This was our 5th Carnival cruise in 8 years. We got our feet wet on a 5 day ecstasy cruise and fell in love. Next three on Conquest. All three were good, but it is amazing how quickly the lady showed her age over four years. Took a two year break and set sail on two year old Magic on April 4th. I'll try to be as informative as possible with this review!
First, make sure you pre-book your parking space if you drive. I highly recommend Lighthouse Parking. If you book on line at their site you pay $50 for the week (a $5 savings.)
EMBARCATION: Smooth as silk. Arrived at 10:45 and went straight upstairs. Checked in, sat down, and was on board in less than 20 minutes. People can carry up to two cartons of soda each, something I'll do next time. Tastes better and is much cheaper than buying soda on board, even with the soda stamp.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I LOVE the color scheme and decorative style of this ship! Ecstasy was like a garish casino out of an Austin Powers movie. The "impressionist artist" motif of Conquest grows old quickly, but this ship is bathed in lovely, cool color shades and pictures of flowers and birds. Very soothing! Magic is only two years old, but it is still a 9.5 on a 10 point scale for cleanliness, wear, and tear. In many ways it still looks like it was just unwrapped from the gift box and placed in the water! Glass is crystal clear, chrome shiny and scratch free. Carpets are clean with little sign of wear. We got into our stateroom at around 1:45. Nothing special for us, a family of four sharing an interior room with the good old bunk beds pulled down. Clean, small, but functional. Great place to sleep! In many ways the layout of the decks on Magic are identical to Conquest, just a little bit bigger. We had no trouble finding our way around.
DINING: Food quality was no better or worse than any cruise we've been on, with a couple of exceptions. First, the pizza (open 24 hours) on the port side of the mid deck pool is absolutely FANTASTIC! The nicest couple of pizza chefs prepare one amazing disk of razor thin crust, European style pie after another. A freshly made personal pizza takes only about 6-7 minutes to cook, and you have your choice of several styles. I hated the pizza on past cruises. Tasteless crust, no real flavor. But this stuff is incredible! The 2nd spot I highly recommend is the deli at the aft pool. Excellent sandwiches and panninis!
BREAKFAST: We always prefer to sit down and have a relaxing meal served to us. Starting at 10:30 and ending at 1:00 is a full brunch. Standard eggs, bacon, sausage, and many specialty items are offered. All were excellent except for the breakfast Mac and Cheese. It was tasteless and horrible. Other than that, the only complaint I have about the brunch is that Carnival decided to throw in a twist... It's called a "comedy brunch." Every half hour or so the relaxed breakfast vibe is interrupted by loud blaring music, a prerecorded audio introduction by George Lopez, followed by about 5 minutes of the lamest comedy that you can imagine by one of the comedians on board the ship. It's really just an advertisement for the comedy shows put on nightly in the aft lounge, and I didn't like it at all. Fortunately the schtick was over quickly and we could return to a relaxing breakfast. Note to Carnival: Drop the comedy and let people eat their breakfast in peace!
LUNCH: Standard fare, but the Mongolian stir fry is quite good, cooked to order. Highly recommended! If you like Indian food, head aft. I don't care for it, but the scent of curry is strong back there! To put it bluntly, Carnival burgers and hotdogs are terrible, but I see people pound them down like they were in fast food heaven. Very nice salad bars with endless deli meats (the salami is very good.) Fruits and veggies were fresh and colorful. Make SURE that you eat before 2:30. When they close a buffet line it doesn't matter if there is a ton of food left, you are NOT getting any!
DINNER: Nothing super special, but there was good variety every night. Great soups and tiny salad dishes, but for main course I have never been impressed with the quality of the beef dishes. The meat is always chewier than it should be. For me the beefy sauces have a somewhat off taste. Too much paprika or something. Lobster tail night was nice, and of course you can have as many plates of any appetizer or main course dish that you want. I'd typically get the shrimp cocktail and two soups every night. If you like Thai, the Tom Kah Gai soup was to die for. Best I've ever had! For desert, the famous Carnival molten chocolate lava cake was available on every night but the first. Unfortunately my favorite, the creme brulee was only offered the first night.
No midnight chocolate buffet any more, although it was offered during lunch on the last day at sea. Just didn't feel like loading up on chocolate in the middle of the day. Dumb idea!
CREW: Some reviewers have panned the friendliness and attentiveness of the servers and the porters. For us we could not have been happier. Not only were all crew members eager and happy to serve our needs, but they actively wanted to learn and address us by first names. High marks for these super hard working people!
A/C: As always, it NEEDS TO BE COLDER IN THE STATEROOMS!!! I had to sleep in my skivvies on top of the covers to stay cool enough. Bring a small fan with you if you can!
WATER AND SPORT ACTIVITIES: Very nice water slide park, super cool rope bridge course, somewhat narrow 1/7 of a mile track around the smoke stack. (I'm a jogger, and I was ready to bash some thoughtless people who strolled on the track and took up all available space between the railing and the bulkhead. Idiots!) And now my two biggest gripes about Magic: The lack of pool space. The mid ship pool is tiny. The aft pool is tiny. And that's it. Two tiny pools. 4000 guests. Who designed this??? Another major complaint: On Conquest the aft pool was for adults only. On magic kids can swim here. The problem: Drinking is MUCH MORE INTENSE at the aft pool, and (unlike Conquest) people are allowed to snarf down their beers, shots, and mixed drinks RIGHT IN THE POOL! We called this place "The Holler," because it would typically be filled with loud, obnoxious guests who got drunker and drunker, louder and louder, and more annoying as time went by. One guy was literally openly fondling the ample bosom of a woman (not his wife or girl friend) while kids paddled around right with them. Call me a prude, but this piggish behavior is so stupid and downright WRONG! There is NO adults only pool. There is a "serenity" deck for adults only, but they only have a couple of hot tubs. Nothing cool to relax in. Very bad planning.
DISEMBARCATION: As smooth as it could be, I guess. Since we went to Belize we were warned that customs would take longer, but it was just as short as any other cruise we've been on.
Port is a waste of time. Typical tourist garbage and vendors oozing out of every crack and crevice asking for your business. I hate places like this.
Excellent excursion experience. Learned how to make two kinds of marguaritas, 5 kinds of salsa, and delicious guacamole. Then we learned how to dance salsa! And the drinks were flowing! Highly recommended.