Experiencing Carnival Magic in the Eastern Caribbean

The brand-new Carnival Magic leads the pack in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, Italy. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Two years ago, I took my first-ever Carnival Cruise Lines voyage: an eight-day sailing from Miami to the Eastern Caribbean aboard Carnival Breeze. I immediately fell in love with the line’s genuinely fun style of cruising; an unpretentious experience that offered far more than I ever thought possible for a price that is beyond reasonable.

Last year, I sailed with Carnival twice, once on Carnival Freedom out of Galveston, Texas; and again from Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera aboard the pretty Carnival Miracle. Now, I’m ready for another dose of FunShip cruising adventure.

On Sunday, January 31, I’ll embark my first cruise of 2016, and I’m thrilled that it will be aboard the sleek Carnival Magic, sailing out of Galveston, Texas bound for Key West, Florida; Freeport, Bahamas and Nassau, Bahamas. It’s a great opportunity to experience an itinerary that is new for me, and to sail aboard the fantastic Carnival Magic.

Carnival is also rolling out new staggered check-in times in Galveston, and I’m excited to see how it works. Staggered check-in for all Carnival sailings out of New Orleans begins this weekend, and will roll out to Miami in March.

Our Carnival Magic journey to the Eastern Caribbean takes us to Florida and the Bahamas from Galveston, Texas. Illustration courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines.

Our Carnival Magic journey to the Eastern Caribbean takes us to Florida and the Bahamas from Galveston, Texas. Illustration courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines.

Carnival Magic: The Fun Ship

Carnival Magic is the second-newest ship in the Carnival fleet. Launched in 2011, she is the more advanced sister to the Carnival Dream that debuted in 2009, and the sister to Carnival Breeze. At 1004 feet in length, she carries 3,960 guests spread across 14 passenger decks. She also sports the same refined profile as her sister ships, which I personally think is one of the most attractive overall designs Carnival has ever created. Gone are the angular edges of the Destiny/Triumph/Conquest class ships, replaced instead with sweeping curves, angled surfaces, and terraced decks.

Guests on the Carnival Magic relax in the Magic Atrium. The 130,000 ton Carnival Magic can accommodate 3,690 guests. Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines

Guests on the Carnival Magic relax in the Magic Atrium. The 130,000 ton Carnival Magic can accommodate 3,690 guests. Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines

The main difference between Carnival Magic and Carnival Breeze lies in their interior design; Carnival Magic was the last ship to be primarily designed by Carnival’s longtime interior designer, Joe Farcus. Love it or hate it, this décor was the hallmark of Carnival for many years, and I’m looking forward to seeing what whimsical Farcus touches have been added to the interiors of Carnival Magic.

Carnival Magic, like her sisters Carnival Dream and Carnival Breeze, sports a new take on the traditional Promenade Deck. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Magic, like her sisters Carnival Dream and Carnival Breeze, sports a new take on the traditional Promenade Deck. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

There’s another reason Carnival Magic and her Dream Class sisters won me over: their massive, wraparound promenade decks that also double as outdoor seating for a variety of bars and lounges. The promenade even features raised whirlpool tubs on the port side of the ship. In an age where cruise lines are removing their promenade decks, it’s nice to see Carnival make a commitment to bringing this fantastic feature onto their newest ships.

One thing I want to try: the Sky Course aboard Carnival Magic. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

One thing I want to try: the Sky Course aboard Carnival Magic. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Serenity, Carnival's dedicated Adults-only area onboard, is a popular place to relax - and best of all, it's entirely free. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Serenity, Carnival’s dedicated Adults-only area onboard, is a popular place to relax – and best of all, it’s entirely free. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Of course, Carnival Magic offers more of the things I’ve grown to love about Carnival, like the Serenity Adults Only Area, the Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez, the RedFrog Pub, the shows of Playlist Productions, and the abundance of entertainment and live music options available throughout the ship. It’s also a good chance to see the Carnival Magic prior to her FunShip 2.0 refurbishment, which will happen during her late-February drydock.

Scheduling Some Fun in the Sun

Carnival's online cruise manager allows guests to control every aspect of their upcoming cruise. I used it to book two shore excursions in Key West and Freeport.

Carnival’s online cruise manager allows guests to control every aspect of their upcoming cruise. I used it to book two shore excursions in Key West and Freeport.

Of all the cruises I’ve taken, I don’t think I can stress the importance of pre-booking your shore excursions enough. Carnival makes this remarkably easy to do through their cruise personalizer, which lets you book excursions, add gifts to your stateroom (more on that later) and check-in online.

For my excursions, I pre-booked the Key West Pub Crawl and the Brewery, City and Downtown tour in Freeport.

Now, I know my choices make me sound like a Hemingway-style lush, but I have good reasons for taking both. Thanks to the town’s most famous resident, Key West’s history is inexorably linked with Ernest Hemingway and the man’s legendary passion for booze. As much as Key West is known for Key Lime Pie, it’s also known for its unique and eclectic bar scene – and I figure there’s no better way to meet my fellow FunShip guests than by doing a bit of bar-hopping (something I’ve also never done). Plus, it finishes at 1:30 p.m., meaning there’s still time for a slice of Key Lime Pie.

There's nothing like the amazingly-blue waters of Key West, Florida. Photo © Aaron Saunders

There’s nothing like the amazingly-blue waters of Key West, Florida, and I’m excited to return for the first time in six years. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Nassau, Bahamas. March 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Magic will also whisk guests to Nassau, in the Bahamas. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

In Freeport, I wanted to do an excursion because I’ve never been there before. But, I’ve done my research: the cruise pier isn’t exactly near the town of Freeport itself. This “Brewery, City and Downtown” excursion includes a look at Freeport’s only brewery along with a tasting; a visit to a perfume factory; and some time to spend at the Port Lucaya Shopping Market.

As for Nassau, I’ve left that as a question mark for now. If you don’t see something you want to pre-book, you can always do so onboard. But pre-booking your excursion adds a financial incentive: by paying for your excursions now, you don’t have to add them to your onboard account later – and that reduces your overall bill at the end of the voyage.

Onboard Gifts: Making Carnival More Inclusive

Did you know you can order bottled water to be delivered straight to your stateroom via Carnival's online Cruise Personalizer?

Did you know you can order bottled water to be delivered straight to your stateroom via Carnival’s online Cruise Personalizer?

After taking three Carnival cruises in the past, I was shocked (shocked!) to discover I could pre-order order everything from water to soft drinks and hard liquor to my stateroom online, before my cruise. The soft drinks and hard liquor don’t do much for me, but one item caught my eye: a flat of 12 bottles of purified water for $2.99. Yes, $2.99! That’s vastly more economical than buying it at the gangway. I purchased that, along with six cans of ginger ale, which is really the only soft drink I consume with any sort of regularity. I see passengers schlepping flats of soft drinks and water onto cruise ships every time I sail on a mainstream line, so it’s nice to see Carnival offer the ability to just have these items sent to your stateroom at a reasonable price.

Follow Along – Virtually!

Join us as we set sail for the Caribbean aboard Carnival Magic! Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Join us as we set sail for the Caribbean aboard Carnival Magic! Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Now that I’ve prepared for my Carnival Magic voyage to the Bahamas and Florida, the hard part begins: waiting for embarkation day to arrive! So join me as I sail from Galveston to the Eastern Caribbean for a week of FunShip adventure!

Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Magic in the Eastern Caribbean will begin on Sunday, January 31 from Galveston, Texas as we embark our Fun Ship for a week! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

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