Summary -- Very enjoyable trip; nice new ship...The Carnival Breeze! Good balance of activities and shows, slightly crowded, a few design flaws, good food options, excellent staff. The decor is bright and cheery ... ready for the Caribbean. We did the 12 day round trip out of Barcelona on July 21, 12. Every cabin was full. It was a very intense port schedule. We wanted to get everything out of each port day because it was our first (or first time in 20 years) to Europe. One of the design flaws was having rooms under the galley without enough sound proofing. So if you want to sleep, avoid aft cove balconies, especially where the steam pipes go in.
Background Information: My husband and I traveled with our three teenage daughters and my mother. It was our 4th cruise, 2nd on carnival. Our girls 3rd cruise and my Mom's 7th. We live in the Washington DC metro area. While we are not dire hard foodies, we love to go out to eat at local white-table cloth restaurants. We go to the nearby museums and shows.
Hotel Info - We stayed in a quaint hotel recommended by Rick Steves in Barcelona called Hotel Continental. The hotel had an old world feel with warm colors, beautiful chandelier, outdoor patio, and a beautiful balcony overlooking Las Rambles. It was a bit worn, in a well-loved way. The 24 hour, complimentary light food and drink (including beer!) was very convenient to accommodate different eating schedules. The staff went out of their way to be helpful. They even called my home before the trip to answer a question I sent. The rooms were small yet had all needed amenities, perfect for getting ready for a ship. I did have to ask for new towels a few times, it seems like they did not dry properly. The location and the staff made it fantastic. We will return.
Travel To Port of Embarkation - Very easy to get there by Taxi. The Port is modern and we got on with a reasonable wait and without a problem.
Activities - We have cruised on the Carnival Dream. We appreciated the added Ropes course and Sports court. We participated in the Food tasting, Wine tasting, Volleyball, Ping-Pong, putt-put, Ropes Course, slides, Spa, Exercise room, Exercise Classes, Texan Hold'um and Bridge. Pool chairs very hard to find on ocean days, until they thankfully started a timing policy. The Adult volleyball was very popular and fun on sea days, but only one hour for 20-30 people to play. They need to double volleyball time to two hours, and also need a few more Ping-Pong tables.
Service - The service in the dining room helped make the trip outstanding. Fortunately with "my time" dining we are able to find a dinner team we loved and stick with them, which we did. Thanks Olympiu and Danijel, for the fantastic service and advice! A huge thanks to Irisa who helped us manage some food allergies/sensitivities.
Port & Shore Excursions - This itinerary was not for the weak. It was our girl's first trip to Europe, my mom's 1st trip to Italy and our first trip to Europe in 20 years. We packed all we could in each day, out usually for 9+ hours a day. Considering our four our days in Barcelona, by Naples we were exhausted. We booked tours separately through Share a Shore Excursion in Italy (Thank you Big Luca) and Walks Inside Florence (Marzia Valbonesi was fantastic!!)
Stateroom - great amenities, comfortable bed, very good shower, Cove balconies are more private and very close to water... rather cool. Avoid any room under the galley, in particular room #2404 unless you are a very solid sleeper or bring earplugs. The galley was busy (noisy) through the night, and #2404 is where the steam pipes come in. The steam pipes are like an old fashioned radiator, clanging and banging, which is terrible in the night! Carnival would have moved us but the ship was full. They did give us ships credits.
Dining - solid options and many choices. A few stand out options were the chefs table, Tandori Indian, Guy's burgers (possibly the best burgers and BBQ sauce ever). The Chef's table is far the best food and beverage experience on the ship...it's a behind the scene tour of the kitchen, cooking techniques, a 5 or 6 course meal, and all the wine you could drink. At $75 each it was well worth it and very interesting. The main restaurants were very good, nice dinners, daily special were creative and enjoyable. Like on any ship there are hits and misses. Our waiters pointed us in the right direction on food selections. Lido, just OK, crowded during peak times (9-10am in Monaco, over 20 minute wait for breakfast). Sit down breakfast restaurants were nice, but closed too early (at 8:30) on port days. The poolside restaurants also had short hours.
Children's Clubs - Our teens mostly liked the clubs,. They used them to meet friends and then dropped in for activities. It's too bad that the Sports court is over the Italian specialty restaurant. It would have been nice to be able to evening games there. Carnival should to arrange a few meet and greet events for the 18-21 year olds. It's tough to be at that in-between age on the ship.
Entertainment - Full of life - everywhere you walk there is music, usually live. The singer at the pool was fantastic (Jimmy Buffet style!). The stage shows were dynamic full of energy. The Comedians at the Punch line club were hilarious!!!! (We Americans did not relate to the British ones as much.) The Game show was not as good as expected. Rakesh, the magician, was terrific. He came around to tables in the dining room and performed for each chef's table. We were always in awe! He was far better than the magician that performed on stage. He performed once or twice at the Punch liner.
Disembarkation --They start the announcements at 5:45 am, so don't think about sleeping, even if you have a late flight. We got off near the end about 9:30 because we had a 1pm flight. Arrange transportation! While the taxi line does move, there are 1000+ people wanting taxis. We stood in the taxi line for almost an hour before we luckily found a van that had just dropped off from the airport. Private van/shuttle for 6 was $80 Euros.