For those booked on the Carnival Sunshine when it arrives in the Caribbean you are in for a treat! We recently returned from the 9 night Western Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona to Venice, calling at Marseille, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, Messina, Dubrovnik and Venice.
This ship has all the usual Carnival fun and hospitality, but in a lovely package. The refit has been very well done, all the new features are stylish, practical and suit the Carnival experience. We have previously cruised on the Carnival Victory and this ship was similar but just that bit shinier. Because this was the last time the ship will travel this itinerary I will concentrate my review on the ship itself.
We spent a fair amount of time at the Atrium Bar prior to entering the Sunset Dining Room. The staff were very friendly and accommodating. Straight away on the second evening they knew our order as soon as we sat down. The service was never disappointing. The bar is a great people watching spot and there was one of two singers with a guitar singing each evening. Both very good.
This venue has been made very versatile with the main seating loose to accommodate the different shows that take place. It even turns into a night club some evenings. To encourage participation for some shows they closed the curtains for the seating areas at the sides before the performances started. However never fear, they'd open them again as soon as the show begins. The bar was also very good in the Liquid Lounge, don't miss out on the cocktail which comes in a glitterball glass!
Ocean Plaza and Alchemy Bar (Red Frog Pub)
This was a very popular meeting and relaxing spot. It felt very relaxed and open and spacious, a live band or singer was on most evenings, very enjoyable. Other activities such a party games, quizzes and the towel animal demonstrations all took part in this area. The Alchemy Bar served up creations you would get in the best bars back home, a great treat. The Red Frog Pub was just off this area and provided a relaxing environment to enjoy a drink and partake in a pub game. Table Football, chequers, Jenga!
The Taste Bar
I will mention this here because it situated between Ocean Plaza and the walk through to the Casino. This is a fantastic idea and we enjoyed grabbing a taster of what was on offer from the various dining options on board. Why choose when you can have a bit of everything, is that not the cruising moto?
The staff and food in here are excellent. The variety and the food itself I could not fault it at all. We enjoyed every meal and we could be perceived as fussy eaters, however at least one option jumped out at us every evening. For those trying to stave off the weight gain there are clearly marked healthy options. However if you wish to adopt the all you can it eat approach as our dining neighbours did, then it would seem this is an option as well. Each ordered three starters and unfortunately we had to wait until they had finished them all before getting our mains. Often over an hour after entering the dining room. This was our only bug bear with the whole experience.
The entertainment was as always with Carnival funtastic! I just love the waiters song and dances.
The entertainment was varied and very well produced. The huge screens in the Liquid Lounge are state of the art and add a touch of class to productions with the effects that they could produce. We really enjoyed the Hasbro Gameshow, why do we not have this show in the UK? We enjoyed the comedians however due to this itinerary requiring such early starts some of the shows that started quite late had small attendances.
Up on deck
The outside space on the Lido, Serenity and Waterworks was lovely. The two bars and pool with Seaside Theatre create a good on deck atmosphere. The Serenity area spread over three decks with pool, bar and jacuzzi are bigger and better than Victory. The slides are brilliant though due to the inclement weather some days did not open. I am sure in the Caribbean you won't have this problem so much.
Other dining options
We tried Guys Burgers and enjoyed them but they were a lot greasier than we are use to. Nice treat, but couldn't have everyday. The Lido buffet was good for breakfast however in the evening it felt like there was little choice. Mainly though they could do with more options for accompaniments, baked potatoes, chips!
We enjoyed the punchliner brunch on sea day. My husbands new favourite meal is Mac n Cheese with steak!
We made it to the gym one day and though the equipment is good and the gym is a good size, it does let It down that the windows are too low for you to use the equipment while looking out to sea. There are water fountains and sweat towels provided.
We did not book any shore excursions through Carnival mainly because we were unable to because our booking was made through the UK website, however it turns out booking them through crushingexcursions.com saved us approximately half the price of booking through Carnival.
We really like cruising with Carnival and would recommend them and this ship.
Value for Money
I just wanted to note that the only reason we marked it lower than the other categories for Value for Money was that sailing out of Barcelona meant every transaction was subject to Spanish Tax. We were not made aware of the before, during or after the cruise, no communication at all other than the presence on the bar bill. If we had been made aware we may not have felt so put out.