This was the first time we've taken a family reunion cruise. There were nine of us, three siblings, their spouses and two adult children, one with significant other. Five of the group had never been on a cruise ship. I basically organized the group and our choice of itinerary was based on hubby & brothers desire to scuba dive together in the Caribbean.
Besides itinerary this cruise was chosen for affordability and the newness of the Miracle. I had seen photos of the wild decor and felt like we needed to be on a "fun ship" for our family cruise. Carnival did not disappoint. I noticed significant improvements since our last cruise on Carnival five years ago.
Carnival has toned down the constant announcements over their public address system - these are not broadcast in public areas only. They were not so "in your face" about playing bingo or having your picture taken. I do think that Carnival has the best photographers over other cruise lines. The crew was friendly, the dining room service (at least at our table) was excellent.
Our cabin steward did a fine job. I enjoyed all the food, both in the casual Lido buffet and the formal dining room. The entertainment was as good as any I've experienced on other cruises (this was no. 6 for us). I especially liked the band in Frankie & Johnny's although a friend was on the same cruise two weeks later and she said their was no live music in that lounge! She was on the Miracle over Christmas and New Year's and thought maybe some of the crew and entertainers may have been on vacation. The ship's orchestra did an excellent job - I wish there had been dancing at the Captain's party, but no one would dance.
The decor was very typical Carnival. By the end of the week even the bright pink grape lights in the dining room seemed to suit the ship - the whole effect was very like a circus or carnival with bright lights everywhere. The murals in the cabin halls broke up the space and was a great idea to break the monotony of long, long corridors. When we were on the ship, it was decorated for Christmas with traditional greens, trees, ribbons and ornaments. Most of the lounges are very fanciful - like the Mad Hatters lounge. Really fun! And the funny blue and white light fixtures in the main areas - loved 'em.
We had to visit Frankensteins Lab disco - very creative decor, but the music was not to our liking - sorry, I'm not a hip hop fan.
I only took one excursion thru the ship and was very satisfied with the Belize Altun Ha Mayan ruin and River Wallace excursion. I think it worked because it was a group under 30 and we didn't have any long waits or delays. It was informative and very enjoyable. The other members of my group did scuba excursions in Grand Cayman and Belize and a kayak bike excursion in Costa May and a beach excursion in Belize. All thru Carnival and everyone enjoyed their excursion. Several members of our group used the gym and appreciated the equipment and the views. I got my exercise by dancing at Frankie & Johnny's! For the first time I took advantage of a cruise ship health spa and had a head to toe massage. They tried to sell me something I didn't sign up for (an anti toxin wrap) but I didn't have to pay for it - it's terrible to end a relaxing massage session with the aggravation of a botched spa booking. Fortunately I had my flyer in hand and they couldn't overcharge me.
We had two glitches at the beginning of the cruise that caused two of us to visit the infirmary. Not too many cruisers get this opportunity and Carnival came thru for us. I can't believe I was dumb enough to leave my blood pressure medication at home. I was able to phone my physician and have her fax a prescription to the ship - they filled it promptly. My brother-in-law also was not too smart when he had the ship bring on his CPAP breathing machine for sleep apnea - I don't know why he didn't treat it like a carry-on - the baggage handlers lost it, but fortunately the ship was able to provide him with one. His own machine showed up on day 2 (what a relief). I was very glad that Carnival came thru for us.
DO NOT MISS: going under the Tampa Bay Sunshine State Skyway Bridge. Wow! Holy Cow - the ship clears it by feet! You'll miss it if you have early dining and give yourself some extra time - by brother missed it my minutes, but he totally missed it! The cruise was a huge success for our group. My brother-in-law who has cruised many times (but this was his first time with Carnival) said it was his best cruise ever. My brother thanked me for all my planning, help and input. It was his first cruise and he loved everything about it, especially the scuba diving (this is coming from an experienced diver who is also a marine biologist.