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Trip Report: Boarding Carnival Magic for a Week



Today I embarked on the Carnival Magic out of Port Canaveral for a seven-night western Caribbean cruise. There are a couple reasons for sailing this particular ship this week. The first is that I haven’t been on her since the year she joined the fleet in 2011.

Random side note: I was sailing on this ship when they captured Bin Laden on May 2, 2011.

This also happens to be the 11th Annual Blogger’s Cruise hosted by Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald, which is always a good time. Why? Because there are 650 folks on board who are big fans of both the line and Heald… which probably means that poor guy won’t have a minute’s peace, what with people wanting to chat him up and grab a selfie. (Given that he loves Carnival’s loyal customers, he’ll no doubt love every minute of it.)

Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines

Here is our itinerary:

  • Day 1: Port Canaveral
  • Day 2: Fun Day at Sea
  • Day 3: Cozumel
  • Day 4: Belize
  • Day 5: Isla Roatan
  • Day 6: Costa Maya
  • Day 7: Fun Day at Sea
  • Day 8: Home

Heading to Cocoa Beach Pre-Cruise

Carnival Sunshine

Yesterday, I was able to board the Carnival Sunshine for a few hours to take some pictures for future stories, so I came down a day early. I also went down to the boat ramp to watch her leave.

My travel agent booked me at Comfort Inn and Suites Cocoa Beach. The hotel is in a great location a couple blocks from the ocean and across the street from several stores (perfect for picking up those last minute things you always remember that you forgot to pack the minute you walk out the door). I swung by the WalMart to pick up a new suitcase because it would seem I’ve finally outgrown my 22-inch roller bag. I know a lot of people love Cocoa Beach — and especially the Ron Jon’s surf shop, which is open 24/7 for all your surf-related needs, apparently – but I haven’t ever really spent a lot of time there.

Comfort Inn and Suites Cocoa Beach

The hotel had my three requirements: free parking, free wi-fi, and free breakfast… although I overslept and missed my chance at that last one.


To show you the timeline, I’ll timestamp my embarkation. I left the hotel at 10:45 and got to the pier at 11:00. My check-in time was scheduled between 12-12:30, but because I have platinum status I was able to check in as soon as I arrived at the pier. (I’m told Port Canaveral isn’t all that strict at enforcing the arrival times, this seems to vary, port to port.)

ARRIVED AT PIER: 11: 03 am

They had three ships in port today: Norwegian Epic, Disney Fantasy, and us, Carnival Magic. When I arrived, the lines were starting to form, but the flow of traffic seemed to be moving pretty quickly.

This cruise I parked in the port’s parking garage (to the tune of $15 per day). There are other lots in the area that are cheaper, but thanks to my ADD, standing in line and waiting for a shuttle is practically painful. So while I sometimes look for cheaper options (all the better to save for the next cruise), this time I decided to pony up the cash and park at the port.


There were several porters on duty when I went to check my bag. I’d already printed out my baggage tab, so all they had to do was staple it. (In hindsight, I should have used a plastic protector for my luggage tag. You might mock people who do that, but those paper tags can and do fall off when being handled. I counted 19 bags which wound up at guest services because they didn’t have tags. And who wants to start off their vacation dealing with that?)


Carnival Magic

I boarded via the priority line and waited a couple minutes before having contact with the first agent. She checked my name against the manifest and cleared me to go through security. Security was flawless, and I went right to the check-in agent. In Port Canaveral, the room keys are still assigned to you at the pier. Rumor has it, however, that they’ll soon switch over to the system where your keys are waiting for you in the mailbox outside your room.


Carnival Magic

Carnival Magic atrium.

This was seriously the quickest embarkation I’ve ever done. Granted, having platinum status makes a very big difference. (If you don’t have platinum status but still want to get on board as quickly as possible, look into purchasing the Faster To The Fun pass. But do it as soon as you know you’re definitely sailing, as they sell a limited number of them.)

Checking Out My Stateroom

Because I was on so early, the big hallway doors which lead to the stateroom were shut, with a sign saying they would be ready at 1:30 p.m. But again, those with priority boarding because of their loyalty status or Faster To The Fun pass are able to get to their rooms quicker, so I went straight to mine and began unpacking. I met my room steward and, ready to get my vacation started, headed upstairs to grab a bite to eat.

View Carnival Magic Deck Plans 

Bring On The BBQ!

A lot of cruisers have things they traditionally do as soon as they board a ship, and I’m no different. My tradition? Heading straight for Guy Fieri’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que. Today, I went with the chicken, brisket, and pulled pork. And if you haven’t tried the venue’s mac & cheese, you need to correct that mistake next time you have an opportunity.

Muster Drill

Everybody dreads the muster drill, and I get it: There you are, trying to enjoy a few drinks before sailaway, and everything has to grind to a halt. But it’s an important part of the process, and if, God forbid, you ever need to know where to go in case of an emergency, you’ll be glad you sat through the presentation. And really, it’s pretty painless. In this case, my muster station was the main theater… which is a lot better than having to stand outside and remain standing during the entire drill, as sometimes happens, depending on the ship. Once the muster drill was over, we could really, truly get things started… no more interruptions as we prepared to sail away.

We were first to pull away from the dock, followed by the Norwegian Epic and the Disney Fantasy. (Guess those ships didn’t have platinum status and ours did!) The sailaway party was a high-energy event, but the weather wasn’t fantastic (low 60s and windy), so participation wasn’t as high as it might have been on a bright, sunny day.

The Man Of The Hour – aka John Heald – held a meet and greet for his very excited fans. It was pretty much a Welcome Aboard reception with complimentary drinks. Let me tell you: Something happens to many people when they hear the words “free drinks.” Social graces go out the window, as if they’re afraid that this might be the last booze available on the ship. I felt bad for the servers, especially when people would snap their fingers at them or whistle at them like dogs trained to fetch the evening paper. And I know, I know, some of you will say, “That’s a Carnival thing,” but I’ve sailed a whole lot of ships, and I’ve seen this exact same behavior on all of them when it comes to free alcohol. It’s not everybody, thankfully, but there’s always at least a few who fall into this category.

Dinner Is Served

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Can I just say how beautiful the dining room on Carnival Magic is? WOW! This week I have early dining in the Southern Lights dining room, deck three, aft. We have a fairly large circular table out on the main floor. I will say, service seemed a little slow. It took 30 minutes to get our appetizers and another 20 minutes to get our entrées.

We had a huge table and halfway through they told us they added another person to the dining team to assist us, so hopefully things will right themselves as the week goes on. Meal-wise, I went with the shrimp cocktail, cured salmon, apple glazed pork, and creamed spinach. It sounds like a lot, but… well, I skipped dessert, so I bought myself some points there, right?

Welcome Aboard Show

This is the first time I’ve ever sailed with the cruise director Dr. E and I have to say, he is pretty funny. Welcome Aboard shows are sort of like the sampler platter at a restaurant: They give you a little taste of what’s to come the rest of the week. See a performer you like? Check the daily program and find out where you can catch them again. The lineup of shows are a little different from the ones I’ve seen on past sailings, so that’ll be interesting. (Although Flick, a show I saw on a previous trip, is among them.) A highlight of the Welcome Aboard show? They brought a gentleman on stage who has been married for 60 years, and he was a trip.

I took one last walk around the ship before calling it a night. Things were definitely jumping, with country music coming from the RedFrog Pub, the piano bar in full swing and, of course, the always-packed casino. The ship is rocking a little bit tonight so I’m sure I’ll sleep like a baby. Come back tomorrow and join me for a Fun Day at Sea.



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Recap: Carnival Magic Western Caribbean Cruise



If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself reflecting on a cruise weeks after disembarking, partially because you wish you could go back and do the whole thing again. In this case, I figured that while I’m reflecting on my recent seven-night sailing on Carnival Magic to the Western Caribbean, I might as well combine all of the sea blogs I wrote about this particular trip in one place (the links to which you’ll find below). I’ve also included a link to the show on which I chatted with one of the most popular guys out there, Carnival’s Brand Ambassador, John Heald. Hopefully, if you’re planning a trip on the Carnival Magic — or have sailed her in the past and just want to recreate some of those great memories — you’ll enjoy taking this trip down Memory Lane with me.

Carnival Magic

Carnival Magic is an amazing ship and perhaps one of my favorites in the Carnival fleet (even beating out Carnival Sunshine, which is really saying something). I flat-out love the outdoor promenade that the Dream-class ships have on deck five, which wrap around the entire ship. On the new builds, like Carnival Horizon and Carnival Vista, the ability to walk around the entire promenade is restricted because of the restricted area which houses the Havana cabins toward the back of the ship. On the older class vessels, the walking deck would be deck three, which is also partially restricted because of the dining rooms at the aft of the ship and the crew areas toward the front.

To read a day-by-day account of the trip, click on the links below:

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The ports of call on this Western Caribbean cruise were mind-blowing. Two of my favorites were Belize City and Mahogany Bay in Roatan. In the past, I probably would have stayed on the ship during both of these stops, but I’m so glad I didn’t. You can read more about the excursions below.

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

Shore Excursion Reviews

If you would like to check out the interview with did with Carnival’s Brand Ambassador John Heald during the sailing, you can listen to the podcast below.

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Trip Report: Carnival Magic Debarkation Day



If you’ve been reading my daily Carnival Magic trip reports, you’ll remember that last night before hitting the sack, I ordered room service. I placed my order at 11:00 p.m. and it arrived at 11:50 p.m. and while it wasn’t the quickest of deliveries, it sure hit the spot. I also didn’t mind waiting for the food because this was the final night and that meant that once I ate and went to sleep, it would be time to wake up and get off the ship. On the other hand, I really probably shouldn’t have had a food orgy right before going to bed.

Last Night’s Room Service

So how was everything? The chicken wings ($5) were good and not too spicy, although they would’ve been better served hot. They were lukewarm at best.

The chicken quesadilla ($5) was also good (although it didn’t have much kick to it), and it was served with sides of guacamole and salsa.

And then there was the doughnut sandwich ($3). To be honest, I thought it was going to be something completely different from what it turned out to be. I was picturing meat in the middle of it, although in hindsight, that would probably have been weird… especially for something listed on the dessert menu! Instead, it was a strawberry glazed doughnut cut in half and stuffed with sliced strawberries, chocolate, and vanilla ice cream, served with a side of strawberry glaze.  I wound up licking the icing off and eating the strawberries but didn’t actually eat the doughnut.

When you order room service on Carnival, the receipt gives you the option of adding a tip, which comes in handy if you don’t happen to have a couple bucks to slip the delivery person. I considered only tipping a buck since it took quite a while for the food to arrive, but I know how hard these guys work and how understaffed their departments can sometimes be. Plus, I always feel like you kind of have to be generous with the people who are literally bringing food directly to your door.

This morning I woke up just as we were pulling into port. We wound up docking next to the Disney Fantasy and Norwegian Epic. By the next time I looked out the window, the Carnival Sunshine had also arrived. And that was when it hit me… the cruise was over. No more Fun Days at Sea. No more awesome excursions, nothing. Pretty much the only thing I had to look forward to was the fact that before leaving home, I’d made my bed.

When it comes to embarkation, you can either do self-assist (meaning you can walk off with all your bags and as the name implies, no assistance from the staff) or have them pick up your bags the night before and you reunite with them once off the ship. I almost always opt for self-assist and this was no different… although I wasn’t about to leave the ship without grabbing one last breakfast.

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Heading To Breakfast

My long-standing ritual is to hit the main dining room before disembarking, if only so I can take advantage of one final opportunity to have someone else make and present me with breakfast. So when the dining room opened at 6:30 a.m. — an hour before self-assist debarkation was set to begin — I was pretty much the first one in line. (On my way to breakfast, I noticed my room steward in the hallway and told him if he wanted to go in and strip the cabin, I was done in there. Sure enough, by the time I returned to pick up my bag, he’d done his thing. It’s incredible how quickly they are able to turn the ship over for the next group of passengers, isn’t it?)

See Carnival Magic Deck Plans 

I strayed from my usual cracked egg sandwich off the port day menu, instead going with salmon on a bagel and a cup of coffee. One thing I forgot to do on this cruise was use the free drink coupon they offer returning guests. I don’t even know if you can use it on debarkation morning, but I wasn’t going to try since I’d be driving in less than an hour.

Breakfast service was fast. It’s funny how on top of their game the wait staff is on debarkation morning, because they know it’s all about the turn-and-burn. By 11 a.m., they need to have the dining room ready for the 4,000 guests anxious to start their vacations!

After breakfast, I ran up to my stateroom on deck six to grab my bag and headed downstairs. Props to the debarkation team, because it was flawless. I carried my luggage down to deck three and joined the quickly-moving line. A quick swipe of my sail and sign card and I was making my way down to the customs area. Just that quickly, my sail-and-sign card went from my all-access pass to a very expensive souvenir.

We didn’t need to fill out a blue customs form, so all we needed was our passport and luggage when we got to the customs agent. A few questions later, and you’re on your way.

In total, it took me 26 minutes to get off the ship and to my car. The parking situation has changed since last I sailed out of Port Canaveral. At that time — last fall —  I prepaid for parking at the gate before I was allowed into the lot. They have reversed the process now, so you have to wait until after your cruise before paying. Frankly, that seems like a bad idea. Do they realize that ships have casinos and bars and all sorts of other places in which a passenger could really easily spend all their money? Get that cash up front, rather than risk them coming off with empty pockets. Parking for a seven-night cruise was $136.

More To Come

While there’s a lot more Carnival Magic coverage coming — including interviews I conducted over the past week, answers to some of your burning questions, additional reviews and more. But for now, this is where I say goodbye and thank you for joining me, if only vicariously, on this journey.  I also want to send a shout-out and a “thank you” to Carnival’s brand ambassador John Heald, comedian Al Ernst and the folks who so graciously put up with me as I tagged along on John Heald’s FFS Cruise.

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Trip Report: Carnival Magic Heads Home



Well, it’s our last day on the Carnival Magic and, as it happens, it’s what Carnival calls a Fun Day at Sea. Wanting to make sure I didn’t sleep this whole day away, I went to bed with the curtains open so that the sun would serve as my alarm clock. As a result, I woke up around 8 a.m., just in time to head for one of my favorite meals: the Sea Day Brunch. During the week’s previous sea day’s, I’d missed the brunches because I was attending events hosted by John Heald. So this was my big chance to dive in and make up for it.

Aboard the Magic, brunch is held on the first floor of the Southern Lights dining room toward the aft of the ship. While there was a line when I arrived, it moved pretty quickly. Once seated, I went with the flaming tomato soup as a starter and the steak-and-eggs main course. Although the banana cream pie (and possibly the cheesecake) were calling my name, I decided that, given how much I’ve eaten this week — and how many more opportunities to do so were still ahead —  I should skip dessert.

Brunch was only barely over when I began facing the next great food conundrum: What would I have for lunch? (As you can see, I spend a lot of time on ships dealing with self-created food-centric crises.) Did I want a Guy’s Burger? Maybe something from Mongolian Wok? Oh, and what about the always delicious BlueIguana Cantina? While each of these options was viable, I think any longtime reader knows that in the end, BBQ was going to win out.

Time For Another Meal


Because the Welcome Back party — Carnival’s way of thanking platinum and diamond-level cruisers for their loyalty — was at 11:45 a.m.,  I wanted to be the first in line at Guy’s Pig & Anchor so I could eat my food and get to the theater for the big event. As it happens, there were only a few people in line at Guy’s, so I needn’t have worry. I can only assume that either everyone was upstairs chowing down on one of the food options I’d rejected, or maybe they’d eaten so much this week that they were easing into the afternoon/evening. Either way, it worked out well for me, because there was virtually no line at all.

Fun fact: Although deck five wraps around the whole ship, no one ever hangs out at the very back. Occasionally you’ll see a jogger go by, but during the day the only time people are really on deck five is if they’re enjoying the hot tubs, sitting outside the RedFrog Pub or Ocean Plaza, or in line for Guy’s Pig & Anchor. So this is a great place to spend a little time if you’re looking to escape the more crowded areas of the ship… or just hide out from the loved ones you need a break from.

Welcome, Welcome

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At the Welcome Back reception, I learned a couple of things. The most important: You don’t have to drink the Fun Ship special, or the red and white wine offered. You can basically order two of whatever it is you prefer to drink. Armed with this new (and extremely valuable) information, I ordered a Tito’s and vodka (and then another!). I suspect the servers actually prefer people opting to order at the bar, as it means they aren’t mobbed every time they walk in with a tray filled with glasses! They also had various appetizers at the party, including sushi, shrimp tarts and pork sliders. All of it was amazing… and yes, I tried it all.

Next up was a 2 p.m. interview I had scheduled with comedian Al Ernst. We got together in the piano bar, thinking it would probably be empty. But there were a few too many people hanging out there, so we went to the back lounge. What I thought would be a quick interview turned into a 45-minute chat during which Al told a lot of great stories and answered some questions from listeners. Look for the interview to be posted soon.

At 3 p.m. was afternoon tea time and I thought that I would be able to make it but by the time I did, people were leaving. I did get there just in time to hear to a guy freak out because he was, as he obnoxiously and repeatedly pointed out, a diamond-level cruiser and yet could not pick his own table. He vowed to write “a strongly-worded letter.” Good luck with that, sir.

Wanting to pack since we’d be getting off the ship tomorrow, I headed back to my room, where I quickly came to a few conclusions. The first? I packed way too much. The second? Despite my having packed more than I could possibly have needed, my stateroom easily accommodated all of it. There was plenty of storage space. Yes, I was traveling solo, but there was a ton of storage space. Also, I realized that I never once turned on the television. Actually, strike that… I did turn it on once, but only to check out our location on the navigational map.

John Heald’s Farewell Party was very similar to the Welcome Aboard Party held a few days earlier… although this time there was a group photo taken, and they announced that next year’s John Heald FFS Cruise will be held on the Carnival Breeze on February 9, 2019.

Food, Food & More Food

I headed to the main dining room for dinner or — as we dubbed it at our table — The Last Supper. I went with the salmon, although to be fair, calling it a final meal wasn’t exactly fair. Why? Well, after the show I went to catch Al Ernst’s show and, after doing a bit more wandering around, went to my room. But if you think once there I called it an early night, you’d be mistaken because I decided there was time — and room — for at least a little bit more food. Dialing up room service, I ordered a donut sandwich ($3), wings ($5), and a quesadilla ($5). Stuffed to the gills, I headed down to the casino to cash out my (not-so-big) winnings before heading to bed for one last peaceful slumber. I’ll show you the room service tomorrow, I really need to finish packing!

Until tomorrow’s dreaded d-word (disembarkation), good-night.


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