There were 5 of us on this cruise, all of us in our 60's, 2 first time cruisers and 3 experienced cruisers. My husband and I and been on 6 Carnival cruises - 4 Royal Caribbean and 5 Norwegian cruises. Traveling with us was my sister in one cabin and (first time cruisers), long time friends in another. We parked at the pier, $320 for 8 nights, split 3 ways isn't bad-we traveled together in one vehicle. Embarkation took maybe an hour from start to finish. Relatively simple. On board by noon, headed to Lido for our first Guy's Burger.
After lunch I noticed that we had 3 separate tables for the 8:15 dinner service! Our reservations were linked together online and I assumed our dinner seating would automatically be linked like it has in the past when we traveled with others. I immediately went to the dining room and the maitre 'd was not there so we spoke with the girl there who said it was impossible to change for the first night and they might be able to change it the next day. She said the maitre 'd would be available around 6PM so we went back down and saw him then. He was very condescending and outright rude and said he had very few requests to change and it would be impossible to get us a table for 5 for the late seating. He could give us anytime dining which we ended up agreeing to. It worked out, but we had first time cruisers with us and I wanted them to experience the set dining experience with the same wait staff every night and the shows they perform at the end of the dinner service. We liked our servers the first night and tried to get the same wait staff the 2nd night and they said they weren't available. It was disappointing. We had different wait staff every night and different tables every night. I will say, the staff was excellent and the food was the best we've had on a ship.
We all had balcony cabins on deck 8, very close to the glass elevators. Very convenient location but we could hear a lot of noise from the lobby at night when the parties were going on. The noise did not bother us, I actually enjoyed listening to it but others might find it annoying. The cabins were fine, standard Carnival. Our room steward was excellent. Always present, always pleasant. We asked for twice a day service, with ice please! I think twice a day is what differentiates a cruise from a hotel. It feels special. Really nice, big, flat screen TVs with on demand movies (some have a fee, most do not), one news channel, HGTV, Food Network, Discovery, History Channel (?), Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and a bunch of Carnival channels including a Map Channel.
The Lido deck is an absolute disaster. Pools were mobbed all the time, I'm talking a sea of heads. Loud music, too loud. The pathways to the buffet were the absolute worse designed areas I have ever seen! You have Guy's Burgers on one side and Blue Iguana on the other so there are lines of people at each place, then there are drink stations in this tiny passageway AND hand washing stations! It was ridiculous! Once inside the buffet area you have the deli on the Blue Iguana side and Lucky Bowl on Guy's side. Proceed to the buffet which was ALWAYS crowded and s-l-o-w moving people. We always managed to find a table but one of us had to stay with it while the rest attempted to get food. The pizza place was in the way back and the Seafood Shack was back there too.
Breakfast/Brunch/Dinner in the Sunshine Restaurant was always very good. We ate most meals here because everything else was very noisy, crowded and the food was just not as good. As stated before, we ended up with Any Time Dining. We always ate around 8:00 and getting a table took less than 10 minutes with the exception of elegant night, which took 30 minutes. Checking in at the desk was easy and using the HUB app was even easier. We believe the food in the main dining room was the best we've ever had on a ship. Hot, tasty and good portions. One in our little group has Celiac Disease and has to be gluten free. The wait staff was aware as she let them know before boarding and they went above and beyond to make sure she was well taken care of.
Guys' Burgers were very good. The lines move very fast.
Guys' Pig and Anchor - never saw a line. Ate there only once and it was just okay. No desire to go back.
Blue Iguana - Always a line but they moved along. Always enjoy the burrito.
Pizza place - Always a line, a very slow moving line. I really enjoyed the pizza on the Sunshine and Pride but not this one as much. It wasn't worth the wait.
Deli - OMG.....the line might be small, but....we came back from port early and seeing how the line was short, decided on sandwiches for lunch. 5 people in line ahead of us, 5 people working inside. 25 minutes later we had 2 hot dogs and half a turkey wrap. 25 minutes! I really enjoyed that wrap but didn't want to wait in that long again.
Buffet - yuck. Long lines ALL the time. People said, oh on go off times and you'll be fine. We tended to eat lunch around 2:00. That's kind of late for lunch and besides, it closes at 2:30. Forget about it! Long lines with the slowest moving people ever. Poorly designed, everything in one long display. One of the port days we got back late and decided to skip the dining room and try the buffet. It wasn't really too crowded. The food sucked. Little variety. Roast beef or what was supposed to be roast beef was inedible. My husband absolutely loves the buffet and wants to eat there most of the time. This night was our one and only dinner there. I ended up waiting in line for pizza after I attempted to eat that beef or whatever. Very disappointing. Makes me wonder how the food in the dining rooms can be so good and the food in the buffet so bad.
We did not eat in any specialty restaurants, although we did have breakfast one morning in the Italian restaurant above the buffet area. They have a small breakfast buffet, all the food was ice cold, but they did have made to order omelets and eggs. It was not crowded at all but it was hot in there.
Bars - We like to have a few drinks before dinner every night. There were 5 of us and we wanted to sit and chat over cocktails. It's hard to find a "quiet" bar! The Electric Violins played almost every night and they are very good but a bit loud and somber. The Red Frog Pub had karaoke almost every night at that time and that was very loud and carried out to the Alchemy Bar which was our favorite. We ended up sitting in a pretty empty Sports Bar every night because we could hear each other. When there was no karaoke, we went to Alchemy which had the best bartenders and best drinks. We did not do the drink package.
Public areas - The ship's layout is very choppy but I had read up on this before hand and knew what to do. I lead my little troop around - elevator down to deck 5 - walk all the way through the shops, casino, Sushi restaurant, bars to the aft elevators to get to the Sunshine Restaurant where we ate twice a day. It really isn't that difficult to get around once you understand the layout. We found pockets of uneven air conditioning all around. The elevators were extremely warm. The buffet was downright uncomfortable. The Italian restaurant was very warm during breakfast. The Liquid Lounge (main theater) is small and uncomfortable. My legs were cramped when we sat in the chairs, they were fine if we were lucky enough to get a bench type seat. There were nights that it was absolutely freezing in there. Casino was comfortable but smoky - I do not understand why they can't do something about that - better smoke eaters - half smoking, half non-smoking...something! We always saw someone cleaning and the ship was pretty darn clean even though people left food and drinks everywhere! An entire bowl of noodles on staircase, smashed cupcakes on the floor near the elevator, a full drink right outside our cabin door that I almost tripped over! Which leads to my next topic -
Guests - 95% of the guests we encountered were very friendly and talkative. Then there are those who walked around with their own music blaring, gangs of teenagers running wild (where are the parents?!). Twice someone banged on our cabin door, hard, like startling loud! Once in the afternoon when the snooze sign was out and once at 2AM. Lots of yelling going on.
Crew - Fantastic. Everyone was personable, friendly and polite. We did have once exception at brunch - our waiter was obviously very sick. He looked miserable, was sniffling and didn't have any patience with our questions. He took our order and disappeared, we figured he was relived of his duty. Our meals never came and we ended up walking out.
Entertainment - CD Chris "The Flying Scotsman" was excellent. Always visible, very high energy and entertaining. His one man show was surprisingly good. That's about it. The 2 "big" production shows of singing and dancing were just okay. One night they had a guest singer - Marcus Anthony, singing Motown. He was excellent, quite the entertainer. I thought the entertainment was sorely lacking on this cruise. Pretty boring.
Unfortunately we never made it to the comedy club as the times were always the same with dinner and the shows in the main theater.
HUB App is excellent! Kept daily tabs on our on board expenses, selected activities and put them into "My Planner" which reminds you 15 minutes before it starts, put in our request for a table in the My Time Dining part. The weather report was very accurate! I used it constantly! We used the Chat part - for $5 per person for the entire cruise we could communicate with each other via text message. Very convenient!
Ports - We had not booked any excursions through Carnival as we had been to 2 out of 3 ports before. Didn't feel a need to.
San Juan - we were planning to just walk around old downtown but it was so hot that we ended up taking a tour from the many, many locals trying to get you when you get off the ship. It was $15 per person and lasted almost 2 hours. We thought it was worth it. They drop you off at the top of the shopping area.
Amber Cove - Basically an outdoor shopping mall with pools. Next time I would book an excursion.
Grand Turk - We've been there several times and sad to say but I think it's going down hill fast. It used to be a relaxing beach day but now the locals have taken over and are aggressively trying to "sell" you beach chairs and umbrellas. There was trash all over and a lot of the buildings were boarded up. We walked as far down the beach as we could to get away from them and the crowds but again the heat got to us and we ended up negotiating 4 chairs and 2 umbrellas for $25. Luckily there was a little snack bar with bathrooms right behind us. I wanted to walk to Jack's Shack but it was just too far for us old timers. The water was beautiful and where we were, the trash wasn't as bad. Two dogs ended up staying with us under our lounge chairs so they brightened up the day!
When we left NYC, hurricane Dorian looked like it might cause us some problems. We did receive a paper upon boarding explaining that our ports have been changed around and that they would keep us a safe distance from the storm at all times. Two days later we received another paper update with the arrival times changed but in our opinion, for the better! Slightly less time in San Juan but longer time in Amber Cove and Grand Turk. Carnival did an excellent job of keeping us safe. We had beautiful weather and nearly calm seas the entire trip. I think it might of rained at night once or twice but never saw a raindrop during the day.
Even though it sounds like I did a lot of complaining above, all in all it was a great trip. I believe in honest reviews. Not sure if we will sail on the Sunrise again due to overcrowding and the Lido deck setup. Most of our cruises are out of NYC because it is a 2-1/2 hour drive for us. Hopefully Carnival will have a different ship sailing out of there soon. We normally sail in late September/October when kids are back in school. I thought sailing the week of Labor Day would cut back on the amount of kids on board as most schools start right before Labor Day or that week. Don't get me wrong, I love kids but for some reason they (mostly teenagers) are wild on ships and I do not enjoy that.
Happy to answer any questions!