We took the Carnival Miracle to the Mexican Riviera October 6 ''" 13 (3 days at sea, 2 days in Cabo, 1 day in Puerto Vallarta). This was our second time on a Carnival ship. Here’s my assessment
Embarkation in Long Beach looked like a zoo at first, but wasn't bad at all once the line began moving at 12. Within an hour we were on the ship. Debarkation took forever because we didn't do the Self-Assist. (We did that last year and it was a zoo of epic proportions.)
Now, on to the details:
-The cabin. We were in 4239 (portside, aft, extended balcony),and for those of you who are first-time cruisers, let me tell ya''"splurge on a balcony if you can, especially if you are going on a longer cruise (5 nights or later.) Until you’ve done it, you won’t know for certain that you like cruising and you might need a place to escape to that is entirely yours.
-The service: God bless those wonderful hard-working folks that put up with our profligate ways with nary a lip-curl of disgust. They were unceasingly hospitable, courteous, and cheerful.
-The entertainment''"Didn’t go to many of the events, but what I saw was fun''"the piano bar is a big hit!
-The Serenity Adult Area: Really, a lovely area, replete with hammocks, shaded areas, a bar…at least early on, they had an attendant trying to monitor the ''"absentee landlords” (AKA jerkfaces that reserve the primo spots and loungers for the whole day, although they are rarely present on the deck).
-The spa: If you can, indulge! Here’s a tip: most days, there’s some sort of really good deal, not just the ones listed on the Fun-Times, but a separate flyer with some good stuff. I got The Spa Pampering Package, which was a scalp massage, a deep conditioning hair treatment, a mini-facial, a hand massage, and, like three other skin treatments) for $99, advertised in a separate flyer left in our cabin.
-The majority of the food. Dear god, the food. Here’s what stood out as good: the 24-hour-pizza joint; the chicken tenders on the grill; the Chateaubriand. Everything else stuck out as supremely indifferent/mediocre in terms of quality, etc. Two disappointments that I specifically remember: the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake often came out less melting, more dense, dried cake; on disembarkation morning, the breakfast in the dining room was downright eyebrow-raising (I could and did overlook the incorrect order, but hash browns that are pale-grey on the inside, and chewy? Really?). The steakhouse was quite lovely, and worth the extra fee.
The Drinks:The fruity-frou-frou drinks come pre-mixed, and are very, very sugary. My advice is, if you wish to become inebriated, stick with wines and simple spirit-based drinks (gin and tonics, vodka martinis, etc.)
The level of staffing: Those folks work SO HARD, and kudos to them for that. But especially on sea days, the service was CRAZY slow at the bars and eating locations.
The phone was, quite possibly, possessed. Our next to last night on the ship, when we were in bed and halfway across the cabin, it began DIALING OUT on speaker phone, of its own volition, to the 911 emergency line on the ship. It did this at least four times in the wee hours. (Incidentally, no one ever called or came to the cabin to investigate what we might have been calling about.) Also, for some reason we were unable to set up wake-up calls; you'd press the button for that services and you'd only get silence. I thought it was just the fault of our Amityville Phone, but then I overheard several other passengers say the same thing about their inability to request wake-up calls.
Before leaving for my cruise, I found myself reading an essay by David Foster Wallace, ''"Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise." In it he references Carnival as ''"Carnivore” and ''"The Wal-Mart of the Industry” (don’t blame him''"or me, for that matter--we are simply repeating what others have said). At the time, I bristled; however, since my 7 night cruise to the Mexican Riviera…I see and appreciate the reference.
In my experience (which in no way invalidates yours, which may have been or will be lovely), the Carnival Miracle is The Wal-Mart of the Seas, and Carnival Cruise lines is cruising for the masses. And before you say it, I am part of the masses. We all are. I'm not highfalutin, I speak with a slight Southern accent, I don't need a lot of luxury. But that’s beside the point. Simply put, I've come to find Carnival to be a rather generic cruiseline. Let’s just say that THIS member of the masses won’t be cruising on Carnival again anytime soon. No doubt she’ll be on another cruise, finding something else to critique there, too. But then, as now, at least she’ll come back with an honest opinion.