Carnival Miracle Cruise July 1, 2018
This was a fun cruise with sun-drenched days and drop-dead gorgeous seas!
Embarkation: We arrived for our 11:30 ship boarding time at about 11:15 or so. By 12 noon we were onboard and up in the ... Read More
Carnival Miracle Cruise July 1, 2018
This was a fun cruise with sun-drenched days and drop-dead gorgeous seas!
Embarkation: We arrived for our 11:30 ship boarding time at about 11:15 or so. By 12 noon we were onboard and up in the buffet lunching! Carnival and its team have embarkation down! You can literally be on deck by noon boozing it up if you want.
Miracle: I’ve been fascinated by the design of Miracle and its chief design Sherpa, Joe Farcus. Miracle was the last in a pack of Carnival ‘Panamax’ Spirit class ships they produced in the early 2000’s. (Panamax ships being the largest ships able to transit the Panama Canal at the time of construction. These ships weigh in at just under 90,000 tonnes – or about the size of an American aircraft carrier.)
Seems like Farcus stretched his theming inspirations for the Miracle. He settled not on anything particularly Miracle-inspired, but rather chose legends of fiction and mythology. Had he settled only on legends of mythology, perhaps the ship would have a more cohesive presentation.
It seems in many public spaces that Farcus perhaps already chose a different theme and had to jerry-rig his inspirations. For example, the pathway featuring the ship’s shops is called the “Yellow Brick Road”. Are there any yellow bricks in the pathway through the shops? Nope! Only purple sparkly tiles. Not a single design reference to the road Dorothy and her cadre bravely travelled.
The Metropolis Lobby is an interesting post-modern design with zany teal columns and a Godzilla-sized mural of lounging toga-clad women – but has absolutely no connection to Superman and his Metropolis. Same with the nearby Gotham Lounge. There are no Batman references, but rather interesting floor to ceiling copied paintings of 1800’s women and their sea-faring captain boyfriends. (No one on the ship was able to tell us anything about the work and there was no information online about it, but the series was fascinating but not related to the “caped crusader”.)
Add these mismatches to the 2015 dry dock renovations by another design firm, and you get this unique hodge-podge of public spaces. The most successful of all the rooms may be the ship’s postmodern stair-wells which feature colorful modernist murals and glistening abstract Bohemian blown glass.
The two most outlandish spaces Farcus created for the Miracle are its Bacchus Dining Room aft and the cavernous Phantom show lounge forward. Both spaces are a heartbeat away from resembling rooms from Casa de Liberace in Las Vegas and therefore guilty-pleasure inducing fun! Who can complain about a main dining room named after the god of wine featuring oodles of purple grape light fixtures – draping garlands, oversized chandeliers – amid plastic painted silver fluted columns festooned with embossed grape leaves? (Lest we not forget the haunting statues of nymph children floating in the entrance stairwell which resemble submerged creepy cadavers from shipwrecks past!)
The Phantom Show Lounge is a treatise on Farcus’ penchant for using a motif and replicating it adnauseam. Over-sized fiberglass reliefs of Phantom of the Opera face masks hold back velvety draperies, a football team worth of muscled bare chested Nautilus statues support stained glass light fixtures and rows upon rows of naked female Clio goddess reliefs flaunting fiberglass breasts assault the senses. No wonder the ship’s nick-name is the “Boob Boat”. There are more sets of artistic naked breasts per passenger on Miracle than any ship afloat!
Yet, seeing is believing. (At the point in his career when he designed Miracle, rather than making his ships resemble long-lost movie palaces of old, one wonders if Farcus was more interested in seeing just what the hell he could get away with.) Famed architect Phillip Johnson once said that successful architecture gives one a good feeling in the tummy. One may need a few antacid tablets to endure the Miracle.
Ship Shape: Yes, there are nicks and scrapes about the ship. It is not new. But one must look past these imperfections and enjoy Farcus’ jaw-dropping design choices. That said, we had problems with our cabin air conditioner not cooling properly, television remotes not working, refrigerator not chilling. These are things that should have been addressed long-before we opened our door, but were not. Who likes to deal with such things on vacation? Better-trained cabin stewards should be taught to ensure all things in a cabin are working properly.
Sail Away Gifts: Ugh! Champagne served warm?! No ice bucket in sight! No champagne flutes! Just a warm bottle of champagne sitting lifeless on the counter. If one orders champagne and chocolate strawberries for sail away, one would expect the champagne chilled in a bucket of ice with accompanying glasses! And the chocolate strawberries were delivered AFTER sail away – long after the champagne had been consumed, hours out of harbor – barely before bedtime! Just order a bottle from a bar when you go on board and you can get it with the ice and glasses. Less hassle than calling around trying to get it for your cabin.
We also happened to order the Cruise the Vineyard package. We chose the basic package for five wines and I believe the charge was around $130. We did this before we arrived on the ship via Carnival’s phone number. Cruise the Vineyard is not offered online. Ordering in advance of boarding does not give a discount on the package and it caused confusion on-board. The bartenders and wait staff on the ship were expecting us to have tickets for the wine – submit a ticket to the staff and select from the menu of wines provided. But we did not know about the tickets in advance, and did not receive the tickets and so we had a devil trying to explain to staff – even with providing a photo of the receipt of the wine purchase – that we were entitled to order. Next time, we’ll just order on-board and things will be much smoother. We were allowed to carry our bottles around the ship and had some delightful sail-away happy hours at interesting vantage points on the ship at sunset.
Food: We were pleasantly surprised with the quality of food on Carnival! The daily buffet had lots of choices. Was there a bit of recycling going on with main dining room leftovers becoming creative stir fry dishes the next day – or maybe it was a coincidence? We had over 2600 guest on board and lines did form. The Pizza Pirate and sandwich stations had the slowest lines. The pizza is okay – a bit bland – unfortunately, they never had pizzas ready to go. Since there are only about four types of pizza available, one would think they could have pizza ready – instead the line was slow and almost always backed up.
Main dining room: What impressed us was the variety of offerings for carnivores and the delicious flavors. Each night there were so many tempting options, we found ourselves double-ordering appetizers and entrees and eating every bite! The fish was very tasty. Pasta was spot-on with genuine Italian flavors. Some beef cuts were not the best. I can see how folks may decide to pay the extra fee for a truly good cut of meat. A disappointment was the vegetarian entrees. There was scant little. Every night the same “Indian Vegetarian” with rice and beans. Why not serve meatless pasta as well? There were vegetarian appetizers, but it was very hard to piece together a good meal for a vegetarian some nights. That said, we were not expecting to enjoy Carnival food as much as we did in the main dining room. It really became a cruise highlight for us.
Chef’s Table: We loved meeting the chefs and cooks and going behind the scenes into the galley to see how they create so many tasty meals onboard. The ship’s galley was spotless, well-air-conditioned and massive. (I was expecting to feel the heat of the ovens, but not so.) I wanted to see the waiters go up the escalators to the dining room above, but that wasn’t a part of the tour. The galley cooking demonstration and amuse bouches were fantastic. After we left the galley we were seated in Frankenstein’s Lab nightclub at an over-sized table above the colored-light dance floor. A two-storied statue of Frankenstein loomed over us, appropriately attired in an apron and chef’s hat.
We were served course after course of Carnival’s most demanding and innovative menu. Before the meal, your room will be called and you will be asked if you have vegetarians or certain dietary restrictions in your party. They created a different menu for the vegetarians that was very pleasing.
With the food at such a high level, the table service was not what it could have been. Wines were not paired with courses, rather one was asked – before one even saw the menu – whether one wanted red or white as you were seated. (Wines, including the pre-dinner champagne were serviceable, but nothing note-worthy.) Water glasses went unfilled. No attempt was made to serve each guest at the exact same time, which can be so dramatic. The time between courses lingered. In fact, the final preparation for certain courses after they left the galley and were placed on a staging table in the nightclub caused many of the dishes to die before they reached our table. The meal went on so long, we had four of our table-mates actually leave before the dinner was complete. A bit more training with wait staff would add to the enjoyment of the evening. With that said, it was an extremely interesting and delicious experience! Come hungry. Kudos to the whole staff who worked so hard to make our night enjoyable!
Chef’s Table caution – if you have members in your party who are fussy eaters or don’t particularly enjoy unique combinations of foods, this is not an experience for them. A woman at our table looked positively tortured when spectacular presentations were placed before her. Later, when we headed back to our cabin post-meal, we encountered the same woman sheepishly carrying a big wedge of pizza back to her cabin. You like what you like. If exotic isn’t your thing, don’t go through the trials and expense of this dinner.
Cabin 4197: A legendary French Door Interior Cabin! Yes, we had problems with the AC not cooling properly. (The repair staff came out the next day and did something to make it work better.) The refrigerator was barely cooling. We swapped out multiple remote controls before one worked. There were dings on some of the veneers to the cabinets. Remarkably, the bathroom looked like it was built yesterday – not a ding or wear in site! I enjoyed the pleasant water color prints in the rooms even if the colors felt a little Golden Girlish.
For a value option – a few hundred dollars less than the cheapest balcony – we really enjoyed the cabin and agreed the light and ocean views were better out of this cabin than just a standard outside porthole room. Plus, one could open the French Doors to get a feel for temperature and the sound of the waves if one wanted. (There is a caution sticker on the doors, but the seas were calm and we enjoyed peeking out.) You can see the horizon from this cabin – however, there is quite a bit of rigging for the lifeboats. So if you are looking for the French door cabins which have the wide view between lifeboats, you will be disappointed. You will have a view but it is much more limited – but better than other cabins in the same category which only have a view of the lifeboats and the water below.
Ports and Excursions: This was a laidback booze and beaches sort of cruise for us. We didn’t choose any of the excursions offered by Carnival or our travel agent and decided to create our own.
Cozumel: We still believe the Chankanaab National Park has some of the most spectacular vistas of any island in the Caribbean or Gulf. Members of our party wanted to do snorkeling from the shore, so making another visit to Chankanaab was essential. Here is what you do to save money and beat the crowds: Get off the ship and head through the shops to the awaiting taxis. All the drivers speak English if you need it. All the prices are preset in US dollars. It was $12 per cab to Chankanaab from our particular ship terminal. Once at Chankanaab you pay an entrance fee of $21 US. (They take cash or credit card) This will give you use of the park for the day. If you want to get snorkel gear, there are several cabanas on the shoreline (each is an independent vendor) who will rent gear for $15 a day.
By taking a taxi we wound up being just about the first people to arrive at the park and had snorkeling virtually all to ourselves for some time. Later we hung out at the open-aired palapa bar and soaked in the sun and drop-dead gorgeous sea views with our favorite cocktails. Taxis are always waiting to take you back to the terminal.
Puerto Maya: We just shopped in the terminal area – which resembled a Disneyfied Epcot-like take of a Mexican village. Maybe we should call it McMayan architecture. Then we headed to the pool (no charge) with a swim up bar. (Such a life!) It was like Spring Break for middle-aged people! Big-bellied guests gyrated – Coronas and frosty pina coladas in hand – to water aerobics classes backed by Katy Perry beats. If you just want to chill and enjoy being on vacation – this port is a fun spot. You’ll feel like you’re in college again – just with a few extra pounds!
Roatan: We had rain this day, but managed to enjoy visiting the McCaribbean plaza and oogling at the Tanzanite jewelry and bargain shopping for t-shirts before the showers came. Since we had overcast skies, it was cooler and we enjoyed strolling through the thicket of jungle to the beach areas. There is snorkeling here at the end of the beach by the pier.
Rain showers with lightning forced a call for folks to clear the water. We hung out at a bar for a while but then made our way back to the ship for food and a lazy siesta.
Grand Cayman: We visited this port before and knew we wanted to snorkel again. There is a fantastic spot to see a colorful array of fish and you don’t have to pay a fortune. One takes a tender to shore. From there walk to the right along the shore several blocks. You will come across a snorkel shop and a larger dive shop called Eden Rock. Either place rents gear for $15. The seas had more chop and current here, so it isn’t for the novice. But the views are lovely!
From the shore, we swam out to the dive spots and enjoyed watching the divers below us navigate the crevices and caves of the reef, their bubbles rising to tickle our bodies. There is one of those inflated trampoline things anchored out in the water you can use to take a break. The day we were there, a school of about a dozen Tarpon fish each over six feet long surprised us. They were clumped together under the inflatable trampoline. Their size, and resemblance to sharks startled us. Tarpon are harmless toothless creatures, but out of the murk of the seas they creeped us out.
We decided to calm our nerves with chips and salsa and a local beer at a seaside restaurant.
Afterwards, we poked our heads into the shops along the shore. Our favorite shop was a place called Artifacts. They have coins and china and silver from shipwrecks for sale! It was like going into a little museum. They also sold lovely matted water color paintings from local artists. The shipwreck coins could be purchased for some very reasonable prices – some as low as $20. Definitely a great spot to shop if you are looking for something unique and not the standard t-shirt and maracas fare. They take US dollars and credit cards.
Entertainment: The main theater dancers and singers approached each performance with gusto. The shows were packed with foot-tapping medleys of favorites. Like all ensemble casts, some members were stronger than others – but their overall enthusiasm was palpable. Staging in the Phantom Show Lounge was of a higher level than ships of similar size. 3-D projections (with guests donning glasses), stage floors rising and falling, pyrotechnics exploding at finales added pizazz.
Below the Phantom, the Mad Hatter comedy club was packed each night. A standout was comedian Cee Jay Jones who was a true pro and absolutely hilarious. Shows in both the Phantom and Mad Hatter are timed so you can go from one venue to the next to catch both acts. The Alice in Wonderland décor of the Mad Hatter will make your teeth hurt. So many hearts, like an eight year old’s birthday party. The fiberglass heads of the Mad Hatter which flank the sides of the club bear a remarkable resemblance to Joe Farcus, the ship’s Mad Designer! Thank goodness for dimmable lighting!
The Best Space on the Ship: The Serenity Pool. Pull up a cozy clamshell cabana on the aft of the ship overlooking the sea! Let the gentle new-agey bossa nova Astrud Gilberto (Girl from Ipanema) tunes sooth your spirit! Attentive waiters ensure you are never wanting for a delicious tropical beverage. A little warm? Try the plunge pool or let the jets of the Jacuzzi massage your back. I love pools decks on the back of cruise ships! There is something so delightful looking out onto the wide open sea, the frothy wake churned by the ship’s screws fading onto the horizon. Carnival got it right making this space 21 and over. They got it right with everything. There is even a chair hog guy (I feel we must create a more upscale French word for this position – maybe garde des chaises longues). He clears items from chairs and cabanas left unattended.
Overall, we had a wonderful time on this cruise! It was exactly what we were hoping for with some elements even surprising us with their quality. The Miracle deserves a make-over as soon as possible, adding the other upgrades which have become standard on the rest of the Carnival fleet. With that said, it was a really enjoyable cruise! Read Less