This was my 6th cruise and our 2nd on the Miracle. My husband and I cruised the Carnival Miracle again (having sailed her in 2008). It was the same itinerary, with stops in St. Maarten, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts. We loved it so much 2 years ago that we decided to do it again. We were not disappointed.
PRE-CRUISE: We flew down the night prior and stayed at the Embassy Suites on 17th Street in Ft. Lauderdale. I would highly recommend this hotel. As all Embassy Suites do, they had a full breakfast. They shuttled the two of us to the port, which was very convenient. We would definitely stay there again.
EMBARKATION: We arrived to the port early, around 10:45 a.m. After unloading our bags, we started the embarkation process and filled out the health questionnaire. Then we had a seat in the terminal to wait for boarding time. To our surprise, there were many passengers already there. We were given a "zone card" with the number 3. They called boarding by zones, and we boarded around noon.
CABIN: We had cabin 8166, port side, mid ship, extended balcony. We love being one deck down from lido (so convenient). The noise from lido never bothers us, and we hand-picked our cabin. No surprises. One of these days, we're going to try an aft balcony....
FOOD/DINING EXPERIENCE: We had late dinner, table 136, lower level in the Bacchus dining room. We had seen the "grapes" before, so that was no surprise. Although I've heard many comments about the "tacky" dEcor in the Bacchus dining room, it doesn't bother me. Maybe it's because I've been around The Greenbrier resort where the dEcor is decidedly bold (some would say garish), but, then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
My favorite foods in the dining room were the soups. I tried the soup every night, and they were all good. The only dining room entrEe to disappoint was the flat iron steak—not very tender. (Okay, it was tough). Everything else I ordered was good. I do have to say that I don't think the food was as good as our last cruise, but it was pretty good. My husband is a big dessert lover—I actually got the recipe for chocolate melting cake and made it when we got home so he wouldn't have withdrawals! Now he's trying to talk me into baked Alaska, but I'm drawing the line...if he wants baked Alaska, he'll have to book us on another cruise!
Our dining staff was very competent. Robert, the head waiter, and his assistant did a good job. They didn't hand out the artist's rendering of the ship on the last night like they have before, but they were very enthusiastic about serving and entertaining in the dining room.
We did open seating breakfast in the dining room on only one morning, and it was good, but we're not crazy about making polite conversation with strangers in the morning. Sometimes I can't even stand myself until I've had my coffee, LOL.
Since we went to Nick and Nora's steakhouse last time, we decided to forego that this time (although it was certainly excellent on our last cruise).
Lido deck food: I was a tad disappointed that you had to "special order" a grilled chicken sandwich at the grill this trip. The burgers and hotdogs were always available at the grill, but the grilled chicken was a special order, which could take a long time depending on how busy they were. We had an obligatory slice of pizza one day (pretty good). The deli served up good sandwiches. Breakfast on lido was good. I wish they had French toast every morning, but it seems they alternate waffles with French toast on the buffet. The chocolate muffins were fantastic! The lines moved pretty fast. They couldn't seem to keep up with demand for coffee in the machines up on lido, though. More than once, the machine I walked up to was empty.
POOLS: We hung out at the aft pool, as usual. We had 500 or so Parrotheads on board (their annual group cruise), so we did have entertainment (live and DJ) at the aft pool courtesy of the Parrothead group. I had no trouble finding a lounge chair, but I was always up there pretty early.
CASINO/SHOWS/LOUNGES: We're not big gamblers. I do play a little roulette, but that's about it. There was a $5 minimum for outside bets on the roulette wheel.
The revue shows were "Generations" and "Ticket to Ride." We had seen "Ticket to Ride" on our previous cruise, so we skipped it this time, but I remember that it was very good. We saw "Generations" this trip, and it was also pretty good.
I love karaoke, but I was suffering from allergies and couldn't sing, so we hung out at the piano bar in the evenings. The piano man was Duane.
The dance club had 50s/60s music a couple of times during the cruise. We wish they would have done it more often. It was hard to work it around late dinner—we would just get going and then it would be time to go to dinner.
PHOTOGRAPHERS/PHOTO GALLERY: These were some of the best photographers we have ever had on a cruise. They went out of their way to take unique photos. They seemed to have a bigger variety of backgrounds throughout the cruise than I remembered from before. We bought plenty of their pictures—we always do!
PORTS: We went to Orient Beach (again) on St. Martin and rode jet skis. This is a good place to ride jet skis because the machines are pretty new and seem to be in good shape. This beach is beautiful.
On St. Lucia, we bought day passes to Rendezvous Resort. It's about a 10-minute cab ride from the dock. The passes were $50 each and included use of the facilities, a full buffet lunch, and all drinks. The staff was very accommodating, and the facilities were very nice. We ate lunch, highlighted by rotisserie chicken. They have 3 pools (one with a swim-up bar). The beach is small but pretty and not crowded at all. We would do it again. Reduit Beach is a nice, long, expansive beach, but we were hounded by locals there before, so we were looking for something else to do on St. Lucia, and this worked out well for us.
On St. Kitts, we hooked up with the same taxi driver we had 2 years ago, Raphael of Empress Tours. Two other couples joined us, and we went to Cockleshell Beach and saw the infamous "Wilbur," the pig. The beach was crowded but nice. There were plenty of chairs to rent, but we were too late to get an umbrella. St. Kitts has some of the most beautiful views, especially from Timothy Hill, looking down on both the Atlantic and the Caribbean.
DEBARKATION: We were some of the first passengers off since we signed up for the Everglades tour. We waited in Mad Hatters lounge and left the ship around 8:30 a.m. The tour was okay. We really only did it to kill time since our flight was not until 4:35 p.m. There is about 1/2 hour bus ride out to the Everglades and then you ride out on an air boat to see alligators and birds and then come back and watch a little show. The bus drops you off at the airport afterwards.
COMMENTS: The Miracle is a great ship. The Spirit class is our favorite because it's not too small and not too big (it holds 2,124 passengers). We had great weather (once we got away from Ft. Lauderdale, where it was raining cats and dogs). We will probably try "anytime dining" next time. Early dinner is just too early for us, but when you eat dinner at 8:15 p.m., you are so stuffed that it's hard to enjoy any nightlife afterwards.
The 8-day itinerary is very nice—it's long enough to fully unwind, even for a type-A person like me! We enjoy sailing from Ft. Lauderdale—it's not as hectic as Miami. I'm waiting to see if the Miracle will sail to Aruba in 2012. If it does, we may have to book the Miracle a 3rd time.
Plenty of storage, nice extended balcony. No cabins opposite. Great midship location and convenient to lido deck.