|The atrium // All photos by Susan J. Young|
More than 4.4 million guests sail annually on Carnival Cruise Lines (www.goccl.com) and how each passenger defines the line’s brand proposition of “fun” is a little bit different.
So the line has created a robust portfolio of new fun spaces and other hot spots on the new, 3,680-guest Carnival Breeze, which also boasts a lighter, more contemporary décor (see story here for a décor update).
What’s new on the ship in terms of venues? There are five totally new venues plus others that have been updated with new features or décor.
So guests sailing on this 3,680-passenger vessel will have plenty to entertain them during the ship’s 12-night cruises roundtrip from Barcelona, Spain through late October.
|Carnival Breeze is the first of the line's ships with a full-service sushi bar.|
New on Breeze
On the dining side, Carnival has launched Bonsai Sushi, its first full-service sushi restaurant offering Asian-inspired delicacies - sushi, sashimi, rolls and the like.
Japanese servers, high top tables and a soothing Asian décor create a relaxing zen-like atmosphere.
Individual pieces of sushi including shrimp or Maguro yellow fin tuna are $1 apiece. A Bonsai noodle salad is $2, and a tuna and mango tartare goes for $3. California rolls are $4, a tempura roll is $6.
If clients want to sample a range of Japanese fare, a robust “sushi ship” for two is $15. Included in that sushi ship order is miso soup, a side salad, several rolls and six pieces of sushi (2 tuna, 2 shrimp and 2 salmon).
Guests might order a Kirin Japanese beer for $4.95, or sake in two sizes, $5.50 or $12 for a large carafe.
One nice feature is that a small paper menu is placed at every seat. So guests pick what they wish to try, check small boxes on the paper menu to select their pieces, and then they hand the paper to the waitress.
Thus, options are briefly explained up front. It’s not intimidating for those guests who may be trying sushi for the first time.
Incidentally, the line still offers complimentary sushi (two kinds of rolls) in the Lido restaurant during the evening. But the sushi cart found on other ships with more robust, complimentary offerings is not available on Carnival Breeze.
Bonsai Sushi, in contrast, is a stand-alone, full-service restaurant. It’s not big, but for sushi fans, it’s very appealing in its décor and offerings. It has been well-patronized during the current cruise.
On sea days, the line operates the new Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ. Guests chow down on complimentary pulled pork sandwiches, Italian sausages, corn on the cob and other grilled favorites.
While the venue and grills are outside on the Ocean Plaza’s non-smoking deck area, guests either may dine inside in air-conditioned comfort or al fresco.
|The new Thrill Theater on Carnival Breeze|
Jim Berra, Carnival’s chief marketing officer, told reporters sailing onboard Carnival Breeze that the line hopes the barbecue venue will help draw some guests away from the Lido restaurant during lunchtime on sea days.
And, while it may help to do that, there was a long line at the barbecue restaurant itself during the peak lunchtime period.
One reason perhaps? It’s not open every day, just on sea days. Berra said Carnival will evaluate the schedule but it wants to start with just sea days to see how things go.
Also totally new to Carnival Breeze is The Taste Bar, an upgrade from a tasting cart. It’s in the center of the Ocean Plaza area and offers complimentary bite-size offerings inspired by popular Carnival dining venues.
Each evening features different tastings and a signature cocktail tied to that eatery’s theme available for purchase. At lunch on one sea day, the bar offered complimentary salad, soup and one type of wrap.
Also new onboard Carnival Breeze, Thrill Theater is oodles of fun for kids and adults alike. The theater has only several dozen seats but it offers multiple showings throughout the day and evening.
Essentially, the theater uses a high definition projector for 4D movies. Guests feel they’re not just watching but are virtually in the center of the action.
Seats move sharply up and down and side to side at times, creating a sense of motion. Guests are lightly sprayed with water at certain points – to reflect what’s happening on screen.
Vibrations and tickles tease the movie goers. And if the action gets too intense, guests can just shut their eyes briefly.
It’s a fun experience for most. Our group was treated to a showing of Sponge Bob & Mumble’s Wild Ride” and “Happy Feet.” Other offerings include Planet Earth – Shallow Seas,” “Speed Racer and Extreme Log Ride,” and “Ice Age,” to name a few.
During the holidays, guests might view the Polar Express 4D adventure.
Presentations are typically short and shows run every 30 minutes. Cost is $7.95 for one showing or $14.95 for unlimited use, a good value if a guest wants to go to the theater multiple times during his or her cruise.
|RedFrog Rum Pub|
Carnival now has 23 branded experiences. For example, the Caribbean themed RedFrog Pub specializes in rums and beers and a signature ThirstyFrogRed private label beer.
A Frog’s Pint with souvenir glass is $5.50, a 16-ounce pitcher is $16.95. When guests order “The Tube,” which is 100 ounces, a bar staffer rings a bell as the delivery goes to the table.
Everyone turns to ask, “Who’s going to drink that?” Most times, it’s simply a large group of friends, rather than one or two people.
The pub’s décor has traditional wooden chairs and tables, as well as high stools and tables, along with the bar seating.
While this is a bar-focused venue, it’s also family friendly. Outside the main entrance, we observed families with children playing dominos at the pub’s tables.
Non-alcoholic drinks and $3.33 appetizers are available for order. The yummy appetizers include coconut shrimp with a pina colada dipping sauce; firecracker Jamaican wings tossed in a secret rum barbecue sauce; and “Kicked Up Conch Fritters,” with a spicy tropical island dipping sauce.
|Appetizers in the RedRum Frog Pub|
The appetizers are big enough to share. It’s one option for those who want to enjoy a drink and a light snack rather than a big dinner after a long, hot day ashore.
As guests chow down at the RedFrog Rum Pub, often entertainers perform Caribbean style music. Also a hoot is that the waiters take Polaroid photos of guests, and clients then see their photo projected on the screen at the bar.
The décor of this new venue really gives guests that Caribbean feel. Buoys, carved fish sculptures and other nautical fare hang on the walls, as do license plates.
Look carefully and you’ll also see a small metal sign that reads, “Cunard Line Southampton,” a reference to Carnival’s sister line.
The RedFrog Rum Pub debuted on Carnival Magic, and Carnival Breeze is the second ship in the fleet to get the branded pub experience.
“When we designed some of these spaces such as the RedFrog Rum Pub, we were not trying to create a bar, but trying to create a particular kind of experience,” says Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “We don’t want you to go into two different bars and have the same experience.”
A poolside adaptation of the RedFrog Pub is the RedFrog Rum Bar poolside. It’s the spot for refreshing Caribbean rum-based frozen drinks, beer and mohitos.
According to the wait staff, one of the most popular drinks is the Ting Mohito with a unique grapefruit and mint taste. “Tings” of various types are $6.50 and cocktails here are $8.75. Nonalcoholic versions are available for $4.75.
Just opposite the RedFrog Rum Bar - across the pool deck - is the BlueIguana Tequila Bar, a festive outdoor Mexican-themed bar with tequila-based frozen drinks and beers.
What’s fun about the two bars? Carnival whips up a rivalry of sorts. Each bar has its own style, and guests get into a friendly competition – saying they’re a “red” or a “blue,” with nothing to do with U.S. politics.
Entertainment between the two bars, such as line dancing, creates watchable fun. The line also fields a “Red’s Rum versus Blue’s Tequila Challenge,” in which guests compete to concoct their own cocktail creation and have the winner featured on the cruise.
Each bar space also flows with similar décor into an appropriate outdoor eatery. On the "blue" side of the pool area, BlueIguana Cantina features beef, chicken or fish tacos and customizable burritos. Its toppings bar has an amazing array of hot sauces.
|Guy's Burger Joint|
Guy’s Burger Joint, a partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, is on the “red” side of the pool deck. Typically, cruise ship burger restaurants hand out 400 to 500 burgers a day to guests, according to Cahill, who told reporters onboard the ship that Carnival doles out 1,200 such burgers a day from Guy’s.
Guests order one of several types of burgers. For example, “Straight Up,” is characterized as a plain Jane burger with melted cheese. A “Pig Patty” is a “Straight up” on bacon steroids; it’s the same burger with a separate patty made entirely of crispy bacon.
After getting a burger and fries, guests then head for Guy's fixins’ bar to add lettuce, tomatoes, hot peppers and three popular favorites - freshly grilled mushrooms, fresh bacon bits, and carmelized onions.
|Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse|
The line’s signature alternative restaurant is Fahrenheit 555, an American steakhouse offering steaks and other gourmet entrees.
The charge is $35 per person, which is consistent with the other steakhouses in the line’s fleet.
Clients may choose from such appetizers as escargots baked in garlic and herb butter, Maine lobster ravioli and lobster bisque with vintage cognac and fresh cream. One of many salad choices is baby leaf spinach and fresh mushrooms.
It’s the entrees that really shine, though. Popular choices include grilled lamb chops, an 18-ounce, spice-rubbed prime ribeye steak, a 14-ounce broiled prime New York strip loin steak, surf and turf (seven ounces of lobster tail and a four-ounce filet mignon), and a grilled fish of the day, to name just a few.
Diners customize their entrée by choosing from among three savory sauces – three peppercorn, wild mushroom and béarnaise.
In the evening, family-style dining is on tap at Cucina del Capitano, another alternative venue. It resembles a cozy Italian home with family photos of the line’s captains and their families on the walls.
Calamari, tomatoes and mozzarella, meatballs and pasta prepared in various ways are among the decidedly Italian choices guests enjoy.
Tell clients to bring a good appetite and plan to share dishes with a spouse or friends; appetizers and entrees are served in very large portions. It’s a lot of food, but everything we tried during our meal was excellent in quality.
A waiter arrives pre-meal with rolling cart that has a cask of chianti; carafes are filled tableside. Guests may also order white wine and other drinks.
Cahill said the line serves more wine at this restaurant than at any other restaurant on the ship.
The cost to dine at Cucina del Capitano is $12 for adults and $5 for kids. At lunchtime, the venue has a complimentary pasta bar.
Reservations are highly recommended for evening dining here. This Italian casual venue can book up early in the cruise, so tell clients to be prompt in making a booking once they get onboard.
The Lido Marketplace has new softer, more muted décor and the line has made an effort to create some stations that separate the various types of cuisine – and the guests.
That said, we observed guests still queuing up in long lines at breakfast on big excursion days (such as Florence). The Lido is still not a complete, stand-alone station concept, although it’s an improvement over other Carnival ships.
The Lido certainly does have a huge selection of choices - from an Indian Tandoori station to the fresh salad bar, from a made-to-order Mongolian Grill station to a deli that serves both cold sandwiches and hot paninis.
One new station is “The Comfort Kitchen” with American-style “comfort food” that varies day to day. Luscious desserts are available at a sweets station.
A 24-hour fresh pizza station is outside aft, with pies made to order. A complimentary soft serve ice cream area is busy ‘round the clock.
If past guests are looking for the upstairs station for fish and chips or fried oysters - as found on Carnival Liberty - that space is now gone; it’s occupied by the Cucina del Capitano venue.
|SportsSquare with its mini-golf course, seating area and ropes course|
A new hot venue on the top deck is SportSquare, an open-air recreation complex. Guests can safely test their balance and have fun atop a suspended ropes course.
SportsSquare also has mini-golf, including one hole with a huge Carnival red and blue funnel as an obstacle. Other SportsSquare options are a jogging track, ping-pong and foosball tables, as well as a full sized basketball court.
Some guests might relax in the SportSquare’s brightly colored outdoor chairs as their family members or friends enjoy the sports activities.
Starting in November, the ship will debut a hot-dog shaped cart in SportsSquare. Called Sea Dogs, it will serve all-beef franks with traditional toppings.
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcenral.com for other updates this week and next, where we’ll take a look at the coolest spaces onboard Carnival Breeze including Serenity, the Cloud 9 Spa, WaterWorks, the Library Bar and more.