3 First Impressions From Carnival Breeze (AKA the “New” Carnival)

June 17, 2012 | By | 9 Comments

The 3,690-passenger Breeze represents the future of Carnival: a somehow more caffeinated yet more cohesive breed of Fun Ship. On the first new-build to emerge from the “Fun Ship 2.0″ initiative, a fleetwide overhaul focusing on 25  food-, booze- and entertainment-related elements, I’ve been busy tasting, drinking and laughing (or scowling) my way across the Western Mediterranean.
Here are some initial impressions:

Casual Food Is King
Holistically, the casual dining options on Breeze equate to a diverse shopping mall food court. There’s sushi at Bonsai (the line’s first stand-alone sushi venue; a la carte); pub grub at the island-themed RedFrog ($3.33 for appetizers like sliders, onion rings, fried conch), coffee and sweets at the Plaza Cafe (a la carte); burritos at Blue Iguana Cantina (surcharge-free); cheese-whiz-and-fried bacon-smothered burgers at Guy’s (surcharge-free); a 24-hour pizza counter (free); an Indian food spot (free); a BBQ setup open on sea days (free); and a station-oriented main buffet with a deli bar, “Mongolian wok” (stir-fry) and “Comfort Kitchen.” It’s a greased-out list to make any heart quiver with fear.
With some exceptions, the options have been respectably satisfying albeit blissfully disdainful of the rising chorus of howls over American diets. I know, it’s a vacation. Guy’s burgers in particular are suspiciously addictive — grease, cheese whiz and bacon may be to blame — and execs said 1,200 beef-and-bun sandwiches were served on one sea day during Breeze’s inaugural June 3 cruise. The old “pool grill” typically doled out 400. Blue Iguana Cantina, with its expansive hot sauce and salsa bar, and tasty house-made tortillas puts on a strong initial showing, but was ultimately disappointing. A first burrito was so salty it seemed inspired by the Dead Sea.
Brands You’ve Never Heard of But Will Remember.
Speaking of the Blue Iguana, who also lends his reptilian form to a tequila bar, Carnival has never been so focused on creating “brands.” These have mostly been built in-house from scratch, but some are designed in conjunction with land-based personas like Guy Fieri, whose bleach-tipped spikes and backward Oakleys can be seen on the Food Network, jars of salsa in Shoprite and, now, at-sea burger venues.
Bars on previous Carnival ships were mostly defined by the sparkling, surrealistic work of Joe Farcus, a man who dreams in neon and polished marble, and, frankly, the only cruise ship architect who could end up as a Jeopardy question. Farchitecture’s whimsical grandeur has been traded for characters (like the red frog) with back-stories (why he’s red) explained on menus offering venue-specific drinks and grub (fried bar food, a slew of Caribbean lagers, the private label ThirstyFrog Red, which can be ordered in a 101-ounce tube). Design queues (fake palms, “driftwood” signage and plastic fish), music (acoustic guitar-driven rock) and even uniforms are baked into the mix, too. Most of Breeze’s bars roughly fit this blueprint, and RedFrog, which debuted on Magic and was added to Liberty in fall 2011, has proven so successful that execs briefly flirted with the idea of opening up a land-based version. It’s at least destined for more Carnival ships.
Additionally, the line is also trying to give its crew more permanent “beats,” be it working at RedFrog, Blue Iguana or Guy’s. Crew I’ve spoken to say they like the sense of ownership and expertise this focus engenders. It makes them happier. They treat you better. Sounds like a company line — since execs have been drilling down the same quote — but could be something to it. There’s less stress in not having to learn a new routine every couple cruises, per the two-week rotational scheme employed by many lines. Just when you learn the clientele and cocktail list at the cognac and cigar bar, you’re transferred.
Breeze Belongs in the Caribbean.
It’s not that the weather isn’t sunny here in Italy, but Breeze’s tropical themed décor, focus on BBQ, burritos and burgers, and casual vibe, seems a better fit in Grand Turk or Key West. President and CEO Gerry Cahill admitted as much during a recent briefing, and after this initial four-month stint in Europe, Breeze will reposition permanently to Miami to sail Carnival’s bread-and-butter island cruises. A ship like Breeze seems to scream for more sea days than the three — compared to 8 port calls — it’s offering on my 12-night sailing.
It’s an outdoor ship. During embarkation day, the energy on the sun deck, which features a high ropes course, water park and jumbotron, was infectious or frenetic, depending on whom you asked. Bars and lounges down on the Deck 5 social hub spill out onto the outer promenade deck, and patrons spill al fresco, too. The outdoor theme continues inside. Instead of art that makes you go “hmm” or “uhh?”, stairwells on Breeze showcase nature — bikini-ed snorkelers backset by verdant Caribbean islands, giant sea turtles and the like. Cabin corridors feature silk screened palm trees motifs and paneled faux-Caribbean hardwood doors. Indoor tables at the buffet have umbrellas. Juxtapose that with medieval churches, the Colosseum or narrow Venetian manses, and may you get my point.
All that said, even Carnival is going global to some degree — two(!) ships in Europe in 2013; upcoming stints in Australia and South America — and new mega-ships typically debut across the Pond before heading west. And since Med. cruises are like tapas bars, parents bringing kids to Europe for the first time or Carnival acolytes trying something new have loved coming back to such comfortable confines.
Questions, comments about Breeze? Join the conversation on our Breeze Q&A thread.
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    Comments

    9 Responses to “3 First Impressions From Carnival Breeze (AKA the “New” Carnival)”

    1. dirtyoldmancat
      June 17th, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

      It sounds almost like sci-fi: A self-contained floating America bubble bobbing around the Old World, complete with cheeze-whiz burgers and neon waterslide. Is any local cuisine or wine available onboard?

      Have you tried the food in port? I’d love to see a comparison of local Italian-made pizza with the stuff in the 24-hour-pizza counter.

      I feel like 60% to 90% of the point of a trip to the Med is to try the local food. So this kind of cruise confuses me.

    2. Westlife
      June 18th, 2012 @ 3:56 am

      Of course, all of the changes are part of Fun Ship 2.0, Carnival’s big overhaul initiative for a product that was already extremely popular for many cruisers. The company’s newest ship is the most viable example of how Fun Ship 2.0 will change the Carnival experience as it is implemented fleetwide.

    3. Nancy Hanck
      June 20th, 2012 @ 5:58 am

      For years we sailed Carnival & loved them. Except for 1 thing—we began learning Ballroom & found NO venues with live music to accommodate that dancing style. So we have since booked on Princess, Celebrity & RCCL. If Carnival assures us we can have a LIVE band instead of a DJ who can ONLY play Disco then—-we’d give them a try again. This looks like a great ship!!!

    4. FredFlint
      June 20th, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

      Well I am really not interested on sailing on any megaship it is just not for me and Carnival lost me years ago as a customer when I wrote a fairly long letter to them with comments about my cruising experience, I did not ask for or infer I wanted any kind of refund. I commented that I felt the food was very poor and comparable to Denny’s in quality there reply back and I am paraphrasing was “we never said we had good food”, I also commented that the smokestack belched soot over quite a few people in the rear of the ship and they had no comment at all. I am not willing to risk a week of my vacation time on a Carnival cruise, I would probably not take one even if given it free, I would either sell it or give it away.

    5. DAN DUGAS
      June 20th, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

      Just returned from the ‘Maiden Voyage’ of the Carnival Breeze. 12 nights from Venice to Barcelona. Apart from the computer screw up in Venice on Embarkation Day that caused major waits and difficulty getting our Sail and Sign cards. The ship is wonderful! – The food was exceptional in ther main dining rooms. Guy’s burgers were a great addition – The burritos and Tacos were excellent – lots of variety – The Tandoori lunch was also great but they could have varied the menu a bit as it was the same each day and no Butter Chicken! The Bonsai Sushi Bar was good although somewhat limited in types of rolls – also reasonable in price – what you pay at most sushi places in Vancouver. The entertainment was exceptional, especially the new 3D backdrops.We especially enjoyed ‘The Brits’ – The staterooms were very roomy and comfortable.There were some minor problems one might expect on a maiden voyage as the bugs are worked out. – The computer wi-fi had issues most of the trip – the fact that the Livorno Port Authority wouldn’t let us in to our berth on our scheduled day which meant we had an unbscheduled ‘At Sea Day’ on a day when the seas were extremely stormy and our scheduled stop in Marseilles was dropped – an early morning ‘room service’ breakfast never got delivered and there was a mad rush at the breakfast line to grab something quick in order to make our scheduled excursion. The chefs also need to learn how to make bacon properly – each morning it was a large ‘clump’ of greasy something.. not crispy stripsof bacon and find toast that was actually ‘toasted’ and not just ‘warm bread’. They ran out of Plain Yogurt and Bran Flakes 2 or 3 days into the 12 night cruise. There also didn’t appear to be a “Chocolate’ night as there have been on other cruises. It wasn’t until halfway through the cruise that they finally got the ‘Cruise Map and cruising information’ on the TV’s. These are all minor things that really did not take away from the overall experience you come to expect from Carnival. The waterslides – the mini golf – the spa and gym were fabulous ways to spend your free time on board. The staff were always friendly and helpful. I did miss the “funnel drinks’ I always enjoyed on our Caribbean cruises – could not find one anyhere on board even though they sold the ‘funnel cups’ in the souvenir shop.
      Overall opinion of the new Carnival Breeze 4.5 out of 5 – would sail her again!

    6. Erika
      June 22nd, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

      I went on Magic in May and I have to say I really don’t care much for “generic tropical motel” decor on these newer ships. I miss the “Farchitecture”! Give me COLOR! I want dragons, unicorns, Art Deco, Sam Spade, Mark Twain, Medusa, and Merlin!

    7. Kristi
      July 10th, 2012 @ 6:56 am

      We just returned from the second voyage of the Carnival Breeze. Here are my impressions.

      The staff was great. Just a few little glitches not worth mentioning – chalked it up to working out the kinks still.

      I agree about the decor. I’m used to something a little more elegant and the Carribean theme did seem out of place after spending the day viewing the ornate cathedrals in Italy. But it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the trip at all.

      The food was mostly disappointing. I had to keep telling myself that’s not why I was there. It was just very frustrating to have so many choices in the Lido Marketplace and not be able to find anything edible (or even warm for that matter). Not even the desserts – the chocolate chip cookies were hard and flavorless. The meals in the dining room were better. Not spectacular though. A few winners – like the warm chcolate melting cake which is on the menu every night and the crab cake which we all enjoyed the one night it was offered. Other than that, everything was mostly just OK or a little better than OK. Guy’s Burgers were very good as was the pizza from the Pizza Pirate (both of which I fell back on quite a bit due to lack of anything good on the buffet). The tacos and burritos at the Blue Iguana were just OK, The Indian food was spicy and tasty, but you can only eat so much of that. The dinner we had at the Cucina del Capitano (12$ and change for one adult) was very good and felt elegant and fun at the same time.

      We didn’t see a lot of shows. We saw one comedian at the Punchliner who was very disappointing, but I’m sure it just depends who you see. The Hasbro kids show was a big hit with my son. The live musicians were sometimes good and sometimes not. The Thrill Theater is only worth it if you pay the 14$ for access through the whole cruise. I took my son once – on the last day – and payed 7$ each for a 13 minute movie. He loved it, but I didn’t feel I got my money’s worth.

      The cruise director John Heald was the hilight of the cruise. That man is hilarious! We didn’t make it to many of his shows live, but thoroughly enjoyed watching him on tv in our cabin. His morning dedication show with Calvin was worth getting up for. They should put him in the Punchliner!

      If you have kids, they will LOVE the Breeze. My son (11) couldn’t get enough of the water slides, rope course, Camp Carnival and Guy’s burgers. And for that reason alone we would sail with Carnival again.

    8. Cruise Critic
      July 10th, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

      Thanks, Kristi, for the great review. We’re hoping you’ll submit this to our community folks so it can be included with others’ Carnival Breeze reviews. To submit, click here: http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreviewform.cfm?ShipID=609.

    9. Breeze Fan
      August 7th, 2012 @ 10:51 am

      We returned from the 7/21 sailing of the Breeze a short while ago. I’m glad to say they seem to have worked out the bugs that are mentioned above. The food was, for the most part, very good. They mongolian grill was fantastic – Guys Burgers, was a hit with my kids, and the BBQ open on “C” days was out of this world – don’t miss it. I agree about the Caribbean theme, but it was still fun and far from boring while still being welcoming.
      We caught all but 1 of the 6 comedians at the Punchliner late night sbows (DON’T bring your under-age kids!) and laughed like crazy at every one. John and Calvyn (Cruse director and Assistant) kept us entertained throughout – don’t miss their morning show!
      We found the staff to be very efficient and friendly. Disembarkation was anap. After one bad experience on Carnival a dozen years ago, we are very glad we gave them a second chance.

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