I traveled on this cruise with my fiancE (DF) and this was our first trip to Europe. We have cruised on Royal Caribbean twice (Oasis/Liberty), Holland America once (Eurodam), but this was my first Carnival Cruise. In addition, my DF cruised Carnival and Celebrity in the past, but this was our first Mediterranean and European Cruise. I tend to like newer Ships and always wanted to visit Europe so the Carnival Magic was very appealing. (This review is long, but informative)
We allotted two days to travel to Barcelona from the USA, but it seemed that may not have been enough time because we almost literally missed the boat due to the Airline (I will say their initials stand for "UnStable"). They cancelled our flight to Barcelona at 2:20AM after an eight hour delay and made absolutely no efforts to rebook "us" other than to provide an 800 number for 300 passengers to call all at the same time. They also lost our luggage for the entire Cruise containing 95% of our clothes and especially those outfits we needed for dinner and to enter Holy buildings on our excursions. We had no sleep for two straight days and very little food.
We MUST thank Carnival and the Magic Staff for all of their efforts in helping us track our luggage, complimentary laundry services and allowing us to eat in the Main Dining Room with Shorts.
We had planned to stay two days in Barcelona and booked a 5-Star Hotel, but thanks to the airline we only saw the hotel on the taxi ride between the Airport and the Cruise Terminal. We were VERY grateful to land in time for the start of our Cruise as many other stranded passengers did not arrive/board until Tuesday in Roma or missed the trip entirely.
Arrival- landed at BCN 9:15am on July 3, and cleared Customs, picked up one of our bags from the Carousal, made a Lost Baggage Report and was in a taxi to the Cruise Terminal D by 10:30AM. The taxi cost €25, but the taxi driver pushed his "magical" luggage button and charged €8 more for the carry-on bags we had with us making our total cost €33. We exchanged Euro prior to leaving the USA.
Embarkation- Very Smooth and we were in the lido eating by 11AM and our rooms were ready by 1pm.
Breakfast- Not a very good selection in the lido for those of us who do not eat pork. Other passengers were also upset that at breakfast in the lido there was no turkey bacon or chicken/turkey sausages. Only in the Main Dining Room (Southern Lights) could you order the non-pork breakfast meats and the one morning I did so, they did not fry the turkey bacon, but lightly microwaved it where is tasted raw. The chicken sausage was not good either. I made a suggestion to the Dining Manager to provide non-pork cooked breakfast items in the lido as many other Cruise Liners do.
Lunch- We only at on the lido deck. Great selections and food tasted ok. I enjoyed the garden burger, but had to order is separately on the side of the grill stand and when I went to add fries and condiments many people thought I was cutting line. They should have the fries and condiments in a separate area away from the beef burgers line. Some people only wanted fries.
Dinner- Assigned to the Southern Dining room and the table number is printed on your Sea Card (room key). We changed our table and I would suggest if you have to change anything about your dining you do so on the first day because I was 5th in line and once I finished the line had at least 100 people. They started around 1pm on the first floor of (I think) the Northern Dining room. Food was just ok. We thought the best Meal was during "Elegant Night" as we had lobster and shrimp, which were very delicious. Menus had fair selections, but again I thought too many pork options, which outweighed all other options.
Room- We had a deck 7 balcony room 8C on the portside of the ship. The bed was extremely comfortable and the balcony was adequate. We loved the bathroom shower as it has adjustable temperature levels that held the temp your entire shower. We loved the idea of a curtain instead of a shower door. More room, especially for my DF who is 6'3. The best part of our cabin was the storage, especially in the bathroom. I was able to keep all of my toiletries in the bathroom on the shelves attached to the mirrored wall. Kudos to Carnival. Our room steward was very friendly and tended to our needs with a smile. I did not like the fact that our balcony overlooked one of those hot tubs on deck five and that is not shown on Carnival's deck plan map. People, including children were inside all day and night and could see us sitting on the balcony as we could see and hear them, even with our balcony door closed. If we had known that, we would have rebooked another room because we prefer the sea view, peace and privacy of sitting on our balcony watching a panoramic sea view without noise and people. (beware)
Shows- We did not attend any. Nor did we eat at any of the Ships Specialty Restaurants.
Casino- Good. The smoking was at a minimum, which I really appreciated and I hope one day to not have smoking at all. However, I thought the area was too cold. We did not win at any slots, but I did well at the Roulette Table.
Ports- Great and we seemed to have docking priority in most Ports as we saw Princess Passengers being tendered in Monaco. We seemed to have at least four or more ships at each Port the entire cruise.
Monaco/Monte-Carlo- Great Views as the Magic docked Starboard side. We had a little rain and we took a 2:30pm excursion booked through Carnival. I am so glad we booked the afternoon excursion as we did not know how important sleeping in the next morning would be after not sleeping for two days due to the airline. Both cities are ritzy, clean and well preserved. The Royal Wedding had just taken place and many of the dEcor was still visible. Our Tour was adequate for the price, but definitely appreciated the information provided by our Guide. Some of the Monte-Carlo Casinos require a Passport, so bring yours in you plan to enter. Also all Casinos require you leave hats and umbrellas in their "Cloak Rooms." Very European.
Roma- Great City, store clerks not so much. The locals were very friendly, but as we were shopping for desperately needed clothing we thought the store clerks were rude and I even spoke adequate Italian. I ate some pizza, but it was very different and not so good.
We did Rome on our own. We did not want to pay Carnival's the ridiculous price for an excursion that took you by bus and did not include all of the main attractions within one excursion. We saved a boatload of money staying on our own. We had entrance visits to the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel, Roman Colosseum with entrance, Trevi fountains, Spanish Steps and St. Peters Square. We went to all sites, two with entrance tickets, all within 4 hours.
We left the port by 8am in a ferocious thunderstorm (missed the free port shuttle bus to the port entrance) walked to the Civitavecchia Train station by 8:40. Purchased two BRIG tickets at the counter, validated them, left on the 8:59 local train to arrive (1hr: 10min ride) and walked a few blocks and across the street to St. Peter's Square by 11am. The rain stopped, sun came out and the weather was great the remainder of our day. All of our site visits were completed by metro and the last site was an entrance visit to the Colosseum. Since we were done with all attractions by 3pm, we had over 3 hours left to shop before heading back by train to the Magic Ship. Our total cost for each person came to, including credit card conversion fees, $60.00.
Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel- $55.00 (Vatican Website two tickets)
Colosseum Entrance- $39.00 (Omni tickets two tickets)
BRIG (all day metro/bus pass) - €9 ($12) per person. Total $24.00 (Train Station or Trenitalia site).
The key is you MUST purchase your tickets in advance for the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel or you will never enter in time before they close or before the ship leaves. Each of those lines had hundreds if not thousands of people in line, but with our advance ticket purchases we walked right in. I'm from the TriState area and I am use to a Metro system and Rome is no different. I just mapped out the sites and the metro stops to get to each.
Pisa- Booked a Carnival Excursion with entrance inside. My DF sat on the side, but I climbed all 294 leaning steps to the top. What a marvel to behold. The other buildings included a Baptistry, Cathedral and Cemetery, which are all leaning as well. We even had a lady sing while we were inside the Baptistry and her voice echoing off of the walls sounded angelic.
Naples- Parts were vey unclean, but most of the city was fine. We originally booked the Ruins of Pompeii Tour through Carnival for the afternoon, but they cancelled due to low enrollment, so we had to again get up early to take the morning tour and it was adequate. We had an audio tour and I must say all the buses on each tour were very new, clean and air conditioned. Our guide was very knowledgeable and it was very hot. I took an umbrella, which helped keep me cool. The surface of Pompeii was uneven so wear very comfortable shoes. I was surprised that real dogs roamed the Ruins, but they did not bother any of the tourists. Great shops and vendors allowed negotiating prices. There was a Shop that will make a pair of shoes on the spot and was located inside of the Mall Building next to the Lemon Citrus Wine making Factory, great samples!
Sicily- We wanted to book a tour, but we were too exhausted to even get off the ship. Great port views from our balcony, but the waterways were littered with debris floating downstream with the current.
Fun Day at Sea- Very crowded on the lido deck and people hogging chairs with their belongings. I could not believe that at 9am the Cruise Director and those simple bells "ding, ding, ding" came on the speaker to announce everything you could read in the Fun Ship daily schedule. It woke us up and gave me a headache. ALL Cruise Liners should refrain from those loud, early and global announcements. Some cruisers want to relax, but with that daily and much too early noise, forget-about-it!
Disembarkation- Very Smooth. We kept the little luggage we had with us and did not sit it outside our stateroom so we could depart on our own time. We wanted to catch a taxi back to the airport, but their prices started at €55 without the bag rate being included. We turned around and purchased the Carnival transfers to the airport on the spot costing $30 each. The VAT line was long and you must get a form in addition to a receipt from each store you shop at and purchase goods totaling €90 or more. We did not have the addition form from the shops in Roma, only our receipts and could not get the stamp, but we got the stamp for the Carnival Shops and you still have to mail in the receipt/form to get actual money. There was another line in the airport if you wanted the VAT credited to your credit card, but there is a fee on your credit card to do so.
Overall, this trip was exciting, but exhausting. The Carnival Magic staff is the best in the industry and the Ship is adequate. The itinerary was GREAT and I would visit Europe again in a heartbeat, but I'm not so sure if we'll do it again by sea because of the time constraints and not being able to rest. The ship has a very busy schedule and will put you on their schedule whether you want to be or not. A middle day at sea between cities would have been good, but only if the ship would allow you to rest without those loud, early annoying announcements. The ship sailed very smoothly and I did not need my motion sickness patch. I did not find the time change very difficult (6 hours), as I kept my watch to EST (great to keep medication schedule) and my alarm clock on European local time. Constantly being on planes, trains, automobiles, buses and a ship is causing me to have a slow recovery. We may try the Breeze, but we could definitely sail Carnival again.