We are in our 40s with teens (16 and 19). We brought our 16 year-olds friend along for this cruise. It was a 9th cruise for me and a 5th cruise for my spouse and daughter and a first for her friend.
We have tried returning to resorts (all inclusive) and basically could not wait to return home - Once you cruise I guess there is no turning back:)
We chose this trip based on the itinerary and the number of sea days as we were looking for something that would allow us to get some much needed R&R as we are always very active in ports of call.
We are Canadian and live on the East Coast. We flew out of Halifax with Continental and had one transfer in Newark which was a breeze. We landed in Fort Lauderdale and got the shuttle to our hotel the Hyatt Summerfield Cruise and Airport Hotel.
We always fly in the day before and try to get the earliest flight so we can enjoy the day in Florida and allow for any loss of baggage....Not that airlines ever lose our bags :)
As mentioned we opted for the Hyatt Summerfield Hotel and got an great $99 rate for a king studio suite. We were a little apprehensive considering the comments on various Internet sites about the walls not being soundproof and other issues brought up. The shuttle was at the airport in a timely manner to pick us up, the reception staff were super friendly and helpful and our room was spotless. Of course I had read about stained sheets so I immediately checked on that and all was good. I was worried about the noise level not a sound and the hotel was full so we had neighbours, up, down left, right and across the hall. The only negative comments I would say are founded are the slowness of Internet and the frigid hallways. Other than that the room was wonderful. Our 16 and 17 year shared the sofa bed and never complained about it being too small or uncomfortable for two adults.
The evening manager's reception is quite nice with beer and wine being available free of charge. They day light snacks but when we were there we had salad, raw veggies, potato skins, nachos, cookies, fruit, cookies and refreshments. Quite honestly we cancelled our dinner plans after intending to grab a light snack before a late dinner. Breakfast the next day was also very tasty, warm and offered a good variety. Anyone who cannot find something to eat is more than likely very hard to please.
The one drawback is the fact that the pool is in fact mostly in the shade by mid-afternoon but it is heated and most people are there for one night so no biggie.
The hotel also offers a free shuttle within a 3 mile radius and this came in handy as my husband had forgotten of his meds at home ad we needed to make a trip to a local drugstore. The shuttle drove us there and waited for us while we ran in and got what we needed.
The hotel is also well situated and within walking distance of the Kmart and other stores. We walked over to get our water for the ports of call, some wine and other items we did not want to weigh our suitcases down with before flying to Florida. We called the shuttle to pick us up and it was there within 5 minutes.
The next morning we used the Port shuttle for $8 per person and it went very smoothly It only services this hotel and the Hyatt Park Place across the road so easy as pie. We took the 10AM shuttle and were at Port Everglades by 1030AM.
CHECK-IN AND EMBARKATION
Wow! Carnival in Miami was easy but this was really easy and quick. Within 15 minutes we were checked in and had been assigned a boarding zone and invited to patiently wait until 1130am at which time boarding would begin. Sure enough 1130am on the dot boarding began and we were on the ship by 1145AM.
Critiques ranged from beautiful, breathtaking to gaudy and overdone... So we were expecting the worst and once again within 15 minutes of embarking on the ship we were won over by the beautiful Miracle. This ship is kept spotless and the crew are forever repairing and maintaining the ship and cleaning. So anyone who finds anything wrong or worn on this ship is out there looking for trouble. Furthermore, I would like to see your living room after having had the same furniture for 7 years and I doubt that some 2000 passengers go through your living room each week !!!!!! We did not see any signs of wear and tear with the exception of a few scuff marks on the walls which were promptly dealt with.
The atrium is very beautiful and the staircases interesting.
We were promptly invited to have a it to eat in the Horatio's Buffet.
A little more formal than I like my buffet but once we got used to it quite comfortable and friendly. Now I might not have had the best sense of orientation on this cruise but for some reason I could not get the buffet arrangement of their stations right - Silly me. The rest of the party figured it out in 2 meals :) Food was plentiful as was variety and tasty and warm. So once again anyone who complains about the quantity, variety or taste of the food if just looking to complain for no reason as far as I am concerned as we are .
After lunch we got our soda package and walked around the ship a little bit and before we knew it we were able to access out staterooms and get settled.
We were on deck 7, aft, starboard side a first for us as we usually opt for forward, port side. We loves being aft but we are non-smokers and passengers are not supposed to smoke on the port side of the ship - But that is a personal choice we made and I cannot complain about this. One suggestion though I did make to Carnival was that the SPA cabins which are smoke free should not only be on the higher forward deck (Deck 10 in this case) but some areas should be smoke-free as well as far as cabins are concerned.
We had all our luggage by 230PM so we had plenty of time to get settled before the safety drill and sail away party at 4PM.
The safety drill this year was as far as I am concerned useless and there was no control over passengers attending....,.In the past roll call was completed but not this year....Then again we are all adults and are deemed to be responsible and reasonable....
Our stateroom was well decorated, comfortable, quiet and cosy. The beds are as comfortable as they were last time we cruised Carnival and my 16 year old LOVED her upper bunk and the 17 year friend was quite comfy on the sofa bed. I was surprised to see we had plenty of space for 4 people in one small cabin. We never had a problem getting ready for dinner but then again we had a routine down pat the very first night :)
BACCHUS DINING ROOM
Is is overdone? Yes. Is it unbearable? Not at all. It quite nice actually and we were at a booth for 4 people table 340. I am convinced we had the two best waiters on the ship - Jeson from the Philippines and his assistant was Patiska from Indonesia. From the very first night he got all the information from us he needed to make sure our allergies were addressed properly, our likes and dislikes were taken into consideration when he recommended something to us. I ALWAYS ask our waiter what he or she recommends and 99.9% of the time they are right in their recommendations. We did not have one night where we did not like the food served to us. Here again anyone who cannot find something to eat is looking for trouble. They are so accommodating too and will prepare the dish to your specifications.
NICK AND NORAS
We did not eat there although we had planned on it. We did visit the restaurant and I have trouble understanding how anyone can complain about vibration. You are on a ship so there will some bit of vibration - It is a moving vehicle of sorts..... This restaurant is absolutely charming and I loved the situation of it. We chose not to eat there since we were so satisfied with the dining room. We did talk to many people who went and it is well worth the $30 according to them
SHOWS AND CASINO
We only walked through the casino as we could not stand the smoke but there again personal choice and intolerance. It was well organized and there was entertainment in the casino.
The Atrium lobby bar was our favorite hang out before dinner as it was the hub of activity (and smoke-free :))
We had the late seating and found it difficult to stay up late enough to catch the shows as we are early risers so by 1030PM we were ready for bed....But we did make it to a few shows. All were good except the juggler - he was good at what he did - it just is not our thing. We liked the farewell show where guests participated. It was fun. We are not Beatles fans but enjoyed the Ticket to Rid show as well.
PHOTOGRAPHERS, GYMNASIUM AND SPA
OK yes the photographers can be annoying and sometimes require a firm no. It does bug me that they print all those photos and wish they would go green but what can you do.....If you do not want your picture taken you can jut walk away and say no thank you. End of story. Their photos are a bit expensive (21,99) but how much does a photographer cost back home? It is all relative
I went to the gym each day and was a little worried since there were comments saying it was too small, equipment was broken and old.....I went at various times and never had any problems and all equipment was working just fine.
Much to my surprise the spa personnel are not pests on this ship - we needed to walk through the spa to get to the gym so I was a little apprehensive the first time but not a problem.
Of course we would pick the one week where there would be only about 30 teens on the ship but nonetheless our girls had a lot of fun in the evenings. During the day they would not take part in the activities since most were inside. I would suggest that Carnival organize more outdoor activities during the day.
There was one incident where one of the teens took some liquor from her parents` stateroom and spiked the smoothies they were having at the O2 club...the Counselor was out of the room for a few minutes during which time this happened. I was not impressed and filed a formal complaint with guest services - I was a little irked about this as I was told that she probably did not know (I sure hope not) and he just called her to let her know and then told us to go meet with the counsellor to voice our complaint - That did not sit well with me and I kept a closer eye on things after this time.
HEALTH CARE SERVICES
I only needed to go to the clinic to get some large band aids since I tried to take off part of my heel with a blister. The impression I got was thank goodness I was not sick as I would not enjoy dealing with nurse or receptionist there - Not sure which she was. I just needed a few plasters and made the mistakes of asking if they had a different size and whether they had blister band aids - I was told that they only so much space and I could not expect a drugstore on board a ship - EXCUSE ME! But for having used their services in the past I know the nurses and doctors are generally very competent, caring and friendly. So she was just a bad example but nonetheless did not leave one with a good impression. Also $2.75 for 5 band aids - quite pricey :( Trust me a drugstore was the first stop we made in St-Marteen our first port of call :).
As smooth as embarkation. We were spending a couple of days in Fort Lauderdale after our cruise and we checked in with Guest Services to see if we could in the last few zones to get off the ship and they changed it without argument of discussion so we did not feel we were being thrown off the ship.
Cannot wait until our next cruise....more than likely will be with Carnival :)
We do not usually reserve our excursions on the ship as we often find less expensive and better quality on the islands.
We got off the ship and walked into town - a nice 5-10 minute walk and then we were on the boardwalk and we were able to get a full island tour for $ 25 per adult and $ 20 per student. There were 7 of us with the tour guide as we had met up with another couple on the ship whose daughter hung out with our two and we spent the most enjoyable day with our tour guide. He would stop when we wanted him to, he adjusted the tour so we would be at Maho beach in the afternoon to see the big jets land, he added and adjusted the tour as we went about it. We left the boardwalk at about 915AM and did not say god buy to our tour guide much before 3PM. We saw both the French and Dutch side and were able to spend some time at Maho beach as well as go shopping with out guide.
Unfortunately we were in St-Marteen on a Sunday so most of the French side of the island is closed on Sundays, however we enjoyed spending more time on the Dutch side of the island.
We were brought to a beach where clothing was optional - Not the faint of heart is all I am going to say about this.
Guavaberry liquor is a must. There is also a beautiful linen shop downtown St-Marteen as well as many jewelry boutiques and other types of stores. There is a flea market type area. We found SOME of the kiosk attendants to be very rude and unpleasant. I returned to the same both 3 times to see something and the lady started yelling at me that I was not buying anything from her and just looked at her goods and she went on and on and on which just turned me off. So I got my souvenirs from another lady and when we went back that first lady started throwing a fit that I had looked at her goods but bought elsewhere....not a lot of fun :(
But apart from that little incident it was very pleasant.
Once again walked off the ship without an excursion planned. Met up with Disco Dave of Serenity Tours. Got out full day tour, drinks, snacks, lunch and entrance fee to the Soufriere with mud baths for $ 65 per person.
There were 6 of us with him and we promptly left the pier at 845AM and did not return until 415PM.
We visited Castries, Anse La Raye, a banana field, ate bananas fresh off the tree, visited the campus of two colleges, visited Soufriere village, the rain forest, had a wonderful lunch at a restaurant with a breathtaking view, stopped off to get a closer view of the Pitons, visited the Governor General's residence, went to a quaint little restaurant overlooking Marigot Bay, shopped, stopped in another small village where he got us some freshly baked bread, went to la Soufriere, has a volcanic mud bath and a mineral spa, and made our way back to the ship.
Beautiful island and people. Want to return to St-Lucia.
Once again walked off the ship without any planned excursions. Got a taxi for the four of us for $20 per person for an island tour with a stop off at the botanical gardens, black rock point (I think that is what it is called), a trip up the mountain where the Atlantic ocean meets the Caribbean sea and then we were dropped off at Fryar`s Beach for a couple of hours. This is the beach where the wild monkeys come down the hill to eat the scraps the restaurant throw their way. Too cute and there were mongoose as well.
Words of advice this beach had a lot of sea urchins so bring water shoes to prevent mishaps. There is an area clear of them but still worrisome a bit.
The Shipwreck Shack were food and drinks are served is very reasonable and offers tasty offerings.
Umbrellas and 2 chairs go for $ 10 and I negotiated 2 more chairs for free for our 2 girls.
Our taxi driver, Nigel, A237 came back for us at the specified time and brought us back to the ship in time.
We even had enough time to walk around the pier area which is quite quaint with its little boutiques and flea market.