Carnival Miracle Review - Mexican Riviera in Aft Extended Balcony
We had a relaxing cruise aboard the Miracle in an aft extended view balcony and wanted to share the good, the great, and the minor bummers. I am 40, my husband 50 and our son is 4. This was a 40th birthday cruise for me. Probably our 14th cruise or so, but who is counting?! We’d repeat this trip because it was an overall excellent value and great experience.
Faster to the Fun:
I’ll start with major props on the Faster to the Fun concept. For $50 we are so glad we made the investment. We were some of the first on the ship (by 12:30pm due to a slower than usual disembarkation process from the prior Hawaii cruise) and praise the staff for always recognizing us as FTTF and whisking us to priority tenders, priority self assist debarkation, etc. We will always cruise this way as long as Carnival makes this option available at such a good price. And YES, FTTF is listed on the priority check in sign, right next to Platinum, etc. This was really nice for us traveling with a 4 year old and arriving to the port at 10:30am. A front desk agent surveyed us on our FTTF experience mid way through the cruise by phoning our cabin. The only less than perfect feedback I had for her (when asked) was that our luggage wasn’t in our room when we arrived on embarkation day, but we didn’t care one bit about that since it arrived shortly thereafter.
Here is our video tour of aft extended balcony cabin #7351.
We loved this cabin. It was quiet (staterooms above and below), clean, and located quite conveniently to the Horatio’s restaurant (LOVE that I only had to take two quick flights of stairs for our morning coffee run!). The bed was among the top three most comfortable on any ship we’ve ever experienced. We pack our own pillows, but still, the mattress was just soft enough, the sheets were soft and we slept like babies. My 4 year old son slept on the couch converted to a bed, and he loved the gentle rumble of the engines lulling him to sleep each night. There was less engine vibration and noise on the aft of the Miracle than we’ve experienced on other ships. Just enough to be soothing and rock you to sleep. The balcony was showing a bit of wear and wasn’t super clean, and I didn’t care for the food smell that wafts toward the aft when you are on the back of the ship, but the lack of wind makes that part bearable. There was never a time when we couldn’t be out on the balcony. Even late at night on the coolest of evenings it was calm and lovely to watch the wake. Storage was ample, closet space rocked, and the shower seemed bigger to me than most. We’d choose this cabin again and again.
Our dining experience:
We dined at the Steakhouse, Nick and Nora’s, twice on this voyage. The first experience was on the night of our cruise - after learning that we weren’t happy with our main dining room table assignment. Shortly after boarding, we visited the main dining room and were told we were to be seated at a big table with others (we’d chosen assigned /6pm, table of 4 for the three of us). So, until this was resolved, we decided to pay the premium and hit Nick and Nora’s. We dined there a second time on the second formal night. It was wonderful!
Both times, I had the lobster bisque, Caesar salad, surf and turf (Lobster & 4 oz filet mignon) and chocolate dessert (the one with 4 different treats). My husband had the tomato and mozzarella salad, filet mignon, crab cake and cheesecake both times. The maître D explained to us that there aren’t many small tables in the assigned dining room, and that he’d do what he could, but for the first night, we were stuck. We really like to dine along when we cruise because this is our family time, so we hit the steakhouse and learned mid day on the first sea day that our dining request had been met, and we spent the rest of the cruise in a nice booth in the dining room. They delivered a nice notice to our stateroom letting us know we had been accommodated. We don’t know if Faster to the Fun helped in this situation, but we never mentioned it when making our request so that remains a mystery. I know that "priority dining room reservations” are a part of FTTF, so I probably should have mentioned it but it just didn’t feel right to me. I should mention there seemed to be a lot of people needing to change their dining arrangements. As other posters have mentioned, this could be avoided if Carnival would just HONOR what people request on the website at booking. Sheesh!
My biggest beef with this trip was the food. I wasn’t crazy about most of our meals in the dining room. It was certainly fine, and sort of what I have come to expect when cruising (especially on Carnival that can be excellent one cruise and sub par on others). We ate twice at the steakhouse on this cruise, which we never do. That was in part due to the fact that we weren’t really grooving on the choices or quality in the dining room. Food is very personal, so I’ll share what I didn’t like, but bear in mind there is always ample food and we didn’t go hungry: 1) food was sometimes not hot enough 2) entrée choices seemed weird…because of the "available every day” salmon, chicken, etc, we found the main course entrees to often be lacking in the chicken and fish department. I don’t want pork, lamb and hard to chew beef or pasta every night, so…in my opinion, it wasn’t the greatest.
I should add that the Horatio’s buffet does a great job for breakfast and lunch. LOVE the different stations because it disperses the crowd, and food was always hot, high quality and super tasty. Same with room service- wow, a Rueben (hot and delicious) on a cruise from room service?? Now, THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about! The chicken wrap is good too! We could have potato salad, chips, or coleslaw as sides. Pretty nice selection. Though, no room service French fries. Pretty standard.
On sea days, the main dining room offers "Sea Day Brunch” leaving the dining room open continuously from breakfast through 1pm. Breakfast and a few lunch options were available. The first day, we loved this and enjoyed the food and service. The last sea day, we had to leave the dining room after 20 minutes of sitting at our table without even a hello. We opted for the buffet instead, and let the hostess know we weren’t served. Sadly, she said this was a big issue that day, and that others were complaining too. No big deal, but with a 4 year old, we weren’t about to wait it out OR make a huge fuss.
Nick and Nora’s was great. A few members of the staff sometimes seemed a little bit to be "deer in the headlights”. No big deal, but here’s an example: our son, who is 4 went with us both times to the steakhouse. Normally, when taking our order, the server will offer to bring something for our little guy, off the menu. This didn’t happen either time- we had to ask, which was fine and they made him a seriously scrumptious mac and cheese that was to die for. They didn’t charge for it, and we tipped well thanks to their kindness and thoughtfulness. BUT, we have had better experiences accommodating him both on other Carnival cruises and on Princess in the steakhouse. It certainly must have to do with the fact that the steakhouse is many floors away from the MDR-they can’t just grab the kid a corn dog and bring it to the table. I get it, and it was still a lovely dining experience. Our first night in the steakhouse they brought us a FREE bottle of wine, which was so cool! It wasn’t fancy (screw top), but hey, what a nice gesture to all the guests that night. Maybe this was because the steakhouse is quiet on night one? I don’t know, but we thought that was classy to be sure!
As California residents, we love to take this cruise because it means we get to go to Cabo and PV without the cost or hassle of a flight. We have our little routines in both ports, but this time, we wanted to do something different. So, here’s how we spent our days:
Cabo Day 1: We went to a resort for the early part of the day and enjoyed the pool (Playa Grande). This happened on accident as we tried to go to the Finnistera to eat and use their pool (we always do this) and were told the hotel is now a very pricey all inclusive and day passes would be $90 pp. walking down the hill to figure out plan b, a nice man (employee of Playa Grande resort, on the Pacific side) told us to head over there, and that we could swim and eat no problem. We did. It was great and nobody hassled us. We were spending money, buying drinks and appetizers, so I’m sure they were fine with us being there. For the later part of the day, we intended to take a water taxi to Lover’s beach, but our water taxi driver suggested Pelican Beach, the little stretch just closer to land near Lover’s beach. WE enjoyed swimming and walking there, and there was less of a crowd here than Lover’s.
Cabo Day 2: We hit Billygans at Medano beach, drank coronas, ate tacos and enchiladas (all while lounging on comfy leather chaise lounges) and swam in the calm beach. Party scene was average that day- not too many drunk people, but plenty of fun. Vendors were out of control in our face, but we don’t care. We are used to it. The ocean was so calm that my son could romp in the waves. We probably spent less than $50 for 2 Coronas, 4 sodas, and 2 meal entrees. Very fair for half day access to the best swimming in Cabo.
Puerto Vallarta: We bought day passes at Now Amber resort for $65 a person (child free) for a wonderful day of swimming in the pool and all inclusive drinks and food. Service in the restaurant overlooking the beach was great. It was seafood, but simple and very tasty. Drinks were awesome and because they were strong, I enjoyed a pina colada, and margarita. They made a virgin pina colada for our son. We chose this hotel because it had a waterslide for our boy, and we’re so glad we spent the day there. Cab fare from the ship was cheap and the ride was short (less than 10 minutes). We would totally do this again. The resort is stunning and we relaxed so much this day. Weather in PV was cloudy, but the hot tub came in handy when it drizzled.
The ship is in better condition than I expected and the wacky Joe Farcus décor was fun! We’re going to put together a ship tour video soon, so stay tuned! Staff was good in most areas (awesome dining room attendance and room steward, very nice front desk staff). Room service staff was always fast and competent and the cruise director and captain were gracious.
We missed the first performance show in the main show lounge, but truly enjoyed the hypnotist mid cruise. That was hilarious, and appropriate for our son. We found the 2nd performance (Beatles review) to be lacking. The wigs looked cheap and distracting, and while the dancers and talent were excellent, the show tried a little too hard to cram too many Beatles songs into one show. I also don’t really care for seeing the dancer’s bums (thongs), this isn’t Vegas, but hey, I guess that’s what you get on the "fun ships”! !