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dctravel

Family Cruise on the Carnival Magic Review (8 Day Southern)

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The day after a cruise is always the hardest. I woke up this morning with nobody to greet me but my alarm clock :(. To make myself feel better, I thought I would start a review of our just completed 8 day Southern Caribbean adventure on the Carnival Magic. I like to do these reviews for a few reasons. First, it lets me put down (in writing) our memories, which I then will print and stick in our photobook. Second, I love reading other people's reviews and I hope that I can add something the CC community by providing my thoughts and recollections. You can have a look at my other review linked in my signature below.

 

To start, we traveled as a party of 5. My wife, my son (B; age 8), my daughter (L; age 11), and my mother-in-law. We had two cabins on the Lido deck. Not next to each other, but just a few doors apart. We divided into a girls room and a boys room (for cost reasons). We love staying on Lido as it give us direct access to so many events and is not far from the water slides and the mini-golf, two of my kids favorite activities on board. This was our second time on the Magic for my wife, the kids, and I. It was also the first time on Carnival for my MIL. She has been a Princess/RCCL cruiser in the past. We flew down on Friday evening from Baltimore and stayed in Dania Beach at the Home2Suites. It was prefect for our needs, with extra space, free breakfast, and free parking. They offer a shuttle to the cruise port, but we rented a car from Alamo instead. We picked it up at the airport and dropped off at the Eller Drive facility the morning of the cruise. We got a little lost finding the drop of point, but after a course correction, we found the process to be easy and simple. It also gave us flexibility to explore on Friday, which included the Disney Character Warehouse at Sawgrass, dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, and ice cream at Jaxsons!

 

I paid for FTTF for both rooms (booked about 2 months apart, as after I got it for the first room, it was sold out again). We arrived at Alamo about 10 am, dropped the car and got right on a shuttle. The Celebrity Equinox was also in port with us and we shared the shuttle with a family going on that ship. We were the first drop off and we were through the line and on the ship quickly, with only about a 5 minute wait in the waiting area before groups were boarded. I love FTTF because you get immediate access to your cabin, so we dropped off our stuff and started exploring an old friend.

 

More in a bit, as I have to run to a meeting!

 

dctravel

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Thanks everyone. Let me quickly talk about day 1 before I head home for the day. Boy am I missing the level of service from the cruise. Why won't anyone say hi to me in the hallway or come collect my empty coffee cup ;).

 

This was our second time on the Magic. We generally found the ship to be in excellent condition and the staff friendly and cheerful. I agree with a recent poster that the carpet in places (especially around the forward stairs and all of the elevators) is showing wear, but then again these areas get pretty beat up between luggage carts and all of the foot traffic. For the age of the ship, I thought that things were generally good. There are people out cleaning in public spaces constantly and most have a smile on their face.

 

Once we dropped our stuff in our rooms, we briefly met our steward, Ketut (same as John Heald's? :)). He was very friendly and immediately learned our names. We opted for evening service, as he cleaned between 6 and 9 and we had early (6 pm) seating for dinner. After dinner most nights, I went back to the room to drop off notebooks, card games, or extra food (dairy free cookies and brownies made for my son, more on that in the next post) and the room was always done. He did a great job, even though it seemed like he had the whole port side of Lido deck from the laundry room to the front of  the ship. That is a lot of cabins!

 

We then spend time refreshing ourself with the ship and getting lunch. Guys burgers and Blue Iguana for us! Both were delicious. We then played some mini-golf, had some pictures taken, and visited with the Maitre D in the Northern Lights. We were eating in Southern Lights, but all special requests are done in Northern Lights at about 1:30 that first day. Since my son and I both have allergies (different allergies), we wanted to pre-order our dinners for that evening. After we placed our orders, it was time for a little more wandering and the muster drill. Done in the theater for us, it was efficient and over in about 30 minutes. Of course, some folks tried not to go, which slowed down the process. Then it was sail away time (deck party!) and time to get ready for our first dinner. 

 

Gotta run home now, more either this evening or tomorrow. I promise the pace will pick up as we move forward, but please ask any questions you have!

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Following this one of cruises we are considering for August 2020 for my parents 

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6 hours ago, dctravel said:

Thanks everyone. Let me quickly talk about day 1 before I head home for the day. Boy am I missing the level of service from the cruise. Why won't anyone say hi to me in the hallway or come collect my empty coffee cup ;).

 

This was our second time on the Magic. We generally found the ship to be in excellent condition and the staff friendly and cheerful. I agree with a recent poster that the carpet in places (especially around the forward stairs and all of the elevators) is showing wear, but then again these areas get pretty beat up between luggage carts and all of the foot traffic. For the age of the ship, I thought that things were generally good. There are people out cleaning in public spaces constantly and most have a smile on their face.

 

Once we dropped our stuff in our rooms, we briefly met our steward, Ketut (same as John Heald's? :)). He was very friendly and immediately learned our names. We opted for evening service, as he cleaned between 6 and 9 and we had early (6 pm) seating for dinner. After dinner most nights, I went back to the room to drop off notebooks, card games, or extra food (dairy free cookies and brownies made for my son, more on that in the next post) and the room was always done. He did a great job, even though it seemed like he had the whole port side of Lido deck from the laundry room to the front of  the ship. That is a lot of cabins!

 

We then spend time refreshing ourself with the ship and getting lunch. Guys burgers and Blue Iguana for us! Both were delicious. We then played some mini-golf, had some pictures taken, and visited with the Maitre D in the Northern Lights. We were eating in Southern Lights, but all special requests are done in Northern Lights at about 1:30 that first day. Since my son and I both have allergies (different allergies), we wanted to pre-order our dinners for that evening. After we placed our orders, it was time for a little more wandering and the muster drill. Done in the theater for us, it was efficient and over in about 30 minutes. Of course, some folks tried not to go, which slowed down the process. Then it was sail away time (deck party!) and time to get ready for our first dinner. 

 

Gotta run home now, more either this evening or tomorrow. I promise the pace will pick up as we move forward, but please ask any questions you have!

Leaving Sept 14th 2019 on the 8 day cruise. Should be same ports you stopped at. Looking forward to more. I know you said Muster drill was quick and in doors, what time did they run it?

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9 hours ago, phoneman69 said:

Leaving Sept 14th 2019 on the 8 day cruise. Should be same ports you stopped at. Looking forward to more. I know you said Muster drill was quick and in doors, what time did they run it?

 

When I was on 2 weeks ago the muster drill was a half hour before departure time.

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We had Ketut on our July 20th cruise on the Magic.  We loved him!  And being on the Lido deck was pretty nice.  The kids got ice cream every time we left the room! 

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How was the rental car return?  We are thinking of flying in and staying a couple days in Pompano Beach - our favorite place.  Have been toying with getting UBER from the airport and then again the morning of the cruise.  Husband brought up the possibility of renting a car at the airport.  Is the rental place close to the pier?  Do they provide a shuttle?

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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16 hours ago, phoneman69 said:

Leaving Sept 14th 2019 on the 8 day cruise. Should be same ports you stopped at. Looking forward to more. I know you said Muster drill was quick and in doors, what time did they run it?

It was about 3:30, although many people started heading down a little earlier because they kept making announcements that it was coming. They scan you in electronically now, so that process was quite fast! Being inside is so much better than standing in the hot sun on deck :).

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26 minutes ago, Pug Lady said:

We had Ketut on our July 20th cruise on the Magic.  We loved him!  And being on the Lido deck was pretty nice.  The kids got ice cream every time we left the room! 

He was great and very friendly! We generally avoid the ice cream, since my son has a diary allergy. My wife and my daughter "sneak" it in the afternoon when he is somewhere else or not paying attention!

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13 minutes ago, kskelley40 said:

How was the rental car return?  We are thinking of flying in and staying a couple days in Pompano Beach - our favorite place.  Have been toying with getting UBER from the airport and then again the morning of the cruise.  Husband brought up the possibility of renting a car at the airport.  Is the rental place close to the pier?  Do they provide a shuttle?

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Rental from Alamo was very easy. We used Costco to reserve our car (needed a mini-van) and choose FLL as the pickup and Port Everglades (Eller Road) as the drop off. The Port Everglades site is just outside the Port entrance closest to Terminal 26 (where the Magic docked). Alamo had plenty of shuttles to take folks to the ship. Two ships were in on Saturday, the Magic at terminal 26 and the Celebrity Equinox at 25. We were on the shuttle with folks for Celebrity. We were dropped off first right with the porters.

 

On the Florida Departures board, there is someone who has posted maps of rental car companies that have port locations. I think that Avis/Budget and Hertz do to, but I did not see their shuttles while were outside. Their prices were also significantly higher than Alamo was.

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9 minutes ago, dctravel said:

Rental from Alamo was very easy. We used Costco to reserve our car (needed a mini-van) and choose FLL as the pickup and Port Everglades (Eller Road) as the drop off. The Port Everglades site is just outside the Port entrance closest to Terminal 26 (where the Magic docked). Alamo had plenty of shuttles to take folks to the ship. Two ships were in on Saturday, the Magic at terminal 26 and the Celebrity Equinox at 25. We were on the shuttle with folks for Celebrity. We were dropped off first right with the porters.

 

On the Florida Departures board, there is someone who has posted maps of rental car companies that have port locations. I think that Avis/Budget and Hertz do to, but I did not see their shuttles while were outside. Their prices were also significantly higher than Alamo was.

Thanks.  I will look into it.  Nice to have another option.  I hate relying on others, especially UBER. 

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Ok, so I left off with dinner. I want to use this post to talk about eating in the main dining room generally, and then I will move on to each day starting with the next post. I am not one to take pictures of menus or food (sorry!), so I do not necessarily remember what I ate each night. Overall, however, I was VERY impressed with the main dining room on this cruise, both the food and the staff. Almost everything we ordered was cooked to our liking. No one complained about over or undercooked food at my table and we all like our steak cooked differently. In fact, my MIL ordered her steak "blue" one night and the chef had no problem making it for her :).

 

So, a little food background. Both my son and I have food allergies. I am allergic to legumes (beans), most specifically soy flour, which can be hidden in many things. My son is allergic to dairy (all forms, both cooked and "raw"). Neither of us is anaphylactic and my son does not have a cross-contamination issue (which means he can eat regular fries, even if they have been in the same oil as mozzarella sticks, for example). We contacted Carnival's special needs department before the cruise both through our travel agent and through another channel and let them know we were coming. We also were given the email for someone in the Miami office who took specific questions we had about ingredients in various foods (like the pizza dough or hamburger buns) and wrote back with what we could or could not eat. Our experience is that this smooths the way for successful meals, and this was no different on this cruise.

 

In fact, Chef Alapati and our service team (Watson, Gunarta, and Tri) were AMAZING! On past crusies, especially the first night, we have had dinners that stretched to 2+ hours. On this cruise, we were only there that long once, and that is because we were eating slow and hanging around. Watson and his team were on top of the food and we got served at the same pace as the surrounding tables. Chef Alapati came by our table every night to check on us and ask my son what else he could make for him that was dairy free. We took the chef up on his offer many times, with my son asking for fish sticks, cookies and brownies, a meat pizza (pizza dough, sauce, and ground beef, although chef used steak instead!). They also made him sorbet each evening, his choice of flavor! It was hands down the best food experience we had on Carnival so far, and the others have been pretty good too.

 

For ordering, the two boys ordered the night before with Watson and the girls ordered at the meal. This was never an issue and I never asked for something that the chef could not do without soy (the two exceptions were the stuffed mushrooms and the crab cakes. The breadcrumbs must have soy flour in them).

 

I should also note that we choose to eat breakfast in the main dining room each morning. Stephan, the Matre D, and Carol, his assistant were both wonderful. They put us with the same team each morning (table 503 with Joseph and Ronnie) and they took great care of us too.

 

Next post will start to talk about activities, starting with our first night and Half Moon Cay 🙂

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7 minutes ago, kskelley40 said:

Thanks.  I will look into it.  Nice to have another option.  I hate relying on others, especially UBER. 

Do consider how much it might cost to park at your hotel. We stayed somewhere with free parking, so no big deal. Plus, with 5 of us and 5 checked pieces of luggage, we needed a mini-van to get around. Using UBER could have been an option, but then we would have needed 2 of them. 

I should note that we just used a taxi on the way back to the airport. There were plenty of minivan cabs at the Port on Sunday morning, and that seemed easier than requesting an UBER XL or two UBERXs to get us back to FLL.

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There is free parking for hotel guests.  This is a small intercoastal front hotel that we used to visit every weekend when we lived in Pompano. They are right on the intercoastal with a pool and patio bar.  It is such a laid back place that whenever we are in south Florida, we stay there.

And we always use a taxi from the pier to the airport.  Just easier. 

 

Still haven't figured out if we are flying or driving.  We are just outside of Atlanta so the drive is not too bad.  And the air fare is outrageous.  We are cruising the week of Thanksgiving.  Flying down early is cheap, but flying back on Sunday after Thanksgiving, $$$$$

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Looking forward to your review. We are doing this itinerary on the Magic in February 2020. Can't wait!

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4 hours ago, dctravel said:

I should also note that we choose to eat breakfast in the main dining room each morning. Stephan, the Matre D, and Carol, his assistant were both wonderful. They put us with the same team each morning (table 503 with Joseph and Ronnie) and they took great care of us too. 🙂

Hi. Thank you for your review. We sail in a couple weeks. We are thinking of eating in the MDR for breakfast daily and didn't think we would have the option to have the staff every day. Did you request to have the same staff/table every morning?

 

On 8/26/2019 at 3:56 PM, dctravel said:

We opted for evening service, as he cleaned between 6 and 9 and we had early (6 pm) seating for dinner.

We have been on multiple cruises and the room is usually cleaned twice a day. Is this not the case with Carnival? Also, I am curious did you get towel animals every day? Thank you for your time. 

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1 hour ago, icedancer43 said:

Hi. Thank you for your review. We sail in a couple weeks. We are thinking of eating in the MDR for breakfast daily and didn't think we would have the option to have the staff every day. Did you request to have the same staff/table every morning?

 

We have been on multiple cruises and the room is usually cleaned twice a day. Is this not the case with Carnival? Also, I am curious did you get towel animals every day? Thank you for your time. 

For breakfast, generally it is like a restaurant and they seat you where there is availability. After a great experience the first morning, when we had preordered dairy free pancakes for my son (they were not tasty 😢), we just asked the Maitre D to seat us with the same servers. Because we had allergies, I think they blocked the table for us, and we told them roughly what time we would be there. If the same servers are something you are interested in, I would just ask. 

 

As for cabin cleaning, we had the option of morning, evening, or both. Ketut nicely pointed out which cabins were his (as I said, from the font of the ship to roughly the laundry room on the Port side), and asked if we could choose once a day. Since I knew we would be back and forth on sea days with the kids (changing for water slides, etc...), I thought evening only worked best for us. 

 

We we got towel animals every night, except for the first night. Even with two cabins, it was not always the same animal. Sometimes he made ones to match my kids stuffed animals 😊

 

 

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Looking forward to the rest of your review.  We had a good time overall on the Magic with you.  (We also flew down on Friday night from Baltimore, so we may have been on the same flight.  Did you end up with a two hour delay?)  

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2 hours ago, schittenden said:

Looking forward to the rest of your review.  We had a good time overall on the Magic with you.  (We also flew down on Friday night from Baltimore, so we may have been on the same flight.  Did you end up with a two hour delay?)  

We did not. We flew at about 11:30 on Friday. Our flight initially showed a delay, but then all of a sudden it was leaving on time. I was still standing in line waiting for hamburgers when boarding started. Everyone else boarded without me and I followed between the B and C groups (oops!). We all made it though, with food, so that was most important :).

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3 minutes ago, dctravel said:

We did not. We flew at about 11:30 on Friday. Our flight initially showed a delay, but then all of a sudden it was leaving on time. I was still standing in line waiting for hamburgers when boarding started. Everyone else boarded without me and I followed between the B and C groups (oops!). We all made it though, with food, so that was most important :).

 

Ah.  Our flight was scheduled for 3:10 pm, so we were planning to have dinner in Ft. Lauderdale.  We ended up leaving about 6:00 pm, I think.

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Following as we have the same cruise at spring break.

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Boy, working is for the birds! I need another cruise. Continuing the review:

 

When we are on a cruise, we generally gravitate toward the same activities on each sailing. This changes a bit as the kids get older, but some activities have become family tradition. The first night was a mixture of new and old for us. After dinner, we swung by our favorite haunt, the Red Frog Pub for a drink (we had also been there earlier in the day for their happy hour 1/2 price specials on beer and Caribbean cocktails). We love the Red Frog for several reasons. First, all of the cool beers are on draft, rather than in cans. Second, they have Foosball and shuffleboard, my kids favorite games on the ship. Third, because it is a small staff, they are all so friendly. In fact, we made a friend that first night in Ayana the waitress. She was awesome, always stopping to talk with both the adults and the kids. She also started to anticipate our orders, which is always a sign of being a regular.

 

The first night, we also went to the welcome aboard show. This is new for us with the kids. Simon London, the CD, was engaging and the show was a lot of fun. The kids especially loved Simon and his "Lovely Jubley" tag line. We also appreciated the sneak peak at the Playlist Production crew. That got the kids hooked for wanting to see shows later in the week. After the show, it was time for bed and our relatively early wake up in the morning for Half Moon Cay.

 

-----------Half Moon Cay-----------

I had never been to Half Moon Cay, but my parents have on Holland America and they love it. I was looking forward to a relaxing beach day, and that is what we got. We did not book an excursion or a cabana, but instead leveraged our FTTF to not have to pick a time for a "Water Shuttle" (ne tender). We ended up having breakfast in the main dining room then changing to head for shore. We picked up a shuttle quickly and were on land around 10:30 ish. The island is beautiful, but HOT. There is not enough shade in the main part of the beach. It looked like if we kept walking down away from the water shuttle stop we might have gotten to a shadier spot, but the kids just wanted in the water. We found 2 chairs near the Lobster Shack and got in the water.

 

We spend the day playing the water, on the sand, walking to the splash pad area, and enjoying the sun. Around noonish, the kids got hungry, so we found the bbq buffet area. We thought the selection was good. Hamburgers and fruit were had by all before we went back down the beach to play some more. This brings me to my chief complaint about HMC. There is not enough water to drink on the island. The only place to get water seemed to be up at the buffet. It would be great if Carnival had waiters walking around with cups and pitchers of water in addition to all the beer and cocktails they were selling. We got a bit dehydrated in the sun and wore out earlier than I expected.

 

When we were done, we wandered the ship (meh), and went back to the ship. The kids immediately wanted to go to the waterslides, so they did that with Mom and Grandma, while I chilled. Back on board time was about 3:30. After sliding for a while, we got cleaned up for dinner (elegant night), which featured lobster tail and prime rib. Both were delicious!

 

I will need to look up the show that first night, but I think it was 88 Keys. I know I missed part of it putting some toys back in the stateroom, but I had seen it before. I caught much of it, and the versatility of the Playlist Players is always amazing to me. We then visited Red Frog post show before heading in for the night.

 

 

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