Relaxing Vacation on the Breeze
Carnival Breeze Cruise Review to Caribbean - Western
I will just say it. I am a cruise person. From the moment I book my vacation, I start the preparation process. I have a pretty stressful job and when it is time for vacation, I like knowing I will be out of touch for an entire week. This cruise was no exception. We booked in January so I had plenty of time to study the deck plans, order my lanyards and magnetic hooks from Amazon etc. I get almost as much joy out of the planning as I do the actual trip. My wife is completely the opposite. She could throw her things into a bag the night before and be just fine with that. I have two girls 11 and 13 and they have never been on a cruise. They really didn't get too excited until a week or so before the cruise. Once booked, I immediately started my packing list. I studied Pintrest blog posts and CruiseLine.com as well as some others. We booked an inside cabin on the eighth deck. We were trying to get as much bang for the buck as we could and we figured we wouldn't be in the room all that much anyway. Prior to this cruise, I had been on one before. We sailed the Carnival Jubilee leaving Tampa on January 8th 2001. Some of you reading this just made the connection...3 days prior to 9/11. I had saved my money for quite some time so I could take my wife on the trip of a lifetime. Little did we know what was in store. We were on our way into Cozumel on that terrible morning. We heard people in the halls taking about an attack on New York. We weren't quite sure what to do. We watched the news just like everyone else around the world. Long story short, we were unable to leave Tampa for several days due to a lack of flights and a small hurricane that came though. It took me 16 years to get my wife back on a boat. Even with all of the drama of our first trip, I found cruising to be the most relaxing and exciting vacation possible.
Fast forward 16 years...We surprised our girls with a count down calendar with a picture of the Carnival Breeze. We chose the Breeze for several reasons. It sailed out of Galveston which was a drivable port for us. Also, a close friend had just returned from a sailing on the Breeze in December and said it was fantastic. Trust me, It is.
It seemed as if the time to our sail away party would never come. I found myself daily looking at the Carnival Hub App monitoring the countdown. I spent time online memorizing the deck plans so I would know where everything was. We booked the early dining because we typically eat early as a family. We are mostly home bodies. If I were to do this again, I think I would book the late seating. We chose excursions that returned later in the day and it would have helped on those days to have the later seating. I will go into the excursions in a bit.
Thought the planning process (which was half my fun), I booked and prepaid for parking at VIP Indoor Cruise Parking. It is right across from the cruise terminal and I felt really good about leaving my car indoors. I would definitely do this again. The people there were friendly and expecting me when I arrived. We had quite a time getting to the terminal that morning due to a tremendously heavy rain storm that hit Galveston on Sunday June 4th. I had already plotted my way to the terminal but the rain was so heavy that flood warnings were blaring from my phone every few minutes. I didn't think that the roads would flood, but flood they did. I took 33rd st towards harborside drive. 33rd was flooded to my bumpers. I drive a Jeep Liberty and I was very worried about going in too deep and killing the motor. Thankfully the Jeep was tall enough to just squeek through. An eventful start to say the least. My youngest daughter was so scared I saw tears running down her cheeks in the rear view mirror. Once we got through the worst of it and came out the other side, I saw a look of amazement when she saw our massive ship for the first time. Her spirits were quickly uplifted.
We pulled right in to VIP parking and unloaded the car. One big advantage to this parking area meant not having to brave the traffic to drop off bags to the porters. We were right across the street so we could just roll our bags. One suggestion, tip the porters well. Typically they say a dollar or two per bag. I am a big believer that you get the service that you pay for. Once we arrived at the porter area, I quickly pulled out a ten dollar bill for our 4 bags. Not much, just a little extra. The porter appreciated the extra tip and tagged our bags for faster to the fun (which means quicker bag delivery). By the way, I am a big believer in Faster to the Fun with Carnival. I didn't realize the benefits until they were already sold out. I will get it for sure next time. You get priority boarding and express luggage delivery as well as better tender times if in a port that uses tender boats. I will say that Carnival makes it easy to board the boat when you have the proper documents. We went ahead and got passports just in case and I am glad we did. It made the process easy.
We boarded the boat at about 12:30 and did what every blog said not to do. We headed to Guys Burgers on the Lido deck. I didn't find the line to be too long at all. The burgers were fantastic and we found them to be consistently great the entire time. And the fries....best ever. I had been on a diet since January 3rd and I had lost 30 lbs for the cruise knowing full well that I would be putting some of the weight back on. I am a pretty confident guy, but the years on the road eating restaurant food had taken its toll. I didn't want to embarrass my lovely wife of almost 20 years and my girls as I screamed for them across the lido deck.
The rooms were not going to be ready until 1:30 so I told the girls that I wanted to go to the secret door on the 11th deck that leads out to the front of the ship. What they didn't know was Carnival called me on Thursday prior and had a balcony room available for a small fee so I upgraded. I had never had a balcony before but I recalled how much I enjoyed drinking coffee in the morning watching the water go by on my first cruise so it seemed like a great idea. Once the doors opened that allowed us to go to the rooms, I took the girls out to the front of the ship. As we made out way down the hall, I noticed the door to our room was open so I told the girls "lets go see what one of these balcony rooms look like". They were like "Dad, you can't go in there! We will get kicked off the ship!" We stepped inside and I could see the worry on there face. I opened up the curtain and walked out on the balcony. It was room 11251 by the way. I told the girls we have to get a room like this. Then my wife and I said "Surprise! This is our room!" They were so excited. Room 11251 is a great location. It is near the elevators and close to the entrance to mid ship where the action is. I thought it might be noisy so near the lifts, but we didn't hear a thing. The room was clean and bright. We met out cabin attendant Aileen. What a lovely person. I promptly gave her a $20 tip for the excellent service she was going to give during the week. She truly appreciated it. These folks on the ship work very hard to make everything great. She did not disappoint. Every day our room was made up and we had no complaints. She did an excellent job.
My older daughter and I unpacked our bags. My wife an youngest preferred to keep there things in the suitcase under the bed. Take it from me, in a space that small with four people, you want to take a few minutes and unpack your bags. It makes it so much easier to use the closets which we found ample than to move suitcases in and out under the bed. Also, I purchased the magnetic hooks on Amazon because the walls are made of metal. This worked so well for hanging my hat or wet swimsuit or lanyard with the room key. I also brought so old hotel room key cards because you can't turn on the lights without a room key in the slot. It turns out you can use anything like a business card or the like. This was not a big issue.
Once we got settled in, we took a tour of the ship. We found our way to the dining room to see where our table was but is was closed while they got things ready for that evenings dinner. We wondered if we would be sitting by ourselves or with another family. When it came time for dinner, we easily found our table very close to the front door and we dined with a lovely family from Texas. They also had two girls slightly older than ours. They were a pleasure to get to know and spend time with. My advice, don't sweat this. If you do have a table with another family, they will probably end up good friends at the end of the cruise.
I am so sorry, I get so wordy as I write. Lets get to the important stuff.
Balcony Stateroom- a must if you can afford it. I ordered room service every morning for coffee and hot chocolate for the girls so we could spend some quality time on the balcony watching the sea get more blue everyday. We saw dolphins and even flying fish towards the end of the cruise.
Food- Main dining room was excellent. My oldest tried every exotic food that was offered including but not limited to Ox Tongue...yes I said it. I don't know any other 13 year old that would try it all. It was a pleasure to watch her experience new things and that she did! There were a couple of things I didn't care for, but I don't have a very sophisticated palette. The Sea day brunch cannot be missed! I had the filet and eggs everyday it was open. They also had a lovely basket of pastries and croissants as well as other wonderful treats.
Guys Burgers- I can't say enough about this...I wished I had one right now.
Pizza Pirate- excellent and open 24hrs.
Market place- I am just going to say it has to be difficult to feed that many people so many different items and please everyone. The food was pretty good for the most part. I did find the fruit to be spectacular and the artist that did the watermelons each day was fantastic.
I did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants but I did order off the steak house menu in the main dining room. I had the surf and turf. A fillet and lobster tail and they were both magnificent. I would recommend it if you have a little extra money ($20 surcharge on your sail and sign account).
Do bring a tumbler or some type of cup with you. I thought about it and thought it would be a pain to keep up with, but I am re-thinking that. They have tea and water on board at no charge but the cups are small. I am lazy on vacation. I don't want to go fetch drinks every few minutes. Also, we purchased the bottomless bubbles for each of us. I don't think we got our moneys worth out of that. We mainly stuck to tea and water.
Shows- We are not show people and did not attend.
Cruise director- Schwartz was fantastic. Fun and engaging always. Excellent fun maker for sure- attend the music trivia....fun fun fun.
Lets talk excursions- I always book mine through Carnival. I know, I know...you can do them cheaper on your own. Not me. My biggest fear is falling asleep on a beach only to hear the sound of the cruise ship horn blaring as it pulls out of port without me. I can see it now...47 year old somewhat fat man running down the pier trying to catch a ship that has just pulled away...Nope! Not going to do it. I will gladly pay a little bit extra knowing they will not leave without me. I will never be a pier runner.
We booked a catamaran sail and snorkel in Montego Bay. When we got off the ship we easily found our excursion guide holding up a sign. After the group of about 80 of us were all there, we took a short stroll down to the marina where the catamaran was ready and waiting. We got on board and set sail to the snorkel grounds. I had purchased an inexpensive Go-Pro knock off underwater camera on Amazon not knowing how well it would do. I must say, it was a highlight of the trip. My girls shot footage above and below the water that came out fantastic. Once we got to the snorkel area, we jumped off the boat into the clear water. I didn't think we would see much. Boy was I mistaken. We spent 45 minutes or so exploring beautiful corral and marine life. Tons of fish and sea urchins were everywhere. (I know that all you grammar teachers are really struggling to get through this...my apologies). After a wonderful time exploring, we got back on the catamaran and headed off to Margaritaville for a quick visit. My wife and oldest opted to ride the two story slide that dumps you in the ocean. I opted to watch and film the carnage. They seemed to enjoy it but once was enough. The girls headed out to some water trampolines and other fun inflatable in the sea while my wife and I snuck a cocktail in the afternoon. A short cruise back to the pier with reggae music pumping and the rum punch flowing freely and we found our way back to the port. We did a little shopping at the pier but opted not to go into town. I am a little suspicious of the security in Jamaica and again...no dock running for me.
All in all it was a great excursion and I feel it was worth doing.
Day 2- Grand Cayman. We chose to do the dolphin swim and Stingray City. This was a really nice excursion. After taking a tender boat early to the dock, we rode for about 20 minutes or so to Dolphin Cove. We then took a boat out to stingray city, a sand bar some 30 minutes from the dock. The water was turquoise blue. I could almost not take it all in. This is my happy place. I think I was accidentally born in the wrong social class. I should be visiting here at least a few time a year. I digress. Once we got to the grounds, we hopped into the bathtub clear water. We took photos with the guides and the mandatory kissing the stingray photos. Our underwater camera was perfect here. We are still editing the hours of footage we took on all the excursions. The quality of the video is extraordinary. Every time I watch the footage, it takes me back to those wonderful days.
After the stingrays, we headed back to Dolphin cove for our swim with the dolphins. I think this is something that every kid should see at least once in their life. It was well run and fun to do. We each got to ride belly to belly with a dolphin and they also pushed us by our feet on a boogie board. Only one complaint on this excursion...You couldn't take pictures on the dolphin portion of the excursion but you could buy the ones they took and they were extremely expensive. I knew this going in from other reviews I had studied prior to going but still, it was pricey to say the least. I work very hard for my money and we don't have a whole lot of it (remember, born in the wrong social class thing) but we did end up buying the package. It cost almost as much as the excursion. That being said, we will only do this excursion once in a lifetime. Just be prepared if you choose to do this. Shopping in this port was fun also. We purchased all kinds of T-shirts, turtles and even an instrument made from a coconut. And yes, we headed to the pier in plenty of time to catch the tender so we would get left behind.
Day 3- Cozumel - Cenote hopping with lunch. I will just say up front that this wasn't my first choice in excursions. As my family and I went over the different options, this one didn't just jump out at me. My wife and kids though really wanted to do this so I said sure. It is a long excursion. You board a ferry boat right off the ship and take it for about 35 minutes to the main land. Once you meet up with your group on the pier you take a bus for about an hour...this is where I was going really??? An hour??? But I must say, our guide's name was Agel. What a fantastic knowledgeable young man that is passionate about his country. He knew what he was taking about about the mayan culture and the land we were about to visit. I could go on about this excursion for days but I won't. In short, we swam in fresh water cenotes of the clearest water I had ever seen. We jumped off of limestone cliffs into very cool and refreshing waters. We rode a zip line that dumped you into another pool of the most beautiful water I have ever seen. We ate a traditional Mayan lunch prepared by the locals that was lovely. As you know, I am not a fan of being late. On this excursion, you are the first off the ship and the last to return. This would be one where I said it would have been nice to have a late seating in the main dining room. We got back to the ship in just enough time to change clothes and get up to the Blush dining room for dinner. I am not a big fan of running late on vacation.
Dive in movies- I love this. Each night my wife and I would find a comfy couch on deck 11 to watch the evening movie as our kids swam in the pool. It was one of the most fun parts of the cruise. My kids loved watching the movie from the pool and we got a little time just to ourselves. We found the couches on 11 deck under the overhang was a great viewing spot. A real highlight of the trip.
My youngest daughter was so excited when she found out there was a Harry Potter Trivia game midship on the last sea day. I felt really bad for the competition. You see, there are Harry Potter fans and There are Harry Potter Experts. She is currently reading the series for the 3rd time. Needless to say, she wiped the floor with the 250 or so other passengers that participated. She is now the proud owner of a Carnival Breeze Ship Trophy! I think this will be her most memorable moment on the ship. That is what I like about cruising and Carnival in particular. Now, I have never been on another cruise line and trust me, they are not paying me to say this, but Carnival is great at making memorable experiences for everyone. I am one of those people that if I find something I like, I usually will stick with it until I don't. Make sense?
Music- We really enjoyed some of the artists that played in the Lobby area throughout the week. There was a group of 3 violin players that were just awesome. There were other musicians as well throughout the week that we really enjoyed. I could go on an on and on. We packed so much in a week there just isn't time to tell it all.
Just a few tips-
Power strip with usb's- YES
Magnetic hooks- definitely
lanyard from amazon- worked perfectly to hold key card
Baggage tags - also from Amazon worked out great
Air freshener- a must in a small room and bathroom
Extra hangars- very handy and not hard to pack
Wrinkle release - not necessary - iron room easily available for a touch up before elegant night.
Underwater camera - a must for us and glad we got it.
Faster to the fun - most definitely
Cheers program - depends on if you plan on having more that 4 or 5 drinks a day. If so, it will save you money. If not, no need.
Spa - didn't use so I can't comment (I bet its great though)
Casino - didn't use
Serenity deck- everyday at least once. Great quite place with nice hot tubs
Bring lots of small bills for tipping and port shopping
My fingers are now swollen and I apologize for being so wordy. All in all it was the best, most memorable, relaxing vacation I have ever had. If I could afford it, I would go at least 2 times a year. Most off all, relax and have a great time! I hope this was helpful. Until next time
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
The Breeze is a beautiful ship that has recently been updated in dry dock. Go to Guys Burgers and ask for extra fries! Trust me on this one.