My husband and I had the fortunate opportunity to spend part of our honeymoon aboard the Carnival Sunshine. We had an AMAZING time on our special vacation and much of that joy came from our cruise. We were aboard one of the first cruises for the Sunshine departing from Barcelona on June 7th. This was my fifth cruise and my husband's second (first for him aboard Carnival and my third Carnival cruise). While of course there are always ups and downs with any trip, here are some of the highlights of our experiences...
By far the best embarkation I have ever had for a cruise. We arrived early to the cruise terminal in Barcelona - about 10:45am. All of our boarding materials stated that we'd be allowed on the ship starting at 11:30am and we were pleased to find a very organized terminal when we arrived at 11am. The process was almost so easy that we thought we had missed something! We dropped off our luggage outside (we already had the cruise tags on our luggage), received a boarding group number, breezed through security, spent about 30 seconds getting our Sail & Sign card (we had done all the pre-boarding materials online already) and then sat in a very comfortable waiting area (with couches, nice tables, even an outside patio overlooking the water) until our boarding number was called. Even everyone around us seemed relaxed! We were group #9 and were on the ship by about 11:20am. A great way to start our trip!
This was one of the areas where there were definite highs and lows. Guy's Burger Joint was fantastic (we went there almost every afternoon after touring) with great burgers and an excellent toppings bar and by far our favorite dessert was the chocolate melting cake (I ordered every night we ate in the dining room). We wanted to go to the Blue Iguana place, but it never seemed to be open while we were on the ship and/or hungry. The Lido buffet was iffy. It was the same food each morning for breakfast (and no pineapples for breakfast!) and for dinner while there looked to be a lot of variety, each area had the same stuff. Overall, we found both the variety and quality to be mediocre at the Lido buffet (although we never made it there for lunch). Tea time was also a bit of a bummer... No special teas, just the standard teas we have in our work cafeteria. Dinners in the dining rooms were pretty good. Nothing super special, but nothing horrible. I will say that I miss the special midnight buffet that cruises once offered with ice sculptures and great looking food displays. The "late night snacks"? left much to be desired due to hardly any variety (just some hot dogs, cheese sandwiches and pizza... not even any chips and salsa). Room service was fine as well, not great but not by any means bad. I really liked the shakes near the Ocean Plaza (and the staff at the shakes place was always wonderful!). They had a great variety and I went there almost every night. And I must admit... I popped into the candy store a few times for some late night treats. Also, a word of advice, instead of buying beer from the bars, check out the self-serve beer station in the Lido area. Such a fun, reasonably priced, surprise find (and no need to tip!)!
As others have mentioned, it's definitely a bit finicky. We found it to be very choppy and at times hard to get around. After a 9 night cruise, I still didn't feel like I had the hang of it. We also found the decor to be more "comfortable casual"? as opposed to "elegant and grand"?. Perfectly fine for us, but for those looking for the upscale cruise feeling, the Sunshine probably would not be the right ship to choose. Our room was right in the middle which we found to be ideal as far as getting to places with ease. We had a balcony room and felt that for the two of us there was plenty of room. We also never heard our neighbors or much outside noise (we were in the middle of the ship and away from elevators/stairs). Comfortable beds, a nice little living area space, and a hot shower with good water pressure rounded out the nice room!
As with most other cruises, there was a ton to do. We went to a bunch of the trivia sessions, a cooking demonstration and some other events onboard. The activities staff was OK. Some were good, some of the staff members were pretty bad (there was one red haired UK girl that needed an attitude adjustment). We had fun though and were happy to see so much always going on.
We also went to the "Epic Rock" show... It was definitely entertaining, though mostly for the surprise factor of it being more like 80s rock meets Star Wars meets post apocalyptic world meets Vegas. We enjoyed the 80s band that would play in the Ocean Plaza at night and had fun in the Liquid Lounge until it became like a middle school dance late in the night. We gave the piano bar a try twice, but the piano guy was actually really bad... so bad it was almost awkward at times. We went to one of the comedians, but didn't find him to be anything special. I will say though that I found the nightlife atmosphere to be better than other cruises... Maybe it's just the Carnival crowd, but people were definitely there to have fun. We also attempted to spend time in the sports bar, but there were only a few TVs and they were either not working or always on the same Euro sports channel. Speaking of TVs, the TV in the room was horrible. Only a few channels, most of which were Carnival related, and the Carnival ones didn't even have the video/audio synched properly. Fortunately though, we didn't go on the cruise to watch TV, so it didn't really impact us too much. A random note... I noticed that the treadmills in the Spa were positioned in a way where they were in front of windows, but one could not see out the windows. Quite odd, but at least I never had to wait for a machine.
We loved spending time in the Adults-Only Serenity area. The lounge chairs were super comfortable and it was nice to have a pool and hot tub just for adults (the main pool and hot tubs tended to have a lot of kids in them). We even spent one night in one of the little cabanas watching a movie on the big screen. We also really liked the slides... We went one day after getting back early from touring and found it not to be too crowded at all. There really is a ton to do on the ship!
Ports of Call:
We picked this cruise mainly because of the ports and they did not disappoint! We really enjoyed them all. Rome is amazing and Taormina and Dubrovnik are beautiful. The ride into Venice on the ship is also pretty cool because you go right past St. Mark's Square. We were very happy with the itinerary!
Overall, we were very pleased with our cruise. Despite it being a 3,000+ passenger ship, we never found it to feel too crowded. We were always able to get lounge chairs whenever, never had long lines for food or difficulty finding a table, and felt like there were enough places to get "away"? from the hustle and bustle. We did end up getting to know a bunch of other cruise passengers (so many we even recognized on our flight to Barcelona! hah!). We felt that all the guests were nice and it was especially always fun to run into familiar faces when out in the ports.
One night we did have an issue with the "propulsion"? systems, but felt that the Carnival staff handled it well and gave us more than enough information... The problem was fixed quickly and the only change to our schedule was that we got to sleep a little later one morning.
I would definitely recommend the Carnival Sunshine to families, cruise newcomers, and those who just want to have a good time and see some great sights! If you're into constant fanciness, then this probably isn't the cruise for you. We're all about good deals and fun times, and we definitely felt that our cruise on the Carnival Sunshine around the Mediterranean was a great deal, we had a great time, saw so many cool sites, and even did a lot of relaxing. I'm ready for my next cruise!