I can't stress enough how having a great, caring, and helpful staff can make or break your experience, and this staff shined as bright as the sun! The bartenders and servers were all so very quick to provide any assistance and did so with a friendly smile. The events staff was exceptionally amazing. Shauna started the cruise off wonderfully doing the thankless job of giving the safety lecture in the Liquid Lounge, which was our muster station. She also was joyfully the KJ for many of the karaoke events in the Red Frog Pub. Adam and Diego were a joy to bounce back-and-forth with at Bingo, Pablo (hola!) was surprisingly a funny opener to the comics at the dual lineup of standup comedy in the Liquid Lounge (he also made a fun trivia host), and Tyler was by and far my favorite trivia host (lo siento Pablo) and ran the last night of karaoke. Of all the talent performing throughout the cruise, Scott at the Piano Bar was so enjoyable. He was funny, accommodating (especially when he didn't have the requested song), and supremely talented. We found ourselves spending the remaining hours of three different nights relaxing and singing along in the bar. For those reading this, he has three-month contracts on these cruises and our last night on the Sunrise was his too, as he now is performing on the Carnival Magic.
When the service is universally this amazing, you can tell that it stems from great management, because a truly successful leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. Chris (aka The Flying Scotsman) was the cruise director, and boy was he a delight. He devised great activities and events throughout our time on the ship, and also was a great host and performer. One highlight regarding his hosting skills was at the Love & Marriage event on the last day at sea. This is basically the Newlywed Game on a stage. I've seen it done on different ships (including Royal Caribbean) before, but Chris was by and far the funniest host, and really worked great on the spot with the contestants who were chosen at random as the show started. I laughed harder at him than I did even the hilarious raunchy comedians the night before.
I purchased this vacation to celebrate the 3rd anniversary with my girlfriend, and to propose to her (she said yes by the way). Part of the advanced planning involved ordering the Happy Anniversary Celebration Package provided by The Fun Shops. It included a small cake (I chose chocolate), a 5" x 7" photo frame, 30" x 60" beach towel, and four dangling banners with romantic words on them that were hung on the ceiling via magnetic ends. When ordering, they ask what day of the cruise you would like this to be set up in the cabin. I chose the first day, hoping that the cabin would have everything ready to go before we stepped foot in it after embarkation.
My whole idea of getting the package as a surprise to my then-girlfriend was to propose to her in the cabin at the very start of the cruise. After purchasing the package online months before we set sail, I called the Fun Shops to confirm that, if I chose to have the room decorated on the first day if the cabin, would the cabin be decorated before we set sail at 4pm? They could not confirm this, because the only guarantee they make is the decorations will be set up before the "end of the day" (i.e. as late as 9pm as I recall them saying). Given we had dinner reservations for 7pm, and I wanted to propose before dinner, this was a small concern. They suggested I talk with someone in the Retail Cares department (as they're the ones responsible for delivering the packages in the cabins) via the Guest Services desk on the day I embark to confirm if it was set up yet.
We embarked at around 1:30pm, so I went solo to the Guest Services desk and a helpful agent (I really wish I remembered her name because she was so sweet and helpful) made the call to confirm if it was set up yet. She wasn't able to reach the person who could confirm that, so she stepped away from the desk for about 3 minutes and physically went to my cabin to check and confirmed it was! The way they decorated the room around the bed with the banners was lovely (and the chocolate cake we had later that night was DELICIOUS). It really made for a memorable proposal. My only gripe was I filled out a personal, meaningfully romantic message to be printed (like the small ones you can get printed with a flower delivery) when I ordered the package online many months before, and it was never printed.
Depending on where and what you ate, the food ranged from nearly flawless to cheap hospital/institutional-tasting. The best restaurant food we ate was the steak and sides at Fahrenheit 555. It was an extra $38 per person, but well worth it for food that compares to what prices you normally find at a nice steakhouse. Our filet mignons were huge (the menu said 9oz, but I swear they were bigger), perfectly trimmed, and flawlessly cooked to medium-rare. This is not as much of a surprise to me if they're a great steakhouse because many I've been to in NYC can provide this too. The best surprise for me was the side of sautéed medley of fresh mushrooms. I'm not even a fan of many mushroom dishes, but this was one not to be missed; I only wish I ordered two of them instead of wasting a side on the decent mac and cheese. The best room service by far was a small thin-crust pie we ordered through the Pizzeria del Capitano for only $5 (you order through the helpful HUB app mentioned below). They deliver these pies to nearly every area on the ship. I'm a pizza snob and have had most all of the best pizza places in NYC. This pizza definitely wasn't in the upper-echelon, but man was it better than so many NYC slice joints. Seriously, do yourself a favor and try one of these pies.
Also, on a whim, we were going to have the buffet for brunch on Deck 9 around 12pm, but the line was so damn long (something I've read in nearly every review on this website), so instead we opted for some burgers and fries at Guy's Burger's Joint. These burgers compare to the best you'll get at Five Guys (the fresh cut-style fries are pretty much the same) and other fast-casual restaurants. The burger patties are loosely formed and well seasoned, which lends itself to why they taste so damned good. The donkey sauce is a perfect burger topping. Oh, and do yourself a favor and dip those fries in a side of Guy’s bar-b-que sauce on the topping station. I thought it was going to taste cheap and just be nothing but sweet like bottled Kraft sauce. It was on the sweeter side, but it was really well spiced and finished with a nice little kick of heat.
Finally, I haven't been on a cruise in over 5 years (my last one being with Royal Carribean), and so I've never seen an app quite like Carnival HUB. This app is amazing, and I hope all cruise liners copy its format and make some small common-sense improvements. Once you're on the ship, it immediately provides a listing of all events happening on the ship each day, from early morning to late at night, as well as every dining option available, based on the time of day, and allows you to create a daily planner well in advance to set your customized itinerary. What's more is you will get helpful push notifications on your phone ahead of time, reminding you of the next event or dining reservation you have. Without going on endlessly though just about the app, here's more info on it: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/carnival-hub/id925117977 .
My only gripe with it is that it lists some rooms as being on a specific deck, but the entrance to that room is on an entirely different deck. For example, the Sunshine Dining Room (the main dining room on the ship) is listed on the app as being on Deck 5, but the entrance is on Deck 3. This is so frustrating and makes me wonder why the app doesn't list that specific info, to make it easier to navigate on the ship. Also, as far as improvements with technology, it would be great if the ship had a WiFi-centric GPS on each deck, so you can navigate your way to each location. That might be wishful thinking, but it would be such a helpful tool on a ship with difficult to find entrances for various rooms.
The ship was cramped in all public spaces and the bars sprinkled throughout. These caused inconveniences galore just walking around the ship. For instance, the beautiful lobby on Deck 3 had a ceiling, which extended many floors above, and each floor overlooking the lobby walkways around this, but those walkways were so small in width, it would always be congested from people just standing around and looking towards that beautiful space. And when there were events or musicians performing in the lobby, that made things even more congested. Having to constantly bump into people when you're just trying to walk by on a huge cruise ship feels really inconvenient. And the orientation of the pools, whirlpools, and deck chairs on the Lido deck (9) was almost impossibly to walk through without bumping into people. On my last cruise (Royal Caribbean), the main public walking spaces were so nicely spread out this kind of congestion almost never occurred.
Not only were the walkway widths small, but also so was the seating in many event rooms. Given the Sunshine is a renovation from the Triumph, and that it added more cabins, they didn't do a good job in making the event rooms more accommodating for the higher passenger count. The Limelight Lounge (where the comedians were most every night) was so cramped and small, you could never get a seat and the body heat from the room made it uncomfortably hot.
The congestion trying to get around and the small rooms, given the number of people on the ship also had the unfortunate effect of making life difficult for the servers delivering drinks to guests who weren't sitting at the bar. For example, the cramped quarters of the Liquid Lounge made it nearly impossible for the servers to get guests their drinks, especially when they didn't have any space to walk through the aisles. It felt like being served a drink in the stands at a baseball or football game. And bless the patience of those drink servers on the Lido deck.
The entrees at Cucina Del Capitano (Italian restaurant), some of the lunch items for room service, and all of the dinner in the Sunshine Dining Room were just way off the mark. At Cucina Del Capitano (which has a $15 per person charge), the appetizers we got (Nonna’s Meatball) were tastefully seasoned and had a wonderful crumbly, tender texture, and the red sauce accompanied it well. The three-component desserts we got (Agrumi/Torta Al Miele e Polenta/Sorbetto di Limone) were very tasty too. But the entrees (Cavatelli with pork Bolognese and the Pappardelle with shrimp and pancetta) were so disappointing. Like, no joke, we've both had better food (regrettably) at an Olive Garden.
The free room service items we ordered for lunch were hit-and-miss. We both got sandwiches. The grilled cheese with was had nice Panini-style grill marks on the bread, but it was dry and tasted like they used zero butter or any other kind of cooking fat on the bread to give it the taste we all are used to with grilled cheese. The accompanying potato salad chosen was just a couple of red potatoes, cut in half and slathered in mayo, and tasted as plain as you would expect. This was not what anyone would want if they were expecting potato salad. The BLT was a nice surprise with bacon galore and a good smattering of mayo to lubricate the whole sandwich and I got it with a handful of (what I think were) Wise-brand potato chips. The chocolate cake was delicious but the cheesecake didn't have any tang you want from cream cheese and the crust was weird in taste and texture. On a side note, we had the "Bottomless Bubbles" drink package that includes free soda and juices, yet we were told we had to pay for soda delivered via room service. That makes zero sense.
We decided we would dine in the Sunshine Dining Room on the elegant evening attire night (second night). From the cheaply made appetizer (a pathetic 5-piece arrangement of tiny rubbery shrimp cocktail with a watery-thin cocktail sauce) to the lack of seasoning on the entire snapper entree (despite this, the snapper was really perfectly cooked) to the misworded dessert (hazelnut malted chocolate cake that, to me, would taste something close to Nutella, but because it had no hazelnut flavor to be found, just tasted like an overly-rich chocolate cake). The dessert was so disappointing, I simply asked for the vanilla ice cream, just to clear the overkill of chocolate, and the ice cream had a gummy texture similar to low-quality supermarket ice cream and (worse) contained unappetizing ice crystals throughout. But, this was part of the free food on the ship, so my expectations were already low. To top it all off, the steeping water that accompanied my order of black tea was not even close to boiling temperature.
Finally, when Chris would cheerfully make his non-emergent announcements at 8 in the morning, almost always just to provide an extra promotion for some various events throughout the day, it would be nice to NOT have the hallway speakers blaring in the cabins at 8 in the morning, so the (sometimes) hung-over and (always) tired guests like us at 8 in the morning could be able to sleep in a little. After all, we were enjoying our nights in the public spaces until at least midnight or later.
The servers and bartenders throughout the various locations on the ship were all courteous and helpful, but there was one exception, and that was at the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse restaurant. As I mentioned above, the food at this restaurant was the best on the ship, but the service, from the hostess, to the drink server, to the bread server, to our main server, was just rude; the kind of rude service some snooty French restaurants are stereotyped as having. The hostess basically chided us for arriving 15 minutes early before our reservation time and said we would have to wait (which we didn't mind), but her rude tone was one that would have been somewhat appropriate if we just walked in without a reservation and insisted we get sat immediately. The drink server took forever to return with our drinks (just soda), didn't return our cards after serving the soda and gave an attitude when I simply asked for the cards back, and the sodas were both flat for some reason, which we hadn't experienced in any other bar or restaurant the entire cruise. The bread server’s frown looked like he was serving prison time. The main server had a snippy tone that seemed bothered with any question I had about the menu items. Plus, when I ordered the steak, I forgot to mention the sauce I would like to accompany it on the side. When I was finally able to hail down the waitress to ask, she read me the list of three different sauces, and I asked if they also maybe had a simple house sauce (which many steakhouses of this ilk have). Based on the tone of her answer (which was no, by the way) you would think I asked her "how much do you weigh?" The only bright spot of service was the chef (can't remember his name) who came to the table asking about how the food was.
Speaking of food service, other than the room service mentioned above, also ordered it twice for breakfast. Both breakfasts’ were awful experiences. First off, the pre-order room service door hangs you get to fill out in the cabins offer 1/2 hour windows for delivery. I would imagine many people, such as myself, set your alarm to wake you up very shortly before you expect the room service. With a 1/2-hour window chosen, I understand if it doesn't get delivered until the very end of that time, but both mornings, the room service attendant delivered them between 5-10 minutes early. So, not to be petty, but it woke us up that much earlier before our alarms went off, and we didn’t like losing any minutes of sleep.
The really terrible thing though (and why it's in the "ugly" section of my review) is the quality of the food was just reprehensible. The first morning we only ordered fruit. I don't know about you but I like my fruit to be ripe and our fruit was both under and overly ripe. Unless you're baking or making smoothies, bananas should be perfectly yellow, not overwhelmingly covered in "liver spots" like ours were. And melon should be soft and juicy, not crunchy and flavorless like ours were. Even more abhorrent was the second morning (July 20) we got breakfast. We ordered cereal and the little 8oz containers of skim milk were all spoiled upon arrival, and they weren't even past the printed sell-by date of July 22. Like, I know it's the summer, but keeping milk cold and far from spoiling is food service 101 for a dining operation. Also spoiled, by the way, was the little 8oz container of low-fat chocolate milk, which had the same sell-by date.
Finally, the orientation of entrances to various different public spaces in this cruise was just confusing. As I mentioned in the “good” part of the review above, the Sunshine Dining Room is listed as being on Deck 5, but the entrance is on Deck 3. The Limelight Lounge on Deck 4 was so difficult to find (go off the walkway, into the middle of the casino on Deck 5 towards an unseen staircase and then walk down to Deck 4). It was so meandering and confusing, they had to put signs on a stand just to give passengers a hint. I'm convinced it was easier for Harry Potter to find the entrance for the Hogwarts Express train on Platform 9 & 3/4 than it was for passengers like me to find the entrance to the Limelight Lounge.
Overall, given the great staff and fun activities, I would highly consider cruising with Carnival again, just not on the Sunrise. Read Less