by Jeff "Jamman" Maskall
Sail Date: 7/02/2010 (8 nights)
Itinerary: New York Grand Turk Half Moon Cay Nassau New York
Day 1 Embarkation Day We just love cruising out of our homeport of New York City. This cruise would be the 11th time we have cruised from there, and we never get tired of it. Today is a beautiful day, sunny and 85 degrees. We made the 45 minute drive to the pier arriving just at 11:00 am. The brand new Norwegian Epic was also in port with us, having just made her trans-Atlantic voyage. After a couple of fam trips from here, she will be heading down to Miami to begin regular service. She is huge, but not very pretty to look at. The five decks stacked on top of the bridge make her look very boxy and unstable. I wish her luck, but we won't be booking her anytime soon, but I digress. For those driving to, and parking at the pier, things have changed a bit since we were here last in 2008, and for the better I might add. First, the entrance to the parking is at the north end of the pier, where you enter, and the exit is at the south end. It used to be the opposite, meaning you used to have to drop off your bags with the porters one level down, and then go up and park. Now, as soon as you arrive, you are directed upstairs to the parking level. After you pay the $30./day fee, ($240. For our 8 day cruise), you are instructed to open up your luggage area so the dog can have a sniff. Then you pull over to the curb where the porters will grab your luggage for loading onto the ship. Don't forget to tip!! Now you can park your vehicle, and then take the escalator down to the check in area.
Since we are Platinum members, we were directed to the VIP line to be screened and taken to the VIP check in room. This being my 25th Carnival cruise, I had achieved my first milestone status, and I was anxious to see what my Sail & Sign card looked like. (Actually it was my 26th cruise with Carnival but they don't count freebies towards milestones). The card was white and said milestone member on it, so it stood out whenever it was presented. I have to say that all of the staff treated me like royalty during the whole cruise. Then came the first problem. I had changed the sailing dates a few months prior due to a conflict, and when they changed the sailing dates, they lost the link between mine and Patti's reservation, and our boy's reservation. This meant that their reservation wasn't linked to my credit card. Also, they were assigned to a different dining table!! Well, the first part was quickly corrected, but we would have to see the Maitre D to get the dining arrangements taken care of. No biggie. We immediately took our security picture, and then boarded the ship.
You board directly into the Atrium Lobby, which is an impressive place. You can look up nine decks to the red skylight which actually is part of the ship's funnel. Three glass elevators travel along one wall, the entire height of the Atrium. Very nice!! We stopped at the Atrium Bar for our first drinks of the cruise, and to pick up soda cards for Patti and Kevin. They are still $6./day for adults, and $4.50/day for the kids, plus a 15% gratuity. As we were enjoying our drinks, the shore excursion desk, which was nearby, opened. I made a beeline there, as I wanted to make sure that I was able to book a cabana on Half Moon Cay. These are not sold online prior to the cruise, and since there are only fifteen of them, if you want one, you need to book them ASAP once you board. This taken care of, we next went to the Bacchus dining room to see the Maitre D about our dining arrangements, which he took care of quickly, and to our satisfaction. It was then time to head up to the Lido deck and Horatio's for our embarkation lunch. We love the way this area is set up on the Spirit Class ships. There is the Taste of Nations, where a different cuisine is presented every day, the Deli for GREAT grilled and cold sandwiches, a rotisserie, the Asian corner, 24 hour Pizzeria, and salad bar. Hot dogs, burgers, steak sandwiches, along with all the trimmings, were available at the Ulysses Pool lines. There is something for everyone! Along with a dessert bar, there are four free ice cream stations. Ryan really loved those! Since it was now after 1:30, it was time to check out our cabins. I had booked two side by side Category 8K extended balcony cabins, (8174 & 8176), on Panorama Deck mid-ship. It was a perfect location. It was just a short trip up the stairs to the lido pools and Horatio's. Prior to the cruise I had bought some goodies for the kids cabin, and had our cabin decorated with the bon voyage package. It makes it a little more special. We then reacquainted ourselves with the ship until it was time for the muster drill at 3:30. On Carnival, it is no longer necessary to bring your lifejacket to the muster station. This eliminates running back to your cabin before and after the drill, and makes the process less stressful in my opinion. This being done it was time to sail!!! We were supposed to have sailed at 4 pm, but the Norwegian Epic had backed out of the pier and into the Hudson River, and just sat there while several helicopters flew around taking pictures of her!! We wound up sailing just before 5 pm. Even though we have sailed out of here many times, we never get tired of it. The views of Manhattan, then Ellis Island and Lady Liberty are just breathtaking!! We seem to take the same pictures every time, but we don't care. After about an hour we squeeze under the Verrazano bridge and head out into the open sea. Our cruise has begun!!!
After sailing Patti got Ryan registered at Circle C (12-14 years), and Kevin registered at Club O2 (15-17 years). They were free to come and go as they pleased. Afterwards we headed back to the cabins to unpack and hang out on the balconies until dinner. We made arrangements through Guest Services to have the balcony divider opened between our cabins. They told us that this would be done the first thing tomorrow morning, which it was. Soon it was time for our first dinner. We opted for traditional dining at the late sitting (8:15). We were given, as requested, a table for four (#170), on the lower level (deck 2), of the Bacchus Dining room. Those who opted for Your Time Dining were seated in the upper level (deck 3), of the dining room. Since we had been on the Miracle before, we were used to the much talked about grapes!! When I write a review, the one thing I don't write about is everything that we ate on the cruise, since food is so subjective. I'll just say that all the meals that we ordered were hot, well presented, and tasty!! Our wait team was one of the best we have ever had on Carnival, and it takes a lot to say that!! After dinner, Patti and I decided to test our luck in Mr. Lucky's Casino before calling it a night. Mr. Lucky wasn't so lucky for us tonight, but we were just getting started!!
Day 2 Sea Day We love our sea days, and this itinerary is just perfect for us. There are two sea days from NYC down to Grand Turk, and then two more sea days from Nassau back to NYC. We awoke to a beautiful sunny day, and the seas were very calm. Since we were just one deck and one staircase away from Horatio's it was very easy to go up and get a hot breakfast, then bring it down to enjoy while sitting on the balcony. This beats ordering from room service since Carnival doesn't have hot breakfast items on their menu. Soon after we finished breakfast there was a knock on our door. The maintainance people had arrived to open up the balcony partition between our balconies. We now had one big balcony!! The one thing we love doing is the bean bag toss. They have two tournaments at different times of the day on sea days, one for the whole family, and one for adults only. These were well attended. Kevin and Ryan both enjoyed participating with us during the family tournament. Basically, the staff divides everyone into two teams, and everyone has at it!! Loads of fun and laughter!! Afterwards the boys headed off to their respective clubs, and we went to the casino to try our luck in the first slot tournament. Since we are platinum members, we received free entries into the tournament. Sadly, neither of us qualified for the finals. After some lunch at Horatio's, Patti went to check out the shops and then play some bingo, and I headed up poolside to the Odyssey bar for a "couple" of mudslides. Soon it was time to head back to the cabin and get ready for our first "Cruise Elegant" dinner. As we entered the dining room it was great to see that the majority of our fellow passengers were dressed up. Not a lot of tuxes, but a lot of dark suits were evident on the men. The women always know how to dress!!! After another great meal, Patti and I went to the casino for another round of blackjack. This time we walked away winners!!! After a nightcap it was time to call it a night. It was a great relaxing day!!
Day 3 Sea Day Happy Independence Day!!! We awoke to cloudy skies and rain. It would remain like that all day. The seas were a tad rougher than yesterday, but not at all uncomfortable. There would be no eating breakfast on the balcony today. Spent the day shopping, bean bag tosses, gambling, napping, reading, playing bingo, and having a few cocktails. Speaking of bingo, Ryan won one jackpot by himself and pocketed a cool $150.00. He was one happy kid!! Later in the evening, Patti and I had dinner at Nick & Nora's Steakhouse. We always have dinner one night at the Steakhouse, and it is worth every penny of the $30./pp surcharge. As always, Patti had the lobster, and I had the 24oz porterhouse. If you are on a Carnival ship that has a Steakhouse, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. You won't be disappointed!! After a few after dinner drinks, it was time to call it a night. We would be in Grand Turk early tomorrow.
Day 4 Grand Turk (7:00am 3:00pm) - I was up early to catch the sunrise and watch us pull into Grand Turk. It was going to be a beautiful sunny, but hot, day. We had a hot breakfast on the balcony as we waited for the ship to be cleared. We had booked a poolside cabana at Margaritaville ($129.95) and wanted to get ashore as soon as possible to get maximum benefit out of it. Each cabana is fully enclosed and air conditioned, with three couches and a table. On the porch are two comfortable loungers. The cabanas are just steps away from the pool. Though food and beverage are not included in the price, you have your own private waiter, who will take your drink and food orders, and deliver the goods back to you in record time. There is a button inside the cabana which you push to summon him/her, and they show up in a matter of seconds!! We walked down to the beach and went swimming literally a few yards from the Miracle. Back to the cabana to cool off as it was nearly 100 degrees outside, with hardly a cloud in the skies. We ordered some snacks and a bucket of Landsharks, and spent the rest of the morning alternating between the pool, lounging on the porch, and cooling off inside. At 12:45pm it was time for Kevin and Ryan to ride the Flowrider. I booked them on the deluxe session ($25.95/pp), which is an hour and a half long and includes both kneeling and stand up riding. The regular session ($19.95/pp), is only one hour long and only allows you to kneel. The boys had done this the last time we were here, so they had a blast!! We got plenty of great pictures and video while we watched from the pool. After their session was over it was time to gather our things and head back to the ship. One thing that I noticed this time, was how crowded the pool area was, and we were the only ship in port. I can't imagine how packed it would be when two ships are in port, which does happen from time to time. A cabana would be a must in that case!! Once on the pier, there was a huge line waiting to board the ship. Why they had only one line to board was beyond me!!! Once back aboard it was time to take a nice cool refreshing shower, and hang out on the balcony and watch us sail away. We had an awesome time today!! After we sailed, the boys headed out to their clubs, and Patti and I just chilled until it was time for dinner. After dinner we went to tonight's show, which was Rock Star Juggler Marcus Monroe. It was a great show!! Afterwards was the Mega Deck Party out on the Lido deck, but we were just too tired from the heat and fun we had on Grand Turk to hang out to long, so it was off to bed.
Day 5 Half Moon Cay (9:00am 5:00pm) Another beautiful day in paradise!! We awoke in time to watch us pull into Half Moon Cay, which is our favorite port of call. It was a beautiful sunny and hot day. As I mentioned at the beginning, we had rented a cabana for the day, so we were able to be on the first tender ashore. It felt great to be coming back here!! Once in, we checked in at the information kiosk, and were then directed to a safari truck for the ride over to our cabana. Just a note here that the price for the cabana has risen to $249.95, but for us it is worth every penny. This time we had cabana #4 (orange), which we feel was the perfect location, close to the bathrooms, BBQ lunch, and the water sports. The cabana is air conditioned, though open in the front, with a table, and four very comfortable cushioned chairs inside. A counter runs along the entire width of the back wall, and underneath is a small refrigerator. On the deck itself are two cushioned loungers, a large oscillating fan with a mister, and a fresh water shower. Included in the price were soft drinks, water, chips, dips, fruit platters, and veggie platter, enough for four people. Also included were snorkel equipment, and floats for everybody. Bar waiters from the ship are plentiful on the beach, and some are assigned just to the cabanas to take your drink orders, which of course are charged to your sail & sign card. I can tell you for a fact, that there is nothing better than lounging on the deck with a bucket of beers, with a perfect view of the beach, and the Carnival Miracle off in the distance!! Patti and I grabbed our floats and lounged in the beautiful clear waters for quite a long while, while Ryan went down the beach to the kids play area and the water trampoline, and Kevin grabbed a hammock under a tree and took a nap. Since it was very hot, we all made frequent trips back to the cabana to cool off, munch on snacks, and have some drinks.
Then came the one little downer of the day. We had booked the boys for parasailing at 11:00, but when we got there we were told that they were having engine trouble with both boats, and that if we wished to wait, we would be accommodated. Seeing that the groups from 10:00 & 10:30 were also still waiting, we elected to cancel. The boys were ok with that, since they would rather be having fun in the water instead of waiting in the hot sun for boats that may or may not be fixed!! By now it was lunch time, so we wandered over to the BBQ. There were plenty of hot dogs, burgers, ribs, chicken, rice and beans, fries, salads, plus all the trimmings. There are plenty of covered picnic benches nearby, but we elected to carry our lunches the short walk back to our cabana, and eat in air conditioned comfort. I told you they were worth the money!!! The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying what the island has to offer. Patti took the boys out sailing on a Hobie Cat for an hour or so, and I went over to the nearby "Wish I could stay here forever bar" for a drink. There was a DJ, dancing, and then a limbo contest while I was there. Being six foot five with bad knees, I don't do limbo, but enjoyed watching everyone having a blast. After Patti was done sailing, she took Ryan out kayaking, while I went back to floating on the mat with a beer in my hand. Ah, life is good!! Much too soon it was time to head back to the ship. The line for the tender was crazy long, so we just hung out at the bar until it was time to get on the last tender back. As we were heading back to the Miracle, I couldn't help thinking that this was another perfect day at HMC, (except for the parasailing), and wondering how long it would be before we are back here again!! Once back onboard, we took nice refreshing showers, then hung out on the balcony until it was time for dinner. After another great dinner, I went to try my luck in the first blackjack tournament of the cruise. Though Patti likes to play blackjack, she doesn't like to enter the tournaments, electing to just cheer me on. I entered the qualifying rounds three times, but couldn't qualify for the final table. Oh well, better luck next time!! After a couple of nightcaps it was time to head for bed. We had another busy day planned for tomorrow.
Day 6 Nassau (7:00am 6:00pm) When we awoke we were already docked in Nassau. The weather forecast for today calls for scattered showers, and in fact a storm had just passed through, but now the sun was beginning to peek out. Along with us in port were the Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Sky, Monarch of the Seas, and a little later on, the Majesty of the Seas. We weren't leaving the ship until 10:00am, so we had time for a leisurely breakfast at Horatio's. Kevin decided that since he had a bit of sunburn, he would stay on the ship for the day. With a lot of ships in town, I didn't want to have any transportation issues, so I booked the Wyndham Resort Beach Break with lunch, through Carnival. You can do this much cheaper on your own since the Wyndham does sell day passes. After being gathered and herded on the pier like cattle, we were led (moo!!), to the air conditioned (thank goodness!) vans, for what should have been a twenty minute drive over to the Wyndham, which is located on Cable Beach. The heavy traffic and road construction made it about a half hour journey. Once there you are free to do as you please. There is a huge casino, which we didn't play at, since this was our last beach day of the cruise. There is a beautiful beach, and a huge pool with a waterslide built into a three story mountain. On the opposite side of the mountain is a very large hot tub. There is also a pool bar with swim up service. We grabbed some loungers under some palm trees, then we proceeded to enjoy the beach and the pool, until we noticed a storm rapidly approaching from the east. Since it was now lunch time, we grabbed our stuff and headed inside to the buffet, which was included in the cost. We got inside just in time as the skies opened up to a downpour. The buffet was very good with great variety, including a pasta station, and a carving station. We weren't expecting anything that good!! By the time we had gotten our seconds and dessert, the storm had passed and the sun had come back out. Patti went to explore the hotel and shops, and Ryan and I went back to the pool. Again, too soon, it was time to leave. Instead of waiting to be herded (moo!), and crammed into the vans, we elected to grab a cab back to the pier. For $20.00 this was a great move on our part! I had plenty of leg room, the driver was very friendly, and he pointed out various points of interest along the way. Once we were dropped off, Patti decided to stay in town and shop, while Ryan and I headed back to the ship. We noticed yet another storm approaching, and hoped Patti didn't get caught in it. Patti came back to the ship about an hour later, and somehow she managed to stay dry! We watched the Miracle sail away from Nassau from our balcony, a little sad that we were now heading back to New York. We had another great dinner in the dining room, and afterwards we took in the show at the Phantom Theatre. Tonight it was the cruise director, Malcolm Burn, doing a skit with audience participation, called a "film within a film". It was quite funny, and this was followed by a comedian, Scotty K, who was not so funny!! After that show was over we went directly downstairs to the Mad Hatter's Ball for the Carnival Quest. Now, having cruised on Royal Caribbean, I know that Carnival "borrowed" the Quest from them, but Carnival's version is way more risquι and raunchy. This is for adults only, and if you are offended easily, you should pass this one up!! After laughing non stop for an hour, it was time for a nightcap, then off to bed.
Day 7 Sea Day Today it was cloudy and rainy all day. Was this the same storm we sailed through on the second sea day down? No matter, after three straight days on the beach, the sun was the last thing we needed. We just relaxed and did all those fun things that we did on the way down, such as the bean bag toss, bingo, and shopping. Ryan went to the Phantom lounge to do laser tag. Cost of this was $5.00 for five minutes. This was also the day of the second blackjack tournament. This time I made it to the final table, but when all was said and done, I wound up in third place. More trinkets and another t-shirt that doesn't fit was my reward!! Afterwards, I met up with some of my blackjack playing friends, and we sat down at a $25 dollar table. We had a great time laughing and joking, and on top of that we made a killing. We were taking good care of the dealers, so the pit bosses were buying us drink after drink. Patti eventually came down to see how I was doing, and to get me out of there for dinner. Let's just say I was too "tired" to go to dinner, and called it an early night. Patti and the boy's went, and spent a lovely evening together.
Day 8 Sea Day All good things must come to an end, so it was only fitting that today was a beautiful sunny day. After an early morning round of bean bag toss with the boys, they went off to their clubs, and Patti went on the platinum member's galley tour, followed by some last minute shopping. I went to the Phantom lounge for the back stage tour and Q & A session with Malcolm Burn and some of the production people. It was a very informative and eye opening experience. After lunch, Patti & I entered the second slot tournament, but neither one of us qualified for the finals. Patti went back to the cabin to begin packing, and I played blackjack for the final time on this cruise. I came out way ahead of the game on this cruise, mostly on what I won the day before! Then it was back to the cabin to relax on the balcony and get ready for our final dinner. As usual dinner was wonderful, and there was some sadness when all the waiters sang "leaving on a Fun Ship" to us. Tonight was the win a cruise bingo, so we went to try our luck. It was a cover all game, and Patti needed only two numbers, when somebody yelled "Bingo". Boooo!!! We then went back to the cabin to put out our luggage, and decided that we would call it a night.
Day 9 Debarkation Day I was up with the dawn to watch as the Miracle sailed back into New York harbor. I stopped at Horatio's for some coffee and a light breakfast, and was out on deck when the Miracle sailed under the Verrazano Bridge at 6:00am. Patti joined me soon after, and we stayed out on deck until the Miracle was back at pier 90. The Norwegian Jewel had followed us back from Nassau, and docked at pier 88. Since we are platinum, we were given zone 1 tags for debarkation, and told to meet at Frankie & Johnnies at 9:00am. At 8:15, those passengers that could carry off all of their luggage unassisted were let off first. I don't think that this would ever be an option for us!! At 9:15, a Carnival rep came into the lounge and led all the platinum members off the ship, and to the Zone 1 area where our luggage was located. We found our luggage quickly, grabbed a porter, who led us quickly through customs, and then took our luggage right to the car!! We jumped into the car and we were home by 10:30!! This is one cruise that I could do every year. Great itinerary, great ship, and great crew!!! Cruising from New York is just the icing on the cake!! Our pictures from this cruise can be found at http://www.cruise-addicts.com/photopost/g586-jamman-27s-carnival-miracle.html Happy Cruising!!!!