I'll try to stick to the specifics remaining as 'impartial' as possible. Firstly, this cruise was our 12th since being married on the island of St. Thomas 16 years ago at Blue Beard's Castle so a combo of Anniversary and vacation mixed in. As most, the anticipation and preparing for the voyage is one of the best parts of the journey for us. I am the one who likes to research, plan, and familiarize myself with the ports, the ship and read reviews good and negative before we go. We are very optimistic individuals who make our experience our own, void all the negative reviews. The Carnival Breeze is a beautiful ship. The design is contemporary with an island theme and was kept very clean from top to bottom during our cruise. I would like to interject that those of you who have a cold, flu or some other communicable disease - STAY HOME or get well before jeapordizing the other 3,999 passengers. I did catch a cold that turned into flu like symptoms around the 5th day as others shared the same while on board. I still had a great time but it drained me quite a bit which I am still enduring recovery as I type this. TIP: When packing, make sure you bring along medications, such as; Tylenol Flu and Cold (or similar), Aspirin, Ibuprofin, Dramamine, Preparation H (good for bags under the eyes too-haha), Immodium, Airbourne tablets, etc. You get the idea.
I made a checklist prior to the cruise that covered all the things I needed to do prior to sailing, such as; contacting my credit card company to inform them I'd be out of the country and my card will be used during my vacation. A couple we met did not do this and their Ccard was denied and ATM's were difficult to find at the port they wanted to make purchases at (Nassau, Bahamas). If anyone is interested in a copy of my checklist, simply e-mail me and I'll send you a copy: email@example.com
We like to fly IN a day before the cruise and stay a day AFTER as well so we booked our reservations at the Marriott Biscane Bay which overlooks the Bay and the Cruise Ports. The hotel is slighly more expensive during this time of year but well worth it with great views. I video taped the Breeze coming into port and leaving after we got off and were back in our hotel room so bitter sweet to say the least. There are shops all around the complex so if you need last minute things you should be able to find them. TIP: Bringing Alcohol on the ship~ We bought 1 gal. of Absolute Vodka and another bottle of really good Russian Vodka plus a 6 pack of water to put the vodka into. IF you try this method, DO NOT empty, fill and re-pack the bottles back up into the same wrapping. Security simply shakes the bottles and can clearly see that water has BIG Bubbles where Alcohol produces small bubbles so they unwrap the bottles, open them up, smell them and confiscate your hard work and money spent right there on the spot - boohoo - lesson learned. The key is to spread out the bottles in your luggage and/or carry-ons. We also bought alcohol at the other ports and then filled our water bottles with the Vodka - Security didn't check our water bottles coming back on because it's recommended you take water when you are on shore and in the heat anyway to stay hydrated.
TIP: Cabs from the airport to our hotel should only cost a max of $25 with tip. The cab driver asked for $60, plus my wife gave him an additional $10 for the ride AND taking us around to Walgreens to shop and the liquor store before reaching the hotel which was alittle high. Remember, BRING a lot of $1 bills for tipping. We seem to tip more at the beginning of a cruise and much less by the end.
HINT: There is a Faster to the FUN pass you can purchase via the Carnival website but there are limited #'s available and I honestly feel your $50 can be better spent throughout the cruise than to be put forth for Embarkation, etc. Embarkation was a Breeze. We arrived around 12p, having stopped to buy a pair of binoculars - TIP: Bring Binoculars - you'll use them! I saw a whale on the last day at sea back to the Bahamas - FYI - We were on board by 12:30'ish- Deck 3 midship "LOBBY" - were Guest Services, Shore Excursions and The Sapphire Dining room is. HINT: If you've made your dinner arrangements in advance and wish to request a larger table you should ask for this right upon getting on board so to to the dining room and do this. TIP: Your sigh and sail account will automatically be charged $92 per person for gratuities so you can choose to leave this on there and avoid having to tip on your own OR you'll have to wait a few days for this charge to post then you can to to Deck 3 midship Guest Relations and have this charge removed, grab some envelopes and tip your hard working servers, room stewards and whomever else you wish to show your gratitude for their service to you while on board. The work very hard and are pleasant crew so whoever made note in their reviews the crew was rude must have been born rude themselves!
TIP: There is a website that you may be able to communicate with Lou Gandt - the founder of the site: www.inletphotos.com - you may be able to arrange a sail away photo of you and yours as the ship sets sail. We have done this prior when we sailed on the Oasis of the Seas and our photos were used on his business cards and are still on the site to date! You MUST attend the MUSTER DRILL which takes place in one of 4 locations on the ship in the main dining rooms so don't try to hide out in your cabin - just go. We met a really nice couple at our table and hung out with them throughout the cruise! The ship sets out around 4:30p'ish and if facing WEST typically which means it has to turn around in the bay. We had one of (6) AFT Wrap around cabins - #7459 -Starboard - it was amazing and we did try to coordinate a sail away video with Lou but not yet sure if he was able as he may have been out of town. Nevertheless, we spent a good 20 minutes on our balcony posing, kissing, waving and....waving some more toward the area we knew the camera to be so we'll see. HINT: There is a sail away party where the entertainment crew does take video of and will make it party of your cruise video experience so it is a fun time from what we saw. You'll want to make sure you're at or around one of the decks at Deck 10 LIDO by the main pool for the sail away party!
The cruise director is from Minnesota, Butch YAY U Betcha Butch along with his adorable assistance cruise director always smiling and both with a great personality to keep things upbeat throughout the cruise.
We had two days at sea to start out the adventure: TIP: Make sure you check out the pools you'd like to spend your time at or mix them up as we did. I am an early riser so I am up by 5p and at the pool by 6am which is a MUST if you want a good spot. I chose the main BEACH POOL Deck 10 (Midship) most of the cruise and where all of the main events happen - FYI. HINT: You may only reserve a lounger for 40 minutes then your stuff will be removed if you are not there and be open for others to take advantage of so don't be greedy. There are more than enough loungers all over the ship to enjoy! I saw no arguing over chairs but did see those who put their towels down and left for 1 hour+ only to come back to see others in their spot-it's was good people watching to say the least!Oh...and TIP: Bring a tanning plan because the sun will burn you as you get farther south for sure! I tan in the shade and was probably one of the most tanned people at the end fo the cruise to where people would make double takes - just happens naturally for me so I look like I come from one of de' islands mon'!
Drinks range from $7 and up - TIP: There is a CHEERS CARD program for $800 per cabin. Unless you are a raging alcoholic or don't bring your own on the ship, I'm not sure if this is a good idea. We did over indulge but keep in mind there are those days while in port that you're not on the ship and others that you just may feel as I did....to have drank myself sober...seriously...this was echoed by a few we spoke with..."I'm tired of Vodka, Tequila, Rum..hum...what else can I drink?" - think about it - #15 drinks under $10 per day per person - you do the math and decide!
FOOD ON BOARD: We chose late seating - and to be honest - it's way too late for me but my wife likes it because we are not rushed to shower, get dressed and hit the dining room right after being on shore. We are not 'Foodies' and there are venues on this ship that are amazing - all of which we did try! I would suggest requesting to sit in the AFT BLUSH dining room IN THE CENTER or up on Deck 4 Mezzanine aft - we were sat in a corner and requested a change the following day only to be moved 2 tables away from the table we left - #1 it offended the people at the original table and #2 we still couldn't see anything that was going on when the servers and singing/dancing were going on as part of the dining celebration. OR - Request the Sapphire Room Mid ship which is centrally located to everything obviously. Okay - "the food" - Dining Room - Below par to be sure - the Servers were GREAT but the food did come out below serving temperature (bummer to that) - quality of dining room food - Average to say the least but the Service was very good! Remember to show some love for those that work hard to server you and don't take the quality of the food out on them! Otherwise, the Italian Bisto Cucina Del Capitano is AWESOME(Deck 11 Panorama Aft) - go there for lunch - it's free or for dinner it's $12 (I think), Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse is amazing too (Promenade -Deck 5 Aft) but by the time we ate there I was so stuffed from over eating throughout the week I could hardly finish my appetizer - TIP: Make your reservations online in advance! I suggest eating at the steakhouse early in the cruise! Guys Burgers are so delicious we ate there almost daily (Deck 10 midship Beach Pool area) -Breakfast Burritos are great too other side of Guys Burgers - Jimmy's CSide BBQ -Deck 5 PORT side Promenade- DELISH! ~TIP: Only open during days as sea between 12p and 2:30p - so get there early whenever you choose to go! TANDOOR - Deck 10 aft Port side Tides Pool area - INDIAN FOOD - really, really good too!
So...you will NOT go hungry on this ship. Take your time...the main buffet area gets packed so choose your time wisely to go - people do tend to get pushy - so by the end of the cruise I was done with the sun, the booze, the over eating !
St. Thomas: We did the cruise excursion HELMET DIVE - it rained that day but we made the best of it. 20 minute shuttle to Coral World by Coki Beach (which is a nice beach if you want to relax and arrange your own cab there) After a short consultation session, we were in the water and down below about 30 feet with a helmet and fresh air over and around our heads..nice scenery. HINT: Bring your own underwater cameras and invest in a digital underwater camera that allows pictures below 10 feet or it will not work - FYI - You can buy 4 pictures to be sent via e-mail to you for $10 so that was worth it to us, plus we took pictures with our own underwater camers (disposable). After we were dont and back to port we took a private cab for $20 back into town for shopping and up to BlueBeard's Castle for our Anniversary pictures which was very sweet! TIP: When downtown, there are a group of tents that sell purses and the same stuff so it depends on the vendor what price you will be quoted. The smart thing to do is find the same item at three different booths than simply go around and quickly ask "How much" - wait for the quote and move on - PLAY THEM and DON'T BE PLAYED! It's your hard earned money so don't walk away with regrests - it's on you to negotiate so don't allow yourself to be bullied into a purchase. My wife is a gorgeous swedish girl, blue eyes, blonde hair...not a normal native sight on the island until I come walking up...240 lb muscular Italian - and their attitude quickly changes when trying to take advantage of her!
Antigua: Very freindly people - we walked off and found two different quotes for cabs for the day to a beach - $18 and $12 - TIP: Make sure if you choose your own cab; find a few others to share it with you that want to do the same..."go to the beach" - coordinate a time with one another and you'll be better off. ALSO - ONLY CHOOSE A CABBIE with a CERTIFIED TAXI shirt! We chose Valley Church Beach and my wife and I coordinated efforts for a private horeseback ride tour on the beach and inland for $60 each. It was well worth it! Bring sun screen because we got BAKED! The beach there is one of the most beautiful I've seen plus there is a restaurant for drinks/eats too! Watch out for the rum punch - it's made with the local rum which is potent!
Tortola: We coordinated a private charter via the roll call on cruise critic with Aristocrat Charters for $110 per person which was worth it! We were picked up right by the ship in port, taken to several locations to snorkle by John Von Jost island (I really wanted to snorkle in the caves but was told it's really dark once you get in there 5 feet - well DUH..it's a frickin' CAVE!) We had lunch, did some more snorkeling then back to the port in timt to shop and be on board to set sail once again.
Day at Sea - I chose the Tides Pool Deck 10 AFT and picked chairs that were at the very back overlooking the ocean - GREAT SPOT but again...although there aren't many pool police to check how long the chairs are reserved, my wife and I coordinated head to toe massages this day- her's at 8am and mine at 9:30a so our chairs were not open that long so we were safe. By the time I got back to her she did share that she experienced some major glares and those coming up questioning if the other (2) chairs were were saving for another couple were available so HINT: If you are saving chairs for others make sure they are up early too or just let them find their own. It's really not fair to your fellow cruisers!
Nassau, Bahamas: Personally, not my cup of tea to say the least. Atlantis is TOO EXPENSIVE so I would not give them a penny of my money or a second of my time there. ON shore - you can shop but we've been there, done that before and I was so drained due to this cold I was in a bad mood so we went to Senor' Frogs, did some shopping and were back on board within a few hours.
That's about it. I did take pictures of our cabin in case anyone has the same reservation - it was hard to find pictures online prior to sailing. The pictures make the room look much larger but rest assured it's very confortable and the wrap around deck is AMAZING! Oh....TIP: If you want a balcony facing the islands make sure you book PORT SIDE!
Ciao and happy sailing - REMEMBER: it's what you make of your experience - don't allow others to spoil your time!