Diva's CRUISE DIARY
February 29-March 1, 2004 ~ Inaugural 3-Night Cruise
by Linda Coffman
"Miraculous" Maiden Voyage
home of the Jaguars and so much more. Locals joke that it took
"three 'dam ships and a Miracle" for Jacksonville to land
Super Bowl XXXIX, but don't believe it. While three 'dam Holland
America Line vessels and the Carnival Miracle will serve as
"floating hotels" next year when the city proudly hosts the
Super Bowl, there's a lot more to see and do in this Florida city with
Southern style and charm. First, there's a world-class zoo and the
just-completed Range of the Jaguar exhibit—our last stop during a
whirlwind pre-cruise tour.
Maiden Voyage... a new
"temporary" facility at Jacksonville's JAXPORT Cruise
we encounter hitches, long lines, untested personnel? Not at all.
Darryl, our driver from P&B Charters and Limousine Services
(1-877-816-5466) delivered us to JAXPORT shortly before noon on
As Florida's "first
city," Jacksonville is an ideally situated embarkation port—just
a short drive off I-95. Mere hours by car from most major population
hubs in the southeast, Jacksonville also has a modern, efficient
airport and plenty of ground transportation options. Upon arrival
group settled in at the Adams Mark Hotel—right on the riverfront and
within walking distance of the Jacksonville Landing. An ideal family
vacation includes something for everyone and we discovered that
combining a short cruise with the many Jacksonville
attractions, including broad sandy beaches, numerous state parks,
historic sites in St. Augustine, and golf is idyllic.
But, back to the port...
once cleared through the entry gate, Darryl delivered us to the
terminal building where plenty of porters were on hand to assist with
luggage. Passengers in private cars park a short distance away in the
secure lot. In no time at all, we were inside and through the short
line for security screening.
carry-on bags naturally go through an x-ray machine. Be aware that the
machine has a "template" on it and any bags too
large to fit through it must be checked. Be prepared
to remove your laptop computer for examination if you bring one.
Miracle clears the Dames
Point Bridge by a mere six feet
Check in lines inside
the cruise terminal were short and they moved quickly. After the
obligatory photo op, we were soon on board. Soaring atriums are a trademark of Carnival
ships and Carnival Miracle's "Metropolis" makes an extraordinary first
impression, reminding me of a big-city square surrounded by tall
buildings. In this case, they are punctuated by scenic elevators and
the rosy glow of an overhead skylight.
First things first—it
doesn't take long to unpack a carry-on and we soon headed for the
christening ceremony where Carnival Miracle was named by her
godmother, former Army private Jessica Lynch. Due to the blustery
nature of the day, speeches were mercifully brief and we were glad to
head back to the warmth of our vessel... and to snack on some really
After the mandatory US
Coast Guard Life Drill we headed back to the Lido Deck for a festive—and
traffic stopping—sailaway party. With her stack clearing the Dames
Point Bridge by a mere six feet, Carnival Miracle was officially on her Maiden Voyage.
Onlookers lined the bridge and waterfront waving and cheering. What a thrill!
So far, so good.
Carnival Miracle is the fourth Spirit-class of vessel and, using a
handy pocket-sized deck plan, I made my way around effortlessly. After
a short time, I became fascinated by the artwork—particularly the
Bohemian crystal pieces and murals on the stair landings—and I quit
using the elevators in order to get a better look at them. At 88,500
tons, Carnival Miracle isn't as large a ship as some of her
fleet-mates, but she is 960 feet long! By dinner, I had worked up an
appetite from all that walking.
Bacchus Dining Room took
me by surprise. The profusion of "pink grape" light fixtures
is dizzying (the color is in the process of being toned down), but I
wasn't quite prepared for the head waiter to direct me upstairs to my
assigned table. Once there, I was directed back downstairs and
eventually made my way to the proper seat. It was just a bit of maiden
voyage first-night confusion and an anomaly to an otherwise satisfying
dining experience. Once seated, courses came smoothly and the veal
chop was a delicious choice.
With so many options, it
was difficult to choose an after-dinner activity. We made our way
through several lounges and stopped in Mr. Lucky's Casino to watch the
action for a bit before making our way to the Phantom theater for the
welcome aboard show. After a nightcap in the Gotham Lounge, I called
it a night.
Before retiring, I
checked out the weather from my balcony... getting warmer as we sailed
south to the Bahamas. A very good sign!
Is there a better way to
be awakened than by a knock at the door? Not if it's room service.
But, where IS room service? Unfortunately, they encountered a delivery
glitch and I was off in search of coffee. While the 'regular' coffee
is just fine, the most satisfying caffeine fix for java snobs like me
is found in the two specialty coffee venues on Carnival Miracle—located
in Horatio's Restaurant and at the Fountainhead.
As Freeport came into
view, my friend Anne and I made the decision to (what else?) go
shopping! Plenty of taxis awaited debarking passengers and our biggest
dilemma was whether to go to the International Bazaar (at $4 per
person for a shared van each way) or Port Lucaya ($5 per person each
way). We made up
our minds to go to Port Lucaya when the driver advised the shops there
were more plentiful. He also shared the information that all beaches
are accessible to the public, even those fronting the luxury resorts
that line the water in Port Lucaya.
The shop keepers were no
doubt frustrated by Anne and me... we did more browsing than buying
and thoroughly explored the Port Lucaya area before returning to the
ship. The spa offered a port day special—two treatments for $99 or
three for $139. Now, THAT was a bargain worth pursuing.
Even though we were
spending most of the day and all night in port there were still plenty
of activities on board—trivia, games, golf putting, and a big-screen
movie in the Mad Hatter's Ball—capped by Festivale, an island night
party beneath the stars.
First, though... a special
formal evening dinner!
Continued --> Carnival
Miracle Cruise Diary (Part 2)
More --> Take
Miracle Photo Tour
Miracle Ship Preview