Port/Embarkation: First, we made a trip to a store to pick up a few things for the cruise that we didn’t bring with us like sun block, liquid hand soap, hangers, wine, coke, and bottled water. We arrived at the port of Miami around 10:30am and were given the last zone 2 card for boarding. Passengers were still disembarking the ship when we arrived and continued to disembark until 11:30am! Boarding began right around noon and went quickly. We bypassed the photo opportunity and we were on board before many in zone 1. I immediately went to the shore excursion desk and signed up for the Behind the Fun tour and was the first to sign up. (It also wasn’t advertised at all throughout the cruise, so I’m assuming that it filled up quickly.)
Room: When we boarded, we went right to our room to see if it was ready, and it was. We had an “interior” room in front of the ship with a window, 7201. Our view was pretty much the same as front of ship camera. It was mandatory that our curtain was closed after dark, but that really wasn’t an issue because there wasn’t anything to see. There was a small deck in front of our window, but few people knew about it, so rarely was anyone on it. The room was an average size.
Ship: We loved, loved, loved the Breeze as a ship! The blues and greens for the décor all over the Breeze is a huge improvement from the older Carnival ships. Also the tropical décor of the hallways was a vast improvement! This was our first Carnival ship with the 2.0 improvements…I think it would be hard to sail again on a ship without them! Butch, the cruise director was one of the best we’ve ever had and the entertainment staff was great too!
Christmas: Because this was the sailing that covered Christmas, free champagne was flowing from when we boarded until a little after 3pm. Overall, the ship was nicely decorated for Christmas, many trees and decorations around. There was a Christmas Eve service on board in the Limelight Lounge that was packed. There was also a Christmas show in the main theater on Christmas day that featured the singers and dancers, and the kids from Camp Carnival. (Side note: The cruise director said that there were over 1600 children on board...but it felt about the same as any other Carnival Cruise we’ve been on. It really wasn’t too bad in terms of kids running around or in the pools.) There was also a special menu for dinner in the main dining rooms that evening for Christmas.
Food: Let’s start with the Lido deck food. The set up of multiple buffets helps break up the lines a little bit and forces people to pick one type of food for lunch or face multiple lines. On the 8 day cruise, we really only saw huge lines twice and that was right after everyone came back on board after ports of call. The buffets are smaller than they used to be, but still have enough choices. Guy’s Burgers are great in comparison to what Carnival used to serve for burgers (although they are still serving those horrible burgers to the crew – I saw that on the behind the fun tour). The Blue Iguana burritos and tacos is also another nice addition to the ship. The pizza isn’t great, but is edible and better than it was in years past. There was pretty much always a slow line for pizza. It seems like they can’t make them fast enough. We ate at the Italian restaurant for lunch (it’s free) and it was ok, but nothing that I would have wanted to pay extra for. In the Fun Times, they were really pushing the dinner reservations all week and I don’t think it was ever sold out. We didn’t eat at the steakhouse, but heard great things from everyone who we talked to who did eat there. And, the steakhouse was sold out all week. We also ate lunch in the dining room twice, same menu both times, which was a little disappointing. We also had “brunch” in the dining room twice also with the same brunch menu both times. It would be nice if they would change these up, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. For breakfast we managed to avoid the buffet all but two days and ate in the dining room where the food was hot. When we did eat breakfast at the buffet, we arrived right when it was opening to avoid any lines and even then the food was just kind of warm, not hot. For dinner, we had the Your Time Dining, which we liked. We don’t like being locked down to a certain time to eat or to be stuck with the same people every night. We typically arrived soon after the dining room opened each night and never had a problem getting a table, although each night when we left the dining room there was a huge line with lots of people waiting to get tables. The food was ok. Nothing special. Even the chocolate melting cake was a little disappointing…undercooked, overcooked, never just right.
Entertainment: The deck parties were the best I’ve seen them on Carnival. The cruise director and entertainment staff were all high energy and were great to get the party started and keep it going! The new format for the shows in the main theater with 8 cast members who all sing and dance with the screens in the background was a nice change. Sure, the flashing screen can be annoying at times, but it is nice to see Carnival change it up after so many years of the same old thing. I’ll gladly take a moment or two of obnoxious light flashing to a worn down show we’ve seen over and over again. We also liked the stunt comedy show and hypnotist in the big theater. The Hasbro Game show was also cute and we preferred that to the old jeopardy style games they used to do. We also went to several comedy shows and like the comedians who we saw. I don’t know if it was having a lot of kids there or the type of cruisers there are at Christmas, but many jokes were flopping that we thought were funny during the early shows. During the day, it seemed to be trivia, trivia, and more trivia…we played until we won a ship on a stick and then stopped going. (yep, we’re snobs like that.) The most fun we had was at the adult pub quiz each night in the Red Frog Pub. The prize is either a fish bowl or tube of beer. It was a great way to meet other cruisers and also very funny even if you’re losing! Watch out for that tie breaker contest. For the dance club, it never really got going until after midnight and they were checking IDs. We had heard great things about the piano bar on the Breeze, but it seemed to be a flop. Twice we saw the piano player was just standing around talking to the bartender not even playing during his scheduled times. There was never much of a crowd there either. We enjoyed the live guitar players/singers throughout the ship. They were really good! (I don’t know if the Breeze always gets the same people or they rotate them, but these were all far superior to those we had on the Legend last spring.)
Sports Deck: The mini golf was really fun. And, the ropes course was fun for adults and kids (but I think more so for the kids), but we gave it a once around. There was also ping pong and foosball tables on the deck too. The only outdoor area to run is on the sports deck and isn’t the best place because there are so many people you have to go around so many times to make a mile.
Waterworks: The Breeze has an awesome waterworks area, where I think lots of kids hung out for the week. I did go down both waterslides on the day we were in Grand Turk and there few people on board and definitely no lines! Both were fun, but the yellow twisty one was better than the orange one. As for the pools and hot tubs, we never got in any of them. On the sea days in the afternoons they were crowded as you would expect, but nothing too crazy. There were also hot tubs on deck 5 which seemed to never be busy.
Serenity: This deck was crowded on sea days with people laying in the sun or hiding in the clam shells. Other than those few days, you could always find a lounger. (I also found that deck 5 was a great place to find a lounger away from children too!)
Spa/Gym: We walked through them, but never used them.
Casino: This place was huge and busy compared to other ships. There were always lots of people playing slots and table games.
Behind the Fun Tour $95: I loved it. Not something I would want to do again, but worth seeing once on a Carnival ship. There were two tours one with 17 people and one with 16 people. It started in the Steakhouse and then went to the galley. The galley tour was extensive, more so than the free quick walk through tours they used to do. They pulled out pan after pan after pan of hot croissants, cookies, rolls, etc. for us when we arrived also. Then it was down to the I-95, which I’ve always read about, so it was cool to actually see. We went into a store room, freezer, and thawing room. Then off to the crew cafeteria and crew human resource room. (no crew cabins on tour, just some photos of them were shown). The crew gym and internet areas were pathetic, what a shame. The crew bar was nice, but likely not large enough. We walked by the brig and morgue and down to the laundry room, which was my favorite. Then up to the bridge to meet the captain. And then to the bow and crew outside area. After the tour we were each given a drawstring bag, hat, plastic bracelet, and soap carving as take away gifts. When I got back to my room there was a plate of chocolate covered strawberries an other sweets. Later I received 3 8x10 photos, the group on the bow, the group on the bridge and myself with the captain.
Grand Turk: We got off the ship, took a few pictures of the ship from the beach and promptly walked the opposite direction of the beach chairs. We had an enjoyable walk away from other people and went in search of the perfect conch shell. It’s pretty much a conch shell grave yard if you turn to your right and walk down the beach away from all of the people. We found some great shells, took some pictures with them and left them behind. After a few hours we got back on the ship and enjoyed our time without many people onboard, including a couple trips down the water slides.
Dominican Republic: We had a private excursion booked, but at the last minute I got scared and we booked a similar trip with Carnival to Saona Island for $30 more per person (but wait there is good news later). Our carnival excursion boat picked us up right at the pier, which was nice. It was about 45 minutes to ride to the sand bar where there were starfish. We were there for about 45 minutes and then back in the boat for about 30 minutes to the island. We were at the island for a couple of hours, drinks were included. The water was a little cold, but a beautiful blue. On the boat ride back it was clearly raining in front of us, our boat driver tried to avoid the wall of rain we could see, but eventually we had to drive right through it and we got pounded. Other than the rain on the way back, it was a nice excursion. Even better news, Carnival has a money back guarantee if you find an independent excursion that is the same as a Carnival one you get the difference plus 10% back. We immediately applied for this and should our emails confirming our excursion with the independent company and were approved within the next day and we got the $30pp difference back plus 10%!
Curacao: We were on Curacao for Christmas Day. And, Carnival doesn’t arrive until 2pm here, so it is a little odd arriving so late in the afternoon. We had booked a private excursion with Irie Tours. We drove around the island and saw the sights and also had an hour at the beach at the end. We’re not beach people walked down to the aquarium, and also went in search of free wifi (and there were lots of free wifi place all around the beach).
Aruba: We had booked a private excursion with H-F tours. We were off the ship at the right time, but the others that we were going on the tour got the ship and island times messed up and were 45 minutes late. Aside from the late start, we had a great tour with Howard and would highly recommend him! He drove us all around the island to show us the highlights and we had several stops for photos. (FYI, Aruba is very desert, hot, dry, and dusty…keep that in mind when booking your excursions…we were so glad to be inside an air conditioned bus and not covered in dirt when we returned to the ship.)
Debarkation: We walked ourselves off with our luggage right around 8am. The lines at immigration/customs were long, took about 30 minutes, but then we were free.