My husband and I and our friends just got back from a Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Magic departing out of Galveston, Texas on January 1, 2012. We have been on many cruises on different lines and think we have some experience on cruising.
Embarkation in Galveston was delayed a few hours due to fog causing the ship to dock late. We weren't aware that Galveston was plagued by fog this time of year....more on that nightmare later.
Line ups to get on the ship were VERY LONG. We were herded like cattle through two mazes in one room and then one more long maze in another room only to be filed into another waiting room once we checked in with the reservations agents. We got onto the ship close to 3:30 p.m.
The ship itself is beautiful and enormous. It is clean and the colors chosen for this ship are appealing to the eye (not like other ships that try to put the Vegas strip inside a ship). Our 8D balcony cabin was much like all the other cabins we have had. No bigger, no smaller, no extra perks. Balcony doors, however need to be calibrated better as many doors slammed loudly as you shut them. Very disturbing if you are trying to sleep. A nice touch is the toothpaste, breathe right strips, lotion, razor and soap provided. Shower gel and shampoo are also dispensed in the shower. One annoying new feature is with the cabin lighting. In order to save energy, you must put one of your cabin cards into a light slot and leave it in there in order to keep the cabin lights on. One day, my husband took his card out of the light slot and I was in the washroom. All the cabin went dark! So not only do you need your cabin card for everything on the ship, you now need it for lighting. The cabin steward was invisible most of the time. We saw him maybe three times throughout the week. But he did keep the room spic and span. We got chocolates every night!! Thought that luxury was long gone! And we got the odd towel animal.
This ship has been built specifically to entertain kids. The water park/slide/sky-walk maze is a child's dream. Arcade is immense and full of games. If parents bring their kids, they will be guaranteed that their children will be well entertained. We didn't have kids with us and found out that there were over 1100 kids on board. And at times, we could hear and see that!!! This ship is NOT the one you want to be on if you are trying to have an "adult" holiday.
Shopping on the ship is the same old stuff. Same tourist trap stores - cheap watches, tacky shirts, costume jewelry, rum cakes, booze, etc. The candy shop is cool, just another place for the kids to get sugar crazy....but other than that - nothing new or exciting here.
Dining on this ship offers a few different alternatives. There is the Red Frog pub which we visited a couple of times and found it to be fun and different. You do have to pay extra for the food here. Sushi bar is good - it was fresh although you are limited to three pieces each time you line up. We ate at the Italian restaurant for both lunch and dinner once. Lunch was very good and free. Dinner on the other hand was terrible and there is a $12 per person charge. We ordered the chicken parmigiana which was pounded down to nothing and had the texture of cardboard. The "grandma's" pasta sauce was way too sweet.....maybe grandma liked her sugar??? Not appetizing at all. Had a "chef-boyardee" taste to it. The best part of the dinner was the complimentary appetizer of crusty bread slices with creamy cheese, garlic cloves and fresh cherry tomatoes. Would have been happy with just that. And to top off the bad food, we had the pleasure of listening to very bad singers (waiters) that would all of a sudden stop their service, grab a microphone and break into Italian song. I have heard some pretty bad karaoke, but this was just plain embarrassing and awkward. Something needs to be done about the complete menu in this restaurant and they need to drop the cheesy, terrible singing - it isn't good and we are paying for it. We ate in the steakhouse one night as well and that was okay. Nothing wow'd us. Not really worth the $30.
The breakfast buffet on the lido deck was ok. Omelets were consistently good. Regular buffet fare like any other cruise ship. Nothing special. The dining room food was not good. Most nights, the food arrived barely lukewarm. Food was tasteless. Our favorite meal of the week was the prime rib. The food came very quickly, almost too quickly, which was surprising for such a large dining room with so many guests to feed. The singing maitre 'd was great! Looked forward to his gig each night.
Fitness room is nice. A good choice and number of exercise machines.
Serenity area is nicely decked out with big cabana chairs, hammocks, etc for those wishing an escape, although it is placed just around the corner from the water park. Not an ideal place. If you want one of these chairs/hammocks, you better get there super early in the morning because NO ONE leaves them.
Staff and crew weren't overly friendly throughout the week. Most just gave a small smile if anything. Cabin stewards seem to be the happiest crew members on board.
X-Press Debarkation was scheduled for 7:00 am on the Sunday. We awoke at 6:00 to look out of our balcony cabin to see thick fog! No announcements were made. We asked a crew member about what time we would be docking and she said due to the fog and the port closure, not before 10:00 o'clock minimum. We had a flight out of Bush International (1.5 hour cab ride away) at 11:30. There was no way we were going to make that flight. We waited in our cabin until about 11:00 a.m. when we decided to pack up and wait in the lobby. We were told by crew members that X-Press passengers were to wait in the theatre until announcements were made to disembark. We got the the theatre to find it packed with passengers. We couldn't get in. We decided to sit in the atrium lobby while my husband went up on deck to make phone calls to the airlines to find alternate flights. As we were sitting in the lobby, Stephanie (crew member) told us that we couldn't wait in the lobby and that we must make our way to the theatre to wait. We told Stephanie that we had a family member up on deck making phone calls to airlines and that we didn't want to get separated from him. She said ok.
We waited in the lobby for quite a while as my husband was on the phone trying to figure flights out. A lady who was also waiting in the lobby to meet up with family members was told by Stephanie that all of us in the lobby area will not be vacating the ship until everyone else has been let off - because we didn't do what were were told. Stephanie and her co-crew member (don't know his name but he was paired up with her to do crowd control) came up to us again and said you cannot sit in this area. We said we were still waiting for our family member to come back and then we would move - we didn't want to lose him in the theatre crowd. Stephanie just gave us a glare. I asked the male crew member Stephanie was working with that if we go into the back of that theatre that already has over 1500 people in it - how in the heck are we going to get off X-press!! He said if you are X-Press you are to wait in the Northern dining room. We were never told this. At this point, there was no separate disembarkation groups, everyone had just muddled themselves into any corner, hallway and stairway they could find.
By the time my husband came back, the ship had docked and doors were opening. The time was 2:00 pm. Passengers had spilled out of the overcrowded theatre and into the halls. We lined up with others that had been waiting in the lobby and Stephanie put her hands in front of us and said, "Everyone behind these people can get off but these people will be staying behind". Nice thing to say - single us out when everyone was doing the same thing.
We managed to get off rather quickly. A nice lady and her family told us to go with her so we could get off quickly and try to get to the airport that afternoon. In the end, we managed to get another flight out of Houston at 6:30 but it cost us $597 each person one way. There was four of us travelling. Not a nice unexpected charge to our already expensive cruise vacation and don't count on Carnival if you want to be reimbursed.
We have a bone to pick with our Carnival cruise representative. Why don't these representatives tell us when we are booking cruises and flights that Galveston has a fog problem between January and March! We understand mother nature can't be controlled but had we been informed of the possibility of fog, we would have booked our flight out the day after we got off the ship, enjoyed a night in Houston before heading home to Vancouver, Canada. There has to be some accountability with these Carnival reps. They MUST know this Galveston itinerary has a fog issue! It happened a week before!!! If they don't know, they are going to know this week!
PROS...beautiful ship, great ports, beautiful weather, clean cabins, good music, Red Frog Pub
CONS .... low quality food, too many kids, robotic crew, Italian restaurant, embarkation, debarkation, loud balcony doors and WORST CON.....FOG!!!!!!!
We spoke to a few other passengers on the Magic and most said that this is going to be their last Carnival cruise for a while. I think we're in the same boat as them....no pun intended.