We sailed on the Jan. 15 Carnival Magic from Galveston. I'll break my review into categories:
Galveston and embarkation:
I love Galveston, but it is not a simple matter to get to the port if you are not driving your own car - for those flying in, it is over an hour drive and transportation is expensive. We looked into renting a car, but there was a prohibitive drop fee so we went with a hired car which was about $150.
Galveston has a lot of history, lovely historical homes and interesting downtown - we spent three lovely days here pre cruise
We stayed at the Harbor House hotel, a mere five minute walk to the pier. An excellent hotel, with Joe's Crab shack right next door.
Embarkation was a breeze, we left the hotel at noon and were on board half an our later. Cabins were not available until 1:30, but there was food available on the Lido deck.
The ship is huge and the decor seemed a bit more subdued than other Carnival ships with the smaller venues done in a very modern style - was a bit too stark for my taste.
Cabins seemed smaller than on other Carnival ships but they were functional.
They are still offering a selection of toiletry samples which is appreciated.
Bedding was comfortable but nothing really special.
The cabin was well maintained and our steward responded to any requests immediately.
The Lido restaurant is well laid out, with the food being offered in stations which really helps with lines. There was also a deli and tandoori grill at the rear of the ship - the food there was excellent and rarely had long line ups.
I was surprised that there wasn't more in the way of shops on such a huge ship, just the normal jewellrey, cosmetic, liquor and sundries offerings. There was also a small candy shop - I guess to cater to the many kids on board.
I also didn't find the shop staff very helpful or friendly.
I loved the central plaza area on Deck 5 that offered breakfast in the morning, snacks and entertainment in the evening. It is a nice quiet place to enjoy breakfast.
The Southern Lights dining room was lovely and had the best singing Maitre D - most enjoyable.
I was a bit disappointed in the dining room meals, I would rate them as just average and I felt the food at the Lido was tastier. The Tandoori grill and the deli were excellent but the best meal we had by far was in the Italian restaurant - La Cucina. The short ribs and fried risotto were outstanding. It was well worth the $12 charge.
I am a big fan of the production shows and Carnival Magic did not disappoint - both shows were excellent. I am not a fan of magicians or jugglers so I can't comment objectively. We also can't give an opinion on the late night discos.
There were plenty of trivia contests, but again, they are not our thing.
I felt that Carnival Magic did not make full use of their cinema screen by the pool - they could have had music videos during the day rather than promos.
The casino is very large, well laid out and quite attractive.There are lots of slots, but the general opinion was that they did not pay out well.
Ports and Logistics:
We went on shore excursions in Cozumel and Grand Caymen which turned out to be a good decision. Tendering in to Grand Caymen was a nightmare for most - with a lot of people just giving up and others left with only an hour on land. At least with an excursion we were first off on the tenders, but even with that we lost an hour off the excursion. There are just too many ships in port at the same time - the island is overwhelmed. We didn't even get off the ship in Jamaica - too many stories of bad experiences. It is doubtful we will do the Western Carib. again.
We enjoyed Paradise Island in Cozumel.
I can't comment on how this went for US citizens with passports but for non US citizens it was the worst disembarkation ever - getting off the ship was OK but customs did not have a separate line for non US citizens (non US citizens and US citizens with only birth certificates were in the same line) and although there were very few non US citizens, it took an hour just to get through - I can't understand who they were checking so carefully but when we got to the customs officer he just took a quick swipe of our passport and let us through - 1 minute tops. I wouldn't cruise out of Galveston again just for this reason.
Generally it was a good cruise - there are problems that result from the size of the ship, but I think a big problem is that the ports are overused and unable to service the number of people getting off these gigantic new ships.
In future, we will stay with the smaller ships.