by David Yeskel
Like all major cruise lines, Carnival’s growth model is dependent on new ships coming into the vacation pipeline, thus stimulating demand for new cruisers. It’s a tried-and-true method that’s worked well for the industry. But the lines also realize that they must continually invest heavily to refurbish their older ships, enhancing them with features found on newer vessels. It’s all about keeping the experience fresh for repeat clientele while promoting fleet standardization, so guests know what to expect on a Carnival ship – regardless of which one they choose. I sailed on Carnival Miracle’s 7-day Mexico cruise from L.A. recently to assess the impact of the ship’s recent Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades.
The Fun Ship 2.0 program, now deployed to over half the fleet of 24 ships, represents Carnival’s largest investment yet in fleet modernization. Along with a trio of new bars, the enhancements applied to Carnival Miracle during a 2015 drydock include Hasbro, The Game Show; four new musical productions; Seuss at Sea family activities; and a candy store. The new bars and their associated themes work well, as the Alchemy Bar’s clever pharmacy theme influences the blended elixirs served therein, and the Skybox Sports Bar’s mission to offer fans multiple, live viewing options and interactive games is fulfilled. But it’s the RedFrog Pub, Carnival’s signature Caribbean-themed lounge, that dovetails perfectly with the line’s Fun Ship ethos. And, unlike the other bars and lounges aboard, the RedFrog is a club that’s appropriate for families, with games like foosball, shuffleboard, darts, Jenga, and chess liberally placed throughout the venue.
Aided by new LED staging and special effects in the main theater, the four, unique Playlist Productions shows are high-energy musicals designed to associate popular songs with their respective eras. Getaway Island, 88 Keys, 80’s Pop To the Max, and Heart Of Soul are fast-paced, shorter productions that feature a cast of eight singers/dancers.
Adults and kids alike enjoy the new Suess at Sea activities like the Green Eggs and Ham character breakfast, while Hasbro, The Game Show features audience participation in a realistic adaptation of a TV show using super-sized versions of Hasbro’s iconic games.
Bowing to the combination of itinerary fatigue and the current industry penchant for overnight port visits, Carnival Miracle alternates the now-familiar Mazatlán – Cabo San Lucas – Puerto Vallarta route with two varied, 7-day itineraries: an overnight in Cabo plus a visit to Vallarta; and a two-day Vallarta call with a day in Cabo. On my sailing, the Vallarta overnight allowed guests to experience previously unavailable tours like Rhythms of the Night, an impressive Cirque du Soleil-inspired show infused with Mexican cultural touchstones, performed in a remote, jungle setting.
And while the upgraded venues and activity programming serve to keep Carnival Miracle fresh for guests, I’m most impressed by how well the line’s Fun Ship mantra holds up, year after year. Whether laughing hysterically in the packed-to-capacity Punchliner Comedy Club, playing darts in the RedFrog Pub, cheering on their favorites in the Gender Showdown or having breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends, Carnival’s guests continue to thrive on pure, unadulterated fun. It’s that factor, plain and simple, that continues to successfully define a Carnival cruise.