My wife, teenage son and I sailed on the March 21 Carnival Miracle. It was the first cruise for the Miracle after a two-week refurbishment. Other than a few minor annoyances, we had a great time, as usual. Our 20 year old daughter ... Read More
My wife, teenage son and I sailed on the March 21 Carnival Miracle. It was the first cruise for the Miracle after a two-week refurbishment. Other than a few minor annoyances, we had a great time, as usual. Our 20 year old daughter stayed home because her university classes were still in session.
This trip differed from our usual cruise vacations in that it was intended as a very low-planning, low-stress trip. Usually, we do a lot more research on the ports, their countries, the local historical and cultural sites and plan our port days accordingly. Between us, two of the three of us had been to Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas before, and we had all been to different parts of Mexico a number of times, so we weren’t in search of too much cultural enlightenment this time around.
We arrived in LA two days before the Saturday sailing. We spent Friday at Disney during the day, then at the Avs-Ducks game at Honda Center Friday night. We had all been to Disney (although not the California Adventure park) and a Ducks home game before, so it wasn’t much new, but was very enjoyable.
As I always say, a cruise is not a cheap form of vacation, and this was no different. The total trip cost was C$7,200 (about US$5,750). This consisted of airfare of $1,050, cabin fare (including auto-tips) of $3,240, pre-trip accommodation of $400, auto related costs (transfers, taxis, parking, rental car on departure day) of $630, activities of $875, food and meals of $550, souvenirs of $200 and telecom & other of $200. Had we come to LA one day later, we would have saved about $1,000 in accommodation, activities and ground transportation, but paid maybe another $200-300 in air fare.
One of the worst two or three moments of the cruise was the boarding. We have generally had pretty good experiences with Carnival, but this was the worst. We arrived around noon and stood in a line that didn’t move (literally) for about an hour. Once it started moving, it was another hour before we were on board. The last time we boarded at the Port of Long Beach, we pretty much walked right into the check-in line and were on board in less than half an hour.
The Miracle is pretty similar in look and feel to Carnival’s entire fleet. Its Lido deck pool area is oddly divided, with two small pool areas, rather than one large one. As a result, there is limited seating in the prime area, and we ended up spending most of our time on the ship one deck up.
The first two sea days were fine. The worst moment was probably the frustrating line-up for the breakfast buffet. In their wisdom, Carnival decided to set up an omelet station at the end of the regular buffet line. As a result of the “no-cutting” protocol, this meant that everyone who was in line for, say, bacon and eggs, French toast or pancakes had to wait in a line that moved at a rate of one person every 90 seconds or so (the time required to make and cook an omelet). It made no sense to have this station at the end of the regular buffet line and most people in line were visibly frustrated.
As usual, the cabins were spacious and our balcony was a good size. The food and cabin services crew were friendly, although I understand that they are evaluated, in part, based on how often passengers remember staff greeting them by name. I always find this a little too forced and a little too personal. When I go to a hotel on a regular vacation, I sort of want to be anonymous and don’t particularly want the housekeeping staff to know me. This feeling doesn’t change just because I’m on a cruise ship.
For the first time on a cruise in 23 years, we shared a dinner table with strangers. In all our cruises since then, we have been at a table for two (including your-time dining) or a table for four with just our family. We didn’t mind sharing our dinner with another family and they were pleasant enough, but the fixed-seating dinners are long and I think we would have preferred just to be able to unwind at that part of the day with our own family, rather than feeling like we had to generate small-talk with strangers.
The first port day brought the last of the frustrating moments. For whatever reason, passengers were only able to disembark the ship using a single gangway. This created considerable congestion as everyone eagerly tried to leave the ship at the same time. While that situation may have been unavoidable, the way Carnival managed the exit exacerbated the problem considerably. First, they stationed a photographer alongside the single gangway, trying to convince passengers to stop and have their photo taken. Just beyond the gangway itself, in the narrow exit chute along the dock, they stationed two more photo stations, again trying to steer exiting passengers into blocking everyone’s path and posing for photos with (if I recall correctly) some large birds and some locals dressed in some sort of traditional garb. While I appreciate that Carnival is trying to generate photo revenue, I’m sure they did more harm than good in annoying the entire passenger cohort.
In port the first day, we simply hired a taxi to take us to the beach at Bucerias, just north of the city. When he dropped us off, we hired him for the next day to give us a taxi tour of Puerto Vallarta, especially the area to the south.
At our next port day in Cabo San Lucas, we paid $10 each for a small boat to take us out to the rock formations, give us a tour, and drop us at the adjacent beach. All three port days were low stress, with no early morning wake-up calls and no really heavy touring.
The last day at sea was a good way to end the week long cruise. In contrast to other Carnival cruises, it seemed like management had got the message as we didn’t have to put up with overly aggressive bar service staff trying to sell drinks around the pools. I also don’t remember too many (or any) obnoxious sales announcements over the cabin PA. Maybe I’ve just become numb to them, but somehow they seemed less frequent and less annoying than in past Carnival cruises.
I have no complaints about the food quality or selection. I’d like to see more choices in the dining room, but I appreciate that there is a cost impact to that. I thought the buffet food was very good. We attended one show, a comedy/magic show, which was good, but not great. I stopped a couple times in the brand new sports bar (never bought a drink there, but stayed one time for trivia and once to try to find a game on). The sports bar will always be second rate until they improve their quantity and selection of TV signal providers. One evening I went in and every screen except one was devoted to one NBA game. There were a lot of sports on that night and I assume that was the only event they got.
I recommend this ship and the itinerary to anyone looking for an easy cruise out of LA. Read Less