Some quick background information, there were four of us traveling, two children (kid and teen) and two moms. We shared an Ocean Suite, and it was as fabulous as I remember it being last time. The four of us have cruised before, and this was not our first time on Carnival.
Getting to the Port of Manhattan was an easy endeavour. Coming from the Philadelphia region, we drove to Trenton, and then took NJ Transit straight to Penn Station. The cab ride from Penn Station to the port was $7 and change. They dropped us off right in front of the ship, a porter was over to us immediately, and he was quite helpful in getting luggage tags onto our bags that needed them.
Embarkation was incredibly quick and easy, there was hardly a wait in the VIP Check-in area, and the water and lemonade offerings were convenient and well used. Getting our sign and sail cards was fairly painless, with the exception of a printing error. We were aboard in under 20 minutes and heading up to the Lido for lunch.
The ship itself is in amazing shape for being six years old. The crew were constantly cleaning and maintaining things, and their level of dedication to the ship was clearly visible. The atrium wasn't nearly as seizure inducing as the atrium's on past cruises and while it was still gaudy, it was not Vegas tacky. The layout of the ship is generally easy to get around, decks 2, 3, and 4 have most of the entertainment, bars, dining room, etc. Deck 9 has the spa, the pools, Deck 5 the kids club, Deck 4 Circle C, and Club 02 was up on 10. Our Cabin was mid ship Deck 6 and it was in the perfect location. The opposite side of the hallway were the back ends of a group of interior staterooms, with the doors on the odd number side leaving us a very quite hallway.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, there were only two real drawbacks to this cruise, one of which will prevent me from cruising with Carnival again until they figure out how to make it better. The fellow passengers on this ship were somewhat disgusting. The NY/Long Island/ North Jersey crowd were rude, obnoxious, and nothing short of an embarrassment to the human race. This is harsh, but unfortunately true. There were people who called out my 5 year old daughter for wearing a Phillies cap because they were Yankee "fans", kids who were set free by their parents to run amok, and passengers with a general sense of their dominance and superiority among the other passengers. Granted, the majority of the people from this region aren't terrible people, but the large handful we experienced on board do give more than enough reason to hang onto that stereotype. Fist-pumper wannabes were in full force. But outside of the same small, obnoxious group of people taking all of the chairs, and NEVER using them, they were somewhat tolerated, and when the sky opened unexpectedly and their towels and belongings got soaked, we all were able to smile a bit at their ridiculous patheticness. During the entire duration of the 8 night cruise, I got a pool side deck chair once, following a storm, and I happened to be there right when the clouds cleared up, and grabbed one. Not too long after, the rest of the chairs were spoken for, and unoccupied. Carnival REALLY should consider following its own 30 minute policy, and creating some method of keeping track of the chairs going unused for hours and hours at a time.
The big problem though, was cigarette smoke. I used to smoke, and recall being a fairly considerate smoker. The way they have the Lido set up with smoking on one side of the ship is GREAT. It gives you the opportunity to get away from the smoke if desired, and the people up there smoking were incredibly (shockingly so) considerate in regards to keeping their smoking on the proper side. Obviously, some of the bars, and the casino are smoking, and when we chose to go there, dealt with it. The problem with the smoking is Carnivals' absurd policy to allow smoking in staterooms and on the balcony. Being smoked off of my balcony by passengers was unforgivable, as I did pay just as much as they did for the same space, and I should have been able to use it at my leisure, and not be chased off by the chain smokers that were on either side of our staterooms. The thick stench of smoke also lingered unacceptably in the hallway. After contacting guest services and being shocked and disgusted by their smoking policy, they promised to have housekeeping deodorize more during the course of the day... even with that added effort, the hallways ranked of cigarette smoke, and I cannot imagine how gross the staterooms that fed that stank reeked. Carnival should really come up with a method of putting smokers on one side of the ship. I understand that on ships with spa staterooms they are all non-smoking but I shouldn't' be forced to pay extra for the ability to use my balcony without the threat of smokers ruining any chance of enjoyment. Having smokers on one side of the ship would at least give some people the chance to enjoy a smoke-free environment and the opportunity to enjoy the balcony that they paid for. When Carnival rectifies this policy, I will once again cruise with them. Until then, we'll go with a line that doesn't allow stateroom smoking.
The Stateroom. Was spectacular. It was cleaned spotlessly when we first embarked. Our room steward, I Komang, was kind and personable, and his assistant was a gem. The ocean suite is really a great way to travel, with the added amenity of a huge bathroom, jacuzzi tub, and insane storage space, along with a dressing room for privacy. The balcony is large, and had a lounge chair, a small table, and two regular chairs. There were life boats right below us, but they were never a bother, and a form of entertainment to watch them be taken down and rode around in various training they were doing. We had the bed split into two twins, and the couch a bed for my daughter, and then a pull down for my friends son. The sleeping arrangement was much better than expected, and quite spacious.
The service all around was incredibly amazing. Our dining staff were angels, they went above and beyond, and were personable and friendly. Our location in the dining room was beyond perfect, Upper level, along the server station, in a booth for four. This location is much better than being in a sea of tables on the bottom level, and in the cram of tables next to the windows. And we had a good look at the ocean as well. Mary Grace was our head waiter, and Gopal was her assistant, they were so great my daughter cried on the last night, she didn't want to leave them.
There were plenty of activities. We had perhaps the greatest comedian I've ever witnessed, along with the juggling talents of Mark Monroe. The dancers left a little to be desired, they just seemed to be going through the motions, with only one really obviously enjoying herself. The singers were great. We hit most of the shows, the adult comedian though took the cake. They should have put him on towards the end of the cruise though, nothing really compared to him.
The gym and spa is standard for Carnival. The best time to go is after dinner, the least amount of people are there, and there is typically room in the jacuzzi for afterwards. It was clean and wellmaintained, and the spa-staff unobtrusive.
The steakhouse is more than worth the $30pp cover charge. The food is delicious, the service impeccable. The location in the funnel is great, with the exception of the people who walk around the deck and can see right in on you. The only real qualm (and I'm grabbing here) was the appearance of the magician at a table near ours, who then promptly left, but while there his tricks weren't that great and they weren't made for a low ceiling, he kept banging the deck of cards on the ceiling.
Camp Carnival is great, as always. No complaints there, it was a new experience for my daughter being in the older age group, but for the most part she thoroughly enjoyed it.
Debarkation was the typical organized chaos. Again, the problems were with the ignorant passengers who disregarded the 10million reminders that you must not only have your photo ID but your customs declaration form, claiming they were above filling out a "useless piece of paper" that useless piece of paper got myself and my daughter through customs in 15 seconds, without even a glance at our passports. Our luggage was waiting for us when we got off, contradictory to some other comments heard from previous Miracle passengers out of NYC. I guess the lesson is, if you depart with your group, your luggage will be there, and if you get off early, it won't be there.
I'm going to do this part fast... Grand Turk was INSANE. I couldn't believe how beautiful it is. We stayed on the beach for the entire day, eating lunch at Margaritaville (overpriced, but its an experience thing), hung in the pool for a bit, and watched the people trying out Flow rider. There were these schools of little fish that would swim right up to the end of the water, going right between our ankles, and further out, schools of tropical fish you could follow in the clear-blue water. On our way off the island, there were hundreds of flying fish going to town along the pier, which in-and-of-itself was really awesome. Half Moon Cay is heaven on earth. I could have been left behind, and been the happiest person on earth. The sand was like baby powder, and there were plenty of beach chairs. We did the sting ray adventure and I would recommend it to everyone and anyone. There is no real swimming involved, and the animals are such beautiful creatures. The only complaint about this was we paid for the excursion on the island, and they took back our receipts (with the price we were told we were going to pay) as our ticket, and later on board, when we noticed the price discrepancy, we were left without a receipt to show guest services to have it changed which was fully unacceptable, especially considering the persons' response to our inquiry over the receipt was that we'd get on on-board, and never did. Still, the hour long excursion was more than worth what we paid. Nassau... this was the third time in a year I've been to Nassau, and had already done the beach and the shopping, so in between rainstorms, (which nixed any hope of going to the beach again) we just shopped and watched the people getting ready for The Bahamas independence Day which was pretty exciting.
Overall, this was an incredible, wonderful vacation that I don't have enough superlatives for. The two drawbacks, the type of obnoxious passenger (which I guess is what happens when you take 3000 northeasterners and cram them into a small ship) and their behavior, and the smoking on the balcony's that preventing me from fully enjoying mine (we're talking people smoking more than a small handful of cigarettes, with the added cigar for good measure). Would I do it again? If the cigarette smoke didn't bother me to much, in a heartbeat. During the entire duration of the cruise, I was thinking about the itinerary of the Miracle when it relocates for the winter season to Florida. Dealing with the rude passengers wasn't too bad, most of us deal with rude people all the time, and not letting them get to you is the best thing to do.
Overall, its up to us to decide if we're going to have fun or not, and we decided that we were going to have fun, and that is exactly what we did.