While not necessarily "miraculous," there is much to praise about Carnival Miracle, the fourth of four "mid-sized" Spirit-class ships. First of all, the 88,500-ton, 2,124-passenger vessel, which launched in 2004, is just plain pretty, understated in comparison to flashier creations in the fleet -- legendary interior architect Joe Farcus is known for super-showy designs. Still, Farcus always has a theme, and Miracle's is "fictional icons" -- guest hallways feature drawings of famous literary characters like Robin Hood and Robinson Crusoe (and the more obscure Belgian detective Hercule Poirot). The lobby and atrium are named after the Metropolis of "Superman" fame, and there's even a Gotham lounge that gets its name from "Batman." Carnival Miracle is also laid out exceptionally well and a breeze to navigate.
Second (and third and fourth), Miracle and its Spirit-class brethren introduced some significant firsts for Carnival: fantastic alternative steakhouses found on every Carnival new-build thereafter and onboard wedding chapels. Spirit-class ships also offer an impressive 80 percent ratio of outside cabins (and 80 p, as well as lots of nice little touches -- like museum-quality artwork and "designer" martinis.
Good news: A January 2012 dry-dock refreshed Miracle from bow-to-stern and added yet another signature Carnival feature. Beyond the obligatory under-the-hood work and touch-ups to carpeting and upholstery, the ship gained Carnival's adults-only Serenity deck. The popular kid-free retreat, featuring plush loungers, a pair of hot tubs and an endless view of the wake, is now featured on 21 out of 23 Carnival ships.
Ultimately, Carnival Miracle offers quintessential Carnival -- solid dining options, unpretentious fun and affordable rates -- in a less mega-sized package.
You may find a lot of couples and groups of friends traveling together, with most passengers ranging in age from 25 to 55, plus a good number of families, though you'll find even more kids onboard in the summer and during school breaks.
A seven-night cruise includes two formal evenings, during which most men wear dark suits rather than tuxes, and women opt for business-y pants suits or evening dresses -- some rather glitzy. All other nights are deemed casual (when you're likely to see everything from ratty jeans to pretty sundresses) or "elegant casual" (a skirt or pants and blouse is fine for women, and most men wear Dockers-type pants with a buttoned shirt or polo).
Carnival recommends $12.00 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $6.10 to dining room services, $3.90 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but it can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping a couple dollars for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff. Note: On sailings departing September 1, 2016, or later, gratuities will increase to $12.95 per person, per day ($13.95 for those in suites).