September 13, 2011

Carnival Legend cruise 2011

This is a VERY long post on our Carnival Legend cruise. It is full of good info and a detailed account of our trip. If you only have about 10 minutes you may want to take a look at the video I made combining still pictures with video. It is a quick version of our trip but not nearly as detailed as the blog post below.

To see the video go HERE.

We started our trip by leaving the office on Friday, September 2nd around 3pm and headed to Brunswick, Georgia to stay for the night. This was about half way to Tampa and left us with only a 4 hour ride on Saturday morning. We arrived in Tampa around noon and headed straight to 7th Avenue where a lot of cigar shops are located.

Our first stop was La Herencia de Cuba.

While there we met Juan Carlos, store manager.

I picked up some of their cigars and one of them was their Rameriz Cigar, which was one I had not tried yet.

After our visit there we walked up to Columbia Restaurant for some lunch. Before going into the restaurant we stopped in the gift shop/cigar shop.

They roll their own cigars there and they are handrolled by 87 year old Antonio Riverol who was not there that day since it was a Saturday. I picked up a few of their cigars to try. While there I met Yenisey Diaz. Here I am with her.

Columbia Restaurant is a beautiful place. Here are a few pics.

After a wonderful lunch our next stop was Ybor Cigars Plus. They had a roller in the window of their shop and she was rolling some nice looking barber pole cigars. I picked up one as well as another cigar.

The view of 7th Avenue as we walked.

Our final stop of the day (still on 7th Avenue) was King Corona Cigars.

While there I met the owner Don Barco. He actually recognized me when I entered the shop and called me over! We sat around for about an hour and a half exchanging cigar stories and laughs. Don was a gracious host and gave me one of his namesake cigars to smoke while we were there. The Don Barco is a very nice cigar which I enjoyed quite a bit so I decided to pick up several of every size they come in. Thanks to Don for making us feel so welcome.

Here is a pic of us with Don (next to Connie) and his close friend who is always in the shop.

He has a very big shop with a complete bar. Here are pics of the humidor (sliding glass doors) and the bar.

We programed our Garmin with the address of the Airport Courtyard Hilton and headed over. It was a fairly short trip. Vicki Lewis, who is also on the cruise with us, set up that hotel since she is a Hilton Rewards member and got us fantastic rates! The room with tax was about $94 a night and we got to leave our car there during the cruise. We had to pay for a shuttle service to get to and from the port but that was only about $34. Parking at the port would have been about $120 so in essence we got to stay the night for free, or thereabouts.

Early Saturday morning we headed out to the port. We were all anxious to get to the ship. We arrived around 10:45 or so and as you can imagine there were people everywhere! Getting through the baggage drop off and upstairs to the Carnival desk was easy. We waited for our turn to board the ship. We were on board and eating lunch on the lido deck by 11:45. Not bad at all.

Here are some pics of the ship shortly after we boarded. It's about as empty as it would be for that week!

One thing I should point out is cigar smoking is allowed on the PORT side (left) of deck 9; not starboard as stated elsewhere on Carnival's site. The ship is definitely laid out for smoking on the port side. You can also smoke cigars in Satchmo's Jazz Club, port side of deck 9, and on your balcony. That's it!

There are 2 pools on the lido deck.  They are separated by a bar area. Here are the 2 pools.

The famous Whale's Tail. Carnival had to modify the tail on the Legend in order for it to fit under the Tampa bridge. In a later pic you will see how it differs from the normal Whale's Tail when we are docked next to the Ecstasy in Cozumel.

This Whale's Tail is also different because it has glass panels. These panels are transparent and offer sunlight to the Supper Club below.

See the restaurant tables through the glass?

We stayed on deck 9 most of the afternoon until our room was ready.

At 4:30 we went to the Cruise Critic Meet and  Greet put on by Cindy, aka Cyn7, and it was great! We met so many wonderful people. We continued to enjoy their company throughout the entire cruise! Thank you Cindy for putting that together. Everyone should do that; it's a lot of fun. We had about 60 people attend too!

Our group of 6 had decided to change our original dinner time from 8:15 pm to 6:00 pm. After contacting the Maitre'D he agreed to move us. Connie and I decided to sit out tonight's 6:00 pm dinner in order to watch the ship go under the bridge. Here we are approaching the bridge.

The moment we passed under the bridge. We cleared it by 6' or so.

After our dinner on the lido deck we decided to take a look at Satchmo's Jazz Club, where cigars are allowed.

Day 2, Monday, September 5th, 2011
Day at Sea

The next day was a sea day. People really came out and enjoyed the beautiful weather, including us!

One of the cigars I had that day was a Graycliff Grand Cru. The wind made it tough to enjoy it but I did! You can see the result of the wind on the foot.

Monday night was our first night in the Truffles dining room. Here's Connie sitting next to a huge round window where we could watch the ocean go by.

The decor in the Truffles dining room was very nice. The lighting was quite different. It comprised of hundreds of bottles that had the necks twisted into a decorative pattern.

Once we were back in our room for the afternoon we had a phone call. Connie answered the phone and then handed the phone to me. On the other end of the phone there was the unmistakable Scottish voice of Wee Jimmy! I had become Facebook friends with Wee Jimmy and he asked that once we were on board I go to Guest Services and have them notify him with our room number. I did and that's why he called today. He said he wanted to meet up at Satchmo's at 10:30 tonight. So, after dinner we headed over to Satchmo's and waited for Wee Jimmy.

The cigar of choice for the occasion was an Opus X Power Ranger.

Wee Jimmy arrived around 10:45. He stays quite busy on board, as you can imagine.

A few minutes after he arrived he went to the bar for a couple waters. That's about all I drank on the entire cruise and it's Wee Jimmy's drink of choice also. Connie decide to do a little dancing.

While Wee Jimmy was getting his water and Connie was dancing I was approached by a young lady who began to talk to me as if she recognized me. To this point about 10 people had stopped me and said "hey, you're cigar dude", my screen name on Cruise Critic. I assumed she was another who had recognized me as I could hardly hear anything she said. The band was quite loud! Then, when she laid 2 Fuente Don Carlos cigars on the table I realized it was Liana Fuente! I learned she was on the same cruise as us through Facebook notes to each other. We agreed to meet but I had not seen her on board up to this point. It was quite exciting to meet her! She is the daughter of Carlos Fuente, Jr. Everyone in the cigar world knows of Fuente cigars. What a coincidence; I was having a Fuente Opus X Power Ranger too! Liana was very bubbly and happy. She hugged us several times and expressed how happy she was to meet us. She even danced with Wee Jimmy and Connie! We agreed to meet up another night too. It was quite an honor to meet her. I loved the fact that she was so down to earth and friendly.

The night wore on and we finally gave in to sleep. Here is one of the unique towel animals that our room steward made. This is tonight's version.

At this point I must point out one very important thing about our room location. The room number was 8187 which is on the Panarama Deck. It is very convenient to the Lido Deck as our room is only one deck below it. But, I noticed that you can hear the workers as they roll various carts over the pool area and food areas. When they roll across the tile floors it sounds like a train rolling down the tracks! Now, it's not horrible but it's worth pointing out. I looked at it as white noise. When you're laying in bed at night you notice it the most. The noises are not constant but when they roll over the floor you know it. The fact that we were so close to the lido deck made the minor noise problem less important. If you stay in 8187 or any nearby room you will hear this noise, just be aware of it.

Day 3, Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Today's port: Cozumel, Mexico

We were docked at the southernmost of the 3 Cozumel piers. Also in dock today was the Carnival Ecstasy. We actually were ready to leave the ship but were held up to allow the Ecstasy to pull in to dock. Here are the two ships next to each other.

The first order of business was to take a taxi into town to find the new La Casa del Habano that opened earlier this year. Well, we found it easily but it did not open until a few hours later! At least we found it. We decided to come back after we went to Paradise Beach. Here is how the LCDH appears from the street.

So, out to Paradise Beach we went. There were some reports on Cruise Critic that Paradise Beach had gone downhill. I was surprised to read this as I remember it as a great place and now they have a brand new pool and bar area. I was quite anxious to see the condition of the place. Upon arriving I met Guillermo Cerda, one of the managers. I had notified them that we would be there on Tuesday. I am a fan of theirs on Facebook, so notifying them was easy. I expressed to Guillermo that there were reports about their facility that were negative. He was aware of those reports and asked me to let him know of anything I found that was in need of attention. Well, I could have not been more relieved to find what I did. The grounds, facilities, and pool were spectacular. The reports were obviously the work of someone trying to bad mouth Paradise Beach. But don't take my word for it; take a look at the pics and you tell me!

They were continually sweeping the beach of seaweed and trash. It was very clean.

The "toys" appeared to be in great shape.

Connie enjoyed walking the beach.

Take a look at the manicured grounds.

The new pool area is great!

The famous parrots that live at the resort are so colorful. They almost don't look real!

After hanging out on the beach for awhile we decided to head over to the pool to cool off before lunch.

It was soon lunch time, so we walked over to the restaurant. Connie loves her guacamole and chips!

After lunch it was back to the pool. Remember those Don Carlos cigars I told you about? Liana had given me 2 last night. Here is one being enjoyed!

The view from the pool deck looking towards the beach. As you can see it's a short walk.

We absolutely loved Paradise Beach. I can highly recommend it when you're in Cozumel. One of the great things about it is you "pay as you go" instead of having a large lump sum all inclusive price. Since I don't drink much it's quite a bit less expensive for us to do it this way. There is no admission fee either. The prices were reasonable for everything. Great place. We loved it. There was nothing I would change about Paradise Beach, except that I be there more often!

So, after several hours at Paradise Beach it's back into town we go. By now the LCDH should be open, and it was, much to my excitement. The shop is very easy to find. It is directly across the street from the tenders that go back and forth to Play del Carmen. It is upstairs above Fat Tuesday's. The entrance is on the side of the building. Simply take the stairs on the right of the picture below.

Shop manager, Michael Gillardin.

The famous Cohiba Behike's. No, I didn't buy this box!

Me with Michael. When we left Paradise Beach I put my shirt on backwards. Can you tell?

There was a government meeting going on in the dining room while we were there so we decided to sit outside on the deck.

The huge Mexican flag as seen from the LCDH deck.

View from the deck looking toward the water. The water taxi/tenders are just to the left of this picture.

View from Connie's vantage point looking down to the shopping area.

Once the meeting was over I went inside to get some pics of the restaurant. You can still see Connie sitting on the deck in the left of the picture.

It was getting close to time to board the ship so off we went. We thanked Michael for his hospitality. The shop was great!

Remember earlier when I mentioned that the Legend's Whale's Tail was modified to fit under the bridge? Here is a pic of the Legend's tail and the Ecstasy's tail. See the difference? The Legend is on the left.

With us having early dining it is a short wait from the time we re board the ship until dinner time. After dinner we came back to the room to change into something more casual. Once inside we found a surprise waiting for us!

The card said it was from John Heald and Wee Jimmy! How very thoughtful and nice! Champagne and chocolate covered strawberries with bow ties! We were blown away! Tonight is the first ever Cigars Under the Stars, which I learned from Wee Jimmy is being held in my honor! Cool! John Heald holds them on his ship and I asked him if the Legend has them. He contacted Wee Jimmy and guess what, it's happening on the Legend! I was quite honored that they are holding the first one for me. They listed the event in the Fun Times for today as one of the top 10 things to do on board! Nice!

The event was from 10 pm until midnight. Here are pics of the event. I heard there were 30 people in attendance! Not bad for the first one and very little advertising!

Liana Fuente with her date, Emil.

Liana was so nice and friendly! She even brought some cigars for the attendees! That was quite a nice surprise! Thank you Liana for being there and attending our event!

We ended the event around 12:30! Very late night for us! Off to bed; we have Belize tomorrow!

Day 4, Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
Today's port: Belize City, Belize

It was a little drizzly when we arrived in Belize. This is a tender port so we headed down to the boarding area to wait for our number to be called to board a tender. We didn't wait long. The tenders are large and hold several hundred people. The ride to the dock is about 25 minutes. Once we arrived we headed to the Wet Lizard to meet our transportation to Caye Caulker. We decided to spend the day there and experience a small island.

We finally boarded the boat for Caye Caulker. The ride over was 45 minutes long! Ouch! Anyway, here's Vicki and Marge who decided to go with us.

As you arrive at the dock in Caye Caulker you see a true small island town.

The pathway into town took us through a grave yard!

Various shots around town. Notice the streets are not paved.

Social Security Office. Notice the hours of operation in the pic below.

Golf carts are everywhere. We did not see a regular car or truck anywhere while we were there.

The Lazy Lizard has seen better days!'s still in operation. Check around back.

The famous "Split".

The back side of the Lazy Lizard! Get your drinks here!

We decided to take a taxi back to the front of the island for lunch. It was reasonable and a great experience. We boarded the golf cart-taxi and away we went!

After lunch it was time to take the 45 minute ride back to the Belize dock and then board the tender back to the ship. In all we spent about 2 1/2 hours on little boats today!

Vicki had also set up a dinner at the Golden Fleece supper club. Reservations were at 6 pm. Here are pics of the inside of the restaurant. Also, you can see the glass panels that adorn the Whale's Tail above. Notice the reddish hue everything has under the glass area.

Our table in the distance.

Our table!

I'm normally not a food-picture guy but take a look at this fruit cocktail!

After dinner, which was great, I took this picture of the lower level of the atrium. It's seven decks below! Don't fall!

After dinner we typically went to the lido deck for cigars then off to bed.

Day 5, Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Today's port: Roatan, Honduras

When we arrived in Roatan it was absolutely pouring rain! It came down sideways! We bought 2 rain ponchos and decided to brave the elements. We made out way to the taxi area in hopes to find a car waiting for us. I had communicated with Kevin Miller, owner of the Roatan LCDH, and he told me he would have someone meet us and take us over to the new cigar shop location. Unfortunately I never saw anyone waiting for us so we decided to go over to Coxen Hole and see if the shop was open. The driver told us that since no ship was in dock at that port facility the shops would not be open but I wanted to go see anyway. He took us on a very scenic drive over to Coxen Hole. Here are some pics from the highest point on Roatan.

Well, the cab driver was right, the shops were closed. We looked for the LCDH but could not find the new shop anywhere. I was quite disappointed but realize that things happen, so we went back to Mahogany Beach for the remainder of the day. It was quite busy. It's an easy walk from the ship. You could take a chair lift over if you wanted but it was $12 for a day pass so, we passed!

This picture shows how close the ship is to the beach.

Roatan was a short day. We left the dock at 3 pm. We had some time to unwind before dinner. The ship was full of beautiful pictures. Here is just one that was in a stairwell.

Connie wanted to try the Happy Frog beer which is a Carnival brew. It is a draft beer and it's dark. She enjoyed it very much.

After some cigars we turned in. Tomorrow is Grand Caymen!

Day 6, Friday, September 9th, 2011
Today's port: Grand Caymen

Grand Caymen is another tender port. The ship anchors very close to the dock so the tender in was very short. Here Connie waits to board the tender.

Here's a pic of the island from the ship.

The Carnival Legend as seen from the tender.

Just after we left the tender.

The first stop was the La Casa del  Habano. We found it pretty quickly.

Inside we met Wallace, store manager.

Wallace with us.

I picked up several sticks as well as a box of Partagas Serie D no. 4. I asked Wallace to keep them until we got back from Royal Palms resort. We caught a taxi out to Seven Mile Beach and Royal Palms Resort.

The water was simply beautiful!

There was a nice bar.

As well as a short order restaurant.

The cigar of the day was a PSD4. I had purchased a single from Wallace to go along with the box.

When it was time to leave Royal Palms it began to sprinkle a little. By the time we were on the taxi it was pouring! We timed that out great! It continued to rain until we got back to the tender port. We asked the taxi driver to take us over to the cigar shop and he did. That saved us from getting soaked! Once back in the cigar shop I took a couple pics of their humidor.

The rain stopped and we walked back to the tender spot. After a short ride back to the ship I had a San Cristobal robusto on the balcony.

A couple more pics of Grand Caymen from our balcony.

A beautiful sunset as seen from our balcony.

After dinner I decided to have one of the cigars I purchased in the Cozumel LCDH. Tonight's choice, the Partagas Serie D Especial.

Before we left the cabin to head to the lido deck for our cigars I snapped this pic of tonight's towel animal. That's a pretty good job!!!

The Partagas is well underway.

Connie had a Montecristo.

Tomorrow will be a chance to sleep in a little as it's another day at sea.

Day 7, Saturday, September 10th, 2011
Day at sea.

Sunrise over Cuba (in the far distance!)

Sleepy head!

After breakfast and a couple hours on the outside decks soaking up the Caribbean sun I decided today would be a good day to take some random shots of the ship. The light was good and I had the time.

I actually went to the gym 4 times on this cruise. So much for taking time off! The ship had a very nice gym and good equipment. It was quite unusual. It had 4 different levels with equipment on all 4 levels. Here are some pics of the gym and the hot tub in the middle of the gym on the lower level.

As I said before, the ship had artwork everywhere. Here is a sample inside one of the elevators.

And here is another piece in a stairwell.

The Enchanted Forest. A nice place to get away and sit while you watch the sea go by.

The Atrium. Notice how the daylight turns everything a reddish hue as it beams through the Whale's Tail.

There are urns EVERYWHERE!

This is the Serenity Deck. A beautiful spot in the back of the ship for adults only. It's a good place to get away from the kids and lounge in cushy recliners. Unfortunately they do not allow smoking here so I did not spend any time lounging. I passed through to get some pics but that's it. It looks great!

The huge slide just above the Serenity Deck.

I received another call from Wee Jimmy telling me to be at the Firefox Lounge at 5pm. We went and the event was the Farewell Party. The band played and the drinks flowed; free drinks!

Me with Wee Jimmy.

Since the Farewell Party was at 5 pm we had time to go there before the last dinner on board. Here is our entire table.

After dinner there was time for more cigars. This is the last cigar of the cruise, a Trinidad.

We were off the ship on Sunday Morning around 10 am. This is much later than the other ships. We met our shuttle back to the Airport Courtyard Marriott and headed home. Approximately 8 hours later we were there.

If you recall, I purchased a box of PSD4's in Grand Caymen. Here there are!

As you can tell they are quite young but that's ok. They're still mine!!!!

Also, here is another Partagas that I picked up in Cozumel. It's a Salomone and it's amazing looking!

Well, that's it. Another spectacular trip. Connie and I had a great time. Thanks to John Heald and Wee Jimmy for helping make this an unforgettable vacation. I hope to meet John some day and have a cigar with him. The Carnival Legend is a beautiful ship and I can easily see why people sail her over and over.


Anonymous said...

Great review. The LCDH in cozumel is excellent. No problems getting the boxes through customs? I typically only bring back singles as I am afraid a box would raise a red flag if they x-ray the bags. I am looking forward to cigars under the stars in February with John Heald.

Tiny Tim said...

I had no problems. Accorting to Wallace at the Grand Caymen LCDH getting boxes back on cruise ships is the way to go. I don't think they are as meticulous as the airlines. All I know is my box was still in there and I was happy!!!!

DeBee1015 said...

Great review!

I'm sailing on the Legend in a few weeks an cannot wait.

I live in the Tampa area, glad you got to see Ybor during the day rather than at night.

rhcpchika1 said...

Love the review! Looks like you couldn't have had a better time. :)

Anonymous said...

Great review Cigar Dude! I am going to have to show it to my hubby who is also a cigar fanatic. Okay, to be honest, I smoke them from time to time myself. He will be happy to see the locations in ports we were not aware of. I have a feeling our excursion itenerary is about to change.

We will be on the Legend ourselves on the 25th of this month. I do hope they will still have the Cigars Under the Stars event.

Thanks again for the review! Leslie (misstopgun1)

Anonymous said...

Very good review. I notice you alot on Cruise Critic. Nice to see the wife is an avid Cigar Person as well. I am Hamitchell there.

My wife is Nicaraguan, and I had a great tour of the Nestor Placencia factory in Esteli. It was the nicest cigar factory I've ever heard of.

If a Fuente had presented me cigars on a cruise, I'd have been down on my knees, in awe . . .

dcantrall said...

hi,this just brought me back to life.been on two cruises this year,and many more to come.cbp is a little lax, but don't be fooled. the pics are great.been on costa,carnival(3) different ships, best one so far is carnival conquest.

vamartha said...

Good review Cigar Dude! I actually show up in one of your pics from Belize (we were waiting at the same area for Hammerhead) and you will show up in one of mine when I post it on Cruise Critic! (I'm still a few days away from having it all typed up!)

Tiny Tim said...

Cool! I'd like to see your pics when they're up!

Tiny Tim said...

Liana was great. Very personable and friendly. She made us feel like we'd known her all her life. She's a great ambassador for the Fuente cigars. I hope to see her again.

Tiny Tim said...

mhscantlin, I put my box in my luggage the night before we got off the ship. They took them that night and I had no problems. Not saying it works 100% of the time but it will most of the time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,
Do you know how to add Wee Jimmy on Facebook? I have my third Legend Cruise coming up on 12/4 and would love to contact you have your fun times you could email me?? Thanks, Amy

Tiny Tim said...

His real name is Ralph Valente. He is rarely on Facebook but you can surely try to "friend" him. That's what I did! Good luck and have a great cruise!

Hockey Dude said...

Great Blog, going to Cozumel in Jan, so i understand. They let you carry full boxes back onto the ship. You but them in your luggage and bam, your smoking cubans at home. Awesome!!!!

Tiny Tim said...

Thanks Hockey Dude. Have fun in Coz. Say hi to Michael at the LCDH. He's a great guy. Prices in Coz are high but you'll get the real deal.

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Wow! It looks amazing and i love to see it.