Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Week on the Carnival Magic: Part One - The Dinning Experience

Today I am beginning a short series of postings regarding my experience aboard the Carnival Magic. Launched in late 2011 the Carnival Magic and has been home ported in Galveston, Texas  from which she alternates between 7 day Western Caribbean cruises to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel, Mexico, as well as 7 day Western Caribbean cruises to Mahogany Bay Roatán, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico; and 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruises to Key West, Florida, Freeport, Bahamas, and Nassau, Bahamas.

I really don't intend to speak much about the physical attributes of the ship other than to point out her amenities are all geared toward the passenger having "fun." There are activities everywhere --- all of what is expected on a Carnival cruise.  Carnival's goal from the beginning was to bring cruising within reach of the average family and based on what I experienced on board they have succeeded in spades.
I want to begin this short series by talking  about the cuisine  aboard ship. Like all cruise ships the Carnival Magic offers a variety of  dining options. There are two main dining room one aft (Southern Lights) and the other amid ship (Northern Lights). Both of these dining rooms are split level. These two restaurants offer service that is comparable to a good four-star restaurant. The wait staff is friendly and attentive to the needs of the guest to the point of even remembering the names and preferences of everyone at a table.

 The food itself, while being well presented, was generally a little less than what I had anticipated when compared to my last Carnival experience. I had expected the cuisine to be a little better than what I found. That does not mean that the food was not good. It was in fact very good but not extraordinary. In fact, the food in the main dining room was not of the quality that I had experienced a previous Carnival cruises. Still, that being said, I would rate the food in the main dining room better than what one would find in most restaurants.

One of the disappointments for me was that breakfast in the main dining room was essentially a sit down buffet. By that I mean that breakfast and lunch in the main dining room was no better than what one could get at the buffet on the Lido deck. I might add that seating for breakfast and lunch in the main dining room was a rather random process for the guest.

In addition to the main dining rooms the Carnival magic also has a large buffet style eatery on the Lido deck (Deck 10) called "The Lido Marketplace." This is a large buffet style dining area that can accommodate hundreds of people at one time. The food ranges from rather ordinary to very good.  It appeared to me this is where most people were taking their meals.
I found it to be a great place late in the afternoon to spend a few minutes with friends over a cup of coffee and dessert. The buffet closed at 2 o'clock which left a small block of time in the early afternoon when the area was not crowded. This was especially true on shore days.

On the same deck, the Lido, there was a grill where one could get American-style hamburgers and hot dogs; a pizzeria where one should get custom ordered pizza and calzones; a deli where made it to order sandwiches could be had; and finally there was an Indian style eatery called the Tandoor. All of these eateries which includes the main dining rooms and all the food then use on the Lido deck are included in the price of your cruise. Simply stated there is no charge for eating in any of these they. 

There are also a few venues where there is either an à la carte charge or an up charge for eating those particular venues. Among these are the Red Frog Pub, the Plaza Café, the Prime Steakhouse and the Cucina del Capitano.

The Red Frog Pub offers a fine selection of English Pub Style dining and the calls is reasonable.

As for the prime steakhouse it offers some of the best beef available. The venue, the service, the food presentation, the food quality and staff are five-star. The needs from which you choose is USDA prime and cooked to your taste. You will not feel rushed or that someone is waiting on you to finish so that they can come in the restaurant. You must have a reservation. I have never had staying in a better but I'm not sure that it's worth the $30 per person up charge. The truth is being from Texas, custom to having good steak my wide variety of eateries. However I do recommend it for special occasions celebration. It really is a nice relaxing experience.

My personal favorite eatery was the Cucina del Capitano. This is an Italian restaurant on deck 11 aft Carnival Cruise Lines. Like the steakhouse this restaurant offers superb food that is pleasingly presented by wait staff that makes you feel welcome and unhurried. I should also note that while there is an up charge and a reservation is required for the evening meal. The restaurant does offer a noon eating experience that is included in the price of your cruise. If you choose the noon free dining I recommend their lasagna. Instead of ground beef is made with shredded prime beef.

The decor while being very Italian celebrates the history of Carnival Cruise Line.

Clearly, for me the best thing about the cruise was the many opportunities afforded us for dining with everything from fine dining to a quick something to eat being available almost around-the-clock. In fact, room service is available 24/7 at no charge.

There is even an outdoor grill on eck 5 where you can get cooked to order burgers and tacos as well as other popular grill foods.

There may be a number of things that you will be disappointed with the board the Carnival Magic but the food quality and quantity will not be one of those things. There's plenty of both. The dining opportunities aboard the Carnival magic are comparable to or better than that of their principal competitors. So based upon food and food alone I would not hesitate to purchase or recommend by family members to purchase a Carnival cruise.

There may be a number of reasons why a Carnival Cruise is not for you but the quality of the food and the service provided by the waitstaff will not be one of those reason. I need to say that while I found the food quality a little below my expectations I found the hospitality staff to be better than on past cruises. Serice levels have been, as Emeril might say, "Kicked-up" a notch.

 What I can tell you is that at the prices Carnival is selling their cruises these days the consumer is virtually getting a steal of a deal. Carnival is offering their brand at a price that does not reflect the value you're purchasing. Every cabin below the suite level is undervalued and should be priced at the least $200 per person or more than what they are.  Just keep in mind that the reason you now pay extra for things once included in the cruise fare is that the product is being sold below value.

1 comment:

  1. Got hungary just reading.Need to go tix a sandwich.....Have a great night....