Carnival Miracle, 10/16/13, Puerto Vallarta

Carnival Miracle, 10/16/13, Puerto Vallarta
Good Lord, it's muggy!  By 8 a.m. we were docked and ready to go ashore.  Grabbed the laptop and went in search of wifi, which was, like, right there!  At the restaurant by the Mercado Artesiano.  So I sat down had a cup of coffee and got a little work done.  Then had some chorizo and eggs and got caught up with some friends back home. 
Then decided it was just too hot to walk around much, so I got back on the ship in time for trivia, whereupon I won one more ship on a stick, and a medallion.  So, that's 4 ships in my stick-bound fleet this week.  Grabbed a book and went up to the nearly deserted lido deck and read til lunch time.  Then just decided to take a nap.  By the time I got up for the next trivia, people were starting to come back.  By the time it was over and I headed up to the lido deck for a little iced coffee, the ship was full again and we were heading out to sea.  Rather a short port call.  And tomorrow will be about the same in Cabo.  My cruise staff friend Sarah is telling me it was a bit of a cluster last week as there were not enough tenders.  She assures me this week will go more smoothly.  I hope she is right. 
After watching the sailaway I headed down to read a little more, out on the balcony, and watch the sunset.
Got dressed and went down for dinner.  I was a little early, so I threw another $20 in a poker machine to no avail.  My dinner table was down to the original 3 of us.  I had a "one of each" on the starters...the smoked duck appetizer I always enjoy, a fried shrimp thing that was nice, with a vaguely Thai sauce and cucumber salad garnish, a wilted spinach and portobello mushroom salad that was 'meh', and the "shark and langoustino firecracker roll" which was a tasteless seafood fritter.  For the entree I opted for the seafood Newburgh.  Quite forgettable, all in all.
After dinner I tried in vain to find something interesting, as the piano bar was closed.  There was a deck party on the lido.  Lame.  Korean cover band and a few people dancing.  They were doing Legends tryouts in downstairs.  Equally lame.  So, it seemed a good night to catch up on some sleep.  Hit the rack by midnight, and now it's 7 am, they just announced the tenders are ready to, and I'm heading to Cabo for a bit.


CARNIVAL MIRACLE, 10/15/13, Second Day at Sea

Carnival Miracle, 10/15/13 Second Day at Sea
This is going to be a quick one, as we've pulled in to Puerto Vallarta for our shortened port call, and I am heading out to find breakfast and free wifi.
Yesterday's day at sea consisted of a lot of trivia and reading.  Did add 2 more ships on a stick, and helped my new homegirl to win one more.  We've 6 between us.
I did go to the Comedy Brunch a little later than yesterday and actually heard a comedian.  He did less than 3 minutes of material.  So it's mostly just a disruption to the flow of food.  As a serious fan of stand up that was disappointing.
My table at dinner keeps growing.  We've now added Grace to the mix.  So dinners just get better and better.  Last night, along with excellent conversation, I had a French Onion Soup which was above average, two sushi appy's because they were so tiny, and the braised short ribs.  Got mine with polenta on the side rather than rice.  Extremely tender and tasty.
The remainder of the evening was spent in the piano bar.  Again.
Now, it's off the ship and into the mean streets of Puerto Vallarta!


Carnival Miracle, 10/14/13, First Day At Sea

Carnival Miracle, First Day At Sea

Checking last week I could see a storm headed towards Baja.  And yesterday afternoon the Captain told us we would be deviating from our normal course a little, to avoid said storm.  Yesterday, just before noon, apparently the storm was given a name.  Octave has gathered strength, and decided to be right along the coast.  So, in a series of announcements we were told they are re-arranging the itinerary.  Today will be another day at sea, we will hit Puerto Vallarta on schedule Wednesday, leave
a couple hours earlier than planned, and go to Cabo Thursday instead of today.  As I had no particular plans ashore, it's all good.  Some of my fellow cruisers are in a bit of a tizzy about excursions, but I am sure they'll get it figured out.  And Cabo will be shortened a couple hours, so we can make it back to Long Beach more or less on time Saturday. 

I am giving the Captain very high marks for making 3 announcements as changes were made, and for having a letter delivered to every stateroom, detailing all the changes.  Personally, I wouldn't mind running thru the storm, cuz I like that sort of thing.   The Captain also said we would probably run thru the southwest quadrant during the late night hours, so to be careful out on open decks and whatnot.  So, we'll get some rocking and rolling during the night.  Fifteen foot seas aren't THAT big a deal.  Though coupled with 40-50 knot winds, it might put a damper on some people's party.  And heading west around the storm allowed us to stay in warm, sunny weather all day, so that's a plus. And, of course, while Cabo isn't getting hit by the full force of the storm, it's going to be raining, windy and kinda ugly there today.  By Thursday it should be lovely.

Got up about 7.  Slept like a baby.  Nice thing about the detour is the captain is putting on the speed.  So there is lots of vibration and movement.  Did a little writing and missed the first trivia of the day.  Went to the Comedy brunch.  Sat with a couple of nice couples.  No comedians in evidence.  But the breakfast was passable.  What they called Huevos Rancheros, but appeared to be a chicken quesadilla with fried eggs and pico de gallo on top.  Pretty sure George Lopez didn't approve the menu.  We're kinda from the same neighborhood, and that ain't Huevos Rancheros.  But, like I said, pretty tasty. 

Finished up with brunch in time for the digital scavenger hunt.  My team sucked.  What can I say.  And then on to the Progressive Trivia.  This is a week long competition.  No team mates for me.  I'm gonna win it all by myself.Went up to the buffet for a late lunch.  It was pretty sucky too, until I find out Asian section.  The food there was flavorful and fresh.  Had some fish in a black bean sauce and a beef stir fry. 

Chilled by the pool for a while and then hooked up with my girls from the piano bar for a general trivia.  We probably would have won, except for the blatantly illegal team of 12 people across the way...so, still no ship on a stick.  But next up was a 70's music trivia.  Ditched the teammates and did
that one on my own.  Kicked ASS.  Finally got the coveted ship!  Not just because I won, but I have to say this was the funnest trivia contest yet.  A rather large and diverse crowd singing along and dancing and gettin' their groove on.  And not all just "pop" songs.  We had some Al Green and Barry White, some WAR.HUH.WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR.  Bowie and Jackson 5.  The Carpenters and Elvis.  Pretty much all over the lot.  And Christopher the Canuckian Cruise Staffer had a lot of fun with the crowd.

I was just gonna chill for a while but I ran into my little Asian TA friend, and she talked me into getting dressed early and going to the Captains party thing.  So, I did.  Got all spiffed for dinner, 3 hours early (it was Elegant Night or whatever), came back down to the atrium to find her and her husband there.  In shorts.  And flip flops.  They got hung up on karaoke or something and decided to meet the captain, and THEN dress for dinner.  Thanks for that.   So I dropped a couple more
dollars in the casino, just to confirm it wasn't happening for me, and gave up to go watch the sunset on my balcony and drink coffee til dinner time.

Got down to dinner just in time to miss the line.  I had a stuffed white mushroom appetizer, greek salad and the wonderful roasted pumpkin soup ahead of the lobster and shrimp entree.  Shortly after we ordered Ed and Anastasia, a couple of friends from the piano bar the previous night came strolling by and decided to join us for dinner.  Not clear what happened to their regular table, but we had a good time exchanging stories in a bit quieter atmosphere.

After dinner 3 of us headed to the piano bar for another night with Derek.  When we got there the place was packed, but over the next two hours the crowd dwindled down to just 4 patrons, the piano man and Anett the bartender.  So it was more talking than singing.  We finally got into the rough seas at the edge of Octave, and I think that might have had something to do with folks bailing out early.  It was pretty rocky rolly there for a bit.  Even woke me up once about 3am.  But as I wake this morning it's calmed considerably, so it should be a nice day.

Let me find out, and get back to you!


Carnival Miracle, 10/13/13 BOARDING DAY

Boarding Day

So, first off I got to the terminal in Long Beach at 1pm.  Later than I normally would, thinking the first rush of cruisers would already be boarded.  Boy was I wrong.

 Apparently the Miracle had some issue with Customs clearance, and hadn't even started boarding when I got there.  The line, for those of you familiar with the Long Beach cruise terminal, went out the door, across the plaza, and into the Queen Mary parking lot.  So, over an hour just to get to the front door of the terminal.  The wait was made bearable by 4 lovely elderly Englishwomen who were on a two week holiday to the colonies.  They had flown in from San Francisco in the morning.  None had
ever sailed Carnival and upon learning I was a travel agent, had a million questions.  Their previous cruising experience was limited to Princess, P&O, and Fred Olsen.

So, finally got thru the line, thru security and onto the ship.  My first impression is that she is quite nicely decorated.  More subdued than many Carnival ships, with the exception of the Bacchus Main Dining Room which has ghastly purple grape clusters for lights.  The Lido pool area is nice, with darkish wood paneling.  The elevators doors have a woman done with a woodcut effect (I'll get pictures and video later) that is beautiful.  The promenade area is all very quiet and elegant.  And the Gatsby's Garden, though I've no idea what it's for, is beautiful.

Got up to my room, Cabin 5141, a balcony on Upper Deck.  Typical balcony room with a double bed, full size couch, 3 closets, etc.  The balcony is average size, but I lucked in to a brilliant location.  The ship narrows in the center, in three steps moving back from the bridge.  I am in that third indentation.  So I have one neighbor forward, but the neighbor aft is set back from me.  So it's quiet, and very well protected from the wind while under way.

So far the guests seem to be evenly split between travel agents and 1st time cruisers.  I've run into two agents that I know, and I think I'll be changing dinner tables because one agent I met on a ship inspection two weeks ago is right next to me, and I spent most of dinner last night talking over my shoulder to her and her

Anyway, back to the story.  After finding my room, I took a long walk around the ship, getting oriented.  I've been on two sisters to this one, so that was pretty easy.  She's laid out in a pretty straightforward manner with the spa, pools and buffet up on the Lido Deck and all the other public rooms down on decks two and three.

 Then it was time for muster drill which went quickly, and by the time it was done, my bag had arrived.  Got myself unpacked and took another stroll around the deck, wasting time until dinner.  Dropped a $20 in a poker machine just to see how my luck would be, and decided I am not gambling much this week. Even though the casino is huge, and very spread out.  Did a "Name That Song" trivia and got 33/40.  Winner was 36.  So, you know...close but no cigar.

I have late dining at 8:15.  Went up a little before 8 got dressed and headed to the dining room and remembered why I so much prefer Freestyle cruising.  The line at 8:13 was as long as the line to get on the ship.  One of the odd things about the Spirit Class is the single dining room.  It really is a nightmare in terms of crowd control.  So I found a seat in the hallway, and waited 5 minutes for the line to go down.  Got to my table, which is all the way back against the full length aft window.  It would be beautiful at the early seating, but with the sun down for an hour, the view was somewhat lacking. I started with a smoked salmon and candied apple appetizer.  That was excellent.  Then a gazpacho andoulouse.  Insipid.  A brisket entree that almost chewed itself it was so tender.  Seriously, it just about dissolved when hit with a fork.  So that was excellent.  I didn't stay for dessert, because the other thing I dislike on Carnival is all the announcements and singing and dancing at dinner time.  Sorry, but it's just so lame.  And quite annoying for the Maitre d' to spend 15 minutes on a bad sound sytem telling the same jokes they were telling on the Tropicale in 1981.

After dinner I went over to the Piano Bar.  I am pretty sure that's where you'll find me every night this week.  The piano player on this cruise is Derek Wayne.  Good piano player, and with a ton of personality, and REALLY knows how to work a crowd.  It was the first night, so there wasn't a huge number, but I am guessing it will grow as the week goes on.  He's just very engaging, talking with people, making jokes, putting together weird medleys.  A true entertainer.

So, yeah...hung out there til 12:30ish.  By then the long day was catching up to me, so I bid the remaining piano barbarians good night and headed home to sit on the balcony a bit before turning in.

Tomorrow is a full day at sea.  Probably find a trivia contest somewhere.  I'll keep you posted!