The central atrium/lobby area is gorgeous, terrific lighting and multi-deck glass elevators soaring towards the overhead skylight. The guest relations desk and shore excursion desk are on deck 3, along with a large dance floor. A small bandstand, where live musicians perform night and day, is suspended over the dance floor. Guests can lean over the railing on all the decks above and listen to the music and watch the action below.
On deck 5 surrounding the atrium are the retail shops. Most of these are like those on other ships--Carnival-branded merchandise, clothing, jewelry, liquor, perfumes, etc. However, one new retail shop is going to be very popular with the kids--Cherry on Top. It's more than bins of colorful candy in a candy store, although that's the most eye-catching feature when you enter the shop. Cherry on Top also has cute gifts, cards, and flowers, all designed to make a special person in your life feel even more special. I can just see kids dragging their grandparents into Cherry on Top and filling up with sweets, can't you?
The thousands of kids sailing on the Carnival Magic in 2011 will also appreciate the 19,000 square feet of space dedicated just to them. Camp Carnival caters to those 2-11; Circle C is for the 'tweens ages 12 to 14; and Club O2 is for the older teens ages 15 to 17. Each group has its own set of counselors, own space, and age-appropriate activities.
Parents of young children will appreciate Carnival's Night Owls program on the Carnival Magic. This is an enhancement of the cruise line's babysitting service, and will be on all Carnival ships by mid-2011. Night Owls has three separate programs:
- Owl Jams--10 to midnight--$13 per kid (2 to 11)
- Fun til One--10 to 1--$20 per kid (6 to 8)
- Fun at Sea--till 3 am for 9 to 11 year olds
Adults will also appreciate the 22,770 square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, with its combination of fitness, wellness, workout, and personal-pampering spaces. The space is quiet and soothing, and the thalassotherapy pool, treatment rooms, and thermal suites are especially great for unwinding and ridding the body of tension and stress. The fitness facility has all the latest equipment including treadmills, bicycles, fitness machines, spinning equipment, and ellipticals.
The Hat Trick casino has all the popular table games and even some penny slots. Personally, I wish you could drop a coin in the machines and hear the "clink" as the coins fall out when you've won, but understand that using paper money and the "sail and sign" cards is much easier (and more sanitary).
A Carnival ship wouldn't be a "fun ship" without a wide variety of bars and lounges, and the Carnival Magic is no different. Many of the bars and lounges are on deck 5, and each has its own personality. The 400-seat Spotlight Lounge has a small stage and dance floor, making it perfect for comedy acts and Superstar Live Karaoke (with a live four-piece band and back-up singer). The Play It Again Piano Bar is a popular spot; quiet when the pianist is not playing, but full of fun (and singing) when he is. Vibe is the dance club, and everyone loved the lighted tables and purple mood lighting. Of course, you can find a drink at the RedFrog Pub or Ocean Plaza bars, both on deck 5.
Deck 5 isn't the only place you can find a bar on the Carnival Magic. There are several bars on the pool decks, and the Magic Bar in the deck 3 lobby is a good place to people-watch or listen to the live music. The very quiet, small Escape Bar is tucked in a corner next to the Northern Lights Dining Room and the Books & Games library.
The Carnival Magic has a large conference center area on deck 3 that can be used for meetings and weddings. Embracing modern technology, the Carnival Magic has dozens of "Fun Hubs" of computers scattered throughout the ship. The Fun Hub is a social network and shipboard Intranet portal that provides access to a variety of information on Carnival Magic's services, facilities and daily activities. Carnival Magic also offers cell phone service and bow-to-stern WiFi, so those bringing along their own computers can access the Fun Hub and surf the Web from their own cabin or common area on the ship.
The 1,300-seat Showtime Theater on the Carnival Magic has a huge stage, perfect for its three new production shows and for a wide variety of entertainment. Only one show was available on the inaugural sailing, and it was both appropriate and impressive. Called "Destination Unknown", it's a marvel of lasers, lights, sound, amazing costumes, huge sets, and magical illusions performed by illusionist Jason Byrne, his assistant, and the Carnival Magic singers and dancers. I won't give everything away, but a helicopter and a scorpion are involved. The other two production shows are "Groove Line", a 70's show; and "Win! The Game Show", which is staged by the singers and dancers, but also features five guests as part of each show. The Showtime Theater is also used for bingo, presentations, and lectures.
Carnival has kept many of its guests' favorite venues on the new Carnival Magic, but also added some new ones that are sure to please its thousands of mainstream North American guests. Although the ship is primarily marketed to North America, we had an international group of guests on our Mediterranean cruise, including about 600 Russians. They all seemed to be having a great time, and it's fun to interact with people from different cultures and countries on a cruise ship.
The new Carnival Magic will be a good fit for those who love big cruise ships and are looking for a fun and memorable cruise, filled with opportunities to socialize with other guests or with their own companions or family. It doesn't have as many alternative restaurants as many other new ships do, but there's enough diversity of cuisine to satisfy anyone on a one- or two-week cruise. Maybe next time I'll get brave enough to try the SkyCourse, but I'm still afraid of Superstar Live Karaoke!
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.