Leave it to a cruise ship to steal the limelight from one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As the newly christened Carnival Magic pulled out of Venice — the sun just starting to sink into the horizon — the tourists lining the iconic bridges or floating by in water taxis turned their gaze from the ancient city and trained their cameras on the gleaming behemoth passing by a few hundred yards away. But where did that passenger get an air horn to blast in celebration? And why wasn’t it surprising she was a Cruise Critic member?
That passenger was LSP, a longtime reader who told me she was the first person to book a cabin on Magic. I just happened to be standing next to her on the rail, alternating between chitchat and gawking at the gorgeous view of Venice from Deck 12. On her 10th Carnival voyage, she told me that she’d been monitoring Carnival’s Web site like a hawk more than a year ago, then pounced when it was possible to book — and then promptly started the Roll Call for the sail on the Cruise Critic boards.
She brought along her husband, seven friends and that air horn. If there’s a group having a better time onboard, I haven’t found it. Yet.
A few hours before, the ship had been officially named in a ceremony that alternated between total cheese and pure emotion. It was held in the ship’s massive Showtime Theater and emceed by Carnival cruise director extraordinaire John Heald, who skillfully bounced among fat jokes, mega-superlatives on the mega-ship and touching tributes to Magic’s godmother. That would be Lindsey Wilkerson, a young mother of two who was diagnosed with cancer as a child; she now works for and serves as an ambassador for the hospital that cured her, St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Memphis. A film that proceeded her introduction left more than a few people in tears, and Heald properly humbled.
But let’s not forget the cheese. This being Magic, there was, naturally, magic involved in the christening, along with song, dance and pyrotechnics. It started with the appearance of a helicopter onstage (Who’s that inside? Why it’s Carnival CEO and president Gerry Cahill looking somewhat uncomfortable!) and continued with multiple walk-ons by ship illusionist Jason Byrne. It concluded with Byrne conjuring the ceremonial champagne bottle and the “key” to the ship.
The real magic, though? The warm, deeply moving reception that Wilkerson received, and the good vibes that resulted. We have eight days remaining on this voyage, and we’ll all be sharing in onboard with a real hero in our midst.