Review: The Carnival Breeze.
Well here it is, my first review of a cruise. As this in my first review, I have no idea what format I am going to use and just kind of going to make this up as I go along. In that respect this is like when you first step onto a new-to-you cruise ship. You wander around a bit at first and ultimately you’ll find your way around. Speaking of, boarding the Breeze was a breeze and so let’s start there, First with Impressions and general layout. After that we’ll move onto Food and Drink options. After that I think I would like to discuss the entertainment and recreational options. And finally a review of the crew and anything after thoughts I may have. Ok, so you ready to board? Have your ticket in hand? Let’s go check out the Carnival Breeze.
First Impression and general ship layout. Carnival’s Miami Terminal is well designed and efficient. Exterior appearance of the Breeze has your typical look for almost every Carnival Ship since the Destiny debuted. While the Spirit Class ships are a notable exception, the Carnival Breeze fits the more typical Destiny look almost perfectly. Slightly top heavy, a bit higher towards the forward section of the ship, almost all white and of course the signature Carnival smoke stack. She looks slightly bigger then a Conquest class when shes parked right next to one, but that said, not sure she would look bigger just by herself. At roughly 130,000 tons, the Breeze is not by any means the largest ship I have been on. She is part of Carnival’s largest class of ships, the Dream Class, and for once upon boarding this vessel, it did indeed feel spacious and grand to me in the interior. Bigger then I had expected, everything was wide. Wide hallways, through ways, public venues and open decks. One thing that jumped out to me immediately is that the pool deck is NOT terraced as was the case in some many previous classes of Carnival Cruise ships. IMO, terrace is bad! More on that later when I discuss recreation. The Carnival Breeze is also very easy to navigate. The decks are for the most part, a straight shot even keel from bow to stern and there are three banks of elevators evenly spread out; Forward, Mid, and Aft. The Forward elevators are the largest bank, with six regular elevators and 4 panoramic glass elevators. Though the forward bank has 10 all together, they are the hardest to catch. I often found myself taking the mid elevators, even if it was a slight detour, because it was just far less competitive to catch one of those.
The food court, AKA “The Market Place”, is an upgraded version of Carnival lido deck buffet, and is in addition to the pool decks eateries and bars. It is well laid out, large, and is made of several individual stations allowing for you to quickly go to what YOU want instead of standing in a one-line-for-all buffet. The state rooms are typically well size carnival staterooms, with possible exception regarding the inside staterooms. I peaked at a few and I did feel those were slightly smaller the inside staterooms of Carnival's other class of cruise ships; Fantasy, Sprint, Destiny, and Conquest. Maybe it was just the layout but those inside state rooms felt smaller to me. No additional seating area in the insides, just room for the queen bed.
The Spa on the other hand, spans two decks, had its own elevator and runs the full width of the ship in addition to going from the front all the way back to the first bank of elevators on both the decks it runs on. It is an expansive facility and the spa tour they provide on the first day gives a great overview of all the services and features. Warning, said tour does come with more then a fair bit of a sales push, but the sales pushes are more repetitive than high pressure.
Overall Carnival Breeze feels large and spacious, well laid out, and it's decor was indeed toned down yet still fun and creative. I heard a couple of rooms were still designed by Joe Farcus, and my guess would be those would have been the Casino and the Ovation Theatre. They still felt Farcus to me. But as I have enjoyed many of his other designs, this was also a non issue for me. Breeze of off to a strong start and overall I would give the ship’s first impression and general layout an A.
Food and Bars. In their regard I will start off with the negatives. One area of opportunity on the Carnival Breeze is late night food options are a little too limited. After 9 or 10 pm, your option become the 24 hour pizzeria and sometimes Tandoor café next door will also be servicing a few sandwich and finger food opportunities. The Pizzeria is much slower then my experience on previous Carnival Ships and many times the line was 10 minutes or longer. 24 hour rooms service is your other option but clearly that will be an even longer wait. That said, from breakfast though 6pm, the food options are bountifully and dare I say, inspired. Truth be said, I have always enjoy Carnival’s “food court” approach to the various dinning options of the lido deck (pool deck). Carnival Breeze has done a masterful job of upgrading that approach. During my six night cruise, I literally did not get to try everything I wanted to try. I knew with 2 full days left that some of it was going to have to be experience on future cruises. What an amazing array of options. The main part of the lido deck is an upgraded food court concept called “The Marketplace”. Here is where you will find the Carnival staples, the Mongolian Wok (made to order), Home sytle comfort foods (Buffet style), salad bar (Buffet style), deli sandwiches (made to order), dessert bar (two of them, both buffet sytle), and others. The area is also aesthetically pleasing and it manages to dampen sounds so that it not too loud as is the case in more typical cruise ship's “buffet area”. Like on other carnival ships, the each buffet is completely separate from the other. So if you want a salad you go to that area and if you want some comfort foods, you go to that area. Each is its own and this always helps to limit the lines and greatly decrease the time it takes to get your food. Even when busy, I never had a problem finding seating in this expansive dinning area. The area has the charm and warmth of an outdoor park even though it is completely indoors. In addition to this Market place, there are some fantastic food options out at both pools. The aft pool features the semi outdoors Pirate Pizza, an upgraded but slower 24 hour pizzeria. It also feature Tandoor, and Indian inspired menu (think curry and naan bread). The main pool, call the Beach Pool, has the Blue Iguana Cantina and Guy Burger Joint. The first serves customized tacos and burritos on made-fresh-before-your-eyes tortillas, and features a self serve salsa bar. The latter makes what must be thee best Burgers you will have on a Cruise ship, bar none! It also features a topping bar which is excellent. Also really good but on Sea Days only, is the Fat Jimmy's Sea Side BBQ, located on deck 5. Great Food and also draws crowds away from the main pool deck on sea days.
The main dinning rooms are nice and not gaudy at all. Blush is significantly more loud then the smaller Saphire dinning room. It was also significantly bigger and features wrap around windows that horse shoe around the aft of the ship providing spectacular views. The sea day brunch is served here and it is well worth the investment of time, the cost is included in the cruise. Menus for dinner at both venues are the same. Half the menu changes nightly and the other half remain as the "Carnival Classics". Its really more like 70/30 with 30 percent representing the nightly classics and the other 70 percent being new each night. Service in the dinning room, I felt, was a little too slow and food was just good. Not great, overall food was about a C+ or a solid B for dinner. So over all never had anything bad, but nothing that knocked my socks off either. But I will say it better then my experience with the main dinning room offerings of Carnival own Princess Cruise line. Surprised? I don't think I was surprised Carnival was better so much as I was disappointed Princess was worst. Back to Carnival and the Breeze......
The Breeze also has two specialty restaurants. The steak house Fahrenheit 555 and an lovely italian restaurant called Cucina De Capitano. Both have an additional fee for dinner but Cucina has a daily pasta bar lunch that is, like the Sea Day Brunch, complimentary. Come hungry if you go to either the Sea Day Brunch and or the Cucina Pasta Bar Lunch. Fahrenheit 555 was a bit of a hit and miss. My Onion Soup was fantastic, far superior to the one served in the main dinning room on a later date. Salad was a standard offering, and dessert was outstanding, but the steak itself did not meet my elevated expectations. It was good, but thats it. I ordered it medium and found it to be over cooked. The spice and herb "rub" I found to be flavor less, and so I was left with a 18oz cut of meat that was cooked, IMO, medium-well and just sort of fell short of my expectations. Again, not bad but I couldn't help by think that the smaller 9oz filet may have been the better choice and overall we experienced great service in 555. Lunch is a solid A, based on just Guy's Burger Joint alone, but then add in many other awesome eateries and the Breeze delivers a fantastic assortment of morning and afternoon dinning options. Dinner is a bit more of a hit or miss hovering somewhere between a C and B.
Coming in at a rock solid A are the bars of the Breeze. Red Frog as two establishments. On the promenade deck is the Red Frog Pub, which also serves for fee food. On the main pool deck, on one said of the beach pool is the Red Frog rum bar! On the other side of the pool is the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, not to be confused with the aforementioned Blue Iguana Cantina. As you imagine the Red Frog Rum bar gets its own following separate from that of the Blue Iguana Tequila bar's following, but its all in good fun. Are you a red frog or a blue iguana? Visit both and decide for yourself. In addition to these is the Piano Bar, on this cruise it featured the outstandingly entertaining Ben the Piano man (look up his facebook). Serenity Adults only area also has a bar and that one even serves light lunch, so if you don't want to leave the area you don't have to. After factoring in the Bars, even with some areas of opportunity for Dinner, the Breeze Food and Bar options come in as a highlight of the cruise and while I am not quite ready to award the ship an A in this category do to some weakness in the dinner and late night offerings, I am going to give it a B.... Plus! B+ over all in Food and Bars.
Entertainment and Recreation. This is another area with the Breeze excels. The live musician scattered around the ship, really are entertaining and talented. The aforementioned Ben the Piano Man builds such a strong following that when he took a night off, his fans wanders around the ship somewhat daze and lonely. The Atrium has a small stage with nightly live entertainment and the girl in this two piece band had a set of pipes on her just waiting for a talent agent to discover her. Ocean Plaza also featured a great band. However one area that didn't seem to be firing on all cylinders the the main production shows.
These shows are now staged by a company Carnival calls "Playlist Productions". The staging is minimal physical sets but it features super high definition led screens that soar up to three decks in height. They can place the performers in just about any time and place. There are 8 performers, four men and for women and all must both sing and dance. The concept is good but the execution needs help and in it's current format, Playlist fails to delivery the wow that a so many other cruise line's production shows are currently doing. Talent is a major issue as all eight were skilled enough dancers but honesty none of of them were vocal stand outs. Of the 8, only two the guys I would rate as good singers while the rest were just okay and sometimes bordering on pour. In the end, the group's vocal talent was average to a fault and was doing Carnival no favors. I would add two more performers because too often, even with all eight on the stage, the stage looked empty. A hazard, no doubt, of having only 8 performs on a full size stage with minimal physical set design. 8 or 10, either way they could keep the premise they they all must be able to sing and dance, but allow for 2 or 4 of them to lead the way singing and the rest can sing back up while being outstanding dancers.
For recreation the Breeze has the massive Cloud nine Spa, Sport court, thrill theater, at least 8 hot tubs that I can remember, two pools, and water park! Both water slides are loads of fun but you have to know how to ride a water slide. Yes, there is a right way to do such a thing. Some of my friends would go so slowly down the slide, they got zero enjoyment out of it. I flew through them both. The drain pipe, which ends in an endless circle of which you eventually stop and exit though the middle of, I could get almost a full two loops around after shooting out of the pipe. The twister slide I could get going so fast that I would literally get up after the splash down and be slightly dizzy. It was awesome! It ranks as the first water slide that I could get Dizzy on, its very long and has lots of turns and maneuvers.
On many Carnival Ships, the pools can be a maze of viewing terraces and complex batch of sun chairs and stairs. Instead the Carnival Breeze features a remarkably well balance pool deck, large and spacious and count em, three decks high. Gone are any signs of a terrace around the main “Beach” pool. The ship is wide and I think more then anything, this is what leads to the ship feeling big. The pool deck itself is flanked by several fantastic food and bar options, at least one in each corner of the main pool deck. Even being surround 360 degrees by two upper decks, the main pool deck gets plenty of sun and yet limited wind effects. The first upper deck is great for catching some of the ocean breezes while also providing a wonderfully shaded yet elevated vantage point of the pool deck below. It also features upgraded pool deck furniture. And then there is the top most desk, also surrounds the pool 360 degrees, and provided full access to both the Sun and the ocean breezes in addition to more great vantage points for viewing the pool deck below. They will often host deck parties and fun events on this pool deck and having two decks that completely surround the pool makes this the easiest pool deck I have every been on to get an good vantage point. And it really does have thee best selection of Bars and Food stands of any pool deck I have been on. Red is here, Blue is here, Guy is here, and so is the Cantina. You may have heard the pool is tiny and here I disagree. It looks like your standard full size swimming pool you would find on most cruise ships, but it is a little dwarfed by the overall size of the entire pool deck. The pool itself has many benches and seats around it where you may sit and wade in ankle deep water. Forward of the pool and yet a third deck up is the water park, which if you don't mind getting wet, get up there for the views! Just aft the of main pool is the elevated Ropes course, a two level Mini Golf course, and yet another bar, the sports bar of course! The mini Golf was the most creative and challenging mini golf I ever experienced on a cruise ship the Rope course is a lot a fun and can be a daring challenge. There is the easier way around and a more difficult way around. There was one challenge on the rope course that actually had my heart racing a bit while I did it, but in end it was just plain fun with a great view. Another plus was it has a high capacity, many can do it at one time and they can load and unload guests from the course quickly. The only bummer is two of the portions of the course were closed, and I would have enjoyed begin able to experience them. The aft pool has a fantastic view of the ships wake as the decks horse shoe around it with the open end facing the wake. This pool also sports two hot tubs, A bar, the 24 hour Pizzeria, and the Tandor cafe. Its not adults only but it definitely had a more grown up vibe to it. For Recreation and Entertainment, I would also give the Breeze a B+, and could be an A if they can tweak and improve Playlist Productions.
Overall the crew was friendly and helpful, though I did meet one grumpy bartender in the atrium bar, and the spa staff was polite but less then helpful. If you have a concern, do not speak to them about it, they will just say "sorry" and smile at you. They will take no corrective action even when prompted to do so. Instead let Carnival guest services desk be your advocate. There were a few hick ups at the beginning of my cruise and they made it all right. It had nothing to do with giving me money or a credit, and everything to do with just following up and making sure the expectations of the service were met. In the end I found a desire to go on this ship again. I seem to have giving it a B or B+ overall. But I must add Carnival provides tremendous value for your cruise dollar and what they provide for the price paid is outstanding and excellent. A definite A+ on value.