Just got off of our 8 night Carnival Breeze vacation yesterday on 11/15/2015. By far, this was the best cruise ever, out of my 5. This review will be very detailed, for all of those who enjoy details; however, it will not include any pictures.
Please feel free to ask any questions! I will post this over the course of several entries; however, will complete everything within the next few hours. I apologize in advance; however, I will be rather critical of some things people have said in the past on reviews I have read. I will not be critical of opinions; however, I will be critical of factual inaccuracies only.
My name is Ryan, and I am 35 years old. I was traveling with my boyfriend, AndyMike who is 30 years old. We reside in Southern California. This is my fifth cruise and his first cruise. My previous cruises include 2007 on the Carnival Triumph, 2008 on the Ruby Princess, 2010 on the Caribbean Princess and 2011 on the Carnival Miracle.
My outgoing flight was on 11/05/2015 on a red-eye from LAX to West Palm Beach via Charlotte on American Airlines. AndyMike flew on Virgin America on a red-eye on 11/06/2015, as he had to work an extra day. He flew from LAX to FLL.
THE DAY BEFORE THE CRUISE:
I arrived in West Palm Beach, in order to visit a friend I have not seen in many years, who now lives in Orlando. I rented a car from Dollar at the West Palm Beach airport. I was incredibly disappointed with the rental experience. I rented for exactly 24 hours - 10:30AM on 11/06 to 10:30AM on 11/07 picking up in West Palm Beach and returning to MIA. I did just that. My estimated charges of $52.00 were charged at $187.50 when I returned the car to MIA. The car itself was also of very poor quality. The charges were corrected; however, not without unnecessary calls to customer service.
After a visit with my friend in West Palm Beach, I drove down to Pembroke Pines, nestled west of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, about halfway between the two cities.
I stayed at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott Pembroke Pines. This appears to be a brand new hotel, not too far from shopping and dining. I checked in at about 4:30PM and was paying for a one night stay complimentary with Marriott Rewards Points. The room was nice, looked brand new, and I was amazed with the decor and the design considering the rather small room. The staff was friendly enough; however, with no particular highlights. There was an odd sewage smell throughout the hotel; however, I am not so sure it was directly related to the hotel, as there was a sewage treatment plant nearby. My room was on the top floor and it was very quiet. The breakfast in the morning was very nice for a free continental breakfast. It had several hot dishes, waffles, fruit, eggs, cereal, and everything else you would expect to find.
TRANSPORTATION TO THE PORT:
Despite the rather poor experience I had with Dollar, I will say that they do provide a free shuttle from Miami Airport to the Port. That was a pleasant experience and definitely a value added experience.
In past reviews I have read, people said that Embarkation was chaotic and unorganized. This could not be further from the truth. It was very organized and maybe slightly chaotic; however, for those who thought it was --- it was there own fault. Yes, there are a lot of people (as expected); however, the staff at the port works amazingly to get everybody checked in and onto the ship. You start by handing your bags to a porter (tip them at least $1 per bag) and then you go in. You first stand in a line so your initial documents can be checked and then you go through the security screening. If you have Faster to the Fun, watch for your own special lines during all processes. We did not have Faster to the Fun; however, everything was still efficient. Once you are through Security Screening, you go upstairs and to the main terminal where you actually check in with a representative. We arrived at the port at about 11:30AM, and yes I would say we arrived after about 40% or so of the people already had arrived. I would say total time from the time we entered the building until we were sitting down waiting for our zone to be called was about 25 minutes. We were Zone 13, which means that we had a while to wait. On this particular day, they started calling the initial groups including Faster to the Fun at about 11:55AM. Our zone was called at about 1:10PM. So here is where you have to decide if FTTF is right for you. We didn't mind waiting the one hour in the terminal, so it was not big deal to us. Once our zone was called, we went upstairs to the Gangway and we were on the ship by about 1:20PM.
This was a sold out cruise! Overall, it did not seem that crowded to us. Yes, there were some crowded areas, which I will go into detail with later on in the review; however, overall it did not seem that crowded. I credit the excellent design of the ship.
The ship is beautiful. The ship has now been in service for between 3 and 3.5 years. The ship is in GREAT CONDITION, as all of our cruises have been. Remember, this ship does not get a break. 3,700 people off and hours later 3,700 people back on. It is kept in constant clean condition and people are always keeping everything in great shape. Sure, I noticed a few things like some permanent stains in some chairs in the dining room; however, I'm sure that will not detract from your overall experience!
The staff of this ship is simply amazing. Remember, treat people the way you want to be treated. That was our motto and is always our motto. The staff overall was very friendly. I will talk about some individual staff members in other parts of my review; however, I will talk about the Cruise Director, Matt here. Matt is by far the best cruise director that I have ever experienced. He is funny, energetic, always available, part of your cruise every single day, and just has a great personality. I know he will be moving to the Carnival Vista early next year, and I hope to be able to have him as my cruise director again in the future.
Tipping is a personal thing; however, let me take time to remind you that this wonderful hard working staff on these ships work very hard and many of the staff members do not get paid a lot. I encourage you to celebrate and applaud the hard work that they do by tipping appropriately. My personal way of tipping is that I leave the suggested gratuities of Carnival on my Sail and Sign Account (which I believe is currently about $12.00 per person per day), and I give additional cash gratuities to individual staff members during the middle of my cruise, if I feel that there service is excellent (which this time it was with everyone I gave additional gratuity to). The additional gratuities that I give are as follows: $20.00 to restaurant hostess; $35 to head server, $25 to team server, $20 to assistant server, $30 to lead stateroom steward, $20 to assistant stateroom steward, $25 to our favorite bartender, $10 to onboard restaurant magician.
Our room was available at the time we embarked, just after 1pm. We did go directly to our room and we were also pleasantly surprised that our luggage was delivered by 3pm. We had room 8475 which was an extended aft balcony room. This is essentially a standard size Carnival cabin with a much larger balcony. There were 2 upright chairs and two full size loungers with plenty of room to spare.
Our stateroom steward and assistant steward were very nice and kept everything very tidy throughout the stay. The typical daytime housekeeping and nighttime turndown was standard. There are no longer chocolates on the pillows; however, that certainly didn't deter any experience. There were always fresh towels and beach towels available on the days that we did not hang our towels up to be reused.
The room is so well designed for space and efficiently considering the somewhat small size of cruise cabins. Just remember, slide your empty luggage under the bed after putting everything away! There is plenty of storage drawers and closet space. The safe in the room was put to good use. The Breeze rooms are definitely toned down compared to the other Carnival ships. No more crazy peach and pink colors in the main part of the room. We had a sofa beside the two twins that were pushed together. The bathroom was small but efficient. The shower did have both body wash and shampoo in the dispenser with plenty of shelf space in the bathroom as well. As is common in ship cabins, there is only one normal outlet which is by the vanity/desk area, so do bring a power strip if you need additional outlets.
There were two disappointing parts of our room experience. And as you will note as you read this review, I don't have too much bad to say! First, was how dirty our balcony was. Yes, I'm sure that if I would have asked the stateroom steward, he would have cleaned it; however, I guess I did not use it enough to feel it was warranted in my head.
To be honest, I love balcony rooms; however, don't use them that often except normally about for an hour before I go to bed, just to enjoy the peacefulness of the open sea/ocean and just relax. I attribute the dirty balcony to two things. Number one it seems that a lot of the "dirty balcony" was some kind of ash or black dirt. the other part appeared to be from falling debris or falling beverages from possibly balconies above us or from the Lido Aft. These balconies are not as private as the standard ones on the side. The people above you can see most of your balcony and the people beside you can easily see you if you are standing at the rail. They are not as private at the ones on the side of the ship.
The other problem we had with that area of the ship was the sewage smell. You may have noticed other people talking about this. The only places I noticed it on the ship, was in the aft area on our deck and above our deck. It was present from the aft elevators and down the hallway to our room; however, luckily not really present in our room. It may be some kind of design flaw of the ship, that is producing this odor.
Look, it is what it is. I still had a great time, and if this was our biggest problem, so be it. It wasn't in our room and it is not that big of a deal.
I am guessing that I will probably not go back to an aft balcony; however, I guess it depends on how I feel next time. Will the large design of the aft balcony pull me back in, or will I go for the more clean, tidy but smaller side balcony? We'll see! :-)
St. Maarten - In St. Maarten, we decided to do Bernard's Tour's, which I have done once before. I love Bernard's. The meeting area is a short walk from the debark point, under a white tent. He usually does multiple vans per day, and we were lucky enough to be placed with the "Mailman". I have read reviews of the Mailman, and he did not disappoint. The tour was great and covered a lot of stops with great photo ops. There was a stocked cooler with beer, soda, water, and the famous rum punch. We had about one hour at a local beach, which was awesome. We also had time to go to the airport, along with an option to be dropped off at the cruise terminal or the shopping area afterwards. I will continue to recommend Bernard's Tours. The price was only $45 plus gratuity and it was about a 5 hours total.
Antigua - We booked a combination Ziplining and Swimming with the Stingrays tour from Antiguarainforest.com. It should have been a great day; however, sadly the tour operator left about 10 minutes before we arrived (even though we arrived 5 minutes early). Also, the confirmations they send out left no local phone number. Instead, we found a taxi operator. Since the tour was shared, we only paid $25 per person plus gratuity. It lasted about 4 hours. We stopped at many sights and our driver was friendly and knowledgeable. There was an option to drop us off at a beach and come back and pick us up later for an additional $5.00; however, we did not do that.
St. Thomas - We booked a charter/snorkel sail with Captain Patty. We booked directly with her. She has a sailboat she calls the Freebird. It is a six hour tour, and it was a beautiful day. Both her and her assistant Dave were excellent. We motored out from the Marina and then put the sails up. The winds were perfect to sail us most of the way in both directions. We stopped at Christmas Cove for snorkeling where we saw many things including sea turtles, lots and lots of fish, along with stingrays. It was an excellent time and she includes lunch. She definitely personalizes the tour to what is most important to the group. I would highly recommend her and would visit again.
Nassau - We booked a food walking tour with Tru Bahamian Food Tours. It was about 3 to 3.5 hours and included six stops along the way with various local foods. The cost was only $69 per person and was well worth it. It was not only about the food; however, the excellent tour guide we had was also very knowledgeable with lots of facts about the city and its history.
I'm going to rate each venue that we ate it, and give my comments. I feel that everyone can find something good to eat on this ship. There are so many great options.
MAIN DINING ROOM:
Food 9/10 and Service 10/10.
We ate in the main dining room for dinner 6 of our 8 nights plus for breakfast on debark morning and for one seaday brunch on our last at sea day.
We are in the Sapphire Dining Room, lower level, with anytime dining. We select anytime dining because we do enjoy varying our dining times based on what other activities we want to attend in the evening. We usually request to sit with others, and we were seated with others most nights in the dining room. We found a group of servers we absolutely cherished after our first night, and we requested them each and every night. The servers were Marckly, Asep and I Nyoman. What a great group of guys, and I would be honored to cruise with them again in the future. They were attentive, friendly, funny, personable, and a great servers. The American Feast menus were great. There were 2 elegant nights and 6 casual nights. There are no tablecloths on casual nights and there are tablecloths on elegant nights. Fresh warm bread was delivered with every meal. There are so many options on each night on the menu. There are five or six mainstays each night and then approximately somewhere around 8 appetizers, 10 entrees, and about 5 desserts that were different each night. We thought the food was very good to excellent. We usually ordered about 2 appetizers each, 1 entree, and 3 shared desserts each night. If there is something you do not like, they will happily replace it; however, there was nothing we didn't enjoy that we ordered.
We found the food at the Lido Buffet to generally be very fresh and flavorful. We ate at the Lido Buffet for breakfast many days and lunch some days. The options and the presentation of the foods were fabulous. There are two or three lines with similar options, so it is spread out so that there is never too much of a line in one area. There is also a separate dessert area. There is definitely something for everyone. I also love the layout of the area, with plenty of seating for everyone. Juices are available during breakfast, coffee and hot chocolate anytime, and iced tea and lemonade during non-breakfast hours.
CUCINA DEL CAPITANO
Lunch Food 8/10
We ate for lunch in Cucina Del Capitano on embarkation day. Since everyone usually immediately heads for the Lido, we headed for Cucina. We were seated quickly, and it is perched just one level above the Lido Buffet. During lunch, it is free and essentially it is a make your own pasta menu. You fill out a short form at your table choosing your pasta and the ingredients in your pasta, as well as a selection of a few sides and bread. The server than brings it to your table. It is not representative of what you can have at dinner; however, it is still very satisfying.
FAHRENHEIT 555 STEAKHOUSE
Food 10/10 Service 9/10
We had dinner on our first night at the Steakhouse. The Steakhouse is a $35 upcharge and is most certainly worth it. On the first night, they do still give you a free bottle of wine which is wonderful! The menu is great, and you will not leave hungry by any stretch of the imagination. Our server seemed to be a bit shy; however, the overall experience was awesome. There are so many amazing choices, that we left very happy.
Overall experience: 10/10
I highly recommend trying out the Chef's Table on at least one cruise. This was our first time trying it, and definitely will not be our last. They usually only do it on select nights. On the Breeze, it is limited to 14 people two or three times per cruise, and it is at a table directly in the center of the Galley. You get to sit there and witness the inner workings of the Galley and how awesome and hard everyone works. Let me tell you...no worries...the Galley is also very clean. The Chef's Table is a $75 upcharge per person, but worth every penny. It is approximately 12 courses or so, and we really couldn't finish everything by the end. It also includes unlimited wine! You begin with some appetizers in a prep area of the kitchen. We had four different appetizers that night with Champagne. After that you are seated and are served some delicious bread with multiple courses of various dishes. Each one is discussed by one of the head sous chefs. All of the dishes served at Chef's Table are unique and cannot be found anywhere else on the ship. The presentation is amazing, the gastronomy is amazing, and the service is amazing. You also get to meet the very top head chef on the ship, get a tour of the galley, and a presentation on how chocolate melting cake is made. You also get to take a home a photograph of the experience. DO THIS!
There are lots of good burgers in the World today. This is one of them. However, I got to say the fries are even more amazing than the burger. Yum! You can order it several different ways, and there is a toppings bar with lots more options to customize it just the way you want. This area can get particularly busy at times; however, be patient as the lines moves fairly quickly.
BLUE IGUANA CANTINA
We did not eat here for lunch; however, we did eat here twice for Breakfast. We had burritos. There are a few options. You select your tortilla, toppings, protein, ect and then there is also a toppings/salsa bar for you to further customize your burrito.
We enjoyed the Pizza. We ate here twice late at night. They certainly pump out a lot of pizza in that kitchen. We had the Pepperoni and the White Pizza. We found the pizza to be great and the crust to be average.
I think I covered everything that we had. Unfortunately, we did not get to do Bonsai Sushi, Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ, SeaDogs, Deli, RedFrog Pub, Tea Time, Taste Bar or the Tandoor. Gosh --- so many food options!
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES
Seriously...if you cannot find something to do on this ship, it is your own dam fault! Read your FunTimes...there is so much to do each day. There is an awesome activities staff onboard this ship, that is always present everywhere you go. Wow! Get involved people!
The two pool areas are great. The Main pool area can definitely get crowded, especially during sea days; however, if your goal is just to find a chair and relax then trust me, they are easily found. If you can't find one right in front of the pool there are plenty more on the deck right above, and down on Deck 5 (Promenade). The pools themselves, including the aft pool are great. There are several jacuzzi's including two on the aft and two in the Serenity area, which is only for adults. There is also ample seating in that area. There are also four jacuzzi's on Deck 5. I recall the pools being open to midnight each night and the Jacuzzi's the same, except the Deck 5 one's I think were only open until 8pm. They are kept clean and beautiful.
You certainly don't need to be a child to enjoy this area. However, I am a child at heart. I spent two days doing the slides multiple times. There is plenty of areas for children and than two slides for anyone. You have the option of two slides, once of which is more traditional but still exciting. The other one is shorter, but ends in a funnel type contraption that twirls you around a few times. They are both fun, and I believe they were open until about 6pm each day.
The only thing we were able to do was the mini-golf course, which was fun. It is a short 9 hole course, that is semi challenging. It was definitely fun, and we played it twice and enjoyed it. There are lots of other options up there including the ropes course, a basketball court, some exercise machines, and a running track; however, we did not have time to use this at all.
SPA AND GYM
Sorry folks, I didn't even enter this area. Once I remember passing the entrance to the spa, and it looked very inviting. I noticed some group classes for a fee in the FunTimes. There were some complimentary seminars and a gym. I have used Carnival gyms in the past and found them to be very sufficient; however, this is the first time I didn't even enter. I'm sure it is fine; however, cannot comment.
The casino is lovely and large on this ship. Now....the cruise I was on was a Premier Casino Cruise, which means that there were a lot of big casino spenders on this ship. That means the casino was very crowded; however, in my opinion that made it fun!! The casino staff was friendly and awesome. There are some non-smoking machines; however, it was busy and as with every casino, if you are a non-smoker, you may find it uncomfortable. However, we spent a few evenings in the casino for a couple of hours and found it enjoyable!
MAIN PRODUCTION SHOWS:
On this cruise, there were four main production shows. This included Motor City, 88 Keys, Divas, and Latin Nights. We were able to see 88 Keys and Divas. We found both of the ones we saw to be excellent. The singing, choreography, dancing and lighting were excellent.
OTHER OVATION THEATER EVENTS:
We did some other things in the Ovation Theater including the Welcome Aboard Show, which was great and hosted by the best cruise director ever! We also participated in Hasbro, the Game Show. This was fun for adults; however, even more fun for kids I'm sure. We watched Bob Brizendine, Comedy Magician -- another amazing show! We also watched the Love and Marriage show, which was non-stop laughs. The only show we did not enjoy on this cruise was "Edge, the comedy juggler".
We also played Bingo in the Ovation Theater which is a upcharge; however, there are several price point options to play. It was hosted each time by Money, Money, Money Martin and I believe we played a total of three times. We enjoyed this and found it to be fun despite not winning.
It is here that we enjoyed some of the comedians. During our cruise, there were four comedians on board. We watched two of them. Yes, the limelight lounge can get crowded, especially the earlier shows. Get there early. I recommend about 30 minutes before show time, if you can. They do clear out the lounge after each show, in order to first accommodate the people standing outside. We watched Mark Hawkins who we enjoyed and Jaylyn Bishop who was our favorite! Definitely the comedians are great and each of them do both family friendly and 18+ only shows.
Wow, I read a review recently that there is no more live music on this ship. Liar, liar, pants on fire! I have never seen so much live music! There are top quality options almost all day long. During the day, the music is primarily centered on the Lido area; however, by late afternoon and late into the night you got live music in the main atrium, Red Frog Pub, Ocean Plaza and my favorite venue which is yet to be discussed below
There are so many other activities on board. There is the nightclub which we did not get to try. There is also the Thrill Theater, which we did not try. There is the Dive-In Movies by the main pool, which we did not try. There are daily activities including Trivia, sports activities, pool activities, spa seminars, shopping, art auctions, Q&A sessions, special interest group meetings, photo ops, and much much more! We did do the art auction and thoroughly enjoyed it. We also bought our first real piece of art. We also did several of the trivia sessions and were highly entertained!
I saved this for last, because this was our favorite time of the entire cruise, and we spent 5 of our 8 nights in the Piano Bar. The current piano player, Gregg is so amazing! Seriously, he is the bomb. The Piano Bar drew a large crowd on some nights and a moderate crowd on others. We usually arrived around 10pm and stayed for an hour or two or on three of the nights we closed out the bar at 1am. This guy was so enjoyable and our favorite activity on the cruise!
I'm sure I missed some things; however, I hope this gives you a starting point about some of the options available on this great ship. Read Less