Warning this is pretty long and detailed: This was the first cruise ever for my wife and I. We spent a lot of time discussing possible honeymoon destinations but after hearing the good reviews of Carnival from her parents and other family members we decided this would be a good choice. We live in the middle of the country in Iowa, so travel to a port was a big concern for us. It seems that airfare to places like Miami would cost us almost as much as the cruise itself so we decided we would drive. Once we made that decision I looked into which ports were within driving distance and decided that Galveston was our best choice. It is about 16 hours from our house to Galveston, TX. We broke that into two days travel time which allowed us to take our time and enjoy the trip.
Once we decided this was something that would work for us we looked at which cruises were available out of that port. There was a 7 day cruise on the Magic or a 5 day cruise on the Triumph. Since we had never cruised before we didn't know what the correct length of a cruise should be. We decided to try the 5 day on the Triumph. We booked our cruise and excursions, paid for hotels and parking and then I am sure you can guess where this story is going. There we were finishing up our premarital counselling and my soon to be wife says that everything is going very smoothly and now here only concern is that something happens to our cruise ship and we are stuck in the ocean eating spam and pop tarts for a week. Cut to the next morning when I see on the news that a carnival ship had caught fire the night before. I think to myself, "what are the chances...." Yep that was the ship we were supposed to be on. I tried not to panic but knew that we already had paid for everything and needed to figure out what we were going to do. I went online and saw that the Magic departed the next day and still had balcony rooms available, so when I got home I called Carnival right away. I was on hold for about 2 1/2 hours which is understandable considering how many cruisers had to re-book. Once I got a hold of someone it was pretty easy to re-book our cruise and get what we wanted. We ended up having to pay a few hundred dollars more than what we had paid even with our discount. Carnival got our excursions refunded within a few days and we were able to get all of our new excursions booked quickly. I also purchased the Faster to the Fun program which I will talk more about later.
I should mention that in Galveston we decided to stay at the "Inn at the Water park" which isn't the nicest hotel I have ever stayed at but the rooms were clean and very large, they offered a discount for Carnival cruisers, they had a free shuttle to and from the port and they allowed us to keep our car there during our cruise at no cost. So overall I would recommend them to anyone looking for a place to stay before a cruise.
On the day of our cruise we took the shuttle to the port at 9:00 am and as soon as we got there people were at the bus ready to help us with our bags. We got into the terminal and because of the FTTF program we didn't have to wait in the long line and we got checked it and got our S&S cards very quickly. We then moved to the priority boarding area. Since we got there so early we knew we would have to wait but as soon as the ship was ready we got on board and could instantly go to our rooms and relax (another benefit of FTTF). We went to lunch on the Lido deck and when we got back our bags were already at our room (Thank you FTTF) so we got to have everything unpacked before the muster drill. Which was nice because then we just got to relax the rest of the day. At this point having the priority boarding, rooms ready when you went on board and faster luggage delivery I already knew that the $50 I spent on the Faster to the Fun program was well worth it.
Our room was a balcony on the 8th floor room 8319. It was great. I wasn't sure what to expect because I knew that rooms on board a ship are smaller than normal hotel rooms but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes the room was smaller than normal but the amount of storage space was surprising. We were able to unpack our 4 suitcases and two carry on bags (yeah we probably over packed) and still had room to spare. The view off the balcony was great, I spent so much time just looking out over the water during our trip. Our room steward was awesome but unfortunately I can't remember her name (I am so bad with names) she came and introduced herself and then new us by name every time we saw her in the halls. The only bad part about our room was the shower and maybe it is because I am new at cruising but every time we used the shower our entire bathroom floor got covered in water.
We did all of our diners in the MDR. We had late dining in the southern dining room. Our headwaiter King did a great job and was very friendly and attentive. Everyone else who helped out was great as well. The first night of our cruise they brought us a piece of cake with a candle and sang us a Happy Honeymoon song which was very nice. The dinners were very nice, I tried a lot of foods I had never tried before because I knew that if I didn't like it I could just order something else. I was pleasantly surprised with what I ended up liking. The desserts were very good, I recommend the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. I do not recommend the diet pumpkin pie, it was not delicious.
Breakfast and lunch
Most days for breakfast we either had room service or the buffet on the lido deck. Dont forget that if you go off the buffet near the pool you can get waffles, french toast and pancakes. I didnt see that the first day but once I did I liked the buffet more.
A few days we went to the comedy brunch which was very good I got steak and eggs for breakfast one day and fruit loops covered french toast the other.
For lunch we did either pizza, the buffet, the Italian restaurant or the red frog pub. The Italian restaurant does a free pasta bar during lunch but it is very loud in there because the basketball court is directly above the dining area, a few times it sounded like they were going to fall through the ceiling. The food at the Red Frog Pub costs extra but it is very good.
Night life on board
We went to most of the shows on board and they were very good. Towards the end it got a little old because it was the same singers each night but the shows were very different. We went to the Vibe dance club a few times and really enjoyed ourselves but most of the time we went to the Red Frog Pub. The bartenders were very nice and the drinks and music were great. I recommend getting a fishbowl to drink it costs about $25 but it is probably the best value on board.
The cruise director for this cruise was James Charlton he did a very good job. He looks pretty young but was very good at what he did. I am not sure when he got a chance to sleep as he was at the deck party and shows every night and up bright and early for his morning show. I only interacted with him a few times but he seemed very nice and friendly. Another member of the entertainment staff that stood out was Mikey Mike He is very full of energy and really seems to love his job. I think he will make a great cruise director some day.
I enjoyed the trivia contests they had and I really liked the trivia they played in the glass elevator. I had a ton of fun doing the digital scavenger hunt and walked away with my first Ship on a Stick.
Ports and excursions
The excursions through Carnival are a little more expensive than ones through other companies but I like knowing that the ship wont leave without me. The port that I will remember for a long time is the Cayman Islands. This port is a tender port and with the Faster to the Fun program we got priority tender so we got off the ship very quickly. The excursion we did was the SeaTrek Helmet dive. They take you out on a boat and then you climb down a ladder 28 ft below and walk around on the bottom. The tour guides down there are really fun they show you what happens when your helmet fills with water and they help relax you. They also have fish food they put in your hands so that the fish come right up to you and eat out of your hands. It was very cool.
Faster to the Fun got us priority disembarkation and we were off the ship exactly at 7:45 as advertised.
Overall it was a great trip there were a few downsides that I will cover now.
Kids: Usually kids don't bother me and for the most part I zoned them out on this cruise but since this cruise was right around Easter there were a lot of children on board and they were running up and down the hallways all night long. This isn't really Carnivals problem as they give the kids lots of fun activities to do but is more a problem of parents leaving their children unattended. I didn't let this ruin my cruise but I know there were a lot of people that were annoyed about this. I will probably just make sure not to book at times when schools are out of session in the future.
Pictures: I don't understand why they have the pictures printed out in the sizes they would like to sell and not the size I want. I took some pictures with friends we made on board but the pictures were printed out as an 8X10 for $22 I don't need an 8X10 of these and I asked if we could get smaller pictures and they said I would have to buy the 8X10 and then I could order other sizes as well. There were 4 or 5 pictures I would have purchased if they were available in a smaller/cheaper size but instead I just put them in the recycle box.
Overall I really enjoyed this cruise and will book another cruise with Carnival in the future and encourage everyone else to. Please ignore CNN and you will realize that Carnival goes out of thier way to make sure you have FUN, FUN, FUN!!!