Carnival Miracle - Western Caribbean Feb 3 - 11 - Colon/Puerto Limon/Belize
Cruising : Mother and adult daughter from Toronto, Canada. Feb 2: arrived in Fort Lauderdale late evening after long flight delays and cancellations. We were suppose to arrive by noon and explore a bit of Ft Lauderdale but the snow storms in Toronto and in connection airport city of Chicago where we were to take a connecting flight to Ft Lauderdale. took this opportunity away from us. However, at O'Hare we were upgraded to First Class and this was a first for both of us. Enjoyed the meal and double shots of brandy - we had just come in from the cold, remember. At Ft L we took a shared cab ride to the hotel ($9 p/p) with 2 other cruise pax and the cabbie dropped us first. Our hotel room was great - Courtyard by Marriott on Seabreeze Boulevard. We got a corner unit and had a great view of the north/east area. We had got it on Priceline for a total of $107 if I remember right. The room was huge and I loved the body lotion they kept for guests, which I thankfully saved and dropped in my handbag on the way out. More on the lotion later. The 7-eleven is right across from the hotel and after a quick shower we went by to pick up a bottle of wine. We got a nice enough California Merlot for $10 something. Off to bed and we both slept like babies.
Feb 3: We woke up with huge grins on our faces. Today is the day we actually embark on our vacation. Had some coffee (I forgot the brand name, but the room had a fully functional coffee maker and excellent coffee). We took a cab to the cruise terminal at around 11 am and were there within 10 minutes. Cab fare was $18. Huge crowd and long queues which were handled efficiently and quickly. We were on board within 30 minutes and as we were informed that our staterooms would not be ready before 2 pm, we went up to the Lido deck and stuffed our faces with the first Carnival meal. Carnival has different food themes for the buffet area each day of the cruise something that they call Taste of Nations and the first day's theme was Italian. Lots of creamy pasta and the usual Italian fare. My daughter enjoyed the Parmesan chicken and some cheesy pasta dish. I am not into pasta so I went hunting at the other food stations. They also have a permanent "Asian" buffet station and as I have a very soft corner for anything Asian I always had something from there on my plate before looking at the 3 other buffet stations spread around on the Lido deck in close proximity to each other. Food is in plenty, however, quality is not - but then what can you expect when the cruise prices are so reasonable. Having sated ourselves and making sure that we had not missed tasting anything that looked edible on the Lido we explored the ship strolling leisurely around and got some great pics in places where the background would at other times be full of pax. We saw the dining room - a grand affair of vines and vibrant colors. We both loved it and made a mental note to read up on the Architect/designer when we got home. Yes, we are weird if that's what you are thinking, for loving the decor in the dining. We fail to see how time and time again on these reviews people seem to think that the setting or colors are gaudy. If grapes were that beautiful a color in reality, I would eat more of them. Its all in the eyes of the beholder and its all good that we all have different perceptions. Variety of opinion is the spice of life, eh ?! We saw Gatsby's Garden and it was such a lovely spot - ideal for reading or just sitting and thinking about the Great Gatsby and bringing a lump to your throat thinking about him and his tragic love story, if you are so inclined. At around 3 pm we entered our stateroom and were amazed with the size of the cabin and the ample storage room. We always travel light (two small wheelies and two carry alls) and hardly used even 30% of the storage. The upgrade fairy had kissed us long and hard and we had been upgraded from a guaranteed inside to a balcony stateroom with obstructed view. The room had a sofabed too besides the queen size twin beds.Thank you Carnival and thank you PVP at Carnival. Our room steward came knocking and introduced himself and wonder of wonders he happened to be from the exact same 1000 square kilometre spot on this planet where I started life. Okay if this smacks of special treatment from him - yup you are right ! His name was Bogdan and he and his team were super. He was an expert at towel animals and we got an anteater and an elephant and a teddy and a walrus and some others. Gotta look at the pics to refresh my memory. One disappointment I had was with the amenities that Carnival keeps in the stateroom. They are kept for you only on the first day and consist of 2 razors, sample shampoo and conditioner from L'oreal (which is used up in just one go in the shower) and 2 hand soaps and a couple of sample size toothpaste tubes. The dispensers had some yucky smelling bath gel and shampoo. No body lotion. This is where my lotion from the Marriott Courtyard came in handy as having very dry skin I cannot live a day without body lotion. Remember to add lotion, shampoo and bath gel to your list of things to take if you are cruising Carnival in staterooms which are not suites. They probably get good stuff in the suites - maybe. After the hated muster drill we relaxed a bit and checked out the TV stuff. You can see your dinner menu on TV and it was fun to check out what we would choose for dinner straight after coming back from lunch. We would laugh and say stuff like "ohhhhhhhhh I feel like a beached whale" and in the very next breath we would say "lets check out whats for dinner". This review is getting too long, but if I want to tell a story I want to tell it right and without missing out on the details, no matter how teeny weeny they happen to be. I wonder if the editor at CC will publish this in its entirety. Oh well, I can try. We had the second sitting at 8:15 pm and a nice spot it was too. However, I was more impressed with the Asian buffet station and the lunch buffet themes then I was with the quality of food in the dining room. That's just me, because firstly I am allergic to eggs and 9 times out of 10 anything that sounds French seems to have some egg protein so my choice was limited and I never touched any of the desserts that everybody raves about. I stuck to the butter pecan ice cream as that is tried and tested "no egg" ice cream I have had on other cruises and lived to tell the tale. My daughter enjoyed her desserts, especially the hazel nut chocolate cake and amaretto choc cake. She did not rave about the all time favorite melting chocolate. I warned you we were strange girlies !! We did not go for the show on the first night and after hearing reports about it realized we did not miss anything much. My daughter made a round of the lounges but did not see any action (for her action = dancing) anywhere.
Feb 4: sea day. Breakfast - the usual stuff found on every cruise. Nothing exciting. I found the bacon was deep fried and too crispy. I like mine to be pan fried. Strange again ?! After breakfast we went to the library and found that the pathetic few shelves of books were locked and the key probably thrown away in the deep seas as the library hours for checking out books are only twice a day and only 1 hr each time. I saw a Patterson I wanted to get my teeth into, however when I made the trip to the library at their second opening of the day, it was gone. I picked up a Baldacci and it worked well to put me to sleep every time I opened it. Was not lucky with books on this cruise. And get this, not only is the offering in the library skeletal, to add insult to injury, Carnival will fine you $25 for the loss or non-return of a hard cover and $10 of a paperback. If I knew about the state of the library, I would have bought an extra wheelie of books to donate. Wakey wakey and smell the coffee - whoever is in charge of the library. Also, no popular board games are found there. I believe there is just one scrabble board and a smart pax in the know had signed it out the moment the library opened on the first day and there was no hope of its return before the last day. On a previous cruise with another line, the library made copies of popular daily crosswords as many of us are addicted to crosswords. No such thing on the Miracle. Today the buffet theme for lunch was Mexican. Lots of tacos, salsa and such. Nice. Went to McGuires for the CC meet and was disappointed to find a total of 5 souls out of the band of more than 40 or so chatters we had on the roll call. Today is also the first formal night. We went to the Captain's welcome thing in the Phantom lounge and I asked for a Baileys Irish cream. I have never ever had Baileys with ice, my drink came with more ice and hardly any Baileys - never knew that people actually have Baileys diluted in this way. Live and learn, eh. For dinner both of us had Lobster with Tiger Shrimps. It was the one dish that I liked the entire cruise in the dining room. We went for the show "Generations" - was okay, nothing great. Daughter went to check out the dancing if any, I made a beeline to the cabin and sleep.
Feb 5 : second sea day. Went for the art auction preview but did not like any of the lithographs. We had missed a very good bid on a previous cruise and thought that if we found something for the same price, I would want it as my birthday gift from my daughter. Hmm next cruise probably. Today's lunch theme was Indian and boy was it good !! Excellent chicken tikka and long grain rice. Although the Indian was good, I still paid a visit to my beloved Asian station and picked up some sea food medley in bean curd sauce. Yummy. Today we tried to do a lot of stuff like going to the shops and trying to catch some activities and some aerobics and some healthy dieting/exercise talk,etc. We decided to nap a bit and the next thing we know it is way past 9 pm. No dining room for tonight. We decided to try the pizza tonight. Not a good idea. Neither of us liked it. Instead we came back and got room service to get us some sandwiches. I guess we are spoilt here in Toronto. We get the best of everything in our lovely city. Large variety of ethic foods and countless places to get great eats and thus we have learnt to compare and criticize. I think we went to the show tonight but for just a little bit as daughter wanted to see if there was any dancing going on somewhere on the ship. We found one couple dancing away in the Frankenstein Lab, it was supposed to be a Singles Mix and Mingle but there was nobody to mingle with - lol.
Feb 6: Colon, Panama. We had not booked any tour here. Plans were to just walk around the port area for a couple of hours. However, on a tip from our RS we took a cab a short ride away to a local shopping mall and got some excellent bargains. Back to ship within 4 hours and just made it for the lunch buffet before they closed at 3:30 (late close today because of port call). Today's theme was French and frankly I do not remember what they had as I am not into French cuisine. My daughter liked the fish. Visited my Asian again and had some chicken with mushrooms and baby corn with rice. Nice as usual. Tried the grill too. Burger and fries -great comfort food. I hated the juices, they are all from crystals and either they were too sweet or too sour. I did use the fruit punch guava with my rum and it was not too bad - and that was okay only because of the rum. Uhhh yes............I smuggled in a bottle of rum from Colon. It was so cheap ($4) I just had to take a chance. Fresh pineapple juice was dirt cheap in Colon and I think I paid 50 cents for a container which gave me 3 or 4 full glasses. That was good with the rum - once depleted, I had to fall back on the yucky juice machine. After dinner we went for the show. Cannot remember what it was about. Daughter made friends in the Frankie&Johnnies lounge and got to dance a bit. I went on to cabin to my rum and bed. BTW, the band at this lounge is simply great. You name it and they will play it. Great guys.
Feb 7: Limon, Costa Rica. We have booked a tour here so had to get up real early and meet the tour guide by 8 am. We did the jungle walk/banana plantation/Tortuguero canal tour with Okey Dokey tours and Carlos was our guide. Carlos is very attuned to nature and brought our attention to various flora and their shapes and plants that are used in medicines and aloe vera plants used in making soaps/shampoos etc. We saw a pet sloth and daughter carried him like a baby. The sloth looked so cute and seemed to have a permanent grin on its face. Banana plantations and fruit packing business here is cornered by Dole and Del Monte. The canal trip was nice too. We saw some herons and iguana and a pet baby alligator. Also a mother sloth carrying her young and daughter managed to get a good pic. Daughter held the baby alligator and I just sort of touched it and wondered about alligator shoes and wondered if the natural color of the skin would look good for a pair. Yeah - I am BAD. We got back to ship by 2 pm. Today lunch buffet theme was Caribbean. There was some chicken which they called "Jerked" chicken. It was nothing like the real "jerk" chicken which is totally spicy so be brave and try it - it is the white man's version of "spicy" and you won't scream for WATER - believe me. Today was a very sad day for a family cruising on the ship as a 35 yr old father drowned while saving a little boy on one of the beaches. I will not write more on this here - suffice to say the little we heard today was depressing and saddened us every time we thought of it. We skipped the show tonight - it was the passenger talent show. However you will get to see it on the telly the next day again and again and yet again..
Fri Feb 8 - sea day. Second formal night. After breakfast we bought a couple of 1 liter brandy bottles. Amazing price. 2 for less than $20. In Canada this same brand would cost 3 times more. Daughter bought a Swarovski necklace. She marks every cruise with a Swarovski piece of jewelry. We never visited the pools or gym as we live in a condominium with similar facilities. However, we tried to make some time for the spa treatment and got sidetracked by the jiggling in Lucky's Casino. We had fun at the 5 cents and 1 cent machines. Had a late lunch - the theme today was Greek. Daughter loves tsatsiki sauce and the stuff on her plate was swimming in the sauce. I took myself off to the Asian counter and got some garlic rice and lemon chicken and because I did not want to disappoint the Greek cook, I sampled a bit of the souvlaki chicken as well. Tonight is the midnight gala dinner where the souls in the kitchen labor over the ice/fruit/veg carving. Sorry to say this, but I don't like waste of any kind of food and whenever I see anything carved to look pretty, I wonder what happened to the rest of it. We did not go to view and photograph the display, however we went later when it was opened for trying out the goodies. There was a huge selection of cheese and choc cakes and a good selection of cheeses. After dinner at around midnight I went to the adult comedy show, have forgotten the name of the comedian. He was good. Daughter went dancing. I am fast and furiously about to see the bottom of the rum bottle.
Sat Feb 9 - Belize - Tendering at this port. Highly disorganized. Maybe the talk on Belize that we had not attended had told people where to go to get on the tenders. We had to go from one point to another until we were directed to the Phantom lounge from whence pax could get themselves off. The tenders take 7-10 minutes to fill up as they can take close to 200 pax in one go. We had a tour booked with Cave-tubing.com. And here's my plug for this company. They are EXCELLENT. Very informative and nicely muscled guides. Man - you need those muscles to steer the line of tubers through the still waters of the caves. On this itinerary, cave tubing is a must. Do not miss it. The shopping area around the port is a tourist trap. From all the ports we have ever visited from the time we started cruising, we never found any place as expensive as Belize. Do your shopping well before you get here. Even the liquor sold on the ship was way cheaper than sold in Belize. Some stuff that we had bought on a cruise to Alaska was sold here for 10 times what we paid for it there. Back on ship by 3 and rushed for lunch before they closed at 3:30 pm. Today's theme was American. I had some great tasting fried chicken, excellent baked potatoes with cream and cheese and daughter had same and additionally some baked fish which she found to be good too. Today is the only day I did not visit the Asian station. American was good !! We skipped dinner tonight and thought we would try the late night bistro. I must say that on a Carnival cruise it will be next to impossible for anyone to go hungry for more than a minute. The late night bistro which we had never before visited had chilli, fries, burgers and salad. Sun Feb 10 : boo hoo - last day and a sea day before we touch Ft Lauderdale early tomorrow morning. We paid a visit to the art auction and it was long, boring and tiresome in spite of the free champagne being served. Both of us have short attention spans so away we went to get our last minute pics. I wanted a pic with Frankenstein and we got some great ones. I will say it again, Miracle has the best decor I have ever seen on any ship. So sue me all you others who think it is way overdone ! The Mad Hatter's lounge brought out the kid in me and I had my daughter take a picture of me in between Hatter and the Rabbit. My daughter, the smart alec said " all in good company". I let it ride as we were on vacation anyway. We got some pics standing with the great looking posters that are all over the corridors in the stateroom decks. Mata Hari, Robin Hood, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Modesty Blaise, Philip Marlow, Phantom of the Opera, etc. We got our packing done, making sure that we got our passports from the safe and were all packed and ready in under an hour. We did not keep our wheelies outside the cabin as we will self assist to get off the ship tomorrow. We wrote out our Thank You cards for Bogdan and our two wait staff in the dining room with little extra tips. I found the Carnival staff who are eligible for tipping to be happy looking folks and very natural in their approach and chit chat - my guess is that as Carnival pre-charges you the $10 per person per day in tips, they know they will get theirs and do not have to suck up to anyone. We absolutely liked that. Hate to feel that someone is being nice to you because of what they can get out of you. One of the nights, I have forgotten which one, we caught the Ticket to Ride show. It was excellent. It was a tribute to the Beatles and it was done in a superb fashion. Also, one of the nights, there was a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. The singers were pretty good. I would like to criticize the free movies that Miracle chose to show during the 8 day trip. Can you believe only 4 movies were shown and shown over and over and over again. How much would it have cost them to show double that - hardly anything I would imagine. Mon Feb 11: Debarkation was fast and easy. We took a cab to the airport, fare was $18. All in all we had a blast. We would definitely cruise Carnival again.