A 2013 study produced by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association revealed that 80% of cruisers primarily travel with their spouse, followed by 31% toting children under age 18. The numbers of cruising families also seem to be rising, most likely thanks to the family-friendly activities aboard these newer floating hotels. The last week in November my family took our first cruise together. We spent six-nights, seven-days aboard the Carnival Magic, sailing the Western Caribbean and let’s just say the statistics proved true. Being that it was Thanksgiving week we expected a full boat (it was) and a lot of families (there were). In fact, there were over 1,000 children under age 18!
At first, cruising with the family can be confusing and overwhelming. It took a good day for my family to get into the cruising routine: Paying attention to the time to ensure we didn’t miss our 8:15 Northern Lights dining time (late seating, compared to the 6:15), getting used to the rocking ship (thanks to autumn storms), finding our way to the various locations around the ship, and getting acquainted with ship’s forward and aft. However, within 24-hours onboard we finally had our sea legs and our bearings and we were able to relax and enjoy the experience.
On the last day I asked my family what they thought were the highlights of Carnival Magic. The list was long and overall consensus was high praises with begging of “can we stay on-board another week?” which can only mean that we’ll be back. In the meantime, here are some of my family’s favorite Magic highlights.
Food. I’m not sure you can get any more cliché than eating and cruising but for my family delving into the good eats was certainly a highlight. My son was especially enthralled by the buffet. It was a hungry boy’s heaven. I wrote more extensively about the many food choices aboard our Carnival Magic excursion and, of course, must reiterate the popularity of the 24-hour ice cream and yogurt. Weeks later, my kids are still taking about it.
Big screen TV and movies. Outdoor movies are nothing new aboard cruise ships, but what about the classic Thanksgiving Day tradition of football? It ends up my husband Jeff was pleasantly surprised to find the poolside, big screen TV flashing with live football games. The sound was perfect and sprawling out on the lounge chairs was certainly relaxing even despite the large crowd of people gathered to watch the game. Access to the nearby Pizza Pirate was also appreciated. On other evenings the featured movies always seemed to be a hit with our fellow passengers. While we didn’t watch any movies until the last day we did settle in and watch Big Miracle.
Two Water Slides. The water slides were the number-one attraction that my kids wanted to conquer. However, the first two days on board the slides were shut down due to the strong gusts of wind and rain. Finally, our second full day at sea the sun made an appearance, the winds quieted, and the children were able to spend hours riding the slides. They loved it!
SportsSquare. If there was one place my kids spent the most time, it was the SportsSquare. My son especially loved meeting other kids and playing with all of the offerings: SkyCourse (ropes course), foosball, ping-pong, golf (see below), and giant Connect Four game. The one disappointment (for my son) was that the basketball/soccer/volleyball court was over-run by older teens and young adults. With that said, it’s nice knowing he will have a place to hangout when he’s older.
Miniature Golf. Bring on the two-level mini-golf! We played a family game of miniature golf and, despite random children running across the putting greens, we had a great time.
Camp Carnival. Since we encountered a rainy cruise the onboard kids’ club called Camp Carnival was a godsend. The first day there was a Camp Carnival presentation for parents and kids that revealed all of the fabulous details about this program. Daytime hours are included with your cruise. Children are divided into three groups: 2 to 5 years, 6 to 8 years, and 9 to 11 years. Children nine and up can have the option of signing themselves in and out of the club. We didn’t give our son this option, but many of the more experienced cruising kids were allowed the freedom by their parents. The Camp Carnival Night Owls program cost extra and we did take advantage of it a couple of times. The kids had a blast playing games, watching movies and participating in the dance parties. Kid-friendly dinner was served, too. By day two we were comfortable leaving the kids and found the staff was friendly and attentive. One tip: Sign the kids up online for Camp Carnival before your cruise. We did and it made the entire experience easy-breezy.
Magic. During a stay in Camp Carnival the kids attended a magic show. It was “Amazing!” they said. However, one of the most memorable experiences during our cruise was watching both kids bonded with the “Best magician ever!”. That is how the children describe the charismatic and confident Barman who visited our dinner table every evening to entrance the children with his magic skills. In fact, Barman made such an impression on my son Jeb that he ended up with a magic set from grandma this Christmas. Barman rightfully puts the magic in Carnival Magic.
Thank you Carnival for hosting our experience aboard the Carnival Magic.