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The Family Circus at Sea - a BREEZE BC6 pictorial review - 1/19/13

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The Family Circus at Sea – a BREEZE photo review!

January 19-27, 2013

 

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Welcome to my Carnival Breeze review! Be prepared—this might take awhile! Here are a few things before we get started…

 

1. We booked this cruise way back in January 2012, before it ever became the John Heald’s Bloggers Cruise (BC6). Had I known in advance it would be BC6, we probably would have chosen a different sailing. I don’t want to spoil anything in the review, so I promise to cover how I felt about it after the cruise, but I was not looking forward to having a huge group onboard during “our” sailing.

 

2. We were traveling in a group of 14 (four families). We are in our late 20s/early 30s, and most of us attended college together at the University of Oklahoma just about a decade ago. We decided a cruise would be a fun little reunion and allow us to meet each other’s spouses and let our kids run wild play together.

 

3. We were in Cloud 9 Spa Oceanview Cabin #11203, and some of our friends were next door in #11201. I know these cabins are highly-requested for photos and reviews, so stay tuned—there will be plenty to read and see about them. (Quick preview: They are HUGE!)

 

4. We had four toddlers age 2 and under in our little group. Only one of the kids had actually hit her second birthday by sailing, so she was the only one able to participate in Camp Carnival. Unfortunately, this was not my kid, so I don’t have much to say about the actual kids’ programs. What I will cover, however, is how to survive a cruise with the under-2 set. :)

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Pre-Cruise/Planning

 

I sort of took the lead on organizing all of our shenanigans, and last January, we all decided we wanted to go on a cruise together. We narrowed down our choices to a handful of cruises, then narrowed down once more to this Carnival Breeze sailing, and a Disney sailing out of Galveston. Ultimately, we went with Carnival, mostly because of price and itinerary. One of the port stops on the Disney cruise was only 3 hours long – barely enough time to get off the ship! All that said, I was kind of kicking myself for not choosing Disney or one of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, simply because of all the “stuff” to do onboard with the kiddos. By the time I had those thoughts, however, it was too late to cancel (and it would have been dumb/impossible to change things up with such a large group of friends sailing), so I stuck it out and hoped for the best. I knew that no matter what ship/line we were on, we would have a good time simply seeing our friends and spending time together.

 

Each family booked individually—some with travel agents; some direct with Carnival—and then one of the ladies in our group (thank you, Jessie!) was kind enough to call Carnival and link all of our reservations together for dining purposes. It was a pretty seamless process—we had booked early enough that we were all able to request (and receive) the 6:00 pm assigned dining time.

 

Otherwise, we basically just planned our own things in the ports. I’m a travel research junkie, so as I found a fun-sounding excursion or information, I shared with the group. I think it worked out well, because we were able to share our port adventures with various members of our motley crew. :)

 

Okay, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, because here we go!

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Thursday, January 17 – Getting to Florida

 

Our little group was scattered all across the country. Before I go too much further and confuse everyone with names and who’s who, here is a breakdown of our motley crew:

 

- Myself and DH (Jimmie and Aaron), plus our 22-month-old daughter, Zoey. We live in North Dakota.

- Minnesota Friends: Kristen, Michael, and their 2-year-old daughter, Sarah.

- Oklahoma Friends: Liz and Jeff.

- Texas Friends: Jessie, Chad, and their 23-month-old twins, Brady and Chloe. Also traveling with the Texas crew were Kathy and Phyllis from Virginia, who are the grandmother and great-aunt of the twins.

 

Fortunately, we were blessed with clear weather that day, as we made the 5-hour trek down to the twin cities to meet our Minnesota friends there. We were flying together on Spirit Airlines, with a direct flight to Fort Lauderdale, but the only catch was that the flight left at 1:15 a.m. on Friday morning. Yes, you read that correctly—we flew with two squirrely toddlers at one o’clock in the morning.

 

We got to Minneapolis just about 5:00 p.m., and headed straight to the Mall of America to introduce the kiddo to Rainforest Café and browse the shops. After making the rounds at the mall and killing more time than we thought humanly possible playing at the Lego Store, we then made our way over to the Marriott TownePlace Suites in Eagan, where we had booked a reverse park-n-fly package through ParkSleepFly. We would be able to park our car there while we were gone, and then have a hotel stay on the back end of our trip since we had a late flight in after the cruise. It was a quite a bit cheaper than airport parking.

 

We arrived at the airport, checked in, and were through security before 10:00 p.m. Early, yes, but we had nothing else to do so we figured we might as well wait it out at the airport. Thank goodness for the indoor playground across from our gate! We met our Minnesota friends there, and the two girls kept each other entertained until we boarded. The flight itself was fine, but it was surprisingly not the quiet, peaceful, overnight flight we were expecting. Zoey slept the whole time, but the passengers in our area of the plane broke out the booze and got a little wild! It was like riding the party bus to Florida. Before we knew it, we landed in Ft. Lauderdale, 55 minutes early thanks to an early departure and a kick-a$$ tailwind. Nice!

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Friday, January 18 – Miami

 

After claiming our bags, we shuttled over to the Rental Car Center at the airport, where we had a minivan reserved with Alamo. After some frustration with getting the van to start and then getting two car seats installed while the two toddlers screamed, we were finally on the road. We piled into the Chrysler Town & Country, and were on our way at about 6:00 a.m. First stop: breakfast. We intended to eat at the Moonlite Diner in Hollywood, as this was my third cruise out of south Florida and I had hoped for it to be my third time eating there, all for tradition’s sake. Well, they were not open (what?!?), so we just went to the McDonald’s down the road. What should have been a quick, uneventful meal turned into disaster when Zoey banged her face on the table while getting into her high chair and ended up with a bloody nose. Cue freaking out, by both kiddo and mom. Fortunately, she was no worse for wear—not sure we can say the same about me, though!

 

We finally got put back together and headed south on I-95, towards our hotels. I was initially worried about hitting Miami rush-hour traffic on Friday morning, but the Sun Pass express lane to the MIA airport was fabulous! It took no time at all. We were staying at the Courtyard Miami Airport, and our Minnesota friends were staying at the Element by Westin Miami Airport. Although it was a bummer that we were not staying at the same place, they had Starwood points, we had Marriott points, and who can turn down a free hotel stay? Not I!

 

Our first stop was to drop our friends at the Element. Perhaps they can give you a better review since they actually stayed there, but our initial impressions were that it was soooo not the nice, eco-trendy hotel pictured on their website. We’re not sure if this was the case, but it seemed like they came in and renovated a much older hotel and tried to make it nice and new. Some of the changes turned out really well, and others looked like they ran out of money and/or time during completion. It was just…weird. We spent about an hour and a half there before trekking over to the Courtyard to see if our room was ready.

 

Our hotels were only a couple of miles apart, but due to a road closure on 25th Street where the Element is, we had to take a roundabout back way and tack on a few extra miles to get between the two properties. No big deal, though. We arrived at the Courtyard, and I pled my case with the lovely front desk employee and she hooked us up with a handicap-accessible room since it was all they had available that early in the day. Whew! We wanted to sleep. Of course…the almost-2-year-old traveling with us did not want to sleep. Dang. So, after a couple of hours of futile resistance, I threw in the towel and decided it was time to do some shopping to stock up on our necessary cruise supplies for the week.

 

I got in contact with Liz, our Oklahoma friend who was staying in the Marriott next door to us. We met up and went back to the Element to pick up Kristen, and off we went to the Target in mid-town Miami. Diapers and other sundries procured, we headed back towards the airport and to the Publix in the Airport Plaza shopping center, just a few miles away from the Marriott hotels. Traffic was gnarly in that area, and I wouldn’t recommend heading down that way unless absolutely necessary. The good thing to come of our little excursion to Publix was that we all got to enjoy those famous Publix sub sandwiches for lunch. Highly recommend the Cuban, and it made for a nice little lunch for hubby, kiddo, and I back in the hotel room when I returned.

 

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Picture of the Marriott Residence Inn and the Miami skyline. Photo stolen from my friend Liz. She took this from the Marriott. The Courtyard (where we stayed) was just to the left of this picture, and there was a Fairfield Inn just to the right of the Residence Inn. Highly recommend this complex of hotels for a pre-cruise stay in Miami!

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to rest at our hotel, and greeting our Texas friends when they arrived. They stayed at the Residence Inn next door. It was nice having most of our group within walking distance, as these hotels are literally right next to each other, inside the same gated complex. They also offer free 24-hour airport shuttles to MIA, and a Port of Miami cruise shuttle for $11/person (register upon hotel check-in).

 

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Zoey watching planes land at MIA from our hotel window at the Courtyard.

 

We ended the night by ordering California Pizza Kitchen for everyone. We ordered from the location in Coral Gables, which was SUPER easy to get to from the Marriott complex. The only problem was that there was no parking, so I had to circle the block nearly a dozen times while my friends ran in and picked up our order.

 

After eating, Chad and I made one last run to Publix (we found a better one in Coral Gables) to pick up diapers and such for the twins, returned the van at the Miami airport, then grabbed a cab back to the hotel. We all called it a night and looked forward to getting on the ship the next day!!

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Great start! Can't wait to hear what you have to say about the Breeze and the children. I have 4 grandchildren I would like to introduce to cruising.

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Saturday, January 19 – Embarkation Day!

 

Finally, after over a year of planning, the day was here – we were getting on the ship!!! We had a light breakfast at Starbucks in the Marriott lobby, then gathered all of our things to wait for the 11:15 a.m. shuttle to the Port of Miami. The hotels in the Marriott complex all contract with Prestige Transportation to provide port shuttle service. It is $11/person (lap children free), or included if you book their pre-cruise package.

 

The day was overcast and cool, but to us North Dakotans, it was heavenly! In fact, it was so pleasant out that we spent most of our time waiting outdoors on the Courtyard’s patio area, watching planes and hanging out with the Texas crew.

 

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Waiting on our hotel's patio for the cruise shuttle. Love what the humidity does to her hair!

 

At 11:00, we herded our luggage to the front of the hotel and looked for the white Prestige van, as instructed. It was rather chaotic out front, and I was starting to wonder how this was all going to go down. Fortunately, it was not bad at all. The crowd of people turned out to be one big family going to the airport, so once they left, it was not so bad. Right on schedule, a white Prestige van pulled around the circle drive…and then promptly drove off. Uhhh, what? We were kind of left standing there scratching our heads, and after a few minutes, Aaron and I were debating about whether we should go in and ask the hotel front desk if another shuttle was coming, or what…but, just as we were thinking about going inside, a Prestige mini-bus pulled in, and we were all set. It turned out to be just the three of us, plus two other ladies going to a Celebrity ship. Once we were all loaded up, we made a stop at the Residence Inn to pick up our Texas/Virginia friends, and then we were on our way! There was a separate Prestige shuttle that stopped at the Marriott for Liz and Jeff, and they had left just a few minutes before us.

 

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Is it time to go yet??

 

Originally, I had hoped to be on an earlier (10:00-ish) port shuttle, but 11:15 was the earliest available. I had visions of a crowded cruise terminal and lines galore, but I knew we would end up onboard the ship eventually—it just wasn’t ideal. We were even (somewhat jokingly) scheming on the bus ride to the port how we could hop into the VIP check-in line with our Texas friends, since they had a suite. Just about 20-25 minutes later, we pulled into the port facility. Seven ships were in port today, and traffic was cra-zy. We dropped off the Celebrity passengers, and then our driver pulled around in front of the Breeze. This was where I was so pleasantly surprised—not a crowd or a line in sight!!! We handed our luggage off to a helpful porter, and then went to the front of the building where we showed our boarding pass to enter. Once inside, we were directed to another agent for passport verification, and then we were sent through the metal detectors. Just like the airport, but they’re pretty much only looking for contraband booze or weapons. At this point, we entered the waiting area of the terminal, and I was shocked to find it completely empty. This meant they had already started boarding the ship, and we would be able to walk right onboard! Sweet!! We just had one more stop to pick up our Sail and Sign cards (room keys/onboard credit cards), and we were all set! We took the elevators up to the gangway since we had a stroller, avoiding the embarkation photo line, and just a few steps and a “ding” of our S&S cards later, we found ourselves in the Breeze atrium. Wahoo!

 

Just wanted to add a note here that I am also writing this for some friends who are not very familiar with cruising, so please forgive me for some of the explanations I go into. I know most of you here on CruiseCritic don't need the extra info, but maybe it will help a newbie or two!

 

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First glimpse of the ship!!

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Heading into the terminal, Jersey shore-style? haha

 

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Breeze atrium.

 

The embarkation staff told us that our cabins wouldn’t be ready until 1:30 p.m., so we hopped on an elevator up to Deck 11 with intentions of finding some lunch. Well, it just so happened that our cabin was also on Deck 11, so we decided to take a quick peek down our hallway in case it was ready a little early. (I think it was about 12:15-12:30 by this point?) Sure enough, it was, so we stopped to unpack our carry-ons and check out our new digs for the week.

 

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Edited by jimbug

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Okay, I have plenty more written and organized, but I will be away from the computer for a few hours, so look for more tonight! Thanks for reading, and I will be back to answer questions, as well!

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That room is HUGE!! And the window opens?

 

Unfortunately, the window does not open. But it's still a great room! My next entry will have all the details on it.

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I am a teacher in Minnesota and school was closed today due to extreme wind chills (-30 degrees!) :eek: A perfect day to read cruise reviews! Just wanted to tell you I am enjoying your review...but wanted to ask if you could make the font larger...pretty please? I read my reviews on my iPad and the small type is hard on my old eyes. :rolleyes:

 

We did a cruise this same week last year and I remember what a shock it was to come back to the cold. I'll bet you are really suffering with the frigid temps in North Dakota!

 

Looking forward to more of your review...

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We loved this room. It was a Cloud 9 Spa oceanview stateroom (#11203), which meant several things. One, the entire section of our floor (including those with balconies) was non-smoking, which was nice. Two, we got “priority” access to the spa and fitness center with a private elevator located just down the hall from our room. This allowed us to use the thalassotherapy pool and the thermal suites, and we also received free yoga/pilates classes, fancy robes for in-cabin use, and two free pairs of Cloud 9 slippers. The pool/thermal suite pass is sold to other guests at $149/week.

 

I think that was it…as cool as all of those benefits were, however, they were not the primary reason we booked the cabin. The main reason we chose it was because of its size. It was technically a handicapped-accessible cabin, and whether you agree with it or not, we all know Carnival's policy is that anyone can book the room. If they needed to move us to accommodate a handicapped guest, they would have to move us to an equal or better cabin. I was willing to take that risk – the only way to go was up, to a spa balcony or suite, so it would not have been a bad move if we were asked to do so. Fortunately, we got to keep the room, and with a toddler—the extra space came in really handy throughout the week. We did not have a balcony, and we did not really miss it this time. There was a “secret deck” just outside our cabin door, where we could look out over the front of the ship. It was very under-utilized by other passengers, so it was kind of like having a semi-private balcony.

 

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I wanted to add, about our room...it is well worth searching out the oddly-shaped, oddly-placed, and/or handicapped rooms if you are thinking about booking a cruise. If you check out deck plans, nearly every ship has some of these "weird" cabins...you just have to know where to look and how to book them! Because this room was oceanview (no balcony), it was quite inexpensive. Aaron and I have decided we'd rather have a cabin that is this size than have a balcony any day.

 

Our Minnesota friends were right next door in spa oceanview stateroom #11201. The Texas/Virginia crew were down on Deck 7 in a suite and an inside across the hall, and our Oklahoma friends were on Deck 2 in a cove balcony. I think everyone was pretty happy with their cabin selection, but boy, was I glad we had the extra space with Zoey in the room. We stopped by Liz’s cove balcony (standard-size cabin) one morning, and we were quickly reminded how TIGHT normal cruise ship cabins are. Holy moly, that would have been one loooong week with a toddler!

 

Anyway, after we unpacked our carry-ons, we went back in search of lunch. On our way, we ran into Liz and Jeff, so we decided to all dine together. Our first meal onboard was at Cucina del Capitano, the ship’s Italian restaurant. It is a free pasta bar at lunchtime, or a nicer order-from-the-menu restaurant at night with a small cover charge (reservations required). The pasta was GREAT! When you get seated, they hand you a little notepad to mark off the items you want for your order, and then a waiter brings everything to you a few minutes later. I had bowties with alfredo sauce, chicken, and spinach. Zoey had bowties with sausage, mushrooms, and eggplant (my kid is weird), and I have no clue what anyone else got, but I was really impressed. The food was very flavorful (I find most cruise ship food to be bland), and the service was great. I was hoping this would set the tone for a great week of dining onboard!

 

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First meal onboard.

 

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Another one from Liz. I loved the light fixtures in the Cucina.

 

We then decided it was time to get the party started, so our next destination was the Red Frog Pub (not to be confused with the Red Frog Rum Bar) for Caribbean Coladas. Yum! One thing I have to say about Carnival—they do not skimp on the booze, no sir-ree!

 

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We enjoyed our drinks outside on deck, then went back to the cabin and see if our checked luggage had arrived yet (it had not). Zoey went down for a nap, and we relaxed for a bit. Kristen and I went to the spa tour in order to enter the raffle (more on that later). We had about an hour and a half until the required safety drill, and I was dreading waking Zoey up from her nap. I even got a text from Chad asking if we had to go to the drill, since the twins were also sleeping. Sadly, the answer was yes, there was no skipping muster drill.

 

In the meantime, we called housekeeping to request a crib…which they promptly brought…and promptly made as much noise as possible setting it up while my child was sleeping. I felt so bad for the poor steward—he was trying his best NOT to make noise, and it was only hilarious because Zoey did not wake up. ;)

 

A little later, our stateroom steward, Constantin, came by to introduce himself. He was SO nice, and so great with Zoey throughout the week. Best steward I have ever had, hands-down. He advised us to ahead and make our way to the theater, our assigned muster station, so that we could get a seat before it got too crowded. We followed his advice and easily found a seat in the Ovation Theater. This was the one space on the Breeze that really felt like old-school Carnival. For those that don’t know, the Breeze is Carnival’s newest ship, and the first one in…well, ever…that wasn’t designed by Joe Farcus. Farcus ships typically have lots of gaudy brass, neon, and wild colors, and interesting “themed” spaces. The Breeze had a really subdued/neutral palette, and was toned-down most everywhere…except the theater. It was royal blue and gold, and totally screamed Carnival of the 1990s. I kind of liked it.

 

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Stolen from the internets, but I just wanted to show the theater for those who haven't seen it.

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The muster drill started late, and once it got going, it was over fairly quickly, but Zoey was a squirmy little beast, and was quickly losing patience with having to sit still and be quiet! Apologies to any fellow passengers who happened to be sitting near us and might have been the recipient of a rogue flying sandal, toddler size 5. :D

 

It was then getting close to sailaway time! We went up on deck to watch the parade of ships leaving Miami. Zoey got pretty excited at the “Mickey Mouse boat” sailing by, and the adults in our group had a few crass jokes as we passed the Costa Mediterranea. Too soon? ;) Anyway, we soon learned that our luggage had been delivered, so we headed back inside to start unpacking and to get ready for our 6:00 dinner seating.

 

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Bye bye, Miami!

 

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Hope you had a wonderful cruise. Looking forward to the rest of your review. We are booked in Room 11201 in July and am quite interested in what you have to say about this room. Also, did you feel more motion in these rooms as compared to rooms on lower floors? Thanks.

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We were assigned to Table 566 in the Blush (aft) dining room. This was, apparently, the place to be since Ken, the maitre’d, serenaded the entire restaurant each evening in song. He was pretty good…but it was cheesy. I think most of our group, myself included, was really looking forward to our dining time together. All 14 of us were assigned to the same table, and our past experiences in cruising usually had us getting to know our waiters, and having them dote on the kids, and just providing all-around great service. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case on this cruise. Our waiters were just not very personable, and they were very slow. In their defense, they were clearly short-staffed/over-worked, but it was just wasn’t a very enjoyable dining experience, and I was sure to express this to Carnival in the post-cruise survey they sent me.

 

We were the only table in our section with any children, and for a table with four toddlers, we were consistently the last ones to be served or attended to. Not cool! The first night, they had one high chair waiting for us…so they had obviously checked their passenger list…but where were the other three high chairs? It took at least 30 minutes to round up chairs for everyone. Kid’s menus were only distributed on the first night, and I guess we were just expected to remember what was on it the rest of the week. I didn’t dare ask for a new one, as I didn’t want to delay the ordering process even longer.

 

It was during dinner on this first night that we hit the open ocean, and the ship really started rocking. Shortly after the first course was delivered, I started feeling really sick, so I had to excuse myself thinking I would just go to an open deck and get some fresh air. Nope, it’s a good thing I left when I did, because I barely (and I mean just barely!) made it to the restrooms right outside the doors to the restaurant. Pretty sure I shoved some poor woman aside to get into the stall, but I hope she appreciated that I did not barf all over her dress, haha. I went back to our cabin to lay down and take some more medication, and I ended up just staying in bed the rest of the night. Aaron and Zoey came back a little while later, and he informed me that others were not feeling well, and that no one made it all the way through dinner that night. Fun times! I hoped the next day would be much better for everyone…

 

Before I close out our first night onboard, I wanted to talk about the “Bloggers” thing. Prior to sailing, I joined the CruiseCritic and Facebook roll-call groups for this cruise. I wasn’t super-active, as it was seemed to be a bunch of people who knew each other prior, and there were lots of different "cliques" with the Crazies, the Evil Crew, and whatever else. That said, there were some REALLY nice folks in the group, and I looked forward to meeting them at least once. They were all really welcoming, even to us BC newbies.

 

Additionally, we had signed up online on John Heald's blog to be a part of the “official” Bloggers group, which meant we would get three in-cabin gifts, and would have access to the bloggers-only activities. When we got to our cabin on embarkation day, the first of our three “gifts” were waiting for us--lanyards with a bloggers group i.d. that would serve as our entry ticket into the exclusive events. There was also a printed schedule for the bloggers-only activities left in our cabin. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to attend any/many of the events, as we had other plans (and a toddler in tow), but I liked having the option. Apparently I somehow missed on said schedule that the third gift (t-shirts) would be handed out at an event on the last day of the cruise. Whoops...I was bummed not to have received mine, but it was totally my fault.

 

During muster drill that first afternoon, I looked over and saw five of the Bloggers group members I knew from the FB page. I had hoped to go over and say hi, but it just didn’t work out—and I didn’t see another member I recognized for the entirety of the cruise! Oh well…

 

Sunday, January 20 – First Day at Sea

 

We woke up fairly early this morning, and I tentatively got out of bed, waiting for the motion sickness to hit me again. Even though the ship was still rocking hard, I was pleased to see that the meds were working and I felt fine! We got dressed and went in search of breakfast. The buffet was crazy-busy, so we ended up at the Blue Iguana Cantina (again, not to be confused with the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar…I'm not sure how I feel about Carnival’s new branding—it’s kind of confusing with the similar names everywhere!). At breakfast, the Blue Iguana served made-to-order breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, and arepas. The rest of the day, they were set up more like a Chipotle, and did custom burritos, tacos, and burrito bowls. They also had a pretty elaborate salsa bar.

 

Anyway, Aaron was a big fan of the breakfast burritos, but I couldn’t get past the powdered scrambled eggs found everywhere on the ship. Gross! The only way to get around it was to go somewhere where you could order poached, boiled, or fried eggs. Even the omelets were made from powdered eggs. Blech. What Zoey and I really liked for breakfast at Blue Iguana were the arepas. Yum! They were sweet corn pancakes filled with melted cheese, and they were delicious! I will definitely be re-creating these at home sometime soon…

 

After breakfast, we decided to brave Waterworks, the Breeze’s onboard water park and splash pad.

 

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She thought it was fun to lay down in the water, haha.

 

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(Note: it costs nothing to pose. They will print out proofs to display at the photo gallery the next day, and you can choose from those to purchase.)

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Where is that very first picture taken? Gorgeous!!!

 

Tortola, and thank you! :D

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Hope you had a wonderful cruise. Looking forward to the rest of your review. We are booked in Room 11201 in July and am quite interested in what you have to say about this room. Also, did you feel more motion in these rooms as compared to rooms on lower floors? Thanks.

 

I snatched this picture from my friend who stayed in #11201. I wish we had thought to take more pics of her room for a cabin comparison, but alas, we did not. You'll see it's a bit smaller than #11203, but it's still huge compared to a standard room!

 

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As for the motion, yes...we definitely felt more motion in those rooms. Even our steward commented on that. We were eating dinner one night in the Cucina del Capitano (Deck 11 aft), and I felt zero motion whatsoever. We walked from the Cucina to our room (Deck 11 forward), and it felt like we were on a roller coaster with all the rocking and rolling. Go figure. The lower decks feel even less motion, but I think the size of the cabin far outweighed the negatives of the motion.

Edited by jimbug

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Nice review. My parents sailed the breeze in the med and loved it. But ure Miami pics made me excited. I'm flying sat morning. Cruising on Sunday on the glory....can't wait for guys burgers and blue iguana!

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Ok I havent even made it past the first pic and I LOVE IT!!! Had to make it my background (hope you dont mind)!!!! And the Title, I love it!!! Ok now I gotta read , but can already tell its gonna be good!!

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I love this review!! So detailed and your photos are beautiful. Your daughter is adorable and the photo of your family is beautiful. So nice to get a formal portrait.

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What did you take for your motion sickness?????

 

I start taking herbal ginger (in capsule form) the day before we travel. 2 capsules, 3x/day. On embarkation day, I add in chewable Bonine tablets. 1 tablet, 2x/day. It seems to work really well once the meds have time to build up in my system.

 

 

I realized that two of the pictures from my last entry did not post, so here they are...our little water park baby!

 

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We met the rest of our crew at the dinner table, and things were looking up. All four highchairs were waiting on us, and our waiters were pretty good at getting the kids some fresh fruit and beverages in a timely manner. Everyone was happy, and we were all having such a good time. We made it all the way through dinner, and even got to experience dessert without any toddler meltdowns or seasick moms.

 

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Another of Liz's pictures. The three of us at dinner on the first formal night.

 

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The waiters performing for us that night. It was difficult to see from our table location.

 

After eating, Aaron and I decided we would try to take Zoey to the big production show in the theater. We weren’t sure how she would do, so we chose seats in the back, on the aisle in order to make a quick escape if needed. Well…I should not have worried at all, because it turns out she LOVED the show! Carnival recently debuted a new program of Playlist Production shows—they have three shows per weeklong cruise, at 30 minutes each. I’m not usually one to enjoy the singing-and-dancing shows, so 30 minutes was about all I could tolerate anyway…and it was also perfect for the toddler attention span. The show on this night was called “The Brits”, and it was, as you would expect, a bunch of British pop from the 60s and 70s—songs most everyone would recognize.

 

Zoey and I called it a night after the show, and Aaron ended up going to the basketball courts with Chad for a late night game of hoops. Just a side note here--I believe the posted hours for the fitness center were until 10 pm, but Aaron frequently went there well after midnight and it was always unlocked. (He wasn't aware of the hours--just assumed it was open 24/7.) He said there were usually lots of crew using it that late at night, but no one seemed to mind that he was also there.

 

Monday, January 21 – Second Day at Sea

 

It rained off and on during our second sea day, but the sun eventually came out and it was a beautiful (albeit rocky) day. We did an early brunch today, and had decent food, but really poor service. It was starting to become a theme, but we were not going to let it ruin our vacation, by any means.

 

After brunch, we headed back to the water slides for awhile, then I decided I would take Zoey into one of the big pools.

 

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On my previous Carnival cruises, I was always disappointed with how busy the pools were on sea days – two tiny pools on a ship full of 3,000+ cruisers, and you can imagine how that turned out. Well, for some reason, the main pool on the Breeze was never really THAT busy! It worked out perfectly for us…Zoey and I swam and played for quite some time, just enjoying the water.

 

We changed clothes and headed out to try one of the Guy Fieri burgers for lunch. It was delicious—probably not what Guy intended, as burgers for the masses are never really that good, but it was, by far, one of the better options onboard. We then got the kiddo down for a nap, and just relaxed in the room for awhile. Shortly after Zoey woke up, it was time to go to the Build-a-Bear workshop. Camp Carnival offered a choice of several different stuffed animals to “build” for a fee, and it was available usually for one hour each afternoon. It was a fun little activity—Zoey chose a cat she named Ramen (like the noodles—no idea where she got that!). We were then able to walk next door to the 2-5-year-old camp room for the open family playtime. The kids had a blast playing with all the toys and running around, and we looked forward to coming to open playtime hours on the rest of the cruise, but it was not to be. We never received notification of the open hours for any other day. On the final sea day, I decided to just stop by there during the hours they were open previously, but it was locked up tight. Bummer!

 

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Playing with "dinowhores" (as Zoey calls them), in the Camp Carnival room.

 

Shortly after that was dinner—nothing memorable, but we got faster service since it was just the three of us plus Liz and Jeff who showed up this night. The rest of our crew was out on deck watching The Lorax on the big movie screen. We caught the end of it after dinner, and then Kristen and I hit up the thalassotherapy pool in the spa for awhile. Ahhhh, heavenly! Had I been on this trip sans kids, this is a place I would have spent a LOT of time.

 

Oh, and I accidentally left out that we went to John Heald's marriage show on this day. It was held in the afternoon, in the theater, and it was not that well-attended, I am sad to say. Nonetheless, John was a riot as usual, and it was hilarious to watch. This was technically one of the blogger events, but it was open to the public. Great job, John! I loved it!

Edited by jimbug

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Tuesday, January 21 – St. Thomas

 

I was so glad we finally had a port day! I normally really, REALLY enjoy the quiet, relaxed pace of sea days, but it was getting a little monotonous trying to entertain a toddler with limited space and limited toys/activities! I was also kind of excited because today was mama’s “day off” from Zoey duty. Kristen, Liz, Jeff, and I had scheduled an adult-oriented shore excursion together. Aaron and Zoey decided last-minute to buy a Carnival excursion to the national park on St. John, and they were really looking forward to that, as well.

 

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Breeze docked in St. Thomas.

 

After saying goodbye to Aaron and Zoey, I met up with my shore excursion buddies and we had breakfast in the Sapphire dining room. Real breakfast, not brunch. It was delicious, and we had really prompt service. Our shore excursion tickets instructed us to meet outside on the pier. We found the Champagne Catamaran group, and the lady instructed us to go hop in one of the cabs pulled aside for this tour. I love the open-air safari truck-style cabs in St. Thomas. So much fun, and such a wild ride! I’d be a little nervous with a toddler in one, but otherwise it is a total blast.

 

The next few pics are from Liz, as I sent our camera with Aaron and Zoey...

 

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I should also say that probably 90% of the time, I do my research and book my shore excursions independently of the cruise line. Usually, you will find a better value and more intimate experience that way (i.e, not a cattle-call excursion with 150 of your fellow ship passengers). However, this time we booked Carnival’s Champagne Catamaran Sail to St. John, simply because of all the awesome reviews. Daysails are plentiful on St. Thomas, and they are not cheap. This one was “only” $94/pp, but that also included roundtrip taxi transportation to the marina, which would have run $20/pp otherwise. So, coupled with the great reviews and the value for the money, it was a good choice.

 

We had a 20-or-so-minute ride to the Compass Point marina, where our catamarans were waiting for us. There were probably 60 or so guests going on the same excursion, but the company used two large, identical catamarans, and it never felt crowded at all.

 

Our crew was AWESOME! I forgot our captain’s name, but he was young with hipster glasses and a great smile. Molly and Garren were our bartenders/hosts/tour guides, and they were so great!! We motored across Pillsbury Sound toward the island of St. John. We passed lots of high-dollar yachts, including one belonging to Eric Clapton. We eventually reached our destination, Honeymoon Beach, where we dropped anchor. The four of us donned snorkel gear and cannon-balled into the water. It was awesome! Liz and Jeff went off in search of undersea life, while Kristen and I headed into the beach. Along the way, we saw a couple of sea turtles…now THAT was pretty cool! We got to the beach (just below Kenny Chesney’s house, haha), and just vegged in the sand, letting the waves lap at our feet. This was the life…they could have left me on that island for the rest of the week, and I would have been a happy camper!

 

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Molly giving her entertaining history of the area.

 

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On the sail out to St. John.

 

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Honeymoon Beach. It's kind of hard to tell from this picture how idyllic it really was, but it was just gorgeous.

 

We had about an hour or hour and a half to do our thing at Honeymoon Beach. Kristen and I decided to head back sooner so we could start partaking in the “booze” part of our booze cruise, but the bar wasn’t open until everyone was back onboard. Dang! Nonetheless, we were able to find great spots onboard near the nets and basked in the sun while we waited for the others to return. When everyone was back, Molly opened up the bar and started pouring rum punch for everyone. We thought it was pretty weak, then we realized she was just a really good bartender—it snuck up on you with no warning! Halfway through our sail back to St. Thomas, she brought out the Champagne and topped off our rum punches (we lost count by that point), making them her signature “Rumosas”. Honestly? Maybe my new favorite drink. I could get a little messed up if I had too many more of those.

 

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A $40M carbon-fiber catamaran. Yes, please!

 

We, um, stumbled our way back to the taxis, where we all realized we had to pee, and BAD. We should have listened to Molly and just peed in the marine toilet onboard the catamaran, but we didn’t, and now we were paying for it. Crap! I think it was Kristen (she was our mostly-sober babysitter, lol) who got us on the first taxi that showed up, thank goodness. Traffic was heinous headed back into the port, and I seriously thought I was going to have to jump out and pee on the roadside. Fortunately, that never became necessary, and as soon as our taxi got back to the ship, Liz, Jeff , and I took off in a near-run towards the bathroom sign in the port shopping center, while Kristen headed back to the ship. Relief obtained (lol), we were drunk-hungry and in search of a Bushwhacker, one of the famous St. Thomas frozen drinks.

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We stopped at the first place we came to, which was Havensight Café. Their Bushwhackers were SO good, and they had a pretty extensive menu. Liz and Jeff had a cheeseburger and some mozzarella sticks, while I got adventurous and tried their curried chicken roti. Zomg, it was heavenly. If you’ve never had a curry in the Caribbean, it is unlike curry anywhere else—it’s definitely a fusion of African and Asian influences, and hmm, wow, my mouth is watering thinking about it right now. It came with peas and rice, and it was all so tasty!

 

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After finishing up our meal, we made our way back to the ship, and I went back to the cabin to wait for Aaron and Zoey to return from their excursion. They came in just a few minutes later, and they had a great time. We originally thought the excursion would basically just drop them off at the National Park entrance, and then they had to meet back 2 hours later or whatever, but in fact, it was a safari taxi tour of the island of St. John (since most of it is national park). Aaron really enjoyed it, even if it wasn’t quite what he was expecting—Zoey’s favorite part was the “red bus” they rode.

 

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Zoey getting ready to head out for her daddy-daughter day.

 

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From the ferry they rode, pulling into Cruz Bay, St. John.

 

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The "red bus" that Zoey loved.

 

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One of the shots Aaron got from their tour. Is this Trunk Bay? He couldn't remember.

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I love this.

 

We still had several hours before the Breeze would sail from St. Thomas, so we decided to load Zoey up in the stroller and go back onshore for a bit. We stopped by Havensight Café and got Aaron a Bushwhacker to go. Best part of the islands? Walking around with booze is totally legal. :D (Actually driving with booze is legal on St. Thomas, but maaaaybe that’s not such a good idea…) We then made our way up the street to K-Mart to get Zoey some new coloring books and crayons. Like I said, we were hurting for indoor activities! The K-Mart looked really close, but it was actually a good ways away…and it was HOT. By the time we got back to the ship, we were all pretty worn out.

 

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Sailing away from Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, at sunset.

 

We watched sailaway from our secret deck again, and then got ready for dinner. I *think* we all went to the main dining room again...and I believe it was on this night that as we were finishing our meal and walking out the restaurant door, Aaron turned to me and said, “You know, I haven’t really been that impressed with the food on this cruise so far.”

 

My initial response was to try and defend Carnival—I mean, after all, I pushed for him to go on this cruise, and I had a huge say in choosing which cruiseline/ship we went on, so I felt like I had an obligation to make the trip as perfect as possible for everyone who decided to come. Then I realized, who was I kidding…the food had pretty much sucked! I know I’m talking about food a lot in this review, but it really is (usually) a big part of cruising, and getting to try new and different things is one of my favorite parts of being on a ship. This time, I felt really let down in that department, but it was honestly not that big of a deal. We were there with our friends and our kids, and we just had more going on. We certainly did not starve, and it’s not like we were being served bowls of crap-flavored mush or anything…it just wasn’t up to the usual par for a cruise. At the end of the review, I’ll talk about which meals/restaurants were particularly outstanding—like I said, it wasn’t all bad!

Edited by jimbug

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Oh, I almost forgot! The morning of the first sea day on the cruise, we were at the splash park and ran into our Texas friends there. We were talking, and Jessie told me that she woke up early this morning and saw that we were docked at a port. Huh…we had no idea! I assumed it had been a medical emergency, but no announcement had been made at that point. Later in the afternoon, Butch (cruise director) informed us that we had been to Nassau to drop off a sick passenger, but that it would not affect our itinerary in any way.

 

Tuesday, January 23 – Antigua

 

We had another early morning planned for this day – Aaron, Zoey, Liz, Jeff, and I had booked the lobster lunch cruise with Creole Cruises (http://www.creolecruisesantigua.com). I booked this tour after reading Host Faith’s review of the same tour on CruiseCritic sometime last year, so a big thank you to my fellow CruiseCritic members for posting reviews with lots of details and pictures—they are really helpful!!

 

(The rest of our group booked Carnival’s excursion to Dickinson Bay Beach. They all seemed to really enjoy it, despite two of them getting stung by jellyfish while in the water.)

 

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Breeze docked in Antgua in the rainy weather.

 

We met Liz and Jeff at the Sapphire dining room once more for breakfast. They were a little slower today, but nothing to get too excited about. We got ready to disembark the ship and noticed it was pouring down rain—hmmm. Well, we remembered Creole’s website said that they go out rain or shine, so off we went! Actually, by the time we got outside it had let up to a light drizzle. We walked the ~200 yards or so to Exotic Antigua, the clothing store located right by the cruise ship pier, where we were instructed to wait for our tour.

 

Katja (from Creole) had been very friendly and quick to respond to our e-mails and inquiries about the tour, and we were really looking forward to it. There was a boat dock just outside of Exotic Antigua, and they were supposed to pull right up and pick us up from there. Well, they were due to pick us up at 9:45, and by about 9:55, they still hadn’t shown. I was starting to get a little worried, so I went inside the store and asked the shopkeepers if they were usually on time. She assured us not to worry, and that they would call Creole for us if they hadn’t shown by 10:00. Just as soon as I walked back outside, we caught a glimpse of our boat, headed straight for us. Yay!

 

Mario and Travis were our guides/chefs/captains for the day, and when the boat arrived, it already had 6-8 other guests that had been picked up from resorts. They helped us down into the boat, and Mario found Aaron, Zoey, and I a seat in the middle where it might be a little safer for Zoey. Their boat was a 40-foot motorboat, and it was built for speed! It seemed to be fairly new, and the guys took great care in keeping it clean and comfortable for their guests.

 

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On the Creole Cruises boat.

 

We idled through the harbor and then picked up speed a little as we cruised by Dickenson Bay and the Sandals Resort, where Mario stopped for a bit to tell us about our day. He warned us that the 20-25-minute ride across the Atlantic to Bird Island could be a little rough. We had no idea just HOW rough! It was so much fun! We never felt unsafe at any point—even with Zoey riding in my husband’s lap, we were not worried. I just probably wouldn't recommend it for anyone with back problems or for pregnant women. There was one passenger on our tour who was pregnant, and I could tell she was really worried about all the bumps and jostling.

 

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Dickenson Bay and the Sandals Resort are just to the right of this picture.

 

We soon arrived at Bird Island, where Travis unloaded all the lunch supplies and got set up for cooking. Those of us who planned to snorkel remained on the boat, while those who just wanted to hang on the beach got out there. Aaron, Zoey, and Liz got out to chill at the beach, while Jeff and I decided to stay back and snorkel. Our snorkel location was just on the other side of Bird Island, and the current was really strong. I consider myself a pretty experienced, strong swimmer, but it had me a little nervous. Turned out to be just fine! The reefs were pretty beat-up, but we still managed to see tons of fish and some interesting coral. Oh, and we saw two squid—talk about creepy!

 

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Our boat pulling into Bird Island.

 

After about 45 minutes of snorkeling, we hopped back in the boat for the short ride back to the beach at Bird Island. Zoey had discovered her love of playing in the sand, and Aaron had already hiked the trails to the top of the island and back. It was a beach paradise there, and it was plenty large enough that everyone could spread out and do their own thing without feeling crowded. I think there maybe only 12-14 people total on our tour. Once during the day on Bird Island, a group from Adventure Antigua stopped, but their boat dropped them at the far side of the island, and their presence didn’t affect our day whatsoever. They weren’t there for long anyhow.

 

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Zoey playing on the beach. You can see part of the lunch area behind her.

 

A little while later, lunch was served! Prior to the trip, we were to reserve our choice of: lobster, fish, chicken, hamburger, or vegetarian. Well, none of us have ever been very big on lobster (though this lobster looked absolutely decadent, and I wish I would have tried it!), so I chose chicken, and Aaron and Zoey got the fish. Both were amazing. Possibly one of the better meals we had all week on vacation! Accompaniments included a garden salad, homemade pasta and potato salads, garlic bread, and all the wine you could drink. There was also a table set up with a cooler of VERY strong rum punch and a few other bottles of liquor/juice to mix your own drink.

 

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Bird Island, taken from one of the hiking trails Aaron took to the top.

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Our snorkel spot. Aaron took this from his hiking adventure.

 

We still had another couple of hours to play on the island, and it was a great time. One of the Creole guys led a guided tour on the hiking trails, but we chose to stay back. I sat in the shade and drank wine while Zoey played in the sand...just a really perfect, picturesque day.

 

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Zoey in the sand. It was so beautiful there!

 

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Awwwwww.

 

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A hermit crab one of our fellow passengers found.

 

It was finally time to load up in the boat and head out. We didn’t have far to go, however, as our next stop was Maiden Island, home of all the starfish you could imagine. We pulled right up onshore, and those who wanted to go out to look at/touch/play with the starfish. They were pretty amazing! Zoey had fallen asleep in my arms, though, so I had to watch from afar. Aaron got out and got some great pics, though!

 

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The ride back was rough, but not as bad as the morning. The winds/seas had calmed down significantly, and we were back at Exotic Antigua right on time. The only hangup of the whole day was when we were trying to leave. There was quite a bit of confusion regarding everyone’s payment for the trip. When you reserve with Creole, Katja asks for you to provide your credit card information, and the information conveyed to us was that she would charge our card the day of the trip unless you wanted to pay in cash. We just wanted our card charged, our friends wanted to pay in cash, and two other Breeze passengers on our tour wanted their card charged, but they didn’t have the card with them. We thought that was the point of giving the info in advance – that we didn’t have to bring the card later. Nonetheless, it took about 10 minutes and about 10 phone calls between Mario and Katja, but all was eventually well.

 

Aaron, Zoey, and I browsed the shops at the pier for a little while before heading back to the ship and cleaning sand out of places we didn’t know sand could get.

Edited by jimbug

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