We just got off the Miracle this morning in NYC and we had a fantastic cruise!!! First, I want to thank everyone from cruise critic! I got so many great tips that really helped us to have a great time on our cruise!!! We are a family of four. DH and I are 47 years old and our daughters are 16 and 20. I had cruised twice before 20 yrs ago and DH and DD's had never cruised before.
Embarkation: We hired a van to take us from our home in NJ to the port in NYC. We left at 10:45am and arrived at the port about 11:30am. Since we knew there was a triathlon in NYC that day, we asked the driver to take us through the Lincoln Tunnel and it was smooth and easy.
We had put our Carnival luggage tags on all our bags and dropped them off. We went into the terminal to wait in line and waited for a while and finally got on the ship 1:15. The ship was a couple hours late getting into port due to some bad weather, so the previous cruisers got off later than usual.
Everything went very smoothly and the line moved fairly quickly. We checked in and had not filled out our Tortola cards yet so had to do that. It would be good to have that done ahead of time, although it only took a couple minutes to do it. We got our Sign and Sail cards and were happy to see that we got the dining time we wanted which was the early/main seating. So we knew we did not have to go wait in line to try to get that changed.
Our cabins were reserved with DH and I separated, with one of us with each girl. When we got on the ship, we went right to the pursers desk and waited in a short line to get extra keys for each cabin so that DH and I could be in one cabin and the girls in the other cabin. We did not have lanyards, etc. for our sign and sail cards and had no problem keeping them with us and finding them.
We loved the ship right away! We entered on deck two right near the pursers deck and the atrium. We were so excited! Went right to our cabins to drop off our carry on bags. There were stewards still cleaning some rooms but we just kept going and our rooms were ready and we dropped off our stuff. I was very impressed with both of our rooms. We had balcony cabins 5205 and 5215. We loved our cabins. I was so surprised that they were roomier than I expected and also had a lot of storage! There was one closet for long hanging clothes, one with 2 bars for short hanging clothes and one with shelves. Also there was a desk/vanity area with drawers and doors and 2 bedside tables with doors. We brought over the door shoe hangers. We never used or needed ours, but the girls used theirs for all their shoes and were glad they had it. Our room was clean and neat. I was really impressed with the use of space in the room and bathroom. The bathroom was also roomier than expected and I was happily surprised again when I saw how much counter space there was by the sink and how many shelves, etc.! The shower had good water pressure and hot water and we never had a problem with the shower curtain blowing in and sticking to us. The water never went out onto the shower floor either. We could have used some shelves or something in the shower since there was only a soap dish. They did have shampoo dispensers attached to the wall. I just put my shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, etc on the floor of the shower and that was no problem.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO BRING is a POWER STRIP AND EXTENSION CORD for each cabin. They were life savers. For our family, we had hair dryers, noise machines and fan (snoring!), ipods, cell phones, walkie talkies, etc. etc. to be charged and plugged in! There is one outlet near the vanity/desk and that is far from the heads of the beds. I even used my plug in heating pad.
We never used our bungie cords to keep our balcony doors open. Like everyone says, once you have a balcony, you will never want to go back! We LOVED our balconies!!! It was so great to sit out and see the beautiful ocean, etc. There were two chairs and a small table out there.
We were so lucky, we had 8 sunny, beautiful days!
We gave each of our room stewards $20 the first day since that is what we had decided we wanted to do and introduced ourselves to them. They all did a great job! We also gave them an extra $20 at the end of the cruise above and beyond the minimum that was charged already to our sign and sail cards. They left towel animals in both rooms every night. We had a monkey, dog, bunny, seal, duck, snake, etc.! The girls put a sign on theirs asking the steward to please leave them. I had a chance to talk a lot with our steward Watchie. She was very nice and it was so nice to learn a little bit about her. I left her a note every day thanking her, etc. and asking for anything we needed and wishing her a nice day.
We brought post it notes and walkie talkies and both came in handy. We used the post it notes to leave each other notes on where we were, etc. We even used them when we were at our pool lounges. In the beginning the walkie talkies worked well, I think we had 22 channels on ours, but then we had trouble hearing each other so we sort of stopped using them.
After we dropped our stuff in the cabins we went to deck 9 to Horatios for lunch. I was really impressed with the dEcor there and the balloon window shades! The buffet was great, so many good choices! On the first and second days we had no problem finding a table. We would always find a table first and then get our food. The lines also were not that bad on embarkation day and the first sea day. We found that we needed to go between 12 and 12:30 to be able to get a table easily and have shorter lines. I usually went to the deli and had turkey and cheese and lettuce on a roll grilled. Every day I saw Edison there making sandwiches and since I am from Edison/Metuchen, I always talked to him. And I got fruit for lunch too. There were hamburgers, pizza, fries, other sandwiches, hot food, Chinese, chicken dishes, and each day there was a different country like Italian, French, American, Mexican, etc. As everyone says, the water tasted good since it is purified, etc. or whatever you call it!
We went around exploring the ship and yes, the dEcor is a little crazy, but we really liked it! Many spots were elegant. Such as the gym and spa. We had a spa tour and there were specials if you had a treatment that day, so of course I booked one! I was not planning to get any massages since I did not know how good they would be, and I knew they would be expensive. I think there was a 15% discount for treatments performed on embarkation day. They were giving free little demos of hot stone massage and I did that and it was really nice! The first night I got a Swedish massage with Nomthi and had her for 2 other massages as well. Yes, I ended up booking 4 massages!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was addicted! The spa was so elegant and the treatment rooms were so pretty. I felt very pampered. I got to know Nomthi and even exchanged email addressed with her. It was very interesting to hear about her life in South Africa. Most of the staff on the ship seemed to be from Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa. I really made it a point to smile a them all and thank them. All the staff on the ship works very hard. I know the room stewards do not get any days off. On the last sea day there was a special where you could choose 20 minutes each of 3 treatments for $99. I got back, shoulder and neck massage/hot stone massage/feet and ankle massage. Again it was great!!! Sometimes I would go in the spa hot tub right there afterward and it was heavenly as were all the hot tubs on board although the one in the spa/gym is a lot quieter than the ones by the pools.
We loved eating in the dining room every night! We originally had thought we would like to have a table with other people, but we ended up with a booth for just the four of us and it worked out really well!!! We loved our waiter Oliver and looked forward to seeing our crew every night! The food was really delicious and service was great although a little slow, but I felt that was to be expected. The chateaubriand was excellent, as was the beef Wellington, filet mignon and on the first night there was a tasty herb chicken and penne dish. Broccoli was especially good! We were definitely big fans of the chocolate melting cake and got it every night! We will miss that!!!! The apple strudel with vanilla ice cream was delicious and so was the apple pie. Regular was better than diet. One night my husband tried something new - the chilled cream of peach which he really liked as a starter. The salads were very fresh and good. Some nights we ordered the garden salad even though it was not on the menu and they were able to bring that for us. I enjoyed the Caesar salad with the freshly grated cheese on it. Strawberry daiquiris were overly sweet. The girls got Shirley temples almost every night and liked them. The fried mozzarella starter was good. Sometimes we ordered more than one entrEe, but they said they were not allowed to bring 2 at once so they waited til we finished the first one before bringing the second one. At dessert time they brought 2 at once though. The hot rolls and bread were really good! We loved our dinners! They did not have dancing etc. with the waiters every night, just a few. I am not sure what everyone is talking about with the red, white and blue teams. It was only mentioned a few times when someone won at bingo, etc. But I am not sure what they did with that. We did not eat at Nick and Nora's since DH is not into fancy food, etc. and we loved the dining room so much. The dEcor is a bit over the top in the dining room with all those purple grapes, but we really loved it there. We had table 175 on the lower level of the dining room.We tipped our waiter, assistant waiter and dinner bartender extra above the amount already charged to our sign and sail. We took pictures with them, etc. It was explained to us at the debarkation talk that the Maitre'd is the one who is responsible for training everyone and making sure everything goes well in the dining room. Since everything went so well, we decided to tip him. They said the only reason his is not automatically charged to our sign and sail is because there was no minimum average for his position when they researched it. They said that the have started charging the other gratuities to our s and s cards to make it easier since it was becoming such a hassle for people to try to calculate how much for each person and to stand in line at the pursers desk to get change etc. And they stressed how you can get it taken off your card if you want. I was really impressed by how hard everyone on the ship works!!
I wanted the girls to wear pants, capris, skirts or dresses in the dining room, however, they don't really have a lot of those in their wardrobe and did not really end up buying a lot!!!! Oh well! So they did get away with flip flops at times and those long, nice, forties style shorts that are still above the knee. They still looked nice, but just wanted to let you know some of the reality about what can be worn.
On the first night most of our luggage did arrive before our early dinner seating, but not all. We had brought things in our carry ons in case.
We loved the sea days and were really glad we had so many sea days. It was great to be able to wake up whenever you wanted on those days and not have to be anywhere at a special time! The port days were more hectic, but enjoyable also!
Our 16 yr old went to the club O2 orientation meeting at 7:45 on embarkation night. I was really proud of her. She actually went in and stuck it out for half an hour even when there was no one to talk to. She went by herself. They sent them on a scavenger hunt and that sort of broke the ice and she met some nice friends who she hung out with the whole cruise. There was a special club O2 room on the ship which was really nice. They would show up at some of the activities but I think they mostly hung out by themselves. We asked her to be home by about 12:30 or so every night and that also seemed to be when her friends had to be in by.
We took advantage of lots of picture taking opportunities and stopped at lots of different photography backgrounds especially on the formal nights and got some nice pics that we bought. We also brought our tripod and took some nice family pics out on deck with the sunset background.
Every day I would order room service for an early breakfast. The English muffins were not on the menu but they did have them. They were ok, definitely not Thomas's, but hit the spot. The bowl of fruit and hot chocolate and ice water always hit the spot also in the morning. I loved to walk laps in the morning on deck 10 before it got too hot.
Horatios was great for breakfast and lunch every day. I really think 12 is the best time for lunch since later it gets really crowded and noisy. If you try to get a table inside at either end that is quieter. There are also tables outside near the pools. Only one day, we just gave up and brought our trays back to our rooms! I think that was the San Juan day. I always went to the omelet station and got fresh scrambled eggs since you guys had all told me to do that and that the ones that were out were not real eggs! The French toast was good and the fruit was great.
Yes, there were lots of pool chair hogs! But we never had a problem getting one if we were out by about 10am I think. If you are picky about what pool you want to be at or if you want to be right by a pool, you need to get out there early.
There are 3 pools. Sirens has kids but is quieter than the other one that has kids. I went to Sirens the first day, but got tired of the kids, so after that went to the adults only pool and liked that. They did a great job of keeping it adults only. It was great to just take a dip in the pool to cool off and they also had showers (cold!) right next to the pools and each pool had a hot tub. Sun screen is really important on the cruise!!!! And reapply!
We loved the formal nights and had fun getting dressed up! We never had the lobster so can't comment on that!
Our first port day was San Juan. It was very hot there. We got off the ship and took a taxi to the Coach bag outlet on Calle Christo. Our older daughter got something. Then we walked up to El Morro, but it had just closed. But it was still pretty to see and walk around, etc. Then we walked back around Old San Juan, got an ice cream, etc. and ended up being back on ship to go right to our 5:45 pm dinner which were were not expecting to do. Our waiter had told us that we could probably still come if we got there by 7pm. Or if later, like after 8:15, we could check and see if they could seat us, or otherwise go to the buffet.
The next day was St. Thomas. We did not get a real early start, but did get off in time to get the 10am ferry to St. John on our own. It was very easy. We got in a taxi for Trunk Bay and asked to stop at the Trunk Bay overlook to take pictures. We loved the beach. As you walk in, before you get to the beach, there are bathrooms, chair rentals, and snorkel rentals and snack bar. Although the snorkel trail was to the right, we walked all the way down to the left to the end and got a shady/sunny spot set back. There was a big sing on the tree saying it was toxic though!!!! The beach and water were unbelievably gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!! The water was crystal clear aqua colored. Just beautiful!!! It was heaven. The water was great and we really had a great day. As soon as we got there we saw a sting ray in the water, but none after that. That was a little scary! We did not end up going to the snorkel trail. And we did not go to Cinnamon Bay, so I can't compare the two. It was definitely the most beautiful beach I have ever seen, including Grand Cayman, St. Maarten, Kauai, etc.! We ate at the snack bar. We though the fries and grilled chicken sandwiches were pretty good. The girls seemed to think the hamburgers were not so good, but other people seemed to think they were fine. I think the lunch items ranged from about $5-8. It was easy to get a taxi back and we made the 3pm ferry. Since the ferries only run once an hour we did not want to wait until the last one since we had to be back on ship by 5:30pm. We had plenty of time to take a shower and get ready for our 5:45 seating.
In Tortola we had booked on our own the 10am Royal Swim to swim with the dolphins. We had a GREAT time. It was so much fun and they have lots of colorful parrots there that you can get your picture taken with as well. We each got to kiss and dance with the dolphins and do the dorsal swim and foot push. For the foot push, you lay on your stomach in the water and two of them come up behind you and push you up by your feet, so you go sailing forward with them standing up while they are pushing you! That was the most fun part! My husband took lots of pictures so we did not buy any. After the dolphin swim we left and caught a nice air conditioned taxi van and asked him to take us on a tour of the island for picture taking etc. It was about $10-12 each and very enjoyable. I did not find the hills scary at all. There were lots of great views and some cool murals depicting lots of things about the island and its history. They were starting their carnivale for 2 weeks that night. We learned that there is almost no unemployment there and there are no guns at all allowed. All the school kids have to wear uniforms.
We did go to a couple of shows. The hypnotist show was good and funny. I liked the Ticket to Ride show and had a lot fun. My husband and daughter were not so crazy about it.
The jazz combo in one of the lounge areas was good and we enjoyed listening to them. We went to Frankie and Johhny's one night early and saw Music Boardwalk and they were really good and it was great to hear all my favorite songs! It got VERY smokey in there though, so we could not stay long because of that.
At the coffee shop place I got the chocolate covered strawberries and they had a little sort of chocolate tux on them from white and dark chocolate. Very pretty looking. The first nite I had one that was in the display case and that was good. Another night they went in back to get them and they seemed kind of frozen or something and were not that great.
Sometimes I walked a few laps around deck 10 at night.
The balconies are very private.
Some nights we could see the moon with the reflection on the water and it was just beautiful.
We had smooth seas and beautiful weather.
I used the ironing board and iron in the laundry room a few times and there was never a line, etc. I did wish that I would have just sent a bunch of things out to be pressed the first day instead, because it was a hike to the laundry room.
The ladies rooms on ship have these unbelievable powerful hand dryers! You won't believe it!
We went on the Galley tour. It was nice to see and interesting but short and we did not see a lot.
Today when we debarked, everything was very easy and smooth!!! We put our bags out by midnight the night before with the same luggage tags we had on from the beginning. In the morning we got up and took lots of pictures. It was very eerie and foggy and coming into NYC it looked extremely cool!!!! Went to Horatios for breakfast about 8:30 and it was not crowded. Went back to our cabins and were supposed to be out by 9:30am which we were. There were certain areas of the ship where we were supposed to go to wait. We had our passports and s and s cards ready and our filled out customs card. We only had to do one of those per family that lives in the same household. We had checked our s and s bill on our TV's and everything looked fine and then there was a print out waiting in our mail boxes by our cabin doors that morning. We ended up going to Sam's piano bar to wait for our color to be called. There was muzak playing that was a little annoying, but not enough for us to move. If you want quiet Gatsby's Garden could be a good place to wait. I am sure there are strategic places to be so that you can get off quickly when they call your color. First they let off the self assist people and then the premier people. We were lucky. They called our color first. It was very quick and smooth. The line moved quickly, they briefly looked at our documents and swiped our card, etc. We went to the purple area and easily found a porter and our luggage and had him carry it out to wait for our car service. We really had trouble figuring out what time to arrange the car service for. They told us we could call at least 2 hours before to change the time to later if needed. We ended up having the car come at 11am and that worked out well. We were out by 10:30 and the car came early at 10:45. Had no traffic going home. A great end to a great vacation! Bring big memory cards for your digital cameras since you will take plenty of pictures!!!
We had a fantastic cruise and felt very pampered!!!! Would definitely go again on Carnival! If you have a cruise planned for the Miracle you will love it! If you have any questions please ask away!