Behind the Scenes of the Carnival Breeze

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Passengers chatted and unwound on decks all over the giant oversized beast of a Carnival ship. The evening had just commenced and the piano bar was filling up in anticipation of the nightly performance. There was a mixture of European casual with classy dress. Everyone was in high spirits, relaxed from the warm sunshine and spoiled by an afternoon BBQ on deck.

I met the new Cruise Director with some friends to have drinks over piano bar tunes. She would spend one cruise training and “learning the ropes” before taking over the ship next cruise.  She had directed several other cruises, including a Pacific Coast cruise but this was her first time directing a Mediterranean ship. She would guide the ship on its Trans-Atlantic voyage back to the Caribbean for winter. The Cruise Director ultimately runs the activities of the ship and is the main Carnival contact for the ship’s guests; a face and voice to personalize the cruise.

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The Breeze was part of a new rollout of an entertainment system  of backlit screen systems combined with several lead stars trained extensively in LA. There was somewhere in the range of five or six leads where other  ships have just a couple of leads. These performers were Broadway caliber stars.  The 12 day  Mediterranean cruise  showed 4 rotating musicals which each played twice over the cruise. Everyone could schedule some showings into their vacation.  At 40 minutes long, they were a decent length, perfect for a cruise, so as not to take up the whole evening.

Staff drama. The dramatic details of cruise ships go something like: she’s sleeping with him or they’re having an affair, one of the dancers was smoking in his room, someone stole my sunglasses,  didn’t get my shore time approved or my boss is like Miranda from Devil wears Prada. It’s against the rules for crew to date or have personal relationships with guests. Apparently it happens, and word was that someone even married their cruise fling.

The Breeze was invited to dock directly into the Monte Carlo harbour which made for easy access and wandering town. An architecturally stunning aquarium built on the cliffside overlooked the Mediterranean bordered pathways which met steep staircases down to pebbly beaches. Sail-away from Monaco exposes you to a stunning speckled evening cityscape. If I had to partake in only one sail-away for the whole cruise, this would be the one. Guests lined the top deck in white Carnival bath robes after their massages to revere in the purple seas and shrinking twinkling yacht lights amidst the low hum of the ship motors.

People die on ships. This was an unusual concept for me to realize at first, but of course as a city on the sea (in the Breeze’s case somewhere in the range of 5000 people at capacity) these things need to be taken care of. So the living, floating city has a teeny tiny morgue on board, or human sized freezers. A new detection system on board the Breeze instantly detects “passenger overboard” situations.

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By the time evening falls, if you tire from the various musical entertainment venues and restaurants have already filled your every dream-like culinary imaginings (chocolate melting cake, you know I mean you),  you could opt for a film under the Mediterranean stars with fleecy Carnival blankets to keep warm. A 4-D movie theatre was also an option, but a seat with a mechanically controlled device that jabs your back, combined with mist being sprayed in your face was a little too “amusement park ride” for me. I’ll rather take a fleece and starlit Sherlock Holmes double feature on the starlit outdoor evening movie screen.

LIdo buffet, Carnival BreezeIt’s hard not to admire the grandness of a cruise liner. People save all year for their two week vacation and need a sure thing with a schedule, so in that sense, cruises work. They work in masses, unfortunately sometimes to the detriment of local culture. Imagine your beautiful quaint town overrun by 4000 tourists offloading the biggest ships ever built in the sea, taking pictures of everything, blocking traffic and driving up local prices to ridiculous heights. I imagine Dubrovnik, Croatia having gone through this exact transformation as it gained momentum as a “yachting/cruise port destination”. Ships are a feast for the senses where everything is done for you and you can explore without ever really engaging in much personal danger. The lido deck food was fresh, delicious and an unlimited buffet every day which for a foodie of extremely high metabolism such as myself, is a very, very good thing.

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Closing my eyes, absorbing the Mediterranean sunshine, it’s hard not to enjoy the salty sea air. Entertained, wined, dined, spa-ed, mini golfed and lounged my way across Italy, touring the new and different Sardinia, Sicily, and Croatia in the process. I did not speak much Italian in Italy,  but now it’s time to brush up the Espanol and decide where to eat tapas in Barcelona. I witnessed a store owner chase a robber out their store, and past me down the street so as tapas-fully wonderful as it is, Barcelona has yet to rid itself of crime.

The transformation of many passengers from the beginning of the cruise to the end was like a metamorphosis from tired and overworked to relaxed and revitalized.  As nice as it is to explore the way a place looks visually upon landing, the feeling of exploring amidst 2-4 thousand other “day explorers” on a schedule doesn’t quite allow for an authentic travel destination experience, but allows for a tourist’s vacation.

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