Carnival Miracle Cruise Review by Canthackit: A Wonderful Cruise on the Miracle to Alaska
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A Wonderful Cruise on the Miracle to Alaska
Cruise from Seattle to Alaska aboard the Carnival Miracle July 1 - 8, 2014
DW and I arrived in Seattle a few days early before the cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn on 28th street real close to SeaTac airport. I had booked the room months earlier with an internet special and paid for 3 nights in advance to get the best price. Upon arrival at the airport, we went outside where the shuttles pick up folks and there are two phones with pictures of various hotels on a display board. Made the free call to the Hampton and their free shuttle picked us up quickly.
This is a pretty new hotel and there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance of less than two blocks. We were very happy with the hotel and it had a very good breakfast area and 24 hour hot coffee and tea in the lobby. There is a good Thai restaurant just two blocks away.
They also provide free shuttle transportation to the Seattle light rail station about a mile away. We More used the light rail everyday. It cost $ 5.50 for an unlimited round-trip daily ticket. That will get you all the way to the last stop in downtown Seattle (Westlake Center). We enjoyed the train and it was clean and felt safe. It takes about 46 minutes from the airport to downtown. Once downtown you can hop on the Monorail for a short ride over to the Space Needle. It’s also a short walk to the Pike Place market from the Westlake Center. We saved a lot of money by staying near the airport and using the train. Downtown hotels are pretty expensive and a cab ride from the airport to downtown is about $ 46.00.
You don’t want to miss the Pike Place market. Lots of vendors are selling all kinds of neat food, crafts, flowers, apparel and other things. The original Starbucks is across the street, and the famous fish market where they throw the fish around is there too. You can spend two full days there if you want and not see everything. We also went to the Space Needle and had brunch in their revolving restaurant. Beautiful views from there and after eating you can go upstairs to the observation section and spend as long as you like.
Now on to the cruise.
When we originally booked this cruise it was supposed to also stop at the port of Ketchikan. Because of some power plant issues Carnival cut out this port and gave everyone the option of canceling with a full refund or getting a $ 50.00 pp on-board credit and a 25% discount on a future cruise. Because of the missing port, the other stops at Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria were extended. We really liked having the extra time and I didn’t miss Ketchikan. It may have saved me some money because I probably would have booked another excursion.
I had pre-booked transportation from the Hampton Inn to the cruise terminal with Seattle Express. This is a family owned company and they were right on time at our hotel at 10:00 AM. They charged $ 12.00 per person to go to the terminal. It was a 24 passenger people mover bus and they stopped at a few other hotels and picked up passengers.
I really liked the Seattle Cruise Terminal. It was clean and modern looking and it was a very short walk from the shuttle drop-off to inside the terminal. A quick ride up the escalator and we dropped off our luggage. We then proceeded through walkthrough security and then waited less than five minutes to check-in with the Carnival desk and get our Sail and Sign cards. (I am still amazed at the number of people who don’t put their luggage tags on their luggage that Carnival tells you to print and the people that don’t have their passports with them or ready to present.)
We were in group 5 to board and they were already boarding group 4 when we arrived. We were on the ship in a jiffy. I’d say from the time we arrived in the parking lot to being on the ship was no more than 30 minutes. Great job Seattle!
We went directly to the Lido deck and got a bite to eat in Horatio’s buffet and started exploring the ship. We snuck down to our cabin but it really wasn’t ready. Pablo, our cabin steward saw us though and invited us to drop off our carry-ons there. We came back at 1:30 and it was completely ready.
Cruise Director John Heald
We had the famous John Heald as our cruise director. I was really excited to find that out because I had read somewhere he was assigned to the Miracle but that he would be leaving before our cruise. This was our the third cruise and John was the best cruise director we have had. He is so experienced and at ease on the stage. We attended several events where he was the MC. He is quick with his wits, has a great sense of humor and is a great communicator. On the first cruise elegant night he was highly in demand to take pictures with. John thinks he is becoming a dinosaur in the cruise director ranks because he doesn’t do all of the drinking games and limbo things, etc. I hope John continues on for a long time. He’s great at his job and those younger directors could learn a lot from him.
We had an on-board naturalist. She was present at some of the shows that John MC’d and gave a lot of good information. She spent a lot of time on the bridge and would come over the PA system occasionally to tell us of wildlife in the area. I had read some other reviews where they thought the naturalist was too obtrusive with their announcements, but I didn’t find this at all. I enjoyed her information.
We had 7:45 PM dining because early dining had filled up and we didn’t want to do the my time dining. We had a two top table and our head waiter was Kaz from Serbia. He and his crew did a fine job and we ate there every night except one when we missed because of a late on-board time at Victoria, B.C. The food was fine. I see other reviewers complaining about the Carnival food or saying it’s going downhill. We did not find that to be the case. We also ate at every place in the buffet area and they were all fine. 24 hour pizza was great and for the first time we used room service. It was nice to have a pot of coffee to enjoy out on the balcony of your cabin. You can also get sandwiches and other fare from the 24 hr free room service but we never did order any of that.
Except for one day in Skagway, we had exceptional weather. it was 65-70 degrees and people were wearing shorts. Don’t worry if you think you haven’t packed enough warm clothes. The onboard shops have jackets at a very small cost and every port was selling them too very cheap. We took two pairs of binoculars but you could buy them on board or you could rent a pair just for during the cruise. We took some tiny one person umbrellas but only used one of them on one day. Every other day was sunny. I’m sure the weather is different in the spring and fall but in July we were comfortable with just jeans, tennis shoes and a light windbreaker or sweatshirt.
Excursions and Ports
We booked three excursions through Carnival for this cruise. The first one was about the third day when we arrived at Tracy Arm fjord. A smaller two level boat came alongside and picked up about 150 people. It then motored up the fjord and got real close to the Sawyer glacier. The blueness of the ice is hard to imagine until you see it. It looks like that blue ice stuff you put in a cooler. We saw plenty of icebergs with wildlife sitting on them. The boat took us up both arms of Tracy Fjord so you get to see two glaciers. We were lucky enough to see some calving while there. The scenery in the area is just too hard to describe. Hugh snow topped mountains, rushing waterfalls, sea lions, eagles are around every bend. The boat we were on had inside places to view from with large windows or you could go out on the deck. We had beautiful weather and were just wearing light jackets. We only got cold when on deck with the boat at full speed. They have bathrooms on board and a snack bar with free hot chocolate. This was a great excursion that lasted about 2 1/2 hours. Well worth the $ 184.00 pp cost for what we got to see up close.
The next excursion we took was in Skagway. This one was not as good, mostly due to some poor weather and some bad communications. We arrived in Skagway to torrential rain. We had booked the Ultimate Yukon & White Pass Railroad Adventure at $ 215.00 pp. We met in the theatre on the ship where all Carnival excursions start out. We had trouble right away when they informed us that because of the rain and flooding, a mudslide had covered the tracks and the train could not go the whole route. They offered us an alternative excursion called the Best of Skagway. It was $ 20.00 more pp but it did have some train ride in it, a visit to Liarsville, some gold panning and a grilled salmon lunch. Since we were there and wanted to go do something, we changed to that excursion.
Things went more awry after we walked from the ship to the bus in the rain. The bus driver informed us the train ride now was being completely cut out because of the flood. He told us he figured there would be some adjustment to the price because of this. We should have just gotten off the bus at that point and returned to the ship but we didn’t. The bus left and the driver (Adam) was very friendly and did a good job in poor conditions. We drove the highway that took us just across the Canada line and then turned around and stopped for a picture moment in the rain in front of the Welcome to Alaska sign. Rushing waterfalls and raging rivers were the order of the day due to the flooding. Upon going back toward Skagway we turned off and went to Liarsville. Unfortunately, this was the lowlight of the trip. This is a little camp someone built to resemble a gold miner’s camp from the old days. It has tents and old buildings with displays. They did have some hot cider and an outdoor wood fire to greet us. They have about four people dressed up in period clothes playing a little music and trying to put on a little play in their open pole barn they call the Hippodrome. Across a little creek they have some troughs placed and they gave us each a gold pan with gravel and water in it. After a short explanation we all panned with our pre-loaded pan. Each pan has about 3 to 5 small flecks of gold you could recover and take home with you. They provide you with a small ziplock to put your gold in. After that we walked across the road to the chow place. The chicken was good, although it ran out before everyone got fed. The baked beans were not good at all. The salmon was cooked on a large grate over a wood or charcoal pit. You would go by and get your fish right off the grill. The fish was just okay.
Our bus driver gave us about an hour and a half to eat because I think he was told to kill some time. It was too much time. We were ready to go and were tired of trying to find shelter from the rain. After leaving, we had one more picture stop where you could see the port in the background. We continued into town and stopped on the main street where the Red Onion Saloon was. We were met at the door by the Madam and she took us upstairs for about a 10 minute tour of this building that used to be a brothel. After the tour we had the option to re-board the bus to return to the ship or stay in town and walk back to the ship about a 1/2 mile away. We opted to stay in town. We never got to ride the train but did see it come and go several times with people aboard and wondered how that could be. More about that later.
The town of Skagway was nice to walk around in and since it was the 4th of July they had a street fair going on. They had tug of wars, arm wrestling matches and other events, all dampened by the falling rain. We ate in town at a Thai restaurant. We seem to locate them in every town.
We walked back to the ship and later in the evening lined up at the shore excursion desk to find out how the discount/refund was going to work since we didn’t get to ride the train. Riding the train was our main goal and we didn’t get to do it. There were a lot of mad people in line and some shouting as the Carnival employees tried to explain how it would be handled. Some people were mad because their bus driver never told them the train deal had been completely cancelled until after they left the dock. Some of them were dramatic and tried to say they felt captive on the bus and that Carnival had not told them everything they knew. We didn’t feel that way but were really disappointed there was no train ride and felt the Liarsville part was not very good. The bottom line was that Carnival refunded 50% of the excursion. That didn’t satisfy everyone and while we would have liked more, we did have a bus ride, a trip to Canada, lunch at Liarsville and the short Red Onion tour. It was never really explained to us why we saw other people riding the train. We suspected maybe the train was just going so far up the track to the mudslide and then backing back down. Oh well, maybe next time.
We arrived at Juneau the next day and it was a great port. We had booked the Whalewatching and Wildlife Quest tour at $ 150.00 pp. Busses pick you up right off the gangway and took us to a marina about 15 minutes away. On the way you see eagles everywhere. They hang out on the downtown buildings, in the trees and in fields. They’re everywhere. We boarded our excursion boat with Allen marine tours. It was the same company and same kind of boat we had boarded back in Tracy Arm Fjord. We motored out about 15 or 20 minutes until we saw our first whales. We saw an unbelievable amount of whales. I took about 200 photos. Again, the scenery is outstanding. Beautiful snow capped mountains, lighthouses, waterfalls, sea lions, eagles, and lots of whales. it was a great time and well worth the money. Upon return we opted to be let off in town rather than ride all the way to our ship. We did the usual souvenir shopping and headed back to the ship. Right there at the dock just a few feet from the ship is a place called Tracy’s King Crab Shack. It’s an outdoor place where you order at the counter and they bring your order out and yell your name. It’s open air seating at picnic tables underneath some pole barn roofs. The food was outstanding. Fresh King Crab is very good. I was always more a snow crab fan but must say this was excellent. We had some of their chowder and scallops and it was very good too. Even though we could have gotten free food on the ship just a few feet away, we opted for the crab place and were not sorry.
Victoria, B.C., Canada
After 1 1/2 sea days we arrived at our last port. We were supposed to port at 3:00 PM but didn’t arrive until around 5:30.
This was because the night before the Canadian coast guard had to evacuate an ill passenger via helicopter hovering over the ship. Our ship had gone off its route trying to get the passenger closer to a coast guard cutter but when the passenger worsened, they sent out a helicopter. The people that witnessed it said it was quite an operation as the ship kept underway and the helicopter hovered in thick fog above and retrieved the passenger with a cable and a basket. I’m sure the relatives on the ship were beside themselves since none of them were allowed to go because of the helicopter capacity.
Two days earlier, the United States Coast Guard pulled alongside us and evacuated a different ill passenger. Hats off to Carnival and the two coast guards for taking care of things. Being late to port was a small price to pay for the well being of those passengers. It’s comforting to know there is a plan because my my family or I might need it sometime.
Back to Victoria…
What a nice port. It’s a very clean and picturesque place. We had not made any prior plans so just got off the ship and started talking with the different vendors. There were lots of things we could have done such as taking a guided pedicab around the City, or an Orca watching tour, or a water taxi but we just got on the double decker bus for $ 10.00 and rode into the downtown area about a mile away. They let you off downtown and then a bus returns to the ship every 20 minutes or so. We explored the shops and made it down to the marina that had street performers, vendors and musicians around. We opted to eat at the Milestones Bar and Grill, an indoor/outdoor dining spot at the Marina. We had a great meal there and free wi-fi. Speaking of wi-fi, we also got free wi-fi in the downtown area provided by the City of Victoria. We returned to the ship about 10:00 PM ahead of the 10:30 deadline and the ship left at 11:00 PM.
Arrival Back at Seattle
We arrived back at Seattle at 7:00 AM on Tuesday, July 8. For the first time we opted for the self debarking where you carry your own luggage off the ship. It’s taken us 3 cruises to finally get the right type of luggage for this. We now have the largest size bags the airlines allow and they are both spinner type with four wheels. We are able to get everything we need for up to 10 days of travel in these bags. We also take a small backpack that we carry on the plane and on excursions. Anyway, with the kind of bags we now have, self-debarking is the way to go. We were off the ship and through customs in 10 minutes by 8:00 AM.
Seattle Express was waiting for us at the port to take us to SeaTac airport. Again it was $ 12.00 pp. We were at the airport before 9:00 AM and used curbside baggage at American airlines. We were somehow cleared for the TSA pre-check so security was really fast and we were in and waiting for our 1:30 flight. SeaTac has a really nice airport and in their main area they have a food court and a huge panoramic window of the runway. They even provide rocking chairs to sit in and look out. My wife and I got food from two different places and believe it or not, it was some of the best seafood we had on our trip. I had a dungeness crab cocktail and some chowder and she just had some chowder. The chowders were different but both very good.
So sorry to go on and on about this trip but I figure that’s what people sign-on here for. It was a great trip and one that we will consider doing again in a few years. I would love to take more of my family on this one. I borrowed a digital SLR camera from a friend and took over 800 photos. Be sure to take a good camera so you don’t miss out. Less
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Cabin review: 7299
Cabin 7299I had researched this cabin a little and can tell you we really liked it. It’s a category 9b cabin on the starboard side and it shares a wall with the side of the aft elevators. Some people might be worried about elevator noise or dinging of doors opening but I can tell you we never heard anything. I loved the location because once I got off the elevator it was the next door down to our cabin. Very quick and easy to find. The other things I liked about this cabin was the layout and the balcony. The room is bigger than standard balconies and it is kinda L shaped instead of the standard shotgun layout. We had a lot of extra room from the foot of our bed over to the counters and an extra chair in there. Instead of just the standard two balcony windows, we had a third window. The balcony was very large, about 12 feet long. it had two chairs and two loungers and a side table. Lots of room. Being at the aft elevator area, it was just a short elevator ride either to the downstairs dining room or upstairs to the Serenity deck. In the future, I will try and book this cabin on any other Carnival ships with the same layout. Pablo kept our cabin neat along with bringing ice every evening and Carnival still does the turn-down service every night where you get your towel animal, chocolates and the next day’s Program of events.