We just returned from a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise out of Tampa on the Carnival Miracle (February 18 - 25, 2007. Our ports were the Grand Cayman Islands,Cozumel,Belize and Costa Maya. All in all, the trip was excellent - several steps above our last experience on Carnival.
We flew over Presidents week, with snow out of New York, so the plane ride from JFK to Tampa on Delta was chaotic, but once we got to Tampa things went well. Since it was Presidents week, the ship was full (over 2,500 passengers) and there were many children, but they were well behaved and there were plenty of activities for them.
Embarkation was well organized and went quickly. Our cabin on deck 8 was aft and had a beautiful balcony that we took full advantage of. Room was standard balcony quite well furbished. Food was excellent, a definite improvement over our previous Carnival experiences. 24-hour pizza, ice cream etc. They finally learned how to make decent coffee on a cruise ship!!! The Miracle was a bit garish for our taste, but beautiful. We had late seating in the main dining room and food and service was excellent.
We went on two shore excursions - Xcaret out of Cozumel - positively outstanding - I strongly recommend the underground river swim - and The River Wallace out of Belize and the Mayan archaeological site Altun Ha - also excellent. We took local transportation to 7 mile beach in the Grand Cayman (no need to sign up for the ships tour) We also took local transportation in Costa Maya - highly recommend doing this since it was a fun little town.
The only let down was the Cruise Director - Tory - probably the worst in our ten years of cruising. No enthusiasm and her attitude filtered down to the rest of her staff who were barely visible. Deck parties - Mardi Gras and Moctober Fest were pitiful. No band for most of the evening and poorly organized activities. There was a big hole in the daily activities from 4 pm when we left the various ports until 8pm dinner.
Our other complaint was the amount of smoking in the lounges. Our favorite was the Piano Bar with Loraine who was excellent. We could not stay for more than half an hour because Sam's was also the cigar lounge and the smoke was impossible. The Band in Frankie and Johnny's was also excellent, but again the amount of smoke made the room unbreathable. We are from New York and have gotten spoiled by having no smoking in public spaces.
Two excellent shows in the main theater. We strongly recommend "Ticket to Ride" don't miss it. There were also two Jugglers (in this day and age?) who ok. The other nights had two good comedians and one so so.
Disembarkation was well organized also. They have a new option where you may carry your our luggage off the ship is you have an early flight - very well done.
We would definitely recommend this cruise