Second time to enjoy the Miracle. Picked this cruise because ports included Panama and Costa Rica. After purchase, Carnival sent a 4:00 a.m. email notifying us they were experiencing propulsion problems, were canceling these two ports, and substituting two stops in Mexico. They weren't forthcoming enough to advise us that the contract terms gave us 24 hours to cancel our cruise, but it didn't really matter because we were with a group of friends, and because of schedules and flights already purchased, we decided to make the best of it.
We understand some things are beyond Carnival's control, that cruising requires a certain amenability to change, but it did tick us off when they only compensated us for this change to a much shorter and less appealing itinerary by paying a $50 per cabin credit. Wow.
Embarkation was worse than last time. Check out what it takes to use the VIP check-in. No line.
FYI, in Cozumel there's a beach with nice chairs/umbrellas right beside the dock and shopping area. If you were on a limited budget or whatever, you could make a good day of it for free on that beach. Food and drinks were only a few steps away. We shopped and enjoyed lunch, but didn't know to bring our beach gear, and too lazy to return to the ship.
At Costa Maya, we were favorably surprised. We expected a cruise-line manufactured strip mall full of tourist shopping. But it was a nice area in the middle of nowhere, and the shopping area including a wonderful pool surrounded by tables and a walk up bar in the pool. We visited Mayan ruins, but you could make a nice day out of hanging at the pool.
Our snorkeling trip was canceled in Belize because of high winds. The tenders drop you off at a little tourist shopping village, and they seem quite intent on discouraging tourists from walking beyond this enclosed area. So-so shopping except for some of the really nice local crafts.
Our snorkeling/stingray excursion was also cancelled in Grand Cayman due to winds, but we found a substitute snorkeling outing that included a quick look at a sunken ship. Nice port area and shopping.
Aboard ship, some plusses and minuses. Staff is very friendly and attentive. Food was good, not especially exceptional in the dining room, but the noontime buffet seems better than most. We especially enjoyed the deli bar. Dining room was filled with cruisers who completely ignored formal night dress code. Of course, Carnival makes no enforcement effort; it's time to abandon the idea of formal nights. If you comply with Carnival's guidelines, you'll feel overdressed.
A big plus for us where the wonderful showers in our cabins. Large wand shower heads with really great pressure. Made the daily shower a real treat. Plenty of hot, hot water, too.
Big negative - we were seated at a table for 6 in the back of the dining room, at a window overlooking the rear of the boat. View was worthless; it was pitch dark. But there was a very annoying engine vibration in this area, and worst, the air conditioning seemed non existent. We didn't know of the problem until it was too late to switch tables, but if you're headed to the Miracle, you really should avoid this, if they've placed you here, by making a table switch upon arrival.
Bottom line, we were disappointed to miss out on Panama and Costa Rica, but the positives of great friends and reasonably good weather always trump the negatives of changes in ports. We had a good time. It was the 4th cruise for this group of 6, and we get better and better at maximizing the experience. We'll be back onboard in a year or so, but likely on another cruise line.