My wife and I are in our 60’s, and we are experienced cruisers. We tend to like Carnival, although the Cruise Line sometimes gets a bad rap for its focus on the party crowd. However longer cruises on Carnival are often a bargain for people of any age. Plus we have had good experiences with Carnival, and we prefer the Carnival food to that of the ‘higher priced’ cruise lines.
This was one of the strangest cruises we have ever taken, and we have taken around 40 cruises on various lines. We arrived at the terminal around 12:30, and found parking very limited – kind of odd for the Port of Miami. We soon found out why. The Breeze had been either late in arriving in port, or had been delayed in disembarking by customs, or both. Many of the passengers from the last cruise were still disembarking, and had not yet taken their cars from the lot. Understandably, there was a huge line of people waiting to get on board – the ship holds nearly 5,000 I believe. Because we are frequent cruisers, we could have moved to a special shorter line for Platinum and Diamond cruisers, but we felt a little sorry for all those who had been waiting, and we were in no hurry, so we just joined the long line. Besides, there were outdoor-access restrooms at the dock alongside the line, and Carnival brought out cold drinking water for those in line. The total wait in line before we could even enter the building was about 90 minutes. After a while I began to wish that we had taken advantage of our frequent cruiser status and gone around the building to the special access area.
Once inside the building, we went through the security sensors, and were advised that the sensors had been down for about a half hour as well, contributing to the delays. We were ushered into a special room for frequent cruisers, and then given our keys and escorted around the long lines waiting to check in. There was a large lounge area for the cruisers who were not frequent cruisers, and it was packed. There were literally thousands of people waiting to go through the check-in procedures. It was really a mess. By this time we were truly tired of waiting, and were grateful for the priority treatment for the rest of the boarding procedures. We waited dutifully for the photographer at the boarding station, and then went up the ramps and through a short line to actually board. We were pleased to learn that the buffets had been kept open today so we could grab a late lunch.
We then went to our room, which was a very nice but small room. This ship has a plethora of balcony cabins – almost all the outside rooms have balconies on the Breeze, except for the 1st floor, which has the traditional porthole windows.
We dropped our carry-on items in the room, and noticed that, as usual, there was only one electrical outlet - over the desk. Since I use a CPAP machine, I have learned to carry an extension cord and a multi-tap outlet. Glad I had them on this cruise. Later on the cruise we learned that there was a great deal of mechanical noise in the cabin - people walking or moving carts overhead, and the constant banging of balcony doors or other unknown objects was a bit annoying. I do not recommend the 2nd floor level on this particular ship, as you are underneath some food prep areas, I believe, and those areas operate 24 hours a day.
We then went to the Lido deck for lunch. The layout of the Lido buffet area was different from any ship we had ever been on. Instead of an open seating area by the windows with two buffet lines and various food stations in the center, as was the norm on many Carnival ships, the center of the Lido food court had perhaps 8 different serving areas, but the layout did not permit you to see them all at the same time. There were decorative walls dividing the serving areas, and you had to walk around most of the food court to see all of the offerings – there were different foods in each serving area. We later found that in the back of the ship, through some doorways, there was the Pizza service and the special Guy’s Hamburger area. The hamburgers were delicious, but had some heavy seasoning which caused my wife to have some stomach discomfort (she has a weak stomach). We also later learned that there were two Pizza service areas – but we did not find the second area for several days.
We toured the ship, and noticed the inconvenience caused by the fact that the 3rd floor did not go all the way through the ship. Others have mentioned this as well. Unfortunately, this is the restaurant floor, and when you want to leave the restaurant to attend the shows, you always end up having to go up (or down) a level to get to the other end of the ship. We were on a Holland American ship many years ago with this same problem. This is just stupid ship design in my view. Perhaps they wanted to force you to use the Promenade deck or the Mezzanine deck so that you would go by the shops more often or to walk through the Casino in order to tempt you to stop there.
Frankly, we did not like the Lido buffet layout or the overall ship layout either. It was difficult to figure out where you were. In the morning we found some of the drink dispensers dispensing fruit juice, and in other areas lemonade and water only. We finally figured out that fruit juice was on the starboard side only. No signage. Everything was trial and error. Carnival really needs to provide a mini-map of the Lido area for passengers (I think they used to do this - or perhaps only Royal Caribbean does it - not sure). As a matter of fact, they need to provide a mini-map of the entire ship. I often found myself heading to the wrong end of the ship when trying to find my way during the cruise. They used to give you a small pocket-sized map when you check in, but not this time.
They do have a plastic Lucite ‘map’ of the ship near the elevators on each floor, but although it shows the floors vertically, it does not show the areas horizontally! So you know what floor to go to, but you have no guidelines as to which end of the ship to go to! For us that proved to be a real nuisance as the week progressed.
We noticed that there were only three sets of elevators, and we expected delays with all of the passengers on board, but we were pleasantly surprised that there were very few times when we had to wait for an elevator for a long period – they moved quickly, and were well sequenced, and presented no problems at all. And although our room was near the elevators, the elevators were very quiet.
We had the safety drill promptly at 4, even though I believe there were still guests boarding. On the plus side, the guides at the drill were very kind, though, finding seats for the elderly, and handling everything very smoothly. They even allowed the wheelchair bound passengers to leave first (quietly without making a fuss), which was a very kind thing to do. The crew on this ship, as a whole, was top notch with respect to customer relations, in our opinion. Cruise ship crews are always pretty good in this area, but the Breeze crew was well above the norm. Our compliments to the Carnival Breeze in this area for sure!
We were seated for early dinner at 6. At first we were concerned because our table was as far away from the kitchen as you can get, and on some previous cruises, this meant really slow service. Not on the Breeze, though. Food service was VERY efficient and handled as well as or better than any other cruise we have taken. We did notice that there were no tablecloths (except for one evening), and therefore the clean-up for the staff was more efficient as well. The deserts on the ship were well prepared and to my taste. Often cruise ship deserts just do not taste very good – the Breeze was the exception. Deserts were excellent. Carnival food offerings are pretty mainstream, and we like that. I have read some criticism comparing the buffet to all-you-can-eat landside bargain buffets, but I think that is not quite fair. The food choices were varied from oriental to mid-American cuisine, and they all tasted very good to me. One minor complaint – there were soft-serve ice cream machines and yogurt machines at several locations in the Lido. But the ice cream was always set so cold it would barely dispense, and they always seemed to run out of spoons. The machines needed some adjustment, but I doubt that the staff people I saw would have any idea how to do that.
Although we were not thrilled with the design of the Lido buffet, we have to say that the food service in all areas was outstanding on this ship, and to our Midwestern taste buds, the food was very good. We did not partake of the extra-cost restaurants that were available, but one of our tablemate couples did visit the steakhouse and they indicated that it was very nice.
On our first dinner, things were going well until the ship cleared the harbor area. Once at sea we immediately hit rough waters. There was a bottle of wine on the table that kept sliding off – we finally put it on a vacant chair. I do not know if the ship stabilizers were not working or if was just the wind, but this cruise, for the next two days, was the roughest we have ever taken. And we had chosen Breeze because it was a larger ship, expecting that it would be a bit more steady, much like the RCL Oasis and Allure, but that was not the case. My wife turned pale and left the table quickly and could not finish her meal. She spent the next two days in the cabin fighting nausea. We had to get the ship’s plumber to clear the bathroom as her nausea clogged the plumbing. That was a 3 hour wait. I guess she was not the only one clogging the plumbing from seasickness.
After dinner, on the first evening I stayed in the cabin with my sick wife. The cruise director, ‘Wee Jimmy,’ had been the director on other cruises we have taken, and gave his welcome presentation, but we did not attend. Based on previous cruises, we know that he does a nice job.
On the second day I ventured out to the breakfast buffet. They served breakfast until 12 noon – which was a really nice feature on this ship. They kept the buffet open most of the time, which was great for those of us who sleep late or live on a different clock. We appreciated that feature of the Breeze. I brought some fruit back to the cabin for my wife, who still did not feel well enough to get out of bed.
After breakfast, I went by the trivia games – they were the only thing going on besides the inevitable art auctions by Park West, and of course, Bingo. I watched for a while, but chose not to play because the questions were focused on modern ‘music’ from the past few years – a definite plus for the Carnival customary target audience of millennials, but not for us.
The casino was large and inviting. Oddly I noticed on blackjack table that paid only 6 to 5 on blackjack – it was a $5 table. The other tables paid normal odds. I guess there is a sucker born every minute, as they say. Two people were playing at this table. I found a normal table and played for a short while, but the casino got the better of me this time and I lost a few bucks. Oh, well…
The spa and gym facilities looked very nice, but since my wife was so seasick, we did not use the facility at all. There was also at least one – probably more – hot tubs near the pizza pirate area. They were always full when I looked out the glass doors towards the sports deck – generally full of millennials – mostly young men and a few women.
The ship had a small library with very few books. There were two wine dispensing machines of some kind in the library as well, but we did not partake. There was no checkout procedure in sight for the books, and no staff member around. I took a couple of books back to the room for my wife to read while stuck in bed, and replaced them in the library on the last full day of the cruise.
I also noticed a ‘Red Dog’ barbecue area on one side of the Promenade. I believe there was no extra charge if you ate there – it was open periodically – I am not sure of their time schedule. There was a specialty (translation – extra charge) ice cream bar on the Promenade as well.
For Internet fanatics, there was a plethora of terminals available – I think either on the Mezzanine walkway or the Promenade. I was told that Carnival has lowered the fees, but I am not sure of that, nor can I report on internet speed, as I decided this vacation would be phone-free and internet-free.
By the way, we had a room on the 2nd level midship, which is usually a good choice for stability – less ship rockin’ and rollin’ on the lower levels midship. We were directly across from the ship’s public laundry facility (which added a bit to the noise levels as people would stand in the hall and talk while they were waiting for their laundry). But we were close to the elevators, which worked out well all in all. Although we had a balcony cabin, due to high winds and rough seas blowing water up on the balcony all of the time (we were on lower deck – deck 2), we did not get to use the balcony at all.
On the second evening we both went to dinner, but my wife could not get past the appetizers before the rocking of the ship forced her to stumble back to the room. After dinner, I checked on her and she was doing ok sitting up in bed, so I went to the evening production show.
I was disappointed in the first production show. The eight dancers and singers were outstanding, but their performance ‘vehicle’ was mediocre. The show had large, obviously expensive illuminated backdrops that did not fit together properly – the musical arrangements were high-school level, and the choreography left a lot to be desired. No live band – those had been cut a few years back as a cost savings. I miss the band, but I understand the need to save money, and most of the audience would never have noticed. I have no criticism of the eight performers – they did the best they could with what they were given – which was a poorly designed show and a horrible set design and show concept. (By the way, I am a certified music judge, and so I am more critical than most of the audience would be). Can you imagine using a motorized orchestra pit elevator to bring up a single stand-alone hollow dressing room mirror? It drew your eyes away from the performers at a key moment. What a huge waste and truly awful show design.
On the plus side, the sound system worked great on the first production show, but failed miserably on the second one, with ear-splitting volume levels for the background making it impossible to hear the vocals. This is odd, because it worked fine before and after – probably an inexperienced person running the mixers. My tablemates at dinner the next night were still complaining about headaches from the deafening volume levels at the second show. I did not attend the second show personally, so I am going from their word.
There were four comedians on the cruise. I missed the first one because of my wife’s seasickness. The second one was a young girl from New York that looked like she was on some kind of ‘uppers’ as she bounced around the audience before the show like she was on a trampoline. She was moderately funny, although I have forgotten her name. The third one was Bob Biggerstaff from Houston Texas. He was truly awful. Not dirty, just not funny. The fourth guy, Marc Simmons, fortunately, was great.
There was also a comedic magician entertaining us one night. I have forgotten his name too, but he was very good. The illusions were mostly slight-of-hand – no big props – but his sense of timing and his interaction with the audience were exemplary.
The Love and Marriage show is always entertaining, and we made it a point to see the show on this ship. It seemed a bit rushed, but Wee Jimmy, the cruise director, made the show a winner, as always. We saw a ‘Quest’ game scheduled one evening, but it was late (as is appropriate for this game, which usually has light sexual overtones pulls practical jokes on passengers who volunteer to participate), and there was the Hasbro Game Show at various times – but we are not big fans of that entertainment concept. There was also the traditional male vs female show, which is pleasant, and the standard poolside belly-flop and hairy legs contests that are typical of Carnival. It was very windy, though, so we did not even consider attending.
There was a large outdoor movie screen on the ship, a concept that I believe was pioneered by Disney. We watched a fairly new Mission Impossible movie the one evening that my wife felt well enough. We bundled up under blankets in the lounge chairs. The movies were well attended, but there were sufficient chairs around. All of the movies were fairly current, though, and we appreciated that.
There were always a lot of photographers on a cruise ship, but the Breeze seemed to have more than normal. Odd that the Carnival photographers are still using film rather than electronics, like some other cruise lines do. If you are not familiar with cruising, you might be surprised to learn that the ship makes a lot of its money on board from the bars, the casino, the shops, and the photographers, so the photo guys are always trying to take your picture. They do a good job, though, and I do not mind a bit.
The shops on board were ok – nothing special. Odd to see them selling second-hand Rolex watches in the shop – this is Carnival after all, not Radisson. I doubt that the typical Carnival passenger could afford even the second-hand Rolex watches.
As to other entertainment – there was a small three piece band – trumpet, tenor sax, and a trombonist with an F attachment (if you are a wind musician, you probably know what that is – if not, just think of it as a fancy trombone). The trumpet player was outstanding – clean sound and a great range. No clams (wrong notes). The tenor play was not featured at all, so I am unsure about his skills. The trombonist appeared to be the leader of the group. His talent was perhaps more focused on his leadership than his performance skills.
There was also a 5 or six piece group with a good female vocalist playing modern music in one area – they were fine, but not the type of music I most enjoy. They had great audience appeal, though. They were charismatic, and I appreciated their professionalism. The musical highlight on the cruise was a string trio – two violins and a viola – from Spain. They were extraordinary. I rarely linger over the balcony in the lobby to hear a group perform, but I surely did just to hear this trio. The lead violinist was one of the finest I ever heard, and was well backed up by the other two performers.
On Christmas day the ship’s entertainment staff held a Christmas worship service in the morning. As usual, they underestimated the number of people that would attend, and seating was at a premium. The violinists were there, along with the three piece wind band and the rock band singers. Unfortunately the singers from the rock group did not know the words or melody to a couple of the Christian Christmas carols, but the enthusiastic audience chimed in and carried the melody, and it turned out to be a very nice event – perhaps the highlight of the cruise for us. Our compliments to ‘Wee Jimmy’ and the Carnival group for putting on this event.
PORTS OF CALL
On the first port, Grand Turk, we arrived on time. All of the ports had a dock, so there was no need to tender ashore anywhere on this cruise. At Grand Turk, we simply walked around a bit and did some light souvenir shopping for family members.
At the second stop, the Dominican Republic, we again just walked of the ship and looked around in the few shops that were near the port. It was pretty sparse. We finished our time on land in about 30 minutes. Our tablemates took the tour of the city and told us over dinner that there were a lot of armed police with big guns everywhere. We did not go downtown, so we did not see this firsthand.
Our third scheduled stop was Curacao. The ship bounced and wove its way to Curacao all night, but in the morning the ship suddenly slowed down around 10 AM. We were due in at 1 or so. We were told by announcement that another ship was in our dock space, due to some kind of scheduling glitch, and we could not go ashore until the other ship left – around 6 pm. Carnival was very apologetic, and they refunded our paid tour and gave every one on the ship $50 for the inconvenience. I think that was very nice of Carnival. We are not bar hoppers, and we knew the shops would be closed, so we did not go ashore at all.
The final stop was Aruba, and we did use a ship's tour package to tour the island. Ordinarily we would not have done this, but the missed port made us a little nervous about taking our own tour, so we opted for the safer ship sponsored tour. We knew the ship would wait for us if we were late getting back, and sure enough, we were late getting back to the dock. We had been to Aruba many years ago and the island has changed a lot over time. It is now pretty much a tourist-based economy, whereas it had been an oil refining economy many years ago. It was a pleasant tour with a great bus driver who kept us entertained the entire trip.
We got back to the ship just before departure time – no spare time to shop. We re-boarded the ship and headed back home. The trip home was a lot smoother for some reason. Perhaps they finally found the switch to extend the stabilizers, or perhaps we were with the wind, but in any event, the cruise back to home port was pretty normal.
Disembarking went smoothly, and the buffet was open for all of their standard morning offerings, including made-to-order eggs and omelets. Even so, I prefer the Royal Caribbean concept where they let you remain in your cabins as long as you wish. Carnival wants you out of there by 8:30. As frequent cruisers, we got priority in disembarking, and we were grateful for that, as there were thousands of people who would need to disembark and go through customs.
All-in-all, Carnival is a very fine cruise line. They get a lot of bad press because, in my opinion, they have a lot of short low-cost cruises that draw the party kids, who always create their share of havoc. This cruise was a longer one, with an older demographic on board in general. However, we just did not enjoy this particular ship as much as we had hoped. In some areas, it was outstanding. It was spotlessly clean, dinner service was quick and efficient, the crew was very friendly and kind…but the rough seas were not kind to us, the production shows were a disappointment, and the ship’s layout was not easy to maneuver. There were always seats and lounge chairs available, but the walkways were narrow, and gave you a feeling of overcrowding where ever you walked. You were always either turning sideways to allow people to pass, or being jostled by someone in a bigger hurry than you were. They did some things very well, and others not so well. If you choose the Carnival Breeze, I hope you have smooth seas. Read Less