Overview: Carnival more than met our expectations on this cruise. This was only our third cruise (all with Carnival), and we were excited to check out the new Breeze during its inaugural season. We had a fantastic time, and would recommend this ship for a fun time.
Booking: We booked on-line ourselves, without using any travel agents. We booked "early saver," and benefitted from two price reductions, leaving us with over $1,100 in onboard credit (which we easily used up).
Travel to port: We arrived in Venice two nights before the cruise so we could spend more time there and not worry about possible delayed flights, late luggage, etc. Stayed in a great boutique hotel. On day of embarkation, it was a bit of a hassle to get us and our luggage to the ship, using the water bus and people mover. We also had to haul our luggage ourselves to what seemed like a warehouse -- not close to the ship -- even though we were VIP. But there were no lines at the luggage dropoff point, so that went smoothly.
Embarkation: We had VIP embarkation because we had an Ocean Suite. The lines weren't long for either group. Our agent seemed new and inexperienced and he had trouble processing our credit card (he said the computers were down), so we had to get our sign and sail cards and then later visit Guest Services to complete the registration process. The security lines were very back-logged, but we picked the shorter line and got through without waiting too much. Our stateroom was ready as soon as we boarded, and our luggage arrived very quickly.
Incident on day of embarkation: A freak rain and wind storm hit Venice on our day of embarkation. You can find videos of what happened on YouTube. In short, the winds snapped our docking lines, our ship broke loose, as did the river cruise ship next to us. We hit each other a few times, and the local authorities had to send tug boats in to help. Carnival handled it well, making frequent announcements about the status of the incident and the resolution. After a few hours, everything was back to normal. The Captain issued a letter the next day explaining in more detail what happened (we never got it, due to inattentive cabin steward -- see below). I don't hold this freak incident against Carnival at all. They handled the emergency well.
Cabin: Our Ocean Suite (7363) was fantastic. The stateroom was spacious, well appointed, and lovely. The king bed was so comfy. Slept like a baby the entire cruise. Never felt the ocean (mid-ship location is perfect). We were close to the elevator bank, stairwell, and laundry room. The walk-in closets exceeded expectations. And the bathroom was more like a hotel room's, with marble counters, double sinks, jacuzzi tub/shower combo, with sliding shower doors (I hate curtains). Big balcony had chaise, 2 chairs, table, and plenty of privacy.
Cabin attendant: Our room steward never came to introduce himself to us. He never called us by name. We embarked on a Sunday, and didn't receive bars of soap until Wednesday. The other "freebie" toiletries didn't arrive until Tuesday. Ice bucket was filled some days, not on others. We did get clean towels and bed made and/or turned down each day, with cute towel animals most nights. I rated the service a 4 instead of a 5 because of the room steward. We basically felt ignored by him. (Contrast the rating for the dining staff, below; they were more attentive.)
Spa: We took the "tour" on embarkation day. It was more of an attempt to sell us treatments as opposed to touring the facilities. I booked one massage that day, because it was raining and it seemed like a good use of time. The bamboo massage was excellent, but when it ended, the staff tried to sell me all kinds of expensive products that I didn't need or want to hear about. It put a damper on the relaxing experience to get a hard sell on products. I didn't use the spa after that.
Dining: We had "your time dining" and ate dinner in the main dining room every night, usually around 9 pm or later. The food was mostly good -- sometimes excellent (the lobster!!) -- and sometimes disappointing. But we were never unhappy. The service was always excellent and fast. I don't like the nightly "show" put on by the servers, but most of the other diners seemed to. The staff were very responsive to our needs, and were especially accommodating to our late arrivals with large groups of people (we made lots of CC and Facebook friends in advance of the cruise). For lunches, we loved Guy's Burgers, the BBQ (only on sea days), and the Blue Iguana cantina (fabulous chicken and pork tacos). Breakfasts on the Lido deck buffet were always hectic and crowded, but the food was good. They ran out of coffee cups too often, and the design of the beverage stations ensured lines. They shouldn't have the drinks squished into corners, because it really limits access. The Punchliner brunches had really excellent food, although the "shows" were just a blip on the screen since they were so short.
Entertainment: We didn't see any of the musical shows; we ate dinner so late that we missed them all. The adult comedy shows were great, although seating was tight (standing room only for the late showings).
Cruise director: We were expecting to have John Heald, Carnival's senior cruise director, as our CD. Unfortunately, he had to have surgery in August so they assigned Butch to be our CD. Butch was fine, but I'm such a fan of John that I was disappointed. John came on the ship towards the very end of the cruise and I got to meet him in person. That was fun.
Pools: Two pools, plenty of jacuzzis, and no issues with deck chairs after Carnival implemented its "no chair hogging" policy. We used the Serenity Deck and loved relaxing on sea days (which were few). Not too many kids on this sailing (since school in the US had already started), so maybe that's why the pools didn't seem too crowded (they aren't huge).
Exercise room: It was large, modern, and well appointed. I didn't use it!
Other features: The dual water slide was a blast. Sorry I didn't have more time to use it, but the ports were the main focus of this cruise. The ropes course was also great fun. Lots of things for kids to do; we don't have any kids but I kept thinking how much fun my nieces and nephews would have on the sports deck.
Doctor: Unfortunately, my husband got sick during the cruise and had occasion to visit the medical office. He got good service, without having to wait, and at a reasonable cost (about $150 per visit, which we hope to submit to our health insurance company at home).
Casino: We live in California and go to Vegas when we want to gamble. The odds are better there, and they give you free drinks when you gamble. So we avoided the ship's casino. When we walked through it, it seemed smoky (I hate smoke).
Internet access: Even though we were on vacation, hubby and I had to keep up with emails from work, so we signed up for the pricey 1000-minute Internet package. The connection was really good for most of the cruise, although the log-off process is cumbersome with an iPhone or iPad (and caused us to burn many minutes to disconnect). We ended up having to buy 2 more packages as the cruise went on. Would love to see unlimited access package on future cruises.
Port excursions: These ports were the main reason we chose this sailing. Every one was fantastic. We didn't do any Carnival excursions; we did four Rome In Limo tours (Messina, Naples, Rome, Florence), and did all the other ports on our own. Rome In Limo is the BEST!! (I did a separate review of them on another page on CC, so I won't repeat that info here.) With over 4,000 passengers on this ship, we expected a mess trying to get off and on the ship at the various ports. To the contrary, it was a breeze. We never had to wait a second to exit, and at best, had to wait about one minute in line to get back on. (And even though Carnival screens your bags upon return, they don't seem to care if you are carrying on wine or alcohol after visiting the ports in Europe. We brought on wine and limoncello in several ports.)
Debarkation: We arrived in Barcelona at the crack of dawn on our final day. I had no desire to get off the ship early, so we did self-assist (i.e., carried our own luggage off). Until around 9 am, there were no lines to get off. We waited until after that (so we could sleep in), and had to wait about 30 minutes to debark. It was worth the wait to sleep in. We didn't have to go through customs or anything, and headed straight to the taxi line. Ugh! Thousands of people in line! It took a long time to catch a taxi to our hotel.
Summary: I LOVED THIS CRUISE. We had a great time. We got more than our money's worth. The ship is new and beautiful, the dining options are good and plentiful, the entertainment is fun, and the European ports are magical. It wasn't 100% perfect, but nothing ever is. We had so much fun with our friends, new and old, and have fantastic memories of our Breeze cruise. In reading some of the other reviews, I can't help but wonder if the complainers are simply unhappy people. If you can't thoroughly enjoy yourself while vacationing on a brand new ship in Europe, then maybe the problem is not with the cruise! Enjoy!!