Carnival Miracle Day 1: Embarkation in Long Beach

Our Fun Ship Voyage to the Mexican Riviera Begins

Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Miracle docked in the Port of Long Beach, California on Saturday, May 30, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Miracle docked in the Port of Long Beach, California on Saturday, May 30, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The smog was so thick when my Air Canada Rouge flight touched down at Los Angeles International Airport this morning that you could have scooped it up and served it as pudding. With the horizon disappearing into a grey-brown haze, it’s the kind of thing that could really get a guy (or gal) down. Unless, that is, you’re headed to Long Beach to embark Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Miracle for a weeklong voyage to the Mexican Riviera.

This is the first year that Carnival Miracle has sailed to the Mexican Riviera year-round. Her deployment marks a resurgence in a cruise destination that very nearly died out a few years back. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
This is the first year that Carnival Miracle has sailed to the Mexican Riviera year-round. Her deployment marks a resurgence in a cruise destination that very nearly died out a few years back. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The Mexican Riviera is one of my favorite destinations, and I’m glad to see Carnival has committed Carnival Miracle to a full year-round schedule out of Long Beach down to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta for the near future. Five years ago, this fantastic run nearly died out completely in the wake of some high-profile shootings in the region, and Carnival is one of the first lines to come back.

I first sailed to the Mexican Riviera back in February of 2006, onboard Holland America’s Oosterdam. At that time, nearly half a dozen cruise lines offered a full slate of seasonal sailings to Mexico’s Pacific coast, from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego.

I loved the region for what it was: a uniquely Mexican experience that seemed, to me, to be slightly less commercialized than Mexico’s Caribbean coast. It’s also more diverse, with arid desert landscapes in Cabo and the imposing lushness of the Sierra Madre mountains near Puerto Vallarta.

Carnival's terminal in Long Beach, California formerly housed the "Spruce Goose", Howard Hughes' controversial flying machine. The RMS Queen Mary is pictured at right, where she is permanently moored as a floating hotel. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Carnival’s terminal in Long Beach, California formerly housed the “Spruce Goose”, Howard Hughes’ controversial flying machine. The RMS Queen Mary is pictured at right, where she is permanently moored as a floating hotel. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Just when it seemed as if the Mexican Riviera would slip quietly into the forgotten annals of cruising history, Carnival almost singlehandedly revived it. And the Carnival Miracle, based out of Long Beach year-round for the first time in 2015, is just the ship to bring it back.

At 963 feet in length, Carnival Miracle can carry 2,124 guests comfortably. She has a crew of 930, and a cruising speed of 22 knots. Her basic design, pioneered by the Carnival Spirit, would go on to become cruising’s most successful hull design. The Spirit Class that Carnival Miracle is a part of, inspired Holland America Line’s entire newbuild fleet beginning with Zuiderdam in 2002, which would in turn act as the basis for new vessels for Costa, Cunard and P&O UK.

Welcome Aboard Carnival Miracle! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Welcome Aboard Carnival Miracle! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Looking up through the ship's nine-story atrium, complete with three glass elevators and a skylight mounted into the base of the iconic Carnival funnel. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Looking up through the ship’s nine-story atrium, complete with three glass elevators and a skylight mounted into the base of the iconic Carnival funnel. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Minutes after embarking in Long Beach, Carnival Miracle became my favorite Carnival cruise ship to-date, even smoking past my adoration for the admittedly-gorgeous Carnival Breeze. Maybe it’s my nostalgia for this class of ship seeping through, but as far as I’m concerned, Carnival got everything right with Carnival Miracle and her sisters, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, and Carnival Legend.

Whimsical lighting can be found throughout Carnival Miracle, like these blue ceiling lamps that adorn the Deck 9 landings around the central atrium. The staircase leads up to Nick and Nora's Steakhouse, located in the base of Carnival's iconic funnel. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Whimsical lighting can be found throughout Carnival Miracle, like these blue ceiling lamps that adorn the Deck 9 landings around the central atrium. The staircase leads up to Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse, located in the base of Carnival’s iconic funnel. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Carnival Miracle boasts a classic seafaring theme throughout, along with classic Broadway musicals and entertainment. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Carnival Miracle boasts a classic seafaring theme throughout, along with classic Broadway musicals and entertainment. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
There's also plenty of seating at nearly every turn. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
There’s also plenty of seating at nearly every turn. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that Carnival Miracle boasts an uncommon amount of space for a Carnival ship. Public rooms are numerous and plentiful, and open deck space is downright generous. Despite being technically smaller, she feels leaps-and-bounds larger than Carnival Freedom, which I sailed aboard back in February.

Carnival Miracle underwent a significant refurbishment in March that added, among other things, the popular Alchemy Bar. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Carnival Miracle underwent a significant refurbishment in March that added, among other things, the popular Alchemy Bar. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

She’s also been recently refitted: a March drydock has given Carnival Miracle a general sprucing-up, as well as some of my favorite Carnival features. The most noteworthy of these, in my opinion, is the Alchemy Bar, which occupies a huge and unabashedly stylish space on Deck 2 just aft of the sweeping nine-story atrium.

Step right up and let Carnival's mixologists prescribe you an elixir for all your various ailments at the Alchemy Bar. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Step right up and let Carnival’s mixologists prescribe you an elixir for all your various adult-beverage-ailments at the Alchemy Bar. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Taking over the spot formerly occupied by the Jeeves Lounge, the Alchemy Bar has been given an entirely new décor, complete with high-back leather chairs and rich fabrics that would look at home aboard Queen Mary 2. Designed to be an apothecary of adult libations, the martinis and cocktails here are to-die for.

Some very cool memorabilia has been added as decor in The Alchemy Bar aboard Carnival Miracle. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Some very cool memorabilia has been added as decor in The Alchemy Bar aboard Carnival Miracle. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Also new is the RedFrog Pub, which has replaced the Jazz Club on Deck 2 forward. Serving up pints of Carnival’s own ThirstyFrog Ale (as well as a full menu of other beers and drinks), the RedFrog Pub may very well be one of the line’s greatest creations. I’m glad it’s here aboard Carnival Miracle; I’m not sure how I would survive without its soothing Caribbean atmosphere and often-hysterical Adult Pub Trivia.

Also Newly Added! The popular RedFrog Pub. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Also Newly Added! The popular RedFrog Pub. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
All the best Pub games are available here, along with Carnival's own brew: ThirstyFrog. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
All the best Pub games are available here, along with Carnival’s own brew: ThirstyFrog Ale. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The March refit also extended to other, less expected areas. Carpets look crisp and new, and I noticed that even the emergency evacuation chart on the back on my stateroom door is brand-spankin’ new.

My home for the week here onboard: a Category 8C Balcony Stateroom on Deck 6. If you’ve sailed with Carnival before, you’ll recognize the stateroom layout instantly – though Carnival Miracle substantially tones down the Miami Vice pinks and oranges that were, at one time, the staple accent colour on the line’s earlier vessels.

My home for the week: a Category 8C Balcony Stateroom on Deck 6. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
My home for the week: a Category 8C Balcony Stateroom on Deck 6. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The room boasts a large vanity that doubles as an excellent writing desk, along with three closets, numerous drawers, two bedside end tables with lamps, a queen-sized bed that can be separated into two twins, a full-sized couch with table, a flat-panel television, and a decent-sized bathroom that features your standard shower/toilet/sink combination. Both North American and European power outlets are available, and the balcony is surprisingly large; easily on-par with balconies found aboard the ships of Holland America Line.

Stateroom bathrooms are basic, but relatively spacious. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Stateroom bathrooms are basic, but relatively spacious. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The colours aboard Carnival Miracle seem less industrial and more welcoming aboard Carnival Miracle than aboard some of the other ships in the fleet. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The colours aboard Carnival Miracle seem less industrial and more welcoming aboard Carnival Miracle than aboard some of the other ships in the fleet. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Shampoo and Shower Gel are dispensed in the shower via a wall-mounted unit. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Shampoo and Shower Gel are dispensed in the shower via a wall-mounted unit. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
I've finally advanced to the echelon of a past Carnival guest...and past guests get one free bottle of water. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
I’ve finally advanced to the echelon of a past Carnival guest … and past guests get one free bottle of water. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The room is virtually identical to the stateroom I occupied aboard Carnival Freedom earlier this year, but the bathroom seems larger (and better coloured, with dark blue accents), and the overall fit-and-finish strikes me as being above-par; interesting, considering Carnival Miracle is actually the older of the two ships.

I love the vintage Broadway posters that adorn the Deck 6 corridor. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
I love the vintage Broadway posters that adorn the Deck 6 corridor. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Stairwells are bright and colourful, and feature suitably vibrant artwork. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Stairwells are bright and colourful, and feature suitably vibrant artwork. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

We set sail nearly two hours late today, finally casting off from our Long Beach berth just after 6:30 p.m. We were told it was due to a delay with authorities granting us clearance to leave; however, onboard Carnival Miracle, no one seemed particularly worried about our delayed departure. On the ship, the party had already started. Why sweat the small stuff?

At 6:30pm, Carnival Miracle finally pushed away from her berth in Long Beach and set out into the Pacific Ocean. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
At 6:30pm, Carnival Miracle finally pushed away from her berth in Long Beach and set out into the Pacific Ocean. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Sure enough, after two hours of waiting Captain Luca Lazzarino hammered down on the Carnival Miracle’s deep-baritone horn and gave the order to let go the lines. The thick blue ropes immediately slackened against their bollards, and one by one they splashed into the harbour, where they remained for a few short seconds before being winched aboard.

The View From Up Top: Carnival Miracle gets underway, and the Sailaway Party gets into full swing. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The View From Up Top: Carnival Miracle gets underway. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
One of Carnival Miracle's greatest strengths is how much open deck space there is onboard - and how spacious she feels. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
One of Carnival Miracle’s greatest strengths is how much open deck space there is onboard – and how spacious she feels. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Pilot Boat swings around...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Pilot Boat swings around … Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...to pick up our Pilot...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
… to pick up our Pilot…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...as we head out into the Pacific Ocean. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
… as we head out into the Pacific Ocean. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Alive for the first time this cruise, Carnival Miracle gradually eased out into the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean and set a course for our first port of call of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – and I couldn’t be happier. Not only do I get to revisit a part of the world I haven’t seen in five years, but I get to do so on a line that truly seems to support the cruise industry on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

In 2006, I had a Mexican Riviera voyage on the books with Carnival, aboard Carnival Miracle’s sister-ship, Carnival Pride. But I cancelled before final payment was due. My rationale: Carnival wasn’t for me.

Now, nearly a decade later, I’m discovering just how wrong I really was.

Goodnight from the Pacific Ocean...and Carnival Miracle! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Goodnight from the Pacific Ocean…and Carnival Miracle! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Miracle - Mexican Riviera

Day 1Embarkation in Long Beach
Day 2At Sea
Day 3Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Day 4Mazatlan, Mexico
Day 5Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Day 6Cruising The Pacific Coast
Day 7One Last Fun Day At Sea

Join the Conversation

Daniel Ginzburg says:

I am looking forward to your onboard posts. Usually I follow more closely your luxury liner postings, but I am interested to read how you feel the difference now back on a large mass market ship. Thanks for your great work. Best wishes, Daniel

Aaron Saunders says:

Thanks Daniel! You know, Carnival stacks up very nicely. For what it is – and who it’s aimed at, and the price point it’s offered for, it’s a heck of a lot of value. The difference between a luxury line and a mass-market line is, of course, night-and-day 🙂 Hope you enjoyed – Aaron.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *