Thursday, September 25, 2014

Carnival Breeze Vacation Review!

 Hello barbies! Hubby and I just back from an AMAZING 8 day cruise on the Carnival Breeze and in typical Whitney fashion, I took tons of pics and am ready to talk about it! We sailed on the Breeze in 2013 and loved it so much that we decided to return to it (we've never done that before!). We reviewed that cruise here, but wanted to review this one as well because we had a very different experience this time thanks to a different type of stateroom and very different itinerary.

 



 

 

 


THE SHIP:
Boy, do we love the Breeze. This was my 8th cruise and the Breeze is by far my favorite. Being in Carnival's newest class of ships, The Dream Class, the Breeze is new and modern. As I noted in my review last year, the decor is much more tasteful and simple than the rainbow, glittery, glowy color scheme of Carnival's earlier ships. The Breeze is HUGE - it holds 3,600 passengers at double occupancy (and most cruises sail with an average of 3 people per room - so there are usually a ton more people on board)! The ship features:
  • an elaborate waterslide and splash pad area (Waterworks) that we loved,
  • a very tranquil adults only deck (Serenity),
  • a fabulous spa (Cloud 9)(which I found out has two steam rooms/saunas that are available to everyone on board free of charge - little known fact!),
  • two dining rooms that feature amazing service but are kinda plain in decor in my opinion (Blush which has aft ocean views and Sapphire which is mid-ship right off the action-packed Atrium),
  • two pools - one mid ship and one aft (the main pool is an absolute CIRCUS most days with loud music, chaotic, insane crowds and a shortage of chairs), so we preferred the aft pool, even though the music there is pretty miserable (a bunch of slow, elevatorish songs you've never heard of) and it smells like rotten eggs (which it also did on our 2013 cruise and we recently learned is due to a design flaw in the funnel - its too short to blow the exhaust away from the ship - apparently its about to be redesigned. Our friends in an aft view balcony stateroom were really bothered by the smell the whole cruise - so its obviously affecting the staterooms too - eek!). Long story short, we really wish the Breeze had a third, non-crowded, non-smelly pool, but that's probably our only big complaint.
  • an elaborate lanai/5th floor with: hot tubs that are suspended over the ocean (and are huge! they seat at least 16 - you'll never want for a spot in a hot tub on the Breeze), several free and not free eating areas, bars, a casino, shopping, an outdoor free BBQ place (only open on sea days), a piano bar (the decor was fabulous but the pianist kinda pissed me off when he dissed Beyonce and was way too emphatic that everyone remember to tip him) and very, very wide decks with great, unobstructed views (some of the best on the ship). From the front of this deck you can see down onto the crew's private deck, which was pretty cool.
  • the biggest Lido buffet on the 10th floor I've ever seen. We never once couldn't find a table, even eating at peak meal times most of the time. It's also cool because it has great views of the ocean/islands and fake trees and lanterns everywhere that are really pretty. In my opinion, this was one of the best decorated spots on the ship.
  • The Ovation Theater (pretty much just like any other cruise ship's theater) and Limelight Lounge (which seemed to run out of space pretty quickly) were the main entertainment venues, with the main pool deck and the center of the 5th floor ("Oceans Plaza") as other frequently used entertainment spots.
  • A really cool sports deck with a basketball court (hubs played in bball and dodgeball tournaments there every sea day), a 1/7th mile walking/running track, indoor and outdoor workout equipment, a full put put course, a ropes course (way too scary for me but hubby loved it as did a bunch of elementary schoolers - clearly I'm a huge chicken), foosball tables, pool tables and a vintage/adorable hot dog cart with free hot dogs. 
  

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOOD:
Oh, the food. I can't go on enough about the food. First let me say that I have a habit of eating so much on cruise ships that in 2013 I developed a plan (that I consider pretty genius) whereby I lose 5+ pounds BEFORE the cruise so that when I gain 5-10 pounds ON the cruise, I almost break even. I broke even exactly in 2013, but had my doubts in 2014... the desserts were way too good! BUT, I'm very pleased to report that despite my overeating and the delicious food on the Breeze this year, I broke even! I attribute this to running/walking 2 miles each morning on the track (I'm not usually a runner), skipping bread at dinner and eating really light breakfasts (an apple or something else light) each morning so that I could go crazy at lunch and dinner.
  • Breakfast on the Lido: pretty good but nothing groundbreaking. Just eggs, bacon, cereal, yogurt, fruit, muffins, other pastries, etc. You can have a breakfast burrito made by the pool though, which hubby did a few times. You can also have a custom omelet made, but the lines seemed long for that.
  • Lunch on the Lido: A+. Great salad bars (plural), indian food was amazing, custom burrito place was good, Guy's Burgers was FANTASTIC (like embarkation on the Breeze, his burgers receive a ton of awards, and for good reason), hubby had Cucina del Capitano one day (another little known fact: it's free on sea days!) and loved it (which says something big because he's Italian), dessert bar at lunch was way too much/absolutely to die for, "Comfort Kitchen" was great - lots of fried and southern foods. The chocolate buffet on the last sea day almost gave me a heart attack... in a good way.
  • 24/7 Pizza: I never had it, but Ross wasn't nuts about it. He also complained about how long it took to be prepared each time (15-20 minutes, and all he ever wanted was pepperoni). To me, it looked thin and smelled great.
  • 24/7 Ice Cream: so good! I was pleased to see that since last year they've expanded to add strawberry and to add fro yo! Now you get 6 options: chocolate, vanilla or strawberry in ice cream or frozen yogurt. Loves it.
  • Dinner in the main dining room: TO. DIE. FOR. So good. Sooooo sooo good. This is where my cruise weight came from. So good. Three courses each night (unless you wanted to double any of the three, which a lot of people do... for free!). Great options. My only complaint (and this really isn't a complaint, just sayin') is that the menu each night was identical to the menu on our Breeze sailing 14 months ago. I was a bit surprised they hadn't changed anything since then, but I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it!





THE SERVICE:
  • At dinner: AMAZING. Every bit as good as a 4 or 5 star restaurant at home. I love watching the pride these guys and gals take in their profession. Our head waiter was Udi - he was fantastic and even dressed up like Michael Jackson and danced around MJ style a few nights.
  • At embarkation: Our check-in guy was pretty spacey (and printed my name on Ross's red card and his name on my gold card, which bothered me all cruise), but in 2013 and 2014 embarkation on the Breeze has been an absolute BREEZE! The ship has won awards both fleet wide and industry wide for having the quickest, most efficient embarkation and it shows. Both times we simply walked into the building, waited in line for 20ish minutes, got our cards and boarded. Embarkation on the Breeze is so unlike embarkation on pretty much every other ship (a 2-5 hour process). All of the accolades are very well deserved!
  • Everywhere else: just as great. Everyone calls you by name (a new Carnival service initiative) and is super friendly and helpful. As I always say, the service is what makes Carnival our favorite cruise line.


One steward on our hall had been adding to the towel animal above for months - he said he uses left behind jewelry that people forget in their staterooms when they leave. It's currently wearing two different gold earrings. So cute.

 

THE ISLANDS:
Overall, we were very pleased with the islands, but 4 back-to-back days in port was EXHAUSTING. I don't recommend it. If we'd had a sea day between St. Kitts and San Juan, this itinerary would be perfect, but 4 consecutive island days is brutal. We had 3 consecutive on our 2013 sailing and that almost killed us, so I don't know what we were thinking.
  • St. Maarten: We went to Cupecoy Beach because after extensive research, we decided it was the island's prettiest. I think we were right, but it was also a gay nude beach. We then went to Maho to do the low plane flyover thing - very cool/scary. Ate lunch at the adjoining restaurant - Sunset Grill or something like that. The service was beyond horrible. HORRIBLE. Food was okay, although they were out of almost everything. Then went to the beach/boardwalk by the pier on the way back - lots of high end shopping and casinos there.
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • St. Kitts: The first image below is something we really wanted to see - these mountains are a barrier between the Atlantic (on the left in the pic) and the Caribbean (on the right). So cool! We also went to Shipwreck Beach, which is just past this point and kind of rough. Not much beach space and stuff seemed outdated. The cool thing was that the sand here is black because of the dormant volcano nearby. It was really really cool and strange. Then we walked to Carambola (very short walk) which was really nice and high end. Got some inexpensive sodas and used the wifi. Then rented a catamaran and sailed almost all the way to Nevis! It was unbelievable.
 



 
 
  • San Juan, Peurto Rico: We decided to tour Old San Juan on foot, which was awesome but so so so hot. It reminded me so much of New Orleans (one of our favorite cities) - Spanish architecture everywhere (NOLA was settled by the French and the Spanish at different points in history so it features both). Lots of good shopping - wish we could have done more. Walked to El Morro (which has a pretty cool history) from the cruise port, which was a bigger walk than people on the cruise forums had implied. Passed thousands of pigeons and then a stretch with tons of stray cats, which was neat. El Morro was great - lots of great views and history. Still very hot though. Got some cheap, much needed gelato from a cute old man pushing a cart right outside. Last stop: the mexican restaurant right by the cruise port since Ross was really craving it. The food was fabulous - I think the place was called Tijuana or something.
 
 
 
 
 
 


  • Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos: By the time we reached Grand Turk (our 4th consecutive island day) we were ready to chill, and fortunately, chilling is exactly what Grand Turk has to offer. There is a beach with like thousands of free chairs literally right off the cruise port. We plopped down in two chairs under a palm tree immediately. Later I rented a raft for $5 and floated for awhile, which may have been my favorite time on the entire cruise. Ross couldn't handle sitting still for that long, so he ran off to snorkel, eventually finding a shipwreck and snorkeling around that.
 

 
 
 

THE STATEROOM:
We were in a category 8C balcony on the 8th floor in room 8403 and ended up being very pleased with it. The room was very big by cruise ship standards. We had a king sized bed, 3 huge closets (if I had enough room, trust me - you will), a spacious balcony, a flat screen TV, a couch and coffee table and the standard sized bathroom. It was great. Bedding was super comfy, as always. I read a couple reviews that on sea days the smell from Fat Jimmy's BBQ would smoke the balconies on our side of the ship, but that was not the case at all for us. We couldn't smell a thing, maybe people closer to deck 5 could, but on the 8th floor there's no way you would notice it. The only thing we did notice was a lot of chatter in the 5th floor hot tub that was not directly under our balcony, but maybe 20 feet further back than us on deck 5. Oh my god - you could hear every word the people were saying in the tub, even with our room's door closed. Considering the fact that probably 40 other staterooms (on lower decks and further back on deck 8) are closer to that tub than us, I'd be surprised if this issue hasn't been brought up.

A couple quick notes on some other staterooms: see the aft pool note above, but aft interior and exterior rooms smell like rotten eggs, at least on our floor and likely others. We were in 8403 and our room smelled fine, but maybe 10 rooms further back from us you could start to smell it. Not good. It literally plagued our 8th floor aft balcony friends. One other thing: I read one review about a balcony room near the atrium that had a persistent creaking sound that kept someone awake the whole cruise. I forgot about it until on board, when walking past the room closest to the atrium on our floor I heard very loud creaks every few seconds!! Every night when we walked past it I heard it, so whoever wrote that review was certainly on to something. Long story short: stay away from aft cabins or cabins right next to the atrium! I would avoid rooms near the atrium anyway because there's loud music coming from there all night every night that I'm sure would be audible in the rooms.

Love my silly husband and his towel animal impressions!
My favorite view each day: catching Ross enjoying the balcony :)

THE ENTERTAINMENT:
Is A++ a thing? The entertainment was fabulous. Matt, our cruise director, was by far the best we've ever had. We kind of dread the cruise directors usually since they always seem to be middle aged white guys with the world's cheesiest "jokes." Gag me. Matt was young, naturally hilarious and quick on his feet. I've never seen a cruise director make fun of the guests on stage, walking around, etc., but he did and it was always hilarious. I also noticed that he seemed to love to teach guests to dance. He sang over the intercom at random times, told some hilarious tall tales and was always so wild. He had a dance to pretty much every song and every time explained the moves to everyone. Here he is below cracking up with DJ Spike, who was also great. One other great thing about Matt: his relationship with Orlando. Orlando may even be funnier, but the two of them together was hilarious each and every time. From what I understand Matt is committed to the Breeze through late 2015.

 
 Karaoke was great!
 
 One of many deck parties.
 
 Before a comedy show - we attended 3 - they were all great!

 
 Ross before the Ropes Course.
 
 Our cruise was coincidentally also the 2014 Gothic Cruise, which Carnival never disclosed to anyone but we found out about on a forum right before the cruise. 600 goths were on board with their own special concerts and events not available to the other guests. They didn't bother us and were almost all very nice, but I was a little erked that Carnival would have a theme cruise and not disclose that to other passengers before they bought their tickets. This guy was one of the bands' lead singers we think. He did karaoke one night and it was phenomenal.

 


 More than ever, we found amazing friends on this cruise. My new friend Anji is below. She and her wife Jane were our dinner mates - such great ladies!

 Leaving Port of Miami

 Arriving in Miami on the morning of the last day of the cruise.



 New personal record!
Our amazing dinner mates

 My starfish accent nail found a twin




 Paying for our sins at the hotel the day after the cruise:


Thanks for reading barbies! If you have any questions about our trip or the Breeze, feel free to post below!

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