I would like to start this review by telling you that I was extremely apprehensive about this cruise after I booked it for many reasons. One main reason was that my sister had just returned from a transatlantic cruise on the new Carnival Breeze in November and was not impressed with Carnival at all(she is an avid cruiser who has not been on Carnival for many years). I had begun my cruising years with Carnival, and even had the pleasure of having John Heald as my cruise director (a spoiler for all cruise directors to follow) and had always found Carnival had met my needs and offered a fun vacation at an affordable price.
This was my 10th cruise and 5th with Carnival. I have to admit I strayed from Carnival and tried Royal Caribbean and was hooked. I even sailed the Oasis of the Seas which as far as I am concerned, is one of the most amazing ships ever. Last year, I tried the Norwegian Epic and found that to be an epic fail (pun intended). I always travel with a large group of people spanning many ages (7-84) and we all generally have the same opinion of the ships we sail on. I have become a Royal Caribbean snob and was not sure I would ever sail on Carnival again. Upon my sisters return from the Breeze and her telling me that even die hard Carnival cruisers felt Carnival had dropped the ball with a decline in food quality and service, I was ready to cancel my cruise.I went back to reading cruise reviews and saw a few that frightened me about Carnival as well. Not to mention the week before my cruise the Triumph incident happened and that really threw me over the top. Carnival Corp. has had so much negative press over the last 2 years, you can only imagine how freaked we all were about sailing with Carnival now. I felt particularly responsible because it was my idea to give Carnival another try because the ship and price was so appealing.
Now that I got the background story out of the way, let me tell you about the cruise. It was truly magical! Exceeded all of my expectations and then some. We began our trip in Galveston and stayed at the Hilton Resort. It was a beautiful hotel and they offered a free shuttle to the cruise port. Plenty of restaurants are located right next to the hotel as well.The shuttle got us to the ship at 11:30 and we were able to breeze through the lines at the pier very quickly. We were on the ship in no time ready to start our journey!
The Magic is a beautiful ship, laid out very well to keep crowds from becoming bottle necked. I read horror stories about how crowded the buffet lines were upon embarkation and was pleasantly surprised there were no major lines and plenty of seating. Actually, we never had problems finding seats or with long lines at the buffet except at the Mongolian Wok station but even that was not more than a 15min. wait. Oh and yes, the ship was full!I only have a few minor complaints about Carnival(which I will tell you later) and believe me I tried very hard to find more of them. The ship was incredibly clean (I am a germ freak)so I look for dirt. Although they are not as on top of you to use hand sanitizers as Royal and Norwegian are(I wish they were), they were wiping and cleaning every second. Our Southern Lights wait staff was AMAZING!!! Derita you were Great! They could not do enough for us and we were a party of 14 who kept them very busy. Our wish was really their command. The rooms were spotless, food was delicious(I am a caterer)and I was most impressed that pool chairs were to be found everywhere even on sea days. I had prime seating everyday without getting up at the crack of dawn to claim my chair. The concerts on the big screen by the lido pool were also enjoyable to watch. There was always a spot to hang out at night and listen to music or just have a drink and hang with friends. Carnival has also improved on their disembarkation procedure from what I remember in years past, where they were on the loud speaker every 5 minutes telling you to get off the ship, as the wait staff practically threw you out of the dining room(none of that happens on Royal or Norwegian)and that always ended the vacation on a sour note. All my fears were put to rest after the first day as we all began to fall in love with the Magic. She is a beautiful, well laid out ship that never made you feel the crowd.
Oh yea, I said I had a few minor complaints. One would be that we never really got to see many shows because we had late dining(as we don't like to go up early from the pool to dress)and those shows began at 7:00. That means we would still have to leave the relaxation of the pool area early and rush to our cabin to get ready. The early seating show should be 8:15(for the 6:00 diners) and the late seating show 10:15(for the 8:00 diners). Although, people told us the shows weren't really that great, so I didn't feel so bad missing them. Another complaint is they close the buffet area on Lido deck at 2:30 - 3:00. When you come back from a day in port hungry(or even a sea day), you have to have pizza, hamburgers or a deli sandwich. This was sometimes frustrating especially if you just wanted something light before dinner like fresh fruit or salad. I also wish that they offered more for late night snacks that were free besides pizza on the Lido deck and ice cream. If you are sitting by the Red Frog Pub having a beer or a cup of coffee from the coffee bar, there is nothing to eat without a surcharge. They charge $1.25 for a chocolate chip cookie? Really? On Royal and Norwegian there are plenty of free late night snacks to be had without a surcharge. Although Carnival does offer 24hr soft serve, they could do better in this area. Not to mention if you are on deck 5 enjoying a beer or coffee who wants to go all the way up to deck 10 for a snack? As I said, these complaints are really very minor.
Needless to say, my sister was shocked by our assessment after her trip on the Breeze and I am not sure why her experience was so different from ours. Carnival might need to see why the Breeze gets such poor reviews. As far as the Magic goes, I can tell you that she far exceeded our expectations and lived up to her name....pure MAGIC!!!! While I am still a big Royal Caribbean fan, I would travel Carnival again in a heartbeat.