Before embarking on our cruise, I read a ton of reviews about the Carnival Sunshine and was shocked at how many were negative and sometimes over-the-top negative. It is a shame that those who felt the need to write such negative reviews ... Read More
Before embarking on our cruise, I read a ton of reviews about the Carnival Sunshine and was shocked at how many were negative and sometimes over-the-top negative. It is a shame that those who felt the need to write such negative reviews had such a miserable experience on what should be one of the best times of their lives. As with anything in life, our vacation was far from perfect but it was a heckuva lot of fun and I just wanted to share our mostly positive experience on the Carnival Sunshine as well as realistically and calmly addressing the less-than-perfect aspects of our cruise.
We sailed the Carnival Sunshine 10/1 - 10/8 from New York City to Bermuda and back with 3 days in Bermuda. My wife and I were a little worried about this cruise since we have experienced crowded Carnival ships before with long lines and this ship recently added more cabins and took away common spaces when it was transformed from the Carnival Destiny to Carnival Sunshine. But, actually, we were pleasantly surprised with how well-designed the ship was.
We rarely encountered long lines for any of the food we ate. Guy's Burger Joint is excellent and we were never more than 5th or 6th in line. Also, the line moves quickly and there are actually two lines approaching from either side of the place. The burgers are excellent, fresh and the topping bar lets you design it anyway you want.
The Lido Buffet has multiple stations with the same food accessible from two sides so you can pick the quickest station and side. The assortment of food there is not great, much stuff gets repeated but there is usually a thing or two worth choosing.
For breakfast, we would grab a thing or two from Lido then go to the Omelet station. There are two of them in the Havana Bar. We usually went to the one where Cucina Del Capitano is. We were never more than 3rd or 4th in line, each got an omelet then had them give us a few hash browns, sausage links, bacon, ham or whatever else they had there. We would eat in the Havana Bar which is quieter and more comfortable than the Lido eating area.
For lunch, we alternated between Guy's Burgers or Cucina Del Capitano. At dinner time, Cucina Del Capitano is an upcharge restaurant but it is free for lunch. You get a menu from the maitre'd table, select your pasta and what ingredients you want in it including, chicken, garlic shrimp, Italian sausage, etc., then they give you a pager to summon you when it's ready. So you can go to the nearby Havana Bar, order a drink, take a few sips and then your lunch is ready. Their food is good and plentiful.
For dinner, we would get a hot sandwich from the deli which only takes a minute or two to make and top that off with a few items from the Lido Buffet or just some pieces of cheese or bread if nothing looked very good. The deli hardly ever had a line and their sandwiches are very good, especially the turkey wrap or ham and cheese. We also got pizza once or twice. Sometimes the pizza counter had long lines but usually just a few people and it went fast. The pizza is nothing special but it's fine.
We never set foot in the main dining room as we don't care about dressing up and we have no desire to sit an hour or two listening to the life stories of strangers while waiting for food that is overrated, over or under-cooked, often just lukewarm and sometimes cold, etc. We would rather get food that is not fancy but perfectly good so we can eat it and get back to whatever activities there are onboard. Each to their own.
We got the CHEERS drink program and were concerned about whether or not we would drink enough to make it worthwhile. It cost us $50 per day each plus gratuities for a total of about $690 for the 7 day cruise because we couldn't start using it until the second day due to some New York state law. We ended up getting about 75 drinks, almost all of them alcohol drinks so we figured we about broke even. The thing that made the CHEERS program worthwhile was that we never gave a thought to the cost when buying drinks. If we thought we only want half a drink or so, instead of not wasting the money, we just got it because it was already paid for. It gave us a kind of drink freedom.
We read about it being tough to get a drink due to crowding at bars. That was occasionally true but not often. If we saw a bar that looked too crowded, we just looked for another bar. There are plenty of them. The drinks were uniformly excellent and the bartenders work very hard to make them so good. It is amazing the amount of work that goes into making some of the drinks and I was very impressed with the quality of the drinks and professional abilities and demeanor of the bartenders.
We were disappointed a bit with the shows. The Playlist Production singers/dancers were just okay, nothing special. They did do a great job with the Epic Rock Show on the last night of the cruise. There was no magician on this cruise which was unusual. The shows are only about 45 minutes long which is shorter than they used to be but for the quality of these shows, it was about right. We enjoyed greatly the Hasbro Game Show and Love & Marriage show, mostly due to cruise director Emma Nixon's hosting ability and charm. She was delightful but I didn't see as much of her around the ship as I have of previous cruise directors. As to her staff, I saw very little of them also.
Everything you read in reviews about the Limelight Lounge is true. You have to get there 20-30 minutes early to get seats where you can see the stage. If you get there too close to showtime, you will have to sit off to the side and watch the show on a TV screen. We saw two comedians, Larry Omaha and Lenny Schmidt. Lenny was okay but he had the bad habit of complaining when people didn't laugh at a joke he thought was funny. Larry Omaha was very funny and did a great job interacting with audience members without being mean-spirited or embarrassing them too much.
Other than production shows and comedy, there were the usual trivia games where you honestly answer the questions, get 17 right out of 20 and lose to somebody who wrote the answers in as they were given. That gets old. They had a band called Deja Vu that sounded fairly good as we passed by them playing in Ocean Plaza a couple of times but we never caught there full act. We should have. Patrick is the piano player in the Piano Bar 88 and he is kind of snarky but very affable and entertaining. Beware, he has rules that must be obeyed!
We are smokers. Don't hate us. We were disappointed at how few places there were to smoke. You can smoke in about half of the casino and casino bar. If you are smoking on the wrong side of a pole at the casino bar, they will make you move. I enjoyed playing the poker machines (and did fairly well on them). There are 12 poker machines - 6 on each row back-to-back. The weird thing is that you can smoke at the 6 machines on one side but not the other. The casino was the only place you could smoke inside the ship. There were a lot of smokers on the ship so we were packed like sardines into one side of the casino bar and scattered around on empty slot machines, window sills, etc., anywhere we could find an ashtray. Outside, you could smoke in a small section on one side of deck 3 and a small section on one side of deck 10. There really should be one more bar in the ship, probably the sports bar since it was right off the casino, where smokers could smoke.
We didn't spend much time around the pool as we are not ones to bask in the sun but it seemed like a nice area and I often saw empty chairs. The Serenity Deck is fairly nice but it is hard to find an unoccupied chair near the pool on that deck. The one time we used the Serenity Deck pool, we used a couple of chairs just down the steps from there as they were the only ones available. Forget about getting the comfortable looking clamshell loungers as they are always taken or reserved. The serenity deck bar is kinda boring looking and since we couldn't smoke up there, we only got a drink there once.
We had previously sailed on the Carnival Miracle and Legend which are similarly sized ships. The Carnival Sunshine is a bit smaller but it didn't feel small at all until we got to the stateroom. We had a balcony stateroom, number 8181, and found it to be smaller than ones we had on the other ships. Even though it was smaller, it still was more than adequate and, as always on Carnival, laid out intelligently so there is plenty of storage. The shower was a good size but the shower sill is right where your left foot would go when sitting on the toilet which was a bit inconvenient but hardly a deal-breaker. The bed was comfortable as always but the pillows were not firm enough for our liking.
We ordered coffee, apple juice and danish from room service each night for the next morning and they were always on time or close to it. The coffee from room service is actually pretty darn good. I tried to get coffee from the Java Blue Cafe as that was included with our CHEERS package but they don't have regular coffee there. What they do is mix espresso with hot water and pass it off as American coffee. It was awful. However, their milkshakes which are free with the CHEERS package were excellent.
Dadan was our room steward and, along with his assistant Anthony, they did a wonderful job keeping our room clean, our ice bucket filled, our towels replenished, answering our silly questions and of course, creating towel animals. Dadan is not the most expert towel-making steward we ever had and never stuck eyes on any of our towel animals but we enjoyed the animals and photographed them just the same. We left tips in an envelope with a thank-you note written on it every other day of the cruise. I am always concerned that if we don't leave our tip until the last day that the room steward will get concerned that we are going to stiff them and I don't want them worrying about that.
EMBARKATION & DEBARKATION
Embarkation felt like a nightmare as we stood in line for our Sail & Sign cards for about 45 minutes. While we stood in that line like cattle, people with disabilities were summoned in front of us as well, I imagine, as people who purchased the Faster to the Fun program. It seemed like we were there for an eternity. However, once we had our cards, it was not long before we were in line to board the ship and the whole process from parking lot to ship took a little over an hour which is probably not so bad. But it's so hard to just stand there and watch people who arrived after you get ushered past you.
Debarkation was pretty smooth. We each had one suitcase and one carryon. We checked our suitcases in for embarkation but walked them out for debarkation. We stayed in our cabin until the last minute before we were supposed to leave at 8:30. We found an elevator to the atrium lobby after a few minutes and found a couple chairs there to wait. Deck 8 was supposed to leave the ship at 9:15 but a Carnival employee came up to us at about 9:00 and told use we could disembark. After a long walk along the ship and a long cattle call round-and-round to hand our declaration slip to Customs, we were up to the parking lot by about 9:30. An hour from room to parking lot is not bad.
BERMUDA & SCOOTERS
We never ever do cruise line shore excursions. We do not enjoy being led around and subject to the whims and schedules of others. We prefer to find our own way around and enjoy the freedom to explore when and where we wish. Again, each to their own.
Bermuda is beautiful! It's a fairly long walk from where the ship is docked at Kings Wharf to the stores and ferry but not too bad. They had a free shuttle but it didn't seem worth the wait to us. On our first day, we took the ferry to Hamilton to shop. We walked around Hamilton for a couple dozen blocks and did not find much interesting in the way of shopping. We did stop at a nice Irish pub named Flanagan's for a drink on the balcony overlooking the street and harbor which was pleasant.
On our second day, we rented scooters to tour the island. We had read many reviews about how dangerous it is to ride scooters in Bermuda and were a bit nervous. My wife was not that experienced as she had only ridden a scooter once before years ago but the instructors at Oleander Cycles there at the port were very friendly, patient and helpful. They had her ride around the block three times before declaring her fit to ride.
We decided to go to the Bermuda Aquarium & Zoo which was almost 17 miles away.
That ride took us about an hour and a half as we kept pulling over to let traffic go by as it got nerve-wracking with so many cars, trucks and buses coming up on us. The aquarium/zoo was fairly small but only cost $10 each and was absolutely delightful. The had seals, an alligator, flamingos, tamarin monkees, giant tortoises, parrots, and assorted other colorful birds, reptiles and fish. We really enjoyed ourselves there. The snack bar was expensive but the burgers and fries were tasty.
After leaving the zoo, we headed to Horseshoe Bay Beach. If you go there by bus, they let you off at the top of a long, steep hill which you have to walk down and back up again. With scooters, you can go to the bottom near the beach to park. The beach was spectacular! The water was a perfect temperature even in October with nice waves for body surfing. The sand is supposed to be pink but it looked like regular sand to me with red grains in it which I guess gives it a pink hue in certain conditions or lighting.
We then headed back to the ship and ended up putting 35 miles each on our scooters for the day which doesn't sound like a lot but we felt every mile of it. Three times during our trip when we stopped, Bermudan citizens turned around and came over to check on us to see if we needed anything. Twice, a couple of nice Bermudan gentlemen also on scooters gave us helpful directions. The third time, it was a woman in a car with her friend who saw us looking out over the water toward the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas which was leaving the port and the woman thought
we missed our ship. She was prepared to give us a ride or offer whatever help we needed. The citizens of Bermuda are the friendliest we have encountered in any of our travels.
The scooters we rented were for 24 hours so we were able to park them at our ship and go out the next morning to do some shopping around the port before returning them to Oleander Cycles. Overall, we found the scooters to be an incredible adventure that we will always remember. It is hard to get used to driving on the left side of the road but we did. There was one time I looked the wrong way and pulled out into oncoming traffic that I hadn't noticed. There was one time where a truck came way over into our lane and almost ran us off the road. The reason why we found the scooters to be a great adventure is because we survived the experience without falling or getting hurt. We realize that we were lucky as many people do get hurt on scooters in Bermuda and we would think very hard before taking that chance again. Still, though, a great memory!
We were planning to rent a Boston Whaler on our third day and tool around the harbor but Carnival decided to cut our day short by 5 hours due to perceived threats from Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Nicole. Neither storm was anywhere near the vicinity and we felt it was just Carnival preferring we spend that extra 5 hours worth of money on their ship instead of in the port. Hurricane Matthew never did threaten Bermuda but Tropical Storm Nicole became a hurricane a week later and did substantial damage to Bermuda. I hope the nice people we met and everyone else there came through as best as can be expected.
My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed all four cruises we have taken and plan to cruise again. We may try the Norwegian Breakaway as they also sail from New York and we have never sailed on anything but Carnival but we would not hesitate for a second to cruise Carnival again or the Carnival Sunshine. I believe to give something a five-star rating, it has to be just about perfect and few things are.
I gave this cruise four stars but if I had the option, I probably would have given it 4.5 stars. I hope this review has been helpful and I hope everybody who reads this review will enjoy their cruises as much as we did. Bon voyage! Read Less