Background - I live in Phoenix and my children live in Texas. We picked this cruise because the other cruises (2) that my children (14 & 17 years old) have been on have been on the west coast, both departing from Los Angeles. The first was going to the Mexico, it was changed because of the Swine Flu Epidemic. We ended up going to San Francisco, Portland & British Columbia. We were on Royal Caribbean and it was a very nice cruise. Because of the change in itinerary we were offered a very discounted rate to rebook the same cruise the next year, which we did. The second cruise we went on traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan & Puerto Vallarta. This cruise was very nice also and we had a great time. After these two cruises my children were really wanting to go to the islands. With their school schedule we were pretty limited as to cruises that traveled to the Caribbean. We picked this cruise mainly because of their proximity to the port of Galveston.
I have been on many cruises of all types and duration. I started cruising as a child in the 70's which was a very different sort of travel than it is now. I was very lucky that my parents had the means to give me the opportunity to do this sort of travel in my youth. I have been addicted to cruising ever since. I also wanted to give my children the same opportunities and memories that my parents were so kind in giving me.
This is only my second Carnival Cruise that I remember taking, although it is very likely that I traveled on a Carnival Cruise in my youth and just don't remember it being this cruise line. My other experience with Carnival that I remember was a very short cruise out of Los Angeles over ten (10) years ago and it wasn't a very good one. I don't remember the name of the ship but is was pretty old and the majority of the passengers were there to keep a buss on the entire trip.
I personally gravitate to more luxury type cruise lines although I typically travel the major cruise lines. I enjoy both Princess and Royal Caribbean equally but if I had my choice I would prefer Holland American, Celebrity (although I have not been on a Celebrity Cruise). I have gone on one (1) Sea Dream Yacht Club cruise and it was unbelievable. I really enjoyed everything about my experience.
For this trip it was all about the "Kiddos" so I was just looking for seven (7) days on a ship that they could see some crystal clear blue water and make some friends on board. I believe that this cruise meet my expectations and I will give you more details below.
We all meet in Houston the day before the cruise departed and we stayed at the Hilton Airport, it was convenient, as we booked transfers from the airport to the ship. We were meet the next morning at the airport by Linda the greeter from Carnival and she was GREAT. She really loves her job and it truly shows, she was so friendly and helpful in every way. The transfer took about an hour and was painless.
We were offered an upgrade to an Ocean Suit a few days before the cruise departed which gave us VIP embarkation. It took all of five (5) minutes to go from the transfer to getting on board the ship. This is the smoothest embarkation I have ever experienced other than Sea Dream Yacht Club.
First impressions were good, it's still a new ship and it was clean and crisp. The Magic doesn't have the typical boulevard feel that you get when you walk in to a new Princess and Royal Caribbean ships but it was still very nice.
Our room was nice it had plenty of room for three of us. The difference between the standard balcony rooms and this one is pretty simple it's about twice the size. The room was good size and the balcony had plenty of room for all three of us to hang out on when we were coming into port or after a day at port. The bed configuration was set up with two twins and a sofa bed, it worked perfectly. This suite has a vanity area and it was enjoyed by my daughter, as this area was hers. She used the closet that as in that area and had room to put all her girl stuff for getting ready to go to dinner or just out for the evening. The bathroom was also very nice, as it has a real shower whirlpool tub combo and two sinks. We never felt claustrophobic at any time in the room.
The layout of the ship was a bit different than others I have been on but I didn't think it was awkward in any way. I did feel however that a ship of this size should have more eating opportunities than this one had but otherwise everything was there that we needed.
We took the advice of may other on the blog and had our first lunch at the Italian Eatery, the Lido Buffet is a mad house the first day but the Italian Restaurant was almost empty. The food was better than others described it, although there is a lot of noise in this room, as it is right below the basketball court.
I had room service every morning, mostly coffee but I usually got the kiddos a little something to get the day started. It was timely and was what I expected. I also had room service one evening, I was wore out after a long day at Atlantis and just wanted to relax and watch a movie. I ordered a sandwich, veggies and a desert, it was fine.
We had dinner twice at the Steak House, food was really good and the service was as good as anywhere I have been. I would compare it to almost any good steak house in the states. We ate in the main dining room twice, I didn't think it was as good as other cruises but it certainly wasn't bad by any means. We also at dinner at the Italian Restaurant twice and it was good both times. The Lido Buffet was about average and there definitely were lines to get food. No real problems, they are trying to serve 4,500 people and it does get congested.
I didn't really go to many shows, so I can't really comment on this. The couple I went to were good but not Broadway. I haven't ever been on a ship and thought the shows were unbelievable, so again don't take my word on this one.
The casino saw lots of action, if you play slots or any of the machines, you can get free drinks once you have built up enough points. I thought that was nice.
Key West was a good stop, we walked Duval Street and did the trolley tour. We had lunch on the pier right by the dock. We had a great BLT (bacon, lobster & tomato) sandwich and I had one of the best Painkillers I have had anywhere.
Freeport was nice, it was rainy most of our trip but we went to the market did some shopping. We went the beach and splashed around a bit.
Nassau was our best stop, we went to Atlantis, again it was rainy. We went to the beach, checked out the "Digs" ( aquarium) had lunch at the deli and went down the slide that goes through the shark tank. A really nice place and lots to see and do. This was the night that I got back and didn't leave the room till the next morning. Sooooo much fun.
This is the fifth night of the cruise so I can't comment on disembarkation, as we haven't gotten to that point.
This cruise was what we expected, my kids had fun and I relaxed and read a book. We spent time together and enjoyed or experience. I think any vacation is what you make it. I have great traveling companions and we seem to make the best of most situations. I hate when people get on this site a beat up a cruise line because it rained or the service wasn't what they expected. They need to lower their standards and be grateful that they are given the means to do this sort of adventure. The people that work in this industry work very hard and most of them do their best to accommodate your needs. I mentioned earlier that my first experience with Carnival wasn't great and it wasn't but I do feel like I got what I paid for and if I wanted to pay more money I would have had a different experience. I'm very grateful for the time I had with my children and that they even want to spend time with me on vacation. All and all we had a lot of fun and I would do it again, but next year I'm thinking Hawaii on a longer trip. I will tell you how that one turns out, until then keep cruising...