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thenexus2k

Review: Miracle Journeys cruise to Hawaii (Oct 19 - Nov 2) with pics!

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    Howdy all! My wife and I just recently returned from a two week journeys cruise on the Carnival Miracle to Hawaii out of Long Beach, Ca. This was a bucket list cruise for my wife and I, and a new experience for us as we have cruised exclusively to Caribbean destinations prior to this.  This is also an identical itinerary to what Jamman and his wife took in the spring. His review was so comprehensive and helpful that I wanted to post my own to add any tidbits that may help future cruisers.

 

    A note on pre-trip prep (and this will be a common theme for the first week of Vacation), I live on EST. My body does not care what day it is, or if I am on vacation, it just knows that I need to be up at 5:30 am, and by 9 PM I am rapidly running out of steam. Seriously, I am the type that goes to Vegas for conferences, and I am usually in bed at 7PM local time, and up, dressed, and at the poker table around 3 am. This became a running joke around my house in the weeks leading up to the vacation. If my wife and I were watching TV and falling asleep around 9:30 PM, I would look at her and casually mention that “In Hawaii, it’s 3:30 PM. That Luau you booked doesn’t start for another two hours, or end for another five…”  As such, the Monday before departure, I stayed up to watch Monday night football (Lions/Packers) and got to bed around midnight. This didn’t work as I had hoped for, as I was still up at 5:30 am, and proceeded to drag butt through a day of work, frantic last minute travel stuff, and crashing around 9 on Tuesday….

 

      Wednesday morning. Getaway day. While the cruise itself does not depart until Saturday, we left early to spend a few days in Los Angeles.  We normally fly out of Detroit, but we found a very reasonable flight out of Toledo. We left our house about 9:15 for an 11 am flight. The charm of TOL is that it is a small airport (since everyone flies out of Detroit) with only about 4 gates. This means that there are no lines for anything (Check-in, security, refreshments, etc). The only minor beef I had with the flight was on the LA stretch. The man in front of me reclined as soon as he could, but then spent the whole flight leaning forward looking at his tablet!  After a quick 45 min flight to Chicago O’Hare, an hour change over, we landed in LAX at around 2 PM local time. You read that right, we flew American, dealing with two of the most notorious airports in the country (O’Hare and LAX), and not only did we NOT arrive late, we actually arrived a bit ahead of schedule!

 

     This is where I would like to offer a bit of advice: Do not be afraid to use Uber! I know a lot of people reading this have used Uber a lot and may roll their eyes a bit. However, I am sure there are quite a few of you that are like me and have never used Uber and are a bit leery to try. I am hopeful that my experience will help allay your fears. I normally rent a car and drive around the places that we visit and enjoy doing so. However, for this trip, dealing with the notorious LA traffic, and parking, and parking fees, I figured I would take the plunge into the world of Uber. It’s fairly easy. I simply downloaded the app, setup an account, and tied payments to my PayPal account. That’s it! At the airport I simply opened the app and input my destination. The app quickly matches you to a driver. It gives you the driver’s name, make/model/and color of the car, as well as a license plate number. There is also a chat feature, which I found useful to let the driver know that we are wearing X and standing in front of Y. Our driver showed up within 5-6 minutes and we were on our way to the hotel. Our driver was very nice, and the car was clean (as ALL our drivers were for this trip). When you are dropped off, you can rate the driver in the app and leave a tip. You can also review all of your trips in the app or on the website. Cost to go from LAX to our hotel near the walk of fame: $39.52 and took about 75 minutes.

Pics of LA on our ride to the hotel:

 

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(More to come)

Edited by thenexus2k

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For the first two nights, we stayed at the Holiday Inn express: Walk of fame. We chose this hotel because it was in a central location to everything we wanted to see, was well reviewed and was reasonably priced (In my case comped completely through hotel loyalty points). I would highly recommend the hotel, as it was clean, the staff was friendly, the room was large, environment was quiet, the shower was both hot and had good pressure, and the bed was as comfortable as any hotel I have stayed at not named Aria. The hotel was unique architecturally as it was 8 stories (we were on floor 😎 with a corner built into the side of a hill. The elevator situation was a bit strange, in that we had to take an elevator to floor 5, walk around a bit, and then take another elevator up to floor 8. In the event of a fire, because of the hill, we would have been able to use an emergency exit door that led us right to the sidewalk outside. On floor 4 was a smallish but nice pool area, as well as a very nice breakfast area. Overall, the location exceeded expectations throughout our stay.

 

After getting checked in and settled, we decided it was time to venture down to the Hollywood walk of fame area (very short walk). In the area is a shopping mall, the Dolby theatre, the Chinese theatre, the Jimmy Kimmel Theatre and a Hard rock café, among other things. My wife and I were hungry, so we grabbed a bite to eat at the Hard Rock Café. We generally hate the food at HRC, and this was no exception. However, we started a “hobby” some years ago where we collect an HRC shot glass from every city we visit and we’ve been known to drive hours out of the way to collect some (we have hit almost every location in North America east of the Mississippi), so after a somewhat subpar meal, we grabbed our shot glass and did a bit of sightseeing.

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To be continued...

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Important to note. LAX recently changed their Uber/Lyft pickup location away from the terminals. Some people have reported 1 Hr waits for pickup. Probably just growing pains as they sort things out but important to know right now.

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Love Uber. We used it a couple of time in Honolulu to get back and forth to PH and the ship. Very reasonable prices and great conversation with the driver.

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SDPadreFan - I had heard that. I think the change went into affect after we were there. I noticed that several attractions had designated ride-share pickup points, which made it easier for me personally. I am sure everyone will figure out the new system

 

Keys - agreed. I got addicted to the ease of Uber very quickly and used it in HI as well. 

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Before I get going again, I wanted to offer one more tidbit. On our way back to our hotel, we made a stop at an Amazon locker, which brings me to another tip. My wife is addicted to coffee and a specific type of creamer (Nestle Peppermint something or other), and she was frantic in the weeks leading up to the cruise that she would not have it. She had read that Carnival would not let her take a bottle of her creamer on, but that they were ok with the single serving pods. Well, good luck finding that specific product in the store in CA, and the thought of using valuable luggage space (the wife was eyeing the space in my designated suitcase) to fly coffee creamer with us was a nonstarter as far as I was concerned. Enter Amazon Locker. We ordered the pods a day before we left, told them the locker location (in this case, the mall at the walk of fame) and the package was delivered there. They sent us a numeric code, we went to the location, punched in the code, and a locker door pops open with the package. 200 creamer pods were ours. Happy wife, happy life….

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Day 2 (Thursday)

 

     After getting up early, leisurely getting ready, and grabbing a bite to eat, we decided to head out to Santa Monica to walk the pier. Our Uber arrived quickly. Another pleasant ride, with another pleasant driver. I will say that another advantage of Uber is that it gives me the ability to look around and take in the sights, instead of focusing on driving. This trip took about an hour and cost $45.39.

 

     Thanks to the “Time Zone effect”, we were up and at ‘em before most of LA, and arrived at the pier long before it was crowded. We were able to walk the pier and take in the sites at our leisure and not be forced along with the herd.20191017_103436.thumb.jpg.c6719b12e1f11a9e63a5aa11db2243da.jpg

 

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Edited by thenexus2k

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I am so excited about this review.  Leaving on miracle 12/8-12/22.  Your review is right on time!! Thanks you so much...hurry post more ...😍

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After getting our fill of the pier, we called another Uber and were off to Universal Studios (45 minutes/$38.14). While most of this trip was planned out by my lovely wife and co-pilot, this particular stop was all her. She is a HUGE Harry Potter fan and simply had to see what was different between the FL and CA locations (to my eye, not very much). The weather was beautiful so I was happy to tag along for the ride.

 

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After escaping the Potter corner, we toured the rest of the park. The park is split into an upper and lower portion that your ride an escalator between. This escalator ride offers some great views of the area!

 

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They have a map at the overlook above that tells you what the various buildings in the distance are (Pixar was one, I think there was a WB studio as well)

 

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Directly below us is the bulk of the Universal Filming buildings (AGT, "The Good Place", etc)

 

After reaching the lower area, I notice a building that I thought looked like something from season 3 of “Stranger Things”

 

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I had no idea that Universal had ties to "Stranger Things". Being the we are both fans and were hungry, we gave it a try. In an "upside down" type roll reversal, I played it safe and went with the Chicken fingers and my wife was the adventurous one and tried the Demo-Dog. 

 

Probably my favorite park of the park was a 45 minute studio tour. They loaded you on a bus/trolley and drove you through the lot. There were a couple of stops for “3-D experiences” (King King, Jaws, Fast and Furious), several studios, several recreated blocks of a NYC street that they used to film NYC scenes in Movies and TV, and just a lot of general history. History parts always capture my attention.

 

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The car above is particularly apropos given our ultimate destination of Hawaii. My original idea for a costume on the boat was to pick up an Hawaiian shirt, put on my Tiger hat, and call it my costume. Sadly, that was vetoed by "the boss".

 

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We were told that the above is the set they used to film the plane crash scene in "War of the Worlds"

 

     After several hours, we decided to hit the Universal City Walk. We grabbed a shot glass from the HRC, and walked over to the Margaritaville for a couple of drinks and some appetizers before grabbing an Uber back to our hotel (17 minutes/$7.06). Our original plan was to grab dinner and head over to Griffith Park to walk, but the "Time Zone Effect" took hold, so we decided that seeing the observatory from afar was good enough, and we turned in for the night. 

 

To be continued...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by thenexus2k

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9 minutes ago, Funsize0313 said:

I am so excited about this review.  Leaving on miracle 12/8-12/22.  Your review is right on time!! Thanks you so much...hurry post more ...😍

 

Great! You will have fun! Spoiler alert: Miracle is my current favorite boat!

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Great review so far.  Loved the Miracle when we sailed on her in June. Was so much fun and great crew.

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6 hours ago, thenexus2k said:

 

Great! You will have fun! Spoiler alert: Miracle is my current favorite boat!

 

She'll be our home next May and she was our first cruise ever back in 2005!

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It is currently 8 degrees with a healthy layer of snow on the ground.....

 

Let's continue talking about Hawaii!

 

Day 3 (Friday)

Another early morning! We booked one of those open bus Hollywood tours. Time Zone effect again played into our advantage as we had the whole tour bus to ourselves, and were able to kind of dictate where we went. Part of the tour was celebrity homes, and since we personally had no interest, they took us to other points of note (though the guide seemed a bit put out that we didn’t care about seeing Johnny Depp’s house). Overall, the tour was worth the money. The guide really seemed to know the history of the places we were seeing. Everything from the walk, to the comedy store, the sunset strip, to various restaurants of note, to the Beverly Hills Motel, I have to admit that I found it all very interesting. He wouldn't just say "Here's the sunset strip", he went into a fairly detailed history about the strip and why it was famous. 

 

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This is an apartment building where they filmed a scene from "Pretty Woman"

 

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The house at the top of the hill is the stand in for Ironman's house

 

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Apparently the above tree line street is what they always film when they want to viewer to know they are in Beverly Hills. 

 

Overall though, I have to admit that I found the whole area a bit underwhelming. The walk of fame is a curiosity, but I found it to be a Times Square-lite. Rodeo drive was basically like every other shopping district in America (just extremely pricey). Honestly, I didn’t find the traffic that bad either. Having driven through big cities like NYC, Chicago, Cleveland, DC, Atlanta, etc., (during rush hour) I did not see what the big deal was. I could see where it could be bad, but it was not bad at all while we got around. Do NOT say this to a local however! They may complain about the traffic, but they will defend it like you are insulting their favorite college if you dare insinuate that it’s “not that bad”!

 

 

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After getting back to our hotel to check out and grab our bags, we grabbed an Uber and headed down to our pre-cruise hotel in Long beach (75 minutes/$56.44)

 

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     While a lot of people in our cruise critic group were staying at the Queen Mary, it just wasn’t for me personally. We decided to splurge a little bit and stayed at the Hotel Maya. It can get a little pricey when you start loading up on the upgrades (balcony, top floor, harbor view), but I do not regret it. The grounds themselves are simply fantastic. If you have the means, I highly recommend staying here for your pre-cruise night.

     We arrived at 1 PM and were a tad early for a room check-in. They stored our bags for us and let us use the free shuttle to head into town. My wife wanted to grab a few things (sunscreen, tide pods) and I was looking for 12 packs of soda. The driver dropped us off at a local super market where my wife quickly found what she was after, but alas they did not have my soda of choice. After walking a few miles up and down the main drag and stopping to grab a late lunch, I finally had to concede that finding a 12 pack of cans of diet mt dew was just not in the cards and I settled instead for regular dew (screw it, I’m on vacation!). Rather than call for the shuttle and wait for him to arrive, we decided to call an Uber back to the hotel (16 min/$12.37).

     We were pretty tired when we got back to our room, so we showered and relaxed on the balcony to read and communicate with people back home. From our room, we had a view of the current carnival ship in port (Imagination? Fascination?), and were able to watch it leave port. I think we passed out around 8 PM local time. Here’s the funny part. I got up later, convinced it was the morning of the cruise. I grabbed something to drink and went to the balcony to see if the Miracle was in port yet. It wasn’t, so I went back in the room, which was when I glanced at the clock. The time? 11:30 PM….

 

Views of Long Beach and hotel grounds from our room:

 

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Off to the far right-middle is the glowing dome of the carnival cruise port. ( I should of gone to the other end to take a pic of the terminal).

 

Next up: Cruise Departure!!

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Departure Day (YEAH!!!)

 

     Wife and I woke up early (surprise surprise!), showered and got repacked. We ordered breakfast from room service (which was fabulous!), and relaxed and waited for checkout. Our check-in time for the boat was 12:30. We did have priority status, but I was not sure how far that would get us on a journeys cruise. We were initially set for an 11:00 shuttle, but instead of getting there early and risk standing in line for 90 minutes, I asked to be on the noon shuttle. We checked our baggage at the hotel, and walked the grounds, eventually coming to rest at one of the many outdoor patio areas, where my wife got in one last phone/internet fix while I read a few chapters.

     We eventually made our way back to the lobby, where I noticed several people with baggage and carnival luggage tags boarding a shuttle. Thinking it was our shuttle (turned out to be the 11:30 but they let us on anyway), we grabbed our bags and got on. I made a crack about “So, is everyone going to the aquarium?” which garnered several laughs, but confused the heck out of the one group that happened to actually be going to the Long Beach Aquarium. I got to chatting with a couple from Houston, and before we knew it, we were at port! (YEAH!!)

     Apparently they DO have priority boarding on journeys cruises. Upon handing our luggage off to the porters, a woman greeted us at the terminal, took a look at our tickets, and ushered us to a line with nobody in it. We breezed through security (though my travel luggage scale of all things, gave them pause), and we were on board inside of 10 minutes of being dropped off.

 

From the gangway:

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     We made our way to Lido to grab a bite and wait for the 1:30 room call. I found a new (to me) item that I really enjoyed – popcorn chicken! We grabbed a couch/table on the serenity deck and relaxed (carryon with two 12 packs was getting heavy!). This is where I got my first people watching experience of the cruise….

 

     A well-dressed woman walks out of the Lido restaurant area, looks around and says (with attitude): “Adults only? What the hell does that mean?”

I resisted the urge to make a porn joke.

 

“Damn, we can’t find nowhere to eat!”

     

     A woman across from us offered her a spot on their couch. (with more attitude) “Uh-UH! We’re not eating like THAT!” With an exasperated noise, she turned and stormed back inside.

 

     I did not see her for the rest of the cruise. There is a small part of me that wonders if she grabbed her significant other and immediately disembarked because she did not want to spend two weeks on this boat.

 

     At 1:30, we got the announcement that the cabins were open. We made our way to our room to drop off our bags and did a little exploring of the ship. Coming back to our room, we found my wife’s luggage waiting. My bag arrived shortly after, so we got unpacked and relaxed on the balcony for a bit to await the muster drill.

 

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     I have to say, the corner vista suites on the spirit class ships are my new favorite rooms! It has a long entry way, into a living room, with a dressing room, a large bathroom, and a separate bedroom. Then there is my favorite part: the LARGE balcony! We had two loungers, two normal chairs, and a table, and there was room for double that! I spent a lot of time out there, both during the day and at night.

     Soon it was time for the muster drill. A muster drill on a smaller boat in October is a lot nicer than a large boat in June. It went quick, I wasn’t herded in like cattle, and I wasn’t slowly cooking in the sun. We were down, through the drill, and back to our room in no time.

     After watching the sail away from our balcony, we decided to explore the boat some more. We ended up in the skybox sports bar, where we watched some college football (Michigan/Penn State was the big game on). The sports bar is actually rather nice, but they do not utilize it properly (more on that later in the week).

     We then made our way to the MDR (we had YTD). We do not usually do the MDR, but decided to give it another try. Our experience this time did not change our minds. The service was not very good. It took a long time to get menus and a long time to get our order in. We never got the bread or water refills (we did not have a pitcher like on other tables), and the service was generally slow. I will say that the food was great! My wife tried a strawberry bisque, which was excellent (though I was sad to not see it again), and my roast was great. After dinner, we walked the deck, toured the boat some more, and then the “Time Zone Effect” started to kick in, so we headed back to the room and eventually passed out.

 

Rough seas ahead....

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      • Q&A: Cruise Insurance w/ Steve Dasseos of the TripInsuranceStore.com June 2020
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