The boisterous Carnival Breeze debuted in June 2012 as the third offering in the line's popular Dream class. Continuing a transition that began with sister ship Carnival Magic in 2011, 3,690-passenger, 130,000-ton Breeze embodies a new breed of Fun Ship with a toned-down tropical feel and more cohesive decor. Changes come thanks to a new designer and the first full execution of the line's half-billion-dollar "Fun Ship 2.0" initiative, a fleetwide identity overhaul focusing on food, booze and entertainment.
Breeze features 23 of the 25 aspects of Fun Ship 2.0, a program punctuated by its focus on low-commitment, high-energy offerings -- 20-minute standup comedy routines, 30-minute (tops) production shows, and fast-food sushi, burgers and burritos. The new quartet of dining and drinking venues on the sun deck offer a prime example. Stationed at the four corners of the main pool area are a burger counter designed by spikey-haired Food Network personality Guy Fieri, a rolled-to-order Mexi-Cali burrito stop, and a pair of Caribbean beach bars with mascots (Red Frog, Blue Iguana) and booze specialties (rum and tequila, respectively). The new entertainment offerings, which include three up-tempo production shows, have been scaled up in terms of impressive lighting, graphics and sound, and pared down in terms of running length. Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ, a fee-free dining venue that materializes on sea days, and Bonsai Sushi, a for-fee, sit-down Japanese restaurant (a first for the line) featuring singing waitresses, are also new to the game.
(Note: the missing elements are the EA Sports Bar and Alchemy Bar, which are currently found on Carnival Liberty, and will be added to other ships during dry docks. These bars were designed after Breeze's blueprint was finalized -- and it was ultimately impossible to include them.)
An equally striking difference comes by way of a conspicuous absence. The curtain has been drawn on long-time lead designer Joe Farcus, whose over-the-top Vegas glitz, grand themes (the Renaissance! Cubism!), and love of neon and highly polished marble defined Carnival for decades. (The hand-over to Hamburg-based Partner Design began on Magic, where Farcus created only a couple of spaces.) For passengers who've sailed on older Carnival ships, Breeze will come as a surprise. As with Farcus, Partner Design's aim is to immediately and evocatively convince you that you're no longer shuffling papers in a cubicle. But this ship evokes an island setting with ersatz palm trees, beach umbrellas, driftwood-style signage and images of verdant Caribbean islands, snorkelers or giant turtles throughout. The tropical scheme works in tandem with the dining venues, too. The Mexi-Cali burrito joint, burger bar created by Fieri, rum and tequila bars, and the popular indoor-outdoor, island-themed RedFrog Pub complete the more breezy (apologies) Caribbean vibe. The overall effect is naturallyl less schizophrenic than Farcus's Medusa heads, power crystals and Renaissance nudes.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Breeze still attracts Carnival's bread-and-butter passenger: the unpretentious, highly social, price-conscious cruiser out for a fun escape. (Those who like a healthy dose of solitude with their cruises should probably select another option.) That large net catches everyone from the garrulous 30-something couple and the family of eight on the yearly summer vacation to the dance-club party star who falls asleep at a buffet table with his head resting next to a half-finished beer. They just have a bevy of new options to sample.
On the amenity front, the line wasn't about to dispense with certain fan favorites, especially those found on the sun deck. WaterWorks, the aqua park with its twister slides and water-spraying contraptions, is back, alongside the adults-only Serenity space and SportSquare, an outdoor activity center that features a ropes course, 18 holes of mini-golf and alfresco workout equipment. Back inside, Carnival's popular for-fee steakhouse, comfortable cabins (including the just-above-the-waterline Cove Balconies) and top-flight kids' spaces haven't gone anywhere.
Still, in introducing so many new elements, there are certainly some kinks to work out. Fat Jimmy's was mobbed on sea days, with passengers waiting for 20 minutes to get food. And some of the placement of venues is beyond bizarre. The adults-only serenity space, for example, sits next to the waterslides, from which gleeful howls can be heard every time the Power Drencher, a huge dump bucket, empties. Cucina del Capitano, the for-fee Italian restaurant, is situated below the ship's basketball court. While we sipped cappuccinos near closing time, the sound of thunder suddenly overwhelmed us. Basketballs. (The waitress said they are aware of the issue and do intend to limit playing at peak dining times.)
Finally, the emphasis on serving quick bites to the masses can have an impact on food quality. Burgers and burritos, addictive as they may be, were grease-laden and salty. And we wondered, given the attempts by other lines to include stand-alone healthy dining venues, why something akin to a spa cafe/juice bar wouldn't be a good fit on Breeze.
Quibbles aside, Breeze will serve as the template for the line's future makeovers and new-builds. So whether the ship's your style or not, you might as well get used to the new Carnival vibe -- it's here to stay.
The atrium -- the towering, nine-deck-high midship space that's one of Carnival's defining elements -- is found on Breeze, but with a decidedly un-Fun-Ship-like design. Instead of novelty-sized gem stones, color-changing lights or pink spots covering every inch of wall (found on other Carnival ships), Breeze's airier version features multicolored light fixtures suspended by a simple mural of a painted blue sky. A bank of glass elevators provides riders with the full perspective. The lobby bar, guest services and shore excursion desks are on the first deck of the atrium (Deck 3).
Decks 4 and 5 feature the obligatory boutiques, selling jewelry, duty-free booze and cigarettes, clothes and logo items. Cherry on Top, done up in candy-cane red and white, sells all manner of sweets by the quarter pound in the "scoop it from a plastic box" fashion. (Individual boxes of Sweet Tarts, giant lollies and chocolate candy are on offer, too.) Tux rentals and flowers for purchase are also available there. Ocean Plaza, an indoor-outdoor promenade space found on Dream and Magic, houses bars, entertainment venues and Breeze's coffee shop (indoors), as well as hot tubs, the sea-day BBQ venue and seating (outdoors). The outdoor space, called the Lanai, stretches completely around the ship, forming a half-mile route.
Carnival still touts art auctions, so there are several held in the gallery, complete with requisite sparkling wine handouts. For more fan-friendly imagery, the Photo Gallery on Deck 4 provides hours of enjoyment. If you're looking for your own mug among the masses, a key card-activated facial-recognition system, introduced on Magic, can help.
On Breeze, launderettes or simple "ironing rooms" are located on almost every cabin deck (nothing on the two decks housing spa cabins, but there aren't many cabins on said decks). It's $3 for a wash, $2.75 for a dry and $1.50 for detergent; hours of operation are 6:30 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Carnival Breeze (and Magic and Dream) has traded the traditional Internet cafe for bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and more than 40 Fun Hubs -- Web stations that are found in various public spaces around the ship. Pay-as-you go Internet is $0.75 a minute, but you can bring the cost down to $0.30 if you buy 1,000 minutes ($300). There is a $3.95 activation fee the first time you log on. Funville@sea is a fee-free Intranet service providing access to onboard activities and events, dining menus, basic news and weather reports for the next destination.
The ship's library, which now doubles as a bar, has a modest selection of bestsellers and travel books, as well as an excellent selection of Hasbro-branded games (Monopoly, Battleship, etc). All can only be taken out with the help of a librarian (who doubles as the lobby bar bartender on Deck 3 forward). Tabs on book borrowers are kept via their Sail and Sign cards.
A small medical facility (Deck "0") and a conference room (Deck 4) round out the offerings.
Carnival Breeze Cabin Photos
Carnival takes a proletariat approach to cabins, which are designed to be exceedingly functional without distracting passengers from the rest of the ship. There are no 1,000-plus-square-foot suites boasting baby grand pianos and verandah hot tubs on Breeze. The vast majority are 185- to 220-square-foot insides (719), oceanviews (221) and balconies (851, verandahs from 35 to 75 square feet), with just the right touches to make the stay comfortable. The big change for Breeze is the design. Carnival's long-time burnt orange, rust and pink scheme has given way to a toned-down mix of white and brown, accented by blue carpeting and pillows, and a splashy green abstract something-or-other on the wall.
Standard insides, oceanviews and balconies each feature two (large) twins that form a king (watch out for the category 1A insides -- those have bunks) and decent storage options, including couches with inset drawers, bedside tables with shelves, and a three-closeted bureau. Two of those three closets have nifty fold-down-fold-up shelves, which can be folded down or up to accommodate your wardrobe on the provided hangers. There are two 120v U.S.-style outlets and one Euro-style 230v outlet atop a small vanity, under which an ottoman-style seat can be pulled out or pushed in. Note that the cabins use a key card-activated electricity system.
Flat-screen interactive TV's -- check your bill, order room service, watch CNN or cartoons -- swivel so you can view them from the couch or bed. Hidden behind the TV are two more three-pronged, U.S.-style outlets. (Bulky cell phone plugs may only fit there.) Other in-cabin amenities include mini-fridges (which the room steward will empty upon request), safes, robes, chintzy phones and even chintzier hair dryers (hidden away in a drawer by the vanity in each cabin).
Bathrooms are functional with an oddly placed outlet for razors (look up), a toilet that sounds like it propels the contents into outer space, and a magnifying mirror. Showers feature massaging heads and those curtains with a reputation for inappropriate attachment to your legs -- strategically placed magnets, however, seem to keep the creeper in its place. There are dispensers with generic shower gel and shampoo.
Carnival's famous free basket of toiletries is always a welcome sight. Products vary, but I got a couple cough drops, mini-bottles of shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste, and sample packs of nasal strips.
Balconies each feature a pair of metal-and-plastic mesh chairs and a small acrylic-topped table. Some balcony cabins, including those situated around the stern, feature extended 60-square-foot alfresco deck spaces. Category 9C, which encompasses the so-called Vistas, has wraparound (wake and port- or starboard-facing) 75-square-foot verandahs.
Since cabins are so similar amenity-wise, location and other details -- for example, if your cabin is connected to another -- are important considerations. For instance, passengers who don't want to hear the intimate conversations of their neighbors should avoid said connectors. (Check deck plans to see where they're located.)
First-in-class Carnival Dream debuted the "cove balcony" concept, which was naturally a part of Magic and now Breeze. These Deck 2 185-square-foot accommodations are interestingly intimate -- they're shielded from potential overlookers by lifeboats. The proximity to the waterline also makes for a one-of-a-kind view from the 45-square-foot, semi-enclosed balconies.
For families of five, 230-square-foot "quint" cabins each comprise two twins (if you're sleeping fewer than five, these can be combined to form a queen, unless mom and dad are a couple from a 50's sitcom), two bunks that hang from the wall and a sofa bed. (Note: If sleeping five, the twins will be left separated, with a ladder up to one of the bunks inserted in the space between the beds.) The cabins also feature two bathrooms -- one with a sink, toilet and shower, and the other with a tub-shower combo and sink. All quints feature picture windows; none have balconies.
For passengers looking for a touch more space, 275-square-foot suites may be worth the splurge. (A 275-square-foot Ocean Suite features a 65-square-foot balcony.) These add larger sitting areas and bathrooms with tubs. Even larger are the 345-square-foot Grand Suites, which have 85-square-foot balconies. These have more seating, full bathrooms with shower-whirlpool tub combos, bidets and double sinks.
The ship's largest suite, a 450-square-foot modified Ocean Suite (7270), has a 110-square-foot balcony. The extra space is due to the suite being an accessible cabin.
Passengers staying in suites don't get much in the way of extra perks, but they do get V.I.P. check-in.
Breeze's Cloud 9 Spa cabins are clustered around the ship's two-deck spa of the same name (located on Decks 12 and 14). The accommodations, which come in a few versions -- 185-square-foot oceanviews and balconies (with 35-square-foot verandahs), 275-square-foot suites (65-square-foot verandahs) -- are laid out exactly the same as other comparable non-spa cabins. The difference comes by way of design tweaks (green accents) and proximity to the spa. Passengers in Cloud 9 accommodations also get special toiletries, fee waivers for a trio of fitness classes, and access to the spa's thermal suite, which features various tiled rooms with steam and dry heat.
While Carnival hasn't integrated brand-name shows -- like Broadway's "Hairspray" and "Chicago" (RCI) or Blue Man Group (NCL) -- the line has taken its own novel approach. Productions in the 1,349-seat Ovation Theater top out at 30 minutes, and they showcase big investments made in sound and lighting. The generation-spanning music of "Divas" (Patti Labelle to Lady Gaga) was backed by a trippy faux-futuristic graphics package beamed on a mega-screen that was used to silhouette the performers and send the audience zipping through space. "The Brits," an homage to British Invasion hitmakers like the Stones, Beatles and Herman's Hermits; "Latin Nights," an homage to Latino hitmakers (Santana, Ricky Martin); and "Motor City," an homage to Detroit hitmakers (Smoky and the Motown gang). Expect the same lucid backdrops to bring vibrancy to these shows, as well. Other shows (newlyweds not so newlyweds game, etc.) and guest performers, including comedian-magicians or musicians, may get top billing, too.
Another new-to-Carnival evening theater offering is "Hasbro, the Game Show," an interactive event inspired by the TV show "Family Game Night." Think long-popular board games transformed into a 30-minute stage show with passenger participation. For instance, Connect 4 morphs into a sharp-shooting basketball contest pitting two families against each other. Operation takes on the form of ski ball. (Getting balls in particular holes completes an operation and earns a team points.) The prizes for winning teams are, not surprisingly, Hasbro games.
Like any Carnival ship, Breeze features more than a dozen watering holes. But this time, the bars represent a new approach for the line. Instead of distinguishing venues primarily by glitzy designs, each tippling venue on Breeze is a well-defined brand with a specialized vibe, music, decor and even drink list.
RedFrog Pub, which debuted on Magic, is a love letter to Caribbean kitsch -- it's all driftwood signs, plastic marlins and fake palm trees. The popular venue features nightly acoustic music and a group of high-energy passengers sharing pints (or 101-ounce beer tubes) of Carnival's easy-drinking private-label ThirstyFrog Red. A bar-sized shuffleboard table complete with sawdust (for sliding the puck) is housed within. Piano Bar 88 packs them in nightly for a combination of light comedy and piano-man sing-alongs. Wander by at the right time (ie Elton John night), and you may see passengers and pianist wearing boas, oversized glasses and captain's hats.
By day, the Limelight Lounge mostly sits idly, but by night, it becomes the Punchliner Comedy Club, playing host to family-oriented (early) and R-rated (late) shows from a rotating lineup of comedians. Nearby, the dance club, Liquid, lets those who want to leave it all on the floor (or in one of the trendy, barred dance "cages," if you like to show off moves) do just that. Superstar Karaoke, which features fellow passengers backed by a house band, can create a legend for the week -- whether it's because a tone-deaf passenger set dogs to howling and glass chandeliers shattering with "More Than a Feeling" or nailed "I Feel Good," complete with spin and split.
A less popular new offering, The Library Bar, features a pair of enomatic wine machines, allowing passengers to dispense their own glasses of eight different vinos in two-, four- or six-ounce portions. There's also a small bar staffed at night, offering mixed drinks like the Papa Doble Hemingway (a margarita). The space, adjacent to the Sapphire dining room, was designed as a before- or after-dinner spot to meet for drinks, but it seemed underused.
Up on the pool deck are the BlueIguana Tequila Bar and the RedFrog Rum Bar, which are designed similarly but focus on drinks with the respective liquors found in their names. Both are open day and night. A drink-mixing competition that plays off the dueling bars is staged on sea days.
Other daytime activities include dozens of variations on trivia, dance classes (learn the Cha Cha!) and seminars (air quotes needed) on detox or art-collecting that are always aimed at getting passengers to open their wallets.
Every dedicated puller has her favorite slot machine at Breeze's Winner's Luck Casino, whether it's Inca Gold or Freak Show. The room -- which passengers pass through en route to, oh, everything -- also features roulette, blackjack, craps and the now-industry-standard pair of dealer-free poker tables. There's also that excruciating game where you try to compel quarters to fall over a ledge. Hardcore casino players can earn points that are good for rewards like drink comps. The casino also features the ship's dedicated sports bar.
Hundreds of shore excursions range from shopping and panoramic city tours to food-, drink- and water-based adventures. A handful of teens-only excursions are also offered.
During the day, beachy or port-specific attire is the norm. Carnival's evening dress code is typically "cruise casual," but on two nights during the voyage "cruise elegant" eveningwear is suggested. On cruise casual nights, the line recommends sport slacks, khakis, jeans (no cut-offs), long dress shorts and collared sport shirts for men, and casual dresses, casual skirts or pants and blouses, summer dresses, capri pants, dress shorts and jeans (no cut-offs) for women. Cruise elegant dress means dress slacks, dress shirts and sport coats (suggested not required) for men and cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses for women. On elegant nights, passengers may choose to dress more formally in suits and ties, tuxedos or evening gowns.
Kids will find no shortage of options on Breeze, whether they're participating in scheduled activities in the toy-filled Camp Carnival spaces, lining up for the 30th time at the 312-foot-long twister waterslide or participating with mom and dad in "Hasbro, the Game Show."
Passengers from 2 to 11 make up Deck 11's Camp Carnival, which breaks its attendees down into three groups, each with its own age-appropriate activity list. Kids, ages 2 to 5, might enjoy face-painting, sand art and hide 'n' seek; for 6- to 8-year-olds, it's talent shows, Wii play and dance competitions; and the 9-to-11 set will by buoyed by board games, scavenger hunts, sports competitions and, yes, more video games. Kids-only lunches and dinners are part of the mix, too.
Scheduled activities generally run until 10 p.m., after which Night Owl parties -- late-night group baby-sitting with a more fun name -- are available for $6.75 per hour, per kid (plus 15 percent gratuity per child). There are also the occasional theme parties (Beach, Mardi Gras), which run from 10 p.m. to midnight and cost $13 per child (plus 15 percent gratuity).
Note that there are limited activities for the 2-and-younger set. (There are designated times when little ones can use the facilities if supervised by their parents.) Children who are not toilet trained cannot use Breeze's WaterWorks facilities (waterslides, aquapark) or pools. Passengers must be a minimum of 6 months of age to sail.
The Beary Cuddly Workshop is a for-fee build-a-stuffed-animal activity, where kids can accessorize and take home a stuffed teddy, lion, koala, dog or bear. Rates start at $19.95 and vary depending on the outfits and accouterments selected. A portion of sales go to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, with which Carnival has long had a close relationship.
The 12-to-14- (tweens) and 15-to-17-year-old sets have their own TV- and mood-lighting-filled spaces, located on Deck 4 (light years from the littler cruisers). Circle C, the tween hangout, features a video jukebox, dance floor, gaming systems tied to flat-screen TV's and Web-ready Fun Hub stations. The larger Club O2, the complex for the older teens, features similar amenities but adds a prohibition-style (booze-free) bar. The clubs are generally open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on days in port and from noon to 1 a.m. on sea days. Both super-cool hangout spots have dedicated directors, but the kids can come and go as they please. For teens who want to extend the grownup-free vibe onshore, there are a handful of teens-only shore excursions.
A nearby arcade, the Warehouse, offers a healthy selection of car-racing, first-person shooting and prize-grabbing games. Parents worried that little Timmy's penchant for killing zombies will impact his future inheritance can put a cap on daily arcade spend.
Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but it can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping a couple dollars for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.
Carnival attracts an outgoing set of North American couples, families and multigenerational groups. The average passenger age is in the 40's. As Carnival (the brand) expands to other markets -- new ships typically launch in Europe, so one or two international deployments per year are the norm -- the line is increasingly drawing English-speaking Europeans and Australians.
|Fitness and Recreation|
Carnival has long been known for its candy-colored, high-energy sun decks -- featuring corkscrew waterslides, adults-only havens and casual dining options -- but Carnival Breeze boasts the line's best ship-topper to date.
The obligatory pair of "way too small for the number of passengers" pools, one midship and one aft, offer different vibes. The midship Beach Pool area is Breeze's outdoor hub, a sea of blue loungers with a postcard-size pool flanked by hot tubs and pair of thatched mega-umbrellas. The aforementioned quartet of branded bars and restaurants -- Guy's Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina (burritos), BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar -- each occupy a corner of the Beach Pool space. A 270-square-foot jumbotron, which showcases TV shows (Frasier, Cheers), concert footage and evening movies, holds court over the space, which doubles as the venue for evening deck parties (RedFrog's Caribbean Beach Party, for instance) and daytime entertainment offerings (best mixed drink contest). A D.J. also regularly spins tracks there on sunny sea days.
The quieter but no less crowded Tides Pool area, a tiered space on the stern, offers views of the wake, rather than a mega-screen. There are two more hot tubs there, next to the pool. Tandoor, Pizza Pirate and a bar provide the eats and drinks.
Look out for the surreal towel animal army that materializes on the sun deck one morning of each cruise. Even the most cynical cruiser will admire the whimsy.
The bustling SportSquare is an outdoor activity space with a two-deck mini-golf course set amid alfresco billiards and foosball tables. Muscle Beach-style workout equipment is stationed nearby. Look up, and you'll find the SkyCourse, on which harnessed passengers navigate a series of wobbly planks, dangling ropes and other vertigo-inducing challenges. Pickup and scheduled games are a regular occurrence at the full-size basketball court located nearby. A running track forms an oval around SportSquare and the b-ball court, with seven laps equaling one mile.
All the way forward, the WaterWorks aqua park features a pair of corkscrew slides (one that finishes with something of a whimper in what's akin to a giant toilet bowl), a host of water-spraying apparatuses and the Power Drencher, a dump bucket that reverses poles at regular intervals, sending forth a torrent of water on yelping, mock-shocked passengers. Passengers must be at least 42 inches tall to ride the slides.
The adults-only Serenity is a lovely, popular area perched atop the sun deck. (Most Carnival ships feature some version at this point.) Oversized hammocks, black wicker loungers and clamshell chairs topped with thick teal cushions make for a striking image. A bar serves up whatever cocktails are needed. But the proximity to WaterWorks makes for a potentially noisy experience, too. The sound of delighted screams rings through the air whenever the power drencher unleashes. Serenity now? Still, deluge-related shrieking or not, plenty of passengers manage to snooze soundly.
One deck below Serenity is the Cloud 9 Spa, a 22,700-square-foot warren of relaxation areas run by ubiquitous concessioner Steiner Leisure. Cloud 9 features standard treatment cells alongside a thalassotherapy pool with a glass roof (people will ogle from above) and a suite of heated rooms that go from desert to rainforest, with variable temperatures and humidity levels. Those staying in Cloud 9 cabins have access to the thermal suite; there is a limited number of full-cruise passes on offer for $149. We were told that there are no day-passes available.
Typically pricey spa treatments include massages, facials and Botox. A 50-minute aroma stone massage is $159, one treatment of acupuncture $150. Look for deals on port days, like a free haircut ($35 value) thrown into a $95 "Gents Pamper Package."
The associated fitness room has the requisite machines, free weights and fitness class offerings. Basic classes, like stretching, are included in the cost of the cruise. Pilates, yoga, boot camp and spinning are $12 a class.
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