Invasion of the Towel Animals - Carnival Updates It's Style: Carnival Sunshine Cruise Review by sunshinefl221

Carnival Sunshine 4
Member Since 2011

Overall Member Rating

Invasion of the Towel Animals - Carnival Updates It's Style

Sail Date: July 2013
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Barcelona
Just returned from the Barcelona to Venice cruise on the Sunshine. Overall a great time and we (now VIFP Platinum) will sail again with Carnival. Embarkation was very easy. We arrived about 11:30 (half our group voted for 2 but the early time won). We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the night before and they arranged for taxis for us. We were eight in our group, my husband's almost 92 year old father, his girlfriend (83yo), my husband and myself (both 55), my daughter and her husband (both 29) and my son and his girlfriend (26 and 27). We were advised to let the rest of the group go through the regular line, we went to the VIP area and then we met up and all got on board together with our VIP pass. Our room was the only one ready so we put all the carry-ons in our room and were on our way. We are accustomed to bringing the allowed amount of water on-board and we stopped at a local grocer near our hotel and picked that up the night before the cruise.

We had a mid-ship balcony More and the rest were across the hall from us in inside rooms. The closet configuration was a little different than other balcony cabins we've had and actually there was more closet space (we travel light anyway). There was actually three American outlets and one European which was nice (look by the TV for the third outlet). The interior rooms were comfortable.

I think more than on other cruises, staff addressed us by name and most spoke good English. Andy was our room steward and was basically good, although he made a few mistakes like forgetting to replace our beach towels. Similarly the wait staff seemed to know English better than on other cruises and dinner was typical Carnival Fare. No problem. We saw no reason to spend extra for the steakhouse or other alternative venues. The only problem with dining is that it didn't seem right to have the anytime dining on the lower level and the fixed time above. When the staff did their show on the lower level, it was half empty. We like eating breakfast in the dining room, the highlight being sitting with random people. The morning hostess did not seem to understand this so half the time my husband and I ate alone.

The new features on the ship were nice. The color scheme was more "modern" and less gaudy than many of the ships. There was also a lot of multipurpose rooms, including the main theater. The biggest item to note is that the omelet bar and Mongolian barbecue are in the Havana lounge instead of the middle of the Lido deck. I think it took people a while to find it so there seemed to be o f a line and when there was a line it wasn't "in traffic"

We enjoyed the sports square area. I was a little surprised to see them leave out the equipment for golf, pool, ping pong, etc. but it was less windy than in the Caribbean. I usually love trivia games and the ones I attended were new but our itinerary didn't allow for a lot of typical cruise activities. I was disappointed to see them eliminate the jazz band but the multimedia replacement was fine. I'm not a night person but the shows and comics were typical and generally enjoyable. The piano bar was packed every night it was open and the lobby musicians were good. (they played mostly 60's-80's music). The biggest problem in the entertainment area was the lights on the stairs in the Liquid Lounge. The are white LED, very closely spaced. I don't wear glasses and they bothered me, my husband and daughter who are nearsighted had great difficulty with them.

Internet was what we expected from a 54K connection. It did seem to slow down during what I assume were "peak" times.

I think a few things aren't finished. There were some stairwells without art and clocks and the TV pretty much only had ship channels. Some of the ship information, like the debarkation instructions, were not shown as promptly as I would have liked. We did not have air conditioning problems but they seemed to be working on the A/C in our hall during the trip.

In general the information provided about getting on and off the ship was good. The worst case was Venice. I think written directions with a map would have helped. The nice thing was that we arrived at noon instead of 2 so we had more time. My husband and I were one of the first ones off . We walked to the people mover which took us to where the water busses were located. I heard however that behind us the lines got very long for the people mover and we were not told that there actually was a waterbus near the boat without taking the people mover. There were a few regular taxis waiting by the ship and we did book one (for 10Euro a person) to take us to the airport. We were a little surprised that they wanted everyone off the boat by 9am (debarkation started at 430am but, per their announcement, by 645am only 10% had disembarked. If you take your own luggage off you had to be off by 730am. I don't know what they would have done if you didn't but basically I think they were closing the deck zero exit and there would have been a lot more stairs, etc from the main exit.

We usually take ship excursions but with a group of 8 I did make some private arrangements. Basically most of the people advertising on-line are "drivers". Drivers can tell you about the area from the car but they can't lead you around sites, etc. We could have hired tour guides from these companies for additional cost but we didn't. In light of this I should have probably printed more information about the sites and/or purchased guidebooks in advance. For example at the coliseum we looked around and said "ok, now what" - so I went to the bookstore and bought a guidebook. On the ship excursions I did like that they staged us in the lounge and then we went down to the buses as a group.

All in all we enjoyed the ports, it was however hot and if we did it again we would not go in July. It made travel a little more complicated but the one way trip was nice because it allowed more ports.

I would recommend arriving one to two days before the cruise. Too many chances of travel issues when going so far from home. Less

Published 08/09/13
1 Helpful Vote

Cabin review: 66218

nice centrally located cabin - very little outside noise

Port and Shore Excursions

We arrived early morning but we went to our hotel and one room was ready so we dropped off the luggage. There was a nice street of restaurants close by and had an nice lunch. Many on Cruise Critic talked about purchasing tickets to the HOHO bus in advance but we had called the hotel and they actually had tickets at a slightly better discount. If you want to go inside the Temple Expiatori De La Sagrada Familia you need to purchase tickets in advance. We followed a walk outlined in the Trip Advisor City Guide series and wound up in the theater district an d found an interesting open air market in the morning before going to the ship. (The hotel ordered taxis for us.)

Read 1755 Barcelona Reviews

Bicycle Tour

We signed up for the Jewish Interest tour but it was canceled. If you want to see the synagogue you can easily take the shuttle or a taxi to the old city and find it. So instead my husband and I joined our 26-29 year old children on a bicycle trip. It was a very hot day and they did provide water, bikes and helmets. In general the bikes were nice, although the ones for the smaller women weren't quite as nice. The ride was reasonable in grade although with the heat I did accept a ride the last short distance (uphill) back to the winery where we started. We made two stops, one at a church and the other at a spring and olive press. The guide spoke good English and was interesting and informative. The bus allowed people to get off at the old town. I went back to the ship. They told us that we would need to pay for the shuttle but since my husband and kids had the id tag from the Carnival Tour on their shirt still, they were allowed on the shuttle at no charge.

Accademia Museum

not worth the time - crowded but we did get in earlier than our timed tickets

City Tour

We used Roberto Brunetti's Limousinrome for this (and the next two ports). The level of informality in making the reservations with Roberto surprised me. No deposit, just his promise that they will be waiting for us on the dock. They were there, each of the days, with my name spelled differently each time. I also wanted a more formal itinerary but pretty much only got lists of "possible sites." The four 20 year olds with us, took the train to Florence. They made arrangement s through a site called Accidental Tourist. They went to a farmhouse and made and ate ravioli. So since we had the vehicle booked, I found a family of three to join us. We did take them off their normal itinerary. Alberto was our guide. The vehicle was ok, but the next two days were nicer and Alberto provided water where the other drivers did not. We make the obligatory stop in Pisa, although we all said we could skip it. We then went to Florence and saw a nice overview of the city. Then we had reserved tickets at the Academic Museum. (I would have been just as happy seeing the replica of the David which is in an outdoor park.) We met relatives of our new friends for lunch. That was fun - we then walked to Basilica of San Lorenzo and Alberto picked us up and we went to the Synagogue. I had requested this stop in advance but I'm not sure Alberto knew this. He was the best of the three guides from this company and he communicated well, etc.

Dom;t miss the museum on the upper floor of the synagogue

We really didn't have a huge interest in this port. Choices to get in to town were a Carnival Shuttle to the main harbor area or a public shuttle to the old town. There was a public train station not far from the shuttle drop off. You could not really exit the harbor area on your own.

We saw a notation in a guidebook about a 200 year old bakery. We walked through the old town near the ship and found a nice museum (although they were showing American Indian art). We found the bakery (and of course bought something to eat) but the maps weren't very good and going back to the ship we saw a lot of people who were confused about where to go. There was a nice carousel in the center of the harbor area. It was a rather unremarkable port.

Private Tour

Raphael from Limousinrome met us at the port for this day. The vehicle was nice but it was a hot day and he did not provide water (we had brought some with us). After the fact I think he did not follow the itinerary that was presented in advance but we really didn't have any special requests. We made a shopping stop in Sorrento, then we continued down the coast and made a stop in Positano where we could shop (I thought I told Roberto that in general we didn't want to shop, but I did purchase a nice blue jean skirt). We then had lunch at a local restaurant (surrounded by other tables of Carnival guests) and wen t on to Pompeii. By the time we got to Pompeii it was extremely hot (the older people with us did not go in, they sat in the shade) and we only had about 1 1/2 hours there. I asked Raphael at the beginning of the day (and knowing it was going to be hot) if we could reverse the route and he said no it wasn't but I have a feeling that it was only because of the lunch stop.

City Tour

Fred from Limousinrome met us at the port of Civitavecchia for our day in Rome. The vehicle was nicer than the day before but no water was provided (almost everyday was 93-95F). I was in the very back row and he was hard to hear. He had our reservation for Coliseum tickets but otherwise I don't think he had a planed itinerary. We went to the Coliseum, Parthenon and Trevi fountain. Then he brought us to a "small local restaurant" for lunch. Funny thing, it was full of about 100 other Carnival Cruise Ship guests - but the food was good as were the prices. After lunch Fred says, "we have time to spare we can go to the catacombs" - I replied that I thought we had requested the Jewish Quarter. He said fine and that was our next stop.


Buy or bring a guidebook with you

Jewish Quarter

very nice synagogue tour

Mount Etna

My son and I did the Mt Etna and Winery tour from Carnival. The rest of our group took a taxi to Taormina. They walked around town, shopped a bit and then came back to the ship. We went out to Mt Etna which is an active volcano, erupting approximately every two months. Thebus stopped at an overview where we got some nice pictures of the smoke coming from the volcano and then we went to an area of "dead craters" where we had time to walk around.

Wine Tasting

My son and I did the Mt Etna and Winery tour from Carnival. The rest of our group took a taxi to Taormina. They walked around town, shopped a bit and then came back to the ship. The winery was a small estate winery. We had a tour and then appetizers outside. We went inside for lunch and came back out for desert. It was a nice group of people and we had fun

My husband and I collect glass art and we wanted to go to Murano. The ship could have provided better directions to getting around town but we got to the water bus and the island easily. We walked around and ultimately purchased a few pieces of art and, a piece of jewelry and some gift items. It is important to shop around, the prices did vary for the same/similar items and some places were more willing to negotiate than others. If they were to take a discount for cash however, they wanted euros not dollars so we ultimately put our (discounted) purchase on a credit card. The water buses were very full (almost dangerously full) on the way back. We got off at the train station instead of the transportation hub and took a "traditional" gondola ride. It wasn't very romantic but it was fun. From there it was an easy walk to the transportation hub and people mover.

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