Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Miracle
Sailing Date: October 24th, 2004
This was the third cruise that my wife and I have sailed on, having sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas previously. We wanted to sail with Carnival for several reasons, one being Miracle is a new ship and two, the itinerary to the Bahamas was to our liking this time of the year.
We drove to Baltimore several weeks before sailing to find the cruise terminal and parking as we would do with any drive-to cruise. On sail day we arrived at approximately 12:30 PM, drove thru the main gates of the cruise terminal, and proceeded to the ‘staging area’ for embarking guests. After a long wait, we were told by parking authority staff that Miracle was three hours late in returning to Baltimore due to inclement weather someplace. So basically we sat in the car for three long hours waiting. Finally, the long line of cars were released from the parking area and we drove thru a long winding path around the ship and other loading areas to the embarkation area. From there we were directed to a building adjacent to the cruise terminal itself where we loaded our luggage into large holding areas for processing. We then drove around the terminal again to the long term parking area, parked the car, then took the shuttle bus back to the terminal to check in.
Once we were in the terminal it was a short line to check in , where we received our Sail and Sign card and other paperwork needed to board the ship. Since we booked online, we were given a guaranteed cabin rate, not knowing exactly where our cabin would be. When we checked in we found we would be on the 6th or Upper deck. We boarded the ship and following the signs, made our way down a l-o-n-g corridor [this ship is 960 feet long] to our cabin at the stern of the ship. When we opened the door we were pleasantly surprised that our assigned cabin was a suite. We had actually booked an ocean-view with balcony and received a free upgrade to a suite. And a BIG suite it was with a huge balcony big enough for several lounge chairs and tables, a Jacuzzi bath instead of the usual shower, double sink and large seating areas. So no complaints so far. Also we figured at the stern of the ship, it there was any discernable movement during travel, we would not feel it. And for the most part we were correct, with the exception of Sunday night a few hundred miles south of Baltimore; the weather was choppy and the closet door banged to the extent that I had to stuff a sock in it to keep it from rattling. Other than that it was smooth sailing the rest of the cruise.
The sail away from Baltimore was a bit dreary, considering there was light rain all day, but since we were on our way to the Bahamas, we did not let that bother us. The weird thing about Carnival, or at least this ship, was that the captain did not blow the ship’s horn upon leaving ports, as RCCL always had. After dinner, we took a walk to explore all decks and take some nighttime pictures.
Comparing Carnival ships as far as decor against RCCL is a bit hard. RCCL ships seem to have a more nautical feel, while Carnival seem to have a more whimsical feel, with movie themes. Not good or bad, just different. And Carnival seems to have a ‘sight unseen’ format for their cabin stewards. Ours, Eduardo, did everything you expect of a steward, cleaning, up, supplying info and making animals out of towels. We just did not see him much. Again, sight unseen.
One thing we did notice is that the cruise director, Mark Hawkins did all the shore excursion, shopping, debarkation and other speeches; but he was not involved in the normal poolside activities. This is opposite from other cruises we have been on.
We originally booked a table for two in the main dining room, the Bacchus, and each night were more than satisfied with the menu, eating fish, filet mignon, chicken, salad, and other delectables, plus many delicious deserts. Our waiter, Alex, was a funny guy who saw to it every need of ours. The wait staff danced and entertained nightly, but not with a specific theme per night. And like RCCL, the ‘wine steward’ is now also the server for all drinks other than ice tea.
Almost all of the shows performed in the Phantom Lounge were excellent. The first one "Generations" is a musical tribute to 20's through 90's styles of music. And the second, a "Tribute to the Beatles". The other nights were comedians, magicians, jugglers, and even a hypnotist. We went to the early shows as we preferred to stroll the decks later or retire to our cabin.
Key West: Having been to Key West previously and seen the usual sights such as Trolley Tour, Aquarium, and Shipreck Museum,we decided to take the Glass Bottom Boat tour of the harbor. A word to the wise : BRING DRAMAMINE!. This was the worst shore excursion we have ever been on. Half of the boat was either seasick or close to it.The shore excursion desk should have told passengers how rough it is. We were glad to get back to the pier and return to a normal walking tour after that.
Nassau: Again we were in Nassau a few years back and this time took the Paradise Island tour. You sail via small boat across the harbor to the Island and walk the rest of the way thru the tour. They have restaurant, casinos, and underground aquarium, and other sights to see. If you actually stayed there the prices are outrageous, but it was worth the price for this tour. Upon returning to Nassau mainland we grabbed a bite at the local Hard Rock Café. One thing I can say about Hard Rock, is that no matter where you go in the world, you can count on decent food at reasonable prices. We really only had something to tide us over until dinner on the ship, but it was more than filling considering. Sail away from Nassau was supposed to be midnight, but was roughly 90 minutes late due to a few stragglers [drunks] on shore.
Freeport: Upon taking a bus tour of the island it was apparent that hurricane damage was more evident here than on other islands. The driver explained that weeks after the store passed, there are still people without electricity or running water. We stopped at several shopping areas, most notable of them the Port Lucaya marketplace. This is your basic Bahamanian strip mall, with jewelry, food, clothing shops with a bit of live entertainment toward the rear. One of the bus passengers did manage to get themselves lost in this mall, which was not that big. The driver had to go looking for them, and I think they realized upon re-boarding the bus that the other passengers were not too happy with them.
Debarkation in Baltimore was very easy. We were off the ship by 9:30, had our luggage, and were in the car driving home less than an hour later.
All in all a good cruise with unexpected perks thrown in. There are differences in various cruise lines, but they are all great values.