We chose Carnival Miracle this time because of the week it was sailing and our work schedules. We have no particular preference and have been happy with Royal, Carnival and Celebrity cruise lines. While the ship, staff and itinerary were all to our liking, there were a few things, good and bad,that I should mention for future travelers.
We were very fortunate to have met two great couples at our dining room table. We were all about the same age with similar interests. Carnival either did a great job choosing dinner partners or it was a lucky break, but they made the cruise even more enjoyable. We went to shows together some nights and hung out often during the at sea days. I understand you can change your seating arrangement if not happy, so try to find a good fit and dont settle for an arrangement you are not happy with.
Most of the entertainment was good, not excellent. I have enjoyed other shows, comedians and musicians on past cruises and was a little disappointed. We usually plan our day around piano players, pool deck bands, etc, but we actually enjoyed very little entertainment. One keyboard player, Tony Ray, was exceptional though. We asked him for his schedule and enjoyed classic rock and 70's music whenever we could find him. He was usually in the casino lounge and we would have prefered to see him on the pool deck or another, less noisy lounge.
The food was inconsistent. Three dining room meals were good, three were not (grey lamb chops and unattractive veggies) We went to Nick and Noras once alone and once with our whole table. The buffet was better, but trying to get a table at mealtimes is a challenge I dont look forward to on a vacation.
Our balcony room was perfect. It was spacious, clean and the steward was very accommodating, as were most staff members. The weather was also perfect.
We were scheduled to go to Grand Turk and Bahama, but due to tropical storm Emily, we were diverted to Puerto Rico, St Thomas and Grand Turk. Old San Juan was okay, we got to PR too late to go to the beach or resort area. Megans Bay in St Thomas was a good excursion choice, except for the jelly fish, and Grand Turk was a pleasant surprise. We swam from the little beach almost out to the ship. It was conveniently located right off the pier and had shaded and sunny areas. Also the Margueritaville, and pool, were like no other Ive ever seen!!
My biggest disappointment was the pool side situation. First of all there are three tiny pools that do not even accommodate 12 people comfortably. Swimming is not possible, standing room only. Im a pool person so this was very disappointing for me. In addition, an unspirited two man band played Caribbean music with so little enthusiasm that not once did anyone get up to dance. Usually a lively party band plays the pool area and people cant help singing and swaying to the music. People were permitted to arrive at 8am and save lounge chairs and tables the entire day. No one enforced the lounge chair policy. IF YOU ARE A POOL PERSON, MAKE SURE YOU CHOOSE ANOTHER SHIP. We were not able to find two lounge chairs until 5pm most days!!!! When we finally found two one afternoon, they would not give out towels after five o'clock.
While people saved chairs and went to eat, gamble, work out, etc, we were unable to enjoy the at sea days because after 9 or 10 am you can forget about a lounge chair. Most ships have additional decks, not as close to the pool, but with plenty of lounge chairs, waitress service, etc. Celebrity, for example, strictly enforces the 30 minute rule. Towels left unattended for 30 min are removed and other people are permitted to use the lounge chair.
I would recommend this ship for its staff and service and variety of activites, but not to anyone who thinks of a cruise ship in terms of sunbathing and live music. We also heard wonderful reviews about the kids camp program.
The itinerary detour was great and gave us 8 days of sunshine and except for my pool complaints, we had a great time with some great people.