It’s Magic – the beards take notice of what John Heald says was needed

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When Carnival’s biggest-ever cruise ship, Carnival Dream, was launched in New York in November 2009, its inaugural voyage was rocky in more ways than one. Seas were so rough that at one stage a departure from the Manhattan pier was in doubt, and when we did hit the Atlantic, it became apparent that there were some basic design flaws with some of the ship’s amenities.
The Lido restaurant in particular came in for criticism – not for the food, but for the inconvenient traffic flow of passengers and its inadequate capacity. It was all very well having a variety of offerings from tandoori to tapas and Mongolian barbecue to pasta specialities, but if you have to queue for ages to fill your plate, and then have trouble finding a table, it rather takes the edge off your appetite.
Senior cruise director John Heald soon spotted the problems and within a few days had a lunchtime barbecue rigged up on the broad promenade deck, or Lanai, and beefed up the lunchtime offerings in the main waiter-service restaurants to attract more passengers away from the self-service options.
He must be delighted to see that the “beards” – as he calls the people at Carnival head office – not only took note of the problems, but also took steps to address them before sister ship Carnival Magic was completed.
Magic will be launched in Venice on May 1, and last week I was one of four journalists given a sneak preview of the almost-completed ship in the Fincantieri shipyard at Monfalcone in north-east Italy.
First stop was the Red Frog pub – surprisingly the first such drinking establishment on a Carnival cruise ship, and the venue for some excellent food. It’s a Caribbean-style pub rather than an English boozer, despite the Newcastle Brown Ale, Stella Artois, Murphy’s stout and own-brand Thirsty Frog beer on tap, so the menu contains items such as conch salad and roti pancakes. The fish fingers were rather more sophisticated than the ones in your freezer and the “sliders” – mini beefburgers to you and me – were excellent. All main-course items on the menu are $3.33, and desserts such as the lemon tart and the sticky toffee pudding are $1.11.
Extra seating has been created in the Lido restaurant and the upstairs area which is a pasta bar by day converts in the evening to the superb Cucina del Capitano (Captain’s Kitchen), a family-style Italian trattoria with generously-sized tables to accommodate the big bowls of food just-a like-a momma used-a make. Cover charge is a modest $10 for adults and $5 for children.
The 65-seat Prime steakhouse ($30 cover charge) has also been moved, from deck 12 to deck five, where it pinches some of the space of the Punchliners comedy club – a venue which will occasionally feature a risque late-night burlesque show.
Outside on the upper decks there is entertainment for all the family, with waterslides, pools, a cinema screen, crazy golf, a rope climbing course, basketball court and open-air gymn lending a Venice Beach air to the proceedings. For couples seeking peace away from their (or other families’) kids there’s the secluded Serenity deck space – which unlike similar areas on some ships does not carry an extra charge for admission.
After the christening ceremonies on May 1 – with young cancer survivor Lindsey Wilkerson as an inspirational godmother – the ship sails to Barcelona from where it will be departing on seven, nine and 12-night Mediterranean voyages throughout the summer before relocating to its new home in Galveston, Texas in November.
Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill is excited at the response from the UK, where bookings have doubled year on year. On some sailings half the passengers on board will be from Britain.
All of which is likely to encourage him to deploy sister ship Carnival Breeze in Europe when she is launched next year. The ship – which will also include the improvements added since Dream, is currently under construction in dry dock just a few hundred yards away from Magic.
The yard will be waiting for announcement of the next generation of Carnival ships to be ordered. Cahill said it was unlikely that another in the 130,000-ton, 4,724 maximum passenger capacity Dream class ships would be built, but would not say whether he was looking to follow Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class and go even bigger.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:08+00:00 17 April 2011|Cruise News, Cruise Ships|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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