Now that the Carnival Miracle is homeported in San Francisco, we couldn’t resist taking her for a spin. San Francisco is a beautiful city to sail from and cruising without flying saves time and money. From the pool deck you’ll have magnificent views of downtown, Coit Tower, Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge. You also pass under the Golden Gate Bridge during the sail away party. It’s all good! The Miracle is in decent shape for her age, and she’s probably the best we can hope for since the market is smaller than Southern California and Florida.
Embarkation was smooth and efficient. We arrived at 10:30 when the lines were short. We did have to wait an hour to board because platinum, diamond, or suite passengers go first. You will not see your sign and sail card until you get to your stateroom at 1:30, so hang on to your boarding pass in case you want to order a drink.
Our fellow cruisers were a diverse and enthusiastic bunch who arrived by ferry, freeway, and public transportation. The vintage F Line trolleys will take you right to the terminal at Pier 27 and there is a parking garage a short walk away on Francisco Street. Don’t forget to book your parking in advance.
6D balcony room located steps from the midship elevators. The location is at the front of the bump out, so you have clear views fore, aft, and down to the waterline. Being at the front of the bump can result in some howling on the balcony if you are heading into the wind. The room is spacious, with a sofa and cocktail table for watching TV or having a meal in the room. The TV is small, and the channel selection meager, compared to other cruise lines. The bathroom was more than sufficient, with a generous vanity and lots of shelves for toiletries. The shower was a decent size for a cruise ship and the water pressure and temperature were perfect except for a couple brief hot and cold blasts on debarkation day when everyone was showering and flushing toilets at the same time. There are pump dispensers on the shower wall with shampoo and shower gel. If you want a higher grade of shampoo or some conditioner, bring it. Also consider bringing a shower puff for the gel if you’re into that.
The room had plenty of storage, mirrors, and a refrigerator. As is typical of cruise ships, there was only one electrical outlet, so you’ll need to be organized about device charging.
After tendering into Avalon Harbor, we rented a golf cart and took the one hour tour that takes you around town, into the hills above, and up to the botanical garden. There are some nice photo ops on the way. It’s a great way to see everything, and you’ll almost certainly run into people you’ve met on the ship who are doing the same thing. Pretty much everyone does the same route, so if you want to save a little, rent a cart with another couple. They hold 4 – 6 people. Go early before they sell out and be prepared for a long line.
After returning the cart we walked to the casino and dive park. Catalina is home to world class scuba diving so if you’re into that, sign up before the cruise because it sells out. There is a nice seafood restaurant right on the beach overlooking the harbor and an Italian restaurant with a large deck right next door. The main street is lined with gift shops.
There were two ships in port that day, so most of the good shore excursions sold out early. The wine bus to the Califia Valley was still available and reasonably priced and we would have done that had we not already done it twice before. It’s a fun excursion with a scenic bus ride, and one of the wineries, LA Cetto, is a real working winery set among vineyards and a bull fighting arena. You get to see the barrel room, bottling line and lots of other equipment as they explain the whole wine making process.
Electing to skip any paid excursions, we walked around the boardwalk, checked out the marina, sculptures, small shops and a fresh seafood market. For $4.00 roundtrip you can take a bus further into town where there is more to do.