We cruised the Miracle over Spring Break. We have cruised Royal Caribbean 3 previous times and selected the Miracle because it was recommended by a family member. Suffice to say, the grass is not always greener.
On the positive side, the embarkation and debarkation in Tampa were phenomenal. Much easier than the insanity that is Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Once we got on board however, the difference between the previous Royal Caribbean cruises and this cruise became very evident.
The cabins are very nice and most of the cabins have balconies, which is a nice feature. We had 2 cabins for the five of us. If we had tried to cram us all into one, it would have been every uncomfortable. When we arrived at our cabins, the annoyances began. The first thing I saw were 2 beach towels laid on the counter wrapped with a notice that clearly stated that I was responsible for the towels and I would be charged $22 for each towel not in my cabin at the end of the week. Every time we went to the pool deck, I had to be on towel watch to make certain that my kids did not lose the towels or someone else did not take them. I never had this experience on Royal Caribbean. I found this to be very petty and it did not give me a good first impression. Additionally, there is a mandatory 15% gratuity added to all bar service. A gratuity by its nature should be optional, a reward for good service. I am usually a 20% tipper, so the staff lost out to me, but it is the point.
The pool deck was separated into 2 main pool areas, one pool area in the rear of the ship and a children's pool. The children's pool was the size of an oversized bathtub and was located in such a spot that noone ever used it. The 2 main pool areas were very congested and difficult to walk through. The rear pool deck was much more comfortable. The biggest issue I had was with the incredible amount of smoking on all the pool areas. It would seem to me that it would have been no trouble to make at least one of the sections non-smoking. We did not spend much time on the pool decks for this reason. Additionally, the pool staff was generally not very polite or accommodating
Smoking was pervasive throughout this ship. The couple in the room next to me smoked on their balcony almost constantly making it difficult for me to be out there. The casino was virtually intolerable.
The fitness room was decent. The spa was very good. I had a couple of massages done and the service was very good. The spa facilities in general were clean and well maintained.
The dining was interesting. The food in the dining room was very hot and cold. We had some excellent meals and a couple that were mediocre. Appetizers were good. Desserts were definitely their strong suit. We ordered a cake for my son's birthday and it was the best cake I've ever had. Service in the dining room was a little slow (at least for my kids), but our waiter and assistant waiter were exceptional and went out of their way to cater to our requests. The buffet restaurant was mediocre. The food was marginal and it was very congested.
The kid’s club ( Camp Carnival) was where the cruise really fell down for us. Our children have used the children’s programs on Royal Caribbean in the past and have loved it. The children’s programs here were very weak. Two of the evenings, they just took the kids to the show. How many 8-year old boys want to sit through an 1 ½ hour dance review? Also, the hours were very disjointed. My kids did not enjoy and subsequently did not go very much which was a bit of a bummer for us.
The ports (Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya) were all fine. I find all the Caribbean ports to be pretty similar and they not a make or break thing for me.
In general, I found the cruise to be disappointing. It was less expensive than the Royal Caribbean ships I’ve been on (Explorer, Navigator and Freedom), but the savings was not worth it. I would not cruise Carnival again.