I recently had the chance to take a Western Caribbean cruise out of Tampa onboard the Carnival Miracle. Prior to the cruise I spent some time in St. Petersburg, FL.
St. Petersburg is a great city that’s only a 30 minute drive to Tampa. It has a small town feel with lots of breweries, great restaurants, and beaches. While I was there I was able to utilize the Tampa Bay City Pass which gives you…
- Admission to the Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay
- Admission to the Florida Aquarium
- Admission to the ZooTampa at Lowry Park
- Admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- A choice between: Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) OR Chihuly Collection
If you’re an adrenaline junkie Busch Gardens is a great amusement park with many high thrill roller coasters. They also have shows, a train ride, a boat ride, and many animals. It’s like going to a zoo with roller coasters. The Florida Aquarium is right next to the cruise port so if you have a few hours before or after your cruise it’s a great place to visit. It’s relatively small compared to a zoo, but it’s very interactive as you get to touch some of the marine life including sting rays and jelly fish. I didn’t have time to go to the other attractions offered on the City Pass, but I was still able to save compared to the regular admission price.
I also had a chance to take in a Tampa Rays game at Tropicana Field. The “Trop” is a beautiful indoor stadium with some food choices I’ve never seen at any other stadium. Some of the foods on their menu include the Short Rib Grilled Cheese, the Carved Turkey Sandwich with Cranberry Relish, and Pulled Pork Nachos. I opted for the Reuben Sandwich, which was the best food I’ve ever eaten at a ball park. They even had seats along the 1st base side with a bar and a buffet at field level. The tickets are inexpensive compared to other stadiums and it’s definitely a must do if you’re in the Tampa/ St. Pete area.
I also was able to take in the Dali Museum in St. Pete, which features many masterpieces from artist Salvador Dali. This museum is very interactive with an area with 3D virtual headsets to see his paintings come to life. They provide you with headsets that give you an audio tour of the museum and explain the method to his madness. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon, but don’t rush through the museum because there’s so much to take in while you’re there.
While in St. Pete there was some concern of incoming Hurricane Dorian, but Carnival was able to get us on the ship and out to sea a day before our scheduled departure. Our 7 day cruise turned into an 8 day cruise! The Miracle is one of Carnival’s Spirit Class ships and was launched in 2003. It only holds a little over 2,000 passengers so you don’t get overwhelmed like you could on a larger ship, while there is still so much to see and do while on the ship. My favorite thing to do on the ship was the Punchliner Comedy Club. They feature 2 shows almost every night, one early show that’s family friendly and a later show that’s adults only.
We stayed in an aft balcony which was completely away from the crowds. I enjoyed going on the balcony at night and looking at the stars while in the middle of the ocean. It’s an experience everyone should enjoy at least once. The aft balcony room is near the engine so there’s a humming noise and the bed vibrates a little. Aft balconies aren’t for everyone as you may get a little seasick if your prone to motion sickness, but if you’re not it’s worth a few extra dollars for the serenity it provides.
The buffet food on board is quite good, but the best food I had was at Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse. This is fine dining at its best. If I went onboard the Miracle again, I would eat at least twice at Nick and Nora’s. The food in the main dining room was very good and the service was exceptional. One tip I would give is that you can order as much as you want. If something tastes really good and you’ve got room feel free to order it again. On formal night (usually day 2) they have steak and lobster tail, so be sure to make your Nick and Nora’s reservations on a night other than night 2.
We were on the Western Caribbean itinerary which made stops in Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel. My favorite stop was in Grand Cayman where we went parasailing and enjoyed their beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear water. The landscape in Honduras was much different with many trees. We went tree top zip lining while we were there and enjoyed there great beaches. I would recommend trying the local foods while in any of these locations. The best empanadas I’ve ever had were on the beach in Roatan. The best tip I can give is to book your excursions through Shore Trips or Shore Excursions Group. For our excursions we had personalized service and never had to wait, while the ones who booked through the cruise lines had to wait in long lines and ride on crowded buses.
All in all, I would definitely recommend the Carnival Miracle to anyone who wants a laid back cruise with plenty to do. The Miracle is set to dry dock on Feb. 15, 2020 for upgrades. It’s rumored that they’ll be adding a Guy’s Burger Joint and The Blue Iguana Cantina. Let’s hope this is true, as it will just enhance the options available on the ship.