(12:20 p.m. EDT) -- Carnival Triumph sailed into a shipyard in Cadiz, Spain, on March 1 and emerged nearly two months and $200 million later as a practically new ship with a new name -- Carnival Sunrise. The line added and redesigned cabins, revamped public spaces to include new Carnival favorites, modernized the interior design and added dining venues that have been a hit on newer ships.
Cruise Critic is sailing on the ship's second cruise as Sunrise. Below is a breakdown of what we think are the biggest wins, as well as areas that could still use a little improvement.
We were never a fan of Carnival's burnt peach color scheme in passenger cabins and those metallic panels that stretched across the rooms. Sunrise's new look is more modern and beachy with a bluer color scheme, blonde woods and more neutral bathrooms. Our only gripe is that while our inside cabin is spacious, we could really use some drawer space to store socks and underwear.
Carnival also added more than 100 cabins to Sunrise, many on the aft (back of the ship) end of Deck 5 where there used to be lounges. Wins include the Cloud 9 Spa Cabins (insides and balconies) that give free access to the spa's thermal suite, as well as the two Captain's Suites on the forward (front of the ship) corners of Deck 9 that are light-filled with floor-to-ceiling windows, a balcony with two full lounge chairs and a dining table, and a two-room, two-bathroom configuration that can sleep five -- perfect for a family.
If you like dining variety, Sunrise has it.
It's mind boggling to think about how many dining venues Carnival added to Triumph during its transformation into Sunrise, taking from favorites among the line's newer ships. The line added Bonsai Sushi, Guy's Smokehouse BBQ, the Seafood Shack, a dedicated space for the Chef's Table, Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant and Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse.
Carnival was especially creative in finding space for restaurants. Most are counter-style or open to public areas, rather than being behind closed doors. (The exception is the steakhouse.) The BBQ venue is on Deck 10 adjacent to sun deck areas; Cucina del Capitano is in the upstairs loft section of the buffet.
We especially enjoyed dinners in the extra-fee steakhouse and Italian restaurant; Cucina del Capitano is a steal at $15 per person, and both venues have kids' prices. We also have become huge groupies for the revamped Pizzeria del Capitano, thanks to its perfectly crispy crust and 24/7 open hours, as well as the breakfast burritos at BlueIguana Cantina (a holdover from Triumph and a Carnival staple).
However, we're not sure how many cruisers are discovering some of these venues. On night four of a six-night cruise, Cucina del Capitano was practically empty, and the hostess said it was much better than the first few nights. We rarely see anyone at Bonsai Sushi, which is situated on either side of the main Deck 5 thoroughfare. Perhaps it's the crowd onboard, and the venues will do better on another cruise sailing out of a different homeport. (New Yorkers love sushi, right?)
The crowds around the buffet space are insane, which might be due to the fact that cruisers aren't spread out enough to the various dining venues and because of the way Carnival has crammed a lot of eateries into the aft end of Deck 9. Design quirks such as awkwardly placed drinks/soft-serve ice cream stations and only one main counter in the buffet (versus stations) lead to long lines and confusion.
We've decided it's actually faster and more pleasant to grab breakfast in the main dining room, which seems counterintuitive. (The menu is also unexpectedly modern; you get all the staples like eggs Benedict, waffles and pancakes, but also avocado toast, masala dosa and a kale and farro breakfast bowl.)
The line did add 200-plus cabins, and our cruise is sold out with lots of kids, meaning capacity could be above the double-occupancy number of 2,984 passengers. Perhaps the ship isn't entirely cut out for so many people descending on breakfast and lunchtime options all at once.
While we're griping, we're also not a fan of the Deck 5 thoroughfare. You used to be able to walk outside the casino along the windows, but the new arcade has blocked that route; now you must traverse the smokey casino every time you want to get from the theater and atrium to the Red Frog Pub, Alchemy Bar and dining venues in the back of the ship.
A big win for the ship is the makeover of its upper decks. Triumph did not have Carnival's sun deck favorite, the adults-only Serenity Deck, but Sunrise has a two-deck space with padded loungers, clam shell day beds, wooden "shelters," a bar and a large hot tub. Forget the lack of kids -- the area feels more spacious and less crowded than the packed main pool area, and all loungers face the sea rather than the interior of the ship so you can forget you're onboard with 3,000 other people.
Carnival also expanded the more active options. One slide has morphed into an entire water park, with two big slides, a kids' slide and splash area -- a big hit with the little ones. At the opposite end of the ship, SportSquare offers a ropes course, basketball course, mini-golf and outdoor pool and ping pong tables. The mini-golf is creatively set up around the spherical radar antennas -- a smart way to add more fun in under-utilized space.
Our only complaint here is there's a decided lack of shade. Most of the areas on Deck 9 that are shaded by the Deck 10 overhang are given over to dining areas, and only the outdoor smoking seating area has shade umbrellas. The Bahamian sun has been brutal, so some shady outdoor spaces would be welcome.
Not necessarily related to the refurbishment, but we've loved Carnival's packed activity schedules with something for everything and the enthusiasm of the passengers for participating. We caught the tail end of Bingo before a show, and the theater (where Bingo was held) was full and people were shouting out numbers, caught up in the hope of winning. A karaoke competition was as hopping as the main Playlist Production musical in the theater. There seems to be trivia every hour; they even had a "drop the egg without breaking it" contest that actually involved some passenger ingenuity and engineering skills.
We also approve of the new Red Frog Pub, which is a great place to wait when the Your Time Dining room is full. It's huge with a stage, games in the back and events from karaoke to live music to pub quiz. It's grouped with the redone piano bar and Alchemy Bar so that corner of Deck 5 is bustling at night, especially during the dinner hours as folks come and go from the aft and midship main dining rooms.
With so much to do and eat onboard, you might consider skipping a port, just to have the ship all to yourself.