Last week we returned from generally a great cruise on the Carnival Magic to Monaco and Italy including the star Venice and Dubrovnik. Having never wanting to cruise at all until bullied by my wife last December I am now a very ardent fan of cruising. I use to believe that cruising was Butlins at sea (All Brits will understand for others like a holiday camp with games to play and none stop tannoy announcements but i now find this is definitely not the case on the now 3 cruise companies we have used (the other two being RCL and Norwegian) and really all are very professional and well organised). Its just the exceptional that makes the difference and that's the reason for penning this note. We did initially think the itinerary strange having four straight days of port calls, going to Rome before Florence from Monaco and then back to Naples before a sea day. Only on this fifth day at sea with lovely weather did we fully understand how busy and crowded this ship was. We were told in excess of 4000 people were cruising on-board when the ship has a quoted capacity of 3700.
With so many people we found it difficult to get a decent seat which wasn't by an air-vent or noisy pool area and people did persist in saving loungers with towels and books etc even though they are asked not to, but who wants a confrontation when they are on holiday. This is something i think all cruise lines have a problem with. The general facilities on the ship were excellent and varied, but we found the staff (particularly the guys in whites) mainly Eastern European very surly and none communicative and lacking any idea of customer service. Other members of staff then shone out, like all the stateroom staff we chatted too were extremely helpful and pleasant our dinner service team were always friendly and had time to speak.
We nightly went to the Red Frog Pub, again some of the staff were excellent. But does it require so many waiters to run a small bar?? Our main reason for going was to watch the very excellent guitarist/vocalist Danny Black, who we believe is wasting his talents just playing on board a ship, particularly as he had to finish each evening by midnight because of noise levels in the staterooms. For a new ship this has to be a design fault with a number of other areas like the piano bar and Italian restaurant having unacceptable noise levels coming through the floor/ceiling. We did go to some of the shows and to see all the other entertainment offering on board most were very average and we thought this also of the cringe giving John Heald whose tannoy announcements reminded us very much of the dreaded holiday camp, his previous life obviously Hi di Hi John !!!
Compared to our two previous cruises the daily information sheet was abysmal, it was never consistent with its placement of information with unnecessary duplication and notable omissions. Somebody really does need to revamp this very important sheet for all passengers to get the very best out of the ships excellent facilities. One daily omission was for us the best food on board which was the Tandoori bar which only served food between 1.30pm & 2.30pm again why we don't know. This was a really fabulous eatery with authentic Indian cooking ovens. Carnival you missed a trick here it should have been used for a greater time in the day and advertised more. But for all that we enjoyed it on several days because of the lack of customers. The other good places to eat on board were the excellent free lunchtime Italian restaurant and most of the evening dinners we had in the fixed dining Southern Lights. The not so good was the Marketplace Buffet style, the seating was good with sectioned booths, but the food was bland and the food service areas were far too cramped with queues at most times. The layout for the food service area again for a new ship was appalling. We tried the Deli once, why does so much meat have to be put on a sandwich the food here was not very good neither was the burger bar which invariable had you waiting around for ages to serve you chicken. But worst of all we thought was the Steakhouse, the food was very average but expensive. But the worst thing about it was the ambiance and what should have been a special dining experience. This didn't happen. The area was cramped and we were seated on a bench seat at the side of some very noisy neighbours who had started dining before us and wanted everybody to know what a good time they were having. This was definitely not worth the additional 30 dollars each.
We didn't take any of the cruise tours which we think are extremely overpriced but prefer anyway to explore places on our own. We usually find the people we meet are extremely friendly and love for you to visit and admire their country and city and are always willing to help and give advice.
The in board stateroom that we had was excellent in size very comfortable with space all round the very large bed plenty of draws and hanging space very well thought out as was the bathroom.
We did get an extremely good deal on this cruise so we will probably cruise with Carnival again but only if RCL are not doing a similar itinerary at a similar price