CARNIVAL MAGIC’s U.S. Debut, Part Four

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Carnival Cruises

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sidling up to the VALOR at Cozumel.

Cozumel has some of the most beautiful water in the world but when we arose, that breathtaking blue was occupied by no less than three NCL ships, RCI’s FREEDOM OF THE SEAS, CARNIVAL CONQUEST and CARNIVAL VALOR in addition to the freshly-arrived MAGIC. The resulting 30K influx of visiting passengers and crew was a good reason to spend a leisurely day on board our air conditioned ship.

Grand Carnival Canyon, Cozumel.
Double fun at Cozumel: CARNIVAL MAGIC (left) meets CARNIVAL VALOR (right).

Even so, we went ashore for a few minutes to get some photos.

Platform of ships at Cozumel.

A good percentage of fellow passengers also decided to stay on board and enjoy the Water Works aqua park, which was all the more alluring in the heat and humidity of Cozumel. From the top of the slide platform, there was a fantastic perspective of the neighboring ships.

Drenched! from above.
CARNIVAL MAGIC drenching from below.

As the slides gushed forth their cargo of thrill-seekers, the “Drencher” fulfilled its task by repeatedly dumping a cascade of water atop frolickers in the Aqua Play splash park below.

Fun-nelfest.

Further aft at Sportsquare, putters enjoyed the nine hole mini-golf course while a braver breed scaled the ropes course.

Outdoor exercise deck.

Unfortunately, I never got around to trying the outdoor fitness area but I love the concept.

Tandoori tiempo.

While exploring, we stumbled upon the Tandoori station in the far aft/starboard portion of the Lido Restaurant and dove into its fantastic spread of curries, basmati rice, lentil and chicken dishes. It’s the “real deal” for fans of Indian cuisine and even has a few Middle Eastern treats like hummus. Note to naysayers:  anyone who questions the quality of Carnival’s cuisine must not have sailed with the line in recent years.

VALOR vacates.

Horn bellowing, CARNIVAL VALOR led the floating exodus from Cozumel.

Ciao to CONQUEST!

We followed the VALOR in tandem with the CARNIVAL CONQUEST, which was berthed on the opposite side of RCI’s FREEDOM OF THE SEAS. I must say, those RCI ships have the gutsiest whistles afloat and it was nice to witness a hearty exchange between the rival ships. For a while, the MAGIC followed the VALOR and CONQUEST before overtaking both in the late evening.

Cucnia del Capitano, facing forward from port.

In the interim, we got to try the Italian dining venue, the 117 seat Cucina del Capitano, overlooking the Lido from aft Deck 11. While Carnival is American-owned, the company is steeped in Italian culture and lore.  Most of the post-FANTASY class newbuilds were constructed in Italy and most of the senior officers on its early ships were Italian (many of whom worked with the legendary Italian Line).

Stephen Card painting of SS MARDI GRAS on its first cruise to Israel in 1973.

The decor is a combination of traditional Italian trattoria (checkered tablecloths, rustic chairs and warm wood tones) with archival Carnival imagery of the first three ships (MARDI GRAS — ex EMPRESS OF CANADA, CARNIVALE — ex EMPRESS OF BRITAIN and FESTIVALE — ex TRANSVAAL CASTLE). It’s great to see Carnival finally saluting its past and hopefully the trend will continue with future ships. On that topic, here are links to some key decorative artifacts from the beautiful MARDI GRAS and CARNIVALE that were recently rescued from the shipbreakers in India:

SS MARDI GRAS, ex EMPRESS OF CANADA glass screen
SS CARNIVALE, ex EMPRESS OF BRITAIN glass screen
Tourist Class Dining Room Doors from SS CARNIVALE, ex EMPRESS OF BRITAIN

What many people do not know is just what exquisite ships the first three Carnival vessels were. Although they lacked many of the modern facilities of today’s mega ships, they were extraordinarily well built and filled with classic elements of etched glass, burled woods, nickel and brass.

Roll out the barrel...

Dinner in Cucnia del Capitano is an incredibly reasonable $12 per person. For an additional $26, one can purchase a tall carafe of chianti, which is dispensed from a large oak barrel on wheels.

Beginning with bread and booze.

Toasted bread is served with roasted garlic, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese in addition to olive oil, balsamic vinegar and butter.

Magical minestrone.

My Italian dining odyssey began with a savory minestrone topped with Parmesan and fresh basil. A big “Hvratska!” to the many Croatian waiters who over indulged us with attentive service and a “Volaré” serenade.

Melanzane parmigiano.

Had I realized just how big the entrée would be, I might have backed off my delicious eggplant parmigiana appetizer.

Antipasti della Cucina.

Tom enjoyed a tasty Antipasti della cucina.

Gigantic pollo parmigiano.

My pollo parmigiana must have come from an ostrich, the breast was so large. I rarely don’t finish a plate but this one filled me up half way through. Absolutely delicious, though…

Apple tart dolci.

And, just too good to resist, my requisite apple tart — a staple dessert in varying forms in all Carnival dining venues.

The penultimate night marched on with the final performance of the quirky, game show-themed “Win” in the Showtime Theater; comedy by John Wesley Austin and Mutzie in the Spotlight Lounge; 90s and Old School Rock in the Vibe Nightclub; and a screening of “50 First Dates” in the Seaside Theater.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lanai buttress.

Once again rested, I parted the curtains to a brilliant sun on our final day at sea. The fully-encircling Lanais on the DREAM class are a fantastic feature reminiscent of the grand promenades of liners past but with the added coup of six buttresses that jut over the sea (four of which are equipped with jaccuzzis).

Galley tour begins.

At 10:30, I joined the press group for a special tour of the MAGIC’s galley. The bakers were dressing plates for the lunch dessert, a caramelized banana cream pie….

Pasta cauldron.

…and, just as we passed, a giant cauldron of fresh pasta boiled over. The entire galley-to-plate process is a mind boggle but Carnival has it so finely honed that it appears relatively effortless.

Wheelhouse, facing port.
Toda forca.

Our next stop was the bridge, where we were given a chance to see the “brain” of the CARNIVAL MAGIC in action.

Aft from port Deck 9.

Another nice architectural touch with the DREAM class are the open platforms overlooking the bow. On forward Deck 9, wings extend out from above the bridge, affording a nice view of the ship plunging through the sea.

Southern Lights chicken casear.

Since we hadn’t yet had a sit down lunch in the dining room, we headed to the aft-situated Southern Lights where we both ordered a delicious chicken Caesar salad. Since I wanted to also sample the Wok in the Lido Restaurant, I kept it at that.

Lido, facing aft from starboard.

Even at peak dining times, the 826 seat Lido Marketplace never felt overly crowded. The casual dining venue is home to a number of “action stations”, including a great salad bar, warm entrées, a deli, Mexican, Indian and desserts.

Chande-lido!

The aft portion of the Lido has a small atrium topped with three huge chandeliers.

Chocolate fondue.

While it would have been tempting to park at the Chocolate Extravaganza’s fondue, I bee-lined it to the Wok station.

Wok happenings.

There is a reason why a line extends out to the pool area at lunchtime for the Wok station. Guests select a variety of veggies and two types of noodles that are added to any combination of fresh shrimp, chicken or pork in a stir frying frenzy.

Stir fry guy.

Seasonings included authentic black bean sauce, Thai barbeque and potent Szechuan.

Chicken with black bean and scechuan sauce.

My only regret was not having tried the Wok sooner. I missed sampling the Mexican station but figured two lunches was enough for one day.

"I'm leaving on a Fun Ship..."

Packing, the gym and trying to post one of these blogs took up the rest of the day. At dinner, we bade farewell to new friends as the waiters all gathered for a weepy “I’m Leaving……On a Fun Ship” rendition.

A wake all night.

A last walk around the decks, more packing, then lights out…

Sunday, November 20, 2011

That was fun ya'll...

In the madness of retrieving luggage and filing through customs lines in cruise terminal, it was once again apparent that the CARNIVAL MAGIC is a really, really big ship. What a testament it was to clever design that during the course of the prior week, we rarely felt the crunch of 3,700 fellow souls.

Well done Carnival and, indeed, much fun!

End of CARNIVAL MAGIC’s U.S. Debut Sea Treks Blog

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Special Thanks: Martin Cox, Jennifer De La Cruz, Vance Gulliksen, Tom Nicolai

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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