There’s fun for all the family on Carnival Cruise Lines, discovers Hollie-Rae Merrick

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It’s not every day that you walk across the top deck of a ship and witness a hairy chest competition in full swing. But – as I was about to learn – that’s just where the fun begins on Carnival Breeze.

Carnival Cruise Lines has a renewed focus on entertainment and dining, and its $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 initiative is slowly but surely being launched fleet-wide, having been first revealed back in 2011.

Carnival Breeze is one of the line’s newer ships, so it includes most of the new features, but some additions are still being made as new ideas are announced.

When I hopped on board Breeze in Miami, I planned to relax and party in equal measures. It was a trip that involved a lot of firsts – my first time cruising from the Florida port, my first time with the US cruise line and my first time singing Spice Girls hits in a piano bar with a group of people I didn’t know while wearing a cowboy hat and a feather boa.

The cruise was part of a VIP agent fam trip and I joined the cruise line’s top UK sellers, all keen to learn more about how Carnival manages to fulfil its promise to ‘Switch on the Fun’ – and have a little fun ourselves.

Mood music

Stepping on board it’s hard not to be caught up in the chaos of it all as a DJ blasts out music in the ship’s atrium. Setting the tone for the entire trip, the DJs are all trained by US star DJ Irie to make sure the music gets the party started, and it took everything I had not to transform the atrium into my personal dance floor.

The atmosphere is certainly a hit with families – Carnival says more than 700,000 children will sail on its ships this year – and the addition of the Dr Seuss tie-in and marine-themed Camp Ocean will only add to that appeal.

They are both yet to be rolled out – Seuss at Sea is only on Carnival Splendour and Carnival Freedom at the moment, but will offer great extras such as a green eggs and ham character breakfast; while Camp Ocean will be added to Breeze by 2016.

Those aren’t the only changes on board the fun ships: the recent introduction of Carnival Live means live music from the likes of Olivia Newton John and Jennifer Hudson will attract more new-to-cruise customers. Breeze will host US rock band Styx on its six-day Western Caribbean itinerary from Miami on October 5, followed by a performance from country band Lady Antebellum on November 16.

The ship is a playground for adults and children alike, with a ropes course and golf course on the top deck providing the perfect escape for big kids as well as little, while SportsSquare has an open-air workout area, plus jogging track and basketball court.


Munch bunch

Excitement isn’t the only thing Carnival does well – the food is worth shouting about. Classic American steakhouse Fahrenheit 555 offers plentiful red meat, but if steak isn’t your clients’ thing, suggest Bonsai Sushi, Guy’s Burger Joint, Italian cuisine at Cucina del Capitano and the main dining rooms.

For lunch, the Redfrog Pub is perfect for light bites, and the bar serves Carnival’s own brand of beer, Thirsty Redfrog. It opens up onto a promenade deck so it’s also popular with passengers in the evening, and it was one of my favourite parts of the ship.

Call me a typical Brit, but I spent my days on a sun lounger and my nights sipping on something alcoholic in the pub or the Piano Bar. The entertainment at the latter will have you smiling until your face aches, and the pianist will have you singing along during a very witty performance – just don’t be surprised if you end up in fancy dress dancing on the bar!

Quiet time

There’s no escaping the fact that this is a family ship. But couples or parents wanting some time to themselves will find more than enough to keep them happy.

The pool at the back of the ship is the best option or there’s the adult-only Serenity sun deck, and the hot tubs and bar, which provide the perfect escape from the party atmosphere around the main pool area, where a DJ plays music all day. The earlier you get there the better, because it can get a little crowded on sea days.

Cloud 9 spa is as serene, tranquil and calming as you’d hope, with an extensive list of massage and beauty treatments.

The verdict

Carnival Cruise Lines UK sales boss Iain Baillie says he wants agents to “think Carnival when they think Caribbean”. Having tried and tested the product, I can understand why the line’s vast fleet is so popular with those venturing to the region. This ship offers the perfect mix of chaos and relaxation – you can party when you want and have a bit down time too.

Book it: A 10-night Exotic Eastern Caribbean fly-cruise costs from £1,319, with flights from Heathrow, and a round-trip from Miami visiting Grand Turk, San Juan, St Maarten and St Thomas.

Agent opinion

Kirsty McIntosh, product manager at Cruise1st, says: “Cruising on Carnival Breeze was a fantastic experience. With such a wide variety of entertainment and amazing dining venues, there was plenty to suit all tastes and ages. The ship was really modern and I enjoyed the informal feel. Next time I need a longer cruise to enjoy everything there is to do.”

Carnival Breeze by numbers

$740m – the amount it cost to build Carnival Breeze
4,724 – total guest capacity
54 – suites and grand penthouse suites
242,000 – guests eat this many chocolate melting cakes in a year
145,200 – cappuccinos are drunk each year
18,000 – guests indulged in this many massages in a year
6,000 – the number of slimming treatments customers had in a year