Carnival Cruise Western Caribbean 2018 with Igor
In planning our vacation, there were many reasons why my wife and I chose cruising instead of a single destination holiday. Primarily, a cruise vacation offers an all-in-one experience like no other. Visiting many different destinations without having to constantly re-pack, trying out a variety of superb dining options (from casual buffets to elegant restaurants), indulging in a multitude of onboard activities (including a wide variety of stage shows, music, games, movies, sports, and casino) would keep you entertained throughout the entire cruise - all that and more is offered at one single price!
For our first cruise experience together as a recently married couple, we decided to try out one of the most popular cruise destinations - the Caribbean. Together with my wife, leaving the cold weather behind for 7 nights was indeed an unforgettably great experience. We chose to sail on Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Breeze on a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise from Galveston (Texas), visiting Cozumel in Mexico, Belize, and the island of Roatan in Honduras.
I would highly recommend arriving at your cruise port the day before the cruise. With many cruises departing around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, arriving the day before will not only eliminate the worry of being late, it will also give you an opportunity to relax or do some sightseeing in the cruise port and will give you plenty of time to get to the cruise terminal on the day of the cruise. As for us, we spent the night before our long-awaited vacation at an airport hotel. There we arranged our luggage that was packed with elegant and casual dresses, pants and shoes, cameras, snorkel masks and water shoes, and, of course, our swimsuits and flip-flops! We also took some medicine with us, including acetaminophen pills, in case of an emergency. That night we couldn't sleep well as we were excited for what awaits us the next day. The following morning, after having breakfast at the hotel (which was included with our stay), we took a (pre-booked) shuttle from the airport to the cruise terminal.
Carnival Breeze is a fairly new ship built in 2012 and it has a capacity of almost 3700 passengers. For a ship of this size, we expected some delays in boarding, however, with Carnival's efficient check-in process, it took us only about half an hour from the time we dropped off our luggage to the time we stepped on board. As we entered the ship we were amazed by what we saw on the inside. The interior of the ship looked like an elegant hotel or rather a Caribbean resort. With 15 decks, the ship is filled with restaurants, swimming pools, a basketball court, a gym, and multiple areas for relaxation, such as spa, hot tubs and numerous lounge chairs throughout the ship. Soon after boarding (around noon), we realized how hungry we were and so went up to Deck 10 to check out the variety of casual buffet-style dining options. One of our favourites there became Mongolian Wok, where you choose your favourite noodles, veggies, meats and sauces and then let a chef cook it all for you in a wok right in front of your eyes. Yummy! As we were enjoying our first meal on board, there was an announcement that our cabins were ready. This was a pleasant surprise as it was only about 1:30 in the afternoon and the ship's departure time was 4 pm! Just before departure, we attended the mandatory safety briefing where everybody should participate for safety and emergency cases. Shortly after departure, a warm welcome dance party, where everybody was encouraged to join in the fun, was a nice start to our vacation!
Dining options onboard Carnival Breeze is extensive: from fine dining restaurants in the evening to Mexican, Italian, and Indian cuisine options along with extensive buffets, burgers, and BBQs for lunch to filling breakfasts in the main dining room to pizzas and ice creams available 24/7! That's a lot of eating! And the best part is that it's all included and unlimited!
Out of 7 nights on Carnival Breeze, 2 of them were considered elegant and the rest were casual. The elegant part applies strictly to evening dining at the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants. Carnival's definition of 'elegant' however is somewhat different from some of the higher-end cruise lines. I'd call Carnival's dress code for elegant nights as business casual, that is, although I'd refrain from wearing jeans, shorts, t-shirts, or any kind of sportswear (which are all technically not allowed), I wouldn't go as far as wearing a suit and tie or a tuxedo either. Dress pants and shirts for men and cocktail dresses or pantsuits for women are very much appropriate for elegant nights on a Carnival cruise.
Food options on Carnival Breeze are abundant with some of them being available around the clock, so you'll never ever get hungry! We opted to have all of our breakfasts in one of the main dining rooms (compared to having buffet-style breakfasts) as we really enjoyed the service and atmosphere there. Main dining room breakfast choices, although repetitive, were quite extensive, especially during port days. And, as is always the case for all other meals on board, you may order as many dishes as you can possibly eat. One thing to note though is that juices on Carnival Breeze are only available in the main dining room and only in the morning, so be sure to take advantage of it. For lunches, we tried out various options from Italian to BBQ to burgers to an extensive buffet, but as much as we really enjoyed delicious food in the afternoon, we tried to save space for the evening feasts! Just like on most other cruise ships, there were some paid dining options onboard Carnival Breeze, including a steakhouse and an Italian restaurant, however, we couldn't find a single reason why we should pay extra when included dining choices were so abundant and delicious. We had all our evening meals in one of the main dining rooms and the menu was different every single night. Menu selection was extensive (including lobster tail and prime rib on elegant nights!) and mouth-watering.
One thing I wanted to note is that Carnival offers three dinner seating options: pre-set dining (early and late) and 'Your Time' open seating option. My wife and I were confirmed for the late dining option and we were waitlisted for 'Your Time' option. A few days before our cruise we received an e-mail saying that our request for the 'Your Time' dining couldn't be accommodated and when we boarded the ship, our cabin key cards already had our dining time, restaurant name and even our table number printed on them. However, all it took is a less-than-a-minute conversation with the ship's maitre d'hotel on the first night of the cruise to change our dining to the 'Your Time' option! That was awesome especially since Carnival's website says that you can't 'reserve 'Your Time' open seating once on board'!
Entertainment on board Carnival Breeze is varied and abundant: from fitness classes to Las Vegas-style shows to everything in-between. We particularly enjoyed comedy shows (and there were 20 of them on our 7-night cruise!) at the Limelight Lounge as well as the Thrill Theater, which is a 4-D movie theatre with a variety of showings for all ages. Although admission to the theatre was not free, it was well worth the price. We also enjoyed live music on board the ship, game shows, karaoke nights, a play of ping-pong outdoors on the sports deck, watching movies under the stars on the outdoor big screen TV as well as larger-scale stage shows inside the Ovation Theater (the ship's main show lounge), and just relaxing at the Serenity (the ship's adult-only retreat).
Some other amenities on board Carnival Breeze include 2 waterslides, 2 swimming pools, a number of hot tubs, a fitness center, mini golf, rope course, a basketball/volleyball court, onboard art exhibitions, a video arcade, a spa, a nightclub, and a casino. As for Internet, it was quite pricey for us and so we opted not to purchase it and instead focus more on our vacation, free of distraction.
One of the reasons cruise vacations are so popular is that you get to visit multiple destinations on a single trip without having to repack! This unique feature distinguishes cruise vacation from any other. On our Western Caribbean cruise we visited and the island of Cozumel in Mexico, Belize, and the island of Roatan in Honduras.
Our first stop was Cozumel, which is considered one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. However, since neither my wife nor I are certified divers, we opted to go snorkeling. We opted for a 3-reef snorkel. Although my wife became a little seasick, we still had fun swimming over multitude of colourful coral reefs and a myriad of tropical fish. One thing we learned for next time is to take some seasickness medication.
Our second stop was in Belize where we needed to take a tender boat to get to the shore and back. We decided to try out cave tubing since it was one of a few places in the world where such an activity is offered. It was the first time for both of us to admire spectacular formations inside a cave while peacefully floating on a tube and listening to the history of the cave from a professional guide who accompanied us. We really enjoyed that tour.
Our last port of call was the island of Roatan in Honduras. Mahogany Bay is one of the two cruise ship ports on the island and this is where we were docked on our trip. Since it was our last stop, we decided to spend most of our time relaxing on the beach. My wife said that she felt like she was in her home country, the Philippines, because of the warm and sunny weather. There were several ways for us to get from our cruise ship to the beach: we could either walk or take a ski-style chair lift. We chose the latter and it was awesome! But before stretching out on the beach, we decided to try out kayaking (which was included in our package) and quite enjoyed it. Kayaking is actually just one of many things you could do at Mahogany Bay. Other activities include zip-lining, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins, ATVing, horseback riding and more.
The world of cruising is vast. With the immense variety of cruise lines and itineraries now available, there is indeed something for everyone. We will definitely go cruising again because it is EVERYTHING in a VACATION!
A few tips on cruising:
For the best cruise experience in the Caribbean, it's best to avoid its hurricane season, which runs from June to November with hurricanes reaching maximum strength in October. Our cruise was in April and the weather was great during most of our trip.
One important thing to remember about shore excursions is that if you are delayed on a tour that was booked directly through the cruise line, the ship will wait for you; if you're delayed on a tour you booked on your own - it won't!
As I already mentioned above it's best to arrive to cruise departure point at least one day prior to cruising. Trust me, this will alleviate lots of anxiety and stress you don't need while on vacation!