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398 Spa Cruise Reviews

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 April 2017
This was my 7th cruise and we only had a couple of problems that need to be addressed. #1 the manager of the Internet was not Customer Service friendly, he was very short when my sister asked questions about the internet being so slow. He ... Read More
This was my 7th cruise and we only had a couple of problems that need to be addressed. #1 the manager of the Internet was not Customer Service friendly, he was very short when my sister asked questions about the internet being so slow. He never smiled and seemed not happy with his position. We have never had someone from the staff be so unfriendly. #2 we had two water leaks in our room which NCL did take care of, but we had to stay in the room for two days while the leak was repaired and the air blowers dried the carpet out. We did get strawberries and a bottle of wine, but we talked to other cruise members and said that we should have either been moved to another room or $compensated for this inconvenience. Otherwise we had an enjoyable time on the Sun and 99% of the staff were friendly and could not do enough for us. We did opt in on the ultimate dining plan which was good. Cagney's got our top review for food and wait staff with Le Bistro coming in second the others we could do without. At Roatan the excursion we took to Maya Keys was awesome. They served Sea Bass which was the best we have ever had and that is a compliment coming from 2 New England ladies that know what Sea Bass should taste like. The island was the best and I would recommend this excursion. Can't wait for our next cruise with NCL! Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
From the moment we boarded we knew there would be trouble, spring breakers running around drinking in the pools and causing disturbances all around. We went to our Aqua Class cabin and it was not clean at all, stains on the couch, dirt on ... Read More
From the moment we boarded we knew there would be trouble, spring breakers running around drinking in the pools and causing disturbances all around. We went to our Aqua Class cabin and it was not clean at all, stains on the couch, dirt on the floor, a musty odor and the balcony was not cleaned from the previous guests. We called guest services asked for the supervisor because we wanted to get off and schedule a future cruise without the ambiance of a college dorm full of dropouts. We stated the ship was dirty, kids are running thru the halls banging on the walls and doors and all we want is a credit for a future cruise so we do not have to put up with this for 5 nights. We were assured there would be no problems, the crew was specially trained to handle this situation and security would not have a problem. We again said that is fine but we would like a credit for a future cruise because this was not our idea of a relaxing week at sea and not a preferable use of our vacation time. She said we could leave but there would be no credit. In hindsight I should have said I was feeling like I had the flu and left and fought with the insurance because this cruise was a nightmare and a pattern of lip service and inaction began that day. After we decided to stay, we asked to have the room cleaned because we did not want a dirty room. We went for a walk on deck 11, could not believe the antics at the pool and how the bars just kept serving the drunk and unruly dropouts. We went back to the room after they assured us again everything was under control and the room was clean and started unpacking. I went by the desk and found toe nails on the rug, I called and asked again if we could leave and get a credit but the employee of the year said no but they would clean again. Went for another walk came back and the toe nails I pointed out to the steward were gone, however, there were more under the desk which would have required him to move the chair to see which he obviously did not do. Yes,disgusting. That night dinner at Blu was very good but it went downhill from there everyday afterwards. The ribeye was just terrible and the waiters knew it. The day at sea, Monday was a total disaster, the crew members in the spa never checked for Aqua class cards to get into the Persian garden and as a result the dropouts were in there as well. While I am on that subject, don't believe the hype about solticizing the constellation, sorry, this was a lame attempt to renovate a basement on Long Island and it was just a small cramped dark dank space. There are no tile lounges only a bench that you cannot get comfortable on and a strange tower in the middle that served no purpose. The Aqua spa cafe was terrible, I am not sure what it was supposed to be but it didn't work had strange hours and the smoothies were disgusting. The pool was a sea of delinquents, security was permitting bottles in the pools and hot tubs and adults were driven from the area by the loud music and absolute lack of security. There was nowhere for adults to go and it was a total nightmare. The bar tenders never cut them off even when they were visibly drunk and disorderly. We complained to the employee of the year again and were told she didn't think it was that bad, when we asked her if she was on the pool deck she said no, she did not go there herself, amazing really to tell us it was not bad and she never left her office. More lip service and inaction. At one point on deck 11we could not walk the track due to all the drunks blocking the track and we looked down at the pool, there were 30 kids in one hot tub and at least 30 beer bottles lining the tub while security did nothing. The room was never really clean and we found the ship to be shabby in need of a few weeks out of service just to clean the ship. The furniture in all the common spaces looked nice until you look close, all shabby and in need of replacement. Needless to say, celebrity is not what it was years ago. The new CEO should be fired for incompetence to let the celebrity name be attached to such a shabby ship, inept employee of the year and really forgettable food. This cruise is on the heels of a cruise on the Reflection in December of 2014 which was not much better without the delinquents. No more celebrity for me. We sent a letter to customer service, called to complain and not a word. We met Captain Nicholas who was very friendly and listened to our complaints. He was a personable man and was one of the only crew who was friendly. Most of the officers did not acknowledge guests when passing on the decks and looked sloppy. I am comparing it to the Norwegian Getaway which we were on in September 2014 where every crew member was as sharp as a tac to the point it stood out. What happened to Celebrity? I read some people call this ship Connie, I call it a loser, don't waste your time or money booking this ship. Oh yeah, the adult pool had a slime floating on it for 3 days, we would not go in. Read Less
Sail Date March 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
Sail Date February 2015
Fantastic spa , the cleanest ship, would highly recommend. My husband and I (late 40's) loved this ship. Food was great I. Both complimentary and specialty restaurants. Definitely try o'sheehans, that was our go to. They have ... Read More
Fantastic spa , the cleanest ship, would highly recommend. My husband and I (late 40's) loved this ship. Food was great I. Both complimentary and specialty restaurants. Definitely try o'sheehans, that was our go to. They have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Shows were great, Howel at the Moon was super fun, my favorite. The Spa was fantastic. We are from East coast, 8 feet of snow and below 0 temps, the thermal pool and salt room was were I spent my time. Room was awesome, great bathroom . If I had to have a negative it would be jogging track very small, but never had an issue with getting a treadmill in gym. We didn't experience any of the issues I read in other reviews. We have taken many cruises, I did a lot of research and this cruise exceeded my expectations. I would definately recommend. My advise, make reservations if you really want a particular time for a show, same for dinner. The spa is worth the money, Vibe beach pass, we did , not sure I would do again. loved our mini Suite spa balcony, worth the money. Bathroom was great. We didn't experience any issues , it was a great vacation and can't wait to book the next one! Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
I recently sailed on the Oasis of the Seas for the first time. I've been sailing with Carnival for the past ten years because of the price point. However, since Carnival made wholesale changes (Cruise 2.0), I wasn't very happy ... Read More
I recently sailed on the Oasis of the Seas for the first time. I've been sailing with Carnival for the past ten years because of the price point. However, since Carnival made wholesale changes (Cruise 2.0), I wasn't very happy with either the food or the entertainment. Also, it seemed that other cruise lines were way ahead of the game when it came to Ships and what was on them, even though Carnival was coming out with some larger ships. The Oasis of the Seas is a gorgeous ship. The seven different neighborhoods were fun. Central Park was amazing. My stateroom was near Central Park and I enjoyed walking through it to get to the back of the ship and looking at the thousands of plants. Above the park there are balcony staterooms. It hard to believe you're on a ship in the middle of the ocean when you walk through central park. Compared with Carnival, Royal Caribbean has a much more international, more upscale group of guests. With high diving shows, Cirque de Soleil type shows and ice shows, RCCL's entertainment is far superior to Carnival. The food was also superior, but not by that much. RCCL's onboarding process is a breeze. A few days before sailing, I got an automated phone call requesting that I get to the port at 2:45pm, however since I was staying at a hotel and had to check out early, I got to the port at around noon and was on-boarded immediately. On Oasis, you board directly onto the Promenade deck, which is busy with tables set up on each side where the crew sells drink packages, dining packages, etc. There is a Starbucks toward the front of the ship on the Promenade deck, which I really appreciated. My stateroom was ready at 1pm. The My Time dining was a complete disaster and I don't believe they offer it on the Oasis any longer. Although I had reservations, several nights I had to wait quite a while and the maître 'ds were rude for the most part. I was ignored on several occasions while waiting for a table, skipped over so they could seat families and couples. After that, they kept calling out in loud voices that I was a "single". I almost cried I was so embarrassed. Being a single traveler, I was hoping for company during dinner, but for some odd reason, they sat me with other people only on the first night. The rest of the voyage, I was seated alone, even if I was at a table for four. The food was good both in the American Icon dining room and in the buffet on 16. I did not try any of the for fee dining, but I recommend making reservations as all venues were well-attended. Be careful when booking reservations for restaurants that say they are complimentary. Izumi and the Mexican restaurant both say they are free when you book them online, but when I arrived, I was told that they were al la carte and the "free" reservations were so they would know how many people would be there. The prices at Izumi were extravagant. I just don't get the for fee dining on a cruise. Shouldn't the quality of the food be the same across all venues, since you are paying for it? There are plenty of places to get great free food on Oasis, including Central Park, where you can beat the crowds at breakfast and dinner. The Solarium Bistro is free for breakfast and lunch, but has a charge of $20 for dinner. You can also grab a bite for breakfast and lunch at the Wipeout Café. I had breakfast there one morning when the Windjammer was full and the selections were sparse and cold. These venues are less crowded than the Windjammer, however. Personally, I loved the Windjammer. It has great ocean and sports zone views. Any spa is great. However, Carnival has a far superior spa than RCCL. The Thermal Suite on the Oasis is buried deep within the ship on deck 6. It is very dimly lit and small. There are about six heated loungers, two steam rooms and a dry sauna, along with two rain showers. There is a mud bath room and a couple's hot tub. A package for the thermal suite is available for couples which includes a single use of the mud bath and a single use of the hot tub. The area is very small and they only sell thirty spaces for about $99 on the first day of the cruise. Carnival's Thermal suite is huge and faces the ocean. There are many different thermal chambers along with a thalassotherapy pool (a giant mineral hot tub). It's a place you spend all day looking out at the ocean and up at the sky. Otherwise, the gym is great and the rest of the spa is nice. I got sucked in by a very determined aesthetician when I first boarded the ship. She was at a table set up to sell spa services. I went to her for a facial on the second day of the cruise and she was extremely unprofessional, telling me about her love life in detail. When I purchased one of the products she suggested, she kissed me passionately on the mouth. I was so taken aback!! I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing but push her away and act like nothing happened. There was no mistaking that this was something completely inappropriate. I've never experienced such unprofessionalism in all my years of cruising - and I go basically for the spa pampering! It made me so completely uncomfortable. YIKES!! That took a lot from the pleasure of going to the spa. I did not report it because I did not want to be responsible for someone getting fired. Royal Caribbean does not cater to the single traveler at all. Internet was offered for "$10 per day," but only as a double occupancy package. So it wasn't $70 for the entire week, it was $140 even though I was traveling alone. They wouldn't budge on that and suggested I "share it with someone else." Okay, as soon as I meet them in the dining room where I'm kept isolated. Geez. I wasn't the only person traveling alone, but there weren't many of us. Also, as I said, they didn't sit me with anyone in the dining room so I ate alone while reading. I mentioned that the maître Ds were rude, but I can't say enough about the fantastic quality of the service in the dining rooms. The waiters and waitresses were absolutely wonderful. I've never had such excellent service. On Carnival, you could spend two and 1/2 hours in the dining room the service is so slow. On Oasis, the service is fast, thoughtful and friendly. The wait staff was concerned that I was alone and came to talk to me every night. I felt a bit adrift (no pun intended) on the Oasis. There was no central meeting place like on Carnival ships; there are large screens on the Boardwalk, but no movies were shown; no Cruise Director talking to me over the intercom like I was part of a huge vacationing family like on Carnival ships. On RCCL, the single traveler is very much on their own and I really felt it! There were informal singles gatherings, but they were held so late that I never made one. In summary, the Oasis was a beautiful ship and I enjoyed exploring her, the shows were excellent and food were really great, but RCCL really lacks in it's service to single guests and the spa is lacking. The music around the ship wasn't to my taste - it seemed like a ship full of wedding bands. If you're a single cruiser, know that you are completely on your own on RCCL and except for the cabin steward and the people who actually serve the food in the dining rooms, no one cares. Although Carnival is more for "Joe Sixpack," the crew is friendlier and for that matter, so is Joe Sixpack. Not sure I'll be going on another RCCL cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Overall had a nice trip....but instead of a couple things making the experience extraordinary- there were a couple situations that were cause for disappointment. I have travelled extensively - from back packing/hostel type trips to 5++ ... Read More
Overall had a nice trip....but instead of a couple things making the experience extraordinary- there were a couple situations that were cause for disappointment. I have travelled extensively - from back packing/hostel type trips to 5++ star resort style. From Costa Rica to Tanzania, Mexico, Dominican, Thailand and so on. I always go with ZERO expectation - which ensures any vacation is enjoyable- and Enjoyed for what it is. So we DID have an amazing time...because we made it an amazing time. The ship is beautiful. And clean, really clean in all areas. There are plenty options for food. Good variety both on buffets and menus We were not happy with the "value" of the a la Cartes $30 each extra pp for Steak house???? Steak in free restaurants the same (actually better) Restaurant staff rush you in and out- no personal service. In some cases if you didn't ask for a drink it wasn't offered ( at dinner). Ambiance in all of the free restaurants beautiful and very different from one to the next. Value for Sushi Bar very good- good friendly staff that recognized you on subsequent visits. Irish Bar awesome bar food :) We found the entertainment staff very good We didn't attend all or many events- we loved the 50/60/70's night. The 80's night was too busy to dance because the fire works were just done and it felt like the whole ship was on the dance floor. Movie night was cool And we enjoyed (too much) time at the casino :) Overall - felt 90% of the staff was just there in body and not in spirit. 10% smiley and friendly and wanted to serve you Not sure if the lack of cash tipping relates directly to this?? Some bar staff didn't make eye contact- even if you were sitting there for a bit... And the bar wasn't too busy - again, I feel like this is directly related to lack of Cash tips (You pay $12/day each that goes towards "tips" in general) The Three things that frustrated me and motivated me to write this review was (1) feeling that we had been taken advantage of at the Spa with their "up sells" and (2) feeling incorrect Info was provided to us regarding port excursions just to sell the on board trips (3) Finding out that most everyone we talked to had the ultimate beverage package Thrown in - when we paid top dollar, no discounts on any portion of our reservation (1) Day one is hectic booking dinners, shows, spa etc to make sure you get a spot I had planned all along to get at least one massage - so we headed to the spa to book this right away. The rep started upselling us on every service they had. We had a discussion and chose on: 1 massage (each) 1 acupuncture treatment (each) & 1 couple teeth whitening. Services =well over $1000 When reviewing the charges in our room - we had been charged for 9 services and over $1900 We spent at least an hour going through our receipts vs the in room account to see where the error was. When bringing this to the Spa's attention they fixed it-however I sort of expected an apology or a small discount or something for our troubles After my massage the massage therapist (who claimed she was previously an RN) highly recommended I purchase the detox bath soak as my back is very bad. She stated this Detox would help loosen my muscles. She came across as very concerned and felt that this was absolutely necessary. So I told her I would buy ($500!!!) When I met my husband in the waiting room he had also been pushed to buy the detox pills!! That is when I knew I was likely taken advantage of. After researching the product online at home it is NOT a detox. It is a $500.00 bath soak.... We visited the spa 2 more times for acupuncture. Our bill was up to approx $1500 in spa charges and the front desk staff not so much as recognized us day after day The acupuncture Dr was excellent ....but she also tried to convince us into daily acupuncture (yes DAILY at $150 a pop) The front desk staff.....seem ready for a vacation. The constant up sells were a HUGE disappointment. I would have preferred a "Thank you so much for visiting our Spa- we really appreciate your business. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you"...... (2) Booking excursions: We are well rounded travellers- but we were being lazy and thought we might try a couple beach and snorkel trips, since the time at port is limited to make sure we made the best of the time at port We asked the excursion desk staff opinion. I asked directly if there was a nice beach in ST Maarten and was told NO I suppose this could be personal opinion....BUT THERE IS a gorgeous beach - perfect for spending the day We paid $59 for a beach excursion that left at noon from the ship We spent 4 hrs in town and then excited to see where they could possibly be taking us more beautiful than this...headed back to the ship to meet tour at noon Well- we got to "the beach" on the windy Atlantic side. The waves were nuts. There was "reserved seating" which a huge joke.... Long story short we took a cab back for $7 each , we rented chairs on the beach & enjoyed the rest of our day. We visited the excursion desk later to advise how unhappy we were with this tour; BUT most importantly the fact that we were straight out told there was not a nice Beach walking distance off the boat (which is a lie) and we paid $59 each to be Taken to a "nice beach"..... They reimbursed us 50% which I feel is .... unsatisfactory We cancelled the next days excursion as we didn't trust their judgement and advice (3) We paid full price for our entire trip and most importantly the for the ultimate beverage package - (over $900 CND) I never once Imagined this was negotiable for anyone on the ship However we soon found out from every couple we met on the boat - that they had theirs "thrown" in!!! Either they booked last minute- or they booked months ago and saw Subsequent deals later, that they called Norwegian on. Value....for 1 week????? We paid $1300 pp for airfare from Canada to Miami We paid $1000 pp for the cruise (for inside cabin which I would NEVER do again) We paid approx $900 for the Bev package =approx $5500 PLUS $2000 in room charges for spa (as listed above), 2 visits to the sushi bar, and 1 Dinner and the steak house TOTAL $7500... For 7 days I simply don't feel the service was what it should have been given the money we spent. I won't be recommending cruising to my friends and family, as I feel that at this price point there are much more interesting things to do and see in this world Overall TRIP was amazing because of the company I had - but Norwegian did not WOW me -Tammy   Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
This is a fairly in-depth review of the Norwegian Getaway that sailed on Jan 10-17, 2015 for a party of 2 - Me (41) and Wife (45). This was an Anniversary, Thanksgiving, college graduation, Christmas, and New Year cruise rolled into one. ... Read More
This is a fairly in-depth review of the Norwegian Getaway that sailed on Jan 10-17, 2015 for a party of 2 - Me (41) and Wife (45). This was an Anniversary, Thanksgiving, college graduation, Christmas, and New Year cruise rolled into one. We were excited, but leary to do our 5th cruise, 3rd on NCL, on the Getaway. Excited because hey, we're cruising again... we will have fun no matter what... right?!?! Leary because we weren't sure what to expect with a 4,000+ passenger ship. How will the embarkation be handled? Will it feel like there are too many people on board? With 4 days full days at sea, will we just want to be locked in our room? ~~Embarkation~~ By accident, we were the first in line at the port. The person driving us had a prior engagement at 10am, so she dropped us off about 9:40. We waited for about 10 minutes outside and the doors were opened. The few of us that were there at that time were seated in the chairs around the outside of the queue line. As more showed up, the put them standing in the queue line. About 10:30-10:45, the security waved us up to start scanning us and our bags. We then went to ticketing and received our cards and "Group 1" boarding card. We went upstairs and sat for about an hour before they started boarding. Up to this point, we were excited. I was even able to setup and test the iConcierge app by connecting to the ship's WiFi (more about iConcierge later). We walked along the gangway and stepped foot on the ship as 4 or 5 crew members welcomed us on board and through the doors. I don't remember which deck we entered - I think 6 or 7. With no map and no directions, we walked into an elevator on the left and stairs on the right. We were surprised! The Dawn and Pearl seemed so inviting into the Atrium, everything was laid out in sections with music playing, and they about pushed the Sail Away drink in our hand (then had us sign the bill for them 2 steps later). Yet the enormous Getaway shuffled us into nowhere to pick your unknown direction. Even with days of memorizing the ship's layout and main area locations, I was lost. Disappointment #1... so we just went up the stairs one level and started exploring. ~~Muster Station - Decks 6 & 7 Mid~~ The required drill at the muster stations are on decks 6 or 7 depending on the code on your key. We were B9 which was in the O'Sheehans area on deck 7, but we did not have specifics as to where the meeting point was at first. I tried to ask several people in O'Sheehans where B9 would be and they all of a sudden, they don't speak English. About 15 minutes before time through waiting crowds, the crew come out with numbered signs which you can barely see and are at random areas. We got to the "B" area early and took a seat, but then had to move when we finally saw the B9 sign and chased the lady to the other side of the deck, now having to stand. Every card has to be scanned by the crew holding the sign. Then they go through the safety lecture and life vest usage. ~~Balconies~~ We were in a balcony room, deck 13 forward. The standard balcony on the Getaway is 32 sq ft, smaller than the standard on other NCL ships (our Pearl balcony was at least 2x the size). The small balcony was a complaint by many. There is also a medium (~60 sq ft), large (~102 sq ft), and aft facing balcony, but the price per sq ft to go larger is expensive. And while the aft balconies are spacious, all we noticed was everything is wet and salty from the sea spray at the aft of the ship. This will be our last balcony for awhile since we want to take at least 2 cruises a year. We just don't use it enough to justify the price. We will make an exception in the future for our Alaskan and Panama Canal cruises. We did the Cruise Critic Cabin Crawl and saw almost all the different staterooms from the Studio to the Haven Suite (thanks to everyone who volunteered to show their rooms)! ~~Garden Buffet - Deck 15 Aft~~ We were not impressed at any meal with the buffet, unlike the Dawn which was great, and the Pearl which was good as well (but seating was atrocious). There was enough seating inside and on deck which was good. But that's about where the good ended. We tried just about everything they had in small portions. Everything was bland, over/under cooked, or not the right temperature. The salad bar had the worst selection we've seen on any of the 5 cruises we've taken. The kiddie corner with the mac and cheese, pizza, and nuggets probably tasted the best! Best dessert was a bowl of ice cream. ~~MDR (Taste & Savor) - Deck 6 Mid~~ If you're tired of the Buffet, try the main dining rooms. Both offer the same menus, but different items are on the menus each night. It's a sit down meal with waiters, but the food isn't much better than the buffet. My wife liked the Steak Diane, I like the rolls that are served at the table. ~~O'Sheehans Irish Pub - Deck 7 Mid~~ This is the 24-hour restaurant, the place to get wings, a pot pie, or dessert at 2am. The wings are delicious - I had 50 of the hot ones throughout the week. They weren't really hot, but they were good and probably the second best thing I ate on the ship! We also had the prime rib on the 2 nights it was here. Check the back of the Freestyle for special lunch and dinner meals and the times they are offered. Prime Rib is from 5:30pm - 9:30pm. After that it's not served anymore even though O'Sheehans is open 24 hours. The cheese sticks were hit or miss - sometimes hot, sometimes cold. NOTE: This is also the place to get decent (but not the premium) coffee. It's better than what comes out of the coffee makers in your stateroom (unless you're in the Haven with the k-cup makers). If you're a big coffee drinker, bring a refillable cup with you in your luggage and fill that thing up at O'Sheehans. ~~Wasabi (Sushi) - Deck 8 Mid~~ We were looking forward to Sushi on the ship. It was wonderful on the Dawn and Pearl. But yet again, it seems like even this a la carte venue had a pre-made taste. To start, the rice was not fresh. It was probably made in the morning, but then pre-made into flats and put in the fridge until ready to be used - kind of like Subway does with their pre-measured meats. ~~Food [In General]~~ The food was marginal at best. We stuck to O'sheehans and the buffet mostly. We spent $1,700+ on our trip, we weren't going to pay for specialty restaurants as well which is what it felt like they were trying to make everyone do to get decent food. It seems like the food is rushed and/or low quality in the buffet and MDR to service the increased number of guests. I couldn't find a decent chocolate dessert anywhere on the ship. NCL has stopped the Chocoholic Midnight Buffet!! Everything varied from day to day as far as taste, preparedness, or temperature. Somehow we still gained about 3-4 pounds each on the trip, but it's probably because we tried to try everything. ~~Latitudes Special Party - Deck 16 @ Spice H20~~ All I can say is windy, loud, and rushed! Such a disappointment after the nice party we experienced on the Pearl in the Spinnaker Lounge on our last cruise. First of all, since when did music have to blow your ear drums out? We all wanted to enjoy drinks and talk to other cruisers, not yell to talk and barely hear the other people! Drinks were Bahama Mama's and Chard or Cab wine. We saw the waiter in our area once. I had to get up and chase one down to get a second drink. The captain spoke and introduced the head members of each department. Then the music blared again for about 15-20 minutes. The party lasted all of 30 minutes because of the wind and loud music. I went to get a second glass of wine for my wife toward the end and they said "Sorry, no more". I turn and see someone had NINE full drinks still sitting on their table! Talk about abuse, but I guess they knew what the price of drinks were, yet seemed like the type that already had the drink package! ~~Event Seating~~ While the ship is bigger for more people, the venues are smaller and crowded or have to book everything in advance (most by the end of the first day)... then if we saw something else we wanted to do later in the week in the Freestyle, we would have to decide what to do. We can't book another show/venue as the rest are already sold out. Smaller ships, such as the Dawn and Pearl, if you show up early you get good seats, show up late, you still get seats but on the side or in the back. The BA/GA may sport the biggest stage on a cruise ship, it is offset by the [fewer] number of seats. "Burn the Floor" was outstanding, despite the dancers sweaty clothes after 10 minutes... but they danced non-stop for an hour! "Legally Blonde" was good, but if you've seen the movie then you've seen this already! The Illusionarium, for what it's all hyped up about, was not "Amazing". The usual illusions/magic mixed with corny jokes, too much smoke effects, and over dramatic grandmaster scene changes made it an overall "OK" at best. This is a dinner show with a 3-course meal (so don't eat before hand). Italian salad - tomato & mozzarella slices to start, main course is a steak and mashed potatoes and 3 large breaded shrimp, and dessert is a mini-medley of 4 desserts on a plate. If you want to watch the magic, don't eat as you'll miss stuff left an right. It's $25/pp for Banquet seats which are the booths along the back of the venue, and $30/pp for Floor seats which curve around the stage in 4 rows. Watch in the Freestyle for the night they give you 20% off (so it will be $20/pp Banquet or $24/pp Floor) - it's usually the first night. The discount has to be done manually so you won't see it until the 2nd or 3rd day. Howl at the Moon was a great show of dueling pianos at Headliners, but if you weren't in line 45 minutes early, it was standing room only every night it was on! The Levity comedy shows, also at Headliners, only seat about 80 people so reserve (and arrive) early. We saw Rodney at the 18+ late show and he was funny. We didn't get to see Mark. We did not see the GRAMMY Experience so we can't comment on it other than the seating in that venue is even smaller than Howl at the Moon! ~~Norwegian iConcierge~~ I was excited to try the iConcierge app on our iPhone 4s (both of us) to text and talk to each other for $7.95/pp for the whole trip ($1/day). We don't spend too much time apart, but this would make it easier to find each other. There are 2 parts to the iConcierge app - the informational part, and the text/call part. Informational: This FREE part of the app I would give a 4 out of 5. It gives you the Freestyle for the entire week in your hand, ability to reserve venue times (paid or free), see dining options (no times or specialties like Prime Rib night, but all restaurants and daily menus), buy Future Cruise Credits, and a host of other features. I recommend loading the app before boarding, then put your phone in Airplane mode but turn on the Wifi and connect to the ship's wifi. You can only use the features while on board the ship and connected to the wifi. There are no internet charges to just connect to the ship's wifi and use this app. Text/Calling: This is the part you pay for. It costs $7.95/pp (for the entire trip) to use to text or call others with the app on the ship including calling directly to staterooms. Also, you can call outside numbers (and others can call you) for $0.79/minute (whereas using your stateroom phone will cost you $4.99/minute). HOWEVER, texting and calling is VERY temperamental and may or may not work for you. It worked find for us on the first day, but after that, texts would only be received intermittently and calls sounded horrible. We stopped trying to use it after the 4th day and spoke to guest services to get a refund. I had iOS 8.1.1 and my wife had iOS 7.1.2 (both model 4s). It may work better on other models but it's definitely YMMV! ~~Thermal Spa - Deck 15 Fwd~~ I was upset to hear a few days before leaving that the Thermal Spa on the Getaway would cost $199/pp for 7 days instead of $129/pp as it was on the Dawn and Pearl. I guess their thinking is "more people, more money"! We loved the Mandara Spa on the other ships, and we wanted to make sure we got it this time again. 7 day use of the Thermal Spa from 8am to 10pm whenever we wanted/had time. We paid the extra $70/pp to experience it on the Getaway as well, so we went straight to the spa and looked around, signed up, got our stickers on our cards. I would go to the Spa every morning after working out in the Fitness Center. I have a gym bag with all my stuff in the morning. I could change in the locker room and secure my bag and personal items, grab a robe and towel, and head into the spa area. After, I could do a full shower (nicer than in the room) and get dressed for the day and bring the bag back to the room. We would also go in the afternoon/evening. We booked late shows (10:15-10:45) so as not to take time away from the spa in the evening. Trying to do the many parties, shows, eating, and other "freestyle activities" AND fit in the spa is challenging. You want to get the most out of the $30/pp/pd and use the spa! For the most part, it was relaxing. There is 1 jacuzzi, a heated pool with massage jets and seats, 2 sauna's, 1 steam room, 1 salt room, 10-12 heated stone chairs, and about 20 cushioned loungers. At busy times, you couldn't find a chair to put your stuff on, but people were scattered through all the areas so no one area seemed over crowded. We went in the salt room once - I guess it's supposed to be salty beach air. I wasn't impressed or felt any "special healing" properties of the salt air, but then again we're from Florida and lived near/on the beach. The steam room was nice, but it was a constant steam and you could barely see the person next to you. The stone chairs and loungers had a nice forward view of the ship - windows from one side to the other. Overall, it's a nice place to getaway from it all. If you don't care for kids in your jacuzzi, don't want to be in the sun/rain on deck, or want to just truly relax then get the Thermal Spa package! ~~Water Slides/Rope Course~~ Sadly, we did not get to experience these attractions. I would have liked to do the ropes course, but the water slides are just 4 seconds of fast water in your face. ~~Movies, Movies, Movies~~ There are 3 full-size LED movie screens on board, and throughout the cruise they show many movies. The first is in the Atrium on deck 6 mid. A lot of events happen here including movies in 3-D. The second is the outside screen in Spice H20 on deck 16 aft. Aside from all the late night parties (70's Groove, GLOW Party, 80's Remix), there are several movies shown on this huge screen as well. The third is in the Getaway Theater. Most of the movies are for the kids, but adults love them too. A few I can think of off the top of my head are Despicable Me 2, Amazing Spiderman 2, and Iron Man 3. There were about 6-8 others. Also on your stateroom TV, channel 31 shows free movies (old and new) nonstop throughout the cruise. Channel 30 is called "Favorite Shows" and plays episodes of popular TV shows. ~~[Get] What You Pay For~~ As others have stated, they have made this ship to nickle and dime you to death. It wasn't enough that I spent over $1,700 on the cruise itself, but it felt like if you wanted anything more while on the ship, you pumped out more money to NCL. From booking the Illusionarium at $25/pp, to Wine Lovers: The Musical (also $25/pp), to a $5 anytime pizza, to expensive drinks with/without alcohol, to photos, to specialty dining, to gelato and cupcakes, to auto gratuities (and port gratuities on top of them), to tips, to many desserts, to... well, I think I'd spend less walking into Disney World! ~~Overall Rating~~ Overall we give the Getaway a [barely] Good Rating (3 out of 5). There are a lot of little things that we noticed that should have been though of. There are no plugs next to the beds which means you can't plug in your phone/alarm next to you. There are 2 plugs across the room from the bed. Also, only 1 person gets control of the light switches next to the bed. Technically, the ship tries to be state-of-the-art with things like touchscreen tv's on every deck to find places throughout the ship, reserve shows, and view excursions. We made the best of the issues and enjoyed our vacation. Nothing bad happened, no one got sick, we weren't delayed, we enjoyed the ports, and we made some new friends. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
If you've never sailed the Celebrity Solstice class, we suggest you do so. Our favourite is the Reflection. Launched in just 2012, the ship is a dream boat. There are SOOO many things to do and see on the ship that our ports are not ... Read More
If you've never sailed the Celebrity Solstice class, we suggest you do so. Our favourite is the Reflection. Launched in just 2012, the ship is a dream boat. There are SOOO many things to do and see on the ship that our ports are not the driver of our choice. Next January 2016 will be our third cruise on the same ship, same itinerary, why you ask? Because it's so delightful! We cruise Aquaclass so I visit the Persian Gardens daily, and breakfast and dinners in BLU are worth the upgrade. Our fav dining is at QSINE and its so much fun with a group (try the LavaCrab). Join up for a beverage package, and we upgrade to premium so no sticker shock when checking out. I had 3 massages this last cruise and can't say enough about the skilled staff at the Spa. My hubby likes to play poker, so he has fun at the tables, and throw in a few slots too. I like the activities, and there is so much to do it's hard to choose. Night club is good, Sunset Bar entertainment was great. The food at the Buffett and MDR was fabulous. All in all, the Reflection has something for everyone. Can't wait til Jan 2016! Read Less
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 January 2015
We fear that the days of feeling like Royalty while traveling as a verandah-balcony-class passenger are slipping away. The Cruise Industry may be following in the steps of the Airline industry in their effort to economize. Space is tighter ... Read More
We fear that the days of feeling like Royalty while traveling as a verandah-balcony-class passenger are slipping away. The Cruise Industry may be following in the steps of the Airline industry in their effort to economize. Space is tighter and services and amenities are being "redirected" to maintain profitability. As long-time balcony-cabin cruisers our first shock came when we saw the small 4 ft x 10ft balcony in cabin V5084 with just enough room for two of us and a couple of chairs, an ottoman, and tiny 18 inch high table. Balconies on older ships were significantly more spacious. Our Upper Verandah room was just above lifeboats #8 and #6 on Port side. The balcony was private and well protected from rain by a large overhang above, the only intrusion being maintenance crews greasing the lifeboat hoist mechanisms - which they did while docked on days 2 and 6 of our cruise. The cabin was small but adequate with very comfortable bed, and an additional couch and desk area. Bathroom with shower and small tub were fine (incl shampoo & conditioner & soap dispensers), though we wish there had been a night light; instead we kept the bathroom light on with door closed at night since light switches were hard to find in the dark. 2 cozy robes were provided. Closet space was ok but poorly illuminated. Three life-vests occupied the top shelves of the 3 closets --- these would be better stowed in the difficult to open cabinets above the couch. Volume on the small TV was poor while watching movies, even at max setting. Closed-captioning was definitively a help, but did not always work for some reason. Fortunately channel 44 announcements came through loud and clear. The morning sun was quite obvious since the curtains were not room-darkening enough. We faced away from land at Half Moon Cay and in Key West. The next shocker was the coffee - something that was always a treat on Holland in the past. It was downright mediocre and not becoming of the Dutch tradition of a "lekker kopje koffie" (delicious cup of coffee). The Half and Half was thin and milk-like. No doubt the motivation is to economize with cheaper beans and to drive coffee aficionado's to deck 11 Explorations Cafe, which features a Starbucks type coffee-shop that charges extra! Likewise, internet access is available but slow and expensive ($55 for 100 minutes). We had an excellent signal in our room, but just signing on and getting our backlog of messages consumed several minutes each time. Wi-fi calling was impossible on my t-mobile phone since the connection was too slow. The cabin stewards did their best, were pleasant, and were obviously being pushed to their limits: one afternoon my wife accidentally spilled some crackers in front of the couch, and while the room had been turned out nicely for bedtime, we found crumbs still all over the floor. When we asked about this the next day our cabin steward indicated they only had time to vacuum in the mornings. The ships' staff were excellent as always, and seemed to be even friendlier than we remembered in our past travels ... plenty of "good mornings", "how are you", "have a nice day", etc. The TAMARIND restaurant in particular was a truly exceptional experience! For the $20 extra cost you are treated to an extraordinary oriental meal, and my 1-1/2 inch thick wasabi-encrusted filet mignon put any other meat served in Lido or the Rembrandt restaurant to shame - especially the 3/4 inch drab filet they served on Steak & Lobster formal night (Note: we never ate at the Pinnacle Grill, so can't compare). Food quality and selection in general was very good and we never had stomach issues. We do suggest you plan on eating outside of "normal" hours since rush hour gets really busy. The elevators were TERRIFIC!!! Super fast and efficient with lovely waiting areas that were tastefully designed, and with roomy staircases. We loved the outside elevators with their awesome views. Other areas of the ship, in particular the main Lobby & Atrium on decks 1 & 2, seemed small and narrow, though most of the time they were not crowded. The Casino was ok but the older-type 25 cent slot machines we like to play were on the smoking side, and ventilation was inadequate to prevent drifting smoke from becoming unbearable at times. Neither of us felt compelled to attend evening performances in the Queen's lounge, and we missed the ol' days of magicians, comedians, and hypnotists. The shops are excellent, brightly lit with plenty of selection in a wide variety of prices. There was a sidewalk sale one day on Lido but due to maintenance on the the sliding roof mechanism the trapped heat and humidity from the pool and all the passengers present was stifling as we waited in long lines to pay the cashiers. The SPA was fantastic though expensive (as usual). We consider it a treat and don't mind the surcharge, though we did opt for shore days when rates were discounted. The facilities are lovely, and the very capable massage therapists had wonderful attitudes. The nearby Gym has plenty of room and equipment, with nice sea views. Exercisers have plenty of opportunity to walk on Promenade, the observation decks, and play tennis/soccer/basketball etc. on the very nice net-enclosed Sports deck. The Eurodam is equipped with the latest stabilizing equipment, but I doubt those were needed during our cruise since we had such perfect weather throughout our 7 day trip. Cabin V5084 is located exactly midships and therefore already extremely stable. We hardly felt the waves and it was only the soft vibrations of the engines that reminded us we were on a ship. In fact we didn't even experience the after cruise wave sensations that normally stay with us days after a cruise ends. So, while this new ship is technologically more advanced, for us the bottom line feeling was that of a cheapening of the cruising experience. New cruisers may have a completely different opinion, but we can't help make comparisons to our previous trips. The economic reasons are understandable, but nevertheless we will avoid the Eurodam, and its sister the Nieuwe Amsterdam, in our future travels. We hope that the older ships will maintain their stature and dignity long enough for us to enjoy a few more cruises before those too get redesigned to achieve financial efficiencies.   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
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
Sail Date December 2014
We sailed on the 8 night New Years cruise that we booked a month before.It was great, but there were some snags along the way. THE ROOM: We stayed in the Oceanview rooms on Deck 2 (2544). They were nice, and to be expected for an ... Read More
We sailed on the 8 night New Years cruise that we booked a month before.It was great, but there were some snags along the way. THE ROOM: We stayed in the Oceanview rooms on Deck 2 (2544). They were nice, and to be expected for an oceanview room. Smaller in size, limited closet space.. the works. The room had an old CRT television in it where the buttons on the TV itself did not work. Bathroom was nice, but my family's oceanview room next door had the toilet overflow during our trip. It was close to things, but if you wanted to get to the aft gangway or the aft of deck 2 or 3, you would have to go up to deck 4 or higher and walk across. Close to elevators, which was convenient. THE FOOD: Food was what we expected. There was nothing terrible, but nothing fantastic either. Windjammer had the same food each morning for breakfast, which became extremely tiring at the end of an 8 night cruise. I have to give a shout out to the curry each day for lunch.. that was yummy. MDR was fine as well, they only had escargot one night, which my family was disappointed about. There was A TON of lamb on the menu. At least 3 nights, if not more, had lamb as the meat of choice. I was all lambed out by the end of the cruise. THE SHIP: The ship was in clear need of updating, but it was fine. Some faded carpets and rust on the railings here and there, but nothing to ruin my trip over. She is beautiful, just needs some TLC. THE SPA: We immediately booked our couples massage once we boarded. When we arrived at our appointment the next day, they attempted to split us up because they did not have a couples room available. We obviously said no, since we paid for a couples massage, we wanted to be together. We were stuck in a small room with 2 beds and you could hardly move. We were not given robes or anything. Just told to get undressed and under the sheets. The massage was great, but we would have preferred the whole "couples experience". ENTERTAINMENT: Leigh and Erky from Turkey were wonderful. They made all of the activities fun on the ship. We did not attend any shows (prime time in the casino), but we heard guests ranting and raving about The Mentalist that was on board. Quest is not to be missed. We went to the Mystery Dinner Theater in Portofino. It was great and the wine was free-flowing. It was cheesy, but all in good fun! NEW YEARS EVE: NYE was great. Champagne was plentiful and the music was booming. They had balloons drop down at midnight on the promenade. They also had obscene "pay to be there" options for NYE. This included a balcony over the promenade for 1000 per couple or 600 per couple. There was also a private party in the Solarium. Not our scene. PORTS: We went to Labadee, San Juan, St. Croix and St. Maarten. Labadee was wonderful as always. Although the lunch needs some updating. The bars were also overrun and it took 30 minutes or more to get drinks. We ended up going back to the ship to eat in the early afternoon. San Juan was different, I liked the culture. We went to a hole in the wall and had a big dish of paella for dinner. St. Croix was absolutely dead port-wise. It has a lot of potential, and it needs to be nursed by the cruising community. They had a great fort museum right off the boat, where we learned a lot about the Virgin Island's slave trade. If you want some history.. go there. St. Maarten hasn't changed a bit, and everyone in our family walked back on the boat with a piece of jewelry. A LITTLE PIECE OF MAGIC: Our waiter in the MDR was wonderful. A person in our party had SEVERE food allergies to many items, and I have never seen a waiter more accommodating. Overall, the cruise was great. My family had an amazing time, and we can't wait to sail back on the Explorer.   Read Less
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
Sail Date December 2014
Our third cruise but the first with MSC. We had a wonderful time on the MSC Divina it’s a very lovely ship. They are more European style it was a different experience for us. We were on the 13th level (even if it’s under the pool area ... Read More
Our third cruise but the first with MSC. We had a wonderful time on the MSC Divina it’s a very lovely ship. They are more European style it was a different experience for us. We were on the 13th level (even if it’s under the pool area it wasn’t that noisy) and they call it the CUPIDO, we were at mid-ship best place to be if you don’t want to feel too much waves!! We had the one hour BALI massage, very nice. We tried the 4D theatre twice, the films are very short but it’s a nice experience to do on a ship, the Canyon film is the best. We also enjoyed a film on the big screen outside on the Friday we saw Maleficent with Angelina Jolie, the films they showed every night were very recent. I did try the Formula 1 should’ve tried it again to do a better time but it was a great experience. We tried the Pizza Eataly, the pizza was good. Andy gave us a very good service at the Black Crab restaurant we ate there almost every night. The buffet was good and we liked to sit in the back of the restaurant for the panoramic view. Thank’s to Agus he was our concierge and did a good job taking care of the room for us. The ship is quite big, they don’t have that many boutiques and that’s OK because you have plenty to shop at every port. We tried the Casino a few times maybe will have better luck next time! Our first stop was in Falmouth, Jamaica this was the second time for us and we enjoyed walking around the port and checking the boutiques, we came back to enjoy the ship since a lot of the cruisers were out on excursion. Our second stop was in Cartagena, Colombia it’s a very clean place and they are very well organize for the excursions at least 44 buses were there on our arrival, we only went for a walk nearby they had a little restaurant with boutiques and a nice place to walk outside. Then we stopped in Cristobal, Panama and we took an excursion to visit the old Panama City, our guide Beni she was just great! We enjoyed our tour and we saw that they are doing a lot of renovations so in a near future it will be a very nice place to visit. Then we stopped in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica we took the train and river boat ride not too impress with this tour, and the area of Puerto Limon is not very clean, but they have a lot of banana trees!! Our last stop was in Cozumel, Mexico this was our first time in this port wow a lot of boutiques and shops there my wife and I shopped for a couple of ours and came back on the ship with a few bags!! We had lovely weather just on the last day it was cloudy, windy and a bit of rain but it was OK we were on our way back home. Also just a note the ship is smoker friendly (we don’t smoke) but we still have enjoyed this cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
We were on the Nov.16th to 23rd cruise. Wife and I are platinum so we had preferred boarding, which was very easy 1/2 hour at the most, was on and in cabin by 12:30. Muster was 3:00 and very quick and then was sail away. That was very ... Read More
We were on the Nov.16th to 23rd cruise. Wife and I are platinum so we had preferred boarding, which was very easy 1/2 hour at the most, was on and in cabin by 12:30. Muster was 3:00 and very quick and then was sail away. That was very good and the weather for the first 6 days was very good. Rain on the 7th day coming back to Ft Lauderdale. The ship is in my words HUGE and it is a very nice ship. I wanted to go on it because of the newness, and all the talk about the balconys being small I could not see it. They have 41 sq. ft and the Crown Princess only has 40 sq. ft. All the talk about elevators I also didnt have to wait, so saw no problem with them. Over all the ship is a beautiful.I will not go on this one again because of its size, I like the closeness with the crew and this is so big you dont get to see most of the crew as much as I have on other Princess cruises. Entertainment was good, they are not top of the line but not bad at all. The only problem we had was on our dinner in the Crown Grill my wife steak came out so rare she had to send it back. She had ordered medium well and it came out all red inside, the second time was almost as bad so it went back for a third time and still came back rare. We told them forget it and I finished mine and we went on our way. Would not go there again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
I just got back from a cruise on the Norwegian Epic and I must say I enjoyed just about every second if it. This was my second cruise on the Epic. The first was in June in the Western Med. It is interesting how you can be on the same ship, ... Read More
I just got back from a cruise on the Norwegian Epic and I must say I enjoyed just about every second if it. This was my second cruise on the Epic. The first was in June in the Western Med. It is interesting how you can be on the same ship, but have different ship experiences. There was only one sea day on the Med cruise and there ended up being 5 sea days on this cruise after the port was closed in Grand Caymen the day we were scheduled to arrive ( Thanksgiving Day). This time I went with my 75 & 80 yr old parents and we all shared one stateroom. My dad walks with a cane and was worried that he wouldn't be able to get around and would have to stay on the ship during port days, so I convinced my parents to get spa passes. They loved the thermal spa and said that was one of the best choices they made for this vacation. They aren't much for laying in the sun, although they did go up to the Quiet Zone on deck 18 a couple of times. But they did go to the spa for a few hours every day. They loved how quiet and peaceful it was after seeing how chaotic the main pool area is with the smokers, kids, and constantly moving groups of people. We had an aft balcony and loved sitting on the balcony listening to the waterfall (waves created by ship engines). The steward brought us a third chair that first day and we spent many hours out there. My dad has to get up and go to the bathroom often at night and I chose a room where the bed was closer to the bathroom so my dad would have a short distance to go. Plus, since I was sleeping on the sofa bed, I didn't want him to stumble over me. I was worried about the three adults in one cabin, but it worked out well for us. The sofa bed was actually comfortable. It pulled out from the back until it was a full twin. We usually worked out a couple of hours of quiet time for each person and didn't have many issues. Although, I must say, we tended to use the showers in the locker rooms instead of the stateroom since we had the spa passes. We ate in the main dining rooms for dinner every night (twice in Manhattan) and the remainder in Taste as my dad like wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt to dinner instead of long pants. I made reservations for most nights in Manhattan or Taste before the cruise, but we only needed to use the reservations twice - First night craziness and Thanksgiving Dinner. All other nights we walked in and were seated within five minutes regardless of the reservation time. But it was nice, on those two nights, to avoid the long lines and get seated immediately. We went to O Sheehans, Taste, and Garden cafe for lunches and enjoyed all. My dad found the buffet a little hard to manage with his cane, so we ended up at Taste more mornings than the buffet. Entertainment: We did more shows than I had on the previous cruse including Mystery lunch, second city, legends, Blue Man Group, Manhattan band, the Blues group in Fat Cats. The entertainment was so good, but I am just not a Blue Man Group fan. I don't get them at all. I agree it is the same as the show in Vegas, but I didn't get it when I saw them here either. However the kids in front of me ate it up and were glued to the stage. Ports: Jamaica - my mom and I did the river tubing. It was fun. We went in flip flops and they tried to sell us water shoes before the ride, but we wore our flip flops and had no issues. It was very scenic with a few mini rapids. Two guides per group to help if you get stuck in still water and to monitor you as yo go thru the rapids. No one flipped over in my tour. Just saw some red marks on the arms from rubbing against the raft/rope as you go thru the tour. Grand Caymen - ship didn't stop and had rough waters that whole day. Excursion tickets were automatically refunded the same day Cozumel - ship docked at 7ish instead of 10 am. I had booked a snorkeling excursion, but it was cancelled because the sea was still too rough and it was windy. We did a little shopping, then went back to the ship and hung out in the spa, which we had to ourselves. I took a deck of cards with me - my family loves pinochle and we played many of games on those long sea days at the library/Maltings bar. It is amazing how something so simple can help you enjoy your cruise. My dad is already talking about booking the next cruise. He enjoyed it way more than he ever thought he would.   Read Less
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
Sail Date November 2014
The staff was very courteous and accommodating. We purchased the ultimate dinning package so we ate dinner every night at one of the premium restaurants and the food was the best that I've had on any cruise. The ship needs attention ... Read More
The staff was very courteous and accommodating. We purchased the ultimate dinning package so we ate dinner every night at one of the premium restaurants and the food was the best that I've had on any cruise. The ship needs attention badly. I'm sure all the issues are just cosmetic but walls were dented and everywhere you look the decorative facades were cracked or chipped or in need of painting. I found out after booking this trip that the ship was scheduled to be redone shortly after our trip. I wish I had known that before booking. It wasn't the elegant experience I expected from Norwegian, it was however very clean. The itinerary for the most part was quite nice. I do recommend if you go to St. Johns, New Brunswick, just stay on the ship and do a spa day. It's a very industrial town whose claim to fame is the reversing falls rapids. They will tell you it is just like Niagara Falls but they neglect to tell you the fall and the cliff are all under water all that you see is water flowing in one direction in the morning and the reverse direction later in the day. In addition the spot they take you to looks out on a paper factory. Not very scenic. I think the cruise line should replace St. Johns with a better port of call. The entertainment was good. They even held a Martini tasting and seminar to teach how to impress your friends with your mixology skills. There were art auctions, comedy routines, and live game shows that were replayed on the ships tv channels. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Check In/Embarkation:  We embarked on October 19 with myself (first time cruiser!), my husband and our 3 and a half year old daughter. One of the reasons we chose this ship was because it embarked/disembarked in NYC (we only live 3 hours ... Read More
Check In/Embarkation:  We embarked on October 19 with myself (first time cruiser!), my husband and our 3 and a half year old daughter. One of the reasons we chose this ship was because it embarked/disembarked in NYC (we only live 3 hours away) so it was very convenient. We drove in and the pier was very easy to get to and the parking ample and conveniently on the same level. We arrived around 10:30am and despite the massive amount of people there (I didn't realize at the time that they were disembarking people from the ship at the same time as we were checking in), there were plenty of signs and pier workers there to direct us where to go. The initial check in was like airport security- you gave them your itinerary and passports and went through the metal detector. Then it was the final check in before embarkation to get your room keycards. They should have had more people working the counters to check people in to expedite the process but it went very smoothly. You also got a number that determined when you got to embark as well. It made for a easy process- when they began embarking, you waited until your number was called and everyone with that number could get on the ship. Ship: The Breakaway is, overall, an excellent ship. The size made for very smooth sailing. There were only a couple of times that we felt any movement or swaying from large waves as we were sailing back to NY. Otherwise you didn't even know you were on the water except for the wind or from watching the ocean. Noise-wise, there wasn't much noise from the actual ship~ just a buzz or clank every so often that we normally would hear from hotel plumbing anyways. We heard a lot of running/pounding feet from above (we were on deck 14 so we had the Garden Cafe/pool above us) but it was seldom and passed quickly. You could definitely hear music/voices/shouting/etc. if you were sitting on the balcony or had the balcony doors open. It didn't bother us but for those who want absolute silence on their balcony will be disappointed. For the most part, there was plenty of space on board. Obviously, indoor seating at the Garden Cafe is hard to find during meal times while at sea when it's windy out, but there are plenty of tables outside or at the Uptown Grill (and not too chilly with a sweater or jacket). On sea days, loungers by the pool filled up quickly (especially around the kiddie pools) but we would come back or sit at the tables by the Garden Cafe instead. The only places that it was annoyingly hard to find seating was at the Atrium (and the railing right above it outside O'Sheenan's where you could look down into the Atrium) for the game shows and concerts. The programming there was so great and well-run that it's no wonder people camp out to watch it, but it would be nice to either repeat the games so more people can attend or to move them to a larger venue. Activities: Having a preschooler with us, we split up onboard activities based on things we did all together, things she did and things we did while she was at Splash Academy (with more about that later). Family activities were offered though we didn't do much of those except for the family party at Spice H2O where they had music, balloon hats and face painting. Otherwise we spent a lot of time in the pool- there as a family pool that kids could swim in with parents as well as a Spongebob-themed kiddie pool with a little island and slide that was a bit hit. We also did the mini rope course, mini golf and played a few games in the arcade with her. By ourselves, we went on the water slides. The free fall ones are definitely a heart stopper. We also did the ropes course with a zip line at the end which was also absolutely terrifying but we would definitely do those again next time. Things we didn't get a chance to do/didn't want to try was a bouncing bungee/trampoline (where they strap you into harness and you can jump and flip and twist as you bounce on a trampoline) and a spider tower where you squeeze and climb up and slide down a twisty tube slide to get back down. Basketball, shuffle board, ping pong, mini golf and a giant chess set were available as well. And those are just physical activities. There were also a library, card room and informational panels about ports, shopping, health, etc. as well as the fitness center and spa. There's definitely something for everyone. Service: We cannot say enough about the superb service that we received. Everyone, from the moment we got on the ship, made us feel so special, welcomed and comfortable. Their professionalism, enthusiasm and all round A+++ service truly made this vacation for us. What really stood out to me was the way everyone made it a point to talk to and engage with our daughter as well. The truly wanted to make sure we were enjoying ourselves and took the time to chat and answer our questions which, now that I think about it, are probably ones they've answered hundreds of thousands of times. But they never gave any indication of any annoyance or feelings that we were bothering them. There was always a smile and "hello" that, while simple things, really added up. In particular, the following staff members went above and beyond: Renson (our steward), JC & Alvin (the cruise/assistant cruise director), Zappy, Ivy, BBQ, Mily, Lady Bug (Splash Academy staff) Cabin: We had a mini-suite with a balcony so for us there was plenty of room. The room, furniture, sheets/bedding and towels were very clean. There was plenty of closet space and little shelves/cubbies to store things. There was also plenty of space underneath the bed to put our suitcases so that was really handy as well. We loved the double sink in the bathroom. Plenty of space there for toiletries though we did bring a hanging organizer with pockets to store them since weren't sure about the space. The shower is surprisingly spacious with 6 spray jets in you choose to use them. The water gets incredibly hot which is nice, but just as a warning to set the handle to the colder side and turning it up slowly. The balcony was really nice~ the walls give a semblance of privacy but you can easily look around them to your neighbors on either side. Since we were directly below the pool & Garden Cafe, we could definitely hear everything that was happening if we were outside or had the balcony door open. Dining: Taste: Not on purpose, but we only went to Taste instead of Savor or the Manhattan dining rooms though the menus were the same at all 3 restaurants whenever I checked. We're not picky eaters so we found the menu to have plenty of options and everything was super tasty. Portions were very nice- not too much so that you could eat all three courses without feeling like you'll explode. La Cucina: We had the osso buco and shrimp risotto which were outstanding. The portions here were huge so unfortunately, I couldn't finish my risotto. I asked if the leftovers could be sent up to the room and our server said they'll send a new one up. We protested that there was nothing wrong with the one I had, which still had plenty left so he agreed. When we got it, they had replaced the shrimp we had eaten so it was complete again. Garden Cafe: Knowing that this is a buffet, we didn't go in with high expectations so we were pleasantly surprised by the selection and taste. It's a huge buffet so if there's something you want and there's a big crowd, go around the corner and chances are it will be there with less people. Le Cirque: The dinner show was awesome. It was hard to tell what was better- the entertainment or the meal. Both were wonderful and worth the price. It is a pretty long show so it might now be a good fit for those with little, little ones. Splash Academy: Splash Academy is the name of the children's club Norwegian offers. It's essentially a day care where the staff will arrange activities for the kids based on their age group. We highly, highly recommend it if you have children cruising with you. A. It's free, B. They have great hours and C. The staff members are great with the kids. They'll be taken care of and given lots of fun things to do and participate in. They started off the week with a parade through the Atrium, after painting the kids' faces, heading through the Art Gallery to the aft elevators and then up to the Garden Cafe where they walked around buffet, outside past the pools and then back down to Splash Academy. The kids felt so special and they got such applause from the crowd. There was also a special party at Spice H2O for the kids with balloon hats, face painting and dancing midweek. At the end of the week, they had a big circus-themed show where the kids from each age group would perform a routine for the parents. It was super adorable and impressive that they managed to throw such a show together in a few hours. Entertainment: Second City was hilarious, and we only saw 2 family improv shows. We definitely want to see them again and catch the later night shows. Dueling Pianos was a lot of fun too. The live bands and performers who performed at the Atrium and various lounges were amazing as well. There was a lot of talent on board and the music they played (ranging from easy listening, classic rock, 70s, 80s) was very nice. JC Sanchez & Alvin Oliva (the cruise director and assistant) had amazing energy at all the events they ran or reported at. They really kept a great vibe going the whole week. Disembarkation: The actual disembarkation from the ship was easy. You choose different colored tags that correspond to the time that you can disembark (Starting from 7:30am if you can carry off all your luggage to 10am). When your colored is called, everyone with that color leaves and goes to the section of the warehouse/port that has your luggage. Since we didn't have too far to go, we chose the 10am time slot. There was a long line to get into the port since there was backlog starting around 9am. The luggage was also just all lumped together but it was pretty easy to navigate and find your luggage. The most painful part was getting through customs, which has nothing to do with Norwegian but with the government employees. After getting your luggage, you were directed to get into one of two lines. There was no explanation on why there were two lines and no one asked about whether you were citizens or coming from abroad until you were at the front and THEN they split up the people based on that. There were also only 5 stations opened with 4,000+ people trying to exit until right around 10:30 when they finally opened up another 2 stations. I guess the 20 other employees they had there had to watch the line. So aside from a few things here and there, this trip was overwhelmingly great. We cannot wait to cruise again and look forward to seeing some familiar faces in a few months! Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
This was our 6th cruise and what a difference finding the right cruise line makes. Our previous cruises were 1 Carnival (never again), 3 Royal Caribbean (previous favorite) and 1 NCL (never again). We were looking for an itinerary that ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise and what a difference finding the right cruise line makes. Our previous cruises were 1 Carnival (never again), 3 Royal Caribbean (previous favorite) and 1 NCL (never again). We were looking for an itinerary that marked some destinations off our bucket list, did not cater to children (love them, but wanted a break), an outstanding ship and service as well as fellow cruisers who are able to behave like adults (see Carnival cruise). This trip exceeded all of our expectations on those points. Destinations: All tours we booked were offline. In addition to all that implies (smaller groups, flexibility, personal attention), we wound up having a core group that we toured with. Thank you Cruise Critic and thanks to our companions! What a difference that made to feel like we were traveling with friends! The destinations were all good. Our thinking was we may never pass this way again, so we felt lucky to experience each one, even if we may not want to pass that way again. If we were going to pick favorites, we especially enjoyed Santorini and Naples, specifically Positano. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Ephesus and the Terrace Houses. We did not have enough time at Pompeii. If that is your interest, then that would take all day, at minimum, to see it all. Would recommend you get a guide at Pompeii as the little recorded gizmos require some divine intervention to operate. Note that this itinerary is very walk intensive. The Acropolis and Pompeii require quite an uphill hike for those of us no longer in peak condition (as if I ever was!). Even Positano was a huff and puff stroll. Lots of opportunity to stop and pretend you are fascinated by shops to catch your wind. Ship: Our last cruise was on the Norwegian Epic. That ship felt like a floating tomb to me. Very dark and closed in. Was so happy to find that the Reflection was light and bright. It was very clean and, to a person, the crew was always smiling and greeted you. Because our ports were quite strenuous, we didn't really explore the ship like we would ordinarily. Frankly, we were tired! Would have like to have had a few more sea days to really enjoy the ship. Service: We had an Aqua Suite which meant we had a butler. His name is Samuel Rodney. He did a fantastic job for us. I'm never really sure what all that is supposed to entail, but we never wanted for anything. He got my card key replaced so I didn't have to go to Guest Relations and helped my husband find his belt even after we had given up the search. Service on the rest of the ship was just fine, no complaints. Dining: While we had access to Blu, we weren't crazy about the menu. TIP: unless you want something to laugh about for the rest of the trip, avoid the lettuce water and yogurt soup. It is as nasty as it sounds. Service was outstanding. That was ok though because there were plenty of other places to eat. We tried Murano and Lawn Club Grill. Would do the Grill again, but would probably choose a different Specialty restaurant next time. Entertainment: we went to one show early on and didn't stay for the whole thing. It wasn't actually bad, but we were so tired that sleep became a bigger priority. We did appreciate that there were only two smoking areas. That made the casino, for example, a nice place to lose your money. Felt like Sky Lounge was under utilized except the one night the 'professional hockey player' (no idea if that was true, but his buddy kept announcing it loudly) and his friends showed up and took over the dance floor and band instruments since no one else was there. And that show wasn't even included in the price of the cruise! Haha. Kinda felt sorry for them because we heard the median age of traveler on the ship was 71. I guess there really wasn't a good place for them to go with all that youthful exuberance. Spa: we were Aqua Suite, but because we were so port intensive and basically exhausted, we really didn't get the bang for the buck on this. Lesson learned, but the cabin was awesome. We've been back almost a week now and we decided that if we could do it all over again, we would in a heartbeat. We are counting the days until our next cruise with Celebrity!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
My wife and I just returned from our week on the Getaway. We were traveling with another couple we are in our late 40s and have been on several other cruise lines such as Celebrity and Princess. So the basis of our experience is from our ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from our week on the Getaway. We were traveling with another couple we are in our late 40s and have been on several other cruise lines such as Celebrity and Princess. So the basis of our experience is from our expectations from other lines. We live in Florida so we are looking at trying different lines and the Getaway being a new ship at the time we booked did not have any real history. We thought the features were interesting and gave it a try. We read about the Vibe area and decided it would be a good idea based on the reviews stating how crowded the main pool area is. This is beyond a doubt the most ridiculously small area for such a large ship. The pools on other lines carrying only 2800 were bigger. The people were packed in every area possible deck chairs were so close together impossible to have any space. Every walk area had chairs lining them tripped over the legs more than one. I am very thankful I got to the terminal at 9:30 to get boarding group one. I had to race to the customer service as soon as I got aboard. I was maybe 6th in line and before I finished there were more than enough people to sell all passes. For us well worth the 79.00 for quiet location with better chairs, full bar two hot tubs and personal bartender. It is ridiculous that I had to board so early to get them but if you don't like be crammed together with blaring music it will be worth it. In the event you can not get passes the H2o area is also a good choice at no charge located at the rear of the ship. Only thing I noted is on windy sea days smell of exhaust will come down on the deck. We purchased a spa cabin located on deck 14 excellent location to get to may things such as spa, gym, pool and buffet. The fitness is rather small for a large ship not enough equipment on sea days. The spa with a large relaxation room, heated loungers, large therapy pool with multiple jets, sauna, salt room and steam all excellent. One thing all one large area so if passengers do not follow spa rules for quiet it gets loud. There were several regular attendees who had hour long loud conversations disturbing people at rest. I saw no effort from staff to correct this. Pricing for services are as much as could be charged before passenger would pass. This is typical for cruise lines, but the high pressure pitch for products and additional services can be uncomfortable. We dined on the Ultimate dining package, we found service in most restaurants to average not exceptional. We only encountered two exceptional servers our entire cruise and we tipped them for there excellent efforts. Food I was just ok. We have had the included food on Celebrity be better. The food included for the illusionarium show is low grade crap I would recommend eating first. The show was narrated as if it was scripted for Disney. The smell of smoke was present on the 3 decks associated with the casino area. Because the way the ship is laid out all spaces seemed to run together not any real intimate lounges to sit and enjoy conversation or music. The waterfront was unique but failed to draw any real use from passengers that I could see. No comfortable seating areas to enjoy space. This ship is about loud music in every venue, moving large amount of people and no real quality service. I you are a young person or just enjoy noise, this may work for you. But we vacation to relax and we could only find that at the Vibe bar we paid for. We found most of negative reviews to be fair and honest, we will return to Celebrity or Princess again NCL probably not anytime soon and not with 4000 passenger ships. Good luck to you I hope your experience to be what your expecting. One thing I just remembered because the balconies are only 3 feet by 8 if you can get a room where the bulge of the ship transitions you will have much more space and better views we had cabin 14150 for example.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We arrived at the port from Rome into the train station. Train was fantastic and I highly recommend it. At the train station there was a porter to take your luggage and deliver it to your cabin. This was great as we were going to walk to ... Read More
We arrived at the port from Rome into the train station. Train was fantastic and I highly recommend it. At the train station there was a porter to take your luggage and deliver it to your cabin. This was great as we were going to walk to the people mover. Embarkation was rough....It took about 2 hours to get on the ship from curbside and I think they need a more efficient way to get people on board. You wait till they call your letter to check in and then you wait again until they call your number to get on board. Why can't you board right after you check in...terminal was hot and uncomfortable however they trip did go uphill from here. Due to the long wait to get onboard our cabin was ready when we got on board which was nice...didn't have to carry bags with us. Since we had been in Italy for a week already we just got into our bathing suits and go enjoy the pool. We ate at the Garden Café for lunch and just grabbed at table outside to eat at. Food was fine, we just wanted salad anyway. Free Ice Tea and Lemonade included. We ate most breakfast and lunch at the Garden Café. Food was fine always could find something to eat. We enjoyed the Oompah Band at the German lunch and food was really good although not truly authentic German. We also had brunch at the Bistro for the Jazz Brunch. It was good fresh food and you could order off menu and enjoy the buffet so its nice to be served as well. We only tried one specialty restaurant for dinner, Cagney's. It was delicious and service was excellent. There was a lot of choice in the starters and appetizers but don't fill up, steaks are perfectly cooked and the truffle fries were very good. I would definitely do it again. We ate at the Grand Pacific once, hubby did not like having to wear pants and food was same as Alizar so we didn't go more than once. We were on vacation and just wanted to relax. I didn't find the service as good as the Alizar although the Grand Pacific Dining Room was supposed to be better, I found service in Alizar to exceed it by far. Alizar Dining Room - first night was rough, put us (couple with no kids) beside a family with two screaming toddlers. Parents seemed too tired to care and kids were screaming so much we had to get up and leave before our Main Course came. We spoke to Front Desk on our way out and asked not to be seated near small children again which they assured us they would do. The next night we were seated in an area with all adults around and we had a fantastic waitress, Marilou. She has been on board Norwegian ships from 11 years and it shows. We asked to be seated with her for our whole two weeks and we were. She knew our names and our drink preferences and always took time to chat about our day. She always had our carbonated water and drink of the day brought to us right away. We had no problem eating off the menu each night, we were at the MDR for 12 nights and never had to repeat a choice. The maître d and asst maître d also came by and we got to know them. They were also excellent especially in telling us the drink of the day. On night onboard was my birthday and we got complimentary champagne and a cake courtesy of the maître d. We only attended three shows out of the 14 nights and I found them to be amateurish and boring, since I was on Oasis of the Seas in April , Jade just couldn't compare. I highly recommend they get rid of the magician. Very boring and transparent. At night we enjoyed the casino or music at one of the many venues. There were two pools, one being an adult only, we enjoyed the adult only. We tried to avoid the pool when it was really crowded ( leaving ports) and tried to use it in port or earlier in the day. We bought the thermal spa package at the Mandara Spa. Highly enjoyed it, thalsotherapy pool, Jacuzzi tub, Sauna, Showers with therapy, steam room and plunge pool. Went every day. I also used it for showering in the evening. Our room was fine, everything was comfortable and clean. Our attendant was fine nothing spectacular but room always clean and made up when we wanted it. Once issue with attendant, we asked for distilled water for my hubby's CPAP machine (requested beforehand) and he had no idea what we were talking about. Had to go to guest services next day and they got us some. We had a balcony room which was great however if you want to see the Grand Canal on the sail out you need a port side room, ours was starboard. We went up on deck, no big deal. We did not buy a drink package nor did we do any excursions with Norwegian. We are not big drinkers, only one a day so we paid as we went. As far as the excursions, too expensive with Norwegian, I arranged all port excursions myself and we paid at least half price to ship. Always got back on time. Getting off the ship was much easier, I picked up luggage tags on Friday for a later time off ship. Our luggage was in terminal when we arrived , got into a cab and off to airport. I would go on Jade again however I would like to try some other ships such as Epic. I really like the free style dining and not dressing for dinner, really suits our vacation style.   Read Less
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 September 2014

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