Chilly January - But Magic Provides Fun: Carnival Magic Cruise Review by 2Okies
Overall Member Rating
Chilly January - But Magic Provides Fun
Destination: Western Caribbean
We just got off the Carnival Magic which went to Roatan, Belize & Cozumel. This was our first cruise in the month of January. While we LOVED the prices, we didn’t particularly like the “iffy” weather in January, which was at times chilly, overcast or drizzly. We only had about 1 ½ days of good deck weather where we could actually sit in the sun on deck and enjoy relaxing in a deck chair. It was never warm enough to enjoy the Dive-In movies which we have enjoyed on other cruises.
First, I’ll tell you about our stay in Galveston. We used Priceline, and got the Galveston Beach Hotel which is right on the Seawall & 17th, and is an EXCELLENT hotel! We were so pleased, and we only had to pay $70/night! We had a balcony that looked right out on the ocean. I believe all their rooms have balconies. It does not More serve free breakfast, but does have a dining room where you can buy breakfast. We went to Denny’s about a block East of the hotel which was a lot cheaper. I believe this hotel does offer free cruise parking to guests that stay at the hotel, and their parking is behind the hotel in a locked fenced area. You have to have a code to enter the gate. We had already made previous parking arrangements or we might have considered it. Anyway, you only had to drive north on 17th to Harbor Side Drive to any other parking place to get to the ship. We chose Park-n-Cruise because it has covered parking (in an actual inside garage). We parked, pulled our 3 pieces of luggage across the street to the terminal & turned them into the porter and entered the terminal building. On return, we were some of the first to disembark after the VIP’s, and we were across the street & in our car heading home by 7:30AM.
Check-in was a breeze. We have passports, and that makes things go so quickly. We were directed to the waiting area, and had to wait until about 1PM to board the ship. The cruise before us had arrived late because of fog.
Lunch first day: Once on the ship, we went directly to the Italian restaurant, by-passing the Lido buffet which was busy. (stairs to this restaurant is located in the Lido, behind one of the buffet lines). The restaurant is free every day at noon, but costs $12/person at night. They give you “menu” & you check off what kind of pasta, sauce, meat, bread & salad you want. It comes in a bowl. Its very tasty. Then downstairs for dessert at the buffet.
Cabin: After lunch we checked to see if our room was ready, and it was. We were on deck 2 in a Cove balcony for the first time, midship in room 2338. It was a very quiet room, and we only occasionally heard any noise from above at night, but all was quiet after about 11:30 or 12AM. It was awesome being that close to the water. One day I did see dolphins, but they were more towards the front of the ship. Last year we were on the 7th floor in a balcony, and I think our room might have been just a little bit bigger. If we remember correctly, I think our bathroom might have been a little bigger. However, the size of the Cove’s bathroom was just fine. We were just 1 floor down from our dining in Southern Lights. Being at midship on 2 was pretty smooth, even though we had a few bumpy rides during the week. The only disappointment with this room is that our steward wasn’t the best. We’ve always had super service, but this time was not as good. I never even met the steward all week. My DH talked to him once the first day. We passed him in the hall a couple of times, but he never really engaged us, other than a hello. He would never fill our ice bucket – and we’ve never had to ask for that on any other cruise. We finally left him a note to please fill it every day. A couple of times I put dirty towels in the floor, and he hung them back up! Our bed was made every day, but the sheets would always be scrunched up at the foot, and I would have to pull them down & retuck them to make it comfortable. We had one small water glass in the bathroom, and he never replaced it all week – or brought another for my husband to use. Our deck windows or door were never wiped down, and looked pretty bad by the end of the week, to where you couldn’t see out of them very well. The banister of our balcony always had salt on it, even after he had just cleaned – so I don’t think he ever touched the balcony at all. However, we would walk by other rooms being cleaned and saw the stewards cleaning the glass, etc. I guess the service could have been worse, but it definitely wasn’t the best we’ve ever had on ship.
Sea Days: We decided that January may not be the most ideal time to cruise if you want to enjoy much time on the deck. We probably had a total of 1 ½ days at sea that we could really enjoy without getting chilled. We discovered the BBQ place on deck 5 about midship during sea days. They had sliders and hotdogs. The sliders cooked over charcoal were delicious! We ate there every sea day except the last one – and that was only because the weather was so cold & windy outside they didn’t have it open. We also loved the salad bar just inside the door from the BBQ. You can choose the type of greens, meat, toppings & dressing. It was only open at lunch and was so good!
Dining Room: We had every night meal at the Southern lights and sat at a table for 8. We had 3 other couples at our table, and we all came every night. We thoroughly enjoyed all of the food. I don’t think we had anything we didn’t like. Our waiters were very good, and would remember our choice of drinks, bread, etc. , and all of our names. We had a table by the window – which really doesn’t matter much in January because it was always dark by 6pm – our dining time, and you couldn’t see anything anyway. From our table, we also couldn’t see anything going on in the middle part of the dining room, so when they had the waiters singing we couldn’t see anything – just hear it. That was a little disappointing. Other than that, we really enjoyed the dining room. The food was great. One note: We received the tickets for a free drink, available only during brunch. We didn’t go to redeem them until the last day at sea. They have two drink stations set up outside the Southern Lights dining room. We didn’t realize that you really didn’t have to eat brunch to get the drinks. Just a FYI for anyone who gets these free tickets! We did eat there for brunch, but we weren’t that impressed with the selection. Mostly breakfast type dishes, and we were there more towards lunch.
Sports & Activities: My DH joined in on a dodge ball game the first morning at sea. His team won that day. He went back every other sea day to play – and by the last day, it had become a pretty big deal on ship! Pretty much the very same players came back every day (about 20 on each team) and they had developed fan bases that were watching on both sides. The coach was awesome, and even though there was some high competition going on , all the players were very good sports and were all having fun. My DH’s team won every day of the challenge, and my DH was even chosen as one of the MVP’s of the week – the coach chose 6. He got a medal which he is very proud of. He also played bean bag toss, ring toss, ladder toss, AND got to judge the Miss Carnival contest. He got 2 more medals for winning ring toss & judging. We enjoyed a couple of comedy shows, and main theater shows. My DH volunteered a couple of times and was on stage. Once he dragged me along – when the Magician did his card trick. The next time he was on the stage with the juggler – which turned out to be hilarious. My DH is more of an “extrovert” where I tend to just like to sit back and watch. There was always something to do on the ship, even though we did have to stay indoors a lot because of the weather. We did get to do the ropes course one afternoon, and played a game of putt-putt. Both are fun and challenging.
Spa: This was my first time to enjoy the spa. I had a Tip-to-Toe massage one of the Sea days when they run ½ price. It cost me $160 (which included a 20% automatic gratuity). It was an awesome massage, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, they try to sell you all the products they used on you once it is over, but I just said a polite “no” and left .
Overall, we really enjoyed this cruise. We met some wonderful people. Our dining-mates were all very nice, and we had things in common with all of them. We met others during excursions or around the ship. We exchanged phones & emails with some of them, because we want to keep in touch. The only downside to this trip was the weather wasn’t ideal the entire time, but not enough to spoil the trip. You make your own fun. We feel we are on vacation, being treated like royalty, eating super good, getting entertained – so what is there to complain about?
I have left reviews on the forum pages of all of our ports, and will also add them below.
Magic is a great ship. We hear she will dry dock next February for about 40 days to be fitted with the new upgrades. Less
Cabin review: 2338
We were on deck 2 in a Cove balcony for the first time, midship in room 2338. It was a very quiet room, and we only occasionally heard any noise from above at night, but all was quiet after about 11:30 or 12AM. It was awesome being that close to the water. One day I did see dolphins, but they were more towards the front of the ship. Last year we were on the 7th floor in a balcony, and I think our room might have been just a little bit bigger. If we remember correctly, I think our bathroom might have been a little bigger. However, the size of the Cove’s bathroom was just fine. We were just 1 floor down from our dining in Southern Lights.
Port and Shore Excursions
Sergeant Cay Snorkel
The excursion ferry picked us up right at the ship so we didn't have to tender ashore & then catch another ferry. This was very convenient. The ferry was a double decker type ferry w/an open top on the top deck. It was probably a 20-25 minute easy ride to the reef which is out in the middle of the ocean, and probably 15-20' deep in most places. They insisted we wear the snorkel vests, which I was personally kind of glad for because the current was pretty strong and I'm not a very strong swimmer. They had 2 guides in a kayak, and 1 with a life preserver out in the water. They do try to keep you all together, and there might have been around 40-50 on our excursion. So, sometimes, we were getting kicked in the face or brushing up against someone else. More crowded than we would like. The reef formations out to the breaks were hit & miss, and I saw few fish. We had snorkeled the day before in Roatan at Maya Key - and this Belize snorkeling was in no way as beautiful. My husband did snorkel out closer to the breaks and he said it was starting to get more pretty, and there were more fish. However, the current was so strong, so I didn't even attempt to go out that far. After about 45 minutes, I came back to the ferry boat. My husband stayed out until it was almost time to head back - probably about an hour in the water.
We thought we had read that this excursion went to an actual island, but we never docked on land. We did pass a very small island that looked like it had a beach, some chairs, maybe a restaurant or bathroom facilities. We asked one of the guides about it, and he said that on some excursions they do take guests to that island. I guess ours wasn't one of those excursions. ??
We rode on the top deck on the way back, because we finally did have sunshine in Belize, and the warmth felt good. They served rum punch on the way back to the ship. The entire excursion took about 3 hrs. We were back about 11:30am.
After the excursion we went to our room, cleaned up, and took the ship ferry into the mainland to shop at the little port of shops that Carnival has built. There is a little shopping area right at the port. Its basically like all of the other "Carnival" ports with many of the same shops & restaurants. There are a few local type market shops thrown in. There was one doorway we saw where guards were standing by the doors and the "real Belize" was on the other side and men were out there trying you to come visit the "real Belize". I don't think the guards would keep you from going through that door, but are there to keep them from coming into the port area. However, we didn't go into that area. I don't know that I would advise it unless you have a "plan". We did have a friend we met on the ship that did go into the old Belize, because he was looking for a place to dock his sailboat if he was to sail it down from Houston. He said he didn't have any problems with a taxi, etc. But, I would be cautious entering the town without a plan.
We shopped around for a bit, bought a few souvenirs and caught the ferry back to the ship.
We just wanted to let people know that there is a small shopping area, and we did have time to enjoy some time on the mainland after our excursion - just to say we actually stepped foot on Belize land! There were a few bars, for those that like that sort of thing, too.
We have been to Cozumel numerous times, and we decided this time, to just have a relaxing day shopping along the main road. My husband hasn't been back to the "old town" of Cozumel in about 30 years, so he kind of wanted to see how things have changed. (A lot by the way!)
After we debarked, we walked through the Puerta Maya port area & caught a taxi and asked to be taken to the far side of city of San Miquel ($8). He dropped us off where the shops start, and we walked the entire way back to the ship that day (about 4 miles in all). We went in shops that interested us, walked around the town square. We found a cute little place along the shore to stop for a light lunch & watch the sailboats. It was very relaxing.
We have to say that Cozumel probably has the most beautiful water of any of the Caribbean ports we've been too (except maybe Grand Cayman). The water in Cozumel is the most beautiful shade of blue, and is so clear.
We chose Carnival's Maya Key + lunch. We have our own snorkel equipment. After the ship docks at Roatan, we walked right off the boat, up the pier, and into Carnival's shopping port. We saw many Carnival employees holding up Carnival excursion signs, and we just had to find ours. We had about 30 minutes before we were to leave, so we walked around some of the shops. Then, we followed the guide who walked us up the hill (the same hill that leads to Carnival's Beach), and down a path right to the ferry boat (maybe a 2-3 minute walk). Then the ride over to Maya Key was about 10-15 minutes on the ferry. (We could see our ship from the island.) Immediately after getting off the boat, an island employee briefed us on the different things the island has to offer - a ruin/nature walk, shark encounter, sea lions, animal rescue area, and the beach. There is a small gift shop with t-shirts & a few souvenirs. The facilities on the island are very nice, and the island is landscaped beautifully with lovely tropical flowers.
We walked down a path to the other side of the island (very short walk) and found a couple of chairs to put our beach bag & towels. We grabbed our snorkel gear & headed down the long pier towards the reef we had read about here on Cruise Critic. There is a gazebo type structure at the end of the pier where we could sit & put on our fins & masks before entering the water via ladders at the end of the pier. The water here is about 5'. There were guides sitting on the pier that told us how to follow the water bottles they have as markers out to the drop off. Then you can go left or right and follow the reef wall.
I have to say this was probably the most beautiful reef I have seen anywhere! It was absolutely gorgeous. Once you get out to the reef, it is 100% reef in such beautiful, colorful formations. We were disappointed it was so cloudy, as the colors would have been more vivid if there had been sun. There were 1000's of fish in all different colors, sizes & designs. Fascinating to say the least! We heard a couple of people say they saw lobsters & an octopus, but we could never find them. We saw plenty of other beautiful fish though. We could have stayed in there forever, but the hard rain that finally showed up drove us out.
My husband did the snorkel with the nurse sharks. They have about 13 sharks in a big penned off area, and it was $35 to snorkel with them. The guides fed the sharks while his group was in the water. My husband said they were longer than him, and he's 6'. He loved it, and got some great pictures. They didn't care if you took your own camera in the water to take pictures. There were also a few stingray in the pen, turtles, lobster, etc. My DH thoroughly enjoyed this adventure.
We had a few minutes while it quit raining that we did get to walk through the ruins and visit the animals.
The excursion provides a very tasty lunch under a pavilion with chairs & tables. As others have mentioned, you are given a colored paper bracelet at the pier before the excursion. As you go through the food line (buffet style) they will mark your bracelet - so you can only go through once. They had BBQ chicken, fried fish strips (which were very good) and a delicious homemade tartar sauce. There was also salad, banana chips, pickled onions and coconut rice & beans (which was also very good). We were impressed with the meal. A lot of excursion meals leave a lot to be desired, but this one was actually good.
We would HIGHLY recommend this excursion - especially if you want an EXCELLENT snorkel spot. If you are looking for a beach, and a place to swim, I wouldn't recommend this excursion. There is a very small beach with chairs, but the shallow water had a lot of grass in it.
Because of the rain, the ferry boats started coming out early to pick us up. They delivered us back to the port. We went back aboard the ship to wash off the salt water & change clothes, then went back out to shop at the port. We had plenty of time to leisurely shop and picked up a few good items to remember Roatan.