This is a review of my most recent voyage aboard the Carnival Miracle (in October 2012). It was my fifth major cruise experience. Several years ago, my first cruise was a Carnival ship and I wanted to try one again to see what the experience would be like. This was especially important to me after having been on the largest, newest ships in the world (Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Silhouette).
Carnival cruises are supposed to emphasize the theme of “fun” and are known as the “funships” which is just what the doctor ordered!
The 8-Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise Itinerary
The cruise ship departed from New York City (Manhattan Cruise Terminal), had two at sea days, visited San Juan in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, Grand Turk which is an island in Turks and Caicos, followed by two at sea days and a return to New York.
Good & Bad
For several sections of this review, I am going to point out some highlights as well some areas that are fails, epic fails, and need improvement. Unfortunately, I have a number of items to report that I wish I didn’t. Despite the fact that the ship was fun, these points must be noted. Hopefully, the brass at Carnival will read the review and take the constructive criticism as a way to improve the product.
New York City Departure
This was my first time leaving on a cruise from New York and I have to say that it’s unquestionably my favorite. The taxi dropped us off right outside the cruise terminal, we walked in, checked-in and within minutes we got right onto the ship. It was almost too easy! The cruise terminal is right next to where the U.S.S. Intrepid is docked and once on board the Carnival Miracle, you can see the Intrepid.
Another sweet part of leaving from NYC is that you can get a great view of Manhattan, the Freedom Tower (under construction), and the Statue of Liberty as you head down the Hudson river. The sun was going down, it was overcast, and a bit chilly but despite the weather, I got to take some great photos from the deck. A great start to a fun cruise!
We boarded around 1pm and our rooms were available right away which was a first. No waiting was a good start to the week ahead!
Most of the people we met on this cruise were from New York, Connecticut, or other nearby states. The people on board were much more diverse in every sense. The was a mix of families with and without children, couples and singles. This was a stark contrast to some of our other cruises I’ve been on, especially on the Mediterranean vacations with Celebrity Cruises which were significantly less diverse, probably a little wealthier and healthier on average (my own anecdotes, not fact).
The Carnival Miracle is a mid-sized ship with room for around 2,100 passengers and roughly 900 crew. It was launched in 2004 and is part of the “Spirit” class of Carnival ships.
The ship’s decor is dark and a bit overdone, in my opinion. At first, I wasn’t really impressed but after a day, I got used to it. I attended the question and answer period with Corey (the cruise director) and the topic of re-designs came up. The 50 or so people in attendance almost simultaneously said the dining room needs an overhaul. I agree with that consensus. Too dark and purple-y.
You’ll probably spend most of your on-board time on deck 9 (pools, etc) during the day and decks 2 and 3 (day or night). Since this is a mid-sized ship, there aren’t that many places to go but I will say that aside from the pool areas being too crowded on hot, sunny sea days, the rest of the ship never feels that way.
There are some quiet areas in front of the ship where people can go read or play boardgames (bring your own) with an ocean view on deck 3. I only discovered this part toward the end of the cruise and I’m willing to bet most people overlooked that area. If you want to catch up on your ebooks in peace, look for this area.
There are “behind the scenes” tours of the ship which are about $100 and take place at select times during the cruise.
There are laundry rooms where you can do your own laundry.
Since we were past guests, we were considered a step higher than first time Carnival cruisers with the VIFP. As part of that “honor” we were allowed to get a complimentary drink. Well, let me tell you that it’s a bunch of BS. Given how much we spend on board, you’d think they would try hard to keep us happy but alas no, we had to go to a specific bar tender, show them ID, basically get degraded and then get the stupid free drink. Fortunately, we didn’t really care about the damn drink so it wasn’t a big deal. I just don’t like insults to my intelligence. Maybe others wouldn’t think twice about chasing down the drink and all but we did. I have better things to do.
On Board Shopping
I’ve seen the rabid buying behavior on the other Carnival cruise that we went on. On one of the last days of the cruise, they have a “big sale” on more junk than you can imagine at the general souvenir shop. The frenzy to buy junk was unreal! Who needs this crapola?! Once the sale was over, the tables were empty and within minutes, a different kind of souvenir junk was placed on the tables. I stood by and watched just for the entertainment value!
The duty free was decent though. They claimed to have “just” run out of my cologne. I believe was total BS – they never had it to begin with – Oh, do I hate sales liars. In any case, I tried a different cologne and was very happy with it. It turns out, it was actually cheaper than the duty free at the airport and certainly cheaper than Macy’s and the Bay.
They had limited edition Lamborghini watches which I’m pretty sure were actually at a good price and really were reasonable.
We were on the 8th floor, mid-ship. The room’s position made it easy to get to from the front or the back, especially since the ship is not very large (compared to newer “super” ships).
In fact, one of the nice things about this ship is that if you need to get back to your stateroom, it’s pretty easy. When I was on Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas, I felt like it was a long walk to get back to my room because the ship is so large.
There is something to be aware of when choosing a room in the area we were in. The deck above is where the tables and chairs from the pool are located. If you’re in your room, you can continually hear people moving furniture around.
Also, the ship was designed in a way that makes people on this floor get a slightly obstructed view from above when you’re on the balcony because the deck above shoots out several feet over you (kind of like standing in a store’s doorway with an awning extended a few feet deep).
The bed was comfortable, as expected.
The TV was a small flat screen which was placed in a spot that clearly used to have an old-style TV, hence the sticking out of a piece of wood that you may occasionally bump your head on (see photo).
The bathroom had a good layout with great shelving space so women can put a lot of make-up containers in and have easy access to cosmetic products. The shower had a shower curtain (as opposed to a hard door like some other cruises), making it easier for heavier people to take a shower because they had a bit more room to move. The shower head had four settings with one being really strong which was awesome! I also enjoyed the smell of the liquid soap and shampoo that were provided in the shower, although the hand soap for use in the sink wasn’t anything special.
The room has a hair dryer and a bible in one of the drawers.
High Point: The storage space is actually the best I’ve seen on a cruise. There is a “lot” more room to store your clothes and belongings than any other cruise I’ve been on.
Needs Improvement: There was only one, yes one, power outlet. We could have used at least two.
Epic Fail: The room had an issue with filth. When we checked into our room, it had paint on the walls, the bathroom and balcony had lots of hair all over it, the balcony had what appeared to be nut shells and other garbage on it, there was an earring on the floor, and the windows were disgustingly filthy. I waited 2 days for the cabin steward to notice but he didn’t so I cleaned them myself. I’m not prissy or anything but c’mon, they were so obviously gross! Also, the towels had stains on them, as did the bathrobes that come with the room. I spoke with other passengers who encountered similar filth issues.
I was expecting the food to be sub-par but this was probably the biggest pleasant surprise of the cruise. The food was really good. I’d give it a 4/5 in most cases.
During breakfast, there were five stations offering bacon, sausages, pancakes (alternating with French toast), and other fatty foods. There was one station with fresh fruits (like pre-peeled grapefruit and oranges). Let me tell you, this “urban” crowd preferred the crap, leaving no line, ever, at the fresh fruits and cereal stations. Excellent! So while people walked around with mounds of bacon on their plate, I managed to eat a healthy, fulfilling breakfast daily.
You can get pizza, soft ice cream and frozen yogurt 24 hours a day. No toppings but they did have cones.
You can eat at 6pm or 8:15pm where there’s assigned seating. Alternately, you can eat from 6-:9:30pm with anytime dining. We opted for the 8:15pm dinner which gave us enough time to get ready without rushing and also sit with people each evening which was nice because it gives you a chance to meet people (which I like to do) and get to know them a little more.
I find that you can make great acquaintances that way. The only downside of eating a little later is that you may miss some entertainment shows or nighttime activities here and there. Not a big deal, though.
The menu has a number of healthy options that are indicated as such.
One evening, a fantastic magician came to our table. I could have watched him all night! He blew us away with tricks right in front of us that we couldn’t figure out. Awesome!
During mealtime, each night there’s an activity. The waiters sing or dance. It’s fun once or twice but every night? Cheesy.
The dining room itself (called Bacchus) is dark, purple room which could use a facelift. Then again, you can always order room service 24/7 which is free.
There were 2 formal nights which we didn’t know about until we boarded. It wasn’t overly formal but you could pre-order a tuxedo rental.
There’s a Chef’s Table where you can eat privately with a dozen people and have the ship’s chef cook a special meal for you. The fee is $75. This was offered on two nights of our cruise. We couldn’t make it but I knew six people who had gone and enjoyed it very much.
High Points: While several dinners stood out, the food on the first night (beef brisket) was outstanding. Well done! Lava cakes were spot on each time. Also, the nightly menu had a section called “Didja Ever Try…” with a great selection of foods that passengers typically wouldn’t have had a chance to eat like alligator (which tasted good!).
Needs Improvement: On the first night, we were way too rushed and there were so many waiters out that every time you started speaking to people at your table, you were interrupted. This was very irritating. Things got better as the cruise went on.
Shows & Nightly Entertainment
At the piano bar, the excellent trivia was a lot of fun. There was karaoke, of course, with Antoinette, the karaoke DJ who was sweet and did a good job of getting people to sing.
The “Generations” show wasn’t very interesting. The music from different decades was mushed together with no logical order or purpose. The quieter dancing was a lull in the middle of the show, and there was too much from the 1920s. The best part was during Disco Inferno but that was it. The show really needs some sprucing up. It seemed second rate at best. The dancers were fine but the show needs work. It’s time to get with the program! There are recent major acts like Lady Gaga to energize the night.
High Point: We won the piano bar “name that tune” trivia and not only did we win the little trophy (which I think is a great little prize), we got a bottle of sparkling wine. Win! Excellent job, Carnival!
Needs Improvement: During karaoke, only the singer can see the lyrics, even though there were screens that had a karaoke logo on them all over the room. Um, hello?! Let everyone see the words so they can sing along and have a better time. That’s not the time for branding! Also, the mics were crappy so some great singers like my wife practically blew them to pieces with their voices.
We did a lot of trivia around the ship. We won one trivia event and came close to winning others. It was a lot of fun.
The ship also had art auctions, bean bags activities (which some people took so seriously while the rest of us were just having fun!), outdoor mini-golf, and other activities.
The cruise director was good but we didn’t see him much. He wasn’t nearly as visible as on other ships I’ve been on.
Fail: The ship’s entertainment is old and dated. For example, the TV trivia had two questions on the TV show “Dynasty” and didn’t have any questions beyond the mid-1990s which is presumably when the questions were drawn up. Fifteen year old trivia? Really? Fail.
Needs Improvement: Similarly, the “Carnival Legends” show is wayyyyy out of date. It’s time to drop Gloria Estefan and half the other acts for modern musical legends.
We chose to an excursion at each port. One was a total rip-off, the others were great! You can read about scuba diving in St. Thomas, snorkeling in Grand Turk, and the city and shopping tour in San Juan.
The Pools & Hot Tubs
The top deck toward the back of the ship was an adults-only area called Serenity. It featured lawn chairs and some modern round wicker covered loveseats. It was often too packed to get a seat but it’s a great concept. When you did get a covered loveseat overlooking the water, it was great.
The hot tubs (outside of Serenity) were always filled with kids. I found this a little annoying after a while. I want to talk to adults and relax, not get splashed with hot water by kids jumping in and out constantly. Parents were often nowhere to be seen while their kids spent 20 minutes or more in the hot tubs. Isn’t that dangerous?
Frankenstein’s Nightclub essentially became the place to meet people and get together when it got late. Other than that, the ship was quiet elsewhere.
The second night, there was a singles party in the club. It looked like people were having fun.
The Casino & Sports Bar
The casino area had live music and was attached to a sports bar which was cool. The sports bar was well designed with lots of TVs and photos on the wall of stars like Wayne Gretzky.
For some reason, the treadmills in the Gym were on an incline, making it easier to run faster. Bring your headphones and watch TV! The gym had ugly curtains that needlessly prevented people from viewing outside as much as they could.
The gym had a hot tub right in the middle which I liked. There was also a weight room and an aerobics room. There is a running track but it’s quite small.
There isn’t a major spa but the one they have works for me. We got massages which were among the best we’ve ever had. (Compare that to the ones we got on the Celebrity Solstice which were the most painful, horrific massages ever!). Take the special for at sea days where they offer a massage to save a few bucks.
Needs Improvement: I made a specific request regarding my massage but it went in one ear and out the other. I still enjoyed it though. Practice listening! You’ll get better tips!
Constant Sales Pitch
Like the Carnival Elation but a little better, there is a constant sales pitch which I don’t like. Drink more, take more photos, do more bingo, and so on gets tiring.
Epic Fail & Needs Major Improvement: They sell you things but clearly don’t actually care about your needs. I’ll think of an example and it in later.
Overall, Should You Go On the Carnival Miracle?
Yes! It’s a fun ship! If you just want a relatively inexpensive vacation, especially if you live in New York, the Carnival Miracle is a great choice. I recommend it.