Cruise Ship Review: Carnival Magic Spell!
Get drawn into the newest member of Carnival’s fleet.
By Lynn and Cele Seldon
When the 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic sailed out of Venice on its maiden Mediterranean voyage this year, guests discovered why Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship is much more than a carbon copy of 2010’s Carnival Dream.
Our tip-off to expect the unexpected came at the pre-inaugural christening ceremony, when Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill appeared on stage in a helicopter that seemingly materialized out of thin air. Credit the director of Carnival Magic’s spectacular new production show, Destination: Unknown, which showcases the jaw-dropping illusions of Las Vegas magician Jason Byrne.
Once under way to Barcelona, we discovered other pleasant surprises: Caribbean-themed camaraderie at the RedFrog Pub; tasty shopping in Cherry on Top; Italian delights at the Cucina del Capitano specialty restaurant; a high-in-the-sky ropes course in the SportSquare complex, and major enhancements to Carnival Dream’s popular Lanai, Ocean Plaza, and WaterWorks areas.
If our onboard imbibing time and that of others was any indication, RedFrog Pub is destined to become one of the most popular public spaces afloat. The packed pub features a colorful décor, attentive wait staff, indoor and outdoor seating, live music nightly, pub snacks, and several beers on tap. One of them is ThirstyFrog Red, which is brewed exclusively for Carnival. (In fact, ThirstyFrog Red has been such a hit on Carnival Magic, that the line has since delivered the brew to other Carnival ships.) Unique 100-ounce “tubes” of beer are shared tableside.
On the bustling Lanai deck, bright Cherry on Top is a special shopping destination meant to sweeten special moments on board. We found bins of bulk candy, fanciful gifts, custom apparel, and lots of colorful novelties.
Even tastier are the culinary creations of Cucina del Capitano (“The Captain’s Kitchen”). This family-style restaurant gives a nod to Carnival’s Italian lineage: All of the line’s captains are Italian and many of Carnival’s ships — including Carnival Magic — were built in Italy at Fincantieri shipyard.
SportSquare takes Carnival’s outdoor recreation offerings to another level. The industry’s first ropes course had many passengers traversing across nets suspended above the Spa Deck. There’s also the first outdoor fitness area at sea, the line’s two-level miniature golf course, a Vita exercise course, a full post-workout bar, and more.
In addition, Carnival Magic has ratched up Dream-class amenities by expanding the Fun Hub social networking concept; moving the specialty Prime Steakhouse to a more intimate space on the Promenade Deck; and enhancing alternative eating options by offering complimentary sushi, an on-deck barbecue, a patisserie and sandwich bar, and The Chef’s Table dining experience.
Carnival Magic delivers magic. We can’t wait to see what Carnival pulls out of its hat when it debuts Carnival Breeze in June 2012.
Behind Closed Doors
Those who like ocean-view staterooms with balconies will love Carnival Magic; almost 50 percent of the ship’s 1,845 staterooms are in this now-classic category. There are also more than 220 similarly sized staterooms without balconies, varied interior options, and more than 50 suites and grand penthouse suites.
Families will appreciate the two-bathroom/five-berth options, as well as a large number of connecting stateroom possibilities. There are also more than a hundred cove balcony cabins, which are closer to the water line, and more than 80 spa staterooms and suites near the Cloud 9 Spa, with special benefits such as unlimited access to spa facilities, priority spa appointments with pre-cruise spa concierge consultation, use of special Cloud 9 Spa logo items, and complimentary fitness classes.
Our ocean-view stateroom with balcony had adequate space and lots of storage, including drawers under the sofa. The bathroom was spacious enough and the bath amenity samples are always fun to try. The interactive flat-screen TVs had lots of options. All rooms have a small mini-bar/refrigerator combo, plush terrycloth robes, and the line’s signature Carnival Comfort Bed.
There are two two-deck main dining rooms: Midship Northern Lights is slightly larger than aft Southern Lights, but both are equally pleasant and casual. Both feature one of the industry’s most popular desserts — Carnival’s signature Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.
Prime Steakhouse offers a delectable menu of prime USDA-inspected beef, including a 24-ounce porterhouse. But the restaurant is not just for red-meat lovers — the broiled lobster tail with lots of drawn butter is also quite tasty. We also loved the choice of sauces (three peppercorn, wild mushroom, and béarnaise) and traditional steakhouse sides such as baked potatoes with all the trimmings, a medley of mushrooms, creamed spinach, and more.
Cucina del Capitano features homemade pastas, risottos, and made-to-order Italian specialties for a nominal fee. Italian wines and a singing wait staff are other highlights here. At lunch, a festive made-to-order pasta bar is complimentary and a fun way to escape the occasional crowds in the Lido Marketplace, which offers round-the-world flavors for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The popular marketplace includes stations not often found on other ship’s Lido dining spaces, such as a Mongolian wok, a burrito bar, a New York–style deli, and the best Indian Tandoor cooking we’ve tasted on the high seas.
Meet You There
Along with the RedFrog Pub (with both indoor and outdoor seating), there are many fun places to socialize — and Carnival passengers are definitely a social bunch. As with all of the new Carnival ships, we like meeting old and newfound friends in the atrium’s bar (the Magic Lobby and Bar in this case). It’s typically bustling day and night, when we enjoy going for a pre-dinner drink and live music.
Piazza-style Ocean Plaza is another successful gathering spot. This indoor/outdoor space boasts live entertainment, interactive games and activities, and a variety of meeting spots serving creative libations.
Those who enjoy socializing in the outdoors will love the Lanai, an open-air promenade with great seating areas and several oversized cantilevered whirlpools. In addition, SportSquare is a popular meeting spot for the ropes course, working out, a variety of games, and a bar with a flat-screen TV. Of course, the main pool is also a prime meeting spot during the day (often with loud music) and at night (for the Seaside Theatre’s movies under the stars).
Along with the traditional spa offerings, Carnival Magic’s 22,770-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa also features “medi-spa” services performed by licensed physicians, as well as new Bliss signature treatments, including the Bliss Triple Oxygen Treatment (complexion reviver for all skin types) and Bliss Fat Girl Slim (a detoxifying, circulation-stimulating, body-toning treatment). We also love the Thermal Suite concept, which features traditional Turkish bath offerings like herbal steam, sauna grottoes, heated chaise lounges, and tropical showers. There’s a large Thalassotherapy Pool as well. Carnival’s Generation Z teen spa makes it easy for the spa to become a family affair.
Without a doubt, the place to head to get away from it all is Serenity, Carnival’s adults-only area that is as popular as ever on Carnival Magic. “Me” time is the order of the day here, thanks to chaise lounges and chairs, hammocks, colorful umbrellas, two whirlpools, and a full-service bar specializing in icy concoctions. The tucked-away Tides Pool located aft and the aptly named Escape Bar just off the atrium on the Mezzanine Deck are great escapes as well.
Destination: Unknown is Carnival’s elaborate production show that features a host of fast-paced illusions and high-energy movements. Along with magician Jason Byrne, a full cast of singers and dancers take part in an appropriately magical and mystical circus that’s full of high-tech lighting and special effects.
Other shows during most sailings include The Groove Line (grooving through the ’70s with the likes of KC and the Sunshine Band) and Win! The Game Show (a parody of TV’s top game shows accompanied by a catchy soundtrack). More shows are scheduled when Carnival Magic repositions to Galveston, including Carnival Legends (when passengers don authentic costumes of their favorite entertainers and perform signature songs) and A Kiss Goodnight (an adults-only show featuring even more magic and alluring music and dance).
Other enjoyable after-dark entertainment includes the live music in RedFrog Pub, the singing and dancing waiters in Cucina del Capitano, live comedy in Punchliner Comedy Club (including family-friendly and adults-only performances), Vibe dance club, and Superstar Live, which features karaoke accompanied by a live band and backup singers (and, yes, one of us did “sing” on stage).
Of course, Carnival creates fun for all families. In fact, Carnival Magic offers more than 19,000 square feet of space catering to kids (and, often, their extended families). There are dedicated spaces for children (Camp Carnival), tweens (“Circle C”), and teens (Club O2). Enthusiastic counselors (who are still kids at heart) host a range of organized activities.
There’s also Warehouse, a huge video game room, the SportSquare (the ropes course does have height limits, however), and the WaterWorks aqua park complete with the towering 312-foot-long Twister waterslide (Carnival’s longest), the DrainPipe funnel slide, and AquaPlay splash park.
Don’t disembark until you’ve tried the innovative ropes course, an industry first. Thrill-seeking passengers can strap into a safety harness and traverse across rope bridges, swinging steps, and beams suspended above the top deck — and 150 feet above the water line! There are two featured courses; but try the easier one first to get your mid-air sea legs. Then, toast your success with a glass of ThirstyFrog Red down in the RedFrog Pub!
Inaugural sailing: May 1, 2011
Passenger capacity: 4,726 (including uppers); 3,690 (normal, based on two per stateroom)
Staterooms: 1,845, 60 percent outside and 45 percent with balconies
Pools: Beach Pool (main Lido swimming pool); Tides Pool (aft swimming pool); four cantilevered whirlpools on Deck 5; two Serenity adults-only retreat whirlpools; Carnival WaterWorks Aqua Park for kids and kids at heart.
On-deck activities: SportSquare outdoor recreation area, including a new, innovative ropes course, nine-hole mini golf (two-level), jogging track, ping pong, an industry-first outdoor fitness area, sports park bar, basketball/volleyball/soccer multipurpose area, Seaside Theatre with 270-square-foot outdoor LED screen
Show venues: Showtime Theatre (main show lounge), Spotlight Lounge (aft show lounge), Vibe (dance club), Ocean Plaza (piazza-style gathering spot), Escape (club lounge), Play It Again (piano bar), Magic Bar (atrium lobby bar)
Onboard shopping: The Fun Shops offer sundries, logo items, watches and jewelry, clothing, souvenirs, duty-free cosmetics, perfume, liquor, and tobacco. Cherry on Top features candy, confectionaries, flowers, wine, and gifts.
Communications: Bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and cell phone service is available. The Fun Hub is a social network and comprehensive shipboard portal that provides access to a variety of information on Carnival Magic’s services, facilities, and daily activities.
Itineraries: Following its inaugural Mediterranean season and a trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Magic arrives in Galveston on November 13, from where it will sail 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries year-round.