Sunday, November 27, 2011

Carnival Magic Inaugural Texas Cruise

Carnival Magic U.S. Inaugural
Cruise Review 11.14.2011

Just the Facts:
Cruise: Carnival Magic Inaugural Texas Cruise
Date: November 14-19, 2011
Captain: Giovanni Cutugno
Cruise Director: James Charlton
Special Guest: John Heald
Ports: Galveston, Texas - Progreso, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico

This was my 27th Carnival cruise, 68th overall, and 2nd cruise on the NEW Carnival Magic. I’m traveling with the dear wife (DW) and group of regular cruise friends on this cruise.

Day 1- Monday- 11/14/11- Embarkation- Galveston
Another easy start for this cruise as again I am already on board ship. I had breakfast in the MDR (main dining room) and hoped to sit with TA’s and get their impressions of the ship. They had questions for me as well since I was on the transatlantic. I was worried that they would not be able to debark all the travel agents that had stayed overnight, but they got them all off by 9:00 am. Now housekeeping and the staff had to prepare for another group of passengers who will be boarding. I must say that they did a wonderful job. I saw several groups of US Coast Guard finalizing inspections and got to hear announcement that were made for the crew. John Heald even thanked all the crew on behalf of the CEO for the great work they had done on inaugural Sunday. He also bragged on the successful health inspection, they received a perfect 100%. Amazing. They announced that boarding would begin at 11:00 am for our cruise. I got settled into our new cabin and by the time I went down to Guest Services to get my new card the ‘group’ and dear wife were boarding so we all made the lobby at the same time. Everyone had lunch and then we all met in the Red Frog Pub for afternoon drinks. Five (it may have been six) of the 102 oz. Tubes of Thirsty Frog soon put everyone in a very good mood. Will Marion, (photo left) one of the entertainers who plays in the Red Frog, was quickly adopted by the girls as our entertainer. He is good and plays a lot of Southern Rock and popular music. I took the DW on a tour of the new Carnival Magic, her first thought was that after the publicity it lacked the expected ‘wow’ factor. Upon returning to the cabin a gift of Chocolate Covered Strawberries and White Chocolate from the Hotel Director was left as a B2B gift. They used to do B2B gifts in the past, but not in past few years, so this was very nice. Boat drill was about 4:30 pm and went very well. Soon the Galveston Bay dolphins escorted the Magic out of the harbor and into the Gulf of Mexico. Some cabin time to rest and prepare for dinner was sorely needed by this time. We have two great 10-top tables located in the center of the Southern Lights Dining room. Thanks to Senior Maître D' Ken Byrnes who helped me arrange them for the group. For dinner I ordered the Creme of Sun Dried Tomato Soup, Green Salad, the Sweet & Sour Shrimp with Plum Sauce as an entree and Crème Brulee for dessert. After dinner some went to the Casino, some to the Welcome Show, some to the Piano Bar, and some to the cabin to rest. A great first day among cruise friends.

Day 2- Tuesday- 11/15/11- at Sea
A nice morning with clear skies. I was up very early and took care of some business with Guest Services, no lines early in the day. I went early to the dining room and I got a private table so I changed my usual first morning cruise routine and ordered eggs to order. They were perfect: three eggs over medium with sides of baked apple, toast, bacon, potatoes, and corned beef hash. I then met others in the group on Lido deck for a fun morning on the Twister and Drain Pipe slides. There were many more passengers, including children already using the Water Works than on the previous cruise. For lunch we did the Salad Bar located on Promenade deck. BTW--They have the best pico de gallo I have ever found on a cruise ship. Texans will love it. At 1:00 pm we had our Friends of Chris P meeting, (photo right) our own little private cocktail party, in the Piano Bar. We requested the best cocktail server on the ship, Marusya (I discovered her on the previous cruise) and she was great. The party was fantastic with premium cocktails and duck farts flowing. We also had a special guest, Senior Cruise Director & Blogger Mr. John Heald (photo above left) who entertained with some stories and posed for photos with the group. Following the party it was off to the Red Frog Pub to meet Facebook friends and a few more tubes of Tasty Frog beer (photo left). JH came by there as well and meeting new people was fun. The rest of the afternoon was spent on Lido deck acting goofy and listening to our new adopted entertainer: Will. One of our group won the slot tournament this afternoon, always a good thing. Something very unusual happened on the ship at the beginning of early seating dinner, our favorite Matre’D Ken was attacked by a disgruntled waiter and will be taking time off his duties for the rest of the cruise. We will hopefully have the same arrangements and catch up with Ken in March when the group again sails on the Magic. For dinner I had: the Stuffed White Mushrooms, Roasted Pumpkin Soup, and the Prime Rib with Baked Potato. The production show tonight was The Groove Line and the Punchliner Comedy club was also busy. Our group again split up between the casino, shows, and clubs. A fun first day at sea.

Day 3- Wednesday- 11/16/11- Progreso, Mexico
After we boarded the ship on Monday we received a letter from the Captain stating that because of the aft thruster problems that we could not call at our scheduled port of Costa Maya. We would be doing an overnight call at Progreso so that a tug could assist in docking and that the divers could make further repairs. Not happy about this as Progreso is in the Gulf and not near as pretty as the Caribbean port of Costa Maya. I lost our only Caribbean call on the transatlantic as well. Since we were in no hurry to go ashore I had a casual breakfast in the MDR and visited with friends on the aft Lido deck. We made plans to meet in town later in the day. DW used the aft pool and I relaxed until lunch. We ate at Cucina del Capitano and it was good as always. After lunch we took the shuttle into town an met at my favorite place in town: Le Saint Bonnet (photo left) on the Malecon. Almost everyone was there by the time we arrived, a group of about fifteen friends. This is a good place to HQ as from here you can shop or go to the beach. We had a nice afternoon drinking margaritas, eating some Mexican food, and enjoying the great breeze off of the water. Even enjoyed a nice massage ($10 for 45 minutes). We have never been able to stay late before and they brought in a female Cubano torch singer so it was a fun time. Especially for the girls who became the backup singers and dancers for the singer (yup, photo right). We returned to the ship in the evening and the ship was very pretty lit up in the night. We arrived back in time for a late snack in the Lido Buffet. They did open the casino so many went there as well as the late production show: Destination: Unknown. I had a much better seat for this show than on the previous cruise and we enjoyed it very much. Later I went to the Piano Bar to enjoy Ron Pass or more correctly watch the others enjoy Ron. A very good people watching place.

Day 4- Thursday- 11/17/11- Progreso, Mexico
Everyone in our group as well as most of the ship stayed on board although we were still docked in Progreso. I had my usual MDR breakfast then met others on Lido deck aft. This is the usual meeting place for our group as it above our cabins located one deck below on Vista deck aft. Some swimming and Bloody Mary’s seemed to be the plan for the morning. The pool was nice this morning although a little cool for me. This afternoon we had some ship time including some more time in the Water Works and the slides...great fun. We had an early sail away with the help of a tug from Progreso. Ships normally dock with the aft towards the pier in Progreso and we were the opposite so that we could be towed out easier. Obvious that the thrusters still do not work, but interesting to watch since the tug was just below our aft balconies. The rest of the day was really just one long party. We started with one our infamous aft balcony parties with lot's of snacks, beer, champagne, rum, and just about any cocktail one would want. This group travels well. The next stop was the Past Guest Party in the Show Time lounge (photo above left). The cocktail servers did a very good job in maintaining the party for us. Cruise Director James did a good job and everyone had a good time. Next stop was the Red Frog Pub (photo right) where the guys again began drinking the tubes of Thirsty Frog, but the gals's changed to Tiramisu Martinis. Our friend John Heald even came by and ordered another tube for the gang. A fun time for both our group and new friend made in the pub (at some point we had to give away some alcohol). The MDR was out of the question this evening so we ate in the Lido Marketplace. I understand the pork chops were very good. I retired after dinner and the group went about their usual fun ship activities. Marcus Monroe was the entertainer this evening and they also had a Caribbean Beach Party.

Day 5- Friday- 11/18/11- Cozumel
A very nice day with a nice cool breeze. There were seven ships in Cozumel so there will be a lot of tourists today. Finally after 20+ days on the Magic we will be in a Caribbean port even though three ports were promised. I started the day with a dining room breakfast then met the group for an early planned start in Cozumel. We hired a van for the day ($25 pp) and so 14 of us were off for Buccano’s Beach Club located in the hotel zone north of San Miguel. We were there just after 9:00 am and had the swimming pool (photo left), facilities, and beautiful beach (photo right), to ourselves for quite a while. It is a very beautiful place with a great view and very good food. About 12:30 as it became busier we decided to head into San Miguel and our now favorite bar: Wet Wendy’s. They were very busy, but very accommodating and got us a large table in the shade (photo bottom left). We used this as a HQ and some did some shopping while I went to Antonio’s barber shop to see Martin and get a haircut. I rejoined the group for a Mango Margarita and a Drunken Sailor cocktail. It’s always good to see Chad and Klara the owners. The service, drinks, and food were great. Note: Bucanno’s may now charge an admission, we didn’t as it was included in our $25, but one person came late and was charged $10 and I was told that is the new policy. I have been here many times and had never been charged in the past. It’s already an expensive taxi ride and so I no longer recommend the trip if there is an admission. The food is great, but it’s not inexpensive and although this is not bargain resort, I do consider it gouging. Also the food and drink bill was not split so it was very difficult for everyone to pay their share. At Wet Wendy’s everyone received a bill with their name on it and it was easily paid. Now that Paradise Beach has a swimming pool that may be our choice in March or one of the all inclusive spots. Sail away from Cozumel was interesting with so many ships leaving especially since the Carnival Conquest, my former 'home' ship was also in port. I guess that will be a regular Friday thing with the Conquest now sailing out of NOLA and the Magic out of Galveston. They did use a tug to get us off the pier. After sail away we went to see comedian John Wesley Austin in the Punchliner Comedy Club. He has a Texas/Country style of comedy and should be popular on this cruise. Dinner was very good, I ordered the Broccoli Soup, Escargot, Penne Pasta, Chateaubriand, Butter Pecan Ice Creme, and Fruit Plate. After dinner the group again did their thing: casino, shows, and clubs. The production show this evening was Win!. A fun day, but a beautiful day in Cozumel with friends makes it very special!!

Day 6- Saturday- 11/19/11- at Sea
Today is a beautiful day at sea, the best of the past 20+ days. I had a very nice dining room breakfast and was joined by several friends, a nice surprise. After breakfast most in the group were on aft Lido deck for some Swimming, Bellini’s, and Bloody Mary’s. I even hit the hot tub early before the crowds arrived, then swam in the pool and enjoyed the Bloody Marys. This was a fun morning. Most met for lunch in Cucina del Capitano, best lunch on the Magic in my opinion. The afternoon was full of activities: Water Park, Groove for St. Jude’s Walk, music in various venues, sales in the shops, the Sports deck, and more. All passengers and the group were busy on this beautiful day. At 5:00 pm they held the Farewell party in the Spotlight Lounge. They offer complementary drinks, but don't really publicize the party although it was overly full this cruise. Word of mouth & groups filled it. Marusya really took care of us at this party and the bonus was that Will was the entertainer! He also posed for a photo with some of the group (photo left). Not sure what he thinks of us. Tonight we went to the early set in the Piano Bar before dinner to enjoy Ron Pass one final time. The girls all ordered special Tirimasu Martinis from Anton the Bartender (photo lower right). Having been to the Piano Bar many times over 20+ days I can say that Anton is perfect for that venue. He is entertaining in his own right and is really a good fit with Ron Pass. Dinner was very good, I had my favorite Panko Shrimp entree, but many the group raved over the new Didja menu Macaroni with Bacon entree. Marcus Anthony was one of the entertainers this evening as well as the Carnival Legends Show, but after dinner I headed back to the cabin to pack and put out our bags. We decided not to do self assist debarkation as we have two large bags and there are now so many people doing self assist that it gets very busy and confusing, especially in the designated waiting area. By checking our bags we can just wait in the cabin or public area until we are called to debark. BTW-always check to see that your bags were picked up, mine were not initially, but a few calls finally got them taken.

Debarkation- Sunday- Galveston, Texas
We arrived in Galveston well before 6:00 am. I was up early and watched the ship be turned around by a tug and then towed to the dock. The thrusters are definitely not fixed. Soon we were tied up and they began debark for self assist guests very early. We went up to the Lido Marketplace for breakfast while we waited for our zone to be called and just as we finished breakfast they called zones 1-2-3. It was only 7:00 am and they are already calling zones. We went down to the cabin, got our bag and headed for the lobby. We left the ship, found our checked bags, and proceeded to US Customs. All went well and soon we were walking over to EZ Cruise parking and on the road. We actually crossed the bridge and were off the island before 8:00 am. Amazingly easy debarkation.

The Carnival Magic is the newest and largest in the Carnival fleet. The ship is 1002 feet in length and weighs in at 130,000 tons. My two favorites of the much publicized new improvements are the Cucina del Capitano and the Red Frog Pub. The Water Works and Piano Bar are also great.

The staff and crew for the most part are very good at their jobs and very friendly. I think many were somewhat stressed after the big Sunday extravaganza though. They have been trained very well. Again my stateroom attendant was fantastic.

We had cabin 9473 an 8D balcony on Vista deck. I selected this cabin as it is next to the aft cabins that many in our group like to book. It’s also very easy to go up one deck to the aft Lido area and Lido Marketplace. It is a standard balcony configuration with a full couch. The safe has a button keypad and card swipe, there is a hair dryer, flat screen TV, two electrical plugs on the vanity/desk, robes, three section wardrobe, small stocked refrigerator, and vanity stool. The carpets and furniture were freshly cleaned because there were smokers in the cabin for the preceding 16 day cruise. The fact that I spoke with the steward well before moving in helped him get it cleaned. So the odd one night in a different cabin actually worked well, it gave him time to really clean it and we did not notice the smoke after the first day. On December 1st smoking will not be allowed in cabins so hopefully this won’t happen to future cruisers. One disappointment is that the balconies are smaller than on a Conquest class ship.

We had second or late seating for dinner and as a group had two very nice tables in center area of the Southern Lights dining room. A fantastic location to see Ken sing and the waiters dance. Unfortunately Ken was unable to work other than the first night. We are the last ship in the Carnival fleet to go to the new ‘Didja’ menus. Overall the food was very good. The comfort food additions such as meat loaf, macaroni & cheese, and fried chicken are interesting. Read my Magic Transatlantic review for more detail on food.

Personal Comments
Although our group had a lot of FUN, I felt that this cruise was just a ‘half bubble off plumb’ all week. There were again problems with the aft thrusters, new crew members, change of ports, fight in dining room, electrical power (the AC went off every night) & I suspect there are engine problems other than the thrusters, and IMHO perhaps a tired crew. It was still a great cruise, but of course our group can make a party out of an armpit.

Cruise Highlights
The Snoozemates group who have sailed together many times was the highlight. All are experienced cruisers who know how to have fun on a cruise. Senior Cruise Director John Heald stopping by our private party was nice. Will Marion, the entertainer was great. Our Red Frog Pub parties were the talk of the ship. Cozumel was wonderful as always.

Overall another great Cruise!!

~~ Photos by Friends - click them to enlarge ~~

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Carnival Magic Welcome Ceremony

Carnival Magic Welcome Ceremony 11.13.2011

Just the Facts:
Date: November 13, 2011
Master of Ceremonies: John Heald
Captain: Giovanni Cutugno
Port: Galveston, Texas

This was a port day set aside by Carnival between the transatlantic cruise and the first Texas inaugural cruise. Very smart of Carnival as it serves two purposes: 1). a day for various US Coast Guard, Health dept., & US Customs inspections and 2). a day to preview the new Carnival Magic for Travel writers, Travel Agents, and even Investors. There were 21 passengers doing a B2B and they were allowed to stay on board ship for this one day between cruises. Thank you Carnival, it was the right thing to do.

Sunday- 11/13/11- Galveston
Since I am already on board this will be an easy day for me although I will have to change cabins. I was supposed to move down just a few cabins to my next cruise balcony cabin, but due to a mix up I will have a cabin forward on Lido deck. While passengers debarked in Galveston I went to the MDR for a nice leisurely Eggs Benedict breakfast. After breakfast I returned to the cabin to pack for my move. Those doing the B2B (and the contractors on board to repair the thrusters) met to go through US Customs at the conclusion of the debarkation process. For the first time in Galveston it went very well as we went down at 10:30 a.m and were back on board just about 11:00 am. Congratulations to both Carnival and the Port of Galveston on a smooth debarkation process. My new cabin was 10201 as far forward as you can get with a cabin on the ship. This is a handicap cabin with a lot of extra room in both the cabin and toilet. It has a window looking forward onto a small almost private deck and is very clean, I doubt anyone was in it for a while. I was assigned the one day inaugural sail & sign card and the great thing is that there will be no accounts set up so all drinks today will be complementary. A nice bonus. There are a lot of Carnival people boarding, but the TA’s are scheduled in the afternoon so the Lido Marketplace opened later than normal and there is a lot of last minute activity to make sure that the ship is in top shape. The staff is even wearing their formal night uniforms for the day. When the Mongolian Grill opened I was there for a very nice lunch. After lunch I participated in some of the Travel Agent activities, they basically had gift stations set up around the ship so that you would end up taking a tour of the ships key features. Also took advantage of a few cocktails. I had a Miami Vice cocktail at the Red Frog as I wanted to sample more bar snacks that they were serving just as fast as they could cook them up. It was like an all-inclusive resort feature and a different experience for sure. I admit I asked for a few diet cokes when ordering a drink so I would have some for the next cruise.

The big afternoon activity was a concert by the very well known band Maroon 5. I had floor passes, but decided to watch the concert from the balcony in front of my forward cabin. In the above photo I would be above the flag on the deck above the bridge. (click photo to enlarge it) The view was from the rear of the stage, but the music was just fine. I also didn’t have to fight the crowd and waste any complementary drinking/party time either. Thanks again Carnival.

There were a lot of activities scheduled: The Groove Line production show, Punchliner Comedy Shows, Piano Bar, and all the entertainers in various venues including the Lido deck. Just as on a cruise, the days Fun Times listed all the activities. The official welcoming and inaugural ceremonies were held in the Showtime Theater before the show. A very impressive day.

Several of the B2B passengers met for dinner in the Southern Lights dining room for a very nice dinner. I ordered: White Stuffed Mushrooms, Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Prime Rib of Roast Beef with Baked Potato, and Lemon Tart for dessert. They served red and white wine with dinner. I also had a cosmopolitan cocktail and Grand Marnier as an after dinner drink. There were a lot of parties around the ship and I did a little TA watching before retiring for the evening. I know I have another six days to party with very good friends on the inaugural cruise.

A very FUN day.....Thanks Carnival

Friday, November 25, 2011

Carnival Magic Transatlantic

Carnival Magic Tranatlantic Review 10.28.2011

Just the Facts:
Cruise: Carnival Magic Transatlantic
Dates: October 28--November 13, 2011
Captain: Giovanni Cutugno
Cruise Director: James Charlton
Ports: Barcelona, Spain - Palma De Mallorca, Spain - Malaga, Spain - Las Palmas, Canary Islands - Freeport, Bahama Islands - Galveston, Texas, USA

This was my 26th Carnival cruise, 67th overall, 2nd Transatlantic, and 1st cruise on the NEW Carnival Magic. I’m traveling as a solo on this cruise.

Day 0- Thursday- 10/27/11
When traveling for a cruise holiday it is best to arrive a day before debarkation to acclimate yourself and allow for any potential travel problems; however, as a solo I decided to travel on the day of sailing. I left the ranch by 10:30 am to make a 2:00 pm flight from DFW airport. All went well and the flight arrived early at JFK in New York. The direct flight to Barcelona was scheduled for 9:00 pm but was delayed several times. It finally got away several hours late.

Day 1- Friday- 10/28/11- Embarkation- Barcelona
My overseas flight arrived in Barcelona about 1:00 pm local time, about three hours past the originally scheduled time. Spanish immigration was easy and after retrieving my bag I sought out the Carnival shuttle operators. They were very well organized and easy to find. I purchased a ship transfer ($30) and checked my bag with them that would later be delivered to my cabin. A very simple process. Soon we were on a bus and dropped direct at the Carnival pier. The VIP check in was also very well organized. The line seemed long at first glance, but went very fast as they had several check in windows available for VIP and added more as needed. I was on board about 3:00 pm and now had a chance to catch my breath and start looking at the newest ship in the Carnival fleet. Very impressive so far. (Atrium photo at right) After dropping my bag in the cabin I went to the Lido Marketplace to get a lunch before they closed for boat drill. The roast beef and salad were very good. After lunch I enjoyed some much needed cabin time to refresh from the long flight and travel. Boat drill began about 4:30 pm and seemed to go very smooth. I looked around the ship a bit and visited the excursion desk to make a query about an excursion the next morning, but it was sold out. I took a series of short naps and tried to adjust to the time change as best I could. Dinner time at 8:15 pm came fast so it was off to the Southern Lights dining room. I had a very good table location near the center of the dining room with friends and soon to be new friends. For dinner I ordered the Creme of Sun Dried Tomato Soup, the Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, the Sweet & Sour Shrimp entree and the Crème Brulee for dessert. After dinner several of us went to the Showtime Comedy Club located in the Spotlight Lounge. I recently saw comedian Chase Elstner on the Carnival Glory and really enjoyed his show so I wanted to catch his act. He was hilarious. All the venues on the ship that featured live music seemed to be well attended. I retired to the cabin late and found a nice surprise: a ticket to the excursion I wanted for the following day.

Day 2- Saturday- 10/29/11- Palma De Mallorca
A nice morning with cloudy skies and occasional light showers. I went early to the dining room for my traditional 1st morning breakfast of Eggs Benedict, bacon, hash browns, grapefruit, milk, and tomato juice. It was very good and a good sign for the rest of the cruise. I had to meet the tour group in the Showtime Theater at 9:00 am and soon we were off for our excursion. The excursion was the Soller and Train Ride ($80), one of the more popular choices. We took a bus into Palma with a short stop then proceeded to the village of Soller. The weather was clearing and we had time to sightsee and visit the local Pablo Picasso museum. We then boarded the Soller Train, an old vintage electric train, for the trip back to Palma. It was a very picturesque excursion with the old village and mountains. We had the option of being dropped off at Palma or back to the pier. I chose to return to the ship. Upon returning I went to the Cucina del Capitano pasta bar where you can select your choices of pastas, sauces, and toppings. I had bow-tie pasta with meat sauce and topped with cherry tomatoes and grilled chicken. It was excellent and I will be returning. I tried the Key Lime pie from the Lido Marketplace for dessert and it was also excellent with a light sprinkle of pistachio on top. Now time for a nap as I’m still not quite acclimated to the time changes. After napping and some ship exploration I went to the Southern Lights for dinner. My choices were Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Langoustino Cocktail, a Mixed Green Salad, the Grilled NY Strip Steak, and the White Chocolate Bread Pudding for dessert. It was all very good with the steak cooked to order and the dessert a very nice surprise. Following dinner was the Welcome Show. Usually when these are held so late they are not well attended, but it was standing room only for this show. I guess with it on the 2nd night people were more rested and looking for entertainment. James the Cruise Director did a good job with a skit, the Captain introduced the officers, and the comedians did a short bit. No production singers or dancers, but the live band was very good. Following the Welcome show some friend and new friends went to the Piano Bar to enjoy Ron Pass. With the new non smoking policy I can now really enjoy the piano bar much more than in the past. We stayed for quite a while and Ron was brilliant. After closing the bar I returned to the cabin for a restful sleep.

Day 3- Sunday- 10/30/11- at Sea
The seas are very calm, but it was overcast and rainy in the morning. I slept late and had to hurry to make the 10:00 close of breakfast in the dining room. I had a nice standard breakfast to begin our first sea day. I took my computer up to the Red Frog to begin making notes and ‘people watch’ along the promenade deck. A new feature I took advantage of since I was sitting next to it was the Salad Bar set up where the Sushi station is located on deck 5. That’s a very good use of space to use it for a salad bar at lunch and sushi in the evenings. My salad was very good, you have a choice of several types of lettuce and several choices of add-on vegetables for your salad. Toppings include various dressings, nuts, or cheeses. Very nice. For dessert I went to the Lido Marketplace and had Banana Creme Pie & Tiramisu Cheese Cake. I have been very impressed with the desserts in the Marketplace, better than the dining room so far. I took a very short nap then went to the Magical Pond Hoppers meet. I wasn’t active on the CC boards, but really enjoyed the thread set up on Facebook. The meeting was fun and the Cruise Director and Captain came by for a while as well. After the meeting it was time for Afternoon Tea in the upper Southern Lights dining room. They served the usual cucumber sandwiches, petit fours and tarts. I didn’t see or wasn't served a scone, but they did serve whole large slices of chocolate cake. For a change of pace I listened to a bit of afternoon karaoke, it was the usual pretty bad folks other than one guy singing “Mac the Knife” who was excellent, I bet he will be in the Carnival Legends show at the end of the cruise. Some friends needed something from the spa and we ended up getting a nice tour of the complete Spa facilities. The Thalassotherapy pool (photo left) looks very interesting, but what impressed me is the vast improvement of the steam rooms. With such a busy day I didn’t get a nap and it was soon time for dinner. For dinner this evening I had: Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Thai Shrimp Soup (very spicy, but very good), Prime Rib with Baked Potato, and the Variations of Strawberries and Tropical Fruit Lasagne for dessert. A very good dinner. After dinner it was two sets of comedy in the Punchliner Comedy Club. Both Carl Faulkenberry and Chas Elstner were very great.

Day 4- Monday- 10/31/11- Malaga, Spain
Another great nights sleep and calm seas and nice warm weather. I was around early and in the dining room for a nice Eggs Benedict breakfast. The meet time for my excursion was 8:30 am and soon I was off on the Nerja Caves excursion ($60). We passed through Malaga on the way to Nerja located about 30 miles east. Our first stop was the Balcony of Europe a tourist site for well over 200 years. It’s actually just a small cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with great views. It is now somewhat touristy, but an interesting village here as a part of Nerja. The ice creme here was very good. After recovering a lost passenger we made the short drive to the Nerja Caves. These are very interesting and one of the largest cave systems in Europe with the largest ceiling to floor stalagmite/stalactite column in the world. There were a lot of steps, but it was an enjoyable excursion. I did sample the local Andalusian Beer and it was very good. We returned to Malaga and were able to see much more of the city on the way to the pier. When we arrived back at the ship we could see the ridiculously long lines of passengers trying to check back into the ship, fortunately they knew it as well and by the time we had made our way through the terminal and local security (including x-ray of bags) the lines were gone. In that time the ships staff had stopped the redundancy of a second check in and only required the sail & sign card to be used. It would have been an hour+ wait if they had not done this. They need four entry points not the two they have used so far if they plan on checking every ones bags. For a late lunch I had turkey from the carving station in the Lido Marketplace. Next to it was a bowl of small cranberry sauce and a small bowl of something white. Not having seen this before I ask what was in the bowl. I was told it was “turkey sauce.” Interesting...I had to try this new ‘turkey sauce’ and soon discovered that it was cold white gravy (there were no potatoes-so very odd) BTW- The Turkey was excellent. They had red velvet cupcakes and they were good, but just a bit dry-none of the excellent pies today. I did a little ship exploring this afternoon and visited with friends before an afternoon nap. I love the habit of a nap and the interior cabin is perfect for it. I have made a new friend with Ana the guest services manager. She is working on getting my shareholders OBC (on board credit) that wasn’t on my account. I did have the correspondence on my computer so I’m sure she will get it arranged for me. TIP: always bring your OBC proof with you-just in case. I went up to Promenade early this evening in order to see all the Halloween costumes. The guests and crew really looked great. They did the thriller dance and paraded along the promenade. Dinner was very good, I ordered the Chilled Langoustino Cocktail, Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Grilled NY Sirloin Steak, and a special Halloween dessert selection. After dinner I went to the Showtime Theater to see the judging of the Halloween costumes. It was very entertaining and CD James did a good job. The photos are of the Hooters Lady who won the contest and our bar server at dinner (enlarge photos at your own risk). After the Halloween Contest it was 'close down the Piano Bar' again. Ron Pass was again VERY entertaining on the Halloween night. One can see why he has so many fans. It was a late night, but we gained another hour in time tonight so it’s ‘all good’!

Day 5- Tuesday- 11/1/11- at Sea
I slept in this morning and went to the omelet station for a very nice omelet. Friends where also there so we had a nice visit and I noticed that they continued serving breakfast until noon. I could have just stayed for the Mongolian grill as it was then set up, but thought I should save that for another day. I walked about the ship and found the Serenity deck area. It is much improved on the Magic. A large area with a bar, snacks, two hot tubs, and lots of cushioned lounges. I decided to try the two large slides today the Drain Pipe and the Twister. They have two, but only one was open as they are not getting that much use with the ‘older’ crowd aboard. I did the Drain Pipe and it was fantastic. You slide down a traditional tube but end up in a large embanked circular area and spin in circles until you slow down enough to stand up. Very cool. I will do that one again as well as the Twister when it opens. After sliding I met friends for lunch in the Cucina del Capitano pasta bar. I had both a pasta bowl and the lasagna. The pasta bowl was very good and the lasagna was fantastic. In the Lido Marketplace I had Key Lime cheesecake for dessert. After lunch I had my first Thirsty Frog Red ale in the Red Frog pub. Fun afternoon for sure. Now it was time for my new tradition: nap time. Dinner was again very good. I ordered: Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Potage American (tomato based lobster soup), the Grilled Filet Mignon over Yukon Gold Mash, and Passion Fruit Creme Brule for dessert. After dinner the primary show was Preston Coe who sang a variety of songs including both Spanish & Italian Opera, Elvis, a few show tunes, and my favorite: a Roy Orbison medley. I retired after the late show as it’s an early day tomorrow.

Day 6- Wednesday- 11/2/11- Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
I was up early for a Marketplace buffet and omelet from the omelet station as our dining group was going to tour together today. We rented a very nice van for seven of us and headed south to Maspalomas and the Las Dunas (photo left). These are massive sand dunes located on the far southern tip of the island. We stopped at the beautiful RIU Masapaloma Resort and enjoyed the view of the dunes and also enjoyed some cocktails and free Wi-Fi. We then proceeded north across the center of the island through Fataga, San Bartolome, and Tejeda and enjoyed the spectacular views of the mountains and valleys. One village, Arteara, was covered in huge palms and looked like an oasis in a desert scene. The camels here also added to the illusion. A very scenic drive all around and a bargain as it turned out. We returned to the ship about 3:30 and I was able to score four 2-liter bottles of diet coke for the Atlantic crossing at a grocery while we were out and about. I had a snack and enjoyed the sail away from Las Palmas. It is a very lovely city and Gran Canaria is a lovely island. Before dinner I went to the Red Frog Pub and tried a Ting Mojita. That is the Jamaican version of the mojito and made with grapefruit juice. Dinner was again very good, I ordered a double serving of Steamed Alaskan Snow Crab Legs, the Roasted Strip-loin of aged American Beef, and Marinated Strawberries with warm Marsala Sabayon for dessert. A very interesting dinner with a few items not usually found on a Carnival menu. After dinner I retired early after a long excursion day.

Day 7-Thursday- 11/3/11- at Sea
The sea was really rocking & rolling as we have now started our trip across the Atlantic. I enjoy it some what, but the noises in the cabin woke me very early. I had an early Eggs Benedict breakfast in the dining room and then went to the Prime Steakhouse to meet my excursion for the day. I took the Behind the FUN tour ($95) of the ship this morning. It lasted from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and was a lot of fun. (Photo of my group at right) We toured the Steakhouse, Main Galley (including cleaning area, cold galley, hot galley, food storage, beverage storage & freezer), Laundry (the bed sheet folding machine was impressive), Engineering Control Room, Theater Dressing Rooms, Crew Mess, Crew Lounge, Crew Training Center, Ships Bell, and the Bridge where the Captain spoke to us. We finished in the cocktail lounge on deck four where we had some champagne and received some gifts: nylon backpack, Behind the Fun baseball hat, and a lanyard. Overall a nice experience. I had lunch in the dining room for the first time and it was very good, I had a Salad and the Mixed Grill (small Lamb Chop, Sausage, Bacon, Pork Chop, & Chicken). Following lunch it was soon Tea Time for some sweets, the scones were especially very good. Late afternoon nap and some movie time in the cabin. This was the first elegant night and the Captain and senior officers were available for photographs. Room service delivered a couple of small trays of goodies during the day today, but still room for a nice dinner. I ordered Baked Stuffed White Mushrooms, West Indian Pumpkin Soup, and the Duet of Broiled Lobster Tail and Grilled Jumbo Black Tiger Shrimp. For dessert I had the Cherries Jubilee. The first production show was to be tonight, but it was cancelled due to rough seas so Karen Granger was the show tonight. She is a female impressionist who sings hits of various artists. I have seen here before and she has a really entertaining show. I retired after the late show.

Day 8- Friday- 11/4/11- at Sea
We have gained another hour this morning and the Atlantic is calmer today than yesterday. A good sign. I had breakfast in the dining room, a 3-egg country breakfast (to order). Later I attended a presentation by Radu, the senior Carnival Cruise line photographer, then a cabin crawl to see one of the new ‘cove’ balcony cabins. The cove’s are located on deck two so very close to the water for a balcony. They are very interesting and exciting due to the high seas. They are cover by the wider deck five above and the life boats directly overhead. A nice option. The weather cleared even more so passengers are back out on deck. This was a good time to try out the slides again. Both were open and they are great FUN even for this old dude. I had a nice late lunch in the dining room, the menus change everyday so there is some nice variety. I enjoyed some cabin time in the afternoon and tried to take a snooze. I did get a Strawberry Cheese Cake for the Lido Marketplace as an afternoon snack. I met friends in the Red Frog Pub this evening and I tried the Red Frog Hurricane served in a ‘fish bowl’, a large and tasty cocktail of rum and tropical fruit. Dinner was very good, I ordered French Onion Soup, Black tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Chopped handpicked Field Greens, and the Jerk Pork Loin as an entree. For desert I had the Warm Figs, Date & Cinnamon Cake. After dinner was the first production show: The Groove Line. (photo left) It was 1970’s music and dance. The costumes and set were great, but to be honest it was too much disco for me. After the show it was off to the Punchliner Comedy Club to catch the last set there. Jerry Goodspeed, a ventriloquist, was funny, but no Marc Rubben. Late night tonight so glad we are getting another hour of time tonight.

Day 9- Saturday- 11/5/11- at Sea
Weather improving and was very nice in the morning. We are now only four hours off of Texas time. I had another very nice breakfast in the dining room then went to the shops to look at merchandise. The T-shirt sale was yesterday (2 for $20) and I should have got some as they had my size. They had polo style today so I’ll wait until they have T’s again. I did get the last bottle of Captain Morgan Rum, that should be delivered on the last night. I met some clients for lunch today and we ate in the Red Frog for lunch. I had the sliders with onion rings (everything on Pub menu is $3.33) and a Red Frog. After lunch I had some casino time while waiting for my slot tournament to begin. No luck here today. I noticed that about half or more of the casino is non smoking and those areas seemed much busier than the smoking areas. I checked out the BBQ that they serve on the Lanai on sea days, it looked good, but I had a salad from the salad area (Sushi Bar) on deck five. There are lot’s of choices for lunch, but they need it to feed all the passengers on this BIG ship. BTW--we are sailing with about 3700 pax. It clouded up today before I could hit the big slide again, but it is still on my to do list for another round. I attended Tea Time again today, but the scones seemed off so no sweets until 5:45. Since my cabin is just below the Lido Marketplace I can pop up when the dinner service starts at 5:45 and sample the desserts for that evening. Sometimes they have good items that are not even on the dining room menu. Dinner was more of a repeat: I ordered: Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Cannelloni Piemontese, Roast Prime Rib of American Beef au jus, and Blood Orange Croissant Pudding. After dinner the feature show was Neal Austin with a comedy magic act, he was very entertaining.

Day 10- Sunday- 11/6/11- at Sea
An overcast morning that soon turned into a nice rain. I had another nice breakfast in the dining room and trying to change up my selections. My eggs were overcooked for the first time, but after taking the behind the Fun tour, I would actually be surprised if any egg order is correct. The hot milk continues to be very good, I’m glad I discovered that early in the cruise. Decks are busy due to the rain so movie time in the cabin this morning. We really have not had any live television for several days and the internet is very slow due to location and bad weather. I should have brought some DVD’s to watch on the lap top computer. For lunch I had a Reuben Sandwich from the deli and dessert from the Lido Marketplace. The Reuben’s are very good and used to be one of my favorite items on Carnival ships, but there are so many new lunch options on the Magic that you can’t have them all unless on a longer cruise such as this one. I walked the Promenade deck and visited with some friends this afternoon. I did my new 5:45 ‘deal’ and popped up one deck to the Lido dessert station and got a Tiramisu. It’s better than going to Tea time for a late afternoon sweet. Several met in the Red Frog before dinner and I had another Red Frog Hurricane in the fish bowl glass. Really a value considering the number of shots in the drink (9+). Dinner was interesting, I ordered: Tom Ka Gai, Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Assorted Seafood Newburg Style, and Bitter & Blanc. After dinner was the Crew Talent Show in the Showtime Theater. Of course our Matre D’ Ken Byrnes (photo left) was the best & final talent. We have been enjoying his singing most every night in the dining room. We again turn back the clocks tonight before retiring.

Day 11- Monday- 11/7/11- at Sea
A good nights sleep overnight, the weather is overcast but warmer, high will be about 80°. I had breakfast from the omelette station on Lido deck. Very easy. We received a letter on the first or second day of the cruise from the Captain stating that we would not be calling at Grand Turk as scheduled but staying overnight in Freeport, Bahamas in order to repair a damaged aft thruster. Not a good trade. I went to the port talk for Freeport this morning and I think the reality of the poor situation with the change of ports began to become a reality with the passengers. There had already been requests by many who requested complementary shuttles since the ship will be docked in a remote location. As of the meeting one would have to take an excursion or taxi to get anywhere. If we had docked at Grand Turk everything would have been within walking distance of the ship. This change of ports was not due to weather but a choice made by Carnival to do repairs on a thruster that was damaged before this cruise so really more should be done IMHO. For lunch I finally made it to the Mongolian Grill (photo right) one of my favorite places to eat on a Carnival Ship, it took this long as there are so many lunch options. It was very good! This afternoon there was a private cocktail party for people who had signed up on Facebook. It was nice to meet some new people. Later this evening there was a Past Guest party, but what made it unique was that this party was for Platinum level guests or higher. There were a lot, the theater was full. There were also a lot of Milestone (25+ cruises) guests. Dinner was good, I ordered Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Soup, and American Aged Rib Eye Steak. Again we are experiencing high seas so the production show was cancelled and we had a concert/show by several of the production singers. We actually have two sets of singers and dancers with one set scheduled to leave after Galveston and the new one rehearsing. Between the two groups they actually put together a nice evening. A nice surprise when returning to the cabin for the night: a letter from the Captain stating that Carnival would be providing a shuttle service while in Freeport, also a special lobster dinner, and John Heald would fly in for the day while in Freeport.

Day 12- Tuesday- 11/8/11- at Sea
We are feeling the effects of tropical depression Sean located just north of us so again high seas especially overnight. I was up early to look at the weather and was actually surprised at the large number of passengers up and about at 6:00 am. Later I had an Eggs Benedict breakfast in the dining room and again it was very good. I walked around the ship and visited the Cherry on Top. They have an interesting selection of candy. We now also have network Television so I spent the morning catching up on the news and trying to get a weather report. I had lunch in the Cucina del Capitano, it’s very busy during the noon hour but seems to be fine if you were go after 1:15 pm or so. Pasta with the simple marinara and cherry tomatoes have become my favorite. Again cabin time and a walk on deck this afternoon. Pretty much the same routine on sea days: walk the decks, some cabin time, cocktails in the Red Frog, dinner, then a show. For dinner this evening I ordered the Hawaiian Breeze ( a fruit appetizer), Bigolli Arrabiatta (a pasta), Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Grilled Ribeye Steak Tyrolienne, and Butter Pecan ice creme for dessert. Again the production show was cancelled due to high seas, it was to be the Destination: Unknown, the big production magic show, and they said we would have it while docked in Freeport for sure. They previewed a show that was not to start until the Galveston sailings, a burlesque show, called A Kiss Goodnight. It was held in the smaller Spotlight Lounge and it was great with comedy, magic and beautiful dancing girls. It's an adult show and no photos allowed. The photo left shows the opening screen that images were shown on and the dancers could walk through the screen. The show really reminded me of the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris. The best show of the cruise and I had a seat on the front row.

Day 13- Wednesday- 11/9/11- Freeport, Bahamas
Partly cloudy weather today as we arrived in Freeport for two days. This was to have been our day In Grand Turk, but we were diverted here to make some repairs to the aft thrusters. I started the day with a nice omelette from the Lido Martketplace and waited for the 10:00 am official arrival. It was a real madhouse as everyone wanted to debark, but if they wanted to use the free shuttles they had to go through the excursion process of getting tickets and stickers from the theater. It took 3.5 hours to get all people off with that option. There were many unhappy passengers. I took a paid shuttle ($5) over to Port Lucaya and went to the beach bar located at the Royal Lucayan resort a place I discovered on a previous Freeport cruise. After a nice afternoon I returned by shuttle (again $5) to the ship in time for cocktails and dinner. I ordered: the Green Almond Poached Escargots, Italian Style Tomato & Borlotti Bean Soup, Duet of Broiled Lobster Tail and Grilled Jumbo Black Tiger Shrimp, Filet Mignon Carnival. It was a very good meal. We were finally going to get to see the production show: Destination: Unknown and it was introduced by John Heald. It was a very interesting magic and musical production with lots of props, costumes, the feature singers and dancers, and illusionist Jason Byrne. It’s a BIG production show and not to be missed. John Heald was very busy with his fans, but I did get a chance to have a nice conversation with him very late on Lido deck. It’s good that he made the attempt to greet passengers on this unusual day.

Day 14- Thursday- 11/10/11- Freeport, Bahamas
Another party cloudy day in the Bahamas. I met friends in the Lido Marketplace for breakfast and a planned joint excursion day. We planned on a trip back to the Lucayan resort for the day. They announced that departure would be delayed until 8:00 pm so we knew we had a good long day for our excursion. We were able to ride the provided free shuttles as it was not busy I assume due to the troubles the previous morning. A day pass at the Grand Lucayan Resort cost $20pp for use of their resort facilities. I thought a very fair price as they have nice swimming pools, a great sandy beach, showers, beach bar, and good Wifi internet connection. (photo left) We were also able to get a cabana that served as group HQ while on site. The cocktails were resort prices ($6.50-$7.50), but very strong tropical drinks. We returned to the ship about 5:00 again using the complementary shuttles. After cleaning up I wanted to check the progress of the thruster repairs and they were hard at work. Everyone was curious if we actually get away. I went up to deck twelve to see the beautiful view of the moon rise, the ship lights, and the water works area. A beautiful evening. There were quite a few passengers watching The Godfather on the big outdoor screen theater. Several friends dined in the Prime Steakhouse and I was told it was excellent. I dined in the Southern Lights dining room as usual and ordered: Penne Siciliana with Eggplant-Zucchini-Tomato Sauce, Escargots Bourguignonne, Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, Chateaubriand, and Baked Alaska for dessert. Ken Byrne did his New York, New York tonight as well as Low,Low Low as the cocktail servers danced. For many this is the highlight of the cruise and I have enjoyed his singing. The final big production show, Win! was the tonight. It was the last show performed by the original singers and dancers, the new group will do it the following cruise. It was a very good show. Several said the hypnotist show of Jac Rene was very entertaining as well.

Day 15- Friday- 11/11/11- at Sea
A cloudy day that became cooler during the day as a cold front has entered the Gulf of Mexico. I had a nice dining room breakfast this morning. It’s always nice to share experiences with other guests at breakfast. At 11:00 am they had a ship wide moment of silence in honor of veterans. They also held several veteran meets in various areas of the ship. Very nice. I am running out of days so I had lunch at the Tandoori today. It was a varied selection and it was very good especially if you like Indian food. Back to the usual sea day routine today for the afternoon. There were quite a few passengers bundled in blankets on the Lido deck, but still enjoying the sea air. I made some preparations for the group sailing on the next cruise and tried to catch up on some work. Since the Red Frog is out of the ‘fish bowl’ glasses I took my mug up for a Hurricane before dinner. Still a good value if your going to have more than one cocktail. For dinner, I ordered: Fried Shrimps (not good-not the ones I thought they were), Duet of Petite Filet Mignon and Short - Rib Confit, and ice creme for dessert. The third set of comedians, John Rathbone & Mutzie are now on board to perform at Punchliners. I saw both late shows and they were both very funny. Very late in the piano bar to listen to Ron Pass who still has his regulars even after 16 days.

Day 15- Saturday- 11/12/11- at Sea
The Weather is much improved for our final sea day. I had an early dining room breakfast, but also had to sample the french toast from the French Toast/Pancake station on Lido deck. A very good and interesting additional choice for breakfast. There was a 10:00 am meeting for those on the B2B (back to back) and it looks like they may have it organized. We’ll see. Everyone seems to have waited until the last day to use the water works, they are very busy today as well as the rope course. The afternoon had the best weather of the cruise so it was a busy deck day. I had lunch at the Grill on the Lanai located on deck 5 out doors. They serve burgers (sliders), chicken quesidillas, and soft meat tacos. I thought the burgers were OK and the really tasted more like Indian food than Tex-Mex. They really need to improve this as the Magic will have a Texas home port. There were last minute sales in the shops and a lot of activity on this the last day of the cruise. A Farewell Party was held in the Showcase Lounge at 5:00 pm, this is the party they really don’t publicize, but has complementary drinks and entertainment. Our final dinner was good, I had a double order of the entree Panko Crusted Jumbo Shrimp (this is the good shrimp). There were the usual good-byes and farewells this evening. A very long cruise has come to an end.

Debarkation- Sunday- Galveston, Texas
We arrived in Galveston at 6:00 am. and are the only ship in port so that should help passengers. Crew was able to use the customs facilities in Terminal Two so that helps to keep Terminal One for passengers. The new gangway looks great. They began debark for self assist guests early and the final call for self was by 7:15 a.m. That’s very good. They called zones 1-4 by 7:30 am and mid range (15-16) by 9:00 am. They were completed by 10:50 am. That’s very good for a large ship on it’s first home port visit. The B2B pax met about 10:00 and we went through customs before 11:20 am. Very pleased with the organization.

The Carnival Magic is the newest and largest in the Carnival fleet. The ship is 1002 feet in length and weighs in at 130,000 tons. My three favorites of the much publicized new improvements are the Cucina del Capitano, Red Frog Pub, and the Ocean Plaza area. The Water Works and Cherry on Top are also great. I'll have a special review and comments on just the ship

The staff and crew for the most part are very good at their jobs and very friendly. They have been trained very well. My stateroom attendant was fantastic, the room was always neat and clean, the cooler in ice, notices & messages delivered in timely manner. Our MDR waiter & assistants were very good, I really enjoyed him over the cruise. The Guest Services people were also very helpful when needed.

I had cabin 9445 a 4H interior on Vista deck. I selected this cabin as it is next to the stairs and just below the Lido Marketplace. It is very easy to get to the beverage station and too easy to get to the dessert station. The cabin is very nice and since the ship is new everything looks great. It is a standard configuration and I had the beds split for more floor space. The safe has a button keypad and card swipe, there is a hair dryer, flat screen TV, two electrical plugs on the vanity/desk, robes, three section wardrobe, small stocked refrigerator, but no chair only a vanity stool. Carpets and furniture all very clean. The wake up call service is automated and very simple if you need to get up early for a meeting or shore excursion.

I had second or late seating for dinner and a very nice table in center area of the Southern Lights dining room. A fantastic location to see Ken sing and the waiters dance. We are the last ship in the fleet with the ‘old’ menus, but that means we had the shrimp cocktail every night this cruise as an option. I’m not a big fan of the new ‘Didja’ menus anyway. Overall the food was very good although we had several menu items repeat. The Lido Marketplace buffet food was good to very good, the MDR menu was good to very good. My favorites were the Mongolian Grill and Cocina Del Capitan. The Tandoori, Salad Bar, and Burrito Bar were different and good. There are several ice cream and yogurt machines with vanilla and chocolate flavors. Room Service was good, but sometimes slow. I enjoyed the MDR breakfasts and especially the hot milk (leche caliente).

Social Media
The ship has a lot of computer Hubs throughout the ship and people used them. A vast improvement from when the internet station that was hidden in the cigar bar of Carnival ships. You could check ship schedules and some basic news. They have an on board social thread but it’s not convenient to use until they have hubs in each cabin...good idea, but not practical. There was a large Cruise Critic group and I attended the meeting, but prefer the Cruisemates as a cruise website and interactive threads. I think the Facebook sites are the future for pre-cruise interaction between guests-this cruise had an active site. There was an interesting group within a group, the Guttersnipes. It was basically the same as our Snoozemates group within the Bloggers cruises. People that like to get together and have fun.

Platinum / Milestone Perks
The check-in building at the pier was very nice. I used the laundry several times and it was wash & fold service; fine for undies, socks, T-shirts, denim short, but not cotton shirts, dress clothes, or better items. I did use the dry clean as well ($4-$6 item) and the service was good.

Personal Comments
Dining room waiters and staff have far too many tables. This does not allow time for the interaction between guests that was always such an important part of the cruise experience. Too many tables slows service for many and food temperature and quality suffers. As a foodie the MDR is a very important part of the cruise.

Cruise Highlights
The new friends I met, Cocina Del Capitan, Red Frog Pub, A Kiss Goodnight, Main Dining Room & Ken Bryne, and the island of Gran Canaria.

A long and interesting Cruise--I really enjoyed it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carnival Magic Comments

I have been asked to make comments about my impression of the new Carnival Magic cruise ship since I have recently cruised on her for 23 days. I think a list is a simple and quick way to do it:

Exceeded Expectations:
Red Frog Pub
Cucina del Capitano
Water Works
Ron Pass
A Kiss Goodnight
Piano Bar (open concept and non smoking)
Mongolian Grill
Embarkation & Debarkation
Ocean Plaza concept
Desserts in Lido Marketplace
pico de gallo (surprisingly good)
Will Marion
Guest Services Desk
Behind the FUN tour
Housekeeping Department
Leche Caliente at breakfast in the MDR
Waffle Station for breakfast
Face recognition computer in photo area

Needs to Improve:
Thruster Problems.
Powered down at night--causing lack of air conditioning.
Mexican food tasted like Indian food.
Not near enough wait staff in MDR.
Not enough entry points to ship when in port...long lines...need more entries.
They need hand sanitizers at the computer Hub locations.

Personal Observations:
Dining room waiters and staff have far too many tables. This does not allow time for the interaction between guests that was always such an important part of the cruise experience. Too many tables slows service for many and food temperature and quality suffers. As a foodie the MDR is a very important part of the cruise.

I prefer the 8N balconies and they are smaller on the Magic than on a Conquest class ship.

I don’t think the disco show The Groove Line is a good choice for Texas. Texans were more into the Outlaws (Willie, Waylon, etc.) and Southern Rock (Allman Bros., ZZ Top, Lynard Skynyrd, etc.) than into Disco in the 1970's-80’s. Nice show, but few will want to see it more than once.

The decor is really nothing special. No ‘Wow’ factor.

Aft Lido deck: Children are allowed in pool. On most other ships this area is considered an adult only area. On the Carnival Magic the kids have the wonderful Water Works area and the main pool to swim. Can the adults not have ONE place where they will not be run down or splashed by children? I know many ladies who do not appreciate getting their hair wet from children jumping in the pool. Even Disney Cruise Lines have an 'adult only' pool. Also there is a large smoking area aft and it's the only area with umbrellas. Many would like to enjoy the aft deck area but can not due to the smoke. There should be a place for smoking somewhere that doesn't exclude an entire area.

I think this ship is better enjoyed if you are with or part of a group. The folks I saw really having a good time were usually in a group. Especially in a venue like the Red Frog. One can really have FUN on this ship and I think a group or friends traveling together enhance the experience.

My Opinion:
I was very excited when it was announced that the Carnival Magic would home port in Galveston. I have to say that my overall impression is somewhat a disappointment. Not bad, just disappointed. The Magic is a great ship and I am excited about being able to sail on her; however, honestly I would really prefer a Conquest Class ship with Carnival 2.0 in Galveston over the new Carnival Magic. Just my feeling at this time. I'll sail the Magic again in March and re-evaluate.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Adventure

I'm off today for Barcelona Spain where I will board the NEW Carnival Magic. I will cruise the 16-day Transatlantic to Galveston Texas and also the first 6-day US inaugural cruise.

Look for reviews here soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Carnival Ecstasy Review

Carnival Ecstasy Review
August 29 -September 3, 2011

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Ecstasy
ptain: Roberto Tine
Cruise Director: Steve Cassel
Ports: Galveston-Progreso-Cozumel-Galveston

This is a ‘tweener cruise booked as a get away from the excessive heat in central Texas. It is my twenty-fifth Carnival cruise, forth time on the Ecstasy, and first time to sail as a Carnival Milestone. We booked it a week prior to sailing.

Monday / Embarkation / Day 1
I had some ranch chores very early so we did not get away as early as usual for the drive to Galveston, but we were on the road about 7:30am and arrived at EZ Cruise parking about 12:20.
Our timing must have been good as there was no waiting and Jason the shuttle driver was arriving with a bus just as we unloaded. Same for the Pier. We were after the early rush and before the majority of arrivals so security and the lines were reasonable. They have opened part of the new terminal area preparing for the arrival of the new Carnival Magic in November. It should go smooth for them when they arrive. They do have a VIP security line, but the VIP check in area was very busy. We actually got our cards and checked in at the regular counter, it was faster. This will have to be addressed before the arrival of the Magic, as they will have more VIP's especially on early sailings. I was disappointed that I didn’t have the Milestone card, but that was soon corrected on board at guest services. We dropped our bags in the cabin and went to the buffet for lunch. DW and I had a nice salad. I had a nice Chicken and Vegetable bowl from the Mongolian Grill and roast beef from the Carving Station. Something new: the Carving Station & Rotisserie are now located outdoors on Lido deck between the Mongolian Grill and the usual Burger Grill. After lunch one bag was delivered to the cabin, always a concern when it’s only one. I went down to the Lobby Bar and met my new friend for the week Johnny Mendoza the bartender. Time for another Funship Special before ‘boat drill.’ Muster drill began about 3:45 and was completed before sail away. The pool was much busier than usual for a sail away from Galveston, but it is very hot so people took advantage. We listened to the two person Reggae Band for a while on Lido deck and they put out a lot of very good music for two people. The second bag arrived at the cabin so no worries about ‘naughty’ room or lost bags. They have two welcome shows as they used to do in the past. I like this much better than the one Welcome Show as it was usually so late I didn’t go. This show started at 7:00 pm and featured the Singers & Dancers, the two comedians from the Comedy Club, and Cruise Director Steve Cassell. All were very good and I enjoyed the show. Late dinner is at 8:15 in the Wind Song dining room. We have a 4-top banquette table, but we will be changing this. Dinner was just OK. They are using the NEW ‘Didja’ menus. I missed my usual tomatillo soup, sweet & sour shrimp, and Creme Brulee for the first night. I did have the Escargot, Fruit, the Pork Steak (a large grilled chop), and the Black Forrest Gateau for dessert. The escargot and dessert were very good. We were both tired after a long day so retired to the cabin after dinner. A long but FUN first day.

Tuesday / Fun day at Sea / Day 2
Great sleeping with the inside cabin, just enough movement to rock one to sleep. I was off to the Win
d Star dining room for breakfast about 8:30 am. I’ve had the same breakfast on the first morning of all my CCL cruises although this one will need to be altered: no more sectioned grapefruit & oranges. I did order: Melon and Eggs Benedict with side of bacon, and hash browns. The eggs were over cooked (all the way through), but were good. They were perfect on my last Ecstasy cruise. DW always does a room service or buffet breakfast on a cruise. Neither of us are much for sun, we get all of that we want at home, so indoor activities for the day. I walked around the ship this morning and when DW joined me we got a shaded table outside lido deck. Since lunch just opened I got another bowl from the Mongolian Grill and DW another good salad. The Key Lime Pie for dessert was very good. After lunch I had a nice two hour nap. This is
one of the advantages to an inside cabin. We did bring a small fan with us and it helps draw air from the ship air conditioning unit, this helped keep our cabin very nice and cool just what we were looking for on this cruise. This is the Captain’s night or elegant night and soon some petit fours were delivered to the cabin which served as a reminder to prepare for the evenings activities. We went to the Society Bar to try the Martini Samplers. We sampled the Pomegranate martini, the Mangotini, the Berry martini, and the Melon martini. We liked the Pomegranate the best and ordered a proper one to take to the Punchliner Comedy Show. The comedian was Dean Gaines and it was a very funny show. We only had time for one show as it was now time for late dinner. The Matre’D arranged for us to have a new two top table in a better location, table 370, in the Wind Song dining room. Elegant night dinner still has the lobster, but I ordered: the Stuffed White Mushrooms, the new Alligator bites, the Prime Rib, a Fruit Plate, and the Bitter&Blanc for dessert. The prime rib was very good. The mushrooms were not really white mushrooms and I was a bit disappointed with them, the alligator was very similar to conch fritters. The highlight of the day was the production show, Xtreme County, after dinner in the Blue Sapphire showroom. It featured the Carnival dancers and singers and Steve Cassell on the fiddle. Matt & Chassey the feature singers were very good. It was a fantastic show and is not to be missed. After the show a stroll on the Promenade deck before retiring. This was a great sea day on the Ecstasy.

Wednesday / Progreso, Mexico / Day 3
We were docked on time at 7:00 am. at the longest pier (~5 miles) in the world. I went to the
dining room about 8:00 and again ordered the Eggs Benedict. I wanted to see if I could get it cooked properly and it was. We took our time and left the ship about 10:00 am and rode the complementary shuttle into town. They have a new drop off point about a block+ beyond the municipal building. We went to a shop we like in order to get a Mayan bag as a gift. We then went to our usual Progreso hangout: Le Saint Bonet. We spent a few hours enjoying the breeze and gulf view, a few Bohemia beers, some Margaritas, and talking to the vendors. I did get a 30 minute+ massage ($10 + tip) in the old bar area of the restaurant. We then had a roadie margarita and took a taxi ($10) back to the pier. The Ecstacy sails early (3:00 pm) but they do keep the buffet open a bit later for the arrivals back to the ship. I had a beef and vegetable bowl from the Mongolian grill. The past guest party was held in the Blue Sapphire lounge at 5:00 pm and the h’orderves were actually good. Later in the cabin they delivered a Platinum h’orderve plate and they were also very good. They do a great job with them on the Ecstasy. For dinner this evening I had the Fried Shrimp with Plum Sauce, Chicken Noodle Soup, the Jerk Pork, and Tiramisu for desert. The shrimp used to be one of my favorites, but these were over cooked and all batter and no shrimp (remember the ‘where’s the beef’ commercial), the soup had no flavor. The Jerk Pork was better and the Tiramisu was good. Our waiter has yet to come to our table, but the service from Lauren the assistant has been excellent. The talent show was tonight, but we did some people watching on the Promenade deck before retiring.

Thursday / Cozumel, Mexico / Day 4

We arrived on time at 8:00am at the Puerta Maya pier. The weather is cloudy with light rain. Our original plans were to spend the day at a beach resort, but with the weather we decided to just take our time and go into San Miguel. I had a MDR breakfast this morning, fried eggs, toast, and ham. I ordered eggs over medium and they came back hard, but the replacement eggs were very good. Second time the eggs were not to order, I may as well be eating on the Lido buffet. We left the ship about 9:30 and took a taxi ($7) to downtown San Miguel. We visited with our friend
Nelly at her Mayan Pearl store and Martin my barber. I spent and hour at the internet store while DW shopped in the area. About 11:30 we went over to Wet Wendy’s Margarita House & Restaurant. I really like what the owners Chad & Clara have done with the improvements. They already had the most unique drinks in town, but the restaurant is fully operational and getting good reviews. I had the blackened chicken quesadillas and they were great. Our specialty drinks were also wonderful, I’d love to visit at night when we do a land based visit to Cozumel. We returned to the ship about 3:00 pm and DW had some pool time while I had some cabin time. I did arrange to get a Carnival Future Cruise certificate this afternoon. Always a good idea to have a few of these on hand before booking a last minute cruise. The Captain made a formal announcement about the potential hurricane developing in the gulf. It looks as though we will be able to stay west of it on the return, but we will have higher than usual seas. The Ecstasy show band played in Chinatown, a wonderful public venue space, and it was Variety Night with various shows and games throughout the ship. Dinner was one of the better ones this cruise, I had the Thai Chicken appetizer, and two entrees: the Seafood Variety entree and the Chateaubriand. The seafood was the better of the two. For dessert I had the souffle and a fruit platter. We did some shopping and visited the Piano Bar this evening before retiring.

Friday / Fun day at Sea / Day 5
The one morning I have a date for breakfast is the one morning I slept in. The extra rocking was wonderful and I slept very well. I was able to meet my friend just a bit late and had a good breakfast in the MDR. Again had to make a second request on the eggs. After breakfast the Captain made another announcement about our changing course to avoid the tropical depression, a bit rougher seas, but we will avoid the worse of the storm and should arrive in Galveston on time tomorrow morning. It will be rainy for most of the day. The popular Newlywed & Marriage Show is this morning in the Blue Sapphire lounge and they have moved the lido deck activities to the Promenade deck so there is a lot to do on this final sea day. I used my entry to the slot tournament, but didn’t make the finals. I also played some Texas Hold ‘Em poker. You now use your S&S card and do not need a second PokerPro card. You still have to cash out the card separately though as it is not applied to your S&S account. I did win a little. We had a late lunch in the Panorama (lido) buffet. The salads are always good. There was Tea Time in the piano Bar in the afternoon and the Captain made another late announcement that the TD is now TS (tropical storm) Lee and that we will not make Galveston on time as we can not maintain normal speed in the northerly winds. The ‘Farewell’ party with complementary drinks was held at 5:00 pm in the China Town lounge. This is not publicized at all so be sure to watch for it listed (in small print) in your FunTimes. We ate dinner in the Panorama on Lido deck this evening as we wanted to see more shows. It was very good, I had Baked Ham from the carving station, Penne Pasta with shrimp, Chicken Parmesan, Crab Cake, and a selection of desserts. The ham was wonderful and had a honey mustard condiment, perhaps the best meat of the cruise. On previous Ecstasy cruises they had the 2nd production show on day four, but they have it on day five the same night as the Punchliner Comedy Shows. It really makes it hard to see the best shows. We went to the first ‘family’ show of comedian Mike Lucas and he was great. We then went to the production show Dream Voyage in the Blue Sapphire showroom. It was very good, but my favorite was Xtreme Country. The liquor purchased in Progreso was delivered to the cabin this evening so it was time to pack. Because we would be arriving late in Galveston we knew there would be confusion with the debarkation so we decided not to do self debark and use general debarkation. We had our bags out by 11:00 pm and we where able to see the end of one comedy show and then the midnight show of Mike Lukas. He was great.

Saturday / Debarkation
Due to the Tropical Storm we arrived in Galveston almost two hours later than the Ecstasy usually arrives. I had time for my final MDR breakfast and we stayed in the cabin as long as possible. About 10:00 we went to China Town on Promenade deck the designated meet location for Platinum guests. We were called about 11:00 to debark and we got through US Customs and walked to the EZ Cruise parking lot. We were away before noon and arrived home about 5:30 pm.

The Ecstasy is an older ship. She seemed in great shape. She does show her age is some areas, but is very clean and nice. I like the layout. There are a lot of “hump” locations on the upper decks which make watching the sea or views very nice. Also the ceiling above the atrium is skylights and only the Fantasy has the same, on all other Carnival ships it’s not direct light. I like it. That’s all the sun I want to see during the day. There is a lot of neon but it is not dated at all more of a retro feel and it is impressive in the evening. The neon also changes colors throughout the voyage. A very different look. No smoking areas have expanded and now include the Piano Bar and all of the lobby area. The new mini-golf area is very nice. When she leaves Galveston after the next cruise she will have a two week dry dock before it goes to her new home port: New Orleans. Not sure what they will do as the public rooms all look good. I assume some deep cleaning and maintenance.

We booked late on an interior guarantee deal. We received a 4C, cabin U229 located aft so I was happy with that. The cabin steward is excellent. One of the better we’ve had. The cabin was always clean and ice chest filled. The cabin was a quad, but didn't have the drop down from ceiling bunks. They were built into the large heavy wooden head/side boards of the units. A great change is you can now use your sail & sign card as your cabin key, The Ecstasy was one of the last of the Carnival ships that you had to use a separate key card. There are no refrigerators in the interiors. (OK by me I never use them) As mentioned the fan improves the air circulation.

I’m sure that most were pleased with the food on the cruise, but personally I was very disappointed. There were some good dishes, but overall the quality was below the standards I had associated with this ship. I reread some of my previous Ecstasy reviews to confirm and the quality was just not the same. I also do not care for the new Didja menus because of fewer choices. My waiter never introduced himself other than trying to challenge me on the second day with my table location. We had a lot of Canadian college kids in our area and they were having a very good time. We found it somewhat entertaining, but it was disturbing to some guests.

I think CD Steve Cassell is a perfect fit for this ship. I liked him and his style. The Captain was informative with his announcements especially when we got the bad weather on the return. As mentioned the Cabin team was very good. My waiter was non existent, but serving his own purgatory with the college kids. The Ecstasy had won the Crystal Eagle award in the past, but I predict they never will again. I know a lot of experienced crew bailed when the new home port was announced.

There is really a lot to do on the ship with bingo, casino, trivia games, & very good and varied entertainment. This is a very good starter ship for cruise newbies and the Carnival Ecstasy used to be one of my favorite Carnival ships, but no longer. Perhaps I have outgrown her, but I don’t see myself ever sailing on her again. I am so happy that the Carnival Triumph and the NEW Carnival Magic are coming to Galveston.