I’m a long time reader, infrequent poster, and first time reviewer (please be gentle!). I devoured everything I could find here before our cruise and wanted to give a little bit back.
We just got back from a 6 night NYE cruise on Carnival Magic. We went to Half Moon Cay, Amber Cove, and Grand Turk. About us – we are early to mid-forties with a 15 yo son and 13 yo daughter. This was cruise number 8 for the family (my wife and I have done a few more without the kids). This was our first time on Carnival as a family after 4 on Disney and 3 on Royal Caribbean (all Oasis class.)
I wanted to give a quick rundown of things that our family cares about (and doesn’t care about) on a cruise so you have some context for the comments. Since we all travel so differently things that might matter to you (like an amazing spa or chair hogs) make no difference to me.
Things we care about:
Breakfast & lunch quality/options
Main dining room quality/variety
Things we don’t really use:
Pool loungers (we prefer to hang on our balcony or in adult area)
Anything after midnight (other than sleep!)
Overall, we had a very enjoyable trip and Carnival compared very well to our experiences on RCCL. We would cruise Carnival again on the right itinerary/price. We felt that there was much more in common than different between the two lines. This won’t be a full play by play but happy to answer any questions you might have.
We stayed at Embassy Suites Ft. Lauderdale and we wouldn’t stay there again. The staff and location were great but the rooms really show their age (who doesn’t have HDTV in the rooms now?) and it was just way too crowded.
We had a port arrival time of 12:00-12:30 at Port Everglades and a boarding group of A02. We had to check out of our hotel at 11:00 so we just headed over to the port to try our luck. We arrived at the port around 11:30 or so and they just waved us through. No lines, quick check in, and we were on the ship by 11:45. Couldn’t have been smoother.
Debarkation was a bit less smooth. They had to stop the process a couple of times and were running about an hour behind the expected time. Once we got off there was a long customs line but it kept moving. No major issues getting an Uber – took maybe 15 minutes from clearing customs until we were on the road.
We had a balcony cabin and inside cabin on deck 8 toward the front of the ship on the starboard side. I was concerned about noise coming from the promenade deck/hot tubs but it generally was a non issue. We also couldn’t see the promenade when seated which was nice. I would be careful about getting a cabin above the smoking section (think it was port side aft) and wouldn’t want to be on deck 6 with the noise/privacy. I’d also recommend avoiding rooms near the atrium as there was quite a bit of noise in that area.
Cabins were plenty spacious, beds were comfortable, showers were tiny but sink/bathroom storage was good.
Cabin steward was good and we got twice daily service (he asked us to fill the form).
TVs are pretty small but that isn’t a big deal for us.
Balcony is pretty small as well – miss having the footstools from RCCL – but adequate.
I don’t like the layout of the Lido Marketplace – seemed to encourage long lines. I much prefer the different stations on RCCL. We avoided the Lido after the first day there for breakfast other than to grab some desserts (the cakes were pretty good – much better than RCCL or Disney.)
We went to the dining room for breakfast most days and the service was good – good variety, made to order, reasonably fast. That was really the first cruise we’ve done that and we will probably do that more going forward.
Loved the variety of free options at lunch – had lunch twice at the pasta bar, had more Guy’s burgers than we can count (we thought they were great – esp. the fries), had a few tacos/burritos from Blue Iguana (also really good) and even got some BBQ from Guy’s (it was OK – nothing to write home about but I still ate it.)
My pizza loving son hated the pizza – had one piece and never went back for more. RCCL win’s big here in his eyes.
My ice cream loving daughter loved the 24/7 ice cream options – can’t get that on RCCL.
Main dining room was OK. The service was good and fast (which we like). The quality was hit or miss but we didn’t go hungry.
We are moderate drinkers and were paying by the glass. We brought on our two bottles of wine (and ordered two more at dinner). We also ordered a liter of whiskey for the room.
Drink prices seemed reasonable compared to other cruise lines.
Bar service could be quite slow at times.
The candy straws are pretty terrible – get very floppy before I could even finish a drink. Not a fan.
We enjoyed the production shows – thought the cast in general was pretty good and we liked the music. We saw 88 Keys (although technical difficulties meant they basically just did the singing), Flick, and America Rocks.
Simon London was the cruise director – I’m not sure that guy ever sleeps but he seemed to do a good job engaging the crowd. CD doesn’t really play a major role in my enjoyment of the cruise but we liked him well enough.
Loved the piano bar – Scott Lyles was amazingly talented. Ended up there a few nights.
We didn’t make it to the 18+ comedy (tried once but couldn’t get seats) but saw both comedians do the PG shows and they were entertaining.
The ship is showing it’s age a bit. I know it spends it’s life in salt water but I was surprised at the amount of surface rust all over the hull, rails, etc. I remember constantly seeing people on Disney touching up the paint during the week and didn’t see any of that on Carnival. It didn’t really detract from the vacation but it is very noticeable.
Interior finishes are also a bit worn but it was much less noticeable. Again, didn’t really impact the trip for us.
The pools were always very crowded but I think that is just part of cruising.
Really liked the promenade on Deck 5 and you could always get a lounger on that deck (at least on the shady side of the boat).
We didn’t love how small the jogging track was so we just used Deck 5 for our sea day walks and it worked fine.
Seemed to have plenty of elevators for the crowd although being in the middle of stuff on Deck 8 (and eating lots of cheeseburgers) meant we usually took the stairs to everything.
Never felt overly crowded except for the buffet and the pool deck.
Casino was pretty smoky – we generally tried to avoid the whole area.
We liked Red Frog Pub – played a few board games, shuffleboard, foosball
Trivia could be hard to get seats on occasion but generally the space was large enough
Sports deck was fun – water slides were OK, kids loved the ropes course, played some mini-golf.
Serenity deck was nice – went up there for a couple of hours on a port day when our balcony faced another ship on the dock.
Again, overall it was a fun trip. Had just as much fun as the RCCL trips (and therefore a bit higher fun/$ ratio). Our next cruise is on NCL (Baltics 2020) but I am sure we will be back to Carnival again.
Thanks to those who made it this far and if I missed any topics or you have questions let me know.