Sunday, December 12, 2021

Carnival Magic Cruise Review - December 12, 2021

 Carnival Magic Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Magic,  Dream class @ 128,000 tons.
Sailing:  December 12, 2021 - 7 day cruise - Sailing out of Port Canaveral, Florida
Captain:  Rosario Arena
Cruise Director: Gary
Ports: Port Canaveral, FL - Amber Cove, Dominican Republic / St. Thomas, USVI / San Juan, Puerto Rico / Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, BOT

I am sailing as a solo but with Florida cruise friends.  This is my 7th cruise on the Carnival Magic, my 91st Carnival cruise, and my 169th cruise overall.

Day One -- Sunday --  December 12th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral  — Embarkation   
The day began early at the Florida Villa. It’s a fairly easy drive to Port Canaveral, but I have a 10:00 am Check-in time so I was away about 6:45 am. This was my third time driving to this port. I arrived on Merritt Island about 9:15 and made a stop at Walgreen’s for coke’s and a break as has become my routine. I was soon at Cruisetime Parking & Shuttle ($74 for 7-days) and soon on a shuttle to the ship. I carried my rolling duffle bag as usual and was through Security, then Health Screening, and lastly the Carnival Agent in good order. My timing was perfect at all stations but had a wait of 45 minutes (not a problem at all) in the VIP lounge due to a long debarkation of the previous cruise. We boarded at 11:15 am and I dropped my bag at the cabin by 11:30 am. I have a Balcony Cabin on deck 8. I went to the Mongolian Grill on Deck 10 Lido Marketplace for lunch, a very hardy Stir-fry bowl (photo) then had a slice of Elderflower cake for dessert. Very nice. After lunch, I got my Sign & Sail card from the cabin and went to my muster station E-4 for easy check-in. Then to the Red Frog Pub for Happy Hour. They do the Plastic-pitcher system for the Fishbowl (as does the Vista) so I ordered a Jamaican Sunrise. I then ran into my Cruise friends in the Ocean Plaza who had boarded and gone straight to Pig & Anchor. We then all went back to Red Frog for Happy Hour. Sweet. Following ‘Happy Hour’ it was back to the cabin to unpack and a little rest. The cabin is very nice with a lot of storage areas. Very comfortable especially for a solo. Sail away was very nice from my balcony, I was on the ‘best’ side for once. Nice sailing by the Disney Fantasy, the MSC Meraviglia, and the Odyssey of the Seas on our way out to sea. We have five for dinner this cruise and a nice table for us in the Southern Lights Dining Room (MDR) at the 6:00 pm seating. Tonight I ordered the Roasted Tomato Soup, the Sweet & Sour Breaded Shrimp, and a nice Broiled Strip Loin Steak, with a Fruit plate for dessert. After dinner, I enjoyed a nice cocktail prepared by Vasko at the Alchemy Bar. Also popped in for a bit of karaoke before retiring for the evening. It was an easy and enjoyable embarkation day on the Carnival Magic.

Day Two -- Monday -- December 13th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea

Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. I had a nice casual morning enjoying the sea view and fresh air. I had a very light breakfast from Ocean Plaza this morning, Oatmeal and Danish with milk. The seas were rolling today and more so as the day went along, at least you feel as though you’re on a ship at sea. I met the girls for the Diamond Luncheon on deck 4 of the Southern Lights Dining room. The Captain and senior staff greeted the Diamond guests as we entered and the Captain later welcomed everyone. I would guess there were 90+ in attendance. The same menu as all other Diamond Luncheons on any Carnival ships. I ordered the Fresh Tomato & Greens salad, the Premium Strip Steak, and the Tres Leches for dessert. All very good. A nice surprise was Alan my cocktail server from the Vista cruise in October, he kept the Carnival Cosmopolitan cocktails refreshed and did a special roadie just as he did in October…thanks Carnival. It was time for trivia for Team Keloray, we didn’t sweep up all the prizes as we did the last cruise, but we had FUN. Some cabin and balcony time before our 6:00 pm elegant night dinner. Very mixed attire this evening in the very full MDR, we are sailing with over 3000 guests so approaching full ships soon. For dinner, I ordered the Sicilian Meatball Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara (as a starter), the Slow Cooked Prime Rib entree, and the Vanilla Creme Brûlée for dessert. It was good. Flick was the production show in the theater tonight, but we had a comedy night attending three shows, two PG and one R, in the Punchliner Comedy Club. Ronnie Bullard (2) and Al Romero were the comedians. Between shows I did my $25 free play at the Roulette wheel…no luck tonight, but no loss either. We finished the night with Watermelon Cocktails in the Steakhouse Bar (photo above). It was a FUN sea day and a FUN evening on the Carnival Magic.

Day Three -- Tuesday -- December 14th, 2021 -- Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

Rolling and rocking seas continued overnight, but I slept very well. We arrived at Amber Cove by 9:00 am and docked next to the Nieuw Amsterdam. Cloudy in port, but that tends to change. I went to Lido deck and the Blue Iguana for my Breakfast. I had the Breakfast Taco with eggs, one Arepas, and watermelon. I’ve missed that breakfast…also still called Huevos Rancheros on signage on Magic. After breakfast I went ashore for a short walkabout, we were just here a week ago, but did remember to get my passport stamped this trip. The Girls and I had a Deli lunch, so I had half a Reuben and half of a BLT, with fries, Sandwiches were good, but fries not as good as Guy’s. We did 1:00 and 1:30 Trivia then Red Frog Pub for Happy Hour. What a deal for a Pitcher of Jamaican Sunset. Some more Trivia, but again several second places and no prizes. Dinner comes early when you have first seating. It was Linguini night so I ordered the Wedge Salad, the combined Meatball, and Linguini as a starter, the Strip Steak entree, and Bitter & Blanc for dessert. It was an enjoyable dinner. It was entertainment night this evening, we started in the Ocean Plaza with Beats Bunnyman as good of a soloist guitarist as I’ve heard on Carnival since Will Marion…then Acoustic Jams with Lisette and Tyler in the Lobby area. Also good. We attended the 9:30 production show of Country Road in the Showtime Theater, it was entertaining and enjoyable especially if you have Texas roots. The Girls had a brief stop in the Casino and I retired for the evening. It was a FUN day on the Carnival Magic.

Day Four -- Wednesday -- December 15th, 2021 -- St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Wind and choppy seas continued overnight, but I slept well I like the rocking. I had a light early breakfast in the Ocean Plaza then had a walkabout the ship. Cabin time until we docked at Havensight Cruise Pier. After walking around the Havensight shops our group of five took the basic 2+ hour Island Tour with Raymond’s Tours. It was cloudy with occasional rain but we did fine. Always nice to visit Mountaintop and enjoy the wonderful view (photo left) and have a Banana Daiquiri. We returned to the ship where all had Guy’s Burgers other than myself, I had Pizza and another BLT from the Deli. Time for the final Trivia of the day before R&R in the cabin. I went to the Alchemy Bar and had a very nice cocktail prepared by FJ, it was Absinthe based with fruit, very nice. I was able to catch Lisette & Tyler in the Ocean Plaza. It was what she called her Jazz Set and I was thoroughly impressed…she did four of my favorites from my personal Torch Music collection including Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose. I just listened to it on the drive to the cruise and I enjoyed her version better than Edith Piaf’s original. Tonight I met the group at La Cucina del Capitano for dinner. I ordered Il Capitano’s Signature Arancini, Il Capitano’s Favorite Insalata, the Grande Braciola Di Maiale (Grilled Tomahawk Pork Chop) entree with sides of Spaghetti with Captain’s Tomato Sauce & Gnocchi All Romana. It was all very good I would order the same again. For dessert, I had the Crostata Di Melt Con Crema Al Caramello (a flaky Apple Tart with Almond Ice Creme) which was nice. A nice enjoyable meal. After dinner, I had a Christmas project to work on…not easy as the Wifi on the Magic has not been on par with Breeze, Mardi Gras, or even the Freedom…slow and spotty. It was an interesting eclectic day in St. Thomas and on the Carnival Magic.

Day Five — Thursday --  December 16th, 2021 -- San Juan, Puerto Rico

Smoother seas overnight, but still rolling and I slept well. We arrived early in San Juan well before schedule, but they didn't debark until 8:00 am. Debark will go much better today, when we arrived at 11:30 in St. Thomas everyone got off the ship at once and overwhelmed the port facilities. I had a casual morning and took advantage of guests debarking to have a specialty Omelet with Bacon, Potatoes, and Grapefruit. I went off the ship by 11:00 am and headed for old town, I walked across the peninsula within sight of El Morrow Castle but not to it. Nice breeze and park with a view to rest and enjoy the view. I was basically in the Arts District area awaiting a particular craft beer tavern to open at noon, but alas it was closed today. I ended up enjoying some local beer near the old chapel and watched the tourists and the pigeons. The weather was pleasant and very slight rain but just enough to keep it fairly cool. Afterward an ice creme on the walk back to the ship, I was back onboard an hour+ before schedule. I saw the girls playing trivia in the Ocean Plaza so joined in a game before heading up to my cabin to clean up and watch the Breeze sail away. 6:00 dinner came quickly, tonight I ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms, Moroccan Pumpkin Harira Soup, Four Season Salad, the Filet Mignon entree, and the Key Lim Mousse for dessert. It was all very good. After dinner I went to the Ocean Plaza for one set of Acoustic Jams with Lisette & Taylor, then one set of Real Country with the Magic Rockband, followed by an 80s set. It was a FUN day in San Juan and on the Carnival Magic.

Day Six — Friday -- December 17th, 2021 -- Grand Turk Island, British Overseas Territories

Rolling seas continue and I slept well overnight. We don’t arrive at Grand Turk until midday so I tried to sleep as long as possible. I skipped breakfast and had cabin/balcony time all morning until guests began their debark at noon. With everyone trying to get off the ship and to the beach I went with a friend to Cucina de Capitano for a nice quiet lunch. I had the Caesar Salad, Bread, a Pasta Bowl (linguini, cherry tomatoes, sausage, and bolognese sauce), and small Lasagna. It was very good. We then left the ship to walk through the port area and the Beach area up to Jack’s Shack. They were very busy but we were able to get a table near the bar as some were returning to the ship, so my usual day plan for here was working well; however, there was a huge line for cocktails from the bar. We were patient and had a simple order of Turks Head beer and found a friendly employee who helped us out. Jack and the family were all there working away too. (photo left) The bar became less crowded and we had our Janet’s Mojito cocktail order and enjoyed watching the dogs, the guests, the employees, the beach view, and more. After a final round of beer, we began our casual barefoot walk along the surf enjoying the sunset. Most guests are off the beach by now so a very enjoyable walk back to the pier. We spoke with some musicians from the Magic Rock Band along the way. We were back on board just after 5:15 so time to clean up for 6:00 pm dinner. Tonight I ordered: Vine Ripened Tomatoes and Chopped Lettuce, Wild Rice, Gruyere and Country Chicken Soup, the Broiled Strip Loin Steak entree, and Praline Cake for dessert. It was good. Afterward, we took fresh food to our friend's cabin who is a bit under the weather today. I always like checking out the Lido Marketplace so easy to do. After dinner, it was to the Ocean Plaza and we were lucky to score two seats at the Alchemy Bar. Lisette & Tyler were just finishing their last set, then it was the Magic Rock Band for two sets. We did recieve a big wave from the stage from the guys we spoke to on the beach earlier.   FJ prepared me two different Absinthe based cocktails that I enjoyed very much. Nice to visit with new Alchemy friends as well. I retired about 11:00ish. It was a very good day walking the beach and on the Carnival Magic.

Day Seven — Saturday --  December 18th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea 
Still rolling seas but they rock me to sleep so I’ve been happy all cruise. I had a lazy morning then met friends for a light breakfast at the Lido Marketplace. I did a walkabout the ship then worked on end-of-the-year finances, but again the internet sucks on the Magic, not sure if it’s outdated equipment, too many users, or what, but it’s not as good as Breeze, Vista, Mardi Gras, or Freedom that I have sailed since October. I had my first Guy’s Burger for lunch, then met the girls for Christmas Trivia. Very difficult questions IMHO. I went to the Spotlight Lounge for the VIFP party @ 3:45 pm. It was packed but more manageable than in the theater, with plenty of cocktail servers too. The usual: Carnival movie, Captain’s remarks, then some Awards…there was entertainment too. There were 88 Diamond and 480 Platinum guests on board. I took away a cocktail to enjoy on my balcony…it was perfect evening weather and the seas seems to be calmer too. I do like a balcony. The final dinner of the cruise tonight was good. I ordered: Cobb Salad, Steak Ale Cheddar Soup, The Penne Mariscos pasta as a starter, the Broiled Strip Loin Steak entree, and Baked Alaska as a dessert. Of course, the waiters sang their traditional farewell songs. After dinner, we made it to the Showtime Theater for the production show America Rocks (photo above). It featured the Breeze Production Singers, Dancers, and the Breeze Rock Band. An entertaining show, but not a great show by any means. Following that we heard a set by Lissette and Tyler in the Ocean Plaza. I requested LeVie En Rose and she sang it for us, one of my all time favorites. It was a very nice final sea day on the Carnival Breeze.


Debarkation — Sunday — December 19th, 2021  — Port Canaveral, FL

Calmer seas overnight and I slept well but woke very early.  We were entering the channel by 4:30 am.  Interesting to see the huge cruise ships enter and dock in the early morning.  I finished packing then went to the Lido Marketplace for a nice breakfast. My group was ready early and by the time we reached the Diamond area we were able to just debark the ship.  Short wait for parking shuttle, but soon on the road.  Home by 10:15 am.  Amazing easy by having a place in Florida.


Personal HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruises
Traveling with Friends and making New Friends

LeVie En Rose sung by Lissette
Barefoot walk along the beach surf in Grand Cayman
Dinner at Cucina de Capitano
Mongolian Grill, Guys Burgers, & the Deli

Magic Rock Band
San Juan Port Day 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review - 4 December 2021

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  MSC Meraviglia, first of its own MSC class @ 176,000 tons.
Sailing:  December 28, 2021 - 4 day cruise - Sailing out of Port Canaveral
Captain:  Masimiliano Rossi
Cruise Director: Sarah Rossi
Ports: Port Canaveral, FL - Nassau Bahamas - Ocean Cay, Bahamas - Port Canaveral

I am sailing solo on a Travel Agent Familiarization (FAM) cruise.  This is my 5th cruise on the MSC Meraviglia, my 14th MSC cruise, and my 168th cruise overall.

Day One -- Sunday --  December 5th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral  — Embarkation  
The day began early at the Florida Villa. It’s a fairly easy drive to Port Canaveral, but I have a 10:00 am Check-in Time so I was away about 6:45 am. This was only my second time driving to this port. I arrived at Cruisetime Parking & Shuttle ($40) on Merritt Island about 9:30 and as soon on a shuttle to the ship. I carried my rolling duffle as usual and was through Security, then Health Screening, and lastly the MSC Agent. My timing was perfect at all stations and I was in my cabin with my bag by 10:45 am. Amazing. I have a Balcony Cabin on deck 11, very comfortable for a solo cruiser. I unpacked and set up my cabin, an easy task for a short 4-day cruise. I went to the Market Place Buffet on Deck 15 for lunch. You have to show your Sail&Sign card to enter and they take your temperature as well. The staff serves you your food selections some of which are pre-plated so you do get a tray for your visit to the food stations. I had Roast Beef for the Carving Station with Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, a Green Salad, a Cole Slaw salad, and a selection of small desserts. It was a very good lunch. I had cabin time to learn the WiFi system and the MSC for Me application then a walk about the ship in the afternoon. The layout has come back to me...they have a new Tex-Mex restaurant on the Promenade and a secondary buffet area and Dining Room are not open...only major changes I see. Of course, we are only sailing with 800 guests and they say that is up from 600 last cruise. Very empty so no lines anywhere nor waiting for an elevator. Now is the time to cruise on MSC! I did have a Pilsner Urquell beer from the Theater Bar on the lower promenade on deck 6...they didn't have any at the Pub. Boat Drill is different, you watch it on the TV then dial in a code on the phone from your cabin. You do have to go to your assembly area, but only to have your card scanned…then it’s completed. Better than Carnival's new procedure as you learn more yet just as easy.  The great thing was that on the elevator returning from my muster station there were two great friends from Scotland on it.  A great reunion for several decks. Wow!!  I did register my credit card at a kiosk for use on your S&S card...something unique to MSC that should be done on your first day.  We had a reception for the TA’s in our group in the Sky Lounge on Deck 18, wine & beer were served and we met Christina & the Events Manager.  I excused myself from our scheduled dinner and went to then Waves Restaurant in order to see my favorite head waiter (photo).  I had Julius as a waiter for 40 days on my B2B2B2B on the Meraviglia in Fall of 2019 before the pandemic.  It was great seeing him again as well as our previous Maitre’D Mario.  I had a great meal, it was a Spanish theme so I took the three items from that menu: Spanish Delights (Chorizo, Manchego cheese, Roasted red bell peppers, Olives, and Grilled Mushrooms), the Rollo de Cochinillo y Patatas Bravas entree (primarily roasted pig & potatoes), and the Crema Catalana dessert.  I also had the Bay Scallop Ceviche.  All were excellent as was the service of course.  I intended to meet my friends at the Silent Disco @ 11:00 pm but I closed my eyes when in the cabin and fell asleep.  It was a great embark day on the MSC Meraviglia.
Day Two -- Monday --  December 6th, 2021 -- Nassau, Bahamas 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I went to breakfast in the Waves Restaurant and ordered Eggs Benedict with sides of Potatoes and Bacon, all were very good.  My Travel Agent seminar began at 9:00 am in the Business Conference Center on Deck 5.  It was interesting, time for me to start some new MSC group sailings.  I had a nice lunch in the Marketplace, no problems with the staff serving, they are efficient and you can ask for more or less of any item you choose. I had a lovely Salad, Roasted Chicken, Ratatouille, Potatoes, and a couple of the assorted mini desserts.  The afternoon session was good, the pricing structure of MSC fares have been streamlined and needed it.  My personal BDM was the presenter and it was nice to meet her.  We were taken on a nice tour of the Yacht Club at 5:00 pm.  It is much larger and improved since the Divina.  Very private area and basically a Boutique Hotel within a Cruise ship.  A beautiful Private lounge, Private Pool area, and Dining Room. Very nice.  I had a bottle of Prosecco and Cookies delivered so I relaxed on the balcony and enjoyed my own private sail away party from Nassau.  I then had a very nice evening, I went to Butcher’s Cut steak house for the best steak I have had in many years.  I ordered the Hearts of Palm Salad (with Avocado), the Filet Mignon, and the Cheesecake with Strawberries for dessert.  The four steak sauces were great and was the service.  I was very pleased.  I went to the Broadway Theater for the production show Meraviglio Amor, it was fantastic!  All in Italian.  I recognized several of the feature singers from 2019 and the new opera male lead was excellent. The final number was Con Te Partiro and it was Amazing!  A lot of activities on the ship and so easy to do a walk about with so few guests.  I returned to the cabin to rest and update this blog.  It was a good day and GREAT evening on the MSC Meraviglia.

Day Three -- Tuesday -- December 7th, 2021 -- Ocean Cay Marine Reserve,  Bahamas
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We arrived at Ocean Cay by 9:00 am but I’m no longer a beach nor beach games person so it not rushing anything this morning. I went to the Marketplace for breakfast at about 10:00 am. They have bacon and both scrambled and fried eggs available on the buffet. They decorated much of the ship for Christmas overnight...nice.  I did business work on the internet most of the morning then went for my first Pizza of the cruise for a late lunch. MSC is famous for the best Pizza at Sea and it was…Pepperoni and a Side Salad. I went to the island in the late afternoon and swam at the Lighthouse Beach. It was very nice and reminded me of Grand Turk. I didn’t tour the island, but I did go to the Lighthouse Bar, promoted as a ‘Hemingway Style’ bar. The architecture was a Key West or southern plantation shutter style with one photo of Hemingway, but there were NO Hemingway era drinks other than perhaps a Mojito. No live music when I was there. Good location for the sundown though. After sundown, a nice walk back to the ship, and I needed the exercise. I had dinner in the Waves Restaurant, with Julian of course. I ordered the Grilled Maryland Crab Cakes, Eleonor Salad, Breaded Chicken Kyiv, and the Tapioca for dessert. The crab cakes were amazing. Made a new friend, Prudence from South Africa, who is a Restaurant Manager and she and Julian convinced me to go ashore for the Party. I did go ashore at the right time to receive a lei and walk to the Village Bar in time to get a cocktail and see the beginning of the Junkanoo Parade. Small parade but nice, they had only one Indian but three female dancers and the musicians. It was worth seeing for sure. The Village Bar had live music and was nice. I saw my Scottish friends and made new friends then walked down to the beach for the Lighthouse light show and the Beach Party. It was very interesting. I made it back on board in time for the feature rock band, Off The Record’s show Uptown Funk in the Carousel Theater. They are a great band and a great show in a great venue. Maybe the best band at sea, but I’d love to see the Seagles in this venue. Sharing photos with friends before retiring. It was a most interesting day at Ocean Cay and on the MSC Meriviglia. 
Day Four -- Wednesday --  December 8th, 2021 -- Ocean Cay Marine Reserve,  Bahamas
We were docked overnight and I slept very well, best on a ship in a while. I went to breakfast in the Waves Restaurant and again had Eggs Benedict with Bacon and Potatoes. I did have my Hot Milk and Danish this morning as well as a nice fruit plate. Pru came by for her cruise story. I spent the entire morning updating this blog and working online…not planning on going ashore today. I did have some balcony time before going to lunch on the Lido deck: A Salad, Carved Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, & Snow Peas. The afternoon was cabin time, but busy not even time for the TV. I do appreciate that MSC has more television channels including sports and movies than most other cruises lines. I went to the theater for the production show WAY featuring different styles of primarily American Classic music (click on photo and check out the dancers in the background). Not as good as Meraviglio Amor but certainly worth seeing the feature dancers and singers. I then went to dinner in the Wave Restaurant and it was Italian night. As starters I ordered: the Venetian Pasta & Bean Soup, Sicilian style Arancini, and the Tri-Color Salad. My two entrees were: Lasagna Bolognese and Chicken Breast Parmigiana with Limoncello Cake for dessert…all Italian and all good. I went to the Carousel Theater at 10:30 for the 80s Disco show by Off the Record … they were good. I retired follow as it’s an early day tomorrow. An easy day for me on the MSC Meraviglia.

 Debarkation — Thursday --  December 9th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral
Smooth seas overnight. I woke about 6:00 am as we were entering the outer channel.  I then went to the Marketplace for breakfast.  Huge line to roll off express debarkation @ 7:30 am, but once started went quickly, no diamond express.  Shuttle for parking was ready and waiting.  I left the parking lot at 8:30 and arrive at the Villa in Pasco County at 11:00 am.  Very easy overall.

Personal HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruise
The Ship itself…A Beautiful Wonder.
Meraviglio Amor
Butcher’s Cut Steak House
Night Beach Party & Light show on Ocean Cay
Uptown Funk Show