There’s a breath of fresh air blowing through the Mediterranean, and it’s called the Carnival Breeze,
The newest fun ship, taking me from Barcelona to Venice on only its second-ever voyage, is packed with innovative features which will soon be introduced to the rest of Carnival’s 24-strong fleet.
OK, it’s loud, it’s brash, and it’s very American, but that is apparently a popular choice for a growing number of British cruise passengers, especially those with young and growing families.
Sadly for us, Breeze will leave the Med at the end of this summer to cross the Atlantic and set up home in Miami for regular cruises to the Caribbean. But in 2013 Carnival Legend will be sailing out of Dover during the summer, and Carnival Sunshine – as Carnival Destiny is to be re-named after a £100 million re-fit – will be based in Barcelona.
But enough of next year. Back to the Breeze, and what makes it so special.
It’s the first Carnival ship to exemplify a marketing slogan called Fun Ship 2.0 (the two-point-oh is very important in 21st-century marketing speak). That means a clutch of branded bars and restaurants for a start, although we’re not talking Coca Cola and Nike here; apart from the loud and demanding Hasbro Game Show, these are not brands you will recognise.
They are brands which Carnival has created itself, and the first – the RedFrog pub with its own-brand Thirsty Frog Red beer – became so popular when it was introduced last year on sister ship Carnival Magic that there was talk for a time of it being rolled out at shoreside resorts.
That idea was squashed, so if you want a glass of the strangely-named brew you have to come to sea. On Breeze, the pub – more Caribbean bar than back-street boozer – is joined by the RedFrog Rum Bar by the pool, together with a matching BlueIguana Tequila Bar.
Take your pick: mojita or margarita – they’re only a few yards apart.
At the other end of the pool is the BlueIguana Cantina, serving authentic tacos and burritos to order, flanked by Guy’s Burger Joint. The branding for this comes from a flamboyant American TV chef called Guy Fieri. He may know a thing or two about beef (and the associated toppings) as proved by the demand. They are serving 1,200 to 1,500 burgers a day here compared with 400 at the unbranded burger bars on other ships.
But when it comes to chips – which he, of course, calls fries – Fieri needs some lessons. The offerings here have been overcooked and exceedingly greasy.
Elsewhere on the ship, in addition to the two main restaurants, Blush and Sapphire, there’s Fat Jimmy’s C-side BBQ which relieves pressure on the main Lido Marketplace buffet on sea days. I know I shouldn’t, but I’m looking forward to a pulled-pork sandwich tomorrow, as we travel from Salerno to Dubrovnik.
Apart from the a la carte nibbles in the RedFrog pub, all the food options so far listed are free of charge and included in the cruise fare. In contrast to many of today’s new ships, Breeze has relatively few extra-charge speciality restaurants and, just as important, a good choice of no-fee food rather than inferior selections designed to drive you to the extra-cost venues
No-one is forced to sample the Bonsai Sushi Bar (a la carte); the homely Cucina del Capitano Italian trattoria ($12 for adults, $5 for kids) and the sophisticated Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse ($35, which is a bargain when you realise how much an equivalent 18-oz steak would cost in a restaurant back home). But a visit is well worth it.
Refreshingly, the no-fee principle is repeated elsewhere on the ship. The extensive children’s facilities – from Camp Carnival which takes tots as young as two, to Club O2 for 15 to 17-year-olds – are free to use, except for a charge of $6.75 p hour (plus 15 per cent service charge) for baby-sitting between 10.0 pm and 3.0 am.
Parents can even leave their offspring in the care of the trained staff for an entire day while, for example, they leave the ship and take an excursion to Rome or Florence.
Even more attractive to someone like me, whose children have long been capable of taking care of themselves, is the Serenity Deck at the front of the ship, above the extensive Cloud 9 Spa.
Here is a haven of tranquility, with superior sun loungers, softer towels, private cabanas, whirlpool baths and quieter music – it can get L-O-U-D by the main pool, with its Jumbotron movie screen blasting out US comedy shows and music.
Serenity comes at no extra charge, and there’s a bar, plus, on sea days, light lunches. I could spend all week here. (Don’t tell anyone, but I really have spent all week here).
I’ll be writing a full review of Carnival Breeze for the travel pages of the Daily Mirror, so look out for more on this great new ship there.
In the meantime, here’s the Breeze in numbers:
- 1,845: staterooms (or cabins and suites)
- 3,690: the number of passengers based on two per cabin.
- 4,263: the number of passengers on board this week.
- 4,724: maximum passenger capacity with sofa-beds and bunks fully occupied.
- 1,004 feet: Length
- 158 feet: Beam at the pool deck.
- 130,000: Gross Registered Tonnage
- 346,000: How many pizzas Breeze passengers will eat in a year.
- 2,000,000: The number of pillow chocolates placed on beds in a year.