Wednesday, November 14, 2012

  Carnival Magic Cruise Review

November 4, 2012

Just The Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Magic
Ship Captain: Giovanni Cutugno   
Cruise Director: James Charlton
Ports: Galveston, Texas; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico
Weather:  Very good all week

This is my 32nd Carnival cruise (1st at Diamond VIFP level) and 76th overall. I am cruising as a solo.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
Mongolian Grill on Carnival Magic
I intended to leave the ranch about 6:00 am for the drive south and as I left realized from the 6:00 am news that it was 5:00 am.  I did not turn back the clock for Daylight Savings.  I was in the truck and ready so left early and it was good that I did.  It was raining in the Houston/Galveston area, there was a huge Biker Rally in Galveston, and an NFL football game on my route- so I was able to avoid most of the traffic and arrive at EZ Cruise Parking about 10:30 am.  There were the stragglers debarking the ship and waiting for buses and I noticed a huge line for the port parking shuttles.  Please use EZ Cruise is so much easier than using the official port parking.  I was shuttled over to the cruise terminal through all the traffic for the Bike Rally and was in the VIFP area within a few minutes.  I used to love arriving early, but haven’t done so in a while.  I was on the ship at 11:00 am.  I did not try for the 1st in the Red Frog Pub dash for the free beer, but went to the Mongolian Grill and was first through the line.  Always good to get there early as it’s a very popular spot.  Since there was still a light rain (good excuse) I went down to the Red Frog Pub for a Thirsty Frog beer or two.  Dinesh the bartender is back and we had a good visit.  By 1:30 the cabins were open and the sun was out and it was a beautiful day.  Perfect for sail away.  My bags came about 2:30 so I settled into the cabin and waited for safety drill.  My muster station is E3 in the Southern Lights dining room, an easy location and we were able to sit during the instructions.  We sailed away on time and soon all the shops and bars were doing a brisk business...a very busy ship.  I attended a private cocktail party in the Piano Bar then walked around ship until time for late dinner.  I was seated with Travel Agents as they knew I was one and that was fine...although I’m not keen with table location.  For dinner I ordered the Tomato Soup, a Shrimp Cocktail, the Tilapia with the Creme Brulee and Butter Pecan Ice Creme for dessert.  It was good. After dinner and a longer than planned day I retired to the cabin where I found a bottle of champagne and some nice chocolate covered strawberries that had been left for me.  Sweet.  The Welcome Show was at 10:15 pm. James the Cruise Director always has a nice welcome show.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea
Dinesh / Red Frog Pub
Very calm seas and I had a very good nights sleep.  I went up to Lido for a light breakfast as I would have normally done a MDR breakfast, but now that they have the Punchliner Comedy Buffet that’s not an option for early breakfast passengers.  It was much more crowded on the Lido buffet than usual under the new system, too many people at the omelette station to stand in line and the runny scrambled eggs in the buffet were very bad so I am not a fan of the new system so far.  I attended a seminar for Travel Agents at 9:00 am. but left early to go to the Punchliner Comedy Buffet about 11:00 am.   I was able to order my usual Eggs Benedict but the menu was a combo breakfast/lunch menu so actually there were much fewer selections available.  The little show is really just a promo for the Comedy Club, really nothing special at all.  After breakfast I walked around the ship until our scheduled Private cocktail party for the Facebook roll call group in the Piano Bar at 2:00 pm.  I was able to meet new friends including a couple from my hometown in Oklahoma.  The cocktail sever was excellent and he kept us fully stocked with cocktails.  Continuing the party several of us headed to the Red Frog Pub and rang the bell with a tube of Thirty Frog.  Fun time on the Fun ship.  I returned to the cabin about 5:00ish for some R&R and found the improved canapés delivered for Elegant night.  At 7:00 pm I attended the fantastic production show: Grooveline. It was much better than when I previously saw it. They simplified some costuming and concentrated on the music, at least that's how I remember it.  Very enjoyable show, best of the cruise and not to be missed.  I had asked Ante the maître'd for a better table and I now had a 10-top table in the center area of the Southern Nights dining room. I feel more at home after spending thirty days in that area.  I knew one couple from VIFP check in and the interesting thing was that there were two single ladies traveling together that had never met prior to the cruise. Guess where they met: Cruisemates! For those that may not know, I have been a moderator on Cruisemates for five years. How cool? One had been reading my blog for many years and knew a lot about me (that can be good or bad) so it was very intriguing.  For dinner I ordered the White Stuffed Mushroom, the Spaghetti Carbonara, the Prime Rib, and Cherries Jubilee.  Dinner was very good and enjoyable.  After dinner I took a walk around deck before turning in for the evening.

Day Three--Tuesday—at Sea
Huevos & Carne at Punchliner Comedy Brunch
Another good nights sleep. I purchased the NEW unlimited internet package on the first day and I have discovered that the fastest speed is in the early morning so I went up to Lido for a some light breakfast items then back to cabin for some internet time. I then went to the Punchliner Comedy Brunch for a proper breakfast.  It was still a small line at 10:00 but I was seated fairly soon.  I had the Huevos & Carne (steak & eggs) and they were excellent.  I just don’t care for the brunch concept.  After breakfast I bought some Carnival Magic items (by request) in the gift shop for some friends and walked around decks for a bit.  Since I had a nice late breakfast I just had a Tuna Salad sandwich from the Market Deli aft on Lido deck for a late lunch snack. I had not had one from the deli before... It was light and refreshing.  I had a nice nap before getting ready for the VIFP Diamond Reception held by the Captain at 5:30 in the Play It Again Piano Bar.  There were seven Diamond guests show up and twice that many staff and officers.  There were complimentary cocktails and fantastic horderves, the best I have ever had on a cruise ship.  Piano music and more than enough servers to keep everyone happy.  Captain Cutugno visited with all the guests and it was a nice get together.     A few of us stayed on (with refreshed cocktails) to enjoy music in the Piano Bar by James until dinner.  It was my first time to hear Jim Morris in a while and he was very enjoyable.  Dinner was good, I ordered: French Onion Soup, Penne Pasta with Seafood, Short Rib of Beef, and the Fig & Date dessert.  Overall it was a very enjoyable evening.   After dinner I went to the cabin to watch the U.S. Election results on television then a movie.

Day Four--Wednesday--Montego Bay, Jamaica
Pool & Toys to almost yourself on a port day
A very good nights sleep and calm seas.  I was awake very early (6:00am) and got in some great very high speed internet time.  We arrived in Montego Bay about 8:30 and I am not planning on going ashore so I can enjoy a nice casual day without the crowds.  I saw new friends in the MDR and joined them for breakfast, I had the Eggs Benedict, potatoes, bacon, fruit, tomato juice and leche caliente.  All very good.  With most off the ship it was time to hit the main pool.  It was refreshing, but even more refreshing is going down the slides in the Magic Waterworks.  Down the Twister (yellow in photo) and down the Drainpipe (orange in photo) is great fun, the Twister can be a little intense, but there was a young kid doing it twice to each of my single passes.  It's great to use the pool on a port day when most passengers are off the ship.  A little more pool time, then some rest before I ate in the Cucina Del Capitano.  Always good food there. I had a Bowie Pasta with tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, & arugula.  Also a Lasagna with extra meat sauce and bread.  Not many eating there on a port day so a good choice.  Pax were coming back to the ship by now so no afternoon pool, but a nap that is easy to do in the interior cabin. It was already getting dark when I went to the Red Frog Pub at 5:00 to meet friends.  It was dark when we sailed away a little before 6:00 pm and we were working on our second tube of Thirsty Frog Red.  A good place for sail away as always.  Dinner time came pretty quick, it was actually one of the weaker menu nights, I ordered: the Potato Soup, Neptune Seafood Platter, Beef Stroganoff and Bitter & Blanc and Tiramisu for dessert.  The Potato soup was the best item by far.  Tonight was the big production magic show: Destination Unknown and also the great burlesque show: A Kiss Goodnight.

Day Five--Thursday--Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Carnival Magic Water Works Fun!
We arrived early and anchored off Georgetown.  My cabin location certainly lets you know when the thrusters are being used so that was my wake up call. The Captain must have confidence in the thrusters as all the other ships anchored off Spotts Bay.  The MDR was only open from 6:30-8:30 this morning so it was good I was around early.  I Had my ‘hearty country breakfast’ this morning since I was in no hurry.  Three Fried Eggs over easy with Hash Browns, Bacon, Ham, Corned Beef Hash, Toast, Leche Caliente, Tomato Juice, and a Banana as a starter.  It was done very well.  I had decided to again stay on board.  It was a nice breezy day so it was very comfortable on deck.  I staked-out a nice padded lounger on deck 11 with a view of Seven-Mile beach and read and enjoyed a few diet cokes most of the day.  Very nice.  As people began to come back I went down to Lido to get a nice Mongolian Grill for lunch before it got too busy.  Since it was cloudy with a breeze the weather was ideal for being lazy today.  I had to return to the cabin in late afternoon to get ready for the VIFP party at 4:30pm. The reception was held in the Theater and it was full of Gold, Platinum, and Diamond guests.  They had the large Funship Specials and I like them so that was my drink for the evening.  It was fun, the same Mardi Gras theme as on the Glory cruise so I guess that it is fleet-wide and they did call the Diamond guests by name onto the stage.  Interesting and fun.  I did meet some old and new friends as they recognized me from being on stage.  After the party I went to the Piano Bar to see soloist TJ playing.  It was a very fun show as he had a drunk lady at the bar who he incorporated into his act.  He turned a possible situation into a humorous positive especially on the song I Love This Bar where she would sing the final line of each chorus.  It was dinner time and I ordered:  Escargot, Seafood appetizer, Martini Braised Basa Fillet & Baked Alaska for dessert.  After dinner (10:15) the production show was WIN! in the Showtime Theater.

Day Six--Friday--Cozumel, Mexico
Diamond Guests and Ship Crew @ VIFP Party
It was a beautiful day in Cozumel.  We did not arrive until 10:00 am so I had plenty of time for a very nice relaxed breakfast in the Northern Lights dining room.  I left the ship about 11:00 and headed to San Miguel.  Although I just got my haircut here a few weeks ago I had Martin trim it up as I won’t be back for a while and I will be busy before my next trip in a few weeks.  I went down to Woody’s Sports Bar owned by our friends Nelly and Pepe and used their free Wifi for a while.  They were very busy as there are two NCL ship docked near downtown at Puerto Langosto.  Also docked were the Carnival Magic at Puerto Maya and the Oasis of the Seas (largest cruise ship in the world) at the International pier.  Later I went to Wet Wendy’s for a Mango Margarita and a Chili Relleno.  After a little shopping and picking up some Mexican vanilla I returned to the ship about 4:30pm.  I visited with a friend and we tried the early opening of the Lido Marketplace.  They usually have very good desserts, some that will be in the MDR and some unique.  This is a secret I learned while on the Magic TA for 16 days.  I did see the new sushi display area in the Lido Marketplace, they have closed the original Sushi Bar area on the Promenade deck since I was on the ship last.  Marcus Monroe was the feature entertainer and for late dinner seating the show was at 7:00 pm.  Dinner was good tonight, I ordered the California Salad Greens, Red Snapper, and the Filet Mignon & Short Rib combination.  The beef dish is one of their better meat dishes IMHO.  I returned to the cabin after dinner, but went up to deck 11 to see Magic’s Latin Fiesta and was I glad I did.  I had never seen so many great salsa dancers ever before.  They had the entire pool deck as a dance floor and they were taking advantage of the music played by the DJ.  It was amazing to see so many having fun!

Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea
Carnival Magic sailing the Gulf
I had a very good nights sleep.  This morning it was updating email and making some bookings online.  I really like the internet package option available on the Carnival Magic.  I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the Comedy Brunch, I again ordered the Huevos & Carne (steak & eggs) along with some extra sides all prepared very well. After brunch I got a nice lounger on deck 11 overlooking the pool area.  The DJ was doing a good job, really better than the old steel drum bands of the past.  There were many up and dancing to the tunes and I’d never seen that before the DJ concept.  In the late afternoon I went to Cucina Del Capitano for a bowl of pasta.  I’ve been lucky to eat in my favorite places twice on this cruise.  I thought I’d go by and check the casino and it was packed.  I noticed a lot of Alabama fans setting up at some tables for the football game in the sports bar area.  I went back to the cabin for some rest before evening and so noticed on the cabin TV that Texas A&M was in a close game with #1 Alabama.  Remembering what I had seen earlier I went up to the sports bar to see the 2nd half of the football game.  It was very exciting as the Alabama fans and the Aggie fans were really going at it with each other, but mostly in a fun way.  Very interesting.  The game was very good too.  I went back to the cabin to change for dinner as I was planning on having a cocktail at the Red Frog Pub.  Just one, but it was a ‘fishbowl’ size.  It does take an hour to drink if your having one on your own.  Dinner was very good, I ordered the New England Crab Cake,  Grilled Chicken Brest on Fettuccine, Roasted Prime Rib of Beef, Panko Crusted Jumbo Shrimp, and Gran Mariner Souffle for dessert.  The Carnival Legends Show was at 10:15 following dinner.

Just a few blocks from terminal
We arrived back in Galveston just about on schedule despite leaving Cozumel late.  I was up early as I had not started packing.  Yes they used an assist tug in the turning basin an getting the ship to the pier.  I packed and went up to the Southern Lights Dining Room for breakfast about 7:15 am.  They were calling self-debark guests by the time I made it back to the cabin so I picked up my bag and headed to deck three and was in the cue to leave the ship...punching (clicking) out at 8:00 am exactly.  I have found that timing the debark so that I skip the VIFP meet up place and being able to roll directly from the cabin to the gangway is the simplest option by far.  They again had the casual inspection at Customs as they did three weeks ago so I was able to roll my bag from the gangway to the parking lot by 8:15 am.  Amazingly smooth.  I was off the island by 8:30 am and home before 1:00 pm.

Crew / Staff
I found the crew to be very good.  I was able to meet many ships officers through the Diamond reception and VIFP party. The ship seems to be in very capable hands.  I enjoyed visiting with Sam the new Hotel Director who must be the youngest in the fleet. 

I had cabin 1414 a category a 1A interior on Riviera deck.  It had a single bed (and a drop down option), standard Carnival 3-section closet unit, mini fridge bar (never used), push button safe, seat for vanity, and lots of floor space.  It originally didn’t have a table, but they borrowed one for me for the week.  Overall a nice cabin for a solo cruiser.  I was worried about vibration or cavitation with the cabin located so low and aft on the ship...basically over the thrusters, but other than docking in ports it was not noticeable.   On Grand Cayman day when we are anchored they do use the thrusters to hold the ship in position so plan to be out of the cabin while anchored.  Luis the cabin steward was great.  He kept the cabin very clean and kept my small cooler full of ice.

Punchliner Comedy Brunch
This was my first time to experience this.  If your a cruiser that likes to party late and sleep in the mornings to 10:00ish then it's probably ideal for you.  If your a cruiser that likes to get up earlier it really limits your breakfast options.  Since they have implemented this system there are only three options for breakfast:  Room Service, Lido buffet, or the Brunch.  No regular (MDR) dining room service.  The Lido opens later (7:30) and the Brunch starts at 9:00 am.  What has happened is all the diners that would have eaten in the MDR from 8-9:00 are now in the Lido.  The only eggs on the buffet were some very runny scrambled eggs so trying to get anywhere near the omelette station requires a long wait.  This also causes a huge line to form waiting for the Brunch to open at 9:00 am in the Northern Lights dining room and it takes a while to get everyone seated.  You also get the confusion of people wanting to just see what they think is a comedy show and not interested in breakfast AND people who just want a nice breakfast and not interested in all the noise of the comedy routine.  Very confusing.  That being said, the menu is fantastic.

I really think the aft pool should be adult only.  There were kids jumping in the pool (big splashes that really annoyed the ladies) and younger kids with floaties taking up far too much area.  If the Disney Magic with many more children sailing can have an adult pool then surely the Carnival Magic can have one.  I really like that the Mongolian Grill and other food venues open right away on embarkation day.  It was a mistake for the them to wait until noon as they used to do.

The Diamond VIFP reception by the Captain was great.  The unlimited internet package is fantastic and has actually elevated the Carnival Magic to one of my favorite Carnival cruise ships.  I very much like the Magic, Glory, and Conquest, perhaps in that order.

Another fantastic FUN cruise!!