Just got off the Carnival Breeze 12-day Mediterranean cruise from Venice to Barcelona and we had the best time ever! The ship is beautiful and the quality of the food, cabins, entertainment and overall experience was outstanding. To break it downn, here are the key likes (and only one dislike):
Embarkation - was very smooth and painless. We had flown into Venice the night before and stayed at the Hilton Molino Stucky (exceleent hotel, BTW, highly recommended). We found some fellow cruisers through CC to share a private water taxi from the hotel to the cruise port. When we reached, uniformed porters were waiting to take our bags and we were immediately directed to the terminal. Inside, there were 2 lines, VIP to the left and all others to the right. The VIP line was super fast and we cleared security and had our sign and sail cards within 15 minutes. This was way better than previous boarding experiences in Seattle and Miami.
Ship - the Breeze is gorgeous! We were on the Valor in April which we really liked but had found the decor a touch gaudy. The Breeze is much more chic and refined, more use of hard woods everywhere and soothing, non-neon colors. Very elegant. Lots of elevators everywhere and beautiful corridors with Caribbean themes.
Cabin - we were in a Grand Suite which was fantastic! On Deck 7 (Empress) and super quiet with passenger decks above and below. Huge suite (345 sq ft) with a large balcony (85 sq ft). The cabin appointments were great. We had a king bed, huge sitting area with suede-fabric sofas and chaise lounge plus another chair. We had a massive 52" TV that was positioned between the bed and sitting area and could be swiveled depending on where you wanted to watch TV. Also had a very large dressing area with 2 massive closets and a dressing table. The bathroom was the best with double marble topped sinks, ample storage space and huge whirlpool tub. Excellent hot water and good pressurized shower. This was the first ship bathroom I've had that was comparable to a land based hotel bathroom. The balcony was huge with two sitting chairs and little table plus a lounger. Well worth having the GS on a 12-day cruise! Our room steward Reidi did a good job looking after us, but in fairness, we are pretty neat to start with. He was diligent about keeping our ice bucket filled twice daily which we really needed in view of the very hot weather.
Public Areas -- these were wonderful. I loved Deck 5 where most of the bars and lounges were. My favorite was the area before the casino, where you had the coffee bar, the Taste Bar that served little tapas style portions of the dishes being served in the various eateries that day and the Ocean Plaza. This is an indoor-outdoor area (you go through automatic sliding doors to access the outdoor area) where you can sit and order drinks, eat. Etc. They also have the Fat Jimmy's C-side BBQ there on sea days. Another favorite area was the Breeze Atrium. They have an area where singers perform nightly and its great fun to sit and watch.
Food -- excellent! We were impressed by the Valor's food in April and the Breeze maintains that high standard. The MDR had consistently high quality entrees. Even on days where we didn't like some of the selections, we were always able to pick something we liked. The food was of uniformly high quality and some of the selections were truly outstanding (the teriyaki salmon is to die for). Great desserts too! Also, the quality of the coffee served is a big improvement over the Valor. We were prepared to pay extra for espressos and cappuccinos but found we did not need to do so. We also really enjoyed the Punchliner Comedy brunch served on sea days in the Sapphire mid ship dining room. Great Eggs Benedict, Chicken Alla Diavolo, and salted caramel cheesecake! Lunch in the Lido was OK. I really like the design of the Lido, very light and airy. The lunch buffets were good, but being big lovers of Indian food, we mostly had the Tandoori selection at lunch which was excellent. Did not try the Mongolian Wok this time. For breakfast, we either did the brunch on sea days or room service on port days.
Service -- outstanding. We had fixed late (8:15) dining in the aft Blush dining room. Our servers were Stanislava (Tania), Magdalena (Magda) and Branimir. They wre most attentive and really went out of their way to ensure we had a good time. Combined with our bar waitress Monica, it made for great dinners! Our room steward was good and really, all the staff we encountered were so pleasant and friendly. One thing -- the Guest Services desk is way understaffed, which makes for long lines there. If you need something, be prepared to wait and wait!
Entertainment -- we liked it a lot. There were 4 production shows -- Motorcity, Brits, Divas and Latin Nights. They rotate the shows throughout the cruise. We skipped Motorcity but saw the rest. Brits was OK, but the music was too young for my mom and tool old for me. Divas and Latin Nights were great! Lots of hi-tech effects and great sound. We did not attend any of the comedy shows. We did enjoy listening to live music and they had 2 bands -- Dima's (2-piece) who played in the Breeze Bar Atrium nightly and Eddie C and the Cool Breeze Band (6-piece) that played in the Ocean Plaza nightly. Dima's played songs of my mom's era while Eddie C had more fast and contemporary stuff. Being such a port-intensive cruise, entertainment was not a high priority for us as we had super early starts (7:30 or so) on most port days and were out for 10-12 hours. But this may be more of an issue on Caribbean cruises where the ports are less of a focus than the ship itself.
Ports -- we overnighted in Venice, then visited Dubrovnik, Messina, Naples, Olbia, Rome, Florence and Monaco and finished in Barcelona. With the exception of Olbia where there wasn't much to do, the other ports were truly amazing. We skipped the overpriced Carnival big bus tours and went instead on small group tours (max of 8 people) with fellow cruisers we had contacted through CC. It was much cheaper and we got to see sooo much more! We used Share a Shore Excursion in Italy for our Italian excursions and can highly recommend them. New vans and excellent drivers and guides with impeccable English. For Monaco we used a private guide recommended by Rick Steves and loved her! For Barcelona, we used Spain Day Tours and loved them too. Getting on and off the ship at all the ports was flawless with no waits.
On Board Activities -- not much to say here. As this was such a port intensive cruise, we used the sea days to sleep in and chill out, read, etc. I believe there were lots of activities organized, but we pretty much ignored all of them.
Disembarkation -- this was the only flaw we experienced. For us, we had a late debarkation zone. Unfortunately, debarkation ran very late. As a result, we were supposed to disembark between 8-8:45 am but did not actually make it off the ship till 9:15 am! We had a tour waiting for us and it was so embarrassing to be so late. In future, we will only do self-assisted disembarkation as I don't think any cruise ship can handle such large numbers.
Value for Money -- fabulous! The suite was priced very reasonable compared to other lines. We had a great cruise with premium ports. In sum, we felt like we got a luxe cruise at a very decent price. We highly recommend the Carnival Breeze!