Mediterranean Cruise - Carnival Magic - May 10-22, 2011
Overall, this was a wonderful 12-day cruise on the Magic. This was my ninth cruise, and the fifth time on a Carnival ship. I was travelling "solo", however, it was nice to meet many wonderful people (a number of whom were Cruise Critic members).
The Magic was a huge ship. It was brand spanking new (second voyage). My porthole stateroom (Category 1A) was on Deck 2, cabin 2212. It was close to the bow and the cabin was much larger than a regular inside cabin but not quite as large as a balcony cabin (approx. 160 sq. ft.), bright with 2 large porthole windows and could easily sleep 2 people. It had a very comfortable single-sized bed with lovely linens, etc. There was a sofa that converted into a single bed which was a treat - most 1A cabins only have a chair to sit on, no sofa. There was plenty of closet and storage space. The bathroom was a decent size (shower only; no tub) with lots of room to put away toiletries, etc. The towels were plush and the bathrobe was very comfortable. There was a desk/vanity and chair, a flat screen tv and a refrigerator. There were two electrical outlets in the room (above the desk) and one outlet in the bathroom (up high near the ceiling). There was a hairdryer in the top drawer of the desk/vanity that worked quite well. The cabin was quiet except for the early mornings when we were docking and then I would wake up to the sound of the thrusters and the ropes being lowered. There were small laundry areas on three of the decks with coin operated washers and dryers and there were "pressing rooms" with irons/ironing boards on a few of the decks.
The dEcor of the ship was quite understated for a Carnival ship. The main colours were gold/brown and green/blue. The artwork was bright with a Caribbean feel. There was a large atrium in the center of the ship that went all the way from Deck 2 to Deck 12. At the very top of the forward part of the ship (Serenity Deck) was the "Serenity" area (an adult only area outside with deck chairs, lounges, hammocks, hot tub, etc.). Below that was Deck 14 which contained the Spa. Deck 12 (there was no Deck 13) contained the Gym and fitness area and Cloud 9 Spa Cabins. The gym was located at the very front of the ship and had walls of glass. The gym had lots of modern equipment and it was normally quite busy. I never used the spa facilities nor the hair salon, however, it always seemed busy (especially on "formal night" sea days). Also on this level at mid-ship was the entrance to the waterslides, and then towards the back of the ship was a sports area (basketball/volleyball), mini-golf, ropes course, ping pong table, pool table, foozeball tables, an outdoor fitness area and a jogging track. The track was 7 laps to a mile long and busy on sea days with runners and walkers out getting their exercise. Deck 11 had cabins at the front of the ship and then a large area of open decks overlooking the main pool. Also on this deck was the Camp Carnival for children and the Cucina del Capitano Restaurant (an Italian themed "family-style" restaurant that is free at lunchtime and has a cover charge of $10/person for dinner). There was a large pool in the center of the Lido Deck (Deck 10). And at the very back of the ship was a pool and 2 hot tubs. All the pools seemed to be very popular. The surrounding decks were always full of people relaxing on deck chairs, etc. Above the main pool area on the Lido Deck was a large theatre screen. There were movies and concerts playing on the screen throughout the day and evening. Because the outdoor area was so large, it never felt overly crowded. There were lots of deck chairs and tables/chairs surrounding the pools and also on Deck 11 and at the back of Deck 10 (where the smokers hung out). Inside the Lido Deck was the Marketplace Buffet which served a great variety of foods. There were stations on each side of the ship including a deli/sandwich area and a tandoori grill beside the aft pool, and at mid-ship a pizzeria on the port side and a grille area on the starboard side. The Mongolian Wok station was probably the most popular and always had a bit of a line up. There were salad bars, a burrito bar, carvery, and a dessert bar. There seemed to be a much larger range of food offerings on this ship. Although it was always busy, I never had a problem finding a place to sit. There were soft serve ice cream and yogurt stations located throughout the Lido area.
Decks 9, 8, 7 and 6 all contain only passenger cabins. On the Promenade Deck (Deck 5) was where to find the upper level of the Showtime Theatre, the shops, the Casino, Fun Hub (Internet area - there were other Fun Hubs scattered through out the ship, so it meant that you had a choice as to where you sat at a computer and it meant that there were more computers for use), Red Frog Pub (a new addition to Carnival and very popular) and various bars/lounges, piano bar, and the Prime Steakhouse. At the back of the ship was the Spotlight Lounge, a smaller show lounge. The shops were typical and, for the most part, fairly expensive. The Casino was a decent size and always busy. Also on the Promenade Deck was an area called the "Lanai" - an area to sit out on deck and enjoy the scenery, have a smoke, or hop into one of the hot tubs that jut out over the side of the ship. The outdoor promenade completely encircled the ship, so it was a great place to walk with a bit of shelter. At lunch time they had an outdoor BBQ set up on this deck as well as a sandwich station and a sushi bar at 5 pm. On the Mezzanine Deck (Deck 4) was the mezzanine level of the Showtime Theatre and a small library and the photo gallery area. Circle C and Club O were located closer to the back of the ship. Also on this deck were the upper level of the Northern Lights Dining Room (mid-ship) and the upper level of the Southern Lights Dining Room (at the back of the ship). The last deck with public rooms was the Lobby Deck (Deck 3). The main level of the Showtime Theatre (were the daytime activities such as bingo and evening shows took place) was large and was very comfortable. The sight lines, sound system, lighting, etc. were all fine, with just a few seats blocked by pillars. The Northern Lights and Southern Lights Dining Rooms were large, well lit, well laid out, etc. I was sitting at a booth for 4 on the bottom level of the Southern Lights Dining Room at the back of the ship (6:00 pm; main seating). I never ate in the Prime Steakhouse, but everyone I spoke with who ate there really enjoyed themselves. I gather the food and service were very good. The guest services desk, shore excursions desk, front office, etc. were also found on the Lobby Deck. The atrium area on the Lobby Deck was always very busy. There was musical entertainment throughout the day and evening and a large dance floor. As well, there was a nice bar area for drinks before dinner.
Decks 2 and 1 were cabins only. The infirmary was on the "0" deck and was very well equipped and prepared for pretty much any type of emergency.
Overall, the ship was easy to navigate and there were lots of elevators and staircases and wide hallways, etc. Therefore, it never felt overly crowded. For the able-bodied, the ship was great. For those with mobility issues, there seemed to be good access to all the public spaces, with room for scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, etc. There were some bottleneck areas near the elevators in the atrium, and also near the entrance to the dining rooms. Similar to other ships with a dining room at mid-ship and at the back of the ship and the galley between the two dining rooms, you cannot walk through deck 3 (Lobby Deck) from front to back. You need to use either deck 2 or 4 and then use the stairs or elevator to access the main level of the dining rooms.
Not so typical of Carnival, the majority of passengers were older. I believe the average age was about 60. About two-thirds of the passengers were from the United States and the rest were from Australia, Canada, the UK and assorted European countries. I think there were about 3,700 passengers on board. Overall, I found the majority of people on board to be friendly and kind.
CREW and CUISINE and ENTERTAINMENT:
I found all the crew members I dealt with to be friendly and professional. My cabin steward was amazing. The Guest Services desk staff were always very helpful. As were the Shore Excursion desk staff. The dining room staff were terrific and overall my dining experience was great. Our maitre d' was Ken Byrne, who sang every second evening and the waiters got up to dance with him. It was entertaining and lots of fun. However, entertainment in the dining room is not eveyone's cup of tea and there were some complaints. Personally, I really enjoyed it. The cruise director (John Heald) was terrific, and his staff (James, Calvyn, Christian, John, Katie, Leonnie and Ryan) were fun and energetic. Carnival makes a point of hiring staff from around the world and I expect that there were at least 30 countries represented.
I thought the food on board the ship was very good. Every evening I got to try new things. The presentation was good and the food was always hot when it arrived at the table. The food in the Lido was also very good. I enjoyed all the variety of foods... a much larger selection than what I was expecting.
I went to about half of the shows in the Showtime Theatre. The staff singers and dancers were very good and the 2 "production" shows that they put on were excellent. The rest of the shows were typical...comedians, jugglers, singers, etc. The orchestra was comprised of a very good group of musicians and they were excellent. There were good musicians performing in the various lounges. All in all, the entertainment was above par.
PRE-CRUISE AND EMBARKATION:
This cruise left from Barcelona, Spain. I flew to Barcelona before the cruise and spent two nights at the Hotel Jazz (Pelai 3 - very close to Plaza Cataluña and The Ramblas). This was a good choice as a pre-cruise hotel. I took the Airporter Bus from the airport to the Plaza Cataluña (5.30 Euros - about 30 minutes) and it was a short 10 minute walk to the hotel. The Hotel Jazz is fairly modern with comfortable rooms, a roof-top pool and deck, free WiFi, etc. I met 2 couples at the hotel (part of our Roll Call) and we shared a van to the cruise ship terminal. Taxis are plentiful in the city and the hotel can make arrangements for transportation to the port, airport, etc.
Embarkation was similar to what I've experienced in the past at other ports. I had entered all my information online before hand, and it took about 15 minutes to check in.
PORTS and SHORE EXCURSIONS:
For this cruise I decided to book some shore excursions through Carnival. Because I was travelling solo, I found it easier (and safer) to book through the cruise line for certain ports of call. If I had been travelling with others, then researching and booking private excursions would have been appropriate.
The ship docked right in the harbour and it was a pleasant walk up to the Old Town where I toured the palace, museum, cathedral, and the public gardens. After lunch I took the "Bateau Boat" (1 Euro) from the pier over to the Casino area where it was a fairly short walk to the Casino, etc.
This was a long, full day Carnival excursion by bus to San Gimignano and Volterra. Both towns were old, beautiful and interesting to walk around in. Lunch was served at a vineyard in the Tuscan countryside - couldn't get much better than that.
The port is about 1.5 hours from Rome. I took the train into the City (9 Euros, which included round trip train fare and unlimited use of the subway/bus system in Rome) and spent the day touring. The train takes about 1.5 hours to get to the city and is an inexpensive and easy way to travel - as opposed to paying for the Carnival bus transfer which was quite expensive and only gave you a few hours in the city.
"Amalfi Coast by Boat & Pompeii"
This was a full day Carnival excursion. We travelled by bus from Naples to Salerno and then boarded a boat (with an open top deck) which slowly made its way up the Amalfi Coast to the town of Amalfi. The scenery along the way was great. We had time to wander around Amalfi on our own and then returned to Salerno by boat. We had lunch near the entrance to Pompeii and then toured the ruins. Pompeii was hot and dry, so remember to bring water with you and a light jacket would be good for the boat trip if you wish to sit outside on the top deck.
There was a shuttle bus running from the port to the Old Town (8 Euros/return) that was very convenient. You can easily do this port on your own - just wander the Old Town and walk the City Walls, etc. This was a beautiful port of call.
"Murano and Burano Islands"
This was a 5 hour Carnival excursion on the first afternoon that we arrived. You travel by boat and get to see Venice as you travel to the 2 islands. An interesting tour and 5 hours was plenty of time. You can walk into Venice quite easily from the port which I did the first evening and also on the second day. Part of the charm of Venice is getting lost and then easily finding your way back to your destination.
"Taromina and Mt. Etna"
This was a full day Carnival excursion by bus that drove through Messina and down the coast to Taormina. We toured the town and the Greek theatre and had time on our own to wander around. Lunch was in a town at the foot of Mt. Etna and then we drove up to Mt. Etna. The views were amazing. Remember to wear closed toe shoes and you'll need a jacket for Mt. Etna.
This was a very port intensive cruise with only 3 "sea days". I found the sea days to be very relaxing. The weather was hot and sunny for the first 2 sea days, so I was able to be out on deck quite a bit walking or just sitting and reading a book, etc. There were lots of activities planned throughout the day, so there was never any chance to become bored.
DON'T MISS MOMENTS
The sail into Venice at noon to 1:30 pm was wonderful. To see the city from the vantage point of the ship was an unexpected highlight. Sail away was at 7:30 pm - again an opportunity to see the city as the sun was setting.
After leaving Messina, Sicily, we slowly sailed past Stromboli at 7:30 pm and saw it smoking and there was a small eruption - awesome to see!
Disembarkation was very smooth and efficient. We arrived in port at 5 am and the ship was cleared by customs agents by 5:30 am. My zone was called at 6:30 am and I took the Carnival transfer bus ($29.99) to the Airport. Our luggage was waiting for us at the terminal close to the check-in area. It was so hard to say good-bye to the ship...I certainly wasn't prepared to leave.
As stated at the beginning, I had a wonderful cruise vacation. The 12 days I was on board certainly lived up to all my expectations. Carnival is known for their 7-day "fun ship" cruises to Mexico and the Caribbean, so this whole experience of a longer cruise to European ports was great. I will certainly cruise Carnival again (long or short cruise, I don't care).