This was our 2nd cruise on Carnival and honestly I'm not sure I'm willing to pay more money to find out if there is any difference with the other cruiselines.....We have had 2 wonderful cruises on Carnival. We cruised out of Tampa this time and embarkation was a breeze. We did get to the terminal at 10:30am which might have helped. We were on the boat by 12.
First we checked out the boat a little...beautiful and clean and NEW (our last cruise was on the Fascination-much older ship). The Miracle is a great ship...We then headed to the Lido Deck for some lunch and just relaxed till our room was ready (1:30pm). We had our fist balcony room on the Verandah deck. Really enjoyed that. That 1st day we checked to make sure we had the table for 2 in the DR which we requested and found out we did. We unpacked and enjoyed our balcony a little (which we didn't have on the Fascination). I agree it will be hard to go back to an oceanview (never an inside room) after having a balcony room. I understand it also depends on the "cruisers" shiplifestyle as to whether a balcony price is worth it...but I thought it was. We made sure we were up on deck to see the ship go under the Sunshine Bridge and they are right...it really does look like it comes awful close to hitting but of course its not as close as it looks. We checked out the buffets for dinner instead of the DR this night and were happy with the selections and quality. My boyfriend likes buffet style eating while I opt for the full service DR so we compromise and do a little of each...breakfast as well as dinners. The only thing we have a problem with is the dining room dinner times. On our last cruise we picked the early seating since that was closest to when we ate at home..but found that interfered a lot with the amount of time we had in the ports in order to get back and showered and dressed in time for dinner. So this time we picked the late seating (8:15) and although I had no problems with it, he seemed to think it was much too late to eat dinner and we ended up missing some nighttime activities cause we were just too full and tired at 10 or so when we finished dinner. (A 6:30 or 7pm dinner would be perfect but guess that's not happening unless we choose not to eat in the DR).
2nd day: Sea Day- we just enjoyed the food, pools, music, etc and had a great day. Never had any problems (even on these sea days) finding chairs by the pools. The music was fun by the main pool, but too many kids so we opted for the adults only pool in the back. This was the 1st formal night which I was not missing (lobster tails). We ordered 2 each and they were excellent as was the rest of the meal.
3rd day: Grand Cayman- We had decided we would just take a taxi to 7mile beach, we chose Sea Grape beach after reading these boards. It was nice...small and close to the road but the water was absolutely gorgeous and warm. We had a brief storm for about a 1/2 hour but then it was gone and the sun was out again. We walked a little around the town and shopped too. Very touristy.
4th day: Cozumel- I had heard such wonderful things from people who had been here before the hurricane and wasn't sure what to expect now.. It was sad to see all the damage that had been done. We decided to shop a little and then take a taxi to Paradise Beach. I loved it there. chairs and umbrellas and entrance free...but they do expect you spend some $ on food/drinks. We just ordered a couple of beers and some nachos ($14) and the day was great. We did have a lot of clouds that day but no rain. The water here was not as beautiful as I expected but not sure if the weather had anything to do with that.
5th day: Belize- here we opted for a Carnival Excursion cause I was nervous about doing a tour on shore with another company...I'm a little paranoid and didn't want any chance of us missing the ship. We paid A LOT for a city tour and trip to the Belize Zoo...we both love animals and wanted to see the native animals in their natural habitats which we did but it was SOOOO HOT and humid and buggy that it took away from the enjoyment. I wouldn't do that again if we go back there. I know everyone else raves about the cavetubing and maybe that's what we'd do next time.
6th day: Costa Maya- I loved that we didn't have to tender here (although tendering wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined). You walk right into the Cruiseline built tourist area which I thought was nice. (colorful, new-only around 4 yrs, had music and entertainment, a pool with bar...We shopped a little (they were a little pushy here to get you to go into their stores and buy-but if you just say No thanks and ignore them, they'll leave you alone) and then took a taxi to Mahajual as the boards recommended. It was like an outdoor flea market and again the people very pushy. We walked a little and then found a beach and enjoyed the water a little before heading back...not sure if there were other beach areas, but this beach area we were at was not the beautiful beaches like cayman and Cozumel. A lot of rocks, not very blue, a little dirty..(but maybe we were just in a bad beach area). We enjoyed the food and drinks there ($2 coronas) and had a nice day. This was the 2nd formal night and we went for the Prime Rib which was perfect and delicious.
7th day: Sea Day- We again just tried to enjoy our balcony (ordered room service and ate on the balcony-something we wanted to have done more but only did this once) The boat was really rocking hard..(due to Tropical Storm Alberto and winds were up to 55mph) people were sick and it was hard to walk down the hall without holding on. This lasted from Friday eve to Sat afternoon. It was sad knowing this was our last day but we enjoyed every moment of it.
SHOWS: We saw the Hypnotist, which was funny, but not sure I believe they were really hypnotized. We saw "Ticket to Ride" Beatles show which was great!!! We also went to the balancing act/comedian which was just ok. Enjoyed one of the nighttime deck parties which was fun too.
ROOM: We love Carnival rooms...They are a nice size and this boat being new is beautiful...Plenty of storage in room and bathroom. Like the extras like the basket of goodies, use of thick terry robe, thick beach towels to use, service to rooms 2x each day, even the little things like shampoo/body wash in shower, handheld shower massage, line in shower to dry clothes were definite plusses. And the beds...can't say enough about them...(better than what I sleep on at home) Beds/pillows are so comfortable...aaaahhhh!!! Also loved that you could see the menus for the DR on the TV in your room.
FOOD: The Dining room menus/food were good. Always a lot of choices and never had any complaints with quality. (service at night was a bit slow though) The 24 hr pizza came in handy and although it's not the best pizza, it was fine. The 24hr Ice cream was well enjoyed too. The deli we only went to once and that was to pack sandwiches for the flight home which were good also. The other hot buffets were good and had a variety..seemed they had pretty much some of the same items from the dining room menu but added some extras too. (of course they didn't have ALL the choices for the main meal but they had a couple of them.) The breakfast buffet was great but on 2 occasions I just hit it at a time they were out of something I wanted and had to stand around a bit waiting. We took advantage of the sushi bar almost every day which was nice...enjoying sushi while looking out over the open seas (one day we saw a group of 4 dolphins following along side the boat.)
SERVICE: Our room steward was great (except we had to ask 2x in the beginning for her to unlock the refrig so we could put our waters we brought in there. But other than that she was great. Room was cleaned 2x a day and never ran out of anything. Always made sure we had ice also which was nice since we brought wine with us for the room.
Our waiter in the DR for dinner was another story..not bad, but definitely not one of their best. We always seemed to get our food last (compared to others around us), he was never around when we needed him for something, and mostly, he just never smiled. We didn't eat dinner in the DR every night so we just lived with it but I'm sure we could've changed tables/waiters if we asked. I thought the DR decor was a bit much but not enough to ruin your dinner or anything..besides after the 1st day I think we got used to it.
All the other service people on the ship were great and friendly and helpful. The cruise director Mark was really funny...Even made the debarkation talk fun to sit through.
Enjoyed the music in Frankie and Johnny's lounge on 2 nights and heard the Piano bar was good too. Not big gamblers but did spend a little time in the Casino...honestly, probably would've spent more time there had there not been so much smoke.
Overall, we had a wonderful time and would recommend the Miracle to anyone who asks. We will definitely cruise again with Carnival and probably lean towards newer ships like the Miracle...Can't wait to do it again!!!