Travel To The Port and Hotel We live in Central Florida and decided to drive to Fort Lauderdale the day before our cruise. We booked a room at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 through Priceline.com two days before our cruise. When we arrived at the Hyatt, we were very pleased to be in a suite on the 13th floor. Not being superstitious, the 13th floor didn't bother me. We got a great rate and I'm glad because there was a $19 fee to park the car overnight. This is OK and I will not hesitate to stay at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 again.
Embarkation We had breakfast and drove to the pier early. In fact, we were the fourth couple to enter the facility. Embarkation was simple. We checked in and were given a zone number. Since we arrived early we were in Zone 1. I really like this system. You can relax until your zone number is called which eliminates standing in a long line for hours. While we were sitting we noticed a couple that was on our roll call so we got together with them and chatted until it was time to board. We noticed them because their last post on the roll call stated they would be wearing Michigan State ball caps. Once the VIP's were on board, zone 1 was called and we were the first ones after VIP to board the ship. No lines and no problems.
The Ship We sailed on the Miracle three years ago and were happy to be back on board. The Spirit class ships are becoming our favorite class of ship. The ship isn't to big and it is easy to navigate around. We walked around the ship and quickly realized the ship was well maintained during the last three years. Up on the Lido Deck we went. We decided to sit relax have lunch and our customary 2 Pina Coladas, one for each hand (As Garth Brooks would say). Once again there weren't any lines at the Deli and our sandwiches were prepared quickly. We then sat in the pool area and looked for people from our roll call. We noticed a couple walking to a table and decided to walk over and find out if they were on our roll call. They were, so we sat and chatted with them until it was time to take our carry on luggage to our cabin. I would like to note that being able to recognize members of the roll call in the terminal and on the Lido Deck is a great way to pass the time quickly. It also allows you the opportunity to really get to know people that you have been chatting with for months.
Stateroom We had a great room. Cabin 8126 is port side balcony toward the front of the ship, close to the elevator and stairs just below the Spa. It is quiet during the evening and early morning and allows quick and easy access to and from the Lido Deck during the day. It is also allows for easy access to the Phantom Lounge, Madhatters, Sams Piano Bar, Frankie & Johnnys, Maguires Sports Pub, the Sushi Bar and the Fountainhead Cafe.
Service OK, now the tough part. I realize service is a subjective area, so I will try to compare the service areas to other cruises we have been on and not to our expectations. Overall, the service was good and met or exceeded our expectations. Our room steward was nice enough, however, he didn't come up and really introduce himself. We have two requests every cruise, bring us a clean ashtray and two red wine glasses every day. He did this so we really can't complain. Our server in the dinning room was Christian. Christian is a young man from Peru that did a very good job. The only problem that we seemed to encounter was the quickness in which we were served. There was lots of time between courses. The assistant waiter was slow and forgetful. One night my wife requested butter and sour cream with her baked potato. It never came. Manuel, the Maitre D, was fabulous. He made arrangements to have out table switched and he walked the dinning room nightly to make sure everything was satisfactory. Poolside service and service in the lounges was very good and the service in Nick & Nora's was impeccable.
Dinning We had the early seating in the Bacchus Restaurant and ate there six of the seven nights and breakfast there twice. I ate off the Spa menu every night except twice. The first cruise elegant night and the night we went to Nick & Nora's. The food in the dinning room was very good and the steaks were cooked the way we ordered them. The lobster wasn't tough and rubbery and the fish entrees were very good. For breakfast at the Bacchus Restaurant I ordered Eggs Benedict and my wife had omelette's both times. Both of our meals were very good. Our breakfasts at Horatios were OK. After all, it's a buffet. Unless we had an omelet made to order, oatmeal or grits, the food would be cold. For lunch we ate at the Deli, the Oriental station, the pizzeria and the Taste of the Nations. We wish they would have the Mongolian Grill on the Miracle and all of Carnivals fleet. All meals were acceptable and the Deli was above average as usual and so was the pizza. We ate at Nick and Nora's on our last night and had a wonderful meal. Each of us ordered the Surf & Turf and were pleased. The Fillet Mignon melted in my mouth and the lobster was fabulous. They had several choices for dessert and we chose the Chocolate Sampler. Great choice. It was sinfully good.
Entertainment Not everyone goes to the shows, but I figure that we paid for it so we might as well go and enjoy. On the First night we had the Welcome Aboard Show and the comedy of JR McCollom. The welcome aboard show is your usual show with the exception of the Cruise Director Malcolm Burn. Mr Burn is hilarious and his personality comes out every time he is on the stage. I read on cruise critic that he has a tendency to go overboard but that was not our impression. We feel like he adds a lot of entertainment to the show in our opinion. While I am on Malcolm let me digress. I do not think that a cruise director makes or breaks a cruise. Now, having said that, Malcolm Burn definitely added to our cruise experience. His wit and personality definitely were noticed and commented on by guests of all ages and backgrounds as well. He made himself available throughout the cruise and was seen pressing the flesh many times. He is by far the best cruise director we have had on our 11 cruises, 9 Carnival, so far. The comedy act was pretty good too. On the second night the Miracle cast put on the show Generations and it was fabulous. Our last cruise was with one of Carnivals competitors and we felt their shows are no way as professional or as good as Carnivals. This show put an exclamation point on that opinion. The entire show was excellent and very professionally presented. This is a show not to be missed. At midnight JR McCollum did his "R" rated show and it was pretty good. Not crude and vulgar as some shows tend to be. On night number three was a juggling act by Michael James. I felt a cold coming on so we decided to skip this show and go to our room and medicate ourselves to salvage the rest of the cruise. I heard from other passengers that the show was very good but I cannot critique the show myself. Night number four was the Singing with the Big Band show and once again we went in early because of a cold. The next night was "Mr Motown" Jerome Dabney and I was disappointed. He did a a few songs that were very slow and he never really got the crowd into the songs. He started out stating we were going to be dancing in the aisles, but we never really did. The next night was a show that we have never seen on any of our eight previous Carnival cruises, the Silent Film Skit. Our cruise director used a whistle and went about choosing and urging four guests to get on stage, my wife being one of the four chosen. They were then shown how to do their part in the skit with the cruise director constantly changing the way he wanted things done. The last part of the skit had one of the participants knocking on a door and then opening the door to see the damsel in distress and shooting the bad guy. Unfortunately, the guest portraying the hero hadn't noticed that the cruise director had locked the door and when the hero tried to open the door, he couldn't get it open. This skit was hilarious and original. My hats off to Malcolm Burn for this skit. Following the Silent Film Skit was the comedy of Mike Panzeca. Mike did a great job, however, I think his act was shortened because the Silent Film Skit ran over it's allotted time. The next night was the highlight of the cruise for us, besides my wife's performance the night before. The "Ticket To Ride" show, a tribute to the Beatles. The Miracle Singers and Dancers did a great job and looked as if they were actually enjoying what they were doing. The only problem with this performance was the bandstand was on stage at the beginning of the show and a lot of the pictures and quotes on the screen could not be seen by those of us in the front of the theatre. It would have been better to have the band in their seats and the orchestra in the pit rather than on stage. The last night was the Carnival Legends Show. Some were good some were bad and some were chosen in spite of their lack of a singing voice. Hey, this is my opinion, but at least they got on stage and did their best.
Poolside This in my opinion is where Carnival has a major problem. They refuse to stop chair hogs from taking all the prime poolside chaise lounges. We had four sea days on this cruise and the same groups of people would send people up to the Lido Deck before 7am to save chairs for their groups. At one of the pools was a group from South Jersey that would save 40 chairs every day. At the other pool was a group from Massachusetts that would save chairs for their large group. On our second sea day I was at the Lido Deck at 7am and there were four couples around the pool and 95 chaise lounges were being saved. I am not kidding, I counted them. I went to the pool manager to complain and he told me there wasn't anything he could do because Carnival didn't want to upset any guests. I told him that their inaction on this problem was upsetting more people than if they were to tell the four couples at the pool that they couldn't save that many chairs. I also pointed out that the verbiage in the Capers was DO NOT SAVE SUNBEDS FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME and that I thought five hours with no one in the chair was an excessive amount of time. Another passenger was told they should get to the pool deck earlier if they wanted a chair around the pool. This passenger told the pool manager that their next cruise will not be on Carnival because of this problem and he still didn't do anything. I wish I had the solution to this problem, but the only thing I can come up with is to stop the saving of chairs from the beginning of the cruise. When the attendant sees people starting to save the chairs he/she should go over and let them know that saving chairs is not allowed. It was pretty disturbing to see people not being able to find a chair at noon yet there were chairs with towels on since 7am and no one in them.
Excursions In St Maarten we booked our own excursion, the Aqua Safari and Snorkel Tour through St Maarten Excursions. On this excursion we drove our own Aqua Boat and followed our tour guide on this exciting 3.5 hours of exhilarating coastal sightseeing and Snorkeling. What a great tour. On our way back we went down Millionaires Row (this is my term for all the yachts)to look at all the Yachts. WOW, is all I can say. In St Lucia my wife did the two tank diving tour through Carnival and had a great time. I chose to walk into Castries and enjoy the city on my own. In St Kitts we booked our own diving excursion through Pro Divers. They picked us up at the port and took us out for two dives. The first dive was in about 80' of water. The second dive was over a wreck in about 40' of water. Austin and Margot were very accommodating and made sure we were back to the ship in plenty of time.
Disembarkation We usually do self assist but decided to check our bags this time. Our disembarkation number was #8 and when called we went down to the Phantom lounge area and were off the ship within 20 minutes. This was actually very organized and easy. I think we will do it this way from now on.
Overview This was our ninth Carnival cruise and our second on the Miracle. We probably had a better time on this cruise than on any other because of the Cruise Director, the entertainers and the overall friendliness of the staff and crew and because of the other passengers that we befriended. The ship is in good shape and the itinerary is fantastic. We would not hesitate to sail on this ship with this itinerary again. The only down side of this cruise were the chair hogs. I fail to understand how people think they are entitled to go to the Lido Deck at 7am and save 40 chairs for the entire day. This type of selfish behavior has to be dealt with by the cruise line, in my honest opinion. I can see saving a chair for your spouse and a friend, but 40 chairs for your group is unreasonable.