We are a Midwestern family of four with two young kids (8yo & 6yo) now two days removed from our ship with everything still fresh in mind. Make no mistake – our vacation was so much fun. However, in hindsight, I wish I knew a few things beforehand that made our vacation simply meh rather than amazing for these sailors.
-Fort Lauderdale Airport is nice enough, but the pickup area for shuttles, busses, taxis and Ubers/Lyfts is a free for all. It is jam packed and crowded with everyone else trying to get to their hotel or cruise ship.
-I recommend staying at a hotel the night before. A) it ensures you’re in Fort Lauderdale the day your ship sails B) it prevents being in a rush against people, congestion and traffic C) gets you rested, free breakfast and free or cheap transportation to Port Everglades.
-Port Everglades: traffic was a standstill on debarking day. It can take from 30 min to almost 2 hrs to get two miles into the place and to your terminal, so leave plenty early! They will sail without you!
-Check in and boarding is nearly flawless, especially with priority boarding (you get that with a suite) or Faster to the Fun, which is definitely worth the money. It buys you skipping the line and having your room made/available before the rest of the ship.
The Ship (Carnival Magic):
-Wow, does it need to be refurbished. It is 9 years old now, built in 2011, and shows signs of it from the carpeting and décor to the rusting exterior.
-State room (11th floor with balcony) was amazing. Perfectly sized, like a decent RV, plenty of storage, decent bathroom, working TV, just very few (as in two) outlets in which a power strip may not fit.
-The muster drill is annoying because it takes so long for people to actually show up, then get called out for not showing up, basically to say “come to this location with your life jackets in case of emergency.”
-Deck 5. Comedy Club and comedians – A. Piano Bar – A. Alchemy – D (overpriced and really lousy service). Pig & Anchor – C (overrated food that made some of us sick). Casino – C (it would be fine if it didn’t smell like smoke so badly). Red Frog Pub – waste of space (never saw anyone in there). Theater – A. Flick is amazing. The Game Show is terrible (they take a few passengers up to play TV game shows). Lip Sync Battle is a riot and great that they involve the junior cruisers.
-Deck 10. Pools are laughably small. Salt water to boot. Too small to swim. No jumping in allowed. Really a shame for a ship to have two pools that are too small to use. Guy’s burgers are awesome. Cantina makes great burritos and taco salads. Lido buffet is meh – you can find anything, but the lines are long and the food is blah. Capitano Pizza is good.
-Deck 11. Camp Ocean is an amazing experience for kids. It’s safe, secure, the staff truly cares and the kids enjoyed the activities and games. This makes Carnival worth it.
-Deck 12. WaterWorks is an amazing waterpark. Two great slides, plenty of fun for kids and grownups, very enjoyable part of the vacation. SportSquare has minigolf, pool tables, basketball court, running track and exercise equipment. We used some of that – very nice touch.
-Deck 14/15. Cloud 9 and Serenity. Nice adult areas. Nice hot tub pool, sauna, heated chairs.
-Other. Elevators are annoying. Always slow and always a wait.
-Breakfast. Don’t even bother with Lido Marketplace. Lines will kill you and the food is so blah. Go sit down at Northern or Southern Lights. It’s worth it. Much better food and good service.
-Lunch. Lido is fine, but Cantina, Pizzeria, Guys Burgers and Pig & Anchor are all better.
-Dinner. Do your sit down dining. The food options and quality are very good, but our service was pretty lousy from forgotten entrees and drinks to really long times for service. Twice we left without eating dessert because it was taking so long. Sort of odd that happened.
-Nassau: We didn’t get off the ship here because of the reputation for being however you want to word rough and tumble, hardnosed, unsanitary or borderline unsafe.
-Amber Cove: what a treasure – safe, secure, great pools, great slides, cute shops and great weather. Honestly, if our cruise ship docked here for three days, we’d be thrilled.
-Grand Turk: sort of a Catch 22. The good: the beach, the seawater, the pool and the weather. The bad: the guys hawking shaded seating they claim to be “theirs for rent” once all the free green umbrellas are taken. It’s lame and Carnival won’t do anything about it if it is as illegitimate as it seems.
-You know what? It’s actually not that bad. Carnival takes your luggage the night beforehand from outside your door down to the terminal. Picking up your stuff there is easy. Besides the lengthy line for Customs and Border Protection, it’s smooth.
-The crowd at pickup is about as bad as the crowd at the airport. Throngs of people waiting for shuttles, busses, taxis or Ubers/Lyfts. Good luck trying to explain where you are within Port Everglades and how to find your terminal to someone coming to get you. It’s pretty rough.
-The airport is about as bad as any on a busy travel day. Southwest has this wonky system whereby you can check in using a self-serve terminal if your flight is within 2 hrs; otherwise, you have to wait in this lengthy line outside to get helped by a few guys who are totally overwhelmed. Don’t know who concocted that system, but it is terrible.