The Carnival Sunshine is a Destiny-Class ship that was originally designed to carry 2,600 passengers. After a $150M refit and rechristening in 2013, space to fit 400 more passengers was added—a more than 15% increase in passenger capacity—but no more crew were added and it certainly appears no more space in the common areas was added to accommodate that increase. As a result, every day on the Carnival Sunshine is a struggle with our fellow passengers to compete for limited space at the various eateries (that don’t have additional expense, that is), limited numbers of tables/chairs to enjoy your food, limited numbers of deck chairs to enjoy the outdoors, and limited space to enjoy the shows. The overcrowding on the “new” Carnival Sunshine is maddening, frustrating, and quickly douses enthusiasm for the cruise experience.
We are cruising as part of a large family group and this 8-day Cruise was chosen because of the Sunshine refit and the extra cruising day. However, both of these things are now playing against us. We are now halfway through the cruise but are eagerly anticipating the last day—an emotion we have never experienced on a cruise before.
This is our 6th and will be our final Carnival cruise. It is also, unfortunately, our most expensive and most disappointing Carnival experience. The overcrowding is not the only issue.
Carnival offers a basic and an upgraded internet data plan. Both are very expensive. You can try the basic plan but will likely find it relatively useless. So they then advertise the upgrade for an additional $45 and mention “satellite internet “ fast enough to Skype on. We do NOT recommend it as even the upgraded plan has limited coverage on the ship and moves at a snails pace—certainly not fast enough to accomplish much of anything. At guest services, one passenger complained but the crew member pointed out that his phone WAS connected and Carnival made no guarantees about the speed. As I write this, I am in port using Verizon’s travel plan and not the Carnival internet package I purchased.
We purchased an aft ocean view suite and it was a good size with a jacuzzi bath tub. Unfortunately, our second morning here we woke up to find the bedroom carpet flooded after a pipe in the bathtub busted. This meant we were effectively kicked out of our room for 2 days while they shut off the electric, did the plumbing work, disinfected and cleaned the carpet, and brought in industrial blowers to dry everything. We couldn’t use the tub or shower and, in order to bathe, had to stand in line at guest services to trade out our key card for an empty cabin, lug our toiletries across the ship to a small interior cabin with a tiny shower to bathe, and then stand in line again to trade the key card out again to get back in to our cabin.
For these two days of problems—on At Sea days, nonetheless—Carnival’s guest services offered $150 onboard credit. I scoffed and told them that was ridiculous. Guest Services said that $150 is what 2 days of losing our Suite is worth. However, I pointed out I was paying $700 per day so those 2 days were worth $1400 to me. I was told: “Tough. In these situations, Carnival makes the rules.”
We were not the only people with problems. Another couple in our party in an extended aft-balcony State Room on Deck 6 can not use their balcony because of about 1-2” of standing water that has not been remedied since Day One. Still an additional couple with the same class stateroom on Deck 7 have complained about paint splatter and grime coating their balcony door and poor service from their room steward. One other guest I met staying in a Serenity-level balcony state room tells me there is a foul smell in their bathroom that, after 4 days, has yet to be remedied.
As for our steward, we have had great service from her and her assistants. The deck supervisor was responsive and helpful during the two days of problems dealing with flooding in our cabin. While our wait staff lacks the showmanship of some other waiters, they are still very responsive, respectful, and kind. So all in all, the crew we have dealt with—aside from guest services—have been awesome.
A couple positive notes—the entertainment has been good. Dave in the Piano Bar is so great, the comedians have been top notch, and the illusionist Jackson Rayne was captivating. Unfortunately, the theater now doubles as the dance club and is much smaller than on other ships and the shows and karaoke bounces around the ship in small venues that means fewer seats and more run-ins with other frustrated guests.
In conclusion, I must STRONGLY encourage any would-be cruisers to avoid Carnival Cruise Lines altogether—or at least the Carnival Sunshine. I truly believe there is a systemic problem with Carnival Cruise Lines that has been growing worse and we have experienced it on each cruise we have taken since 2010. From a formerly very loyal Carnival cruiser—who has avoided joining his in-laws on one of their annual Royal Caribbean cruises—I strongly recommend going with another cruise line. We will be switching to Royal Caribbean next year and won’t look back.
The cabin is overpriced and, apparently, a known problem. As mentioned, above, the room flooded the second day and when we alerted the room steward she radioed in saying: “It happened again in Cabin 5340.” If you are a couple traveling by yourselves then this should be plenty of room. I hate to complain because it is a suite, but with kids, when the bed is pulled out in the sitting area it only allows about 8” of clearance to squeeze by to get to the door. This can be a problem.