I am sitting under a palm tree on a tropical island, determined to finish the book I’ve been reading for the past week. But the insistent swaying of the leaves and the gentle lapping of waves transports my mind to another place. How is the water SO blue here in the Caribbean? Is the salty island air sprinkled with magic?
I’ve been luxuriating in my surroundings for all of 10 seconds when I see our gregarious Jamaican guide marching towards me with a huge smile and 2 giant cocktails. She’s followed by the rest of our tour group – for a minute I had forgotten I was in the middle of a weeklong party that promises cocktails by the dozen, picture postcard locations, new friends, dancing, singing, and LOTS of eating!
After a sophisticated (and comparatively sedate) cruise in Alaska, we thought we would end our journey in USA with a bang – a cheery Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruises. Carnival Cruises is famous for its informal approach to cruising – think huge ships, delectable buffets, and endless entertainment opportunities. A little birdie told me about movie screenings under the stars. So we were well and truly kicked to wrap up our trip with a week of fun.
What we did not know was that it would also be a week of culinary hedonism. Now we’ve been on our fair share of cruises but large American cruise ships are PERFECT for you if you are a foodie. We were on the stunning Carnival Breeze and spent our days enjoying late breakfasts in bed, sampling expansive lunch buffets and devouring 3 course dinners for an entire week.
Breakfast at Lido Marketplace has dozens of varieties of pastries, cereals, eggs, meats, pancakes, waffles, cheeses, and fresh fruit. However queues can get really long, especially on a sea day. So we ended up availing the free room service for breakfast most mornings. Snacks and lunches were never a problem. There are plenty of options for dining throughout the day – everything from a pizza corner and hot dog stand to a Burrito Bar and Indian Restaurant. Pizzas are rolled from scratch, hot dogs come with all the toppings you could possibly want, naan breads are made in a traditional oven at the Indian counter, and the popular Burrito Bar has a variety of fillings to suit every palate. Steaming hot food and authentic flavours at each of the stalls ensured we were nursing food babies at the end of each day. Of all the options at lunch, we loved Guy’s Burger Joint and the salad bar at Lido Marketplace the most.
In case you want to wash down all that greasy food or you’re simply craving something sweet, drop by the cafés for a cup of coffee, some scrumptious ice-cream or an indulgent ice-cream shake (topped with rainbow sprinkles, no less!). This decadence continues at the free sit-down dinners at the two dining rooms – food is tasty, well-presented, and portions generous. Even though you can order all the food you can eat, we found ourselves struggling to finish 3 courses (our perpetual problem with American portion sizes!). Make sure you try the dishes listed under ‘rare finds’ on the dinner menu – they are usually the best of the lot.
If you want to try something different, then there are quite a few restaurants on board where you can dine for a fee. We loved Bonsai Sushi and dropped by thrice during the week (thanks to Vid’s fondness for sushi). Try their huge sushi boat, which comes with a side of miso soup – it’s perfect for 2 people and costs just $17. The dimly-lit Cucina del Capitano is perfect for celebrating a special occasion with some delectable Italian food. You could also try molecular gastronomy at The Chef’s Table or fine dining at at Fahrenheit 555. The latter is perfect if you’re a meat lover or enjoy lobsters as filet mignon, rib-eye steak, and Surf n Turf are some of the most popular dishes on the menu here.
I do know I’ve just spend half the article talking about food but I feel obligated to acquaint you with the highlights of a cruise on Carnival Breeze. Irrespective of whether we wanted comfort food or gourmet delicacies, the ship delivered on all fronts. In fact we would go so far as to say that dining on Carnival Breeze is one of the best we’ve ever experienced on board a cruise ship!
But that’s not the only draw of a Caribbean Cruise because the ship docks at idyllic islands almost every day. Palm-fringed beaches, juicy coconuts, and azure waters are almost a given in this part of the world. At Grand Cayman Island we got off for a lazy stroll along the promenade. Since it’s the Caribbean, drinks are never far behind – by 11 am we were sipping on the signature Tortuga Rum Punch.
At Cozumel Island, located off the Eastern Coast of Mexico we got off the ship only to step into a power catamaran in order to be frisked to a tropical hideaway – Passion Island. At Passion Island there are tourists and cheap drinks by the dozen, but it’s easy to take a short walk and escape the crowds. The beach is gorgeous and if you’re lucky you can even bag a hammock strung over the Caribbean Sea.
In Jamaica, we decided to steer clear of the beaches and opted for an excursion that would introduce us to the sights and sounds of Jamaican life. Bob Marley’s country has a surprise around every corner – colourful buildings, markets spilling with food stalls (Jamaican jerk chicken is everything), and the friendliest locals. We loved our skirmish with the island and hope to return to explore it at length.
Having devoured the sights and sounds of Jamaica, it was time to wind down. We spent our days at sea nursing endless glasses of Jamaican rum. Mornings were spent reading in our cabin’s balcony, looking out onto the endless sea or in one of the jacuzzis on Carnival Breeze. Every afternoon we would escape to the workout deck. Gyms on cruise ships, overlooking endless waters, are usually my favourite place to exercise but I found myself going back to the outdoor running track on carnival breeze time and again.
At the end of our Caribbean Cruise there was only one thing left to do – plot ways to get rid of those food babies 😉 I think that is how I’ll always remember the Caribbean – the land of sylvan islands, people with large smiles and larger hearts, and the best rum punch in the world.
Fact File and stuff we loved about our Caribbean Cruise:
- Expect ports with sparkling blue waters, palm trees, and endless sunshine on a Caribbean cruise. It’s truly hard to argue with being in the Caribbean
- Carnival Breeze is a big and busy ship. It’s perfect for larger groups and families too.
- Carnival ships offer free room service including breakfast in bed (and you know how much I love that!)
- Make sure you drop by for a treatment at the Cloud 9 spa – get a manicure or a mssage with a great view of the Caribbean Sea.
- No matter how busy the ship, you can always find quiet corners all to yourself. For me, this was the jacuzzi on the fifth deck of Carnival Breeze – do check it out if you are on the same ship. It overlooks the ENTIRE Caribbean Sea.
- We were pleasantly surprised by the extensive wine lists and great dining options on Carnival Breeze. In fact we would go so far as to say that dining on Carnival Breeze is one of the best we’ve ever experienced on board a cruise ship!
- Don’t miss the Chocolate Extravaganza on Carnival Breeze – this day every menu on the buffet menu is chocolaty. Nom!
- Unlike other cruises which offer internet packages with limited hours and unpredictable connectivity, our Carnival cruise offered an internet package with decent speed and no limit on hours.
- Week long cruises at Carnival Breeze start at $500/person for inside cabins and $750/person for balcony cabins. More information on www.carnival.com
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