Some background: This was our 10th Carnival cruise so I was looking forward to enjoying what Platinum related perks I would receive. I cruised with my wife (were both in our early 50's) and my son and his GF. We booked in early April and got the last obstructed balcony room available (at that time). The view really wasn't obstructed as we had clear sight straight out and we definitely would consider booking this category again. My son and Gf had a 5A which was nice in that they were able to open their french doors for some air and a bit of view of the ocean.
Day of Cruise (Embarkation)....
We drove from Philadelphia to NY. Rented a car through Hertz because I had a fender bender earlier in the week and needed to leave our Jeep for repairs. Drive was fortunately uneventful . Left at 9:30 and was through Lincoln Tunnel by 11:30. Was able to turn left onto the passenger ramp and after about 5 minutes of traffic pulled up to the baggage drop off and unloaded bags and family. Returned car to Hertz on 54th street and walked back to pier (5 blocks). When I arrived the place was a zoo...passengers from previous cruise were still disembarking as ship didn't arrive until almost 10am due to weather at sea. Being platinum I asked where we should go and were directed to a big holding area in the center of the waiting room. My wife was told this was where VIP's were to stay. I quickly realized we couldn't have that many VIP's on this cruise and found out they stopped processing VIP because it was too crowded inside the terminal. Around 1:30pm they began boarding and whisked us to the front of the line. We went to the Platinum line and the Carnival Rep asked to see our tickets and ID. Asked if we had passports and I said no...Birth Certificates. She was not interested in looking at the BC's which I found odd since past cruises they always scrutinized them. She then got our Sail and Sign cards and I noticed we got late seating dining which we requested and we quickly moved forward ,got our embarkation photo taken and then had our pictures taken for the Sail and Sign card. We then boarded the ship. I would say we were on the ship in 10 minutes from once we went through security. I was pretty impressed with the quickness and organization...then again, we were at the front of the line.
Once on board we went to our cabins, dropped off our carry-ons, met our room steward and proceeded to the Lido deck for a welcome aboard Fun Ship special then a bite to eat at the buffet.
As we have cruised 3 other times on Spirit class ships...little exploring of the ship was needed other than looking at the different decor and reacquainting ourselves with some new additions (mini-golf).
The remainder of the afternoon was spent drinking and enjoying the partly sunny and warm afternoon on the deck which was a bonus as weather was supposed to be cloudy and still cool from the remnants of the N'easter the previous day.
Muster drill didn't occur until around 5pm due to late boarding of ship and we set sail at 6pm (about 2 hours late). We found it quite enjoyable to see the NY skyline and Statue of Liberty as we sailed out to sea and it did get a bit chilly and windy...but the alcohol had kicked in which helped with the chill (lol). This is the 1st time we have cruised out of NY since our Honeymoon cruise on the QEII in 1979....so the different sights were a nice change of pace instead of the normal LA, Miami and/or Ft Lauderdale area.
After sail away went down to cabin and our bags had arrived allowing us to unpack and get organized before dinner.
Proceeded to dinner and had our own table on the 2nd level (table 193). Our waiter was Walter from India and his assistant was Sudan from Nepal. Our bar server for our dinner was Marija . Food was Ok...nothing special. More on the quality of food later. Noticed menu is the same we have had for the past 3 years on previous cruises...
After dinner we walked the ship, hit the casino for awhile and turned in around midnight (early for me) as we were pretty tired from the days activity.
Coming up next will be my observations of the cruise....Instead of going day by day...I will be commenting on the specifics (cabin, food, service, platinum, type of passenger and dress, perks, ports, activities, staff, debarkation,etc)
Cabin - Was spacious and more than enough room for 2 passengers. Decor is getting a bit old (same bedspread and orange colored couch which showed some wear). Some minor wear on the edging of the table and counters...but nothing a little touchup wouldn't fix. Everything worked well and the A/C kept the cabin cool. Balcony was roomy enough for 2 chairs and table.
Bathrooms were roomy enough with storage on both sides of mirror which provided each of us our own private space. Good water pressure and never had a problem getting hot water throughout the cruise. Drains worked well as on some past cruises the shower water would backup.
TV reception was excellent throughout cruise and we had the Denver station feeds...never have figured out why Denver...but no big deal. Wife used hairdryer and said it served its purpose.
Met cabin steward on day 1 and never saw him after that. Again, not a big deal but in the past I have enjoyed the daily interaction. Neve saw him at night before dinner but our beds were always turned down with chocolates and next days capers waiting for us. Room was always kept immaculate and we had towel animals for 5 of the 8 nights. I swear he was in stealth mode. We would leave for breakfast and come back less than 30 minutes later and the room was always made up!!
Platinum Perks -
Upon arrival in our cabin a letter was waiting for us welcoming us. Received personalized stationary. Also received a Platinum gift (Carnival Thermos bottle). Had a separate station at Pursuers desk for Platinum members. This came in handy on 1st day of cruise as I needed to have our S&S card recoded to enter cabin. When I arrived there must have been 30 passengers in line ....no one was at platinum so I bypassed the line and was on my way in a few minutes. On 2 nights we received a plate of canapes and desserts delivered to our room. They called ahead and asked for the time we wanted delivered and were right on time. I received free entry ($20 savings) into slot tournament...thought it was free entry for all tournaments...but was informed only for one. No biggie...fortunately I qualified for the finals and got a free T-shirt....but came in last place in the finals (lol). Used the free laundry service once and clothes were returned in excellent shape and on time. Had VIP debarkation which was nice...more on this later. Since we docked at all our ports did not have opportunity of using priority tendering option. Look forward to using this perk in the future since we always book our own excursions and have had to wait for the Carnival excursions to tender first!!
Grade A- Dress Code/Passengers -
The Miracle was still under the old dress code. Daily Capers even said "no shorts" in the dining room. Technically I guess this was still ok. Our cruise started on 5/17 and the new dress code went into effect 5/19. For formal nights I was pleasantly surprised how dressed up everyone was. I did not bring a jacket or tie and opted for a dress shirt and dress slacks instead and felt very under dressed....Of course I did see a gentleman who wore jeans, tshirt and sneakers on formal night and he was allowed to stay.
On casual nights jeans and shorts were regularly worn by all...so I was kinda confused by the dress policy which seemed to contradict what was worn
Overall I would say the quality of dress was above average...then again we did have an older crowd on this cruise.
Majority of cruisers were middle aged. Had a group of Bally VIP's and a Vacations -to-Go singles group on board. Not a large group of children...however a fair number of older teens...(likely just out of college with family)...Also, quite a few older and handicapped passengers. Saw a handful of motorized carts in use. Well behaved group....nothing like those Spring Break cruises!!
Brent Mitchell was our CD... Have had him on past cruises so already know his style. Did his job. Big Sexy and the rest of the staff seemed to be engaged with staff regularly.
Son's GF visited infirmary and said care was very good...we even received a follow up call from Pursuers desk checking on her which was a nice touch.
Casino staff was friendly...although I can't say that for the slots or the way the cards were dealt (lol). Some winners on slots and on BJ. It seemed like the Wheel of Fortune slots were paying off the most.
Bar staff was fantastic from servers to bar tenders. Drinks were made with a heavy hand and you definitely could taste the strength of the alcohol.
Spa staff were OK but of course pushed their products constantly
Photo staff was average..a bit pushy. Didn't seem the photographers were as polished as on previous cruises and quality of pictures seemed to show that
Pursuers desk were friendly at beginning of cruise...but as week came to an end, there cooperation seemed to be more strained...but they did do their job.
Dining Staff - appeared to be overworked and were not personable at all. Our waiter and assistant waiter would disappear for long periods of time. Seemed to be disinterested. We did enjoy what interaction we had with our assistant waiter...then again he was heading home after our cruise...so I would be happy too!!
Maitre d and his staff might as well not have been there. We never saw them or saw them walk around to other tables. This was a 1st for us as we would always have some interaction with Maitre d and/or his staff. Also....being a Platinum level cruiser, you would think the Maitre d would have a list of Platinum cruisers and make an effort to stop by. Definite drop in the quality of service and attention in the dining room from past cruises.
Grade - C....would have been lower but other staff made up for dining room inefficiencies
We are not big on shows...and my wife is a early riser and usually retires early . I spent most of my time in the Casino...Did stop in Frankie and Johnnies and there was a good crowd listening and dancing to Music Unlimited. They were a good 2 man Asian group who also performed on the deck party the night we were in San Juan. The deck party was a good time with audience participation as well. Stopped into Karaoke one night because a friend we met was in the finals...seemed well attended and fun. Jason at the Piano bar had a slim crowd when I looked in. I heard mixed reviews on the shows.... but since I did not attend any, I am not in a position to comment. Did not play Bingo...been there and done that on many cruises and since I never have won...decided to spend those $$ in the Casino (lol). 2nd Half was the name of the 2 man group which provided Lido/Pool side music...They were OK. Listened to Randy and his various music in the Casino. Pleasant to listen to as background...don't think I could sit through a night of listening him as a separate show. Dr Frankenstein's disco was very popular and crowded almost every night and stayed open and rocked until 3 am (per my son and his GF). There were a few other trio's or groups which played in the Atrium and bar area outside dining room...
All in all...Carnival appeared to have all the bases covered with various types of entertainment and music types.
Port Activity -
In San Juan we chose to walk and go in the shops in Old San Juan and then go to Sr. Frogs for several yards of their frozen beverages. It was fairly crowded as the Norwegian Spirit was also in port with us. We had a good time and made it back on the ship in time for dinner. We then attended the deck party before our sailaway at midnight
In St Thomas...Since we have been there numerous times and seen all the beaches and downtown we opted to go to a private resort (Bolongo Bay) and used their facilities. $6 pp cab ride. Cost was $120 for the 4 of us which included use of all their pool, beach front, chairs and unmotorized equipment. It was very secluded and not crowded. Very clear water. It was a very relaxing day. We ate lunch at Iggie's which is a restaurant on the facility. Excellent food with large portions...Drinks were very good and reasonable as well. We then returned to pier and shopped a little at Havensight before boarding ship
In Tortola - This was our favorite stop. Very beautiful views as you cross the mountains to go to the beaches on the other side.We went to Cane Garden Bay Beach ($6 pp cab fare). Secluded and beautiful beach with several makeshift bars and a couple of restaurants. Alot of passengers were there but it never felt crowded. Wish we could have spent more time there so we could explore the Bath's and their quaint town around the port
Food... Here we go.
We ate breakfast each morning from the Lido Buffet. I found it to be very consistent and offered all your breakfast type foods and fruits. The fresh fruits were excellent...The omelettes were fantastic as we went to one of the cooks (Vivencio) each morning to make our omelette. He made an excellent omelette! Never ate the scrambled eggs...different texture at each food station. I swear it looked like oatmeal at one station and had more texture to the eggs at another station!! Pastries were pretty dry...the Apple turnover was the best of the group of pastries. French toast was good.
We also ate Lunch on the Lido. We enjoyed the Pizza throughout the cruise and the Burgers and Hot Dogs were good. Try the Hot dogs...excellent. I was not impressed with the buffet offerings...none of the menu items did anything for us....They had a daily taste of nations (different type food) but didn't look real good. So we pretty much stuck with burgers, pizza, Chinese and the deli sandwiches which were good. Salad offerings were OK.The desserts were OK...I found the tarts to be the best. For some reason lunch buffet just didn't seem up to par with previous cruises we've been on.
Ice Cream - As usual...very good. They had Strawberry soft serve frozen yogurt available on this cruise. A first for me !! During sea days they had the sundae bars with all the fixings from 3-5... Again very good!!
Dinner - We ate all our dinners in the dining room. I found the food to be below par and I was not impressed with it. Maybe the new menu will help....but they have to find out how to keep food warm. Perhaps it was upper level related and the time it takes to bus the food up after sitting around in the galley contributes to this?? We usually sit in the lower level..so just a thought/observation..... Lobsters , while sweet, were very small and I heard some people mumbling from the main sitting that they were told they ran out! (They were probably rationing enough for the late sitting). I can see now why they may have been running out based on their size! Other offerings were just OK and and never stood out. I found the food to be luke warm including the soups...and this was consistent throughout the cruise. Fish entries seemed to be the most tasty. Prime Rib..while good size was a bit fatty and again not warm. Steak was tough and when we did get a good piece of Filet....again lukewarm!! Desserts were fine...but again disappointed in the presentation. Nothing was done for cherries jubilee or baked Alaska....Just got our slab of dessert. I did hear of other tables having their dessert presented differently . I think we just had a "flat/disinterested" dining staff.
Midnight Gala buffet was laid out beautifully...but as in previous cruises...didn't find much food I liked. Then again always still full from our late dining. I think the buffet is more of a visual spectacle vs edible food entrees and items. Desserts were the best (large pieces of cakes, etc).
What started out as a quiet and leisurely morning...cruising up the Hudson River ended up as a nightmare. It was very enjoyable to be able to wakeup and view our cruise into port and see the NY skyline. As we all know...when we wake up after FL cruises...(unless you rise at 6am) you are already docked! As we neared the pier around 9am...everything was normal and the ship was carefully maneuvered into it's pier. Right behind us was the Norwegian Spirit. Since we had a aft balcony cabin...we watched the Spirit prepare to dock. She seemed to be coming in very fast and I mentioned to my wife something didn't seem right as the nose of the ship continued to get closer and closer to the other side (our side) of the pier as she turned in. Then all of a sudden alot of scraping noise, a boom and some smoke!! However ship continued to angle in and eventually was docked. Pretty interesting to watch the commotion especially see the police and custom officers on the pier on our side of the ship start yelling and running to the other side to see what was going on! Our ship wasn't cleared until approximately 10:15 partly due to having to check out the safety of the pier since we were disembarking into this area. Being VIP we were to be called after self debarkation. Self debarkation took well over an hour and according to other posters on this cruise was a complete disorganized mess. When VIP's were called we left Frankie and Johnnies lounge and quickly made it to customs which was set up in the Atrium area of the ship. There were 10 custom agent stations and I noticed large stacks of customs forms already on their desks which told me a very large number of passengers self-disembarked (I estimate 35%)...This probably caused the disembarkation mess and delays due to the large number of self debark passengers. Once we reached the custom station...the agent was very polite and asked to see our Passports. When I told him we had Birth Certificate's (BC)...he asked for our license and quickly matched the license to the BC and we moved on. (total time 2 minutes for 4 of us). We then swiped our Sail and Sign card thru the security machine one last time and exited the ship. Bags were laid out in sections by groups of numbers and we found our bags quickly. Then the fun began... I needed to take a cab to get our rental car for the return home. Outside the terminal was a zoo as people were leaving and new passengers arriving. I instructed my family to have a porter move the bags outside to the 2nd level and I would be back shortly...(don't I wish...hahah). The chances of getting a cab outside the terminal was slim to none...so I went downstairs to the lower level and crossed 12th ave and went to a cab station. Got picked up immediately and $8 later I was at Budget Rental on E 43rd. Got our vehicle and proceeded to the pier to pickup family. Took me over 30 minutes to move 500 feet on 12th avenue ...then I found out they closed the passenger terminal on ramp at 55th street. I was told they do this when 3 ships were in port (The Norwegian Dawn was also in port)...However, others said this was done to control traffic and overflow due to pier being hit...who knows what the right story was. Anyway...to make a long story short.... Traffic was backed up for 3 miles on the Parkway so I maneuvered back to the pier area using back roads (west side avenue I think). Parked on 49th street and then my family and I carried our baggage across 12th avenue to our car and we were on our way. I truly believe this was more of a nightmare for those passengers being picked up and/or being dropped off (new passengers of upcoming cruise). Had we driven and parked in the parking garage...we would have missed all of this mess and been able to immediately leave and be on our way.
Final thoughts.... The ship was immaculate and very well kept. Not a sign of rust anywhere and lots of painting during port days.. Ship never felt crowded... even at the buffet lines were only 5 or 6 deep at anytime we were around. Lido deck never felt crowded as it has 3 separate pool areas. 2 pools separated by a bar area and the the 3rd pool in the aft area of the ship. We preferred the Aft pool which was quieter and more buffered from wind. Mini golf was a fun layout when you could play without being blown overboard...Nine holes of minigolf set around the walking area.
All in all we still had a good time although the service and quality of food did not live up to our previous Carnival cruises nor our expectations, we also realize others likely had a better dining experience, so please take our comments for what there worth.... Then again 1 marginal cruise out of 10 ain't bad and we will definitely continue to sail Carnival in the future...but likely will be back on Princess for our next cruise.