Was super excited to be on one of the first Carnival Breeze cruises leaving from Miami to the Caribbean. Spent 6 days on board and here is the good, bad and ugly.
*The Ship and Layout*
The ship is large...very large and that was a good thing for this cruise as we had over 4,100 passengers on board. Standard occupancy numbers for the Breeze are stated to be around 3,500 so lines and crowds were the norm on board for our voyage.
Decor was restrained now that Carnival has taken most of the design duties away from their former "designer" Joe Farcas. However, some very poor decisions were made like the color of the carpeting in some of the heavily trafficked areas. The carpet in those areas is light yellow and staff seems to be having a real challenge keeping it looking clean and not worn. While it was pleasant to not have your eyeballs raped every time you looked at something (see photos online of the Carnival Miracle's Bacchus dining room to see what I mean) it seems like the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction as most of the decor was blah and boring. Hopefully, they find the sweet spot and achieve a good balance between stylish/upbeat on the next ship they launch.
Layout choices were interesting in some parts of the ship. Where shall they put the adults only "serenity area"? Why right next to the water park/splash area...what a logical choice if you want peace and quiet. The Italian Cucina restaurant is under the basketball court and I heard from others about how displeased they were to hear the thump, thump, thump of the basketballs during lunch. The Piano Bar is not in its own room but instead is located in the forward port side of the ship with a major walkway running right through it. It seemed as though this cut back on the space used and for those sitting on the wall, made enjoying the piano bar more difficult. The galley location was downright frustrating. It is located on deck 3 between the Blush and Sapphire dining rooms however, if you were on one end of the ship and wanted to go to the other end (say to visit guest services or shore excursion desk) then you are best served by going up or down a deck, over to mid ship and then back to deck 3 again. Whaaat?!? Total pain and poor planning.
The changes to the Lido Marketplace food area were a good idea unless the ship is very full of passengers (as ours was) and then it looks even more crowded. Fortunately, we clued into this the second day and altered our dining plans and times to avoid as many of the lines as we could.
*Food - Yum?*
Food is a delicate subject. What one person likes, another hates. Here's what worked (or didn't) for us...
Specialty Dining (ie: extra money) - We ate in Fahrenheit 555 the last night of the cruise and enjoyed it very much. A friend and I at at Bonsai for sushi and enjoyed that as well but were a bit creeped out when the wait staff started dancing around to "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors. I guess nobody at Carnival has clued in to the fact that the title of the song (and lyrics) are largely believed to be about how one looks when achieving orgasm. I did not eat at the Italian restaurant but had friends who did and they said they enjoyed it.
Of the regular dining options, we really enjoyed the Guy's Burger Joint, the Blue Iguana Cantina and the Pizza Pirate station. Some of our group liked the Tandoori station but I'm not into Indian food so you'll have to take their word for it. We endorse the Blue Iguana Cantina for breakfast as they made really tasty burritos and the rest of the crowds either didn't clue in or didn't care. Anywhere we could get tasty food without a crowd was a plus!
Big Jimmy C's BBQ was just ok. It is only open on sea days and yes, there is usually a line. It wasn't bad...it just wasn't great.
Some folks were complaining about lines at the Mongolian Wok and the Pizza Pirate. Both spaces have items that are mostly cooked to order so it stands to reason that you will have to wait. Pizzas took about 10 minutes to be made and a pizza oven holds much fewer pizzas than say the burger grill holds burgers over at Guy's Burger Joint. One passenger and I chatted about that and after the preparation facts were pointed out, he calmed down. Just know it going in and you can make the choice that works for you, your hunger and your schedule.
The Blush dining room was where we had our late seating dinner and it was really hit or miss. The flat iron steak, short ribs and a few other items were really good. The rest were mediocre at best. The wait staff at our tables were pretty solid but we saw some other tables where less attentive servers were assigned and thus, bad service. One thing you will notice at the Blush dining room is that it isn't blush...it is orange. The lights, the decor, all of it. It felt like we were eating in a tangerine. Ugh.
Lido breakfast had us scratching our heads. Many of the stations were not open until 7:30am which flummoxed those of us that were early risers.
Red Frog Pub has Caribbean influenced pub grub but sadly, I only had the conch fritters. The coconut shrimp were on my list to try but I never got around to it. We loved the pub, though!
Punchliner Comedy Brunch and Club - Oy! Please dump the comedy brunch. Bad venue plus people who just got up and want breakfast plus comics trying to do up to 10 minutes of material was just a recipe for disaster. If you want to promote the evening comedy shows, bring the comedians on the Cruise Director's show that plays on the tv each day and can be seen over and over. More people will see it and it saves us all from that trainwreck of a brunch. The evening comedy shows were only done on sea days with the later evening shows being for the adult crowd. The venue was on the small side plus a ship that was 500+ people over standard capacity meant standing room only crowds and people who did not want to leave after the first show was over. Alex, the host, was great and did his best to get people into the show but passenger tempers were flaring and some poor passenger behavior was on display.
Musical Acts - Piano man Ron is just ok in my book. I know many rave about him but I don't get it. Maybe because my favorite piano man from Key West (Dave Bootle...google him then go see him!) was on board with us on vacation or just that Ron wasn't my style? The Piano Bar was packed and those who were there really enjoyed themselves. The guitar players on ship were solid and entertaining. We saw them on deck, in the atrium and in the Red Frog Pub. There was also a duo who I saw perform early on in the cruise in the atrium who were awful. A few in our group were professional musicians and many observations were made about the keyboard player and how bad he was. Ouch!
The Big Shows - Holy crap! The staging set up for these shows is amazing! The show quality itself varied but Divas was our favorite. Latin Nights was ok and The Brits was just terrible with an over reliance on cartoony imagery that took away from what could have been a solid show. Hasbro the Game Show qualifies as a big show in my book and it was really fun. Butch, our CD, was a great host! One night they were unable to do the show due to issues with the ship rocking due to weather but, to Carnival's credit, they did schedule another performance later in the cruise.
The Disco - The disco was fun if you got there early and left early. Later in the evening, the music mix shifted into heavier rap, dance and similar music. The disco was packed late at night with one particular segment of our cruise passenger population who really enjoyed the music blend so I am unable to say if the music choices would be the same on your voyage or if the DJ was playing to the crowd? Our group liked a different mix so we made alternate party plans.
The cabins were just standard Carnival cabins with little changed except decor. Nothing special nor nothing awful.
Our stop in Grand Turk was cancelled due to wind and docking issues. Carnival did alert us the day before, during the Cruise Director's talk, that two ships did not dock there the day before and the captain would give it his best shot. We were bummed to miss out on the Power Snorkel trip we booked but life goes on.
Falmouth, Jamaica was just ok. Carnival arranged for early arrival into Falmouth but also decided to change our departure time for our shore excursion so we were leaving 3 hours earlier than planned. We only found out about this because I stopped by the shore excursion desk to check on another question and saw the flier. This was not acceptable and since we were scheduled to leave Falmouth the same time as originally planned, there was really no reason to move up the tour departure. The shore excursion staffer told me that Carnival didn't request it but that the tour operator did it on their own. So, all the tour operators for 95% of the tours just happened to all move their times up? Riiight...believe that and I have a bridge and swampland to sell you. I cancelled the tour. Luckily, another in our group had hired a private driver that she booked outside of Carnival and had extra spaces open. A tour of Rose Hall plantation was our highlight.
Nassau was our final stop and one I had been to before so we just walked around and then came back on board the fairly empty ship and enjoyed the ropes course, water slides and other activities that normally had lines for them on sea days.
*Getting On and Getting Off*
Was lucky and got VIP embarkation which was super smooth. Due to our 11:30am flight from Miami, we opted for self assist departure and it was blazing fast...fastest I've ever had. Yay!
It was a super fun cruise but more due to my group of 30 friends than anything else. Would I go on Carnival again? Sure. Would I alter my cruise plans just to sail on the Breeze again? Probably not.