I had meant to post this a week ago but you know how it is with life 😛
This is only my second review, so please be gentle and excuse the quickness of this review, but I'm trying to remember everything that we did two weeks ago. Quick background on us. There was myself 52 and DH who is 50. We've been married almost 30 years. This is our 6th cruise with Carnival and we're Gold. We have lived north of Atlanta for almost 6 years and have become hooked on cruising since our first trip on the Liberty in 2015. We are cruising with friends that we met on the Liberty and this will be our 4th cruise with them plus a group of their friends.
We sailed on the Carnival Miracle out of Tampa on September 22nd. This was the last cruise out of Tampa before she was heading to the west coast. This is also our first cruise on the Miracle and first cruise on a spirit class ship.
We drove down to Tampa on Friday, giving us 2 days to just hang out and start our vacation. We live north of Atlanta and we always leave early to avoid any traffic going through downtown, which means we were on the road at 4:00am. We like to take our time driving down but once we got notification that our room was ready at the Residence Inn downtown Tampa at 9:00am, we picked up the pace, arriving in Tampa about 12:00. The two days in Tampa were spent walking the River Walk, which if you haven't done is worth it and Saturday spending the day at St Pete's Beach and working on our cruise tan.
Comments about the Residence Inn. We stayed here because we had points for free nights, plus it was less than 10 minute drive to port. There were plenty of places to eat within walking distance. We were upgraded to a 2 bedroom, which was way more room then we needed but who am I to complain, it was free. We did the valet parking since they were working on the parking lot across the stress and we were too lazy to park down the street in the parking garage. I think parking was $17 per day for the valet but we ended up getting it credited back since we had some minor issues with the valet. We didn't go out to eat Friday night since we were too tired from driving but Saturday we went to the Taps Restaurant Bar & Lounge which was only a block down. Was a little pricey for food but was totally worth it and would eat there again.
Sunday morning arrived and we were itching to leave for the port, but it was only 8:00am. Finally about 9:50, we started to make our way down to the lobby to load the car and tried to drive really slow to port, but made it there about 10:00am.
When we arrived at the roundabout, there already was a huge line of cars waiting to going in. We splurged and paid for the valet parking. We pulled up and asked where to go and a security officer directed us to pull to the left side. The valet attendant met us at the car immediately and called a porter who took our check-in luggage. He then told us to take our ticket and reservation confirmation to the valet counter to check it. I was surprised that we weren’t directed closer to the counter but turned out good. Once we checked in at the counter, we made our way upstairs which you had to do by elevator or taking the stairs (the escalators were not running) Once we got upstairs, we went through security and then were directed to the counter to check in and then we were directed to the FTTF seating area. From the time we dropped the car off to getting to our seats was about 15 minutes TOPS. We were a little nervous about going out of Tampa since it was a first for us, but they have their stuff together at the port and it was a super easy process.
We knew we were going to have a wait since we got to the port so early, but ended up chatting with people from our FB group which made the time go by quicker. They started boarding a wedding party right about 11:00 followed by Diamond & Platinum and then FTTF which I think was about 11:15.
The walk to the ship seemed longer than other ships but went by pretty quickly. Once on board, we headed to our cabin to drop our luggage and head to lunch. We stayed in a premium balcony room, cabin 7299. This was a GREAT room. I was a little concerned about it being right by the elevators & stairs but made going up and down super easy. 2 decks up and we were at food and serenity. Our cabin steward was James and even though we didn’t “see” him much, he was great about keeping our room tidy and ice buckets filled. The bed was also very comfortable (we're soft mattress people) and slept great for the most part.
I know people don’t like the Miracle or spirit class ships because of the décor. We loved it!! I like the gaudiness of it. I find the newer ships to be too bland and contemporary looking.
We did the steakhouse the first night which was awesome as usual. The service was a little slower than we’ve had in the past but we were fine just hanging out enjoying the meal, watching the sunset, and we got our 1/2 price bottle of wine 👍. The rest of the meals we did in the MDR and have to say this was one of the best experiences we had. Now we're not foodies by any means and we're pretty easy to please but some of our past cruises, the food wasn't all that great. This cruise, staff was awesome and almost every night, the food was delicious.
We spent a lot of time hanging out in the Red Frog Pub, meeting new people, and listening to music and on some of the port days, they had a happy hour specials which we always took advantage of. On embarkation day, the fish bowl drinks, which are normally $20 were half off. Was funny to watch people walking around with their own pitchers. My DH stocked up on beer when he could 🍺
Our first day at sea, we hit serenity early but it started raining and we ended up giving up on getting any sun. Was a great day to explore the ship and get ready for not one, but two M&G's.
We got tickets for the M&M through CC which was held in the piano bar at 11:15. We only had about 25ish sign up and about 17 show up. Now this was my first CC meet and greet and wasn't sure what to expect. Got to meet some great people and Carnival had a couple of staff members (one was on the entertainment staff) and the CD came by and answered questions about the ship, how living aboard was, and the trip they were going to be taking to the west coast. They also provided some coffee, juice, and water along with some pastries. Was actually really nice and wish more people would have attended. We had our other M&G in the Red Frog Pub later in the afternoon. We had over 180 in our group and about 50 of those came to the M&G. We met a lot of great people who we hung out with quite a bit through out the cruise. I wish I had taken pictures 😛 This was our first formal night, so gave me plenty of time to get dressed and then get some pictures taken.
The music on board was great, the Wet Bandits being our favorite. We saw all the big “production” shows in the theater which were good.
We cruised to Grand Cayman, which we didn’t get off the ship for since we’ve been there several times, and ended up spending the day in Serenity.
Our second stop was Roatan which we signed up for transporation through Victor Bodden which took up to Sol y Mar beach club. It was only $20 for the bus ride & entrance to the beach club. The beach was nice but not sure we would do it again. We had a large group and they had put us all together which was nice. The food & drinks were a little pricey but service was great. They had several people walking around on the beach wanting to sell souvenirs which I was not a big fan of. When I go to the beach, we go to relax and not get hounded to buy stuff. The beach was nice but this was the only stop that we were going to snorkel at. We couldn't see much around the beach area and if you wanted to see anything you would have to take a $40 boat ride out to the reefs. The shuttle took us back to port in plenty of time for shopping.
Our next stop was Belize which we didn’t plan anything but get off, have some drinks at The Wet Lizard, and buy souvenirs. We arrived into port early and caught a beautiful sunrise.
We were the only ship in port, so there were plenty of tenders.
Our last stop was Cozumel, which we’ve been to several times but we got off and grabbed a taxi to Paradise Beach. Paradise now does an all inclusive but we opted for the $3 entrance and then bought our food & drinks separately. The beach is clean, the food is good, and service is great. Stayed in the beach area for a couple of hours before moving to the pool area before leaving to go back to port to shop and get back on the ship.
Our last day at sea, we definitely saw an increase of chair hogs 🐷 I made a comment to the towel station about how sad it was that people were so inconsiderate to do that and not 5 minutes later, someone was walking around tagging chairs that didn't have anyone on them. One lady next to us that had hogged a clam shell (who was absent for a good 45 minutes) looked confused why they had done this. Damn tourist! 😛 Our last day was spent hanging out in serenity, eating, and drinking. What better vacation!!
Debarkation Day - The day we all hate. We were doing self assist and wanted to get off the ship as early as possible since we had a 7-15 hour (depending on ATL traffic) drive ahead of us. We were up at 6:00 but since we still weren't docked, just took our time getting up. We were told to be down in the dining room by 7:30am but DH gets impatient so we headed down around 7:00ish. Glad we did since there was already a huge group of people waiting to get off the ship. They had us separated by diamond/platinum and FTTF. Not sure what the hold up was but was about 8:15am before they started letting us off the ship. We each had two suitcases and we weren't allowed to go down the escalator with them and had to wait in a huge line for the elevator. Not sure why this was a problem since we've done this before in Canaveral. That took forever but once we were downstairs, we were through customs quickly and outside. This is when having the valet was worth it. Just told them our name and they ran to get the car and we were on the road in 5 minutes. We were on the road by 8:45am. Our drive home was long but made it home about 4:30pm.
Overall, this was one of the best cruises we have done with Carnival. We had a great group of people that we traveled with, made some new friends that we hope to meet again, the weather was great besides our first day showers, and never had issues with crowds on Lido. I'm sad that the Miracle is heading west, but might be looking at sailing on her to Alaska in the future.