Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Miracle
Sailing Date: August 31st, 2007
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
On 8/31/07, I sailed with my girlfriend and 6
other friends on the Miracle out of New York for our 8-night cruise to the
Eastern Caribbean (San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola). Overall, we had an amazing
time and we are already looking forward to going again next year.
We arrived at the NY Cruise Terminal around 11:45am, with a scheduled sailing time of 4:00pm. I believe that we actually boarded the ship around 1:30pm. When we first arrived, a baggage porter found us within seconds and took our bags from us. We were then directed to the waiting area where the lines were relatively slow. While waiting to register for our Sign and Sail account, we could see unoccupied Carnival staff just standing around – not sure why they weren’t helping with such a long line, but we were too excited for the cruise to really care. When we did board, we went straight to the Excursion desk (no line) and then to find some lunch. We were allowed in our rooms at 2:00 pm, where we met out very friendly cabin steward Fabian and received our luggage shortly after. Despite some overcast, leaving from NY was very cool – plenty of great views to take pictures of. I’ve lived in NY my whole life and was still pretty impressed, so it must be amazing for anyone from out of town.
The Miracle is a great ship – very clean, easy to get around, plenty of places to hang out. The decorations can be very over the top – most areas are themed by a particular fictional character with full size statues, bright colors, or gaudy decorations – which we enjoyed because it gave the ship a more fun and crazy, “vacation” feel to it. We had an extended balcony room and loved it! Though we didn’t spend tons of time on the balcony, it was great for the times we did go on it (early in the morning, before dinner, at night, usually). Our friends had breakfast on theirs most mornings. It was nice to get a great view while entering or leaving a port, while not having to deal with the crowds on the upper decks. One of my favorite things to do was to enjoy a few drinks on the balcony before dinner. We actually slept on it for an hour or so one night. Unfortunately, we are now spoiled and will need a balcony every time!
The buffet food was always very good. The lines could get a bit long for the “international” food of the day, and it would have been nice to have a few more indoor chairs, but getting food was never difficult. The 24 hour pizza was surprisingly good, and 24 ice cream/frozen yogurt was sometimes impossible to pass and not get some (they also had times where a variety of sundae toppings were available). For something simple, you can always go to the deli station and get a good sandwich. On most afternoons, they had a free sushi bar. I never planned on going to the sushi bar, but found myself there almost everyday before dinner – the sushi was pretty good, and it made a nice snack before my late dinner seating at 8:15pm.
Personally, I’m not big on the shows, so I can’t comment too much on that. But we did go to the passenger talent show which was pretty good (one guy gave a “promise ring” to his girlfriend of 8 years after his fantastic performance – COM’ON MAN! 8 years?? How often do you get such a great opportunity to make a PROPOSAL!?! Sorry, had to get that out – I think everyone watching assumed he actually proposed, and were a bit shocked and disappointed when we learned it was only a “promise”. The comedian was decent, but to be fair we only caught the end of his performance.
Throughout the day they had trivia contests, game shows, a ping pong tournament, hairy chest contest, belly flop contests, a galley tour, art auctions, wine tasting, classes, gambling tournaments etc., etc., etc. – all that stuff that can be fun to do, but also not a big deal if you miss it. I actually won Fun Ship Fear Factor – they randomly choose 6 volunteers, then eliminated them though a dance contest, balloon pooping contest (“fear of balloons”), and a gross eating competition (from what I could tell, it was a large bowl of curry, rice, grapes, and some other stuff – I was blindfolded so I’m not totally sure). It was a lot of fun, but then they replayed me dancing on the ship’s TV system for the entire cruise! By the end of the week, random people had begun to recognize me. When my friends and I were not taking part in organized activities, we liked to lie out in the sun on the very back deck at the “adults only” pool. I’ve heard people complain that this pool is always full of kids anyway, but we didn’t have this problem – most likely due to the fact that our sailing date was right when school started so there were very few kids on the ship to begin with. We used the gym just about every day and, aside from early in the morning, had no problem getting the machines we wanted. There was also another hot tub in there, which was usually empty.
There were a variety of bars with different types of music, so most people could find a fun place to be at night. My favorite was Music Boardwalk – a great cover band. We went to Frankenstein’s Lab (the dance club) a few nights and had a good time there, as well. They had a few nighttime pool parties, where there were more games, a buffet, drinks, music etc. One of my favorite things to do at night was to hang out on the top decks with my friends, where there weren’t many people, and we could just do what we want without bothering anyone – we are a loud group!
Dinner in the Bacchus Dining Room was great each night, thanks largely to our waiter, Alex, and assistant waitress, Jeannette. Both of them were extremely friendly. Almost every night, Alex would come by after dessert and would show us all kinds of tricks using silverware, napkins and other things. The food itself was great – the only night that I didn’t love my dinner was when I got the jerk pork, and that’s only because it tasted like the Fear Factor food I had eaten earlier ha ha. The chocolate melting cake is definitely worth getting at least once, but there were also a variety of other tasty desserts to choose from. I was very happy with the 8:15 seating – we never had to rush back from the ports, had some extra time around the pools, and could take our time getting ready.
We only had a half day in San Juan – from around 3:30pm till Midnight. Since we had signed up for an excursion, we only had enough time to grab a bite to eat before we needed to meet back at the pier. Overall, I was not at all impressed with San Juan, but I’m not sure that it’s a fair judgment because of the small amount of time we had to explore. If I were to go back, I would check out Old San Juan which I hear is a great time.
Our excursion was the Bioluminescent Bay Kayak tour, and I HIGHLY recommend it. Without going into the science of it, the water in this bay glows whenever it is agitated. With every stroke of the kayak oar, the water around it glows. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we first started, so I was a bit shocked when it became dark enough to really see the glow. You could even scoop up the water and pour it down you body, and watch tons of little sparkles blink on you for a few seconds. If a fish were to swim near you, you could see a wake of light behind it. VERY COOL. I wish the camera could have caught this, but I was too afraid of dropping it in the water to bring it. Just be aware that there is a long bus ride to get to the bay (1 – 1.5 hours) – you can use the bus ride as a tour of Puerto Rico, or catch a nap.
St. Thomas is great for shopping, but my bit of advice is to be prepared. What I mean is that you should know your prices – every salesman will make you feel like you are getting the best deal in the world, but you need to have done a bit of research so that you know if it really is a good price compared to what you would pay at home. The merchants can be a bit pushy, but are willing to negotiate if you find something you like (NEVER accept the first, second, or maybe even third price for jewelry). Carnival will give you a list of “trusted” stores, so that you can feel more comfortable with your more expensive purchases. I also have friends that regularly buy from the other, non-Carnival sponsored stores and get great deals, but it all comes down to how much your trust your merchant.
Apparently there are some great beaches to be found (My parents recently visited and recommended Sapphire), but since we had another excursion we didn’t go to any of them. Instead, we did the Kayak, Hike and Snorkel tour through the mangroves. It was lots of fun – we choose it because my friends and I are big into sports and active tours, and these seemed like one that would help us work off some of the buffet calories. Though never difficult, we did kayak for a total of about 2 miles. The hike portion included tour of a blowhole, where you could pick up sea urchins and take some great pics. We then had a good amount of time to snorkel in the bay – not the best snorkeling I have ever done, but I still saw some very colorful fish and had a good time (My friends who had never snorkeled before thought it was amazing). The guides were funny and friendly, and organized a hermit crab race halfway though the tour – everyone was told to grab one of the many hermit crabs on the island, which we then raced, and the winner got a free ice cream.
Another half day, and my favorite port on this trip! It was much less developed than the other islands. We didn’t do a tour here, but instead decided to spend the morning at Cane Garden Bay. If your heart can handle the ride up and then down the mountain to get there (very narrow, and VERY steep roads at points – fun!), you will be rewarded with a picture perfect bay with crystal clear water. There are a handful of shops and places to get food and drinks along the beach. We swam, tossed the Frisbee, and just hung out under the palm trees – exactly what you expect when going to the Caribbean. There were also guys going around selling fresh coconuts – they would chop off the top and so that you could drink the milk, and for a few dollars more add some rum. Warning: they let you add as much rum as you want, and you will be tempted to add plenty to get your money’s worth. The coconut milk is not very strongly flavored, and is warm, so it will not mask the potent rum flavor much. So, unless you really like drinking warm rum, either skip the booze or just add a little. I’m no light weight when it comes to drinking, but I went a bit heavy on the rum and had trouble finishing it. Live and learn! I would also suggest that you get there early – we left around 11:30, and it had begun to get a little crowded.
We were forced to leave Tortola an hour early due to a tropical storm brewing in the Atlantic. That night the boat was ROCKING. I don’t get sick, but a few of my friends weren’t quite as lucky. Everyone looked drunk as they zigzagged down the hallways. The staff actually had to tape barf bags up in the hallways and in the elevators! I don’t know how big the swells were, but the wind was strong enough to blow water all the way up to our balcony on the 7th floor, and the ping pong tables on the top deck were covered with sea salt the next morning. Aside from that night, our weather was perfect for the entire cruise.
I live about an hour from the pier, so had it just been my girlfriend and myself, I would have chosen normal debarkation. However, we were with some friends from upstate who wanted to get an early start home, so we decided to do the “self-assist” debarkation (first off the ship). Assuming you are able to carry ALL of your luggage around the ship (including up or down a few stairs), this is a pretty good option. The elevators did get pretty crowded, but that’s to be expected. You basically form a line that snakes around one of the lower decks of the ship. I was surprised by how laid back US customs was – I’ve traveled out of the country many times before, and have gotten through quickly a few times, but these guys barely looked at the Declaration Form before letting me through. I guess I shouldn’t complain, but I’d much rather wait on a longer line if it meant catching someone dangerous.
Anyway, by that point severe post cruise depression had begun to set in. As we were walking out, I could see people forming a line to begin their Miracle cruise. It almost made me mad that these people were just starting their vacation on MY ship ha ha! Getting back to reality is very tough after such an amazing week – all of us are already looking forward to future cruises. I would definitely sail with Carnival again, but I must admit that the Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class is very tempting – I’m a sucker for the bigger ships with tons of activities. Whatever line I sail with next, I hope it’s soon.
Feel free to ask any questions you like.