This was my 5th cruise overall, my fourth with Carnival. I traveled with my wife Denise. (By coincidence, it also turned out that her Aunt Dot was on the cruise also, traveling with a group of friends).
The itinerary was Panama (we didn't actually go through the canal, although the ship offered excursions to it), Costa Rica and Belize.
We flew from NY to Fort Lauderdale the night before, then took a taxi to the port in the morning.
Embarkation was pretty quick compared to previous cruises. There was a little confusion with the lines, but because I walk with a cane and can't stand in lines for very long (in retrospect, I should have taken a wheelchair), they put us on the line for the disabled, which probably cut 30-45 minutes off the process. Overall, from the time we walked into the terminal until we boarded the ship, it was probably only about a half an hour.
They did the safety drill before the ship left the dock, which was new to me, but it was good to have it done with.
We had a handicapped cabin right near the elevators towards the back of the ship, which turned out to be a great location. We had originally booked a handicapped cabin at a lower fare, but for some strange reason, it was all the way in the front of the ship, a bit of a walk from the elevators and about as far as you could get from the dining room, but when we looked up where it was, we paid for an upgrade, which turned out to be a good room. Our actual cabin was spacious. There was a window, although it only overlooked the lifeboats. It was a quick elevator ride down to the dining room, or the Gotham Lounge, where we spent alot of time.
We DID have a problem one morning with what seemed to be varnish fumes they woke my wife out of a dead sleep, and made the cabin unpleasant to be in for about an hour. (We later became pretty sure the fumes were from something they did in the Gotham Lounge that morning, which was one deck directly below our room). But we reported the problem, and whether they actually did something, or just by chance, it never happened again.
The demographic seemed to skew older than the average Carnival cruise for this trip, and there were fewer first time cruisers and people with children than on the average Caribbean cruise. For whatever reason, it was a particularly friendly group too.
The staff, as usual on a Carnival ship, was mostly very polite and helpful, although there were one or two bad apples mixed in.
I liked the itinerary, although there was one disappointment, which I'll get to in a minute. In Panama, my wife and I both took the Panama City tour. The buses were a little small and cramped, but we had a wonderful tour guide named Jeronimo, who was both extremely knowledgeable and very friendly and personable. He knew anything you could want to know about Panama, its history, the canal and how it operates, etc. He obviously had a great deal of pride in his country, and it made it an enjoyable tour. I'd gladly go back to Panama.
I was particularly looking forward to Costa Rica, but unfortunately, the day we were there, it poured like crazy. We were supposed to take a boat excursion, but the weather was so bad we decided to skip it. The purser's office refunded our money (they weren't happy but they did it), and my wife used the extra cash for a spa treatment, which she enjoyed immensely. I couldn't be too upset in retrospect, when you vacation in a rain forest, you shouldn't be shocked if it rains. I hope to come back to see Costa Rica some other time.
The weather was better in Belize. We had to tender into shore for the excursions, but the tendering process was fast and easy. I took a Belize city tour, which was actually kind of lame there didn't seem to be a whole lot to see. But it was a nice day, the bus was big and comfortable, and it was good to get off the boat and stretch my legs. My wife took an excursion to the Mayan ruins, which she said was pretty interesting.
The trip had 4 sea days, which I loved. I spent my afternoons relaxing, reading, attending tea time, etc.
I loved the boat itself. I had heard from several other Carnival cruisers that the Spirit class ships such as the Miracle were their favorites, and now that I've sailed one, I'm inclined to agree. They're smaller and more navigable than say the Victory or the Freedom. The decor was typical Carnival, which never bothered me I know it's gaudy, but I kind of like it. I especially liked the Bacchus dining room, with its purple grape theme.
We had the late seating for dinner. Our waiters, Rasmini and Edward were first rate. I also found the food to be especially good on this trip, although my wife thought it was no better or worse than on previous cruises. I had a grouper dinner one night that was especially tasty. The 24-hour pizzeria is also very good, and the deli sandwich counter on the Lido deck made some excellent sandwiches for lunch.
We didn't catch any of the big lounge production shows this trip they didn't fit into our schedule well, and we had seen the Beatles-themed show on the Freedom last year. I did enjoy the afternoon Christmas show, though.
As far as lounge entertainment goes, we especially enjoyed Scott the guitarist he has an expansive repertoire that we only just scratched the surface of on an 8-day cruise. I also really enjoyed the classical trio. Sad note, though I heard from a fellow passenger that Carnival is planning to do away the the classical and jazz acts on their ships. When the current ones' contacts run out, they won't be renewed. So if you enjoy classical and/or jazz music on your cruise, better let Carnival know.
The casino was smallish, and I thought they had a poor selection of video slots they didn't really have any of my favorites. They did have some good low-minimum roulette, which is where I wound up spending most of my casino time.
Disembarkation was kind of disorganized I decided I'd better use a wheelchair to get off the ship, but found that when I went to the area that people who needed assistance were supposed to go to, there wasn't anyone giving info on what to do. We had to flag someone down, who finally explained the process. It was a little slow, but once we knew what was going on, it was easy enough.
Overall, we had a fun and relaxing cruise. If you're someone who is a picky traveler, this cruise might not be for you, but if you're fairly easygoing, it's a great vacation and good value for your money.