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Trip Report: Carnival Magic in Cozumel



This morning I had every intention of waking up early to finish shooting videos of Carnival Magic‘s different decks, but the snooze button got the better of me. We can blame the Super Bowl – and the after-parties on board – for that one.  By the time I even thought about waking up, we were docking in Cozumel… so I rolled over and went back to sleep. Two hours later, I woke up just in time for a highlight of the bloggers cruise: The question and answer session with Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald.

While yesterday’s Q&A was focused on the executives, today was all about John. As you might expect of a session with John, it was pretty free-wheeling, with questions covering a wide variety of topics and his trademark humor on display. Among the questions asked this morning were when Carnival planned to roll out photo packages (as have several of their competitors) and, as in yesterday’s session, what Carnival is doing to make their various ships more ADA compliant. One thing which was expressed over and over was people’s gratitude toward John and all he does for the passengers he so clearly loves.

After the session ended, I headed off for my shore excursion. I was spending the day at Nachi Cocom, an all-inclusive resort that my travel agent told me about last May when I was sailing the Carnival Vista. It runs $55 and comes with drinks, food, and an amazing view on the beach.

Bypass the Lines

Since I was attending John’s Q&A session, I missed the opportunity to share a ride with everyone else to the resort, so I wound up rolling solo. If you want to get a taxi without waiting in a long line, you can walk outside the gates at the pier and ask the police officer in front of the terminal if he can hail you a cab. He will be more than happy to. For one person from the cruise pier to Nachi Cocoa was $20. It might be cheaper if you’re inside the gate, because you can obviously share a cab with someone going to the same place. For me, time and convenience make the added expense worth it. After all, I want to get to the beach, pronto!

Did I ask the cab driver if Cozumel safe? Yes. He said absolutely. He went on to tell me that if the cruise ships were ever to go away the island, it would be a devastating blow to the local economy. The people of Cozumel are very proud of their island, and it’s kind of nice to see people taking so much pride in the place they call home.

Nachi Cocom

As you can tell by the photos, it was a picture-perfect day in the western Caribbean. I have done a full write-up on this resort in the past, and you can read my Nachi Cocom review here. We stayed at the resort until about 3 p.m. before taking a cab back to the pier. The van was $34 total on the way back for seven of us.

A Facebook reader asks: Would you pick Nachi Cocom over Mr. Sanchos?

Personally, I’d pick Nachi Cocom, because it tends to draw fewer kids. They also control how many guests are allowed entrance each day.  As far as the amenities, they seem about the same, as do the beaches. If you want to compare for yourself, here is the Mr. Sancho’s review Heather wrote a while back.

Back at the Pier

If you follow me on social media, you know that I post a lot of photos of cruise ships and today was no exception. We were docked next to Carnival Triumph. The next pier over was playing host to the Norwegian Escape and an MSC ship, while a Disney ship and yet another Norwegian ship were at the other pier. It was a full house, with six in port.

The only thing I don’t like about Cozumel is that you because are paraded through a duty-free building, so many people wind up shopping and it can get pretty congested. Especially when all you want to do is get back to the ship. But once out of the duty-free area, it was a simple process to get back on board.

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My room faced the pier in Cozumel, and I as far as I can tell, there were no pier runners to entertain folks as they raced back to the ship before it left.

Formal Night

Tonight was formal night so most people were dressed to the nine’s…  except me. I don’t dress up, and I won’t apologize for it. It’s just not my style. Now, don’t get me wrong… it’s not like I showed up in a tank-top and shorts. But my version of dressing up is a nice pair of jeans and a button-down shirt. That’s about as far as I go.

I may have derailed my diet at dinner, as I went with the shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, three lobsters, a piece of prime rib, and a warm chocolate melting cake. And I finished every single bite.

Dinner service was all over the map. We sat down at 6 p.m., and didn’t get our dessert until 8 p.m. And don’t forget, the late dinner seating is at 8:15 p.m.

Checking Out the Nightlife

Tonight’s show in the main theater was Flick!, and since I’ve seen it a couple times, I wound up skipping it in favor of walking around the ship to see what people were up to. I’ve said it a couple times already, and I’m going to say it again: This is my favorite Carnival ship. It only took exploring it that first night to really appreciate it, but walking around again tonight made me love it even more. The ship has a flow to it that I really love. The violinists that play in the main atrium are awesome, the soloists around the ship are great, and the cruise director on board, Dr. E, is one of the best in the business.

A listener asked via Snapchat: Did Carnival increase the price of their Budweiser and Dos Equis beer?

I haven’t ordered beer on a ship in over a year, so I’m not sure what they used to be, but I did go to the bar and checked out the prices. The Budweiser is $6.25 and the Dos Equis is $5.75 per bottle. And if you’re wondering, their hard apple cider is $6.50.

They delivered the VIFP gift to my room tonight during turndown service, and it’s a travel blanket featuring the Carnival logo. Pretty snazzy.

Tomorrow we are in Belize, and I have Wonders of the Barrier Reef Tour booked through the ship. Belize is a tender port because of the coral reef system offshore. The tender ride to the shore takes about 20 minutes. For our shore excursion in the morning, the boat will pick us up alongside the pier and take us straight to the reef.

The excursion starts early, so on that note, goodnight!

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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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