OK, I have to be fair with this review. After 8 previous cruises, I've come to the realization that there will always be some minor things that can and will go wrong. One can dwell on that and have a lousy cruise, or, just roll with things and have a good time. Hey, no matter how much you want to nitpick, remember, you're on a cruise, people are cleaning up after you, cooking for you, entertaining you. Unless the ship pulls a Poseidon, it should be an enjoyable time if you go in with the right mindset. With that in mind, here's what I think is a very fair review of the Carnival Miracle.
A tiny bit of background. I'm a 54 year old male, traveling with my wife. We have had mixed experiences on previous cruises, but, consider ourselves pretty seasoned and savvy cruisers. All of our cruises have been to East coast destinations, and we've cruised with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Princess.
Embarkation: We like the Manhattan cruise terminal. We drive up from the Philadelphia area and, unless we encounter traffic, can arrive in about 2 hours. We park our car on the rooftop terminal lot ($35 day); pricey, but, worth it for convenience sake. After dropping off our luggage and parking we went into the terminal at around 11:30. Plenty of people to direct you, passed through security and got on line for check-in. A little disappointed to see that our long line was only being serviced by 5 representatives. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the check-in rep who was OK, but, not as friendly as others I've experienced in the past. After check-in and the customary welcome aboard photo opp we waited for about 20 minutes for our number to be called for boarding. Finally on board, we headed up to the buffet (Horatio's) for lunch while waiting until approximately 1:30 when staterooms would be ready.
Stateroom: We had a category 9B premium balcony stateroom. It was pretty nice, a little roomier than some of the other staterooms (235 sq. ft.) and had a deeper balcony with 2 chairs, a chaise and a table. The room was in generally good shape, clean, possibly the most storage space for clothes and luggage of any ship we've been on. Did include a sitting area with couch and table, and, a mirrored dressing area. I am highly claustrophobic, but had no problems with the size and layout of the stateroom. There were some minor issues with the cabin. We had difficulty with the sliding doors on both closets, the doors either coming off their tracks, or, for some reason getting stuck at some point. One closet a facilities worker had to come repair, the other, we kind of fixed ourselves. Another issue was this bizarre sloshing sound that came out of the bathroom plumbing from time to time, accompanied by a pretty unpleasant odor; not sure what that was all about, but definitely not pleasant when it happened. The shower was small, but certainly adequate, handheld shower head, good pressure, nice hot water (once I figured out how to get past the "do not scald" safety feature of the faucet). The room had a stocked refrigerator (we kept some water in it) and a temperamental safe to lock up values, accessed by one's room card vs. a combination lock. The bed was very firm, which is to my liking. One observation, the stateroom always seemed warm, even though we had the thermostat on the coolest setting; fortunately we traveled with a small fan which was a lifesaver at times. Our room steward, Natan, was solid and attended to all our needs with no exceptions. We noticed a little bit of noise periodically from the Lido deck above us but nothing horrendous.
Food: I've read a lot of reviews of other cruisers panning the food on the Miracle. I'd have to say the food was, overall, very good. Horatio's was pretty standard buffet fare. Food seemed a little ordinary, wasn't always as hot as it should be, but overall pretty decent quality. In addition to the standard stations the buffet had a deli with really good toasted sandwiches, a 24 hour pizza station with surprisingly tasty pizza and a grill station that had pretty good burgers, dogs, chicken tenders etc. The highlight was definitely Bacchius, the main dining room. The food and service, in my opinion, were definitely first rate. While my wife tended to stay to more mainstream selections, I always enjoyed trying new and different things i.e. raw beef carpaccio, escargots, ahi tuna etc. Food arrived hot, the meal was well paced, and our server, Bosco (and his helper Sedana) were very attentive. Desserts were very good, the signature chocolate melting cake didn't disappoint, and overall our dining expectations were exceeded. A brief aside in regard to the MDR - we had requested a table for 2 and, I guess due to availability, would up at a table for 6. While we were a little disappointed that we didn't get our first choice of an intimate private table, that disappointment quickly vanished. We had a great time interacting with our table mates, Tom, Lorraine, Mark and Donna who were truly a joy and lots of fun. We shared stories and experiences, found we had a lot in common. Obviously Carnival must have some kind of system to match table-mates with others that share certain commonalities. The wait staff occasionally sang or danced after dinner; it was fun, but, one could obviously tell with waiters enjoyed hamming it up versus those just going through the motions. Brunch in the MDR was enjoyable.
Public areas: Due to cooler weather, we didn't really use the pool areas for sunning. They looked nice, though, and the adults only serenity area also looked inviting. The main entertainment venue, the Phantom showroom, was very comfortable, choice of couch or chair seating. The smaller Mad Hatter's room was good for more intimate entertainment such as comedy shows. There were lots of different style bars and sitting areas that cater to all different tastes. We tended to favor the Jeeves or Gotham lounges as a good place with comfortable seating to hang out and read a book or play trivia. The atrium was impressive, rising all the way to the top of the ship where the premium-charging Nick and Nora's Steakhouse was located (we did not eat there). Did not use the gym but passed by and saw lots of equipment. Wife used the spa for a couple different massages and general pampering treatments and found it a little pricey but of high quality. Gatsby's Garden, which flanks the Phantom showroom at the forward part of the ship is a well kept secret, a pretty area to just hang and chill. Stores were of the pretty typical shipboard variety; liquor, jewelry, souvenirs... The casino was a little smoky but nice sized; we did not gamble this trip.
Activities and Entertainment: I felt that there could have been more daily activities on-board. Plenty of trivia and Bingo, no shortage of that. I would suggest possibly more enrichment type activities, maybe some crafting type seminars. Also, possibly showing a movie might be nice, especially for those on the ship during port days. Entertainment was spotty. The house shows were hit or miss. We enjoyed the "Singing with the Big Band" show and were disappointed with the "Ticket to Ride" Beatles show (good costumes but very hokey). The comedians were funny. Sheila Kaye did an extremely profane adult set - I thought her material was funny enough that she could have toned down the language. We enjoyed Eddie Capone, his adult comedy funnier than his family comedy; don't sit near the front during his show unless you like being part of the show. There was also a ventriloquist whose name escapes me. He was kind of lame, a bit of a poor Jeff Dunham ripoff, although the last 10 minutes of his show where he turned audience members into dummies was really hilarious. On-board entertainment was hit or miss. Hailey in the piano bar was OK, different sounding voice, only slightly better than average piano playing. They had some long-haired yahoo in the atrium with a folksy guitar style; didn't really care for him. The show-band was very good, especially enjoyed their jazz sets in Jeeves before and after dinner; very tight small big band.
Ports: Did two ports, had to cancel a third due to illness. We enjoyed the Cape Kennedy tour, very interesting. The size and magnitude of the Saturn V rocket was jaw-dropping. Good IMAX movie, interesting tour of the facility. We also did the Blue Lagoon excursion in Nassau. A nice boat ride and beach getaway, although we almost missed this excursion as we couldn't find our group on the pier; a little confusion as to where it meets. There could have definitely been more Carnival personnel directing, especially when we were parked next to the massive RCL Allure of the Seas and the throngs of people coming out of that behemoth.
Debarkation: Debarkation was pretty smooth. Had to get off the boat on the "A" deck vs. Deck 2 because of some lingering power/damage issues associated with Hurricane Sandy. Line moved kind of slowly, but, once off quickly through immigration and found our luggage right away.
Overall thoughts: Of our nine cruises, I would have to put this one at the bottom from an overall level. Wasn't bad, just didn't "wow" us. We did one previous cruise on the Miracle's sister ship, the Pride out of Baltimore. I would put that cruise in my top two overall, so, we were a little surprised. No it wasn't lousy, just missed the mark in a few areas. Hey, it's a cruise, a chance to get away, leave your troubles on land and escape for 8 days. Just wasn't blown away, that's all.