Just returned from an absolutely terrific cruise! Had lots of trepidation about a Carnival cruise as we had heard and read nothing but very bad reviews. Well, here I am to dispel that misconception. We were on the Carnival Miracle.
Are there differences between Carnival and Princess, Celebrity and Royal Carribean? As I see it, there are. They have to do with the level of service in the dining rooms, the menus, and the crowd that chooses each line. Let me start with the passengers. A noticeable difference is that this crowd, boarding in New York, was overwhelmingly informal. On Captains Night, a handful of passengers dressed up. In fact, we saw jeans, hoodies, shorts and even flip-flops enter the dining room. I thought that they might be turned away from dining in the main room, but despite what is written in the Fun Times daily paper, they were escorted to tables. So, this is a laid back, relaxed, informal vacation. The new theme here is : this is Your fun ship. And we got used to it very quickly! We figured, just go with the flow. If you wanted to dress up, go for it. If not, that is good too.
The food: this ship does not do fine gourmet dining. They do comfort food and down home-style cooking, and they do it at their best. As an example of the casual offerings far away from gourmet... They had Mac and cheese for a dinner entree on one night. Fried chicken, ribs, shrimp, tilapia, chateaubriand are all good. As a rule, fish like salmon tended to be way over-cooked. If you cannot find something you like on the evening menu, burgers are a nightly alternative. You won't see this on Celebrity or Princess, the menus are very simple here. There was not a single night when we left unsatisfied. In fact we left happy and stuffed. There were many dishes I would return for it this was a local restaurant. Do try the molten lava chocolate cake.
A note here on the dining service. We did My Time Dining. They do not take reservations in advance, as on the other cruise lines mentioned. We requested tables for two. Sometimes we had to wait nearly half an hour for a table. The tables were set for four people. The extra service plates and silverware with glasses were never removed, despite the fact that we were just two diners. This is a small but noticeable difference if you are used to the other cruise lines. There is no elegance, also no pretentiousness. There is no wine steward to advise you of the wine list. When we asked our waiter the difference between two Cabernets, one from Chile, and one from California, he told us, "Chile is a different country." Amusing, but not helpful. The bar service, on the other hand, was frequently circulating for hard liquor drinks, even at breakfast. This was clearly a drinking crowd.
Upstairs in the buffet there were stations with Chinese, deli, Italian, pizza, salads, etc. Desserts were disappointing, but there is an ice cream and frozen yogurt self-serve machine near the pool. Again, the most noticeable difference was the lack of service here. On other lines, there are wait-staff to assist in finding tables, in carrying trays, to pour you coffee, or to bring you something you want. Not here. When the buffet closes around three, the only way to get a cookie is to buy one or over a dollar downstairs. We were really surprised by that.we are used to free milk or coffee and hot cookies daily around three o'clock. However, to balance this picture out, in the dining room at breakfast, a scrumptious assorted basket of pastries was put on the table to nibble on while we looked at the menu. This was nicer than a waiter walking around asking you to pick one from his tray.
The room...one of the most spacious we ever had. Inside we found complimentary toothpaste, skin cream tubes, and breathe-right nasal strips (?). The room was kept spotless! We saw the room steward lift up the beds and vacuum the floor beneath it. This was a very clean ship. There were heavy-weight terry robes to wear, and a magnifying glass attached to the bathroom wall. Tons and tons of storage space for clothes.
Entertainment was just as good as on other ships, except the huge, new ones. The standard song and dance reviews with really talented professionals on stage. There were also entertainers brought onboard for one show like the hypnotist. All typical except for the comedy club which featured adult comedy in the evening. That was a lot of fun.
We had three stops, including Cape Canaveral. We took a ships tour to the Kennedy Space Center. It was basically transportation there and back with the entrance fees included. It was very reasonable and convenient to do it this way. We had a great, full day there on our own. The other stops were Nassau and Freeport. There is not much to see or do there. We strolled the shopping areas, and returned to the ship. Many people went to beaches, a much better pick. We basically just wanted to get away and be in warm weather so it did not matter to us.
The price was just too good to pass up, which is why we decided to give this line a try. So glad we did. We will absolutely do it again!