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Gobble, Gobble, Thanksgiving on the Miracle Review!
First, let me introduce my family that cruised on Miracle which was my husband, Craig, my two daughters Cat (11) and Sky (9) and myself, Bethany. We booked this cruise over a year ago because my girls would be missing only 3 days of school for this eight day cruise. When I found out that cabin 6232 had a balcony of doom and was listed at an extended balcony price although it was as big as a premier balcony, I moved our booking there. Cruise Critic members have been instrumental in making our cruise a success.
We drove 11 hours from South Carolina to Ft. Lauderdale in one day. I know, ugh, but I didn’t want to spend the night a few hours away in Melbourne, FL and wonder if traffic would prevent us from getting to the port on time. We pulled into the Hyatt Place Cruiseport around 10:30pm and checked for bedbugs. Ever since a friend’s husband was bit up at a Courtyard by Marriot in Florida, I have been vigilant about looking for the little buggers. No bugs, so we popped open a bottle of champagne and relaxed. Next morning, I went down to the fitness center, ran on the treadmill then checked out the breakfast area. Clean and well run, I saw cereal, fresh cut up fruit, yogurts, toasted breads, coffee and juice. My family joined me there for a quick bite then we got ourselves together for the shuttle. The shuttle was complimentary but I believe starting in April 2012 , there will be a fee. We were happy with our choice of hotel and would stay there again.
Embarkation was very smooth. We arrived at Port Everglades around 10:45 and by noon we were walking across the gangway to our home for the next eight days. My girls were impressed by the soaring atrium and we all thought Miracle was a lovely ship.
First we checked with Camp Carnival and found out that there is no child watch the first night of the cruise. Craig and I had dinner reservations at Nick and Nora’s so we needed to move our reservation to another night. We checked out our table in the MDR and found we had a booth for four people which made us happy. Passing through the Lido deck, Craig and I picked up our first DOD, the Funship Special and he held down a table as the girls and I scouted out lunch.
Horatio’s on the Lido deck was very busy but we were able to score some yummy Asian food. Signed up for a wine package. Finally it was time to check out our cabin!
6232 is not the biggest cabin in the world, but it suited our family well. Craig and I had a king-sized bed, Sky had the little sofa made into a bed and Cat had the Pullman bed that was above the sofa. Plenty of storage and nice bathroom. Now for the balcony! The pictures don’t do it justice…it was crazy big! Two chaise loungers, two chairs and a small table with room to spare. Almost like having a second cabin, outdoors! The weather was a little cloudy so we changed into swimsuits with cover ups and headed up for a quick muster. I had my tiara and boa ready so I could locate and meet CC roll call members at the Orpheus Bar at the aft lido deck. Soon I was joined by other tiara-wearing people and we chatted about our up-coming cruise plans. There were two couples that had their toe nails painted Carnival red, white and blue. Very nice! I wandered away to find my family and found the registration person for the Master Mixologist Contest. I signed up then found my family. Got cleaned up and went to the Camp Carnival orientation. Had a nibble of sushi (okay, not great) and hung out in the cabin while Sky took a nap. As usual, she woke up in a bad mood (she always does) but we needed to go to dinner.
Sky and Craig in MDR
Our table was near the kitchen entrance and a white light was bugging Craig, but our wait staff was great! We had starters of tropical fruit, beef barley soup, wedge salad and yes, the “didja ever” candied tomatoes with salmon. We opened a bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay from our wine package. Entrees were sweet and sour shrimp, chicken ala greque, mahi mahi and Indian vegetarian platter to share. Yummy! Dinner was finished off with WMC, Crème Brulee and Black Forest cake. We waddled our way to the Welcome Aboard show at the Phantom Theatre . It was a very spirited mélange of entertainment that foreshadowed what was coming our way through out the cruise week.
We headed back to the ginormous balcony for champagne and then to bed.
First Sea Day
I woke up the next day at 5:45am (why?!) and waited for room service to deliver breakfast at 6:45. I had a nibble of yogurt, muffin and coffee. Woke Cat up because she said she wanted to workout with me. We hit the gym and she got on an elliptical as I worked out on a rowing machine next to her. The gym is very nice, lots of cardio machines. I did some strength training while Cat hung out near me. My only complaint is that there isn’t much room for stretching. There is a separate fitness room, but it was used for classes. I stretched on my magnificent balcony. We got ready for some pool time because the captain was successful in avoiding rain clouds so we had sunny skies for now.
Sky jumping into pool
At 1pm I made my way to the Lido stage where I was to make my Master Mixologist concoction called a “Bullseye”. The registration form said no more than 2 shots of liquor so I had circled Vodka and peach schnapps. Little did I know that you didn’t measure with a shot glass, instead it was a free pour. This allowed contestants that circled more types of booze to just pour as much as they wanted. My drink was quite tame compared to the others so I came in fourth. I’ll know better next time. Each of us had to dance and shake a shaker, which I did my best. I got a drink coupon and a recipe book for Carnival cocktails. Yay!
Bethany (teal shorts) on Lido Stage at Master Mixologist contest
We watched the “hairy chest” contest and the guy we were cheering on won! Craig and I needed a break so we checked the girls into Camp Carnival. Cat was ticked off, Sky was happy and I didn’t care. I needed a little alone time with my man. Craig and I relaxed in the adults only hot tub, met a nice couple there and chatted with them. Picked up a future cruise certificate (yes, we are planning ahead!) and bought a super cheap shot glass at the ship store. We needed it because we had vodka and rum in our cabin that we ordered ahead of time from Bon Voyage and I didn’t want us using it up too soon due to heavy free pours. We brought along cans of guava nectar and small bottles of cranberry/pomegranate juice for mixers. Along with the two bottles of champagne that we had in our carry on, we were set for the week.
We picked up the girls at Camp and had some room service to hold us over till our 8:15 dinner. The Rueben and the BLT were very tasty. Formal pics were happening so we got gussied up and had a couple sets done. Craig looked very “Bond-like” in his tux that I rented from Formalities and the girls were spiffy.
Craig with girls
Dinner was yummy. We started out with stuffed mushrooms, alligator fritters, pumpkin soup and strawberry bisque. All four of us had lobster with tiger prawns then finished off with strawberry icecream, apple phyllo crisp, cherries jubilee and WMC. The girls were fading so we changed into comfy clothes to watch the show, “Generations”. It was great! The show was packed with tons of singing and dancing. Had a cocktail out on our balcony and then it was lights out.
Second Sea Day
Maybe because I was getting used to the ship’s movement, I slept in till 6:35. Room service arrived at 6:50 and I was at the gym for 30 minutes on the elliptical. Not as crowded as yesterday. Did some yoga in a little corner and chatted with another gym rat who was getting in some push ups. I know this sounds crazy, but push ups are fun on a ship. The rise and fall as the ship cruises makes you feel like you are floating. I can hear you say “right Bethany”, but I’m serious!
Back in the cabin the girls were nibbling croissants, but wanted a full breakfast, so we headed to the MDR. Chowed on fruit, French toast, bacon, corned beef hash with poached eggs, and eggs benedict. We ordered the sauce on the side (like CC members suggested) and I thought it was very tasty. Breakfast took about 45 minutes so tomorrow we will do room service so we are ready for our excursion. Today was pool time, with the sun in and out.
Sky decided to sign up for the Camp Carnival talent show. She sang Justin Bieber’s “Baby” for the counselors and they said she was in. Sky and I checked out pictures from elegant night (nice!) then we sent a message via my Funville account to my friends and family. Yes, the computer runs slow but I was happy to touch base with my sister and not pay internet fees. Back at the pool for more sun and fun then we got cleaned up and had tea in the MDR at 3pm. We were escorted to the tables in the back of the MDR, next to a big window overlooking the aft. We each had a little metal pot of tea (watch out, the metal gets hot!) selected our type of tea and then picked some tea sandwiches and sweet bites. There were cucumber sandwiches, salmon sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, petit fours and more. We chatted with our tablemates, one family that was 20 miles from our hometown. Small world. Music played as we munched.
The girls convinced us that they could spend time on their own so we said they could hang out in The Gatbsy Garden but had to come back to the room when the alarm on my watch went off. I strapped the watch to Sky’s wrist and off they went. Argh! Being out of reach makes me a nervous nellie. They came back to the room early, saying there were “teenagers hanging out at the Gatsby Garden”.
Gatsby Garden with Funship Freddy (without teenagers)
We got ourselves ready for dinner, (tonight was Chef’s Table for Craig and me) and took the girls to Horatio’s to join Camp Carnival for dinner. We met the rest of the Chef Table participants at the Atrium Bar at 6pm then followed everyone into the galley. We circled around a large silver prep table as the Chef welcomed us.
Executive Chef Kamlesh Sharma
Three or four sous chefs and waiters refilled our champagne glasses and served three different appetizers one by one. The Chef described each offering and then we inhaled, I mean ate our tasty bites. First was a tuna tartar (excellent), a tiny beef soft taco (yummy, but I didn’t want to get too full so I didn’t finish it) and an avocado cheesecake bite (sounds bizarre, but oh so good!) and all paired wonderfully with the free flowing champagne . We exited the galley, passing by a number of stations that were preparing to deliver appetizers and salads for the MDR. It was like watching a dance, with the dancers carrying very heavy trays of dishes.
We were led to Frankenstein’s Lab which is typically a disco, but for tonight, a large table dominated the dance floor. Fourteen chairs were seated around it and name cards were positioned on the tablecloth at each place setting. I was seated across from Craig.
I enjoyed comparing notes with my tablemates and listening to the Chef describe each dish. We started out with salmon tartar, moved on to Fire Roasted Tomato and Poblano Chili Bisque, then rock shrimps and apple beignets. Each course incorporated delicious and unique flavors. Sounds like a lot of food, but the portions were still small so I could enjoy each dish.
Next was a chopped Mediterranean salad of shaved pumpkin and feta cheese. The slight sweetness of the pumpkin complemented the salty feta. A fillet of Chilean sea bass arrived with a shallot and leek vinaigrette and pea risotto. Very delicate and tasty. At this point, a magician came in and entertained us. The big entrée was a filet mignon with onion streusel and a three pepper mustard. Cooked perfectly, I could barely finish half of it.
Mediterranean Salad of shaved pumpkin and feta cheese
To finish it off we had a special-made WMC, which we had watched the Chef prepare in the kitchen after our appetizers. We all received a folder with a picture of our table with the Chef, a copy of our menu (yes, I used a cheat sheet for this review!) and a copy of the WMC recipe. I will make it someday, I promise! The evening finished close to 10pm and we hustled up to Horatio’s to pick up our girls. We decided to check out the juggler’s show at the Phantom and I’m glad we did. I have never seen pins juggled that fast! The whole show was very entertaining. Still full from dinner, we made our way back to the room and collapsed into a food-induced coma.
First port day – St. Maarten
Woke up to the sight of the island of St. Maarten off our balcony. Land ho!
Craig had some stomach issues from 4 am on (too much Chef’s Table?) but after some room service breakfast we were ready to head off the ship. We met the Bernard Tour people at the info desk, paid and got in a van. Our van was clean and had a/c. Our driver Slim was informative and funny. A bottle of rum punch was passed around (there were sodas and water as well) and we had a small plastic cup of it. Yummy, but it had a kick!
Our first stop was at a farm that was rather rundown. We walked to a pond where iguanas were waiting to greet us. Slim passed out pieces of lettuce and we fed them and gingerly petted them. The iguanas were comfortable with our presence but they are still wild animals so we were careful.
Next stop was at the ocean where we saw a silver dollar and the girls saw sea urchins. A light rain sprinkled down on us but by the time our van reached Orient Beach, the skies were sunny. My youngest said, “oh look at that man. He’s naked!” I told her she should look the other way and that we were going to the other side of the beach. We paid for two chairs with umbrella at Ethnic Restaurant and settled in. This was the best deal on our side of the beach.
Our fee included a drink from the bar so I got a beer for Craig and a rum punch for me. While waiting at the bar, I listened to a group of people sitting there, conversing in French which made me feel like I had been somewhere.
We swam, strolled (away from the naked side of the beach) and relaxed. After about an hour or so, we got back in the van and travelled to Maho. Sunset Bar and Grill was very busy and the beach was full of people waiting for the next plane to land. My girls played in the rough surf as Craig and I watched. Soon a small plane came in, then a big American Airlines jet landed. Didn’t feel any huge jet engine blast which I was happy about .
Cat and Sky with warning sign at Maho
Small jet landing
Back in the van, we motored to Marigot and ate a delicious croissant, baguette and chocolate cake at a patisserie named Sarafina’s. Tres bien!
Our final stop was back in Phillipsburg at the port where I was on a quest for guavaberry liquor. Lo and behold, it was right there waiting for me! The ladies running the shop handed out small samples and Craig and I tried a couple. Yum! We bought a beautiful bottle that was handpainted and would remind us of our fun day on the island long after the liquor was gone. We got back on board ship, ordered some room service and relaxed on our balcony.
Guavaberry Shop (see woman with tray passing out samples!)
Soon it was time to get ready for Nick and Nora’s (the steakhouse) and took the girls to Horatio’s for a quick dinner. Checked the girls into Camp Carnival and hurried to our dinner reservation. We were seated at a window table and we ordered a bottle of red wine to go with our order of steak.
An amuse-bouche was brought out which was an asian soup spoon full of leek soup for me. Craig had a bite of tuna tartar. My appetizer was escargot in puff pastry and Craig had lobster bisque. We both had Caesar salad prepared table side, then I had lamb chops and he had sirloin steak. So good! Even though I was complaining of being too full, I managed to finish off with the chocolate taster and Craig had ice cream. Another excellent meal.