We spent the week of Dec 29, 2013-Jan 5, 2014 on “the beautiful Carnival Magic.” My mom treated my family of five as our Christmas present (Thanks, Mom!). There were seven of us on this trip: my mom, stepdad, myself, my husband and our three boys, ages 9, 6 and 3. It was a fantastic week overall, and a very fun way to ring in 2014!
First, I have to say, we all loved the Magic! The ship itself is laid out very well, with the only floor that you can’t go all the way from front to back is deck 3 because of the galley, oh, and decks 11 and 12 because the Lido deck is three levels high in the middle thanks to the big screen. It’s a very easy ship to find your way around. Most of the action is on decks 3, 4, 5 (restaurants, bars, coffee shop, arcade, shops, bars, photo gallery, shore excursion and guest services desks…) and the Lido deck 10, which has the buffet(s) and the pools and hot tubs. Camp Carnival is on deck 11, and my kids spent a lot of time up there! Deck 12 has the mini golf and on the opposite side is Waterworks (waterslides and water play area). My middle son had a blast playing all the games up on the sports deck – he wanted to play mini golf and foosball anytime we had a spare moment!
I sprung for Faster to the Fun for our two staterooms, and I think I will always do this. It made everything so much easier. We were one of the first to do just about everything, from boarding the ship, to receiving help at Guest Relations, and even tendering in Belize. We were group 1 at disembarkation, too, which was also very nice.
We drove to Galveston the night before and stayed at the Inn at the Waterpark. Our family of five stayed in the newer building, with two queen beds, and the room was surprisingly big, and very clean. It was comfortable and a good choice for a quick one-night pre-cruise stay. The price was only about $12 more than paying for cruise specific parking during the week of our cruise, and gave us a leisurely morning before heading to the port. The Inn offered three different shuttle times for their free shuttle to the port, 9:30am, 10:30am and 11:30am. We parked our van along the white fence within sight of the front office before we left, and had no worries about leaving it there for the week. The ride over to the port was about 20 minutes.
We went to the open house on day 1, right after lunch. They were open from 12:30-3:30pm. I had already printed out my kids’ paperwork from Carnival’s website, and brought it with me then. I was able to finish filling it out there and hand it in, getting my three kids registered before we’d even sailed away – this made it a lot faster for me at drop off the next morning! I had a child in each of the three Camp Carnival groups, and I have to say, Carnival did a great job planning appropriate activities for each age. My six-year-old especially loved camp, he begged to go and was mad when we picked him up. My three-year-old, who is pretty clingy in general, was even happy to go each night – we dropped him off on the Lido deck for dinner and he’d stay until we were done with our evening activities. My boys stayed past 10pm – for Night Owls or specific parties twice – New Year’s Eve and then one night when they had specialty parties the boys were excited about. The cost was very reasonable considering the time they were spending there, and the kids all came back with goodie bags filled with fun things. Camp Carnival was such a treat – for my husband and I to have some alone time, and also for my kids who genuinely enjoyed it. The staff was fantastic, too. They were all welcoming and friendly, and very happy to answer any questions, even if we were just stopping by to make sure the kids were having a good time. I believe the Camp Carnival Coordinator on the Magic is named Petru, aka Noodle, and she definitely sets the standard for her staff – GREAT job, Noodle and Camp Carnival!!!
We ate all over the Magic! Lido deck buffet, Prime Steakhouse, Northern Lights assigned dining, Southern Lights sit-down breakfast, Cucina del Capitano, Oceanside BBQ…
Overall lines on the Lido deck weren’t bad. I had an omelet for breakfast almost every morning and I rarely had to wait behind more than one or two people. Bacon was served right next to the omelet station and there never seemed to be a line for that (I’m a vegetarian so I don’t eat bacon, but I know it’s a religion to some people so I took notice.) Once the bacon guy thought I wanted some as I was waiting for my omelet and he pulled out a big ol’ chunk for me – maybe six pieces? Not sure, I declined, but he was very friendly and happy and ready to serve me some bacon. Selection was good every day we were there, but I did notice by our last morning that they were out of Frosted Flakes, and I only noticed because they are my favorite, but I figured I could get those at home, so off I returned to the omelet station. My 3-year-old likes pancakes, and for pancakes and waffles you have to go to the buffet outside by the main pool – it’s the same line they serve burgers and fries and chips and queso at lunch and dinnertime. It was a bit of a trek from our regular table on the aft end of the Lido, but I made the walk for my boy. Lines weren’t short, but they moved, so he got his pancakes.
The longest lines by far were for pizza. I would never wait in the lines they have at lunch and dinnertime. The pizza is good, but IMO not that good. I got pizza on a shore day when we returned for lunch and one night while they were showing Iron Man 2 on the big screen, no wait either time.
We ate at the Prime Steakhouse on our second night on board. The staff was very attentive and friendly, and we got a free sampler appetizer from the chef (I think this is standard). My first thought was, “Wow, we are sitting really close to the people next to us.” Seriously, we could have been at the same table, maybe four inches between the tables? The food was just ok IMO. Keep in mind that I’m a veg, so I can’t speak to how good the steak is. I ordered the lobster and it was by no means better than what’s served on Formal nights in the dining room. I’m glad I experience the steakhouse, but unless I was with someone who really wanted to go back, I wouldn’t.
We had early assigned seating in the Northern Lights dining room. Our headwaiter was Orlando and he was fantastic. He was uber friendly, he never seemed to be in a rush, he knew our names, was happy to answer our questions and talk to us in general. He had my 3-year-old’s order memorized by our second visit there (He is a very attached boy, and insisted on going to “fancy dinner” with us a few times - he would order his food, scarf it down, and then I would deliver him to Camp Carnival while we waiting for our main course. It was perfect!!) The entire wait staff in Northern Lights seemed pleasant, and by mid-trip the shot guys that come around to the table knew I was an easy mark. I had eight shot glasses to my name by trip’s end. Dinner was one of my favorite parts of the vacation, the food was good, service was excellent, and I didn’t have to spend hours in the kitchen at all for a week! I LOVED it.
We ate breakfast in Southern Lights on one of our shore days. It was nice to sit down, but service was a little slow, and honestly, with a 3 and 6-year-old boy, I’d rather just go to buffet (my 9-year-old is pretty easy going – I can take him anywhere â˜º). If it were just my husband and I, we would have probably gone to the dining room for sit-down meals more often.
My husband really liked the made-to-order salad bar on deck 5, midship. They had every kind of veggie and topping you could think of – I’m serious, they had probably 40 different bowls of food, and you just told the Salad Maker what you wanted. There were also had turkey wraps and chips and salsa (yum!) self-serve on the counter in front of the Salad Maker.
Ports of Call:
Mahogany Bay, Isla Roaton – we planned nothing for this port because I’d read that Carnival had built up this port and you could walk to a nice beach in sight of the cruise ships. It’s true. We got off, walked through the built up shops, by a Fat Tuesdays that my husband and I would have totally hung out at if we hadn’t had our youngest two in tow! Then, we headed to the beach. We hadn’t rushed off the boat in the morning so there were already a bunch of people there, but we found a fence to hang up our bag, our six-year-old parked himself in the sand, and we played in the water. We spent our time in the water and the kids played in the sand, and when we were tired of that, we walked back to the ship. It was just right for us!
My stepdad and my nine-year-old son took a Carnival shore excursion with glass bottom kayaks and snorkeling and they had a great time. My son had never snorkeled before and hearing his excitement about his adventure was fun for me. He’d never seen anything like that, and I could tell he’d paid a lot of attention to their guide as he explained things – my boy was rattling off types of fish and coral and telling me interesting facts about this underwater world he’d just seen. It was awesome.
Belize City, Belize – we booked a Goff’s Caye excursion through Island Marketing, aka the “Sunkissed Beach and Snorkel” tour, and met their guy at the end of the pier who lead us to the kiosk to check in. It was a long walk (about 1/3 of a mile) for my mom who is unsteady on her feet down to the kiosks inside an enclosed mall. In hindsight, I probably would have sent my husband and my stepdad down to check us in, then come back and tell us which slip we were taking out to Goff’s Caye so my mom and three kids (well, the younger two) could have avoided some of that walking. The boat ride out there was about 25 minutes from Belize City. Goff’s Caye was an island paradise. Seriously. It’s like a screen saver. We found a spot under a palm tree and hit the beach. There was some rough sand and rocks at first, but when you got far enough out in the water the same was very smooth and nice. Plus, the water was very shallow. We were quite a bit out from the beach and my three-year-old could still stand. One big tip I have for people making this trip is to get lunch early – like about 11:30am. We got our chicken and lobster, $8 and $10 CASH a plate respectively, with little wait. They also sold some candy (M&Ms, Pringles and other vending machine type snacks) and the best – real Coke in a GLASS bottle for $2. I love Coke in a glass bottle, made with sugar. They also had Belkin beers there, 2 for $5. Water, rum punch and fruit punch were complimentary. My family and my mom didn’t go snorkeling, but my stepdad did and he said it was good. He has his own snorkel equipment with prescription lenses, if that gives you and idea of the kind snorkeler he... After our day in paradise we boarded our speed boat and headed back to the port. We were back with enough time to get a drink, or do a little shopping, but our kids were tired and super sandy so we just grabbed a tender and headed back to the Magic. I wouldn’t worry at all about the port in Belize – I felt plenty safe there with my family, and I was very comfortable with Island Marketing and our tour. I’d do it again tomorrow if I could!
Cozumel, Mexico – we went to Mr. Sanchos. No mystery here, it’s all over the boards and a crowd favorite for a reason! We took a van taxi from the Taxi line, with tip for seven of us it was about $40 CASH each way. We paid our balance at Mr. Sancho AI side with a credit card as my husband didn’t want to bring so much cash with us and it was no problem. The problem was not having enough cash to shop at the port when we got back from Mr. Sanchos! My kids sent an extra $20 on personalized shark tooth necklaces and a Cozumel magnet. It was fun to see them bargaining with the venders. My least favorite part of Cozumel (it really stands out because I LOVE it there!) is having to go through the mile-long duty free shop to get back on board the ship. Ugh. I hate navigating through all those glass bottles and other crap through crowds of people and employees with a huge beach bag and three sandy, tired, little boys… I think I held my breath the whole way! Other than that it was a great day at Mr. Sanchos – exactly as advertised! Great view, great beach, great drinks and we couldn’t drag our boys out of the pool with it’s swim up bar - thank goodness Mother Nature helped us out by starting a rain storm! Mr. Sanchos I hope to see you again soon!
She’s a HUGE ship, but she doesn’t feel that way, unless your walking down the hall way to your room. The walk seems much shorter if you walk through the casino or the Lido deck. Why is that?
Speaking of our room, 6440 for anyone curious, our room steward was fantastic. Our room was cleaned twice – once in the morning, and once for turn-down while we were at dinner. And I mean, the room was cleaned - beds made, trash emptied, fresh towels, even toilet scrubbed. We must have dumped half the beach out after our day in Belize, and there wasn’t a trace of sand left behind after she’d been there. And the towel animals always had personal touches – like our sunglass, or our boys’ toys and even my youngest’s swim trucks once. So cute!
Our cruise was at capacity and we rarely felt crushed by crowds or waited for any thing. The elevator after a comedy show was one of our longest waits, but if my mom didn’t have a scooter we could have just taken the stairs right up to our room and would have been back in a flash. I have to say I have a new appreciation for those with mobility issues after seeing my mom maneuvering around with a scooter this cruise, but she doesn’t have quite the practice with it since she at home she can walk with a cane, just not the distances required on a moving ship. She was well taken care of by Carnival, though. They were able to get her a wheel chair at embarkation and disembarkation which really helped, and her scooter was waiting for her in her stateroom when we were on board. Not to mention, the one morning she ate in the Lido deck without us some of the wait staff there recognized her and brought her her breakfast – coffee, juice, food and all! I was floored and so very greatful to them for looking out for her!
Overall, the Magic by far has the friendliest and most helpful cruise staff we have ever experienced. She is a CLEAN and comfortable ship, very large but doesn’t feel it because she is very thoughtfully laid-out – and nice to look at, too. We had a really, really great time! In fact, we are already looking at sailing her again.