Review of the Carnival Miracle, January 1, 2006
Traveling on this cruise: My husband, a 43 year old executive and me, a 35 year old home maker. It was his 7th cruise and my 12th, 2nd on Carnival for him and 4th on Carnival for me. First ... Read More
Review of the Carnival Miracle, January 1, 2006
Traveling on this cruise: My husband, a 43 year old executive and me, a 35 year old home maker. It was his 7th cruise and my 12th, 2nd on Carnival for him and 4th on Carnival for me. First time for both of us on a newer larger ship though.
Due to January 1 being a black out date, we flew from BWI to Tampa on the 31st and stayed at the Doubletree Westshore Airport hotel.
Flight was delayed slightly due to an aircraft change out but uneventful. Ran into some trouble getting the hotel shuttle to show up at the airport and pick us up but finally after about an hour the manager said she would personally ride with the driver and even offered to buy us dinner. This seemed like a bit of overkill for a relatively minor offense but was a nice gesture (we declined her offer but did enjoy a nice meal in the hotel restaurant at our own expense - HUGE portions). The room was nicely appointed, the pool was heated and the hot tub was HOT. Not a bad way to spend New Years Eve. Our room rate of $139 included breakfast the next morning.
The Doubletree also offered a free shuttle to the cruise port which we used the day of departure around 11:15am.
I would have to say embarkation at Tampa is not my personal favorite. We arrived somewhere around 11:45 and found the ship was not docked at the check in area (from reading the CC boards I see this is common at the Tampa port). The line to check in moved quickly but we then had to wait about an hour until they called our group (#8) to board buses to get to the ship. The bus was nice and at least they did not stuff them to the gills but still, I would have preferred just getting on the ship. I do understand this was beyond Carnivals control.
We were on board by 1pm and although we had been given a paper at check in saying staterooms would be ready at 2pm, the person on board calling the elevators for boarding passengers said 1:30 (it ended up being 2pm after all).
We nosed around the ship a bit and went to Horatios for a bite to eat.
Had heard the dEcor of this room was frightening but I did not mind it as much. I thought the mosaic tiles were gorgeous and while I might not have paired it with the other colors in the room in my own home, it did not ruin the experience for me. On the whole we found Horatios to be a good dining experience each day we went there. The Asian buffet line left something to be desired to our taste buds but we have excellent Chinese, Japanese and Thai food near our home. The burgers were always fresh and tasty and the fries were excellent. Horatios was very clean and well kept and someone pushes a drink cart around to refill your beverage as needed.
***I must apologize to my fellow CC folks who were on the roll call with me. Matt and I went to the pool bar about 10 after 3 and saw a bunch of people in yellow tee shirts (for a family reunion I think) and figured everyone had left already or we got blown off. It was not until Thursday or Friday of the cruise that I realized we went to the ULYSSES pool bar looking for people and not ORPHEUS! I am so sorry I missed the opportunity to meet everyone and hope you all enjoyed your cruise as much as we did!***
One nice note about embarkation: plenty of waiters milling about with lots of freely flowing champagne. This is a very classy touch and one we found sorely lacking on a recent RCCL cruise (you can see my review of that cruise on the CC member review page). Finally it was time to enter the stateroom and we could not have been more pleased. We were booked in a category 8G extended balcony, cabin #7186, a little more forward of mid ship on the port side. The cabin was quite spacious and beautiful. Lovely wood tones on the closet and storage, nice lighting options, large sofa, the upgraded bedding everyone else has mentioned, robes in the closet. Nice sized bathroom with a wrap around curtain that gave you enough space to turn around, shave your legs, etc. As on our recent Imagination cruise, the shower had dispensers for Dove shower gel and shampoo. There was a basket of misc toiletries on the sink which I find to be a classy touch. Also, ladies pay attention, there is a hair dryer in the top drawer of the vanity and it actually WORKS! First time ever on a cruise ship I was able to use the dryer provided and have it actually dry my hair!!! Those of you who have used those provided in the bathroom on some other lines/ships know what I mean.
There has been some talk on the CC boards that the extended balconies are not worth it since you look straight down on the life boats and cannot see the bow or stern of the ship. Looking at our balcony and looking at the regular sized balconies the extended balcony offers one thing that is very important to us. We were able to sit in the chairs with our feet on the table and still have room to move around on the balcony. My husband and I are quite tall (65 and 58, well HES tall anyway&.) On a regular sized balcony we would have had to put the chairs all the way back to the wall/corner and the put the table against the plexi-glass and we still would not have been able to extend our legs fully. Plus, we spend a lot of time on our balcony sitting down, reading and watching the world sail by and our view was not obstructed in any way by lifeboats or other cabins. But if standing at the railing and looking down or to your left or right is important to you&.
Muster drill was relatively painless, necessary evil and then sail away which we watched from our balcony. We went under the bridge around 6:30 and man did it look CLOSE to us, half expected the whale tail to get knocked off!
We had late seating dinner at a booth for 4 people. Enjoyed our table mates from Tennessee very much. Everything you have heard about the dining room is true. The food and service were both good, above average in most cases but the decor&. The purple neon piping was not bad BUT the giant pink mentos?!?!??! I cant even begin to describe the degree of blindness required to decorate a room this way. In this dining room it seemed like if there was a blank space, they filled it. The ceiling tiles were patterned with a lattice and grapevine motif. There were silver spray painted plastic pillars through out. The rest of the ship is a little more ornate than I might decorate my own home but okay this room needs to be redone ASAP.
First full day was at sea and pretty non-eventful for us. We cruise to relax so this trip included a lot of time sitting on the balcony reading and a lot of mid afternoon naps!
First formal night was also Monday. Captains Cocktail party, etc, etc. Surprised at how young Captain is, his English is excellent. Dinner in main dining room. Prime rib and lobster. Prime rib was very good, the lobster was a little chewy.
Tuesday was Grand Cayman. We booked all of our excursions through the ship this trip and went on the Reef and Ray tour with Kellys Water Sports. This was the first time to the stingrays for my husband so it was fun to watch him interact with them. The reef part of the trip was jut eh in my book. We have done better snorkeling in Cayman just walking into the water near the tender pier! This tour was okay, but we have definitely had tours that were a little more professional. I cant really put my finger on it but something felt sort of shady about this operation.
Tuesday evening we dined at Nick and Noras, the supper club on the Miracle. The decor of this room is much classier and much more attractive. We had a nice quiet table for 2 on the balcony level. The service was very elegant and on the ball. My husband had the porterhouse and I had the surf and turf. The lobster was okay, not the best I have had but still better than most other places. They have live entertainment of a vocalist and pianist. I felt as though the volume of this music could have been a little lower to be more conducive to conversation. They told us dinner would take about 2 to 2.5 hours but we felt there was a little too much time between the courses. I suppose this may be to allow people to dance between courses but it got a little uncomfortable sitting in those chairs for that long. The escargot three ways was very good and the lobster bisque is maybe one of the best tasting things I have ever put in my mouth. My husbands spinach salad looked very good too.
My only complaint about the supper club honestly was the price. $60 per couple plus we added 20% gratuity plus another $50 for wine. Considering we have already paid for food in our cruise fare and can get this quality of food on other lines (HAL and Celebrity come to mind) I felt the price a little too high for what we got. HALs specialty restaurant was not as pricey and the food in their main dining room was just as good&.
Next day was Cozumel which for me was very very sad. We were there on our Imagination cruise in March of 2005 and to see the devastation is just heartbreaking. The people of Cozumel are in good spirits and they want to work and rebuild their island which is encouraging. We did the Fury Catamaran Sail, Snorkel and Beach Party on this trip and it was a very well run, organized tour. Not too many people and the snorkeling was very good.
On Thursday we went to Belize. We did a snorkel trip to Goffs Caye which picked us up right at the boat. The weather was rainy and a little overcast most of the day but the water was fairly warm. My husband snorkeled off the boat while I did the snorkeling from the beach. When he came in he then snorkeled from the beach and said it was better than what he saw from the boat. He said it was a little too deep from the boat and being overcast not enough light penetrated the water and it was hard to see anything. I realize this is just a tiny (1 acre) island but some places to sit would have been nice.
Friday was Costa Maya, a new port for us. We were booked on the Jungle Beach Break excursion but when we went out on the balcony to drink coffee and eat Danish and we saw folks getting off the ship in jeans and long sleeves and we felt the cool breeze blowing we thought maybe a beach excursion was not the best idea so we skipped it. Costa Maya was a very nice port. Honestly, if you are cruising on a budget and dont want to spend a lot of money on excursions this is one port you can just get off the boat and have fun. Lots of shops with the basic Mexico stuff. Two or three restaurants/bars a salt water pool, plenty of lounge chairs and hammocks. Some people got into the ocean but my husband said he saw signs saying not to. The water was gorgeous here, we could look down from the pier and see tons of coral and colorful fish, I bet the snorkeling was great. One thing about Costa Maya, the pier is LOOOOONG. They have a trolley but give yourself plenty of time if you have a tour that meets on the end of the pier.
Final day of cruise was a sea day. Played Scene It and won a ship on a stick (yeah!) and then at dinner found out I had been selected as a semifinalist for a contest I didnt even know I had entered. Apparently by ordering a certain bottle of Shiraz with dinner I was put in a ship wide drawing and my name was picked. This is apparently a promotion they are running on 4 ships for 4 weeks (not sure which ships or which weeks though). I now have a 1 in 16 chance of winning a cruise for two including airfare on any carnival itinerary! My mind immediately went to Alaska or the Southern Caribbean because honestly it is the airfare that keeps us from doing that, but my Dad said what about Europe. Also not sure what class of stateroom they give you, but free is free is free. I will definitely have a lot of questions for them if I win!
Overall this was a very good cruise. The cabin was perfect for us, the food overall was very good. We had breakfast in our stateroom most days but did make it to Horatios for breakfast once and to Bacchus on the last day and found those to be very good as well. Lunched in Bacchus one day but hit Horatios most of the other times and both were also very good. On the 2 sea days they offered tea in Jeeves lounge around 3:30pm with music by the Chamber trio and we are sorry we missed the first one as we thoroughly enjoyed the one on Saturday.
We tendered in 2 of the 4 ports but did not find it to be a problem in any of them. Cozumel was probably the easiest with huge boats with airplane type seats and rest rooms. Three ships including us in both Cozumel and Cayman. One other ship in Belize with us. Since our Belize excursion was directly from the ship, I cannot speak to what tendering was like in that port.
We only made one show in the main lounge and that was Ticket to Ride and it was very very good. The male singer is better than the female by far but it was an enjoyable show. My husband went to one late night comedy show and found it to be raunchy for the sake of raunchiness and not very funny and we were both under whelmed by the late night comedy hypnosis show.
Overall the musical talent was quite good on this ship and I commented to my husband the number of live music acts they have on board. There is a full orchestra/band in the main show lounge. A piano player/singer in the piano bar. Music Unlimited who does your basic rock and pop cover tunes. A guy in the Casino playing guitar. Glenn in Jeeves and sometimes on deck playing guitar. The duo in Nick & Noras. The Chamber Trio. And the reggae band on the lido deck.
Staff and crew were very friendly and helpful. I would advise the cruise director Steve Knisley to SLOW DOWN. He talks way way way too fast. Being from NYC originally I know about fast talkers but he is just a blur sometimes, especially over the loudspeaker.
Disembarkation was probably the easiest and least stressful of any ship we have ever sailed. We were able to pull into the port which was nice, no buses. After putting our luggage outside the previous evening, Matt and I awoke at 7am, got showered and dressed and took my purse and one carry on to Bacchus for breakfast. We had a very relaxed leisurely breakfast with plenty of coffee and good conversation with our table mates. While we were eating they called for self-disembark. When we finished eating we went out to Jeeves and found a comfortable place to sit. I dont think we sat down for more than 10-15 minutes before they called the general disembarkation. We got up walk to the atrium, gave them our sign and sails to swipe and were off the ship. NO LINE! Walked downstairs and got our luggage, went outside and got into a taxi. We were at the airport, checked into our flight and waiting in line at Starbuck's by 10am. I wish EVERY disembarkation could be like that.
We really enjoyed this cruise and will continue to cruise Carnival when the dates and ports appeal to us. They offer a very good product at an excellent value. Read Less