Carnival Magic – Best Carnival Ship Yet?
Written by: Paul Motter
Carnival Magic is the sister ship to Carnival Dream, first of its class introduced in November 2009. Anytime a new class of ships is introduced (meaning the first time a specific floor plan has been used) the first one out receives the most attention. Every new class has a number of innovative and exclusive features for guests to use that the brand has never had onboard a ship before. This is especially true when the new class is the biggest ship the particular cruise line has created to date, as with Carnival Dream – at 130,000 ton the largest Carnival Cruise Line ship ever.
Now we are being introduced to her first sister ship, Carnival Magic, just inaugurated in Venice, Italy, on May 1st (Sunday), 2011 and now on her inaugural voyage. As the first sister ship (meaning the second ship to use the same floor plan) comes out – people watch for what has been “fixed” or improved over the original ship. As expected, Carnival Magic has all of the innovative features of Dream, plus a few improvements.
Carnival Dream’s debut voyage sailed from New York during rather inclement November weather last autumn. During that voyage we had a chance to try new features like the Lanai seating areas by Ocean Plaza – the first outdoor seating venue (with cantilevered hot tubs) on the Promenade deck on any major cruise ship. There was also the new FunHub onboard computer network for passengers to socialize in a virtual world onboard an actual cruise. The FunHub is actually a terrific organizational tool to keep families and groups in communication during a cruise.
But there were also problems. The ship is large with a berth capacity of 3646 – which means it can easily accommodate more than 4000 passengers when you add kids and other guests in pull down beds. Our cruise was fairly full and we couldn’t help noticing the Lido restaurant had pretty significant crowding issues, for example.
With Magic, Carnival has taken steps to relieve the dining time crowding. The Lido area has expanded seating capacity. It has two levels like most Carnival ships, but with a special pasta bar on the top level along with extra seating. At night that area turns into Carnival’s first “family-style” Italian restaurant known as Cucina del Capitano (Captain’s Kitchen) where large tables for four to eight people serve up Italian dishes in family style portions. There is no extra charge to dine here.
The one “added charge” restaurant onboard, The Prime Steakhouse, has been moved from deck 12 down to deck five. Unlike other cruise lines, Carnival has never made a big deal out of added-charge special restaurants, and that is a facet of Carnival which many people appreciate. Carnival still has a wide variety of food available, including Mongolian Barbecue, a New York-style Deli and even a sushi bar, but they do not charge extra for these dining venues. The Steakhouse only seats 65 people, but the food is delicious and well worth the $30 per person added charge.
To add to the relief in crowding in the Lido area, Carnival Dream and Magic will have more breakfast and lunchtime dining available in the main dining rooms and they will feature special outdoor buffet-style themed parties on several nights of each cruise.
The new Carnival Magic has a brand new feature not included on Carnival Dream – the Red Frog Pub. English-style pubs with food have become more popular on cruise ships lately because of the casual atmosphere, the availability of food and the wide selection of delicious beer on tap. Magic’s Red Frog Pub, however, is a Caribbean-themed pub rather than purely British. Naturally, much of the Caribbean was colonized by Britain so there is not a big difference – but instead of fish & chips you will get fish fingers, and you have conch salad and roti pancakes rather than bangers and mash with blood pudding. The beer on tab is still rather British; Newcastle Brown Ale, Stella Artois, Murphy’s stout and Carnival’s first stab at its own brand of beer, known as Thirsty Frog beer (Royal Caribbean has had its own brand of beer for years). There is a nominal fee for food; $3.33 per selection.
Carnival Magic has the same Spa Staterooms as Carnival Dream, 65 special cabins with quick access to the steam rooms and hot tubs in the spa area. Another first on these ships are the excellent Cove Balcony staterooms located surprising low on a cruise ship for a balcony cabin, as low as deck four. The Cove Balconies have hard steel from the hull as railings, rather than glass with wood railings like the balconies on higher decks. The rooms are located within the hull of the ship but they are just as spacious and comfortable as any other balcony stateroom and come at a more affordable price.
For family fun, Carnival Waterworks on the pool deck has three water slides – among the longest at sea, and other fun water-based thrills like sprayers and fountains and water jets shooting out from the floor. A new sports complex nearby called SportsSquare features ping pong and foosball tables, the first ropes course at sea and the first two-level miniature golf course. There is also a court for tennis, basketball, volleyball and even soccer.
The regular Carnival kids programs includes “Camp Carnival” for kids ages 2-11, “Circle C” for 12- to 14-year-olds, and “Club O2″ for teens ages 15 to 17 are available.
Carnival Magic set sail yesterday on a nine-night inaugural voyage from Venice to Dubrovnik, Sicily, Naples, Florence, Monte Carlo, Mallorca and Barcelona. The ship will remain in Europe all summer and offer some of the best European cruise deals available. It will sail on a variety of seven- to 12-day Mediterranean cruises before heading across the Atlantic Oct. 16 on a 16-day repositioning cruise to the U.S. On Nov. 14, the vessel will begin year-round, seven-day Caribbean cruises out of Galveston, Texas.
Read our own Linda Pearl’s daily updates live from Carnival Magic here!
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