Thursday, April 3, 2014

2014 Carnival Breeze Southern Caribbean Cruise - Day 1 - Embarkation

Saturday, March 15, 2014 - Embarkation 

I woke up that morning as the sun was rising and decided to take the opportunity to get a few more long exposures from our balcony.

Miami



Conrad Miami

We noticed later that we could see the bow of the Norwegian Getaway.

Miami

We got ready and went downstairs for our complimentary breakfast as Diamond members.... or Diamond member guests, at least. The breakfast buffet was wonderful - definitely the best hotel breakfast I've ever had. Mainly because if I ever eat a hotel breakfast, it's probably free, and it usually sucks.

I actually didn't bring my D7100 to breakfast because I thought it might be a little embarrassing, but I couldn't resist an iPhone photo...

Breakfast

We were finishing up our breakfast when the check came. Opened it up.... $60 for the two of us. It was a good hotel breakfast, but it wasn't that good. Max decided that he was going to take the bill to the front desk to see what we were supposed to do about it.

Yeah, we were obviously new to this.

It turns out that the breakfast was complimentary for Diamond members, but they gave us a bill so that we could tip because the tip wasn't included. So our breakfast was covered, we just needed to tip extra. Phewww!

The guy at the front desk must have gotten a real kick out of us.

Conrad Miami

We finished packing and said good-bye to our fabulous room.

Miami

Here we come, Carnival Breeze!

Miami

We were driving on this bridge, and I was taking this photo when the cab that was in front of us (in the previous photo) had its hood fly open. It was crazy. And I wasn't able to get a photo of it.

Port of Miami

Hello, cruise ships!

Port of Miami

The Port of Miami is much different than Port Canaveral and Port Everglades. There aren't any security checkpoints before going in, which is a little concerning. So we were really just trying to follow the signs to see where to go, but the Carnival Breeze wasn't on any signs. We drove to the Norwegian Epic and asked a traffic officer there who sent us on to Terminal D.

Carnival Breeze

Now this ship looks like fun.....

Norwegian Getaway

Max had asked me to please stop messing with my camera and help him read the signs. But of course, I was paying too much attention to my camera and too little to the signage that I caught the sign to Terminal D too late. "I thought we were going to park?" "We have to drop off our bags first!" "Why can't we just carry our bags?" "Because we have too many to carry! They are too heavy!" "They're on wheels!" "No, Max, just circle back around." "I'm parking." "No! You'll regret it! Circle back around!" "Why can't we just carry them?" And then the truth comes out.... "Because I don't want to get all sweaty!"

It turns out that circling back around was no big deal. The porter unloaded our bags and we headed to park. "Wait - we just gave him our bags. How does he know where they go?" "I put bag tags on them. They'll bring them to our room." "Oh, okay, you're really on top of this." I mean... every once in a while.

The parking garage was packed out. The only place we could find a spot was on the top level. We arrived at the port around 11:30 which I thought was rather early considering Carnival sent us an email asking us to not arrive until 1:00 PM. I wonder what the people who couldn't find a place in the parking garage did....

Carnival Breeze

Port of Miami

Norwegian Getaway

We did not get Faster To The Fun because by the time I realized what "FTTF" meant, it was already sold out. I wasn't really bummed because we didn't have any tender ports, and I've never really had any problems with embarkation.

Carnival's embarkation is a little different than what I'm used to. We first entered a line and got to these little temporary carts where our passports were scanned. We were told that we'd complete our check-in and get our keys after we went through security.

Security was possibly the quickest part.

The check-in line wasn't too bad, though. We were told that our rooms would be ready at 12:30, but it was 12:15 when we finished taking our embarkation picture. So the entire process of embarkation (crazed parking and luggage argument included) was approximately 45 minutes. Not too bad. I didn't feel like I missed out at all not having Faster to the Fun.

FINALLY! We made it! (Almost)

Embarkation Photo

Also, this was the only photo I bought, and it was a very last-minute decision. I never even bothered looking for our other photos.

We entered the ship in the atrium, and I was a little surprised to see that the bar was already surrounded by people trying to get drinks! It was rather chaotic. We decided to head on to our room since it was almost 12:30. The cabin stewards were in the halls scurrying to get everything ready, and I felt a bit obtrusive. When we found our room, the door was propped open, and I expressed my concern to Max that it might not be ready. He was ready to ditch the bags, though. We asked one of the cabin stewards in the hall if it was okay for us to enter, and she said that it was fine and un-propped the door for us.

Breeze Cabin 2447

Max is rather accustomed to my photo reviews, now. He knows not to run and jump on the bed as soon as he gets in the room...... naturally, he opted to sit in the window.

Breeze Cabin 2447

My first impression was that the room was really bland. Perhaps I was too adjusted to the more contemporary and plush rooms on the Royal Princess and Norwegian Epic. The decor on the Breeze is very plain and basic. I was no fan of the brown pleather they used on the couch, but I did have a good idea of what our room would look like already (and already knew that I would not like the couch) from other CCer's photo reviews.

What we did have was outstanding storage space. We had four closets, and between the two of us, we only used three (hanging space for each of us and we shared the closet with the shelves). There was a spot for everything, and we even had leftover storage. I believe this is the cleanest I have ever kept a stateroom, and I give credit to the fabulous amount of storage. And perhaps Max is just easier to pick up after than Rachel....

Breeze Cabin 2447

Breeze Cabin 2447

It was a spacious cabin and I believe larger in square footage than our deluxe balcony cabin on the Royal Princess.

And the other wonderful (yet completely unnecessary for two people) thing about our cabin was that we had split bathrooms - with two showers! Yes, Max and I each had our own shower! It didn't make that much of a difference for us because Max doesn't take as long as me to get ready, so being able to shower at the same time and each have our own sink didn't really speed up our preparation time. However, this would be a wonderful thing to have when sharing a room with my sister, and it would also be really helpful for families with children because not only are there two bathrooms, but one bathroom has a bathtub.

Breeze Cabin 2447

I took the bathroom with the tub.

Breeze Cabin 2447

And the other bathroom had the typical cruise ship shower with a toilet and larger vanity.

Breeze Cabin 2447

Breeze Cabin 2447

Breeze Cabin 2447

Breeze Cabin 2447

I do like Carnival's graphics. I think they are doing a great job with their branding.

Breeze Cabin 2447

Overall, I really enjoyed our room. We had a great amount of space and storage - honestly more than we needed for the two of us, but having more is never a bad thing... I think this would be a great room for families and that you could comfortably fit a child or two in this room. There was no pullman bunk, so I'm wondering if the room has a maximum capacity of three or if the sofa converts into a double bed.

By the end of the week, I was no longer turned off by the lack of sleek, plush decor. The room was very comfortable and works well for a cruise vacation. (But the brown pleather couch.... still not a fan!)

After settling into our cabin, we went to the Lido deck to get lunch. Boy, was it a madhouse up there! The lines were ridiculously long and people were still toting around extra baggage. Max got in line for pizza while I went to the bar to try to purchase the soda package.

The bar at the aft pool was ridiculously understaffed. There were two bartenders working there, and it was swamped. Not to mention, they weren't paying much attention as to who arrived when, so you had to be really aggressive if you wanted service. I was not aggressive enough. In the time that I sat down, three men came and were served before me. After guy three (and his wife and three children) passed me, I had had enough. I left the bar and rejoined Max in the pizza line which hadn't moved at all.

I was at my breaking point and complaining to Max that the bar was understaffed and it was too crowded and I really hoped that it wouldn't be like this all week. The woman in front of me turned and told me that it would all calm down because everyone would get drunk and then be passed out or hungover in the morning. Well, that's reassuring!

Finally, they started cranking out pizzas and Max and I were able to sit down and enjoy our lunch.

Max asked me what I wanted to do after lunch, and I suggested that we explore the ship.

Carnival Breeze

It's funny... we first found ourselves in the arcade which we thought we could walk through, but it turned out to be a dead end.

Carnival Breeze

Here is the teen club -

Carnival Breeze

The Ovation Theater -

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze

I do like the set-up of Carnival's theaters with the benches and tables. And I think their multi-level theater with two floors of entry works much better than the single entry-level theaters on Princess ships.

The atrium bar was still very crowded, but it had definitely calmed down since we boarded. Perhaps more people were finding the way to their staterooms.

Carnival Breeze

Breeze Atrium

Breeze Atrium

One thing I love about this ship is the wrap-around outdoor deck with seating and cantilevered hot tubs on deck 5 (my dad's favorite thing about the Carnival Dream was the cantilevered hot tubs, and to this day, he still mentions how he really liked the hot tubs on the Dream).

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze

I would say that Bonsai Sushi was my favorite part of the ship in the way of overall design.

Bonsai Sushi

I also really enjoyed the tropical theme and overall atmosphere of the RedFrog Pub.

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze

Max really liked the Liquid Nightclub.

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze

They also have a few cages for dancing in..... thought I should point that out just in case someone's fun time includes cage dancing - there is something for you! Fun for All and All for Fun!!!

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze

Liquid Nightclub also opens up to the wrap-around deck, and there is seating outside.

Carnival Breeze

Piano Bar

The piano bar was packed out every night. Everyone must have been drunk because the pianist was a terrible vocalist. Seriously... Max and I found it excruciatingly painful to listen to.

Piano Bar

Max really thought that the high-top bench seating not only in the piano bar but also in the buffet and Limelight Lounge was really cool.

And the Limelight Lounge -

Limelight Lounge

We decided to purchase the soda package in the casino bar which was open. It was still surprisingly busy and understaffed. We sat down at tables waiting to be served... and then I realized that there was only one bartender working and had to go up to the bar. The soda package is called "Bottomless Bubbles" which I find to be a ridiculously silly name. I'm all about cute and creative naming, but there comes a time when cute can become confusing and things should just be named for what they are. If you told me that you purchased the Bottomless Bubbles package, I might think that included soap and a rubber ducky. (Perhaps I should also note that I hate it when restaurants give their food items ridiculously stupid names because I feel like an idiot ordering a "Joey Bag of Donuts" or a "Homewrecker"... just give me a burrito!!) I suppose they felt the need to distinguish between their two drink packages after they added the alcohol package (called Cheers! which is not nearly as content-confusing or embarrassing to order), but a name like "Bottomless Bubbles" makes me think endless champagne rather than soda. I digress...

When I ordered this absurdly named soda package, I remembered having read that Carnival uses cans rather than fountains to fill the soda. What I did not know is that Carnival takes room temperature cans - some already open and have been sitting there for who knows how long - and pours them over ice. And it's not a pour that a normal person would take with the care of trying to retain as much carbonation... or bubbles... in the soda as possible. No - the bartenders flip the can completely upside down in attempt to fill the glass as quickly as possible. Max and I are Diet Coke Divas. And we were not happy. Perhaps I am only bitter about the name "Bottomless Bubbles" because our Diet Cokes CONTAINED NO BUBBLES!!!!

Note: I am a Diet Coke addict. As is my boyfriend. As is my roommate. Ask anyone I know, and they can tell you - don't mess with Victoria's Diet Coke.

Max's first cruise was the Norwegian Epic in the Mediterranean. Mediterranean cruises are quite different from Caribbean cruises in that guests can embark and disembark in several different ports. Since we embarked in Civitavecchia (most embarked in Barcelona), our muster was quite relaxed and just the 40 or so of us who had embarked that day met in the theater where we were told what to do in an emergency and then they showed us a slideshow presentation about everything the ship had to offer.

I was a little disappointed that Max still didn't get to experience a "true" muster with life jackets. Will he ever? Most cruise lines seem to be doing away with that. Princess had us bring our life jackets to muster where we met in indoor venues, but the last time I remember lining up at our muster stations outside of the lifeboats was on the Monarch of the Seas in 2012.... and we didn't even have our life jackets with us at the time.

Max and I mustered in the Blush dining room which was one floor above us and also where we were assigned to dinner. I was shocked that there was absolutely no check-in of any sort. At no time during the drill did they take our names or our folio numbers or our stateroom numbers. They never scanned our cards or checked us off of a list. All they did was put the appropriately labeled wristbands on the children that attended. This would be a very easy drill for passengers to skip out on because we were never accounted for, and there was no mandatory make-up. They even made an announcement as most of us were gathered in the dining room - "To the passengers on the pool deck, in the hot tubs, and on your balconies... come to muster. We can see you!" Ummm.... why are you making an announcement over the loudspeaker? Carnival should have crew members clearing these areas, and they should be taking note of who is there and enforcing a make-up muster. Safety is something that I value greatly, and I am absolutely shocked that with the number of incidents that Carnival Cruise Line and Carnival Corp have had in the past two years that they aren't enforcing muster.

Now off my safety soapbox and on to the sail away party...

Adios, Miami!

Miami is a beautiful port to sail out of. Definitely a gorgeous skyline.

Adios, Miami!

Adios, Miami!

Adios, Miami!

Adios, Miami!

I got my sail away drink from Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, and Max went over to Red Frog Rum Bar. The service and number of bartenders at the bar was definitely improved for the sail away party.

Adios, Miami!

The party is cutely named, "Adios, Miami.... Hello, Fun!"

Adios, Miami!

Adios, Miami!

Adios, Miami!

Adios, Miami!

Adios, Miami!

The pool deck was packed with party people. This is the best attended sail away party I've been to lately.

Adios, Miami!

Adios, Miami!

The entertainment crew (in the red polos) on the Carnival Breeze is great. They are all really energetic and encourage people to get involved.

Adios, Miami!

After watching Miami Vices be beautifully constructed in glasses split red/white all the way down earlier that day at the aft pool bar (yes, while I was attempting to purchase the Coke package), I had to order one. I was disappointed that mine was not crafted with precision and instead red poured over white.

Adios, Miami!

Max discovered Guy's Burgers and had to give one a try. He wasn't a huge fan of the fries, but the burger was delicious.... though lacking a bit in presentation.

For dinner, we had the second seating at 8:15 PM in the Blush dining room (it was our only option, as early seating and anytime were unavailable when we booked). I found this to be the more attractive dining room as it had more elegant chandeliers and the beautiful aft view. Unfortunately, we were in a seating situation very similar to that on my recent Royal Princess sailing. Our table was 502 which was a table for two and shoved in the corner by the emergency exit door and on the other wall of a work station. The tables blocking us into this corner were occupied by a large family or traveling group of some sort.... they all knew each other and spoke loudly across tables. When they weren't in the dining room (we were rather glad that this family missed a few nights), we had the joy of listening to the constant buzz of the automatic revolving door.

This was my view...

Dinner

Guess I can't complain too much.

The first night, I was worried about the service for the rest of the week. We didn't get the normal introduction of head waiter or assistant waiter. He just came and took our order. Throughout the first night, I believe we were only attended to by our head waiter, and I could tell that he was strewn very thin across tables because our interactions were very brief. Max and I started making plans to perhaps eat sushi one night or try out the steakhouse.

We did delay our meal a bit by ordering the wine package. We got the minimum package, which I don't think is that great of a deal. Looking back, we probably would have done just as well just ordering a bottle as we wished. However, I do find it incredibly painful to purchase a 750-ml bottle for $26 when you can purchase a liter of the same wine for $10 at the grocery store. So my brand to avoid this week was Yellowtail (on the Princess cruise, it was Woodbridge), though I'm sure the other wines were just as poor of a value. Experience, Victoria... you're buying experience.

Dinner

Max picked this Pinot Grigio and loved it. We ordered it twice that week. I'll be sure to look for it at Total Wine & More.

For a starter, I chose the fruit sampler offered on the everyday menu.

Dinner

Max had some sort of shrimp cocktail.

Dinner

We had the same entree...

Dinner

Though Max requested two macaronis -

Dinner

And he also ordered the jumbo shrimp. This is on the everyday menu, as well. He ordered it a couple of times throughout the week.

Dinner

Max went for the chocolate melting cake -

Dinner

And I had some sort of chocolate cake with ice cream filling...

Dinner

I wish I recall the name, because it was the best dessert I had all week.

After dinner, we went to the adult comedy show at the Punchliner Comedy Club (Limelight Lounge). It was standing room only... these shows are incredibly popular. This night was a preview of the two comedians they had on board for the first part of the week, Just June and Tom Foss. We weren't fans of Just June - both found her to be vulgar rather than funny. Her humor just didn't really apply to us. Max thought Tom Foss was hilarious. I thought he was just okay at the preview show.

Punchliner Comedy Club

We then headed to Liquid Nightclub. It was the electric white night, so they were passing out glow bracelets. Max really enjoyed the venue and the drinks menu. It was a fun atmosphere..... our only complaint is DJ JonCarlos. He stinks. I don't know why he was ever hired or how he is maintaining his job.

Max is the music guru, so I'm going to share his opinion on the matter:

I wanted to like him. He looked like he was going to be a good DJ, and he might start out with a great song. And then he'd kill it. Not only was he terrible at blending songs and leading one into another, but he would play a popular song that would get everyone onto the dance floor, and then he would kill the vibe by playing some crappy slow song or a song that no one knew. He didn't understand how to create a mood and maintain it, and I don't think he was up-to-date on what songs are popular right now and what songs people like to dance to.

Liquid Nightclub

Also, I should mention that it was that night that Max discovered the wonders of room service. I was long asleep, but he was flipping through the television and decided to check out the room service menu. He saw the prices were "No Charge" and decided to order a grilled cheese to the room. A grilled cheese which was amazing, he said.

NEXT: Fun Day at Sea