Cruising Carnival, Magic-Style: First Impressions

by Don Faust on May 17, 2011

First impressions of the Carnival Magic, including the rooms, public spaces and overall vibe.

Carnival Magic Rooms

As I mentioned yesterday in my Venice photo essay, my trip on the Carnival Magic inauguration marked my first cruise on a big ship.

I had never considered taking a cruise before, mostly because I didn’t think it would be the most interesting way to travel. I didn’t see the appeal of staying in a big hotel on the water, and I never saw the point of such quick turnarounds in port – particularly in the Caribbean, where hanging out and exploring the island is my favorite part.

Carnival Magic Rooms

When I boarded the Carnival Magic, I looked around and realized that the ship – with its 3,300+ passengers – was half the size of my hometown. I wondered if there would be lines for all the activities and restaurants, but it seemed like the ship was built to have a good flow.

Carnival Magic Rooms

I had been assigned a standard sea-view room.  To my surprise, it was about as large as a smaller hotel room, and much bigger than the room I had on the Arabella schooner.  It didn’t feel cramped at all, as I had three floor to ceiling closets (2 for hanging clothes and 1 with shelves),  a long desk and stool where I could work, a large flat-screen TV, a sofa with coffee table and a king size bed.

Carnival Magic Rooms

Even if Chris would have been with me, the room wouldn’t have felt crowded (although we’d have to take turns in the bathroom). At 6’5, I’m a tall guy, but while the hallway ceilings were a little low, I had plenty of head clearance in my stateroom.

A few weeks before my cruise, I had eaten dinner on the luxury ship Crystal Symphony when it had docked in Seattle. I noticed that most people on that ship were 60+. While the Carnival inaugural had a good number of seniors (passengers on European cruises do trend older than those on Caribbean ones), there were a number of families with kids and 20 to 30-somethings running in packs. The average age was probably in the 40’s.

Carnival Magic Rooms

Carnival Magic Rooms

I’ll write more about the Carnival Magic water park later, but there are also two regular pools if you want to chill out. The area was dead the first couple of days, but that was mainly because the weather traveling from Venice to Dubrovnik was cloudy, cold and rainy.

Once we sailed south, it warmed up and the skies turned blue, so all of the loungers were taken. Definitely arrive early on a nice day. Getting drinks poolside was easy (alcoholic drinks are not included in the cruise price).

Carnival Magic Rooms

As befits a Fun Ship, the Carnival Magic didn’t have the air of a stiff luxury liner. People weren’t dressed as sloppy as you might see on a Caribbean cruise, primarily on this ship because there were a good many Europeans on board.  In fact, all announcements were made first in English, then in German, and finally in Russian.

Carnival Magic Rooms

Carnival Magic Rooms

The Vibe dance club hosted the late crowd (by midnight, most people on the ship were asleep) and you had no problem getting a slice of pizza at 3 a.m. There’s a casino on board, but most people flocked to the Red Frog pub – in fact, it ran out of beer on the first night! (it was my favorite part of the ship).

Carnival Magic Rooms

Carnival Magic Rooms

The Cucina del Capitano – the ship’s Italian family restaurant – had its moments of cheesiness. When the waiters did their first choreographed dance number, I decided to be forgiving, considering my pasta was actually very good. But when they broke out into a line dance and clapped for one of our press member’s birthday, I felt like I was trapped in a TGIF or Chili’s chain restaurant.

Overall, I felt the cruise – which went to Dubrovnik, Sicily, Naples and Rome before ending in Barcelona – proved to be a great way to see a number of interesting ports and historical sites. I would have never seen so much in as little time otherwise. It was also nice to “try out” an area to see if you wanted to return (I definitely want to drive the Dalmation coast and see Dubrovnik again).

I’m still not convinced I would want to cruise in the Caribbean, where I like to kick back, relax and explore without a time limit. I’d also prefer a ship that offered overnight stays in the port so you could take advantage of the destination’s restaurants and nightlife.

Coming up next: A day in Dubrovnik

This trip was sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines, but the opinions are solely those of the writer.


| Partner, Contributor and Photo Editor of the travel site www.caroundtheworld.com, winner of 2010 Lowell Thomas travel writing award.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila Beal May 17, 2011 at 9:19 am

Nice recap and very vibrant photos.

Reply

Don Faust May 17, 2011 at 9:37 am

Thanks Sheila! There’s more to come.

Reply

Kara May 18, 2011 at 6:44 am

Vibrant colors on board (hello, crazy carpet in the bar). Did the design scheme make you manic? That is, all the different hues?

Reply

Don Faust May 18, 2011 at 8:08 am

Hi Kara – half the bar floor is broken tile and the other is wood (I guess it’s supposed to have a Caribbean theme – I get the primary color brightness of it.

As far as design, well, it was a little Vegas-like, but it was pretty visually interesting to look at from a photography point of view.

Reply

Chris May 18, 2011 at 9:19 am

@Kara – That type of decor is one reason why I tend to prefer smaller ships. When I’m on a cruise, I like to see the sky and water, not a ton of wacky designs or neon. We had dinner on the Crystal Symphony about a month ago, and that ship (which is much smaller than Carnival) had more muted colors. But of course, you pay for that and it’s a different audience.

Reply

Kirsten Alana May 21, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I’d really like to go on a cruise, I’ve never been and though I hear more bad things than good – I want to find out for myself what it’s like. Thank you for sharing this. It’s like a sneak peek of what I might someday see.

Reply

Don Faust May 22, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Kirsten – I would go on another Mediterranean cruise or a cruise in some other part of the world that is not as easy to get to and offers a quick way to scope out several locations. Unfortunately, some port cities are not always very nice, but this cruise turned out to have a nice selection of things to see in or near the ports.

In the end, it was a good trip, and some of that accounts for the fun that can be had on the ship and the people you meet. Additional posts of the cruise are forthcoming.

Reply

Chris May 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

@Kirsten There’s also all kinds of cruises instead of just the big ones like Don went on. I’ve done several sailboat cruises and they are AWESOME for people who like to travel a little more independently. We’re going on an expedition boat to Alaska in July that carries a max of 78 people and I can’t wait!

Reply

Colleen July 27, 2011 at 10:01 am

There are six of us going on this cruise in September, all first timers! Loved reading your site, really excited now!!

Reply

Don Faust July 28, 2011 at 11:01 am

Colleen – that’s great! You should have a good time. If you read the other Carnival posts, you’ll see more complete information about the ship and the ports.

Reply

Leave a Comment


Previous post:

Next post: