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breenw

Legend of the Seas Review (Panama Canal)

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Here's a review of our cruise last week through the Panama Canal. Hope the information helps!

 

This was our second cruise with RCCL. Our first cruise was not a good experience, but we decided to give RCCL a second chance. We are glad we did!

 

We arrived in San Diego a day early and stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay which is right across from the ship pier. If you stay there, you can walk across the street or the hotel will provide complimentary shuttle service.

 

PIER CHECK IN: Check in was a little hectic at the pier as far as porters were concerned. Once you find someone to help you with your luggage, the check in process is very smooth. We arrived a little early but they had a small gift shop and a snack bar inside the terminal. That was a nice plus. Terminal is not as attractive as some but the service was quick and friendly.

 

SHIP and STATEROOMS: We were pleasantly surprised that the Legend was in as good of shape as it was for its age. The ship was extremely easy to navigate and all areas appeared very clean. Normally we book an outside or balcony cabin, but none were available at time of booking, so we opted for one of the larger inside cabins. It was approximately 20 square feet larger than the regular rooms and well worth the small extra $'s you pay. It was hard getting used to no window or balcony, but we survived just fine. Only amenity that is missing with the inside rooms in a refrigerator! There was a full size couch which was great.

 

We did feel alot of movement with this ship - I am not sure if it was the itinerary since we are used to Caribbean sailings, or if it was the size/age of this ship. Seas were relatively rough a couple of days (8-13 foot waves), so it was pretty rocky at times! The worst part of it was not the movement, but the cabins would "creak and crack" all night long with the movement of the ship. If you are a light sleeper like me, it was very annoying.

 

ITINERARY: We personally liked the itinerary with a day at sea then a day in port, then a day at sea, etc., etc. It gave you time to relax on the ship without tiring yourself out running around ports each day.

 

CABO SAN LUCAS: We enjoyed this port. It was the only port that we had to tender in but we had no problems getting on or off a tender. We elected to do a whale watch excursion with the zodiac boats as we were there during whale season. It was a great excursion and we saw 15-20 whales. The shopping district is adjacent to the pier area so it is easy to manipulate your way around the town. I didn't find the towns people as friendly here as some other ports but we still had a good time. Lots of vendors available to choose those souveniers!

 

ACAPULCO: Our second stop - we elected to venture out with a cab and then see the cliff divers. Lots of people from the ship were going on the city tour and cliff diver show. I think many of them wish they had just done an independent tour. This wasn't one of our favorite ports as the people are extremely pushy to sell their goods. They were very insistent, more so than many other ports we have visited. We paid a cab driver $25 to take us around for 4-5 hours. Well worth the money. The cliff divers are a must see. We ate lunch at the restaurant before the show. It was $12 for lunch and a drink and a great seat, but we would forego the lunch if we did it again. Not impressed at all with the food. There is a fort across from where the ship docks that you can walk to. There are a few sets of stairs but nothing extreme. If you climb to the top of the fort, you get a great view of the bay area. We bought souveniers from some of the local vendors which were located in a small park adjacent to where the ship was docked. Great prices.

 

HUATALCO: What a great surprise! This is going to be a great port as time goes by. There are many beaches here and you can walk to two beaches directly off the pier. We opted to do just that. We sat under a beach umbrella with two lounge chairs and had a great view. They will serve you drinks and food right at your chairs. Although we were approached many, many times by locals selling their wares, they weren't pushy or offensive. We rented a waverunner for $45 (cheapest place we have ever rented these) and spent some time dashing around the bay area. There is a small village shopping area with 40-50 booths to choose from. There is also a downtown area which is walkable (about 1 mile). We thoroughly enjoyed our day here.

 

COSTA RICA: A great port for lots of shore excursions. We hired a private driver who had been recommended on another cruise critic thread. There were 8 of us from the ship and we paid $35 each for a 7-8 hour tour. Well worth it!!! We went to the rain forest, saw many, many birds, crocodiles, iguanas, sloths, etc. Also toured through the mountain areas to see the coffee fields. Stopped for lunch at a great local spot and samples some of the local fare (red rice and beans, beef, chicken, plantains, etc.). Lunch for 2 including drinks was around $16. Ox Carts are one of the things to buy in Costa Rica and there is a factory in Sarchi. Our guide told us that we could buy them cheaper elsewhere so he took us to a large gift store for our purchases. Many passengers were also buying the coffee which was very reasonably priced. For those of you who aren't interested in venturing out on a shore excursion, there is a shopping area at the end of the pier where you can purchase your souveniers.

 

PANAMA CANAL: An incredible experience. We transitted the full canal and enjoyed every minute of it. If you want a good seat, you need to get up by 5:00 a.m. to stake out your spot. We did just that and subsequently got great photos. There is a narrator that comes on board and narrates periodically throughout the transit. You will have the opportunity to go from place to place on the ship in order to see all facets of the transit. An extremely enjoyable experience that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. In the evening we docked at Christobel Pier where there is a "warehouse" building where the locals come to sell their wares. The city is not safe to venture out into at night, so passengers are only allowed in this warehouse. Great place to shop for hand-woven baskets, carved wooden animals and handmade jewelry. Tee-shirts were also cheaper here than on ship. The ship makes you think they are going to run out of Panama Canal t-shirts, but many passengers were upset that they had rushed to buy those on board, only to find they were cheaper at the Pier. Many people felt like they were purposely lied to so that the cruise line could make more money from these purchases. Besides the 40+ vendors in the warehouse you can purchase food, drinks, and they have different dancer troops who perform. Definitely make sure you get off the ship and check this out. One highlight was seeing the native Innuit Indians who bring their wares to the warehouse by canoe. It really makes you realize that in our modern times, there are still areas that remain very primitive.

 

ARUBA: Our last stop - we elected to rent a jeep at the Pier (no advanced reservation; paid $60 for the day). We drove around the back side of the island. This island is very arrid and dessert like compared to all the other ports we experienced on this trip. The roads to the natural bridge, blow hole, etc. are dirt roads and very, very rough to transit. A 4x4, jeep or 2x4 is almost a must or you could break an axle on your car! We saw several goats, donkeys, and tons of iguanas and lizards along the way. Although this wasn't one of our favorite stops, we had a great time. Did some shopping for jewelry in the town and felt we got a good deal. For you Carlos and Charlie fans, the one in Aruba isn't anything like the one in Cozumel. We were sorely disappointed!

 

SHIP FOOD: On a scale of 1-10 I would rate the food about a 7. We were fortunate to have a great waiter and head waiter which made evening meals extremely pleasant. We also lucked out with great table mates so dinnertime was that much more enjoyable. Lunch buffet was okay - nothing great. Ready made omelets were available outside by the pool - this was better than the buffet line at breakfast. We didn't care for the burgers or pizza that was served in the Solarium.

 

EMBARKATION: Very smooth. I'm not sure how much of this was due to the fact that on a 14 day Panama cruise you have more older people than younger. I think overall the older crowd is more willing to abide by the "rules" as opposed to what we have experienced on other ships.

 

OVERALL SATISFACTION AND ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: We would probably rate this cruise experience a 9 on a 1-10 scale. Crew was very friendly, food was decent, rooms were fine, etc. Again, I think this was a good experience since the passenger census was more older people. I especially enjoyed the fact that I encountered very little cigarette smoke. Many of the places on this ship were designated non-smoking, and it seemed that the passengers actually obeyed this rule!

 

The Solarium was a nice place to read and relax. But beware, the floors are extremely slippery when wet. We saw several people fall. I'm not sure why RCCL doesn't do something about that before they end up with a lawsuit.

 

The "That's Entertainment" theatre was nice. There were no bad seats in the theatre but we found that we had to get there an hour before the show started in order to get a seat! We had first dining seating so our show time was 8:30 p.m. We understand that the late seating shows weren't as crowded.

 

The entertainment on board was great. I didn't think the RCCL singer and dancer shows were that great, but the lounge and centrum entertainment was great. All of the guest acts were good also.

 

They also had a nice library and card room on this ship. For those of you who haven't sailed with RCCL, beware of the internet pricing. Even though you can access the internet 24 hours a day, they do not offer any packages for minutes. It costs $0.50 per minute to use the internet and you can't send e-mails out if you are an AOL user. You can receive, but you can't send out. This was very frustrating but we figured out that using the internet cafes in each port was a snap. Every port had an internet cafe or station within a short distance of the piers and the cost was about $2-3 per half hour. Substantial savings.

 

We didn't purchase the soda card as it was almost $100 per person. We just brought our own sodas on board and iced them down in our room. I thought the drinks were reasonably priced. The "drink of the day" ran $3.95.

 

I would suggest if you want to tip your waiters/cabin stewards, etc. with a little extra - bring international calling cards with you and pass them out. We did this, and the staff was very appreciative.

 

The casino was servicable but the machines are extremely "tight". Heard alot of passengers grumbling about this. We managed to leave our contribution for the next lucky person that manages to overcome that problem!

 

I was also surprised that fewer people on this sailing "dressed up" for formal nights compared to other cruises we sailed. I knew that the crowd on this ship would lean more towards older adults, so I thought I would see more tuxes and long dresses. It was quite the opposite actually. So if you are not wanting to bring formal wear, don't worry about it.

 

All in all, this was a great trip, our faith in RCCL is restored, and we hope that the information here is helpful to you.

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Thank you so much for posting your review - I totally enjoyed reading every word. Can't wait for our 14 night Panama Canal on Radiance later this year.

 

Soozin

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Thanks breenw for the review. There has been some really bad reviews by some and glowing ones from others.......glad to see another good one. We will be on the 2/20/05 sailing. We received our doc's last week and noticed that the main seating for dining stated 5:30. Was this so for you? I've never seen that early of a time for main seating, usually 6:30. Please let us know about this as we may want to change. Would also like to know which nights were formal. Did you find a places close to ports to purchase soda's? How about towels for excursions and pool ? Did they refresh these daily in your room? I'll probably have more questions later and again thanks for posting your review!!

 

Nora

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Thanks for your review.

 

We'll be doing the reverse itinerary on the Radiance in April. I have a question for you. There are several people on the Costa Rica boards that have used OSCAR, however, he usually tours just through Limon. Who did you use? Did you port in Puenteranas or Limon?

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Excellent review. We leave on the same route you did on 2/6.

 

A few questions.

 

1. Do they offer an on board scuba program? Rhapsody offered one on their 7 day cruise to Cozmel.

 

2. What is the proximity of the Fort Lauderdale disemarkation point to the airport. Taxis best choice or transfers? Cost?

 

3. Did you use the ship zodiac whale excursion.

 

4. Suggestions for Aruba night life.

 

5. Any tips, traps or suggestions greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks

 

Mike n Pauline

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Wow - lots of great questions. Sorry it took so long to answer but we are in the process of selling our house and things are hectic at home!

 

Okay, here goes. Dinner for us was at 5:30 p.m. It did seem early at first, but we had no trouble accommodating it. Most days, we were already back on the ship from a port so it didn't interfer with shore excursions. The day we were in Aruba, we toured the island during the day, so we were ready for dinner at 5:30 p.m. That also gave us plenty of time to go back out for the evening.

 

Proximity of cruise terminal in Fort Lauderdale. We took a taxi from the port to the airport. It was a 5 minute drive and a $10 taxi ride.

 

In regards to soft drinks - we always tend to rent a car from the airport to the ports for a couple of reasons. Usually it is cheaper than the cruise lines charge for transfers plus we always go in the day before a cruise so that in the event of any problems with the airlines - we don't miss the boat! This gives us the flexibility to sightsee the day or evening before we leave on the cruise, and it gives us the flexibility to go to a local drug store or WalMart, etc. to get water, sodas, etc. A couple of times we have just asked at the desk of the hotel we are staying at if there is a drug store we can walk to. If we don't have rental car, that usually works for us.

 

Beach Towels are readily available in your stateroom or by the pools on the ships. You don't have to take any with you, or hoard yours in your stateroom. We always had a couple in our room so that if we were going to be at the water on a shore excursion, we would have a towel. No problems.

 

The whale watch we did was through the cruise line on the zodiac boats. Normally we get our own tours, but we decided to to with the one on the ship since it was reasonably priced. I highly recommend the zodiac boats over the other ones. We saw 15-20 whales on our tour, while the larger boat only saw 1. We consequently got great pictures. You will get wet from some of the ocean spray so be prepared! You also might want to take a disposable water camera.

 

I have heard good things about Oscar. Our tour guide was Mauricio in Puntarentas. He and his uncle provide a great tour experience and it was only $35 for the day per person. He is a very nice young man and we thoroughly enjoyed and recommend him. If you need contact info, you can e-mail me privately at breenw@aol.com, or you can check out the Panama Canal thread on these boards.

 

Aruba night life. There is a trip on the Kukukanuku party bus that goes bar hopping but you can also just do that by yourself. There is a Carlos and Charlies right at the dock (if you've been to the one in Cozumel, you'll be disappointed in this one!). There is also an Iguana Joes and a couple of other places a couple of blocks from the ship.

 

No they didn't have scuba lessons on board the Legend.

 

I hope I answered all your questions. If you have more, feel free to contact me.

 

Marsha

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