This was our third cruise, but first with kids and first in about eight years.
We were looking forward to some quiet relaxation, two new Mexican ports of call, warm weather, and someone else to do the cooking. On most points the Miracle and her staff met our expectations.
Embarkation was a bit slow. We arrived at peak time and it took just over an hour for us to clear security, check in, and get to our cabin. Two of our bags had already been delivered. The lines were long but moved steadily. No complaints. Staff was friendly.
Cabin was average sized extended balcony, no problems with noise and everything was in working order. With the bunk beds set up as well as the king size bed, there wasn't much extra room to move around. The cabin was clean and functional but certainly not luxurious. Bathroom was likewise clean and everything worked well and was clean.
Entertainment was fair to occasionally good. Run of the mill mixed bag of comedians. A wonderful presentation in Puerto Vallarta by a local and experienced mariachi band was well as six Mexican folkloric dancers was the highlight of the trip. The ship's magician was actually very good, and he presented table side magic during dinner hours. Very friendly with our children as well.
Casino was about what you'd expect. One craps table with $5 minimum and double odds, sometimes got very lively but then at other hours they had it closed most inexplicably. Blackjack dealer hits on soft 17 but all other rules fairly standard. Continuous shuffle shoe is not countable.
We did not use the Internet, laundry, room service, spa services.
The gym had a lot of treadmills, a few bikes and climbers, and was never crowded. Equipment was in good shape but the media function on the machines was not functional. For weights there was the whole panoply of Life Fitness fixed weight machines, and a few free weight dumbells. The gym had lots of clean towels, showers, but no cold water. All in all the gym was a success because it was never crowded.
There are a lot of clubs and bars thoughout the ship, all clean and functional, but it is still weird to me that you can be in a sports bar and watch a basketball game and order a beer but you can't get food with it.
Food. Ok, fair warning that I am a food snob. That said we had very modest expectations going in and knew Carnival would serve very mass market food. On the whole, they did a perfectly reasonable job. We ate in the dining room every meal except one night when we ate at Nick and Nora's. We chose anytime dining and got the same wonderful crew each night. The best dish tended to be red meats. Their desserts were often surprisingly good. Lobster night wasn't bad. They had a sushi/sashimi appetizer which was surprisingly good (and very tiny). Their salads were completely uninspired and soups varied from fair to inedible.
The buffet serves the same food as the main dining room, though the MDR also has other options not in the buffet. The buffet at breakfast had a huge variety but quality was low. For example you can get an omelette to order, but the only cheese option is American cheese. The Asian station served positively awful food. some of it was simply embarrassing. The pizza line was often very long and they were usually struggling to keep up with demand. This was especially true between 3-6 pm and after 9 pm, when the buffet is closed. During those times the only options are pizza and the grill. No vegetables and no fruits available, which was inexcusable to me.
The coffee in the dining room was mediocre, but the coffee in the buffet was better.
Room service was limited to a continental breakfast, and we were flatly refused other items. Silliness.
The Mexican brunch on sea days was a nice surprise and I definitely recommend taking advantage of it. Some of the more inspired food on ship.
Nick and Nora's was very good, but the steaks simply are NOT 'the best steakhouse' quality. The service is friendly but not personal. The appetizers, sides, and desserts are phenomenal. It was worth doing once on the cruise.
The pool areas are small but on cold days they did heat the water. The hot tus should be hotter. serenity is nice but often completely full. The waterslide is outdated but fun for a few trips.
The service shocked us as it was extremely friendly and attentive. Not luxurious but comfortable. They took excellent care of my kids. Wonderful, especially in the dining room.
We would cruise carnival again but unfortunately nothing 'stood out' in a way that would command our loyalty. And we may demand more in the way of food than they can deliver.
But we had a great time and thank the staff for the experience.