It’s Day One of our 13-day cruise. We are bound for the Panama Canal, then on to our final destination, Long Beach, California, where Miracle will reposition for cruises to the Mexican Riviera, among others.
This was our first time to embark from Tampa, which means we have now cruised from all four major ports in Florida. It was a homecoming of sorts as well, since it was a job opportunity that brought us to Tampa, and Florida, some 10 years ago.
We opted to get to Tampa via Amtrak from West Palm Beach. If we have the chance, and the time, we always choose the train vs. flying. It’s more relaxed and way less stressful. But one important thing to note: Make sure your bags don’t exceed 50 pounds. We found that out the hard way from previous trips; and you can’t pay for the overage — you have to unload something.
Boarding was a piece of cake, with lots of Carnival personnel on hand to get you to the right place. Our later arrival time helped, plus we had Priority Boarding, which is always a bonus. Miracle, launched in 2004, is a Spirit-class ship which accommodates a little over 2,100 passengers and about 1,000 crew.
We’re excited to make the full canal transit. On a previous cruise, we went halfway into the canal and back out. Recent upgrades notwithstanding, the Panama Canal remains an engineering marvel 100 years after it was built.
After a few days at sea, our first port of call is Cartagena, Columbia, another destination we’ll be experiencing for the first time. Also along the way, Miracle will make additional stops at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, and Cabo San Lucas, as well as with several days at sea.
A highlight after leaving Tampa was passing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which connects St. Petersburg with Terra Ceia. It’s a view you can only get from the top of a cruise ship.
As we approach Cuba, seas are calm, skies are blue and the trade winds favorable — a great combination we hope holds true for the rest of the voyage. Stay with us as we discover what adventures await!
Story and photos courtesy of Gerry Barker.