On 5/9, my wife and I flew to Miami, stayed one night at the Hotel Intercontinental, and then boarded the BREEZE the next day for an 8nt cruise to Grand Turk, La Romana, Curacao and Aruba. When that cruise was over, we took Carnival’s shuttle to the Ft. Lauderdale airport to pick up our son and his friend, and then all four of us went on the CARNIVAL FREEDOM’s 6nt cruise to Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. When the cruise on the FREEDOM was over, we picked up a car at the Ft. Lauderdale airport and drove home to Indiana, staying one night in Perry, Georgia.
For those who want just the general low-down, I’m happy to report that we had an excellent time on both cruises. I’ll go into more detail below, but, for the most part, everything went well. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s life.
First off, the Hotel Intercontinental is a fantastic hotel. It’s right on the bay, about a ten minute walk to Bayside, in a safe area, and just a ten minute taxi ride to the port – highly recommended. We had a bay view, and could see the ships berthed at Dodge Island. That first day, MAJESTY OF THE SEAS, CARNIVAL ECSTASY, and NORWEGIAN SKY were in port. We woke up early the next morning and watched MSC’s DIVINA and NCL’s new GETAWAY pull in. CARNIVAL BREEZE was the last to show up – much to our relief.
Embarkation – We headed over to the port at about 11 a.m., check in took about 15 minutes, and they called our group to board about 10 minutes later….pretty flawless. FTTF was sold out when I booked the cruise, but, as far as boarding, we really didn’t need it. Our room, an outside category 6M (cabin 2448) wasn’t going to be ready until after 1 p.m., so we explored the ship and had lunch at the Lido Marketplace.
Cabin – Our room was extremely comfortable, plenty of storage and space, and, best of all, had two bathrooms (one had a tub and sink; the other a shower, sink and toilet). The view from our window was of the exterior window cleaning platform that’s attached to the side of the ship. I knew this prior to the cruise, so it wasn’t a surprise. We could still see out just fine…no issues.
The ship – For the most part, we loved the BREEZE. The change in décor from Joe Farcus’ typical, over-the-top designs was a welcomed one. She’s light and bright, sleek and streamlined…some areas were downright Celebrity-esque, while some left no doubt that we were on a Carnival ship. Both main dining rooms, the BLUSH and SAPPHIRE Restaurants, were stunning. The Lido Marketplace (the ship’s main buffet area) is well laid-out, not too crowded, and is divided into different stations. Past reviews have mentioned how slippery the floor is in the Marketplace, and, sad to say, the reports are true – it’s like walking on ice. I saw dozens of people nearly take a nose-dive – us included – and, one morning at breakfast, one lady did…tray of food and all. Hopefully this will be addressed in the future.
I have read comments about how crowded the ship can get. Perhaps it was the time of year we went, but, rarely did we encounter long lines or throngs of people bottle-necking into public rooms. We never had a problem getting a seat in the Marketplace or any of the lounges. As usual, the line for the Mongolian Wok could get a bit harrowing, but, if I timed it just right, the wait would be only about 10 minutes. I never waited behind more than four or five people at Guy’s Burger Joint, the deli, or the BlueIguana Cantina.
One sour note is how small the lounge is that’s used for the comedy performances (the Limelight Lounge)…it just doesn’t cut it. People would have to get there 45 minutes to an hour before the comedian started just to get a seat. For that reason, we skipped the comedy shows.
The waterpark, ropes course, putt-putt, etc. are fantastic – and not just for kids. We had a ton of fun going down the water slides and standing under the dumping bucket. That being said, the pools are too small for the ship’s capacity. No problem, we just went later in the day when people were getting ready for dinner.
We loved the open wrap-around promenade deck (Deck 5). The views were great, and it was never crowded. In fact, it seemed deserted for much of the cruise. There are steps at the front of the promenade that lead to the forward observation areas on decks 6 and 7; however, if folks want to go to the forward observation areas ABOVE the bridge, they can only be accessed by going inside and walking forward through the cabin corridors on decks 9, 10 and 11. The observation area on deck 9 is the best as it sticks out from each side of the ship – the view is worth the trouble of finding it.
We used the Serenity area only a few times – mainly when we could find an empty cabana – and it was very nice. The guys at the bar were very nice and had a great sense of humor.
Food – For the most part, everything was excellent; no major complaints. We didn’t have a bad meal in the MDR, and the food in the Marketplace was just fine. As far as casual dining, The BlueIguana Cantina was probably our favorite place – the freshly-made tacos were outstanding. Guy’s burgers were good, but nothing to write home about; I had only two during the entire trip. Had the Tandoor only once and it was good. The pizza, meh, it was hit or miss, but usually it was pretty good.
One of the highlights of the cruise (as far as dining is concerned) was dinner one night at Cucina del Capitano – outstanding. Service, food, atmosphere, etc. were flawless. Well worth the $12 cover charge. The fried risotto balls were fantastic. During the day, at lunch, they offer a free pasta bar. We made the mistake of waiting until the last day to try it (frankly, I thought it was going to be a bunch of dried-out pasta set out on a steam table – I was wrong). They give you an order form, you check off what type of pasta, sauce, meat, veggies, etc. you want, and they cook it to order. It was piping hot, super-fresh, and very tasty.
Since we had reservations for the steakhouse on the next cruise, we skipped it on the BREEZE.
Service – This was my 45th cruise (my wife’s 30-something) and, I have to say, this was the friendliest crew we’ve ever encountered. Not one person had an attitude, they were all smiles, and everyone said “hello”, “good morning”, and “have a great day.” We had Your Time Dining, and we always asked for a table for two in the center of the dining room. Every single time the response was, “of course.” Our cabin steward, Jorge, did a fantastic job. He was always friendly, brought ice without us asking and addressed us by name. From the cleaning staff to officers walking around the ship, everyone was very pleasant.
Unfortunately, I saw one crew member do something that I consider inexcusable. One day I came out of the restroom near the casino bar, and I noticed a waitress standing next to the bar. She was licking her fingers and then kept sticking them in the round container of margarita salt – the same container they used to dip the rim of glasses in. I watched her do this over and over again. She started to walk away to walk into the casino to wait on people, and I stopped her in her tracks. I said, “You ARE going to go wash your hands, right?” She thought I was kidding, so she just smiled. I said, “Does it look like I’m smiling? I just saw you lick your fingers and stick them in the salt. You’re also going to go throw that salt away, right?” All of a sudden she looked terrified. She sort of nodded, turned around, picked up the salt container, and went in the back. If nothing else, at least I planted a seed that such behavior is not tolerable. I actually thought about going to the ship’s bar manager, but then quickly decided that I had made my point, she made a stupid mistake, and it was time to move on. The next day, I walked by her in the casino. She looked at me and I smiled and winked – she smiled back. Message received.
Entertainment – As I said earlier: nothing is perfect. This was our first encounter with Playlist Productions, and, well, some things were good (Motor City), some things were OK (Divas) and others were downright insulting (The Brits). I thought I was watching a mixture of HR Puff-n-Stuff, The Banana Splits, Scooby Doo and a Frankie and Annette movie – nothing short of childish. We didn’t go to the Latino-genre show.
We went to the piano bar once, for about five minutes. The guy playing kept picking up a small spotlight and would shine it in people’s faces, all the while attempting comedy. It was pretty lame. The schtick might have been ok if he was a good player and vocalist, but, alas, he wasn’t. On the flipside, we were thrilled to find that the juggler/comedian The Edge was on board. He was on the SPLENDOR when we went last November and he was fantastic. Although his show this time was exactly the same, he was just as good. Throughout the ship, day and night, there was always something going on: trivia, karaoke, dance lessons, Dive-in movies, etc.
Like most people, I’m disappointed that Carnival has replaced live Caribbean bands by the pool with DJs. While I understand that some people like hip hop, fact is, some people don’t (I personally would rather suck on the tailpipe of a bus than listen to the stuff). IMO, its ruined the once fun, happy, and family-friendly atmosphere.
One final comment about the entertainment: the duo that played Latin music in the atrium several nights was very, very good. They sounded great and people had a blast dancing. I only wish, however, that, between songs, they would have said at least SOMETHING in another language besides Spanish. Even if they had said, “thanks, ladies and gentlemen”, it wouldn’t have felt so awkward. Instead, they spoke only in Spanish, and I heard people make comments. One guy said, “I feel like I’m crashing their party”, and another guy said, “I guess we weren’t invited.”
Misc. – While the chair hogs were out in full force, there didn’t seem to be a problem with anyone finding a chair. The only time we had a problem was when they were showing “Gravity” (dumb movie), and that was our fault as we arrived at the last minute. BTW, the sound system for the Dive-in Movies is phenomenal.
And now my biggest beef: smoking. Carnival is EXTREMELY generous when it comes to the amount of exterior space it gives smokers. On the BREEZE, it’s the entire starboard side of the Promenade Deck (Deck 5), the starboard side of the aft end of Deck 10 and the entire starboard side of Deck 11 – not to mention on all balconies (except Spa accommodations). Even with all that space I saw at least a dozen people who thought they were above the rules. One lady was even standing next to a non-smoking sign that was tied to the rail while the ship was being fueled. I saw people throw cigarettes over the side, and one guy was walking around the putt-putt area with a cigarette while people were playing.
Part of the problem is that not one Carnival employee said a word to any of them, so I guess they thought, “What the hell, if no one says anything, I’ll do what I want. If they do, I’ll just go somewhere else.” I understand that a majority of the smokers on board were following the rules, which I appreciate very much. I guess I just don’t get the audacity of some people who have the, “Screw ‘em, I’ll do what I want” mentality. Smoking inside was never a problem.
Ports – Grand Turk is wonderful. We just wanted to go to the beach, which, as most people know, is just at the end of the pier. Take note: if you to the beach to the right of the pier, it’s very rocky, but not crowded at all. If you go to the beach to the left of the pier, it’s much better. And if you keep walking, you’ll eventually get past the crowd and there’s plenty of room to roam.
We didn’t get off the ship in La Romana, so I can’t comment. The view from our window was that of a junkyard – rusted bulldozers, beaten up boats, trash, rusted piles of jagged metal…..that was enough to keep us on board to enjoy the nearly deserted ship.
We fell in love with Curacao. Just the feel of the place was wonderful. I was thrilled to see that Royal Caribbean’s old MONARCH OF THE SEAS (now just MONARCH for Pullmantur) was docked in the inner basin. We watched in awe as the bridge that spans the harbor swung open and tugs pulled the MONARCH out backwards. We also went to the Maritime Museum, which was great. I was happy to find so many Holland America exhibits as well as a room upstairs that contained about a dozen albums filled with hundreds of ocean liner photos and postcards.
In Aruba, we walked off the ship, grabbed a taxi and told the guy that we just wanted to go to a close by beach for about two hours. He took us to Eagle Beach (?), which was about 2 miles away, and it was perfect. The beach, which was nice and wide and went on for miles, was nearly deserted. There couldn’t have been more than 30 people there. Two hours later, they guy came back to pick us up.
Disembarkation – Flawless. We walked off the ship, got our luggage, went through Customs, and were on board the Carnival shuttle to the Lauderdale airport all within 15 minutes from when they called our group.
I know I had what seemed to be several negative comments, but please understand, we had a fantastic time. The food, service, the friendly staff, the ship, the itinerary, etc. made up for any shortcomings we encountered. I would go on the BREEEZE again in a heartbeat.