This is my third cruise in 18 months and all have been with Carnival. I did not write a review for the other two but felt compelled to do so on this one.
Our party consisted of me (45) DH (45) son (3yo). We live in Dallas so we drove to Galveston. Saturday, we stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites in League City that night. We have previously stayed at the Harbor House in Galveston, right next door to the cruise terminal but due to Memorial Day weekend, they required a two night minimum. All of the hotels in the area were charging almost double due to the holiday weekend. The Hampton Inn was new, clean and accessible, right off of HWY 45. It is about 20 miles from the port. We drove down on Sunday around 11 and had valet parking at BOI Valet, right across the street from the terminal. By the time we dropped luggage, parked and walked back across the street, it was about 12.
Embarkation: We started in line around noon. While our other trips required us to stand in long lines, we were assigned a boarding group number and directed to a very large sitting area. I found this to be very convenient and also easy. We really did not want to wait in a long line with a 3 year old. Each group had about 100 people. Once they called our group, we lined up to receive our sail and sign card, handle our onboard account, etc. We waited in that line about 30 minutes. Once we received all of our cards, we went on board. It was about 1:15PM. Not bad for total time of 1 hour 15 minutes from the time we walked in the front door. We got a drink of the day and headed to our room which was ready.
The Ship: I have previously sailed on the Conquest in an Aft Wrap Balcony (11/2010) and the Triumph in a Suite (3/2012). Having just been on the Triumph, I quickly started to compare the ships. The Magic seems like a HUGE ship when driving up on her. Once on board, and getting used to the layout, it did not feel as big as she looks. The difference in the other two ships and the Magic was style. The Conquest and Triumph both have a lot of glitz and glamour. The Magic is more understated, yet nicely done. I also found a lot more open air spaces than on the other two ships. The layout was basically the same, just bigger. Our room was on the back of the ship, port side balcony. More on the room in a moment. We had requested Any Time Dining but were waitlisted. We ended up with 8:15 PM assigned. With a 3 year old, that was not going to work. We immediately went to request a different time and were granted our request. We had 6:00 in the Southern Lights.
Dining: Our food was good, not great but consistent each night. I was not previously a fan of assigned dining but we had a beautiful table right on the back of the boat overlooking sunsets every night. We were seated with a nice family of 8 so we had a good table. On the first night of our new time slot, it was formal night. On previous cruises, I did not see a lot of formal dresses and tuxes, just some nice suits, dresses and skirts, etc. On this cruise, a lot of people wore tuxedos, formal gowns and were dressed very nicely. We were dressed formally, although no tux and had our child in suits for both nights. He was a HUGE hit. We had a great serving team who catered to our son. The only hiccup was on the first formal night. The bar waiter and I did not hit it off. I ordered my drink then asked for apple juice which we had received the previous night and was told they do not have it. I mentioned that we had it the first night so I was not understanding. He stated, "did you not hear me? I told you we do not have apple juice" and promptly left the table. After collecting myself, I asked our head waiter about it and was given apple juice, no charge, no problem. I didn't complain about the waiter, just took my lumps and went on about dinner. I don't know what happened that first night but the second night we were in the dining room, that same bar waiter was there again and was a completely different person. For the remainder of the trip, he was very pleasant, brought soda for my husband, suggested different wines he thought I might like based on what I had ordered on my first night, the one where he was rude, and was all around a great waiter. While not an excuse for his behavior the first night, we could tell it must have just been an off night.
Specialty Dining: We opted for the Italian restaurant one night as we had done the steakhouse on the Conquest. We never got a chance to try the Red Frog pub but we did walk through it and around it several times. It was set up nicely with inside tables as well as outside seating. The bartenders and waiters seemed happy and helpful. It was always busy. As for the Italian restaurant, we were really looking forward to this dinner. My husband is Italian and we both love the food. We had a 6:00 reservation and were the first ones there. The restaurant itself is upstairs above the Lido dining area. It was done in rich colors with photos of captains and old ships. The house wine was good and the food also good to very good. The service, however, was VERY, VERY poor. The restaurant does not have many tables and there were only about 7 tables being served while we were there. We ordered our drinks, me a glass of house wine, my husband a soda and we had brought a drink for our son. My DH did not receive his soda until we were almost done with our meal and only after I asked THREE times. The menu was al a cart. My husband did not notice this and assumed the meat he ordered would have been served with a vegetable, potato, something. It came out as a slab of meat, nothing else. By the time we received our entree, we were both so frustrated, he didn't even ask for anything, just ate it along with the vegetables off of my plate. We asked for bread and received it along with his drink as we were finishing our meal. Once finished, our plates sat for 45 minutes. We were never offered dessert, coffee, or even a refill on water. It was not like our waiter had other tables, each of the 7 tables being served had their own waiter. Ours just became non-existent. DH asked another waitress about dessert and if they had dessert, she said yes, very put out, and he goes, "why were we not offered anything". To that she just replied, "I don't know, ask you waiter". By this time, we had been there two hours. We just got up and left, very disappointed especially since we were really looking forward to trying the new restaurant and we had to pay a service fee of $12 each to even sit down in there. We passed the manager on the way out and I turned around and went back to her. I am not one to complain because I know how hard waiters work and sometimes are not tipped much. I always tip 20% or more because of it, especially if we have at least good service. Tip was included in this case. I pulled the manager aside and told her of our experiences and she apologized of course but did not offer any type of compensation for it like, come try us again, let's see if we can make it a better experience, just "sorry that happened".
We ate the remainder of our dinners in dining room. We had lunch in the Lido dining rooms and breakfast either in the dining room or room service. All were good, no issues at all.
Activities: We saw three shows in the showroom, a musical number, an illusionist and a juggler. All three were very good. The most entertaining was the juggler, Marcus Monroe. He was also a comedian. We had great seats and laughed so hard, we had tears streaming down our faces. Our son actually sat through the shows too. We saw a magic act in the Punchliner Comedy Club but could not see much due to our location so this was not enjoyable. The people we had dinner with saw the same show at a different time and said it was good and they really enjoyed it. We also saw a comic named Cowboy Bill Martin who was fantastic. Another show where we laughed until we hurt. Again, our son sat through this one too. Each of the shows in the Punchliner had family friendly and adults only.
We were not able to play in the casino or do any of the other adult oriented events due to our child but we still enjoyed what we did.
We spent one day at the Waterworks area. We really liked this because it catered to little ones and large ones alike. Our son LOVED this area. He had a great time and so did we. They had Carnival team members monitoring and watching the area for rough play, running, etc. They were watchful, attentive and made those leave that were too rowdy. Having a little one, we appreciated this because we witnessed some others being pushed out of the way of slides, splash areas, etc. We spent two of the days enjoying the "Beach Pool". They have two Hut type areas where you can sit and put your feet in the water while watching your children swim. This worked out great for us. The pools are small but it was expected. They got crowded, again expected. What I found a bit disturbing in this area was that it was not monitored for rough housing, jumping in the pools or splashing. I understand some splashing will happen but on one day, two little girls about 5 years old were constantly kicking each other and kicking their feet in the water to create huge splashing fights. People were moving away from them to get out of the line of fire. The water is salt water and stings the eyes. The pool is small already so it made it difficult to enjoy. One of the girl's parents were no where to be found. I had seen her father earlier but then she was left unattended at the pool. A child of that age should not be left alone.
I realize we must all watch our own children and should not need a Carnival monitor but in this case, I thought one was needed. Although frustrated with that splashing little girl, I felt, as a mother, it was my duty to watch over her because no one else was. She could not swim and was not wearing a life vest. Finally, about two hours later, her mother came to get her. When I watched where she was going, the parents had been sitting up on the second deck above the pool, not even in an area where they could observe her.
We did watch a movie under the stars one night. I had done that on the previous two cruises and enjoyed it. This particular night was a kid movie. When it was over, my son didn't want to leave and wanted to watch all of his movies this way.
Camp Carnival: We had signed our child up for Camp Carnival. We watched youtube videos and saw lots of photos about CC for two weeks prior to our trip. We talked about CC, got excited about it, everything. Got to the door of Camp Carnival and our son had complete melt down, wasn't going, no persuading or bribing was going to make it happen. He is in school and has been going for two years. This should have been a breeze. He was NOT having it. We were disappointed because that meant no mommy/daddy time plus he would miss out on all of the fun activities they had planned. Camp Carnival looked great and from other parents we spoke with, their kids were loving it. We made do, got in naps, swimming and relaxation time on the balcony.
Ports: Montego Bay Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We had been to all three in the past, spent our honeymoon in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and I have been to Cozumel many, many times. We felt these ports would be good ones to introduce our son to the beach since we felt comfortable there. He had never been and we wanted his first experience to be an international one. We were not disappointed. Up first was the Irie Mon Beach Party in Jamaica. We had seen this party on our first cruise and were concerned about it being a drunk fest. It was all the food and alcohol you could eat and drink. We were pleasantly surprised. We had a lot of families with us. The food was good, the drinks flowing freely but no one was getting out of line. The beach was beautiful and only being used by Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We had chairs and an umbrella. This was a very fun day with our child. He had absolutely no fear of the water, just ran right in, laughing, splashing, collecting sea shells, etc. We loved it. He played so hard, he fell asleep before we even left the property.
In Grand Cayman, we did Stingray City with Mainland Tours booked through Carnival. This was also a great experience. Our son was the youngest on our trip. We did a similar tour on our previous trip to Grand Cayman but booked a different one this time. What we liked about it was the boat. It had very wide stair steps on the back of the boat. You literally stepped down into the water or could sit on the steps and watch the stingrays go by. Our child again, jumped right in and went up to the stingrays with no fear. The guides held the rays for us to kiss and pet. They were especially attentive to our son and spent a lot of time with him and the rays. We did the Dolphinarias in Cozumel and again, an amazing experience.
Shops: We didn't buy anything in the shops this time or even look around. They were typical Carnival though. I'm sure they had nice deals. What was different was the picture area. They still did the usual display of all of the pictures but this time had viewing kiosks around the area to view your pictures and order straight from the kiosk. You took your receipt and picked up your pictures a few hours later. This was much better than what we previously had experienced mainly because you receive photos without scratches or fingerprints from being up on the wall all week. The photos are pricey, $21.95 each for your formals, $19.95 for casual prints and $9.95 for some of the smaller candid shots.
Spa: I have visited the spa on each of the ships I've sailed. I had a massage, facial, mani/pedi on the Conquest, a massage on the Triumph and a mani/pedi on the Magic. The spa is nice, clean and intimate. I wanted a mani/pedi this time because I did not have a chance to get one before leaving. I went in on Sunday around 5 PM and they were able to book me for the very next morning at 8:00 AM. I was the first one in the room the next morning. The spa specialist was nice, talkative and sweet. The treatment, however, was not all that great. The sylist paid no attention to detail at all. I had Fire & Ice treatment on hands and feet. The massage part lasted 5 minutes, no cuticle cleanse, toe nails were clipped too short and were filed crooked. I had gel polish on my toes which needed to be soaked off. That took 10 minutes. I don't know if the gel polish she reapplied was bad, old or not smooth but she did not get the entire nail with the polish, missed a lot of areas and was all around sloppy. She ended up being 45 minutes late for her next appointment, didn't even realize that she had a client but came over to me, said she was late because she had to soak off my toe polish and that I should have mentioned that I had gel on my toes when booking. No one asked if I had gel on my toes. She should have reviewed her bookings prior to getting started. I get my nails and toes done regularly and also frequent spas fairly regularly so I am accustomed to spa pricing and certainly don't mind paying it. When I received the bill, there was an additional $50 charge for gel polish, something I get for an additional $5 at my regular salon. Needless to say, I was not happy as she had not mentioned it when offered. I have no problem paying an upcharge, I was just not aware that it came with an extra $50.00 price tag. When my two week polish peeled completely off the very next day, I was REALLY not happy.
Disembarkation: Again, we were called in groups. We did assisted due to the number of bags. We stayed in our room until it was time for us to leave but everyone needs to be out of the room at 8:30 AM. Our time just happened to be at that same time frame. It was easy, not long to get off. Customs lines were long and I expected to wait a while but we were through them in 20 minutes. We were on the road and headed home by 9:45 AM.
Our Room (9473 Port Side Aft): I saved this for last because I was really not happy with it. We were in an Aft room for our first cruise and again this time. I don't know if the ships are not being made well for sound now or not but I can tell you we had A LOT of noise and I'm not talking about walking, cabinets outside the door opening or anything like that. I mean NOISE. Doors opening, slamming shut on the balconies, hearing the toilet paper roller from the room next door, hearing the drawers opening and shutting in the room on the other side of us, etc. When the neighbors next to us opened their balcony door, it slammed shut every time and shook the wall our bed was on. We know they were not doing it on purpose. We have only had balconies and did not experience that with the other two trips. The noise above us was unbelievable. We were under the deck by the Aft pool. I don't know what was going on above us but every afternoon, something was being dropped continuously. When whatever it was hit the ground, our entire ceiling shook, vibrating the lights and things on the counters. Thank goodness it only occurred in the afternoon and not the morning or nights. We knew this was happening in the afternoons because we were in our room for nap time. We were there at different times during the afternoon and it lasted about two hours each time. Due to the fact that we arrived at various times, I'm not sure how long it actually went on. At one point, I thought the light fixture was going to fall off the wall. Fortunately, our son can sleep through a freight train so he was not bothered by it at all.
We also had a lot of vibrations when arriving and leaving ports. The vibrations were so strong, DH thought the bolts might come out of the ship. We knew they would not but the vibrations have to be causing some type of damage. Again, we did not have this on the other two ships so we were surprised by it.
I don't get sea sick at all but this voyage had me queasy for the first three days. I don't know if I had a stomach thing or was actually sea sick. I took sea sick meds and that helped. We had fairly calm seas for the entire voyage but on three nights, the ship really rocked from side to side. Again, very surprised by this because it is such a big ship. We had stronger seas on the Triumph and did not experience any motion like what we experienced on the Magic. When we were on the Conquest, we went through a storm and again, did not experience much movement. Both of those ships are smaller. I realize the higher you are, the likelihood of feeling more motion is possible so I did take that into consideration but it seemed like a lot. Being on the back of the ship causes some additional feeling of movement but we did not experience that on the Conquest.
Our room was standard balcony size. After being in a suite, I felt a bit closed in but had I not just experienced the suite a few months ago, I would not have noticed. I thought the beds were much harder than on the Magic than on the Triumph and Conquest and it made it difficult to get comfortable. We had plenty of room for the three of us. Storage was adequate in the cabinets and the bathrooms. We unpacked everything and put the suitcases under the beds. We never felt crowded or like we were on top of each other. Had it been three or four adults, it would have been cramped. Our room steward did an excellent job. Instead of finding our bags outside when we sailed, he had put them in our room. We used the mini bar and he kept it restocked and our ice bucket full. We always had plenty of towels and he even had our son's stuffed animals he slept with all set up and ready for bed. We saw him fairly regularly right before dinner. He always called us by name and again paid special attention to our son.
Overall, we had a nice time. The staff was friendly, the cruise director kept us informed and the Captain kept us updated on our voyage. The ship was nice. I was just disappointed in several things. Had I not been on other Carnival ships, I might not have noticed as much as I did this time. Although we had some disappointing experiences, we would travel on the Magic again.