Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Miracle
Sailing Date: May 1st, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
My family arrived at Tampa Airport by car. We had no trouble finding the cruise terminal, however, once we arrived there was a 3 hour delay because the ship was late docking due to rough seas. Fortunately the Tampa Port had several nice shops and restaurants to keep us entertained.
I had sailed on Royal Caribbean for my three previous cruises and was afraid Carnival would be a “step-down”. I must say, however, I was very pleased with the ship amenities, décor and service and had a great time.
I couldn’t help but notice Carnival’s shore excursion prices were steep! I wondered if all ships had raised their prices, so I checked Royal Caribbean’s web site and found their shore excursion prices to be more reasonable. It appears Carnival has a lower cruise price (in general), but higher shore excursion prices. Royal Caribbean has higher cruise prices (in general), with lower shore excursion prices. They tend to stick it to you one way or the other.
I’ve read that many people found the ship décor to be “tacky”. I liked the décor. It was flashy and out there, but who wants to see the same old drab décor while on vacation? The only part that bothered me was that the “Yellow Brick Road” was blue – Does this make any sense? Each room was themed after a different classic tale and I enjoyed the whimsy. It took me back to my childhood.
My favorite room on the ship was the “Mad Hatters Lounge” for it’s bounty of color and oversized Alice in Wonderland characters. My favorite quiet spot was “Gatsby’s Garden”. The aqua colored walls and white arbors were so peaceful. It would be a great place to curl up with a good book. There was very little traffic in this area.
I found the dining room food to be fabulous! I am a VERY picky eater, but the wide variety of choices on the menu each night will suit everyone’s pallet. I especially enjoyed starting out with the fruit plate. I believe they use the pick of the litter in the dining room. I tried to find fruit at breakfast that was as tasty and sweet, without success.
The Lido deck dining was confusing to me. Carnival has broken the buffet lunches into sections (i.e. sandwiches, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, pizza, fruit, salads, desserts, taste of the nations, etc.) – too many sections. I felt you had to run all over the ship to see what your selections of the day were so you knew what you wanted to eat. Then you have to navigate your way back to those choices and stand in line to be served. It takes a long time. I would prefer to see one big buffet with all the choices right in front of you so you can pick and choose as you go along.
Our room was an outside cabin on the Riviera (bottom) deck. It was good size and had everything you could need. Closet and bathroom size were both adequate. I wouldn’t recommend the Riviera deck, because each night we were awakened by the sound of workers beneath us, stacking pallets. It was so bad I had to request ear plugs to use and even then the sound filtered through. We also kept hearing a clanging sound, possibly from the anchor or anchor chain? Although the ship was full and there was nothing the pursers could do, they did offer us a $200 ship board credit towards a future cruise if we book with Carnival within the year. (And we have! Carnival Liberty departing 11/26/2005, 8 night cruise to the Panama Canal. We may not have booked with Carnival again if not for the credit, so this was probably a good move on the pursers part. It will give Carnival a second chance to win us over.)
My favorite port was Costa Maya. This island is still relatively undiscovered and I like it that way! My husband and I took the “Beach, Boat & Snorkel” excursion. We were picked up at the dock and led to very nice, air-conditioned motor-coaches for a 45 minute bus ride to the beach. There we were given a brief orientation on our snorkel gear and how to operate the boats, then we were off in small two person watercrafts. What fun! We followed our guide in the boats for approximately 30 minutes, then docked on a platform out in the ocean. From there, we donned our snorkeling gear and were led on a 45 minute guided snorkeling tour. We then re-boarded the boats and headed back to the shore where we were treated to beach lounges and an open bar. Participants had the choice of several buses leaving for the ship at ½ hour intervals, so you could stay at the beach for as long as you liked.
Overall my experience with Carnival was a positive one. I had a great time! For some reason, I still have a loyalty to Royal Caribbean and would prefer to sale with them. I can’t pinpoint exactly what the difference is, both are nice ships with good service, but something about RCCL keeps me coming back for more. However, Carnival tends to beat RCCL on pricing and that is why I have chosen to sail with Carnival on my latest two cruises.