1,393 Carnival Miracle Cruise Reviews

Carnival Miracle Review Nov. 23-Dec. 1, 2007 First, let me give a little background. I am 40+ years old & this was my 7th cruise and my 4th on Carnival. And the majority of my group had cruised before. One of them having done 13+ ... Read More
Carnival Miracle Review Nov. 23-Dec. 1, 2007 First, let me give a little background. I am 40+ years old & this was my 7th cruise and my 4th on Carnival. And the majority of my group had cruised before. One of them having done 13+ cruises. We were coming from California & New Jersey, thus meeting in Ft. Lauderdale to cruise. We were part of the Scuba Cruise group. All but 2 of us flew on Thanksgiving Day. I have to say, I was shocked. I knew parking would be a bear. These flights were full. I thought everyone would be at their destinations. I used the Van Nuys Flyaway in California as did several of my friends. I've used it for years. It's a central parking structure with security and then you board a greyhound type bus for the ride to LAX. The parking is $4 per day, the cheapest around. And the bus fare is $8 r/t. I arrived later than my friends and ended up missing the 0400 bus. I caught the 0430 and within 15 minutes of the ride, our bus was involved in an auto accident. There was an abandoned car in the fast lane, no occupant & no hazard lights on. Thank God no one was hurt but needless to say, we all missed our flights. They got another bus, I got to the airport and was able to book a later flight using my cell phone while waiting for the new bus. I arrived to Ft. Lauderdale 3 ½ hours behind my friends but none the worse for wear. Pre-Cruise Hotel- I used the Sleep Inn Suites Ft. Lauderdale Airport. It definitely did the job. They have mini suite type rooms. Very spacious. Positives- Spacious room, mini suite type. Clean. Fridge in room. Cost effective. Shuttle from airport to hotel and from hotel to cruise dock. Walgreens right next door. Two miles from the beach. Negatives- No in house restaurant. They told me there was one next door. Only small mom/pop restaurants. And anything else, is a definite hike to get to. And being Thanksgiving Day, most places were closed. This wasn't the hotels fault, just something to consider. Some of our group were treated rudely, myself, I was treated fine. My only other issue is that they have a small breakfast buffet of pastries, oatmeal, eggs, coffee and such. Well we had 8 people wanting breakfast and we were told the wrong time by the nightshift front desk person. We were there before that time but the gal was literally taking stuff away as we wanted to eat. Rather rude I thought. Embarkation/Disembarkation- Each was very easy. We took the shuttle to the pier. It was set up a little different than when we embarked in April for Princess but still easy. They tell you the line, move people through. No problems. Disembarking, easy as well. The lines can be long but they move quickly. Found our luggage quite easy. Found a shuttle for all of us rather easily. Negatives- On Dec. 1, there was a horrible smell right outside the cruise ship terminal. Don't know what it was and I don't vomit easily but it was all I could do to not lose my cookies. It was rancid. The other neg. was the guy who "found" us the shuttle. All he did was organize. He didn't load the luggage, drive the shuttle or unload the shuttle. And when one of us tipped him $1 as she had 1 bag, he was angry with her. He literally said, "come on, $1 isn't enough, I want more". She refused and he still gave her a hard time. Very annoying. Ship- First off, I have to say, this was the easiest ship I've ever been on to navigate and learn where everything was. We originally were supposed to be in cabin 5199 but there was a mix up with our agent/Carnival. We ended up in cabin 5134. In hindsight, it was great to be there. It was central to many things. Directly below us on deck 2 & 3 was the Phantom theatre. On decks 2 & 3 were the Bacchus dining room and then on deck 2, midship, was the purser desk/atrium. On deck 3 aft was the gift shops and photo area. Above us & aft on deck 9 was the Lido deck and the Horatio's buffet. It was very easy. Cabin- We had a balcony stateroom. It was fine for the 3 of us. Tight at times but we're accommodating. Plenty of room for clothes and things in the bathroom. It was adequate. Room Steward- Our room steward was Stefiana (sp) and she was adequate. She kept the room clean, even cleaning around our messes. Always plenty of white towels. And she was pleasant. Negatives- She only filled the ice container once a day. We are a bunch of water drinkers and always wanting ice. Had to call for ice in the evening many times. After the first day, never had the blue towels for the ports the night before. And twice I had to call in the morning as I was diving and left early. Otherwise, she was fine. Entertainment- I loved the variety shows. The first one was Generations and it was Excellent. Clint Butler can sing his tush off. The 2nd variety show was Ticket to Ride. Same singers and dancers. It was good but I thought Generations was better. I didn't watch Legends this year. Too Tired. And watched part of the Talent show which was ok. Did not see any comedy shows. Did go to Frankie & Johnnies which had Music Manila. They were very good. Now I didn't keep my capers from last year on the Valor but I swear this was the same group as on the Valor in Dec. last year. We went dancing a couple of times and really enjoyed them. I didn't specifically go to the bar or to watch the piano singers but when I passed by them, they were sounding good. Dining/Food- The Main Dining- room had good food. I can't say great as to me, the Valor had great food. That Chef was awesome. But on the Miracle it was always good to me. The only thing I didn't like in the main dining was the grouper. It was flavorless. And the first 2 nights of the cruise, the Ceasar salad was "fishy". I tried it night 4 and after, it was better. Our waiter, Richard, was hysterical. He had a different mind game or trick each night. Truly a pleasure and entertaining. Horatio's Buffet- What can I say, it's a buffet. And it's catering to many different food likes/dislikes. I really didn't have many complaints, except for the eggs. They always seemed "too moist" to me. The Pizza was good and the sandwiches were good. My friend tried the Indian food on that day and said it was the worst she's ever had. I don't like it, so did not partake. I continued to enjoy the free ice cream. It's always a hit. And on the aft end, in the adult only area, are the toppings. Loved them. Photo dept.-What can I say. Many know how vocal I am on the photo dept. and they haven't changed a thing. I think it truly needs to be revamped. They should make more sizes available without having to buy the original 8X10. They would sell more. I can't tell you how many people passed on photos due to price/size. They didn't want 8X10's and certainly weren't going to buy one just to get a 5X7. It's ridiculous. Had a few vocal matches with the photo folks. The first time over our embarkation photo. They never printed it. When we asked if they could go back to the computer for our group and look us up, then print it. They would only do that if we paid for it. Their nuts. I'm not paying for what I can't see. They even looked themselves, it was never printed. They finally agreed and as it was, I bought it. The 2nd time was when I wanted a re-print of a photo that more than one person wanted. I already had some photos held that I wanted but forgot my photo coupon in the room. I had the photo there but Stellan refused to print it without me paying for it. Even though I had others held aside. And he got into a rude vocal confrontation. Most standing there were shocked. I will be reporting him to Carnival later. Gift shops-Fine as usual. Some good sales. Spent some $$ but not much. Internet Cafe-Located on deck 3 midship to forward. It was the easiest thing to get to and didn't have to go through the smokers to get to it. It's not cheap and often very slow. But it keeps you connected. Ports- St. Maarten- I've been here before and love this Island. We decided to rent a car and drive around the Island. It's not that easy to get around. We took a wrong turn, which was in our best interest. We ended up, in a round/about way, at Mullet Bay. It was lovely. Nice little beach, fair snorkeling area. Nothing to write home about in that area but saw some cute fish. For $10 per person, you could get a lounge chair/umbrella. They also had a lunch shack there which was a great deal. We got a cheeseburger & fries for $5.50 & a medium/large bottle of water for a $1.00. Some of my other friends went to some private Island with family for beach/snorkeling and they paid $17.00 for a hamburger. But there was only one food thing on the little Island. So we were advised by the locals to leave early due to traffic on the Island. Thank God they did. We got back, couldn't find the guy to give the car back & drove around in circles for about 30 minutes. Finally we got him, gave the car back and headed to the pier area to shop and then wait for the water taxi. Word of advice, double check what time the last water taxi is. We didn't think of it and thought we had good leeway on time. Not so. We got to the pier at 4:20 p.m. and they security guy scared us to death. He thought the last water taxi had already come/gone. We panicked. Luckily, he was wrong. There was one left but we got the last one and almost missed the ship. That was a scary thought of how to get to St. Lucia (our next port) to join the cruise ship. Taught us all a very valuable lesson. As it was, we were chastised as we boarded. Rightly so. We had to laugh too once we were on the ship. It's a lovely Island and would go again. St. Lucia-This was a port where I was to dive. We had dives booked privately with Dive Fair Helen. They picked us up at the dock, took us to where their shop was and then we boarded our dive boat, the Denise. It's always interesting going to dive shops outside the U.S. We have big, supplied shops. These are often huts. Just different. The equipment looked good. No complaints from those who had to rent equipment. I brought my own. All I needed was weights. We went to 2 dive sites. One was a reef and the other, a ship wreck. First time on a wreck but absolutely loved it. So much marine life variety. They also fed us on our surface interval. We also had snorkelers. They first dive they dropped off the snorkelers with a guide. And then the 2nd dive, the snorkelers stayed with us also observing the wreck. Very cool. We got back to the dock and did some shopping. No one bothered us like some ports. Fair to high prices. St. Kitts-We also booked our dives privately with Kenneth Dive Center. They came with all the supplies so as to save time. They also had advanced divers getting certified and snorkelers. Our first dive was a reef again and then a wreck again. It was great diving, but visibility was a little less than St. Lucia. They did not feed us on this dive but did provide water/juice. We got back to the dock very timely. I was able to drop off the dive gear, rinse it, shower and go back out to shop. They have many great little shops in there. Got my Christmas shopping done as well. Our last 2 days were spent at sea. For some, they didn't like the 2 sea days before ports and 2 sea days after the ports but I loved it. I like sea days so that's fine with me. Most of it spent poolside in the adult area. And it was here that I was able to finally meet up with our Cruise Critic roll call group. We'd missed each other all week only to find out, they were right next to us at dinner. It was great meeting them. I used the slide, which was fun until I slipped on the deck. All I knew is I slipped going one direction & ended up facing the other, which if I kept going, was right out to sea. Luckily, that's what the ships railings are for. To prevent that. And I was caught/picked up by one of the officers in a white uniform. Not too shabby. But the bruises have yet to leave. I would think that Carnival would make that deck area around the slide, textured or slip proof. It's a smooth surface and when wet, is dangerous. Overall, we all had a blast. I loved the Miracle. Had a great time. Great diving and great friends to enjoy it with. I think that's all.. Or at least enough. Any questions, please ask. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
Embarkation was fast and easy. We had a car drive us in From Colts Neck, New Jersey. We arrived in New York about noon. There were 4 of us in our party with category 11 and 12 rooms, so we got VIP embarkation, which got us on board by 1:00 ... Read More
Embarkation was fast and easy. We had a car drive us in From Colts Neck, New Jersey. We arrived in New York about noon. There were 4 of us in our party with category 11 and 12 rooms, so we got VIP embarkation, which got us on board by 1:00 pm. We ate lunch on the Lido deck and it took us a bit of walking around before we discovered there was more than one circle of food. We were in our room by 2:00, but our luggage never arrived until 7:00 pm. Our room, 6215, was large with plenty of storage and closet space, although I had to ask for more hangars. Maybe I brought too much stuff. The beds were really comfortable with white duvet quilts and fluffy pillows. The veranda had 1 lounger, 2 straight chairs and a small cocktail table. We asked for an additional lounger and got it by the next day. The young lady who serviced our room was excellent - every time we left the room in the morning - no matter when - we came back to find it cleaned, fresh towels and a full ice bucket. What wonderful service! Dinners were mostly eaten in the dining room and the food was truly wonderful - a very nice variety and well served. Our waiter, Lucas, and his assistant, Sun Chain (probably spelled wrong) couldn't do enough for us. If we didn't care for what we had ordered, he took it away and brought something else. Breakfast in the Lido left something to be desired - especially the one line that serviced "late risers". It moved so slow that, by the time you found a table, the food was cold. Also, being a tea drinker, I didn't like the plastic cups because they absorbed the smell of coffee that I could taste along with the tea. I took to drinking tea out of the cold beverage glasses. Then, we started to get up earlier so we could enjoy breakfast in the dining room with real cups. Much better! Most of the shows on board were quite good - our favorite being the "Ticket to Ride" show that featured Beatles music. The dancers were marvelous and the special effects in this show were memorable. They handed out wands that glowed in the dark so the audience could sing and swing with the familiar songs. Great fun! We enjoyed some of the various activities on board - dancing, wine tasting, games, etc. However, I thought the Bingo games were a bit tacky. One session of "7 game Bingo" used the same card throughout all the games - turning the tabs back up after every game. This caused some mistaken calls of "Bingo" and was irritating. Games were too fast and easy too - not like what we have enjoyed on other ships. The boat was beautiful and fairly easy to get around. Deck 10 proved to be the best for long walks - it went all the way around - and was enough to satisfy our exercise urge. We watched people come down the slide - a big one with lots of turns - looked like fun. Didn't much like the pools - too small to really swim. The casino was good sized - with lots of penny and nickel machines - along with the usual card tables. Casino staff was cheerful and very helpful. Cardroom was small - only 3 tables - and way too noisy. We ended up playing in our room. Room service was great - very fast and with a comprehensive menu from which to choose. Ports of call - San Juan - Since we didn't arrive until 3:00 or so, we decided (the 4 of us) to take a taxi to the Ritz Carlton hotel - about a 13-minute ride. (Good move - as it showered right after we hopped into the cab). The Ritz Carlton is a beautiful hotel! We had drinks at the bar - then went into the casino to play awhile. When we got hungry, we asked about a coffee shop and were surprised that they offered complimentary sandwiches, muffins and drinks (non-alcoholic). Very nice! After we played again for a while, we took another taxi to the Water Club (about a 10 minute ride) and had cocktails on the rooftop deck - on the 13th floor. Because of the rain, we couldn't use the gorgeous white lounges around the roof top pool, but it was beautiful looking out at San Juan and the beaches. Then we went downstairs to the Tangerine restaurant for a wonderful meal. Cheesecake dessert was unusual - flaky crust with caramel layer and cheese filling. Yummy! Then back to the ship. St. Thomas - We had been here several times before, so decided to make this a beach day. First, Sapphire beach - beautiful white sand and very warm water. A little rocky as you ventured out, so water shoes came in handy. Then on to Magen's Bay beach for lunch - noisier here but no rocks - and spent the rest of the afternoon. Really lovely and so relaxing. Tortola - We took a Carnival excursion to Long Bay Beach Resort. We has been told the pool was included - a good long walk from where they dropped us off - but, I don't think it was meant to be included. There were signs posted that said the pool was for registered hotel guests only. (We took a dip anyway - beautiful pool) The beach was nice, the water warm but some pretty good waves and you had to be careful getting out. Lunch was included here too. Debarkation - a long wait. It was nearly noon when we finally got off - maybe an immigration problem? Would we cruise this boat again? Probably not, but nothing against the ship - we just like trying a different one every time - we've been on about 15 cruises and we just love them!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
We booked this cruise about one year ago because we wanted to go away for our anniversary and we wanted to go to some of the places it was going to. We also wanted to book another trip on the Legend then found out the Miracle and Legend ... Read More
We booked this cruise about one year ago because we wanted to go away for our anniversary and we wanted to go to some of the places it was going to. We also wanted to book another trip on the Legend then found out the Miracle and Legend were changing places. We liked the Legend and the layout of the Spirit Class ships a little better than some of the other classes of ships that Carnival has. We have sailed Carnival before and knew what to expect: good food and fairly good service. Embarkation- We arrived at the port in Manhattan by car service vehicle. We checked in then waited for boarding. The ship hadn't quite finished deboarding so we had to wait. Then travel agents came on board for a tour of the ship and they had lunch on board. Wedding packages got to go on board first too. Embarkation didn't go as smoothly as on prior Carnival cruises. On board- Once we got on board the rooms weren't ready so we had to carry around our luggage for a couple of hours. First, time on five cruises this happened. On Celebrity at least they allowed the passengers to drop off luggage in the room even if it wasn't ready. The precruise went well then we went around the ship and back to our stateroom. The room was clean. We had our lifeboat drill then I put our life vests in the stateroom and went down to the casino bar to meet other cruise critic friends going on the voyage. Only Derf and Derfette and we were there. They are very nice people and we are happy we met them. Dining- The dining room was very nice done up in purple as could be expected since it was a tribute to Bacchus the Greek G-d of wine. Wallpaper that showed grapes. We had asked for a table for two, but, was placed at a table for four. The couple we were with were taking their first cruise. They were a pleasant couple and good table mates. Very enjoyable to see them every day. We have something in common. I am a veteran and Mr. Harrison is an army reservist who just got back from Iraq. They did more to help us celebrate our anniversary than did the cruise line we have been sailing with regularly with since our tenth anniversary. Some of the other people sitting near us and in our section of the dining room we became friendly with which helped to create a good dining experience. The wait staff did their job and the food was what we generally expect from Carnival, excellence. The wait staff did their job. Nothing really special there. One bad thing occurred. Mr. Ibrihim the Food and Beverage Manager cancelled our Anniversary dinner in Nick & Nora's Supper Club. After they confirmed the reservation near noon that day Mr. Ibrihim called to cancel it saying we were the only reservation. What happened? One hour before there were other reservations when they called our stateroom to confirm the reservation and now they cancelled? Entertainment- The activity staff seemed to be fun people. However, when you get behind the facade some are not really that nice. Brent, Josh, Byron, and Fuzzy were really good as well as being very nice. They tried hard to get many people involved with the different activities on the ship. The shows weren't bad. The Carnival dancers, and musicians did a decent job. The show I enjoyed best were The Village Idiots. They were funny. The comedian for the first night was pretty funny too. They had different activities for us to do such as Bingo, Hairy chest contest, scavenger hunt, games based on TV shows. The room steward- The room steward was a pleasant person. He did his job for the most part. He did take two used high ball glasses left in the rest room and didn't replace them for a couple of days. Our phone to room steward wasn't operational so we had to go to the Purser's desk for service. Pursers Desk personnel- They were able to do several things, but, at times seemed over their heads with customer service issues. Casino staff- I like to play in the casino a lot as does my wife. The casino staff is important to us. Most of the staff did their job very well. Mr. Wan is an excellent representative for Carnival Cruise Lines and an excellent casino host. All of the dealers at the craps table were good. A few times I had to remind one of a payment, but, that happens from time to time. Overall, it was a good experience in the casino and we had a good time. I like to think I help create a good casino experience by cheering good rolls, and helping other players with rules they may not understand. Sometimes after closing out the casino at 0300 to 0400 hours some of us would go to the Lido Deck and get pizza while they prepare for breakfast. The Lido Deck- I choose to write about the whole Lido Deck experience in one shot here. That is a public deck and has the alternative dining as well as the pools to include hot tubs and the gym on two levels. The gym was good, but since we hit inclement weather it was risky to go on the different exercise machines. Then when you close down the casino you don't want to go to the gym in less than an hour after you get back to your stateroom. The pools and hot tubs were pretty nice. I used them a few times on the cruise. The food on the Lido Deck was very good. The pizza was excellent, the Deli is excellent too. Best sandwiches. The coffee available 24 hours a day the same with iced tea,orange juice, apple juice, lemonade, and fruit juice. The waiters cleared tables promptly. Even if someone left just to get more food. You get back and you don't have any silverware and your coffee or iced tea disappeared. Other passengers we came in contact with were mostly pleasant. I introduced my wife to my new found friends, mostly from the casino, up on the Lido Deck. Debarkation- Similar to the embarkation Carnival needs to work on the debarkation procedures. It used to go smoother than it does now. we docked at 0900 hours and got off the boat near high noon. Then finding our luggage was an ordeal since the Carnival employees or their contractors put our luggage in the wrong place. What good does it do to place numbers on tags placed on the suitcases to have someone who either is an illiterate or just doesn't care enough to do his job right and put it in the right place. Another passenger on our cruise couldn't find her luggage at all. Ports-of-call- Our ports-of-call were San Juan, St. Thomas, and Tortola. At San Juan we were at last year on another cruise. I got off to look for a post office, but, it was closed. I went back to the ship. We had a nice day on the ship. That was on our Anniversary then the Food and Beverage Manager cancelled our reservation to the supper club. Our table mates, Mr. & Mrs. Harrison, had a nice day in San Juan. They went on a shore excursion then ate at a restaurant in San Juan. St. Thomas- We went shopping at St. Thomas. We walked around the store area and made some purchases of goods. Wanted to purchase a Wall St. Journal in St. Thomas, but, not at $6.25 American. We even bumped into our table mates there while they were between shore excursions. At St. Thomas they thought I was Derf in one store. I informed them the gentleman they were referring to is my friend, but, we are not the same person. We both had something on that said, "cruise critic." Tortola- We took a scenic excursion. It was nice. It took more than four hours. If you don't like narrow streets, or are afraid of heights don't take it though. Narrow roads and little railing on the roads. By the way, we were finally able to mail postcards at Tortola. The liquor stores sell international spirits there. Not noticed in store Old Grandads and Wild Turkey. Distinctly American spirits. Overall cruise experience- It was a good cruise experience, however, a couple of things Carnival could do better. Carnival now does tipping automatically once you board the ship. This was the first time we have cruised Carnival that they did this. The service was not as good as on other Carnival cruises we have taken when this was not the policy. On our first cruise on Carnival for our tenth anniversary we ended up tipping the room steward just as much as the tipping for all our service personnel combined on this trip. And he earned it. He always knew what was happening on the ship, new all of his passengers he took care of by name, and he took care of us. When the cruise was over we took care of him. He was the best. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
My girlfriends (2) cruised on Carnival Fascination two years ago and enjoyed it, so we chose to go on Carnival again. We all live in New York and figured it would be easier and cheaper for us to leave from New York. The price was good ... Read More
My girlfriends (2) cruised on Carnival Fascination two years ago and enjoyed it, so we chose to go on Carnival again. We all live in New York and figured it would be easier and cheaper for us to leave from New York. The price was good since the third and fourth "passenger" paid half price, so we split it three ways. Embarkation: The price of parking your car for 8 days was just ridiculous in my opinion (I believe it's twenty dollars or more a day), so I had to find my way to the pier. Carrying as much as I was taking the train was not an option and my friends and family work during the week so I had to do some creative traveling which was pretty stressful. When I got to the pier it was chaotic. The cars lined up in the front picking up and dropping off and porters picking up and dropping off luggage with no signs or guide anywhere. I had my fingers crossed until I got my luggage hoping that my luggage would get to me. After that it was pretty easy, but I got there at 10:30 am so it was not really crowded. There were people disembarking from the ship I was going to get on so it was interesting seeing them go by. I've cruised many times on Carnival so checking in and getting my sign and travel card was a breeze. When I first got on the ship one thing I noticed that the ship looked smaller than any other ship I had been on. The lobby was small and the decoration was um interesting. I guess because I've been on so many cruises it's hard not to compare and personally I didn't like what I saw. My room was not ready (got on at around 12:30pm) so I went to eat on the Lido Deck. They had a buffet lunch and because everyone had to wait for their rooms to be ready, it was overcrowded. I didn't bother getting much to eat since I was carrying around stuff and wasn't able to carry anything. My girlfriends had not gotten on yet so I didn't have anyone to leave my stuff with. I was pretty annoyed that I couldn't leave my luggage in the room. Room: I had a balcony room with three beds. Although a little crowded, it was not bad at all. Although it was three beds (twin), one of them was like a daybed with cushions. The duvet and pillows were just wonderful. We each also got robes and lots of "goodies" in the bathroom like razor, toothpaste, pepcid AC, coupons, etc. The bathroom, although small, was very nice with glass shelves and very very nice showerhead which I wish I had at home. I wish there were more storage space (three females), but there were enough. The balcony was big enough for two chairs and a table and had walls on either side for privacy. The TV was useless sometimes because it kept muting itself and sometimes we would get a picture at all, I believe because the signal was from a satellite - who knows. The people who cleaned our rooms were great and friendly. Of course they made great towel animals and left us chocolates and refilled our ice buckets and cleaned pretty good. Fortunately we had a female steward because she came in once while we were sleeping. You definitely have to put out the privacy sign if you wish not to be disturbed. They cleaned the rooms twice a day, but if you needed anything between then they were always ready to serve. Dining: Although I try to stay away from formal dining, I went almost everyday on this cruise. I didn't understand what smart casual was, but the only thing I got was that no shorts were allowed. There were two formal nights on the cruise for those going to the formal dining room (Bacchus), but the rest of the time is was "smart casual". The decoration was pretty over the top for me, but the wait staff and the gentleman who sat with us were delightful. By the end of the cruise we were sad to say goodbye. The Bacchus Dining room is basically one restaurant with two floors. You had early and late dining, and you were assigned a table on one of the floors. The line for dinner was always so long that it would go into either the Gotham or Metropolis lounge which was annoying for those there already enjoying the entertainment. We had late dining and started going late just to avoid that line. The food was fantastic, although I would fall in love with a dish and I would never see it again. They don't make the same thing twice it seems. I did like the fact that you could order more than one appetizer, entree, dessert and if you didn't like what you ordered you could easily send it back for something else. The staff also danced and sang at times which was pretty nice and sometimes comical. My girlfriends bought me a cake on the ship for my birthday and the staff came with the cake and sang happy birthday which was very nice. This was the first time I truly enjoyed dining on a ship. There were several stations on the 9th Floor for buffet dining. You basically were able to get a variety of foods and as much as you wanted. There was also the 24 hour pizza and ice cream which was utilized by us more than once in the middle of the night. The food was regular, nothing special, and there was more than enough places to sit. There was also a sushi cart at certain times which was great. The only type of drinks that you could get for free was coffee, lemonade, fruit punch, apple juice, orange juice, and iced tea so if you wanted anything else you had to put it on your card. Also extra was certain pastries, liquor, soda, and the alternate dining like Nick and Nora's which you would have to pay $30 for. From what I was told it was worth the money. Entertainment: There were many activities on the cruise I didn't participate or see (lots of sleeping), but my girlfriends told me that some where very good. I did participate in a country line dancing class and saw guests participate in the newlywed game and talent show which was fun. You were able to see some of the activities going on the ship on your TV which is how I saw some of them - like the hairy chest contest. There was a Jazz band on board that were FABULOUS. There was a club called the Frankenstein's Lab that was two floors. Teens utilized it until 11pm when it was 21 and over only. Although for an hour between 11 and 12am there was usually a theme (disco, house, classic, etc.) the music was always by request. Sometimes, depending on the request, the music went from good to bad. The layout of the club is not that great so most of the time it was hard to see what was happening on the dance floor(especially for short people). The pools on the ship did not make sense to me really. Most of it was shallow except the middle part which left little room for people to actually swim. There is a slide which I heard was pretty good. There is a library but it wasn't used as such. The Raven Library was mainly where the computers were for internet access. The three plans that were available was 250 minutes for $100, 100 minutes for $55 or $.75 for every minute. You could also use your laptop or device wireless, but you had to pay of course. It didn't suit me at all. Every night they had photographers ready to take professional photos as well as those photographers who go around the ship and off taking photos of activities and guests. It's all great until you get ready to buy them. You have to buy the photos at the size they make them so if the photo is 8x10 and cost 21 dollars that is what you have to pay. You cannot ask for a 5x7 unless you bought the 8x10 first. This meant that if you bought more than 5 8x10 photos you have gone over $100 dollars. Now they take photos of you dining, getting on and off the ship, professionals you chose to take especially at formal night, etc. and this goes on for your entire trip. You have to be VERY picky which photos you want or else you would have spent most of your vacation money on photos alone. This was disgusting and I was not happy at all. There were many photos I wish I had I could not afford to buy. They should have the photos digitally where you could chose from a screen and print out whatever size you want. The Ship: I did not like the decor on the ship. It was a fantasy theme with different characters, but it was just too crazy for me. Mad Hatters, Pinocchio, Gotham, Metropolis, Bacchus, etc. was just too much. I'm happy my room had nothing like that in it. Excursions: The only excursion I went on was St. Thomas/St. John Champagne Catamaran Beach and Sailing. That was the best excursion I had ever been on. It was a windy, bumpy ride across St. Thomas in the mountains to the marina where we met the Catamaran. The ride was scenic and very interesting (took approx. twenty minutes). At the marina we met up with a great crew of three on the Adventurer. We sailed for awhile on the beautiful water of St. Thomas to a private beach on St. John where you were able to snorkel or just lay on the beach and swim. Beautiful. The water was clear and so good, and the area was clean and quiet and the view was breathtaking. After we left the beach the crew gave us cheese, crackers, bread, fruit, and soda, liquor and of course Champagne. When we got back to the marina all of us had felt like we knew each other. On the ride back to the ship everyone was making jokes and singing. We had a fantastic time. I would recommend highly. Embarkation: Frustrating! You have to be out of your room by 9am and wait around if you didn't pick self assist (leaving with all your luggage instead of having the staff carry it out for you). For those with a lot of luggage you had to wait for your number to be called while your luggage was being inspected by customs. We waited around approximately two hours plus, annoying. Then when we got off the ship it was chaos where the luggage area was. Luggage was everywhere and people had to go around looking for a their luggage which was usually not together. It was a mad house and not organized at all. Everyone was frustrated which made for a very tense environment. I would definitely self assist if I did it again. Overall I had a great relaxing time on the cruise, but I will not be taking a cruise out of New York again (too many days at sea), will definitely bring less luggage and will self assist. PS: you will automatically be charged $80 for tips for the ship staff so make sure you put that aside. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
My husband and I flew to LaGuardia from Chicago early on the morning of the 8th. We traveled to the Port via a limo shared with another couple, cost was $40.00 plus tip per couple. We arrived at the pier at approximately 10:45 a.m. and the ... Read More
My husband and I flew to LaGuardia from Chicago early on the morning of the 8th. We traveled to the Port via a limo shared with another couple, cost was $40.00 plus tip per couple. We arrived at the pier at approximately 10:45 a.m. and the Embarkation nightmare began. It should be noted that the Miracle was still in the process of Disembarking when we arrived at the pier. Our bags were taken by a porter and we proceeded to get in line, the first of many lines. Carnival has got to find a better way of moving people through the processing. We had followed the Carnival directive and filled out the FunPass before we left home but it did not make a difference. We were herded, like cattle, from one holding pen to another finally arriving at the area that directed you to get in line according to your cabin number. We boarded the ship at 1:25 p.m. and found a place to sit down after standing almost 3 hours in numerous lines with no chairs. I have taken four cruises with Carnival and their Embarkation process is the worst. Our Cabin #5131 was very clean and everything was in order. We had an extended balcony that was just the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by throughout the cruise. We enjoyed breakfast and late night snacks on the balcony, it was the last one so we only had neighbors on one side of us. I am a smoker but my husband is not so the balcony proved to be invaluable, although I did smoke in the cabin on occasion. Our room steward was Bismarck and I saw very little of him but the cabin was always taken care of in a timely fashion. We had many towel animals waiting for us when we arrived back at night. We requested that the refrigerator be stocked with Diet Soda and it was but make sure you know how much each can of pop costs. We used 5 cans over the 8 day period and were charged $17.50, a bit excessive I think. I did find some 16oz. bottles of Diet Pepsi when we went to St. Thomas and kept those on ice. There is a Pharmacy attached to the Mr. Tablecloth store that has cold bottles of pop. Food at the Lido was plentiful. The way that the stations are arranged can be very confusing at first but after three days it is easier to find your way around. The Lido is always crowded at lunch time, no matter it be 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.. On two occasions, one being American lunch day (ribs, chicken, cornbread etc.), the station was forced to close early because they ran out of some food items. Oriental food station was very good with some very unusual items, even tofu, Rotisserie station was always good with very tasty choices. The salad bar is plentiful and has everything you could ever want on or in a salad. The Deli and the Grill (by the middle pool) is open for the longest period of time, both have good sandwiches and the lines are not too overwhelming. Last but not least Pizza and soft custard or yogurt is available 24 hours. We had a late dinner seating, 8:15 p.m., we had requested the late seating. We sat at a table for 6 and our dinner mates were a pleasure to share a table with. Our head waiter was Walter and the assistant waiter was Andre. Walter was very personable and accommodating. It was very difficult to break the ice with Walter but he did eventually begin to relax with us but Andre was always very formal in demeanor. Service was not great but it was above adequate. The food however was very hit or miss. If you do not like your beef med rare then you will get it med well and it will be tough. The only beef that I thoroughly enjoyed was the Prime Rib on night 6, second formal night. The Shrimp Berre Blanc was excellent (I had two), as well as most of the fish dishes. Chicken dishes were also very good. There is a lot of attention to the plating of the EntrEe. All of the desserts were good but I have to admit that the Chocolate melting cake was phenomenal. I did refrain from ordering it every night. We had continental breakfast in our cabin each morning, once on the Lido and once in the dining room. I personally wish we had eaten more lunches in the dining room because the lines in the Lido forced my husband to eat a lot of Pastrami sandwiches, not that he minded. Entertainment on the ship was very good and the Cruise Director, Lenny, is to be commended for the range of Activities available. I enjoyed all of the Trivia contests, the Newly wed game, Bingo, name that tune etc. I went to three of the late shows which were very good, especially the Salute to the Beatles, Ticket to Ride. I attended the r rated comedy show that was very funny but not very r-rated. The range of things to do on sea days is varied and interesting. Keep an eye out for Josh, he is a lot of fun during the "horse race". Make sure you attend the Shopping talk with Lance it will be the best hour you might spend, just listening. Short takes on the Ports of Call: Old San Juan, an area of many steep hills. Shopping or just strolling the streets is very challenging as it requires a lot of walking. Take a cab to the top of the shopping area and wend your way down, it will be a lot easier on your feet. Sheraton Old San Juan Casino is a bit old and run down but it is filled with more .01 and .05 machines than I have seen anywhere. It is all US money so you don't have to worry about conversion. Be aware that all casinos in San Juan are completely NON Smoking. St. Thomas USVI we did the Shopping and Beach excursion because it was inexpensive. The shopping was great, if you are a fireman and can prove it go to the fire station and buy a St. Thomas Firefighters T-Shirt. The beach that your excursion takes you to is very nice but be aware that chair rental is $10.00 each, that was much more than I expected. But a beautiful beach all the same. Tortola, BVI, we went to the Long Bay Beach Resort. The bus ride to the resort is in an air-conditioned bus. As your driver navigates the steep hills you will be glad that you are not driving! The views are breathtaking from the top and it is worth having your ears pop. The resort is very nice and quiet. The water is beautiful and very wavy. It is on the side of the island that promotes surfing so the waves are great, if you like waves. Make sure to wear watershoes because there are big rocks about 5 feet into the water. If you venture further out the sand bottom returns. Because the waves are big there is a bit of an undertow but you quickly adjust. Shops on Board, good deals but wait until the last few days for the really good deals on everything from t-shirts, to booze, to diamonds and more. If you must do something in the Spa wait for the last few days and practice saying no to potions and lotions that the staff will insist you need. I do not know how they do it but they almost make you feel guilty if you do not buy something. I did really enjoy my Aromatherapy pedicure and manicure for $95. and I got away with just one lotion for $40.00. The Casino is on a ship so it plays a little tight. I did not care for the Casino host on the Miracle, Carlos is his name. He does not take the time to get to know anyone. But although I did make contributions in the Casino I did have fun there for an hour or so each day. Disembarkation: A very good experience. We did self assist which commenced at 9:15 a.m. The Miracle gets in to Port at 9:00 which gives you plenty of time to have breakfast. Just make sure that you can handle your bags yourself. We piggybacked two bags with a luggage strap and it worked out very well. Because of a flight change we had to be at the airport no later than 11:30 a.m... Regular debarkation starts at around 10:30 a.m. . . Lots of Cabs are located right outside the Cruise Terminal, $40.90 plus tip to LaGuardia, Overall this Carnival Cruise on the Miracle was good, not great but good. It is what it is, Carnival is still the average man's cruise. My one regret is not enough time at the beach. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
This was our first cruise. Myself along with my wife and two kids. Daughter 17 and son 9. Decided on the Miracle because living in NY was easier than flying to Florida. After talking to some friends we decided to get to the pier early ... Read More
This was our first cruise. Myself along with my wife and two kids. Daughter 17 and son 9. Decided on the Miracle because living in NY was easier than flying to Florida. After talking to some friends we decided to get to the pier early which was a great idea. Got to the pier around 10:30am and checked in right away. Was able to get a seat and some breakfast. Only waited about an hour and we started to board. We were having lunch on the ship by noon while thousands of others were outside waiting on line. Room was somewhat small for the four of us but we made do. I do suggest bringing a power strip as outlets are limited. Room service was excellent and rooms were cleaned 3 times daily. Our cabin steward always around when we needed something and very friendly. Food was good but not as good as others had told me about. Breakfast was regular eggs,sausage,pancakes and such. Although the omelette station was very good. The 24 hour pizza was excellent. Lunch was good but long lines did take away from it. Dinner was good. Enjoyed the menu's and waiters very friendly. The decor of the dinning room was WAY over the top. My son loves shrimp and our waiter had shrimp for him every day. Entertainment was very good although for my 17 year old wasn't as much to do as I had hoped. She did make friends right away and was basically with them the whole cruise. My 9 year old son LOVED Camp Carnival and there was PLENTY of stuff for him to do. The first 3 days he was in camp all day. However by the 3rd day he met some friends and they basically just did other things on the ship. My wife and I LOVED Frankie and Johnnys. The band was out of this world. Playing everything from KC to Van Halen. Even after saying they were done for the night would give in to the chants of "one more song" and play another. Ports.........San Juan was ehhhhhhh Just glad we found Senor Frogs. That gave the whole San Juan port a positive feeling. Otherwise I would have just preferred to skip this port. St.Thomas was awesome. We actually took a boat to St. Johns Bay and did some snorkeling and WOW was it pretty. A great place. Shopping was also very good. TORTOLA was amazing. We took the Virgin Gorda excursion to The Baths and it was worth every dollar. The Caves were out of this world and the beach was breath taking. Some random thoughts.....kids seemed to run wild late into the night. I understand they are on vacation also but when you have 10 to 16 year olds running through the halls at 3 in the morning it takes away from your good time. Food again was good but I think everyone telling me how good it was kind of took away from it. Drinks were very good. Mixed drinks were strong and reasonable in price. One suggestion I was given and DIDN'T take and which I had was DO THE SELF debarkment. We had friends do this and were off the ship quick. We on the other hand had to wait over an hour to get off the ship and STILL had to carry our luggage to the taxi. Overall we had a good time but would consider a different cruise line just to try something different. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
This was my 7th cruise with Carnival, and my least favorite. I went with a group of 19. Embarkation: we took a bus from Providence to NY. It was chaotic when we got there! Not to mention that the buses AC broke and we were all hot and ... Read More
This was my 7th cruise with Carnival, and my least favorite. I went with a group of 19. Embarkation: we took a bus from Providence to NY. It was chaotic when we got there! Not to mention that the buses AC broke and we were all hot and irritated by the time we got there. The wait was not that long in the terminal, what took forever was the line to check in. Of all the cruise i have taken, this one seemed to be the most unorganized that i have been on. When it was finally our turn to check in the girl at the desk had no clue what was going on. She didn't even know how to take my credit card and activate my sign and sail, and said the machines were down and i could go to the pursers desk and they could do it later. Funny thing was the people next to me, who were in my group, had no problem with activating there sign and sail card with their credit card. Days at Sea: these, in my opinion are the best days to relax and have fun!! i enjoyed them very much and met some really nice people! We all hung out at the aft pool because it was suppose to be adults only. San Juan: My DH and I enjoyed this port, it was though, entirely way tooo hot! we just walked around up all those hills! I thought i was just like an other american city though... St Thomas: this was my 2nd time here! we all went to Magens Bay for half the day and Coki Beach the other half! They were both beautiful, but the place to be is Coki. You can get anything you want there!;) this was our favorite place so far... We all did not want to leave! Tortola: Ummm I personally was not impressed with this island at all. Possible in a few years it may be amazing to see. we did not do anything here, and if we go back we all agreed we would do a tour. We chose not to do one this time because we were only in port til 100pm and that wasn't enough time to enjoy your self. So we all met back at the boat at the aft pool for some drinks! Nick and Noras: If you have the money, I would definitely recommend it. This was by far the best dining experience that i have ever had. We all went for my dads 50th birthday. They were all great and able to accommodate us all.. a very memorable occasion Dinner was at the late seating. and i loved it! The only thing that i was very turned off at was that our whole party was seated in different areas of the dining room and when we asked the maitre d if he could at least put us all together and he was not helpful at all so half of us did not even go to the dining room... But he did come around on the last nite to look for his envelope didn't he!! Our Room guy was egh... ok... some days our bed wasn't made up until it was to be turned down. Carnival should do something about the room stewards just busting in the room. Several times he came in and i had to either, pull the blankets up or jump in the bathroom! its like "WHOA!" Debarkation: we stayed on the boat and were the very last people off, our bus was not coming until 12:30 so there was so rush to get off and sit on the curb and wait. We did the self assist and it, in my opinion is far more convenient. overall, not as bad as the embarkation! Summary: I will definitely be cruising with carnival again... the prices are just the best. and i enjoy the younger crowds most of the time.. i do not know if i would leave from new york again, as i was the minority and felt that most of the passengers were typical new Yorkers: RUDE RUDE RUDE! I never in my life have seen so many ignorant people! But hey, as long as i made the best of MY time that's all that matters to me ya know!! We are all already planning our next cruise! And it will be with Carnival.. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
If you are the sort of person that likes entering a hairy chest or a belly flop competition then this is definitely the cruise for you, especially if you are female. However, if you like dressing up for formal evenings and elegant ... Read More
If you are the sort of person that likes entering a hairy chest or a belly flop competition then this is definitely the cruise for you, especially if you are female. However, if you like dressing up for formal evenings and elegant refinement I suggest you look elsewhere. We had been staying at the Embassy Suites, we are a family of four, me aged 54, my wife and two teenage daughters 14 and 17. The taxi ride to the port was a doddle and we arrived about 1:30. However, the boarding was the longest of any of the 3 cruises we have taken. In total it took 2 hours to board and by the time we had examined our balcony cabins we found it was too late to have lunch because of the lifeboat drill. We had two balcony cabins and they removed the partition so we ended up with one big balcony where we generally ate our breakfasts. The cabins were spacious and clean. The beds were comfortable and we requested and received feather pillows for which the staff get bonus points. The decor is in typical Carnival style gaudy and way over the top but overall the cabins can't be faulted for anyone used to a Marriott level of hotel. Speaking of over the top, the Bacchus Dining Room is in magnificent bad taste decorated in deep purple with pictures of nymphs and casts of large bunches of grapes. The food was generally of good quality but was over salted and usually warm at best. This is a problem I have noticed on the other two cruises. Service was fair to good but we did find the forced jolliness of the waiters a little tiresome. The last 3-4 nights the staff in the dining room danced and sang towards the end of the meals; again this is a feature of many cruises but personally I just find it embarrassing. Formal nights were not very formal: only 10-20% of the men wore tuxedos and many made do with sports jackets. The Lido deck served a wide variety of menus including 24 hour pizza, burgers, hotdogs and ice cream. In addition there was a deli sandwich bar, a sushi bar and one section where there was a different cuisine each day. Generally the food was good but there was quite a lot of queuing and at busy times it could be difficult to get seats. On several days Jane and I had a formal sit down lunch and as so few people took this option it was quiet and very enjoyable. Similarly, afternoon tea was served on 2 or 3 days and this was oasis of refinement compared to the rest of the fare. Overall the formal entertainment was of a high standard and as good as any ship we have been on. Of particular note was the juggling act and the dancing and singing was very enjoyable. The second show was at 10:30 allowing the late sitting to have dinner first. The daytime activities consisted of quizzes and some very silly events such as the previously mentioned hairy chest competition. Overall, the activities were not very highbrow but, in fairness, most of the passengers were very comfortable with these sort of competitions. Speaking of the passengers most were from New York and were mainly young to middle aged families with children. There were very few older people and it is plain that the staff and activities were geared to this clientele. There were very active children's and teenage programs and again few would find fault with the activities. The ship visited San Juan, Tortola and St Thomas; so much has been said about these ports there is little point discussing them. However, unless you are very wealthy get off the boat and arrange tours with the locals that will be waiting just outside. These cost a fraction of the cost of the Ship's tours. From day 1 onwards you are bombarded with advertising trying to get you to buy jewelry and art. Again this is typical of almost every cruise and you may be persuaded to pick up a 'bargain'. If so you may be interested in some penny shares that I can sell you at a very attractive price. In contrast to the previous cruises disembarkation was relatively civilized and as non-US citizens we left the ship at about 10:30. This allowed us to have a leisurely breakfast in the cabin and pack our last bag without the pressure of previous cruises. In conclusion, this is a good value cruise, the rates being much cheaper than Royal Caribbean or Princess. The cabins are excellent and the food is reasonable and comparable to the others. If you are on a tight budget this is very good value in the summer holidays and outside of July and August represents excellent value. If you are a 'fun' person then you will love the cruise as there are a huge number of opportunities to really let your hair down and enjoy yourself. If you are looking for quiet refinement then you would best look elsewhere as Carnival don't specialize in 'refined' at least not in the Caribbean. Finally, to put these comments into perspective we have booked a Mediterranean cruise with Carnival next year. This is on the basis of the incredible value for money that they offer. If prices were equal we would probably have chosen another line but you can't ignore the value for money at Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Sailed Miracle out of New York 6/28/07 - 7/6/07. We are a group of 12 - two couples with two teenage children and one pre-teen child each, plus one couple with no kids. 15 previous cruises between us; 10 on Carnival. We chose this cruise ... Read More
Sailed Miracle out of New York 6/28/07 - 7/6/07. We are a group of 12 - two couples with two teenage children and one pre-teen child each, plus one couple with no kids. 15 previous cruises between us; 10 on Carnival. We chose this cruise based on location, price and activities for the kids. This review reflects our opinion and experiences and someone on the same cruise might have had a completely different experience. EMBARKATION The drive from suburban Philadelphia was uneventful - not too much traffic for a Thursday morning. One of the reasons we chose this cruise is because it sails from NY and we could travel to the ship easily. Dropping off luggage and checking in was easier at the NYC ship terminal than any other port we've been. No lines and very little waiting. The terminal itself is a rusty, decrepit old mess and at $180/week parking is a bit steep, but it sure beats driving or flying to Florida. We were on the ship within one hour of our noon arrival at the pier. Nicely done. SHIP AND STATEROOMS The ship itself is in fine shape and the dEcor is predictably Carnival gaudy. Having sailed Carnival a bunch of times before we expected that. Cleaning and maintenance were always evident. This was our first trip on a Spirit class ship and navigating the ship is easier than on other types. We used the gym each day and found it not too crowded. It's a fine ship. We had two balcony staterooms and two interior cabins across the hall. The rooms seemed a bit smaller than on other ships, but by no means cramped. Bathrooms are quite small and have the traditional quarter-circle cruise ship shower. We placed passengers in our four rooms to get the best price and the purser's desk was very cooperative issuing new keys so everyone could change rooms. Our cabin steward was the most apathetic we'd ever had. He did what he needed to do and not much more - for instance, we had to ask for ice and fresh beach towels every day. After two or three days of that sort of thing you would think he might catch on, but he didn't. We had the partition between our balconies opened to create one larger space and enjoyed coffee on the balcony each morning and happy hour each evening before dinner. This cruise was completely sold out, but the ship rarely felt crowded. Plenty of chairs on the deck. Few long lines. I don't know what Carnival did with all those people at night, but moving around the ship was generally easy. FOOD We had breakfast at Horatio's buffet every day but one and it was about what we expected. Decent variety and decent food. It was always possible to find something decent to eat, whether you wanted an omelet or just cereal, fruit and coffee. The espresso bar was a nice feature and at $3.00 a quite good tall latte was cheaper than at Starbucks. We did eat breakfast in the Bacchus dining room one morning. The food there is definitely better, but we found it took too long to complete the meal and the overall atmosphere was just too stuffy for breakfast. Lunch at Horatio's followed the same pattern. The food was decent and plentiful and there is good variety on this ship. In addition to changing features each day, there are always stations for salad, pizza, deli sandwiches, Chinese food, hot dogs and hamburgers. However, lunchtime was the only time the ship ever felt really crowded to us and it was difficult to find a table at times. Too many of the passengers also have no idea how to act (more about that later.) We had the late dinner seating at Bacchus. This ship has only one formal restaurant instead of two, but again it never seemed crowded. And I know Bacchus is the Roman god of wine, but the wall-to-wall grape dEcor was pretty gaudy even by Carnival standards - who ever designed that dining room has never heard of "less is more." We chose to put the six kids at one table and the six adults at another and that worked out fine. Our headwaiter Alex (Philippines) was attentive, pleasant and fun. He did magic tricks for the kids after dinner and remembered names, meal preferences, etc. Our assistant waiter Jennet (Vietnam) was more quiet but also performed well. Our bar waiter Allen (St. Vincent) was also very good. Each of them received tips beyond the Sign and Sail amount. Dinner fare ranged from fair to slightly above average. Carnival is not a "gourmet" cruise line so this met our expectations. We found the appetizers to be the best part of each meal and there was no trouble ordering two (or three) if you wanted to sample. Entrees were disappointing overall - we only had two that the group agreed were very good and nothing was truly outstanding. We had the best luck with entrees by sticking to the "chef's selections." Alex thankfully steered us away from certain dishes. Often we each ordered one entrEe then ordered two additional entrees for the table to share. That allowed us to sample a dish or two that we thought looked interesting. There is a nicely varied wine list that will allow you to spend from $20 - $200 on a bottle of wine if you choose. We found some really good wines in the $30 range each night. We enjoyed dinner at Nick and Nora's supper club one evening for a $30 per person upcharge. It was easily the best meal we had while on board and is well worth the $$ if you want to splurge one night. Service is attentive and almost fawning. The meal takes about 2 1/2 hours. With drinks, wine and fees our dinner at N&N came to an additional $140 per couple. Nice evening if you want to spend the extra dollars. ON BOARD ACTIVITIES This itinerary has 5 days at sea, so it's important to take advantage of the activities the ship has to offer otherwise you get bored or just cook in the sun. Luckily, our kids never once complained about being bored. They did a variety of the kid activities offered and seemed to like them all, though their favorite activities seemed to be ice cream and the chocolate fountain. They even enjoyed afternoon tea with their Mom's (just when you think you have your kids figured out.) As for the adults, we lounged by the pool early and late, usually getting out of the sun midday to have lunch, work out or read. We saw several of the shows and they were hit-or-miss. One of the R-rated comedians was quite funny and the other was terrible. The production shows had a high-school quality, but the kids liked them. The talent shows put on by guests were fun to watch, but who on earth brings a flute on a cruise with them? Gotta wonder sometimes. We broke even at the casino for the week and were envious of the woman who hit the progressive table for $52,000. Dealers were skilled and patient with newbies. Again, for all the people on the ship the casino never felt crowded and it was easy to find a seat even at the $5 tables. We each enjoyed a quality massage at Spa Carnival, but have a complaint. At $119, the 50-minute Swedish massage is already pricey. So why is it necessary for the Spa Carnival staff to try to sell you $150 worth of products at the end of your massage? We chuckled that while each of us had a massage at the same hour with a different masseuse, they all "coincidentally" recommended the same overpriced products to us at the end. In our opinion, a massage should be a massage and not an opportunity to hard sell the guest (our bartenders never tried to sell us a blender after we ordered our drinks!) Carnival needs to tone this down. Take advantage of Spa Carnival if you wish, but beware. The cruise director has never mattered to us, but if you need to know that sort of thing our CD was Brent Mitchell. He seemed an easy-going 30-something guy from Toronto and added to the experience when we saw him. We liked him far better than the unctuous British-types we've seen previously. BARS Lots of good nightlife on this ship. If you like to party you will not be disappointed. Our favorite was the group Music Boardwalk at Frankie and Johnnie's lounge. They are four Philippine guys who manage to crank out some remarkably authentic sounding music - whether it is Lynyrd Skynyrd, Queen or KC and the Sunshine Band. They had the placing rocking into the wee hours most nights - my Sign and Sail balance will attest to that. Their unsure command of the language created some pretty funny lyrics now and then, but they were a lot of fun. There were plenty of other fun things to do at night and we'd recommend just walking the ship and dropping into anything that looks good. The only thing we would not recommend is the piano bar with entertainer Buster Freeze. We found him to be a pompous jerk who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. PORTS Our first stop was Sunday in San Juan with a 3 - 12 pm port stay. We read a number of people on these boards who said, "just stay on the ship" while in San Juan and we couldn't disagree more. We walked from the dock up to Fort El Morro - it's mostly uphill and might be a bit strenuous for some - and had a great time. There is a bunch of upscale shopping along Calle Cristo, plus neat little bars and vendor stalls. The fort itself is a National Park and really interesting ($3 entry over age 15.) Even our kids loved the history of the fort. Walking back we happened onto two different street festivals and enjoyed the vendors, entertainment and a chance to see the "real" Old San Juan. We had dinner at the Parrot Club (about 4 blocks from the cruise ship terminal) and recommend walking out that way to avoid the packed and touristy Senor Frogs. Overall we found Old San Juan to be friendly, charming and interesting. It was the surprise gem of our trip. In St. Thomas our group of 12 chartered the sailboat "Fury" with Captain Mike at usvisailing.com. Mike picked us up at the cruise ship dock and we sailed 3-4 miles from St. Thomas to Buck Island for a snorkel. We saw several sea turtles, stingrays and barracuda plus hundreds of brightly colored tropical fish. Our younger kids had never snorkeled before and they loved it. Buck Island was uncrowded and we got over one hour to snorkel. Captain Mike and his first mate John are good, friendly guys how can tell you a lot about the islands and how they transplanted to St. Thomas from the states. Drinks and snacks are included. Our cost was $90 per person to have the boat to ourselves, though Mike charters groups every day from the Marriott hotel. Highly recommended. Tortola was a half-day stay, so we taxied over to Cane Garden Bay to sit on the beach (otherwise we would have gone to the Caribbean and never seen a beach!) Our taxi broke down on the way, but a replacement came in only about 10 minutes. Cane Garden is a great horseshoe shaped stretch of white sand with calm waters and is as pretty as any beach we've seen - including those on St. John. Go far to the left to avoid the vendors and guys hawking $10 beach chairs. $6 taxi per person each way. 6 different beach bars for refreshments, etc. plus t-shirt shops and snorkel rentals. DEBARKATION Uneventful. 45 minutes from the time they called our color until we were packed and on the road. RANDOM RANTS OK, a few complaints - they by no means ruined a good cruise, but they bugged us nonetheless. Anyway, flamers get ready. All over our country you see signs that say "No shoes, no shirt, no service." Why doesn't that standard apply on a Carnival cruise? I don't care how sexy you believe your own body to be - when you are eating a meal PUT ON A SHIRT. Each day dozens of men hit the buffet line without shirts and without shoes. Boorish. Do these men sit at their own kitchen tables without shirts? Personally, I don't want to be in line at the buffet while the guy next to me gives himself a full chest scratch and I yank my tray off the line to avoid his hair shower- but it happened. Likewise the ladies - you might look great in your bikini at the pool, but at mealtime COVER IT UP. I understand that some people cross through the dining area during mealtime, but if you grab a try and stand in line, somebody from Carnival needs to say "I'm sorry, but we do require a shirt and shoes if you wish to eat." At worst it's unsanitary; at best it's classless. People who object should be thrown overboard - since they are already attired for a swim. And it still bugs me that on formal night Carnival allows people into the dining room in whatever slovenly dress they desire. Who hears it's formal night and decides to wear a backwards baseball cap? Act like you've been somewhere nicer than Chuck E Cheese. Formal night is one of the grand old traditions of cruising but on Carnival it's going down the tubes. In the late seating, only 2 in 3 men even bothered with a tie. The maitre'd actually had to make an announcement the evening before the second formal night indicating that shorts would not be allowed in the dining room on formal night (shorts are not supposed to be worn in the dining room at all.) I think I would respect Carnival more if they just dropped the pretense and eliminated formal night. Give the people what they want. But if they are going to keep formal night, do it right. Oh, and one more thing. Don't change your baby's diaper in the buffet restaurant. That's what bathrooms are for. End of rant. SUMMARY All in all, we enjoyed our Miracle cruise and rate it a 4 out of 5. There were plenty of shipboard activities for all ages. Our kids loved the experience. We had a good time and continue to believe that dollar for dollar Carnival delivers a strong value. When we cruise with our children we will continue to be Carnival cruisers. Our next cruise is for the grown-ups only, though, and we've booked with Celebrity. We'll be anxious to see the difference and decide where the cost/value relationship ends up. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
This was our third Carnival cruise. But, 2 1/2 days at sea were too much for me. Next time I will fly to wherever so that i can have some more time at the various ports. Embarkation was quick and easy. the staff were very helpful. Our ... Read More
This was our third Carnival cruise. But, 2 1/2 days at sea were too much for me. Next time I will fly to wherever so that i can have some more time at the various ports. Embarkation was quick and easy. the staff were very helpful. Our luggage came to our room pretty quickly, however, my sons luggage didn't get to his room until well after dinner time. I needed 2 cabins, one for my husband and I and one for my 2 sons and my nephew. We originally had adjoining rooms because one of my sons was added on after our initial reservation was made. Carnival told my travel agent that my adjoining room was only for 2 people and they put my sons and my nephew all the way down to 7155 which was in a completely different muster station God forbid something ever happened. And their phone kept not working inspite of several reports to the purser's desk. I couldn't even call them to make sure they were OK.I was very upset about that. All Carnival had to do was put the 3 boys in my room and put my husband and I in the 2 person adjoining room. That whole ordeal made no sense to me. Our excursions were very good. However, the bioluminescence one hat we had booked almost a month before our cruise was cancelled the night before because it was "national Puerto Rico Day". I was very angry at this because they had to know when this "Holiday" was long before the night before the excursion. Entertainment was great with the exception of the first comedian that carnival had. the second one was 100 times better and glen Miller was awesome as usual. We had seen him before. The ship was very clean and the food was never ending and quite delicious. We ate at Nick and Nora's one night and I have never had such tender lamb chops in my life as i did there. Inspite of my disappointments I will sail Carnival again and again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
This was our 3rd cruise on Carnival (the other 2 were on the Legend). Third time doing this itinerary. Jim and I were celebrating our 2nd anniversary and were looking forward to seeing a ship similar to the Legend, but different. The ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise on Carnival (the other 2 were on the Legend). Third time doing this itinerary. Jim and I were celebrating our 2nd anniversary and were looking forward to seeing a ship similar to the Legend, but different. The drive to NY was rainy and a bit difficult, but we were on board by 12:30. The rooms were not ready so we explored until 1:30. Drinks of the day in hand and text messages sent to our families stuck at work, we settled in to enjoy our vacation. Our luggage came and we were panicked when we figured out that I forgot to put a tag on one of the bags...yep, the one with our camcorder, 2 stuffed animals that travel everywhere with me (yeah, I know, I'm 28...), our toiletries and some other stuff. Spent the evening going between the casino and the unclaimed luggage area. When all hope was lost, we went back to our room and found our bag safe inside! Turns out they used the old tag from the Legend to track us down on the miracle! Big sigh of relief! Days at sea (before ports) We didn't do too many activities. I was up every morning around six (note to self- wind up alarm clock so it keeps time). I was often up at the Aft pool with my book by 8:30. We went to dinner the first formal night. We were seated with another couple and it was interesting (we were spoiled on our last 2 cruises with private tables). That didn't stop me from ordering all 3 soups! The casino was fun. We didn't win, but didn't lose our shirts either. We enjoyed the tournaments. Both times Jim made it to the finals in blackjack in the #1 spot so he got some nice polo shorts. We both enjoyed sitting in the sports bar and playing the slot machines by ourselves. San Juan Never ever feed the pigeons! We wandered around, avoiding Senor Frogs due to a less than hospitable experience last year. We were back on the ship after buying some duty free liquor by about 9:30. St. Thomas Always our favorite! Went straight to Coki Beach($9pp each way, but you can haggle down to $7 on the way back) got 2 chairs and some snorkel equipment($20). Jim wanted some braids. The alarms should have gone off when the lady told him they would discuss price when she was done. As I dozed in the sun Jim told lady he wanted a few braids on each side of his head. After all was said and done, he ended up with 26 braids at $2 a pop! Talked with a beach waiter named Thor. Think sideshow bob meets encino man.. He was great despite the fact that he accidentally shot Bacardi 151 up my nose (feel the burn!) Tortola- not enough time here! We wandered the shops close to port and went back to the ship fairly early. Ship after ports got a huge amount of alcohol for great prices BEWARE-ATM was out of order from the time we left tortola until debarkation. We don't have a debit card, just a straight ATM and pay everything in cash (sign and sail, casino, etc...) Shows Ticket to ride- FANTASTIC Music Boardwalk- FANTASTIC Running into someone from the cruise last year- PRICELESS. He has to be in his 80's. I showed him pictures of himself from the year before. He asked us to come to the disco with him- He wore me out on the dance floor!! Carnival Legends- Entertaining PROS- Nick and Nora's The food was outstanding! The service was superb. Well worth it. They do tend to undercook the meat compared to the dining room. Casino servers- they will remember your name and you drink by the 2nd day The host bought all of our drinks one night and sent chocolate covered strawberries to our room The photographers- they were incredibly patient. I couldn't stop laughing when they had us pose, but they kept trying. The next day when we went to look at our pictures they greeted me "Hey smiley" "Giggle Girl" or "laughing Lady". My husband was mortified that they remembered me... Our cruise critic friends- so nice to meet them all in person. Highly recommend getting together and doing the open bar cocktail party portable DVD player (we brought with us)- it was nice to be able to watch movies we brought instead of being stuck with the carnival channels CONS- Our A/C didn't work for the first 3 days. Worked for the 4th and 5th day and then stopped. We ended up propping our balcony open with a chair. Steward When we left wet towels on the bathroom floor to be replaced the steward simply folded them and put them either back on the rack or the carnival towels on the couch Our balcony never got cleaned until the schedule maintenance on the Tortola day. We had a blast, but most of the time we made our own fun! you can only have as much fun as you are willing to create!!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
WHAT WILL I BE WHEN I GROW UP? CARNIVAL'S MIRACLE! Recently, The Crabby Old Guy and I decided to take a cruise on Carnival Cruise Line's ship the Miracle. In the past I had cruised on another Carnival ship with my two daughters ... Read More
WHAT WILL I BE WHEN I GROW UP? CARNIVAL'S MIRACLE! Recently, The Crabby Old Guy and I decided to take a cruise on Carnival Cruise Line's ship the Miracle. In the past I had cruised on another Carnival ship with my two daughters and grandson and unfortunately had several bad experiences on that voyage. Just to give you an idea, a young woman who was quite inebriated decided to remove her bikini top and parade on center stage on the pool deck (mid-afternoon) in front of all the young children and families. No one made the slightest move to remove this woman, not even the Cruise Director who was standing right there, and she finally slithered off the stage only to smack her head into a pole and lay unconscious on the deck. Neither her friends nor the ships staff or security sought to remove her or assist her. Actually, my family and I watched in shock as her friends stepped over her and moved on to their next adventure. Did we blame Carnival for this woman's actions? No, people do stupid things all the time but we did think that someone from Carnival should have addressed the situation as it was happening. Over the years and many, many cruises I have come to realize that you just can't judge a Cruise Line by just one ship in their fleet or even just one voyage. I have many friends who have cruised with Carnival and have been totally satisfied with their services. So once again, we decided to give Carnival a try and see if my first cruise was perhaps a fluke and I actually would enjoy this cruise, besides "Crabby" and I are adventuresome. We boarded the Miracle with no great expectations but were definitely open to having an enjoyable time. Embarkation went quite smoothly and we immediately went up to the Lido deck for the arrival buffet. Much to our surprise the food was very good; we thought it was even better than Royal Caribbean's standard fare. Oddly enough on another RCI cruise we had taken on The Liberty of The Seas, I had overheard a fellow passenger, who also happened to be a cruise travel agent, remark that the quality of food on RCI had gone down and Carnival's food quality had gone up...well maybe. After lunch The Crabby Old Guy and I decided to go to our cabin and drop off our things. As we were walking to the cabin trying to find our room we realized we were on the wrong side of the ship. We turned around and lo and behold who was standing behind us but my hubby's cousins from Buffalo, New York, who I haven't seen since the day we were married (about 6000 years ago). What are the odds of being on the same ship with relatives you haven't seen in years? But odder still was the fact that with the thousands of people on the ship there they were standing right behind us within the first two hours of boarding. The fickle finger of fate...who knows but it sure was a fabulous surprise. Pat and Tony and their friends Rubie and Arlene were delightful companions throughout the cruise. Once again I was reminded that cruising with relatives (the good kind, LOL!) and friends are one of the things that great memories are made of. We were nicely surprised by a very spacious cabin with a balcony; so far, so good. Later that evening we met up with our relatives and unfortunately they were not very happy with their cabins. They had booked their reservations nine months in advance and requested two cabins with balconies only to find out that their travel agent had booked them balconies with an obscured view (which means you have to stand up and look over the life boat to see the water) without informing them. That is one of the reasons why The Crabby Old Guy always checks out our cabin on the ship's schematic on the Internet, usually while he has the booking agent on the line - this way if he sees something he doesn't like he gets it taken care of when the agent is most motivated, before they get paid. Just to again show how important dealing with a cruise-savvy travel agent is let me relate another little story from this voyage. We also met a very nice 40-something couple from California on this trip who were totally mortified because their travel agent informed them that all dining on Carnival was casual attire and there were no real formal nights - wrong. All they had were tropical clothes and they felt totally out of place on the formal evenings. These folks had done a bit of traveling but this was only their first cruise. Once again, be very careful when selecting a travel agent or agency... try to deal only with reputable and knowledgeable ones that do a lot of cruise business and train their agents well. The Miracle's staff and crew were friendly and eager to please. But it was hard not to notice that the attention to service detail that you see on most other ships was definitely missing. What I found fascinating, in an odd sort of way, was the ship's dEcor. The Bacchus Dinning Room was well laid out and comfortable but it had huge purple globe grapes plastered all over the ceiling when I saw it I felt like I was waiting for Big Bird to arrive any minute. Hubby thought it reminded him of a Mardi Gras theme but only more overstated. In the Centrum Hall there was a huge Carving of Medusa resplendent with snakes; hmmm, not exactly my cup of tea but...Ok. This should give you a bit of an idea about the main public areas but then there were the hallways to the cabins. Somehow they took a different theme...they were filled with images of 1940's movie stars done in a purplish/mauve sort of sepia style imprint. Maybe the interior decorator was having a bad day, or rather maybe even a bad month trying to figure out just what the motif of the ship would be. One of our friends, Rubie, said the dEcor reminded her of that old saying, "What am I going to be when I grow up?" Ok, so I was not crazy about the decor in the Miracle, but what was there was at least well executed and maintained. The demographics on the ship seemed to be heavy with first-time cruisers and families. I must admit I had to chuckle after overhearing a conversation between three young women on the elevator. Apparently, they were in total awe of the ship as they raved about the grandeur of the Miracle. Finally one woman turned to the other and said "Wow, this is really different than our normal entertainment of taking the pick-up into town on a Saturday night!" Another passenger, I guess a little amused, asked them where they were from and they said they lived on a farm in Canada. All I could think of was that refrain from a very old song "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" No, The Savvy Old Lady is not being catty here; just pointing out that for first time cruisers this type of ship is wonderful. And I think that is great; as these cruisers get more experience cruising there are options for them for even grander adventures if they like. Carnival, the corporation, has several other lines in their family to help keep cruisers happy for decades of enjoyment and different adventures. That is smart business ...now if the aces in charge of such things can just see the wisdom of having their loyalty program apply across their brands to keep cruisers in the Carnival family then that would be Savvy Business. One evening the two of us decided to try the up-scale extra-fee Nick and Nora's Supper Club. It was beautifully decorated and quite spacious. The style was a smart looking take off on a 1950s style supper club (or so I imagine from photos I have seen of these - I'm not that old you know). They also had live music which was very well executed and not that loud, can't-hear-yourself-talk music you sometimes have to suffer through. There was a $30 surcharge per person at this restaurant but believe me it was worth every penny of it. My husband had the steak and said it was one of the best he's ever had (and he has eaten in most of the fine land based steakhouses on two continents) and I thoroughly enjoyed the lobster tail. The Crabby Old Guy did chuckle a bit though that the servers, while attentive enough, obviously had memorized the script about the foods and didn't really have any true understanding about the menu or the wine list. We both agreed that Nick and Nora's is one of the best 'specialty' restaurants on the seas today. As for activities aboard ship, plenty. Carnival touts their ships to be "Fun Ships" and I must say they have quite an unusual assortment of activities from Bathrobe Bingo to Bathrobe and Beer Deck Parties to the showing of the movie Animal House. Now if you think The Savvy Old Lady would be looking at all these things differently if she were a tad bit younger...maybe you're right. However, my five adult children all seem to agree with me that Carnival is a bit more over done and loud compared to other cruise lines. By the by, The Crabby Old Guy did volunteer for one research job here; Carnival is (or should I say was) noted for having a "topless" sunbathing area on the very top deck near the smoke stacks. "Crabby", bad knees and all, volunteered to diligently trek up to this little oasis twice a day to see if it was being used by anyone other than some weird looking man in a raincoat. However, after reminding him that his annual physical exam was due when he got home, I convinced him it wouldn't be a good idea. Tee Hee! I did hear, by the way, that Carnival has done away with the "topless" sunbathing deck...oh well. One afternoon, as we were walking around the ship, we happened to pass Carnival's pre-cruise booking lounge and decided to stop in and get some information regarding their Vacation Club program. What was of interest to us was the points you received could be transferred over to other cruise lines owned by Carnival (Princess, HAL, etc.), well that is a good start, we thought. We were informed that we could come back the next day for a full presentation of their program. Hmmm, no "one on one" discussions...now my curiosity was really tweaked. The next day we showed up and found ourselves sitting with twenty other passengers listening attentively to the women's presentation. From what we could gather, if we signed up for the program we would basically be paying up front for cruises for the next five years. Yes, they were slightly discounted, but unless you chose an inside cabin on a Carnival ship it wasn't much of a bargain if any. Now the bit about using points on other ships in the Carnival category. One point on a Carnival ship was worth much less on a Holland America ship. And when you figured all this out (which of course Crabby did while she was presenting), turns out that the minute you switched points to another cruise line there seemed to be no discount at all. So all you seemed to be doing was letting Carnival Corp. hold on to your money for five years or so. Finally the discussion started to switch to other subjects regarding Carnival Cruise Line, mostly designed to tell us prospects how great Carnival ships are. The Savvy Old Lady happened to mention that she found it rather odd that Carnival was the first ship she had cruised on in the past six months (4 cruises) that didn't have Purell stations anyplace on the ship. Smugly, the woman replied that Carnival didn't have a problem with the Norovirus; no foolin', that is precisely what she said; Crabby and I were flabbergasted that she would say such a thing. She made a point of telling us that Holland America was the cruise line that had the problem with the virus and she had all the inside information since she had dated the Captain on one of Carnival's ships. I swear I almost choked when she pulled out a box of Purell wipes and explained that they were in the lounge for Carnival Vacation members to use and used this as a selling point. Oh well, as we left the lounge not one passenger remained to register. I had to laugh as one passenger said Carnival could keep their memberships and Purell perks, since she would now be cruising with Princess Lines. A bit of a drastic reaction but understandable. In my opinion, the Carnival ships tend to be a little noisier and more "party" oriented then some of the other mid-tier lines and that's fine; potential cruisers just need to understand this so they know what environment they will be cruising in. Still, isn't it wonderful that we have so many different Cruise Lines and ships to choose from? I think if you're looking for an inexpensive cruise and a fun time and don't mind or are looking for a bit of a boisterous and over the top atmosphere Carnival may be perfect for you and your friends and family. Will I take another Carnival Cruise?...Who knows where The Savvy Old Lady will turn up again, but be assured she will be looking for adventures and memories where ever she goes. Happy Sailing! Stay Savvy! Hugs, The Savvy Old Lady(c) www.thesavvyoldlady.com Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
DECEMBER 24-31 EMBARKATION: We travelled from Canada to Tampa Bay via Delta. We ended up camping out in Tampa Bay aiport overnight since our flight arrived early on the morning of departure for the cruise. We took a taxi which was ... Read More
DECEMBER 24-31 EMBARKATION: We travelled from Canada to Tampa Bay via Delta. We ended up camping out in Tampa Bay aiport overnight since our flight arrived early on the morning of departure for the cruise. We took a taxi which was much cheaper (as a family of 4) than the Carnival shuttle bus. It costs $22 each way via taxi. We had activated our fun pass on the carnival website, and things went smoothly from the time we go to the port till we got onto the ship. There were no line-ups, and everythign was organized. Before we knew it we were on the ship, heading up to the 9th deck to eat a much needed meal! It took a bit longer for our luggage to arrive, approximately 4-5pm. The first night on the ship was busy getting used to our surroundings, so we kept it low key. FUN DAYS AT SEA: We had 3 fun days at sea, since our first port (Progresso, Mexico) did not happen due to rough seas. The first few days our ship was rocking a bit, which caused a few people to feel uneasy, but it was not unbearable. The weather was not crazy hot, which I was hoping for, and it was very windy the first few days. The pools are not too big at all, in case you were planning on swimming some laps. There were always a lot of activites to do on the ship, whether it be raffles, games, FOOD, FOOD, and more FOOD! EATING: WE had most of our dinners at the first seating in BAcchus REstaurant. Our main waiter, Ioan, was great! My family highly recommends him, and his assistant Johnny!The food was always well put together, tasted great, and was well presented. If you are a chocolate fan, try to melted chocolate lava cake for dessert! On days when we were too tired to get to our seating in Bacchus, we had dinner at Horatio's on the 9th deck. They always had a huge selection of food, so they never disappointed. Overall I think we gained some weight, because there was always so much food to eat! FORMAL NIGHTS: EVeryone was very dressed up for both formal nights. It was a nice atmosphere, however, there were a few in casual wear. There were probably more people in formal wear than normal due to the fact that our first formal night landed on Christmas. However if you choose not to do the formal nights you can always go to Horatio's and eat in casual wear. PORTS: WE did not do any excursions, as we had a family friend in Grand CAyman who took us around. We did not get to experience Progresso, Mexico since the port was cancelled, but we did get a $25 US credit/per person added on to our sail and sign in account. Cozumel was great! We had the most time to spend there. My parents did a lot of shopping, as there were many stores, malls, and flea markets nearby the port. My sister and I decided to venture off and walked all the way to Playa Azul where there was a beautiful beachfront talapa, and beach chairs to use. WE relaxed on the beach, sipping on large pina coladas, and eating quesadillas. The taxi ride back to the port was only $6US, and was well worth it. Unfortunately the tendering process in Grand Cayman took very long, plus we didn't dock into Grand Cayman till much later in the day, i.e. 12noon, which made it for a very short day. Belize city was the unexpected good experience. WE had nothign planned, and once we got off teh tender, we walked around and my mother found a gentleman by the name of Maurice Bernard. He gave us a private city tour of Belize City for only $15US/pp. It was well worth it, because he would stop the van for us to take photos, and he was very knowledgeable about Belize, the wildlife, and vegetation. He had binoculars for us to use, and books about the various exotic animals we saw. He also took us to Cucumber Beach, however, you had to pay $5/pp to use the beach and all its facilites. If the weather was much warmer, we would've done it, but instead he took us to the flea market area right beside the tender dock.SHOWS: The shows were great, fun filled adn action packed for one hour. We don't recommend teh comedian who starts off on the first show night. I can't remember his name, but has a bald head. Lots of work and prep go into these shows, and they usually have 2 times for which you can view the show. ROOMS: We all shared one cabin to cut down on costs. EVen though we were a family of 4, we all managed to use the one room with out much chaos. There was one queen sized bed for my parents and a set of bunk beds for my sister and myself. the closet space was big enough for the 4 of us. They always changed our towels, and the room was cleaned very often. Plus we had a balcony on the 4th floor, which gave us more room to move around. The A/C worked well, and we didn't feel disturbed with the initial days of rocking of the ship. GYM: The gym is not large enough for everyone to use on the "fun days at sea" because with all the eating you are doing, everyone wants to work out. Plus with the ship moving it was hard to keep steady on the treadmills. We were not allowed to use the jogging deck on the first 2 days because it was so windy. They had treadmills, elipticlas, rowing machiens, free weights, weight machines + spa(which we did not use). LOUNGES: The whole family enjoyed teh music in Frankie And Johnnie's by "music boardwalk". They were a great band, that played all types of music. We also checked out sam's piano bar, which provided a nice change of scenery, plus they had really comfy chairs. My sister and I checked out Dr. Frankenstein's lounge, which was a nightclub. EArlier in the night the tweens were in the lounge, and by 11pm, the older group entered. GETTING OFF SHIP: Since we had an early flight on the day of departure, we packed the night before, and decided to do self-assist. We had to do US customs really early in the morning, at 6:15am, and were able to have one last breakfast before getting off the ship. EVen though we were ready by 7:30am, there were a few families (non-Americans) who did not go to the mandatory US Customs Immigration Stop in the mad hatters lounge, which made us wait for at least an hour near the exit. We got off the ship at 8:30am, and dashed to the airport for our 10am flight out of tampa bay airport. We got there in time, but beware of the possible delay in getting off the ship for this very reason. OVERALL: This was my sister and my first cruise, and my parents 2nd cruise, and it was a good experience. We both love going to the beach, and I wish we had more time at the ports, as opposed to the extra days at sea. Teh food was great, the shows were entertaining, and all the carnvial employees were very helpful and enthusiastic. Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
Flight to Tampa: Went smoothly in general although American changed our gate more than once, including the final time when we were already sitting at the gate and the automatic notification to my cell phone let me know before the gate ... Read More
Flight to Tampa: Went smoothly in general although American changed our gate more than once, including the final time when we were already sitting at the gate and the automatic notification to my cell phone let me know before the gate attendants or the flight crew had been told, so we raced off across O'Hare to another concourse altogether. Hotel in Tampa Saturday night: Springhill Suites. Our suite had enough room for four adults and a small child without too much cramping, although I'm glad we all didn't have much hanging stuff as the closet was small. Service of desk staff and shuttle staff was excellent and the breakfast buffet was good. Embarkation: Went extremely smoothly as I had VIP check-in due to the suite cabin. After the paperwork was done in a corner of the main room, we were personally walked over to the VIP seating area to wait for boarding. Stateroom: We had an aft cabin right next to the wraparound ones. The wraparound ones have two televisions but our cabin had one, and it could only be comfortably watched from the couch and the bed by the patio doors. The bed nearest the TV created an awkward viewing position. There was abundant hanging space in the closets, although I would have appreciated more drawers in lieu of the shelves in one of the closets. The makeup counter near the bathroom was nice but I would have happily given it up to have more space in the main cabin. I have stayed in the equivalent level suite on the Celebrity Galaxy and there is no comparison--the Galaxy suite had two rooms and plenty of space, and this Carnival suite felt very cramped. And we only had three people in it, not the four that it could have allowed. The beds are hard and the pillows were flat. Service: Was excellent in general--see shore excursions for additional comments. Our cabin steward Bogdan was friendly and very efficient. For towel animals, we got a swan, a monkey, a seal and I think there was one more but my pictures aren't developed yet. Our dinner servers were Rudi and Igor, who showed infinite patience with our ordering multiple appetizers each night. Sometimes they forgot one or two orders, but we had a table of 12 people and were always the last ones out of the dining room in our section, so I didn't mind as much. And they had great enthusiasm for the dancing and got several folks at our table dancing with them each time. Dining: Was merely average. Compared to Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, Carnival would get a B at best and in some areas a C or worse. The appetizers in the dining room were pretty tasty as a rule. The salads were plain but nothing really wrong with them. The entrees and desserts were inconsistent. Sometimes they were utterly fantastic and sometimes they were barely mediocre, like the tough medium rare filet mignon and the dessert mousses that had less flavor than tofu. Like the night of the midnight buffet, I think Carnival sacrifices taste for presentation in general, which I think is a poor choice. Horatio's was good but never great, although the tableside beverage service of tea, lemonade, etc. and table clearing gets high marks. Entertainment: Fantastic! Chris as John Belushi was great. I enjoyed all the entertainment: Welcome Aboard show, Ticket to Ride, Blues Review, Generations, Allyn Ball, everything! Shore Excursions: Again, inconsistency. In Grand Cayman, my son and I did the Pirate Encounter and the Stingray Sandbar, both Carnival excursions bought via the internet before sailing. The operator of the Stingray Sandbar tour cancelled our timeslot. Carnival moved us up to the prior slot without saying a word, leaving only 15 minutes between the two excursions. To give Richard of the Shore Excursion desk credit, he bent over backwards to speak to the two companies so they would try to get us on both excursions in a timely fashion. But a note in our ticket envelope would have been a reasonable expectation so that we knew what was going on. Both excursions were a lot of fun. The Stingray Sandbar boat pushes its photos and does not provide any complimentary beverage or food, so bring cash. The Pirate Encounter includes free rum punch and water/soft drinks and was a blast--I highly recommend it. In Cozumel, we did the Ultimate Snorkel. The private beach (Sunset Beach) is rocky and unattractive, but the operators get high marks for service and assistance. I also recommend the food at Pancho's Backyard in Cozumel near the Puerta Maya pier to which we tendered. In Belize, I just shopped briefly near the pier and stayed onboard. In Costa Maya, we shopped near the pier, took a taxi to Mahajual and went to Chac-Chi ("hole in the fence"). Joaquin at Chac-Chi was great, and so was his food and margaritas. Please visit him--you will not regret it. Activities: Carnival gets only a middling grade for this. The ones that were scheduled were a lot of fun, but there were very few choices at any given time (many times, only one activity took place during any given hour) and few activities at all on port days. Many repeat cruisers do not go into the port during the day, and there was almost nothing to do. Wrap-Up: I had a lot of fun but would consider Carnival near the end of my preferences for my next cruise, whenever that happens down the road. It's a decent value for the money but I'd rather pay a little more and get a better return on my investment. But I would definitely do Carnival again if the combination of money and timing and other factors make it the most viable choice--I liked it a lot, but I like other cruiselines more. Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
I confess that I had to wait a week before writing my review of our 12-3 to 12-10-06 Carnival Miracle cruise to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya. I needed to step back from it all and get some perspective. You see, our ... Read More
I confess that I had to wait a week before writing my review of our 12-3 to 12-10-06 Carnival Miracle cruise to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya. I needed to step back from it all and get some perspective. You see, our experience was neither the miracle for which I had hoped, nor the disaster all vacationers fear. It was, in fact, much like life; a mix of magical fantasy and utter frustration, of the exquisite and the ugly. It started with the greatest of highs and ended with the greatest of lows with a great mix of experiences and emotions in between ... I traveled with my husband and my folks from the Brandon area, all who had cruised before. I was the wide eyed cruising virgin. Being so labeled, I was prepared for long embarkation lines and the shock and awe that the ship was sure to instill in my over stimulated pre-vacation heart. What I found instead, were long but stunningly efficient lines operated by friendly port personnel that took about 30 minutes from beginning to end. I also found myself decidedly underwhelmed by the Miracle itself, I think, because I had done so much research and looked at so many pictures beforehand, that I already knew the ship by heart. That begs the question, is a Cruise Critic member truly a virgin cruiser? After all, I had the duct tape, the clothespins and thought I was prepared for every scenario, or so I thought, LOL. But I digress. The ship was immaculate, our room (8219) on the Panorama deck spacious and very well designed, with lots of storage, particularly in the bathroom. It had plenty of shelves and drawers and places to put things, even for my husband who packs enough luggage for two girls! The decor was not as gaudy as I had been led to believe, but it did not seem cohesive from area to area. What does the Mad Hatter have to do with Orpheus or classical art, for instance? But, while not miraculous, it's fantasy, so who cares? Not me, I was there on vacation, not to critique interior design! To me, the ship was just a form of transportation from port to port. If it was comfy, clean and uncrowded with some stuff to do, I was happy. I was not disappointed. As far as the entertainment, it certainly was not first rate, and that opinion came from my parents who saw a couple of the shows and said they had seen much bigger and better on other lines, and my husband and myself who saw the R rated comedian. While funny, we too, had seen better. Fortunately, hubby and myself did not cruise for the shows. He preferred to donate to the casino, which he found to be just loose enough to keep him playing and he had fun. I preferred to soothe my ADD addled mind by immersing myself in the sounds and sights of mother nature's theater on the balcony, definitely my favorite part of the cruise and one I will not in future do without. The buffet food was less than spectacular, but then, it was a buffet. It was often lukewarm, sometimes rubbery, but rarely inedible. Some of it was actually very good, particularly the pizza and the ice cream. When compared to any other buffet I have experienced, it held it's own. The dining room fare however, bordered on the exquisite. The delicate flavors and understated presentation of fare never competed, but melded to perfection. The Warm Chocolate Melting Cake endeared itself to my heart forever, and virtually guaranteed I will buy the Carnival cook book set to learn how to make it. The service in all of the food venues was outstanding, every whim and need anticipated before you even knew what you desired. I would have to dub the whole food experience miraculous. I definitely overindulged, but I LOST WEIGHT! I don't know how you did it, but thank you Carnival. That indeed, is an accomplishment. Now for the best part of the cruise, and where some real miracles occurred; the itinerary. Grand Cayman did not impress me at first. It is a tiny island, very flat, with lots of buildings crammed in together, and even more people. After we snorkeled at Eden Rock, I changed my mind. It was very rough that day, so I didn't go but 5 feet away from the shore. I had never snorkeled before, and seeing the fish and brain coral and the rise and fall of the ocean floor was amazing. Even though I kept getting thrown into the ironstone and getting water in my mask because I unknowingly had hair underneath it, I discovered a sport I would like to try again. While I don't care to return to Cayman, I certainly aspire to my mother's level of expertise. She made it to the reef! Cozumel was every woman's dream and every man's nightmare! Shopping, shopping and more shopping! What a fun place. The margaritas at Ponchos Backyard and the bonding of sorts they engendered with my parents, topped off what would have been a perfect day except for a tendering nightmare here which I will deal with later. Belize. Wow! The Xunantunich ruins were an epiphany for both my husband and myself. These Indiana Jones-like structures proved eerie in setting; isolated in a rain forest shrouded in the mist of an overcast day. El Castillo, the main temple, stood, brooding, above the smaller but equally intriguing structures, from the ruined residences of long dead priests to a room that held a sacrificial stone. Even the Carnival tour guide admitted that these ancient monuments don't easily give up their secrets, telling us that scientists can only guess at what happened to their inhabitants. While ancient Mayans frequently met their doom here (even the winners of games in the ball court were allegedly beheaded) my husband and I had some personal triumphs here. Fate would not allow us a trip to the top on this day, as it had been raining heavily and was not safe, but we did go more than a third of the way up, enough to see Guatemala. My husband is afraid of heights and he climbed up and faced that demon. I am overweight and out of shape and had been training for this in our rural home landscape with some hills. I knew there was about a 1500 foot climb to the ruins up a steep hill and was quite concerned I wouldn't make it, or worse, would hold up my fellow passengers. I stopped about 4 times, but one of the tour guides stayed with us and I made it without having to call the paramedics, LOL. Then came about twenty slippery steps up to the start of the ruins. This was disheartening when I saw these, but again, I arrived, gasping, at the top. Better yet, I did not hinder the tour. I lagged behind as the tour went on and hubby and I were able to catch up at the next narration point. While we missed some of the lecture, we were not really here for that. The ruins themselves, while steeper and more slippery, seemed easy to me in comparison, perhaps because I had already faced my personal demon, or maybe it was just the awe of those mysterious stones. Whatever the reason, I did it! We both felt we could conquer anything after this. Better yet, these middle aged yuppies, used to living separate lives in the same household with our separate t.v.'s and computers, did this together! We felt like Rocky at the top of those steps! This experience was the highlight of our trip and left us craving more, so much so that we plan to go back. Costa Maya was the perfect combination of tourist trap and authentic Mexico. I bought a diamond and tanzanite ring near the pier and blew the rest of my money, we got to try our hand at bartering, and then we went into town to the Cat's Meow and got drunk on the beach. It was a truly relaxing day, a perfect last port of call. Before I get to the bad stuff, I must emphasize that both my husband and I are pretty easy to please. We are middle class, but not particularly sophisticated and can have fun pretty much anywhere. We don't tend to complain out loud, and HATE stuffy people and atmospheres. There were a couple of experiences on the Miracle though, that had me yelling out loud, my father speaking out, and left us all questioning whether we will sail with Carnival again. The first was the tendering experience in Cozumel. The water that day was described by the crew as a long swell, and they announced over the p.a. system that these conditions were causing the delay. Now I really wanted to like this ship and this line. After all, who wouldn't want to embrace a cruise line that offers great prices and exciting itineraries. I was very prepared to be forgiving. But we waited around two and half hours in two to three unsupervised lines. We had to self merge into one line when going down and around several flights of stairs. In short, we were crammed in there like pigs in a feedlot being funneled into a chute, and it was every man for himself. Now I have said that I am not stuffy, but I try to be polite. Yet, in a situation like this, you have to cut in front of people or you'd never get anywhere, and you can't help but be miffed at the person that cuts in front of you. What started as jolly anticipation of a fun, booze drenched day of shopping, swimming and snorkeling, ended sitting on the tender, thinking murderous thoughts about fellow passengers, and a general skepticism about how far man has truly evolved. Bottom line, Carnival should be better organized and better prepared for situations like this, and should never put their passengers in this sort of predicament. After all, this was not the first time the Miracle had tendered in Cozumel, or anywhere else for that matter. Honestly, I've seen better organization in slaughter feedlots. The same situation reared it's ugly head at disembarkation, only it was FAR uglier. Even though self assist disembarkation would require a lot of work toting hubby's vast collection of bags and my heavy souvenirs, it was an enticing option. It was supposed to be quick, easy, and allow us to get back to my folks' house in Sun City Center and back home to Georgia via I-75 before prime time. Now once again, I didn't expect miracles, but I wasn't prepared for the disaster that occurred. This, quite simply, resembled a pileup of malfunctioning bumper cars at a two bit carnival, pun intended. Passengers were told the night before that self assist disembarkation would be announced. It wasn't. We were told where we were not allowed to meet for the procedure, but not where we could, so people started self assembling. A line snaked throughout the ship. We went to the back and sat down in our place and waited for the line to move. The problem was, the line twisted around so much, people could not tell where it ended. When people asked the one crew member who was there, they apparently were ignored, because they started cutting in front of people. Suddenly, you had large groups of people cutting in front of others that had been in line for over an hour. We finally gave up on the people who cut in front of us getting a clue and went to the new back of the line. My father, a normally polite soul, asked a female officer standing at a closed bar with her back to the crowd and talking to a buddy, if she was an officer, and she "Yes". He then asked her if she was in charge of traffic and if she should be out there directing it and she said Yes, the end of line's back there, and then turned back around and started talking to her companion again. As soon as my father walked on, her buddy said if he doesn't like it, why didn't he check his baggage? I then lost it and said then why did Carnival offer self assist to begin with? When I walked on, the coward who obviously couldn't bring himself to say it to my face said you need to go to which I replied, I am trying to, and I certainly won't be coming back! Now like I said, I don't usually complain in public. If I'm mad I seethe in private and hold a grudge for awhile. This made me so mad though, that I will take my grudge to Carnival. I don't know if this man was a Carnival employee. But the officer was, and not only did she say nothing, she did nothing to begin with. Even if she was not charged with directing traffic, she should have stepped up, or at least called someone who would. It was the right thing to do. The fact that she literally turned her back on the whole situation and the fact that this was the second time this happened on the ship, was enough for me to proclaim that I will think long and hard before I book on Carnival again. To me, this symbolized Carnival turning it's back on it's lifeblood. This was a very unpleasant ending to what could have been a superior experience. So in conclusion, was the Carnival Miracle miraculous? No. But some parts of the vacation were. My husband, a hardened workaholic who refused to vacation for more than 3 days, has now agreed that a 7 day getaway is not only tolerable, but nice. I conquered my fitness demons, pushed myself and didn't die. I lost weight. Hubby faced his fear of heights. I bonded with my parents. We all saw some great places, met great people and had a great time. Like life, nothing about the trip was black and white. There were a lot of greys, and pinks and blues, oh those beautiful multi-hued sunsets. Like life, there were highs and lows. Not surprisingly, like life, sometimes you see the miracles through those awful lows, in retrospect. Sometimes, when you stand back, you see that a vacation is not just a ship, or a hotel, or an excursion, but the people you meet, good and bad, and places and experiences that make you feel indifference or joy or rage, and then, those that haunt your heart and soul forever. After all, a vacation is really just a microcosm of life isn't it? It is a tapestry of the lovely and the repulsive, the ordinary and the sublime. In the end, it's all good because you take away a better perspective on those you love and on the state of your own life, and of the world as a whole. And you put it all together and are, in some small way, forever changed. In the end, you take it all with you. It becomes a part of you. So will I sail the Miracle again? Probably not. Will I cruise again? You bet! I'm already planning my next adventure. And I can't wait to see what highs and lows it brings. Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
So was the Carnival Miracle a miracle? That is a question you will have to answer yourself, however you will know my opinion by the end of this review. Background: This was my 8th cruise and first with Carnival Cruise Lines. I cruised ... Read More
So was the Carnival Miracle a miracle? That is a question you will have to answer yourself, however you will know my opinion by the end of this review. Background: This was my 8th cruise and first with Carnival Cruise Lines. I cruised with my parents (previous Carnival Cruisers) and my younger brother (16). We drove to Tampa, as we live only 2 hours away. I chose this cruise because I was off for fall break and the price was right. Leading up to the cruise I kept in touch with the Marvelous Miracle Misfits, who made the wait as painless as ever! Embarkation: This was the easiest embarkation I have ever taken part in. We arrived a little later then I hoped, but that turned out to be okay as we didn't have a boarding group. We had the funpass and didn't have to wait in line. Cabin: This was our first balcony (6224), and we loved it. We had an extended balcony, so we could see the lifeboats below us, but it didn't bug me. The room was extremely roomy, to say the least. We never felt crowded and had plenty of storage space. The only negatives for the room are: in the bathroom the curtain sticks to your leg and the balcony door whistles, and if yours isn't you can hear others whistling. The Ship: The decor of the ship is extremely interesting. The ship has subtle details and portrayals of super heroes and literary figures. The Metropolis Atrium, which extends up to deck 11, was a sight to behold. It just seemed to go up forever, especially at night. The Metropolis Lobby itself was your basic lobby, a bar, comfy sofas, excursions desk, and purser's desk. The main show room on the ship was very well designed. The Phantom Lounge kept in the theme of the Phantom of the Opera. There were masks in the staircases, and at the sides of the lounge. The room itself seems small when you are on deck 2, the lower level, but when you venture up into the third level the room really comes to life. The other entertainment room was the Mad Hatter's Ball. This room seems to be inspired by Alice in Wonderland. There are heart shaped chairs, red sofas, jester's and rabbits on the walls, card symbols (heart, club, spade, and diamond) on the floors, and red roses on the ceiling. The dining room, well I am sure you have heard about it; purple circle lights, Renaissance paintings on the ceiling (which are a theme throughout the ship), and those infamous purple grape chandeliers. Surprisingly I completely understand the design of the room. The Bacchus Dining Room was modeled after the Roman God of wine, partying, and pleasure, Bacchus. The lights hanging from the ceiling represent the grapes used to make wine. Okay, enough mythology for now, on with the written tour. The many of the lounges\sitting rooms look the exact same, these include: Jeeves Lounge, The Joker Card Room, the Cityroom, Kanes Way, and the Gothom Lounge. One of the coolest rooms on the ship was Gatsby's Garden, always quiet, and windows big enough to sit in! The Raven Library, named after Edgar Allen Poe's masterpiece, was also a nice place to curl up with a book. Sam's Piano Bar seemed nice, but it was always closed. Frankie and Johnnie's was a great place to hang out during the day, the played jazz at night. The Maguire's Sports bar was hands down the best sports bar I have ever seen on a ship. There were pictures of athletes with their autographs all over the walls. Dr. Frankenstein's Lab was the only night club on the ship. And it was busy morning, noon, night, and wee-morning. The Lido deck restaurant, Horatio's, was pretty good. I ate breakfast there everyday and loved it, for lunch I ate from the taste of the nations line. The set up is a bit tricky at first but after a whole day at sea, it becomes a bit clearer. There were 8 stations in all, Deli, Rotisserie, Asian Corner, Taste of the Nations (which features a different countries cuisine everyday), 2 stations that served all-American food, a pizza station, and a salad station. At first glance there seemed to be excessive seating, but boy was I happy there was, especially around breakfast, when it was really crowded. The two everyone pools were very small, and the adult only pool was half the size of the other pools. For pictures of the ship please visit my online photo album at: http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2185623420098096222ZDjqDr Entertainment: This is when someone my age and someone a little older might have clashing views. The show I saw in the Phantom Lounge were pretty good. However, the ship seemed to get kind of quiet around midnight. Nearly all of the bars were closed (with the exception of Maguire's Bar, Frankenstein's Bar, and the Metropolis Lobby Bar), all the show were finished, the pools were closed, and there was nothing happening on deck. And by 1am the Metropolis Lobby Bar was also closed. Now this might be because I am under 18 (at the time 28 days until 18), but there was absolutely nothing to do. This leads into my Club O2 bit. Club O2 was defiantly the most unorganized teen program I have ever been in. Our consoler was great, and in no way was our bad time her fault. All of the activities were spread out, example we would have 1 activity at 1pm on a sea day and the next 1 at 5:30pm, the next at 7:45 and the next from 9:30-10:45pm. We only had an hour and fifteen minutes of dancing every night. We were kicked out at 10:45 every night, and left to fend for ourselves, as my new cruise friend would say, Do they actually expect us to go to sleep, we are just waking up. I thought this was a fun ship. The only way to fix this feeling of nomad-ship is to add an actual Club O2 area just for teens, so we have a place to hang out all of the time. Food: I am not a big eater, but a picky one. I don't eat anything that can live under the hull of a ship or most meat (except chicken). That being said the starters, salads, chicken, and desserts were all wonderful. Every night I had 2 or 3 starters, a salad, and dessert. I ordered a main course on most nights, but I couldn't eat it I was already full! The desserts we wonderful, they sent me into a pure world of nothing but bliss, particularly the caramel ice cream, and fudge chocolate cake with caramel icing, if I could only taste it now. As I mentioned earlier the food on the Lido Deck was very good as well. I really only ate breakfast there, and the pizza wasn't that bad either. Shore Activities: It rained everyday, in every port. Grand Cayman: We were supposed to go swimming with the sting rays, but Mother Nature had something else in mind, as I was a little sick (not sea sick). So we did a tour of the island, it was $20 each and was pretty good. We went to a beach where we could see the ships in the distance, the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory, a town called Hell, and a the most expensive neighborhood on the island. And for all of you still wondering, yes, Margaritaville is open! Cozumel: Since my family has been here on numerous occasions, my dad decided to try and find this little restaurant we went to the last time. After hours (2) of searching we finally gave up and went to the world famous Carlos and Charlie's enough said. Belize: As soon as we got out of the cruise terminal my uncle surprised us. He changed his business meeting so he was in Belize the same time we were, it would have worked out better if we weren't going cave tubing with out fellow Misfits!! We went cave tubing through the ever popular, cave-tubing.com. What a deal!! It was awesome; I can't thank Yhony and his team enough for a wonderful time. Costa Maya: I have never been to this port before and I probably would have been more excited about it if it didn't rain. It was the worst here, it rained and rained, most of the excursions had to be cancelled. We took a taxi to the village, and then the rains came. We spent out time in a little bar, completely outside of course, but covered. We ate and drank there and when the rain held up for a quick minute we left to find a return taxi. Once back near the pier, I went to a sports shop and got a brand new authentic Manchester Untied jersey for only $30!! My best buy of the trip, for those of you who aren't into soccer that same jersey is about $60 online, or in a magazine. A little tip of advice to all who are lured by the big pool: If you must enter, enter early the later it gets the more likely human waste is well released. The Bottom Line: all I had a decent time; I met people around my age and visited places I have never been to. However I would not recommend this ship to anyone under the age of 18, or 21 for that matter. Without a ClubO2 room the teen program is practically non-existent. And most of the activities involved alcohol; this might seem like an exaggeration but to someone who doesn't drink it wasn't. Bottom line, I wouldn't travel on this class ship again probably a Conquest one, if you are 21+ have fun, if you are under 18 go for a Conquest class vessel. I did have a pretty good time. So I guess it was sort of a Miracle. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
Summary: We had an enjoyable and relaxing cruise at a bargain price having only booked one week before departure. We only paid $454.22 ($399 plus taxes) each for our inside cabin. This was our fourth Carnival cruise since 2001 and left us ... Read More
Summary: We had an enjoyable and relaxing cruise at a bargain price having only booked one week before departure. We only paid $454.22 ($399 plus taxes) each for our inside cabin. This was our fourth Carnival cruise since 2001 and left us with the feeling that we don't like Carnival as much now having experienced Celebrity, Holland America and Princess. Plus Points: Spacious ship - 85,920 tons for 2,351 passengers on our cruise vs. 2,124 if only double occupancy Spacious comfortable cabin with an amazing amount of closet space Good dinner menus offering lots of choices and huge lobsters. The production shows and individual artists were OK though we have seen better Negative Points: Interior dEcor in the public rooms too dark and bizarre for our tastes Too many intrusive announcements. Far more than on previous Carnival cruises Lido Buffet choices at breakfast display lots of niggling cost cutting: Many items only available some days e.g. pancakes and french toast No individual portions of syrup or jams, only communal jugs Very little fresh fruit at breakfast. Lounge entertainment had few soft music or ballroom dancing options The only show on the final night was the guest talent show - another cost cutting move? Despite 4 rainy days in port the Magrodome cover over the main swimming pool was never closed The rear pool deck had no non-smoking area in either the covered eating area or the sun lounger area. The ship has a beautiful promenade deck but no seats or sun loungers. When we inquired why at the front desk they said it was because this is the embarkation area for the lifeboats. We suggested that this could not be a valid reason because many Carnival Corporation ships in the Holland America and Princess fleets have seating on their promenade decks but the desk stuck by their party line. It more likely comes down to a lack of revenue making opportunities if people are there! Cabin, etc. We had inside cabin 1173 on Riviera Deck, which was kept in good shape by our steward Melvin from the Philippines. We suffered a lot of noise in the cabin from 5am on the first night that seemed to come from the crew area behind the cabin. After complaining to the front desk it didn't wake us up again but we could still occasionally hear it. We could also occasionally hear noise from above in the casino late at night. We recommend avoiding cabins in this area on Riviera Deck. We were on the 5.45pm early sitting dinner on table 372 on the upper level of the dining room right by the stern window overlooking the ship's wake. We had requested a large table and had four other very enjoyable dinner companions. Our waiter Ryan and his assistant Adrian, both from Jamaica, looked after us in an enthusiastic but not very polished manner, but seemed very rushed when all 22 people were present on their three tables, as happened on all but one night. Ports: We had been to all four ports before but that was no problem as our aim was to have a relaxing week. We only planned to saunter ashore as we enjoy spending time on the ship, which is so much quieter when most passengers have gone ashore. Our first port was Grand Cayman and it was our best day weather wise as it only rained briefly in the afternoon. We also had to tender the next day in Cozumel because the piers were all destroyed by last year's hurricanes and have not yet been rebuilt. It rained all day apart from a brief gap in the late morning and again in early afternoon when we went ashore to see the damage to the International Pier area. We also awoke to rain in Belize but it cleared later in the morning so we went ashore to see how the tourist village had grown since our last visit 4 years ago. The answer is dramatically! Costa Maya was our last port and the only one where we didn't have to tender. Sadly it rained all day so we stayed on the ship. Shows: The shows included The Welcome Aboard Show with comedian Thomas Brown, the two production shows Generations and Ticket to Ride, comedians Michael Macy and Percy Crews, balancing act Lubo and sword swallower Dai Andrews. Man Overboard: On the last day at sea a passenger reported hearing someone call Man Overboard. As a result at 10.15am all passengers were asked to return to their cabins for a count. Stewards checked each cabin and asked passengers to sign against their name on a list. The passenger count was completed at 11.15am but the crew count took another 20 minutes. It established that everyone was accounted for, so as originally suspected it turned out to be a hoax. The Captain had maintained course so he had assumed it was probably a hoax, but the count was necessary to prove it. Embarkation and Disembarkation at Tampa was no problem. We were on board at Tampa having lunch within an hour of dropping off our luggage and going to park the car. Cabins were not available until 1.30pm. Back at Tampa a week later we had disembarked, got our car from the garage and on our way home by 10am. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
First time cruisers on a budget: (I'm very long winded but I hope I'm also detailed enough to help you plan your trip) Our top 10 things to know for first time cruising: 1. If you plan your own excursion, know before hand the ... Read More
First time cruisers on a budget: (I'm very long winded but I hope I'm also detailed enough to help you plan your trip) Our top 10 things to know for first time cruising: 1. If you plan your own excursion, know before hand the time difference between your ship time (same time zone as your departing port) and the ports of call. 2. Pack light. I don't mean to not bring lots of things to wear but put it all in a small suitcase that you can carry. You will be able to get on and off the ship easier. You can always do a load of laundry on board. 3. If your on a budget, do the research before and reserve shore excursions online, not through Carnival. You could save 50%. 4. Get to the ship early. You will beat the lines and get to eat lunch on board. 5. Plan for lunch on excursion days. If you are at a tender port, take a snack so you can eat a late lunch when you get back to the ship. When at a docking pier, get back onboard for lunch. 6. Order more than one dish (starter, salad, or dessert) at dinner. 7. If you are a single couple, ask your travel agent or cruise booker to sit you at a larger table so you can meet other people. (unless you plan on talking only to each other for the entire week.) 8. Plan a 4-5 hour excursion as a maximum. You will have plenty of time if you get confused with the time change and you will still have time to walk around and see the port. 9. Take naps. After getting back from the shore excursion, take a nap before dinner. (especially if you have the late dinner) The main shows don't start till 10:30 and they often have comedy around midnight. 10. Know how much money it will cost. The ticket price is only one of many cost of cruising. Research on shore excursions: I had learned from reading other reviews that many of the excursions can be cheaper if you book them ahead instead of through Carnival. I found this to be true. I kept a copy of the excursion prices that Carnival offers so if anyone is interested in seeing it, email me. It is more research that you have to do at home and you need to make sure you have a copy of all the information with you. I've recommended some websites later in the information about each stop. The one very important piece of information if you are booking the excursions on your own is to know what time is local time for each stop! Once on board the ship, Carnival doesn't want to tell you what the local time is because they want you to book through them. The ship time is Tampa time but the stops were either an hour or two (depending on daylight savings time). This is important because if you book excursions outside of Carnival they tell you what time to meet, local time. Arriving at Tampa Port: We arrived at the pier by car as we were dropped off by family who lived near Tampa. Signs for Port of Tampa are clearly labeled and it was easy to find Terminal 2. (Leaving the pier was more difficult as the signs aren't as clearly labeled.) You can pay to park your car at the pier. I believe it is $84 or $94 for valet. Our tickets didn't come in the mail in time (they were waiting in the mailbox when we got home) but we had our email confirmation and there are plenty of people there to help. Its clearly stated with your ticket information but I'll stress this point&get to the terminal early!!! The ship doesn't leave until 4 pm but we got there around 1:30-2 pm and were able to beat the lines and we were able to get onboard the boat and get lunch. Getting on board the ship was very rushed but they know what they are doing so it was efficient. Luggage/Packing: We decided to only have carry on luggage and this was a great idea. This meant we had to be able to carry all of our bags and they were small, similar to carry-on for an airplane. The great thing about this was, we didn't have to pay for the porter to take our luggage (recommended $1 per bag) and we had our stuff with us when we got to our rooms. We could change into bathing suits or something different for dinner. Some people were told that they might not get their luggage to their rooms until 8 pm that night! Three pieces of luggage was never found on our trip so its also nice that you know it will not be lost. So if you can pack light, I would suggest carrying on your own luggage. Our Room: Since we are a young couple, we didn't have as much money to spend on the room so we decided to get a room with a window. We were on the lowest deck (Riviera). There are many balcony rooms on the Miracle and I think for the right price, it would be nice to have a balcony. Our biggest complain about the room is that the window does not open so you can't get fresh air. All the air conditioned air was giving us headaches by the end of the week. The room is a descent size and very efficient. We had a very comfortable queen size bed that was against the right wall and with about 2 feet off the wall on the side with the window and 3 feet at the foot of the bed to walk around the bed. There was a vinyl sofa that became a sofa bed adjacent to the bed. There was a vanity for putting on make up and a TV that swivels and a safe all in the same built in. The safe is free and you use an ID card of your own (ex. drivers license with a black bar code strip on the back) to lock & unlock the safe. The bathroom was also small but efficient. There is a single sink with lots of shelves. A toilet in one corner and stand up shower in the other. My boyfriend went to the gym and said the shower in the gym was great. So if you don't like the one in your room, go to the gym. The room dEcor was what we would describe as 70's but it was also a very comfortable room. Important things to know about the room: There is lots of closet space for hanging garments but only about 10 hangers. If you plan to hang more than 10 things, you might want to bring some hangers from home. There are also shelves and a few small drawers. The TV gets the main networks, ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX and TNT but local news cast are out of Denver, CO. They provide shampoo (Dove) and liquid soap (Lever 2000) in the shower. There is only one plug/outlet in the room. If you plan to have cell phones, curling iron, your own hair dryer (a small on is provided in the room) or other things to plug in, you might want to bring a three way plug splitter. Beach Towels: The ship provides beach towels, one for each person. You can take them to shore with you but if you leave them, you are charged for them. ($30ish) So use them but don't loose them. Cell phones: If you bring your own cell phone on board the ship, you will get a signal even when the ship is at sea. The crew doesn't know too much about how the cell phones work and can only tell you that you will be charged International rates. So depended on your plan, you might be able to use your own cell phone. We decided to turn them off to avoid anyone calling us and getting charged. Fire Drill: Around 4 pm, right when we were to set sail, we were require to participate in a fire drill. Everyone was told to go to their rooms and get their life jackets, then report to their Muster station (where you would get on a lifeboat). So don't plan to take a nap at this time. I'm sure it is a site to see for all those on shore at Tampa watching us line up as if we were getting onto lifeboats. Drinks: I believe you can buy a soda package for $40 per person. That would include all the soft drinks you want. As far as I know, there isn't a package for all you can drink alcoholic drinks. Each beer is sold separately or you can get 4 beers for $16 but don't quote me on that. If you are a light drinker and might want a couple drinks on board: buy the single bottles of hard liquor. You should be able to get by with them and if they confiscate them you will not be out much. Your ticket includes some drinks. Lemonade, water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate is available all day for free. They also have a juice machine which switches juices depending on the time of day. Orange juice available in the morning and it switches to fruit punch in the afternoon. They also have Apple all day. We bought some 20 oz. sodas when we were on shore and brought them back to our rooms to have when we wanted soda. Only water is free at dinner. Dinner: We chose to do the late dinner that started at 8:15 pm. I believe most couples do the late dinner and families with children do the early dinner at 6 pm. Dinner is a served three course meal with dessert which takes between 1 ½ hrs to 2 hours. They give you a menu with about 6 appetizers, 3 salads, 8 main dishes, & 4 desserts to choose from. You can order more than one of each. You can even tell them that you would like to order meat from one and the side from another. The service was wonderful and very professional. The only bad part was that they would interrupt your main course with loud announcements and then make the professional wait staff dance for you to really cheesy music. We sat at a big table with 4 other couples. Three of whom were newlyweds. At first it was hard because we had to small talk with people we were forced to eat with. By the end of the week, I was glad to have someone other than my boyfriend to talk to. We would also run into these couples on the ship and off so it was nice to make friends. One of the couples ordered a bottle of wine each and was able to keep the same bottle for the whole week and drink it at dinner. The waitress would store it and have it back on the table at the next dinner until the bottle was finished. This was much cheaper than ordering a new glass of wine each night. The decor of the dinner room was not our taste either. My boyfriend said it reminded him of Metroid (anyone know what he is talking about?) Fun Days at Sea: This trip has two Fun days at Sea, one of each end of the trip. Most people lounge around at the pool on the Lido deck and some of the sunny chairs get taken first. They also have a band play for entertainment. Carnival promotes their art auction heavily on these days. We weren't into the art and we found the activities on board to be a little cheesy. We slept in and took our time getting ready. Formal Nights: Being a first time cruiser, I was very surprised at formal night when I showed up in my sundress and everyone else was wearing ball gowns. Most of the girls looked like they were going to the prom or were in a wedding. I'm not sure how they packed a dress with crinlin and didn't get it wrinkled. Most guys were suits (not sports jackets) or tux. If you have something that you were wear to a wedding, that would get good. Sundresses look out of place but they will not turn you away. Laundry: About the third day, you get a flier about laundry. They will do your laundry for $15 a bag (no jeans, dresses or heavy garments). They forget to tell you that you can do your own laundry. There are four laundry rooms on the ship. They are small rooms with only 2 washers and 4 dryers. Look in the book provided in your room for locations. They are coin (quarters only) operated. $2 for wash, $2 for dry and $1 for detergent if you didn't bring your own. The washers are normal sized. You can get quarters from the Information Desk on Deck 2. You end up going through a lot of clothes and it was really nice to not come home with all dirty clothes. It would be a good idea to bring detergent for a single load. Sign & Sail Card: Upon board the ship, each person gets a room key. This key is very important because it is also the way you pay for things on board the ship. Instead of needing cash, you hand the cashier your card and it is charged to your account. When you board you are asked to link the Sign/Sail card with a credit card. The Sign/Sail card is also needed when going ashore at each stop. (You don't need your passport) They have added security where they take your picture upon boarding. When you disembark to go ashore, you swipe your card and they can match up the picture to the person. This way they can also tell who has left the ship and who has not made it back. Lunch: After we got back on ship, we could catch the end of lunch so we would plan to grab a snack (bananas from breakfast) to eat on shore and then eat a late lunch back on the ship. This worked perfectly since we had the late dinner. This also saved money because we had already paid for all the food on the ship and we didn't have to pay anything for lunch. One of our dinner couples thought they were getting a local experience by eating lunch on shore but most of the restaurants were so touristy that you couldn't getting authentic food so close to the pier. Shore excursions: (example) The ship lets you off at 8 am (ship time) but its only 7 am on shore. None of the stores are open. Then the ship leaves at 5 pm but you have to be back onboard at 4 pm and it takes 30 min to tender so the latest you can stay is 3:30 or 2:30 local time. You don't have as much time on shore as it appears. You must carefully plan your excursions within this time. If you book your tour through Carnival, they give you a time (ship time) and place to meet on the ship so you don't have to worry about what time is local time. Grand Cayman: The Cayman stop is a tender port (ship stops about ½ mile off shore and you take small boats to the shore). One of the most popular things to do here is to go to Stingray City (not a real city but a sand reef where you can swim with stingrays). Even with Steve Irwin still fresh in our minds, many people were okay with swimming with them. The boat guides teach you how to avoid getting hurt and the stingrays are used to people. We booked a Stingray tour through Moby Dicks tours. www.mobydicktours.com. We would recommend this company because it was very professional and a good price for the money. Our only comments are that the bathroom on the boat was gross and that they say they include punch and water but it was a 2 gallon container with 6 oz. Dixie cups to drink out of. No personal can or bottle. It was $35 per person. You can sign up on the website and pay (cash) when you arrive. All the tours that take you to Stingray city are the same and you aren't going to see anything different if you book this through the cruise. The price if you book it through Carnival is about $60. The best part about not book with Carnival was that our group was small and we could get personal attention with the guides. The carnival tours would pack twice as many people on to the same sized boat. At the pier there are many people holding signs with the company or tour names so it was easy to find them. You could also book a tour when you walked off the tender boat but you might pay a little more. The Moby Dick tour would be $40 if you didn't have any online reservation. Our tour also took us to a reef where we could snorkel without the stingrays. They take you to and fro the dock in an AC van and on the way back, you could asked to be dropped off at 7 Mile Beach. 7 Mile Beach is the closest beach from the pier and you can get a taxi for a few dollars back to the pier. If you have your own snorkel, you can snorkel right from the beach. At the pier there are many shops to walk around to. Most of them open at 8 am local time so if you want to do shopping, don't get there until 9 am ship time. The most popular shop to go into is a Tortuga Rum shop. They have rum cakes and rum to sample. If you buy liquor, make sure you are allowed to bring it all back by customs. There are a couple of their shops in Georgetown so you don't have to go to their factory if you just want to buy the cakes and rum. The rum cakes (small cake for $5) are great souvenirs and favor gifts, say for the person who dropped you off at the airport/pier. Tendering on the way back is very crowded. Carnival has an x-ray machine for all your bags so the line to get back onboard backs up. Other information: Close to the pier there is a shop where you can rent scooters. There are public bathrooms at the pier. $1 (US) = #1.25 (C.I.) Most stores close to the pier take US money but some might give you back C.I. money in change. Cozumel, Mexico: Cozumel is a walk off pier so no tender boats. It makes is really easy to get back on the ship for lunch and back off again for the afternoon. There are many Mexican shops at the pier where you can get the typical souvenirs. Unless you want a bigger variety of the same Mexican souvenirs, you don't have to go to San Miguel (downtown). The Mexican shop employees are very push and harassing to try to get you into their shop. If you want to buy things here, haggle with them for the best price. You might also find better prices in San Miguel than the pier. It is a $6 cab ride from the pier to San Miguel and they have taxis waiting at the pier and the price clearly posted. Stay on the main street in San Miguel because it gets very rough just one block back. In the afternoon we went to Paradise Beach. From the pier it is about $15 ($18 from downtown). There isn't much to do in Cozumel but the beaches and this one was a free beach with lots of activities. It has a trampoline in the water and a iceberg inflatable climbing wall also in the water. The chairs were free and you can buy drinks and be served at your chair. You could also pay a small price ($8) to get unlimited use of rafts, snorkel equipment, and life jackets for the kids. They have wave runners you could rent. They have showers and bathrooms and taxis are always there ready to take you anywhere. We had planned to do a excursion on a catamaran but our reservation got messed up. I would recommend planning to do an excursion here. There aren't people here waiting with signs for tours you can book off the pier. Book tours ahead of time either through a website at home or through Carnival. Mexican souvenirs: The most of the same souvenirs can be found at both Cozumel and Costa Maya. Costa Maya does have silver that Cozumel doesn't. If you are trying to find something different than their typical souvenirs, your going to be out of luck. We were trying to find chocolates to bring back for our office and couldn't find them anywhere. Belize City, Belize: Belize is a tender port and they have small fast boats to get you back and forth. Belize is 2 hours different (check on daylight savings time) than our ship time so we were really early for our tour. The pier had many shops so that's what we did while waiting for our tour. These aren't like the Mexican hagglers. You could also find other souvenirs here. They have some shops that are more like gift shops that are very different from the tacky Mexican shops. We booked a tour to the Altun Ha Mayan ruins through X-stream tours at www.belizecruiseexcursions.com. They were at the pier with signs with their company name so they were easy to find. This company makes you put down 20% with a credit card online. If your ship doesn't come to port it is refundable. But if you miss the time, you are at fault and they will keep your money. Make sure you have all your paperwork with you. You pay the rest in cash when you sign in. The company was very professional but we didn't like putting down 20% deposit. (We used the same company to book a tour in Cozumel and they gave us the wrong time to meet the tour. They said 12:30 AM!...They also were not waiting at the pier and we had to find our way down to another pier. We ended up missing the tour. Just be careful with the 20% down rule.) Our tour to Altun Ha started at the pier. There were 9 of us who got into a 15 person AC van. Our driver was the tour guide and he was excellent. He talked as he drove downtown and pointed out different buildings, plants and other points of interest. It was a great way to see the city and to understand what it is like to live there. They speak English in Belize as they were once a English territory. The road to Altun Ha was really bumpy so don't set in the back if you get car sick. The ruins were really great. I haven't been other any other ruins but we thought this was a great site. They had some ruins that were excavated and some that were still mounds of dirt. We were able to climb up the biggest ruin. Our guide was really knowledgeable about the site and was able to answer any questions we had. Just outside of the ruin gate were small shops where we could buy souvenirs. The prices were cheaper here than at the pier. On the way back, we drove through downtown Belize where were could see where the locals shop. We wish we had saved more time at the end of our tour to walk back to the shopping area. It was only about 4 blocks away from the pier. I highly recommend booking this tour with a smaller local company rather than with Carnival. Carnival put 40-50 people on one bus with one guide. We got personal attention with our small 9 person group. The tours went to the same places but we paid less. We really liked Belize because it is a city and you could get somewhat away from the tourism. If you are not interested in the ruin tour, cave tubing is the other popular thing to do here. I believe that the same website listed above also does the cave tubing tour. Costa Maya, Mexico: Costa Maya is a pier where you can walk off the boat. Costa Maya is different than the other stops because it is very new. The pier was built, we assume by Carnival, only 6 years ago. There was nothing there before the pier. Everything at this stop is new and is geared towards the cruise ships. There aren't any close cities that you could make it to in the time you have. What they call The Village is Majahaul, which is a $3 taxi ride from the pier, is a bunch of souvenir shops along the beach. This is where to go if you want a 30 min massage for $20 along the beach or 6 beers for $8 as you sit on the beach. Keep in mind that this is not your typical massage salon in the states. The massage place in two tables with towels on them under and tent with 2 Mexican ladies. It's a good deal if you want a massage for cheap by the beach. The cheaper deals on souvenirs (especially the silver) is at the village. Back at the shops at the pier, they were quoting me over $100 dollars on a bracelet that I got a quote for at the village for $30. If you don't want to go to the village, there is plenty of the same thing to do at the pier. There are at least 2 salt water swimming pools, one with a bar, plenty of restaurants with good drink deals, and souvenir shops. We came back from the village with an hour or two to spare so we hung around the pier and realized that most people had stayed at the pier and got started early on the drinking. It was like Spring Break! There were drunk girls in bathing suits dancing with grandpa aged men up on top of the bar for everyone to see. There were some excursions at Costa Maya that you could sign up for. We got off the ship early in the morning and went to a small booth (blue butterfly is their logo) where we signed up for a hour long snorkel tour for only $10 + $5 for the taxi ride ($30 total for two of us). The taxi took us to Tequila Beach where there is a small dock. You could go to Tequila Beach on your own if you want a place to relax on the beach with a chair and get drinks served to you. They have showers and plenty of taxis to take you back to the pier. At Tequila Beach we met up with the boat captain, our tour guide and a local girl who took our pictures as we snorkeled. Since it was only 9 am, we were the only ones on the tour. So we had a private tour and all the pictures were taken of us. It was a great snorkel tour. We saw spotted stingrays and lots of coral. They even had sodas (cans) or bottled water for us. They had the pictures for sale which they put on a CD for us to take home. After snorkeling, we got back on the ship to take showers and to get lunch before heading back out. Costa Maya is a nice stop if you plan to relax on the beach and get a cold drink. Disembarking: If you can carry all your own luggage, you can get off the ship easier. If you have to check your luggage, you are asked to leave it outside your door the night before. Make sure to bring an overnight bag to put a fresh change of clothes and all your toiletries. This you will have to carry. There are videos that play on your cabin TV that explain disembarking. It is helpful in filling out customs forms which everyone must do. They inform you of how many cartons of cigarettes and how many liters of alcohol you are allowed to bring back. I believe it was one per person for each so don't buy too much on shore. You aren't allowed to bring fruit back either. So don't grab a banana at breakfast for a snack on your ride home. There are two different times that you can get off the ship. The earlier one is for anyone who is carrying their own luggage and didn't check any. If you have an early flight (before 12:30) and you need to check you bags, you can go to the Information desk Saturday to get special tags for your bags. These people can get off early too. Everyone else waits until the early people finish getting off. I don't know how long they had to wait because we carried our own bags. Getting through the terminal was a little confusing but quick. (don't wait in line for the elevator, take the escalator) The custom guy took our custom form and since we didn't had cigarettes or alcohol, we were waved through with no problems. We met up with our family waiting in a coffee shop next door. They had no problems parking at a meter on the street but they were really early. Extra Charges: Your Sign & Sail card is linked to one of your credit cards because Carnival will charge $10 per person per day for tips for your room steward, dinner server and extra services. You can go to the Information Desk if you would like to adjust this charges but this are recommended and it is easier than leaving cash in envelopes. So buying the ticket is the first cost there are many to consider when deciding the budget for a cruise. Expenses Total: Ticket: Depends on the room, time of year, length of travel: Can range between $300 (interior) and $700 (balcony) per person for the 7 night Miracle Soda package: $40 per person Air/Car/Hotel Travel: How are you getting to the port, do you have to stay overnight anywhere? Parking: $12 per day Souvenirs: depends on if you like their souvenirs Shore Excursions: depends on the activity: $40-$60 per person per stop Tips: $10 per person per day Meals off the ship: (can be zero) Gambling: (there is a casino on the ship (very smoky) Drinks on the ship: about $6/7 per drink Drinks on shore: cheaper Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
10/29-11/5 on Carnival Miracle Pre-Cruise: Stayed at the Woodfin/Chase Suites in Tampa. We drove down to Tampa from the St Louis, MO area so appreciated the free parking and port shuttle service that the hotel offered with the stay. Found ... Read More
10/29-11/5 on Carnival Miracle Pre-Cruise: Stayed at the Woodfin/Chase Suites in Tampa. We drove down to Tampa from the St Louis, MO area so appreciated the free parking and port shuttle service that the hotel offered with the stay. Found the rooms to be nice and neighborhood very pleasant with lots of good restaurants located nearby. Stay was certainly VERY affordable with all the amenities offered (i.e. free breakfast, free parking, free shuttle) Embarkation: VERY painless. Showed up at The Tampa Port at 11:30 and was on the boat but 12:15 was in our stateroom by 1:30pm. Stateroom: First impression of the room; layout was nice and had more room than we were expecting. LOTS of storage space for bags and suitcases. DW was disappointed with the view or lack there of. We had requested an ocean view room and received a room with a view of a lifeboat (room 4136 5A class). I saw the positive of at least we had a door that opened to allow fresh air in that we wouldn't have received with a normal ocean view stateroom. Beds are NOT as comfortable as many on the board have described as the most comfortable beds in the cruise industry. Personally found them much too firm for our liking, but after an endless night on the fun ship we found that it really didn't matter because we passed out without any problems for our normal 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sheets are sheets, so I don't judge our sleeping comfort on thread count. The ship: Pretty easy to make your way around. No awkward spaces to have to negotiate around to get from one end to the other. One complaint: were the areas they chose to set up photo stations for dinning area. They would set up in the atrium area to do the photo each night for the dinning room attendees. If you had a table on the lower level you would have to cut through the photo takers area to get past the staircase to the dinning room. We finally figured out three days in, that to avoid this we would just come down to level 3 and proceed to the back of the boat and come down the last set of stairs to avoid that area all together. Casino: Yep, they still know how to take your money Dealers at the table very personable whether you were winning or losing. Didn't find it overly smoky as most people have complained about. Guess it just depends if you are allergic or overly sensitive to cigarette smoke that determines if this area is too smoky. Seemed pretty well ventilated, but some smoker would put ashes were they shouldn't be (i.e. Too lazy to get up to grab an ashtray so used the coin hopper in the slot machines as an ashtray.) Bars: yep, they know how to put liquor in your cup to get you a pretty good bang for your buck. As a former bartender, I can admit they mix a stiff drink. Did find that most of the bartenders lacked personality and did not make small talk or joke around with passengers. Food: Ok here's where the downfall comes in my book. Buffet is a buffet and won't base my overall impression of their food on this area. I will say that the buffet had a wide variety of food both good and bad. I really enjoyed the Asian section and my wife enjoyed The Grill as well as the carving stations. Yes, the Carnival Grill makes an excellent Rueben sandwich. Bacchus dining room- our server not so good, but her assistant was great. Found the quality of food to be warm and edible but extremely uncreative. Lobster was good and not rubbery or overcooked that would have been expected on a mass cruise liner. Had two of them and enjoyed both. Steaks were cooked as ordered, not tough, and actually quite tender. The shrimp cocktail was contained VERY small shrimp&no problem order two orders. Salads were BASIC either simple iceberg or caesar salads each night. Lobster bisque HORRIBLE, navy bean soup WONDERFUL, Corn Chowder WATERY, basically very inconsistent on quality. I could write it off as just not my taste, but these are items I really like and the Carnival kitchen fell very short on some of the items. Desserts, VERY basic. The apple tart was like three graham crackers shoved together with one layer of canned apple pie filling and another layer of whipped cream. The cappuccino ice cream pie was served SOLID frozen, like a solid block that couldn't be eaten we actually broke a fork and bent a spoon trying to eat it. I generally try to order items out of the ordinary to try something new, but found Carnival's menu each night to be pretty common with only the ordinary chicken breast, red meat selection, and a broiled fish dish offered. DW ordered a roasted chicken dish that was pretty good, as stated before steaks were good, game hen was good, didn't try the veal for moral reasons. Good food but basic. We did do a apples to apples experiment. Ordered Filet mignon in Bacchus on Wednesday night then ordered the same thing at Nick and Nora's (supper club) on Thursday. Very consistent to the regular dining room meal only difference was the filet was butterfly cut and cook at Nick and Nora's. Was the dinning experience worth the $30 surcharge? Yes, because we didn't have to deal with the crazy announcements and show in the dinning room, but food was on par with the included dinning room. Gala Buffet is a joke compared to the one we experienced on Celebrity. Dress in the dinning room: Before leaving on the cruise I contemplated not going ultra formal (just shirt and tie instead of full on suit or tux). As a result, I decided to go the dark suit route for the formal nights but probably just should have left it at home. All kinds of dress were allowed, to my surprise, in the dinning room. Everything from t-shirts & jeans to khakis & polos. There were a large majority in ties and some in tuxes, but the ultra casuals outweighed the ultra formal (tuxes). Did it ruin our dinning experience, no but if a ship is going to have a formal night at least enforce the dress code on that night and throw out the codes on the others. Passenger: Very diverse range of ages and social makeup. Everything from rednecks to ghetto trash to uppity wealth and old and young. Everyone was very nice and didn't observe any problem passengers. Really good makeup of people if you ask me, Ports: Tendered to Cayman. Rained, but still went to Stingray city. We did an independent tour taking wave runners out to the island instead of one the large overcrowded boats. Found that we received a better guide and more supervision as well as being able to beat most of those boats out there and spent more time on the sandbar. Observed that most of boat passengers were very unsupervised, and out guide actually scolded a few of those people for trying to grab the stingrays by their tales to bring them up to the surface for pictures don't grab their tales, that's how you get hurt he kept telling them. It was a great time, but doing wave runners in the rain, not so good. I'll tell you, with the rain coming down its like riding a motorcycle in a hail storm, it hurts. Did Senor Frogs in port as well as some other shopping&.beware Cayman is expensive. Cozumel- Docked at the pier and grabbed a taxi to Paradise Beach ($13 each way). Weather was overcast but did have some sun break through the clouds at times. AWESOME FOOD and LOTS OF DRINKS. Everyone on staff was super nice and found the beach & property (including restrooms) VERY clean. Grabbing a taxi back to port very easy. Proceeded to Carlos & Charlie's for some more drinks and food. PARTY PARTY PARTY!!!!! Belize: Did the Sgt Cay's Snorkel excursion through Carnival. I am so glad we chose to do this activity. They pick you up at the boat to tender to their facility. Super nice guides and they keep the groups pretty small to make sure everyone is safe and supervised. All the guides were very nice, spoke excellent English, and very informative. Unfortunately it was raining so not a lot of sunlight to penetrate the water to see the entire living reef. Out guide did dive down to bring some things to the surface to see better (brittle stars, conchs, sea cucumber, and a lobster). Did see some very colorful fish as well as lots of coral growth. The tender back to the ship was the adventure. The weather had taken a turn for the worse so VERY high waves and lots of rain. It took several attempts to actually tie the tender up to the ship. After about 15 mins they were able to tie us up. We decided not to take the tender to Belize City to do the port shopping due to the weather issues and not having to relive the tender adventure. Costa Maya: The decided not to dock or make this port because of high winds and waves. Received a $25 dollar credit for missing the port. Ironically enough 2 hours later, people were up sunning on the deck because of the great sunshine and clear weather. Would have rather had the captain sit off shore for a couple hours, then dock, and just have less time in port, but understand that the captain has to think about safety first. Was really looking forward to this port because this is supposed to be the shopping port for all the good buys. Debarkation: Did the self assist and was off the boat in no time flat. Left the stateroom at 8am and was off, through customs, in a cab, and back at the hotel by 8:30am Ended up taking a cab back to the hotel instead of waiting for the hotel shuttle. We had a long drive ahead of us so we did the self assist getting off the boat and the cab ride cost us $30 including tip back to the hotel. In reality we probably only shaved 30 mins off our departure time by doing this. When we pulled into the hotel lot, the shuttle had just left for the pier. Overall: comparing Carnival to Celebrity is like comparing apples to oranges. Celebrity caters to more uppity clientele but has better food and more personable staff, but Carnival offers a more laid back atmosphere and more bang for your buck. I would be willing to give Carnival another chance simply because it was less expensive and could afford to take more cruises each year. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
My husband and I went on a Carnival Cruise for our honeymoon. We left out of Tampa on Sunday afternoon the day after our wedding. Embarkation was very quick and easy and it only took us about an hour before we were on the ship. We arrived ... Read More
My husband and I went on a Carnival Cruise for our honeymoon. We left out of Tampa on Sunday afternoon the day after our wedding. Embarkation was very quick and easy and it only took us about an hour before we were on the ship. We arrived at the port a little early to avoid all the crowds. Our cabin was not ready until 1:30 and our bags were not there until later that night, about 8:00 or so. We ate first thing and then watched the ship leave port. We went back to our room for a while and relaxed and for the first night we explored the ship. The next day was a day at sea and we got up about 10 to eat breakfast. Breakfast was served until 12 noon so there was no problem if you woke up a little bit late. There were quite a few different selections for food. We liked the Make your own Omelet the rest of the food was pretty good. Things like pancakes, eggs, and sausage. But it was mostly the same thing on the breakfast menu every single day so we did get a little tired of it. Lunch had some variation to it, there was normally something a little different every day and some new interesting things to try. There always had hamburgers and hot dogs available for lunch and sandwiches if we could not really decide what we wanted. Dinner was nice every night, the food was more to look at rather than for taste, but there were a few good items on the menu. One thing I would suggest is buying a soda card though because if you don't all that you have to drink is water, tea, fruit punch, or lemonade. Those selections do get kind of old after drinking them for 7 days. Our waitress was excellent and always tried to get us what ever we wanted. If she could not get it for us, she always tried to suggest different things for us to try. The first day was a day at sea and we wanted to go to the pool, but there were no chairs at all, and it was very crowded. We were surprised how small the pools were, and there was not much room in them. People were almost sitting on top of each other trying to get into the pool. The hot tub was nice, we went to the one that closed at midnight and there was not very many people in that one so we relaxed in it one night. The shore excursions were nice. The first day we snorkeled with the sting rays and went to see the turtle farm. One day we set aside for just shopping so we could get our family some nice keep sakes. One thing we were disappointed with was the Cave Tubing tire. We had heard such wonderful things about it, but our tire guide was not very good at all. She stayed on her cell phone the whole time was very rude. It seemed like we hiked for ever and the guide did not wait on us we had to catch up by ourselves. We finally got to the river and started to tube down and I lost two of my cameras that had most of my pictures from the trip. There were quite a few people who lost their cameras and were very angry because there was nothing anyone could do about it. We expected to have been tied together so we would all stay in one group but we had to paddle ourselves. It made it so hard for my husband and I to stay together we were trying to paddle with one hand and hold on to each other with the other had so we were running into sharp rocks on the sides of the cave. It was beautiful, but we wish it would have been much more organized. We even got yelled at for having a hard time keeping up with everyone else. But none of us really knew how to steer correctly so it was not exactly easy for us. So needless to say we were a little disappointed with this tire. The best time we had was snorkeling in our last port of call. Everyone was so nice and our guide showed us all kinds of cool things to look at under the water. All kinds of cool fish and shells, it was really nice. One thing we really liked was room service. It was no extra charge so if we got hungry at night we just ordered off the menu and had it delivered to our room. Our room Stewart was awesome and every time we left our Make my room sign out side the door by the time we got back he was already spotless in our room. That was nice. Over all we had a very good time but next time I think we would take a shorter cruise. We got back the next Sunday and we did self check out so we carried all of our bags. That way we got off the ship very quickly. It took us maybe an hour we were off the ship by a little after 8:30 am. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
Background Info My nephew graduated from college this year, and this cruise was his graduation gift. I had been to the Eastern Caribbean several times, so I wanted to do the Western Caribbean this year. I chose four cruises that looked ... Read More
Background Info My nephew graduated from college this year, and this cruise was his graduation gift. I had been to the Eastern Caribbean several times, so I wanted to do the Western Caribbean this year. I chose four cruises that looked interesting (two Royal Caribbean and two Carnival), and he choose the itinerary he wanted. I had never been on Carnival before, but I had heard that it is great for young adults - he is 22 and looking for people to party with. I am 39, and not so much into the bar scene. Getting to the Port/Embarkation My travel agent recommended buying the transfer voucher to the port from the airport. At $18 per person, it was probably more expensive than taking a cab, but I think the ease of it made it worth it. We arrived in Miami at 1130AM. As we went to pick up our bags, someone wearing Carnival colors (red, white, and blue) came by and called our name. She pointed us toward the bus, the driver put our bags on, and we sat in air-conditioned comfort until they finished loading. After a 20-minute bus ride, we were at the port. The driver showed us which door to enter, and we went straight to the desk to check in. We had already filled out the on line form, so it took all of five minutes. She gave us a number (group 4), and showed us where to wait to board the boat. They were boarding people from group 2, so we waited about 20 minutes. When they called our group, it took about 10 more minutes for each person to stop and have a picture taken (so we could get on and off the boat), and then we were on the ship! The Ship The Miracle truly is the ugliest cruise ship I have ever been on. The Bacchus dining room is just as hideous as people have said, and the Mad Hatter room was a little freaky. By the second day, however, part of the fun was talking about the ugly ship. There were some nice spots. If you like quiet, Gatsby's Garden was a great place to read a book and look out at the ocean. The Cabin The cabin was larger than I had expected from my other cruises. There was plenty of room for all of our clothes, and our luggage fit under the bed. The basket of toiletries was a nice touch, as were the bathrobes. I chose a cabin with a balcony, and we each spent plenty of time out there just relaxing and enjoying the view. Shore Excursions We never got around to signing up before we left, so we went to the shore excursion desk as soon as we got on the ship. There was no line, as opposed to a couple of hours later when the line had at least 50 people. I know lots of people book their excursions outside of the ship, but I'm a control freak - I like to be absolutely sure the ship will wait for me if my excursion runs over. If you book through the ship, it's guaranteed. Grand Cayman We did the Stingray City and snorkel tour, mainly because I'm a little freaked out by stingrays and I wanted something to do in case I was too afraid to get off the boat at Stingray City. The stingrays were actually very cool, and I even have a picture of me holding one (it feels like a wet mushroom). The snorkeling was a bit of a disappointment. I had heard that Grand Cayman is a great place for snorkeling, but there were just a few tiny coral groups on a sandbar. I heard from others on the ship that the snorkeling was great, so I think it was just the tour we went on. Cozumel We didn't do a shore excursion, just shopping then on to a beach. The shops downtown were very nice, and my nephew got a couple of great deals on rum and tequila. The beach was all right, but it was obvious there was still lots of hurricane damage - despite that the people we encountered were very friendly. Except, that is, for the taxi drivers. When it was time to go back to the ship, the cabs charged double the price we paid going out to the beach. They knew we had no choice but to pay, if we wanted to get back to the ship. Next time, if I go to the beach, I will probably go through the ship's shore excursions. It probably costs about the same, and would have been a lot less hassle. Belize This was definitely my favorite stop. We chose one of the snorkeling tours, and it was amazing. We got on the boat directly from the ship, and it took us to a tiny island surrounded by coral. We could snorkel from either the boat or from the shore. The coral was beautiful, and there were so many different kinds of fish that we each ran out of film in about ten minutes. Costa Maya We went to Chacchoben, which is a partially excavated ruin in the middle of a rainforest. According to our tour guide, this ruin had been built 3000 years BC. It was amazing to think about the history of such an old civilization. One thing, though, if you go on an excursion into a rain forest, PLEASE expect rain. It rained a good portion of the time we were there, and several people whined so much that they cut the tour short. The Staff/Entertainment Our cabin steward was wonderful. He knew are names on the first day, and he went out of his way to make our stay enjoyable. He kept the cabin in great shape (despite the fact that my nephew is a bit of a slob), and he left silly towel animals every night. Our dining staff was also excellent. Our server was very helpful. She was always able to tell me which dishes were especially good. It made it easy to follow my rule of trying something new each day. Overall I was impressed with the attitudes of the people I encountered - imagine being away from family and home for 6-9 months and working 6 days/week. My only problem was with the Cruise Director and his staff. I admit I love the silly games usually played on cruises. I like to go to line dancing classes, play trivia games, play Pictionary - stuff I don't usually do at home. The only line dancing class they had the entire week lasted less than ten minutes. We learned a few steps, and did half of a song (my nephew came ten minutes late, and I had already been sitting for a couple of minutes). The shows were enjoyable. I especially liked Ticket to Ride. The comedians were hilarious (especially the adult only shows), while the hypnotist was adequate. Disembarkation This was the easiest of any cruise line I've been on. We put our bags out the night before, went to breakfast on Saturday, and relaxed until it was time to leave. Our bags were easy to find, a short line through customs, and are vacation was over. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Background Info My mom, dad, sister and me. We are from Charlotte, NC, and this will be our 4th cruise. And it just so happened that my birthday was going to be on the cruise as well. I turned 23 on June 7th. About 1 month before the ... Read More
Background Info My mom, dad, sister and me. We are from Charlotte, NC, and this will be our 4th cruise. And it just so happened that my birthday was going to be on the cruise as well. I turned 23 on June 7th. About 1 month before the cruise, my sister (14) said she didn't want to go anymore because she didn't want to leave her boyfriend and friends for a week. But luckily we all talked some sense into her (more on that later). Now in my defense, I was on vacation and don't usually drink this much anymore (college days are over) so don't think I'm one of those loud party animals on the ship! Saturday Woke up about 6:30, I just couldn't sleep, I was too excited plus I wasn't completely finished packing. We left home at about 8:30. The drive wasn't that bad, it didn't seem like 8 hours but we arrived in Tampa at about 5:30. Not bad. We checked into our hotel, the Best Western, and went by Walmart to pick up some little things we forgot at home. Went to sleep around 9. Woo hoo, crazy Saturday night, huh?! Sunday Finally! woke up at 8:30 and got ready. Stopped for some breakfast and arrived at the port at 12. We had been on a cruise from Tampa in 2004 so we knew what to expect from the Tampa port. There wasn't a line, very shocking, walked straight through the metal detectors and up to check in. We were in group 20 to board the ship and they had just called group 17. 15 minutes later we were walking on the boat. The Miracle is themed after fictional characters. The Atrium was supposed to be superman metropolis, but it looked nothing like superman to me, but it was still very pretty and colorful. Lots of pinks and blues; I liked it a lot. We weren't allowed to go to our rooms until 1:30 because they were still cleaning. So we went up to the Lido deck. We ate at Horatios, themed after a british naval officer. It was mostly red, gold and white. and I grabbed my first daily ship drink special - the FUNSHIP, it was a rum, vodka, brandy, STRONG fruity concoction! - then we walked around the boat. It's a huge ship. We went to the Phantom Lounge, themed after the Phantom of the Opera. Again mostly red, gold and white, very pretty. Kids don't look at the ceiling - there's nudity. Next on to the Mad Hatters Lounge based on Alice in Wonderland. Lots of red hearts. Gatsby's Garden - based on the Great Gatsby. It's just a pretty walkway to the arcade. Lots of Ivy and white picket fences. Mr. Lucky's casino, again don't look at the ceiling, but kids shouldn't be in the casino anyway! Bacchus Dining room -- the Greek God of wine. Oh, those infamous pink grapes, man they're all over the place, but you get used to them. Grabbed another Funship drink. I went back to the same bartender, his name was Ming from Indonesia. He quickly became my favorite bartender, he was so nice. My luggage arrived at the room about that time so I unpacked. Then I went back up for another drink. Yes, 3 of these strong drinks and I was drunk before the boat even left port! What a way to start the vacation! The boat set sail at 4 and I watched the boat sail away. Bye bye, real world! I needed a nap, so I slept until it was time for the ship to pass under the Skyway bridge. I walked up to the very top deck and the tail funnel barely passed under it - a must see moment. This is when I met my main friends for the cruise, 6 guys that had just graduated from West Virginia. Hello Craig, Sexton, Rob, Gertler, Haner and Whitie! Then it was time to get ready for dinner. Our waitress was Romona from (you guessed it) Romainia. She wasn't as super friendly as all the other crew members, but she wasn't mean. She didn't have good bedside manners, I guess that's what you would call it. This was the only dinner my sister came with us to (more on that later). I skipped the appetizers and salad and had 2 main course dishes. Herb Chicken and a Sirloin Steak with a peppercorn sauce - yum! After dinner, my mom and I went to the welcome aboard show (it was entertaining) and my dad went to the casino. After the show I headed to the dance club and met up with the guys, more drinking. Security is tough on this boat! I got carded 4 times while in the club!! That's not including carding for getting in the room or by the bartender! I know I look young, but hey security is a good thing. Sorry, kids. Monday Day at Sea. Woke up around 8:30, ate breakfast and then laid out by the pool with my family. My sister is against getting a tan, so she hung out with the friends she made. I ate lunch quickly (today's buffet theme was Caribbean food) and headed back out the the sun and I had a Miami Vice. Well, I got my belly full and had a nice buzz, so I passed out. Two hours later I woke up sweating like a cow and my family was gone. I just knew I was sun burnt. I stopped by for some pre-dinner sushi, yum! May be the best sushi ever! Then I got ready for dinner. I was a little red, but nothing painful. Thank God I was tan before the cruise or I would have been fried! Tonight was the first formal night, I wore a strapless aqua blue sparkley dress. Pretty. My sister wanted to hang out with her friends, so she didn't dress up or go to dinner. So me and my family got all dolled up, stopped by all the photo stations and went to dinner. I had 2 appetizers - minestrone soup (delicious) and pumpkin soup (good). Then I had prime rib w/au jus. yum. Me and my mom went to the R rated comedian show. Tom Willkins...or Will Tompkins??? He was hilarious, I was in tears! I'm gonna see if he was a dvd or something. By that time it was 1:30 and I was tired from partying the day before. Off too bed. Tuesday Grand Cayman. Today our shore excursion was swimming with sting rays at 10:30. I'd been to Grand Cayman in 2004 and LOVED it, so I was excited to go back. The Disney Magic was parked beside us. We took a 5 minute tender to the island, met our group right there at the dock and got on a bus to take us to the the other side of the island. Then, we got on to a little boat and took a 30 min. boat ride out to the middle of the ocean (a little spooky) where there was a sandbar that the sting rays hung out at. I hopped into the water. These things were huge, and bumped right into you. It was creepy at first, and they felt slippery and weird. There were huge dark clouds headed our way and pretty soon it was raining. I was already wet so who cares, but it was a little cold. We stayed there for another 45 mins. When I got back on the cruise I ate (mexican buffet day) and laid out, watched the boat sail away. Stopped for sushi. Tonight there was a party for past cruisers with FREE DRINKS. I sat down and here comes Ming with a tray full of drinks. He sets the whole tray down at my table! 2 whiskey sours, 2 screwdrivers, 2 rum punches, 2 hurricanes. Well, 6 drinks later, I couldn't see straight and everyone walking by was amused by the tray of drinks I got, probably just wondering how a little 100 lb girl sucked down all those drinks. For dinner, I had jerked pork loin, it was spicy, spicier than jerked normally is. After dinner, I headed to the club - still tipsy - met up with my friends and did hots at midnight for my bday! MY BIRTHDAY - Wednesday Cozumel - All inclusive beach- FREE DRINKS. Wow, is Cozumel damaged from Hurricane Rita last year! I had also been here in 2004. The pier is wiped away. The shops are still there and look great, but I can't believe the pier was completely destroyed. So we had to take a 5 min tender to the island. There were 3 other ships there - Carnival Holiday, RC Enchantment and Disney Magic. Mostly all the trees are gone, but the beach was still great. I started of with a Strawberry Margarita, then a Sex on the Beach, then a Miami Vice, then a Rum Runner, then 2 Coronas. In between, I had some authentic mexican chicken quesadillas - great! It was fun because everyone on that beach was drunk, except for the kids. Then I had a Corona to go. I love Mexico, and drinking in public. Back on the boat - more drinks, met up with the guys. By the time dinner came around, I was a little sobered up. I had Wonton soup, tomato soup, and Filet Mignon. Then here comes the singing and clapping and my bday cake! Yeah! Well after dinner I needed just a little nap, but I didn't wake up til the next morning. I was out. I was sad that I passed out on my bday, but I guess that means I had a good day? Right? Thursday Belize - Zoo. The ship had to stop really far away from the island as to not damage the coral reefs, so it was about a 15 min tender ride. I had never been to Belize, but I did my research and I knew that it was mostly rain forest and a 3rd world country. I figured it was a little more poor than the other islands. Well, we got off the boat and took a bus to the zoo, but we did a city tour on the way and a tour guide told us a little about the country. Wow! I had never seen poor like this before. They make our ghettos look luxurious, no lie. We drove past the Prime Minister's house which was in the upscale part. It was regular 2 story house (well, the first floor was a just a car port because it floods a lot) so the ruler of this country has the same sized house as me - no "white house" here. But the tour guide said if you never had it, then you don't miss it, so then don't dream of being rich. Hmmm, something we should think about. The zoo was in the middle of the forest. I had my bug spray on and was ready to go. The zoo didn't have elephants or giraffes, just Belize native animals - jaguars, other small wild cats, monkeys, and mosquitos! My bug spray did not repel those demons! I got about 5 bites. I guess it would have been worse without the spray. The bites still itch today, a week later! The zoo was interesting though. Back to the ship and sushi. For dinner, I had Lobster Bisque soup and Beef Wellington Sirloin (not very good). Then I met up with the guys - we meant to go to karaoke, but we ended up at a R rated hypnotist show...what??!!!! The show was very R rated! To end to show, the guys were told they were in the Full Monty strip club...one guy was about to take his boxers off when the hypnotist ran over and stopped him. I don't know if I believe in hypnotism or not, but these people were acting pretty weird. Who knows? Too risque for me. Friday Costa Maya, Mexico - another all inclusive beach. FREE DRINKS. I'd never been here either. This was our only stop that had a pier so no tender boats, yeah! This beach was beautiful! One of my top beaches. 2004 -- Grand Cayman, 2005 --Aruba, 2006 -- Costa Maya. This time my sister stayed on the boat. They had the BEST margaritas! So I drank those all day. My mom doesn't drink much but she did have a couple margaritas because they were so good. I did have a Mexican Sol XXX beer I think is what it's called, it was good. I held an iguana, it was almost bigger than me, got a good photo I hope. Everyone in Costa Maya is really nice. Back on the boat again drunk. Got ready for dinner and it was formal night again. But then my dad came to my room and said my mom had a hangover from today, and that we weren't gonna go to dinner. So I went to bed, but this time I made sure I set an alarm. So we didn't get dressed up - oh well. Woke up and the boat was rocking really bad. Turns out that we hit that tropical depression (before it was Alberto). The winds were crazy outside, I think I heard the winds were around 80 mph. They had to block off all the top deck so the highest deck you could go to was the Lido deck. The waves we were hitting were huge. I had never been on a boat this rocky. There's always at least one day that's rough, but this was crazy! It was entertaining at first to try to walk straight when sober! I've also never gotten sea sick, but when I went to lay down...well you get the point. Saturday Day at Sea - Woke up around 9, it was raining outside, still rocky, but not nearly as bad as last night. So I went back to bed, sad that I wouldn't be able to lay out. Woke up for lunch. My family and I went to the photo shop and bought a lot of pictures. By this time, the rain had stopped and we were able to watch the sun set. We didn't go to dinner again tonight, just ate at the lido deck. I had pasta form the pasta station and met up with the guys. Since they couldn't take cigars off the ship, we sat outside and smoked those, I tried a little. I don't smoke cigarettes, but cigars were ok. Last night - sad. Said good bye to everyone. My sister had the hardest time, she was crying. The one that didn't even wanna go on this cruise is the saddest to leave. Sunday Boo hoo. Woke up at 8:30, stopped serving breakfast at 9. Were of the boat at 10:30. Got lost in Tampa. Drove around for awhile. It was such a pretty day outside, great day to be going on a cruise : ( We didn't stop for dinner because we just wanted to get home. Finally arrived in Charlotte at 8:45. Saw trees and Power lines down. what happened here??? A big storm had just come through. We just knew our power would be out, but it wasn't. But we couldn't order pizza like we were going to. Wheres the buffet? I miss all that food. Welcome back to the real world. I had to work Monday so I went to bed knowing tomorrow would be rough. I had a great time, met some great people and ate great food. I ate about every 2 to 3 hours hahaha! I had sooo much pizza and turkey sandwiches, and $5.18 beer! My bar tab was about $140. Not bad, I smuggled booze on too. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
Background Information -- I just returned from a 7-day cruise on the Carnival Miracle. This trip was my first cruise experience, and overall, I enjoyed cruising. I used the Cruise Critic website extensively before my trip, and I am want ... Read More
Background Information -- I just returned from a 7-day cruise on the Carnival Miracle. This trip was my first cruise experience, and overall, I enjoyed cruising. I used the Cruise Critic website extensively before my trip, and I am want to pass along the details of my cruise to assist fellow cruisers. Travel To Port of Embarkation -- The Port of Tampa is very easy to navigate. I drove from Orlando, and I had no difficulties finding the port. Once you arrive at the Port, you will be greeted by porters who will take your bags through security. This is the last time you will see your bags for many hours so make certain that you pack a carry-on bag with swimsuits, medications, and essential toiletries. The porters in Tampa are a bit pushy, and even though they were given a tip consistent with tipping guidelines, they facially expressed their displeasure, which was an irritating way to start the cruising process. After the porters took our bags, we proceeded to the check-in desk. The line was very short (less than a few minutes), and the staff at the check-in desk was very helpful. Then, we waited about ten minutes for our boarding group to be called. Once we boarded the ship, we immediately went to Horatios on Deck 9 for the buffet, which lasts until 3:30pm. It was a madhouse in Horatios as everyone who just boarded attempted to have lunch. I suggest arriving earlier than the 1:30pm time listed as the start of embarkation as many fellow cruisers reported that they were able to board the ship much earlier. Plus, many of the activities begin before 1:30pm. Stateroom -- After eating lunch, we headed to our cabin. The cabin, though small, was bigger than I had expected. It was tastefully decorated, and it was always clean. Throughout our trip, our cabin steward changed our towels twice a day, and almost every night, we had some sort of towel creation on our bed. Be mindful of the warnings regarding the water temperature in the shower as it is easy to scald yourself. Hot water was almost always available for a shower, but there were a couple instances in which I was forced to wait five to ten minutes for warm water. My only complaint about the stateroom was the noise in the morning. We were located on the Riviera deck near the middle set of elevators. We must have been located next to a crew service area as every morning I awoke to loud talking and banging. However, I was never awoken by the anchor being lowered on port days. Also, if you are prone to sea sicknesses, the rocking on this deck was much less than the rocking on the upper decks. Ship Info -- As stated in other reviews, the ships decor is very loud and tacky. It is overwhelming visually and made it very difficult to get your bearings on the ship. The dining room is especially hideous with many pink bulbs, which are supposed to be grapes. I heard that the ship is smaller than other Carnival Ships, but I think that made it easier to maneuver. It was very easy to navigate the decks and find where you were heading. The wait for the elevators was long on embarkation day and following any shows. Dining -- I was looking forward to the dining the most, and I was most disappointed with the food. The food at dinner was always presented beautifully, but it was hit or miss regarding whether the food actually tasted good. My best meal was the night I ordered a filet. You always have the option of ordering a filet or chicken if you do not like the entrees on the menu. I did that one night, and the filet was delicious. I wish I would have ordered the filet more often. Cappuccinos and espresso drinks are free at dinner so I suggest avoiding the charge at the coffee bar by waiting until dinner to have an espresso drink. The buffet at Horatios for breakfast and lunch was okay. There was plenty of variety, but the food was often bland. The crowds from the first day die down so it is now to chaotic when you eat at Horatios buffet. There is also a buffet grill at the pool if you want to stay outside. It appeared that this buffet typically hand hamburgers, hot dogs, and salad. A sushi bar is offered every evening from around 5pm to 8pm. The sushi was fantastic as Chef Larry always did a superb job. You can get as much as you want so I suggest loading up if you have a late dinner seating. This reminds of one last thing about dining. We chose the late dinner seating, and we were sat at a large round table. We met some wonderful people at this table, but because of the size of the table, dinner typically lasted for two hours. Activities -- True to its name, Carnival is really the fun ship. There are numerous activities each day  something different for everyones tastes. As a single person looking for fun people to enjoy the cruise with, my favorite activities were: The World Tour Pub Crawl  Monday night The Beer and Bathrobes party  Thursday night The comedy shows Daily performances by the band If you are single, I heard the speed dating on the first night was lame. We were exhausted so we did not go, but we were still able to meet the other singles on the cruise. Children's Clubs -- I do not have any children, but I heard from fellow cruisers that Camp Carnival ended at 12pm each day which made it difficult for the parents to go on shore excursions. Service -- Overall, the service was stellar. However, many of the staff do not speak English well so sometimes they may not fully understand your request. The only really poor service that I received was Dr. Frankensteins club. The DJ was very rude, and he would not play requests. Plus, he played a horrible mix of music that typically left the dance floor empty. Shore Excursions -- The shore excursions were my favorite part of the cruise. Although Carnival says that you should take their excursions so you will not be left behind, we never had any problems using private vendors. Grand Cayman  we took Nativeways rays, reef, and rum point excursion and had a blast. There were about 30 people on our boat (more than expected), but the guides still managed to give personal attention. They made certain that we all had an opportunity to fold the stingrays and feed them. Then, we went on to snorkeling, which was a bit difficult because the water was rough that day. Rum Point was beautiful (maybe my favorite spot on the cruise). There are hammocks to use, and we received a tasty lunch as part of the excursion. It was a great way to wind down the day. One warning about the excursion  you may get really wet on the way to stingray city. Make sure you put money and cameras in watersafe containers. Cozumel  Once again, the water was very rough so snorkeling excursions were cancelled. We went to Paradise Beach ($5 per person via shuttle), which was gorgeous. The water was too rough to use the water toys, but we enjoyed the lounge chairs and umbrellas. Servers will come around to take your drink orders. Although it is expected that you will buy something, no one is pushy. From there, we took a cab to downtown Cozumel. You can negotiate taxi prices (which wait at the beach) so bargain away! Shopping was a bit hectic as many people try to sell their wares. We found some good deals, but you will only be able to truly bargain with the street vendors. When buying in shops, be sure to ask about the cruise discount. After shopping, we headed to Carlos and Charlies, which was wild! I definitely recommend it, but not for children. Belize  In Belize, we used Greenwood Adventures (Major Tom) for our cave tubing. Apparently, Major Tom has an agreement with Dennis from Explore Cavetubing Belize so Dennis was our guide. He was great! He took us on a tour of the city while we waited for the other members of our tour. It was an hour out the caves, but a pretty drive. Once at the caves, we were able to quickly get around the Carnival tours as there were only six people on our tour. Dennis pulled us through the water when the current became slow, and he told us about local flora. After the tour, four people went to the zip lining, but my sister and I went for our included lunch at Xibalba (café located next to the cave tubing in Jaguar Paw resort). My meal included jerk chicken, rice and beans, plantains, garlic bread, and the best banana muffin I have ever eaten. Our meal was included with the tour, but I checked the price, and it only costs $5. Order early as they were running out of food later in the day. After the excursion, we had about 30 minutes to shop in the city before returning for the last tender. The Clip and Sip internet café is very expensive ($4 for 15 minutes) for Belize. Costa Maya  the prettiest port, but I would never return. The people in this port were horribly rude, which I will get to in a moment. When you get off the ship, walk through the port and then turn left. There will be a shuttle stand selling $3 tickets to the fishing village. The fishing village is gorgeous, but you cannot walk a step without multiple people harassing you to buy. Beware  they charge to use the lounge chairs even if they initially say the chairs are free. We had a bad experience with this. The vendor said the chairs were free, and then he charged my sister $5 a piece for the chair. After much arguing in my limited Spanish, I was able to get our money back, and he made us leave the beach. After that, we headed back to the pool in the cruise terminal. It was filthy. We ended up going back to the ship because the water was so dirty. Another warning  you will see many policeman with M-16s walking around, which makes the experience a bit uncomfortable. We heard from many people that they had similar bad experiences in Costa Maya. Disembarkation -- Disembarkation was a stressful process as my sister had to make a flight in Orlando at 12pm. If you need to catch an early flight, my suggestion is that you self-assist rather than wait for the VIP disembarkation. The order of disembarkation is self-assist, platinum, and then VIP. Thus, we did not get to leave the ship until almost 9am when the self-assist people started leaving the ship around 7:45am. I suggest putting something bright on your luggage as you must walk through aisles of luggage to find yours. Summary -- Overall, it was a great trip. However, I think I would try either Norwegian or Royal Caribbean to see which line I liked best. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
We were on the May 7-15th cruise. Husband and I drove to Tampa from metro Atlanta. Not bad really about 7 hours. Directions to the port could have been better. We drove about 30 minutes out of our way and finally asked for directions. ... Read More
We were on the May 7-15th cruise. Husband and I drove to Tampa from metro Atlanta. Not bad really about 7 hours. Directions to the port could have been better. We drove about 30 minutes out of our way and finally asked for directions. Port is really nice with convenient parking. We decided in the future to fly in because you almost pay the cost of airfare in parking. Stateroom was very nice. We were in 4140 which did have a window but it was mostly a lifeboat view. The room was large and comfortable. The bed was very comfortable. I will tell you all that our cabin stewards were just the best. They left us towel animals on our bed every evening with the turndown service. It was a really nice touch. We tipped them over and above because of their great effort in working around our plans. The ship is beautiful, very large, very clean and well staffed. We had a few days of rough seas and I did have an issue with sea sickness but did OK once motion sickness medicine was taken. The food is wonderful. There are so many choices. We chose to eat our breakfast and evening meal in the Bacchus Dining Room. We chose 8:15 seating. The food was excellent and I really appreciated the SPA choices on the menu. Our wait staff was just terrific. The took great pains to make sure our meals were enjoyable. We tipped them over and above because of their professionalism. Our shore excursions were fine for the most part. We loved going to Tulum. It's a long day but the bus was air conditioned so that made the heat bearable. We also had a terrific guide for this trip. We did book this trip through Carnival and was quite pleased. We loved going to Hell and the Turtle Farm also booked through Carnival. Belize was very nice but also very very hot. It was 97 the day we were there. Our snorkel trip was cancelled so we just hung around the city. Great shopping in Belize. It is a bit pesky with locals wanting to ferry you anywhere you want but the do take no the first time. Personally, I did not like Costa Maya. It just wasn't my cup of tea so I went back to the boat early and enjoyed some down time. Entertainment was good. We missed most of the shows doing other things onboard. Disembarkation was fine. I recommend packing lightly to get out quicker. This boat is beautiful. Everything about it is just spectacular. This was my first cruise so I took notice when other passengers said this was the nicest crew they had ever sailed with. They were very friendly and helpful. We will sail on the Miracle again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
CCL Miracle Cruise Review March 13, 2006 Itinerary: Tampa, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya Links to Photos: http://community.webshots.com/user/bob42ca http://community.webshots.com/user/rob42ca EMBARKATION This was our 11th ... Read More
CCL Miracle Cruise Review March 13, 2006 Itinerary: Tampa, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya Links to Photos: http://community.webshots.com/user/bob42ca http://community.webshots.com/user/rob42ca EMBARKATION This was our 11th cruise, the third on Carnival, and our cruisemates 14th cruise. We arrived at Terminal 2 at noon by private car, and decided to use the $10 valet parking after the valet said wed have our car in 10 minutes on return. This turned out to be incorrect, you get your own car on return. The daily parking fee is $12, and the parkade is across the street from the terminal. So doing valet wasnt worth the fee, you might as well drop your people and luggage off at the ship porters, then park at the parkade and walk back across the street. On return, get your car while your people stay with your luggage in front of the parking building. The process inside the terminal was ok, waited only a few minutes to get the ship card, then waited about half an hour in a seated area to be called to board. No escorts to the cabins, find your own way. Our luggage arrived about 4pm, our friends got theirs faster. Good lunch buffet, then went to the dining room to ask the maitred for a dining table change to a larger table, which he was later able to do. Fire muster drill at 3:30, sailaway after that. THE SHIP The Miracle was built in 2004, and its very clean and new. The decorating is gaudy, loud, often tacky, kind of like a Vegas hotel gone wild. And the decorating themes seem unconnected. The dining room is a Bacchus (god of pleasure) theme, with pink flying saucer lights all over the walls, ceiling, and pillars that other reviewers have shaken their heads at, apparently meant to resemble bunches of grapes. Then in other areas of the ship the theme is characters such as Robin Hood, Captain Hook, famous detectives. Then in other areas its an Alice in Wonderland theme, all this with crazy loud dEcor, none of which seems to flow together. Even the huge atrium was garish. One area of the ship that was classy was Nick and Noras pay restaurant, $30 p.p. (no discounts offered all week). The location was lovely, nice views, more space between tables and quieter than the main dining room. Ship design was also strange in some areas. They built a huge atrium extending to the top of the ship, and then put an overhang above the atrium that cuts off your view. And one side of the atrium had hardly any seating. Another design hassle was the very low ceiling in the upper level of the dining room, which we are guessing was the reason for it being so noisy, you have to raise your voice to be heard across the table. If you dont like it noisy you should request a table on the lower level. And there were no panoramic windows in the dining room, this was the only ship that we couldnt tell where the dining room was from the outside. The good design thing is its easy to find your way around, no roadblocks. As usual, on sea days all the loungers around or above the pools are taken or saved by 9:30, but the good news is there are lots of extra stacks of loungers further astern on either side, so you can always find one, great if you dont mind a quiet place away from the action. And the loungers are great, a nice mesh, no more buggy straps. We love calypso bands, and were disappointed in the pool band, they played a strange mix, off beat reggae, no one dancing on the pool dance floor. The Asian band in Frankie and Johnnies bar was great, good rock and roll, etc. The gym was good, adequate number of machines, nice to find some we use that arent often on ships, separate aerobics room (classes $10), good free weights, heated lounger area (overhead heater lamps), floor mats, nice views from the machines, nice rubberized jogging track on the top deck. THE CABIN We booked an inside 4A guarantee which allows CCL to give us any 4A cabin or upgrade us to any higher category. We were delighted to get an upgrade 3 decks higher to an outside 5A obstructed view with balcony doors. No balcony, because of the life boat, but nice to see the weather, get some natural light, and stick our heads out to check the temp. Good sized cabin. Only 1 outlet in the cabin, bring a power bar if you have things to plug in. Great safe, no more numbers to punch in, just swipe any magnetic card, we used a drivers license. A fridge! Robes (required later for the bathrobes and beer party). Lots of storage, suitcases fit under the K bed. Duvet on the bed (but not on lower categories). Wendy loved it, too hot for me, got a blanket from the steward, then fine. Great shower, Niagara Falls, good temp control, hand wand, clothesline (bring clothes pins). Nice body wash soap and shampoo, no conditioner. Nice amenities in bathroom, Crest toothpaste, dental floss, Olay products, disposable razors, and a pull out magnifying mirror. Sofa and table were handy. Good hair dryer attached to vanity drawer. SERVICE We had some issues with the service, no biggies, no attitude probs, nice crew, just little buggy stuff. Cutlery tossed on the dinner table instead of being placed. Water glasses left empty. Sometimes buns/bread being offered twice, sometimes not. One of our cruisemates always requested the same item every night. On other cruises the staff usually remember this and bring it (teapot of hot water/lemon wedges) without being asked, but not this week. At one dinner late in the week the pot was requested but didnt come, so we built a tower of wine glasses with the lemon plate on top as a hint. But our Tower of Babel hint didnt work, so we re-ordered again. On the other hand, 2 of us kept getting asked if we wanted coffee every night when wed told them we dont drink it. But the wait staff were good fun, with helpful information to assist us in choosing courses wed like. The MaitreD and head waiter never came around to say hi, a first for that, but he did get us the table change we requested (larger table), so hes ok too. We pre-tipped the cabin steward to keep the ice bucket full during the afternoons and evenings, which produced a big smile, and he was good at filling it before going off shift at 1pm, but a few times in the evening it was empty, so we went down the hall until we found a stewards dolly which has ice thermoses on them, and re-filled our bucket. And we had showed our steward that we had removed the ship items out of the fridge and into a closet to we could put our own stuff in the fridge, but he still put through a charge for us using one of the items. It took 3 trips to the Pursers Desk to get the charge reversed. If the key is missing from your fridge ask your steward for it so you can open it. On the up side, one crew member saved the day for us, with service above and beyond. We had arranged to meet our cruisemates near the gangway to go on a private tour at a tendered port, Belize. Ship tour people get the first tenders, and others arent allowed down the gangway until the ship tours are gone. Our friends arrived early, and were able to get down to a lower level of the gangway. We arrived a bit later, but by then you couldnt get down without a tour sticker. When the meeting time passed, our friends were able to slip on a ship tour tender boat and get to shore so they could find our guide and get things ready to go. But we didnt know they had left, so we told our dilemma to a young lady doing passenger control duty, one of the floor show dancers. She scooted downstairs through all the people lined up to check the passenger control computer and found out that our friends had got off the ship. Knowing we were trying to make it to our private tour, she told us to stand behind her because she thought there would be some open seats on the next ship tour tender, which there was, and she snuck us on it. That saved us at least an hour. We gave her personal kudos on the cruise evaluation form, apparently the crew get perks like extra days off for that. Thanks Debbie! You dance great too! FOOD The dining room food was up and down, largest lobster we ever had on a ship, perfectly done, but the risotto side dish was a gluey paste. Sometimes items were not very hot. Once the sirloin was not very tender. Generally the starters and entrees were interesting and good, no one went hungry, sometimes wed share a third entrEe to get a taste of both. The Lido buffet was good, lots of selection, 4 main stations and other specialty stations, including pizza and deli. Happy to find real brown sugar for cereal. No smoked salmon at breakfast or lunch, although the deli would make a smoked salmon bagel sandwich, could have asked for just the salmon but didnt want to stand in another line for that. Nice Asian dishes at the Asian station. Great lemonade at the drink station. Went to one midnight buffet, the grand gala, and it was pretty good, found one great curry dish that hadnt been on the menu before. Didnt find the desserts we were looking for, but there were several choices. Nice sandwiches and wraps on the room service menu, order them before you get off in port if you want free snacks in your shore bag. ENTERTAINMENT Most of the entertainment acts were good, and the audience participation ones are always fun, Biggest Liar, Newlywed and Not So Newlywed, Battle of Sexes (guys have lost 17 weeks in a row!) We often dont go to the song and dance floor shows, weve seen so many and were not really into them, but the Ticket To Ride Beatle tribute floor show was highly recommended, and it turned out to be the best weve ever seen on a ship, it could have been an entry level Vegas act. Wonderful props, choreography, skits, costumes, laser lights, terrific music from the orchestra, the Asian band doing several hits as a replica concert, complete with audience lighters (light sticks) and confetti. Everyone was singing along, huge standing ovation. Before the show, clips from old Beatles concerts and events were playing on the screen, very nostalgic for us over 40s. Throughout the day there were lots of activities all over the ship. After dinner each night there were waiter shows in the dining room, lots of people up dancing with the waiters. OUR FELLOW PASSENGERS This was a young crowd, lots of spring breakers, lots of action, but no probs, no drunks on deck, no running up and down the halls or lounges. But tons of old T-shirts and ball caps in the Lido buffet. The dining room has the usual no shorts or jeans rule, but they dont stop shorts or jeans from entering, and there were several of these every night, both men and women. They do ask for ball caps to be taken off. On formal nights if you want to be with and see the dressed up people, hang out at the atrium before dinner where theyre getting their pictures taken by the various ship photographers, and also go to the captains cocktail party, no grubbies there. On other cruises most people keep their formal wear on for the evening, but on the last formal night everyone wanted to get back in their grubbies, and for the last theatre show we were the only 4 still dressed up, also walking back through the casino there was no one still dressed up. Many were late for dinner, about half an hour, I dont think they realize it throws off the progression of courses set out in the galley, and keeps your table mates waiting between courses if you show up late and have to do catch-up. So at the end of the cruise someone in our area brought an artificial limb, the bottom part of a leg and foot, and put it on a latecomers chair. When she pulled it out she freaked out quite nicely. Then the foot got passed around to another table waiting for a latecomer, and about a half dozen of them got it that night, quite a hoot, the waiters loved it (payback time). By the time the last late one arrived everyone was watching the show, no one talking, staring at her as she went to her chair, she thought there was something wrong with her clothes, but she soon found out. THE PORTS Grand Cayman The ship anchors fairly close to the dock, so the tender boat ride is not long. Also, 2 gangways are used, speeding things up. We had done the stingrays before (excellent), and this time planned to snorkel a nearby wreck and then hit a resort for lunch and drinks around a pool.. Two wrecks are walkable, the Cali and the Gamma, and we picked the Gamma over the Cali because the Cali has been broken up, and its site can be crowded with ship tours. We rented equipment including inflatable vests at Divers Down beside Hammerheads Bar, a 5 minute walk left of the dock (when facing inland). Then we walked 15 minutes further north to the Gamma which is at The Wharf restaurant, took the path at the right side of The Wharf down towards the beach, and then took the path along the beach through the trees to the Gamma freighter, some of it visible out of the water. Its visible from the ship if you have good eyes. Its about 25 yards off the beach, a stones throw, listing with one side above water and the other side submerged, which is the snorkeling part. The best entry point is a little square sandy beach with low concrete walls on the cruise ship side of the Gamma, which a dive or kayaking tour might also be using, and where they leave their water containers. This beach faces away from the wreck, so after entering you swim about 25 yards toward the cruise ships, then turn right and swim through a rocky channel (lots to look at there), and when out of the channel turn right again toward the wreck. Lots of interesting underwater sights on the way. There is no reason to swim around to the side of the wreck above water, nothing to see. The underwater side is interesting, parts shallow enough to stand on with your flippers if its calm enough, great for shots with a cheap $8 underwater camera from Wal-Mart. The ship sold them for $14, better than the $30 other ships used to charge. You can snorkel right into the middle of the wreck, but how close you get would depend on how calm the water is, you dont want waves pushing you against the wreck, you could get cut. A 2-3 foot barracuda watched us for a bit, then took off. We heard the prop is still in place, and we wanted to get a shot of us with it, but the stern was in the shadow of the sun, bad for a shot, and it looked to be more than 20 feet down, and we couldnt see the prop from the surface, so we gave that up. Took shots of each other along the wreck, easier to get down if you deflate the vest. It only takes 3 or 4 blows to re-inflate. Had lots of fun there. We planned to have lunch and drinks at the Comfort Suites resort on 7 Mile Beach, who offer cruisers free day passes if ordering drinks, but we got shopping back in town and ran out of time (4pm sailing). Only stopped to eat the room service wraps we ordered before we debarked. Dont tell the room service kitchen youre taking food ashore, they say its illegal, but no one looks in any bags, its no prob. Cozumel Our ship tender boats used the Puerto Maya pier south of town. Sit on the right side of the tender boat for a good view and shots of the hurricane damage to the pier, huge concrete sections thrown all over. A section of the pier at the shore has been repaired enough for the tenders to use. For another good shot after getting off the tender, walk to the end of the pier, wreckage in the foreground and ships in the background. Cute little shopping area at the pier, looks new, probably built after the hurricane. $6 cab to town. Going into town along the coast youll see lots of hurricane damage, buildings, many under repairs, some abandoned, lots of dead vegetation, stripped trees, broken and tossed around. But San Miguel looks good, pretty, trees replaced, everything repainted. Cheap internet, $1-2 per half hour everywhere. We planned to do the town in the morning and hit a resort in the afternoon. The Coral Princess is free for cruisers, the El Cid La Ceiba is $15 p.p. non-inclusive, the Fiesta Americana is $39 all-incl lunch and drinks all day, and a bunch of other ones are around $50 p.p. all-in. We picked the Fiesta but again ran out of time and didnt make it. So we decided to have lunch in town, and wanted somewhere with a view of the ocean and boardwalk. We found a great place at the corner of the boardwalk and the huge ferry pier, lots of ocean view tables but busy at 12:30, we got the last table. Two good entrees and lemonade for $21. There are other cute sidewalk cafes off the boardwalk. Beers are $1-1.50 everywhere, $2-3 in better places. Lots of cute shops around the central plaza at the ferry pier. No insects of any kind, no need for spray. Belize Tendering in Belize was slow, only one gangway used. After going through the hassle described above, we snuck on a ship tour tender. If youre in a rush to get ashore for your private tour, wed suggest going to the gangway early, before 8, and try and hang around as close to the sign out station as you can. Then try and get on with the ship tour people, but first ask if the tender is going to the Tourism Village, and not a caye or some other tour location. All the ships anchor far from shore, many sandbars, and you can hardly see Belize in the distance, but the tenders are speedboats, huge twin outboard motors, they really fly, so the ride is only 10-15 minutes. Sit on the right side for a nice shot of the pretty Tourism Village as you enter the harbor. Party bar and lots of chain shops on the dock, flea market stalls outside the dock. For local flavor exit the dock, turn left onto Fort Street, and go past the vendors a few blocks till you come to a yellow lift bridge on the left. You can get some nice shots of the quaint marina from the bridge, then cross it onto Albert Street, walk up Albert a few blocks, a local hubbub. Belize is famous for huge limestone caves with crystal caverns, stalactites, etc, and the popular tour is rubber tubing through the caves. Weve done lots of tubing before at water parks, and preferred to walk the caves to get pictures and poke around, and get some exercise. So 4 of us reserved a cave walk of the St. Hermans Cave at Blue Hole National Park, through the Cave-Tubing.com company, run by Yhonny and his guides, for $60 p.p. plus $5 for a good lunch of chicken, rice, beans and lemonade at Cheers. The park is a 1 hour 15 minute drive down a fairly good highway, bit bumpy at times, no prob. $4 p.p. park entrance fee, then a 10 minute easy walk through the lovely forest to the cave. We took bug spray but didnt even open it, only saw 2 lazy mosquitoes all day, and a few flies. This was the dry season, Dec-May. You can rent flashlights for a few bucks, but we brought our own. The caverns are huge, and its best to have the most powerful lights you can bring, to see all the crystalline features, side passages, the river beside the path, rock formations. If your group is not very physical your guide will take you halfway, but if they can handle it youll go to the end, some climbing over wet sandy or rocky spots, stooping for low ceilings, the end section is trickier. There is no walkable exit, so we then returned the way we came, often seeing things we missed the first time, or from a different perspective. Shots in the dark tunnel turned out well with both our digital and 35 mm cameras, the flashes were rated for 20 feet but went beyond that. We shined our flashlights on our shirts so the person taking the shot could make us out. Just make sure your camera can focus in the dark, some cant do that. The cave is about three quarters of a mile, and about halfway through we met some other cavers who had set up a lovely buffet on a white table cloth on a sandy area beside the underground river with candles, very exotic, Jake and his friends from Colorado. There are 2 routes from the park station to the cave, the lowland easy path and the highland path with climbing and great views of the area. We took the highland path back to the parking lot at the station, and then drove a few minutes to the Blue Hole, a pretty sink hole pond in a jungle grotto with a small beach, where you can take a dip. After that we had lunch at Cheers on the way back, one of the most recommended cafes in the area, and it was good. We offered to buy our guide Tim a lunch, but this place gives guides with groups a free lunch. Tim was absolutely excellent, informative and entertaining, and we tipped him a quarter of the tour price. Yhonny was prompt and helpful in setting up the tour by email, explaining everything we wanted to know very well. Costa Maya Finally a port with no more tendering. A free tram takes people from the ship down the long pier to the port entrance, where there is a center built for cruise passengers. It has shops, 2 swimming pools, bar, cafe, loungers on a sandy area, but no beach, all rocks. Rather expensive, $9 drinks, snacks $5-10. Both pools looked awful, cloudy murky brownish green water, you couldnt see 2 inches into it, wed never get in that. Local dancers do a folk dance in a small amphitheater, some audience participation. To the right of the pier (your back toward the ocean) is the Chac-Chi resort, lovely beach, loungers, volley ball, cafe, bar, music, way cheaper than the cruise area. Youll see it on the right as you go up the pier. Guests were an assortment of locals, foreigners from the resorts and hotels, and cruise ship people, interesting group. The cruise lines have done everything to try and keep cruisers out of Chac-Chi, large concrete wall extending down to the water with signs not to enter, big metal fence going way up the road. There is a billboard above the fence on resort property welcoming cruisers and stating you can take a cab out around the highway to their main entrance. But there is also a shortcut, an 8 minute walk, that the locals and land resort people use. Go past the cruise shops, keep to the right, and exit into the taxi and bus area. Walk around the roundabout with the yellow concrete centerpiece, and down the right side of the street, to the first intersection, which will take 3-4 minutes. At the intersection turn right and you will see a white building with red lettering saying Comisariato, a local shopping place. Walk past this building and you will come to a wire gate. Lift up the broken right side of the gate and go through. Youll see other people on the road going there too. The wire is rather heavy, take turns holding it for each other. Then walk down the path past some junk, and turn right at the end onto another path through the forest, which takes you into the resort. From the intersection to the resort took 5 minutes, 8 total from the roundabout. Im in education, and we wanted to take some supplies and gifts to the kids in the local school, weve done that before in impoverished areas. School is out at noon, so we had to get there in the morning. When the taxi dispatcher found out what we were trying to do, she got us both a taxi and a tour operator to be our guide/interpreter, Juan, no extra charge. The school is at the far end of the village of Majahual, a block or so off the beach road. The entrance has old swing gates held closed with a drop bar. There were 2 small buildings, one with 2 rooms and the other 1 room. Juan talked to the teacher, Rosemaria, and found that the older kids in the 1 room bldg had gone on a day trip. Rosemarias class was about 20 7-9 year olds, and the other room had about 15 3-6 year olds, all in uniforms. Our gifts fit the 7-9s best, so we stayed there. There was a little 7 year old boy from Britain who was bilingual and did some interpreting for us. And there was also a little boy from Germany who spoke English. The room was very clean but had very few supplies, we didnt see any readers or activity kits, just a small set of shelves with a few things on it. When we arrived the kids were writing in notebooks. We asked Rosemaria to distribute the gifts at her discretion & pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, crayons, pencil crayons, chalk, notebooks, solar calculators, English/Spanish workbooks, balls, skipping ropes, toy cars, Frisbees, lollipops. The kids were very excited, Im afraid we wrecked the lesson for the day. The room had a dry erase board, and I wished wed brought dry erase pens. Rosemaria said the older class had a chalkboard and she would give them the chalk. Apparently there is a girl called BebeAnna in the older class who speaks English. She said she would give the older absent class some items that fit their age. We took some lollipops to the class next door, where the teacher brought forward a little girl about 5 who said she was from Michigan and Colorado, and we had a little talk to her, she seemed proud to be the one dealing with the visitors. I told her to tell her parents when she got home that she met people from Ontario, next to Michigan, and that I was the best looking guy in Ontario. She had a look at me and a chuckle, Im not sure that she was convinced. We took a few pictures and then left, they were all outside waving goodbye until we got to the gate, and it was a highlight of our trip. The remote inland schools have even fewer supplies, a 2 hour drive each way, and David at The Native Way tour company will gladly deliver your gifts to them. We then walked a block to the beach road, and strolled past the shops and cafes. The beach has nice sand, but some seaweed in the water and along the waters edge, which could be easily cleaned by running a tractor down the beach to drag it away. Not as clean as Chac-Chi. There is lots of water activity equipment for rent, and free loungers to use. We drank local water (ice cubes in lemonade) here at the Cats Meow cafe and the cafe in Cozumel with no problem. A cab from the dock to town is $3 p.p., and returning its $2 p.p., a 5 minute trip. Our cruisemates walked from the ship to town down the coast, which took them 20 minutes. In the cruise village area there is a boardwalk along the shore, but at the end of the property there is another concrete wall like at Chac-Chi. They walked around the wall in water up to their ankles, and continued into town. It was not a pretty walk, some garbage. DEBARKATION The debarkation process was a surprise, a first for us. Instead of debarking people by deck or color code, everyone gets off at the same time (except for VIPs). We thought that would be chaos, but it was a breeze. People are asked not to clog up the gangway area at the atrium, but to wait in a lounge or other common area until the announcement that the gangway was open, which most people did. What happens is that lots of people are still willing to stand and wait by the gangway, which our friends did, and when the ship is cleared for debarking they let those lined up get off before the general announcement (9:10 for them). So when its generally announced, there is no clog at the gangway, and we were off in 4 minutes (at 9:40). Those waiting on a different deck would of course take longer. The ship is clean and new, the ports are great fun, we didnt have a drop of rain all week, and if the blips on the radar above dont bother you, youll have a great time. Hi to our shipmates Bill and Shelly! ... still the ironman and woman, havent taken a ship elevator in 14 cruises (but too tired to drink when they get to the pool). Glad to get email if you have questions or comments. (Bob7 then the at sign, then canoemail.com). Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
Carnival Miracle Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 3.5 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 3.5 4.0
Family 4.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 4.0
Enrichment 1.5 3.5
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 4.1
Rates 3.0 4.4

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