What’s new, what’s not, on the new Carnival Magic…a report from the inaugural voyage

Third of three reports

If you cruise on the new Carnival Magic, what you will see is:

Carnival’s first Italian restaurant, first Caribbean pub, first draught beer labeled just for Carnival, first ropes course, a host of family deck games, and three flashy production shows.

CarnMagicSportsWeb11 New interior designs make the ship brighter and more cheerful than its sister Carnival Dream (2009). There are more outdoor activities than on Carnival ships past.

What you won’t see, says Carnival president Gerry Cahill, is a ship that is more luxurious than the vessels Carnival passengers are familiar with.

The best Carnival ship ever built? Yes. Highfalutin? No.

Passengers are from Middle America
“We are not fancy,” says Cahill. “Everybody else wants to be luxury. We do not. We are not going to change our stripes. Our guest is Middle America. We are not moving upscale.”


So, don’t look for freshly squeezed orange juice in the morning buffet line or bottles of hair conditioner in your cabin bathroom. They’re not there. Neither are the menu items from the days of celebrity chief Georges Blanc, who once brought sophisticated recipes to Carnival ships. Meals on Carnival offer variety, are well prepared from quality ingredients. They are tasty, but they are not fancy.

Thoughts from my Carnival Magic cruise:

Expect magic acts on this ship

One of three production shows features magician Jason Byrne, a Las Vegas performer who arrives on stage in a poof of illusion. As the curtain is pulled away he is seated in a helicopter. (The other two productions are a 1970’s music show and a game show.)

I doubt that your cruise experience will be as magical as mine. I was seated in the audience at the naming ceremony when out of nowhere I was hit by a flying nipple. It was attached to a pacifier ring that struck me in the head. After the ceremony I asked around, wondering if any member of the media was missing such a thing.

Turns out the pacifier was propelled to my head from the balcony above by Kye Heald, now 2, daughter of popular Cruise Director John Heald. John later explained that when he came on stage his daughter was so excited that out popped the pacifier. She does have her father’s gift for projection.

Carnival’s Italian captains decorate restaurant

Cucina del Capitano (Captain’s Kitchen) is the first alternative restaurant on Carnival ships beyond their steakhouses.

On Magic, Carnival has placed Cucina in the space above the Lido restaurant, which is on deck 10. If you’ve been on the Carnival Dream, you may remember the pasta stations and tables up a stairway from the Lido. That’s where Cucina now serves lunch and dinner. For lunch, you get in line, order from a set menu – including pasta, an arugula salad and lightly breaded calamari – then go to a table and wait for your order. A waiter will bring beer if you want. Mine found an Italian Peroni.

At dinner, lights are lower, waiters occasionally break into song, and some of the recipes come from the families of Carnival’s Italian captains, whose private black and white photos cover restaurant walls. On my cruise, a casually dressed captain Giovanni Cutugno stopped by during dinner for a quick chat at each table. Diners may order salmon and steak, but this is mostly a pasta place with carafes and bottles of wine.

Ciao, grazie, prego, arrivederci

During Magic’s inaugural, Cucina waiters were working on pronouncing Italian.

“How’s my accent?” asked a waiter from Slovakia. “They asked us to try, and I am learning,” he said, with a big smile. So, if you are aboard the Magic in the Med this summer, and you see a tall man, with a shaved head and a nametag from Slovakia, tell him his Italian accent is improving.

Carnival’s Gerry Cahill said that putting alternative restaurants on Carnival ships is complicated by a consumer-oriented policy to limit the number of alternatives in which passengers are charged an additional fee. “Our guests say they don’t want to be nickeled and dimed,” he said.

Maybe that’s why the evening fee to dine at Cucina – free at lunch – is only $10 for adults, $5 for children.

Will Cucina be added to other Carnival ships?

“Yes, maybe,” said Cahill. He added that hardware retrofitting is costly and requires ship time in dry dock.

Cove balcony cabins and cabins for singles

Cove balcony cabins, popular on Carnival Dream, line passenger Deck 2  on Carnival Magic. If the daily hits to my Website, TheTravelMavens.com, are any indication, cruisers are fascinated by Carnival’s cove balcony cabins, which get a good view of the ocean sloshing by.

Will Carnival add cabins for singles to its ships? Cahill said there are no plans for cabins for singles on Carnival ships. “Our price structure is set up for 2-4 people in a cabin,” he explained.

Go smokeless to the piano bar, order a drink

At night, in a lounge called Play It Again, Carnival Magic offers a piano bar where cigarette smoking is prohibited, something that hasn’t been available on a Carnival ship since the Paradise, which originally sailed as a ship that was totally smoke-free, for passengers and crew.

“We will see how it works,” said Donato Becce, the Magic’s hotel director. That means Carnival will be watching, gauging the popularity of the smokeless Play It Again, because in times past, smokeless meant fewer patrons and fewer drinks sold at the bar.

On the inaugural cruise, Play It Again was packed tight after dinner with passengers who were singing along with entertainer Ron Pass.

If you want this piano bar to remain smoke-free, vote with your feet and your wallet.

Cruising the Caribbean from Texas

The  Carnival Magic is sailing for the rest of the summer in the Mediterranean out of Barcelona before heading to Galveston, Texas, for Caribbean cruises in the fall.


David Molyneaux is editor of TheTravelMavens.com (http://www.thetravelmavens.com) where he writes and blogs about cruise and travel news, with tips from his trips around the world.

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