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Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Breeze Review

Carnival’s newest and largest ship lays out an array of next-generation features, and delivers good value, too.

February 20, 2014
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With a broader range of dining options than any other ship in the Carnival fleet, Breeze caters to almost every palate. It’s not a gourmet experience, and Carnival doesn’t advertise it as such. But we found lots to enjoy, and it went well beyond hamburgers and tired buffet spreads.

Most diners enjoy dinner in the main dining room, which is actually two venues, Blush and Sapphire. But anyone who wanted to stray from the traditional dining plan had plenty to choose from. This was especially true at lunch, which offered the ever-popular Guy’s Burger Joint, the Mexican BlueIguana Cantina, a BBQ pit (on sea days), and an Indian buffet—in addition to the more-standard pizza station, hot dog stand, etc. Additionally, there were specialty restaurants requiring a surcharge for dinner: a very satisfying steakhouse, a sushi restaurant, a bar with pub grub, and Carnival’s traditional Cucina del Capitano Italian venue.

Breeze is also home to a seven-course Chef’s Table dinner, offered once or twice each cruise in a private dining room, for $75 including wine. We didn’t sign up for the meal on Breeze, but you can read about our Chef’s Table experience aboard Carnival Victory here.

Blush and Sapphire Restaurants

The main dining room on Carnival Breeze is actually two separate venues with identical menus. Blush, located on decks 3 and 4 aft, is dedicated to those who select assigned seating times (6 or 8:15 p.m. nightly). Sapphire is located midship on decks 3 and 4—the lower deck was also set up for assigned seating, while the upper deck was for those of us who booked Your Time Dining, which was any time between 5:45 and 9 p.m. We’d call Blush the more handsome of the two options—with a rear window facing aft, it was striking enough that we wished we’d chosen the set seating option. Our servers were great, and night after night we were greeted by name, and as courses arrived they were quick to offer a grind of fresh pepper.

Overall, we found some good food on offer, but there were a number of middling dishes and a couple that were poor. The better starters we tried included the green bean and tomato salad, and a hearty navy bean soup. A couple dishes sounded promising, such as the sake stewed beetroot carpaccio garnished with grapefruit and gorgonzola, but it seemed most of the effort went into naming the dish and slicing the beets razor thin. Less satisfying was the arugula, mint and vegetable salad, for which the arugula was wilted and the accompanying fleck of flat bread was stale. Baked stuffed mushrooms were served on an escargot plate and swamped with a cheesy sauce.

Among the entrées, we found the vegetarian spanakopita with a stuffed bell pepper lacked any spark. The panko crusted jumbo shrimp was a real loser, described as being served with artichokes, sun ripened tomatoes and kernel corn. Instead, the shrimp were more like breaded fish sticks, hardly crisp, and laying on top of a muddle of veggies, with no flavors standing out. Apparently seeing that the dish was none too special, the kitchen opted to serve it with an unadvertised tangle of room temp curly fries.

But other mains were better, including the Maine lobster and jumbo shrimp offered on the second “cruise elegant” night. The vegetarian zucchini and eggplant parmigiana served on a pomodoro sauce was fine. And the martini braised basa fillet with tomato, chili and fennel was a delicious surprise, hearty and flavorful.

For desserts, there’s always Carnival’s famed warm chocolate melting cake. The dish obviously has its fans (it’s available every night) but we think they could shake it up a bit. A cappuccino pie missed: the coffee ice cream was soft while the whipped cream on top was frozen hard—when we cut it with our fork the ice cream went splat. On the other hand the cheese assortment was a simple but satisfying alternative.

Breakfast is offered here each morning, or brunch on sea days. The menu covered the usual turf adequately—fresh fruits, cold packaged cereals, yogurt, bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese, eggs benedict, pancakes and Belgian waffles. Omelets were available with an egg substitute on request, along with sides of corned beef hash, ham, bacon, pork link sausage, chicken sausage, turkey bacon and hash browns. We tried the huevos rancheros, which could have been spicier. The next morning we had fruit and cottage cheese, and while fruit the was delicious and varied, the portion was modest, with just a couple bits of cottage cheese on side. Fortunately the waiter quickly brought another on request.

Afternoon tea was served in Blush from 3 to 4 p.m. on sea days. We found savory sandwiches as well as sweet treats that were as good or better than what was served here at dinnertime.

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Lido Marketplace

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, the Lido Marketplace on Deck 10 is the main buffet option aboard Breeze. Though often crowded, especially at breakfast and lunch, the traffic flow is better than on many of Carnival’s older vessels, with food stations nicely spaced. There is indoor seating close to the buffet stations, amid a canopy of lanterns and faux trees, as well as outdoor tables at midship (usually full) and aft, by the Tides Pool (often empty).

For breakfast, we found packaged cereals, oatmeal, yogurt, eggs benedict, scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, pork or chicken sausages, bacon, baked beans, French toast and pancakes were all on offer. The fruit station offered melon, oranges, grapefruit, bananas, and the pastry and bread selection was nicely varied. It’s not a huge selection for breakfast, but certainly adequate.

The range of fare at lunch was broader, and much of it changed from one day to the next. There was a deli with both cold and hot sandwiches—turkey wraps, tuna, and arugula, pepper and mozzarella on ciabatta; pastrami or corned beef on rye, grilled Rueben, roast turkey, etc. The salad bar was modest, but there was a rotating selection of prepared salads—vegetable and goat cheese, potato salad, watercress and arugula. The hot selection also changed daily, and our cruise we saw such fare as caramel crusted fish fillet, chicken parmigiana, chicken tenders, chimichanga, fried popcorn shrimp, broccoli casserole, maple glazed pork chops. There’s also a Mongolian Wok station where you choose your noodle, meat, etc. This was very popular, and the times we tried to get lunch here there was a long line. The dinner selection at Lido Marketplace was similar (minus the Mongolian Wok), and was a much less busy time for the buffet.

The dessert spread was extensive, though we found much of it looked better than it actually tasted (tip: go to afternoon tea for dessert instead). The chocolate buffet on the last full day of cruise was popular, but it didn’t quite send us.

Several drink stations offered coffee and tea around the clock, along with water and lemonade or orange “juice cocktail.” Alcoholic and other drinks were available at the Tides Bar (aft) or next to the Beach Pool at Blue Iguana Tequila Bar and Red Frog Rum Bar.

Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse

A feature found on a majority of ships in the Carnival fleet, the steakhouse on Breeze offers a quality dining experience that is several cuts above what is offered in the ship’s main dining rooms. Of course, there’s a surcharge to dine here—$35—but we feel Fahrenheit 555 is worth the add-on, especially for a special occasion or romantic night out for couples. The room is sophisticated and subdued, the service deferential and engaged, and the fine meats are well prepared.

The meat selection ranges from the 9-ounce filet mignon to 18-ounce prime cowboy and rib-eye steaks; also available were grilled lamb chops, grilled fillet of fish “from the market,” Maine lobster ravioli with grilled scampi, and broiled lobster tail (surf and turf was also an option). Starters included escargots, shrimp cocktail, New England crab cake, lobster bisque, and onion soup.

Our meal started with an amuse bouche, tomato soup accented with orange and a lobster ball with shrimp in a sweet-and-sour sauce. Warm bread was served with butter and two dipping options. We tried various starters—beautifully composed portobello mushrooms marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, the classic Caesar salad liberally dusted with parmesan cheese and studded with oversized croutons, and a delicious ahi tuna tartare, a stack of cubed yellow fin tuna dressed with pearls of various liquids. The only appetizer that disappointed was the hearts of iceberg salad—it arrived just as promised, with red and yellow grape tomatoes, but we think Carnival owes this steakhouse standard a fresh twist.

The entrées we chose included the broiled New York strip, a large cut that was perfectly cooked to order and handsomely presented. We also tried the broiled rosemary infused chicken, which was served in a small skillet atop a hash of potatoes and mushrooms. This was a very tasty alternative to the red meats on offer. For dessert we opted for the cheesecake—a hefty slice accented with a hazelnut biscuit—and the fresh fruits, a lovingly crafted selection of melon and berries served with cream in a martini glass.

The steakhouse has a full bar, with cocktails not offered elsewhere, along with the ship’s full menu of wines. Fahrenheit 555 is open nightly, and those who dine here on the first night of the cruise are traditionally gifted with a complimentary bottle of wine.

Cucina Del Capitano

Another dining staple throughout most of the Carnival fleet, this family oriented trattoria is located just above the Lido buffet. There’s a $12 surcharge for dinners at Cucina del Capitano, and the portions are quite hearty, suitable for sharing. (A limited lunch menu is also offered, free of charge.) Although we don’t find most of the food to be anything special, it is satisfying, and a nice change of pace of the bustling main dining rooms. The lighthearted décor is red checkered tablecloths, empty wine bottles and black-and-white framed photos of old Italian ships and their captains; at a couple points the wait staff broke out into a song and dance routine—cute.

The menu offers a little something for everyone, and portions are huge. Starters include such standards as an antipasti plate, eggplant parmigiana, fried calamari, and minestrone soup. We opted for the arancini, fried risotto balls served over tomato sauce—one of the few smaller portions on the menu. The insalata Caprese—tomato, mozzarella, basil—was a straightforward interpretation, with drizzles of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and pesto. The “captain’s favorite,” an insalata di rucola, was comprised of arugula, cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese, with a limoncello dressing. The bracing salad was initially refreshing, but the brisk dressing was so strong we soon tired of the flavors after a few bites. All was accompanied by a cutting board with toasted bread, ricotta cheese, roasted garlic and plump tomatoes on the side.

For our main course we chose two pastas. Piatto della Nonna was penne with a tomato and vodka cream sauce, spiked with shrimp and flecks of prosciutto. It was quite flavorful but otherwise undistinguished. The spaghetti carbonara was awash in cream, studded with bacon and shaved parmesan. We prefer carbonara with egg, not cream, but this decadent interpretation was just as the menu advertised. Both of these rich pasta dishes were way more than a typical portion—we’d recommend sharing them (both could have served as an appetizer for four). Other entrée options mostly shied away from pasta and included chicken parmigiana, Piedmont-style braised short ribs, New York sirloin, grilled shrimp and grilled salmon, along with bavette alla scoglio (pasta with seafood in a white wine sauce), or linguini with meatballs. Side dishes are available, such as zucchini and tomatoes, rosemary potatoes, and broccoli with peperonata. Desserts included tiramisu, lemon sorbet, cannoli and an apple tart, and a selection of Italian after-dinner liqueurs were available.

The lunch menu is fairly short, but there’s no add-on fee. There were three types of pasta and four sauces, though these could be supplemented with items such as grilled chicken, garlic shrimp, eggplant, etc. There was also a tasty meat lasagna available, along with very ordinary Caesar salad. If you’re in the mood for pasta at midday, it’s fine, but the dinner menu is definitely better.

Bonsai Sushi

Offered only on Breeze and a couple other Carnival ships, this is a modest improvement over the sushi stands found throughout most of the fleet. Alas, meals here involve an a la carte surcharge—you’ll want to budget about $12 to $15 for a meal, not including drinks. The surrounds are pleasant enough, in a Yokohama-meets-Denny’s kind of way, and service was swift and friendly. Our main complaint was that the venue, which is open on one side to the main hallway on Deck 5, is noisy—the karaoke acts going on in the nearby Plaza were not exactly the soundtrack we wanted for dinner.

Meanwhile, the food was straightforward and unsurprising. We were offered a “chork” to eat with—the utensil is a fork on one end and chopsticks on the other (joined at one end). While this is a friendly intro to chopsticks for newcomers, for those comfortable with chopsticks the tweezer-like appendage is awkward and clumsy. Starters (which ran $2 to $3 each) included tuna and mango tartare, wagyu beef short ribs, noodle salad and miso soup. Rolls ranged $4 to $6 each, and the short list included California, spicy tuna, and tempura roll. A bento box was available for $8, but the best value was the Ship for Two—a $15 combo platter that included a number of the above items, served in a cute little toy ship.

The weirdest part of an evening here had nothing to do with the food. Just before our sushi arrived we were handed a fish flag on a stick and waitresses taught everyone a dance routine. Next thing we knew “Turning Japanese,” a 1980 song by new wave group the Vapors, came over the sound system. Three very enthusiastic Japanese waitresses encouraged the room to wave this flags and join them in a bizarre rendition. Every one of our fellow diners had a dumbfounded look on their face.

Tandoor

Little more than a modest buffet station on the aft pool deck, this was our favorite lunch option on Breeze. Although the selection of Punjabi, Kashmiri and Goan curries and other dishes was fairly tame, dishes were well prepared, and provided easy intro to Indian cuisine for newbies. Among the rotating offerings were tandoori chicken, Goan fish curry, aloo mutter, vegetable jalfrezi, butter chicken, and beef rogan josh, while dal, naan and roti were offered daily. It was good, rich and spicy food. One odd note: the Greek salad offered as a side seemed both unimpressive and misplaced.

Sea Dogs

A hot dog cart sprang up at Sports Square on sea days. There was just one kind of frank on offer, but grilled onions and sauerkraut were available as toppings.

Pizza Pirate

Located on the aft pool deck, this pizza parlor rolls out serviceable pies 24 hours a day. Among the flavors we saw: Margherita, funghi, pepperoni, quattro formaggi, and prosciutto.

Guy’s Burger Joint

This is another seagoing outpost for Guy Fieri, Carnival’s vision of a celebrity chef. We can’t argue that the juicy, sloppy ground chuck offered here represents an above average cruise ship burger. They have a high fat content, but that’s what makes them delectable, right? A line forms soon after opening each day and doesn’t let up till well into the afternoon (tip: the lines were worse for the first couple days of our cruise). Guy’s disembodied wisdom grinds out on a sound system surrounding the al fresco serving station.

The burgers can be ordered straight up, with bourbon and brown sugar BBQ sauce, chili, or with Guy’s “donkey” sauce. Also on offer is the Pig Patty—a true ham-burger, made out of bacon. There’s a fixings bar, with traditional condiments along with sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions, and bacon.

Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ

Exclusive—for now—aboard Carnival Breeze, this is an outdoor barbecue stand on the Lanai Deck, operating on sea days only. A line was solidly established at opening time on all three of our sea days, but we didn’t wait more than 10 minutes to be served. The meat selection included barbecued chicken breast, pulled pork, kielbasa and Italian sausage. The was a good array of sides, including grilled vegetables (root veggies, eggplant and onion), potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, creamed corn and cornbread. For those who didn’t want to goop on extra BBQ sauce there was a tasty red bell pepper puree. We’re not BBQ snobs, but we thought the fare was pretty satisfying.

Taste Bar

This is an interesting concept, a counter for tapas-sized taste treats in the evening, located next to Ocean Plaza, a prime traffic area. The fare replicates what it served in the ship’s various other restaurants, so it was more like a preview of dining choices. At breakfast and lunch this was another buffet line, with a limited selection of the food available at the Lido Marketplace. But it was also fairly undiscovered, and easy to get in and out of.

Blue Iguana Cantina

This was the spot for take-away Mexican fare, located next to the main pool. Burritos and tacos were built to order, a la the Chipotle’s fast-food chain—chipotle-rubbed chicken, ancho roast pork, fried fish, beans, corn, grilled onions, etc. could all be loaded into tortillas for fast and tasty lunches. In addition to pumping out fresh tortillas, the cantina has a surprisingly robust salsa bar, with at least ten different fresh salsas, along with lime, cabbage, cilantro, watermelon and other Mexican essentials.

The cantina is also open for simple breakfasts. While the huevos rancheros were a little different from what we know, they’re a perky way to start the day. Breakfast burritos were packed with scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, ham and potatoes.

Red Frog Pub

Though primarily used as a bar, food could be ordered at the Red Frog Pub. The a la carte surcharge for dining here didn’t make sense to us. We tried the sliders, two to an order—the burgers were accompanied by frizzled onions, while Jamaican jerk pulled pork came with plantain chips. These were fine for a light meal, and the $3.33 charge per plate was modest but, again, this seemed nickel-and-dimey to us. Other items (also $3.33) included coconut shrimp, grouper fingers, conch salad and West Indian roti. There was one dessert: Icky Sticky Coconut Cake.

In-Room Dining

Room service is available 24 hours a day aboard Carnival Breeze, but we found there was much better offered at the various restaurants. The breakfast options were outlined on a door tag that could be hung outside our cabin before 5 a.m.; selections were limited to continental breakfast: packaged cereals, breads and pastries, smoked salmon, yogurt, and plates of citrus, melon or banana. For the rest of the day, sandwiches (hot and cold), salads and desserts were available.

We ordered breakfast by phone one morning and were told delivery would take approximately 30 minutes—it arrived 24 minutes later. We asked for a banana to go with our cereal but were told they were out; we ordered the melon and citrus plate instead. The menu said muffins were available, and we asked the phone attendant what flavors. “Bran, chocolate chip and some other flavor,” we were told. We requested bran, but what arrived was “some other,” which turned our to be lemon-poppy seed (not our favorite). The fruit plate was pretty, but the citrus was unpleasantly sour. Otherwise our order was fine—the one hot item was coffee, and it was piping hot.

We called to order lunch one day, and were told 30 minutes again—the knock on the door came in 21 minutes. We requested the mozzarella and portobello on focaccia, but what was delivered was a grilled Panini that was like a caprese salad—pesto, tomato, mozzarella and zucchini. Though this option wasn’t on the menu, it was good, so we didn’t mind the substitution. Still, if they were out of Portobello or mozzarella, couldn’t they have told us when we ordered? We also had the hot pastrami sandwich on rye—it arrived barely warm (not hot), and was just okay; the side of potato salad was pretty good, though. Mixed green salad was nice, with fresh lettuces, cucumber, tomato wedges, and shaves of radish and carrot, offered with a selection of dressings. The New York cheesecake for dessert was uninteresting, and oddly served with a dollop of sweetened butter on the side.

For both deliveries the tray was simply adorned with linen, while the silverware was wrapped in a linen napkin.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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