11 Things I Learned about the Carnival Magic Culinary Arts Crew #CruisingCarnival #CarnivalMagic

11 Things I Learned about the Carnival Magic Culinary Arts Crew

Are you planning a cruise in the near future? When booking your vacation, the last thing you probably think about is the inner workings of the ship. The crew aboard the Carnival Magic, when above and beyond during our cruise to ensure we had an enjoyable experience. Whether it was our fun and energetic Cruise Director Dr. E, the medical staff that took care of our youngest when he had an emergency health crisis on the ship or our room steward that made our room feel like home during the entire cruise. Each and every one of the Carnival Magic crew played a part in making our vacation memorable.

El Crucero Carnival Magic, en Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

During our cruise, the Food Services Manager invited my family and me to experience a private tasting with the Head Chef. We were greeted by Head Hostess Verica at the Northern Lights restaurants and taken to the kitchen for an unforgettable experience.

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The head chef came out and talked to us about how he prepares meals for the 3600 plus passengers aboard the Carnival Magic each day. After our tasting, he answered a few questions we had before heading back to finish the seven-course meal he was making for the lucky guests who booked the private experience. The Chef’s Table is a very exclusive experience with seating for only 14 guests.

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Head Hostess Verica, Nickida, Carnival Magic Head Chef

During our experience I tried to ask questions I thought travelers would be interested in knowing. Here are twelve things I learned about the Carnival Magic Culinary Arts crew.

  • The kitchen staff is made up of over 300 members, including chefs, sous chefs, pastry chefs, bakers, servers, and more.
  • The main kitchen spans the entire third floor of the Carnival Magic and includes a bakery for fresh bread and patisserie.

Carnival Magic Menu

  • The menu is planned at the Carnival main office weeks ahead of time. They are then given to chef on the ship. They keep the full menu on the wall for each day of the cruise schedule, with color photographs for easy reference.
  • Guests with special dietary needs can input the information into their cruise booking online or you can inform your personal Carnival Vacation Planner while booking your cruise. If you forget before boarding the ship be sure to inform your server on the first night of the cruise.
  • Servers will always verify food allergies with the chef once they are made aware of any food allergies or special diets.

Kiss the Chef

  • Some meals take up to three days to prepare, depending on the sauces required for the dish.
  • The head chef tastes each dish he creates to serve guests each night. Meals are prepared in very large portions, so he always samples the dishes to ensure it’s high quality and perfect for guests.
  • When the ship docks at different ports, they always feature special menu items that are indigenous to that port (island). Be sure to look for the “Port of Call” section on your menu for those rare opportunity meals. They are only offered on the days you visit that specific port.

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  • The kitchen staff has a lot of training. They also do special certifications while aboard the ship so they are well trained.
  • A lot of prep on the ship is done by hand. Food prepared are fresh and not frozen. Like French fries are made of fresh potatoes and are not frozen.
  • On average the Carnival Magic serves over 1000 guests for dinner each night at their Southern and Northern Lights restaurant.

If you’re planning on booking a cruise, trust me you’re in for a culinary delight. They take food service seriously aboard the Carnival Magic and aim to provide guests with the best dining experience possible. To learn more about booking a Carnival Cruise visit their website.

Our Cucina del Capitano Dining Experience #CruisingCarnival #CarnivalMagic

Our Cucina del Capitano Dining Experience

Our final night of our cruise we enjoyed dinner with our entire family at Cucina del Capitano. Cucina is one of two specialty restaurants aboard the Carnival Magic. There is a required fee for guests to dine at the restaurant, however, it’s lower that Prime Steakhouse. I loved the atmosphere at Cucina, it seemed very family friendly. At least I felt more comfortable with taking the kids there for dinner as opposed to the steak house which I felt was perfect for adults.

Disclosure: My family and I were provided complimentary dining at Cucina del Capitano during our cruise on the Carnival Magic. Any opinions expressed are my own.

About Cucina del Capitano

Say arrivederci to ordinary and ciao to an exciting dining experience at the restaurant that pays homage to our unique heritage. Italian-American dishes inspired by the recipes from our Italian captains’ and officers’ childhoods are served up family-style in a comfy, eclectic environment decorated like an Italian country home. Vintage images of our captains and ships adorn the walls, and there’s even a Captain’s table where you just might see the man himself dine.

The kids had been looking forward to visiting the restaurant because they’d only dined at the Lido Marketplace, Southern Lights Dining Room, and that morning we went to the Cat in the Hat Breakfast. We opted for a 7 PM dining time so we could jet back to our dining room and say goodbye to our servers over the last week. They seated us in a booth and gave the kids really cool play kits instead of crayons to pass the time before the food arrived.

There are separate menus for kids and adults, both short so you are not overwhelmed with choices. I loved not having too many options in regards to picking our meal for the night. We had a very friendly server who made sure to ask if we wanted the kid’s meals to arrive with our appetizers. She answered all our questions and made sure our special requests got fulfilled.

Shortly after placing our order, our server returned with the Bread Service. I loved the toasty bread that was crunchy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. The spread on the center piece of bread was salty with a hint of citrus. While waiting for our food some of the servers performed live in the middle of the restaurant singing Italian songs. It added more authenticity to our dining experience.

Appetizers and Kids Meals

Il Capitano’s Signature Arancini Fried Risotto Balls, Piled High with Baby Arugula and Shaved Parmesan Cheese, Served over Tomato Sauce
Il Capitano’s Signature Arancini Fried Risotto Balls, Piled High with Baby Arugula and Shaved Parmesan Cheese, Served over Tomato Sauce

My husband opted for the Il Capitano’s Signature Arancini. It was delicious. My husband cleaned his plate, even sopping up all the sauce on the plate.

Calamari Fritti Crispy Calamari Rings, Topped with Cured Tomatoes, Charred Lime and Sea Salt, Served with Marinara Sauce
Calamari Fritti Crispy Calamari Rings, Topped with Cured Tomatoes, Charred Lime and Sea Salt, Served with Marinara Sauce

I ordered the Calamari Fritti, I saw an order when we were walking into Cucina, and it looked delicious. I ended up eating the whole place. It was cooked to perfection. Not greasy at all. The batter was light and wasn’t over done on the calamari.

Cucina Kids Chicken Fingers and Fries

All my sons had Chicken Fingers for dinner that night. It was hard to tear them away from their game but they enjoyed the fries and chicken fingers.

Cucina Mac and Cheese

My daughter ordered the Mac and Cheese and a side of grilled shrimp to go along with her mac and cheese. She loves seafood and was very happy they were able to add the shrimp to the side of her meal. She ate all the shrimp but couldn’t eat all the mac and cheese on her own. It was a very big portion.

Dinner is Served for Mommy & Daddy

Gamberetti Alla Pizzaiola (Grilled Shrimp) Grilled Shrimp with Stewed Mushrooms and Peppers. Served over the Captain’s Tomato Sauce, topped with Garlic Foam, Charred Lemon and Parsley

BROCCOLI WITH PEPERONATA

I went with a light option for dinner. I choose the Gamberetti Alla Pizzaiola with Broccoli with Peperonata as my side dish. It was really good.

Salmone Alla Griglia Hand-Trimmed Grilled Salmon Fillet Served with Roasted Potatoes, Endive, Charred Tomato and Lemon

My husband when with the  Salmone Alla Griglia and a side of Rosemary Potatoes. I didn’t get a photo of the potatoes since the kids were getting anxious and they were ready to go.

We had a great experience overall. The food was good and the atmosphere was laid back and fun. If you’re sailing aboard the Carnival Magic you can book reservations for Cucina del Capitano online once you have booked your cruise or onboard the ship by calling 1179 from your stateroom. Cucina costs $15 per adult and $5 per child, charged to your folio account. Cucina is located on the 11th deck of the Carnival Magic in the rear of the ship atop the Lido Marketplace.

Celebrate Specials Occasions at Prime Steakhouse Onboard the Carnival Magic #CruisingCarnival #CarnivalMagic

Celebrate Specials Occasions at Prime Steakhouse Onboard the Carnival Magic

Last week I was onboard the Carnival Magic on our last sea day heading back to Port Canaveral. My family and I had any amazing time on our first cruise with our family. We visited three different countries and four ports. It was so much fun we’re all ready to do it again. While onboard the ship the crew treated us like VIPs and made sure we had an amazing time. Carnival provided my husband and I with a complimentary dinner at Prime Steakhouse on the ship. It was the perfect time for us to enjoy a much-needed date night.

Carnival Magic

Prime Steakhouse offers guests the opportunity to have a world-class dining experience for a fraction of the cost. The steakhouse if one of two restaurants on the Carnival Magic that require an additional charge per guest. I can however honestly say that the fee is very affordable. If you’re on the fence about wanting to try the steakhouse on your cruise, here are four reasons to celebrate special occasions at Prime Steakhouse onboard the Carnival Magic.

Prime Steakhouse Table Setting
Prime Steakhouse Table Setting

It’s Worth the Price

Steakhouses are very pricey, most charge one price for the entrée, and separate prices for the sides to go along with your main course. Prime Steakhouse has an additional fee of $35 per adult and $10 per child for Carnival Magic guests. Your meal includes an appetizer, salad, entrée, side, and dessert. I highly suggest making reservations before boarding the ship or at guest services when you board the ship. You can also dial extension 1179 from you stateroom phone.

Free Wine

Book your dinner reservation on the first night on the ship and enjoy a complimentary bottle of wine with your meal. If you’re interested in something different from the complimentary bottle, guests dining at the steakhouse on the first night also enjoy 50% off your selected bottle of choice. Guests that dine at the steakhouse on the first cruise elegant night also enjoy 50% off their selected bottle.

Delicious Food

Our meal at the steakhouse was absolutely amazing. It’s probably the best we had onboard the ship our entire cruise. The portion sizes were bigger than I expected as well. Once we sat down at our table our server came over and gave a presentation featuring all the steak options on the menu as well as other menu options. We started the night with drinks.

Caribbean Sunrise Cocktail
Caribbean Sunrise Cocktail
Railcar Cocktail
Railcar Cocktail

Our drinks at the steakhouse were the best we had on the ship. Well at least in my opinion. My husband tried the Railcar and a Rum Punch. I had the Caribbean Sunrise which was very good. I only had one drink since I didn’t want to over do it. Our bread service was next.

Bread Service Dips
Bread Service Dips

Fresh breads were presented for my husband and I to pick. We both opted for the fresh-baked brioche roll. Our server left two dips and a soft spread butter for us to enjoy with our bread. Next was our salad course.

Cobb Salad
Cobb Salad
Classic Caesar Salad
Classic Caesar Salad

I still can’t believe that I didn’t finish my salad. It was bigger than I thought at first glance. My husband, however, ate all his and I swore he was about to lick the plate. Appetizers were up next and I was already getting full.

Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp Cocktail
Broiled Crabcake with Tapioca Fried Crisp and Aioli
Broiled Crab Cake with Fried Tapioca Crisp and Aioli

My shrimp was colossal, I ended up only eating one and saving the rest for my daughter since she loves seafood. My husband and I had tons of questions about the tapioca crisp on his plate but he tried it in the spirit of being adventurous. According to him the crab cake was the best he’s had outside of Maryland. Entrée, and sides came next.

Steak at Prime Steakhouse
Steak at Prime Steakhouse
Steak at Prime Steakhouse
Hubby’s Steak

My husband and I both opted for steak as our main entrée, for dinner. We were so busy enjoying our meal I didn’t get photos of the sides, however, they were equally delicious. I ended up only eating a third of my steak, and took the rest back to our room. My husband thought he could eat it all but the steak won the battle when he had about 1/4 left. He also commented that he only needed his fork to cut into his cut of steak because it was so tender. Mines was also juicy and easy to cut.  We ended up skipping dessert, but I’ve heard that Prime Steakhouse has a few great options for our sweet tooth.

Special Touches

Everywhere we went on the Carnival Magic there were special touches. Prime Steakhouse didn’t disappoint in that regard as well. Celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or any special occasion? Let your server know or include it in your reservation.

Compliments of the Chef at Prime Steakhouse
Compliments of the Chef at Prime Steakhouse

After we placed our orders and before the bread service, our server brought us this tasty bite compliments of the chef. It was a special sampling of a new dish to try. Any questions you asked the staff they were happy to answer or find the answer for you. If you’re dining with food allergies, simply inform the server and they’ll check with the chef before serving your meal.

Prime Steakhouse is on Deck 5 in the rear of the Carnival Magic, right next to the Spotlight Lounge. The steakhouse is open nightly from 5:30 to 9:30 PM. To learn more about the Carnival Magic and Prime Steakhouse visit their website. If you’re not sailing on the Magic check the Carnival website to see what other ships feature a steakhouse on board the ship.

Free Printable Checklist for Special Needs Families Planning a Cruise

Free Printable Checklist for Special Needs Families Planning a Cruise

My family and I are heading on our first cruise in a few months. We’re so excited about the ship that the kids haven’t stopped talking about it for months. I’m both excited and nervous because as a special needs family we have a few extra steps. Any prolonged trip or even the short ones require some extra planning on our end. With JB being Non-Verbal Autistic nothing is just as easy as picking up and going.

Our first family trip to Hersheypark was a bust. JB had a very difficult time dealing with the crowds of people and he didn’t like any of the rides. We winged it and I have to say it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. On our second trip we prepared and adapted to make sure he would enjoy himself. If he’s happy the rest of us are usually golden. Making sure his needs are met are a top priority for me, especially with something like a cruise.

This past summer we attend a media event aboard a Carnival ship in our home town. It was the perfect chance for us to get a sense of how JB would react to being on the ship. He was very nervous about boarding the huge ship. It scared him a bit. He was also very impatient about waiting to board the ship. When we were dining he didn’t understand why some people had their food and he didn’t have his yet. All things we stored in our memory bank to help us better prepare for our upcoming cruise.

Tips & Suggestions for Special Needs Families

I know not all special needs family is made the same. We are all different with our own unique set of challenges. I created the free printable as a way to help families like mines plan for a cruise and cut down on stress while planning. There’s no way you can completely prepare for everything but I hope my checklist keep you on track of some of the basics. Here’s a few tips and suggestions to help along with the checklist.

  1. If your child has a special diet please check your cruise line’s policy on dietary needs. While they may offer some options as far as gluten-free or sugar-free options, they may not have more complex offerings. Contact the customer service department prior to sailing to address any special dietary needs in case you need to shop for your own snacks for onboard the ship.
  2. If you’re flying try to book and travel the day before your cruise. This gives your child the opportunity to destress between events. Flying can be very stressful for special needs families, so getting to spend the night in a hotel the day before heading to port will shorten your travel day. You can also look into this option for when you return from your cruise as well.
  3. I can’t stress this enough but if your child requires special medical equipment please make sure you pack it with you. Inform the airline and cruise ship of any special medical equipment. I would recommend using a back up just in case anything happens while you’re traveling.
  4. Pack all your required medication in your carry on bag or a special back pack for your child. Once you’re on board the ship it could be hours before you see your luggage. Keep all your required medications on you ensures you’re covered at all times. I also recommend packing a change of clothes as well in your carry on bag for the ship.
  5. Have a practice dry run at the airport if possible. Our local airport participates in the Wings for Autism program and hold special trail runs for families with children on the spectrum to help them through the process of going through security and boarding the plane.

These are just a few of the tips to help families like mines when traveling or planning a cruise.  Check out my detailed checklist if you’re planning a cruise or any long travel trips in the future.

Are you a special needs mom/dad and have tips you use for traveling with kids? Share them in the comments below.

Four Ways to Afford Your Next Cruise

Four Ways to Afford Your Next Cruise

My family and I are heading on our first cruise in April. We’re going with my parents and some of my siblings. Our kids are so excited because my family has been trying to convince us to go with them. My husband and I finally took the plunge and decided to go. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, but worried about being able to afford to the trip, I’m here with a few tips.  I wanted to share four ways to afford your next cruise.

There are several ways to save when booking your next cruise. With a family of six our goal is to keep as much of our money in our pockets as possible.

Book a Last Minute Cruise

Just like hotels, cruise lines offers deep discounts on last minutes cruises. Start by researching your favorite cruise lines to check their last minute deals. Since cruise lines are trying to fill the ship before the sailing you are guaranteed to get some great prices. If you can afford it, this is a great way to get a good deal on your next cruise. You can also research last minute deals over a period of time to start saving till you can pay for a cruise you like.

Book Local

We’re lucky to have a cruise port in Baltimore. Another great way to save on your cruise is to book local. If possible you eliminate the need to pay for airfare, ground transportation, baggage fees, and more. Traveling from a local port has additional benefits as well. Most cruise lines allow each passenger to bring on a designated number of sodas and wine. When you travel from a local port it’s easier to pack these items with you verses when you are flying to popular ports. If you live within driving distance of a cruise port I highly recommend researching to see the benefits and how it can help you save on travel.

Take Advantage of Wave Season

From January through March, cruise lines offer various discounts and special offers to entice potential travelers. Some cruise lines offer short term promotions, while others offer one day special offers. Promotions can include offers like reduced down payments, on board credits, upgrades, food & drink credits, and more. Sign up for email promotions from cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Book Early To Save

The saying of the early bird gets the worm, works for booking cruises as well. Cruise lines offer different offers for customers booking as far as 18 months in the future. Offers can include cabin upgrades, on board credits, and more. This is also a great way for families or people who plan to travel in groups. Book when your desired cruise line is offering discount deposits and set a payment plan to pay off your cruise by the final due date. I’ve created a free Cruise Payment Schedule Printable, you can download it and add your information for your next cruise.. It’s a great way to keep track of all your payments and make sure you’re on task with your payment plan.

Bonus Tip: Book Onboard

Once you’re onboard your first cruise, take advantage of special offers by booking on board the ship before your trip is over. Booking this way gives travelers extra flexibility with refundable deposits and the ability to change your itinerary or even move your booking to a travel agent for more discounts and perks.