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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Carnival Cruise Lines Exceeds Expectations

My cousin and I just disembarked from the Carnival Miracle from Carnival Cruise Lines this past Sunday – the very first Carnival cruise either of us has taken, and we can honestly say that the experience generally exceeded our expectations. Chances are, Carnival Cruise Lines is not what you think it is. Some of the stereotypes are true, but most of them are false.

Carnival Cruise Lines Exceeds Expectations is continued below… More Cruise Reviews from Popular Cruising’s Carnival Miracle, Mexican Riviera 2013 sailing: From Under the Toque: A Chef’s First Impressions of the Carnival Miracle From Under the Toque: A Final Culinary Review of the Carnival Miracle

Surprisingly, it was my 61st ever cruise that marked my very first Carnival cruise, so I have 60 sailings – onboard lines ranging from standard to luxury – to compare it to.

Fountainhead Stairwell (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

What We Liked

First, you can’t beat the price of a Carnival cruise. There are incredible specials to be had onboard the line’s 23 cruise ships all across the world. I’m a firm believer of the phrase, “you get what you pay for,” but Carnival proved to be more valuable in nearly every area than I anticipated.

More Fun Ahead (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

The entertainment onboard is where Carnival most shines. The production shows exhibited unrelenting energy with top notch singing and dancing. Plus, the musical backing was provided from an excellent live 10-piece orchestra – a major benefit, in our opinion. From The Beatles to Big Band, the shows rocked.

Phantom Main Show Lounge (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

Still, the entertainment highlight and our favorite feature of the entire cruise was The Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez. I have never laughed so hard on a cruise before. That a seven-day cruise spotlighted four standup comedians was most impressive, and each had their own style and means in which to tickle our funny bone.

The Punchliner Comedy Club (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

The Serenity adults-only deck was a retreat that we came to love as well. The simple luxuries of private cabanas, padded hammocks and a relaxing pool and jacuzzi – all available at no extra cost – are winners for sure. In fact, the ship had a number of nice areas to just pop a squat and relax for a spell.

Serenity Adults-Only Retreat (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

The food onboard was both a positive and a shortcoming, as you’ll read below, making it inconsistent overall. In the main Bacchus dining room, the seaday brunch was very tasty with a wide selection that included great huevos rancheros, steak and eggs, and plenty of starters and sides. Also, the breakfast pastries and dinner breads onboard were some of the best I’ve ever had. Some dinner dishes like seafood appetizers, chilled soups and the legendary warm chocolate melting cake dessert were also very good.

Seafood Platter Appetizer (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

As for the lido, the made-to-order pizzas were great as were the grill items like hamburgers and nachos. Downstairs, The Taste Bar is a particularly neat concept where appetizer bites provide a sampling of food found across the Carnival fleet. Lastly, Nick & Nora’s Steakhouse was a great specialty restaurant we enjoyed for just $35 per person that featured expertly prepared appetizers and cuts of meat.

Nick & Nora’s Steakhouse Under the Smoke Stack (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

A Few Shortcomings

Despite the excellent food mentioned above, the cuisine in other areas was lacking. The dinner selections in the main dining room were spotty, and many dishes were light on seasoning. Buffet offerings were often similarly bland and uninspired. Food was the one area where it felt like costs were being cut and where quality recipes and preparation have taken a bit of a backseat to the rest of the operation.

Many Items are Prepared Fried (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

Lastly, the shipboard décor is decidedly take-it-or-leave-it, and it’s hard not to perceive it as gaudy in color and appointments. Kitschy motifs predominate, and excessive patterns and repetition of fixtures overtake occasionally well balanced designs. Unnecessary costs spent here would be better allocated in service of polishing the cuisine.

The Ship’s Atrium (Copyright © Jason Leppert)

Nonetheless, Carnival Cruise Lines impressed us, and we can’t wait to get back onboard, particularly on some of the line’s newer vessels to see how things have evolved there. Stay tuned for our extensive written review of and video review series from the Carnival Miracle.

For more information on the Carnival Miracle, visit Carnival Cruise Line’s website here.

Have you sailed on the Carnival Miracle or Carnival Cruise Lines? Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section below…


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