Life can be a BREEZE! Quick REVIEW 1/13-19
...So, short and sweet, here it is. Wanna save some time? We've cruised Carnival over 21 times. Can easily say, without a doubt, this cruise overall ranked in our top two cruises! That really should be enough said. Need to read more? C'mon, let's go!
...About Us-- Wife and I (early 50's) consider ourselves experienced cruisers. We've taken a couple of different lines in a variety of different style of cabins. This cruise was just about us! No kids! Our beautiful daughters are now 22 & 18 and have cruised with us on almost every cruise since they were 2 years old. We've always stayed in the same cabin (IMHO, not crowded, extremely doable, if you pack your patience) and have always enjoyed their company. But, this time, just us. ...OK, back to the review. We live in Palm Beach County, so we are just about an hour car ride north of the Port of Miami. Drove down I-95, got to the Port around 11am, parked the car ($20/day) and into the terminal we went.
...Boarding-- Basically, had to show our ID, went though the metal detectors and waited in a new VIP (Yup, we're Platinum) room and had about a 30 minute wait until our name was called. At that point, we went up to the desk, did the usual stuff, and were handed our S&S cards. Up the elevator, smile for the "OMG, the cruise is about to start!" pictures, continued on to the "BING" machines (yes, the "stand on the footprints, smile and BING" machines were in the Terminal, not onboard) and then a short walk over the gangway onto the vessel.
...The Ship-- Upon stepping foot onto the ship, most cruisers are sometimes overwhelmed at this exact moment. It is sensory overload. It's "BING", "where are the kids?, "Who has the luggage?", "I'm hungry", "Where's our room?", "Look at the elevators", "Can we go swimming now?", YADA.YADA.YADA! Well, now just the two of us entered quietly, No BING, no kids, an over-the-shoulder carryon, and all the time we needed to just look and take it in. In two words, "Wow Wow." This certainly isn't you usual Joe Farcus designed ship. Though I enjoyed Joe's designs over the years, this ship, upon first impression, definitely has the WOW factor. (I was going to include pictures, but got lazy. Google is your friend. Just Google, go to images, and type in Carnival Breeze Atrium. WARNING, please come back here after you see the images! You WILL spend a long time viewing the different pictures!) More about the ship later in the review.
...The Food (MDR)-- Yup, everyone wants to know about the food. We had a dinner table in the Blush (aft) Dining room downstairs (Deck 3) right in the middle of the floor. Ken Byrne is the M'd. Yup, the singing M'd. This guy is special. Not only can he sing, but he's extremely personable. Came to our table multiple times during each night and spent some time with us. Not the usual, "How's the food?" while walking by. Actually took the time and wanted to know our opinion of things. Ken definitely made our dining experience special. If you have a chance to get into the Blush DR, do it. ...Oh yeah, the food. We felt that the food in the MDR was good and served at the appropriate temps. It was the usual Dining Room fare. Service was very good and we really were waited on hand and foot. Some think the Dining Room entertainment is cheesy, but the Wife and I enjoy the singing and dancing.
...The Food (Buffet & Carnival 2.0)-- It's our opinion that buffet food is buffet food. If it is good and served at the right temps, that OK with us. Very good variety and tasty. With the exception of the scrambled eggs (go with the omelet if you want eggs, take my word for it here) for breakfast, food was good. Bacon Police Department was in force, but a polite "a few more, please" always gave you ample supply. (Observation... Officer walked away from his post for a minute and left his "weapon/tongs" there. Watched a family walk over and load up two plates. Proceeded to sit next to us. They got up after two minutes and left 95% of the bacon to be thrown away.) Another option for breakfast is the Blue Iguana Cantina. Eggs, bacon, potatoes, salsa and a lot more options wrapped into a whole wheat breakfast burrito. No lines and it was VERY good.
...Punchliners-- Brunch. Food was very good with a nice variety. Fruit Loop encrusted French Toast looked interesting and was told it was quite good. Ten minute "comedy show" at the top of each hour. Except for giving the entertainers a little exposure, I'm not quite sure this is working. But, go for the food. It's worth the experience.
...Lunch-- (Guy's Burgers, Blue Iguana Cantina, Pasta Bar, Sea Dogs, BBQ, etc.) Guy's Burgers, simply outstanding! Servers behind the counter were more than willing to make the exact burger you wanted. Loved, loved, loved the Pig Patty! Fries were as good as the burgers! Area has a car garage theme to it. The cloth napkins that wrapped the silverware were real thin and "chinzy." Huh? Oh wait, I get it! They're shop rags! Couple next to me unwrapped their silverware and were looking strange at these napkins. I leaned over to them and said "see the workers uniforms, those napkins are shop rags, get it? They had a "ah-ha" moment. As silly as it sounds, this venue was one of the highlights of our cruise. The food here was THAT good. Blue Iguana Cantina is a great place to get a good variety of burritos and soft tacos. Don't miss this place. The Cucina de Capitano is located upstairs in the buffet area. Lunch has no additional costs and is definitely not to be missed! It's a Pasta Bar with several different choices of pasta, sauces and toppings. Dining area is well appointed and very interesting. Again, don't miss this! If you're a Hot Dog Cart kinda guy like I am, try to grab a dog or two at the Sea Dogs cart on the Sports Deck. Dogs and toppings are good and you can order a soda/drink right from the bar nearby. (Observation... food cart is right off the jogging track. While speaking to the server, he said a good number of joggers tell him to "Get one ready, I'm comin' around!" and grab a hot dog on their last lap. Am I the only one who finds this hysterical!) Didn't get a chance to try Fat Jimmy's C-side BBQ. Here was one of the very few places that we saw a line. I can probably guess that this place is good, due to the long lines when they were open.
...Casino-- Found the table games same as any other ship. Staff was friendly and talkative. Meet a few of the hosts and, again were very personable. Wife, although happy with the tables, really disliked the slots. She likes the more traditional "reel" slots and not the animated "cartoon" slots. This definitely put a dent in her slot playing time. Well, not only did the poor slot selection keep her out of the Casino at nights, but another reason she spent her time out of the Casino was the...........
...Piano Bar 88-- A name you need to remember is Ron Pass. Again, Ron Pass. I'm a big fan of Piano Bars. I've been to Dueling Piano Bars and regular Piano Bars, not only on every Carnival ship that I've sailed on (21 cruises) that has them, but in many major entertainment areas (New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, South Florida) and there is none better than Ron Pass. If Piano Bars and sing-a-long entertainment is your thing, as it is mine, he is "Simply The Best." When we boarded the ship and walked around taking in the sights before sail away, we saw him hanging around in the Piano Bar. My wife and I walked over to him to introduce ourselves. I told him he had a small following on Cruise Critic and I was looking forward to spending a few minutes in the evening at the Bar with him. After speaking with him for five minutes, I felt like he was an old friend. He has that kind of personality. After spending most of our evenings with him, we (I say we because my wife, an AVID casino player, spend most of her nights with me in the Piano Bar. Ron is THAT GOOD to keep my wife out of the Casino!) felt that he was definitely the highlight of our cruise. Do not miss Ron's shows. (Observation... Get there early! He packs them in. Seats are at a premium) Oh, and Ron was extremely worried about our safety. He would tell us to "be careful driving home, it's wet out there!" (For those who may be, ummm, a little slower than others... we were in the middle of the ocean! Again, I can't be the only one who finds things like this extremely hysterical!)
...Red Frog Pub-- This is a fun place! Cross between Key West Bar and an Irish Pub. I am a huge fan of Thirsty Frog Red. Very good beer. Bar area was very comfortable. Take a walk outside the pub to the deck area. Great tables and a swinging chair/table right outside. We didn't try the food in the Pub, but I can tell you they sell a lot of it. Looked like the sliders and the fish were real popular. Foosball, checkers and dominoes available on the tables outside the Red Frog Pub along the Promenade.
Food lines. Not sure what the previous cruisers saw or experiences, but lines were almost non-existent. Certainly no worse than any other ship. We noticed lines by the Mongolian Wok, Jimmy's BBQ, and entering the Comedy Club in the evening. That's it. Read reports that the lines were huge at Guy's Burgers and the condiment bar. Four out of five times we walked right up and got our burgers and the fifth time we had four people in front of us. OH, the horrors! No problem with the ketchup/mustard area as others had mentioned. Person in front of me got their ketchup and then I got mine. Really not that exhausting.
...Chogs (chair hogs)-- Nope, Nada, Nowhere. Chairs around the pool, while sometimes hard to find, were definitely not covered with towels, but were more often covered with butts! Saw a few employees walking around and saw a few "time tags" on chairs, but there were chairs available if you looked. Serenity was peaceful and, though windy at times, was extremely relaxing. We found chairs there easily. The round loungers with the covers were a different story. All of them were being used all day. At least they were occupied and not being used a towel racks.
...Ship-- Very clean, very airy. Once read that the Carnival Breeze was perfectly named. I second that. Lanais on Deck 5 was a nice place to sit outside under an umbrella and enjoy your lunch, a book or a nice Thirsty Frog Red. Drink stations in the Lido Marketplace were tucked into alcoves. Somebody at Carnival was thinking! Drink stations (Juice/water/lemonade/iced tea/coffee) on other ships were just off the buffet lines and always caused a bottleneck around them. Now, these stations are tucked away and there is no congestion. Ice cream/yogurt machines were kept clean and stocked. There weren't many kids on board this cruise, so that may be the reason for this. Didn't hit the comedy shows. Spent evenings in the Piano Bar with Ron Pass. Did I mention how much we enjoyed that? We felt that the evening shows were... meh. Though somewhat entertaining, they definitely weren't up to Carnival standards. We heard that these Playlist Production shows were just a test and they were going back to the "normal" shows. Thank Goodness. Cruise Director Butch Begovich is a one-of-a-kind guy. Very special. Cruise Directors normally don't make or break a cruise. Butch adds something special to your vacation. Very personable and very approachable. Caught up with him on many occasions during our cruise, and he always had time for a nice, long hello. And a "shoutout" to his assistant Amy (6-3). Very nice girl and very upbeat. Pleasure to be around. She's also very special and a woman I look up to. Well, actually, I'm 6'1" and she's 6'3" , but, none the less, a great person. On a side note, this sailing was the cruise before John Heald's Blogger's Cruise 7. John and Calvyn were on board making preparations for this cruise. My wife made arrangements with John and Calvyn to join us during our Meet & Greet on the first afternoon at sea at the Red Frog Pub. They both happily showed up and spent a lot of time with us just talking and taking pictures. I just can't understand for the life of me why John sometimes gets a bad rap on Cruise Critic. This is not the first time I've spent time with him and he's has always seemed quite down-to-earth.
...Ports-- Real quickly, first stop was Grand Turk. Took one of the Cabanas just outside of Margaritaville. Was nice to have but would not do it again. We had a cabana on Half Moon Cay. That cabana was our Best. Day. Ever. They didn't compare. Next time a couple of loungers under a swaying palm tree will do the trick. Took a walk down the beach to Jack's Shack. Grabbed a drink, used the free wi-fi, and played with Topher, the clam digging dog. Next stop was Montego Bay. We did the Bamboo Rafting Tour again. Wife loves it. 30 minute ride to the river, approximately 2 hour ride, than a ride into town for some shopping and finally back to the ship. Went through Island Marketing. We would definitely recommend this tour. Nice day.
...Final Thoughts-- I set out writing this review and had planned on writing a couple of paragraphs. As I sit here in front of my keyboard, the memories came flooding back. We had a great time! This ship is outstanding. Public rooms and staterooms were kept clean. Food was very good and plentiful. Entertainment, for the most part, was top notch. CD Butch Begovich, Maitre' D Ken Byrne and Pianist Ron Pass made this cruise quite memorable. To my fellow CCers who I had a chance to meet and spend time with, Gregg, Sue, Debbie, Dennis and Gail, thank you. You've made my cruise one that I will remember. And to the other CCers at the M&G who I met around the ship, here and there, thanks again to you for crossing paths with us. Life can certainly... be a BREEZE!