My family and I went into our spring break vacation, six nights aboard the Carnival Breeze, with open minds. We’d traveled by cruise ship before: the four of us plus grandmas for a week on the 1,916-passenger Holland America ms Zuiderdam to Alaska and the kids and I enjoyed a two-night an introductory cruise aboard the huge Disney Dream. But the entire family had never shared a stateroom for nearly a week, with more than 3,000 other people on board our “floating hotel” (Carnival Breeze capacity is 3,690).
We knew the ship would be packed with other spring-breaking families, and indeed, it was. There were lines to order food at popular casual eateries and to play on the water slides and cool ropes course. We knew there would be more of a party atmosphere on our Caribbean cruise (beginning and ending in Miami, with stops in Key West, Jamaica and Nassau) than in Alaska. And, yes, we spotted adults behaving badly.
But we also enjoyed some incredible amenities and services on board the Carnival Breeze. This new ship definitely pulls out all the stops when it comes to keeping all ages entertained. This mom loved not having to think once I stepped on board the ship, with all the activities, food and cabin steward service at my fingertips. I very much appreciated not having to cook, clean or worry about my kids being occupied for an entire week — heaven!
Here are some of the highlights we found on board the Carnival Breeze:
The food: Truly, I was blown away by the quality and variety of the food on board. The Lido Buffet restaurant is open for three meals daily, and the various stations always had something each one of us loved, such as a deli sandwiches, hot entrees, a Mongolian wok and always awesome desserts. I could not get enough of Tandoor, one of the Lido Marketplace options; the Indian entrees, rice and warm naan were excellent. My son ate at least five burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint during our trip. The fresh breakfast and lunch burritos at BlueIguana Cantina were quite good, and we also ate a pasta bar lunch at the specialty restaurant, Cucina del Capitano (no extra charge for lunch; slight surcharge for dinner here). The Pizza Pirate to-go station is open 24 hours.
Our best meal was, hands down, at Fahrenheit 555. This is the specialty steakhouse that requires dinner reservations, and does require a surcharge of $35 per person (for children, too). Though we were treated to a complimentary meal here, as guests of Carnival Cruise Lines, I think the extra cost is wholly worth it. First, the waitstaff service is excellent — knowledgeable and attentive. Second, they don’t seem to fill all the tables in the small restaurant, so the scene is quiet and sophisticated. Third, the entrees were downright amazing: my husband and son thought their steaks were excellent; my daughter loved the warm bread and her vegetarian pasta; and the giant cheesecake… decadent and awesome.
On the Carnival Breeze, you can opt for “dine on my own time, when and where I want to” or choose a set dining time in the main dining rooms — at 6 or 8:15 p.m. in Blush or Sapphire — and return to your same table (with same serving staff) each night. I do recommend this, since you can always forgo a meal there whenever you like (i.e. the nights we went to dinner at the steakhouse and specialty Italian restaurant). When we did make it to our back-of-the-boat table in Blush, which had a fabulous view of the ship’s wake, we were greeted by very kind waiters, who’d remember us by name. I really appreciated feeling special on a ship with so many people. Plus, the a la carte menu with soups, salads, appetizers and entrees changed nightly, so there was always something new to try (or you could return to some standing favorites that are always offered).
I’m so glad I tried ThirstyFrog Red, the signature draught beer in the Red Frog Pub — totally refreshing after a day in the sun (or anytime). On our six-night trip we didn’t even eat everywhere we wanted to — I totally missed sampling favorite rolls at Bonsai Sushi.
Health and safety: As I noted in an earlier blog post, I kept some cruising health and safety tips top of mind while we were vacationing by sea. And I certainly appreciated that Carnival did everything it could to keep germs from spreading on board, including placing hand-sanitizer stations at the entrances to every dining venue, as well as posting these nifty tissue dispensers on the backs of the ladies’ restroom doors. Why doesn’t every public restroom have these fabulous tissues you can use so you don’t share germs on the door handle? Brilliant, brilliant! There were little waste baskets to dispose of the tissues outside of the doors, too. Kudos to Carnival for this set-up.
Daytime activities: Want to spend your day in a lounge chair on the Lido Deck, basking in the sun? No problem. There are plenty of chairs near a (small) pool and in front of a giant outdoor movie screen to do just that. However, we aren’t big sunbathers, we’re do-ers, so we started each morning not reserving a Lido Deck chair, but running and walking around the track that circles the SportSquare, which is filled with a mini-golf course, billiards, ping pong and a multi-purpose net-enclosed basketball court. Another highlight: the SkyCourse at SportSquare; this is the very popular ropes course that brings you high above the ship. I really enjoyed making that trek (and I don’t love heights).
Our kids bought passes to the Thrill Theatre, which showed 4-D short films (under 30 minutes) at various times during the day; this does cost extra – $14.95 for an unlimited pass; $7.95 if you want to buy each movie individually. I loved working out in the spacious fitness center, and I took an extra ($12) yoga class. We played trivia games, held multiple times throughout the day, and even won one round, coming home with the coveted plastic trophy: the Carnival Ship on a Stick!
Shopping, art talks, sports tournaments, dance lessons, arcade games, spa seminars, scavenger hunts… with all of the planned activities there are to do on board the Carnival Breeze, if you find yourself “bored” you aren’t trying hard enough. My children had little interest in the kids/tweens’ rooms with scheduled activities — Camp Carnival (ages 2-11) and Circle C (ages 12-14), but we saw dozens of kids enjoying different events on board, such as arts and crafts for the younger ones and mixers for the older ones. The Camp Carnival schedule of activities is particular varied and vast, and the child care is all included in the price of your cruise.
Evening Entertainment: Do not miss the Punchliner comedy club. There are PG-rated family shows (really, close to G-rated, maybe w/ some potty humor), as well as adults-only shows in the late evening. Different comedians are on board each week, but the two we saw were hysterical. (The evening shows are curse-filled and raunchy; do not attend if you’re the least bit prude.)
Unique to ships at sea, the Carnival Breeze offers HASBRO, The Game Show, where “live studio audience” members are selected from the crowd in the Ovation Theater to compete in games on the large stage that are based on real HASBRO games (think throw a basketball into a giant Connect Four frame, or push huge Sorry game-board markers into the bull’s eye). Tip: If you want to get chose to participate on stage — and the chance to win HASBRO games — you’ve got to a) get to the theatre early to get a seat on the orchestra level near the stage, b) be really loud, wave your arms and jump around when the host asks for volunteers and c) if you really want to be a shoo-in, bring neon-colored posterboard signs, “Pick ME!” Alas, none of my family members were chosen, but we had fun watching others compete.
We did not make it to “The Brits,” “Latin Nights” or “Divas” evening song-and-dance shows, though we did enjoy the awesome juggling talent of a visiting guest, Manny Zuniga. He was funny and talented. Otherwise in the evening, with my kids at the 5-D theatre or watching movies in our stateroom, my husband and I took in the live music at various places around the ship. At any given hour, there might be tunes in the piano bar, a Latin band in an airy lounge area and a guitar crooner in the Red Frog Pub.
Our stateroom: For six nights, our balcony stateroom was plenty big for the four of us. My daughter slept on a couch-turned-single-bed and my son on the platform bed that descended from the ceiling. The queen bed I shared with my husband was quite comfortable. While it was rare for all four of us to be in the stateroom at once, when we were, we never felt unduly cramped. Plus, the three closets, small nightstand cabinets, desk cabinets and under-bed storage was plenty for our luggage and clothes. (I was glad I packed a few extra hangers, per the great suggestions I found on Carnival.com and CruiseCritic.com’s forums, where seasoned cruisers readily dispense advice.)
With so much on the ship to experience, you cannot do it all on your Carnival Breeze vacation. And I think that’s okay. My children didn’t want to go to the kids’ clubs… that’s fine, it’s their vacation, too. I never got to the adults’ only Serenity whirlpools adjacent to the Cloud 9 spa, even though I wanted to relax there (the one afternoon I had some time, the top-deck area was closed due to high winds). As I mentioned, I certainly didn’t get to eat or drink in all the different venues. To be honest, I didn’t even try the slides in WaterWorks, the on-board water-play area (I wasn’t in the mood to stand in line). We didn’t put one bet down on the casino’s blackjack table.
But I think that’s okay — a cruise ship like the Carnival Breeze allows each cruiser (or each cruising family) to indulge in the parts that you like (like my son and his love affair with Guy Fieri’s savory burgers) and ignore the parts that don’t fit your agenda (such as the casino). With so many options, cruising is certainly appealing to those who appreciate the convenient, action-packed schedule of a big ship like the Carnival Breeze.
Carnival Cruise Lines hosted my family and me on this six-night itinerary, and we are grateful for the experience!