Background: My husband and I traveled with a group of 8 people (six adults and two children - 16 and 10 years old). This was my third cruise, my husband's second. We cruised together last year on the Norwegian Dawn.
Travel to port of embarkation: We chose to leave out of New York because my husband's parents don't like to fly (they live 30 minutes from the port). We hired a limo/van to take us Sunday morning. My husband and I chose to fill out all our paperwork online because we thought it would expedite the check-in process.
We arrived at the port about noon. A porter immediately took our bags and directed us inside. Once inside I didn't see any special signage for those who filled out their FunPass ahead of time nor did I see a line for previous cruisers of Carnival. There were very few staff members inside the terminal directing. Essentially there were four waiting areas. One waiting area would fill up and they would rope it off. Second one would fill up, etc. They didn't move anyone into the next waiting area until it was completely cleared. Each waiting area was very large and once the staff moved people it became like moving cattle - hundreds of people trying to get out an opening in the ropes that was set for two people to walk side-by-side. My father-in-law uses a cane and as my husband was moving the stanchions apart so his dad could move more freely he got reprimanded by the terminal staff. It was only then that we found out about handicapped check-in.
Once you got through the initial screening you were separated into lines based on your cabin numbers to give your credit card, get your Sign and Sail card, etc. Despite us filling out all the paperwork online we still had to fill out a customs declaration card for Tortola. Once you finished at that desk you went in another line to board the ship (this is where your picture was taken).
Overall check-in took about an hour and a half. The staff claimed it was because a lot of people didn't have passports despite passports not being required. Apparently there was extra paperwork that needed to be filled out if you had your birth certificate. Our entire party had passports.
We boarded the ship about 1:30 p.m. and went straight to our rooms.
Ship: My initial impression of the ship was that it was very gaudy, just like other reviews. Everything was themed, right down to the hallways by all the staterooms. The worst room of all was the "Mad Hatter's Ball" which was decorated with red hearts all over the place and extra large white rabbits on the walls. The Bacchus Dining Room was a sight to be seen - two levels with tables packed in to every corner. The lights on the ceiling were shaped like grapes and there were bunches of grapes all over the place. When we booked through out travel agent she put a note to have our entire party together for dining. Unfortunately that didn't happen - the other two parties were together in the early seating (5:45 p.m.), my husband and I were in the later seating (8:15 p.m.). One quick trip to the Maitre'd fixed that.
The Phantom Lounge was beautiful, although I might have been impartial because it is modeled after the Paris Opera House & Phantom of the Opera and I love the Phantom of the Opera.
There was an adult's only pool & children's pool. A water slide that had very limited hours. There were a lot of empty chairs at each of the three pools but the chairs had items on them and no body to be found.
My husband and I both agreed there was a lack of outside space on the ship. When we were on the Dawn there were several decks where you could walk outside. On the Miracle there were only three - and you could only walk completely around on one of the decks. Everything felt very closed in and small.
Stateroom: The stateroom was of a nice size. I do have to say I like the closet space much better than the Dawn. The Miracle had three floor-to-ceiling closets with the third having four shelves. There were four additional drawers and a large cabinet next to the door to the balcony. There were a good number of hangars but I had brought about 10 extra just in case (which came in handy). The bathroom reminded me of a hospital - it was green in color. However, there was a lot of shelf space, with three tiered shelves on each side. There was shampoo & body wash in a dispenser in the shower. Each balcony had a partition that could be opened to join with the room next door (which I thought was a nice touch). My in-laws decided to open theirs with the other part of our party, my husband's aunt, uncle and their children. A word of advice though - both parties have to be present at the Purser's desk when requesting the balcony be opened. One caveat - the balcony was fastened to the railing, taking away about half the size of one of the balconies. There was a large couch/sofa in the room that pulled out. There are two drawers under the sofa that have extra linens. We took the linens out of one of the drawers and used that drawer for our dirty clothes. Our cabin steward was a doll - she cleaned the room with great precision and left us an adorable towel animal each day. Turndown was coordinated around your dinner seating each day.
Dining: We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in Horatio's, the casual buffet on the Lido deck. That left a lot to be desired. Everything was very spread out, with no one directing you to each station. For lunch there was a deli station that always had a line, a pizza station where you had to ring a bell to get service, a very small salad station, a dessert station and a themed station (each day it was a different cuisine - American, Mexican, Indian, etc). For breakfast there was an omelet station. Everything had a line and it was very difficult to find a table. I saw many couples taking up a table for six when there were plenty of deuces available. The food was not good, often cold. People would walk in front of you and cut the line and the staff wouldn't say anything.
Bacchus was good - the portions are small, like you are eating at a gourmet restaurant. Our head waiter and assistant waiter were great - after the first day they knew what "free" beverages we liked and had them on the table within minutes. The gentleman who did the bar service was excellent as well - he brought me a fantastic glass of wine each evening based on my dinner selection and remembered my husband's drink order. The food was good - it ranged from lamb to lobster to steak. One night there was Beef Wellington. The appetizers were delicious. They allowed the 10-year-old to order from the "grown-up" menu if he wanted (although he just wanted pizza every night). On the last two nights the wait staff entertained the dining room with song and dance.
My husband and I spent a lot of time at the bar right outside Bacchus on the second level. We got to know the bartenders Ally & Erwin quite well and they kept us entertained with their friendly banter. The would make fun of the bar staff as they came for their drink orders.
Room Service left a lot to be desired - the first morning they "lost" our breakfast doorknob and didn't apologize. We were then told someone would call us each morning to let us know our breakfast was on its way. That never happened. They got our order wrong on the second day. Each time you called the person who picked up the phone sounded inconvenienced that you called. On debarkation day they "ran out" of bananas and forgot the milk for our cereal and coffee. However, there was a nice selection of food, ranging from turkey and BLT and ham & cheese sandwiches to chicken fajita wraps and Caesar salad. You could also order a variety of desserts to your room in addition to bar service. Each night you had until 5 a.m. to leave your breakfast doorknob outside.
Activities: We didn't partake in a lot of the activities. We found that a lot of the activities ran together; there was a lot of overlap. Things rarely started on time. We felt a little left out of the evening activities because we had the later dinner seating. Bingo was fun. The scavenger hunt was fun. There was a "Fear Factor" and a "hairiest chest" and "belly flop" contest. On the last night of the cruise there was the "Carnival Legends" show where passengers dress up like a singer and perform a song. Go if you want a good laugh. The three social directors (Beef, Fuzzy and PeeWee) were entertaining. Lenny the Cruise Director and "Big Sexy" the assistant cruise director were entertaining as well.
Children's Clubs: The 10-year-old didn't do anything with the children's clubs. The 16-year-old went to a couple of Club 02 events (XBOX tournament, black and white party) but felt there weren't a lot of kids there (school had just started when we went).
Service: Overall I felt the service was lacking. I am a hotel manager for a five-diamond property so I am used to superior service. Staff in Horatio's had to be flagged down for silverware and to clear the tables. If you encountered staff in the hall most did not smile. There was a noticeable lack of drink service in the lounges - you had to go to the bar yourself. There were a few exceptions as previously noted.
Shore Excursions: Our group did not do one in Puerto Rico. We walked around the city for about two hours before returning to the ship - we had the entire pool and hot tub to ourselves. In St. Thomas we hired a taxi to take us to Coki beach (beautiful view but not the place for children). In Tortola we purchased the Lambert Beach Resort excursion. The resort is in need of repair - although the actual beach was beautiful. The food was OK - basically enough for one serving each.
Disembarkation: We received numbered luggage tags at turndown on the final night. We had our luggage outside by midnight. Once we arrived back in NY they let those guests who did self-assist (carry all of their luggage off themselves) go off first for about an hour. Then they started calling numbers. It was "threatened" in the disembarkation literature that if you tried to depart the ship before your number was called you would be sent back. After about an hour of waiting (and the numbers only been called to 15) we decided to leave (we were number 19). No one asked to see any proof when we left the ship. It took a while to claim our luggage between the eight people in our party. One piece ended up in the "unknown" section which caused a bit of panic. I waited in line for a porter which took about 10 minutes. Once we got outside we called out limo guy and gave him our location.
Summary: I could have done without the singing waiters at dinner. There were a lot of rude and inconsiderate passengers on the ship. Horatio's needs signage and more attentive staff. Room Service staff needs an attitude check. The activities and shows looked like they were fun but if things started on time we might have been able to attend some of them. The ship's theme grew on me during the trip. The food in Bacchus was delicious, and the service there was exquisite. The ship advertises Mojitos and you will not be disappointed. On the last day there was a martini bar set up in the lobby. Overall I was not impressed with the Miracle and its staff. However, I would be willing to give Carnival another try, on a different ship with a different itinerary and out of a different port, far from New York.