Long time CruiseMates contributor Linda Pearl is given the trip of a lifetime by Carnival Cruise Line.
Outdoor seating for the Red Dog Pub
Carnival Magic in Europe for Linda Pearl
My love affair with cruising was born in 1990, as I boarded my first ship, the Carnival Celebration for my first Caribbean cruise. Some nine years and a few more cruises later, becoming a part of this web site, CruiseMates, at its inception in 1999, was the beginning of another love. Finally, in 2011, my first trip to Europe, courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line, was a "Magic Dream Come Truse."
When I started at CruiseMates my role was two-fold, first as a forum moderator, but back then on-live live chats were still very popular. I was a CruiseMates chat room hostess for two full hours two different nights per week - and I loved every minute of it. The Internet was still new back then and I exalted in my new-found full-time connection to people from around the globe who shared my own personal passion for cruising. And believe it or not, eleven years later I still enjoy it just as much.
As most of the regulars here already know, my screen name is Trip, seems appropriate, don't you think? Those of you who do not know me - please look me up in the CruiseMates forums and say "Hi!"
For the first 20 years of my cruise history the only place I had ever sailed was the Caribbean. I had taken just about every Caribbean itinerary possible, enjoying the warmth of the sun, and, the "irie" attitude prevalent throughout the islands. But the last 11 years here at CruiseMates made my Caribbean cruises exceptionally nice because I have had many chances to sail with my fellow CruiseMates - people I have met here in this web site on CruiseMates Cruises which we organize because we all want to sail as a group. There are few things I enjoy more than finally putting a face to the many personalities I meet here in the wonderful web site.
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Another bonus to working with CruiseMates is our relationship with the cruise lines, who feel that our opinion counts. These lines often extend us invitations to tour their new ships.
In April of last year, I was invited to go to England for the naming ceremony of the brand new Celebrity Eclipse. I was so excited; this trip was going to be my first time overseas to see the "naming ceremony," for the newest ship of the Solstice class. We were scheduled for a short cruise with a free day before and another after the cruise to see London.
As the day of my flight started approached I started researching some of my sightseeing options in London. I had plans to shop till I dropped, when suddenly the 'volcano' was on the news! Maybe you remember the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland had decided to erupt and the ash cloud was covering the air approach to London!
All I could do was cross my fingers and hope the volcano would stop before we were scheduled to leave, but that was not meant to be. The airspace remained closed and with just one day's notice I was advised that my first overseas trip was canceled. Instead of having the naming ceremony, Celebrity canceled the event and my air tickets and sent the brand new Eclipse to Spain to pick up and bring home many hundreds of British citizens who could not get home by air. This, of course, was exactly the right thing to do, so I took solace in that and put my thoughts into hosting our Halloween Epic cruise.
I honestly did not know if I would ever see the other side of the Atlantic Ocean at that point - but fast forward to the winter of 2011. The invitation to sail the inaugural cruise on the Carnival Magic was extended to me by Carnival Cruise Lines - for nine glorious days in the Mediterranean! While the trip to London for Celebrity would have been the trip of a lifetime, this new invitation was an even more extensive European cruise. I was absolutely thrilled.
One thing that made it even nicer for me personally was that my first European cruise would be on Carnival Cruise Line - the same line as my first cruise ever. I was just thrilled to be able to "cruise the Med," coming full circle with Carnival Cruise lines, my first ever cruise, and, my first ever European adventure.
So - here is my experience as a veteran Caribbean cruiser, cruising Europe for the very first time - and loving it.
When you cruise in the Caribbean, the laid back attitude comes with the territory, especially if you have cruised there a few times and have a familiarity with the islands and culture. But my experience in Europe came with quite a different attitude, even with seasoned European cruisers. In the Caribbean I often see lots of people who choose to stay on the ship rather than go ashore. But in Europe on Carnival Magic, at least 95% of the ship's passengers emptied out in every port - each with visions of a fabulous day ahead, with many things to see & do, and, the clock was ticking! I was one of those eager passengers.
Because I already have a great deal of familiarity with Carnival ships I felt right at home on the beautiful new Carnival Magic immediately. This made the newly designed spaces and the more "low key" approach to décor that much more appealing on this Carnival ship - really setting this ship apart.
One major difference between sailing in the Caribbean and Europe is the smaller amount of time you spend at sea. Most of the days on this cruise involved being up early for bus rides to your destination. You want to get the most out of your stay in these amazing ports like Rome, Naples and Florence, Italy, or Monte Carlo or Barcelona, so an all day excursion is always called for.
After the ride back to the ship we would usually be dining later than normal. Most nights I would see a show and then go to bed. While a European cruise is a wonderful thing, the time you have to explore the ship and discover all the goodies Carnival has packed into the Magic was less than on a Caribbean cruise. The amount we did manage to see of the ship during our two short days at sea, only served to convince me that another cruise on the Magic is a must for me.
One of the best onboard experiences was the Cucina del Capitano, the first of its kind on Carnival, which serves an authentic family style Italian meal. After a long day of touring Italy it was just the perfect way to end our day. The singing waiters and the wonderful authentic décor made it feel exactly like a local village restaurant from one of our ports of call. The low price of only $10.00 per person makes it easy for families to enjoy a special dinner at a reasonable charge.
When summer turns to fall and the Magic sails her transatlantic voyage to Texas I know she will be welcomed with open arms. I think she will be "the ship" to book out of Galveston. Just look at the many innovative firsts she boasts:
The Red Frog, a Caribbean style pub, is definitely something new - a lively gathering spot for an afternoon or midnight snack. Carnival now has its own beer, called the Thirsty Frog Red. The menu of pub snacks, like Jamaican chicken wings and conch salad, and the lively atmosphere, gave us a hint of the Caribbean sailings to come in November.
SportsSquare takes outdoor enjoyment to a new level with a first-of-its-kind rope course. This device lets you traverse across nets, suspended above the Spa Deck, with spectacular views nearly 150 feet below!
Carnival Magic also boasts the first ever outdoor weight lifting area on a cruise ship, Carnival's first ever two level miniature golf course, a multi-use court for Volleyball, basketball and soccer and even an area for foosball and ping pong.
For accommodations, the addition of the coveted cove cabins, staterooms with open verandahs just about 20-25 feet above the ocean spray, added a new type of balcony enjoyment. I spoke to someone who was staying in one, and she loved it, calling it "her new favorite category." The new five berths, two-bedroom cabins really open up the ability for larger families to be able to book one cabin and cruise in a comfortable setting.
There is a definite difference in making the most of your time while abroad vs. the lazy days of a Caribbean cruise. Both itineraries are wonderful, but each in their own way. My first European cruise was a delightful experience, and I long to go back, but the Carnival Magic will also give me a special chance to see both places on the same ship and I also cannot wait to take this wonderful ship again. How can you not have a ball? I know I did.