Quips, quirks, and biases
Let me preface this review with a few tidbits about myself. I missed a week of school to take this cruise to celebrate a summer's worth of work that went into my master's project and finally, degree. I went looking for a good time, but also for relaxation. I'm not much of a partier, however, and rarely stayed up past midnight. To give you even more insight into my personality, I had only a single bar purchase on my bill at the end of the week.
I booked with a membership club for no other reason that it was easy for me at that time to get some resident discounts using the site. In hindsight, I would not book this way again because the club would have charged me $75 over any fees incurred by the cruise line for cancellations. I never thought that this would be an issue (and hence not noticing the fees before), but it sort of became one. My advice, once again & read the fine print for fees.
I flew into Tampa the day before the cruise and stayed at the Springhill Suites (Westshore) by Marriott. This was a fairly decent hotel that offered a free shuttle from the airport. It was a few blocks from a mall (West Market???) that had some nice shopping, movie theaters, and a food court. The hotel itself was priced fairly well (~$100 after taxes), was clean, had nice looking rooms, and a pretty good free, hot breakfast. The person working the desk arranged for transportation to the port, for which I was charged $20. Not a great price, but pretty painless.
Day 1 - Check in and ship wandering
The day before, I had arranged for transportation to pick us up at 10:30. I went down to check out at 10:25 and the guy was already there waiting for us.
Anyway, I arrived at the port by 10:45, and was sitting in the holding area, sail and sign card in hand, by 11:00. Seriously & I have never been through such a painless check-in process. It was a tad early, but Carnival had plenty of people staffing the counter and they were all smiles. What a nice way to get into the cruising spirit.
I was in group 3, and the first group started boarding at about 11:30. I spent the time chatting with fellow passengers and trying to spot people from our Cruise Critic roll call. One word of note: you are not allowed to take photos once inside the terminal. I did not see any signs posted, but I was reprimanded by security about 5 minutes after I had already put my camera away.
I was on board by 11:50, and headed to Lido for lunch. I had my traditional minute steak sandwich from the grill. I always order this the first day, right after boarding, as the grill is usually not busy at that point and I don't feel guilty about ordering something and having to wait 5 minutes for it to cook. After lunch, I explored the ship a bit. The ship's layout took a little for me to get used to because my last three cruises have been on Conquest-class vessels. Rooms were blocked off by fire doors until 1:30, and my hallway in particular was blocked off even past that. However, at 1:40, I pushed my way through the doors and found our room & not quite ready, but pretty close. The steward rushed in to apologize for the delay, stating that he was training a new assistant.
CC Roll Call Gathering
This might have been the most organized roll call I've ever been a part of. We decided to meet in the Orpheus Bar on Lido Aft at 2:30. Arriving at that time, there were probably already 30 CC'ers present, drinks in hand. By the time we broke for the muster drill, I'd guesstimate that our numbers had swelled to near 50. We wore red wrist bands to ID ourselves, and to be honest, we saw quite a lot of each other throughout the week. I'm not sure if this was a function of the meeting, the layout/size of the ship, or both, but it was always pretty easy to find a familiar face.
The muster drill was, well, pretty usual, though it seemed much shorter than the one I experienced on the Valor in December (especially with directions given only in English instead of English and Spanish). Dinner was good, and the Bacchus is definitely a tad overwhelming to the senses on first sight. I was assigned late seating, 2nd floor, and a table for four in the back corner of the room. The table was fine, though it seems that our tablemates were either absent or had switched, leaving us with a booth for two. The Welcome Aboard Show was at 10:30 and was pretty standard fare (think some singing, dancing, and the spoon game). The CD was Chris Roberts and he seemed to have a pretty good presence and personality (another improvement over my Valor cruise with the dreaded Rebecca).
Day 2 - Fun Day at Sea
Still being in school mode, I woke up early the first morning and headed down to breakfast in the dining room a little after it opened. I ordered my traditional & eggs benedict. I only eat them on a cruise, and they are pretty much the only thing I order for breakfast in the dining room. Let me just say the quality ranged from very good to meh on the eggs benedict. That first day rated as a meh & but never discouraged, they steadily improved throughout the week.
After breakfast and bumming around the casino a little bit, I headed to Frankenstein's Lab for the galley tour. This was pretty interesting, though only the people at the very front of the line seemed to be able to hear what the guide was saying. Everyone else seemed to have to pretty much fend for themselves. My advice, if you want to be in the front of the line, is to wait near the crew door on the bottom level of the disco & that is where you'll enter the galley.
The tour ended with a push for both Nick and Nora's and the wine club, as well as a demonstration of napkin folding by a few of the waiters. I then headed to lunch in the dining room, but not being adventurous, ordered the make your own burger. I'd rate it against the burgers on Lido, but I just realized that I didn't eat a Lido burger the entire week. In general, the burger was pretty good, but nothing spectacular I mean hey, it's a burger.
Being the first sea day, this was also the first formal night and the Captain's Cocktail Party. The party was held in the Phantom Lounge (main showroom) and was pretty standard fare, though they didn't play the Carnival video I've heard so much about on this board. They also mentioned the new ships on the drawing board & the Carnival Freedom and the Carnival Splendor. Finally, the CD announced that Carnival is currently planning, by the end of the decade, to be the owner of the largest cruise ship in the world. This was the first I'd heard about Carnival's answer to RCCL's new megaships, so that definitely caught my attention.
Dinner was great this night, with both the lobster and the prime rib having good taste and consistency. The lobster, of course, is nothing like Maine lobster, but was more than adequate for my cruise ship lobster fix. The show this night is Generations, and it was my favorite show. It is a review of music through several decades, and it had a lot for everyone - rock, big band, etc. Good production values and pretty good singing and dancing talent.
BTW ... I don't think sushi was offered this night, probably because of party/pictures commotion in the front part of deck 2.
Day 3 - Grand Cayman
Now, I-ll have to admit, I'm not a huge excursion person. I've been to all of these ports before except Costa Maya, and only decided to do an excursion in Belize. I'm sure some of the other great CC'ers will on this board will be able to fill you in on specific excursion questions.
The Miracle was in port with the Valor and the Enchantment of the Seas, and of course, all constantly had tenders running. Interesting tidbit: the RCCL tenders appeared to be the ship's lifeboats, while the Carnival ones were hired locals. Having been to Cayman before, I waited until after the mad rush and headed ashore. I wandered around, shopped, and headed back to the ship. If you've never been to Cayman before, it is one of the more expensive ports to shop and eat at, so plan your cash flow accordingly. I bought some rum at BBD's. Evidently, according to law, booze can only be delivered to the cruise ships & they cannot be bought and carried out of the store - don't plan any liquor smuggling in this port.
Day 4 - Cozumel
The Miracle, being the only ship in port on this particular day, was supposed to have the dock, but the pier was closed to us at the last minute & yay, another chance to tender. Once again, I only went ashore to wander and shop. The tendering was convenient in that we were dropped downtown and no taxis were needed for serious & uh & stall shopping. I spent most of my time in my favorite store & Los Cincos Soles & buying souvenirs and eating at Pancho's Backyard. I also had a slight attitude adjustment at Fat Tuesday's. It's funny & if you wear Fat Tuesday beads, you get special attention getting on and off of tenders, let me tell you.
Day 5 Belize
Working within our CC roll call, I set up a cave tubing expedition with cave-tubing.com. Now, my friends and family thought I was insane for booking another tubing trip (story here) , but I (mostly) had a blast last time and thought it would be fun to try again.
We didn't have a set meeting time before leaving (my fault there), but at the CC gathering on the first day, we decided that it would be wise to meet in the Orpheus Lido at 8:15 and then head to a tender to make our 9:30 appointment with Yhonny. We ended up having a group of 15 people meet on the Lido, and then caught up with 4 others on the bus once ashore. We were also supposed to meet some people from the Valor, but unfortunately the Valor came in late, so Yhonny sent us out with about 12 others in a large bus with video monitors.
Our driver was Junny, and our head guide was Richard. The drive through Belize City was different than I remembered from over a year ago, as a new highway had been constructed to take bus traffic around the edge of the city instead of sending it through it. This didn't help us much, however, as by the time we got underway, we hit 8:00 (Belize time) traffic and that slowed us up quite a bit. Throughout the wait and out on the open road, Richard offered interesting facts about Belize, and he also threw in a nice dose of entertainment, as well. The passengers managed to polish off a bottle of cashew wine, and by the time we made it to the park where the caves are, everyone was having a good time and was ready to go.
One thing to note here: there is about a 30 minute walk through the rain forest until you reach the caves. Water shoes are your best bet for footwear, as they are made to get wet. You must wear some type of shoes, and they tell you that you cannot wear flip flops or anything that doesn't have an ankle strap. I bought my pair of water shoes at Walmart the last time I went tubing for around $5. You can also rent them on site for $3. Some of the women wore their Crocs and found them not quite suited for this activity.
Another thing to note: especially if it has rained, the trail can get a little slippery. Those water shoes may be decent footwear, but they may not be the best for traction. I know that I found myself in the mud on one occasion.
Oh yes & thirdly - the guys at cave-tubing.com try to keep a fast pace on the trails to go through extra caves and show you that they are a better value than the ship tours. This pace may be a little strenuous for some, but everyone in our group seemed to be able to keep up pretty well. Just be aware, you will be asked to hike at a decent rate with an inner tube slung over your shoulder. The guides will offer to carry the tubes for those having trouble, but there is definitely some physical exertion involved.
Once in the water, the entire group was put together in chains with the feet of the person behind you locked under your armpits. This made the tubing portion of the excursion very relaxing, as there was no real worries about steering, paddling, or getting lost. There are a few shallow parts of the river where the guides will call Butts Up!, but for the most part, you float, you relax, and you look at interesting rock formations.
Out of the water, we were given a few minutes to change or dry off, then we loaded back on the bus and headed to Cheers for a $5 lunch for those who wanted it. I skipped the food, but ordered a Belikin beer for $2. We stayed at the restaurant for probably around 20-30 minutes, then loaded back on the bus.
This, as Yogi Bera would say, was dEjà vu all over again. After eating and heading off to Belize City, the bus broke down about 15 minutes later. We were told that it was a new bus, but that the radiator hose had somehow gone into the fan and been shredded. Whatever happened, the bus was kaput. We unloaded and waited for the backup, which had been sitting back at Cheers. Richard bought Coconut water at a nearby stand for those who wanted it, and we waited about 15 minutes for the backup to arrive. It was an old BlueBird school bus (once again, dEjà vu), and we loaded on and headed for the port. We made it with about 15 minutes to spare before the published time for the last tender with many apologies by Richard for not having any shopping time.
Because we had a large group, our cost was $40/pp. The excursion through the ship was around $90/pp. Now, is it worth risk of missing the ship for that amount of money? That's up for you to decide. Let me just say that cave-tubing.com had a back-up system that seemed to work quite well and they handled the matter very professionally.
In the end, many from the CC group came up to me and told me that they had a blast, so I think, hiccups and all, it was a good trip.
Day 6 - Costa Maya
Costa Maya ended up being the only port on this cruise where we could dock, which was definitely nice after three straight days of tendering. It was also the only port I had not yet visited, so that generated its own form of internal excitement.
The pier was in the shape of an L, with the Miracle taking one side of the L and the Valor docking at the other branch. I noticed a lot of people commenting that it was a long pier, and I guess it was, but I'd always answer that they should see the pier at Progresso. Anyway, I'd say the pier is maybe a quarter of a mile long, with the folks from the Valor having further to walk because they had to make a corner. There were some trams running that would take people up and down the pier, but wanting to avoid things like lines, I refused to go on it and took a leisurely stroll under the baking sun.
I took in the shops in the tourism village, but really, it seemed to me to be the same stuff I'd seen in Cozumel, Cayman, and Belize. There seemed to be a decent pool area, but I know I didn't leave the ship to go swimming in a pool on shore. I grabbed a ticket to go to Majahual ($3) and the driver gave a short tour as he took us there. We were dropped off in the middle of town (instead of at the end), so it took a little exploration to find my intended destination: the Cat's Meow.
Note: Given the level of construction I saw on the trip to and from Majahual, this port is going to look very different in a few years ... and by different, I mean like Cozumel. Major roads, hospitals, and tourism centers are being constructed, which I hope will be great for the locals, but I think will ruin some of the charm that the area has at the moment. I mean really, how many stores selling t-shirts with dirty slogans are needed?
Another note: On the Costa Maya board, there is some talk about how to leave the tourism area and visit the neighboring resort areas. Let me tell you, there are walls and fences to keep tourists in the port area. I saw a group of people attempt to swim around the wall, and they were corralled and ushered out of the water by security.
In Majahual, there are about 3 streets, with the main touristy tip being the street that runs parallel to the ocean. This street is lined with vendors, and it is truly like running a gauntlet, as each one of them will approach you to either look at their wares or stop at their bar. I had been looking for a hammock and haggled a little to get one. This is definitely the place to haggle if that is your thing. I'm a novice at it, but came out OK I think.
Anyway, with hammock in hand, we headed to the Cat's Meow. A large group had reserved a lot of the tables on the beach, but my mom and I snagged the last one that was still located underneath the tend they had there across from the main restaurant. My chair was probably 10 yard from the ocean and afforded a great view of the Miracle in port. I started out just by ordering a beer, but after a bit of time, ended up turning that beer into a bucket (6 for $10: XX, Corona, Sol). I also ate chips and salsa (free) and some chicken quesadillas ($5) that were quite tasty. It was a great and fairly inexpensive way to spend a few hours of time.
Note: This isn't just for Costa Maya, but really for any of the islands you visit on cruises ... unless you are buying expensive jewelry, DO NOT expect the establishments you visit to give you change in US dollars, and ESPECIALLY do not expect them to take a $100 bill. Before going ashore, I break any big bills I have into smaller ones at either the casino cage or the purser's desk. In our few hours at the Cat's Meow, TWO different sets of people tried to pay their bill with a $100 and were told that that would not work ... it is not the local currency, after all. Now the waiters were great and even gave one gentleman money to take a taxi to the port to get change ... but let's get real here ... even most local gas stations won't take huge bills in the states.
After our time at the Cat's Meow, we headed back to the ship. The tourism village was much more crowded at this time (around noon) and navigation around the stores was definitely less easy. It was a $2/pp fare for a taxi back from Majahual.
Back on the ship, this was also the second formal night (Friday).
Day 7 - Fun Day at Sea and Day 8 - The END
I don't think I'm alone on this, but I usually find the last day of the cruise to be semi-miserable. I knew I had school, work, etc to come back to, not to mention packing to do, which always eats some of the enjoyment out of my day.
The liquor I had bought in Cayman was delivered early in the day, so at least I didn't have to worry about that. The debarkation talk was at 11, and was replayed throughout the day in case you missed it. It was pretty standard, except that there was no color-coded debarkation. You either went the self-assist route (carry your own bags off) or the relaxed route (bags out and collected by midnight). There were no special tags or places you had to for early debarkation. Self assist was to start at 7:30ish (which this cruise turned into 8ish). Those with early flights who could or would not do self-assist were asked to meet in the Phantom theater to be escorted off of the ship as soon as possible. This meeting was to take place at 8, but with the delay in customs (I think some people didn't show up for the international customs line), we didn't wander down there until 8:20ish, and relaxed-debarkation didn't start until around a little after 9. Once the line moved we were off the ship pretty quickly. We found our bags by color on the terminal floor, got into a short customs line (2 couples in front of us), and were waved through without more than a casual glance at our passports. We grabbed a taxi to the airport ($22 flat rate for up to 6 people) because we didn't want to wait around for a shuttle ($9/pp). We were at the airport and checked in for our 1 PM flight by 10 AM.
The Generalities and Specifics
I thought that the Miracle was a beautiful ship. In Carnival fashion, it was not understated, but the decorations were creative and intricate. The dining room was the most "busy" in terms of colors and design, in my opinion, and I constantly found myself wondering what it looked like with the infamous pink grapes instead of the purple ones installed now. I loved the design of the supper club and found the funnel placement a tad more elegant than the jogging track placement on Conquest-class vessels (though people can still walk around the windows outside). I loved the wood and "shippy" feel of Horatio's, which was definitely more subdued than Rosie's on the Valor. I really enjoyed the artwork in the hallways and the atrium, as well as the fountain in the Fountainhead.
Navigation took me a little while to get used to because I've done so many Conquest-class ships in a row. The lack of a dining room obstruction in the middle of the lower decks was definitely appreciated, but especially the first few days, I found myself forgetting which direction was forward and which was aft. The placement of the bars and lounges was slightly more confusing on the Miracle because everything was not centrally located on the Promenade deck like in the Conquest-class. It thus requires more effort to decide where to spend time at night. I did like the fact that the outside promenade on deck 3 goes around the entire ship except the very front. Going to the aft section on deck 3 (right outside the dining room) gives you a close view of the ship's wake, making it a totally different experience from the view on deck 9.
The crew of this ship, from top to bottom, was one of the best I've ever encountered. Almost everyone greeted you with a smile and a hello, from the guy painting the deck to the hotel manager and captain. On the first night, we were told by both our head waiter and cabin steward to let them know if they make any mistakes or can do anything extra, as they were only human, but would try to rectify the situation if it was brought to their attention.
Overall, I thought the food was very good. I enjoyed the pizza a lot, but tried to cut down on my slices after the first day. The deli was always exceptional and actually had two lines to make the process a bit faster. They also toasted virtually every sandwich, something I'd not seen before. I honestly ate almost nothing from the buffets but a few desserts, and those were pretty good though the cakes can sometimes be a little dry. I'm not a big buffet person, and with so many other options available, I never felt there was a lack of food or I was being forced to choose between a lesser of two evils. I had the sushi several nights, and while I'm not an expert, I thought it was decent. The lines were sometimes very long (20 min) however, especially when there was only one person preparing the food. The lines got slower throughout the week because people would start ordering several plates of food instead of taking a few rolls and coming back later.
The food in the dining room varied a bit. The prime rib I had on the first formal night was much better than the one I had later in the week. I ordered a lot of the steak dishes, and they were decent, but nothing mind blowing. As I said, the lobster was good (for a cruise ship), as was most of the other seafood. The escargot has changed a little with the new menus and looked to me like it was in a green sauce. About the only thing I wouldn't recommend is the pork medallions on the last night ... mine were tough and didn't have a whole lot of flavor. The desserts were also good to very good, and yes ... they did have the Grand Marnier souffle. I had a cappuccino with my dessert each night (free of charge), which was a great meal capper.
Room service was decent and efficient both times we used it. I ordered a BLT and the roast beef and brie, both of which were pretty tasty. I didn't care for the chicken Caesar salad, as the dressing went a bit overboard (in my opinion) on the anchovies. A single order of the cookie and brownie assortment equaled two cookies and two brownies. Room service told me they could not deliver a pitcher of iced water or iced tea, but instead delivered 4 cups of each. The continental breakfast we ordered on the last morning came on time and was fine.
I ate at Nick and Nora's on Thursday. I booked as soon as we got on the ship in Horatio's and were given a window-seat. Normally this wouldn't mean a whole lot at night, but I saw another Carnival ship passing fairly close to us, so that was neat. The food was great, as it should be for the price ($30/pp). I ordered the onion soup, Caesar salad, 24 oz porterhouse with yukon gold smashed potatoes, and the chocolate trio. I received two chef's compliments: one with the appetizer and one after dessert with chocolate truffles and caramelized pineapple.
As you can tell, I didn't really do a lot in the port of call. Even still, 4 port days in a row really tired me out. If you do excursions every day, I'd imagine that you will be even more worn than I was. This is, my guess, one reason for the perceived lack of nightlife I've read about for this ship.
I'm not sure if it was a function of the size of the ship or if we just had similar tastes as some of our other passengers, but we saw a lot of the same people throughout the week. Not only did this include our fellow CC members, but also people we met at breakfast and lunch. This definitely led to more of a "small ship" feel than on any of my more recent cruises.
On a bit of the negative side, there was at least one obnoxious, annoying group on board and maybe more. Whether you want to call them a "running club" or the Hashhouse Harriers ... they were a big group who drank a lot, spoke crudely and profanely in public, and seemed to enjoy public nudity. I was mostly able to avoid them, but they made their presence known in some of the shows and at dinner. Some of the exhibitions I saw would have given me plenty of grounds to trash the Carnival clientele if I were looking for them. Those of us who have cruised Carnival and other lines know that rowdy passengers are not limited to the Carnival brand, but just like the rest of us, the rowdies are drawn by a quality product at a good price.
I enjoyed both Ticket to Ride and Generations very much. I was sooooo happy that one of the major production shows was not a Las Vegas revue ... I mean, really ... how many times do you need to see sequins and large headdresses?
I missed most of the other shows. I went to the midnight show of Thomas Brown which was not too funny. He was interrupted quite a bit by the group mentioned above, and never really got a flow going. The second comedian (I forget his name) was awful and I could have improved a better set than he had. Every joke was about how fat he was. I popped into his midnight set and left after about four minutes when he launched into Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky jokes ... seriously, update your material. The big problem I've had with midnight comedy shows (this and past ones) is that comedians seem to focus on the F-word more than being funny. They also launch into the same "R" rated bits I've heard 20 times before ... a little originality would be great, but I guess we know that there it takes a special level of talent to perform on a cruise ship.
Legends was decently entertaining, but there must not have been a huge pool of musical talent on this particular sailing. I mean, I give the people props for getting on stage, but most couldn't sing or didn't know the words to the songs. I guess I was spoiled by the outstanding voice talent in the previous Legends show I had attended on the Valor.
As some of you may know, I posted a question about upgrading or OBC a few weeks ago. In the end, I kept my upgrade and was very happy with it.
I paid for an upgrade to a 7A GTY and ended up with room 5241, which was an obstructed 9A. The room was huge and well appointed (with a VCR ... which I only used as a clock). The obstruction was obviously present, but there was a section where you could look down to the water through, and you could still see most of the horizon while sitting on the balcony. There were two large closets with both hanger and cubby space. Even though the room was behind the elevators, it was perfectly quiet (except for our obnoxious balcony neighbors).
Spirit vs Conquest class
These two styles of ship share a lot of the same amenities, but there are some marked differences between the two. Spirit-class ships are smaller and carry just over 2,000 passengers, while Conquest-class ships are larger and carry over 3,000 passengers. I ran into very few lines on the Miracle (food, tendering, etc), but they were more common on the Valor and the Glory. As I mentioned before, it seemed like I "ran into" people a lot more on the Miracle than I ever did on the bigger ships. I also liked the fact that the Miracle had no mid-ship dining room obstructions and thus had a free traffic-flow. The outside promenade was also very nice. There were a couple of things that I missed from the Conquest-class ships. I missed Fish and Chips, though that was offered the last day for lunch in the dining room. This will seem stupid, but I also missed the option of heading to the second floor on Lido for eating. I always did that on the Glory and the Valor because very few people would climb the steps, giving me a quieter dining experience. I couldn't really escape people during standard hours on the Miracle (but there were always seats) ... just a small thing, I know. I also liked having all of the main activities on the promenade deck. Their separation on the Miracle meant that there were more rooms and directions needed to keep track of where you wanted to go.
We all know that no cruise is perfect, and this one was certainly no exception. As I mentioned, there were some people on board who left less than a favorable impression with me. I also ran into one issue related to Carnival, and that dealt with the photo department. I purchased a reusable underwater camera with a flash offered by the ship for 15.95 with a free film refill if you developed the first set of pictures on board. I purchased this camera for the tubing trip, and while on the trip, I felt like the 27 exposures I had paid for really seemed more like 20. When I had the film developed, only 5 pictures came out. A note about my dissatisfaction was sent to the photo manager, as well as a request for a refund on the camera. He called me back within a few hours and asked me to stop by that evening (the last evening). His general explanation was that I was a fault for the photos not turning out because there wasn't enough light for the film (though many shots were taken outside with 800 speed film ... I'm not a camera novice and I know the limitations of film and cheap cameras) but he didn't come out and blame me. He then gave me a line about how I was the only passenger to complain. Then, he told me that because of the special price and the cost of the extra film they gave out (which I didn't get ... or ask for ... I had no need for the film), Carnival made very little profit on the camera and developing. All of this meant that I couldn't get a refund, but that he could give me a deal on photos or other photo products. When I said I had already purchased the photos I had wanted, he gave me a small photo album filled with photos from the ship as consolation.
Now ... here's my problem, and here's what I wrote on my comment card. When it comes to dealing with the customer, the explanation, in my opinion, should never be about profit. Either Carnival stands behind the products they sell or they don't. As someone on my 6th Carnival cruise, I didn't appreciate being lectured about how Carnival wasn't making money off of me and the $16 camera I had purchased off of them.
At breakfast and lunch with different people, I heard grumblings from other passengers about how they don't like Carnival, and they had told themselves that they'd never sail Carnival again, but [insert excuse for this voyage] ... I really get sick of people who spend their whole conversation trashing whatever ... sometimes I swear I'm wearing a sign that says B**** to me. I heard common complaints like how small the pools were or how disappointing someone found the steak to be, but I rarely heard any genuinely distressing issues or concerns.
I thought this was a great trip, especially given the quality of the ship and the price I able to grab for sailing during hurricane season. There were ups and downs, and if I could control everything, there were definitely a few things I would change. I definitely would not hesitate to sail out of Tampa or aboard a Spirit-class ship. This ship is nice and she has a great crew that keeps her running smoothly. I'm looking forward to some interesting comparisons on my RCCL trip to basically the same ports over Christmas.