Carnival Miracle - Western Caribbean: Carnival Miracle Cruise Review by LHARTWICK
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Miracle - Western Caribbean
Destination: Western Caribbean
I am 36 and my husband is 39. We cruised with two other couples. We all flew in together from Little Rock to Tampa on Delta flights which connected in Atlanta. No problems with air travel. Our cruise was to the Western Caribbean: Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya.
NOTE: This was our 6th cruise, our 2nd with Carnival. Please do not take any negative comments as complaints. I only intend them to be taken as constructive criticism. After all, I am on a cruise - why complain! We were cruising with two other couples so I have added their comments to my review as well.
Our flight landed in Tampa around 12:15. Since we purchased cruise air (at the time it was much cheaper than trying to purchase it on our own), we had transportation to the pier provided by the cruise line. Mears Transportation is the company which provides the ride to the pier. After only waiting at the airport for about 5 minutes, we had a nice More air conditioned motor coach ride which took about 20 minutes.
We entered the terminal and were guided to the line. After 5 previous cruises, this was by far the easiest embarkation we have ever experienced, even though we arrived at almost peak embarkation time. The line moved very quickly since there were several agents at the counter to handle check in. By 1:15 or so, we were on board and in our category 7A balcony cabin.
Tip: once you first board the ship, do NOT try to use the first set of elevators you see, which are the mid ship elevators, especially if you are boarding during peak time. You'll be waiting a long time. Go ahead and keep walking until you reach the next set. You'll get one pretty quick that way. They will hand you a deck plan map once you board, but I suggest you go on-line and print one out ahead of time so that you can be familiar with the elevator locations.
Once we dropped off our carry-ons, we headed straight to the Lido Deck for lunch. It was very crowded, but that is to be expected during boarding times. After lunch, we took some time to explore the ship before the dreaded muster drill.
Since we had previously cruised with Carnival, we paid for a category 6A ocean view cabin, but were given a free upgrade to a 7A obstructed view balcony. There was a lifeboat below the balcony so we could not see down to the water, just over the lifeboat. But that was fine - we were thrilled to have a balcony cabin. I must say, however, we were rather surprised at how small the room was for a balcony cabin. When we sailed on the Victory, we were in a Category 4A inside cabin. Both the 7A and 4A are 185 sq.ft., but I guess the layout of the 4A just seemed larger. On the Diamond Princess, we were in a Category FF ocean view cabin which was larger than this balcony cabin. It just seems that Carnival always promotes the size of their cabins, so it was a little disappointing but acceptable. The storage space in our Miracle cabin was very small compared to others we have had but we dealt with it fine. I HIGHLY recommend that you bring extra clothes hangers. We did, and they certainly came in very handy. Our friends did not so they asked their cabin steward to bring more for them. There are also two large drawers that pull out from the bottom of the sofa. We never would have noticed them if one of our friends had not pointed them out to us. I also recommend that you bring an extension cord or power strip. There was only one outlet in our cabin. The outlet in the bathroom is made only for shavers. This is usually the norm on cruise ships so we came prepared. Other than our neighbors on one side of us constantly moving their balcony furniture around and slamming their doors, our cabin was quiet for the duration of the cruise. I suggest that you bring some kind of empty gift card, such as a Kroger or Wal-Mart card to use on the safe. In order to lock/unlock the safe, you need some kind of card which contains a magnetic strip. However, you can NOT use your sign and sail card. If you use a credit card for the safe (like we did), obviously you must always have it with you instead of keeping it locked up in the safe. Another note re: the sign and sail cards: if you don't use your S&S card for a couple of days or so, the card will be deactivated. That happened to one of our friends. Our other friend's card stopped working altogether. Come to find out, if you carry your S&S card next to a credit card, the magnetic strips apparently erase each other somehow.
Felix was our cabin steward and he was so nice and very good at keeping our cabin in ship shape! The only functional problem we had with our cabin was the a/c system. For the entire seven days, our cabin was VERY muggy and humid. We let the purser's desk know about it, and, to their credit, the maintenance crew they sent down did try to resolve the problem, but finally determined that it could not be fixed. Our friends had the same problem in their cabin which was two doors from us. Our other friends who were around the corner from us said their a/c worked great. However, this same couple had a VERY bad sewage smell in their cabin for the duration of the cruise. I think I'd rather have the a/c problem.
The bathroom is your typical small ship bathroom which is fine. The shower was nice with plenty of room to turn around. There is a shampoo dispenser which contains Dove shampoo and a shower gel dispenser. The shower gel smelled like my dogs' flea and tick shampoo so I did not use it. The bowl of goodies was a nice bonus though!
The staff/crew is definitely one of the friendliest that we have encountered! Always smiling and pleasant - enough said!
The Miracle was definitely one of the cleanest we have sailed on. The crew was constantly cleaning the hallways and public areas. I was surprised at how clean they kept the Lido Deck restaurant (Horatio's) as well.
The floor plan is laid out very well (although my engineer friend with us did not seem to agree). By evening of the first day on board, we could already find our way around quite easily. Very user friendly! Other ships could learn from this one.
As usual, the pool/deck areas were quite crowded on days at sea. If you want a lounge chair, I suggest getting there early, especially around the pool areas. There were plenty of chairs in other areas of the decks; however most of them remained tied up so that you could not unstack them. For instance, there were several occasions on which I would love to have pulled up a lounge chair towards the front part of the ship since it's much quieter in those areas, but I could not get to them.
Although many other cruisers have commented on how tacky they thought the Bacchus Dining Room was, I found it to be quite lovely since it was decorated in a vineyard type theme. I also found the dishes in this room quite nice. It wasn't until about the fourth day that I realized they had ladies painted on them. For most of the cruise, our main dining service was very slow. Most tables around us were starting on dessert before we even had our salad. Our waiter was very nice, but it seemed that he had more tables than he could handle. The food, for the most part was very good. The presentation was even better. Very pretty! I definitely recommend the Chocolate Melt dessert in the main dining room - absolutely sinful! The lobster is also very good as well as the tenderloin. On the last night, the Grand Marnier souffle is wonderful, too!
My favorite room on the ship was definitely the Mad Hatter's Lounge. It just had such a fun theme! The Atrium area was just beautiful! The large painting on the wall was stunning! Dr. Frankenstein's Lab is a cool little place, too. It's geared towards the teens, but if you have a chance, walk inside and check it out. The Yellow Brick Road contains the Shops on Board. Other ships I have cruised on had more shops, but these contained most everything you would want/need: perfume, cosmetics, liquor, jewelry, t-shirts, toiletry items, etc., all duty free of course.
Horatio's Restaurant on the Lido Deck is where the breakfast/lunch and alternative dining buffet is located. The 24 hour pizza is also located here. My only comment re: this buffet line is that the food is not the same on both sides. i.e., each station contains something different than the next. You must walk all the way around to see everything that is offered. The food was good, although the buffet desserts left a lot to be desired. The 24 hour ice cream/yogurt station became a daily ritual for our group for obvious reasons. On the last day there is a chocolate buffet in Horatio's. A visit to the chocolate fountain is a must!
Nick & Nora's: This specialty restaurant is a MUST DO! I can not tell you how wonderful this dining experience was. You need to experience it for yourself to understand. Bring your camera since the food presentation is an absolute work of art! When our waitress told the chef we were taking pictures of each dish as it was served to us, he was most flattered and came out to meet us. A nice touch!
Frankly I was disappointed with the entertainment in the Phantom Lounge. On both formal nights there were large scale productions which included the dancers and the orchestra but those were the only nights with large scale productions. The Generations show on Monday was great! I do not consider myself to be a Beatles fan at all; however the tribute to the Beatles show on Friday was quite good! The remainder of the week consisted of a hypnotist, a juggler, and a comedian. We did not attend these shows, but heard that they were just okay. I was hoping for more of the Vegas type shows. Also, on some nights, the shows did not start until 10:30 PM.
We have visited Grand Cayman on a previous cruise and since we enjoyed Stingray City so much, we knew we wanted to go there again. We used Nativeway Watersports for our excursion here. We took the Reef, Rum & Rays tour which was great! The crew really did a great job of taking care of us, and they were so much fun! The only negative was that by the time we arrived back at the pier, we had 5 MINUTES before the last tender back to the ship. We did not realize our tour was running behind until I heard another lady mention it when we got back on the bus. I think the crew was under the impression that the Miracle was leaving at the same time as the Valor, which was later. I told the bus driver that we had 5 minutes left and he stopped so we could get out. We made a mad dash and arrived at the tender line in the nick of time! One of the problems of being on ship's time vs. island time I guess.
You will need a tender ticket which can be obtained in Frankie & Johnnie's. The Capers stated that you could not get them until 9:00 but we went down at 8:30 and were gladly given 6 tickets. We had Group 1 tickets, and our group was called around 9:30. We took a cab to Paradise Beach - heaven on earth! We were the first ones to arrive so we claimed our chairs/umbrellas on the water's edge. Our waiter immediately set up our umbrellas and tables for us, and we bought wristbands for $8 for use of the rafts and water toys. Note: you can not buy one wristband and then share your raft and water toy privileges with your partner. There is a rep from PB in a kayak that goes around checking to make sure you have a wristband. We had lunch there which was fabulous! I highly recommend the coconut shrimp - incredible! Their fresh guacamole and pico de gallo (their form of salsa) is also wonderful! We were miserable by the time we finished lunch! The water was very clear at this beach. If you swim out just past the water toys, there are rock formations and grassy areas where the fish hang out. I even spotted a conch shell and dove down to retrieve it. As long as there is nothing living in the conch shells you are allowed to keep them. Otherwise, you must throw them back. Also be sure to walk out on the little pier here. You can get some great photos from there. Make sure you meet Paradise Tom. He usually arrives around noon or so. Wonderful person! Tell him you are a member of Cruise Critic, too.
We booked our cave tubing excursion through Yhonni at cave-tubing.com. Definitely a wise choice! Yhonni and his guys are absolutely wonderful! They picked us up at the pier where we boarded an air conditioned motor coach. It was about an hour ride to the caves, at which point we hiked for about 45 minutes to the point of entry into the river. It is VERY hot and VERY humid in this jungle area. The walk is a level one, but believe me you will really be sweating by the time you reach the river. Once you get there, you can either jump in or back in. We took the safer option and backed in. The water is SO refreshing! This tour takes you through 2 large caves, as opposed to just one with the cruise ship tour. Also, the cruise ship tour herds you onto some old school buses (with no a/c). I felt sorry for those poor souls. On the way back from the river, we stopped at Cheers to eat lunch. My only disappointment in this tour was not being able to purchase one of their t-shirts. They have them for sale; however there were none on the bus to sell that day. They are missing out on some extra revenue since several people wanted one.
Note: Yhonni has asked that CruiseCritic Members no longer post the price you pay for his tour. It has something to do with a new tax that Mexico has started to impose on his company.
We made reservations at the Maya Palms Resort. Another wise choice! If you want a beautiful secluded area without the crowds of people OR the beach vendors harassing you, this is it! They have a freshwater pool with umbrellas and chairs. We were the first ones to arrive so we claimed the large area under the shade of the palapa for the day. Another heavenly day! If you are looking for a place with crystal clear water for snorkeling, this is not the place. There is thick sea grass for about 30 yards out so we never even entered the water. But the resort itself is just beautiful and so peaceful! The service is great, too. Be sure to climb to the top of the pyramid for some excellent photos! You will need to take a cab to get there. In order to grab one, go through the terminal and go OUT THROUGH THE CHAIN LINK FENCE gate area. Keep walking until you see the yellow cabs on the corner. Do not use any of the transportation inside the terminal. Even though we told them we needed to go to Maya Palms, they kept trying to tell us that they would take us someplace better. My gut told me to keep walking, and it was a good thing we did.
When you arrive at Maya Palms, the manager, Pedro, will come out to greet you. Have him tell the taxi driver to come back at your designated time and that you will pay him upon return to the pier. Otherwise, there's no guarantee that you will have a ride back since it is so far away from the pier. They don't like to drive out there. The taxi drivers will act like they don't speak English but they really do. As soon as he told us he didn't speak English, he immediately asked my friend where we were from in very good English.
DAYS AT SEA:
The days at sea consisted of the typical cruise ship activities: ice carving demo, hair chest contest, belly flop contest, art auctions, backstage tour, towel folding demo, port shopping and excursion talks, etc. You could do it all or do nothing at all.
I haven't decided if I like the new disembarkation of leaving the ship when you get ready or not. I think the colors system was a bit more organized. We chose the self-assist option which basically means you carry ALL of your luggage off with you instead of setting it outside your cabin the night before. Since we are light packers, this was not a problem for us. The only problem we had was finding the end of the very long line to get off of the ship. Once we were in line, however, it moved quite rapidly. We then boarded our bus to head back to the airport with sad faces since our cruise had officially ended.
Bring your own insulated mugs for use at the drink stations. The cups on the ship are small. The drink stations contain fruit punch, tea, coffee, lemonade, and apple juice.
Wait until the last day of the cruise to purchase t-shirts from the gift shop. They will run a 2 for $20 sale, and there will also be a clearance table.
We never once heard an announcement made stating that you were free to leave the ship at any of the ports. You just have to pay attention. Also, when tendering, allow 45 minutes to go down, catch a tender and arrive on shore. I would allow an hour in Belize since the tender ride is so long.
Your tips are automatically added to your shipboard account. That's fine as long as you dont want to make any adjustments. We all decreased our dining room staff tips due to poor service and it was a bit of a hassle to do so.
There will be a bathrobe and beer party one night of the cruise. This is a fun thing to do. Everyone wears their bathrobes and goes up on deck for a fun night at sea!
Since we cruised in September, there were very few children on board. Those that were on board were not a bother at all that I could see.
In summary, I would give this cruise an A-. The minus is only because of our a/c problem and slow dining room service. A cruise would really have to be a disaster before I gave one a grade of anything less than an A- - after all, I'm cruising! I recommend doing lots of research on the Cruise Critic boards to determine which excursions to do. As a result of these boards, we have booked independent excursions on our last few cruises, and it is really worth it. They are much less expensive and much better. Hope this review has been helpful to my fellow CC members. Bon voyage and happy cruising!
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