We are a family of four, we are in our late 30's, have 2 boys (2 & 5), and live in Long Island, NY. We are well traveled, but this was our first cruise. My parents (from FL), who are veteran cruisers (but first carnival), joined us on this voyage.
We chose this ship for convenience: we didn't want to fly with the kids and the Carnival Miracle departed right out of NY (8/15-8/23). We also liked the itinerary and had never been to Tortola. Because of bad weather, our trip was re-routed to Turks and Cacaos, Half Moon Cay and Nassau. While we were a little disappointed about this change at first, it really didn't bother us because we had smooth seas and great weather (and we gambled booking during the middle of Hurricane Season!).
We hit traffic on our way the port and did not arrive at the pier until 12:00. The scene in the Pier was a mad house. We were herded from line to line (four in total) where we waited for over 3.5 hours. I ran out of food and drinks and the kids were tired and cranky when we arrived on board at 3:45. Waiting on those lines we were able to get a look at our fellow passengers, and it was definitely a NY crowd -- the majority of people hailed from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. I felt like I was on the subway on my way to work, rather than embarking on a cruise. We got to Horatio's at 3:50, starving, and were almost turned away at a food line because of the muster drill -- my hungry kids softened the officer and he let us get them some food. Moral of the story: Get to the port in NY early to avoid a long wait.
Stateroom We booked late and were unable to get a suite - we instead got a cabin for 4 : #6225: King bed, sofa that converted into a bed and an upper berth - it was a little tight in our cabin (approx. 10 x 16) but it was pleasant, clean and the balcony was lovely. We were centrally located at midship right near the main elevator bank. We struggled with storage space and just made it. Our 5 suitcases fit neatly under the king bed with room to spare. My five year old slept in the drop down bunk - he loved it and we had no problems (we removed the ladder during the day to discourage any playing up there). We also brought a bed rail from home and this worked out well as the one provided is tiny (maybe three or four inches high and 24 inches in length). The room was clean and our Stewardess, Xiamora, was courteous and helpful. We left her a tip at the beginning and the end and she was more than accommodating. We did have some noise issues a few nights: people running up and down the halls and slamming doors at all hours.
I love good food. The food in the Buffet: B-; the food in the dining room: B+. The Service: A-. Nick and Noras: A.
The buffet on deck 9 (Horatio's) was crowded on the first day and every time we entered for lunch (we ate lunch in Horatio's everyday). There were long lines and when you got up to the front, people were always cutting in line and reaching in beside you (to get "just one more thing" to their overflowing plates). There was a good variety of food: a deli, a pizza place, a Chinese station and one special section that featured different food every day (Indian, French, and Mexican). There was also a decent salad bar and the pizza place had great Caesar salads (although we got a few frozen, wilted salads toward the end of the cruise). My kids loved the pizza, hot dogs and French fries. The fruit bar was not that great -- it usually just had melons, apples, bananas (overripe) and oranges (grapefruit for breakfast) but no grapes or berries. On the last day they had a fruit bar and that was a big hit. They always had some nice looking desserts, but I usually waited until after dinner (or tea) for my sweets so I never sampled sweets at lunch. I found the food pretty greasy and heavy in Horatios, but considering the amount they prepared every day, it was above average. There were lots and lots of people just in bathing suits, dripping wet and with bare feet. It was really gross to see all these people parade their hairy, nearly naked selves around while we were trying to get our food and eat. Tattoos, piercings and all sorts of skin issues. We always managed to get a table eventually, but it was just not a nice dining experience -- it was a bit like a feeding frenzy.
We enjoyed the Bacchus dining room for breakfast (most days) and dinner. We had an early seating in the evening which we tried to have switched to the late seating, but they were unable to accommodate us. I would have preferred a late seating, just because of the timing and the size of our meals.... We very much liked the wait staff - they worked very hard and were always smiling, courteous and entertaining. We also had a great corner table next to the window with a wonderful view of the sunset on our way to the Caribbean -- table (#301). Most meals were very good - especially the soups and appetizers. Eating in the dining room was, for the most part, civilized. The decor in the dining room was gaudy and over the top, but we got used to it - it was really the ceiling that was the most offensive thing and we were usually looking out the window. During our dinner we had a table behind us which was occupied by a mother and her two daughters. Several times during the trip she was loud and drunk and was cursing at her daughters.
Nick and Noras
This was a very nice dining experience. The food was good and the service excellent. We wanted a 7:30 seating but they could only seat us at 8:30 --- however, we observed that the restaurant was not filled to half capacity at either time. We enjoyed this experience and it was worth the additional amount ($140 after wine and coffee).
Me and my mom love to go to high tea so we couldn't wait for afternoon tea. Tea was served in the Jeeves Lounge, just off the dining room, and each day they had live classical music (chamber music). For those familiar with high tea, this was not a real high tea, but still enjoyable (this is not the Ritz Carlton). Tables were set up with napkins (no table clothes) and you were served cups of tea rather than pots. Your choice of tea was different Lipton brands (individually wrapped) presented in a wooden box. They had small cucumber sandwiches (made with cream cheese), lox on bread and assorted pastries. The scones were two cookies stuffed with cream. They had cream puffs and choc. tarts. The setting was nice but for the people (usually teens) walking through the lounge to get to the elevators. I've been to lots of high teas, and this one ranks about C-; but it was a vast improvement over the hairy chest contest.
Everywhere we went we encountered helpful smiling faces on the part of the crew. The crew was always cleaning and polishing both inside and outside and we were impressed by how clean the ship was, considering all the people and all the goings on. The crew is great and we appreciated their hard work.
At Turks and Cacos we just stayed at the beach and the pool. Mom did a little shopping and we took the kids back early before the drunks shed their clothes (and they did during the bikini contest in front of a bunch of kids). Half Moon Cay-- what a great beach for kids! Water slides and all sorts of other cool toys. Very nice for the 3-8 set. A little crowded, but such a beautiful beach. We went ashore in the early afternoon so we didn't have to deal with the crowds. We took a tender back at 3:45 and this worked out great. In Nassau we went to Paradise Island and visited Atlantis -- make sure to take a water taxi and not a ferry!
We had a very good experience at Camp Carnival. Both my 2.5 and 5 year old boys loved it. There were anywhere from 4-12 kids in the 2-5 group when we dropped the kids off (quiet in the mornings, more crowded in the evenings - we never used it in the afternoons). My eldest is shy, sweet and sensitive. I was a little worried about him, but he loved it and didn't want to leave at the end of the day. Even my 2.5 year old who loves to be with his mom ran happily to play in the playroom (although he was much more eager to leave in the evening). My kids went to camp everyday, 9am-12 (while dh and I were at the gym). They spent the afternoon with us or their grandparents and, on five evenings, went to the club for dinner and stayed until 9:30/10. We were given a phone and I called to check in on the kids each morning and evening. I instructed the counselors to call me if my kids cried or wanted to leave. (Btw, having a phone was great. We all kept in touch using it.) Whenever I picked up my two year old he had a new diaper on and they informed me of his activities. FYI - they have no food there (only cold drinks) and remember to ask for all your stuff, because on a few occasions I forgot the kids cups and blanket and had to go back down to get them. I also had to tell them not to give my kids soda b/c that is normal procedure at camp. I witnessed one incident with a little boy (about 2-3) who cried the 2x I saw him there -the counselors basically ignored him. I guess they had their hands full with the other ones. Nevertheless, we did not have any incidents and I was very happy that my boys enjoyed themselves. I tipped the counselors at the end of the cruise.
Caribbean Music with Motion on the Lido (afternoon)- too loud for our boys. A rowdy crowd of big drinkers around the pool. If it is your scene they are a good reggae band.
Sam's Piano Bar - Larry. I like this type of entertainment; low key. But this guy was terrible. He had an awful affectation of someone who goes to the UK and then tries to adopt a British accent (think Madonna). While he plays the piano well, his singing was just plain bad.
Frankie and Johnnie's -- Music Boardwalk. My husband thought they were the best cover band he's ever heard. They were good and I enjoyed them. Best entertainment on the ship.
Jazz- Matt Hadaway Trio. My husband liked these guys a lot. I thought the saxophone guy got a little carried away.
Lobby entertainment -- Lizl Strauss. Very enjoyable and calming.
Music at Nick & Noras -- somewhat cheesy keyboard and singer. This is where they should stick Larry. Have him play piano -- he plays well.
Karaoke. Not a big fan, but it attracted a big crowd.
Generations. Enjoyable show
Ticket to Ride. Good quality production. We enjoyed this - go early, sit close and bring the kids.
Jugglers - not great
Comedian - "Adult" = foul language
We did self Disembarkation, meaning we carried all our bags off the ship ourselves (unassisted). If you can do it, this is the way to go! We got in line at 8:45 and were standing in front of our parked car by 9:20!!! A little difficult to do with two kids and 5 bags, but my parents had a plane to catch so we were motivated.
We all agreed that, while we enjoyed our time together on the sea, Carnival Cruise line was not for us. Cruising is a communal experience, and we would not choose to be on board with the people who joined us on this trip. Fellow New Yorkers? We saw people who personified the worst characteristics of NY: Rude, pushy, crude and somewhat scary. We witnessed lots and lots of bad behavior. Again while the Miracle was a lovely ship and her crew pleasant and accommodating, we don't think we could bring ourselves to sail Carnival again.