We had the nicest time on our 16 night cruise and the few aggravations we did have were more to do with maintaining family harmony, not with cruising. We were not sure how being confined with two young children would play out, and mostly we had a blast! The worst part of our trip was being at the Holiday Inn LAX in a room by the elevator shafts. The Miracle embarkation was quick in Long Beach after arriving at 1:30. The platinum/diamond building offered lemon water and a place to sit while all four of us had our pictures and cards made up. We basically just walked through at that point and went to lunch on the lido, enjoying the Italian buffet (lately we do the burgers but somehow we ended up here and there was something for all of us). Our luggage arrived early and we unpacked and started exploring.
There is so much good to say about this cruise and I'm sure some of the other cruisers will do detailed reviews. I want to emphasize how safe and comfortable we felt with our captain and crew, the staff from the steward (Filomena) to the camp counselors (all 8 of them!).
Our 4k was a great value, quiet, and gave us fresh air and a small view between lifeboats.
We thoroughly enjoyed Vinnie, Dylan (singers), Eddie, Merl, (comedians), Mannie the juggler and especially the dancers and showband and the Ticket to Ride show. Also our night at Nick and Nora's we were able to move our reservation up to 7 and listened to the country singer for our hour there (from the atrium 10 decks below!) which was actually really nice. Due to being east coasters with kids, we went to bed by 10 pm except for the night we partied on the lido deck for our Hawaii deck party. Can't comment on the late night scene.
The pool under the dome was heated on the way back and we used the inside pool every afternoon. The hot tubs also got hotter as the days progressed, something we have noticed on other cruises. It was definitely too cold on the outer deck to swim and we had winds high enough to close the upper decks many days. The DJ played some good tunes by the pool every afternoon. We did laps on deck 10 because it was too windy to hang out up there; deck chairs were strapped down.
The lido tables tended to be full if you arrived later during the meal hours so it was hard to find tables. The MDR was a good option for us with children and we learned to allow them to use their ipads/ipods to entertain themselves (on silent mode) during the long wait times there- nothing unusual, really, just long for kids. We also discovered the kids enjoyed the evening camp schedules, allowing us to go to the MDR and enjoy dinner at our leisure with ATD, feeding the kids pizza or sandwiches after picking them up at 10. We had several great dinners with a variety of cruisers during the 5 nights sailing back to Vancouver. Food was good; expect some repeats on long cruises. My favorite is still the lobster or the Atlantic salmon on the everyday menu! Showtime is always fun and we actually had the kids with us the night we did the Conga line and we all did the conga thru the MDR.
As I mentioned, we tried the steakhouse this cruise (our first time). Our server Natalia was attentive and we enjoyed seeing her at the lido dessert bar during lunch on later days after meeting her. Go hungry and don't drink too much water or anything else before your food comes- you will need that space for your dessert, they are huge portions. Delicious and relaxing experience; we had the sun set during our stay which was beautiful. You WILL hear the entertainers down in the atrium so be sure you like who is playing there!
Ports, well that would take a long time to detail. Basically we used a cab get to a beach to surf in Kona, took guided tours in Kauai (Carnival Hanalei and N shore tour) and in Ohau (private circle tour). Rented a car in Hilo to explore the Volcano park and the scenic shore. In Maui rented a car and drove to mm 26 on the Road to Hana to see the Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Gardens which was amazing. Later spent the night at KBH after going to the luau next-door at the Sheraton. We had premium tickets and they sat us right up front where the kids could see and they actually sat for the show and one got on stage to learn the hula. We danced during the wedding/anniversary song. Food was tasty and we had a great sunset there. All these ports were amazing and we loved seeing each of them. Getting back on-board in Honolulu was slow; I think everyone was coming back to the ship at the same time.
Debarkation was smooth after arriving in Vancouver. We enjoyed the Hoppa On Hoppa Off tour bus even though it was chilly in the morning, great lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, and the Fly Over Canada experience thrill ride by the pier. Took a cab to the Amtrak station after retrieving our luggage from the pier luggage storage ( a bit pricey, but convenient) and had a great evening train ride down to Seattle, slept like babies at the Hampton Inn and Suites Sea-Tac location and took their shuttle to the Delta check-in at 6 a.m. the next day. Appreciated the hotel having a hot breakfast at 5:30 am already set-up for us.
Overall, super experience without any major hurdles. One last comment: the decor was not an issue for us...we generally sail for the experience, not the artistic design of the ship. That said, our kids would have noticed the art if we were in a Florence, Italy, museum, as well. We had a lot of fun with the design of the Miracle. Thanks to everyone (Carnival and CC roll call) that made this long-planned-for vacation a memorable success for our family.