To celebrate my mom's 70th birthday, she and my dad took me, my wife and our five kids on the Carnival Miracle. We arrived in South Florida two days early and spent the time with my inlaws. My parents stayed at the Days Inn Thunderbird in Sunny Isles Beach. The beach there is disgusting and dirty - it was a little better at the beach in front of the Turnberry Ocean Club, but we should have gone up to Hollywood Beach, which is much much nicer. Next time.
My inlaws live 20 minutes south of the port, so getting there was a snap. While my dad and father-in-law were returning the rental van at FLL, we started the check-in process. It was the smoothest embarkation ever, even if it still took 45 minutes because of our numbers. We were on the boat by 2 pm. We were able to get into our 4 adjacent balcony rooms on Deck 7 quickly and soon met our fantastic steward Sue from Thailand. A big shout out to you Sue, because you were amazing!
Sue was able to get us two cribs for our rooms and tell us how to open the partition between our rooms. She was everything you want in a steward. Always cheerful and she cleaned up everything (including lots of smushed cheerios and some throw up when my daughter got sick one night).
We loved the ship and all the activities on board. Favorites included the crazy Hairy Chest Competition, the Love and Marriage show and the Beatles Show. We also had fun with the various trivia games and scavenger hunts. We even won two 24 carat gold plastic pieces of ship! Other great activities included the cooking demonstration and the tea parties. Our cruise director, Big Sexy, and his team did a great job keeping everybody happy. They did a fantastic job.
My younger kids (ages 2, 2 and 3) loved Camp Carnival. On every sea day after breakfast, they couldn't wait to go. They also ate dinner with Camp Carnival twice and stayed up until almost 10. My older daughters didn't do the camp so much, mostly because they had each other to hang with. Still, they participated in the kids talent show. The room for the little kids was great - but the staff seemed somewhat overwhelmed by the 472 kids onboard (spring break) and didn't quite seem prepared for my twin 25 month olds. My twins were at the very young end of the allowable age for Camp Carnival and the activities in the 2-5 age group seemed geared for older kids. While this makes sense, it was a little frustrating for them. My 3 year-old loved it however.
While I didn't love the comedians or the ventriloquist, we really enjoyed the musical shows. The Beatles show was amazing - even if some of the past Carnival guests complained because they had already seen it. That is one show I would gladly see again. We also liked the singing Piano Player Duane in Sam's Club.
Some of the rooms in the ship are a bit tacky but I grew to love it. The best executed room was Dr. Frankenstein's lab. I also thought the Gatsby Gardens were beautiful. The Bacchus Dining Room was over the top. My two year old thought the grapes looked like purple panties!!
The food was much better than anticipated. Service in Bacchus was a little slow. My favorites were the lamb chops and the Warm Chocolate Cake. I had that every night. I also really liked the hot dogs and burgers on Lido. The pizza was nothing special but I'm from New Jersey and a bit of a pizza snob. Breakfast we had in either Lido, our rooms or in Bacchus. I liked the breakfast in Bacchus the best as it was a little calmer. One complaint about Lido (Horatio's) is that everyone showed up at 12 to eat and it was hard to find a table. We remedied that by arriving a bit early. My wife thought the sushi was subpar but I don't eat it so no complaints from me.
We stopped in three ports - (1) Colon, Panama, (2) Limon, Costa Rica, and (3) Belize City, Belize.
In Colon, we had a fantastic tour with Ivan from Almiza Tours (aka My Friend Mario). We did the Embera Indian tour with the Canal. We didn't have a chance to hike to the waterfall because of the low water level. Almiza went above and beyond for us. The night before the stop, at 3 am, my 3 year old woke up sick. My wife decided to stay on the ship with her. After the rest of us left the ship at 7:30, my daughter woke up better. We had already left on our tour, but Almiza was able to send someone so they could catch up. We were already at the Indian village after a 40 minute canoe ride when they caught up. I can't imagine too many other companies would do that, so a HUGE shout out to Almiza Tours (My Friend Mario). A huge LIKE for them. The best part of the tour was the canoe ride up the Chagres River to the Embera Indian Village. Seeing the Canal was also cool - we saw the Gatun locks and saw ships headed to the Atlantic and the Pacific. Really cool stuff.
In Limon, we were supposed to take the snorkeling/beach tour with Oscar Brown. Unfortunately, the weather was unsettled so we couldn't. Instead we took a grand tour of Costa Rica. Our tour started well, with interesting visits to a local farm and the Del Monte banana operations. That was all great. The trip up the Tortuguero Canal didn't go so well because it started to pour. Unfortunately, after that our guide, Katherine, insisted that we make every stop on the tour, even though we were going to be late for our ship. We ended up arriving in port at 2:35, 5 minutes late. Fortunately, we had no problems getting back on the ship as there were lots of stragglers. Still, I was quite stressed and would not recommend them. A big DISLIKE for them.
In Belize, we split up. My mom and I took the three little kids on the Bannister Beach break organized by Coral Beach tours. We had no problems finding them and we didn't have to wait long before we got to the gorgeous beautiful peaceful fantastic FAVORITE BEACH EVER island. My only complaint was that we didn't have more time at the beach. On the way back, we were successfully spotted manatees and dolphins. I was a little annoyed at my fellow guests who seemed more interested in getting back to port to shop and drink, but alas, I was in the minority. My wife, older daughters and dad when Cave Tubing / Ziplining with Major Tom. While they loved the experience and the ziplining guides, they were not big fans of Minor Tom's. He was sexist in that he gave all the flashlights to the men, and none to the women. Still, Belize was probably everybody's favorite port. LOVING THE BELEKIN BEER!
Disembarkation was pretty smooth and customs were perfunctory. Some of the cabbies tried to rip us off and Port Everglades should do a much better job with that. Our porter was super nice and helpful.