I generally try to book on cruise lines other than Carnival, and recent media reports of Carnival cruises did little to encourage me, but wanting to sail out of a port close to home and not finding any affordable options other than Carnival, I took a chance on a weeklong Carnival cruise out of Galveston, aboard the Carnival Magic, and overall, I have to say, it was better than expected.
The ship is a newer one, and offers some unique features (for example, dual bathrooms in our cabin, including a small tub, which was an amazing feature!) The energy-saving feature which required one to leave a key in the wall pocket in order to keep the lights on was annoying but undoubtedly served a purpose. We had four closets, which was nice! and the cabin layout, while typically narrow, was effective. Cabin decor was seriously lacking, but the bedding was comfortable.
The ship layout was easily negotiated, and while the ceilings seemed lower than most, the ship's design had a unique means of seeming more intimate and providing more personal space than I remember experiencing on any ship in the past? The atrium lighting changed colors, which was a cool touch, and almost distracted one from the odd "green eyeball" light fixtures which are sure to become dated very soon.
The pools on this ship seem particularly small, although the multiple hot tubs are a nice touch. The sports court was especially impressive, along with the "SkyCourse" (which appeared to be closed nearly every day of our cruise) and the two giant water slides, which my kids absolutely adored.
The crew on this particularly cruise seemed especially kind to me and my children (with the exception of the Excursions Desk, which gave us some false information causing us to book a completely unimpressive excursion to Passion Island, an experience we would never ever repeat!) My children did try out the Camp Carnival but found it far less engaging than the children's program on other cruise lines we've experienced, so they opted to spend their time elsewhere.
My only real complaints about the Carnival Magic would be the food quality, which was consistently unimpressive (I had a "filet mignon" filled with disgusting yellow fat and gristle, and the waiter told me my experience was not uncommon, as the meat was consistently getting complaints!?) and the number of nonoperative elevators throughout the cruise.
Be forewarned, however: unlike other ships, the formal dining room is not open for breakfast and lunch, only for a lame, limited-menu Punchliner brunch with all pre-prepared food options, and the movies shown on the huge outdoor screen are seriously outdated ("Mamma Mia" and "A League of Their Own" were two of the prime time offerings during last week's cruise, and both have obviously been out on video for years.)
On the other hand, I found that this Carnival ship was kept far cleaner than any other Carnival cruise I've ever sailed on, and best of all, this was the first and only cruise ship I have EVER been on that actually had more than enough deck lounge chairs for its passengers, which is a huge plus!!