Sorry if this review is long; I'd like to address the good and the good and some of the overblown complaints other reviewers have posted.
ABOUT ME: I sailed with my parents and my wife (all of us have cruised multiple times on different cruise lines) and I sailed with my in-laws, my brother-in-law, and his girlfriend and none of my wife's family has ever cruised before. I've sailed on Carnival four times and on Celebrity once.
EMBARKATION: We all drove to Galveston from the Dallas, TX area and arrived at the terminal around 12:30pm. We pulled up to the terminal, handed our luggage to the porters, parked at lot B, and were shuttled back the terminal. The time it took to board, from the moment I stepped inside the terminal to the moment I stepped inside the Magic, took about 20 minutes. This was my fourth time to sail out of Galveston (Carnival Elation in 2004, Conquest in 2008 and 2009, and Magic in 2012) and this was the smoothest embarkation process that I've encountered out of Galveston; only one embarkation was better and that was the Celebrity Solstice out of Ft Lauderdale.
THE VESSEL: The Magic is a very nice ship and was always being cleaned and taken care of. The layout took about a day to fully grasp and the only confusing part of the layout was having to go down or up a floor to get to your desired floor. What I mean is sometimes I would exit from an elevator and need to take the stairs to the next floor; no big deal and I'm probably making it sound more confusing than it really is.
THE STAFF: I have great respect for the employees on cruise ship. I talked with some on this cruise and I was told they spend 6 months on the boat and then get 2 months off the boat and are allowed a 4 hour lunch break only once during the week. I think some of the employees have a blast doing what they do on the boat and some employees, such as room stewards, wait staff, and others, really work hard to make our vacation exceptional. With that being said, our room was always clean, food service was great, and every employee I came across had a smile on their face. I never came across an employee that was rude or having a bad day, or if they were, they never showed it.
MY ROOM: My cabin was on deck 6, starboard side, and it was a balcony cabin. The room was identical to the Carnival Conquest balcony room as far as the layout and decor. My room provided plenty of space for the 5 pieces of luggage brought on board between my wife and I. The only problem we had with our room was it overlooked a hot tub and rinse off tower which ruined some of the privacy of having a balcony. In other words, instead of walking onto the balcony and looking over and seeing ocean, we would see people hanging out in the hot tub. It wasn't that bad of an issue and the hot tubs closed at 10pm so noise was never an issue. Overall, good room.
SPORTS SQUARE: I did this on the last day at sea. The ropes course was really fun. I thought it would be blah but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The mini-golf was fun to play. There was an area for outdoor chess and checkers and the sports square also had ping-pong, foosball, and pool. There was a bar and a seating area in the sports square. There was an area for people to play Madden, but I didn't see if it was for Xbox or PS3. The basketball court was full court and there was some soccer goals too.
SPA: The spa area is very nice and it's available to be used all week long for a fee or if you book a spa service. My wife got a hot stone massage and she loved it.
WATERWORKS / POOLS: The slides were a blast. I went on those slides countless times and enjoyed it every time. The lines weren't too bad except on the days at sea, but even those lines didn't take too long. Plus there are two lines once you're on the stairs leading up to the slide. A lot of people thought there was one big line but after a short while, people realized the right side of the stairs were for one slide and the left side of the stairs were for the other slide. The rest of waterworks offered fun for smaller kids. The pools were nice and got crowded at times, but never to the point to where you can't swim around. The tides pool is in the AFT part of the ship on deck 10 and it didn't seem too crowded. There were hot tubs on the Serenity deck, which is adults only, and there were hot tubs on deck 5. I'm not a hot tub person but my brother-in-law loved them. Deck chairs were available through out the top decks, but finding some in the "prime areas" on sea days could be tough. The pools were salt water and the slides were fresh water.
LOUNGES / BARS / CASINOS: Late night activities took place in the spotlight lounge which is deck 5 AFT and it was a nice area. The casino was cool but does get smoky so don't be surprised. The red frog pub was a very nice addition and was one of my favorite hang-out spots. There were two guitarists / singers that would play songs everyone knows and the beer was good and so was the food. There is even a 101oz beer available. The red frog pub has a foosball table and shuffleboard. Right outside red frog pub is seating area that includes bean bag toss and a ring game. The pub closes at 1:30am and it's a great place to visit. Vibe nightclub was also very cool and plays various genres of music then switches to top 40's.
DRINKS: The average price for an alcoholic drink was between $8-$10 including gratuity. I recommend the "kiss on the lips". I did my drinking more in the evening time during shows, dinner, and after dinner. The long island ice teas were good and strong. The cheapest drink I had was Canadian Club and Coke or Skyy Vodka and a mixer.
BUFFET FOOD: Overall the food was pretty decent. Yes, there were lines for the breakfast and lunch buffets, but the lines were longest on sea days. And when I say long, I'm talking 10 minutes or so. Deck 10 (lido deck) had eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, milk, omlettes, etc for breakfast and the buffets varied each day. Burgers and pizza were on deck 10 by the main pool. The burrito bar was excellent and was located deck 10 AFT and so was the Indian cuisine and the deli. I didn't use room service but my brother-in-law told me it was great and took 15 minutes to get the food after ordering off of the TV.
DINING ROOMS / SPECIALTY DINING: We did the late seating (8:15pm) at the southern lights dining room. Overall the food was pretty good. Some items might be better than others, but I'm a picky eater and I got full every night and enjoyed my dining room experience. Our server Bobby, was excellent and so was his team. We enjoyed the dining entertainment and the singing waiter. We ate at Prime steakhouse and the steak was outstanding. All the food there was great and so was the service and the cheesecake was perfect. If you eat here, plan on spending at least 2 hours for your meal. We ate lunch at Cucina de Calpitano and it was very good pasta. I didn't eat there for dinner but my parents did and they absolutely loved it. A quick side note...the dining rooms offer a sit down breakfast and lunch which provides an alternative to the sometimes busy lines on deck 10, just be aware it's open seating so you might sit with people you don't know.
ENTERTAINMENT / SHOWS: We made two shows, the illusion / magic show and the juggler. Both shows were great and the juggler, Marcus Monroe, was beyond awesome. I advise getting to the shows maybe 10-15 minutes extra to ensure a good seat. Other shows in the showtime theater were the welcome aboard show, 70's show, and Carnival's talent show but those didn't appeal to me. There were two comedians on Monday and Tuesday and two new ones for Thursday and Friday. All comics performed family shows in the showtime theater and all perfrom 18+ shows in the spotlight lounge. The 18+ shows got very crowded for the 9:45 and 10:45 times so get there at least 20 minutes early. I saw 3 of the 4 comedians and the first two were great and the third one was ok at best.
EXCURSIONS: Jamaice - we went ziplining in and it was a blast. We went on six zip lines and the last one was 1,065 feet long and all zip lines were in the forest. The tour guides were HILARIOUS!!! Grand Cayman - we went snorkeling at the kittiwake sunken ship. It was very nice and the water was amazing. Cozumel - we did the Playa Mia beach break which included an open bar (mixed drinks, sodas, bottled water, beer, but no shots) and lunch buffet. There were also water toys, kayaks, paddle boats, volley ball, etc. I won't elaborate too much on my excursions because I think excursions are personal preference. We enjoyed all of our excursions and we booked all of them through Carnival.
DEBARKATION: You have two debarkation options, self-assist or by zone. Self-assist allows you off the boat quicker and zones are called by your given zone number. We did the self-assist and we started to debark at 7:30am. It got congested at elevators so don't plan on getting on one unless you're very very lucky. We walked from deck 6 to deck 3 with our luggage (5 pieces). It was a little bit of a hassle, but it was not impossible. We walked off the boat, down to customs, which had lines for passports and lines for birth certificates. I think we got off the boat by 8:15am. The longest part of debarkation is the customs process, but that's not Carnival's problem. And yes customs does check persons and their belongings from time to time. My wife and I witnessed a lady get arrested for smuggling.
OVERALL: All eight of us had a great time and would go back on the Carnival Magic again with no hesitation. The food was good, the drinks were good, shows were good, and there were plenty of activities to keep people busy. I think those reviews consisting of three stars or less are misleading. I hope my review provides some real insight and sorry if it was a long read.