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Cruise Ship Review

Legend of the Seas - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

You might think that Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas is just like all its other Vision-class siblings. These relatively mid-sized vessels, which also include the recently stretched Enchantment of the Seas, along with Grandeur, Rhapsody and Splendour, share quite a few common features and facilities. Most distinguishing? Along with featuring all the usual amenities -- pools, seven deck high Centrum, cafe bar, elaborate main restaurant and Royal Caribbean's signature circular Viking Crown Lounges -- the Vision-class vessels are also known as the "ships of light" as a result of spectacular sea views afforded by glass canopies and massive floor-to-ceiling windows.

With eye-popping facilities like the rock-climbing wall and a 6,000 ft., 18-hole mini golf course, there's still plenty of good 'ol American pizzazz onboard Legend of the Seas.

But Legend of the Seas was one of the first ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet to claim its own distinction. Back in June 2005, the ship served as the American-based Royal Caribbean's Anglophilian ambassador. Indeed, Legend of the Seas spent several summers sailing cruises from its homeport of Southampton. The ship was (and still is in fact) tweaked for the UK and European market by adding touches such as British branded tea bags (how stereotypical but how true!) and different wine and food menus.

This may be one of the reasons the ship has continued to remain a prominent fixture to European travelers. Even as it trawls the Caribbean, its Santo Domingo-based itineraries are aimed at old world, rather than new world, cruise travelers. And later this year, the ship gets an even more exotic assignment as it joins Rhapsody of the Seas in Asia.

Ultimately, what you'll find on a Legend of the Seas experience is a cruise that blends both cultures and traditions of North Americans, Brits and Europeans for a truly international experience -- wherever you're headed.

Editor's Note: Because we reviewed Legend of the Seas during its U.K. run, all prices quoted are in pounds sterling (go to www.xe.com for actual conversion rates).

Dining

Overall, I've seen quite an increase in quality in Royal Caribbean's cuisine over the years, and this is particularly noticeable in Legend's Romeo and Juliet formal dining room, where a different, prettily designed menu is presented at every meal, featuring offbeat dishes -- including scallop risotto and Thai-style shrimp -- alongside regular "fussy eater" standbys like juicy steaks and roast chicken.

Clearly, Legend also has a chocoholic chef tucked away in its kitchen, if the melt-in-the-mouth quality of the chocolate bread pudding, and warm chocolate cake with pears are anything to go by!

The restaurant is smartly presented, and the two-tier Romeo and Juliet, with its grand staircase, large windows, marbled entrance and spectacular central chandelier is very pretty indeed. Breakfast and lunch are available there as well.

One noticeable omission on this ship is the lack of an alternative restaurant; as its engines are located mid-ship, it's a structural problem. This means that, unlike Enchantment of the Seas, Legend can't be stretched.

There are other options, however. The Windjammer also offers panoramic views on three sides, and its clean white walls, plants and nautical-themed tiled murals give it a jaunty seaside feel.

It is also well designed, with lots of separate food stations to minimize queuing and some coffee bar-style tall counters with high seating, ideal for guests who want a quick snack with a fine sea view thrown in.

Travelers who really hate being confined to a two-seating dining room and don't want to eat buffet-style all the time will find some relief at the Solarium cafe, which serves hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza-style hot meals and cookies until 6:30 p.m. and then again from 9 p.m. until the early hours.

There is also free, on-tap ice cream, tea and coffee available outside the Windjammer, and -- at a price -- Ben & Jerry's ice cream, specialty coffees and cakes are served at Latte-tudes cafe and ice cream bar.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended) between 5 a.m. and midnight; late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Public Rooms

No doubt about it, Legend of the Seas is one of the loveliest of the mass market ships. Those acres of glass really pay off, combined with a cool blue-and-cream decor and lots of pale wood, silver, brass and chrome to create a soothing, elegant environment.

Everywhere you look there's a stylish touch, from the jewel-bright glass fish swimming along the walls to the boutiques of Centrum shopping area to gorgeous inlaid glass panels around the edges of the Champagne Bar. On this ship, even the lavatory doors are etched-glass works of art.

Best watering hole for my money is the Schooner Bar, with its rich wood floor, sail-effect decor and nautical memorabilia. But the "Anchors Aweigh," its walls embellished with pastel Art Deco-style murals depicting scenes from the stylish heyday of liner travel, is also fun.

Legend's "shades of the sea"-themed cream, white, pale blue and turquoise decor is seen to best advantage in the sparkling atrium and the Viking Crown Lounge (which is just delightful in the evening, when its "twinkling star" lights are reflected in its vast panoramic windows).

The color scheme has also been extended to great effect along the ship's outer decks and pool areas.

Cabins

One fact worth noting about Legend of the Seas is that the design allows for larger cabins than were standard on earlier Royal Caribbean ships. All cabins come equipped with TV, telephone, private bath/shower room, safe and hairdryer. Higher-grade cabins and suites also have minibars, and bathtubs as well as showers.

In all, there are 17 grades of accommodation, ranging from three and four-berth family cabins to twin insides, seaview (picture windowed) outsides, balconied staterooms and suites. Top of the range is the Royal Suite, a grand affair with whirlpool bathtub and a baby grand piano (Liberace would have been impressed). I stayed in cabin 8056 -- a Grand Suite (the name is more formal than the cabin, which is just a rung above a junior suite). The interior was roomy, designed in a welcoming red-and-gold color scheme, smart beechwood trim and attractive artwork on the cream walls. And with a triple wardrobe, plenty of drawers and shelves and two cupboards in the bathroom, there was plenty of storage space.

Entertainment

In the evenings, the ship's "That's Entertainment!" Theater provides the usual snazzy, fishnet 'n' feathers production shows interspersed with cabaret slots by comedians, singers, magicians and impressionists. Live or taped music for dancing is provided nightly in the "Anchors Aweigh" and Viking Crown lounges, and rather quieter entertainment is offered in the Schooner Bar, which features a grand piano.

By day, there are quizzes, deck or pool games, treasure hunts, port lectures and beauty demonstrations to keep passengers busy, while those in search of peace can find respite in a well-stocked, honey wood-paneled library and card room on Deck 7.

Fitness and Recreation

There's just no excuse not to get fit on this ship because -- even if the British weather's too dodgy to enjoy a dip in Deck 9's outdoor pool -- you just need to head aft and plunge into the marble-edged one in the Solarium, which has a sliding glass roof to keep any rain out and all the heat in, as well as loungers, a bustling cafe and stunning Roman-themed design.

To the rear of the Solarium pool (one deck down from the "Legend of the Links" miniature golf course and the ship's rock climbing wall) is the Shipshape Spa, comprising a well-equipped gym and roomy aerobics studio, a beauty salon, sauna and massage/treatment rooms.

Shipshape exercise classes are offered daily and many are free, but participation in specialty classes, including Yoga, Pilates, Kickboxing and Fitball, cost £5 (about U.S. $9.50) per session.

Oddly enough, given that the spa is run by the usually-pricey Steiner, the cost of some treatments was fairly reasonable -- an acknowledgement, perhaps, that the British are a bit too watchful of their pennies to lavish outrageous amounts of cash on short-lived feel-goodies. At £107 (about U.S. $203), a tooth whitening treatment was highly effective and actually a very good value (I know because I tried it). But I suspect an £83 (U.S. $157) Hot Stones Massage or "Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow" would have had my bank manager in more of a lather than my skin.

Family

As always on Royal Caribbean ships, children's facilities -- centered around the Adventure Ocean complex on Deck 10 -- are imaginative and well-run, with age-specific activities designed for "Aquanauts" (3 to 5); "Explorers" (6 to 8); "Voyagers" (9 to 11), "Navigators" (12 to 14) and teens (who get their own common room/disco).

Programs operate from 9 a.m. - 10 p.m., with breaks for lunch, tea and dinner. A "Late Night Party Zone" operates from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m. and costs £4 (U.S. $7.50) per hour per child.

Fellow Passengers

British families have taken to this ship big-time, but there were also a fair proportion of older folk keen to try something new without the hassle of flying to join their ship.

Dress Code

Casual is the order of the daytime, but Britons do enjoy dressing rather more smartly for dinner, and many on my cruise had brought along more formal outfits for the welcome and farewell gala evenings (though black tie was clearly not obligatory).

Gratuity

British passengers have cabin and dining room gratuities of £6.65 per person (adult or child, about U.S. $12.50), per day collected in advance of their cruise unless they object, in which case they are expected to pay cash onboard.

While most thought this to be fair enough, many found the additional burden of a compulsory 15 percent tip on every drink bill rather hard to swallow. And several were infuriated by the embarrassing -- and cheeky -- practice of adding a 15 percent compulsory service charge and still leaving a space on the bill for an "additional gratuity." I quite agree with them -- enough, already!

--by Maria Harding. Harding, Cruise Critic's England-based correspondent, also writes for "The Times of London" and "The Daily Telegraph."

Dining

Overall, I've seen quite an increase in quality in Royal Caribbean's cuisine over the years, and this is particularly noticeable in Legend's Romeo and Juliet formal dining room, where a different, prettily designed menu is presented at every meal, featuring offbeat dishes -- including scallop risotto and Thai-style shrimp -- alongside regular "fussy eater" standbys like juicy steaks and roast chicken. For dinner, passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.)

Clearly, Legend also has a chocoholic chef tucked away in its kitchen, if the melt-in-the-mouth quality of the chocolate bread pudding, and warm chocolate cake with pears are anything to go by!

The restaurant is smartly presented, and the two-tier Romeo and Juliet, with its grand staircase, large windows, marbled entrance and spectacular central chandelier is very pretty indeed. Breakfast and lunch are available there as well.

One noticeable omission on this ship is the lack of an alternative restaurant; as its engines are located mid-ship, it's a structural problem. This means that, unlike Enchantment of the Seas, Legend can't be stretched.

There are other options, however. The Windjammer also offers panoramic views on three sides, and its clean white walls, plants and nautical-themed tiled murals give it a jaunty seaside feel.

It is also well designed, with lots of separate food stations to minimize queuing and some coffee bar-style tall counters with high seating, ideal for guests who want a quick snack with a fine sea view thrown in.

The Solarium cafe offers hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza-style hot meals and cookies until 6:30 p.m. and then again from 9 p.m. until the early hours.

There is also free, on-tap ice cream, tea and coffee available outside the Windjammer, and -- at a price -- Ben & Jerry's ice cream, specialty coffees and cakes are served at Latte-tudes cafe and ice cream bar.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended) between 5 a.m. and midnight; late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.50 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $3.50 per person, per day to the cabin steward; $2 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. Royal Caribbean also recommends $.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter, but we don't necessarily give this unless the service is special. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

--by Maria Harding. Harding, Cruise Critic's England-based correspondent, also writes for "The Times of London" and "The Daily Telegraph."

Dining

Overall, I've seen quite an increase in quality in Royal Caribbean's cuisine over the years, and this is particularly noticeable in Legend's Romeo and Juliet formal dining room, where a different, prettily designed menu is presented at every meal, featuring offbeat dishes -- including scallop risotto and Thai-style shrimp -- alongside regular "fussy eater" standbys like juicy steaks and roast chicken.

Clearly, Legend also has a chocoholic chef tucked away in its kitchen, if the melt-in-the-mouth quality of the chocolate bread pudding, and warm chocolate cake with pears are anything to go by!

The restaurant is smartly presented, and the two-tier Romeo and Juliet, with its grand staircase, large windows, marbled entrance and spectacular central chandelier is very pretty indeed. Breakfast and lunch are available there as well.

One noticeable omission on this ship is the lack of an alternative restaurant; as its engines are located mid-ship, it's a structural problem. This means that, unlike Enchantment of the Seas, Legend can't be stretched.

There are other options, however. The Windjammer also offers panoramic views on three sides, and its clean white walls, plants and nautical-themed tiled murals give it a jaunty seaside feel.

It is also well designed, with lots of separate food stations to minimize queuing and some coffee bar-style tall counters with high seating, ideal for guests who want a quick snack with a fine sea view thrown in.

Travelers who really hate being confined to a two-seating dining room and don't want to eat buffet-style all the time will find some relief at the Solarium cafe, which serves hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza-style hot meals and cookies until 6:30 p.m. and then again from 9 p.m. until the early hours.

There is also free, on-tap ice cream, tea and coffee available outside the Windjammer, and -- at a price -- Ben & Jerry's ice cream, specialty coffees and cakes are served at Latte-tudes cafe and ice cream bar.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended) between 5 a.m. and midnight; late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Gratuity

British passengers have cabin and dining room gratuities of £6.65 per person (adult or child, about U.S. $12.50), per day collected in advance of their cruise unless they object, in which case they are expected to pay cash onboard.

While most thought this to be fair enough, many found the additional burden of a compulsory 15 percent tip on every drink bill rather hard to swallow. And several were infuriated by the embarrassing -- and cheeky -- practice of adding a 15 percent compulsory service charge and still leaving a space on the bill for an "additional gratuity." I quite agree with them -- enough, already!

--by Maria Harding. Harding, Cruise Critic's England-based correspondent, also writes for "The Times of London" and "The Daily Telegraph." You might think that Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas is just like all its other Vision-class siblings. These relatively mid-sized vessels, which also include Enchantment, Grandeur, Rhapsody, Splendour and Vision, share quite a few common features and facilities. Most distinguishing? Along with all the usual amenities -- pools, seven-deck-high Centrum, cafe bar, elaborate main restaurant and Royal Caribbean's signature circular Viking Crown Lounges -- the Vision-class vessels are also known as the "ships of light" as a result of spectacular sea views afforded by glass canopies and massive floor-to-ceiling windows.

With fun options a the rock-climbing wall and an 18-hole mini golf course, there's still plenty of good 'ol American pizzazz onboard Legend of the Seas.

But Legend of the Seas' most distinctive feature is not found onboard. It's where it sails. The ship is based year-round in Asia, offering a dizzying variety of cruises from homeports in South Korea, Japan, China and Singapore. This regional deployment creates a very international passenger mix comprised of folks from China, Japan, Australia, Europe and United States.

Dining

Overall, I've seen quite an increase in quality in Royal Caribbean's cuisine over the years, and this is particularly noticeable in Legend's Romeo and Juliet formal dining room, where a different, prettily designed menu is presented at every meal, featuring offbeat dishes -- including scallop risotto and Thai-style shrimp -- alongside regular "fussy eater" standbys like juicy steaks and roast chicken. For dinner, passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.)

Clearly, Legend also has a chocoholic chef tucked away in its kitchen, if the melt-in-the-mouth quality of the chocolate bread pudding, and warm chocolate cake with pears are anything to go by!

The restaurant is smartly presented, and the two-tier Romeo and Juliet, with its grand staircase, large windows, marbled entrance and spectacular central chandelier is very pretty indeed. Breakfast and lunch are available there as well.

One noticeable omission on this ship is the lack of an alternative restaurant; as its engines are located mid-ship, it's a structural problem. This means that, unlike Enchantment of the Seas, Legend can't be stretched.

There are other options, however. The Windjammer also offers panoramic views on three sides, and its clean white walls, plants and nautical-themed tiled murals give it a jaunty seaside feel.

It is also well designed, with lots of separate food stations to minimize queuing and some coffee bar-style tall counters with high seating, ideal for guests who want a quick snack with a fine sea view thrown in.

The Solarium cafe offers hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza-style hot meals and cookies until 6:30 p.m. and then again from 9 p.m. until the early hours.

There is also free, on-tap ice cream, tea and coffee available outside the Windjammer, and -- at a price -- Ben & Jerry's ice cream, specialty coffees and cakes are served at Latte-tudes cafe and ice cream bar.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended) between 5 a.m. and midnight; late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.75 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $5 per person, per day to the cabin steward (or $7.25 if you're in a suite); $0.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter; and $2.15 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. This totals $11.65 for those in standard cabins and $13.90 for those in suites. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.Editor's Note: Legend of the Seas emerged from a $50 million dry-dock in February 2013 with a slew of new features. As part of RCI's $500 Royal Advantage initiative, the ship gained a number of attractions first introduced on the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas. New eats include Park Cafe (fee-free bistro-style sandwiches, salads and breakfast), Chef's Table (a for-fee culinary event hosted by one of the ship's chefs), Chops Grille (upcharge steakhouse) and Izumi Asian Cuisine (added fee applies). The 60's-inspired R Bar was added and the signature top-ship Viking Crown Lounge remodeled. Onboard entertainment options now include an outdoor movie screen and a new aerial show in the Centrum, Legend's indoor hub. New cabins were added and existing cabins were refreshed (all now feature flat-panel TV's). Finally, digital signage and bow-to-stern Wi-Fi was installed. Stay tuned for the updated review.

You might think that Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas is just like all its other Vision-class siblings. These relatively mid-sized vessels, which also include Enchantment, Grandeur, Rhapsody, Splendour and Vision, share quite a few common features and facilities. Most distinguishing? Along with all the usual amenities -- pools, seven-deck-high Centrum, cafe bar, elaborate main restaurant and Royal Caribbean's signature circular Viking Crown Lounges -- the Vision-class vessels are also known as the "ships of light" as a result of spectacular sea views afforded by glass canopies and massive floor-to-ceiling windows.

With fun options a the rock-climbing wall and an 18-hole mini golf course, there's still plenty of good 'ol American pizzazz onboard Legend of the Seas.

But Legend of the Seas' most distinctive feature is not found onboard. It's where it sails. The ship is based year-round in Asia, offering a dizzying variety of cruises from homeports in South Korea, Japan, China and Singapore. This regional deployment creates a very international passenger mix comprised of folks from China, Japan, Australia, Europe and United States.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.75 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $5 per person, per day to the cabin steward (or $7.25 if you're in a suite); $0.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter; and $2.15 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. This totals $11.65 for those in standard cabins and $13.90 for those in suites. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Effective March 1, Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.Although Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas was launched in 1995, it emerged from a 2013 dry dock looking pretty darn spiffy. Just about everything was upgraded, including the carpeting, soft furnishings and overall decor in cabins and most public areas. A total of 13 new cabins was added on decks 7 and 8, and Deck 6 cabins, which previously had no verandahs, were outfitted with balconies.

So what else did the ship receive during its $50 million worth of renovations? Its signature top-of-ship Viking Crown Lounge was spruced up and decreased in size to make room for Izumi and Chops Grille, two of the vessel's three alternative dining venues. Similarly, part of the upper floor in the Romeo and Juliet Dining Room is now cordoned off to serve as home to Chef's Table, an upscale for-fee dinner experience. Meanwhile, the Park Cafe, a gratis bistro-style eatery, was added to the Solarium, the ship's indoor pool area.

In the technological arena, Legend was outfitted with a giant outdoor movie screen, which resides on the pool deck, and digital "Wayfinders" were added throughout most elevator areas. They feature multilingual touch-screens that allow passengers to check the date and time, view deck plans, access the daily Cruise Compass and map directions from their current location to wherever they're headed next -- all with the push of a button.

Further, the R Bar was added to the ship's hub, the five-deck Centrum, which is also home to what are probably the most impressive bits of entertainment onboard: aerialist shows, which feature costumed acrobats dancing in midair.

While we didn't notice much aesthetical wear and tear thanks to the aforementioned refurb, the food and entertainment were hit-or-miss, and we did witness several communication breakdowns among the ship's staff. To be fair, we were told that there were a lot of new contracts onboard, but the problem is that it showed. Service was generally decent, but a couple ill-informed and rude crewmembers did detract from the experience.

Overall, Legend of the Seas feels comfortable and cozy, as it's smaller than most of the line's other, newer, more shiny ships; because there are fewer bells and whistles, life onboard moves at a slower pace. It's also a great option for anyone who likes longer cruises to a variety of interesting locales, including the Panama Canal (for which Legend's smaller size is absolutely necessary).

Dining

Legend of the Seas offers six dining options, three of which are included in the cruise fares and three of which carry additional fees.

The main Romeo and Juliet Dining Room, on decks 4 and 5 aft, is an elegant mix of cream and tan with accents of maroon and teal. Overhead, giant mirrors and a light fixture made of crystals create a flowerlike structure in the middle of the two-deck room. The venue offers two set-seating dining times (5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.) on the lower level and My Time Dining on the upper level between 5:30 and 8:45 p.m. On our sailing, we were stuck with the 8 p.m. dining time, which was a bit late for us. In spite of multiple attempts to switch to the earlier seating or My Time Dining, the dining staff was unable to accommodate us. If you're unable to secure your ideal dining time prior to embarkation, take care of it as soon as you board the ship.

Tables are available in various configurations that seat from two to eight people. Menus list appetizers like chilled pineapple and lychee soup, crab cakes, and tomato and baked feta cheese salad; entrees that include rosemary lamb shank, braised beef and Yukon gold potato pie; and desserts that range from key lime pie and strawberry trifles to cappuccino layer cake. Standard go-to dishes like Caesar salad, linguini, grilled chicken breast and creme brulee are always available, and all applicable menu options are marked with symbols to indicate vegetarian, gluten-free and healthy choices. Dishes are generally decent but not outstanding. While the service was mildly inefficient, our waiters were friendly and did an excellent job of accommodating special requests for things like steamed vegetables and extra scoops of ice cream.

The lower level of Romeo and Juliet is also available for open-seating breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on sea days; hours vary on port days. At lunchtime (on sea days only), the dining room changes into open-seating Brasserie 30, which features a salad bar and dishes like chicken sliders, fish enchiladas and warm cherry custard crepes from noon to 1:30 p.m.

On Deck 9 forward, you'll find the Windjammer, the ship's nautically themed buffet venue. For breakfast (7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on sea days, varying hours on port days), options include fruit, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal and grits, waffles and French toast, bacon, sausage, tater tots, biscuits with gravy, and scrambled and hard-boiled eggs. A chef at a special station can also make you an omelet while you watch. Lunchtime (every day from 11:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.) offerings are made up of a build-your-own salad bar, pizza, hamburgers, pastas, sandwiches, seasoned vegetables, chicken, rice and potatoes, fruit and desserts. A separate station is available for rotating options like carved meats or stir-fry. The Windjammer is also a great fee-free casual dinner option (every day, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) if you don't feel like heading to the dining room. You'll find the same fare that's presented in the dining room each night, but you'll serve yourself from the buffet instead. Afternoon snacks are provided every day from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., as well. A couple of drink stations offer complimentary water, coffee, tea, sweetened iced tea, lemonade, apple juice and orange juice. Take note that it can be difficult to find open tables at certain times -- particularly lunchtime on sea days. Tip: Watch your hands on the tongs. If they've sat under the heat lamps for too long, they'll scald your skin.

Park Cafe, located in the peaceful adults-only Solarium, is one of the new dining options added during the refurb. It provides free light fare throughout the day, including sandwiches, paninis, soups, salads and carved meats, as well as cookies and other light dessert options. Nearby is a station for drinks, and you can eat at one of several tables that surround the indoor wave pool in the center of the room. Hours are from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., noon to 6 p.m. (sea days only) and 8:30 p.m. to midnight.

If you're in the mood for some Japanese-inspired cuisine, head up to Izumi in the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 11 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily (reservations recommended). You'll pay a $5 per-person cover charge in addition to an a la carte price for each item you order. The menu focuses heavily on soup, sushi, sashimi, noodles and the restaurant's signature "hot rocks," which allow you cook your own food at your table on a rock that's heated in the oven for eight hours until it reaches 575 degrees. We tried the edamame (free), miso soup (free), mixed seafood rock (scallops, shrimp, lobster, salmon and vegetables accompanied by rice and tasty dipping sauces for $13), snow crab California roll ($7) and green tea ice cream ($4.50), as well as a carafe of sake (4 small shots for $10.50). It was all superb -- definitely worth the cost. Be aware, however, that waiters might try to upsell you on everything from drinks to desserts in an effort to increase the overall bill (and, subsequently, their tips). We had to ask several times for what we wanted while our server continued to push larger quantities and more expensive alternatives.

Chops Grille, the onboard steakhouse, is heaven for carnivorous cruisers. A fee of $30 per person covers one appetizer, one main course and one dessert in an upscale atmosphere on Deck 11, where Chops shares space with Izumi in the Viking Crown Lounge. Choose from options like Dungeness crab and shrimp cake, smoked duck salad or cheese 'n' onion soup as a starter; Alaskan halibut, free-range chicken breast or a variety of steaks (veal chop, porterhouse, short rib, filet mignon) as a main; and chocolate mud pie, red velvet cake or creme brulee for dessert. The menu also lists wine selections and specialty coffee drinks for an additional charge. Hours are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every day, and reservations are recommended.

Another relatively new for-fee option is Chef's Table, for which a limited number of cruisers (no more than 12 on each night it's offered) pay $95 apiece to dine in a cordoned-off portion of the upper level in the Romeo and Juliet Dining Room. The price includes five courses from a preselected menu. Each is presented by one of the ship's head chefs as he explains what goes into the preparation of each dish. A sommelier also offers small pours of five different wines, each carefully selected to complement one of the courses. Yes, the price is astoundingly high for an onboard restaurant, but the experience and the equally high food quality are well worth the cost. A total of three different menus is available for Chef's Table (for passengers who decide to dine there more than once per sailing), but only one is available on each night. The highlights of our experience were a beautifully prepared lobster salad, a trio of soups (pea, mushroom and beef consomme), a lightly breaded eggroll stuffed with duck meat, perfectly prepared filet mignon and leg of lamb (we were given a choice) and a trio of desserts (a scoop of ice cream, a scoop of cream and a small cake). We also sampled some of the most delicate and scrumptious chocolates we've ever tasted. Dinner begins at 7 p.m., but don't expect it to be over until at least 10 p.m. Reservations are required, and children younger than 13 aren't allowed.

Cafe Latte-tudes on Deck 6, just next to the library, offers free snacks like cookies and cakes, as well as for-fee tea, Illy specialty coffee drinks, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream and milkshakes from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Ice cream and milkshake prices range from $2.50 to $4.74, while tea and coffee beverages will set you back anywhere from $2 to $5.50 each. Punch cards are available; your seventh coffee drink is free after you reach your sixth punch. If free soft ice cream is what you're craving, head up to Deck 9, where you'll find a serve-yourself machine and cone dispensers near the pool. Chocolate was always a staple on our cruise, but we found vanilla difficult to come by on certain days. (It was often replaced by strawberry.)

On several afternoons throughout each cruise, special alfresco lunch offerings are set up on the pool deck, weather permitting. On our sailing, we partook in fajitas on one day, German brats on another, and barbecued chicken and ribs on a third. It's all free and generally delicious.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. It's free between 5 a.m. and midnight, but deliveries outside of those times incur a $3.95 fee. For room service breakfast, simply place your door-hanger menu order on the outside of your cabin door handle before heading to bed. A couple dollars' tip is polite for whoever brings your order.

If you expect to drink lots of soda, alcohol, bottled water or for-fee juice drinks during your sailing, you might want to consider purchasing one of several available beverage packages at the beginning of the voyage. While soda-only packages cost just $6.50 per person, per day, be warned that other package prices can be a bit ridiculous ($71 for a case of 24 bottles of water; $35 for 12 bottles of juice; or $20 per person, per day, for unlimited nonalcoholic beverages). So, unless you plan to drink a whole bunch, be sure to check the math. It can add up to a lot of money on longer sailings. Also note that if one person in a group purchases an unlimited alcohol package ($40 to $65 per person, per day), other adults (21 and older) sharing the same cabin or onboard account are also required to purchase a package.

Public Rooms

For any help during your sailing, you'll want to make note of the passenger services and shore excursion desks on Deck 5 in the Centrum. Spanning five decks, the Centrum is the ship's hub, providing places to mingle while enjoying drinks and music at plush tables and chairs scattered throughout. It's also where you'll find the R Bar, a small entertainment stage, dance floor and art gallery on Deck 4; the port shopping desk on Deck 5; the photo gallery and aforementioned Cafe Latte-tudes on Deck 6 (along with the small library, daily trivia and Sudoku, and a handful of board games like Scrabble and checkers); and the future cruise office and Internet cafe on Deck 8. The Internet cafe offers a dozen desktop computers with printing capabilities. After registering on one of the ship's computers, you can also use your own device, such as a laptop or tablet, via shipwide Wi-Fi. Rates start at 85 cents per minute, but packages of minutes can be pre-purchased to cut down on the per-minute cost: 38 minutes for $24.95, 90 minutes for $49.95, 208 minutes for $99.95, 555 minutes for $199.95, or 1,666 minutes for $399.95.

Royal Caribbean's signature Viking Crown Lounge, Deck 11, was updated and decreased in size on Legend of the Seas to make room for Chops Grille and Izumi. Although its bubble chandeliers, geometric tables and chairs, convenient bar and skilled DJ give off a hotel nightclub ambience, the dance floor was completely deserted every time we stopped in. During the day, the lounge serves as a quiet spot for reading, napping or just watching the world go by via large picture windows.

Gamblers can try their luck at Deck 4's Casino Royale, which includes tables for poker, blackjack and roulette, as well as slot machines and other digital games. Cash is used more heavily than are SeaPass cards, which are only accepted by some of the machines. Passengers can use onboard ATMs (beware of hefty transaction fees) or draw cash advances from their SeaPass cards, but the ship will charge a 5 percent fee for the privilege.

Shopaholics will feel right at home in Deck 5's shops, which peddle logowear, sunglasses, watches, jewelry, sundries, snacks and duty-free alcohol, cigarettes and perfume. Use the first couple days of your sailing to browse, but don't buy too soon. Discounts are offered on an almost daily basis, and they get better later in the voyage. Note that, although the onboard shops sell watches, they don't sell watch batteries; bring extras with you if you think you might need them to keep track of local time.

Additional public spaces include the Diamond Club and Concierge Lounge on Deck 9 mid, a medical center on Deck 1 mid, and a decently large conference facility on Deck 3 mid.

There are no self-service laundry facilities onboard, which can be a pain on longer sailings if you're a light packer. Either bring detergent, and be prepared to do some handwashing in your bathroom sink, or take advantage of laundry services offered for a fee. A "wash and fold" laundry special on each sailing (ask your room steward about discount days) allows you to fill a ship-provided bag with as many socks, shorts, T-shirts, swimwear, underwear and pajamas as you can fit for a flat fee of $30. Unfortunately, it's not possible to have the crew wash your clothing and send it back to you to air dry. We were also told by crewmembers that the laundry service can be rough on clothes; that warning, combined with a "we're not responsible" disclaimer on the paperwork for the service, forced us to take the handwashing route. Individual items can be dry-cleaned or washed, dried and pressed for per-garment fees that range from 95 cents (for handkerchief pressing) to $12.95 (for dress or suit dry-cleaning).

Cabins

Legend of the Seas has a total of 915 cabins split into the following basic categories: inside (132 to 142 square feet), outside (151 to 220 square feet), balcony (151 to 191 square feet with 37- to 42-square-foot balconies), junior suite (230 to 452 square feet with 54- to 76-square-foot balconies) and suite (355 to 1,002 square feet with 75- to 138-square-foot balconies).

The color scheme is generally cream with light woods, accented by touches of tan and teal on the walls, beds, carpet, curtains and sofas. Colorful artwork adorns the walls.

All bathrooms feature toilets, sinks and showers with adjustable-height showerheads that transform into handhelds. A dispenser in each shower offers two-in-one shampoo, which is so runny you'll have trouble keeping it in the palm of your hand long enough to suds it up. Bar soap is also provided, and higher-level cabin-dwellers have access to Vitality shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in small bottles. Beware of the clingy shower curtains. Small shelves for storing toiletries are found next to the sink/mirror area. One odd gripe: We found the toilet paper location -- directly beneath the sink -- a bit strange and cumbersome. Prepare to reach.

Each stateroom is furnished with two twin beds that can be bumped together to form a queen, two small bedside tables, a small sofa and coffee table, a vanity with chair, four outlets (two U.S. and two European), a telephone, a mini-fridge, a keypad-operated safe, ample closet and drawer space, a flat-screen TV with several options (CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, HGTV, Discovery, Food Network, and music, foreign language and ship-specific channels) and in-room climate control. (Our air-conditioning worked only sporadically throughout the sailing, and others on our floor complained about similar issues. It really only seemed to start working again on the second-last night of the 15-night voyage.)

A hair dryer is also standard for each cabin, but the ones found in inside, outside and balcony cabins are considerably small and weak; they automatically shut off after five minutes to avoid overheating. We recommend bringing your own or asking your cabin steward to provide you with a larger one -- the same kind found in junior suites and suites.

In addition to nicer hair dryers, junior suites and suites also offer in-cabin coffeemakers and electric teapots, as well as bathrooms with tubs, and additional desk and storage space. The Royal Suite also includes a grand piano and a whirlpool bathtub.

Of the cabins onboard, 388 offer third -- or third and fourth -- berths, and 17 are accessible staterooms.

Standard balconies are each outfitted with two metal and mesh chairs, as well as a decently sized table. Our standard verandah left barely enough room for me to stretch out my legs, but it was still perfect for enjoying the passing scenery with a cup of coffee. Larger balconies offer loungers and smaller tables for drinks.

Entertainment

Legend of the Seas provides lots to keep passengers busy on what are generally longer sailings -- an impressive feat for a ship of its more compact size.

Deck 4's That's Entertainment Theatre is the ship's main show venue, where you'll find nightly performances by onboard singers and dancers, jugglers, comedians and magicians. The singing and dancing, although occasionally interspersed with magic tricks and other interesting twists, is the standard you'll see on most cruise ships. The comedian and juggler, however, were decent. The theater also hosts the Love and Marriage game show, and recently released movies are shown there on a handful of sea days during each sailing. Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties on three occasions while films were being shown during our voyage. The third was so bad that, after waiting half an hour, the audience never did get to see more than the first 20 minutes of the movie. Done up in shades of cream, tan and gold -- with brass stars on the walls and sculptures of what appear to be trumpeting angels carved out of ice -- this venue offers wonderfully comfortable leatherette chairs, excellent sight lines and reserved seating for disabled passengers and those in suites or the upper tiers of the line's loyalty program. Note that the theater is just across the hall from the casino; because the theater doors are rarely kept closed during performances, noise from slot machines and the like often trickles in and can disrupt the audio experience for passengers near the rear of the venue. We and several others on our sailing also found the show times to be a little inconvenient. Several of the early shows started at 7 p.m., which made them difficult for both early (5:30 p.m.) and late (8 p.m.) diners to attend.

Despite the upgraded look of the rest of the ship, the Anchors Aweigh Lounge is like stepping onto the set of a 1970s game show. In fact, its colors and stage setup are oddly reminiscent of The Price is Right's earlier days. Found on Deck 5 forward, it's the place to be for bingo, karaoke, art auctions and private gatherings. If you're looking for Quest -- Royal Caribbean's risque scavenger hunt, in which multiple teams find and do crazy things, without leaving the room, in an effort to gain points -- that's the place to be.

For a more conventional scavenger hunt experience, check the daily schedule, and head to the Schooner Bar, Deck 4 mid, where the hunt is based. Passengers also gather there for daily trivia, Nintendo Wii competitions and enrichment activities like jewelry-making, napkin folding, scrapbooking, origami instruction and foreign language lessons. (Other enrichment-based activities, including sushi making and fruit carving, take place on Deck 9 by the pool throughout each sailing.) This lounge's nautical theme is both refined and fitting, but its location stinks -- literally. It's flanked on one side by the Centrum and on the other by the section of Casino Royale that permits smoking; sometimes it wafts into the area.

By far, the most impressive and breathtaking entertainment offerings onboard are the aerialist shows, which are featured in the ship's five-deck Centrum. Anywhere from two to four acrobats dance, flip and twirl in midair while suspended from ropes, bungees and other structures designed specifically for each routine. On our sailing, two differently themed shows were scheduled. The first lasted fewer than 10 minutes and featured two people, dressed in bright yellow and orange leotards, climbing on a gold wheel-like apparatus reminiscent of the sun. The sight was set to Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." The second and longer (about 20 minutes) of the two shows was called "Seasons" and featured all four aerialists and several of the ship's singers and dancers, who accompanied the aerialists with songs (and costumes) based on each of the four seasons. Each themed show offers two performances on the same night -- one early and one late. For prime views, be sure to get there early to snag a seat or a spot along the railing. In our opinion, Deck 5 (facing the glass elevators with your back to the shops and Guest Relations desk) offers the best vantage point. For those more interested in the mechanical workings of the show, Decks 7 and 8 are the best bets.

In addition to housing the aerialist shows, the Centrum is also ideal for live musical performances and dance lessons, given by Legend of the Seas' dancers.

On Panama Canal crossings, Legend of the Seas brings a local narrator onboard to share facts, figures and history about the canal and its construction as you sail through it. Ours did an excellent job of letting us know when the next lock was coming and even pointed out other notable highlights along the way, including the small prison that's now the permanent home of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

Fitness and Recreation

Legend of the Seas' peaceful Vitality at Sea Spa (Deck 9), along with many other cruise ships' spas, is run by Steiner Leisure. It offers five treatment rooms and a standard menu of spa treatments, including teeth whitening, facials, massages, and body scrubs and wraps that range in price from $119 for a 50-minute Hydralift facial to $365 for a 75-minute couple's Swedish massage. Despite what we were told on embarkation day (we asked, they said no), discounts -- lots of them -- are offered throughout each sailing, particularly on port days when most passengers are ashore. Also look for frequent specials that allow you to choose from a preset list of treatments for one discounted price. We tried an embarkation-day deep tissue massage and were told we'd get 75 minutes for the 60-minute price. They cut us about 10 minutes short, and the rumbling of the ships engines could annoyingly be felt from the table. Otherwise, the treatment was exceptional. As always, services are followed by pitches for a variety of Elemis products. If you're not interested, just say no, or tell your attendant ahead of time that you'd prefer not to purchase anything. An 18 percent tip will automatically be added to your tab; you can add an additional tip if you wish.

In the same area as the spa is a small salon that provides services for both men and women, including haircutting and styling, manicures and pedicures, and waxing. Prices range from $19 for an upper lip wax to $149 for a Keratin hair treatment. As with the previously mentioned spa treatments, watch for packages that group salon offerings together for one price. On our sailing, an especially reasonable one for men allowed them to choose three treatment options (express shave, scalp and neck massage, hand and arm massage, men's deep cleansing facial, precision haircut or facial massage) for a flat fee of $99.

In the Deck 9 Vitality complex, you'll also find the fitness center. Awkwardly small but well equipped, it features 10 spin bikes, five regular Life Fitness bikes, six treadmills, five ellipticals, two steppers and several Cybex weight machines, as well as a host of free weights, exercise balls, step boxes and yoga mats. A handful of fitness classes like stretching and abs workshops are held free of charge throughout each sailing. For-fee offerings include spin ($12), yoga ($12) and Body Sculpt Boot Camp ($30). Personal training sessions are also available for an extra charge; they're often discounted if you purchase more than one. Seminars like "Burn Fat Faster" and "Secrets to a Flatter Stomach" appear on each daily schedule, but they're usually just sales pitches veiled as educational presentations.

Other fitness center facilities include men's and women's locker rooms with showers and restroom facilities, men's and women's saunas and steam rooms, and a coed relaxation room and sun deck where passengers can relax, free of charge, pre- or post-workout or spa treatment. Be warned: The outdoor deck is quiet and rarely crowded, but if you lie there long enough, you'll be covered in black soot from the ship's funnel, which is positioned just above.

For those who prefer to stay fit outdoors, the ship has a rock climbing wall, mini-golf course and several shuffleboard courts on Deck 10, as well as a one-lane jogging track. Four laps equal one mile, but the path is narrow, and it can become even more so if the deck is crowded with people walking or sunning themselves on the surrounding loungers. Ping-Pong tables are located on Deck 9.

If swimming is your preferred activity, there are two pools onboard. The main pool, located outside on Deck 9 is surrounded by a giant outdoor movie/television screen, two whirlpools and a pool bar, as well as plenty of loungers. (Although there were chair hogs out and about on our sailing, we never had trouble finding an open chair, even during peak times on sea days.) A secondary wave pool is located in the Solarium, near the gym and spa on Deck 9. Inside, you'll find a quiet space with a bit of a Roman atmosphere. Two hot tubs complement the pool and the Park Cafe (see Dining), as well as several tables off to the side, perfect for a quiet midday meal or a late-night snack. It's supposed to be an adults-only area, but we did see some well-behaved teenagers in there on occasion, mostly snagging grub. Although the roof of the Solarium is retractable, we didn't see it open at all on our voyage.

Family

Children's programming, known as Adventure Ocean on Royal Caribbean ships, is a strong point for Royal Caribbean. However, due to the longer nature of Legend's sailings, the ship doesn't carry many children. A kids club supervisor tells us only about 30 cruisers younger than 18 are found onboard during the ship's peak times. Nonetheless, the facilities available are perfect for keeping youngsters occupied.

The Royal Babies and Tots nursery on Deck 10, for children younger than 36 months, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 5:15 p.m. to midnight on sea days. Port day hours are 7 a.m. to noon and 5:15 p.m. to midnight. Prices are $6 per child, per hour, during the day. The fee goes up to $8 at night.

Reservations are required, and although a 50 percent cancellation fee applies to cancellations made less than one hour from the scheduled time, demand is often low enough that Legend's policy is more flexible. Supervised play is provided, as are cribs for napping. Parents are allowed to go ashore on port days while their young children are in the nursery. Several activities for the wee ones are offered throughout each sailing, including play groups, bedtime stories and other activities, both with and without parents. Fisher-Price toys can also be signed out for parents to use with their children elsewhere on the ship. For-fee in-cabin baby-sitting is available upon request for children at least 1 year old.

Supervised kids programming for those between the ages of 3 and 17 is free.

The 3- to 11-year-old set convenes in Club Ocean on Deck 10 to enjoy a variety of age-appropriate fun. Aquanauts (3 to 5 years) listen to stories, have sing-alongs, dance and play with hula hoops. Explorers (6 to 8) and Voyagers (9 to 11) often have activities that overlap, due to the small number of children that sail on Legend of the Seas. Their shenanigans include game play, science experiments and art projects.

Teens have their own facility, Optix, on Deck 10, just across from Club Ocean. The clubby atmosphere provides a dance floor and a DJ booth, as well as tables and comfy chairs with plenty of magazines and board games. Although planned activities are supervised, teens are able to come and go as they please. Activities for ages 12 to 14 include movies, photo scavenger hunts, dessert creation, trivia, late-night mini-golf, video game play and dodgeball. Meanwhile, those in the 15 to 17 bracket might take part in games, trivia, shuffleboard tournaments, video game play, rock climbing, teen Quest, Amazing Race competitions and late-night themed parties.

A small arcade is next to Optix on Deck 10, and it's open to all passengers. Because it was downsized to make room for the Royal Babies and Tots nursery during Legend's refurb, it now contains only a small handful of games.

Parents should note that there's an onboard curfew of 1 a.m. for all cruisers younger than 18.

Fellow Passengers

Because sailings on Legend of the Seas tend to be a bit longer -- and because certain itineraries it sails, such as the Panama Canal, are high in demand and price -- passengers are generally retirees or folks with extra vacation time and funds. They also tend to be well-traveled cruisers who have sailed with Royal Caribbean before.

On Panama Canal, Canada and Caribbean sailings, about 95 percent of passengers are North American, while the rest hail from Europe and Latin America. On Europe voyages, the number of North Americans drops to about 50 percent. Announcements and literature, including the daily Cruise Compass, are offered in several languages like English, Spanish, German, French and Italian.

Dress Code

Legend of the Seas has a casual feel during the day, with most passengers opting for jeans and T-shirts or beachwear. There are three degrees of dress for dinnertime. Casual means nice jeans or khakis for men with button-down or collared shirts; women generally wear sundresses or capris with stylish tops. Smart casual refers to slightly more dressy attire like blazers for men and dresses or pantsuits for women. Formal tends to find men in suits or tuxes and women in sparkly dresses or gowns. The breakdown of formal nights is: one on sailings of five nights or less, two on sailings of six to 13 nights, and three on sailings of 14 nights or more. The dress code in alternative restaurants onboard is always smart casual.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for those in suites). If tips aren't prepaid, they'll be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. The amounts can be modified or removed by visiting the passenger services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs, and 18 percent is added to spa treatments. Extra tipping directly to crewmembers who go above and beyond is also allowed, but it's left to passengers' discretion.

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