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Carnival Miracle
May 22-30, 2012

by Keith Henderson

My wife and I sailed on the Carnival Miracle leaving on May 22nd, 2012 out of New York City as an 8-day cruise to the Bahamas. The cruise left New York with stops at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau before returning to New York. It was our 4th Carnival cruise (18th overall). We have sailed on NCL 13 times and Royal Caribbean once.

We booked this cruise just 6 days prior to the sailing. I had been very busy with business travel and had a brief respite, so we decided to get away for a relaxing cruise. With 4 sea days, the Miracle’s itinerary fit the bill. We had never been to Grand Turk or Half Moon Cay before. We looked at NCL cruises out of New York, but we had sailed on them several times and wanted a change from their itineraries and same old production shows.

Day 1 – Embarkation Day New York City
It was a showery day with temps in the low 70’s F as we left our house, but it was just overcast in New York that afternoon. Sailing out of New York City is very convenient for us. We live in Connecticut just outside of New Haven, so driving to the New York cruise terminal is a short trip for us. We always drive down the Henry Hudson Parkway on Manhattan’s Westside to get to the cruise ship terminals there. We look forward to our first view of the ship as we drive south of the George Washington Bridge along the river.

The cruise terminals are located on 12th Avenue at 55th Street. They are next to the U.S.S. Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that is now a floating museum. When we arrived at the terminals at 12:45 pm, the Miracle was the only ship in port that day and there was very little traffic at the curbside of the terminals. There are secure parking lots above the cruise ship terminals. Parking fees are not cheap ($35 a day), but having the ease of driving down and just walking on board the ship versus shlepping our bags from trains or buses and taxis makes it worth the price. We drove up the ramp to the parking level and paid for the parking with our credit card ($280 for the 8 day trip). There was a porter waiting for us at the elevator on the parking lot level, so we were able to use the escalator to go downstairs with only our carry-on luggage.

When we walked into our terminal, there was a short line for security before lining up for the sign-in process. I had previously registered on line and provided all of our information, so we only needed to wait to get our keycards. Next, we walked to the door leading to the pier. It was here that they took our photos to match with our keycards. We walked onto the ship in less than 15 minutes after entering the terminal. We tried to head up to our cabin on deck 4 to drop off our carry-ons. It was an ocean view cabin (room 4196) which was near the aft stairwell. But, as we got to our deck, the doors to the hallways leading to the cabins were closed and we heard announcements that all cabins would not be available until 1:30 pm. We just headed up top-side to get a quick lunch before going to our room after it was cleared. We explored the ship a bit before heading down to our assigned station for the muster drill at 3:00 pm. We did not have to bring our lifejackets to the muster. After the drill, we headed back topside to find a spot in the aft Serenity area for the 4:00 pm sail away.

The passengers included a lot of young children which surprised us. We figured that because of the Memorial Day Holiday, many parents pulled their kids out of school for the cruise. There were a lot of recent college grads as well.

New York is our favorite harbor for sailing away. It is always special for us because we get to sail down the Hudson viewing the Manhattan Skyline and then the Statue of Liberty. This particular sail away had an extra bonus. The Memorial Day holiday weekend is Fleet week in New York and there were tall ships that had already arrived in the harbor. This included the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle which was anchored near the Statue of Liberty. It made for a great photo to have the Eagle with Lady Liberty behind her. After that, our ship passed under the Verranzano Bridge and let out a big blast of her horn telling us that our vacation cruise has officially started.

For dinner, we went to our assigned table (early seating at 6:00 pm) in the Bacchus Restaurant, which was the only main dining room on the ship. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. Our assigned table turned out to be the largest one in the dining room with 12 seats. It was difficult to hold a conversation with the diners at the other end of the table. Because of our booking the cruise so late, we were not able to choose the “Your Time Dining” option.

The show for the evening was the “Welcome Aboard Show” show in the Phantom Theatre at 10:30 pm. The Phantom Theatre holds about 1,000 people and has a variety of seating with most having good views. The show was hosted by the Cruise director, Hennie van Heerden. The Vegas style show had singers (Tanner McGuire and Darren Jeffries) along with dancers. In addition, they had 2 comics (Jorge Solano and Al Romero) perform short acts.

After the show, they had a DJ providing dance music in the disco nightclub (Frankenstein’s Lab) and the comedian, Al Romero in the Punchliner Comedy Club located at the Mad Hatter’s Ball lounge on Deck 1 forward. We had seen Al Romero several times on a previous cruise and the jokes he told at the Welcome Aboard show were the same ones we had heard before, so we decided to not see his act. They had a band called “Music Unlimited” performing in the Frankie and Johnnie’s bar. Unfortunately, this is one place where they allow cigar and cigarette smoking. We sat near the door, but the smoke was too overpowering, so we left.

Day 2 – Day at Sea
It started as an overcast day with showers in the morning and then a partly sunny afternoon with temps in the 80’s F. The seas had seven foot waves due to the after effects of a tropical storm that had come up the coast. We enjoy playing trivia and met up with another couple to play a match based on the 50’s decade before heading up for breakfast. Our team won and we received our first “Ship on a stick” trophy. They also had a comedy brunch in the Bacchus Restaurant. These had no extra fees, but suggested making reservations. They held the Comedy Brunches on each of the Sea Days. Other activities occurring this day were a cooking demonstration, a gemstone seminar, and an art collecting seminar.

In the afternoon, they had a Motown music trivia which we won on our own. After that, I went up for a run on the Sports deck. It was very windy and the area was crowded with people playing mini-golf and basketball. About ten minutes later, a security guard came up and told everyone to leave the deck due to the high winds. I went down to the fitness center and found an empty treadmill to use for the rest of my workout. Running on a treadmill on rolling seas is a challenge and not very enjoyable as I found myself banging into the rails as I tried to stay balanced.

For dinner in the Bacchus Restaurant, the dress code for this evening was Cruise Elegant. On the menu was lobster and prime rib which seemed a big hit with everyone.

The evening’s entertainment in the Phantom Theatre was “Singin’ with the Big Band”, a song and dance show with a singer named Christopher Alan Graves and the show dancers. He performed songs that Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. had recorded over the years. He had a great voice and knew how to play to the audience. He had a large group of children come up on stage for the song “Candy Man”. I thought it was a good show.

Since tomorrow was a sea day, we stayed up late. We went to the Punchliner Comedy Club to listen to Jorge Solano in the Mad Hatter’s Ball. They had comics performing on a lot of nights during the cruise. The comedy club offered family friendly shows early in the evening and adult humor in the later hours. Again, we avoided seeing Al Romero. We stopped by Frankie and Johnnie’s to listen to Music Unlimited again and the smoke in the room was worse than the night before so we left. Down in the disco, they were playing 70’s and 80’s hit songs.

Day 3 – Day at Sea
t was an overcast day until about 3:00 pm when the sun came out with temps in the 70’s F and very windy. We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast late in the morning before heading downstairs for some trivia. One of them was based on the Civil War and we teamed up with a couple from our dining room table. They were Civil War re-enactors and were very knowledgeable on the subject. Our team won thanks to them. They gave us medals for this game. With the weather so cold and overcast, the buffet area was very crowded for lunch.

The Miracle has 3 main pools. The Ulysses Pool and Siren’s Pool are found mid-ship on the Lido deck while the Serenity Pool is found aft. The Ulysses Pool has a retractable roof cover and this is where all the poolside activities occurred. They had a food and wine seminar for adults and a Teddy Bear Workshop for the kids.

I am an amateur musician and enjoy listening to Jazz. They had the entire Miracle Show Band playing sets of jazz music in the Jeeve’s Lounge the hour prior to each of the assigned dining hours. The band and music was great, but about 15 minutes before the start of the dining room being opened, all of the diners showing up for dinner formed a long line in front of the band so we could not see them play. We enjoyed listening to both sets of music. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual.

The main show in the Phantom Theatre was a comedy juggling show with a juggler named Dana Tison. I thought he was a good juggler and his humor was funny and not over the top. Later on, they had the comedy club open and we went to see Jorge Solano again. In addition to Music Unlimited in the smoky Frankie and Johnnie’s, they had a guitarist named JD playing in the Atrium lobby and a piano player named Tony Ray playing in the casino on a small stage set up behind the bar there.

Day 4 – Grand Turk
It was a sunny day with temps around 90’s F and humid. The sun worshippers were finally happy with the weather. The port stop in Grand Turk is a relatively short one. We arrived around 07:00 am and had a planned departure time of 03:00 pm. Our next stop was Half Moon Cay which is about 350 miles away from Grand Turk and they would need the extra hours in order to get there by the following morning. There were no announcements, but I saw people walking off the ship at 07:30 pm. We were the only ship in port that day.

The island itself is a small one at about 6 or so miles wide from north to south and much narrower from east to west. There is a large pier where we docked at the southern tip of the island. We had to go through a large cruise terminal to get the roads leading around the island. The pier and cruise center were built by Carnival. The U.S. dollar is the official currency of the island, so there were no worries of currency exchange rates. There is a huge Margaritaville near the Cruise Terminal that includes a large pool that is open to all of the cruise passengers. A lot of people were going there or to the beach next to the pier to spend their time on the island.

Grand Turk is known for their spectacular beaches and snorkeling sites. We had decided to go into the small capital city of Cockburn Town to see what it had to offer. Just outside the cruise terminal center, they have a taxi stand and a person hailing the cabs for you. The rates are posted on a sign showing the 4 zones of the island and the rates to go to each one. The cab ride to Cockburn Town was $5 for each of us. He dropped us off in front of the National Museum of the Turks and Caicos. The Museum is located in the Guinep house which was built over 200 years ago. Admission was $5 for cruise ship passengers. Inside, a guide gave us a brief lecture about the museum and then showed us a short film before we walked around to look at the exhibits. They had remains of what is the oldest shipwreck found in the western hemisphere. In addition, they had a small display about the Mercury astronaut John Glenn, whose spacecraft splashed down about a mile from Grand Turk 50 years ago. While it is not a big museum, we found it interesting. There was not much else to see in town, so we walked through a few nearby shops before hailing a cab back towards the cruise terminal.

The natives of the island refer to themselves as “Belongers.” On the way back from the town, we had the driver drop us off at Jack’s Shack, which was on the beach about 500 yards from the cruise terminal. There, we found a nice spot in the shade of a tiki hut and had a few beers while listening to island music and looking out over the water. We chatted with the owners, Jack and Janet along with a Grand Turk police officer who was on vacation. It was a more relaxed atmosphere than over at the nearby Margaritaville. At any time, there were only about 10 customers there in the few hours we spent there. Behind the tiki hut was a gift shop and dive tours counter with rest rooms. They offered a small menu of food that included burgers, fries, and jerk chicken. We enjoyed watching their dog, Topher, running into the surf and digging up the sand. After a few hours, we walked back to the ship along the beach. The large pool next to the cruise center was still packed with cruise ship passengers at 02:00 pm.

One site that some people went to go see was the lighthouse at the northern tip of the island. Taxis from the cruise center to the lighthouse cost $8 per person each way. I was told the views from where the lighthouse is located were terrific.

We were back on the ship by 02:30 pm with sailaway at 03:00 pm. At 4:00 pm, they had a reception for Past Guests in the Phantom Theatre. They offered free drinks and small hors d’oeuvres. They had a raffle where the captain presented a free dinner for 2 in the Steakhouse. Then they showed a small film about the history of Carnival and all of the ships they have had in their fleet. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual.

For the evening entertainment in the Phantom Theatre, they had two game shows; “Game Show Mania” and the “Love and Marriage Game”. Down in the Madhatter’s Ball Room, they had the rhythm section of the Miracle Show Band playing live music for karaoke singers. That was different to see and hear. Besides the game shows, they had live music in the lounges by the same acts and in the comedy club they had an open mic night for adults (no comedians were on board).

Day 5 – Half Moon Cay
It was a day that started off with showers, but cleared by 10:00 am with temps in the high 80’s F. Half Moon Cay is the private island owned by Carnival through Holland America and is located on the map between Cat Island and Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. We had to tender from the ship to the island pier. The tenders started at 09:00 am. They made announcements that all tenders leaving before 11:30 am required a tender ticket that you would receive by either signing up for an excursion on the island or going down to the Phantom Theatre to wait for the next available tender.

We are not beach people, but we wanted to go to the island for a short walk to explore it. We went down to the Phantom Theatre at 11:45 am and they were still handing out tender tickets and there were long lines waiting to get onto a tender. We decided to go back to our cabin, changed into our swim suits, and then went up to the gym to use the indoor hot tub for a little while. We went back down to the theatre an hour later and saw that the lines for tenders were finally gone, so we took the next available tender. The ride to the dock on the island took about 8 minutes.

Upon arriving at the dock and walking through the gates on the island, we found a large pavilion area with shops and bar. We followed the main path into the island along the beach where they had several bars and a large food court. We went as far as one bar that was inside what looked like a ship wrecked pirate ship. On the way back to the tenders, we stopped by one of the small bars along the beach for a beer in the shade and to just watch the view.

For beach people, the private island is a perfect place. There is a long beach with white sand with plenty of chairs to be found. They had horse back riding excursions where we saw the horses go into the water with their riders. They had plenty of other excursions that included para-sailing, swimming with sting rays, and the like.

After an hour on the island, we went back to the ship to play trivia games. We won the one on Classic Rock music and received another Ship on a Stick. The last tender back to the ship was at 04:15 pm and sail away was 5:00 pm.

They had a quartet of musicians from the Miracle Show Band playing jazz in the Jeeve’s lounge the hour prior to each of the assigned dining hours. We sat down for both sets and enjoyed the music. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual.

The main show for the evening was song and dance show called “Generations”. It was a song and dance show featuring the lead singers and the show dancers. They performed songs in costumes from the 50’s to the 80’s. The show was good, but they had to stop the show twice because of technical difficulties. The first time was due to a light being accidentally broken by a dancer and they had to clean the dance floor of the debris. The second time was due to parts of the moving stage not operating correctly. Both the band playing their music and the dancers lip singing the background vocals had to be in time with the music track being played. The lead vocalists were singing live. It all seemed to work out. I am sure they rehearse these shows a few times to get the timing right.

Later on, we got a chance to sit down and listen to the Music Unlimited band in the Madhatter’s Ball Room which was a non-smoking venue. Apparently, a few passengers complained about their playing only in the Frankie and Johnnie’s bar where smoking was allowed. We were happy to have the opportunity to enjoy the band with having to contend with smoke. I am sure the band and the wait staff appreciated it as well. There were no comedians this night. In Frankie and Johnnie’s, they had karaoke. A pianist named Brennen was playing in Sam’s Piano Bar on deck 3 forward.

Day 6 – Nassau, Bahamas
It was a partly sunny morning with occasional rain showers that cleared in the afternoon. The temps were in the 80’s F with a nice breeze. We pulled into the pier in Nassau harbor at 7:00 am and we able to walk off the ship before 8:00 am (no announcement). Also at the piers in Nassau were 2 other cruise ships, the Norwegian Sky and the Majesty of the Seas. The local currency is the Bahamian Dollar which is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Everyone there accepts U.S. dollars.

We have been to Nassau several times over the years. We had already visited Fort Charlotte and Fort Fincastle along with The Queen’s Staircase and the incredible Atlantis Resort on our previous cruises that stopped there. As you walk to the cruise terminal to go into the streets of Nassau, you are met by people offering tours, excursions, and cab rides. Outside of the terminal, there are banks of motor scooters for rent and taxis as well as horse and carriages.

Since it was Sunday, we had decided to attend an 11:00 am mass at the St. Frances Xavier Cathedral which is about a 15 minute walk from the cruise terminal. It is located at the intersection of West Street and West Hill Street up the hill from the McDonald’s and the Hilton hotel. As we left the cruise terminal it was raining. We had brought umbrellas with us, so we just started to walk over to the church. The original church building is the oldest Catholic Church in the Bahamas. The new cathedral building is located next door. It has a high wooden ceiling that helped to amplify the wonderful voices of the church choir and their pipe organ.

After the service, we walked down the hill back towards the ship. I had hoped to visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum, but it was closed on Sundays. So we just went to shop through the straw market now located in a permanent building on Bay Street. It was funny negotiating with the various vendors for the same exact thing. I was interested in a wooden sculpture of an upright bass and we received prices that ranged from $90 to $35 for the same piece. We never pay what any of them ask for originally. In some cases, we have seen the same items in nearby shops that were cheaper than the straw market.

After we left the straw market, we walked over to visit Señor Frogs. We have always seen large crowds going into these bars in the various ports we have visited and we wondered what the big deal was. We walked in and could not find a chair, so we left. I checked their bar menu and the prices were the same as the ones on the ship. Also nearby, is a Hard Rock Café located on Charlotte Street. We have visited that Hard Rock a few times before, so we did not go inside this time.

We returned to the ship by 3:00 pm. Sail away was 6:00 pm and we decided to go up to the Serenity area topside to play cards and then stay to watch the sail away. Around 5:00 pm, the Majesty of the Seas pulled away from the pier followed by the Norwegian Sky at 5:30 pm. The Miracle pulled away about 5:50 pm and sailed past the lighthouse at the end of the harbor before going out into the open sea for our return voyage back to New York City.

Since we missed our assigned dinner time, we went up to the buffet for dinner. We were disappointed that only a few of the food stations were open and that there were fewer options than at lunchtime there. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual.

In the Phantom Theatre was a magic show called “The Comedy Magic of Bob Brizendine”. He was a magician that used humor to interact with the audience. He had passengers participate in his card tricks and money disappearing trick. He was especially funny and terrific with 3 young children that he had come up on stage with him for one trick. It was a fun show to watch.

For the late evening, they did not have any comedians in Punchliners. Instead they had the Karaoke live show with the show band again in the Madhatter’s Ball Room. There was Brennan playing in Sam’s piano bar and Tony Ray, the pianist playing in the Atrium lobby. In addition, the disco had various types of music being played there.

Day 7 – Day at Sea
It was a nice day with mostly sunny skies. The temps were in the low 80’s and calm seas. We spent the morning playing a few trivia games; we came close to winning on most of them. They also had another food and wine seminar and an art auction. In the afternoon, I ran my 5k on the promenade outside the Atlantic deck. It was terrific running there compared to the jogging track on the Sports deck.

They had the full band of musicians (nine) from the Miracle Show Band playing jazz in the Jeeve’s lounge the hour prior to each of the assigned dining hours. We sat down for both sets and enjoyed their playing. We chatted with them prior to their sets. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Elegant.

In the Phantom Theatre, they had a Beatles tribute show called ”Ticket to Ride.” Prior to the start of the show they had short video showing video clips of the Beatles with pop ups of information about the band. We are big fans of the Beatles and had been looking forward to the show. We were not disappointed with the show. The theater was packed for the first show. They had the 2 lead singers along with the show dancers performing to a variety of Beatles songs. Then, they had the Music Unlimited Band come out in Sgt. Pepper outfits to perform additional songs ending the show with “Let It Be” while the cruise staff handed out glow sticks to everyone. We enjoyed the show so much; we stayed in the theater for the second show. For the late evening, they had the comedy club open with 2 new comedians in addition to the musical acts in the lounges and the DJ in the disco.

Day 8 – Day at Sea
It was another nice day with mostly sunny skies and temps in the mid 80’s. They had a lot of trivia in the morning and early afternoon. We did win one on general topics and received our final Ship on a Stick. I went back down to the promenade for another 5k run on this deserted area of the ship.

We had been given luggage tags and information on disembarking the ship the next morning. If you wanted to have your luggage brought down by the ship’s porters, you had to have your luggage outside your cabin with your luggage tags attached before midnight. You also had the option for self assist debarkation which allowed you to carry your entire luggage yourself and leave the ship prior to others that wanted to use the porter service. The luggage tags had assigned numbers. Before dinner, we packed our suitcases so that they would be ready to put out later on in the evening. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual.

After our dinner, they had a Love, Sex, and Romance game with passengers going on stage in the Phantom Theatre. That was followed by a Liar’s Club there. Later in the Phantom Theatre, they had a show called “Carnival Legends” that started at 10:30 pm. It was a show based on fellow passengers acting and singing like famous artists like Elvis Presley and Elton John. We decided to pass on the shows and went to the Punchliners Comedy Club to see several acts by the 2 comedians that had come on board in Nassau: John Caponera and Marvin Todd. We both thought that John was funnier. All of the music acts were playing in the various lounges as well as the DJ in the disco.

Disembarkation Day – New York City
It was an overcast morning with temperatures in the low 70’s F. We were scheduled to arrive in New York by 8:00 am. Our instructions had told us that we needed to be out of our cabin by 8:30 am. This was to allow the cabin stewards to have their cabins cleaned and ready for new passengers later that day. By 7:45 am, the ship was in the New York harbor near the Intrepid and was docked by 8:00 am. By 8:30 am passengers using the self assist debarkation process could get off the ship on deck 2 midship.

We finished packing our carry-ons and left our cabin with them to head up the buffet area for breakfast by 8:30 am. We found a table and chairs where we stayed for the rest of the morning waiting to be called for disembarkation. At 9:00 am, they announced the first numbers for passengers with porter service could leave the ship. Our number was 21 and it was not until 10:30 am that they called our number. We headed down to deck 2 by the atrium lobby at 10:40 am and we heard them announce that only 10 other passengers had not yet come to leave the ship.

In the terminal, we easily found our luggage and then walked over to the line for immigration. It took about 20 minutes to make it through the process before heading up to our car in the parking lot. As we were walking out, several new passengers for the next sailing were arriving.

At the pier near the ship was the U.S.S. Wasp, the flagship for the Second U.S. Naval Fleet. As we walked towards our car, a family standing by a car with their hood opened asked if we had jumper cables. Their battery was dead. A few minutes later, a cart came up to them with someone who had cables and a battery to jumpstart their car. It turned out that their car alarm had gone off while we were away and it had drained the battery.

So we ended our vacation driving home to be faced with mowing the lawn and the reality that I would have to go to work the next morning.

Dining –
There were several dining options on the Miracle.

For dinner, the Miracle has only one large main dining room with assigned early and late seatings, the Bacchus Restaurant. It is found aft on the ship and takes up two floors. They did offer “Your Time Dining” which allowed you to show up at the restaurant and when they had an available table you would be seated for dinner. We would have preferred that option, but it was fully booked.

In addition to the Bacchus for dinner, they have Horatio’s buffet style restaurant on the Lido deck and Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse found on the Sun Deck.

Inside Horatio’s, they had several stations which included an Oriental station, a Deli sandwich bar, a salad bar, 2 carvery stations that offered different foods each day, and a 24 hour pizza bar. They also had a coffee bar where you could buy Starbucks style of coffees. While these stations were all open for lunch, they did not offer the Wok station and one of the carvery hot stations for dinner.

The Steakhouse had an added fee of $30 per person [editor's note: the steakhouse fee has increased to $35 for future cruises] and required a reservation. Its dress code was cruise elegant every night. A couple that was at our dinner table told us that they went to the steakhouse one night and had a wonderful meal there.

For breakfast, you had to go to Horatio’s buffet. They had extra omelet stations set up at the pizza bar and other food stations.

For lunch you could go to Horatio’s buffet inside and their grill by the pool.

They offered 24 hour room service with a limited menu.

On sea days, they had a Comedy brunch in the Bacchus (no fee) where a comedian would do a short stand up routine at the top of each hour.

There is a taste bar (no fee) just outside of Maguire’s Bar and the Fountainhead coffee and pastry bar from 05:30 pm to 08:30 pm. Here they offered small samples of different types of food.

The Fountainhead Café on deck 2 forward offered coffees and pastries for a fee.

For foodies, they also offered “The Chef’s Table”. For a fee of $75 per person, you would have a personal meal with the executive chef who would provide a private galley tour and a multi-course meal for a small group. You needed to make a reservation for this event.

For breakfast on port days, the buffet lines can get quite long and tables are a premium.

During breakfast in the lido buffet area, they had fountains with OJ, Passa-Guava Juice, Apple Juice, and unsweetened ice tea along with water. For the rest of the day, these fountains offered lemonade, iced tea, and water.

My wife is a meat and potatoes kind of person. She was satisfied with the selections of steaks and prime ribs available in the Bacchus Dining Room. I was always able to find something good to eat each night as well.

Bar Service –
We are beer drinkers and Carnival offered beer bucket specials where you would get 4 beers (mix and match) with a $2 discount for the bucket. But, you could only buy buckets at the lido deck bars or in the Madhatter’s Ball Room. Carnival did offer a craft beer on tap called the Thirsty Frog Red Ale. I did not like it very much (too fruity tasting for my likes), but at least they are trying to offer something other the usual mass produced beers on tap.

They did have daily drink specials as well. There were some martini tastings on a few occasions.

Past Guest Program –
We are rated as Gold Members of Carnival’s Past Guest Program and we were invited to the Past Guest party.

Activities –
There were plenty of other things to do on aboard for all interests. They had the usual plethora of bingo games and art auctions as well as poolside games. We took advantage of the several trivia games (which we enjoy) they offered during the cruise. We met up with several friendly people and we enjoyed their company and conversations. We did win several times during the cruise, including twice by just ourselves and the other 4 with partners. We won 4 “Ship on a Stick” trophies and 2 sets of medals winning those games.

The casino is open during times at sea. We do not gamble, so we cannot comment on the slots and gaming tables.

Music –
They had plenty of talented musicians on board to entertain people at various locations and times. But, there was only one full band, Music Unlimited. Other than that it was a single guitarist and piano players. A treat for us was listening to jazz music performed by the Miracle Show Band in the Jeeve’s Lounge. They had the full band (nine) playing 4 times and then just a quartet on 2 other times. They were terrific.

They had a separate disco that has a light-up dance floor. The entrance was found next to the Jeeve’s Lounge. You then had to walk down a circular set of stairs to go to the dance floor along with additional chairs and tables.

Crew –
Hennie van Heerden (South Africa), the cruise director was always at the stage shows and a lot of the game shows. We thought he was just okay as a CD. The rest of the cruise staff were very friendly, especially Domenic (Wales), Brandon (Canada), Maria (Philippines) and Taryn (Canada). We did see the captain at the past guest reception and on one of the elegant nights.

Our room stewards were assigned 27 cabins to service during our cruise. It was the first cruise where we encountered stewards that did not replace everything fully each day. We were always short a towel or a glass. While our room had a fridge, they did not provide any ice in a bucket.

The ship –
The ship was built in 2004 as part of the Spirit class for Carnival and had renovations in January of 2012. While we found previous Carnival ships to have colors and decorations that were bright and maybe a little gaudy for our tastes, the Miracle’s décor seemed subdued. The theme of the ship was based on literary characters and we discovered plenty of different ones around the ship. The stairwells were filled with paintings and crystal vases.

The large fitness center has two floors. There are a wide variety of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and other pieces of equipment available at all times at no extra charge. All of the equipment faced out to windows. They offered Yoga, Pilates, and spinning classes for a fee of $10 a session. There was an indoor hot tub found here as well that was available to everyone. The running track was found on the Sports deck. A sign posted stated that it takes 15.2 laps to complete a mile. On the same Sports deck was the mini-golf course and a small basketball court surrounded by a net.

The best kept secret on the ship was the outside promenade on the Atlantic deck. It wrapped around the ship from Great Gatsby’s on the port side to the aft and back to the starboard side of Great Gatsby’s which was about 2/3 of the ship. There were no deck chairs to be found, which we thought was strange. We enjoyed walking along this part of the ship where the only sound you heard was the waves going by the ship. For my 5k runs, I only had to make 6 laps (port to starboard and back to port) on this deck compared to 48 laps on the sports deck where I had to dodge people playing mini golf or just walking around. We would have enjoyed being able to sit down in the shade on this deck and watch the waves go by. During the course of the cruise, we rarely saw other people on this promenade.

As mentioned, the lido deck has three pools with two pools midship and one aft. All are only 4 ft 6” deep. There are hot tubs next to each pool. There was no cover over any of the pools to provide any shade. On the Sports deck was a small kid’s pool not near anything and the entrance to a water slide that did not end up in a pool. On the sea days when it was sunny, the hot tubs that were mid ship were filled with young kids along with toddlers in swim diapers. We avoided those hot tubs. Even though there were rules published against this and reserving chairs, there was no enforcement of them.

A newly created Adult-only Serenity area is found aft on the Lido Deck with a swimming pool and a hot tub along with lounge chairs, hammocks, clam shells, and a drinks bar. The clam shells took up a lot of space and blocked the aft view from this area.

The Spa has several treatment rooms. They offered spa treatment specials during port days.

Navigating the ship was far easier than on our previous Carnival cruises. I think this is because of having just the one large main dining room that is situated aft. The hallways with odd number cabins were on the starboard side while the even numbered cabins were on the port side of the ship. They did not have a bridge viewing room.

A nice quiet area of the ship with seats and views of the water is found on the Atlantic deck forward. It is called Gatsby’s Garden Interior Promenade. The port side of the promenade seemed to have more foot traffic with people going to the kids clubs that were forward of them.

We thought that while the ship has a large atrium area, they did not make use of the space. On deck 2, there is a lobby where they have a bar with a small stage behind it for musicians. But, there were limited seats and tables there. Then, on deck 3, they had a wraparound area that overlooks the lobby below. But, it was totally filled by the photography department instead of seats, tables, and maybe another bar.

We have always booked an inside cabin. With the Miracle, the inside cabins, ocean view cabins, and most of the balcony cabins are all 185 square feet inside. With the deal our cruise travel agent found for us, we were able to try an obstructed ocean view cabin for the same price as an inside. Our cabin came with French Doors that had an obstructed view between lifeboats. You could open the doors to get fresh air. The curtains did not do a good job of blocking sunlight, so we would not use this type of room again. We prefer total darkness so can sleep in late when we desire that.

The cabin had more than enough room for the two of us. There were three closets. Two came with bars with 10 hangars each while the other closet had shelves. We stored our 2 large pieces of luggage under the beds. Since we had an ocean view room, there were two terry cloth robes for our use. There is a safe and a small fridge in the cabin. The safe could only be locked with a credit card or a driver’s license that had a magnetic stripe. We thought this was odd, since we did not need to have our credit cards on us while on the ship. You could not use your room keycard. There was a small couch that had drawers underneath that contained extra pillows, blankets, and sheets.

The bathroom had a shower with a cloth curtain with dispensers for body wash and shampoo. There was a soap dish. We were surprised that the shower area did not have a safety bar to hold on to. The hair dryer was located in a drawer by the mirror inside the room. One issue with the bathroom was that the string to hang wet clothes in the shower area was missing. We notified housekeeping and it was replaced the next day.

The location of the cabin was only a few steps from the aft stairway on the Main deck. Going up to the Lido deck on deck 9 in the morning was a mini-workout. We try to do the stairs as much as we could. My morning routine was to walk up to Horatio’s buffet with insulated mugs to get our morning tea while getting ready to face the day.

One thing that was strange during our cruise was that we received a notification from the hotel manager that our cabin was scheduled to have its carpeting replaced. Since the ship was in dry dock in January, we did not understand how they did not replace all of the carpeting then. We were given the option of declining to be out of the room and they were going to replace the carpet on a different cruise. We had smelled the glue they used for the process in a nearby cabin and did not want to have to deal with that odor when we returned to the cabin with the new carpet, so we declined the request.

We are not smokers and my wife cannot be around smoke for health reasons. Smoking was a problem for us on this ship. Smoking was allowed in the Frankie and Johnnie’s bar, on the second floor of the disco, in the casino, and some of the outside areas. At times, we chose not to go into the bar to hear music due to the cloud of smoke inside. They did have the Music Unlimited band play in the non-smoking Madhatter’s Ball Room one night due to complaints from fellow passengers.

The main show room was the Phantom Theatre which holds about 1,000 passengers and has entrances on 3 decks. There are some poles to contend with. We always found a seat for a show.

Launderettes – There are 5 small laundry rooms located around the ship. They had coin operated washers and dryers along with an ironing board and iron. They also had dispensers for soap packets.

Overall –
We enjoyed our cruise on the Miracle. With 4 sea days, we had a chance to sit back and relax. There were plenty of entertainment options. We still prefer freestyle dining compared to assigned dining. Having to stop what we were doing to go down to the dining room at the same time each day was an annoyance on some of the days. With a port intensive cruise, we would only book it with Carnival if we could get the “Anytime Dining” option. Here is a link to photos we took on our cruise.

We have booked a 13-day cruise from Dover, England on the Carnival Legend (another Spirit class ship) in September of 2013 and are looking forward to it.

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