We met up with our friends for breakfast at the motel and took a shuttle for $10 each to the cruise port early arriving around 11:00 AM. Some folks carry way too much luggage (unless it is used to carry some wine and vodka). Anyway it is great to get to the port early, because you are relaxed, don't have any lines, can board ship early, have a great first lunch onboard this awesome ship. Afterwards we checked out the pools (look for the table with sliding glass window to catch a nice breeze) and we ordered our first drinks with keeper logo glasses (you can use these to make your own if you can). We did all this all well before the famous muster drill (avoid blowing that whistle in your vest, it is probably has much residue left over from others). First day tip: bring a carry-on bag with bathing suit, sunscreen, and other necessities, so that you can enjoy early arrival at poolside, because your luggage will not likely show up till late that afternoon, or early evening.
This great newer ship (launched 2004) presented an awesome view of Tampa Bay port area from deck 10. Tampa has a nice clean port area compared to Galveston. Boarding the ship early gave us time to eat a great lunch, drink, swim, and tour the ship which is a really nice sight to see - both inside and out, prior to our first dinner in Bacchus restaurant. We were fortunate that our luggage was delivered to our stateroom about 2 hrs. before our 5:45 PM dinner seating, which was not the case for many others guests including our friends.
We had a nice balcony room located on deck 7 starboard side (left hand, facing front, towards back). This was very convenient as it was only two decks just below the Lido deck restaurant where you can always find good food with free beverages (coffee, tea, juices). My wife and I had plenty of room. Be careful opening the bathroom door which opens out to closet area and can slam into someone. Our room steward was great as we hardly saw her, but our room was always cleaned twice daily with mints and animal looking folded towels. We had a modified king bed with a couch in our room. The bathroom was just right size with a great shower - if you drop the soap you won't fall out trying to pick it up. Hair dryer was smartly installed in small top desk draw, the built in safe and TV above were positioned perfectly. Plenty of closet and storage space for suitcases under the bed. I liked the interactive TV where you can view, or book excursions, check status of your bill, and view schedule of events each day. No need to stand in line on last day to verify your bill when check-out time comes. But, let's not think the bill and our vacation ending so soon until the last night.
Jogging track on deck 11 is very tiny, deck 10 without the rubber tracking stuff is much larger. But the workout facilities at Roman Spa and gym are excellent where you can use a treadmill while you watch TV, or look out at the sea. Tip: In the Spa has a nice indoor Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, great shower with 5 heads in locker rooms (essentially this is like getting a free water massage). For those who must, there is a wireless internet café on the ship. The ship is also was wired in a number of locations where you can also connect you're own laptop with wireless card. Access is pricey ($25 for 33 minutes), as it is for alcoholic beverages. But, if you must be online, or drink, and you're in the middle of an ocean, the price may be worth it (not for me dude - leave the laptop home and manage your drinking so you won't be shocked when you see the bill and start whining?
We ate dinner in the Bacchus Dining Room every night. The food was great - where you can ordered something new or different at no risk, because if you don't like it, you can always order another dinner (steak is always available) - so your always sure to be satisfied. Some nights, I ordered two entries and shared with friends so we could taste different meals and desserts. Don't miss the special midnight buffet, if you feel guilty you can always go back to the disco (Frankenstein's) and work off some of the extra calories. On a few occasions we had breakfast and lunch up onto the Lido Deck (where you can get custom omelet's and pastries etc. The lunches were great! You could sample various foods from all over each day - which was pretty awesome.
Caymen (tendered close), and Cozumel (docked) were nice as always. Beautiful water, beaches, clean, many excursions, lots of shopping (the ladies loved that!). There are many places to party (if that's your thing). All of the vendors speak English. I believe these are the nicest destinations of the western Caribbean ports. The Duty Free shopping areas have many items for sale. You can purchase, but can't bring liquor back to your stateroom unless you get creative?
Costa Maya (docked) had a newer looking beach area, with a nice pool, shopping, eating area surrounded the large pool. From the ship It looked very rural and jungle like outside of the port area. But, I understand there are taxi's nearby that can take you to the old town where there is better beach area for $4?
Belize is tendered very far from the ship (some 5-6 miles away). And distances to excursions are also far from the main port area.
In Cayman last year we did the stingray island excursion which was wonderful. This is time we spent a day at the 7 mile beach area - $4 shuttle ride per person each way. It was the best water we have ever swam in - perfect temperature, crystal clear blue/green, and we rented a $5 raft to float around with.
In Cozumel last year we stayed at small beach area next to the ship - which was great, but watch our for the tequila it was very strong, This time my wife (a belated birthday gift) had a Dolphin encounter in at Chankannayuh Park (bet you can't say that word properly). I went along with her for the ride and negotiated for $20 a RT 10 minute ride, with entry to the park, and was able to observe - standing on mini-boardwalk just above her and others with the Dolphins below just 3-4 feet away. The water was fantastic and clear, and afterwards we went to a nice beach area at the park for some snorkeling.
In Costa Maya we stayed right next to the dock at a small rocky beach area with a great pool where you could swim up and order food and beverages without leaving the water, or just hop up to a tables that sit right next to and above to pool with nice music all day. The police officers, or soldiers walking the beach/pool area with M-16's had us wondering if it was safe place to wander into town? But, since we already had been in two ports we decided this day we would hang out at beach near the ship.
In Belize, Shallow reef (tendered) 4-5 miles out. And we learned that every excursion was quite a distance away. So., we choose to do the free speedboat excursion from ship to port, and then went shopping right there in port area that had fences (also makes one wonder if it is a risk wandering outside of dock area? Next time, I would consider booking an excursion that picks you up at the ship and goes directly to the snorkeling and beach areas without going back into main port area.
Days at Sea
There were always lots of things to do on-board. Eat, hang out at the pools and Jacuzzi's, exercise and walk all the decks, take in all the shows, Karaoke any night in Mad Haters lounge, dancing in live band bar area, cool ya man disco shag dancing at Frankenstein's open till we hours, midnight buffets. More entertainment, more dancing. Opportunities to win Gold looking Plastic Ship trophy's.
What I liked (a lot).
Being on board this very nice ship always. Learning to do the Shag at Frankenstein's (with great disco music). Our balcony room. The two Las Vegas-style shows. Great selection of food always. Reggae style live music at poolside (nice sounds man). The juggler was very talented. Being with old friends and making new friends onboard. Midnight buffet (consider exercise afterwards, or the next day). Dancing to live group at rock bar. Excise facilities. Great selection of excursions. Custom made Hamburgers (your way) at poolside, or try the great deli sandwich bar. Coffee, fruit drinks, and ice cream always available somewhere no extra charge. The live classical music trio in Atrium bar was very nice. Beautiful sunrise and sunsets any day, dancing everywhere we could. Last but not least - being on this ship anywhere spending quality time with my Caribbean princess.
What could be improved.
Bingo in the theater just before show time - this needs to be moved elsewhere, or to end much sooner so that those who are not interested can get to the show early to get a nice seat upfront without having to listen to the loud sales pitches. The comedians were so-so - they should improve that. The hypnotist show was funny at times but not quite believable. Alcoholic beverages were a little pricey with tips always added. I would suggest Carnival allow customers to purchase wine, or alcohol on board the ship with option on the first evening to bring back a few bottles to your room similar to what RC allowed last year on our first cruise. I would have preferred more talented American, or British musicians especially for rock instead of the Philippine groups trying to do 50-70's rock and always a bit too late. Sometimes they just did not sound like Beetles, or perform Motown the way it was. Tip: loose the chimes and use more cow bell and lower the volume. The 3 entertainment assistants who marched around the ship often trying to drum up fun at the bars and various other places. We were already having so much fun listening to music and dancing without them trying to drum up stuff by interrupting the flow of music and caused these places to overcrowd. Save the money, hire a couple of more good entertainers instead that is what makes it enjoyable - not folks saying are we having fun. The woman singing California songs (with electronic music) at the pool one day was way too loud which caused many of us to leave pool area early and look for more fun elsewhere. The Muster drill (unavoidable) where we are squeezed together with warm vests on, and loud announcements blasting overhead. The soft reddish colored lights in dinning room got old after one day - change the color?
Worst of all - the cruise ended far too soon. Wishful thinking, it would be awesome if it could last longer at same price with more entertainment, more dancing, more shows and certainly more cowbell, and please move the bingo to a private room.
If you improve all those things the rating will go all the way up to a 9.9, remember no cruise can get a 10 except for the final one.
For a 2nd cruise, the Carnival Miracle was an awesome experience for the both of us. It compared very favorable with our first (30th anniversary) cruise last year on the RC Rhapsody of the Seas. We had another great quality time together in love (somewhat like another perfect honeymoon). We are hooked on cruising, if only I can keep on justifying spending the amounts of money two folks can easily spend. As long as I keep on working, then we will keep finding a way. Maybe we can get a job with Carnival so we can cruise almost forever. Since, Carnival provided us with a full cruise credit for the missed Pride blizzard cruise in April (thank you very much) - we are now getting ready to book our next cruise with Carnival early next year - this time to the Eastern, or Southern Caribbean. After then who knows and please don't forget the best is yet to come - that last hoped for greatest ever cruise to Heaven. Hope to get there with my princess and to see you there. Wish we could cruise forever, if only we had a never ending flow of money and more cow bell for when we are dancing to the live rock music, or at the cool disco where you can do the shag, or anything else you feel like making up. Who cares what happens on the ship stays on the ship unless you choose to share it with others.
Peace and best regards.. Emilio Email: email@example.com