My boyfriend and I got back from the Carnival Miracle on 12/23/08. We sailed on 12/15. We had booked the cruise about 4-5 months in advance, and had been anticipating the trip, counting down the days! We were very disappointed when we got to the port in Fort Lauderdale. A lady handed us a paper and said that there was a new itinerary. We were supposed to be going on a cruise to Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize. Apparently, there was some type of problem with the ship's propulsion and it could not go as fast. We learned that we would be going to Costa Maya and Cozumel Mexico, Belize, and Roatan. I felt horrible at the moment because I pictured my cruise to be one thing and now I had to readjust almost everything. Plus, my boyfriend was really looking forward to ziplining in Costa Rica. The kicker to the story is that as compensation, Carnival offered a $25 shipboard credit to each passenger. I felt like this was completely inadequate and a real slap in the face. That's like two FunShip drinks!
We decided that we would try to make the most of the trip despite the changes. After all, we weren't at home or at our jobs, and it was time to relax. We had previously sailed on the Valor. The Miracle is slightly smaller than the Valor, although not by much. It carries a fictional character theme, and this is evident throughout each of its decks. Some of the ships highlights are Frankenstein's Lab (the disco), the Phantom Lounge (where they have the shows), and the atrium (at the top of this space there are a set of plexiglass stairs that lead to the supper club...it is truly scary to climb these stairs and look down!). In general, the ship was everything I expected from a Carnival vessel. Not too fancy, kind of gaudy in certain areas, but generally clean and inviting. On this cruise, we opted for an obstructed balcony room. I was worried about what this would be like, even though the guy from Carnival sent me a picture prior to the booking. The obstruction comes from a lifeboat that is situated about four or five feet below the balcony. Hence, you can't look straight down, but you can look out onto the water. We hardly even sat on the balcony, and basically just wanted to be able to have some fresh air and some daylight (last time we had an inside cabin and always felt like we were in a cave). The stateroom was comfortable and not too small, but I hate the way Carnival decorates its rooms (with coral pastel colors). They just look kind of dated. Our cabin steward was very friendly and always left really cool towel animals on our bed.
The food on this cruise was good. In the dining room, there is a nightly menu with starters, main courses, and desserts. Try the warm chocolate melting cake. It is a Carnival staple and it's very good. Some of the main courses were so-so, but in general I really enjoyed eating there. They had some good steak, fish, and pasta dishes. On the lido deck, there are several buffets with different types of food and it is very hard to resist trying everything. Be prepared to gain a few pounds. They have burgers with all the trimmings, Asian food, traditional American, some Mexican, and even sushi. Juices and lemonade are always free, but you will have to pay for soda.
Now for the ports of call. Costa Maya and Cozumel were not much to look at from the ship. There was a hurricane in 2007 that did some significant damage, so both ports are in the process of revitalization. In Costa Maya, we took a two hour, air-conditioned bus ride to Kohunlich, an ancient Mayan site. I have always wanted to see these types of structures, and I am glad that we did this tour. The guide was very nice and informative. There are many opportunities for great pictures.
In Cozumel, we decided to fork out a lot of money for the rare chance to swim with dolphins. We did booked it through Carnival. This excursion took place at the Dolphinaris facility, which was very nice. We got to kiss and shake "hands" with the dolphins, and even got to ride them. They also gave us some free time to just swim around and pet them. The only negative thing that I can say about this excursion is that they charged a whopping $45 dollars for TWO photos. They put them on a picture CD for us...but I thought that for that kind of money, they could have put all of them on the CD for us...they took so many good ones!
Belize is a tender port, meaning that we didn't dock right next to the island. Instead, tender boats come to the ship and transport passengers to the mainland. We decided to go snorkeling that day. Our excursion picked us up right from the boat and took us out to the reef, so we never really got to see much of Belize City. Snorkeling was pretty amazing though and there was a lot to see. Afterwards, we went to a private island and spent some time on the beach. It was beautiful. I definitely want to go back to Belize and see more. There is supposed to be a really cool shore excursion called the Lost World Canopy Tour where you get to zip line through the trees. Unfortunately, we waited too long and this tour sold out.
Roatan was our fourth and final island stop. We weren't sure what to do that day, so we got off the ship and figured that we'd find our way to a beach. We were greeted by several taxi and tour operators, and they sort of hounded us until we asked to step aside for a minute to think about where we wanted to go and how much we wanted to pay to get there. We talked one driver down to $10 per person to go round trip to a beach called West Bay. I am so glad that we went there. It was really gorgeous, and such a nice spot to just lay in the sand and relax. They made some good margaritas at the bar, too! One of the girls that we met on the cruise also went there and said that the snorkeling was amazing.
All in all, the cruise was very nice. We like cruising because you can meet so many different people from all over the world (both crew and fellow passengers). It's a great way to see different parts of the world. Carnival is a fine cruise line if you are not overly critical or don't care about the utmost in sophistication. The staff definitely has the FUN of its guests in mind and they work very hard to make the trip memorable. I just wish we had gotten more compensation for the change in itinerary.