As a child, my mother took me on two different Carnival cruises, both of which I hold in estranged memories regarding nothing more than free ice cream and endless soda. The time spent with her was very dear to me, but since I grew up, moved into a self-sustaining artist collective, and established my life as a young, vegan, political activist, I wouldn't exactly consider a Carnival cruise my ideal vacation. So, needless to say, when Mom called me earlier this year to tell me that the two of us would be going aboard the Carnival Miracle in November, I was a little hesitant. Little did I know, I was about to have the absolute best eight days of my life.
Embarkation was eerily fast. They asked to see our passports a lot, but as far as luggage searches and whatnot, the staff was incredibly polite, unlike the airport employees we encountered earlier. Upon getting on the boat, we were escorted up to Lido deck where beautifully decorated and potent beverages were offered to us left and right as we dug into the endless amounts of food all around us. It didn't take long at all before we were allowed in our stateroom, which was beautiful!! The entire ship was. I have never been impressed with Carnival's taste in decorating, but the artwork on the ship was gorgeous.
There's a spot on the boat called Gatsby's Garden that you should definitely check out. It was empty almost everytime I went in there, so I would take my guitar, sit around for an hour or so, and get the peace and quiet that it seems hard to find while sharing an interior stateroom with another person. Surprisingly, the casino stayed empty most of the time, as well, and I found myself sitting around for hours at the slot machines talking to the wonderful staff about their mother countries and life on the boat. The staff was definitely my favorite part of the shipall very intelligent, helpful, and beautiful people, to say the least.
On to the food! Being vegan was really easy on the Miracle at Horatio's, but Bacchus had very few options for me. In fact, it kind of creeped me out and was decorated like a Herpes commercial, pardon my choice in words. It was a bad scene. I would firmly recommend just hanging out on Lido deck for more options, better quality, and a more laid back atmosphere.
ADVICE: Bring a jacket. It doesn't matter that you are in the Caribbean. The boat is pretty darn cold at times. Also, don't bring your phone. You will be tempted to check your voicemail, and when you come home, you will probably have a $616 phone bill. Just saying. Also, be sure to check out the Beatles show it made me and my mother both cry. And don't buy the soda card; it's a rip off just buy two liters at the ports of call. If you are traveling with family, don't be afraid of being stuck in a cabin with them for so long there is always something to do, and they will probably be trying to ditch you for good looking men. Speaking of which, if you are traveling with your pretty, young daughter, watch after her like a hawk. My mom did, for sure. There are some pretty creepy older men on boats that prey after young girls who they try to lure into being their "escort". I was offered money SEVERAL times under the grounds of prostitution it got to the point where I didn't feel safe walking around by myself after dark. Be VERY wary, especially in the casino. A final piece of advice, take the tips off your Sail & Sign card and hand them to the staff personally. When the tip is on the card, they don't get most of it, but they work their butts off to say the least and deserve every penny that you can give them. Trust me.
The ports of call were, for the most part, awesome. Panama was incredibly filthy (which is a strong word for me to use considering I live with 12 hippies who don't bathe), and we were kind of scared for our lives when we were being chased out of town because of our light skin and had to be escorted back to the ship by a local police officer. Be wary of leaving the port here you will get stared at, pickpocketed, and probably called a couple of dirty names. Costa Rica was really wet, cold, and rainy that's all. Belize was amazing and really accommodating to Americans. We had an awesome tour guide who took us to his hand-built house to meet his family. I will definitely return to Belize in the future. We didn't do a single shore excursion at any port, but we indulged in the culture of each location in ways that I was not sure would be possible in the small amounts of time we spent in each.
Debarkation was too easy. It kind of scared me when I woke up the next morning, put my luggage on my back, went to the atrium, a door was open, and we just walked out. I almost cried having to leave the boat behind. You really get into the routine of cruising after eight days. My house has seemed filthy and unaccommodating since my vacation. I left my heart on the Carnival Miracle.