Three friends from college and I had this cruise in mind since we graduated 2 years ago. We are all in the 23-24 age range. All but one of us sailed Carnival before. This was my 3rd sailing on the Carnival Miracle, 7th overall with Carnival, and the Miracle continues to be my favorite ship.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express 5th Ave in New York City the night before the cruise. Getting to the hotel on a Sunday was very easy with almost no traffic in and around the City. The hotel is in a great location between Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center. We chose this hotel because of the location inside NYC, reviews were positive, and the price was only $120. The rooms were small, but that is typical for NYC. It appeared to be new or recently refurbished, and the continental breakfast had a nice mix of hot and cold items. Even the service was excellent. Two of my travel mates left bags at the hotel after we left, and the hotel staff was very helpful in holding them until we got a cab back. This will be my first choice of hotels in the future.
We first arrived at the cruise terminal around 9:30. The previous cruisers were still debarking and we could not yet check in. There were seats in the first waiting area and a snack bar. They started the check-in process around 10:30. We were among the first to go through security and check-in. The waiting area beyond security is very large with restrooms, water, lemonade, and many chairs. Boarding began a little before noon. My first cruise out of NYC in 2006 involved standing in line for over 2 hours, now, Carnival seems to have the process down so that it is very simple.
The Carnival Miracle is my favorite ship. I like the Spirit class because they are large, but hold fewer passengers than the mega liners. The ship rarely feels crowded, especially if you are willing to look for lounge chairs on deck 10 or above. The dEcor is typical Carnival with some things a little over the top, but it really reminds you that you are on vacation away from the "real world." The ship appeared to be in very good condition considering it was a year and a half since its last dry dock. One of the best features of this ship is the large dining room in the aft section. This allows passengers to move from the front to the back without dodging a midship dining room.
We decided to splurge on an extended balcony since. I was in 7227, and we also had cabin 7231. Both interior of the cabins was the same as any balcony cabin, but the balcony was larger. We could comfortably fit all 4 of us and chairs on one balcony. We had the divider opened and it was nice to pass through rooms easily. Our cabin steward was Constantin from Romania, and he was excellent. The room was kept very clean, and all requests were taken care of quickly.
The Miracle did not have the number of entertainment options available that the Glory had when I was on it in June, but the quality was still there. Music Unlimited is my favorite of all of the "Music" bands. They play a huge range of music from Simon and Garfunkel to Journey and even some Lady Gaga. It was always a fun time listening to them. The piano bar player, Richie, was very good. I was disappointed that there were not many in the piano bar each night, but when he would play themed sets after dinner around the ship the lounges were packed and people were interacting with him. His Elton John theme night was complete with a pink boa and his 80s theme came with a Brett Michaels wig. The two main shows are "Ticket to Ride" and "Generations." I have seen each of them twice before and "Generations" does not really interest me so I skipped it this time. "Ticket to Ride" is a very fun show, especially if you enjoy the Beatles. I don't remember the names of the comedians on this cruise, probably because they were forgettable. The two fly-on acts I saw were outstanding. The first was a female singer who did impressions of famous singers. It was a riot, and she is very talented. Marcus Monroe was a juggler, but he is also a great comedian. This is show is not to be missed if he is present on your ship.
The entertainment staff was a lot of fun on this ship. This is the third time I sailed with Malcolm Burn as the cruise director, and he really hosted events well. Of his staff, I remember the assistant cruise director Sparkles was very good, and evens hosted by Ali (Jersey Girl) we also entertaining. Malcolm and Sparkles hosted an open mic night and it was hilarious. They were the MCs as passengers told very R rated jokes. The event lasted two and a half hours, and it was very funny. They also hosted the Quest, an adult scavenger hunt. Join a team for this event and you will quickly get to know them. Other activities included a digital scavenger hunt, dance lessons, trivia contests, and many other things. Overall, there was plenty to do to find a balance between activities and relaxing.
I didn't play much in the casino, but the staff seemed to be very nice. The casino host and his assistant were very friendly in the tournaments. The craps table was usually packed at night, but it was usually easy to find seats at other tables.
We had early dinner on the upper level of the dining room. Our waitress was Mary Grace from the Philippines and her assistant was Gopal from India. Both were very attentive and service was excellent. Mary Grace was the employee of the month for June, and it was clear why. She quickly got to know all of us, and we looked forward to chatting with her and Gopal each night. The food was very good all week long. We quickly learned that if you wanted a steak medium, you should order it medium rare and so on. Once we did that, the steaks were delicious. This was my first time eating on the upper level of a dining room, and it was very secluded where we were near a window. I would almost prefer to be out more to see what was going on. If you do not the singing and dancing, this would be a great location for you. The lido buffet was good for all meals. I like that the buffet on the Miracle is spread out. While it can be difficult to find a specific station, it is spreads the people out so lines are usually small. There was a sushi bar every evening around dinner time, and those who ate it thought that it was very good. In addition to food service, beverage service was generally very good. We made friends with our dining room bar waitress Sunshine from the Philippines and Jo Ann in the main show lounge very early. They were very friendly and fun. By the second day we didn't even need to show them our Sail and Sign cards. When it came to the farewell party they both took good care of us.
We chose this cruise because we liked the 4 sea days and we wanted to visit the 3 ports. I sailed to Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay before, but this was my first time in Nassau.
Grand Turk is a small island with friendly people and beautiful beaches. The island is still recovering from a 2008 hurricane, but it did improve since I visited in 2009. We booked a catamaran excursion where we snorkeled at the wall (a 7000 foot drop off in the Atlantic), relaxed at a beach, and had fun on the catamaran. Rum punch was included in the cost of the excursion. The hosts were fun as they told us about what we would see, pour our drinks, and dance to the music. After the excursion we headed back to the ship for lunch before checking out Margaritaville. Unfortunately, the Carnival Liberty docked while we were on the catamaran, so the cruise port seemed over run with people. Still, it was a fun time.
Half Moon Cay is my favorite port. It is a private island and gorgeous. The sand is like powder and, the water is blue, and foliage is green. We spent the day relaxing on a lounge chair and swimming in the ocean. We rented two clam shells, and got on the first tender so we could pick one further down the beach where it was more secluded. Two of us sat out in the sun despite having the clam shells, but they are very nice if you want some shade. I would not get my money's worth out of a cabana since I spent so much time in the water. I know people rave about them, and they are nice if you just want to relax, but not worth the money if you want to be more active. The grilled lunch on the island is very continent, but beverage service was slow along the entire beach. The tender process was very smooth to get to the island, but it was slow getting back to the ship. Last year when I went to Half Moon Cay, the line was just as long getting back, but it moves fast. I don't know what the difference was this time, but it was slow. Still, I want to go back to Half Moon Cay!
Our final stop was in Nassau. We wanted to go to Atlantis, but not pay a lot of money to use the water park. The taxi was $4 per person, each way, and just walking around the public areas of Atlantis took almost 3 hours. It is a beautiful resort and I think next time I will spend the money to see the outside areas. After we got back to the terminal we walked around the street adjacent to the ships. While souvenirs and alcohol was cheap, it was insanely busy with 6 ships in port, and it felt too much like a tourist trap. We got back on the ship just before 2 PM and decided not to get back off the ship. I want to visit Atlantis again, but I can see why many people just stay on the ship in Nassau.
We elected to do general debarkation because it is convenient to leave our bags out, and we were not in a hurry to leave. We were tag number 10, and we were off around 9:30. It was a very smooth process, and customs was not swiping passports or looking at the forms in detail, which surprised me.
This cruise was exactly what we wanted it to be. We had relaxed and had a lot of fun. I would travel this same itinerary again because Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay are beautiful. In all the changes to Carnival over the past few years, almost all when unnoticed except the Captains party. With the officers just roaming the promenade, it is a lot less ceremonious, and when they present the officers, most of us were still at out early dinner seating. This is hardly something would that would ruin a cruise, and overall this was an excellent cruise. I cannot wait for my next Carnival Miracle cruise.