Carnival Miracle July 20 - 28, 2008
We just got back from our trip on the Miracle. We had a really good time. I thought I'd share a few thoughts with you.
Embarkation: Embarkation went very smooth. We were picked up by Dave's Limo Service at 7:30am in Philly and, I guess because it was an early Sunday morning, there was absolutely no traffic. We made it into Manhattan and to the pier by 9am. That included a small detour around a bicycle race in the main center street in front of the pier that necessitated a couple of additional turns but our driver took a shortcut he knew and we were fine in a few minutes.
We got into the terminal and were seated in the chairs to wait. We were in the 2nd row. The chairs filled up, we were ushered through the check in process and customs and were onboard by around 12. Not to bad. It went very smoothly and wasn't the big trauma I feared from what I'd read from some previous posters. No other ship crashed into the pier so I suppose there was no extra trouble for them to deal with.
Once onboard we went right up to the Lido deck to Horatio's for lunch. We walked around a bit and were able to get into our cabins by about 2:30pm. Our luggage hadn't arrived yet so we left our carry on bags and went up on deck. Muster call was around 3:30pm and after that we were up on deck again to watch the sail out of New York. I've never been on a cruise leaving from New York and, I'm sure you've heard it a zillion times but seeing the NY skyline, Ground Zero, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty really does take your breath away. Unfortunately, it went a bit downhill from there, but only temporarily.
Tropical Storm Cristobal was making his way up the East Coast and heading out to sea. Unfortunately, it was exactly where we were supposed to be going. Captain Volpi made a little detour by hugging the coast longer than planned and skirting the storm. But, we did manage to pass through the tail end of Cristobal. I hope I never have to sail through an actual storm because brushing the tail was bad enough. I, myself, didn't get sick but a lot of people did. There was a huge line at the Purser's desk for Dramamine. My DH and his mother both got sick, not throw up sick, but close. DH made it though the Captain's cocktail party but didn't make it though dinner. Half way through I had to get him to bed. But by Tuesday morning, it was very smooth sailing and the weather was perfect for the rest of the cruise.
I'm not going to go into a day by day description of what we did because I didn't take notes (not wanting to feel like I was on assignment ) and really don't remember every moment. I'll just hit some general highlights.
Ports: San Juan was fun. Since it was our first time there we really enjoyed it. We took the Walking Tour and our guide was very knowledgeable and very funny. He made the tour a lot of fun. After seeing the sights and walking through the shopping areas we stopped by Senior Frogs but it was extremely crowded and very loud, two things DH hates so we bypassed it and headed back to the ship. We ordered room service once on board and it was very good. San Juan had been very hot (thank GOD it was overcast and not bright, hot sun) and it was a lot of walking. I was glad we didn't do Senior Frogs and just had an easy night.
St. Thomas was also a lot of fun. We took the St. John Champagne Catamaran. I thought it was really fun. It was a 4 ½ hour excursion. We left the ship around 9:30am and reached the catamaran around 10:15. The catamaran took about an hour to get to Honeymoon Beach on St. John. We had a little over an hour on the beach and to snorkel then it was time to go back.
My SIL was very disappointed in this excursion. She had been on this same excursion 10 years ago while on Princess and she says it was much better then. Not having gone on that Princess excursion, I didn't have anything to compare this one to so I thought it was fine. However, when SIL checked the Princess website and this excursion when we got back she found that it is still the same as it was then, and you get almost 3 hours on the beach. I have to admit that would have been wonderful. Also, the Princess excursion is about $85 while this one was $100. But, as I said, I didn't know any of this then so I had a great time. The catamaran ride was a lot of fun, the beach was beautiful and I love to snorkel. I even saw a stingray not to far away from me. An added bonus!
The only other thing that was a bit hairy was the "bus" rides to and from the marina to get on the catamaran. The driver who took us there, mostly uphill, drove very carefully and slowly. But the driver back! The bus ride of death! We were actually all laughing wondering when the loop-d-loop was coming!
Grand Turk: The first half of this day was a bit of a let down, the second half was wonderful. We had booked the Ultimate Snorkel excursion which wasn't scheduled until 4pm so when the ship docked we walked over to Margaritaville to check it out. There was another ship (Carnival Triumph) in port and they got there about 2 hours before we did. SIL, BIL and Nephew decided to go to the beach and the Margaritaville pool. Big mistake! They were there a grand total of 20 minutes. It was HOT, extremely CROWDED and EXPENSIVE! DH and I just walked around checking out the shops then stopped for a fruit smoothie. $15 bucks for 2 smoothies! Oh well, can you spell "tourist trap"? LOL
SIL, BIL and Nephew walked around a bit in the shops while we headed back to the ship. We had a bit of lunch then headed out for our excursion. It was fantastic. Unlike St. Thomas, the boat was only a short walk from the beach and the snorkel sites only a few minutes from there. It was a 2 ½ hour excursion and we snorkeled almost the entire time. It really was a lot of fun. The one place, I believe its Horseshoe Reef is very shallow and there were tons of fish and coral and sponges and sea urchins and I saw ANOTHER sting ray, this one bigger than the one I saw in St. John. Very cool!!!
The Ship: Miracle is very pretty. I would agree with some folks that the dining room is a bit over the top but no one is telling us to decorate our homes this way and we ARE supposed to be experiencing things we wouldn't at home, right? Besides, since it's named after the god of wine, the motif fits perfectly. I didn't find one area of the ship that wasn't pretty. I especially liked Gatsby's Garden. DH and I are not really ones for the night life so we didn't spend much time in the bars but we did check out Maguire's Pub for a couple of beers and some sports on TV. We also liked Luigi who played piano in the Metropolis Lobby in the afternoons. DH won $50 in the casino on video poker. It doesn't matter that he lost it the next day, it was fun!
Shows: We saw 4 shows. We didn't go to the Welcome Aboard Show on Sunday, we were just so tired from getting up so early. But we did see Generations with the Miracle Dancers a retrospective of the music of the 40's through the 70's. It was really good. (A) That was on Monday, On Tuesday, we saw An Evening of Motown Classics with Jerome Dabney. He is a really good singer and he did more than justice to the Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and other Motown greats he sang, when he sang. This show would have been a lot better if he sang more and talked less. He was going on and on trying to get the audience involved in the music and telling stories and thanking everyone who ever played a note of music or was nice to him that I don't think he actually sang more than 5 or 6 songs. And he was really good! If he'd just shut up and sing this show could have been great (C+).
Singin' With the Big Bands, A Tribute to Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis, Jr. was also very good. Christopher Alan Graves did a very good job on a number of Frank and Sammie songs. It was really cute when he called a whole bunch of the kids from CampCarnival onto the stage when he did Candy Man. They all sang along and he gave them all candy when the song was done. It was really sweet (pun, intended! ) (B+). Finally, we saw Ticket To Ride. I am a huge Beatles fan. If there had been a Beatles trivia game on this ship I would win hands down. I was very excited to see this show. I was a bit disappointed when it started and I realized it was another show with the dancers and the orchestra and not an actual Beatles show. My disappointment was gone about 2 minutes in. It was not what I expected at all but I loved it. What a cool way to showcase the music. Another actual Beatles show would have just been another Beatles show and most of them aren't very good. This was a great way to show how great the MUSIC is without the hype of it being THE BEATLES. Does that make sense? Anyway, A+.
Food: I was just a little bit disappointed in the food. Now, before you go off on me, let me say that everything I ordered, EVERYTHING was delicious. I was not disappointed in one thing I ordered in the dining room. What did disappoint me a little (and I mean a LITTLE) was the selections. They must have gotten a great deal on chicken, shrimp and salmon because these 3 items were on every menu in one form or another. Now I like all three (well, salmon the least) but it got a bit repetitive after a couple of days. Compared to the cruise I took on Princess 9 years ago, the selections seemed a bit ordinary, food I could get anywhere. Of course, that WAS 9 years ago, times change and things are much more expensive then they were then. All in all, the food WAS very good, I just wish it had been more varied and more unique.
Horatio's was nice and a good place to get a bite for breakfast and lunch. You needed to get there in "off hours" because it gets really crowded and with all the different food stations, people getting all turned around looking for stuff, people forgetting where others in their party were sitting, it could get a bit chaotic. I especially liked the pizza and the NY deli. Good turkey wraps!
We had a reservation for Nick and Nora's for Friday night at 6pm but that was made when we were supposed to be in Tortola and leaving at 2pm. Our snorkeling excursion didn't get back to the ship until 6:30 so we changed the reservation to Thursday. But, even though we made it back from our catamaran excursion in plenty of time, the food and drinks they served on the catamaran ruined my appetite. So we canceled N&N and just went to the dining room. I think I'm going to have to book another cruise just to get to N&N's. I think, no, I know, it would have been the best meal of the week.
Staff: Our cabin steward, Victor, was very nice and so was his assistant (who's name I can't remember). There service was good but not the great I hear some people rave about. They did everything they were supposed to do, make the beds, clean towels, towel animals, etc. But I requested ice 2 times a day and he only did it once. The other times I had to ask for the afternoon bucket or we didn't get it. It's a small thing but..... The wait staff in the dining room was really good. We enjoyed the "show time" after each meal. My nephew especially enjoyed it.
Although we heard Josh (Big Sexy) the cruise director over the PA many times during the day I never saw him once (except on the TV reruns of his talks and presentations). I was a little disappointed in that. I remember on the Princess cruise we saw the cruise director and the assistant cruise directors all over the ship, always saying "hi" and "how are you enjoying your cruise?". I really liked that. I wish the Carnival staff was more on view. But, everything ran very smoothly and everyone seemed to be having fun so all was well.
Debarkation: Just like embarkation it was smooth and orderly. We decided not to self assist because SIL, BIL and Nephew had like 7 bags and an 8 year old isn't carrying big bags so then couldn't self assist. Since we were all going home in the same van it made sense to all get off the same way. We docked in NY at around 8am. Once we were cleared they started letting the self assist passengers get off 2 decks at a time. Then we were allowed to get off. We were #14 and they were letting people off in groups of five, 1 through 5, then 6 through 10 and so on. We decided to wait in our cabin with the door propped open so we could hear the announcements rather than be crowded on deck 3 or 9 or in one of the stairwells. It worked out great. We were off the ship by 10am.
The luggage was well organized by number in the terminal and it was no trouble to find ours. We were in the van and on our way home by 10:45 and we walked through our door in Philadelphia at 12:30. Not too shabby.
Anyway, there you have it. I'm sure I forgot to say tons more so if you have any questions, feel free. It was a very nice vacation and I would cruise Carnival and the Miracle again any day. Pictures to come, hopefully.