We just got back from our Thanksgiving Week cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine and had an absolutely fantastic time! This is our family's second cruise with Carnival (we have previously cruised on Royal Caribbean and Disney). Last ... Read More
We just got back from our Thanksgiving Week cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine and had an absolutely fantastic time! This is our family's second cruise with Carnival (we have previously cruised on Royal Caribbean and Disney). Last year we traveled on the new Carnival Breeze for 8-days in the Southern Caribbean and this year wanted to experience the same amazing Fun Ship 2.0 options. We were certainly NOT disappointed! In fact, we felt the Sunshine provided a lot more!
Getting on the ship went extremely fast - even though we didn't purchase the "Faster to the Fun" option. We parked off-site at the Radisson "Park and Cruise" area for about $7.00 per day (highly recommended). I dropped my wife and two kids (ages 10 and 7) at the port to check-in, drove over to the Radisson and took the shuttle bus to meet them after security. It took less than 30 minutes and we were on-board the ship by 12:30pm. Once on-board, we were able to drop off our carry-on items in our staterooms and headed up to the Lido deck for lunch. After lunch, we went exploring and found that there were so many places to hangout and relax, for both the adults and the kids! When we returned to our staterooms before the Sail Away Party, we found all of our luggage being delivered to our rooms. We unpacked, made it to the Lido deck for the Sail Away Party and our fun aboard the Sunshine began!
Some of the reviews on cruise critic have been very negative towards the Sunshine as far as food options are concerned and I have to STRONGLY disagree! We never had a bad meal on this ship!
Each morning we either went to the Lido Marketplace for the buffet, the Blue Iguana breakfast burrito stand (outstanding Mexican style eggs), or the Main Dining Room - my kids and I loved the pancakes (especially the blueberry) and the french toast covered in Frosted Flakes or Honey-Nut Cheerios! We sat in the calming Havana Bar a few days for breakfast where they served made-to-order omelets and non-traditional offerings.
For lunch the options were endless - Guy's Burgers (amazing), Blue Iguana (fantastic shrimp burritos), the Lido Marketplace (salads, sandwiches from a REAL deli, excellent shepherd's pie), Cucina del Capitano (pasta bar and pizza), JiJi Asian fusion (Mongolian wok), and the Taste Bar (deck 5).
We ate dinner in the Main Dining Room 5 of the nights and each meal got better and better! We sat at a table for 4 n the Sunrise Dining Room (much bigger and more beautiful than the Sunset Dining Room) at table 548 (second level of the dining room). We were originally concerned that we'd be stuck at a table with strangers, but Carnival has eliminated that by providing each family a table for themselves! Our wait staff, Imade and Edgar were fantastic! Each night they knew exactly what the kids wanted to drink, had wine glasses on the table for my wife and I (we bought the Premier Wine Package - only $150 for 5 bottles of excellent wine selections), kept bringing tasty baguettes and rolls, and made sure that each dish was to our liking! It was made very clear from the first night that if there was anything we wanted they would completely accommodate our requests - and they did! We had a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, dessert was always perfect, and the food was always hot when it was supposed to be!
One evening, we ate at the Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant and had an amazing meal. Being Sicilian and having eaten outstanding Italian food my entire life, I always am skeptical when it comes to imitators making Italian recipes! Cucina del Capitano did not disappoint - the food was phenomenal! It is served family style, of course, and the portions we so huge that we could not finish. Everything on their menu is was authentic. Even the mid-meal music was spot on for a real Italian experience! All of this for $15/pp (only $5 for the kids ordering off of the kids menu)!
One evening, my wife and I ate dinner in the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse (sent the kids to the kids club for dinner of chicken nuggets and mac n cheese - they loved it). We ate in the Steakhouse on the Breeze and really enjoyed the meal. This time, on the Sunshine, the meal became a truly memorable dining experience! Of course, for $35/pp, you would expect a good meal at a decent restaurant, but at Fahrenheit 555 you get an outstanding meal, impeccable service, and a 5-star restaurant steak! First, they bring out homemade bread and three dipping sauces along with a chef's specialty appetizer - nice touch! I ordered a Crab Cake, an 18-ounce Rib Eye rubbed with 5 spices, and mashed potatoes! My wife ordered the Ahi Tuna (huge portion), the Filet Minot and creamed spinach. Everything was so well prepared that the steak just melted in your mouth! Then the dessert came - a selection of four delicious chocolate concoctions and an enormous raspberry cheesecake! We only got through half of both so the waitress offered to give it to us to take back to the kids. We thought that this was a nice gesture and when she returned she had two plates - one with the rest of our cheesecake and another WHOLE slice for the kids! Again, made the meal into an experience!
For late night, there was two 24-hour soft-serve ice cream stations, room service and (our favorite) thin-crust pizza (some of the best pizza this Italian ever ate)!
What we experienced on the Breeze was that Carnival had taken a back-seat to other cruise lines as far as entertainment, so our expectations we not that high when we went on the Sunshine. Man, were we wrong! Carnival definitely has something great in their Cruise Director Jamie! She is 110% energy, yet so personable and friendly! She does everything - from the Sail Away Party, to the Dr. Seuss Parade, to the Hasbro the Game Show - and Jamie (as well as her crew) take the time to get to know everyone!
The Playlist Performers were extremely entertaining - the Epic Rock show should not be missed (ten times better than the performances on the Breeze)!
The EA Sports Bar showed a ton of NFL and College Football games (even our USF game on Friday at noon) and the bartenders (Andres) were excellent! They have two X-Box systems and the kids can play all of the EA Sports games they wanted!
The Red Frog Pub was our hangout on the Breeze so we immediately made it our after dinner destination for a drink, some dominoes, and good music. On the first night we got to the RFP, there were only a few people in the bar, no sports on their big screen TV's and a musician who my wife referred to as James Taylor (because he was playing very boring, elevator music) turning our favorite hangout into a disappointment. But then, on the third night, we heard Kimberly playing the guitar from the Ocean Plaza and made a bee-line to the RFP. She was joined by another talented singer and together had quite a crowd! Apparently, we missed the memo on these two because they had a following! We ended up in the RFP for another two performances on other evenings and the RFP totally redeemed itself (although Carnival should allow for sports to be televised on the TV screens in the RFP - they would have twice the crowd).
The Seaside Movie Theater was a great experience, too. We sat in the Serenity Deck cushioned seating area, grabbed a few drinks, and watched a great movie, The Fault in our Stars. Each night (when there weren't deck parties) there were either movies or NFL games (Thanksgiving Night) showing, There was always free popcorn and blankets available to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Our kids loved, loved, loved Camp Carnival!!! Each day and each night they asked to go to "the club"! They have games, movies, parties, events and the staff there were amazing! Uncle D (Dezmond), Natasha, Kiki, Chelsea and Raquel (plus several others) were fantastic with the kids! My kids never had a bad experience and met so many new friends! They made so many crafts that their Camp Carnival Night Owls backpacks were overflowing! We always felt safe leaving our kids with the staff there and never thought twice about having them stay until midnight!
PORTS OF CALL
Cozumel - My wife and I have been to Cozumel several times, so we were not initially excited to visit this port again. Once again on this trip we were pleasantly surprised! We took a cab from the port to Paradise Beach (about a 5-10 minute ride). There, for $18/pp we were able to enjoy a huge swimming pool; tons of water trampolines, slides, climbing structures, etc.; access to paddle-boards and kayaks; and a bungee-trampoline my son absolutely loved! The restaurant and bars were fantastic making Cozumel an entirely new experience for our family. The cab ride back to the port was quick and easy. All of the shops near the port were great - purchased some fantastic locally made tequila and hot sauce; pure vanilla extract; a Christmas ornament for my wife; and a hand-made dress for my daughter.
Roatan - My wife booked an excursion through Island Marketing (highly recommended) for a beach day at Bananarama on the West Bay Beach (total of $120 w/tip). We had to walk through the port area and through the security gates to meet our tour guide, Carmen. She took the four of us in a private car through the mountainous island (about a 30-40 minute ride) to West Bay Beach. She told us all about the country of Honduras and how Roatan is a much more desirable island to live on - home prices were unbelievable compared to the US! Once we got to Bananarama, we had access to a full beach area with a restaurant and bar. My wife immediately signed up for a snorkel tour ($30 for almost two hours, including gear and a private tour guide) that took her to the second largest barrier reef in the world (her favorite part of the trip)! Meanwhile, the kids and I enjoyed playing in the water, eating lunch, and playing giant Connect-four and Jenga. When my wife got back, I was taken to down the beach to a secluded area for a much needed massage (ask for Diana - only $20 for 40-minutes). After another hour or so, we got changed and Carmen took us on a tour of the island. She stopped and let us take pictures at several locations, allowed us to go to the Roatan Rum Company for some locally made rum samples and rum cake (bought a huge bottle of rum), and continued to tell us about the island. We were back at the port, did some shopping and back on the ship by 5:00pm. *The only thing about Roatan is that, at the beach, there are tons of people trying to sell you stuff. Just say "no, thank you" and they move on!
Belize - We were supposed to tender to the island of Belize, but the winds were 50 mph and the seas were so rough that we could not make it - so Carnival decided to move past Belize and head to Costa Maya - the staff and crew made it as pleasurable on board as possible to enjoy another day at sea. *We had another excursion booked through Island Marketing (they refunded us our deposit immediately)
Costa Maya - We arrived to a very overcast and breezy port. My wife was in contact with Steve at the Tropicante - a restaurant and "resort" on a nice strip of beach in Costa Maya. My wife reserved two lounge chairs and two adirondack chairs with an umbrella for us to use. Steve doesn't charge for the use of the facility or the chairs, but simply asks if each person spends $10-15 on food and drinks while at his beach area. After an $8 cab ride (need to catch a taxi outside of the port area), we arrived at the Tropicante where a staff member greeted us, took us to our chairs (which were already set-up for us), and took our drink order. Now, I must say that this area doesn't look like much, but the service and food quality was fantastic! The free wi-fi was a plus because it was Thanksgiving day and wanted to face-time our families. We stayed a few hours, enjoyed some free shots of tequila (thank you Steve), and headed back to the port for some shopping before the 1:30pm departure.
This process is what you make of it. We had one of the last numbers called for disembarking so we just hung out on the Lido deck, enjoyed the sun and the coffee and waited our turn. We were off the ship and through customs by 11:30 and at our car in about an hour (long line for the Radisson).
We will be back on the Sunshine next Thanksgiving for the 8-day Eastern Caribbean cruise! We cannot wait!