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Nancy Smith

Age: 60

Occupation:Retired District Manager

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Miracle

Sailing Date: January 7th, 2007

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

This is our 3rd Caribbean cruise and our first Carnival. Prior to this, we did an Eastern Caribbean on the Celebrity line and a Southwest Caribbean on the Princess Line.

We sailed from Tampa. This was the first time at this port and we were pleasantly surprised at the ease and speed of processing to get on the ship. On past cruises we had sailed from either Fort Lauderdale or Miami and we stood in line and waited forever to board. I must add that we elected to do our own transport to the ship by taxi to avoid the waiting times that are caused by the airport/bus mass transit system.

The Carnival Miracle did a 7 day Western Caribbean itinerary with stops at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya.

Day one at sea was pleasant. We had specifically selected this date to avoid the large numbers of families with children. We are seniors and do appreciate a quieter and more adult atmosphere. I did see a number of children but we were never overly aware of their presence. It seems Carnival has plenty of actives and spaces for them to play and they never became a problem.

Monday was the first, and best, formal night. It came with free cocktails and hors d'oeurves. We met the captain and had a really good dinner. We always opt for late dinner seating. This arrangement allows us to take long shore excursions, and have time to take a nap and relax on our balcony for a few hours prior to dinner and evening activities.

We are also non smokers and carefully avoid smokey areas. I am asthmatic and it can become a problem if I am not careful. We did avoid the casino because of the smoke as well as any cigar bar areas. They do allow smoking on the rear pool deck area but we discovered the smoke tended to blow in the windward direction and just avoided that side. Another reviewer mentioned that one can take inside stateroom hallways to avoid smoking areas and we did too and it worked out fine.

Grand Cayman Port: This is a tender port and has always been a difficult one because the seas are rough and can delay departure from the ship. We knew this from prior visits. However the day we arrived there was no problem exiting. The seas were calm. The Stingray City/snorkeling tour is the most popular and is great fun I would recommend it. We have done it on past trips so did not do it this time. Instead, we elected to do a SeaSpi early morning trip which left at 8:30 and lasted till 10 AM. We didn't want to be laying out on the ocean in mid-day sun and risk sunburn. Unfortunately, the tour operator cancelled the 8AM outing and only offered the midday session. We didn't find out about this until we were ashore. The ship cheerfully refunded our money and offered us other options like bus tours so we didn't waste the morning. We opted for the Island bus tour. It was inexpensive but we found it boring. We did use the afternoon to shop.

Cozumel Port: This port allows the ship to dock and we had a great time. We elected to do the Segway/Snorkeling adventure. You are bused a couple miles from the port to their business. They teach you how to ride the Segway and they take you on a bike path to local beach a few miles away and take you snorkeling. It was great fun! The 2 young men who run it as well as their helper are pleasant, funny and take great care to ensure you have a good time. We had about a dozen people on our tour and we had so much fun that whenever we spotted each other on the ship for the rest of the cruise we stopped and relived the great segway adventure ha ha.

Belize Port: This was the first time we had been there. It is a tender port and it's a long tender due to very shallow water around Belize City. We were told that due to the money brought in by Carnival they do intend to dredge and build a mooring dock. We found Belize to be charming. The people are very glad to have you there. They are very proud of their country and history and culture. The port is not all commercialized and high priced yet. We took the City Sights and Sounds Cultural tour. Like the grand Hawaiian Cultural Center on Oahu, they have built their own Belize Cultural Center with museum and cultural dance show.

It was very interesting and we thought they did a wonderful job with the show. If you appreciate self reliant people who are struggling to better their economy and situation, you will have a good time on this tour. Our guide took us through the city areas not yet developed so we could see how poor things had been before tourism. Our guide exemplified the pride of the people. We had a hard time tipping him, he wasn't expecting it. What a pleasure! Next visit, we will probably do the Cave Tubing or Jungle adventure. People who did these reported great fun. It does rain here frequently so if you are already doing water sports it shouldn't matter.

Costa Maya: This port has a dock. We have been there before and have take trips to Mayan Ruins. It has great snorkeling beaches. We had scheduled a trip to one of the partially excavated sites but the weather didn't comply. There were high winds which lasted for the next 2 days actually. The sea swells and winds were so high the ship couldn't even dock. We were disappointed but what can you do.

So we spent the next 2 days at sea heading back to Tampa at a leisurely pace along with another cruise ship who also couldn't dock. It was ok. The ship did try to schedule extra activities and we did get to read a couple books. The trip back around the north side of Cuba is always kind of rough. This trip was quite a rock and roller. Our dining room waiter's assistant was missing for a couple nights from sea sickness. I suppose there were some passengers who felt queasy but we were both fine. I must say that the Miracle rode much smoother than some other ships have been on in rough seas.

We didn't attend all the nightly shows but did see 3 of them including the last night which is a hoot. They include cruise passengers who have competed during the week to get in the show. There was band playing in the lounges and also in some of the shows that was superb. 4 young men from the Philippines (sp?) who could play anything perfectly.

Debarking was the best, most efficient that we have ever done. They allow you to choose "Self Assist" debarkation instead of having to pack your bags the night before and then have to wait to get off and then have to try and find your bag from the 5000 bags ashore later, they allow you to just take your own bag off the boat by yourself. Heck, we loved the option. We didn't have to pack up till the morning of departure, and we left the boat and were ashore by 9AM. We had the whole day in Tampa to play.

I should mention, we learned not to try and fly out of any airport the same day all the cruise ships dock. Instead we always book a local hotel, spend Sunday in leisure and fly home on a Monday. No wait lines at the airport.

I hope this will be helpful to someone.

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