Before I begin, I would just like to point out that we sailed on an incredibly fortunate week where we saw very little rain and fog. Alaskan weather, from what we have read and have been told, we sailed on one of the best weeks, weather wise. This may not be the case for all cruises up to Alaska, as the weather can fluctuate greatly. If you are looking to take this Alaskan cruise, please do be sure to read reviews from people who cruised during a rainy week as well, so that you are aware of how the cruise may be affected by different weathers and climates.
Our group consists of my mother and father, my grandfather, my grandmother who uses a wheelchair, and myself (16). This was our seventh cruise together, and our fifth with Carnival. I’m just going to go out and say it now; this was probably one of the best cruises we have ever taken! We had a wonderful time together, and we are very ecstatic with how our vacation went!
We flew out of Long Beach Airport in Southern California Monday morning before embarkation day on Tuesday with JetBlue into Seattle Tacoma. We left at 10:00 AM and landed at around 1:00 PM. We took a hotel shuttle the La Quinta on 8th Avenue near Downtown Seattle. It’s close to all the main sights of Seattle, about ten minutes from the Space Needle and twenty from Pike Place if you are walking, two places that we would highly recommend visiting if you have the time. We had a wonderful time walking around Seattle, and I really wish we could have spent just a little more time taking in all the sights and sounds of such a fantastic city.
If you are looking for a place to eat, there are lots of restaurants in the downtown area. One we would for sure recommend is Mama’s Mexican on 2nd Avenue.
La Quinta provided breakfast for everyone in the morning near the lobby, as well as a shuttle to the port. All in all, we like the hotel a lot, especially the cookies they served in the lobby in the evenings.
We were shuttled from the hotel at around 12:40 to the Port of Seattle. We got there at around 1:00 and got a porter to cart off our luggage. For any new cruisers out there, big tip for any port you go to for embarkation; as soon as you get out of the car/shuttle/bus/taxi, have a couple of fives in your hand and look for a porter with a cart. They’ll take all of your luggage in and lead you into where the embarkation process begins.
Embarkation, in total, went okay. The computers used to get out Sail and Sign cards went down once or twice. No big deal, but it lagged embarkation just a bit. My grandparents also received the wrong VIFP Cards. They were given Blue cards instead of Gold at the port, but had them changed at Guest Services once we were on board. Again, nothing huge, but we didn’t really know why that had happened. Either way, they had us on the ship in about thirty minutes or so, and everything was pretty lax.
The Carnival Miracle is a Spirit Class ship, and it’s a perfect size for an Alaskan cruise. We had sailed on the Carnival Spirit in the past, so we knew the ship’s layout pretty well from the start. Everything is pretty easy to get to, and everything is laid out very well. Bacchus Dining Room in the aft, atrium, The Fun Shops and Mr. Lucky’s Casino are at midship, Phantom Theater near the bow, as well as Wizards Arcade right ahead of it. The Lido deck has two pools, one of which is covered by a retractable skylight during the Alaskan cruises to keep the deck and the pool warm, as well as the Horatio’s Buffet and the gym and spa. The ship’s Sports Deck on Deck Ten also has a running track, a basketball court, and a mini golf course. There is also a water slide near the aft, which was, for some reason open during our cruise, but we didn’t see it get much use due to the colder weather.
The art style of the ship is… well, my dad and I both agreed to describe it in one word; gaudy. The ships theme is Fictional Characters. A great idea on paper, but an odd execution on this ship. The cabin halls were lined with murals of characters from literature. There were a fair amount of them to look at, but the novelty of it got old very quickly. The Bacchus Dining Room pays homage to the god of Wine in a very showy way. Every inch of the dining room seems to be covered in purple glass light fixtures made to look like grapes. Admittedly, we did get kind of used to seeing them, but those first few nights… yikes. They are literally everywhere. I’m not over exaggerating! And the Phantom Theater was, well, downright disturbing at some points. It is based off of the Phantom Of The Opera, and the paintings that lead to the actual theater are quite spooky. I also really didn’t like the giant masks that lined the walls of the theater that glowed red. They were annoying to look at, as was the many statues of Horatio Nelson that covered the walls of Horatio’s on the Lido Deck. I did however like the nautical themed parts of the buffet… anyway, I know this is sort of rambling and picky, and it’s very whiney, but believe me, this was not that big of a deal for us. While we didn’t think the ship was too too pretty, she is still a fantastic ship, don’t get me wrong!
There isn’t a whole lot to talk about when it comes to the food on any Carnival cruise. It’s certainly not bad. We always enjoy it because everyday, at any of the restaurants on board, there is something that we normally would not make or go out to eat at home, but, if you’ve sailed with Carnival before, it’s the same food they’ve been serving for the past five or six years.
Horatio’s offered a fair selection of meals everyday. Breakfast was all the same everyday, which was fine, because there was a decent amount of variety. Lunch was good as well. Pizza, deli sandwiches, burgers and fries, and asian cuisine are offered everyday, along with a new booth every afternoon. So one day it’ll be French, and the next it will be Carribbean. The Sweet Spot in Horatios had new desserts each day, along with fruits and cookies that were served everyday. While we’re not a huge fan of Carnival’s baking, their chocolate chip cookies are out of this world. Super buttery and super good. Everything else served here was either hit or miss.
Dinner served at Bacchus’ was fair as well. Again, it’s the same items they’ve been serving for quite awhile throughout the fleet, but it’s still good. We always left full and very satisfied. I still love the addition of the “Didja,” part of the menu though, which was added about three years ago. It’s a selected appetizer choice that’s a little out of the ordinary. It changes every night. One night, you can try shark balls, the next, alligator fritters. It’s a fun addition which we all took advantage of. Desserts, as usual, were better in the dining room than in the buffet. The melting cake is still quite good, as is everything else that was served after dinner. Overall, dinner in the dining hall was good.
We did not dine at Nick and Norah's, the steakhouse onboard, but we have heard nothing but fantastic things about it!
The Taste Bar was a lovely addition that I wish was opened more often and for a longer time. Located near the casino, it’s a small kiosk that, from 5:00 to 7:00 on a few evenings, served small sample platters from the many restaurants Carnival has on it’s other ships. Even though they resteraunt may not be on the Miracle, you could still try a small sample from a new restaurant each evening, which we thought was very neat. So one night you might try something from the Red Frog Pub or the Blue Iguana, and the next night, there would be a platter from Cucina Del Capitan. It was only open for about three or four nights on the cruise, and usually closed on port days, but it was still very neat!
The Punchliner Comedy Brunch in the Bacchus Dining Room was also very good. VIFP members, one of the only places that you can renew your free drink voucher is here. Brunch was pretty good. From steak and eggs to Huevos Ranchero, the selection was pretty good, and the food was even better. For anyone who has done the Comedy Brunch on any other Carnival ship, there is no performance by the Comedians onboard, at least, not on our cruise, which is kind of odd. It’s solely called the Comedy Brunch because it uses the same menu. Either way though, we would for sure recommend stopping in at least one morning for a delightful brunch and a specialty coffee.
The service onboard the Miracle was excellent. Our head waiter was Alvaro at table 162 at the very back of Bacchus on Deck Two, and he did a spectacular job. On the first night, we weren’t sure if we were going to like the table, because it was half booth, half open chairs, which, with five people, can be a little crowded. Alvaro, along with Harold and Wujda, our other waiters, made it work though, and they were very helpful and kind. They always had a place for us to put my grandmother’s wheelchair when she would sit in one of the regular chairs, and they always took good care of her when we left our table and we had to wheel her through the aisles of tables. Food was served at a very good pace, and they were all in all, wonderful people.
Our cabin stewards were also very kind, and checked to see if everything was okay and made sure our rooms were spotless. They both did a very good job, and we appreciated everything they did.
The rest of the crew were also fantastic, all very nice and outgoing. The Miracle certainly has fantastic service.
And, of course, we just have to mention Mr. John Heald. John is, by far, one of our new all time cruise directors. He has been doing this for a long time, and it is so easy to tell. We had many a laughs from his comedic wit at shows, and we always loved his introductions. While we didn’t see him too too many times on deck, he was always a joy to see. As Carnival’s Senior Cruise Director, he is the archetype of what cruise directors should follow.
We had cabin 7-127 on Deck Seven and the cabin was okay. It was a standard interior cabin with everything you would need. With there being three of us, I slept on the pull down bed for most nights, which our steward put down each night and put back into place in the ceiling each morning. We had some noisy neighbors (kids) next door which every now and again you would hear in the morning, so I guess the walls are a bit thin. We complained about this to Guest Services, and, while they weren't really able to solve this problem, Carnival and the Guest Service team handled it very professionally and saw that we were okay, so hats off to them for sure.
We did not go to many shows, but the ones we did, we enjoyed. John MADE the Welcome Aboard Show. It was terrific, and a perfect way to set the mode for how fantastic of a cruise director he is. (For anyone that sailed we us, we are the "Dick Little," "Ice cream," and "Mr. Ni Hao," cruise). The comedy magician Mr. Gross was also fantastic, and had us rolling in the aisles. The Love and Marriage Show was, while not how a traditional cruise Love and Marriage Game Show normally works (three couples, questionnaire, you know how it goes if you've ever been to one) was sensationally funny. While we aren't really "song and dance show" type people, my dad and I did go to The Beatles show which was okay. The Miracle Band's renditions of classic Beatles songs were good, and the show itself was alright. If you like Broadway-perfomances, you'll love this show.
For any parents of teens out there, let me be the first to say that Club O2 was a ton of fun. Club O2 is the Miracle’s teen only club onboard, located above the gym on Deck Ten. It is for teens ranging for the ages of fifteen to seventeen. The club has several TVs and video game consoles, a dance floor, tons of places to sit back and relax, and, of course, a Foosball table. While this was one of his last cruises, and he won’t be on the Miracle for much longer, I just have to point out how awesome Greg, the O2 director was. Greg did a stellar job keeping us entertained, yet still managed to keep that “cool guy attitude,” you know? While we didn’t really do many of the activities that were scheduled by the club, we still had an amazing time together, and I made many new friends. If your teen is reluctant on joining like I was, I would highly recommend them in joining the club.
PORTS OF CALL
Again, I do want to point out that, the weather varies in Alaska and British Columbia, so fair warning. It normally rains a lot, so pack and plan on it.
TRACY ARM FJORD
This is where the difficult part for me starts, because words cannot describe the sheer beauty of all four ports. While Tracy Arm is technically not a “port,’ it is still quite an adventure. From morning till sundown, you sail into and through the fjord and bask in the majesty that is the great state of Alaska. Michelle, the onboard naturalist, did such an amazing job teaching and describing the area and the wildlife that frequented it. All morning, it seemed as if every passenger on board went to and fro on the top decks as Michelle told us of Humpback Whale and Bald Eagle sightings. We saw pod after pod of whales breaching just mere yards away from the ship as we sailed passed snowcapped mountain after snowcapped mountain. Waterfalls trickled down the forest of pine trees as we sailed through the fjord, until we reached Sawyer Glacier, where we were left breathless as we observed the huge tower of ancient ice. It was an incredible day.
If I may recommend, before you board the ship, invest in a thermice or buy one from the Fun Shops on board, so that you can fill it up with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or whatever it is you’re in the mood for. It’s perfect for keeping your beverages warm on cold days on deck. And trust me, you’re going to want to be out on deck for most of the day when you sail through Tracy Arm.
We booked the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway Adventure through Carnival for Skagway, and it was absolutely amazing. The train picks you up literally AT the port, so as soon as you get off the ship, you board the train! The train ride lasts about three or so hours there and back. Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, the railway takes you up into the scenic mountains and forests of both Alaska as well as the Yukon in British Columbia. We had an absolutely incredible time taking this excursion and seeing just how beautiful The Great North truly is. Our tour guides on board, Seth, John, Eric and Amber did a fantastic job teaching us about the history of the White Pass Trail and of Skagway and BC. The ride was breath taking, and so much fun.
There is another excursion that does the same route only it goes farther into Canada, and passengers actually get to get off the train before returning back to port. The train is also a Steam Locomotive, whereas the one we took was a Diesel Locomotive. It’s about one hundred dollars more than the one we took, but honestly, I think you would have about the same amount of fun as we had on the one we took. It is absolutely incredible.
We boarded the train at about 8:00 AM and got back into port at around 11:00 AM, so we had lunch on the ship at Horatios and then got off and walked into Skagway itself. It’s about a fifteen minute walk away from port, but there are also Smart Shuttle services available right off the ship. Skagway itself is a very neat little town full of history and beauty. From the end to the beginning of Broadway Street (Main Street), shops full of Alaskan knick-knacks, goodies, and history line the sidewalks. It’s a fun little place, and we would for sure recommend walking around if you get the chance. And pretty much everything is wheelchair accessible, which is a huge plus.
In Juneau, we did the Glacier View Sea Kayaking Adventure. We had an absolute blast! The tour began with a half hour bus ride from the ship all the way to Douglas Island across from the heart of Juneau. Once we arrived at the Kayaking spot, we were fitted with boots, lightweight water skirts, and paddles, and then we were off and running. There was an odd number of people taking the excursion, and there were only tandem kayaks available for all of us, so I kayaked with the new tour guide in training, Marika. She did such an excellent job, and was a great joy to talk to. She is originally from Ketchikan, the port which the Miracle is supposed to go to but has recently removed from it’s itinerary, so it was great learning about both Ketchikan and Juneau. And Alex, the main tour guide, was just terrific. He was very knowledgeable on so much of the area, and was both very funny and so so passionate about his job. You could really tell he cared a lot about what we saw and that we had a great time. And we saw some amazing things. There are many Bald Eagles in the area, and TWICE Alex guided us right next to a Bald Eagle perched on a rock and just sat in silence as we watched it’s stunning beauty. We had such a mesmerizing time. Beginner and experienced kayakers should totally take this tour, but just fair warning, make sure that you are able to stay out in the water for a long time and work with a partner in paddling. You may also be just a tad sore the next morning.
After the bus ride back to port, we stayed on the ship until around 4:00 PM, when we got off and took a five minute walk from the port to the Mount Roberts Tramway station. We had booked a ticket up the mountain through Carnival. The ticket gives you unlimited rides throughout the day, and you can spend as long as you like on the top of the mountain. The ride is about five minutes long, and it’s got a fantastic view of Juneau from beginning to end. There is a gift shop and restaurant at the top, as well as a nature center, where you can see a captive Bald Eagle and learn about the local ecology. We only spent about an hour on the mountain, but we really could’ve stayed all day. There’s plenty of sights and trails to check out, and it’s a really neat experience.
Now from what I understand, usually on the itinerary, is Ketchikan the first stop after Juneau before hitting Victoria, BC, but because of the altered route, we had a sea day and a half before going to Victoria, so we got into Victoria at around 3:00 PM on Monday, but had until around 10:00 AM to be back on board because it is so close to Seattle.
We did not purchase an excursion in Victoria, but decided to just walk around town. We took a taxi from the port all the way to Craigdarroch Castle, a historic site built in the late nineteenth century. You can take an inside tour of the Castle for about fifteen dollars a person, which, we decided not to do, and visit the gift shop for all sorts of Canadian goodies. We walked from the Castle all the way through town on Fort Street. We stopped in for a brownie at a local chocolate shop, then walked all the way to the Empress Hotel, which is right off of the harbor, where we saw a fantastic street performer juggle fire and fit a tennis racket around his body while balancing a golf club on his chin. We then proceed into a quaint and lovely little neighborhood on Montreal Street, which emptied out into the port. We had a wonderful time just walking around downtown Victoria and window shopping. It’s a beautiful city full of very kind people.
I don’t think we have ever had such a smooth debarkation process before. We did the Relaxed Debarkation as usual, and had our bags out and collected at around 11:00 PM the night prior to leaving the Miracle. The next morning, we ate breakfast at Bacchus and took all of our carry on down to the casino. Literally as soon as we had everything there, they called our debarkation number, and we were off. The check in with Customs went very quickly, and we were out of the port and onto our shuttle to the airport within half an hour. Everything went perfectly. Read Less