This is the 3rd year in a row we've cruised over the Thanksgiving break, and this year easily met the bar set by our cruise on the Freedom two years ago. While the Legend was slightly disappointing last year, the Breeze redeemed Carnival in our eyes.
Booking: We booked through CruiseQuick for the second year in a row, as they were showing this same cruise for less than Carnival (or anyone else's) site. Like last year, no problems whatsoever. I wouldn't hesitate to use them again in the future.
The port: The terminal Breeze is at in Miami is pretty nice, at least compared to Lauderdale and Tampa. My only real complaint is the cost for reliable parking. My parents, who were on this cruise with us, stayed at La Quinta Inn East leading up to the cruise, and as a result could have hooked us up with parking, but we decided not to make use of it for a number of reasons, the main one being that we knew we had a 12 hour drive to get home when we returned, and we didn't want to waste any time waiting for the shuttle. That left us with parking lots near the port, and after reading plenty of reviews, decided just to suck it up and pay for the deck across from the terminal. Expensive, but easy and quick.
Before I get to the ship, I'll mention that we also had Faster to the Fun for the first time, and found it to be worth it. Being Gold level on Carnival, it gave a few added perks that higher level cruisers get. We also got it for my parents, so they weren't stuck watching us get on early :). With it, we were able to get on pretty quickly after they started boarding, which we loved, as it basically made that first day another sea day. Our cabin was also ready when we got on ~11:30am, so we were able to drop our carry-on bags right away.
The ship: We've never cruised on a boat that could carry this many passengers (on any line), so we were all a little worried it might feel too crowded. Honestly, there were very few times we felt that way over the course of the 8 days. We rarely had to wait for an elevator, and for the most part, the food lines on Lido weren't bad, outside of the Mongolian and omlette stations, and the pizza line. Honestly, I agree with everyone else who's complained about that last one. We hit the pizza station one night at ~7pm while in port in Curacau, and the line was 30min long. We saw those kind of waits on multiple occasions. They really need to put more people and pizza ovens back there and maybe crank out the common pizzas (pepperoni, cheese) during peak hours. Outside of that, no complaints on the ship. We did the ropes course, waterslides, and loved them all. We enjoyed the Breeze far more than we did the Legend last year. Also loved the new decor, it's a nice departure from the style present on the older ships.
Our room: We were in a spa ocean view, room 11203. I can't begin to describe how much we liked the room. Before I talk about it, I'll say that it appears to be meant for handicapped patrons, as it's larger than most rooms to accommodate things like mobility scooters. Honestly, I didn't realize this until about a week before the cruise. CruiseQuick didn't show that when I chose the room on booking, and on Carnival's site I never got prompted with anything indicating it was until I went to change the bed layout to 'king' the week before the cruise, and had they contacted us, we'd have been happy to move to accommodate someone who did need it. That said, the location and size were great. It was like a normal hotel room size-wise, had a larger bathroom, and is right by a door to the deck 11 "secret deck", which we made use of every day. The window in the room was pretty big, too, and provided a great view. We did make use of the spa amenities that came with the room as well, visiting (and enjoying) the saunas. I'd book a spa room in a heartbeat again. Like our cruise on the Freedom, being up top is great. It's a quick walk out to Lido, and when getting off the ship, much easier to get an elevator with all of your luggage since you're up top, where the likelihood of an elevator coming down already full is slim.
The staff: Awesome. We were disappointed in this area last year, but absolutely loved the staff this time around. I'd emailed the maître d about a week before, asking if it was possible for our group to be seated in a specific area of the Blush dining room, and he was able to make it happen. Our table staff (Wes, Roman and Caesar), were great as well. Our room steward, Roderick, was excellent, and always around if you needed anything. The only thing that was so-so was the CD. Again, Brad set a high bar on the Freedom, and Pete didn't come close this year. Much like last year's CD on the Legend, we hardly ever saw him, as most things seemed to be run by his staff. The CD doesn't make or break a cruise for us, and frankly Brad is the only one we remember from the past 8 cruises, just wanted to mention it. The comedy club director, Bethan, was great though. Very funny, involved, and frankly I think we saw her at more stuff than the CD. Hated to see her having to put up with some cruisers who just don't understand manners outside of the comedy club and were trying to cut the line, and was pretty happy to see her having security deal with them.
The food: I get why people state that the quality of the dining room and buffet food has gone down, in some regards we felt that way this year, too. I'm hoping the menu changes just announced are able to fix this. The Funship 2.0 stuff was pretty good, though. I enjoyed more than one delicious Pig Patty at Guy's, and my wife and I both loved the Blue Iguana food. I'm a bit picky when it comes to burritos, and generally prefer ground beef in mine, so I was a bit disappointed when I saw that they only had steak as the red meat option. On trying it, however, I found it to be delicious.
The shows/activities: The shows were hit or miss. We loved the hypnotist, and attended both shows that night, but weren't really jazzed on the production shows. We did enjoy watching Hasbro, seemed like everyone playing was having a blast. On the activities, it seemed something was always going on, including a ton of trivia. We only played a small handful of trivia events this year, namely because someone from two cruises ago was on this again, and frankly playing with him just isn't fun (which several other participants and one of the hosts seemed to agree with). There's no reason at all to argue with other passengers and the host over whether or not the answer given was accurate, you're playing for a plastic trophy, and you're on a cruise. That, and Carnival needs to change up the questions from time to time, as repeat cruisers can easily memorize the answers. People take this stuff way to seriously when they're on vacation :). I also played in a couple of the beanbag toss tournaments and had a blast. Alex did a really good job hosting the stuff we attended. Very glad to see Carnival constantly running activities all week. We also attended a few comedy shows, finding Percy Crews II and Tommy Drake very funny. If you go to the comedy shows, get there early, that club is too small for the size of boat it's in.
Kids’ activities: Another year where my 17yo daughter had a blast in O2 and made a bunch of new friends. She loved the girl running O2, Stacy.
The Itinerary: For the most part, loved it. We enjoyed each stop, but would have liked to be in port in Curacao all day (8-5) vs the 2pm-11pm we were there. The shops all seem to shut down at 6pm, so if you do a tour when you first get there, don't plan on doing much shopping after. Outside of that, all 4 stops were absolutely beautiful, and you can read my port reviews to see what we did and what we thought. On the sea days, we loved them, especially having two sea days on the end. You get a full day to relax after the ports without having to worry about packing.
All in all, it was a great week that provided a ton of memories. Great ship, great staff and great stops! None of us wanted to get off, and we'd cruise this ship and this itinerary again in a heartbeat.
I can't begin to describe how much we liked the room. Before I talk about it, I'll say that it appears to be meant for handicapped patrons, as it's larger than most rooms to accomodate things like mobility scooters. Honestly, I didn't realize this until about a week before the cruise. CruiseQuick didn't show that when I chose the room on booking, and on Carnival's site I never got prompted with anything inidicating it was until I went to change the bed layout to 'king' the week before the cruise, and had they contacted us, we'd have been happy to move to accomodate someone who did need it. That said, the location and size were great. It was like a normal hotel room size-wise, had a larger bathroom, and is right by a door to the deck 11 "secret deck", which we made use of every day. The window in the room was pretty big, too, and provided a great view. We did make use of the spa amenities that came with the room as well, visiting (and enjoying) the saunas. I'd book a spa room in a heartbeat again. Like our cruise on the Freedom, being up top is great. It's a quick walk out to Lido, and when getting off the ship, much easier to get an elevator with all of your luggage since you're up top, where the likelihood of an elevator coming down full to you is slim.
We had an absolute blast here. We decided to make this our beach stop, and just got off and walked over to the beach by the ship. ProTip: If you want to get off early to get good spots, be sure to check and see if another ship is coming in behind you. We'd heard the night before that we'd have a second ship in port, and it would be arriving about 45 minutes after us, and when it did, they'd be shutting down the gangway on our ship while the other one docked. Knowing that, we got off early. The shut-down wasn't long, something like 30min from what I heard, but still, we wanted to be off the boat as long as possible. As far as the beach, it was nice. We walked around the shops, swam a bit, then decided to do a helicopter tour with Grand Turk Helicopters. We got it for $45/pp, and it was worth every penny. Grant Turk is pretty small, and we got to circle the island, go over the small sandbar area where the snorkeling excursions were, and fly back over the docked boats. I got some great shots, and the pilot was a great guide. We had a great day
I would have loved to have been in port all day, vs the 2pm - 11pm we were there, as excursion options were somewhat limited. We got off and grabbed one of the 2hr for $20 tours, which was pretty good, but by the time we got back, all the shops across the floating bridge were closed, so shopping was limited to the stands on the ship side of the bridge. Still a great place, and very beautiful.
We did a private excursion here as usual, and as others have mentioned, the port owners do everything in their power to make things difficult for those not doing ship-sponsored excursions. We used Pro Excursions to do a dune buggy excursion here, and getting a cab to their office was somewhat frustrating, because you didn't know who to trust at the taxi stand, considering our taxi fare was paid as part of the excursion cost and the instructions tell you to use a specific taxi company. In the end, it turns out we could have used any of them :). Once we got past that (which is in way Pro Excursions fault), the day turned out excellent. The dune buggy excursion was awesome, and we came back soaked in mud, just as we expected to. Our guide at Pro Excursions, Michel, was really, really good, as was his whole staff. I had my GoPro strapped to my head for the entire thing, and got some great video. We also bought the pictures their photographer took, well worth the money. I can't say enough good things about Pro Excursions and the dune buggy trip. One of the best private excursions we've ever done. One tip, if you need to use the taxi stand at the port, get off the boat early. We managed to be the second people there, and a ling line formed very fast behind us.View All 12 Dune Buggy Tour Reviews
My favorite stop of the tour, and one I didn't want to leave. Incredibly beautiful island with some awesome beaches. We booked a private tour of the island through HF Tours, which gave us a driver and guide for the 5 of us for the day to take us where ever we wanted, all for $65/pp. We absolutely loved it. We stopped at Phillip's Animal Garden to tour the sanctuary, went to the donkey preserve, drove to natural bridge, and made a few other stops along the way. We got to see quite a bit of the island, and didn't have to deal with the normal tour stops where they're trying to push expensive trinkets on you. Our guide was very helpful in pointing out places that were overpriced and places we could get the same items far cheaper at. I can't say enough about HF Tours and Aruba in general. It's at the top of my list of places I want to go back to visit.View All 248 Island Tour Reviews