Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Miracle
Sailing Date: April 1st, 2007
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This was the first cruise ever for our family. We, together with 2 other families, started to make plans for our trip of a lifetime last July. After much research, we all decided that a cruise would probably give us the most bang for our buck, and give all our children lasting memories. We weren’t disappointed on the Carnival Miracle.
We paid for ocean view rooms and were pleasantly surprised when we were upgraded to balcony rooms at no additional cost. We heard that this was because we made our reservations so early, and then they could sell the other lower-rate rooms quicker at a discount price. We also decided to pay the additional fees to have the cruise line book our hotel/air to and from Tampa. This ended up being a very wise choice. This was not only the economical way to go, but the cruise line took care of everything – and we did not have to worry about any of the fine details.
We left from Spokane Airport on Saturday morning, and the cruise line had us stay at the Marriott in the Tampa airport that night. This was incredibly convenient, as the airport was like a mall, airport, hotel, all wrapped up in one so there was plenty to keep us all entertained for the evening. They had us meet the Carnival staff at 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning, and again – they took great care of us, and we did not have to think of a thing. We were transported to the port and were scheduled to board the ship by 1:00. Again we were pleasantly surprised that they actually had us boarding right away – at about noon. Lunch buffets were available to us upon our embarkation. We never waited in any line at the port. Our friends, who have traveled via cruises in the past, said they never had such an easy process boarding a ship. It was a full ship as this was spring break week.
There was a nice variety of guests on the ship – families, older folks, and honeymooners. We were a bit curious prior to getting on the ship, as we had heard that cruising was the new popular vacation destination for college kids on spring break. We never had a problem with this.
Upon getting on the ship I wasn’t overly impressed with the décor. It seemed a bit gaudy, but I later understood the “themes” of each area, and kind of got used to it by week’s end.
Monday was a “fun day at sea”. We spent the day out on the decks around the pool. It was quite windy in the morning, but it didn’t stop us from soaking up the sun. A few of the adults enjoyed the spa and workout rooms. We were a bit disappointed that there was a hard sell of beauty products by the spa staff when we were trying to relax with our massages.
Speaking of pampering, all the ladies in our group enjoyed having our staterooms made up twice each day. What a treat! The cabin stewards did a wonderful job of making up our rooms around our schedule. They always seemed to know when we’d be out and never needed to knock on our door.
We never worried about our kids roaming the ship (they ranged in ages 14-17). They didn’t particularly want to hang in the Camp 02 that is provided for their age group for entertainment, but found ways to entertain themselves in the evening.
We chose the late dinner seating at 8:15 p.m. in the dining room each evening. This worked out well for us as it allowed for a little nap after a day at each port. All 12 of us had a wonderful table together by a window. Our servers were great, but not as entertaining as some of our friends have said made their cruises in the past. But they were always so kind and we always left happy and never left hungry. There was a nice variety on the menu each night, and we enjoyed the pampering immensely.
We didn’t particularly enjoy the big push on photographs. It was always fun to see all the nice pictures taken of us displayed that you could purchase, but not so fun that you didn’t have the opportunity to purchase smaller sized prints and had to pay for 8x10s.
After dinner most evenings we’d enjoy one of the shows in the Phantom Lounge or one of the cruise adult activities. The activities and shows were all entertaining and fun.
Our first port was Grand Cayman. We decided not to book an excursion and just hang out at 7-mile beach. It was a beautiful beach and everyone enjoyed snorkeling. After a couple hours on the beach, it got pretty crowded, so we thought we’d do a little shopping. It was a bit spendy so we instead ended up in Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville bar & grille, which was a lot of fun, but probably quite the education for our kids!
The second port was Cozumel. Here, we booked an excursion to the Mayan Ruins at Tulume. While the ruins were very educational, we were disappointed that we had to first take a 40-minute ferry ride to the mainland to Playa del Carmen, and then another 45-minute bus ride to the Ruins. The tour first stopped at a gift shop, which we felt was a bit tacky and took away from our time at the actual Ruin site. Once finally at the Ruins, we enjoyed the tour and especially the little bit of time we had to take a dip in the beautiful sea. We had hoped to actually have a little time to see Cozumel, but there just wasn’t enough time!
Our next stop on Thursday was Belize. We enjoyed this day immensely. We booked the cave tubing tour, which we would highly recommend. Again we had about a 45-minute bus ride, but we thoroughly enjoyed learning about Belize from our entertaining tour guide. We were told to book a tour in Belize as the town itself was not necessarily safe to hang out in, and we agree.
Our last excursion was in Costa Maya. We enjoyed that we docked right at the port and had the opportunity to snorkel in the most majestic waters we’ve ever seen. We decided to do the dolphin encounter excursion. This excursion was just a half day, and we all decided that if we were to do a cruise again, we would book excursions this way so that we also had time to adventure out and see some of the towns as well.
Saturday was another “fun day at sea”. The weather was a bit questionable and cloudy, but we all enjoyed sleeping in and relaxing.
Since we were on the ship during Holy Week, we were happy that a special service for Easter was offered. This was a nice touch that would have been a void for our family if it had not been offered.
We would definitely do a cruise again, but probably not book as many excursions – or at least not as many full-day excursions.
Disembarkation on Sunday morning was as
smooth as embarking. We were very impressed that the entire process was so
painless. What a memorable trip. We thoroughly enjoyed our vacation on the
Carnival Miracle, and hope to be “cruising” again.