I have been on many cruises, but this was my second Carnival cruise with the other one being on the Fantasy many years ago. Our group was a family of family 10 which included 8 adults, one teenager, and my 3yr old who was on his 3rd cruise. We were only the July 19th sailing.
The Sunshine cruise was chosen due to the itinerary and it fit into the dates that we all had available.
Pre-Cruise: We all flew from across the US and ended up in Barcelona with all the flights landing withing 20 minutes of each other. We then took a minibus from Suntransfers.com to our pre-cruise hotel, Hotel Indigo Barcelona Plaza Catalunya. The hotel opened only a couple of months ago and it was a great place.
Embarkation: We took another minibus to the airport at 11am and we were on the ship by noon. The group had to split up for a little while as the upper decks check in on the upper level and the lower decks check in on the lower level. The reason for this is they have your cards pre-printed and already distributed by floor.
Cabins: We had four cabins, two outside cabins on deck 5 5132 and 5136 and two inside cabins on deck 9 9123 and 9125. The cabins were a good size with good amenities. The one complaint was the couch which felt like they put fake leather over some plywood. In the cabin that did not have the drop down bunk the person sleeping on the "couch" had to put some extra cushioning under him to sleep.
Eventhough the cabins had been recently renovated they are already showing some wear or poor manufacaturing.
-The carpet in the cabin was already coming apart at the door and by the beds.
-The cabinet doors did not close correctly as they were improperly installed. On each door two of the four hinges were not connected to the cabinet.
-The bathroom door knob fell out of the door.
-The door connecting the cabins did not line up correctly and needed a hockey check while turning the lock to get it closed.
-The wiring for the phone system was poorly installed as it came out of the wall twice.
-The toilet system did not work multiple times throughout the week. One case we almost had an overflow as the system would not stop filling the toilet.
We found the dining to be either really good or really off the mark.
For most part the food was pretty good, but the variety was lacking as I would see the same things from day to day. We all really liked the Pizza there and the sandwich station.
The lunch offering at JiJi and Cucina were some of the best food we had all week. We also enjoyed the burritos and Guys burgers.
We all had anytime dining and had dinner at a group pretty much everyday at a time between 6 and 6:30. We did not have any reservations and we were sat immediately every time. That would not have been the case if we had come about an hour later as the line was out the door to get a table.
The staff was excellent and we always look to see how they will react to our little one. Every single one of them paid extra attention to him and made sure he was happy which made dinner great.
The meals were mostly good with some misses. The one big issue is steak temperature as most were severly over cooked as most like medium rare or medium. My wife who likes medium well would always get the opposite.
This was a disaster throughout the cruise. Each cabin tried to get breakfast probably 2 or 3 times and we got breakfast delivered a total of ZERO times. Each time we called we were told they had no record of the order. One night before my sister called and they came and personally took the order. The next morning they did not get it and they said they had no record of the order.
We brought this up with guest services and they said they would invesigate it. They came back and said that they had the order but we did not hear the door knock which was a lie and I called them out on that. They had no response and just gave me OBC to shut up so they would not have to deal with the problem.
We really enjoyed all the production shows that were done by the Playlist Productions. The cast all performed very well and I liked that all the cast both sings and dances.
We also like Edge the comedic juggler who had a great show while in Venice and Kennedy the "mind reader" from Britain
The Liquid Lounge was an interesting place. I like that they can customize the place to the show they are performing which allows the crowd to become part of the show and have more performer interaction.
The downside is there are a lot of bad sightlines and it is not big enough. The upper level sections closest to the stage cannot see the back part of the stage so they only can see the half of the production show that is done at the front of the stage. The poles also make a lot of seats not that desirable. Each night I saw that there was probably around 100-200 people standing along the top, sitting on the stairs or standing around the lower level.
We spent our time around the WaterWorks area as the main pool was always to crowded because the pool is way too small for being the only main pool on a large cruise ships. I laughed that there is a sign that says max swimmers of 26 by the pool.
The Waterworks area was nice and we could usually find a lounge chair around the area. The kid's area was nice but already some of the water features in the area were broken. I also saw a lot of rust forming on some of things that will need to be clean. The waterslides for the little kids were nice for my son to use except when the teenagers wanted to use the slides. With only two workers who were dedicated to the slides they could not watch the rest of the area.
The three waterslides were fun but they also were rough on the body. After riding a couple of time I had some bumps and bruises from being thrown around inside the slide.
The timing and light features on the racing slides did not work the entire cruise.
The Waterworks area had some water flow issues that closed it a couple of time on embarkation day and it was closed to whole day when were in Civitivecchia for what they called "beautification."
The ropes course was fun and something new that I have never tired before.
We did not spend anytime in the Serenity area, but I felt it was too big for the ship as it took away too public space.
On the Sea Day I did see them once trying to enforce the chair hog policy early in the morning, but did not see the person for the rest of the day. Every time he put a sticker down, it ended in a confrontation with some guest. I never saw any items taken away by the staff.
This was the major disappointment of the cruise ship. We are not ones that go out of our way to complain but when we have an issue we want it fixed in a reasonable time.
I have already gone over the issue with the breakfast.
On the first port day in Marseille, we got back to our cabin around 12:30 to find the chorus of hammers, saws, drills, and other tools all working right above the cabin. I called guest services and they said they have no record of construction supposed to be going on, but will investigate. We go to lunch as we cant stay in the cabin and come back in an hour. No reply from GS so I call again and no one has looked into it. We go to swim as its still loud and spend an hour and a half out there. Come back as the 3yr old is tired and wants a nap before dinner. Construction goes on and no response from GS. I then personally go down there and they say to my face there is no construction near my cabin so there is nothing we can do about it. Now I am mad and have them call my room so they could hear it personally. They then acknowledge it but no one comes to investigate for another 3 hours. Then it stopped after they personally investigated. That was not the end of it as it started again at 1am that evening. My father called guest services and no one answered after three attempts so he went down to get it to stop. We then had a meeting the next morning to go over this with them and we were assured that it would not happen again but they never apologized for the issue.
Our other guest service issues was when are toilet would not work. First the number to call for maintance issues directly was not in service. I then have to call guest services four times over three hours to get a plumber to come up and fix the lines to our rooms.
Marseille: We took a taxi into town where we walked around the area, Whe then took the "train" up to the Notre Dame de la Garde basilica. After that we went back to the ship as the town was be shut down ahead of the EuroPride Gay Pride parade in the afternoon. There were a few people that missed the boat due to traffic issues and no taxis working the downtown area. There was also a traffic jam all the way back to the port on the highway to get into the city.
Livorno: My family of three did the excursion Pisa and Beach which was good. The rest of the family took a private van to Florence.
Civit: We all took the train to Rome and did the sights.
Naples: Some of the group took the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii and Sorrento while the rest of the group went to Capri.
Messina: Most of the group took either the Mt Etna or Mt Etna and Vineyard excursion.
Dubrovnik: We took a taxi to the Cable Car which we took up Mt Srd. We then walked through the city and ended up at the beach outside of the city gates.
Our overall impression is you get what you pay for and that is what we expected from this cruise. Most of the people in the group did not have a favorbale impression of Carnival even with the lowered expectations as the customer service left an overall bad impression on most people. This was the first cruise that I ever had where I walked away with an onboard credit and cash in my hand at the end of the cruise due to all the issues. We did not seek out the OBC, but Carnival it was better to throw OBC at us then try to resolve the issues.
After my Fantasy cruise that I did not have a great experience on, I gave Carnival another try to win me over but it did not this time. This does not shut out Carnival in the future, but it will not be at the top of list when searching for my next cruise.