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Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Carnival Breeze Southern Caribbean - Glad I Did + Wish I Did

Glad I Did Wish I Did

This is my personal reflection on decisions that I am happy I made and things that I wish I had done differently on my March 15, 2014 sailing on the Carnival Breeze 8-Day Southern Caribbean cruise out of Miami.  Please note that these are my own opinions, and I am in no way affiliated with any cruise line.  I also understand that every person on each ship sailing has a completely different experience, as well as values for what makes a good cruise vacation.

Glad I Did / Glad I Did Not

I'm glad that I did not buy Faster to the Fun.  Faster to the Fun is a package that Carnival sells for $50 per cabin.  You can purchase it online where you buy excursions, and note that although it is listed as $50 per person, only one person per cabin needs to purchase in order to get everyone in your cabin the benefits.  Benefits include priority check-in and express boarding on embarkation day (after VIFP Club Platinum & Diamond members), stateroom ready as soon as you board, express luggage to your room on embarkation day, express guest services (dedicated phone number and line), priority main dining room and specialty dining reservations, tender priority (at tender ports), debarkation priority.  There is limited FTTF availability, and we didn't book the cruise soon enough to be able to purchase the package.  However, I saw little benefit for our cruise.  It actually turned out that priority boarding was delayed for our cruise, and I heard reports from other people that the standard line was actually moving quicker.  None of our ports were tender ports, so there was no advantage there.  We didn't eat at a specialty restaurant (but they sent me an invitation to my room for Fahrenheit 555 with a reservation, anyway).  And our assigned debarkation time was fine for us.  If we wanted to leave later, we could have just left later.  Faster to the Fun just isn't something that I think we needed or would have really benefited from for this sailing.

I'm glad that I booked certified scuba in Grand Turk.  I was a little nervous to do so since we had just gotten certified, but the experience was excellent.  Oasis Divers is a very professional company, and we felt very comfortable diving.  The visibility underwater was excellent, and it was so much better than diving in a lake.

I'm glad that I booked the Dune Buggy excursion in La Romana.  This was actually thanks to Max.  He really had to do some convincing to get me to agree.  I wasn't interested because I thought it would be slow and boring.  However, past cruisers' reviews said otherwise, and they turned out to be accurate.  The dune buggies were actually fast, especially after we moved to the end of the pack.  We did follow-the-leader the entire time, but we got to do some off-roading, and Max made sure that we got plenty muddy.  The staff was friendly and professional, and we had an excellent time.

I'm glad that I upgraded to an ocean view stateroom.  Our free cabin promotion allowed us a free interior cabin, with an option to upgrade to an ocean view for $40 per person ($80 per person balcony upgrade was sold out for our sailing).  Upgrading was really a no-brainer for me.  $40 per person is a steal for a balcony stateroom, and while I wish I had booked early enough to get the balcony upgrade, I was very glad that our ocean view upgrade actually got us a deluxe ocean view stateroom with split baths.  I think the ocean view cabin was actually larger than the balcony upgrade cabin would have been.

Wish I Did / Wish I Did Not

I wish that I did not purchase the "Bottomless Bubbles" soda package.  Max and I both purchased the "Bottomless Bubbles" soda package because we are Diet Coke drinkers.  We were not happy with the quality of soda that we received through the package.  The bartenders served room temperature cans (warm if outside) and poured them over ice by flipping the can entirely upside down.  Therefore, the sodas were warm and had lost almost all carbonation when we received them.  The cost is $6 per day (canned soda purchased without the package is approximately $2), so if you drink three sodas a day, then you should get your money back.  However, we did not feel that our purchase was worth it because the quality of Diet Coke was so poor.

I wish that I did not purchase the wine package.  Max and I purchased the basic 5 Wine Package for $131 on the first evening of the cruise, thinking that we could easily drink 5 bottles over the course of 8 evenings.  However, we ended up not drinking the next two or three nights.  Then Max didn't like a bottle that I had selected (oops).  And we also ended up not finishing a bottle and corking it one night, leaving us with the remainder of that bottle and a new bottle on the final night.  We took the final bottle to our room after dinner and ended up not finishing it.  In addition to having too much wine (I never thought that would be a problem!), we didn't think it was that great of a value and weren't exactly crazy about the selection.  The basic 5 Wine Package is about $26 per bottle.  Most of the bottles on the list are $26, and I believe the most expensive on the basic list is $30.... so you really aren't saving much, if any, money by purchasing the package.  Rather, it's making you think that you're receiving a good deal so that you pre-purchase your wine.  Not only that, but the mark-up on the wine is ridiculous.  The basic package included Barefoot wine which I could purchase at the grocery store for $12 per liter.... but it's $26 for 750 ml on the ship.  I think we would have been better off just purchasing a bottle of wine as we liked, rather than purchasing the package.

I wish that I carried on a 12-pack of Diet Coke.  If I had known that the Bottomless Bubbles package totally stunk, then maybe I would have thought it worth the hassle to bring on a 12-pack of Diet Coke.  In the past, I had always looked at others doing this and thought it looked like a lot of effort for little savings.  Not to mention, I like being able to order soda at the bar or at dinner.  But I dread carrying a 12-pack of soda in from my car to my kitchen, so I couldn't imagine carrying it through security onto a cruise ship.  What I forgot was that I had my wonderful boyfriend with me who would have gladly and effortlessly carried a 12-pack onto the ship if it meant that we got to enjoy carbonated Diet Coke.

Next: Carnival Breeze Cruise Rating and Conclusion

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