My DH and I traveled with our 2 children- DS 11, and DD 9, and my in-laws. This was the children's 1st cruise, our second, and my in-laws have gone on too many to count. We had connecting staterooms 5107 (an extended balcony) and stateroom 5105 (an inside stateroom). The in-laws had room 5109 (also an extended balcony). We did not remove the balcony divider in order to provide some privacy during the cruise.
Embarkation - We traveled to NYC from Massachusetts by a hired driver. We arrived at the port at around 11:00 and were on board by 11:45. No major hassles. We were separated from my in-laws in the registration line and met up with them on the Lido deck around 1:00. The only problem here was that our sail and sign/room keys could not be located and we were briefly taken out of line to await new cards. The cards proved to be a problem twice more, once when ordering a bottle of wine, and once will trying to go ashore at San Juan. Each time we had to go to the Pursers/Info Desk to have them re-activated. A slight nuisance.
Lido Deck/Buffet - An abundance of food available. Typical buffet style, but better than standard. Lines were rather long at times and sometimes difficult to find a table for six, but the kids enjoyed the variety. I personally preferred the Bacchus dining room because it was more relaxing. We ate half our breakfasts and lunches at the dining room and half at the buffet. Buffet areas and tables kept very clean.
Rooms - We went to our rooms around 1:30 and they were ready for us. We had the kids room decorated with the Bon Voyage decorations and they were very excited when they saw them. It was definitely worth having the connecting staterooms rather than all four crowding into one room. There was plenty of storage space and it gave the kids an area of their own for down time. The rooms felt spacious enough and had ample closet space. Our room steward Josito and his assistant Singgih were great and very responsive to our requests. We enjoyed having the balcony. We had a few rough days at sea and I think the location of the rooms at the front of the ship led to more rocking which caused some motion sickness. Not fun but forgotten once things smoothed out.
Bacchus Dining Room - Liked the decor -it is definitely different but meshed with the theme of the ship. We had a table for six near a large porthole and were very happy with the seating. Our servers were Branislav and Iketut. Very efficient. Branislav had a serious personality and Iketut was less reserved. Enjoyed both of them immensely and felt the service was great. The food was a little bit of a disappointment. My in-laws had taken this same cruise just one year ago and felt that the quality of the meat especially had declined. It was good, but not great. We ate one evening at Nick and Nora's and it was fabulous and the food was exceptional. I wondered if the quality of the "normal" dining fare had declined in order to get more people into Nick and Nora's. The dining room entertainment was fun. My DD has peanut allergies and every evening a hostess - Jana- would come to show her the menu for the next evening to order in advance. Jana was great and my daughter felt very special.
Entertainment - We loved all of the shows and were very impressed by the talents of our fellow cruisers during the final show.
Casino - My DH and in-laws spent alot of time in the casino. All ended up the week slightly ahead. I stayed away for the most part because of the smoke but did enjoy some Roulette and Black Jack. One of our fellow cruisers won $25,000 (yes $25,000)during the voyage.
Ports of Call - San Juan, rainy day. Took an interesting bus tour that we connected with just off the pier for $20 pp. St. Thomas - partly sunny. We took the Carnival Jeep excursion. Toured the island and visited a few beaches - great day. Tortola - My DD and I swam with the dolphins and my DH & DS went to Virgin Gorda - great day.
Decor - Found the decor to be fascinating and believe the Miracle is a beautifully designed ship.
Camp Carnival - We didn't take much advantage of Camp Carnival as there was not much that the kids were interested in. My DD participated in one of the late night parties (stay up to 3 am)and really enjoyed it, but was very tired the next day. My DS was in the 12-14 age group and went to a couple activities but not many kids showed up so he was bored and after that did not want to go back. This was a little disappointing because it didn't allow my DH and I to check out much of the night life as I was not comfortable leaving them alone.
Activities - We enjoyed sitting on deck and the pools. We did not participate in many of the organized cruise activities. I did attend one of the art auctions and was surprised at the money being spent but enjoyed the experience.
Spa - Had a couples massage, a facial, and the ionithermie treatment(sp?). Enjoyed all. Very nice spa.
Fitness Center - Attended a couple fitness/health seminars. Found them informative. Fitness center always appeared busy and had a good selection of classes and machines.
Photos - What can I say, I spent a fortune on pictures. On one of the final nights we had a "goofy" picture taken of the four of us (think bunny ears, etc). It is my favorite picture from the cruise because it reflects how much fun we had.
Debarkation - I think 90% of the ship debarked by self assist. We did not choose self assist and were in the last group called to debark. We did not exit the ship until 11:00. Customs went fairly quickly. We used a porter for all of our luggage and he brought us directly to where the hired drivers were parked. Fairly painless procedure.
Aftermath - I had planned and dreamed of the cruise for so long it was disappointing to not have it to look forward to. Overall we had a fantastic time and we are already planning for the next one. Took me a few days to get rid of my sea legs and I would find myself rocking from side to side. I think a cruise if one of the best vacations you can take. Recommend to anyone that thinks that there is even a slight chance that you will get seasick to take something beforehand as a preventative measure. I had a hard time with this. I would definitely cruise Carnival again, but also want to try some other lines for comparison.