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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise to celebrate a Birthday and our Anniversary. We have cruised this trip on 4 other occasions. We are platinum cruisers with Carnival and have been on many cruises. This cruise tops our "favorite" list. ... Read More
We chose this cruise to celebrate a Birthday and our Anniversary. We have cruised this trip on 4 other occasions. We are platinum cruisers with Carnival and have been on many cruises. This cruise tops our "favorite" list. (Not the destination, but the cruise). We normally find ourselves drinking more than we normally do and come home exhausted. This cruise, we decided to pamper ourselves the entire cruise. We had a balcony suite on the Spa Level. It was awesome. We spent 90% of our time at the spa. We had the couples bamboo and hot stone massage, a facial, the men's shaving treatment/haircut/foot and leg massage, teeth whitening and even hired a personal trainer while on board. The Physian, Dr. Olachea, Spa Manager and all of the Spa Staff, Elina, Victoria, Megan, Oliva, Kate and many more, were the best we have ever experienced on a Carnival Cruise. I have a fractured heel, due to a running injury. Kate, the Personal Trainer put together workouts that were customized to my injury, still providing a great and challenging workout. They always made us feel "important" and treated us like Kings. We had to walk by the Spa door every time we left or came to our cabin. They always waved and were very friendly. We had the flexible dining schedule. Our waiter was the best we have had on a cruise as well. His name was Roger. He had 2 other young ladies working with him and they were awesome as well. Our room steward was great and very attentive. We did not visit the bars often, but when we did, they were always friendly. As far as the entertainment, it was average. We did partake in the casino (slot tournament) twice. The 2 female staff members that were in charge of the tournament were great also and very entertaining. The process gaining access to the ship was quick and efficient. The process departing the ship was quick and efficient as well. This was an excellent experience. We wish we could have this entire staff on every cruise that we take. In all the cruised that we have taken, we have never submitted a review, not that the trips were bad, but the trips in the past never really stuck out in our minds. We have never had any issues with Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2015
We have cruised 17 times and only once with Carnival. We were a bit hesitant when we booked with Carnival but we did it because we liked the 8 day cruise with only three stops Aruba, Curacau and Grand Turk The boarding process could use ... Read More
We have cruised 17 times and only once with Carnival. We were a bit hesitant when we booked with Carnival but we did it because we liked the 8 day cruise with only three stops Aruba, Curacau and Grand Turk The boarding process could use some work as it was crowded and confusing and took around an hour. We even took their advise and waited until 12:30 to arrive. Big Mistake! Wait later. Those that got there earlier waited longer. Not a good start to the cruise. Once on board things improved dramatically. We had a spa balcony room on the 12th floor and it was accessible upon arrival. Bags showed up within a couple of hours. Nice room with a good size bathroom and decent balcony. We are used to sliding doors to the balcony so we can open them and listen To the ocean but these are doors that close automatically but it was a minor issue. Not too difficult to find your way around the ship. Lots of working elevators Cloud 9 SPA was decent but doesn't compare to others offered by NCL and RC. As for the Serenity the Adults only area - don't waste your time trying to find a place as every piece of furniture had a flip flop or a bag or a towel on to reserve the spot. Only got to spend an hour up there one afternoon during the stop at Grand Turk FOOD - we had early seating at 6:00 PM and ended up at a table for 10. So it was us and 4 other couples and I must say we all. Hit it off so well that we were the last ones to leave the dining room most evening. As for the food if was Ok - really nothing spectacular or memorable and it really didn't change much from night to night. I tried four different times to get reservations at the steakhouse and could never get one. It worked out fine because we were enjoying the company of our new cruise friends. The burgers were amazing at Guy Fieri's - always a line but well worth the wait. The barbeque was good as well SHOWS- nothing much here. Not of the same caliber as NCL and RC or Princess. Comedians were not very good either. ENTERTAINMENT- We did enjoy the Piano Bar quite a bit. The later in the evening the funnier it became. The cruise team did a decent job. We were a bit disappointed that the dance club was rarely opened and when it was it was late late late in the evening. ISLANDS - we love Aruba and a tour of the island with a stop at the beach for a couple of hours was perfect. We booked the evening sunset cocktail cruise excursion thinking it was be romantic and peaceful only to discover once aboard it was very casual with lots and lots of drinks included. Curacau is a beatiful island as well with lots to do within walking distance of the ship Grand Turk in our opinion is really the Carnival private island. Not much to do except drink or lay on the beach which was ok by us. You can see the entire island from the top of the ship OVERALL - we were quite surprised with the service and the friendly people on board. We really had an enjoyable time and would consider booking with Carnival again especially if we new that our new cruise friends were booking with them as well.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We sailed out of Fort Lauderdale Fla. We stayed at the Bahia Mar By Hilton, loved it will stay there again in March for our next cruise. Got a shuttle from the hotel to port. We did not have fast to fun and waited a little to get on ship. ... Read More
We sailed out of Fort Lauderdale Fla. We stayed at the Bahia Mar By Hilton, loved it will stay there again in March for our next cruise. Got a shuttle from the hotel to port. We did not have fast to fun and waited a little to get on ship. We were on ship by around 12:30. We went to the buffet and had sandwiches from the Deli, they were really good. There is a very nice girl that works there and makes good deli sandwiches her name is Laelah. By the time we were done eating our room was ready. We were in room 1108. Very nice room, it was next to spa so very quiet. Checked out spa, it is a bit dated but used the sauna's everyday. Our room stewardess Shiela was very nice and did a good job. I really like the layout of the ship as it is not a huge ship and you could find your way around very nicely. Food on board..... We had anytime dinning and it was very nice. We got a wait team the 1st night of Karnita our head waiter and loved them. We asked for them at Breakfast, brunch and every dinner we had in the dinning room. They were the best. All of the meals in the dinning room were great, good choices taste good. We also ate at the steak house one night it was really good, worth the money. The highlight of our cruise was the Chef's table, the chef Biju Jacab was warm and very good at what he does. The meal was wonderful, we would do this again. Nice point was the every time chef saw us he asked how everything was. A must for lunch is Guys, loved it! Entertainment... first I want to say we loved the cruise director Mike, he was always around and very funny! We did not go to any of the production shows. But the comedian was very good. And the band that played in the lobby was so much fun. The lead singer Shelly was great! We went to the adult pool area and it was nice. The casino was nice we used it at night, and sometimes in morning when there was not as much smoke and less people. I would say that I would go on the Conquest again, very nice ship with a great crew. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
This is the first review I have ever written. We have sailed on Carnival 31 times and this was a big disappointment. We primarily went on this ship for Cloud 9 Spa. We have something to compare it to because we were on the Dream and the ... Read More
This is the first review I have ever written. We have sailed on Carnival 31 times and this was a big disappointment. We primarily went on this ship for Cloud 9 Spa. We have something to compare it to because we were on the Dream and the Breeze Cloud 9 Spa class. We thought we would try the Sunshine because of the new Spa... what a mistake, it was shy of everything. No thermal pool, inadequate steam room, showers were outside the bathroom area instead of inside. They did have a rain shower with lousy shower heads. The Fahrenheit restaurant was $35.00 a person plus tip and we were celebrating our son-in-laws 40th birthday, they were told and never even mentioned it. People were in there with shorts, t-shirts and sandals. We were dressed up and felt like we were in Denny's. There were no table clothes and the waiter tried to tell us how to order our steaks and the lobster meal was in 3 little finger pieces. For surf'n turf the steak was 1" x 2" and burnt and we ordered it rare. They did not serve everyone at the same time and they did not even know how to serve a $200.00 bottle of wine but they knew how to charge us $18.00 for the corkage fee. The meal experience was a disaster and a very expensive one. We mentioned it to the Food and Beverage Manager and he seemed to be very concerned and sent us a bottle of wine. As far as the Lido food is concerned, everything is the same very repetitive seemed like it was always made from left-overs and extremely, over the top, salty. The food was also very greasy. Our ankles and hands were swollen on the whole trip. This is the first time this has happened to us in 55 cruises. The dining room service was good because we had a good waiter Nilson. However, his assistant was very sick and then she was off for 2 days and came back still sick and coughing, needless to say, we caught her cold, all 4 of us. She should have never been on the floor serving food. Carnival's food has really gone down hill in quality and quantity. There was a time when Carnival had the best food, it has really changed for the worse. The ice cream is ice milk and the pastries are now of a very low quality... they have cheapened everything everywhere you look.We also had to beg for soap in our Room 12011, room stewart was on the aggressive side, not a comfortable situation. He said he was only supposed to give it out on the first day only until we questioned him as we know better from being on the Breeze and Dream then he said he would do it just for us as a favor. I should have never of tipped him. No ice bucket lid until we asked for it 2 days later in the room. He kept putting the long decorated pillows on the floor at night and then on the bed during the day they need a little more training on cleanliness. My advise to everyone, always bring a can of Lysol spray. We will have to think twice about going back to Carnival. We just got off another ship Holland America Zuiderdam and there is such a big difference and that is why I wrote this review. There was a tremendous comparison. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We surprised our grand daughters (whom we are raising) with this as their Christmas present! Emma, age 16 and MC age 8 were ecstatic! We were on our 25th cruise, but only the third with Carnival. Years ago, we went on two short cruises on ... Read More
We surprised our grand daughters (whom we are raising) with this as their Christmas present! Emma, age 16 and MC age 8 were ecstatic! We were on our 25th cruise, but only the third with Carnival. Years ago, we went on two short cruises on Carnival's older, smaller ships, and were not impressed by comparison to the Royal Caribbean and Princess cruises we had previously gone on. BUT, since the four of us could drive, thus savings $$$ in airfare, and because the Dream was so much larger and newer, we thought we'd give it a try. We had a great time, the girls loved their various activities, MC wanted to go to Camp Carnival every day. Emma was shy about going to Club O2 by herself the first night, but then met a few kids, and they ran around together in a pack all week. We had a very good cabin steward, he was in there at least twice daily, keeping the ice bucket filled, bringing us fresh beach towels, robes, and anything else we requested. Our main dining room servers were super friendly, remembering us by name each night. The food was typical cruise ship quality, mostly very good with a few exceptions each night. We were surpised to see that Carnival still serves lobster and escargot, and some other "fancy" foods that some of the lines had cut out. We dined one night at the Chef's Table steakhouse, and it was superb. Emma ordered lobster and it came with not one, but three tails! The desserts were to die for. We thought the production shows were good, but not over the top. The dancers were talented, the male singer was quite good, female just OK. And, yes, "family friendly" is a matter of opinion...a lot of sexy dancing in very skimpy costumes. The entertainment around the ship was sub-par, the singers in the atrium were pretty terrible and they were LOUD. We didn't care for the comedian either. I don't understand why, what with all the fantastic talent out there, the cruise line would hire such marginal acts. We did Faster to the Fun, and would do it again...for 50.00 for the whole group it makes embarkation a whole lot easier, and, on the last night, we went down to guest services and there were about 30 people in line but the FTTF line had only two ahead of us. There was a lot of smoking on this ship, the whole deck five around the casino area reeked of it. The kids loved the water slides, the mini golf, and we all watched a "Dive'In" movie, that was pretty special! All in all, a good cruise for our family, but if it was just the two of us, Carnival would not be my pick. This ship was VERY crowded and we like a more elegant atmosphere. (They actually announced in the dining room, that, on "elegant" night, men were not allowed to wear flip flops and wife-beaters, and no ball caps!) One other tip: If you are driving to the port, park at the Fulton Street garage, it was less than half of the price of the one at the port! It is only two blocks away, and they have a shuttle bus with porters to help with your luggage.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
We have cruised the Carnival several times and have never been disappointed....until this time...We were on a New Years cruise and it didn't go as planned. First place, the kids totally took over the ship all the pools, hot tubs, ... Read More
We have cruised the Carnival several times and have never been disappointed....until this time...We were on a New Years cruise and it didn't go as planned. First place, the kids totally took over the ship all the pools, hot tubs, dining rooms, buffet. I love kids and Carnival has always had lots of them but not under foot 24/7...That was the first disappointment...We have cruised summers and holidays and have never seen it this bad. Evidently the kids activities were not being used. Second was the spa...We always get aleast one massage or service. Booked the couples massage..They were running 45 mines late which made us late to dinner. .The room was noisy, and the plumbing pipes were gurgling thru the whole time. Not a relaxing massage. And after we got home and checked the bill, they over charged us. Then went to get into a hot tubs, full of kids and water not circulating and was cold. We had convinced brother and sister in law to come too and this was their first cruise. We wanted to make cruisers out of them. We spent the whole time making excuses for how things were...... We had already booked the 12 day on this same ship in March and not looking forward to this ship...... Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
I was skeptical to take another cruise out of Galveston with Carnival. My last cruise on the Ecstasy was five nights with stops in Progreso and Cozumel in June of 2008. On that cruise, I had an obstructed ocean view and felt like a ... Read More
I was skeptical to take another cruise out of Galveston with Carnival. My last cruise on the Ecstasy was five nights with stops in Progreso and Cozumel in June of 2008. On that cruise, I had an obstructed ocean view and felt like a stranger in a strange land. I’m not Texan. I don’t like country music. I have no tolerance for children running around in my vicinity. I don’t even like frozen sweet tropical drinks or mass-produced American beers. This August my in-laws invited my spouse and me to join them for a 7 night cruise on the Carnival Magic in mid November. They are in their late Seventies. This was an invitation I couldn’t pass up. Spending time with parents is a limited commodity as we get older. I did a lot of research mostly at Cruise Critic to find out how to maximize the potential with what could have been a disastrously disappointing experience. It completely paid off. This cruise converted me to a Carnival aficionado, and now I’ve caught the cruise bug. My experience on the Magic for the Eastern Caribbean itinerary wasn’t only incredibly luxurious, despite some minor nits, it was ‘magical.’ The Ship This liner is very large, accommodating nearly 3700 passengers with 15 decks. However, the common areas where I found myself were never overcrowded. The décor of the ship is sort of an Eighties rainbow tropical mash up. It’s a little Vegas, but not in bad taste. The strobing lights in the lobby, hallways, and Ocean plaza were pretty. There are so many areas to explore, I was discovering new venues even on the last day. Deck 5 has a wide Lanai which circles the entire ship--a fabulous opportunity for some walking exercise and some sea spray. I found myself meeting others in the Ocean plaza on deck five for trivia games. This was the same venue for live entertainment at other times on the ship. It opens onto a special zone on the Lanai, which was one of the few areas of the ship where smokers were welcome. An occasional waft of smoke was the price to pay if one sits here because the automatic doors open often to the outside of the ship. As for smoking in general, the ship was very clean. However, it is allowed in the casino, which is unavoidable, since it takes up the entire midship of the promenade, deck 5. Frankly, the casino stunk of cigarette smoke. I’m not much for gambling, but there was a Carnival Player’s Club event for my cruise which had the casino buzzing with a lot of activity. I hear the odds are very bad at sea relative to land casinos, but someone won $2500 and a free cruise there. The sports deck on 12 had a lot of family activity toward the aft of the ship with a full sized basketball court, mini golf, foosball, ping pong, outdoor exercise equipment, the ropes course (which looked fun but never got the chance to try), and the waterworks area with two different large water slides, a big soaker bucket and two smaller slides. I never lounged around the two pools on deck 10, the Lido, where the majority of activity was centered. There were always chairs available, but the area was too crowded for me. I noticed one in the aft pool one morning all by herself. Mornings might be the best time to avoid crowds for taking a dip. The hot tubs tended to be bustling with groups of 4 to 6 sipping frozen tropical drinks and buckets of beer. There are 8 public hot tubs on the ship: two in the adults-only Serenity area, two on the Lido at the aft pool, and 4 on the Lanai around the ship. I suspect that the Lanai hot tubs were used less frequently because they were a little out of the way of most ship cruiser traffic. However, I was happy with my Thalassotherapy spa where it was always quieter. One night I saw a couple drinking beer in the spa hot tub. I was surprised that the Spa attendants didn’t say anything. I’d liken this behavior to smoking weed during yoga—gauche. The Serenity area is large, with aqua cushions on chaises, round loungers big enough for two, hammocks, and shaded seating. There was also a separate bar with seats for about 12. A waiter strolled the area to take drink orders. This was my deck hang out. Our weather was overcast with quite a bit of overnight rain, and Serenity was practically deserted. There were also a couple of smaller areas on the Sun Deck one deck below just aft of the Serenity flanking the Waterworks which had comfy chairs and great sea views. Faster To The Fun A $49 upgrade from the base fare per cabin gave us some premium level benefits only otherwise afforded to Platinum and Diamond cruisers with 10+ cruises on Carnival. If you can snag one of these, offered as an excursion, I couldn’t recommend them enough. It starts with special luggage tags that cue the embarkation port attendants to expedite your luggage to your room. They asked us to march straight to the front of the line where they had separate embarkation agents checking our IDs and medical affidavits before we got our Sign and Sail cards. FTF does not give you access to the premium lounge, however. We were considered priority boarding and got on in this order: wedding parties, diamond, platinum VIFP groups, suites, Carnival Players Club, FTF, then in the numbered boarding groups by zone. From luggage drop off to boarding was about 30 minutes, as we arrived around 10:30A. Upon boarding, our cabins were already cleaned and ready for us to drop off our carry-ons. We had finished lunch before more than half of the people had boarded. By the time we were done with lunch, our luggage was in our rooms. We were first to debark as well, after the self-service cruisers who carried all of their luggage. FTF gives you access to a separate window with no line and priority attention at guest services which I used to quickly clear up a question about my account and get the tender for in Belize. I’m not sure, but it may have helped with my specialty dining reservations and request for Any Time Dining. In any case, it helped to avoid many more lines, which do not please me. The Spa The Cloud 9 spa is actually on two decks, the fitness center, locker room and saunas on 12, and with thermal suites and treatment rooms on 14. I loved the proximity to the gym from the balcony on 11. I could take a private elevator between 11 and all the way up to the Serenity deck on 15. I spent multiple mornings on the LifeFitness elliptical trainer gazing out to sea. Spa amenities also gave me two free yoga / Pilates classes which were not absolutely conveniently timed, but I did make one yoga class. There were 5 of us in that class led by an enthusiastic Aussie Kevin who was great. I also went to a fee-based ($15) spin class with Kevin (only three people in that class!) and burned serious calories as well as learned a few tricks to take back to the gym at home for spinning. On port days, the ship offers free morning stretch classes for all cruisers. I participated in a couple of those as well. They were more like Yoga-lite and perfectly adequate. There were never more than 6 people in these classes. Fitness wise, it was like we had private lessons. The thermal suites are a little piece of heaven! Don your bathing suit, put on your upgraded Cloud 9 bathrobe, and if you’re like me, try to stuff your size 13 foot into a size 8 slipper (they’re too small!), and take a trip to Nirvana. The medium warm tepidarium has six tiled, heated chaise lounges with a gorgeous private view of the sea. Just next to it was the warmer laconium, with two heated chaises and a wall of heated benches across the back. There are two separate steam baths: the oriental with a spicy herbal scent to it and the even warmer aroma steam bath which features menthol and eucalyptus in the air. None of these rooms ever had more than 4 people in them. It was so peaceful. Just around the corner from here is another semi private multi-head shower with color therapy. I probably spent the most time in the covered Thalassotherapy pool which amply fit about eleven people, but never exceeded about 6. There’s a long underwater chaise which maximizes the jets against the backs and the legs. The jets pushed me off the chaise they were so powerful. At the end of the pool there were two power showers which felt great to pour down against my shoulders and back. All of the spa facilities are available from 8AM – 10PM daily. Some nights I stole away just before retiring to catch some relaxation in that hot tub. I developed some strong shoulder pain that no ibuprofen would allay during the trip, so I considered a ’la carte spa services. I opted for a $129 special (don’t forget the automatic 15% tip surcharge) on day five that included exfoliation, hot stone back, neck, shoulder and scalp massage and a facial in 75 minutes of treatment. This was actually a good deal, and much cheaper than my initial recommended course. Having read the warnings about the hard product sell after treatments, I printed clearly on my intake form that I didn’t want any products. My very nice technician told me after I was finished that this made her feel sad and still pushed a face wash, scrub and mask on me. I eventually caved for the wash and scrub at an additional $77. Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to these services. The reason they include so many services in one package is that it gives them an opportunity to sell you exfoliator, shampoo/scalp, massage, facial, and even a very pricey detox program. The facial was good and so was the back massage. As a point of reference, at first I told them about my shoulder pain and they recommended acupuncture. These treatments are $150 a piece, and the specialist recommended 5 sessions at a $150 discount of $600. $pendy. I was also curious about the Botox / Dysport treatments on the ship so I consulted with the ship’s doctor day one about my crow’s feet (~$350). She recommended a total brow lift across my “much worse” forehead (~$450) and midbrow (~$350) for a discounted price of $800 if I booked them all together. These also included free touch ups during the cruise. I don’t know if this is a good deal, but it was definitely beyond my budget. The food There’s more food on this ship than anyone can eat, but I tried. :) The Prime Steakhouse I started out with a reservation on night one made well in advance at the Prime Steakhouse which included a free bottle of wine for our table of four. We tried to get another bottle saying that we were two cabins, but they balked. The free wine is passable, not the best. However, it was free and I love that price! I savored this intimate, upscale restaurant ($35 upcharge) which seats about 80 people. The service was extremely professional, from the chummy bartender at the entrance to the friendly wait staff. The nights began with a cocktail at the very small bar at the front of the restaurant. The absolutely charming Gabriela from Hungary took sweet care of us for my standard classic Crown Royal Manhattan on the rocks (she sought out Angostura bitters to finish the drink for me personally) and a Hendricks gin martini up for the husband. Both of these call brand cocktails come in at under $10. I’m used to $14 cocktails in the bars in Chicago, so the prices were reasonable to me. We got to know Gabriela, and she recognized us by name. This bar was so nice; we had pre-prandial cocktails there on four evenings. It made me feel like I was the only person on the ship for a swank, intimate encounter. We enjoyed the ambiance and food at the Prime Steakhouse so much, we ate there twice. The evening begins with an amuse bouche. We sampled the tomato water, the lobster carpaccio, and crab croquettes. The croquettes stood out. Appetizers and sides were also delicious, from the giant shrimp cocktail to the rich, earthy lobster bisque to the excellent tuna tartar to the surprisingly airy escargot puffs with amazing dipping sauce. The crab cake was so good! It’s just a whole head and shoulders above the absolutely fine crab cake appetizer in the MDR. As for salads, I loved my beefsteak tomato and blue cheese salad, but the Caesar salad could have been better. It was served traditional, whole romaine leaf style with a thick dressing. It’s better than the one they serve in the MDR which tended to be small and underdressed, but doesn’t match the finishing and detail of so many of the other menu items in the steakhouse. The spinach salad was ample, competent, and tasty. The first night was rife with beef, and I tried the 5 spice rubbed bone-in 18 oz. hangar steak. The prime meat was grilled perfectly and seriously too big. Dear father in law loved his 9 oz. filet mignon. “One of the best I’ve ever eaten,” he remarked. A more petit filet comes with the surf and turf. The hubby got the lamb chops. This was the biggest serving of lamb chops I’ve ever seen. It also included perfectly succulent lamb loin medallions if the three giant chops aren’t enough. The second time we went back for two only and focused only on fish and shellfish. We were still blown away with quality. Evidently, so was the staff. This Thursday evening, a formal night in the MDR, the restaurant filled with officers of the ship, including the cruise director, the shopping expert, and surprisingly, a table of the captain and his senior crewmen ship in their very fancy black jackets with epaulets and gold braids. Needless to say, I felt like a VIP sitting next to them. Unfortunately, we didn’t chat because their entire conversation was in Italian! On my second visit, entrée choices were sea bass and lobster tail for us. Perfectly cooked. Absolutely delectable. Note that they only have one size of large lobster tail in the steakhouse: 7 oz. It’s split for a surf and turf and three halves are served for the lobster tail entrée. Sides are unremarkable, unfortunately. We tried the large portion of plain steamed broccoli, basic baked potato with nice side dish of bacon, butter, and sour cream, horseradish whipped potatoes which were just a bit too creamy for my taste, and the strange creamed spinach which consisted of steamed spinach leaves with garlic cream poured on top of them. I actually prefer Boston Market on this one! One standout side was the plain sautéed button mushrooms. These are hard to beat. Desserts were gigantic and amazing from the rich, tall cheesecake which easily feeds three to the chocolate sampler in four tasting portions. Two standouts were the decadent, caramelized apples in a puff pastry dome for which my server announced was the best thing on their menu. Don’t underestimate the cheese course, either. It was chock full of very high quality cheeses: French brie, St. Andre (crazy stinky), Roquefort, aged gouda, almonds, water crackers and a perfect little cluster of grapes. This alone would cost $15-$20 at any fine restaurant. I must not forget the bread choices: rosemary focaccia or a delicious little brioche roll. They’re served with a trio of smears including butter, tomato relish and eggplant relish. Bottom line, this place is near perfect. Another couple we met on the ship told us the same story: they were so blown away with the place, they came back twice. I want to share a final note about reservations in the steakhouse. If you use the reservation system, it may seem full and sometimes hard to get a table. My experience, however, was that it was often not full by more than half. My suspicion is that people make the reservations and then forget to cancel, for which there’s no penalty. Because of this, we arrived 45 minutes early the second night expecting to have a cocktail before dinner and we were seated almost right away. We also saw people coming into the restaurant and being seated without reservations. Words to the wiser! The Chef’s Table I was very pleasantly surprised by the sheer artistry of the Chef’s Table. I’m also happy to report that we experienced a new, third menu for this dinner. I reserved well in advance of the cruise by about 6 weeks through the Steakhouse mcsteakhouse@carnival.com. At our seating, there were 16 cruisers participating. I was told that this was the second offering on this ship this cruise and that because of demand they may have expanded to up to four evenings. In other words, Carnival accommodates for this special event. We met early in the evening at 6:15 in the piano lounge for four appetizers. The pre-dinner event was moved from the Vibe nightclub due to a conflict. A tall stem of champagne accompanied what began a culinary journey which lasted almost three hours. The chef de cuisine and three of his white-toqued sous brought us delectable little bites including an unusual mango sphere which resembled an egg yolk made possible by molecular gastronomy techniques on a savory rosemary cracker. The standout amuses were the salmon tartar mini hand roll and the double crusted lamb meat balls. The third beef carpaccio on air pillow was wild. It looked like nothing I’ve ever eaten before. This is a theme for the dinner: presentations are spectacularly adventurous. Chefs and his assistants explain everything and answer any questions. You’ll feel pampered. From the lounge, we marched into the galley. It’s a clean machine of efficiency and volume. About halfway in, we found ourselves at a white table clothed table with fine china and stemware. Our host, the chef de cuisine was warm and animated. I found my place card with a scrolled personalized menu for the evening featuring a ribbon with a star anise closure. The bread presentation then came with savory thin crisps separating brioche curls with caramelized onions and herbs. Three surprises flank the end of the bread board: a roasted garlic clove, and two different cherry tomatoes which were delicious. I’ve never eaten any tomatoes prepared this way. They were unusual in that they looked raw but were somehow cooked. They were like a little bite of magic. Red or white wine flowed freely at the table, a 2013 Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio or a McGuigan Bin Series Merlot, both about $10 a bottle in retail stores. We began the seven course journey with a gorgeous, multilayered beet ‘blanket’ served with a grape tea. Many of the courses are served with separate finishing pours and this was the first of them. This course was beautiful! Diners would be served simultaneously. During every course, the assistants or the Chef himself would crouch down to the table to ensure that everything was to our liking. Next was a delectable crab salad served on a polenta cracker with passion fruit caviar, another gastronomy trick. The duck textures, basically duck two-ways, was delicate with the creamy quinoa and parmesan churros. Probably the most spectacular presentation was the Bisque our way, where two separate tomato soups are poured simultaneously into the plate with a ‘log’ of whipped cream and herbs separating them. Wow. We then stopped and took a tour through the service area where we learned some amazing facts about the kitchen and food preparation on the ship from the Chef. He explained that for a one week cruise, he will order $450,000 worth of food to be delivered in Galveston. They prepare 4000 meals for the brunches and dinners in the MDRs per day! He showed us a computer screen which shows a grid of every order to be completed in real time during the dinner with color coding for modifiers like temperature for steaks. We paraded by stations where we learned that for safety, there are no flames at all in the kitchen. All food, even the grilled steaks are made with on water-heated grills. We saw how each entrée on the menu has a picture at the completion station to cue the assistants on presentations. We then stopped by the pastry area of the kitchen where we met the head pastry chef. He gave us the recipe for Carnival’s signature warm melting cake and demonstrated the preparation. Basically a custardy soufflé of eggs, sugar, butter, cocoa and flour, I discovered the real secret to this dessert: Felchlin Lucerne 44% fine Swiss cocoa powder. They prepare 1450 of these every night. We next marched back to the table where we were greeted with a close up magician who entertained the table with two illusions, one at each end. This was just delightful. The sea bass with fried pop corn pudding, savory lemon macaron, and lobster foam was another winner as the next course. The Wagyu beef short rib with bone marrow soufflé and gremolata crisp was finished with a flourish of demi glace. It was rich and succulent. Finally, we ended with a tapestry plate of sea salt praline chocolate, raspberry, key lime cake, another sweet macaron, and apricot vanilla gel. Just amazing. By now, our group photos were ready and each of us got a picture of the Chef’s Table and participants. We got to know some very nice and interesting people at this meal. Attire was evening casual with a mix of jackets and ties, but plenty of polos and collared shirts for the men. Women as a group looked very nice, but there were no gowns nor sequins. These conventions are an artifact of the past. The Chef stood for pictures with people and the end of the event. Before I booked the Chef’s Table, I had read that this multi-course menu may not approach the finest five star restaurants in large cities. That is NOT the case. This food is a tour-de-force of techniques, ingredients, and presentations. The synchronized service is near perfect. With the champagne, unlimited wine, entertainment, intermezzos, and complimentary photograph, the value is unprecedented. If you’re adventurous or a foodie, it’s a must! Cuchina Del Capitano I never had a chance to try this restaurant in the evening when there is a $15 surcharge. I did however, love it for lunch. Even better, you’ll get quasi table service with an excellent, limited food menu. At lunch, I’d walk up the stairs and visit the hostess who’d assign my party a number and individual ordering menus which are filled out and dropped off at the kitchen. You find any open table, fill your order and wait a short time for your food. The ambience was like a little Italian village. Like most of my favorite places on the Magic, it seemed like a hidden gem. The décor is quaint, and it was never crowded. Honestly, the lunch service was a little slow here. There was also a wait to get an alcoholic drink ordered and delivered. If you order a beer with lunch, which is great because they offer Peroni and Moretti in the Cuchina, they have to get a bar waiter from downstairs to come up. A minor gripe. It’s a cruise! Who’s on a timetable? The limited menu consists of salad, bread, made to order pasta and a spectacular lasagna. Salad and bread were just okay, kind of plain. The made to order pasta, for which you could choose your pasta type: penne, linguini, farfalle; sauce: marinara, Bolognese, red clam, or alfredo (fancy patrons were ordering ‘pink’ sauce, which is a mix of the marinara and the alfredo), and then a nice assortment of vegetables, chicken, or shrimp. My farfalle with marinara, vegetables and shrimp was very delicious. The lasagna is in a class by itself. A generous portion of layered pasta sheets, it included layers of spinach, eggplant planks, and whole chunks of braised beef underneath bubble, melted cheese. This should probably be illegal it’s so good. I wanted to try the arancini, but alas! They’re only available at dinner. Even one evening when the Cuchina’s cuisine was featured at the taste bar, there were none to be had. I guess there’s always a next time… The Red Frog Pub On the Lanai deck right next to the Vibe nightclub sits a large Caribbean style l-shaped pub with convenient outdoor seating on deck. This lively, warm venue featured a variety of beers, specialty mixed drinks and island-inspired small plates to share. The servers are mostly from the islands as well; very friendly and, like most of the staff on ship, surprisingly apt to remember my name with a second visit. When it comes to beer, the place features Red Frog Ale made especially for Carnival. You can order a large 20 oz. pint or a 110 ounce beer tube with a spigot at the bottom for communal sharing. I mentioned that I don’t care for mass produced American beer, and in my opinion, the Red Frog Ale is on par with them. Unless you’re going for quantity, just pass on this. They also serve Boddington’s in the can and Guinness here. When it comes to specialty drinks, the Pub offers many of the fruity, tropical, “drink two of these and get a headache from sugar” cocktails as well. You can order most in these giant fishbowl goblets which can throw you for a loop. I liked their specialty “Ting” cocktails made with a grapefruit soda and white liquor like gin or vodka. The gin Ting is very refreshing since they spice it up with a dash of bitters. As for the food, it’s a tasty winner. Presentations are rustic island themed in paper lined wire cones with long plantain chips mixed in with the mostly fried offerings like fish fingers and excellent coconut shrimp with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. We tried the conch fritters as well and found them to be good, but aren’t what you’d find in Mallory Square in Key West. They unfortunately have a spice in the batter which fries to a shell-like hardness. When I bit into them, I felt like I was going to chip my teeth. The conch ceviche was delicious. The portion big enough, but suffered from a lack of saltines or bread with which to eat it. I also tried the chicken roti and found them to be satisfying. Any food ordered in the Red Frog will run $3.33. They are all certainly big enough to share. Go with a dining mate; and with the ambience, live music in the evenings, and quality, it’s a fun place. The MDR I was happy to reserve a Your Time Dining reservation. We ate in the Northern Lights room always at a separated table for four. The room is large, on two levels. I preferred to eat on the edges of the restaurant rather than in the two-story open center. While the view of the singing and dancing waiters is better in the center since they tend to gather along the crescent stairways to perform, I did not care for the large blue green florescent chandeliers casting and unsavory glow on my food and my family. It’s more intimate under the eaves. We never really waited in long lines to be seated when we’d typically appear between 6:15 and 7:30, maybe three or four parties before us. It was only on our last night that there was a bit of a wait, so we were offered a pager to let us know when our table was ready. It’s completely convenient, since the lobby lounge opens onto the dining room. We just excused ourselves and sat and chatted on the sofas for about 25 minutes while we sipped a drink from the bar. The quality of the food in the MDR is a bit hit or miss. I was never dissatisfied. I loved the variety and didn’t order off of the everyday items menu. I liked more adventurous fare, often trying a ‘Didja’ appetizer which included interesting fare like frog’s legs Provençale and braised Ox tongue. The fish entrees were typically overcooked to my liking. I asked the waiter if they could cook my salmon to more of a medium consistency and he said it would be too difficult for the kitchen with the volume. I thought the Panko breaded shrimp were delectable, as was the rich, sherried seafood Newburg. Soups were consistently good and often interesting with options like strawberry or chilled peach, a hearty navy bean, and a surprisingly spicy Tom Kha with chicken. My in laws thought that their food was often not hot enough for them. I’m not as sensitive to temperature and found mostly everything very good. For dessert, I loved the warm chocolate melting cake with vanilla ice cream; it’s totally decadent. We had four different dining captains when we ate and each was quite special, but it wasn’t until the last night that we really struck the jackpot and had a waiter who was clearly trained in a five star establishment. From the whisking of the napkins to our lap, the attentive and friendly service, to the use of a crumb catcher, he was spot on! The others had strengths in different ways. One evening, our friendly waiter surprised us all at the table with a solo singing performance to the entire dining room after the wait staff finished their number. Another night, we had a guy who comped us our after-dinner drinks and didn’t charge the corkage fee for the wine we brought to share at the table from the cabin. Yet one other night, when my in-laws were dissatisfied with their food temperature, our waiter tried to buy our satisfaction with extra appetizers, entrees and desserts to the table. It wasn’t like we needed the extra food, but I can (but probably shouldn’t) always eat a few more shrimp or a few forkfuls of cake. If I had to put my finger on the issue with the MDR, it would be that the servers are spread too thin. It doesn’t help that every 45 minutes or so, they all MUST convene in the center of the room to sing a song together. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the live entertainment, waving my napkin above my head with the majority of the diners. However, when your domed entrée sits on a large serving tray cooling with 14 others while you wait for the musical number to end, there’s kind of a disconnect here. Sea days gave us brunches in the Southern Lights dining room. There was always a line for this, but it moved briskly and we were seated within 15 minutes of arriving. As a bonus, as a repeat Carnival cruiser, I was offered coupons for free drinks at brunch. They’ve got a delicious bloody Mary bar right outside the dining room with multiple ingredients and hot sauces all mixed to order with a generous pour of Belvedere vodka. No complaints here whatsoever! Brunches would start with a basket of breads and sweet rolls. Coffee and juices at brunch were included with no surcharge, so that was nice. The special menu had nice savory options like salmon and mildly spicy Cornish hen diavola, which I thought was great, as well as omelets made to order. Standard breakfast options like eggs or sausage or waffles were good as well. A totally delicious and easily overlooked option was the jerked bacon on the Caesar salad. The spice rub on that bacon was amazing. We got four pieces, so I shared them. We all loved it. Not so good was the soupy mac and cheese which suffered from too high a béchamel to cheese ratio. Seating could be communal or at smaller tables. One morning we asked for a window view. They suggested a long 10 top five seats from the window at first. We said we didn’t prefer it, so they moved us immediately to a gorgeous view aft of the ship right at the window with the azure eddies from the engines coloring the ship’s trail in the water. Lido Buffet I avoided this area of the ship almost entirely. I think it’s great for families, but the idea of carrying around an oversized plastic plate on a tray and finding a clean, available booth to sit in seems unnecessarily downscale. One would typically have to stop at multiple stations with multiple lines. In almost no case were these lines very long, about 3 or four people waiting, but it’s like a giant Golden Corral. I don’t eat hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, or even pizza when there’s a finer dining option just steps away. It always seemed like the line for the Mongolian Wok which wrapped around the area was too long. Skipped it. There were three areas here which did get my attention, however. The first was the deli portside aft of the ship. The in-laws tried the Reuben and were underwhelmed. The meat portion was skimpy as were the sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese. The second buffet area which tended to have my husband suddenly appear with some chocolate delicacy was the chocolate bar. The cakes looked great. The best buffet option was the Tandoor kitchen starboard aft on the ship. The food here was excellent. There were plenty of vegetarian entrée options with rice, entire sauce bar of Indian choices from tamarind to raita to complex chutneys. They had delicious tandoor charred fresh fish and fresh naan coming out of the oven in a stream. We lunched there twice. Room service We regularly used room service for an early breakfast delivery of juice, coffee, bagel, cream cheese and smoked salmon. Options were limited but certainly sufficed. It was great to use the door hangar the night before to get something delivered freshly to the cabin. Timing was always spot on and the portions were really big. Order coffee and they send you a carafe of four cups! The smoked salmon included four large smoked fillets wrapped up to look like roses with a few raw red onion rings and tasty capers sprinkled over them. I wasn’t really happy with the limp wheat toast I got one morning. The next morning, I just marked ‘dark toasted’ on the card and the problem was solved. One day, we made smoked salmon bagels to take with us on our excursion. Nobody looked in our beach bag as we left the ship. We always tipped the room service waiter $2-$5 cash. The Coffee Bar I only went to this place once, which surprised me because I’m a Starbucks-a-holic with daily visits. I like a triple espresso over ice with a touch of soy or almond milk and a Splenda. I got one here twice and I was just a bit underwhelmed. The espresso shots were premade and just poured from little metal pitchers under the machine, which if you know anything about good espresso is a total no-no. No almond or soy milk, either. This is a missed opportunity for Carnival. Service was great, however. Not surprisingly, the second time I visited, I was greeted by name. Drinks I wrestled very hard with whether to purchase the Cheers program for my trip. Three weeks before we cruised, Carnival raised the prices on the package from $37.50 per person per day to $49.95. We opted out. When ships leave out of Galveston, Carnival states that drink packages cannot be purchased until day two because of Texas law. Between the four of us, we each brought on a bottle of wine. We used these bottles at dinner in the MDR three times to offset the costs of buying at dinner, despite the fact that there is a $15 corking fee with a bottle. We also had dinner reservations in the steakhouse on the first night for the free bottle of wine. As repeat cruisers, my in-laws gave us their free drink coupons for Sea Day Brunches which we used with ours as well to save. Since we’d have one or two drinks during the day, a drink before dinner, wine with dinner and one drink after dinner, the Cheers program with the previous price would have saved us about $70 overall in drink fees. We ended up spending $589 on drinks and were never wanting, so the new prices would not have made sense for us. The ones that got away If the cruise had been longer with more sea days, I would have like to have tried the Sea Day Barbecue on the outside Lanai deck. My only other often desired but never tried area was The Taste Bar, which doubles as a breakfast buffet on port days (good-to-know fact!). The taste bar features amuses from the restaurants on the ship, including the premium ones. It was never open when I walked by, except the one night when they featured the Cuchina Del Capitano fare sans the treasured arancini. Entertainment We caught a couple of shows in the theater. Overall quality was good. The cast consisted of a male and female singing lead, four male dancers, eight female dancers, and a five piece band-- all seasoned professionals. We caught two music reviews, both about 40 minutes. My wish was that the reviews were a bit shorter, because I was ready to leave by the end. They were just a little long. Multiple costume changes, great dancing and decent singing was the fare for both, one being Seventies inspired. These would greatly benefit from an overhaul for content. Surprisingly odd was the Destination Unknown magic show with more pyrotechnics than I think is safe on a ship at sea! Sparks fly everywhere. There are large scale illusions with some dancing and a little bit of singing. This show makes no sense at all. It has a futuristic, bondage theme to it. Evidently, someone got hurt during the early performance of the show because of the ship rocking; so we got a modified version. It lasted twenty minutes. I remarked as we left, “Well we just saw something, but I have no idea what it was!” I remember the Love and Marriage show from the previous cruise and I didn’t want to miss this afternoon event hosted by the wry, cheeky, energetic James the Cruise Director. It was very funny, often off-color, and completely spontaneous with three couples playing the Newlywed Game from various stages of their marriage, one just married three days ago, another married for 11 years, and the third for 56 years. What a hoot! Don’t miss this one. I caught three shows in the George Lopez Punchline Lounge. This place was very popular. Towards the end of the cruise, people would line up in the piano bar about thirty minutes before the show in the Piano bar for a seating. They had a total of four comedians performing for the week, two rotating early and two later. These are all performed by professionals, except the lame comedy director who consistently introduced the shows with a very short routine of flat jokes. I was very happy to see that since the previous cruise, the comedians no longer do political humor which I found so offensive eight years ago, I walked out. This time, two of the three had me laughing out loud with their bawdy humor. The third to standing room only was so meek; she made me merely smirk weakly. Mildly amused, I snuck out. Other than that, I played Trivia as often as I could. As I mentioned, these weren’t really interactive, but more like a paper and pencil test given by the administrator. Didn’t matter. These were fun, and I’m happy to say that I won three of four entered! In addition to two ‘solid-gold plastic ships-on-a-stick’, I won a giant fishbowl of a rum drink that was so big, two of us couldn’t finish it. It was, however, very fun to cradle this behemoth across the rocking ship one evening as an ice breaker. They’re available at $19.95 in the Red Frog Pub. The lobby bar had an okay three piece ensemble of singer and two musicians before dinner. They tended to country music, so I never stayed to listen. Summary Carnival is an incredible value for cruising. The service was consistently first rate, the cabin accommodations were spotless, and the food was surprisingly sophisticated if you know where to eat. I loved the spa and found the entertainment to be satisfying. I paid extra for many upgrades on this trip to enhance my experience. Even with the upgrades my cruise on the Magic to the Western Caribbean was much less than it would have cost for a similar experience on other cruise lines, and I still felt like a king being indulged at every step. So many of my friends essentially turned up their nose at the idea of a Carnival cruise, and that’s their loss. I was so impressed with my cruise, I’m looking to book the West Indies out of San Juan as soon as possible.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
EXPERIENCE THE BREEZE, SOLO WITHOUT BREAKING THE BUDGET Hey there cruisers, Grab a seat this may take a while. (I wish I knew how to add photos here) I returned last week from my first trip on the beautiful CARNIVAL BREEZE and took a LOT ... Read More
EXPERIENCE THE BREEZE, SOLO WITHOUT BREAKING THE BUDGET Hey there cruisers, Grab a seat this may take a while. (I wish I knew how to add photos here) I returned last week from my first trip on the beautiful CARNIVAL BREEZE and took a LOT of notes. This was a last minute solo trip that I snagged via the “Carnival Player’s club” from my VIFP “Special offers”. I’ve wanted to sail on the new BREEZE, and the offer was too good to pass up and managed to get good airfare. . This was my 15th Carnival cruise since 2006. I grabbed it immediately for the chance to see what the new BREEZE has to offer. I originally booked an interior room on deck two, but managed a better upgrade to a SPA INTERIOR on deck 11….more on that later. I have also cruised NCL and RCL. I do enjoy Carnival and have been looking for great deals on other lines to change it up, but always work out better offers with Carnival for my time frame and interests. I do critique what I see and my overall experience in hopes the cruise line and future passengers may benefit. I tend to cover multiple captions in detail and I hope that my experience is helpful to you and possibly the cruise lines. . I am not a hard-sell Balcony or specific stateroom type of guy. I try to be flexible and have discovered that it can lead to a whole different experience depending on where your stateroom is located and the ship. My on board itinerary is normally “step out of the box” type of things keeping the trip experience fresh and different as many of us know it starts to become stagnant. Attend different meetings, gatherings, and explore on my own as well as take an unexpected excursion, even if it isn’t in my common interest. Keeping an open mind and doing this, I’ve managed to meet different people and discover places and experiences I probably would never have. . SHIP: CARNIVAL BREEZE 9/21/14 My plans this trip were “EXPERIENCE THE BREEZE, SOLO WITHOUT BREAKING THE BUDGET”. I am going to focus a LOT on the actual ship this review, and I’m certain it will have many shopping for their next booking when you are finished reading. My last cruises were Imagination & Victory in 2013, and I was last on the DREAM class in 2011. Sailing on this ship was the HIGHLIGHT of my vacation. Any online photos and reports do no justice. I always saw prior sailings as floating amusement parks, so the neon and obscure décor I could overlook. The BREEZE is an entirely new vision for style and comfort. The details involving color, woodwork, trees and foliage really gives it a soothing and calming feel bringing the outside to the interior. . This is the third ship in the “dream class” with a few additional additives and upgrades. Walking through the back buffet area one of the first things you notice are plants. Built-in trees, potted planters and attention to wall detail almost make you feel like you are walking through a neighborhood mix of café’s, pubs and lounges. Each bar has its own menu of specialties whether you seek the poolside Fun frozen concoctions, Pub-like drafts or the more Classy cocktails. It’s perfect for the bar crawl taste testing explorer. . The new RED FROG BAR is presented with the street-front entrance of an actual bar with simulated outside seating. The stage like inviting façade leads you into an actual bar setting equipped with hi-top tables and bar seats. It’s a great alternative gathering location for small parties or cocktails over the old conference room setting. The back of the bar utilizes the ship side windows allowing light to open up the space from a dark inside feel to a spacious pub-like social atmosphere. STOP IN and have a drink and you may forget you are onboard a cruise ship finding your nightly hangout for pre and post dinner cocktails. . The BONSAI SUSHI bar has been transformed from a small side counter with an overhang only opened at tea time. It has grown up to a full serving area with several hi-top tables adorned with place settings, tea pots and bonsai trees. Overhead stylish lighting gives this setting the feel of a sit-down restaurant. If the taste of the orient is what you like, then you will be pulled into this space for sure. . There is no more Alchemy Bar in the back allowing the PIANO BAR to be opened up to provide extra seating. It doesn’t feel as enclosed and utilizes the sometimes dead space to give a more open feel. The farthest back still has the LIMELIGHT LOUNGE where the “PUNCHLINER’s” comedy club has been attracting more and more attendees each ship I sail. This was definitely a good investment for alternative entertaining on Carnival’s behalf. If you are searching for the perfect cocktail or martini then the steakhouse bar has a seat for you. Seated just outside is the comedy club is FAHRENHEIT 555 STEAKHOUSE. Reservations & a fee are required. If you want to have a more intimate dinner for a special occasion, or just to splurge this is dinner out for sure. Top cut steaks, double starters, an appetizer and closing up with desert options that look direct from a gourmet pastry chef’s personal menu. . If all this sounds to formal for your taste don’t worry your options are far from limited. The NEW GUY’s BURGER JOINT at Pool-side Lido deck have pushed aside those frozen hamburger patties for a burger that simply crumbles into your mouth. Claim your burger and slip over to the complete TOPPINGS bar and customize the perfect sandwich. If burgers are not your “safe food” then choose between the BLUE IGUANA CANTINA for a Burrito or taco made to order, or visit the MONGOLIAN WOK in the newly designed LIDO MARKETPLACE. The more Caribbean-style feel has transformed the “buffet” to food stations with comfort. The PIZZA PIRATE around back of the Lido serves 24/7 pizza with a new thin style flaky crust. This is an upgrade to the former tasteless pizza on my prior sailings. . Tucked away upstairs from the Lido Marketplace is CUCINA DEL CAPITANO, another family style Italian-like setting. This is the 2nd reservation +fee restaurant dinner option aboard the BREEZE. It is less formal than the steakhouse and possible the more popular for the everyday cruiser. They transform to a less formal environment and offer free lunch options as the custom made PASTA BAR. On Sea days you can catch some sun at FAT JIMMY’s C-SIDE BBQ. Also, don’t forget to start the day with sit down breakfast in the elegant BLUSH dining room. . If there is one thing the BREEZE has accomplished with its new design is how to be more multi-functional. Most spaces onboard offer different atmospheres from day to night making you feel like it is more ship than it really is. I did discover that all FOOD service besides the 24 hour room service and PIZZA is shut down between 4:00-5:00 as menus and space transformation is happening. . Once you are finished eating…. (If that is even possible) it is time for some entertaining. Many options are available for all ages and families alike. The poolside theatre shows a nightly movie on the JUMBO TV complete with the smell of fresh popped mouthwatering popcorn for everyone. PLAYLIST productions shows are nightly in the LIMELIGHT LOUNGE. I will say thank you to Carnival for tweaking the stage out into the audience and making the upper seating steeper for better viewing. However, I am not a fan of the new Playlist productions. Some of the singers were difficult to hear if their head sets are not positioned correctly during quick costume changes. The cast also is more mediocre performers across the board having to be more multifunctional now as singers, dancers and performers. I personally enjoyed the older two-lead singers and better dancers myself. If you are not into production shows, the LIQUID NIGHTCLUB or WINNER’s CASINO may be more your flare. Junior cruisers will love CLUB 02 or discover what the 2.0 upgrades offer at the ARCADE, FUN HUBS and BRAND NEW THRILL THEATRE. The OCEAN PLAZA puts the old single waterslide to shame on older ships. The upgraded Water Park, Adventure ROPE COURSE is the child’s amusement park from heaven…… that also allows the adult kids to play along. . The BREEZE is not your daddy’s floating amusement park it’s a fully equipped entertainment city for everyone from the solo cruiser to the family alike. That aside, she also offers an experience for the less active cruiser that seeks a more relaxed vacation as well. The Spa & Sports deck not only offers the usual jogging track, but includes a full size basketball court and miniature golf. There are exercise apparatus all along the track that include (Pull up bars, sit up benches, punching bags, cycle machines, parallel bars, etc.) Once you have worked up a sweat cool off in one of the outside showers around the deck and then head on to the SPA-SIDE end for some pampering. . The ADULTS only SPA SERENITY deck is just that. Peace, quiet, serenity. Cushioned Hammocks built for two, Cabana covered beds, and Full size opened SUN beds and adult only hot tubs. There are also counter levered hot tubs around the lanai deck what usually have ample space available. If you are finished with the outdoors and had enough sun, head inside and pamper yourself at the fully upgraded CLOUD9 SPA and GYM. Upgraded exercise equipment and several classes to choose are available or experience pampering at its finest at CLOUD9 SPA. I mentioned at the start that I was upgraded to a SPA interior and it was worth every cent. . INTERIOR SPA STATEROOM 11211 Location for this stateroom is directly under one of the Weightlifting apparatus in the gym. So there were some mornings you got the Thump, Thump Thump of the weights from above. Nothing MAJOR, but if you are a light sleeper and wish to sleep in take this into consideration. I noticed it, but it did not ruin any of my vacation. Included with the SPA stateroom you will receive: upgraded products offered at the spa such as shampoos, lotions, soaps, slippers, soft-waffle pattern-touch towels, bed linen sprays to help you sleep and private access to the spa & Serenity Deck bypassing the front desk and public areas. You will receive a special access bracelet allowing you entrance to the STEAM ROOM, DRY HEAT Room, HEATED CONTOURED BODY LOUNGERS, ORIENTAL STEAM BATH with “mint & eucalyptus” to help open nasal passages, Special VIP serenity waiting area with lemon water & teas as you wait for your reserved $ treatments. Oh and not to omit the famous THELLOSOTHERAPY pool. A 3 foot deep enlarged hot tub with built in contoured loungers and massaging water spouts for the perfect back massage. . I know there was about ¼ of the ship I never got to experience which is why I am looking forward to sailing the BREEZE again and discover all the hidden areas I missed the first time around. To say I enjoyed the BREEZE is an understatement. I discovered that a FULL VACATION could be experienced ONBOARD the BREEZE without even setting foot off the ship. However, besides everything there is to do onboard there are still great port of calls to experience which I will continue with in the second half of my review. .. (If you have made it thus far) This second half of my review will be focused on the Ports, some misc. crew comments. Thank you for keeping up with me. . . KEY WEST, FL I have been to this port many times and always say that Carnival needs to stay longer. The early arrival and departure really cuts down on your time there to get a full experience. Most businesses do not open until 9:00 and just when the island is coming alive for afternoon/evening culture it is time to leave. Other cruise lines do stay longer allowing you to catch an afternoon local musician for dinner at one of the local café’s. This trip we arrived at 8am and departed at 4:00 (back on board by 3:30). Luckily, we were able to dock at the downtown port looking over Duval Street instead of the naval station. When docking at the naval station you lose a good hour or more just for the commute into downtown. Docking down town is VERY convenient to walk off the ship and be in the midst of downtown Mallory Square. Duval, Front & the “square” are all nice to stroll and shop. A little pricey but there are many small tasty venues that can help pass the time and find some nice quality items. . To get the real flare for what KEY WEST has to offer though, you need to bypass the touristy vacuum and venture out. This is the perfect island to do your homework before visiting. There are many locals that offer private charters around the island and know all the perfect snorkeling areas. There is no one better than the local residents to help guide you to what Key West really has to offer. Pre-Reservations may be required before your arrival, but worth it. Simple online searches for KEY WEST Private Charters visiting is a good place to start. The life on the water around the island offers several great opportunities to satisfy your playful side. . If land dwelling and self-exploration is your thing there are several options. Directly off the ship (at the end of the downtown pier) you will find a few small wooden sheds to rent bikes. This is normally my option for the island. $20-25/day gets you a BIKE, LOCK and map of the island. This is perfect for cruising on a budget. The island is not that large and biking is a norm everywhere you go. You can also rent scooters or electric carts if you wish. Just keep in mind that all local road laws are in affect while driving on the roads. You are susceptible to ticketing so be sure to adhere to all of your stop signs, traffic lights and road rules. It is not a free for all. My suggestion is slip over one street off the main roads and usually you have an open quiet side road with much less traffic. . My routine “Budget bike-route” consists of…… departing the portside bike rental and make my way about 2-3 blocks over to the Post Office to mail out a post card or package. This is a perfect stop to box and send directly home those large souvenir purchases that you may have made and don’t feel like lugging through the airport when you get home. If you follow THOMAS STREET (Parallel to Whitehead & Duval) all the way to the end you can bypass all the heavy traffic. At the end scoot over and pick up Duval St right for the final two blocks to the SOUTHERNMOST POINT landmark. The KW Butterfly Conservatory is about a block from the SMP landmark. Admission is $12-Adults $8.50-kids. It is small, self-guided but interesting and fun for the kids. Make your way over a few blocks along the coast to lovely HIGGS BEACH where you can relax and spend the day. There is a small extended pier and places to buy a snack. If you want to get your exercise in, this is also the start of the scenic BIKE PATH that follows the along the perimeter of the island. I personally follow it all the way up to the North side of the island, past the airport and then cut back to follow FLAGER AVE or one of the parallel side streets all the way directly back to center of town. (KW Butterfly house area) One last stop at the “ORIGINAL” KEY LIME PIE FACTORY 412 GREENE ST (not to be mistaken for the KW Pie Company), and a bottle of refreshing imported Coconut-Lime sparkling drink, not found anywhere else. This whole venture can be done in about 5 hours with plenty of time to return the bike, jump back on the ship for a quick shower and return to port for some quick last minute shopping on Duval St. or relax on the ship for lunch and catch the sailboats returning from their daily outing. Namaste! . GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS This is a tender port as the ships cannot dock portside without damaging the protected coral reefs. Cayman Islands are famous for the Stingrays, Turtles, Colorful diving sites and the Famous beautiful “7 Mile Beach” located just north of Georgetown where your port of call is located. The beach itself is geographically just less than 5 miles in length and is open to the public the entire length. It is one of the most visited destinations on Grand Cayman with its crystal clear Caribbean blue waters & white sand. This beach has been awarded “THE CARRIBEAN’s BEST BEACH in many travel magazines. The tranquility of this island is juxtaposed by its other famous tourist site of “HELL”. HELL is a part of the island made up of Black Limestone rock formations creating a desolate yet intriguing tourist stop. The unexpected location surrounded by some of the most ethereal beach fronts is part of what draws the onlookers to its site. T-shirts, key chains, and many photo background opportunities with catchy sayings are in abundance to purchase as proof of your unique visit to this destination. . Round up your budget adventure by making your way back to portside and visit the CAYMAN CABANA OCEANSIDE RESTOBAR located next to where you came ashore. In my opinion, there is no visiting Grand Cayman without a stop here for lunch. Pick your fresh “catch of the day fish” on the way on and they will cook it up for you at the outside bar. Pair it up with their famous RUM PUNCH & fries and I promise will leave your mouth watering for the best Caribbean fish meal you will find. Grab a marker and sign your name on one of the wooden joists above for friends to find when you tell them to visit after you return home. If ever there was a “Tour of Paradise”, Grand Cayman would definitely be on one the itinerary. . COZUMEL, MX...(it rained in the morning.... its the Caribbean) It is very difficult to cruise the Caribbean and not have a stop at Cozumel, MX. This is the central stop for a majority of all the big cruise lines. It is a small island just off the coast of mainland Mexico. Famous for snorkeling, shopping and Mayan Culture connections is what draws visitors from all over the world to Cozumel. The west side of the island is the more developed area for shopping and fun excursions. I have visited Cozumel several times and have multiple reviews of many excursions offered. Excursions ranging from ATV adventures, JEEP & DUNE BUGGY rides, Snorkeling, Parasailing, Deep sea fishing and many more are located all over the island. Most of the adventure options take you to private beaches located on the more underdeveloped East side and the famous Punta Sur at the lower tip. This side of the island is more wilderness and beach and usually bears the brunt of incoming storms and hurricanes that approach from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. Trips via water ferry to the mainland visit Carmen Del Playa for the more historical excursions involving Mayan ruins and Underground River/ tubing tours. . Continuing on my “Budget Vacation”, I grabbed a taxi for $8 and took a trip 3 miles up the coast to Porte de San Miguel. Shopping at the stores along the main strip is open to bartering. I stopped in at SENIOR FROGS to grab some quesadilla and a Banana smoothie before hopping in another taxi for a quick sightseeing trip around town. When you get back to the Port shopping area you may find that bartering is more flexible in the shops once you hear the ½ hr. ship warning horn blow. Be sure to make haste with your offers as you don’t want to be one of the last minute pier runners chasing the gangway as it is pulled back on-board before departure. Cozumel is one of the highest percentage ports of call for cruiser missing the ship. You do not want to be added to the statistics!!! . . CRUISE DIRECTOR: MATT MITCHUM Onboard the BREEZE is one of the best cruise directors I have had the pleasure of sailing with, Mr. MATT MITCHUM. Matt has a fun and outgoing personality with a talent for getting passengers motivated. This was one of the more involved groups of passengers I have seen over my many trips sailing cruise lines. Whenever you noticed a large gathering of dancers and people cheering and having fun, chances are there was Matt right in the middle of it all as the ring leader. He made this trip ENJOYABLE, FUN and MEMORABLE. His smile and laughter is contagious, not annoying like other cruise director’s I have met. He draws people in and gets complete strangers to intermingle and let down their guard. Matt is an ASSET to the Carnival brand and it is no wonder he is the face of their beautiful CARNIVAL BREEZE. I look forward to sailing the Breeze again and with Matt as the cruise director. . ROOM STEWARD: NATALYA was my room steward on the SPA deck. She was training her assistant and told me that he was up for a review to receive his own Steward assignments on another deck. They both were great and I wish all the best to her assistant. Honestly, I did not catch his name, because I barely was interrupted when he was tending to my stateroom. THAT, IMHO is what makes a good room steward; one that knows your name and schedule and can work around it without disturbing your vacation. They both eliminated ANY worries regarding the cleanliness and status of our stateroom. They are also an asset to the Carnival crew. . SPECIAL MENTIONS Normally, in past reviews I lump together the bar staff and dining staff with some general feedback. I will however take the opportunity to give a special shout out to the TIDES BAR bartender MARIN KNEZEVIC. Usually, I tend to return to the same bartender while on a cruise that I feel comfortable with, but MARIN is definitely “one of a kind”. This kid, (and I say that with utmost respect in relation to my own age) is one hardworking crew member. I’ve been served by many bartenders over my years of sailing and he definitely stood out as one of the best. Over the top friendly, outgoing, great discussion maker and works his butt off while maintaining a CLEAN ORGANIZED BAR. I happened to be a customer at his bar each night before and after he took his nightly break. Each night all of us “regulars” at the bar witnessed his relief tender turn the bar from immaculate to shambles in less than an hour. All while serving wrong drinks, losing customers and needing to call for additional help. When MARIN left he made sure to stock the ice, fill the straws and make sure everything was clean and ready for his break. Upon return, he had to reset and do it all over again while sorting through voided receipts and get his clients back up to vacation mood. You would hear a cheer whenever he returned. Someone like that tucked away at the back of the ship at one of the busiest bars to close the night deserves to have his name mentioned in a review and testimonial. Carnival needs to do what they can to keep more individuals like MARIN working for them. . DEBARKATION: I chose to par-take in my VIP early morning debarkation as I wanted to get to FLL airport early. This could not have gone any smoother. Port of Miami flexes its experience to unload and load passengers like no other. I was walking out the terminal where my SAS TRANSPORTATION was waiting for me a few feet from the door. www.ridesas.com is a great Fort Lauderdale bases shuttle service between MIA and FLL. $16 one way beats the cruise line cost by half. Also being a VAN-SHUTTLE they do not need to wait until an entire charter bus is filled before departure. Pre-reservations are needed and their smartphone APP is very simple to use. All transport must begin or end in Fort Lauderdale as they do not provide transport from Miami to Miami. . SUMMARY LIKES: I LOVE THE BREEZE! Can I say that again? I LOVE THE BREEZE!! The ship should be the minimal blueprint for future overhauls and ship builds. MATT MITCHUM, cruise director- keeps the smiles on the passenger faces all the way home! DISLIKES: I gave it a try, but the PLAYLIST PRODUCTIONS really need to be re-thought out. I appreciate the attempt to change the old style, but I don’t know anyone that enjoys the Playlist shows. I do understand wanting to cut the stage affects to the more digital less costly style, but too many glitches. Like bad headsets for singers you can barely hear, less talented dancers and vocalists and the same variations of the “Diva shows” are getting old. They are becoming extravagant Karaoke or cover artist shows any longer. Just my opinion. . Ok, so I will cut off my review here. It has already become a novel and I may have lost many that started it long ago. Thank you if you made it to the end without falling off your chair. If you happen across a deal for ANY TRIP on the BREEZE, do not hesitate to grab it. Get on the ship and work out your upgrades later. Happy sailing and may the upgrades flow frequent! . I wish that I knew how to figure out how to add photos to my reviews. They are worth a 1,000, memories. wiskt Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
Let me first say that I was very apprehensive about taking this cruise. My husband and I are in our mid 50's and I was taking my parents who are in their late seventies. The only other cruise we took in the past was with Holland ... Read More
Let me first say that I was very apprehensive about taking this cruise. My husband and I are in our mid 50's and I was taking my parents who are in their late seventies. The only other cruise we took in the past was with Holland America to Bermuda and it was a very lovely time. The impression I always got from a Carnival cruise was that it was a huge party ship with people that were crazy, drunk 24/7, and loud so I never had an interest in booking a cruise with Carnival. My daughter and son-in-law went on this cruise at the beginning of May. They came back and said what a wonderful time they had and that we really should try it. Because we live in Connecticut about a little over an hour from New York City we decided let's give it a try. Clearly the decor of the Carnival Splendor is not to my taste however, as the week went on I got used to it. We had a balcony stateroom which also was a Cloud 9 room so we were able to access the spa at any time. The Cloud 9 spa saunas and warming rooms and whirlpool were just amazing. My husband who is a cheap accountant didn't want two spend extra money for the room but at the end of the trip he said it was well worth the money because he enjoyed the spa so much. And he normally is not one who wants to go to a spa. I don't understand the people who are complaining about the food. There was always something for everyone. If you couldn't find anything that you liked, maybe it was because you weren't looking hard enough. When we ate dinner at the Black Pearl, there was always a set menu plus an additional daily menu. For lunch when you ate on the Lido area of the buffet you also could go to the aft of the ship and have deli sandwiches which included wraps, panini, etc.. Or you could go to the Tandoori line were they had lovely Indian food. The lines were never really horrible, you would probably be fed within 10 minutes. The only thing I ever saw that had a big line was the Mongolian wok. My husband had to wait about 20 minutes but then again you have all day to eat so what's the big deal? We stayed at the aft pool for most of the day or we went to one of the other decks to just lie in the sun. We also went to the Serenity deck one afternoon which was lovely also. You could do as much or as little as you wanted. My parents who are in their late 70's went around the deck, laid out in the Sun a little bit, read on their balcony, and basically were able to fill their day. We briefly went to the casino 1 night which was nice however it really was terrible that Carnival lets everybody smoke in there. You stink when you leave. The entertainment in the theater was very good.I would say that the lead woman singer was a better singer than the man however who knows why they choose the singers. I believe his name was Derek and he was a little stiff. The woman, I think Allison had a real theatrical voice and stage presence. The dancers were very talented. The outside talent that they hired were fabulous. The first guy was a juggler/comedian who was fantastic.He was a semi-finalist on America's Got Talent and he was very entertaining. The other person I remember his name was Marcus Anthony and in the beginning I thought he was kind of a lounge lizard but his show ended up being really good doing many songs from Motown. We saw three family friendly comedy shows and 1 adult comedy show. The comedian that we saw at the adult show we also saw the family friendly show and he was much better at the family friendly show. Saying f*** every 4th word does not automatically mean the content is funny. Maybe Canival needs to rethink putting in more family friendly shows? THe staff were incredibly hard working, polite, and did whatever they could to make you happy. They make it a point to know your name and address you by it. They are well trained, and their efficiency shows. Their customer service was evident. My only complaints were: 1. The line to get drinks at the buffet was not placed correctly because people can't get by because it is in a major area getting to both ends of the pool. Both passengers and service people are trying to get through the same area were people are standing and self serving their drinks. 2. The pools were a little small to accommodate up to 3600 guests, however the pools were always clean and they always pumped the water in fresh about every other day. At least the aft pool was. I don't know about the pool in the front of the boat or the one in the main Lido area. I laughed when I saw a review that a person complained because it was salt water. How silly. Why would they put fresh water in the pool when they can just pump it in from the ocean? Our first stop was Grand Turk. The beach was nice but a little rocky but they were chairs for everybody to lie in the Sun. Or if you wanted to lie in the shade you could do that too because they were plenty of palm trees. Many people went through the shopping area to get to Margaritaville to go to the pool. I walked over there and it was a crowded mess. The second stop was at the Carnival private island on Half Moon Cay. It was beautiful! The water was gorgeous, the barbecue was a little crazy, but it goes with the territory. The third stop was in Nassau and we went off the ship for about an hour to walk around the town and my parents took a trip to the Arawak gardens and zoo. They liked the excursion and it was good for them to see Nassau since they had never been there. My husband and I went back to the ship after our 1 hour walk around town and it was lovely to be able to do anything on the ship that you wanted too because it wasn't very crowded. All-in-all we had a very nice time and we would probably try Carnival again. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
Returned from this cruise this morning. I sailed with my mother, one of my girlfriends and my 20 month old daughter. We chose this itinerary specifically because we live in MA and the NYC departure appealed to us. It was SUPER easy to get ... Read More
Returned from this cruise this morning. I sailed with my mother, one of my girlfriends and my 20 month old daughter. We chose this itinerary specifically because we live in MA and the NYC departure appealed to us. It was SUPER easy to get to, but even with the three hour drive, we opted to stay in a hotel the night before just to make the morning we boarded much easier. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Yonkers and it was the perfect pre-cruise hotel. Nice, safe area. Less than 30 minutes to the port with little to no traffic - and we avoided dealing with Manhattan parking and prices. We even went through Yonkers on the way home and avoided a ton of traffic that would have been on 95. We did park at the cruise port though, that was $320 for the week. But again, not dealing with airfare and flying made that well worth it for us. We were in Cabin 7317. It was a suite with a balcony, which we spent most of our time on. For a suite, it seemed small. I've been on 6 cruises now, and this was the smallest suite I've seen. The balcony was a good size, but we found mold under our deck chair cushions - along with a pacifier that was NOT my daughters. Thank goodness SHE didn't find it or that thing would have gone straight into her mouth, ha. Our housekeeping staff was top notch. Always so nice and helpful and very quick with any request. We had two at sea days before we reached our first stop. This was when I realized Carnival probably wasn't my bag. The ship is PACKED. The Lido deck is a nightmare. Getting anything quick to eat is next to impossible. The pools are overflowing with people, every deck chair is taken. Trying to maneuver anywhere with my daughter in a public place was incredibly stressful. I also felt like there just wasn't much to do during sea days. I typically love the spa, but I got a mani/pedi the first day and it was such a put off the way the woman doing my nails just kept trying to sell me products and more and more services. I just wanted to relax, not feel like I was dealing with a pushy car salesperson. I went to work out in the gym, all the treadmills were usually taken, (but good for people being fitness minded!) We seriously ended up on our balcony reading almost every day. The ports were what you make of them. San Juan was a blast. So much history and I love just walking around Old Town. We went up to the fort, had a great dinner after, then took in some shopping. St Thomas, we opted to grab a cab to Lindbergh Beach. Trust me - head there. It's less crowded, there is shade, beach chairs, beautiful water and hardly any PEOPLE. Magen's is stunning, but EVERYONE is there. Grand Turk, we went for the cabana rental at Margaritaville. If my daughter wasn't with us, I probably would have been a little more adventurous. The $129 for the rental is well worth it if you're a group of four like us - and especially if you're super irish and don't want to get charred on your vacation. It's a party spot and super cheesy, so just be ready for that. I had thought it was closer to the beach, so that was kind of a bummer, but I'll remember it for next time. We had early dining on the ship. The waitstaff was amazing and the food was delicious. I'd heard bad things so had some reservations about this, but truly, the dinners were all more than adequate. And if you don't like something, they're happy to bring you something else. We did the steakhouse one night and it was some of the best food I'd had anywhere - let alone on a cruise ship. Overall, I had a lovely time on this trip. We got a great deal and knew full well the week would be what ever we made of it. I think, ultimately, I need something a little more sophisticated than what Carnival offers, so will probably try a new cruise line next. I've had great luck with Royal Caribbean in the past, but for the price point and proximity to our home, I thought I'd give this a try. Read Less
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