We left our house in Central Jersey a few minutes before 10 am. We hit absolutely no traffic going into the city and in less than an hour we were at the pier being dropped off. DH and I are in our mid 40s and we had our own cabin (4239 -aft balcony) and DD -22 who was celebrating her college graduation and who shared a cabin with my Mom (Cabin 7259 mid-ship balcony). This was the third cruise on the Miracle for DH and I and it was DD and Mom's 2nd cruise.
Although I may talk about the Repeat Offenders a lot, we did meet up with a pretty good group of folks from the roll calls. About 20 of us paid to have a cocktail hour to meet and mingle. We also had a party on an aft wrap balcony (BYO). We also hung out on deck together and had a great time at Mr. Lucky's Casino bar at night. They were a great group of folks. A number of us are looking at a Repeat Offender cruise in 2012.
The itinerary for our eight night trip was two days at sea, Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, Nassau and two more days at sea on our way back to NYC. This was the same itinerary we took last year. Last year when we were in Half Moon Cay it poured all day and we did not enjoy this beautiful island. One goal of this cruise was to not have that happen again.
Weather and the Seas - It rained almost every day at some point in time. The roughest weather we hit was Sunday afternoon when we were off the Carolinas. The winds were up to 59 mph according to the in cabin TV. Combine that with a ship going 21 knots it made for a bumpy ride. Every other time it rained (with the exception of Nassau) it was late afternoon or in the overnight hours. We did hit two thunderstorms.
The seas were rough the day we were off the Carolinas heading south, mainly due to the rainy conditions we encountered. Those seas did begin to calm down as we were at dinner that night. The remaining days of the cruise the seas were very smooth and almost completely flat.
Food/Dining - This was the first cruise where we chose anytime dining (we had always done early on prior cruises). Our first couple of meals we did not have positive experiences in the dining room. We were seated and waited (sometimes up to 25 minutes) to fall into our server's slot to take care of us. It was as if we were handled in groups. Then we got seated with Melvin. He and his team knew what they were doing and took superb care of us.
The food itself was good as usual. I do however have a complaint about one dish on the cruise and I am not sure if it is the Miracle's Chef or if the menu needs to be redone. The Seafood Newburg is listed as having shrimp as scallops as the seafood. When I got it last year, it also had mussels in it. When I asked this year, I was told that it had mussels in it as well. I explained to Melvin that I am allergic to mussels and he immediately got the assistant maitre d. He agreed that it was wrong to not have the mussels listed as it is a common allergy item. He spoke to the chef who prepared me the dish as it is listed on the menu and it was delicious. I was very grateful for that.
Ate at the deli, Chinese buffet quite a bit and enjoyed it all. I also went to the grill mid-ship and got lots of fresh chips and salsa. The only thing that would have made it better would have been fresh guacamole. (I tried to figure out how to get the bowl back when we had a cabana in Half Moon Cay later in the week.) The breakfast at the Lido Deck was good too.
Room Service - Particularly the cards you leave on your door for breakfast. We ordered breakfast twice and both times they get an F- for their service. The first day we ordered it was at Grand Turk. We waited 40 minutes past the scheduled delivery time before we headed up to the Lido Deck to eat (we only had 15 minutes before we were supposed to meet the rest of the family). We came back to find a message on the phone saying that they tried to deliver the food and we were not there (this was more than an hour after the requested delivery time).
We gave them another shot on the morning we returned to NY. We put the card out and no food arrived again. I called 40 minutes after the scheduled time to be told that they would put it together and send it. We waited another 20 minutes before I went up to the Lido Deck to get food as it was now close to the time we had to vacate our room. I passed the delivery person as I returned with the food. This time they were an hour and 15 minutes late. I am not even sure if we would have gotten it delivered if I didn't call.
Nick and Noras - The ten repeat offenders had dinner here on the second elegant night. The service and food were superb as always. The meal took about 2 ½ hours but it didn't seem that long as we were not rushed and the company was great. They even took a group picture of all of us with our cameras. One item that they had as a special was boneless ribeye with a spicy seasoning. DH and DD had that and they both loved it. A wonderful evening.
We haven't really done the production shows on our last few cruises as we have already seen them or we were just not interested. This time we seen the juggler and he was amazing. I am still not sure how he did half the things he did on a rocking ship.
The Mad Hatter Lounge is now host to comedy shows on the days at sea. We had four different comedians (two for the first two days at sea and two new ones for the other two). They were great. The shows at 9:45 pm and later are Adults Only and they were hilarious. The place was packed for each of the shows we went to and we left another show due to no seats. They are that popular. Go there early.
Mr. Lucky's Casino. The guy that was there last year was tremendous and I was so hoping her was there again. He was not but the entertainer is named Tony Ray. I wasn't sure what to think of him in the beginning but as the cruise went on he got funnier and played quite a bit different music. He loosened up a lot after I bought him a drink. Don't be afraid to splurge and buy them a drink too. He broke out a plastic Elvis wig at one point. We laughed so hard.
Piano Bar - the piano bar is now non-smoking and I think it lost a lot of the regular folks that would hang out there. The piano player was not great but the crowd was just not there. This place jumped on prior cruises.
Frankie and Johnnys - the Philipino band there is amazing. Well worth sitting there for at least one of their sets.
Farewell Show - the best entertainment on the ship by far. It was hosted by one of the singers from the shows. They encouraged audience participation with dancing etc. There was one passenger who had a "crush" on one of the entertainers and he got up during the show and danced with her on stage.
Later in the show the one singer was singing "I am so Excited" when an elderly lady (who we had met during the cruise and she was great) got up and was dancing in the aisle before she came up on stage. She stole the show.
Grand Turk - This was our fourth time at Grand Turk and we rented a cabana. We do this as Mom has some health issues and the cabana is air conditioned so she can keep cool in there. We had Jules as our server and he was very good. We did have an issue when we went to leave as my mother flagged down a server to give the money to pay the bill before she headed back to the ship. Well the server she paid was not Jules. We ended up basically paying twice for the meals. Mom felt bad and did pay us back. Just make sure you are paying your server.
We took a walk down the beach to Jack's Shack to have a drink with the other repeat offenders. Jack's is run by a couple who came down to visit and they never left. It is a wonderful quiet spot on the beach.
Half Moon Cay - We woke up that day to absolutely clear blue skies. YES!!!!!!!!!!!! What a change from last year. We were on the first tender over as we had a cabana and an assigned tender time. After arriving on the island we took the tram down the beach to our cabana. We had #9 and the bathroom was right behind us. No issues with crowds there. The cabana came with eight sodas (we picked), two large bottles of water, tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, fruit platter and veggie tray. The only thing that was odd was the veggie tray had an empty bowl for the dip. (Everyone else that we were with had an empty bowl too). I substituted the guacamole for the dip. The cabana also included the floating mats, towels (don't have to bring from the ship) and snorkel gear. The cabana had a small refrigerator, air conditioner, misting fan, table and some under cabinet storage (did not lock).
DD and I went parasailing while we were here and we are so glad we did. We had watched them last year before the monsoon hit and said that would be neat to do. When we got on board she asked if I was game and I said yes. We met at the pier and eight of us went out in the boat. We got our harnesses on before we left the pier and we went up in tandem (2 riders) as it was a bit windy. We were in the air maybe 7-10 minutes and the view was spectacular. The scariest part was when you sailed off the back of the boat.
DH went fishing and he ended up catching a four foot dolphin (mahi mahi) and he had the largest catch of the day. Last year he was basically rained out on his fishing trip. The conditions were so bad that Carnival actually refunded the cost of the tour last year.
Food at HMC - The folks we sailed with had mixed reviews on the food. DD and I had hot dogs and I ate a number of the salads. I thought the salads were very tasty and the hot dogs were pretty good. To be able to feed 2,600 people on the beach they did a pretty good job.
Drink Service - our group ran the drink server up and down the beach quite a bit. One thing that would make sense is to give the servers little carts to drive or to have a cart go up and down the beach to serve the higher number cabanas (we had 9-12). Or better yet build another bar down there.
I did notice though that the price of the drinks were more expensive there than on the ship (the $1.95 soda was $2.25 there). The soda card did work on the island but the drink coupons you can buy on Carnival's website were not valid there.
Nassau: Woke up early in the morning and watched us sail into port past the Norwegian Sky. It began raining as we pulled into port. We had the first boat over to Blue Lagoon so we had to be off the boat early and we had to take a cab over to the ferry terminal on Paradise Island. We were probably among the first hundred folks off the ship and as we walked the pier the skies opened up again. It rained on and off as we waited for our ferry to show up. Once we got on the ferry the rain ended and it turned out to be a gorgeous day.
Once we arrived at Blue Lagoon, DD went to the Dolphin Encounter. She loved it. DH and I had the Sea Lion Encounter. We had an orientation before we went into the water with our sea lion. We got hugs and kisses and we got to pet her a few times. It was an amazing experience. After our encounters we walked over to the beach area and joined the rest of the folks who came over with us. We were able to buy lunch for $12 per person. Lunch was your choice of hamburger, cheeseburger or hot dog. It also included French fries, half an orange and your choice of punch, tea or lemonade.
Be sure to take a walk to the backside of the island (behind the food area). It was practically deserted and was amazingly beautiful. We headed back on the 2 pm ferry. They stopped at the ferry terminal and then brought us back directly to the cruise ship pier so we didn't have to take a cab back.
This was a superb cruise that was a year in the making. The repeat offenders booked it when we were onboard in May 2010 as that is when Carnival released the schedule. We were all set to book May 2012, but that has been delayed. We did buy the future cruise certificate to get the $100 shipboard credit. If you know you are going to cruise again, buy it. You have two years to use