Our family of five sailed the 8-day Southern Caribbean itinerary on the Carnival Breeze in February 2014. We have cruised on Carnival in the past, as well as other lines. Overall, we had a good experience and would sail with Carnival again. On the Breeze, there were some things that we liked better or didn't enjoy as much when compared to previous cruise vacations. Before I share our experience, it is important to note that the cruising experience can be very subjective, and vary a lot from family to family according to one's previous experiences, circumstances and expectations. Given this, the context of my comments are to provide an overall review of our particular experiences which readers can take with a grain of salt.
We flew in to Miami the night before the cruise and stayed at Miami Comfort Suites Airport North. We choose this hotel because the rooms would accommodate 5 people, which is not always easy to find, and because of value for money (the room rate included a shuttle from the airport, a hot/cold breakfast and a transfer to the Port of Miami). I would recommend this hotel.
We arrived at the port around noon on embarkation day. It took about an hour and a bit to get on the ship. We dropped our carry-on luggage in the cabins and headed on deck to the Lido Marketplace for lunch.
Cabins: We had two inside cabins on deck 6 forward. I liked our cabin location. Though the rooms are tiny, there is sufficient space for all our clothing and other items, and the beds were very comfortable. We were close to a door that opened onto the open deck at the front of the ship. From there, we would often take the quick stairway down to Deck 5, which has the wrap-around promenade deck, entry into the Plaza Cafe area, beautiful quiet sitting areas and hot tubs. We spent a lot of time on Deck 5 and found it to be a better option for us than the loud, crowded main pool area on Deck 10.
Dining: We opted for late dining because I had read in a lot of reviews that the early diners would often be pressed for time to attend evening events such as the comedy shows. While we enjoyed the more relaxed late afternoon hours, the time was simply too late for us to enjoy dinner--especially for the children, and we wouldn't do it again. We found the service in the dining room to be sub-par, compared with previous cruises. The table attendants were friendly, and did their job to serve us as efficiently as possible, but we didn't find that they made much effort to make a connection with us, an experience we have valued on previous cruises. Also, I did notice that attention to detail was lacking in the service, as far as serving etiquette goes. The food was fine--not good, sometimes bad, but usually acceptable. One night we decided to go to the Lido buffet for dinner and were sorely disappointed. There was not the selection of food items that there usually is during the day and so we did not eat there again. We ate at every venue on the ship and enjoyed some selections more than others: Pizza Pirate and La Cucina (for lunch) were excellent; Tandoori was quite good though a little on the spicy side; Mongolian Wok was quite good, though the lines were long and it took some finessing to get the choose-your-own ingredients just right. The deli was ok; the burrito/taco place was ok; and I'm sorry but Guy's Burgers is just fast food. Jimmy's BBQ is only open on sea days and the line-up is incredibly long and slow, with limited seating nearby. Is it worth it, then? Maybe to some. The taste bar was interesting. That leaves the Lido Buffet. To me personally, who likes hot food and despises standing in line, I hated it. I found the layout incredibly frustrating and the times very slow for quite average food. I avoided it as much as I could--except for visiting the frozen yogourt machines a couple of times a day! Bear in mind, that's just me. Others could be completely satisfied. One last dining comment. The lunch times go from 12-2:30. This is just to limiting to accommodate 3000+ passengers midday. Carnival really needs to extend the lunch hours from 11 am til 3 p.m. and for goodness sake! Thank you for doing a chocolate buffet but from 12 til 2:30 also? Why not at 3 p.m. when we've had a chance to digest lunch?
Deck Areas: We didn't visit the Casinos or the bars. I loved Deck 5 as I said, as well as the Deck 10 aft area, where there is a pool, hot tubs, easy access to a washroom and snacks and away from the silly pool games and loud music midship.
Kids' Perspective: My kids liked the arcade and the thrill theatre, as well as Cherry on Top candy store. The ten-year-old participated in about 50% of the scheduled Kids' Club activities but didn't like that they often grouped the little kids with the 9-11 year olds. My 12 yr old didn't participate in the Club O2 hang-out; it wasn't very organized or fun for these kids who, from 12-14, are still too young to be left to their own devices. I would have loved to see more organized fun for this age group. The kids also really enjoyed the two waterslides and the ropes course, and I did too! We didn't play group sports or take advantage of the mini-golf much as it was in a very hot and crowded location.
Ports of Call: My biggest gripe with the itinerary was four port days in a row, followed by two sea days in a row. It's a shame that it couldn't alternate more. Also, the port times were really, really bad! Grand Turk was way too short. You were there early (7 am) and had to be back onboard by 1:30. Crazy. We really could have used an extra few hours on that beautiful, though crowded, beach. Dominican Republic was okay with times but there is not much choice there except to choose one of the few shore excursions offered. We went to Saona Island with Seavis Tours and rated it very highly. I would recommend this excursion and this company. Curacao is like walking in a picture post card; beautiful! But again, awful port times. You arrive only at 2 p.m. (and on the island, it is 3 p.m.) so it's really too late to go to a beach, and the shops close between 5 and 6 p.m. We walked around for an hour or two, enjoyed the sites and got back onboard. We were there til 11 p.m. but we did not feel comfortable taking our family off the ship again once nightfall hit, around 6:30 p.m. Aruba was another port where we could really have used an extra couple of hours at the end of the day. We went to a beach, and rushed around the shops in the afternoon, but felt constricted by having to watch the time.
The Ship: It's okay. Some people love the new decor. Personally, I feel like I've been on more attractive ships, but that's not a big factor. It's a really big ship and it happened to me a lot that I always seemed to be a few decks away from where I wanted to be, and at the other end. That meant a whole lot of walking, which is okay of course, just something to be aware of when booking on this ship. It was sometimes difficult and uncomfortable to be trudging through the smoky casino and the always crowded shops area, we got pretty good at finding the best indoor/outdoor routes and elevators to where we wanted to go.
Entertainment: By far the worst line up of nighttime entertainment options I've ever experienced, again a personal opinion. The singers/dancers were quite terrible (with the exception of the Brits show, which unfortunately was set for the middle of the afternoon on the last sea day). The comedy shows were meh, and horribly crowded. People lined up for an hour just to get in! The Hasbro shows were fun though. My biggest beef with most of the entertainment was the fact that the Cruise Director Pete (who was quite invisible onboard, awkward at best on stage, and seemed to have left any remnants of personality in port somewhere) was always always choosing the same people to come on stage over and over again. In a game such as Hasbro, he also would choose different members of the same family. We found this to be quite unfair and frustrating. Oh well, Que sera sera.
That's it for my general overview of the trip. Please don't be misled by my particular gripes; our family had an awesome vacation on the Breeze. We slept well, ate well, played a lot and were able to unwind from regular life (and the cold)!