Saturday, September 13, 2014

Carnival Legend Cruise Review

Carnival Legend - Cruise Review 8/30/2014 - 23 days

Tahiti, Fiji, & South Pacific

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Legend
Captain: Giuseppe Gazzano
Cruise Director:  Eli Sharplin
Ports: Los Angeles - Puerto Vallarta - Tahiti - Moorea - Bora Bora - Fiji - New Caledonia - Sydney

This is my 48th Carnival cruise, second time on the Carnival Legend, and 95th cruise overall.  I am cruising with my dear wife (DW) and two other couples, good friends we have cruised with many times.

Friday August 29 / Travel
Queen Mary - Observation Bar
An easy morning to begin, we left the ranch about 9:00 am for a 10:45 am flight from Waco.  Entertainer Phillip Phillips was on the Waco flight. He did a concert the previous night at the new Baylor Football Stadium that is opening this weekend. Seems to be a very nice guy.  The 1:20 pm AA flight from DFW to LAX went very well, we had three seats for the two of us, and I was able to read our book on the Queen Mary during the flight.  On arrival we retrieved our bags and made our way to the Super Shuttle pick up spot and were in our van in just a few minutes.  Interesting that the three couples already on the shuttle were all from Australia our final destination.  Only one couple was on our cruise.  The other three couples were dropped at three different hotels then finally the Queen Mary Hotel located on the historic Queen Mary ocean liner.  The shuttle took us a little longer than I expected, but we were there just after the 4:00 pm check in time.  DW loves the Queen Mary and all the history that goes along with it.  We were lucky enough to be again staying during the Art Deco Society weekend.  People dress in period and vintage clothing so it really adds to the atmosphere of staying on the Queen Mary.  Our friends saw us boarding so met us in the lobby, always great to be greeted and see friends.  We had requested a premium cabin and were assigned cabin 440 on B deck, a wonderful vintage cabin with most fixtures original.  We were very pleased with this large (especially for a ship) and historic cabin.  We went to the beautiful Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge for cocktails with our friends. I ordered one of their signature cocktails, a Passionate Affair, it was wonderful.  The bar was formerly the First-Class Lounge, original artwork still hangs above the bar, which is lined with Art Deco tables, chairs and decor. I also had to have a period cocktail, a Sidecar, but later went back to the Passionate Affair.  It was a great cocktail time with friends in a great place.  Following we went to the Promenade Cafe and I ordered a Reuben on marble rye bread.  It was great.  DW explored the ship in the evening hours and I enjoyed cabin time.     They had a ghost tour at 11:00 pm, but that would be 1:00 am start in Texas time so we passed.  Reading the book on the QM during the flight gave me the idea of checking the drawers of the cabinets and wardrobes in the cabin since they are original.  Sure enough on the bottom of several of the drawers were signatures of servicemen who where on the ship when she was known as the Gray Ghost a troop transport during WW-II.  One solider had written all the camps he had been to before traveling to England.  An amazing discovery.

Saturday August 30 / Embarkation / Day 1
The Queen Mary and the Long Beach Cruise Pier
We had a nice nights sleep on the QM and had a nice casual morning. About 9:30 am we began our tour of the ship.  I went to the snack bar on Promenade Deck and enjoyed a sticky bun with milk and watched all the day guests from the Art Deco Society dressed in vintage clothing begin their big day.  It was very fascinating and lots of fantastic period clothing…a great people watching opportunity.  This is the second time we have stayed on the QM during their event and will consider making it at least a semi-annual event.  We anticipated a delayed boarding of the Carnival Legend so we stayed as long as possible on the QM.  About 12:30 a QM bellman took our bags over to be checked and we found the Priority line to be checked-in for the cruise.  They did keep our passports and DW did get her 25th Milestone card.  Everyone still waits outside until boarding and we luckily found some seats in the shade on a planter.  They began boarding the Platinum, Diamond, and Suite guests by zone about 2:00 pm  There are over 400+ Platinum guests and 100+ Diamond guests so there were several different VIP groups, we were in about the fifth zone group since we didn’t check in until about 1:00 pm., but once our zone was called it was just one more ID check and then through the baggage security check. We saw Caroline the GSM at the gangway as we entered the ship and she did call me by name.  I was able to give her a note I wrote to her while waiting to board.   We went straight to our cabin on deck eight and our bags were already there waiting for us.  We were hungry so all went up to Lido for lunch before it got too busy.  There is no Mongolian Grill (my favorite Carnival embark lunch) on the Legend so I had the sliced roast beef and various Italian dishes from the buffet line.  Then we went to explore the ship.  The Carnival Legend  had a recent dry dock and upgrades since we sailed on her about this time last year in Europe. (Review here: so it will be interesting to see the new additions to the ship. There are lots of Aussies on this cruise…makes since as we are gong to Sydney…I hope to find out how many, but I’d guess 25% of all guests. They held boat drill about 4:30 and it seemed to go smoothly.  Our group met for cocktails in the deck three Odyssey Lounge before dinner and dinner is delayed by thirty minutes tonight from 7:45 to 8:15, not a major change since we are used to an 8:15 dinner on cruises.  We are assigned a very good six-top table in the center of the Truffles dining room (MDR).  The wait staff seem good so looks like dining will be a good cruise experience.  For dinner I ordered the Creme of Tomato Soup, Sweet & Sour Shrimp, Chicken a la Grecque entree (grilled Chicken with Pasta), and Creme Brûlée for dessert.  We had a scheduled 8:00 pm sail away, but they were still loading provisions late so not exactly sure when we did sail.  The Welcome Show was at 10:00 pm and they had a Production show: Motor City following at 10:30.

Sunday August 31 / Fun day at Sea / Day 2
The new Red Frog Pub on Legend
Very smooth seas overnight once we got away and good sleeping in the inside cabin, just enough movement for an enjoyable nights sleep. DW had ordered room service breakfast which is usual for her and I was off to Truffles dining room for breakfast about 8:30 am. I was curious as to how they would handle the ritzy Sea Day Brunches with so many sea days on this cruise. I was told they would have 5-6 of them over the course of the cruise, but today was a standard breakfast morning. Breakfast was very good, I ordered tomato juice, melon, Eggs Benedict, corned beef hash, bacon, and potatoes.  I did a walk-about of the ship this morning, the new Red Frog Pub (RFP) looks great with a very nice performer area.  Discovered a second Martini type bar on deck two that I’m sure we will try soon.  We sat at the Serenity Deck bar area and visited with friends and ate a late Deli lunch.  I had a Reuben and half a turkey salad sandwich, DW a grilled cheese.  We had cabin time until meeting for cocktails in the Atlantis Lounge on deck 2, this was the bar we had discovered this morning and it has entertainment and is located next to the MDR.  It was unusual not having Elegant night as usual on the second night, but we have a long cruise so it will come later.  Tonight was a standard menu dinner and it was good, I ordered: two Shrimp Cocktails, Pene Pasta with Artichoke Hearts, Grilled NY Sirloin Steak,  Pecan Pie with ice creme, and the Seasoned Berries Panacotta.  DW, a vegetarian, said the Baked Phyllo Pouches were very good.  After dinner some went to the Casino, some to Punchliner’s Comedy Club, and some retired to the cabin.  They had two Playlist Production shows this evening: Motor City and Studio VIP this evening.

Monday September 1 / Fun day at Sea / Day 3
Whales at sea
Calm seas overnight and I slept very well not getting up and around until 9:00ish.  I went up to the Lido and had a light snack as we met our friends at 10:30 for the first Sea-day Brunch of the cruise.  I ordered the Steak & Eggs. DW had a Cheese Omelette and Cheese Grits. Later the guys went to the Red Frog Pub for a few beers and ended up playing some trivia.  We sailed along side a pod of whales off the Mexican coast near Cabo St. Lucas during the afternoon.  Sundown is coming much sooner as we sail south, it was at 7:20 in Long Beach, but at 6:30 tonight only 48 hours later. I almost missed sunset.  I’m very aware of the time and weather season changes to come, but had not considered the changes in day light, of course that will happen as we sail from summer to winter.  We had a cabin party for cocktails this evening, some in the group had ordered liquor to be delivered so we would have an inventory, great to sail with clever friends. Tonight was one of the special menus they have for longer cruises, it had unique items such as Gravlacks and Borsch.  I ordered the Bowtie Pasta in Tomato Sauce, Tortilla Chicken soup, and the Veal entree.  The Mango & Passion Fruit Mouse was an excellent dessert. Again after dinner some went to the Casino, some to Punchliner’s Comedy Club, and some retired to the cabin.  The Production show this evening was comedy ventriloquist Phil Hughes.

Tuesday September 2 / Puerto Vallarta, Mexico / Day 4
Downtown Puerto Vallarta
Very smooth seas again overnight and I slept very well, the interior is great for sleeping. We arrived at our first port of call by 8:00 am, I do miss a balcony on port mornings, but I have the cabin TV set to outside camera that lets me know I can pop up one deck to see everything.  I went up to the omelet station and had a nice Western omelet about 9:00 am and took in the beautiful view of Bandera Bay and Puerto Vallarta.  One item on our to-do list for today is go to Walmart and it is within view and walking distance.  One in the group went Zip lining early and the rest met at 11:00 am to begin our exploration of PV.  We took a shuttle van into the old town ($5 pp) and looked at a few shops, tasted some very good pomegranate tequila, and visited the old Lady of Guadalupe Church.  We sampled some local ice creme and crossed the suspension bridges onto Isla Cuale island. The weather was not favorable for tourists or for walking around…the temperature was upper 80’s but the humidity was about 80%.  I wanted to eat at Mole restaurant that became an adventure to find, and we did but it was not yet open.  Wanting to escape the heat we stopped at Fredy Toucan’s.  This was a restaurant that specializes in breakfasts, but they had basic Tex-Mex lunch items. We ordered drinks (2 for 1 margaritas) and lunch and the food was excellent.  Most ordered quesadillas or soft tacos. The restaurant took cash (pesos) no plastic, but fortunately I had pesos, a reminder to always check. Our Zip Liner joined us and we briefly looked around this ‘artsy’ area but when we came across a taxi van knew it would be perfect for transporting all six of us so we were soon off to Walmart.  I stocked up on diet coke, DW was able to get some much needed dental items, and a few extra miscellaneous items as well.  Some walked backed to the ship, but some with big bags such as myself took the taxi ($5 total).  We stopped at one of the bars at the pier to spend our remaining pesos, I had a few Victoria beers,  DW a walker joined and had a nice basic margaritas. We were back on the ship about 4:00ish. The air-conditioning was so welcome. Once in the cabin it was in the shower and all the clothes into the laundry bag to be sent out.  It was recovery time in the cabin before meeting in the Odyssey lounge for pre dinner cocktails.  We sailed just before the scheduled 8:00pm time and the Captain made a ship-wide announcement, it seems a tropical storm has developed just off the Mexican coast and he will be altering our route to avoid it.  It’s already a named storm, TS Norbert and the Captain warned us of rough seas overnight.  It was another of the ‘special longer itinerary’ menus tonight in the MDR.  I ordered: Hawaiian Breeze (special fruit starter), Bigolli Arrabiatta (pasta), and the Grilled Ribeye Steak Tyrolienne.  All excellent.  For dessert I ordered the Croustillant au Lait (a French Pastry) and Pistachio and Almond Clafoutis (cake filled roasted cherry creme).  Other interesting items available included:  Baked Mussels Florentine, Mediterranean Seafood Chowder, Pistou Broth, Breaded Frog Legs (the didja item), Duck a l’Orange, Fillet of Victorian Perch, or Broiled center-cut Pork Chop.  After dinner it was cabin time for us, but the others were off to the casino or the Hasbro Game Show.

Wednesday September 3 / Fun day at Sea / Day 5
Tropical Storm Norbert
A rocking & rolling night at sea but I slept very well.  It’s a Sea Day Brunch day in the MDR, but I slept late and had some croissants with butter & guava jelly from DW’s room service. We are sailing around TS Norbert and at least the storm is going north towards Baja (our route down) and not west our travel direction. The Captain has taken a southerly route around the storm. We had 60 knot winds during the night, but it’s easily walkable this morning.  I took a walk around the ship, all the upper decks are closed as well as the forward and far aft sections of Lido deck.  All pools are empty.  A great day for a cabin time day.  I went up to Lido for a nice lunch and the Carrot Cake dessert was great.  It’s been raining off and on so a good day to watch movies and TV in the cabin.  Tonight is the Captain’s Elegant (formal) night and we met for cocktails on deck 3 as usual in the Odyssey…it’s also a good people watching location.  Dinner was very good this evening, I ordered the Stuffed White Mushrooms, Spaghetti Carbonara, Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Prime Rib, and the Cherries Jubilee for dessert.  Other options were:  Alligator Fritters, Lobster Tail, or Pork Spare Ribs.   After dinner we went to the Piano Bar to see Seth Gibson for a while, then to the late Comedy Club show to see Jerome.  Returning to the cabin we went by Lido deck to get a ice creme before returning to the cabin.  A late night for us.

Thursday September 4 / Fun day at Sea / Day 6
Serenity Deck on Carnival Legend
Much smoother seas overnight as we have put distance between ourselves and TS Norbert.  Still a little rolling, but I enjoy that.  We set our clocks back one hour during the night, that will be the first of several.  I went to the MDR for a large breakfast: melon, 3-eggs, corned-beef-hash, bacon, potatoes, tomato juice, milk, and toast.  It was great.  We walked around the ship this morning, still very blustery outdoors.  The rains came and pretty much lasted all day.  We watched the cha-cha lessons in the lobby area, wish I was better at it.  We had lunch in the covered area of the Serenity deck, but the heavy rain drove us back inside.  It was a perfect day to start my book, The Road to Guilford Courthouse, a rather large history book about the southern campaigns of the American Revolutionary War.  Not an easy read so it should keep me occupied for a while.  They actually showed NCAA football game the afternoon a pleasant surprise as TV is very limited.  We met our little group as usual in the Odyssey for cocktails about 6:45-7:00.  The dinner menu tonight was very unique I had never seen anything like it even on a transatlantic. I was told they borrow some menus from some of the CCL sister lines when they need to expand beyond 14 days.  My guess is that tonights menu came from Costa (maybe?).  I ordered: Baja Tiquitos, Meat Lasagna, and Pork Picatta.    DW, my sweet vegetarian wife, had the Vegetable Cheesy Pie and said it was very good. Others choices included: Barbecued Octopus Salad (didja item), Chicken MeatBall Soup,   Chilled Turnip & Apple Soup, Mesclun Salad with Dried Fruits, Shrimps Stuffed Basa, Guinness Brased Lamb Leg, and Barbecue Chicken (comfort  item).  Desserts were also unique and included: Mango Brûlée, Summer Pudding, and Cappuccino Layer Cake. The production show in the Follies Theater was Motown & More featuring Marcus Anthony.

Friday September 5 / Fun day at Sea / Day 7
We have sunshine today mixed with clouds, but still the first sunshine in a few days.  I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast then a walk around the ship.  The Serenity deck is already full.  We did spend some time at a table on deck this morning then ate lunch there as well, it was Italian food in the buffet.  Then  an afternoon of reading and a nap.  Easy relaxing sea days for sure.  They had a Seuss-A-Polooza parade and story time this afternoon.  We really don’t have many children this cruise, but this new feature will probably be very popular on Carnival cruises. DW went to a stretch/dance class some individuals had started. I read my book.  We met for cocktails at the usual time in the Odyssey Lounge.  Another unique menu in the MDR.  I ordered: Iced Pineapple Salad with Watermelon, Grilled Shrimp and Scallop Brochette, Cannelloni Piemontese (as a starter), and Roast Prime Rib.  DW had the Cannelloni Piemontese entree and it is very very good.  Other items included: Fried Calamari Rings, Consomme Mille Fanti, Langoustine Bisque, Pan Fried Rainbow Trout, Eggplant Moussaka, and Grilled Calfs Liver.  DW attended the production show: Studio VIP in the Follies Theater.  I’m enjoying reading, something I don’t do at home, in the cabin after dinner.

Saturday September 6 / Fun day at Sea / Day 8
Carnival Legend Avalon pool
Smoother seas and sunshine again today.  We also moved the clocks back again overnight, our second time to do so. I went up to Lido deck and got some pancakes to hold me until brunch.  It’s a beautiful day today and I ate out on the Serenity Deck.  We had a little champagne party there sharing a bottle that a friend had sent us on the Queen Mary.  The group went to the MDR about 11:15 am for the Sea Day brunch, we had a great time with great food and a little magic from Magic Leo as a bonus. I had the Steak & Eggs, DW had Cheese Grits and a Cheese omelet. I went to the sports bar to see if they had any NCAA football and they did, but only one game at a time and no current scores or halftime reports.  I went to the cabin to read and watch the game.  DW attended the afternoon movie and did some line dancing.  I went down to the lobby and watched a little African Booty dance that DW did with some other guests.  We went up on deck to see the sunset at 5:35 pm. Amazing that it is 3+ hours earlier than currently in Texas, we were at 01° 52’ N at sunset so tomorrows sunset will be in the southern hemisphere.  We met for cocktails this evening in the Lobby Bar and listened to the group: Inpromptwo  for the second time this cruise.  They are a good cover group.  Dinner was again a unique menu.  I ordered: Tequila Glazed Grilled Shrimp, Wonton Soup and Fried Chicken.  DW ordered the Baked Herb Polenta.  I admit after viewing the sunset we passed through the Lido buffet and sampled items that were on the menu: Spaghetti Bolognese, Sweet & Sour Pork, and an excellent Chicken Catcciatori.  Other available items: Caprese Salad, Chilled Melon Soup, Fish Escabeche, Herb Crusted Lamb Rack, Breaded Oyster and Orange Yougart Pudding.  For dessert I had the Blueberry Pie and a Chocolate Lamington.  The feature show after dinner was the the hypnotist Doug McGraw.  I understand we will cross the equator between 2:00-3:00 am. in the morning, and they did have a party for those that wanted to stay awake for the crossing.  We didn’t, but DW got a photo of the TV set as crossed.

Sunday September 7 / Fun day at Sea / Day 9

King Neptune Ceremony
Very agreeable slightly rolling seas overnight and another great nights sleep. We were lazy and slept in this morning and I went upstairs for an omelet about 10:00ish.  Weather is good again today and we are just having a lazy day.  The big King Neptune Ceremony was held at 3:00 pm today, where everyone transitioned from Pollywogs to Shellbacks.  King Neptune, portrayed by Cruise Director Eli, was in attendance as well as his queen and court.  Four officers, four crew, and four guests had to ‘kiss the fish’ and were subjected to some slop as part of the initiation.  Somehow, the plans were altered as Eli was himself a Pollywog and ended up getting his head shaved by the Captain Gazzano.  Later this evening Shellback certificates were left in each cabin for guests.  Our group met for cabin cocktails this evening before dinner…always fun.  Dinner was another unique menu, I ordered: Baked Escargot, Rigatoni with Gorgonzola and Marcapone Sauce, and the Grilled Rib-eye Steak.  All very good.  For dessert I ordered: Apricot & Fig Creme Brûlée and the White Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake.  We went to the Theater to see the feature show as I had never heard of the act: Will Rotten who did circus side show acts.  I can pass on him in the future.

Monday September 8 / Fun day at Sea / Day 10
Seuss theme in Gift Shoppe
We had a bit of a storm overnight so nice rolling seas today.  I slept very well and was off to the MDR for a nice breakfast, Eggs Benedict with my favorite extras.  This morning we went to exchange a bottle of wine at the ‘Cherry on Top’ and ended up shopping along the Rodeo Drive gift shoppes.  They are having a deep sale on any item associated with the Caribbean since the Carnival Legend will not be returning there any time soon.  I got two nice t-shirts for $5 each.  We saw our group in the Red Frog Pub and all ended up eating in the MDR for lunch. They had Cannelloni Bolognese on the menu today, it was very good.  DW was off to the 2:00 movie and then dance and I read in the afternoon.  It’s been a overcast day all day and even spot showers, but there are guests out and about on deck.  Reading in the afternoon for me.  We met at the Odyssey Bar for cocktails and laughs before dinner.  It was a standard 7-day menu this evening I ordered: Tom Ka Gai Soup, Farfalle Pasta with Turkey in Creme Sauce, And the Grilled Pork Steak.  For dessert Tiramisu and Bitter & Blanc. They had two production shows, depending on the time: Epic Rock and Studio VIP in the Follies Theater.  I also finished my book, a tough read, but since my ggg-grandfather fought in this campaign and is mentioned it was a must read for me.

Tuesday September 9 / Fun day at Sea / Day 11
Carnival Legend Lido Pool - one of three pools
Calmer seas overnight.  I slept very well and went to the MDR for a nice breakfast this morning.  We went to the MickeyLive presentation this morning in the theater.  I’ve been watching some of them on cabin TV previously, but todays subject was the next three islands so he had a packed house for this one.  We had a light lunch on Serenity deck, they had Roasted Chicken at the carving station. On our walk about the ship this afternoon we took advantage of the calmer seas to go forward to the observation area above the bridge.  Great views along the sides of the ship.  Water, water, everywhere…to be honest the middle of the Pacific looks just like the middle of the Atlantic, Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico.  They held the VIFP parties this afternoon, there were several scheduled with so many VIFP’s sailing, my understanding is that there are 100+ Diamonds and nearly 500 Platinums on this cruise, but the parties are only 30 minutes each so actually didn’t attend. We didn’t want to be rushed in and rushed out like cattle. However our little group met at the Atlantis Bar again for cocktails.  Our daily one hour aperitifs is a much nicer gathering.  Dinner was a standard menu, I ordered: the Baked Penne Casserole, Hot & Sour Soup, Roasted Beef Tenderloin, and an appetizing Chocolate pudding that was actually a cake.  It was Big Screen Movie night in the theater with three recent movies.  When we returned to the cabin we had a letter from the Captain explaining that due to the need to take on fuel and supplies that we would have extended time in port in Papeete and would not sail unit until 11:00 pm.

Wednesday September 10 / Papeete Tahiti / Day 12
Totem at Marae Arahurahu Temple
Smooth seas overnight and another great nights sleep. I was up early and actually watched us sail up to the island on the cabin TV, we were there early, by 7:00 am.  DW had her usual room service and I had a light breakfast on the Serenity deck.  We have a Carnival ship’s tour that I booked primarily because of a promoted stop at the Paul Gauguin Museum; however, we were notified that the museum was closed once we boarded.  They substituted the museum with another and we stayed with it as it was already paid.  (In hind site we should have cancelled and gone with our small group as our later small group tours were so much better than a larger group).  We met our tour group on the pier at 9:00 am and boarded our bus for our 6.5 hour tour, we did have the last row of seats that were elevated. First stop was the Museum of Tahiti and her Islands that featured the history of the islands and nice exhibits.  We went to Vaipahi Gardens & waterfall where they had beautiful tropical plants, Maraa Grotto, One Tree Hill, Arahoho Blowhole, Point Venus with it’s park, monuments, and black sand beaches, and Marae Arahurahu an interesting pre-christian site where they did Tahitian rituals and sacrifices.  Arahurahu is the only marae in all of Polynesia that has been fully restored, and it is maintained like it was museum.  Of course you can only go as fast as the slowest member of your group on these group tours, but we did fairly well.  Mid-way we ate at the Gauguin Restaurant and had an opportunity to sample local foods or a lunch buffet.  The breadfruit was different, I can see why Capt. Bligh came here and was taking it back to the Caribbean prior to the mutiny.  The guide was good and the tour covered all the historical and interesting sites.  We were dropped back at the ship about 4:00 pm so we cleaned up and had a snack on board before going back out to walk around the city of Papeete about 5:00pm.  Unfortunately it was raining off and on AND the market & shops close early on Wednesdays.  Guess it didn’t matter to them that a huge cruise ship was in port.  We were able to find items we needed at a pharmacy and see the local park I wanted to visit between rain showers.  We stopped at a nice sidewalk restaurant for a pint mug of Hinano beer, the beer of Tahiti ($10), and diet coke on the way back to the ship.   

Thursday September 11 / Moorea / Day 13
Bali Hai on Moorea
We only sailed in circles overnight to reach Moorea since it’s actually within view of Tahiti.  We both slept well and had Room Service breakfast as we’re meeting the group early for our Private excursion. Diamond guests get priority debarkation in tender ports and since we have so many on board they had scheduled meet times in the Piano Bar (with pastries & drinks) for Diamond Guests.  We went for the 8:15 set time and after just a brief wait they took us straight away to a crew elevator then down to the next scheduled tender boat.  First class operation Carnival Legend, Caroline, and staff.  We were among the  first guests arriving at the pier and they had a great Arrival & Welcoming area with Polynesian music, lovely native hosts, and even a table with local foods to sample.  We had a private tour arranged for the six of us and soon our guide Ron arrived with his 4-wheeled drive truck with bench seats for us in the back, we soon learned this type of vehicle gets us to magical places that a tour bus can never reach.  Our guide/driver altered our route to take advantage of the weather and clouds.  We drove through the countryside able to take track roads through farming areas and crossing low water crossings, very green and lush, quite beautiful.  Our first stop was the Belvedere Outlook, the highest point of the island, then the ruins of an old sacrifice alter that has been taken over by chickens and roosters that are very common on all three Tahitian islands.  Then we stopped at the Ag School for samples of local jams and I had some local ice creme:  banana & hibiscus flavored.  We went through the schools pineapple fields to a unique view point of Bali Hai and Mt. Belvedere.  A very beautiful combination of cultivated fields, tropical forests and mountains…really an most unique interior location, in fact a scene depicted on their local coinage (the photo does not do it justice).  A visit to the local distillery was next where we sampled the local mostly fruit liquors. Our final stop was Magic Mountain.  This is up a very very steep one track road on the mountain overlooking the bay and our cruise ship and only these special vehicles can make this difficult bumpy trek, but the effort is very worthwhile as the view is spectacular.  We were dropped at a nice local eatery where we had a nice table for six on the water.  They were quite busy, with a huge cruise ship in port, but we enjoyed the local beers Hinano and Tabu while they lasted.  The food was very good, I ordered a crusted Mahi Mahi with fries.  We enjoyed our meal, but soon the skies opened and we had a heavy tropical shower.  The rain didn’t let up so we paid our bill ($15,000 francs for 6) and they shuttled us back to the pier.  The ladies did some shopping then tendered back while the guys went to the local grocery/bar for two pitchers of Hinano and at $10 each…bargain priced.  After clean up we had balcony drinks then to the Atlantis Lounge for cocktails.  Captain Gazzano even came and sat with us for a brief time.  Dinner was another unique menu, I ordered the Chilled Plum Soup, Pasta, and Rump Steak. The Rump Steak was awful, but I didn’t order a substitute as DW and I were both ready to retire after a long exciting day.

Friday September 12 / Bora Bora / Day 14
Beautiful aerial photo of Bora Bora   (click to enlarge)
Rather rocky seas overnight especially considering we were not traveling that far overnight.  We were up early and already anchored off the very small village of Viatape in Bora Bora when I went up to the Lido to get an omelet this morning. They actually started tendering guests very early.  The group again met about 7:45 am and we went to the Diamond tendering location before 8:00 am. Very efficient system.  They took us strait-away to the tender and we were off the short distance to Viatape.  We were early so we looked at some crafts before boarding our private outrigger boat just for the six of us.  Our guide was Maui and we had a very nice old wooden out-rigger boat that was perfect for us. The water in the lagoon of Bora Bora is absolutely beautiful and almost indescribable…so many shades of blue. Our first stop was a location where boats would stop and you could get in the water and swim with the stingrays and small sharks, very interesting and fun.  The water was great too.  We then sailed to a coral garden very near the outer coral ring around the lagoon.  Only two of us snorkeled this area, the coral was great, but not many fish here today, but the water is very nice.  The next stop was a better fish area, but there were a lot of tourist boats here so we didn’t stay long and went to ‘Long Beach’ where we had own private beach area for a while.  Maui got us some fresh coconuts and he had some local bananas that were refreshing and delicious.  We then had a long boat ride to finish the complete circle of the lagoon seeing a location of an old WW-II gun emplacement along the way.  We were dropped at the pier of Bloody Mary’s the infamous bar located on Bora Bora.  It was a very nice place, very clean and very polynesian in decor with sand floors. We had a cocktails and lunch, I had a very unique Mahi Reuben sandwich and DW had fries. (again $15,000 francs for 6) After eating we took a shuttle back to the pier before the scheduled final tender time of 3:00 pm.  Back in the cabin it was time clean up an rest although I did go up to Lido deck to get photos of us sailing away from Bora Bora, a very beautiful island.  DW & I ate the dinner buffet on Lido deck this evening.  I had the sliced roasted Prime Rib, a Flatiron Steak, Pasta, Bolognese Potatoes and an excellent dessert: Orange & Almond Pudding (cake) with Butterscotch Sauce.  The production show for tonight was cancelled so we picked a good night for rest and recovery from three days of active excursions.

Saturday September 13 / Fun day at Sea / Day 15
Carnival Legend Slide
Rolling seas overnight.  We had another roll back of time overnight, one more hour.  The weather is great…perhaps clearest skies we have had so far.  I slept well and went to the MDR for a nice breakfast.  With our early time difference we have NCAA football (TCU) this morning on our only remaining North American TV station: Prime USA.  It will be a relaxing day.  I went to the MDR for lunch today as I noticed while in line at breakfast they were serving Spaghetti Gorgonzola. I ordered it and a very good Turkey/Broccoli Club sandwich, interesting combination and excellent.  The afternoon (late in USA) NCAA game was TX-UCLA.  The ship hosted Guest Appreciation’ cocktails at 4:45 for an hour that we took advantage of in the Atlantis Lounge, it was very nice of them.  Following the group prepared for dinner and met back there at 6:45 for a second round of complementary cocktails. This was a ship wide event and very nice, they had wine, champagne, beer, and a selection of cocktails.  Thanks Carnival Legend.  We had a standard menu tonight in the MDR.  I ordered the French Onion Soup, Pasta, and the Short Ribs of Beef. The feature show this evening was the magical variety comedy of Nick Nickolas.

Sunday September 14 / Fun day at Sea / Day 16
Casino Decor
Typical rolling seas overnight and a good nights sleep. It’s another beautiful day   as well.  Today is a Sea Day Brunch day in the MDR, I ordered the Fresh Fruit platter with cottage cheese and Huevos Rancheros two of my two favorite items on this menu.  After breakfast I walked around the ship on the exterior of deck three enjoying the seas and weather. This is a forgotten deck and a great place to walk.  Unfortunately there are no deck chairs as this deck is the primary muster station location. They have a new ‘virtual reality’ sports betting area in the casino where you can bet on horse races, dog races, and auto races.  I played the horses a bit just to try the new system, it was interesting.  I ran into the group and we went to the MDR for late brunch.  I ordered the flamin’ tomatoes soup and the hey pork chop with a  banana cream pie for dessert.  Just another walk around deck and TV time in the afternoon, it’s interesting to see some Australian series.  Following our usual group cocktails it was dinner time.  It was another unique menu again, I ordered: Steamed Maine Mussels, Ahi Tuna Salad on Red Beet Carpaccio, Roasted Prime Rib of American Beef.  DW ordered the Crepes filled with Spinach & Ricotta and the Spanakopita & Stuffed Bell Peppers.  The production show this evening was Justin Illusion in the Follies theater.

Tuesday-September 16 / Fun day at Sea / Day 17

Crossing the International Dateline
Smooth seas overnight.  I was awake early and while on my laptop computer changed the time zone one more hour closer towards Australia and it automatically changed the day to Tuesday as well since we have crossed the international dateline. No ceremony for this feat, just fascination, but it is amazing. We have continued the great weather as we continue sailing west.  The usual ship board routine today with lunch from the Lido buffet.  They listed the guests and crew that had birthdays on the 15th since they didn’t get a birthday this year…I’ve never crossed the International Date Line so there are some adjustments especially when you know for the folks back home it’s Monday and we didn’t have one.  Before dinner we went to see the Australian comedians Col Cameron and Dave Callan in the Punchliner Comedy Club.  To be honest they were not funny. One of the few lines that got a chuckle was: “Now I know what quiet sounds like”.  We stopped to see Will Marion in the Red Frog Pub…he has talent and always a favorite.  A little late to the MDR and another special menu for us this evening, I ordered: a Cobb Salad, the Spaghetti Vongole, and the very good Beef Wellington.  For dessert: Apple Bread & Butter Pudding and Pavola with Fruit Topping.  After dinner we retired to prepare for our port day, but they had an Aussie performer, Belinda Marks in the Follies Theater.

Wednesday-September 17 / Suva, Fiji Islands / Day 18
Village performer
Smooth seas overnight and good sleeping.  We ordered room service breakfast as our wake up call so we would be ready for our port day.  It was a very good weather day in Suva. It is also election day so there are generally no shops open today.  Four of us met and left the ship about 8:30 am. and we booked a tour in a private car. We saw various government buildings and stopped at the President's Palace for a photo op.  We drove about 20+ miles from Suma to a native village where we saw a Kava Ceremony and the remains of the ancient village that they now use as a cemetery.  Family members are buried at the location of their former family homes (huts), it was a bit spooky due to the large number of large bats roosting above us in the trees.  They explained the old native customs, they were cannibals, and the men in native costume put on a battle show for us eventually presenting the victim to the chief.  It was very interesting.  On the drive we noticed many polling stations with many people, dressed it their finest, lined up to vote in the days elections.  We asked to be dropped at the Grand Pacific Hotel, the finest hotel in the area, over 100 years old, and built in the British Colonial style.  We enjoyed some cocktails & the local Fiji Gold beer and a wonderful buffet lunch (F$50pp) on the verandah that had a wonderful view.  It was the best meal of the trip by far, choices included: Assorted hors d’oeuvres, Fish Soup, Gilled Marlin Steak, Beef sautéd with Capsciums, Coconut Rice, Potatoes Grautin, Mixed Vegetables, and a dessert buffet of assorted cakes, puddings, fruit, and more.   The original lobby area included photos of the original hotel, Queen Elizabeth’s visit, and a visit by Prince Charles & Diana.  The accommodation wings and restaurants, pool facilities, etc. of the hotel are all new. The service was impeccable. A taxi (F$3.50) returned us to the pier and ship.  After a brief rest I went up on Lido to watch us sail away from Suma, then sat in a lounger aft to watch us sail away from Fiji.  We met for aperitifs and shared a bottle of wine that was sent to us by Sr. Cruise Director John Heald, thanks JH.  Dinner was another good unique menu, I ordered:  the Orange & Greek Olive green salad, Fettuccine with sautéed Shrimp, and Sugar Glazed Pork Loin stuffed with Apples & Prunes.  Dessert was Basmati Rice Creme Brûlée and an Apple Tart.

Thursday-September 18 / Fun day at Sea / Day 19
Diamond Guest Luncheon
Calm seas overnight and good sleeping. We turned our clocks back one hour so we are now on New Caledonia time.  Only one more to get to Sydney time.  DW and I both went up to the lido for omelets and sat out on the Serenity deck.  The weather is great.  We walked around the ship and did some shopping and they were teaching the Merengue today at the daily dance lessons in the lobby area.   We were invited to the Diamond Guest Luncheon today on level 3 of Truffles dining room.  It was very well organized with a chart as you walked in with your table number and a place card for your seat.  It made seating the 100+ Diamond guests easy, we were assigned table 3.  The senior officer at our table was Hotel Director Duncan Puttock (in photo above) who has worked for Carnival for 30 years, I had never met him and  may not again as his usual ship is the Carnival Spirit sailing from Sydney.  A very nice man, we had seen him on the ship, but he goes around somewhat incognito gauging passenger response.  We were offered Champagne when we entered and the souvenir menus were similar to a treasure map with the course of our cruise indicated.  Very clever.  We started with a nice Crab hors d’oeuvre and were served a very nice Moscato Wine.  DW was served a vegetarian dish and I enjoyed the regular menu consisting of: Sashimi of Heirloom Tomatoes, the Essence of the Sea-Lobster-Prawn-Squid entree, and Saffron Panna Cotta for dessert. All excellent especially the Panna Cotta.  After the luncheon it was rest and relaxation the rest of the afternoon, one can certainly get spoiled doing very little.  Tonight was a standard Carnival menu in the MDR, I ordered a Shrimp Cocktail, Lasagna Bolognese, Petit Filet Mignon & Braised Boneless Short Rib, and a Banana Split.   It was Frog Fest in the Red Frog Pub, they had Will, JJ, and the group Cabbage Fever performing.   It was fun.

Friday-September 19 / Noumea, New Caledonia / Day 20
Beach on L'escapade Island in New Caledonia
Smooth seas overnight and we slept very well.  We had room service as a wake up this morning as we are meeting a group for a private excursion today.  The weather is ideal for our New Caledonia day.  We met our group and took the Carnival shuttle bus from the industrial port area to the nice harbor side terminal.  From there a short bus ride to the ferry that will take us to L’escapade Island Resort.  We had a few minutes to see the local market before boarding the very nice ferry and the 20 minute ride to the island.  The resort is the only thing on this very beautiful small tropical island and it is wonderful with two nice swimming pools, snorkeling area, bar, beaches, and more.  We got a nice table for the six of us by the pool and got the local Number One beers to begin.  Some went swimming, some went snorkeling, some used the Wifi, or just relaxed.  At noon they served a great luncheon buffet.  Not only did they have entrees and side dishes in chafing dishes, but a grill for ‘to order’ items…I had pork tenderloin. The French Breads were excellent, but the highlight was the great selection of French Pasteries.  DW and I got in a walk on the beach before taking the 2:00 ferry back to Noumea.  We had a short bus tour of the town before being dropped at the Terminal.  After looking at some local crafts we took the shuttle back to the ship.  It is Pirate theme day throughout the fleet since it’s international ‘Talk Like a Pirate’ day.  DW wore her cute pirate outfit and we watched the little ceremony on Lido deck and enjoyed our 5:00 pm sail away from Nouema on deck ten.  We went to Serenity deck for cocktails and watch New Caledonia get smaller as we sailed towards Sydney.  DW and I ate on Lido for dinner tonight, I sampled the BBQ Cornish Hen, New York Steak, Roasted Pork Roast, and enjoyed a very good Baked Potato.  They had various entertainment this evening, but I was very tired from the busy day so I retired early. 

Saturday-September 20 / Fun day at Sea / Day 21

Carnival Legend's New Water Park
We had rolling seas overnight and nice weather although a little cooler.  Today is the final Sea Day Brunch so I went to the MDR and had Steak & Eggs with all the extras. We had a relaxing morning then went for a walk before lunch on Lido deck. The Sliced Baked Ham was very good.  This afternoon we were required to go to Truffles on deck 3 to pick up our passports and report to Australian immigration. Lines were long throughout the day, but since our deck was last scheduled we went very late to avoid the lines.  It was well organized so it was fairly painless.  Today is the second ‘elegant’ night and also the second guest appreciation cocktails.  Our group met in our usual spot in the Odyssey Lounge at 4:30 for the early cocktail round.  The guests certainly did take advantage as did we with our usual cocktail servers taking good care of us.  We changed for dinner and met back at our usual cocktail time for the second round.  Dinner was the regular 2nd formal night menu.  I ordered the Escargot, Penne Siciliana, and the Chateaubriand for dinner and the NY Cheesecake and Baked Alaska for dessert.  DW went to the Epic Rock production show and Seth had his Billy Joel night in the Piano Bar this evening.

Sunday-September 21 / Fun day at Sea / Day 22

Dance lessons in Lobby
Rocking and Rolling overnight, almost as much movement as when we left Mexico and TS Norbert weeks ago.  I went to the MDR for a nice full breakfast this morning.  They also had the new Dr. Suess character breakfast this morning as well. They had been showing Fox Sports-1 on the USA Prime network (only USA programing we get on board)  and I was in hopes that I might luck out and they would show the featured Oklahoma vs West Virginia football game.  Yes they did, so a great morning at sea watching my favorite football team. At the half I went to the Sports Bar to watch the game on the large flat screen TV...great game too.  The rest of the afternoon was spent packing as we will be putting our bags out for collection this evening.  We all met for our final dinner cocktails in the Odyssey Lounge before dinner.  It was the standard final night Carnival menu this evening, I ordered: Baked Sweet Potato Soup, Panko Crusted Jumbo Shrimp, and the Tender Roasted Prime Rib of American Beef.  The waiters did their usual ‘good bye’ song and I guess it was a little sad after 23 days.  We returned to the cabin to finalize packing and put our bags outside the passageway for the 11:00 pm collection.

Monday September 22 / Sydney Australia / Debarkation
Arriving in Sydney Harbor   (click to enlarge)
They sent a letter and flags to our cabin asking for guests to be on deck before 6:00 am for the arrival in Sydney harbor as they were having a media event.  We didn’t do that, but did see the choir and activities later on the news.  I actually went down to the MDR for final breakfast and sat with the same very nice Canadian couple (I never mention names) I have sat with on several transatlantic and bloggers cruises on debark day…none of them pre-planned.  We did not use our Diamond or Platinum priority numbers as that would have put us off the ship too early, we used the assigned numbers that got us off about 10:00 am.  Since we had gone through customs on board it was fairly simple and since we were walking and not taking transport we actually got out of the terminal fairly easily.  We were only a few blocks from our hotel so the six of us where able to get there with our bags on our own.  The Russell Hotel, an old boutique accommodation, actually had all three of our rooms available so we were able to drop our bags and begin our tour of Sydney strait away.

Maiden Voyage: August 2002
Passenger Capacity: 2,000 (this cruise) | Length: 963 feet
Gross Tonnage: 88,000 tons  | Cruising Speed: 22 knots

Factoid: We have the record for the longest cruise Carnival has ever undertaken, and probably one that will stand for a good while since we actually added an extra 175 miles to this route due to TS Norbert.  Also a very interesting mix of guests, 65% from USA and 20% from Australia or New Zealand. 

We have cabin 8245 an interior located next to the aft elevators on starboard side on deck 8.  We had our beds changed to twins so that we would have much more floor space. Really easier to see the TV too, but wish it were a flat screen. The cabin has a swipe type safe, twin/queen beds, a refrigerator, small table, bench seat at dresser, arm chair, and TV with interactive features.  The cabin steward, Herald was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice chest filled.

The entire crew were certainly very friendly.  The Captain made his daily rounds and was very visible throughout the ship.  I didn’t get to visit with GSM Caroline much this cruise, but she did such a great job organizing events. I really enjoyed visiting with Duncan the Hotel Manager.  Our Waiters, our Cabin stewards, Bar servers were all very good.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
If you read my blog you know I love food and my dining environment.  Truffles Dining room is a very nice space and we had an excellent table. There were many unique menus on this voyage. The food was overall very good, some days better than others. The Lido buffet food is pretty standard, but better than many Carnival ships.  The desserts in MDR and Lido are pretty good.  We made good use of the Odyssey or Atlantis Lounges for cocktails each day, those were our favorite bars.  The Red Frog Pub was nice, and Will & JJ are great entertainers.  The Playlist production shows were good and a much better venue than on the Carnival Sunshine where I first saw these same productions.

It’s not easy to fill time on this long of a cruise with so few ports. They had the usual Trivia, Crafts, MickyLive, and Dance Classes, but there was really nothing special and I think the scheduling could have been better with the talent they did have on board. I wish they would have scheduled more acts in the afternoons in the Lobby or other venues and not have all the performances in the evening competing with each other in within the same time slots. Will & JJ only played once outside the RFP.  Also why not do a production show in the afternoon or two on these long cruises?  The theater really wasn’t used in the afternoons.  DW comment:  A daily FUN exercise type class by entertainment staff would have been ideal.  Even line dancing.  They had dance classes, that are great, but for couples…they need something that people can participate in as a solo or individual.

Highlights of the Cruise

    •    Traveling with friends…it especially makes a long cruise much more enjoyable
    •    The view of Bali Hai and Mt. Belvedere in Moorea
    •    The view of the harbor and Carnival Legend from Magic Mountain in Moorea
    •    Our private outrigger boat tour of Bora Bora
    •    Fun day and Grand Pacific Hotel luncheon in Fiji
    •    L’escapade Island Resort day in Noumea
    •    Sydney and Sydney Harbor arrival

A very unique experience and cruise as I had never visited any of the Pacific ports of call nor Australia so this was certainly a very enjoyable 'bucket list' adventure for me. 

Sunset over New Caledonia