Carnival Breeze Dining
Breeze offers Carnival's most varied mix of dining options, from a burger joint designed by Food Network celeb Guy Fieri and the line's first stand-alone sushi restaurant to the traditional main dining rooms. Here's the full rundown:
Breeze has a pair of two-deck dining rooms, Sapphire (midship) and Blush (aft), differentiated by the lighting scheme -- softly glowing blue chandeliers and zigzagging overhead light fixtures for Sapphire, the same in red/pink for Blush. Passengers can opt for traditional set-seating dining (6 and 8:15 p.m.) or go modern with Carnival's flex-dining program, which allows you to dine in part of Sapphire between the hours of 5:45 and 9:30 p.m.
Nightly rotating menus feature salads, appetizers and chilled soups, with entrees consisting of pasta, meat, fish and vegetarian options. Choices that are lower in fat, cholesterol and sodium are denoted with little hearts (pan-seared fish, lighter sauces). The cutesy "Didja Ever" option, which changes nightly, is aimed at first-timer culinary experience (ahi tuna, escargot). Desserts include ice cream, pies and Carnival's infamous chocolate melting cake. For the finicky eaters, always-available options include flat iron steak, fried chicken and a vegetarian Indian plate. No meal in the main dining room would be complete without Carnival's signature singing and dancing waiters, who clap and hop around to digitized music, sometimes pulling passengers into the show.
Sit-down breakfast and lunch is also served in Blush. The menu items -- omelets, cereals and breads for breakfast and sandwiches, burgers and salads for lunch -- are not much different than the buffet offerings, but they're served in a more formal, less manic setting. Quality is commensurate -- it's the service element that differentiates the options.
The fee-free Punchliner Comedy Brunch, a sea day exclusive, features five-minute teasers from that evening's comedians every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There's also a special menu inspired by Carnival's "Curator of Comedy," George Lopez, and a Bloody Mary bar ($7.75 to $8.75). Dishes include huevos y carne, a Mexican-style steak-and-eggs dish, and a breakfast burrito.
Carnival has focused on redoing its top-ship buffet, a venue with a reputation for being something like a mob scene. Breeze's Lido Marketplace is lighter in design (beach umbrellas, faux brick walls) and more subdivided than previous Carnival buffets, offering a series of smaller spaces that segment the crowds. It's still congested -- especially when the hungry masses return from a port day -- but it's an improvement. As is the norm for Carnival ships, offerings are split by action stations. Passengers will find decent salad and dessert bars, made-to-order Mongolian Wok (choose your noodles, veggies, protein) and sandwich stations (turkey, tuna, caprese), and a comfort food setup (mac 'n' cheese, meatloaf). A plethora of other hot and cold offerings, including soups, salads, seafood, meats and pasta, also make the rounds.
More casual dining options spill out forward and aft onto the ship's two main pool decks. At the adjacent midship Beach Pool area, Guy's Burger Joint serves slabs of beef on a bun from noon to 6 p.m. The burgers are unapologetic monuments to excess: 80-20 beef patties topped with American cheese and cheese whiz on buttered buns. Add bacon, mayo and oil-soaked onions or mushrooms, and you have a hangover cure or a heart attack-inducer. They're a massive success.
Across the way is the BlueIguana Cantina, which offers wrapped-to-order burritos and topped-to-order tacos (for breakfast and lunch). On a ship aiming to evoke seaside spots like the Caribbean, California and Mexico, the burrito concept works beautifully. Roll chicken, cheese, beans and pico de gallo into a house-made tortilla cooked on a big, showpiece press. Then direct burrito-wielding passengers over to a condiments bar with more than 20 salsas and hot sauces, plus watermelon. Unfortunately, the salt content is off the charts. With all those great salsas, including offbeat concoctions like watermelon and jicama, and smoked tomato and scallion, where are the tortilla chips? (That's right, there aren't any.)
By the Tides Pool, located at the ship's stern, the 24-hour Pizza Pirate bakes pies to order, so it rarely has more than a couple slices available to quickly pilfer. Passengers will almost always have to wait a few minutes for the pizza to come out. It's worth it. The slices aren't Brooklyn's wood-fired finest, but the much-improved pizza (new dough, flatter crust) is the best of its kind at sea, and it comes out of the oven hot.
Nearby is our favorite casual venue, Tandoor, an Indian-themed grab-and-go counter, typically open from noon to 2:30 p.m. A row of meat-and-veggie skewers offers an appetizing backdrop to the grilled meat and fish, curries, daals and rice alongside key accouterments like mint chutney, raita and achar (pickle).
One deck up from the Lido Marketplace is Cucina del Capitano, a for-fee Italian restaurant that's decked out with novelty-sized wine bottles, checkered tables, singing waiters and framed pictures highlighting Carnival's Italian heritage (the origin of its ships and many of its captains). Passengers dine on hefty pasta platters, chicken parmesan and steak, and sip on $5 glasses of Chianti, dispensed via a wine barrel on wheels. Sides and appetizers -- arugula salad, minestrone soup -- are served family-style if more than one person at a table orders them. Tableside entertainment involves waiters awkwardly singing and dancing to Italian favorites ("That's Amore") over muzak tracks. Adults pay $15 to eat dinner there; kids younger than 12 pay $5. One tip: Don't stay too late. The restaurant is positioned directly underneath the basketball court. While we were sipping cappuccinos, the roof seemed poised to cave in under the repeated thunderstorm of bouncing balls.
Cucina is also open for surcharge-free lunch, during which cooks whip up stir-fried pasta creations to go along with self-serve salads and sides.
Bonsai Sushi is Carnival's first stand-alone, sit-down sushi venue located on Deck 5 -- on its other ships, a chef wheels out a surcharge-free sushi cart at night (with limited offerings). The menu is expanded at Bonsai, where tables are topped with the eponymous mini-trees, and framed Japanese graffiti hangs on the walls. Pricing for apps (like wagyu short ribs), salads and soups (noodle salad, miso soup), sushi (tuna, shrimp) and rolls (California, eel) is a la carte. Diners should expect to pay $12 to $20 for the food. (Ichibans and bottles of saki are extra.) Best deal: At $15, the sushi boat for two is the way to go. Each passenger gets a miso soup, green salad with ginger dressing and a smattering of sushi served on a faux-pine toy boat.
We do have one bone to pick. The slightly disturbing tableside song-and-dance routine may offend some. The scene: A trio of teeny-tiny Japanese waitresses ecstatically sing a heavily accented version of "Turning Japanese" as diners wave fish-shaped flags. (Google the song meaning.) The surreal rendition left more than one diner with mouth agape.
Passengers fine with Carnival's "free" sushi will find that it's been relocated to the buffet during evening hours.
On sea days, Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ pulls hundreds off the sun deck to its Deck 5 outdoor promenade spot. Chefs prod and flip coils of sausages on the grill, and plates are piled high with chicken, pulled pork, charred vegetables, creamed corn, baked beans and jalapeno cornbread mini-muffins. The requisite BBQ sauces and a makeshift mini-bar round out the offerings. Expect to queue up for 15 to 20 minutes or so to get a crack at Fat Jimmy's.
Fahrenheit 555 is the ship's rebranded steakhouse, serving exactly what you'd expect -- classic soups and starters (baked onion soup, tuna tartare), salads (Caesar, spinach salad) and prime aged beef, chops and seafood (ribeye, lamb, lobster), which the server wheels out on a cart for a pre-meal examination and explanation. It's $35 for a starter, salad, entree and dessert. Reservations are recommended, especially if you want to eat at prime time (6:30 to 8 p.m.).
The Taste Bar, also found on Carnival Miracle, offers a nightly rotating menu culled from the ship's various dining venues. Given its promenade location, the venue is a perfect amuse bouche on the evening march to the dining room. There are typically two tapas to sample, like short rib croquettes and pumpkin bisque from Fahrenheit 555, the ship's for-fee steakhouse ($35 per person). The small plates don't incur an extra charge, but the accompanying (and also rotating) cocktails are an attractive $5. For instance, passengers can opt for a Lynchburg Lemonade on "Comfort Kitchen" night, which features a grilled ham and provolone cheese melt on buttermilk brioche and cream of tomato soup, sourced from Breeze's casual buffet spot.
Carnival's popular RedFrog Pub, which debuted on Magic, features light bites in addition to its signature libations. Because you shouldn't order one of the always-hopping RedFrog Pub's 101-ounce beer tubes on an empty stomach, the menu also features a selection of bar apps for $3.33. Savory options include conch, sirloin and grouper sliders; fried green beans; and grilled chicken roti. A bowl of "pigeon peas," salty, spicy, deep-fried peas, are an included staple at every table.
The Ocean Plaza Cafe is Breeze's version of Starbucks. Alongside the for-fee lattes, cappuccinos and espresso drinks are cakes, gelato and cookies, which range from $1.50 to $3 each.
Breeze also features the $75-per-person Chef's Table, a now industry staple where passengers meet the head chef, wander the galley and enjoy a multicourse feast, paired with wine and a bit of culinary Q&A. Reservations are required -- and this event can fill up quickly.
The well-oiled room service operation is available 24 hours. The decent menu includes Continental breakfast items, as well as hot and cold items like BLT's, roast beef sandwiches, salads and cookies. It says to allow up to 45 minutes for a delivery, but it's often much quicker. It's customary to tip a couple bucks per order.