MIRACLE To Mexico, Part One

Peter Knego navigates local waters on the outset of a seven night cruise aboard Carnival Cruises’ 88,500-gt, 2,124-guest CARNIVAL MIRACLE from Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera.

Carnival Cruises

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2015 unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

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MIRACLE to MARY mash up.

It was so nice to hop in the car and drive the mere 80 miles from Oceanside to Long Beach, park at the QUEEN MARY-adjacent Carnival terminal and board the CARNIVAL MIRACLE for a seven night cruise to Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. No airports, cramped planes and time zone issues…

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The CARNIVAL MIRACLE’s eleven-deck-tall Metropolis Atrium, facing down.
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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Phantom Theater, facing starboard.
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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Totally Not-So-Random Carpet Shot #1.

As ships get more pleasantly generic decor-wise, my fondness for the fantasy-infused stylings of former Carnival architect Joseph Farcus grows ever stronger. As one would expect, utilizing the 2004-built CARNIVAL MIRACLE’s 88,500-gt,963-by-106-foot framework as his canvas, he has left no color, pattern or concept unexplored.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab Night Club.
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Totally Not-So-Random Carpet Shot #2.
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Modesty Blaise.
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Mata Hari.
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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Bacchus, facing aft from Deck 3.

And yet, unlike some of his earlier and even more recent efforts, there is less randomness, more humor and a greater sense of unity and flow. I love the passageway personalities, which include Hercule Poirot, Modesty Blaise, Dorian Gray and Mata Hari. My personal vote for most outlandish of all of the MIRACLE’s spaces is a tie between Frankenstein’s Lab with its oversized “creature” and “Jacob’s Ladder” lighting effects (straight out of a Classic Universal Horror flick) and the outlandish, grape-infused purpledom of the 1,250-seat Bacchus Dining Room.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Kvaerner-Masa builder’s plate.

Part of what makes the Finnish-built MIRACLE so appealing is her Spirit Class platform, which has been rendered mid-sized by current standards and is extremely well executed in terms of passenger flow and layout. It’s no wonder that Carnival built four of these ships for its own division, six for Holland America, two for Cunard, four for Costa and one for P&O.

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The upper deck areas include a running track, netted-in basketball court and miniature golf at the very top of the ship on Deck 11.

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From the CARNIVAL MIRACLE and her Long Beach-based fleetmates, there are some great vantages of the historic QUEEN MARY. Sadly, the magnificent MARY looks every minute and then some of her 80 years.

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Messy MARY.

Despite still bringing in the crowds, the beloved QUEEN is in dire need of paintwork, from her bleached pink funnels to her grime-streaked hull. One would think the City Of Long Beach would show more pride and respect for the storied ship that put the former oil town on the map.

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Sunning platforms on Deck 10 surround the CARNIVAL MIRACLE’s forward and midships pools.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE base of funnel.

The Spirit Class Ships’ most evident “wow” feature is the glass-encased housing at the base of Carnival’s signature winged funnel. From the outside, it is like a crimson-colored apparition from “Logan’s Run” and from the inside…

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Nick and Nora’s, facing aft.
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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Nick and Nora’s facing fwd.

…it creates a spectacular setting for the double deck, 156-seat, Manhattan-themed Nick and Nora’s steakhouse. More on that later.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Suite 621 bedroom.

Before heading to our own cabin, we had a chance to visit a selection of staterooms, including Penthouse Suite 621 on Empress Deck (6).

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Suite 621 sitting area.

Penthouse Suites top the ship’s accommodation and feature a separate bedroom and sitting area, a dressing room, original artworks, a wide balcony and marble top loos with double sinks and a jacuzzi tub/shower.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Vista Suite 4237, facing aft.
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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Vista Suite sitting area.
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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Vista Suite balcony.

Probably even more fetching than the Penthouse Suites are the Vista Suites at the stern, which can be combined with the neighboring cabin to form a mega suite complex. And who can resist those huge balconies with a view over the ship’s wake…

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4211 loo.
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4211 inboard.
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4211 balcony.

Our twin-bedded digs for the next seven days, Balcony Stateroom 4211, was slightly more modest but more than ample for our needs.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Horatio’s plate:  A little bit of Asian and a lot of Salad bar…

After settling in, we headed up to Horatio’s, the ship’s 458-seat buffet dining venue spanning the midships-to-aft portion of Deck 9. Horatio’s features an excellent Asian (“Chopsticks”) station, burgers, a deli, sweets, a salad bar and a daily rotating international station (French, Italian, American, etc.)

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Margherita in the making.
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Margherita magnifico!

But my favorite (and now topping Princess) for the very best at sea, is the pizzeria. Stand in line, give your order and be patient as the chef hand-pounds the dough and adds the necessary toppings before sending the plate off to the oven, from which it returns minutes later with a perfect Neapolitan style Margherita or another making of your choice.

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After boat drill, the MIRACLE cast her lines and headed into the channel. Soon, we had a clear view of Palos Verdes, then Catalina Island on our starboard side.

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Aft from wing at sea.

As we picked up speed, I lingered on the wing atop the bridge on starboard Deck 9, watching our massive ship plow the seas in a scenario that will never fail to mesmerize.

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Carnival Cardio, facing starboard.
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Gym terraces, facing fwd.

The MIRACLE has a double deck spa on forward Decks 9 and 10 that is fronted by a terraced gym with a fantastic array of cardio machines that provided an inspirational view of the Pacific as I did my best to work off an afternoon of indulgence at Horatio’s.

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Fiber-optic Twilight.

Before heading down to dinner, I lingered with the twilight as the pool areas glowed in an array of ever-changing fiber-optics.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Bacchus setting.

We had reserved a table for two, second seating (8:15) in Bacchus.

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Of garlic and gazpacho…

When cruising Carnival, I always order the gazpacho (loaded with fresh garlic and herbs) on the first night and am never disappointed. Despite being a mass market line, its food is often premium market quality and the service courteous, fast and efficient.

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Braised Tofu and Asian-style veggies.

I took a chance with the braised tofu as my entrée. Like Carnival, tofu is often disparaged by those who have never tried it.  I might add, it was flawless, perfectly prepared and bursting with flavor.

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Melting Cake with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

There was no better way to end our first dinner than with Carnival’s classic, souffle-like melting cake and a few walks around the ship for good measure.

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Bed lobster.

Although the pillow top chocolates are a thing of the past, Carnival’s room stewards still pride themselves in the art of towel animal making. We were greeted with a friendly lobster and the morrow’s program when we finally called it a night.

End of Part One

Much More to Come…

Very special thanks: Vance Gulliksen, Alain Lopez, Thomas Nicolai-Vargas

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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