Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Today, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Breeze is sailing the Atlantic Ocean at a comfortable speed of 19.6 knots. There’s almost no breeze at all, save for the one generated by our movement across the ocean, and temperatures are soaring to nearly 30 degrees Celsius (roughly 80 Fahrenheit) – a temperature that feels all the hotter due to the absence of wind.
By 2pm, we were just coming abreast of the Turks & Caicos Islands, where we stopped at our very first port of call in Grand Turk. The good news is that, unlike a standard weeklong voyage, we’ve still got another fantastic sea day ahead of us aboard the Carnival Breeze. There’s certainly something to be said for special eight-day sailings like this one.
Today, I decided to sleep in. I put my handy “Snoozin’” tag on the door to my stateroom before bed last night, and flipped it over to “Cruisin’” when I left the room around 9am.
Being our second-to-last day aboard Carnival Breeze, today was “Onboard Account Maintenance Day” for yours truly. But here, you don’t have to take a trip down to the Reception Desk on Deck 3 to manage your onboard account, or Sail & Sign account, as Carnival calls it. Instead, you can use one of the line’s airline-style Sail & Sign Kiosks.
Located on the port side of Deck 5 next to the glass elevators or on Deck 3 across from the Reception Desk, these kiosks allow you to view your onboard account statement, add funds to it, or even just break large bills. I always bring cash with me to pay off my onboard account (or at least the worst of it), and not having to queue up in line was a real treat.
Sadly, these kiosks are annoyingly accurate: every charge on my itemized statement belongs to me!
One charge that’s soon to appear on my Sail & Sign account is for Bonsai Sushi. Located on Deck 5 amidships just aft of Ocean Plaza, Bonsai Sushi is normally only open for dinner, but on sea days you can dine here for lunch as well.
From the time Bonsai opens at 5pm until it closes around Midnight, it’s always filled with people enjoying some delicious-looking sushi and sashimi. Taking lunch here seemed like a no-brainer.
Being from Vancouver, I normally stay away from Japanese food on ships, simply because we have some of the best Japanese food outside of Tokyo thanks to our large population of Japanese immigrants. But when I saw that everything was being made from scratch behind the bar, I knew this wouldn’t be an average experience.
Items here come on an a ’la carte basis. Appetizers are $3 each; Soup & Salad go for $2; and Sushi & Sashimi $1 per piece. Rolls are between $4 and $6.
Instead of ordering piece-by-piece, I chose the $8 Bento Box that included miso soup, side salad with homemade ginger-carrot dressing, California roll, and three pieces of sushi – tuna, salmon and shrimp. To drink, Japanese Green Tea (complimentary) was a must.
When I ordered, the waitress who took my order told me that the California rolls were made with real crab meat and had fish eggs on top, and was I okay with that? I said absolutely – I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t real crab meat and lacked the fish eggs.
What I truly loved here was how well-thought out everything from the décor to the paper wrapper that covers the chopsticks was. The kettle my green tea came in was made from cast iron. Bowls sported an attractive red colour with a faint black circular pattern inside. On the back of the chopsticks holder, the world “Carnival” was printed in the company’s typeface, but with a delicate rose colour instead of the line’s trademark royal-blue.
The food was delicious, but it’s the atmosphere here that really puts Bonsai over the top. No wonder it’s packed each night!
Full from the Sushi, I ambled up to the Pool Deck to check out the ice-carving demonstration. I didn’t see much of it: the pool deck was absolutely packed with people, but impressively, there were still plenty of deck-chairs to be had, both around the midships pool and further aft along Decks 11 and 12.
The layout of the open deck space aboard Carnival’s Dream-class ships like this one strikes me as a major improvement over some of their older vessels. There are far more outdoor options here than on any other class of vessel, save perhaps for the Spirit-class ships which feature a generous amount of open space complemented by a pool with a retractable Magrodome roof.
One thing that I hear from a lot of past Carnival guests, though, is that none of them like Serenity’s location all the way forward on Deck 15. Located in the shadow of the ship’s radar antennas and mast, it can get exceptionally breezy even with the full-height windscreens on the bow, and the hike from Deck 12 requires guests to walk past – and usually get splashed – by the kid’s waterpark.
The Serenity location everyone seems to get wistful about is the retrofitted area on the line’s Fantasy-class ships, where it occupies a tucked-away deck all the way aft below the main pool. I’m not sure how that would work on the Dream-class ships, but hopefully it’s on the wishlist for Carnival’s upcoming Carnival Vista.
There’s also some unique entertainment that Carnival has developed for these ‘Fun Days at Sea.’ One of the more interesting things I’ve seen on any cruise was scheduled for 11:15am this morning in the Ovation Theatre all the way forward on Deck 3.
Dubbed “Towel Animal Theatre”, this was a full-blown, Muppet-style performance featuring four Towel Animals (like the ones in your staterooms each night) that come to life during the day when their ‘owners’ are out having fun. The kids from Camp Carnival were invited to come up and sit on the stage for a front-row seat, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the show, which was of a high enough quality that it wouldn’t bore the adults in the room. Really clever.
As much fun as the days aboard Carnival Breeze are, it is the nights that are making the strongest impression on me.
Tonight, the entertainment spectrum onboard changed entirely with the addition of two brand-new comedy acts in the Punchliner Comedy Club. Four separate performances were featured tonight alone, with one family-friendly comedy show performed by Tommy Drake at 7:30pm in the Limelight Lounge on Deck 5 Aft.
For those who like their jokes raunchy, lewd and decidedly 18A, three Adults Only comedy shows were presented in the Limelight Lounge at 9:15pm, 10:15pm, and 11:15pm by Tommy Drake and Azeem.
Despite the fact the lounge has to be entirely cleared out inbetween shows, I managed to see all the adult comedy performances tonight – and they had me in tears with laughter once again.
Tomorrow may be our last day aboard Carnival Breeze, but I am looking forward to seeing what new adventures and activities await us. The fun’s not over yet.
|January 31, 2014||Prepping our Fun Ship Journey|
|February 1, 2014||Miami, Florida||Embark Carnival Breeze||4:00 PM|
|February 2||Fun Day at Sea|
|February 3||Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos||7:00 AM||3:00 PM|
|February 4||San Juan, Puerto Rico||11:00 AM||7:00 PM|
|February 5||Philipsburg, St. Maarten||8:00 AM||6:00 PM|
|February 6||St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands||7:00 AM||5:00 PM|
|February 7||Fun Day at Sea|
|February 8||Fun Day at Sea|
|February 9||Miami, Florida||8:00 AM||Disembark|