I am writing this review on my final day of the 6/27/12 sailing of the new Carnival Breeze. This ship is nothing like the other Carnival Ships you've been on. Carnival took a drastically different design direction, leaving the Farcus look and I personally think it's AWESOME. The ship's design and public rooms are much more attractive then other Carnival ships I've sailed on (Splendor, Elation, Ecstasy). A bit of background, My husband and I are in our 40s with three kids (ages 11, 16, 17), I have sailed on approximately a dozen cruises with various lines: Holland America, Disney, RCCL, Carnival, Celebrity. This was our first European cruise.
I will start with the staff. Almost every staff member you walk by is friendly and says hello. I was completely pleased with the service aboard this ship. I just sailed on Holland American only 8 weeks before and the service was awful so this was a welcome change.
How was our stateroom, location? First the hallways -- yes, the hallways have this complete Caribbean feel, great slatted doors and ocean looking carpet. Loved the new look here. As a family of 5 we had connecting staterooms with the new 'cove balcony'. The cove balcony's are located on deck 2 and I wasn't sure if I'd like them. They are big open windows cut out of the hull to make a balcony. I really do like it, you are closer to the water and they are quiet, no crazy wind either. Mid ship, low down with a balcony gave us the best of both worlds... having a balcony, less ship movement. With many of the public room decks and formal dining being on decks 3, 4, 5 this was a great location. Our stateroom had great color palette, blue and fold with medium wood tone cabinetry. Very functional spaces, flat screen TVs, safe located where it was accessible, drawer space and ample hanging space for a 12 day cruise. There's also big drawers under the sofa which we didn't even use. Under bed space is high enough to fit even the large suitcases. Bathroom has a decent size vanity (for a ship) and stall shower, all typical.
I chose this ship because my family loves cruising and I wanted something other than a Caribbean cruise. Loved the Mediterranean. Carnival seemed like a good fit with kids programs, endless activities, fun and I'd get Europe. On that level it did work. My 16 and 17 year old just love the Carnival O2 concept. It's a cool club-like place to hang out for 15 -- 17 year olds. Really, if they go on the first day, you'll have a hard time spending time with your kids. They meet so many other kids and have a blast. My 11 year old on the other hand was not thrilled with Camp Carnival. He really likes sports and outdoor stuff so the Camp stuff was too young for him with 9 -- 11 year old age bracket. I think this may be better when he hits 12 and can go to Circle C.
Being on a Med Cruise, this was a port intensive itinerary. I really enjoyed the ports but Carnival's pricing on their shore excursions is outrageous to me, especially when I have to multiply everything by 5. Here's my personal experience with our ports and how some of pricing works out too.
1. Marseille, France -- we took a cab to the downtown harbor, took a boat to Chateau du If. It was good for a few hours and you have beautiful views. This is good if you have kids who will just get Basillica'd out. Inexpensive too.
2. Livorno Italy (Pisa and Florence) -- We really wanted to climb the Tower of Pisa, then go to Florence. Cost of the cruise ship excursion to do this 206.99 x 4 = 1024.95(adults) + 196.99 (kid) = $1024.95usd for my family of 5 OUCH!!!!! We booked Rome in Limo tour, $500 Euro (@650 usd) for a private tour for the 5 of us. We got to Pisa before the tour buses and made Tuscany stops too.
3. Civitaveccia (Rome) -- We did the same thing, booked Rome in Limo private tour for the 5 of us. Saved about the same amount at Livorno.
4. Dubrovnik -- hadn't planned anything. Was looking at the shore excursion that Carnival had for kayaking, just too much $$s. Went into town and got a 3+ hour kayak excursion for $34Euros per person. Total cost with child discount $154 Euro (@205 Euro). Carnival was charging $89 per person $445 usd. A big savings here as well. The Old City is beautiful, clean and very affordable. Restaurants are reasonably priced. It all looked so picture perfect, I could only compare it to a European Village at Epcot in Disney.
5. Venice -- We didn't plan anything. Just figured we'd walk around the city. Glad we didn't take the cruise ship transfer. At 16Euro per person each way to St. Mark's Square it would have cost my family 160Euro to go 2 miles each way. Honestly, if you enjoy walking, walk to St. Mark's Square. Walking is half the fun, going through all the little streets was what we found really fun. Navigating (we used the iphone) but there are lots of little signs with arrows just pointing you in the direction of St. Mark's. If you get lost, no big deal, that's part of the appeal. Really wanted to do a gondola ride but Carnival shore excursion was $99 per person x 5 = $495 OUCH!!!! They included the transfer to St. Mark's + free time and a 40 minute gondola ride. If you didn't have 6 people, they'd add people to your gondola as well. We just arranged with the gondola on the water, $100 Euros (@$134 usd) and a private 45 minute ride. It was perfect, saved a bunch of $$s again. We took the vaparetto (waterbus) back to Piazza di Roma for 7euro per person and then the 1euro people mover. Even though we didn't walk back it was still half the price of the cruise ship transfer.
6. Messina, Sicily -- We decided to go to the town of Taormina, quaint, picturesque town heading towards Mt. Etna. It's where the Italian Cannoli was invented so we had to try them in Taormina. Taxi's are expensive as it's about a 45 minute drive ($150 each way). The ship's transfer was $69 per person. I just kept saying to my husband "We can't spend $350 for a cannoli!!!!" I did some searching and found that the train station was a 10 minute walk from the pier. The train to Taormina was only 35Euros roundtrip for my family of 5. Yup, 35 Euros as compared to $350. Also, you get to ride the train which goes right along the ocean and get amazing views as you enter Taormina. You do need to take a taxi to the town but the taxi was 15 -- 20 Euros so it was still a huge savings. It also gives you a chance to experience a bit of local life.
Things I wish Carnival would do/misses:
1. Put a paper holder in your cabin on the wall so you don't have to keep all those papers on the limited desk space.
2. Have larger (or some tables) non-smoking area of the casino.
3. Offer a way to preview photos electronically. I can't stand looking through thousands of photos to find mine. The use of the green screen is great but why not take green screen shots and let you choose your background digitally. This all seems so behind the times in an age of digital photography. Piles of photos, tons of processing, most of which end up in the trash.
4. Expand their room service menu for breakfast. Danish, cereal, limited fruit.... It's really boring.
5. Putting Cucina de Capitan under the basketball court -- argh, it's really noisy dining there.
6. Need another self service laundry room, the lines are awful. C'mon you are charging $6.50 to wash and dry in the do it yourself, have a few more please).
7. Add another O2 counselor. 1 adult for all those teenagers is not enough. She needs some help for sure.
Things Carnival hit it right on this ship:
1. Public areas that are broken up with outdoor deck space. The way they utilized the Ocean Breeze Deck on 5 is perfect. Quiet areas with umbrellas and tables to enjoy drinks away from the loud noise and bustle of the main pool areas.
2. Lido deck -- major improvements, faux trees, covered high tables overlooking the ocean, great decor, loved the look and feel of the lido.
3. Themed restaurants -- great the way you can just go to the burger place, or the Mexican place, love the Cucina de Capitan at lunch where you order at the pasta bar and they bring it to you. I really like what they've done with the concept.
4. Sports Deck -- whole family loved this, the mini golf, ropes course, outdoor spaces with pool tables, fooseball. There are tons of people and it's popular. The Carnival Water Works is a blast too and slides are fun.
5. Getting rid of needing coins in the laundry.
1. If you are a family like ours, we have iPads, laptops, phones. There are 2 outlets in your room that are accessible. Bring a power strip with you.
2. Arm and Hammer makes concentrated laundry detergent pods, they are not liquid so easy to travel with. Bring your own in a Ziploc and bring your own dryer sheets. Better detergent and you don't have to worry about finding some when their machines run out.
3. There's no conditioner in the staterooms, if you use it, bring it. The shampoo isn't great either, I'd bring your own.
4. Pre-print a sheet of labels with your name, address and mobile phone #s. You can use this on all the luggage tags that are given to you. Saves a ton of time.