from the restaurant across the street and up just a ways was great. I don't remember the name of the restaurant, but their specialty is fish and chips using Ono, and they're across the street from the hotel. 3. Maui. In Maui you'll want to spend some time exploring the Banyan tree. It's an incredible tree that you have to see to believe. There are many pretty places to see, including traveling along the road to Hana, the cliffs along the north shore (going north from Lahaina) and Makena beach. If you want to golf, Maui is a golfer's paradise. The only thing I would caution against would be going to see the volcano. It takes a long time to get to and if it's cloudy you might not get to see much. On the other hand, there are those who camp overnight there to see the sunrise which is supposed to be sensational. There's also Paia beach which is one of the best wind surfing places in the world. There were an awful lot of wind surfers there. It was impressive. 4. Kauai. If you can afford the helicopter ride, I heard good things about it. The road doesn't go all the way around the island, so you can't see it all unless you rent a car and really hustle. If you rent a car and hustle, it is possible. Waimea canyon can't be missed. Hanalei bay is also beautiful, but you have to go really quick to catch both. If you give yourself 90 minutes to get back from Hanalei bay to car rental return at the airport, that should be plenty of time. The island is small, so it is doable to get around most of the island. You just have to choose whether you want to see more and go faster, or catch less of it but relax more. 5. Oahu. Renting a car and driving around the east coast is very picturesque and easy to do as its not far away. Lanikai beach is not hard to get to, and is beautiful. The ship itself is not great but adequate. I thought the service was the high point. This may not be a ship-wide thing, but my wait staff was top rate, and in general I found everyone to be cheerful and helpful. The food was never bad, sometimes excellent, but usually O.K. This ship doesn't have as many options as the bigger ships (no fancy restaurant or side restaurants -- however, they do have an ice cream stand that's often available, and free). The entertainment was probably the most disappointing aspect of the cruise. There were only two production shows, which is certainly not many for a 10 day cruise. The quality of the shows they did have was O.K., but the mix of small shows (1 and 2 man shows vs. larger shows) was poor I thought. The variety of shows was good. The quality of the shows differed being on the average adequate. The ship band was excellent. The lady who entertains in the Schooner bar is definitely worth seeing. Summing up, I would highly recommend this cruise on the basis of the itinerary. Apart from the itinerary I wouldn't recommend it, meaning that there are nicer cruises and better ships if you're primarily interested just in the cruising aspect. Overall I would recommend it as I had a very good time, even losing a whole day to a bomb threat.

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Apr 7, 2003

Hawaii

EMBARKING: Went very smoothly. We were on the boat in less than 45 minutes. I would suggest that you come after 2 o'clock as there were zero lines after 2 o'clock. There were longer lines from 12-2. CABIN: Size of the cabin was very small and we never did get a bedspread, there is limited amount of space for your belonging and the bathroom was extremely limited n area. However, our cabin stewart was extremely helpful and usually opened

our door every night. What a nice touch. SHIP: Extremely clean and very nice. All of the areas were very well kept. The ship was not full, so there was never a wait for anything. LIDO DECK: Excellent food and nice area, but we had cold weather (yes, even in April); so there was little activity at the pool. The pool staff service was very very poor. But the buffets were very good as they had BBQ ribs one day, seafood buffet the next, etc. Food out there was always very good. DINING ROOM SERVICE AND FOOD: Service was second to none. We had excellent excellent service and the head waiter was outstanding. He came by our table of 10 every night and always deboned our meats, our lobster, etc. He was extremely attentive to our needs. Everyone at our table was impressed. (Our head waiter was Erich, our waitresses were Charito and Rochelle. Extremely well done. Food quality was not the same. I personally felt the food was not up to standards, even for a cruise ship. Their selection was fine, presentation was excellent, but their food was not seasoned. Felt it was very tasteless. I tried two entrees every night because there was always one I didn't like, so I could at least have one good entree. You are able to order as much as you want. I did like the fact that they did not dance every night like Carnival. In the 11 days, they only sang/dance I believe three nights. Bravo. ENTERTAINMENT: The first five nights were Hawaiian dances and all the shows were very good. The two feature shows were excellent and the other nights were good as well. They were lacking in the Comedy section. I would have like more Comedy shows at night. But overall, they had plenty to do at night. DAY ACTIVITIES: Plenty to do, however, because of the cold weather, the outdoor activies were limited. They had a very nice indoor pool area and everyone hung out there. I wanted to be outside (that is why I came on a cruise) and the weather just didn't cooperate. To no fault of the line, the lack of people, made this an EXTREMELY RELAXING cruise, however, our nights were extremely active with plenty to do. I did like the horseracing which was very funny and fun. Sexy leg contest was also very fun. CELEBRITY VS. CARNIVAL VS. ROYAL CARIBBEAN: My husband claims that all the cruises are same. Same activities, same food, same shows; etc; however, I think they are each a little different and the following is just what I think the differences are between the three lines: Carnival: Not as high quality of service or food, but their staff is always entertaining and the guest are definitely more lively. We always take longer cruises, so there usually is not much children when we go on Carnival. To avoid the family crowd, go during April, December and choice a longer cruise. Avoid holidays. I like Carnival the best because they seem to have the best entertainment and activities and I like the overall crowd better. Celebrity: Best food of them all, however, lacking in entertainment and guest excitement. If you like finer dining and quietier crowd, Celevrity is for you. Royal Caribbean: Little bit in between Carnival and Celebrity. Food is more standard to Carnival, but service is better and the guest are a little bit more educated. Dinner conversation is more interesting than Carnival. Night activities are good, but day time can be a little slow. PORTS: Oahu: Rent a car. There is plenty to see in Oahu and the circle around the island does not take all that long. Allow for about 6 hours. Honolulu is also very nice, so if you don't have a car, there is still plenty to do downtown. Oahu has an excellent bus service. Better than any of the islands. If you don't want to rent a car on every Island, Oahu may be one option since they have a good transportation system. KAUAI: Cannot do the whole island in the amount of time you are giving. Therefore, hou must pick which side of the island you want to go on. I choice the North Shore (Princeville) area and there is plenty to see. That is the green side of the island. We hiked Na Pali area and went swimming and saw two waterfalls. We had no problems getting our rent a car. Always call ahead and tell them you are with the boat. They seem to go faster for you. We were told that when the cruise boats are in town, they are the highest hotel in Kauai. Kauai is very green and beautiful. MAUI: My favorite of all. I picked this boat for one basic reason. We would be able to spend two days in Maui. I was extremely thankful for that. 1st Day: spent 14 hours going down Hana highway. I must see for nature lovers. We visited every waterfall and swam in most of them. It was by far one of the biggest adventures. If you love nature or excitement, must go to Hana. Min. you need is 10 hours. We went the full circle--even though we were not suppose to because of our car rental agreement, but it is a must see. We only had to drive on unpaved roads for no more than 30 minutes. Well worth it. 2nd day: Went around the loop on the Northwestern side of the Island. Road are one way for two lanes of traffic and extremely scary, but boy, what an adventure. I suggest Hana highway the first day, since you have to be on the boat earlier on the second day. We went to Ioa Valley, which is very nice and then around the Western side of the Island. Took about 3 hours. Then we snorkeled. Snorkeling is better on the Big Island, but did manage to see some fish. Went whale watching and then in the town of Lahaina for a drink before getting on the boat. Beautiful two days in Maui. Big Island: Two days there Hilo: Went to Akaka Falls, which was very very nice and then to the Botanical Gardens, which were also extremely nice. Off the Volcano area, which is a bunch of rocks, but seemed to be highlight for most people. ADDED BONUS: THAT NIGHT, they had a lava party on deck in which you could see the lava from the shore. Very Very nice. KONA: I felt this was the highlight of our trip. We rented a Kayak from Aloha Rentals and went to Capt. Cooks for snorkeling. Aloha is extremely helpful. Tell them you are on a cruise boat and they will really help you. They loaded our boat to our car and when we got to the dock, some locals there unload it for you--hand them a few bucks for their help--and then off for about a hour worth of kayaking to the reef. This was a very young reef and some of the most beautiful snorkeling I have ever done. It was like swimming in an aquarium. But wait it gets better. On our way to the reef, there were spinner dolphins around our boat and jumping up right in front of us. It was unbelievable. You must be very still and they stayed there for awhile. What a wonderful way to end the Hawaiian Islands. 5 days at Sea: We waved goodbye to hawaii--so sad and each night, they did have music by the pool to relax. However, I will say very very few people took advantage of the upper deck. I never missed a departure and really think this is the nice part of crusing. The 5 days are extremely relaxing. But if you like non stop excitement, not the cruise for you. I slept in most days, as the morning had nothing to do. However, the nights were full of activity. So sleep in and enjoy. OVERALL, Royal's service was very very nice, but if you want entertainment and nonstop action, not the cruise for you. However, the Island were so beautiful and cannot go wrong in Hawaii, I highly recommend you see Hawaii on any ship. Overall, Service 10 Food 6 Entertainment 8 guest excitement 3 Aloha

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Mar 31, 2002

Auckland - Hawaii 16 Nights

This was our 7th cruise, 3rd on RCCL. Overall, the trip was great. Food was better than the previous two. Entertainment was at best fair. If you order Bailey's as a cocktail, have them show you the bottle, I had quite a discussion and it turns out that they sell you Carolans (a 3rd rate imitation) for the price of Bailey's. Ports: Tauranga, New Zealand. Beautiful place, good prices. We are thinking of retiring there. We did not take

a tour, we enjoyed a great day just checking out the local area. Then, 4 wonderfully peaceful days at sea. Tahiti: I would suggest you take a tour, we did not and just hung around Papeete. Too crowded, too busy, too much traffic and exhaust. Moorea: Beautiful. We took a Dolphin watch tour and were taken around the whole island by boat, about 41 miles. Wonderful way to see some scenery. We also saw quite a few dolphins. People who took the inland circle tour were also impressed. Bora Boring: Sorry, Bora Bora. We hired a private person to drive us around the island $20 each for about 2 hours. The island is only 14 miles around and not much to it. A handful of resorts, a bar called Bloody Mary's, which is your basic tourist trap and some nice beaches. 4 more wonderfully peaceful days at sea. We had a ceremony crossing the equator. The Captain was thrown into the pool. Hilo: We took a tour the Volcanoes National Park. Good tour. Lahaina: We were here for two days. Went to the Old Lahaina Luau. This is very different than your typical Luau. It is authentic Hawaiian and much more low key than others. Our trip ended in Honolulu with the typical last day cruise hustle and bustle. One other very nice feature with the immigration procedure when we reached Hawaii. Usually you have to wait until everyone has gone through immigration before anyone can leave the ship. We were given tender tickets to go through immigration(we did not tender, the tickets were just used as an ordering system for immigration) based on tour time and received a pink slip indicating we were cleared by immigration which allowed us to leave the ship. So, if someone wanted to sleep in or just not go through immigration (not that that ever happens) the rest of us could still leave. Dining room service was very good. The Windjammer cafe food was not very good. However, for lunch they had a BBQ almost everyday by the pool bar which was different everyday and much better than anything in the Windjammer. We had a category F cabin, outside on deck 6 midship. surprisingly adequate for a 16 day cruise. The ship was what you would expect of an RCCL ship. Very bright and well taken care of. We are ready to go on our next one. March 24th on Celebrity's Summit.

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Nov 3, 2001

post-Sept. 11th, Spain, France, Italy

We booked RCCL's November 3-10, 2001 Legend of the Seas eastern Mediterranean cruise, sailing from Barcelona to Florence/Pisa, Rome, Santorini, Ephesus and Athens, primarily because of the exotic eastern Mediterranean locations. We, however, fully understood the change in itinerary to exclude both Greece and Turkey. At the time we felt very fortunate that our cruise, unlike so many others, had not been canceled. Now, though, we wish we could have

been spared the experience, instead getting a full refund so that we could have booked on a more reputable and customer friendly cruise line. Arranging our own airfare, we took advantage of RCCL's offer of airport transfers, etc. to and from the ship, paying almost $300 for the two of us to RCCL. For a hotel in Athens, we paid RCCL an additional $200. Total cost of the trip was over $4,000 for the two of us. Because of RCCL's change in the ship's itinerary, it was confirmed by RCCL representatives on the day of our departure from New York that all of the transfer and hotel monies would be promptly refunded in the form of an onboard credit to my ship account. No monies, however, were refunded, and the only assistance we were offered by the purser's staff was being told to contact customer service WHEN WE RETURNED HOME, a long-distance call to Florida, not even a toll-free number. Even worse, we learned on the ship that airport transfers were being sold to people who hadn't purchased them in advance like we had for only $16 each!!! What was the additional $280 for which we had been charged? Activities onboard were few and far between, which was particularly bothersome on our full day at sea. I got to play bingo, shuffleboard and ate what I could when available because that's all there was to do. No classes, contests, activities, shows, etc. which are usually scheduled so abundantly that you can't get to half of them because there just isn't time. As for talent, it was sorely lacking when there was entertainment provided. Five of the seven nights we had lounge singers. The only real show was a talent show put on by the crew . . . literally . . . the assistant chef, housekeepers, bartenders, stateroom attendants, etc. It was so bad that you felt awful for the poor employees who were forced to perform. The assistant chef played the piano beautifully but unfortunately could not sing on key. Then there was the contest to see who could make a bed fastest and best. If I hadn't stayed up to see this 11 p.m. train wreck, I would have never believed it. Another poor stateroom attendant had to spin plates on his fingers and balance something on his head, but he could never get that second plate going. Luckily, the compassionate and captive audience applauded his efforts. But it was horribly painful to watch. As for the food, it was pretty good in the main dining room. Perfectly prepared oatmeal served with warm milk, raisins and brown sugar for breakfast, rich eggs benedict and soft, thick slices of French toast. Lunch wasn't quite as appetizing, perhaps because there was a different chef during the day. The pasta was consistently overcooked, and most of the other selections were equally tasteless. The food served in the evening, including the pasta, was exceptionally better. The selection early in the week was great as well: venison, escargot, shrimp, lobster bisque. But it got much cheesier as the week began to wind down: chicken with vegetables, pasta with vegetables, peppers stuffed with cheese and vegetables. Guess there were lots of veggies left over. Informal dining in the Windjammer Cafe was completely horrendous. I didn't expect the same quality as in the main dining room, but on Celebrity's Horizon last year, the cafeteria style buffet was so good that we never did have breakfast or lunch anywhere else. On the Legend of the Seas, however, the bread, pastries and rolls were very stale, fruit was often unripe (pineapple was sour, oranges had a bite to them and weren't sweet at all, watermelon was tasteless, plums were hard as rocks). The warm food was either over- or under-cooked, including the bacon, sausage, potatoes, oatmeal, pasta, eggs, etc. I must admit that the pancakes were a little dry, but they weren't awful. Alcoholic drinks and soda, as expected, were expensive and weak. One scam by the bar service was a bar card which they offered for a set price ($35, I think) for about 10 drinks during the course of the cruise. The catch was that neither beer nor wine was included, only mixed drinks. Still not a bad deal, except for the fact that white Russians were not included because they were "rich and creamy" mixed drinks and martinis weren't included because . . . well, we never did learn why they were excluded. What it came down to was that you couldn't use the bar card for most drinks that you'd want to order. What surprised me the most about the whole experience was that the Legend of the Seas usually carries over 2,000 passengers. Only about 860 of us made the journey, and you'd think that RCCL would want to make those of us who did show up happy campers. No such luck. On the contrary, RCCL obviously skimped and saved every penny that it could to make our cruise experience a cheap, low-rent one. As outlined above, there were no professional performers or musical productions on the ship. The food was edible, but nothing to write home about, including the Grand Buffet which was adequate but nowhere near the splendor and artistry of the display on other ships. In fact, that was the only midnight buffet, highly unusual for a cruise. And the activities were so few and far between that you felt as though you were in a retirement home. Finally, the excursions were so overpriced that you could tell RCCL was trying to recoup some of its losses by further ripping off its paying guests. For example, a short excursion "on your own" which provided only travel by bus to and from Rome cost almost $100 per person. We opted to go on our own, paying $10 round trip for the train to Rome, and walked on foot from the Vatican to the Coliseum, seeing everything in between. Our train got to Rome in a little over an hour whereas it took the tour bus about 2-1/2 hours to get there. You tell me who got the better deal. Even worse was the guided tour of Rome -- a whopping $340 per person. Adding insult and incredible inconvenience to the entire situation was the fact that many excursions during the week were canceled after 10 p.m. the night before (hours after the shore excursion desk had closed). Opening at 7 a.m., the shore excursion desk was incapable of transferring us to other excursions because they were already full or leaving between 7:15-7:30 a.m. for the day. And so many people had been displaced that it took hours to get through the line. Ridiculous! Being forced to venture out on our own to Pompeii and Herculaneum, RCCL's travel advisor Jasmine told us to take the train to Pompeii, continued on to Herculaneum and then to Sorrento, easily returning to the ship thereafter. Following her directions, we visited Pompeii first, got back on the train and ended up in Sorrento. Assuming we'd missed the Herculaneum stop between Pompeii and Sorrento, we checked at the train station only to find that Herculaneum was the first stop; it was BEFORE not AFTER Pompeii, as we'd been told by RCCL's tour "expert." By the time we'd backtracked to Herculaneum, the last bus to the site had left and it was impossible for us to go. Thanks to this misinformation and other incorrect and misleading information from RCCL staff, like being told that we could walk all over Malta to sightsee since the island was so small, a large dent was chipped out of our vacation. Especially considering our extremely brief time allowance in Malta (a mere 4-1/2 hours), we were lucky to have learned by that time that RCCL has no clue what it's talking about and opted to hire a cab to take us all over the island, a rather LARGE land mass. Grumbling abounded all over the ship, something I have never seen on any vacation I've ever taken. Visiting Europe was indeed a wonderful experience, but I would never recommend that anyone do so on Royal Caribbean. Big thumbs down. THE SAGA CONTINUES . . . As outlined above, my friend and I were not only subjected to a poor quality cruise experience last fall but also forced to endure a three-month struggle to get money refunded from RCCL for their change in the itinerary. RCCL promised that all monies would be refunded as an on-board credit (which was not the case throughout the sailing). And even after we returned, RCCL insisted that they had credited the $322, making us provide them with a copy of our shipboard account to prove that NO monies were refunded on board and that we indeed paid several hundreds of dollars for our expenses. Finally, just before Christmas 2001, RCCL refunded the money to my credit card without ever calling or writing to me even once, without apologizing in any way for the delay and without acknowledging that I'd been wronged in even a minor way. In fact, two RCCL representatives who did respond to this issue through my travel agent attempted only to turn the tables and blame myself and my friend for the entire situation. Frannie, the first RCCL rep, dismissed everything by saying that we were unhappy only because we were used to Celebrity Cruises. NO! I'm used to companies that do business properly, treat customers with honesty and some respect and don't try to keep their money through fraud and deceit. The second rep, Julian Romero, wrote that he understands that my travel agent's client (i.e., ME!) is "very demanding." When did it become demanding and too much to ask for your own money to be returned to you when a vendor did not give you the product which had been paid for in full -- in this case, a post-cruise stay in Athens, Greece? Furthermore, I still maintain that both my friend and I are entitled to at least a formal apology for this fiasco and a completely complimentary cruise, especially in light of subsequent broken promises and outright lies by RCCL. Because everyone who sailed on November 3rd automatically received 50% off a future cruise, anything less than this would be insufficient and an insult. THE REFUND As stated above, $322 was finally given back at the end of December 2001. RCCL didn't feel it was necessary to consider the interest I'd been paying on the money since their removal of the Greek and Turkish ports of call three months earlier in September. Foolishly thinking that this issue had been put to rest, I was shocked to see that RCCL had, without authorization, charged back the $322 to my credit card in late January 2002. Frannie's explanation at RCCL was that I'd been credited twice and they were merely taking back the duplicated refund. Again I had to forward copies of my credit card invoices to disprove her lies and still await resolution of the matter. In the meantime, I have disputed the charge with my bank, which assures me that RCCL cannot legally tap into my account just because they have my account number, but in the meantime my available credit is being compromised. And RCCL, as usual, could care less! LAST CHANCE CRUISE Since she said that there was no way for her to give us a completely free, 100% off cruise, Frannie offered to us a second 50% off cruise with RCCL. When my travel agent called her back to accept this offer, she reneged on the deal and the comment was made that we were dissatisfied merely due to our own high expectations. Then she promised to give $300 certificates to both my friend and me, saying that these were being mailed directly to me. Although it was over a month ago that she "put them in the mail," I still have received nothing from RCCL. Understandably enraged by this intentional deceit, we still decided to give RCCL a second chance by booking the original 50% off cruise (that, again, everyone on board the November 3rd sailing received) for the March 30-April 6 sailing of the Explorer of the Seas in the Caribbean. Immediately after the new year, I reserved a stateroom on this cruise online; listed cruise price was $1,498 ($1,159 for the cruise and $339 for airfare). Because a hold is only valid for 24 hours, I contacted my travel agent right away; she contacted Frannie that same day. Frannie said that she would arrange for the 50% discount off this spring cruise for the both of us and expressly stated that we did not need to put a deposit on the reservation at this time, that she had to take care of it first and that we should wait to hear from her before doing anything. The next week, however, I noticed on RCCL's web site that our reserved stateroom was listed as being available. Plus, the price of the cruise had increased over $200 each. Frannie once again said that there was nothing to worry about, that we should hold it again online so that no one else took it and that our price would be the original price at which we held it the first time ($1,498 less 50%) because she was "handling the matter." This happened several times thereafter with the same result, each time the price going up, and it was then that Julian Romero was official brought into the situation. He, however, gave us a different story and said he would work on getting us the original price for the cruise but couldn't promise anything EVEN THOUGH WE HAD BEEN READY, WILLING AND ABLE TO PUT DOWN A FULL DEPOSIT ON JANUARY 3, 2002!!! For some reason, he could assure us of at least the quoted price of the second held reservation? This situation has gone from incredibly inconvenient and frustrating to infuriating and totally ridiculous. A decision still has not been made. No deposit has been requested or accepted, and RCCL representatives continue to assure us that the stateroom and airfare are still being held for us. Please excuse me if I'm not feeling comfortable with and trusting of RCCL because of yet another damaging and potentially empty promise.

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Oct 10, 2001

12 night Mediterranean

We decided to take the 12 night Mediterranean cruise as our first anniversary cruise. For our honeymoon, we had taken the 7 night Southern Caribbean cruise on RCCL’s Monarch of the Seas, so we figured if we were going to go to Europe (a place that neither of us had been before) we would at least go on RCCL and feel some sense of familiarity. My husband is an artist, which prompted us to choose the itinerary that included the

most options from an artistic perspective- can't go wrong with the ports of call we were privileged to enjoy on this cruise. The cruise departed from Barcelona, stopping at the following ports: Venice (overnight), Florence, Naples, Sicily, Marseilles, Villefranche, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Dubrovnik (Croatia). It seemed as every port was more scenic and historic than the previous one. The itinerary was certainly a "high point" of the cruise! Travel plans; however, were a bit difficult. Considering the state of the world at the time we cruised, we were amazed that each of our six flights were "on time." Royal Caribbean made our flight arrangements for our as we, unfortunately, had to take three flights each way. We were expecting to take two. This was quite an inconvenience, but we were certainly glad to arrive there (and back home) safely and on time with all of our luggage accounted for. The routes were rather convoluted, as we had to fly west to Chicago from Cleveland, only to turn around and fly east again. On the return, we had to fly east to Germany from Spain, only to turn around and fly west again back to the U.S.-- Again, the flights were not the high point of the trip. Perhaps the extra money to have more "direct flights" as offered by Royal Caribbean would have been worth it, but oh well. Actual flight time on the way back was nearly 13 hours between all three flights. Upon arriving in Barcelona, we were fortunate enough to have a wonderful "tour guide" (even though we didn't pay for a tour) who showed us all of the Olympic sites and other highlights on the way to the cruise ship. The embarkation process was very quick and very organized, as we had remembered it to be from our last cruise. We have not taken other cruise lines before as a means of comparison, but RCCL certainly seems to have this process down to a science. We were upgraded to an ocean view room, which was a wonderful surprise. The room was more than adequate in size (I believe it was approx 153 square feet)- it had a small love seat and end table as well which made it seem more like a "room" and less like a "prison cell." The bathroom was about as small as you can imagine, with the shower barely big enough to turn around in, yet we were expecting this and it was adequate. The color scheme was pastels, light blue and peach mainly. The bed was comfortable, closet space adequate and the room was spotless and was kept that way throughout our trip. When we returned home, I realized how much cleaning our house needed. RCCL seemed to step up security measures with the world's events in mind, which we appreciated. We felt very safe on the cruise and, due to the events, the cruise was only about 2/3 full, so we had a little more "attention" as well- which never hurts. Seemed as though a lot of the staff was working extra hard to achieve tips that they are missing out on due to lower numbers of passengers and the "hit" that the travel industry has taken. But that didn't bother us- the extra attention seemed sincere. The ship itself is very nicely laid out and well kept. At each port, you were able to see the maintenance of the ship (painting, cleaning, etc) being done. It was apparent that this is an ongoing effort. The centrum area of the ship is very attractive as are all of the common areas. I especially liked the spa area with the indoor pool- it was done in a Romanesque architectural style and was very elegant. The ship is several years old, yet it is still quite attractive. The dining room is two levels and boasts three story windows on each side with a grand staircase leading from one level to the other and a beautiful chandelier above a baby grand piano. Live piano music was played each evening during dinner, which was a nice touch. The other common areas were more than adequate and the ship hosts a lot of gorgeous artwork. Even the artwork in our room was tasteful and elegant. The ship has a mini golf course on the top level. This was a nice feature and was free of charge to use, which we were not expecting. It did; however, seem to be having some drainage problems that they were working on during our cruise. This was the only area of the ship that seemed to need some intensive attention. Also on this deck were shuffleboard courses and a nice running track. Other common areas included the show area (more on that later), the Anchors Aweigh Lounge, the Champagne Bar, the Schooner Bar, the card room, the Library, and the RCCL signature bar - the Viking Crown Lounge, perched 11 decks above the sea. Each of these areas was comfortably and elegantly furnished, never over crowded and nicely appointed. No complaints with the ship itself whatsoever. It was a beautiful ship, maintained nicely. The ship's workout room, which we spent much time in- trying to work off all of the extra food that we were eating, was adequate. Some days it was more crowded than others but never "packed." I can imagine, on a full ship, that this may be a problem, however. The ship also has a solarium (indoor pool) and an outdoor pool with 4 whirlpools as well. These areas were never over crowded, as they tended to be on our previous cruise. The weather on our trip was between 72-80 degrees daily, but I guess that most passengers were more interested in the "sites" than the "sun tan." The ship had a very complete spa area, which I did not use. The spa personnel seemed professional and knowledgeable. Other passengers who utilized these services were happy with them, but we could not afford to pay "extra" for them. They also had a personal trainer for the weight room. She was extremely helpful and offered "free advice" seminars as well as exercise classes. Certain classes, yoga and kickboxing, were at an additional cost. But the "fitness and health" related seminars as well as other classes were free of charge and very helpful. She was a great asset to the staff of the Legend. Other staff were very helpful as well. We only encountered one or two crew members that were "less than pleasant." The rest, including our cabin attendant and two servers, were exceptional. As mentioned, the service could not have been better and it is amazing that the crew can keep such positive attitudes with the extraordinary hours that they work. I often wonder how much they "depend" on tips. I have no idea what they are paid by RCCL, but in my mind, I am sure that it is not enough for the long, tiring hours they put in. Additionally, they only see their families once every six months. They work in six month rotations and then are off for 2 months- it is a difficult life and I give them a lot of credit. I urge you to be as generous as possible when tipping, if you feel it is deserved, of course. Moving on to the entertainment aboard, this was an area that we thought could have been improved upon. And others we spoke with agreed. One of the crew members told me that this is where RCCL is trying to "cut costs" and it was apparent. The RCCL Singers and Dancers left " a lot to be desired." The dancing was actually quite good but the singing, namely the designated "soloists" were sub par. Other acts were not impressive either. There was not a lot of variety, as most of the shows were singers. Two nights there were magicians/ juggler. And one night there was a pianist- I believe there was an impersonator one night as well. Anyway, the entertainment was nothing to rave about; however, it did not RUIN the cruise either and we actually did find some of it "entertaining" only because of it being "bad," it gave us something to laugh about. On to the food. We thought that the food was good. We would not say "excellent," but it was certainly very very good. Some dishes were better than others, of course. Something that we always try to keep in mind is that they are serving over 800 people at one time. This is no easy task. The highlight of the food was usually the desserts. They were almost all exceptional! With the exception of the night that I ordered the angel food cake, against our server's recommendation. He warned me that I would not enjoy it and when it came out and I tasted it, he was correct. Behind his back, he had a "back up" dessert for me. Now, that was good service! Anticipating my needs, for sure. The menu was always quite varied, and even for me, quite a picky eater who does not eat sea food, I was always able to find something to my liking. Our table mates were quite particular and our servers were always accommodating to their wishes as well. The service was excellent, as mentioned. Breakfast and lunch buffets were a definite "step up" from the selections on the Monarch of the Seas. The food was more elegantly presented and there were many many more choices. We were impressed by the breakfast buffets and the lunch buffets in the Windjammer cafe much more so than on the Monarch. Perhaps RCCL has taken customer "complaints" and improved the selection and quality. We did not eat in the Windjammer at all for dinner. We did eat in the main dining room for breakfast and lunch most of the time. The breakfast menu was always the same and was adequate. The lunch menu seemed to often include "leftovers" re made from the previous night's dinner. For example, one night there was potato soup and it re appeared at lunch the next day as potato and corn soup. That didn't bother me that much, however. I can only imagine how much food is "wasted" if not "recycled." The lunches were adequate but not as impressive as some of the dinner selections. The presentation of the food was very professional and attractive. Although the ship doesn't have "midnight buffets," they do offer "midnight snacks" in the lounges and bars. We did go to the chocolate buffet and the gala buffet, both at midnight on the two formal nights. Both were amazing and very very impressive. There didn't seem to be any cutbacks there. Presentation, quality and portions were amazing! These are a definite "don't miss"! Overall, we had no problems with the food. The ship was mostly filled with "veteran cruisers" who seemed to be a bit more critical of the food, indicating that it had "gone downhill" in recent years, but again, we had no problems with it and definitely "ate our money's worth." The ship offers 24 hour room service (complimentary with tipping encouraged). The room service menu was expanded since our last cruise with RCCL. The food was good and service was punctual. They also will serve you the lunch and dinner that is being served in the dining room (during certain hours only!). There is also a bar and grille in the solarium that serves hamburgers, chicken, french fries, hot dogs and ice cream bar nearly 24 hours a day- now that is dangerous! Who cruised with us? The ship was over 2/3 Americans (passengers). If you count Canadians, it was over 80% Americans. Certainly on this particular itinerary, the main age group was senior citizens. It seemed as though it was mainly wealthy, veteran cruisers. I would say that the ship was nearly 3/4 "older" passengers. (over 50). There were probably 30 or so honeymoon couples but very few "in betweeners". Most were either 50+ or honeymooners. High point of this trip -- definitely the ports of call. This is an amazing part of the world and you cannot go wrong in these areas. Each was amazing and I will not even attempt to explain why. The architecture, natural landscape and history in every single port is amazing. You must go if you have not already. We did excursions, provided by RCCL, in each port with the exception of Marseilles and Sicily. All of the excursions were well planned and the tour guides were very informative. We were less than impressed with the excursion in Venice, as it was "cut short" for some reason, but we brought it to RCCL's attention and did receive a 20% refund. RCCL is very attentive to "constructive criticism." Be prepared, the cost of excursions in the Mediterranean is very expensive. For the six that we took, we paid nearly $1,100 total (over $500 a piece.) We figured it would be difficult; however, to see all the things that we wanted to see, having never been over there, without the excursions. So we felt it a worthy investment. If you can afford it, we recommend the excursions but warn you that they are overpriced. In many areas; however, such as Rome, you need to travel over 50 miles from the port to get to Rome. So, if you don't take an excursion, it would cost quite a bit to get to the areas. Basically, they have quite a money making thing going on with the excursions. But, at least you don't come home wishing that you had "seen more." Again, the ports of call are amazing on this cruise!!! One last point, if this is your first cruise, you must be careful. The ship will try to get your money any way they can. The casino, (which I failed to mention until now because we don't spend much time in there), is open whenever at sea. The alcohol is expensive. If you order a soft drink for room service, they charge you (although they don't charge you for soft drinks in the dining rooms.) There are extra charges for buying bottled waters. There are extra charges for some of the events on ship, or exercise classes as mentioned earlier. If you are a compulsive spender, they WILL get your money. However, if you are good with money and resolve that you have spent enough on the cruise already and are not a big drinker or gambler, you can have a perfectly wonderful cruise without extra costs. Our bill at the end of 12 nights was a whopping $8.95!! I recommend that you do attend the Captain's welcome party, a cocktail hour prior the first formal night. It was nice to hear the captain speak and have a few "free" drinks for once! The activities on the ship were well planned and varied. Some were funnier than others. The "not so newlywed game" was a lot of fun while the "Liar's Club" could have been a lot better, for example. They offered a few dance classes, which we participated in (free of charge) and really enjoyed! The theme nights (Western and 50's, I believe) were fun as well. There seems to be something for everyone, depending on what you like. There was even a "grandparent's bragging hour" which I thought was a cute idea. There were horse races, walking groups, bridge parties, shuffleboard and miniature golf tournaments. All kinds of things going on. Lots to choose from depending on your interests. There were also 5 art auctions on board. We went to each of them but didn't buy anything. They were entertaining, however. All in all, we would definitely recommend both Legend of the Seas, Royal Caribbean and particularly this Mediterranean itinerary. It was a memory of a life time and I get choked up thinking of all of the memories. It was a dream vacation for us. Although we have suggestions of things that could be better, we enjoyed every minute on board (except maybe the night of the thunderstorms when I got sick.) Less Drowsy Dramamine really works, by the way. The service was wonderful, the ship well appointed, our cabin was great, the food was very good (much better than we eat normally, that is for sure). The staff was very friendly. Other passengers, although some a little over bearing, were great to meet. We suggest that anyone looking for the history, beauty and masterful art works of the world travel to the Mediterranean. Happy cruising and God Bless. One last word of "advice"-- regardless of the complaints that you may have on your cruise, live every moment to its fullest and consider each day on board a blessing, because cruising is truly a luxury vacation and lifestyle! Dwelling on the negatives will only hamper your enjoyment of your cruise-- try to always keep focused on your vacation- it will be over all too quickly!

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May 19, 2001

Western Mediterranean

RCL seems to have withdrawn its currency exchange courtesy.  We found exchange rates similar to hotels (uncompetitive) and subject to commission.   Deck 5 had an ATM that dispensed US Dollars for a charge of $2.50 per withdrawal. But it inconveniently went down the penultimate day of the cruise, making it hard to tip with US dollars. Fortunately, standard tips to room attendants and waiters could be made through a charge on the room. 

But you have to sign up by the 8th day to take advantage of this tipping service. Deck 8 Internet access area had 16 machines that only very occasionally filled up.  We never had trouble finding an open terminal, we think that was because it still cost 50 cents a minute.  Users interface via sleek LCD screens, and access was restricted to a dedicated browser that slowed down when more machines were logged on.  It had very restricted email access, particularly to AOL.  And had the annoying habit of shutting down the browser every 30 minutes.  We also had two days where the system crashed and could not be restarted until the ship docked at a port. Deck 9’s Windjammer café remains a bit of a nightmare to get around and find seats in, especially during lunch and breakfast.  The buffet tables are poorly designed, and we got tired of the food by the fourth day.  But there is a lot of it.  We disliked the limited menu rather than the quality of the food or the service (both were good).  We also found the Windjammer very hot and stuffy during lunch and late breakfast. The Outdoor pool was more children friendly, with a large wading pool at one end, and deep swimming pool at the other.  The Solarium pool was shallower, but less child friendly.  Cameron and I did not like the salt water fountain spraying into our eyes.  Funnily enough, we found the Solarium pool’s water temperature cooler than the outside pool.  The salt water also took a little getting used to. Deck 10 remains the only deck to walk all the way around the huge ship.  But except for a few hours in the afternoon, the temperature at sea was generally too cool and way too windy for much walking. We used Club Ocean a lot, and will cover the outstanding on board children’s program later.  We saw about 2 dozen children on board, and the programs were generally well attended. The Arcade Games are a bit tired, and the teenagers on board showed almost no interest.  It was the emptiest (and loudest) cabin on the ship. Deck 11’s Viking Crown lounge was our favorite place to unwind after dinner.  We found it quieter than the other lounges and they tended to mix better drinks.  Try their Johnny Walker stingers and Stoli Sex on the Beaches.  We also enjoyed a couple of Karaoke nights and the spectacular views of the lights off of the Med coast at night.  There is also a late afternoon Cigar Aficionado club up there.  But we didn’t see any members.  Scanning the menu, I noted that they offered a very limited range of stogies, including some Cubanos, but I’ve found better valued Cigars at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong (reputedly one of the most expensive Cigar Bars in the world). ACCOMMODATIONS AND STATEROOM SERVICE We stayed in a Premium Deluxe Stateroom (Category D) with a balcony. Cabin 7038 is mid ship about a third of the ship from the front.  Since this was our first cruise, we didn’t know quite what to expect, and were very pleased with what we were delivered. The room contained a king sized bed and a sofa that folded out into a double bed for Cameron.  There was a vanity, chair, glass coffee table, and plenty of storage space.  We only had stand up showers, but that suited us just fine. We were particularly impressed with the folding doors in the cabinet, since it was designed so that little fingers would NEVER be caught in a fold. The refrigerator was large enough to hold only a few cans of soda and was stocked (to be billed to our account if used) when we boarded.  The ventilation system was a little eccentric.  We could only alter the temperature but not the fan speed.  But we only noticed the fan noise when the ship was anchored, and generally felt comfortable in just a shirt. The TV was small, and the selection of shows was erratic and of extremely meagre quality.  There was some CNN, but the movies were old, edited, and the children’s shows repeated themselves by the 9th day.  We saw A Bug’s Life and Stuart Little---run continuously for 24 hours---ad nauseum, on at least two separate days.  The best programs were the prepared travelogues, also run 24 hours continuously, of the future destinations.  Also fun were the evening game shows with passengers, and talent shows taped from the night before at either the That’s Entertainment Lounge, or the Anchor’s Away Lounge.  One channel was devoted to shopping tips---very pushy, emphasizing shops with connections to the cruise lines---and one was devoted to shore excursions.  Both were presented by crew members reading from prepared texts.  The shopping presenter had the air and heavy accent of a big top caller.  The excursions director read like it was a chore. The balcony was the best part of the room.  There was a table and two chairs outside.  We could just take drinks and sandwiches out and watch the scenery in the cool Med air.  The views were spectacular from about 70 feet up.   Our cabin attendant was mediocre.  He hung around outside a lot, and frequently forgot to deliver requested items (we didn’t get a life jacket for Cameron until the third day) and the next day’s agendas (called the Compass).  He did keep the room fairly clean though.   Laundry was very expensive.  We did three loads costing around $200.  However it was worth it because you go through a lot of clothes on a 12-night cruise and we had decided beforehand not to bring so much luggage knowing that we’d have more to bring back. DINING SERVICE WINDJAMMER CAFÉ   The service was not up to the standard of the other parts of the ship.  It was always crowded during lunch and breakfast.  It was a buffet so we served ourselves but the waiters were friendly and generally helpful to kids.  The breakfast was the same everyday - typical hotel fare, pancakes, omelettes, sausages, etc.  The milk was UHT, and the coffee truly awful.  The only working cappuccino machine on board was in the Solarium.  It pumped out some liquid powder stuff which we had to pay for.  But it was still better than what was served in the restaurants.   There was also an extremely pushy sommelier always trying to sell over priced bottles or glasses of very low quality wine for lunch and dinner. We only had lunch here once. Otherwise, we were on shore, or ate at the outdoor BBQ.  Dinners were rather emptier.  We ate here if we missed our dinner seating (Main at 6:15) maybe four or five times.  The prepared food was mediocre with a poor variety of vegetables so we usually had the fresh pasta cooked while you wait or carved meat. The best night was Chinese night.  But the turnout was generally thin during dinners, and later on in the cruise, they brought in the on board B act to liven things up a bit. SOLARIUM GRILL Best kids food (for kids of all ages) on board but only open 10-7.  Pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, great fries, and ice cream with a dozen toppings. All free. All tasty.  But be prepared to stand in line for up to 10 minutes. ROMEO AND JULIET DINING ROOM What a room of contrasts! The food is pretty lame but we knew this going in.  Fortunately, the appetizers, soups, and desserts saved the meal occasionally.  We had good crispy spring rolls, always an interesting chilled soup (peach ginger came to mind), and a memorable flour-less chocolate cake and chocolate marquise. The service was excellent.  Our waiter, Bhaharat, was from Nepal.  Probably the only merchant marine from his landlocked and mountainous country.  He was tirelessly friendly, accommodating, and gave good recommendations from the meager menu.  Substitutions were made quickly with no fuss. We just mentioned once that we liked a little chamomile tea to finish a meal, and the next day it was there.  The service made dining fun, despite the low quality fools. RCL also did a good job matching our dinner companions.  We were paired with a Philadelphia family with an 8 year old daughter.  Our son kind of liked being her “doll”, and she liked him so much that she would often play with him in Club Ocean, too. SPA FACILITIES This is a busy concession.  I booked my three massages as soon as I got on board, and was told that all treatments were booked by the second day.  The masseur, Eric, was professional, thorough, good and a good value.  Some of our friends on board also spoke highly of the hydro therapy bath treatment, but we could not get a booking. Highly recommended. CLUB OCEAN This was one of the best parts of our vacation.  Eight specially recruited youth counsellors arrange programs for kids aged 3 to 12.  The counselors are so experienced dealing with kids that our friends referred to Club Ocean as “camp”.  Each counselor is a college grad, some had advanced degrees, and all were trained at dealing with kids.  They all seem to come from Montreal, but I guess that’s another story.  I felt they were more qualified to deal (and have fun) with Cameron than some of his school’s teachers.  Cameron visibly grew up and matured, blossoming during the trip.  We actually worried about how to take him down from his “high”. Activities ranged from visiting the ship, to art, to building a volcano, preparing for an end of cruise show, singing, dancing, story time, reading, games…and just plain baby sitting.  Cameron loved the activities so much that he frequently left last and regretfully.  Children collected coupons for each activity they attended (up to 2 per day).  These could be accumulated and traded at the end of the cruise for cool kids stuff like stuffed toys, CD cases, gym bags, sunglasses, key chains, etc.  Cameron came back with so much stuff that we had to buy another tote just to carry his things. We rarely saw more than ten kids up there at a time, and there were always two to three counsellors present.  Unless they were on excursions, counselors enjoyed their jobs so much that they would “hang out” at Club Ocean even off shift. Parents could theoretically leave their kids from 9am to 1am.  They ask you to collect the kids from 12 to 2 and then 5 to 7.  But will hold on to and amuse the kids during the “breaks” if you ask them to. During our Florence Excursion, we left Cameron there all day.  Lisa missed him more than he missed us.  Most of the activities were free, but the occasional in port afternoon, and evenings from 10-1, are babysitting days charged at $4 per hour. Parents can also hire in room babysitters from the Purser’s desk for in room sittings at $10 per hour.  Our Florence excursion left at 7:45, so we had a babysitter from 7:30 to 9:00.  She looked after Cameron very well but unfortunately, she was a housekeeper and did not speak English very well.  She didn’t understand our instructions to drop him off at the play area, and ended up staying with him the entire day, including while he was in the Club Ocean. We cannot speak highly enough of Michael “Monkey Breath”, Kristin “Curly”, Jasmine  “Jazzy”, Alex “Dimples” and the rest of the youth staff.  Thank you.  RCL, you are fantastic!  This was the reason we chose this cruise line and our expectations were exceeded by the reality. Just a note, however, that this is the ship most requested by RCL employees because the Legend traverses the globe and rarely repeats an itinerary.  So the staff quality may not be entirely consistent with that on other RCL ships. ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES Activities were geared towards the older set, so we rarely participated.  We watched some game shows.  That was fun.  But never found anything attractive enough to sit through at the That’s Entertainment lounge. The Champagne lounge singers came in two groups.  One bad (B), one great (A). Other activities are as described in the Dombrowski’s comments. Lisa and my favorite sport was “taunting Stoney”, our long suffering and very helpful future cruise adviser.  We loved this cruise so much that we kept trying to book cruises for next year.  But being the first cruise of the season, he could never get confirmation for cruises for next year, and we could not get the on board discount or credit.  So we kept bothering him about updates.  Major bummer. THE VOYAGE AND PORTS OF CALL This was our first cruise, so we booked a lot of shore excursions.  We tried to stay in Barcelona on the night before departure, but the entire town was sold out.  It turned out when we arrived that there were a total of 9 cruises starting on the same day!  We recognized the European Costa Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines, RCL Grandeur, and the Celebrity Millennium in port.  We opted instead to visit Barcelona post cruise, instead of pre cruise.  This was a small mistake.  After the cruise, we just wanted to go home. So we probably did not enjoy Barcelona as much as we could have. BARCELONA, SPAIN: Embarkation Arrived from London around 10:00 (which meant leaving London around 6:00, and getting up around 4:30).  The pickup was very efficient. After immigration control, we followed the RCL rep and hung around for about 1 hour while they waited for another two planes and collected our luggage.  We thought they were a little rough with the baggage. Since we had a little time to kill, they took us (about 120 passengers) on a bus tour of Barcelona. They even let us get off at the Olympic stadium to take some pictures. Because there were so many ships in port, the Legend was docked at a construction port at the extreme end of the port.  RCL did the best it could under the circumstances.  We were allowed on board at noon.  There was a huge tent with free lemonade and water set up to check in the passengers.  And while the lines looked long, it only took about 15 minutes to get checked in. That’s because RCL looked like it had 25 check in terminals. Lunch was ready in the Windjammer and the pizza place at the Solarium.  Our room stewart introduced himself around 6PM.  Our luggage arrived about 8PM. CANNES, FRANCE (casual) Tendered to dock.  Shared beach front with Millennium and NCL.  Attended last day of the Cannes film festival.  Small carnivals on the beach were a treat for Cameron. A note on tendering:  RCL tendered at three ports (Cannes, Dubrovnik and Messina) using four of its larger motorized life rafts.  Service was provided continuously and we rarely had to wait more than a few minutes during which time RCL often provided cool drinks. LIVORNO (FLORENCE), ITALY (casual) Livorno is a bit of an armpit, and it takes at least an hour to get to Pisa and 90 minutes to get to Florence.  Excursions began about 7:45.  We were on the Accademia and Art Excursion because we wanted to see the piazza featured in the movie Hannibal. We fell in love with Italy on the bus ride inwards.  The bus stopped at a gas station for a comfort break, and the coffee served (at about $0.75 for a cup of espresso) was the best we had up to that point.  AT A TRUCKSTOP! Florence was a pedestrian city.  So lots of walking.  Unfortunately, the zimmer framers and wheel chair aristocrats slowed down the tour group and complained endlessly about the amount of walking. Really, people, read about the excursion before you sign on!  The brochure clearly stated that this was a tour requiring extensive walking including walking up and down stairs. Unfortunately, being Monday, the academia was closed, so we didn’t get to photograph the scene from Hannibal.  We saw the Medici Palace and Duomo instead. They took us for a mediocre lunch near the Ponte Vecchio, then for a tour of the Santa Croce, and finally to the Piazza de Michelangelo for the Panoramic shot of the City.  White and green marble everywhere.  It was awesome but a little overwhelming. Our tour guide, Maurizio, was funny and snide, and not shy about pointing out the controversies in the city---such as the terrible modern architecture, and overly conservative building designs.  He turned out to be the best guide of our trip. Our major gripe was that we were supposed to have 90 minutes of free time in the City.  But because we spent so much time waiting around for people, we only had about 40 minutes of free time.  Not enough to shop, and barely enough to have coffee and (divine) gelato.  Also we should definitely have bypassed the very mediocre lunch included with the tour in favor of time to browse the jewelry shops lining the Ponte Vecchio. We now know that we could have eaten better food more quickly almost anywhere else. NAPLES, ITALY (casual) This was the only real sea terminal on the entire trip, with a walk in terminal building with one or two shops inside.  The city is close enough to walk into, although the heat may discourage the less determined. We were totally disappointed that none of the European port terminals had the glitz or glamour of many of the Pacific ports, such as the Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong. We boarded a Panoramic Tour of Naples, which meant touring inside an air conditioned bus all the way.  This was fortunate because we had Cameron with us.  It stopped twice to let us off for coffee and ice cream (gelato) all included in the price of the tour.  After Neapolitan treats like that, we will forever compare coffee or gelato to the ones we had in Naples. Naples itself is like San Francisco in the 80’s, alternatively brilliant and cruddy---sat right next to each other.  But the beach and Marina and weather are so conducive to manana that we suspect that the city has remained this way for hundreds of years. Cameron began to dub this the ice cream cruise, since he had ice cream 3 times in one day! Our dinner companions went on an excursion to Pompeii and really enjoyed it so we will probably try that next time. VENICE, ITALY (two days) Cruised into port late because of a small storm from the previous day.  We hardly noticed the storm on board. This city was the reason why we booked a balcony.  The ship came in on a canal right in from of Saint Mark’s square.  There is nothing like a cruise ship going by a famous tourist spot to draw out the applause and waves. We did so much in Venice that we will have to write about it elsewhere.  We really loved this place. The port was a long way away from the center and required a 40 minute boat ride to get to the Shiavoni.  They also charged $4 per person each way unless you were booked on an excursion.  Our first Excursion (to the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica) was cancelled because of our late arrival so we decided to see it ourselves.  We also paid Lira300,000 for a 60 minute gondola ride during which our son took his afternoon nap.  Well worth the expense! We also took the art tour to see San Rocco.  Breathtaking.  We saw a very politically incorrect tomb in the church which is not shown in any other Venice guide.  It used black and white marble to great effect in a tomb beside that of the great Canove.  You can e-mail us about it, or see it for yourself.  Really outrageous! This was the only over-night port we visited and we took the opportunity to go into Venice for a lovely romantic dinner (after giving Cameron dinner at the Windjammer and leaving him in Club Ocean which he preferred) and evening sightseeing.  We encountered a slight hitch when we had to rush for the last boat back to the ship but needn’t have worried because we learned from others that it would have been possible albeit expensive to hire a water taxi or even regular taxi back. Tip:  In St. Mark’s square, we sat at a table, and when no service came, I went to buy ice cream and coffee at the counter.  The coffee at the counter cost L1500 (about $0.75).  Then a waiter came out to our table and started to complain that we couldn’t sit down unless we ordered something from him, so we asked for another coffee.  When the bill came, the coffee cost L10,500!  Almost 7 times as much! So sit at you’re wallet’s peril! Tip:  We also found withdrawing cash from ATM’s extremely convenient.  Even in Dubrovnik.  This meant we didn’t have to carry around huge amounts of cash, and got really decent exchange rates. Resist paying in US dollars, since it is always more expensive. DUBROVNIK, CROATIA (casual) Tender Port.  Beautiful medieval stone sea fortress.  Many signs of bomb damage in the back alleys, but the main street is quite modern.  Leave the old town for better deals on lace and local embroidery.  The food is so-so, and no one else in the world uses their currency.  So don’t go overboard at the cash machine.  We used the local grocery store to stock up on provisions. MESSINA, SICILY, ITALY (casual) Suggestion to RCL: there was a sea day between Dubrovnik and Messina (both of which could have been seen in half days).  The ship had to slow down to below 10 knots to stretch out our journey. Instead of that second sea day, we would have preferred an extra day in Florence, Rome or even Naples. Messina is a boring port and we unfortunately missed the deadline for the Taormina excursion. Fortunately, it is an easy city to wander around and we found wonderfully inexpensive coffee, ice cream, and grocery stores.  Although we didn’t take the horse drawn carriage ride, we recommend it since walking in 90 degree sunshine for two hours at a time carrying a complaining three year oldwas not our idea of a good time. CIVITAVECCHIA (ROME), ITALY (casual) Rome is 90 minutes away by bus.  The Port is truly an armpit, with nothing to offer, but Rome is absolutely tremendous.  We took the light taste of Rome excursion which included over three hours on our own and experienced more than we could write about in under 100 pages.  Again, some of the people on this tour didn’t read the brochure description and complained about being left “in a foreign city without assistance.”  It was exactly what we wanted and we will definitely return to explore further on our own.  For those wanting more extensive guidance, there were many other excursions available including a $340 per person mini-bus tour of all the major sites (including the Sistine chapel).  It was advertised as “exclusive”, but we counted 17 “exclusive” mini buses ;-) Rome is a popular cruise/tour destination and there seemed to be hundreds of tour buses in town.  We learned on the bus ride in that our guided portion was scheduled for the afternoon so we had the orning free.  Unfortunately, restaurants in Rome (and generally in the rest of the Med) don’t start serving until about 1:00 which was when we were supposed to meet our guide.  As such, we settled for panini sandwiches and pizza in a cafe.  This was not a major disappointment since we loved all the food we had in Italy but we had bigger expectations. We had originally planned on leaving Cameron on board the ship because we knew he wouldn’t enjoy walking around museums and ruins but decided to take him with us when he developed an ear infection the day before.  It was one of the best decisions we made because he thoroughly enjoyed all the great fountains.  He fell asleep in Lisa’s arms while we were waiting with the group in St. Peter’s Square and he and Lisa stayed there to enjoy the breezy atmosphere while I went into the Basilica where I truly sensed the presence of God. We were next bused to the Colosseum where our guide was to lead us on a walking tour.  Due to the heat and because we were exhausted from carrying Cameron all day, we opted to ditch the guide and go for coffee and gelatos which were served in the many cafes surrounding the ruins.  As the hour progressed, we noticed a lot of the other tour passengers were following suit. Needless to say, it will not take tossing three coins into the Trevi for us to return to Rome.  As an aside: after seeing hotel prices, we speculated that the coin tossing tradition  began when visitors offered deposits to the Gods to keep hotel room prices low! Tip: Pay for the 90 minute horse drawn carriage ride around the city (around L300,000).  The horse man will pick you up and set you down anywhere.  We started at the Trevi fountain and ended at the Spanish Steps.  We glimpsed the Colosseum (from afar), the Vatican, Piazza de Venezia, the Pantheon (stopped for five minutes so we could walk in), P. de Navoli, and many other sites during the tour. MARSEILLES, FRANCE (casual) We had scheduled an afternoon excursion to Aix on Provence but instead decided to explore the port city on our own.  From dock (which had a few wonderful concession stands for last minute souvenir shopping), we took a F100 taxi ride into the Vieux Port (old port), where we took a mini tour train around the city lasting about 60 minutes for F60, followed by bouillabaisse at the Hotel Miramar. Although the train tour was designed primarily for French speakers (Marseilles is an important French tourist destinations…  their National Anthem is named the Marseilles), there was an English translation, and we saw the true city.  Wonderful day BARCELONA, SPAIN: Disembarkation An orderly affair.  But we should have taken a private taxi to Le Meridien as the bus transfer was comfortable but slow.  We sat around in lounges from 8:00 with our carry-on luggage waiting finally until 9:45 to leave. Tip:  We heard from a trip mate that they paid Le Meridien $400 a night through RCL for a small room with a queen sized bed.  We went through American Express and got a large suite (with study) for three nights at $280 a night. Loved Barcelona and highly recommend El Congrejo Loco at the Port Olimpico and visiting the Ciutadella Park. We would come back here, too. BTW, this is one of the best airports for food and shopping in Europe. Barcelona, Rome and Venice are among the three most expensive cities to visit. Expect New York City prices. SUMMARY We’d do it again.  In fact, we’d do the same cruise again on the same ship!  The only thing that we would do differently next time will be to book “on your own” excursions or sightsee entirely by ourselves. We also highly recommend this trip to parents of young children.  Please write to us if you have any questions, especially about the great children’s programs.

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May 19, 2001

12 day Mediterranean

Livorno, Italy (docked): Florence and Pisa tour Naples, Italy (docked): Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri tour Venice, Italy (docked): 1st day - on our own Venice: 2nd day - Venetian Gondola and Glass Factory tour (book this very early!) Dubrovnik, Croatia (tendered in): on our own Messina, Sicily (tendered in due to dock construction): Taormina tour Civitavecchia, Italy (docked): Rome, the Eternal City

Marseilles, France (docked): Aix-en-Provence 58 digital photos of our trip are at: http://www.koskiphotography.com/mediterranean.html Because of 9 hours of jet lag from northern California, we flew to Barcelona a day early. We were on our own and saw the Picasso Museum, La Rambla and the Gothic cathedral. We found the Metro (subway) a very easy way to get around. Despite many on-board warnings, one woman had her purse sliced open in Rome. Gone were her passport and wallet full of credit cards. We carry minimal cash and one credit card. Our passports and a credit card with a different account number are left in our cabin safe. We thought by traveling in May we would avoid the 'tourist season' but due to all the cruise ships, every place was mobbed! Weather for us was unseasonably warm, getting into the high 90s in southern France. A few closing thoughts… The ship was in great shape, and according to staff, is drydocked every two years for overhaul and restoration. It's large, but not one of the mega-ships, and we never felt crowded. All the staff was helpful and friendly. We found the variety and quality of food very good, though there are always those few who might feel otherwise. On our 12 day cruise, we had two 'formal' nights, two 'smart casual' nights and eight 'casual' nights. This was a wonderful trip, a great way to get to many cities without constantly unpacking and driving (Italy would not be my favorite country to drive or try to park in). E-mail us at jlkoski @attbi.com . Remove the space. This is not linked to avoid "spam" spiders that automatically scan websites for junk e-mail addresses.

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Jan 27, 2001

Down Under - Australia to New Zealand - 14 Days

I must firstly state to you that this review is intended mainly for Australians thinking of cruising with this line, on this ship. There is absolutely no insult intended to any other nationality. Before taking this cruise, our first with this line, I spent many, many hours at this website, and others trying to bring myself up to speed with this cruise line/ship. I did learn many helpful things, though unfortunately there was not a great deal of

information pertaining to Australian passengers. Again I state that there is no insult intended here for any other nationalities, only that it is difficult gleaning information about, in particular, American Cruise Lines down under. Hence I feel compelled to write this, to save others frustration. Prior to traveling I attempted to find out if I would be able to charge my video battery, mobile phone battery, shaver etc in our cabin. RCCI simply replied that they have NO information about Australian Power! Well I can now give you the low down. If your equipment WILL run @ 110V, all you need is the USA/JAPAN (2 pin) adaptor, purchase for about AUD$10 at your travel agent. It will plug into one of your wall socket and adapt the two US points to our angled, two AUS points. You won't get the three points (earthed) but for the most the two points will suffice. If your gear requires 240V, in the bathroom, facing down is a multi standard power point. Here you can directly plug in 240V 2-pin equipment. Note though that the power point is facing directly downwards, so if your charger etc is heavy, it will simply fall straight out. One fellow Aussie I met on shore at a hire car place was using their power point to charge up her phone. She, like all the others, didn't realise you can achieve this in your own cabin, albeit a little restricting. RCCI provide hair dryers for your cabin, so the ladies can utilise them, as the only 240v socket you have, that I’ve just mentioned, will NOT support heavy current devices like a dryer etc. It is really only suitable for chargers/shavers (if the adaptor will stay in the upside down socket that is!) Be advised that at most of the ports we pulled in to were working ports, and accordingly, no one was permitted to walk from the port into town, even though a few would have only been an easy 5-10 minute walk. As a result we had only two options - a taxi or RCCI's shuttle bus. There was 5 of us in our group, so the 5-10 minute walk would have set us back @ US$4 per person each way on their shuttle bus - totaling almost AUD$80 with our current exchange rate of .52c in the dollar!!! This can simply be described as a total and unbelievable rip off. For example, the taxi we ended up hailing set us back less than AUD$5! The problem was though that most of the other passengers felt the same way, so at one port it took me an hour to hail a cab! Not exactly the most pleasant way of starting your day in port! Also for your information, you should be aware that in order to travel with RCCI you MUST pre-pay your tips. After experiencing this, it was definitely the way to go, and certainly alleviated a custom which we are not used to. Before anyone reading this get's their back up, Australians are not accustomed to tipping, not that we are meagre with our money (even though it’s worth so much less than the $US) but our workers get paid a wage that doesn't rely on supplements from customers. I'm not getting in to discussion about this, however just letting you know that you should not be put off by having to pre-pay your tips in order to board the ship, it does save a certain level of 'hassle'. The last night is the time the 'Gentlemen' pull out the envelopes from their coat pockets to present their steward’s etc. We had the envelope in which we had placed one of 4 supplied vouchers stating to the staff concerned that we had pre-paid our tip and they would receive them from the company. Interesting point though is that Australians are the only ones on board our cruise that HAD to pre-pay tips in order to board the ship. It was mentioned to the purser’s desk by one group travelling that Australia has in place anti-discrimination policies, though their comments fell on deaf ears and they were simply provided with the address of RCCI in Florida. As we expected with the exchange rate, the price of liquor at the many bars on board was at the most, prohibitively expensive. Not the fault of anyone other that the exchange rate, so if you enjoy a beer, be prepared to pay around AUD$7 for a can that's only 330ml! Doesn't say much about the duty free nature of goods at sea does it! Don’t expect Australian beer either, let alone draught – which ran out 2 days from leaving Sydney, and was not re-stocked. We did however note prior to travelling, the comments of a fellow cruiser on this website that RCCI though they don't encourage the point, you can drink your own liquor on deck. We certainly took advantage of this buying duty free alcohol on board (worked out about the same shore price in oz) and mixed our own up on deck. We used a cooler bag for this and it worked out just perfectly, also accommodating out digital handicam to capture those moments when you're out and about. The ship itself we could only, and best describe as opulent. It was so well appointed, and the courteousness and helpfulness of the staff really made this holiday one to remember. I have read about the food in other reviews, and realising you cannot get what you’d have at home, I’d rate the food a pretty constant 8 out of 10. Our vacation was 14 days on-board, and we were not tired of their cuisine offered when we disembarked. The entertainment was good, though we sort of expected Broadway style productions, we weren’t offered any, however enjoyed the entertainment overall as another 8 out of 10. Being a 14-day cruise, I expect this could account for the average age of the passengers. There was entertainment nightly up in the Viking Crown lounge, and the couple of times I stuck my head in there, the only souls I could spot were in fact staff - milling about to loud music, waiting for guests. Our 4-year-old daughter was one of only 8 kids travelling, and was spoilt rotten. There was only one other child her age, and this didn't lend itself to a raging time for the young ones - though at 4 she had the absolute time of her life. I expect a teenager would have had a much harder time with so few youths traveling, though the staff and their facilities on board are top notch. I guess one could find out if there are many kids on a particular cruise prior to travelling to alleviate this. Embarking and Disembarking were good - from the ship - but in Auckland NZ, once you were off the ship, it was in the least - bedlam/mayhem. Imagine over a thousand people trying to get a taxi in a city port that has one line of traffic in, and VERY limited space for movement. Take my advice and ensure you have made arrangements for travelling from the ship when you disembark. Do NOT rely on getting a taxi - especially in Auckland. I had to walk outside into the city and hail a cab, bring it back into the port, then go out near the airport to pick up a motor home we were to enjoy for a week before returning to Australia. I then had to return to the port and pick up the others and the luggage. I disembarked the ship at about 9am, and finally got back around 1.30pm. The atmosphere at the port by then was more acceptable, though all passengers had to be off by 10.30am. In comparison to P&O and NCL with whom we have sailed before, this cruise would certainly rate 'up there' and I’d give them 8.5 out of 10 overall. Certainly different holiday experience on board from the other companies - who were also good at what they provided, The Legend simply offered us a magnificent setting for our holiday, and the staff made sure it all happened properly. If you're thinking of travelling on the Legend (apparently she's spending 3 months down under in 2002!) remember the few things I’ve mentioned, and you are SURE to have the time of your life. Just remember pre paying your tips makes it difficult if one of your steward’s etc are not up to scratch. They know they are getting pre-paid tips, so Like Mum & Dad who travelled with us in a separate cabin and whose cabin steward we believe was a little on the slack side, had to be reminded of a few little things. Incidentally, although we paid US$55 a day, we ended up on the bridge deck - suite 8071. Perfect cabin, quiet, well appointed and a real bargain at the price!

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Sep 9, 2000

Legend - 12 night W. Mediterranean

  My husband and I are cruise enthusiasts, and felt we had taken the perfect cruise when we were on the Legend of the Seas for her Mediterranean itinerary in the fall of 1999.  However, we decided to repeat the itinerary this year because there was so much we missed seeing the first time, as each port of call offers so many options of places to see and things to do.  Also, we’d been in the Caribbean several times since being

in the Mediterranean, and we wanted our 20th cruise to be special.  We both agreed on the flight to Barcelona that though are expectations were high – we might feel a bit of a letdown since our first experience had been so wonderful.  I’m delighted to report the second time was even better than the first!  First, and I believe foremost, RCCL had the concept of excellent customer service, attentiveness and courtesy prevalent throughout our cruise experience.  They certainly understand that their best asset is the respect and loyalty of their passengers – and treated us (and everyone) accordingly.  I believe their goal is to assure a vacation on their ship (s) is like no other on earth – and for us, the goal was exceeded. The Barcelona embarkation experience was great – it took us less than 20 minutes to ‘check in’ and be in our cabin.  We enjoyed an extra day in Barcelona before boarding – which I highly recommend.  It’s a beautiful city, and along with enjoying the sights, you also get a good night’s sleep to overcome the jet lag.  I definitely recommend this approach, and also, not to miss a stroll down Las Ramblas: quite ‘the’ attraction in Barcelona. The 12 night Western Mediterranean history included stops in Marseilles, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Naples, a restful day at sea, 2 days in Venice, a day a sea, Messina, Sicily, Civitavaecchia (Rome), Ville Franche (Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo), one last restful day at sea, and back in to Barcelona for disembarkation – another process that went well.  As we experienced last year – the culture, history, art, religious significance and sheer beauty we saw are things that cannot be replicated in a book or taught in a class.  The museums and cafes in Florence, the experience of seeing the history of Rome by horse and buggy, the architectural ruins near Messina and the beautiful scenic view from the top of Capri, the hillsides of Eze (near Nice) and the sheer thrill and beauty of Venice are awesome.  Going down the Grand Canal in Venice reminded me of the popular American song of ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’, because as we were departing Venice – I knew I’d left part of my heart there. Now – on to some of the particulars of the good service, attentiveness and courtesy that I mentioned earlier.  Our entire dining experience was made extremely enjoyable by the very fine service provided by our waiter, Ugur Ercan, our assistant waiter, Rhoit Arora and assistant maitre de, Deniz Mehmet.  Though their demeanor was always highly professional, they were also fun and congenial, making our meals one of the highlights of each day. With some luggage being lost along the way, the purser staff was extraordinary in handling all of my concerns and questions – and yes! located and got my luggage to me by the third day at sea.  Doug MacLennan, Maru Andrade and Paulo Santos couldn’t have been kinder and friendlier during the entire cruise – even after ‘the disaster’ had been resolved. They performed a number of special favors for me, and their friendliness and concern will always be remembered.                The dining and purser staff certainly reflected the cordial, professional and service oriented demeanor exhibited by our hotel director, Fred DeCosse.  We had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Mr. DeCosse several times throughout the cruise, and his many kindnesses and cordiality will be remembered as being very special. As we believe the critical difference in getting and maintaining repeat business will be in customer service and satisfaction – I need to mention what a difference Captain Thomas Wildung, Master of the Legend of the Seas, made for us.  This is the third time we’ve cruised with him, and he went out of his way to make us feel special, valued and VIP passengers.  His pride in his profession, ship and employer is reflected throughout the Legend of the Seas cruise experience.  We feel it’s truly an honor and a privilege when we have the opportunity to cruise with him on his beautiful ship. After reading our review, it will probably not come as a surprise to the reader that we have already booked cruises number 21 and 22 on RCI ships, and we’re working on cruise number 23 to be back on the Legend of the Seas while it’s doing a delightful itinerary through Scandinavia and Russia next summer. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any specific questions. Libby [email protected]

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Mar 1, 2000

Journey of Temples and Treasures

I had the pleasure of sailing aboard the Legend of the Seas on the Journey of Temples and Treasures this year. It was my first Royal Caribbean cruise and I was truly impressed. Traffic flow: The flow throughout the ship was smooth and easily maneuverable. The only exception was when leaving the show room and navigating toward the dining room. It was impossible to travel indoors so we accommodated this problem by walking out the doors and along

the outside deck of the ship. Quality of Food: I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. Only once in 21 days did I feel my dinner could have been of better quality as I had an extremely tough steak. I was disappointed in the deserts because most had a moose type texture. The low calorie desserts were fabulous and even being the sugar junkie I am I preferred them most of the time. Bread was to die for. Every day, for 21 days, different, inventive breads. Some we longed to have again and found ourselves hunting them down in the buffet lines. Cold soups were incredible as well. Service: For a line that is not considered a premium cruise line they do a pretty good imitation of being one. Our Cabin steward was great as well as our waiter. Perhaps the staff around the pool could have been more involved or available for those relaxing in that area. The public rooms were spacious and comfortable with enough quiet corners for a private moment with a book. Ship: The solarium was my favorite spot of any ship I have ever sailed on. I still think of that place months after we sailed. I will take every opportunity I can to sail on a ship with such a place. Activities: There were so many things to do I almost felt like I had to miss something to do something else. 21 days zero boredom. Legend of the Sea is definitely a ship for energetic as well as the laid back passenger. The overall feel of the ship was friendly and accommodating. Even amongst themselves you could tell that the Captain of the ship had a real team atmosphere to it. I loved it. BTW the bridge tour was the most interesting one I have even seen.

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Feb 9, 2000

Singapore to Hong Kong

We took the inaugural cruise of the Legend through this area (Singapore to Hong Kong). We traveled with a group of friends (about 20-30 all told). For background, we are retired and travel whenever and wherever we desire. We have cruised on various lines since 1988, in various parts of the world. The Legend is a visually impressive ship. One can tell that RCL spent money on the décor of the ship. The cruise was enjoyable, but not outstanding.

Two areas that RCL Legend has to upgrade would be the food quality and the room steward quality. With regard to these two services, we consider Legend to be the worse of all our cruises. The food in the main dining room was actually bad. The beef was tough, undercooked, or overcooked. I like my beef rare, and constantly got it well done. The waiter was always very apologetic and it got to be a running joke that he could always send it back, which he always had to. On one occasion, the meat was returned with actual raw parts showing on it! I soon ordered only the fish entrée, which we learned was the only entrée they could actually do well. Let me say that the wait staff was excellent. The buffet food was tolerable. After a while, my daily meals consisted of fruit and cereal in the morning (they couldn’t spoil that), Caesar Salad for lunch (again, hard to spoil), and the fish entrée for dinner. The one midnight buffet was a joke. This is obviously not the usual cruise meals one expects. On the plus side, I did not gain any weight. In watching a cooking demonstration by the head chef, I realized the problem with the cooking of the beef. He was making a dish with medallions of beef. The medallion was about 4” in diameter and about ¾” thick. During the demonstration, he cooked the medallion about 10 minutes on each side, before setting it aside. After preparing the sauce, he returned the medallion to the pan in the sauce and proceeded to cook side dishes for about another 15 minutes. The meat was obviously very well done. Remember, he was the head chef! Our room steward was a young woman from the Caribbean. She was not attentive to her tasks and constantly missed items like, daily and tour schedules, ice, towels, etc. We always had to call for these items when we returned from tours and wanted to take showers or have a cool drink in our room. Thus, I am confused that the other reviews don’t mention the bad food and room service. Otherwise the rest of the services were good, and the tours were what I expected. I especially enjoyed having the Internet mail connection - when it was up. The Cruise staff was very friendly and good. I should also mention that the Legend was only about 60% filled so it was never crowded. I shutter to think how the food and room service would have been on a filled ship. Would I take another RCL cruise? I would ask others about the current food quality on the RCL ship, then consider the price and itinerary versus other outstanding cruise lines, where I know I would get outstanding food and room service. Luckily, these areas of service can hopefully be corrected. I think our bad room steward was an isolated case, but I know the food was bad for the entire ship.

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Nov 30, -0001

New Zealand - Australia

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. Embarkation 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. The ship 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. Various things 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. Conclusion 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. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me: [email protected]

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

his was my second cruise on what was my favorite ship (formerly from Hawaii to Vancouver). I bought in to this because of bargain pricing with almost free air. They are pricing this ti compete with Carnival, and unfortunately they are getting the Carnival crowd for it.....the Las Vegas Buffet overweight stuffers. Also they have reduced the luxury frills down to a bare minimum. Sad to see a truly beautiful ship aging and becoming second class. Despite

all this, the food was great, the itinerary was Mexico..(nuff said), great weather, and great value ( if that's what you are seeking). Next time, Princess,Holland or Norwegian for us.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Embarkation, even with handling our cabin upgrade at the last minute took less than 30 minutes - and the best surprise - our luggage was in our new cabin - even though they had been tagged with our first cabin number. What a delight! Our cabin steward was always there for us ... though we rarely saw him unless we needed to. The dining room staff was always helpful and friendly - they knew us all by our first names (table of 10) after the

first dinner. The service was good, but the biggest disappointment of the whole cruise was the food quality, selection and presentation. It was just a little above average and certainly not what we'd gotten to expect from our other RCI cruises or Celebrity Cruises (now owned by RCI). We really enjoy sea days - so with 9 of those and 5 ports of call, we were in heaven. We thoroughly enjoyed Cabo San Lucas, Costa Rica, the Canal transit, and Aruba, but I could go the rest of my life without returning to Acapulco or Columbia. Both were dirty, crowded and unattractive. We had ideal weather so the end of Nov. and beginning of Dec. seems to be an ideal time to do this cruise. Our disembarkation was quick and painless. We had an early flight and were with the first group to get off. I would be remiss in this review if I didn't single out two people for special recognition. One was Christine, our shore shopping advisor. AFTER leaving Aruba, I decided I HAD to have a ring I had seen there. I talked to Christine, and she managed to purchase the ring and have it sent to me then next time she was in Aruba. That is truly service 'above and beyond.' The other person that deserves special recognition was the Master of the Legend of the Seas, our Captain, Thomas Wildung. He was personable, pleasant and charming throughout the cruise. His updates on the PA system as to whale sightings and dolphins swimming with our ship were always a delight, along with his commentary on different sights we were seeing along the Mexican Riviera as we headed for the canal. He obviously enjoyed his profession, was very proud of his ship, and wanted everyone to have a good time. In 12 cruises - this is the first time I've left with even remembering who the captain was ... much less thinking he had been a decisive factor in making our cruise so pleasant. This was a great cruise experience for us, and other than the food quality and a couple of the ports of call - it's our best experience so far.

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Nov 30, -0001

British Isle

We have sailed with Royal Caribbean twice before - 7 day Sovereign of the Seas and 10 day Nordic Prince several years ago. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary - we have done two Mediterranean cruises in the past. We spent 3 days in London prior to cruise as we had never been there before. Would highly recommend doing this to get over jet lag and also see the wonderful sights of London. We stayed at the Millenium Baileys Hotel on Gloucester

Rd in the Kensington section of London. It was a quaint 4 star hotel which was very clean and near everything. On the day of the cruise, we found embarkation to be a little disorganized compared to other sailings but we eventually got on board. Our cabin was a large inside cabin and very adequate with room for everything and suitcases fit under beds. Ship was beautiful but could use some refurbishing in some areas with carpeting, etc. Found food in the dining room to be quite good but service not up to par with other ships. Waiters were not too attentive and service a little slow. As far as the Windjammer where the buffet meals are served, service was really lacking and appeared to be quite "mixed up". Itinerary was excellent. Especially impressed with the three ports in Norway - one more beautiful than the next. Scenery very much like Switzerland but with water and hundereds of waterfalls. We took tours in every port and found them to be a little pricey but very good. Tour guides spoke excellent English and were very informative. In Amsterdam, we had previously been told and found to be true that it was not necessary to take a tour - we saved quite a bit of money by simply walking from the ship a short distance to town where we got an excursion boat for approx $6 U.S. per person and saw the whole City and then walked around the City ourselves for the rest of the day. We took and enjoyed the following excursions: Lehavre, France - Paris on Your Own Plymouth, England - Leisurely Drive & Devonshire Cream Tea Cork, Ireland - Blarney Castle and Panoramic Cork Dublin - Leisurely Dublin Highlights Glasgow, Scotland - Edinburgh on your Own Bergen, Norway - Bergen City by Motorcoach Geiranger, Norway - Geiranger Fjord Panorama Flam, Norway - Stalheim Valley and Tvinde Waterfall Amsterdam - toured on our own. Overall, wonderful cruise.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Background My wife (34) and I (35) were on cabin 8078 (cat C.). This was our third cruise, all on RCI. Our first cruise was on the Monarch (7-day Caribbean), and the second was on the Splendour (11-day Caribbean). As in our Splendour review, our comments are based in comparison to earlier cruises. Overall Impression This was an excellent cruise, better than our Splendour experience, but slightly weaker than the Monarch.

We were pleasantly surprise to see that we had a younger passenger group than the Splendour with the average been around mid-fifties. As a result, the ship was more alive than the Splendour. Still, we found things were RCL could improve upon, these we be listed throughout the review. My wife and I did feel that 14 days is probably our limit in terms of length of cruise (too much of a good thing is not necessarily better). The Ship The ship was identical to the Splendour, except the decorations. All our cruises have been on category C suites. Our balcony was a major plus, especially with 7 days at sea, and the canal crossing. We can not see ourselves traveling in anything other than a balcony cabin in the future. NOTE TO RCI: for the money that we paid for a suite, we should have been allowed priority disembarkation. We did prefer our cabin facing the back of the ship on the Splendour. The Food This was the most disappointing part of the cruise. This was by far the worst food we have had in any of our cruises (not to say that it was terrible, but not to RCL standard). The menu has been changed beginning with our cruise. There are no longer theme nights. I know that food is a very personal issue, however the complaining about the lack of quality or originality in the food became a major subject of conversation among ALL passengers throughout the cruise. RCL NEEDS ADDRESS THIS INMEDIATELY. Service in the dining room remains excellent. Entertainment The entertainment was good, with a decent variety. However, I did not feel that we had a headline entertainer during the cruise. The music reviews were the same as other cruises. The lounge and Centrum singers were the best we have ever had. The Trip Day 1: Even though we had the air/sea package from RCI, we did not like the flight they put us in from San Francisco to San Diego and booked our own. We arrive in San Diego about 9am, and located an RCI rep soon afterward. We were among a handful of cruisers that had arrive early and avoided the crowds. The ride to the pier was about 5 minutes. I must say that the facilities in San Diego were excellent, and the fact that we were the only ship in town made the whole embarkation experience that much better than in prior cruises. We were on board by 12 noon. Since this was our 3rd cruise, we have our routine set when we board. First, we go to the cabin to drop off the carry-on luggage and pick up the excursion form. Then, we headed to the Windjammer café for lunch, where we pick our excursions. Afterwards, we went to the Spa to book our treatments. The rest of the day was spent exploring the ship, which was outstanding. We went to dinner, where we met our tablemates, which turn out to be the best ones yet. Our waiters were very good, but not up to par with the ones we have had in our prior cruises. The same can be said for our cabin steward, who did his job throughout the cruise but never went the extra mile. Day 2 : We spent the day at sea. My wife had a massage at the Spa, where we ended up spending a lot of time and money during the cruise. This was the nicest and most professional spa personnel we ever had on a cruise. Special mention to Debbie from England and Emma from Ireland who provide my wife and I with excellent service throughout the cruise. Day 3: Cabo San Lucas. We booked the boat trip to Los Arcos and Scenic Drive. You get a nice view of Los Arcos from the ship when it anchors on the bay, so I did not feel this excursion was worth the money. Some of our tablemates went to the land only excursion, and had a better time. However, Cabo can be easily explored on foot. Day 4 : At Sea. More spa time and spent most of the time reading in the solarium. Day 5: Acapulco. My wife is Mexican and her family came over to meet us from Mexico City. I can not say anything about the excursions, but the City is not what it once was. It is crowded with poor people, and if you walk outside the pier vendors will hound you. The traffic is terrible, with many streets still not repaired since the hurricane that hit the City earlier in the year. Most passengers we talked to did not enjoy this port. Day 6-7 At sea. More relaxing time at sea, with some strong gale winds on day 6 which made sitting by the pool almost impossible. More time in the Spa for the wife and me. Had dinner in our balcony one night (room service) which was great. NOTE TO RCI: The tables inside the cabin and the balcony are inadequate for having lunch or dinner. A table that hidden on the wall (at least on suites) would be a nice addition. Day 8 : Punta Arenas, Costa Rica: A new pier was built in Punta Arenas (10 miles from the old pier), and we were the first ship to use it. The whole town turned out to see us when we got there and throughout the day (it was Saturday). Costa Rica is my favorite country in Latin America, and it did not disappoint us this time either. Since we had been to San Jose, we opted for the horseback Riding excursion, which was very nice (please note that excursion goes mostly through a mango farm and not through the rain forest as it seems in the brochure). There is a flea market at the pier where you can get most of the stuff you can get at Sarchi. From what I heard most people had fun in the excursions, except for the Poas Volcano one because it was cloudy at the top and people could not see the Crater. This happens frequently from what I gathered. Day 9 : At sea. Another sunny day spent near the pool. On our way to the Canal, the Ship entered a bay in Panama full of islands and lush tropical jungles. It was an amazing sight. Day 10 : Crossing the Panama Canal. A once in a lifetime experience. Our balcony paid for itself here as the entire ship seemed to be on deck every time we went through a lock. NOTE TO RCI: During the cruise it was constantly advertise that Panama Canal merchandise would be sold only from 7am to 12noon on the day of the crossing on the Pool Deck. For the life of me I can not fathom why they do this. It was a zoo to buy anything. First, cashiers were charging the cards by hand, which made the paying line almost as long as the canal. If the ship can not move registers to this area, then have the sale in the Centrum. Also, the souvenirs were set up near the entrance to the Windjammer café, which made moving around difficult for both shoppers and Windjammer passengers alike. This should be moved to both sides of the pool where dual-shopping lines can be created. Day 11 : Cartagena, Colombia. The ship only docks here for 5 hours, so the only practical way to see the city is by excursion. This city is similar to Acapulco, in that you will be hounded the vendors constantly and the traffic is terrible. NOTE TO RCI: Consider eliminating this port. Everyone that took tours had negative experiences, including us. A good substitute would be the San Blas Islands. If RCI keeps going to this port, then the excursions need to be address. For all excursions, passengers were hoarded from one sight to another with very little time spent on each one. All excursion stops were terminally crowded with tourists and vendors. RCI should reduce the number of stops, with the extra time devoted to the remaining stops and shopping. Shopping at Cartagena we found to be very good, however, all tours leave you with very little time to shop. If your time is limited in Cartagena, consider skipping the tours and head straight for the shopping area! (or take a shopping excursion, if the ship has one). IMPORTANT: Of the 3 excursions offered by RCI only the DELUXE excursion (the one we took) had air-conditioned buses. This turned out to be a wise choice because it was hot, and because it shielded us from the vendors. Some of our tablemates took one of the other 2 excursions, and had vendors coming through the open windows as they drove around. Day 12 : Aruba. We had been here a year ago on the Splendour. So we decided to rent a jeep a head out to Baby Beach on the eastern tip of the island. We had a nice time there, and drove around the island on our way back to the ship. Day 13-14: At sea. More Spa treatments and time in the Solarium. Day 15: Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale. Had a friend pick us up and take us to Miami International where we boarded our non-stop flight to San Francisco. Summary My wife and I had a great time on the Legend notwithstanding the problems or weaknesses noted above. For anyone with questions or comments about the ship, itinerary or excursions, please send me an e-mail to [email protected] .

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Nov 30, -0001

Mediterranean

Where do I begin……? Embarkation went well, we arrived at 1pm, and we were checked in an on the ship by 1.30pm our cabin was available straight away and it was spotless, our cabin steward was worth every penny of his tip. The Windjammer had a buffet which consisted of both hot & cold snacks , meals and desserts to welcome everybody on board ,a real nice touch I thought .Breakfast and lunchtimes in the Windjammer it was always difficult

to find a vacant table , there was a wide selection of food but the quality was poor and the food luke warm. I will say dessert were good! The ship set sail at 5pm a band played on the poolside and cocktails were available to purchase, however there were no streamers or a band playing on the dockside abit of a disappointment. We were on 2nd sitting for dinner this sitting was from 8.45pm to 9.30pm we sat on a table for 8 with our 2 friends, we were always prompt, unfortunately the starters arrived at 9.30pm followed by the main course at 10pm, following us complaining about the slow service things improved slightly by the 3rd evening with about ½ hr wait on the starters. Jacket potato was served with almost every main meal, every night and there was very little veg, these were already on your plate, not served to you. The waiter was supposed to offer you a wine service but we were never asked if we required wine with our meal and I am sure this would have slowed down the service even further. On sea days you would struggle to find a sun bed although deck patrol did go around removing towels from empty sun beds , the main pool area was extremely busy beds were placed side by side , the pool and 2 Jacuzzi’s were packed with children , I can only liken it to a holiday camp! The cliental aged from 2years to 70 years with the average age being 40 years, the dress code was slack and passengers would regularly turn up to dinner in shorts, while head waiters turned a blind eye, our friends caught a man urinating in the corridor despite the toilets being 3 yds away they reported this to the pursers desk who just laughed and said the carpet would be cleaned. Several passengers were unhappy with things but nothing was done to improve the situation. Excursions were expensive, and a £4.00 charge per person per shuttle was added to your account if you required this service in ports where the centre was a walk from the port, P&O offer this service free of charge. Drinks on board were subject to a 15% surcharge , a tip for the waiter , as well a tipping scheme which was added to you onboard account at the end this was £150.00 per couple, you were able to opt out if you signed a form which was delivered to your cabin towards the end of your holiday, however you were then expected to tip the head waiter ,assistant waiter, main waiter and cabin steward, who’s names would be on the 4 envelopes delivered to your cabin this too equated to £150.00 . The last morning our cabin steward thanked us for his tip but quote “Three rooms haven’t paid me” I thought this was extremely rude as it wasn’t compulsory, but obviously was expected. I enjoyed my holiday but I would liken Legend of the Seas to a 3 star Butlins on sea unlike P&O who offer 5 star luxury cruising.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mediterranean

We had read a couple of reviews before our holiday, one favorable the other not quite so. We arrived at Southampton port to be met by most helpful staff; we were quickly dealt with and boarded with ease. We were informed on boarding that a buffet lunch was ready in the windjammer lounge which we declined as we had late breakfast that morning, we wandered round the ship trying hard not to get lost, what a magnificent ship we were overwhelmed

by the size of it. We sailed out of Southampton to the sounds of a band on the quay. We had an inside cabin, we tried to upgrade but the ship was full but was This was our first cruise, pleasantly surprised by the size of the cabin, our cabin attendant introduced himself and during the holiday he couldn’t do enough for us in fact all the crew were friendly, attentive and couldn’t do enough for us, we felt like royalty. The food was excellent, we dined in the Romeo & Juliet dining room only 3 times the service very good but we preferred the Windjammer café, and the variety of food was excellent and enjoyable. So much going on at nights we had to toss up what to do, good shows in the theatre great bars lots of entertainment for everyone, the children had their own clubs which they seemed to enjoy, it was nice to see the soft drinks machine and ice-cream machine where the kids and adults could help themselves, we mostly had tea or coffee which was on tap anytime of day all free. Going back to our cabin at night we found bed turned down chocolates on our pillows and fresh towels made into animals on our bed, your towels and face clothes are changed every day if used. We booked four tour excursions first Praia Da Rocha we thought the bus was going to town but it was for the beach, we walked into town not far from the dock. We did Rome on our own which we thoroughly enjoyed going at our own pace and resting when we needed to, it was so hot. Nice & Monaco lovely and the beach in Corsica great. All in all it was the holiday of a lifetime we can’t praise the captain or the crew of the LEGEND OF THE SEAS enough. We will most certainly do this trip again, well done Royal Caribbean

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Nov 30, -0001

Singapore to Sydney

Truly refreshing, Singapore is clean, light and efficient; we were constantly awed. The Conrad International Hotel was within walking distance of Suntec City (home to the Fountain of Wealth – the world’s largest fountain), Marina Mall, Sun Tower, Raffles Hotel. Lunch at Yu Jia Zhuang offered a comforting lion’s head (pork meatball) casserole and sautéed Shanghai-style shrimp. Soon tempted by a dessert hawker’s call, shaved

ice confections soothed – one mango, the other durian with taro and yam. Walk into the Raffles Hotel and step back in time. It is easy to envision Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915 shaking up his first Singapore Sling. Never miss a meal – a late dinner at Crystal Jade Kitchen did not disappoint. This Hong Kong-style restaurant offered familiar noodle treats such as shrimp wonton soup, beef noodles and seafood chow foon. The Fountain of Wealth sound and light show was a colorful diversion. Day 1 – Singapore. After Royal Caribbean processed documentation at the hotel, passengers were given a two-hour city orientation. The tour guide’s informative talk provided useful background for our stay. We toured Ming Village – where porcelain reproductions are hand-made, and another complex housing Buddhist and Daoist temples. The Legend was docked at Brani Naval Base, which had no passenger terminal; boarding cards were issued at the gangplank. The card is now all-purpose – boarding pass, super charge card and cabin key. After the welcome aboard lunch in the Windjammer, we chatted briefly with Executive Chef Thomas Barth. We had sailed with Chef Barth last December for two weeks on the Enchantment of the Seas. It was nice to see a familiar face so soon after embarkation. He had an interesting tale about a flat received in Dubai. A shipment of wine and beer was to have been transported in a refrigerated container, instead it was sent in a freezer. Needless to say, all bottles were destroyed; some passengers traveling between Dubai and Singapore were dismayed to learn stocks on the ship were low because of this mishap. At dinner, we met our fellow tablemates and servers and were instantly delighted to know one would be spending the next weeks with such a lovely and diverse group of individuals – a couple from Montreal who had been aboard since Athens, a couple from Hawaii, a couple and her aunt from Arkansas and a single woman from Switzerland. Marlito (waiter) and Toli (assistant waiter) made a nice team; their efficiency, warmth and sense of humor added very much to each evening’s ambiance. The sommelier, Erika, was fondly remembered from the Champagne Terrace of the Splendour of the Seas on our 1997 Trans-Atlantic voyage. Day 2 – Singapore. The complimentary World Trade Centre shuttle was convenient, but connecting to the Chinatown bus was somewhat time-consuming. We soon learned the ease of using Singapore’s taxis. Chinatown was disappointing. An area geared mainly toward tourism – souvenir and tailor shops – one was pressed to find a dining opportunity commensurate with experiences in other worldwide Chinese communities. The food market there was working class, the smells not inviting. However, Sri Mariamman Temple – the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore – was an interesting diversion. A brief walk to the financial district brought us to Lau Pa Sat for the hawker experience we had been seeking. Richard ordered so much food from one stall that the vendor refused to sell us more claiming we already had too much for two. Shrimp wonton soup, roast duck, roast pork tenderloin, Chinese greens with garlic and oyster sauce and heaping plates of steamed rice were had for about $15. We stopped once more for an iced lemon tea before returning to the ship. The evening entertainment treated passengers to Singaporean, Japanese, Indonesian and Malay dance. The troupes provided quite a unique and interesting cultural experience. Day 3 – Singapore. There had been scattered rain daily, but today it was torrential. A small break at mid-morning allowed us to take the shuttle to the World Trade Centre. Starbucks beckoned – an excellent cappuccino would be Christine’s last for a while. We settled down for lunch at 88 Restaurant at the top of the tower. The chili shrimp and steamed sea bass were perfectly garnished with a fantastic view of Sentosa Island. Bidding farewell to Singapore from the Viking Crown lounge as the Legend sailed away was sad. This was a relaxed and inviting city; yet we were anxious to explore the other ports of call. We settled down comfortably with our tablemates to enjoy superb racks of lamb while comparing notes on our Singaporean experiences. The Wave Review Singers and Dancers presented an exciting show entitled, “One Moment in Time.” Day 4 – At Sea. Somehow in the early morning hours, the Legend crossed the Equator without permission. King Neptune was not pleased and beckoned all poolside to witness the punishment to be doled out to those responsible. A parade of mermaids accompanied by a pirate musical ensemble preceded the arrival of the king and his queen. In turn, two passengers and then Captain Ronsen were ordered to kneel before King Neptune to confess. Cracking raw eggs over their heads and declaring them guilty, the king banished them to an operating table, where a mad doctor literally made sausage and spaghetti out of them. As a final punishment each of the accused were tossed into the pool. It was a fun time for the participants as well as the spectators. This morning’s informative talk and video on Bali were helpful introductions to the island and its people. Something new, Royal Caribbean now offers “Academy at Sea” on its longer cruises. The four courses offered included: photography, nutrition and fitness, beauty, and hospitality and beverage. We enrolled in the latter and would have our first class on a future sea day. While Richard napped, Christine continued reading Road from Coorain, by Jill Ker Conway. This interesting autobiography of the life of a young girl on an Australian sheep station offered a vivid glimpse of life in the outback. Ms. Conway went on to become the first woman president of Smith College. The Captain’s welcome aboard cocktail was an occasion for dressing in one’s finest. Richard used the opportunity to show off his new white dinner jacket and a silk brocade dragon vest fashioned by Christine – quite a handsome set. After dinner, the audience was captivated by tenor Renato Pagliari in the That’s Entertainment Theatre. Day 5 – At Sea. Gottfried Alois Bogensperger, a guest chef from the Hyatt Singapore, and his assistant, Sally, were invited aboard for a cooking demonstration. They prepared Vietnamese shrimp rolls and filet of salmon in spring onion sauce with gnocchi; the audience was rewarded with sample bites. We were told to expect a special menu at dinner where one could order these dishes as well as a couple of additional surprises. Henry Stedman gave a wildlife talk. His dry sense of humor kept the audience greatly amused as he introduced through a slide presentation Indonesian flora and fauna. Richard enjoyed braised oxtail at lunch, while Christine preferred lighter fare in anticipation of the evening’s promised treat. And what an indulgence dinner was. For a starter, Chef Bogensperger concocted five-spiced duck enrobed in a rice pancake – moist and flavorful. We moved on to the demo salmon – again perfectly prepared and presented. Although we tend to avoid desserts, one was tempted and rewarded by the chocolate pudding – resembling a very rich brownie – accompanied by an almond tuille. Day 6 – Bali. The Legend anchored off the shore of Padangbai; we were greeted by a fleet of outrigger canoes from which Balinese vendors attempted to sell agricultural wares. We waited anxiously to see how transactions could be made as the vendors were at sea level, and the Promenade Deck was at least 40 feet higher. We never did witness a sale, but the canoeists were unrelenting throughout the Legend’s 36-hour stay. We tendered ashore in late afternoon and were immediately mobbed by vendors hawking everything from postcards to hand-carved wooden chess sets. It was not an easy walk to the nearby motorcoach. A particularly adorable young girl, of about six, was most persistent and used all of her best English in an attempt to make a sale. She nearly succeeded when she asked Christine what her name was. But we knew if a purchase were to be made from one vendor, the surrounding mobs would close in for more sales. We were relieved to board the bus; there was instant calm as our guide, Naya, began to introduce us to Bali. During the 1-1/2-hour drive to Taman Burung Bird Park, glimpses of daily life provided the backdrop for all we were to see and experience during our brief time here. We were fascinated by the closeness of homes to the roadway, intrigued by the abundance of temples and curious about the innumerable itinerant dogs – certainly some of the ugliest creatures we had ever seen. To our disbelief and disappointment, the Taman Burung Bird Park was already closed upon arrival. One of the reasons we had chosen this evening tour was to enjoy the more than 1,000 tropical birds housed among lush gardens. A flock of flamingo-like white birds was near the park’s open-air restaurant; we tried to imagine what other species inhabited the site. The dinner buffet included rather ordinary fare, but we were assured the selections were typical of the region: corn soup, chicken fried wontons, vegetarian spring rolls, steamed rice, fried chicken, mixed sautéed vegetables with squid, lemon grass string beans, fish fritters, assorted tropical fruit and pastries. Proceeding on foot to the Kecak dance stage, we were captivated by the intricate hand and foot movements and fleeting glances of the elegant dancers who performed surrounded by a 75-member male chorus. Various ornately costumed characters also participated in the dance presentation. The hypnotic choral cak-cak-cak continued until good overcame evil. The evening climaxed with a fire dance, where an entranced member of the chorus danced upon burning coals without scorching his feet. The Balinese vendors were waiting for us upon return to the Padangbai pier, and the feverish sales pitches recommenced. In a way, we felt guilty that the lure of tourists’ dollars had taken too many of these lovely people from their timeless religious observances and simple agrarian lives to near dependency on tourism. Day 7 – Bali. The same chaotic swarm of vendors welcomed us on arrival at the pier. However, today we noticed increased military surveillance and an attempt to keep a perimeter open for debarking passengers. Directed to our motorcoach by our guide, Norman, we headed into the verdant hills of Bali. Although we traveled along the same route the previous evening, daylight gave another view of life in the tiny villages dotting the countryside. We stopped first to be entertained by Barong dancers and their gamelan orchestra. The central and most amusing figure was the Barong – a hairy mythical beast that is considered a village protector. Again, we witnessed the power of good overcoming evil. Terraced rice paddies provided a picture perfect backdrop to the stage. There was a stop in Mas for a wood carving demonstration before continuing to Ubud. This artist colony in the hills above Denpasar was the most colorful and interesting of the villages encountered in Bali. Our lunch break was at the splendid Cahaya Dewata Resort overlooking terraced rice paddies and a meandering river. The buffet was similar to that of the previous evening: onion soup, fried rice or noodles, sautéed mixed vegetables with squid, cole slaw, sliced tomatoes, shredded carrots, beef stroganoff, sweet and sour pork, sautéed tofu with vegetables, vegetarian spring rolls, assorted tropical fruit and pastries. We were next offered a 10-minute stop at the Neka Art Museum. We regretted this constraint. The Neka houses a very extensive collection of traditional and contemporary Balinese art, as well as a compilation of works by Western artists who have painted in Bali over the years and a small photography gallery. Needless to say, a brief sweep through one building in the complex was all one could see in the allotted time. We drove beside more terraced rice paddies, which offered a final overall glimpse of the island that had enchanted us. In Klungkung, one saw the ancient Kerta Gosa Hall of Justice and Bale Kambang – Floating Pavilion – before returning to Padangbai. On the pier, we found the child vendor who had caught our eye earlier and gave her our remaining Indonesian rupiah coins. Astonished, she quickly disappeared into the crowd. Day 8 – At Sea. We reveled in this relaxing day at sea. The morning shore excursion talk on Darwin and Cairns by Stefan Rosenfeld previewed the regions we were about to explore. The Indonesian buffet lunch offered poolside was similar to those at Taman Burung Bird Park and Cahaya Dewata Resort. While in Bali, Chef Barth managed to bring aboard wonderful tropical fruit. For the next week, one could savor the fresh sweet tastes of rambutan, passion fruit, papaya, mango and an unusual brown veined, thin skinned, pear-like fruit that no one could identify. Day passed leisurely to night; the That’s Entertainment Theatre hosted the Wave Review Singers and Dancers in a tribute to Broadway. Day 9 – At Sea. Stefan Rosenfeld’s second shore excursion talk highlighted Brisbane and Sydney. The accompanying slides brought the cities and environs to life. We were anxious to reach these destinations. Richard never shirks a chance to exercise his voice; a 1940s sing-along in the Schooner Bar gave him that opportunity. There is a deep emotional connection for him as these American tunes were popular in Beijing when he was in junior high school. The afternoon Academy at Sea focused on the cocktail. From martinis to manhattans, margaritas to piña coladas, the instructor demonstrated preparation of these concoctions. Samples flowed. Later in the Centrum, there was an impromptu musical tribute to Elton John by a quintet of the ship’s entertainers. The 30-minute concert was refreshing – something which should be done more often on sea days. We knew we were nearing Australia, as immigration officials were on board to perform pre-arrival inspections. Day 10 – Darwin. Upon arrival in Darwin, we were driven to the Territory Wildlife Park. The countryside was dotted with low-lying brush and occasional trees. The termite hills were remarkable, with various chambers constructed to allow migration to areas facing away from the sun for cooler internal temperatures. These towers took on the color of the soil and often stood five or six feet tall. The park was well designed with an electric tram circling regularly. We saw our first wallabies, kangaroos, jabirus up close and personal. Not surprising, the salt-water and fresh-water crocodiles were kept at a safe distance. The heat and humidity were too much for some of the elderly, but we had plenty to drink and were able to see most of the grounds in the time allowed. Darwin is a small town, provincial and quaint. The lack of sophistication may have to do with the destruction caused by Cyclone Tracy in 1974 and the ongoing rebuilding. With the completion of the new state house, Darwin hopes to draw more Australians to the area and with that the hope of a larger government to occupy the lavish accommodations. As Darwin is Australia’s main support line to U.N. peacekeeping forces in East Timor, it is an important military post. There is a large build-up of military facilities near the airport. Day 11 – Darwin. As the largest ship ever to sail into any of our ports of call, the Legend received a lot of attention. What a surprise for passengers who awoke to discover a full front page and centerfold special article on the “Monster Floating Hotel” in today’s edition of the Northern Territory News. A small complex at Stokes Hill Wharf is home to the Indo-----Pacific Marine. Our visit there was the highlight of our stay in Darwin. Privately funded and operated, this marine environmental and educational resource center offers an astonishing introduction to reef life. Helene Pretty has amassed over several decades a huge collection of living coral. One began their visit with an award winning film on the Great Barrier Reef. Afterward, Manager, Jon Ostara, was on hand to take visitors step by step through the displays. Unlike aquariums, the self-sustaining marine eco-system is not filtered; neither the coral nor fish are ever fed; evaporation is contained by the addition of rainwater. The natural ceiling illumination provides the right amounts of sunshine and moonlight to promote coral and plankton reproduction. We continued to be impressed by informative and interesting displays throughout the marine exhibit. Our only regret was to learn too late that one might visit at night to see the coral under special lights. The evening tour also includes a seafood buffet on the deck overlooking Van Diemen Gulf. The Department of Agriculture set up a display on the pier and offered samples of Australian produce, baked goods and wines. The seafood and fruit were particularly delicious. We also enjoyed artwork crafted by local artisans. There were more and more passengers succumbing to a flu-like illness passing through the ship. Several of our tablemates were not well enough to share their Darwin experience and to enjoy the delicious Beef Wellington offered by the galley. The Wave Review Singers Dancers ended the evening with the “Sing and Swing Big Band Show.” Day 12 – At Sea. Another restful day was spent at sea; we tried our hands at doubles “Baggo” – beanbag toss – and failed miserably. The afternoon Academy at Sea continued with table set ups and large-volume punches. One would need many identical tablecloths to accomplish the demonstrated drapings, but results were attractive. Punch samples flowed. While Richard napped, Christine inched forward in reading The Fatal Shore, by Robert Hughes. Hughes presents Australian history in an easy to read tome. Day 13 – At Sea. Through closed curtains, we were awakened by a dazzling spectacle of dancing lights on the cabin ceiling and walls. The Legend had entered the Great Barrier Reef. These shallow waters were like reflective mirrors, the rising sun sending down cascades of orange flames licking the water’s surface. The show lasted but a moment; how grateful we are for that enduring image. The weather soon turned to rain and the only sights were occasional distant atolls. A seminar on contemporary Aboriginal art was very enlightening. Slides helped to bring the images to life. We expect to see a lot of these art forms in other ports. Beer and bar set up were the subjects of today’s Academy at Sea lecture. Richard enjoyed these samples more than cocktails and punches; he found the walk through the bar to be helpful. While Richard swilled, Christine played hooky briefly to attend an opal seminar. Royal Caribbean had invited Costello’s – one of Australia’s leading opal dealers – to send a gemologist and a collection of set and unset stones for this talk. The opals were subsequently displayed for sale in the Boutiques of the Centrum. A black opal caught the attention of many; yet at the cruise’ end, the $40,000 pendant was still unclaimed. Day 14 – Cairns. Upon arrival we boarded a bus for the drive via Port Douglas to the Rainforest Habitat. The surrounding area was hilly and lush with vegetation. Port Douglas could have been a coastal resort anywhere in the world – beautiful gardens, luxury homes, golf courses and private yachts at anchor. Somehow the driving time to and from Cairns was underestimated; a mere 45 minutes was allowed to walk around the Rainforest Habitat. There was time to see only two of the four exhibits – the wallaby, kangaroo, crocodile section and the rainforest canopy walk. The displeasure among all was more than evident; the guide relented and offered us an additional five minutes to see the koala display. The two resident koalas were fast asleep and hidden among eucalypt branches. We returned to Cairns in a torrential downpour. The weather cleared somewhat by afternoon; we set out to see the town of Cairns. A casino, restaurants, hotels, art galleries, souvenir shops dotted the main street. The Pier Market Place was a comfortable indoor mall. There we spent an hour at Undersea World where, in addition to taking pleasure from the aquarium exhibits, we were spellbound by the shark feeding demonstration. Back on the pier, the Department of Agriculture met us with a display of Australian tropical fruit and wines. Samples of mango, papaya, passion fruit, melons and jakfruit were just the right afternoon snack. The dining room was very empty tonight. The Great Barrier Reef excursion in inclement weather got the best of most who traveled the three-hour round trip by catamaran. We were somewhat concerned, as we would be doing the same trip tomorrow. Day 15 – Cairns. With some 250 other passengers, we boarded the catamaran to the Great Barrier Reef. The high winds and rough seas made the passage uncomfortable. There was a brief moment of blue sky upon arrival. As we neither scuba dive nor snorkel, we entered a semi-submersible for a dry underwater experience and a chance to see the reef’s wonders. The ride was short but did reveal a section of the reef, a large sea turtle, and some large and small fish – nice but nothing too remarkable. Still, we are pleased to have had the experience. The return was not as rough because we were sailing with the current. The skies gradually cleared, and there was partial sun by the time we reached Cairns. At poolside today there was a raw bar and seafood buffet. Oysters are one of Richard’s favorite sea morsels; his plate was heaped with this special delicacy. To our surprise, the Legend was unable to sail as scheduled at 1:00 p.m. High winds would have made the passage through the shallows too dangerous. Our departure was moved to 4:30 p.m. Cheers went up around the ship. Cairns was easy to like, and the unexpected additional afternoon there would be a real treat. A later announcement indicated we would sail at 6:00 p.m. We used the time to further explore the town, to make some last minute purchases and for a walk along the Marlin Jetty for a better view of the Legend among tiny fishing vessels. The That’s Entertainment Theatre brought the ship’s quintet back to the stage for a super musical tribute to Carole King. Donny Ray Evans followed with his amazing impersonation of Nat King Cole. This look-alike, sound-alike artist astonished the audience with renditions of Cole’s hits, including, of course, the Christmas Song. Day 16 – At Sea. Cruising today between the lesser and outer reefs, one noted the beautiful granite islands dotting the Whitsunday Passage. We eyed the shoreline of Hamilton Island while downpours intermittently interrupted crisp blue skies. We were cruising at 23 knots, against 35-knot headwinds, to make up time lost in Cairns. A rough ride prevented many from venturing out. Thus, the library was a welcome retreat. Our Academy at Sea course was concluded today with a seminar on wines and champagne. After the tasting, students were presented with graduation certificates. At tonight’s reception, Captain Ronsen enlightened Crown and Anchor Society members on current and future Royal Caribbean activities. He introduced Jack Williams – President of RCI, who was with us for part of the voyage. Most were surprised Mr. Williams did not have a few words for the audience. Day 17 – Brisbane. Sailing up the Brisbane River, the Legend was greeted by a news helicopter with cameras rolling. As earlier mentioned, the Legend was the largest passenger vessel ever to sail into any of our ports of call. Some of the waving passengers certainly were featured in the day’s televised news events. Only 28 of 1,200 passengers gave up the chance to see Brisbane and opted instead for a 10-hour rural adventure. We are certain we made the best choice. Julie (guide) and Graham (driver) met us on the pier. They were wonderful storytellers. History and local tradition flowed, and all were mesmerized. The Canungra Valley Vineyards were our first stop. Here we tasted our way from white to red to dessert wines. A small purchase will be kept for special occasions at home. Our ascent into Lamington National Park went from dry pastoral hills dotted with pillared colonial homesteads to rainforest. At O’Reilly’s Retreat, one viewed the rainforest canopy by way of an elevated rope walkway. Hiking trails were numerous and well trodden. Crimson rosellas, king parrots, yellow rumped thornbills and bush turkeys begged for attention. The dining room beckoned with homemade buffet selections of vegetable soup, fresh salads, breads, numerous hot dishes – of which the sesame perch was outstanding – and bountiful desserts. Christine had settled on fresh fruit and homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert, when macadamia nut pie appeared out of the blue. That too augmented the other choices on her plate. Julie and Graham piled us back into the bus. Rather than be forced to witness the harrowing winding descent from the rainforest, one was treated to a short documentary film on the Australian rainforest. Tamborine Mountain was our final destination. While the rest of the group chose to browse through the charming shops and galleries of the small hilltop community, we wandered through the Plantation Homestead where Graham introduced us to Rich – a rough outdoor type in a rumpled old hat, scuffed boots, faded jeans and an enormous belt buckle – our own “Crocodile Dundee.” Rich works a large avocado station; the restaurant and bar are part of the operation. Asking for a spot of tea, Rich introduced us to “Billy Tea.” He filled an old tin pot with boiling water and tea leaves. Rich then escorted the pot and us to a nearby porch where he vigorously swung the pot over his head about eight times. When he learned we do not take milk with our tea, he apologized for having swung the pot the wrong way and repeated the exercise in the opposite direction. We shared the perfectly brewed tea and accompanying scones, homemade rhubarb jam and butter with Graham while Rich acquainted us with life in the outback. For a grand finale, he did a whip demonstration before we had to board the bus for the long drive back to the pier. Julie and Graham continued to entertain us until we parted on the dock with bear hugs and promises to return to Australia. We enjoyed the company of some of our tablemates later that evening in the Schooner Bar. Listening to David Curtis at the piano was a nice way to end a perfect day. Day 18 – At Sea. Again, torrential downpours dashed any hope of on-deck activities. We used the time instead to pack. The debarkation talk occupied some of our time. The dining room at lunch served an excellent Portuguese fish stew – Christine could have eaten this everyday without tiring of it. The “If I Were Not Upon the Sea” routine highlighted pre-dinner entertainment. Watching this act for the tenth time did not elicit the same reaction from us as from those seeing it for the first time. The final dinner with our tablemates evoked mixed emotions. We had treasured each other’s company during these many days at sea. Later we all hoped this would not be our final goodbye as we enjoyed a last toast in the Schooner Bar. Day 19 – Sydney. Afraid of missing our sail into Sydney, we were up by 4:30 a.m. Land was already around us, and soon the water spray of a firebarge was welcoming us into the harbor. As the early morning rays began to backlight the city, the Opera House was suddenly before us. The Legend made a quick pass under the Harbour Bridge before coming into Darling Harbour. Our Royal Journey was nearing its end. There was just time to bid adieu to new friends before debarkation. An awaiting bus whisked us from the harbor for a half-day tour of Sydney and the surrounding communities. The views of the city from various lookouts were breathtaking. We were excited to know Sydney would be our host for a few days. The Renaissance Hotel was centrally located. We dropped our bags and immediately set out for lunch, settling on Imperial Peking at the Rocks. The fare was common, but good – steamed Chinese greens with oyster sauce, ma po tofu, king prawns sautéed with black beans. We were treated to a stunning view of the Opera House from this location. The Royal Caribbean hospitality desk confirmed our return flights and provided instructions for the organized activities in which we would be participating. We were soon back on the street and enjoying the pre-Christmas sights and sounds along the Pitt Street pedestrian mall. The tall buildings and quick pace of passersby lent an urban atmosphere to Sydney that could have placed it anywhere in the world. The Queen Victoria Building was an interesting diversion. The glass-roofed structure houses countless boutiques and restaurants; the carpeted wooden floors and high narrow passageways, however, contributed to a feeling of vertigo. The beautiful holiday decorations of our hotel lobby beckoned for afternoon tea. A Malaysian dinner soon followed at Neptune Palace. The beef and chicken satays, curried fish fillet and lemon grass duck were superbly presented and satisfying. Post-Cruise – Sydney. The Syndey Aquarium at Darling Harbour was our early morning destination. Its many exhibits and walk-through shark tanks and coral reefs entertained us. We next explored Harbourside Centre and discovered Wockpool Restaurant and Noodle Bar at the Panasonic IMAX Cinema complex (see following review). Fully sated and too lazy to walk, we took the ferry back to Port Jackson for a stroll around the Opera House before returning to the hotel to prepare for dinner. Tonight’s group dinner was served at the Waterfront Restaurant at the Rocks. Everyone shared highlights of their Royal Journey and offered helpful suggestions on cruising in general. We found the excellent view of the Opera House from our window table to be a fitting tribute to this final evening in Sydney. We were entertained by a dress rehearsal on the Opera House roof in preparation for the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebration. Suddenly the food became the focal point. An appetizer of oyster, scallop, shrimp, smoked salmon and lobster was a meal in itself. However, no one turned away the fresh grilled barramundi – a popular Australian fish. The accompanying vegetables were colorful and crisp, the choice of wines complimentary. Frozen apricot cheese tarts topped this feast. Thoughts of tomorrow’s airline cuisine justified today’s indulgences. The next morning, the sun was shining on Sydney as we said goodbye reluctantly. It would be wonderful to be able to return someday for another down under adventure. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Wockpool Restaurant – A Memorable Dining Experience A little out of the ordinary, but something one must do when in Sydney, Australia. A Visa ad in a recent issue of Bon Appetit spiked our curiosity. Working our way toward Darling Harbour on December 20, we wondered whether lunch at Wockpool would be worthy of the amount of time one would be taking from other activities during our very limited stay. Arriving without reservations earned us a somewhat patronizing glare from the mâitre d’hôtel. However, a stirring tale of a journey which had taken us half way around the world for a two-day visit to Sydney, where we had hoped to have a meal in the restaurant which had been receiving such rave reviews in the United States, netted us a front-row table overlooking Darling Harbour – a perfect spot from which to enjoy the atmosphere of this exciting city. We were introduced to the day’s à la carte menu; at the same time it was suggested we might like to try the “chef’s banquet.” Now they had our attention. For a set price and with a few general guidelines on our taste preferences and dislikes, the chef would create a multi-course meal designed just for us. We were ready for the surprises that would be presented course-by-course. The tables were covered in crisp white linens upon which one found two small white saucers topped by white rice bowls. There were two sets of chopsticks upon white rests. Jasmine tea was served in white teacups. The first course arrived on an enormous white platter, upon which to our surprise one discovered two steamed oysters – yes, only two. We have never consumed anything so diminutive so slowly! However, our qualms were soon put to rest. The meal progressed leisurely; each course was more spectacular than the one before. The green papaya salad was an explosion of crunch, hot and sweet. Shallow-fried calamari was perfectly spiced, crispy and yet moist. The sautéed asparagus with scallops and prawns offered a sweet contrast to the previous zesty dishes. Suddenly the table was cleared; we were worried briefly. However, the white tableware was beginning to reappear, along with a bowl of steaming white rice. Tofu cloaked in a sweet vinegar sauce, garnished with black mushrooms and sweet cucumbers, was a delicious combination of flavors. We were next directed toward king prawns in a fiery green curry sauce. Steamed Chinese greens with garlic and oyster sauce followed. The grand finale main course – seared marlin on a bed of watercress – was worth the 10,000-mile commute. The coarsely ground black pepper and spice crust and rare interior were a totally successful marriage of tastes and textures. Sated and thankful for such a gratifying dining experience, we were roused by the arrival of dessert – dark and white chocolate mousse layer cake accompanied by a coconut crème caramel with a crisp almond tuille. Was this 2-1/4 hour event a moveable feast? You bet! An amazing observation about Wockpool . . . The kitchen and dining room staffs are not Asian. There are plenty of pricey Asian-owned and operated restaurants in the Washington area, although few offer food this creative and good. These young and energetic individuals provide a level of service comparable to that of a starred restaurant in Paris. Unfortunately, we have come to accept bad service here and still tip well for it. This extraordinary meal, including service, came to about $85.00.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Mediterranean

We are cruise enthusiasts, and have taken a total of 16 cruises, but this one was by far the best ever. Through out the cruise, I kept remarking - this is an experience of a lifetime – and it was the combination of a beautiful ship, an exciting itinerary, wonderful service and an outstanding staff that made this cruise such a memorable experience. Our embarkation in Barcelona was flawless; it took us less than 30 minutes to clear

through the necessary paperwork and be in our cabin. We were fortunate enough to have a cabin with a verandah, which provided us with 12 days of wonderful scenic views. We enjoyed one day in Barcelona prior to embarkation which gave us a chance to recover from jet lag, assure that our luggage arrived and enjoy walking around the city and especially enjoying Las Rambles –a not to be missed experience. The 12 night Western Mediterranean itinerary included stops in Marseilles, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Naples, a restful day at sea, 2 days in Venice, a day at sea, Messina, Sicily, Civitavecchia (Rome), Villefranche (Monte Carlo/Cannes), one last day at sea, and back in to Barcelona for disembarkation. We enjoyed every port of call, thinking each one was the best, until we arrived in the port for the following day. The culture, the history, the art, the religious significance of everywhere we went were experiences that can’t be replicated in a book or taught in a class. Experiencing them, live, in person, in color was awesome. The breath-taking scenery, especially in Capri, Venice and from the hilltops of Eze along the French Riviera was spectacular. The art work in Florence, the canals and beauty of Venice, the architectural ruins near Messina, the spiritual experience of visiting the Vatican and St. Peter’s Cathedral, the historical significance of Pompeii, and the excitement of Monte Carlo and serene beauty of Cannes and Nice are memories that will last a lifetime. The food, service, cleanliness of the ship, entertainment and on-board activities were all very good. The one aspect of the cruise that I found to be a challenge was that there was so much to do, and so little time to do it. At each of the ports of call, there were a number of excursions I would have liked to have taken – but time allowed for only one. Oh – to have such serious problems! Our captain, Thomas Wildung, Master of the Legend of the Seas, deserves special mention. He remembered us from a previous cruise, and extended invitations to us to dine with him and also spend time on the bridge. Those two unique and special experiences were a part of making this cruise very special. Also, our waiter Constantine Matei and Head Waiter, Debra Woods were outstanding. We enjoyed our cabin steward, Ericka, who went out of her way to have our cabin in tiptop condition at all times. Dale and Mary Nathan, who worked in the casino, also were on many of the shore excursions with us. They went out of their way to make sure our excursions were safe and comfortable, and never failed to greet us with a friendly hello when we saw them on the ship. Matthew Gillespie, the jeweler on board, was especially knowledgeable, not only about jewelry, but about the ship, cruising in general, and was always helpful in answering questions. With cruising becoming more competitive all the time – customer service and satisfaction will be prime considerations, and the Legend of the Seas is #1 in our book. In fact, as I read back over this review, and noticed the times I mentioned once in a lifetime, and memories to last a lifetime – I must confess now are not true. We just put a deposit down on this same cruise ship and itinerary for next September. That should speak volumes!

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Nov 30, -0001

Hawaii

The following is a review of our cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas on the Ensenada to Honolulu 11-day itinerary. This itinerary is relatively unique as cruise itineraries go. Although we and others have been to Hawaii in the past, most people have never visited the Islands from the vantage of being a cruise ship passenger. I would therefore hope that some of our observations would be of value. We also wanted to give our impressions

of a Hawaiian cruise as compared to a Caribbean cruise on a similar ship. We’ve been on at least 9 Caribbean cruises: multiple trips on eastern, western and southern itineraries. Similar weather and at the same time of the year. Which is "better" and why? Very subjective of course, but we try to address these questions throughout the review. Getting to the Ship This turned out to be somewhat of a logistical challenge. An archaic, protectionist US maritime law called the Passenger Vessel Act of 1886 (also known as The Jones Act) states that No foreign vessel shall transport passengers between ports or places in the United States, either directly or by way of a foreign port. This means a foreign-flagged cruise line (as just about all of them are) cannot sail from one American port directly to another. There must be a foreign port in there as a significant part of the itinerary. This presents no problem on a Caribbean cruise leaving from Florida or from San Juan where just about all of the islands are indeed foreign countries. However, it does prevent sailing from, in this instance, a California seaport such as San Diego, directly to Hawaii. On the day we were to embark on this cruise, the Legend of the Seas had docked in the early morning hours at the San Diego Cruise Terminal, discharging passengers after just returning from a cruise through the Panama Canal. By 11 AM the ship was gone, sailing empty of passengers, on a 3-hour journey south to Ensenada to wait for us. Ensenada is a small, smelly, undistinguished Mexican seaport & border town located approximately 75 miles south of the border, about 90 miles from downtown San Diego. Three and four-day RCI and Carnival weekend cruises from LA - San Pedro usually include Ensenada in their itinerary. The reason is, I think, to make the itinerary sound exotic. There can be no other reason. Ensenada has very little on its own to recommend it to anyone. It certainly isn’t exotic. We elected to start our journey from Los Angeles International Airport. We live in the LA area, and would be flying back into LAX at the end of the cruise. We opted for the RCI $75 bus ride from LAX to the ship. Most passengers flew in directly to San Diego International Airport and paid less for their shorter bus ride to the ship. The first part of our journey, a 2-hour bus trip ended at the San Diego Cruise Terminal. This is a large, noisy holding area which was already filled with hundreds of waiting passengers, most sitting on uncomfortable plastic chairs, when we got there. These people were those who had been bused over from San Diego Airport. Many had been waiting for some hours. A few wisely flew in to San Diego the day before, stayed in a hotel at their expense and toured the city. Free sandwiches and refreshments were available. RCI was set up at counters to check people in, take tickets and issue the cruise cards that would allow boarding of the ship in Ensenada later. Finally, around 2:30 PM, the first groups of people were allowed to board buses. Boarding was organized by color-coded tags which had been stuck on our shirt when we arrived. We finally got on our bus to Ensenada around 3:30, about an hour and a half after we arrived in San Diego. The second portion of our bus journey to the ship was going to consume still another 2 hours, plus getting off the bus. When we finally got to the Legend of the Seas we found ourselves at the end of a long line of about a dozen buses. The ship was tied up to a very marginal-looking dock, very narrow, with limited access. Each bus in turn was backed up alongside the ship. The passengers were allowed off and dock workers removed luggage from each bus belly, slowly, walking one piece at a time, all by hand. No dollies in sight. Each piece was then thrown onto a nearby pile of bags, now six feet high and growing. (We were now in Mexico, after all.) It was cold and raining lightly. It would be about 45 minutes before we could get off our bus and finally take the gangway to board the ship, around 6:15 PM. The ship was due to sail at 9 PM but in fact left Ensenada more than two hours later. The delay appeared to be principally related to transferring the huge pile of luggage onto the ship. We watched this agonizing process from above, again one piece at a time. Many passengers didn’t get their luggage at their cabin door until the early morning hours, long after the ship sailed for Hilo, 2200 nautical miles distant. In summary, if there was one major negative in the comparing a Hawaiian cruise to a Caribbean cruise it would be the requirements of the Jones Act. The Ship The Legend of the Seas and its sistership, the Splendour of the Seas, are built for speed. We were on the Splendour in the summer of 1998 on the Scandinavia and Russia itinerary. A review with panoramic pictures can be found at our website at http://www.gl-engineering.com. The Legend of the Seas makes the passage from Ensenada to Hilo in 4 days and 5 nights. Somewhat newer RCI ships in the Vision series take almost a full day longer to make the trip to Hilo. Because of the quicker passage, we were able to enjoy an extra day in Honolulu at the end of the cruise as compared to the same 11-day itinerary on, say, the Rhapsody of the Seas. Most of the time we cruised at 22Kt. This speed is approximately 3Kt. under the maximum available. Most cruise ships sail at 17Kt. We were on the Legend of the Seas three years ago at Christmastime, sailing from Acapulco to San Juan, through the Panama Canal. At that time, the ship was only a few months old. We enjoyed the ship then and we enjoyed it now. The ship is kept very clean and elegant and in our opinion has been maintained very well. It is indeed a beautiful ship and we feel it is the equal of any ship on the water today. Crossing the vast swells in the Pacific in the middle of the winter is different than crossing the Caribbean at the same time of the year. The sea is more active, more stormy. There was "motion" throughout. We have taken many cruises and besides have owned a number of boats over the years. Thus, the motion of the ship didn’t bother us but it was evidently a problem for others. At the outset of the cruise, we saw some folks literally hanging over the rail, and we almost stepped in a few "stomach discharges" here and there throughout the public areas. The was a lot of conversation going on about seasickness. Later, it seemed that people eventually got used to the motion and had a better time of it. All things considered, and although there were 8-12 ft. "moderate" seas most of the time on the crossing, we thought the ship rode the water very well. The first few days out were quite cool. Air temperature on the first morning was 54 Deg. F. This was a real eye-opener for all of the passengers having to endure a 20 minute lifeboat drill on deck in a 23Kt. plus breeze. The air temperature rose about 5 degrees each day as we got closer to Hawaii. Also, once we got several hundred miles out to sea, we picked up the northeast tradewinds. This provided us with a breeze on the stern almost matching the speed of the ship. With a net wind of zero over the ship, being outside was quite comfortable even though the air temperature was still in the 60s. The poolside chaises started filling up fast by mid-morning. The last couple of days were really quite pleasant with temperatures getting well up into the 70s. The direction of the tradewinds alone should be indicative of the fact that a one-way westbound cruise can be much more pleasant than going in the opposite direction. Also, in our opinion it’s nicer to start out the trip with those several days at sea to unwind and enjoy the ship’s facilities, before getting to the Islands. Cruising as a Value Vacation Our 11-day cruise on the Legend of the Seas cost $113 per person per day including all taxes but exclusive of air fare and bus transfers. Our travel agent had been able to get us a 4-category upgrade when we booked more than a year in advance. Perhaps this accounted for much of the low rate. We always choose an inside cabin feeling that our substantial savings versus an outside allows us to cruise more frequently. Considering this cruise was at the highest season (Holiday) rate with a Hawaii destination, the cost for this vacation was incredibly low. If you check out the cost of Hawaiian hotel rate brochures, car rental charges and other tourism-related issues, you discover there are essentially two seasons in Hawaii the week between Christmas and New Year’s and the entire remainder of the year. Since this cruise took place during the highest season in Hawaii, it further underlines what a bargain it was. There were approximately 1950 passengers on board and essentially this cruise was a sellout. Auto Rental We and our traveling companions have been to the Hawaiian Islands a number of times over the years. We’ve seen many of the sights. We decided we would not buy any of the shore excursions offered and instead would rent a car at each of our ports of call and go on our own. We made arrangements in advance with Budget Rent-A-Car for a full-size sedan for a commercial rate at $39 per day (plus gas and taxes) at each island. Sharing this nominal cost between two couples afforded a considerable savings as well as allowing us to be more flexible in our sightseeing plans. We carried our cell phone with us, which incidentally worked OK on every island. When we were ready to get off the ship we called ahead to Budget. We had all of the local office numbers with us. They were waiting for us in every instance when we stepped off the ship. Hawaii Tourism and Commercialism It was evident to us in the years since we had last been to the Islands, that an enormous amount of commercial build-up has taken place, especially on the outer islands. Waikiki has always been very commercial…for decades…and remains so. However, elsewhere you see the proliferation of the tee-shirt shops, junk art galleries and frozen yogurt parlors that can nowadays be found everywhere that tourists go, anywhere in the world actually. These places are not hard to find, and having our own car as we did, were not hard to avoid either. We discovered many places on each of the Islands that were really pristine, and by doing some research before we arrived, we knew what we wanted to see and how to get there. Many people we spoke to on board relied exclusively on the ship’s shore excursions for what they did on each island. It sounded to us that their experiences were largely disappointing at the overrun and "touristy" type attractions they saw including the interminable stops at Hilo Hattie-type souvenir shops. Other than that, these people wandered around (Lahaina is good for doing that) or even stayed aboard ship. Too bad. Hawaii has so much to offer once you get away from the commercialism in certain places. You just have to plan ahead a little bit. By having a car, we not only saved real money vs. what the shore excursions cost but we also had a lot of control. We felt we didn’t miss a thing and that every day was as fulfilling for us as we wanted it to be. It was important however that you knew what you wanted to do when you got behind the wheel. Also, no cars were available on a spur-of-the-moment. You had to have a reservation for this prime-time week, at least with Budget. Dressing up on a cruise There were three formal nights and two jacket-and-tie nights on this 11-night cruise. The ship has a notice in the cabin letting you know which nights are which when you arrive on board. People we spoke to seemed to feel the third formal night was unnecessary and excessive. Tuxedos were available for rent. The number of men now wearing tuxedos to formal night dinner has diminished drastically in the last year or two that we’ve been eyeballing this…we would guess now much less than half. Also, some people don’t even attempt to look as good as they can, basically making a statement to their fellow passengers to go to hell. We saw quite a few no-jacket, no-tie outfits on formal nights including one fellow wearing a pullover sport shirt with horizontal stripes! On another one of the formal nights, a husband and wife came to the table wearing the Hawaiian shirts they just purchased. Everyone else at their table was wearing formal clothes. In our view, this trend towards "dumbing down" is becoming increasingly pervasive in all walks of life and not just on cruise ships. Although many women looked extraordinarily classy, they were seated next to others where the fashion statement for even semi-formal nights seemed to be Mervyn’s markdown. We spoke to a headwaiter about this. He said that whatever may be lacking in the fashion consciousness on this holiday cruise is still better than what he typically sees on low-season cruises. In the off-season they get a lot of large affinity groups traveling, and few if any of these people dress up for anything. The inference was just that they don’t know any better. Las Vegas comes to mind. If people have the price of admission, they can look any way they choose, even in the finest restaurant in the Bellagio or the Mirage, and nobody is going to say or do anything about it. The only thing that matters to these businesses…and it certainly applies to cruise lines…is money in hand. The advertising, the rate promos, the cruise value discussed earlier, and certainly the good US economy has made cruising much more of a Joe Six-Pack experience. I think Seabourn and Crystal would bar the door to someone not properly dressed on a formal night. At the other extreme, I think Carnival effectively sets an example for diminished expectations. However, on the mid-value cruise lines like RCI, Princess, Holland-America, etc. I think the cruise line operators are in a real quandary. They certainly can ill afford to turn away someone from the dining room, but on the other hand they create a completely unsatisfying experience for those customers wanting to look their best and share the experience with others. Hawaii vs. the Caribbean & Mexico The experience of disembarking at a port in Hawaii is much more satisfying than in the Caribbean or the Mexican resorts. You don’t have the in-your-face onslaught of taxi drivers and hawkers as you step off the ship. It seemed to us that the people we saw, including shopkeepers, were far less aggressive. Other than in Waikiki, crime seemed nowhere near as pervasive as it seems to be in the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica and in St. Thomas. More importantly, the buildings, the stores, the hotels, the streets in Hawaii all seemed better made and far less crummy than you find in the Caribbean or in Latin America. The terrain is much more beautiful in Hawaii. There is nothing like it anywhere. The beaches are as nice and as anything we had seen elsewhere. We don’t golf, but there are world-class courses everywhere in the Islands. We don’t dive but do some snorkeling. Are there "better" extreme places in the Caribbean or Mexico? Possibly...we have no basis of comparison. The weather was comparable to the Caribbean for this time of year, and in fact was extremely good throughout our visit. We had one showery day, the last day when we were already off-ship in Honolulu. As much as the Hawaiian Islands are similar, they are all every different from each other, each with their own character. Not so in the Caribbean. To us, the Hawaiian people who service the tourist industry (even in very commercial Waikiki) all seemed quieter, prettier, gentler. And last but not least, we were still in the good old USA, not a trivial matter to us. Hilo We decided a month before leaving home that we wanted to take a helicopter ride from Hilo to the Kilauea Caldera and Volcanoes National Park. We checked on the Internet and located a broker called Hilo Wings who arranges tours with local helicopter operators. We didn’t save any money by planning ahead, but we were assured of a reservation. The ship’s helicopter tours sold out almost immediately. The going rate was about $130-$140 per person for a 50 minute flight. Considering these helicopters cost about $1.3 million and are very expensive to maintain and operate, we felt the price was fair. The ship docked at 8 AM and our helicopter ride was scheduled for 3 PM. We approached our day in Hilo with some concern. Hilo is advertised as the wettest city in the US, averaging 150" rainfall annually. It was particularly surprising for us than that there wasn’t a cloud in the early morning sky. We were docked next to the SS Independence of American Hawaii Cruise line. The Independence is an old clunker built in 1952, lowly regarded by many, that operates on 7-day cruises inter-island cruises from Honolulu. It is to protect operations like this that the Jones Act still exists. The port in Hilo is adjacent to the airport, not ten minutes away. We called Budget on our cell phone from the ship and they made it easy for us. Take a taxi over to the airport and they would reimburse us the $12 fare. By 9 AM we were in our car, a Mustang convertible upgrade @ $15 extra for the day, and we were on our way. When we had asked about a convertible at the time we made the initial reservation, we were told it would cost $110 extra for the day. On an availability basis, we got one for far less. We spent the first part of our day in Hilo driving north to Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls, well worth the drive and the short hike when we got there. We had a Siamin lunch in a small café nearby. Siamin is a Hawaiian food staple resembling chicken noodle soup with sliced pork, a little salty, but actually quite good. We’ve had it before. Later, back in Hilo, we stopped at Hilo Hattie’s in a small mall near the airport and bought some souvenirs. It seemed to be the thing to do. Then we went to the airport for the helicopter tour. It was really first rate, very well done and quite spectacular. We all enjoyed it fully, so much so that we made arrangements with the same company, Safari Aviation Inc., to take their tour in Kauai two days later. Safari has a nice touch in that they video tape in real time our helicopter ride including views of us seated inside. They have four cameras strategically placed and the pilot chooses the camera with a button on his joystick. They offered the tape for an extra $19. Looking at the video on a big screen TV after we got home, we felt it was a very worthwhile souvenir of the aerial experience. Afterward, we returned the car, took the Budget shuttle back to the ship and left Hilo soon thereafter, on Christmas eve. Kailua - Kona Whereas Hilo is on the windward (wet) side of the Big Island, the Kona Coast is on the opposite, western side. We anchored less than a mile off-shore and the ship provided tender service to get us into town. Although it was Christmas day, pretty much everything was open. I guess with two cruise ships anchored off-shore, the Legend of the Seas and SS Independence, it was an opportunity for business most storekeepers could not afford to miss. We used our cellphone to call Budget from the ship, and just as we stepped ashore from the tender, the shuttle bus arrived from Kona Airport, 7 miles to the north. Once again we were able to get a 1999 Mustang convertible for a $15 surcharge on top of our base commercial rate. Unlike the wet and green terrain found on the windward side of the Big Island, the leeward Kona Coast is dry, warmer and desert-like. We headed north on Hwy. 19 through the century-old lava fields that flow down from the now-dormant Mauna Kea volcano to the sea. A unique thing we saw along the way which we had never seen before is what the locals call "clean graffiti". Small, white coral rocks are carefully arranged on the black lava flows to spell out names or social statements just like spray paint on flat walls. Not unattractive actually, and it went on for miles. Our first stop was the Four Seasons Resort at Hualalai. This place charges $625 per night for an ocean-front room in the off-season. Since this was prime season, I have no idea what they charge, but it didn’t appear they were suffering for lack of guests. My wife and I often will visit a first-line hotel or resort, one that we clearly cannot afford, but one where we can stay awhile, enjoy the grounds, the facilities, and perhaps even have lunch. We’ve done this many times, worldwide. This resort was clearly among the nicest we had ever seen anywhere. Rating such places as better than 5-stars and comparing it to others that might have more amenities, is, I think, an exercise in subjective futility. While we were there, we all felt that there may be indeed be a better resort than this extravagant place, but there can’t be very many. We stayed for about an hour and moved on up the coast another 10 miles to the Westin Mauna Kea Resort on the Kohala Coast. As much as we all agreed that the Four Seasons was the best we had seen in quite a while, we all later agreed that the Mauna Kea was even nicer. Mauna Kea is a world-class golf resort. Since we don’t play the game, we couldn’t comment on what we saw except that the vistas of the greens were spectacular. We decided to have the Sunday Brunch that the hotel offers on their pavillion. We weren’t there on a Sunday, but they had a special-occasion brunch for Christmas. The brunch was relatively expensive ($36 per person) but we felt it was simply the most extravagant food presentation we had ever seen. We’ve enjoyed the elegant buffet at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. We’ve had the magnificent Sunday brunch at the Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale. In both cases, these occasions have remained memorable to us over the years. The Mauna Kea spread was simply better. I had been there more than 25 years ago. It was great then and it is still great now. After this major chow-down, we drove back to Kailua-Kona, less than an hour away on the excellent coast road. We walked around the many shopping opportunities just south of the tender pier and left a little money behind. Kailua-Kona was not unlike a mini-Lahaina in this regard. Pretty soon it was time to return to the airport to turn in the car, tender back to the Legend of the Seas and sail further west to our next day on the Island of Kauai. Kauai The Legend of the Seas docked at 7 AM in the small and intimate Nawiliwili Harbor located next to Kauai’s principal town, Lihui. As commercial marine terminals go, this place was quite picturesque, lined with the jagged green mountains that typify the Kauai terrain. Budget picked us up promptly, and soon we were leaving nearby Lihui Airport in still another Mustang convertible carrying a $15 daily surcharge. We drove north along the lush eastern shore of the Island and stopped briefly at the picturesque Kilauea lighthouse. From there, we had a spectacular view of the surrounding valley. We proceeded a short distance further west and stopped for brunch at the five-star Princeville Resort on Hanalei Bay. The setting was superb, the scenery magnificent, and the pancakes smothered in macadamia nuts (with your choice of either guava or coconut syrup) were delicious. You cannot drive all the way around Kauai…the rugged Na Pali Coast gets in the way. We drove back down the way we came to Lihui Airport to connect to the helicopter sightseeing excursion that we had arranged for when we concluded our Hilo ride two days earlier. Once again we were using the services of Safari Aviation Inc., an operation that we would recommend to anyone. There are some 30 helicopters offering sightseeing trips at any given moment on the island of Kauai. On the beautiful sunny day-after-Christmas such as this, all the choppers were in the air, and all day long. It was a sellout. As much as we enjoyed the volcano tour from Hilo, this trip was even better. In a flight that actually lasted 55 minutes, we saw the Poipu / Koloa resort area on the south shore, we flew way down into the depths of Waimea Canyon, and cruised way down low along the rugged and inaccessible Na Pali coast. We entered several narrow canyons at a very low altitude, and flew in the rain up the slopes of Mt. Waialeale, the summit of which is the wettest place on earth. Our pilot did a terrific narration to the background music of Ravel’s Bolero drumming in our headphones. There is no better way to see and enjoy all the varied vistas of Kauai. Afterwards, we drove over to Poipu Beach and got a quick look at the Sheraton and Hyatt Regency hotels from the road. We were out of time. We quickly got rid of the car and were back on the Legend of the Seas barely a few minutes before we sailed away for Maui at 5:30 PM. Maui My wife and I were married on Maui almost twenty years ago. Although we had been back since, it’s been a few years since the last time. We were looking forward to renewing our acquaintance with this beautiful island. Further, the itinerary would allow us to be there for two full days, overnighting on the ship. We anchored off-shore Lahaina, and as at Kailua-Kona, the passengers were tendered ashore. The weather was perfect and remained that way. Even the summit of Mt. Haleakala remained cloudless into the afternoon hours. Lahaina is located just south of the popular Kaanapali Beach hotel area. We decided to forgo the Mustang convertible. Despite the fun part of having an open car, after three days we found the Mustang to be a dreadful car with hardly any room in the front and an impossibly uncomfortable rear seat, even for petite women It rides lousy and is severely lacking in power with four people on board. Since we were driving about 100 miles daily, we decided to finish our trip with air conditioned full-sized cars. We called for the shuttle on the cellphone, and it was waiting for us when we stepped off the tender. We were taken to the Budget office, about 20 minutes from the tender pier, just at the north end of Kaanapali. Front Street in Lahaina is an artsy kind of place that can typify for some everything that is wrong in Hawaii; lot’s of commercialism, whatever that means. Nevertheless, when compared to similar scenarios in the Caribbean…Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas immediately comes to mind…the people on Maui just seem to be kinder, gentler and far less pushy in trying to pick a tourist’s pocket. Also, if you don’t like it, in just a few blocks you’re really out of town and thus able to enjoy Maui as it should be. Lahaina really is quite nice if you’re into people watching and just enjoy browsing stores for awhile. Our first stop after getting the car was to drive 30 minutes to Kahului to visit the Price Costco discount warehouse store. We are Costco aficionados at home. While there, we stocked up on all the souvenir items we had been seeing at twice the price in the local souvenir shops, including macadamia nuts, Kona coffee, Island photo books, and lots of made-in-Hawaii clothing such as Aloha shirts, shorts, and long dresses for women. Incidentally, Costco prices on Maui for the same kind of staples we buy at home in California were about 15-20% high. That’s just the higher cost of living in the Island Paradise. From Kahului, we drove another 30 minutes south to the Wailea Beach area on the southwest shore of Maui. This is a magnificent part of the island, entirely different from all the craziness of Lahaina and in our opinion an order of magnitude classier than the much older Kaanapali Beach. We stopped at the Grand Wailea Resort, still another super-five-star hotel, arguably regarded to be the best on Maui. We had lunch at their poolside café. We stayed a couple of hours and enjoyed it thoroughly for reasons expressed earlier regarding similar places on the other islands. After that, we went back to Lahaina and visited an artist’s flea market set up under the huge and famous Banyan tree behind the old landmark Pioneer Inn building. That evening, we visited some friends who were staying at the Maui Marriott and accepted their invitation to the luau that takes place there nightly. Supposedly, there are three hotels on Maui offering a luau, and the Marriott is said to be the best of them. It was quite good actually, although we’ve been to a luau more than once in the past. Despite it being a lot of fun, it’s not something you want to do too often, something akin to going to the circus or to the Ice Capades. The tender service back to the Legend of the Seas operated all night long. When we drove down Front Street at 10 PM to get to the tender boat, the street was packed with strolling people and it seemed that every business along the street was still open on this particular Sunday night. The following morning we drove north on the coast road past Kaanapali. About 10 miles further up the road we passed by Kapalua, to return later in the day. Kapalua is a world-class golf resort on a beautiful part of the northwest Maui coast, just below Honolua Bay. There are a number of scenic overlooks with sweeping views of the Maui shoreline and of Molokai in the distance. There is a lot of surfing activity in this part of the Island as well. We drove back down the road to Kapalua and according to our custom, we decided to have lunch at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Terrific place and a great meal, but the hotel is definitely understated compared to the other places we had been visiting. Lots of women dining or lounging by the pool alone, probably golf widows at that particular place. At 6 PM, the Legend of the Seas pulled up anchor and began to sail 150 NM west to our last port of call, Honolulu. Honolulu We docked before 8 AM, and began a full day (plus one more night) aboard ship. This was the extra bonus day we picked up due to the extra speed of the Legend of the Seas between Ensenada and Hilo. The ship was docked at the foot of the landmark Aloha Tower, essentially in the middle of downtown Honolulu, surrounded by tall, modern office buildings. The immediate area has been built up considerably in the years since we were here last. When stepping off the ship, the Aloha Tower Marketplace greets the visitor. This is a very nice, 3-year old shopping and entertainment complex, readily available to the ship passenger as a nearby walk-around destination that evening when we were remaining aboard ship. The super-luxurious Paul Gaugin was docked behind us and sailed away that night. We contacted Budget and we were picked up by a shuttle a few minutes later. Unfortunately, we had to be ferried to the Budget office on Kalakaua Avenue in the middle of Waikiki, more than 20 minutes away. The neighbor island car rental operations were friendly, accommodating and low-key, but this place was like renting a car in New York City. Among the things to deal with was that they wanted a $30 drop charge to leave the car at nearby Honolulu Airport. The shuttle driver hinted to us that if we made a stink as a cruise passenger they would waive this, and he was right…they did. Anyway, we got through that and headed off out of town in the car. We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks: the Punchbowl Cemetery and the Nuuanu Pali overlook. We detoured to the Dole Plantation, north of Pearl Harbor. Many years ago, this was a small roadside operation selling low cost spears of field-ripened fresh pineapple, the best pineapple anyone could ever eat anywhere. Now it is a huge production, bordering on becoming a theme park, with cars and tour buses fighting for available parking space. And, needless to say, the pineapple samples are no longer sold as spears but rather in chunks that taste exactly the same as what you find in any cheap salad bar anywhere. And all this while in the middle of the Dole pineapple fields. Too bad. We then continued on and drove past huge 20-30 Ft. surf at Banzai Pipeline and at Sunset Beach on the north shore of Oahu. From there we stopped for lunch at the Turtle Bay Hilton at Kulima Point. I guess we had hoped that this place would be similar in luxury to the hotels we had visited on the outer islands. It sure looked good from the outside. We were disappointed. The place was mediocre, the food likewise, the prices high, and they charged for parking even with a validation. The lesson here is to go for the best. Even though a five-star hotel may be an expensive place to stay, for people who go there just to enjoy the facilities for a while and have lunch, it is often a bargain. The Hawaiian beaches are all public. Even though we didn’t do this, you can bring some towels from the ship and enjoy the public beachfront at the Four Seasons or any of the other places. It’s more difficult and more restrictive to do this in the Caribbean. We returned to the ship in the late afternoon and it was time to pack up for our morning’s disembarkation. Since we were leaving the ship on December 30th, we had made arrangements to stay on in The Ilikai in Waikiki and fly home New Year’s Day. We had an opportunity to stroll down Kalakaua Avenue, the main drag in Waikiki. It still has the tattoo parlors and the tee-shirt shops, especially at the western end of the street. Closer to the International Market Place were now several blocks of European designer stores, similar to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Judging by the bilingual signs we saw, these businesses are there mostly to cater to visitors from Japan. The problem however is that due to the Japanese financial recession, tourism from Asia is off a ton…we heard numbers like 50%. Many businesses in Hawaii are really struggling. We saw a lot of Japanese tourists on Oahu but relatively few on the Outer Islands. The streets were packed with people…the Las Vegas Strip comes to mind…but again we were there in the highest of the high season. Two weeks later, the town may be deserted. Walking down Kalakaua Avenue at night was a very pleasant experience. Some things you won’t find in the cruise brochure We’ve taken a cruise annually for the past ten years. We’ve been going more often lately. This particular cruise was the third of four cruises over a two year span of time. We tend to use Princess and RCI mostly, but we’ve been on other cruise lines as well. We feel we have a good vantage point to observe what’s going on in the industry these days. In this light, we wanted to offer the following observations. While cruise food should rarely be considered fine dining, it has always been reasonably good, certainly much better than what the average passenger would experience day-in and day-out on land. Having said that, we feel RCI food remains OK, but nothing special. The portions are definitely getting smaller, which is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, there is no shortage of food to eat on any cruise ship. Depending on your assigned waiter, the RCI dining room service can be very good. In this regard, nobody should be disappointed with the dining room experience on RCI when compared to a comparably-priced cruise line. Our friends who usually get the so-called Drink of the Day say they are definitely smaller than they were in recent memory. RCI now owns Celebrity Cruise Line. Over the years, Celebrity has prided itself on the quality of their dining experience. Michel Roux is the food designer, and all that sort of thing. Nevertheless, we learned that a typical dinner on Celebrity costs double when compared to an RCI meal. The betting line is that Celebrity will be slowly reducing their food costs (i.e., quality) in the near future, in order to be more consistent with what parent RCI is doing. RCI has introduced a new "Wine & Dine Package". You can pre-purchase an 11-bottle package…one for each dinner on this particular cruise…for $129.00 (plus 15% service charge). Unless you drink wine with every dinner, it’s really not worthwhile. If you skip a meal or two as we did, you have to catch up. I think it analogous to the car rental agencies selling a full tank of gas up front, a fairly recent policy which is also a moneymaker for them. Unless the driver returns the car on fumes, the rental company is the winner. On the Splendour 6 months earlier, cappuccino with dinner was free. No longer. In fact, there is now a priced menu on the table listing all kinds of exotic coffees available, all at extra charge. You get the feeling that any little extras now are considered revenue generators by the cruise lines. You are given the absolute minimum in amenities and everything else builds from there, all at extra cost. Even the bowl of mints that was always there as you exited the dining room is now gone. The ubiquitous Baked Alaska ceremony is now history. Instead, you have a few waiters carry around a fake Babalu rum dessert with a flaming candle stuck in the middle, strutting to the recording of "Hot, Hot, Hot". Then they bring out the real dessert later on a plate from the kitchen. The always enjoyable ceremony of the dining room staff all gathering to sing "Hey, look us over" to the customers is now a lip-sync operation to a recording. The miniature golf up on Deck 10 is now free. Even at no cost, it seemed to us on this cruise that playing the game wasn’t very popular. It probably cost RCI more to have a person up there to collect money than the revenue they got from the players. Golf is now an unmanaged attraction, and considering the number of children on this particular cruise the course seemed to have turned into a children’s playground. There is an ATM machine located by the purser’s desk. A sign on the machine states that there is a $5 fee for withdrawing cash which would be in addition to your own bank service fee. Cashing a check at the Purser’s desk may now be more difficult if not impossible; we had no reason to try to prove this one way or the other. This particular Christmas cruise had a very large percentage of kids of all ages, more than we’ve ever seen on prior Holiday cruises. It most certainly must have something to do with the economy. Everything you have heard about permissive, disinterested parents on cruise ships is true and we saw a lot of it. We even heard a story about a drunk 18-year-old who started a small fire with a cigarette on a galley tour…quickly extinguished…and this was while the ship was 3 days out, in the middle of the Pacific, and a thousand miles from any land! We heard the kid was incarcerated in the ship’s brig for a period of time. Most ships now have a rule about "saving" pool chaises with towels. Most people ignore this. We saw a passenger hand tip money to a towel boy who then assisted her in saving 10 chaises in the front row from the pool. This was at 8 AM when few people were out yet and there were empty chaises all over the place. On every ship which is at sea on a nice, sunny day, it becomes almost impossible to get a chaise unless you’re willing to play the game. In December, the Snowbirds need to get a trophy tan at all costs. The purser’s desk had a sign on the countertop that stated the ship was a sellout and no cabin changes were possible. This turned out to be a white lie. We changed cabins after 4 days because of excessive noise. (There was an impossibly loud creaking and banging sound all night long from the motion of the ship. One of the ship’s maintenance people confirmed our complaint.) We learned that there are always cabins available, in most categories, even on this sold-out ship. They just don’t want to be bothered by people nitpicking or looking for free upgrades. The in-cabin television shows movies and promotional materials 24 hours daily. It also displays a real-time position map, weather conditions at the moment, and a view from the bridge. Some cruise lines still show first-run films in a theater. For example, newer Princess ships all have a cinema. In the past, RCI would compensate by showing an occasional film in their showroom. No longer. Apparently, showing movies to their customers as an entertainment diversion is not as profitable a use of facilities for RCI as bingo or art auctions. If you want to see a movie, you have to see it on the 15’ cabin TV. We found it easier to get satellite news coverage on the Splendour in the Baltic Sea than on the Legend of the Seas off the coast of North America. Once we got to Hawaii, satellite service improved somewhat but it was never anything special...just two outside stations at most. We found it necessary to use the ship’s dry cleaning and laundering services on a couple of occasions. We found the prices to be reasonable and the service good. Tipping has always been a concern to prospective cruisers. The RCI rate sheet recommendations are consistent with the industry. The cabin door and in-cabin safe locks on the ship are behind the times. On the Splendour the cruise card can be used to both lock & open the cabin safe and also to open the cabin door. On the Legend of the Seas a major credit card is used to set the safe lock. A separate magnetic-stripe card is needed to open the cabin door. The cruise card doesn’t do anything but allow you to spend money conveniently. Thus, whenever you leave the cabin you have to carry three cards along with you. This cruise occurring as it was over the holiday season, there were a lot of festive decorations on the ship, particularly in the Centrum area. The decorations were well done and added to the spirit of the season. I carry a Garmin GPSIII with me. It’s a small, portable device that, using satellites, can give the user a precise indication of position and speed. It’s kind of fun to fire it up from time to time to check our position and assure that the captain is still steering the ship in the right direction! Lahaina is less than 150 NM from Honolulu, and the Legend of the Seas could have pulled up anchor at midnight and got to Honolulu by 8 AM the next day with time to spare. Lahaina is a fun place and presumably a lot of people would have enjoyed the extra time there. Instead, we left the Maui nightlife behind at 6 PM, and, in my opinion, for just a single reason. That is, to get into International waters so that the money-making casino (and gift shops) could open up. Has anyone ever wondered why most cruise ships depart from most places around 6 PM, regardless of the distance to be covered overnight? I’m convinced that’s the reason why. Once again, a push was made at the end of the cruise by the dining room staff for us to give an excellent rating on the comment card. I have always felt the comment card is a scam perpetrated by the cruise line on the passengers to make them feel better by giving them a venue for registering complaints. It’s possible that even the crew thinks the cards count for something. I for one don’t believe anyone important ever reads or even tabulates the comments. I feel this way because I can’t think of a single change that that cruise lines have done over the years to improve service for the customer that was not in turn revenue driven for the cruise line’s benefit. If I can add to any of the observations I made in this review, please do not hesitate to send me an email.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mediterranean

We arrived at the Terminal at 1.00pm and were very pleasantly surprised that we were not met with long queues. Hats off to Royal Caribbean for there Embarkation system. We were onboard and in our cabins within 15 minutes. First impression of the cabins was good. The cabin was very clean and smelt clean too. The carpet looked as if a shampoo would have hurt them, and the upholstery could well be nearing the end of its life. Once unpacked

we had a wander around the ship to see what was on offer. The Windjammer Restaurant was open and serving food as well as drinks which was most welcome. We chose the 2nd sitting for Dinner which with hindsight was perhaps a mistake. Service was very slack in the restaurant with long delays between courses. Once the food did arrive, it was not to a standard I would have expected. Food was often cold, veggies were few and far between and the chef and everything seemed to revolve around Beef, shrimp and steak and all came with a baked potato. There was alternative dinning available, but to be fair didn’t always meet with my personal taste. The wine waiter must have been on his/her holidays too as we never saw them. There was a serious issue with sun beds on the ship. People often used to leave the beds for long periods of time with just a book or towel to ‘Reserve Them’. Although the pool side team did their best to free up any beds that were obviously not being used, I do feel that there may well have been room for more beds on deck. Having said this, there was rather a nice quieter area for soaking up the sun to the rear of the ship or ‘AFT’ if you prefer which we used most of the time. There were quite a few children onboard, however they all seemed to be well behaved and were never a problem. And even on one evening were paraded into the main dining area dressed as pirates and put on their own little show which was nice. The entertainment on board was on the whole very good with some excellent guest acts. And I know one of our friends really liked ‘London Bobby!’ Although I think Renato was really scrapping the barrel. We did several excursions and all in all I think they were good value. Perhaps the £4 shuttle fare was a bit much at times. The overall standard of the ship was pretty poor as most of the Promenade deck had ongoing maintenance all cruise long. The boat supposedly was in dry dock earlier in the year and had I Believe fifty million spent on refurbishment?????? Hmmmm highly questionable. If you had told me it was about to have this amount spent on refurbishment I would perhaps of believed it then. I do not drink alcohol, and took advantage of the soft drink scheme where you pay £48 and get a pass to free soft drinks all cruise long. That was very good value for money. Its amazing how much you can drink when its hot. I think the 15% gratuity was steep though. I must say that Royal Caribbean nearly won me over with the FREE ICECREAM machines on the pool deck. That was great! All in all we had a great holiday and thought it was excellent value for money cruising with Royal Caribbean. Would we recommend them? That’s a tough one. Perhaps a different ship, but when it comes to ‘The Legend of Disease’ I’d consider going with P&O instead. The general opinion on board of the people we spoke to was that As far as Luxury Floating hotel is concerned, the Legend of the Seas is more on a par with a holiday camp. HI-DE-HI !!!

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