Overall: We (a family of three, couple and one child) along with another family (couple plus three children) cruised on the Miracle this spring (3/4/06). I will speak only for our family. We loved it. The Miracle is a wonderful ship with much better than expected food, decor and accommodations.
Embarkation and Disembarkation: No problems either way. All went smoothly without any difficulties. I need to tell interested parties that at disembarkation we obtained a very efficient entry into the Tampa Aquarium after leaving the ship. Once we collected all of the bags for both families, we hired a porter to cart them through customs and over to the aquarium. He took us immediately out of the terminal, passed a line of patrons waiting to purchase tickets (the aquarium had not opened for the day) and into the lobby. He arranged for a place in the storage room, we purchased our tickets inside without waiting in line and we were the there shortly prior to its opening.
The Ship: The ship is beautiful. It is adorned with attractive murals and paintings that are abundant throughout the ship. There are several remarkable passageways and rooms that offer pleasant surprises for the first time passengers. My wife particularly enjoyed quiet reading time in the Gatsby passageway. Look, I wouldn't like my home with the same decorations as the ship but after all I am, regrettably, only aboard for only a week. I actually enjoy the "over the top" dEcor of the Carnival cruise ships especially the Miracle. I even liked the dinning room, yes, including the grapes!
Our room (balcony) was plenty large enough and very comfortable.
I used the fitness center three or four times. It is fully outfitted with most any kind of exercise equipment one might want. It was clean and never crowded. I used the elliptical machines and weight machines without waiting.
The lounges (Mad Hatters, Frankenstein's, etc.) and theaters are eye catching and interesting.. The main theater was comfortable and we were always able to see and hear without obstruction regardless of the variety of places we sat.
The food: Bravo for the food! I was surprised at the quality and presentation of the meals. Everything was prepared well and nicely presented. I never heard a complaint about the food from anyone in our party, including my son who has a very narrow range of tolerable foods that he is willing to consume. The meals in the bistro grill were also wonderful. I particularly liked the international dishes and salads offered there during the lunch meal. We ate every breakfast and lunch in the bistro and never had much difficulty locating a vacant table.
The shore excursions: This is the feature of the cruise that could use improvement. We have read so many entries in Cruise Critics about the benefits of booking with private tour operators rather than the cruise line. After this trip we will join that chorus. We did not do this on our trip but will do so in the future. On the first port day, Grand Cayman we took the Coral Garden and Stingray City excursion thorough Carnival. The operators were late picking us at our designated location. There was an about a twenty minute drive to the loading area if they had been traveling on a direct path at normal speed. Apparently the boat were going to board for the excursion was late so the bus driver drove very slowly eventually stopping at seven mile beach to wait about 15 to 20 minutes until he received the signal to continue. We were told to just walk around the beach for a while. Once we got on the boat the tour was okay, although the snorkeling at the coral area was abbreviated and they did not issue the inflatable vests since they were running late. We would have benefited from using life vests. Several of us did not master the art of adjusting our a leaking masks while treading water. A rope was slung out in the water I suppose to enable us to grasp it at the last minute before drowning. The stingray portion of the tour was great - we enjoyed seeing and touching them. Of course, when we at last arrived back at the dock late and were on the last tender back to the ship, whew!
The next stop was Cozumel. I read so much in Cruise Critics about Paradise Beach that we chose to go there. We arrived at Paradise about 10 or 11 in the morning. The beach was beautiful, our kids enjoyed a wonderful time on the trampoline and kayaks and the food and beer were great. The beach was never too crowed but by the afternoon most of the lounge chairs were occupied. Hiring a taxi for delivery and pickup was a breeze. Once we left the beach we returned to the pier area and spent about two hours shopping, snaking and walking around in the pier area. We all agreed that this was our best day of the cruise. Now often find my daydreaming thoughts drifting back to that day at Paradise Beach.
The next port was Belize. We signed up for the snorkel tour from Goff's Caye. The wind had built up over night and by morning we were experiencing some rough seas. The Carnival crew announced that we could cancel our tour without penalty because of the rough water. We didn't! The ride to Goff's Caye was about as rough as it gets. We would bounce out of our seats, landing with hard thuds as the boat transversed the waves. Any loose teeth would have been jarred out. Goff's Caye is a very, very small and picturesque patch in the Caribbean. It would have been a lovely trip on a calm day. But with the turbulent seas, snorkeling was impossible. At least was impossible on the side of the island where our mindless guide took us. We quickly gave up, most of us didn't have enough strength to get beyond the mask ripping, raging breakers. If I had continued to follow our guide I would have swallowed enough Caribbean Sea to achieve complete insanity.
After an hour or so of hanging out on the island, our group ventured out off the other side of the island where the surf was calmer we did see many interesting fish and coral formations. We were careful to stay at the edge of the coral so as not to disturb it. As it turned out, the snorkeling was not too bad. I cannot say as much for the guide and tour operators. I suspect that they would not have been any more helpful on a calm day.
The next port was supposed to be Costa Maya but the seas were too rough to dock the ship and so we enjoyed another day at sea. We cannot really complain about this.
In sum, I would say the Carnival tour operators are not the greatest. We highly recommend Paradise Beach for those of you traveling to Cozumel.
The Entertainment : We really enjoyed all but one of the shows that we attended. The juggler and comic combination were good. The singer, Christina Machado's singing act was brutally silly. The ship performers (singers), on the other hand, were excellent. The first performance, Generations, and the later, Ticket to Ride shows were both first rate! Hey! We even enjoyed the hypnotist.
The Crew: Goose, our high energy cruise director was fun. We enjoyed his presentations and multiple antics (chorus girl costume was great!). The rest of his staff, the two social hosts (James and Noortje) were professional and entertaining. Our waiters were flawless and the crew in the bistro were courteous and efficient. We had an occasion to use the security staff when we mistakenly thought that something had been stolen from our room. The officer who met with us, could not have been more helpful or pleasant.
We remain enormous Carnival fans. This was a wonderful cruise apart from the shabby shore excursions and high seas. We would go again tomorrow if we could.