Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dickens on the Strand and Carnival Magic

What?  Two blog posts from me in one week?  Call it catching up!

Ben and I recently attended a CruiseOne/Cruises Inc regional conference in Galveston, an especially welcome opportunity since we missed our national conference held while we toured Italy and the Holy Land. Special thanks to our HQ staff for scheduling during the annual "Dickens on the Strand" event in Galveston—one I’d always wanted to attend. Various cruise line reps hosted sessions on the latest news for their companies, and we received marketing and technical updates from corporate staff members.

The official sessions concluded Saturday afternoon, so we were off to The Strand to browse vender stalls, grab a hot sandwich wrap and beer, and stake are claim to a piece of the curb to watch the parade that evening. In true UK tradition, marching bands morphed into pipers, floats became horse-drawn carriages, and the stars were period-costumed revelers throwing candy to the masses while faux snow flew down from the buildings alongside. A delightful sight to behold. Thanks, Galveston!

Oven View Cabin
 Many of us conference attendees opted to stay over for a tour and lunch on the new Carnival Magic, now calling Galveston home. Our hosts, Carnival Business Development Managers Shannon and Laurie, showed the way to designated cabins and suites open for viewing. Armed with cameras and notepads, we headed off in different directions to see what we needed to see in the time allotted (translation: to make it to lunch on time).

I must say she is a beauty. In some areas you still see the Joe Farcus touch; in others, you’d swear a new designer had taken Carnival in a different direction. Many of the colors are more subdued and not quite as in-your-face as with earlier Carnival ships. True to the cruise line’s traditions, cabins are larger than on those on many other ships (Holland America is the other larger-cabin standard bearer), and they warmly invited you inside. There are some handy connecting balcony cabins at the very aft and on the side of the ship—great for families or friends traveling together.

The Cloud 9 Spa is nothing short of amazing: a huge hot tub with ocean views, heated ceramic relaxing chairs, and beautifully appointed treatment rooms. Head there after a workout in the well-equipped fitness center. Two decks directly up is Serenity, the adults-only retreat and relaxation area. Cucina del Capitano serves as a complimentary casual restaurant by day, transforming to an alternative Italian restaurant at night with a nominal fee. Carnival upped the ante on the pool deck, giving it a real “beach” look, enlarged the WaterWorks Aqua Park/Aqua Play Splash Park, and topped it off with a Seaside Theatre with huge LED Outdoor Screen. Princess started a good thing years ago, didn’t she?

Cucina Capitano
 The Red Frog Pub has proved a big hit with passengers, serving up its own signature beer. Wish we could have tried it out ourselves! Of course, there is Carnival’s Prime Steakhouse and a variety of piano bars, shops (including a new Cherry on Top candy store), the vibrant casino (Farcas is alive and well there), and the line’s signature Camp Carnival, and teen club areas.

Our reward for zipping through the ship was lunch in one of the lovely main dining rooms. We enjoyed two appetizers, a choice of fish or beef, and, of course, Carnival’s signature Chocolate Melting Cake. Frankly, I could have skipped right to dessert, but I thoroughly enjoyed each course.

Chocolate Melting Cake
 Clients of ours had nothing but good to say about the Magic’s Mediterranean debut over the summer months. The first sailings out of Galveston have received mixed reviews, however. You know, it simply takes awhile for a ship’s team to gel, even when simply repositioning to a new location. The crew have gone through a “venue” change, and they’re getting used to a different type of clientele. The Carnival Magic is a fantastic addition to Galveston. Thanks, Carnival, for bringing her to Texas!

Check out all of our photos of the Magic here.

May we wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and a 2012 filled with joy, love, and travel!  Happy Chanukah...and Mery Christmas!

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