My nephew graduated from college this year, and this cruise was his graduation gift. I had been to the Eastern Caribbean several times, so I wanted to do the Western Caribbean this year. I chose four cruises that looked ... Read More
My nephew graduated from college this year, and this cruise was his graduation gift. I had been to the Eastern Caribbean several times, so I wanted to do the Western Caribbean this year. I chose four cruises that looked interesting (two Royal Caribbean and two Carnival), and he choose the itinerary he wanted.
I had never been on Carnival before, but I had heard that it is great for young adults - he is 22 and looking for people to party with. I am 39, and not so much into the bar scene.
Getting to the Port/Embarkation
My travel agent recommended buying the transfer voucher to the port from the airport. At $18 per person, it was probably more expensive than taking a cab, but I think the ease of it made it worth it. We arrived in Miami at 1130AM. As we went to pick up our bags, someone wearing Carnival colors (red, white, and blue) came by and called our name. She pointed us toward the bus, the driver put our bags on, and we sat in air-conditioned comfort until they finished loading.
After a 20-minute bus ride, we were at the port. The driver showed us which door to enter, and we went straight to the desk to check in. We had already filled out the on line form, so it took all of five minutes. She gave us a number (group 4), and showed us where to wait to board the boat. They were boarding people from group 2, so we waited about 20 minutes. When they called our group, it took about 10 more minutes for each person to stop and have a picture taken (so we could get on and off the boat), and then we were on the ship!
The Miracle truly is the ugliest cruise ship I have ever been on. The Bacchus dining room is just as hideous as people have said, and the Mad Hatter room was a little freaky. By the second day, however, part of the fun was talking about the ugly ship. There were some nice spots. If you like quiet, Gatsby's Garden was a great place to read a book and look out at the ocean.
The cabin was larger than I had expected from my other cruises. There was plenty of room for all of our clothes, and our luggage fit under the bed. The basket of toiletries was a nice touch, as were the bathrobes. I chose a cabin with a balcony, and we each spent plenty of time out there just relaxing and enjoying the view.
We never got around to signing up before we left, so we went to the shore excursion desk as soon as we got on the ship. There was no line, as opposed to a couple of hours later when the line had at least 50 people. I know lots of people book their excursions outside of the ship, but I'm a control freak - I like to be absolutely sure the ship will wait for me if my excursion runs over. If you book through the ship, it's guaranteed.
We did the Stingray City and snorkel tour, mainly because I'm a little freaked out by stingrays and I wanted something to do in case I was too afraid to get off the boat at Stingray City. The stingrays were actually very cool, and I even have a picture of me holding one (it feels like a wet mushroom). The snorkeling was a bit of a disappointment. I had heard that Grand Cayman is a great place for snorkeling, but there were just a few tiny coral groups on a sandbar. I heard from others on the ship that the snorkeling was great, so I think it was just the tour we went on.
We didn't do a shore excursion, just shopping then on to a beach. The shops downtown were very nice, and my nephew got a couple of great deals on rum and tequila. The beach was all right, but it was obvious there was still lots of hurricane damage - despite that the people we encountered were very friendly. Except, that is, for the taxi drivers. When it was time to go back to the ship, the cabs charged double the price we paid going out to the beach. They knew we had no choice but to pay, if we wanted to get back to the ship. Next time, if I go to the beach, I will probably go through the ship's shore excursions. It probably costs about the same, and would have been a lot less hassle.
This was definitely my favorite stop. We chose one of the snorkeling tours, and it was amazing. We got on the boat directly from the ship, and it took us to a tiny island surrounded by coral. We could snorkel from either the boat or from the shore. The coral was beautiful, and there were so many different kinds of fish that we each ran out of film in about ten minutes.
We went to Chacchoben, which is a partially excavated ruin in the middle of a rainforest. According to our tour guide, this ruin had been built 3000 years BC. It was amazing to think about the history of such an old civilization. One thing, though, if you go on an excursion into a rain forest, PLEASE expect rain. It rained a good portion of the time we were there, and several people whined so much that they cut the tour short.
Our cabin steward was wonderful. He knew are names on the first day, and he went out of his way to make our stay enjoyable. He kept the cabin in great shape (despite the fact that my nephew is a bit of a slob), and he left silly towel animals every night. Our dining staff was also excellent. Our server was very helpful. She was always able to tell me which dishes were especially good. It made it easy to follow my rule of trying something new each day. Overall I was impressed with the attitudes of the people I encountered - imagine being away from family and home for 6-9 months and working 6 days/week.
My only problem was with the Cruise Director and his staff. I admit I love the silly games usually played on cruises. I like to go to line dancing classes, play trivia games, play Pictionary - stuff I don't usually do at home. The only line dancing class they had the entire week lasted less than ten minutes. We learned a few steps, and did half of a song (my nephew came ten minutes late, and I had already been sitting for a couple of minutes).
The shows were enjoyable. I especially liked Ticket to Ride. The comedians were hilarious (especially the adult only shows), while the hypnotist was adequate.
This was the easiest of any cruise line I've been on. We put our bags out the night before, went to breakfast on Saturday, and relaxed until it was time to leave. Our bags were easy to find, a short line through customs, and are vacation was over. Read Less