My Significant Other (Sig-O)and I usually travel on our own and like to stay in one place for 3 to 7 days to settle in a little and get some feel for the area. Last year we signed up for 2 cruises, this one and on MSC Orchestra last September (see my review there). After the bad experience on MSC and some negative remarks from others about Carnival, we were worried. Let me tell you up front, our experience was very positive on the Magic. The food was from good to excellent, the overall environment was relaxed and non-stressful, and there was as much (or as little) activity as you wanted. I may have some negatives, but Sig-O and I would go again in a heartbeat.
Embarkation was a bit slower than we expected, as buses from the airport started arriving before embarkation started, so quite a queue had built up when we arrived at the start time. Also apparently luggage left at dockside was delivered to cabins last-in first-out, and I stupidly gave them my large bag of medicines and CPAP. I did not receive the bag until 5 minutes before we sailed, so I was stressed. Although I would have preferred another go-round, disembarkation could not have been smoother. I understand there was at least one person who refused to get off, although they did not want another 12 day cruise.
Out cabin was center ship, about 3 decks above the water, with a cove balcony. I felt like like I had my own private area, just above the water. I chose that location for minimum movement, and to be close, but not too close, to the the mid-ship lifts, and it was perfect. The cabin steward kept the room clean and well supplied, and fulfilled our need quite well. The crew was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.
We signed up for Any Time dining so we did not have to worry about time back from excursions. It turns out we need not have worried as most excursions get back in time for early seating. The plus on Any Time is of course its flexibility, and you can meet lots of people at dinner, but the negative is you meet them and your servers, but don't get to know them. The food and service in Main Dining Room for lunch and dinner was always very good to excellent. The service for breakfast was not to those standards. Sometimes at breakfast we were not offered juice, coffee or rolls/danish, on other occasions two or three waiters asked. The order of dishes served sometimes were reversed or served at the same time, or were cold or over cooked, and one occasion not served. Part of the problem is that they tried to fill every chair at a 10 person table, even if some at the table had been seated 10 minutes earlier, when the room was mostly empty tables.
We ate one night at the Steakhouse and one night at the Chef's Table. For $30 each extra, we did not feel we got the added value - the ambiance is nicer but the food was not significantly better. On the other hand the Chef's Table at I think $75 each was a definite must do if you are into food like we are. All the food served in MDR is well presented, but the dishes at the Chef's Table are, well, stunning.
Not so stunning, though, is the wine list. For the main part the list is low-end, mass production wines of little note other than the well known label. It would appear that all the wine first went through US distribution before being sent to the ship, which means European wines are "pre-aged". The wine service was also spotty; sometimes pouring too much into the glass and one of the "Sommeliers" not knowing the difference between a Pinot Gris and a Vin Gris. On the other hand, when I found I did not like a bottle I had selected (weak vintage or too many ocean crossings) the bottle was exchanged for another selection without a problem.
The ship, even with 3500+ guest, did not seem crowded, except on one at-sea lunch, when all 3500+ want to eat at about the same time and the MDR is closed. Some of the lines did get pretty long then. There are so many different venues for eating and entertainment that with a little looking, you can find a quiet area. I think Carnival has heard prior comments about adults wanting these areas and responded.
My Sig-O and I generally do not like excursions, but we signed up for one in Marseille before boarding to be sure we could go to Arles and Aix. While on board we signed up for excursions to Pompeii and Taormina. All of the excursions were well organized and executed. Arles and Aix were OK but of course could only skim the surface, but Pompeii and Taormina are strictly tourist trap crap. Carnival has nothing to do with that: these towns are doing what brings in the money.
When we made our reservations last year for the Magic, the second port was to be Livorno, which would allow us to visit wineries in Tuscany. That ended up being changed to Savona, which does not have many "attractions". It turned out to be our favorite port, because the city is not a tourist spot - it is a mid-sized town, easily walkable, friendly, with very good prices.
Overall, as I said, a great experience and we will probably book another cruise in a year or two. A few things could/should be tuned up, and I think Carnival management should realize the guest going to Europe may be more interested in wines than the Caribbean cruiser, and do more tailoring of the wine list.