MIRACLE To Mexico, Part Two

Peter Knego continues his seven night cruise aboard Carnival Cruises’ 88,500-gt, 2,124-guest CARNIVAL MIRACLE from Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera with two southbound sea days.

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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.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

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Blogging at Gatsby’s.

Unique to the SPIRIT Class ships, there is an indoor promenade that surrounds the three deck showroom on forward Deck 3. Just wide enough for a tiled walkway and pairs of seats beneath its big round windows, it is where I would spend most mornings and afternoons with a cappuccino and a view of the sea.  It was a perfect place to blog and catch up on assignments and, with the staff constantly transiting between the crew areas to their assigned passenger space, a great place to pick up snippets of behind-the-scenes chatter.

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Starboard Deck 3 promenade, facing aft.

Another great thing about Gatsby’s (aside from the custom wrought iron “leaf” railing) is that it syncs with the teak promenades that stretch aft under the lifeboats to the stern on either side of Deck 3. These promenades are a wonderful place to stroll with a near-sea vantage and they connect via automatic doors that open onto the forward vestibule, which also links them to Gatsby’s.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE, Alchemy, facing forward.

For those who are not fond of the outré decorative stylings of Joseph Farcus (some of which were illustrated in the prior post), there are several new spaces that were fitted to the ship this past April as part of the Carnival 2.0 upgrade.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Alchemy Bar not-so-random carpet shot.

Among the new additions is the Alchemy Bar on aft Deck 2, the go-to for designer cocktails made with fresh herbs and exotic ingredients.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Redfrog Pub, facing forward.

The Redfrog Pub on forward Deck 2 is in a hub of lounges that end up being a favorite late night destination for live music, from rock and country bands to sing-along pianists. The Caribbean-themed venue serves up frozen drinks, rums and beers, including privately brewed Carnival’s Thirsty Frog Red.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Sky Bar.

Another renovated space on forward Deck 2 is the Sky Bar, the ship’s designated sports bar with its panorama of TV screens and sports memorabilia.

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Serenity, facing forward.

After eating, writing and a great session on the ellipticals with mesmerizing views of the deep blue Pacific, I spent some time in the adults-only Serenity area on aft Deck 9. Serenity has its own pool, a Jacuzzi, cabanas, occasional hammocks for two and plenty of cushioned deck chairs as well as a sheltered bar area.

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Second sunset.

A spectacular sunset made the increasing heat and humidity worth enduring as the MIRACLE made her south-by-southeasterly course.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Aglow on Deck 13.

Up on Deck 13, there was a warm, following breeze at the base of the ship’s glass-enshrined funnel casing.  We would soon be dining within.

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Nick and Nora’s table setting.

The Carnival steakhouse experience is one of the finest at sea, from the elegant table settings with their Versace chargers, Frette linens, polished silver and fine stemware to the gracious service and, of course, the delicious, artfully prepared courses.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Nick and Nora’s, facing starboard from Deck 12.

The SPIRIT Class ships have what I think are the most spectacular steakhouses in the fleet, housed in the dome formed by the base of the ships’ funnels. The double deck rooms seat 156 guests and would be impressive enough on their own, were they not perched atop the ships’ eleven deck high atria.

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Steak show!

It all begins with a presentation of the various cuts of beef and lamb. Our server Florian, who hails from Romania, took care of every possible request with a grace and efficiency that would rival that of any five-star cruise ship. For a mere $35 per guest, this is one of the most affordable deluxe dining experiences at sea and would cost at least three times more for an equivalent meal on land.

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Nick and Nora’s bread accompaniments.

All of the finer details, from the fresh-baked focaccia to the array of potions to dip it in (including two tapenades, olive oil and balsamic vinegar) to each beautifully presented course, make an evening at Nick and Nora’s one of the highlights of a CARNIVAL MIRACLE cruise.

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Caramelized apple.

Non-meat eaters need not fret as there are poultry, fish and vegetarian selections. And the desserts are out of this world, including a caramelized apple that would add an extra fifteen minutes’ penance to the next day’s cardio routine. Also, note that in the beginning of the cruise, Nick and Nora’s tends to be more lightly booked, so there are incentives like free or half-off wines that are not offered later in the cruise when the space fills up.

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Atrial fibrilations.

Fortified by a wonderful Hess cabernet, we exited Nick and Nora’s via the helix-shaped glass stairs that are cantilevered over the Metropolis Atrium.

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MV CARNIVAL MIRACLE Mad Hatter’s Ball, facing port.

I have to confess that most stand-up comedy is lost on me but without a mainstage show (due to a mechanical issue in the showroom that would be fixed by the end of the cruise), it was the evening’s key entertainment option. Held in the 348-seat Mad Hatter’s Ball, an Alice In Wonderland-inspired space that is about as over-the-top as any ever designed by Joe Farcus, the George Lopez-affiliated Punchliners was worth going to just to experience the room.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Mad Hatter’s detailing.

What a space, with its 3-D caricatures (including a white rabbit pouring tea for a figure resembling Farcus, himself), frosted glass fixtures and mind-boggling frescoed flora and fauna! Absinthe, anyone?

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Lowell Sanders in Punchliners.

I’ve got to hand it to comedian Lowell Sanders for a clever, envelope-pushing show. Our intended “peek from the back of the lounge” lasted his entire performance. Family cruisers, take note that the “adult’s only” shows are not for the faint-hearted.

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Redfrog at night.

On the way back to the cabin, we passed Redfrog, which was hopping with The Designated Divers, a band playing tunes by the Police, Modern English and others, to a crowd that largely didn’t exist at the time the songs came out. As we marched back to our stateroom, we truly felt the march of time…

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Muse of the MIRACLE.

One day, I hope to learn more about the mysterious Farcusian female figure whose apparition is figured in marquetry in countless elevator doors and numerous glass panels throughout the ship.

Monday, September 21, 2015

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Bacchus, facing forward.

Our second sea day was without an agenda: time spent sleeping in; catching up on work and, of course, eating. At 3:00 PM we stumbled into Bacchus for the afternoon tea.

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Afternoon tea in Bacchus.

Not only were we thrilled to not be herded to a large table to “meet new friends” and converse awkwardly, we were hugely impressed with the assortment of scones, cakes and nibbles that were being served.

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Cabo passing.

Right after tea, bathed in the afternoon sun, Cabo San Lucas appeared on our port side.

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CARNIVAL MIRACLE Horatio’s, facing aft from starboard.

Our very low key day ended in the 458-seat Horatio’s, where we enjoyed its casual buffet dinner offerings, including the best pizza afloat and a great salad bar.

End of Part Two

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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