We did the Christmas cruise on the Sunshine. We were OK with the cruise, and would even consider doing it again because we liked the ports, but we were not ecstatic about the experience. Cruising, or cruising on Carnival, might not be for us, and the fact that it rained every day did not help. Likewise I have read the recent mixed reviews for the Sunshine, and while I agree with most of the details, I am a little more positive on the whole cruise. I do appreciate that the cruise allowed us to safely visit Belize, Roatan, and Tulum at a reasonable price with good food and lodging.
We have only taken one other cruise, a Christmas cruise on the Carnival Splendor. Both ships are laid out pretty much the same, so we were able to get around fairly easily. The cruise was completely sold out, but I did not feel overly crowded. We noticed the crowds when we used the gym, tried to get into the evening comedy show, and tried to find places to sun ourselves, but we were able to get by.
The Sunshine’s crew was OK in the friendliness department. But they were not as good as the crew on the Splendor, who were very easy to talk with. One girl on the house-keeping came across as being so shy that she would actually turn away to avoid greeting us, whereas her coworker easily smiled and greeted us by name.
Like other reviewers, we saw the buckets on the ground under several leaks, and smelled sewage in one isolated area. Not a big deal.
We were a little bored by the on-board entertainment. We did not like the cruise director’s entertainment and we only went to one of the cabaret shows, which we also did not like. Either the singers weren’t very good or they were incorrectly miked. The Friends TV show trivia game, infomercials for art and shopping, and a hairy chest contest just were not our idea of a good time. We did enjoy the comedians in the evening. They were uniformly good and were better than what we had on the Splendor. The only downside to the comedy show was that we had to get there a half hour early to get a seat. We were surprised how much we enjoyed the piano bar. The crowd was often very vocal and energetic. The pianist did a good job handling 15 twenty year old cousins from Iowa who got him to play the Iowa State football fight song. Our family has divided opinions about the singer who performed at dinner in the main dining room. He had an amazing voice, but some of us were bothered that he interrupted our dinner conversation. I loved the energy in the room when the singing started, but my kids were wincing when the music abruptly changed from Sinatra to rap.
In general we liked the food. In a welcome break from most high end restaurants, the meals served in the main dining rooms were not too big. The waiters would bring you seconds on anything that you wanted. Carnival really does a good job with steak. The vegetables were very good, I just wish they served more of them. I was OK with the breakfasts and lunches. The made to order omelets were great, except there was a line for them. The 24 hour pizza was a little disappointing. The Mexican food bar was good.
Unlike other reviewers, we had an easy time with embarkation. Debarkation involved a slowly moving line, but we were expecting that.
Similar to one of the other reviewers, we also had a slightly disappointing birthday experience. I asked the cruise director to mention my daughter’s birthday in the morning show, but apparently our best wishes did not make the program cut. That evening the waiters barely made it to the table to sing “Happy Birthday” before we got up to leave after dessert.
We were happy on both the Splendor and the Sunshine with how they handled excursions. The staff was knowledgeable about the excursions and made suggestions. My daughter got sick and they promptly gave us a refund on her excursions. I am happy that we got to go to Tulum, a fascinating place, but this is a tough excursion to do from Cozumel since you have about an hour and a half commute both ways. We are inured to the fact that the cruise ship arranged excursions often involve appeals for tips and tie-ins to shopping. I wish that the Sunshine offered a “behind the scenes tour” like they did on the Splendor.
The ship’s WiFi did not work well. The internet on the ship’s hardwired computers was slow. The gym is good, but I was annoyed that some of the touch screens on the treadmill entertainment consoles operate right.
We were happy with our lower deck window cabin. To save money I got my grown children an interior cabin. This was a big mistake. The interior cabins are Spartan, and needless to say, dark.
This is the best shore excursion that I have ever been on. The guides were excellent. Prior to the excursion, communications via E-mail with the company were extensive and clear. We were picked up at the cruise terminal. It turns out that at least 40 other people from the ship also selected the same independent tour company. The guides were very knowledgeable and articulate. On the ride to the park with the caves they gave us a good overview of Belize and the surrounding countries. At the park, we walked for a half hour through the jungle to get to the caves. In a surprise, the company had already hauled the inner tubes to the cave so that we did not have to carry them. The guides pointed out the local flora and fauna, and even offered everyone a chance to eat termites, which surprisingly have a minty flavor. Drifting on inner tubes through the caves was a unique scenic experience. Afterwards we were served a lunch of chicken, rice and beans, and either rum punch or local sodas made with cane sugar. I was happy for the local meal.
Overall this was an outstanding activity. It was a unique thing to do and it was educational and physical (but not overly strenuous).
It needs to be noted that this is one excursion that you have to read up on before you go, since you need bug spray, bathing suits, and old shoes.
We were really happy to get to go to Tulum. It is an interesting place to visit and loved learning about the Mayans. The guide was passionate and knowledgeable. The downside is that Tulum is an awkward excursion from Cozumel, being about 90 minutes away. This leaves only about two hours to tour the ruins. Part of the commute was on a ferry boat that has to cross a channel that is not smooth sailing. Luckily no one on the ferry seemed to be prone to sea sickness.
The guide was very up front about the fact that he was steering us to eat and buy souvenirs at places that he trusted and did business with. Our meal at the place that he recommended in Tulum was good.
My kids said that they liked the beach day. But I think that the park was the better choice since it was a rainy day. They paid extra to rent paddle boards. A good thing is that the beach is very close to the ship. A downside is that the beach was overcrowded.
We went to Gumbalimba Park while my daughters had the beach day. The park was good. The birds were beautiful and a monkey stole my glasses. The guide had to offer the monkey an orange to get him to give them back. The guide was local and could knowledgeably talk about the island. It is about a 20 minute ride to the park from the ship, but I enjoyed getting to see and hear about the island. The food service at the park was slow and was hamburgers and hot dogs. We were happy when the manager apologized for the slow service and gave us a free employee lunch of spare ribs, rice and beans, and breadfruit. I wish that was on the menu.