My husband and I are Platinum level cruisers and have been on eight different Carnival ships, so we were excited to book the 16 day transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to New Orleans leaving Barcelona on November 1, 2013. We enjoyed the cruise but were very disappointed with the ship itself, which we were led to believe was a totally new ship with a name change to prove it. It is not a totally new ship, merely one emerging from a glorified dry dock. Out of all of the Carnival ships we have been on, it is our least favorite and we would never book it again.
But it's not fair to focus on the shortcomings of the ship without first stopping to note the things that went well on this cruise:
THINGS THAT WENT WELL
Embarkation in Barcelona was the quickest and smoothest we have ever had. We literally walked onto the ship and had our luggage promptly delivered.
We had the second (late) seating in the Sunset dining room and had attentive service and hot food delivered in a reasonable period of time.
There were very enjoyable live musical presentations by Ken Byrne, the maître d, and Seth, the piano guy.
The morning presentations on photography, ports, and location were well done by Mickey Live. Carnival did a great favor to its guests by booking this knowledgeable cruise professional to provide interesting talks during the cruise.
All of the crew, from the dining room to the room stewards, were friendly and professional.
We enjoyed our Carnival excursions. The trip from Malaga to Grenada to see the Alhambra was particularly well done and an excellent value.
THINGS THAT DID NOT GO WELL
The ship does not have the advertised "new" feel. Most of the granite counters and tables on other ships have been replaced here with cheap plastic veneers, perhaps to lighten the overall weight in order to take on more passengers. The feeling around ship is more of a fast food chain or lower tier motel chain. There is none of the fun tongue- in -cheek "opulence" we see on other ships. Many maintenance details have been overlooked. For example, the window in in 1351, our ocean view stateroom, was rusted all around and certainly needed at least a new coat of paint.
And yes, we did see drip buckets around ship, but even worse were the recurrent sewage smells, including on the corridor by the steakhouse.
There are too many extra fee restaurants: the steakhouse, the Chinese place, the Italian place, and the sushi place. Let's remember, folks, that $11 charge in the Italian restaurant doesn't mean you are paying $11 for dinner. No, you are paying $11 plus whatever you already paid for dinner in the main dining room. And there is no longer "free" sushi before dinner. In sixteen days it was only offered once at the Taste Bar, and each person was given exactly one small piece. We will never pay extra for meals on a cruise and wish the space was devoted to something that could be enjoyed by all passengers.
There is lots of "dead space", such as the long empty hallway to the Limelight Lounge or the huge slide that is used very infrequently.
But the most distressing thing about the Sunshine is the Liquid Lounge, now made much smaller in order to free up room for the additional charge restaurants and extra staterooms. The chairs on the first level are moveable and crowded very tightly together. The room itself is ugly, with dozens of black spotlights hanging from the ceiling and huge light boxes sitting on the floor. There was never enough seating and people had to sit on the stairs, stand up, or just leave without seeing the show.
The entertainment is now more about machines instead of people: flashing spotlights changing colors, film clips projected on stage, extremely loud pre-recorded music with no live music. The small number of dancers gestured with microphones to give the illusion that they were singing, but we had to laugh at the first show when one of the male performers had no fewer than four different voices come out of his mouth during the course of the performance. The performers have been reduced to lip synching puppets. The overall feeling with the shows is that they have now been designed for an audience who is accustomed to getting their entertainment from video games.
So would we cruise Carnival again? Absolutely. Would we chose to go on the Sunshine again? No!