Our ship was full capacity. A friend tried to book the cruise, and couldn’t, as it was already full.
Embarking was smooth. It didn’t take that long. Carnival staff kept you moving.
This can’t be said for our disembarkation, which I’ll mention later.
For basic dining, you can visit Horatio’s Lido Cafe — the buffets on the 9th floor. You don’t need to worry what time you go, or what you’re wearing.
I did notice alot of the same food items, for example, soups or desserts, that we saw on the menu in the main Bacchus Dining Room — I’m sure alot of the same food comes out of the same kitchens.
For the most part, the buffets at Horatio's Lido Cafe offer a good selection, but you WON’T get higher-end items like stuffed mushrooms, shrimp, escargot, etc for dinner.
In the morning, you also have to ask for special items, like strawberries or grapes, which they keep behind the counter. It’s hard to know what they have hiding in the fridges behind them, so I guess the only way is to ask? Because they don’t advertise it. It seems the only way people found out they have strawberries is because they saw someone else with them on their food tray.
And I happened to be standing behind someone that asked for the grapes — that’s the only reason I knew they had any.
The next step-up in dining, is the Bacchus Dining Rooms.
You will find “higher-end” items like escargot, stuffed mushrooms and shrimp on the menu (you will NOT see these items at the Horatio buffets). You’ll also see hard ice cream on the menu, which you can’t get at the buffets — only soft ice-cream from the machine.
Another note, they will serve lobster in the Bacchus dining room, but I think only for one night of your cruise — so take advantage of it when it’s offered!
The dining rooms do have a “dress code”, but it’s not strictly enforced - I wore a nice t-shirt a couple times. I think they have the dress codes, honestly, for people who hop out of the pool with nothing but flip-flops and their tight bikini on, and expect to go eat at the dining room. And believe me, I see some of these people walking around the ship half-naked. As long as you're “covered up” in someway, you’ll be fine.
We were travelling as 3 couples. We made the decision for another couple to join us at set-time dining at 7:45 pm. They felt that was way too late to be eating, but they joined us anyways. And the other couple had chosen “any time dining”.
We tried dining with the “any-time” couple on the 3rd floor dining room, and we were rejected by the staff. They told us we had set-time dining at 7:45pm on the 2nd floor, and wouldn’t seat us.
I suppose the good thing for set-time dining, is you get to have the same staff serve you, who get to know your names, and know what your favourite drinks are, and you get to know them — it’s more personable. Also at 7:45 pm, you walk into the dining room with no waiting — your table is set and empty waiting for you.
“Any-time dining” doesn’t mean you just walk in anytime and start eating. I believe you have to wait for an available table, just like at any other restaurant. And the wait for a suitable table (for a table of 7) probably also adds time. And our ship was full capacity. So both choices of set-time and “any-time” have their pluses and minuses. So if you’re travelling with a group, make sure everyone is on the same page. Also know that the dining room time you select is inflexible once you’re on the cruise ship. I’m sure ours was even more so, because it was a full ship.
Nick & Nora’s Steakhouse
The next step-up in dining is “Nick & Nora’s” steakhouse — an additional charge of $35 USD per person. We visited twice.
We went the first night, as it was my sisters birthday. I had made reservations weeks in advance. And we did receive a complimentary bottle of wine for being their the first night of the cruise — although we already had the “Cheers drink package”. lol.
The food was fantastic. And you always get surprised with food items they serve.
My brother liked “Nick & Nora's" so much, he immediately made reservations for the last night of our cruise. Most of the tables in this restaurant are smaller, so getting reservations for a table of 7 people was slightly harder. It’s a good idea to make reservations soon. Both times when we were there, there were many empty tables — in fact, the place seemed kinda empty.
Also, by the second visit, we noticed several items on their menu you could get in the Bacchus dining room — for free. Of course, you couldn’t get the steaks. But if you wanted to, you could order steaks in the Bacchus dining room for $20 USD — still cheaper than the $35 USD for N&N’s.
Personally, for myself, I think going to Nick & Noras once was good enough.
The food in the Bacchus dining room is really good.
The main difference with alot of the food items is simply presentation. For example, the Caesar salad isn’t any better in the steakhouse than it is in the Bacchus Dining Room — it might just be presented differently. Only other difference is Nick & Nora’s ambience is nicer, and the wait staff are better looking. lol.
I have some comments about certain food items.
I went on a Carnival cruise in 2012. At that time, they had homemade lemonade served in metal pitchers. It was so good — with real lemons and real sugar. Now in 2018, I noticed they were gone, and only Nestle “lemonade" from a machine. Blech. It’s just not the same and there is no comparison. Thumbs down.
I also recall in 2012, on their dessert menu, was the “Chocolate Lava Cake”.
It’s still on the menu, but just goes by a different name “Carnival Chocolate Melting Cake”. It’s so good. But watch out, it’s decadent. I checked out the recipe online, and it does contain lots of butter :)
Spoil yourself one night. It’s OMG good! Highly recommended for dessert.
My only other comment about food, is that the menu seemed like there were less menu options since 2012. To be fair, i’m not sure whether it’s because we were on a different cruise ship, or a longer cruise length, etc. But it was slightly less options than what I remember.
Because of our later dining room time of 7:45pm (this was my sisters idea who prefers to eat late) we would miss alot of the shows. So the only shows I caught were comedy shows later at night at 10:00 pm and 11:00 pm. The comedians were good and made me laugh.
There was typically two comedians each night. All the nights we went, it was standing room only, so get there early to get seats.
The live musicians were good, for the most part. I liked the solo guitar/vocalists the best. My only comment is this -- I realize the cruise is going into the Caribbean, but I think people still like the music they were brought up with. I just don't care to hear pop songs covered with a steel pan drum, or spanish/reggae songs that I can't understand. I never did get to the bar "Frankensteins Lounge", but I guess there was more "modern" music there? I don't know. Call me crazy, but i'm picky with my music.
Alot of people are addicted to their Facebook feed and messaging and can’t live without a smartphone/internet — even for a 7 day cruise. And it’s apparent when you get on the cruise ship. Alot of people end up paying for the wifi internet packages. It was $35 USD for the week to use popular websites like Facebook, etc usage for the week. And even more $$ for internet usage.
Carnival has an App that is free to download. It’s basically an app to know what’s going on in the ship — shows, events, specials, etc, and read up about user policies, information about the ship, ports, etc.
But there is still the printed paper ship itinerary if you don’t have a smartphone or tablet.
I did find the app to be more helpful, as it shows you what’s happening right now, or coming up on the ship.
Normally I don’t wear a watch. And because I like to travel light without carrying much, I didn't bother bringing my ipod/tablet/smartphone, so I never knew the time.
Advice — get a watch for a cruise! Especially a cruise that has short port stops, as you or someone you know will be paranoid about the time throughout the entire day. I wasn’t paranoid, but several travel companions were… constantly, “What time is it? We only have blah blah minutes left to get back to the ship….”.
I heard this 3 thousand times. The other confusion for time was that "ship time" is always different then local time or the time on your phone. Get a watch and you don't have to worry about getting the time wrong!
Our cruise last year was on NCL in hawaii, with port stops of 2 days on each island, so we weren’t so focused on the time -- you could relax without worrying about rushing back to the boat before the last tender leaves. I don’t even remember us worrying about the time at all. But when your itinerary is only 6-7 hours at a port, you will need to know the time! Keep your smartphone handy, or get a watch!
We bought 2 excursions through Carnival.
Sharks, Rays, Barrier Reef Snorkel & Island Escape
This excursion starts out early. You have to tender to Belize City port from the Miracle. Then you wait maybe 15-25 minutes at Belize City port and you get on a fast smaller boat that travels about 45 minutes to the small island of Caye Caulker. Caulker has a population of about 2000 people. It’s sand is blindingly white. And it’s quaint. You won’t find any commercial franchises or big corporations on this island. And that’s what gives it it’s charm. Hand-painted signs. Mom & Pop shops and Bed &Breakfasts. Stray dogs. Life is slow. I love it.
If you’re a photographer like me, you will go crazy with glee, as this small island is all photo opportunities and eye candy from every angle.
The snorkelling was fun.
That morning I hadn't put on sunscreen, as I’ve heard sunscreen ingredients can be damaging and harmful to the reefs. I believe Hawaii has even introduced a law to ban them! I saw other people slather sunscreen lotion on before the dive, but I didn’t. Oh well.
The Shark and Ray alley was good as well.
Where the boat stops is shallow. It’s maybe only 3-4 feet deep, with a sandy bottom. I decided to go barefoot, as I didn’t have enough time to find my water-shoes that morning. There is the odd larger seashell on the ocean floor that you’d want to avoid stepping on with bare feet. You can clearly see them through the clear sea water. There aren’t many of them, and I didn’t have any problems — but just be aware of them if you decide to go barefoot.
As an aside, I did see a private company offer an almost identical excursion for $30 USD cheaper. Carnival does offer a “110% price guarantee” (that they only reimburse with cruise credits), but you must fill out the form 1 week prior to your cruise disembarkation. Well, we only booked the excursion 6 days in advance, and when I noticed the other cheaper competitor, it was 5 days before. So, we were no longer valid to get the “price guarantee”.
If you want to visit Caye Caulker privately, you can with water taxis from Belize City port (much cheaper than the cruise excursion), they leave frequently almost every hour or so. Some people like to book through the cruise line for an extra sense of security you won’t be left behind. But on our private excursions we’ve never had problems.
Deluxe Beach, Catamaran Sail & Snorkel
The Catamaran company is “Fury Catamarans”. Where we snorkeled was a very strong ocean current. I’m undecided whether I liked the strong current, because if you wanted to observe something on the sea floor for awhile, you had to swim against the current.
Yes, I had the odd fin and leg in my face from “over crowding” from all the other snorkelers, but it wasn’t as bad as it’s made to sound. You can always choose the back of the crowd of snorkelers, or keep to the sides if you don’t want to feel crowded in the water.
The beach we stopped at is managed/owned by Fury as well?
They had the big inflatable floating toys in the water, like the slide, etc.
I’m Canadian, so it’s a little jarring to see companies actually “own” beaches privately. In Canada, none of our beaches can be privately owned — they are all public. So I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the privatization of beaches going on in the Caribbean. I’m undecided whether it’s a good idea or not, especially when it’s owned by a big corporation (like Mahogany Bay). What this means, is you can not enjoy a beach for free — you must PAY to enjoy it.
To be fair, the Fury beach WASN'T crowded, which was enjoyable (probably cause it cost money to use it). There were empty beach chairs everywhere. And you could actually enjoy the water toys without a lineup or hogs.
For $75 USD, i’m not sure I’d give this excursion high marks. I can’t drink because I have I have a heart condition, so the free maragaritas wasn’t a plus. And the snorkeling equipment is the cheapest you could buy off Amazon for $20 and own it yourself. If you want a burger, you gotta pay for it yourself — $11 US.
And you never go out of sight from the cruise ship — you’re just down the coast a little.
And the biggest sin — playing loud spanish pop music the entire time. Uggh. lol.
I’m not sure i’d rush to do this excursion again.
We did one excursion privately, not through Carnival. It was Rony’s Tours on Roatan, Honduras. It was good. I found him online with his own website.
We went to Daniel Johnson's Monkey & Sloth Hangout. They also have big beautiful parrots there.
While in Roatan, I would have liked to check out “Little French Key” Island, but there is only so much you can do in one day.
The day we were in Roatan, it was very hot. Our tour van had air-conditioning, but it was still hot. It made some of my fellow companions cranky, irritable and bitchy. Just being honest. They kept complaining how hot they were and they wanted to go back to the ship.
We left early back to the ship and cut our tour short because of them. Uggh.
Since we had extra time, a friend and I checked out Carnival’s “Mahogany Beach”. I didn’t know what to expect, as there were two cruise ships in port. I was expecting it to be crowded. But since it was already later in the day, with less than 2 hours before the ship leaves, people were already leaving the beach, making their way to the ship, which meant the beach was fairly empty already.
We heard from one couple that they came to Mahogany beach earlier on in the day, but it was so crowded, they left back to the ship, and came back again. By that time of the day, we could put our bags on hundreds of empty chairs without having to pay for it, and got a swim in the uncrowded beach and ocean.
We did not have to pay for the beach, but you have to walk the distance, which is maybe only a 10-15 minute walk. There are benches and seat-swings along the way.
In Grand Cayman, we took a cab, and the cab driver gave us some choices where we wanted to go. My sister took the first choice -- it was to Royal Palms beach club with a cover charge. When you get there, we noticed everything was extra charges. Want a lounge chair? Umbrella? Cabana? All extra charges and pretty expensive.
Disembarkation from Carnival Miracle
We were excited to get off the ship, as we were driving to Orlando that day.
We were already out of our rooms by 8:15 am. I had grabbed the luggage tag numbers “8” the day before, so we were expecting to be off by 9:30am-10:00 as it stated.
Nope. We waited and waited. They had called the mobility issue/handicapped people to disembark first. And it’s like it took forever. I think we were called off the ship finally by 11:00 am. And then we had to go through customs. It seems the problem was with customs — they only had 3 people working to process 3000 people! When we got close in line to the customs officer, he got up and took a bathroom break for 5 minutes!
I think we were finally out of there by 12:00 noon. Horrible experience. Tons of lineups, standing in line and waiting. From what I also heard, many people missed their air flights.
This was not Carnivals fault — it was the U.S. customs authority.
But, you could argue it's slightly Carnival's fault, as they keep booking these cruises starting and ending on a Sunday -- when people don't want to work.
All around, I enjoyed the Carnival Miracle cruise very much!
Hopefully I’ve given some tips and advice from my experience.
If you’ve made it to the end, thanks for reading! Read Less