Hello everyone, I will preface this review by stating that we flew from Australia and cruised as part of our holiday to the US. I have never cruised before so I have nothing to compare it too, so will generally compare it to other, similar experiences on our trip. For ease of reading, I will break the review up by headings on areas I wanted to know before embarking.
BOOKING AND COMMUNICATION FROM CARNIVAL
We actually booked directly with Carnival about 16 months before we were to cruise. As such we had to book through their US site which did create some issues with communication and the ability to choose cabins. I would suggest to anyone out there considering booking a cruise to do a lot of research on Cruise Critic for tips on Cabins and what to request on booking. Not to say that we were disappointed with our cabin. We booked so early because we wanted interconnecting cabins for us and our kids.
Communication difficulties came with using our Australian credit cards. For some reason, most likely out of Carnivals control, we had to provide lots of identification information, something I wasn't overly comfortable with, before we could confirm our booking.
LONG BEACH ACCOMMODATION
There appears to be plenty of accommodation choices in Long Beach. We booked very early on and in hindsight, being tourists to the USA I would not stay in Long Beach, rather somewhere with more things to do and grab a shuttle to the port. In particular when you have Taxi drivers more intent on their practicing their grand prix skills on the Long Beach Grand Prix circuit than getting you there safely!
THE CRUISE SHIP PORT AT LONG BEACH
Is massive and very easy to find, with what appeared to be plenty of parking (not that we used it so I can't comment on the cost). We may have just been there at the wrong time, but it was very confusing. The Queen Mary was putting on their annual Chill event when we were trying to embark. They appeared to have taken over 3/4 of the cruise port building. This led to a bit of chaos where nobody seemed to know where to go. There was some signposting, but it was very confusing. We were eventually directed back through the external grounds of the chill festival to a part of the queen Mary to check in. I'm just really glad we got there early. It was a major issue to drag your suitcases dodging people who had payed to see the chill festival, down to the Queen Mary, line up with little instruction on what to do, check in and drag your suitcases back to the terminal to sit outside and wait in the sun with confusingly labelled roped of areas. Once inside, it was again chaos, as we were FTTF passengers we were allowed in the terminal in the first groups, only to again be lined up for half an hour in more roped off areas, until eventually packed in like sardines, only to see let in later than us enter the ship before we did????
This is something Carnival could have handled much better by just providing more embarkation instructions to its passengers PRIOR TOO embarkation day so that you know what you are supposed to do.
FASTER TO THE FUN
Prior to purchasing FTTF I was a bit sceptical about its value, but given we hadn't cruised before we decided to invest in it. A very wise decision! Even though we didn't really get a great deal of benefit from it at embarkation (see above) and our bags were not delivered as promised (they came very early evening when other cabins around us received theirs before we got ours), the benefits in tendering and disembarkation were well worth it. Particularly the disembarkation. As we had no experience in cruising I had booked transportation about half an hour after we were due to dock. This could have been a massive mistake given the long lines to disembark, even for those self disembarking. We were given disembark group number 1, our luggage was waiting for us as we walked through the terminal and we were gone within 20 minutes of leaving our room. It was fabulous.
TIP: faster to the fun is well worth it for people who are travelling on after their cruise or have tight timelines for connecting flights etc. It is also of benefit for those who want priority tendering at port. However, we needed to go to guest services to find this out. Again another thing Carnival could improve in their communication. If you have FTTF, for tendering all you have to do is to go to Guest services, they then escort you straight to the tender bypassing lines and tender tickets. I would think this would be beneficial for those whom booked tours with companies other than Carnival. For I saw plenty of disappointed people in Cabo that missed external tours due to the time it took them to get off the ship. Oh the other thing, be prepared for those who have earned priority privileges complaining about those whom purchased FTTF. When in line that’s all we heard whilst waiting in the numerous lines on embarkation. All I can say is get over it; we paid for it so have as much right as you do!
THE CARNIVAL MIRACLE
I had read heaps, and I mean heaps about the ship prior to our trip. It seems to divide peoples opinion but I, should i say we, and all loved it. It is extremely clean, easy to navigate and beautifully presented. Whilst not massive by any means, it is still big. With lots of places to go if you want to do something or nothing it is all catered for on this ship. Its layout was exceptional. Its decorations were outstanding and not as glary as others have commented. Sure there are the purple 'grapes" in the dining room, and statues and paintings here there and everywhere but we found it beautiful.
after purchasing FTTF our cabin was ready as soon as we walked on the ship, exactly what we needed after the long wait and chaos on embarkation. My wife has been on Royal Caribbean and stated that the cabin was bigger on the miracle. We had cabin number 5257/53, interconnecting. We went straight to guest services and requested the interconnecting door, and balcony partition be unlocked. The door was done within an hour by our cabin steward and the partition later that evening. Carnival should put this in their booking request system online to free up time for guest services, in particular when you book the two rooms together.
Now being a gentleman of larger proportions, both in height and weight, prior to embarking the biggest concern I had was the bed and the shower. No need to worry on the Miracle, both was exceptional. The bed firm but forgiving and the shower simply sensational. No sticking shower curtain here easily controlled water temperature and best of all a shower rose that actually sprayed water on top of my head, not the middle of my chest. Congratulations Carnival you are on a winner here.
As mentioned, both our cabins had balconies. Whilst we did not use them too regularly, they were at times a great salvation for privacy. We had no issues with smoke, partying neighbours, just beautiful views and serenity. It was particularly good for port times, upon waking and returning to your cabin, where you could sit and watch beautiful sunsets or the normal world operate whilst you sat comfortably with your Canadian club and dry!
The cabins had plenty, and I mean plenty of storage space. They were clean and well organised including lots of hangers, bathrobes, plenty of towels including beach towels a lounge, and small tv. I'd like to mention the TV as I am an avid TV watched and often use it to relax, in particular at bed time. Whilst they had movie channels, and the Funtimes told you what the movies were, there was no schedule! So you had no idea what times the movies ran. The tv stations were the same. It would be great if they could put up some schedules for those of us that wanted to relax and watch some tv in the room, in particular the younger member of our family! This is another area that could be easily improved.
Our cabin was located in a great position, close to the stairs and elevators but extremely quiet. Absolutely no noise at all could be heard within the cabin. The block out curtains were great and let no light in. The balcony door was a swing door and whilst it could be wedged open with a chair, did not stay open by itself. The air conditioning reportedly stopped when the door was open, but I did not notice this at any time.
I hear a lot of conversation about ice buckets; we did not sue them so I can't comment. We pre-purchased our bottle of Canadian club and whilst expensive, it was their waiting for us when we entered our cabin. Glasses were readily available.
This is a very hard area to review and I don't like being negative so I will just give it as I see it.
HORATIOS - on the Lido deck
Given our later experience with American buffets in Las Vegas, the buffet was better than Vegas ok but bit of a disappointment overall. The food choices were not as much as what i envisaged and at times the lines were extremely long. What was most surprising was the closing times of the buffet. I was led to believe that on a cruise food was always available but in this case a majority of the buffet was only open at certain times, leading to crowds and long lines. Breakfast was from 6.30-10.30. Lunch 12-3.30 Dinner 6-9.30. The pizza and deli were open 24/7 but the lines were huge at times the buffet was closed. Mind you the pizza was worth the wait. At times it could be hard to find a seat at the buffet. The ice cream self serve was a bonus, as was the self serve drink stations that had lemonade, tea, coffee, water and plenty of ice. Drink waiter could be a little bit invasive asking you if you wanted a drink but its better than not being asked at all.
Food choices included asian, mexican, italian, american and carribean. Most of it though, in typical american style, was fried and there was little choice in regards to vegetables. One thing I must say, to my daughters great pleasure, was that there was plenty of availability of FRIES, when would often be caught sneaking to horatios for her afternoon plate of fries!
Probably the most disappointing thing with Horatios was the deserts. They were tasteless and lacked variety - thank God for the ice cream machine!
BACCHUS Dining room
We ate at Bacchus every night. This is probably the hardest thing to review. Overall it was a little disappointing. We did Your Time Dining which could be considered good and bad. Over six nights, we were seated in six different areas on the top level of the dining room. Four of the six nights the service from everyone was exceptional, however the other two were poor at best. Drink refills on the exceptional nights were truly exceptional as you were never left thirsty, but on the other nights, both the food and drink service was simply poor, with orders forgotten and food mixed up.
Food Quality- overall disappointing. For such a beautiful setting, so immaculately presented, well dressed staff the food simply did not match up to the surroundings. Except the chocolate melting cake. This is simply magnificent. The choices were ok but nothing special and you often found yourself ordering from the daily menu items. The most disappointing was the steak, tasteless and poorly cooked filet mignon and prime rib. Sad really for such a beautiful ship the overall food was poor.
Breakfasts were much better at Bacchus except for the terrible American Coffee! Mind you they are no on their own here, getting a descent cup of coffee in the states is like winning Lotto!
I tried to get hold of room service a couple of times but to no avail. It may have been luck but I didn’t get the opportunity to order so I can’t review it, only to say that ordering was a problem.
A most wonderful place. Real Coffee and beautifully cooked and presented cakes at great prices. Just a pity the quality of the food here is matched across the dining experiences on the miracle.
Nothing to really do but compliment a majority of the staff. Everyone we had interaction with were wonderful and they should be all complemented on their work. From the room steward to the servers in the buffet, they all had smiles and said hello when you passed. Carnival should be proud of the majority of their staff for the commitment and dedication to their jobs. Whilst there were some clearly not up to standard, you get that everywhere! Not everyone is perfect.
Out cruise director Troy Linton was fabulous and Carnival are lucky to have such a dedicated, friendly, entertaining man leading the fun on the ship. He was simply everywhere. Full of fun, laughter and information, a perfect host for the shows and engaging at any time. In particular his efforts in the love and marriage show were outstanding as were his hosting duties. My 18 year old son, a bit of a muso, was given the opportunity to play the guitar for one of the many entertainers on board, Troy was there on this particular night and went out of his way to commend him on his playing. First class act. The Miracle will be a poorer experience when he is not on board.
Overall exceptional. The stage shows – Welcome aboard show, Generations song and dance show, Showtime with hypnotist Jac Rene, the Mexican folkloric show, Ticket to ride Beatles show and the carnival legends show were simply brilliant. The singers, Lisa Saint and Steven Para, the Miracle Orchestra led by Dave Fulton, and the dancers all professional and entertaining. The sets amazing, the theatre beautiful. If you’re on this ship do not miss a show because every one of them was special.
The comedians were also very good. My son never missed a show and came back laughing every time.
Special mention to Tommy Green Jnr who played the piano bar. He was great and as mentioner earlier got my son up to play with him, what an experience.
There was also plenty of Karaoke which my wife and son enjoyed. Having the opportunity to sing with the orchestra accompanying you is such an experience and carnival should be commended for this initiative.
The Trivia games were also plentiful. My daughter proudly displaying her ship on a stick for the glee comp. They had Harry potter trivia, musical trivia, sports you name it there was always something on. Special mention to Laura from the entertainment crew who took the time to have a long discussion about her experience in the activities team. You go girl!
The fitness centre was well equipped for those inclined as was serenity. The water slide open most days which my daughter enjoyed. There are three pools, one small one at the bottom of the water slide and two on the lido, both of which over run with feral kids most of the time with even worse parents who had no consideration for others by disciplining their children. Suggestion for Carnival, it may pay to have a separate pool for kids and police the ones for adults so that people who want to sit and relax in the whirlpool can without interruption.
The Fun Shops – limited and expensive. Would have been better if they had more with more variety. It is easy to be sucked in to “sales” as there is no internet to check there pricing. Great bargains offered were often found not to be so great when back on land with the internet available.
My daughter was 12 so at the bottom end of what Carnival call Circle C (12-14 yo). Overall she liked it but often found herself spending time at the pool, hot tub or waterslide. Some activities she liked but it was dominated with playing computer games in the circle c room something she did not overly want to do. They only had one person looking after them and the activities were limited. Also this age group were able to walk in and out at any time, something I wasn’t too sure about. It would have been more reassuring if they had a better system of a choice of sign yourself out or not. But again, my daughter liked it and made friends on board.
18 – 20 YEAR OLDS
Are simply not well catered for. In America they cannot drink or gamble (in Australia they can), neither can they on the ship. My son spent a lot of time on his own because they had no dedicated area or meet and greet for the 18-20 year olds. A real failing on Carnival’s part, in particular when these young people are travelling with family. Whilst my son entertained himself and obviously befriended some of the entertainers on board, he only had the opportunity to do this at the end of the cruise not at the start. Something Carnival should address.
One word – fantastic. Timely, well organised. No complaints here.
As travellers from another country we were really looking forward to having a bit of a cultural experience, seeing things that were new and certainly not wanting to just party. A lot of the shore excursions were either extreme sports, or involved partying. A distinct lack of sightseeing alternatives. In saying that CABO SAN LUCAS is well geared to party. Our kids did the Cabo Dolphoins excursion and I cannot recommend this any higher, it was simply fantastic. Beautiful facilities, wonderful staff great dolphins and FREE TO WATCH despite carnival advising us that we would have to pay $30 to watch through them. Whatever you do don’t pay this money. We asked if we could tender off with our kids, no problems, walked with the tour group to the Dolphins. Sat in a wonderfully shaded area right next to the pool, had drink waiting service and watched the whole show. The only thing you can’t do is take photos (by the way they charge you a fortune for these). A great excursion, as for the rest of Cabo you can take it or leave it as far as I’m concerned.
Puerto Vallarta – simply beautiful. Beautiful people, beautiful town, beautiful views, lovely culture, plenty of shopping. We did not take a tour here. We paid a taxi driver to show us the sights. It cost 30$ for the four of us for 2.5 hours of...fun. Well sort of, a mixture of fun, sights, culture and ...fear at the winding small cobblestone roads and driving at pace. All part of the experience! I would have much rather have spent two days here and have no Cabo.
Overall it was a wonderful experience. The ship was great, the food adequate, entertainment fabulous and staff pleasant and helpful. You can simply relax and have whatever ort of time you want, there is plenty of choice. As mentioned there were a few areas that could be improved and one I did not mention was better use of the beautiful phantom theatre. Why this is not used to show movies during the day is beyond me. It would be a great option, in particular those days when it was a little cold or windy.
Would we sail with Carnival again – Yes.