To jump start a frantic documentation spree of the public areas on Deck 5, we stopped for a cappuccino ($2.95 for a tall; $3.50 for a grande) at the Plaza Coffee Bar. I don’t mind paying for a cappuccino with some flavor and Carnival’s Viennese Coffeeshop brews have it!
With the overnight guests off the ship at 10:00, there was just a short turn-around before the inaugural passengers began to file on board. After covering a few cabin categories (a forthcoming “Decked! series will feature these and much more), much to the relief of the busy stewards, we switched to the upper decks. The Beach Pool has an incredible amount of open space for deck chairs and al fresco casual dining. At night, it becomes the Seaside Theater with free popcorn and deck blankets. The Beach Bar and 24 hour Pizzeria (excellent pizza, by the way) are adjacent in addition to the Lido and outdoor Cafe.
In addition to the expanded WaterWorks on forward Deck 14 (more on that later), the CARNIVAL MAGIC introduces an outdoor SportsSquare on midships Deck 12 with a Sky Track ropes course, dual level mini-golf, a jogging track and the industry’s first open air exercise equipment.
Although its colors are a bit more restrained, the MAGIC’s Atrium is very much like those of the DESTINY, CONQUEST and SPLENDOR classes with its soaring glass skylight, panoramic elevators and fiberoptic lighting.
As the ship began to fill, we grabbed lunch in the Lido, then headed ashore to explore a bit more of Galveston.
The waterfront restaurants and cafes were agog with oglers as the MAGIC towered impressively overhead.
This was our chance to pay a visit to the historic ELISSA at the Texas Maritime Museum. For $8 per person, admission includes a screening of a documentary about the ship that details her painstaking rescue from Greek scrappers and the tow to Galveston for one of the most thorough sailing ship restorations ever undertaken (tagged at $4.2million).
Even though she would fit snugly in one of CARNIVAL MAGIC’s lido areas, the ELISSA has two full decks to explore, with open teak under a canopy of masts and rigging, a large hold, officers’ quarters and engine room.
Remarkably, the ship’s original builder’s plate was left intact, even during the ELISSA’s downtrodden years as a Greek smuggling ship.
The Strand is a short walk from the museum and lined with picturesque Victorian era buildings that survived the 1900 Storm. Restored in the 1980s and 1990s, the district contains once of the U.S.’ largest concentrations of Victorian iron front property.
Glad to have experienced more of Galveston than just a mere coach or cab ride to embark the ship, I returned to the CARNIVAL MAGIC in the late afternoon.
After dropping off the cameras, it was time for a restorative workout in the ship’s outstanding fitness center. Throughout the week, the gym provided a perfect antidote for all the eating and drinking. And it was never crowded…
The press group met for cocktails in the Play It Again Sam Piano Bar, where we were joined by Carnival’s senior cruise director, blogmeister and unofficial “Secretary of State”, John Heald. Heald had spent the prior day emceeing Maroon 5, greeting VIPs, making speeches and basically charming the hell out of everyone. He has also been spending time at the newbuilding CARNIVAL BREEZE, which is under construction at Monfalcone. Although mum with specific details, he did hint that there will be several new features to look for on the third DREAM class ship. At one point, Captain Cutugno came in for a quick visit and we soon learned that an ongoing problem with the MAGIC’s stern thruster would mean our call at Costa Maya would be aborted in favor of spending two days in Progreso where divers would make repairs.
Another excellent dinner in the Northern Lights began with a sublime Gazpacho Andalusia that was poured atop finely chopped onions, cilantro and peppers. Premium Class quality on a Mass Market ship.
A glazed creme brulée was the perfect coda to the first official ex-Galveston passenger dinner on board the CARNIVAL MAGIC.
After dinner, we worked our way around the Deck 5 Lanai with its buttressing jaccuzzis and nooks and crannies filled with revelers. And up forward, we clung to the rails for a spectacular, wind-whipped view of the stars.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Nothing but nothing beats a long, much-needed sleep in! I arose in time to join the press group at the RedFrog Pub for lunch. The 100 seat, island-themed watering hole serves up Caribbean-style snacks and brews, including ThirstyFrog Red, a private-label draught beer custom-brewed for Carnival. On the MAGIC’s maiden voyage last spring, so much of it was guzzled that extra supplies had to be specially flown to the ship in Italy.
Our host, Vance, ordered up two 101 ounce tubes of beer ($25.75) and baskets of dishes (priced at $3.33 a piece) that included Bahamian conch salad, grouper fingers, firecracker Jamaican chicken wings, and more.
RedFrog Pub also serves top-rated Caribbean rums, a collection of the region’s best beers and an assortment of tropical cocktails and mojitos.
Emboldened or perhaps just inebriated by our visit to RedFrog, we were off to Deck 14 and the WaterWorks aqua park with its 312 foot long Twister spiral water slide (the yellow one) and Drain Pipe funnel type slide (orange).
Now I know what it feels like to be shot through the equivalent of a wet, serpentine cannon — this may be the ultimate shipboard thrill ride but it is definitely not for the fragile of body or mind!
After stumbling out of the troughs at the end of each waterslide, Serenity beckoned. The adults-only sanctuary atop Deck 15 is a wonderful retreat with cushioned seating, deck chairs and hammocks.
Since my traveling companion, Tom Nicolai, is a “platinum” status cruiser with over ten Carnival sailings, our cabin was the recipient of a complimentary late afternoon tray of canapés.
Our third dinner was yet another feast par excellence, capped off with a stunning caramelized apple puff pastry to rival any dessert at sea.
In addition to top quality cuisine, Carnival offers some of the best entertainment afloat. The MAGIC’s three deck Showtime Theater can accommodate 1,349 guests and features comfortable seating with overall good sightlines (avoid sitting behind the ten support pillars) and dazzling effects.
The energetic, talented and well-rehearsed Carnival Magic Dancers, Magic Showband and lead singers Monquez Pippins and Adriane Hall performed “The Groove Line”, a tribute to funky 70s music.
The show brought down the house in a deluge of confetti.
End of Second Post. Much More To Come….
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Special Thanks: Leah Cast, Martin Cox, Jennifer De La Cruz, Vance Gulliksen, Tom Nicolai
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."