We arrived at the Miami cruise port at 11:15am. Porters out front were helpful with the bags and the operation seemed very well organized. We began the check-in process which moved along swiftly. First a security ID check, carry on bag scan and on to pick up our Sail and Sign card (10 min wait.) We were on board by 11:45. Lunch was being served in the Lido Marketplace on deck 10. We were told rooms would be available by 12 noon. We proceed immediately up the winding gangway and onto the ship.
We entered the ship on the midship lobby. Straight ahead was the lobby bar and a DJ was playing music from a platform above the bar. It seemed like the party was already started on the fun ship. It is a large ship but spread out and as the ship filled up throughout the afternoon, the common areas never seemed too crowded. The ship seemed clean and nicely detailed although some of the carpet on the stairwell landings seemed pretty worn, which was surprising based on it's age. The decor seemed tasteful and not overly flash but had a modern flair.
We spent the early afternoon on deck, having a snack and beverage. They had live music on deck, that was excellent. The song variety was a pleasure, the arrangements unique and the voice of the performer, stunning. Later we would find this performer was Angie who we would enjoy throughout the cruise at the Red Frog pub.
Lido Buffet. We tried breakfast and lunch here. For breakfast, they had an extremely large variety of cold cereal and milk at the start of the line. It seemed like they were pushing this option. Next was a selection of fruit, mostly melon and whole fruits. No pineapple, strawberries or mixed fruit cocktail. For hot food they had an omelette bar. We did not try this option because the line was always outrageously long and slow moving. Scrambled eggs were inedible. They had the consistency of lumpy oatmeal and had no taste. Bacon was distributed by a server a couple slices at a time (saving costs?). Other options varied by day such as link sausages, pancakes, and potatoes, however most of the food was only luke warm and was tasted sub par.
Lido buffet lunch consisted of cold cuts, as well as hot comfort options like meatloaf, fried chicken, chicken tenders and a carved meat station plus sides. The food tasted like average buffet fare. Our favorite was the fried chicken.
Mongolian Wok - Tasty option. There were two stations set up with lines on either side and two cooks running two electric woks each. They needed about 3 more cooks to meet demand. Lines were extremely long throughout the lunch period which ran from noon until 2:30pm and the lines were extremely slow moving. We endured the line twice, with the average wait about 40 minutes. Stir fry was good, it was guaranteed to be hot and you get to choose your veggies, up to three meats, noodles and sauces.
Guys Burgers - available noon-6, they were extremely good and the station was well run. The lines moved quickly and they had an awesome fixins bar which included the standard options and then some great not so standard options. Fries were tasty. Not always hot. They were not over generous with them, but would give you more if you asked.
Tandoori Grill - offered a variety of indian dishes which were flavorful but not particularly hot (temperature wise.) This was only open for limited lunch and the station served hot dogs and sandwiches in the evening.
Pizza Station is located by the aft pool and runs 24 hours. They make small made to order thin crust pizzas they slice into quarters. The serving is two quarters and you have to finish that before they will give you more. Options most days were pepperoni, mixed cheeses with a white garlic sauce and a margarita pizza. All were good. They seemed to continuously have them cooking, but there were usually still lines and it took about 10 minutes to get a serving. The pizza was delicious and we even had this for breakfast one morning because the food in the Lido buffet did not look at all appetizing and the lines were crazy slow.
Blue Iguana Burrito Bar is located by the mid pool and was open during early breakfast hours offering made to order breakfast burritos consisting of a couple different tortillas, veggies, meats and two different types of scrambled eggs.
For lunch they offered made to order burritos and tacos. Lines seemed to move relatively quickly. This station only seemed to be manned during the start of breakfast and start of lunch and then only stayed open for a couple hours. We often missed this because they close early but tried it once and enjoyed the food. We would have liked to see this as an option throughout the entire meal periods.
We would have liked to see all of the casual dining options available for more hours to meet varied schedules. Guys would have been great from 11a-11p. Burritos and Tandoori opened for the entire lunch hour, and we would have liked to have seen the lunch hour extended until 3 or 4. Again, to meet varying schedules.
Main Dining Room
Breakfast was served in the Blush dining room as alternative to continental room service breakfast or the Lido buffet. We had a cook to order breakfast on the last day, it was hot, fresh. The hottest meal we had on the cruise. Would highly recommend this over the Lido buffet. Too bad we didn't try it earlier. We were seated immediately, and served in minutes.
We didn't try the dining room for lunch
We tried the "Your Time" dining which takes place in the Sapphire dining room, lower level. Reservations are not taken and is first come, first served. We opted to eat early to avoid lines, but even when leaving around 7pm, the lines didn't seem very long. Our first night we had an excellent waiter named Pocholo. We requested him each night. The variety of options were good, however the execution was only fair (not Pocholo's fault.) The food seemed like it had been prepared some time ago and was usually luke warm and soggy. None of the food wowed us, even the lobster on lobster night was small and mushy. The service however was exceptional. Would have to grade MDR dinner at C- for food quality, A+ for service.
Chef's Table - We requested to participate in the Chef's Table, which costs $75 per person. This was quite a step down in experience to Chef's Tables we have had on other lines. The dinner wasn't exceptional or substantial in quantity or quality. It was prepared elsewhere in the galley and delivered to us. The food seemed to be similar in preparation and quality as that in the MDR. Although we were in the galley, we were situated far away from being able to observe all the action. Definitely would not recommend this. Grade C- in general, but D when you factor in the cost. Specialty dining a better choice I expect.
Steakhouse 555 - We had reservations but canceled when we got Chef's Table the same night. Would do the steakhouse next time. A cooking demo held there on a sea day was coupled with mini tastings of everything demoed. This was excellent. Can only imagine dinner…
Production Shows - Shows didn't seem to be heavily attended and were not very "big". They usually made use of prerecorded music and had no elaborate sets or impressive choreography. Singing was average. We tried a couple of these, but didn't attend all. On the final night they did have a live band in the production which was nice but the entire show seemed uninspired. Not up to entertainment we've seen other ships. Would have to grade these a C.
Trivia and Game Shows - Hasbro the Game Show was held in the large Ovation theatre in the front of the ship in sea day afternoons. It was well attended but we didn't find it particularly special. It did offer good audience participation however. Would grade this B-
Other Trivia was pretty average and the hosts were not very entertaining. Just reading the questions and going through the motions. Have to grade this C-
Saving the best for last, the highlight of the entertainment had to be the guitar performers in the lounges, particularly artist Angie Keilhauer who performed for several evenings in the Red Frog Pub and on deck on embarkation day. She is an talented performer exceeding the abilities of many artists on the charts today. A powerful expressive voice, masterful command of her instrument. She knows an amazing catalog of music of many genres with unique arrangements. She also writes and performs her own songs. We found her one of the most personable staff we encountered on the Breeze. After ten minutes she made you feel like she was a long lost friend and spent her breaks mingling with the audience. "Amazing" doesn't do her justice. She is the gem of the Breeze. Angie owned this pub when she performed and you could hear the audience chanting "Angie - Angie…" down the hall between numbers. Would have to grade this A++
Bars - The bars were well manned and served a variety of beer on tap, bottled/canned beers and premium liquors (no no-name rail brands.) Grade: A (with cheers) B- if not on cheers and enjoy specialty cocktails that set will set you back 8.95+gratuity.
They had several specialty bars on deck (Tequila bar and Rum bar) which we enjoyed. They had their own menu of custom drinks and beer selection. Grade: A
On the lower decks, were several other specialty bars:
Library bar which featured automated wine dispensers. Quiet area to read.
Red Frog Pub which again had a specialty menu including pub food and live guitar music. The food was extra, but only $3.33 per order and it was definitely worth it. Also featured here was a specialty brew: Thirsty Frog which was a favorite by the pint or pitcher. A stand out bar server was Karaoke. Ask for him. Ask him to make a "sweet harmony" beverage or a Karaoke shot. You won't be sorry. Grade: A++
Cheers Beverage Program
We signed up for the Cheers program which entitles you to 15 alcoholic beverages including wine by the glass (with a value under $10/each) per day plus unlimited non alcoholic drinks including sodas. It doesn't include specialty coffees.
Cheers isn't for everyone, you really have to do the math and figure out how much and of what you think you will be ordering to figure out if you are likely to break even. If we had a lot of port days off the ship on excursions, we probably wouldn't do it again. But it's a nice way to control your costs if you plan on drinking a lot. It's all about the math. Grade: A (nice to have the option)
Cabin - The cabin was ready by noon on embarkation day as promised. The cabin felt spacious. Balcony seemed small. Dispensers in the shower had shampoo and shower gel. A tip: hit the dispenser buttons hard and fast to get the product to flow, short, gentle pushes and you will be there all day. Bed was comfortable. Room was reasonably maintained. Grade: B
Staff - The staff was generally polite but unremarkable. They did not go out of their way to speak to passengers, to smile, or get to know your name or make you feel special. They did perform their functions well. Many would pass and not acknowledge you. This was quite different than what we have experienced on other lines. Most areas seemed well staffed with the exception of the casual dining stations which all seemed to need more staff to meet demand. There were a few notable exceptions: Blagica, a bartender at the Ocean Breeze bar on deck 5 Pocholo, a waiter in the Sapphire dining room. All of the servers at the Red Frog Pub who were exceptionally friendly and contributed greatly to the local pub feel. Angie, the guitar performer at the Red Frog.
Now that we have finished our first cruise with Carnival on one of their newest fun ships, we are left with the feeling, in general, it left quite a bit to be desired. We found the overall experience to be average and in many ways disappointing compared to other lines even on older ships. However, we can see that for families with children and for people on a tight budget, this vacation does offer a reasonable bang for the buck. We also found there were high points: the Punchliner comedians and especially the Red Frog Pub experience: the staff and Angie who ended up making this cruise memorable. We would consider Carnival in the future and are sure that others will enjoy the Breeze.