I have wanted to go on a cruise for years, so my husband booked one as a surprise for Christmas. We chose Carnival Sunshine simply because we live in North Carolina and Charleston is the closet port (4 hour drive).
Let me start out with the pros: Everyone on board, crew members and other vacationers, were SO friendly. We had the pleasure of meeting the cruise director and the captain and both were very personable. We loved our cabin steward, Aris. The atmosphere on board was really positive and that goes a long way. For food, we really enjoyed Guy's Burgers, the deli shop, pizza, and the salsa bar. All were delicious. All drinks we ordered were also great. Our favorite part of the trip was Half Moon Cay. We wish more days could have been like that. The process of getting there and back was fairly simple with a shorter line than most other activities throughout the week, the beach was truly perfect, we loved renting an affordable clam shell for sun protection, and there were walking paths, gift shops, a fun pirate ship water playground, and a regular playground. My husband and I both agree this was the best day of the ship and we truly felt like our son had fun that day. Our cabin was small, as expected, but the bed and pillows were super comfortable. Also, we did enjoy the fitness room and being able to workout while on board. I wish I could have used the spa but did not end up booking anything. It smelled wonderful and was really pretty! The spa staff were super nice, too.
Now for the cons: The muster drill took over an hour, which was really challenging with a tired toddler. I have talked to so many people who cruise regularly and many from our area take Carnival Sunshine because of the convenience. I was under the impression that the pool and sports complex would be bigger and better than it was. However, the main pool was the size of a regular backyard pool and the two whirlpools were very small. The sports complex was also very small. My son is young and we got up early every morning trying to get him to the sports complex so he could shoot some basketball. Finally on the very last day he got to shoot some baskets because there were only a few kids on the court. It was so over crowded the whole time. This isn't Carnival's fault, but the wind on the sports complex was frightening the whole time we were at sea. It just made it one less place for us to play. Because everything was so crowded and it was so windy, my toddler spent most days climbing up and down the stairs on the inside and outside of the ship. Luckily I brought him some new trucks to play with, coloring books and crayons, and shows on my iPad. Those kept him entertained when there was truly nothing for him to do on board. This is a just a personal preference, but we did not enroll our child in Camp Ocean. I am not comfortable leaving him with people I've never met.
When it comes to traveling, I am a big planner. I research all the best options, what to do while we are there, how to get around, I watch YouTube videos for cruise tips, etc. I also work in public health and even read the ship's sanitation reports beforehand. I want to know it all! Even after all the planning and preparing, I felt completely lost on board and I know others felt the same way because we would get on the elevator and all be lost on where we were going.
Additionally, I have a major problem with the secondhand smoke on this ship. The secondhand smoke from the casino is extremely offensive and can be smelled on every floor because SMOKE TRAVELS and sticks to every single service. I find it completely unreasonable that the outside smoking area is in the same area as Camp Ocean for children. Anyone wanting to visit that area has to take their children through a cloud of smoke, and secondhand smoke is a health hazard especially for children and anyone with asthma or other lung conditions.
We ate the buffet most evenings because of the convenience with a toddler. The food was alright but not as good as I had expected with how everyone raves about cruise food. Room service was very disappointing. I ordered my son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich one afternoon, which arrived with stale bread and stale potato chips.
The entertainment (especially the "morning show") was disappointing, though Mikey was a great cruise director. We were really looking forward to doing Build-A-Bear but it was not enjoyable because it was so chaotic. The music was way too loud, you had to shout to communicate with the crew members doing the event.
When we stopped in Nassau, we were looking forward to a nice relaxing beach day. We got off the ship early to spend as much time in Nassau as we could. It was so horrible we were only off the ship for 2 hours. The taxi rides are terrifying and the beach was really sketchy. We were definitely mislead for which beach to attend.
My husband and I have enjoyed traveling together for years and a cruise was really something we had looked forward to. Unfortunately, I found myself feeling completely trapped this entire trip. I was counting down the days until we could get off the ship and it just feels like a waste of money and time off from work. We will never take another Carnival cruise.