For the 2nd year in a row, we spent Thanksgiving on the 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise. Here is a brief review and some tips:
Embarkation: At Long Beach you first check your luggage with a porter on the ground floor of the parking garage (not at the check-in area which is across the street). If you arrive early (before noon), you are sent to the Queen Mary to check in. If you arrive after boarding has started, you check-in at the dome. We had Faster to the Fun (FTTF) so we arrived at 10:30. It took about 15 minutes to check-in vs about 30 for people in the regular line. We then waited until 11:45 before we were allowed to board the ship. By noon we were in our cabin dropping off our carry-on luggage. Overall a smooth process although a little disappointed with the 11:45 boarding time.
Cabin: We were in 1124 which is a Ocean View Cabin. We would not recommend this cabin. Each night you could hear the loud band from night club above the room. The club closed at 12:30 so after that it was quiet. The closets have a vent behind them which causes them to be about 1 inch less deep than the clothes hangers provided. Thus, either you closet door will not close due to the clothes hangers, or you have to hang all your clothes at an angle to close the door. The vent looked unusual so it is probably a quirk of this room only. The cabin door peep hole was so scratched-up, you could not see out it. The only good thing about the cabin was that it is near the front elevators and the cabin attendant was terrific.
Food: The most disappointing meal was Thanksgiving for the 2nd year in a row. The turkey tasted like press turkey (like last year on the Splendor). The pumpkin pie was a pumpkin/chocolate/gingerbread creation. Although unique food on a cruise is fun, this is one night traditional food would have been better. The best meal was the lobster (2nd night on the ship during the first formal dinner), and the Petite Filet Mignon (severed during dinner and at the Sea Day Brunch) which was one of the best I ever had.
Ports: In Cabo San Lucus our daughter did the Bungee Jump. The ship does not offer this activity so we booked on our own. One thing to remember when booking a tour on your own is that ship time is one hour behind local time in both Cabo San Lucas and in Puerto Valllarta. We anchored at 9:30 ship time, which was 10:30 local time. Our excursion was set for 11:15 local time which called it close. With Faster to the Fun we were able to make it to the meeting place with 10 minutes to spare. The provider left something to be desired. First they arrived late to the meeting location (in an unmarked van). The driver then walked to a different area, out of sight, to wait for his passengers who were by the van not knowing it was their van since there was no sign. Upon arrival at the jump location (a gondola hanging on wires over a canyon), we were told that besides the $22 per person "observer fee" for mom and dad, there would be a $5 per person "park entry" fee which was not listed in the tour paperwork. The bungee jump itself was great (photo disc costs $35) and our daughter loved it. However, it was over by 12:30. We then had to wait until 3:00 for the van ride back to the ship which was about 15 minutes away.
Crew: The line crew of the Carnival Miracle was great. Although you rarely got a "hello", or even eye contact, from a passing officer, the line staff was friendly, called you by name, and always had smiles on their faces. Troy, the Cruise Director, was also very friendly and it amazed us that with all the people on the ship (about 2600 with over 800 being kids) he would remember meeting you at other ship events.
Kids Club (O2): Daughter said it was boring and most kids left the club and hung-out in the hot tub, at the buffet, or in other public area. Never saw a printed list of club events except for one entry per day in the daily newsletter. Last year on the Splendor Club O2 was great. This year it was a flop.
Entertainment: The theater entertainment was not the best we have seen. The first night "show" was not worth going to. Carnival must own a wig company because during each dance show the dancers had wigs on which looked awful and cheap. Carnival also has cut costs by eliminating the professional show on the last night and instead has a guest talent show. Other cruises we have been on have the talent show during off peak hours.
Faster to the Fun: Where to begin. Our luggage was check with the porter at 10:30. It arrived at our cabin at 4:30. 6 hours later. All three bags had the correct tags on them, and had been marked with priority stickers yet they were in the last group to be delivered. When we call Customer Service at 3:00, they seemed to genuinely care about the problem and check back with us 3 times to see if the bags arrived. They also refunded the FTTF fee due to the error. Another problem with the FTTF program was the Priority Tendering in Cabo San Lucas. FTTF guests were told to wait by Customer Service and they would be escorted to the tender boats. At 9:40, a ship officer walked past the approx 100 people waiting as he led a group of 7 towards the stairs. Nothing was said about following him but all 100 people, eagerly awaiting to leave the ship, figured out at once that he was the "escort" causing a stampede. It would have been better to line-up the FTTF/VIP people as they arrived so it would have been a more orderly process. On a plus note, the priority disembarkation went smooth. Overall, we will probably not be buying FTTF in the future based upon this cruise.
Conclusion: The Miracle is a beautiful ship with an outstanding line crew. For the price of the holiday cruise, the trip was worth it. Being our 14th cruise, we have had better trips. With Royal Caribbean, and Disney, leaving the West Coast, your options are limited so you take what you can get.