OVERALL: This was our seventh cruise with Carnival, our first on the Breeze. We try to take Christmas cruises, but this year couldn't make the schedule work so we chose an early December departure from Port Canaveral. We were not disappointed. For the most part, our fellow passengers were much more polite and well-behaved than those we normally encounter on Christmas cruises. This was perhaps a function of far fewer unsupervised children running wild while their parents are busy drinking. The Breeze itself appeared cleaner and better maintained than other Carnival ships we have sailed on, and the cleanliness continued throughout the seven day trip. Our Deck 8 balcony cabin was quite nice and was more spacious than similar cabins we have booked. The ship also felt less crowded than other similar Carnival ships. The activities were well-planned and it was rare that we did not have anything to do while aboard. The Carnival Hub app was a great benefit in that it provided an updated agenda of everything that was going on, as well as dinner menus. The app also allowed members of our party (four of us in adjoining cabins) to message each other while aboard. This app should be included in the cruise fare, but until it is, it is well worth the $5/device fee. Food quality and selection in the Sapphire Dining Room was always good, and with the exception of one night (we used the anytime dining plan), the wait staff was exceptional. The ship staff that we interacted with were always pleasant and helpful, although the Shore Excursions staff could not (or would not?) provide a simple walking map of Old San Juan. We had two unplanned delays due to medical evacuations, but these were managed exceedingly well and did not impact the trip. Cigarette smoke from the casino and the designated smoking areas continue to be a real problem on Carnival ships, including the Breeze. We would plan our routes around the ship to stay as far away from these areas as possible, but the stench is always around. With respect to production shows, we have seen them all on previous Carnival cruises, so we only attended one this time, 88 Keys. This was an entertaining show with energetic performers. We also attended several PG-13 comedy shows at the Punchliner, which were also of good quality.
EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION: We purchased Faster to the Fun and had no wait time whatsoever when boarding, the overall process taking about 20 minutes from our arrival at the Port Canaveral parking garage. Debarkation with FTF is also much quicker than standard, although be prepared to be crammed into waiting areas with many others with little space to place luggage. Also, in our experience Carnival staff do not do well in informing/directing passengers where to go and what to do during preparation for debarkation. This was true for the Breeze as well as each of the other Carnival ships we have sailed on. More staff and signs/posting of directions should be used during this process.
ITINERARY AND EXCURSIONS: The Eastern Caribbean itinerary of Amber Cove/St. Thomas/San Juan/Grand Turk is fairly typical. The weather was perfect for a December getaway from Tennessee. At Amber Cove, we did a private driving tour of selected locations around Puerta Plata, which included the usual tourist stops. Our tour guide, Stefan, originally from Belgium but living in the Dominican Republic for over twenty years, provided an interesting perspective of the local culture. In St. Thomas, we did a beach trip to Sapphire Beach. The beach area was quite crowded, but the water was beautiful. This was our second visit to San Juan, so we chose to explore the old city on our own, on foot. We were able to locate a walking map at the pier, and really enjoyed wandering around at our own pace. The history is fascinating, and the old forts and walls are not to be missed. We had lunch at a small restaurant named Rustic Pizza and would highly recommend it. In Grand Turk, we tried an excursion called Home Sweet Home. Essentially, were shared a large beach home with about 15-20 other guests on an uncrowded beach. A really good lunch was included, as were bar drinks.