We were onboard the Carnival Pride repositioning cruise from LA to Miami through the Panama Canal during March 2009. Based on that experience I wrote in my review that "we want to take this trip again onboard one of the Pride's sister ships". So, when we learned the Miracle was moving to Los Angeles, we booked this cruise immediately. As it turned out, our Captain for this cruise was the same as for the Pride cruise.
This was a 15 night cruise with stops at Grand Turk, Cartagena (Colombia), Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Puerto Quetzal (Guatemala), and Cabo San Lucas.
We are 63 and 59 years old, platinum cruisers with Carnival and Princess. This was our 12th Carnival cruise and 25th overall.
Although excited, we were apprehensive because the Pride cruise was such a great cruise -- primarily because of the weather. Since this was a March cruise from New York, we knew the weather wouldn't be as good and as we travelled to New York I remember thinking "I just hope we have good waiters and a good cabin steward".
We flew into New York the day before the cruise. Our hotel was the Casa Blanca on West 43rd Street -- one block from Times Square. The hotel arranged transportation for us from LaGuardia. Our driver was Gus, a distinguished looking gentleman who met us at the baggage area and drove us to the hotel in a very clean and comfortable vehicle. He was very knowledgeable about the city and provided lots of information during the drive. The hotel was very clean and the staff very friendly and helpful. We highly recommend this hotel. We had dinner that night at Tony's which is next door. The food and service was excellent, and the price reasonable.
Times Square is something to see on a Friday evening.
The day of departure coincided with New York's St. Patrick Day parade so with several million spectators present travelling the 15 or so blocks to the pier presented a small challenge. We originally planned to leave for the pier early but we received notice from Carnival the embarkation process would be delayed and to not arrive before 1:30pm. We also learned the Grand Turk stop was cancelled. This meant our cruise would have 9 sea days -- actually 10 if you count the canal transit as a sea day.
When we arrived at the pier there was quite a crowd but no line. We were told there were nearly 400 Platinum and Diamond cruisers already present and both VIP rooms were full. Just a few minutes after arriving we learned boarding would begin shortly -- at 1:45pm. We were on the ship in 10 or 15 minutes.
It snowed and the after-dark departure from New York was a wonderful experience.
We met cruisers that were disappointed the Grand Turk stop as well as a beach excursion in Guatemala were cancelled. We have been to Grand Turk several times so it wasn't a big deal for us. I can understand the disappointment of someone that travelled from Germany looking forward to a Caribbean Island stop. Carnival did credit our S & S account for the port charges.
We thought the food was excellent throughout the cruise. We had late seating on the first floor of the Bacchus Dining room. Our waiters were Anthony, Dana, and Gusti. Anthony was the best head waiter we have had in a long time. Elvis, the Maitre'D, and his two assistants were very personable and throughout the cruise things in the dining room appeared to go very smoothly. As a pleasant surprise, an old desert favorite, chocolate decadence, appeared on the menu as Caribbean chocolate cake. In terms of both food and service, this was our best onboard dining experience in many years.
We dined at Nick and Nora's twice -- on the first evening and halfway through the cruise. We thought it was very good. Was it worth the extra cost -- probably not, but we enjoyed it.
We normally had lunch or brunch in the main dining room. The lido buffet was quite crowded during late breakfast through lunch and there were some sick (colds) passengers on board so we avoided crowded areas whenever possible. Of the sea days, at least 4 days featured the new punchliner brunch. We enjoyed the food but didn't care so much for the comedy. It seemed intrusive and distracting -- as soon as you became acquainted with your tablemates, it was time for 10 minutes of comedy from someone you couldn't see. Our favorite items from the punchliner menu were the flaming tomato soup, omlets, and cheese grits.
We thought the ship was very clean and the common areas were well maintained. Throughout the ship, the carpets looked new. There were some rust spots here and there but the ship looked good. I have read many negative comments about the use of purple in the dining room but didn't really notice it. If anything, I preferred the decor of the Miracle to that of the Pride or Spirit.
Our cabin was an extended balcony on the upper deck. Upon arrival, we noticed our cabin was very clean and remained so throughout the cruise. Our cabin steward was Joseph and his helper was Rubi. They quickly learned our schedule and since we were early risers cleaned our room early every morning.
We did not leave the ship in Cartagena. We took the Cartagena by land and sea tour when we were here in 2009 and this cruise offered the same tours.
The canal transit was spectacular and during the latter part of the day it was cool since it was cloudy.
At Puntarenas we took the Pacific Train, Boat & Bus Adventure which we enjoyed. We saw a lot of the countryside and some wildlife including crocodiles. The beach facilities have improved since 2009.
At Puerto Quetzal, we took the Easy Antigua Sightseeing tour. Antigua is a ninety minute drive from the port. There is very little to do at Puerto Quetzal or San Jose. Antigua is an interesting city - as we approached you could see smoke from one of the volcanos. There were lots of quality crafts in the markets and shops at good prices. There was a lot of trash along the roadways. I would like to return here if the ship remains long enough to visit the Mayan ruins.
At Cabo San Lucas, we took the Todos Santos tour. Previously, we had booked this tour several times but it was always cancelled. Todos Santos is a fishing and artists village one hour north of Cabo and home to the Hotel California. Although not the Hotel California of the Eagles song, the hotel has capitalized on its name. The village was very clean and we enjoyed the walking tour as well as the lunch at the hotel. They have some nice shops there but the prices weren't very good. Our German friends told a shopkeeper they could buy jewelry cheaper in Germany.
The weather turned out to be surprisingly good. The first sea day required warm clothing and gloves for walking on the sun deck but by the second sea day the weather was good enough for sun bathing. We cruised into the wind nearly the entire cruise which kept temperatures down. We encountered some strong winds and high waves which lasted about 7 or 8 hours the day after leaving Guatemala. The final sea day was pretty windy which is not uncommon.
We don't require a lot of entertainment. During the day we rise early and spend a lot of time on the sun deck but we enjoy some music in the evening. We thought the evening entertainment was pretty good but there were several evenings there was no entertainment. Some nights the band would play in Jeeves lounge but some nights there was nothing other than the singers in the lounges. After dinner, there was a band called Boardwalk that was a lot of fun.
During the day entertainment was pretty much limited to the run-of-the-mill things you see around the pool. There were a lot of experienced cruisers on this cruise and most of them are beyond the bean bag toss, putting tournaments, and the hairy chest contest.
Demographics -- this definitely was an older crowd.
During the past 5 years or so, dress in the dining rooms has changed, and I'm not sure for the better. I saw lots of people wearing t-shirts in the main dining room. I actually saw someone wearing a Wal-Mart t-shirt. During the two evenings we dined in Nick and Nora's we saw t-shirts in there. I wasn't aware that was permissible.
We really enjoyed this cruise. We met lots of nice people. The outstanding service we received from the staff of the Miracle made this cruise. I am sure some cruisers weren't completely pleased, but every interaction we had with a Carnival employee was positive. We have read negative comments about the terminal staff in New York. Every Carnival employee we dealt with at the terminal was very helpful and I thought they did an excellent job handling the delayed embarkation.
I prefer the west to east itinerary over this but I would take this cruise again. In fact, we are considering cancelling our November Mediterranean cruise on the Ruby Princess and booking the Imagination repositioning cruise.
Rumor on board is the Miracle's ultimate destination in Australia.