My wife and I took our daughters (ages 15 and 11) on the Carnival Breeze out of Port Canaveral (August 17, 2019 sailing). We've cruised on Carnival before (Pride, Vista), as well as Norwegian (Getaway) and Royal Caribbean (Harmony). ... Read More
My wife and I took our daughters (ages 15 and 11) on the Carnival Breeze out of Port Canaveral (August 17, 2019 sailing). We've cruised on Carnival before (Pride, Vista), as well as Norwegian (Getaway) and Royal Caribbean (Harmony). Like all of our previous cruises, we had a terrific time on the Breeze and I just don't get the negative reviews.
We flew into Orlando the night before our cruise. We rented a car at MCO and stayed at the Courtyard in Lake Nona and highly recommend that property (new, clean, spacious, free parking, free breakfast). We drove to Port Canaveral the next morning, after making a pit stop at the liquor store to get some wine (Carnival allows 1 bottle/stateroom (1 less than Royal!)). I dropped my wife and daughters off at the terminal and then returned the rental car which was nearby on Mullet Street. The rental shuttle was dropping off folks from the ships, but would not take folks to the ship until it got clearance. As we arrived early, I just took a short Uber ride back to the terminal and met the family. Even though we arrived very early, we were still required to wait for our assigned boarding group.
As soon as we boarded, we went straight to the Excursion Desk so I could sign my daughter and me up for the "Behind the Fun Ultimate Tour." They typically only have two groups of 16 for this tour and you have to sign up on board - no advance reservations. The tour on the Breeze was $95/person (it varies on ships). As it was my daughter's birthday gift, I'm glad we were able to get in (we were #16 and 17).
The ship was very nice - yes, there are some signs of wear, but the ship has been in service since 2012 (and it did have a refurb since). This Dream-class ship was very similar to the Vista-class, and I think I prefer it to the Vista-class (especially the main theater). We grabbed lunch at Cucina del Capitano (complimentary for lunch) and Guy's Pig & Anchor (awesome) as there is no way we would go to the crazy Marketplace Lido. As promised, our rooms were available at 1:30 PM. We had a balcony and our girls were in the interior directly across the hall - just get extra keys so everyone can have access to the rooms. Like on Harmony of the Seas, I discovered that booking two rooms is cheaper than us all staying in the balcony room - crazy, right? Twice the space, bathrooms, etc. - so much better!
After unpacking and the muster drill, we were enjoying vacation! First day was a sea day and we enjoyed the pool and waterpark. We never had a problem getting 4 chairs together close to the pool and we didn't get there especially early. There was always ample chairs available (even if you had to go up a deck).
Amber Cove was OK. We just went to the Carnival area (pool, zip lines, slide, etc.). The shore excursions didn't particularly excite us and we just wanted to relax. The zip lines are $20/person (maybe $10 for child?) but we've zip-lined previously so we just did the slides and pool. This was my least favorite port. We didn't venture out ourselves, especially given the issues on the D.R. with tourists.
St. Thomas is always nice. We got tickets for the cable car to Paradise Point. We were going to do it on our own as it is very close to the dock, but I saw the shore excursion through Carnival was actually cheaper (and you still just do it on your own). Have always wanted to see the view up there and it was nice. We didn't stay up there very long - all there is is a restaurant/bar and some shops. We returned to the ship for lunch and then took a cab to Emerald Beach (right near the airport). This was the third time we've been to St. Thomas with our girls, so we tried a different beach than Magens Bay. I very much recommend Emerald Beach - not at all crowded and there were facilities, a restaurant, and a bar.
San Juan - as we docked right in Old San Juan, we walked around Old San Juan and the fortresses (we didn't actually go into them). We were disappointed the umbrellas were taken down from Fortaleza Street, but that was from the political protests. After our walk, we took a taxi to Isla Verde for the beach (right near the Embassy Suites). Another nice beach - not crowded, facilities, food choices, etc. This beach was recommended by a local driver - we were actually planning to go to Condado Beach but was told it was much rougher there.
Grand Turk was probably my favorite day. We rented a golf cart from Omar. We did not make a reservation; we just got off the ship as soon as possible and briskly walked there (walk through the shops and parking lot) and I asked where Omar was and he was right ahead! We paid $75 for a 4-person cart. Not sure if folks with reservations got screwed as there did not seem to be a whole lot of golf carts there, but we got one! Just get his number before you leave in case of any mechanical issue. There was a very basic map on the cart, but it was minimally helpful. We planned to go to Pillory Beach and sort of went too far, but we were eventually able to find it and it did not disappoint! This is a great beach with a resort right there (again, facilities, food, drinks) and the water was crystal clear and amazing. There was a gentleman with a horse (Black Shadow) and we paid only $20 (each) for our girls to get a horseback ride along the beach and in the water (and it was a decent amount of time/distance) - so much cheaper than any excursion where you pay way more than that! Pillory Beach is so much better than the beach right there where the ship docks - way overcrowded! We then took the golf cart to Governor's Beach, which was much smaller (just beyond the beach where the ship docks) - just look for the rusted shipwreck. We did go to an area beyond it and we were the only people there, but it was rocky (but still beautiful). We returned the golf cart (we had to put just a little bit of gas in it to return it full) and spent about 10 minutes in the pool at Margaritaville. It was just about 5:30 (all aboard time) and we got back on the ship.
We did late seating in the Blush Restaurant. Our table was in a lousy location (between a wall where the service station was and a window (but it was dark at dinner time)), so we requested a change and the next night we had a great table location between the aft windows and the main open area. Our servers (Ruben and Larry) were fantastic! We have found the food on Carnival to surpass that on NCL and Royal.
The entertainment was good. Comedy shows in the Limelight were just OK - I've been to better - it just depends what comedians are on the ship that week. We always enjoy the guitar player (mainly in the Red Frog Pub - Dave) on the ships. We went to 88 Keys and Flick in the Ovation Theater - better than I expected (Royal and NCL do better production shows) - still enjoyable. We went to Hasbro the Game Show (again, we couldn't get selected to participate - darn!) and Lip Sync Battle (it was great the week we were there).
MarQ was a great Cruise Director - I found him as good as Matt Mitchum. The Fun Squad were all great. We enjoyed the ropes course. My wife and I were able to negotiate a good deal for a couple's massage (I had never done that before and it was quite great). The "Behind the Fun Ultimate Tour" was worth the money - it is on the last sea day and you get some gifts with it (including a group photo on the ship's bow, and a group photo in the bridge with the Captain). We accessed the galley, bridge (met the Captain - Captain Rocco Lubrano - he was our captain on the Vista in 2017!), crew mess, crew lounge, engine control room, laundry room, HR room (with photos of crew quarters), back stage of the theater.
Our room steward (Jason) was fantastic - we requested service two times a day and the rooms were always well taken care of. Please be sure to tip your room steward and waiters extra on the last day of the cruise - they work so hard!
We had an extra dinner one night at Bonsai Sushi and it was excellent and had a great atmosphere. Guy's Burgers are addictive (although I think I only had 1!), and the BlueIguana has outstanding burritos/bowls/tacos (and a breakfast burrito). We had breakfast in the dining room every morning and it was great. The Sea Day brunches are also incredible.
While we like Norwegian's freestyle cruising philosophy, and Royal has the most innovative ships, Carnival, in our opinion, has the best food, the most fun (great Cruise Directors and activities, etc.), and gives the best value. In the end, it comes to what date works for a cruise and the price. The Breeze worked for us and we had a wonderful cruise.
We did have an issue with our shower (water pressure and drainage) - we reported it and it was resolved almost immediately - great service.
Disembarkation was a bit delayed so we just hung out in the Limelight - not Carnival's fault. We rented a car again (as we drove down to West Palm Beach to visit family) from Alamo (same as before). I took the shuttle to the building and got the car quickly and picked up the family at the terminal. We were sad to see the Breeze disappear in the rear view mirror . . . Read Less