My parents joined my daughter, Peyton, and I on a Carnival Cruise to the wondrous Panama Canal a few years ago. The destination was chosen based on discounted fares and an appealing itinerary. We opted for a suite on the Carnival Miracle, which offered more room than 2 traditional rooms and could sleep all four of us. Thanks to my partially disabled mother, we landed a handicapped room that allowed her more room for maneuvering her walker. The couch and bunk bed directly over the couch provided sleeping arrangements for the 3rd and 4th passengers, Peyton and I.
Our itinerary began in Fort Lauderdale traveling to Panama, Belize, and Costa Rica. Once in Lauderdale, we boarded our ship around noon and enjoyed an entire day of Florida sunshine before setting sail later that evening. The Carnival Miracle had a wide variety of activities and the food was plentiful, yet mediocre as I usually find with cruising. Miracle had so many bars and clubs featuring live entertainment that it was hard to find time to fit them all in. We played trivia and took full advantage of the midnight buffets, something I do believe only Carnival still offers. The Miracle’s decor was a bit too busy for my taste, with the worst being the main dining room abuzz with purple lights resembling grapes. All of its rich colors, busy patterns, and dizzying lights were just too much and way too vibrant.
The first two days of the cruise were enjoyed at sea with us not having to lift a finger to do anything other than decide which restaurant to dine at. On Day 3, we sailed into the lovely country of Panama. We opted for an excursion with Carnival that took by via ferry boat to the Panama Canal from Lake Gatun (Miraflores Locks) which was an 8 hour day. The pricey excursion included a less than mediocre lunch, incredible crowds, and little to do other than watch the cargo ships around us on their transit through the canal and hear the history. The Panama Canal is incredibly impressive, but the excursion was boring and I felt very overpriced for what we actually did; however, I was able to check this wonder of the world from my bucket list. Seriously, if you have been through a locks system on a boat before, it was not that thrilling.
The eco-friendly country of Costa Rica welcomed us on day four. Peyton and I opted for a zip-lining and aerial tram excursion through the rain forest, offered through the cruise lines. The zip lines were approximately 175 feet in the air and we loved soaring through the air, free as a bird, at high speeds! Though hesitant and nervous at first, I was comforted by the guests in line telling me how easy and fun it was. Plus many of them were way older than myself and that gave me the peer pressure I so desperate needed. I am glad I did not back out because it truly was exhilarating fun! The rainforest was peaceful and we saw many species of wildlife, butterflies, birds and plants. I will have to add that I was disappointed that we did not see any tree frogs since they seem to be on everything represented by the tourism board of Costa Rica. I felt that country misrepresented itself.
After Costa Rica, we had another day at sea, cram packed with activities, and then docked in gorgeous Belize on Day six. Peyton and I chose to tour the ruins of Altun Ha, a Mayan site from around 150 BC. Our guide was hospitable and made the educational part of the tour most exciting with her recounts of the historic days in Belize. The excursion also featured a tour of the small, but quaint, Belize City. We both enjoyed the day in Belize and stopped at the cruise port before boarding the ship to try the local foods. The pier at Belize is very clean and well maintained; there is also an affordable selection of decent souvenirs.
Our ten day cruise came to a close much too soon and we were left with nothing more than memories of cruising to the Panama Canal through the hundreds of pictures we had taken. After disembarking, we began the post-cruise Carnival excursion to the Everglades at Holiday Park, Florida. The excursion price was not much greater than getting a cab to the airport, plus it also brought our luggage along with us and dropped us at the airport when the tour was over. In a nutshell, the Everglades park admission and five hour tour was affordable, fun, and educational. The air boat ride was fantastic! We were literally three feet from some huge gators as we zoomed across the swampy waterways. The Everglades were far more impressive than I had ever imagined and the flowers, unforgettable. The park also offered an on-site alligator show that allowed us to get up close and personal with the gators.
The Carnival Miracle provided great service and a memorable cruise experience, but the quality of food, decor, and choice of activities were not as good as some others we had been on. Carnival did have reputable evening entertainment and a cast of impressive singers and dancers. The spa was wonderful as usual and the spa services were really worthwhile. Miracle’s casino was paying out money in decent amounts, something you do not always witness. Peyton would like to add that the teen club was top notch and kept her very entertained. Carnival paid homage to the Halloween holiday by having pumpkin carving, costume contests and many other typical Halloween activities. The adult late night costume party was a riot!
My Panama Canal Cruise Photo Gallery:
If you like cruising, check out some of our other great posts about them: