Carnival Miracle, June 23-July 1, 2012, 8 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Another cruise under our belt, and we're excitedly searching the internet looking to plan and book the next one. Since we've hit almost every port in the Caribbean except for the very south, maybe we'll try Alaska or the Mediterranean next year. This was a great cruise with family and friends. I tried not to forget anything, so forgive me if I jumped around or listed items in weird sections. Enjoy!!!!
This was planned as a long awaited family and friends cruise. The process began last summer with soliciting interest, and as always, everyone has different things that they are looking for or to do, along with port preferences, and of course pricing. We finally booked in January, and had ten left in our party at sailing. No big deal, but I'm glad we didn't book at the group rate months before. When we booked, Carnival had great prices for Military and PA/NJ Residents for Inside Obstructed View/French Door cabins, so we all booked in this category. In April the price dropped for Obstructed View Balconies and we were able to upgrade at no additional cost. A few weeks before our cruise the price dropped again, and we were able to upgrade to extended-balconies mid-ship for $20.00 more total.
We decided that it was cheaper and more convenient to hop on the bus from Philly to NY. MegaBus and Greyhound didn't disappoint, getting us into NYC at 10:30, followed by a quick taxi ride up West Side Highway to 55th Street. Check-in and embarkation was seamless and efficient, and we were in one of the first groups on the ship at slightly after 11:00am. We were up having lunch in Horatio's on the Lido deck around noon after lounging in the Atrium. The buffet lines were a little long on the first day, but this can be expected, and trying to find a table for a large group was even harder, but we did manage to get two tables across for each other (as a note, the lines in the morning at the buffet is mainly for people waiting for omelets or cooked to order eggs. You can skip around those waiting for omelets/eggs to get to other buffet items after getting your plate and silverware). Lunch was followed by exploring the Lido deck and then heading down to our rooms meet our Steward, Sean from Jamaica, who provided great service all week. Since we have been on several cruises, we knew the layout of the room, and the first timers with us were excited about their new home for the week. Great cabin, plenty of space for two adults, and a small child with the sleep sofa. Plenty of closet space, and sofa has two drawers underneath (contains linens and blankets for sleep sofa but can be removed by Steward if needed). Cabin was great, comfy beds, and A/C worked great. You cannot see straight down to the pier from these balconies, but you can see all sites pulling in and out of port, etc. Two chairs and small table on balcony. Bathroom was clean, and as to be expected for it's size. No noise from crew or neighbors, and great location to get around ship or to and from elevators.
Muster Drill was soon announced, and was pretty painless, although not efficient/organized. Comparing Carnival to Royal Caribbean, on Carnival you're packed on deck in a disorderly fashion and the crew missed several people including children during their passenger count. On the cruises I've been on with Royal, you're lined up in rows, which make it easier to get an accurate count. After Muster we headed back to the rooms, and then up to the top decks for sail-away watching the ship cruise out of NYC with Manhattan and Lady Liberty in the background. After sailing past Brooklyn and New Jersey, we headed down to the rooms to see if the luggage had arrived and to unpack. I don't know why people go ballistic if their luggage is not at their room right after muster. It's vacation, chill out; it'll be there sometime the first night. Handling the luggage for over 2000 passengers can take a significant amount of time. Once piece of mine didn't arrive until almost 10:00pm, no problem, I mixed clothes between several bags, so I had something to change into if needed. Everything was unpacked by 11:00pm
Dinner on the first night was casual in the dining room, and our wait team (Melvin, can't remember the other team members names) were also pleasant and efficient, and always ready to serve. Prior to boarding I informed those in my party that you could order several items off the menu or within the same category but do so when placing the initial order. We took advantage of this several times during our cruise, and after the first night when it looked like someone couldn't decide on a particular item, Melvin informed them he would bring both, and anything they didn't like would be returned, and/or another item brought out. Most dinners were eaten in the dining room, which is unusual for us, as we prefer the Lido, but it was an enjoyable experience since we had all family at an 8-top. After dinner we headed to the Welcome Aboard Show hosted by our Cruise Director, Malcolm "Woohoo" Burns. I found him a little corny at first, but he grew me during the cruise. The Welcome Aboard Show could use some work, and the theater was virtually empty. The Comic Teasers of Tony Esposito and Thomas Brown were better. After the show we hit Frankenstein's Lab, which was our routine nightly. The layout, design, and decor of the "lab" is ok, but the DJ's need some work/help/better training. This was followed by a late-night trip to Horatio's for pizza, which is really good. This I my third cruise with Carnival, and I didn't know you could order what type you like such as no sauce or light sauce. The calzones were pretty good also.
The first two sea days were relaxing, and involved everyone basically doing their own thing except at meals times, which were together. Whether relaxing by the pool, sitting in a lounge, hitting the gym, taking out chance in the casino (not a lot of luck here. Several people including myself tried the vault game, and I didn't see anyone win, but I was told there were several winners this cruise), Trivia, Port/Shopping Shows, Bingo, Art Auctions, etc. were all enjoyed. One area that we enjoyed was the Taste Bar, which featured a different international or ethnic dish/plate everyday. Also of note is the Fountainhead Cafe with its gigantic slices of cake, which are better than the pastries/deserts on the Lido or in the MDR. Try the carrot cake!!!! Tonight was the Captain's/Elegant night, and everyone seemed to be dressed up. One item of note is that Carnival has moved some of the formal/elegant night food items off the MDR menu (escargot) and they are only served in the specialty restaurant, Nick and Nora's (boooo!!!). The show tonight was "Generations" which was much, much better than the Welcome Aboard Show. After the show we hit the Lab, and then Horatio's for a snack.
Our Ports of Call were San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turks. Learning from experience, we did not use the ships tours/excursions, deciding to catch a tour once in port. Since we had been to San Juan before during another cruise, everyone wanted to do the Old/New San Juan Tour ($20pp). The tour circled the island pointing out historic or sites of interest, making stops at several locations for photo opportunities (Senate Bldg. which is closed for renovations, beach locations, Forts, etc.). We decided not to do a Fort tour since we had done it previously, and involved a lot walking. We decided to walk around Old San Juan to check out the shops before heading back to the ship. The shops seem to close early today, maybe because it's Sunday or maybe because we arrived at 3:00pm, and it just seemed late. We were in San Juan until 11:00pm, and were able to go back and forth on the ship with our shopping bags and liquid goodies (lol). The San Juan Sail-away party featured a Mexican Buffet, and the ceviche was really good!!! After relaxing for a while we hit the Lab, and then Horatio's for a snack.
We also did an independent tour in St. Thomas (also $20pp), and this tour also didn't disappoint, especially the views of the Miracle and Allure/Oasis, which was also in port. Someone told me St. Thomas was the place to buy jewelry and electronics, and they didn't lie!!!!!! On my previous cruises I fund jewelry prices inline with U.S. prices, but this place had unbelievable deals!!!! After a little shopping, we stopped at Gladys's Cafe for some Conch Fritters and Fried Plantains. WOW is all I can say!!!! Deep-fried, fresh fritters, and perfectly cooked plantains were well worth the 30-minute wait. We pulled out of St. Thomas at around 3:00pm, and 7 hours was plenty of time to "see" the island. Horatio's/Lido buffet featured Caribbean food during dinner, and the plantains were a fried very hard in comparisons to the ones from Gladys's, and were not flavorful. Everything else was pretty good.
Our next stop was Grand Turks, which is a beach stop. The cool/warm blue water, and relaxing beach was just what the Doctor ordered. What a great beach day. Wearing water shoes is recommended, as sea urchins are plentiful in this area as a relative found out. Kudos go out to a worker on the island for assisting with this situation. The #1 remedy to get them out your foot as recommended by the locals, is urinating on them as soon as you feel or notice them!!! If you walk to the ship to see the medical staff with them in your foot, the #1 remedy wont work any longer!!! The #2 remedy is fire/cigarette lighter, and the #3 is soaking the foot in vinegar. #2 and #3 seemed to work during the rest of the cruise to alleviate the pain, and reduce the urchin spikes. The ships medical personnel cannot assist with their removal, but will give you medical information and pamphlets on the urchin, diagnosis, reactions and remedy free of charge. Once back on the ship we hit Horatio's for dinner, and then the Lab, and Horatio's again for a snack and conversation with our fellow passengers
The next two sea days returning to NYC were just like the first two sailing down, relaxing, and enjoying the onboard entertainment, venues, shopping, the pool and outside decks. My last cruise out of NYC/Bayonne was in late Fall, so sailing in June was a wonderful experience being able to enjoy the outside decks everyday. One note on the pools, they are small, and the hot tubs seem to be very/more popular. Fridays show featured Christopher Graves and the Miracle Orchestra performing the show "Singing with the Big Band" which was a very entertaining show. Whether you're a fan of Big Band music or not, this show won't disappoint, and features songs by Frank Sinatra, Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis Jr., etc. After the show we hit the Lab, and then Horatio's for a snack. Saturdays show was "Legends" and featured Malcolm and friends along with fellow cruise passengers impersonating famous singers. This is one of my favorite show on every cruise as it's entertaining and hilarious.
All things must come to an end, and debarkation was pretty efficient. We waiting on the Lido deck, had breakfast, and waiting for our number to be called. The process would have been a lot smoother if people would just follow the instructions, and not try to disembark the ship until their number is called (Example: you have a number 10, and try to get off with the self-debarkation!!! Good for Carnival for sending them back upstairs to wait like everyone else!!). Retrieving your luggage from the designated area, and the Customs and Border process was flawless and quick. Taxis and ground transportation were plentiful outside the terminal for the quick ride to the bus station.
Closing Remarks and Notes: I'm ready for another cruise!!!! As this is my third cruise with Carnival and fifth overall, I have no complaints above the ship (the interior took a few days to get use to, and all the different themes had us studying them trying to figure out what was going on. The designer, Joe Farsi has a show on the television that explains his "vision" which was very enlightening). The food was good and well prepared in the MDR and Horatio's/Lido Buffet. I don't remember everything I had in the MDR except the following, which were all good (chilled strawberry soup, chocolate melting cake, crÃ¨me brulee, alligator fritters, crab cake, NY strip steak, prime rib), and no one in my party had a complaint about the food or service. The lines at the buffet were as to be expected, but not too long. Getting a table was pretty easy after the first day. Our MDR and Cabin Staff were superb, and deserved their hard earned gratuity for providing exceptional service. I really didn't pay attention to kids onboard, so there must have not been a large percentage of them. The just turned 18-21 crowd did make for an exciting and entertaining nightlife in the club and Horatio's afterward, although I don't think security would agree, but none got out of hand which would warrant reporting their behavior as an "incident or out of control." The passengers on this cruise were friendlier than any other I have been on, and we all had a great time onboard together. The newbies in our group are still confused at how Carnival still gets labeled a party or bargain cruise line after a great vacation and are now hooked (woohooo!!!). I haven't had a bad or rowdy cruise with Carnival, and I can't figure it out either.
I still have my Daily Fun Times, so if you have any questions ask away. I'm still sorting through photos, and will add them later on or add a link to them. As always, thanks to everyone on Cruise Critic for information and tips!!!