Live From Carnival Magic: Mama Mia! So Much Food!

May 8, 2011 | By | 24 Comments

Ok, it’s no surprise that the chow is always one of the big topics of discussion on a cruise, and Carnival Magic is no exception. Even the buffet is larger than life — take a look at the plate above and that banana giving it some scale. The plastic-ware in the Lido Marketplace literally doubles as trays — though plenty of the monstrous dishes arrive at tables packed with chow (guilty as charged). That said, I’ve finally been to all of the restaurants onboard, and can offer up a little more info on the experiences.

Here’s a look at some of the major dining options onboard Carnival Magic — this being the inaugural cruise, there’s little doubt that tweaks are still being made throughout.

Favorites: I’m a big fan of the Prime Steakhouse, the $30-per-person alternative space onboard, and now a Carnival standard. The service was just about the best, naturally, of any eatery onboard, and the three-hour meal sailed by. It’s kind of weird to see people walking by on the deck outside, but that’s negligible. Likewise, the unique-to-Magic Cucina del Capitana is a family-style Italian with singing waiters, a fantastic vibe, visits from the captain himself and a piddly $10 fee (truth be told, though, I liked the food during the free build-your-own pasta lunches served in the same space even better). The Tandoor at the Lido Marketplace is a terrific find (it’s outside near the aft pool), as are the RedFrog Pub’s tantalizing $3.33 bites — which include grouper fingers, conch fritters and roti.

Decent Standbys: Meals at the massive Southern Lights and Northern Lights main dining rooms have ranged from excellent to just so-so; surprisingly, the fried chicken that came highly recommended from a colleague was one of the best meals I’ve had onboard. (How come it always seems everyone else orders the good stuff, anyhow?) The other components of the Lido Marketplace are fine, particularly the burrito bar, though the congestion overall can really mar the experience. You can opt for Off the Grill options (burgers, salads, etc.) near the mid-ship pool to avoid the cluster, or at the deli in the ship’s aft behind the buffet. Pizza Pirate offers unexceptional but far-from-disagreeable grub; it’s a great spot to carb-up after a late night in the Vibe disco, though it closed at 4 a.m. one morning despite its billing as a 24/7 hub. After a dicey start, room service has picked up the pace as the week has progressed. The menu isn’t extensive (think continental breakfast, sandwiches, salads, etc.), but the food arrives relatively quickly and is attractively presented.

Needs Work: Yeah, something always needs work. I think the Sushi & More stand fits the bill — it’s only open for a few hours each evening, but it’s frequently busy. The sushi I’ve sampled has been pretty forgettable.

Looking for a cruise that’s all about the food? See our guide to gourmet theme cruises.

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    24 Responses to “Live From Carnival Magic: Mama Mia! So Much Food!”

    1. Sonya
      May 8th, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

      Thanks for the food info. Just wanted to know if it has a good coffee bar on board.

    2. Cruise Critic
      May 9th, 2011 @ 3:35 am

      Sonya, there’s an excellent coffee bar in Ocean Plaza, which is midship Deck 5. There’s some fine-looking pastries on tap there as well, plus ice cream.


    3. Kimberly
      May 11th, 2011 @ 11:51 am

      I agree. The milkshakes there are out of this world. The coffee from room service each morning was wonderful. We didn’t need to go to the coffee bar as the regular coffee was great.

    4. Kimberly
      May 11th, 2011 @ 11:53 am

      I have been on several cruise lines and over 5 cruises and I would rank the dinning room food at the bottem. The atmosphere in the Italian restaurant was great and we were excited to have great Italian food but were disappointed in the selection and quality.

      Not having hot breakfast roomservice on vaction was a big disappointment as well.

    5. Sherry
      May 13th, 2011 @ 7:33 am

      Could you offer some recommendations of food that was good other than the fried chicken in the main dining room or any other food recommenations? I am on the Magic beginning May 21. Thanks.

    6. Liz
      May 13th, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

      No hot breakfast from room service? There was still a breakfast option for cold food from room service, right?

    7. shani Dimant
      May 15th, 2011 @ 3:15 am

      We’re going with Carnival Magic on August 14. I was interested to know what restaurants have to pay and what restaurants on the ship cost is included. Also I’m with a baby a year old and five months. She already had another Cruse last year with the Norwigyane cruse line and we had a great time. Is there a way to make her fruits and vegetables with meat?

    8. Cruise Critic
      May 15th, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

      @Sherry: I found that any sort of seafood was good in the main dining room, and my wife loved the porkchop. Truth be told, I didn’t find any of the desserts particularly memorable. Check out the roti and conch fritters in RedFrog. Skip the buffet on a sea day and opt for the barbecue sliders on Ocean Plaza (Deck 5 midship).

      @Liz: Yes! There’s definitely continental breakfast options from room service. I lived on them; no eggs and bacon, but that was fine by me.

      @Shani: You have to pay $3.33 for each of the nibbles in RedFrog. Prime Steakhouse is $30 per person (and worth it), while the Cucina is $10 person for dinner, though you have made-to-order pasta at lunch for free. I imagine that all you have to do is ask and you can get food for you child, but perhaps someone else out there has more experience in this arena?


    9. Linda
      May 17th, 2011 @ 9:55 am

      We are looking forward to our cruise in September, we would like to know drink prices (Lager) and excursion information for Marsellies when docked is there enough interest in walking distance?

    10. BoomerHouston
      May 20th, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

      Thanks for the \culinary\ review. I have a small notebook where I am capturing your comments for my cruise in November:
      ^Prime Steakhouse-given for a carnivore like me
      ^Red Frog-conch fritters and roti
      ^Ocean Plaza-Coffee pick me up
      ^Red Frog-101 oz. Red Frog Ale
      ^Room Service- may need to try this after finishing 101 oz ale….

      Thanks again!

    11. Elizabeth
      May 23rd, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

      I more or less agree with everything John has said but I can’t believe I forgot to order to Conch fritters-can’t get em’ here in the U.K! The Italian restaurant is advertised as ‘Pasta Bar’ which really doesn’t do it justice. The food here was fabulous and sorry I didn’t attend until the second last day.

      The Coffee house on 5 is brilliant, milk shakes to die for and the biggest slices of yummy cake I have ever had, all for just a couple of dollars. You could easily feed 3 people with one slice!

      As John said, the Tandoor is fab as is the Burrito Bar, shame they were only open for 3 hours per afternoon. The Deli was a great spot for lunch, you really are spoiled for choice.

      Personally I would avoid the pasta dishes and dessert in the main dining rooms and stick to the seafood and meat which are great.

      Afternoon tea was cute with finger sandwiches and mini cream cakes but I think this is only available on sea days.

      Ate like a queen and have had to move my belt a couple of notches to prove it!

    12. Milton
      June 1st, 2011 @ 2:29 am

      We are booked on the 12 june cruise and would like to know about the dining arrangements as far as cost is concerned I have read the comments but am still unsure if one must pay for all meals or not please advise.

    13. Cruise Critic
      June 1st, 2011 @ 7:09 am

      @Milton: Thanks for the question. Everything is included meal-wise except for Prime Steakhouse, which is $30 per person; Cucina del Capitano ($10 per person at dinner; lunch is free); and the small plates at RedFrog ($3.33 each). You can eat quite well, though, without spending an extra dime in the main dining room, the buffet, the Cucina at lunch and the barbecue that’s set up on sea days.

      — John

    14. Milton
      June 2nd, 2011 @ 3:10 am

      Thank you John we are looking forward to our cruise.

    15. Peter
      July 28th, 2011 @ 7:28 am

      i travelled on the Magic 12 days fomr May 22nd. There is a wide choice of food some prettu average (all desserts) to some very good(Tandoori, deli, pizza, burrito bar – and the southern lights steaks were always great). One comment that surprised me was that you said the sushi bar was not much good. My wife and I loved that and went every day 9more than once). It was tasty, always fresh and a healthy option. there was always a que early on but never after an hour or so. I was very surprised that you hadn’t mentioned how bad the desserts were. Why your bad review?

    16. Checkerss
      September 27th, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

      We were on the August 14 sailing of the Magic. First and last time for us on Carnival. Was everything I had expected– gold gilded plastic lighting;over bearing, gawdy carpeting and furniture; a wait staff that was unprofessional, slow, and never had any of my dinner orders correct. The entire staff on the ship was overworked and completely stressed by the number of passengers and over 1000 children and teenagers who ran amuck and took over the hot tubs and swimming pools. Will be very interesting to see how Carnival handles a full cruise ship of Texans when it makes Galveston its home port.

    17. Donna
      October 13th, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

      @Checkerss Don’t judge one ship as tho all the ships are the same. We just took our 6th cruise from Carnival and we’ve sailed on several ships and yes some are worse than others but as far as Carnival goes we have had nothing but great experiences on all of their ships, the only complaint I had with this last one was the coffee was way too strong, so much so that I couldn’t drink it.But as far as the service,food,etc. it was all great..and we had a wonderful time on all of them including the Carnival Conquest which we were on this past Sept. out of Galveston,Tx. So I guess everyone has their own opinions on them but Carnival has been very good to us.

    18. Harold Fowle
      October 13th, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

      We are going out of Galveston may 21 2012 howis the mongolian wok and does the ship seem crowded we are trying the cove balcony cabins any imput would be helpful

    19. clint and kelly
      March 3rd, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

      we are going on the magic on 04/15/12 out of galveston. we have have been reading all kinds of reviews from good to bad. some of the bad seam self inflicting due to bad research.
      we have been on one other cruise thru holland america out of seattle: 7 day alaska. great trip
      smaller ship. we are trying the magic because it is very close to home ( no air fare or hotels ).
      we are calling this our explore trip to see if we like larger ships and the ports of call.
      we have an deluxe ocean view room.
      will post an honest review when we get back,
      about the ship-food-room-service and ports of call.

    20. Harold Fowle
      April 5th, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

      Need more info on the menus mongolian wok tandori burritos bar taste of nations texmex food? Thanks Harold

    21. Barbara Hernandez
      June 17th, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

      Really would like the price on the Red Frog Ale. Going on the Magic in October 2012 with a bunch of redneck Texans. Every other Carnival cruise we’ve been on has been awesome. Even the others out of Galveston. Only other one I would say was better was the Disney Wonder. Been on RCL, and Princess also. Keep coming back to Carnival. It is the not stuffy fun ship. Can’t wait for our Magical cruise and looking forward to the Sunshine.

    22. LG
      July 28th, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

      Why does the Magic have to “back out” of the Port of Galveston? Are the side thrusters still out of commission as they were from the beginning?

    23. Trina
      January 31st, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

      I am unsure what drinks are included and which ones I will need to pay for? I am a big coffee drinker and read about the coffee bar. Is that included in the price of the cruise or is an extra cost? anyone? Thanks!!

    24. Stacey
      March 5th, 2014 @ 10:45 pm

      We were on the Magic last May and will be returning for another cruise at the end of April. Tea, lemonade, and regular coffee were all free. Sodas, and alcoholic beverages and speciality coffees cost extra. We ate the breakfast buffet on the lido deck for the first couple of mornings then discovered we could have breakfast in the dining room and order off the menu. This allowed us to all get our food at the same time and enjoy each others company instead of getting up and done to get different food from the buffet or wait in line. On the lido deck pizza and ice cream are available pretty much all the time.

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