I am hoping there are some issues that will get worked out on this ship before I return to her in April. I can't quite decide if I think there is a "new" Carnival level of service that I need to adjust to or if this ship is still finding her way on her new itineraries.
My previous Carnival sailings have included 2 other "large" ships (the Valor and the Breeze's sister the Dream) as well as 2 of the smaller ships - Fantasy and Sensation. I have also sailed once on NCL.
This sailing was the first Carnival cruise in which I was disappointed although it wasn't enough to ruin my vacation, my week, or even any particular day. I will try to address each area as thoroughly as I can.
Getting there: I had some work to do and flew into the West Palm Beach area a few days before my cruise. My travel partner joined me (also via West Palm Beach) the Friday before our Sunday departure. We stayed with friends in that area. There are not shuttles from West Palm Beach (PBI) to any of the ports but I made a discovery that may make PBI an airport to consider if the fares are great from your travel destination as they often are for me. I rented a car in PBI from National for about $22 a day -- one way (in Florida one-way rates are the same, almost always, as roundtrip as long as the rental starts and ends in FL). I had planned to return the rental car to Miami and then just take a cab when the person checking me in pointed out that National offers a FREE shuttle to the Port of Miami as well as Port Everglades when you rent a car (they check your receipt to let you on the shuttle bus). The one drawback to the free shuttle was the wait was more than a cab would have been but it was FREE and we by no means were "late" getting to port. Drive time from the West Palm Beach area to Miami on a Sunday morning was only about 1hr 15 min.
We got to the Port of Miami around 1PM. This is later than I typically arrive at port but we were in no particular hurry this day. We had absolutely no waits at the port due to this time of arrival. It took us only a few minutes to get through security, have our passports checked, get our Sail and Sign cards... and then we were on board. No waiting for our number to be called and some of the other things that happen when you get there a little earlier.
The atrium for the Breeze has a much different "softer" feel and design than other Carnival ships. I've never really been one to pay all that much attention to the decor and design but this was very nice.
Since cabins were ready when we got on board we went first to our cabin to drop off our little bit of carryon luggage. The room was exactly as I had expected it to be although I definitely want to warn against balcony cabins on deck 6 at our near where ours was - cabin 6424. (and in similar locations on the other side of the ship). I knew before I boarded what the "challenges" were going to be for this cabin but I had booked a guarantee (never again for me) so it was nothing I can complain about. These cabins on deck 6 have their balconies overhanging a great deal of "community" space. Ours was directly adjacent to one of the spas. You could easily converse with people in the spa if you wanted but the balcony wasn't much use to us because of its location. This area is also directly above the nightclub and other night time entertainment areas and you WILL hear and feel the noise from the disco at night until it closes. Cabin was the typical Carnival cabin with enough storage space I think I could live there and all of the typical amenities and comforts. Fewer bath product samples that I am used to but those have always just been a nice surprise never a necessity for me anyhow.
After exploring our cabin a little we decided to head to the Lido buffet for a quick bite. Typical buffet food lunch. No raves, no complaints but at this point in the cruise is when I first began to notice the one thing that was different for me on this sailing and remained consistenly so throughout the cruise. It was REALLY hard to find a drink! Typically when I board the ship - any ship - you see waiters carrying around trays of FunShip specials offering them left and right. I saw NONE! Nowhere on the ship! Not that it is any great hardship to have to go to the bar to get your drink, but this was so much of a departure from what I was used to that it was hard not to notice. Because of this (and perhaps this was Carnival's intent) I actually didn't even have my first drink until we decided to sit at the lobby bar for a few minutes prior to eating dinner. But even then, at a VERY uncrowded bar with 2-3 staff members, I had to WORK to get a drink. I found it odd that I had to really make an effort to get the attention of a bartender at an uncrowded bar. This happened to me at every bar every night and day on the cruise. Could it have been due to the new drink package? Perhaps Carnival is responding to complaints of too-much alcohol being too easily available all the time? This really wasn't a big deal for me and it made my Sail&Sign account at the end of the week an absolute record low for me... but it was such a departure from what I am used to that I couldn't help but notice it. Perhaps it is an effort to create a more "family friendly" environment. Or perhaps this is just left over "vibe" from having been sailing in Europe for a few months with a different demographic.
Our first day on the ship was a sea day and other than the fact that it was so windy you could hardly stand if you were outside it was a great day. Typical Carnival entertainment at the main pool (The Beach Pool) and throughout the ship. One of the things I like about Carnival - you can do as much or as little as you like. If you want to be right in the middle of things you can stay by the Beach pool or if you preferred a little less noise you could choose one of the other areas of the ship. It was MUCH louder than it needed to be on the Lido Deck but I have read elsewhere that they are already working to address this issue. This was a so loud you couldn't carry on a conversation rather than just semi-loud and "fun" like this area of the ship has been on other ships.
Our second day was also a sea day, and unexpectedly so due to weather that wouldn't allow us to dock in Grand Turk. I thought Carnival did a great job of coming up with last minute activities and they even opened Jimmy's C-side BBQ which is a venue that is open only on sea days at lunch time. This is a don't miss it stop for lunch on a sea day!!
Food on board the ship was fairly typical but with more "alternative" options than I am used to seeing and I thought this was great. The Lido buffet was typical and I have seen complaints of the lines but I've yet to be on any cruise where during peak times there wasn't a line issue at the buffet. I never stood in line long at the buffet but that may be because I did choose to avail myself of alternate venues and my dining times are not always at "peak" times, either.
I had heard a lot about Guy's Burger Joint and although I won't give it the "best burger I've ever had anywhere" rating that some others have it is really is a GREAT burger! I didn't try the Blue Iguana or Red Frog food and I will never miss a day of Jimmy's BBQ on a sea day on any ship that has it after having that. If you enjoy BBQ and it's typical "southern" sides you have to have some Jimmy's - even if the line wraps all the way around the ship. We didn't wait more than 3-4 minutes for hours even though I heard of longer waits for others.
Main Dining Room food was Main Dining Room food. Edible, a meal that you can relax and unwind to (it will take a while), and at least in my opinion good service. We did the Your Time Dining for the second time and for us, the flexibility is trumps the benefits of a seated time (like a waitstaff that gets to know you). Our first night there was the only night we had a 'big' table. We also had a great waiter that night, the only service person all week who really impressed me. His name was Anil.
The "Punchliner Comedy Brunch" was a nice change to the MDR menu for sea days, at least I thought. We enjoyed it. Good food although a little slow to get served and... as was the case ALL WEEK... tough to get a drink. (We wanted to use our past guest drink coupon that was only good at breakfast, lunch, and brunch in the MDR).
We dined one evening at Farenheit 555 steakhouse. It was great as it always is. It's just more food than I can eat! The bread alone is worth the cover charge (well, almost!)
Now, one of my favorite things on this ship was the area right below my cabin (the same area that kept me up at night... oh, well). The aft portion of deck 5 is where you will find the theater that serves as the comedy club (we never got there fast enough - it filled almost instantly for the comedy so we missed it even when waiting right outside!), the Piano Bar, the RedFrog Pub, the disco, and an outside seating area that is part of the Pub. I liked having all of these places so close to each other and also a short walk to the casino and the casino bar (which also doubled as the sports bar).
They had nightly "pub style" guitar music at the Red Frog and we loved this! I had expected a bigger crowd in this part of the ship based on what I've heard from other ships that have the Pub but it was relatively uncrowded the entire time we were there and we were there every night. Service here was so slow that we know of some people who actually left for that reason. We sat right at the bar, right in front of the same bartender who I generously tipped every night, and I still practically had to stand up and wave my hands to get a drink!! The slowness was definitely not due to too little staff or too big of a crowd. The bartenders were there, they just kind of stood around trying not ot make eye contact with you when your drinks got low... weird.
Loved the Thirsty Frog beer, though, even tough at least one night they ran out of it. It was the night we missed a port so that may have had something to do with it.
On this particular sailing I didn't see as much of the ship as I often do so there are tons of areas I can't even comment on as I didn't even see them! Never made it to the new thrill theater, for instance, but I plan to the next time!
This is a ship that definitely has something for everyone on it - but it is so large that you may have to take a little bit of time to explore to find your "spot". We got so comfortable in a nightly routine of lobby bar, dinner, few minutes in casino, and Pub that we did little else and we had a fantastic time!
Ports of call that we made it to were Falmouth, Jamaica and Nassau. Falmouth port area is still in the works, it seems, and I DEFINITELY recommend you book an excursion here. Not even a good bar area to hang out in the port although I hear a Margaritaville is due to open in late January 2013.
Our excursion was booked through Jaital.com and was a river rafting tour that was a teeeeny bit of adventure and a good bit of relaxation without requiring an hour long bus trip. It was perfect for us.
Nassau is a port I've been to many times and there is plenty to do there for anyone just do your research before you go to find the right places to explore for you. There are TONS of tips available elsewhere on this site for Nassau so I won't waste any more space on that one :-)
On this sailing Carnival was testing two new things -- "Cheers" - their new $50 per day "all inclusive" drink package and two unlimited internet packages. We didn't take advantage of Cheers package and never saw any evidence that it was being "abused" on board. I might have been more upset at the slow drink service had I had the package, though.
I did sign up for the "low-speed" version of the unlimited interent package. It was $30for the whole cruise and you could use it on one device. I used it on my phone to check Facebook and messages now and then and although it did log me out after any short period of inactivity (which I understand) it wasn't too much of a problem for me. I know two folks who signed up for the higher speed one and for one it was great - watched movies on Netflix and the like - and for the other it was more of a hassle I think, with complaints of being constantly knocked off hampering the experience. For me, the service I got was great, but I didn't really have high expectations or desire to use it all that often. I will probably try the higher speed one on my next cruise if it is still available. The other two options were $30 one day higher speed unlimited devices or $80 for the week of higher speed and unlimited devices.
Two other service things that I noticed, but found neither good nor bad. One was that our cabin steward never introduced himself or herself and we absolutely positively NEVER saw the steward. But he or she kept the room up fine. And the other thing I noticed is that someone was ALWAYS cleaning in the public bathrooms. While I had to sit and wait a while for drinks everywhere I never had to use toilet paper that hadn't been folded into a nice neat triangle... weird.
My own pace this week was slower than it often is for me on a cruise which may be why the slow service was noticeable but not annoying. It might bother me more when I re-board this ship on April if that hasn't improved somewhat but it wasn't the end of the world for me.
I heard more fellow passengers complain about service on this ship than I've ever heard before but I don't know if it was the slow-ness for them or something else. Some I even heard say won't return to Carnival or to this ship but I didn't see anything on board THAT drastic. However, I'm very easy to please and I could have fun even I was just left alone in a box for a week... sometimes life (or a cruise) is just what you make it! I'll be back on board the Breeze in April and I'm hoping to see improvements in that one area. So look for another review in 184 days or so! :-)
My overall recommendation: book this ship IF you can get a great price to go with it and/or the itinerary is the one of your dreams. Otherwise go with one that's been around a little longer and is more tried and true.