Carnival Breeze Review
Western Caribbean- Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
This was my 12th Carnival Cruise, and my husband's 5th, according to Carnival, but I think he may be missing a few. I am 55, he is 68, and we live in the NW Chicago suburbs. I am a platinum member, grandfathered in before the VIFP change, and my husband is gold. We were not planning on taking a cruise at this time, but I received a letter from Carnival, back in December, with an offer that was too good to refuse. From what I have read, I truly believe that this offer, sent to many, was most definitely random. I had many choices for this cruise, but we chose the Breeze as it is the newest ship in the fleet, the timing was good for us, and we were looking for a relaxing vacation where we didn't care if we got off the ship or not. The initial offer was for an inside cabin, but we upgraded to an aft balcony for very little cost. I specifically chose cabin 7464, as it was near center of the rear balconies, and had cabins both above and below us. Little did I know how far the walk would be to the center elevators, which we used most often to get around the ship. I have some health issues that make walking distance difficult for me, so I ended up using my emergency inhaler on a regular basis. At times, I wished I had a wheelchair or scooter. The cabin was a nice size with two twins made up as a queen/king bed, a couch with drawers beneath it, a small table, and a chair at the desk with a large mirror. The TV was flat against the cabinet above the mini fridge, but you are able to pull it out on an angle so it faces the bed. The balcony was a little larger than a standard balcony and had 2 chairs, a small table, and a lounge chair. There were 3 closets... Two for hanging clothes and one with shelving. The bathroom was adequate, although I felt the toilet to be quite low. The view of the ships wake was beautiful and calming.
In order to get the special offer on this booking, I had to book and pay by December 24th. After doing some research, I chose this cruise and booked. On December 27th, I was admitted to the hospital with double pneumonia and H1N1 flu, and stayed there till New Years Eve. After getting diagnosed with some irreversible issues following my hospitalization, and being on oxygen 24/7 for another month, I began getting concerned that we might not be able to take the trip. None the less, I took no insurance, and prayed I'd be ok to travel, which I obviously was.
We flew down to Miami from Chicago/O'hare on United, the morning of the cruise. Airfares have gone way up since the last time I've flown, but at this point, we had no choice. The airfare for both of us cost more than the cruise. Our flight was on time, and as soon as we collected our luggage, we saw a table for Carnival check in. There was no line, and we had our sail and sign cards in a few short minutes. We got a taxi right away and paid a flat rate of $18 plus tip to the port. Somehow, I lost my sail and sign card , most likely in the taxi, so we needed to resolve that asap. We let the porter take both our large suitcase and our carry on, forgetting that we had 2 bottles of wine in there, which ended up not being a problem in the long run. I went to the early check in area to replace my S&S card, but was told I needed to see a supervisor elsewhere. I found someone right away, waited about 5 minutes, explained my story once again, and then the computers that print the cards was down. About 15 minutes later I had a new card in my hand and was ready to board. This was about 11:15am. The ship hadn't been totally cleared yet, but they finally let on bridal parties and Platinum/Diamond members at about 11:35. Once on the ship, we went straight to our stateroom to drop off my very heavy backpack, and the room appeared ready for us... At least on the surface. We looked around a bit and there was garbage under the desk, and in the bathroom pail. The verandah's floor was filthy, and had some food on it (chips and whatnot), as well, and the chairs' arms and railing were also sticky. We met our cabin steward, Bonnie, and asked him to please clean the balcony for us, then we were off for a cold drink, some lunch, and a little exploring. We decided to try the Mongolian Wok as I knew that it would probably have long lines once more people discovered it. The food was hot, fresh, and delicious. We ate outside and got a couple drinks at the Red Frog Rum bar. I could finally relax. After lunch we looked around Lido deck for a while, then returned to our cabin to hopefully change clothes. It was quite cold in Chicago when we left home that morning, and we wanted to freshen up a bit and change to shorts and flip flops. Being priority, our luggage should have been at the cabin by then, but they were not. I did see other luggage along the hallways, all with the same priority tags we had on ours, so I went down to guest services. I explained to Illse our predicament and she made a couple calls to track down our things. She said she would call if and when they were found. So we walked around a little more before returning to the cabin. One of our suitcases was waiting for us, but the missing one had our shoes in it. I couldn't handle my burning feet any longer, so I just ditched my hot high tops and went barefoot for a while. At least I had shorts and a cool top to change in to. Side note... TSA inspected our baggage and made a mess of it all. This happens to me every single time I fly! My husband wanted to rest a bit as we lost 2 hours that morning due to daylight savings time and changing from CT to ET. I wanted to walk around more, so I did... barefoot. I scoped out deck 5, which is where a lot of things happen. The casino, piano bar, ocean club, sushi restaurant, pub, comedy club, nightclub, stores, and more, are all on deck 5. Then I went to tell Illse that we were still missing a suitcase. Another call, and she said it hadn't been found yet. I grabbed another drink from somewhere, and went back to the cabin. This time the bag was there so I was able to unpack everything. Our suitcases fit nicely under the bed. I wanted to let Illse know that we received our luggage but I couldn't get through to guest services on the phone, so I went downstairs to let her know that all was ok, and I thanked her. When I got back to my cabin, a plate of chocolate covered strawberries had been delivered. The muster drill was coming up soon, so we just relaxed on the balcony (still dirty and sticky) until the announcement was made to report to our muster stations. Ours was in the Blush dining room on deck 4. We did not have to bring our life vests, and one of the ship's employees let us use the crew only staircase that was just steps from our door. The muster took about 20 minutes. My husband went back to the room, and I headed to the pool to meet up with some people I met on a roll call on the Cruise Critic boards. We decided to all wear green beads. Well... I didn't see anyone with green beads, so I went back to the room, poured us some wine, and watched sailaway from our balcony. We got a phone call from the steakhouse, Fahrenheit 555, to remind us of our dinner reservations for that night at 6:30. They had the time wrong though, and I had printed out my confirmation from the ship for 7:30, and they said that would be fine. We sat outside until it was time to get ready for dinner.
The steakhouse was beautiful, and the food, delicious. Well worth the cost of $35pp, although we were gifted with this wonderful dinner. We sat at a nice table for 2, next to a young couple who were already talking to another 2 diners on the other side of them. The tables are close together, so if you're up for conversation, it's easy to talk. First we were asked if we'd like bottled water or tap water. We chose tap. Then they asked what kind of wine we'd like. I asked for Prosecco, but they told us we had a choice of Merlot or Chardonnay. I think that a bottle of wine is included with dinner if you dine there on the first night of the cruise, as was stated on my confirmation letter, but I didn't know we'd only have 2 choices. No big deal though, and we chose the Merlot. I forget the vineyard, but it was a nice screw top bottle ;). They then brought us warm foccacia and 3 little crocks of topping... Soft butter, an eggplant topping, and a tomato topping. After that, our server showed us a tray of our entree choices, and we ordered. Next came an amuse bouche. One was a little cup of tomato soup and the other was a salmon tartare. Both were very good. For appetizers, I had beef carpaccio and my husband had lobster bisque. The carpaccio lacked in salt, but the bisque was one of the best I've ever tasted, and had nice chunks of lobster in it. For our entrees, I had steak and lobster. It was a 4 oz filet with 2 4 oz lobster tails. They offered 3 different sauces on the side, bearnaise, mushroom, and peppercorn, and we asked for all 3 to taste. My husband ordered the 9oz filet. Everything was top notch and the steak melted in your mouth. I also ordered a side of creamed spinach, which didn't thrill me, and I think my husband ordered roasted potatoes. When it came time for dessert, I was so full that I couldn't even think of it, so I ordered a cheese plate to go with what was left of the wine. Husband ordered something sweet, but I don't recall what it was. Throughout the dinner, we spoke with the young couple next to us, as well as the other diners on the other side of them. The young man, Matt, secretly told me that he was planning to propose to his girlfriend, Rebecca, on Wednesday. Unfortunately, we never saw them again, all week. I hope all went well!
As on most cruises, I always go to the casino after dinner, unless we are going to a show. Husband was tired and went back to the room to read (he doesn't gamble at all), and I went to the casino to play some blackjack. This was pretty much our nightly routine, except for the night we went to a late comedy show, and the night we walked in to one of the *non* production shows that we walked out of quickly. Carnival now has computerized casino tables that supposedly record your bets and how long you play, but I'm honestly not sure if they are accurate, or if they work at all. The computer at the first table I was at was not working at all, so if you are a players club member and want to be rated, be sure to introduce yourself to the casino host and the pit bosses. It was then that I met Maria, the Breeze casino host. When she asked my name, she said she knew I was coming and asked if I would like dinner in the steakhouse. When I told her we had just eaten there, she offered us dinner at the Italian restaurant. I had already made a reservation for Friday, and she said she would take care of it. Very friendly, nice, and warm welcome before they take my money! I played for a few hours and went back to the room at about 1am. Day over...
Rather than continue on day by day, I will continue with observations and opinions on different aspects of my cruise.
Dining: We chose anytime dining and ate dinner in the Sapphire dining room, deck 3, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We ate late 2 nights, and early another. We never waited more than 2 minutes for a table for 2. Overall, the food was mostly good, with a few exceptions. The broccoli cheese soup neither tasted of broccoli, or cheese, and had somewhat of a chemical flavor. The shrimp cocktail was good, but the shrimp were very small. Minor issues, compared to the big picture. Elegant nights, formerly known as formal nights, were Monday and Wednesday. I did not see any men in tuxes, nor any women in gowns. Most men wore slacks with a button down shirt, and I only saw a few jackets and ties. We did see our cabin neighbor returning to the dining room after he was asked to change out of shorts. Women mostly wore nice dresses, or slacks with a nice blouse. There were quite a few college kids on this cruise. Most of the guys dressed pretty casually, except for the ones from the Naval academy, who all seemed to be wearing jackets. The girls mostly wore prom type dresses, and what I would call nightclub wear. I already mentioned the steakhouse, but we also ate at the Italian restaurant, Cucina del Capitano, on Friday night, the last night of the cruise. The food and service were impeccable, IMO. They first bring you a board with toasted baguette slices, some grape tomatoes, and some roasted garlic. The grape tomatoes were too difficult to deal with whole, so we sliced them ourselves. The portion of roasted garlic was small, but we asked for more and it wasn't a problem. There is a bottle of extra virgin olive oil on the table, as well as a bottle of balsamic vinegar and some grated parmesan. The servers all appeared to be women (as was in the steakhouse), and they were all very friendly. The hostess too, was very sweet. We asked a few questions about the menu, and our server knew all the answers. Good sign of good training. We ordered 2 appetizers, but the server said we should also try 2 others, and insisted on bringing us 4. We had arancini, meatballs, eggplant parmesan, and fried calamari. The first 3 were great, but the calamari was inedible due to way too much salt on it. It does say they are salted, on the menu, but this was out of bounds salty. For our entrees I ordered Nonna's pasta and my husband ordered the strip steak. The pasta was delicious, but the portion was way too huge to conquer after the appetizers. The steak was cooked perfectly. We also had a half carafe of Chianti, which was very good. As much as I wanted the tiramisu for dessert, I had no room for it, and my husband even turned down the cannoli he was looking forward to trying. Come to think of it... I only ordered dessert once during the week. I had a chocolate melting cake and my husband had some chocolate raspberry cake one night. We ate all our breakfasts and lunches on Lido deck all week, except for breakfast in the dining room on the last morning. The breakfast burritos at Blue iguana cantina were excellent, as were their shrimp and steak tacos, for lunch. The eggs benedict on the regular breakfast buffet were almost perfect, but as is usually found, the eggs were almost always overcooked. They changed the dish a few times during the week, and I had canadian bacon one day, and smoked salmon benedict another. The home fries on the buffet were excellent. Guys burgers were good, but inconsistent. They were way overcooked the first time we tried them, and perfect, the next time. We did not try the C-side BBQ. I grabbed a couple slices of pizza twice, for an afternoon snack, and really liked it a lot. I had the prosciutto with arugula, and the mushroom, also with arugula that I asked for. I liked that they offered hot pepper oil on the side. It added a nice touch to the underdressed greens. My husband also ordered room service a couple times, and said it was good, and we ordered smoked salmon and bagels one day for breakfast, to eat on our balcony. The salmon was unusually fishy. We ate snacks at the Sushi restaurant twice. Although there is a charge, it is quite reasonable. You must try the Wagu steak. It was melt in your mouth deliciousness. We met the cutest couple the first day we ate there, and without going in to detail, I want to wish them all the best in life together. Cheers to Amel and Jihad!
Pool: Since this was to be a vacation of relaxation, our daily destination was the pool area. Since we like the music and daily goings on at the main pool, we decided to stay by the Beach pool, where the restaurants, bars, big screen, and entertainment was. On the two sea days, we went up at 9am, and almost all the chairs had towels and other items on them. We were still able to find 2 loungers next to each other, but a lot of those seemingly empty chairs were not occupied by people until 11am or later. They did have a pool boy putting stickers on those chairs saying that chair saving is not allowed, but I never saw them remove any towels or other articles left on them. On the port days, we had our choice of seats, as we did not get off the ship in Grand Cayman or Montego Bay. We had mostly sunshine and heat on every day except for our stop in Cozumel where it was cloudy and raining. One morning when we hit the pool, almost all the chairs had towel animals on them. Very cute :).
Entertainment: We only went to one regular show, and we walked out after 5 minutes as it was quite boring for us. I think it was the Latin show, and the performers were doing some sort of contemporary dance with big screens flashing images that didn't seem to fit the dance at all. We did go to one late night comedy show however, and loved it. The comedian was John DiCrosta, and he was great. Do not go to his late night show if you are offended by ethnic jokes. Just a warning. We did not stop at the piano bar at all, but we passed through a few times and it was always crowded. The piano player's name was Ben.
Casino: The casino was busy from the beginning of the cruise till the end. I mostly played blackjack, but I did hit the slots and played enough to earn a drinks on us card by Wednesday night. Keep in mind that this card can only be used in the casino, and you must be playing at a table or a slot machine. It takes 1500 points on the machines to get a card, and who knows what the criteria is on table games, but slot players get perks faster than anyone else. The dealers were mostly friendly, with just a few who didn't know how to smile, but overall, I had a great time playing. I also made the finals for one of the blackjack tournaments, but didn't win. The winners of each tournament were invited to a fleetwide tournament, for big money, in November.
Ports: As I mentioned before, we did not get off the ship in Montego Bay or Grand Cayman. We've been to GC many times, and there was nothing else there we wanted to see. We had never stopped in MB before, but we had been to Ocho Rios many times, and didn't think it would be very different. We did get off in Cozumel and took a taxi downtown. We stopped in a few shops, just to look for a couple t-shirts, and a special Peach liquer that is made in Mexico, and then had lunch at Pancho's Backyard. We have eaten there every single time we've been to Cozumel, and have never been disappointed.
Guest Services: I had a couple occasions to visit guest services because I was unable to reach them by phone, and was taken care of promptly, using the Platinum/Diamond line. Thank you to Illse and Tuana who took care of my issues with a smile and some nice conversation.
Disembarkation: Although we could have gotten off the ship early, we weren't in a hurry, so we had breakfast in the dining room and returned to our cabin. Our cabin steward, Bonnie, told us we had to be out of the room by 8:30. I didn't think that was right, but we took our stuff and went downstairs anyway. There was a very long line to disembark, and I saw Tuana from guest services and asked her if we had to wait. She said no, and escorted us to the gangway to get off the ship. The line for customs wasn't too bad and we were out the door in minutes. We grabbed a taxi, and I think we got swindled on this one. I wanted to verify the cost of the trip to the airport, and he acted like he didn't speak English. He only pointed to a yellowed out piece of paper on his dashboard that said $24. Since we only paid $18 to get to the ship, I asked him about it, but he still wouldn't speak and again pointed to the sign. We should have waited for the next cab, but we were tired, so we hopped in.
Random notes: I never saw the cruise director, Pete De Vill, at all. For all I know, he didn't exist. We missed the past guest party, as we were napping. No big deal. Our cabin steward Bonnie did clean the arms of the chairs on our balcony on day 2, but never wiped down the railing or cleaned the table or floor. The chips and crumbs that were there on day 1, were there when we left. We received a second plate of chocolate covered strawberries in our cabin on day 2, and also a bottle of Prosecco. Thank you to whoever sent them! The passengers were mixed from young children that I only saw a few times, some high schoolers, who were obnoxious when I did see them, quite a few college spring break kids, and adults from their 20s to at least 70s. We met wonderful people of all ages and I'd like to shout out to Steve and Sandy, David and Pam, Marissa and Bill, Sharon and Perry, Julie from VA, my very own group of frat boys from Auburn ;), the various Daves I met, and all the other wonderful people who's names I can't think of right now. I'd also like to thank Maria in the casino, Illse and Tuana from guest services, and a couple unnamed people I was in contact with before this cruise. You all made it a wonderful experience for us, and we hope to be back again soon.
The Breeze is a beautiful ship and has wonderful amenities. I would highly recommend this ship for everyone.