We had planned a Princess cruise, but friends who wanted to go talked us into Carnival Miracle. It didn't start well with the Long Beach Port (LA) embarkation. It was a cluster f*** of the worst kind and we had priority boarding. Even after we were moving in line our S&S cards didn't work. They "fixed" them and we finally got on board. Later, we had to go to the main desk and get new cards. I had been hesitant about the Miracle due to the reviews I'd read. Man, I don't know what happened to them, but their reviews were way off the mark. Yes, it's an older ship (1994) and shows some wear and tear, but it is spotlessly clean. The wear and tear wasn't particularly bothersome. Our room steward (Stanislava) and her assistants were fabulous, and we showed our thanks beyond words before departing. We ate most meals in the Bacchus Dining Room. The décor is a bit garish, but not nearly as bad as it looks in pics. Our head waiter (Jigson) and assistants (Kenneth and Sasa) were fabulous and helpful. The food was better than we expected, though I did order a second entre on two occasions. We ate at Nick and Nora's Steak House one night. Service was good, though no better than the dining room. The food quantity (particularly the steaks) was more than any one person should eat at a single meal, but the quality was only good, not spectacular. I would not eat there again as it really wasn't worth the extra $35/person fee. Actually, speaking about service, the service throughout the ship was exceptional even by cruise line standards. We got the feeling that the employees really did like their jobs and enjoyed giving good service. The other interesting thing was that the service, particularly waiters, was not "in-your-face" pushy like it is on so many cruise lines. It didn't feel like Carnival was trying to squeeze the last dollars out of us! There were many sea days on this cruise and we pretty much did whatever we felt like doing. Carnival did supply plenty of the normal cruise activities to keep people busy.
Probably our biggest disappointment were the ports. We have cruised the Caribbean in the past and were used to ports that at least offer services for tourists. All the ports on this Hawaiian cruise were in industrial ports. To be fair there were lots of good, quality (though expensive) excursions and lots of free shuttles to shopping. However, being in an industrial port just doesn't feel like vacation to me. Hawaii has lots to see and each island has its own character. Surprisingly, the Caribbean beaches are by far superior. The snorkeling though was fabulous in Hawaii. After leaving Hawaii, we sailed for Vancouver as the Miracle was repositioning for Alaska cruising. We had some rough water days, but though the Miracle is a smaller cruise ship, she handles it well. All-in-all we had a great time, thought the staff was fabulous, the ship good, and the trip fantastic except for the ports. One last word of caution for younger cruisers. The average cruiser age on this cruise was probably well into age 60. There were few teens or younger children. We think younger adult cruisers might be put off with so many grandparents (like us) on the cruise.