A Living Legend

Options abound in a mid-size package

By: Anne Burke

It was approaching midnight. After a day of sunning and sipping margaritas, I was ready to collapse into bed. But here on Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, day five of a seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera, things were just getting warmed up.

Music pulsed on the 11th-deck lounge, where girls in summer tans and plaited hair shared the dance floor with guys in flip-flops and baggy shorts. On stage in the main theater, contestants in an “American Idol”-style karaoke sing-off lined up to find out who among them would go on to the next night’s big finale. Late-night chowhounds streamed into the main dining room, mouths agape at the dazzling ice sculptures that sat alongside steaming entrees.

Poised to celebrate her 10th birthday in 2005, the 2,076-passenger Legend of the Seas is neither the youngest nor the biggest cruise ship plying the deep blue sea. In fact, she’s the oldest and smallest among Royal Caribbean’s Vision class of six sister ships. But youth and size aren’t everything. This well-traveled denizen of the high seas can keep pace with the younger and glitzier gals.

Legend squeezes a dizzying assortment of activities into her 867 feet comedy shows, art auctions, concert music, line dancing, cooking demonstrations, miniature golf, makeover sessions, sock hops, shuffleboard imagine the weekly calendar listings in the Sunday paper and you get the idea.

After a summer in Mexico, Legend heads to Hawaii this fall, with a promotional $99 airfare on tap. Clients booking the Nov. 21 westbound sailing, departing Ensenada, can fly from Honolulu home to Los Angeles or Seattle for $99; clients on the Dec. 2 sailing, departing Honolulu, can fly from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle for $99. Stateroom prices range from $799 to $1,899 per person.

Legend’s interior design features art deco accents and polished brass, and beautiful tapestries, paintings and watercolors. But the showstopper hangs in the atrium lobby. High overhead between the shafts of the twin panoramic elevators is a dramatic sculpture with radiating stainless-steel and brass layers that evoke the rippling movement of the sea.

The hub of daytime activity is around the main pool on Deck 9, where a rock band churns out the hits and waiters in tropical shirts work up a sweat delivering drinks. Keep an eye out for the drink-of-the-day special as bar tabs can add up. Like many large cruise ships, Legend charges for soft drinks; coffee, tea, punch and lemonade are free.

Legend has two pools; neither especially large. The smaller is aft of the main pool in the Solarium, which is evocative of a Roman bath with colonnades and statues. This space has a retractable roof and floor-to-ceiling walls that give it an outdoorsy feeling minus the punishing U.V. rays. The Solarium is reserved for those age 16 and older but the no-kids rule is not enforced during inclement weather and unenthusiastically at other times. Still, the poolside scene here is relatively quiet and has a soothing vibe that lends itself to reading and napping. Two of Legend’s four whirlpools are located here; the others are by the main pool area. The Solarium has a bar serving drinks as well as free pizza, burgers, chicken fingers and fries.

At 153 square feet, my large outside stateroom on Deck 3 was big enough for two people to move about comfortably, with a large picture window above the head of the bed. The bed two metal-legged twins pushed together might be disappointing for clients expecting something grander. But I slept well, lulled by the gentle rumble of the engine. The bed was sans spread when I arrived, covered instead by a third sheet. A fellow passenger complained about this arrangement but as bedspreads tend to collect dirt, I didn’t mind.

My room opened to a small sitting area, with a loveseat and glass table against one wall and a vanity/desk against the other. A small TV nestled in shelving above the table pulls out and swivels for viewing in bed. Programming included CNN as well as movies and soap operas in various languages. The room had a minisafe, individual temperature control, lots of mirrors and a 1,600-watt hair dryer, though the bathroom lacked an appropriate outlet.

Although there are bigger cruise ships, Legend still is nearly three football fields in length and there are no elevators aft. (One smart-thinking mom purchased two-way radios to keep tabs on her pre-teen son.) Clients who aren’t into a walk-a-thon will thank you for booking their rooms midship or fore.

The Romeo and Juliet Dining Room, a dramatic, two-level restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows, belied Royal Caribbean’s reputation as a cuisine-challenged cruise line. Meals were attractively presented and tasty, the fresh Peruvian lilies at each table a nice touch. The nightly dinner menu featured six entrees, one a vegetarian dish and one advertised as lighter and healthier. The entrée menu one night featured linguine in white sauce with clams; sweet and sour mahi mahi, Indian vegetable curry and a New York strip steak with béarnaise sauce and Lyonnaise potatoes. The healthy choice that night was the strip steak, sans the sauce and spuds. Clients who like their coffee with a kick will be pleased that Legend serves a special blend from Seattle’s Best. The selection of fruit juices was disappointing (we were, after all, in Mexico, where tropical fruit juices are a specialty) and the breakfast pastries neither fresh nor warm. The wait staff was earnest if occasionally tentative and forgetful. The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 9 offers casual, buffet-style dining and spectacular views from the stern, but the cafeteria ambience turned me off.

With a cellar master but no sommelier on board, the wine list was limited to a few moderately priced selections. Additional selections are available by request, or diners may bring their own bottle for a $12 corkage fee. (Passengers may bring wine but not liquor on board.)

The Legend does an impressive job of keeping kids entertained. The free Adventure Ocean program offers activities that are both educational and fun. Kids may learn about the history and culture of their destinations one afternoon, and do face-painting or mask-making the next. The Optix teen center on Deck 10 has the hip feel of an underground club, with dance floor, soda bar and TV screens. I ran into a gaggle of pre-teen boys who breathlessly recited a long list of fun activities, from rock-climbing (“excellent!”) to video games, talent shows and 18-hole miniature golf. (The course itself showed signs of disrepair.) Supervised activities from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. are available for $5 an hour per child. Kids are divided into age groups: 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14 and 15-17. (No kids in diapers or pull-ups are allowed.) Youth supervisors have college degrees in education or recreation.

Disabled passengers were well represented on our trip. An older male passenger with a rare muscle disease brought along his shiny red, motorized chair and zipped around with ease. “As long as I have 24 inches, I can go anywhere,” he boasted.

Legend has 17 accessible cabins. At 251 to 298 square feet, these rooms are larger than standard staterooms and have doors that open automatically, roll-in showers with benches, pull-down closet rods, vibrating pillow alarms (for the hearing impaired) and balcony transoms. Both pools have hydraulic lifts to raise and lower disabled swimmers into the water, although I never saw them used.


Ship: Legend of the Seas
Gross Tonnage: 70,000
Company: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Length: 867 feet
Year Built: 1995
Passenger Capacity: 2,076
Phone: 866-562-7625

Hits: That’s Entertainment Theater, a beautiful, 800-seat show lounge has comfy seats (with cup holders!) and excellent sight lines, as well as lavishly produced shows and musical acts.

Boarding and disembarkation were a breeze. Except for the final disembarkation, we never waited in line more than a couple of minutes to get on or off the ship. Security screeners worked with brisk efficiency.

Misses: Photographers were quite aggressive. Many passengers enjoy these souvenirs (selling for $6.95-$19.95). The photographers, however, should learn to take “no” for an answer. As the trip nears its end, the wait staff lays it on thick in hopes of hefty gratuities.

Carry on any item you absolutely can’t live without. A garment bag containing a fellow passenger’s formal attire spent most of the trip in the wrong room, as did my camera tripod. Gymnasium: Gaze at the blue-green sea while using ellipitical machines, treadmills, weight machines and more. Yoga and pilates classes cost $10 each.

Selling Legend of the Seas

Clients who enjoy a whirlwind of activities geared toward middle-of-the-road tastes will not be disappointed. Solitude seekers with highbrow tastes probably will be.

Legend attracts families from grandma and grandpa to the little ones as well as college-age partiers and single women. (Sorry gals, no male hosts on this ship.)