Sailing on the inaugural voyage of a cruise ship like the Carnival Magic excites most travelers. You get to be the "first" to sleep in a bed, dine in the restaurant, and experience the excitement of the onboard activities, games, and shows. I'm no different. Even though I cruise "all the time" (according to my friends and family), I get excited about each and every cruise ship and voyage. All the new ship experiences make the ship even more fun.
Although our inaugural cruise from Venice to Barcelona was the maiden voyage for the Carnival Magic, the cruise line and its staff had done an exceptional job of getting the ship ready for its first guests. Carnival Cruise Line makes no pretense about its cruise objectives. The company strives to deliver a cruise filled with fun and memories, and this ship's design certainly fulfills that goal.
Since the Carnival Magic was a new ship, I've prepared a detailed profile of the ship and several photo galleries.
The Carnival Magic currently sails the Caribbean year-round from Port Canaveral in Florida.
Carnival Magic - Naming Ceremony and Embarkation in Venice, Italy
The inaugural cruise guests boarded the Carnival Magic, and the naming ceremony was held in the beautiful theater of the new ship. After the naming ceremony, the Carnival Magic sailed from Venice. I can't think of a better way to start a cruise. Venice is a fascinating city, and sailing away from Venice on a mega-cruise ship like the Carnival Magic provides an unforgettable view of the city from its top decks. It has to be in the top five cities in the world to sail into or away from. My cabin was on the port side, so I had amazing views of the Grand Canal and St. Mark's Square as we slipped by.
Before I knew it, it was time for our first dinner in the Southern Lights Dining Room. I had gazpacho, which is my favorite cold soup; followed by a Caesar salad and sweet and sour shrimp. It was all very good. Although I was stuffed, I couldn't resist the chocolate melting cake for dessert. It's one of my favorites, and I'm not alone since it is Carnival's most popular dessert. What's not to like? Hot chocolate cake served in a souffle cup, filled with a creamy chocolate fudge sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. Everyone who adores this dessert as much as I do has their own method for eating it, and we all compared notes one night on the best way to savor each bite. I eat the cake and then spoon the hot fudge over my ice cream. Makes my mouth water as I remember it!
Many in our group adjourned to the RedFrog Pub to try the new Thirsty Frog beer and listen to the entertainment. I'm not a party pooper but decided to skip the party and get caught up on my sleep, even though our next day would be a relaxing day at sea.
Day at Sea - Sailing from Venice to Dubrovnik on the Carnival Magic
A sunny day at sea on the Carnival Magic can be filled with non-stop activities, absolutely nothing at all, or somewhere in-between. I started the day with a visit to the fitness center for the stretching and "fab-ab" classes. The participants were a cross-section of those on the cruise. Some were young and as flexible as a well-cooked noodle, others were like me--older and as stiff and inflexible as a piece of dried kindling. The instructor was patient and we all had a good time. Although it was before 8 am, the gym was filled with those wanting to work out the kinks you get when flying for 10 hours or so.
Since this was a brand new ship, I wanted to spend much of the day exploring (and photographing) every part of the ship. My first impressions in the daylight hours were good ones. The designer had set aside plenty of outdoor deck space for the sun lovers to sit outside and soak up some rays on one of the thousands of deck lounges. The interiors were fun and diverse, but more subdued than seen on some Carnival ships. All in all, the design and flow of passenger traffic looked good to me.
Moving around the ship, I quickly heard an amazing rumor that turned out to be true. Although they had stocked the ship with enough of the new ThirstyFrog Red beer to last the entire cruise (or so they thought), the bar had run out on the very first night of the cruise. People must have really liked it! (I wasn't responsible since I had gone to bed early). Understanding the issue, Carnival execs worked quickly and approved the air freight charges to bring in another supply from the USA, and the ship was re-stocked at the first port of call.
Being originally from Missouri (the Show-Me State), I went to the RedFrog Pub to try some of the pub snacks and see if they really had sold out of the beer. The bartenders told us the same story--all sold out, more expected when it could be flown in. Our small group ordered a sampling of the pub snacks ($3.33 each), along with a Red Stripe beer since the ThirstyFrog Red was sold out. The pub has a Caribbean theme, with Caribbean beers, Caribbean cocktails, and Caribbean pub food (coconut shrimp, sliders, conch fritters, conch salad, grouper fingers, chicken wings, etc.) The service was authentic Caribbean (very slow), and we were there for almost an hour and a half. The server must be one of the new staff because the place was not very busy. I think the pub will be a big hit when they get the service wrinkles ironed out. It has both indoor and outdoor seating and live music during lunch hour and all evening.
The FunTimes schedule was packed with activities, ranging from cooking demonstrations to spa seminars to the hairy chest competition. There's always something fun to do at sea! I spent the afternoon exploring the ship and taking photos, stopping to have a snack here and there or watching some of the outdoor activities. Everyone seemed to love the new WaterWorks water slides, and the SportSquare section of the deck was busy with those playing all sorts of games such as miniature golf, foosball, basketball, or trying out the new ropes course. The day passes quickly with so many choices of things to do. Of course, many guests spent their day just relaxing with a good book and a cold drink.
I found time to go have some sushi about 5:30 since we weren't dining until 8:30. It was yummy and no extra charge. I met some fellow journalists for drinks before dinner in the lobby bar, and it was very busy. We had dinner in the steakhouse restaurant, and it was excellent. I had the tuna tartare, beefsteak tomatoes with blue cheese, surf & turf (filet mignon and lobster), and passion fruit ice cream. All were delicious. I think everyone liked their meal, with the only "complaint" being the serving sizes were too large. It was a 3-hour meal, so everything got digested well. The next day we were going ashore in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
A Day in Dubrovnik, Croatia from the Carnival Magic
Gloomy skies and pouring rain greeted the Carnival Magic as we arrived in Dubrovnik. I was glad I didn't have a scheduled tour. Carnival offered over a dozen different shore excursions. Some were active adventures such as a 4x4 safari or biking tour to Konavle or sea kayaking along the Dalmatian coastline. Other tours were easier, touring Dubrovnik or the surrounding countryside by bus, or island hopping via yacht to three of Dubrovnik's islands. Those interested in improving their culinary skills could try their hand(s) at a Croatian cooking class, where you get to prepare and then eat your own masterpiece prepared under the guidance of a professional chef.
Finally, there were several walking excursions of this beautiful old city that sits in a spectacular setting on the sea. "Walking the wall" in Dubrovnik is a popular activity visitors can do on their own. The medieval walls surrounding the old city of Dubrovnik encircle the city and provide wonderful views of the tiled rooftops and ocean beyond. Carnival provided a shuttle bus from the ship into town (5 euros), and many took advantage of the bus rather than walk in the rain. I think I was one of the few who stayed dry and inside. I had visited Dubrovnik before and knew I had opportunities to visit it again. Those who don't travel as frequently as I do were smart to don their rain jackets and umbrellas and explore the city.
Since I had the ship almost to myself, I enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the Lido Marketplace. This buffet restaurant has numerous international cuisines, including two of my favorites--burritos and Mongolian wok. Our dinner was back in the Southern Lights Dining Room. I had an excellent Thai coconut soup, spinach salad with blue cheese and portobello mushrooms, and a grilled pork chop. The coconut cake I had for dessert was okay, but not as good as the chocolate melting cake.
Our dinner was over in time to go see the show, which was a male singer from St. Thomas. He was very good, singing many songs from Motown. The whole audience sang along on most of the songs, which added to the fun. Lucky us--we had another day at sea the next day.
Sea Day on the Carnival Magic - Sailing from Dubrovnik to Messina
We left the rain behind in Dubrovnik, and our day at sea on the way to Sicily was a nice one, although still a little cool. Since it was a sea day, I did an hour's walk around the SkyTrack before breakfast. Carnival serves full breakfast at the Lido Marketplace until noon, so its meals overlap.
In the afternoon, I enjoyed watching three young men in their 30's ride the Drainpipe and Twister water slides over and over. Guess the fun is not restricted to kids only! Near the WaterWorks area, many adults were relaxing in Serenity, despite the cool weather. Late in the day, I enjoyed a quiet tea in the dining room, a sea day activity on the Carnival Magic This ship has non-stop activities all day, and it would be impossible to do even half of them. It's great that the cruise director and his staff provide so many diverse options. There's certainly no chance to be bored or complain about "nothing to do". I think many guests used the sea day to have a spa treatment in the Cloud 9 spa or to take extra time to dress up for formal night, which on Carnival is a mixture of tuxedos, sequins, blue jeans, tank tops and everything in between.
Our group had a nice dinner at the restaurant, where I enjoyed a pear and citrus carpaccio (shaved slices of pear, along with other fruit), Greek farmer's salad (yummy), lobster tail, and chocolate melting cake (I hadn't had one in two days).
After dinner, I went with three other women to the "adults-only" comedy show in the Spotlight Lounge. The comedian was a little raunchy, which I expected since it was advertised as such. After the show was over about 11:30, we went to the RedFrog Pub, and it was really hopping (sorry about the bad pun). They had a good singer, and some people in the bar (not me) had obviously drunk too much. After an hour or so, I excused myself and was back in the cabin and asleep sometime after 2:00 am. Another great day on the Carnival Magic. I am way too old to stay out so late and paid for it in Messina, Sicily the next day.
A Day in Sicily - Messina and Taormina from the Carnival Magic
The Carnival Magic moved from alternating sea days with port days to visiting the rest of the ports on our cruise--Messina, Naples, Rome, and Florence--in four days, with no sea days in between. The Carnival Magic sailed around the boot of Italy, and we arrived in Messina, Italy on the island of Sicily in the early morning.
Messina offers several good touring options. Many first time visitors go to Mt. Etna, and the trip is certainly worth it, especially for those who love natural wonders. When visiting Messina, be sure to see the large cathedral and take the time to have a cannoli.
I've been to Messina a couple of times but wanted to return to Taormina, a quintessential Mediterranean tourist town about 45 minutes away. I signed up for a shore excursion that included a tour of the Greek theater there. The day was gorgeous--sunny and just a little cool (in the high 60's).
The highway follows the coastline from Messina to Taormina. The small town was packed with tourists, even though it was only the first week of May. Guess it was because two mega-ships were docked in Messina, and three smaller ones were anchored in Taormina's harbor. Those five ships probably added over 8,000 visitors to the small town! Despite the crowds, I'm glad I returned, because the Taormina is gorgeous, with lots of pottery and lemon products for sale. The Greek theater is well-preserved and has wonderful views of the harbor and Mt. Etna.
We only stayed in Taormina a few hours; just long enough to walk through the town and up to the theater, with a few tidbits explained by our guide. We returned along the main street when we had an hour's free time. I immediately felt the gelato calling me, so I stopped at the first gelato stand for a treat.
We were back on the ship by 2:00 pm, and I had a late lunch, followed by a well-deserved nap before dinner, which was in the Southern Lights restaurant. I had a tuna, salmon, and shrimp appetizer; followed by a Caesar salad and baked fish. All were good.
Following dinner, I checked out some of the clubs, including the "SuperStar Karaoke". No, I didn't perform but wasn't surprised that several of my fellow passengers couldn't resist the chance to sing with a live band, a microphone, and a backup singer. It was quite fun to watch these really horrible singers do their best, although I can't for the life of me figure out why they want to make a fool of themselves. It's one of the great things about traveling far away from home; they will likely never see anyone in the audience again!
The Carnival Magic sailed towards Naples, passing by the Stromboli volcano. It was almost dark, so the views were not as good as when I had seen the volcano before from the Carnival Liberty several years ago. It's a great "side trip", especially when the volcano is active. Ships can get very close to the small island, and the views are marvelous.
A Day in Naples - Capri, Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast
The next day we were in Naples, Italy. I love the way the city looks, with Mt. Vesuvius towering overhead. It was another gorgeous day, and I had planned a full-day shore excursion from the Carnival Magic to the isle of Capri.
Naples offers many terrific tour opportunities. The city of Naples is fascinating, but most visitors either go to see the ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum. Others take a tour to Mt. Vesuvius or to one of the lovely towns on the Amalfi coast like Sorrento or Positano. Most western Mediterranean cruises include a day in Naples, so frequent cruisers can always save some of the sights for their next visit. First-time visitors to Naples who want to "see it all", might choose a 10-hour tour that includes a visit to Capri, Pompeii, and Sorrento. It's an expensive tour, but my family loved it when we visited Naples on the Carnival Liberty several years ago. I was happy to see that the Carnival Magic still featured this tour.
Our Capri tour met at 7:45 and we were on the 8:30 ferry to Capri. It takes about 45 minutes to cross over to the island from the embarkation point near the cruise ship pier. (I think the ferry fare is about 34 euros round-trip). The weather was so nice that I sat outside on the top deck.
We had 52 in our tour group, which was way too big, even though we used the Audiovox machines and could hear the guide well. Disembarking at the Capri harbor, it took three small buses to transport us to the Anacapri, the highest-most city on the island. The island only has a few narrow roads, so the largest vehicles are small vans. That process entailed over an hour, so we didn't get to Anacapri until after 10:30, and we had to leave to go back down to the town of Capri (at the mid-way level) at 11:40. So, we didn't have much time in this cute little town to explore. Some people did a tour of a museum with the guide, others walked around the town, but I chose to spend 10 euros and go to the very top of the island on a chair lift. The lift had "single" person seats and was like a ski lift (i.e. it never stopped, you had to jump on and then off while it was moving). The ride was beautiful, and the views from the top were worth the extra fare.
We had the same bus mess again on the way to a nice outdoor lunch at a small restaurant on Capri. After a relaxing lunch, we had a little time (30 minutes) for shopping before riding the funicular back down to the harbor town. We left Capri on the 3:30 ferry back to Naples.
I was back on the ship around 4:30, with time for a rest before dinner at 7:30 in the Italian restaurant. Carnival has a real winner with Cucina del Capitano--the kitchen of the captains. It is decorated with archive photos of Carnival captains over the past several decades. Very interesting. The restaurant is casual and the food is served family style. I had spaghetti and meatballs (after a bunch of antipasti), lots of chianti, and lemon sorbet for dessert. Everyone I spoke with who dined at Cucina del Capitano thought the restaurant was terrific and a great value.
The next day, the Carnival Magic was in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome.
A Day in Rome, the Eternal City
Early the next morning I awoke in Civitavecchia, the port closest to Rome. Along with the Carnival Magic, there were seven other cruise ships in port, and I figured these eight ships added over 10,000 tourists to the city.
Rome is about a 1.5-hour bus ride from Civitavecchia, and it is impossible to visit all the "must-see" sites in one day. Cruise ships like the Carnival Magic offer good overview tours, but there's just not enough time to see everything. Cruise visitors need to study the shore excursion brochure and pick their favorites. Even if you go into the city on your own, you will spend a lot of time standing in line, which shore excursion participants don't have to do, and moving from place to place, since many of the sites like the Colosseum, the Forum, Vatican City, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain are not all within easy walking distance of each other. Like most everyone, I love Rome and highly recommend that cruise ship visitors go into the city. You just have to be patient and choose between seeing either the sites in Vatican City or some of those in Rome.
Carnival offered many interesting tours from Civitavecchia. Some were overviews of some of the Rome sites like the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain. Others include some of the catacombs or a driving tour past many of the famous monuments. Tours like a "private view of the Vatican" or a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum focused on Vatican City. Those who have visited Rome could choose to travel to one of the small medieval towns nearby like Viterbo or to Lake Bracciano or just take a bus into the center of Rome and explore on their own. No one will ever get bored when visiting this popular destination!
Since I had not been inside the Vatican Museum in about five years, I chose a "Vatican Museum and St. Peter's" shore excursion so I wouldn't spend my day standing in line at these two important sites. Although Vatican City is a definite "must do" for those visiting Rome, it's one of those places that is usually packed with people, and this day was no different. All visitors must pass through an airport-style screening machine, and all bags are x-rayed. The crowds in the Vatican Museum were so large that we could do little other than shuffle through all the rooms and try to keep up with the guide. We had the Audiovoxes, but it was still hard to keep up and not get lost. I felt very badly for those in our group who couldn't walk well or didn't do well in crowds or heat. Even with the crowds, the Vatican Museum is spectacular and amazing. You visit the Sistine Chapel last, and then go through a back door to St. Peter's, allowing you to skip the security lines there since visitors were already screened at the Vatican Museum.
St. Peter's is the world's largest Christian church and is so massive that its size cannot be readily understood. On the floor of St. Peter's are markers that show the length of some of the other large churches in the world, which helps provide some size perspective. Also, don't miss Michelangelo's Pieta, especially if you are planning to see his other mother and child statues in Florence. After walking around inside the cathedral, our group crossed St. Peter's Square to the bus rendezvous point. Unfortunately, our bus got held up in traffic and was almost an hour late picking us up. Some of us found a place to sit and have a gelato, so the wait wasn't too bad.
We were back on the ship in the mid-afternoon, and I had a late lunch by the pool. Since the Carnival Magic was staying in Civitavecchia until 10 pm, we had open seating dinner. I had beef carpaccio, a Caesar salad, and a steak, with fresh fruit for dessert. Very good. The ship was in Livorno the next day, the closest port to Florence and Pisa.
A Day in Florence while the Carnival Magic Was Docked in Livorno
The next day, the Carnival Magic was in Livorno, Italy. From Livorno, ships run tours to Florence (about 1.5 hours away), Pisa, Tuscany, and the Cinque Terre (five towns on the coast near Spezia). I opted to do "Florence on your Own" Carnival tour since I hadn't been there in a couple of years.
Our bus left the ship promptly at 8 am and were in Florence before 9:30. All buses let passengers off about a half-dozen blocks from the old city center. Our guide provided maps and walked with us to the meeting point at the Santa Croce Square. Unlike Rome, Florence is much more compact, with many of the sites within a relatively easy walking distance of the bus meeting point.
The Florence Marathon was taking place the day we visited, and it was fun to see the runners and all the hoopla accompanying the event, which ended at the square for the Duomo, Florence's cathedral. Of course, some of the streets were blocked off, which made the remaining streets more crowded.
Some on our bus made their way to the Accademia Galleria, which features the original statue of David by Michelangelo. Others made their way to the city's most famous art gallery, Uffizi, or one of the many other top museums in Florence. (If you go to Uffizi on your own, you will need to purchase tickets months in advance.) It was such a nice day that I just wandered the city, taking in many of Florence's top outdoor attractions. I joined some of my new cruise friends for a delightful outdoor lunch at a sidewalk cafe. Our tour group met at 3:15 near Santa Croce square for the walk back to the bus, arriving back at the ship at 5:00 pm.
Dinner was in Southern Lights, and I enjoyed a Thai chicken appetizer, followed by a Caesar salad and a fish dish. Since it was Mother's Day, they gave all the women (even me) a carnation, and we had a special dark chocolate dessert with "mom" written on the plate for all the ladies. Very nice.
Our last full day on the Carnival Magic was supposed to be spent in Monte Carlo. But the weather intervened.
Day at Sea and Disembarkation from the Carnival Magic in Barcelona
Early the next morning, an announcement was made on the Carnival Magic that high winds blowing into Monte Carlo had closed the port to cruise ships. So, we had an extra day at sea to enjoy the ship's amenities and activities. The weather was windier than we had experienced the entire cruise, but the large ship was barely rocking.
The Carnival Magic staff quickly readjusted the activity schedule so everyone on the ship could find something to keep them occupied. Although I am sure some of my fellow cruisers were disappointed that they didn't get to visit Monte Carlo or some of the other towns on the Riviera, it's just a fact of cruising. If missing a particular port of call (anywhere in the world) will ruin your cruise vacation, then you should not plan to go there on a cruise. Missing a port is rare, but it does happen.
The day at sea was a restful one, and we all plenty of time to pack, join in the action, catch up on movies, or sort through the hundreds of photos we had taken during the cruise. The highlight of the day (for me) was seeing one of the new production shows designed especially for the Carnival Magic. This show, titled, "Destination Unknown", revolved around magic, and featured professional magician Jason Byrne, his assistant, and the Carnival Magic singers and dancers. It's great fun and a "not miss" when sailing on the new ship.
The Carnival Magic arrived in Barcelona in the early morning hours. Like embarkation in Venice, disembarkation was easy, despite the size of the ship and the fact it was another "first time" for the staff. I was headed home, but many passengers chose to stay over in this fascinating for a few days to see all of the top sights of Barcelona.
The Carnival Magic is a great choice for all those seeking a "fun" cruise. The ship is a great value for your cruise travel dollar. It's certainly got non-stop action, very good food, and more outdoor deck space than other Carnival ships. It doesn't have as many alternative dining options as some of the new ships of their competitors, but that also means there aren't as many places for the cruise line to squeeze more revenue out of the guests.
The Carnival Magic is a great addition to the Carnival fleet, and she wears the honor of being Carnival Corporation's 100th ship well.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.