Saturday, January 16, 2016

Carnival Miracle Hawaiian Cruise Review


Carnival Miracle Hawaii Cruise Review

A Carnival Journey Cruise

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Miracle
Captain:  Luca Lazzarino
Cruise Director:  Chloe Loddo
Ports: Long Beach California—Maui Hawaii—Honolulu Hawaii—Kauai Hawaii—Kona Hawaii—Hilo Hawaii—Ensenada Mexico

This is my 1st cruise on the Carnival Miracle, my 58th Carnival cruise, and 109th cruise overall. This cruise is being promoted by Carnival as a special Journey Cruise, a longer cruise with extra functions and activities.  I am traveling with my dear wife (DW) and the Snoozemates a group of good friends that have cruised together many times for many years. 

Friday / Travel / January 15th, 2016 / Day 0

Fun times at George's Greek Cafe
We left the ranch about 7:30 am with the bags and dogs for a trip to Waco.  We left the dogs with our DD and were at the Waco airport by 9:00 am for our 10:00  am flight. We love this very small airport with only two gates as it is so easy to maneuver and free parking.  We both had TSA Pre, but I was selected for a thorough inspection.  They unpacked my carry on bag and my backpack and did a body search…that never happened before to me.  Perhaps the TSA has too much time at this small airport.  We were at DFW within 30 minutes and had a short connection time…in fact they where boarding group 3 by the time we arrived at the gate for our flight to LAX.  The three hour flight went well, but we were somewhat worried about our bags making the flight.  We and our bags arrived about 1:40 pm PST so all was well.  We had booked Super Shuttle ($30) for transport to the Queen Mary in Long Beach and we were checking in by 4:00 pm so 2+ hours from landing to: collect bags, find the shuttle (easy), and travel was fine.  We love the Queen Mary primarily for the history and the fact that it is next to the cruise pier is a great bonus. This is our third pre-cruise visit.  We again have a wonderful vintage cabin on main deck. We soon met our friends in the Observation Bar and I enjoyed my favorite Queen Mary cocktail: the Passionate Desire.  About 5:00 pm we boarded a Long Beach Passport bus for a trip to downtown Long Beach and George’s Greek Cafe.  We wanted to experience their famous ‘Happy Hour’ and it was fantastic.  I had Greek beer and we all ordered various happy hour drinks and appetizers.  Between the group we shared: Fire Feta, Fafafel, Spanakopita, Dolmathes, Greek Salads, and  their specialty Lamb Chops.  After drinks and food we had to share a round of Ouzo.  Soon the owner George decided we were a fun group and joined us.  Another round of Ouzo.  Somehow upon leaving George’s we found the Passport Bus and stayed on until it stopped at the Queen Mary. What a FUN evening.

Saturday / Embarkation / January 16th, 2016 / Day 1
New Miracle Alchemy Bar
Cruise Day, but the goal was to sleep in as long as possible and that was accomplished.  I was up about 10:00ish and went up to the Promenade Deck for a Cinnamon Bun and milk.  Soon I was joined by friends and we sat and enjoyed the weather on the beautiful deck of the Queen Mary.  We could already see a long line over at the Carnival check in area and decided to wait until the QM noon check out time to meet again at the small bar off the lobby to wait. We know from experience that there is no seating and everything is done outdoors. We all have priority boarding so we only needed to wait until the early VIFP’s were away.  We rolled our bags about 12:30pm and it was a short line (mostly us) at the Priority Check-in table.  After checking our bags with porters, getting our Sail cards, and going through security, we boarded the ship about 1:00.  Not bad and without the stress of arriving early just to wait.  We dropped our bags in the cabin and all met up on the Serenity deck at far aft of Lido deck. There is a great bar with good bar service here, but I wasn’t ready for a Funship Special as yet since we really partied at Georges.  We did enjoy the view of the Long Beach harbor and I really like that the Serenity Deck is the entire aft area of Lido.  That assures that the aft pool is adult only.  Most explored the ship: the Sports Bar for the NFL Playoffs, the entertainment in the Lobby, and we found our friend Maria setting up the HUGE Alchemy Bar.  I returned to the cabin to unpack my carry-on bag and rest.  DW’s suitcase came straight away so she unpacked.  The cabin steward, Alexander, came by to introduce himself…he was my steward on the Carnival Sunshine in January 2014.  Boat Drill was about 4:30 and it went well…then we watched sail away about 5:30 from our aft balcony.  Alexander cleared the refrigerator for our Diet Cokes and brought extra hangers, but I didn’t get my bag until about 6:00 pm.  Barely time to unpack and get ready for the Alchemy Bar.  The Alchemy was added at the recent dry dock and it has three of the high outer bar seating stations and all the seats and lounges left from the previous cocktail bar.  It’s really not as intimate as other Alchemys. I only ordered a Sexy Water this evening…still recovering.  It’s really more of a cocktail lounge, but it will be one of our HQ’s for 15 days.  Dinner was at 7:45 for late seating…I like the earlier time.  We have two great tables in the center of the Bacchus Dining Room (MDR) and good servers: Jana and Carlito.  I am so please that they have the standard Carnival menu and NOT the new American Table.  I like a tablecloth.  I ordered a Chilled Shrimp Cocktail, the Creme of Sun-ripened Tomatoes, Heart of Iceberg Lettuce, and the Tender Braised Beef Brisket in Gravy entree.  For dessert I ordered a Creme Brûlée and the Black Forest Gateau.  The ship has really been rocking to night so I retired to enjoy the ride.

Sunday / Fun day at Sea / January 17th / Day 2
Birthday Girl in Sam's Piano Bar
Rolling seas overnight and I had a very good nights sleep. Somewhat overcast and the Captain has already warned us of very heavy seas for at least two more days.  It is really rolling.  We set our clocks back one hour and we had a light room service breakfast delivered at 9:00 am.  They were serving the nice Sea Day Brunch in the MDR, but I went up to Good Eats (Lido buffet dining) about 10:30 and found many of the group finishing breakfast.  People were doing the various ship board indoor activities as it’s cool on deck.  We did have one get a $800 payout on a Casino slot machine this afternoon.  Woo Hoo.  I had cabin time most of the day.  Football playoffs and some computer time.  We even ordered room service for lunch.  I got two BLT’s and DW got a Grilled cheese and the new Sweet Potato Fries from the pay section ($5).  The fries were excellent.  One of our group has a birthday so at 5:00 pm we attended a private cocktail party for the 13 of us in Sam’s Piano Bar.  It was great Fun and there was plenty of cocktails since we had a server and bartender for just our little group.  Upon leaving Sam’s most went to the Alchemy Bar until time for dinner.  Tonight is the Captains Elegant night dinner, the group wore our Black Hawaiian Dress Shirts with the leis from our Birthday party…we stood out just a bit. For dinner I ordered the Greek Farmers Salad, the featured Lobster, and we had Birthday Cake for dessert.  All good.  After dinner I did a short walkabout then retired early to the cabin. The Platinum/Diamond gift was delivered tonight: a Carnival Tote Bag.  After dinner the DW went to the Red Frog Pub to listen to music and on the way back through the casino spotted a celebration…seems one of the group hit a $3000 jackpot.  A very good sea day for the Snoozemates.

Monday / Fun day at Sea / January 18th / Day 3
Sunrise at Sea
Still heavy rolling seas overnight and I had a very nice sleep.  DW went up to Lido and brought back some nice light breakfast items…thank you…again they have the nice Sea Day Brunch, but I wanted to eat light as we have the Diamond Luncheon today. We met some of the group about 11:45 in the Alchemy area as the Diamond Luncheon is being held in the private Ariadne room off the MDR. There are 43 Diamonds and with some guests there were probably 50+ served a very nice lunch.  We were served Champagne upon entering and we were greeted by the Captain, Hotel Manager, and several other officers as well.  There was a Special Menu with a choice between three appetizers and two entrees.  I ordered the Root Vegetables & Crunchy Leaves salad and the Charbroiled Filet Mignon. Other options were: Blue Crab Salad, Mushroom Cappuccino (soup), or the other entree: Duet of Sea Bass and Maui Maui. They prepared Italian Pasta and a Pastry for DW as a Vegetarian option.  Dessert was a Raspberry Dark Chocolate Pate (too rich for me).  All very good and our wait staff was excellent.  A very special luncheon, thank you Captain.  We are still experiencing heavy seas so after a short difficult stroll around the ship this afternoon I returned to the cabin.  Some of the Journey features are a series of ‘Crew Connections’ and they are having Dance Classes, and a series of Lectures billed as The Academy of Fun.  Nice additions since we have a lot of sea days.  We met the group at the Alchemy for aperitifs and the new Alchemist, Tomislav, fixed a unique fruit cocktail with Elderflower…very nice.  Dinner in the Bacchus MDR was good.  I ordered the French Onion soup, two Shrimp Cocktails, a Green Salad, and the Short Ribs entree.  I ordered a Banana Split from the Kids menu for dessert.   After dinner the group split up for the casino or Red Frog Pub for music.  Although we are still experiencing high seas it was a relaxing sea day.

Tuesday / Fun day at Sea / January 19th / Day 4
Miracle Rainbow
Still heavy rolling seas overnight, it has been rough all cruise, but the guests are dealing with it…probably more naps and cabin time than usual...that's what we are doing.  DW ordered room service and some fruit for me so that was my breakfast.  I was up very early checking e-mail (internet is much faster in middle of night…just as satellite at the ranch) and I discovered an important email containing a grant application for the Texas Scottish Festival due before Friday. Fortunately it is to be submitted electronically so now I have a special project to complete as soon as possible.  I started to work right away setting up an office at the desk/dressing table working all morning.  Having had a light breakfast, I was ready for lunch so six of the group went to the MDR.  Now that Carnival has Sea Day Brunch and a Guy’s Burgers on most ships it is rare that Carnival has a regular lunch in the MDR on a sea day.   It was very enjoyable, I ordered: A Crisp Green Salad, Shrimp & Crabmeat Bagette, and Spaghetti with Meatballs.  Excellent Lunch.  For me the rest of the day was spent on the Project.  DW went to a movie in the Mad Hatter’s Ball and a usual sea day afternoon with friends.  About 7:00 pm we went to the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs, I had my usual Quick Fix, but first this cruise.  We went to Bacchus for dinner, the girls sat at one table and the guys at the other as we do on occasion to mix things up on a longer cruise.  I ordered: Chicken And Avocado Soup, Chilled Borscht, Farfalle Pasta with Artichokes and Arugula, Roast Striploin with Popovers, and Mousse for dessert.  The Soup, Pasta, and Mousse were very good.  The group did their thing after dinner: Casino, Red Frog, and Comedy Show.  Originally the big production show 88 Keys was scheduled for this evening, but cancelled due to high seas.  I returned to the cabin to work on the project until sleep.

Wednesday / Fun day at Sea / January 20th / Day 5
Throwback Midnight Buffet
Still high seas, but better than previous nights. More sun than clouds today too.  We slept in and I went up to Lido for breakfast having a nice Western Omelet from the omelet station and extras.  DW stayed in the cabin and reviewed the narrative I wrote for my special project. I visited with the group after breakfast then took some food down to DW in the cabin.  It was back to work on my project until lunch.  About noon I walked around the ship then decided to go to the MDR to eat.  I ordered the Iceberg lettuce salad, Fish & Chips, BBQ Ribs, and German Chocolate Cake.  My regular MDR team served me so that was nice.  The cake was dry and the fish was just so so, but the salad and ribs were good. Today is “Throwback Day” with an actual Carnival Capers being delivered (as well as a Fun Times) and a lot of 1980’s events scheduled including: 80’s Trivia, 80’s Music Party, Frog & Horse Racing & other vintage games, Formal Captains Cocktail Party, the 80’s movie: Dirty Dancing, and a Midnight Gala Buffet. DW watched a Castle marathon on the cabin TV and  I worked on my Project again in afternoon and decided to complete it as we will be in Hawaii I skipped Alchemy cocktails and dinner.  I did go up to Lido and had Spaghetti Carbonara and Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin with Baked Potato…better choices than I had anticipated.  I had to have the Premium internet package to log in to the online Project remittal site, but got that done and my Project was submitted.  Woo Hoo.  I personally didn’t go, but most went to the Throwback Captains Party in the Rome Lounge. They served the same Hors d’oeuvres as they served in the 1980’s:  Meatballs, mini Quiches, Pigs-in-a Blanket, & Shrimp.  11:30 was the time for photo session prior to the Midnight Gala Buffett that was set up in the Bacchus MDR. A very impressive display. A very productive work day and Throwback Day at Sea. 

Thursday / Island of Maui, Hawaii / January 21st / Day 6

Happy Hour Sunset in Lahaina
Continued high seas overnight, land will be so welcome today.  We turned our clocks back one hour, we are now on Hawaiian time.  I was up early perhaps in anticipation even though we don’t arrive in Maui until 10:00 am with an 11:00 pm departure.  I went down to the MDR for a nice breakfast ordering Melon, Eggs Benedict, Bacon, & Potatoes.  It was very good.  Watching from the balcony you could see whales as we approached the harbor at Kahului and soon we were docked at the industrial port & pier.  A couple in the group who have been here many times rented a van and were going to give us first-timers a tour.  Super.  By 11:00 were off towards Haleakalā National Park.  It is a very winding road to the summit of the volcano with views of Maui and several other Hawaiian islands along the way.  There is a visitors center at the entry (about 7,000 elevation) and near the summit at 9740 feet elevation.  From there you can easily view the crater of the volcano.  Very amazing.  The actual summit is over 10,000 feet…the third highest peak in Hawaii.  Following some photos it was back down the mountain and towards the west shore.  A wild fire slowed traffic so we detoured towards Wiamahaihai Beach and Kihei for a late lunch.  Siri helped us find Stewz Maui Burgers.  What a great discovery.  I ordered a Makena Burger topped with grilled pineapple & bacon with teriyaki sauce, it seemed to be the most Hawaiian.  It was great.  We knew the fire had spread but traffic seemed to be now moving according to Google Maps so the decision was made to continue our drive towards Lahaina.  Traffic was heavy but we arrived about 5:00 pm.  We were lucky enough to get a parking spot across from the famous Lahaina Banyon Tree on the city square.  This is the most amazing Banyon I have ever seen, it takes the entire square with multiple sucker trees, the size of large Banyons themselves, all attached to the center trunk. This is a very old town in Hawaii and now a tourist destination with nice Gift shops, Tourist shops, Restaurants, Bars, and Historic buildings.  As it was approaching sunset we found a nice Happy Hour and view at the upper level of the Sugar Cane restaurant on Front Street.  We enjoyed some cocktails and light snacks with a wonder view.  Because of traffic we headed back about 7:00ish and it was very heavy traffic unit we reached the original fire site, because of darkness you could see the scattered hot spots with viable flames as we past.  We made the ship and were on board about 8:30 pm.  We went up to the Lido where we had a salad or pizza before retiring.  I was soon asleep, but I believe it was after midnight before we sailed.

Friday / Honolulu Hawaii / January 22nd / Day 7
Statue of King Kamehameha V
Smoother seas overnight and I was up early again this morning so I was able to update my review for yesterday. I was too tired last night.  The internet works better in the early morning anyway.  DW brought me fruit from the Lido for breakfast this morning as she went up to make a roady sandwich before our excursion today.  We sailed into Honolulu on time docking a little before our 9:00 am scheduled arrival time.  That always makes it easier as the anxious guests can get off and not block the way for others.  We are docked at Terminal Two, the newer modern cruise ship terminal (and one used by NCL) although I had hoped we would be at the older and historic Aloha Tower dock. We have it easy as we have the Pearl Harbor, Punchbowl, and City Tour excursion booked today. The primary reason for selecting this particular tour was to assure getting tickets to the Arizona Memorial. We met nine of the group in the Phantom Theater about 9:45 am and were soon called and led to our tour bus. Our guide was good and she pointed out the various areas of Honolulu: the Capital District, Financial and CBD,  Chinatown, and various parks.  Our brief stop here was in the historic area where we could get photos of the Iolani Palace and Aliiolani Hale, the location of the famous Statue of King Kamehameha V.  We did drive by other sites downtown including:  the state Capital Building (modern), St. Andrew’s Church, Washington Place, and Kawaiaha’o Church.  We then drove to the Punchbowl Crater the location of:  The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific where we drove through the formal cemetery.  We were then off to Pearl Harbor where we were dropped at the Visitors Center of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.  We were issued our timed tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial and allowed to visit the various exhibits and grounds until that time.  It’s a wonderful facility with great historical information and moving experience.  At 1:30 we went into the Arizona theater to view the movie, with much more live film than I knew existed, about the attack of December 7th.  Following the movie we boarded a Navy launch that takes everyone over to the Arizona Memorial itself.  We had about 20 minutes on the memorial than spans the Arizona itself.  A very interesting experience and yes we saw a lot of oil rising to the surface.  Upon return to the Visitors center we made our way to our bus which took us back to the ship passing the Harbor district of Honolulu and Aloha Tower on the way.  We were back on the ship before 4:00 pm.  We have several options since we do not sail until late:  shuttle to Waikiki beach, shuttle to Walmart, book a Luau excursion, or more. I was leaning to Waikiki and eating at Duke’s, but we decided to stay on board ship…I was losing energy and my legs and back have been aching for a few days.  Pizza was food of choice and the group met up at the Red Frog Pub so a fun afternoon on board.  I took a nap and rested...we passed on the MDR for dinner too.  I actually had a late snack of milk and cookies.  A very interesting day in Honolulu.

Saturday / Kauai Hawaii / January 23rd / Day 8
Waimea Canyon Overlook
Finally smooth seas overnight and I slept very well although up early for internet and an early excursion meet time.  We had room service delivered about 6:00 am and prepared for our 7:15 am excursion meet time in the theater.  Most of the Snoozemate group is booked on an all-day deluxe island tour today, the ship was a bit late in getting cleared, but soon our tour was first off the ship.  We were lucky enough to be on the first of three buses on this tour and that helped throughout the day. Our driver was Uncle Wili and he was a character.  We’re docked in a pretty bay at Nawiliwili and started heading west for the drive to Waimea. Our first stops were at the Hanapepe Overlook and a tourist rest / gift store in the town of Hanapepe.  We continued through Waimea then soon on the winding road to the Waimea Canyon Overlook.  This is a spectacular site overlooking what is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  It is quite can even see Waipo'o Falls in the distance.  There was a fruit vendor here and I enjoyed some fresh local pineapple that was quite tasty.  We had to cross to the other side of the island for lunch and our other sites but it was a pretty drive along the coast, you could even see an occasional whale passing.  I was very pleased with our lunch location: Keoki’s Paradise near Poipu Beach.  The restaurant was very nice (Trip Advisor 4-star) and served a buffet of Steamed White Rice, Pork with Steamed Cabbage, a Jerk Style Chicken, Fish Fillet, Green Salad with local dressings,  and a Pineapple sweet bead.  It was very good.  After lunch we visited the Spouting Horn Park to see the blowhole although the whales attracted an equal amount of attention.  We were now off to our 2nd big attraction: the Wailua River Cruise.  The river is the only navigable river in Hawaii and the Smith family has offered cruise up river to the Fern Grotto for generations.  They use large flat bottom boats similar to old American river barges and perform Hawaiian folk music while sailing upriver to the Fern Grotto.  The entertainers then combine to do the Hawaiian Wedding Song in this pretty natural area before reboarding the boats.  The last stop of the tour is a photo opportunity at Opaekaa Falls. We were returned to the pier about 4:20 pm for our 5:00 pm departure…certainly an all-day tour.  My first stop was straight to the Alchemy Bar where Kateryna fixed me a nice Elderflower Spritzer.  Soon others arrived and we stayed until they announced the pod of whales next to the ship…it was then whale watching as we sailed away from the lovely island of Kauai.  We again missed dinner in the MDR this evening, I needed the rest and recovery time after such a busy day.  I did eat on Lido about 7:30 enjoying some nice Pork Chops, Baked Potato, and Veal from the carving station.  It was cabin time the rest of the evening.

Mokuaikaua Church
Sunday / Kono Hawaii / January 24th / Day 9
Smooth seas overnight, a first.  No excursions booked for today…so the plan was to sleep as long as possible…but I was awake early…I guess I'm still on Texas time. We were anchored early off of Kona.  This will be a tender port with scheduled tender times from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.  I went to the Lido and had a nice omelet from the Omelet Station and visited with friends.  Tendering was going very slow as the seas are choppy as it takes more time to load and unload guests on the tender boats.  We decided to take advantage of our priority tendering status.  We received tender #4 and were soon ashore in beautiful Kailua-Kona about 10:30 am.  We walked into town and soon I had my first Hawaiian Shaved Ice and DW her first Kona Coffee Ice Creme.  We looked at some shops and stopped at the Mokuaikaua Church the first Christian Church in Hawaii built in 1820.  Our friends (from Denver area) were making their HQ at Oceans Sports Bar & Grill down the street so we continued in that direction to watch the last half of the Denver vs. New England AFC Championship football game.  Denver won in a thriller…the bar was packed so that added to the excitement of the game.  I enjoyed a couple of the local Kona Longboard lager beers while there too…nice.  We casually walked back towards the pier looking at the Huliheʻe Palace on the way.  We decided to go ahead and tender back and beat the crowd so we did and was on Lido deck eating a late lunch by 3:30 pm.  My lunch was only so so…it was Spanish theme today…but the desserts were very good…much better than the norm.  I had Creme Carmel (similar to a Flan), and an Orange Financier (new to me, very unique), they also had Red Velvet Cheese Cake, Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake, and more.  One never knows what you will get at the buffet on any given day.  We met the gang at the Alchemy Bar…Kateryna fixed me a nice Elderflower Spritzer again and later I had a Quick Fix.  Always Fun.  Dinner was good.  I had the Creme of Mushroom soup, the Green Salad, The Lasagna as a starter, and the Filey Mignon / Short Rib combination.  Just the opposite of lunch…the desserts were only so so…we are not getting full tables on port days in the MDR…it is an effort sometimes on a busy day.  We retired after dinner but others went about the ship for evening activities.

Monday / Hilo Hawaii / January 25th / Day 10
Catching the Water at Akaka Falls
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We ordered room service as a wake up call and it was delivered as we were pulling into the harbor about 7:30 am.  We hoped to get a tour from a local today as I knew some of the volcano sites could not be accessed by a tour bus.  We debarked about 8:30 and were able to book with a local tour provider, Legends of Hawaii Tours, in a nice new van.  There were 10 total on the tour.  We were off before 9:00 am and went first to two local seaside parks: Richardson Beach Park with a black sand beach and Liliuokalani Park and Gardens with a large Chinese Garden.  We then saw the Statue of King Kamehameha (1 of 4) in the Wailoa River State Park near downtown. We then passed through the City of Hilo on our way to the magnificent, 442 ft. tall Akaka Falls.  Very impressive falls and an easy accessible viewpoint.  Next stop was the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut facility located in the Hamakua District, the “Macadamia Nut Capital of the World.  This was our major tourist rest stop and a good choice. We had ice cream, I had a dip each of Chocolate Macadamia and Vanilla Macadamia, DW had Coffee ice cream…I thought it was great.  We viewed the production facility and gardens as well before getting back on the road.  We then were heading up the mountain towards Volcanos National Park.  Prior to the park we stopped at Akatsuka Orchid Gardens that had beautiful displays of orchids and other plants and flowers. We next entered Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park with our first stop at the Kīlauea Visitors Center and viewing site.  It’s a mile to the collapsed cone located below the viewing site but the smoke and discharge of this active volcano are clearly in view.  A very nice museum, display, and gift shop are located here as well.  Next stop were some active Steam Vents where steam and gases were venting pressure from underground.  They have some that you can stand next to in order to get an interesting experience.  My favorite stop was at the Lava Tubes that previously carried molten lava through them at one time.  You follow a nature trail to the entry then you can walk underground through the lava tube. Loved it...very unique.  It was now time to return to the ship and we were on board about 3:00 pm.  A very enjoyable tour and a fair price @ $70 pp with tip.  We went up to Lido upon return and I had a Rueban Sandwich and a salad.  We sailed away a little before our scheduled 5:00 pm scheduled time and we watched sail away from our balcony.  We had a great and long view of Mauna Loa from our aft facing balcony as we sailed further and further away from Hawaii.  We went to the Alchemy Bar about 7:00 and the whole group was there for cocktails and all attended dinner tonight.  I ordered the Pasta as starter, two Shrimp Cocktails, and two NY Strip Steaks.  One steak was fair and one was good…glad I ordered two.  After dinner we went to the theater to see the Playlist Production of Getaway Island.  We’ve seen the show on other ships but always glad to see it with a different is one of my favorite shows.  After the show they had a Hawaiian party on Lido Deck featuring the cast and our CD Chloe.  It was fun, but we only stayed a short time.  As we made our way to aft elevators, the dessert buffet they were setting up looked fantastic.  Ice sculptures and lots of selections.  We did move our clocks forward one hour tonight.

Tuesday / Fun day at Sea / January 26th / Day 11
Alchemy Mixology Class
We have returned to the rolling seas overnight…fine for sleeping, but getting tired of the rocking.  Probably good that they got the Production Show in last night, if it’s like the cruise over there may be to high of seas for the shows.  We slept in after a big day on Monday then went up to Lido deck for an omelet about 10:00 am.  We visited with our friends then walked to the shoppes on deck three.  I did get the T-shirt special: 2 @ $20, including the Carnival-Hawaiian Cruise shirt I have seen all over the ship and Hawaii.At 2:00 we went to the Alchemy Bar for the Alchemy Mixology Class.  Our group took all nine seats and the others were there as well.  It was a great session especially since we were all friends and Maria was the teacher. She knew our favorite drinks to use as samples and it was great fun. Kateryna assisted and we did learn a few things…it was after 4:00  pm before we finished class and posed for our Class Photo.  We returned to the cabin to rest and ordered room service…so nice when you have a balcony cabin.  I had the new Philly Cheese Steak from the ‘pay’ section. It was a good sandwich, but IMHO it’s not a proper Philly Cheese Steak as it did NOT have melted cheese.  It had a sliced of cheese on the bottom of the roll, but I really didn’t even taste it.  A Reuben or BLT would have been better and not a surcharge.  Cabin time and I had a very brief nap before it was time for aperitifs at the Alchemy Bar.  I had my usual: a Quick Fix.  It was the final elegant night this evening so that means black Hawaiian shirts for the guys tonight.  Dinner was very good tonight, I ordered:  Escargot, Broccoli Soup, Pasta as starter, and the Chateaubriand with Strawberry Cheesecake for dessert.  After dinner was the production show 88 Keys followed by the cast in the Piano Bar.  A fun sea day.

Wednesday / Fun day at Sea / January 27th / Day 12
Birthday beers in Red Frog
Much better seas overnight hopefully it will be more normal seas for rest of return.  We had room service delivered at 9:00 am so a restful evening and casual morning.  The Balcony is perfect in the mornings as we are sailing east and we’re opposite the sun, we will have sun in late afternoons.  We met friends at the Serenity Deck this morning and visited and enjoyed the wonderful weather until five of us went to lunch in the MDR.  Jana and Carlito were our servers and I ordered the Hay & Straw as an appetizer and the Chinese food entree.  The Hay & Straw was great I should have had the entree size. After lunch I went by Guest Services for a print out of my on board account to review, I had applied OBC (on board credit) from my Carnival Credit card reward points to my cruise account...all there and the balance was fair for 12 days on the cruise.  The OBC for Carnival Corporation shareholders on a 15 day cruise is also very helpful. It was soon time to go to the Red Frog Pub to meet the guys for birthday beers for our youngest Snoozemate.  Oh to be 26 again.  Two+ tubes of beer later I went back to the cabin for another Castle marathon and an afternoon nap time.  Most of the group ate at the steak house tonight, DW was settled in the cabin so I ate at Horatio’s.  They had roast beef at the carving station, but I enjoyed the pork chop & baked potato more.  I relaxed the rest of the evening. Others enjoyed: Viva Variety, Punchliner Comedy, Frogfest, Casino, and more

Thursday / Fun day at Sea / January 28th / Day 13
I love the Aft View
Just enough rolling seas overnight for pleasant sleeping.  Room service at 9:00 am woke me so I had a nice relaxing long sleep. It was comfortable on the Serenity Deck this morning so I enjoyed sitting in the soon to change weather…my knee has been hurting so not much walking about.  It was “Girls Day” today, they are having lunch and doing their thing today so I went down to the MDR for a great lunch.  I ordered a salad, Philly Cheese Steak, Chicken Cacciatore and wonderful light Mango Cheesecake for dessert.  The Chicken Cacciatore and dessert were great.  About the time I finished I saw five of the guys come into the MDR so I joined them for a second Mango Cheesecake.  After lunch we went up to Serenity Deck until it began to turn cool about 3:30 pm.  We then went into Horatio’s and had pizza and drinks then snooze time in the cabin.  We went to the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs about 6:45 and Tomislav prepared for me a ‘Gummy Bear’ a cherry flavored specialty drink. I had read that he made them on the Alchemy Bar Facebook page…it was very good.    I also had my usual Quick Fix though (that drink is not for everyone). Dinner was good tonight, I ordered: the Seafood Pasta as starter, Shrimp Cocktails, and the Braised Chicken Breast entree.  Soon Yusuf the Maitre’D brought over a special birthday dessert to the table and all our waiters and Snoozemates sang for the birthday boy.  The Table Magician also wowed us with a few card tricks.  After dinner we visited the Alchemy Bar, watched a few juggling tricks by one of the group, and I enjoyed a Deal Closer.  The group was then off to enjoy:  the Casino, the Punchliner Comedy, Ventriloquist Phil Hughes show, or the Deck Party tonight.

Friday / Fun day at Sea / January 29th / November 6th / Day 14
VIFP Party in Mad Hatter Lounge
Smooth seas until early morning hours then it began rolling again, common this cruise.  We set our clocks forward again one hour so we are now on Long Beach time. Room service again came about 9:00 am - just something light to start the morning.  I went down to Guest Services to purchase Airport shuttle vouchers and alas they were sold out…I should have gone earlier.  We have a late afternoon flight so not too concerned…I can actually get them direct from the shuttle service or make other arrangements for actually less $.  We met some of the group for lunch in the MDR about 12:15…it was good…the Pasta dishes have been very good at lunch as well as the Veal today.  I was able to walk around the ship today so enjoyed that as well as my cabin time this afternoon.  The VIFP party for Diamond & Platinum guests was held at 4:15 pm in the Mad Hatter’s Ball room.  They served h’orderves and we had made friends with so many cocktail servers that we had many more cocktails than we needed. They showed the new (to most) Carnival film and the Diamond guests had a their photo taken with the officers.  Fortunately they had Karaoke following the event so we could stay and finish our cocktails and listen to some interesting amateur karaoke.  Fun time.  We changed for dinner and met at the Alchemy for aperitifs and continue the party and fun evening. After posing for some group photos we went to the MDR for perhaps our final dinner (depending on return from port on Saturday). Dinner was good, I ordered the Farfalle Pasta with Turkey Breast & Peas (as a Starter), Tom Ka Gai, and the Newburg Mixed Seafood entree.  Bitter & Blanc for dessert.  After dinner we did go by the Alchemy Bar, but I only ordered a Sexy Water…others went to Comedy, Casino, and more.  An easy FUN sea day.

Saturday / Ensenada Mexico / January 30th / Day 15
Snoozemates at Hussong's
Some rolling seas overnight…I slept well.  Room service again at 9:00 am…I will miss that.  The goal today is be packed and all forms filled before reaching Ensenada.  I met most of the group for the Sea Day Brunch in the MDR at 11:30 am.  I ordered the Steak & Eggs with sides of bacon and ham…a hearty breakfast to offset our plans for later this afternoon.  We packed and planned  our departure then met the group at 2:30 pm.  I had arranged for Guest Services to escort us to the gangway so we could step off asap.  They did…we were basically the first off the mid-gangway.  We took a shuttle into downtown Ensenada then walked the few blocks to Hussong’s.  This was the goal of the entire cruise and it did not disappoint.  Being a Saturday it was packed with locals…the 2 for 1 special on margaritas obviously helped too.  We placed four tables together and the Hussong's servers began bringing margaritas by the tray full and beer by the big buckets.  We were the first Gringos for a while, but some ship folks straggled in…I’m not sure they were prepared for a serious drinking establishment (no food here) such as Hussong's Cantina.  A good time was had by all.  We made the trip to the Hussong’s gift store a block away (new location-used to be two doors down) and some to the Taquerito next door…all while holding our table inside the bar…numbers help.  The Mariachis were wonderful.  About 6:30 we piled into two taxis and headed back to the ship.  To be honest I don’t recall much about the rest of the evening other than I think I had a Sexy Water and I did make it to dinner to tip extra to our servers.  The decision to pack before Ensenada was golden.

Sunday / Long Beach California / January 31st / Debarkation
Our cabin Steward Alex was heading home today so someone new was knocking on our door by 8:00 am.  We had been docked since 6:45 or so and it is a rainy morning.  We did some last minute packing and I went up to the Lido for breakfast, they actually had Eggs Benedict on the buffet.  We did self assist and we went down to deck three and basically just rolled straight off the ship…we hit hit a gap towards the end of the self debark guests and a gap in the rain. Lucky timing.  I thought U.S. Customs in Long Beach was very good…reminded me of an international airport check point.  Once out of the terminal we purchased our airport shuttle vouchers and lined up for the buses, it went fairly well.  We were really in no rush as we have a later flight, but we arrived at LAX about 11:00 am.  Just as easy to wait at airport.  Our flight finally left at 3:50 and we arrived at DFW a little early, about 8:45 pm Texas time that allowed us to make the last flight to Waco at 10:00 pm.  In Waco we picked up the dogs and made the drive to Bosque County and the ranch arriving in February...just after midnight.  We were welcomed by an extremely starry night...after unloading the bags and dogs we turned off all the lights and went outside.  I have never seen the stars so dense...all the constellations were on top of us. Amazing.  Hawaii was great, but very glad to be home in our beautiful and quiet piece of paradise.

We had cabin 8277 an aft facing balcony located on deck 8.  We prefer this aft location and it’s just below the Lido Serenity Deck and Lido buffet.  The cabin has a push button safe, twin/queen beds, three-section closet, Robes,  Two electrical outlets on counter/dresser, Telephone on desk, Small Table, Small Stool at Dresser, Medicine Cabinet, Kleenex dispenser, Hair dryer, and small flat screen TV with the interactive features.  There is a refrigerator. Our cabin steward, Alexander, and team was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice container filled (we did have to ask for ice container--not automatic any longer).

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
Only one Main Dining Room, the Bacchus and it is very nice.  No Blue Iguana, Mongolian Grill, nor Guy’s Burgers on the Miracle. They do have a Grille for burgers & more and an Asian food station. The buffet food in Horatio’s is pretty standard fare, but selected desserts are good.  The MDR food is IMHO adequate to good, but the group had very nice table locations, and the waiters, Jana and Carlito were very good.  Love the Alchemy Bar and the Lobby bar is very nice. The Red Frog Pub was always busy.  They have the Playlist Productions shows on the Miracle.  Also good Comedians, cover bands, piano bar, and solo performers. 

Crew / Guests
The ship crew were very friendly, they themselves can make the cruise more enjoyable for the guest. Waiters and Cabin stewards especially very friendly. They always seemed to have a smile on their face and eager to please the guests. The excellent training by Carnival is quite obvious.  Favorites this cruise were the Alchemy Bar team; MDR wait team, and overall Crew in general. The Maitre’D Yusuf was very friendly. The guests were older on average on this longer cruise.  There were 43 Diamonds and numerous Platinum guests.

In Hawaii rice is a very common item served at most meals (including breakfast)...
This cruise had the most consistent rough/high seas I have experience in 30 years...
First time to sail with CD Chloe-she was very good-a chameleon of characters...
Our MDR wait team of Jana & Carlito were very good as well as Yusuf the Maitre'D...
There was a small Norovirus outbreak, DW and I were fine, but it effected some in our group...


Alchemy Bar: Alchemists & Snoozemates
Hussong's Cantina 
George’s Greek Cafe in Long Beach
Kauai: Island excursion & lunch
Volcanoes National Park
Honolulu: Pearl Harbor tour
Maui: Fun drive around the island
Diamond Luncheon
Aft Balcony