Western Caribbean -- March 10 - 18, 2003
A Foreword or Two
The Carnival Ships with their red and blue whale tail funnels are distinctive, yet, this line was conceived so that "everyman" would be able to afford cruising. Initially, from its humble beginnings of just one old ship, Carnival Cruise Lines line now boasts of over 19 mostly new ships (Carnival Spirit, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, Carnival Victory, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Destiny, Holiday, Ecstasy, Fantasy, Paradise, Elation, Celebration, Inspiration, Sensation, Imagination, Fascination, and the Jubilee, all in service), with more being built and even more on the drawing boards. It has sixteen home ports on the North American continent -- add Honolulu, HI to make seventeen.
This was our third cruise on Carnival, having sailed on the Carnival Legend's sister ship the Carnival Pride, and on the Carnival Triumph. The Spirit Class ships were designed so close to perfection that Carnival has reproduced them in "Cookie Cutter" fashion, even across company lines (CostaAtlantica is also one of this class). So, with its simplicity of purpose, Carnival has grown to become a major cruise line to reckon with! Carnival Corporation includes the following prestigious lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard (England), Holland America (Holland), Costa Cruises (Italy), Windstar Cruises (Tall Ships), The Yachts of Seabourn, and the recently acquired Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises, P&O Cruises Australia, Aida, A'Rosa, Swan Hellenic and Ocean Village. Carnival's passengers are mainly American and include all ages from toddlers to seniors, but the majority are in their mid-forties.
We met the serious and brilliant Captain Claudio Cupisti (Italy) on the Carnival Pride in January 2001, when he spoke of the Carnival Legend, being built in the Kvaerner Masa Shipyards in Helsinki, Finland and noted he would soon leave the Carnival Pride and move on to Finland to take command of the Carnival Legend, which was launched on August 14, 2002. We were happy to hear that soon he would return to Finland to take command of the newest Carnival ship, the Carnival Miracle. Yet, with all this recognition, he said his most impressive days on the bridge were spent with two young passengers from the "Make a Wish Foundation" whose dream was to see whales -- a dream he was happy to help make come true.
In Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, the Carnival Legend resembled her sister ships on the outside; however, we were eager to see how designer Joe Farcus had made her different on the inside.
Even though security was heightened, we experienced no delays. We picked up our tickets on the pier, where our luggage was also tagged and checked; it took a total of fifteen minutes. We had wheel chair assistance all the way to the gangway: very professional and very helpful. We arrived at 12:30pm and were on board in our stateroom by 1:00 pm. We checked on our dining room assignments, with which we were pleased. It was table #127 near the entrance, so we were off to the Welcome Aboard Buffet and we enjoyed the excellent pizza -- our compliments to Executive Chef Craig Salamone (more about this accomplished young man later).
Sister ships are wonderful: repeat passengers already feel at home knowing the ship's layout. We were curious to see what Mr. Farcus had done with the décor. Taking a cue from her name, his concept revolved around legendary heroes of all kinds: mythological, medieval, crusaders, sports, film and music legends are all represented. Farcus' signature is repetition and it was in evidence here once again. Amphoræ (pewter colored urns) are everywhere, decorating balustrades, on balconies in the ten-deck-high Lobby, as door knobs, and as lamp and chandelier bases. They are of all sizes, some even large enough to hold people! Wide dark cherry wood moldings frame windows, doors, and ceilings, and sometimes double rows of these maroon borders greet passengers with the Etruscan key symbol embossed in gold, row upon row.
This ship does not show the traditional nautical colors. She is more somber (maroon, gold and browns), but just as richly decorated as other Carnival ships. We feel that the lack of neon is good! The Legend is a well-equipped and beautifully designed ship with careful thought given to every detail and always with the passenger in mind.
Riviera Deck 1 forward has the dazzling Firebird Lounge. This lounge is named after the clever seamstress Maryushka, who was turned into a Firebird by the evil sorcerer Kaschei, after she had spurned him. She still sheds her bright feathers to this day, which are magically seen only by lovers of beauty. This room has firebirds everywhere: on sofas, chairs, carpeting, walls, ceilings, etc. On the walls are huge red lacquered discs framing pictures of figures strolling through idyllic gardens. It is quite bright: a feast of colors with a prevalence of red
Midship, all the way to the aft elevators, there are inside and oceanview staterooms. Toward aft there is the first level of the Medusa's Lair, a night club, and aft is the Galley.
Promenade Deck 2 forward holds the Follies Theater, which recalls the palatial movie "palaces" of the Roaring Twenties. Its sparkling draped curtain and the repetition of the "Blazing Sun Face" image are very effective, giving opulence to this huge room. Go early to shows because there are some poor seats, since six pillars block the view of the stage, as do wide wooden balustrades and the balcony design.
Just outside the theater toward midship is Satchmo's Club (named after Louis Armstrong, America's jazz trumpet legend). The knotty pine benches, wrought iron bar stools and tables are reminiscent of New Orleans, birth place of Jazz. Next door is the Dream Team Bar giving homage to many sports heroes (legends) from Juan Fangio to Jackie Robinson, Babe Zaharias, Wilma Rudolph and Bart Starr. Then there is the Casino Club Merlin named for King Arthur's wizard and decorated with Crusading Knights and Monastic Arches. Perhaps the least decorated of all public rooms, it still has many slots and gaming tables.
Midship is the Legend Lobby with the Purser's and Shore Excursion Desks. We nicknamed it "The 1001 Urns Lobby." Here are the black pleated silk lamp shades and some of the legendary urn chandeliers with spokes terminating in purple speckled crystal flowers. These lamps and chandeliers are found on several decks in great numbers -- repetition, repetition. Adjacent to the Legend Lobby there is a beautiful bronze sculpture representing bears catching salmon swimming upstream; this is our favorite art work on the ship. It is a gift of the Kvaerner Masa Shipyard workers. Opposite the three bird cage elevators is a four-deck-tall stylized painted mural of the "Colossus" of Rhodes. A corridor leads back to the Atlantis Lounge (named for the mythical lost continent) and the entrance to the second level of Medusa's Lair, a night club displaying a dozen or more huge Medusa heads with glowing eyes and writhing snakes for hair. The bar stools are on snake bases; iridescent wrought iron chairs, marble bars and tables complete this club.
Truffles Restaurant is aft with its subdued ambiance, until overhead lights dim and flashing red lights come on and even the chandeliers blink, while waiters lead passengers in a conga line to shouts of "Ole' Ole'" and "Hot, Hot, Hot." The decorations are mainly black and beige marble squares arranged in a checkerboard pattern, and many arched china cabinets with opalescent glass fronts holding matched sets of china. For ceiling fixtures, aqua and blue blown glass vials are arranged in ovals. Finally, the copper pillars make this room unique.
Atlantic Deck 3 forward has the Follies balcony and next to its entrances are the entrances to the Enchanted Forest (recalling many fairy tales of old). Huge tree trunks line its curved walk where large portholes overlook the sea. There are many glass tables with cross sections of tree trunks visibly displaying their annual growth rings. Fittingly, this leads to the staircase in the prow which goes up to the Gigabytes Arcade (Deck 4) and the Noah's Ark Playroom (Deck 5). This area is one of the best kept secrets of the Spirit Class ships; it's great for strolling on rainy sea days, reading or just sitting quietly and conversing.
Going toward midship is the Chapel (nice stain glass windows) and the Holmes Library with its bright red leather seats and too many faux books. This is also the internet area with many computer terminals (costs are $3.95 for a one time set up charge and $0.75 per minute to surf the net). Hollywood Blvd. leads to midship and an interesting Life magazine photo from 1943 of MGM's Louis B. Mayer and his "stable" of stars. This provides a great guessing game for cruisers: they sit across from it, reminisce and try to identify the famous actors. Next is Billie's Piano Bar, named for Billie Holiday, the jazz singer with perfect phrasing, who recorded over 200 songs in a ten year period.
Rodeo Drive leads to the on board shops (nice selections), the Photo Gallery and going aft is the Odyssey Lounge. Just off this lounge is the entrance to the Round Table Room where two large murals depict the flower of knighthood, Renaissance lute players and laurel-crowned youths. All the way aft is the balcony of Truffles Dining Room.
Main Deck 4 forward is the Follies Balcony and the rest of the deck is staterooms.
Upper Deck 5, Empress Deck 6, Veranda Deck 7 and Panorama Deck 8 are all staterooms.
Deck 9 forward is the well equipped gymnasium and Health Spa with separate steam and sauna rooms for ladies and men. The corridor has the familiar Græco-Roman black and copper murals depicting athletes. There is also an excellent Jacuzzi, which, like this whole area, is quite private from 7 to 9 am; go early and it's all yours.
Midships are two outdoor pools and spas, the Camelot and the Avalon, with medieval warriors standing guard over them; Captain Cupisti calls these the best sculptures on board. The Camelot pool has a sliding Sky Dome, very convenient on rainy days. Toward aft is the Unicorn Café (named after the legendary equine with the single horn, the symbol of power and purity). The food court is nicely divided to curtail lines: there are separate pizza (excellent), salad, entrée and dessert stations, which make this area easy to navigate. There is a huge suspended blown glass sculpture/chandelier in a chapel-like setting. There are portraits of medieval knights and ladies everywhere. All the way aft is the third pool with spa, the Unicorn.
Sun Deck 10 holds the second floor of the spa and gymnasium; mid ship is the Golden Fleece (named for the mythical ship of Jason and the Argonauts). This upscale restaurant has a cover charge of $25, but the menu is worth it: stone crabs, lobster, 10-oz. veal chop, all with great ambiance). Aft is the open deck area with a giant water slide.
Sports Deck 11 holds the jogging track, the Golden Fleece's Balcony, the Kid's Pool and the giant Water Slide Entrance (great fun for both adults and children).
Sky Deck 12, at the very top of the ship is an area devoted solely to sun bathing.
Stateroom #7260 is the same room we occupied on the Carnival Pride, so we know it well. It is wheelchair accessible and has a triple-long balcony. It has a huge bathroom with shower, all done in sea blue tiles. There is a king size bed, double wardrobe, desk/vanity, refrigerator, personal safe, bar, table and two upholstered chairs. The décor is bright orange, red and beige, and has two numbered prints of the legendary Diana the huntress. Our stewardess, Linda, was the best!
Food & Service
The service under Hotel Manager Carlos Alfonso, we are happy to report, is top notch. Carlos is friendly, experienced, and knowledgeable about the service industry. His feels the passenger must be accommodated, and he has trained his crew to be happy to do so. He believes the Carnival employees programs are what makes for low personnel turnover, and therefore good service. Lots of smiles and a willingness to serve are what make the "Fun Ship"'s motto "We offer vacations for the everyman." come true. Carlos keeps an eye on passenger "Comment Cards" and attempts to incorporate as many suggestions as possible, such as the new miniaturized Carnival Caper daily paper, small enough to fold neatly into a pocket, thus easily accessible to the cruisers whenever needed.
The food is A-1 under the direction of Executive Chef Craig Salamone. He is a detail man, and the food shows it in the careful cooking and interesting plating. It not only looks appetizing, it is delicious. Up in the Unicorn the pizza was terrific with a light crust. (Chef Craig said, "it is all in the proofing of the dough.") Whatever it is, this is great pizza! Try the one with goat cheese and mushrooms -- it's 4 stars**** . There is also an ice cream station, where Vincent could be found daily. An insider's tip: if it looks too soft, press again and it will be solid; the Caribbean heat can get to the first inch or so of the dispenser.
Truffles Restaurant (named for the undisputed King of the fungi family), under the watchful eye of Chef Craig, has some very inspired offerings: breakfast from room service was always on time and fresh, but limited to continental. In the Unicorn or Truffles, breakfast can be as varied as the stomach can handle: 'Express Breakfast' is juice, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and beverage (coffee, espresso, cappuccino, tea, hot chocolate or milk). The buffet has cereals, yogurts, fresh fruits, oatmeal, cream of wheat, eggs any way (from individualized omelets to eggs Benedict), pancakes, French toast, lox 'n bagels w/cream cheese, and a myriad of fresh breads, including Danish, croissants, muffins, rolls or toast (with various jams and jellies).
Stagger away from this meal, and start contemplating lunch. Lunch at Truffles has five or six main course offerings: oven fresh focaccia, fish and chips, barbecued baby back ribs, Neptune's salad, Trout Almondine, Philly cheese steak sandwich, Chicken Parmigiana and save-the-waistline Nautica Selections of salads, broiled fish or meat, all reduced-calorie or sugar-free. The most popular place to eat on board is the Unicorn -- buffet style dining attracts cruisers!
Dinner in the Truffles Dining Room was a pleasure. Appetizers included fried calamari, gazpacho, escargot, Crema di Funghi Selvatici (wild mushroom soup), and cold soups or fresh fruit plates. Pastas could also be ordered as "starters" -- a smaller portion for sampling would arrive. Try the pappardelle w/langostinos (flat noodles with tiny lobster), Bigoli alla Carnival, or the Farfalle w/turkey or even Lasagna Bolognese. This chef knows his pasta!
Carlos Alfonso stated that Carnival has aimed for the top in culinary achievements and is now on a par with other lines. We agree -- especially with entrées like steamed king crab legs, Coq au Vin, roast veal w/mushrooms, grilled Rock Cornish hens w/blackberry salsa, grilled Black Tiger jumbo shrimp, fillet mignon, and last, but not least, prime rib of beef.
Now, if dinner didn't do you in, the desserts may. On several evenings, soufflés were available, or how about a Passion Fruit and Lime Parfait? There were also Tiramisu, Bread Pudding (this was definitely a culinary achievement: hot, light, and fluffy w/vanilla sauce) or just go for it with Pecan Pie! Carnival has come a long way and should be proud. Our compliments to Chef Salamone and his hard working staff.
Service on board under Carlos is excellent. The dining room staff is led by Maitre d' Paul Mecia, handsome and friendly, and the two beautiful and gracious hostesses, Viera and Catalina. They were sweet and helpful. Our waiter, I. Nyoman and his assistant Gusti, were both from Bali, Indonesia and they made us want to break out into a song from "South Pacific." We now have a burning desire to visit Bali after meeting these two Good Will Ambassadors.
Of course, we cannot forget Angela of the Purser's office, who was helpful in many ways, and our old friend Michael Laundry, who was Beverage Manager on this sailing, but is working towards hotel manager. We want to mention the very efficient Albino Aliota and Chief Plumber Manuel, who made rapid repairs in our bathroom. Thanks.
Entertainment & Activities
Cruise Director Brett Alans has fun and games down to a science. There were Trivia (Vincent won a medal), Bingo, Exercises, Crafts (The Round Table Room was always packed with both men and women making interesting gadgets and apparel). The shows were the typical fare, but by far the best of the week was "Jazz Hot" where singers Nadine Holloway, Karina Wright, and David Harvey were wonderful. However, Eric Hawthorne's voice was warm and mellow and showed a huge range from baritone to tenor -- Bravo.
Ports of Call
Captain Cupisti debarked in Panama to attend a conference. Staff Captain Vincenzo Alcaras took over; it was such a smooth transition that many passengers never noted it. Debarkation was orderly and painless -- we were through Customs and passport check and outside by 8:45am. Nice work.
Our third cruise on Carnival was a very good one. We were very pleased both with the ship and the itinerary. The food was excellent, greatly improved from previous cruises. We'll look forward to cruising with Carnival again, probably on the new ships which will be launched in the near future; maybe we'll see Captain Cupisti on the Carnival Miracle.Happy Cruising!
Vincent & Mary Finelli have written many reviews for The SeaLetter and may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please