Carnival Magic Thanksgiving 2018 Cruise Review.
First I would like to thank all those who have posted reviews and answered questions here on cruise critic. It was super helpful to have so much information available before our cruise. This was cruise #5 for me and my husband and the 2nd one we have done with our 15 and 17 year old daughters.
We arrived in Miami the night before the cruise and stayed at the Springhill Suites Miami-Doral. This would be a great hotel for a family. 2 queen beds and a sofa with a trundle bed that pulls out and tons of space so you are not climbing over each other. We headed out to the port the next morning. We had received a notification saying to arrive 1 hour later than our scheduled arrival time but we had faster to the fun so really was not sure when to arrive. I am not sure exactly what time we arrived but I think it was around 10:30 or 11am. I know we pulled into the terminal and easily dropped our luggage with a porter who put additional FTTF stickers on our luggage tags. Circled the terminal again to park in the garage, walked back over to check in went right through the doors, had our ID’s checked, pictures taken and was sent upstairs and immediately boarded the ship. We did not wait even one minute in any line along the way. We headed to out cabin 12021 and it was ready to go. It was our first time in a Spa Balcony (more on that later). We dropped our bags and headed down to the Pig and Anchor for lunch. Between the 4 of us I think we had a little bit of everything and it was all good. Brisket with the sweet BBQ sauce was my favorite. Next up we grabbed our fun ship cocktails complete with little umbrellas and started exploring the ship. It was about noon at this point. So checked in, dropped bags in room, ate lunch and picked up a drink on Lido before noon. I was liking the faster to the fun already!
We checked out all the outdoor areas and really liked the ship. Our last trip was on the NCL Epic and the layout was terrible and the outside areas were all disconnected from each other. We loved the Lanai area all around deck 5 but really loved deck 11. It is not all closed off with glass so it can be rather windy but it is under cover and overlooks the pool areas. It has some really comfy chairs and footrests with small side tables. It extends all the way back to the aft pool and we loved the seating back there on 11 as well. The open air really makes it great. We tried both the slides and thought they were fun. The view from the top of the slide in amazing. It is the highest point on the ship and I think if it were a deck it would be like deck 17 so that gives you an idea of how high it is up there! We hit the pools on our first sea day and both are salt water (not salt water generated chlorine). They are pretty much like filtered sea water. Not my favorite thing but I knew they were salt when booking. I just prefer the chlorine pools on NCL and Princess better than the sticky salt pools. The waterslides and kiddie water play area are all chlorine though. Since we were traveling with the kids we did not really spend any time in the serenity area. It was all the way at the front of the ship on deck 15. There is a single glass elevator all the way forward on deck 11 that makes stops at decks 11, 12, 14 and 15. On deck 11 it is just cabins surrounding this elevator, on deck 12 and 14 it stops inside the Spa and Deck 15 is serenity. Serenity is pretty much surrounded by glass since it is all the way forward and it has the typical clam shells and hammocks and looks nice. A little warning….. I am a night owl and took a walk up there very, very late one night to relax and enjoy some quiet but found at least one couple having some “adult fun” in a clamshell. There were a few other clam shells jammed up against the glass so I am guessing there may have been others but this one couple clearly did not care who saw them. I just kept walking until I was in an area where there was no one around. Other than that little surprise view on Serenity I really loved wandering around the outdoor areas on this ship. If you are like me and enjoy being outside on a ship you will love this one!
My husband and one of my daughters hit the ropes course and said it was fun and not too hard. The kids played Mini Golf, and enjoyed the Sports deck area and of course the Arcade. They had charging privileges on their sail and sign cards and I did not set a limit on the account on how much they could spend but I told each of them how much they could spend per day. The coffee bar has specialty coffee drinks and smoothies, some sweet treats for purchase and smoothies but virgin Pina Coladas and Daiquiris are available at all the bars too for about 5.00. Luckily my kids did a good job sticking to the budget. My husband and I…Well we blew the budget more than they did! LOL!
We enjoyed the layout inside too. Loved the classic Atrium area. Such a pretty spot! There was a trio of violinist who played there and they were incredibly talented. Just watching them play from above was very cool. We spent most of our indoor time on Deck 5 with stops at the Red Frog Pub which always had someone playing guitar and singing and the TV’s had sports on. There is a nice outside seating area you can access via the red frog and they have corn hole out there. Inside red frog were shuffleboard and Foosball games. The Red Frog seemed family friendly and my family played some of these games while there. The plaza area had nightly entertainment and with the alchemy bar right there it felt like a great lounge. I wanted to try the Alchemy bar where you fill out the paper saying the things you like and they mix you up a custom cocktail but did not get there until after 10pm on the last night and they said they only do that certain hours of the day. I am not sure what the hours are but keep that in mind if it is something you are interested in. We also stopped in the casino several times. There were various sports games on the TV’s and half the casino was smoking and the other half was not. The table games were on the smoking side but no one was ever smoking there so maybe you can’t smoke at the tables. Not really sure. The casino was the coldest place on the ship and they had a big fan running probably to help with the smoke. It certainly smelled like smoke but never seemed like you were walking through a fog of smoke like other ships I have been on. On a side note there were plenty of smoking areas on the ship. Part of Deck 5 outside the Vibe nightclub had a smoking area with plenty of chairs and tables and ashtrays and half of deck 11 was smoking again with plenty of space, chairs, tables and ashtrays for smokers. I really think good smoking areas keep people from smoking where they should not be. I never saw anyone smoking outside of a smoking area and had no issues with smelling smoke or vapor on my balcony either. Now moving on….We also stopped in to the comedy club a few times for both family and adult shows and thought the comedians were pretty good! The few times we went through the piano bar coming out of the comedy club it was quiet with no one playing. Only one night did we find someone there and they were singing Billy Joel’s Piano Man so we stopped. I lasted all of 2 minutes and left because it sounded really, really bad. But 2 minutes is not time enough to give an honest review so maybe I missed the context of how he was singing the song (as a gag) or maybe it was just an off night. We went to love and marriage show and it was funny. Wanted to see 88 keys but missed it. Did manage to see America Rocks and that was a good show. I recommend getting there early since the pre-show was fun too! All in all we really enjoyed the entertainment on Carnival. It is the thing that made us book this last cruise with them. I love that there is always a variety of music being played around the ship and especially love the DJ and the Steele drums around the Lido Pool during the day and the Deck Parties are always so much fun!! If I was travelling without kids I might have missed an Adults only pool. This was a Thanksgiving week cruise so there were a ton of kids of all ages on board. But I was one of those travelling with kids so the chance to hang out at an Adults only pool were limited. But if this is important to you keep in mind there is no Adults only pool on this ship. I did not get the chance to watch a full movie under the stars. To be honest I always thought this was kind of silly. I thought who would want to sit on the deck and watch a movie when there is so much other stuff going on but now that I have seen it firsthand I really wish I had time to watch one. It was so nice and peaceful during movie time and the picture and sound quality were really good!! One more thing I forgot to mention here is the pool is open late. You can literally be sitting in the pool watching a movie. I love that carnival leaves the pools open late. They are so much less crowded at night and it is a nice option for people to have at night.
I mentioned earlier that this was our first Spa Cabin. We got a call from the upgrade fairy pretty early on and for $120.00 we were able to upgrade from a mid-ship balcony on deck 7 to a deck 12 Spa Cabin. I loved the location being steps away from the lido deck and the spa. I am not a Spa person but I did get a salt scrub massage this time and it was very good and very relaxing. The hard sell to buy 300.00 in product when I was done took some of that relaxation away but still the scrub and massage were great. Being able to walk just a few feet to the Spa Changing rooms and shower in a very large, very nice shower was also a great perk. Our last cruise with the kids we had adjoining rooms. This time we opted for putting all 4 in the same room. So having the Spa showers so close was great! I also used the Thalaso Therapy Pool in the Spa and it felt great. It was a bit crowded when I was there but still worth it. Our cabin itself was the same size and layout of any other balcony cabin. It came with Yellow towels instead of blue, 2 spa robes and slippers and the color scheme was a little different. The one thing I absolutely HATED about this room was how HOT it was. The first day on board we knew it was hot in there. I told the kids it was probably just because we were sitting in port, baking in the sun and when we got underway it would cool off. I was wrong. At 1am I was lying in bed sweating. I called guest services. I am not sure what I expected. Maybe I was thinking they would call someone and say pump some more air on deck 12 or who knows but they sent a maintenance guy to the room with a thermometer gadget. The probe was wrapped in aluminum foil. I have seen these before but never with aluminum foil on them. It said our room was 76 degrees. I am guessing it was closer to 80 degrees. He said he would report the temp to engineering blah, blah, blah. The next day we received a note saying the room was checked and it met Carnivals guidelines and the note came with some chocolate covered strawberries. The room did seem a bit cooler but by late afternoon the chocolate on the strawberries was melting off and I was sweating off makeup faster than I could apply it. Nothing like trying to dress for formal night while dripping sweat! I did talk to guest services and they said that 76 at 1am is too hot and sent someone who said he opened the damper in the room so more air would come through. It was better but still way too hot most afternoon and evenings. I wonder if it is the location at the top of the ship or if it was like this in all the staterooms. The spa again came in handy and my husband and I and my oldest daughter showered there and used the hair dryers there to keep from adding any more heat to the room. On port days we closed the drapes and did all we could to keep it as cool as possible and that helped. I really wish that guests had more control over the thermostat. On the coldest possible setting the room should at least feel cool when you walk into it. So that was my only major gripe with this trip.
We found the service to be good at all the bars and in the main dining room. We had YTD so we did not get that personal service you get from having the same wait staff each night. But all the waiters were very nice and very prompt. The only exception was Thanksgiving. My oldest daughter and I skipped dinner that night because she was not feeling well but my husband and youngest ordered the Turkey dinner. Apparently they did not have enough turkey ready and it took a really, really long time. The waiter even offered to bring them a different meal if they did not want to wait anymore but they opted to wait which they said was a bad decision because they said the turkey was gross. Since I did not eat that night I went later on to the buffet and there were several people there who were there because they could not eat the turkey in the MDR. One guy said I am not sure what kind of mystery meat they were trying to pass off as turkey but I couldn’t eat it. So I suppose missing dinner that night was a good thing. Other than Thanksgiving the food ranged from O.K. to very good. We ate in the Main Dining Room most nights. Hit guys burgers (Yum!) another night and had another night pizza (which was very good. They even had white pizza). We also hit the late night bites a few times and had a meatball sandwich and some pasta that was pretty good. My favorites in the dining room were the grilled tenderloin and the carbonara. I thought the lines at the buffet for breakfast were pretty long so I only got breakfast there one time. I did get a breakfast wrap from the Blue Iguana Cantina and that was great. We also went to the Dr. Seuss breakfast and that was really good and fun! Again back to the service on the ship. We thought it was great. Bartenders, Waiters, Guest Services were great and there was no lack of waiters around on the Lido Deck either and they did a great job of picking up empty plates and glasses and keeping the area clean. Our cabin steward was great. He asked the 1st day if we wanted day or night service or both. Asked if we needed any extra pillows, towels, ice or anything else. He greeted us by name each day and kept a room full of crap for 4 people neat each day.
This particular tip had 4 Ports. St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk and Amber Cove. I would love to sail on one of the Dream Class ships with just 2 or 3 ports because I really loved the ship that much. I know I could stay on the ship while in Port but it is just not the same as a day at sea!
In St. Thomas we booked a carnival excursion called Turtle Cove Sail and Snorkel. The catamaran was beautiful, the staff was great and there was no lack of rum punch on the way back. But the snorkeling part was both overwhelming and underwhelming. We were overwhelmed by the amount of people snorkeling in the same spot. There were 6 boats anchored off and hundreds of people all in one spot trying to catch a glimpse of a turtle. The underwhelming part was I saw 2 turtles and about 3 fish the entire time.
In Amber Cove we planned to take a cab to the Cable Car to the top of Mount Isabel and then maybe to the Fort. Just outside the Port area there were tons of vans….Nice Vans! Relatively new Toyota Mini Vans in Great Shape with Cold A/C. We were greeted by someone who asked us where we wanted to go and we said the cable car. He said it was 60.00 total round trip for up to 5 people and the driver would wait at the cable car to take us back or for 80.00 he would take us to the fort and on a city tour. We opted for the 80.00 option and headed to the Cable car. When we arrived we were approached by a guide who worked there who said for 25.00 he would go up with us and show us all the sights and get us some great pictures so we said yes. The ride up was beautiful and the view from the top was breathtaking. Our guide took some pics of us and then a local came over and he had us stand in different poses with the Christ the Redeemer statue in the back to get some cool pics. After the pics were done the local said I never ask for money for taking pictures but ask that if you do any shopping you buy from me and walked us into his booth. We did buy a few things from him and then our guide took us all around the garden at the top. It really is beautiful and there is a lot we saw that we would have never known was even there without a guide. But I did feel like we were rushed by the guide. He was ready to get back down so he could do another tour. I wish I had paid him, said thank you and enjoyed a little more time enjoying the views instead of being rushed back down. When we did get back down we were hot and tired and decided to skip the Fort and City Tour and just to head back to the Port and go for a swim. We still paid the $80.00 but expected that would be the case. The pool at the Port was really nice, we got something to eat at the restaurant, went for a swim, the kids hit the water slides and then it was time to head back to the ship. We really enjoyed our time in Amber Cove.
We were in San Juan for Thanksgiving so the Forts were closed but we went out and walked by the fort, along the water, past the government buildings and through some of the local shops that were open. I did not have a Fitbit on but my daughter’s phone said we walked about 5-6 miles. There were plenty of locals selling stuff along the pier area while the ships were in port.
Last but not least was our stop in Grand Turk where we planned to do nothing but float around the pool and maybe walk down to the famous Jack’s Shack. That never happened. After 3 very, very active days in port we were ready to just chill and we did just that and had a great time hanging out together.
So I guess that pretty much wraps up this review. If anyone has any questions about the magic, these particular ports or anything else I might be able answer please feel free to ask. I will do my best to answer any questions!!
I have not had time since I got back to look at any of our pictures but if I have some good ones I will add them to this post later in the week.