Ship: Carnival Sunshine
Embarkation: Barcelona, Spain
Debarkation: Barcelona, Spain
Ports: Monaco, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, Dubrovnik, Venice, Messina
Carnival has had lots of problems recently, on both their own line and on Costa, which they own. They hired a reckless captain who killed innocent passengers in Italy. They stranded ship after ship without power, leaving passengers trapped without assistance.
But, my wife and I have been previous customers, we got a good deal on this cruise, and it was a refurbished ship with an extra generator in case the ship lost power. Plus, we had the hope that Carnival would realize the very real problems of its recent history, and would be going the extra mile for its customers.
That is not the case. It's business as usual on Carnival. Get the passengers on, get the passengers off. Put forward only the required effort needed during a cruise. We got a Suite for $1360/person, which was a good price. But, that was considering that the cruise would be good and well run.
The capper was that the ship essentially became an incubator for whatever viral or bacterial infections that were swimming around the ship. Both my wife and I became very sick, and it very much impacted our trip. Carnival makes only the most basic attempts at stopping the spread of infection. There are Purell stations, but not all of them work.
Being on a ship means being basically confined with thousands of people, in various states of health. Add to that, as the ship's doctor reminded us, you have people from up to 60 different nationalities, who are bringing whatever they have with them, as we were. When my wife and I went down to the Medical Center, it was clear that Upper Respiratory Infections were commonplace. When the nurse (also sick) asked the doctor what our diagnoses were, he just gave her that what-do-you-think? look.
Food: The food is fairly ordinary. The best was actually Guy's Burger Joint, where the hamburgers and fries were excellent! As for the rest, it is pretty much cafeteria level. The Dining Room highlights were, as usual, the formal-night offerings: escargot, filet mignon and chateau briand.
It is definitely quantity over quality. There are now oval platters instead of plates. And, passengers were really loading up throughout the cruise. I personally couldn't imagine eating that much. In fact, I cut back my breakfasts to a more European coffee and croissant after a few days. I even skipped dinner on the final night. It just wasn't worth the calories for what they were serving.
Service: The crew aboard the ship were a mixed bag. Our Cabin Steward was nervous throughout, as if he needed to be in our cabin cleaning twice a day, or he would get in trouble from someone. It was at the point that he was right outside our cabin waiting for us to go to dinner. The worst was Laszlo, one of the two Shore Excursion people, who treated my wife and I with complete disrespect.
I have found that the Asian crew members are definitely the best and the most friendly. Crews from other areas are definitely less so. There must be a higher sense of serving the customer with crews from Asia.
Shore Excursions: You get the 40 or so people on a large bus for the tours. The rest is up to what tour guide you have. Ours were a mixed bag. We did better with private, small-group tours we joined with other passengers.
Entertainment: Pretty good. Their rock/pop band, The Rock and Roll Time Machine did very well. We went to one stage show that featured singers performing to classic rock tracks, and we went to a show while docked in Venice overnight, Three Italian Tenors, which was good also. There was one or more acoustic guitarist/singers on the ship. One played in the atrium and was good, but played the same songs again and again.
Activities: We didn't use the spa, the workout area, the sports courts or the private adult lounging area, so we can't speak on those, really. They looked fine.
Travel to/from Port: We used our own choice of hotel and cab on the way in. We used Carnival's post-Barcelona highlights tour, which was okay, but fairly standard. Plus, there was confusion on dropping us at our airport hotel. We ended up at the wrong one, and had to have our actual hotel come over and get us.
Given our experience on this cruise, and what appears to be the decreasing quality of Carnival cruises, my wife and I don't see the likelihood of cruising on Carnival again.