I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who wants a relaxing cruise, as apposed to someone who wants to party. If you are looking to get, and stay, loud, this may be the ship for you. This is only my second cruise. My first ... Read More
I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who wants a relaxing cruise, as apposed to someone who wants to party. If you are looking to get, and stay, loud, this may be the ship for you. This is only my second cruise. My first was on the Carnival Fantasy, out of Mobile AL. The Fantasy was so great, that I couldn't remember everything that my wife and I loved about it when I wrote that review (amazing ship and crew regardless how old it is).
I want to start with the pros because I did generally enjoy my cruise, and it's not such a bad ship that I want to beet it down here. The staff are friendly and helpful, though they are obviously overloaded/understaffed. The food is good, and there is plenty of it. Our cabin was perfectly maintained. We had a party of 5, so we were constantly in and out of the cabin, and the crew worked around us beautifully. We only knew they were there because the room kept getting cleaned up, and they always said hello in passing.
Half Moon Cay is amazing. The beach is beautiful white sand as far out as you will want to go with crystal clear water. The beach is large enough that, even on a ship with several thousand passengers, it was easy to be off to ourselves. It's the one part of this cruise that was better than our last, and we went to Paradise Island on our last cruise. Before Half Mood Cay, we were sure Paradise Island was the greatest place on Earth.
Unfortunately, the cons (for me) is a larger list on this ship. While food venues are plentiful, places to sit down and eat are a commodity. This will be a recurring theme. It feels like they have packed in as many guests as they possibly could, and that means that guests are constantly in line for everything, and pushing through one another for tables. Even worse, because of the lines, they will start handing out "default" menu items to get people through faster. While Guy's Burger stand has several burgers to choose from, if you want to get one during the first couple of hours after they open for lunch, you're just going to be handed the basic "default" burger and pushed through. The pizza stand will start handing out pieces of 2 or 3 "default" pizzas because there is no way that they can take orders for the number of guests that they are trying to serve; and the list goes on. If you want a deli sandwich for lunch, good luck.
One of my wife and my favorite things on the Fantasy was taking breakfast out on the deck. It was amazing having our coffee and breakfast out in the early morning ocean air, looking over at nothing but ocean. This ship had no deck tables at all. Even if you are ok with eating breakfast in a lawn chair, there are very few places where you can see over the rails from that low to the deck. The majority of the rails on the ship are solid steel or tall glass, so you can have the view or the breeze, but not both. We found a place, but it's such a find, and so unknown that I honestly don't want to tell anyone about it, and even there we were eating with our plates in our laps and coffee on our bench, not to mention it was quite a walk from the food area.
The Serenity Deck is anything but serene. When we looked at pictures, it looked amazing. It has a small pool with a waterfall feature, and a lot of seating. We thought, based on our experience on "the good boat" that it wouldn't be crowded at all with all that seating because most people tend to stay around the Lido Deck and follow the entertainment around the ship. We are Serenity Deck people. We loved sitting in the quiet Serenity Deck area on the Fantasy and reading a book in the shade, again overlooking the ocean. We couldn't wait to get to this one. Then we got there and found it and this was the most disappointing moment of the trip. The Serenity Deck is located right on top of the Lido pool, so all the drunks just look up and see more seating, which again is a commodity. It was packed with loud drunks the majority of the time, and when it wasn't there was a constant hum from massive air handlers of some kind and/or the chatter and roar of the Lido crowd. If all of that wasn't bad enough, it has tall glass walls surrounding it, so the breeze is badly muted.
One of the few good places to relax and enjoy the ocean breeze and view at the same time is deck 3. Deck 3 port-side is my favorite place on the ship. Unfortunately, they setup in front of the doors on that side to take pictures all the time, and it is inaccessible when this happens. Starboard-side is still open during this time, but had a constant sewage-like odor. This could have been a temporary issue during our cruise, and may not be a problem for later itineraries, but it was constant during our cruise. On that note, I apologize to the Port of Charleston for some of the things that I said about your city when we boarded the ship; turns out it was the ship, not the port. A little off-topic, but great job Charleston Port. You guys did a great job. Boarding and debarkation were very smooth, and your people friendly and professional.
I'm not going to keep posting complaints, but I firmly believe that most of them come down to the same thing anyway. The boat it over capacity. My party of 5 was constantly seated at a table for 4 with a chair in the isle. Not because the dining staff didn't care, but because wasting a chair by putting us at a 6-person table wasn't an option. They needed every seat they could get to accommodate passengers.
My wife and I left our last cruise on the Fantasy positive that we were Carnival people, and this was our cruise line. We booked this past cruise and another, on Glory this December, pretty immediately afterword. However, we are strongly considering canceling the Glory cruise and losing our insurance money because it's the same class ship as the Sunshine.
My advice to anyone looking for a relaxing trip is to look at the smaller ships. If at all possible look at the Fantasy. We are going to start looking in to other lines that may be more focused on relaxation, and less on selling drinks. Read Less