11 Galveston Spa Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise to celebrate a Birthday and our Anniversary. We have cruised this trip on 4 other occasions. We are platinum cruisers with Carnival and have been on many cruises. This cruise tops our "favorite" list. ... Read More
We chose this cruise to celebrate a Birthday and our Anniversary. We have cruised this trip on 4 other occasions. We are platinum cruisers with Carnival and have been on many cruises. This cruise tops our "favorite" list. (Not the destination, but the cruise). We normally find ourselves drinking more than we normally do and come home exhausted. This cruise, we decided to pamper ourselves the entire cruise. We had a balcony suite on the Spa Level. It was awesome. We spent 90% of our time at the spa. We had the couples bamboo and hot stone massage, a facial, the men's shaving treatment/haircut/foot and leg massage, teeth whitening and even hired a personal trainer while on board. The Physian, Dr. Olachea, Spa Manager and all of the Spa Staff, Elina, Victoria, Megan, Oliva, Kate and many more, were the best we have ever experienced on a Carnival Cruise. I have a fractured heel, due to a running injury. Kate, the Personal Trainer put together workouts that were customized to my injury, still providing a great and challenging workout. They always made us feel "important" and treated us like Kings. We had to walk by the Spa door every time we left or came to our cabin. They always waved and were very friendly. We had the flexible dining schedule. Our waiter was the best we have had on a cruise as well. His name was Roger. He had 2 other young ladies working with him and they were awesome as well. Our room steward was great and very attentive. We did not visit the bars often, but when we did, they were always friendly. As far as the entertainment, it was average. We did partake in the casino (slot tournament) twice. The 2 female staff members that were in charge of the tournament were great also and very entertaining. The process gaining access to the ship was quick and efficient. The process departing the ship was quick and efficient as well. This was an excellent experience. We wish we could have this entire staff on every cruise that we take. In all the cruised that we have taken, we have never submitted a review, not that the trips were bad, but the trips in the past never really stuck out in our minds. We have never had any issues with Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We have cruised the Carnival several times and have never been disappointed....until this time...We were on a New Years cruise and it didn't go as planned. First place, the kids totally took over the ship all the pools, hot tubs, ... Read More
We have cruised the Carnival several times and have never been disappointed....until this time...We were on a New Years cruise and it didn't go as planned. First place, the kids totally took over the ship all the pools, hot tubs, dining rooms, buffet. I love kids and Carnival has always had lots of them but not under foot 24/7...That was the first disappointment...We have cruised summers and holidays and have never seen it this bad. Evidently the kids activities were not being used. Second was the spa...We always get aleast one massage or service. Booked the couples massage..They were running 45 mines late which made us late to dinner. .The room was noisy, and the plumbing pipes were gurgling thru the whole time. Not a relaxing massage. And after we got home and checked the bill, they over charged us. Then went to get into a hot tubs, full of kids and water not circulating and was cold. We had convinced brother and sister in law to come too and this was their first cruise. We wanted to make cruisers out of them. We spent the whole time making excuses for how things were...... We had already booked the 12 day on this same ship in March and not looking forward to this ship...... Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I was skeptical to take another cruise out of Galveston with Carnival. My last cruise on the Ecstasy was five nights with stops in Progreso and Cozumel in June of 2008. On that cruise, I had an obstructed ocean view and felt like a ... Read More
I was skeptical to take another cruise out of Galveston with Carnival. My last cruise on the Ecstasy was five nights with stops in Progreso and Cozumel in June of 2008. On that cruise, I had an obstructed ocean view and felt like a stranger in a strange land. I’m not Texan. I don’t like country music. I have no tolerance for children running around in my vicinity. I don’t even like frozen sweet tropical drinks or mass-produced American beers. This August my in-laws invited my spouse and me to join them for a 7 night cruise on the Carnival Magic in mid November. They are in their late Seventies. This was an invitation I couldn’t pass up. Spending time with parents is a limited commodity as we get older. I did a lot of research mostly at Cruise Critic to find out how to maximize the potential with what could have been a disastrously disappointing experience. It completely paid off. This cruise converted me to a Carnival aficionado, and now I’ve caught the cruise bug. My experience on the Magic for the Eastern Caribbean itinerary wasn’t only incredibly luxurious, despite some minor nits, it was ‘magical.’ The Ship This liner is very large, accommodating nearly 3700 passengers with 15 decks. However, the common areas where I found myself were never overcrowded. The décor of the ship is sort of an Eighties rainbow tropical mash up. It’s a little Vegas, but not in bad taste. The strobing lights in the lobby, hallways, and Ocean plaza were pretty. There are so many areas to explore, I was discovering new venues even on the last day. Deck 5 has a wide Lanai which circles the entire ship--a fabulous opportunity for some walking exercise and some sea spray. I found myself meeting others in the Ocean plaza on deck five for trivia games. This was the same venue for live entertainment at other times on the ship. It opens onto a special zone on the Lanai, which was one of the few areas of the ship where smokers were welcome. An occasional waft of smoke was the price to pay if one sits here because the automatic doors open often to the outside of the ship. As for smoking in general, the ship was very clean. However, it is allowed in the casino, which is unavoidable, since it takes up the entire midship of the promenade, deck 5. Frankly, the casino stunk of cigarette smoke. I’m not much for gambling, but there was a Carnival Player’s Club event for my cruise which had the casino buzzing with a lot of activity. I hear the odds are very bad at sea relative to land casinos, but someone won $2500 and a free cruise there. The sports deck on 12 had a lot of family activity toward the aft of the ship with a full sized basketball court, mini golf, foosball, ping pong, outdoor exercise equipment, the ropes course (which looked fun but never got the chance to try), and the waterworks area with two different large water slides, a big soaker bucket and two smaller slides. I never lounged around the two pools on deck 10, the Lido, where the majority of activity was centered. There were always chairs available, but the area was too crowded for me. I noticed one in the aft pool one morning all by herself. Mornings might be the best time to avoid crowds for taking a dip. The hot tubs tended to be bustling with groups of 4 to 6 sipping frozen tropical drinks and buckets of beer. There are 8 public hot tubs on the ship: two in the adults-only Serenity area, two on the Lido at the aft pool, and 4 on the Lanai around the ship. I suspect that the Lanai hot tubs were used less frequently because they were a little out of the way of most ship cruiser traffic. However, I was happy with my Thalassotherapy spa where it was always quieter. One night I saw a couple drinking beer in the spa hot tub. I was surprised that the Spa attendants didn’t say anything. I’d liken this behavior to smoking weed during yoga—gauche. The Serenity area is large, with aqua cushions on chaises, round loungers big enough for two, hammocks, and shaded seating. There was also a separate bar with seats for about 12. A waiter strolled the area to take drink orders. This was my deck hang out. Our weather was overcast with quite a bit of overnight rain, and Serenity was practically deserted. There were also a couple of smaller areas on the Sun Deck one deck below just aft of the Serenity flanking the Waterworks which had comfy chairs and great sea views. Faster To The Fun A $49 upgrade from the base fare per cabin gave us some premium level benefits only otherwise afforded to Platinum and Diamond cruisers with 10+ cruises on Carnival. If you can snag one of these, offered as an excursion, I couldn’t recommend them enough. It starts with special luggage tags that cue the embarkation port attendants to expedite your luggage to your room. They asked us to march straight to the front of the line where they had separate embarkation agents checking our IDs and medical affidavits before we got our Sign and Sail cards. FTF does not give you access to the premium lounge, however. We were considered priority boarding and got on in this order: wedding parties, diamond, platinum VIFP groups, suites, Carnival Players Club, FTF, then in the numbered boarding groups by zone. From luggage drop off to boarding was about 30 minutes, as we arrived around 10:30A. Upon boarding, our cabins were already cleaned and ready for us to drop off our carry-ons. We had finished lunch before more than half of the people had boarded. By the time we were done with lunch, our luggage was in our rooms. We were first to debark as well, after the self-service cruisers who carried all of their luggage. FTF gives you access to a separate window with no line and priority attention at guest services which I used to quickly clear up a question about my account and get the tender for in Belize. I’m not sure, but it may have helped with my specialty dining reservations and request for Any Time Dining. In any case, it helped to avoid many more lines, which do not please me. The Spa The Cloud 9 spa is actually on two decks, the fitness center, locker room and saunas on 12, and with thermal suites and treatment rooms on 14. I loved the proximity to the gym from the balcony on 11. I could take a private elevator between 11 and all the way up to the Serenity deck on 15. I spent multiple mornings on the LifeFitness elliptical trainer gazing out to sea. Spa amenities also gave me two free yoga / Pilates classes which were not absolutely conveniently timed, but I did make one yoga class. There were 5 of us in that class led by an enthusiastic Aussie Kevin who was great. I also went to a fee-based ($15) spin class with Kevin (only three people in that class!) and burned serious calories as well as learned a few tricks to take back to the gym at home for spinning. On port days, the ship offers free morning stretch classes for all cruisers. I participated in a couple of those as well. They were more like Yoga-lite and perfectly adequate. There were never more than 6 people in these classes. Fitness wise, it was like we had private lessons. The thermal suites are a little piece of heaven! Don your bathing suit, put on your upgraded Cloud 9 bathrobe, and if you’re like me, try to stuff your size 13 foot into a size 8 slipper (they’re too small!), and take a trip to Nirvana. The medium warm tepidarium has six tiled, heated chaise lounges with a gorgeous private view of the sea. Just next to it was the warmer laconium, with two heated chaises and a wall of heated benches across the back. There are two separate steam baths: the oriental with a spicy herbal scent to it and the even warmer aroma steam bath which features menthol and eucalyptus in the air. None of these rooms ever had more than 4 people in them. It was so peaceful. Just around the corner from here is another semi private multi-head shower with color therapy. I probably spent the most time in the covered Thalassotherapy pool which amply fit about eleven people, but never exceeded about 6. There’s a long underwater chaise which maximizes the jets against the backs and the legs. The jets pushed me off the chaise they were so powerful. At the end of the pool there were two power showers which felt great to pour down against my shoulders and back. All of the spa facilities are available from 8AM – 10PM daily. Some nights I stole away just before retiring to catch some relaxation in that hot tub. I developed some strong shoulder pain that no ibuprofen would allay during the trip, so I considered a ’la carte spa services. I opted for a $129 special (don’t forget the automatic 15% tip surcharge) on day five that included exfoliation, hot stone back, neck, shoulder and scalp massage and a facial in 75 minutes of treatment. This was actually a good deal, and much cheaper than my initial recommended course. Having read the warnings about the hard product sell after treatments, I printed clearly on my intake form that I didn’t want any products. My very nice technician told me after I was finished that this made her feel sad and still pushed a face wash, scrub and mask on me. I eventually caved for the wash and scrub at an additional $77. Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to these services. The reason they include so many services in one package is that it gives them an opportunity to sell you exfoliator, shampoo/scalp, massage, facial, and even a very pricey detox program. The facial was good and so was the back massage. As a point of reference, at first I told them about my shoulder pain and they recommended acupuncture. These treatments are $150 a piece, and the specialist recommended 5 sessions at a $150 discount of $600. $pendy. I was also curious about the Botox / Dysport treatments on the ship so I consulted with the ship’s doctor day one about my crow’s feet (~$350). She recommended a total brow lift across my “much worse” forehead (~$450) and midbrow (~$350) for a discounted price of $800 if I booked them all together. These also included free touch ups during the cruise. I don’t know if this is a good deal, but it was definitely beyond my budget. The food There’s more food on this ship than anyone can eat, but I tried. :) The Prime Steakhouse I started out with a reservation on night one made well in advance at the Prime Steakhouse which included a free bottle of wine for our table of four. We tried to get another bottle saying that we were two cabins, but they balked. The free wine is passable, not the best. However, it was free and I love that price! I savored this intimate, upscale restaurant ($35 upcharge) which seats about 80 people. The service was extremely professional, from the chummy bartender at the entrance to the friendly wait staff. The nights began with a cocktail at the very small bar at the front of the restaurant. The absolutely charming Gabriela from Hungary took sweet care of us for my standard classic Crown Royal Manhattan on the rocks (she sought out Angostura bitters to finish the drink for me personally) and a Hendricks gin martini up for the husband. Both of these call brand cocktails come in at under $10. I’m used to $14 cocktails in the bars in Chicago, so the prices were reasonable to me. We got to know Gabriela, and she recognized us by name. This bar was so nice; we had pre-prandial cocktails there on four evenings. It made me feel like I was the only person on the ship for a swank, intimate encounter. We enjoyed the ambiance and food at the Prime Steakhouse so much, we ate there twice. The evening begins with an amuse bouche. We sampled the tomato water, the lobster carpaccio, and crab croquettes. The croquettes stood out. Appetizers and sides were also delicious, from the giant shrimp cocktail to the rich, earthy lobster bisque to the excellent tuna tartar to the surprisingly airy escargot puffs with amazing dipping sauce. The crab cake was so good! It’s just a whole head and shoulders above the absolutely fine crab cake appetizer in the MDR. As for salads, I loved my beefsteak tomato and blue cheese salad, but the Caesar salad could have been better. It was served traditional, whole romaine leaf style with a thick dressing. It’s better than the one they serve in the MDR which tended to be small and underdressed, but doesn’t match the finishing and detail of so many of the other menu items in the steakhouse. The spinach salad was ample, competent, and tasty. The first night was rife with beef, and I tried the 5 spice rubbed bone-in 18 oz. hangar steak. The prime meat was grilled perfectly and seriously too big. Dear father in law loved his 9 oz. filet mignon. “One of the best I’ve ever eaten,” he remarked. A more petit filet comes with the surf and turf. The hubby got the lamb chops. This was the biggest serving of lamb chops I’ve ever seen. It also included perfectly succulent lamb loin medallions if the three giant chops aren’t enough. The second time we went back for two only and focused only on fish and shellfish. We were still blown away with quality. Evidently, so was the staff. This Thursday evening, a formal night in the MDR, the restaurant filled with officers of the ship, including the cruise director, the shopping expert, and surprisingly, a table of the captain and his senior crewmen ship in their very fancy black jackets with epaulets and gold braids. Needless to say, I felt like a VIP sitting next to them. Unfortunately, we didn’t chat because their entire conversation was in Italian! On my second visit, entrée choices were sea bass and lobster tail for us. Perfectly cooked. Absolutely delectable. Note that they only have one size of large lobster tail in the steakhouse: 7 oz. It’s split for a surf and turf and three halves are served for the lobster tail entrée. Sides are unremarkable, unfortunately. We tried the large portion of plain steamed broccoli, basic baked potato with nice side dish of bacon, butter, and sour cream, horseradish whipped potatoes which were just a bit too creamy for my taste, and the strange creamed spinach which consisted of steamed spinach leaves with garlic cream poured on top of them. I actually prefer Boston Market on this one! One standout side was the plain sautéed button mushrooms. These are hard to beat. Desserts were gigantic and amazing from the rich, tall cheesecake which easily feeds three to the chocolate sampler in four tasting portions. Two standouts were the decadent, caramelized apples in a puff pastry dome for which my server announced was the best thing on their menu. Don’t underestimate the cheese course, either. It was chock full of very high quality cheeses: French brie, St. Andre (crazy stinky), Roquefort, aged gouda, almonds, water crackers and a perfect little cluster of grapes. This alone would cost $15-$20 at any fine restaurant. I must not forget the bread choices: rosemary focaccia or a delicious little brioche roll. They’re served with a trio of smears including butter, tomato relish and eggplant relish. Bottom line, this place is near perfect. Another couple we met on the ship told us the same story: they were so blown away with the place, they came back twice. I want to share a final note about reservations in the steakhouse. If you use the reservation system, it may seem full and sometimes hard to get a table. My experience, however, was that it was often not full by more than half. My suspicion is that people make the reservations and then forget to cancel, for which there’s no penalty. Because of this, we arrived 45 minutes early the second night expecting to have a cocktail before dinner and we were seated almost right away. We also saw people coming into the restaurant and being seated without reservations. Words to the wiser! The Chef’s Table I was very pleasantly surprised by the sheer artistry of the Chef’s Table. I’m also happy to report that we experienced a new, third menu for this dinner. I reserved well in advance of the cruise by about 6 weeks through the Steakhouse mcsteakhouse@carnival.com. At our seating, there were 16 cruisers participating. I was told that this was the second offering on this ship this cruise and that because of demand they may have expanded to up to four evenings. In other words, Carnival accommodates for this special event. We met early in the evening at 6:15 in the piano lounge for four appetizers. The pre-dinner event was moved from the Vibe nightclub due to a conflict. A tall stem of champagne accompanied what began a culinary journey which lasted almost three hours. The chef de cuisine and three of his white-toqued sous brought us delectable little bites including an unusual mango sphere which resembled an egg yolk made possible by molecular gastronomy techniques on a savory rosemary cracker. The standout amuses were the salmon tartar mini hand roll and the double crusted lamb meat balls. The third beef carpaccio on air pillow was wild. It looked like nothing I’ve ever eaten before. This is a theme for the dinner: presentations are spectacularly adventurous. Chefs and his assistants explain everything and answer any questions. You’ll feel pampered. From the lounge, we marched into the galley. It’s a clean machine of efficiency and volume. About halfway in, we found ourselves at a white table clothed table with fine china and stemware. Our host, the chef de cuisine was warm and animated. I found my place card with a scrolled personalized menu for the evening featuring a ribbon with a star anise closure. The bread presentation then came with savory thin crisps separating brioche curls with caramelized onions and herbs. Three surprises flank the end of the bread board: a roasted garlic clove, and two different cherry tomatoes which were delicious. I’ve never eaten any tomatoes prepared this way. They were unusual in that they looked raw but were somehow cooked. They were like a little bite of magic. Red or white wine flowed freely at the table, a 2013 Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio or a McGuigan Bin Series Merlot, both about $10 a bottle in retail stores. We began the seven course journey with a gorgeous, multilayered beet ‘blanket’ served with a grape tea. Many of the courses are served with separate finishing pours and this was the first of them. This course was beautiful! Diners would be served simultaneously. During every course, the assistants or the Chef himself would crouch down to the table to ensure that everything was to our liking. Next was a delectable crab salad served on a polenta cracker with passion fruit caviar, another gastronomy trick. The duck textures, basically duck two-ways, was delicate with the creamy quinoa and parmesan churros. Probably the most spectacular presentation was the Bisque our way, where two separate tomato soups are poured simultaneously into the plate with a ‘log’ of whipped cream and herbs separating them. Wow. We then stopped and took a tour through the service area where we learned some amazing facts about the kitchen and food preparation on the ship from the Chef. He explained that for a one week cruise, he will order $450,000 worth of food to be delivered in Galveston. They prepare 4000 meals for the brunches and dinners in the MDRs per day! He showed us a computer screen which shows a grid of every order to be completed in real time during the dinner with color coding for modifiers like temperature for steaks. We paraded by stations where we learned that for safety, there are no flames at all in the kitchen. All food, even the grilled steaks are made with on water-heated grills. We saw how each entrée on the menu has a picture at the completion station to cue the assistants on presentations. We then stopped by the pastry area of the kitchen where we met the head pastry chef. He gave us the recipe for Carnival’s signature warm melting cake and demonstrated the preparation. Basically a custardy soufflé of eggs, sugar, butter, cocoa and flour, I discovered the real secret to this dessert: Felchlin Lucerne 44% fine Swiss cocoa powder. They prepare 1450 of these every night. We next marched back to the table where we were greeted with a close up magician who entertained the table with two illusions, one at each end. This was just delightful. The sea bass with fried pop corn pudding, savory lemon macaron, and lobster foam was another winner as the next course. The Wagyu beef short rib with bone marrow soufflé and gremolata crisp was finished with a flourish of demi glace. It was rich and succulent. Finally, we ended with a tapestry plate of sea salt praline chocolate, raspberry, key lime cake, another sweet macaron, and apricot vanilla gel. Just amazing. By now, our group photos were ready and each of us got a picture of the Chef’s Table and participants. We got to know some very nice and interesting people at this meal. Attire was evening casual with a mix of jackets and ties, but plenty of polos and collared shirts for the men. Women as a group looked very nice, but there were no gowns nor sequins. These conventions are an artifact of the past. The Chef stood for pictures with people and the end of the event. Before I booked the Chef’s Table, I had read that this multi-course menu may not approach the finest five star restaurants in large cities. That is NOT the case. This food is a tour-de-force of techniques, ingredients, and presentations. The synchronized service is near perfect. With the champagne, unlimited wine, entertainment, intermezzos, and complimentary photograph, the value is unprecedented. If you’re adventurous or a foodie, it’s a must! Cuchina Del Capitano I never had a chance to try this restaurant in the evening when there is a $15 surcharge. I did however, love it for lunch. Even better, you’ll get quasi table service with an excellent, limited food menu. At lunch, I’d walk up the stairs and visit the hostess who’d assign my party a number and individual ordering menus which are filled out and dropped off at the kitchen. You find any open table, fill your order and wait a short time for your food. The ambience was like a little Italian village. Like most of my favorite places on the Magic, it seemed like a hidden gem. The décor is quaint, and it was never crowded. Honestly, the lunch service was a little slow here. There was also a wait to get an alcoholic drink ordered and delivered. If you order a beer with lunch, which is great because they offer Peroni and Moretti in the Cuchina, they have to get a bar waiter from downstairs to come up. A minor gripe. It’s a cruise! Who’s on a timetable? The limited menu consists of salad, bread, made to order pasta and a spectacular lasagna. Salad and bread were just okay, kind of plain. The made to order pasta, for which you could choose your pasta type: penne, linguini, farfalle; sauce: marinara, Bolognese, red clam, or alfredo (fancy patrons were ordering ‘pink’ sauce, which is a mix of the marinara and the alfredo), and then a nice assortment of vegetables, chicken, or shrimp. My farfalle with marinara, vegetables and shrimp was very delicious. The lasagna is in a class by itself. A generous portion of layered pasta sheets, it included layers of spinach, eggplant planks, and whole chunks of braised beef underneath bubble, melted cheese. This should probably be illegal it’s so good. I wanted to try the arancini, but alas! They’re only available at dinner. Even one evening when the Cuchina’s cuisine was featured at the taste bar, there were none to be had. I guess there’s always a next time… The Red Frog Pub On the Lanai deck right next to the Vibe nightclub sits a large Caribbean style l-shaped pub with convenient outdoor seating on deck. This lively, warm venue featured a variety of beers, specialty mixed drinks and island-inspired small plates to share. The servers are mostly from the islands as well; very friendly and, like most of the staff on ship, surprisingly apt to remember my name with a second visit. When it comes to beer, the place features Red Frog Ale made especially for Carnival. You can order a large 20 oz. pint or a 110 ounce beer tube with a spigot at the bottom for communal sharing. I mentioned that I don’t care for mass produced American beer, and in my opinion, the Red Frog Ale is on par with them. Unless you’re going for quantity, just pass on this. They also serve Boddington’s in the can and Guinness here. When it comes to specialty drinks, the Pub offers many of the fruity, tropical, “drink two of these and get a headache from sugar” cocktails as well. You can order most in these giant fishbowl goblets which can throw you for a loop. I liked their specialty “Ting” cocktails made with a grapefruit soda and white liquor like gin or vodka. The gin Ting is very refreshing since they spice it up with a dash of bitters. As for the food, it’s a tasty winner. Presentations are rustic island themed in paper lined wire cones with long plantain chips mixed in with the mostly fried offerings like fish fingers and excellent coconut shrimp with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. We tried the conch fritters as well and found them to be good, but aren’t what you’d find in Mallory Square in Key West. They unfortunately have a spice in the batter which fries to a shell-like hardness. When I bit into them, I felt like I was going to chip my teeth. The conch ceviche was delicious. The portion big enough, but suffered from a lack of saltines or bread with which to eat it. I also tried the chicken roti and found them to be satisfying. Any food ordered in the Red Frog will run $3.33. They are all certainly big enough to share. Go with a dining mate; and with the ambience, live music in the evenings, and quality, it’s a fun place. The MDR I was happy to reserve a Your Time Dining reservation. We ate in the Northern Lights room always at a separated table for four. The room is large, on two levels. I preferred to eat on the edges of the restaurant rather than in the two-story open center. While the view of the singing and dancing waiters is better in the center since they tend to gather along the crescent stairways to perform, I did not care for the large blue green florescent chandeliers casting and unsavory glow on my food and my family. It’s more intimate under the eaves. We never really waited in long lines to be seated when we’d typically appear between 6:15 and 7:30, maybe three or four parties before us. It was only on our last night that there was a bit of a wait, so we were offered a pager to let us know when our table was ready. It’s completely convenient, since the lobby lounge opens onto the dining room. We just excused ourselves and sat and chatted on the sofas for about 25 minutes while we sipped a drink from the bar. The quality of the food in the MDR is a bit hit or miss. I was never dissatisfied. I loved the variety and didn’t order off of the everyday items menu. I liked more adventurous fare, often trying a ‘Didja’ appetizer which included interesting fare like frog’s legs Provençale and braised Ox tongue. The fish entrees were typically overcooked to my liking. I asked the waiter if they could cook my salmon to more of a medium consistency and he said it would be too difficult for the kitchen with the volume. I thought the Panko breaded shrimp were delectable, as was the rich, sherried seafood Newburg. Soups were consistently good and often interesting with options like strawberry or chilled peach, a hearty navy bean, and a surprisingly spicy Tom Kha with chicken. My in laws thought that their food was often not hot enough for them. I’m not as sensitive to temperature and found mostly everything very good. For dessert, I loved the warm chocolate melting cake with vanilla ice cream; it’s totally decadent. We had four different dining captains when we ate and each was quite special, but it wasn’t until the last night that we really struck the jackpot and had a waiter who was clearly trained in a five star establishment. From the whisking of the napkins to our lap, the attentive and friendly service, to the use of a crumb catcher, he was spot on! The others had strengths in different ways. One evening, our friendly waiter surprised us all at the table with a solo singing performance to the entire dining room after the wait staff finished their number. Another night, we had a guy who comped us our after-dinner drinks and didn’t charge the corkage fee for the wine we brought to share at the table from the cabin. Yet one other night, when my in-laws were dissatisfied with their food temperature, our waiter tried to buy our satisfaction with extra appetizers, entrees and desserts to the table. It wasn’t like we needed the extra food, but I can (but probably shouldn’t) always eat a few more shrimp or a few forkfuls of cake. If I had to put my finger on the issue with the MDR, it would be that the servers are spread too thin. It doesn’t help that every 45 minutes or so, they all MUST convene in the center of the room to sing a song together. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the live entertainment, waving my napkin above my head with the majority of the diners. However, when your domed entrée sits on a large serving tray cooling with 14 others while you wait for the musical number to end, there’s kind of a disconnect here. Sea days gave us brunches in the Southern Lights dining room. There was always a line for this, but it moved briskly and we were seated within 15 minutes of arriving. As a bonus, as a repeat Carnival cruiser, I was offered coupons for free drinks at brunch. They’ve got a delicious bloody Mary bar right outside the dining room with multiple ingredients and hot sauces all mixed to order with a generous pour of Belvedere vodka. No complaints here whatsoever! Brunches would start with a basket of breads and sweet rolls. Coffee and juices at brunch were included with no surcharge, so that was nice. The special menu had nice savory options like salmon and mildly spicy Cornish hen diavola, which I thought was great, as well as omelets made to order. Standard breakfast options like eggs or sausage or waffles were good as well. A totally delicious and easily overlooked option was the jerked bacon on the Caesar salad. The spice rub on that bacon was amazing. We got four pieces, so I shared them. We all loved it. Not so good was the soupy mac and cheese which suffered from too high a béchamel to cheese ratio. Seating could be communal or at smaller tables. One morning we asked for a window view. They suggested a long 10 top five seats from the window at first. We said we didn’t prefer it, so they moved us immediately to a gorgeous view aft of the ship right at the window with the azure eddies from the engines coloring the ship’s trail in the water. Lido Buffet I avoided this area of the ship almost entirely. I think it’s great for families, but the idea of carrying around an oversized plastic plate on a tray and finding a clean, available booth to sit in seems unnecessarily downscale. One would typically have to stop at multiple stations with multiple lines. In almost no case were these lines very long, about 3 or four people waiting, but it’s like a giant Golden Corral. I don’t eat hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, or even pizza when there’s a finer dining option just steps away. It always seemed like the line for the Mongolian Wok which wrapped around the area was too long. Skipped it. There were three areas here which did get my attention, however. The first was the deli portside aft of the ship. The in-laws tried the Reuben and were underwhelmed. The meat portion was skimpy as were the sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese. The second buffet area which tended to have my husband suddenly appear with some chocolate delicacy was the chocolate bar. The cakes looked great. The best buffet option was the Tandoor kitchen starboard aft on the ship. The food here was excellent. There were plenty of vegetarian entrée options with rice, entire sauce bar of Indian choices from tamarind to raita to complex chutneys. They had delicious tandoor charred fresh fish and fresh naan coming out of the oven in a stream. We lunched there twice. Room service We regularly used room service for an early breakfast delivery of juice, coffee, bagel, cream cheese and smoked salmon. Options were limited but certainly sufficed. It was great to use the door hangar the night before to get something delivered freshly to the cabin. Timing was always spot on and the portions were really big. Order coffee and they send you a carafe of four cups! The smoked salmon included four large smoked fillets wrapped up to look like roses with a few raw red onion rings and tasty capers sprinkled over them. I wasn’t really happy with the limp wheat toast I got one morning. The next morning, I just marked ‘dark toasted’ on the card and the problem was solved. One day, we made smoked salmon bagels to take with us on our excursion. Nobody looked in our beach bag as we left the ship. We always tipped the room service waiter $2-$5 cash. The Coffee Bar I only went to this place once, which surprised me because I’m a Starbucks-a-holic with daily visits. I like a triple espresso over ice with a touch of soy or almond milk and a Splenda. I got one here twice and I was just a bit underwhelmed. The espresso shots were premade and just poured from little metal pitchers under the machine, which if you know anything about good espresso is a total no-no. No almond or soy milk, either. This is a missed opportunity for Carnival. Service was great, however. Not surprisingly, the second time I visited, I was greeted by name. Drinks I wrestled very hard with whether to purchase the Cheers program for my trip. Three weeks before we cruised, Carnival raised the prices on the package from $37.50 per person per day to $49.95. We opted out. When ships leave out of Galveston, Carnival states that drink packages cannot be purchased until day two because of Texas law. Between the four of us, we each brought on a bottle of wine. We used these bottles at dinner in the MDR three times to offset the costs of buying at dinner, despite the fact that there is a $15 corking fee with a bottle. We also had dinner reservations in the steakhouse on the first night for the free bottle of wine. As repeat cruisers, my in-laws gave us their free drink coupons for Sea Day Brunches which we used with ours as well to save. Since we’d have one or two drinks during the day, a drink before dinner, wine with dinner and one drink after dinner, the Cheers program with the previous price would have saved us about $70 overall in drink fees. We ended up spending $589 on drinks and were never wanting, so the new prices would not have made sense for us. The ones that got away If the cruise had been longer with more sea days, I would have like to have tried the Sea Day Barbecue on the outside Lanai deck. My only other often desired but never tried area was The Taste Bar, which doubles as a breakfast buffet on port days (good-to-know fact!). The taste bar features amuses from the restaurants on the ship, including the premium ones. It was never open when I walked by, except the one night when they featured the Cuchina Del Capitano fare sans the treasured arancini. Entertainment We caught a couple of shows in the theater. Overall quality was good. The cast consisted of a male and female singing lead, four male dancers, eight female dancers, and a five piece band-- all seasoned professionals. We caught two music reviews, both about 40 minutes. My wish was that the reviews were a bit shorter, because I was ready to leave by the end. They were just a little long. Multiple costume changes, great dancing and decent singing was the fare for both, one being Seventies inspired. These would greatly benefit from an overhaul for content. Surprisingly odd was the Destination Unknown magic show with more pyrotechnics than I think is safe on a ship at sea! Sparks fly everywhere. There are large scale illusions with some dancing and a little bit of singing. This show makes no sense at all. It has a futuristic, bondage theme to it. Evidently, someone got hurt during the early performance of the show because of the ship rocking; so we got a modified version. It lasted twenty minutes. I remarked as we left, “Well we just saw something, but I have no idea what it was!” I remember the Love and Marriage show from the previous cruise and I didn’t want to miss this afternoon event hosted by the wry, cheeky, energetic James the Cruise Director. It was very funny, often off-color, and completely spontaneous with three couples playing the Newlywed Game from various stages of their marriage, one just married three days ago, another married for 11 years, and the third for 56 years. What a hoot! Don’t miss this one. I caught three shows in the George Lopez Punchline Lounge. This place was very popular. Towards the end of the cruise, people would line up in the piano bar about thirty minutes before the show in the Piano bar for a seating. They had a total of four comedians performing for the week, two rotating early and two later. These are all performed by professionals, except the lame comedy director who consistently introduced the shows with a very short routine of flat jokes. I was very happy to see that since the previous cruise, the comedians no longer do political humor which I found so offensive eight years ago, I walked out. This time, two of the three had me laughing out loud with their bawdy humor. The third to standing room only was so meek; she made me merely smirk weakly. Mildly amused, I snuck out. Other than that, I played Trivia as often as I could. As I mentioned, these weren’t really interactive, but more like a paper and pencil test given by the administrator. Didn’t matter. These were fun, and I’m happy to say that I won three of four entered! In addition to two ‘solid-gold plastic ships-on-a-stick’, I won a giant fishbowl of a rum drink that was so big, two of us couldn’t finish it. It was, however, very fun to cradle this behemoth across the rocking ship one evening as an ice breaker. They’re available at $19.95 in the Red Frog Pub. The lobby bar had an okay three piece ensemble of singer and two musicians before dinner. They tended to country music, so I never stayed to listen. Summary Carnival is an incredible value for cruising. The service was consistently first rate, the cabin accommodations were spotless, and the food was surprisingly sophisticated if you know where to eat. I loved the spa and found the entertainment to be satisfying. I paid extra for many upgrades on this trip to enhance my experience. Even with the upgrades my cruise on the Magic to the Western Caribbean was much less than it would have cost for a similar experience on other cruise lines, and I still felt like a king being indulged at every step. So many of my friends essentially turned up their nose at the idea of a Carnival cruise, and that’s their loss. I was so impressed with my cruise, I’m looking to book the West Indies out of San Juan as soon as possible.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
First of all, a cruise is what you make of it. That said, I did have higher expectations of a ship that had gone through an extensive renovation to be in better condition that what it was. Previous posters re-affirmed what I saw, worn ... Read More
First of all, a cruise is what you make of it. That said, I did have higher expectations of a ship that had gone through an extensive renovation to be in better condition that what it was. Previous posters re-affirmed what I saw, worn varnish on wood and especially in the elevators, there is no way they could have been worn down that fast since the ship was reinstated. A few things of note: FTTF - We had purchased FTTF and can honestly say I don't know if it was worth it. Seemed worth it to get on and to get help at Guest Services, but debarkation, it seemed like we were waiting for a long time to get off the ship. Room - We had Aft balcony, room 7430. This was definitely disappointing. We brought drinks and they had no refrigerator and an old tube television. Not that you spend a whole lot of time in your room, but in the balcony rooms you do a little bit more, to relax, read a book, etc. during the days at sea. The refrigerator was most disappointing because I like my sodas cold, we went to guest services and they said the refrigerators are for people with medicine. Wish refrigerators would be standard in the rooms, they have plenty of room to put one in. Food - Guy's Burgers, FANTASTIC!!!!!!! Didn't eat at Blue Iguana, but my Bro-in-law was not impressed with their fish tacos. The buffet was adequate, nothing spectacular. Wish the Triumph had a steak restaurant, other than that, couldn't complain too much about the food. Entertainment - This has improved tremendously, they are almost comparable to Vegas style shows, which they are touting. The usual entertainment shows are still there, but they have enhanced their other shows too. And now with the recent announcement of concerts, Carnival is becoming top-notch with entertainment. Overall, it was a good experience. Nothing to complain about that would drive me away from Carnival. We did book another cruise while onboard so I wasn't disappointed that much, just a few things could have been better. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
We are frequent cruisers but have cruised the last few cruises on Celebrity. We came back to Carnival to give it another try because we had heard about how wonderful the Carnival Magic out of Galveston was. It is a wonderful ship. ... Read More
We are frequent cruisers but have cruised the last few cruises on Celebrity. We came back to Carnival to give it another try because we had heard about how wonderful the Carnival Magic out of Galveston was. It is a wonderful ship. Waterworks, rope course, comedians, cruise director Noonan, spa cabin- There is something for everyone on the ship.The Magic also had excellent service and food.. The ship was mostly Texans, a very friendly group. We had beautiful weather for most of our cruise starting with sailaway from Galveston. Montego Bay was sunny in the morning but rained in the afternoon after we went back to the ship. We were hesitant about going out on our own in Jamaica so we used up some OBC and chose the Catamaran Snorkeling with the stop at Margaritaville. Very fun! Had a great time on the inflatable toys out in the water at Margaritaville after trying the famous and very fast waterslide. Grand Cayman started out very stressful. We purchased FTTF to get early tendering in Grand Cayman for a private excursion. We were at the service desk at 6:50 am to get the first tender. Told by staff to wait in lobby and as soon as tendering started, we would be escorted to first boat. Husband happened to look out the window after 7 to see tenders already leaving the ship while we patiently waited in the lobby. Had to ask several more times before we were escorted to the tender boat. Barely made our 8;30 meetup time. Tenders take their time loading even though there are always 3 or 4 other tenders circling waiting for passengers. Takes about 25 minutes to load the tenders. Magic's shiptime never changes so remember Grand Cayman time is 1 hour later if you book a private excursion. We booked a snorkeling excursion with Acquarius Sea Tours here that was the highlight of our trip. Pickup at the dock, snorkeling, pizza, private one on one time with the rays at Stingray City (while watching, across the way, boats packed with hundreds of people all gathered around a single guide and ray), another stop at Starfish Point, delivery back to the dock and free pictures taken by the guide of the whole excursion available on the internet. Could not have had a better day! Next port was Cozumel. Been there lots of times so decided to try America's Cup Racing to get out on the water on a sailboat. Captained the Canadian Boat to the win! I wanted to relax so I was made the Captain. My husband wanted to help sail so he was the Grinder. Fun! So we had a wonderful week on the Magic that all came to a crashing halt when we hit fog and were delayed getting back to port. I know, that's not Carnival's fault. The way they handled debarkation is though. The other reason we purchased FTTF was for getting quickly to the airport after the cruise. Debarkation was the worst we have ever experienced in all of our many cruises. Again, we had FTTF specifically to get off the ship quickly. The FTTF letter delivered to our stateroom even states that we will be among the first to debark the ship. With fog delaying the ship's arrival, we thought FTTF would really help get us to the airport faster. WRONG. We got off the ship fairly quickly just to wait over 50 minutes staring at our luggage at the port, being yelled at by port staff and not being allowed to pick up our zone 1 luggage until all zones had their luggage placed in rows. I don't understand why this happened. When finally allowed to proceed, we were put on a Carnival transport that then sat over 50 minutes to leave for the ride to IAH. The transport arrived 7 minutes before our rebooked plane left which was too late to make the flight. That meant incurring even more rebooking fees and hotel and food costs not to mention missing work and babysitting responsibilities Monday. We had spent a fabulous 7 days on the Magic with all the employees going out of their way to make our vacation special only to be rudely yelled at and dismissed by the port staff. They kept yelling at us to get over in the corner as we watched most of the ship walk off. We were to wait until all luggage was off the boat until we could access ours. The Carnival employee at the transport bus said she is allowed to hold us for an hour before she has to send the bus onto the airport. There were already about ten people on the bus before we got on and they waited the full hour plus for departure. Consequently everyone in front of us was missing their flights. We had to wait for the bus to fill up with a few more stragglers before we could leave. Shame on Carnival. They treated their most valued guests (those with Diamond and Platinum Status and those who paid extra for FTTF) the worst. I wouldn't recommend paying the extra $50. Save your money!   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Our family cruise was in celebration of my granddaughter and nephew son's high school graduation. There were 8 in our party, 4 adults, 2 graduates, an 11 and 7 year old. We drove to Galveston from North Texas, picking up my nephew ... Read More
Our family cruise was in celebration of my granddaughter and nephew son's high school graduation. There were 8 in our party, 4 adults, 2 graduates, an 11 and 7 year old. We drove to Galveston from North Texas, picking up my nephew and his children at Houston Hobby (flying in from Chattanooga, TN). We spent Saturday at the Hampton Inn Houston/Texas City. This was a great location and the rooms were very nice. We drove down to Galveston Saturday night for dinner at Joe's Crab Shack and a drive by the port. I booked a spa balcony cabin (8S - 12014) which was everything I expected and more. I love the location on top of the ship, close to the spa and Serenity deck, close to the water park and the forward elevators. The cabin and balcony were very quiet, with the exception of the balcony doors slamming shut. The spa cabin included spa amenities and we especially enjoyed the Thalassotherapy pool and the thermal suites. We never had the time to take the 2 complimentary classes. The Carnival Magic is a beautiful and well laid out ship. It was very easy to get around and find the many varying areas. We spent most of our sea days sunning on deck 12, close to the Water Works so we could keep an eye on my granddaughter. We enjoyed all the activities going on below and the big screen TV. I loved watching Mamma Mia on the last day at sea! After boarding we had lunch at Cucina de Capitano. It must be a well kept secret that it is complimentary for lunch. The food and service were excellent, and it is a beautifully appointed room. Most of us had a family dinner in the Northern Lights main dining room. We loved 'John Wayne' and his assistants. We did eat with other waiters a couple of night, but always came back to Wayan. The food was excellent and plentiful. Now the children think they can order 2 or 3 entrees for all meals! On lobster night the extra tails were ready before we asked. I also loved the entertainment during dinner by the wait staff. We had room service breakfast several days and a sandwich another. Usually prompt and accurate, though after an excursion it took a bit longer. We also had breakfast at Lido a couple of times and also took in the chocolate extravaganza! On the last day we visited the Red Frog Pub and had a great meal of appetizers and drinks on the lanai. The wait staff was excellent. Just be prepared to be on Caribbean time. The sail-away party, the Red Frog Pub Caribbean party and the Latin party by the pool were all great fun. Service all around was excellent. Our cabins were well cared for and all of the staff always called us by name. I would love to learn their secret of remembering all those names every week. Disembarkation was a breeze. We waited in our cabin until our group was called and were able to get an elevator from 12 and get off the boat in about 5 minutes. We used a porter for our bags which cut down waiting in line. All in all I would say this was one of my very favorite family vacations. It exceeded my expectations and I have cruised before. I can't wait for my next cruise so I need to get busy planning! Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
I just wanted to give all of you who helped us so much for our trip, a quick review. We arrived at the dock around 1pm. I dropped my husband off and went to EZ parking and left our car there. It was only a block away from the dock so easy ... Read More
I just wanted to give all of you who helped us so much for our trip, a quick review. We arrived at the dock around 1pm. I dropped my husband off and went to EZ parking and left our car there. It was only a block away from the dock so easy to get back to. My husband had moved up in the line to make it indoors the building. It was already about 20 minutes waiting. It looked like a Disneyland line once we got indoors and it took about another 25 minutes to get to check in. After that we were on the ship and in our cabin at about 2pm. My husband was sure that we made a mistake not paying the $50 to go to the front of the line, but it only took an hour and I spent the $50 on drinks instead! Our cabin was on the 11Th deck and it was a spa cabin. We heard so much about the spa that we wanted to spend most of our time there. It was an additional $100pp over what we had originally paid, to upgrade and we felt it was well worth it. We had a lovely balcony and the cabin was very comfortable.We loved having happy hour, from the mini bar, on our balcony and just relaxing and resting in the warm sun. Our room steward was Jose and he was excellent. Our cabin was spotless all the time. We decided that we would eat in the Steakhouse at least 2 nights and the Italian restaurant 2 nights as we did not want to wait in line for dinner as we had anytime dining. The first night we ate at the Steakhouse. It was amazing. The service was special and the ambiance was very nice. The food was probably better than any Steakhouse I have eaten at in Texas. We loved it so much that we signed up for a third night. It was well worth the extra $35 per person. The Italian restaurant was also excellent and we loved it. The menu is a bit limiting, but I had one of the bests New York steaks there. We ate in the dinning room on Formal nights only. There was only a small wait as we lined up at 5:30pm both nights. The service and food was excellent. As was the food at the comedy brunch in the MDR on sea days. The only area that my husband had a problem with was the Lido buffet. It was always crowded and chaotic. It had very good food selections but everything was spread out so it took a long time to collect your food. I liked the coffee very much. It was dark and strong. The bars were good and the drinks had lots of alcohol in them. Probably the only negative of the trip for me was the lack of real entertainment as compared to other cruise lines. There were a couple of shows in the main theatre and comedians were in another theatre every night. It was okay, but not worth staying up for. The two or three singing groups were very good throughout the ship. The spa was the best! We went there every morning after breakfast and used the Thalassotherapy pool, steam rooms and saunas. After we went up to the serenity deck to relax in the sun. It was never crowded in the spa. We did not go to the pool but the aft pool was generally frequented by adults. The ports were just okay, but we did not care as we were on the cruise to rest and not sight see. We did like walking around Key West. The little towns became so full of tourists that we just headed back to the ship after a little shopping. We did get some great deals at the Coach factory store in Key West. I recommend that highly. The shops on the ship were pricey and I did not really need anything. My husband did buy a nice watch and we bought some liquor to bring home with us as we were driving and the prices were very good. Disembarking was a breeze. We woke up at 7:40 and were in our car driving home at 8:10. We self disembarked and we just walked off the ship. If you want to get an early start and not get stuck in lines, I highly recommend getting off as soon as possible. We had a great time. We had a great rest. I would go again if there were better ports. The ship was very nice. The service could not be better. I hope this helps anyone planning a trip on this ship. If you would like to contact me I will be happy to answer any questions that I can. Andrea Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
*Disclaimer* This is a long but honest review by an experienced cruiser. If you want someone to just blow a little sunshine up your Bermuda shorts, go on to the next review. Having said that, this was our 6th cruise, and our 5th with ... Read More
*Disclaimer* This is a long but honest review by an experienced cruiser. If you want someone to just blow a little sunshine up your Bermuda shorts, go on to the next review. Having said that, this was our 6th cruise, and our 5th with Carnival. We have had descending levels of experience with Carnival, but had high hopes for the "Magic", since she was the newest ship in the fleet at the time of this cruise. We aren't grumpy cruisers, but we aren't easy either. We simply expect equal services for the price, and this cruise was the most expensive we have taken thus far, coming in at a base rate of $2700 for two, for a balcony room. Add on the excursions, and we were at $3500. Another $750 for extra on-board charges (spa services, bar tab, etc.) and that brings us to $4250. That's a premium for a 7 day cruise, especially on Carnival. We drove 9 hours to Galveston from OKC and stayed at Moody Gardens resort ($150) the night before, and had a blast. Its a great resort and a really nice way to begin your cruise. There are just a few nice places to stay in Galveston, but this is one of them. After a nice lazy Sunday brunch, we made our way to the terminal and parked with Lighthouse Parking ($50), a place we discovered after our 2nd cruise. They are family owned and its all covered parking. Book early online because they fill up quickly. After checking our bags with the porter ($10) we stood in the obligatory long lines to get our sail and sign cards and get onto the ship. This was a surprisingly pleasant experience and the lines moved faster than ever before. We were on the ship by 1:30! The check in crew was friendly and professional. Excellent job! Then we entered the lobby of the Magic. I have to say, after cruising on their fantasy ships and the Conquest, the Magic is a BIG disappointment. The decor is pathetically cheap with Home Depot style glass tile being the theme. Add to that gobs of 'wood look' plastic trim everywhere, and the Asian pop duo playing fake orchestra music on the keyboards, and the immediate impression is, "Man, did I get on the wrong ship?" But sadly, no, it was the right ship. And that first 'cuttin corners' impression was carried on as a theme throughout the cruise. You'd expect that the largest ship would be the prettiest, with the best amenities and services, right? Not even close. Everything on this ship is cut to the cheap, with a sort of 'less is more' attitude by the crew. Just what you want after forking out $4K on a 7 day cruise. Its like they used some minimum wage employee to design and decorate the ship. Or maybe it's just not completely decorated yet. To use a car comparison, with a Kia being the cheapest and a Rolls Royce being the best, the Carnival Magic is a solid Ford. Everything's there and works, but don't expect luxury. They were so cheap, they didn't even name all the decks! 14 decks and most of them just go by numbers, "Deck 6, deck 7, etc." With the ship being on the cheapo side, one would expect the 'extras' to be less expensive, right? Think again. Watered down drinks are $7-$9 each, wi-fi is $ .75 a minute, and you'll need a second mortgage to afford the spa services. The fitness room is still free, but it's about 1/2 the size of Conquest's, with a tiny sauna and no hot tub. Entertainment was 'good high school' quality, with dancers, singers, magicians, and comedians that apparently couldn't get work anywhere else. It was common to see lots of people get up and leave during the shows. And that's too bad, because entertainment used to be what Carnival did best. But in true 'cuttin-corners' style, their emphasis was on passenger-supplied karaoke gatherings, which were everywhere...all the time. Don't get me wrong, I like hearing drunk rednecks butcher Garth Brooks songs off key as much as the next guy, but 24-7? Really? But hey, it's free entertainment, right Carnival? Now a word about the dining rooms. One is called Northern Lights, and one is called Southern Lights. That's about as creative as their dropout designer could get, and that's reflected in the decor and food. The decor is boringly bland and the food is even....blander. Seriously, I wish I could have gone into the galley and showed them how not to ruin a fillet mignon and lobster tail. Now I know cooking for hundreds of folks at a time is challenging, but a first year culinary school student could have prepared more appealing, flavorful food. I kept hoping there was a Saltgrass Steakhouse or a Red Lobster out in the middle of the Caribbean somewhere we could tie up at, so at least I could get some kind of meal that didn't taste like microwaved tv dinners. The vegetables were as consistently undercooked, as the meats were overcooked. The desserts were just 'ok', and basically tasted like someone emptied a Kraft bottle of whatever sauce onto dry whatever Betty Crocker cake mix to make it moist. And the service? Oh...the service! Nothing says luxury cruise like angry, bitter waiters that forget to bring the rolls every night, take 30 minutes to serve between courses, never refill your tea glass, and don't speak English well enough to understand your order but quite well enough to constantly complain about how long they had been on the ship and how much they wanted to be home! Fine, Jose, go friggin home to your little socialist country with no jobs! But bring me my rolls first, OK?? The buffets were just sad. The pastries were stale, the fruit was never ripe, the meats were over salted, and the food combinations were just frighteningly amateur. One time they put potato chips over some creamed mystery meat, along with a boiled egg slice in a small souffle dish and gave it a foreign name to sound appealing. It tasted like bad baby food. You had to get a boiled egg if you wanted real eggs and not powdered. Even the omelet stations used a battered egg mix ala' IHOP style. Lines were always long and moved at a snails pace. Often the drink machines broke and there would be some little maintenance man standing up on the counters peering into the machines with some tools in his hand during mealtimes. Very appealing. They have added drink carts that occasionally appear to refill your cup, if you are fortunate. The rooms were exactly the same as every other cruise. Much bigger ship, but not bigger rooms. I don't get that. I guess its so you can cram more bad karaoke singers on board and charge them confiscatory rates for substandard food and service. They have this stupid 'ecolighting' which means you have to put a card in the light slot for the lights to work. Its an inconvenient bunch of nonsense and doesn't save a bit of energy. Our room steward was ok, nothing special. He came in and made up the beds and left us the standard towel animals every night. On the up side, we did have to ask for a few special items and they were quickly provided by the steward. He was a nice old guy but barely spoke a word of English. In fact, I noticed that very few of the crew spoke English well, and the ones who could just complained constantly and were more often than not, just rude. In past cruises with Carnival it wasn't this way at all. Guess that's part of their new cuttin corners business philosophy. We'll see how that works out for them. Now the ports and excursions were outstanding! It almost made up for the floating comedy of errors that brought us there. Unfortunately, the ship's Captain was not skilled enough to moor us at the port of Mahogany Bay, Roatan, so we had to use a different port that had been closed for a month on the other side of the island . I was actually glad the Captain didn't try to force it since he was obviously Italian and may have graduated from the same sailing school as the guy who sank the Costa Concordia. Anyway, we got lucky and our excursion wasn't cancelled, and we had a great time snorkeling with dolphins at Anthony's Cay. Very fun. Then we went to Belize and snorkeled some more, way out in the ocean. That was also a lot of fun. Then we went to Cozumel, got on a catamaran and spent the day on Passion Island, which was the most fun of all. Great food and drinks. The folks at Carnival need to spend a day there and see what good food and service looks like so they can replicate it on their ships. Save your shopping money, though, as Cozumel is no better on prices than on board the ship or in the states. That goes for the other ports too. They've figured the whole "tourists with fat wallets" thing out. Amazon or Ebay are far better deals than the ports. Debarkation went very smoothly and was fast. Carnival is really good now at getting people on and off their ships. Its that in-between 'cruising' part they seem to be struggling with. In conclusion, I have to say that the Carnival Magic is far less than magic. It's not even as magical as the crappy illusionist we saw at one of the shows. The should re-name it the "Carnival BadJoke". I would never recommend her to anyone and will never sail on her again. However, if you are one of those people who loves paying really high prices for really low quality, then the Magic is the ship for you. Just don't say I didn't warn you. ;-) Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Embarkation: We arrived one day early in Galveston to make for an easy arrival at the ship terminal. We've cruise several times from Galveston and are familiar with the process. We parked at EzCruise parking lot and were quickly ... Read More
Embarkation: We arrived one day early in Galveston to make for an easy arrival at the ship terminal. We've cruise several times from Galveston and are familiar with the process. We parked at EzCruise parking lot and were quickly shuttled over to the terminal. This was at approximately 11:30 am. We made it upstairs to the security line with our carry-ons and were through that in about 15 minutes. Then we were in line for about 5 minutes for boarding and our Sail and Sign cards. Then to the picture stop for the Sail and Sign cards, the embarkation photo and then on the ship! This may have all taken about 30 minutes. Rooms were not available until 1:30 PM. Our luggage arrived as expected around 4:30 PM. The Ship: Magic is the largest ship we've sail on. Only my husband and I were traveling this time. We explored for a short bit and then to the Sport Deck (12) for a drink of the day and some TV for the Daytona 500. We enjoyed the upbeat music playing out doors and all the many places to sit and relax. There are rattan couches and chairs, lounge chairs and the Serenity Deck was great for adult only relaxation. This rule was enforced and we did enjoy the quiet time. Our impression of the atrium was that it was small and unimpressive. We liked the colors and decor, but it's not one of our big deals no mater what it looks like. The ship was clean and in great condition. There is the usual shopping opportunities as well as a candy store. We found the elevators to be adequate and available. The Casino was nice. Once side smoking and the other not, but all table games are on the smoke side. Nothing out of the ordinary in gaming here. The Red Frog Pub was great and one of our favorite stops during the day and evenings. Tarek provided wonderful service and was able to make us Bocce Balls whenever requested. The Red Frog ale was on tab and very tasty too. The pub is on deck 5, the Promenade which had outside access to whirlpools and more seating. It was nice feature. The Cabin: We booked a Cloud 9 Spa balcony cabin (12027) for this trip. It was very nice. The decor is a bit subdued with different art work in the cabin. The size and layout was typical of a balcony cabin. You receive priority spa appointments, 2 complimentary athletic classes, robes with slippers, spa bath products and linen spray for your pillows. The room was quiet and made it easy to get the Sport Deck where we spent a lot of time. We will book this category again, when it's available. Dining: There were many, many options for this activity. I've read reviews that complained of the lines and such, but we didn't really have this issue. It was no worse then any other ship we've been on, but maybe we don't go at the busiest of times. Sushi was very good, but simple. We didn't eat pizza or the Tandoori, but it was available. We didn't eat in the Steak restaurant or the Italian restaurant. We're not coffee drinkers either. We had late seating in the Southern Lights Dining room. Our wait staff was courteous, fast and accommodating. They were happy and after the scheduled dining room performances, treated us to some "Hammer-time" and "Lady Gaga" dance performances that won't be forgotten. Wigs and all. We had a great team and enjoyed our Main dining rooms experience each night. One small addition, but one that my husband loved, was popcorn at the movie times. It was something that he missed on cruise vacations. Entertainment: We only watched one comedy show that was very good and the attended the Past Cruise passenger reception. It was also nice with light snacks and plenty of cocktails to go around. We utilized the unlimited mineral pool in the spa, thermals suite and the bean back toss at the Red Frog Pub. Also enjoyed the live entertainment there too. We found many things to do without being on a schedule and enjoyed it completely. Ports: All our excursion were booked prior to our leaving on the ship, through Carnival. Cozumel - We went to the ruins of Tulum. This requires a lot of transportation via a fairy, bus and walking. We liked it and leaned so many things about the Mayans from our guide. This tour can be hot and requires some stairs and such. Cayman - We did a trip on a catamaran to the Stingrays. We've done this excursion several times and never tire of it. Tendering is still not fun, but it's necessary to enjoy the island. Jamaica - We took the Appleton Rum tour. This involves a 2.5 hour bus ride, but you will see some amazing county and some crazy roads for a large bus to be on. We like the tour and found it to be informative. A small lunch was provided and was very good. Run tasting was unlimited. The grounds of the factory are beautiful and well cared for. Staff: Our cabin steward (Pim) was very attentive, flexible and smiling. Dining room team (Jessie, "I", Alen) were also great and made our evenings. For the additional entertainment I spoke about above, the addition of Alexander and Valentino, along with Alen made our dance team. They fun. We mostly were served by Tarek in the Red Frog. He efficient and fun as well. Generally, I found the staff on the ship to be positive and helpful. General: We joined late to a group with CruiseCritic and this group was a lot of fun. We took part in a Cabin Crawl/poker draw and it was a good time too. Very nice group of folks to meet. Disembarkation: We were not up until 8:15. All our luggage was picked up the night before and we had plenty of time for breakfast. Know that breakfast is available in the Marketplace buffet, but it will be limited. We found it to be fine for what we needed. Our impression of the service on that day was poor. The staff was not as quick to pick up left over plates and dishes as they had been throughout the cruise. We can't wait to go again!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
The increase in size definitely serves Carnival -- increases profit margins -- but does not improve the shipboard experience for passengers. It seems that Carnival increased the passenger count disproportionately to the size of the ... Read More
The increase in size definitely serves Carnival -- increases profit margins -- but does not improve the shipboard experience for passengers. It seems that Carnival increased the passenger count disproportionately to the size of the ship's spaces and the crew:passenger ratio. The Conquest/Triumph-class ships are maintained beautifully. I didn't see much difference between those and the new Magic. It's overpopulated. 1) Lines are long everywhere (customer service, shore excursions, food stations, et al). Just get accustomed to waiting -- even more than normal. 2) Getting a table at the Lido buffet is a challenging, even going well off-peak. You see a lot of people with filled trays wandering around, looking frustrated. Since the ship is overpopulated, there are limited places to play games and cards elsewhere, so people camp out there, taking up tables for people who would like to enjoy their meals while they are hot! 3) The elevators are inadequate for the number of passengers. Count on a very long wait. Sadly, the elevator situation brought out the 'strongest survive' instinct in many passengers, and many handicapped people were stuck. Be prepared to be aggressive - or climb stairs. We were on the 11th deck; a lower deck would have been more convenient. 4) Entertainment venues fill up well in advance. Plan on arriving 45 minutes in advance for smaller venues, like lounges, and 30 minutes in advance for the main auditorium - or you'll sit behind a pole or stand up. 5) It goes without saying that embarkation and debarkation are even longer than usual. Self assist is a must! 6) I read an analysis of the Costa Concordia disaster that it is impractical (improbable) to evacuate mega-ships like this one. They aren't meant to be evaluated at sea, but rather designed to limp into port. That raises a number of security concerns that I hope to find reassuring answers for (e.g. what about onboard fire?). **Food was seriously disappointing.** Buffet 1) The Lido deck buffet served exactly the same English-style breakfast day, after day, after day. If you like peppery bratwurst, grilled tomatoes, and poached or scrambled (powdered) eggs, you're all set. If you long for a sausage patty, or bacon.... Sorry. Lines for the omelet station grew longer and longer each day. If you can, go to the table service at one of the main restaurants. 2) Whoever did the desserts on the buffet should be shot! Seriously. The chef screwed up even easy recipes. I tasted a cake that was supposed to be peach, with a peach glaze, and it was absolutely vile! I rarely met a dessert I don't like, but only good manners kept me from spitting this one out. Blech. Northern/Southern Lights dining room 1) There were a few 'standard' Carnival recipes, and those were still good, but the rest were 50/50 hit or miss. 2) The dishes served in the dining room shrank portion size considerably. Actually, that's a good idea since you may or may not like what you order. I recommend getting two appetizers to cover your bases. Other 1) The cheese on the pizza (available 24-hours) is pure rubber. Absolutely no flavor, and it doesn't break down when you chew. My DS suggests getting the Supreme so you don't notice it as much. 2) The room service menu is understandably limited. What was surprising was the Lilliputian size of the sandwiches. They were so cuuute! (Order two.) In summary, I just don't see the advantage of cruising on a new, larger ship. **Entertainment** I was impressed with the magic show (awesome!), and the passneger talent show were really good, as were some of the comedians. This is where Carnival spent their money. (I wonder why a helicopter was a necessary prop when it only appeared for 30 seconds, and not used for any magic tricks.) Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
I have to start off by saying Bassic said it best in their review of this ship. It wasn't terrible . . . . it just wasn't what I was hoping for and I believe my expectations were pretty low considering I had chosen Carnival for ... Read More
I have to start off by saying Bassic said it best in their review of this ship. It wasn't terrible . . . . it just wasn't what I was hoping for and I believe my expectations were pretty low considering I had chosen Carnival for my cruise. The ship is really a beautiful vessel. It's really got fun, personality and beauty all wrapped up into one. When we pulled into a port we were definitely the big fish in town. That was pretty impressive. I totally agree that the layout takes some getting used to. I think it took most of the trip before we actually got the exact layout down. It's very big and the elevators and stairs do not always get you where you want to go. The rooms were bigger than I had anticipated which was nice. My room had two twins, sofa, long vanity and TWO BATHROOMS !!!!! I loved having TWO!!! The staff on the ship was VERY hot and cold as far as attitudes. My room guys were above and beyond EXCELLENT. I could not of asked for a better group of people taking care of my room. The manager in the casino was SUPER EXCELLENT !! I know he's in the business to bring more money to the casino but he was sensational. He always addressed the guests by name, was quick to ask if he could bring you anything or do anything for you, he took the time to just visit with the guests . . . . very professional and all around great guy. I did speak with Guest Services on a couple of occasions and they were hot and cold. I agree that the complaints were probably overflowing but some of the staff was very helpful but others would respond with a very snippy response. This is something I didn't appreciate because I was merely asking questions and not complaining. 80/ The girls at the desk in the spa were not not my fave. Again, very short and snippy. But my massage lady for me and my daughter were very very nice. I do not feel I got my moneys worth though. I paid $170 for a 50 min stone massage and the poor girl kept dropping the rocks and eventually dropped the lid to the heater that they're kept warm in. I bet she spent atleast 30 - 40% of her time arranging things and picking stuff up that she had dropped. But she was nice. 80) As far as meals, the sit down meals were pretty good. The main dish was usually very good but I didn't have very good luck with the sides that would come with it. The appetizers and desserts were usually very good as well. As far as everything else, it was very average as I would think would be expected. The service in the dining rooms was very slow for us and we were in early seating. There was a couple of nights that it took over an hour to get our meals. The staff was cordial but not happy to be there . . . . we felt like they were strictly there to do their job and go home. We were there the night of the fight. Very entertaining but a little taken aback by it all. We had signed up for an excursion in Cozumel which had a time change on it. The cruise said they gave us a notice of it but we didn't get it. Therefore we were left behind and weren't able to go. Unfortunately they said they left the notice on our door but we also had kids on our floor that were stealing the mail. 80( The money was refunded but it took ALOT of talking to get that done. The change in port was upsetting only because they knew the problem existed with the ship WAY before they picked us up and they could have offered other solutions which they didn't. Progreso was a TERRIBLE port . . . to the point some of the guests were slipped drugs in their drinks and they had to be carried back to the ship and then wheeled back to their rooms in wheelchairs. That's not the fault of Carnival but Carnival could have picked a better place to dock especially since they knew from the Transatlantic sailing that there were problems. They had plenty of time to work out a better location. Carnival led the guests to believe that the issue happened just as they were pulling into Galveston and they had to make other arrangements with little time. Very untrue and disappointing. Many of the guests were unhappy. I was disappointed. With some tweeks this will be a very very good cruise. It does have alot of potential. Its unfortunate the ship had problems because it changed the attitude and schedule of alot of things. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011

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