Legend keeps passengers busy during five sea days

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Todays cruise industry often seems best represented by the newest, flashiest cruise ships. Take Royal Caribbean International: Its catchy Get Out There ads seem tailor-made for promoting the lines five Voyager-class ships, with their full-size basketball and volleyball courts and ice-skating rinks.

But thousands of passengers still opt for one of the ships in Royal Caribbeans non-Voyager fleet.

The question is: Can passengers get out there on a ship without a Zamboni?

The Legend of the Seas 11-day sailing from Ensenada, Mexico, to Honolulu was Travel Weeklys test case.

The design of the itinerary -- multiple days at sea -- may have skewed this report somewhat. From the moment the lights of Ensenada disappeared in the ships wake, there was nothing to look at but open ocean for five consecutive days.

Voyage sans Voyager

At 70,000 gross tons, the well-maintained Legend of the Seas is a little more than half the size of Royal Caribbeans 138,000-gross-ton Voyager-class ships.

The Legends passenger-space ratio is smaller, too.

Unlike Royal Caribbeans new ships, and several of the old ones, the Legend of the Seas has not yet been tapped for the lines most recent round of makeovers, which add public areas like Boleros Latin bar, Ben and Jerrys and alternative restaurants.

The Legends decor and artwork lean primarily toward classical Roman and Greek themes, especially in the solarium and spa areas, both of which would make a Caesar feel right at home.

There also are occasional nods to general nautical themes in some of the bars and lounges (the Schooner Bar is a Royal Caribbean staple). Brass and glass are standard in the atrium.

A typical 90s cruise

The Legend seemed to keep passengers as busy as they wanted to be, but the activities offered put the volleyball players among us to the test.

A passenger on the Legend of the Seas makes his way up the ship's rock-climbing wall during a cruise from Ensenada to Honolulu. Photo by Michael Nassaur.Well-attended daily sessions included an early-morning stretch class, twice-daily walk-a-miles and aerobics classes. Attendance at the rock wall and the walking track showed that exercise was a key element for a lot of the passengers.

For those seeking a break from the workout room, many of the popular choices were the usual cruise-ship pastimes: art auctions, team trivia and sunbathing.

It was quite a challenge to find a seat for any of these activities.

Take sunbathing: It was possible to find a chair by the pool as late as 7:30 a.m., but it was very difficult in light of all the personal items -- books, towels, sunglasses -- that magically appeared to reserve the seats. Royal Caribbeans clearly spelled-out policy banning the practice was, for the most part, cheerfully ignored.

Traditional dining

Food was a big part of the Legends activity slate. The second-seating dinner (which was far less crowded than main seating) moved quickly through the courses. Selections were varied and always interesting.

It comes as no surprise that the Legend lacks an alternative dining venue. After all, the concept wasnt developed when the ship was launched in 1995. For the sophisticated cruise passenger used to multiple dining options, this amenity will be missed.

Formal nights, meanwhile, were not tux-and-tails events.

If its been a while since you have sailed on Royal Caribbean (for my wife and I it had been nearly 10 years), you may notice some subtle changes.

In response to customer surveys, lunch menus in the dining room last year were changed fleetwide to a simpler, less formal selection. Three special selections daily added variety.

Theres plenty of variety at the lunch buffets. Here, we found more changes: Passengers were provided with tray-sized plates instead of a tray with plates on top, and automated coffee machines dispensed a controlled amount in one button-push.

Both seemed to make sense for convenience, safety and conservation.

Evening hours

After dinner, many passengers filtered into the feature show of the night. During one of these, pianist Charles Brunner put on such an entertaining performance that two additional request concerts were added to the activities schedule later in the cruise.

Another popular after-dinner haunt was the Casino Royale.

There were plenty of machines to keep slot players happy, but most interesting was the variety of table games. The emergence of two relative newcomers, Three Card Poker and Let It Ride, seems a nod toward attracting younger gamblers to the casino, where space is at an absolute premium.

The overall verdict: The Legend is more than capable of providing for active passengers.

But after five days of exercise and relaxation at sea, more than a few people were thrilled to see land off the bow. 

It was time to get out there. Pun intended.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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