Considering weather for a February cruise, we decided to fly to Miami a day early. AA flight change in DFW was delayed over 2 hours. At first they announced the seats needed attending to and later the oxygen masks in row 8 wouldn’t stay up. We all finally agreed the pilot was drunk and AA couldn’t find a replacement even at their home base of Dallas. Finally arriving in Miami at 12:30am, we were all disappointed to walk 20 minutes to luggage claim as no trams or customer service wagons were available. I felt sorry for the elderly with canes. AA should be ashamed! I also need to mention my luggage was pilfered at DFW. Usually when TSA inspects, they leave a letter so I don’t know if my property was stolen by them or American luggage handlers. There’s really nothing I can do but post everywhere thieves are at work in DFW. BEWARE!
We’d booked a night with the Miami Doubletree and they were there to pick us up. What a pleasure after the flight to find a nice room ready! The concierge booked a shuttle the next morning for our ride to the cruise port. Arriving at the port, we dropped off our luggage, got through security and were on the ship by noon. What a great experience. Carnival’s Miami port really knows what they’re doing. The Breeze is certainly a sight to enjoy. It’s not as gaudy as some ships, think Freedom with blue heads everywhere. The warm colors, straight lines and occasional bling for splash are well done. We’d booked a balcony on deck 9 but were moved to Lido deck 10. It was my first experience with a connecting cabin and can’t imagine Carnival thinking it could ever be considered an upgrade. We had trouble with the family of idiots next door quite a bit. The yelling and door slamming through the night wasn’t as bad as the kids trying to come through the connecting door at odd hours. I asked them several times to leave the door alone and they remembered for maybe a day and a half at a time. The only thing negative about this cruise were the passengers. Not only the neighbors but the other idiotic, rude people.
First stop, Grand Turk. We were there last October and had such a great time snorkeling, we decided to do it again. Most passengers headed to Margaritaville to the left so we went to the right for more “breathing room”. We soon discovered low tide is not a good time to get in the water at Grand Turk without water shoes due to the rocks. Knee deep is as far as you get without injury. Remember – bring water shoes to Grand Turk because when Margaritaville fills up, you’ll need them to enter the water. The Dufry’s duty free shop you pass through to get to the beach sells small airplane size bottles of liquor but be advised since everything is duty free, you can’t take them to the island, only the ship. I don’t want to knock Grand Turk as it is a wonderful place but want to pass on helpful information. We had a great time lying in the sun listens to fantastic live Caribbean music.
Next stop, La Romana, Dominican Republic. We couldn’t find much information about La Romana on the internet before leaving so had no idea what to do, adventure day! Getting off the ship we saw a little train and asked a young lady holding a sign about it. She told us round trip to town was $5 and runs were made every 15 minutes. We thanked her and walked on to see what else was available. Lines and confusion seemed be the staple of the morning. There was a small hut where people were lined up apparently to buy tickets for the train which we decided to do. Having our turn at the window we were told the cost was $19. I immediately balked telling them the lady told me the cost was $5. I was politely re-informed the cost was $19 and they had no one working near the ‘Choo-Choo” to quote a price. Well darn, we went ahead and bought the tickets which by the way were charged to our sail and sign card. A small comfort knowing the ship was involved. We later discovered the $5 trip is by bus which is located inside an open terminal to the right as you get off the ship. There’s also an information area there so don’t think twice, go to the right. Boarding our little Choo-Choo we got very cozy with our fellow passengers crammed in and set out on our La Romana adventure. The driver was explaining the sights over an intercom but since the speaker near our car was inoperative, we only heard mumbles as we drove past kids playing ball in a field and houses and yards. Arriving in town we stopped at a flea market for shopping. Canopies, tables, vendors everywhere selling the same things at the best prices my friend. After several no thank you’ s, it started raining so we found a dry spot in the center of the market under a raised stage where a few youngsters performed a dancing demonstration. The rain stopped after a couple of dances and well deserved tips so we continued on. My wife lost hope of getting some Larimer as I ended up buying a bottle of local Brugal rum and a few cigars. Before boarding the Choo-Choo for the return we asked one last time if any stores in the area took credit cards. A man pointed down the street and directed us to “Jumbo”. Walking a few blocks we discovered Jumbo is a supermarket and didn’t sell jewelry. A man at the door directed us to a shop a couple of blocks away to La Tambora.
Leave the market, this is the place to shop to use a Visa card. They have a nice assortment of Larimar and amber and will allow you to perform the necessary tests for authenticity. This is where we also found out the city has official guides. La Romana has city guides wearing blue T-shirts with numbers and names on the back. Their job is to help tourists and our guide did a very good job. I recommend looking for number 4, Rolando, proud golf caddie for House Speaker Tip O’Neill in the 1990s.
Third stop, Curacao. We love Curacao and enjoy riding the Loco bus but since we were in after 2 pm, we decided to just hang out in town. As soon as we got to the swinging bridge the bells started ringing letting everyone know the bridge would swing open for ship traffic. While most tourists crowded around wondering what was happening, we quickly made our way through the crowd, down the street to the ferry that runs while the bridge is out of service. Funny thing was, when we made our return, the bridge was open again so we got to ride the ferry twice! Getting off the ferry on our return, we noticed a new sidewalk bar area, “Don Carlos”. I suggest stopping by Don Carlos across from the ferry to have Jerry make an extremely refreshing mojito or two! For 5 bucks you get an awesome drink, a table and umbrella with a beautiful view, nice breeze and fantastic company, just ask your spouse! Completely refreshed, we made our way back to the ship for dinner. After dinner we went back out to enjoy the nearby casino. The only disappointment Curacao provided was the fact that the colorful buildings are no longer lit up at night.
Last stop – Aruba! Needing a little beach time, we walked across the street from the port area and caught the local bus. You can no longer get day pass for $5 but a ride for two is under $5, a better deal I think. We rode to the hotel zone and got off at Palm Beach. While swimming near the Ritz Carlton, a gentleman found a huge starfish as big as a dinner plate and someone else picked one up just a bit smaller. They were so beautiful, I only hope they put them back and didn’t needlessly kill them. They’d never dry out and be smell free for them to take home. Wanting to make a purchase in the cruise terminal, I was surprised to learn our terminal had no credit card machine but was able to go the next terminal where Royal Caribbean was docked and use my card.
Back to the ship. This was cruise 13 for me and 14 for my wife aboard Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess. I have to say, passengers aside, this was one of the best cruises we’ve had and the service was at the top. The Carnival Breeze staff and crew performed admirably.
The dining room food was great typical cruise fare with many dining venues throughout the ship. We usually ask for a large table in the center of the dining room to meet and enjoy new people. The bottom floor of the Sapphire dining room is reserved for any time guests only, so a large round table in the center is out of the question for reserved dining. Guy Fieri’s burger joint has got the best burgers at sea hands down and the Red Frog has the best homebrew. The first day we found Cucina del Capitano for lunch and were surprised by the delicious food and lack of people. This is the place to eat lunch the first day as most don’t know it exists. Beware, once they find out, it’s packed. Brunch at the Blush is the way to go for breakfast. Civilized dining as opposed to the madhouse Lido buffet is always preferred and the steak and eggs are wonderful. Fahrenheit 555 Steak House is by far the best we’ve had, the filet mignon is a must have! The shows were okay and I have to complain about the “soundman”. Apparently the sound mixer on the Breeze is so deaf he thinks everyone else needs to be as well. I avoided the Lido deck the first couple days and had to put tissue in my ears during a couple of shows because the volume was irritating and greatly distracted from any enjoyment. This must be the reason people screamed and yelled in the hallways. I guess many people complained as the Lido was turned down after a couple of days.
Disembarkation was the smoothest ever. Off the ship and in a taxi within about 20 minutes. Miami airport gets a bash for being the most confusing and chaotic airport ever. Leaving the taxi we entered the airport wondering where to check in. The place was crazy and every AA staff we asked told us to keep walking to the next area for what seemed like 95 times. American Airlines at MIA really needs to put easily identifiable signage for people not familiar with this airport and explain to their employees that not everyone knows the place. American Airlines was certainly not a bright spot of this vacation.
Thank goodness the Carnival Breeze was an awesome Bright Spot. This ship and staff certainly give the competition a run for their money.
Overall we loved the cruise and can’t wait for the next!