My wife and I had a wonderful cruise on the Carnival Magic! I am 33 years old and she is 34. The cruise departed from Galveston, TX and its ports of call were Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; and Cozumel. This was our 4th cruise, and our 2nd on Carnival. Last year, we did the Carnival Liberty Eastern Caribbean itinerary, so much of this review will be comparing this ship to the Liberty.
Saturday, June 23: Pre-Stay in Galveston, TX:
Since we live in New York, we flew to Galveston the night before, and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, on Seawall Blvd. We flew from JFK Airport to Houston-Hobby (HOU) airport. Our flight was fine, we had no problems. However, we had planned to use Texas Airport Limousine to get to our hotel. Unfortunately, there was a major accident on the freeway, so they weren't able to get to the airport. To their credit, they offered to reimburse us half the cab fare if we took a cab to our hotel, which we did. It took quite a while and was still fairly costly to get to the hotel. This makes Galveston not necessarily the ideal port if you have to fly.
The hotel was basic, but very nice, once we got there. It overlooked the beach. Every room had a balcony, and there was also an outdoor pool, which we used. It had a nice breakfast (which we had the next day), but no restaurant for other meals. For dinner, they suggested that we go to Big Amos, which was nearby. The restaurant's website promoted themselves as a Texas barbecue restaurant. But, in reality, they were really more of a beach bar. It was basically what you'd expect from a beach bar: nothing special. Later that night, we used the pool, and had a nice time.
Sunday, June 24: Start of the cruise!
This is the day we were looking foarward to! We had breakfast at our hotel (which we liked). Eggs didn't look too appealing, but the sausage gravy biscuit was tasty. The hotel offered a shuttle to the port for $15. The $15 actually included a round trip and parking. We were just using it one way and not parking a car (since we flew), but it was still a very good deal. The only issue was that they were very vague about the timing. They asked us what time we wanted, and we said 10:30. But at 10:00, they called our room to tell us the shuttle is waiting for us and that the next one would be several hours later. So we had to hurry to catch the shuttle. It would have been better if they told us from the begining what times the shuttle ran so that we knew when to be ready.
Everyone was really excited when we approached the port and could see the ship! The main thing I noticed was Waterworks on top of the ship; that was one of the main features differentiating this ship from the Liberty which we were on last year!
Embarkation at Galveston seemed fairly quick and orderly. Didn't have to wait very long, and didn't have any issues. As always, the moment that we entered the ship and saw the lobby was very exciting!! We knew that this would be a great cruise!
After boarding, the first thing we did was take the elevator up to Deck 10 to have lunch at the Lido buffet. As always, we enjoyed the lunch! The main section of the buffet is called "Good Eats". There is also an international station (today was Italian day), a Mongolian barbecue, a burrito station, an Indian tandoori station, a grill (outside the buffet), a deli, a pizza station, and an ice cream station. Ther wasn't enough time on the cruise to eat at every station! During the week, the specialty stations that we used were the burrito station, the Indian tandoori, and the Mongolian barbecue, all of which were excellent! The Indian tandoori was unique since I haven't seen one on previous ships that we were on.
Unlike the Liberty (and other Conquest class ships), there wasn't a fish and chips station. Instead, on Deck 11, above the buffet, there was the Italian restaurant, Cucina del Capitano. We didn't actually eat there, since we have a lot of nice Italian restaurants on land that we go to. However, we did take a walk up there, and it looked very nice and had a very nice ambience, and I'm sure the food was excellent as well.
After lunch, we toured the ship, while waiting for our stateroom to be ready. Deck 3 forward had the lobby, the Showtime Theater, and the Northern Lights dining room, all of which are accessible only through the forward elevator. This layout was very much like the Liberty, except that it didn't have the outdoor deck (that was moved to Deck 5), which presumably made the venues on Deck 3 larger, to handle the larger passenger load. Deck 3 aft has the Southern Lights dining room, and is only accessible through the aft elevator.
Deck 4 was different from the Liberty. Unlike the Liberty, you could walk the entire length of Deck 4. Many people on the ship seemed to think otherwise, for some reason (I guess they were on the Liberty or other Conquest class ships, and didn't bother to check out Deck 4). The forward section of this deck had the balcony of the Showtime Theater, the photo shop, and the upper level of the Northern Lights dining room. There was also the library, and a small room called the Escape Bar. Not sure what the Escape bar was used for, since I never saw any activities or music scheduled for it, so I am guessing it's just intended to be a quiet space. To be honest, I had forgotten that it existed until I was back at home and looking at the deck plan. Unlike the Liberty, there was a hallway around the Northern Lights dining room, providing access to the rest of the deck. The midship section of Deck 4 mostly had conference facilities, and facilities for teenagers, so we didn't use that deck very much.
Deck 5 was the center of the ship's nightlife. It had a different layout than on the Liberty. The forward section had the top of the balcony of the Showtime theater, and the shops. Like other ships we've been on, the gift shop didn't seem to offer that much. Since we're not shoppers, we didn't bother going into any of the more "expensive" shops. There was also the "Cherry on Top" candy store. Given the free desserts at the main dining room, I'm not sure what purpose the candy store really served. Next was the Hat Trick casino. Unlike the Liberty, which had a hallway around the casino, on the Magic, you had to walk through the casino to get to the rest of the ship.
Next was the Ocean Plaza, which has been talked about a lot here. Other than the fact that it had a name and access to outside (will talk more about that later), not sure how it's really different from the promenade on the Liberty. Although, they did seem to have more activities (such as karaoke) scheduled for that space than on other ships. It also included the Plaza Cafe and Plaza Bites. Again, with the dessert at the main dining room, I'm not sure why people would feel the need to pay for more dessert, but at least the option is offered. Next was the sushi bar; didn't see that being used very much. Next was the Red Frog Pub. That had a very fun, laid back, Caribbean atmosphere! I do wish that I had spent more time in that venue. But with all of the free things to do on the ship, I guess I didn't feel the need to pay more for drinks and snacks. Next was the Vibe Dance Club (will talk more about that later), and then the Play It Again Piano Bar (which ended up being our favorite nighttime lounge). Finally was the Prime Steakhouse (which we ate at on the last night of the cruise; will talk more about it then), and finally the Spotlight Lounge, which had comedy shows most nights (and was often hard to find a seat; will talk more about it later).
What seperated this promenade deck from other ships was the outside lanai. This included hot tubs, a grill which had lunch on sea days (though with all the other lunch options we never actually ate there), and outdoor seating for the Red Frog pub and other venues. We didn't use the lanai that much since we mostly used the Lido deck (when we used the lanai, it was mostly to take a walk outside at night), but the lanai seemed quite popular, and took a lot of pressure off of the lido deck. At the forward end of the lanai, there were stairs leading up to the "secret" decks on Decks 6 and 7 forward, making those areas somewhat less of a secret. Those decks had very nice views!
Deck 10, the lido deck, was the focal point of the cruise for us, given the warm weather! The main area was the Beach Pool, which was the most popular area, and usually had music. The buffet seperated that main pool area from the Tides Pool, a quieter, more adult-oriented pool area. Unlike the Liberty, the Tides Pool did not have a retractible roof. However, since we had great weather all week, it wasn't needed. Those retractible roofs don't seem to popular with most people on this board anyway. Unlike other reviews, we didn't find chair hogs and overcrowding to be a major problem. If you were willing to walk up to Deck 11 or 12, we were always able to find a seat. Just be sure to keep your flip flops or water shoes on when you walk down to the pool, since the deck gets hot! Decks 11 and 12 were full decks surrounding the two pool areas, and offered plenty of seating.
Our favorite new feature of the ship was Waterworks, on Deck 12 forward and above! We really enjoyed the 2 large slides: Twister (the yellow one) and Drainpipe (the orange one). Both of them were a lot of fun, but not too scary. Also, the walk to these slides through the splash park was a good way to avoid getting too hot while waiting. Generally, the wait time for these slides wasn't too long, probably since there were so many other activities on the ship. The top of the slides was the highest place on the ship, and offered perhaps the best view anywhere! The dump bucket was also a good way to keep cool. Waterworks was definitely a much bigger deal than the waterslide on previous ships that we've been on! Next to the entrance to the large waterslides was the adult-only Serenity area. We didn't use that area too much. Since it was hot, we mostly preferred activities where we'd get wet. One of the 2 Serenity hot tubs was out of service all week, although there were plenty of other hot tubs on the ship.
Deck 12 aft featured Sports Square. We didn't use most of the athletic facilities. Though we did use the ropes course on the first sea day (will talk more about it then).
Our room was Room 2337, a Category 7C Cove Balcony on Deck 2 midship. This was our first balcony room! The room was very nice, and we enjoyed the cove balcony. The cove balcony provided a lot of privacy and shade, and offered a great view of the ocean! It would not have ruined our cruise if we didn't have a balcony, but it was still very nice to have it. After seeing how the balconies on the upper decks overlooked the lanai more than the ocean, I was glad that we booked a cove. The view from so close to the ocean cannot be beat! The room itself was basically the same as any other cruise ship room we've been on.
Our muster station was in the Northern Lights dining room. This was in contrast to the Liberty, which seemed to have mostly outdoor muster stations.
After the muster drill, we went to the sailaway party! This is always a highlight of a cruise! We always start the party by buying a drink of the day, in this case, the Funship Special! Since it was hot, I think more people were interested in swimming, rather than dancing, which was fine. We changed into our swimsuits, and had fun in the pool, and at the 2 large slides in Waterworks! This was a very fun afternoon!
For dinner, we chose Anytime Dining, which was in the Deck 3 section of the Northern Lights Dining Room. We were pleasantly surprised with how short the wait times were for dinner, even though we typically ate during peak hours. The waiting time was much shorter than it was on the Liberty (not that the Liberty wait times were that bad). I wonder why the wait time was so much shorter. The Magic has more cabins and the dining rooms aren't that much bigger, so I was expecting longer wait times, but was pleasantly surprised. We did not need to get a pager even once on the Magic, and some nights we had no wait at all. We really enjoyed every one of our dinners in the main dining room; they are a real highlight of any cruise for us! For dessert that night, we decided to start off right by each ordering the warm chocolate melting cake!! The dinner menus seemed to be pretty much the same as they were last year on the Liberty, but we often chose different items than we did last year.
After dinner, we went to the welcome aboard show, in the Showtime theater. We enjoyed the show and being introduced to the cruise director James Charlton, assistant cruise director, Megan, and the show cast. But, to be honest, the Liberty had a better welcome aboard show. One other thing I noticed (not that I really cared either way, to be honest) was that the female dancers wore less "revealing" costumes on the Magic than they did last year on the Liberty, and there was no "PG Rated due to costuming" comment on the Fun Times. Not sure if that was specific to this ship, or a fleet-wide change. There was only 1 show that had a warning about the costumes (unlike the Liberty last year, which had the warning for all). To be honest, I'm not sure that it was such a big deal either way; people would see far more revealing clothing on the lido deck.
We liked cruise director James Charlton very much. He seemed like a lot of fun, and was a good fit for this ship. We liked how he said "cheerio" at the end of each of his announcements. The assistant cruise director, Megan, was also very nice. Although, unlike Jaime (the assistant cruise director on the Liberty last year), Megan didn't seem to do as much, mostly Bingo.
After the show, we checked out the various nighttime entertainment venues on Deck 5. We started in the Vibe Nightclub, which had a fun atmosphere. But, to be honest, the music that it played most nights wasn't really our type of music, and we felt that we had somewhat outgrown the "suggestive" dancing that we saw in the club. Our preferred venue most nights was the Play It Again Piano Bar Party. The piano man on this ship was Frank, and he was really good! There was also karaoke that night, in the Spotlight Lounge, but it was over before we went there. Another nice place to hang out at night was the lobby, where Two for You performed. Unlike the Liberty, there was an elevated stage between Decks 3 and 4 for the performers.
I remember the Liberty having a venue called the Paparazzi Wine Bar. I did not see such a venue on the Magic. It wasn't a major loss, since I don't remember actually using that room on the Liberty. I'm not sure if there was another venue on the Magic that served that purpose, or if maybe it was eliminated since it wasn't too popular. But if you were a big fan of that bar, I just wanted you to be aware that it seems not to exist.
Since I've already detailed the various aspects of the ship, the rest of the review will read much faster. Our overall impression of the ship was that overall, the Liberty had nicer decor, but the Magic had more amenities, with Waterworks being our favorite new amenity. Overall, we felt that the Magic was an excellent fit for our interests and personalities.
Monday, June 25: Day at sea / Elegant evening:
One of the nicest things about sea days is being able to sleep late, and being on a relaxed schedule. We slept late today, and had breakfast at the lido buffet. One thing that was surprising is that there were no pancakes, waffles, or French toast in the buffet. I later found out that they were outside (near the Beach pool). I had assumed that they didn't have them, since on other ships I've been on (including the Liberty last year), they were always in the main part of the buffet.
After breakfast, we decided to give the ropes course a try, before it got too hot, and while we were still dry. This was another very unique aspect of the Magic that we wanted to try. When doing the ropes course, you wear a harness, and you are on a platform in between each component. From each platform, you have a choice between an easier or harder option, with the easier always being on the left and the harder always being on the right. I have to admit, the ropes course was quite scary for me. The hardest part was the very first component, where the "easy" option was this cargo net that you had to climb sideways to get to the next platform. It didn't even extend all the way to the next platform; there was this yellow rope you had to balance on at the end. I had assumed that there was a way to bail out if you were scared, but it seemed that once you started the ropes course, there was no way out. Making matters worse was that behind me was this little kid who had no fear and did everything very quickly. He was on my tail the entire time, but there was no easy way to let him pass. I know that I had a harness holding me. But still, it seems it would have been painful to fall. I was also worried about the harness breaking or unbuckling, but I know I was probably just paranoid. I also wonder, if you fall, whether they hoist you back up onto the course, or if they let you drop back down to the deck. I have to admit, I was very glad that I did the ropes course, but it was scary, and not something I would do every day. If I was ever on the Magic (or another ship that has it) again, I might try it again, but definitely not something I would want to do often.
It took my wife several minutes to work up the nerve to take those first steps off of the platform. The people behind her were very patient, and not saying "go" or "move it." Or, maybe they were just as nervous as she was.
After the ropes course, we did more relaxing things the rest of the day: the pools (we used both of them at various times), water works (we used both of the big slides), and lunch at the lido buffet; this time, we ate at the burrito station, which was excellent!
One thing that I forgot to mention in my first part of the review where I compared and contrasted the Liberty (and other Conquest class ships) vs the Magic: the Liberty has 3 pools, the Magic only has 2. However, I did not find the pools to be any more crowded on the Magic. Other activities on the Magic, such as water works, reduces the demand for the pools, so they are not overly crowded.
This night was the first elegant night. To be honest, I was hot, tired, and sunburned. Most people on the ship (especially the men) were dressed fairly casually, but my wife still expected me to wear my suit. Looking back on it, I realized that on all 4 cruises I've been on, the 2nd night has been tough for me, mostly because that is when I am most badly sunburned. I have very light skin, so I burn very easily. On this cruise, however, I didn't burn quite as badly as on past cruises, mostly since I used SPF 50 sunscreen (rather than 30) and was very dilligent about re-applying it.
If you read my review of the Liberty last year, you may remember that my only major complaint was the timing of the shows vs other nighttime activities. I had suggested that on the nights where there are 2 show times, they should have one much earlier, so that people who eat later (either with late fixed dining or with anytime dining) can go to the show and still attend other activities, such as the club theme nights (which are almost always at 10:00 PM). It seems that Carnival may have listened to me, at least on some nights! On this night, they had 2 shows: one at 7:00 PM and one at 9:00 PM. This worked out much better than the schedule that they used in the past! We went to the 7:00 show. This show was called "The Groove Line", and it had a 1970s theme, which we enjoyed a lot.
The one negative to scheduling the show at 7:00 PM was that it causes us to miss the captain's celebration, so we didn't get to meet the captain. That was only from 5:00 - 8:00. Since the theater only has limited seating, we wanted to get there early, and given that it took time to get ready for formal night, that didn't really leave time for the captain's celebration. Maybe they could have extended that later than 8:00.
Next, we had our formal night lobster dinner! That's always one of the dining highlights of the cruise! After that, they had a 50s / 60s hour at the Vibe nightclub from 10:00 to 11:00 (which we would have missed if they kept the same show schedule as last year). That was an enjoyable hour, and it was interesting seeing an "older" demographic in the club than during the typical nighttime hours.
Later that night, we went to the 11:45 PM commedy show in the Spotlight Lounge. The commedian at that show was Mutzie. We enjoyed him. He emphasizes the fact that even at his adult show (which is the one we went to), he doesn't use any profanity, because he does not feel that you need to use profanity to be funny. However, it is difficult to get seats in the Splotlight Lounge. That room seems to be very undersized given the number of people on the ship. That was the only venue where I found crowding to be a real problem.
Tuesday, June 26: Day at Sea:
Again, we slept late today. Today, we opted for a relaxed sit-down breakfast in the Southern Lights dining room. Since we have our dinners at the Northern Lights dining room, I thought it would be nice to be able to see the other dining room that we didn't normally get to eat in. Both dining rooms had basically the same decor (both very nice), just a slightly different layout. the Southern Lights dining room had a slight advantage, since it has windows on 3 sides, and the views from the windows are not blocked by lifeboats.
Since we needed a break from the sun, we used the early part of this day to purchase embarkation and elegant night photos from the photo shop, and to buy souveniers and postcards from the gift shop. As I mentioned, the gift shop didn't have the best selection, but probably no worse than any other cruise ship gift shop.
After that, we played Guess that Song in the Ocean Plaza. That was followed by trivia, which we would have played, but it was a continuation from the previous day. Since we didn't play the previous day, we had lunch then. We had lunch at the Indian tandoori, which was excellent! I haven't seen an Indian station like that before on a ship.
After lunch, we went outside again, and used the pools and waterworks.
After dinner, the main event of the night was the Red Frog Caribbean Beach Party! Deck parties are always fun!! As expected, we had fun at this one! After the deck party, we briefly went to the Vibe club, and then to the Play It Again piano bar. As I mentioned before, the piano bar was our preferred nighttime entertainment venue on this cruise. It seems as if we've outgrown the Vibe club. We didn't stay up too late, since we had an excursion the next morning!
Wednesday, June 27: Montego Bay, Jamaica:
This was our first port day of this cruise! At this port, we booked the Dolphin Swim and Doctors Cave Beach excursion. This was a very nice excursion. We took a bus ride to Dolphin Cove (I think that was the name of the place). Before the dolphin swim, we first saw stingrays and kissed them! For the actual dolphin swim, they broke us into several groups, each of which was sent to a different section of the water, each with a dolphin and a trainer. Swimming on the dolphin's back was a very unique and enjoyable experience! We were also able to kiss the dolphins. After the dolphin swim, we had the option of paying an extra $50 for a shark encounter. We opted not to do that, nor did most people. There were also camels that we could ride, although I'm not sure what the purpose was, since obviously none of us were dressed to ride a camel.
The one negative to this excursion was that the only way to get any photos with the dolphins, you had to buy the entire set for $66! That seemed overly expensive, and there was no way to buy individual photos (which we definitely would have done if it were an option). You were not allowed to bring your own camera into the dolphin area.
After the dolphin encounter, we then took a bus ride to Doctors Cave Beach. This was a very beautiful beach with crystal clear water! We had lunch at the outdoor beach restaurant. As the bus driver suggested, I had the jerk chicken, which I enjoyed a lot; I figured I may as well sample the local cuisine. Another, minor benefit to this excursion was the bus driver teaching us about Jamaica during the bus rides.
My only negative comment about Jamaica was that many of the people seemed somewhat pushy. Most notably, when we were waiting for our bus to get back from the beach, we were being constantly approached by drivers wanting to give us a ride back to the ship, and they had a hard time accepting no. But we otherwise really enjoyed this excursion! I am glad that we did a guided tour in Jamaica, rather than setting out on our own.
Back on the ship, we went to karaoke in the Ocean Plaza. Karaoke is something that my wife and I both enjoy very much, although neither of us are good singers at all! We had a very nice time. The DJ was Melvin; he was very nice, and was very fair when assigning turns.
The show that evening was Destination: Unknown. This was an illusion show, which we enjoyed; we thought it was very well done. The Fun Times contained a warning that it contained Vegas-Style Costuming. But, to be honest, kids would see far more revealing clothing on the lido deck than they would in any show. Again, they had 2 show times at 7:00 PM and at 9:00 PM, which was convenient. We went to the 7:00 show, followed by another excellent dinner.
Since we had to get up early the next morning for our excursion, we didn't stay up too late after dinner this night, unlike other nights.
Thursday, June 28: Grand Cayman:
We had an early morning excursion, so we had to get up early this morning. We had our usual breakfast in the lido buffet. The buffet opened earlier this morning than other days. Since this was a tender port, we had to meet our excursion in the theater, and they escorted us to the tenders. People who didn't book an excursion had to wait until 10:00 AM and meet in the Ocean Plaza for the "relaxed tendering process".
I noticed that rather than using the usual gangway on Deck 0 forward, they instead took us through Deck 1, to a gangway on Deck 0 midship, in what appeared to be a crew area. Does the Magic always use that gangway for tender ports? The tender boat appeared at first to be rocking a lot, but once we were on it, it was actually a smooth ride.
Our excrusion at this port was Coral Gardens and Stingray Sandbar. This was another very nice combination excursion, which combined swimming with stingrays in Stingray City, and snorkeling at Coral Gardens. It started with a brief bus ride to a dock along a canal. Grand Cayman looked like a very beautiful island, and appeared much more affluent than most other Caribbean islands. The canal was in what appeared to be a very nice, affluent residential area.
In this excursion, we sailed on a catamaran, first to Stingray City. Like similar excursions that we've done on past cruises, we really enjoyed the catamaran ride! When we arrived at Stingray City, we swam in shallow water, and they taught us how to interact with the stingrays. This was a very unique experience, and they taught us a lot about the stingrays! They also sold underwater cameras for $15. A much better deal than the $66 photo set they were selling at our excursion yesterday!
After the stingray excursion, the catamaran then took us to coral gardens for snorkeling! The only negative was that they only gave us 30 minutes of snorkeling time. Since I've only been snorkeling a few times before, I had some trouble at first adjusting my snorkel gear. But the time I got everything figured out, the half hour was over. Other combination tours we've done in the past gave more time for snorkeling. But what we did see was really beautiful! And, the stingray interaction part of this excursion was the part that was really unique. But since the Magic was in port for a few more hours, this excursion easily could have extended our snorkeling time if they wanted to. But this isn't a major complaint.
Back at the pier, we took a tender back to the ship, so that we could have lunch on the ship. There was no wait for tenders, since there was still a few more hours left in port. But since this excursion ended fairly early, we wanted to have lunch (for "free") on the ship. Since the lines weren't too long, we ate at the Mongolian barbecue at the lido buffet. We enjoyed that a lot! After lunch, we had some very much needed relaxation time.
Tonight was the 2nd formal night. Somewhat surprisingly, it seemed that more people dressed up for this formal night than for the first one. It was more comfortable for me, since I had mostly recovered from my sunburn, and the lobby and dining rooms felt cooler than they did on Monday (not sure if they actually were, or if it was just my perception).
There was only one show tonight, at 10:00 PM. This, once again, causes the problem that I mentioned last year in my Liberty review: the show being at the same time as the theme night at the Vibe club. The theme at the club was 70s and 80s, which we probably would have enjoyed, since we grew up during the 80s, and both really enjoy 80s music. But we decided to prioritize the show, remembering that the 80s night on the Liberty didn't have the best music, and knowing that the show would be unique, while we can listen to 80s music anytime we want. The show this night was called Win, and it had a gameshow theme. Like the other shows, we enjoyed it.
The Punchliner Commedy Club seemed to have a new set of commedians tonight. We went to the 11:45 show featuring Cowboy Bill Martin. Since, as I mentioned before, this room (the Spotlight Lounge) is undersized, we had to get their early. To be honest, this show was probably the low point of our cruise. We didn't find his jokes to be very funny. Also, nearly every word that he said was a curse. I don't mind occasional cursing, but a show that contains basically nothing but cursing is just silly and pointless.
Friday, June 29: Cozumel:
We didn't book an excursion at this port, but rather, set off on our own for a nice beach day. This, and the later port arrival time of 10:00 AM allowed for a more relaxed morning. We had our usual breakfast at the lido buffet. With the late port arrival time, it was more crowded than other mornings, but honestly it wasn't too bad. Like I said, most of the public spaces on this ship seem to do a good job of handling the passenger load.
The port area of Cozumel was very nice. We didn't have much trouble finding a cab. We took the cab to Paradise Beach, which my brother and his girlfriend recommended. This was a lot more economical than booking one of Carnival's beach excursions.
Paradise Beach was a very beautiful, private beach club, where, for $2 per person, it gave unlimited access to the pool area and the beach. They also had some other type of pass for $14 which I think gave access to various water sports. But we just wanted to use the pool and relax on the beach, so we opted for the $2 option. The pool was very nice. And the beach was beautiful, and had so many palm trees! The one negative was that the water here wasn't the clearest. I think it may have been intended more for water sports than for swimming. But the beach was beautiful! It felt very nice sitting under the palm trees, especially since they provided shade from the hot sun.
For lunch, there was an outdoor Mexican beach restaurant which we ate at. To be honest, the food was more what you'd expect from a beach bar, not an authentic Mexican restaurant. The burrito station at the lido buffet on the ship was superior to the tacos that we had here. But it served its purpose.
Getting back to the ship was easy, since there were taxis waiting at the beach. Back at the ship, the show tonight was Marcus Monroe, who did a juggling act. This was another excellent, and very impressive show! They conveniently had both a 7:00 and 9:00 show this night. We went to the 7:00 show and then had dinner.
The big event of this night was the Latin Fiesta deck party. As expected, this deck party was a lot of fun! It had a conga line contest between the even vs odd numbered cabins. The party was followed by the Mexican buffet. I would have loved to have had something there, but we were so full from dinner, so we didn't go.
Instead, we went to the Vibe nightclub for Top 40 hour. Strangely, there was almost nobody at all in the club. I guess they were all at the Mexican buffet. They did a few pop hits from the 80s, but quickly reverted back to the rap and hip hop that they played most nights. So, we left and went to the Play It Again Piano Bar, which, as I said, was our preferred nighttime venue on the ship.
Saturday, June 30: Day at sea:
It's nice to have a sea day at the end of a cruise. We slept late and had breakfast at the lido buffet. After that, we spent most of the day using the pools and the waterworks slides. Particularly at the Tides Pool, we found the crowd to be somewhat rowdier than earlier in the cruise, with a lot of drinks in the pool. But that wasn't too big a deal; it was nice to see everyone enjoying their last day of the cruise. Had lunch at the lido buffet, specifically at the burrito station, since we enjoyed it so much. The buffet also had the chocolate extravaganza today, which I enjoyed. But I didn't want to eat too much since we had our steakhouse reservation later tonight.
We did most of our packing in the late afternoon since we were so busy that night. Before dinner at the steakhouse, we went to karaoke, which this evening was in the Spotlight Lounge. There were a lot of people there so we didn't sing this night, but we did enjoy hearing others.
Our big event of the night was our reservation at the Prime Steakhouse. We really enjoyed it, probably our best meal of the cruise (even though every meal we had was excellent)! We both had the surf and turf, which was excellent. Last year, on the Liberty, my wife had the prime rib, which she said wasn't that good, but she knew how much I enjoyed the surf and turn last year, so she had that too. We both really enjoyed our meal, and really enjoyed the atmosphere in the steakhouse. It has basically the same layout, decor, and food as the steakhouse on the Liberty, just in a different location.
As I mentioned, we did not eat at Cucina del Capitano on this cruise. We did not want to give up 2 main dining room meals and pay extra. We gave priority to the steakhouse, since we have a lot of nice Italian restaurants that we eat at on land, whereas we would almost never order surf and turf on land. We were tempted to have lunch at Cucina del Capitano. But with so many other options for lunch, we never did eat there. Especially since there were many Italian dinner items in the main dining room, and at the lido lunch buffet. So, I can't give any info on Cucina del Capitano, but I trust that the food was probably excellent. I had also heard from other passengers that the barbecue on the Deck 5 lanai was excellent, but we didn't eat there either. Again, with so many options and only 7 days, you can't do everything on a cruise! That only gives an incentive to book another cruise in the future!
After dinner, we went to the Legends show. This is where passengers who auditioned earlier in the week play various roles in the show. This show is always one of the highlights, we really enjoy it. The lineup of performers was different than it was on the Liberty last year. Not sure if the Magic has a different set of legends than the Liberty, or if it was changed fleetwide. The performers tonight were Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Neil Diamond, Tina Turner, Elvis, Shania Twain, Gloria Gaynor, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, and Cher. Like I said, we really enjoyed this song. Just one minor comment: Brice Springsteen's song was Born in the USA. During that song, the background video showed flag waving and the Statue of Liberty, as if it were a patriotic anthem. If you listen to the lyrics, you will know that Born in the USA is clearly not a patriotic anthem, but more of a protest song. Although, they did eliminate some of the heavier verses (about the Viet Cong and the woman from Saigon), although that was probably due to time constraints rather than content.
Although they said that the latest time to put your luggage outisde your room was 11:00 PM, we actually put our luggage outside after the Legends show. We were told that they actually collected luggage until midnight.
After the Legends show, we briefly went to the Vibe club one last time, and then later spent most of the night at the Play it Again Piano bar. Just like the pool, the crowd was noticeably more roudy tonight than they were earlier in the cruise. But again, it was nice to see everyone enjoying their last night of the cruise. Later, we took a walk around the Deck 5 lanai, and then later sat on the balcony in our room. One comment I should have mentioned earlier about the lanai is that at night, the forward part is dark, since all the lights are turned off (probably for navigational purposes). We definitely enjoyed our last night, but it was sad that our cruise was over.
Sunday, July 1: Debarkation day:
Obviously the saddest day of the cruise. It's always sad to end a wonderful vacation. We opted for the "relaxed" debarkation, where we put our checked luggage outside the room the night before. We also booked Carnival's transfer back to the airport. We got a letter in our room warning us that we must be on time for our zone, or the wait for the next bus could be an hour or more. We were assigned to zone 8, which meant a 9:00 AM debarkation time. We usually like to stay onboard as long as we can, but we didn't want to miss our bus.
We had a sit down breakfast at the Southern Lights dining room. We figured that would be easier than dealing with the lido buffet with our carryon luggage. We enjoyed our last breakfast. We then took the elevator up to the lido deck to wait for our zone to be called. But as soon as we arrived there, our zone was called!
When we got off the ship, it took a few minutes to find our luggage, since it was closer to Zone 9 than to Zone 8. I wonder why. We didn't have much of a wait getting through customs and immigration. Since we're not shoppers, we were well below the limit, so we didn't have to pay any duty.
It took a few minutes to find our transfer bus back to the airport. That was a much better deal than the cab that we had to take at the beginning of our trip to get from the airport to our hotel in Galveston. In retrospect, it might have been more economical to have stayed at a hotel near the Houston airport (preferably one with a free or low cost shuttle to/from the airport) and then taken Carnival's shuttle to the port.
We were at the airport long before our flight. We had to wait a while before Jet Blue personnel arrived so we could check our bags. Our flight home was delayed about an hour, but I don't mind a delay in this direction so much.
Overall, we had an excellent cruise, and definitely one of our best vacations! The Magic was a good ship for our personalities and interests, especially with the water park. We had beautiful weather the whole time, despite Tropical Storm Debbie, which we were nowhere near. Contrary to some reviews, we did not find the ship to be overly crowded. Yes, it does have one more deck of cabins than the Liberty, and has only 2 pools rather than 3, but it also has many new ammentities (such as waterworks, the ropes course, the Deck 5 lanai, the Red Frog pub, etc) that took pressure off other ammenities. Any Time Dining worked well; we never had much of a wait at all, even less wait time than the Liberty (and as I mentioned last year, even the wait time on the Liberty wasn't so bad). We enjoyed our 3 ports very much, and they were complimented by 3 relaxing and fun days at sea. Overall, I have no major complaints at all. Like I said, the decor on the Liberty was nicer than the Magic, but the decor on the Magic wasn't bad by any means. The only negative is that now we may be too spoiled to go on an older or smaller ship that doesn't have as many amenities! We hope to be able to book another cruise in the future.
A few other things that I should mention:
Many reviews have complained that the Magic seemed to rock a lot, and they suspected unresolved mechanical problems. I did not notice that at all. I actually found it to be a very calm, smooth ride. Even Sunday night when the seas were rough (was that due to Tropical Storm Debbie?), I didn't feel that much motion. So I don't know why other reviews complained. If you did feel excessive motion, it was likely due to rough seas, and not due to any mechanical problems (unless they were very recently resolved).
Our stateroom was 2337, a Category 7C cove balcony on Deck 2, between the forward and midship elevators (closer to midship). That was an excellent location. It was very quiet (we were below the Northern Lights Dining Room), and it was very convenient (very close to the midship and forward elevators).
However, the first night, there was an annoying noise. I honestly don't know what it was, since it was not repeated on any night. I did notice a pipe on the edge of our balcony. Do all cove balcony rooms have that? If not, was the noise somehow related to that pipe? And if so, why only that one night? The water was rough that night. It might have been raining, I don't know. Looking at the deck plan, it is possible that we were below one of the Deck 5 hot tubs. Maybe the pipe was for that? Maybe it was raining, and the pipe was clearing the water from the hot tub? In any case, we did not hear that noise at all after the first night, so this is more a curiosity rather than a complaint.
One minor complaint that I had about the Liberty which also exists on the Magic: there are 2 sets of Forward elevators: a set of 4 glass elevators, and a set of 6 regular elevators. However, the buttons to call the 2 sets of elevators are seperate, even though they go to the same place (except for Decks 0 and 1). Since (unless you haven't yet been in a glass elevator and really want to be in one) you generally don't care which set of elevators you take, and just want one as quickly as possible, most people (including myself) push both sets of call buttons, which reduces the efficiency (it causes elevators to stop when the people already got on one from the other set). I'm surprised that they haven't resolved this problem on the newer ships by having one set of call buttons call elevators from either set. The midship and aft elevators seemed more efficient, although (both on the Magic and last year on the Liberty), there would frequently be at least one out of service. Not sure if they were broken or being used by crew.
Another issue is that I couldn't get the wireless internet service to work. Not sure if it was broken ship-wide or if the service in my room just didn't work, or if I was doing something wrong (although I had no problem with it on the Liberty last year). I didn't want to spend a lot of time troubleshooting, so I just used the Fun Hubs when I needed to use the internet. For those who don't know, the Fun Hubs are computers in various locations around the ship. I don't remember exactly where they all were, but they were mostly in high traffic locations, such as the Deck 3 lobby, the hallways on Decks 4 and 5, and the Deck 10 forward elevator lobby.
One other thing I forgot to mention was the past guest party, in the late afternoon on our Grand Cayman day (around the time that it left port). We got invitations to this in our room the night before. This was only our 2nd cruise. The past guest party had free hors d'ouvres and free drinks, and had a few interesting games that the audience could participate in.