It’s fast approaching 1pm and I have a decision to make. Do I sign up for the progressive trivia in the Schooner Bar; or a Thomas Kinkade art class; go to a pamper party at the Vitality Spa; take a salsa lesson from featured Ballroom dance couple Maks and Stafanie; or try my luck at Texas Hold’Em poker?
Or do have I have a bite to eat before entering the 1.30pm International Belly Flop competition – an event for which I have been in training for many years. My belly is legendary, after all.
It’s Day 7 aboard Legend of the Seas and we are sailing from Sydney to Singapore. We have already stopped in Brisbane (where the ship will be based from December), Airlie Beach and Cairns.
Today is a Sea Day. And if you think Sea Days are for relaxing, consider this. The Cruise Compass, the ship’s daily guide to what’s on, lists no fewer than 76 activities for guests to choose from today. The fun starts at 7am and finishes when the last passenger goes to bed.
Built in France, the Legend of the Seas made its maiden voyage in 1995. It underwent a $50 million refurbishment in February 2013, carries between 1,800 and 2,100 guests, and weighs 70,000 tons.
Numbers Add Up To A Major Enterprise
By modern standards, the Legend of the Seas, at 264 metres long with 915 cabins and 11 decks, is a mid-sized ship.
By Brisbane standards, though, the super liner will be one of the largest ships able fit alongside the Brisbane Cruise Terminal at Portside Wharf in Hamilton.
“The appetite for cruising in Queensland has grown significantly over the years, and we are thrilled to offer an international style of cruising with world-class amenities and features on your doorstep,” said commercial director for Royal Caribbean International, Sean Treacy.
“Legend of the Seas will bring more than $24 million into the Queensland economy in 2015 and 2016, including more than $20.6 million to Brisbane during 17 turnarounds, $1.5 million to Cairns and $1.5 million to Airlie Beach during her five calls.”
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 the Whitsundays. A similar cruise operates in reverse departing Brisbane on April 20, 2016.
- Nine 8-10-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.
So what can guests expect?
Endless – And Affordable – Fine Dining Options
The ship has tremendous outdoor space and activities. There’s a 12-metre rock-climbing wall, mini-golf course, two pools (one outdoors and one in the adults-only solarium) and six whirlpools.
There’s a video arcade for kids, an 18.5-metre outdoor cinema above the main pool area, and a jogging track with 360-degree views if you want to work off some of those extra cruise kilograms.
Speaking of extra kilograms, Legend of the Seas offers some exceptional specialty dining options. You can buy a package that allows you to dine at all three.
Izumi is Royal Caribbean’s signature Japanese fusion restaurant, with all dishes made to order, using top-grade fresh ingredients. I had the shrimp gyoza dumpling followed by the tuna seared tataki (shrimp tempura roll topped with seared tuna with garlic ponzu sauce).
There’s a dining fee of $US3 (A$4) a person for lunch and $US5 for dinner, plus a la carte menu prices. My meal cost $36 including the tip.
Chops Grille is all about the juicy steaks. For me, the interior felt like a New York steak house and at $30 a person it is perhaps the cheapest 5-star dining experience you will ever have.
At the exclusive Chef’s Table, up to 14 guests dine in a private room for a five-course menu - paired with matching wines - prepared and presented by the Chef de Cuisine for $95 a head.
The kitchen staff numbers just over 130, from 27 different countries.
The decor in the cabins is typically Royal Caribbean, offering cream-coloured walls and lots of light timber effects, a flat-screen television but oddly no mini-bar so six cans of soft drink and four bottles of water sat on the bench throughout the cruise.
I doubt anyone will ever drink a room temperature can of Coke.
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The bathrooms are small and the shower recess comes with one of the clingy curtains. Soap and a two-in-one shampoo/conditioner is provided but it might be worth bringing along your own hair treatments.
The toilet paper is placed in the strangest place. You will need long arms to reach it from a seated position.
The guests on this cruise were mainly retirees in the 60-plus age bracket, which is understandable considering it was a relocation cruise. The company expects the ship will appeal to families while based in Brisbane, especially over the school holiday period.
Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 a person, a day to cover tips. You can go to the Guest Services desk and ask for these to be removed from your SeaPass Accounts. A 15 per cent gratuity is also automatically added to drinks, and 18 per cent is added to spa treatments.
The 2015/16 season will see Royal Caribbean increase local capacity by almost 50 per cent. 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.
Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on Legend of the SeaS.