We are a couple in our early 40's, world travellers and this was our 13th cruise having previously travelled with Carnival, Celebrity, NCL and Royal Caribbean. This was a trip for our 20th wedding anniversary and due to a family illness our original plans were cancelled and we booked this cruise about 6 weeks before departure (very late for us!).
We left home in central FL on the Wednesday before the cruise and enjoyed 3 nights in Key Largo at the Hilton Key Largo. Our second stay there, had some issues but overall it's a good hotel (see a separate review. Had a relaxing few days prior to the cruise and visited Key West.
We did get the e mail from Carnival asking us to arrive at the port after 1.30 but we chose to head up early and arrived at about 11.00am. We were originally going to save a few bucks and park off site but having read reviews and then driving in and seeing the off site parking places I'm glad we didn't. Venture a few blocks from the port area and you are in a not nice area and we chose to park at the port ($20 per day) and am relieved we did. Having said that Miami is a nightmare port (we live and hour from Port Canaveral and it's just so easy to cruise from there) there is so much construction and signage is non existent. On our way out of the port we somehow got lost and had to ask a cop for directions!!
Anyway parking was easy in the multi level garage across from the terminal and we walked over to check in which from car to ship was painless and maybe took 20 mins total! Great!
We usually like balcony cabins with afts being our favorite. Unfortunately non available so we thought we'd try a cove cabin. Am not a fan of the lower decks and the cove's are located on deck 2. But we loved it! Being set back into the hull the balcony is very private and quiet. Cabin was usual Carnival layout with plenty of storage and nice new more muted decor. Not sure what happened with the little bathroom trial freebies, they seem to have diminished significantly! Cabin was kept well maintained throughout the cruise and we made lots of use of the balcony.
The ship in the new decor is extremely nice and here's something odd. We cruised on the dream back in 2010 when it was still pretty new and this ship is essentially the same layout but we found the dream to feel really cramped. Somehow with the 2.0 upgrades and slight changes the Breeze feels so much better. The island theme decor is really nice and I especially likes the revamped lido deck which had lost it's "school cafeteria" feel. There was always plenty of sunbeds available and we loved deck 5 with the various bars and cafes and outdoor seating.
Dining was overall much improved on other Carnival experiences (we did a Canada and New England cruise on the Glory in 2011 and food was terrible). We tried the Steakhouse twice, Cucina Capitano twice and the MDR on other nights. We usually opt for late seating but got bumped to my time as we booked late. What a nightmare that was. The first night we waited an hour for a table. When we finally were seated at out "table for 2" that was really a 6 seat table that had been pulled in to 3 and the tables were literally no more than 6 inches apart - not quite the romantic, intimate table I was looking for! We got moved tables and then we and the table next to us waited over 15 mins before anyone even spoke to us. Then we finally ordered, we had to ask for water and bread refills. Not one server greeted us or gave us their name. Wow never had a worse experience on a ship. Dinner took over 2 hours and we gave up on ever getting coffee! DH asked to speak to the Matre D, 40 mins and 3 more requests later he arrived!! We were moved to another table and got the same server for the remainder of the cruise (John from India) who was wonderful!
Entertainment - we like the shows usually, but not a fan of the new format of short half hour shows and so little entertainers (sorry ladies weren't very good singers either) We missed some shows and it seemed really lacking in variety and we were a little disappointed. Never got the comedy club - lines always too long - they need to listen to guests and move these shows to the lounge! Butch and his crew were very visible and energetic and I felt he was genuine in his loyalty to Carnival and seemed to really like all the crazy cruisers!
Ports: Grand Turk - We did the Island trolley tour independently with Doug and at $25.00 each was a great way to see the Island.
La Romana - we did a Carnival tour the the river and a made up Mediterranean style village (OK I'm a bit snobby about the village as I am European and have seen the real thing!) It's pretty and offers amazing views. The boat ride was fun with rum and dancing and a guy chopping and offering coconuts!
Curacao - We opted independant here and went on an island tour with Irie tours - again cheap ($20 each) way to see the island on an open air bus. Informative and fun. Don;t miss views over the harbour from the bridge on the tour - amazing. Quick stroll around and over the swing bridge - shops close early here so no shopping but there are bars and shops in the Fort area near the port.
Aruba - my favorite port. We did an off road jeep tour through Carnival (I checked ABC tours website and price was almost identical so went the Carnival route) This was a great fun ride through some rough terrain, down to the natural bridge, Ostrich farm, lighthouse and church and about 45 mins at the beach. The ride was great fun and the guides great. Aruba is a pretty island, with beaches and peaks and cliffs a little more interesting than the other stops.
Debarkation was easy. We did self assist and were called about 7.30am by 8.00 we were in the car and on the road (after some help from the local sheriff's dept!)
Overall a great time was had and looking forward to the Legend out of Tampa in Jan. The Breeze seems like a big departure from the usual Carnival ship and it's a great improvement.
One final gripe and I think all the lines offering this will have to address this. DH paid and bought the soda package on day 1 as he's a non drinker I was told I could do the cheers program the next day. When I tried to do it you have to pay for everyone in the cabin. Whilst I appreciate they don't want sharing this meant I couldn't sign up for the program and drink prices seem to have gone way up on Carnival. Spoke with a VERY rude bar Manager that guest services referred us to who said "whatever if you don't like it don't do it", so I asked him didn't he want my custom ($440 for the week) and he responded "no". Mmmmmmmm not happy especially when he raised his voice at me!! Really - customer service????????