Review of Carnival Miracle 6-20 to 28.
Background: Me - 6 previous cruises - last cruise 1991 Celebrity Horizon. DW - 1 previous cruise. DD (9 turned 10 onboard) and DS (13) - first cruise. Mom and Dad - 5th cruise
Embarkation: We left for the pier around 11:15 a.m. and the drive in from Jersey took about a half an hour. There was a little traffic getting through the tunnel. No problem finding a porter to take our bags. Parking was also very easy. Once in the terminal we were told that they were already checking people in and allowing us to board. This went very smoothly and we were on board by 12:45.
Even though the corridor doors were closed, we decided to make our way to our cabins to drop off our carry-ons. They were still in the process of cleaning but our cabin steward, Ana, allowed us in. First impression of the room - Wow, what a mess this is. I don't know who was in the cabin before us but they left it a mess. There were potato chips all over the floor, paper everywhere, coffee cups on the counter tops and dishes with half eaten food(some of which also managed to make its way onto the floor). Ana had her work cut out for her!
Had lunch at Horatio's on the Lido Deck. I was concerned that once I decided what I wanted to eat, I would never find that station again. We decided to eat from the deli which was very good. My kids wanted to know if they had to pay to get more. This became an ongoing theme as they could not believe all this food was "free" especially at dinner.
We went back to our cabin around 3pm. WHAT A TRANSFORMATION!!! It looked nothing like it did 2 hours earlier. Ana and her crew did a great job. We would later find out from Ana that what we had seen was probably the cleanest the room was from any of the days on the prior cruise.
Cabin: We were in cabin 6232 which is on Empress Aft. My parents were in 6228. With 2 adults and 2 kids it could feel a little crowded but we spent a lot of time on the balcony which helped out a lot. HINT, the balcony for cabin 6232 is about 3 times longer than the standard balcony. It is right next to a supply cabinet and the balcony runs along the outside of it. Never heard any noise at all. I would definitely book this location again.
Food: Ate most breakfasts and lunches in Horatio's. This was usually good with the omelets being the best. Had breakfast one morning in the dining room but it seemed to take a long time to be served. Not much better than the buffet however, they did have some very good hash browns.
There were many choices for lunch so no one should ever be hungry. The buffet stations were usually good. The deli was always very good. I'm not sure why so many people brag about the pizza, it was usually good but never very good (except once at 2am after a long night in the casino). The Caesar chicken salad on the other hand was very good. The grill seemed to overcook everything. I could not take more than one bite of the cheeseburger. HINT, ask for a steak sandwich at the grill. They are not advertised and are only made upon request. They are very tender and excellent. We ate one lunch in the dining room. None of the food ordered was very good. Everything, fried calamari, chicken parmigiana and a cheese steak sandwich was overcooked.
Dinner in the Bacchus dining room was usually very good. We had first seating and were at table 393 on the upper level. Maybe we were just lucky but our lobster tails (yes we had two each) and fillet mignon were tender and moist. My father's fillet mignon was tough, however. Other stand outs included the escargot, lobster and crab cake (served the same night as the escargot so order both) pumpkin soup, and the pasta dishes. We ate very well needless to say. Desserts, usually my favorite part of a meal, were only ok. One warm chocolate meting cake was enough for the week.
My thirteen year old son was in heaven. He couldn't believe he could an extra serving of something if he liked it. I had previously informed Carnival that my son had food allergies. The hostess, Lois, came over each evening to review the next day's dinner menu with him. He was able to place his order for the next evening to ensure that there was no cross-contamination while preparing his dinner.
My ten year old daughter is a picky eater. She came in with the attitude that she will be eating pizza and macaroni and cheese every night. We were extremely surprised at what she ended up eating. Most evenings she had the pasta as a starter or entree. She also had different soups, rack of lamb, fillet mignon and the quail. Every night she would have the warm chocolate melting cake. Our waiter Neil and his assistant Cyrel were exceptional. Each evening they entertained our children with napkin folding and slight of hand tricks. They could not wait to get to dinner to see what these guys would do next. We did not see this happening with the other waiters at other tables. Many people commented to us on how did we get so lucky. We did tip both of them additional on the last night.
Last comments about the dining room. The dEcor does grow on you over time. My first impression was that there was a bunch of boils on the walls and ceilings. We enjoyed the singing and dancing in the dining room. It does not take place every night. We were there to have fun and this added to it. We were also not bothered by Carnival Colors. It added a little more fun to the different events on-board. The chocolate birthday cake we had one evening for my DD was fantastic. It was large enough to share with the tables around us.
Room service was always prompt especially in the morning. They always arrived at the requested time. It was great having coffee and danish on the balcony each morning. We did order the chocolate cake one evening from room service, but it was not that good.
Entertainment: We went to all the shows in the Phantom Lounge. The best was Ticket to Ride, especially the second half. We also enjoyed the tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. I don't understand people who expected this to be some type of impersonation. You had a very talented performer who sang his heart out for an hour. Generations was only ok. The male singer seemed to try to hard and "over sang" every song in my opinion. I do give credit to the dancers who were non stop the entire show as well as in other productions they appeared. One evening featured a pair of jugglers, The Village Idiots. They were hilarious. The hypnotist was only so-so; luckily he had a good bunch of people on stage for the first show. The comedian on the first night was nothing special. The guest talent show was the best I have ever seen on a cruise, Legends however was only ok.
We did got see Music Boardwalk several nights. WOW!! I agree with everyone who has written about them. HINT, make sure you see them early in the cruise before everyone starts talking about them. After the third night, you couldn't get into Frankies and Johnnies. Buster Freeze in Sam's Lounge was also enjoyable in some odd sort of way.
Ports: We did no do any excursions through Carnival. You can get much better pricing on your own.
San Juan - extremely hot, walked around a bit and did some shopping (Coach outlet - DW thought the prices were good).
St. Thomas - Toured the island with EEE Tours. This was excellent. Had time to sightsee, go shopping and go to Sapphire Beach. Kids loved the snorkeling. Fish came right up to them. We were lucky that we were the only ones on the tour bus. Definitely recommended.
Tortola - Took kids to go swimming with the dolphins. They loved every minute of it. Carnival charges $35 just to go and observe. Take a taxi; only $4 each way and no admittance fee.
Activities: Participated in many trivia contests and scavenger hunts. Even won a "Ship on a Stick". Spent too much money on Bingo and never got close to winning anything. Social hosts need to interact with the crowd more. Jennifer was the best at this. You hardly ever saw the Cruise Director.
Camp Carnival: DD participated in some activities but no much. We left her one night until 12:30am but the location in the front of the ship left her feeling nauseous. She couldn't wait to leave. DS went a few nights to a couple of late night games they played in Horatios.
Fellow Passengers: Let the fun begin. It was hard to tell who was more obnoxious; some of the young teens roaming the ship or the loud, in-your-face adults. I seen more bad behavior from adults at the pools (not the adult only pool) than the kids. We are all there to have fun but why do a few feel that they can take over an entire pool. I wouldn't let my DD go in because of their behavior. These are probably the same people who complain when they see a kid at the adult pool. As for kids, there were some that were out of control. They would make a mess in the elevators or have sugar rain down through the atrium. It always seemed to be the same group of kids.
That being said, there were plenty of good kids with caring and conscientious parents. My wife and I did not expect to let our children out of our sight at any time during this trip. However, after we met the boys my DS was hanging around with, we gave him some leeway. This was as long as he was participating in some activity and not roaming the halls. My son knows the consequences. So he was able to go to Horatio's at 11:30pm to play Texas Hold'Em or some other game. To our knowledge, he always came straight back to the room. Several of our fellow cruisers made comments to us throughout the trip that they had seen my son and his new friends the night before and that they were not part of the group causing havoc. As I told his, you never know who is watching. For the most part, my DD stayed with us especially at night. She did not have sign out privileges at Camp Carnival. We did allow her to stay in Mad Hatters for karaoke while we were right upstairs in the Phantom. Know your child and what is best for you. Be flexible. There should be no difference in they way they behave at home and on vacation.
Misc: We found the ship very easy to get around. Everything was laid out very well. The overall dEcor was fun and worked well. Drinks were not that expensive especially if you stick to the drink of the day (not in the souvenir glass). We also enjoyed the margarita and martini bars set up on different evenings.
The lido deck party was nothing special. The food, other than the fruit, did not look all that appetizing. The gala buffet is worth a visit.
I loved the casino. Spent most sea nights at Caribbean Stud. Ended up winning overall (even after all the money spent on Bingo and scratch off tickets).
Disembarkation: Extremely easy. After breakfast waited approximately an hour for our color to be called. Off the ship by 10:30, leaving parking lot at 10:40. This is when it goes down hill. There was at least a 40 minute back-up through the Lincoln Tunnel. We decided to make our way to the George Washington Bridge. Traffic going uptown was not much better. We tried to get back onto the West Side Hwy (12th Ave.) to go north, but could only go southbound (back towards the cruise terminal). Once I got onto 12th Ave and as I was making my way into the left lane (yes, I know you can see it coming, wish I did) CRASH!!. Not sure who was responsible but thank goodness no one was hurt. This happened at 11:35 at 12th Ave and 50th St. For those who know the location, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TERMINAL. After driving for an hour I was back where I started but now with damage to my van. The police finally arrived around 12:30, filled out reports and let us on our way. From this point we were home within a half hour.
Overall: This was a great vacation. We will definitely travel Carnival again. For the most part, it exceeded our expectations. My kids have already informed us that this is the only type of vacation they want to do in the future. This far exceeded Hershey, Disney, the Jersey Shore or anywhere else we have taken them (except maybe Vegas which they loved).