Kids are warmly welcomed nearly everywhere on the ship and will find no shortage of things to do.
The two biggest changes are WaterWorks, the new addition at the aft of the ship, and a completely revamped Camp Carnival, adjacent to it.
The Camp Carnival play area caters to 2- to 11-year-olds and is divided into three main sections, depending on age group. The really small ones (2- to 5-year-olds) get a little outdoor play area just for themselves and an indoor space with age-appropriate soft toys and games. The older you are, the more chairs, video games and space to hang out you get, so for 6- to 8-year-olds, video game consoles linked to plasma-screen TV's, sand art machines, spin art and themed activities are offered. For the 9- to 11-year-olds, there are more video game consoles, as well as swimming under the stars, scavenger hunts, sport challenges and various other fun activities. It's worth noting that 9- to 11-year-olds are allowed to sign themselves out of the club for any reason, but parents are encouraged to give them a cabin key or arrange a meeting place.
Like all "Fun Ships," Carnival Sunshine offers educational specialty programs, including WaterColors (art), ExerSeas (exercise), H2Ocean (science), SeaNotes (music) and EduCruise (geography). Children can also decorate custom-designed Camp Carnival T-shirts, get their faces painted for themed activities, play bingo, make their own pizza and build stuffed animals in the Beary Cuddly Workshop. (All profits go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.) Rates start at $19.95 and vary, depending on the outfits and accouterments selected.
Scheduled activities generally run until 10 p.m., after which Night Owl parties -- late-night group baby-sitting -- are available for $6.75 per hour, per kid (plus 15 percent gratuity per child). There are also the occasional theme parties (beach, Mardi Gras), which run from 10 p.m. to midnight and cost $13 per child (plus 15 percent gratuity).
There are limited activities for the 2-and-younger set. There are designated times when little ones can use the facilities if supervised by their parents. Children who are not toilet trained cannot use Sunshine's WaterWorks facilities, pools or hot tubs.
Carnival also requires kids 11 and younger to wear colored wristbands throughout the cruise, indicating their muster stations.
Older kids get their own, separate rooms (adjacent to Camp Carnival): Circle C for the 12- to 14-year-olds and Club O2 for the 15- to 17-year-olds. Circle C lounge has a dance floor, video jukebox, music, video game consoles and Fun Hub stations. Adjacent to Circle C is Club O2, a teen club where older kids can make new friends and dance to the latest hits cranked out from the D.J. booth. Designed as the ultimate "chill" space, this room also includes a soda bar, video game consoles, Fun Hub stations and a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system. The clubs are generally open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on days in port and from noon to 1 a.m. on sea days. Kids can come and go as they please, but parents are ultimately responsible for their kids. Both Circle C and Club O2 programs have a dedicated director who oversees a host of activities, including late-night movies, video game contests, trivia and scavenger hunts -- and ensures not too much mischief goes on.
The ship also offers numerous kid-friendly culinary choices, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and 24-hour pizza and soft-serve ice cream, available in the casual poolside Lido Marketplace restaurant. The main dining rooms have a children's menu with daily junior specials each night. Kids can also "dine under the stars" with the youth staff (allowing parents to dine on their own).