The headline-grabbing addition to Sunshine is Serenity, a triple-deck adults-only retreat, complete with hot tubs, cabanas, bars and a triple-height waterfall and plunge pool. It's by far the biggest adults-only area Carnival has on any of its ships -- and it's both welcome and puzzling at the same time.
It's puzzling because this massive piece of real estate (it also takes up the whole of the front of the ship on those top three decks) is adults-only, while Carnival touts itself as the ultimate family cruise line. (Incidentally, it is: it carried more than 750,000 kids in 2012 -- far more than any other line.) The point is, the line has effectively banned kids from a vast area of the ship. According to Carnival, parents need this space to get away from their kids, and many couples also seek a quiet spot.
Having said that, it's a gorgeous space and beautifully designed, from the triple-height waterfall and plunge pool to the cabanas and dozens of deck chairs. And, if you have no kids (or if they are safely being entertained in Camp Carnival), it's a wonderful spot to get away from it all. It never seems to get crowded and becomes quieter and calmer the farther up and toward the front you venture. Plus, unlike most other lines, Carnival levies no outrageous charges for the hire of cabanas: everything is free. It's not particularly well patrolled -- there are a couple of discreet signs stating "Over 21's Only" -- and there were a few kids who dared to venture in, but the majority were older.
Serenity overlooks the main Lido Deck, which features one pool that is way too small for the number of passengers onboard. It's set up like an amphitheater (which makes sense, as it's where outdoor movies and TV shows are shown on a 270-square-foot screen over the pool), in tiered seating, peppered with hot tubs and rows and rows of blue loungers. The pool is flanked by the aforementioned quartet of branded bars and restaurants -- Guy's Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar.
The space doubles as the venue for evening deck parties and daytime entertainment offerings (like the best mixed drink contest). A D.J. also regularly spins tracks overlooking this spot on sunny sea days. Behind him (on Deck 11) is one of two outdoor smoking areas (the other is on the outdoor port side of the Lobby Deck); it's been banned from every other bar and venue.
Look out for the surreal towel animal army that materializes on the sun deck one morning of each cruise. Even the most cynical cruiser will admire the whimsy.
One deck below Serenity is the Cloud 9 Spa (open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily). With 15 treatment rooms, this is one of the larger spas in the fleet, and it's run by Steiner. It has a Thermal Suite with sauna, steam room, tropical shower and heated stone loungers with lovely sea views, which are all available for a fee of $35 (free if you are in one of the Spa Cabins). Other treatments available include a DIY Scrub Experience, where you select an herbal blend and a "mixologist" creates a customized body scrub, and ZSpa, a teen spa program that offers a line of treatments designed specifically for 13- to 17-year-olds. Mother-daughter and father-son treatments are also available. Spa treatments include massages, facials and Botox. A 50-minute aroma stone massage is $159, one treatment of acupuncture $150; a 50-minute Couples' Villa Massage costs from $269 per couple.
The spa leads to the fitness center, which offers all the latest cardio and weight-training equipment. The fitness center serves as the location for a wide range of instructor-led exercise classes. Basic ones, such as stretching, are included in the cost of the cruise; Pilates, yoga, boot camp and spinning are $12 a class.
There is also a salon attached, offering cuts and men's grooming. Look for deals on port days, such as a free haircut ($35 value) thrown into a $95 "Gents Pamper Package."
At the aft of the ship lie WaterWorks and SportSquare. Anyone who sailed on Destiny might well do a double take, as this is where the aft pool, complete with retractable glass roof, was positioned. As part of the refit, the pool was removed, Havana Bar was put in its place, and a whole new floor was constructed on which to put WaterWorks and SportSquare.
WaterWorks features 40 interactive water features, including the PowerDrencher, a 150-gallon tipping bucket, and five different slides, including the new racing-themed 235-foot Speedway Splash and a 334-foot-long and 47-foot-high Twister slide, the longest in the "Fun Ship" fleet. Passengers must be at least 42 inches tall to ride the slides. There is also a SplashZone for younger kids.
Sunshine's SportSquare includes a ropes course, mini-golf course, a basketball court, jogging track, table tennis, Foosball and pool tables. A running track (or Sky Track) goes around SportSquare and the basketball court, with seven laps equaling one mile.