We cruised with our kids aged 14 and 11. This was our second cruise, but our first "cruise vacation". The first was a short Bahamas cruise three years ago on the Disney Dream. Given our fabulous experience on the Disney cruise we were a little sceptical about going with another cruise line, but since the Breeze is a relatively new ship and the price much more reasonable we took the leap. So here's the review....
We saved ourselves $1200 by flying into Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami and staying an extra night at end of the cruise. It cost about $60 for 4 of us to get a van to the cruise port from our airport hotel in FLL. At the end of the cruise we stayed on the beach in Fort Lauderdale and a cab ride was about $80 from the Port of Miami. All told we still ended up way ahead and had an extra day at the beach. The 6 day cruise on the breeze was perfect for this since it left on a Sunday and returned on a Saturday. Lots of wiggle room for transportation.
Ship and Staff:
If you're like me you've probably read every review on this site and others regarding the Breeze and Carnival. I have to say I was a little nervous given some of the poor reviews from other cruisers. I got the impression from some of the reviewers that the Breeze was a floating barn staffed by pirates. Nothing could be further from the truth! The ship was spotless! Clean and new looking everywhere. Staff were always cleaning and tidying up. Staff were always friendly and eager to help. The ship is VERY big and after the first day of running up and down the stairs you learn to wait for the elevators. Luckily there are 3 banks of elevators.
We had adjoining rooms (deck 8 balcony) for us and our kids. I highly recommend this for a family. A single room is just too small for 4 people in my opinion. The room was clean, the bed comfortable and everything worked. Nice bathroom. No noise from anywhere.
I won't go through all the restaurants except to say that we enjoyed the food. Lots of choices. Good quality. There are definitely times when certain places are busier than others, but if you want to avoid the crowds there is always another option. For breakfast the main buffet is pretty busy but you can avoid the rush by having breakfast in the main dining room or the Plaza cafe. They also make great egg burritos at the Mexican place. We chose the 6pm dining room seating and never had to wait at dinner but we did notice that people on the flexible dining time plan (whatever its called) were waiting during the peak times. We paid the $12 surcharge to go to the Italian Restaurant on one night and enjoyed it lot. A nice change of pace in a nice space. The dining room food was good and varied.
Carnival has what they call "cruise elegant" nights where people are asked to dress up a little. We found that most people dressed up for dinner. Many suits and ties, dresses. A few tuxedos. Lots of guys wearing collared shirts and slacks. But there is no "social pressure" to do so and no one will say anything if you're not dressed up for dinner. After all, everyone is on vacation.
I will agree with others that the main theatre shows are lame. But luckily there is great entertainment all over the ship. We ended up spending our evenings listening to live music in the pub or the band in the Plaza (they did a great 80's night!) There was a salsa band that played in the main lobby and usually a DJ by the main pool. Also spent some time in the Casino and the arcade (aka Kids Casino) with my kids. The comedy club was also fun, but like others have said, it is usually lined up before shows and fills up quickly.
This is one area where Carnival (and probably all the other cruise lines) are light years behind Disney. Camp carnival, the 11 and under area, is just a big room that looks like a daycare. For us it wasn't as big of a deal since our youngest is 11 can participate at his leisure, but for parents with younger kids Disney is the way to go. No comparison. Also, the camp closes at 10pm and after that you are paying for babysitting. The older kids areas looked pretty good. The 15-17's and the 12-14's have their own exclusive places where they can socialize and hang out. For our teenager it mostly served as a meeting place where the kids would find each other. After the first few days, our kids ended up spending a lot of time off on their own with new friends.
There are a number of little places on the ship that don't get a lot of attention. For example, there are hot tubs mid-ship on deck five (on both sides) that don't get as much attention as those on the main pool deck and the aft pool was never as busy as the main pool. There is also a small bar called the "library" that had whiskey specials a few nights in a row. Lastly, you can order a bottle of wine from your TV. After a long tiring day in Cozumel we had a bottle of wine in the room in 5 minutes and got to sit on the balcony and watch the sunset over the Caribbean sea. Sweet!
We arrived at noon and didn't get on the ship until 1:30. Apparently this is the busiest time. Debarkation was also significantly delayed and we didn't get off the ship until 10:00am. Not sure what happened there, but I think it was unusual.
To conclude, we had a great vacation. The Breeze is great ship with a great staff and I liked the "go your on way" vibe that they try to convey. I also liked getting wine from my TV. Did I mention that already?