Legend of the Seas Jan 2010
We had misread our train ticket and so arrived at KL Sentral station a few hours early, but was no great trial. The sleeper berth to Singapore was great and we both got a great nights sleep. (senior citizens ½ price fair RM27 upper berth and RM33 lower berth) An easy 30 min walk to the ship passenger terminal found us there by 0930. A great cup of coffee, check in our bags and where able to do passenger check in and get our sea pass. So far so good.
Almost 2 months prior when we got our tickets, the wording said that for a nominal fee (US$30), The ship would organise our Vietnam visa. I double checked with the agent and after changing story a few time, they said that the service was for Canadian and USA passengers only. So we got our visas at the Vietnam embassy for RM 180 (US$50) each. I emailed Royal Caribbean line and after 6 weeks got a reply which confirmed USA and Canadians only got this service. However when checking in we were given a form which stated that the ship will provide transit visas for US$30 and we met passengers from Hong Kong and UK who used this service.
Rule one, be aware Royal Caribbean do NOT know what they are doing. This was also born out by the fact that the ship had not actually arrived (from dry dock) and so the 1200hrs boarding was not possible. In fact the alternate 1300 time was delayed as well. By 1500 we were on board, hungry and pissed off. The rush to the buffet to eat anything was a nightmare, sorting out dining arrangements was a nightmare, loading baggage so we could shower and change was a nightmare. The sailing was to have been at 1800, buy which time she was still loading baggage and fuel. By 2230 we slipped mooring and took off....almost literally as to make up time she had to go as fast as possible.
Food so far 3 star at best, small but clean cabin 3 star at best, torn carpet, broken floor tiles, empty small pools (flushed and filled on day 2), food 3 star. Don't let anybody kid you this is a 4 star ship. Its far from it and makes the old Costa Allegra look very good by comparison. So far I'm embarrassed that I invited Gerhard and Shirlee to come with us for their first cruise.
On the road to Vung TauBy day three I was starting to think that it was not so bad. Food did improve to almost a 4 star, drinks too expensive, the ship itself is quite well laid out although the pools are a joke. We found either by design or bad management, that at each stop we were as far away from the action as possible at usually obscure container jetties. This maybe to encourage passengers to join their exorbitant shore excursions or they had a deal going with the local taxi rip off merchants...or both, but not clever. However by going down the back of the line of taxi's and being late off the ship, good desperation deals can be done. We ended up in a group of 16 and negotiated good prices all the way.
Scenes in Vung TauRather than the long trip to Saigon, we opted to go to Vung Tau which was a good move as its a lovely town. In particular a huge statue of Christ on top of a hill overlooking the sea. Lovely beaches and pleasant people. The waterfront looks like it would be hopping at night as well. The ship passed by on its way out to sea that night and looked beautiful.
Scenes in Nha TrangNha Trang is a beautiful clean, smaller town, with a good market and a happy atmosphere all round. We decided it would be a great place to stay a week.
On the way to Hoi An
Scenes in Hoi AnDa Nang is very ordinary, however Hoi An a little further on is super. A river winds through the town and unusually, the town faces the river, with quaint old buildings and small bars and restaurants. The “Japanese” covered bridge, blends in the historic atmosphere all round.
Scenes in Ha Long bayHa Long Bay was spoilt by there being a thin fog, but it's still spectacular and to sail through these 2000 islands early morning was a highlight. We did the obligatory rip off sail round the closest islands on a junk. Not sure it that was the boat type or condition of the boat. Then drove up to Cat Bo De Buddhist monastery, which was spectacular and absolutely lovely. It did reconfirm however that north Vietnamese are rip off merchants and not as pleasant as their southern brothers.
Hong Kong in the morning mist was great and, you guest it we were put into a container berth again. We were getting used to being second class citizens on a ship run by disorganised people.
The shore gang got together again and fun had by all.
The shore gang got together again and fun had by all.
Onto Kaohsiung where we were told to get off early and then even that was delayed with only 850 milling around as 800 got off in Hong Kong.
The legend of the Seas as a ship is OK and the crew in the “Hotel” excellent. Management on board was OK, its on shore and in organisation seems to be an issue. Food did improve and evening shows were generally very good. The cruise director was absolutely great and saved the line much face.
Would I sail with them again? Not if there was good alternative. Ha well we did and now a great cruise 2 years later.
So Kaohsiung maybe the main port for Taiwan, but its absolutely great and strikingly beautiful. We decided we would stick together and stayed 2 days...not nearly enough as there is so much to see and do and the people so friendly and helpful. Temperature was Mediterranean and perfect.
We caught the faster train to Haulien up the east coast. This took 4 hours (TWD709) and its a trip not to miss. A major engineering feat as there are very many km of tunnels as the glorious mountains come right to the sea. Between tunnels are snapshots of idealic scenes of mountains, villages perched beside small black sand beaches with flat decked sampans circling nets in a vivid blue ocean.
In Haulien we were taken to our hotel by taxi, who offered her services for TWD2000 for 8 hours. As there was 4 of us, this was cheaper and far more convenient than a bus tour up to the Teroko Gorge. It was 1979 the last time there and now there are tunnels passing through the mountains rather than the old thrill ride around the cliff faces. You now get out and walk the old road (sometimes with a hard hat as there was plenty of rock falls). Much better and safer than the old days as the scenes are breathtaking. My only regret was the old aborigine village up top we were told is no more. Again, Haulien deserves more time, has great food and friendly people.
TWD 441 got us onto the train to Taipei and again a great trip. I must say Taiwan rail is great for long trips and the MRT is as good as Singapore at its best. In all three cities we were very lucky being close to MRT stations in Kaohsiung and Taipei and close to wonderful markets and eating places in all 3 cities. Taipei especially we were close to the Main Station and airport bus terminal, the best street malls and eating shops. Also the Peace Park and Taipei Museum with an excellent display of Aboriginal history a short walk away.
Taiwan often seems to fly under the radar screens, but while prices are closer to Singapore and Hong Kong (but choice of cheaper hotels) there is so much to do and see, the people are so nice and friendly and happy, law and order would be the envy of the world, and you only need to look lost for 30 sec before the Police or citizen stops and tries to help.
Next time we will spend a lot longer in Taiwan and really get to know the place and see a lot more of its great beauty.
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