Saturday, July 24, 2021

Carnival Breeze Cruise Review July 24 & July 29, 2021

Carnival Breeze B2B (back to back) Cruise Review - July 24 & July 29, 2021
Just The Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Breeze
Theme:  WE'RE BACK
Ship Captain:  Rocco Lubrano
Cruise Director: Jonathan “Cookie” Adams
Ports: Galveston, Progreso, Cozumel, Galveston, Cozumel Galveston

This is my 7th & 8th time on the Carnival Breeze, my 78th & 79th Carnival Cruise Line cruises, and my 155th & 156th cruises overall.  I am sailing solo.  This is my first cruise in 16 months, since I was dragged off of the Carnival Dream in the middle of a B2B due to the Pandemic shutdown. 


Day One--Saturday--July 24th--Embarkation

Mongolian Grill

When I completed the online boarding & health forms I had the earliest allotted boarding time of 10:30 -11:00 am.  That can be good or bad.  When I packed on the night before sailing (as usual) I discovered that I didn't have Khaki's or pants for the MDR.  I have a favorite pair of Khaki's that I called my "Eating Pants" for the past ten years.  They have been on lots of cruises and all over the world, but alas, they no longer fit me.  I have actually lost 92 pounds of weight since my last cruise.  So I had to leave very early to allow myself some time to go pants shopping before boarding the ship.  I was successful and actually at EZ Cruise Parking by 10:15 am.  It was busy as the Vista is also sailing today, but soon I was shuttled over to the Breeze and walked to the line for Check-in.  There was a short line for initial security and vaccination check, then to the next station where you have your bags sent through the security x-ray machines.  Then you go upstairs to the actually Carnival check-in area.  Wasn't busy at all and there was only about 100+ people in the waiting area.  I only just sat down when they called for guests in suites, then the A-1 boarding passes.  It was only 11:00 am.  An amazingly smooth process.  One small hold-up at the final check point...Face recognition did not work for me as they used my passport photo and I look so different with the weight loss. With that fixed I was onboard and I dropped my bags at the cabin.  It was already cleaned and ready so I was able to spend a few minutes as I had carried my bag with me through this process.  It was off to Lido Deck and the Mongolian Grill.  I was among the first if not the first through.  You can select your own vegetables and noodles as usual and they did a great job preparing the dish.  I looked at the buffet and it looked very good, there was Italian food in the specialty area.  I went down to my Muster Station to check-in for safety drill.  This is so much easier.  Then I watched guests board the ship at the Lobby Bar...always interesting.  I did return to the Lido deck and the Dessert Station to see if there were any new masterpieces and they did not disappoint.  An Elderberry and Vanilla was fantastic.  I went to see the Lido aft pool area and saw my friend Daniel working the bar.  It was really good seeing him, I was able to visit with him about my trip to Romania.  Then I finally returned to my cabin to hang my clothes and set it up for my cruise.  I have a 1A interior, but a lot of room especially for a solo guest.  Even though there is no formal Muster Drill, they still make ship-wide announcements about 3:00 a bit difficult to nap.  I was lazy and watched sail away from my cabin TV, but I was able to start this review and relax after an early and already long day.  I went to the Alchemy Bar about 6:30 for Apéritifs and had some lovely Elderflower based cocktails.  The Alchemy Bar has to share space with the Ocean Plaza so not as intimate, but certainly entertaining as the Alchemist went with the flow and rocked out to the great band performing.  You meet the nicest guests at the Alchemy as well.  I had a nice table on lower level of the Blush Dining Room.  My card said Table 1 that I presume is code for “see the Maitre’D” and I was taken straightaway by the assistant Maitre”D who I knew from previous sailings.  Dinner was good.  I order two Shrimp Cocktails, the Smoked Pablano & Corn Soup, the Braised Beef Brisket entree, and the Strawberry Creme for dessert.  I was hoping for an improvement on the Shrimp Cocktail and no it wasn’t…very bland.  The soup was very good as was the entree.  The brisket was very tender and I had asked for horseradish that added some tang.  Very enjoyable meal.  I know there was a lot of activities on board, but I retired to the cabin, made some notes, and was soon fast asleep.

Day Two--Sunday--July 25th—Fun Day at Sea
Very calm seas and I slept very well in my interior cabin, very dark and quiet.  I do use the forward camera on the TV as a night light,  I was awake about 7:15 am and went up to the Blue Iguana about 7:45 for my favorite breakfast of Huevos Rancheros and fresh eggs.  It was great and a beautiful morning and beautiful blue seas.  So nice.  Many guests were enjoying the early morning calm before it gets so busy on the Lido deck. I went to the Tides Bar on Lido aft to purchased my Cheers Package and ordered a Bloody Mary. I sat at a nice aft facing table and enjoyed the morning view and sea air.  Very nice.  I attended the Diamond Luncheon at 11:00 am and it was fantastic.  So much better than a Diamond cocktail party.  First you have your photo taken with the Captain, then seated for lunch.  I had a great table with new and old friends. I ordered the Pork Belly appetizer, the Steak entree, and the Tres Leches dessert.  All the food was excellent as was the service.  There was basically a cocktail server for every two tables so I took advantage.  A very FUN luncheon.  It was now nap time and I set a personal record for my longest nap on a cruise, I slept for five hours…amazing and refreshing.  When I woke after 6:00 pm it was already time for Apéritifs at the Alchemy and then dinner.  Thank goodness I have late dining.  Tonight I ordered: the Spaghetti Carbonara as a starter, the Prime Rib entree, and the Creme Brûlée for dessert.  All were very good.  since I was rested I did a little walk about the ship, the Piano Bar was busy as well as other venues, but ended up at the Alchemy Bar for late cocktails.  The entertainers especially the band were again very good in the Ocean Plaza.  It was a fun and refreshing day on the Carnival Breeze.


Day Three--Monday--July 26th—Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico 

Calm seas again overnight and I slept well, I was up early for my 7:30 am meet time for my excursion.  I’m doing the Carnival Mayapan Ruins, Lazy River Tubing and Cavern Swim.  I found the meet spot and luckily I was one Bus 1 and even had the front seat to myself.  Sweet.  We were off by 8:00 am and with an hour and a half drive arrived at Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyché an old Hacienda built over an old Mayan cenote.  They have beautiful grounds and developed the cenote as an attraction.  It is very well done with steps and still preserving the old were possible.  You float down a lazy river that includes both old caverns and a new waterway.  This takes you to the entrance of the old original Mayan cenote,  You’re given masks so that you can see the bottom and stalagmites through the crystal clear water.  Quite amazing but difficult to describe.  It was an experience I’m glad I could enjoy. Once we got out of the water we walked to the very nice restaurant on the grounds,  We were served an authentic Mayan meal.  Very similar to soft tacos that have become so popular now.  The early lunch was delicious and very welcome since I skipped breakfast.  They even had Bohemia, my favorite but harder to find Mexican beer.  Our next stop was at the Mayan Ruins of Mayapan.  Several pyramids and many out buildings.  I’ve climbed many Mayan ruins in the Yucatan so I found a nice shady tree with a breeze and watched others make the trek up to the top.  I did do a walkabout of the grounds though.  We were returned to the ship well before our 3:30 back on board time and 4:00 pm sail away.  I went directly to Guy’s Burgers for my first burger of the cruise.  Super good.  Only downside is the Pepsi now being served, IMHO Burgers go with a Coke.  Cabin time to rest and work on blog while my memory is clear.  I bought a new iPhone power cord at Pixels, I needed it and I was glad they one.  Alchemy Bar for my usual before dinner drinks and it was FUN, the girls are amazing.  I have a group of usuals to visit as well.  Not as many at dinner as usual on a port day in Mexico.  I ordered the Linguine as starter, the Tenderloin steak, and two desserts: the Bitter & Blanc, and the Grilled Pineapple.  The Linguine was excellent I will get that as the entrée on the next cruise if the menu is repeated.  Only a brief walk about to see the evening entertainment.  Comedy Club, Piano Bar, the Love & Marriage show and more were on this evening. Climbing the Cenotes wore me out today, so I retired by 10:00ish.   A great day in the Yucatan.

Day Three--Tuesday--July 27th—Isla Cozumel, Mexico 
Woody's Guacamole
Just a little rolling of the sea once we passed from the Gulf of Mexico into the Caribbean Sea overnight.  I slept very well.  I was up early and had my breakfast at the Blue Iguana before 8:00 am, a bar server recognized me and made sure I had a Bloody Mary even before the Bar officially opened.  Thank you.  I have enjoyed the Cheers, but may not do it next cruise…too short a cruise.    I had a visit with Guest Services about the sucky internet, I may not do that either, not working well at all.  I was off for shore and not busy at all leaving after the rush, no one to share taxi but that’s OK.  No haircut needed and I was at Woody’s about 10:00.  Nelly is in Texas, but saw me on camera.  Really the fastest internet on the island at Woody’s so I was able to take care of business, update and load my Blog, and see photos and real news.  The Mexican Coca-cola really tasted good too especially since Carnival only has Pepsi.  I had some great special guacamole and pico de gallo and enjoyed the live music at Woody’s.  On the way to get a taxi I said hello to my barber and told him I’d be back on Saturday, but I may be able to wait until August 21st cruise. This is really the earliest I have returned to the ship in Cozumel, but I was ready.  Easy too since I was early.  I went straight to the Red From Run bar and ordered a water and Bushwacker frozen drink to cool off.  It worked too.  I then had a nice Mongolian Wok for a late lunch.  Nice.  A shower and then relaxing in a Carnival robe that actually fits was wonderful.  I went to the Lobby about 5:30 and heard the String Trio, they were very good. I stopped at the Cherry on Top and purchased two $100 gift cards, by doing so I use my OBC and will be able use the cash on future cruises.  Off to the Alchemy for aperitifs about 6:30, met my neighbor coming from her cabin and I now I have another addition to ‘Ray’s Cruise Stories’.  Ask me when you see me.  Tonight I asked the Alchemist to prepare whatever they wished to serve me…turned out very well.  Interesting selections.  Not as busy due to it being Cozumel night so easy to visit with the regulars too. my best friends for the week.  The MDR was very empty, we only had 4 at our 10-top table, typical as less than half overall attending dinner.  Tonight I ordered the Baked Onion Soup, sampled the Alligator beignets, Lasagna as a starter,  I ordered a NY Strip Steak from the Steakhouse menu ($20 up charge), and a Fruit Plate for dessert.  The soup was meh, but everything else good, especially the steak, better than my last trip to the steakhouse.  Service was good, the waiter in next station had no guests so she assisted ours so a good time to order something off menu.  After dinner I went on a walkabout, I met my friend Daniel’s girl friend at the Steakhouse, tried to get into the comedy club, but it was over packed for last two showed, Piano Bar busy too as was the Disco, first time to check it out.  I ended up back at the Alchemy Bar and continued the Alchemists choice.  Very interesting smaller group of guests and first time I actually closed down an Alchemy in many cruises…although in fairness I think they may have closed early.  Actually a outer deck stroll to see the aft and moon…very nice I should do that every night.  A long day in Cozumel and the Carnival Breeze.

Day Five--Wednesday--July 28th—FUN Day at Sea 

Smooth Seas overnight and I slept well.  I woke early and working on review and some photos for the Alchemy Bar Fan page, but alas no internet again this morning.  I went to the MDR for the Sea Day Brunch about 8:30 and had a nice breakfast:  Eggs Benedict, Bacon, Hash Browns, and FrenchToast…all very good.  At 10:00 am I went to the Limelight Lounge to get my Covid test for the B2B guests, this is required because of the foreign country visit within 14 days.  It was simple enough with a nose swab.  I had a Bloody Mary on deck and was reminded about the Platinum/Diamond Party at 11:30am, I almost missed it.  I asked the Hotel Director earlier if I was high guest and he said no, but when Cookie the CD read off the days cruised as 5 pause 4 (at this time I knew it was me) … 8.  Ray McDonald with 548 days is our senior experience cruiser.  It was a surprise as I wasn’t expecting it and almost didn’t attend. The same plaque/coaster as usual.  I had a nice Reuben Sandwich for lunch with friends then stopped at the Casino Bar as it’s the only bar that has my favorite beer: Pilsner Urquell. I saw Alexandria the Alchemist I had on my previous cruise on the Dream.   The open decks are packed, I’ve never seen so many in the pool drinking…and it was that way all day.  Cabin time for a short nap…internet still sucks.  It cooled off somewhat with cloud cover so about 4:00 pm I went back to the Lido aft to enjoy the view and sea air.  Very nice.  I went back through the Red Front Pub and Alchemy and it was already packed…guests are wanting to experience the bar before leaving.  Still a lot of regulars and I did have one cocktail before heading to the cabin to clean up for dinner.  I had dinner in the Sapphire Dining Room (the Your Time MDR) with new friends.  Not really busy and they did the Baked Alaska march and sang the Carnival farewell song.  Tonight I ordered the Cobb Salad, the Penne Pasta as a starter and a steak from the Steakhouse.  Good company but the steak was rare and most know this Texas Rancher eats his meat cooked.  They did refund the up charge.  Also they also refunded my internet fees. this evening, that works well as I now had OBC available on my account for a tip for all the Alchemists.  So of course I had to have a cocktail from each Alchemist in order to get the gratuity to them…as if I wouldn’t have had three cocktails anyway!  A stroll on outer deck to see the moon and enjoy the sea air before retiring…I know I will sleep well this night.  It was a FUN final sea day on the Carnival Breeze.

Day Six of B2B / Day One of 2nd Cruise—Thursday—July 29th—Galveston  

Smooth seas overnight and I did sleep well. We were already docked when I woke at 7:00 am and it looks to be a perfect day in Galveston.  I went up to Blue Iguana for a nice breakfast and test my telephone.  They were getting guests off the ship very quickly.  The B2B guests met at 9:00 am the earliest I've ever seen, but it was justified.  We were given our new Sail & Sign Cards and soon we were told they were ready for us to walk through Customs. There were about 30 of us and the customs official just looked at Passports and we walked strait back on the ship.  All of this by 10:00 am.  Wow.  We had cocktails and a photo taken and then had the ship to ourselves for an hour.  I did the Muster Drill at 10:45 am so easy with no guests and the new system. I had lunch at Cucina Del Capitano on deck 11, first time there, my pasta bowl was very good.  I finally got a decent wifi signal on my iPhone from the outer aft deck and updated several Facebook pages and this blog.  Its also interesting watching the new guests explore the ship too.  I had some cabin time but went for a snack and ended up with a Guy’s burger…certainly will fill me until late dinner. I was on outer deck 5 using the telephone when we pushed off the dock 20 minutes early so I stayed and watched a proper sail away through Galveston Harbor.  I noticed the construction of the new Royal Caribbean terminal located on the east end near the ferry terminals.  They will host a mega Oasis Class ship there in the fall of next year.  The dolphins gave their usual escort out to the jetty, always nice to see dolphins.  On the way back in I pass the casino and noticed that many if not most of the machines had someone sitting at them holding their favorite machine until casino opens I assume. I have not really noticed that before.  I know we have a lot of guests sailing with Casino fares. About 6:00 pm I went up to the Ocean Plaza to hear the feature soloist perform, I had heard her from the background of the Alchemy but not really sat and listened, she was very good,  At Alchemy I had two lovely cocktails prepared by Lidija, loved the fragrance of the basil leafs as I took each drink.  Thanks.  I have the same table in the Blush Dining Room so easy to get around the crowd and get seated.  Tonight I ordered the MultiGrain Cranberry bread, the Mixed Greens salad, the Roasted Tomato Soup, and the Braised Beef Brisket.  The soup and salad were best.  The usual activities on the ship: Welcome Show, Comedy Club, Piano Bar, and more.  A busy but fast and well organized embarkation day on the Carnival Breeze.

Day Seven of B2B / Day Two of 2nd Cruise—Friday—July 30th—FUN Day at Sea
Smooth seas and I slept well.  I went up to Lido for sea air about 8:00 am and enjoyed a Bloody Mary. 

The early mornings and evenings are very nice on deck.  I had a proper breakfast in the MDR, the French Toast is so good as was the service.  Eggs Benedict, Hash Browns, & Bacon just good.  Lido deck getting busy, but I only notice two adults in the two Hot Tubs on exterior Promenade deck, a good possible option. The private Diamond Function was held in the Limelight Lounge at 11:00 am.  Only about 24 guests.  We were lucky enough to get the luncheon last cruise.  I was lucky enough to have a long conversation with the Captain.  The assistant GSM assured me that the internet was now working so when I returned to the cabin I purchased it for this cruise.  So far so good, but there are some more secure websites (bank or brokerage) I cannot access.  Before 2:00 pm I went for lunch at the Pig & Anchor BBQ.  It was excellent as was my Pilsner Urquell beer.  A good combination. I had cabin time in afternoon and actually wifi improved so some business, I booked a cruise for myself and completed an Alaska booking for a long time client.  About 6:30  I went for aperitifs at the Alchemy Bar … Anca, Lidija, and Daniel do a wonderful job.  Interesting group of regulars forming.  Tonight is the formal dinner and only two showed up at our ten top doubtful they will for rest of cruise although Natalie the Maitre’d told me that actually 11 are assigned to the table. Tonight I ordered the Italian Wedding Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara, and the Prime Rib entree, it was very good but repetitive for me.  After dinner I intended to have a walkabout, but went by Alchemy because I knew the best entertainers on the ship, The Breeze Band, were performing and they had a packed crowd in Ocean Plaza.  As I reached the Bar a person abandoned my favorite seat so it was meant to be.  I only ordered two Spritzers (little alcohol) but stayed to watch the band play two sets.  The band was great and there was somewhat of a show among guests as well.  All entertaining.  I retired when the band finished.  It's obvious from observing today that there much fewer guests than last cruise, my guess is about 2400 at most.  It was busy but not overly packed anywhere...I do like that.  It was an interesting and entertaining day on the Carnival Breeze.

Day Eight of B2B / Day Three of 2nd Cruise—Saturday—July 31st—Cozumel Mexico

Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. Today we have the only port of this cruise.  I went up to Lido and had my favorite breakfast at the Blue Iguana Grill.  The breakfast burritos there are also really special.  I debarked from mid gangway again that is just below my cabin…so easy.  I took a taxi into San Miguel and first stop was the little San Miguel Arcangel Church to say hola to Jerry and give some thanks for everything.  Then I spoke with Martin, my barber, and will see him for a haircut on August 21st.  Then to my Woody’s HQ for business.  Thanks to everyone there for making it so easy on me.  I booked three cruises from Woody’s this cruise…love their internet.  Same guacamole, pico de gallo, and chips as last week…so good.  I love the new taxi stand by the Church, it makes it so easy to get a taxi back to the ship. I got the old 'no change' spiel, but I took it in pesos...ha!  Back on the ship an hour early so relaxing cabin time. I went to Guest Services to apply a Carnival Gift Card about 5:00 pm and stayed to watch the Steel Drum musician, very different with an electrified steel drum and entertaining.  I did get a foo-foo drink too, a Bushwacker.  I made it to Alchemy for aperitifs by 6:30 and it was a Fun group, Daniel made a special cocktail for me as well.  As usual on Cozumel night very few in the MDR,  I had an all Italian meal, the featured Fresh Italian cocktail, the Baked Meatball appetizer, Minestrone Soup, and the Linguine with Italian Sausage entree.  I ordered a second Meatball dish to add to the Linguine...excellent. It was the best meal of the cruise.  I skipped dessert as I wanted to return to Alchemy and see the Breeze Band playing in Ocean Plaza. I have had the opportunity to hear the Carnival Breeze Band for several days now.  They have only been together and playing for live audiences for about seven days before I first saw them and I have seen them that many times since. They have improved each and every day and even in this short time I can say they are the BEST band I have ever seen and heard on a cruise ship in my 156 cruises.  Tonight they had a standing ovation following their last set and did two encores.  Unbelievable.  People will be booking the Breeze to to just see this group.  They ARE that good.  The bonus…if your lucky you can see them from the Alchemy Bar.  It was a very FUN day in Mexico and on the Carnival Breeze.

Day Nine of B2B / Day Four of 2nd Cruise—Sunday—August 1st—FUN Day at Sea

Smooth seas, but didn't sleep as well.  I have mentioned smooth seas each night and I should note that my cabin location of low and center will be the smoothest location on the ship.  If your prone to motion issues this is the location for you. I went up to the Lido deck about 8:00 am and all the Towel Animals were out on the Lido Deck…in the loungers, chairs, and around the pool.  Looks good.  I was heading of course to the Blue Iguana, seems my secret fresh egg spot has been discovered, several guest waiting, but I had already decide to do a breakfast burrito this morning.  It was very good. I spent the morning in the water, first one of the Spa’s outside on Deck five that I had to myself for 40 minutes, then up to the Breeze Waterpark.  Yes I did the Twister slide…WOW…it was exhilarating.  Still got it!  I had cabin time and took a nap in the afternoon.  I did a walk about and picked up my Diamond goodies (luggage tags & pin) for both cruises at Pixels then had a Bushwacker drink at the Lobby Bar.  At 6:15 I went to the Alchemy for my Aperitifs.  The Breeze Band was having a small set and then a full set at 7:00 pm.  You already know how I feel about them…the best.  Alchemy was fun, a very nice group of regulars, always nice to meet new friends.  What a great combination with the best band and best Alchemists in one spot.  I said my good-byes early and went to Lido deck and the Seafood Shack, sat with new friends and enjoy a wonderful Lobster Roll.  What a way to end the evening.  Back to cabin to rest, pack, and finalize this review.  It was a great final Sea Day on the Carnival Breeze.

Debarkation -- Monday August 2nd
Smooth seas on our last night on board.  I was up very early and packed then went to the Lido for breakfast.  Wow, Eggs Benedict cooked perfectly, bacon, Hash Browns, and milk.  My meet time was 7:15 am and I was there in time, but we didn't start debark until closer to 8:00 am.  Facial Recognition at U.S. Customs so that was easy.  I was to my car at EZ Cruise and on the road just after 8:30 am.  One stop at Bucc*ees in Waller for fuel and Dr Pepper and was home at the Ranch at 1:09 pm. 

Crew / Staff
I found the crew to be great.  My cabin steward Aiza was very good. Housekeeping was cleaning constantly everywhere you looked.  Enjoyed the Officers and Crew I interacted with during the cruises.  Natalie a Maitre’d in Blush MDR is one of my all time favorites

Food / Drink
After 79 Carnival cruises the MDR food has become very routine to me and I really don’t get excited about it as I used to do. I do love the Mongolian Wok, Cucina de Capitano, Blue Iguana, the Deli, or anything a little different.  The Cheers package was good for me this cruise.  I really don’t drink Pepsi at all and disappointed that they changed beverages.  Of Course the Alchemy Bar is my favorite.

I had cabin 1351 an upper/lower bed on deck one by the center elevators on starboard side.  Great location if you’re prone to seasickness.  The cabin has the usual Carnival layout with three closets, bed stand with lamp, push button safe, mini refrigerator, four dresser drawers, and stool at dresser/desk. A lot of floor space.  Perfect for a solo guest.

The Dream Class was not my favorite class of ship as initially they did not have a Guy’s Burger nor an Alchemy Bar, at least until the Carnival Magic.  But now I really like the Dream class.  They have all the 2.0 upgrades and some of the old favorites as the original style Mongolian Wok. Everything was ship shape as far as I could tell on board.  We are sailing well below capacity that actually makes it very nice for guests on board.  I believe Carnival is saying about 70%, but I believe it to perhaps be lower.

Alchemy Bar
The Breeze Band
New Friends !
Cozumel Port Days
Diamond Luncheon
Mongolian Grill
Blue Iguana