Living near to the port this was my fourth trip on the Magic in the last year. Each previous cruise had been very pleasant with many enjoyable memories. The two cruises that preceded this one had been delayed due to fog and I have to say that Carnival did an excellent job of keeping us alerted to the situation via e-mail and also a phone call. I awoke the morning of embarkation and checked the webcams at the port and sure enough there sat the Magic so no problems with fog.
Having Platinum status in the VIFP made embarkation a fast and efficient operation. Again, I have to give a thumbs up to Carnival for handling the priority boarding in a very good manner. The cabins were also ready and at that point I was all set to enjoy a repeat of all the good memories of the past cruises on Magic.
On boarding I immediately noticed a different attitude from crew members than previously. Before there were smiles and warm greetings but this time the crew seemed stressed and tired. Reaching the 12th deckwhere my cabin was located I noticed that the halls were still littered with dirty linens and dishes. The cabin itself was ok, but appeared to have been hastily done and not up to the standard I had enjoyed before. I didn't see a cabin attendant anywhere and it wasn't until much later that evening that one was in the hall. From the conversations I heard it sounded like the cabin attendants were doing double duty and were overwhelmed.
The Lido Buffet was the easiest option for lunch and as usual there was plenty of food, nothing special, but edible. I also noticed that the staff in the Lido area seemed to lack direction, many tables were in need of being cleared yet bus staff were standing around talking with each other. I don't want to be overcritical and realize this was embarkation day with a lot of extra work.
On my past cruises on the Magic one of my favorite times of the day was 5:30PM where you could get a glass of wine in the atrium and listen to the soothing music of Two-Tones. They had been on all the previous cruises but not this one. Instead there were two people with guitars who couldn't sing and certainly not playing music that was danceable or enjoyable to hear. I realize that music tastes are subjective but at least have people who can sing on key or play taped music. Just to be sure that I wasn't making a hasty judgment I went back the following night and heard the same exact song. The one evening these folk weren't in the atrium the band that replaced them wasn't all that great. I'm not knocking country or rock music, in fact I enjoy them, just don't sing "Who Shot The Sheriff" every other song.
The Dining room in the past had always been very enjoyable with Mr. Ante Kulsic as the Maitre'd. He was warm, friendly, and ran a first class dining room. Some people have called the singing in the dining room "cheesy," again music tastes differ and I always enjoyed hearing the young waiter Darwin sing. It gave the evening a feeling of class. Unfortunately, Ante is no longer the Maitre'd and the individual, Fernando, who replaced him is neither warm nor friendly. He never came around to any of the tables to say hello and when he did stand at the front door he didn't acknowledge anyone. I know everyone has a different management style, but from the service the wait staff offered and the unevenness of the kitchen something had changed drastically from several months earlier. The wait staff seemed to struggle to get orders correctly and often one side of the table would have their food while the other side sat with their hands in their lap. On past cruises the last thing you heard at the end of the meal was Ante making a short announcement about the upcoming day and closing with fun, fun, fun. I missed the warmth and humor he shared each night and hopefully this new Maitre'd can regain a little of the magic that was lost.
I can't say I didn't enjoy myself, rather I was just disappointed that this cruise didn't have the feeling of fun and enjoyment the previous three had. It was apparent that there had been a lot of cut backs in staffing or this was a new staff that had little knowledge of what they were supposed to do. As an example, I went to the hamburger grill when returning on a port day and took a hamburger with some French fries. They were both cold and greasy. I took them back to the young man and told him they weren't edible. He said he couldn't make anymore hamburgers until the ones in the tray were eaten but he did fix some fresh hot French fries. This is really a trivial thing but it is all the little trivial negative things that add up to making a big difference.
I had a maintenance issue with my balcony door. The plate at the bottom of the door had fallen off and was laying on the balcony. It was not only an inconvenience but also a safety hazard as you could easily trip. It took three requests before this was addressed, one with the cabin attendant and then twice with guest services. This may have been a case where there were too many issues being reported and too few people to address them. Another of those small things that add up.
It isn't fair to only be negative so here are a few of the really good things that still had the "magic."
**The staff of the Hat Tricks Bar were great as always. Jerome, Eko, and the lovely lady who's name I can't remember, always knew you by name, always smiled, and acted like they were pleased I had visited the bar.
**The young lady who was the evening hostess at Cucine del Capitano (again I can't recall her name but she was from Macedonia) was outstanding. She greeted us, led us to our table, explained the menu, and made a real effort to let you know they were glad to have you dining with them. The food was also very good, in fact, the Spaghetti Carbonara was excellent. This is a great evening alternative to the main dining room and a bargain at $12.
**The sea days grill on the 5th deck provided some tasty slider hamburgers with the salad bar inside also offering some enjoyable alternatives to what was offered at the buffet on deck 10.
**The Cloud Nine Spa is still a first class spa and was maintained well. The staff at the desk were alert to any problems and promptly took care of anything you needed. I now look for ships that have Cloud Nine Spas as the Thalassotherapy Pools and thermal suite are big plusses.
This certainly isn't one of those reviews that would make me say I won't come back again. I feel certain I'll continue to enjoy cruising; but the next time I'm on the Magic, I hope the magic is back.