I love to cruise. Something about waking up each day in a new destination without worrying about the details of how to get there appeals to me. In early December, the hubby and I flew down to Miami for a 8-day cruise on Carnival’s newest ship, the Breeze.
Thursday, December 5 – En route to Miami
When I booked our flights from Vancouver to Miami way back in the spring, I purposefully chose the option that didn’t have a layover in Toronto or Chicago. I’d been burned before on a winter storm diverting flights, so I thought a flight connecting through Houston would be the safer choice. And then a giant storm hit Texas. We were lucky, though – a delay of about an hour in Houston, but when I turned on the news the next day, apparently most flights on Friday were cancelled. Yay for flying two days ahead of the cruise!
We arrived in Miami around 6pm, and since we were in no particular rush, decided to take public transit to our downtown hotel. Loved that the rail system has free WiFi – wish more cities would follow suit.
After checking into our hotel – b2 miami downtown, located on Biscayne Boulevard, across the street from Bayfront Park and Marketplace – we enjoyed dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, the Biscayne Tavern. Great food, but slow-if-well-intentioned service.
The hotel room itself was small and had no view, but was perfectly fine for just the two of us for two nights pre-cruise. There were a lot of conference delegates staying at the hotel, and elevators could be ridiculously slow at some times – we ended up taking the stairs down from the eleventh floor a few times – but the location was great for a downtown hotel.
Friday, December 6 – Exploring Miami
After walking up to the Bayside Marketplace and grabbing some Starbucks, we took the free MetroMover public transit down to the Brickell neighbourhood and just walked around with no real destination, ending up crossing the bridge to Brickell Key, where we caught the free trolley bus back to the mainland.
We stopped for breakfast in Mary Brickell Village – Café Balans, huge portions for breakfast, we ended up sharing one meal and had so much food leftover. It kept throwing me off when people would light up cigarettes and cigars at the patio tables – had to keep reminding myself that unlike Vancouver, smoking on patios isn’t illegal in Miami.
We continued exploring, and ended up walking along the waterfront all the way back to our hotel. After a short rest, we took a bus into Little Havana, wandered Calle Ocho, watched a few games of dominos, ate a Cuban sandwich, and eventually caught the MetroMover back to the hotel.
For dinner, we had made a reservation at De Rodriguez Cuba on South Beach, and had the hardest time figuring out the bus system to get there. The bus route suggested on the Miami transit website didn’t seem to correspond with the actual route numbers once you got to the bus stop. Between that and our challenges getting back later, next time, I’d just take a cab.
But once our bus did get us in the vicinity of where we were headed, we walked up to South Pointe Park Pier to watch the Norwegian Sky and Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas pull out of Miami. Beautiful spot, with the sun setting behind the ships. After that, we walked up to De Rodriguez Cuba – we probably didn’t need the reservation, as the place was almost empty, but the food was insanely good, and oh my, the mojitos were probably the best I’ve ever had.
After dinner – and slightly tipsy from those very-strong mojitos – we walked up Ocean Drive, checking out the scene, then over to Espanola Way. We must have just missed our bus back downtown, as we waited close to an hour for the right one to come along. Of course, we later discovered that if we had just walked another two blocks, there was a stop for an express bus that would have also gotten us where we needed to go.
Saturday, December 7 – Embarking the Breeze
Embarkation day! I was so excited to get the cruise started that I woke up ridiculously early, and – thanks to the free hotel WiFi – watched the 25th anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera on Netflix US while waiting for it to be a reasonable hour to wake up the hubby.
After a yummy breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant and a quick walk over to Starbucks at the Bayfront Marketplace – from where we could see the Carnival Breeze in port – I did some quick shopping and found a nice hat for the trip. We wandered back to the hotel to finish packing up and checking out. Apparently there was a shuttle option from the hotel, but it was already full up by the time we asked, but the taxi was a quick and easy alternative.
Dropped off our luggage with the porters, breezed through security, and were sitting in the terminal by 11:30am with our Zone 30 boarding pass. Glad I ignored that email from Carnival saying not to arrive until 2pm. We were on the ship about 20 minutes later, ready to explore!
But first, lunch! We headed straight up to the Lido Deck, and after a quick lap to check out all of the options, we went with the Tandoori. So good! Seriously, some of the best Indian food we’ve had. And of course, had to order our first drink of the cruise – the FunShip Special.
We spent the next hour or so exploring the ship. After checking out the spa and debating getting the spa pass (which we never did – next time!), Byron tried out the ropes course – which requires closed-toe shoes, and my sneakers were in my still-to-be-delivered luggage, so I was left grounded. I consoled myself with drink number two: a Mango Swirl.
Now it was time to check out our cabin (2285). After reading many glowing reviews, we decided to try our first cove balcony. Loved it! Being so close to the water was fabulous; a few days, we even saw flying fish. I was initially a bit hesitant about the location, very close to the elevators, but never heard a peep – other than a few rambunctious kids running in the hallway.
By this time, Byron’s luggage had arrived, so we changed into swimsuits under our clothes and headed to the safety briefing. Pretty standard stuff, although I did find it 1) frustrating how many times they had to remind people to stop checking their phones and pay attention, and 2) hilarious that when they mentioned ‘women and children first’, two 20-something girls spontaneously high-fived.
Once the briefing had wrapped up, we headed up to the Serenity deck. I think my one major complaint about the design of the ship is that the Serenity area is located right next to the entrance to the waterslides. Unlike past cruises where we watched sailaway from the front decks with all the people and music, this time we stayed in Serenity and enjoyed sailaway from the relative peace of the hot tub.
After Miami had drifted away, we realized how hungry we were. The main dining room menu wasn’t too enticing – oh, how sad I was to find out that the new Carnival menus wouldn’t be ready yet – so we went to the buffet. Knowing that I’d be recapping this trip, I took a quick photo of my plate – prompting someone passing by to call out “You’re supposed to eat that, not photograph it.” Thanks for the tip, random stranger. Boy, if I said all of the things I thought about my fellow passengers out loud, I probably would have been kicked off the ship by the time we reached Grand Turk.
Following dinner, we dropped back by the room to see if my bag had finally arrived – it had, but with a new luggage tag affixed. A good reminder to securely fasten your baggage tags! We wandered the ship, checking out the Taste Bar – yummy bruschetta from the Cucina del Capitano – and enjoying another drink. We caught the tail end of the pub quiz at the Red Frog Pub, did a lap through the casino, got caught in a sudden-but-brief downpour while out on the lanai deck, and dried off while listened to the pub guitar.
As our last stop of the night, we headed to the Ovation Theatre for the Welcome Aboard show. I now understand what others meant by Carnival’s performance shows going downhill – I thought it was cheesy and low-budget (although my husband thought it was fun). The highlight was actually watching a sign language interpreter for one family near the stage – her signing and body movements during the Motor City songs were awesome and hilarious, grooving along with the music and taking some non-literal liberties with the lyrics.
And that wraps up embarkation day. Stay tuned for part two, featuring our first sea day and stops in Grand Turk and San Juan.