Here is a review of the 10/13 sailing of the Miracle to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau. Many apologies for the lateness, but due to Sandy, long time w/o power, computer problems, illness, holidays, etc, it kept getting pushed to the end of the priority list. But, I figured better late than never, as I like to read a variety of reviews regardless of time passed, so here it is. This was our 11th Cruise with Carnival and 2nd time on the Miracle.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port around 10:30 and after a short wait, were checked in and moved to the Platinum lounge which was pretty much the same as the non-platinum waiting area except it was a separate room. Last time it was a lounge with more couches, but I believe they changed the location and it was more like a work in progress. While we were waiting to be called I walked to the restroom and noticed that the embarkation photo ops were set up right in the waiting area so you could take your photos while waiting for your zone to be called. I thought that was a great idea, except it wasn't made known to people waiting, you had to stumble upon it, so I don't think that many took advantage of it. We took our photo and were on the lido having lunch by 11:15 I believe. I think it was the earliest we've gotten on a ship so embarkation was nice and easy. The lido wasn't even fully set up yet for lunch when we got up there! We dropped off carry-ons in the room (not ready until 1:30) and explored the ship. I had pre-paid for a soda sticker so a certificate to get the sticker was in the room. You get the sticker at the Fountainhead Cafe which is the coffee bar on deck 2 outside the sports bar. After doing that we remembered that we had to go to the Shore Excursion desk to reserve our cabana (almost forgot to do it!). I think we got there around 12:20 and the ones still available were 1-7 and 13-15. We chose #13 and it ended up being a great choice for us.
We had one of the extended "bowling alley" balconies for the first time and it really was a great balcony. It was large enough for 4 lounge chairs, 2 regular chairs, a table and still room to spare! Our room location was rear of the ship, near the elevators and it was a quiet location. Everything in the room was standard fare and clean. Ice buckets have to be requested now and there weren't any drinking glasses which I never used anyway, but did notice weren't there. We didn't have a need for the ice bucket either. Our room steward was Jhonny from the Dominican Republic. He serviced our room twice a day, left towel animals and was a very nice guy. He never greeted us by name like other room stewards have, but he did greet us whenever he saw us around the ship. It wasn't a big deal to us either way, just something we noticed. I know a lot of people wonder about the toiletry freebies. There were a couple of shampoo/conditioner packets, toothpaste in a foil packet and a woman's deodorant.
We decided on a beach day at Magaritaville and rented a pool-side cabana. The cabana was great! It was roomy with a sectional sofa, table, some chairs, air conditioner, an outdoor shower and we could call for bar/food service. It's a short walk to the beach and right there by the pool. It worked out well because it was a place to keep or things while we went to the beach or to the stores. It was a my son's first beach experience so it was good to have a place out of the sun for breaks and to rinse off the sand after we were done. We didn't get food there, but got a couple of drinks and bought a couple of souvenirs before getting back on the ship. We're going to Grand Turk again next year on the Splendor and plan to do the same thing as we really enjoyed the day.
Half Moon Cay:
This is really a beautiful island and probably our favorite stop of the cruise. We rented a cabana so we waited in the Mad Hatter lounge for the first tender. I think anyone with morning shore excursions met there, but those who had the private oasis or a cabana rental were called to the first tender. It took a while because something happened that morning causing the ship to delay anchoring, but after about 45 minutes we lined up for the tender by the deck 1 stair case to go down to deck A. As we were about to go, a staff member got radioed that there were two platinum passengers who went to guest services to request priority tendering and they were escorted down the stairs ahead of the line so that perk is in effect though only two people that we saw actually used it. The tender was pretty large and it was only a short ride to the island. When we got there the crew was on the lower deck bringing with them everything for the cabanas, photo ops and the barbeque lunch. All those with cabanas waited for a tram and we were taken over in groups to the cabana locations. Ours was #13 and a great location. It wasn't very crowded at all and it was close to the bathroom. It was a bit of a walk to the food area and the way out, but certainly doable. The cabana had 2 padded lounge chairs, a table and four chairs, a misting fan, mini fridge, shower and air conditioner. When we got there we found snorkel equipment and then the rest of the things were delivered in stages. I think the cooler of sodas came first, then the fruits/veggies, chips, dips and towels. Everything was great! The sand so silky and amazing and the water was just beautiful. We never got to the barbeque lunch. Our little one had enough I think after all the sun and the hot walk back so we ended up skipping the lunch and just going to the tender and back on the ship. I wasn't really excited about going there, but it really surpassed our expectations. We would definitely go again and do the cabana rental again too.
We've been to Nassau a couple of times before and while it's one of our least favorite ports, we enjoyed it more this time. We walked a few blocks into town and took the #10 bus to Ardastra Zoo and Gardens. I read reviews about the zoo which were a range from great to not worth it, but I'd say it fell somewhere in between. It's not very large so it won't take very long to get through, but it's well maintained, you will see animals (mostly birds) and there's a flamingo show. The staff is very proud of their zoo and never hesitated to share their knowledge of the plants, animals and overall environment. Our 2 year old definitely liked looking at the animals, but was a little afraid of the flamingos when they came close. We only saw the very beginning of the flamingo show since it was extremely hot and he had enough by then. I was still glad we did the zoo though. After the zoo we walked up the block to the main road and across the street was Goldies where got an order of freshly made conch fritters which were the best we ever had and caught the #10 bus back to the port area for some shopping and then back on the ship.
Entertainment: This was our 11th Carnival cruise so we had already seen the production shows a couple of times and didn't really partake in many of the games/trivia. We watched the bean bag tournament in the atrium a couple of times and passed on Civil War trivia. Trivia is fine, but Civil War trivia isn't something I'd circle in the Fun Times to be sure I didn't miss. I think Carnival could do a better job of improving entertainment in general. I thought Corey the CD and his staff were pretty good and we did see a funny juggler and a couple of the comedy shows in Punchliners. There were some live singers here and there around the ship, but most of the time it was a DJ which I think is the direction Carnival is going now. They made a big deal of it at the past guest party that their DJs go to some DJ academy in Florida to learn how to do it.
Food: Here we found some hits and misses. Overall I'd rate the food as just okay. It was nothing great and but not horrible with the exception of a couple of things. We had better on the Miracle last year and on previous Carnival cruises. We had dinner in the MDR each night with any time dining. We ended up keeping the same waiter team of Christopher and Vlado who were very personable and took great care of us. We always went around 6 so we never waited for a table and usually were done within an hour. I think the worst thing I had was the Flat Iron steak. It was really terrible, not edible in my opinion. It had a very strange taste and texture. On previous cruises I've enjoyed it. Not sure if it's a change in the cut/quality of meat or what, but I got it once and never again. A co-worker of my husband was on the cruise with us and she felt the same way about it. The chateaubriand and prime rib were good, as well as the lasagna, melting cake and bitter and blanc, most of the desserts with the exception of cheesecake which had gelatin in it and wasn't the normal cheesecake consistency. We ate breakfast in the MDR everyday except one which we enjoyed. I liked the traditional breakfast on port days better than the Punchliners brunch, which we thought was just okay. Best were the huevos rancheros and the pastry basket. We got a piece of the cereal French toast for our son once which wasn't good at all. It was basically a box of cheerios dumped on top of a piece of bread. The cinnamon raisin French toast on the regular breakfast menu was great though. My husband and I never got our VIFP drink coupons to use at brunch, but our 2 year old did. I wasn't sure if we were supposed to get them, but I certainly didn't think he would get one! I meant to go to Guest Services to ask, but never did and we aren't big drinkers so it wasn't a major deal. Just strange. On the lido the pizza was okay, but the lines were long and it was never ready without a wait which was strange considering its one of the more popular things to get if you want something quick and easy. We thought the Chinese was pretty bad and the deli was great, particularly the pastrami and reubens. The taste bar was a new addition that we frequented a couple of times and it was okay. Each night it had a sample of something off the menu from one of the fleetwide specialty restaurants. Unfortunately there had to be a waiter guarding the counter to make sure people didn't descend upon it like locusts while the server was setting up. Some people took liberty to just go grab whatever with their hands before it was even opened, pretty gross.
Debarkation: This was a bit hectic and disorganized. The line for self-assist extended all the way back to the lounge and wasn't moved through by the crew in an efficient manner. People were pushing and trying to figure out where they should be without much staff direction. We were Platinum and did self assist and waited in line. We knew we were supposed to get priority debarkation but did that mean just go to the head of the line, show our cards and get off? We weren't sure and just went with the flow as we didn't need to get off quickly for any particular reason.
Overall we had a good cruise, but it wasn't one of our favorites. It just seemed to be a bit lackluster in some areas. Our friend on the cruise with her family, as well as some others we met in passing had similar impressions about the cruise as we did. We had a better cruise the first time on the Miracle and will be sailing the Splendor later this year which we hope will be better. I think after that we're going to another with Royal Caribbean and give NCL a try to see how they compare to Carnival. I get that after so many with one line it doesn't have that same excitement factor. The "been there done that" feeling, along with some Carnival cutbacks, may be why we liked this cruise, but didn't love it. Any questions, would be happy to answer.