When sailing on the flagship of a cruise line it is reasonable to expect that that cruise will be memorable for the quality of service, friendliness of the staff and crew, and general overall newness of the vessel. That was my expectation when boarding Carnival MAGIC at the Port of Galveston April 14, 2013 for a seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise. The end-product turned out to be disappointing.
On the plus side, I must say that the embarkation process at Galveston was the smoothest experienced in 22 years of cruising. From arrival at the terminal to boarding the ship to access to our cabin to luggage delivery went without a hitch. Arrived at the terminal around 11:00 am and by 1:00 pm we were in the cabin and unpacked and settled in for the cruise. Service in this regard was outstanding!
In the past my wife and I have sailed on everything from Holiday-class vessels (Holiday and Jubilee) to Fantasy-class (Elation and Paradise) to Spirit-class (Pride and Spirit). We were looking forward to sailing in a Dream-class vessel because of how heavily favorable reviews made MAGIC seem like the ideal ship to sail in; not so much as we were to learn rather quickly once on-board.
Whether it's just the MAGIC or a trend across the entire Carnival fleet, it seems that Carnival is in decline as far as delivering a quality vacation experience.
There were positives to MAGIC. Notably Red Frog Pub for both an excellent house brew and great pub grub; and, most certainly, the Chef's Table, a to-die-for experience of great food. However, these successes failed to outweigh the downside.
Entertainment was third-rate at best. The lounge acts would have difficulty getting a gig at a local bowling establishment much less any place where a less captive audience would tolerate "entertainers" signing off-key and attempting to cover songs well beyond their range and skill-level. The Las Vegas-style showroom productions were wanting for talent; surely those performing on cruise ships do so because they lack the talent to get better positions shore-side. DJ music has supplanted the live bands and groups that formerly performed for sail-away and deck parties. Music, in general, lacked the diversity found on 13 prior cruises on Carnival. Even the Cruise Director James fell well below what we have come to expect from a great Cruise Director.
Food in the main dining room was adequate in quality and presentation but certainly not on a par with shore-side moderate- to fine-dining establishments. Lido Buffet dining was disorganized and the absence of trays for transporting food from service lines to tables was a major turn-off and disappointment. The removal of the Sushi Bar; whether for cost-cutting; or, as was lamely explained to us, because Carnival is introducing full-scale Japanese restaurants to some ships, took away one of the truly pleasurable dining alternatives we had come to expect and enjoy on Carnival vessels.
In summation, MAGIC is anything but magical. A nice enough ship with a far less flamboyant decor than other ships in the Carnival fleet but certainly not one that I would rush out and book a future cruise vacation aboard. It is back to Spirit-class for this long-time Carnival cruiser.