My name is Chris and I just completed my first Carnival cruise on the Breeze. I admit after reading the reviews (especially 57% "like rate") on CC, I was very skeptical, but the ship I went on was entirely different. I traveled with my wife and 6 friends from the DC area. This was my 6th cruise, and everyone else's first. We were lucky to have excellent weather throughout the voyage. We were able to dock at all scheduled ports.
Embarkation and Debarkation (9/10): There was a long line to check-in, but it moved very quickly so no concerns there. There was a short halt during debarkation, but it did not affect our plans. Our rooms were available right away (1pm), and luggage arrived within a couple hours.
Stateroom/Attendant (10/10): Our balcony stateroom was a great size, with plenty of space for storage, and a adequately-sized bathroom. We were on deck 8 midship and our attendant, Nestor, was exceptional. He greeted us by name, kept up with our plans, cleaned thoroughly, and replaced our wine glasses whenever we left them around the ship. On the last day, he made a towel heart, put our travel documents in them, and switched the TV onto the debarkation program. Can't ask for anything more!
Ship Layout (8/10): I read many reviews criticizing the layout/flow of this ship and having to wait in long lines everywhere. I thought the complete opposite - only a few lines, and I found the Breeze very user friendly and easy to navigate. My only complaint was the Serenity adults only retreat being adjacent to the kid-friendly waterpark area. Fortunately, the screaming kids were drowned out by the sounds of the ocean. Some kids tried to spray us on the way in, and the surrounding area was often soaked by waterpark overflow. Also, hot tubs and pools were often filled to capacity. Most of the ships features are located on decks 3-5 (dining room, comedy club, bars, theater, etc), or 10-15 (buffet, pools, sports deck, serenity, spa/gym, etc).
Main Dining Room (7/10): We started out with the early seating, but a couple nights in when Ken D (the singing Maitre'D) ran into us in the casino, he suggested that we give the late seating a try. This made a world of difference - improved location and MUCH better service. We loved our assistant waiter, Norbert. The food was good but not great - the soups seemed like Progresso, and the temperatures were sometimes lukewarm. However, I enjoyed the lobster, prime rib, and filet/short-ribs.
Buffet (7/10): We only ate at the buffet a couple times. The food was decent. My favorite things were the carving station, mongolian wok, and the omelette station. One day they had a chocolate buffet, which was delish.
TIP: Every morning on port days, the buffet offered rolls, deli meats, cheeses, and condiments. Rather than spending money on-shore, we were able to pack sandwiches in zip-locks and they weren't half bad!
Specialty Dining (9/10): Great selection, great service, but limited hours! Guys Burgers, especially the toppings bar, was phenomenal. I ate there 2-3 times on this short 6 day cruise. Blue Iguana Cantina's fish tacos were excellent. We were skeptical about the 24-hour Pizza Pirate, but were pleasantly surprised and ate the prosciutto pizza almost every night. The Punchliner Brunch messed up our order, but our waiter was able to make the situation right in no time (delicious rolls). No lines at any of these places for us. I waited for Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ on the last day, and the line took about 20 minutes. The food, mainly the chicken and pulled pork were really tasty. We ate at Cuchina Del Capitano, the Italian place one night and the food and service were great!
Drinks (8/10): I love that Carnival lets each guest bring on a bottle of wine! The drinks I had at most bars were fairly priced and well-made. The draft beer, including the Red Frog ale were delicious. We also ordered a few punch bowls, which were tasty and STRONG.
Entertainment (6/10): Our cruise director, Butch, was entertaining and did a good job with events like the Newlywed Game. At other times, he was a little overbearing. One sea day, he woke us up at 10am on the loudspeaker broadcasting stuff that was in the daily planner. Yes, 10AM is late for most cruisers, but this was unnecessary (we stay up late)!
I agree with others that the lack of live poolside music was disappointing. We didn't attempt the Playlist Productions after hearing how cheesy and terrible they were. We also avoided the Hasbro game shows since these were targeting mostly families with kids. We enjoyed the DJ's throughout the ship and the Liquid nightclub, which was always hopping. We saw one of the comedians and he was pretty good. Karaoke was always available, so we signed up a few times and had fun (quality of other singers WIDELY varied). We spent a lot of time at the Piano Bar with Ron Pass, who was excellent! Red Frog Pub is also a really happening spot! Daily activities were a bit lacking and run poorly, but this just gave us more time to relax!
Casino (7/10): Though we lost some money, we had a good time playing blackjack and craps in the casino. Dealers and staff could have been a little more friendly. One of the pit bosses did give us a free round of drinks at one point which was nice.
TIP: if you purchase a signature cocktail at any bar on the ship and keep the receipt, you can take it to the cashier cage at the casino for a $5 match-play (if you win a $5 bet, they'll give you an extra $5). Great value!
Serenity/Pool Area (9/10): We loved this area, minus it being right next to the kids waterpark. There are two large hot tubs, a dedicated bar, and shaded cabana loungers available free of charge. The pool area stretched the entire ship, so there were always plenty of places to lounge out.
Sports Deck (8/10): I thought the ropes course looked silly at first, but the combination of balancing, shakiness, and wind made this quite a thrill. Great views! We loved both the water slides and did them multiple times! We all enjoyed the ping pong, putt putt, and other games on the deck.
Fitness Center (10/10): We didn't purchase spa passes, but managed to get in a few workouts at the complimentary gym. Equipment was new in working order and most machines had TV's and iPod docks. I liked that the cardio equipment was facing forward ship - I sometimes feel sick when the gym is on the side of the ship and I sway side-to-side while on the treadmill.
Ports (8/10): We were able to dock at Grand Turk which made us happy. We rented Jeeps from Nathan and drove around the island. We went to the Sandbar, where we rented snorkel equipment from a local shop and were able to swim out to see and see beautiful fish, and nurse sharks! The water is crystal clear. We stopped at Jack's Shack on the way back. We found the food and drinks to be a bit overrated, but the local beach is quite nice.
We booked a private excursion with River Rapids Jamaica and did the white-water kayaking in Montego Bay. I felt like the driver tried to take advantage of us, and was not sensitive to our time schedule (we got on in the last couple minutes of ship boarding). I wish he hadn't cut it so close, plus he kept asking us for money. The excursion itself was really fun and relaxing. The guides were very helpful, and there was some private beach time right on the ocean.
Comparison to NCL and RCI experiences: A lot of the stuff we found to be comparable like the MDR food, staterooms, service, pool area, etc. Here are some noticeable differences:
Value for the Money: Carnival wins hands down in this category.
Food: I appreciated all of the included specialty dining options on this ship.
Clientele: Probably my least favorite thing on Carnival. I was appalled by the way some guests were treating the hard-working crew on Carnival. Additionally, people would cut lines and shove individuals to get through - just a complete lack of manners. It happens on all lines, but was especially evident on this ship.
Entertainment: Entertainment on the other lines, especially RCI was significantly better. I understand budget cuts, but since there were other live performers/bands on-board, why not have them play some sets outdoors? Carnival could improve their voyages by rearranging their schedule without adding internal costs. For example, the Blue Iguana Fiesta was the night before our 7am call in Montego Bay, but we had 3 sea days so this could have easily been avoided. Deck parties on the other two lines were much better executed.
Feel very blessed to have enjoyed this amazing vacation, especially knowing most people in the world don't have these opportunities. These are obviously my options, so if you disagree, please be respectful. The negative aspects were a small part of our vacation and easily over-shadowed by the awesome things. We would definitely cruise Carnival again! If you have any questions, let me know!