I'm writing this because I found the reviews posted here a great resource for me in finding out what to expect on my cruise. This was my first cruise. I am very happy with my vacation and I am now planning my next cruise.
I flew down the night before stayed at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Tampa. I purchased the room with a good rate on priceline.com. A taxi from Tampa Airport the hotel was $19 . Channelside and the port is a $5 cab ride. Channelside is a great place to grab dinner and hangout.
I got to the port at 11:30. For some reason my travel agent and Carnival were playing a blame game on where my boarding paperwork was, apparently Carnival mails it to the travel agent and the travel agent is supposed to mail it to me. Well it got lost in the mail. But this is all moot since I went online at carnval.com did my paperwork there and printed my Fun Pass. My Fun Pass was enough for me to get onto the ship. So not having my paperwork didn't turn out to be a problem. Also I didn't have any tags but the porter had a listing of cabins and I was able to fill my tags out right there at the curb. Once I checked in and got my group number, I sat down and boarding commenced at noon, and I was on the ship by 12:30.
Once on the ship you arrive in the Metropolis Atrium. It is stunning, a little gaudy, but impressive never-the-less. Since they asked us to stay out of our room until 1:30, I sat down and ordered a beer. After the finishing my beer, I decided to tour the ship. I made a pledge that I would do my best to take the stairs all week instead of the elevators. That means I walked up 7 flights up to the lido deck into Horatio's and the pools. My first impression was that the pools are rather small but then again the pools were never overcrowded.
I booked an 8A balcony guarantee, and that is exactly the cabin I received. My cabin was mid ship on the port side 8190 on the Veranda (8th) deck. The cabin was very quiet being on deck below the lido deck and buffet. The only drawback is that you can hear the crew cleaning (rolling the dish carts) in the middle of the night but it isn't loud at all.
The cabin was plenty spacious with two closets and a third closet with selves. Also there are additional drawers that can be used for storage. The bed was comfortable and it is nice to have a steward make it and turn it down every day. I also enjoyed the nightly towel animal surprises my steward left. The bathroom is good sized for me to get everything I needed to get done. The shower with the curved shower curtain is very good in eliminating the boxed feel. By the end of the trip I continued to be fascinated with the toilet and the vacuum flush.
The cruise director Mark was great. He is really funny. His presentations (I caught the two excursion discussions and his random introductions) are top notch and are worth the time spent for their information and comedy. I loved the bath robe party.
The comedians were OK. For some reason this cruise was efficient at heckling and seemed to get the comedians off their game. It all started with and I quote "the quietest heckler I've ever run into" and "the other comedian told me about you."
I missed the first show which was a Las Vegas style show and from all reports to me was good. The other show was a Beetles Tribute show and was excellent, not that I am one to judge. The last night they had the Stars of Miracle throughout the week auditions would be held for look-a-like and sound-a-like of musicians and have a show. I looked like fun for all involved.
Best thing I can say is get involved. It is a fun when you do.
Ports of Call
I woke up at 6:30. Since the ship arrived early, and to my surprise the tenders to the port was an informal process. We were able to leave the ship when we were ready.
Beginners Scuba Diving. By far the best experience of the week. You take a simple intro to scuba diving class. You are provided with all the gear you need. And you have a guided dive off the cliff where the dive shop was located. Fortunately the reef comes up to the shore where the dive shop is and you can see a lot from that point. The family I ate with did a two tank wall dive and my tour actually saw more diverse than they did.
Since the hurricane came and wiped out the piers in Cozumel, only one ship can dock at a time here. Fortunately. this week was the Miracle's turn to dock at the International Pier. The International Pier is a $6 cab ride to San Miguel and this is the best place to go shopping on the whole tour.
The Atlantis Submarine was a great adventure. First you walk to the Tour center and then you are tendered 15 minutes out to the submarine. Since the night before a storm went through, there was a good amount of surf. So the transfers from the shore to the tender and from the tender to the submarine were adventurous. Once we were on the submarine and below the surface the surf was old news. On the submarine every one had their own window and a good view. The submarine traveled in a loop route so that if one side saw something they turn around and the other side of the boat could get a view. I though it was cool to be able to go 100 feet below the surface and see the ocean from that point. By the way to alleviate any fears you may have, the crew stresses that the submarine is capable of diving over 1000 feet and the floor isn't that far below.
Like all ships that visit Belize City, we tendered into the pier. This time the tenders were arranged in a more structured manner. Arriving in the Phantom Lounge you were given a number for your tour and then you proceeded to the tender when you number is called.
I went to the Belize City and Altun Ha excursion. First we did the Belize City tour. Our tour guide was very informative and she was able to point out many details of the city as we drove through it. Altun Ha for me was the main attraction. It is a hour and a half drive to the site. Again our tour guide was informative.
We docked right on the pier. While the location is fantastic, I was not impressed at all here. But I'd love to come back to give it a shot.
I didn't book an excursion here. In the future I would book an excursion here my recommendation would be the Jungle Beach Break. The merchants in the port area were pushy. I just hung out at the pool at the pier and had a few drinks.
First I only attended breakfast and lunch at Horatio's.
Breakfast was not good here. The best things were the fresh fruit, cereals, and made to order omelets. The toast was old and cold, the scrambled eggs were real runny so I passed.
For hot food, the grill at the mid deck pool, serving grilled foods like hamburger, hot dogs, grilled chicken, is the probably the best bet. I should say I am not a fan of Asian food so I didn't try any. The rotisserie stand is a mixed bag with different offerings. The international food was a disappointment, every day was a different cuisine and none of it shined.
Bacchus Dining Room
I highly recommend eating here when you get the chance. I attended both breakfast and dinner at the Bacchus Dining Room.
Breakfast was a seated meal where you arrive at the dining room and tell the maitre d' how many of you are eating you'll be seated appropriately. Breakfast is the same every day and is very good. I met many different people and had very good conversations while dining.
As a single cruiser I was matched with a family of five at a table for six. The three "children" were all about the same age as me at 30 and we all had a fun time and great conversations. The meals were fantastic, I unfortunately at way too much most every night but it was very enjoyable. Our servers were very good and attentive. Our main server was very efficient with his recommendations. The only problem I had is with the bar staff serving drinks and sodas. There were a couple of times that I would have liked an additional beverage (soda or beer) from the bar and the bar staff only came once if at all.
Nick and Nora's
Overall this is an excellent, not to be missed experience. I attended Nick and Nora's on Wednesday night for dinner. The presentation was fantastic for the entire meal. For an appetizer, I ordered the Baked Onion "Les Halles" Soup, your a superb variety of the typical baked French onion soup. This was really good. For my salad I ordered the Blue Cheese Salad. The 24 oz. porterhouse alone is worth the $30 for the restaurant and went well with the glass of Burgundy wine I ordered. Desert was a surprise with the Washington Apple Tarte Tatin, it is a medley of baked apples with pineapples, grapes, blueberries and raspberries. At the end of the meal complimentary sweets and truffles are given to you.
Debarkation was a simple process. We arrived at the port in the middle of the night and we cleared customs around 7 AM. General disembarkation was at 9:30 and my flight home wasn't until 8 P.M. I discovered at the port that there is a storage area for your luggage and they will arrange a taxi to the airport. The storage area closes at 4 so you need to retrieve you luggage by then. So I stowed my luggage and wandered around the Channelside complex (the dock is right there) and caught a movie and lunch.
This was a fantastic vacation on a great ship. If you are thinking of this trip do it and participate, it makes a difference.