When thinking about this cruise, my mom and I were a little bit apprehensive about going on Carnival during Spring Break. But, we easily justified it using these two reasons. 1. We survived Carnival Breeze over Christmas with 1,500 ... Read More
When thinking about this cruise, my mom and I were a little bit apprehensive about going on Carnival during Spring Break. But, we easily justified it using these two reasons. 1. We survived Carnival Breeze over Christmas with 1,500 kids. 2. Spring Break seems to stretch weeks upon weeks so it was unlikely the entire USA would be off during the week we selected. As it turns out, we had nothing to be apprehensive about.
We stayed one-night prior at the Hyatt Centric The Pike (Long Beach). While the views from the hotel rooms aren't anything to write home about (stay at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach or another high rise hotel for that) the great staff, great rooftop, modern vibe, comfortable room and super convenient location well made up for it.
We were in a Suite, so suffice to say embarkation was very smooth for us. Those who are not Diamond, Platinum, FTTF or Suite guests, embark may not have been as smooth, however we didn't hear any grumblings. There looked to be long lines and several large groupings of guests, but general embarkation did start immediately after those mentioned priority groups. I'd say FTTF is easily worth it's price, and not just for embarkation.
This was my first time sailing on the Spirit class so I was very curious to see how I would like Miracle, especially having read that the Spirit-class was a favorite of repeat CCL cruisers. Long story short, I loved it! I found the flow to be very good and it was an easy ship to learn where everything was. Particularly surprising was the amount of seating available on Deck 2 and 3. Yes, the décor is over the top, but not as over the top as some of the other Carnival ships. I actually quite liked most of it. The purple glow of the dining room was fascinating to me, the atrium/lobby bar seemed to be wider and bigger than other ships and the beautiful Alchemy Bar with its sophisticated, more upscale décor would not have been out of place on a ship costing twice the price. Awesome drinks and staff there. I'd venture to say the only thing I really didn't enjoy was the "separated" Lido Pool areas. Granted, smaller ship smaller area, but after the sprawling and often tiered pool decks of others in the fleet, the Lido Deck pool areas here seemed claustrophobic and hectic. I'd completely forgotten that the more midship pool has a retractable dome. Now Serenity, this is the place to be. Having the whole aft pool area as Serenity was a huge plus, but it does get crowded. And fast. Pleasing to report though is that the staff, amongst their other duties, were actively policing as best they could those who had saved chairs and then left them unused for an extended period of time. More than once, we saw personal articles removed by the staff for storage at the main towel stand. Speaking of crowds onboard, we rarely encountered many. Horatio's casual restaurant on Lido deck of course had some slight lines at peak times and the Punchliner Comedy Club was bursting at the seems once, but otherwise everyone seemed to spread out quite well. There is a lot of deck space around the funnel and aft of the funnel, however most of the deck chairs available in the area immediately in front of the funnel were sadly broken. I also appreciated how the photo stations/backdrops were only off to the very sides of the atrium on deck 2, creating less of a traffic jam.
A Grand Suite was our quarters for the cruise, and it was spacious, comfortable, and featured a TON of storage. The balcony was quite large too and having two sets of floor to ceiling windows made the room seem even larger. The Suite featured a separate vanity area outside the bathroom, in addition to a large bathroom with two sinks and a bidet. Two lamps by the bed(s) featured two USB charging ports each, which was a pleasant surprise as I know outlets and charging ports have been few and far between on most CCL ships. The suite air conditioning was virtually non-existent the first few days, then suddenly worked very well for 2 days, and then disappeared again for the last two days. While the weather was warm overall, it wasn't an oppressively hot cruise so to speak especially the first and last sea day, or otherwise we would have raised a bit more concern than we had already. Truth be told, my mom was happy without the a/c as she nearly froze in the dining room every night. In the end, this category of stateroom is awesome.
Typical Carnival fare, good food, some items very good, but overall not necessarily memorable. I always think that any meal I don't have to cook myself is pretty good. :) The dining room menu certainly has a variety of options should your first choice not work out. It's always a plus when you can say the hot food came out hot. The items on the menu that are inspired by the ports of call and region you are sailing I thought were creative, however I personally didn't sample any. The famous Carnival melting cake was inconsistent as one night it was perfectly done and the next night it was chocolate soup. I guess you have to ask for it "well done" if you don't like chocolate soup. :) It's worth mentioning now that the dining room is one area where the air conditioning is working perfectly. The further back your table was, the colder it was. As we were almost at the very back, the waiters actually started serving my mom coffee right when she sat down. LOL The dining room was really the only area on the ship where it seemed overly chilly. Horatio's restaurant on Lido Deck had no big surprises. Food was fine with a fair amount of variety, however Chopsticks seemed to be the most popular station for lunch. I missed Cucina del Capitano, but knew this wasn't onboard before we booked. The pizza was good, but could have used a bit more tomato sauce or a touch more cheese. The thin style crust is great. As I witnessed adults eating it at 830am, it must have pleased more than just a few palates. Nick and Nora's steakhouse was an excellent experience in all regards and having the restaurant located "in" the funnel is dramatic and gorgeous, as is the see-through stairway that leads up from the Lido. Definitely one of my favorite features of Miracle.
Overall, excellent. Being addressed by name and the remembering of our drink orders/preferences was fast and probably higher than past Carnival cruises. Another thing which was fast: the service in the dining room. Actually, it was almost TOO fast. You were barely in your seat before your order was being taken. On one occasion, my mom barely had the menu in her hand before a waiter asked for her order. Despite her verbally fumbling to make a selection, he didn't go anywhere or offer to come back. I'd say that from sitting down to when you received your main entrée the time span was about 30 mins, and that's even with having an appetizer and soup or salad. Maybe I'm a fast eater or maybe this is how everyone prefers things, but this was true of our entire section, even larger tables of 8. Everything came out fast; these guys weren't messing around. That being said, our dining room team was fantastic. Remesto, Danny and Jose were super friendly, approachable, and fun. Also a nice touch was the Maitre'D coming around twice during the cruise to each table to introduce himself and make sure everything was ok. Drink service during dinner was also very good, however this cruise there was no peddling of shots in those colorful shotglasses after dinner as we've experienced before. Bartenders and Bar Servers across the ship very friendly, with special recognition to the team of Elena and Vera in the Alchemy Bar and Bar server Yoki who served us in the dining room and was often by the midship pools . Service in Horatio's on Deck 9 was friendly as well, but seemed a bit lacking as oftentimes tables took a while to be cleared. This also was the case for most open decks. There just didn't seem to be the amount of crew to tidy things up, however by no means was the ship dirty or disgusting. All in all, the crew seemed happy.
One thing Carnival seems to excel in consistently is the quality of the live music onboard. For the most part, this cruise was no exception. The band that played in the Red Frog regularly from Australia that also played for the 80's deck party had the crowds literally begging for more. The duo in the Alchemy Bar I thought were perfect for that setting. The Latin duo was enjoyable too. That being said, many of the bands started late and stopped early, at least compared to their set times as listed in the Fun Times. The Fun Times would list a set from 6:00pm to 7:00pm, however oftentimes the band would start at about 6:05pm and end at about 6:45pm. If the sets are only to be about 45 min, I think the Fun Times should accurately reflect this. It was slightly disheartening to arrive at a bar at 645pm thinking you had 15 more minutes of music, only to sit down and 2 minutes later have the band leave. When they were playing, we certainly enjoyed the music offered by most everyone onboard. In terms of the Playlist Production shows, we had seen most of them before but did attend Heart of Soul, which was enjoyable but modified to singing only due to rough seas. We found the singers to be capable during this show and the audience seemed to feel the same. The Punchliner Comedy Club shows definitely still live up to their R/X rating. Jeff "Big Daddy" Wayne was SO funny and easily the most popular comic over the course of the cruise. In fact, I believe it was his show that caused the lounge to bust at the seams one night. The shows were spaced far enough out this cruise so that the line forming and holding back of crowds was not necessary. No one was cleared out in between shows, but there was a longer wait if you wanted to hang around for the next one. The performances in the dining room by the waiters are always fun and it's great to see them take a breath and let their hair down for 3 minutes or so. You'd be surprised at how well the person delivering your food can really move once the music starts.
This cruise featured two days in Cabo and one long day in Puerto Vallarta. I loved this arrangement. Tendering the first day in Cabo was busy at first (again, the Suite guests, FTTF etc helps with this tremendously) but the second day there didn't seem to be an early rush at all. In fact, Day 2 Cabo we walked right down the stairs and right on the tender. We did our own thing in port, with the exception of us taking the Rhythms of the Night tour in Puerto Vallarta. What a great experience this was. Excellent show, a much wider variety of food than I expected, a beautiful setting and surprisingly good food at that. My mom wondered how long it took them to set out and light all the votive candles. Ship's time was different than Puerto Vallarta time, so it was a bit more like Rhythms of the Afternoon. The tour left promptly at 3pm ship time, meaning you had to be on the pier at 2:45pm, so those wanting to explore Puerto Vallarta fully may not feel they have sufficient time to do both things. I'd do the tour again in a second though. The ride to and from the show is about an hour each way, and wasn't particularly smooth, so those who are prone to motion sickness should prepare accordingly. The booze flows freely, although I'm not convinced the rum punch actually contained rum. :) Oh, and if the huge Spring Break crowds weren't onboard Miracle, they were in Cabo. One section of Medano Beach was packed with college-aged kids dancing and carrying on. It was like what you would see on TV. (MTV Spring Break specials from the 1990's? Remember those? There ya go). Luckily, the beach in Cabo stretches forever, so you could avoid the craziness if you wanted to, but maybe not the vendors. :) Actually, the vendors weren't that pushy.
Debark started later on this cruise than past cruises as by 7:15am we weren't even docked yet, although we were close. Using the Suite benefits, we were off literally within 10 minutes of debark starting so I can't comment on this much more. However, I must say Customs was ready for us. There must have been 7-8 officials ready to go. YES, 7-8!! What a welcome change. (Yes, I'm looking at you Florida ports).
For us, it was another great Carnival cruise and the price IS right! Was it absolutely perfect in every single regard, no. But, it's vacation, so time to have fun and time to be at ease and relax. Go with the flow. I always have said if you expect things to be 110% perfect at every moment onboard, you should probably just stay home or you might be disappointed. :) While there were some kids running around the corridors a few times and ice cream on the stairs once, it wasn't a Spring Break madhouse by any means. I also did notice staff members several times telling children to not run. A majority of the fellow guests were families and a few groups of college-aged or just past college-aged people. To me, Carnival provides a great value and is a solid, reliable product with itineraries for everyone. I always tell people "don't knock it until you try it." We've done the higher end lines too and are perfectly comfortable on Carnival. Otherwise we wouldn't keep coming back. They do provide the FUN and we'd happily sail Carnival again and Carnival Miracle. I truly believe Carnival doesn't get the credit they rightly deserve. Read Less