Like Carnival Dream (and, really, like just about every other Carnival ship), you won't be wanting for entertainment on Carnival Magic. It may not have the star power of Blue Man Group (Norwegian Epic
) or "Chicago" (Allure of the Seas
), but if you can get by on a big-budget magic show or a Jimmy Buffett wannabe strumming his guitar in the RedFrog Pub, you'll do just fine.
The two-level Showtime theater seats 1,349 and presents shows most nights at 8:45 and 10:30. Most of them are heavy on song and dance and change each night. There's a real glam factor to the theater, and after testing about a dozen seats, we came to the conclusion that the rear bar-style seating on the second level was our favorite -- because we could flee unnoticed. Otherwise, we'd avoid the seats under the balconies, as they're claustrophobic and tend to cut off some of the action.
Carnival has been crowing for a while that "Destination: Unknown" is the "largest show ever staged on a Carnival ship." Part magic show, part Broadway-style musical, “Destination” tells the story of … oh, who knows. There are pyrotechnics galore (kind of scrawny, but you are
on a cruise ship after all), pop songs sung live and sort of competently (Muse's “Uprising,” Seal's “Kiss From a Rose,” etc.), elaborate costumes and the illusions of Jason Byrne. It's a hoot. Don't miss it.
Other productions include an ode to the 70's and a game show parody that combines music with audience participation.
Elsewhere around the ship, the glitzy Spotlight Lounge seats 400 and rotates between comedians and karaoke. Family-friendly fare from the former is generally available about 7:30 on select nights, with raunchier material strutted out after the kids are in bed, or at least in their own clubs. It's the "Superstar Live" karaoke that really packs the house, however: Brash types take to the stage with live musical accompaniment, and it's wildly entertaining. That said, Spotlight features several bars, so at the very least it's a fun place to chill -- and during the day, it's a bright, quiet space to read or catch up on e-mail.
The ship offers plenty of other places to catch a performance. Play It Again is a mellow (maybe too mellow at times) enclave with Carnival's signature baby grand piano embedded in the bar, giant disco-ball-ish light fixtures and martinis at the ready. If you like sing-alongs, this is your place. At the Magic Bar in the atrium, you can listen to everything from salsa music to a classical pianist perform from the stage suspended over the space. This is also one of the biggest bars on the ship (it wraps under the spiral staircase connecting the mid decks), so it's one of the best places to people-watch.
You never know what you're going to find at Ocean Plaza -- one afternoon, we listened to somnambulant guitar music, and later that night it was rockin' party tunes by a three-man group. We found the energy generally low at this stage; people would more or less look for a few seconds, then scramble elsewhere. Where'd they go? Maybe Vibe. As at-sea discos go, it's a pretty hot time, and inasmuch as its closing time is "late," you can assume you won't be alone if you stumble in in the wee hours.
Next door to Vibe is the RedFrog Pub, featuring wonderfully kitschy island decor, the aforementioned Thirsty Frog Red Ale (you can buy it in group-friendly 100-ounce glass tubes as well for $25 a pop) and a rotating roster of musicians that turn an already top-notch concept into Margaritaville, generally from late afternoon to midnight. We love the giant TV screens behind the bar that run a continuous slideshow of RedFrog patrons. Be careful if you're doing something goofy when one of the bartenders strolls by with a camera -- there's a good chance you'll be in the slideshow, and you'll be up there for hours. Don't ask us how we know this.
You can't miss the Hat Trick Casino, inasmuch as it's divided by the main artery running through Deck 5 -- so to get anywhere you want to be, you have to walk through it. At least it's interesting to look at, and the sports bar plunked in the middle is a happening scene. There are hundreds of slot machines, automated Texas Hold 'Em tables and gaming tables that cover roulette, craps, blackjack and poker. Beware that part of the casino allows smoking.
Hundreds of shore excursions on offer run the gamut from shopping to city tours to zip-lining. Special teen-only shore excursions are also offered.