Carnival Miracle Cruise Review by DonnaK
- Sail Date: June 2005
- Destination: Bahamas
- Cabin Type: Balcony
We just came off the Miracle and it was the ugliest and most uncomfortable ship we've ever been on in 16 years of cruising. We went in with a positive attitude, determined not to compare it to other ships, but there was no comparison at all, and we came off sorely disappointed. I struggle to write a review because the positives are so sharply overshadowed by the negatives.
And it's not a matter of getting what you pay for...we paid more for this cruise than we've paid for RCCL's Voyager class cruises (even after factoring in airfare). Also, it wasn't a matter of the type of people aboard...after reading Cruise Critic, I fully expected Carnival to have a low-class, drunk, party-animal crowd, but it wasn't like that at all. Miracle cruisers were mostly clean-fun-loving, family-oriented types, just as on other ships I've sailed on.
Our chief complaint: the ship wasn't large enough for the number of passengers. The maitre-d announced that this was the largest sailing EVER aboard any Spirit-class ship; over 2600 with 1000 kids. We were literally stuffed into dining room and the pool area. Although no one can be faulted for not doing their best to provide us with good service, the crew was very over-extended and simply unable to extend the attentive and stellar service cruise ships are famous for.
The layout of the ship didn't flow nicely...sun-bathers had to walk through the Lido buffet to get from the pool to the elevator, so we were treated to a disgusting and unappetizing display of hairy-chests, sweaty armpits, bare-feet, tattoos and belly-rings while we were eating. Also, the many food stations were so far apart that it wasn't conductive for putting together a meal without doing more walking than actually sitting & eating. And it was always filled to capacity and very difficult to find tables.
However, the food and the choices were superb, especially at the Oriental station where I had the most wonderful calamari in black bean sauce, among other delicious items. The grilled sandwiches at the deli station were also excellent. Our expectations of the pizza were low, however it was surprisingly good. All free coffee, no matter where you ordered it, was sub-par...to get around this, we ordered cappuccino at dinner and it was no better. (However, all items at the Starbuck's-like coffee bar were terrific and reasonably priced.)
What's up with the round purple lights on the dining room ceiling? Very garish and gaudy. The dining room tables were so close together that the backs of the chairs kept hitting each other. The waiters couldn't pass through without constantly moving us in tighter until I was crushed against the table. Hot dishes were distributed over our heads. There were too many glasses on the table, yet only one set of silverware, so you had to eat all the courses using the same fork. If you returned a the fork with your empty salad plate, and asked for another fork to use with your entrEe, it took 10-15 minutes to arrive. I ended up eating my entrEe off the tip of my knife one night! No kidding! Refills of water and iced tea were similarly delayed. The wait-team were responsible for 48 diners - that's nearly three times as many as I've seen on other ships. Our cabin steward told us that he services 27 cabins(!). While they all worked very hard and provided friendly service, it was spread extremely thinly.
Room service was very slow during the day and evening (around 1 hour wait) but whatever we ordered was delicious. (Room-service in the morning, was delivered at the precise time we designated on the card we hung outside our door prior to retiring the evening before).
The hallways and doorways were too narrow and the public spaces were very darkly and drearily decorated, with low ceilings and small windows, giving a claustrophobic feeling. Even the shopping alley was way too narrow to accommodate all the shoppers. The kids club was far out-of-the-way (in the front of the ship behind the theater, up stairs, not accessible via elevator) and every time I took my daughters there, only a small handful of children in their age groups were participating. It would have been more convenient, and presumably more utilized, if it were by the children's pool or on one of the upper sports/activities decks. (Younger age groups did seem to have about 15-20 well-supervised children enjoying themselves). An unfortunate result was a lot of unsupervised kids running around the ship without being positively occupied in Club Carnival.
The smoking areas weren't confined so the hallways had the lingering odor of stale smoke, which permeated into our cabins via the cooling system. I Fabreze'd our cabin every day, yet the pillows, curtains and even the wonderful plush terry robes retained the smell of smoke. (Smoke was never an issue for us on other ships, even those with liberal smoking policies). The balcony and cabin doors were spring-loaded so there was a constant and disturbing slamming noise, especially during the night.
The pools, jacuzzis and deck space were too small to accommodate the number of passengers. On Adventure of the Seas last year there were 1000 more passengers and 400 more children, yet it seemed far less crowded because we weren't competing with each other for space around and in the pool/jacuzzi. That ship was noticeably wider and more airy, with 5-6 rows of deck chairs around the pool, and with more & larger jacuzzis. Also, that adults-only pool was in a climate-controlled solarium, whereas the one on the Miracle was too small and in the blazing hot sun with no shady spots at all.
I had a very amateurish massage in the spa. She basically just rubbed excessive amounts of oil into my skin without any true massaging technique. (She did give a much more professional facial.) It seemed to be heavily focused on selling their products than providing you with their services. The jacuzzi in the back of the spa was a great "secret" discovery...it was 'adults-only' and nearly always empty!
On the positive side, the food was outstanding. Every appetizer, soup and meat/seafood/vegetable main course the 6 people in our party tried was a hit! However the pasta dishes were extremely dry (being of Italian ancestry, I know that traditional Italian pasta isn't served drowning in sauce like Italian-American cuisine is, but this was ridiculously lacking), and the desserts were nothing special (notable exceptions: crème Brule, tiramisu, hazelnut cake & iced cappuccino pie, which were all delectable). We brought a bottle of wine to dinner every night and were never charged the uncorking fee. Compared to resorts and other cruises, the alcoholic drinks were reasonably priced. The maitre-d Ken from Ireland sang between the dinner and dessert courses...he has a wonderful voice (at first, we thought he was lip-syncing to Frank Sinatra until we realized it was actually his own rendition of the classic song). And the wait-staff danced along with some diners...a very nice touch!
Here's another positive: My sister's child didn't feel well one night, so the two of them and my mom didn't come to dinner. When the waiter found out why they weren't there, he gave my daughter a menu to bring up to our cabin to have my sister and mom write down their choices. During our dessert, he prepared two trays for them. Now, that was wonderful and above-and-beyond!
On the other hand, we were told on the first night, that if we thought we might like seconds of any dish (such as the lobster tails) that it was better to order it upfront, rather than after we finished the first one, so he wouldn't have to run back down to the galley and wait on the food pick-up line again. To us, this seemed very unprofessional and 'wrong', but we realized it was because he was responsible for too many tables to give us the proper individualized service we are accustomed to. Sometimes you do not know that you want a second helping until after you finish the first one!
I should also mention that we took the tour of the galley and it was spotlessly clean!
We had 2 category 8A balcony cabins, with 3 people in each room. We felt the rooms were a decent size. The feature of having the balcony divider opened to connect the two rooms was very convenient, however since it swings outward and is secured to the railing, about 1/3 of the view from one of the rooms is blocked. But it also provided a shady spot if the direct sun got too hot.
The professional photographs were of superior quality, and the photographers deserve high commendations for their patience and expertise. The entertainment was also marvelous, in particular the Beatles review show, the Generations show, and the comedian/juggler act. Unfortunately, all the main lounges with piano and guitar music were full of smoke, so we just appreciated their wonderful music as we were passing through.
Embarkation was a painless process. We arrived at the NYC terminal at 11:45 and the line started moving at 12 noon. We were in our cabins by 1 pm and lunching at the buffet 15 minutes later). That sounds like a long wait, but the line moved swiftly and efficiently through the various check-points, and the facility was comfortably air-conditioned and had bathrooms and a small snack-bar. It was equivalent to checking-in at the airport for a flight and to other cruise check-ins. (Just a note, by 12:30, the line was more than twice as long as it was when we started, so shortly before noon seemed to be a very good time to arrive.)
Disembarkation is another story...very chaotic and disorganized. It did not proceed smoothly at all, and took almost 2 hours to complete the process.
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