The boisterous Carnival Breeze debuted in June 2012 as the third offering in the line's popular Dream class. Continuing a transition that began with sister ship Carnival Magic
in 2011, 3,690-passenger, 130,000-ton Breeze embodies a new breed of Fun Ship with a toned-down tropical feel and more cohesive decor. Changes come thanks to a new designer and the first full execution of the line's half-billion-dollar "Fun Ship 2.0" initiative, a fleetwide identity overhaul focusing on food, booze and entertainment.
Breeze features 23 of the 25 aspects of Fun Ship 2.0, a program punctuated by its focus on low-commitment, high-energy offerings -- 20-minute standup comedy routines, 30-minute (tops) production shows, and fast-food sushi, burgers and burritos. The new quartet of dining and drinking venues on the sun deck offer a prime example. Stationed at the four corners of the main pool area are a burger counter designed by spikey-haired Food Network personality Guy Fieri, a rolled-to-order Mexi-Cali burrito stop, and a pair of Caribbean beach bars with mascots (Red Frog, Blue Iguana) and booze specialties (rum and tequila, respectively). The new entertainment offerings, which include three up-tempo production shows, have been scaled up in terms of impressive lighting, graphics and sound, and pared down in terms of running length. Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ, a fee-free dining venue that materializes on sea days, and Bonsai Sushi, a for-fee, sit-down Japanese restaurant (a first for the line) featuring singing waitresses, are also new to the game.
(Note: the missing elements are the EA Sports Bar and Alchemy Bar, which are currently found on Carnival Liberty
, and will be added to other ships during dry docks. These bars were designed after Breeze's blueprint was finalized -- and it was ultimately impossible to include them.)
An equally striking difference comes by way of a conspicuous absence. The curtain has been drawn on long-time lead designer Joe Farcus, whose over-the-top Vegas glitz, grand themes (the Renaissance! Cubism!), and love of neon and highly polished marble defined Carnival for decades. (The hand-over to Hamburg-based Partner Design began on Magic, where Farcus created only a couple of spaces.) For passengers who've sailed on older Carnival ships, Breeze will come as a surprise. As with Farcus, Partner Design's aim is to immediately and evocatively convince you that you're no longer shuffling papers in a cubicle. But this ship evokes an island setting with ersatz palm trees, beach umbrellas, driftwood-style signage and images of verdant Caribbean islands, snorkelers or giant turtles throughout. The tropical scheme works in tandem with the dining venues, too. The Mexi-Cali burrito joint, burger bar created by Fieri, rum and tequila bars, and the popular indoor-outdoor, island-themed RedFrog Pub complete the more breezy (apologies) Caribbean vibe. The overall effect is naturallyl less schizophrenic than Farcus's Medusa heads, power crystals and Renaissance nudes.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Breeze still attracts Carnival's bread-and-butter passenger: the unpretentious, highly social, price-conscious cruiser out for a fun escape. (Those who like a healthy dose of solitude with their cruises should probably select another option.) That large net catches everyone from the garrulous 30-something couple and the family of eight on the yearly summer vacation to the dance-club party star who falls asleep at a buffet table with his head resting next to a half-finished beer. They just have a bevy of new options to sample.
On the amenity front, the line wasn't about to dispense with certain fan favorites, especially those found on the sun deck. WaterWorks, the aqua park with its twister slides and water-spraying contraptions, is back, alongside the adults-only Serenity space and SportSquare, an outdoor activity center that features a ropes course, 18 holes of mini-golf and alfresco workout equipment. Back inside, Carnival's popular for-fee steakhouse, comfortable cabins (including the just-above-the-waterline Cove Balconies) and top-flight kids' spaces haven't gone anywhere.
Still, in introducing so many new elements, there are certainly some kinks to work out. Fat Jimmy's was mobbed on sea days, with passengers waiting for 20 minutes to get food. And some of the placement of venues is beyond bizarre. The adults-only serenity space, for example, sits next to the waterslides, from which gleeful howls can be heard every time the Power Drencher, a huge dump bucket, empties. Cucina del Capitano, the for-fee Italian restaurant, is situated below the ship's basketball court. While we sipped cappuccinos near closing time, the sound of thunder suddenly overwhelmed us. Basketballs. (The waitress said they are aware of the issue and do intend to limit playing at peak dining times.)
Finally, the emphasis on serving quick bites to the masses can have an impact on food quality. Burgers and burritos, addictive as they may be, were grease-laden and salty. And we wondered, given the attempts by other lines to include stand-alone healthy dining venues, why something akin to a spa cafe/juice bar wouldn't be a good fit on Breeze.
Quibbles aside, Breeze will serve as the template for the line's future makeovers and new-builds. So whether the ship's your style or not, you might as well get used to the new Carnival vibe -- it's here to stay.