The Conquest cruise was just about perfect and we were really looking forward to as good a time on the Miracle. As I do the review, I will compare certain aspects to the Conquest.
The TA booked us at a Comfort Suites in Queens and I converted the reservation to use my Choice Hotel points. We flew in to LGA and aside from a rude flight attendant in first class, the flight was uneventful. The shuttle from the hotel picked us up quickly. He was very helpful, offering tips on where to eat close to the hotel. The hotel was on the edge of a residential, commercial area with a large Jewish cemetery across the street. We ate at a neighborhood restaurant/bar and walked through the neighborhood on the way back to the hotel. We asked at the desk about how best to get to the pier and were told we could take the subway (What!) or use a car service as taxis were not allowed to pick up guests on the property. I'm not sure whose rule that is.
On Sunday morning, after breakfast, we called down for the car service and the driver was there within 20 minutes. Upon nearing the pier, traffic got really bad and was stacked up on the Hudson Parkway (forgive me if the terminology is not exactly right). He worked his way through the traffic on the inside lanes and was able to get us up to the luggage drop-off. We later found out that in addition to there being three ships in that day, there had been a wreck near the pier and the Norwegian Spirit had run into the dock that morning, delaying Miracle's arrival. All during the cruise we talked to people whose rides to the pier (taxis or even family members) dropped them off several blocks from the pier leaving them to haul their luggage. One couple was 89 years old and their son even made them walk. Some passengers from the Spirit helped them with their luggage.
We arrived about 11:30 and found virtually no line. Within 15 minutes, we had our Sail and Sign cards and boarding pass (group 2) and had found a seat to wait for boarding. Passengers were still disembarking until about 12:30 and we finally got on about 1 p.m. On the Conquest, we were standing in the queue for over 1 ½ hours to get checked in. Galveston had about 6 agents checking in over 3000 passengers and there must have been at least 25 checking in the 2100 or so on the Miracle. We went up to the Lido Deck to Horatio's restaurant and had a DOD and some lunch. DH was laughing at the people who took the DOD from the server and returned it to him when he asked for their card!
We went to the cabin (6141, fwd, starboard, 8D) and put our carry-ons down. Muster drill was easy and unlike the Conquest, sailaway didn't occur until after the drill was completed. We went up to deck 10 for sailaway, found a couple rocking chairs that we drug to the railing and found two more DODs. The weather couldn't have been nicer and we enjoyed seeing the Statue of Liberty and sailing under the Verazanno Bridge.
We freshened up to go to dinner and that's where things started to go downhill. We had early seating with the other members of our group as there would be private shows most nights of the cruise. We got to our table (249, lower level Bacchus) and met our table mates. They were two couples from the same town in California who didn't know each other prior to that day. They knew several people in common and dinner was pretty much confined to people they knew, where they went to school, etc. One woman managed to work money into almost everything she said (how many houses they had, how much she paid for them, etc.) We didn't really feel like intruding on their good time so as soon as we finished, we went to ask for a new table assignment. We then went to the initial meeting of the group and were a little disappointed in the disorganization that followed. We got our tickets to the events for the week and returned to the cabin.
Next table assignment was 380, upper level, two other couples and two women traveling together. This was elegant night and DH had decided to wear his tux. One of the men was in a suit and the other in slacks and a blazer so we were slightly overdressed. It became obvious this wasn't a good mix either. (Before you think that we're just hard to get along with, we loved our table mates on the Conquest and looked forward to dinner every night with them.) Poor table manners and one man wanting everyone's e-mail so he could send them some X-rated e-mails were just some of the problems. We did meet some really nice people on the cruise, especially at breakfast or lunch in the dining room. We ended up eating in the Lido several nights.
The performers in the do-wop shows were for the most part, disappointing. From talking to other passengers, I found out that many of the groups perform in local clubs on the East Coast and a lot of the passengers were big fans of theirs. They were what I think you'd call "cover bands". We definitely wouldn't do that again.
Ports-San Juan, St. Thomas and Tortola. In San Juan, we walked across the street to the Sheraton and sat down in the outside bar/grill area and met a fascinating man from LA and spent several hours talking with him. St. Thomas, we docked at Havensight Mall and headed straight for our favorite jewelry store where I got a belated (by a year and a half) birthday gift. In Tortola, we took a taxi to Pusser's Rum Bar and Store for "Painkillers" on the porch.
We don't usually go to many of the production shows on the cruises and this trip was no exception. The one show we did see that we enjoyed was Happy Cole, a comedian. He was perhaps the best show I've ever seen on a cruise. Everyone who I talked to who had seen him loved him. The jugglers were mediocre, dropping several items even though the ship was docked. Jerome Dabney, a Mo-town singer, was on both of our cruises and managed to fool a good number of people with his "surprise guest".
The last day at sea the seas got really choppy and many people got sea-sick including yours truly. I have been in much rougher seas and didn't have a problem so I don't know what happened.
Debarkation was relatively painless. Upon arrival in NYC, we called the car service about a pick up and they told us to call again when we got our bags. We stayed in the cabin until almost 9 a.m. then went up to Horatio's to wait it out. At about 11:15 they finally called our number and down we went. We got a porter and the luggage and went out to call for the car. The service told DH there were "100 cabs at the pier, take one of those". So much for repeat business. It took about 10 minutes in the cab line and we were on our way. The driver seemed like he was taking the long way to get to LaGuardia but the fee was about the same as the car service so maybe he did, maybe he didn't.
In summation, I'll hit the highlights and give the advantage to one cruise or the other.
Embarkation- Advantage to the Miracle.
Cabin- 9A aft on the Conquest, 8D on the Miracle. Advantage to the Conquest for the large balcony.
Itinerary- Conquest- Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel. Miracle- San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola. Pretty much a tie.
Ship size- Conquest 2,974 passengers, Miracle 2,124 passengers. Advantage to the Conquest which didn't seem as crowded.
DEcor- Conquest-slightly gaudy but I grew to like it. Miracle- Garish, ugliest dining room I've ever seen. (DH said it reminded him of a Las Vegas Hotel in the 60's, just needed girls in togas serving drinks). Advantage-Conquest
Shows-Advantage Miracle thanks to Happy Cole. I'd go see him any opportunity I got.
Dining room steward- Advantage Conquest (Carolina who has since gone back home).
Room steward- Advantage Miracle. Maria was delightful.
Disembarkation- A tie.
Most memorable moment-Walking through Queens and seeing a memorial to a fallen Firefighter (9-11) in a yard.
Overall- Conquest- we'd go again in a heartbeat. Miracle-probably not.