By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/18/2019
Occurred: 5/13/2007
Topics/Keywords: #Cruise #CarnivalLegend #WesternCaribbean Page Views: 3196
We board the Carnival Legend to begin our first family cruise vacation!

In our room at Tampa's Sheraton Riverwalk, I was not the first to awaken. Actually, I awoke last. Which was fine with me; everyone else had already showered. Michael had also slept in, and he and I took turns, by which time everyone else was in the restaurant downstairs for the "free, Continental breakfast" the web site had promised us. Apparently that was happening on some other continent; this breakfast cost money. Or would have, if the waitress had ever gotten around to taking my order. While waiting, I nibbled on everyone else's leftovers: A strip of bacon here, half an English muffin there. By the time (a good 45 minutes after our arrival) the waitress finally showed up, Michael and I were no longer hungry.

There were, however, a few things I had planned to pick up in Tampa before boarding our ship, things that would have been difficult to fly with but easy to pick up in a local grocery store. We still had a couple of hours to kill before boarding; so Michael and I strolled two or three blocks to a local Publix supermarket.

It was quaintly small, especially by comparison to Arizona stores. By now I realized I still was hungry after all, and bought a dozen fresh, glazed donuts. I ate two immediately, and that helped. Michael, who doesn't like donuts because he thinks they are too fattening, instead ate a pint of Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream.

But mostly we wanted to pick up some Diet Rite soda (with Splenda, not Aspartame) for Michael and me, and a 12-pack of Diet Coke for Mary and Karen. We knew from our research that soda pop is available only from the ship's bars, at bar prices. On impulse, I also bought a 24-pack of bottled water. And we got a gallon of distilled water for our CPAP machines. (These are devices that help us breathe during the night, as both Michael and I have sleep apnea.)

When we were done shopping, we realized there was no way we could carry all this stuff back without Sherpas. So I called the Sheraton's bell stand and asked for the shuttle to pick us up, as we'd been told it would do at no cost. In fact, we'd chosen this particular hotel for its free shuttle to the ship. Alas, so had all the other guests. The person on the phone explained it would be at least twenty minutes before it could come around.

Twenty minutes later, Karen called me to say the shuttle was still carting guests to other places, and that there was only one, and who knew how long it would be before it got around to us. However, she had another plan. There was a representative from a shuttle service called "Blue One" on the premises; for $5 a person, they would pick up all the family from the Sheraton, with our luggage, stop by Publix to get Michael and me and our groceries, and then deliver us to the Port of Tampa terminal. That sounded good to me; a few minutes later, Michael and I were on our way to the docks.

The shuttle took us to the same little place at which we'd dined the night before. This time, however, there was something different: A huge ocean liner rose up behind the shops and restaurants and towered into the sky. Our ship: the Carnival Legend.

At the port entrance, porters came along and, after a brief period of internecine snarling and snapping, one was designated to be the beneficiary of ourimpedimenta. This was probably some sort of bonus, since we were a party of ten. But then there was the question of, what to do with the soda and the water from Publix? If it wasn't in a suitcase the porter wouldn't take it. Mary solved the problem by loading the bottles of water into Michael's shoe suitcase (yes, he had a special bag just for shoes) and someone else found a home for the 12-pack of Diet Coke. I didn't mind carrying the box of donuts myself, so we were on our way.

My ship's ID card.

At the door we were made to show our ship ticket book and photo ID. Once inside the building, a very utilitarian affair, we were led to an escalator and then to a long queue of other passengers. The line moved fairly quickly, however. Again we showed our photo IDs and ticket books, and also a debit or credit card. We were then given a "Sale & Sign Card". This, we were told, would work as a boarding pass, room key, on-board credit card, and passport when we in port. It would also help save the environment, finance the space program, and bring about world peace. I may have exaggerated that last part. What the agent said was that it was our "fun" card. And who's to say what constitutes "fun" for any particular person?

Just as the question of "beauty" is unique to each of us. The moment we boarded, Kathy gushed as to how beautifully decorated the entrance lobby was. I, in the meantime, was thinking how gaudy it looked. True, no expense had been spared. Everywhere there were dark woods and rich brocades and sparkling lights. A classical trio was playing light jazz on a platform above a bar, and three glass elevators rose nine floors up towards a grand skylight above.

It all seemed like a cross between the Las Vegas Strip and the Poseidon Adventure.

It was also crowded, as everyone who got off the gangplank tended to congregate here, having no idea where to go. There was, for example, no one posted specifically to give directions to our rooms—possibly because our rooms weren't ready. We were invited to have lunch until 1:30, when our rooms would be ready.

All ten of us thus gathered for lunch in a sort of food court thing where there was Oriental, Italian, New York and Weight Watchers' Horror cuisines each dispensed from individual little areas. I had fried rice, lasagna, and a few things I didn't recognize. It was all very gourmet. Michael came back with a plate from the Weight Watchers' Horror, also known as the desert area. His plate had four different cakes on it, as well as fall out from his other plates.

Finally we got to our rooms. Karen, Mary and Zachary got an inner room with a bunk for Zach, but no window. The TV mounted to a wall showed the days' schedule, in addition to a hundred channels in case you wanted to spend your cruise watching television.

Michael and I got a room with a window. No little porthole as in days of old, this was almost as large as a picture window in a traditional living room. Our beds were twin beds but could be put together, which I did before nightfall.

A rest for weary travelers is found in Michael's and my room. Zach tires out his bunk in his, Mary and Karen's stateroom.

An announcement over the ship's intercom told us that everyone would be required to participate in an emergency drill, but Michael and I, who had just started to nap, didn't hear it. Mary came running in, telling that we would have to put on our "strait-jackets". Thoughtfully, our room had not been outfitted with strait-jackets but there were a pair of life jackets so we put those on and joined everyone else at our muster station, "A", which was on the third deck, two decks above ours. We weren't allowed to use the elevators during the drill.

On deck, they lined us all up, six rows deep. Little Zachary, standing between Michael and me, didn't have much of a view; all he could see were butts. Our officer—each muster station had one in charge—had a British accent and sounded so much like Simon Cowell of American Idol that I halfway expected him to critique our mustering: "I thought that was entirely too pageant-y. You looked like you were marching into your high-school prom."

Emergency Drill: We will now sing 'Nearer My God To Thee'.

Our luggage had not yet been delivered. We'd been told it might be as late as 8 pm before it was, though it actually arrived around 5 pm. By then Michael and I'd already taken a nap. Zachary came by and we decided to explore the ship. We only saw a fraction of it: a theatre, the spa, several swimming pools. By then it was time for dinner, which we were required to attend at 5:45 pm. This first night would not be "formal", since so many people still didn't have their luggage.

All ten of us had been assigned to the same table, which was positioned against a great, round, window. Michael and I, being first there, took the window seats. It was really quite cool to see the water slipping by at 16 knots while we sat and ate.

Which took quite a while. I guess, when you are actually traveling while eating, there's no need to hurry one's meal. In fact, a leisurely dinner may be a holdover custom from the old days of steamships, when there weren't any theatres or health spas or swimming pools and eating was the only entertainment a traveler had. We started out with breads (and real butter) and appetizers (I had a fruit cocktail which was more of a fruit plate). Zachary ordered pizza; Cailey ordered pizza and a cheeseburger, following Joe and Kathy's advice to order two entrees. (However, she only had room for the cheeseburger.) I also wanted two entrees; both the sweet-and-sour shrimp and a steak with peppercorn sauce sounded delicious. But I didn't want to eat two entrees. So Michael and I agreed to each order one, and to split and share it with the other. Which we did; it worked out perfectly, and I actually had room for desert (a guava cheese thing with lots of crusty pastry).

After dinner, Michael and I returned to our room to unpack. There were drawers and closets and shelves sufficient for all our things. I put the beds together and set up the CPAP machines. However, there was only one electrical outlet in the room; and that was at the desk, too far to be of use. So I had to traipse to the Concierge's desk on the third deck to request an extension cord, which they provided for a $25 deposit.

Zach and Michael: On Deck

We had promised Cailey and Zach we would take them swimming. However, it was now after 8 pm and all the pools were closed. Two of the Jacuzzis were still open, so we made our way to that one and Zach and Cailey spent a happy fifteen minutes bouncing between the Jacuzzi and a shower that was on deck. Dottie and Karen showed up and took over the little ones, allowing Michael and me to soak for a few more minutes.

We had wanted to take in "a show" but got distracted by a karaoke thing around the corner from our room. A saucy British wench with a terrific singing voice of her own was presiding. As usual with karaoke, a few people were Guinness-class awful, a few were excellent, and most were like your uncle singing along with the radio in his car. I sang a couple of numbers and urged Michael to sing one, which he did beautifully. I was surprised at how much urging it took, considering the number of times he's gone on about wanting to be on "the stage" again.

We didn't intend to stay so long, but we closed the karaoke thing. By then we were pretty tired and returned to our room. I intended to blog before going to sleep, but Michael wanted to use the computer first—God knows what for, since there isn't Internet access in our room—and he was still using it when I fell asleep for the night.