Wow! We just returned from a great week aboard the Carnival Magic! I've got a lot to say, so let's just dive right in.
Firstly, we were traveling with a group of 11 family and friends, as a part of a larger cruise group that was put together on facebook, I believe in total there were nearly 120 in that group - what fun. Our scheduled itinerary was Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel. Unfortunately, hurricane Sandy had different plans. Our captain decided that due to the unsafe conditions near Jamaica and the Caymans, we would need to call at different ports. So, we ended up at Key West, Costa Maya, and then Cozumel as scheduled. We were disappointed that we wouldn't be calling in the original ports, but were glad that the decisions of our captain kept us safe. Now, I'll start at the beginning and go from there.
Parking: We used EZ Cruise, it was $50 for the week (if booked on the internet). As far as embarkation parking, they were great. We were able to park and be shuttled by 945am. Cheap, and efficient... I'll say more about debarkation later on.
Embarkation: We dropped our luggage and began the embarkation process by 10am. We had a pretty easy go. One party in our group was turned away with a cooler that they stated was too large (though, we saw many others with similar sized coolers who were allowed through, no idea what went into that decision... but just a small hitch). We were through the process and in the waiting area ready to board by 1030am... easy peesy. We boarded and were on the Lido having lunch by 11:15am. It was a very smooth embarkation, the lady at the check-in counter was very friendly, I wish I'd have written down her name to give her proper accolades, but I did not.
Stateroom: Our immediate family was booked in staterooms 2234 and 2238. Deluxe Oceanview staterooms. There were good rooms, were very good for families. 2234 was converted to a king, a sofa bed, and an upper - worked out great for myself, my husband and two of our kiddos. 2238 was converted to two twins and a sofa bed, which worked great for my 2 sisters and my oldest daughter. Both rooms featured the full bath plus junior tub setup - two bathrooms, if you will. My only thoughts of how this could have been made better - going on ahead and adding a second toilet in the second bathroom, it would have been great. Other than that, the rooms were perfect... plenty of closet space, and our suitcases fit great beneath the beds. Our room steward was Agus, and he was awesome. He was always on top of things and we seldom had to make a request, as he had anticipated our needs. He definitely kept the rooms clean and tidy and was very efficient in his work. We were very pleased with him, and left him an extra tip on top of the pre-paid gratuity. Having the rooms with picture windows was very cool, gave the kids a place to look out, without me having to worry about them on a balcony (they are climbers, that's for sure). As they get older, I'd like to try the Cove Balconies on the same floor, they looked great. As far as the stateroom goes, that's pretty much the jest of it. We would give it a 10 out of 10, for sure.
Main Dining Room: We chose the early seating with our table of 11. We requested via John Heald to be seated in the Southern Lights dining area, near the aft windows. He got in contact with the Maitre D' and made this happen. It was great! Views were breath taking every night, as we saw the sun set. We were very happy for this. Our head waiter was Eric, the others were Joel and Jordan. Best wait staff EVER. These guys worked so well together, like a well oiled machine. They were very accommodating of the three children we had at our table (ages 9, 5, and 2). When the children were restless or fidgety they talked with them, joked with them, and Eric even folded a great origami bird that had wings that flapped! We very much enjoyed these guys and they are amazing at what they do. Eric was a ham, dancing, singing... and the whole nine yards. Dinner was such a pleasure every night! We celebrated my husband's 30th birthday on board, and they came and sang and danced at the table and delivered the chocolate cake that I'd ordered from Bon Voyage (by the way, that was the best cake I'd ever tasted, and it was CHEAP!). I can't say enough about how wonderful these guys were.
Lido: Okay, this is where I must deviate from my happy-go-lucky nature. The foot on the Lido buffet was below average, even for cheap buffet food. We don't expect much... it's more quantity than quality, and we're aware of that. HOWEVER, the desserts were mostly dry and not edible. The entrees were, well - they just were. We didn't enjoy most of the selection, but that's okay - because on the Carnival Magic, there are endless options for dining. Breakfast on the Lido was pretty good, the french toast with fruit toppings was AMAZING... ate it every single day.
Tandoor: This gets its very own category. Indian food: you either love it, or you hate it. We love it. It was amazing! This was top notch in taste in my opinion. The only complaint, they need to figure out a way to turn out the Naan a little quicker, as waiting for it held up the line. Other than that, perfect. One addition that would be great would be to have a Saag dish.
Cuciana de Capitain: We only had this for lunch pasta bar, but it was very tasty. The service was very good, and we've no complaints here. I heard from other cruisers that dinner was well worth the nominal charge. We will try it for dinner next time, maybe.
Steakhouse: We paid $35 each for a steakhouse dinner that was worth triple or more. We did this as a date night for just the husband and myself (I wouldn't take kiddos, especially young ones. They wouldn't appreciate it and would probably detract from the atmosphere, just my opinion.) The steakhouse was fantastic. The chef really out did himself, and the wait staff was amazing. The husband had the prime rib, and I the New York Strip. It was cooked exactly as ordered, and was definitely the best steak we had ever had. The chef sent out a small taster of a new recipe, a creamy potato cheese soup - it was the smoothest potato soup I'd ever tried. Hoping that is an option for a full soup course the next time we sail, it was perfect. The garlic and herb foccia bread was fantastic. The mood in the steakhouse was very good, romantic and the ambiance was great for a date night. We'd most defiantly make reservations again. Come with an appetite, because you'll be stuffed.
Pizza: Fair. It wasn't great, it wasn't Chicago Style like I love. But it was there, and the kids were in heaven with it. The guys working at the pizza place need a mood stabilizer. They always seemed like they were hacked about something and weren't in the least friendly.
Bar Service: We did drinks of the day several days, most were okay, none were fantastic. I will say this - they certainly don't cheat you on the liquor content... they were loaded beverages.
Red Frog Pub: Their signature beer is worth a try. Best beer I've had, by a long shot. The atmosphere in the RFP is great... love it.
Entertainment: Wow! Our favorite was the Karaoke Live, where the karaoke singers got to perform with a live band - it was fantastic. All of the karaoke was super fun, the host of the karaoke shows was Jay. A born entertainer. This guy was a hoot. He was the highlight of the entertainment for us on the ship. If he doesn't make it to Cruise Director some day soon, Carnival has dropped the ball. He is amazing... hilarious... and just down right fun! We also enjoyed the comedy shows - though we only made it to two. There was so much to do on the ship, it was often hard to choose. The shows in the theater were so-so, I didn't enjoy them as much as I enjoyed the shows on the Triumph last year. The illusionist was pretty cool, but not something I'd like to see again. The last show of the cruise was the Carnival Legends show, where different guests performed as superstars - Garth Brooks, Tina Turner, Shania Twain, Elvis... and many more. This was a phenomenal show! We really enjoyed it, and it was time well spent. We also did several different trivia games during sea days - and those were pretty fun as well.
Cruise Director: James Carlton. I've heard mixed reviews about liking or not liking him. We loved him. He's very good at what he does, and kept the cruise interesting. He was a good host of the shows, and his "newly wed" game style show was fantastic! My sister was chosen to be a contest in the "ultimate game show" and that was super fun! Overall, I'd say he was great. Though, one thing I did notice that he didn't do - was mingle about the ship. I never saw him once outside of a show, nor at debarkation to bid us all farewell. I think he could do a better job roaming the ship and being visible. Though, in his defense, it is a MASSIVE ship... so, there's a fairly good chance our paths simply just didn't cross.
Comedy Brunch: I didn't personally make it to one of these, but several in our group did. They say it was a good time and the food was excellent. On my to-do list for the next time.
Pools and Hot Tubs: I loved the style of pools on the Magic. Where there is a shallow depth all the way around the deeper pool. Our kiddos enjoyed playing there whilst we were in the pool, we kept good watch of them and everyone was happy. There was a perfect number of hot tubs spread around the ship - and it was easy to find one that wasn't full. My only complaint - they were more-or-less "warm tubs". Though, I'm sure this is for safety and liability reasons... I wish they'd been warmer. I suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the hot water feels great on the joints after a day of walking about!
WaterWorks: Brilliant! I think our oldest two kiddos must of climbed and slide about a million times! A hit! There is a small slide for the really young ones (and apparently, my sister in her mid-thirties, there are pictures... funny funny pictures). I, personally, HATE water slides. I was peer-pressured into trying it, and I bruised my elbow and never went back. That's a personal thing though. Overall, the waterworks was a blast. I did enjoy the giant bucket dumping water on us when it was hot outside. Waterworks is a solid 11 out of 10.
SkyCourse and Sports Deck: The skycourse wasn't open very much during our cruise due to high winds. However, my husband and oldest daughter did get to do it one of the sea days - and they had a great time. They liked it so much, they did it twice. The sports deck was fun, we played a few family games of mini-golf ... kids loved it!
Serenity Deck: Needs to be bigger, but was a nice place to relax. This is where I did most of my hot tubbing, and it was peaceful. It could most definitely serve to be a much larger area, as it was always full.
Camp Carnival: We had kiddos in two different age groups 2-5 and then the 9-11. Our 2 and 5 year old kiddos loved Camp Carnival. In fact, that's how they spent a lot of their cruise. Not because we were mean ol' parents who unloaded our kids to get rid of them... but because they were hooked after their first day! The staff kept them engaged and did projects and such with them. They never wanted to leave, and we had to pry them out of camp for family time. In fact, my two year old is still asking when she can go to camp and play with her friends and teachers! It was the highlight of their cruise, I think. The 9 year old, she was torn between wanting to hang out with the adults, and wanting to hang out with kids her age. There weren't just a ton of kids her age on the ship - so I think that she was a little bored. We let her chose when she wanted to go to camp for a scheduled activity, and when she didn't. We gave the 9 year old the permission to sign herself in and out, but I must say - she's very mature for a 9 year old and I don't know that this would be appropriate for most 9 year old kiddos. She was only allowed to check her self in and out on a schedule that we set up with her - and only to an approved location. She also participated in a group scavenger hunt several times with other kids who had sign-out permissions. We signed her up for the night-party, it's $27 and they get to party from 10pm-3am. She didn't end up doing it because there weren't enough kids signed up and she was frankly just too tired- so, we didn't end up getting charged for this. She loved that. The next time we cruise, I think she'll probably have out grown camp carnival - but, that's life! Camp Carnival is an awesome place for kids, especially the younger ones! 10 out of 10 for sure!
Alright now, for the ports of call - this will be short and sweet, as we didn't do any excursions. Due to hurricane Sandy and her bad attitude, it was really choppy seas and high winds... so most of the cool excursions were canceled anyhow.
Key West: Aye aye aye. This was defiantly not the highlight of our cruise. We diverted to Key West instead of Jamaica due to the hurricane. Was a good choice by the captain as there are several videos floating around youtube of ships with other carriers that didn't divert - not pretty. So, kuddos to Captain Giovanni, as he made a very sound judgment. Now, that said, Key West is not my kind of place. Very ... different. Lots of nudity... lots of strange people. We didn't like it - but, I suppose to say something positive - it's an American port, and was safe to walk around the city on an unguided tour! We went to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, it was high priced and only moderately good. We didn't stay off the ship long, but it was a gorgeous day and when we got back on the ship - we had the pools and hot tubs to ourselves... and the waterworks... giant plus there.
Costa Maya: This port was pretty - and we liked it okay. We didn't leave the port area, just went to some of the shops and ate a few tacos. There is a big pool out in the middle of the port, many people made use of that - it was pretty, we did not use it. Again, we got back on the ship and made use of the nearly empty waterworks and pools. Oh, and it's worth a mention - they have most of the same goods as Cozumel - but their prices are higher... and they aren't nearly as willing to come down on things.
Cozumel: This is by far my favorite port, we really enjoy it. We took our group by taxi to Paradise Beach. We loved the beach, and the beach pool. Paradise Beach is the cheapest on the island, but very clean and the service is great. We paid no admission and then $2 per person for lounge chairs. If you use the water toys, you pay $12 a person for that - we did not. They have a beautiful resort style pool, that we spent a lot of time enjoying. Afterward, we went by taxi back to port and shopped a bit. We love the shopping in Cozumel - it is top notch. The port is clean and the shops are fair priced. This port is fantastic and we look forward to visiting again soon!
Debarkation: We had WAY too much luggage to self-assist (as we usually do when it is just the husband and myself). We were in group #17 for debarkation. We had breakfast (tasty french toast) on the Lido, and then proceeded to the theater for waiting. The debarkation process was smooth and went very quickly. We debarked the ship about 945am. We chose to use a porter for all of our massive amounts of baggage. The great thing about using a porter - they proceed directly into the line... much shorter trip through customs. We made it through customs without a hitch and were out of there by 1010am. Again, we used EZ Cruise. Their debarkation process was a hot mess - and we won't be using them again. They didn't have nearly enough nor large enough shuttles for the volume of people they were transporting. We had others in our larger group that used Lighthouse, and they had VERY large shuttles and their line was nearly nonexistent -we will be using them the next time.
I'm sure that there are a million and one things that I've forgotten to mention - but, this is a lot of information. The ship is beautiful, and she lives up to her name 'Magic'. We will definitely sail this ship again - and hopefully make it to Jamaica and Grand Cayman. The crew on the ship was absolutely the best around. We had an amazing time, and we are already planning our next cruise... though, it will be aboard the brand spankin' newly refit Carnival Sunshine out of NOLA! If you're reading this and considering a trip aboard the Carnival Magic, book it. Especially with children, it is a great ship for families as well as couples and the party crowd. Overall, we give this ship an A+! Bon Voyage!