Occupying the forward portion of decks 2, 3 and 4, the Phantom Main Show Lounge is the main show lounge aboard Carnival Miracle, and it was put to good use during our cruise, with a variety of events taking place here during the day while at sea, and headliner shows each evening. The venue is fashioned after the Paris Opera House, with a "Phantom of the Opera" theme provided by enamel masks and candelabras lining the maroon walls. Seating on the ground floor is almost flat, so views can be impeded from the rear sections, but upper-deck seating offers clear sightlines.
Shows on Carnival Miracle are part of the line's Playlist Productions program. Each 30-minute show plays twice on one night of a seven-day cruise. For now, Carnival Miracle is not equipped with some of the high-tech screens utilized on some ships, so the shows for the most part rely on traditional sets, props and staging, with a crew of eight singer/dancers performing to music tracks. There's also a Welcome Aboard show on the first night of the cruise, plus a Hasbro Game Show and a Lip Sync Battle involving passengers on other nights.
Other events taking place here on sea days included bingo sessions, a 50s dance class, Dr. Seuss story time, plus the requisite shore excursion and shopping lectures (central theme: buy, buy, buy!).
Carnival keeps people busy throughout the cruise, especially on sea days. In addition to bingo and lectures in the Phantom Main Show Lounge mentioned above, other daytime diversions can be found at the Mad Hatter's Ball, a theater located under the main show lounge on Deck 1, with art auctions, lectures, meet-and-greet sessions with the crew and Build-a-Bear workshops.
The Atrium lobby, on Deck 2, was called into service for ballroom and square dance classes, bocce ball tournaments and a beanbag toss, along with hosting live entertainment from ports of call. At the Fountainhead Cafe on Deck 2, we found charades, trivia contests and Scattergories. At the RedFrog Pub next door was shuffleboard and afternoon karaoke. The Ariadne Room, Deck 2, was home to seminars on acupuncture, posture and metabolism, and a ladies pamper party (the goal of all these was to sell passengers spa services). The Lido Stage, next to the midship pool on Deck 9, was the place for family games, the hairy chest contest and the ship's sail-away parties. When a major sports game was played, the TVs at SkyBox Sports Bar would be tuned in.
Wizards Video Arcade is located on Deck 4, hidden behind the Phantom Theater, while board games and crafts are available in the Joker Card Room, on Deck 2. Tucked away on Deck 3 is The Raven Library, which is a shadow of its former self. The computers for internet surfing have been removed, so all that's left is empty desks and a bookcase with a few dozen odds and ends for borrowing. Next door is a small chapel that can be used for weddings and unscheduled religious services.
Standup comedy is a popular night activity, offered at the Mad Hatter's Ball on Deck 1. The venue is a garish tribute to Alice in Wonderland, entered (from the Phantom Lounge on Deck 2) via a circling staircase that feels like a tumble down the rabbit hole. On nights when standup was offered, there were two comedians, each performing twice. The first two shows were family oriented, the last two were adult humor.
Live music could be found at several spots on the ship each evening: A contemporary string duo performed in the Atrium lobby; a solo guitarist played here and at the Serenity Pool; a jazzy duo took the small stage at the Alchemy Bar each night; and the Liverpool Band played 80s pop and "trop rock" at the RedFrog Pub.
Friends of Bill W met nightly at one of several venues early in the evening, and there was a designated meet-up bar for singles and LGBT cruisers each night.
Operating only while sailing, Mr. Lucky's Casino, located on Deck 2, is inspired by the Cary Grant movie "Mr. Lucky," about a shady gambler who owns a ship on a casino in WWII days. The casino offers plenty of table games -- blackjack, roulette, craps and Texas Hold'em -- along with slot machines offering a progressive payout. Slot, Blackjack and especially Texas Hold'em tournaments were held at various points during our cruise.
RedFrog Pub (Deck 2): One of the more popular hangouts on Carnival Miracle, RedFrog Pub was a dependable spot for live music, with the Liverpool Band taking the stage with its 80s rock, reggae and pop tunes. A small dance floor invited guests to cut a rug, while the bartenders filled pints with Carnival's own brew, Thirsty Frog Red, a heavily malted beer with a sweet finish. Karaoke sessions sprung up some afternoons, as well.
SkyBox Sports Bar (Deck 2): Located next door to RedFrog Pub, the SkyBox Sports Bar serves the live game crowd, and it really comes alive when a major event is scheduled. But otherwise, without football, baseball or basketball to watch, SkyBox Sports can be a pretty quiet scene, as most passengers head for livelier settings. The bar menu features a slightly longer list of beers than most other venues on the ship.
Metropolis Lobby Bar (Deck 2): The soaring Atrium of Carnival Miracle starts here, with elevators vaulting eight decks skyward. So, it's only natural that the lobby bar is dedicated to Superman's hometown, and the space is decked out with Art Deco styling and blue Murano glass lighting. A number of activities are scheduled here during the day, and the bar offers the ship's full selection of libations. A string duo played here nightly.
Alchemy Bar (Deck 2): Though not ideally located, along a busy thoroughfare between the Atrium and Bacchus Restaurant, we enjoyed calling on the pharmacists at the Alchemy Bar -- bartenders who prescribed upmarket potions to cure anything that ailed. There was a Revved Up Mojito Martini, made with gin, dry vermouth, simple syrup, fresh lime juice and mint; or the Restorative Basil Drop, an elixir of vodka, fresh basil, simple syrup and fresh citrus juices. The cocktails are made with top shelf brands, and are priced accordingly -- north of $10 per tipple -- and an appealing jazz duo played alongside most evenings. The bar opened at 4 p.m. daily and was one of the last to close each night.
Dr. Frankenstein's Lab Nightclub (Deck 2): This two-story disco, entered from its upper level, is a modern take on the lab from Frankenstein mythology, with neon electricity bolts ricocheting across stone slabs and gargoyles holding up the bar stools. A giant Frankenstein's monster lords over the dance floor on the lower level. On our cruise, the crowd was pretty thin, peaking before midnight, but we imagine this is different on sailings with a younger crowd. Dr. Frankenstein's generally opened at 10 p.m., and usually the first hour was devoted to a theme -- like Groovy 60s music, Caribbean beats, country music, etc. In contrast to most land-based nightclubs, the minimum age to enter Dr. Frankenstein's is 18, though the drinking age is still 21.
Sam's Piano Bar (Deck 3): Carnival Miracle's requisite piano bar is a cozy space serving live music nightly, along with a large binder of songs for people to make requests from. Everyone is invited to sing along, though the piano man does a pretty good job on his own. The ivory started tinkling each night at 9 p.m., but most seats around the piano were taken well before.
Gotham Lounge (Deck 3): This bar, located near to the entrance to the Bacchus restaurant's upper floor, was minimally used by cruisers, though the bartenders stayed busy handling drink orders for the restaurant.
Odyssey Bar (Deck 9): Carnival Miracle's main pool bar took care of drinks for the sun bunnies, as well as serving for Horatio's Restaurant -- it was one of the first to open and last to close each day.
Serenity Bar (Deck 9): Like the Odyssey Bar, this aft pool bar serves the full drink menu and caters to cruisers using both the Serenity and Horatio's Restaurant.
There are three pools aboard Carnival Miracle, each with a whirlpool and located on Deck 9, plus a kiddie pool on Deck 11 next to the slide. The forward and midship pools, Sirens and Ulysses, are virtually identical, adjoined by party-sized whirlpools and shower stalls. The Ulysses Pool has a retractable roof, which is great when sailing in inclement weather. This is also the liveliest pool, with a stage for sail-away parties, as well as the grill and Odyssey Bar.
There's also an indoor whirlpool lodged between the gym and Spa Carnival, but it can get busy in late afternoon.
Outdoor activities include a jogging track (15.2 laps equal a mile), the mini-golf course and a basketball court located on Deck 11, forward and available 24 hours, and the Ping-Pong tables found of Deck 10, forward. There is one water slide that rises above the Serenity Deck. It is accessed from Deck 11.
Loungers near the pool areas are usually busy, so better luck may be found on Decks 10 and 11.
The aft portion of Deck 9 is devoted to the kid-free Serenity Deck, with a smaller pool and whirlpool, comfy loungers and sun beds, and a chill vibe. The endless view of the wake unfurling below is tranquility defined.
Guest services is located at the base of the Atrium lobby on Deck 2. This desk was quite busy the first 24 hours of the cruise, and at its quietest when we were docked in port. Next door is the Shore Excursions desk, where bookings for activities off the ship are handled. A single small conference room is located on Deck 3, next to the Gotham Lounge. For most of our cruise, it was occupied by paintings sold at the ship's auctions.
The ship's shopping complex is called the Yellow Brick Road, and is located on Deck 3. You'll find the usual array of ship-branded merchandize, along with watches, cologne, booze and other duty-free items. Cherry on Top, Carnival's candy store, is located here as well.
Also on Deck 3 is the Photo Gallery, wrapping around the Atrium lobby, where photos taken by the ship's photo crew are hung out for sale. The desk here also sells a few camera-related goodies, like spare batteries and disposable cameras.
Self-serve laundry facilities are located on decks 1, and 4 through 7, and are open till midnight. The cost is $3.25 per load for washing, and another $3.25 for the dryers. Small boxes of laundry soap and water softener are available for $1.50. All can be purchased using your room keycard. Valet service was also available, with a two-day turnaround: Formal shirts, blouses and slacks were $5, dresses $7.50.
Carnival Miracle's internet cafe is located on Deck 2, in the hallway between Lucky's Casino and the lobby Atrium. For printing our airline boarding passes we found these stations to be egregiously slow -- much slower than using our own devices to surf the web using the ship's Wi-Fi system. The base price for accessing Carnival's Wi-Fi is $16 per 24 hours using the Value (slower) plan, or $25 per 24 hours for the Premium plan, which allowed for streaming services such as YouTube, Spotify, etc. (but Torrents, Netflix, Hulu and Vimeo are not supported). There's also a Social Plan option -- $5 per day for the length of the cruise to access the most popular websites and apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Snapchat.
The spa facility onboard all Carnival ships is run by Steiner Leisure, and it's fairly run-of-the-mill. We had one treatment here, and although the quality of the service was good the experience was marred by multiple occasions of spa staff talking in the hallway outside the treatment room, as well as kids running on the deck above.
There are 10 treatment rooms, and services offered will be familiar to those who've been to a Steiner cruise ship spa before (or really most any land-based spa); a 50-minute massage starts at about $145, plus 15 percent gratuity. Some of the treatments include a bamboo massage, the aroma stones massage, and a lime and ginger salt scrub massage, as well as body wraps, various facials, manicures and pedicures, and medi-spa procedures. Discounts are offered at embarkation and on port days.
The multi-level fitness center, located on decks 9 and 10 right above the bridge, is impressive for a midsized ship. One wall faces outward with picture windows overlooking the water. Steppers, bikes, treadmills and weights are available, although we found some of the equipment in need of a tune-up. And there is a foamy, inviting hot tub smack dab in the center of the facility. Pilates, yoga and spinning classes are available, with a $15 upcharge; a stretch session or "Fab Abs" class was complimentary on some mornings.
A typical sailing on Carnival Miracle is flush with families, making activities and services for kids a top priority. Watch for a fee-added Green Eggs and Ham breakfast hosted by the Cat in the Hat, and a Seuss-a-Palooza parade through the Atrium lobby with Dr. Seuss characters followed by an interactive story-time hosted by the ship's cruise director. There's also a Wizards Video Arcade, located behind the Phantom Theater in Deck 4 that kids will love.
Kids and teen club spaces have dedicated directors, although staffing and activities fluctuate greatly depending on the number of kids onboard (peaking during Christmas, Easter and summer holidays). They are generally open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., for children ages 2 and up.
Camp Ocean, the kids facility aboard Carnival Miracle, is located on Deck 5, and is designed for kids age 2 and 11 on each cruise. Children are broken up into three categories, Penguins (age 2 to 5), Stingrays (age 6 to 8) and Sharks (age 9 to 11), and activities are tailored for each age group.
During the online check-in process, you'll choose whether your child aged 9 to 11 will have in-and-out privileges with their Sign-and-Sail card or if they're only permitted to leave when you come to get them. Kids under 9 always require a parent or guardian present before they can leave.
Night Owls is Carnival's shared baby-sitting services -- basically a slumber party in the play room. The program is available from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. nightly for $6.75 per hour, per child (plus 15 percent gratuity). Toddlers do not have to be potty-trained to participate, as long as parents provide the staff with diapers and toiletries as necessary.
Circle C, the designated venue for the 12 to 14 tween set, is located on Deck 4. It has a dance floor, video jukebox and internet stations. Activities include dance parties, game shows and Wii competitions.
Club O2, located on Deck 10, just above the Lido Deck, is the hangout for teens age 15 to 17. They'll find a full array of gaming consoles and a soda bar (accessed with their Sign-and-Sail card), a dance floor, music-listening stations, plus such activities as karaoke, dance classes and midnight mini-golf excursions.