Carnival Miracle Day 2: Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Sun and Seuss At Sea

Cruising the Pacific Ocean aboard Carnival Miracle on this last day of May, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Cruising the Pacific Ocean aboard Carnival Miracle on this last day of May, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

Sunday, May 31, 2015

An oddly Alaskan-style morning greeted Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Miracle when I awoke, on this first day of our weeklong voyage to the Mexican Riviera. Peering out the curtains of my stateroom, I was surprised to see overcast skies and grey seas instead of the crisp blues I had been used to on previous voyages.

Some of the unsettled weather is apparently coming as the remnants of the distant Tropical Storm Andes, which is spooling harmlessly out in the Pacific. While we’re in absolutely no danger of even coming close to encountering it (it’s 800 miles away) we’re seeing some very light swells and unsettled weather as a result. Personally, I think we’re in a flat calm: standing on the upper deck of the Carnival Miracle, it’s only when I concentrate on the horizon that I realize we are, in actuality, pitching gently forward and aft.

This morning's cloudy skies were short lived. By midday, the sun was out in full-force. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
This morning’s cloudy skies were short lived. By midday, the sun was out in full-force. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The view from Carnival Miracle's Promenade Deck, located on Deck 3. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The view from Carnival Miracle’s Promenade Deck, located on Deck 3. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Sea days are some of my favorite aboard a Carnival cruise ship; if there’s one thing the line knows, it’s how to keep guests of all ages entertained. To that end, today’s Fun Times daily program lists a total of 79 scheduled activities for you to while away your day at sea. And that’s if you don’t fancy doing something on your own; the possibilities are endless in that case.

A few interesting diversions from today’s Fun Times:

  • 7:00am: Sunrise Stretch. Spa Carnival; 9 Fwd
  • 9:30am: Good Morning Trivia. Phantom Theatre, 2 Fwd
  • 10:00am: Free Play – Putt Putt Players Meet. Mimi-Golf Course, 11 Fwd
  • 11:00am: Guess the Price of the Painting. Fountainhead Café, 2 Fwd
  • 11:30am: Stupid Law Trivia. Fountainhead Café, 2 Fwd
  • 12:00pm: Paper Airplane Contest. Atrium Lobby, 2 Fwd
  • 1:00pm: Master Mixology Competition. Lido Stage, 9 Mid
  • 1:30pm: The Very Hairy Chest Contest. Lido Stage, 9 Mid
  • 2:30pm: Slot Tournament Finals. Mr. Lucky’s Casino, 2 Mid
  • 3:00pm: Tea Time & Sweet Treats. Bacchus Dining Room, 3 Aft
  • 3:30pm: Seuss-A-Palooza Parade. Atrium Lobby, 2 Fwd
  • 3:45pm: Seuss-A-Palooza Storytime. Phantom Theatre, 2 Fwd
  • 4:00pm: Bean Bag Tournament. RedFrog Pub, 2 Fwd
  • 5:00pm: Captain’s Celebration. Promenade, All Decks
  • 7:15pm: Meet the Senior Officers. Atrium Lobby, 2 Mid
  • 7:30pm: Comedy – “What Kids Say” (PG). Mad Hatter’s Ball, 1 Fwd
  • 8:15pm: Showtime – “Getaway Island”. Phantom Theatre, 2 Fwd
  • 10:15pm: Showtime- “88 Keys”. Phantom Theatre, 2 Fwd
  • 10:30pm: Comedy – “Guilty As Charged” (18+). Mad Hatter’s Ball, 1 Fwd.
  • 10:30pm: 70’s Dance Hour. Frankenstein’s Nightclub, 2 Aft
  • 11:30pm: Comedy – “Women Are Right” (18+). Mad Hatter’s Ball, 1 Fwd.

Now that we’ve seen a bit of what’s going on during our relaxing (or action-packed) Fun Sunday at Sea, let’s take a tour of the Carnival Miracle – in pictures!

The SkyBox Sports Bar is a recent addition to the Carnival Miracle, having been added during her March 2015 refit. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The SkyBox Sports Bar is a recent addition to the Carnival Miracle, having been added during her March 2015 refit. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Mr. Lucky's Casino is located on Deck 2 midships. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Mr. Lucky’s Casino is located on Deck 2 midships. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It's a decent-sized space, but has much better flow than on some other Carnival vessels. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It’s a decent-sized space, but has much better flow than on some other Carnival vessels. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Throughout Carnival Miracle, plenty of cozy seating options are available. In fact, finding a seat is almost never an issue. This is the Kane's Way Upper Promenade on Deck 3 forward, facing aft. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Throughout Carnival Miracle, plenty of cozy seating options are available. In fact, finding a seat is almost never an issue. This is the Kane’s Way Upper Promenade on Deck 3 forward, facing aft. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Dr. Frankenstein's Lab Dance Club is located on Deck 2 aft, and spans two decks in height. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab Dance Club is located on Deck 2 aft, and spans two decks in height. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
If you don't want to dance in the shadow of the Monster, plenty of seating is also available here, too. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
If you don’t want to dance in the shadow of the Monster, plenty of seating is also available here, too. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Another unique feature aboard Carnival Miracle is the fully-enclosed Gatsby's Garden Interior Promenade that wraps around the forward extremes of Deck 3. It provides access to the Video Arcade and Circle C kids club, both of which are located all the way forward. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Another unique feature aboard Carnival Miracle is the fully-enclosed Gatsby’s Garden Interior Promenade that wraps around the forward extremes of Deck 3. It provides access to the Video Arcade and Circle C kids club, both of which are located all the way forward. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It's a great space...but sadly, I've never seen anyone use it. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It’s a great space…but sadly, I’ve never seen anyone use it. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Raven Library on Deck 3 forward is a bit of a conundrum, as it used to feature internet workstations and books...and now features neither. Hey, Carnival! Why not restock the shelves and add one of those nifty Library Bars like onboard Carnival Breeze? Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Raven Library on Deck 3 forward is a bit of a conundrum, as it used to feature internet workstations and books…and now features neither*. Hey, Carnival! Why not restock the shelves and add one of those nifty Library Bars like onboard Carnival Breeze? (* Well, there’s about a dozen sad looking books occupying a single shelf. So really: no books) Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Unlike other Carnival ships, which have traditionally featured two main dining rooms, Carnival Miracle has one: the two-story Bacchus Dining Room on Decks 2 and 3 aft. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Unlike other Carnival ships, which have traditionally featured two main dining rooms, Carnival Miracle has one: the two-story Bacchus Dining Room on Decks 2 and 3 aft. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It looks a little gaudy at first glance, but the atmosphere in here at night is phenomenal. My favorite Carnival dining room decor to-date. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It looks a little gaudy at first glance, but the atmosphere in here at night is phenomenal. My favorite Carnival dining room decor to-date. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Taste Bar is located on Deck 2 forward next to the Fountainhead Cafe, and provides small bites of select Carnival specialty dishes. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Taste Bar is located on Deck 2 forward next to the Fountainhead Cafe, and provides small bites of select Carnival specialty dishes. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
If you're looking to relax, it's tough to go wrong with Spa Carnival, located all the way forward on Lido Deck 9. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
If you’re looking to relax, it’s tough to go wrong with Spa Carnival, located all the way forward on Lido Deck 9. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
In addition to treatment rooms, the spa has a small hydrotherapy pool, cleverly accented with a skylight...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
In addition to treatment rooms, the spa has a small hydrotherapy pool, cleverly accented with a skylight…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...and overlooking the Fitness Center, which spans two decks in height. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…and overlooking the Fitness Center, which spans two decks in height. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Despite the fact that I’ve river cruised through Europe and Asia, expedition cruised through places like the Galapagos and Antarctica, and have sailed on some of the world’s most highly-rated luxury ships, there’s something that’s just undeniably appealing about a Carnival cruise. No, this isn’t the voyage for intellectual stimulation. You also shouldn’t come on here looking for guest lecturers or insight into cultural affairs. But like a good 80’s cop flick, a cruise on a Fun Ship is just a damn good time.

Take this afternoon’s Master Mixology Competition out on the Lido Pool deck. Hosted by Carnival Miracle’s very funny Cruise Director, Cory “Family Guy” Rogers, the cocktail prowess of half a dozen guests were put to the test in a taste-off. Rogers set the fun tone for the event when he cast a wary eye at the first entry. “I hope it tastes better than it looks,” he joked as he turned the glass around in his hands, “because it looks like Ecuadorian sewer water.”

You might have heard that, back in the day, Carnival was known for their party-hard cruises where anything goes. And to be fair, that reputation was well-deserved – in the 1990’s. But as Carnival matured, so did their guests. The college kids who partied back in 1992 now have kids of their own, and guess where they’ve come to cruise? Carnival, of course!

Today, the Carnival onboard product is more polished than you might think – and that’s what continues to surprise and attract me on each successive voyage I take with the line. Here’s what I mean:

  • Drinks are well-made and reasonably priced for a mainstream cruise ship.
  • Food in the main restaurant is surprisingly varied, ranging from uncomplicated (Mac & Cheese) to exotic (fried alligator).
  • Staterooms are larger, on average, than the line’s competitors.
  • There’s still a focus on the sea: public rooms feature huge windows that let in plenty of light and ocean views.
  • The ‘Joe Farcus Look’ is on its way out. Check out the classy design of the Alchemy Bar and the RedFrog Pub to see what I mean. Carnival’s famous interior design guru did some amazing, if quirky, things in the past, but times are changing.
  • Kids Programs that are increasingly innovative.

That last point is perhaps best demonstrated through Carnival’s fantastic new partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Not only does it let Carnival tap in to a veritable cache of kid-friendly resources, it’s one of the few enhancements we’ve seen in recent years that actually encourages kids to read, through the addition of Dr. Seuss Bookville play areas to the fleet that began last year when Carnival Freedom was refitted.

This afternoon, families assembled in Carnival Miracle's atrium on Deck 2 for the Seuss at Sea parade... Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
This afternoon, families assembled in Carnival Miracle’s atrium on Deck 2 for the Seuss at Sea parade… Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...led by Cruise Director Cory Rogers and The Cat in the Hat! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…led by Cruise Director Cory Rogers and The Cat in the Hat! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

To that end, today at 3:30pm, Cruise Director Cory Rogers donned his red-and-white striped hat and led a massive Dr. Seuss-themed parade along the Deck 2 promenade. Known as the Seuss-A-Palooza Parade, this was an even bigger hit aboard Carnival Miracle today than it was during my sailing aboard Carnival Freedom earlier this year. The kids love it, and even the parents seem to get a little wistfully nostalgic. With the majority of parents in their mid-to-late 30’s, no doubt they, too, remember Dr. Seuss from their childhoods.

The parade ended in the Phantom Theatre...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The parade ended in the Phantom Theatre…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...where a Dr. Seuss-themed Story Time was held. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…where a Dr. Seuss-themed Story Time was held. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

But Carnival doesn’t just stop at the parade. Instead, the line pulls out all the stops to feature a special Dr. Seuss Story Time in the Phantom Theatre on Deck 2. Complete with Dr. Seuss characters, special sets and even oversized books, kids sit with wide-eyed attention as Theodore Geisel’s most famous work – The Cat in the Hat is read to an enchanted crowd.

To me, it’s features like that that help to elevate Carnival’s standing in the mainstream line arena, particularly with the multigenerational family set that are looking for a diverse array of activities onboard. Giving parents a remotely educational alternative is always a good thing, particularly when it concerns encouraging kids to read.

Today's story time choice: none other than The Cat in the Hat. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Today’s story time choice: none other than The Cat in the Hat. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Another thing I love about Carnival: live music. It’s everywhere around the ship, with 19 different options scattered throughout the Carnival Miracle today alone. Plus one, if you count the Karaoke in the Mad Hatter’s Ball at 5:15pm tonight. I don’t, personally, unless it’s after midnight and someone with fifteen drinks in them is belting out Guantanamara. Then it’s just good, clean fun.

I’m going to sound like a broken record – primarily because I mention this every time I sail with Carnival – but their Punchliner Comedy Club still has the best comedic offerings I’ve seen at sea. Carnival Miracle lacks a secondary aft show lounge that most other ships in the fleet have, so the almost-nightly comedy performances are held down in the Mad Hatter’s Ball on Deck 1 Forward.

Aboard Carnival Miracle, Carnival's Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez is held in the Mad Hatter's Ball on Deck 1 forward. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Aboard Carnival Miracle, Carnival’s Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez is held in the Mad Hatter’s Ball on Deck 1 forward. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Looking like Lewis Carroll got all effed up on LSD and bourbon and then decided to go into the interior decorating business, the Mad Hatter’s Ball features heart-shaped tables, extrusions of the Mad Hatter having tea with a rabbit on the walls, and numerous references to Alice in Wonderland scattered throughout. It’s actually kind of a cool space, but it’s just too small for the Punchliner Comedy Club, which seems to get more popular (and crowded) with every sailing I take.

Tonight, Punchliner features four (count ‘em, four) comedy performances by two different comedians: Stanley Ullman and Lowell Sanders. Two are PG-rated, and are suitable for nearly all audiences (Parental Guidance, of course, is advised.)

When did Lewis Carroll get a decorating license? Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
When did Lewis Carroll get a decorating license? Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Three shows, on the other hand, are suitable for Adults Only – and they don’t shy away from their 18+ moniker. I consider myself to be a fairly classy, educated guy, but God help me, I love vile jokes and filthy humour. Carnival always, without fail, keeps me laughing well into the night on every voyage. And we all need a good laugh every now and then! Although, halfway through tonight’s show – despite repeated warnings that it was strictly for an 18+ crowd – Ullman snagged one father who brought his 15-year old in…and sat in the front row. “If you’re going to sneak your 15 year-old daughter into the show, at least sit in the back where it’s dark and I can’t see you!” he bellowed. “Oh well. It’s too late now – she’s messed up for life!”

The Mad Hatter's Ball is accessed from Deck 1, or via this spiral staircase on Deck 2. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Mad Hatter’s Ball is accessed from Deck 1, or via this spiral staircase on Deck 2. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

So as I return to my stateroom tonight, I have to admire Carnival’s unique brand of cruising. I still love my river cruises and my adventurous expeditions and my pampered luxury voyages, but I’ll happily sail on a Fun Ship any day of the week – because it’s unassuming, unpretentious and unashamedly fun.

The last rays of light illuminate the sky and Carnival Miracle. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The last rays of light illuminate the sky 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

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