We just got back from our cruise on the Miracle (4-24-05through 05-01-05). This year only my husband and I cruised (and the children were not happy with this decision!) which made it a vacation within a vacation. We booked this cruise in June 2004. We booked an inside (4A) guaranty. The total cost, including all port fees and taxes was $579/pp at that time. Iíve generally found the earlier you book the better the price.
AIR: We booked our flight out of Manchester, NH on Delta airlines. I began checking airfare in June 2004 and during the week between Christmas and New Yearís there was a big price drop. I also checked going out of Boston, Hartford, Worcester and Providence. I would encourage anyone who has several airports within driving distance to them to check flight information and price at each airport. Iíve found there was a big difference. As we booked our own air we did fly into Tampa a day early to avoid any potential problems with airline delays. The flight down was fine. Coming back we had a layover in Atlanta and LaGuardia. We were delayed in Atlanta and were sure we missed our connection in New York (and it was the last flight of the day back to Manchester). We had resigned ourselves to spending the night in New York. Upon arrival (we landed as our connection was due to take off) we found that Delta had held the flight for us. The captain asked everyone to remain seated so we could get off the plane and make our connection. There was someone to meet us at the gate and bring us to a bus which brought us to the plane. We got on, seated and within a short time were on our way. We figured we would just pick our luggage up in Manchester the next day as there was no way it made the flight. When we landed, to our surprise, we found they did get our luggage on board. Three cheers for Delta!!! I have flown with them before and certainly will do so again.
ACCOMDATIONS: I booked a room in Tampa through priceline.com. I put in three stars and the airport/downtown locations with a $50 bid. We ended up at the Doubletree Westshore. They offer free airport shuttle and a shuttle to the port. When we got arrived at about 4:30 p.m. to find there was a convention of the Order of the Moose (Kuki, were you there???) going on. On check-in I was told that they didnít have any more rooms available in the category I booked due to the convention so we were being moved to the 10th floor of the tower, which was fine with me, I just wanted a room. When we got in the elevator we had to swipe our room key to get there. To our surprise the 10th floor was concierge level. We had a very nice room on the top floor with a king size bed, sitting area, marble bathroom and very nice bathrobes for our use. There was a free hot and cold buffet in the lobby area with free drinks and free in room movies. On Sunday morning there was a complimentary newspaper and free continental breakfast. What a great way to start our vacation!
BOARDING: We arrived at the port at about 11:45 a.m. and Carnival was already boarding passengers. There was a short line check in line which moved very quickly. We were on board and eating lunch by 12:30.
DINING ROOM: We had the early seating (5:45 p.m.) in the Bacchus dining room. We tend to be early risers and donít stay up really late so we prefer the early seating. The food was excellent. It was well prepared, and there was a large selection. We ate in the dining room every night, other than the night we ate at Nick and Noraís. Our assistant waitress, Rafella from Bulgaria was outstanding. She really went out of her way to make sure everything was to our satisfaction. Our tablemates were very nice and interesting. One couple was from Arizona and the other from Minnesota. At breakfast one morning we met a retired couple who have cruised all over the world. We had a great time talking with them!
We ate breakfast several times in the dining room and again the service and food were great. We also had breakfast in Horatioís Dining room which was a buffet. Anything you could imagine for breakfast was on the buffet and it was also good.
We had lunch in Horatioís Dining room, again a buffet and salad bar or on the Lido deck which served hamburgers, hotdogs, fries and salads. Again everything was excellent. We also had pizza (they make a great veggie pizza) and the deli for sandwiches. No complaints here at all.
NICK AND NORAíS: We debated on whether or not to eat at the supper club as we really like the food on board and didnít know if we wanted to spend to the extra. We decided to and Iím really glad we did. The food, service and presentation were superb. When the food arrived it was like food art. We both had the shrimp cocktail, I had surf and turf and my husband had the sirloin steak. He said it was the best steak heíd had in 35 years (the last time he was in Kansas). I would definitely recommend eating there at least once.
ACCOMODATIONS: As I mentioned earlier we book an inside (4A) cabin guaranty. Well the upgrade fairy visited us. We got an ocean view cabin!!! We were on the Riviera deck (deck 1) which was very convenient to the gangway for going on shore, the casino (on deck 2), the dining room (deck 2 & 3) and entertainment (Phantom Lounge deck 2 & 3). We found the rooms to be very clean and comfortable. Our steward, Errol was competent, although we hardly saw him. We had towel animals every day and he kept our room clean.
ENTERTAINMENT: We both enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. The shows were great and we liked all the comedians. One night the juggler and the comedian was the exact same show we saw last year in the Inspiration. My husband and I both played the slots in the Casino and won some and lost some. By the end of the week we were about even. The adult comedy shows were good, as was the entertainment in Frankie and Johnnies. We did enjoy Samís Piano bar, although Duaneís voice was going. The band on the Lido deck was all right. Not great, not bad. We found the drink prices to be very reasonable. Our bar tab for the week was about $125.00. Weíre not really big drinkers. I would say we each averaged about 2-3 drinks a day. My husband had beer or marguerites and I had wine or pina coladas.
SHIPS CONDITION: The ship is gorgeous. As sheís pretty new there really wasnít any disrepair and it was very clean. The purple/pink grapes in the dining room are a little much though. They look like big pink tap lights.
SEAS: The seas were very smooth. I get seasick fairly easily and only took two Bonine pills the entire cruise.
SPA/GYM: I didnít use either of these so I really canít comment on them, other than to say that I thought the prices in the Spa were on the high side. I did get a foot massage on the Lido deck one afternoon. It was a dollar a minute and was great.
SHOPPING: I thought the best shopping was in downtown Cozumel. Grand Cayman was expensive and there really wasnít much in Belize. Costa Maya had pretty much the same things as Cozumel, but they were cheaper in Cozumel.
EXCURSIONS: IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER Ė We stayed on shipís time the whole time. Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel were one hour behind us and Belize was two hours behind! If you donít book through the ship make sure your tour operator knows what time you need to be back to the ship. The last tenders for Grand Cayman and Belize run one hour before the ship departs and in Cozumel and Costa Maya you need to be back on board 30 minutes before departure.
Grand Cayman: I booked a bubble sub trip on-line through bubblesub.com. It was one of the best excursions weíve done. They met us at the pier and brought us out to the dive platform. We got into the sub and itís like sitting in a 360į clear bubble. Thereís a diver on the back to drive the sub and maneuver it around. You can also drive it yourself. We went down about 35-40 feet and the trip lasted about 45 minutes. We saw lots of fish, coral and a sea turtle. While in the sub you can talk to the diver, or to the people up on the platform.
COSTA MAYA: We went to Uvero Beach with a tour from the ship (Jungle Beach Break). At the pier we got on nice air-conditioned coach buses. It was about a 20 minute drive to the beach. The beach itself was very nice with white sand, lots of beach chairs and plenty of places for sun and shade. The water, on the other hand, wasnít great. The bottom was mostly sea grass with a few sandy places in between. We really didnít enjoy swimming or snorkeling there at all. While it was open bar, the drinks were very weak. On board the ship I had a slight buzz after one pina colada. At the beach I had about six with no effect. I thought the beach at Majahual was much nicer (and cheaper).
COZUMEL: We got off the ship and took a taxi to downtown Cozumel. Itís $6 each way. Weíve been to Cozumel before, but never downtown so decided weíd walk around there for the day. I found the prices to better downtown than in the shops right next to the pier. If you get off the main street and go down the side streets thereís another street of shopping the runs parallel the main street. We got some great buys back there and it was much less crowded than the main street. There were several jewelry stores offering shots of tequila while you debated your purchases. There were also places selling cold beer for $1 a bottle. We had a great time wandering around for a few hours. We then went back to the ship for a late lunch and relaxed on board.
BELIZE: We booked the Goffís Caye snorkel trip through the ship. We got on a boat right at the ship. It was about a 20 minute ride to the Caye where you could snorkel either off the beach or off the boat. We opted to snorkel off the boat which was a guided snorkel trip for about an hour. There were lots of different fish and corals. We also snorkeled off the beach and saw quite a bit, but not as much as off the boat. After snorkeling we just relaxed on the beach until it was time to leave. The beach was great, much better than Uvero. White sand, sandy bottom and palm trees. After going back to the ship we had some lunch and then took the tender over to Belize and wandered around the pier. We were amazed at how built up it was in a year.
DISEMBARKING: Due to high winds, we did not make it back to port on time. We were supposed to dock at 7:00 a.m. but didnít get in until almost noon. It was a little after one before the self assist passengers were let off the ship. We were off at about 2:00 p.m. and we were one of the first to debark after the self-assist passengers. Luckily, we had a late flight. Many people who were sitting near us missed their flights and were trying to rebook. One gentleman from New York wasnít able to get a flight until Wednesday (we returned on Sunday) with most being able to get flights on either Monday or Tuesday. No one that we spoke with was able to get back out that day, so keep this in mind when booking your flights. A few people were going to the airport on standby. I do know that it was a school vacation week in many parts of the Northeast which Iím sure was what caused the flights to those areas to be so full and nothing available to later in the week.
If there are any other questions or other information you would like to get about the ship or my experience, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com
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Overall we all had a great time and felt that we could have gone longer than 7 days. Next time weíre planning to try a 10 day cruise. I will say that I didnít think the service was good as it was on our last cruise. While it was adequate, other than our assistant waitress who was fantastic, it wasnít what I expected from our previous cruises. We left the tips on our sign and sail card and tipped our assistant waitress extra. Iím not sure if it was just this ship, the staff, or a sign that having tips automatically added has made a decline in service. This has been the only time I havenít tipped everyone extra. Iím going on the Inspiration again in August and am hoping it was just the staff we had on this cruise. I would definitely sail with Carnival again and on this ship.