My wife and I recently sailed on the newest ship in the Carnival fleet... the Carnival Breeze. I want to share our story with you, in hopes that it might inspire you to book a vacation on this fantastic ship. You would absolutely LOVE it!
Because it is so expensive to fly, we often do two cruises back-to-back. It's cheaper that way, compared to doing one cruise now and then flying back a few months later to do another. The Carnival Breeze alternates between an Eastern Caribbean itinerary and a Southern Caribbean itinerary... so that took us to Grand Turk, Jamaica, and Nassau during the first week... followed by Grand Turk (again), the Dominican Republic, Curacao, and Aruba on the second week.
We've been on quite a few cruises before... these two back-to-back cruises were our 17th and 18th cruises with Carnival!
I'll be sharing with you a lot of pictures that I took onboard the Carnival Breeze. Every picture on this page is my original photo... none are stock images or supplied by Carnival. These photos were taken with the brand new Canon Digital Rebel T5i camera... which is the latest camera in Canon's digital rebel series, and which literally hit the market just a few weeks before our cruise.
Before we get going, I should probably introduce myself...
I'm Jim Zimmerlin (everyone calls me Jim Zim) and I'm cruising with my wife,
(Pronunciation tip: it rhymes with Helen.)
We're from Grover Beach, California.
Let's start with the how we got to Florida. We traveled on United Airlines... starting at the small regional airport in San Luis Obispo, California, in a very small prop plane and flying to Los Angeles international. From there, we took a roughly 3-hour flight on a big Boeing jetliner to Houston, Texas, where we had plenty of time for a great dinner at Ruby's Diner in the George Bush airport. Because I was officially on vacation, I even enjoyed a margarita with my meal! (Trying to get in the mood for the cruise, you know.) Then we switched to a big Airbus jet for the final 2+ hour flight to Miami International.
We spent the night at the Courtyard by Marriot hotel near the Miami airport. After a good night's sleep, the next thing we knew it was time to head over to the cruise terminal. I love cruising out of Miami because it's home base for Carnival and they've put a lot of money in to getting everything right at the Miami terminal... which makes the check-in and boarding process go super smoothly in Miami. In fact, this was (by far) the smoothest embarkation process we've ever been through. From the time we got out of the cab at the cruise terminal, it took us literally less than ten minutes to drop off our luggage with the porters, go through security, go through the check-in process, and then be seated in the "Captain's Lounge" with our new sail-and-sign card in our hands while we waited for boarding to begin. The main reason it was so fast and so smooth is that we have cruised with Carnival so many times that we have achieved platinum status... and the best platinum perk is priority boarding. There's a separate line in the terminal for platinum guests, a separate check-in area, and a separate waiting area. It's really fast, and they treat you like you're a total V.I.P. I love it.
We got to the terminal a little too early... they were still finishing up debarkation of the guests from the previous cruise and hadn't started embarkation yet... so we ended up having a little bit of a wait. But finally, after about 25 or 30 minutes in the "Captain's Lounge", it was time to board. Here's a picture I snapped of the Miami cruise terminal as we walked along the upper level on the way to board the ship.
All those people down on the lower level of the terminal are "regular" guests (not Platinum level) and we got to jump ahead and board before all of them. I love that about being platinum with Carnival, and knowing that I would not have that perk with other cruise lines is just one of many things that keeps me loyal to Carnival.
Another perk that comes with platinum status is that they have your cabin all ready for you as soon as you board the ship. So, while most guests have to wait a couple of hours after boarding before they are allowed in their cabin, we were able to go straight to our cabin and drop off a few things. It's nice to be able to go to lunch without having to lug around our carry-ons. And a fairly new platinum perk is that they give special handling to your checked luggage and ensure that it's delivered to your cabin before anyone else's. Our luggage was delivered to our cabin at approximately 12:30!
Here's our gorgeous cabin:
Cabin 11222 on the Carnival Breeze
Over the years, on our many cruises with Carnival, we've stayed in a wide variety of cabins... everything from the least expensive inside cabins all the way on up to a suite. Those experiences have helped us to realize that what we really like best is a balcony cabin... and on Carnival ships that feature a spa, we like what they call a spa balcony cabin. So, that's where we stayed on the Carnival Breeze... in a spa balcony cabin. They're a tiny bit more expensive than a regular balcony cabin, but you get full access to the spa facilities and you also can rest easy knowing that smoking is not allowed on the balconies of these cabins. We once had a cruise where the guy in the next cabin would sit on his balcony and chain smoke... and it made our balcony basically unusable. So, we really like being in the spa balcony cabins knowing that our neighbors won't be smoking.
One great thing about all cabins on the Carnival Breeze compared to the older ships in the fleet is the improved heating and cooling system. You have total control over the temperature... and you really can make it quite warm or quite cool. On the older ships, it's sometimes difficult to get the cabin temperature the way you want it. And there are now two electrical outlets at the desk, compared to just one on the older ships!
Something you notice as soon as you step on board are the soft colors and the pleasing interior design. It's a far cry from the loud (perhaps a little tacky?) interior design of most of the older Carnival ships. I had seen a lot of pictures of the Carnival Breeze before our cruise and I knew that Carnival had gone away from their old Las Vegas style of interior design and moved to a much more classy style. But the pictures don't give the full impact. Once you start walking around the ship and you see it for yourself you are struck with how totally gorgeous this ship is. It is, by far, the most beautiful ship in the fleet.
Here's a couple of shots of her big "wow factor"... the amazing interior design of the atrium that soars above the lobby:
You also immediately notice the softer and classier style of interior design when you walk through the Lido Marketplace restaurant. I've been on cruise ships where the casual restaurant on Lido deck looked kind of like a bad mall food court. But on the Carnival Breeze, it's totally stylish and has lots of class:
See that tile floor? Watch out... it is incredibly slippery!
Those tables on the right with the tall chairs were our favorite place to eat lunch.
You can't see it in the picture, but on the opposite side of the table from the tall chairs
you sit on a big thick comfortable cushion and you have a great ocean view.
Throughout most of the ship, the hallways and cabin doors are decorated in a Caribbean theme...
However, the hallways near the Cloud Nine spa and the spa cabins have a different style...
When you stay in a Cloud Nine spa cabin, you get free
access to the spa facilities.
Our favorite is the Thalassotherapy pool...
There are also several different steam rooms, and this room (called the "tepidarium") with heated loungers:
Now, we get in to a series of photos that frequent cruisers know as "food porn"!
I had heard about several changes Carnival made to the casual dining on the Carnival Breeze... and was really looking forward to experiencing them for myself. I had read rave reviews about "Guy's Burger Joint"... and it really was a fantastic improvement over the regular hamburgers they serve on the older ships.
The new thick-cut French fries are fantastic, and you can get them by themselves without a burger if you'd like.
The burgers are available in several varieties... this is "the ringer", which has bbq sauce and is topped with an onion ring.
SMC = Super Melty Cheese LTOP = Lettuce Tomato Onion Pickle
There was one strange aspect of our Guy's Burger Joint experience... they didn't give very many fries, unless I asked for extra. What you see in that photo of "the ringer" is what I got after ordering extra fries. If I just took the plate the way they made it, without asking for extra fries, I only ended up with about five or six fries! That's not nearly enough, so I started asking for extra fries each time I ate there... and that worked fine.
About five months after our cruise on the Carnival Breeze, I sailed on the Carnival Conquest... which also has a Guy's Burger Joint. At the Guy's Burger Joint on the Carnival Conquest, they weren't stingy with the fries at all. So I don't know if someone within the Carnival organization identified this issue and corrected it fleet wide... or if they're still stingy with fries on the Breeze and generous on the Conquest. You'll just have to find out for yourself on your next cruise!
I had also read some things on Cruise Critic about long lines at Guy's Burger Joint... but if that was true at some point, they seem to have definitely worked the kinks out of the process since then. They had massive numbers of burgers coming off the grill and they were ready for the crowd. It seemed like on the very first day, things were clogged up just a tiny bit by passengers that hadn't quite figured out all the in and outs (pardon the pun, west coast people) of Guy's Burger Joint. For example, if you just take one of the burgers the way they hand them out... you'll get a "plain Jane" with no toppings... and then you'll have to go over to the toppings bar to get anything you want to put on top of your burger. But if you specifically ask for one of the specialty burgers like the "straight up" burger or "the ringer"... it's already got toppings on it and you're all ready to go. Figuring that all out seems to be the part that slows things up just a bit on the first day.
All the remaining days of the cruise after that, it was a super smooth and fast process with no lines at all... with one exception. Except on embarkation day, Guy's Burger Joint doesn't actually open until noon... and a line starts forming 10 or 15 minutes before they open. Just give it a little while for the initial rush to pass, and then you'll have no wait at all. I bet someday Carnival gets smart and has Guy's Burger Joint open earlier than noon... especially on sea days. But at the time of our cruise, they hadn't got there quite yet.
I had also read a lot about how some of the newer Carnival ships have a new style of pizza... and I was really excited about that because I really disliked the pizza I've had on previous Carnival cruises. The new pizza has a very thin crust, and I was delighted to discover that it tastes quite good!
I've been kind of a pizza addict since my high school days back in the 1970s. I'm not going to try to fool anyone and say that the new Carnival pizza is among the best I've ever had... but I can say I thought it was quite good and I think it's a huge improvement over the old Carnival pizza. So, bravo, Carnival. The crust is really thin... and therefore the layer of cheese has to be quite thin, too... so really, there's not much pizza there! You may want to have two pieces where you normally might only have one.
Another new addition to the casual dining menu is something I've been saying for years that Carnival should offer: breakfast burritos.
I have to be honest and say that the breakfast burrito that I had wasn't very good. You may have a totally different experience, though, because you get to choose all the ingredients and customize your breakfast burrito the way you want it. I may have just made some bad choices when I ordered mine! Here's the sign that shows you all the choices for having them make a breakfast burrito customized just for you:
Later in the cruise, I went back for lunch (where the burrito menu is totally different) and had a very good custom-made burrito. So, I do think the problem with my breakfast burrito was probably what I chose to have put in it.
Speaking of breakfast, let me show you the trick I use to make eggs and potatoes taste a little better on a cruise... I bring along a small container of Lawry's seasoned salt.
At this point, you must be thinking "wow, did these people eat anything besides junk food on their cruise?!?" Yes, we actually did. I was just grouping all the junk food together on this page for continuity... but we actually had some real nice meals in the fancier restaurants on the ship. In fact, on the very first night of the cruise we had dinner in the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse. I like a good bargain, and they throw in a free bottle of wine if you eat in the steakhouse on the very first night... so that's when we usually go. Here's the lobster that my wife ordered:
And here's a photo of the big-assed steak that I ordered!
What always frustrates me in cruise ship steakhouses is the way
they serve a gigantic steak but only a tiny potato with it.
If I were in charge, they would serve a gigantic potato to go with that big steak.
You can see the menu from the steakhouse here.
Here's a salmon dinner that Kellyn had one night in the Sapphire dining room:
And another salmon dinner a few nights later in
Cucina del Capitano:
My entree at Cucina del Capitano was eggplant parmegian.
I was surprised when it arrived served in a round dish.
I have to be honest and say that Cucina Del Capitano has been a disappointment for me. I've actually tried it four times now... twice on the Carnival Magic last year and twice this year on the Carnival Breeze. I totally love the concept of a specialty Italian restaurant on a cruise ship... so each time I've tried Cucina Del Capitano I've told myself "maybe you just ordered the wrong thing"... and I've decided to give it one more try. Now, after four tries and four disappointments, I'm finally giving up. It just doesn't work for me. Sorry! As an example, I've had eggplant parmegian many times over the years, at many different restaurants, and the Cucina Del Capitano version was totally different than any of the others. You had to really like eggplant to like this dish... because underneath that top layer of cheese in the photo is a whole lot of eggplant. I could only eat about half of it before I finally just couldn't stand any more. And what kind of Italian restaurant doesn't have Lasagna on the menu at dinner?!?
Of course, we did more than just eat on the cruise. We also drank!
Margaritas in the Punchliner comedy club
The Blue Iguana Cantina is another great place for Margaritas
(there's more to that story, a little later!)
Now I'm going to sneak in a picture that Kellyn doesn't like... because she hadn't done anything to her hair. We were having a very lazy sea day, sitting out on our balcony, Kellyn in a spa robe... and I thought she looked so happy and relaxed that I couldn't resist taking this picture:
She made a bit of a fuss because of the hair thing, so I told her she could take my picture even though I hadn't yet shaved. (Although I have such a weak beard that you can barely tell!)
And just to set the record straight about my wife's hair... the next day I took this photo (at dinner in the Sapphire restaurant) to prove that if you give her a few minutes to fix it up, that hair can look pretty darned good!
While we're doing Jim & Kellyn photos, I have to show
you something that she and I had a good laugh about! Mostly we stick together on the ship... but at one point when we
were up on deck together, I zigged when she zagged and she lost me for a few minutes. So there she was, up on deck
looking around at all the people and trying to pick me out of the crowd. That's when she realized we had a problem!
That day, I was wearing one of my favorite short-sleeved shirts and a pair of khaki shorts... which happened to be
nearly identical to the uniform worn by about 20 different Carnival employees up on deck that day!
Something new we had never experienced on our previous Carnival cruises was "Hasbro, the Game Show":
It was good, clean, family fun. Kellyn and I thought it was a good addition to the entertainment mix. It's not one of those things we would go see over and over again on our future cruises... but it was fun and I'm glad we got to experience it. I think it was a great idea for Carnival to offer this as just one more piece of the overall entertainment mix.
Here's another new addition to the mix... and again, it's a good one for families:
I'd suggest you just buy a ticket to one show, rather than the full-access pass. One should probably be enough for you. I had actually never seen a 3D movie before, so now I can cross that off the bucket list. Of course, this is more than 3D... the seats also shake and things get sprayed at you, too. It's fun... but once is enough.
On the very first day of our cruise, we had a real treat! We saw an old friend. As we set sail from the port of Miami, we were sitting on our cabin's balcony to enjoy the view. I shot some video of the mansions on Palm Island where the rich and famous people of Miami live, and some other video of the sights you see when sailing from the Miami cruise terminal, I put my camera away... and nearly missed the best photo opportunity of the day! Our ship had sailed out of Miami bay and had made it to open water. I figured the photo opportunities were over, and that I wouldn't need my camera anymore. I was so wrong! Luckily I did stay out on the balcony just to take in the view... and that's when our ship started to turn to port, which revealed an old friend who had been sailing right behind us as we were leaving Miami Bay. It was such a beautiful sight...
I may have let out a scream when I saw the Carnival Glory behind us in the perfect position for a photo. Remember, I had put my camera away... inside the cabin! I moved as fast as I could to grab my camera and to switch out the lenses to be able to get this shot. Definitely the photo of the day!
It was a real treat for me to see the Carnival Glory... because I do consider her to be an old friend. Our very first Caribbean cruise was on the Carnival Glory... so, she's got a special spot in my heart.
Cruising is a lot of fun for a photographer like me
because it's a "target-rich environment".
Here are some of my favorite sunrise and sunset shots:
The sun sets over the east coast of Florida
as our ship sailed away from the port of Miami
Sunrise on a "fun day at sea"
Sunset as seen from the "secret deck" on deck 11 forward.
The "secret decks" on decks 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 are really no big secret...
they're on all the deck plans... but very few people seem to discover them.
The view forward is fantastic... so it's a great place to be as the ship arrives in a port.
I'm an early riser, so I often see the sunrise...
but as you can see, the decks are pretty empty at that hour!
"Brave" on the Seaside Theater screen at sunset.
One cool thing about the Seaside Theater is that they serve free popcorn!
Even if you don't stay and watch the movie, you are welcome to take your popcorn to-go.
The port of Miami is so beautiful that I just had to create a big panoramic photo of it:
The version of the panoramic photo that you see here has been resized to give you a taste of it.
Click on the photo to view a full-sized version of it.
For the full effect, expand the photo to fill the entire height of your screen, and then pan left to right to view the whole thing.
You've made it quite far in to my lengthy story, so I'm going to reward you now! I happen to think that this next item is the most interesting thing on this page! I probably should have put it at the top of the page, rather than "burying the lead" as they used to say when I was working towards a degree in journalism. But here you go... it's a time lapse video I created with my new Canon T5i camera as our ship sailed away from the port of Miami. Click the arrow in the center of the picture to start the video playing...
Here's a tip regarding watching the videos on this page...
All of the videos were shot in full 1080p high definition, but YouTube defaults to playing them in bandwidth-saving low definition. However, there's an easy way around that. Do yourself a favor: Once you start playing the videos, locate the buttons in the lower left corner of the videos to switch over to 720p or 1080p high definition... and then locate the button to view in full-screen mode. They'll look much better that way.
On Tuesday, we arrived at our first port... and it just happens to be my favorite cruise port of all the ones we've ever been to over the years: Grand Turk. It was my first chance to get a good picture of the entire length of the ship.
There are several things that make Grand Turk a great place for cruise ship passengers. One is that there is an excellent beach with warm water right there where the ship docks. So, you don't have to take a taxi or a bus to get to a great beach... like you have to do in some places. You can literally be at the beach about five minutes after walking out of your cabin on the ship.
Another great thing about Grand Turk is that within a one minute walk from the pier is Margaritaville. Jimmy Buffet has a bunch of these all around the Caribbean, but the one in Grand Turk just happens to be one of the best of all.
Margaritaville is a large restaurant and cantina... and most have a small swimming pool, too. However, the one in Grand Turk doesn't. No, it has a GIGANTIC swimming pool, and a Flowrider surf simulator, too. It's so much fun to sit around the pool all day, enjoy some food and drink (they'll bring it right to your lounger by the pool), and I especially enjoy watching all the kids on the Flowrider.
As I was shooting video of the kids on the Flowrider, I realized that the guy standing next to me was the father of the girl in that last photo. So, I started chatting with him. It turns out that he actually had three girls riding the Flowrider. I decided to shoot some video of all three of his girls on the Flowrider, and then I got his email address so I could contact him after the cruise and point him to where he could find the video on YouTube. I bet his girls got a kick out of seeing the video I shot of them.
Something I learned from reading Cruise Critic is that if you take a right as you walk off the pier and then go a short distance up the beach, you will come to a place where the tides tend to push conch shells up on the beach. They call this the Conch Graveyard. I told Kellyn that I had something interesting I wanted to show her... lead her up the beach to the Conch Graveyard... and she was practically squealing with delight in seeing the largest shells she had ever seen on a beach. We both grew up in California and have spent a lot of time on California beaches... but we don't have anything close to shells this large on our beaches!
After several hours at Margaritaville and swimming in the ocean at Grand Turk, it was time to get back on the ship. A few hours later we had the privilege of attending the invitation-only VIFP party in the Ovation Theater. VIFP stands for Very Important Fun Person... and the VIFP party is Carnival's way of thanking their loyal customers who have cruised with them multiple times before.
The VIFP party was a perfect opportunity for me to get pictures of some of the
senior leadership on the ship:
Captain of the Carnival Breeze, Stefano Battinelli
Cruise Director, Brent Mitchell
Brittany Boyd, the Assistant Cruise Director, is really cute and always at the center of the fun
We were delighted to discover that our favorite
Carnival entertainer was onboard, too:
We've cruised with Consuela on two previous occasions. She is a FANTASTIC singer! She sang several songs at the VIFP party, including "I Will Always Love You"... which she actually sang better than Whitney Houston... for which she got a standing ovation. I wasn't that surprised to see that she was on Carnival's newest, best ship... as she is by far the best entertainer we've ever seen on any of the 17 cruises we've been on.
One nice thing about doing back-to-back cruises is that if you miss something the first week, you can catch it the second week. After hearing Consuela sing "I Will Always Love You" at the VIFP party, which totally knocked my socks off, I resolved that I would be sure to catch it on video at the VIFP party on the second week.
In addition to hearing Consuela sing at the VIFP party, she also hosts "Superstar Live" in the Limelight Lounge and also performs in the Ocean Plaza with the "Love Souljaz" band. Here she is singing with the band in Ocean Plaza:
There was a blue light shining on Consuela which makes her look a little odd in this photo... my apologies!
This leads me to point out something you might not have considered... one of the benefits of sailing on the latest, greatest ship in the fleet. Obviously, the latest greatest ship is going to have all the latest greatest stuff. But what you might not have considered is that the latest greatest ship also tends to have the greatest staff. Working on the latest greatest ship is not something that just any Carnival employee can do... they have to earn it. So, as a passenger on the latest greatest ship, you get the benefit of sailing with the best of the best Carnival crew members... people like Consuela, or Brent Mitchell, the Cruise Director, or his assistant CD, Brittany. These are not just random Carnival employees... these are the best crew members I had ever sailed with at that point.
One thing Carnival has been doing over the last few years is upgrading their outdoor furniture... even on their older ships. We sailed on one of the oldest ships in the fleet last year, and were delighted to see that some of the outdoor furniture was just as nice as the stuff you'll find on the newest ships in the fleet:
Those chairs are super comfortable thanks to the big thick cushions
Another thing that is consistent over the entire Carnival fleet is a commitment to stand-up comedy. On 7-day (or longer) cruises, there will usually be four different comedians performing. That's a lot of great comedy! This guy, John Wesley Austin, was really funny!
The fact that Carnival has a comedy club on every ship and that there are usually four different comedians on a 7-day cruise is one of those things that keeps me from cruising with any of the other lines. I love it, and I wouldn't want to give it up in favor of tango dance lessons on Holland America Line!
However, with that said, I do have to say that the comedy club on the Carnival Breeze had some serious issues during our cruise! Maybe they've fixed it by now, I don't know. I can only tell you what we experienced at the time. Last summer we sailed on the Carnival Magic, which has an identical layout. However, someone in charge of things on the Magic is a lot smarter than whoever was in charge of the comedy club on the Breeze. Even though the comedy clubs on both ships are exactly the same size, the seating was really limited in the comedy club on the Breeze... so limited, that it was really difficult to get a seat. You could literally show up to the comedy club 30 minutes before the scheduled show time and you not find an available seat... that's how limited the seating was. Yet, on the Carnival Magic they did not have this problem... because they brought in additional portable chairs (from the conference room, I think) to provide many additional seats beyond those that are built in to the lounge.
The other problem at the comedy club was the music they play before the shows! Geez, that was some crappy music! I looked around the comedy club and saw that the average age of the audience was probably 45 years old. You'd think they would be playing stuff that would relate to that demographic... like Elton John, Motown, or even a little light country before the show of a comedian in a big cowboy hat who plays guitar during his act. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out! And the manager of the comedy club during the second week of our cruise was either the most manic individual I've ever seen, or he had snorted a line of cocaine a few minutes before the show. He was a real piece of work. But that's the end of my rant about the comedy club... because by the time the show gets started and the comedian gets going and you're laughing at some beautifully well-honed material... you forget about all the problems and you just have a good time!
Speaking of a good time... if you cruise on the Carnival Breeze, I want to strongly encourage you to go see "Playlist Productions Presents: Motor City". It's a fantastic show featuring the music of Motown. I liked it so much that after seeing it the first week of our cruise, I went back and watched it again the second week. Motown music is so fun, and it sounds great on the big sound system in the Ovation theater. I've never heard such great bass in a theater sound system! Another spectacular aspect of the new "Playlist Productions" shows is what they've done with the electronic displays which have replaced traditional sets of the past. With big video walls at the back of the stage, they can either reproduce a passive backdrop such as a building, or they can go in to video motion to create a crowd of extras or even a crazy colorful background that bounces and throbs to the beat of the music. It's amazing to see, and I'm afraid that a still picture doesn't nearly do it justice... but here's one anyway:
Imagine all those colorful elements in the back wall bouncing and moving to the beat of the music!
It was REALLY cool!
While I totally enjoyed the Motor City show and even came back the second week and watched it again, I wasn't nearly as impressed with the other two shows: Divas, and The Brits. Part of the problem is that in order to keep their costs low, Carnival has cut back the cast of the stage shows to just 7 singers/dancers. So, at each show you're seeing the same 7 people just dressed differently and singing different songs. It's kind of like watching MTV, only every video is by the same group. Not only that, but the Motown songs are really special... but not so much the songs in the other two shows. The new electronic sets are really something you'll get a kick out of, though!
I mentioned earlier that we stayed in what's known as a spa cabin. These are cabins that are located near the ship's "Cloud Nine Spa"... and guests who stay in these special spa cabins are given full access to all of the spa's amenities such as the steam rooms and the thalasotherapy pool. But there's one hidden little gem in the Cloud Nine spa that some people never discover... it's a little relaxation room at the very front of the ship, with very comfortable seating and an awesome view:
What a great place to watch the sunset!
Here's a place that is not at all a secret.
On a "fun day at sea" it can get a bit crowded back here at the aft pool area:
I really like spending time back at the aft pool. It's somewhat protected from the wind, and they don't do any crazy stuff (like the hairy chest competition, for example) at this pool like they do at the mid-ship pool. At the mid-ship pool, the music is played very loud and the atmosphere is like being at a rowdy party place. Here at the aft pool, it's much more mellow. And on a hot day cruising on the Caribbean, that water feels real nice. In cold weather I relax in the indoor thalasotherapy pool in the spa area... but on a warm day you'll find me back here in the aft pool.
One negative thing that I did notice at the aft pool is that the playlist of songs they played on the sound system in this area was quite limited. It must have been less than 50 songs... as I started to notice repeats after only having been out there for a couple of hours. One way around this is to simply bring your own portable music player and some noise-cancelling headphones. With regular headphones, you might have a problem competing with the sound system that plays in this area... but a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones will do the trick. A few months before this cruise, I coughed up the big bucks for a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. I was very reluctant to spend $300 for a pair of headphones... but I have never regretted it once I started using them. They're fantastic!
On the last day of the first leg of our back-to-back cruises, we were in Nassau in the Bahamas. We were the first ship in port in the morning, and by later in the day we had been joined by Carnival Splendor, Carnival Sensation, and Disney Dream... which was right outside our balcony.
We spent the day at the water park at the Atlantis resort. We had been there several years ago and had a blast playing like kids all day at the water park... and I had been looking forward to coming back ever since then.
Kellyn and I had fun on the lazy river but she wouldn't go on any of the waterslides with me! This was my favorite one... scary enough, but over quickly, and not too scary! I went on it twice.
As the ship sailed away from Nassau, I shot another time lapse video...
When you do back-to-back cruises, the transition day between the two cruises is really fun! While everyone else is all sad about having to disembark the ship, you get to stay on. We usually do a load of laundry on this day, as no one is using the self-service laundry equipment on the morning of disembarkation. You may wonder why we don't take advantage of the free laundry service provided as a perk of platinum status. We tried that once, but it literally took DAYS for them to return the clothes to us. Going days without most of your clothes is a big downside, so we've just gone back to doing it ourselves. By the way, the self-service laundry rooms on the Carnival Breeze are really cool! You don't need to use coins... everything is done with your sail and sign card... even purchasing the detergent! It's VERY convenient.
Besides the laundry, the one other chore to be done on the transition day between two back-to-back cruises is the official processing and transitioning. You are told to meet at a certain time (usually about 10 AM) and at a certain place (usually in the lobby, but on this particular cruise it was the theater) and that's where they give you the new sail and sign cards for the second week. Finally, when all the other passengers have left the ship, a Carnival representative walks you off the ship and through customs (it's basically a formality) and then right back on the ship before any of the other passengers who are waiting to get onboard. At this point, your best bet is to go get lunch... because a few minutes later they will start to board passengers for the next cruise and the restaurants will get really crowded. It's also an excellent time to use the swimming pools and/or the Jacuzzis... because you'll have them all to yourself.
Our first stop on the second week of our back-to-back cruises was Grand Turk. It's our favorite cruise destination, so we were delighted that the ship visited this port on both weeks of the cruise. We got up early so that we could be among the first off the ship, and we headed directly to that gigantic swimming pool at Margaritaville.
That pool is so large that you're only seeing about half of it in this picture!
And did I mention that you can enjoy the pool for as long as you want, at absolutely no charge?
During our visit to Margaritaville the previous week, we literally got there 5 minutes too late to snag the best seats at the pool... with a view of the Flowrider, and an umbrella to provide shade. Those spots under the umbrellas are the first to get taken... so this week we got off the ship a little earlier and successfully grabbed the seats we wished we had gotten the previous week. Life is good!
Ironically, on this second week we elected not to have margaritas at Margaritaville... because we learned about an even better deal. So, after a few hours of enjoying the pool, we went back onboard the ship, grabbed some lunch, and then headed to the Blue Iguana Cantina which offers a pitcher of Margaritas for $25. Let me tell you... a pitcher of Margaritas split among just two people is a recipe for a fun afternoon! We took ours "to go" and set up our own little Margaritaville on our balcony. Here's a shot I took when we had gotten down to the last glass:
What happened over the next couple of hours is a bit of a blur! The margaritas worked their magic, and the next thing I knew it was time for the VIFP party... which was kind of bad timing since that party is all about free drinks, and that was the last thing we needed! Kellyn ended up skipping the VIFP party in lieu of a nice nap, but I wanted to go in order to get a video of the performance that had knocked my socks off a week earlier at the previous VIFP party. So, I was probably the only person at the VIFP party that turned down every offer of a free drink! But I was on a mission to capture a video of Consuela singing "I Will Always Love You"... and I'm delighted to say that I was successful in my mission. Enjoy the video, and prepare to have your socks blown off by the best entertainer I've ever seen on a cruise ship:
If you enjoyed that, you should also check out this video of Consuela singing Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" during a different show.
One other highlight from this day is that I shot another time-lapse video... this time showing the ship sailing away from Grand Turk. You'll see that we actually got a few sprinkles as we sailed away... but not enough to scare anyone away from the aft pool area.
I hope you're enjoying all the videos and photos! I know what it's like to sit at home with a bad case of "cruise fever", wishing you were on a cruise vacation rather than being stuck back in your real life. Sometimes the only cure for cruise fever is to find a great cruise review on the Internet, with great pictures and videos that make you feel like you're there on a cruise. I'm trying to do my share by documenting all the fun of our back-to-back cruises... and I hope you'll do the same when you finally make it on your cruise. These experiences are too good to keep private... they belong out there for all the world to enjoy!
There was a time, however, when I was actually forbidden from spending time during a cruise taking photos and writing up a review! What happened was that I spent a little too much time with my computer and my camera during our first Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Glory... and not enough time paying attention to my wife! So, on our next cruise, on the Carnival Valor, she put her foot down and told me that I had better knock it off and pay more attention to her. That's why, out of all of the cruises we've taken, the only one not documented on a web page was the one on the Carnival Valor.
This time around, however, I totally avoided the doghouse in spite of spending hours and hours shooting photos, videos, and editing HTML. The reason is that in a total stroke of luck, my wife acquired a new best friend a few weeks before our cruise: the Amazon Kindle that I bought for her! During this cruise, she was happy to spend hours and hours reading books on her Kindle... leaving me hours and hours to work on the project you see here. So, thank you to Amazon.com... without you, this web page might not exist!
I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about the
situation with the Internet while onboard a cruise ship. We were lucky enough to sail on the Carnival Magic in August
of 2012 when they were experimenting with offering unlimited always-on Internet service… and I absolutely LOVED
that. I had a chat with the Internet Café Manager on the Breeze to talk out why Carnival discontinued that
program. He assured me that Carnival wants to offer that again someday, but explained that the technology just was
not ready yet. So, during our two weeks on the Breeze they were back to offering Internet service in various
blocks of time rather than offering an unlimited option. Too bad… I could have really used that unlimited
service this cruise with all the video that I shot! However, I should mention that in 2014, Carnival started
another experiment with unlimited Internet access on some of their ships. So, it sounds like things are moving in
the right direction and that sometime in the next few years we'll see a much improved Internet experience on all
The good news is that you can pick up a free wi-fi signal when you're at Margaritaville. However, the bad news is that it was the flakiest Internet service I have ever seen. I’m not kidding when I say that during the 3 or 4 hours we were at Margaritaville during the second week of our cruise… I might have had an Internet connection that actually worked for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. It was just the most horrible flaky service I had ever seen. They need to work some bugs out of their wireless access point!
I did read an article last year about how MTN communications is spending millions of dollars to develop better Internet for cruise ships… including some kind of thing in the major cruise ports that would connect with the ship when the ship got within a certain distance and which would provide a fast connection. The system is actually in use today on the Norwegian Getaway... and I bet it won't be long before it comes to the entire Carnival fleet!
We look back now at the Internet of the 1990s and laugh about our dial-up modems and the horrible connections of those times. I am sure that the day will come, not too far from now, when we will laugh about the bad Internet-at-sea of the 2010s and that we will someday soon enjoy a high speed persistent Internet connection at sea… and an especially good connection when we are in port.
Our next port of call was La Romana in the Dominican Republic. I really didn't know what to expect from this day... as I didn't know much about the Dominican Republic other than the fact that a lot of good baseball players come from there. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I spotted six baseball fields right next to where the ship docked! Things looked fairly green on the island, so I guess they must get a lot of rain... but it never rained during our visit.
There's nothing within walking distance of the port... so you pretty much have to either book an excursion, grab a taxi, or take the shuttle bus to the shopping district. We booked an excursion called the "Bayahibe Beach Break"... which is an afternoon at an all-inclusive resort on the other side of the island. Several times on previous cruises, we've been on excursions to all-inclusive resorts. They're usually really great because you have the use of the resort's pool, a full open bar, and swimming in the ocean. However, there was one or two on Mexican cruises that were less-than-great due to a dilapidated resort or a bad beach. I was a little worried about this excursion, as there were three reviews on Carnival.com, and two of them were quite negative . But it turns out that I had nothing to worry about, because this turned out to be one of the best days, ever!
When I sit at home and fantasize about a great vacation, I'm picturing a warm day at a beautiful beach with clear, warm water you can swim in. I grew up in California, where the ocean water is about 50 degrees... so to be in the Caribbean in warm water you can comfortably swim in... THAT'S paradise to me... and Bayahibe beach certainly fulfilled the fantasy. A bonus was that unlike some Caribbean beaches... you could wade out in to the water in bare feet, as there were no rocks and no grass underfoot... just sand.
It took about a half hour to get to this side of the island by bus... so I knew we were in for a half hour bus ride (with no restroom) on the way home. My plan, therefore... based on a previous very bad experience on a shore excursion in Mexico where I had to pee so bad during a bus ride back to the ship that I could barely keep from wetting my pants... was to enjoy the open bar early in the day, and then to impose a drinking curfew about an hour and a half before the bus ride back to the ship. So, in the full spirit of Jimmy Buffett and "It's Five Oclock Somewhere", I began drinking rum and cokes at about 11 AM. Kellyn didn't get her money's worth out of the open bar... she didn't feel like drinking on this particular day. But I didn't let that bother me!
Well, about four rum and cokes later, I was certainly feeling the love for Bayahibe beach:
And even though she hadn't been drinking, Kellyn was certainly enjoying things at Bayahibe beach, too. It was paradise.
My self-imposed 90-minutes-before-the-bus drinking curfew worked out just fine and at the end of our stay, we had a delightful ride back to the ship. After four rum and cokes, even a bus ride can seem delightful! My only complaint about this excursion was that it was too short. I would have LOVED to stay at that wonderful beach for a couple of hours more. I made sure to go to Carnival.com as soon as we were back onboard (you can access it for free from the ship) and submitted a very positive review of this shore excursion to balance out the two negative reviews that others had posted earlier.
Here's a time-lapse video I shot as our ship departed from La Romana:
The next morning, we woke up to discover that the Lido deck had been invaded by towel animals!
This is something that they always do towards the end of each cruise. It's funny to see the reactions from people who wander on to Lido deck first thing in the morning and who are not expecting to see this! It's also cool to see what they can do with a few larger towels:
Our next port-of-call was the island of Curacao. I was surprised to look at a map and see how far south it is. It's almost as far south as Venezuela, in South America. Being that far south, the weather really warmed up, and the ocean water was nice and warm, too. Curacao had a few surprises in store for us... it had a really nice tourist area fairly close to the dock, and there was also another cruise ship visiting Curacao that day. But the biggest surprise of all was to see, very close to where we docked, a hotel with the coolest infinity pool I have ever seen! Check this out:
Rather than do a time-lapse video at sailaway...
I decided to do one as we arrived in Curacao instead:
We chose the "Beach Day Express" shore excursion which took us by bus to a very nice beach about a half hour northwest of the ship. The beach is known as Blue Bay beach. While it certainly wasn't as nice of a beach as we visited the day before in the Dominican Republic, there was one advantage: the tour operator provided snorkel gear, and there were some very cool fish to see while snorkeling right there near the beach.
Blue Bay beach in Curacao
In the photo, you can see that there's a rocky area in the foreground. That's where the fish are... and it was good, easy snorkeling there. In the distance, where all the people can be seen in the water, it was sandy and there was excellent swimming there in clear, warm water. Also, notice the floating wooden platform over to the right. It was fun to swim out to it, and then to dive off. I may be 55 years old, but I'm 15 at heart! All the (real) kids were having fun playing "king of the platform" and trying to push each other off and be the last person standing. I resisted the urge to join in the game, although I would have loved it!
We had picked loungers underneath a palm tree and Kellyn settled in with her Kindle while I swam and snorkeled. When I came back from snorkeling, I had the funniest experience! In loungers just a few feet away from us were a man and a woman who were at least 65 years old. They weren't with the cruise ship group. The woman was actually reasonably attractive for her age... looking a little bit like Sophia Loren might at 65. She was wearing a bikini. But here's the funny part... the lady fell asleep in her lounger and somehow managed to wiggle around enough that one of her breasts totally popped out of her bikini top. Not just a little... but ALL the way out. I'm a guy... so when I came back from snorkeling, this was the first thing I noticed! I looked at Kellyn for a reaction... and there was none. She apparently hadn't even noticed... even though the woman was just a couple of feet away. Then I looked at the woman's husband for a reaction... and there was none. How had he managed to not notice?!? I don't know. So then I started to look around at the other people in the area for a reaction... and very nearby were two boys about 20 years old who were laughing about something. I assumed they had noticed! So, this went on for a good 15 minutes or so. It was a good 15 minutes for me, at least, as even though this lady was at least 65... it was a nice breast! Now remember, I'm a photographer, and I had my camera with me, too. But I was such a good boy that day! I totally resisted the urge to get a photo... and it was a difficult urge to resist!
Finally, after about 15 minutes of this, the woman's husband stood up and walked over to his wife and started talking to her, which woke her up. Amazingly, he DID NOT point out to her that she had a breast that was totally out of her bikini top. He just kept talking to her like everything was normal, and she didn't have a clue. Well, at that point, I had been staring way too long so I turned away... and by the next time I took a look, all was tucked back in to place. A vacation moment to remember, for sure! I'm just sorry that I was looking away at the moment she finally figured out that her bikini top was only halfway on. It would have been funny to see the look on her face when she realized that she had been putting on a show for everyone!
Our final port-of-call was Aruba, where we went on a snorkeling excursion from the "Mi Dushi" sailboat. This was about a five hour excursion, stopping at three different snorkeling sites. I've done at least one snorkeling excursion on just about every one of the 18 cruises we've been on... and I saw the largest number of fish on this one than any of the others. They were mostly smaller fish, but very colorful and in very large numbers. The "Mi Dushi" (translation: "My darling", or "my dear one") isn't particularly impressive looking in the picture I snapped, but it was really fun to sail on her and especially fun to jump off the sides to go snorkeling. You could also climb down a ladder to go snorkeling, but jumping off the side is WAY more fun!
See that big net at the front of the boat? It was really fun for some of the kids to sit out on that net as the ship was sailing. One of the snorkeling sites we visited was the site of a wreck of a WWII-era German freighter. There were lots of fish here, and we also so an amazing eel that was about four feet long!
While we were on the deck of the Mi Dushi and getting ready to snorkel, I noticed a bunch of people having too much fun on a pirate ship that was anchored next to us. I shot some video of them having a great time swinging off the deck of their pirate ship and dropping in to the water. It was one of those fun things you witness on a cruise that really make you feel good knowing that everyone is having such a good time. Take a look at the video:
The shore excursion brochure said that there would be "an island lunch" provided onboard the ship, as well as an open soda and juice bar. It turns out that this was a case of under promising and over delivering! The island lunch turned out to be a really nice lunch of chicken, fish, rice, and fruit provided by a local catering outfit. It was surprisingly good. And the best surprise of all was that the "open soda and juice bar" turned out to be more of a real open bar... with unlimited alcoholic beverages provided after we had finished at the last snorkel site. Once the booze started flowing, it changed the mood of the whole boat and we went from snorkeling mode to party mode. And when we got back onshore and took a short bus ride back to the Carnival Breeze... everyone was happy from the booze and it was one of the most entertaining bus rides I've ever been on! They played music that everyone knew, and provided maracas to everyone so that we could play along with the music. You probably had to be there... but just take my word for it that this was one of those memorable cruise moments where a whole bunch of strangers came together to just have FUN. I'm going to remember it for a long time!
At 4 PM, it was time for the Carnival Breeze to set sail for Miami. Aruba is a LONG way from Florida... and we only had two days to sail back... so it's one of those days when passengers really need to get back onboard on time, because the ship can't wait very long past the scheduled departure time. Of course, Murphy's Law applies, and this was the day that we had three passengers who weren't onboard when the ship was ready to go. You could tell the Captain was really itching to set sail, because over the next 15 minutes he sounded the ship's horn about five different times... as a final warning to the tardy passengers that if they didn't get back to the ship real soon, they were going to be left behind. A ship's horn is really loud... and can be heard throughout the town. That's not a sound you want to hear from halfway across town if you're supposed to be on the ship!
Two of the three tardy passengers arrived about ten minutes past our scheduled sailing time... to a chorus of taunts from those of us on our balconies watching the scene on the pier below. Passengers running to catch the ship at the last minute are known as "pier runners"... because they usually realize they're late and they run down the pier to catch the ship. Sometimes they don't realize they're late, though, and then they finally figure it out when they hear all the people on the ship who are yelling things such as "run!", "let's go!", or "come on!" and they figure out that everyone is yelling at them! Once they get close to the ship, if they're not already running, someone from Carnival is usually there at the dock to tell them to start running because they're about to miss the ship!
The final passenger arrived 15 minutes late... and as soon as he got onboard, the gangway was pulled up and off we went. I actually managed to catch it on a time-lapse video that I shot from our balcony. If you look real carefully at the video, you'll see the pier runner come out of the parking lot 7 seconds in to the video and head to the little guard shack with the turquoise roof. From there he runs over to the right side of the big metal terminal building and at 10 seconds in to the video you can see him run out the left side of the terminal and head over to the gangway, which is out of view. The ship sets sail immediately after that.
That evening, I had the pleasure of seeing a hilarious comedy ventriloquism act in the main theater. The comedian's name was Marc Rubben, and I was able to get a video of the hilarious finale of his act... where he asked if there were any newlyweds in the audience, and then he brought the bride up on stage to be part of his act.
I apologize in advance for a few brief focus issues on the video... I was in the last row of the theater and was using a big 400mm zoom lens which is not specifically designed for video. So, it does a pretty good, but not perfect job of automatically focusing. Also, there were a couple of points where I was laughing so hard behind the camera that I couldn't keep from shaking the camera a bit!
Hopefully by now, after all these photos and videos, you're getting the point that a Carnival cruise is simply FUN! You get to see and do all sorts of things that you would simply never see or do back at home. Just as an example, I bet the people in this next video don't do a whole lot of dancing when they're at home. But after seeing a great show in the Ovation Theater, a party broke out in the ship's atrium and those people (with just a little encouragement from the Cruise Director) were partying like it was 1999! Check out the video...
One more video of a little bit of fun on the Fun Ship...
Here's the waiters dancing after dinner one night:
By the last day of our back-to-back cruises, after 14 days in the Caribbean, I had a pretty good tan going! You can see it quite clearly in this picture where I am showing off the gift that they give to all platinum-level guests:
One last funny story from the cruise...
Every day at 12:00 noon, the Captain addresses the passengers over the public address system. He gives an overview of the weather conditions and the ship's location. This announcement comes through all the speakers in the public areas of the ship... including the hallways outside the cabins... but does not come over the speakers inside the cabins. So, from inside the cabins you can somewhat hear that the Captain is addressing the ship, but you can't really understand the words.
On the last day of our cruise, Kellyn was inside of our cabin during the Captain's address, and I was walking back to the cabin after an errand. I knew that Kellyn probably heard the Captain making an announcement but that she probably couldn't make out the words... so I thought I'd have a little fun and play a joke on her!
When I returned to the cabin, I asked her (in a very excited manner) if she had heard the big announcement. Then I told her that the Captain had announced that there was a dock workers strike in Miami and that we were going to have to stay at sea for a few more days until they worked it out!
Here's something that you might find very useful if you're doing research for an upcoming cruise on the Carnival Breeze...
Take a look at this detailed set of Carnival Breeze deck plans. Print them out double sided on 8.5x11" paper and take them with you on your cruise. They are far more detailed than the printed deck plans they hand out on the ship. Or simply save the deck plans to your iPad or laptop computer and bring it with you on the ship.
Another thing you may want to look over is the entertainment schedule from the first leg of our back-to-back cruises. There's also the menu from the steakhouse, the menu from Cucina Del Capitano, the menu from Fat Jimmy's BBQ, the room service menu, the menu from the Red Frog Pub, and the menu from the Blue Iguana cantina.
You can also take a look at the "Fun Times" newsletter from each day of our cruise, in order to get an idea of what kinds of activities and entertainment they offer on the ship:
6-day cruise - Day 1 -
6-day cruise - Day 2 - At Sea
6-day cruise - Day 3 - Grand Turk
6-day cruise - Day 4 - Ocho Rios, Jamaica
6-day cruise - Day 5 - At Sea
6-day cruise - Day 6 - Nassau, The Bahamas
8-day cruise - Day 1 -
8-day cruise - Day 2 - At Sea
8-day cruise - Day 3 - Grand Turk
8-day cruise - Day 4 - La Romana, Dominican Republic
8-day cruise - Day 5 - Curacao
8-day cruise - Day 6 - Aruba
8-day cruise - Day 7 - At Sea
8-day cruise - Day 8 - At Sea
Carnival Cruise Sounds
Have some fun with these! Listen to the Carnival Cruise theme, or play the sound of a Carnival ship horn.
If you're a true cruise junkie, download the audio files (by right-clicking, and saving) and then set your computer to play the ship horn when you get a new email, and to play the theme song when the computer boots up and/or shuts down!
Helpful Tips and Tricks
Never cruised before? Let me make your first cruise a little easier by giving you a few tips... starting with a list of things that I'd like to suggest you should bring with you on a cruise:
A multi-outlet power strip. There are only two electrical outlets at the desk in your cabin. That may not be enough if you want to charge multiple electronic devices overnight.
A 6-pack of your favorite beverage, so you don't have to pay ship prices for it. There's a refrigerator in your cabin, so you can keep your beverage cold... and your cabin steward will fill your ice bucket several times a day. Also, think about buying bottles or cans of your favorite soft drinks at the ports you visit. It's better than paying ship prices for it.
Two large plastic drink cups. (One for you, one for your roommate.) The drinking glasses that are provided in the cabins and in the Lido restaurant are frustratingly small! They don't even come close to holding the contents of one can of Coke. We always bring a couple of large plastic drinking cups along with us... to use when drinking our favorite beverage on our balcony, on the Serenity deck, or even at the Lido restaurant. Once I'm comfortable, I don't like having to get up to refill my beverage.
A watch or a travel clock. Activities start at certain times, so you will frequently want to know the current time.
A highlighter pen, to mark activities on the daily schedule that you are interested in.
A small flashlight, so you can stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night without disturbing your roommate by turning on all the lights in the room. It's also a handy thing to have with you in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Your MP3 player, so you can listen to your favorite music while you relax in the sun on deck. I'd also recommend noise-cancelling headphones for use with your MP3 player. There have been many times when I've been trying to relax on The Serenity Deck of a Carnival cruise ship when someone nearby was talking so loudly that all serenity had vanished. Noise-cancelling headphones and your favorite music on your MP3 player will bring the serenity back. Noise-cancelling headphones are also great if you are taking an airline flight to get to and from your cruise. They block out all the engine noise while you are watching the movie or listening to music.
Some $1 and $5 bills. Very handy for tipping the people who handle your luggage on embarkation day, and also for making small purchases in port. Using American money in Caribbean ports is almost never a problem, but using a large bill to make a small purchase can be a problem.
If you're in love with your laptop computer or iPad... be sure to bring it along! There's wi-fi available throughout the ship, even in your cabin. Another good electronic gadget to bring along is a Kindle. There's lots of time on a cruise to do nothing... and having a good book or a Kindle to read is a great way to pass the time.
And I think this last one goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: DON'T FORGET TO BRING A SWIM SUIT!
Speaking of swim suits... I'd like to tell you about one of the most useful things we've learned after many cruises. When you share a cruise ship with 3000 other passengers, you have to come up with ways to avoid the crowds. I really don't think it's fun to share a Jacuzzi with a bunch of strangers, so I make an effort to get to the Jacuzzis at times when the other passengers won't be there. So, here's a trick that we use to have the hot tubs all to ourselves:
Most people pack their swimsuit in their suitcase, which they hand over to a porter on embarkation day so that the suitcase can be delivered to their cabin. And the suitcases generally don't arrive at the cabins until late in the afternoon on embarkation day... which means that most people can't get to their swimsuits on the afternoon of embarkation. And that means that the Jacuzzis and swimming pools are fairly empty on embarkation day. It presents a perfect opportunity! What we do is wear our swimsuits under our clothes on embarkation day. The first thing we do when we get on board the ship is have some lunch, and then after lunch we strip down to our swim suits and enjoy the hot tubs without anyone else being in them. It works every time, and it's one of the few times during the week that you see the hot tubs without anyone else in them. By the way, before you get in the jacuzzi, grab a towel up on the Lido deck by the main pool... so that you can dry off when you're all done.
Empty swimming pool and Jacuzzis on embarkation day
Here's another method we use to have the hot tubs all to ourselves: 6 PM is the most popular dinner time... and most people are getting ready for dinner at 5:30 PM... so that's a great time to head to the hot tubs. If you have "your time dining" you can eat a little later, after you're done with the hot tubs.
While we're talking about beating the crowds... remember that if you try to eat a meal at the same time everybody else does, you're going to find the buffet very crowded. So, try to adjust your schedule a little off-peak to avoid the crowds. Get up a little earlier than everybody else to avoid the breakfast crowds. Or eat lunch a little later than everybody else to avoid the lunch crowds. The buffet is really crowded at 8 AM, but usually not at 7 AM. And the lunch crowd is huge at 12:30 but not bad at all at 1:30 or 2 PM.
If you're cruising on the Carnival Breeze or Carnival Magic, be aware that there's a trick to getting your cabin lighting to work! (This may be true on the Carnival Dream, too... I don't know for sure since I have not sailed on her.) Look for a little slot on the wall just as you enter the cabin. Place your sail-and-sign card in this slot to make the cabin lighting work! Take your card with you when you leave your cabin, and the lights will shut off after a few minutes.
This is an energy conservation innovation on the newer Carnival ships, so that they aren't wasting a bunch of energy lighting cabins that don't have anyone in them. That's fine, but it's really confusing if no one explains it to you. We ran in to one of our neighbors on embarkation day who complained that the entire cabin went dark when he was in his bathroom! No one had bothered to explain the system to him, so we clued him in to how it works. Be aware that you can put ANY card in the slot... it doesn't have to be your sail-and-sign card. Any old supermarket club card, or any card the size of a credit card will work.
Sometimes on at-sea days, it can get really windy out on deck. To illustrate the point, here's a little photo I took of the ship information channel on our cabin TV on one of our "fun days at sea":
Some areas of the ship are more exposed to wind than others. The Serenity Retreat, on the top deck and at the very front of the ship, is one of the worst places to be on a windy sea day. But be advised that there are some places you can relax on deck that are actually wind protected. The trick to finding them starts with looking at that wind direction display on your cabin TV. In the photo shown above, the wind is blowing strongly from the port side of the ship to the starboard side. In this situation, one of the most wind-protected areas is the "lanai promenade" on the starboard side of deck 5:
The lanai promenade is a big outdoor deck that goes all the way around the ship on deck 5. Because it is somewhat low on the ship, with 8 or 9 decks towering above it... all those upper levels of the ship act as a big wind block and the lanai promenade can be quite well protected from the wind. There are two big jacuzzi whirlpools on each side of the ship here on deck 5... and, as you can see from the picture, LOTS of available loungers. People always think of the Lido deck as the place to go on a sunny day... and few think about coming here to the much less crowded promenade deck.
If the wind is blowing straight down the length of the ship from forward to aft, one of the best places to escape the wind is the aft pool area at the far back of the ship on Lido deck.
For Better Or For Worse
We've been cruising with Carnival since 1996 and over the years we've noticed that a LOT of things have gotten better, but a few things have gotten worse. Here's a few things that really stand out as being hugely better or worse on Carnival now compared to just a few years ago:
About The Camera Used To Take These Photos
Almost all of the photos on this page were taken with my Canon Digital Rebel T5i. It's a brand new camera... the latest and greatest in Canon's series of Digital Rebels. You can read more about this camera on my page about the T5i.
A Great Series Of Books About Cruise Ships
After you've been on at least one cruise, there's a book that you really should read! It will give you a whole new perspective. It's a book that was written by a guy that worked on several Carnival ships... and he shares some funny stories about life on a cruise ship. To give you a bit of an idea of what kind of book this is... the story starts as he is staying in a hotel room in Miami, the night before his very first day working on a cruise ship. Even though it's the day before his first day onboard, he's basically "on the job", so Carnival is paying for the room. To save the company money, they don't give him a private room... he shares it with someone else. So, he checks in to the room, and the first thing he does is to take a nice long shower. And when he's finally done with his shower, he discovers that his roommate has shown up... and is in the middle of having sex with a woman right there in their shared hotel room! Does that give you an idea of the kind of book this is? Well, that's just the beginning... and things get even more interesting on the ship!
If you've ever wondered what life is like for those people that work on cruise ships... what kind of hours they work... how much they're paid... and what they do when they're not working... this is the book for you. The overall plot of the story is that the author, Brian Bruns, meets a girl named Bianca in Las Vegas and quickly falls head over heels in love with her. It turns out that she's on vacation from her job as a waitress on the Carnival Conquest. Soon enough, the vacation is over and Bianca heads back to the ship... and Brian must make a decision about whether this was just a quick fling, or something more. He decides it was something more, and takes a job with Carnival in order to be with Bianca. Ship life is tough, and creates one roadblock after another between Brian and the girl he loves.
It's a huge love story that literally follows them all around the world. If you just want to hear Brian's best inside stories about life on a cruise ship, you don't even need to read all four books... just get the first one. But if you find yourself loving all the dirty details of life on a cruise ship, and want more... or if you get hooked on the love story and you want to find out whether ship life breaks up Brian and Bianca or whether there's a classic happy ending at the end... buy all four.
|Volume 1||Volume 2||Volume 3||Volume 4|
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The Cruise Ships We've Been On
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