JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In 1972, Carnival Cruise Lines had one ship.
Today, it operates 20. Its parent, Carnival Corp., owns 11 other
cruise lines and is the biggest player in the industry.
Suffice it to say Carnival has come a long way. And it could be
argued that its newest ship, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle,
serves as a worthy illustration of how Carnival has upped the ante
in the contemporary market.
Everything -- from food to accommodations -- has gotten better
over the years, and the Spirit-class ships, of which the Miracle is
the fourth and final, epitomizes Carnival's evolution.
Agents really like these ships, and they have their reasons.
"The Spirit class of ships are my personal favorites," said
Sandy Cleary, president of CruCon Cruise Outlets in Boston. "We're
marketing to the Spirit-class yuppies and the more affluent. It's
not that the price points are higher, it's just that they'll enjoy
what's on board."
Cleary noted that the recent additions to cruise ships, such as
Carnival's alternative-restaurant Supper Clubs and the balcony
accommodations, are well-suited to a more affluent market. Eighty
percent of the Carnival Miracle's staterooms are outside, and of
those, 80% feature balconies.
I, for one, noticed subtle yet important changes in staterooms
and suites. All ocean-view cabins now come equipped with bathrobes,
and staterooms have minibars.
Even Vicki Freed, Carnival's senior vice president of marketing
and sales, admits to having a sentimental attachment to the
Spirit-class vessels. "I've sailed on the Carnival Legend twice on
my own vacations," she said.
The Spirit-class ships have an extremely functional flow that
lends an air of spaciousness to the vessels, Freed said. Public
rooms are on two decks, which further enhances the flow.
But that's only part of the story. Passengers will find a whole
host of onboard features, like 14,500 square feet of spa and
fitness space, dining options and flexible conference space.
Miracle's gourmet tastes
Many agents also said they continue to like the traditional
concept of one large, spacious dining room, another Spirit-class
But it's hard to dispute the popularity of the ships' supper
clubs. On the Carnival Miracle, the supper club is Nick and Nora's,
which, like all the vessel's public rooms, is themed after
characters from novels, songs, films, myths and theater. (Nick and
Nora were characters in Dashiell Hammett's novel, "The Thin Man,"
and several films that followed.)
"The supper clubs are a five-star dining experience," said
Cleary. "It's ... one of the main selling features I use when
selling Spirit-class ships."
The Supper Club, which charges a reservation fee of $25 per
person, is located atop the atrium and is illuminated by a soft red
skylight. The room is appointed with vintage black-and-white
photographs of New York. Versace china adorns the tables.
I found the food in Nick and Nora's to be superb, and it serves
as another marker of how far Carnival has come in its culinary
evolution. I also found the cuisine in the dining room and in the
other eateries quite good.
Horatio's, the casual Lido Deck dining area, pays a maritime
tribute to C.S. Forester stories about the British naval captain
The space features three-dimensional figures of the Napoleon-era
captain along with a nautical theme.
It has a rotisserie, a deli, a 24/7 pizzeria, a salad bar and a
grill. The area also houses a dessert station and a Taste of
Nations station, which features a different ethnic cuisine every
The Spirit-class ships carry another sign of the times: gourmet
coffee bars. The Carnival Miracle is the first Spirit-class ship to
have two such venues.
The Chippendale Internet Cafe, meanwhile, offers guests a
tranquil venue to check e-mails or surf the Web. The room is
appointed with baroque Chippendale-esque furniture, including comfy
couches and chairs.
Retaining onboard fantasy
Although the Carnival on-board product has become more
sophisticated, it has not done so at the expense of an ambience
that remains fanciful and fun (although perhaps a bit subtler than,
say, the Fantasy-class ships).
Carnival ship architect Joe Farcus makes sure of that. In
Farcus' view, he's designing an experience rather than
architectural elements -- something that guests won't find in their
everyday lives. "They know they're not in Kansas," he said.
Kansas the Carnival Miracle is not. Guests are more apt to feel
like they've been transported to Batman's Gotham City or Superman's
Metropolis -- two other Carnival Miracle themes -- but certainly
Other themed public areas include the Miracle's lower promenade,
the Fountainhead, which takes its name from the Ayn Rand novel. The
upper promenade, meanwhile, Kane's Way, comes from Orson Welles'
movie, "Citizen Kane."
For the enclosed promenade, Farcus created a garden theme
designed to resemble the garden from Gatsby's mansion in F. Scott
Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby."
Dr. Frankenstein's Lab, the disco, features a larger-than-life
Frankenstein. Stonewall facades provide the space with a Gothic
The Mad Hatter's Ball show lounge, meanwhile, transports guests
into the world of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" with
three-dimensional depictions of the story's characters.
In designing the Phantom Lounge, the main show lounge, Farcus
took inspiration from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "The Phantom
of the Opera."
All things considered, the Carnival Miracle serves as an
interactive stage for cruisers to enjoy their vacations.
To contact reporter Claudette Covey, send e-mail to [email protected].
How to sell the Miracle
ere are four tips on what types
of clients to target for Carnival Miracle sailings:
• Couples looking for romance
"The Carnival Miracle is a very romantic ship for couples," said
Vicki Freed, Carnival Cruise Lines' senior vice president of
marketing and sales. Nick and Nora's Supper Club, for instance,
offers a romantic ambience and features dancing and entertainment.
The ship's abundance of balcony accommodations also appeals to
• Empty nesters
Freed suggested targeting the Carnival Miracle toward empty
nesters who might otherwise opt for vacationing at such Las Vegas
hotels as Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino or the Venetian. "This
ship falls into the same category," she said. "It definitely can
compete with those hotels."
• Weddings at sea
Carnival has a host of attractively priced wedding packages, and
Jai George, president of Cruise Network in Raleigh, N.C., said his
agents are looking to sell them. "We're working on one right now,"
he said. The Carnival Miracle's wedding chapel features
stained-glass windows and depictions of the Old Testament.
• Meetings and incentives
George said the ship's 59-person conference center is well
designed for groups, and he likes the way in which it breaks down
into three smaller rooms. The center is also equipped with
audio-visual equipment. -- C.C.