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