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Indytraveler83

A Winter Escape: Miracle return to the West

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Grand Cayman: All alone

 

We woke up around 8 to get breakfast with everyone, deciding on a port day breakfast in the dining room.  Everyone but Bill showed up to breakfast, and we heard he wasn't feeling well.  The port day breakfast is supposed to be an express 30 minute deal, but we ended up in the dining room for closer to an hour.  When food was finally served, they had forgotten several items.  Overall, the food was good, but I would be upset if I were in a hurry.

 

The plan had been for all of us to head to 7 mile beach via taxi, but at this point everyone is telling me that they are about as fried by the sun as they can possibly stand.  Patty decided to stay behind for a while and take care of Bill, while my parents say they will get off the ship with us this morning, but they aren't interested in heading to the beach.  

 

Leigh starts his announcements and tells everyone to get ready to go, then head up to Lido and take a numbered sticker, which he will start calling as soon as the Carnival excursions and priority guests have taken a shuttle off the ship.  We do exactly that, and head up to Lido and get sticker #16.  It takes nearly 40 more minutes before they get to group #14.  At that point, we decided to head down to the atrium since it takes my mother some time to get down stairs.  

 

We get to the atrium, and we see a very frustrated Leigh pacing around and loudly complaining.  Turns out that guests are getting stickers for the shuttle, then returning to their rooms to get off the ship whenever they want (seems like a water shuttle version of seat saving).  He looks at us, and asks if we are ready to get off the ship NOW.  We say we are, and he directs us downstairs to the water shuttle.

 

Now here's where things get good:  we are the ONLY ship here.  And even though almost everyone on the ship is trying to get off, there is no one else heading to the island.  Its a mostly sunny day, but some clouds and brief rain squalls threaten the sky.  As the shuttle get to the pier, we get the normal annoyance of the photographers trying to take pictures on the "gangway."

 

This was particularly annoying as the tender ride wasn't very smooth and even on the dock it is bucking up and down.  I'm not entirely sure it was safe to have people pausing on the bouncing gangway, but I guess the picture was worth it?  Regardless we get into the port, and are immediately inundated by the local tour guides trying to arrange tours.    

 

It is here we are reminded that the independent tours are so much cheaper than the ship tours.  Heading to do rum tasting and rum cake tasting is $25, while its $50 on the ship.  The trip to the caves is $79, while its over $120 on the ship.  However, even though a few of the tours are interesting, we settle on the $6 bus/taxi ride to 7 mile beach.  My parents seperate from us, and we get on the bus.

 

The driver talks about the island a little on the way there, and asks where everyone wants to go.  He tells us he can drop us off at a local beach club for $5, at the public access areas for $6, at Calico Jack's for $6, or all the way to Cemetery Beach for $7.  I personally would have loved to try the snorkeling at Cemetery Beach, but know Jake is more interested in a lazy beach day.  The rest of the bus feels the same, and everyone tells the driver to take us to Calico Jack's.

 

Calico Jack's is a beach bar that serves basic beers, cocktails and a small menu of local food.  Upon arrival, we are greeted by several employees strongly encouraging customers to rent a pair of beach chairs and an umbrella for $20.  Jake tries to walk past, but I quickly pull out $20 and ask for the rental.  I remember how badly we burned up the day before, and how grumpy he'd gotten, and I'm not ready to repeat.

 

We are escorted down to the beach and given wristbands and the rented equipment.  Jake lays back in the comfy chair and admits I was right to rent it.  I decide to put on the snorkeling gear and check out the fish underwater.  Now the snorkeling in this area isn't fantastic.  But at the same time the beach is so big I find myself swimming for nearly an hour before getting back.

 

Arriving back on shore I'm exhausted and starving.  Jake goes to get a menu, but comes back with a server in tow.  We quickly order locally caught fish and some local beer.  Now... what we don't entirely realize is that the prices are listed in Cayman currency.  Once its converted to American dollars and the automatic gratuity is added, our bill is close to $60, when we thought it was closer to $40.  

 

At first we freaked out, as we only had $60 between us, including return fare for the bus.  But the bar takes credit cards, so we just put it on the card we brought, and stopped sweating.  We spent the next few hours swimming, relaxing and drinking a small bucket of beers.  Since there was only one ship in port, the beach was half empty and very quiet.

 

Writing this its hard to explain how awesome of a day this was.  I don't feel like many people get the privilege of being on this beach without sharing it with 10,000 or 15,000 other people.  With it so clear, it was easy to see the pristine sand, the turquoise water and to hear the waves as they lapped up on shore.  

 

As the afternoon dragged on, we decide around 3:30 pm its time to go.  We changed, packed up and found a bus at around 3:45pm.  After sitting on it for a few minutes, one of the passengers asks why he hasn't gone yet, and he tells her that he's the last bus out for the day.  We breathe a sigh of relief that we didn't miss the last bus!  However, in a few minutes he goes up and down the beach and announces his departure, which causes a few others to get on board.  Around 4, we finally take off from the beach.

 

The ride back was hilarious, as a family behind us are sick of the ship's food and have a massive craving for fast food.  As we pass McDonalds, Wendy's and Burger King they beg the driver to stop.  It was even worse when we passed KFC, as they promise the driver they'd buy him a bucket.  He laughs and keeps going, but is nice enough to point out there's a Burger King near the port.  As we get off the bus, they race to Burger King as the driver laughs.  We tip him and get in line for the shuttle.  

 

Back on the ship, we head to dinner and Bill is still missing.  We are a little worried he's come down with Noro, but Patty assures us he'll be okay.  Dinner proceeds as normal, and we are back at our usual table with good food.  Afterwards Jake and I decide to listen to music all night.  We head to the atrium and listen to the string trio most of the night.

 

We meet Melissa, a bar waitress from Japan who is especially friendly.  Completely worn out of margaritas, I ask her to let me try some of the martinis on the menu.  She makes fantastic martinis, but also is happy to keep a glass of water for each of us full at all times.  Even better, if you don't drink the water as fast as she think you should, she occasionally drops fruit in it on her way by to entice you to drink more water.

 

Keeping hydrated helps out quite a bit, and we enjoy ourselves until the string trio retires for the night.  We aren't quite tired yet, so we join my parents for another comedy show by the other comedian.  He's about average and we laugh enough for it to be worth it.  Afterwards we head to the lido for more food, and catch the late night snack bar for the first time.  We enjoyed a cheeseburger, fries and brownies before finally getting tired enough to head to bed.

 

Tonight we'd sleep a little better, seems everyone is too tired to do laundry!

 

Next up: Last sea day!

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Last Sea Day- Is it over already??

 

 We wake up and get breakfast on lido, meeting everyone else there.  Bill is feeling better and profusely apologizes for missing the prior day.  At breakfast we already start talking about the next cruise, but Jake gets antsy and abruptly gets up, saying he wants to enjoy the day.  Soon after, Leigh's regular announcements start up about hourly, trying to squeeze us of every last dollar.

 

Instead of following Leigh's advice, we get a picture of spiked lemonade from the bar on Serenity.  We watch the woman make it, and are astounded at the simplicity of the recipe.  The bartender grabs a juice glass, and fills it with vodka, then she pours it into the pitcher, then fills with lemonade.  Its good, and its strong.  We sneak off to a clam shell upstairs, as Serenity is full and talk in detail about our future (both of us are anticipating job changes in the very near future).  Soon we notice that the sun and drink is getting to us, so we head downstairs to the casino.

 

Against our own best judgement, we spend too much at the casino while trying to cool off.  Even though we only managed to spend about 40 minutes at the casino, a juice glass worth of vodka will cause you to open your wallet real quick!  When we finally realize how much we've spent, we head back down to the atrium to hear the string trio on the final day.  Melissa is there again, and she is happy to serve us mostly water, as we are still feeling the effects of the sun and lemonade.  

 

Dinner comes soon, and I have to warn my mother off of the very bad tiger shrimp entree that she attempts to order (its literally the only thing I've ever sent back to the kitchen).  I order the prime rib and its fantastic, followed by baked alaska for dessert.  While the rest of us enjoy the bittersweet final song, Jake slips out for the last 20 minutes of his favorite string trio in the atrium.

 

He had a much better time than we did, as the trio took a few requests from him, then let him take a few photos with them.  I rejoin Jake in the atrium after dinner, and we listen to the variety music for a while with "Liz and Lucas" who would have been our favorites on just about any ship, if not for the string trio that Jake fell in love with.  Unfortunately there isn't a lot of events left on the ship, but we happen to notice there is a singles mixer on the final night... um... isn't that better for the first night??

 

We join my parents again at the comedy club, but Jake's parents are exhausted and already in bed.  Jake and my dad both fall asleep at the show, while mom and I watched the last show in that wacky looking lounge.  Getting back to the cabin, we are too exhausted to pack and just go to bed.

 

Next up: Debarkation and final thoughts

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Debarkation:

 

We wake up early on debarkation morning, with an awful smell coming into the room.  It smells heavily of exhaust and I wake up coughing.  The room is extremely hot and humid, and it feels like we've been dropped directly into the engine room of the ship on a hot day.  Thankfully the early morning helps us hurry up and pack.  We check the ship's webcam and notice that we are already docked, and it appears the ship has already started to load and unload supplies.

 

Leaving the rooms, we head up to Lido with Jake's parent and our bags, as we have to be out by 8:30am.  My parents had an early flight, but ours is later so we are in no hurry.  We eat breakfast and sit on lido until the announcements go from "now this group can get off the ship" to "Okay, seriously everyone get off the ship now."  

 

Getting off the ship is bittersweet, but since we are some of the latest guests off, there is no wait walking off, and just a small wait to clear security on shore.  The only issue now, is that most of the taxis and Ubers are bringing people to the port, and it takes a while to get an Uber to pick us up.  As we drive away, we still marvel at how big any cruise ship is.

 

Final thoughts:

 

Pros:

 

We loved the Miracle.  Despite being a little rough around the edges, the layout of the ship is fantastic, its not crowded at all, and the public spaces are massive and very well done.  The alchemy bar is one of the coolest spaces I've seen on any Carnival ship.  I feel like getting on the newest and best ships for the state of the art features just aren't worth the crowds and cramped spaces, and will likely seek out some of the older ships in the coming years.  Our best ship experiences have been on the Miracle and Elation, while we felt more much conflicted about our experiences on the Dream and Magic.

 

We absolutely loved this itinerary.  Grand Cayman and Mahogany Bay are two of the best beach ports I've been to, and I still don't see how Grand Turk and St. Thomas are considered a better pairing.  What was a massive bonus, was that the Miracle tends to get to ports either alone, or with other small ships.  This made the ports much easier to navigate, much less crowded and much more beautiful.  

 

For the most part, the staff on the Miracle was very good.  We only had one negative experience with a very awkward waiter, but otherwise everyone else was great.  We did notice though, that while this staff was very friendly, it was "professional friendly" which is much different than we've encountered in the past.  The staff was extremely efficient and good at what they do, but no one seemed interested in taking much time to let us get to know them.  I feel like this is what crew on a good RCL or NCL ship is like.

 

On the bad side, we hated everything about Leigh.  We kept thinking our cruise was being haunted by the Sham-wow guy!  He was more infomercial than anything, and his hourly or more announcements were disruptive.  We badly missed Chris the Flying Scotsman and Dr. E from our prior two cruises.  Those guys brought great energy, and only seemed to do the announcements they had to do.

 

We also are finding the shows to get very very stale.  I'd love to see something good in the show lounge again, but in just peeking in or walking by the lounge, we could predict every line, every song and every performance.  Its getting old.  

 

Finally we still can't get a good handle on the food.  Sometimes its fantastic, and sometimes is like they unwrapped a microwave meal for you.  I think overall the menu is slowly improving, but there's still some bullets to dodge.  

 

As a whole, I think we definitely got our cruise fever back, and will be targeting ships we haven't been on, that aren't the newest and the best.  We've never been on any Conquest class ships, and would happily return to the Fantasy or Spirit Class ships.  

 

If you have any questions, let me know.  Also, if you have any suggestions on ships, itineraries or places for us to target for our next edition of "A Winter Escape" let me know too!

 

Thanks again for reading!

 

-Shaun

 

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1 hour ago, Indytraveler83 said:

 

 

Dinner comes soon, and I have to warn my mother off of the very bad tiger shrimp entree that she attempts to order (its literally the only thing I've ever sent back to the kitchen).  

I missed what was wrong about the tiger shrimp dish, if you had commented on it earlier.  Shrimp not fresh, bad prep,  just curious.  

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52 minutes ago, CanWeGoYet? said:

I missed what was wrong about the tiger shrimp dish, if you had commented on it earlier.  Shrimp not fresh, bad prep,  just curious.  

 

Sorry, this is actually from the year prior. It’s advertised as creol (I think) tiger shrimp. But it’s actually just normal tiny shrimp swimming in a sauce that smells a lot like curry, with a ball of sticky rice in the center of it, unseasoned. 

 

It is the single worst thing I’ve ever had, and the only MDR dish I’ve ever sent back. 

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Thank you for a great review, you brought back so many good memories of our recent Miracle cruise. I'll be looking for your future reviews 🙂

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Thanks for your review.  We love the Miracle.  We are so happy that it's going to be back in San Diego. A short Uber ride to the port.   We loved the Red Frog Pub on it last time.

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Thanks Shaun, Great review and a very entertaining read.

I'm on Miracle from San Francisco to Alaska in 2020.

We are looking forward to not being crowded and it sounds like Miracle will be just what we want.

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Very good review Shaun. I also enjoyed way too many mango margaritas at Mr. Sanchos. According to my daughter I was floundering in 3 feet of water and she had to tell me to stand up. She also claimed I was walking to the left and they had to gently correct me back to the right. All I know is I had a headache by 9 that night. Can't wait to do it again in November.

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