EMBARKATION: We drove up from Maryland on Saturday morning and I was worried about getting to the port late. No need to worry, though, because as it turned out, there was quite a delay in boarding. Due to a norovirus outbreak on the previous sailing, the crew was taking extra precautions, disinfecting etc. We were grateful for that but still, we had some time on our hands and spent a few hours sitting around with a crowd of anxious cruise passengers in the terminal. Luckily I had snacks and water in my carry on bags, as it was well after 3:00 pm when we finally got on-board.
Pulling out of New York harbor was something I will always remember. Especially as we passed lady Liberty. The pictures and video I took did not do it justice. Even though the weather was cold and damp, I wouldn't have missed that sight for anything (I went up to deck 10). The iconic Manhattan skyline was also dramatic and lovely. I took loads of photos.
THE CABIN: Our cabin was comfortable. It had the identical layout and decor as the cabin on our Carnival Pride cruise last February. However, the bed did seem too firm to me and the bedding was a bit worn and faded - it's about time to redecorate. That being said, the room was spotless, spacious, and the room steward, Arnold, was very accommodating. Which reminds me, the customer service on this cruise was super, just like on the Pride. Carnival staff go out of their way to remember your name and to remember your preferences. We always felt like 'special' guests. I've heard people complain on cruise reviews elsewhere that service can be bad because gratuities are pre-paid, so the employee has no incentive to give good service. I could not disagree more. We were so pleased with the friendly attitude of staff on all parts of the ship.
ALCOHOL: I did notice the hard sell of alcohol this time, for example when sitting up on the Lido deck - it can be irritating, but a firm no thank you is all that is required. No one is going to force something upon you that you do not want, but they will certainly take the opportunity to ask!
We did enjoy some cocktails - especially pina coladas and mud slides (yummm). Some people complain that alcohol is so expensive, but if you know that going in, that drinks are extra, then it should not be a shock. We are not heavy drinkers, but as I said we enjoyed a few cocktails especially at the shows; as well as wine with dinner.
DINING ROOM: Which brings me to the Bacchus Dining room. The decor is just so over-the-top purple. The entire ceiling is covered with bunches of purple lighted "grapes." It somehow works and the whole dining room has "a purple glow"! And the dining room staff bend over backwards to cater to guests. Very good service and the food is outstanding. One evening service seemed to be off slightly but it was not a problem. The desserts are to-die for, from the oft praised chocolate melting cake, to baked Alaska, apple pie and more. There are always plenty of choices. I will say that I found the regular choices to be rather bland, but many people do have special dietary requirements, so I'd imagine that this part of the menu would appeal to many. However, gourmands might stick with the specials of the day, which seemed more varied.
The dining room staff cut loose and have fun and delighted us with their awesome dance moves! Sometimes they dance on the tables (not dining tables, there are special little tables they have). They did the YMCA one night, a conga line another, and the final night sang a touching version of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" with the lyrics changed to "Leaving on a Funship" all about how much they will miss us - again, another way that Carnival makes you feel that they appreciate their guests.
The atmosphere on-board is quite casual, as you would expect, but we did enjoy two "elegant" evenings. It was nice to see so many people dressed up. We had a great time sitting for the photographers. We decided that the secret to getting a great photograph is to sit for many - it doesn't cost a thing and we had a lot of fun looking for our photos. It's true we threw out many - but we purchased a few nice ones for a memento of our trip.Yes, they try to up-sell everything, but a simple "no, thank you" suffices if you do not want to buy the super deluxe photo package or whatever.
ENTERTAINMENT: I had read reviews prior to our cruise about sub-par entertainment. I am happy to report that we did not find that to be the case with one exception,and we especially enjoyed the song/dance shows (Ticket to Ride was great).
We went to every show. I was particularly impressed with the female vocalist, Olivia Tenney, who I felt stole the show most of the time with her beautiful voice. Very talented! The shows in general were very entertaining and fun.
The only show that we were not overly impressed with was the hypnotist. He apparently was a nationally known fellow. However, it was rather obvious that all the 'volunteers' were planted. Or were they? But overall, it seemed to appeal to a younger or perhaps more gullible crowd. I just found it boring but that might just be me - others seemed to like it.
We also enjoyed the cruise director, Cory. He had a great personality and sense of humor, and went above and beyond to inform guests about all the activities taking place each day.
WEATHER: One thing to remember about cruising is that you can not control the weather, nor can the captain! We had OK weather but it was rainy and cloudy on several days and we hit stormy seas a few times, causing a lot of swaying and dipping of the ship, which lead to both mild sea sickness and sleeplessness for two nights. This could happen on any cruise but it is something that obviously has an impact on your enjoyment of the trip.
DEBARKATION: One other negative, as some other reviewers had mentioned, is that we had a difficult debarkation process at the port in New York. Not only was there the delay caused by a hand-full of guests who failed to report to US customs on time; it is also our understanding that the port itself was only operating with limited elevators/electricity due to Hurricane Sandy. This is why we could only exit from one area on the lower deck of the ship. So, yes it was crowded and tiresome and people were getting cranky. But considering how many folks lost everything in that storm, it's hard to feel put out by that relatively small inconvenience. If I had to fault anything, it would be that they could have made announcements to that effect, explaining the cause of the delays.
SUMMARY: So, overall, we had a great time. While the embarkation and debarkation did not go smoothly,the cabins, dining and entertainment were terrific. Service on the Miracle was top-notch - personalized and friendly.
This was our second Carnival cruise - both of them were to the same ports-of-call. We hope to go on another Carnival cruise in the future, but probably one with different ports-of-call, for some variety.
We would definitely recommend the Carnival Miracle, and cruising in general as a wonderful way to vacation.