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Carnival Breeze B2B review with 107 photos & 11 videos

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We recently spent 14 great days cruising the Caribbean on Carnival Breeze. It's always a gamble cruising at the peak of hurricane season, but we love to do it since the ocean water is at its warmest and cruise prices are towards their lowest. We managed to miss hurricane Joaquin by about a week!


Here's my review of our cruise, featuring 107 photos and 11 videos... all of which are somewhat large and bandwidth intensive... so you might want to read this review on a large computer screen with a decent Internet connection rather than on a phone!



Carnival Breeze docked in Ocho Rios, Jamaica


Our 14-day cruise on the Carnival Breeze was actually two cruises: an 8-day cruise to St Maarten, St Kitts, San Juan, and Grand Turk... followed by a 6-day cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We were in the same cabin for all 14 days, so to us it just felt like one 14-day cruise with a brief stop in Miami to change out all the other passengers after the first 8 days!


Before I get in to the full story of our vacation on the Carnival Breeze, I should probably start with a little introduction...




I'm Jim Zimmerlin (everyone calls me Jim Zim) and I always cruise with my wife, Kellyn. (Pronunciation tip: it rhymes with Helen.) We're from Grover Beach, California... a little beach town on the California coast about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. We've been cruising since 1996... and have now taken 32 cruises on 20 different cruise ships. While we've done a few cruises with Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Norwegian cruise lines, most of our cruises have been with Carnival... because they seem to offer the biggest bang for the buck. All together, we've spent 212 days at sea on cruise ships... and 166 of those have been with Carnival.


Get comfortable, and don't be in a hurry... this story is going to take a while! Here we go...

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An Introduction to the Carnival Breeze




Carnival Breeze is a Dream-class ship who made her debut in June of 2012. At the time of our September 2015 cruise, she was still the newest ship in the Carnival fleet... with the new Carnival Vista still under construction. We've sailed on Carnival Breeze once before, in April of 2013, and we enjoyed that cruise so much that we thought it was about time to make a return visit. The Carnival Breeze has several features that her sister ships, the Carnival Dream and the Carnival Magic, don't have... so she's truly the state-of-the-art when it comes to cruising with Carnival... although the Carnival Sunshine, completely refurbished in 2013, has a few tweaks on the Carnival design that I hope Breeze gets some day. More about that, later.


Carnival ships are somewhat infamous for a loud Vegas style of interior decoration that is very visible in the Fantasy, Spirit, and Conquest-class ships... courtesy of their former interior designer, Joe Farcus. The interior decorating scheme of those ships looks very 1980s to me now. Starting with the Dream-class, Carnival started to get away from it... and with the Carnival Breeze they really came up with a beautiful decoration scheme. When you first walk onboard, the interior design does jump out at you just a bit... with some bold colors in the atrium which towers over the lobby:



The atrium, as seen from deck four




Looking down, from deck ten


Once you get away from the atrium, the colors soften to soothing earth tones...


Elevator lobby, deck eight




Beautiful wood tones in the library on deck 4

and there's a self-serve wine dispenser in there, too!

Kathie Lee Gifford would be so proud.


Inside the cabins, you can see that Carnival has gotten away from the orange theme they used in the cabins on most of their other ships. We stayed in a "spa cabin" on deck 12. Spa cabins use a soothing light-green color palette, with a lot of beige earth tones and just a bit of orange in the carpet...




I'll talk more about our cabin later, including telling you all about that cute stuffed animal on the bed... and why you shouldn't expect to find one if you ever cruise on the Carnival Breeze.

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Interior spaces are great... but on a Caribbean cruise, it's really all about the outdoor spaces. So, let's take a look...



The main pool, located on Lido deck in the middle of the ship


The heart and soul of the ship is the main pool area. On a sea day, it's a popular place to be... with lots of sunshine, plenty of loungers, and a Caribbean band playing island music to put you in to that vacation mood. Good luck getting a lounger, though! Unless you go there really early in the morning, or at the very end of the afternoon, you'll find all of those loungers will either have a body in them or a towel on them. Experienced cruisers know that the towels belong to the people known as "chair hogs"... people that lay a towel or a beach bag on a lounger so that no one else will sit there. They act like the lounger is their personal possession for the whole day... even if they may only use it for a few hours. It's rude and an inefficient use of what should be a shared resource... but unfortunately for the rest of us, that's what some people do.


Here's a photo of that same area, on a less busy day... and shot from under the big TV, looking in the other direction...




The main pool area is a popular place, but you generally won't find me there! Too noisy for me. There's always loud music playing there during the day, either from the Caribbean band or from some very trendy DJ that plays music that is mostly unknown to this middle aged white guy. Have they not ever heard of Jimmy Buffett? Sometimes the music takes a break for events like the hairy chest competition or the mixology challenge. In any case, it's not my thing. I like it far better at the aft pool, where it's a lot more quiet.



Aft pool


It occurs to me that I failed to get a picture of the Serenity Retreat on Carnival Breeze. Oops. Well, I just don't spend much time there... because in spite of the name, it's not serene. It's located too close to the mid ship pool, and those big speakers on either side of the big screen TV. While the outdoor furniture in the Serenity Retreat is some of the most comfortable you'll find on the ship, including quite a few big daybeds that are great for romantic couples, it's just too loud up there on the Serenity deck for me. And WAY too windy! Big mistake, in my opinion, to put the Serenity Retreat at the front of the ship... a very windy area. On some of the Royal Caribbean ships, they have a similar area on the top deck at the front of the ship... but they were smart enough to enclose it with glass that blocks the wind. Smart design by Royal Caribbean... which Carnival should copy for their future ships. Or, just put the Serenity retreat at the aft pool, like they do on Carnival's Spirit-class ships. Very smart design. The other problem with the Serenity Retreat on the Carnival Breeze is that -- in spite of the wind and the noise from the big speakers at the pool -- it's just too popular. Except at 8 AM or 6 PM, good luck finding an available lounger or daybed. I find that the aft pool works much better for me.



One of two whirlpool tubs adjacent to the aft pool




A beautiful sunset, as seen from the aft pool


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At night, the main pool in the middle of the ship becomes Carnival's "Seaside Theater" where they show movies on the outdoor big screen. Because you can literally watch the movies from the swimming pool, they call their evening movies "dive-in movies"...




Most people watch the movies from those loungers around the pool. A few kids watch from inside the pool. But the best seats in the house, in my opinion, are the ones one deck above, on deck 11. Up there on deck 11 they've got a bunch of couches and loungers with thick, comfortable cushions... a much nicer place to sit for a two-hour movie than on those stiff loungers on Lido deck.



Very comfortable seating on deck 11, with a view of the big TV screen


One other thing about the movies they show on the outdoor big screen at night: there's free popcorn! You don't even have to stay and watch the movie to enjoy the popcorn. Sometimes I'll go up to Lido deck and grab a box of the free popcorn and bring it with me to an event elsewhere on the ship... such as to a comedy show, or a musical performance. Or sometimes I'll just bring it back to my cabin for a quiet evening there. It's great that Carnival gave up on nickel-and-diming the passengers on the popcorn. Years ago, they used to charge for it. Now, it's free and abundant. Good move, Carnival... and thank you.


One morning, about 4:30 AM, I was woken up by the sound of a very intense thunderstorm outside. It motivated me to get out of bed and see if I could get a good picture of a lightning bolt... something I've never done before. (We don't get a lot of thunder and lightning where I live!) I didn't do a very good job on my first attempt, but here's what I got...




Even if I didn't get a perfect picture of the lightning storm, I was glad that I had gotten out of bed and come out on deck to see it! It was really intense. Definitely something we don't see at home very often. The lightning storm caused a really weird thing to happen, too! We were close enough to land that there were hundreds of birds flying in our vicinity. The lightning must have scared them, and I think the lights of the ship looked like some kind of safe haven, so as I was out on deck there were hundreds of birds flying above and around the ship. It was weird! They weren't sea gulls, either... which was strange. They were much smaller birds that looked like they belonged on land... something similar to sparrows or robins in size. At one point, a bolt of lightning struck very very near the ship. The sound of the thunder was so intense, I had never felt or heard an explosion that loud before. It literally shook me, not to mention scaring the hell out of me! And it actually knocked one of those birds right out of the sky! I guess that was the weirdest thing I saw during the whole cruise. And because it all happened at 4:30 in the morning, there were only a very small number of other passengers who probably saw it... although I imagine almost everybody heard it from the comfort of their bed!


One other story about the weird things you see if you get up early enough...

One morning Kellyn and I got up pretty early and walked to the aft pool to watch the sunrise. From the aft pool area, we could hear the sound of a very upset woman yelling at a man, who was trying to make excuses for himself, but it didn't sound like it was going well. At first we could just hear it, but as we walked out past the pool a little further we could see the man and the woman up on the public deck one floor above the aft pool. We didn't hear actual words, only the tone of the argument. Clearly, the wife was upset at something the husband had done. And when the wife finally stormed off, we saw what the wife was upset about... a very attractive woman who had been sitting next to the husband, out of our view, got up and walked away. It looked to me like he had been up all night talking with her, and finally around sunrise the wife went out looking for him and found him with another woman! The things you see if you get up early enough...


Let's move on to happier things!


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A nice feature of the Dream-class ships is the "Lanai Promenade"... an open deck which goes all the way around the ship on deck five. Here's a shot I took from my balcony, which shows the Lanai Promenade sticking out six floors below our balcony:




Because the ship tends to travel in a north/south direction and the sun tends to travel in an east/west direction, the Lanai Promenade on one side of the ship is usually sunny and hot while the one on the other side of the ship will be shady and just right. Of course, which side that will be depends on what way the ship is travelling and what time of the day it is. The point is, find the shady side of the ship and go to the Lanai Promenade on that side. It will be a great place to relax, and usually not crowded.


There are two whirlpool tubs on each side of the ship on the Lanai Promenade... plus hundreds of those blue loungers, several comfortable daybeds, a lunchtime barbecue joint (on sea days, only), and a giant chessboard.



I'm proud of this chess board shot!

Not only did I catch it with beautiful lighting, right at sunset...

but it looks like I got it at the exact moment when the girl kicked that guy's ass at chess!



Here's another photo that I like... and I didn't even take this one! Kellyn did. Since I'm a big Carnival fan, I thought it would be a good idea for me to pose for a photo with the iconic whale tail smokestack in the background.




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As I'm sure you know, Carnival ships are known as the fun ships... and one of the most fun places on Carnival Breeze is up on deck 12, where you'll find Carnival's "WaterWorks" play area, also known as the splash zone...




Even a nearly-sixty-year-old guy like me can't resist riding the waterslides and splashing around in the Waterworks play area! There are two full-sized waterslides onboard, plus a mini-slide for the youngest kids. The most popular of the two big slides is the yellow slide, known as the "twister". It provides the longest rides, with a whole bunch of twisty turns. The orange slide, known as the drainpipe, is a shorter ride but it has kind of a surprising ending! Here's a POV (point of view) video I shot when I tried out the drainpipe waterslide, which lulls you in to a false sense of confidence by starting out slow... and then surprises you at the end by speeding up for a big finish. In the video, you can hear my spontaneous surprise reaction to the way the ride ends...




There's one other video I shot in the Waterworks area which you might find interesting. It's all about the Power Drencher, which is the big bucket of water that tips over approximately every 90 seconds... soaking everything below it with hundreds of gallons of water. The 15 year-old boy inside of me gets a big kick out of watching the Power Drencher in action, especially if there are girls in bikinis standing below it...




Now, I have a confession to make! The only reason I stood around shooting video of bikini babes under the Power Drencher was to see if I could create another viral video on YouTube. Three years ago, I posted a video of the amazing Green Thunder waterslide on the Carnival Spirit... and it totally surprised me by going viral! It's been viewed over 50 million times, and the advertising revenue I get from that video is an important part of my cruise fund. Let's take a look at that video that I shot on Carnival Spirit three years ago...




I spent a LOT of time over the last three years trying to figure out why that video went viral on YouTube. What is it about that video that has caused it to catch on? All I can figure out is that first off, it's just plain fun. Also, I think a lot of YouTube viewers are teenagers... and teenagers really like waterslides. I think it probably also helps that the still picture which is displayed to represent the video (a.k.a. the "thumbnail") is a picture of a girl in a bikini. YouTube people seems to really like bikinis. In watching the video, the girl in the bikini is so amazingly hyped up about the experience! It's just hilarious to see her excitement level, the terror on her face in anticipation of the start of the ride, and her shocked reaction (and scream!) when the floor of the waterslide falls out from below her. I also think my laughing reaction behind the camera to her terrified reaction on camera adds to the whole thing... kind of like the laugh track on a TV comedy.


After the advertising money started rolling in from that viral video about the Green Thunder waterslide, I started posting a lot more videos to YouTube... in hopes that lightning would strike twice and I'd come up with a second viral video which would pour even more ad revenue in to my vacation fund. As luck would have it, I've managed to do just that... and believe it or not, my second viral video is remarkably similar to my first one. It's a video I shot of another vertical-drop waterslide on a cruise ship... this time the "Free Fall" waterslide on the Norwegian Getaway. Take a look at that video...




With over two and a half million views so far, my second viral video is not quite in the league of the 50-million-view video from the Carnival Spirit... but two and a half million views is certainly nothing to sneeze at! And now you know the back story to why I spent time shooting video at the water park on Carnival Breeze, and why I made sure my video featured girls in bikinis! It will be interesting to see if the Power Drencher video catches on with the YouTube crowd. Regardless of the reaction, I'll keep trying to come up with a third viral video, for sure!


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Cabin 12007, the James Bond Suite




I've learned over the course of 32 cruises that carefully choosing just the right cabin is one of the keys to a happy cruise. If you end up in the cabin above the disco, for example, you're going to hear a thumping bass sound all night long and you'll have a heck of a time getting to sleep. So, I take a lot of time to find just the right cabin before booking. We've tried a wide variety of cabins over the years, in order to find the type of cabin that offers the best combination of luxury and value. We've been in everything from interior cabins that don't even have a window, to ocean view cabins, balcony cabins, spa cabins, aft-wrap cabins with huge balconies, and even The Captain's Suite at three times the price of a regular balcony cabin.


We've decided that a standard balcony cabin is our minimum requirement. In other words, no more interior cabins without windows, and no more ocean view cabins without balconies. What we really like best, and are willing to pay a little extra for, are the aft-wrap balconies on the back corners of many Carnival ships. We like them because of the huge balconies that wrap all the way around from the side of the ship to the back of the ship... and also because of the beautiful view of the ship's trailing wake, and the unique layout of the corner room. On Carnival's Conquest-class and Dream-class ships, those aft-wrap cabins are not ridiculously priced because they're not considered suites... just premium balcony cabins. On Carnival's Spirit-class ships, and on almost all the other ships of the other major cruise lines, aft-wrap balcony cabins are priced tremendously higher than they are on Carnival... because they're considered suites. (And they often come with extras like butler service, which we don't really need.)


Unfortunately, by the time we got around to booking our Carnival Breeze vacation, all the aft-wrap balcony cabins had been spoken for. So, I had to go for the next best thing... which on a Dream-class ship is a spa balcony cabin. A spa balcony cabin is very similar to a standard balcony cabin, except it's located next to the ship's spa and it includes free access to some of the amenities of the spa, such as the steam rooms and the thalassotherapy pool.



Access to the spa, including this big, warm thalassotherapy pool, is free for guests staying in spa cabins.

It's $40 per person per day, or $159 per person for an 8-day cruise, for people in regular cabins.

However, I feel compelled to say that if a fantastic cruise ship spa is what you're looking for, you really need to cruise on the Norwegian Getaway!




Located directly next door to the thalassotherapy pool, these tile loungers are heated from inside!

It's very relaxing to sit on them and to feel the heat radiating up from the tiles.

Access to this room is free for guests staying in spa cabins.




All passengers (and crew) are welcome to use the gym! (Although I don't think many do...)

It's located on deck 12 forward, within the Cloud 9 Spa, and has a spectacular view ahead of the ship.

Each of the treadmills has a TV built in, but you need to bring headphones if you want to hear the sound.


Edited by Spaniel Lover

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In looking over the list of available spa cabins during the booking process, one jumped out at me... 12007. I thought it would be funny to stay in a cabin with 007 in the number. We did it once before on another Carnival cruise, and I had so much fun making jokes with the cabin steward about James Bond and Octopussy and secret agents. However, my wife didn't see the humor in being referred to as Octopussy, so for this cruise I decided that the joke would be that she was Moneypenny. So that all of my neighbors could share in the joke, I made up a little sign involving my face photoshopped on to a picture of James Bond... and taped it to our cabin door.




While cabin 12007 on the Carnival Breeze is not actually a suite, just a spa balcony cabin, I jokingly referred to it as "The James Bond Suite" for the entire cruise... and I had a good time making jokes with the cabin stewards about secret agents and driving my Aston Martin at each of our ports of call. An especially funny thing was that our main cabin steward spoke with an accent that sounded just like a classic Bond movie villain! When he would shout "Mister Bond!" down the hall to me, it sounded exactly like something the villain would say in a 007 movie. On the last night of our cruise, I laughed so loud when he said to me with his wonderful villainous accent: "Now Mister Bond, you must die!"


Here's one more picture of our spa balcony cabin, so you can see how the layout is basically identical to a regular balcony cabin...




Regarding the little stuffed animal in the picture... that's "Lady", from the 1955 Walt Disney movie "Lady & The Tramp". My wife and I bred American Cocker Spaniels for 15 years and "Lady" has always been our favorite Disney character. The night before our cruise, at the Bayside Marketplace in Miami, we stumbled upon the Disney Store and couldn't leave empty handed after spotting "Lady" among their collection of Disney characters. So, don't expect to find one in your room on a Carnival ship... unless you bring it along yourself!



Lady had plenty of company during the cruise... with a new towel animal appearing in our cabin every night.


Before I move on from the subject of our spa balcony cabin, I should probably mention what all the benefits of staying in a spa cabin are. I already mentioned that you get free access to the steam rooms and the thalassotherapy pool. You can see from the pictures that spa cabins are decorated in a very pleasing and relaxing green and beige color scheme... which is different from the way all the other cabins on the ship are decorated. The bathrooms are also supplied with special high-quality shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion that the other cabins don't get. There are two bathrobes and two pairs of slippers for you to use. You also get priority spa appointments for things such as massages and hair salon treatments, if you make them by 6 PM on embarkation day. Finally, you can sign up for two (per person) free fitness classes in the gym... including Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi.


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There's an elevator up in the front of the ship, within the spa, that I bet some passengers never discover...




The Cloud 9 spa elevator only services decks 11, 12, 14, and 15. Carnival ships never have a deck 13, due to silly old superstitions... and black cats will be sacrificed and eaten by the crew. (Just kidding about that last part.)


Speaking of the Cloud 9 Spa...

There's a cool little place within the spa that I bet most passengers never see. It's a little relaxation room at the very front of the ship, on deck 14, right next to the thalassotherapy pool. It doesn't even show up on the deck plans. Here's a picture:




I honestly don't know which passengers are allowed to hang out here. It might be just for the passengers in spa cabins, or it might only be for people waiting for a spa treatment. In any case, it's got one heck of a view out those windows in the left of the photo... a beautiful view forward at what's ahead of the ship!


I mentioned earlier that we don't ever consider staying in anything less than a balcony cabin anymore. I have a picture that illustrates one of the reasons why! Here's a shot I took from our balcony one morning after we had just woken up, and before we went to breakfast. If we had been staying in an inside cabin, we never would have seen this!




Speaking of great places to enjoy the view... that's another benefit to the spa cabins. There's a really cool little viewing area that you can easily get to from the spa cabins. It's at the bow of the ship, on deck 11. From our spa cabin on deck 12, it was an easy one-minute walk down one flight of stairs to reach the viewing area on deck 11 forward...




Our cabin looked out to the starboard side of the ship. If there was something in front of the ship that I wanted to see, such as our arrival in to a port of call, I would take the one minute walk down to this little viewing area. It was usually empty... although one morning, during a spectacular sunrise, I ran in to three other people who had come to take pictures of the gorgeous scene... who you can see in the background of the photo above.


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The Highlight Of Our Cruise


Something very unexpected happened to us during this cruise, and it was so great that I bet we never forget it. We got to meet and get to know Sarah Tweedle, her husband, Drew Webber, and quite a few of their family members. Sarah is the spunky lead singer, and Drew is the guitarist, for The Run For Cover Band... currently performing on Carnival Breeze, through December 5th, 2015.



The Run For Cover Band


Before I go any further, I have to give you the back story. As you know, I've been on a lot of Carnival cruises. On just about all of those cruises, there's been a cover band on the ship that plays familiar old pop songs. The number of those cover bands that left a lasting impression on me is probably one or two. As far as I recall, they've all been Filipino bands. Ship after ship... Carnival had a Filipino cover band onboard. Clearly, whoever was hiring cover bands for Carnival was doing their recruiting in the Philippines. My guess is that it probably boiled down to money... they could get Filipino musicians who would work for next to nothing... and they weren't willing to pay the kind of money that an American musician would expect. The problem with that whole practice is that listening to a Filipino cover band is great until the singing starts. The instrumental part is fine... they've all been good musicians. But hearing American pop songs sung with a Filipino accent just really doesn't do it for me. It always reminds me of

... and it goes horribly badly!


So, on the first night onboard Carnival Breeze, when we went to hear The Run For Cover Band for the first time, it was such a delightful surprise to find that the musicians hailed from such far away places as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Branson, Missouri. And it sure didn't hurt that the lead singer was ridiculously good looking, and friendly, too.



Sarah Tweedle, lead singer of The Run For Cover Band


Before we go any further, I have to apologize for those last two pictures. The lighting was absolutely HORRIBLE in the two venues where The Run For Cover Band played. Carnival seems to think that pointing blue lights at the band makes them look cool. It really just makes them look blue! And it's impossible to color-correct for it when post-processing the photos! So, it took me a few days of getting consistently bad photos of Sarah and the band to figure out that maybe I better put the big external flash unit on top of my camera. The pictures got a lot better after that!



The delightfully spunky, and now very well-lit pop singer, Sarah Tweedle


OK... we've established that she's cute. Perhaps you're wondering if the girl can sing. I think so! You can see what I mean by checking out this video of The Run For Cover Band doing "I Love Rock 'N' Roll"...




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So, have you ever heard the term "meet-cute"? It's a movie term. You typically have a meet-cute in the beginning of a romantic comedy. The female star of the movie goes in to the men's department of a department store and asks if it's possible to buy just the top half of a pair of men's pajamas. At the same time, the male star of the movie is in the same department store asking if it's possible to just buy the pajama bottoms. The two meet, the whole scene is cute, and the movie takes off from there. That's a meet-cute.


Sarah and I had a meet-cute on the gangway to the Carnival Breeze one day! It was hilarious. Here's what happened...


I had seen Sarah and The Run For Cover Band perform during the first couple of nights of our cruise. She mentioned during one of the shows that her parents and several other family members were onboard that week. (Cruise ship employees are at sea for long periods of time, often six or nine months straight... so it's not unusual for family members to take a cruise just to be able to spend some time with them.) I made a mental note that the family of the spunky lead singer was onboard.


In St Kitts, I headed off on my own on a snorkeling excursion while my wife stayed onboard to read a book. So, there I was... coming back to the ship after my snorkeling excursion. I'm on the gangway, in a long slow-moving line of people waiting to get through security. I turn around behind me and I see a girl that looks an awful lot like the lead singer for the band, only she looks a lot shorter, is wearing librarian glasses, and her face is more plain. I remember the mental note that the singer's family is onboard that week... and I notice behind the girl in the librarian glasses that there's several people that I recognized as the singer's family because I had seen them at the show. So, I turn to librarian glasses girl and I say "Are you the singer's family?" She smiles and says yes. Then I say "so you must be the singer's sister..." because she kind of looks like the singer, but not really. Must be the sister, right? She says "no, I'm the singer!" And then I spend the next two minutes clumsily trying to justify why I didn't recognize her. She seemed so much taller on stage! The singer doesn't wear glasses! And I pretty quickly realize that she just wears contacts, big heels, and some make up when she's on stage! OK, I admit it. I'm an idiot.


So, we met on the gangway, and I'm sure that I made a lasting impression on her... the idiot on the gangway that didn't recognize the star of The Run For Cover Band! But later that night, things got REALLY interesting.


That night, Kellyn and I took a seat at a table in the Red Frog Pub where The Run For Cover Band would be playing. Shortly after we took our seats, all of Sarah's family came in and sat down at the tables right next to us. And when I say all of Sarah's family, I mean her mother, her father, her grandparents, her brother, her mother-in-law, her father-in-law, and throughout the evening a few others who I never figured out who the heck they were! We were sitting so close that there was just no way that we could stay out of their business. And they were all such a friendly bunch (and by the way, we were in a pub, so we were all drinking!) that as the evening went on we just all started to get to know each other. It was an amazing night that started at 8 PM and literally went on until the management shut it down at 1 AM so the people in the cabins above could get some sleep! After spending five hours with Sarah's family that night, Kellyn and I were pretty much honorary members of the family by the end of the night. It was SO MUCH FUN!


Another little thrill for us was seeing the very first performances of The Run For Cover Band after Carnival decided to add a three-man horn section. Check out their version of "Proud Mary", and notice the horn section that wasn't there in the previous video...






Sarah and her dad, John Tweed, an amazing musician himself!

Check out
in Branson, Missouri!




Sarah's husband, Drew Webber

Sometimes I would sit in one of the closest tables to his amplifier

just so I could hear his excellent guitar work a little louder!




Later in the cruise, I went out to the viewing area on deck 11 forward to take some sunset photos

and I ran in to Sarah's dad and her brother! They didn't know I was there when I snapped this photo.

After all, I am secret agent James Bond, remember?




After I blew my cover, I got them to pose for this photo.



So, if you ask me what was the highlight of my cruise, the answer is easy.

It was Sarah Tweedle, and The Run For Cover Band.



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Sunrises and Sunsets


Perhaps by now you've figured out that I've got a pretty decent camera, and I know how to use it! Luckily, I'm also a morning person who gets up at 4:30 AM on a normal day... 6:00 on a cruise ship... and so I'm usually up in plenty of time to get a photo of all the spectacular sunrises. When my dinner plans cooperate, I'm available for sunset pictures, too.



Sunrise over Grand Cayman





Sunrise as seen from that viewing area on deck 11 forward, not far from our cabin





A beautiful Caribbean sunset





One morning there was an electrical storm in the distance, just as the sun was rising.

On the left of the photo, a bolt of lightning lights up a cloud... as the sun rises over to the right.

I had a really good view of it from that viewing area on deck 11 forward.





Yet another spectacular sunset at sea





Are you bored of sunrise and sunset yet? Me neither!

I have a couple more, which I'm saving for later.


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Food Porn!


If you're expecting pictures of beautifully prepared meals served in the main dining room... this ain't the review for you. Kellyn and I are very casual and prefer casual dining. When cruising on Carnival, we eat almost all of our meals in the buffet restaurant on Lido deck, never setting foot in one of the main dining rooms.


One of my favorite things about Carnival is their collaboration with Guy Fieri from the Food Network. When they started adding "Guy's Burger Joint" to Carnival ships, they really scored a big hit with me. Here's what I eat for lunch about every other day during a Carnival cruise...



"The Ringer" from Guy's Burger Joint

That's an onion ring in between the burger patty and the tomato,

and a delicious sauce they call "donkey sauce" on top of the cheese.





Guy's Burger Joint



On the Carnival Breeze, the casual buffet restaurant is known as the Lido Marketplace. I like the way they've decorated the place... even the fake trees! Kellyn and I actually have a favorite table that we sit at almost every time. It's on the left side of this next photo, against the fake brick wall.




Our favorite little corner table, next to the fake brick wall, has bench seating on the wall side... and a really cool view of the ocean. When we're sitting at our favorite little spot, here's what we see... including a beautiful view of the Caribbean Sea, right outside the window.




I really like the way they do breakfast in Carnival's Lido buffet restaurants, too. They breakfast buffett on Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean is just not as good. Here's a typical Carnival buffet breakfast for me...




Carnival makes it fairly easy to get a good omelet in the morning. The other cruise lines I've been on... not so much! I like the potatoes, too. Also... is it my imagination, or have they recently started doing something to make the croissants better? I liked the croissants on this cruise more than I've liked them on previous Carnival cruises. One last thing about breakfast... notice the Lawry's Seasoned Salt. I bring that from home. It makes the eggs and the potatoes taste better than regular salt does.


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We will be booking the 8 day cruise and staying in a Spa Cabin. Do you have a preference as to which side of the ship we book? Are any of the Spa Cabins on deck 12 noisier than others?


Thanks for the great review! Can't wait to read more.

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Kellyn and I keep it casual almost every day on a Carnival cruise. I'm in shorts, a tropical-themed short-sleeved shirt, and a pair of flip flops almost the entire time. If not in shorts... I'm in swim trunks!




But we did dress up a little bit nicer for one night of our 14-day cruise... the night we went to the steak house. I snapped this photo of Kellyn, just before our steaks arrived:



Kellyn dressed up for a nice meal at the steakhouse





Kellyn ordered the Surf-n-Turf (steak and lobster)





I skipped the sea food, and just went for a big steak with some mashed potatoes on the side.

The portion size of the mashed potatoes was ridiculously small for such a big steak,

but they were quite willing to bring me additional servings.



I mentioned earlier that we never set foot in to the main dining room during our entire cruise. OK, that's not 100% true. 99% true, yes, indeed. But I did step in for one brief minute to take this picture, just so you could see what it looks like...




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GREAT start to your review Jim!! We also enjoyed the Run for Cover Band on the Breeze in August.

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We will be booking the 8 day cruise and staying in a Spa Cabin. Do you have a preference as to which side of the ship we book? Are any of the Spa Cabins on deck 12 noisier than others?


I like the spa cabins on deck 12 better than the ones on deck 11, especially the ones on the starboard side. The main reason is that it is so easy to get from your cabin to the fitness center, because there's a door to the fitness center right there on the starboard side of deck 12. Even if you never plan on using the equipment in the fitness center, it's good to have a cabin near that door to the fitness center because via that door you can get to that spa elevator or stairwell... which can get you to the Serenity Retreat and also to the bar up there at Serenity. There were quite a few times when I just ducked out of my cabin, through the fitness center, and popped up to the Serenity bar to buy a diet Coke. One time Kellyn mentioned a craving for a rum runner, and I was up at that bar getting one for her a minute later. Also, by ducking through the fitness center you can very quickly get to that viewing area at deck 11 forward.


I would suggest not being in one of the two or three closest cabins to the fitness center door (the far forward end of deck 12) just because there might be a little noise when people go in and out of that door.


And avoid the cabins at the other end of the hallway, too... the ones closest to Waterworks. There is a door down there that goes from the deck 12 spa cabins to the waterworks area and the wind tends to slam that door. You do not want a cabin down at that far end of the hall near waterworks.


Somewhere in the vicinity of the James Bond Suite is pretty darned nice, I can tell you that. Excellent location.

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Now let's talk about booze for a moment...



On a sea day, I brought back a pitcher of Margaritas to our cabin

and Kel and I had a private party, followed by a nap!





These were free drinks (and sushi) at the VIFP party.

VIFP stands for Very Important Fun Person, the Carnival term for someone who has cruised with Carnival before.

If you've done at least 75 days at sea with Carnival, you get invited to a VIFP party where they serve free drinks.





This drink was not free, it was $2.30... and I think they misspelled VIFP


Speaking of the VIFP party...

Because we did two cruises back-to-back (B2B in cruiser lingo) we got to attend two VIFP parties... one each week. It was especially interesting the second week, which was a 6-day cruise... as opposed to the first week, which was an 8-day cruise. I guess your frequent Carnival cruisers prefer to do an 8-day cruise over a 6-day, because there was a MUCH smaller crowd for the VIFP party during the 6-day cruise than there was during the 8-day. The first week, there were so many VIFPs with 75 or more days in their cruise history that the VIFP party had to be held in the Ovation Theater... the big showroom at the front of the ship. But the second week, it was such a small crowd that they held the VIFP party in the Limelight Lounge at the back of the ship... the intimate little room where they do the comedy shows.


The nice thing for us about having the VIFP party in the Limelight Lounge is that it's very easy to order a specific drink there. The bar is right there inside the lounge. We just literally sat at the bar in the limelight lounge, and asked the bartender to make us what we wanted... and because it was the VIFP party, there was never a charge for those drinks. We probably drank $50 worth of free drinks at that party! In the Ovation theater, the bar is hidden in a room passengers can't go in to. Roving drink servers carry trays of pre-made drinks around, and you pretty much have to take whatever they happen to have. Sure, you can ask them to bring you something in particular, but it may take a LONG time before they give away all the drinks on their tray, go back to the bar and request your special drink, and then bring it back to you. So, being able to sit at the bar in the Limelight Lounge and have free drinks on Carnival's tab was kind of fun!


On another day, we ended up with free champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, courtesy of Carnival's Senior Cruise Director, John Heald...




John has occasionally used some of my photos of Carnival cruise ships as his Facebook cover photo. In fact, one day, he changed his Facebook cover photo three times and all three were photos from my web site! A few months ago, he asked me to let him know when I would be on a Carnival cruise again. I gave him the information about our Carnival Breeze B2B, and I guess he contacted the folks on the ship and had them deliver this little treat to our cabin. It was a nice surprise! By the way, that's my fourth solid gold plastic ship on a stick... so please do address me as "the four-time award winning cruiser, Jim Zim". Thank you. lol.gif


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Our Pre-Cruise Stay in Miami


I've been to Miami six times now, and I absolutely love it every time I'm there!


If we're getting in to Miami on a late flight and are leaving first thing in the morning on a cruise, we'll just stay in a hotel out by the airport... usually the Homewood Suites, Blue Lagoon, because they have nice rooms with free wi-fi and a halfway decent free breakfast in the morning. It's a LOT cheaper than staying at a hotel at or near the beach.


However, if we're going to have an extra day or two before the cruise, I've got no problem with paying the big bucks to stay out at the beach where the action is. Last year we stayed at a pricey hotel just across the street from Miami's famous South Beach. To keep the price from getting too outrageous, we stayed at an older hotel that itself was nothing spectacular... but whose location was amazing and right in the center of all the action.


For our September 2015 cruise on Carnival Breeze, I wanted to try somewhere new. I had read about the Bayside Marketplace in Miami... a tourist-oriented shopping/dining/entertainment complex that featured Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Hooters, Chili's, Five Guys Burgers, several other bars & restaurants, plus lots of shops and entertainment. Someone here on CruiseCritic mentioned that they had stayed at the Holiday Inn across the street from the Bayside Marketplace, and that they had really liked it. So, I thought we'd give it a try. It turned out to be an EXCELLENT choice, and I've already made my reservations there again for my next visit to Miami.


Here's a shot of the Holiday Inn...




I mentioned to one of my friends that we were going to stay at a Holiday Inn, and she rolled her eyes when I said it... but really, this was a nice hotel. Whatever your preconceptions about Holiday Inn might be... fuhgetaboutit. They've come a long way since their days as a bare-bones budget-conscious chain 40 years ago. The room had everything I needed, the air conditioning worked great, and the bed was comfortable. Everything was modern and updated. There was a swimming pool on ground level, behind the hotel.


But the real selling point for me was the location across the street from the Bayside Marketplace, and the fantastic views of the Miami cruise port. We paid about $30 extra for a "Bay View" room, and requested that they put us up as high as possible. We ended up with a room on the top floor of the hotel, and with an amazing view of the cruise port and the turning basin where the ships turnaround in the morning. It was the perfect room for me. Here's a picture I shot through the window of our hotel room, of the Carnival Breeze as she spun around in the turning the basin about five or six hours before we got onboard...




Here's another shot from the window of our room at the Holiday Inn. Just beyond the trees and before the water, the red buildings with the gray roofing is the Bayside Marketplace. I took this at sunset, the night before our cruise...




The night before the cruise, we had a really nice dinner at the Bubba Gump Fish Company in the Bayside Marketplace. Here's the shrimp salad that Kellyn ordered...




After dinner, we enjoyed listening to a cover band that was playing in an outdoor patio area of the Marketplace. We also walked through the shops in the Marketplace, and spent some time in the Disney store buying a gift for the dear friend that was filling in for me at my real job during my vacation. That's also where we found the Lady & The Tramp stuffed animal that my wife simply could not resist. And on the first night of our vacation, I certainly wasn't going to say no to her!


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Embarkation Day


I'm a California boy from a beach town where the only humidity we understand is a foggy 60 degree day. Things are a little different in Miami, especially during hurricane season. Note the "feels like" temperature in the Weather Channel graphic at 6:25 AM on embarkation day...




Embarkation day is fun, especially when you've reached Platinum status with Carnival! You get to skip a lot of the lines, and be among the first people on the ship! I didn't take a whole lot of pictures when we first got onboard, because our main goal was to get rid of all our carry-on luggage, find a cold drink, and do something to beat the heat.


When the ship finally sailed later in the afternoon, I got a kick out of seeing an old friend... the Norwegian Getaway. The most spectacular cruise we've ever taken was a luxurious week in The Haven, a truly VIP experience, on Norwegian Getaway. Here she is, colorful paint job and all.



There's a fairly boring video I shot of Norwegian Getaway as we sailed past her...

and it probably wouldn't mean as much to you as it does to me.

But if you want to see it for some reason,





I got a kick out of sailing past this big sign for the new Norwegian Escape, since we'll be sailing on her soon.

Look at the size of that sign... anchored by 16 giant shipping containers!





As we headed out to sea, I snapped this photo of another old friend who was right behind us: the Carnival Glory.

Our very first Caribbean cruise was on the Carnival Glory!

In the photo, she's just about to clear the breakwater at the entrance to Miami's harbor.


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Our First Port Of Call: St Maarten


We've been to St Maarten several times before, and we always have a good time there. They have beautiful beaches, lovely weather, and I'm looking forward to going back there again on our next Caribbean cruise... on the brand new Norwegian Escape.



When we arrived in St Maarten, the Disney Fantasy was already there waiting for us.



For this visit, we decided to head over to downtown Philipsburg and spend some time at the beach. It's an easy excursion that you can do on your own without having to pay Carnival for an official ship-sponsored shore excursion. There's a water taxi that will take you from the cruise ship pier to a little pier in Philipsburg where I was standing to shoot this next photo...



You can't see the pier I was standing on, but it was there under my feet!



As you can see, there's a beautiful little beach right there next to the water taxi pier... and just behind the beach is a whole bunch of shops, restaurants, and bars. Basically, everything you need for a fun day at the beach is right there! The only challenge is to pick a restaurant that you'll eventually want to eat at, and then to rent a pair of loungers and an umbrella on the beach right in front of that restaurant.


We walked down the beach until we found a little restaurant that spoke to me. I have a sister-in-law named Lizzy, so when we got to Lizzy's restaurant in Philipsburg, I figured that was a good sign.




Once I looked over the menu, I knew we had found a perfect place to spend the day. A friendly Lizzy's server set me up with the right guy on the beach who set us up with a pair of loungers and an umbrella. We were set for the day!



Kellyn read a book on her Kindle while I spent most of the day in the wonderfully warm water!


There was an unusual thing that happened there at the beach in St Maarten that day. When we're on vacation, Kellyn and I are all about the beach. We don't go shopping, we don't tour historical sites, we don't do jungle zip lines... we just like to spend the day at the beach. But Kellyn doesn't generally go in the water! If she does, she goes in up to her ankles... and that's about it. I'm out in that warm Caribbean water all the time... but Kellyn just relaxes on a lounger with her Kindle and is happy as can be. So it says something about what a beautiful day it was, how soft the sand was, and how warm that water was... that Kellyn actually came out in to the water with me that day... until it was practically all the way up to her neck! It was the most beautiful Caribbean beach day you could imagine.


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Later in the day, back onboard the ship, the sun started to set and the lights came on onboard the Disney Fantasy. I thought the red lights on deck and the yellow lights on the side of the ship were so pretty in the fading daylight that I snapped a picture of the scene...



The Disney Fantasy, docked next to us in St Maarten



I was particularly fascinated with an expensive suite up at the front of the Disney ship. I looked it up online, and it goes for $3000... a day! A one week cruise in a balcony cabin on Carnival will set you back about about $2000... and this guy in the big suite on Disney just shelled out $21,000 for his cabin. It was cool to see his butler set the table for dinner, though! And having his own whirlpool tub on his balcony is pretty cool, too.




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St Kitts



This was the view about an hour before we docked at St Kitts


I've only been to St Kitts one time before, and it didn't impress me much. I'm all about the beach, but St Kitts is pretty rocky and doesn't have many nice beaches. So, this time I decided to take a snorkeling excursion. Kellyn has a bad foot and snorkeling is almost impossible for her... so she elected to stay back at our cabin and continue reading her Kindle while I headed off for my snorkeling excursion. Normally, we're pretty much joined at the hip during a cruise, so I thought it was interesting that she wanted me to get out there and have my fun without worrying about her for a few hours.


I packed my underwater camera and was surprised to discover that it was dead as a doorknob when I got in the water and tried to turn it on. I guess I'm getting old and stupid, but it didn't occur to me to charge it the night before! So, no snorkeling pictures for you.


However, I did have my big DSLR camera in my daypack, so once I got out of the water and back on to the snorkel boat, a friendly fellow passenger was kind enough to snap this photo to prove that I was actually there.



Having a bad hair day after snorkeling off the coast of St Kitts



As the snorkel excursion boat headed back to the cruise ship dock, I took this photo of the Carnival Breeze. In the photo, you can see that St Kitts is a mountainous island that's very green... which, of course, means they get a fair amount of rainfall. Both times I've been to St Kitts, the top of the mountain has been covered in clouds.




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