It's the Ferrari of the Royal Caribbean fleet. With five engines, Legend of the Seas is not only the smallest ship in the RCI fleet, it is also the fastest, with a top speed of 25 nautical miles per hour.
And her handling ability was certainly put to the test as she sailed through one of the World’s Natural Wonders, the Great Barrier Reef, in June. At times, with the local pilot on board and in control, there was only metres available to manoeuvre the 264-metre long, 11-deck Legend of the Seas through the reef’s passage.
When the ship docked in Cairns, there was only 2.5 metres of water under her as she slowly edged her way to the dock so her 2,000 passengers could walk off to explore the city.
“Being the smallest ship has its advantages,’’ hotel director John Rae said. “The biggest advantage is that we can come into Brisbane (Portside Wharf), which none of our other bigger ships can do. Strategically the Brisbane market has always been something we have wanted to expand in to.”
Most cruise ship companies operating in the booming Australian market see the Queensland capital as the “Florida of Australia” and there’s been on-going pressure applied on the State Government to build a new cruise ship terminal capable of accepting some of the mega-liners, like RCI’s Ovation of the Seas.
Queenslanders Have A Fun Reputation
Australia is the fastest-growing cruise market, in terms of penetration, in the world. Australians love cruising and just can’t seem to get enough of it.
More than one million Australians (4.2 per cent of the population) went on a cruise holiday in 2014. According to Cruise Lines International Association's latest industry report, this is the first time any region has passed a growth rate of 4 per cent.
With new ships entering the market this year, industry experts are predicting an even higher growth figure for 2015.
Royal Caribbean International will increase local capacity by almost 50 per cent during the 2015/16 season. As well as Legend of the Seas, RCI will base Explorer of the Seas in Sydney, along with Voyager of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas.
Rae said the Legend of the Seas’ crew was looking forward to calling Brisbane home for five months from December, especially as Australians, and especially Queenslanders, have such a fun reputation in the cruise market.
“Every market differs but the Australians are very engaged,’’ he said. “It’s like flicking a switch, the energy changes when Australians get on board. They get involved in everything. They are vocal. We’ve never signed up as many people for the belly flop competition as we do in Australia.’’
Legend of the Seas will strongly appeal to the family market and at capacity can cater for up to 600 children on any cruise.
“You need to get creative with programming when you have that many children on board,’’ cruise director Keith Williams said. “We are a family-centric brand, though.’’
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'Black Tie' Has Become Optional
Just skim the pages of the daily Cruise Compass pamphlet and you will confirm that, with activities available such as rock climbing, table tennis, mini-golf, a games arcade and three different kids’ club venues. The most common complaint you will hear from children is that there’s just not enough hours in the day.
The good news is that at most times the ratio of children to supervisor is six to one, so you can relax knowing that your children are being well looked after. For that extra level of comfort, though, parents are given pagers so staff can contact them at any time on the ship.
The Legend of the Seas is also very relaxed and even on formal nights they acknowledge that “black-tie” is optional.
“Formal night has relaxed over the years,’’ Williams said. “A decade ago, Formal Night was Formal Night from 6pm until the end of the night. But cruising today has become a lot more casual and carefree and also now with weight restrictions on airlines, and if you are travelling for 17 days, that’s a lot of clothing to pack.
“Now it’s suggested dress for the night. A lot of people still enjoy it. If you don’t want to dress up there’s always that casual dining option in Windjammer Cafe. The Australian market really enjoys the Windjammer Cafe product (buffet) and weather permitting we will move into more deck barbecues for the Australian summer.’’
The Legend of the Seas may well be in its 20th year of sailing but it did undergo a $50-plus million dollar modernisation in 2013. A lot of that money was spent updating the five-deck Centrum area, by far the most architecturally spectacular part of the ship.
Stunning Shows At The Centrum
The Centrum area is one of the central entertainment points on the ship. Not only does it host bands, dance classes and events, but at times Legend of the Seas’ acrobats twirl and flip themselves in spectacular fashion high above guests in stunning shows.
During her five-month season in Brisbane, Legend of the Seas will embark on 15 itineraries in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, ranging from two to 18 nights before repositioning back to Asia in April 2016.
Some of the highlights include:
• An 18-night cruise from Hong Kong to Brisbane on November 20 which calls at Manila, Puerto Princesa, Kota Kinabalu, Bali, Darwin, Cairns and Whitsundays. A similar cruise operates in reverse departing Brisbane on April 20, 2016.
• Nine eight-to-10 night South Pacific cruises stopping at New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Loyalty Islands. And a further two 11-night cruises that incorporate the South Pacific islands and Fiji.
• One 14-night cruise to New Zealand which calls at Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Akaroa, Dunedin and Dusky/Doubtful/Milford Sounds.
• Visits to the Whitsundays and Cairns on two seven-night Queensland sailings.
• One two-night sampler cruise, giving cruisers a taste of Legend of the Seas.