Back from the Carnival Breeze 4th of July cruise. 6/30-7/6
We just returned from a great cruise on the Carnival Breeze. We sailed with a group of 12 ranging in ages from 1yr -77yrs. Several were first time cruisers. This was my 21st cruise. (You could say I’ve reached the legal age of cruising now. :D I've sailed on NCL, Carnival, RCCL, Princess, HAL, Celebrity, MSC, Norwegian and Disney.
Overall impressions – Our group had a nice time. I’ve never met a cruise I didn’t like and this was no exception. There were a few little things but none that affected my overall experience. I think the most interesting thing is that our first-timers liked cruising but didn’t want to sail Carnival again. I guess I was expecting that a more experienced cruiser might be critical of Carnival but newbies that had nothing to compare it to wouldn’t be as discriminating. It was sort of the opposite.
Pre-Cruise- We flew in from Atlanta before the cruise. I bid on Priceline for a room in Ft. Lauderdale. We got the Courtyard Marriot Dania Beach. It was a great stay. It was your standard Courtyard. The manager also sent a large shuttle bus to pick up our group of 5, solely so we didn’t need a car seat. They gave us adjoining rooms, placed all of our party nearby, accommodated our double bed requests (not guaranteed when you use Priceline) and allowed us to check in early. We stay in this area a lot when we cruise because it is so close to stores, restaurants and entertainment. It did not disappoint. We ate and shopped the remainder of the evening.
We typically use QLS to transport us to Miami pier. This time I tried South Florida Shuttles. Thanks to our newest addition to the family we require an infant seat again. SFS advertises that all their vans are equipped with a car seat and a booster. Since I didn’t want to lug my infant seat this was important to us. They charged a little bit more, tacked on a port fee and mandatory 20% gratuity. They also require you to pre-pay the return trip something else I didn’t like. It was only worth it for the car seats. If I didn’t need the seats I would use someone else in the future. Our experience was mixed. The driver showed up 30 minutes late, they had the seats with them but neither was installed. By the time we waited for him to install the seat and load the bags we were about an hour passed our pick up time. They weren’t off to a good start.
Embarkation- No problems to speak of. We arrived about 11:00. We walked right through security and up to check-in despite the fact that our check in time wasn’t until 1pm. We had completed our paper work online, so the only thing we had to do was get our room key. It was about noon-ish before they begin boarding.
Cabins- Staterooms were ready when we boarded. We went by to ditch our pack and play and lots of other baby gear. The cabins were nice. We booked an inside 4B and we were upgraded to a Deluxe OV 6M (Cabin 1250). Gotta love all the price drops we had this sailing. ? It was kind of nice to have separate bathrooms with bathtubs where 2 could shower simultaneously. Lots of storage in this cabin. Had tons of space which says a lot because we bring a lot of stuff for our toddler. My oldest (6yrs) loved what she called her “bay window clubhouse”. She put blankets and pillows in the area surrounding our window and made a clubhouse out of it! ?
Food- I would say that food was on par with most lines. Some dishes were better than others. BUT OH THE LINES! I missed our Facebook/Cruise Critic meeting because I just got to the table to finally eat when it was time to meet them. The Lido deck lunch during embarkation was really bad. The worst I’ve seen. I’ve sailed many mega ships before. Even on Oasis I didn’t encounter lines like I did frequently in the Lido area. Lunches there were long most of the time if we weren’t in port. On sea days we got up and had breakfast in the Sapphire (something we rarely do) just to avoid the waits for food. I also had pizza and went to Tandoor sometimes to avoid the crowds to eat. We found that going late to Lido, just before it closes was best to avoid waits. Really enjoyed the burgers at Guys. The Blue Iguana was so-so. I liked the Taste Bar, always had nice soups and great salsa and chips. I also enjoyed the BBQ place in Ocean Plaza (the name eludes me). We dined in Cucina del Capitano one night. The food was good but IMO no better than our local Macaroni Grill. The service was good though. $12 for adults $5 for under 11. They did charge for my tot. A few in our group went to the steakhouse. They said the food there was great.
Service- I found service to be worse than we have experienced on most cruises. I found myself really missing Celebrity here. We loved our room steward “J”. Our dining servers left much to be desired though. In their defense I really think they had a lot of tables. They made no attempt at small talk the entire cruise. Usually dining attendants anticipate our needs by the second or third day. Nope! We were still asking to bring fruit/bread immediately to entertain our toddler even at the end of the week. My brother ordered drinks several times that were never brought to him. Also, my father is on dialysis. So in each port he has to go to the dialysis facility for treatment. When he returns he is often weak and needs wheelchair assistance. They wanted to charge us $120 to use a wheelchair. We have NEVER paid to use a wheelchair on a cruise. We’ve even had cruise lines go above and beyond and call the clinic to confirm that he arrived safely. Carnival did nothing. I realize they were under no obligation to do this. However, the little things make the difference between average service and excellent service.
Really loved the welcome back party. Free drinks and appetizers from the specialty restaurants. I also liked the Cruise Director Butch and his assistant. I’m still partial to John Heald, but they were fun and genuinely nice which I imagine is very difficult when you have to smile and be energetic cruise after cruise.
Entertainment/Shows- I thought the shows weren’t great at all. None in our group were impressed. The singers were off key at some points, totally butchering some of the songs they sang. I found myself wondering what Simon Cowell would say. ? The comedy show was alright, not as great as I remembered from the Destiny. The ropes course was fun. My 6yr old was tall enough to go (min height 4ft). However, when I saw her eyes widen like saucers as we got closer to our turn, I played it safe and left her with her grandparents. I’m glad I did because we saw several terrified kids, about her age, that held up the line and refused to go any further. I did both the easier and the hard side. I didn’t think there was all that much difference between the two. It was difficult to find open though. Wind, kept it closed most of the time. When we finally saw it open we waited about an hour to do the course. If your heart is set on this go when you see it open. You may not get the chance again.
Loved the Hasbro game shows. I was even pulled on stage to participate. Our red team won. We got gift cards to Hasbro. Lots of fun. Went to several of the dance classes. Enjoyed those too. The pool side parties were crowded and lively. Carnival always delivers on the fun and the nightlife. Most ships are asleep by 11ish but Carnival was still going into the early morning. Also loved the 4D theater. The squeals of delight on my 6yrs old face made it a worthwhile expense. I had hoped we’d see some fireworks since it was the 4th of July. That was such a great touch on Disney. Instead there was a deck party where they handed out patriotic favors.
Disembarkation- No issues here. We left awhile after our deck was called. We are never in a hurry to leave a cruise. When we got off, we found our luggage circling and were able to get through customs in about 15 minutes. South Florida Shuttles arrived on time to pick us up. We had an uneventful return back. If we hadn’t had a positive experience on the return, I think it might be back to QLS for us. However, like I said, not having to tote the car seats was a huge draw.
Kid's Club- I thought the kid's club was great. Camp Carnival as usual didn’t disappoint. The facilities weren’t as great as RCL or Disney but they do know how to keep the kids entertained.
Key West- It was raining off and on the entire day. Since we had been to Key West several times before, we stayed on the ship. Usually it is nice to stay on the ship on port days because everyone else is off of the ship. However, because of the messy weather, I think everyone had the same idea. Several others in our group did venture off but they returned quickly. My brother and his wife even cancelled their ships tour because they did not want to get wet. Even though the tour was advertised as “rain or shine” they got a full refund. I thought this was a nice gesture.
Grand Turk- We booked a ship’s tour. I rarely ever book ships tours. I scoured the boards to try and find and independent dune buggy tour and couldn’t. There was only Chukka who offered this tour. I even contacted them directly prior to sailing. They sent me pricing information and everything. I initially gave them the week of our sailing instead of the exact day we would be docked. Hoping that they would assume I was staying on the island and not on a cruise ship. I was prepared to give them a name of local hotel that I was staying at. When I replied with my information to book the tour they said I had to go through the cruise ship. How did they know? Could it be that Carnival provides them with a roster of their cruisers?????? At any rate the price difference was only about $10 pp so I sucked it up and booked directly through Carnival. I’m glad we did because the tour was AWESOME. The highlight of our trip. It was a great way to see Turks. Note if you are sensitive to being jostled this is the wrong tour for you. I think every pot hole and every rock was on our course. Off-roading gave me the chance to see parts of Grand Turk that I didn’t get to see the last time we were here. They were 2 person buggies. After I started off on the right hand side of the street, I quickly remembered that they drive on the left here! :D You also get very dusty if there has been no rain so be prepared.
Nassau- I've been to Nassau countless times. I’ve been visiting Nassau so long I remember when Atlantis and all of its amenities were free. I have a niece who lives there so we see more of Nassau then I ever care to. We got off briefly to shop and visit with my niece. Then it was back to the ship. Several members of our party did the submarine tour and they spoke highly of it.
Again it was a great cruise. Will it go down in history as one of my favorites….no. However, every opportunity to cruise is a blessing and I have yet to have one cruise I didn’t like. I would book Carnival again, but the next one I think will be RCL’s Quantam or NCLs’ Breakaway/Getaway. It’s time to get to work planning the next one. It’s the best cure for my PCD (Post cruise Depression)!