My husband and I (mid 30's) cruised with our kids (4 yrs and 9 months) on the Sunshine and had a great trip! My aunt (late 40's) joined us as well to help out with the kids, though she had her own cabin. We were in cabin 5340, corner aft Ocean Suite which ended up being a perfect cabin for our family. When I originally booked this cruise and cabin it was designated as 9C with a wraparound balcony...I thought I would miss the wraparound but really the layout was perfect. Our cabin steward Brian was very nice, though he seemed a little frazzled and at times our service was lacking. The way he interacted with our son made up for it...our boy misses him still :). The location of our cabin was great as well. My husband loves to gamble, so being right by the casino was great for him. My son loved being right down the hall from the arcade and candy store. I enjoyed having the Taste Bar right there because I could grab breakfast or lunch to bring back to the cabin if the kids were sleeping.
We spent most of our time at the Water Works and the pool. My four year old was SO excited to finally be tall enough for the big water slides! He wore me out doing the racing slides...lots of steps to the top! We had no trouble finding loungers by waterworks or by the pool. The pool was also never crowded when we were there. Times for waterworks opening were all over the place, not consistent at all but also not a huge problem. My son found a bat stuck under the ledge at waterworks early one morning. A crew member took it away in a cloth napkin.
We only went to the dining room one night when my son went to eat with the kids at Camp Carnival. Our service was great and the food was good. I think they served us quickly due to having an infant with us. My husband and I ate at JiJi one night then my aunt and I ate there another night...it was great! We didn't have reservations either night so they hesitated seating us, but there were plenty of empty seats, so they let us in. Well worth the $12 cover charge. The pork belly and the short ribs were really good as were the chili shrimp. My husband and I also ate at the steakhouse one night and it was excellent as well; also worth the cover charge. My son ate lots of pizza, my baby girl loved all the fruits, veggies and breads. We ate the buffet most mornings and visited the omelet station in the Havana bar...weird that they have it so separate like that. I tried and thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast burrito from the Cantina on the Lido deck. We all loved Guys burgers and fries. The toppings bar makes it, but the burgers are better than the old ones. We certainly had no issues with the food on this trip.
We didn't attempt any shows or participate in any of the other entertainment. We pretty much used the arcade and water attractions with the kids. Can't really comment on the entertainment. My son only went to camp carnival once to eat with the kids and play a little after, but never asked to go back. I didn't push it since I wanted to spend family time on the trip; we went back together to do the build a bear and enjoyed that. There was also a playground area outside camp carnival that both my kids enjoyed.
We ordered Patron for our cabin ahead of time and brought on Margarita Mix, so we mixed our own quite a bit, but we also ordered bar service and had excellent drinks. The mojitos were really good as were the rum runners. My son loved the "strawberry smoothies" and had a couple a day. My husband earned the "drinks on us" card in the casino and was able to order a drink every 15 minutes if he was in there. He's not a big drinker so he'd order and bring us one every once in a while. We also brought champagne onboard and made our own mimosas. Our bar tab was small.
We didn't do many pictures, but the ones they took were good and we ordered a couple. I didn't find the photographers as pushy as I have on past cruises which was nice. I did a load of laundry which cost $9; $3 to wash and $3 to dry but I had to run them through the dryer twice. The hose on the back of the dryer was crushed which I'm thinking could be a fire hazard.
We went to the Westin hotel for our port day in Grand Cayman. It was $154 for our party of 5 and included access to their beach, pool, a room and other hotel facilities. We had a great day there and really enjoyed the beach and pool but I wouldn't pay that again. We went to the room just to check it out since we paid for it but never needed to use it. We also took a dip in the pool just to say we did and it was nice. We ate lunch there and it was expensive...$80 for three wraps, a PB&J and some fruit for the baby. The property was fabulous but again not the best bargain for a port day. We had trouble getting transport back to the port; the taxis didn't want to take us and told us to catch the bus. We didn't feel comfortable with this since we had the kids and eventually the hotel staff called a taxi for us and instructed them to take us to the port. I was thankful for them taking care of that!
We visited Nachi Cocom for our port day in Cozumel. We've been there a couple times before and knew what to expect...perfection! Sadly I dropped my camera (red Lumix TS25) in the taxi on the way there and didn't notice it was gone until later. Regardless we had an excellent day at Nachi with great service, great drinks, and great food! My husband saw a baby sting ray while snorkeling off the beach, we buried our son in the sand, and built several sand castles. All food and drinks are included here; we had several margaritas apiece, nachos, guacamole, shrimp & rice, garlic shrimp; cheese quesadilla, chips and salsa...all were excellent!
On the last day of our cruise we had cookies delivered to our cabin courtesy of the Players Club (my husband apparently made a nice donation to the casino). Then we received meringue cookies courtesy of the Steakhouse which was nice. Finally we received a letter that my husband "won" a free cruise courtesy of the Players Club (though I'm sure he paid for it a couple times over). So, we'll be booking this week for another cruise in March for our anniversary. Can't wait to sail with Carnival again...all our experiences (4 so far) have been positive.
Oh yeah, this was our first time to leave out of New Orleans...all others have been out of Galveston. I have to say the port of New Orleans was SO nice and organized from the parking to embarkation to debarkation. We had priority boarding, so we had such an easy time getting boarded. We chose self assist debarkation, so we got off early as possible and got to bypass lines since we had the baby in a stroller...they flagged us to a separate area to use elevators which put us quite a bit ahead of the line. We would certainly consider sailing from here again and it's only an hour further than Galveston for us.
Over all we had an excellent family vacation. I was glad to have my aunt along so my husband and I could dine without the kids and she was great to hang out with. She enjoyed the time with the kids as well. I have read a lot of negative reviews about the Sunshine but I really had no issues that are worth complaining about. My previous sailings with Carnival have been on Ecstasy, Conquest and Magic so a pretty good mix. I can't wait till the next trip :D