It was our second full day on the Carnival Breeze – Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship in the fleet – when I took to the keyboard and started recording our experiences! As you read you’ll see that I’ve got everything separated into different topics so you could skip around the topics if you’re searching for a particular piece of the review. You do, dear reader, have to make it to the bottom for the overall summary though 😉
Yeah, we love food. Let’s face it, food can make or break a vacation for anyone anywhere. Whether you want gourmet eats every meal or simply want to munch on comfort favorites every day, everyone wants their food the way they want it.
- Guy’s Burger Joint, the partnership between Guy Fieri (of Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives fame and restauranteur) and Carnival for a fresh, juicy, melty cheeseburger and fries walk-up by the pool, is a total hit. The burgers are hand-pattied and grilled each day and served up alongside seasoned French fries. These aren’t your everyday French fry seasonings either. There’s some paprika and other spices as well that make these stand out among their peers. The toppings bar with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and mushrooms, crisp bacon pieces, and various hot sauces plus ketchup, mustard, ranch and mayo await to finalize your masterpiece. We give it two solid thumbs up! (Trust us, we contributed just a few to the nearly 2100 burgers consumed every day. Market research and someone’s gotta do it!)
- The Marketplace Buffet on the Lido has its challenges for sure. The area is not designed for rush hour traffic and lines build up FAST. The swarm of hungry cruisers wrap around those silly decorative trees and narrow walkways making normal walk-throughs unpassable and one-way (at best). It’s a mess. Seating is a challenge as well which we experienced after returning on board from the port day in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. We literally had to pull up a deck chair to eat lunch as there wasn’t a single table anywhere on Lido. Because of the lines, it was impossible on several visits to actually try the various sections like Mongolian Wok, Southern Comfort Station, Tandoor, and others. Basically, you picked a spot and got whatever you could. The operating hours of the buffet we found to be rather restrictive compared to other cruise lines. When they say they are closing, you can set your watch to them rolling down the shades around 15 minutes PRIOR to official close. This was super rough during port days. Overall food quality and selection seemed to vary greatly from meal to meal. Don’t expect to see pineapple, for example, until the very last day of the cruise. (Unless you order the fruit plate as dessert in the main dining room.)
- Fat Jimmy’s C-Side Barbeque is a lunch option only open on sea days and is located on deck 5, starboard, just behind the doors to the plaza area. Get there early (read: before it opens) so you don’t end up in a most epic line. Offerings include grilled boneless barbeque chicken breast, sausage, kielbasa, pulled pork, grilled veggies like yams/onions/eggplant, coleslaw, potato salad, beans, creamed corn, jalapeno cornbread muffins, and hoagie rolls. We managed to get in line early on in the cruise before more people found out about this extra lunch option. Just go easy on the seemingly innocuous barbeque sauces or put them on the side; it be spicyyyyyyyyyy!
- BlueIguana Cantina offers breakfast and lunch options of tacos and burritos. All are fresh made with your choice of tortilla, meat and toppings. An extensive salsa bar awaits just a few steps away after you collect your rolled up bit of wonder to finish making it to your tastes. We tried the breakfast burritos for the first time with chicken sausage before our morning of diving in Grand Turk. Due to the breakfast buffet being a bit lackluster, we dined at BlueIguana for breakfast burritos every morning we could. It reminded me a bit of past indulgences of breakfast tacos when we lived in Texas. Certainly BlueIguana isn’t Rudy’s breakfast tacos, but it was a nice departure from ordinary eggs and bacon.
- We sailed with a group of fellow travel agents for this trip and we all were assigned to late dining in the Blush Dining Room for 8:15 PM each evening. Late seating was batting about .500 for us. Our waiter, Rommel, remembered my name each night (and if he saw us elsewhere on the ship) and is super sweet to us all; he, Rachel (Guest Services) and Crystal (Groups) have been stand-outs among the staff on board so far. First dining ran late two nights in a row. This throws off getting out of the dining room in time for any late shows in addition to the first night taking 45 minutes before we were even served first course. I tried a regional inspiration for my main course the first night (Cuban inspired to honor our start in Miami), but the mahi mahi was a tad overcooked. Not inedible by any stretch of the imagination, but it was firmer than it should’ve been. The Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake never disappoints for a finish to a meal with it’s warm, gooey center. The first “cruise elegant” night of the 8-day journey presented itself with prime rib and Maine lobster as choices on the menu. I ordered the lobster tail and sampled some of the prime rib from someone else’s extra order. The lobster tail was excellent, but I will say presentation style for all the courses that evening were totally lacking. My serving dinner in my own home has more panache than was shown that night. Not even a berry on the vanilla crème brulee or a sprig of parsley on the prime rib; that piece of meat and baked potato looked kinda depressing all by their lonesome on the white plate. We’re generally not late-dining folks anyway so we were happy to get back to more normal dinner times towards the end of the cruise when we tried Fahrenheit 555 and Cucina del Capitano.
- Fahrenheit 555 is the specialty steakhouse on-board. Serving up prime cuts of meats and lobster, it was a must-try on our list. In fact, it was the very first thing I made sure to reserve when we booked the cruise! Fahrenheit 555 is an intimate dining room, maybe 40 guests at any one seating. Wait staff, the sous chef, and hostess are constantly attending to your needs to make sure the meal is as expected. Each person pays a cover charge ($35/person when we reserved). TIP: Reserve for one of the first two nights and you might luck into their offering a free bottle of wine with dinner; it was advertised in the FunTimes when we got on-board. Your meal comes with a selection of an appetizer, salad, main course and dessert. We choose escargots and crab cake for appetizers; I passed on a salad, but the Caesar hubby received was artistic with full leaves of romaine, yet tasty with the dressing and extensive cheese shavings coating the blades of lettuce. Main course was boneless 18-ounce ribeyes with a special blend of seasonings. Oh man. The meat was buttery soft and perfectly charred to bring out the flavors of the spices. I simply couldn’t eat it all, but it truly was very, very good. I failed to touch the baked potato I had chosen as a side, but did manage the creamed spinach which was seasoned well and had cream that wasn’t overly watery. Hubby had the cheesecake with dessert which had a whipped cream topping. He said it was good, but not the best ever consumed. (It was different than even the cheesecake served in the dining rooms.) I made an attempt despite my overly full belly to sample each of the items on my chocolate sampler. Four items with chocolate, one bite each = not overly impressed with any.
- The Chef’s Table was our treat for the second to last night of the cruise. And what a treat indeed. This is not-to-be-missed if you consider yourself a foodie, you love to cook, or you just appreciate unique experiences. The $75/person price tag is wholly worth every penny. Chef de Cuisine of the Breeze, Joaquim Dias, takes you on a culinary journey starting with a champagne reception as he prepares the first three or four tapas, ending with the 11th course as dessert, with tours of the galley, question-and-answers, and demonstrations in between. Your table location in a main corridor of the galley is the best seat in the house to watch as the dinner service for the dining room is prepped and marched out by the waitstaff with Chef Dias’s commentary describing how the food is ordered and processed on ship to finally make it to the dining rooms. The chef’s excitement to share with his guests his creativity is evident in every course; you can tell he truly loves what he does. I sampled things through the course of the night that I never would have before. And I loved them. The salmon tartare cornets were out of this world delicious. Course after course is presented by the chef and his staff on gleaming white china; wine glasses are never empty. The masterful evening is capped off with presentation of signed copies of our group photos. One of our group members had attended The Chef’s Table on other Carnival ships in addition to similar programs for other cruise lines and said hands-down this was the very best she’d attended.
- Cucina del Capitano is operated in the evenings as an Italian specialty restaurant found outside the Lido Marketplace Buffet. The specialty restaurant is also open for a few hours during lunch as a pasta bar; due to scheduling we were never able to make it during lunch to sample it and the menu is a bit different than for dinner. On our final night of the cruise, we sampled dinner with a group of our friends and fellow agents though. Cucina del Capitano is a $15/person cover charge. TIP: book your reservation one on of the first nights of the cruise and you may find yourself with complimentary chianti as that was advertised in our FunTimes. Your meal includes an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. If more than one person at the table orders a particular appetizer, then the waitstaff brings it “family style” so there’s a bit more to share. We noshed on meatballs, calamari, fried risotto balls, eggplant parmesan, Caesar salad, and more. Hubby had the chicken parmesan and I had meatballs and linguini. We finished up with lemon sorbetto and the apple tart. We left with full tummies, but I’m not sure I would pay the extra charge again. Knowing you can get similar pasta items for free at lunch takes some of the shine from it. It was good, but no Maggiano’s, for example.
- The Taste Bar is a unique find mid-ship on the deck 5 Plaza area (home for trivia, a bar, nighttime karaoke and music, the coffee bar, a regular bar, and doors opening to a lovely patio area on both sides of the deck). Certain days of the week, samples are offered free of charge from the different specialty restaurants on-board. If you just want a taste or a quick snack, it’s a convenient stop. During sea days, it opens as a custom salad, soup and quick sandwich bar. I saw options for salads not found on the main buffet like hardboiled eggs, for example. The seating areas can get extremely crowded though in that whole area especially on sea days.
Getting In, On, and Around the Ship
Embarkation and disembarkation on the ship in the port of Miami was hampered by a broken gangway which Carnival is awaiting the port to repair. During a Q&A session between our group and the ship’s crew, we found this out. The gangway shortage has doubled boarding and disembarking times; just be patient.
Every stair landing has a number in the carpet to clearly indicate which deck you are on in addition to there being a large deck plan outside of every elevator. The clear signage is helpful in quickly navigating the many decks.
Moving around Lido and the pool decks is challenging during high crowd times and sea days. The super slippery, wet floors everywhere are treacherous; even I took a spill just walking to the beverage counter by BlueIguana. The constant mopping by crew doesn’t help even though I suspect they think it does. I happened to grab a deck chair with a women sitting in it which helped break my fall while scaring the bejesus out of the sunbather; I sustained some knee bruising and a golf ball size bump, but it was a testament to the fact that any injury can happen at any time – even just walking around. We ALWAYS travel with travel protection for this very reason. It’s more than just to protect from cancellation or delay; getting hurt on the cruise ship or in port is considered being in a foreign country and very often not covered by your regular health insurance. And at $125+ just to see the on-board medical staff you don’t want to be footing that bill on your own.
Yeah, about that Lido buffet… The layout is a real issue for us. At least six different entrances that we could count and multiple from the pool areas make it a serious challenge to navigate unless there’s no one in there. Fixed trees, posts, and railings by tables are unnecessary and take up precious inches of space. Tons of freestanding hand sanitizer stations, condiment stations, and plate stations also take up precious floor space. For a ship the size of the Breeze, I’m not quite sure what Carnival was thinking to accept that design for the buffet.
If you’ve been on any of the Fantasy class ships, you may realize that Carnival has a reputation of neon, mirrors, and fabulous 80s-liciousness. The Breeze’s beachy décor is a breath of fresh air in changing that reputation. The corridors for the staterooms have modern blue and green carpeting reminiscent of sea waves and the hallways showcase beach scenes and palm trees. It’s a décor that will stand the test of time much better than neon and mirrors. Kudos to Carnival for stepping it up.
Walking through the ship you see nods to the Caribbean and beaches throughout with the blues, golds, sands, whites, and touches of orange tastefully added. The replicas of palm trees in the Plaza and Marketplace Buffet are a bit superfluous however and I’m not sure what they bring to the party other than dust and taking up space.
We found our balcony stateroom to be comfortable and tastefully appointed considering the price point. Bright blue carpeting with gold and auburn squares, yellow and blue striped drapery, soft yet crisp white bed linens, abstract palm tree artwork, and light wood-toned laminate for the vanity and closets were tasteful and airy.
It’s not décor related, but I can certainly say I would not recommend this stateroom location. Our cabin was assigned due to the group’s arrangement for the seminar we were all in attendance for. We didn’t pick it. I would never have picked it even for a client because of its location above some common areas like the piano bar, plaza, and so on. Listening to the karaoke, cover band, and piano man each evening in my room is not ever on my must-do list. (This is another perk of using a travel agent – we know how to read the deck plans so you don’t get stuck with a bad location.)
There are a LOT of entertainment choices on board the Carnival Breeze. Whether you’re into trivia or movies by the pool, want a comedy show for adults or the kids, like to belt it out in karaoke or alongside a piano or guitar player OR take in a production type show, the Breeze has you covered! We couldn’t even come close to doing it all. We tried part of a comedy show one night, 88 Keys (just one of the stage shows which was excellent), Hasbro the Game Show, watched bingo, played several rounds of trivia, saw two movies out by the pool, witnessed the hilarity of The Love and Marriage Show, and watched several shows hosted by Matt Mitcham, the fabulous Cruise Director (the man is one of the best Cruise Directors we’ve seen and absolutely hysterical). There’s no way you can do it all on one trip. At least not without sleeping.
And, hey, there’s still the shops, casino, pools, hot tubs, night club, piano bar, spa, gym, Sports Square, water slides…
Our first time sailing Carnival was favorable overall and we had a blast. Many improvements have been made on the Breeze compared to earlier classes of ships. Combine those improvements with a stellar Southern Caribbean itinerary and it makes for a winning combination. Known for being an affordable cruise line, Carnival offers a lot to its guests and especially families. No one cruise ship or cruise line is for everyone however and that’s where using a travel agent can save your vacation. And if you’re interested in booking your next cruise and think the Breeze may be it, contact us today so we can help determine if it’s the right fit for your vacation. If you have your own feedback about the Breeze leave it in the comments below – we’d love to hear what you thought about her!
P.S. More pictures are available on our Facebook page!