I really meant to get this review done much sooner, then I kind of forgot about it, and then I saw all the negative reviews of the Transatlantic cruise and, I must say, I am shocked--it hardly seems like these people were on the same ship I was on. So here goes:
Embarkation--things went very smoothly. The only disappointment I had was with the FTTF program not quite working out. I think there was a breakdown in communication at the airport with some very stressed out Carnival folks having to deal with our flight that came in 5 hours after it was supposed to arrive. They were very friendly and helpful, but I think they were more focused on getting everyone and our stuff to the ship than they were with making sure luggage all got processed correctly (e.g. FTTF delivered first, etc.). That being said, someone at customer service must have been aware of this because about four days into the cruise a credit showed up on my statement for the FTTF charge.
The ship--it's lovely. Is it perfect? I haven't been a cruise ship yet that's perfect. Many ships have decks that don't go all the way through and if you are sensitive to cigarette smoke there will always be areas to avoid, but having said that, it's certainly one of the nicer ships in the fleet. It is visually stunning from the Atrium to the Serenity Deck to the Havana Bar. Did it sometimes feel crowded? Sure, but I have had that experience on every ship I have ever been on. The Liquid Lounge is, in my opinion, a misstep. Sight lines are not good to the stage, the ventilation system is very noisy, and it's not big enough, but as a place to spend 45 minutes of my day--I was fine with it. I thought that the Playlist Production shows are well-intended but the cast didn't seem quite up to the task of performing them well. We never had a problem getting a chair on deck either in the Serenity area, around the pool, or wherever we wanted to be. The mini-golf was fun, the water slides are AMAZING, and the ropes course is worth doing. We loved the flow of the Lido buffet (although we typically only ate their for breakfast). More on the food and restaurants later. The Ocean Plaza was comfortable--it was nice to have a stage for the band where we could sit and enjoy them instead of having them in a hallway by the casino. We also enjoyed the space of the Alchemy Bar and the Shake Spot.
The Cabin--we were in 12006, on the spa level, and loved it. The newness of the cabin was fantastic. The sliding glass door was a welcome treat, and the balcony was larger than any we have had on any other ship. Our cabin steward was outstanding. We mentioned that we wanted ice in our ice bucket and he kept it constantly full. He thoroughly cleaned our room--even after one night when we accidentally left the balcony door open and a lot of bugs got in and we had killed many of them--the next day they were gone! Everything worked just fine, the bed was AMAZING, and it was a great home away from home. We also enjoyed the spa. Yes, I know, there's no thalassotherapy pool--whatever. The steam rooms were fantastic--I used both the co-ed ones and the one that is in the men's locker room--and the heated chairs were magnificent. I cannot honestly remember a time I have been as relaxed. I also used a treadmill nearly every morning. The gym area was clean, and even if it was busy there were always open machines.
The Food--We went to the steakhouse the first night to get our free bottle of wine. If you've ever eaten in a Carnival steakhouse then you know exactly what to expect. The staff was friendly, the food was good, and we enjoyed our first evening there. Most of our evening meals we had in the MDR (early dining). We had a beautiful view from our table (upstairs right in the center in the aft of the ship) and enjoyed it until all the time changes made it dark at dinner time. Were there problems in the MDR? Yes--our first two nights were disastrous. It seemed that there were massive communications issues not only between our servers and the kitchen but also between the team members themselves. By night three, however, these issues had been resolved and we found ourselves out of the MDR early enough that we were able to take in the early show, if we wanted to do so. The menu had an outstanding variety--many things we had never had on a Carnival ship before--including some of the best duck I have ever had. We also took in the Cucina (it was good--not great--but good) and JiJi's (excellent food--truly excellent food, but the presentation of having to roll the lucky dice, etc. was a bit corny). Some of the best food I have ever had at sea I had on this ship. Lunchtimes we enjoyed a variety--Blue Iguana, Guy's Burgers (as good as everyone says they are), salad bar, etc. I was trying to be diligent and careful with my eating and exercise, and I am pleased to say that I had desert with every supper and still managed to lose 4/10ths of a pound over the length of the cruise.
The entertainment--Okay, so it's a 16 day cruise, so one had better be prepared to entertain oneself, knowing that there will be days when there is no satellite aiming tv signals at the ship. There were some amusing trivia games, but we found that we were able to find our own entertainment. That being said, however, Jaime D and her staff are truly outstanding. Mickey Live was worth the trip. He totally transformed what the cruise was about for us, and we learned much from taking in his shows. Also entertaining were the grumpy passengers who seemed to think that the staff should be doing everything for them. Boredom would set in and then people seemed to start complaining solely because they had nothing else to do. We made it a point of getting gifts for the folks who worked at customer service just because they were so stressed out from people being petty.
The rumors--okay, about the buckets. After being on the ship for five days and not seeing any, we finally set out on a quest to "Find the Buckets." Did we? Yes, we found two, both on deck two, and both under sprinkler heads. About the norovirus. There was not an "outbreak." One passenger was confined to cabin under suspicion of norovirus on day 8. He spent one day in his cabin and then was allowed to roam freely when it was determined that he did not have norovirus but, in fact, had drank too much. About the listing of the ship. Never, ever. This was a very smooth cruise and there was no listing at all.
The ports--we had fun at every port. I would go back to all of them again just to see things there was not time to see in only one day. Highlights included just getting off the beaten path and having some adventures doing things we could have never predicted. We didn't pay for a single shore excursion and had a great time everywhere we went. The Europeans were very warm and friendly toward us and treated us like gold.
Overall--would I sail the Sunshine again? Absolutely, but right now I have only sailed on five Carnival ships, and there some others I still wanna try. I would recommend it, but only if you want to have fun, eat good food, treat your fellow cruisers and the Carnival staff kindly, and make some memories for yourself.
Disembarkation--this was really the only sour note of the trip, but it had no long term effect. Because the cruise had originated outside the US the customs process was much longer than anticipated. The Carnival folks in the terminal were amazing at being helpful and trying to keep things moving, but in the end it came down to the Customs Agents, and there was nothing Carnival could do about that. Jaime D did a wonderful job of communicating on board ship when there were delays and why--and that communication alone shows what a class act Carnival is and the concern there is for the passengers.
Was everything perfect? Nope--never has been, and never will be. But I will say this--it was the best cruise I've ever taken, and I wouldn't hesitate to do it all again tomorrow.