Back in January, my brother, his wife, and I started talking about taking a cruise out of Galveston on the Carnival Magic. We were able to see Maroon 5 perform back in November of 2011 when Carnival brought them in, to celebrate the Magic’s arrival in Galveston fresh off her trans-Atlantic voyage. We didn’t get to go on the ship that day, but it didn’t take a genius to see how huge of a ship it is, it seemed to dwarf downtown Galveston. By February we decided to book the cruise, Valentine’s Day to be precise. Our personal vacation planner from Carnival, Natalia Savage was very friendly and helpful. My brother had booked his previous cruise through vacationstogo.com, and I had booked directly through the Carnival website for mine. However, Natalia added a personal touch, and I won’t hesitate to use her again when we decide to book (assuming she hasn’t moved on to bigger and better things by then). She was very good about calling us to make sure we had all of the information we needed to book, and she was also great about following up after we booked. She even called me the week before we cruised and wished me a happy voyage. Thanks Natalia!
We originally booked on the main deck (1) with an ocean side view. Two weeks before, I received a call from someone at Carnival offering an upgrade to a balcony on the Vista deck for $250.00. I’m not sure how Carnival works the compensation package with their employees. It’s none of my business, but while the gentlemen I spoke with regarding the upgrade was very nice, if there was a commission made off of the upgrade. I hope Natalia was not cut out of it. Otherwise I would have rather talked to her about the upgrade, since she was who we originally booked with. I’m all about loyalty.
After months of literally counting down the days (I had a reminder set in outlook, which popped up every morning at work with the number of days till the cruise), our day had finally come, and has now sadly gone. Maybe we should have made better use of vacation time by waiting in line for an iPhone 5. Just kidding, what is wrong with those people?
I had a lot of time to reflect in the last week, and may write more about that later, but this is just mainly the play by play. I did not take my laptop, but did have my tablet which I tried to write, and take notes. Though typing on it with my big fat fingers did prove to be challenging at times. So this explains why the narrative may be present tense at times. I thought about changing everything to past tense, but decided to collaborate with what I had already written hoping to not lose the thoughts I had when I originally wrote part of this, sitting on the Carnival Magic.
We boarded the Carnival Magic 11:30 on Sunday morning. The ship is quite impressive.
One small gripe, the lack of electrical outlets in the staterooms is baffling. Being a new ship, one would think there would be at least two sets of outlets. Brad did find a second one under the bed but you needed a European power converter for it. Brad travels a lot, but did not think we would need it on the ship. He has a sleep apnea machine which could not be plugged into, that plug. The machine has a cord of probably five feet or so, but the outlet was about 8 feet from the bed. Our stateroom steward Jayson, was able to find an extension cord for Brad to use for the duration of the cruise.
Jayson was friendly; I met his assistants very briefly. They did a great job the entire cruise!
We decided to do the Your Time Dining, where you go when you want to eat between 5:45-9:30pm.
Of course the first thing I noticed when we walked into the Northern Lights dining room was the beautiful blonde haired young lady from Belurus at the hostess stand. Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a picture of her. She looked like Anna Kounikova.
Brad built a rapport with our server, Alex. He is from the Philippines. Brad just returned from there, so they talked for several minutes about The Philippines. Alex is going home after this cruise. You can see how excited he is to return to his wife and children. Dinner was good, I didn’t note what I had for the starter and main course, I do know I finished with the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. If you go on a Carnival Cruise, you must try it!
After dinner, we went to Superstar live karaoke where amateurs get to sing with a band, karaoke style. It was pretty entertaining. A few of the singers were good, but the real show was the rednecks on the dance floor.
Rednecks on Dance Floor
When Rednecks Attack Karaoke(Videos, double click to play):
One girl, from a different group of rednecks, kind of merged in with another redneck faction several times, I won’t lie. She was attractive. Though she appeared be very inebriated. Most of the times we saw her during the cruise, she was holding a beer can, and dancing. I did end up on an elevator with her one day, and I think she was sober. We ended up calling her “Pink shirt, hat, beer girl”. Not to her face of course, that wouldn’t Christian like. We prefer gossip.
“Pink shirt, hat, beer girl”.
There’s a good clip of Pink shirt, beer, hat girl in this clip stating at 0:44
After that we went to the Welcome Aboard show in the Showtime Theater. James Charlton was the cruise director. On my last cruise, Christopher Jefferson was the cruise director. He was fabulous, and has since retired. So I tried to temper my expectations about the cruise director for this cruise. James did not disappoint!
He made his appearance on stage by doing a cartwheel, in a snazzy suit! He’s from England, and looked rather dapper at all times. With his charisma, and charm, he’s someone I could see being a host of a show like American Idol. In fact, if James were the host, I may even watch American Idol.
He worked the crowd very well, and did a very entertaining bit involving four audience members and bells. Each one was given two bells, one for the left and, one for the right hand. He had an inflatable hammer, and when he hit them on the corresponding shoulder with it, they were to ring that bell. He did the alphabet song first, and then had the band back them up for My Girl, by The Temptations. Then he had the audience sing along. It was very entertaining! I wish I had taken video of it! A quick video search just found a reel of his of his work on stage. It’s a few years old, but gives a good sample of his stage presence.
James Charlton’s youtube video
After the show, we went back to the cabin. I sat on the balcony for a bit looked out at the great beyond. Lights from oil rigs could be seen in the distance. We passed another Carnival ship; though I am not sure which one as it was too dark to tell. I suspect it may have been the Triumph since I presume they would be taking the same route back to Galveston that we were coming from. I saw a few shooting stars, thought of the Grace Potter song “Stars” which made me think of my grandparents. Then I called it a night.
I awoke about 05:45 and could not go back to sleep. My body clock doesn’t have vacation time. I took a shower and headed up to the Lido deck, after getting dressed of course.
I am writing this sitting on deck 10. Looking to my left I see the sun breaking through the clouds, light spilling on the Gulf of Mexico. In front of me is a man in his mid 60’s observing the same sunrise.
Video from the Lido Deck
After going to the ports talk, given by the cruise director James Charlton, I spent part of the day just wondering around the ship. And some of it hanging out in the cabin and sitting outside on our balcony. It was elegant night in the formal dining rooms, so we skipped and ate dinner on the Lido deck. The meals on the lido deck have been OK, but it does seem like maybe Carnival is putting more effort into the premium dining options, and taking away options on Lido deck. When I cruised two years ago, there were options on Lido, like steak. I haven’t seen any yet. Maybe I missed it. It’s not like I need more food, and the upside is that really haven’t gorged on anything.
In the evening we went to the adult comedy shows by Tony Esposito, and Tony Brown. They were both decent, as with most comedy routines, both of their routines seemed to patchwork bits lifted from other comedians. Both had their moments though. A carry over observation from my last cruise is I don’t get why Carnival crams everyone in smaller lounges for the late night comedy shows. And the lounge on the Magic (newer and bigger ship) seems smaller than the one on the Conquest. Another thought is that Carnival threw money away getting George Lopez to put his name in the lounge. From what I saw, nothing changed about how the comedy shows work; just that George Lopez has a short video introducing it.
The first thing I usually do in the morning on a cruise, is take a stroll through the promenade deck, then make my way down to the lobby deck to get a copy of the Fun Times. The Fun Times has all of the day’s activities listed. They do put one in your cabin the night before, but I like to leave that copy for whoever I am cruising with.
When I walked down to the lobby on this morning, the first thing I noticed was a huge US flag hanging in the atrium, commemorating the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Candidly speaking, I know one can’t overstate how horrible of a time that was, and everything about the way we live our lives has been affected. However, usually when the anniversary comes for that tragic day, I am usually numb to it. On this day though, seeing that big flag in the lobby as a reminder made me sad. I wasn’t sad that the flag was displayed; I thought it was a nice touch by Carnival. I was sad because it made me think of the reason why it was displayed. Our port stop on this day was Key West. As we were pulling into port, James Charlton came over the PA, read a short statement about 9/11 and led everyone in a minute if silence. I was standing on deck 10, looking out at Key West during the minute of silence. It was surreal.
We docked around 10am, which meant everyone was up and getting off the boat at the same time, which was a bit of a cluster. We decided to take the stairs down, but so did everyone else. So for 5 decks, we slowly moved down one step at a time. We figured out later, it was better to go down to deck 1 via the elevator away from where the gangway was located, and then walk to the appropriate stairwell, then go down to deck 0 to disembark.
We rented bikes in Key West, and I was our tour guide. I remembered the way around from being there in September of 2010 with my friend Chris Stoy.
We rode up Duval Street, and stopped at Walgreen’s for some cold drinks, and souvenirs. We went into a few shops next to Walgreen’s too. At the shop two doors to the right of Walgreen’s, I met a guy named Rick who worked in the shop. He was probably early 40’s. He was from California, said when he got out of the Marines, he ended up in Key West on Duval street and decided it was his new home. I talked to him for about ten minutes. He told me all about how Key West became known as “The Conch Republic”. Back in the 80’s they decided to secede from the US for a day. They called themselves the Conch Republic, and the name stuck. Rick was pretty cool. He wrote out some recommendations for places to eat and see in Key West.
Me on Duval Street in Key West with my transportation
In the Showtime Theatre, a dance competition was being held, Dancing with the Stars style, called Dancing with the Cast. Anyone could go up and join, learn three dances. Then the Dance Captain picked finalists, and the winners were then chosen by audience applause. The winners earned a spot in the Carnival Legends Show on Saturday night.
I can’t lie; I can’t dance, and had no thoughts of dancing when I went to watch this event. I do like watching beautiful dancers (female), dance, and talk. And if they happen to be from Europe, even better!
After the dance class, a murder mystery was presented, clues would be given out throughout the week, and you could ask the suspects (members of the entertainment and sports staff) questions every day for clues. The winner to be announced on Saturday during the morning show, you’ll understand later why I bring this up. It was very entertaining.
Freeport is the worst port on this itinerary, unless you go snorkeling or anything out an about on the water. Last time I was here, I loved the snorkeling, so of course this time the seas were too rough and our excursion was cancelled. It’s still the Bahamas though!
We ended up taking a taxi to Junkanoo Beach with 12 of us total counting the driver in a small van. She wasn’t the friendliest person. A fellow passenger asked her if we were going to be passing by downtown, which I am not sure why he was interested as the most exciting thing in the 25 minute ride on the way to the beach we passed was a Burger King, but he was interested. She responded with yelling that “No you’re going to the beach, you wanted to go to the beach!”
The water was pretty choppy, we could see why the excursion was cancelled. Not everyone is an unaccomplished swimmer like me. Actually, being a good swimmer is one of the few things I am proud of about myself. The visibility in the water wasn’t great due to the choppiness, and the Jet Ski’s riding pretty close to the shore didn’t help any either. I went out about 75 feet from the shore and a Jet Ski renter guy was yelling at me that I was too far out. We ended up deciding to head back to the ship after an hour or so.
Our taxi driver Chiquita picked us up in a Lincoln Town Car Limo, she was very friendly. There were two other couples, besides Brad, and Angela, and then there was me. On the ride back to the ship, we learned Chiquita had recently lost her husband to prostate cancer a few months ago. In spite of it, she was upbeat and encouraged us men to get ourselves checked…
Back at the pier, we looked around the shops which are literally in the shadow of the ship. Most of the stuff is made in China. I didn’t see a whole lot of handmade goods, which having been there two years ago, I knew what to expect. In one shop they were selling shot glasses for 9.99. I decided there wasn’t anything I couldn’t live without, and went back onboard.
From our balcony we could see the Carnival Dream which is dry docked for a few weeks.
The big show for the night was an illusions show starring Jason Byrne. It was very cool, lots of special effects. They did keep the stage pretty dark at times, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out a lot of the illusions. No photography was allowed, so I didn’t get any pictures.
Later there was a burlesque show in the Spotlight Lounge featuring tricks with Jason Byrne. The guy really seems like a tool, but his tricks were cool. There weren’t any new ones I had not seen before. I was there to see the ladies anyway. They were hot! The show was hot. The name of the show was “A Kiss Goodnight”. If you go to YouTube and search, you’ll find a preview posted by the creators of what the show is like. After that, it was off to bed.
Pulling into Nassau is just beautiful. If you ever go there on a cruise, you have to make sure you’re up early to see it. It’s an awesome view! It’s the Bahamas. Our ship was one of three Carnival Ships docked in Nassau for the day. (The Carnival Ecstasy showed up. I was on it back in 2006 with my friends the Sharps.)
We did the Blue Lagoon Island Excursion; it’s about a 40 minute boat ride to the island. They also have Dolphin Encounters on the island. That one was sold out, but visiting the island was terrific.
After the deck party I headed down to deck 5, and watched karaoke for a bit. The real start of karaoke was the host Jay. They guy is hilarious. He’s from the Philippines, and very flamboyant. After each person sung, he would say “Two words, absolutely, brilliant”. I would go to karaoke just to watch him. He was very entertaining! I signed up for karaoke that night, but ended up bailing as it was close to midnight and I was pretty sleepy. So I headed for the stateroom. I didn’t think Jay would remember me. I was wrong. Stay tuned…
Friday was a rainy, cloudy day. I spent most of the day just wondering around the ship. I went to a couple of trivia sessions. By the way, I am really bad a Glee cover song trivia, and really good at classic country. We had lunch in the Cucina del Capitana, located on deck 11, aft. They give you a slip of paper and you tell what kind of pasta, sauce, and toppings you want in it. Then it is cooked to order. I thought it was really good!
Friday night was the second elegant night, we purposely did not bring elegant clothes and opted to eat dinner on the lido deck. I had pizza. On this cruise I actually did not eat a lot of pizza, maybe three times total.
After dinner we went to the Showtime Theatre for James’ secret dance class. Basically, it was a rehearsal for a flash mob, taking place on the Lido deck Saturday afternoon. Since I’m white and I can’t get down, I just watched. I know, quite the voyeur
Later that night was the Win production show featuring vocalists and the dancers. It also featured one of the guests as the contestant on several game shows. I have the utmost respect for the performers. And the show did have its moments, but it was one of the worst shows I’ve seen. I want to emphasize, it was not a bad show because of the performers. It was a bad show because the material was bad. It’s just my opinion; everyone else may have loved it.
After the show, I called it a night and went to bed
This was our last sea day. I was up at 6 am, and had breakfast on the lido deck.
During the morning show, they would announce who the murderer in the murder mystery was. James had mentioned in previous morning shows that people could come down and hold up signs when they filmed the morning show from the Vibe night club. So, I spent part of the morning making a sign. Funship Freddie is the Carnival Mascot. Taking a page from Scoobie Doo, I tried to cast suspicion on Funship Freddie with my sign.
“Was Henry Baggins Killed BY FUNSHIP FREDDIE IN THE BILLIARDS TOOM WITH THE SHIP ON A STICK? OR…”
Then it was off to The Game of Love, hosted by James. Which is similar to the Newlywed game, except with one newlywed couple, a couple married for 10-30 years, and one married for over 50. It is very entertaining!
Later in the afternoon, James and Sam the hotel director hosted a Ship Life QA session where you could ask them about what it’s like to work on a ship. James told us he had gone to university to be a teacher, his background in theatre and music. After finishing school, he taught for one semester, decided he needed a break and did a six month contract on a ship. Eight years later, he’s still working on the ships, and seems to really love his job! James and Sam were both very gracious and informative. They are both very funny and charming as well. Even through being asked the same question over and over again (“how much do you make?” Which they could not answer, and “how does the ship keep from falling over?”)
We had dinner for the last night in the Northern lights dining room. We ended up having the same wait staff for three out of five nights. They are a great team! Thank you Alex, Joy, and Rogelim!
Then it was off to karaoke. We had been seated for a few minutes when I hear “Randall, is that you? Come up here Randall”.
Jay the host not only remembered my name, but which song I was going to sing on the night I bailed. The next thing I knew, I was singing “You May Be Right” by Billy Joel, my apologies to Mr. Joel for butchering his song.
After regular karaoke, was the second and last session of Superstar Live hosted by JoJo, backed by her and the show time band. I decided, why not? It’s the last night of the cruise. Let’s do it. I once again, butchered another classic song, “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams.
The finale show in the Showtime Theatre was the Carnival Legends show where fellow guests star in the show along with the entertainment crew. Making appearances were Gloria Gaynor, Tina Turner, Shania Twain, Beyonce, Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, and of course Elvis. I have to say, hearing the fellow guests in their karaoke auditions compared to their performances in the show, there were all greatly improved! I assume they were coached up by the entertainment staff. This was a really fun show and I enjoyed it!
After the show, I went and listened to a band on deck 5 in the Ocean Plaza lounge. While there I had a night cap of a Coca Cola. That’ hard drinking for me! The waitress, Tamara has the most beautiful eyes. She is very pretty too. All I have is a picture of the receipt… Sorry… With that, it was off to bed for the last night for this cruise on the Carnival Magic.
The ship, which was alive the days and nights before, takes a different feel as that of a train station, or airport terminal. Everyone is waiting to get off for the last time of the cruise. The gift shops are closed, the casino is closed, and the in-evitable has come. You’re leaving. The crew who you come to respect and hopefully befriend, will stay, you will go. This may sound very weird, but the best I can describe it is when I was a teenager staying with my grandparents in Oklahoma, I was always sad when the summer came to a close, because I was leaving them and going back to Texas wondering if they would live just one more year for me to see them again at the next holiday, or the next summer.
Though not related to the ship’s crew, I always feel a bond, though I know I’m one of thousands of passengers they have rubbed shoulders with, and they will rub shoulders with thousands more just a few hours after I leave. The reality of going back to a job you loathe seeps in, and you think about the people who have made your vacation such a great experience, and you wonder. Would I be any good at that? Could I make a six month contract with no days off? How do they do it? You would be hard pressed to rub shoulders with so many different nationalities, than on a cruise ship. It’s a humbling feeling, as you realize a lot of the crew is doing it because it’s a better opportunity then what they had at home.
If you ever feel like you’re not in control of things, go out in the middle of the ocean. You’ll be proven right. If you feel like you’re in control of things, go out in the middle of the ocean. You’ll be proven wrong. Though we did pass through any rough waters, one cannot help by be humbled by the sheer size and majesty of the ocean. Seeing the sunrise and set on waters that stretch beyond the eye’s comprehension makes you realize how small of a piece you hold in the universe.
This was a great cruise and I appreciate my brother Brad and his wife, putting up with me in the same stateroom for a week! I had a lot of time to reflect and try to figure things out.
Did I figure things out? No. I did come back to the same realizations I already knew regarding my personal and professional life. I won’t beat that drum again, but each time I go on a trip, I realize where I am returning to has not changed, but I have.
My station in life is I am just a passenger on a ship, and have no clue where the ship is headed. I wish I did, and I worry that I don’t know. However, it’s a great experience to get on a physical ship, and know that a great crew knows where the ship is headed, how to get it there, and back safely, and keep you thoroughly entertained for the duration.
“People don’t take trips – trips take people.” – John Steinbeck
I posted a link on John Heald’s (Carnival’s Brand Ambassador/Senior Cruise Director)