My husband Jim 51 and I am 48, and this was our sixth cruise--the fourth with Carnival--but just following two wonderful cruises with Princess. We had thought we wanted to stick with Princess from now on, but I had found a great "early saver" price with Carnival for this 8 day southern Caribbean cruise, and we decided to try the Miracle. We had previously cruised the Pride, which we loved, and it has the same layout. We like this size of ship more than the Glory which we have sailed on as well. Right before sailing, I happened to catch a one day price drop to fill the last extended balconies and had my agent fill out the price match form and remit it to Carnival. Carnival, to my delight, happily gave us more than we requested--$300 onboard credit, as well as the $100 credit from our agency, so we were set for a fun time!
We flew into Fort Lauderdale from Albany, NY the day before the cruise, one day after a bad east coast blizzard, so we just missed the canceled flight snafu mess, thank goodness. We stayed in the Hyatt Summerfield Suites, in a one bedroom king suite. Great price, lovely room, wonderful bedding, a great breakfast buffet and also evening reception with food and beer and wine--highly recommended. It's across a large highway from a plaza where you can walk to or take the shuttle to to eat or buy bottled drinks or wine for the cruise. However, if you are going to buy large quantities of anything, I suggest you take the hotel's shuttle, as the plaza is a fair walk, and the highway is very busy. We bought wine for the cruise at the Sam's club there, at a good price--two bottles allowed for a Carnival cruise for carry on. However, we had one extra bottle and Carnival didn't say anything, so we had it as well as a twenty-four pack of bottled water between the two of us on the cruise. The shuttle to the hotel from the airport was free, and there is an 8 dollar per person bus to the cruise pier on every hour the day of the cruise, which we took, which was cheaper than a cab, we were told.
Embarkation included only a medium-sized line, maybe fifteen minutes, and was relatively easy. We had an extended balcony towards the front of the ship on the fifth floor, which was just fine for us. Our room was kept spotless and our room steward did everything we wanted without ever a need for us to call him. We tipped him $20 the first day of the cruise when he came to meet us, which is always our habit, and perhaps it makes for even better service. We always had ice, including a large bucket for our champagne, whenever we needed it. We had ordered a liter of Beefeater gin from Bon Voyage for $40 before sailing, which I highly recommend doing, but you have to call them on the phone. You can't order liquor through the Carnival Bon Voyage website, only wine. It saves money and you don't have to worry about trying to smuggle it in. We also ordered a six pack of tonic water to go with it, and both were there when we arrived in our stateroom, along with a gift our daughter had sent us. Bon Voyage did a great job, everything was wrapped with a bow!
I must say that the food on this cruise, especially in the main dining room, far exceeded our expectations. And the service was impeccable. We had expected less, after our wonderful last two cruises with Princess which we thought were unbeatable, but I really think Carnival had better food this time than Princess did in main dining room. Not so much in the buffet, although the buffet food was very good. The buffet just didn't have the wonderful pastries that Princess had, and I preferred Princess's breakfasts as well. But the beef, lobster, and especially the lamb chops (highly recommended)in the main dining room were what we consider excellent for cruise dining.
We also ate in Nick and Nora's steakhouse the first night of the cruise, and the steak was superb, but I honestly didn't like the atmosphere there as much as the main dining room. It was pretty empty and quiet, and just not as much fun. However, on the first night of the cruise Nick and Nora's gives you a free bottle of wine with dinner, which is nice.
We had anytime dining and were always seated at a table for two along the balcony in the upstairs dining room each night with usually the same wait team, which we requested. Absolutely FANTASTIC service!!! Best we've ever had. The two sets of wait teams we had were not just good, but fun and entertaining. We loved them both. The dining room, with its purple grapes, is quite charming, I thought. We didn't find this ship's decor loud or garish in any way, like I had worried. We thought it was quite enjoyable, really.
The pools were what I like best about this size ship on Carnival the best--there are three of them and they are never too crowded. The entire deck area is easy to navigate and find a chair on, even at the height of the day. The ratio of passengers to deck space is why we pick this size ship over the larger ones. I like to be able to swim, even do laps, which I could on the Miracle. The Glory was so crowded on deck, we were never able to even get into the pools.
The spa is lovely and has the most wonderful smell! We used the huge jacuzzi in there with its glass ceiling and walls almost every day. And we loved the steam and sauna rooms. The spa in this ship is much more approachable and easy to enjoy than some ships, which make you feel like you have to have a booked service to even enter--not on this ship. Everyone felt welcome. And the gym surrounds it, with lovely glass walls facing forward toward the bow--very enjoyable to use. And we even enjoyed the golf above the spa. It's a nice little course.
The entertainment was quite good, especially the Ticket to Ride show--a Beatles tribute with special effects and lots of fun--don't miss it! The four comedians were pretty good too, in the Mad Hatters club down below the Phantom theater. We never saw the piano player at the piano bar, but he was supposed to be quite good. The Frankenstein themed disco was always busy, but we didn't spend much time there. We basically went to the shows in the theater and then the comedians afterward, as the shows are staggered, so it is easy to see all of them. And being up on deck at night was fun during the dance party they had on the lido deck after the last port.
Ports--we LOVED St. Kitts! It was spectacular!
First we went to St. Martin, which we've been to before, but this time we decided to bare it all at Club Orient! Hey, we're getting old, we have no worries about how we look at this point! It was a blast! We took a cab and they dropped us off right next to Club Orient and we just walked over and put our towels down on a couple of chaise lounges and dropped our suits. I couldn't believe my husband would be game, but he was. It was very freeing, really. A lot of people are over 60 on this beach, so we didn't feel out of place. There are people of all ages, but the average age is probably in the fifties, or older. And ALL sizes! It's quite fun and funny, really. The beach itself was beautiful I loved the water, as I always do. There are no cameras allowed, and we paid $20 I think for the chairs and umbrella.
The second port was St. Lucia. Unfortunately it was raining on and off, sometimes very hard. We had booked Carnival's Land and Sea tour, but after about an hour and a half into it on the way to Soufriere, we had to turn around due to a land slide from the rain. We didn't get to see the Pitons or ride the catamaran and snorkel. However, Carnival refunded all of our money, automatically, we didn't even have to ask. And we did get an hour's tour at least, so it wasn't a bad day, really. The island is very mountainous, lush and picturesque. Too bad we had the bad weather.
St. Kitts was the last port and by far the most beautiful, in my opinion. We had arranged a private taxi for the two of us beforehand for $110 for the day through St. Kitts Taxi Association. She took us to Romney Manor, which is gorgeous, then on to Brimstone Fort, which we really wanted to see. It is so beautiful there; it really can't be described, but must be viewed to appreciate. The landscape is incredible, views unbelievable, and the fort itself, a Unesco Hertigage site, is well worth the trip out to it. It was built by slaves 400 years ago and is still in perfect form. There are many cannons there, and the wonder of the place will awe you. We saw wild monkeys on the way down from it. We took many pictures, but I hate to post them because it's best to see it for yourself.
From Brimstone Fort we had our driver take us to Timothy hill for an even more spectacular view in each direction, then down to South Friar's beach. There were many monkeys there to see up close, that came down to be fed. The beach itself sits at the foot of a mountain, away from any roads, and isn't particularly large or crowded in any way. In fact, it extends off the right a long distance from the area where we were at the Shipwreck bar which was cute and served good drinks. We rented a couple of chairs under one of those tree things (whatever they are called!) for about six bucks, I think. There is a reef right off shore for most of this beach, but off to the left of Shipwreck bar there is a sandy entrance for swimming. I saw several people snorkeling. There are massages to be had on the beach, as well as jet ski rental, and they come to you.
We did buy some nice shell jewelry at each port from local vendors, which I like to do, as well as buying a few darling and cheap watches on board the ship. The shops on the Miracle also have a lot of good deals and raffles and fun things to look at, and I like the way they are set up--in a winding lane.
And on the last night of the cruise is the Fun Fair Well party in the Phantom theater at 5:00, however they don't put it in the Fun Times. You have to know about it, it's kind of a secret. So now you know--free drinks for an hour the last night!
All in all, one of our very best cruises, even with rainy weather on two of the eight days. Food and service were superb, and the days at sea are very relaxing. We highly recommend the Miracle for this southern Caribbean cruise! Enjoy!