We recently went on the Carnival Magic for a 7 night Caribbean cruise. Thanks to Brendan with vacationstogo.com, the booking was smooth and our adjoining balcony cabins were exactly what we were looking for.
**Parents of kids using strollers--the cabin doors do not fit normal strollers that come with bucket carseats. Get a smaller stroller or umbrella stroller to use through the ship.
**Parking--did the Lighthouse covered parking reso online and found no trouble with a spot. Not the smoothest pavement in the parking lot, but nice driver and easy to enter and exit.
**Embarkation--first time going out of Galveston in the Carnival terminal and man, lines, lines, lines. Be careful what you are carrying on, since you have to have a good grip on everything to manage the crowds. We did not get there as early as we had hoped, and our saving grace was that my parents had an Ocean Suite on deck 7 and their expedited entry and exit helped us too. Make sure the cabins and bookings are linked to avoid delays in traveling together.
**Cabins--6391 and 6395 adjoin, and the only issue we found fault with was that 6395 stayed a bit warmer than 6391 the whole trip. Maybe the balcony door wasn't sealed as well or the a/c didn't work as well. Found the door between the cabins to be adequate to block the sound of husband's horrible snoring. Beds were so comfortable and it was too easy to sleep the afternoon away. Noise on the balcony is what we expected by a hot tub. Noise within the cabin was also normal, occassionally would hear the neighbors laughing. Heard some cheering from the casino, but we expected that, being on Deck 6 above public areas.
**Water park and water slides--AWESOME! So impressed. The water park was the reason we switched from Royal Caribbean to Carnival, as the RC ship in Galveston (60 miles from home) did not have a water slide. I am so happy we did, as it has areas for every age kid and adult. The crawling baby stayed in the shade in a little bit of water under the Drainpipe, and loved the water splashing on her. The 4-yr-old enjoyed the smaller slide and the buckets. The older kids spent hours on the water slides. The lines were long, at times, but people were not rude or cutting in line or anything.
**Food--well, wasn't impressed overall, but I expected to just be happy with the quality and not wowwed. The cookies on the Lido Deck and from room service were hockey pucks and tasteless. Some desserts looked great on the platter but you would see lots of leftovers on tables as people tasted them and found them to be lacking. The Mongolian Wok line was long, and the food wasn't as great as you'd think. The pizza was phenomenal, but the demand was greater than they could fulfill and we didn't even try to utilize that area like we had planned due to lines and four kids to entertain, so no time for lines, only got pizza once. Self serve ice cream was sooooooo good. Kinda sad they have chefs making lots of desserts and yet the pre-made, pour-in soft-serve ice cream was better than the chef-created dishes. Room service was very good--we enjoyed almost everything we ordered.
**Dining room--yes, looks plastic-y, but hey, gotta accomodate the weight of the water park, so can't have granite everywhere, right? Great service, same selection as Lido Deck for a lot of choices. Did the Comedy Brunch a couple times and enjoyed the food and service, although our Southern Lights dining room is nicer than the Northern Lights (view of the bottom of the lifeboats from the Northern Lights).
**Entertainment--did not catch more than a couple minutes of one show, other than playing Bingo in the Showtime Theatre. Cannot say if it was good or not, was too far back in the doorway.
**Staff and crew--maybe we had a leg up traveling with adorable kids, but we did not have any issues with rudeness or a harried feeling from any crew that we passed. Some helpers in the Lido Deck were not especially cheerful, but come on, they are cleaning up everyone's messes with very little time off--can't expect them to kiss our butts at every chance.
**Public areas--here is where we were not in love with Carnival's ship design. We found it to be awkward in some areas, tryin to get to one place, like a dining room, and finding that we'd have to go down one more deck because of no access to any walkways from the elevator area. We eventually found everything we were looking for (liked the arcade, seaside grill was good, salad bar was good) but I have to give a leg up to Royal Caribbean for layout. Didn't use the Lido area pool, but liked the layout of the midship pool and the water park area. We got massages and nails and hair done before the cruise to save money, and didn't use the spa area. We didn't like the smoky smell of the casino, but we didn't do more than walk through it. The shops were ok, but that area was a little blah.
**Ports--just skip Jamaica. They add extra into your purchases and overcharge, then say the receipt thing isn't working. Was I going to be broke without the extra $8 I was charged? No, but the attitude of blatant pushiness and theivery didn't make me love them. I should have just stayed on the ship and not gone ashore. We've done this route four times before, shame on me for not remembering and not counting every dollar added up as they charged me. I'm sure the excursions are nice, but Grand Cayman and Cozumel are just so much nicer, safer, and more affordable. Grand Cayman Seven-Mile beach is extraordinary, and Dolphinarius in Cozumel was wonderful as usual. If you are planning on visiting Grand Cayman and exploring on your own, call Kennedy the cab driver ahead of time at 1345 926 1993 or email him at email@example.com. He drove safely, was extremely polite and kind, and came back on time to pick us up, saving us a lot of trouble trying to get us and all our beach stuff into smaller vehicles.
**Apparently, Carnival doesn't understand that an air filter is not a heater. They confiscated mine and I had to pick it up on the last morning. I was going to use it as a white noise machine because we were over public areas and my husband snores, but it was ok without it.
**One tip we picked up from other posters and used this time was to bring your own new foam soap dispenser, which was nice instead of fiddling around with slippery soap bars. Also, we brought an octopus-looking clothespin thingie on a hanger, and it helped so much to dry our bathing suits and towels more than the clothesline in the bathroom. We also found lanyards to be helpful to keep track of our room keys, and bought a $1 hole punch from the store to poke the hole in the corner away from the strip. Bring a ton of sanitizer hand wipes to wipe down tables and chairs in public areas, especially if you have kids.
Overall, we had a great time and it went by too fast. I wanted to bring our waitstaff home with us, they were just so receptive and quick, not to mention so kind to our kids. I would totally do this ship again, even though the layout is annoying in places, because the water park and comfortable beds more than make up for that.