We left from Venice on June 3, on the maiden voyage of the Carnival Breeze. We got in to Venice two days early and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the city. One night we were by St Marks Square and watched the cruise ships leaving the port going right by us. We knew we would be doing that the next day. We had a lot of bags for a 12-day cruise, so we took the water taxi from the airport for 120 euros to a drop off point on a small canal behind our hotel (Malibran Hotel). The water bus would have been cheaper, but we do not travel light and did not want to roll our bags around the streets of Venice or carry them over the many bridges. We also took the water taxi for 90 euros from the hotel right to the cruise ship dock.
Malibran Hotel. The hotel was a nice 3-star hotel. We had a room on floor 3, which meant we had to walk up 4 floors to the room. Other than that, the room was clean, with a large bathroom. The included breakfast was more of a European breakfast, but enough food. Internet was only available in the office area for a fee. We did not use it. They were very good about letting us leave our bags in the office on the first day and the last day. It was very close to the Rialto Bridge which made navigating the streets of Venice easier as there are lots of signs to the Rialto.
The ship. It was the maiden voyage for the Carnival Breeze so they had a few minor issues. The biggest issue was the wait staff had not worked together before, so the service seemed to suffer in the beginning. The normal second seating is at 8:15, but they scheduled it for 8:45 on the first day. But the doors did not open until almost 9:15. The rest of the days the doors opened on time. This is Carnival, so if you do not expect good food or good service then you will not be disappointed. Both service and food were acceptable at best. They got better as the cruise went on. The staff was very friendly. Internet service was slow and expensive, but it worked most of the time.
Our room. We had a balcony cabin on the 9th deck. It had a little more privacy than the lower decks as the 5th floor extended out from about 15 feet farther out. So the people in the chairs and hot tub had nice views of the balconies above. The down side was that the 10th deck extended about 6 feet past the top of our balcony. That meant that very little sun got to the balcony. I like to sit on the balcony and get some sun, but it did not work on this level. Also, the 10th deck is the lido deck so we could hear noises from people walking on the deck above. Mostly we just heard young kids running. Fortunately, there were not too many on this cruise. Another problem was that Carnival allows smoking on balconies. Cigar smoking is not allowed on balconies, but I do not see how they can enforce that. That resulted in our balcony having strong cigar smells at least half of the time.
We ended up with an unexpected sea day when the port of Lovorno put a freighter into the dock that Carnival had reserved 12 months ago. The port gave our ship another dock, but it was too small. So everything was delayed a day and we lost the stop in Marseilles. They did give everyone a $50 credit plus the $11 port charges. The sea day was very windy which made it difficult at time to stay on the deck. The waves got pretty high at times, but the ship was very stable. It rocked some, but I have had it much worse. So I give them high marks for stability in high seas.
Entertainment. For a 12-day cruise, we only had two days of imported entertainment. We only saw one, and she was very good. The rest of the days they had high actions singing and dancing performances by their own entertainers. Those were okay, but for a 12-day cruise the performances were repeated too often. I am sure they are a lot cheaper for Carnival to provide that level of entertainment. Another problem we had was with the timing of the entertainment. If you had the first dinner seating you did not have a problem, but with 8:15 pm seating, we had a difficult time making a 10:00 performance. The two major acts were at 10:30 so those were okay
Ports. We came with a group of about 45 people from Montreal, Canada. They mostly spoke French or Creole, so our travel agent booked an excursion for us in almost every port. We did not use the ship excursions. Here is my impression of the ports.
Dubrovnik, Croatia. Beautiful walled city. If you just want to see the old town, I recommend the shuttle from the ship.
Athens, Greece. The planned general strike was cancelled, so we got to see the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. I am glad I got to see the Parthenon. We lost a member of the group who wander off. She took a taxi back to the ship.
Izmir, Turkey. I would have liked to go to the ruins of Ephesus, but our group liked shopping, so we stopped at a local market, where we got a nice local lunch and people bought some nice leather goods.
Messina, Sicily. We took a day trip up to the city of Taormina. Beautiful view of the water below and of Mount Etna. We did not get too close to the volcano, but we could see the smoke coming out of the top.
Olbia, Sardina. This was the first visit of a Carnival ship to this port, so they had a nice welcoming ceremony for the ship. There is not much in Olbia, so we did not have an excursion planned. The cruise director said that there was a beach about 30 minutes away, so we just took the free shuttle to the town. When we got there, a women at a local information center told us that there was a nice beach only a 5 minute taxi ride away. So we went back to the ship and got our towels and swimsuits. It was a very nice beach with restaurants right behind the beach.
Rome. Long day in Rome we saw a lot, but it is a 90 minute bus ride into town and the traffic was not too bad. We were gone from 8:15 until 6:30. A lot of walking in Rome. We drove by many of the sites, stopped for lunch at Triviti Fountain, and did a tour of the Vatican. I thought the Vatican was crowded, but our guide said it was not as crowded as usual.
Luvorno. We did an excursion to Pisa and Florence that started at 8:15 and got us back to the ship at 6:45. That made for a very long day. The Pisa stop was great but we lost another member of our group and were delayed looking for her. We never did find her, but she made it back to the ship on her own. It cost 50 euros by taxi. Florence was very crowded and busy. We saw some of the highlights but did not have time to enter any buildings. If we had not had that extra unplanned day at sea, we would have been really wiped out. We will have to go back to Florence and spend a few days exploring.
Monaco. The ship docks very close to the town. You can walk there easily, so most people did not have excursions. We did have a bus tour through the town to a perfume factory, and a drive to Nice. There we had tour of the town and got to walk the stony beaches of the French Rivera. We ended the trip with the guide taking us up to a lookout over the city of Monaco right from the dock area.
Barcelona. The cruise ended here. We added 3 extra days in Barcelona. We stayed at the Rialto Hotel which was a short walk to the La Rambla area. There is limited access to the street. It was a 45 minute walk to the Barcelona beaches as well. We booked a flamenco performance at Cordobes right on La Rambla very near the hotel. Good show.