Carnival Breeze Entertainment
While Carnival hasn't integrated brand-name shows -- like Broadway's "Hairspray" and "Chicago" (RCI) or Blue Man Group (NCL) -- the line has taken its own novel approach. Productions in the 1,349-seat Ovation Theater top out at 30 minutes, and they showcase big investments made in sound and lighting. The generation-spanning music of "Divas" (Patti Labelle to Lady Gaga) was backed by a trippy faux-futuristic graphics package beamed on a mega-screen that was used to silhouette the performers and send the audience zipping through space. "The Brits," an homage to British Invasion hitmakers like the Stones, Beatles and Herman's Hermits; "Latin Nights," an homage to Latino hitmakers (Santana, Ricky Martin); and "Motor City," an homage to Detroit hitmakers (Smoky and the Motown gang). Expect the same lucid backdrops to bring vibrancy to these shows, as well. Other shows (newlyweds not so newlyweds game, etc.) and guest performers, including comedian-magicians or musicians, may get top billing, too.
Another new-to-Carnival evening theater offering is "Hasbro, the Game Show," an interactive event inspired by the TV show "Family Game Night." Think long-popular board games transformed into a 30-minute stage show with passenger participation. For instance, Connect 4 morphs into a sharp-shooting basketball contest pitting two families against each other. Operation takes on the form of ski ball. (Getting balls in particular holes completes an operation and earns a team points.) The prizes for winning teams are, not surprisingly, Hasbro games.
Like any Carnival ship, Breeze features more than a dozen watering holes. But this time, the bars represent a new approach for the line. Instead of distinguishing venues primarily by glitzy designs, each tippling venue on Breeze is a well-defined brand with a specialized vibe, music, decor and even drink list.
RedFrog Pub, which debuted on Magic, is a love letter to Caribbean kitsch -- it's all driftwood signs, plastic marlins and fake palm trees. The popular venue features nightly acoustic music and a group of high-energy passengers sharing pints (or 101-ounce beer tubes) of Carnival's easy-drinking private-label ThirstyFrog Red. A bar-sized shuffleboard table complete with sawdust (for sliding the puck) is housed within. Piano Bar 88 packs them in nightly for a combination of light comedy and piano-man sing-alongs. Wander by at the right time (ie Elton John night), and you may see passengers and pianist wearing boas, oversized glasses and captain's hats.
By day, the Limelight Lounge mostly sits idly, but by night, it becomes the Punchliner Comedy Club, playing host to family-oriented (early) and R-rated (late) shows from a rotating lineup of comedians. Nearby, the dance club, Liquid, lets those who want to leave it all on the floor (or in one of the trendy, barred dance "cages," if you like to show off moves) do just that. Superstar Karaoke, which features fellow passengers backed by a house band, can create a legend for the week -- whether it's because a tone-deaf passenger set dogs to howling and glass chandeliers shattering with "More Than a Feeling" or nailed "I Feel Good," complete with spin and split.
A less popular new offering, The Library Bar, features a pair of enomatic wine machines, allowing passengers to dispense their own glasses of eight different vinos in two-, four- or six-ounce portions. There's also a small bar staffed at night, offering mixed drinks like the Papa Doble Hemingway (a margarita). The space, adjacent to the Sapphire dining room, was designed as a before- or after-dinner spot to meet for drinks, but it seemed underused.
Up on the pool deck are the BlueIguana Tequila Bar and the RedFrog Rum Bar, which are designed similarly but focus on drinks with the respective liquors found in their names. Both are open day and night. A drink-mixing competition that plays off the dueling bars is staged on sea days.
Other daytime activities include dozens of variations on trivia, dance classes (learn the Cha Cha!) and seminars (air quotes needed) on detox or art-collecting that are always aimed at getting passengers to open their wallets.
Every dedicated puller has her favorite slot machine at Breeze's Winner's Luck Casino, whether it's Inca Gold or Freak Show. The room -- which passengers pass through en route to, oh, everything -- also features roulette, blackjack, craps and the now-industry-standard pair of dealer-free poker tables. There's also that excruciating game where you try to compel quarters to fall over a ledge. Hardcore casino players can earn points that are good for rewards like drink comps. The casino also features the ship's dedicated sports bar.
Hundreds of shore excursions range from shopping and panoramic city tours to food-, drink- and water-based adventures. A handful of teens-only excursions are also offered.
Carnival Breeze Public Rooms
The atrium -- the towering, nine-deck-high midship space that's one of Carnival's defining elements -- is found on Breeze, but with a decidedly un-Fun-Ship-like design. Instead of novelty-sized gem stones, color-changing lights or pink spots covering every inch of wall (found on other Carnival ships), Breeze's airier version features multicolored light fixtures suspended by a simple mural of a painted blue sky. A bank of glass elevators provides riders with the full perspective. The lobby bar, guest services and shore excursion desks are on the first deck of the atrium (Deck 3).
Decks 4 and 5 feature the obligatory boutiques, selling jewelry, duty-free booze and cigarettes, clothes and logo items. Cherry on Top, done up in candy-cane red and white, sells all manner of sweets by the quarter pound in the "scoop it from a plastic box" fashion. (Individual boxes of Sweet Tarts, giant lollies and chocolate candy are on offer, too.) Tux rentals and flowers for purchase are also available there.
Ocean Plaza, an indoor-outdoor promenade space found on Dream and Magic, houses bars, entertainment venues and Breeze's coffee shop (indoors), as well as hot tubs, the sea-day BBQ venue and seating (outdoors). The outdoor space, called the Lanai, stretches completely around the ship, forming a half-mile route.
Carnival still touts art auctions, so there are several held in the gallery, complete with requisite sparkling wine handouts. For more fan-friendly imagery, the Photo Gallery on Deck 4 provides hours of enjoyment. If you're looking for your own mug among the masses, a key card-activated facial-recognition system, introduced on Magic, can help.
On Breeze, launderettes or simple "ironing rooms" are located on almost every cabin deck (nothing on the two decks housing spa cabins, but there aren't many cabins on said decks). It's $3 for a wash, $2.75 for a dry and $1.50 for detergent; hours of operation are 6:30 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Carnival Breeze (and Magic and Dream) has traded the traditional Internet cafe for bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and more than 40 Fun Hubs -- Web stations that are found in various public spaces around the ship. Pay-as-you go Internet is $0.75 a minute, but you can bring the cost down to $0.30 if you buy 1,000 minutes ($300). There is a $3.95 activation fee the first time you log on. Funville@sea is a fee-free Intranet service providing access to onboard activities and events, dining menus, basic news and weather reports for the next destination.
The ship's library, which now doubles as a bar, has a modest selection of bestsellers and travel books, as well as an excellent selection of Hasbro-branded games (Monopoly, Battleship, etc). All can only be taken out with the help of a librarian (who doubles as the lobby bar bartender on Deck 3 forward). Tabs on book borrowers are kept via their Sail and Sign cards.
A small medical facility (Deck "0") and a conference room (Deck 4) round out the offerings.
Carnival Breeze Spa & Fitness
Carnival has long been known for its candy-colored, high-energy sun decks -- featuring corkscrew waterslides, adults-only havens and casual dining options -- but Carnival Breeze boasts the line's best ship-topper to date.
The obligatory pair of "way too small for the number of passengers" pools, one midship and one aft, offer different vibes. The midship Beach Pool area is Breeze's outdoor hub, a sea of blue loungers with a postcard-size pool flanked by hot tubs and pair of thatched mega-umbrellas. The aforementioned quartet of branded bars and restaurants -- Guy's Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina (burritos), BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar -- each occupy a corner of the Beach Pool space. A 270-square-foot jumbotron, which showcases TV shows (Frasier, Cheers), concert footage and evening movies, holds court over the space, which doubles as the venue for evening deck parties (RedFrog's Caribbean Beach Party, for instance) and daytime entertainment offerings (best mixed drink contest). A D.J. also regularly spins tracks there on sunny sea days.
The quieter but no less crowded Tides Pool area, a tiered space on the stern, offers views of the wake, rather than a mega-screen. There are two more hot tubs there, next to the pool. Tandoor, Pizza Pirate and a bar provide the eats and drinks.
Look out for the surreal towel animal army that materializes on the sun deck one morning of each cruise. Even the most cynical cruiser will admire the whimsy.
The bustling SportSquare is an outdoor activity space with a two-deck mini-golf course set amid alfresco billiards and foosball tables. Muscle Beach-style workout equipment is stationed nearby. Look up, and you'll find the SkyCourse, on which harnessed passengers navigate a series of wobbly planks, dangling ropes and other vertigo-inducing challenges. Pickup and scheduled games are a regular occurrence at the full-size basketball court located nearby. A running track forms an oval around SportSquare and the b-ball court, with seven laps equaling one mile.
All the way forward, the WaterWorks aqua park features a pair of corkscrew slides (one that finishes with something of a whimper in what's akin to a giant toilet bowl), a host of water-spraying apparatuses and the Power Drencher, a dump bucket that reverses poles at regular intervals, sending forth a torrent of water on yelping, mock-shocked passengers. Passengers must be at least 42 inches tall to ride the slides.
The adults-only Serenity is a lovely, popular area perched atop the sun deck. (Most Carnival ships feature some version at this point.) Oversized hammocks, black wicker loungers and clamshell chairs topped with thick teal cushions make for a striking image. A bar serves up whatever cocktails are needed. But the proximity to WaterWorks makes for a potentially noisy experience, too. The sound of delighted screams rings through the air whenever the power drencher unleashes. Serenity now? Still, deluge-related shrieking or not, plenty of passengers manage to snooze soundly.
One deck below Serenity is the Cloud 9 Spa, a 22,700-square-foot warren of relaxation areas run by ubiquitous concessioner Steiner Leisure. Cloud 9 features standard treatment cells alongside a thalassotherapy pool with a glass roof (people will ogle from above) and a suite of heated rooms that go from desert to rainforest, with variable temperatures and humidity levels. Those staying in Cloud 9 cabins have access to the thermal suite; there is a limited number of full-cruise passes on offer for $149. We were told that there are no day-passes available.
Typically pricey spa treatments include massages, facials and Botox. A 50-minute aroma stone massage is $159, one treatment of acupuncture $150. Look for deals on port days, like a free haircut ($35 value) thrown into a $95 "Gents Pamper Package."
The associated fitness room has the requisite machines, free weights and fitness class offerings. Basic classes, like stretching, are included in the cost of the cruise. Pilates, yoga, boot camp and spinning are $12 a class.