I hadn't had the opportunity to cruise any of the Spirit classes yet, so I decided to book the 8 day aboard the Carnival Miracle to Sint Maarten, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts. I will give a day-by-day below, but for those who just like the 'down and dirty', the next 2 paragraphs are for you:
Just about EVERYTHING ON THE SHIP! Seriously! I was pleasantly surprised to have such a wonderful cruise. I will break down each area below:
ENTERTAINMENT: And by entertainment, I mean the live music on board (Comedy will be covered in the 'CONS' area, as I saw 5 comics and only 1 who was remotely funny). The live music on this ship was some of the best I have seen at sea! Let's start with Greg Gallello in Sam's Piano Bar. He was constantly entertaining, a blast, and each show was different (even when the requests were the same). His voice was amazing and I LOVED the duets he would do with Chris and other crew members to shake it up a bit. The 2 guys playing music in the Atrium (Tony Ray and the other guy, I forget his name) were excellent as well. We especially loved the Elvis schtick Tony did. The Orchestra was wonderful and HUGE props to Victoria the Karaoke DJ and Crystal from Superstar Live! Additionally, the Calypso band on the Lido deck was fun (and not too loud as with many other ships). I cannot comment on the shows, as they are so old and tired to me that I do not bother.
FOOD: Firstly, I am a foodie - so my comments on food I take with a grain of salt. Having said that, I thought the food aboard this cruise was SPECTACULAR! It was hard to believe that they were serving over 850 at a time. Especially with dishes like Spring Leg of Lamb with Lamb Chops! Every dish I ordered was wonderful! Even the Escargot was soft and pleasant! Kudos to the chef and the kitchen staff! The Lido deck food was nice as well, but nothing out of ordinary to brag about.
SERVICE: Wonderful. Smiles on all of the crew members faces. MDR service was impeccable (you can tell they have focused on this area, at least on this ship).
CONDITION OF SHIP: I was concerned about this, as others had ranted about her looking beaten. NOT SO! She was beautiful and there was always beautification work going on in ports.
ENTERTAINMENT: Carnival, please update the shows (especially Legends - really? Ricky Martin?) That and the 'Ticket To Ride' and 'Generations' shows are far too old. I know it costs more to buy sets and instruct dancers, but PLEASE!!!!!!!
COMEDY: As an avid fan of comedy, I know Carnival is trying to focus much more with the Punchliner Comedy Club. Of the numerous (which I was happy to hear not just 2 comedians the whole 8 days) comedians I saw, only 1 was remotely funny and 1 had an obsession with telling child molestation jokes. I am a far left liberal and even I walked out of the show after the 6th molestation reference. His name was Ken something and you need to FIRE HIM NOW! The others (I only see the adult-time shows) seemed to simply slip in swear words where they weren't needed and did not accent the joke. Carnival, call Comedy Central and talk to one of their peeps and see about teaming up in a collaboration...
OK - Now time for the chronological high (and some low) points...
EMBARKATION: Arrived at Ft. Lauderdale airport, received my bags from baggage area and found the Carnival transfer rep. I purposely didn't purchase a transfer in the event some other people were taxi riding to the port (a taxi is $25 flat rate for all inside so it can be a deal). Since no one was needing a taxi, I bought a $30 round trip transfer from the rep (they assign it to your cabin account). The only bad thing about that is it takes forever to fill that bus up - literally an hour from when I got on the bus until we arrived at the cruise port (3 miles away). Once there, the process went smoothly. I found the VIP entrance and was told to go down another hallway. FLL cruise port doesn't have a VIP lounge like most, but you are ushered past all the other passengers. I was on board within 10 minutes of arriving.
First 2 Days at Sea: The seas were fairly rough on the way out of port and stayed that way throughout most of the next day. Nothing really new as far as staff-lead entertainment. I did notice that there were only maybe 10 kids in Camp Carnival on this ship (not sure why, might have been the large number of retirees on board). The first formal night was the first full day at sea and the meal was exquisite. Nick and Nora's is not necessary with this kind of good food in the MDR (except for perhaps special occasions).
St. Maarten: This island hasn't really recovered from the last 2 hurricanes yet. I purposely didn't get off the boat this stop (I had been there the month before and it is not very pretty). There are some nice areas, but the damage is evident almost everywhere in general.
St. Lucia: I have friends on the island so my experience was a bit different. THIS IS MY FAVORITE PUBLIC CARIBBEAN ISLAND! Gorgeous, inviting, rich in history, etc. Once done with our private BBQ, I met some shipmates at the cruise port for a few Piton beers and a glass of Bounty (the beer and rum of St. Lucia)... yummy!
St. Kitts: I took the shorter snorkeling trip just to test out my new underwater camera - the crew was a lot of fun...
Last 2 days at sea: Calm seas in general.
Debarkation: As a Carnival Platinum, I had an easy time off the ship and to my transfer bus! Nicely done, Carnival!