Carnival Miracle Cruise Review by Bippity.Boppity.Bu: North! To Alaska
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North! To Alaska
There were two of us on this trip - myself, from the US, and B, a friend from Canada. This was my second cruise (cruise #1 was in the Caribbean about 7 years ago) and B's first. We're both old enough to drink and vote, and young enough to not qualify for any senior citizen discounts.
B and I met up in Seattle the day before the trip. We took the opportunity be tourists in Seattle - the Seattle Underground Tour, the Pike Place Market, the Fremont Troll (yes, Seattle has a troll under a bridge), and a store called Archie McPhee's where they sell (and I use this term generously) stuff, and ate dinner at an Indian restaurant. The next morning we went to the Seattle Center, stared at the Space Needle but didn't go up in it, and toured the Chihuley Exhibit, which was gorgeous - and the only place I hadn't been before, although it was all new to B.
Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly.
My overall impression of the More Miracle was very positive - it was very clean, and all of the staff I encountered were professional and friendly and really made an effort to do a good job. I found some of the colors a bit garish, but it's a cruise ship - what do you expect?
We were in Room 4112, an Inside Room with an Obstructed View. This means that we paid the price of an inside room, but got a room with French doors that open inward, and a lovely view of a lifeboat. It was nice to be able to open the doors and get some fresh air and daylight. For such a small room (185 square feet), there was ample closet/drawer space. They really make efficient use of the space they have. And yes, you can use refrigerator magnets on the walls!
We weren't far from the Phantom Lounge, where they had the big shows every night, and took advantage of the Phantom Lounge's fourth floor entrance. That being said, we never had any noise issues from other rooms or parts of the ship while we were trying to sleep.
The Public Areas & Activities
The Miracle had a nominal literature theme to its public areas. Horatio's Buffet (Horatio Hornblower), the Phantom Lounge (the Phantom of the Opera), the Mad Hatter's Ball (you know this one.) It was kinda fun. I fell in love with Gatsby's Garden (the Great Gatsby), an interior promenade with tables for two along large portholes, decorated like an English country garden.
Other public areas we visited were the Serenity, an outside adults-only (ish) area with lounges, these fun clamshell lounges, and hammocks. The spa area had a Sauna (dry heat), Steam Room (wet heat), Jacuzzi, and these fun showers with five showerheads - one above, and two on each side. There was even an 8-hole miniature golf course that we played one evening, when it was windy and cold and trying to rain. It was fun - in spite of (or perhaps because of) watching the wind blow the golf ball back towards the tee.
There were many activities available during the day. I played a lot of trivia, and even won a ship on a stick (for Canadian trivia playing as a non-Canadian). I was triviaed out by the end of the trip. Some of the activities were basically glorified infomercials -a foot analysis turned out to be a half-hour ad for a specific brand of insole the guy was trying to sell.
There were two shops (I still want to know why the "Yellow Brick Road" between the shops didn't have yellow tiles) selling, on one side, souvenirs like mugs and tee shirts, and on the other side, expensive jewelry and watches.
Every evening there was some sort of big show in the Phantom Lounge - I only went to two, a tribute to the music of the 1950's to the 1970's, which was fun, and a tribute to swing music, which only had two numbers that included any swing music. I ignored the stand-up comedians that performed later in the evening - not my thing - but B went to some of the shows, and said it was hit and miss. The Punchliner Comedy Brunch was completely lame - the comedian stood up, and tried to get people worked up to see his show that night. He didn't tell a single joke.
There were certainly a number of children on board, but they seemed to be kept entertained - either by their parents, or by the kid activities. A couple boys entertained by pressing *all* the elevator buttons, and that's not bad at all.
B rightly pointed out that we were never hungry the whole time we were on the ship. Here's part of the reason why ...
The Melting Chocolate Cake (available for dessert every evening in the Main Dining Room) and the pizza (available in the Lido Buffet) both lived up to their reputations, and were delicious. I particularly liked the prosciutto pizza.
I went to a Cooking Demonstration at Nick & Nora's (the extra cost steak house) that included samples and recipes for the foods demonstrated. Four courses were included - a mushroom soup, a salad, a chicken dish with mac and cheese and something else I've forgotten, and tiramisu for dessert. I didn't like the salad (I think bleu cheese is vile) but the rest of the food was incredible. I had initially not been interested in paying for Nick and Nora's, but after that demonstration, I was willing to spend the $35 on Nick & Nora's, but B still wasn't interested and I didn't want to go by myself.
The creme brulee on the first formal night was excellent.
The hot cocoa (available at the Lido drink stations with the coffee and tea) was actually pretty good.
There were several dishes, particularly at the main dining room, that I thought were quite good and deserved mention, but I've since forgotten what they were. In particular, on the second formal night, there was a vegetarian dish that had a green pepper stuffed with couscous that was really tasty, but I don't remember what else was involved.
The one fruit smoothie I tried (strawberry) was artificial and nasty and the only actual friut involved in its making was a marchino cherry.
The first formal night had prime rib with a baked potato with "the works." I love prime rib, and am willing to put up with a baked potato if there's enough stuff on it to disguise the mealy texture of a baked potato. The prime rib was served with horseradish but not the au jus I am used to, and "the works" was a combined sour cream & chives sauce. No bacon bits, no cheese, nothing else. Our stalwart server did find bacon bits for me, but it was still disappointing.
The pumpkin pie served at the buffet one night for dinner turned out to be more like no-sugar-added pumpkin-flavored gelatin in the shape of pie. It was unpleasant.
The Reuben sandwich served at the deli - I couldn't quite place my finger on what was wrong with this sandwich, but it was just wrong.
The chilled avocado soup was too salty.
The Tracy Arm Fjord
We were supposed to cruise the Tracy Arm Fjord on Thursday, August 8th. Unfortunately, it didn't happen because it was too foggy. We pulled into Endicott Arm (an adjacent arm) for a while, hoping that the fog would clear, but it didn't. This is supposed to be beautiful and majestic, and I'm sorry we didn't get to see it.
However, kudos to the captain for making the right decision and making the safety of his vessel and everyone on board his priority. I am so glad not to be another cruise horror story, and the captain gets full credit. Less
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Cabin review: Carnival Miracle Interior Main 4112
We were in Room 4112, an Inside Room with an Obstructed View. This means that we paid the price of an inside room, but got a room with French doors that open inward, and a lovely view of a lifeboat. It was nice to be able to open the doors and get some fresh air and daylight. For such a small room (185 square feet), there was ample closet/drawer space. They really make efficient use of the space they have. And yes, you can use refrigerator magnets on the walls!We weren't far from the Phantom Lounge, where they had the big shows every night, and took advantage of the Phantom Lounge's fourth floor entrance. That being said, we never had any noise issues from other rooms or parts of the ship while we were trying to sleep.
Port and Shore Excursions
Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari (Juneau)
About $200, purchased from Carnival in advance
Although pricy, this tour boasted a maximum group size of 14 people, and we only had 11 in our group. We boarded another tourbus - very similar to the tourbus we were on in Skagway - and went to a harbor somewhere in or around Juneau. Another feature of the tour was that the Tour Guide, David, was a professional photographer, and he gave us tips for photographing wildlife during the trip to the marina. I'm not much of a photographer, so I found his information very handy. The boat was perfect for the number of people we had - we could all move around without getting in each other's way, and the windows opened in and latched to the ceiling, so they were also out of the way while we were trying to watch for whales.
At first we waited in one spot for about ten minutes or so and spotted two whales - close enough so that we could see their tales flip in the air as they dove underwater. When it was clear that those whales had moved along, the boat moved to another location where there were already several whalewatching boats present. The captain of the boat acted as secondary tour guide to keep things interesting. Again, after about ten minutes or so, we saw a whole pod of about five or six whales - the tour guide said there was a baby with them too. The boats aren't allowed to get more than 100 yards from the whales, but the whales can do whatever they want, and they seemed determined to give all the watchers a good time - first coming up near one boat, then another, and then ... our boat! A couple of them came up right there (points to a spot no more than 25 feet away.) And, okay, I didn't get great photos, but I don't care, because I saw whales! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
From there we went by bus (and got a hearty snack) to the Mendenhall Glacier, where the Parks Service has a visitor's center. Our Tour Guide took us along a nature trail, about five minutes or so to a bridge over a creek where salmon were spawning. The bears really like the spawning salmon - it's like a buffet - and right around the corner from the bridge was a bear! It wandered off down the trail we were going to take, so we turned around and went back the way we came.
After that, we walked over to see the Mendenhall Glacier. There's a small lake that the glacier feeds, with little icebergs in the lake. The Visitor's Center is maybe a mile across the lake from the edge of the glacier. It was really gorgeous.
Ketchitour's Scenic Wildlife Tour by Trolley (Ketchikan)
About $30, purchased at the cruise dock
This tour was the first time we just found a tour when we got to port instead of buying ahead of time, and it was very disappointing. We weren't on a trolley, we were on an old school bus with not enough leg room. The Tour Guide (a woman whose name I've forgotten) didn't spend much time telling us about history, instead yelling at jaywalkers and telling us about her former husbands. Our big destination was a bridge outside of town, where we got to stand on the shoulder of the road and see lots of salmon spawning and a bald eagle. After spending about twenty minutes looking at fish, and not buying jam from her friends, we went back to town. Fortunately, the tour was only an hour or so.
Yukon Scenic Drive (Skagway)
About $100, purchased from Carnival in advance
We boarded a tourbus (a nice bus with comfortable seating for about 25 people) in Skagway which took us into Canada - through a small slice of British Colombia into the Yukon Territories, to a town called Carcross. The scenery on this drive was magnificent. A few locations along the way were foggy in the morning, but by the time we returned in the afternoon the fog had cleared.
We had lunch at the Spirit Lake Wildreness Resort in Carcross - bland sandwiches and pie, soup, and fresh fruit. I liked that the tour guide radioed the restaurant ahead of time with special dietary needs - we had three vegetarians and two no red meat eaters on board - and the restaurant was able to prepare food appropriately.
Our tour guide, Mark, was excellent. He really knew his stuff - history, geography, life in a small Alaska town - everything we wanted to know, presented in a friendly manner. He even recited Alaska-themed poetry to us! He took photos of everyone (with their own cameras) at the "Welcome to the Yukon" and "Welcome to Alaska" signs, and kept an eagle eye out for wildlife - we didn't see much, but not because he didn't try! This was our first excursion, so I was still getting a feel for how much to tip tour guides - in retrospect, I wish I'd tipped him more. (If you do this tour - and you should - and get Mark for your Tour Guide, tip him an extra dollar for me.)
Ogden Point Cruise Shuttle (Victoria)
About $10 round trip, purchased at the cruise dock
This was not technically a tour, but it turns out that the cruise terminal in Victoria is a 45-minute walk from downtown, so we took a double-decker bus for the trip downtown (and a single-decker for the return trip.) The buses were clean, the staff was friendly, and they had a handy little map of the area we were in, including their stops and tourist destinations.
Victoria was nice, but I regret we didn't get to spend more time here, especially during daylight hours