Live From Carnival Magic: First Impressions (Plus One Way You Can Get Soaked by 300 Gallons of Water)

May 3, 2011 | By | 17 Comments

Barely 36 hours into Carnival Magic‘s inaugural run through the Med, one thing is clearly emerging: This is one wickedly entertaining vessel. Add in the fact that Carnival designer Joe Farcus dialed down the kitsch factor a notch or three (don’t worry, Carnivalistas — there’s still plenty of head-spinning details to ogle at), and it’s a stylish one at that. Sure there are tweaks that need to be worked out, but the buzz on this baby has been pretty good so far.

The most drastic differences between Carnival Dream, its predecessor, and Magic are visible before you get onboard — the expansion of the WaterWorks aqua park (a riotous coil of waterslides) and the introduction of SportsSquare. The latter includes a full-size, net-covered basketball court, an outdoor pod of cardio machines so people can watch you pant and sweat, a two-deck mini-golf course and a ropes course that looks deceptively easy (but most likely is not). I’ll be checking all of these things out as the week progresses, but I’m impressed by the cohesion among the water slides, the pools (the main watering hole is surrounded by three separate decks of loungers — some with plush cushions — and a giant screen for movies) and SportSquare. Even when the areas are packed, they’re easily navigable.

I have to give a special shout out for the Power Drencher, a massive bucket that holds 300 gallons of water. Every few minutes it refills, a bell rings and its contents are dumped on folks waiting to be properly soaked below. One perhaps unintentional benefit: The thing sprays water everywhere, so if you’re on one of the loungers three decks below, you get a fine mist while you’re broiling in the sun. Sweet.

The public spaces inside are similarly impressive, particularly the Atrium, a gorgeous three-deck gathering place-cum-amphitheater. A piano plopped on a glass shelf two decks up serves as a performance space for the musicians who’ve already raised the roof there. Ok, the decorations on the walls here — hundreds of green-and-white-glass mounds topped by what appear at first glance to be eyeballs — gave me the willies the first time I saw them.

Corridors are uniformly wide, restaurants and shops well-marked, and signage clear-cut. Still haven’t made my way to the spa, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. I just know it is.

The restaurants have been mostly good, and sometimes great (a dinner mate at Prime Steakhouse Monday evening had a cut of beef so big I”m surprised it didn’t jump off the plate and start grazing on the fake grass on the mini-golf course). There have been some service bumps, but inasmuch as the ship hasn’t even cut its baby teeth yet, that’s to be expected. I got to the Lido Marketplace (read: buffet) just as it was closing for lunch, and as I reached for some food, the dude behind the counter pulled the tray away and asked me to hand over the tongs. I obliged, tong-tied as I was. But, really, it’s impossible to go hungry on a cruise ship, so I headed to the burrito bar, where I was greeted with a smile and a honkin’ big plate of chow.

I’m looking forward to a meal at Cucina del Capitano, the for-fee alternative restaurant ($10) proffering family-style Italian at dinnertime; it’s an evocative space tucked above the buffet, and the staff couldn’t be sweeter. (When I toured the spot on Day 1, I told a server that the entrance up a flight of steps is easy to miss. He looked at me, smiled and said, “Hmm. We’ll put up some posters.” Hey, it wouldn’t hurt . . .)

That said, service is unsurprisingly superb just about everywhere on Magic. The team at the RedFrog Pub, which appears to be everyone’s favorite hot spot now, seems to be overwhelmed by the crowds at times, but the photos of tipplers that flash on the screens behind the bar keep everyone busy. I can’t imagine things won’t improve, and quickly.

And the cabins? I’m in a balcony unit on Deck 9, and it’s a cheery little haven with an orange-and-brown palette (it’s not as Halloweeny as it sounds), flowery prints on the walls, enough storage that nine days of clothing for two are completely concealed and a tight but otherwise lovely balcony. A single door leads outside, but a large window really opens the space up. The bathroom is serviceable, with a shower and curtain, a single sink and a standard toilet that makes that horrifying swoooooosh every time you flush it.

Got any questions about a section of the ship you want to know more about? Email me at, and I’ll get you some answers.

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    17 Responses to “Live From Carnival Magic: First Impressions (Plus One Way You Can Get Soaked by 300 Gallons of Water)”

    1. Brian
      May 3rd, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

      Everything sounds great! I’m so jealous. But with so much drinking going on, will people remember any of the fun they had?

    2. Jane
      May 4th, 2011 @ 5:27 am

      Hello John and the rest of the lucky passengers on Magic’s first cruise.
      We are booked for 4th Sept, we are renewing our wedding vows and this will be our ‘honeymoon’ trip as we didnt have one the first time round. Its also our 30th wedding anniversary on the 5th Sept so this will be one special trip for us.
      Keep the info coming
      Best wishes
      Jane and Paul

    3. David West
      May 4th, 2011 @ 6:53 am

      Thanks John for the updates. Keep’em coming !

    4. Kahuna
      May 4th, 2011 @ 8:04 am

      Carnival is my favorite and cruising to anywhere Carnival cruise is my favorite destination. It sounds like \Magic\ is on my list of ships to cruise on. Keep the fun coming!!! It’s my escape from everything – yes everything!!!

    5. Cant Wait
      May 4th, 2011 @ 9:48 am

      Hey John,
      Thanks for the Magic info. Was on the Dream last spring. When notice of the Magic Mediteranean cruises were announced, made our reservations a year ago! We sail out of Barcelona in four weeks. Getting into Spain a couple of days early to clear jet lag from the States — sound like a good idea?
      Haven’t seen much about the regular dining rooms — are they just like the Dream?
      Hope you continue to post.

    6. Vivian
      May 4th, 2011 @ 10:54 am

      Can’t wait Oct 5th!!!!!!

    7. Paul
      May 4th, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

      Thanks for the update! I am sailing on June 12 on a two week cruise from Barcellona. Cant wait.

    8. Cruise Critic
      May 4th, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

      @Can’t Wait: I haven’t been on Dream, but the main dining rooms sound very similar in our review. I’ve been to the Southern Lights dining room several times now, where you eat at a specified time. It’s bright and airy and the food has been pretty darn good. You can dine whenever you want at Northern Lights; going to give it a whirl soon, but I’ve been in and it’s a little moodier, a little darker — though some tables are lined up against a window looking out to a busy corridor, so a few folks always have some very public tables. As for getting into Barcelona early: Excellent idea!

      — John

    9. Jbeth
      May 4th, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

      Thanks for all the info!

      Does the lido deck seem to have the same issues as the Dream with the long lines that dont flow well or did they seem to fix all that?


    10. Becky
      May 4th, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

      You have done a fantastic job keeping us informed of what to expect on the new Carnival Magic. We are sailing May 3rd out of Barcelona and really looking forward to it. SO HAPPY you will be our cruise director. Look forward to seeing you soon!

    11. Slitelyused
      May 4th, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

      John,,,Keep the up dates coming,,,we’ll be joining you for the TA in Oct,28. Should be a blast bringing her home to Galveaston. See ya,,,Ron & Lydia,,,San Antonio Texas

    12. Cruise Critic
      May 5th, 2011 @ 1:38 am

      @Jbeth: There does seem to be a good deal of congestion in the Lido Marketplace, the buffet, but nothing unwieldy. One place that never seems congested is the Tandoor station, which is fab. It’s outside by the pool, so I think a lot of people are missing it.

      – John

    13. BoomerHouston
      May 9th, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

      You rock John Deiner! Thanks for sharing via this blog on all of the “live” happenings that you have experienced thus far. I am sure that you have many more options available to pursue than to chat with mainalanders so we do appreciate your candid descriptions. I am traveling embarking later this year on the MAGIC out of Galveston with a group of friends and have already starting compiling a short list of must-do items and I look forward to the rest of your entries!

      Enjoy your cruise!


    14. Jo
      May 10th, 2011 @ 11:41 am

      hey John, with all the running around you do you should be a toothpick!

    15. mary hopla
      May 10th, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

      We’ll be boarding the Carnival Magic in 10 days departing from Barcelona, Spain. We can’t wait. This will be our 2nd time cruising with Carnival. Very excited to begin our 12 day adventure. See you soon. Mike and Mary from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    16. Kathy Machado
      May 11th, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

      I’m way too excited for our sailing out of Barcelona on June 12…first time cruising!!!
      Actually first time in Europe…a trip of a lifetime. My honey & I leave May 31 and are car tripping for ten days from Barcelona along the French Riviera to Cinque Terre.
      See you soon… we’ll be the ones with the biggest smiles!!!
      Kathy & Leo from Fort Collins, Colorado

    17. Cruise Critic
      May 15th, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

      @Jo: I’d be a toothpick if I didn’t have to taste all the food, which I’m happy to do . . .
      @Kathy: Have a wonderful trip! Love to see that sort of enthusiasm!

      – John

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