Lots of good things about it, but I won't go on this ship again.: Carnival Sunshine Cruise Review by GrandmaHofmann

Carnival Sunshine 5
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Lots of good things about it, but I won't go on this ship again.

Sail Date: July 2014
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
There are many good things to say about this ship. Unfortunately, they are overshadowed by two things that will keep me from ever stepping foot on it again.

My husband and I and our two grandsons, ages 8 and 11, sailed from Port Canaveral on June 5, bound for Cozumel, Belize City, Roatan, and Costa Maya. We are all seasoned sailors. My husband and I have been on about 30 cruises on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Disney, Carnival, NCL, and other lines. We have sailed on cruises in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltic, and Asia. Our grandsons have two Disney and two Carnival under their belts. So we know cruise culture and know how ships of various lines operate. We are not newbies.

Embarkation was fast and easy. We arrived at the port about noon and were eating lunch by 1 o’clock. I think paying for Faster to the Fun would have been useless. (Ditto for tendering. We were on the first tender out and did not have FTTF.) We ate lunch and went to our cabin. More Reason number one I will never sail the Sunshine again. We had booked a balcony cabin 7243. It was that. It was also the smallest balcony cabin I have ever seen, even smaller than those in NCL. Moreover, the pull down bunk extended a full 18 inches over the main bed. I immediately asked my cabin steward to put up the bunk every morning. He did not seem happy about it but he did it. And I have to say he was the best room steward we have had since the 90's. He made up our room while we were at breakfast and while we were at dinner, the optimum way it should be done. It is not possible to function in the cabin with that bunk down. You bump your heads constantly and it just looms there!

Back to the cabin. There is plenty of hanging space for four people for a week, but that’s it. Drawer space? Three drawers for four people, one drawer of which was shallow and contained the hairdryer? There were also four shelves, very narrow and, again, not enough for two much less four people. There were three good-sized, deep shelves over the desk that were helpful. There were three closets, but one was full of lifejackets, bedding, and the safe. So it was useless. The bathroom was also small. There is only a tiny bit of counter space and four small shelves. The shower is a good size, but the toilet is angled so that when you are upon it, you have to put one foot into the shower. This is a problem when the shower is wet.

I hated that there were no night tables, not even the board some ships are calling night tables these days. I hated that there was only six inches between the bed and the window wall, so that one of us had to climb across the bed to get into it. I hated that the door and window were always dirty. I don’t know whose job it is to clean those, but they are not doing it. The balcony space seemed smaller than usual as well. Two chairs and a tiny table in a narrow space.

Our hours on Cozumel were suddenly and without warning reduced by two hours. That was a surprise. I had booked a chocolate tour at KaoKoa chocolates, though, and that did not take up a huge amount of time. We took a cab there for $12. Make sure to take their map with you or your driver won’t know where to do. It was a wonderful experience for our grandsons. The guide, I think Ruby was her name, was just great with them. They ground chocolate beans, mixed the paste with sugar and vanilla, molded it. They just had a wonderful time. They took the resulting product home with them, and we bought some chocolate in their gift shop. There is nothing special about the chocolate, but it’s fine.

In Belize City we hired Nachi and Cynthia to take us to Altun Ha and the local market. They got us to Altun Ha before the onslaught of buses. We saw the ruins with very few people about. When we left, there were about twenty busloads of people from the ship there. Not pleasant. Nachi did a great job of keeping the children entertained as we bumped interminably along that terrible road. The site itself is the perfect size for an introduction to Mayan archaelogy. We had been to Xuntanich before and I think, give the time it takes to get there, it is no better than Altun Ha which is much closer. We also went to the market in Belize City so the boys could see something un-touristy. It is a rough area but we never felt unsafe. Not much to see there though. There were clean bathrooms there, but you had to pay 50 cents to use one.

We had a beach day at Roatan. There is little left to do on that island that interests us as we have been there twice before. Our excursion on Costa Maya was cancelled unfortunately. I had planned to take the boys to the Mayan family excursion but only one other group signed up. So the boys swam in the very nice Costa Maya pool.

Back to the other reason I will never sail Sunshine again. The theater. We enjoy shows on ships, and all of the shows on the Sunshine were very good, assuming you like a half hour of frenzied dancing, loud music, and tech assault, which we do. Our grandsons were enthralled. But to get into the shows, you wait for over a half hour or more in a narrow, airless, hot line that gets longer and longer. Why? Because there are very few good seats and they are all gone within 3 minutes of the door opening. The rest of the seats are stadium style and are HORRIBLE. There is so little room for your legs/feet. Nobody could possibly get by you if they had to. There is a high handrail running down each aisle. If it wasn’t there, the narrow footing would probably cause you to pitch down the side of the room. I have never been on a ship– and I have been on 29 different ships– that did not leave the theater doors open and allow people to come in as they arrived. This arrangement was dreadful.

The dancers/singers worked their butts off, providing really good shows. The use of technology is ubiquitous in them. Fire shooting up. Fog, sparks shooting out, pieces of scenery moving about. Epic Rock had some impressive techno stuff. At one point it appeared the dancers were surrounded by fire, manipulating fire. In another scene a huge wind-blown selection of black feathers comes together to form wings for a dancer. Very cool indeed. There is no live band, of course. There was a pre-show of a guy with a guitar. He was skillful but I hated him. Noise, noise, no complete songs, just noise. Our grandsons were crazy about the magician who visited the clubs and also walked around the main dining room, early seating. He was delightful.

We bought Bottomless Bubbles for the boys. I think we pretty much broke even on that. They loved filling their Carnival mugs and getting refills, so their pleasure was worth the price. The food was normal cruise food. Nothing truly outstanding but nothing truly horrible either. I do hate those little pebbly potatoes they serve EVERY breakfast. The Guy Fieri hamburgers were great with a great toppings bar, though for some reason my husband did not like them. Pizza okay. Warm chocolate melting cake, amaretto cake, chocolate lunch buffet, all very good.

Waterworks– great. And seldom crowded after the first day. Our last sea day there were like 8 kids there and 1 adult. Ropes course was often closed. The sports area is very nice. The children's clubs were disappointing. A good part of the time all the kids from 6-11 were shoved into one club and there is no chance of interesting all of them. The club areas were just too small and kids were shuffled to other areas of the ship. There were 1200 kids aboard. Better venues would be good.

Shops– ehhh. There were a bunch of tee shirts for the ports sold the last sea day for $10. They were ok.

We did not go into the nightclubs or bars as we had the boys with us, so I can’t speak to them. I do think the decor of the Havana bar is very attractive. I actually found the ship far superior in decor to other Carnival ships which tend to be tacky and overblown.

Our waiters at table 632 in the main dining room, first seating, were excellent. They were also very warm and friendly to our grandsons. The waiters in the marketplace– not so good. You never got your table cleaned off. On most ships, as soon as you finish with a plate, it is whisked away, but not on this ship. A couple times my husband actually carried our used dishes over to a waiter just to get rid of them. That said, the entire crew was very friendly and helpful.

Debarkation was easy. We were in zone 6 and were off at 9:30. Luggage was easily found. I had wheel chair assist which was great. A man with a wheelchair came up to me in the port building on the top floor and asked if I needed it. He took me all the way to the car.

Carnival offers a good product for a good price. But you get cheated on the Sunshine, cheated of space in communal areas and cabins and you get cheated in the miserable, horrible, theater.

One final word. This cruise attracted a great many Nascar fans, totally tattooed persons, people in mixed race marriages, and people of Color. If this bothers you or would spoil your time, you would do better to sail on another ship. Less

Published 07/21/14

Cabin review: balcony7243

The cabin is too small.

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