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Copyright © 1995-2005 
Linda Coffman


Carnival MiracleCarnival Miracle 
March 13, 2005
Western Caribbean

by Cheryl Cipkar
Cruisers: Mom, Dad and two teens 15 and 17

This trip was our second in a year. We have previously sailed with Celebrity on a Hawaiian cruise, so it is hard to write a review without comparing the two companies. We arrived at Tampa airport at 12:00. In order to claim your baggage you must exit your arrival terminal and cross over to the adjacent terminal. It was easy to find a taxi from the baggage claim and be on our way. It is about a 20 minute drive to the pier. The taxi company charges a standard rate of $20 to take you and your group to the pier. Since we were a family of four, it was cheaper than buying Carnival bus transfers. It was also quicker as you did not have to wait for others to board the bus. The luggage porters greet the taxi as you get out. A tip ensures your luggage is on its way to the ship. We then walked over to the curb to join the line-up, which was wrapped around the outside to the front of the pier. We waited approximately 1 hour. When we finally checked in, we realized it was not Carnival's fault for the long line up but Tampa Pier Security. They had only two screening areas, which was greatly impeding the check-in process. Carnival had about 20 staff members to check you in but with only two security posts, they did not have at times any passengers waiting to process through. One Carnival staff member told us they were as annoyed with this as the passengers waiting to board.

The ship itself was certainly colorful. We arrived into the atrium and was overcome by the lights, color and flashy decor. We were disappointed that there was no one around to direct you to your stateroom or even greet you. Celebrity actually escorts you to your state room. So this was a small annoyance to us. We found our stateroom on the upper floor, at the front of the ship. We had two connecting staterooms. A balcony cabin for hubby and me and an inside cabin for the kids. If you have teens this is the only way to go. The balcony cabin was nicely decorated, spacious, ample closet space with an extended balcony off the side. The balcony could easily hold six adults, seated comfortably. The bathroom had a good size shower with shelf space surrounding the large mirror. The queen size bed was comfortable with a comfy duvet covering. There was a sleeper sofa, safe and refrigerator in the room. The adjacent inside cabin connected through a swing door. Two twin size beds separated by a night stand. Enough space for the kids to throw their things around. One note: Carnival has you register each cabin with an adult inside. Your sail and sign cards also lists an adult in each room. It is easy to go to the purser desk and get extra keys so you can have a key for each room. They really don't care where you sleep, but you must have an adult as a registered guest in each room. 

At 3:30 there was a standard life boat drill and we actually left the dock during the drill. We went up to the Lido deck to check out some food and watch the ship leave port. Unfortunately, we noticed right away the difference in food quality between Carnival and Celebrity. I never had food I turned away or disliked on Celebrity but I found I did this often on Carnival and I am not a picky eater. The first night was casual night in the dining room. The waiters seemed very busy and we did not get to know our waiter very well this first night. We also noticed that when we turned in that we did not meet our cabin steward yet. Our room was well prepared and cleaned but the steward was invisible. We did not meet him until the third day and we actually went looking for him.

Day 1
Day at Sea

Our balcony was very windy on this day. We are the first cabin on the front of this ship. This may play a part in the wind. We also notice that on deck 5, the extended balconies are less private, as others can look down on you. You can also be seen from the bridge, as the bridge extends past the side of the ship. We did observe that no one really cared to be spying down on us but this lack of privacy may bother some. A great day at sea, nice weather, average amount of activities. Formal night at dinner, lobster was average, not the best I had. Our waiter turned out to be a really nice person. One thing we missed at dinner was the presentation of the desserts. On Celebrity, they displayed all the desserts for you to pick one, on Carnival they present you with a dessert menu. Our waiter told us Carnival use to do this but it encourages people to order dessert and Carnival was trying to cut some corners. The entertainment that evening was a show called Generations. It was a mix of singing and dancing. A good show.

Day 2
Grand Cayman

We rented a car from Avis Car Rentals. We met their shuttle at the Blue Iguana in Georgetown. The shuttle took us to the airport where our car was waiting. Pre-book you rental, many people tried to get a rental by walking off the boat and were unsuccessful. We enjoyed navigating around on the left side of the road. It is not really easy to drive on the island but with some patience it can be done. The island is still recovering from the hurricane. I am sure it was once a very pretty island but there is still a lot of damage. We drove out to the Turtle Farm and Hell. They are very close to each other but hard to find as the roads are not marked. We actually found Hell by accident. We spent some time at Seagrape beach. There is a parking lot across the street to park. There is also a small restaurant where you can rent chairs and umbrellas. We had the car back by 2:30 and the shuttle took us directly back to the boat. 

Once back on the ship, we enjoyed a casual dinner in the dining room. Every night in the dining room the waiters and waitresses put on a little dance show which was nice the first two times but became annoying by the third night. I am not sure if the waiters and waitresses actually enjoyed having to do this each night. The entertainment for the evening was a juggler/comedian. We enjoyed the juggling act.

Day 3
Costa Maya

We woke up this morning to wavy seas. We ate breakfast and went up to the top deck to watch our arrival into Costa Maya (the balcony was too windy again). We noticed at one point we were moving away from the pier instead of getting nearer. At this point the captain announced that for our safety we would not be docking into Costa Maya due to the high winds. Many people were disappointed, we just put our chins up and decided another day at sea was not all that bad. Carnival quickly had out a revised plan of activities for the day. They also gave a shipboard credit of $25 to each person on ship. We ate at the Lido deck this night, hoping the food would be better, it was fair. 

Day 4

We woke early as we had booked a shore excursion with Carnival to go to Tulum. The excursion was well planned out. We waited for ten minutes in our meeting place and boarded a ferry to Playa de Carmen. It was a forty minute ride, the boat was in good condition with restrooms on board. We arrived and met a bus to take us to Tulum. The bus stopped at a local souvenir stop midway. There were no prices on the items and bartering was strongly suggested. The bus arrived at Tulum and there was a ten minute walk down a long road to get to the entrance. Here we met the escort from the bus, who also took us on our guided tour through Tulum. The tour was about 40 minutes and then we were given free time to walk around ourselves and meet back at the bus. Unfortunately, it was a steamy 105F and very humid, so you did not feel like walking around too much after the tour itself. There was a place at the front where you could buy souvenirs, bartering here strongly suggested too. The prices were high. Once again we ate at the Lido deck for supper.

Day 5

This day was the highlight of our trip. We booked through Carnival, The Barrier Reef Snorkel at Rendezvous Cay. The snorkel boat picks you up right from the ship as the Miracle does not dock at Belize. The snorkel boat is a brand new boat, with restrooms, helpful friendly staff who are locals from Belize. The staff give you a short orientation about snorkeling and after a 40 minute drive you arrive at a secluded island. The island itself holds eleven palm trees and two pelicans. It is smaller than the size of my house but it was magnificent. The boat anchors off shore, the experienced snorkelers could jump right in and the inexperience could launch from a small floating dock. The island is completely surrounded by a coral reef. Belize is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world. The staff is very professional, they are hovering around the group in kayaks for your safety. After snorkeling you can rest on the beach or use one of the kayaks. Our family really enjoyed the day. We later took the tender into Belize. We basically stayed around the tourist area built for the cruise passengers. Many people coming in from the city said they were not impressed with the poverty in the city itself. One female passenger from our ship was robbed in the city.

Day 6
Day at Sea

Our final day at sea. In retrospect, we came to love the ship Miracle. It was missing many things we loved on the Celebrity cruise line but also had individuality of its own. The decor was overwhelming at times but I did not find the nudity offensive. The hallways are like a maze and can be difficult to navigate. As on all cruise ships, the staff photographers were annoying. I wonder if they get paid enough or work on commission. 

We wonder about Carnival's new policy with tipping. Since tipping is automatic on your bill, we wonder if the staff seem to go out of their way to please you. Our waiter was good, friendly and efficient but there seemed to be something missing? We rarely saw the cabin steward. Our room was always cared for and clean but again something seemed missing? Do they feel they have to work for tips or they can just expect to receive them? I am not sure. Just a thought, it seemed more personal to give them an envelope at the end, we missed that.

Day 7
Going home

I found Carnival more efficient in this area. Except for the fact that we were not U.S. residents and we had to be up at an unholy hour to go to immigration but this is not Carnival's fault. I liked that we were allowed to stay in the cabins until it was time to leave. We enjoyed breakfast and watched TV. They called off self-embark passengers first, then early flights and finally general. It was a nice, calm way to end the trip.

Overall, loved the cruise. My suggestions to Carnival, improve the desserts and add some fine touches. We missed someone greeting us upon arrival, daily weather reports on the pillow, dessert presentation at supper, highly visible steward, and dressing up in the dining room (no one reinforces the dress code). Tone down some of the decor and omit some of the dancing at dinner. I would recommend a midship balcony to eliminate the wind tunnel effect at the front of the ship but I would recommend a connecting cabin for someone traveling with teens. We will miss the Miracle and would sail on her again.