This Caribbean cruise to St-Maarten, St. Kitts, Puerto Rico and Grand Turk was my fourth cruise on Carnival. After being on other ships, I was looking forward to Carnival.
This was the worst of the 8 cruises I have taken. Here is what happened.
1. The internet was terrible. I purchased the top, premium package for the cruise. While the speed was good for satellite, Outlook emails were blocked. My Outlook Web Mail, Hotmail and Yahoo did not work. I had to create a Gmail account and direct all my clients to send their emails to this temporary address.
The firewall also blocked most web sites. For example, BNN.ca worked but CNBC.com did not. Hyperlinks did not work. Google searches worked sporadically. I complained to Guest Services but they did not understand. They did arrange a meeting with the onboard IT person. I spent most of one sea day documenting the problems. The IT person said it was due to “security” concerns. As an IT guy, I explained that there should be no security concerns with CNBC. Note the Carnival also blocked all cruise line web sites except Disney.
CruiseCritic.com was also blocked so I could not write this review onboard.
Yesterday, the last sea day, the internet worked. So did Outlook. Clearly someone paid attention to my complaints. But you should not assume that the problem is fixed. If I ever cruise on Carnival again, I will create the temporary Gmail account so I can still get Gmail.
I needed the internet for business. I do not know if the social media sites worked as I was too busy trying to stay in touch with the office and the stock market.
2. I was told that Carnival hired a consultant to propose ways to save money. Chocolates at night are gone. So is the ice bucket. Getting a fridge was a hassle. Housekeeping did a good job but the frequency was reduced compared to previous Carnival cruises. There was no champagne at the Captain’s reception. It was hard to get Guest Services on the phone. The luggage was late I assume, due to reduced staffing. When I called Guest Services about the luggage at 7pm, I was told that I should have packed a change of clothes for the 8:15 dinner…HUH?
On a positive note, we did get towel animals each night.
3. There was no access to folios via TV like other Carnival ships. I do not know if this existed on the Sunshine before.
4. The food was excellent. Thanks to Brendan the F&B Manager and his staff. There is always good choice on Carnival. Breakfast sausages were tasty. Guy Fieri burgers were excellent. We had some curry meals as this ship did not have the Tandoor. There were clever dishes like blackened Tilapia with lime twists for lunch.
The coffee and the water were fine. I mention this because on my August Holland America cruise to Iceland, the coffee was not drinkable. On my Voyages of Discovery cruise to Madagascar, I had to rely on bottled water purchased on shore.
Unfortunately the pizza was not as good as the Valor. There no anchovies for toppings like the Valor. The salmon at dinner was overcooked. The sushi was in a pay restaurant unlike the amazing sushi I had on an RCL cruise to Bermuda.
The rest of the meals onboard were fine.
Dinner was a 2015. The shows were at 2115. I did not go to any shows as the late dinner conflicted with the shows. This was not a problem on previous Carnival cruises.
5. There was chaos at Shore Excursions. There was a lack of staff on the pier compared to other cruises.
While I am 63, I am active. Two SNUBAs were cancelled due to a lack of participants. I did not get the standard green letter on one cancellation and all the other tours were booked. Had I known of my SNUBA cancellation the night before, I might have gotten on another tour.
The sub ride was also cancelled and the reason given was the daylight savings time change on Sunday for a tour the following Friday…whatever.
Most of the St. Kitts zip lining was cancelled so my morning SNUBA tour was cut short so I could be driven to the only zip line tour of the day.
The events themselves were fine. The ship was 76% seniors. This explains why only three of 3500 people signed up for surfing lessons in Puerto Rico. I could see that many guests were not as active as me and that cancellations and rebookings (there were five changes out of seven excursions) should have been expected, the problems I encountered made the cruise experience less Fun. Shore Ex had erratic hours every day so I had to rely on Guest Services to make some of the changes.
While I will miss the food and the smiling faces at housekeeping, the chaos at Shore Excursions and the problems with the Internet means that I will not return to Carnival until I am sure that the Fun has been restored.
The Sunshine has the lowest rating in Cruise Critic. This review reinforces the low rating.
I was on Deck 2. Except for a lack of plugs, the room was fine. It was more comfortable than other cruise lines. The windows were dirty and were never cleaned. I assume this was another cost-cutting recommendation. Carnival may have saved money but one could not take pictures out of the window.
There were delays in getting onboard. Security allowed people to bring liquids in bottles or cans but not plastic bottles. See the main review for details on getting luggage delivered to the room
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