Just back so details are still fresh. This was our first cruise, we went with another couple who had been on Carnival once before.
Embarkation: Stayed at Chase Suites Hotel the night before where we left our van for the week and took hotel shuttle to port. Great Experience, would highly recommend). Arrived at port @ 11am. Went thru the line in 15 min. and waited to board until 11:45am. Very smooth.
Ship: Very clean, still looks new...very little wear. Decorating is over the top but it felt like a vegas hotel just on water! I had read previous reviews and was warned about the nipples but really didn't find it too offensive however I didn't bring my kids with me (I would say it's too much for them). Our friends wanted me to say that they liked the grapes!!!
Cabin: Being first-timers we had a confirmed room on Riviera deck inside cabin midship. The room was great. Lots of hanging & shelf space. Bed was very comfortable. Inside cabin was great...had naps after excur. as it was quiet and dark.
Dining: Food at Horatio's was excellent. Lots to choose from...Chinese, Deli, Rotisserie, Salad Bar etc. Pizza & Grill was absolutely amazing. As was the ice cream/frozen yogurt. Make sure to go to the toppings bar on Mon/Tues/Sat from 3-5pm...a highlight. Was a little disappointed with the dinners at Bacchus Dining. Some meals were great...filet mignon, chateaubriand, coq. st. jacques...others were ok. Also disappointed with desserts. Flourless chocolate cake and Bitter & Blanc pudding were great but others could have been better. Also the salads were not great. Other highlights were Mexican Late night buffet...excellent salsa, guacamole, chicken enchiladas...Sat. afternoon was the fruit bar/chocolate fountain...oh my was it amazing...make sure to try the rum balls.
Service: Our room steward Errol and Head Waiter Rajesh were great...we tipped extra. Our room was always cleaned up, our bed made and remade (after naps!). Towel animals were great.
Cruise Director Mark Hawkins, Hi Sam and Karl with a K were very annoying (actually Karl was OK, but the other two were horrible). I thought they were very immature. I realize they are supposed to be "fun" but the senior cruise director (Mark) was trying to be a stand up comic the entire cruise and was just not funny. You can be fun and still have charisma and class, but they were just obnoxious. Most people we observed felt the same.
Entertainment: First night (Sun) was really bad, Generations (Mon.), Hypnotist, and Beatles (Fri.) night were good. Others were average. Overall - disappointing. The band "Music Unlimited" at Frankie & Johnnie's were great...my husband is a musician and loved watching them each night. Sheila was pretty bad.
Excursions: We booked on our own and saved $$$$. Grand Cayman - Stingray sandbar with Soto's Cruises ($30/pp) would highly recommend only 8 on boat other boats had tons more some up to 40 people. Costa Maya - Swam in pool and laid on beach. Cozumel - Took taxi into downtown ($6) to Aqua Safari and went on 2 tank scuba dive ($55/pp plus $15 for equip.). Awesome experience, even had time to shop after. Belize - Cave Tubing with X-stream ($60/pp). Had a great time. Bring cheap watershoes. They will buy your watershoes for $5 when your done...we were just going to throw them out as they were wet and dirty and we didn't need them anymore.
Disembarkation: It sucks to be a non-US citizen. We had to go meet at 6:15am on Sun. morning to go thru early customs. Most other cruises have done away with this so not sure why Carnival still does it (maybe it had something to do with the Tampa port). Self assist & people with early flights etc. were off the boat by 8:30am. We were off by 9:20. Found our luggage easily.
Overall: Really enjoyed the Carnival Miracle. Definitely LOVE cruising. Would like to try other cruise lines to compare.
Email me if you have any questions.