My husband and I sailed the Carnival Breeze 4/13/2013 to the eastern Caribbean for 8 nights. We have taken more than 30 cruises on 6 different lines, with more than a dozen of them on Carnival. This one was celebrating our 40th anniversary along with some family / friends and 125 folks we "met" on Cruise Critic. Our most recent cruise was the Carnival Spirit to Hawaii Dec 2011 and our next is the Carnival Glory to Canada June 2013.
As ships evolved to offer many balcony staterooms we have chosen to book them for the personal outside quiet space with the wonderful ocean view and wave sounds. This ship offers the "spa category" staterooms with smoke-free balconies leaving no other viable option for us. We chose this itinerary ONLY because the dates worked for my sister's school vacation. We love sailing in early spring for warm (but not hot) Caribbean weather -- the timing worked well for both of our jobs and was shortly after our 40th anniversary. That the cruise was on a new ship was just a bonus!
We live in central Florida, less than 4 hours to the Port of Miami, but it's a dreadful drive and pier parking is very pricey. Amtrak offers free long term parking at the train station 3 miles from home. We booked a "bedroom" on board so we'd have our own space (more of it), a private bathroom and meals were included. The train was delayed by several hours, but we finally boarded and got settled into our room. Attendant was pleasant and friendly. Bathroom smelled nasty (like one on an airplane) so we were careful to keep the door closed. Lunch in the dining car was tasty, but simple (burger, salad). Our personality-free server was borderline surly in advising us that they were out of dessert. We had room attendant prepare our beds for a long afternoon nap as my husband had worked all night. She seemed hesitant to do so, but we paid for a bedroom and felt entitled to use it. As much as we loved watching the countryside outside our big windows, the motion of the train helped us get a really nice nap. Upon arrival in Miami, we quickly retrieved our bags and took a short cab ride to hotel.
I had reserved the Comfort Suites Miami Airport North as soon as the 11 month booking window opened, using the senior rate $107 for a king suite. I checked room rate a couple times as our date approached and it was available only at rack rate of $179. We were upgraded to a full suite with separate bedroom. This is a new property and exceptional! Service was perfect, room was amazing, bed incredible. As priority club members, we were each given a complimentary cocktail at the bar that evening and settled in for pleasant sleep. The complimentary breakfast was very good and our shuttle loaded us and our bags for complimentary transit to the Port of Miami at 9:45am.
We dropped our luggage and proceeded into the terminal. Within a few minutes we were seated in the Platinum waiting area. Check-in was painless, but I have real issues with the "Faster-to-the-fun" money making, benefit-reducing scheme of Carnival's. Our platinum area had lots of FTTF guests. When they called for embarkation, everyone crowded into the line. Instructions were not clear at all. At one point, Carnival reps were checking key cards for platinum, but lots of FTTF boarded without being redirected. On this point, Carnival fails miserably. Nobody knew what they were supposed to do and Carnival offered no instructions, queues or signage. Otherwise we got onto the ship and set about exploring. We had immediate access to our stateroom and were happy to drop our carry-ons.
We had four staterooms with seven guests, all bookings cross-referenced by our travel agent. When we compared room keys, one guest (disabled senior) was assigned a dining table in a different dining room! At 1pm embarkation day, I waited in line to address this concern with Maitre'd. He looked something up in the computer and assured me that we'd all be at the same dining table, bring entire party together. We arrive in Blush at 6pm to a table for six. Huh? Another Maitre'd comes over to apologize, adds a plate at the end of the table and we snuggle in for dinner. He promises to send a message to my room with resolution by the next afternoon. Nothing. So we arrive back at Blush 6pm day two and we have again a table for six. They add another plate, apologize again and offer us anytime dining. I don't think so. We made do with the smaller table and the extra plate at the end for the entire cruise. This should not have happened.
Stateroom is gorgeous! This is the nicest Carnival stateroom ever and rivals those we've enjoyed on Princess, almost as nice as a mini-suite we had on Royal Caribbean. Decor / colors were fantastic, soft and beautiful. Having to insert a room key into slot by door to keep the lights on is surely an energy savings, but was inconvenient at times. Stateroom TV was much better than others. The flat screen rotates so we can watch from the sofa (which I don't believe we ever even sat on) as well as from bed. Channel selections were better than I recall from other cruises -- we usually put on only the news once or twice a day but because of the bombing in Boston and explosion in Texas, we did appreciate access to news. Our balcony was wonderful and we used it for hours every day. Room service brought coffee every morning and we enjoyed starting each day out there. We loved our location on the Spa Deck, although it was just a little weird to go "down" to the Lido Deck. Being all the way forward was certainly convenient to the spa and the forward elevators, therefore also to the show lounge. We used deck five as our primary route to Blush dining room and other mid-ship & aft locations.
The Breeze is incredible. It is a large ship with all kinds of different spaces and things to do. Ours was an 8 day cruise, but we just didn't have time to do everything. IMHO this ship has something for everyone and is the best Carnival has ever done. Service has been wonderful and the crew are friendly, hard-working assets to Carnival. Thank you for so much that was done well.
Our Cruise Director was Brent Mitchell. If Cruise Directors were rated by appearance, he might possibly be the best in the world. He was terrific on stage, but just not engaging like some of the best (like John Heald and Butch are).
Our Cruise Critic roll call and Facebook group had arranged a cocktail party for the first day at sea. Our group coordinator was attentive and the lounge we were assigned was awesome. I had access to the room a few minutes beforehand to get set up and Event Coordinator was in-and-out to make sure everything was OK. We had 3 bartenders and 5 servers for our party of 110 (plus 3 youngsters). Service was handled well and I think everyone had a good time.
I do not want to smell smoke. I avoid places that have it and can get really ugly if I have to deal with it in non-smoking areas. This ship was wonderful! I never had more than a whiff of the nasty stuff, but "Fun Times" does list quite a few areas where smokers can also be happy. Great job, Carnival!
We came very close to cancelling this cruise after sailing the Spirit to Hawaii because we were so disappointed in the food. But because we were going with others, we kept our plans in place -- and are glad we did. The dining room menus are not as good as they were years ago, but certainly are better than we remembered from the Spirit. One simple change that I like is that shrimp cocktail is once again available daily (wish I could say the same for a garden salad). On the Spirit our choices were process of elimination, but this time we often found several that we'd like.
Lido Deck dining was AMAZING! There were so many choices that we did not have time to try them all. We loved the Cantina and Guys Burgers. We always had nice salad options and the deli. Pizza wasn't as good as it had been on other cruises. The "Comedy Brunch" did offer food but no comedy (basically a 5-minute introduction and promo -- waste of time).
Past Guest Party was a little disappointing. Entertainment was awesome, but no Captain or Senior Officers introduced. No door prize drawing (budget cuts?) Only the Diamond members were recognized. I requested a long island and it was delivered to the person sitting in front of me and I didn't know until the party ended.
We booked all excursions through Carnival far in advance. We did the mini-boats in St Thomas. They picked us up at the pier in an open air bus. We boarded our boats, took them to a snorkeling area, then back. It was a nice excursion and we had a really good time. But Carnival pictures them as little jetboats with a bench seat for two. NO, these are rigid hull inflatables (Avon) with a seat like a jetski and another seat behind it. The person who is not driving does not have a view to the front. This was a disappointment and will be communicated to Carnival. We still enjoyed the tour, but guests should be aware. In Antigua, we booked "See Antigua by Sea" on the Excellence. The views were amazing and narration OK (if you want to know where Oprah's house is, etc). "Open bar" actually means big drink dispensers with a couple kinds of spiked punch or beer. Everyone got plenty to drink. Lunch was disappointing -- tasty BBQ chicken but in some kind of bizarre cuts -- asked for a breast, but have no idea what I got. Pasta salad was pasta only. Didn't try the tossed salad, but had plenty to drink. The water at the snorkeling stop was a little scary with lots of "stuff" (seaweed?) in it. I just got wet to cool off. Husband's review of the snorkeling wasn't very good. I would have preferred a beach with rental chaises / umbrellas. We re-boarded and absolutely loved the one other stop at a beautiful beach with crystal clear water -- would have preferred being there the whole time. In Tortola, we did the Land & See tour. We rode an open air van for two very long hours. The views were beautiful, breath-taking photo stops from the top of mountains looking down on the most gorgeous blue water, marinas, etc. Driver did a good job with narration. The last few stops, however, many of us didn't even get off the van -- we all needed a bathroom break and the stops were all so similar to each other. Van arrived at "Pussers Landing" for a bathroom break (YES!), bought drinks and boarded "Airborne". Hosts were upbeat & entertaining. The boat was appropriately named as we flew over the waves, then smashed down onto them. We had a short stop by Treasure Island with some narration and rum punch. Then we had a long ride back. The tour was beautiful, but could have been shorter -- like one hour in the van and one hour on the boat -- OR -- allow us time from the boat to actually get into the water. In St Thomas we had to go through immigration to get back onto the ship. But in Antigua and Tortola, both boats dropped us right off at the pier -- awesome, easy re-boarding! I wouldn't do any of the tours again, but don't regret any of them either.
Entertainment...I will start with the positive. The Love Souljaz Band was PHENOMENAL. Carnival is certainly aware of that since this talented group with their incredible lead singer Consuelo performed every evening -- usually in the Ocean Plaza. They also entertained at the past guest parties and were the evening entertainment in the Ovation Theater one night. I will look for their website / Facebook page and will do my best to cruise with them again. Great job, Carnival! Ron in the Piano Bar was terrific and always draws a big crowd. I wish the bar was larger or configured differently to accommodate everyone who wanted to see / hear him. Nice entertainment.
NO ORCHESTRA and NO PRODUCTION SHOWS. Yes, I know they called 3 evenings "production shows", but without an orchestra, without sets, only 7 performers whose talent is mediocre at best, I do NOT consider these production shows at all. One of the female performers sang and danced well. The guys were OK (one better than the others), but the other girls cannot sing. Do not give them singing roles -- yikes! Costumes were OK. Theming was OK. Nothing impressive. We absolutely hated the computer generated graphics and recorded music. How pathetic. One "show" had an entire song on just video (no performers at all). Big disappointment here. Thumbs down.
Hasbro Game Show was one evening. We tried, but couldn't tolerate it. The first 10 minutes (full 10 minutes) was on the screen only -- watching some kind of video about the games. Evening entertainment on a cruise ship? Seriously? Then they selected contestants from the audience and we left. Maybe it got better, but I give a book 50 pages to catch my attention -- 15 minutes of this "entertainment" was all I could stand.
Another thumbs down to guests who arrived in the show lounge after the show began! It's bad enough to meander on down looking for seats that don't exist, but then to walk in front of people expecting them to stand up so you can move across. If you can't manage to get into the lounge on time, stand in the back or come to the next show. Don't even get me started on the guest who blew her nose into the cloth napkin....
We did the thalossotherapy pool once and tried the spa loungers. It was just too warm for us, but lots of folks were loving it. We did one of the water slides and it was great. I booked 3 spa treatments and one salon appointment and loved my time and experiences there. I did not enjoy the folio hassles where my spa bookings were all pre-paid, but they charged my room anyway. They did straighten it out, but it wasted my time and made my staterroom folio a mess.
Casino & bingo: I go to Vegas a lot and enjoy extended play on slot machines. I tried several times, but my selected slot on this cruise loved my money but hated me. Carnival is charging so much for bingo cards and paying out such a tiny share in prizes that we refused to even participate.
Bar servers did a great job. A couple of them got to know me -- any my sister (we always tip extra) and our drinks were good, fast and "special".
Weather for our cruise was fantastic! We had some rain 2 afternoons -- after we re-boarded the ship and enjoyed the showers from our balcony. Otherwise sunny, dry, warm and gorgeous.
Notable concerns: the tile in the lido deck dining area can be treacherous! It is so slippery. This was particularly bad when we were in sneakers, not as much so in flip flops or Tevas. An attendant is constantly using a swiffer type floor cleaner and we wonder if that makes it slippery. Carnival is inviting a serious mishap if they fail to remedy this problem. Numerous times we encountered sewage smell in our hallway. Crew members had access panels open and were working in them off and on for several days. They had cleaned the carpet after one particularly horrible event and had blowers out there drying it. During these events our toilet sometimes did not flush. We were not given any information and told only "maintenance". I did notice 3 specific times that our shower water smelled bad and chose to brush my teeth with bottled water those times. I want to be clear that we were not inconvenienced in any significant way and that the crew were working very hard.
Platinum disembarkation was quick, easy and early! We went through customs & immigration, caught a cab to Amtrak, arriving there @ 7:45am! Unfortunately, the early train was sold out, so we're hanging out for a few hours until boarding for our train.
Overall we were very pleased with the ship, service and food. We found plenty to do and had a great time. I would absolutely choose this cruise again.