The Carnival Breeze! what can be said - absolutely amazing ship and an absolutely amazing cruise. This was the cruise of a lifetime for us and we were not disappointed. We had booked this cruise about a year in advance allowing us plenty of time to research our shore excursions, we cruise for the itinerary and to gamble.
We left from Barcelona, Spain on June 15th. Boarding the ship was without incident and, being platinum and having booked a Grand Suite lent itself to us boarding immediately upon arrival. We opted not to arrive at the cruise port until noon, also giving us the opportunity of not dealing with the crowds.
The new color of scheme of the Breeze is relaxing and beautiful. The Suite was what we expected, larger balcony, dressing room, large bathroom and plenty of closet space. The "living" area offered a nice seating area and the 42" flat screen TV could be turned for viewing from bed or from the sofa. From our balcony we could look down to the water or to the extension of deck 5 offering great "people watching" opportunities, our particular location offered us a view of one of the hot tub and the barbecue. I am attempting to offer an overview and will get into details as this review progresses.
There was a online group formed early on, this offered much information for those who have not cruised before and also offered the opportunity for many to book shore excursions independently in groups. We opted to book our excursions through Carnival with the exception of one - Rome! (more on this later). The group had a welcome aboard party just before sail-a-way, we visited for a few minutes, said our hello's and went on our way. We also had a cabin crawl scheduled, this offered many who are new to cruising or who have no idea what other cabin categories are like the opportunity to see what they are like. We hosted the group in our suite at the end of the crawl for drinks and "munchies". Two of the cabins I had wanted to see were on our crawl - the cove balconies - and the spa cabins. The cove balconies are interesting and are on our list for a future cruise. The spa cabins surprised me, I'm glad to have the opportunity to see them as well. The group also booked a cocktail party on the last sea day and had much fun. We met some wonderful folks within the group and some not so wonderful, like everything "it is what it is". Can't wait for our November cruise and seeing friends again.
Your Time Dining worked perfect for us, allowing the opportunity to not have to worry about being in the dining room at an appointed time - with an itinerary as rigorous as this one, my advice would be my time dining. We opted to dine in the steak house twice (both perfect dinners), and we went to the Italian option three times. This was incredible and new for us as in all of our cruises with Carnival this was the first ship we were on that had the Italian venue. Even now I wish I could perfect the recipe for Nona's meatballs and have the word out to my PVP to see if there is a cookbook available or at least the recipe. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one! Food in the dining room was great, and our seating was prompt and our location requests handled to our specifications. I don't do breakfast, hubby does and he was pleased. My preference is coffee and toast via room service and that was without incident, in fact, it was very surprising as to how quickly my order was delivered. Lunches on the ship were fun - we did love Guy's burgers and we did find the lido lunch buffet enjoyable. One area I particularly enjoyed was the wok area and the opportunity to "choose my own" ingredients and sauce and have it cooked for me while I waited. While the sauces are delicious, they will make a special sauce for you if you ask as I prefer soy and ginger. The cooks were more than happy to accommodate. Sandwiches were great and many choices available. The pizza was as expected - light, crispy and a wonderful late night snack.
It was nice to see a new show - as we have been on the same ships several time we often find we run into productions we have seen before - Motor City and Diva's did not disappoint us. The theatre has a few spots that would make it hard to see the stage, but if you get to the theatre early you should be able to escape them. Carnival should take a lesson from RCCL here and offer exclusive seating for suite patrons. This is one side of Carnival lacking from RCCL as we greatly missed our concierge services. (The new "perks" program has rolled out -- more on that later). The comedy shows were ok, we aren't big on them so we would visit for a few and leave, they were what we expected. We opted out of the welcome and goodbye shows as they never change and we have seen our share.
Our cabin steward was "WONDERFUL" she and her assistants could NOT do enough for us. They were attentive and accommodating -- if we were walking to our cabin and they saw us, they would run ahead and open our suite for us - they welcomed us home from our days of sightseeing - it was like coming home to old friends. Another group to acknowledge is guest services - again they offered the extra effort to take care of our needs and questions. Another "hats-off" goes to the Internet team - they had our IPad connected within minutes of our visit. The internet service on the ship is great and fast! The addition of the new daily list of ships activities on line is great! and FREE. We also used the Spa frequently and found the staff and the spa services to exceed our expectations. We booked a couples massage and this was one of our highlights aboard the ship. The spa offered us wonderfully quiet on our sea days - we opt for this rather than the lido pool deck. The pool area was ok - it's not something we do. Movies under the stars were good. The selection was good and should have provided something for everyone. The 5D theatre was like being at Disney, rollercoaster effects, water squirting, air squirting - we are sure it is something that will fare well on the Breeze - great family activity.
We did spend much time in the Casino and were floored to discover we were sailing with old friends - we knew our pit bosses from previous cruises - it was like "old home week". Eleanora - it was so wonderful to see you again! We won, we lost, we came up, we went down - all it all - we can't complain as we view gambling as entertainment - we were not disappointed, had tons of fun and met some great new friends.
Now about excursions - - Carnival excursions were great - we were very particular in what we chose to do - most of our excursions provided transportation and then exploration "on your own". This worked well for us. Also, hat's off to Carnival, as our arrival to Venice was not without its problems as there was a transportation strike in effect the day we were there. Carnival scrambled and was able to secure enough launches to transport folks from the ship to St. Mark's Square area. All other excursions went as scheduled. Thanks Carnival! You did a great job in a tough situation! After walking around Venice for awhile we had Italian ice cream at St. Mark's Square and then found a gondola ride. Another highlight of the trip as we bargained for a 45 minute ride for 80 Euros and we opted to tip. Our driver took us on a wonderful route through the canals. He told us about the history of the gondola's and pointed out each building of interest as we passed them. He stopped for photo opportunities. Our 45 minutes ended up as an hour and a half. He posed for pictures with us as well.
We did have dinner off ship on several occasions - this was wonderful -- We shall never forget our dinner in Venice and our waiter, we chose a beautiful little place with a restaurant seating area inside and a beautiful sidewalk seating area outside. Being in Venice we opted to sit outside and enjoy dinner. Our waiter was so attentive to our needs -- he was wonderful and took it upon himself to entertain us. It amazes me that Europeans don't tip - having worked as a waitress through college, I just can't not tip - in Venice our dinner check was about 76 Euros. We gave the waiter 100 Euros - he promptly returned with change - we said no - for you - he tried again to give us the change - again we said no - for you - he quickly ran back into the kitchen and got the cook - returned for us to tell the cook it was for him. Next he ran back to the bar and grabbed a bottle of lemoncello and shot glasses - returned to our table and poured drinks for us. Such a sweet gesture and truly a highlight of our cruise.
As mentioned early on in this review - we booked our own excursion in Rome - this was by far one of the best decisions we made. Hubby had surgery on his foot and is not quite 100%. I was worried about him holding up for a full day and evening in Rome. I searched the internet and found a gentlemen who was advertising Gold Cart Tours of Rome - I started talking with Paolo about 9 months before the cruise via email and telephone. Paolo was a true gentleman and it became apparent quickly that he was going to make our visit to Rome truly exceptional. Paolo also offered transfers from the ship to Rome --we did this as well. Our driver met us at the ship - and whisked us away in his Mercedes into Rome. He pointed out things of interest and took the time to get to know us. Once in Rome he dropped us off in Borgese Park where Paolo had arranged for us to tour the park on Segways! We laughed and learned to ride them in about 10 minutes - Paolo was our guide and took us through the park and to the overlook where we could view all of Rome. After our visit in the park - Paolo took us into Rome via golf cart! This is an incredible way to see Rome - Paolo basically drove us up and down the side streets of Rome from destination to destination. We were dropped off at every one of the sites and would go back and join Paolo once we were ready. We saw the side streets of Rome and other things off the typical tourist trails. Paolo was a wealth of information and narrated through the entire day. He knows his history and had remarkable stories to tell. We were driving along the Apian Way about lunch time. Paolo had prearranged lunch for us at a wonderful restaurant that was once one of the tombs within the wall of Rome - Paolo introduced us to the cook, and we feel we actually had the opportunity to meet "Moma" while in Italy - in fact, she cooked lunch for us. Now, lunch was interesting, Paolo pointed out, lunch is their big meal of the day, the food was endless - soup course, salad course, pasta course, meat course (make that 4 meats) as the plates just kept coming. We had to ask them to stop - we couldn't eat anything else! The afternoon was back to the sites of Rome -- those on the tourist routes, and those not on the tourist routes! We learned so much from Paolo and extend our sincere appreciation for him making Rome a highlight of our vacation. Paulo also told us that while gelato is good - Italian ice cream is the end-all-be-all he was right!
There are those who will cruise and find fault, I have run into that in the last few days, it never ceases to amaze me. Although there will always be something not to one's liking there are ways to constructively voice complaints. In the last few days I have been witness to a couple who wouldn't extend a compliment if it jumped up and hit them in the nose. If one stands back and takes a look their arrogance and lack of good manners quickly comes to surface. Personally we never dwell on the negatives, we go on our cruises expecting to have a wonderful time and experience - we have never been disappointed -- We are looking forward to many more cruises and if you are thinking about the Breeze, book it, enjoy her - she's beautiful.