We also got off the Carnival Magic this Sunday morning, December 18, 2011. Our sail date was 12-11-11, for the Bahamas. We were very glad we went, and wanted to briefly share with you our experiences. The Magic was our 12th Carnival cruise and 24th cruise overall. While we are not demanding of our cruise experience, we know what we like and how the competition delivers the cruise vacation experience. We give CCL good reviews on service, accommodations, and ports of call. And we give CCL "needs improvement" for higher quality good, or at least a more memorable food experience. Here's the details:
SATURDAY NIGHT: Stayed at the TraveLodge on Galveston. The rate was competitive, the room clean, and very comfortable for the short stay. We missed our cruise critic friends at Fish Tales restaurant by one hour Saturday night, but did find them at the Meet and Greet on board.
SUNDAY: We ran our usual approach before the cruise: 1. Drop off luggage at the pier at 10:00 am; 2. Park the car at the nearby EZ Cruise parking; and 3. Walk the 2 blocks to the Cruise ship terminal. The line to get into the terminal took a few minutes. Having hit the Platinum level saved us a few minutes in line. We waited for our friends from Illinois, who were only 3-4 minutes behind, in the usual line. So Platinum saved some time, and is certainly another nice benefit of cruising with Carnival. Once on board we had our ID card punched at the customer service desk, so we could attach our lanyard to the them, thus freeing our hands. Then it's off to the Northern Lights dining room for 1:30 pm check-in, and confirming our table location (the matre'd slightly moved our table to a better location in the Southern Lights -- thank you!). The Matre'd in our Southern Lights Dining Room, Ken Byrne, was quite the singer and story teller, and a major attraction for our dinners.
CABIN: Our deck nine cabin (and also that of our friends) was an aft balcony stateroom, in the back center of the ship. Compared with the same stateroom on the Conquest, this balcony has a longer overhead roof line. So we are protected from the sun and elements, which is another nice advantage of Magic.
ALCOHOL: We did see some alcohol taken from a cabin, which alcohol was hidden in containers. Another problem had apparently provoked security to enter the cabin. Overall, we feel the room steward and security handled this sensitive situation well. All we can say is that no other cruise line except Carnival offers you the chance to bring on 2 bottles of wine, and to order a wide variety of hard liquor. Avoid confrontation or embarrassment, and order from the Bon Voyage department, if you want to enjoy such beverages on your cruise. You'll have one less thing to worry about. And the water and soft drinks we brought on board (24 total) were hardly even looked at as we cleared security.
FACILITIES: The Red Frog Pub was perhaps the nicest addition to the ship. The food was good, the drinks and atmosphere were party-like, and the music each night put you in a great mood. Do plan on Pub Grub and beverages.
The Ocean Plaza is next door, also on Deck 5, and the stage and central gathering place for the games, karaoke, and evening entertainment. It is such a comfortable space, I hope CCL makes this area even bigger on its newer ships. There certainly was demand for seating for all of the activities there.
Showtime Theater: It seems about the same size or a little larger than Conquest. But with 4300 passengers on our cruise, compared with a thousand fewer on Conquest, the seats did fill up faster for the shows. We did arrive 30 minutes before each show, and found OK to good seats on the main floor each time.
Spotlight Lounge: This is the rear smaller theater at the rear on deck 5, the Spotlight Lounge. The setting was OK, but the decorations were only plain. I enjoyed the Conquest's rear lounge more. It was probably larger.
STEAKHOUSE: Was worth every penny. The service and food were very good. Our group thought that other steakhouses (Conquest, Legend, Miracle) were probably better. Why? The food on the other ships had a certain WOW factor, we were unfortunately waiting for on Magic.
SOUTHERN LIGHTS DINING ROOM: Our waiter and assistant could not be beat. Dajon and Martel made us feel welcome, whether we were on time or not. The steaks were the major departure from the normal CCL dining experience. Our steaks did not have that char broiled, melt in your mouth taste. They were chewier. Perhaps CCL is trying to optimize the overall food budget. The steaks on Conquest, et al, were more memorable and good.
KARAOKE: I love to sing in church, and I love to sing on the ships. We had Superstar Karaoke (with the band) 3X on the Miracle, compared with 1X on Magic. And that was at the end of our Nassau port call on the pool deck. Who planned that? Was CCL trying to not overwork the now-down-to-5 musicians in the band? So having Superstar karaoke one time was less than we were expecting.
The traditional karaoke had a mix of interested entertainment crew members as KJS (and less than interested KJS). Thank you, Lindsey, for caring about your guests. At least you appeared to welcome and listen to each performer.
GAMES: And Stephanie and Sam also get high marks during the variety of games, for listening to the guests, and creating the good time for them. The cruise had the usual number of games, competitions, and funny responses from contestants.
POOL/SERENITY: The kids enjoyed the pool, while the adults enjoyed the hot tubs. The ropes course looked fun, but the wind discouraged us from trying it, this time. Serenity truly is a fun place to read, soak up the son, and enjoy something to drink. The squealing of the kids next door at the water park next to the pool does detract from it, but it is still a comfortable place to relax.
THE LEGENDS SHOW: The revamped Legends show (and now back to Saturday night) includes 3 cruisers doing dances, and some additional songs/stars to sing to (hello Cher, Gloria Gaynor, and goodbye Ricky Martin). We felt the new show was a hit because of the new music and the dancing.
MEET AND GREET: Thank you, Host Mach, and co-hosts Peddler and Tass (Jim and Nancy) for arranging the Cruise Critic Party. We were grateful to have people come and share their stories how they planned for this cruise. Do come and always watch the Carnival Fun Times for the time and place (ours was 2 pm Monday in the Deck 4 conference room). Of course, we had meet Jim and Nancy on our earlier Conquest cruise.
KEY WEST: The purpose of this Key West visit was to explore hotels for an air/hotel vacation package sometime in the future. So we downloaded the Key West bus schedule, caught and rode the Blue Line bus around the island for $2.00. We scoped out less expensive and more expensive hotels, for which we will make better accommodation decisions. And of course, the beverages and shopping on Duval and at the Marina were fun. Lunch was a return trip to the Conch Republic, where our group last toasted our good fortune on a cruise in 2003. The temperature: in the lower 70s, with a little wind, was comfortable with T-shirts and shorts.
FREEPORT, BAHAMAS: We enjoyed the Wyndam Resort all inclusive (for a second time) and while the water was cool, a day at the beach beats the beast day at work. The food, the beverages, the service were all very good.
NASSAU, BAHAMAS: The order of the day was to shop in the downtown, and go finally to the Pirate Museum. We thoroughly enjoyed this treasure in downtown Nassau, for the history, the stories, and the less enjoyable/non-Johnny Depp side of being an eighteenth century pirate. Also a must see: the
CROWDS: Many of our reviewers talked about crowds on Magic. Yes, we had lots of cruisers on this 12-11-11 cruise, but it was on par with our Voyager and Freedom Class ships, and a little more than the Conquest class ships. So be prepared for some lines, but nothing outrageous.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Better steaks in the dining room (we live in TX, you know, as do most other Galveston cruisers). A little more karaoke, especially the highly valued Superstar karaoke. Please ask the Magic Entertainment Staff to pay closer attention to the customers -- some staff members are already doing that. Or they are not playing with a deck of cards when the singers come up for traditional karaoke.
OVERALL: There was some magic missing on this Magic, and we felt it. We in TX are grateful for CCL's investment in our Gulf of Mexico cruise port. But then CCL must compete and deliver. I suspect that the vacation business will only get tougher in the years ahead. The reason we are Platinum only with CCL is because they have figured it out so well on our 11 previous Carnival cruises. Please Miami and Magic crew, continue the good work, and continue to improve with these basic deliverables: better and memorable food, paying attention to your customers, and creating a cruise experience that brings us back (and we will be back on the Carnival Magic in 12 months).
We understand how others had a lesser cruise experience, and still others, a better one than ours. We do look forward to further CCL cruises, and we'll see how the next Magic cruise goes in December, 2012.
We wish you the best on all of your cruises, and hope you find magic on the Carnival Magic in Galveston!
Bob and Donna from Dallas/Ft. Worth