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Old February 19th, 2013, 10:24 PM
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Arrow ~~A review you might just BREEZE through! + over 300 ship pics!~~

Ok in all honesty I can't promise you will BREEZE through this review, but I do hope you will at least find it interesting and informative.

This was a 6-day Caribbean sailing on on the CARNIVAL BREEZE that departed Miami on February 10, 2013. The ports were Grand Turk, Ocho Rios, and Nassau. I won't be discussing the ports as the focus of this review is the CARNIVAL BREEZE itself, Carnival's 2.0 enhancements, and Carnival in general.

For those that like to skip the small talk and head right to the good stuff, here is a link to almost 350 photos I took of the BREEZE. I tried to capture just about every area of the ship, and if you happen to have a future cruise booked on the BREEZE I hope these get you in the mood to cruise!
Carnival breeze 02/10/2013 - a set on Flickr

I think it's important to tell you a little about myself so you understand my perspective when reading the review. I'm an experienced cruiser with just shy of 100 cruises under my belt. I'm not loyal to any particular line and I enjoy trying them all, but there are some lines I prefer over others. On this cruise I sailed with my brother who has also cruised a fair bit. We actually started cruising as children with our grandmother. I started sailing on Carnival back in the late 70's during the days of the MARDI GRAS, CARNIVALE, and FESTIVALE and I've graduated to the Platinum VIFP level with the line. To be honest I have mainly moved on from Carnival to other cruise lines for a variety of reasons, but I really enjoy trying all the new ship designs of the various cruise lines. The CARNIVAL BREEZE is especially significant because she is the first Carnival ship where the interiors are not designed by Joe Farcus. For that reason, along with Carnival's new 2.0 initiatives, I felt it worth while to sail on the BREEZE and see what all the fuss was about. I really liked some of what I experienced and other aspects missed the mark for me. I'll explain these in detail and you're welcome to agree or disagree with me and thats fine, but it doesn't change my perception or opinions of what I personally experienced.

Why not start off with our best foot forward and focus on what was really great about the BREEZE. I'll start with embarkation and disembarkation. As Platinum VIFP members we were able breeze through the boarding process (no pun intended!). In Miami Carnival scans your passport the minute you enter the terminal and you don't need to have it out after that. That scan verifies your passport information in Carnival's computer system so when you actually check-in all the information is there. After passing through security we were directed to the Platinum VIFP check-in lounge and in no time we were walking on the ship. Disembarkation was just as easy, with virtually no lines. We opted for the self-assist disembarkation process and walked off around 9am.

Speaking of lines, one aspect of BREEZE that was a pleasant surprise was the lack of lines. Having sailed on the Conquest Class in the past, I experienced excessive lines during a Summer sailing out of New Orleans that basically ruled out any future cruises on this class of ship. As many of you know, the BREEZE is pretty much a Conquest Class on steroids so I was expecting the worst when it came to lines. There really were not any to speak of, even getting on and off the ship in the various ports. Mind you I tend to time things during off-peak hours so this helps, but Carnival did a great job adding enough new venues and tweaking the passenger flow of BREEZE so that lines are minimized. This is not to say that at times BREEZE felt crowded, because the ship often did, but generally it was all very manageable. I'm not sure how I would feel about cruising on BREEZE during the Summer months or a school holiday when the ship would be filled to capacity. I can only imagine it might feel overly crowded in areas. I was a bit apprehensive that without the Farcus decor the BREEZE would somehow lose its Carnival identity. This wasn't the case at all, and the BREEZE still felt like a Carnival ship but a very different one than what I was used to. I really enjoyed the fresh approach to decor, and unlike Carnival's typical decor which tends to be rather dark and better viewed at night, the BREEZE was refreshing and a ship very much meant to be enjoyed day and night. The decor is inviting and comfortable without being stuffy or too sterile and overall I really liked it. Carnival used the same design firm for BREEZE that AIDA Cruises, another Carnival Corp. brand based in Germany has used for years. If you compare the decor of BREEZE to the AIDA ships you will see many similarities, but the BREEZE has a feel and personality all her own.

Our cabin was a Spa Balcony up on Deck 12, cabin 12005. I can't mention enough great things about this cabin, the location, and our cabin stewardess. I really enjoyed the lighter spa-like colors, the layout, and the new upgraded carpets, drapes, towels, and bedding that Carnival is using. The cabin felt very new and fresh and it was kept immaculate by our wonderful cabin stewardess. She introduced herself the first day and called us by name the rest of the cruise. She is one of the those great cabin stewardesses that always just seemed to know exactly when you're in or out of the cabin. Never once did she knock on our door, but it seemed every time we left and returned she magically refreshed the cabin. The balcony was a little narrow compared to other lines, but typical for this class of ship. Being on the highest deck our balcony was not covered and open to the sun. I really enjoyed this as it made the cabin especially bright during the day and even better for viewing the stars at night. Being so high up we had no obstructions and could look directly over the ocean. I don't think I would like some the balcony cabins on the lower decks that essentially look out over the outdoor Promenade Deck. Another advantage to our balcony is that smoking was not allowed, so no second hand smoke from the neighbors. We were only three cabins from the front of the ship, so it was especially quiet as this was a no traffic area. There was no noise from above, below, or next door. If you're looking for a truly quiet spot, look no further than cabin 12005. At the end of our hall very close to the cabin was a secret door that entered directly into the gym. This was especially convenient for those of us that that like to work out. Since we were in a Spa Cabin, we were provided unlimited access to the Cloud 9 Spa, which included the enclosed spa pool, thermal suite with steam, sauna, and heated tile loungers; and the relaxation room facing forward. The Cloud 9 Spa is beautifully appointed and looks great, and I made good use of the free Spa access almost every day. If anyone is familiar with Bliss Spas in W Hotels shoreside, the Cloud 9 Spa had a similar feel and style. This comes as no surprise since Steiner Leisure, the operator of most onboard spas is also the owner of Bliss. One last remark regarding the cabin location, if you're an adult with no kids the location is perfect because the adults-only Serenity deck is just a couple flights up via the Cloud 9 Spa staircase. Very convenient.

The outer decks of BREEZE are quite spacious and varied, and my favorites were the Serenity Deck and the aft Tides Pool. The Serenity Deck has it's own small bar, towel hut, and even cold towels to cool off with. The loungers and chairs are nicely cushioned and most have a small table next to them for your drink. Laying out on the Serenity Deck was truly like being in a ship within a ship. It was another world from the chaos, crowds, and noise just a couple decks below at the main Beach Pool. I loved spending time on the Serenity Deck but unfortunately getting a lounger could be a challenge. Honestly the area could probably be at least twice as large as it was very popular. Nearby but a world away is Carnival Waterworks. What a fun way to be a kid again racing down the two slides and playing in the water park. This area is really well done and again very popular as the lines for the slides could be long for the slides. I suggest enjoying it while in port as you will have it almost to yourself with no waits. Moving aft is the Sports Deck with Ropes Course. This was another feature I really enjoyed. The Ropes Course was just challenging enough to provide a little thrill without wearing you out. The outer course is more difficult, so maybe start with the inside course then move to the outer. Also included in the Sports Deck is a basketball court, jogging track, and outdoor fitness equipment which I never saw anyone use except for small kids as a playground. The two main pool areas are the Beach Pool midship and the Tides Pool aft. The Beach Pool is like Grand Central Station. It is ground zero for outdoor activities, games, music, the outdoor movie screen, bars, etc. The seating just a deck higher is really nice and shaded if you want to just watch the activities from a distance. For me personally I didn't find the Beach Pool relaxing so I pretty much avoided it. It was just too noisy and busy, and frankly it felt a little like sitting in a well since there are two decks that look down upon it. More my speed was the Tides Pool aft, which has a nice view of the ship's wake and is much more quiet and low key. Funny enough, it was also the least windy spot on the ship during some sea days where the wind was quite high. Both main pool areas are difficult places to find an open lounger unless you are up and out early which I am not. Yes the CHOGS (Chair Hogs) were out in full force on this cruise, and there were many loungers with towels and items on them but no people. I never saw any of the pool staff monitoring the saved loungers like I have read in other reviews. A nice alternative to the main pool areas on Deck 10 is the Promenade Deck on Deck 5. Loungers are placed on this deck and it's sort of like an overflow area from the main pool decks. There are no pools on this deck but there are four hot tubs if you want to get wet along with showers. Missing is a towel hut which is unfortunate, as who wants to trek up to Deck 10 for fresh towels if you're going to lay out on Deck 5? Of course towels are left in your cabin, but if you want fresh or additional towels the only two places are the Beach Pool and Serenity areas.

The addition of the open Promenade on Deck 5 has really made all the difference on this class of ship, and Carnival has made this deck very inviting for strolling (it's full wrap-around), sitting, enjoying a drink, eating, or just to read a book. Many of the indoor venues such as The Plaza, Red Frog Pub, and Liquid Nightclub have their own entrances and seating directly on the outdoor promenade which is really cool. NCL is going to expand on this concept with the new Breakaway Class but I give Carnival first credit. Inside, the main public spaces are laid out very similar to the Destiny/Conquest Class but the feel is very different, in part because of the new decor and also because of the outdoor promenade. My favorite spaces were Piano Bar 88, Liquid Nightclub, and the Sapphire Dining Room. Liquid Nightclub was sleek and spacious and looked like something you might find at a South Beach resort. Piano Bar 88 was cozy and inviting with royal blue decor, and the Sapphire Dining room looked more like a space you might find on Celebrity Cruises rather than Carnival. Very well done. These spaces are a nice fit for Carnival's 2.0 enhancements and I want to expand on what I felt really worked well with Carnival 2.0. My favorite aspect of the 2.0 enhancements are the additional specialty dining options. Without question Guy's Burger Joint is the best free burger you will find at sea. I thought there would be lines all the way down the Lido Deck but this was never the case. It's so well organized you never have to wait, and the burgers and toppings are always super fresh. Equally great is the Blue Iguana Cantina, again with no waits and great, fresh, made to order Mexican food. Just inside is the Marketplace Buffet and it's a very attractive space with a lot of choices. It gets crowded in the buffet but I never had a major problem finding a table nor did I ever really have to wait long at any of the food stations. Soft serve ice cream and pizza are available 24/7 and in general Carnival has pretty good pizza. Adjacent to the Marketplace Buffet is the Cucina del Capitano which we dined at for lunch and dinner. It has a great atmosphere and really good family style Italian cuisine. Don't miss it! Down on Deck 5 there are a few more specialty dining options such as Bonsai Sushi which we really enjoyed one night, the steakhouse, Plaza Cafe, and Fat Jimmy's BBQ which is only open on sea days. Lastly there is a hot dog stand that is open various hours way up on the Sports Deck. I don't think a lot of people know it exists. Overall the alternative food choices are excellent and we received excellent service at them all including the Marketplace Buffet. Another Carnival 2.0 enhancement that was popular and well executed is the Punchliner Comedy Club sponsored by George Lopez. The comedians were well received and there was a good variety of comedy from family oriented to adult.
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Old February 19th, 2013, 10:24 PM
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~~Part Two~~

As you can see there are really a lot of things to love about CARNIVAL BREEZE. The ship is beautiful and many aspects of the 2.0 enhancements are great, but unfortunately not everything was a hit with me. There were quite a few areas of opportunity and some of these are things that I really loved about Carnival in the past but are now lacking. The two standouts are entertainment and the food and service in the dining room. In the past, regardless of what I paid for my Carnival cruise I was almost always assured of excellent food and service in the dining room, and really superb entertainment. These were "wow factors" that always surprised me considering how little I paid for my Carnival cruise compared to other cruise lines. I thought the entertainment on BREEZE, meaning mainly the production shows were pitiful. Gone are the elaborate sets, large cast of 20-25 singers/dancers, beautiful backdrops, spectacular costumes, and a live band. It's all been replaced with a low-budget, scaled down version of 30-minute shows called Playlist Productions. Think 8 mediocre performers, no sets except a video screen, no live music, poor choreography, and all wrapped up in a very amateur theme production. Ken Byrnes, the singing Maitre d' and a few Karaoke performers I saw had more talent than this entire ensemble combined. It was actually painful to listen to and watch during certain segments of the performance, and I felt bad for the performers when they had to move and construct the very scaffolding they danced on during the performance! No doubt Carnival had to offset the cost of some of the new 2.0 enhancements and the entertainment budget was obviously cut. While other lines are enhancing the entertainment with broadway productions like Chicago and Vegas hits like Blue Man Group, Rock of Ages, and Cirque du Soleil style shows, Carnival is going in the opposite direction. Without question Carnival has gone from from one of the best lines for entertainment to probably the worst. Additionally the trend on Carnival is more audience participation type shows like deck parties by the pool and Hasbro the Game Show. By using audience members as entertainers this saves Carnival a ton of money but unfortunately it didn't work for me. One of the things I really enjoy about cruising is entertainment, and Carnival really fell short. Another part of the entertainment cutback includes the elimination of a live Caribbean style band by the pool. This has been much discussed on the various boards and blogs, and yes I really missed it. I can listen to recorded music on my stereo at any time at home, and it's not anything unusual. Listening to a great Caribbean style band by the pool on a Caribbean cruise is not something I can do in my everyday life, and I look forward to it on a cruise. This was sadly missed. I didn't enjoy the DJ in the atrium either. Thankfully this was limited to only certain times and a live duo (who were very popular) still played almost nightly. The other major disappointment was the food and service in the main dining room. Wow has this changed and not for the better. Our service was really slow and lacked any finesse. I'm not expecting the Ritz Carlton on Carnival but surely they can do better than Denny's? As an example it would generally take about 30 minutes for our first course to arrive, and when it did the wait staff would place your appetizer and salad down at the same time. This is totally unacceptable in a formal main dining room. We enquired to our wait staff why they were cutting corners, and they said Carnival has given them so many tables that it's the only way they can finish on time. They said even though they were trained not to do this, Carnival management essentially looks the other way as they realize how short staffed the dining room is. FYI our wait staff was an experienced team that has worked on Carnival for years. On the first night it took forever for a bar waiter to come over and take drinks. The drinks finally arrived as desert was being set down. We all declined the drinks and the bar service improved for the rest of the cruise. At 10pm sharp the lights in the dining room were put on bright as a not so subtle reminder to finish your meal and get out. The food itself was unmemorable and I honestly can't remember a single stand-out dish in the dining room if that tells you anything. We had a large table for eleven, table 590 on the lower level of the Blush Dining Room, 8:15pm seating. The table location was fantastic right by the aft windows. Granted this table was very far from the main kitchen, but even so I don't find that an excuse for the relatively poor food and service. In total contrast the buffet and speciality restaurants were all excellent. In this respect Carnival has done a 180, where in the past the buffet used to be lacking and the dining room excellent. On the upside I will say as always I enjoyed Maitre d' Ken Byrnes singing Frank Sinatra nightly. He was truly the highlight of the dining experience and the entire entertainment program for that matter.

There are a few other areas of opportunity, but nothing as major as the dining and entertainment. Overall the ship felt somewhat crowded, even though there were really not any lines. This was especially evident on Deck 5 around the atrium and the interior promenades as throngs of people tried to make their way from one end of the ship to another. The same goes for the pool areas but this is fairly typical on just about any mega-ship. I can't imagine how Deck 5 feels when the ship is at full capacity. I think it might get to the point of being uncomfortable. Overall the ship also felt warm. Perhaps a couple degrees cooler would have been more comfortable for everyone and it might have even made the ship feel less crowded in peak areas. Elevators were especially warm. I'm not sure if keeping the ship a tad warmer is a cost saving initiative to save fuel or just that the BREEZE a/c units don't work as efficiently as other ships? I tend to think it's a cost saving initiative that Carnival will likely never admit to. Something small but very important was the Safety Drill when we first boarded. They actually forgot to make a major part of the announcement in English and had to go back afterward and repeat in English. It was a bit humorous but probably didn't instill a lot of confidence in first time cruisers as it seemed disorganized. Unlike some other lines they don't take roll call or scan your cruise card when you arrive at the drill for attendance purposes. Another service issue was the bars. Generally it was very slow compared to other cruise lines. This is not because any crew members are being lazy, far from it. There are just not enough of them trying to serve too many passengers. On most cruises the bar waiters in lounges and on deck are always asking if you want bar service the minute you sit down. On the BREEZE most often it was difficult to track down a bar waiter, so you ended up having to belly up to the bar to get a drink. Again this is no fault of the crew as they are all working very hard. I think just like the dining room the bar staff has been reduced and more bar waiters are having to accommodate an excessive number of passengers. In a way this is surprising because the bar is a major source of revenue and having more bar waiters means more drinks which means more $$ for Carnival. On past Carnival cruises the bar service was almost too frequent and aggressive and now it's just the opposite. My last suggestion is minor but again an area for opportunity, and that is the Towel Huts on deck. There are only two, one by the Beach Pool and one in the Serenity area. If you are laying out at the Tides Pool or down on the Deck 5 Promenade you are out of luck. Also you have to return the towel to the same hut you got it from. They don't scan your cruise card for the towels like other lines, so they manually have to write everything down in a notebook which is time consuming. Carnival has some catching up to do in this regard.

Overall I really enjoyed the BREEZE and I think from a hardware perspective it's by far the best ship in the Carnival fleet. For me personally, the crowding and decline in entertainment and the dining room experience are probably enough to keep me from returning. I do have one more Carnival cruise booked on the SUNSHINE this April in Europe, but after that I probably won't return until Carnival's newest ship is introduced several years from now. I am very curious to see how the 2.0 enhancements work on the redesigned SUNSHINE and I'm a little apprehensive about it. Overall there are just other ships and lines that are more suited for me, but this is not to say that you won't have an awesome time on the BREEZE! There really are many things to like and enjoy about this ship.

Happy sailing!

Ernie
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Old February 19th, 2013, 10:25 PM
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Some preview pics from my photo gallery. The full set over over 300 photos can be found at the following link:
Carnival breeze 02/10/2013 - a set on Flickr

Sapphire Dining Room

Beach Pool

Liquid Nightclub

CARNIVAL BREEZE in Nassau

Cloud 9 Spa Pool
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Old February 20th, 2013, 08:40 AM
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Ernie,
Enjoyed reading your Breeze review....just sorry to hear about the noticeable cuts that they have had to make, especially with their entertainment...I think it is the way it will be for now....The ship looks beautiful.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 10:28 AM
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Ernie,
Enjoyed reading your Breeze review....just sorry to hear about the noticeable cuts that they have had to make, especially with their entertainment...I think it is the way it will be for now....The ship looks beautiful.


Hi Donna,
I'm glad you enjoyed the review and pics. I agree the ship is beautiful but unfortunately it wasn't enough to compensate for some of the shortcomings. I agree it's doubtful we will see any changes to the entertainment. Those of us long time Carnival cruisers will notice a dramatic difference, but it's the first time cruiser that is Carnival's bread and butter, and they will not know any better.

Ernie
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Old February 20th, 2013, 12:27 PM
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Hi ERnie,
Just wondered if you have cruised on either Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas to compare? I was quite happy with all the entertainment venues they offer, while have only cruised on Carnival Glory, which was a very nice cruise, I still enjoy Royal Caribbean a bit better....Just wondering your thoughts on the different ships compared to a new Carnival ship.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 01:45 PM
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Thanks for your review.....

Great photos too.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 08:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donna View Post
Hi ERnie,
Just wondered if you have cruised on either Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas to compare? I was quite happy with all the entertainment venues they offer, while have only cruised on Carnival Glory, which was a very nice cruise, I still enjoy Royal Caribbean a bit better....Just wondering your thoughts on the different ships compared to a new Carnival ship.

Hey Donna,
Yes I've sailed on OASIS twice and ALLURE once. In fact I just got off OASIS last month so it's fresh in my memory. Honestly you really can't compare the two. OASIS is totally awesome and the entertainment is probably the best afloat. I also had a far superior dining experience on OASIS and the ship felt much less crowded. This being said, OASIS is a fair bit more expensive than BREEZE so the expectation is higher. Overall I would rather spend the extra money and sail on something like Celebrity, Princess, or Royal Caribbean. For me it's a better fit, but I don't regret sailing on the BREEZE. It was a fun trip and Carnival is doing some things very well. It's just a little disheartening that some aspects of the cruise that Carnival used to really excel at have gone down hill.

Ernie
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Old February 20th, 2013, 10:04 PM
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Nice review and pics.... Thanks
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Old March 6th, 2013, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will View Post
Nice review and pics.... Thanks

Glad you enjoyed it!
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