We had a wonderful cruise on the Miracle. This was our second Carnival cruise. Cruising were myself, 46; hubby, 50; our 2 sons, ages 20 and 23; and oldest sons girlfriend, age 22. We had ocean view cabins on Riviera Deck. Who knew looking out a little window would seem like such a treat?? Ill probably never go back to an inside cabin.
PRE-CRUISE: Flew Southwest Airlines from Portland, Oregon to Tampa on Saturday. We stayed at Chase Suites on their Ship & Shore package. We had a 2-bedroom suite, which 5 adults fit nicely into. Free shuttle from airport to hotel / hotel to pier/pier to airport. Very nice hotel, and great value with the free transportation and breakfast. Here is my complete review of Chase Suites: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=6317149&posted=1#post6317149
EMBARKATION: We arrived at the cruise terminal a little before 11:30 a.m. The porter was right there to take our bags, we tipped him $20 for our 8 bags and got right into the terminal. Stood in line for less than 5 minutes and then checked in. We were in boarding group #11. They began boarding a little late, due to some kind of award the crew was receiving onboard. We didnt care, because we had our CC Roll Call bunch to talk to. We had exchanged photos, and some had already met, so it was pretty easy to recognize each other. It was funny to watch perfect strangers running up and hugging the stuffing out of each other while our kids tried to sink into the floor or pretend they didnt know us.
I think it was around 12:30 when they started boarding. We were onboard by about 1:00. We took our carry ons down to our 2 cabins, which were ocean view on Riviera deck. Dropped the bags off, and went up to Lido for lunch. After lunch, we explored the ship and ended up at the Aft pool area, where we had our first official meet & greet for our CC Roll Call bunch. We had muster drill at 3:30, and then back up to the Aft pool for sailaway. Several of our CC group met up there again, and it was like we were old buddies. Great group of people! I was so busy unpacking, I missed going up to the Funnel Deck to watch us sail under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. All of a sudden, there was the bridge out my cabin window, so it was too late to get up top. DANG! After dinner, we hung out in the casino for a while, then I went to the Piano Bar with a couple of my Roll Call friends. Joel, the piano guy was really very entertaining, and there was a good crowd in there. It was a fun evening.
MONDAY, SEA DAY: We just hung out and relaxed after breakfast in Horatios (buffet). At 1:00, we had our second CC meet & greet. We met at the aft pool and then made our way to the midship pool area for the mens Hairy Chest contest. One of our CC guys was a contestant, complete with dorsal fin hat, and another CC member was a judge. We thought Scott would be a shoe-in since he had a fellow CC-er on the panel of judges, but alas ~ it was not to be. He had some phat moves, though! After the contest, we stayed by the pool the rest of the afternoon. Lounge chairs were not too hard to come by. Our 3 kids got 3 loungers side-by-side right after the contest was over, around 2 pm. My son dragged me to the gym and we worked out on the weight machines. This was the first formal night dinner. We went to the Captains Cocktail Party, had a few free drinks and some tasty hors d'oeuvres. We went to the late-night comedy show which was Frank DelPizzo. He was hilarious. We thought he was the best comic of the week.
TUESDAY, GRAND CAYMAN: We did the Reef & Wreck Snorkel, which is a Carnival tour. The tour met on the pier at 10:00 am. I got mixed up and thought it was at 10:15 (my tour in Belize was at 10:15), so we were a little late getting to the tender line. The capers said go to the tender 45 minutes before your tour meets, so we headed there at 9:30. They made the announcement for general tendering right as we left our cabin. So, we missed the opportunity to get off the ship with the Carnival tours BEFORE everyone else. Even though I showed my tickets to a couple of Carnival staff, they told me just to wait in the LONG line. I was mad at myself, and worried that we would miss the tour, but we made it to the pier with 5 minutes to spare. If you happened to be in Grand Cayman that day, and saw a frazzled blonde frantically shoving her way past the photo op people, shouting I HAVE TO GET TO MY TOUR ~ that was me.
I had originally scheduled a stingray tour with an independent operator, but changed at the last minute because I wanted more snorkeling time. I was glad I did that, because friends that did the stingray tours said the seas were very rough on the way out to the sandbar and at the sandbar and snorkeling stops. Our snorkel was right near where the ships anchor and it wasnt rough at all. There were lots of fish, some barracudas, and the shipwreck was pretty cool. Since the 2 snorkel stops were so close to the pier, we got in lots of ACTUAL snorkeling time, which was exactly what I wanted. We spent about 45 minutes at each stop. It was great, and the water was warm and nice.
When we were done with the tour, we walked down the beach about 5 or 10 minutes to Rackhams restaurant, which was recommended by a local who told us to tell them Ron sent us and Jack lives here and they would give us a 10% discount. Sure enough, they did ~ and the food was really very good. Stopped off at the Tortuga Rum store on the way back to the ship and sampled the cake ~ yummy! I had decided to buy my rum cake on the ship so I wouldnt have to carry it around with me on shore. What I didnt realize is that they dont have all the flavors available on the ship. I loved the coffee flavor, and the ship didnt have it. Oh, well! I can be satisfied with Coconut, Original and Chocolate!
Last tender was at 3:00, and sailaway at 4:00. Then, we all went to the gym. They have lots of treadmills and bikes, elliptical machines, weight machines and free weights, plus a hot tub. Its a nice gym. I did my treadmill interval workout. Before dinner, we went to the comedy/juggler show. It was very entertaining. After dinner, there was a 70s & 80s dance party up on Lido deck. It was really fun. Then, we went to the late night comedy show, which was the same comedian, Ronnie Bullard, from earlier in the evening and we thought he was very funny. WEDNESDAY, COZUMEL: Before breakfast in Horatios, I went down to get a tender ticket. The capers said they would start handing out tickets for those who did not have a Carnival tour at 9:00 am. I got there at 8:50 and there were only 4 tickets for tender #1 left. We needed 5, so we got tickets for tender #2, which they said should go around 10:00. One person can pick up the tickets for your whole party. We had breakfast, and they called for tender #1 just as we were getting back to our cabin. About 5 minutes later they called tender #2, just about 9:45. While we were in line we heard them call for tender #3, 4, & 5. They were loading tenders from two gangways.
We got to the taxi stand and 2 of our CC friends were there, so we shared a taxi van with them. For 7 of us, they charged $30. We got overcharged and I knew it, but I just wanted to get there, so we didnt haggle. We were at Paradise Beach by a little after 10:30, and we had our choice of lounge chairs with umbrellas. Most of our CC friends were there, too, and we were all able to get chairs near each other. Alejandro (Alex) took us to our chairs right in the front row, by the ocean. He took care of us all day, bringing MANY buckets of beer, margaritas and tasty food. I tipped him $30 at the end of the day, and he seemed very pleased. I got a nice kiss on the hand, very gentlemanly. This was our favorite day. The kids used the floating trampoline, iceberg and kayaks, plus the float mats ~ all for $8 per person. There is no charge to use the chairs at PB, as long as you spend $10 per person there. We spent WAY more than that! Paradise Beach is gorgeous, the water warm, PB Tom very nice and comes by to talk to everyone. There are a few rocks in the water as you go in, but I had no problems when I wore my water sandals.
Our taxi van back was $20 for 5 of us. Last tender was at 5, sailaway at 6. My son dragged me to the gym again, and then we went to the Past Guest Party before dinner. More free cocktails & snacks. After dinner, we went to the casino.
THURSDAY, BELIZE: We did a Carnival sponsored excursion, the Private Island Beach Break. We met at Mad Hatters lounge at 10:00 after breakfast at Horatios. They took us down to the tender, which took us straight to Bannister Island. The tour operators warned us that there probably wouldnt be any chairs for about an hour until some of the groups that arrived before we did started leaving. They were right ~ no chairs available. We got our free rum punch from the bar, and sat down at a little pavilion with benches and started putting on our sunscreen. We were only there for about 15 or 20 minutes when people started leaving, so we were able to grab 5 chairs together in the second row of loungers. Bannister Island is nice, but not nearly as nice as Paradise Beach. We had a fun day, though. The water was nice and warm. We ate chicken strips that were pretty tasty, and we had no problems whatsoever. We had read about some food-related illnesses from cruise passengers that ate on Bannister Island, but they have addressed those issues, and everything was fine for us. Our boat came for us at 2:15. Its about a 20 minute boat ride, and they stopped before we got to the Miracle so we could take a picture of the ship.
Back onboard, we had lunch and then went to the gym. The ship sailed at 5 pm. After dinner, we went up on Lido to the Bathrobe & Beers party. We did a few line dance type things, like the electric slide and a new one that one of the social hosts taught us. Then, a giant conga line. It was really fun. The Mexican Buffet looked and smelled fabulous, but we were too full from dinner to try anything. Afterwards, we went to the late-night comic, Carl Faulkenberry. He was good, but we liked the first two comics better.
FRIDAY, COSTA MAYA: We docked right at the pier and didnt have to tender. YAY!! We had a tour with independent operators David & Ivan for the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. We had room service breakfast and got right off the ship. Went past the shops to the back of the port area and purchased our $3 per person tickets for the bus ride to Majahual, where we met David & Ivan at the Cats Meow restaurant. Barbara, the owner of the Cats Meow, introduced herself and told us she is a Canadian and is trained in food handling so the food and water at her restaurant are safe. She introduced us to So-so the cat, and said it is HER restaurant. She is a cute black kitty, 18 years old, and very friendly. We were directed to a van, and started out for our 45-minute drive to the ruins. Our guide, Carolina talked to us on the way about the culture and made the time go quickly. Along the way, we stopped to buy fresh pineapple from some local ladies. They sell it with a small bag of chili powder to put on the pineapple. I thought it sounded gross, but I tried it and it was absolutely delicious! Once at the ruins, we were divided into 2 groups, one with David and one with Ivan. We were with Ivan, whose family actually lived at the site of the ruins until about 3 years ago. It was very interesting, and we actually got to see Ivans former home. It was very hot, and there were some mosquitoes, but the minute anyone found a mosquito, Carolina had bug spray out and sprayed anyone who wanted it.
Going back, we had our choice of being dropped off at the port or back at the Cats Meow. We would have liked to eat at Cats Meow, but we didnt think we had enough time. We wanted to do some shopping in the port area, so we had them drop us off there. The pool with swim-up bar is nice, and looked like fun. We ate lunch and shopped a bit, and then it was time to get back to the ship. Hit the gym, and then got ready for the second formal night. In the Atrium lounge, they were having Martini Hour, so we went down and had a couple while we waited to get our photo taken on the staircase. If you only do one professional photo on the ship, do the staircase one. They are really beautiful. I had a chocolate martini and a cosmo ~ yummy! Later, we went to the late-night hypnotist, Glen Miller. This was the one show we did not like. I thought the people were all obviously faking being hypnotized. We thought it was really dumb, but I spoke with other people who enjoyed it a lot, so to each his own.
SATURDAY, SEA DAY: Slept in, had breakfast, went to the Aft pool around 11:00 and there were still loungers available. Got some sun, then went to the chocolate buffet. YUMMY! Its one of those chocolate fountain things, and they dip pineapple, melon, banana, mini doughnuts, little cheesecakes in the chocolate. The pineapple and cheesecake were my favorite. Had lunch and met up with some of our CC friends, who gave us a tour of their balcony cabin. Its exactly the same as the ocean view, except for the balcony. Started the packing process. SAD. After dinner, spent the rest of the evening in the casino hanging out with our CC friends and saying goodbye. SAD.
DEBARKATION: We were to be out of the cabin by 9:30. Went up to Horatios for one last breakfast around 8:45. Came back down and got our carryon bags, and were leaving the cabin just before 9:30. Walked into the terminal, found our bags easily. Gave our customs card to the official, he didnt even look at our passports. Walked outside, and called Chase Suites to come get us for the ride back to the airport. They arrived within 20 minutes. CABIN: We had ocean view cabins on Riviera Deck, #1230 and #1232, right beside each other. Last cruise, we had inside cabins which I thought were perfectly fine. After having an ocean view, I really doubt well go back to inside. Its very nice being able to look out and watch the ocean. We saw dolphins playing one day. The cabin was spotless. Bennie, our Steward, was from Indonesia and was very nice. His English was pretty limited, but he tended to our needs well. The cabin was quiet. We never heard a sound. Our kids next door had their TV playing loudly one day, and as soon as I got in my own cabin, I couldnt hear a peep from their room. Plenty of storage space with the 3 closets, 4 or 5 dresser drawers, 2 bedside cabinets plus another cabinet, and lots of space under the bed for the suitcases. The bathroom has shelves and I didnt need an over-door shoe hanger. Didnt need clothespins for the shower curtain ~ it stayed put nicely.
FOOD: We thought the food was really very good. Breakfast at Horatios all but one morning. They have a pretty good variety, although you do get a little tired of it by the end of the week. Lunch at Horatios was always good. They have the best cookies, some kind of brown sugar magical disks that we loved. The pizza was good. The deli was good. Room service was always prompt.
DINING ROOM: The food, we thought was excellent. I never had anything I didnt like. Our wait team was absolutely fantastic. Oli and Inga were friendly and entertaining. We saw them each morning at Horatios also, and they always stopped to visit with us. Yes, the pinkish purplish lights are a bit much, but they didnt bother me. The Red/White/Blue competition got pretty old by the end of the week, as did the nightly dancing of the waiters. The first night I thought, how fun!. The second night, oh, here they go again. The third night, what ~ AGAIN??! The fourth night they got a conga line going around the room, and that was fun, but by the end of the week it was enough with the dancing already!
ENTERTAINMENT: We were very entertained all week. We did not take in the production type shows, not our cup of tea, but I heard good things about them, especially the Ticket to Ride show. The comedians were all very good. We thought the hypnotist was cheesy, but others we talked to really enjoyed him. The piano bar was fun. The band by the pool was good. The Lido parties at night were fun. The social hosts were pretty good, some better than others. The Cruise Director was Mark Hawkins. I thought he was entertaining. A bit hyperactive and kind of a goofball, but fun.
CASINO: We enjoyed the casino a lot. They have a nice variety of slot machines, quite a few table games, craps, all the usual stuff. I am not a table game player, but my family played blackjack a lot. None of us won big, but we won enough along the way to ease the pain of losing. Pretty smoky at times, but when Im in a casino I dont expect it to be smoke-free. Most of the time it wasnt too bad.
GYM: I thought the gym had a good variety of machines. Lots of different weight machines, plus free weights, treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, and mats and exercise balls for floor exercises, plus the spa. My son dragged me to the gym 5 of the 7 days and I grumbled, but I was glad when the cruise was over and I had only gained 4 pounds. And I ate A LOT! (Did I mention the cookies?)
POOLS/HOT TUBS: There always seemed to be chairs near the pool. We were able to get chairs both sea days without problems. We spent time at both the main pool area and the aft pool. There were kids in the aft (adults only) pool and hot tub, but security soon came and booted them out. I heard about children in swim diapers in the main pools, but didnt see this myself.
GRATUITIES/TIPPING: I prepaid my gratuities this time, and I really liked that. It was nice not to have that $350 show up right off the bat on the Sail & Sign account. I tipped $2 each time for Room Service, coffee each morning, breakfast one morning, and a sandwich one afternoon. We did tip the Maitre D, although not much. We gave him $5 in his little envelope. He was a pretty entertaining chap each evening, and he did come by our table most nights, although we didnt require any special services from him. We gave $40 extra to both our head waiter and assistant waiter. They were outstanding. We looked forward to seeing them each night and again at breakfast in the morning.
STAFF: All the staff we encountered were excellent. Friendly, efficient, helpful, accommodating. Staff working in the buffet area, the shops, the casino, the dining room, the bartenders, the stewards, everyone was great. We didnt come across anyone who wasnt pleasant.
The week flew by. We loved our cruise. It was really fun meeting the people from our Roll Call. The nightlife did seem a bit quiet. Much more so than the Pride 2 years ago. We were always able to find fun things to do, though. I would highly recommend the Miracle. It was a fabulous vacation! Read Less