Published: Nov/Dec 2003

A passenger swirls down a slide at one of Legend’s four swimming pools (above). Jog or walk the indoor track at the ship’s spa. (below) /Carnival Cruise Line photos.

Tale of the sea
Carnival has a Legend in its own time

By Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein

You’re not dreaming. The stunning, luxurious vessel you’re sailing on is Carnival’s Legend, one of the newer ships in Carnival’s Spirit class of “Fun Ships.” With all the top-of-the-line amenities on a cruise so reasonably priced, you can’t afford to stay home. Everything about the ship is upscale, except the fares.

Carnival’s expertise is not limited to keeping cruising affordable. They call themselves the Fun Ships and passengers’ happy faces justify their claims.

The cruise line adopted a whole new persona and called it “Today’s Carnival.” Remember when all the passengers were young, first-time cruisers? Not so anymore.

“Thirty percent of our passengers are under 35, 30 percent over 55 and 40 percent are between the ages of 35–55. Fifty percent of those aboard are generally repeat cruisers,” said Hotel Director Shahnaz Kashanipour.

They’ve added new itineraries out of many new embarkation cities. Fresh, exotic ports-of-call keep customers coming back for more. Discounts for seniors attract the over-50 crowd. Luxurious amenities appeal to everyone.

“From upgraded cuisine and new and expanded facilities, to a greater variety of on-board activities and shore excursions, a Fun Ship cruise is significantly different from just a few years ago,” Carnival President and CCO Bob Dickinson said.

Touring the Legend

Legendary people and places inspire the décor throughout the 12 passenger decks. Ancient Greek themes repeat throughout the atrium and public areas. Legends from Medusa to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong influence the ship’s interior design. My favorite–the art deco Billie’s Piano Bar–pays homage to famed jazz and blues singer, Billie Holiday. It’s a fun place to go for sing-a-longs and passenger performances.

Spaciousness is Legend’s keyword. Despite more than 2,000 other guests (2,124 can be accommodated), we never felt crushed. With 16 lounges, bars and nightspots, each guest could relax in his or her own milieu. The most crowded venue was the enormous Merlin’s Club, the ship’s casino.

Our shipboard home was deluxe Cabin 5115 on the Upper Deck. Like 80 percent of the ship’s outside staterooms, it featured a large private balcony. All rooms (except suites) measure the same, 185 square feet. The addition of the verandah gave us 225 square feet of living space, more than most lines. We had plenty of storage and I didn’t pack light.

Service was first-rate.

“You might think your cabin steward is stationed under your bed. If you get up to go to the bathroom at three in the morning, when you come out, your bed is made,” said Cruise Director Michael Mullane, teasing.

We never found our cabin attendant under the bed, but whenever and whatever we wanted, he provided almost instantly.

Keeping busy onboard

The eight-day western Caribbean cruise included four days at sea. Don’t expect lecturers. Fun is the priority, and people come to party, not intellectualize. Do expect silly contests or audience participation games.

There’s also more than giggles on board. Get fit at the 14,500-square-foot Fountain of Youth Spa. Work out on state-of-the-art exercise equipment. Join others in the aerobics studio for classes. Enjoy Euro-style treatments from massages to mudpacks. Dip into one of the four swimming pools and whirlpools. Jog or walk on the Lido Deck’s padded track.

Participate in dance lessons, games, art auctions, golf lessons, port talks, karaoke, make-up and skin-care lectures, arts and crafts, the Internet café or simply chill out on deck in the hot, bronzing sun.

Take the kids

Nobody does children’s ship programming better than Carnival. The social hosts coordinate activities for older teens (16–18). Trained counselors supervise Camp Carnival, where children 2–15 years join one of four age-related programs. The 1,800-square-foot recreation center, Noah’s Ark, serves as the focal point for stimulating activities from morning to night. They’ve recently added discounted shore excursions for teens. You’ll be lucky if you see the kids at dinner. Then again, they may not want to join you.

A new children’s dining program provides the youngsters with supervised meals with at-sea pals, while parents have a night to themselves. Dinner, served from 6–7 p.m. on most nights, features items such as hamburgers, spaghetti, chicken drumsticks, a salad bar, fresh fruit and ice cream. Then the wee ones are entertained until 10 p.m.

Show biz

There’s plenty to entertain adults on the Legend. Don’t miss any of the spectacular production shows staged in the fabulous three-story, 1,500-seat Follies Lounge.

“Carnival’s entertainment has become more sophisticated over the years and for Carnival Legend, we’ve spared no expense in creating three captivating, highly elaborate shows that ‘raise the bar’ for shipboard entertainment,” said producer Roger Blum.

There’s never a night without entertainment. Comedians, magicians, musicians, talent shows and more are offered in the theater on other nights.

Ports of call

This cruise included exhilarating new destinations. The first stop was Colón, Panama. This important port is surrounded by, but not a part of, the former Panama Canal Zone.

If you’ve never been through the locks, take the six-hour Panama Canal tour to experience this engineering wonder. Other well- received tours were “Two Oceans by Railroad” and the space-limited, more exerting “Aerial Tram and Ecological Encounter” through the rain forest.

We took an open-air bus tour in Limón, Costa Rica, to explore the major export center of Central America.

“There are only two seasons,” our guide Christian told us. “Rain and sun.”

Adventurers gave good reports on the six-hour “White Water Rafting” tour through 10 miles of the area’s best rafting, featuring easy and challenging rapids. You need a medical waiver for this one.

In Belize, English is the official language for this small, Central American country that boasts many natural wonders and Mayan archaeological sites. Adventurers love it.

To make the most of your short time here, skip the two-hour city tour. If you’re physically able, take the six-hour “Cave Tubing and Rain Forest Exploration Tour.” After a bumpy bus ride and 45-minute walk on a rain forest path while carrying a flotation tube, headlamp and life vest, you’ll reach the cool waters of the Sibun River to float lazily downstream observing limestone cave formations.

Two moderately active tours visit either the Altun Ha or Xunantunich Mayan sites. Children like touring to the Community Baboon Sanctuary.

Save your souvenir shopping for the Belize Tourism Village. Buy colorful products from the many cultures that live in Belize. There’s lots of leather and wood goodies.

Food: Last but hardly least

As much as we enjoyed the nightly attentive service presented so efficiently by our servers in the exquisitely appointed Truffles restaurant, we loved the option of dining for a nominal charge in the more intimate and formal Golden Fleece Supper Club. A small combo played as diners danced between courses of extraordinary cuisine.

When people chose not to dress up or wait till time for dinner seating, they visited the 24-hour pizzeria or alternative Seaview Bistro.

Lunch stations at the swimsuit-friendly Unicorn Café featured Asian, rotisserie, international dishes, a deli, hot dogs, hamburgers, salad bars, tempting desserts and ice cream. Amazingly, some passengers had room to nosh at the midnight buffets.

What to pack

Plan on dressing up on two formal nights–cocktail dresses for women, dark suits for men. Men can also rent a tux on board. Most evenings are casual or dressy casual. Bring those comfortable walking shoes and sports gear. But most of all leave your frowns at home and wear your best smile. You’re going to have some “Legend-ary” Carnival fun.

Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.

Before you go

Carnival’s Legend will sail to the Caribbean from New York and Fort Lauderdale in 2004. To plan your Carnival trip, stop by your nearest AAA Travel office.

In addition, Carnival will increase capacity from New Orleans by 41 percent when the 2,052-passenger Sensation takes over the 1,452-passenger Holiday’s four- and five-day Mexico cruises in October 2004. The Carnival Conquest also sails from New Orleans on a seven-day western Caribbean itinerary.

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