I’ve just returned from a taste of fun at sea Carnival Cruise Lines’ fashion on board new ship Carnival Breeze.
And I’ve decided to re-name this floating fun palace as Carnival Blast – because that’s the experience you will get from the moment you step on board. Take it from me, on this 14-deck monster there’s no place for the faint-hearted.
I was fortunate enough to be on board as the ship made its debut in the Mediterranean this summer before transferring to sail in the Caribbean this winter.
While I’m told the $740 million Breeze is not quite as ‘in your face’ as its sisters Dream and Magic, the emphasis on FUN hits you as soon as you get on board.
As an example, in the main atrium, where UK ships may have a string quartet playing discreetly in the background, on Breeze, there’s a DJ spinning discs situated directly above one of the multiple bars. After the finale of the evening Motown tribute show in the main theatre, the cast led willing passengers into the atrium dance floor where a live band further stoked up the party atmosphere – and that was just the first night of the cruise.
The lively outdoor hub of Breeze is the beach pool, overlooked by a giant ‘Dive-in’ movie screen, complete with iconic Jimmy Buffet on tap from the sound system creating a Margaritaville-style good time Florida Keys vibe – a great accompaniment to lunch in the sun at Guy’s Burger Joint inspired by US Food Network personality Guy Fieri.
The similarly complimentary Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ specialises in succulent pulled pork, which I imagine would not be out of place in many a backyard in the southern states.
Close to heaven
This to me was about as close to heaven I could get without actually flying to the US.
Before an authentic Mexican snack of tacos at the Blueiguana Cantina, I searched out the Caribbean-styled Red Frog pub on deck 5 for a pint of Thirstyfrog Red and was mildly disappointed to discover that it isn’t brewed on board and that bore a weird resemblance to Watneys Red Barrel I distantly recall glugging out of giant party seven cans at parties in my youth.
No matter, the Caribbean vibe had taken me over, as had the great bar staff and the special four-person swing seat out on the Red Frog’s deck area. And there’s no shortage of chilled beers from Barbados, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico to keep me happy.
On the top deck, just removed from the splash-tastic waterpark complete with drenching bucket and sky high water slides, is the extensive adult-only Serenity chill out zone, complete with whirlpool baths, private cabanas and a bar. On such a high octane ship, it’s perfect to be able to discover a hideaway to relax and take in the sea air. And, unlike other mega ships, there is no extra charge for use of this area, which I suspect after a few days will become the most sought after haven on board.
Tides Pool at the rear of Breeze – I can tell you this is where it does get breezy when at sea – puts equivalent UK ships to shame thanks to the vast space, ample sun loungers and a family-friendly swimming pool ideal for children to splash around in.
The slight oddity was the juxtaposition of the Indian Tandoori adjacent to the pool area as part of the admittedly impressive main casual Lido Marketplace dining complex complete with freshly cooked Asian dishes from the hugely popular Mongolian Wok. Pizza Pirate seemed more in place on deck where the best looking fungi, pepperoni, prosciutto, quattro formaggi and marherita are served up until 4am.
Charges apply to speciality steak and Italian restaurants and a sushi bar but the two main dining rooms serve good quality dinners with daily specials, so you do not feel obliged to have to pay extra and instead can consider the speciality dining for special occasions.
A sky high ropes course surrounds the sports area where there’s minigolf, a basketball/football court and various pieces of outdoor gym equipment.
I found the treatments to be pricey in the impressive two-deck Cloud 9 spa, directly connected to a series of spa cabins and Serenity. But the gym was full of state of the art kit to help fight the extra flab and I enjoyed the ability to be able to jog around the promenade deck before breakfast.
Brits blown away
The passenger mix on board the second ever cruise by the 4,724-passenger, 130,000-ton ship appeared to be predominantly American with a healthy mix of Brits, Spanish and a large contingent of Russians. All ages were represented, with families seemingly unfazed about taking children out of school during term time.
The Club 02 teen club wouldn’t be out of place in London’s West End with its disco floor, big screens, bar (non-alcoholic) and numerous areas to hang out. Direct access to the games arcade is no doubt intentional. Circle ‘C’ next door for 12 to 14 year olds is smaller yet just as funky with Wii and PlayStation games and teen karaoke. Further up on deck 11 is where the vast Camp Carnival is located for children aged between 2 and 11 complete with access to the Seaside Theatre pool area, one deck below.
I’ve found American ships becoming more like floating cash tills, with seemingly every extra being charged for. It was therefore refreshing to discover that there are plenty of quality complimentary options on Breeze for breakfast, lunch and dinner together with free ice cream vending machines which the children loved.
I was also impressed with staff in red shirts with ‘Just Ask’ emblazoned on the front to act as handy ship-board guides as it takes a few days to get accustomed to the layout of the vast ship.
Bar prices were not unreasonable – $4.95 dollars for a bottled beer although obligatory frozen cocktails and mojitos cost up to $8.75 – while soft drinks are priced at $1.95 and bottled water at $3.95 for 1.5 litres. Also, smoking is allowed in the sports bar adjoining the casino.
I was only on ultra-casual Breeze for three nights from Barcelona as part of a cruise where other media and 90 UK travel agents were invited to sample the ship.
The acid test for me is whether I would splash out on a full cruise on the new Carnival flagship. Based on my brief experience where, admittedly, I struggled to experience everything on board, it would have to be a resounding ‘yes’ as I can guarantee not being able to lure my two children off the multiple waterslides let alone the pools. And the Brits I talked to on board were similarly blown away by the Breeze.
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