travel

How to Breeze Through a Carnival Cruise

The Carnival Breeze cruise ship, moored to the dock at Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras.


“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” said the warden to Luke Skywalker. Or was that Cool Hand Luke? If you’re confused, so was I, on the Carnival Cruise ship Breeze. My wife and I recently sailed aboard this ship, while on a Caribbean cruise that began in Galveston, Texas.

I’m going to tell you what you need to know, that the cruise line and ship’s crew failed to communicate, so your ride on this vessel might go a little more smoothly than ours.

The byzantine layout of this ship can be mystifying. You have to explore on your own, and pry information from the ship’s crew and passengers, to figure it all out.

First, take a winter jacket. They refrigerate the hell out of the ship, with their ubiquitous air conditioning. My wife and I expected balmy Caribbean conditions, but our indoor experience felt much more like a gelid cruise to Alaska. And even with the thermostat in our cabin cranked all the way up to a volcanic setting, cool air still poured out of the ceiling vent.

Fortunately we had a balcony stateroom, so when we hit warmer waters we were able to prop open the balcony door and allow some blessed tropical heat enter our icebox. Er, I mean cabin. It felt nice to defrost.

Passengers defrosting on an aft deck.

There were no lights in our quarters when we first moved in. My wife complained to a steward, and he said he’d look into it. A few hours later, as the tenebrous fingers of twilight were creeping in, I desperately asked another passenger if he had lights in his cabin. Yes, he claimed, to my surprise. Then he explained that you have to insert your Sail and Sign card in a slot by the door to make the lights work. I felt a little sheepish, and wished I was as smart as him, to have figured that out.

Anyways, our cruise was finally starting to feel a little pleasant, as we no longer had to pee on the floor of our dark bathroom.

A Sail and Sign card, by the way, is a little plastic credit card like thing that you are issued when you board a Carnival ship. It allows you to buy stuff and have it put on your account, to be settled after the cruise ends. And you must have it in your possession to get off the ship and back on. And it also admits you into your cabin, much like a motel room key.

Problem is, you must leave this very important card in the slot by the door, to make the lights turn on and stay on. If you happen to leave your cabin and forget to take your card with you, you’ll be locked out. So you must spend your entire cruise worrying about this possibility.

But there’s a loophole. About two days before our cruise ended, we discovered that we could fold over a piece of paper and stick it into the slot, and that kept the lights on. What chumps we were for all that angst over forgetting the Sail and Sign card. We felt annoyed with ourselves, but also gloated and delighted in the sneakiness of bypassing Carnival’s diabolical energy-saving scheme.

Our balcony, plus a couple of other cruise ships, anchored off Belize City, Belize. We discovered that many other cruise ships were visiting the same tourist traps as us, at the same time. Translation: Large crowds ashore.

If you want to protect yourself from hearing loss, avoid the Lido Deck (Deck 10). There they blast music so loud, you can receive a free ear piercing. But the Lido Deck is also where they serve food, in a smorgasbord-like setting. So if you like smorgasbords, pack a pair of earplugs.

And men, if you prefer to be served by waiters, pack a pair of long pants. Dinner is served at the Sapphire Restaurant on Deck 3, every evening beginning at 5:45 pm. Most nights, casual attire is allowed. But on two of the cruise nights you are required to wear formal attire for what they call Elegant Dining. That means long pants. They don’t seem to give a damn what kind of shirt you wear, as long as it isn’t a tank top. But they won’t let you in if you’re wearing shorts.

This Elegant Dining crap really gets under my skin. I’m on vacation and going for a cruise to the Caribbean, goddamnit, so why can’t I just wear shorts and relax the whole time? Two reasons. First, as I mentioned above, they refrigerate the hell out of the ship, and that includes dining areas. So you might want to dine in long pants every night, and also huddle in a heavy parka wrapped over your Hawaiian shirt.

I found some lifesaving peace on this cruise, and spent quiet moments admiring beautiful sights.

The second reason has to do with the fashion police. Some folks on cruises have a thing about clothing. I suspect that dressing up is some sort of competitive sport for them, and they want to compete against as many participants as possible; even if they have to force those who just want to relax and be casual, to participate in this sick competition.

Well, I showed those snobs a thing or two. Yes, I did bring along a pair of long pants, and yes I did wear them during the goddamned fucking Elegant Dining nights. But while eating and engaging in table talk, I employed words such as “ain’t”, “y’all”, and “shaddup”, while deploying my thickest redneck accent. In this manner I demonstrated that while this rebel could be forced to be elegant, I could not be compelled to be eloquent.

By the way, to find the Sapphire Restaurant, go to the fore elevator, and ride it to Deck 3. Don’t take the mid elevator. That’s a trap they don’t tell you about. You can’t get into the restaurant from there, and have to brave crowded elevators to get back to a different deck and walk to the fore of the ship.

Learn the elevators. They have their ups and downs. There are three sets of elevators, at the fore, mid, and aft areas of the ship.

Breakfast is served at the Blush Restaurant, Deck 3, near the aft elevator. Elegant Dining never occurs at the Blush, thank God. (I wonder if that’s why they named it Blush?)

Plan your shore excursions before you cruise. Just get on Carnival’s website, and you’ll find descriptions for all the excursions available, and that should help you choose. Excursions are important. After all, why would you sail a thousand miles to a foreign port to just stay on the ship, or browse through the souvenir shops on shore? If you really want to see something, you must book an excursion.

We waited until the second day of the cruise to actually book our excursions. We knew what we wanted way before the cruise began, but we worried that we might have to cancel our cruise, and then lose our money from booking excursions too early. The tickets are nonrefundable, you see. But because we waited, some of the excursions we wanted had already been taken. So we were left with alternate, mediocre choices, for some of the tours we went on.

Don’t let that happen to you. Book on the first day of cruising. You can book your excursions at the Carnival Adventures desk, near the fore elevator, on Deck 3.

Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras. If you want to see more than this at the exotic foreign ports you visit, I advise that you book an excursion.

The night before an excursion, buy some water at the Plaza Cafe, on Deck 5. It only costs $1.44 for a one-liter bottle. If you don’t take this precious chemical with you, in the tropical heat, you may find yourself humming a certain Sons of the Pioneers tune the entire day. (Can you name that tune?)

Do you get seasick easy? Then reserve a cabin that’s situated in the middle of the ship. That’s where the least amount of pitching and rolling motion is felt. Vacations are always more enjoyable when you find a way to minimize the vomiting.

Do you have ochlophobia, like me? That’s a fear of large crowds. If so, you might want to reconsider going on a cruise. The Carnival Breeze is very populated, accommodating over 3,000 passengers. You may often find yourself being herded around with other passengers, like a parade of elephants.

I say elephants, and not cattle, because I noticed that most of the passengers are overweight. I suspect that the appeal for many people to cruising is the “all-you-can-eat” dining feature. Fatsos are in food heaven, on a Carnival cruise ship. And their sheer numbers and individual sizes can make it challenging to navigate down narrow aisles, or stand in elevators. You sometimes must contort your body in weird positions, to avoid contact with big bellies.

I think that’s also why they keep the air-conditioning cranked up. Fatsos can’t tolerate any amount of heat. They must always have cold air blowing over them to cool their adipose-insulated bodies, and they howl like tormented souls in hell whenever a hypothermic skinny person inches the thermostat up.

I remained in my cabin as much as possible, due to my ectomorphic frame, ochlophobia, and misanthropic nature. Several times I relied upon room service for a Reuben or BLT sandwich, to avoid cold, crowded dining areas.

This is the casino. Photo was taken around 6:00 am, when most of the passengers were snoozing like beached whales. I did very well at this casino. That’s because I do not gamble.

At the end of the cruise you will receive printed and oral information concerning Carnival’s highly organized, well-thought-out-plan to disembark its 3,000 passengers from the ship in a safe and sane manner. This orderly plan involves disembarking manageable groups of people, one-by-one, by assigned zone, and by deck. You will be warned repeatedly over loudspeakers to follow the plan.

We’ve learned to ignore the warnings. We suspect it’s just Carnival’s way of paying lip-service to maritime safety regulations.

We do like it seems everyone else does, and stampede for the elevators. The crew doesn’t seem to actually care about, or enforce its complex disembarkation procedure. Hell, they want you off the ship more than you want to get off of it, so they can make room for a fresh new load of elephants.

We’ve learned that the sooner we start running for the exits, the sooner we get off the boat before the rest of the stampede, and the less time we have to wait in line at Customs. Believe me, those Customs lines can be murderously long. So take my word for it. Run like everyone else runs! Beat the crowds and get the hell out of there, quick!

Galveston Bay, with the full moon setting, on the last day of our cruise. True to this astrological sign, it was lunacy getting off the ship.

And finally you’ll be heading home. Perhaps in your very own car. An uncrowded car, where you can breathe easily. A comfortable car that will leave you wondering if you could have had more fun on a road trip, rather than a cruise. A responsive car where you have control over everything except the price of gas.

And a car where you can finally remove your parka. Because you also control the air-conditioning.

Categories: travel

13 replies »

  1. I have never been on a cruise, Tippy. And thanks to your comments, I may never go on one. I had a similar experience with Amtrak in a claustrophobic cabin for two (ha ha) as we made our way across the USA and back. It, too, pitches and wobbles as you speed along, but you don’t really notice it until you have to walk someplace, like the bathroom or the bar car or the free movie. There was only one dining room (no fore and aft) and shorts were allowed at all times, but all the tables were for four people, so you had to sit with some strange couple and endure their version of redneck slang. The one time we requested “room service” the steward said, and I quote, “I hope you guys aren’t going to do that for every meal.” It was delightful and she got one hell of a tip. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. We’ve considered doing an Amtrak trip, ourselves, but the cost seems quite exorbitant. Now that I’ve read your comment I’m guessing the price isn’t worth the trouble. Seems there’s still nothing like a good ol’ American road trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVED THIS! Probably more than you enjoyed the cruise itself. And . . . I’m reading it in shorts. Sans parka! 😀

    “I suspect that dressing up is some sort of competitive sport for them, and they want to compete against as many participants as possible; even if they have to force those who just want to relax and be casual, to participate in this sick competition.” ~> I echo that thought!

    “In this manner I demonstrated that while this rebel could be forced to be elegant, I could not be compelled to be eloquent.” ~> Me thinks you protest too much, TG. This post is tres elegant and eloquent.

    {PAUSE}

    You’re welcome. :mrgreen:

    We’ve been on two cruises ~

    (1) the Big Red Boat with Looney Tunes characters that mingled with the passengers. We went with my parents, my sister & BIL, and two wee nieces (6 and 2). We were supposed to “dress” for dinner two nights. NOT my favorite meals. We went to the midnight buffet twice to watch oversized passengers with overfilled plates overstuff themselves. We lost our appetite as we watched.

    (2) A windjammer cruise off the coast of Maine. The ship held only 30 or so passengers. The cook (Anna) snapped beans while sitting cross-legged on deck . . . with anyone who wanted to help. She served blueberry muffins on deck at 4 am for early birds. Breakfast at 8. Buffet lunch on deck mid-day. She fixed vegetarian versions of chili, lasagna, soup, etc. for me & BFF.

    Maybe we’ll go on another cruise someday. So thanks for the tips, Tippy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your nice thoughts. I’m not sure about the Big Red Boat, but I think I might like the windjammer cruise. Just as long as they don’t keelhaul passengers for disobeying rules.

      We’ve heard that there are better, though probably more expensive cruises, offered by Holland America, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean. So maybe if we cruise again, we’ll shell out a few more bucks and get something more enjoyable.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re trip sounds about as fun as my latest attempt at a getaway. I was wondering about the card thing. Didn’t you each get a card so one could be left for lighting and not peeing on floors and the other could be taken with you for spending and getting into your room?

    Also, you’ve confirmed for me what I had already decided a long time ago. I never want to take a cruise.

    Hope you’re enjoying your holiday at home.

    Oh and btw, I don’t handle crowds well either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We were each issued a card, but if we both wanted to be out of the room at the same time, to do our separate things, then we both had to have our cards with us. I think the purpose for this is to prevent guests from leaving the lights on in their rooms while no one is in their room. It saves energy. Except for the energy used up by worrying over forgetting the card.

      Some people love cruising, in spite of all the craziness. Especially fat people who love food. But since I’m not into feeding my face all day long, cruising really isn’t for me.

      Yeah, crowds are a pain in the arse. I hate ’em. I guess it’s because I hate people in large doses. People are meant to be spread far apart from each other, in my view.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ohh I get it now. Glad you figured out a way to work around it you clever people.
        It definitely doesn’t sound like my cup of tea either. I could not do the excursions either. I’d be worried about motion sickness, foods I can’t eat, crowds. and is there a lot of noise when you’re trying to sleep?
        It just doesn’t sound like what I’d find restful.
        And the dress up thing?! Ahaha I’d definitely find a way around it to rebel somehow.
        It’s no wonder you’re tired after your trip. You need a quite holiday to recover from your holiday. Does Mrs. Tippy like the cruises?

        Liked by 1 person