August arrived and the hurricanes were raging. We had been looking forward to the Carnival Miracle because my wife of 25 years had surprised the family with an aft balcony. Naturally, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we sailed in between hurricanes. This cruise was our second on Carnival. The first was the Victory to Canada in August of 2001. We sailed on the Norwegian Dawn in February of this year and were expecting the same "new ship experience". This is not a comparison study of two cruise lines. Freestyle cruising only works on NCL's newer ships. Carnival still has the traditional seating arrangements, We picked late seating and didn't feel rushed. As a family of four we also didn't sit with strangers.
The embarkation, as usual and expected, is not the smoothest nor efficient because of the New York security issues and crumbling infrastructure of the piers. I cannot blame the cruise lines. They are working with what they have. As the popularity of cruises increase and I have witnessed this over the course of six cruises, some solution will have to be found to accommodate all the overcrowding. We pre-registered over the internet and it does save time. You are in the system and gives you an opportunity to spend less time with the boarding agents who are always polite and cordial. After the "fun cruise" boarding picture and then the required ship picture, we boarded the most beautiful,ornate,detailed and slightly funky ship we have ever seen.
Before I forget, my children ,a 24 year old girl and 16 year old boy, were impressed. They had sailed on other cruise ships but this was a sight. We were on the ship in a reasonable amount of time. Post 9/11 security is a reality we cannot avoid nor change so just grin and bear it. It was going to be awhile for the luggage to get to the room but we wanted to see the room first. I missed getting the expression on my children's faces when they realized they were in the correct room with a balcony. I was equally surprised. Complain all you want about Carnival they do have the largest rooms around. Has anyone been on the NCL Sea? You will agree.
We ran to a very satisfying lunch before walking around the ship and booking my massage. The Steiner company runs the spa and they remain one of the best at sea. I opted for the seaweed wrap and full body massage. My daughter picked a facial, pedicure and back massage. My wife wanted to try a facial. If anybody is counting, the the credit card was already starting to wear out and we haven't left NYC! To my surprise the room had a mini fridge and it does come in handy and the drinks with shacks is a great touch for those who need a cosy nightcap on the balcony. This review is long and I must apologize, I'll go faster through the week. The cabin was very clean. The stewards and room staff were polite, efficient and available. We did get room service and it was on time. I enjoyed coffee on the balcony before we went to the early excursions. The beds were made every day and then turned down always with a towel animal and a piece of chocolate on the pillow. On one of the boards it was remarked that the tv was limited. I disagree. We had enough to fulfill the news requirement and background music when needed. You don't go on a cruise to watch tv. A great innovation is the ability to access your bill on TV and watch it balloon out of control right before your eyes.
The dinners were well prepared. A decent variety on the menu. They were hot when served. Didn't go to Nick and Noras but the reviews are good to great. A wonderful idea to include those on the "Atkins" or "South Beach" diets respectively. Carnival is not the best nor the worst in the choice of cuisine. Norwegian gets more points for the food and desserts. We avoided the midnight buffets. Been there done that. My son and the friends he made went to those. I am pleased that the mixed drinks were less expensive on Carnival than any other line. The cruise director was a funny guy and kept everyone informed. Our waitress, waiters and head waiter were accommodating, friendly and attentive to our needs. My son is allergic to dairy and a shopping list of other things and was treated to his favorite foods without bringing any undo attention or embarrassment. I have to say this is what impressed me the most and am thankful to them. All you need to do is warn them ahead of time and they will be cooperative.
Surprisingly, the entertainment was livelier and more enjoyable than I can remember.They dancers were more energetic than the audience. Veteran sailors can be a tough crowd to please. I enjoyed the pool in the back of the ship because it was adults only. A small secret that will catch on. The common pools were great but too crowded for my wife and I. We tried the many bars on board. I liked the sports bar off the casino.The ladies preferred the metropolitan one. It had a better view. This cruise, the picture taking was not obnoxious. We had many a family portrait taken. I should have been more attentive to the cost factor however.
The shore excursions were ok. We went to the beaches on both occasions and skipped the shopping. My daughter wished she had a little more time to shop in Nassau. We did go to Kennedy Space Center. My wife and I had been there in February via the Dawn. This was the kids first. We also took a ride to Coco Beach to have lunch on the boardwalk. Freeport..., well, what can I say that hasn't already been said time and time again. (I won't go into it.) We opted for the beach party. We did go to the Art auction this year and came away with some interesting pieces. The week went too quickly. The money went even faster. We laughed. We cried. We swam. Finally, we ate and ate and ate once more. A cruise is what you make it and we made it memorable.