After reading many reviews of many ships it seems that some people have a great cruise and rate everything very highly and others who travel on exactly the same cruise at the same time have a terrible cruise and rate poorly. So i Guess it comes down to what you expect and how high your standards are.
To paint the picture my wife and I are in our early 40s and this was our first cruise. We chose carnival after viewing these boards as carnival was consistently scoring pretty well (unlike some others - MSC to mention one), the price of the cruise was very good for the 12 days and a balcony and the number of stops. We also chose this cruise as my wife always wanted to go to Paris so we found a cruise that was interesting and left near there (Barcelona).
i must admit i was more keen that she was to try a cruise.
By the way, we travelled from Australia to get here.
It was the third voyage of Magic and they obviously hadn't worked out the kinks as the boarding on the 1st day took forever. We arrived at about 12:45 (midday was the start) and we didn't get on the ship until about 2pm. Veteran cruises told us that this was terrible (we had lots of time to talk).
We were the third balcony room from the back of the ship on level 8. I was surprised at how big the room was - plenty of room to move around and store clothes etc. there was a safe which was very useful. The bathroom was fine (enough room to move around) and very clean and well stocked with soap, shampoo etc. the bed was extremely comfortable with good pillows and nice sheets. I slept the best i did for my whole trip on the ship (out of 5 weeks of traveling around Europe). the room was quiet (level 8 is between two cabin only floors, we weren't near lifts, stairs or high traffic areas and I couldn't hear the rooms on either side of us). There did seem to be a problem with bed bugs in some rooms - people we had dinner with got attacked and I noticed a few others with bites on their legs during sea days. The ship denied it was that, however, although i have read carnival has had problems in the past with this issue. I'm no doctor so maybe it was something else. i would suggest a room near the back as we did have one rough day/night (many passengers and crew were ill) and the back of the ship was by far the most stable with the front being the worst and it got better the closer you got to the rear. We were on the port side which was great for view when in port - especially leaving Venice.
One of the main reasons i wanted to cruise! The food was between 'good' and áverage' mostly and it took a few days to find what was best. The buffet was not much good and we stayed away from here for most of the cruise. Don't get me wrong the food wasn't bad or cold or stale it just wasn't as good as i expected. the burrito bar (in the buffet)was nice though and I had that a few times. the tandoori bar (lunch only) was very good as was the pizza - 24 hrs (if you like áAmerican style') the sushi bar (late afternoon only) was excellent as was the deli (sandwiches freshly made how you want and loaded up - choices of fillings and breads, toasted or not) and the nachos (all day) wasn't bad either. We ate breakfast and dinner in the dining room virtually every day which was nice. the food was always cooked well and served hot and the choice of 10 mains each night was great - 5 remained the same while 5 changed each night of course there were 5 entree and 5 desserts too. I love steak and had it a few times and it was always cooked how i liked it (yes they asked) and always tender. the service was quick and friendly and the waiters always asked if we wanted more rolls and constantly filled the water glasses. Our head waiter Thomas went out of his way to make our dinner experience a pleasant one (even one night showing us how to make those towel creatures you find in your room every night). My biggest complaint were the desserts. Only once did we have a dessert that i would call very good (apple pie) and that was only offered once. The banana split (which you have to ask for as it's not offered on the menu is nice) but everything else is stuff you get in a box from the supermarket taste or worse.
This ship has one of the lowest passenger/space ratios out of any ship (that's bad) but I found the ship to be uncrowded most of the time. the buffet was never so crowded you couldn't get a seat. Food lines moved pretty fast if you had to line up at all - usually only one or two people in front of you (except the outside BBQ which only operated on sea days was very busy). there was never a line getting off and on the ship and tours were well organised. We always got a seat in the smaller shows even if we turned up right on start but the big shows you did need to get there about 10 minutes before to get a good seat. the pool decks were very crowded during sea days and you had to get out early to get a seat. Carnival never police their rule of seats left vacate that towels will be removed. i sat outside for 3 hours one morning and the never saw anyone sit in the 4 seats next to me yet their towels were there the whole time. We only had 120 kids out of 4500 passengers and i never saw them. the pools and spars always had space.
there was too much hard sell of tipping at the end of the cruise and tours. Shops specials were also pushed although the shops number 4 total and sell average junk. Although i did buy 3 $10 t shirts. And they are still going strong.
The shows weren't fantastic but not bad either. The comedy was pretty funny and the close up magic each night is personal and clever (only 10:30pm) and worth a look.
The number of ports was fantastic and obviously some were better than other but i won't go into that as this is a cruise review. My advice get a cruise with lots of stops. Sea days can get boring unless you love eating, drinking, sitting around or gambling all day and night. that's not us but I'm sure some of you do love all those.
The cleaning staff were always working and the rooms were very clean but they atrted early in the morning and banged and crashed around the hallways making sleeping in impossible
MY BEST TIP
Drinks are expensive. You can bring on two bottles of wine at the beginning of the cruise. Some people try to smuggle on extra drinks in their luggage but the ship can take it as they scan bags before loading them.
HOWEVER, at each port we always took a backpack with us. Filled it with alcohol or soft drink bought cheaply at a supermarket whilst on shore. Then when you come back through they scan the bag - they are looking for weapons, bombs and other dangerous stuff (yes i asked) - not drinks. Carnival has a table placed right after the scanner for passengers to hand in drinks/alcohol bought on shore - THIS IS VOLUNTARY. Under law you can't have your bags checked twice - so the scanner checks for dangerous objects and carnival can't ask to check again. We did this at every port - at first just with one bottle of beer to see but by the last port we had two bags with wine coolers, beers, champagne etc and not once did they take it. Then it goes straight into the fridge in the cabin. and the service staff take away the empty bottles when your done! We told others on the ship this trick who had travelled many cruises yet were too scared to try it. My advice, if you don't believe me just by one bottle at the first port, if they take it from you (which they won't) so what -you can't be fined, they'll just give it back to you on the last night. Let me know if it works out for you.
Would i go on another cruise again? - yes
Would I go carnival again?- probably not - I'd like to try another line preferably celebrity or royal caribbean.
Tick my review if this was helpful in anyway or email me if you want to ask something. Happy cruising.