Our recent Cruise to Nowhere on the Carnival Miracle was a great disappointment. Our first cruise was 5 days to Canada on the Carnival Victory in '06, and we enjoyed the general cruise experience immensely. But it was our first and we had no point of reference until our next few cruises with NCL, where we discovered what a first class cruise experience should be. Still, that first Carnival cruise got us very excited about vacationing at sea.
The Miracle two day cruise looked like a good deal though. It met our time constraints and budget at this time of year.
But the devil is in the details, and Carnival failed big time on details. They blew it on the big stuff too.
The embarkation/disembarkation process was fast, efficient and hassle free.
Our cabin staff was courteous and eager to please, as was the dining staff. The first night's dinner was very good and prepared well, and at no time did we feel rushed. We even were able to score a window table.
The Ticket to Ride stage show on Saturday night was very good.
Exceptional deals were found in the duty free store on liquor and cigarettes.
Unlike NCL who provides a dedicated, temporary, protected area to store luggage on 1 day cruises where baggage is not checked, we had to carry around ours on the Miracle for 2 hours. It was awkward and at times unsafe, and some areas were impassable with every other guest doing the same. Given that we had but two days, we would have liked to have used that time to conveniently explore an unfamiliar ship and become familiar with our new surroundings. Instead we waited by the pool until the room ready announcement was made.
The casino was pathetic in the ergonomic sense. The majority of the slots were all jammed into one area near a wall, reminding me of rows of vending machines in a cafeteria. The design seemed like an afterthought. It was difficult navigating between the quads and sitting at chairs back-to-back, bumping against another player was very annoying. My wife and I are smokers, but smoking machines were butted against non-smoking slots, so what was the point? I felt bad for the non-smokers. Yet on the opposite side of the room there seemed to be plenty of space for additional machines that could have been used and segregated by smoking preference. The selection of machines was poor. Many were multi-denominational, which is good, but only a select few were of the .25/.50/$1 variety. The majority were $1/$2/$5 configurations. On the first night, several machines were out of order, limiting further one's selection.
We attended the late night adult comedy show. There were 2 headliners performing in back to back scant 25 minute shows. We wanted to stay for the second headliner, but were ushered out and told that we had to get on line for the other performance. The reasoning was that they had to make sure there was no broken glass and had to clean up. Drinks, by the way, were served in plastic glasses. Our cocktail waitress was slow and screwed up our order, and it wasn't until the show was almost over before we got ours. After we exited, the line for the second show was so long there was no chance we'd get in.
Friday morning's breakfast buffet was a joke. There were two omelet chefs at the station, and on either side were trays of breakfast meats and potatoes. One could get on line either to the right or left which is in fact efficient. However, only one side had trays, plates and silverware. We got on the line that didn't, and lost our place on very long lines to get our things on the other side. The bacon was sitting in a pan that looked like it was filled with motor oil, pretty much the same with the sausage. My wife wanted egg whites only and they could not accommodate her.
Friday evening's dinner experience, or lack there-of, was horrendous. The main dining facility was the Captain's Dinner was reserved for properly attired guests. We only packed causally for a simple 2 day cruise and therefore could not enjoy a fine meal. This would be fine on a 5 day+ trip, but not on a 2 day sailing. We went down to the buffet at 5:45 and were told it would open at 6pm. By 6:15 there wasn't a server in sight, so we went to the the burger bar. The meat was way undercooked, the buns stale. No toppings such as salsa, mushrooms, onions, etc were available. The nachos and cheese were literally inedible. The hot dogs looked like they had been soaking in the pan that the breakfast bacon was served from. We never finished our food.
We went back to the buffet the Horatio room. There were several serving stations divided by walls, but only one was staffed. The main selections were scant...fish that could be smelled from across the room, indicating it wasn't fresh, fried stuffed mushrooms that had the taste and texture of dirty ping pong balls, and a pretty gnarly looking prime rib. I asked for the beef, and was given a tiny sliver about 2 fingers worth. I asked for another piece and got even a smaller slice. When I asked for a normal sized piece, I was told that I could come back for more. The beverage dispenser in the staffed station wasn't working. I had to go to 2 or 3 sections away where I got old coffee, my wife getting cold hot chocolate. The bread was stale and tasteless, and the dessert selection were 3 types of cakes that tasted like they came from a child's Easy Bake Oven. There were objects that looked somewhat like fruit, but we had no appetite to try them. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was fresh.
I suppose we're spoiled by the near 24/7 gourmet buffet that NCL offers.
By this point, we picked nits...any little thing became a object of disdain. The hot tub on deck looked dirty, rusty, and disgusting. It probably just needed needed to be painted, but it was a turnoff never the less. The stopper in our sink was stuck in the drain so the basin always stayed full. The chairs on our balcony were splattered in white paint and it left us wondering why they weren't covered first before maintenance. Small things that would have gone unnoticed otherwise just added fuel to the fire.
We essentially paid $900 for not much more that a balcony cabin for two nights at sea.
Presently we are booked with NCL on a 7 day jaunt to Bermuda, and are planning on the inaguaral cruse of the NCL Breakaway in 2013.
Carnival never again.