This was a cruise with the kids and grand kids, and some family friends, also with kids. Never cruised with Carnival before; our favorite cruise line is Royal Caribbean, and the Oasis of the Sea is our absolute favorite ship. The brand new Magic with it's 12 day Western Mediterranean destination, and that water slide, got us to take the chance. We're in our late 50s, and we've cruised with Princess, RCL, and NCL, and had always believed that Carnival ships had mediocre quality service, cabins, and food, and way too many noisy teenagers running around. But we'd been told that a European destination is too expensive for most younger people, so we thought it might be a fun cruise that both the adults and the grand kids could enjoy.
To summarize our cruise - I would say that the ship itself was better than we expected, the food a little better than expected (although not enough choices), the cabin good, but not great, the value for the money was good, and the kids and grand kids loved the water slides. In the worst-than-expected category, the excursions were just barely okay, and definitely over-priced, and our biggest disappointment was the entertainment. We all agreed that the entertainment was the poorest we have ever experienced on a cruise ship, and needs a lot of work.
Quickly, embarkation was a little slower than expected, and we spent about 1 1/2 hours getting from the shuttle bus to our cabins; this was longer than we've experienced before.
The cabin was, as you'd expect, brand-spanking new, and clean. Our steward, Henry, was hard working and friendly. If we needed anything, he got it for us quickly. I was disappointed that the shower only had shower curtains, rather than the curved glass doors on the RCL ships. Otherwise, no issues with the cabins.
I was a bit disappointed in the buffet - I had read that Carnival had the best buffets in the industry, but as far as we could tell, the food was standard buffet items that were available on all of the cruise ships we've been on before. There wasn't even a large variety of foods - ethnic or otherwise. It was all just the standard cruise ship buffet, morning, noon, and evening. It also closed at 9:30pm, which seemed too early to us. However, a BIG point in the Magic's favor - the 24 hour pizza was the best pizza we have ever eaten on a cruise ship, and the Goat Cheese, is now one of our all-time favorites. Also, the pool-side grill served an excellent cheeseburger. The main dining room was a pleasant surprise. I had expected, at best, mediocre quality; what I got was food that was better than NCL, as good as Princess, though not as good as RCL. The steaks were very good, the lobster was the best I've had on a cruise ship ever, and I had two prime ribs that were very, very good. One word to the chef - you guys are putting way too much salt in the soups! Our entire party agreed - your soups were the saltiest we've tasted on a cruise ship. Our head server was Raja, our assistant server was Andy, and their assistant was Arada. They took GREAT care of us, always had our sodas and juices prepared before we got to the table, and remembered our preferences. They were also some of the nicest cruise line employees we have ever met.
A few words about the entertainment, the biggest disappointments in the entire trip. So we had 12 nights on our voyage, and I personally was looking forward to some good production shows, magicians, comedians, etc. What a let-down. The entertainment was terrible. The big productions (three I believe), were all huge disappointments. Poorly written and poorly choreographed, they were not entertaining, as much as they were embarrassing. And John Heald, the Cruise Director, was featured in three shows, where he spent a lot of time interviewing some passengers. It got tedious and embarrassing towards the end, and then to add insult to injury, he brought back two of the passengers, it some of the most pathetic attempts at humor I have ever witnessed. We wound up walking out before the end of most of the shows in the main theater. Also, there was a magic show in one of the lounges, featuring three different magicians, and they did some of the most unimpressive tricks and slight of hand, that I've ever seen performed. Also, on some nights, there was no major entertainment at all, another disappointment. Overall, the Entertainment on the Magic was very poor, and I think Carnival should do a major re-thinking of their program.
As far as excursions - the trips were okay - and we had two outstanding lunches, in Rome and Pompeii (I didn't think that pasta could taste so good), but in general, I'd say the excursions were priced a bit high. Also, of the several guides we had, only one spoke English well enough to really understand with no difficulty, and a couple of the others were barely intelligible. The Colosseum in Rome, the Vatican, and Pompeii, were truly awesome to experience, and they were definitely well-worth the time and expense.
Finally, a huge thumbs-up to customer service. We had a problem with noise in our cabin in the evening, and the Magic's customer service manager, Anna Marie, went the extra mile to make it right. She was terrific - responsive to our needs, and became personally involved to make sure all of our issues were resolved to our satisfaction. So hats off to Anna Marie, and the Magic's customer service team.
Overall, the trip was a huge success, and while the Magic was not perfect, it definitely was more than adequate for the task, and we thought Carnival did a reasonably good job of delivering a European trip, at an good price.