We just returned from the Carnival Miracle May 6-14, 2012 sailing. We left from NYC for eight nights with stops in San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. There were two days at sea on each end. We are seasoned cruisers in our mid 40s and this was our fourth time on the Miracle since 2008 so I will touch on a few key things. We had an aft balcony cabin and DD and her friend (both 23) had an obstructed balcony cabin. Their cabin was 5176 and was hardly obstructed at all. We live in Jersey and made it to the port in about an hour. Check in was quick and we waited maybe 25-30 minutes to board (Zone 8).
The Serenity Area is a large waste of space in my opinion. There are large round chairs that two can sit in but they take the room of 3-4 chairs. They also had hammocks inside pergolas that took up a lot of room too. On more than one occasion, folks were laying on the pool deck on their towels as no seats were available. There were couches that sat six that on more than one occasion I found folks napping across the whole couch making it useless to others. The chair hogs were out there on a daily basis very early (before 9 am), not surprising considering that they took away about 50% of the prior seating in addition to making the area non smoking. I find the area being non smoking a bit ridiculous as you drove "adults" away from the "adult" area of the ship and forced them to smoke in an area that is open to children. I do not smoke but it did not make sense to any of us.
The staff was tremendous. We did not see anyone who was not smiling or who did not greet us with a smile. We had a crew member remember us from two years ago. A few crew members stand out. Our cabin steward Ardita was great. Our room was spotless and he took care of any requests immediately. Ernesto in Frankie and Johnnies was about the best bartender I have ever met. INengha was a drink server on the Lido Deck and he took great care of all of us and knew our favorite drinks after the first day.
The food on the Lido Deck was the best it has ever been. This is one area that Carnival has greatly improved over the years. We do not like buffet food, but the food there at times was better than the dining room. The grilled chicken was juicy there but very dried out and almost inedible in the dining room. The chips and salsa at the grill are great. I ate them every day. One day they had a small Mexican section on the buffet that had guacamole that was very fresh and tasty. I wish it was offered daily too. Additional omelet stations have been added at breakfast to help the lines move quicker. They even had the pizzeria as one. You were still able to get pizza (DH asked). One thing we found strange was you were able to get your own bacon at all buffet stations except one. At that one they served you one piece of bacon at a time....Odd.
The food in the dining room seems to have declined. The portion sizes were different for folks at the same table. One person in our group asked for the macaroni and cheese without chicken and it appeared like he got a child's portion compared to someone at our table who ordered it with chicken. The quality of the mac and cheese was not good along with the grilled chicken previously mentioned. The prime rib was also not as good a quality as it had been in the past. DH did like the jerked pork and gave it high compliments. The warm chocolate melting cake is as good as it has been in the past.
I also had a special request on evening (mussel allergy) on a dish that for some reason does not list it the mussels as an ingredient. I have written Carnival about this on a number of occasions but they have not changed it. So if anyone orders the Seafood Newburg be aware that it contains mussels. If you have a food issue, all you have to do is ask the person at the dining room entrance to see the menu for the next day so you can review it for any special requests.
Nick and Noras. We had dinner there the second elegant night with our friends. The meal is tremendous and the food top quality. We did find the service to be slow at the beginning of our meal as it took almost 30 minutes to get bread. The service the rest of the time was fine. It is a very nice meal to experience and the food is well worth the $30 fee per person.
Punchliner Brunch. This is a new concept with the Miracle being the first ship to have it. Good idea but in need of some modifications. It is done on sea days from 9 to 1:30 and no regular breakfast or lunch menu is available. The first show is at 10 am and is hourly after that. Be aware if you arrive too early you may be done eating with no comedian appearing. The comedian's skit is very short (approx 10 minutes). I feel the shows should be every 30 minutes since they are so short. DD did not like the Fruit Loop French Toast at all. Two of us at our table had the Huevos Rancheros. My eggs came out over easy. The second persons came out sunny side up (almost half raw) and had to be remade. Neither of us was asked how we wanted them cooked but they came out so different. There were eight of us and we were sat at a table for 12 in a corner where we were not able to see the show. We didn't like that at all. The server also forgot to take one of our parties order and the assistant put a rack of dishes/cups on the stand right behind our table and began to unload them during the comedy act. Be aware that also when this is added to the ships that they will begin to charge for Lattes and Cappuccinos during the brunch and dinner to pay for the "upgraded equipment and the barista." Our parties' consensus was that we tried it once but will do the buffet going forward.
Punchliner Comedy Club -- Last year they made the Mad Hatter Ballroom into the comedy show. I highly recommend that you go at least once during your cruise. They have two different comedians each night. They have family friendly shows as well as adults only. We went to the adults only shows and my recommendation is to arrive early. The shows are packed. We had two different sets of comedians during the cruise. They are also the same comedians who do the brunch.
Pools/Hot Tubs/Chair Hogs. I previously addressed the chair hogs at the Serenity Area but I will say that they were out in full force at the forward Lido pool. Fortunately we are all early risers. A large number of chairs had stuff on them for hours with no one there. I was sitting on the side of chair talking to someone that was unoccupied for two hours and a rude child told me to move as it was his stuff on the chair. I stood up and he then grabbed the stuff and huffed away. He was not anywhere in the pool area the entire time I was there.
There were a large number of folks who to decided to jump in the pool and do cannon balls or splash everyone. They were not stopped as there was no security. The only time I seen security was on their walk thru at 10 am and 3 pm. One person in our group did ask for security one day and it took an hour for them to show up. Good thing it wasn't an emergency.
Hot tubs -- all I can say is enter at your own risk. Young children under five (a bunch of whom were in swim diapers) were the main occupants. I cannot even imagine the large amount of urine/feces that was in those during the day. In many cases mom and dad were not in the hot tub. I counted 12 kids in the hot tub and one adult on more than one occasion. I know that he was not the parent to all of them. There was another day that I stopped two kids from trying to drown each other in the hot tub.
Our ports were San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. San Juan - it would be so nice if the ship could arrive earlier in the day to enjoy a truly beautiful port. St. Thomas was overcast and there was some lightening that drove us from the beach so we went shopping. They just opened a Senor Frogs on the pier if anyone is interested.
Grand Turk is a gorgeous port. We were scheduled to arrive at 1 pm and share the port with the Glory who arrived only a few hours before us. We arrived at 12:45 and the first folks were allowed off the ship nearly an hour later. The line trying to get off the ship was halfway down Deck 2. Some folks said it took them an hour to get off the ship once they started debarkation. It was complete chaos. We were lucky and it only took 25 minutes. There has to be a better way to do that. We have not experienced that in any of our prior visits there. The best part of Grand Turk is Jack's Shack - A bar not too far down the beach. The owners are transplanted from the US. The food and drinks are a good price and it is so much quieter than Margaritaville. The cab ride down there is $3 a person if you don't want to walk.
Debarkation in NY went well. The self debarkation seemed to take a long time between decks. Not sure if a large number of folks did it or not. It took the better part of an hour for them to get off the ship. We were group 5 and were off within 10 minutes of them calling group 1.
We are all sad that the Miracle will not be in NYC next year. Our group is very unsure about cruising on the Splendor as it appears that they have an even more restrictive smoking policy. Time will tell but I can say that she is our favorite ship and I wish she was staying.