One of Carnival Cruise Line's most comfortable ships, midsized Carnival Miracle is a good bet for cruisers of all ages who are focused less on exotic ports of call than on an upbeat environment with lots of activities on the schedule, from dawn till late at night. It's a ship that marries a friendly, well-versed crew with a solid layout that minimizes crowding, while never letting go of Carnival's mantra, "fun." While lacking some of the bells and whistles found on Carnival's newest or most recently renovated vessels, Carnival Miracle is otherwise in solid condition for its age, and boasts other amenities not found throughout the fleet.
Debuting in 2004, Carnival Miracle was the last of Carnival Cruise Line's four Spirit-class ships. Unlike many other Carnival ships that tip the 100,000-ton mark, the Spirit-class ships measured a modest 88,500 tons. Carrying 2,124 cruisers at double occupancy, the passenger-to-space ratio on these four ships -- let's call it elbow-room -- is the best in the entire fleet. Carnival Miracle, like its sisters, is also blessed with lots of balconies. In fact, 64 percent of the cabins have a balcony, whereas balcony options throughout the rest of the Carnival fleet represent less than 50 percent of the cabins. And the cabins, while not unusual among Carnival's other ships of this period, start at a relatively generous 185 square feet, offering good value in today's world of shrinking cruise accommodations.
Other things that set Carnival Miracle apart: The ship has two promenade decks, the public areas are more conducive for traffic flow, the Lido Deck is well organized and one of the pools has a retractable roof, which means the area can be used in rainy or cold weather. Plus, Carnival Miracle has a see-through, red-domed funnel topping the Atrium. While not really noticeable from a distance, the Atrium sets the insides aglow with a raspberry tone, especially at the ship's satisfying Deck 10 steakhouse, Nick & Nora's, named for Dashiell Hammett's Thin Man characters. Actually, the Spirit-class vessels are where Carnival's steakhouse concept premiered, and in these ships the venue has a prime location at the top of the Atrium.
Unlike Carnival's newest ships, Carnival Miracle boasts most of legendary Carnival interior designer Joe Farcus' whimsical Vegas-meets-cruising decor, and the theme of the ship is vaguely tied to the world of miracles. Characters out of fantasy and legend are dusted off to name and outfit the public areas, so there's The Raven Library, Mad Hatter's Ball Lounge, Bacchus Dining Room and Dr. Frankenstein's Lab Dance Club -- Robin Hood, Hercule Poirot and Robinson Crusoe also earn a tip of the Farcus hat.
Carnival Miracle is behind the times with more than just its decor. Carnival's "Funship 2.0" upgrade program was launched in 2011, but this ship only received a half-hearted makeover during its last refurb, when the Alchemy Bar and Serenity Pool Deck were added. In addition to missing some of the features found only on the newest Carnival ships, Carnival Miracle lacks a real water park or Dine-In Movies. And it has fewer alternative dining venues than most Carnival ships, including not having a Guy's Burger Joint.
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What Carnival Miracle does have is a crew that is upbeat and warm, and genuinely engaged with passengers, and the main dining room delivered satisfying, sometimes above-average meals. It's a ship that harkens to a gentler era of cruising, when amenities were more focused on the sea and the destination, rather than theme park-style attractions. That it's accomplished with Carnival's customary lack of pretense makes Carnival Miracle all the more fun.
Expect lots of couples and groups of friends traveling together, and a wider range of ages than some cruise lines see. Passengers generally range in age from 25 to 65, with families onboard, especially during summer and school breaks.
Daytime: Casual, with shorts and T-shirts most common inside the ship and bathing suits and cover-ups de rigueur on the pool deck.
Evening: Carnival is one of the more casual cruise lines in terms of attire, but it's not quite "anything goes" after dark. For the main dining room (Bacchus), men are asked to wear slacks, khakis or dress shorts and collared shirts (Polos acceptable). Summer dresses, casual skirts, pants, capris, dress shorts, and blouses are requested for women. On a typical seven-night itinerary, expect two Cruise Elegant evenings, when a sports coat is encouraged for men, and cocktail dresses, pantsuits or an elegant skirt and blouse is recommended for ladies. Some men will wear a suit and tie or tuxedo on these nights, and women an evening gown.
Not permitted: Jeans are considered OK, but cutoffs, sleeveless shirts, gym/basketball shorts, flip-flops or bathing attire are not allowed at Bacchus. The same dress code applies to Nick & Nora's Steakhouse, except shorts are never allowed.
For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Carnival.