Carnival Miracle Entertainment
Carnival does a good job with entertainment, as a rule. The elaborate production shows onboard include a high-energy medley of popular music from the last few decades, called "Legends," and a Beatles-themed production that is quite fun.
The three-level main show lounge is fashioned after the Paris Opera House and "The Phantom of the Opera." White enamel masks and mini candelabras line the maroon and gold walls, and almost feel magical. Stone figures hold up orange "stained glass" lights atop the entryways.
Carnival's Farcus tends towards gaudy, over-the-top themes, but Mad Hatter's Ball, the alternate show lounge beneath Phantom, works beautifully. The entrance from Deck 2 is inviting with sparkling red hearts dancing down the winding staircase and funky frosted lamps in red and ivory lighting the way. The lounge itself is plush and fantastical -- like a fall down Alice's rabbit hole. There are several late-night adult comedy shows in Mad Hatter's Ball, and a friendly bartender who makes fabulous appletinis.
Frankenstein's Lab is the pretty nifty two-deck disco. It received new furniture and carpeting as part of the recent refurb. Neon "electricity bolts" line the walls along with slabs of grayish purple stone, gargoyles hold up the bar stools and cocktail tables, and a gigantic light-up Frankenstein patrols the dance floor. This is used for a teens-only dance party each evening, but becomes a hot spot for adults much, much later -- think way after midnight.
Mr. Lucky's casino is enormous with table games and slot machines galore. Particularly precious are the Garfield (yes, the cartoon cat) nickel slots, but there is often a line to play at both machines. For low-key card playing, check out the Joker, a small card room located forward on Deck 2.
Sam's piano bar features live music each evening, and the pianists take requests -- there's actually a huge binder of songs to flip through and microphones along the bar for guests with a little gusto. One neat feature here is that the piano is on a platform that spins ... though this may not be so neat for anyone feeling a little seasick!
A fabulous jazz trio plays in the Gotham Lounge after both dining seatings. During the day, cruisers participate in art auctions, trivia contests, ship-sponsored "pub" crawls, big-screen movies, bingo games, slot tournaments, fun contests and game shows like "Newlywed, Not-So-Newlywed."
Carnival Miracle Public Rooms
Passengers enter the ship in the Metropolis Lobby at the base of the atrium, named after the Metropolis of "Superman" fame and done up with Art Deco-meets-classic furnishing and blue Murano glass lights. The lobby's Jeeves Lounge is a natural meeting place for pre-dinner drinks, particularly when the ship's classical trio begins playing (piano and strings). The Gotham Lounge is another popular spot for pre-dinner drinks, right near the main entrance to Bacchus.
There is an outdoor promenade on Deck 3 as well as an enclosed "winter garden" promenade fashioned after Gatsby's garden in the novel "The Great Gatsby," with white trellises and a faux-stone floor, which can be oddly quiet at all times of the day compared to other public areas.
The photo gallery is located on Deck 3, around the perimeter of the lobby. The gift shops are located near here as well, selling the usual logo wear, souvenirs, sunscreen, perfume, duty-free liquors and cigarettes, T-shirts and jewelry. The Formalities shop rents out tuxedos.
The Raven Library is pretty in dark mahogany-style wood, with loveseats and tables, but the selection, as usual on Carnival ships, is pretty sad (why even bother to have a library, frankly?) -- there is only one glass case of books (three cabinets of five shelves each) and about three random board games. It also doubles as the Internet cafe, and houses 10 computers and a printer. Connectivity is sold in a number of packages or a la carte, though per-minute prices are lower when you buy in bulk. For instance, a block of 120 minutes is $59 or 49 cents a minute; 480 minutes for $159 or about 33 cents a minute; otherwise, expect to pay 75 cents per minute. Wireless access is available to laptop users on Decks 2, 3, 9 and 10. Directly across from here is the small wedding chapel.
Note: Make it a point to ditch the elevator from time to time. There are beautiful glass vases on display in the stairwells, all very different and colorful and fascinating.
Carnival Miracle Spa & Fitness
There are four pools onboard -- three main pools, each with a whirlpool, and one children's pool -- though none are particularly large. Updates to the pools were part of the January 2012 dry-dock, which also saw the addition of the popular Serenity area for adults only that includes a full bar. The midship Ulysses Pool area seems to be the liveliest of the bunch, housing the stage for live Calypso music as well as the grill and the Odyssey Bar. For a quieter swim, try Orpheus (forward; the whirlpool here is adult-only, though it can still get raucous after a couple of drinking hours have passed) or Sirens (on the other side of Odyssey Bar). The entrance to the twisty slide is up on the Sports Deck along with a jogging track (15.2 laps equals one mile), a ball court (for basketball and soccer) and a putting green. There are areas designated for shuffleboard and Ping-Pong as well.
Spa Carnival is run by Steiner Leisure, and is pretty run-of-the-mill with a small reception area and 10 private treatment rooms, and sauna and steam rooms available for men and women. Treatments are pretty much in the on-every-cruise vein, ranging from aromastone therapy and body wraps to facials and massages. A basic massage will soak you $109, though on port days you might get lucky and pay $10 or so less.
The multi-level fitness center, located far forward on Decks 9 and 10, is impressive. One wall is comprised entirely of picture windows overlooking the water, which offers a really nice view (though there is a strip of deck that wraps around here as well so passers-by can watch you through the glass). Steppers, bikes, rowers, treadmills and weights -- all high-tech -- are placed facing the windows on escalating levels that give the whole room an arena or stadium sort of feel. And there is a foamy, inviting hot tub smack dab in the center.
The fitness center offers Pilates, yoga and cycling classes for a fee of $10, but if you are interested in taking one, be sure to check in at the facility in advance because the start times printed in Carnival Capers may be wrong.
For gamers, Wizards is an impressively sleek and spacious arcade with at least two dozen new-looking machines and two air hockey tables. You may have to look twice for it though; it's tucked behind the Phantom Lounge (access it from the forward stairs leading out of Gatsby's Garden).