This was our 2nd-ever cruise, and we chose the same ship and itinerary as our first one!
FASTER TO THE FUN:
This time, Faster to the Fun was available, so we bought it. It wasn't particularly helpful at the cruise terminal, but it was well worth every penny of the $50 per cabin... The best part was the VIP line at Guest Services! Wow, that was great... We'll buy FTTF again in a heartbeat! Oh, and having our room ready and our luggage there was awesome too.
We stayed in a cove balcony, 2317 - It was mid-ship, near the forward section. Apparently our room was just beneath the Northern Lights dining room, but we never had any noise that we noticed. The cove balcony was wonderful, and we will probably book one of these again! It's the least expensive balcony you can get, and it's very private. We were just about 30 feet above the water line, and this particular cabin wasn't completely secluded by life boats - There was a gap after the first two life boats, and we were just under the very front edge of the third one. As in all of the rooms, there was plenty of room under the bed to store our luggage, and ample space in the closets and drawers. Per recommendations I've read on various cruise sites, I took an over-the-door shoe holder to put on the closet door to store sunblock, sunglasses, deodorant, etc. We brought a bungee cord to keep the balcony door open, and this time I remembered clothes pins to secure our clothes to the retractable clothes line in the shower! A pleasant surprise this time, was that the balcony was great for extra room to dry swimsuits, water shoes, etc. I was afraid they would blow away, but even in our awful wind and high swells they stayed put just fine!
So the first couple of days, we were trying to out-run that awful cold front, and the water was SO rough! We left on Sunday, and Monday was the worst of it. It was windy and cold, and the water was so rough that they had to cancel the Grooveline stage show and close the outside decks for safety. There were a lot of people not feeling well, and I just felt tired. Personally, I kind of enjoyed the motion of the ocean - It was nice to be rocked to sleep by God's hand!
We enjoyed dinner in the Southern Lights Dining room on Sunday and Monday nights, and our waiter (Alan) was great. He did some napkin tricks for the kids, and even made them a special hat with napkins and coffee cups! Monday night was elegant night, and I had the lobster but didn't think it was all that great.
Rather than dressing up every night, and dealing with my two antsy six-year-olds, we opted to enjoy the lido buffet for dinner on our port days. Yes, there were lines, but the food was plentiful and good.
We did try the steakhouse on Tuesday night, and personally my lobster bisque and my filet mingon were the best I ever had! The cheesecake definitely wasn't New York style, but it was good. Having had the steak house experience now, I probably would recommend that you try it once - But I wouldn't pay $35 pp to do it again, when there is so much good food on the ship!
On our first cruise, I was very disappointed in the Pizza Pirate - The cheese was just weird. This time, it was TOTALLY different, and we all LOVED it! See my album for a picture of the menu. I do wish they had it available via room service! Oh well, I'll walk my lazy rear up there and get some when I want it!
Room service still had the standard sandwiches (hot and cold) and salads, all of which were good - A little more variety of hot foods would be nice though.
I loved the deli at 10 aft, near the tides pool and bar - Partially because we spent so much time back there! I never did try the Tandoor Indian food, but I wanted to. Hamburgers and hot dogs at the grill were a big hit, but often with long lines. I've got to give those guys credit though - I don't known how they keep up!
We knew from the last cruise, that we wanted to do the "Behind the Fun" tour - It can only be booked on the ship at the shore excursion desk, and there is only one tour per cruise. Well, that's what we were told, but there was actually another tour taking place the same time as ours. It's $95 per person, and they pointed out that it's non-refundable. We agreed and bought the tickets as soon as we boarded, then we were told that it would be at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, the last sea day before we got home. The problem is that Camp Carnival doesn't open until 10:00 a.m., so we asked what we should do. They told us to just tell the Camp Carnival team ahead of time that we would be doing the Behind the Fun Tour, and they would gladly take the kids at 8:00 a.m. for us - They did, and it all worked out fine! The tour itself was AMAZING. We started in the Prime Steakhouse at 8:30 a.m., and were lead by the HR director for the ship, Brett. He was very impressive, patient, and well-spoken. We started with the steak house chef, who I could not understand at all. That was kind of a bummer. I work with an international, very diverse group, but I just couldn't understand this guy. Next, we moved on to the main galley, where I had the same problem. We went on to see the zero deck loading and logistics area, environmental services, the engine control room, training areas, the showtime theatre stage and crew, and dressing room, the crew and staff mess areas, crew and staff-only areas around the ship, and ended on the bridge, where we met the captain. That was my favorite part! Captain alluded to the fact that they *might* be working on a 10-12 day itinerary for the Magic, out of Galveston... Aruba, Grand Turk, Curacao, and St. Thomas. Wouldn't that be awesome? We had our pictures taken at the very bow of the ship, and on the bridge, and were given quite a few complimentary 8"x10" prints that evening. We ended up in the private party room, where we were given our choice of a glass of champagne, a mimosa, or just orange juice. We also got a drawstring back-pack, a cap, a lanyard and a little bracelet as gifts.
Once we reached port in Montego Bay, Jamaica, you'd never know we had been in such awful weather. It was about 86 degrees, and humid! Last trip, we left the kids in Camp Carnival and ventured out to shop right there at the terminal. This time, we felt better about taking the kids out, as long as we were on a ship-sponsored excursion, so we decided to get out and see the island. The folks at the shore excursion desk were very helpful, as we waited until the last possible minute to go ask for recommendations for a kid-friendly, close-to-port, brief excursion. We bought tickets for one excursion, but decided we couldn't get everyone fed and ready in time... So even though the tickets were non-refundable, the shore excursion desk was so gracious to exchange our tickets for a later excursion, which was the "Montego Bay Highlights and Shopping" tour at noon. We made three stops - One at a craft market, one at the Rose Hall Shoppes, and finally a stop at Margaritaville. Hubby bought a Tissot watch in one of the shops at the Rose Hall Shoppes, and got a really good price. I was pleasantly surprised when talking to the shop owner, who kept swooning over my twins. It turns out that she also has six year old twin grandchildren, so we bonded and had a lot to talk about while Steve was shopping. At first I was kind of nervous when she was offering them cookies and bottled water, but she was really very, very nice. The tour was just enough of the island to get a taste and see some things. When arriving back at the ship, we were greeted by a marching band, which the kids enjoyed while waiting in line to board.
In Grand Cayman, we had pre-booked the Turtles, Turtles, and More Turtles Deluxe excursion through Carnival. We tendered in and got to the terminal very quickly, got our tour bracelets and lunch tickets, but we stood around sweating for about 45 minutes before we were ushered to a bus and taken to the turtle farm. Our bus driver, "Captain Morgan", was awesome. We were told to remember his name, that we were on bus number one, and that he was to pick us up at 11:30. When we got to the turtle farm, we were surprised at how bad the turtle poop smelled up the whole area! Sorry, just wanted to warn you. My six-year old daughter was gagging and did NOT want to stand around listening to the tour info! At the turtle farm, our tour guide was Tony. He was pretty good, but apparently he was jumping around among three tour groups, often leaving us standing around waiting for him, wasting time. To further confuse matters, he had another group that was supposedly on bus number one. So our groups eventually got mixed up, but it all worked out. I was personally glad when the tour part was over. Our family moved on to the saltwater lagoon, where you could snorkel with the turtles and the fish, but when walking in it was slimy. The kids and I don't swim very well, so we just kind of waded around for a while, before we heard someone say that there was a freshwater pool with a water slide. We headed over there, and wished we could have spent the whole day there! It was great, and also set up like a lagoon - It was a zero-entry rock pool, and the lifeguards at the waterslide were excellent! When one of our kids was about to come down the slide, the lifeguard would give us a thumbs-up so we would know to catch them. Sometimes we thought one of our kids was about to come down, and he would blow the whistle and tell us to get out of the way! After we got out of the pool and changed clothes, we went to the bar and restaurant to eat - They had a buffet of fried fish, BBQ chicken, dirty rice, fried plaintains, and punch, and it was good. The kids weren't really interested in that, so they also offered a cheeseburger, chicken strips, or hot dog - All with fries. One had the hot dog, and one had the chicken strips. We tendered back and got the kids all checked in at Camp Carnival, then hubby and I caught another tender back to go do a little bit of shopping. It was funny - That was about 1:00, and at that time most folks were heading back to the ship. We were two of only four people on our boat going toward the island, and our friends later told us that they were packed like sardines on their tender, and when we passed they said "Hey, look at that boat with only four people on it! WAIT! That's Steve and Sheila!!!" Hahaha...
For Cozumel, we had planned on going to Mr. Sancho's - But our friends' kids were already very sunburned from their excursion in Jamaica, and we also wanted to do some shopping. So our son stayed on the ship in Camp Carnival, and our daughter came with us into the shopping area just off the ship. We spent about three hours shopping, and found a few good deals - Nothing spectacular, but fair. We did use a lot of the coupons we got at the "Fun Finds" shopping show, to get free charms, a free drawstring backpack, and other goodies. I bought some bamboo sheets from the Cariloha store, and some Mayan Fiesta rum cakes. FYI, I liked these much better than the Tortuga brand that they sold on the ship and in some of the stores in port. The Tortuga cakes, to me, tasted heavily of alcohol - That may be what you want, but I enjoyed the Mayan Fiesta cakes' different flavors including Mexican Vanilla, Pina Colada, Coconut, Banana Daquiri, and Golden Original.
There is SO much to do on this ship... This was our second trip, and we still didn't get to do everything we wanted to do!
On Monday morning we went to the "Fun Finds Shopping Show", and got suckered into buying the $25 coupon book. It's kind of like the "Entertainment" books you buy, but be aware that they advertise a lot of free stuff, but you don't get all of those things up-front. You have to use coupons and go find them all and claim them in port. There was one item that we tried to get at two of the different ports, and we were told they didn't receive their shipment... Both times. The coupon book is huge, but there are coupons for all ports that Carnival travels to in the Caribbean, so just know that the whole book of coupons won't apply to your cruise. We went ahead and redeemed the coupons for all of the little trinkets and charms, and saved the book in case we go on another cruise to different ports any time soon. I didn't see any expiration dates on the coupons, so we'll see!
We saw the "Destination: Unknown" illusion show on Wednesday night, and it was spectacular! Camp Carnival took the kids to see the early showing, and they were blown away - They loved it, and so did we! "A Night of Magic with Mark" in the Spotlight Lounge was NOT that great...
On Thursday night we saw Kim Harrison's Adult Comedy Show - She is HILARIOUS! I love that woman! I'm now one of her many Facebook fans...
Friday night was hands-down, the BEST show of the cruise - "EDGE" was amazing, hilarious, and had me in tears! The show started out kind of slow, but we ended up walking out hurting from laughing so hard! I need to find out more about this guy, and stalk him on Facebook too!
Throughout the whole cruise, when we were waiting for something else to start or waiting for dinner, we enjoyed hanging out in the Ocean Plaza on deck 5, and watching karaoke and listening to trivia. Next time I'd like to do that more.
Camp Carnival, as always, was fabulous. I just can't say enough! The staff is beyond amazing!
All in all, it was a rough start but still a wonderful vacation. You can't control mother nature! Always take plenty of Dramamine - Even if you don't think you'll need it, take it just in case! I bought the childrens' Dramamine, and almost ran out. I was sweating it, because you can't buy it on the ship and I couldn't find it in any of our ports. And after the rough seas, the ship sold out of the regular Dramamine too...
I had been a bit worried about the temperature when traveling in January, but it's true what everyone said - Once we got to our destinations, you'd never know it was winter! It was just a bit too cold coming out of Galveston. I love the Carnival Magic, but having been on her twice now, we'll probably try the Triumph on our next cruise!