ROYAL CARIBBEAN LEGEND OF THE SEA
MEDITERRANEAN TREASURES 5TH Aug 2006
We drove down to Southampton the day before the cruise and stayed the night at the Holiday Inn Express Southampton West.
The next day we went to the terminal at 11.30am rather than the 2.00pm stated on our boarding information.
On the way, we passed Sea Princess. She looked magnificent as do all of P&0 ships. When Legend of the Seas came into view, she looked "off-white" and a little bit tired in comparison. We dropped off the luggage then went to park the car in the compound. You don’t leave the keys with anyone (they told us you look after them yourselves – a little difficult from Europe). That must be why it’s only £99 for 14 nights, or free if you book long enough in advance. We were on board within 15 minutes. The embarkation procedure was very quick and smooth. We were then encouraged to go to the Windjammer (equivalent to Oriana’s Conservatory) for lunch. As the corridors were closed off until1.00pm we thought we might as well have lunch.
As on P&O, there was staff at all entrances squirting hand cleansers. Everyone adhered to the rules and we never once saw anyone refuse during the voyage. First impressions were that the food was superior to that on P&O, but I will reserve judgement until later on in the cruise, as you can get fed up with anything if it is served day after day.
We then went to look at the accommodation. We had booked a Grand Suite and also an inside cabin for the boys (aged 16 and 23). Our steward made himself known (Angel). It is hard for us to make a direct comparison as we have only had a full suite on Oriana and the old Arcadia and a Penthouse on Aurura but the boys had an inside cabin on Aurora.
The inside cabin was roomier than that on Aurora with a similar shower-room. The suite
wasn’t as large as the ones we’ve tried on P&O but there were two grades above ours which were probably as large. One thing we did find is that the seating in the suite is soft and comfortable whereas it is hard and not very comfortable on P&O. Butler Service (or Concierge as RC calls it) is not available in suites on this ship although it is on Voyager next year.
I like the layout of this ship better than the ones I’ve been on with P&O, the light and airy feel of the Atrium (or Centrium with RC) with the many flights of stairs and the glass lifts, also the comfortable chairs in the public areas.
Daily programmes of events were printed and delivered to your room called Cruise Compass. Also, daily newspapers were printed and left in one of the coffee lounges as there were French, German, Canadian, Australian and American versions.
The crew were very helpful and more forward than the P&O staff. This is quite welcoming and the American influence is obvious. This is not a criticism of P&O as we’ve never had a problem with any crew member of P&O but it’s just different.
In general, although the ship is roughly the same age as Oriana and Aurora, it looks a bit more jaded and not so bright and sparkling. This is quite surprising as she’s had a complete re-fit last year. There are little corners where dirt has accumulated and hasn’t been touched for weeks or months. This wouldn’t have happened on Aurara or Oriana.
The entertainment is about on a par with P&O. There were shows with the RC Singers and Dancers which were very inferior to P & O and at times was embarrassingly poor with singers out of tune and shouting rather than singing. After 3 attempts to watch them, we gave up. One night the main entertainment was a film called "Failure to Launch" and a gameshow (Mr and Mrs). The highlights in the entertainment department were Mick Miller (from the TV series "The Comedians), Gary Lovini, a violinist who was entertaining even to those not remotely interested in classical music and Renato Pagliari (From Renee and Renato "Save Your Love") There were various quizzes but they were all on different subjects ie. Trivia, Movies, Who am I?,Rock’n’roll etcAlso there were shore Excursion Lectures and the usual cooking demonstrations etc. The boys used the gym and it has twice as many machines as Aurora. There is a track around the ship for walking or jogging (4 x round = 1mile), also a climbing wall.
We went to look at the gym and ended up on a tour round the spa, which was a hard sell of the treatments available. These even included teeth-whitening sessions reduced from
£119.00 to £107.00.
We found that when you sit down anywhere in the public areas, you are then approached by Bar Staff and asked if you would like a drink, whereas on P&O staff wander past glancing to see if anyone is trying to attract attention for a drink, much more discreet and not a hassle if you only want to sit and read etc. A different approach but not a problem.
TV set-up similar to P&O with a many more channels available even when at sea. I believe next year Voyager has the facility to show current status of on-board account.
Dress Code similar to P&O with 3 formal, 4 informal and 7 casual nights on this 14 day cruise. This was the information given pre-cruise. The first formal night was on the second night of the cruise. Approx 50% of men wore a tuxedo, 40% a dark suit and 10% light suit or jacket and tie.When it came to telling the passengers in the Cruise Compass, the Dress Code was described as Formal, Smart Casual and Casual. (sometimes there were themes such as Mad hatters Theme. I think this confused some people as they thought Smart Casual didn’t need a jacket and one night a youngster was turned away from the dining room as he was wearing a football shirt on Smart Casual night. (the parents just laughed and came into the dining room without him)
The policy for drinking age is policed strictly. On sailings from Southampton the age is 18 with parents written consent, otherwise 21.(on other sailings it is 21) My 23 yr old was constantly asked to show his ID, he wasn’t too pleased.
After sampling all of the meals including dinner in the Windjammer as well as the dining room, I have to say that although the meals in the dining room are plated, they are without doubt far superior to P&O. Both starters and main courses have low-fat healthy options to choose from as well as vegetarian choices and the desserts include low-fat and sugar-free options every night. Sugar-free ice cream is always available should you not like the sugar-free desserts of the day.
There were one or two "loud" families and a few children who were badly-behaved but on the whole, passengers were from a fairly similar background to P&O passengers and most of the time you didn’t notice the children at all, but later on in the cruise the teenagers started to congregate in large groups in places like the internet café which meant that there wasn’t room for people using laptops (wifi was very useful ) as these young people used up the casual seating, so the laptop people had to use the desks with ships computers on thus using up the spaces allocated for people who had not brought their own computers.
There were two major differences between RC and P&O:The age range, a complete reversal of ages. Lots of children and therefore younger passengers including parents Very few people over 70. We don’t know how much of the difference is due to the ship or how much is due to the time of year as it is the first time we have been able to cruise during summer.The nationalities of the passengers and crew. The passengers are predominantly British but there are a sizeable minority of foreigners travelling on the Southampton sailings. I think this makes for a more interesting cruise and also provides a more diverse menu as they all have to be catered for. The crew are from all over America, the Caribbean and Europe.
The staff in the dining room were very good, just like P&O. We had "German" from
Lithuania and his assistant "Cecil" from the Caribbean.
Our Steward was "Angel". He was very discreet and the room was always done when we came back from breakfast and again upon our return from dinner.(chocs on the pillow and animal shape made from towels)
This is the first time we have visited this port. We took a private taxi tour to see the apes and also St. Michael’s Caves. This was very interesting and we had no waiting as we set off straight away before the official tours with RC and as we were leaving each place, the official tours were queuing up to enter so I guess we were lucky to be first. The taxi driver charged £16 per head and we were in a people-carrier and he waited until another 4 people wanted a tour so for a couple of hours work, he made £128.00 – not bad, though I expect he’ll not make too much in winter.
We arrived here at 19.00 and so after dinner took a taxi into the city to have a quick look at the main shopping area. There was plenty going on with dancers and acrobats and artists selling their paintings and all of the shops were open.
The next morning we went on the only official tour we had booked with RC. It was to the Football Stadium. We nearly missed it as when we went to the meeting place (the theatre), the clipboard woman gave us the wrong stickers and it was only when we noticed there were no children on our tour and lots on another that we asked them which tour they were on after they were called. We quickly removed our stickers and got on their bus. The tour was very good but expensive (£27.00 each) but we did also go to see a church.
We have been to the South of France a few times without the boys so let them decide whether to go to, Nice or Monte Carlo. They didn’t have to think long as they are both fans of the Grand Prix. We took a train from Villefranche to Monte Carlo. It was approximately ½ hr late but comfortable enough with air-conditioning and was only 2.40 euros each (single). We had a good walk around before going to see the outside of the Casino. We knew we couldn’t go inside as our youngest son is not 18. If you do want to go inside, you must remember to take your passport ashore and also not wear shorts etc.
We then had lunch outside at the Café De Paris and watched the lovely cars going past. There must have been in excess of 15 Ferraris, my youngest son’s favourite. After another walk, this time around the harbour looking at the fabulous yachts, we decided to head back to the ship. We went to the station and this time the journey was horrendous.
Everyone seemed to want to go back on the same train(only 1 per hour) and when it did come, it was already full and no-one got off. We were packed in like sardines. Our group of 5 (another passenger joined us) were separated into 3 carriages. Fortunately, we all got off at the right stop and were re-united at Villefranche where we got back on the ship.
By the way, this was the only tender port of the cruise. After dinner we went back on shore for an hour or so to have a wander round the town. It is a pretty little port and would go again to have a little longer there.
We took a bus tour round the island with a bus which was based at the entrance of the town. This was probably the best tour of the cruise and was independent, not RC. The charge was only 10 euros each and lasted 1 ½ hrs. The guide was very good and we stopped for a "photo opportunity". The island itself was a disappointment as I expected it to be pristine but it was rather shabby. Maybe there is a part we didn’t see but I thought it was supposed to be really beautiful. We certainly missed that part if it exists.
As it was a Sunday, the shops were closed and we decided to take a taxi to a nearby beach. We spent a few hours there (Palma Nova) and the tourist shops were open so we were able to buy drinks etc. We went back to the ship after we’d had a good walk and a good spell in the hot sun.
There was a Fiesta in Malaga so all of the shops were closed and we were told to keep in mind that the traffic would become very heavy later on so we should allow extra time for returning to the ship. We got a taxi at about 8.00am to Marbella and then on to Puerto Banus. We spent a while at estate agents as we are considering buying a property out there. The rest of the time was spent wandering around familiarising ourselves with the area.
Although we have been here lots of times, it seemed much nicer this time as the weather was good despite a poor forecast. There were a few spots of rain as we wailed away but not the showers forecast for the whole day. We went to the shops as usual as we’ve done the tram and open-topped bus previously.
Taxi straight to El Cortez Englis and had a couple of hours of "Shop ‘til you Drop"
I know some people like Vigo but this is the first time we’ve been when it isn’t winter but it still managed to rain.
You can pre-pay your tips when you pay for your cruise. Our travel agent automatically crossed out this option as hesays there is time to cancel them on board if you are not satisfied with the service. A few days before the end of the cruise, a sheet is left on your bed stating that unless you opt out of the Gratuities, tips will be added to your on-board account. We were charged at a higher level than the boys for the stateroom attendant but the same for the dining staff. Charges were as follows
Stateroom Attendant £3.04 per day per guest (suite)
Stateroom Attendant £1.85 per day per guest (cabin)
Waiter £1.85 per day per guest
Assistant waiter £1.06 per day per guest
Headwaiter £0.40 per day per guest
We opted to let them put it onto ouron-board account and the total cost was £322.48. Personally, I thought it was a bit steep but can’t remember what P&O charged. We’ve always been satisfied and have always given a little more than the guidelines
One of the main problems with P&O was the timing of disembarkation. The only way they would allow you to leave early was if you took off all of your cases with you and even then it was after 8.00 am when you left the ship and by the time you could find the luggage and get the car, it was 8.30 at the earliest when you could leave Southampton.
No such problems with RC. We left out the luggage the night before and were in the first batch to disembark at 7.00am. We were driving out of the port at 7.07am. I expect that is why they can embark so early.
Finally, answers to a few questions.
Would I cruise with RC again?
Yes but not in a suite on Legend of the Seas. There is a problem I would never have thought of. There is a huge overhang over the balconies of
Deck 8 which doesn’t allow any sun at all during the day (except very early morning before it gets high in the sky), so all of the suites have no sun whatever direction the ship is facing. I suspect looking at the model of the ship they are using next year that it will have the same problem.(except for a few suites at the back)
How does it compare with P&O?
It depends on what you are looking for. If you want a quieter time with reasonable on-board entertainment P&O win hands down but if you like a livelier atmosphere and don’t mind some of the children roaming around unsupervised, RC might be for you. You might also like to try them if the quality and presentation of food is important to you.
Personally, I think they are both great companies and will probably sail with both of them again in the future.
Review by Sarah in WLC