Sat. May 19th Galveston, TX*
We arrived in Galveston around 5pm and got into our rooms at the Springhill inn and suites right off the highway. I would highly recommend staying here, the rooms are very nicely decorated, large, clean with separate sleeping and sitting areas, a fridge/sink/cabinets/microwave and a great continental breakfast. They have an indoor pool and hot tub, and all the other standard amenities. Very comfy memory foam beds and swiveling TVs.
After settling in we hit the strand, did some drive by site seeing of the classic architecture and awesome statues and then had dinner at "Gumbo Bar" which was surprisingly delicious, with huge portions for a great price, outdoor patio seating, and awesome garlic bread! We had the "little daddy" portion gumbo bowls. The drive from Dallas to Galveston is about 6 hours, so after dinner we all headed back to the rooms and decided to try and get a good night's sleep
*Sun. May 20th Embarkation*
Breakfast in the morning was complimentary with a wide variety. They had all manner of bread, cereals, juices, jellies, coffee and tea. They also had several belgian waffle makers, and a station with eggs and sausage for breakfast sandwiches. They kept it well stocked and everything tasted fresh and yummy.
After breakfast we loaded our cars and headed toward the cruise terminal! We chose to book our parking online through lighthouse covered parking and paid $50 for our 7 day cruise. It was only 5-10minutes from our hotel, and it's only a couple blocks from the cruise terminal. They have large passenger buses with A/C, they pick you up at your car and load your luggage. We didn't wait at all to get onto the bus, they were there when we pulled in.
A couple blocks later, and we arrived at the terminal! It was between 11am and 12pm, I forgot to note the time. There she was, the MAGIC in all her glory! Porters were waiting to take our luggage and off we went to check-in! The one con to lighthouse parking is that her pick up zone is at the very end of the pier, so you may want to consider that if walking is an issue. We only had our carry-ons as the porters took everything else and it wasn't too bad. The terminal wasn't very crowded when we arrived and we quickly made our way inside.
Inside the terminal we stood in line to go through security for maybe 10 minutes, with no issues and a quick process and another short line for maybe 5 minutes to check in. They were having a glitch in the new onboard credit system and were unable to set up any new accounts cash or otherwise so we had to board without any credit on our cards. Once on there are a couple of kiosks near guests services and one on deck 5 where you can add/remove/check your sail and sign balance and we used one of these to add cash to our card. It looks like an ATM and you just feed in the bills like you would a vending machine.
Of course the rooms weren't ready yet so we decided we should get some lunch. Thanks to my obsessive forum surfing :P I knew Cucina Del Capitano shouldn't be too busy the first day so we headed that way. There were maybe 4 tables full when we got there, we were seated right away and given the lunch pasta bar menus. You fill these out with your choices and the waiters collect them.
Cucina's pasta bar includes:
liguini, penne, and/or bowtie pasta, tomato, meat, and/or alfredo sauces, assorted meats and veggies, amazing focaccia bread, caesar salad, and a specialty meat lasagna. Our favorites were the alfredo sauce because it is super creamy and rich, and the specialty lasagna, which is not what most of us would think of when we think lasagna, it has a sort of brisket type beef, spinach, lots of cheese and a lovely tangy tomato based sauce. They dribble pesto on top...and it's heaven!!!
No dessert on the menu but you are literally right above the dessert bar on Lido if you still have room. Even though the restaurant sits above the Lido buffet you really don't notice the hustle and bustle, and the decor is very homey, lots of old photos, rich colors, I loved the chandeliers!
We explored the ship for a few minutes, wandering through the Lido and pool areas, and then we checked to see if our rooms were ready, and they were! We had balcony state room #8268, there is TONS of storage in this room! We had no problem tucking everything away and having plenty of "living" space. I snapped some quick pics of the room before it got filled with our stuff and Matt hit the balcony. The view of Galveston isn't that impressive but we were just happy to be onboard! This particular room has an adjoining door, I didn't know this ahead of time, but in the future I wouldn't choose this unless I knew the person in the next room. We could very easily hear their TV/voices/noises through the door and while it wasn't awful, I just wouldn't willfully stay in an adjoining room.
After settling in a bit we headed to guest services to make sure things were in order for dinner seatings, it's also when we loaded our sail and sign card and took in the awesome Magic atrium area. I love the color changing lights, and the spiral staircase. We strolled past the fun shops and peeked in at the goodies (they weren't open yet) and soon it was time for sail away! We watched from the observation decks and then went up to our room to watch from the balcony. We had a light snack on Lido and headed back to our rooms to unpack and settle in.
We had late seating for dinner at 8:15 in the Northen Lights dining room. Apparently the assigned seatings are in the upper levels, and the anytime is in the lower level. The only con here is that if you enjoy the entertainment, it's mostly the lower level that gets the benefit of that. The maitre de doesn't come upstairs, and the main dancing etc. is also down below. If you don't have a table next to the railing you can't see any of this, only hear it. The waiters on the upper level do dance and entertain some, but you don't get the full effect.
Our waiters were all amazing! The head waiter alejandro kept up entertained with jokes and magic tricks and we even saw him in the Lido working a couple times. He always said hello, addressed us by name, and had a huge grin on his face! Once on the Lido he walked by our table pushing a cart, noticed us, grinned, said "beep beep beep" and gave us a big wink that made all four of us giggle. He was also singing as he worked. On the whole I was very impressed with how all our service crew remembered our names and went out of their way to address us and learn our preferences.
Anyway...dinner was amazing! I didn't take any food porn pics mostly because I was busy stuffing my face, but I know there are lots of amazing food pics out there. EVERYTHING IS YUMMY! That's the best thing I can say. Warm chocolate melting cake was my staple dessert, but I don't think I ate anything I didn't like.
After dinner we headed back to the room to change, found the serenity area and lounged around for a while before bed. If you ask me the evening is the best time to hit the decks! The place is pretty much deserted and we had our pick of location to lounge. The stars were out, the breeze was perfect, and we had the wonderful company of friends. It was time for bed, and the gentle rocking of the ship was all I needed to drift off to sleep.
*Mon. May 21st Sea Day*
Can't say we're early risers, but we were up by 9am ish headed to the Southern lights dining room for open breakfast seating. I much prefer the quality and service of open seating to the Lido buffet for breakfast, but that's just me. My favorites for breakfast were french toast, belgian waffles, and pineapple juice. I also love the hash browns. I love the sit down meals because it feels more luxurious to me, no standing in line, and its nice to sit with new people each day and learn about your fellow passengers.
After breakfast we wandered the ship again, played some trivia, and did some people watching on the promenade. This vacation we were planning to do some *heavy* relaxing so we really didn't get in a hurry or try to cram in activities. The sea days were pretty laid back.
Lunch was pizza and ice cream! Yum! We sat on the Lido and watched the pool goers and suntanners. I did see some chair hogging, but on the whole there were plenty of loungers on the ship, just not in the prime places.
More exploring, some pool and hot tub time, and then it was back to the room to get ready for our first elegant night! Getting ready takes well over an hour for me as blow drying my very long thick hair is quite a chore. We started getting ready about 6 and finished just in time to go take some photos on the promenade.
The absolute highlight of this evening was that the couple we were traveling with got engaged! They were in line to get photos taken and once it was their turn he got down on one knee and proposed! The photographer took photos of the whole proposal and needless to say I don't think they'll ever forget this elegant night! One cool thing he did was make her an engagement ring out of silver wire in a celtic knot. They then spent the port days shopping for the perfect engagement ring and they found the stone in Belize and the setting in Cozumel. I think this is really a great idea. She LOVED being a part of the ring process and they found an absolutely gorgeous Tanzanite stone.
Dinner was amazing as usual, though we spent much of it basking in the glow of our friends and celebrating their happy news. Our table mates were nice, though we only ended up having dinner together a couple times as they were busy doing other things. They were super nice in sharing their birthday/anniversary cake with us one night. The waiters sang "Happy Anniversary" to them and at the end of the line they'd all say "kissy kissy" and wait for the couple to kiss. We got a kick out of that.
It rained Monday night, so we found sheltered lounge area on the back deck above the tide pool and shared a bottle of wine to celebrate our friends' engagement. After that we all hit the sack and as usual I slept like a rock with the movement of the ship. :D
*Tue. May 22nd Sea Day*
You may notice a pattern here...but we started the day with open seating breakfast. Fun shops for the $10 sale and more wandering fo the ship. We hit the pool/hot tub and had lunch at Cucina Del Capitano again, and a run to the lido dessert buffet after. More relaxing/wandering/people watching and then it was time to get ready for dinner again. Our friends stayed pretty well twitter-pated from the engagement the rest of the cruise so a lot of the time we talked wedding stuff. Our table mates were going to the deck party that night and skipped dinner so we had the table and Alejandro to ourselves! He had us laughing so hard after dinner our cheeks hurt. We hit the Serenity deck after dinner, spent some time in the hot tubs and then retired for the night. Tomorrow is our first port day and we want to be well rested!!!
*Wed. May 23rd Roatan, Honduras*
Our first port day! The morning was a little nerve wracking, we'd ordered room service so we could get off early and I woke to the announcement that we were unable to dock in Mahogany Bay as planned due to high winds. We had to swing around the island and dock at Royal Caribbean's port Coxen Hole which was closed at the time, we were lucky no RC ships were in port or we'd have missed Roatan completely! We'd booked a private tour with Victor Bodden so we figured our driver would know to change docks, but some of the Mahogany Bay excursions through Carnival were cancelled and they announced that those passengers would receive a refund.
We managed to get off the ship by about 8:30, it was a short walk off the ship and through Coxen Hole to the pick-up area where Bodden Tours checked our names on a list and introduced us to our driver Wilton. Wilton was very nice...but I got the impression he wanted the day to be over as soon as possible. The tour we booked is open ended, you can go where you want, stop when you want...etc...but every time we asked Wilton about things or places that would be interesting to see he'd tell us there really wasn't anything.
We made a big loop around the island on the only proper highway they have. Much of Roatan is impoverished and we went through areas with shanty shacks and 3rd world living conditions. It was a cloudy day in Roatan, with some sprinkles. I snapped a few pictures but the van windows were tinted so I had to roll down the windows to take pictures and Wilton would quickly roll them back up. It became frustrating at times and consequently I stopped asking him to let me snap photos.
He pulled over to the side of the road and we caught a glimpse of Mahogany Bay, I had no idea we could have gone there and looked around and I really wish Wilton would have been more forthcoming with this sort of information. They were a few people beside the road selling conch shells, including two very young boys. They kept raising the shells toward the van and beckoning me in Spanish. When the window started to roll up so we could drive off one of these tiny boys yells "La punta!" at me. :O (This is spanish for witch, if ya know what I mean)
Next Wilton took us up on top a hill where the airport tower is, there were several people with tents selling souvenirs but the views were great and I snapped several pictures of the port where Magic was docked and some homes and buildings in Roatan.
We got back in the van and it was time for our Mayan Jungle monkey excursion. I was MOST looking forward to this so I was super excited when we pulled in. This is also the place where you pay for your tour. They have zip-lining and a little animal menagerie. The animals all appear to well treated and fed, with room to move and play. I notice these sorts of things and had been a little apprehensive until I saw it.
Ok, here I will get a little negative. When you read the description of the attraction on Victor Bodden's site they talk exclusively about the capuchins, and how you get to interact and play with them, and that there is NO time limit and the tour is self driven...that is all a big fat lie.
You get a "guide," we were thrown in with another group of 4-5 that had already started their tour and passed a few of the exhibits. They take the whole group into a pen with a couple capuchin monkeys. These guys are just as cute and entertaining as you'd think they'd be...but they only have one thing on their little minds and that treats! I know they're wild animals, but honestly they will only interact in that they'll stand still long enough to nibble the bits of carrot and nuts the guide gives them. They are fun to watch, but there are only 2 to however large your tour group is, and within 5 minutes they were shooing us out of the pen. You then look at a few other pens of animals - lemurs, spider monkeys, toucans. Next they took us in a pen with 3-4 green parrots and we each got to have one sit on our arm, then it was right back out again. Lastly they took us into the pen next door with 3-4 big beautiful macaws. You stand at the back of the pen and the macaws will come sit on your shoulder or head. You're not allowed to try to touch them as they'll bite. That was over in about 5 minutes too. You see a pen of deer and a pen of rabbits, and the tour is over. I was SUPER disappointed at this point and said so to the guide, explaining that the website says the excursion is untimed and self paced. As consolation he let us go through again, this time with only 2 other people in our tour so I did get a few more pictures and videos...but overall, I wouldn't recommend it. They were extremely busy and there were always people waiting to come in the pens. They had a total of 4 capuchins for the hundred or more people that were there. I think this particular activity is very falsely represented. I loved the short amount of time I got to be that close to the animals, however, and the monkeys were amazing to watch and feel them jump on you, or swing from your arm by their tails. :)
After this Wilton informed us the highway led back to the dock. We asked about a beach, but the only one he would talk about was West Bay which was very small, and traffic in the area was kind of bad and backed up. We just drove by and took pictures. We considered lunch but were already pretty disappointed so we just let Wilton take us back to the ship. We were done with the whole thing in less than 3 hours.
The port of Coxen Hole was "officially" closed, as I stated earlier, so most shops on the pier weren't open. We stopped at the couple that were open and picked up a magnet with a capuchin monkey on it to remember our time in Roatan. Then we got back on the ship, showered, changed, and ordered room service for lunch.
Our friends wanted to shop for their engagement ring so they had been tipped off my Magic's shopping team to head over to Mahogany Bay, they were apparently giving complimentary shuttles to get people over there. They told us all the shops and things were open and they were able to relax on the beach over there for a while even.
My advice to those wanting to go the private tour route we did would be to do your research ahead and know what there is to see and where to go in case your driver won't tell you like we encountered. I'd heard such good things about Victor Bodden that I assumed our driver would have suggestions and knowledge to make the most of our day.
After a nap we met up with our friends a while later, hung out a bit, then got ready for dinner as we'd all booked the steakhouse that night.
The steakhouse was AMAZING! Everything was delicious and perfectly prepared. The hostess even had the recipe for the yukon potatoes sent to our rooms after my friend jokingly asked for it. We hadn't really expected them to give it up that easily! My friend and I split the spice rubbed and prime rib steaks, and I had the chocolate sampler for dessert. We were positively stuffed afterward!
We had planned to see the comedy show but every time we got there the place was packed, and they stayed that way through all 3 shows of the evening, because we had late seating we had no way to get there early enough to get a seat and almost every one was filled!
Instead we donned our swim suits and hit the Serenity deck with a bottle of wine until they kicked us out to clean it. :P Then it was bed time, we had to be up early for Belize!
*Thu, May 24th Belize City, Belize*
Another room service morning, although things were running pretty late in Belize so we spent nearly an hour in the showtime lounge waiting to be called to tender. The actual tender boarding went very smooth and shortly we were on our way to the shore of Belize City. The Magic anchors 5 miles out, but the boat ride is only 10-15 minutes and fairly enjoyable.
When we landed it was a short walk to our shore excursion guides. As we were waiting another guide came up and said they needed 6 more people to board the bus and see the ruins first rather than riding the boat first. We volunteered since it sounded great to do it the other way around and a few minutes later we were comfy on an air conditioned bus on our way to Altun Ha.
Our tour guides were Mel and Tel. Belize has many different ethnicities but Mel and Tel are both "Creole" which is similar to our American Creole, except they speak a dialect that is severely broken English without any French influence. Mel told us a LOT about Belize on the hour+ trip to the ruins. We learned that Creole people will only cook their rice and beans in coconut cream, they don't really have any American fast food franchises in Belize City, the exchange rate on Belize currency and the need for all the supplies to be imported makes it too expensive and no-one buys the food. She passed around a map of Belize and a $20 bill, U.S. currency is worth 2 to 1 Belize dollars. She explained that all the public schools are religion based and that they separate the classes by gender mostly. She talked more about Belize in general, and how important tourism is for them, then she spoke in Creole to us and we had to try and guess what she was saying...it was hard!
Eventually we arrived at Altun Ha. It was busy that day, several buses had arrived full of school children on a field trip and a couple of times we were fairly over run with them. There were a few instances where the sites were covered in people and I managed to get a few good pics. about 60% of Altun Ha was damaged by locals who originally thought the "hills" must be full of good building materials and blew several locations up before discovering it was a Mayan site.
Altun Ha is the site of the discovery of the largest Jade figurine known. It was not a site where human sacrifice was performed as archeologists found no evidence of the sacred ball courts where games were played to decide who would be sacrificed. The largest most stunning temple is the Sun God's temple. Matt climbed to the top and got some video of the scenery, but no stills. People doing private tours were climbing over the ropes and going places they shouldn't but Mel kept stressing to us the importance of only going in designated areas to prevent damaging the structures. They had poured some protective covering over the sand stone steps that people were allowed to climb on in order to preserve them.
All in all Altun Ha was breathtaking and an amazing opportunity to see something ancient, and powerful. I felt very blessed to be able to see it.
Some local teens hang around the exit of Altun Ha and try to get tourists to pay for pictures with the wild animals they've caught. They had small crocodiles with their mouths taped shut, something that looked like a baby lemur, and birds. I don't think they treat those animals very well, the lemur was crying and struggling and I asked if they had food and water for the animals and one boy said "they eat before we come." Our guides warned us not to touch the animals so we didn't. I wouldn't have anyway since I don't think I agree with it on the whole.
Once we were back on the bus it was about another hour to the Black Orchid resort where we'd board our boat for the last part of our excursion, our trip down the River Wallace. Mel and Tel didn't talk as they said they'd give us a chance to rest and cool off from Altun Ha. Once we got there we had about 30 minutes to eat, use the restroom, shop. The Orchid has a little restaurant that served either burgers and fries or chicken with rice and beans. We got burgers but after trying the chicken our friends got kinda wish we'd gone that route. One new thing we tried was "hot ketchup" and it was pretty tasty, and not too terribly hot.
Finally it was time to board the boat, only Mel came with us, and the 2 boat guides. Again, I'll b a little negative here. The boat was absolutely packed full of people. For a site-seeing excursion you couldn't move to see anything is you were sitting on the side benches like we were. When the boar picked up speed I was sliding off the end of the bench that I was barely on to begin with. The wildlife was pretty few and far between. The scenery was enjoyable over all but almost 2 hours on that boat was about 1 hours too much for me. That would have been plenty of time to see all there was to see and I'd have been much less uncomfortable.
The stress of the boat ride gave me a massive migraine, as soon as we got off the boat we had to stand in line for nearly an hour for a tender. I don't think Carnival has all the kinks worked out of tendering in Belize. The last tender was supposed to be at 4:15 and by 5 there were still probably 200 people in line to tender. When we got back on board I laid down for the rest of the evening, ordered late room service and basically tried to recover from the headache. :( It was the 2nd elegant night so I was pretty upset to have missed it.
I loved Altun Ha, but I wouldn't ride the River Wallace again on that particular tour if they paid me. We got back so late there was no time to do anything but line up to tender. Our group of 4 were pretty much in agreement on the River tour being a bust.
*Fri. May 25th Cozumel, Mexico*
We slept in this morning, got up at 9am and had breakfast in the dining room. We didn't leave the ship until almost 11am but we really didn't have any plans so it was no big deal. It was a BEAUTIFUL day in Cozumel, the sun, the water...awesome!
We dock at Puerta Maya in Cozumel, it's a long walk down the pier and through the large mall but the market place is colorful and enjoyable. You can find everything you'd want, food, drinks, souvenirs both dirt cheap and super expensive! They have lots of shops and vendors wagons, a gorgeous fountain and little garden area. They also have mariachi bands that wander around and large selections in the duty free shops. We bought a few things from the pharmacy and duty free, and hit the silver emporium which is recommended on the ship. I found a lovely ring with a stone that looks different colors under different light. Because we made a purchase there they gave us coupons for free margaritas at 3 amigos so we stopped there, shared an appetizer, took advantage of some photo ops and then headed back to the ship.
We met up with our friends who'd found the perfect setting for her Tanzanite engagement ring with the help of Carnival's shopping team. Then we all changed and hung out at the pool for a while before grabbing lunch at the grill. Matt had a chili burger, I really like the french fries, and of course we had to have frozen yogurt for dessert.
We chilled on our balcony as we left Cozumel and then got ready for dinner early so we could go to the jugglers show in the showtime theater. The performer was a decent juggler and comedian, I think I laughed more than anyone in our group. :P There was another deck party that night so we had the table to ourselves again. It was delicious as usual, and we returned to our room to hang out on the balcony and have some wine.
*Sat. May 26th Sea Day*
Our last day full cruise day! So sad that it's almost over, but we were determined to make it count. Breakfast in the dining room as usual, then we went to the future cruise deck to get our future cruise certificate, the line was kind of long, but it's soooo worth it to get these on board!
We wandered the ship so my friend could get some more pictures and looked in the fun shops at watches. We did Cucina Del Capitano one more time, although it seems by Saturday *everyone* knows about the complimentary lunch pasta bar. There was a line down the stairs in the Lido buffet, but it gave me a chance to take some pics while we waited. We ate quickly so we could hit the big watch sale at the fun shops and got several nice watch sets for him and her.
We took our purchases back to our room and shared our last bottle of wine as we hung out and enjoyed the view from our balcony. After that we decided to be brave and hit the water slides since it was the last day. IT WAS A BLAST! We ended up doing each one twice and then messing around in the water park shooting each other with the hoses and guns. We were all glad we took the plunge as some of the best views on the ship are from the water slide platforms.
We rushed to get things packed and get ready for our last dinner. We said goodbye to our waiters and thanked them for their service and all the laughs they'd given us, and then went back to the room to set our luggage out. Matt and I hung out on the balcony and braced ourselves for the end of our Caribbean adventure.
*Sun. May 27th Debarkation*
We woke up about 7:30, packed up our carry-ons and met our friends for our last meal aboard in the Southern Lights. It was pretty busy this morning, but we took our time since we were scheduled to be one of the last groups to get off. We hung out for a while after we finished but couldn't hear the announcements so we decided to find a spot to chill on the Lido deck. Matt went to find a place to smoke but was told it wasn't allowed, so I called guest services to confirm (he can get pretty cranky) and guest services told me our group should go ahead and debark at this time. I told her we were in the last group but she said for us to go then as there wouldn't be any smoking and we'd be onboard for at least 2-3 more hours otherwise.
Just as we got to the atrium lobby to debark they announced there was a back-up in customs and they were stopping the debarkation process for about 20 minutes. The lobby staff wanted everyone to get out of line and go sit in the showtime theater but people kept coming to line-up and most of us stayed in a line to avoid losing our spots. It was more than a half hour later that they allowed us to exit the ship.
We soon saw why they had to stop the process, the terminal was absolutely packed! We got in the line to get a porter for all of our bags which seemed shorter than self assist but there were no luggage carts coming in. It took about 15 minutes for more carts to start coming in, after that we stood in the line to go through customs for about 45 minutes. The porters were all talking together and upset and saying how this was the worst they'd ever seen it. We asked if they knew why it was so bad and they said it was because there was increased screening for drugs due to having been in Honduras and Belize. When we got closer to the customs agent's desk however it appeared that maybe the computer system was slow? It took 15-20 seconds for the scanners to even read the passports. The agent didn't ask us a single question, they all looked pretty frustrated.
As we exited the terminal (about 11:30) we could see that whatever was wrong was impacting embarkation as well. The lines of people loaded with luggage to get on the ship were 3-4 people wide and there was barely room to move down the center. The porters were asking people to move aside and get their luggage out of the way because they couldn't get the carts through. This was vastly more busy than when we'd arrived the week before.
Thankfully our shuttle to lighthouse parking was there already, we got right on and in a couple minutes we were on our way to the car, and then back to Dallas!
***Addendum: The Magic is an absolutely gorgeous ship! I loved everything about her, had so many memorable moments and such a completely awesome time. Of course I can't wait to cruise again! I don't think I would do this itinerary again, we love Cozumel but Roatan and Belize were fairly disappointing for a several reasons. I think the Magic has some kinks to work out with the new ports, mainly docking and tendering and how all of that is handled. We had a blast! The good far outweighed the bad and any time we got frustrated one of us would announce with a smile "we're on vacation!" and we'd all have to smile and relax. Hope to see you again soon Magic!!!!