I booked this cruise back in March before the maiden voyage of the Sunshine and was extremely excited to go on this ship that was supposed to be completely overhauled and redone.....until I started reading the reviews. As I'm sure you've read, the reviews are less than appealing and I have to say that I seriously considered changing my reservation to a different ship- but after taking this cruise, I'm glad I didn't. Here's my complete review of the ship- the good, the bad, and the indifferent.
First- the good. The redesign of the ship is really cool. The water slides (I was told, I didn't actually go on them) were awesome, the rope course on the top deck (sports square) was a blast and we ended up doing it 3 times in a row, and the serenity deck is absolutely gorgeous! The waterfall going into the pool is definitely a selling point not to mention all of the comfy seating on the 3-story serenity deck. The havana bar, Jiji Asian Kitchen, and Cocina Del Capitano were great as was the redesign on the 5th floor aft. I seriously wish that we had an Alchemy Bar here- their specialty drinks were incredible! Try the cucumber sunrise and you won't be disappointed. it was one of the most delicious drinks I've ever had!
I went with three friends (all of us are in our 20's) and we had connecting spa balcony cabins. The use of the spa was wonderful! The three different steam rooms/saunas were fantastic and so were the heated stone recliners. The cabin itself was very nice- not the typical carnival style. It had slightly muted colors and wasn't overdone. The balcony was a very good size and we were able to open the partition between our two cabins to make it even bigger. Our stateroom steward and housekeeping staff were wonderful but the best experience we had with employees on the ship was in the dining room. Our waiting staff- Oli, Adina, and our assistant waiter (I forgot his name) were all three incredible! We got to know them and they got to know us really well. I've been on 7 cruises and this was the best experience I've ever had with the wait staff in the dining room during dinners.
Now- the bad. The food (as everyone has mentioned) was not the best. It wasn't awful, but it also wasn't great. We did not try the steakhouse, but I did hear that it was a tier above the rest. The best food was definitely Guy's Burger Joint followed by the pasta bar at Coccina Del Capitano. The rest of the food at breakfast/lunch was mediocre at best. If you are a non-smoking gambler, GOOD LUCK. One of the only places that people are allowed to smoke is in the casino so every smoker congregates at the casino bar and chain smokes there..... By the last day, the smoke was so bad that my eyes just watered going in there. I am a HUGE poker player so that really annoyed me.
Although the redesign was aesthetically pleasing, there were some major functionality flaws. The first one was that the main decks (3,4,5) do not go all the way from forward to aft so it's a bit of a maze to find certain places (like the aft dining room). Also, since decks 11,12, and 14 are brand new decks added during the remodel, there are only 2 elevators that go up to these decks and they don't always like to stop on these decks. If you are able to take the stairs, this isn't a problem. But one of the girls in our group was not able to do stairs and she had to wait nearly 10 minutes every time she wanted to go to a different deck. The other one is that they added about 200 additional cabins so they had to decrease some of the public spaces. The liquid lounge, which is the main theater, was cut down by a full deck and held nearly half the previous occupancy before the remodel. The smaller theater- where they hold the comedy shows, magic shows, etc. has probably the worst design I have ever seen. the room is oddly shaped so that half of the audience cannot actually see the stage and have to watch the comedian/performer on one of the monitors placed on the walls.
Now- the ports. Roatan was probably one of the most GORGEOUS ports that I have ever been to. We did the Dolphin Swim and Snorkel through Carnival and it was amazing! There is nothing quite like snorkeling through clear water and seeing 5 dolphins suddenly swim right under you and play in bubbles that you make with your fins.
Carnival's port in Belize is actually in Belize City, which is a dirty, grimy, poor area and honestly kinda scary. If you are doing a tour, be prepared to have a long drive ahead of you to get to nearly any of the resort type areas. We were supposed to do a cave tubing/zip lining adventure through Cavetubing.bz, but the caves were all flooded. They still took us ziplining and definitely made up for the fact that we were not able to go cave tubing- both financially and through little extras like lunch and free unlimited rum punch. Also, be aware that you have to tender in Belize and unless you are Platinum, Diamond, or have a faster to the fun pass, you are most likely going to wait about an hour to get a tender to shore.
Cozumel is gorgeous! It's the one port that Carnival, Royal Carribean, and most of the major cruise liners have been going to for years so the shopping is fantastic, the city is great, there is tons to do, and you actually feel quite safe. We did scuba diving here and had probably the best experience of the entire trip! We did not go through Carnival but instead wen through Diver Down Cozumel with Socrates. If you are looking for a first time dive, email Socrates (google diver down cozumel). He was fantastic!
Overall, the cruise had more pluses than minuses and I am definitely happy that we went on it. New Orleans is a great port and the embarkation/debarkation processes were incredibly smooth and organized.