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Cruise Ship Review
Legend of the Seas
By
Tim Josephson

Legend of the Seas Alaska Inside Passage Cruise June 1, 1997

This has got to be one of the most beautiful ships afloat! Even from the outside, the lines are as clean as a 21st Century whistle. As for the interiors, wow! It's difficult to know where to start.

My previous experience with Royal Caribbean was on the Song of America ten years ago, an aeon in this industry. I was also on the Viking Serenade two years ago, though I think short cruises are an unfair yardstick. (And it was an "emergency" cruise.) RCI has always had a reputation for a good, if not fancy product, and I can confirm that they still deliver a dependable and satisfying mainstream experience.

The Legend of The Seas is the two-year-old first ship in a series of six ships called by Royal Caribbean the Vision Class. So far, four have been built, each a little different from each other. The Legend is an original in every sense of the word.

The central Atrium is absolutely breathtaking, the work of a great "Vision"-ary. It is seven decks tall, crowned at the top with glass, and seemingly suspended in mid-air by glass reaching out to each side of the ship. It has beautiful sculptural decorations up its entire height, two silent and elegant glass elevators, a wonderful fountain and pools embedded in marble at its base, and it has such a grand and yet very serene, refreshing feeling. From the bottom, the configuration of the lower staircases and then the way a few cozy public rooms flow off the atrium as it rises is so graceful. To be anywhere around and in it is an absolute delight at any time of day or night. There are no gimmicks, only great beauty and genius of design. The entire execution is brilliant in every way.

The Dining Room is a two-deck horizontal version of the very same fantasy, form and space flowing and floating in the light. Even the Windjammer Cafe, above and forward, is cleverly terraced with a lovely semi-circular skylight. The Viking Crown lounge, wrapping itself about the stacks just above and aft of the atrium, is certainly the benchmark in the panorama lounge category. These great spaces with elaborate custom details, furnishings and fittings set a standard and a challenge for any who would attempt such creative and daring design. If the main lounge and the show lounge don't entirely fulfill their potential, it's hardly a disappointment: they are handsome, plush, and comfortable. There is also a genuine warmth in the atmosphere, with charming touches like the Legend (story) of the Legend of The Seas at the entrance to the Schooner Bar, and a lovely picture of Cindy Pritzker, the ship's godmother, prominently displayed. These details lend a comforting sense of home and family. The artwork throughout is very attractive, pleasant, restful and appropriate, and includes some impressive historical artifacts.

The main pool area and the Solarium Pool are also delightful areas with the consistently superb plantings and greenery (award winning!) found throughout the ship. Some areas can seem a little crowded at times, when everyone is doing the same thing (which is infrequent).

My cabin, a Category I outside on B deck, had nice wood trim, lovely light colors and original art (two pieces), lots of varied types of storage, and was larger than I expected -- plenty of space. In addition to a desk (with pencil drawer!) there was even room for a loveseat and a little glass table. I particularly appreciated two plugs and a little volume dial that allowed me to tune out public address announcements. Soundproofing could be a little better, but it was such a pleasant cabin and my steward was excellent. Room Service was very good, though "Gratuity Not Included" is rather inconvenient. Dining Room meals may be ordered in cabin! Also, there's a very clever mechanical window washing device they employ sometimes while in port. And by the way, the Legend has a very pleasant ride, particularly for so swift a vessel.

I really enjoyed the entertainment. I thought the orchestra was a recording, it was so good. The house troupe is quite talented, with very good voices and fun choreography, more artful than merely athletic. They pack a lot of great costumes and set changes into an hour with good continuity and clever special effects. The headliner, The Fifth Dimension, was just great! What a wonderful trip down memory lane with all the classic hits, yet as fresh and vibrant as if it was all just yesterday. Later in the cruise, Hal Frazier and Don Ware were also excellent. Frequently, the Second Seating evening shows were before dinner, allowing for other evening activities or an early-to-bed which is often preferred in Alaska. The Tami Novak trio graces the Atrium nightly with sophisticated light jazz numbers and superb pop standards. Day and night activities throughout the cruise were extensive and enjoyable.

 

Some of the food is quite good, especially the beef dishes; the vegetables, a chilled zucchini soup, the scampi with a great ratatouille, the sole, and also the chocolate pyramid and the tiramisu are highly recommended. Dining room service is friendly, caring, faultlessly polite and correct. The Windjammer Cafe also has good food, with varied choices that change daily. If a really good cup of coffee with fresh cream is up there on your list, early morning just outside the Windjammer Cafe is the place for you. Late night buffets are attractive and ever-changing, and I particularly appreciated that the Grand Buffet was moved up to the third from the last night, much more convenient. Also, I found the evening dressing to be a little less formal than average.

Ah, Alaska! No itinerary can go wrong in The Great Land! On our way up the coast the second morning, we had spectacular, unlimited visibility of the great St. Elias mountain range, Yakutat Bay was as smooth as a lake, and Hubbard Glacier was absolutely magnificent. We swirled around in the warm sunshine, back and forth in front of its impressive four-mile length for hours, watching giant icebergs calve with the sound of great cracks and booms as the ice fell slowly into the sea. The experience of Hubbard Glacier is really amazing: it is so dramatic in size and such a powerful moving object. And all of Alaska gets even better as more is revealed.

There is so much information available on the ports you will visit, and the shore excursions available (they are the very best way to see Alaska), that I won't go into it here. But I would like to add that the ship's great speed and maneuverability allow for a unique and really handy early evening transit of the beautiful Taiya Inlet from Skagway to Haines in 45 minutes. Then after Ketchikan later in the cruise, a real privilege: an early evening visit to Misty Fjords National Monument. Not many ships can afford the time to sail up into these breathtaking natural channels. Surrounded by stunning black granite mountains, the narrow tree-lined route is indeed misty, with wisps of fog lacing the steep slopes and deep ravines. Waterfalls trickle and splash their way down thousands of feet, so many falls I could not count, and so close to the ship. We went in as far as we could, then turned around, within the length of the ship, to head back out. Amazing. Like all of the scenery in Alaska, the experience of the majesty of nature is so refreshing to the spirit -- real nourishment for the soul.

On the more practical aspects of the cruise, some of Royal Caribbean's processes could use some refining, like embarkation having too many lines (but this is not that unusual). And I must tell my tuxedo story: at the first formal dinner a lovely Veal Cordon Bleu somehow landed across my left shoulder. After much alarm, wiping and apologizing, our Assistant Maitre 'd requested I fill out a Property Damage Report (in triplicate), and present it with the offending tuxedo to the Purser's desk. After trekking it there the next day, we just signed the form together, then I was sent to give it all to my cabin steward, who required a Valet Service form. Although I was telephoned twice and even received a written note following up from the Pursers office, the process was too complicated and a strain.

In any case, I would be very interested to sail on this grand and beautiful ship anywhere she might be inspired to take me. This is a superior quality product and a good value. It's known RCI has some aggressive plans for expanding its fleet and expanding their itineraries. Our charming captain hinted that in the future, the Legend may be repositioned to the Orient. What a way to go! Well recommended.


Tim Josephson is a longtime San Francisco resident devoted to blue water travel and a seasoned cruiser. He can be reached at: TimJosephson@juno.com.


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