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Carnival Magic Photo Review: June 16-23rd Eastern Route

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I am starting my Magic review on my blog, but also wanted to share it here. In case you'd like to follow along on the blog, here's the link to the first post in that review:

http://thelovelyvoyage.blogspot.com/2018/06/carnival-magic-june-2018-intro-and-pre.html

Introduction:

Photo Review of the Carnival Magic sailing from June 16-23, 2018.

 

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The Cruise:

Checking out St. Thomas was high on our priority list so in May 2017 we booked a 7-day Eastern Caribbean on the Carnival Magic for June 2018. This itinerary included 4 stops: Amber Cove (Dominican Republic), St. Thomas, San Juan, and Grand Turk; it also placed a sea day on either side of the 4 ports. My husband and I haven't been to any of those ports so we were very excited to explore 4 new places! We were originally booked in an oceanview on deck 7 forward overlooking the “secret deck” but I received an upsell email a few months before the cruise to get a balcony for a small price increase. I snagged it and we ended up in 6434, a port aft balcony (that’s left back for all those non-ship readers). We’ve never had a room close to the elevators and stairwell but it ended up being awesome and not too noisy. As you’ll read in the Pre-Cruise section below, we were thrown a very unexpected and frustrating curve ball the morning of the cruise that lead to a few timing and itinerary changes. It definitely wasn’t the way we wanted to start our trip but we still had a great cruise.

 

Who We Are:

We’re newlyweds! My husband and I got married in October 2017. We are both originally from the Chicago area but are living and loving life out in Iowa (Go Hawkeyes!). We're also recent first time home-owners and were looking forward to relaxing on this cruise after all the craziness of moving. We are in our mid-20s, and this was my 10th cruise and his 6th. I began cruising with my parents in 2007 and introduced my now-husband to ship life in 2015. It’s very safe to say that cruising plays a huge role in our life and we’re always looking for the next adventure.

The Equipment:

Some of the photos were taken on our Sony a5100 mirrorless digital camera, a little gift we bought ourselves since we knew we'd want to properly document our cruising adventures in the future. We also have a YI 4K Action Camera for videos and some of the pictures, including waterproof casing and head and chest mounts to get some awesome footage. The rest of the photos were either taken on an iPhone 7 or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

This Review:

This review will cover our pre-cruise experience and the cruise and ship itself, including menus, Fun Times, and lots of photos. Of course opinions will be peppered throughout but I think that I’m fair enough that the negative opinions get outweighed by the positive experiences. I don’t want to tell you “how it is,” but only give insight and explanations of the things we encountered, struggled with, and loved. That's not to say there aren't some negatives we encountered (which will be covered), but let's all take a second to realize that it's hard to complain when someone else cooks and cleans for you 7 days in a row. Oh and floating on the ocean while basking in the sun instead of working is a pretty nice benefit too.

 

Pre-Cruise:

We always fly down to Florida the day before a cruise in order to mitigate weather issues and airline delays, so we drove from Iowa to the Chicago area on Thursday night before making our way at 5am to the Midway Park Saver lot on the morning of Friday, June 15th. They charge $12 a day to park in a lot across the street from the airport and this was our second time using it. We haven't had any issues either time and would recommend it to any readers in the Chicago area flying out of Midway. We arrived to the lot, grabbed a spot, and walked over to the airport (they also have a free shuttle if needed). My carry-on bag got selected for extra screening because of my iPad, but once they checked it out, we were good to go. We waited at our gate for about an hour before boarding started, and our plane left on time with no issues (yay!). We almost exclusively fly Southwest (because I'm cheap) which allows passengers to pick their own seats when they board. Imagine our surprise and delight when we saw seats in the exit row that were open. Extra leg room, here we come!

 

Happiness from the exit row! Also, we strongly represent the Iowa Hawkeyes whenever we travel, so this won't be the last time you see our black and gold pride:

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After the brief 2.5 hours on the plane, we landed at MCO (Orlando) and headed to pick up our bags. I bought a Fly, Snooze, Cruise package from GoPortCanaveral, which was our second or third time using their company. The package includes: transportation from MCO to your hotel, hotel stay, hotel to the cruise ship, and cruise ship to MCO. We met at the designated spot in the transportation area and our shuttle was there within 10 minutes of us stepping outside. The passenger van was fine, although the air vents in the ceiling were all broken so there was constant and non-directable freezing air blowing on us for 45 minutes. I'm basically a cold-blooded animal and would live under a blanket and heat lamp if I could, so it was a less-than-comfortable drive because of that. We arrived at the Hilton Oceanfront Cocoa Beach around noon and they had a room ready for us. After dropping off our bags and freshening up, we headed downstairs to one of their restaurants at the hotel- Longboards Tiki Beach Grille. There were a ton of options on the menu and it was hard to choose, but the food was great. We ate under an umbrella and took in the warm and salty air; it was perfect and made me very happy (as the aforementioned cold-blooded reptile-type). While eating lunch, we received an email from Carnival letting us know that there was a medical emergency on the current sailing of the Magic and they needed to make a medical debark, resulting in a later arrival time into Port Canaveral. Of course I was concerned about the passenger with the medical emergency, but it didn't seem like the ship would be in too late, we were still 20+ hours out from the scheduled arrival. The email also said we'd receive more information in about 5 hours, so at this point all we could do is wait.

 

Sitting out at the Longboards Tiki Beach Grille:

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We treated ourselves to gelato at the hotel and it was pretty fantastic:

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After lunch we hiked half a mile to Publix for pop and Red Bull to carry on the ship. It was a little toasty outside, but we can't really complain when we're in Florida in June. Upon returning to our hotel, we watched TV and took a nap before waking up to eat dinner. There were huge storms rolling in so we cancelled our previous plans to walk to dinner down the beach and ordered a pizza instead. While we were waiting for the pizza to arrive, my husband went to the hotel bar to get a few drinks and said it was crazy there because only one bartender was working. Seems like a poor plan on someone's part for a Friday night. While we were eating pizza and watching TV in our room, the storms took out the TV signal for a long time and we were left feeling pretty confused why a hotel would purchase satellite in Florida given the climate. We received an update from Carnival that provided little-to-no actual information (so not really an update). The email simply said they will continue to try to make up time and to not head to the terminal in the morning until we hear from them at 9am. We kept our fingers crossed that all would work out and we'd hear good news in the morning.

Spoiler: we didn't.

 

An artsy photo to sum up our dining experience: enhance

 

UP NEXT: Saturday, June 16th, Embarkation

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I was on the cruise the week after you! I started reading on your blog because I want to read your other reviews and posts too. Keep em coming!

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Great start! I love your reviews. It was your Vista review that almost had me booking a cruise on that ship! I’m sure I said it before, but you guys are seriously the cutest couple!

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Saturday, June 16th, Embarkation Day!

 

What a cliffhanger to leave you all on from the Pre-Cruise post (although kudos to you if you read ahead on the blog!)

If you skimmed that last post and didn't read it, I suggest you click back and go through it, because who doesn't love some good drama?

 

We woke up Saturday morning and realized it's finally cruise day! We also remembered that the hotel doesn't serve complimentary breakfast (Come on, just give us some waffles and cereal...) so we dug into our stash of Belvita bars and cold-brew coffee we purchased the day before. While getting ready for the day and packing up, I received a text and email from Carnival with the heartbreaking news: Due to "an issue impacting our maximum cruising speed," the ship wouldn't be in until early afternoon. Also due to this issue, "we will be unable to sustain the required speed to deliver a four port itinerary. Consequently, we will need to cancel our call in St. Thomas." UM EXCUSE ME? So due to a broken ship, we can't go to the one place we extremely wanted to visit? At this point, the issue has nothing to do with the medical emergency that happened yesterday; it solely revolves around a poorly functioning propulsion problem and that is 100% on Carnival's shoulders. Their compensation? Onboard credit of $65 per person plus a refund of taxes and fees and previously booked shore excursions. Before anyone gets on me, I've read the ticket contract, I know that it says they have the right to change the itinerary with no compensation, I get it. But when a majority of the people we ended up meeting said they booked that cruise because of the stop in St. Thomas, I don't feel like $65 is enough compensation. In addition to this terrible news, the new check-in time is from 3-6pm, four hours after the original start time.

 

The scene looks like this: My husband is fuming and I'm really sad, and neither of us talked for a few minutes, until I realized that we have a shuttle that's supposed to pick us up at 11:15, but now we can't arrive until 3pm. My husband calls GoPortCanaveral to see what to do, and they said they aren't adjusting their schedule and they'd pick us up at 11:15. I've read enough on Cruise Critic to know what would happen in that scenario: A) we get to the port and they tell us we can't enter that early and to turn around, or B) we get dropped off at the terminal and have to sit outside for 4 hours. Neither of those sounded great so my husband called back and the suggestion was to take the shuttle to the terminal then hang out at a restaurant nearby, such as Fish Lips. I already knew those restaurants were nowhere near the terminal and after a quick maps search, discovered that they were 3 miles away, which was certainly not walking distance and I wasn't about to pay for a rideshare to sit at a restaurant for 4 hours. My husband called a third time and said we wouldn't be taking the shuttle to the pier. So now it's about 9:30 in the morning and we need to entertain ourselves until heading to the terminal. We walked on the beach (spotting the Carnival Magic heading north into port), read, played cards in the hotel lobby, and ate lunch at Longboards again.

 

The beautiful beach just outside of our hotel:

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That little speck on the horizon just right of center is the Magic slowly chugging into port:

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After some back and forth about when to leave the hotel, I decided to order a Lyft at 2pm. I've also read enough Cruise Critic to know that showing up right at 3 would be a disaster, so I decided we should get a headstart on arriving to the terminal. It's a darn good thing I did! Our driver picked us up at 2:09pm and we had a good conversation as we headed to the terminal. A few miles away from the terminal we suddenly encountered traffic and it wouldn't end until we hopped out of the car, at 3:13pm. What a mess! Our driver was great and patient and I gave him a nice tip for his time and help, especially since a 20 minute ride turned into a 64 minute "adventure." The traffic at the terminal was crazy, and there were police helping to direct cars where to go. We quickly dropped our bags off and got in line outside. It was instantly hot and we were thankful that port staff were handing out bottled water. It surprises me how many people don't know how waiting in line works, so there was a lot of frustration on my part while standing in line. You move up when there's a gap in front of you, and you don't allow a group of people to cut in line. Ugh. We waited about 25 minutes in line before making it into the terminal, at 3:45pm, and received an updated itinerary:

 

Saturday- Embarkation

Sunday and Monday- Sea Days

Tuesday- San Juan 8a-3p

Wednesday- Amber Cove 9a-6p

Thursday- Grand Turk 7a-4p

Friday- Sea Day

Saturday-Debarkation

 

I was less than thrilled to have two sea days in the beginning and only one at the end, I think we lost an hour at San Juan, and Grand Turk was the only port to not get moved around. My husband was still incredibly ticked off and wasn't happy to see the new itinerary. We're given boarding zone 25 and sat and talked to a newlywed couple for about 30 minutes before hearing our number. At 4:25pm, we were walking up the gangway and onto our floating home for the week! To end all of that drama on a positive note, I will say this is the first time in 10 cruises that a situation like this has occurred (although our honeymoon did have the entire itinerary re-written). We stepped onto the Magic and knew we were fortunate to be there and to be sailing off for 7 days of vacation, regardless of the itinerary change, and we were determined to have a good time. All of the port staff we met were friendly and patient, and we tried to give that in return. It wasn't any single crew member's fault that St. Thomas was dropped, and they probably had a nightmare of a time that morning with angry cruise passengers debarking late, so we weren't in any place to add to the frustration.

 

It was weird boarding the ship so late, and when I kept looking at my watch and realizing it was 4:30 and we hadn't done anything yet, we rushed to the Tides Aft bar to get the party started. We walked up to the bar and my husband leans over to me, asking: "Doesn't that bartender look familiar? Where do we know him from?" when the lightbulb goes on and he answered his own question: RedFrog Brewery on the Vista, where we basically lived for 50% of the time we were on the ship in November 2017 for our honeymoon. Suresh, the bartender, looks up at us and freaks out, exchanging laughs and handshakes, saying he has goosebumps and that he was excited to see us again. Now, I think it's pretty awesome to be recognized by a bartender from our last cruise 7 months ago, regardless of what that says about us. We talked with Suresh for a bit and he made us two mango "Kiss on the Lips" frozen drinks and off we went to see the ship.

 

We're finally on the ship!

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View from the aft:

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We ended up in the atrium and did some people watching. It paid off when we saw this young boy enter the atrium, stare up, and drop his jaw. His excitement and awe at seeing the ship for the first time reminded me of my first cruise and how impressive everything was- I had the exact same reaction. We eventually headed to our room, dropped off our carry-ons, and got ready to explore. While in the room, our checked luggage was dropped off, which seemed really fast but welcomed. We were the chosen ones! After visiting our room, we wandered around the ship a bit more while being 40 pounds lighter and having less shoulder strain.

 

6434 port aft balcony:

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The safe took me an extra second to find so I wanted to highlight it. The mini-fridge was in the cabinet to the left of it. We had Fun Times delivered but they were for the original boarding time plans and the entertainment schedule was for the original itinerary, but we did later receive updated copies.

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My husband isn't a big fan of the atrium decor on Carnival ships and thinks they're pretty garish, but I think it's unique:

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Exercise section next to the running track:

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SkyCourse! We finally did this for the first time and will be reviewed on one of the sea days:

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Entrance for the SkyCourse is up a level from the main deck and near the giant chess set: enhance

 

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Rain in the distance that would push the Sail Away party inside to the Atrium: enhance

 

Pretty empty Lido deck....it wouldn't stay that way for the rest of the week though! enhance

 

Muster Drill was at 6:15pm (our station was in the Southern Lights dining room) and then we walked around the ship some more. We were told that the dining facilities would all open at 7pm, and that anyone could use either dining room that night or eat in the Lido. We had Your Time Dining but weren't up for a full sit-down meal, so we went to the Lido around 7:30pm to grab dinner. The lines were ridiculous, as they only had one side of the marketplace open, and it took us 20 minutes to get through the line to even reach the food. I'm not sure if staff didn't anticipate this many people going to the Lido for dinner, but seeing these lines felt like a bad omen. After dinner we sat in the Red Frog Pub for a few hours to play cards and listen to music before walking around the ship more then heading to our room to unpack and lay down. As a piece of foreshadowing, thankfully embarkation day was the only stressful one, and the rest of the cruise was a great improvement from today.

 

We accidentally discovered this awesome staircase near the spa, which we ended up using a few more times because it was so cool:

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The cool elevator to go along with it:

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Actually a big fan of the decor in the Lido Marketplace:

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If you ever need to hold a conference on the Magic:

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Showtime Theater, which is infinitely better than the Vista's theatre:

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The "Sail Away" party. Our Cruise Director was "Cookie" and he can be spotted in the band's overhang with the red hat and microphone. Overall, he was a blast!

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The fun walkway into the Spotlight Lounge where Punchliner comedy is held:

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Looking forward to your review!

 

Thank you for reading the start!

I was on the cruise the week after you! I started reading on your blog because I want to read your other reviews and posts too. Keep em coming!

 

Thanks for reading along on the blog, I'm loving your comments! I hope your time on the ship was just as "Magical," although I did read your comment about St. Thomas being cancelled for you too! :mad:

Great start! I love your reviews. It was your Vista review that almost had me booking a cruise on that ship! I’m sure I said it before, but you guys are seriously the cutest couple!

 

You are so sweet, I really appreciate that! Thanks for coming back to read another review :D

 

Great start! Looking forward to more :)

 

Thanks so much, I hope you enjoy the rest!

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We just Booked the Magic again today,

 

Awesome, hopefully this review will get you excited about your trip :)

 

Loving your review! Looking forward to more!

 

Thank you very much! I'm eager to put more out today.

 

Thanks for sharing.

 

Thanks for reading along

Great start! I love your reviews.

 

 

That makes me so happy, thank you!

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subscribed, were on the Magic in september for the first time. Did you guys have Cheers or just paid for drinks as you go?

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Thanks for your review. I’m new to Cruise Critic.

We were on the same cruise and were equally bummed about St Thomas and agree that the OBC was not enough. I realize it covers the port taxes they didn’t have to pay, but what about my lost embark day including pre paying for Cheers for the lost 1st day.

We made the best of it but had hoped Carnival would have been a little more equitable given it was their own propulsion system issue.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

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Thanks for your review. I’m new to Cruise Critic.

We were on the same cruise and were equally bummed about St Thomas and agree that the OBC was not enough. I realize it covers the port taxes they didn’t have to pay, but what about my lost embark day including pre paying for Cheers for the lost 1st day.

We made the best of it but had hoped Carnival would have been a little more equitable given it was their own propulsion system issue.

 

I definitely think they should have reimbursed you guys more. You basically lost a day of your cruise and had the itenerary changed- plus, you had to worry about the propulsion issues on the trip. We were on the cruise after you guys and also missed St. Thomas and had the revised itenerary, but I was glad we were at least able to board on time.

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Thanks for reading along on the blog, I'm loving your comments! I hope your time on the ship was just as "Magical," although I did read your comment about St. Thomas being cancelled for you too! :mad:

 

Our cruise was wonderful! I was bummed about missing St. Thomas for a bit too, but I still had a wonderful time, the best vacation I've had in a few years. I am loving your blog and reading through your Vista review now; makes me want to do a Southern Caribbean cruise!

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