I have wanted to take a cruise for a long time so when Christmas rolled around last year, I asked my husband that instead of gifts would it would be OK to give each other a cruise for and he agreed. Now that the cruise is over, I have to say that this was the best present either one of use could imagine. From the moment we arrived at the port until we drove away we were treated with courtesy and respect by all parties and had nothing but FUN FUN FUN for 7 days. I had not done any type of research beforehand and so my rationale for choosing the Carnival Magic was simple: we chose Carnival because we wanted to leave from Galveston, which is driving distance and the Magic because it was a 7-day cruise to interesting ports. I booked just before the Triumph incident but I wasn't too concerned. Things happen in life and you just have to deal with them. After I booked, I spent a lot of time on CC. I joined the roll call and read everything that provided tips on cruising. By the time we left, I was well prepared.
Embarkation - We did not have any trouble but expect crowds and congestion. Not only are you boarding but also the previous group is debarking at the same time. My husband dropped me and the bags off at the curb and he parked the car across the street at the parking garage. A porter came by and took the bags so all we had was our carry-on (The porters are well worth the couple of dollars a bag you tip them). Since I had bought FTTF (faster to the fun), we didn't have to wait in line to go through customs or get our boarding pass. Probably no more than 5 minutes before we were sitting in a special area, waiting out turn. Going through security is easier than the airport. If you have soda or wine, they will inspect the bags and the contents. Don't expect to pass liquor off as water in a water bottle. They know what to check for. Once our zone was called, we quickly had a picture taken, which is embedded on your Sail and Sign card and our Bon Voyage pictures taken (which will be available for purchase later on). I want to mention that the walkway to the board has a slight incline so if you are in a wheelchair, crutches or even just carrying a bag, it might be strenuous. Once on board, we went to our room (FTTF again), dropped off our carry-on bags and headed for lunch.
Dining - I am easy to please so I did not find the dining too bad. The scrambled eggs on the buffet were not great but you can get Omelets if you like. The crowds were mostly during the peak dining times. Because I wanted to sit near a window to eat, my husband and I would take turns getting our food while the other one guarded the table. A few times I had to clean off the table, but again, it depends on the time of day and where you want to sit. There were plenty dining options. We both liked the Tandoori, which my husband had never tried before, and the Mongolian stir-fry. I thought the salads were great and enjoyed the traditional buffet. We ate hamburgers one night and they were good. For dinner, we chose the Main Dining Room (Southern Lights). I highly recommend this dining experience because it is more than just food. Our table companions were super-nice and even thought they were a group of six, the included everyone else in the conversation. Our table steward, Leslie, was absolute the best. He and his team were fun, attentive, and always there when you needed them. They often brought us extra entrees and desserts, just to try out. I also loved the singing and dancing each night. I was sad to say good-bye to our new friends.
Cabin - we were in a cove balcony and I loved it! Some people say they never used the balcony but I was there first thing in the morning and in the evening. The coves are lower and close to the water. It was so relaxing to listen to the water. The cabins are small but we were able to move around just fine and we had plenty of places to put to the too much stuff we brought. Beds are comfortable as well.
Service - Carnival prides itself with putting customers first and it shows. We had no problems with service or anyone of the ship employees. Edi, our room steward, was great. He greeted me by name from day one. Our rooms were cleaned early every day (while we were at breakfast). At night, we had a small towel critter and candy waiting on our turned down bed. Every visit we were left with a refilled ice bucket. There are no coffee pots in the room so we ordered room service each morning, which was delivered promptly as specified. We did ask for juice a few times in the evening and service was slower. If I had to rate any service low, it would be calling room service itself. Sometimes they did not answer the phone, but apparently, you can order via the TV. Did not know that!
Entertainment - You are surrounded by entertainment and things to do. We went to one show, which was a phenomenal musical illusion show. This was a very professional production that would cost some bucks if you saw it off the ship. You also do not see the same show repeatedly. They bring new entertainers on board at each port, so lots of variety. We did find that unless you get to the show early you would not get a decent seat. This is a problem for early diners who do not want to wait until the 10 pm show. If you love music there is some everywhere you go. We only caught part of one comedy act, which was amusing. I went to one deck party and had a great time, but they start at 10:00 pm, which is a little late for some of us older people. I wish they started a little earlier. I even enjoyed listening to Karaoke, which surprised me. We did go to the casino a few times but did not win anything (surprise); however, there are fun events that you can take part of as well.
Excursions - Our Cozumel excursion was cancelled and we got an immediate refund via our on-board credit. I was OK with that. They did offer us a spot on another excursion that was the same cost but we chose to eat and shop instead. I plan to write a separate review of the excursions rather than rate them here. Carnivals are a little more expensive that private ones you get yourself but they are also easy to use and you don't have to worry about the ship leaving you behind. Two excursions were very late getting back (15 minutes after we were supposed to sail). Since they were Carnival excursions, the boat waited and there was even a police escort to get them back sooner.
As far as other recommendations, I suggest the cooking demo at the steakhouse. You get to sample the food, which is incredible, and it is close enough to lunch you don't need a lot more. Buy the FTTF pass. It is worth the money. Join a roll call group and get to know some people before hand. We had a meet and greet, which was a lot of fun and we made some new friends. And don't sweat the small stuff. Not everything is perfect. Don't fret over the problems other ships have had. Nothing went wrong on the Magic. It is a great ship and the people who operate it are top-notch. Don't feel you have to fill every moment with something to do. Just have fun where you can find it and relax the rest of the time. As a final note. I loved the Magic so much that I booked another cruise today for late September. I even got my same room again. Looking forward to the FUN FUN FUN.