To give some background info, this cruise included me, my hubby, 13 year old daughter and my parents. We started out cruising Royal, then Disney and most recently 3 NCL cruises. So I will be comparing the cruise lines in this review based on my experiences. NCL has such a great casino program and we always get comped rooms, only having to pay taxes and fees. So it was hard to go with another cruise line due to the cost, but we really wanted to see Grand Turk and this Carnival Breeze itinerary and dates suited us. We always thought Carnival was a party cruise line with drunk people everywhere. In fact my parents said they would never get on a Carnival cruise (they always cruise Royal)! But after reading many reviews from trusted sources such as Mitsugirly we decided to give it a try and also convinced my parents to join us. We were pleasantly surprised to find this not to be the case at all. No obnoxious drunks and lots of families and nice people. Yay!
Embarking in Port Canaveral was a breeze, we had FTTF but my parents didn’t. Still very fast getting on the ship around 12:00pm. Our first impressions were so-so. The ship has some wear and tear and not quite as nice as what we were used to. We went straight to the room to drop off our things.
The layout was good, I liked how Deck 5 goes all the way around ship. There are cool places to sit around here as well.
We settled on the Deluxe Oceanview room 1424 to have the extra shower. Cost us around $1899 after using AARP gift cards and Ebay Carnival gift cards when those came out. We booked through AARP which gave us a $200 OBC as well as Carnivals $75 OBC. The room was dated, blue and yellow colors, and some chips on the shower floor. We really liked the window with the nook which was big enough to sit in and watch the water go by. The room was clean and had lots of storage and closet space The only thing that bugged us was this constant weird smell in the hallway as soon as you got to the aft area. Almost like sewer or musty or something. And our room smelled strongly of paint one day, I assume they were painting above us or something.
I brought along magnetic hooks for the wall, this helps a lot with hanging bathing suits, towels, notices, anything else. I also brought those Dollar Store battery tea lights so I didn’t need to leave the bathroom light on at night.
Dining and food:
Very mixed thoughts here, sorry. We had anytime dining which suits us. We thought the food in the dining room was pretty good, but the quality was a step below NCL and Royal. HOWEVER, they still have lobster one night and more shrimp on the menu then NCL and Royal does. See what I mean by mixed? My daughter had her fill of prime rib 2 nights and once on the buffet, she said it was really tasty.
BUT we all thought that hands down Carnival has the best desserts at sea. We finally found good apple pie, lava cake was amazing, potted caramel crème popcorn, crème brulee, banana split, oh so yummy! Even the cakes they serve in the buffet area were mostly good. The exception here are the cookies, they were hard and seemed cheap. NCL had great cookies they put out at certain times, the only decent ones here you had to buy at the café. We also missed the hard ice cream, they don’t have any on the buffet. NCL had a nice mix of flavors that they would scoop for you with toppings. But Carnival has 24 hour soft serves machines, score!
We were pretty disappointed with the buffet, it was so small and not much variety. We really looked forward to Tandoor but they got rid of it, grrrr….. The buffet setup is very poor, always a huge line since it really is one small area in one continuous line (except the dessert area). I couldn’t deal with it so we started going to the dining room for breakfast which was a good experience. We miss the buffets on NCL and Royal. In fact we would eat there for dinner a couple times since the variety was so good.
I think Carnival tries to make up for this by having several fresh food options like Guys Burgers, Blue Iguana, deli, Mongolian Wok, Pig n Anchor, and the Italian restaurant for lunch. We loved Guys burgers and the fresh tortillas they crank out of the machine at Blue Iguana, so soft and delicious. Pig N Anchor was also tasty and we grabbed that a couple times. Now, the deli. I couldn’t get near the place, always a line and it moved super slow, bummer. These additional free options are awesome, but we still missed a good buffet, especially my daughter. She never saw a chicken finger anywhere, she was pretty bummed about that. She actually asked to go to the dining room for breakfast which is very unusual for her. And the LINES, they are everywhere you go, no lie. All eating places. This really put a damper on things for us. Just didn’t feel like standing in constant lines for everything. I think NCL and Royal move people around better, more organized layout in separate sections so waiting was minimal. There were lines but they moved quicker.
We really like the 2 sea day brunches in the dining room. Lots to choose from and good quality. We also participated in the sea day tea time at 3:00pm. This was a nice touch. They serve little sandwiches, cakes, and scones. I never saw this on NCL or Royal.
I must mention the 24 hour pizza, we all agreed it was the BEST at sea. Thin crust, hand tossed and good. Again, usually a line but it was worth it. Oh they also had a chocolate buffet with a fountain one evening, it was nice. I haven’t seen this on other cruises. Not much for late night options, NCL has much more in this area.
So as you can tell food had a lot of pros and cons here.
There are 2 pools but never any chairs available! There is very little shade which made me very unhappy. I am not someone to get up at 6:00 and go reserve chairs. On NCL there were always places to sit in the shade regardless what time I went down but not here. The only shade was taken up by tables near the eating places and some nice wicker cushioned chairs on the deck above but those were taken very early I imagine. Frustrating! We finally found one hard orange chair near the waterslides which me and my daughter shared, but it was in the sun overlooking the pool deck. It was good for watching the Lido deck activities which we did. In fact there were NO chairs on any decks around Lido area. On the second sea day we did manage to find chairs in the shade on Deck 5 on the side. This was quiet and relaxing.
No staff came around with cookies or frozen grapes like they do on NCL. There were waiters circulating the pool area taking drink orders, this was better than on NCL. They do show movies with popcorn a couple times a day on the pool deck which was nice. We watched Bohemian Rhapsody.
We did not buy the Cheers beverage package, we aren’t big drinkers. I like martinis and the Alchemy bar was fantastic. We did the 4 mini samplers at $20, good deal to taste different flavors. We also did this with variations of the Moscow Mule. I heard from others that the drinks were a bit watered down but ours were fine, that’s why I get the martinis!
She didn’t do the teen club. The ropes course and waterslides were pretty tame compared to NCL and we only did the slides once each. This was disappointing.
We were happy with the service, most people we encountered were upbeat and friendly. However we really missed the washy washy and wakey wakey staff at the NCL buffet. Carnival has no one greeting you when entering buffet area or asking you to use hand sanitizer, what????? We gave our room steward extra $$ at the end. And I tipped the bartenders and waiters a few times as well, they were busting their butts. We loved the entertainment at dinner time, we were able to catch the “shows” twice when we dined early. This was new for us and we enjoyed it.
We also did the cruise critic meet and greet at the Piano Bar, it wasn’t great. On NCL they always have some of the staff join such as the chefs, room cleaner manager, officers. None of that here, they didn’t even put out a proper sign so no one knew where to go. The entrance was at some side door that looked like crew only. But we ended up meeting some great folks.
The Carnival hub app deserves a note. It functioned well and was only $5 to add messaging. It worked 90% of the time so we loved it. You can look up the daily schedules, mark activities as favorites and it would remind you when one of your favorites would be starting. You can also look up charges to your account. This app worked a lot better than the NCL app and it was cheaper!
Another notable thing is self service laundry. We brought a little less clothing and laundry ourselves halfway through the cruise. It came in handy to wash those workout clothes, ick. NCL did not have this at least on the ships we were on.
We attended 2 theater shows, they were decent but nothing like the caliber of shows on NCL and Royal. We really liked the music entertainment they had in the atrium area, the violin trio was unbelievable. Also the music trivia shows (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s) they had there were a ton of fun too. They would play a short excerpt from a song and you would guess the name of it. Then they played longer clips from the songs and the crew and guests danced along. These were great! We were so tired at the end of each day so we usually turned in by 10:30. Just felt worn out.
We attended the Q&A with staff, I never miss these. But it was not what I expected at all, the only staff there was Donkey the cruise director and someone from the theater shows. I’m used to seeing a slide show of cool stuff like engine rooms, staff quarters, kitchen, behind the scenes areas. I like hearing the stats of the ship and how much food they go through, etc… I like the geeky stuff J There was none of this, in fact he said don’t ask technical questions he doesn’t know the answers. So the questions mostly asked about Donkeys life and the schedules of him and the theater person. Not what I wanted at all.
We liked the comedy shows, we mostly attended the PG shows with my daughter and one adult show, Punchliner theater was a lot of fun. My daughter loved the Lip Synch contest at the pool, then the winners performed at the end of the cruise, it was the best show in her opinion.
Amber Cove: It was a hot day so we decided to hang out in the Carnival port area, got an umbrella and hit the waterslides and pool. It was a nice relaxing day.
St.Thomas: Our private ½ day charter fell through the night before so we just booked the Carnival snorkel tour (Fast Cat) to see the turtles and Honeymoon Beach. We never do ship excursions but we were stuck. It was very crowded (129 people) as expected but it turned out to be nice and we saw 4 turtles! And they served rum punch after snorkeling.
San Juan: Took the trolley to the fort then walked back and hit Fortaleza street, saw the umbrellas and pigeon park, got some Sangria and went to the Chocobar for some real coffee and churros with chocolate sauce. We bought some chocolate to take home. We really liked San Juan, so colorful and quaint and safe. We had some rain on and off here.
Grand Turk: We booked a snorkel tour through Exclusive Escapes. There were about 10 of us on the boat and it was really nice after the weather cleared up. Saw the drop off and a nice variety of fish. The water was so clear and blue here. We stopped at Margaritaville (eh not our thing) and went to the shops. Next time we would probably go down to Jacks Shack, we didn’t have time.
We had a 12:30pm flight so we did early disembark. It was very smooth and quick. Customs was fast and on to the airport via Cortrans shuttle.
We had a good cruise overall, came in with lower expectations and it exceeded. So would we travel with Carnival again? We concluded that if the price was good with the right itinerary we would. Though NCL and Royal are still our top picks due to a few of those things that really bugged us (lines and buffet). Bon Voyage!