This is the 3rd year in a row we've cruised over the Thanksgiving break, and this year easily met the bar set by our cruise on the Freedom two years ago. While the Legend was slightly disappointing last year, the Breeze redeemed Carnival in our eyes.
Booking: We booked through CruiseQuick for the second year in a row, as they were showing this same cruise for less than Carnival (or anyone else's) site. Like last year, no problems whatsoever. I wouldn't hesitate to use them again in the future.
The port: The terminal Breeze is at in Miami is pretty nice, at least compared to Lauderdale and Tampa. My only real complaint is the cost for reliable parking. My parents, who were on this cruise with us, stayed at La Quinta Inn East leading up to the cruise, and as a result could have hooked us up with parking, but we decided not to make use of it for a number of reasons, the main one being that we knew we had a 12 hour drive to get home when we returned, and we didn't want to waste any time waiting for the shuttle. That left us with parking lots near the port, and after reading plenty of reviews, decided just to suck it up and pay for the deck across from the terminal. Expensive, but easy and quick.
Before I get to the ship, I'll mention that we also had Faster to the Fun for the first time, and found it to be worth it. Being Gold level on Carnival, it gave a few added perks that higher level cruisers get. We also got it for my parents, so they weren't stuck watching us get on early :). With it, we were able to get on pretty quickly after they started boarding, which we loved, as it basically made that first day another sea day. Our cabin was also ready when we got on ~11:30am, so we were able to drop our carry-on bags right away.
The ship: We've never cruised on a boat that could carry this many passengers (on any line), so we were all a little worried it might feel too crowded. Honestly, there were very few times we felt that way over the course of the 8 days. We rarely had to wait for an elevator, and for the most part, the food lines on Lido weren't bad, outside of the Mongolian and omlette stations, and the pizza line. Honestly, I agree with everyone else who's complained about that last one. We hit the pizza station one night at ~7pm while in port in Curacau, and the line was 30min long. We saw those kind of waits on multiple occasions. They really need to put more people and pizza ovens back there and maybe crank out the common pizzas (pepperoni, cheese) during peak hours. Outside of that, no complaints on the ship. We did the ropes course, waterslides, and loved them all. We enjoyed the Breeze far more than we did the Legend last year. Also loved the new decor, it's a nice departure from the style present on the older ships.
Our room: We were in a spa ocean view, room 11203. I can't begin to describe how much we liked the room. Before I talk about it, I'll say that it appears to be meant for handicapped patrons, as it's larger than most rooms to accommodate things like mobility scooters. Honestly, I didn't realize this until about a week before the cruise. CruiseQuick didn't show that when I chose the room on booking, and on Carnival's site I never got prompted with anything indicating it was until I went to change the bed layout to 'king' the week before the cruise, and had they contacted us, we'd have been happy to move to accommodate someone who did need it. That said, the location and size were great. It was like a normal hotel room size-wise, had a larger bathroom, and is right by a door to the deck 11 "secret deck", which we made use of every day. The window in the room was pretty big, too, and provided a great view. We did make use of the spa amenities that came with the room as well, visiting (and enjoying) the saunas. I'd book a spa room in a heartbeat again. Like our cruise on the Freedom, being up top is great. It's a quick walk out to Lido, and when getting off the ship, much easier to get an elevator with all of your luggage since you're up top, where the likelihood of an elevator coming down already full is slim.
The staff: Awesome. We were disappointed in this area last year, but absolutely loved the staff this time around. I'd emailed the maître d about a week before, asking if it was possible for our group to be seated in a specific area of the Blush dining room, and he was able to make it happen. Our table staff (Wes, Roman and Caesar), were great as well. Our room steward, Roderick, was excellent, and always around if you needed anything. The only thing that was so-so was the CD. Again, Brad set a high bar on the Freedom, and Pete didn't come close this year. Much like last year's CD on the Legend, we hardly ever saw him, as most things seemed to be run by his staff. The CD doesn't make or break a cruise for us, and frankly Brad is the only one we remember from the past 8 cruises, just wanted to mention it. The comedy club director, Bethan, was great though. Very funny, involved, and frankly I think we saw her at more stuff than the CD. Hated to see her having to put up with some cruisers who just don't understand manners outside of the comedy club and were trying to cut the line, and was pretty happy to see her having security deal with them.
The food: I get why people state that the quality of the dining room and buffet food has gone down, in some regards we felt that way this year, too. I'm hoping the menu changes just announced are able to fix this. The Funship 2.0 stuff was pretty good, though. I enjoyed more than one delicious Pig Patty at Guy's, and my wife and I both loved the Blue Iguana food. I'm a bit picky when it comes to burritos, and generally prefer ground beef in mine, so I was a bit disappointed when I saw that they only had steak as the red meat option. On trying it, however, I found it to be delicious.
The shows/activities: The shows were hit or miss. We loved the hypnotist, and attended both shows that night, but weren't really jazzed on the production shows. We did enjoy watching Hasbro, seemed like everyone playing was having a blast. On the activities, it seemed something was always going on, including a ton of trivia. We only played a small handful of trivia events this year, namely because someone from two cruises ago was on this again, and frankly playing with him just isn't fun (which several other participants and one of the hosts seemed to agree with). There's no reason at all to argue with other passengers and the host over whether or not the answer given was accurate, you're playing for a plastic trophy, and you're on a cruise. That, and Carnival needs to change up the questions from time to time, as repeat cruisers can easily memorize the answers. People take this stuff way to seriously when they're on vacation :). I also played in a couple of the beanbag toss tournaments and had a blast. Alex did a really good job hosting the stuff we attended. Very glad to see Carnival constantly running activities all week. We also attended a few comedy shows, finding Percy Crews II and Tommy Drake very funny. If you go to the comedy shows, get there early, that club is too small for the size of boat it's in.
Kids’ activities: Another year where my 17yo daughter had a blast in O2 and made a bunch of new friends. She loved the girl running O2, Stacy.
The Itinerary: For the most part, loved it. We enjoyed each stop, but would have liked to be in port in Curacao all day (8-5) vs the 2pm-11pm we were there. The shops all seem to shut down at 6pm, so if you do a tour when you first get there, don't plan on doing much shopping after. Outside of that, all 4 stops were absolutely beautiful, and you can read my port reviews to see what we did and what we thought. On the sea days, we loved them, especially having two sea days on the end. You get a full day to relax after the ports without having to worry about packing.
All in all, it was a great week that provided a ton of memories. Great ship, great staff and great stops! None of us wanted to get off, and we'd cruise this ship and this itinerary again in a heartbeat.