Our one previous Carnival cruise was the worst experience I've ever had on a ship, so I was eager to give Carnival another chance with the promise of a cruise out of Barcelona on the inaugural cruise of the Magic.
NOT SO VIP--The disappointment began with our alleged VIP boarding. We parted from our friends who weren't booked in a suite, and we were ushered upstairs for the VIP treatment. We waited a long time on a sofa and were finally registered and on our way--only to find we were in line to board with our friends who had no VIP treatment! Since we boarded at the earliest boarding time (right after noon), we expected our luggage to be there fairly quickly. Wrong! Everyone in our group, including the non VIP boarders, got their luggage first--ours came at about 6 p.m.
GREAT ROOMS--That disappointment aside, the room was marvelous with literally tons of storage space and room under the beds for our large suitcases. The only design flaw was that while I sat at the lovely, lighted vanity table, my husband could barely open his closet or the bathroom door. The hairdryer was installed in a drawer, that, when open, blocked the bathroom door as well. The over-sized vanity stool, blocked most of that room when pulled out, and it didn't completely fit under the counter. The mini refrigerator was stocked so tightly with mini bar items for sale, that we couldn't even put our gift champagne in it. Beds and linens were fabulously comfortable.
SERVICE SKETCHY--My biggest complaint about the cruise was that service was very sketchy. Our wait staff in the dining room were not particularly friendly, though they improved as time went on. Much energy was wasted in "shows" that the wait staff were forced to perform each evening about dessert time. The shows were corny and time wasting and the staff seemed embarrassed to be forced to perform. The Lido deck cafeterias were crowded at all visits, and while there were many specialty stations, the lines were so long that we often didn't have time to enjoy them. Tables were cleared quickly, but the dining areas stayed full. Our room was kept clean and well-stocked, but we rarely saw our steward to ask for service. It was a very different level of service than we've experienced on other lines.
OVER CROWDING--The adults-only pool was always full of children, and pools were crowded much of the time. It was a very family-oriented cruise, with more than a thousand children and teens. There were wonderful activities for kids including a fabulous water park area with large slides and other features.
Because of the strenuous port schedule and the long drives to reach destinations such as Rome, we spent long days touring and then had little time to relax around the pools--then to find them so crowded was disappointing.
FOOD--The food was good and got better as the days went by. Often the Lido deck food was actually better than the dining room food, which was a nice surprise.
LAUNDRY--There were only three laundry rooms available for the entire ship and they were always full. I tried to iron several times, but could never get to the board inside the crowded laundry room. For $15 we could get "wash and fold" service for a bag of laundry--that was a bargain since the washers and driers were $3 each. It did take two days rather than the next day service promised.
Overall, we really enjoyed the ports and the cruise in general, however Carnival needs to work out a lot of kinks for this ship to be truly "magic."