My husband and I booked this cruise last year while we were aboard the Splendor. We try to cruise for his birthday (2/11) every year and neither of us had been to any of these ports. We sailed the Miracle out of NY a few years ago. This was my Platinum cruise! Our two daughters 4 and 11 were sailing with us.
We took our chances and flew into Ft Lauderdale the morning of embarkation. No delays at all. We used Carnival's transfer service and utilized the VIP line at the terminal. It took less than 10 minutes to check in, take pictures and step onto the Miracle.
Overall, the activities seemed to be cut back from what I remember. Typically, I have decisions to make when it comes to activities on board. On this cruise, there were times where there wasn't anything I really wanted to do. The last night at sea was especially bad - no shows, no comedians, etc. It felt like Carnival was trying to push people toward the casino and the bars in the evenings. During the day the activities were also lacking (unless you like to hang out playing cards all day).
Our stateroom steward, Jassen, was wonderful! He always said "hello" in the hallway and kept the room in tip top shape - difficult with 4 people in one room! He encouraged us to utilize the free laundry service for Platinum members and left a new bag for us daily.
Our dining team (Donald from the Philippines and Clyde from Grenada) were excellent! My husband drinks gallons of ice tea/lemonade/water at a meal, and his glasses were never empty. By the second night, they knew our preferences and automatically brought my coffee and my daughter's hot chocolate with dessert. The dining room was where I was most aware of the much-talked-about Carnival cutbacks. Donald and Clyde were busting their behinds and it showed. They never missed a beat, but the stress level was palpable. Our bar waiter stopped by the first evening and we didn't care for anything. He never came back the rest of the cruise! Food was good, although I think the menus need to be changed up a bit.
We had my husband's birthday dinner at Nick and Nora's. Amazing food and an amazing experience as always. Milica (sp?) was our sommelier and we quickly recognized each other from the Pride. Service was excellent!
My husband joked the entire voyage that he felt like he had gotten onto a Holland America ship by mistake. The demographic was primarily 65+ on this voyage and there were only about 19 kids on board. My 4 year old was just happy to have Funship Freddy to herself! I was really shocked by the Camp Carnival staff - they actually seemed annoyed when anyone did utilize camp. Our biggest complaint happened because the early seating was moved from 6pm to 5:45pm. On the second night, we attempted to drop our youngest off so she could have dinner with Camp Carnival. We were met with a very snotty attitude and informed that we would have to wait until 6pm and be late for dinner. Luckily, the Camp Director (Maria) stepped in and allowed us to drop off at 5:45 so that we could be on time for dinner. The last sea day, Camp Carnival had activities scheduled all day, but I was told a sign was posted stating that they were closed due to low attendance. Most parents I spoke to were very irritated. My older daughter is almost 12 and is 5ft 5 - we requested she be able to attend Circle C. She attended the first night, but complained that every time she went there, no one was around. She spent most of her time hanging out with mom and dad.
We enjoyed the Punchliner comedy club, but after Curacao, everyone disappeared and late nights were dull. The production shows were OK, but if you sail Carnival with any regularity, you've seen them all multiple times. Time to change it up! The entertainment staff did NOT bring any FUN to the Funship. Malcolm Burn was only present to introduce the major shows - we never saw him around the ship or on a morning show that many of the CD's do. The social hosts were DULL! They seemed bored and lacked enthusiasm. Nothing started on time. The scheduling just seemed "off" - for instance, the midnight deck party was held the night before an early port??? Why not hold it the night before a sea day? I actually found myself going back to the cabin for naps for lack of something fun to do. Groove for St Jude was held on the 2nd sea day. No sign of Malcolm, no announcements promoting it - I thought this was Carnival's big charity event???? My family made up 3 of the 6 that showed up.
As I mentioned before, we had never been to any of these ports and were looking forward to them. Grand Turk...we did the Gibbs Cay Stingray excursion through Carnival. It was very interesting, especially for my 11 year old who is in the middle of a research paper about them. My only gripe was that it seemed way too short. We took the Catalina Island beach break on the DR. 20 minute tender ride from the ship. Everything a tropical beach should be! The vendors were extremely pushy though. On the way back, the water was very choppy and one woman was sick the entire time - I felt so bad for her. Curacao is a beautiful, clean port - we spent the day just wandering around and did some shopping. Our youngest had fun playing with some local kids at a park. On Aruba we took the Gold Coast Jeep Tour. We saw all the sights and got some beach time in. The whole family agreed that this was the favorite excursion of the trip.
Disembarkment was a breeze! This was one area where the Miracle team excelled. No lines - we just waited until our number was called and walked off the ship.
I think that the age of the passengers on this trip had a lot to do with the sedate atmosphere on this cruise. Not that I'm a big partier or anything, but this was not the Carnival experience that I'm used to.