We sailed on the Carnival Magic January 15, 2012 to January 22, 2012. We flew on southwest airlines (I would recommend them, no change fee...you'll understand as you read on) and stayed overnight in houston. We took the bus to gavleston the next day from the airport, which was about an hour long drive, and cost like $60/person. We did a lot of research and couldn't find a cheaper way to get to gavleston. Once at the Gavleston port, embarktion was ok. We waited in line for approx 1 1/2 hours.
Once we got on the ship, it didn't take us long to find everything. We stayed on the lido deck, room 10257. I will stay on the lido deck going forward. It was nice being higher up, there was not too much noise because there were rooms above and below us, and we could be outside in the pool in a minute. It seems like the furniture on the balcony was nicer than the ones on our previous cruise. More comfy. There was A LOT of rocking the first few nights, to the point where I started getting a little sea sick..and I spend lots of time on the water...so it was bad. It was very windy. It was too cold the first 2 days (high 60s) to swim...if we were outside we wore long sleeves.
The ship is beautiful. Big but doesn't feel big. I like the "beach" pool. They must have cut down on the ads that they were playing on the seaside theater because I didn't notice any of that during our cruise. The layout is nice. Your main decks being deck 10 (lido deck) and deck 5 (promenade).
On deck 5: The ocean plaza was a good place to hang out for a bit. Right next to the hot tubs. They always had something going out...trivia...karaoke...line dancing classes..live music. They also had a bar, sandwich station, and coffee shop right there. Past the ocean plaza is the red frog pub. Did not enjoy the couple times we went there. The staff is not too friendly and the guy they had playing guitar was not good. Once we went there and sat down at one of the tables, and one of the workers came up to us and just stood there...and starred. Very weird. After a moment of silence we just asked for a couple of drinks..which took a long time to get to us...then we were trying to leave but he hadn't brought us our receipt yet that we had to sign. Past that is Vibe, the dance club...nothing good...nothing bad to say. Past that is the piano bar...I found it weird that they didn't have someone in their to play the piano every night? I don't know if that is typical or not. The gentleman that was playing there most of the week was very entertaining. Past that is the comedy club (make time to see a show!) and the steakhouse (not sure if I would try this again, but I REALLY needed a break from the dining room).
We did not have a good experience in the dining room. Our waiters never introduced themselves and never addressed us by our names. The first night, we felt very rushed...as they were serving our entrees while we were still eating our appetizers. The second night, our food came out and was sitting on the waiters station, but our waiter was no where to be found. By the time we got our food it was cold! Another night I ordered a steak medium rare and was given a steak that was clearly well done. I often wasn't served things that i ordered...such as every night I asked for a glass of milk with dessert...in previous crusies they remember that I liked milk with dessert and would bring it out before i could even order, this time they didn't even bring it twice after I had ordered it. Another night I asked for a soup and salad, and they only brought me soup. No one ever asked us how our meal was or if we needed anything. Our drink glasses would stay empty until we waived someone over after waiting awhile. Worst part of the cruise!
The other dining options were ok, but the food was not great. They told us on the first day that on average people gain 1 to 2 pounds PER DAY on a cruise! Crazy! We ordered room service a few times (this you should tip for) and it arrived pretty quickly. We did go to the cucina del capitalo for lunch twice for the pasta bar which was good...but not good enough to pay extra for it. The second time we went people must have found out it was free because it was PACKED and we waited for about 25 mins to share a table with another group. We also tried the oceanside barbeque which was ok. It would be nice if they had healthier options available 24/7...they have pizza and ice cream available...but they should keep the fruit stand up...at least during the day. Sometimes we ordered room service just to get some fruit (but we had to tip them each time). I would recommend taking a water bottle with you. They just have very small cups on the ship.
They had lots of activities going on, but we weren't interested in most. We did go to a couple of the shows, the auditions for "the legend" were fun, and we went to one of the trivias. There was lots to do on the ship that wasn't a planned activity. We spent a lot of time by the pools (never had trouble finding a chair), and hot tubs (also never had trouble finding a spot...there are at least 8 huge hot tubes on the ship, not including the ones in the spa), relaxing in the ocean plaza, dancing at viba, singing along in the piano bar, reading on the serenity deck, and of course we spend our fair share of time in the casino.
We went to 3 ports. Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Montego Bay.
Cozumel: We've been there before, and we were excited to go back! This time we took a taxi to "Paradise beach" for $12 (and then $12 back). There was a $2 fee to get into paradise beach which was well worth it. It had a huge pool and bar, and then they had a beautiful beach that had all the water toys (you had to pay extra to use the water toys). Much cheaper than going on an excursion and we had a great time. The pool was warm enough and there were lounge chair in the pool so you could just lay out and relax. After the beach, we went to carlos and charlies. Don't go there if you are easily offended. I got a massage on the beach...didn't realize they were going to expose my butt cheeks! lol. We'd been to carlos and charlies before so we knew what to expect, and we had a great time.
Grand Cayman: Took a taxi (4/person) to the seven mile beach. Nice beach, warmer weather than then in cozumel. There was a bar/restaurant on the beach as well so you didn't have to take a taxi somewhere else. We had to tender to grand cayman and I think this is the point we realized that we were really on a bigger ship. We watied 2 hours to get onto the island (didn't get on till almost 1) and then the last tender back to the ship was at 3:15. Well at 3:15 we were back to the tenders, however the line was so long, we didn't get back on the ship until after 4. They kept asking all the family with kids to go to the front of the line, which I didn't understand? It wasn't too hot out or anything....why do kids need to be on the ship first? Anyways...a group of 6 adults would walk to the front of the line with their 16 year old..so we waited and waited.
Montego Bay, Jamaica: Interesting place. Was worried about going based on some of the reviews that I read but had a good time. We took the "hop on, hop off" shuttle which was about $20 a person. I regretted it after we purchased our wrist bands. We wanted to go to margaritaville and Doctors Cave beach, and we thought this would eliminate the need for taking another taxi ride in between...but the shuttle only comes around every 45 mins...and the take you on this long ride around the opposite way of the beach and everything to take people to a shopping plaza first (which no one got off at) which just wasted our time. Plus margaritaville ended up being within walking distance to the beach. It would have been cheaper (and less time consuming) to take a taxi to the beach. Plus, the last shuttle bus said they wolud come at 4...but we weren't due back to the ship till 5:30...so we lost some time. Doctors Cave charges $5/person. Nice beach. I would recommend margaritaville as well...the service was bad, but they had a deck you could jump off and go swimming while you waited the hour it took to get your drinks.
I read a lot of complaints about James, the cruise director. Well apparently he's been reading them and is trying to improve because I thought he was great. Very friendly, very entertaining. He seems young, so maybe he's more appealing to the younger crowd. I would like to cruise with him again! His beyonce is worth paying for another cruise itself.
All of the entertainment staff was great. for the shows...you have to realize that this is not going to be like a broadway show, but the couple we saw were entertaining. Liked the juggler, too. One night we were listening to some live music in the ocean plaza and 2 of the dancers were walking by after their dinner...they ended up putting their stuff down and getting out on the dance floor and dancing for us. They looked like they were having fun. It was refreshing to see people who enjoyed their jobs. I noticed that all the crew members have to wear their name tags even when they are off duty.
Take a highlighter with you so you can highlight things you wanna do in the funtimes. Make sure when you book your cabin you call carnival. Do not book online. Sometimes they can get you a better deal or on a better deck. Look at the deck plans prior to booking. You don't want a cabin thats directly above or below a public space...such as the night club...or the casino. We picked the late dining, it was nice because there were no kids that we saw...which meant there were no kids at the shows and then they were in bed by the time the show was out (For the most part). But we always had to get a snack between lunch and dinner! Do some research on your ports before you go...most likely you won't wanna spend the money to do excursions at all the ports...but with a little bit a research you should be able to find something equally fun and less expensive to do. I felt very safe at all these ports and felt comfortably going out on our own...but keep in mind...carnival does not always take you to the safest place (we went to belize last year...would not go out on our own there!) Follow your gut...and don't go somewhere if it doesn't feel safe...probably isn't!
The serenity area was nice. We went there a couple nights when we wanted a more relaxed evening...just enough lighting to read. Very comfy chairs. 2 hot tubs, open till 11 i think. not a lot of people up there at night.
The morning we were supposed to pull into the port of gavleston, there was too much fog! You probably read that this has been a problem in other post. We didn't pull in till 1230pm, and at that point the ship had to go through customs before guest could get off, which took another hour. We got off the ship at about 2:30 (we were the 2nd group allowed off, out of like 6 groups) and it took us about 30 mins to get through customs, and about an hour to get back to the airport. We obviously missed our flight home, but southwest let us change our flight to the next day and did not charge us anymore. Other guest were not as lucky. I overheard people saying that had to pay hundreds of dollars to change there flight. Even though we didn't have to pay to change our flight, we did have to pay for the hotel for the night and my husband missed a day of work. I'm going to submit a claim to the vacation protection people to see if they will cover our hotel (seems fair to me?) Carnival needs to do something about this fog issue though. Obviously they cannot control the weather, but if they know this is a problem (gavleston has heavy fog like this from december to march) they need to make some changes. Possible schedule the ship to pull in the afternoon, when there is less fog, so that guest can schedule their flights accordingly. Not fair to continue to do this to thousands of guest every week. I heard they weren't going to let the next cruisers get on the ship until after 7:15pm (when they were supposed to get on around 1) so they were probably all just standing around at the port waiting for hours.
Overall, I loved the ship itself but will probably choose another ship next time based on the poor service we received from the crew, it's hard to enjoy yourself when you surrounded by rude/less than helpful people. Also, there were A LOT of people from texas/oklahoma...much different from the people we're around in Ohio. And the ship definitely catered to that crowd (the pianist played a llllot of country, and if you requested something else...the bar would empty out...lol) We went on the carnival legend last year...and they treated us like king and queen. We felt so spoiled when we left.