// (c) 2011 Carnival Magic
On a gorgeous spring day in Venice, the new Carnival Magic was christened as a landmark ship for Carnival Corporation - the company's 100th vessel. There were celebrations throughout the fleet on April 29 as all 227,000 guests onboard the 10 Carnival brands enjoyed a complimentary champagne toast at dinner, and each ship was challenged to create a special cake for the occasion.
The Magic's inauguration underlined the ongoing relationship between Carnival and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, with the company settinga goal of $3 million in donation over a period of three years. Assembled guests were shown pictures of the ship's godmother, Lindsey Wilkerson, who was a patient at St. Jude at age 10 and had a form of cancer that is typically fatal. After nearly three years of treatment, doctors declared that her cancer was in remission, and she went on to finish high school and attend college. Wilkerson is now a charismatic volunteer specialist working with St. Jude volunteers across the country. Carnival made a $500,000 donation in her name during the inaugural ceremony, and Wilkerson and her family were among the nearly 3,700 guests who sailed on the inaugural cruise ending in Barcelona on May 10.
Carnival capitalized on the theme of magic during the inaugural events, with president and CEO Gerry Cahill arriving onstage in a red helicopter used in the headliner production show, "Destination: Unknown," the largest show ever staged on a Carnival ship starring Jason Byrne, award-winning magician and Las Vegas headliner.
The passengers and press onboard enthusiastically embraced features such as the RedFrog Pub, which has an indoor room with an excellent guitarist, a game room and an outdoor patio area. Carnival's proprietary beer, Thirsty Frog Red, served from the keg, proved to be so popular that the ship actually ran out on the first night and had to airlift in a fresh supply. The pub has a decidedly Caribbean theme, with pulled pork, conch and other West Indian snacks available to accompany the Caribbean rum and margaritas.
Burning off the food and drink, guests competed to be among the first to experience the ropes course. They splashed in the hot tubs, ran the eight-mile circuit around the deck (even as the ship passed through the Grand Canal) and tried out the outdoor resistance machines and boxing bags.
At night, the Vibe disco was packed with guests of all ages dancing and singing, as was the lobby with its live band, which was still rocking when I gave in to jetlag at 1 a.m. Likewise, the Play it Again piano bar was standing room only, and the Hat Trick Casino enthusiasts kept it going until the early hours. The 24-hour pizza bar was doing business night and day in spite of huge and lavish meals. Passengers found that the soft serve ice cream machines were running 24 hours, and the number of people who had bowls and cones at breakfast was surprising.
After the inaugural trip from Venice to Barcelona, Magic sails a series of seven- to 12-day Mediterranean itineraries from Barcelona through Oct. 16, then repositions to Galveston for year-round, seven-day Caribbean cruises beginning Nov. 14.