My wife and I discovered 'cruising' back in the mid '80s on the now defunct Norwegian Cruise Line's NORWAY and were immediately hooked on this style of vacation. Twenty years ago it cost $1,000pp to cruise for seven days and it hasn't changed much since. Now you want to talk about an anti-inflationary way to go on vacation? At that time all a $1,000pp bought you was an inside cabin. Now that same price just bought us a eight day cruise with an extended outside balcony state-room! Compare that with time share condos and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about....and time share doesn't come with eight meals a day, Las Vegas style shows, unlimited around the clock entertainment or free room service. Some of the older liners my wife and I have been privileged to sail on are no longer with us. The Norway is sitting in Alang India awaiting demolition. The Britanis (a/k/s Belofin 1) was being towed to India when it took on water and sank. The Azure Seas (a/k/a Ocean Breeze) was run aground also while being towed to Alang for demolition. The Oceanic (a/k/a Big Red Boat) and Regal Empress are still in service but the latter is scheduled to end her service in 2010 as she will no longer meet SOLAS (safety of life at sea) standards. All the aforementioned ships had their own respective personalities. None,however, have today's sophisticated hulls for smooth sailing. They all pitched, they all rolled. Many passengers were seasick on these majestic giants. Some just realized and appreciated it was just a part of the cruising experience.
Let me say this about that: I've just signed on as a new "Cruise Critic" member solely for the purpose of giving an unbiased opinion based upon what some would consider being a seasoned cruiser. My wife and I have been cruising for over twenty years and still consider it the best vacation money can buy (hence the above title). The latest being the Carnival Miracle (voyage ending 12/01/07) and she was no exception. The Miracle is the class of her time as was the Norway the class of hers. We have cruised some pretty remarkable and historic ships through the years. Some are still in operation, some have met the end of their respective journeys....but all have had their own story to tell.
We have also sailed Carnival's Celebration, Ecstacy (twice), Valor, Glory and just recently, Miracle. All great ships with all the modern amenities and beauty. But the Miracle is by far the most beautiful! Having sailed all the ships mentioned above, I can honestly say that the Miracle is the most elegant. Carnival has done their homework on this Spirit class ship. She is smooth, comfortable and charismatic. She has the gracefulness of a ballroom dancer, is pretty from bow to stern and her crew keeps her well maintained. Miracle's crew is the friendliest I've found on any cruise ship thus far. From the stewards to the cruise director, from the bartenders to the waiters...and even the maintenance crew had a friendly 'hello' when passing by. Some crewmembers even called me by name and that is impressive considering the amount of passengers they come in contact with on a daily/weekly basis. The food is superb. The main dining room (Bacchus) is comparable to any high quality restaurant you would patronize in your local town or city. Abundant lunches are served on Lido deck and the lines move quickly at the six permanent serving stations. The food on lido deck ranges anywhere from a full out buffet to a burger or a hot dog. Any choice for lunch is tasty and well prepared. Outside McGuire's sports bar, sushi is served free on a daily basis. I've found even the 24hr pizzeria is a good choice... especially for that late night snack!
On Miracle you want for nothing. It is all there for you, all you have to do is ask. The only request that was denied on this cruise (and others I would assume) was a bucket of beer requested by our cruise mates in the Bacchus dining room. That will not fly in the dining hall...but any where else on ship it almost seems required! This ship has an elegant atrium with glass elevators but is more quaint than most other ships we've sailed. The pedestal grand piano behind the atrium bar was a nice touch to a beautiful staircase that surrounds it on each side. Carnival has not forgotten you smokers out there either. The whole starboard side of the top outside decks are smoke permitted areas. Ample smoking rooms are located inside the ship as well... such as McGuire's sports bar, Frankie & Johnny's and Sam's piano bar. Not to worry though, the smoke eaters that Miracle has located throughout these establishments keep the air quality clean and smog free. They have also done their homework in this area so that smokers and non smokers alike can enjoy these venues. The state-rooms on Miracle are 80% outside balconies, another innovation that Spirit class ships have set a new standard for. My recommendation to any cruiser: if you're going to spend the money to go on a cruise, get a balcony room, period. There is nothing like waking up in the morning and having your coffee served to you out on your own verandah while watching the ocean flow by. Sure beats the rush up on lido deck! The state-rooms are roomy and comfortable. Room stewards keep it clean and neat. They also do a great job with the towel animals!
As you may well guess by now, I am a ship person. I just love sailing on these great giants of the sea. My wife however is a port person. A ship to her is just a method of transportation to get there. To me, a port is a port...you can get there by any ship or plane. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the various islands our cruises have taken us. Cruising is a great way to "test the waters" at these exotic islands as the ship will not leave you at any one port for more than eight hours. Not enough time to really enjoy all that is available at these paradise havens. This particular one was to St. Marten, St. Kitts and St. Lucia. All were outstandingly friendly and beautiful places. I recommend anyone to visit them. However, we didn't take any shore excursions as my wife is a beach person so the only thing we did was to take a taxi to a beach at each respective island. But the beaches are beautiful and should be enjoyed by anyone who travels there. It's a great break from all the shopping your going to do! (and we did plenty of that too!). As in any cruise, you can't please everyone. We had no problem, never have. Some cruises are better than others but they all are a great way to vacation. Some people just don't get it and they should not be on a ship. If you expect total perfection, I suggest you go to the Waldorf Astoria or something and pay ten times as much money for much of the same amenities. Some of our fellow cruisers we met on this particular voyage couldn't be satisfied if you gave them a million dollars! Let's get one fact straight right now....YOU'RE ON A SHIP! Ships move! Don't go on a cruise if you think that ship won't pitch, roll and vibrate! I don't care how big they are, they will move. Frankly, I find it most enjoyable, better than sitting in some concrete building or a hotel room. If you think these ships are not going to move during your voyage....you are mistaken and may want to reconsider your choice of vacation. You may be disappointed. Seasoned cruisers already know this so I'm kind of preaching to the choir. But first time cruisers out there....if you have any problem with constant motion, I suggest you find another venue for your vacation. Most of the complaints in the cruise industry come from this one alone. Hey, it's all part of the cruising experience!
However, if you feel it is your destiny to go on a cruise, I would highly recommend Carnival's Miracle. One step aboard her meticulously kept decks and you will realize the beauty and charm this ship has to offer. I would have no problem booking a voyage on her again!