CARNIVAL MAGIC’s U.S. Debut, Part One

Join Peter Knego aboard Carnival Cruises 130,000 ton, 3,600 passenger CARNIVAL MAGIC as the ship makes her American debut in scenic Galveston. This first in a series of Sea Treks also visits some of Galveston’s attractions, in addition to providing some first impressions of Carnival’s most advanced hardware.

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Carnival Cruises

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

View from San Luis Hotel, Galveston.

Not every potential cruise passenger thinks of Galveston as a destination unto itself, which is why I joined a small press group for a somewhat frantic visit prior to boarding Carnival Cruise Line’s 130,000 ton CARNIVAL MAGIC for an overnight inaugural celebration and six night sailing to the Yucatan. Within moments of dropping off my luggage at the 30 acre San Luis Resort Spa and Conference Center overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, I was on a shuttle bus munching popcorn to a certain Glenn Campbell tune that would ring in my ears over the next two days.

Ike reminder.

Just three years prior, the 32 mile long island was besieged by Hurricane Ike, which took out a wide swath of waterfront property. Galveston has had many near misses and quite a few devastating hits over the years, including a storm in 1900 that killed 6000 and flattened a third of the island in the deadliest natural disaster in American history.

Hotel Galvez, Galveston.

We picked up more journalists at the nearby Hotel Galvez, an historic 1911-built property that has been the subject of many recent paranormal “sightings”.

Schlitterbahn wave runner in action.

Our first stop was the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark, which had largely been shut down for the winter. Huge tube slides, three kid’s activity areas and beaches are all interconnected by a winding waterway where one can just float onward to the next attraction. The indoor portion of Schlitterbahn is open year-round and includes a wave-runner ride that was awfully tempting after my long commute.

Continental DC-3 at Lone Star Air Museum.

Within moments, we were entering the Lone Star Flight Museum, the ultimate plane-lovers’ paradise with a collection of still-active war planes and a very sleek Continental Airlines DC-3. Our guide, Mitchell, had an encyclopedic command of the subject matter and an enthusiasm that this particular ship lover could relate to.

Moody's Penguins.

Moody Gardens’ trio of glass pyramids is one of the first things one sees when crossing the causeway to Galveston. We had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Aquarium with its shark tanks and tunnel, penguin tank and much more.

Moody's Rainforest.

In the Rainforest Pyramid, there was a butterfly exhibit, exotic birds, anacondas and even a few camera-shy vipers to peruse.

We really needed much more time to fully enjoy the sites but our hosts had already made a convincing argument that Galveston has much to offer families for pre and post cruise visits.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

First glimpse of CARNIVAL MAGIC.

There would be no rest for the wicked today, either. At 8:00 AM, I stumbled out of my hotel room, and, while racing down the passage to catch the elevator, spied the massive form of CARNIVAL MAGIC hovering over the Galveston skyline. Carnival’s PR team had done a brilliant job in getting the word out with the ship’s arrival making the front page of the Galveston paper, as well as ubiquitous posters, billboards and flyers welcoming the ship. Indeed, Galveston does “heart” MAGIC!

Bishop's Palace, Galveston.

Our shuttle delivered us to the beautiful Bishop’s Palace, a stone mansion that was built in 1892 for Colonel Walter Gresham, a wealthy lawyer. Designed by prominent Victorian-era architect Nicholas Clayton, it is in the American Institute of Architect’s list of top 100 buildings.

Bishop's Palace stained glass detail.

In addition to a grand staircase carved out of walnut and mahogany, the home features some remarkable stained glass windows.

Ike tree carving on Broadway.

The salt water surge created by Hurricane Ike in September of 2008 killed thousands of trees. Private donations funded the creation of hundreds of sculptures carved from the remains of the felled trees, which are now among the attractions in the city’s East End Historic District.

CARNIVAL MAGIC at Galveston.

At the Texas Seaport Museum on the Galveston waterfront, we boarded the SEAGULL II for an hour long harbor tour which provided some nice vantages of the newly-arrived CARNIVAL MAGIC.

More MAGIC at Galveston.

Who knew Galveston Harbor was full of dolphins that would tease our cameras with their fleeting breaches. The most amazing result was that every one managed to avert my shutter.

CARNIVAL MAGIC and her homeport flag.

We sped along the waterway with the Stars and Stripes whipping over our fantail.

Ghost face in the stone?

The boat turned into one alcove where an old sea captain’s home was displaced with a non-descript concrete building. According to our guide, the morning after the captain died, his angry likeness appeared on one of the concrete panels and is to this day referred to as the “ghost”.

Schooner versus Megaship at Galveston.

The gigantic, curvilinear CARNIVAL MAGIC looming over the dimunitive, 1877-built ELISSA was a nice contrast in seagoing styles. Fortunately, we would have a chance to visit the historic schooner the following day.

Atrial two step greeting.

After lunch at Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant overlooking the sea wall, we were delivered to the cruise terminal. Soon, we were stepping into the Deck 3 level of the ship’s nine story atrium as dancers welcomed us with a Texas two step.

CARNIVAL MAGIC cabin 8254.

Our Oceanview With Balcony cabin 8254 was fitted with twin beds and a convertible sofa, a writing desk, plenty of storage space (including beds high enough to tuck a suitcase under), night stands, safe, minibar and flat screen television.

CARNIVAL MAGIC cabin 8254 bathroom.
Ample samples.

The bathroom has a shower with an adjustable pulse control, sink, plenty of storage space and a fantastic array of product samples (including toothpaste, lotions, razors and much more), a marketing tool I have only seen and experienced when sailing with Carnival.

CARNIVAL MAGIC shower dispenser.

Environmentally-conscious (and let’s face it, money saving) dispensers in the shower provide shampoo and shower gel, although I’m not quite sure which is which.

CARNIVAL MAGIC cabin 8254 balcony.

With a nice view overlooking the ship’s wrap-around Lanai promenade, the balcony has two chairs, a see-through plexiglass railing and a small table.

Maroon 5 arrive.

At 3:30, we joined the throngs for a walk over to Pier 21 where the Grammy Award-winning band Maroon 5 would be performing a special concert to welcome the CARNIVAL MAGIC to Galveston. Moments after we arrived, the band came marching past us and onto the stage.

Adam Levine on the scene.

Lead singer Adam Levine is a charismatic guy who also happens to be very socially conscious. It was entertaining to watch him croon and gyrate through a growing repertoire of hits that includes “This Love”, “Moves Like Jagger” and “Wake Up Call”.

Sunset surfaces.

We beat the exodus at the end of the show and reboarded as the CARNIVAL MAGIC glinted in her first American sunset.

CARNIVAL MAGIC Spotlight Lounge, facing aft.

Before dinner, press and a slew of Carnival brass convened in the Spotlight Lounge on aft Deck 5 for cocktails and a number of commemorative plaque exchanges.

Plaque presentation with Captain Cutugno (right).

CARNIVAL MAGIC’s Messina-based captain Giovanni Cutugno is more than just a master mariner who began his Carnival career as third deck officer navigator on board the beautiful TSS FESTIVALE (ex TRANSVAAL CASTLE) in 1978. He was even the willing recipient of a Texas-sized black sombrero.

Northern Lights Dining Room, facing forward from Deck 3.

Dinner was in the midships, double deck, 948 seat Northern Lights Dining Room. Its main focal point is a trio of inverted layer cake glass chandeliers.

Northern Lights table setting.

Table settings feature salmon or black chargers, cloth napkins and stainless flatware.

Minestrone with a Northern highlight.

My first course was a tangy Minestrone Milanese with plum tomatoes, beans and pasta bathed in incandescent swirls of “Northern Light”.

Salmon entree in Northern Lights.

My Broiled Norwegian Salmon entrée came with a medley of artichokes, sun-ripened tomatoes and corn. It was absolutely delicious and on par with any Premium market cruise line offering I’ve tasted.

Dancing in the Northern Lights.

Since most attendees were on board for just one night, Carnival pulled out all the stops and unleashed the wait staff for a festive dance atop any open surface.

Lemon tart in the Northern Lights.

Dinner concluded with a splendid Lemon Tart.

Pool deck at night.

The pool area was brightly lit but most of the revelers were down in the disco, partying until dawn. We would have another six nights to enjoy life on board the CARNIVAL MAGIC, so after a short walk around the upper deck areas, retreated to Cabin 8254.

End of First Post. Much More To Come…

If you enjoyed this post and are on Facebook, please click the “like” button at the top of the page. Thank you.

Special Thanks: Leah Cast, 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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