This was my first Cruise experience, and I can say I was pleased beyond expectation. I was cruising with a group of 40+ people who were around the 30-40 year old range looking for "mid-life" week of partying, and just letting off steam. Carnival is sold as the "Fun Ships" and the Miracle did not disappoint, and the open bar card option for groups was perfect. There was a mix up concerning these cards that ended up being a communication problem from the Carnival rep that sat in on our group meeting and sign-up and the ship personnel. They had this handled by the second day, and the separate cards were issued to our group and the charges from the Sign and sail cards were credited.
Embarkation from Tampa. This was the one area that I felt needed some work. I had filled out my fun pass on line to expedite my arrival on the ship, but they just put everybody through the same way and it really took a lot of time to get through the lines two hours More
plus. Once on the ship it was great, and we enjoyed a great lunch at Horatio's. We had dinner at the dining room the first night because there was no dress code and our luggage had not arrived to the room yet. The food was good, and as said before the decor was a little over the top. Once we discovered the food at Horatio's was just as good or better we decided to eat there the rest of the cruise. This was not due to the dining room being sub standard, a lot of people in our group went every night and just raved about it. My Girlfriend and I decided that we are on vacation, and there will be no schedules (except excursions), or dress code for us!
Fun Day at sea. We learned very quickly that Carnival spends a lot of time making sure customers are taken care of, and are having a great time. There were lots of activities on the Lido deck and the service was quick and very friendly. On this first day we sort of picked out the places we hung out the rest of the daylight and evening part of the cruise. We tended to gravitate to the Orpheus pool on the aft deck due to the views, it is adult only, and Rolando Aquino the bartender there became our elected cruise director! I spent a lot of years in the Restaurant/Bar industry and Rolando was just OUTSTANDING.
Ship entertainment and night life. I really enjoyed the Lido deck daytime activities, but the one thing at night was the Crown Jewel of mine and most in our group was the Band "Music Boardwalk" at Frankie and Johnnie's! (Great job Enrique and gang) I missed the first night they played, but was told of how great they were and from then on never missed a night! The Bartender at Frankie and Johnnie's, Ramon Bernardo was also OUTSTANDING! I hope the next annual cruise our group does includes these very talented 4 guys from the Philippines.
Being from the Chicago area I am a self proclaimed Pizza Snob, and I am very critical of my pizza. I started hearing chatter about how great the pizza was at the 24 HR pizzeria. I was really surprised to find out that the chatter was correct! Great Pizza. My waistline has suffered too.
Grand Cayman.. We didn't do any ship sponsored excursion here. We just tendered over and took a cab to seven mile beach and enjoyed a day lounging in the sun.
Cozumel..It was a shame to see the damage to the port from the hurricane. We never left the port area because there was enough shops and fun to be had right there. Our group spent the day at Fat Tuesdays, and "suffered" the rest of the evening from over indulgence!
Belize... We did the Canoe and Wine Tasting Tour. I saw some negative reviews about this tour, and my experience was positive. It was great to see the area while canoeing through a river. The wines were "interesting", not something to write home about but different. Our tour guide through the city was excellent, as was the guide at Grans Farm who walked us through some trails and explained the local vegetation.
Costa Maya... Scuba excursion. This was the beginners Scuba for non certified divers. I have done quite a few dives before but never got certified. The outfit Carnival used was very professional (more so than I had seen in the past) I was comfortable with diving and they saw that, so they concentrated on the first timers most. A girl from our group was almost terrified to even do this but they taught her what she needed to know, and made her so comfortable that she never wanted to come back up! After our dive we took a cab to Tequila beach for the rest of the day. We had fun there, but the area is a little run down and there was a lot of litter on the shores. The area by the pier was the best of all the ports. Some vendors were very pushy, but not much different from most places in Mexico I have been.
Debarkation. No muss, no fuss. We put our bags out the night before, slept in, had a great breakfast at Horatio's, then left when we wanted to. Once we got in the line to debark it took no more than 1/2 an HR to get off the ship, pick up our luggage in the "Brown" area, clear customs, and be out on the street waiting for transportation.
In conclusion I can say my first cruise experience was great, and I can credit the whole crew of the Miracle for that. If I were to cruise without 40 other friends, and just be with my Girlfriend I might have gone to more of the ships shows, and participated in more sponsored activities, but this was the great thing about Carnival. You can do what ever you want. There is too much to do in 7 days!! Less