Let me start off by saying that I have taken six cruises with Carnival in the past and I am not a picky person by any stretch of the imagination and this is the first review that I have decided to write given the amount of extreme options on either side good or bad. I will start off with an overview on our trip then give you a summarized opinion.
This trip included myself, my wife and two kids ages 11 and 14. We decided to fly to Fort Lauderdale the Friday night before the cruise. We arrived late Friday at the Town Place Suites Fort Lauderdale on Prospect Road. This place was perfect for a family to stay pre-cruise. With it being Spring Break most of the respectable hotels in Miami and Fort Lauderdale were $200 a night or more. Found this gem for $112 a night. It's in a quiet location next to the Executive Airport and there is a Super Center Walmart nearby for all of your last minute travel needs.
Made our way to the Port of Miami Sunday morning and just like everyone says these people have their act together. We were able to drop off our luggage and the port then we made our way over to the Hertz rental office a few blocks away to drop off the rental car. I have to mention this about Hertz.. this place is a debacle. It's located on the side of a building that you will almost never find even with a GPS. The people there do the best they can but the best thing I can say is that it is controlled chaos in a small snow globe. Hertz needs to find another solution. I won't go into details but just imagine 10 families with luggage trying to fit into two vans that ran every 20 min or so. Again the people working there did the best they can I just blame Hertz for not stepping in. This cannot be a surprise to Hertz that this place cannot handle.
the influx of people on days ships come and go after all they are on a regular schedule. More about Hertz later during debarkation.
Arrived back at the terminal around 1:15 p.m. and was on the ship around 2:00 p.m. even at the height of commotion it wasn't that bad.
Once onboard our stateroom 6294 was ready. Loved the balcony room. Plenty of space under the beds to store luggage and plenty of closet space. Loved the flat screen tv and the small fridge in the room. Luggage started arriving right away and met our room steward Wilford who was great. I tipped him right away to keep extra towels and wash clothes in the room which he did the whole week. Spent Sunday night exploring the ship and I was impressed. All of the workers were friendly and the ship looked clean and spectacular.
Woke up Monday morning to what was supposed to be a sea day but noticed on the map on the TV that we had turned off course during the night. Sure enough the captain came over the loud speaker to tell us there was a medical emergency onboard and that we needed to take this person to the nearest port which was Nassau. So instead of a sea day we would stop at Nassau at 3:00 pm. to 9:00 p.m. and re-arrange the rest of the schedule. No big deal to us as it was an emergency. Overheard some people griping but hey if it was one of your family members you would want the same thing. Never heard what the emergency was.
Got off the boat in Nassau. Didn't have anything planned as we have been here several times in the past.
My daughter who is 14 was interested in seeing the city etc... so we or shall I say a driver picked us out of the crowd and gave us a deal to drive us around the city for the entire time for $20 per person. We agreed and were placed in a van with another couple which made my wife a little more at ease. We toured the Atlantis for about an hour which to me is getting old as I have been many times in the past. If you have never been then its a cool place to visit but for me its just a way overpriced playground. I mean charging people over $100 per person to visit their water park is outrageous. I can see maybe doing this the first couple of years but Aqua Adventure is several years old now. We visited when it first opened and it was fun for a few hours but not worth it then and not worth the money now. Our guide rode us around for about an hour or so more taking us through the neighborhoods of different classes etc.. then we stopped at the beach for a couple of hours which was the best part. All in all a pretty good stop.
We stopped in Jamaica on Wednesday and we had booked an outside excursion through Know Jamaica and Marva. After several positive reviews we decided on Marva. It got off to a rocky start at first. We had been exchanging emails with Marva for a couple of days prior and felt good about the tour. We were told to exit the ship and tell the organizers that we were with Know Jamaica. We did this and was told to go stand over to the side with another couple. This felt good at first making that connection but then about 45 minutes passed as all of the other 2000 or so guests exited ahead of us and off to their excursions. I understand that Carnival booked excursions get priority but after questioning one of the workers he admitted that Marva and her team had already taken several groups in their vans and we were left waiting for someone to come back to pick us up. I was disappointed not because I don't understand logistics but the lady who was telling us to wait it would only be a few more minutes obviously knows Marva and was doing her best to hide the fact that we were the odd ones out. It got to the point that it was becoming a comedy only I wasn't laughing. If she would have just told us up front and been honest with us we could have decided to wait 45 minutes or more or arrange other options. A bus finally showed up and low and behold it was Marva the owner of the company. She was very pleasant and apologized for making us wait. She drove us around the block and then set us up with Michelle one of her drivers. I at least commend her on personally picking us up herself. Michelle was a very knowledgable driver. It started to rain which kind of put a damper on thing so we opted for a tour and told her our kids wanted to go tubing.
There is not much to see in Ochios Rios so the tour was pretty quick. Michelle stopped us off at this roadside hut and I am being generous as I suspect she knows these ladies. We got out to look around but this kind of homemade stuff was not my thing. These ladies were very pushy.. would never tell you a price.. they kept saying they would work out something. We bought something from the first lady then the other lady guilted us into looking at our stuff.. then someone else came out.. and you get the picture.. I just walked off and went back to the van... my wife is too nice and ended up spending another 30 minutes trying to get away... Michelle took us to a place called White River where we went tubing. The cost was $25 per person... Again I think she knows these folks and steers people there.. It was ok.. the kids had fun.. not sure it was worth $100 for the four of us. It lasted about 30 minutes.. they take a picture of your family in the water and then halfway through they get you out of the water.. and walk you over to another hut for you to look around and buy something.. they sell you the polaroid picture for $6 We decided not to do Dunns River Falls because it was raining and the kids just wanted to go tubing and I was not interested in hiking up the falls. After tubing Michelle drove us to the other side of the island to show us some of the more expensive homes then it was a couple of hours at Bambleblu beach which was very nice. Overall ended up spending $150 for the driver for the four of us and $100 for tubing. Could have booked an excursion through Carnival for the same price but wouldn't have gotten a private tour. I chalk it up to peace of mind for a private driver for your family that you know has countless good reviews. I always live by the rule you get what you pay for. You can definitely go the cheaper route and roll the dice with a cheap no name outfit at the pier but is it worth sacrificing your families safety and peace of mind to save $50 to $75?? You can answer that one yourself. We definitely went through some sketchy neighborhoods on the tour. You definitely want someone reputable driving your family around.
Grand Turk as many people have mentioned is just a glorified beach stop which myself and my family did enjoy. It's clean.. you get off the ship and the beach is right there and you don't have to walk through chaos to get to the beach. There are shops to browse around in where people don't hassle you etc. All in all a great beach day.
The rest of the cruise was good. Really enjoyed Guys Burgers as I think I ate there at least once a day every day. The Blue Iguana is good too. I only at there once and had a Burrito that was very tasty. We were assigned to the Lower Blush dining room for early seating. The food was average and has definitely declined since our last cruise.
Debarkation: We left our luggage out the night before and were assigned to zone 30 which was one of the last zones to leave the ship. We took our time had breakfast and exited in an orderly fashion. Again they have this process down. Now the bad park. Once we left customs and walked outside we had to deal with Hertz again. Tried to call the office number but nobody never answers as there is some automated message that puts you in a loop. Walked outside and waited out in the middle where other buses were picking up. Saw a nice National/Alamo rental bus picking up people but no Hertz. Finally after about 20 minutes we saw a lowly Hertz van driving by. Some guy nearly jumped out in front to flag it down as he was frustrated as well. The guy pulled over but he had a van full of people already dropping them off on a Royal Caribbean ship down the pier. The poor driver felt bad and said he would call for another van... What??? You would think they would be on top of this as they should know when the ships are in port after all these are set schedules... Wow!! Anyway to their credit another van showed up about 10 minutes later... Me and my son jumped on and we had to leave my wife and daughter with the rest of our luggage because there was not enough room. They did catch the next van 15 minutes later.. We arrived at the office and I jumped out and ran into the office.. and of course there was chaos... a line about 15 deep with 2 people working the general line and one guy working the Gold line. Luckily I am a gold member and only had to wait about 15 minutes. Hertz really needs to address this. Those workers inside were working hard and stressed out...
General Observations and Tips:
Entertainment: The shows were ok to pass time. The performers work very hard and are talented but I have to admit the quality has declined since my last cruise on the Dream in 2010. The Soul Variety show on the last night was the best as they had a live band playing. I enjoyed the comedy club and the comedians but the venue in the Limelight Lounge is way too small for the number of people trying to attend. I got to the shows at least 30 minutes prior to both shows I attended and struggled to find seats. If you are not willing to go 45 minutes before showtime you can forget getting two or more seats together.
Food: Guys Burger is the best but it is only open from 11:00am to 5:00 pm I believe which has to be another bean counters way of saving money. Too bad as it is obviously a hit with everyone. The dining room food was ok but some accountant thought they could save money by cutting the food menu but it is obvious to all veteran Carnival cruisers. This is what I tell people. If you are new to cruising then you will love the whole dining room experience and the family time together and the food won't matter as much. I found that we were just getting through dinner as a chore because the food was below par and we only did desert the first night as was disappointed and never ordered dessert again. The food at the buffet on the Lido deck was ok... The 24 hour pizza was good but like Hertz someone needs to manage the place as there was always a line especially after 11 pm when everything else closes. You would think someone would see the chaos and staff it properly. I saw the same two guys working their butts off the whole week but it just wasn't efficiently ran as it could be.
1. You don't need walkie talkies. I bought two sets and tried them the first night then abandoned them the rest of the cruise. There are too many other users trying to use them and they do not work well between floors. If you agree on times to meet like for dinner and to check in at the cabin or leave notes you will be fine. You will find that as the week goes on the ship seems to get smaller and you can always find your kids in known hangouts like up top at the sports desk, Circle C or the Lido deck.
2. Take lysol. I used this on the toilet constantly and I never smelled the dreaded sewage smell as some people mention in their cabins. Not to mention its good to wipe down all the handles and remote control etc. Gave me peace of mind. Also brought my own pump soap for hand washing. This is just good sanitary practice.
3. Picked up a 24 pack of water and brought on board. Used for brushing teeth and to keep hydrated at night and used in port on beach days.
4. Brought a laundry bag, detergent and fabric softener... washed clothes twice on the cruise.
5. Bring water shoes for beach days and tubing etc.
I enjoyed our cruise with Carnival. I would highly recommend the Breeze and Carnival to anyone especially if you are new to cruising. For me personally I think I will try another cruise line lik Royal Caribbean next. Here is what I have found. We have done two of the newest ships the Breeze and the Dream and while it has been good the wow factor is missing. I think its because we have done six cruises with Carnival now and instead of improving I see things declining. The food and entertainment is two big areas that I go on cruises for and Carnival is going in the wrong direction in both areas. When you go on a new ship I relate it to buying a new house but showing up and its your old house thats just been painted and new carpet put down. Its functional but nothing thats going to make you say wow that is cool.