This was my 6th Cruise, 1st on Carnival. Previous cruises have been mostly on RCI and Celebrity, so admittedly, I was a little biased coming into this cruise, however, being a New Year's cruise and traveling with friends, the value was unbeatable (close to $400 less than RCI's Liberty on the same dates, different Itinerary).
Cabin chosen was interior, as has been on previous cruises as value is important to me more than room category. Cabin was adequate albeit a bit smaller than those offered on the previously mentioned lines. Nevertheless, Cabin was kept consistently clean by our almost non-existent cabin attendant (ok with me!) who left us the traditional towel animals my roommate kept destroying the first couple nights. It was her first cruise, but our attendant finally caught on and started leaving them on my bed instead. Needless to say we had a better-kept collection of towel animals by the end of the cruise.
One pet-peeve was that I had asked the agency that we booked with to ensure we had 2 beds (despite being a male & female traveling) and I even went back and made sure that selection was made on Carnival's website after booking. Nevertheless, when we arrived, we found only one bed and had to hunt our aforementioned disappearing attendant to make sure it was fixed before we headed off to the New Year's festivities on boarding day. Once the problem was solved, it was "smooth sailing" (more on that later...) after that. So OK on Carnival's part, but why make choices beforehand if you're just not going to see them? (BTW, this has happened on previous cruises too... so I guess, Oh well...)
Embarkation was a smooth process... we went through Carnival's website and ensured we had all proper documentation: Sail&Sign documents, Boarding Pass, Bag Tags, etc. Picked 1:00 pm for boarding and I was dropping my friend off around 12:40. By the time I had parked (at official Galveston Parking, $65 pre-pay) and returned on a very, very crowded shuttle bus (thankfully I snagged the first seat), I rejoined my friend/roommate to joint he queue and we were on board by 1:15ish. As I said, with all our paperwork together, we were just herded through the queues (one for those with reservation times, and those without, plus priority line). We only really stopped a few times, once to scan passports/check docs, then to security (we only had carry on bags), a quick check for our pre-approved, 2 bottles of wine (one each) and then right before the gangway because my friend's passport pic was too different to her current look, so they had to take a quick pic on their handheld tablets, mine was ok, so I was spared. After that, off we went! KUDOS CARNIVAL!
After boarding right at the Atrium on Deck 3, we headed straight for our cabin to find the aforementioned bed problem (but key-cards, etc, were all in order). BTW, kind of sucks that aft-cabin passengers have to either fight the crowds on the forward elevators (mid-ship off-duty for bag service) or haul their carry-ons up the stairs to deck 4 or 5 to get across to the aft elevators.... It was great to board at the Atrium (from my cruise-geek perspective) and awesome to climb the atrium stairs and start exploring before heading to the cabin, but for those who had their own large bags, etc. to carry, I'm sure this was not a pleasant experience. We went up to Deck 4 and walked aft to our elevators. Anyway, bags had not arrived, but how could they possibly get them up so quickly? So off we went to explore the lovely Carnival Breeze.
I had personally picked the Breeze because of the reviews, age, tonnage, etc. Being one of Carnival's "Freshest" ships, and being the newest option for us out of Galveston. Reviews proved true, and Breeze is indeed a very beautiful ship! None of that garish, early-Carnival decor that I might have been dreading/wanting to see. Breeze definitely has a "South Florida/Coastal" feel, very apropos to our destination and conducive to a festive, yet, relaxed atmosphere (more on that later too..)
One pet-peeve was that I found the ceilings in the public decks very low... I do believe some of them are taller than a regular stateroom-deck, but they certainly felt lower than on some of the other ships I have been on. On another personal observation, the ceilings might seem "lower" because of the heavy, horizontal stripe theme (that though classy, and chic) does make the space seem... wider... in a way. Also, at the Lido Marketplace, where they try to recreate a lovely street-side market complete with trees, etc. the ceilings just felt so low.. like anyone taller than 6' might hit their heads on the "umbrellas and trees". Nevertheless, as I mentioned, the decor was pleasant and fresh, and Breeze is truly a very beautiful ship (but makes me wonder if I wanna get on the older boats... just a personal thought) but more on the ship later.
We had an "oddball" Eastern Caribbean itinerary for the New Year's voyage, and I say "oddball" because Breeze tends to stick to alternating Western Carib. itineraries. So we had Key West, Nassau, and Freeport (the last two in The Bahamas, in case you're wondering) to look forward to. Mind you, we knew we were booking a winter cruise that was not going "very far south", so we were expecting temperatures perhaps in the lower 70's... but oh...#BombBlizzard... little did we know... Thankfully, we had planned on "playing it by ear" as only my Friend/Roommate and I were traveling, so no excursions were booked at any of our ports of call, both of us having experienced some sort of the Caribbean in various versions previous to this trip, so the expectations were low (Thankfully!)
We left a cold and rainy Galveston on NYE2017 (Temps around mid 40's) and set off to a rocky (and would remain rocky) Gulf of Mexico for our week ahead. Sunday Departure, followed Monday at Sea, Tuesday in Key West, Weds. in Nassau, Thurs. in Freeport and 2 days at sea back to another Sunday in Galveston. My last cruise had been a Western Carib. XMAS2013 Cruise and we had also left a cold and cloudy Galveston behind, but after a rocky 1st day at sea, we emerged onto warmer weather halfway through Day 1.
Not this time... wrapped up in the Holidays and traveling back home from the West Coast to catch the boat, I had no idea any sort of weather phenomenon was going to happen. I landed back in Dallas on the 29th and kept up with the fact that it could snow the night of the 30/31, so we scrapped our plans to leave the 31st in the morning and decided to drive to Galveston on Saturday night (Dec. 30) to ensure we would make the ship. Nevertheless, forecasts (on a couple phone apps) still showed 70's for the destinations ahead so we stuck to our packing plans (i.e. warm weather clothes). It was a great choice to drive down earlier, and I would say I would recommend to do it for any sailing if you are coming from further than Houston.... Just in case.
Back to the destinations... after we boarded and started using Carnival's pretty awesome "FUNHUB" app (where you have weather, news, activities, deck plans, your account, #of Drinks if your on the package, etc, etc. etc, Well done Carnival!) we found out the forecast was pretty bleak for the rest of the week (50/60's throughout), our best bet was Nassau which was promising a measly 72. So off we went to into the Gulf of Mexico and headed South-South-East towards the Florida Keys.
After a moderately rocky (nothing to write home about) day at sea, and a very fun New Years Eve/New Years Day (more on that later...) we docked in Key West. It was very cloudy and rainy throughout the day with some relative breaks but weather was in the "okayish" mid 60's. Having known it was going to be mucky, we slept in and got off the boat after noon. We got a chance to walk around the very nice (still, after hurricane rumors) Downtown area of Key West. Wish we could've had the chance to walk further and explore, but the rain came back around 2pm and we decided to head back on board. Lots of shops, bars, restaurants, etc. in just the few blocks around the dock, so Key West sure remains a great place to visit and explore.
Nassau was a bit sunny during the morning, but after we got off the ship around 12:30, things started getting a bit windy and cloudy. By the time we got back around 3:00pm it was full-on winds and rain, on a rush to get back from the Port itself to the various docks holding multiple ships that day. Downtown Nassau is quite nice and walk-able (10 mins. from Ship to Port, then 5/10 min. walk into different shops/restaurants/etc.) We had planned to walk to the beach that is close to the port, but since the weather was not the greatest, we stuck to the streets of downtown and had a refreshment and did some window shopping. In retrospect, should have bought my Rum Cakes here as they were cheaper than on the boat. Oh well. Soon it was evident the weather was turning for the worse, so we started the walk back (around 15 mins. back to port, then the walk to the ship). It gradually grew worse, and needless to say it was a mad rush from tons of folks from 6 different ships (Anthem, Empress & Grandeur, plus Disney Dream, NCL Sky & our Breeze... probably 20k plus cruise guests on shore that day.... Yikes!) rushing to get back to their boats. The port itself, which is at the base of town and heads out to the different piers, is where everyone's Key-Cards & ID's get checked, so this place was utterly packed as we were all trying to rush back. Thankfully it only took around 10 (rain-soaked) minutes until we got inside and got our ID's checked. Then it was a mad 10-min. rush on the semi-covered walk back to the ships. There are trams, and if you're on an excursion you'll probably be bused back to the ship. But with these many people, there was even a huge line for those who really needed to use the trams, so we just braved it back in rainy, very windy, very wet, 60-something weather. The wind-tunnel created in between the piers (in our case, between Breeze & Anthem) was astounding(-ly cool! for me...) but truly hard to walk at times! But back on board it was, and off to Freeport we went later that evening.
We had better hopes for Freeport as "Sunny" was in the cards, alas, it was Sunny but only around 64 and with a harrowing wind blowing throughout. I had earlier in the morning gone out to the Lanai Promenade on Deck 5 to "try out the weather" since we're in an inside cabin, and it seemed "sunny and pleasant" but I was badly fooled by the fact I was wearing a sweater and that I was covered to some degree by the high glass on this deck. Needless to say we went ashore in less than appropriate outerwear and we only managed to try to scour the many shops by the pier to find a sweater for my friend/roommate to no avail (plenty selection, but user did not find satisfaction.. LOL) so again we hurried back on board, this time to a much quicker re-boarding procedure (there are 2 piers in Freeport, Costa Atlantica(ish?) was next door but left early, and both piers are pretty much independent sharing the same shopping/entertainment area where there seemed to be lively music as well... didn't make it that far though.
As you can see, our itinerary was plagued by the troublesome #BombBlizzard, but alas, we escaped 20-degree weather back in Dallas and were on a very fun boat and got to see some pretty sights, even for a few minutes, so all in all a great experience and def. want to go back to try out a beach or two.
Back to the ship, it rocked a bit throughout, but all in all, I will say it fared well in the relatively choppy waters of the Gulf/Upper Caribbean (if we can call it that...), I guess one cannot expect the boat to be completely still during the entire journey... also, our cabin position (bottom of the bunch!) on deck-1 aft-mid probably made it all that easier to carry on with some of the motion. Both friend and I seem to have good sea-legs, except for the fact that I still have some feeling of the motion a whole 5 days after the fact...
Service and Entertainment on board were pretty ok, to pretty awesome, depending on the situation. The entire program for the Cruise was pretty complete for the expected New Year's crowd. We had a pretty awesome NYEve party (held in the Atrium in lieu of the Lido due to weather) but the staff did an impressive job and had a massively-packed Atrium rocking! and even included the ever-important Balloon Drop (despite previous reports of an impossibility of having that happen due to Breeze's Atrium decor) and complimentary Champagne (sparking-wine) toast! KUDOS AGAIN TO CARNIVAL! Great fun on the #FUNSHIP!
The first few days at sea were pretty fun as well trying out the different parts of the ship, but this is where, and the weather plays a part in some way, I felt a bit let down by Breeze. After Nassau we felt we had pretty much experienced everything that appealed to our particular traveling party. We had done the ever fun Piano Bar, Karaoke (both offered multiple times throughout the week), a lot of Casino action (not necessarily gambling, but yes for smoking), and some of the other music/entertainment. Breeze does offer a good array of entertainment, ranging from the aforementioned "Cruise Favorites" to a "Modern Group", a Country Band, a Latin-Duo, a Calypso-player, and a Guitar/Acoustic Guy. So all in all, you could find a mix of these folks throughout the venues of the ship on any given day, but as I said, after about the 4th day, we had seen them all at least once.
Main-Theater entertainment is also one of my cruise-go-to's, however, due to different travel companions, that was not necessarily in the cards on this sailing. However, Carnival does try to have a very full schedule for the "Theater-proper", and a few shows did jump to my attention even though they're only about 45/60 mins. long. I ended up only attending a few, one which was a tribute to Music from the Movies. Cast was talented, technology on board is great, sound might be better in certain areas of the theater (also, it seemed every performance was packed! so get there early!) and sight-lines are poor from many areas of the Theater (I tried a few), so again, ensure you're there soon so you can grab a good spot!
I will say Carnival does in fact try to boost different activities like lectures, etc (specially on the last 2 sea days of this particular sailing) but nevertheless, I felt like I was a bit bored around Day 5. And again, I will say weather did play a part, as I'm sure we ran out of things to do as we could not spend much time on the Lanai Promenade or the Lido Deck due to the weather even though these remained in operation throughout most of the cruise.
Speaking of the Lanai Promenade on Deck 5, I do have another pet-peeve... and again, weather might have played a factor on this sailing, but it is very hard to access this area from the ever-busy Deck 5. It seemed like for most of this cruise the only door available would be through the Red Frog Pub/Starboard. And yes, it was windy, but the doors by the Casino and by the port side of Red Frog remained mostly closed as well as the starboard side of Ocean Plaza. I wonder if this works better when the ship is in fairer weather? Nevertheless, this is a great area of the ship, and I know it has been bettered on the Vista, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to walk around the ENTIRE ship (no closures, even on choppy days this cruise!), having a quiet smoke at night, and using the hot tub once (even though it was hell getting out!), hence my problem with it being not easily accessible!
Dining was ok, to great, as the rest of the boat seems to be... Never made it to breakfast, but lunch was just ok, and I know this is the "less popular" time, and we were screwed for being late risers, but I wish perhaps Carnival could have a "late-risers" area as does RCI, to have some type of breakfast elements. Nevertheless, lunch was ok at the Lido, and you can never go wrong with Carnival Deli, day or night, awesome, fresh-made sandwiches and hot dogs. Dinner was also quite decent at the Lido. We ended up skipping the dining room after night two (for circumstances I will describe shortly) which was something I had never done on a cruise before, so the Lido was great to find some kind of dinner-like items (rice, chicken, turkey, pork, etc.) plus the lovely deli and some dessert options. Sad item is that at dinner, only the aft portion of the Lido is open, so don;t even think about the Mongolian Wok or going to the forward part of the Lido for dinner. Also, the Mongolian Wok should be more like a "pan-asian Wok"? The flavors are a bit different, with much South-east Asian influence, so take it with a grain of salt. We did once, and once was enough. Also, don't expect BEEF items in this area... they hardly exist, also, seafood is negligible... look at other options above.
By the other token, in this area are some other "casual" outlets, like Blue Iguana (which earned rave reviews from my roommate and other cruise friends) and my personal favorite, Guy's Burger Joint - which offers amazing burgers and a whole assortment of toppings. Only pet-peeve here was that the cheese (S.M.C. as Guy Calls it...) kept getting smaller and smaller as the sailing went on... Last day I had 1/3 a slice of cheese on my very juicy burger... why?
Also by the Lido, but aft, are the Tandoor, and the ever-popular Pizza Pirate (where the line is endless... literally... even at 3am...) Love the fact Carnival wants keep things fresh (and keep waste to minimum!) by making things fresh... but something as high-volume as Pizza Pirate, the Deli (and other outlets) should at least consider pre-making some favorites... lines were a bit long at times, but quality and taste at all of these is superb! (as far as casual goes...)
Dinner in the Dining Room however was a bit of a disappointment.... and one of the points I look forward to the most on cruises! Roommate and I arrived the first night and found our table at the aft of Blush Dining Room (Upper, Deck 4), that first night we sat on 2, side-by-side 2-top tables with another very nice couple. Service was a bit slow, but it was New Year's Eve and everyone was in a festive mood. Dinner was Lobster, which was great, however, the portion was a bit... small. In fact, all 3 courses (except dessert) were a bit... sparse...
2nd night we showed up very much on-time for our 8:15 seating and our neighbors next door sat a few minutes behind us. We discovered our two, separate two-tops had been pushed together (don't mind sharing, but we were ok with the original arrangement), but we managed to get them to separate the tables as there were 2 different table numbers on them. Long-story, short. Our table neighbors from across the way had their entire meal as we were still waiting for our second course... Don't know weather we had to wait for our section to get seated or what, but this was unacceptable, all other tables were through 3rd courses when we were still stuck at the end of the 1st with no waiter in sight. Maitre d' did check in and said hello on 1st night, but this 2nd night he kept passing by even though we kept glancing over and trying to get someone's attention. One of our waiters was at first apologetic, but when we asked why everyone else had dined, he became a bit confrontational, and it was all a bit uncomfortable as I did not want to get into any of it as we are on a "cruise". In any case, 2nd course came and waiter spilled some of my chilled soup, said he'd return with a towel to clean... 3rd course came and went (which was pork and was nothing to write home about...) and it wasn't until he was bringing dessert that he remembered he needed to clean that "spill"... truly deplorable with barely an apology.... Needless to say neither of us was too eager to go back and we stuck to the Buffet, a missed reservation at Cucina d' Capitano (sad we didn't try!) and the amazing Steakhouse. Roommate did want to go back the last night, but glad we ended up being late and thankfully (for me) missed seeing those poor representatives of Carnival Service.
To wrap up dining, service everywhere else was pretty great, the lady at the Deli is an absolute angel (taking sooooo many orders on her own at one point... Come on Carnival! open more stations!) and she even customized every order if we so wished! Most places were quick, specially Guy's which has it down to a science (except for, or because of... the "Disappearing Cheese", and just a tad slow at Pizza Pirate (due to the high volume).
Service at the Steakhouse is OUTSTANDING, but of course, you're paying an extra $35 to be here... so thankfully they do make you feel it's worth your while, both service wise and food-wise.... WHAT A FEAST! Truly worth it and would do it again any day! Inventive dishes, posh atmosphere, great service, what else could you ask for?
Also on that note, it does seem you do have to fork over some $$$ to truly get great service, as Bonsai Sushi was also incredibly great, but thankfully, at the tune of only around 14 bucks (extra tip included) for some Sushi & Sashimi... not bad, and INCREDIBLE quality, freshness,service, and taste! Well worth missing a buffet or two. (plus, they give you a comp. edamame plate! yum!) plus you get to see the chef's right at work before your eyes!
Lastly, Bar Service, which also goes from Sun to Shade... but this my friends, as always, comes down to the science of which bartender you tend to lean towards the most, or "befriend", throughout your cruise. We had many exceptional servers that seemed eager to engage us, others happy to just serve, and others... well... altogether bothered of having to be there all together, All in all a great bag of folks which do not differ much from the great, awesome staff that dot many of the ships out there. Cruise Lines do have it cut out for them to select the few and the proud. Glad each of them get their fair share.
Due to the itinerary and weather issues addressed earlier, we ended up choosing certain spots, and the Tides Bar (aft, Lido, Deck 10) always great, and the Casino Bar was always amazing with Runtawan and Angelo being rock-stars. Also, always had great service at Liquid Nightclub, which is appreciated as they DO make you feel you;re in an "ultra-lounge: Nevertheless, there were always the bad cases that if you weren't tipping you were not seen, and also the cases where they would make your drink wrong (a Vodka Tonic with Sprite? Really?) but all in all, this team takes a lot! From a huge, rowdy crowd, many of us with "CHEER!S" packages, so, yeah, they did the best they could and we are grateful for them. Shout out to Atrium Bar Staff, who rocked not only through NYEve, but throughout the cruise, truly a great bunch. And of course the beloved Casino Bar Staff (mixed bag... but love them all..) who had to put up with the "CHEER!S"ers... lasting till 4/5am daily...
All in all it was a great cruise! Would I cruise with Carnival again... (as an avid RCI Cruiser...), YES, if the circumstances (and Price! as it always is) were right again, otherwise, I'm eager to go back to Royal Caribbean, and certainly Celebrity. I want to feel that level of enjoyment again, even though this was FUN plenty!
THANK YOU #FUNSHIP for a great start to 2018! Read Less