Summer of 2015 Kickoff: Miracle on the Mexican Riviera, Day 1: Embarkation

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Mexican Riviera
When: May 16-May 23, 2015
Why: Need a real vacation, need a cruise

This trip was formerly called “The Cat in the Hat Trumps Mickey Mouse” Mexican Riviera Cruise Report. When we first booked this cruise, we’d watched the Mouse Steps video of Seuss at Sea and being big “Cat in the Hat” fans, were excited by the whole Disney feel of it all. Then we read that the Miracle would go into dry dock and get the Carnival 2.0 upgrades before our cruise, so we assumed that meant all the new Seuss stuff.

But as the weeks unfolded, we also read that the new “shows” were being rolled out one per week and that “Seuss at Sea” probably wouldn’t be onboard until after our cruise. This turned out to be fine but we thought we should rename the trip report.

As a little background, my first cruise was on Carnival’s first ship, the Mardi Gras. Our first cruise together was on Celebrity. We’ve since sailed on Holland America, NCL, and Princess. I’d also previously sailed on Royal Caribbean and Premier (“The Big Red Boat” affiliated with Disney before DCL.) We first saw the Miracle in Tampa when we lived there and again in Long Beach when we met Rich’s aunt for lunch on the Queen Mary last October. We figured it was time to cruise on the Miracle. 🙂

Rich had no intention of ever sailing on Carnival until we took the Angels Fan cruise on the Paradise from Long Beach, CA in January, 2011. We were in a mini-suite then and had such a great time, we cruised the Paradise again a year later out of Tampa, FL, but in the Penthouse Suite. We would learn on this cruise that some of what made Carnival so good was that we were sailing in suites. On this cruise, we had a regular balcony cabin – very nice but no special perks. 🙂

We chose this cruise for 3 reasons:

  1. Rich needed a real vacation now and not this fall
  2. Carnival was the only cruise line sailing to Mexico from L.A. this time of year (plus no flights – yay!)
  3. With Rich’s airline discounts, it was quite inexpensive

Saturday, May 16, Day 1

We left our home in Las Vegas at around 6:40 a.m., stopped in Baker for a breakfast bacon biscuit at Carl’s Jr. and arrived in Long Beach 4 hours later, exactly the same amount of time it takes us to drive to Anaheim. Upon descending the San Bernardino Mountains, we veered off on a different route to Long Beach than our usual Anaheim route so we weren’t sure if it would take longer or not.

By the time we dropped off our large suitcase, parked in the parking garage, and wheeled our smaller bag over and checked-in, it was around 11 a.m. With our priority boarding (FTTF – “Faster to the Fun”), we’d expected to board at around 11 or 11:30 but passengers were still disembarking from the previous cruise up until about noon or later. We sat around and waited and it was a bit chilly in Long Beach. We hadn’t thought about bringing sweatshirts – we’re so used to boarding in Florida.

Rich_LongBeachWe boarded at 12:30. FTTF guarantees that your cabin will be ready when you board (others have to wait until 1:30), so we headed for our cabin first off to drop off our smaller bag. We began to receive deliveries of special items that Rich had pre-ordered. Like these beautiful roses:

rosesWe also got a Carnival tote bag with 2 t-shirts, 2 visors, 2 beach towels, a bottle of champagne, 2 champagne glasses, and Fun Ship Freddy. Here’s a pic of our cabin with the Queen Mary in the background. One fun thing was that the bedside and couch lamps looked like cones, as in the “Cozy Cone Motel” at DCA.

cabin

cone

We then headed for the buffet for lunch. This was arranged quite differently than on the Paradise and we much preferred the Paradise arrangement. These stations were wrapped around the Atrium and were spread out so that you couldn’t see them all at once.

We stopped off at the first station we saw, which had an Italian theme of pasta, chicken, and roast beef. We added some potato salad and some cookies to our plates. Later, I saw Chopsticks, which I wish I had known about beforehand. We’d planned on catching Chopsticks sometime on the cruise but discovered, much to our dismay, that it was only open from 12-3:30.m. We would have preferred this for a dinner choice. For lunch, we were usually eating a burger or hot dog from the poolside grill.

lunch

We returned to our cabin for a quick nap. We’d been up since 5:30 and had driven 4 hours so we were tired. Our large suitcase arrived so we unpacked that before the lifeboat drill at 4 p.m. Much to our dismay, the lifeboat drill was held outside at the lifeboat station. On our previous cruises on the Paradise, we were able to stay inside for most of the drill and then report to our station briefly. On Princess, the entire drill is held inside.

Naturally, our station was facing the afternoon sun and it grew quite hot while we waited. I’d rushed out there when the ship’s horn sounded for the drill and hadn’t applied fresh sunscreen since this morning’s application so I was concerned about getting too much sun exposure. After having a tiny incident with skin cancer, my doctor told me to apply sunscreen any time I was outside. Of course, I’d been doing that for the past 20-30 years, but like so many, had been exposed to too much sun before this level of sunscreen became available.

Our room steward hadn’t appeared and we really needed some ice for the champagne so Rich called room service and they delivered it. Our steward would faithfully restock it throughout the rest of the cruise. We chilled the champagne and sipped it out on our balcony for sailaway at 6 p.m. The site of the pilot boat driver jumping back on the pilot boat is always a thrill for us.

pilot

We continued relaxing on the balcony, enjoying our views of the ocean.

ocean

We then toured the ship, including the bars, theatre, restaurants. We stopped off at the Taste Bar for today’s sample from one of the 2.0 enhancements, the Blue Iguana. The bite was delicious as was everything we would sample at the Taste Bar. But, unfortunately, Blue Iguana is one of the 2.0 enhancements the Miracle did not receive. This would become the biggest negative on the cruise – losing some of our favorite things to 2.0 but not receiving some of the benefits of 2.0.

On our tour, we stopped in at Cherry on Top, a small store selling candy. On other ships, Cherry on Top is larger and includes an ice cream fountain, another 2.0 upgrade that we only received a small piece of. We bought a small bag of overpriced M&Ms.

We knew we’d be too tired for the Main Dining Room tonight so we headed for the awesome Carnival Pizza. At least, it used to be awesome. Before, we couldn’t get enough of their pizza and Carnival is known for having amazing pizza. Well, we don’t know what they did but now it is super thin and the toppings were just thrown on top. It tasted good but it just wasn’t that appealing overall – certainly not like it was before. We searched online and others have noticed a change in the pizza, too.

pizza

I also made a salad from the salad bar and this would be one of my favorites throughout the cruise. I’m missing it now that we’re home and have assembled the ingredients (garbonzos, an assortment of olives, and swiss cheese) to make my own for today’s lunch.

pizza_salad

We grabbed some meat and cheese bites and took them back to the cabin and noticed our cabin steward had done the turndown service, which we love. We finished sipping champagne on our balcony, admiring the stars in the sky before heading to bed.

We checked in with our pet sitter (we purchased a minimum internet package that gave us enough minutes to check our pet sitter texts throughout the cruise), ate a few M&Ms (Carnival no longer provides turndown chocolates), read our Fun Times, and closed our eyes with the ship rocking us to sleep – one of the joys of cruising.

About Kathy

Novelist, Singer/Songwriter, Music Producer