My husband and I have taken eleven cruises, six with Carnival. We booked our cruise on the Carnival Magic for the Western Caribbean, April 29th, sailing. Traveling with my husband and I were our adult son and daughter-in-law.
We drove down from Kansas the day before sailing and stayed at the Days Inn & Suites, 9114 Airport Blvd., in Houston. Days Inn was an excellent choice for our pre-cruise stay. They have a small pool, jacuzzi, very clean rooms and offer a continental breakfast. Our room with a double bed and king bed was $78. With easy access from I-40, we were about a half an hour from port. We chose to park our car at the covered parking facility, Park and Cruise for $60 a week, across from the pier and simply wheeled our luggage across the street. We arrived at the pier at about 11:00 AM and proceeded quickly through the embarkation process and were on the ship within the hour.
Once on board:
The Carnival Magic is a beautiful ship, it's only a year old and impeccably clean. Since cabins weren't ready until 1:30 PM, we went to lunch at the buffet on the Lido deck. After lunch we took the opportunity to explore the Magic and relax. Our luggage didn't arrive until later in the day. Be aware that luggage may not all arrive at the same time. We met our cabin steward, Edwin, who quickly assured us that he would do anything we needed, to just let him know. We brought a small cooler from home and asked that he keep it filled with ice for us. My husband tipped Edwin for the extra service, but I think Edwin would have happily accommodated us anyway. He gave us great service throughout the cruise and each night, to my daughter-in-laws delight, made a towel animal for us when he turned down our room for the evening.
Our Cove Balcony Cabin:
We had one the year before when we sailed the Carnival Dream and LOVED it. The BEST CABIN EVER. We typically choose a balcony cabin, low and center ship, which helps with motion sickness issues. The cove puts you even closer to the water. There are lifeboats directly above, but no obstructions below. It's a little more enclosed than a regular balcony cabin, giving you more of a sense of privacy. We brought a bungee cord and kept our balcony door open most of the time and at night loved falling asleep to the sounds of the sea.
With 4 people in our cabin, we found that storage was plentiful. We could stash our large suitcases under the bed. The couch also made out into a bed and we had a bunk that pulled down from the ceiling. The mattresses were very comfortable; I didn't need to ask for an egg-crate pad to go on top. The pillows were fluffy and the duvet was just the right weight for a comfy night's sleep. There was bar soap at the sink, and dispensers with shampoo and body wash in the shower. Samples of toothpaste, a Breathright Strip, floss pick, and a disposable razor were in a dish on the bathroom counter. Be aware there is a slight sewer smell in the bathroom at all times. This appears to be a constant issue on about every ship we have been on, so bring some room spray if this is bothersome for you. There is a safe and a small stocked fridge in the cabin. We put our own pop and cups of punch for mixed drinks in the fridge. Thick terry cloth robes are in the closet. We brought a power strip, as there is only one outlet in the cabin.
Each morning we had coffee, juice and pre-breakfast appetizers brought by room service. We filled out the card the prior evening and hung it on our door. The waiter was always on time and pleasant. We gave them a small tip every morning for the delivery.
We had chosen anytime dining and I now wonder if that's such a good idea. If you don't like lines, or don't mind eating later in the evening, I'd suggest selecting a dinner time. We like the freedom of going to dinner as we please and have chosen this option on our recent cruises. The first night our service was pretty decent although a bit hurried and haphazard. The second night, and granted it was a formal night serving lobster, we had to wait almost an hour for a table. Our waiter gave us pretty minimal service. Our appetizers were not all served at the same time, so some of us looked on while others ate. The whole meal was served this way. The lobster was not tasty and was mushy. This was the meal of least quality in service and taste during our cruise. We chalked it up to the fact that it was busy. While dining on the third night with again mediocre service, one of the highlights of our cruise went walking across the room. We recognized Ulla, a waiter from our previous cruise on the Carnival Dream. She was serving in anytime dining with her cohorts, Wayan and Chai. From then on we requested her section and thereafter all of our meals were pleasantly and beautifully served the rest of the cruise. Ulla and her team do it the way it should be done.
My husband and I had lunch on our first sea day at the Italian Restaurant, Cucina el Capitano. It's free for lunch and $12 for dinner. You choose your own pasta, sauce and toppings, which are then delivered to your table. Paired with a Caesar salad it was a fantastic meal. I had read on Cruise Critic that once the restaurant is "discovered", then lunch can be quite a wait, so we made sure to try it the first day.
Since I'm not a breakfast eater, I can't say much about breakfast at the Lido buffet. Only scrambled eggs were offered on the buffet and if you wanted to go to the omelet station, the line was long. Hence, you had either cold eggs, if you went to the buffet, or cold everything else if you did the eggs last. One morning we did eat in the dining room for breakfast and it had good selections, fast service and the food was hot.
Twice I enjoyed eating lunch at The Tandoor, serving Indian food, on the back of the Lido deck. Lines were not long and the food was very good. Careful, it's deliciously spicy!
Off The Grill which serves the sandwiches burgers and fries: Ridiculously long lines unless you go in the middle of the day. My son said some people waited in line 30 minutes. Same situation with the Deli.
The Pizza place: It was quite good, they will make it to order, although you may have to wait if you want anything other than pepperoni.
On the night we left Cozumel was Mexican Fiesta night. My husband and I went down early to look at the buffet. The food was presented beautifully; from the watermelon carvings, to the ice sculpture, to the spun sugar adornments. I went down later after the buffet had been open about a half an hour and at 11:30 and the line was more than 30 minutes long.
Things To Do:
Thank you to the Carnival Magic for hosting a private Cruise Critic gathering. For $10 we had an open bar with GREAT service for an hour in the disco. Drinks were brought around and we sure had our fill. It was nice to meet all of these terrific Cruise Critic folks who've been plotting and planning this cruise for months!
My daughter-in-law wanted me to make sure I mentioned the workout room. She used it almost every morning. While the facilities are nice, she was appalled at the lack of any kind of disinfecting materials for the machines. She said that typically any gym offers disinfectant so that you can clean your machine before and after a workout, these materials were completely absent in the ship's gym. She said she looked all over for some kind of wipes or disinfectant. Staff was busy with classes every time she was there and she wanted this mentioned especially on the ship's comment card. C'mon Carnival, this should be a "must have"!
The casino was crowded, still I didn't have any problem finding my video poker machine. Of course, ship casinos are notoriously tight, but people seemed to be having a good time. Cocktail service at the machines was infrequent except for the last night of the cruise.
I'm one of those people who are content to sit on their balcony and watch the sea roll by. I want to do on a cruise, what I can't do at home. I can watch movies, go to watch shows, sit in a bar, all at home, so I'm not a good barometer on shows. I attended one comedy show and it was pretty good. My family went to several shows. Once again, the complaint: LINES. The comedy club is quite small and fills up well before show time and after that? You can't get in. You must wait in line to enter the club more than 30 minutes or so to get into a show. The same thing was true for the magic show in the theater. Long lines well ahead of show time. My family said it was worth the wait though, as the magic show was outstanding!
Montego Bay, Jamaica: We spent the day at the all-inclusive resort "Sunset Beach". About a mile or so from the ship and a $10 taxi for the four of us and DON'T let them charge you any more for it, as they will try! This is our third time at Sunset Beach. I thought it was perfect. We found shade on the beach under almond trees. It wasn't at all crowded. Everything the resort has to offer was included. There was a water park, pool with poolside bar and a delicious Caribbean buffet was included. Oh, and free drinks. The drinks were a bit watered down, but that's probably a good thing considering how many we drank. The cost for the day is $60 each.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman: The tendering experience was no problem we left at our leisure a couple of hours after docking and we came back a couple of hours before leaving port with no lines. On both previous trips to Georgetown we had gone with Captain Marvin and did the Swimming with the Stingrays tour. It was wonderful. Fantastic personal service from nice people and I would highly recommend it. It's not like your crowded ship excursion and 1/2 the price. This time we thought we'd just wander around Georgetown a bit. Be prepared prices are VERY high here. We went to Breezes By the Bay for drinks. Three drinks, a diet coke and the auto-gratuity they added: $42!!! Also, save your souvenir shopping for Cozumel. Avoid it here.
Cozumel, Mexico: We always use this for our shopping port, while drinking margarita's, dollar beers and the tequila shots the merchants offer. Our first stop off of the ship was a cab ride to Woody's Bar & Grill down by the town square or what the locals call the "Park" on Benito Juarez ave. My husband and I had stopped by here last year when we got caught in a rainstorm. Freddy made us girls a couple of his marvelous margarita's and the guys each got one of the first of many $1 beers. We ordered chips and some wonderfully fresh salsa. Nelly, the owner, a fabulous lady, wanted us to try the warm salsa, and had the kitchen make us some. It had a rich, smokey flavor. Another couple at the bar ordered some of the largest onion rings we've ever seen and we had to try that. They were fresh, hand-battered and perfectly cooked, served with a honey-mustard sauce. Yum! ??We spent a lot of time talking to Nelly and Freddy, and shopped in Nelly's adjoining shop, the "Caribbean Angel Gift Shop". When it was time to go, we couldn't get our son out of there. He'd found his home away from home! In fact, once we did leave, he'd disappear and we'd go back and find him at Woody's. The shopping is always fun in Cozumel, but you can get pretty fair prices at the shops where the ship docks.
Conclusion: I had read several Cruise Critic reviews here prior to sailing. Honestly, I thought many were exaggerated and I thought "suck it up". Well, unless you are incredibly patient and like standing in line, be prepared. Here's our take on it. Carnival has added more cabins, but doesn't appear to have increased venue size. If you have 4 lines in the Lido buffet, it may work just fine with 2,000 people, but those same 4 lines aren't going to work as well with 4,000 people on board. It doesn't seem like the public areas work very well either with such a huge population. Often, it seemed crowded, especially on the Lido deck, around the pool areas and on Deck 5 around the shops. Again, did they increase the size of these venues when they increased the population?
I gotta say: The ship was full of Texans. Talk about a fun-loving, friendly group of folks! I'd like to sail with Texans every time!
Would we sail on the Carnival Magic again? At this point, I'm not too keen on it. It would have to be a heck of a bargain. I'd go psyched-up for the ridiculous lines and plan on dining during off-times. However, in spite of that, Magic is a lovely ship and we had a fabulous time.