My wife and I, both in our early 60s, sailed from Galveston on the Carnival "Magic" on January 15, our 11th cruise on Carnival ships out of Glaveston. The itinerary included Cozumel, Mexico, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The "Magic" is new and looked that way throughout. It really is a beautiful ship.
Even though there were supposedly almost 4,000 passengers onboard, including more than 1,000 children, the public areas never seemed very crowded. I would estimate that the mix of passengers on board was pretty much evenly distributed between children and teens, young adults, middle-age adults, and seasoned citizens.
The ship decor was not what we were used to seeing on the "Ecstasy," "Elation," "Celebration," and "Fascination." Gone were the neon and glitzy decor. The "Magic" decor is more like what you would see on a Royal Caribbean or Holland America ship. Not that it was unpleasant, just something unexpectedly different.
Another thing we noticed was that Carnival is no longer using wood planking on the exterior decks. It is some other material painted to look like wood planking. Again, not a bad thing, just noticeably different and in fact, probably safer when wet.
We've always enjoyed sitting by or in windows in public areas on other Carnival ships, watching the clouds and ocean. About the only places to do this inside on the "Magic" is at some of the tables on the outer edges of the Marketplace buffet area.
Some Noise Issues
We had an interior cabin on Deck 7, forward. I chose that particular deck because even though our cabin was above the Showtime Theatre, I thought that the cabins on Deck 6 would block any noise. I was wrong. We could clearly hear the band and singers in our cabin during practices and showtime. Luckily it didn't go on late into the evening. We didn't talk to anyone with a cabin on Deck 6 forward, but surely it must have been even louder there.
In addition, two of our table mates (honeymooners) had a balcony cabin on Deck 6 directly above the Vibe Dance Club on Deck 5. On the second day we saw them moving into a balcony cabin on Deck 7, midship. They said they had been kept awake until almost 4 a.m. that morning due to the loud noise coming from the club and ship's staff had offered to move them to Deck 7.
So, it would seem best to look at the ship's layout on the Carnival website and try to avoid booking cabins on Decks 6 and 7 that are in close proximity to music venues on Deck 5. I would note, however, the sound insulation between cabins was excellent; we never heard any noise from adjoining cabins.
The first night we had trouble sleeping due to what can be best described as a loud crashing noise which occurred with frequent regularity. As best as I could tell while on deck the next morning, large waves were coming from slightly off the port bow and breaking onto the side of the ship, with most of the crashing noise possibly coming from them pounding into the recess where the ship's anchor was stowed. The waves were smaller or coming from another direction the rest of the trip, so it wasn't a continuing problem during the cruise.
One day at sea we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to dine for free at lunch in Cucina del Capitano, which is on Deck 11, aft. Unfortunately, it is directly below the Sky Court on Deck 12, so we spent the entire meal listening to the sound of basketballs being bounce overhead.
Finally, the ship has an adults-only area forward on Deck 15, the Serenity Deck. However, it wasn't very serene at times, as the noise from the people using the Waterworks water slide can be quite noisy at times.
Our cabin was nicely furnished, and even though it didn't seem so initially, there was plenty of storage for all the things we had in two large and two small suitcases. The mattress firmness and the pillows were exactly to our liking. Even though we came and went at rather irregular times, our cabin stewards always kept it in good order. Not only were they both friendly, there were very few times they weren't along the hall in the area.
Our table waiters at lunch and dinner were friendly, efficient, and dealt with odd requests with no problems. The bartenders and waiters were also friendly. And, the call drinks were reasonably priced, considering that we received what would have been doubles at home. My only regret is that I didn't follow through on something I said I would do. Several nights into the cruise, one of the bar waiters in the Ocean Plaza, Slavica, when she took my Sail and Sign card and saw it was Platinum, said, "Welcome back." I thought that was a nice touch. I told her that the next time I saw the captain or cruise director, I was going to tell him that she was the first, and as it turned out, the only staff member to say that, but the opportunity didn't occur.
The only exception to excellent service was our one lunch in Cucina del Capitano. I can only describe the service as having been indifferent.
My wife and I both agreed that the food was overall good to excellent, the only exception being the fish and chips sandwich I had one day for lunch in the dining room. The batter on the fish was thick, doughy, and undercooked on the inside, which wasn't really a problem as I just peeled it off and had a fish regular sandwich.
There were always plenty of different choices of places and things to eat at every meal. I would recommend taking a copy of the Cruise Critic review of the eating venues on the "Magic" with you so you don't miss out on any of the hidden gems. The buffet lines were sometimes long, but that is only to be expected on a ship with so many people on it.
There was more live music on this ship than on any other ship we've ever been on. At times in the evening there was live music in the Lobby Bar, the Ocean Plaza Bar, the Red Frog Pub, and the Piano Bar, and it was all really good. The band playing in the Ocean Bar most evenings was especially good, playing different music genres from the 40s through the 80s.
Of course there was live music at times by the main pool, including Superstars, which was karaoke backed up by the ship's show band. And, of course there was DJ music in a couple of the clubs and on deck.
There were all the usual Carnival shipboard activities, contests, and games going on all the time, so there's really no reason to be bored while onboard.
The casino had a good variety of table games and slots. Most of the dealers were friendly and interactive. I saw some people win a lot of money and some people lose, which included me, but that's the reason they call it gambling instead of winning.
The Waterworks, which was really amazing, and Ropes course were always busy when they were open, and it seems that adults, including myself, were enjoying both as much as the kids were.
The pools and hot tubs were mostly dominated by young people and kids, the exception being the hot tubs on the adult-only Serenity deck.
The only show we attended was the night they had an illusionist. He was excellent and the ship's singers and dancers added and extra quality to the show.
We tried to attend a couple of the comedy shows in the Spotlight Lounge, but each time we got there, which was 10 - 15 minutes before it started, the doors were closed because it was at maximum capacity. So, you might want to plan on getting in line for the show about 30 minutes before showtime.
We booked the 12-meter America's Cup yacht racing on Cozumel. You got to participate actively on a real America's Cup yacht in a race against another one. It was a lot of fun, and the crew was instructional for those who had never sailed.
We booked the Seawinds All-Inclusive Beach Resort in Montego Bay, 15 minutes from the ship. Nice beach, good service, good food and drinks, plenty of shade, free Hobie Cats and kayaks, great DJ. A good four hours of laying on the beach and not doing much.
Embarkation, Debarkation, and Tendering
Embarkation and debarkation were smooth and efficient, especially considering the number of people onboard.
If you didn't have a Platinum Sail and Sign card or weren't on a tour at Grand Cayman, the tendering experience was frustrating for most people. People who wanted to get off the ship before noon, but were without either, stood in line for up to two hours to get a tender boarding pass. Then they had to wait another hour or more to actually get on a tender. Some people just waited until noon, when you could get a tender without a boarding pass and then went ashore. However, they didn't have much time on land because the last tender was supposed to leave shore at 3:15 p.m. Evidently the lines were long for catching tenders to return to the ship because the ship was way late departing the island.
One of the things Carnival handled really well was a delay in getting back to port. On Saturday night a heavy fog developed onshore and offshore. The Port of Galveston was closed as a result, so the ship had to anchor a few miles offshore until the fog started to lift later in the morning. It didn't get to port until after noon. The crew started up some games, some of the bars opened, they played "Forrest Gump" on the big movie screen at the main pool, and the buffets opened on the Lido deck.
I'm sure some people who had flights to catch were not very happy, but it wasn't Carnival's fault, and they certainly made the best of the situation. Later on we heard an announcement telling the crew they had to be back onboard at 7 p.m., which meant the ship was leaving several hours late.
My wife and I would recommend this cruise.