Our group of 17 (ages 6 to 76 in 8 cabins) took the Carnival Miracle from NYC on the July 17th cruise to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau. It was the first Carnival cruise for all of us. We have previously cruised NCL and Royal Caribbean out of NY/NJ. We don't want the hassle of flying and this was our last trial to find "our" cruiseline . We were hesitant about trying Carnival based on reviews we read and stories we heard. However, this itinerary was perfect for us, so it was our turn to try Carnival.
Embarkation -was easy and we were onboard and having lunch within a half hour of arriving at the pier at noon.
Cabin -- Our group had extended balconies and insides mid ship on Deck 7. Everyone agreed the cabins were very nice and the bathroom was the biggest. Cabin stewards were wonderful (especially Bernie). We requested fresh ice everyday and it was there, twice a day.. no complaints here!
Food -- We didn't like the broken apart layout of Horatio's. The flow was a little awkward with the various stations but we figured it out! You had to go outside to the pool area to get hamburgers and hot dogs. The seating in the buffet was very nice and restaurant-like and made it easy for our large group to sit close to each other. Food in the Bacchus dining room was very good. There were many choices and the quality and quantity were good. It was the best dining room experience we had with Royal Caribbean being a very close second. We chose Your Time Dining and had to wait for over a half hour a couple of nights for two tables to accommodate our large group. The last night the dining room sent apology chocolates to all our cabins for the long wait which was appreciated. The servers in Bacchus were excellent, especially Asaddee and Jesus! The entertainment in the dining room was FUN! The Taste Bar was also excellent.
Activities/Entertainment -- Now for the not so fun part. We were expecting to be busy and doing lots of fun things on sea days. There was lots of trivia, sometimes twice a day, and we came home with almost a dozen trophies. The "Bean Bag" competition was a serious event with many rules. Guests were not allowed to use the game after the competition (it was guarded as if it was made of gold). There were dancing lessons and towel making classes and of course lots of encouragement to shop! Our biggest complaint was the lack of music in the atrium and other areas. I asked if they could turn it on around 4pm one afternoon and the staff member told me not until 5. Really?? Live music was limited to the smoky casino, where no one cared if there was music or not, and Frankie and Johnny's smoked filled lounge. The best band, only band, on the ship was in a lounge you could not sit in without a mask. You had to sit outside to listen to them. Where is the live music by the pool? In the atrium? somewhere so that everyone could enjoy it?? We couldn't believe the size of the casino compared to the size of the ship, it was disproportionately large and you had to talk through the casino on deck 2 to get to the theater. Rumor had it there were no winners there. Frankenstein's lab was okay but some nights was too specific for everyone to enjoy. The shows were good. The cruise director, Malcolm was absent, except for introducing the shows and inaudible announcements in the morning. We met him one evening and expressed some of our disappointment with the activities and he had to leave! He had no interest in hearing anything we had to say. We never saw him again.
Public Areas -- Our group didn't care for the layout of the ship. Most of Deck 2 and 3 seemed like one long hallway of continuous lounges with little distinction. Sam's Piano Bar was dark with no windows and closed during the day. Maguire's was okay but again not open. Actually, we found it very difficult to get a drink on this cruise. There weren't servers available and many of the lounge areas with bars were closed. This was a first for us. We finally found an awesome server, Harry, and he took care of us with a smile (more on that later). There was limited top deck space and no lounges looking over the pool and with a view of the ocean. The pool deck area was dead in the evenings which we had never experienced on previous cruises. Everything was on Deck 2 and 3. Serenity was a nice adult area but the chair saving was ridiculous and service was lacking, once again.
Service -- aside for the dining room and cabin stewards, we found the staff to be inattentive, not smiling and with a not so good attitude. I have never seen such an unaccommodating and unpleasant staff. We waited for up to a half hour for a drink. When ordering a Pellegrino one afternoon, the bartender told us she didn't have and WE WOULD have to go to the Casino to get it, really?? Thankfully, we found Harry who got the Pellegrino. We found the server attitude in the lounges and bars to be negative. I don't know about anyone else but I want to see happy and smiling people on a cruise and that starts with the staff! Very, very disappointed. One additional point, unlike previous cruises, there was an obvious lack of senior staff, officers in the public areas either to ensure customer satisfaction or for staff support. Perhaps this is a factor with the unmotivated staff. We also found the officers to keep to themselves and not greet or acknowledge passengers, at least our group of 17.
Shore Excursion Desk/Guest Relations -- the staff was polite but with a little attitude. Again, we were surprised. To anyone who wants adjoining balconies opened, get to Guest Relations as soon as you board as there is a 30 cabin limit for opening those balconies. There was no explanation but it was the rule. I was #28 and missed Sail Away waiting in line to get on the list!
Ports of Call -- The beach at Grand Turk was rocky and we didn't like swimming next to the boat. Margaritaville was so much fun and spent the entire time day in the pool dancing and just relaxing. We rented a poolside cabana and had a place to put our things, cool off and had waiter/bar service. Great time! At Half Moon Cay, we rented the Private Oasis and it was EXCELLENT. It was the best time ever and worth every penny. However, we were informed on Wednesday that the hot tub was not working at the Oasis and probably wouldn't be fixed by Saturday when we arrived. Carnival offered a small discount for this inconvenience, not enough in our opinion as this was a major feature of this excursion. It's hard to understand how the hot tub couldn't be fixed in 3 days. It stormed in Nassau and so we just walked around for a little bit and were not able to venture out too far. Area right outside the ship was not very nice.
Overall -- Our group had a fun time because of what we put it into it and the excursions we booked. We were very disappointed with the staff and ship and so we have decided to take Carnival off our future cruise list. We work very hard all year for our vacation and expect to be greeted by a smiling and attentive staff and have many choices of things to do and that was not the case. Carnival needs a new slogan as "Fun Ship" did not apply.