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Cortney Casey

Age: 26

Occupation:Reporter

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Miracle

Sailing Date: May 19th, 2007

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This was my third cruise, and my husband’s fourth. I can honestly say that every cruise has been better than the last. I really didn’t think anything could top our honeymoon cruise on the Carnival Conquest last year, but our trip on the Miracle did. All week I was marveling over things I could include in my review, so I’m going to get pretty in depth. I hope this will help others considering the Miracle as other cruisers’ reviews have helped me.

EMBARKATION
Our cruise on the Miracle was an 8-day Eastern Caribbean, leaving out of New York City and stopping at San Juan, St. Thomas and Tortola. The Miracle, which previously left out of Florida, just recently began this itinerary. This was our second Carnival cruise, and we’d planned to try a new line every year, but wanted to save some money this time and got a great deal as returning Carnival cruisers. We chose NYC as the embarkation port because I hate flying and was sick of feeling stressed out both before and during the vacation due to the flights. So we drove to NYC from Michigan, which was about a 12-hour drive. It was boring but, in my opinion, well worth it.

Despite the horror stories we’d heard about driving in NYC, we found it to be surprisingly easy. In fact, the area we passed through was less obnoxious than rush hour traffic in suburban Detroit. This may have been because we came in on a Saturday morning and only had to skirt around a small part of the city. Don’t rely solely on Mapquest, because it occasionally generates directions that defy all common sense and logic. Just follow the signs to the ship terminal — the ships are hard to miss!

We arrived around 11 a.m., and after parking in the garage (which cost $180 for the eight days), we gave our luggage to a porter and sat in folding chairs for about an hour. We were able to board the ship around 12-12:30 p.m. Everything seemed very well organized and the wait once the line began moving was very minimal. Our rooms weren’t immediately ready, so we went to Lido to begin our eight-day food bender. ;) Overall, we were very impressed by how smoothly everything went.

SHIP/DÉCOR/ETC.
Our room was an oceanview obstructed on Main Forward (Level 4). If you can get a deal like this through your travel agent, do it. We paid the same price as an interior room, but we had French doors that could open to let in fresh air. A railing was directly in front of the doors and there were lifeboats in front of our window, but we knew that going in and it was nice to be able to get sunshine without having to pay for an oceanview.

If you’ve never been on Carnival, I can pretty much guarantee you that your first impression will be that the ships are incredibly gaudy — and they are. But I’ve found that after the initial visual shock, I begin noticing all of the interesting details and within a few hours, I’m totally in love with it.

The Miracle’s theme is “fictional characters,” so the rooms are named accordingly. There’s Sam’s, a Moroccan-themed piano bar inspired by Casablanca; Frankie & Johnnie’s, a nightclub with metal spires and spheres protruding from the ceiling; the Phantom Lounge, inspired by The Phantom of the Opera; and Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab, complete with a giant Frankenstein statue, to name a few. One of the gaudiest rooms, but one that I ended up liking the best, was the Mad Hatter’s Ball. It featured giant statues of the Mad Hatter and March Hare from Alice in Wonderland, and it had heart-adorned tables, bar stools and chairs.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the “grapes” in the Bacchus Dining Room. :) Almost every review I’ve read alluded to the lighted purple orbs throughout the room and how gaudy they were. But they didn’t bother me as much as they apparently did some people … and it wouldn’t be Carnival if it weren’t totally over the top. ;)

Having been on the Conquest, which is larger, last year, I wondered if we would find the slightly smaller Miracle to be less interesting/exciting/etc. It definitely wasn’t; in fact, my husband and I decided we liked the Miracle better. Its layout makes much more sense, and by the first full day, we had figured out where everything was. The atrium was the only aspect that we thought was more spectacular on the Conquest. Overall, the Miracle seemed to have more amenities and rooms to hang out in. We were constantly coming across “new” things to awe us.

One of the things we were happiest about was, unlike on the Conquest, the Adults Only pool was ALWAYS adults only. (We like kids, but not when they’re shrieking and doing cannonballs in the only area that’s supposed to be reserved for the adults. There are three other pools for the youngsters…save one for the more sedate crowd!)

I read a few reviews that said the Miracle was the rockiest ship the reviewers had ever been on. Our cruise was perfect until Friday. On that day, we hit 15-foot swells. Everyone was turning green. I was violently ill despite my prescription motion sickness patch. But you’re on a ship, so what do you expect? The other seven days were far more calm and peaceful than the other two ships I’ve been on.

The ship was absolutely spotless. Employees were constantly cleaning, wiping down walls, washing the floors, swabbing the ceilings. We were very impressed.

EVENTS/SERVICES ONBOARD
I have to say up front that my husband and I are not big “show” people. So we skipped most of the shows that involved singing and dancing. I’ve heard they’re very good, though, if you like that sort of thing. We walked out of a juggling show because the people kept dropping their objects — I felt like we were at a second-rate dress rehearsal. The Carnival Legends show, featuring passengers, was mildly entertaining. Peter Michael, an “R-rated” comedian, was pretty funny. All of the shows mirrored the ones on the Conquest; it would have been nice if there were some different ones so that the many people who had sailed Carnival before wouldn’t be seeing practically the same things.

My husband and I adored the art auctions through Park West. For us, they truly were the highlights of the trip. There were four throughout the week and we ended up purchasing several items. We also attended multiple seminars about art during the cruise. Believe me, I’m the last person I would have ever thought would be interested in art, but we got hooked last year through the Park West events on the Conquest. This year’s Park West presenters, Ram and Tawra, were great. Ram was hilarious and the auctions were quite popular. Even if you’re not sure if you’re an art aficionado, check it out…there’s free champagne, and you might just discover a new hobby!

There were a few very nice receptions with free drinks and appetizers, including one exclusively for past guests, and a huge buffet with impressive fruit carvings, etc. on one of the last nights. There also was Bingo and various wacky activities like the hairy chest and belly flop contests, but we didn’t take part in any of that.

We enjoyed listening to Buster Freeze in the piano bar — he’s a British guy with a sharp sense of humor and a great voice — but we found that some louder (read: obnoxious) guests liked to commandeer the entire room so we didn’t spend much time there. We also enjoyed a group called Music Boardwalk, who played covers in Frankie & Johnnie’s each night.

I splurged this time and got a massage at the spa. I was pretty pleased with it. I would advise signing up the first day and waiting for them to call you with deals. I got a $119 massage for $79. Of course, you can get it much cheaper at home. ;) Also, they do try to sell you products, but a firm “no thank you” should take care of it.

I used the Miracle’s gym daily, and it was very well-stocked. I never had a problem finding a machine.

FOOD
Some people go in expecting four-star cuisine. I just go in expecting something far better than I’d eat at home. I thought the food was excellent, especially the desserts. If you have the chance, definitely try the warm chocolate melting cake, the apple strudel, the apple pie, the tiramisu, and the cappuccino pie.

The Miracle only has one dining room, and I’ve heard some people disliked this because there tended to be a line up right before dinnertime. But everyone has assigned seating, so what’s the problem? Just get there two minutes late and go to your table. It all seemed to go smoothly to me.

Horatio’s, the Lido restaurant, had various stations. I ended up eating pizza almost every day but there were tons of options, including a different kind of ethnic food daily. There’s also 24-hour soft serve ice cream.

We ordered room service several times. They had many options, including sandwiches, veggies, salads, desserts, etc. The chocolate cake is awesome, as is the room service cheesecake, which far outshines the cheesecake you get at Horatio’s, probably because it’s kept chilled (the Horatio’s cheesecake seemed gel-like at times).

My husband and I received shipboard credit from our travel agent to go to Nick & Nora’s, the onboard supper club, which is $30 per person. I had heard rave reviews, but we weren’t particularly impressed. I’m not really a steak or lobster kind of person, so that may explain my lack of interest. I much prefer the regular dining room. The dessert was amazing though; something involving chocolate and apples. (Can you tell I’m a sweet tooth? :)

As a side note, I was impressed by the lengths Carnival went to accommodate people with special dietary needs. There are “Spa Carnival” selections with lower fat and calories available, and they even had plentiful skim milk, sugar-free pancake syrup, etc. I probably should have taken advantage of these options…but I didn’t. I paid for it when I got on the scale when I got home. ;) I did partake in the fat-free, sugar-free lattes available at the coffee shops for an extra fee, though.

STAFF
Brent Mitchell, the Canadian cruise director, was very energetic and upbeat. I think he was a little less visible than Todd, the director on the Conquest, but he did a good job. We seemed to see a lot of the captain, Antonio Marchetti, around the ship, which was cool. Our waiters, Carlos and Maryono, were very friendly. I loved Soni at the omelet station; he always put a smile on my face in the morning. I already mentioned that we adored Ram and Tawra, who ran the art auctions. Our cabin steward was polite, but not as friendly or effusive as those we’ve had in the past.

PORTS
San Juan was our first port, and our favorite. We’re not much for shore excursions or the chaotic mass tours, so we hired a guy named Victor from Taxi Turistico to take us around the area for $45. He was awesome. He gave us a comprehensive history of Puerto Rico and let us stop anywhere we wanted to snap photos. In our opinion, San Juan was beautiful, with multiple forts, gorgeous flowers and trees, colorful buildings, etc. We would love to go back.

We had been to St. Thomas before, so it was no big deal for us. We walked around, shopped, then headed back to the ship to take advantage of the empty pools. :)

Tortola was pretty, but dull. We hired a taxi driver to take us around, but I was convinced we were going to die because he took us up mountains and parked literally an inch from the edge. I had a similar experience during my first trip to St. Thomas, and have since vowed never to let a local take me up a mountain again. ;) There really isn’t a whole lot to see in Tortola. My husband and I enjoy taking photos, but how many pictures do you need of green trees and blue water? ;)

DISEMBARKATION
Disembarkation was perfect. We had a bad experience with self-assist (where you carry all of your own bags off the ship) on the Conquest last year; people were jammed into the lobbies and screaming at each other and accusing each other of cutting in line. So this time, we put out our larger bags the night before and waited for our luggage tag color to be called the next morning. We ate breakfast at Horatio’s, then waited in our stateroom until our steward politely told us he needed to start cleaning for the next cruisers. Then we headed down to Level 3 and waited about 30 minutes. The line to get off, once our color was called, was short and orderly. We found a porter quickly and were in our car and heading off in no time. We were highly impressed with how organized everything seemed to be.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT…
We would give the cruise an A+, but of course, there’s always something that can be done better, such as: (1) Nothing ever seemed to start on time. The ship left port three hours late, which probably was not Carnival’s fault, but it did seem to be a general trend for the entire vacation. The buffets opened late, the shows started late, etc., etc. Not a big deal, but a little annoying. (2) The retractable roof, which can cover one of the Lido pools in bad weather, was never used, even though it was rainy and cold when we left NYC. On the Conquest, the roof was closed every night. (3) The 24-hour pizzeria was extremely popular, but only one guy worked it the entire week. That meant there were a lot of lines and waiting that could have been resolved if they just assigned a second employee during peak times.

SUMMARY
Overall, we adored this cruise and would cruise Carnival again in a heartbeat. We plan to try Royal Caribbean next year, but we’ll definitely be back on another Carnival ship in the future. If I can leave you with any parting advice, it would be to CHECK OUT THE ART AUCTIONS! Seriously, you will be surprised.

Please feel free to e-mail me at cortreporter@sbcglobal.net with any questions; I’d be happy to answer them! Enjoy your cruise!

















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