The Carnival Magic at anchor of the coast of Belize
In August of 2012, my wife and I did back-to-back cruises on the Carnival Magic... a total of 14 days onboard... cruising from Galveston, Texas... and visiting Isla Roatan, Cozumel, Belize, Grand Cayman, and Montego Bay in Jamaica. It was our 14th and 15th cruises with Carnival, and definitely the best up to that point! (I'll explain why, a little further down the page.)
At the time we sailed on her, the Carnival Magic was the 2nd newest ship in the Carnival fleet... and she sported a huge number of improvements over the other Carnival ships we've sailed on. Even though I had done quite a bit of pre-cruise research about the Carnival Magic, I was really surprised once I got onboard and started noticing the combined overall effect of each of the little things Carnival had improved upon... it was clearly a superior ship over the others I had been on. Carnival has obviously learned a lot over the years! This ship incorporates the best of their other ships and then adds a whole host of improvements.
I'll be sharing with you a lot of pictures that I took onboard the Carnival Magic. Every picture on this page is my original photo... none are stock images or supplied by Carnival. Most of the photos were taken with my Canon Digital Rebel T2i camera.
I guess I should start by introducing ourselves...
We are Jim & Kellyn Zimmerlin... from Grover Beach, California
I mentioned that the Carnival Magic has a number of improvements over the other ships in the Carnival fleet. I was so impressed with all the improvements that I started writing out a list of all the things that were better on this ship than the others I've sailed on. By the end of the cruise, I had come up with a list of over twenty items that were better about the Carnival Magic over her predecessors. Individually, each of these things is a small improvement... but when you add them all up together, you end up with an overall superior ship.
For example, much of the outdoor furniture is better than on the older ships. Many of the seats have big comfortable cushions, and there are umbrellas that provide much-needed shade on a warm afternoon in the Caribbean.
Notice the big thick cushions on this couch and chair set overlooking the aft of the ship
Another example of improved outdoor furniture on the Carnival Magic
These cabanas offer shade for parents who want to keep an eye on their kids swimming in the main pool.
The pool is surrounded by an area with about 2 inches of water so you can sit and keep your toes cool.
Notice all the benches for people who want to sit adjacent to the pool without getting fully in to it.
Up on the top deck of the Carnival Magic is the WaterWorks area, featuring two waterslides and a whole lot more! Even though I'm old enough to qualify for the senior discount on a Carnival cruise, I'm just a big kid at heart... so I spent some time playing here during my vacation. My favorite part was definitely the longer of the two water slides, although I did manage to accidentally hurt myself on it! I tried to get some speed going by launching myself as I was getting in to the sitting position at the top of the slide. I landed on my tail bone just wrong... and it hurt for weeks after that. My mistake!
The WaterWorks area features working valves that you can turn on and off to make the water go. Kids like to turn them off, wait for someone to walk in to the path, and them turn the valve on to send a blast of water on to their victim.
Always look to see what's above you when you are walking through the WaterWorks area... as there quite possibly may be a kid with a bucket full of water waiting to dump it on you when you walk underneath! When you get towards the bottom of this web page, you'll find a section with videos... including some great footage of kids having fun in the WaterWorks area.
The WaterWorks area is the best I've seen on any of the Carnival ships I've been on... with the exception of the Carnival Spirit, which has the awesome "Green Thunder" vertical slide.
The moon rises as night falls on the Carnival Magic
Most cruise ships have a basketball court up on the top deck... but the one on the Carnival Magic is the best I've seen. It's tall, so you don't feel cramped inside. In addition to basketball, they play soccer and dodgeball up here, too.
There's also outdoor exercise equipment for those who prefer to get a workout outdoors rather than inside a gym.
Speaking of sports, I noticed a couple of neat little improvements up on the sports deck of the Carnival Magic. On a lot of ships, if you want to play miniature golf, you have to go see someone to check out clubs and balls. On the Carnival Magic, they're out for anyone to use at any time. There's also an outdoor pool table, foosball table, and even an outdoor video game system hooked up to a big screen. I think it was an Xbox, with games from EA sports, if I remember correctly.
You'll also find the ropes course up on the sports deck. I didn't try it, but kids seemed to like it a lot.
One of my favorite areas of the ship is the Serenity area... which is an area for adults only, featuring the most comfortable outdoor furniture on the ship. It's similar to the Serenity areas on most other Carnival ships... but in true Carnival Magic style, a few improvements have been made. For example, unlike some of the other ships in the fleet, there's an elevator that can take you to the Magic's serenity deck. Also, this serenity area seemed a little larger than some of the others I've seen. Every time I visited, I was able to find a place to sit... even on a sea day.
I love the big round day beds on the Serenity deck. They are perfect for two people to snuggle together while enjoying the great warm weather. In fact, I love those day beds so much that I ended up buying something similar for my own patio at home.
One of my favorite things about taking a cruise vacation is all the entertainment. The best entertainment of all is having a good laugh at a comedy show. On the Carnival Magic, these shows happen in the Punchliner comedy club at the far back end of deck 5. During a 7 day cruise, they present four different comedians... and each comedian does several different shows with different material... so there's LOTS of laughs during every cruise.
Comedian Lenny Schmidt (on the left) got big laughs in an improvised bit with this passenger
Of the four comedians we saw during our cruise, the funniest was Lenny Schmidt. Part of his act is to chat with people in the audience. He ended up finding one guy with such a funny personality that he brought the guy up on stage and they improvised an entire routine. It was so funny!
The entrance to the Punchliner comedy club on the Carnival Magic
Carnival ships are well known for their over-the-top interior design. Designer Joe Farcus is the guy behind the Vegas-at-sea style of design. You can see the Joe Farcus style of wild colors in many of the public areas of the Carnival Magic.
The atrium of the Carnival Magic, a classic Joe Farcus interior design
The Carnival Magic is the first ship in Carnival's fleet where Joe Farcus' style doesn't run throughout the entire ship. On this ship, they actually let some other designers do much of the work... and it's most obvious in the passenger cabins, where a much softer style is on display.
Cabin 12007 on the Carnival Magic
Where most other Carnival ships use the color orange, they go with a more neutral gold color on the Carnival Magic. There's also a lot more use of tasteful shades of green.
I liked the interior design of the cabin, except I thought the pictures were hung too low!
Shouldn't they have been vertically centered in the empty wall space between the couch/bed and ceiling?
I was thrilled to see that there were two electrical outlets at the desk. Most other ships only have one.
Tucked away in those cabinets under the left side of the desk are a safe and a small refrigerator.
While we're doing cabin pictures, I'll show you our favorite towel animal. If you've been on a Carnival cruise before, you know that the cabin steward turns down your bed while you're out at dinner, and leaves you with a towel animal each night. Here was our favorite:
We were in cabin 12007, and because of the 007 in the cabin number we had a lot of fun making James Bond jokes about the cabin. I made a joke to the cabin stewards about it being the James Bond Suite, and then for the entire rest of the cruise they called me "Mr. Bond" and every time I saw them I acted like I had an invisible gun in my hand and I was about to assassinate them. There was also a joke about Octopussy, but I'll leave that one up to your imagination.
This was the first time we ever booked a "spa cabin" on a Carnival ship. We normally just stay in a regular balcony cabin, but those were all booked by the time we got around to making our vacation plans. So, we went with a spa cabin. One nice thing about spa cabins is that they do not allow smoking on the balconies. This was a big deal for us, as during one of our previous cruises we had a neighbor that chain smoked on their balcony and it made our balcony pretty much unusable. Just remember, though, that they do allow smoking on the balconies down below the spa cabins... so sometimes smoke will drift up.
The spa cabins on deck 12 are right next to the gym, and there's a door that makes access to the gym easy. I'm not normally a gym kind of guy, but since we were right next to the gym I decided to try using one of the treadmills. I have had surgery on both of my knees and had to give up jogging years ago. But much to my surprise, I discovered that running on the treadmill was a lot easier on my knees than running on city streets like I used to do. So, I actually ended up using the treadmills almost every day of the cruise... sometimes twice a day. And yet, somehow, I still managed to gain 7 pounds during the two weeks we were on vacation!
And that brings us to the subject of food! There's definitely plenty of it... that's one of the great things about cruising. But keep your expectations low as far as the quality. At home, in our normal life, we eat out at restaurants a lot. I can't honestly say I'd go back to any restaurant that served food of the quality served on a cruise ship. But I cut Carnival a lot of slack, because they're feeding thousands of guests at every meal... and that's got to be tricky. I wish they didn't get their entire food service staff from India... as I think part of the problem with the food onboard the ships is that the Indian food service staff just doesn't understand American tastes in food. Would you go to a Mexican restaurant at home whose entire staff was from India?
The Carnival Magic did have some dining options that I hadn't seen on other ships before... such as the Taste Bar at Ocean Plaza... where they serve up appetizer-sized portions of various foods. It's not meant to be a meal... it's just meant to give you a little taste of something that you might not normally try. Thus the name, the Taste Bar. Another new venue on the Carnival Magic is the the Seaside Barbecue. They serve sliders (small hamburgers), hot dogs, and grilled tacos. There's also a new hot dog stand up on the sports deck...
Bravo to Carnival for offering all three of those new food options at no extra charge to the guests! This is in direct opposition to the strategy taken by Royal Caribbean cruise lines... where they get extra money out of you for every little thing on their cruises.
Because we've been on so many Carnival cruises before, we get a few extra perks as part of their VIFP program. That's kind of like being a VIP... but in Carnival land it's known as being a VIFP... or Very Important Fun Person. Anyone that's been on a Carnival cruise before is automatically a VIFP... but because we've been on so many, we're in a special platinum level of the VIFP program.
Our favorite platinum VIFP perk is priority embarkation. There's a separate platinum-level VIFP check-in area at the cruise ship terminal... and because there are so few platinum VIFPs, there's almost no line to wait in. We can literally get from the taxi cab and on to the cruise ship in about 15 minutes. It takes most passengers closer to an hour. The longest delay for platinum guests is getting through the security process.
Free drinks and appetizers at the Carnival VIFP party.
Speaking of drinks... another thing I noticed about the Carnival Magic that was different from the other ships I've been on is the Sports Bar. The other ships have them, but they're usually kind of tucked away out of the main flow of traffic. On the Carnival Magic, the Sports Bar is within the casino... and the main promenade which goes right through the casino runs right in to the sports bar. It's quite different than the other ships I've seen.
Speaking of bars... the Red Frog Pub on the Carnival Magic is a very popular place. I'm not really a bar/pub kind of guy, so it didn't do much for me, but other people seemed to like it a lot. They have some unique drinks, unique appetizers, unique seating options, and some fun games you can play while you're there.
This is a small part of the Red Frog Pub
There are several places on deck 5 where the deck bulges out to provide better viewing over the edge of the ship.
Several of these viewing areas have jacuzzis on them, which offer great views!
The timing of our cruise was an absolute stroke of luck because we sailed on the Carnival Magic right after they had performed a major upgrade of her network and Internet equipment. They had just begun a six-week test of the new equipment... which offered such an improvement on Internet bandwidth that for the first time on any cruise ship they were able to offer unlimited Internet access to the passengers. (For a fee, of course.) On all the other cruises I had been on, bandwidth was in such short supply that they sold it by the minute... and Internet access was slow and flaky. On the Carnival Magic, it was tremendously improved! As soon as I connected my computer to their network, I noticed the difference. It was so impressive, and so much faster than all the other ships I had been on, that I immediately emailed the editors at CruiseCritic and alerted them to the news that Carnival was testing new equipment that provided the fastest Internet connection of any cruise ship in the world. They verified the information with Carnival and then ran a story about it on their site, and even quoted me!
During our two-week cruise, I ran a number of tests at SpeedTest.net to document the speed of the Internet connection at various times of the day and under various conditions. Using a wireless connection to my laptop computer, I got download speeds as high as 1.91 mb/sec and upload speeds as high as .57 mb/sec. Then I tried one of Carnival's "Fun Hub" computers with a wired network connection and got a download speed of almost 4 mb/sec and upload speeds of almost 2 mb/sec. Now I know these speeds aren't in the league of what anyone can get at home with a cable modem... but you have to remember that this was an Internet connection at sea, shared with thousands of other passengers and crew. In that context, it was incredibly fast!
Speaking of the "Fun Hub" public computers on the Carnival Magic... I had read about this in my pre-cruise research, but didn't grasp the full brilliance of it until I was onboard. What they've done, instead of having an Internet cafe tucked away in some dark corner of the ship like most cruise ships do, they've sprinkled public-access computers all around the ship. Sometimes it's one computer by itself, other times it's a cluster of two or four of them... but they're all over the public areas of the ship so they're easy to get to. And they're really nice Macs with big wide screens, too.
Now I know that for some people, the thought of sitting at a computer during a vacation is the furthest thing from their minds! But for some people like me, there are things that need to be done online every single day regardless of whether it's a work day, a weekend, or a two-week Caribbean vacation. I run a busy online community, and I also sell an instructional DVD online. My community members and my customers don't know and don't care if I'm on vacation... I have to keep on top of them every single day. So, having a good Internet connection when I'm on vacation is a big plus.
One last thing about the Internet about the Carnival Magic...
I mentioned that at the time of our cruise, Carnival was doing a six-week test of the new, improved Internet connection on the Carnival Magic. One of the things they were testing was how to price it. During the first week of our two-week cruise, they offered unlimited Internet access for the entire week for $119.95 or one-day access for $29.95. But during the second week, the price was only $99.99 for the whole week or $24.99 for the day. If you only needed brief access, you could also buy time at 75 cents per minute. It was obvious to me that what they were doing on the second week was seeing if a lower price enticed more people to sign up for the service. I imagine they were also trying to test the effect of more users on performance of the network.
As a photographer, you just can't beat sunrises and sunsets from a cruise ship.
Here's my collection of sunrise/sunset photos from the Carnival Magic...
My wife, Kellyn
After sunset, it's movie time up on the Lido deck...
Some people call this "Movies Under The Stars"... but that's actually Princess Cruise lingo.
Carnival calls it their "seaside theatre" or "dive-in theatre".
The Captain of the Carnival Magic... Stefano Battinelli
Our Cruise Director was James Charlton
I failed to get a very good photo of her,
but I was quite impressed with Megan, the Assistant Cruise Director
There are a few tips I'd like to pass along to people new to cruising. The first is the easy way to prop open your balcony door. The cabin stewards keep a rubber door stopper next to the main cabin door, right under the closets. They use this to prop open the door while they're cleaning your cabin. As long as you're careful to always put it back where you found it before you leave your cabin, you can use this rubber door stopper to prop open your balcony door. Just wedge it in the door opening, above the hinge... and you can easily get on and off your balcony without all the normal door slamming. It's a great way to let a warm breeze in to your room.
See the black rubber door stopper wedged in -- just above the hinge -- to prop open the balcony door?
Keep in mind that anytime you prop open the balcony door, your room air conditioning will automatically shut off. And I stress again that it's extremely important to put the rubber door stopper back where you found it before leaving the cabin... so that your room steward can use it to prop open your main cabin door while cleaning your cabin.
Speaking of the room stewards... if you've never cruised before, it will probably be helpful to understand their schedules. They will want to get in to your cabin to clean it up twice a day. One time will be in the evening while you go to dinner, and the other time will be in the morning... on sea days, while you're at breakfast... or on port days once you get off the ship. They're doing you a favor by keeping your cabin clean... you need to do them a favor by giving them the time they need to do this, and by letting them know when it's the right time. The easiest way to do this is by proper use of the Cruisin'/Snoozin' sign...
Hang the cruisin' sign on the handle of your cabin door when you leave the cabin for breakfast and dinner. Be sure to be gone long enough for them to see the sign and clean up your room! If you get back and the sign is still up, it means they were busy and didn't get to your cabin yet. If possible, go find something to do for a while so they can clean your cabin.
If you're going to be lounging around in your cabin without some or all of your clothes and absolutely don't want your cabin steward accidentally busting in on you... flip the sign over to the snoozin' side. This is basically the polite way of saying "do not disturb". There is no need to do this in the evenings after your cabin steward has already been in to clean up your room and turn down the bed... they won't be coming back after evening turn down, until the next morning... no earlier than 7 AM.
If they see that you're good about use of the cruisin' sign when you leave the cabin in the morning and in the evening, they will get in to a rhythm of cleaning your cabin while you're away for breakfast and dinner... and you'll find having a cabin steward is one of the finer things in life! If you're not good about use of the cruisin' and snoozin' signs, you'll end up having awkward encounters with the cabin stewards knocking on your door to see if you're there or not.
Another tip I'd like to offer is that you bring a small umbrella in your suitcase. You have no idea how many times this has come in handy for me! In places like the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, it's not at all uncommon to run in to a brief thundershower every now and then. It's especially common for thundershowers to crop up in the afternoons... so even if the weather looks good in the morning, take a small backpack with you on shore excursions and pack a little umbrella in there. It's great to be walking down the pier on the way back to the ship after a day on shore... with a nasty thundershower soaking all the other passengers... and you're the only guy with an umbrella!
See that big line of thundershowers stretching across the Gulf Of Mexico?
We had hours and hours of rain when we sailed through that!
While we were sailing through that nasty weather shown in the satellite photo,
there was heavy rain, lightning, thunder... and not a soul out on Lido deck!
We've cruised a lot out of Los Angeles and Miami, but this was our first cruise out of Galveston. We noticed an interesting thing about the mix of Texas/Oklahoma/Louisiana/Mississippi passengers. They're friendlier! Not that the passengers on a Miami or Los Angeles cruise are unfriendly... but just that the Magic's passengers were especially friendly. After one elevator encounter with a particularly friendly group of Texans, my wife joked that if she had been born in Texas, she might have grown up to like people a lot more than she does!
If you're going to fly in to Texas to take a cruise on the Carnival Magic, try to fly in to the "Houston Hobby" airport ( airport code: HOU), not the George Bush airport (airport code: IAH). IAH is on the north side of Houston, about a 75 minute drive to Galveston. HOU is much closer... on the south side of Houston... and it's only about a 45 minute ride.
If you're looking for a hotel in Galveston, consider staying at the Harbor House hotel. It's right next door to the cruise terminal. You can walk from the hotel to the cruise ship on embarkation day. And if you get up early enough in the morning, you can watch the ship come in the day of your cruise! Another Galveston hotel with a lot going for it is the Moody Gardens resort... which is a very unique hotel with a waterpark, an indoor rain forest, an aquarium, and a 3D theatre.
You might also be wondering about transportation between Houston and Galveston. Carnival operates a bunch of busses that run between the airports and the cruise terminal... in Carnival lingo this is called an airport transfer. It costs $40 per person, one way. These busses only operate on embarkation and debarkation day.
We used the Carnival transfer service to get back to the Houston airport at the end of our cruise, and it worked out just fine. But we had to be creative to get from Houston to Galveston before the cruise. Because we were cruising during hurricane season, we thought it was a good idea to get to Galveston the day before the cruise... just in case the weather created any challenges. That way, we'd have a pad of one full day in case travel arrangements got messed up by weather events. Carnival's transfer service does not operate the day before the cruise, only the day of the cruise... so we explored several other possible ways to get from Houston to Galveston.
Obviously, it's too far for a cab. We looked at renting a car, but a one-way rental dropped off in
Galveston is outrageously expensive. So, it came down to finding a good limo service. I did some searching
online and discovered that there are a LOT of limo services in Houston! It was very difficult to figure out which
were the good ones. I ended up emailing about 10 different limo companies and asked for quotes. It was
surprising that there were a few that never replied, and a few that didn't reply for days. Of course, a few
replied right away.
I turned to the Cruise Critic forums to try to find advice from others who had used a limo service to get from Houston to Galveston. Based on a suggestion in the forums, I focused on Hyatt Limousines of Houston. Via email, they offered a price of $138 plus tip to drive us from our hotel in Houston to another hotel in Galveston where we would stay the day and night before the cruise. The vehicle was a black Chevy Suburban, and it worked out fine.
Now, here's a list of things that I'd like to suggest you should bring with you on a cruise...
A multi-outlet power strip. There are only two electrical outlets at the desk in your cabin. That may not be enough if you want to charge multiple electronic devices overnight.
A 6-pack of your favorite beverage, so you don't have to pay ship prices for it. There's a refrigerator in your cabin, so you can keep your beverage cold... and your cabin steward will fill your ice bucket several times a day. Also, think about buying bottles or cans of your favorite soft drinks at the ports you visit. It's better than paying ship prices for it.
Two large plastic drink cups. (One for you, one for your roommate.) The drinking glasses that are provided in the cabins and in the Lido restaurant are frustratingly small! They don't even come close to holding the contents of one can of Coke. We always bring a couple of large plastic drinking cups along with us... to use when drinking our favorite beverage on our balcony, on the Serenity deck, or even at the Lido restaurant. Once I'm comfortable, I don't like having to get up to refill my beverage.
A watch or a travel clock. Activities start at certain times, so you will frequently want to know the current time.
A highlighter pen, to mark activities on the daily schedule that you are interested in.
A small flashlight, so you can stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night without disturbing your roommate by turning on all the lights in the room. It's also a handy thing to have with you in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Your MP3 player, so you can listen to your favorite music while you relax in the sun on deck. I'd also recommend noise-cancelling headphones for use with your MP3 player. There have been many times when I've been trying to relax on The Serenity Deck of a Carnival cruise ship when someone nearby was talking so loudly that all serenity had vanished. Noise-cancelling headphones and your favorite music on your MP3 player will bring the serenity back. Noise-cancelling headphones are also great if you are taking an airline flight to get to and from your cruise. They block out all the engine noise while you are watching the movie or listening to music.
Some $1 and $5 bills. Very handy for tipping the people who handle your luggage on embarkation day, and also for making small purchases in Mexico. Using American money in Caribbean ports is almost never a problem, but using a large bill to make a small purchase can be a problem.
If you're in a full-time relationship with your laptop computer or iPad... be sure to bring it along! There's wi-fi available throughout the ship, even in your cabin... and on the Carnival Magic you can even buy an unlimited Internet access plan.
And I think this last one goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: DON'T FORGET TO BRING A SWIM SUIT!
Speaking of swim suits... I'd like to tell you about one of the most useful things we've learned after many cruises. When you share a cruise ship with 3000 other passengers, you have to come up with ways to avoid the crowds. I really don't think it's fun to share a Jacuzzi with a bunch of strangers, so I make an effort to get to the Jacuzzis at times when the other passengers won't be there. So, here's a trick that we use to have the hot tubs all to ourselves:
Most people pack their swimsuit in their suitcase, which they hand over to a porter on embarkation day so that the suitcase can be delivered to their cabin. And the suitcases generally don't arrive at the cabins until late in the afternoon on embarkation day... which means that most people can't get to their swimsuits on the afternoon of embarkation. And that means that the Jacuzzis and swimming pools are fairly empty on embarkation day. It presents a perfect opportunity! What we do is wear our swimsuits under our clothes on embarkation day. The first thing we do when we get on board the ship is have some lunch, and then after lunch we strip down to our swim suits and enjoy the hot tubs without anyone else being in them. It works every time, and it's one of the few times during the week that you see the hot tubs without anyone else in them. By the way, before you get in the hot tub, grab a towel up on the Lido deck by the main pool... so that you can dry off when you're all done.
Here's another method we use to have the hot tubs all to ourselves: 6 PM is the most popular dinner time... and most people are getting ready for dinner at 5:30 PM... so that's a great time to head to the hot tubs. If you have "your time dining" you can eat a little later, after you're done with the hot tubs.
While we're talking about beating the crowds... remember that if you try to eat a meal at the same time everybody else does, you're going to find the buffet very crowded. So, try to adjust your schedule a little off-peak to avoid the crowds. Get up a little earlier than everybody else to avoid the breakfast crowds. Or eat lunch a little later than everybody else to avoid the lunch crowds. The buffet is really crowded at 8 AM, but usually not at 7 AM. And the lunch crowd is huge at 12:30 but not bad at all at 1:30 or 2 PM.
Here are a couple of things that you might find very useful if you're doing research for an upcoming cruise on the Carnival Magic...
Take a look at this detailed set of Carnival Magic deck plans. If your color printer can handle 11x17" paper, print these deck plans out at 11x17" and take them with you on your cruise. They are far more detailed than the printed deck plans they hand out on the ship. Or simply save the deck plans to your iPad or laptop computer and bring it with you on the ship.
You might also want to download the "Fun Times" (daily newsletters) for the entire second week of our cruise, and the list of shore excursions (and prices).
I'm a cruise ship freak, so I got a kick out of seeing several other Carnival ships during our cruise...
The Carnival Conquest was waiting for us when we pulled in to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
We docked with the Carnival Legend in Cozumel, Mexico.
It was quite a sight to see the Carnival Liberty, Carnival Conquest, and Carnival Magic all anchored off Grand Cayman island.
Our ship, the Carnival Magic
The Carnival Liberty, at anchor off of Grand Cayman.
I laughed when I saw the Carnival Liberty, because she was actually my first choice for this cruise! Months earlier, when we were planning our August vacation, I was looking at all the different options and I decided that we should sail on the Carnival Liberty... because I wanted to experience a ship that had the new "Funship 2.0" enhancements. I requested the time off from my boss... but she took an incredibly long time to get back to me about it. By the time she finally got back to me and granted the time off, all the balcony cabins on the Carnival Liberty were booked up. So, I had to go to my second choice... the Carnival Magic.
This actually turned out to be an extreme stroke of luck... as the Liberty's schedule got all messed up by Hurricane Isaac's brush with Florida. The Magic, which sails out of Texas, was completely unaffected by Hurricane Isaac. When I got back to work after my vacation, I thanked my boss for being so slow to approve my vacation request! It totally worked out in my favor.
I have to put a plug in for one amazing shore excursion we went on! The place is called Akumal Beach, and it's on the mainland of Mexico, southwest of Play Del Carmen. It's one of those places in the Caribbean that looks like it should be on a post card...
Akumal means "place of the turtles" in the Mayan language. It was given that name because gigantic sea turtles graze here. They feed on the grass that grows in the sand of these shallow waters. These gigantic sea turtles are totally used to humans... so you can snorkel right off the beach and swim with the turtles as they graze on the grass on the ocean floor. It's an amazing experience!
I'm afraid that I didn't get a very good photo of any of the turtles at Akumal beach.
They were huge... about 3 or 4 feet long!
This is the best photo I came up with.
There's also a lot of fish here, and they like to swim in schools around the biggest fish. When humans are in the water, they view the humans as the biggest fish... so they swim along side you. It's really cool! To get here from where the cruise ship docks on the island of Cozumel, you have to take a ferry over to the mainland... which is an adventure in itself. Then a bus from Playa Del Carmen down to Akumal. It's a long day... but I thought it was worth it! And they served a nice buffet lunch, too. By the way, this was a Carnival shore excursion, called "Sea Turtle Snorkle & Lunch".
Speaking of wildlife... here are a few creatures I took photos of while our ship was loading passengers in Galveston...
There were probably a dozen dolphins swimming near the ship in Galveston Bay
but the only decent picture I got was of these two
I was bored while we waited for the ship to depart Galveston,
so I started trying to get a picture of a seagull in flight...
which is harder than you might think!
And now, a final few pictures from the Carnival Magic that didn't seem to fit in anywhere else...
I really enjoyed the pool at the back of the ship.
It's more serene than the mid-ship pool where they have all the crazy events and the loud music.
The music back here is better, and at the right volume.
Too bad this pool isn't adults-only, like it is on many other Carnival ships.
This gives you a good view of where the waterworks area is located
in relationship to the main pool.
I shot some video during our cruise and I'd like to share a few clips with you. These videos were shot in high definition... so, if you've got the bandwidth to handle it, you might want to click on the "change quality" button and watch them at a resolution of 720p or more. If you do so, you should also expand the window to full screen. (You'll see the "change quality" and "full screen" buttons after you start playing the videos.)
Let's start with a look at all the fun at the WaterWorks water park. Kids of all ages can have fun here!
Next, here's one that the cruise ship freaks are going to really love... it's a full-length video of the tender ride from the pier at Grand Cayman back to the Carnival Magic. Play it, sit back, watch the Carnival Magic get bigger and bigger on the screen, and pretend you are there!
Next, take a look at a video I shot just a few minutes before that last one. I was sitting on the tender, tied up at the dock at Grand Cayman, and chatting with one of the crew members of the tender. He noticed my camera, and told me to get it ready because he was going to drop a small piece of food down in to the water for the fish. The video shows you the frenzy that erupted in the water right after he dropped that piece of food in!
Now here's a video I shot while snorkeling at the barrier reef off the coast of Belize. I used my inexpensive waterproof camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3, to shoot this. No one was feeding the fish here, so you won't see hundreds of them, but you'll see some small groups of fish like you actually do in nature. My reaction on viewing this video is that it's kind of like looking at someone's home aquarium... only I was lucky enough to be able to swim in it!
Just a few minutes after I shot that previous video, my wife pointed out to me that I was swimming right above a very well camouflaged sting ray! I shot a very quick video of the sting ray, so you could see it. I'm impressed at how well camouflaged this guy is for the environment he lives in.
23 Great Things About the Carnival Magic
As soon as I got onboard, I started noticing things about the Carnival Magic that were better than on the other Carnival ships I had been on. I noticed so many of these little improvements that I decided to make a list of them. In no particular order, here's what's better about the Carnival Magic over your average Carnival ship:
The decor in the cabins is less loud and more tasteful.
The safe in your cabin uses a combination rather than a credit card to open.
The seating in many outdoor public areas is more plush and comfortable.
Ocean plaza on deck 5 is an interesting venue for entertainment such as small bands and karaoke.
The seaside barbecue (only available on sea days) offers another good option for lunch. I especially liked the grilled tacos.
There's an elevator to the Serenity retreat.
The Serenity retreat is larger than on some of the other ships.
Cucina Del Capitano offers another dining option for lunch or dinner... although I did not particularly like the food there.
Tiki huts next to the mid-ship pool offer shade for parents watching their kids swim.
You can get clubs and balls for the miniature golf course without having to check them out and check them back in.
There's exercise equipment up on the sports deck, next to the Sky Court. This is great for people who want some fresh air while they work out.
There's an outdoor pool table, foosball table, and even an outdoor Nintendo game system on the sports deck. Free hot dogs, too.
The red frog pub is a fun place with some unique drinks and appetizers, unique seating arrangements, and games.
There is an outdoor deck that goes all the way around deck 5, so you can walk around the entire length and width of the ship. This is in addition to the smaller jogging track up on the sports deck.
The "fun hubs" located all over the ship make it easy to find a convenient place to access the Internet.
Internet access is significantly faster than on other ships, and you can buy unlimited access for the entire cruise without having to pay by the minute. You can also share this unlimited access among multiple devices. (But only one at a time.)
There's a hallway that passes by the main dining room in the middle of the ship, unlike other ships where you have to go up and over (or down and under) to get past the dining room.
The quality of the mattresses seemed to be improved over the other ships I've sailed on. Out of 15 cruises with Carnival, this was the only time I can remember my wife NOT complaining about the bed.
The quality of the Seaside Theatre big screen seems better than on the Splendor and Conquest-class ships. (And Spirit class ships don't have an outdoor TV at all.)
The enclosure around the Sky Court (basketball, soccer, dodge ball) is bigger, taller, and more robust.
The Assistant Cruise Director, Megan, was the best ACD I've ever seen. James, the Cruise Director, was OK... but it was Megan I was most impressed with. Their version of the morning show, a cruise ship version of Regis & Kelly, was the best I've seen on any ship. On some ships, it's been so bad it was unwatchable!
Our safety briefing (aka lifeboat drill) was held in the comfort of the main show lounge. Out of 15 cruises, it was only the second time I've been able to sit down during the safety briefing.
Each cabin has two electrical outlets at the desk. Most Carnival ships just have one.
Room For Improvement
Is anyone from Carnival reading this? If so, I do have a few suggestions for you! Even though I totally loved our cruise on the Carnival Magic, there were a few things that could have been improved...
I know this is minor... but the salt shakers in the restaurants were worthless! The holes were too small, and got easily clogged up by the combination of salt and humidity.
Not enough Mexican food! I totally loved the late-night Mexican buffet. I thought it was the best food of the entire cruise! It was so sad that you only served that great Mexican food one time during the entire cruise... and not until 11 PM. Rather than having two stations in the Lido buffet that serve the exact same thing, how about turning one in to a Mexican food station?
The way you offer free soft-serve ice cream 24/7 is brilliant. Now you need to do the same thing for soft drinks such as Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, etc. Self-serve soda dispensers are commonplace in the food industry. Put them on your ships! If you're not willing to do that, how about at least putting in some vending machines with soft drinks in them?
The 24-hour pizza bar is a great idea, too. Now all you have to do is throw out your pizza recipe and come up with a better one. The crust you use isn't bad... I think it's the cheese and the sauce that are the problems. Put some focus groups together and try out some new recipes on them. Just make sure the focus groups are representative of who your typical customers are!
The way you rotate the various types of potato products at breakfast each morning is great. Can you please do that at dinner time in the buffet? I really got tired of baked potatoes with dinner each night. Can you offer mashed potatoes in the buffet every now and then?
Notice that all of the items that needed improvement were food related! I think that the food was definitely the weak spot on our Carnival Magic cruise.
A Great Book About Cruise Ships
After you've been on at least one cruise, there's a book that you really should read! It will give you a whole new perspective. It's a book that was written by a guy that worked on several Carnival ships... and he shares some funny stories about life on a cruise ship. To give you a bit of an idea of what kind of book this is... the story starts as he is staying in a hotel room in Miami, the night before his very first day working on a cruise ship. Even though it's the day before his first day onboard, he's basically "on the job", so Carnival is paying for the room. To save the company money, they don't give him a private room... he shares it with someone else. So, he checks in to the room, and the first thing he does is to take a nice long shower. And when he's finally done with his shower, he discovers that his roommate has shown up... and is in the middle of having sex with a woman right there in their shared hotel room! Does that give you an idea of the kind of book this is? Well, that's just the beginning... and things get even more interesting on the ship!
If you've ever wondered what life is like for those people that work on cruise ships... what kind of hours they work... how much they're paid... and what they do when they're not working... this is the book for you. And even better news... in 2011, he wrote a sequel!
If you purchase one (or both!) of the books by clicking on these ads,
Amazon.com will send a small commission my way. Thanks!
How To Smuggle Booze Onboard
The cruise lines are expecting to make some serious money from you at the bars onboard the ship. The cost of one drink is typically over $10, and most people don't drink alone... so that's over $20 just to share one nice drink with your sweetie. After that first one, how about another? And hey, this is not just a one day cruise... well, you can see how the cost of liquor can really add up by the end of your cruise.
You can save a LOT of money by bringing your own liquor aboard. However, the cruise line wants a monopoly on liquor sales, so they generally do not allow you to bring your own liquor aboard! Every piece of luggage that is brought onboard is x-rayed, and if they spot something in the shape of a bottle... they will open the bag and confiscate any alcohol. (Soft drinks like Pepsi and Coke are OK to bring onboard in your luggage, and will not be confiscated.)
To get around the high price of booze on a cruise, a lot of people DO bring their own liquor onboard. The smart ones will disguise it so that it does not show up on the x-ray machine. An easy way to do this is to use a "ShampBooze" flask...
Live Web Cam At The
Galveston Cruise Port
Here's something fun to do on your computer... watch the Carnival Magic while it's in port in Galveston on Sundays. Click here to see the live web cam which points right at the spot the Carnival Magic sits during most of the day on Sundays. Then, when she leaves somewhere around 4:00 or 4:30 central time, take a look at this cam and this other cam which will show her on the way out.
Carnival Cruise Sounds
Have some fun with these! Listen to the Carnival Cruise theme, or play the sound of a Carnival ship horn.
If you're a true cruise junkie, download the audio files (by right-clicking, and saving) and then set your computer to play the ship horn when you get a new email, and to play the theme song when the computer boots up and/or shuts down!
The Cruise Ships We've Been On
If you've enjoyed this page, you would probably also enjoy reading my web pages about:
Our December 2013 cruise on the newly remodeled Carnival Sunshine
Our first cruise with Princess! January 2014 Sapphire Princess
Our September 2013 cruise on the Carnival Conquest
Our April 2013 cruise on the newest ship in the fleet... the Carnival Breeze
Our Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Glory
Our many cruises on the Carnival Spirit
Our February 2010 cruise on the Carnival Splendor
Our April 2009 Carnival Paradise cruise
Our January 2008 cruise on the Carnival Elation
Our April 2008 cruise on the Norwegian Star
Our 1996 cruise on Carnival Cruise Line's MS Holiday
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