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Carnival Magic a welcome escape from winter weather

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ABOARD THE CARNIVAL MAGIC - Snow. Sleet. Ice. Grey skies. Coat-huddling cold. Enough already.

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To escape the winter blahs, I took a flight from Indianapolis to Galveston for the perfect antidote – the beautiful Carnival Magic.

As soon as I boarded the ship, I could see that it certainly lives up to its name. The ship is light and airy with magical touches everywhere . The pastel-colored décor with make-believe palm trees, beach umbrellas, giant turtle images and driftwood signs conjures up a pleasant tropical vibe.

Older Carnival ships used to have a slightly over-the-top Vegas feel. The Magic is certainly bright and eye catching but it seems more subdued, a bit Art Deco and
and ready for a Caribbean cruise. I like it.

Glass elevators glide up and down the large atrium that soars more than 12 decks with a glass ceiling to let in the starry sky. A sleek spiral staircase is sure to be a favorite photo spot.

The lighted orbs scattered around the atrium walls and ceiling seem a bit strange though, like gigantic bloodshot fish eyes staring at all the action. But other people seem to like the Twilight Zone-type fixtures.

Setting sail in May 2011, the Carnival Magic can accommodate 3,690 passengers. The ship is based in Galveston so many of the passengers on this cruise are from the Texas area. Not having to pay for a flight is a nice cost saver for folks who can easily drive to Galveston. I flew into Houston and caught a Carnival shuttle to Galveston.

The Carnival folks are quite easy to find at the Houston airport and are very helpful about the shuttle, especially Carnival employee Mark who met me in Houston and kept me updated on the shuttle procedure.

My lovely verandah cabin on the Magic has creamy mint walls, light built-in cabinetry, white-on-white bedding with a soothing reddish brown strip of fabric across the foot of the bed, plus the same for curtains. The sofa is a golden orange along with the carpet, cushions and a splashy rose-green abstract painting on the wall.

Two bedside tables have storage as does a three-closeted bureau and the vanity with dresser drawers. An ottoman-style seat can be pushed into the vanity to be out of the way or pulled out for use.

A flat-screen interactive TV lets me watch major channels when satellite reception is good as well as ship programs and movies. I can also can check my bill and order room service on the TV which swivels for easier viewing.

Other in-cabin amenities include a phone, hair dryer (hidden in a vanity drawer), robes, safe and mini-fridge stocked with drinks you don’t want to buy. Might be best to leave it locked. Many parents do that because little ones often think it is like the family fridge at home and help themselves to the goodies inside– only the soft drinks in this one are very overpriced.

The bathroom is larger than on some cruise lines with a good-sized shower, pullout clothesline for wet swimming suits, and shower dispensers for shampoo and body soap. Be aware that the Magic does not furnish hair conditioner or body lotion (not even in the Cloud 9 Spa).

It does, however, have a plastic amenity basket filled with an odd assortment of toiletries, free samples and money-saving coupons in each cabin. On this cruise, the basket on the bathroom counter has two tubes of toothpaste, two packs of motion sickness pills and a tube of hand lotion.

“It’s our way of saying ‘welcome.’ Sort of a hospitality gift,” said Magic Cruise Director James Dunn.

My balcony has two chairs and a small table. It will be one of my favorite places on the ship, I am sure.

A nice touch on the Magic is a key card-activated electricity system, something that most cruise lines are now using. A slot inside the cabin door is where you put your key card to turn on the electricity.

“It’s to save on electricity,” a crewmember explained. “The lights and TV aren’t on if you aren’t in the cabin and don’t have your key in that slot.”

Another benefit, I discovered, is that it’s a handy way to know where your key card is when you get ready to leave the cabin.

On this cruise, we are headed to Key West and the Bahamas. I’m certainly looking forward to it and to all the sunshine and warm weather. Some fellow cruisers who drove from Dallas to catch the ship said their icy commute was a nightmare.

“All I want to do is sit in the sun,” I overhead a man say when we boarded the Magic. I sure understand.

That’s about it for today. I’m going to dinner in the Southern Lights dining room and then to a show in the Showtime Theatre. Will let you know what else I discover about the ship. So far, I’m quite happy to leave winter behind and sail away to sunny isles on the balmy Magic.

For more information: Check out the Carnival website at www.carnival.com

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