CARNIVAL MIRACLE – November 2, 2011
8-Nights r/t Ft. Lauderdale
Stops at St Maarten; St Lucia; and St Kitts
Pictures Link: MobileMe Gallery
Over 250 photos, mostly of the ship
It's been seven years since my last Carnival cruise, so it was fun to return and see what has changed. Overall I think Carnival still offers a great value and the “fun” is still in the “Fun Ships”. While Carnival is no longer my favorite line, I wouldn't hesitate to return provided it's a longer cruise (7-days or longer), during the off season (manageable amount of children), and on the Spirit Class (best in class IMO). I feel this is when Carnival really shines.
This cruise was in celebration of my mom's 70th birthday. My brother and I treated her to the trip and it was great spending the week together. It was ironic as we were seated in the dining room with two sisters that were treating their mom to a 70th birthday cruise! Needless to say we all got along famously and a special shout out to Robin, Kristi, and Grandma Jane!
Rather than write an in-depth review, I'm going to share my thoughts on what really stood out as excellent, and some areas that Carnival could improve upon. While you may or may not agree with my observations, please keep in mind these are my personal opinions, so your mileage may vary. :-)
– Outstanding –
Embarkation and Disembarkation – super easy with very short waits.
Food & Service – excellent all around, especially in the dining room and Nick & Nora's.
Lido Buffet – great variety and good quality.
Cabin Steward – he was excellent in every possible way. Towel animals every night.
Casino – my mom did quite well, and even played enough to earn free drinks.
Live Music – yes it still exists on Carnival, even for the main shows. It's great a real orchestra is still used instead of a recorded “click track”.
Fun Times – I like the format and I see Carnival has a tear off section just like Royal Caribbean.
Nightly music and crew dancing in the dining room – it's festive and fun, and makes dining an “event”. Yes it can be a little corny but I honestly enjoyed it. Carnival is not Cunard and I'm glad they don't pretend to be.
Nick & Nora's – highly recommended and an excellent menu. It was so good I could have eaten there every night. The menu had all my favorites!
Entertainment – great production shows, tons of comedy, and I loved Christopher Alan Graves tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. I feel Carnival is a leader in the quality, talent, and calibre of the entertainers. All production shows are produced in house, and the two on MIRACLE were excellent.
– The Ship –
I think special mention must be made of CARNIVAL MIRACLE. I'm convinced that the Spirit Class is the best thing Carnival has going, and this latest cruise only reinforced my opinion. These are the most spacious ships in the Carnival fleet. Rarely is there a wait for anything, including elevators. Deck space is awesome and real teak is used on the aft decks, promenade deck, and all cabin balconies. You can't even find that on the latest Cunard “liners”! I loved the open forward decks with great views over the bow. There is a traditional teak promenade deck, but unfortunately there is no seating so it's really wasted except for strolling. Arriving out on deck at noon or later even on a sea day was never a problem. Plenty of deck chairs to choose from even in prime locations. The layout of public rooms is excellent, and they pretty much flow from one to another with a lot of smaller, more intimate spaces. There are three distinct pool areas, and each of the pools has a nice overflow water area to cool off. In addition there is the signature Carnival slide. My favorite areas were the Bacchus Dining room, which surprised me because it doesn't look very appealing in photos. In reality it's a very unique, original, and an inviting and fun room. My other favorite lounge was the Mad Hatter's Ball Room. It was whimsical and very well done, and could easily be transplanted to Disney. In true Carnival style, the MIRACLE was sensory overload but in a good way. The décor was interesting and never boring. I really think I'm going to miss the Joe Farcus décor when CARNIVAL BREEZE is introduced. The décor of the existing “Fun Ships” is something that is really unique to Carnival.
– Opportunities –
Cabin a/c could have been better. It never got as cool as I prefer and stayed a bit humid.
The MIRACLE is showing some minor wear and tear. I know she is going into dry dock soon.
Some of the gym equipment needs replacing – there are no individual TV screens which are common these days.
There was a lack of port information except for shore excursions and shopping (all revenue driven).
Carnival seems a bit more revenue driven compared to some other mass-market lines (they were a bit more in your face compared to some lines – especially the photo department).
A lengthy disembarkation announcement was made into all cabins at 7:08 this morning by Simon. Not a good final impression and totally unnecessary. It was the only announcement made into the cabins, so perhaps it was a mistake?
Suite benefits – well they are pretty much non-existent besides priority embarkation. Carnival is really lagging behind their competitors in this area.
Past Passenger Program – another area Carnival is severely lagging behind. The benefits are non-existent except for a single past passenger party. In addition it doesn't matter if you take a 3-day cruise in an inside cabin or an 8-day cruise in a suite, you get one point towards the next level.
Bar Service – this was perhaps the biggest surprise. Seven years ago I remember there being bar waiters in abundance and getting a drink was never a problem. On this cruise it was near impossible to find a bar waiter/waitress. You literally had to go up to the bar if you wanted a drink, and carry it back to your table in the various lounges. Being that Carnival is so revenue driven and drinks are a huge revenue producer, it's surprising they have cut the staff to the point where you have to get your own drink. I felt bad for the bar waiters and bar tenders that were working, as they seemed a bit overwhelmed often were the only server for a very large area.
While nothing is perfect, I hope you can tell that overall it was a great cruise, and honestly it was a terrific value for what we paid. If you have any questions, please let me know.