Having never cruised before mainly due to my history with seasickness, we booked this trip only a couple of months before sailing almost on a whim. We chose the the cruise based on the port and date more than anything else...we wanted west coast so it was in driving distance and it had to be the week of our kids' spring break. We have friends who have cruised other lines and love Carnival the best for families, so the Carnival Miracle out of Long Beach to Cabo and Puerto Vallarta it was! We quickly read up on reviews and tips and felt confident that we had made the right choice. After much debate we opted for an Ocean Suite...the cost was comparable to 2 rooms, but there were no adjoining rooms available. Our kids (11 and 13) are too young to be in a room across or down the hall, and we did not want to have to split ourselves up. We also did not want to be crammed into a small room...DH brought his guitar and wanted space to relax in the room or on the balcony and play. We later saw one very negative review of suite 6166 here on CC, but we were committed.
Embarkation was just okay. We had priority boarding due to the suite, but the priority area was packed and the process of getting through security and onto the ship was pretty disorganized. Still, we arrived just before 11:00am and were seated on the Lido deck eating lunch by 1:00pm. Our room was available at 1:30pm, but the luggage did not arrive until maybe 5pm. We were on Lido waiting to see watch the sail-away, but we ended up departing late and so we missed it due to our 6:00pm seating time in the Main Dining Room.
Food - The MDR was our biggest disappointment. Not sure what we were expecting, although I knew from other people to expect a 90 min. meal process. We were stuck in a very dark corner right near the entrance to the MDR, and while our waiter was very friendly, he seemed very overextended and the service was slow and chaotic. We ate in the MDR only nights 1 and 2 (night 2 was Elegant Night) and then we gave up on it. The food was not good enough to make it worth the slow service and feeling like we were stuck in a cave. People have said we should have complained and asked to be moved, but we were happy to eat in the buffet and not have to worry about dressing up and being there at a specific time. We also didn't want to mar our vacation by turning into complainers. We enjoyed the freedom to eat whenever we wanted, wear what we wanted, and choose from a wide variety of options. Sure, it's buffet food, but some of it was pretty good -- specifically the Pizza Pirate, the deli sandwiches, the soups, and the Carvery choices. The coffee was terrible on the Lido! I hear they recently changed it and it's better than it used to be, but we were not fans. The Cafe Bar, however, makes a fantastic cappuccino at a very reasonable price!
Cabin - The suite was wonderful -- very spacious, comfortable beds, large bathroom with 2 sinks and a full-size shower, loads of closet and storage space, plenty of lighting options, and a spacious balcony big enough for two chairs and two loungers if desired. The lifeboats are a couple of levels below, but that did not detract at all from the view or sense of privacy. The location could not have been more central, and was extremely quiet and peaceful. I can't say enough good things about suite 6166!
Entertainment - We really enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. We are not gamblers (live in Nevada and don't gamble at home either), but we frequented the nightly shows, comedy club and piano bar, and they were all great fun. Dave the piano bar entertainer was a big highlight for us -- he is a fantastic entertainer and makes every single person feel welcome and appreciated. The band in the big shows was excellent as was the lead female singer. The Beatles tribute show featured a combo that appeared to be made up of crew members, and they were fantastic too!
Kids' Club - Our kids were not keen on the kids' club at first, but I pre-registered them just in case and we all went to the meet and greet on the first night. The Circle C director, Rex, allowed our 11 year old (3 months shy of turning 12) to be in Circle C with the 12-14 yr. olds rather than in the 2-11 club, and that made his day! The boys had a blast on the ship. They met a big group of kids in Circle C, and even when they were not taking part in the club's organized activities, they were hanging out with their new friends. First thing each morning they would check the Circle C schedule to see what was on tap for the day. They absolutely loved the freedom to come and go from the club, have meals with their new friends, play in the arcade, etc. We set up their S&S cards with a very low dollar limit and would add a little to it each day so they didn't blow all of their spending money right away. This worked out great and the S&S kiosks make it very easy.
Ports - We did the Las Caletas excursion in Puerto Vallarta and returned to the ship as soon as we arrived back. We were not big fans of the whole Cabo scene, but PV looked like a place I would visit in the future.
Ship - We loved the layout and amenities of the Miracle and would highly recommend this ship. The only time we ever felt like it was crowded was during rush times in the Lido buffet. Otherwise, there were many areas of the ship where you could relax in uncrowded, uncluttered areas. The staff were constantly cleaning and polishing everything in sight, and the crew was extremely friendly and helpful. Our Cruise Director, Tex, was great -- funny, helpful, and a very nice guy.
Overall, we loved our cruise and would go again in a heartbeat!