This review is for our seven day cruise on the Carnival Miracle sailing round trip from Long Beach to Cabo, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. It will be our last cruise with Carnival. We have cruised 15 times and 4 have been with Carnival. We ... Read More
This review is for our seven day cruise on the Carnival Miracle sailing round trip from Long Beach to Cabo, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. It will be our last cruise with Carnival. We have cruised 15 times and 4 have been with Carnival. We have been to these ports many times. This is not one of those “there was nothing edible on board or the crew was fighting all the time” reviews. To the contrary we had a great cruise, but read all the way through.
The weather was great. Sea days were balmy, with a slight breeze and calm seas. Tropical clouds filled the horizon. The seas were so calm the entire cruise we commented that one couldn’t feel the ship moving. Usually on the northbound return large swells are encountered in this part of the Pacific, but not on this cruise. Sunrises through the clouds were dazzling. Sunsets beautiful with an especially dramatic sunset in Puerto Vallarta. The sky was so filled with various shades of red that the high rise resort windows along the coast glowed like light sticks. The weather in ports was also mild. In fact, Puerto Vallarta was almost chilly in the morning.
We saw dolphins jumping and following us on several occasions, flying fish and at a distance whale spouts. As we sailed south the water turned a light blue.
The Miracle is in good shape. Saw nothing worn, broken or outdated. We loved the theme in the halls of posters of great literary works. The end of our hall had a profile of Sherlock Holmes and outside our stateroom was Hercule Poirot, my wife’s favorite. The Great Gatsby’s Secret Garden was well done and a relaxing hideaway.
We had a wonderful room steward and his assistant was a continuous source of laughs for us. Always smiling, joking and wishing us well on shore.
There were 438 children aboard. We must say, not because we have grandchildren, that the kids behavior was exceptional. Courteous, no rough housing or loudness and parents always accompanied them. Carnival does provide many supervised activities for youth and this can give parents some private time.
The slot machines were generous. Hit a $60 bonus and for the trip we made a few dollars. That’s a first. Of course the large Bloody Mary’s in the morning helped with the luck. I bought a deck used Carnival Casino cards for $1. There is a shaved groove on each side to prevent casino reuse, but otherwise like new with the Carnival logo. I believe most ship casinos offer these decks for $1.
We ate in the main dining room twice. The room is decorated in bright colors, globes and is awesome. The first day at sea dinner offered lobster and I asked for two and my wife asked for prime rib to go with her lobster. No problem. Service was friendly and fast. Ordered wine that arrived before appetizers. The second meal was prime rib night. Same great service and second portions. Staff did the farewell tribute to cruisers. Couldn’t ask for anything more.
We also ate at the specialty Nick and Nora restaurant. A cover charge of $35 per person applies. Another classic meal. Lobster and filet for me and a giant rib-eye for my wife. The table was along the window, semi-private and it seemed like our wait staff were only there for us. All courses were delicious.
In Cabo San Lucas we walked along the marina area and did some shopping. Talked to people from the ship. There is a cantina right on the walkway that we like where we had a couple margaritas and a giant nachos and cheese plate in our front row seats. Later we walked and shopped some more as the sun set. The temperature cooled down and it was refreshing for Cabo. There was quite a line for the tenders, so we had a couple more margaritas at the last cantina before the dock. Again, saw and visited with people in line that we had met on board. The group that had a wedding at one of the hotels arrived with gowns in tow. They said the wedding and party was great. We ended up seated in the bridge by the tender Captain for the ride to the ship. It was dark and the ship was pretty all lit up. The captain actually stopped the tender, moved into a good view position and his mate took a picture of us with the ship in background. Very nice.
Mazatlán was the next port. It was only the second time a Carnival ship had called since the security restrictions that placed the port off limits were lifted. We weren’t sure exactly what has happened that caused the cruise industry to avoid the port for two years. Rumor was tourist mugging and drug war lord activity. Also it was announced that agreement had been reached to enhance security, but no details were provided. We did see Tourist Police, Federal Police, Municipal Police, and Transit Police everywhere. Everywhere, in cars, on foot, in SUV’s, in trucks and on motorcycles. All with the red and blue lights blinking and speeding up and down every street. Many had troops standing with M-16’s slung over their shoulders. Even observed an “inspector” checking vendors along the beach where the tourist buses stop .Seemed like a little excessive but we felt safe.
We took a ship excursion to the beach area and saw cliff divers, many statues of sea life, a cathedral, the beach area, the highest lighthouse in the western hemisphere and a little of old Mazatlán .Our guide was very informative and always reiterated meet times and safety tips. The bus was a double decker but short. The aisles were very narrow and some people had trouble moving in them. We saw a “Folkloric” show that was awesome. The special theater was comfortable and the sound was good. The dancers and their costumes were beautiful. We had a chance to shop and had lunch at a place called Margaritas in the tourist area. Open air, waiters that balance margaritas on their heads when delivering, and good food.
The next port was Puerto Vallarta. We toured tequila factories with a ship tour. The guide, Jose was one we had in the past an excellent. The first factory had 10 different tastings. Besides the usual, there was coffee, amaretto (umm…good) and peach. Had some tacos and beans there. Very good with native cactus or nepal. The second stop also involved 10 tastings. Unique was vanilla crème and walnut. The latter was very good. We then drove through the country side, stopped to shop and drove through old Puerto Vallarta. Mandatory stops to observe iguanas, statuary along the malecon, the cathedral and the old cobble streets. As always, we ended the shore day at the old cantina by the entrance to the ship area. On our first cruise this place was all by itself along the water. Improvements in the pier area have hidden it somewhat, but it’s still there. It’s a gathering place for returning cruisers and ship staff. We always run into people we have met on board there.
As I said, we had a wonderful cruise because the important things, like the weather, the sea, the sun rises and sunsets, the ports and marine life that we enjoy and are there regardless of what cruise brand you are on. Sitting on the veranda feeling a gentle warm breeze while listening to the sounds of the waves moving past the ship is so relaxing. We don’t let things upset us and our decision not to sail with Carnival again is based on events that puzzle us.
Embarkation was terrible. They say you must board between 1 and 3 pm. We arrived at 2:30 and the line stretched almost back to the Queen Mary. Once in the building we were moved from catacomb to catacomb, sometimes having to side step in sync to move our line. Got aboard around 4:15. Many people were very upset.
I think the disembarkation discussion would fit here. Also a disaster. We reported to designated areas at 830 am. We finally got to curbside with our luggage at 12:15 pm. It was total chaos as all the people waiting to board were everywhere. It was almost impossible to get to elevators in parking structure. Many people were very upset. The cruise director said that the hold up was the dock workers not being ready, then he said the authorities were not ready and finally he said too many passengers were petting the drug dogs causing delays. Come on! He also said this delay was rare.
The guys helping with luggage say this is routine. I agree. The drop off /pickup area is small. There is one small exit from the building. Carnival does not provide enough customs agents to process in a timely manner. This will never change unless they overhaul the facility.
On our first sea day our cabin ventilation malfunctioned. It would start and stop, sometimes blowing cool sometimes hot. I woke up sweating first night. Call the ships service desk and was told they would send someone “to educate me on the use of a thermostat”. A guy showed up and said we were at 78 degrees in the cabin. I told him it was at the coolest now. He called for someone to come and make repairs. We got a note saying the repair man had come by and the thermostat is working correctly. I called down and said the problem must be with what the thermostat is connected to. I was told all was working, they could do no more and when I said “but it’s too hot” I was told, “Well sir, that’s just the way it is”.
On the first sea day we attended the cruise director welcome aboard and port talk. We were told to move our clocks forward one hour that night and also the night we leave Cabo. We did that. The next morning I was bewildered when none of the food stations were open. I asked why and was told I was an hour early. I brought up the cruise directors direction and was told that could not have happened. Several guys standing by me said they heard the same thing. Oh well. Came back a little while later and saw a breakfast station open, food in all the bins, the cook at parade rest and appearing ready to serve. I grabbed a plate and was told I had to wait. I asked why and was told they could not open for 3 more minutes. I couldn’t believe it and asked why. I was told, “well sir, that’s just the way it is.” Sound familiar already?
Regarding the time changes. We set clocks forward two nights, then back two nights. So other than the first and last nights, the time was always changing. There was confusion on board. We’ve cruised with another brand that said use ship time. All ship excursions are ship time. If you go ashore on own, adhere to ship time. Pretty simple and not confusing.
At Cabo we anchored about noon. This is a tender port. The cruise director said excursion people got priority but that tender tickets would be available starting at 10 am. However, he said usually by 2 pm you can just walk off, there would be no wait. So about 2:00pm I went to the tender ticket person and was given #37. I said I just heard #2 called. How long before we would be going ashore with #37. He said to relax and enjoy the ship. I asked if he could please give me a rough estimate. He said over 2 hours. I said you’ve got to be kidding. The last tender back to the ship is 7:15pm, so why go ashore at 4:30pm? He looked away with that you are annoying me expression on his face and said, you you guessed it, “Well sir, that’s just the way it is”. Others said they were told the delay was because two other ships were here. I’ve been here when there were 4 ships. Also, they said it was too rough to use the lifeboats as auxiliary tenders. However I saw that the other two cruise ships were using their lifeboats with no problem.
So it was announced that ship arrived would arrive at Mazatlán an hour later than planned. So 9 am instead of 8 am. We had pre purchased excursion tickets that said report to the theater to stage at 8 am and the tour would start at 8:30 am. So I assumed these times would be also be moved forward, that is, theater at 9 am and tour start at 9:30am. After all, we couldn’t leave for a shore excursion a half hour before the ship docks. So I called to verify. I was told to do what the ticket says, regardless. I asked how could we eat if the food area did not open until 7:30 and get to our room to prepare for shore then get to the theater all in 30 minutes. You guessed it, she said “Sir, that is just the way it is” Well, we showed up around nine, but many had been waiting for an hour already. We still waited an hour and 15 minutes for some reason. I might add we were give labels with a tour number and assigned to a numerical waiting area. However the call to go was by tour name, and very difficult to understand. This resulted in a lot of confusion.
Some observations regarding the Horatio’s food court area. Seating is great. A lot of ocean view seats, comfortable booths and chair seats. The layout is such that food stations are separated into quads that some distance apart. In each quad there can be 4 stations. For example there may be a grill, oriental food, Italian food and a deli in a quad. But they may not all be open. In fact none are open except very specific times. Like say 11 am, and you want to have a snack, nothing will be open. Don’t try to eat dinner early, nothing open. People were perplexed and did not understand the intentional deprivation of nourishment. This is a cruise after all. I saw many people asking why they did this. They all left shaking their heads.
Also, say you go to the omelet bar. Good ones they are. But the toast is at the breakfast grill a hundred feet through a crowd away. And drinks are at a central location. No trays, so if you want a couple orange juices and coffees, it is a two trip journey through the crowd. Makes no sense to me, but I guess that’s just the way it is. On other cruise ships we sat, a server asked what beverages we would like and brought them. The food lines were organized so that in one easy pass you had what you needed.
On disembarkation day, as 12 noon approached and we had been waiting to disembark for over 31/2 hours, I went to the food court area in search a small morsel of nourishment. It appeared the Deli was open. I took a plate. Three voices yelled “we are closed”, and one officer said to me “move along”, as if I were a vagrant or petty thief. Unbelievable! I mean come on, throw an old dog a bone!
Well I got thinking. How can all this this be? It makes no sense. Carnival had 2400 eager happy cruisers show up on disembarkation day. I enjoy reading the blogs and roll calls. You know, people who post the number of days until we cruise, sharing packing tips, what to do at the ports, and so on. All very excited and happy customers. Then think of the ship, a beauty. And of course the best venue of all, the ocean, with its breezes, sun rises and sunsets, marine life and mystical diamond like sheen in the wake of the sun. It shouldn’t take much effort to keep your guests happy. A dream scenario for someone in the customer service business. You would have to intentionally go out of your way to make someone upset in this situation. That is what Carnival did. That’s the only conclusion I can come to.
So what is the root of the problem? It starts at the top. The description that best describes the ship staff attitude is “disdainful arrogance”. Check your dictionary. They look at the cruisers as those people that will come aboard and want this, expect that and do these things. How do we put up with them? That position is supported by the managers and I’m sure they have had training and have been told to resolve issues by saying “Well sir or madam, that just the way it is.” Translation, jump in the lake (ocean in this case!), so what, we don’t care and so on. Plug in your own more vulgar expressions.
It’s too bad. They had it made and blew it. What a shame. No need to tolerate that.
So I quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, (Act III, scene II, Orlando) with a message for Carnival;
“I do desire we may be better strangers”
…and that’s just the way it is!