We cruised Sept. 22-28 on the Sunshine, originally for 1.5 days in Bermuda, but diverted due to hurricane Jerry to Princess Cays and Nassau. We were disappointed as Bermuda was the main reason we booked the cruise and the fact it was leaving from Charleston. We knew it was hurricane season, but unfortunately, all of the Bermuda options on Carnival from Charleston are during hurricane season and not a lot of other options are available. We were disappointed, but made the best of the cruise.
We have sailed the Sunshine before in 2016 when it was making less frequent runs from Charleston, it is now home based there. It is an older ship that was re-designed in 2013. We typically enjoy the very large ships better because there are just more options. There are some oddities with this ship in getting to certain areas. You can’t pass through on all levels and find yourself going up or down a floor, walking through and then going up or down where you need. It is confusing, but not a deal breaker! By the time you figure out the system good, it’s time to get off the ship. Because it is not that big of a ship, it doesn’t take long to get to either end. But, it is larger than the Fantasy class ships.
With the exception of the first evening and next morning, we rarely felt movement on the ship. I attributed the movement early on to being close to hurricane waters, but who knows! The rest of the trip, we wouldn’t have known we were on a ship. Of course, on the trip back to Charleston from NASSAU, the trip was only moving at about 12 knots.
We had an outside stateroom with picture window, deck 1, midship (less movement typically) The room is a very nice size and in looking at some newer ships on OTHER lines, their outside cabins are very small ( I have not compared to Carnival’s newer ships yet). Our room had good room on each side of the king bed (2 twins together), small tables with storage on either side, a desk/vanity area that was wide, large mirror, lots of storage shelves and drawers. There is a small stool type chair for the vanity, a couch that seats 3 and table. There were 3 closets, 2 with hangers and space and the 3rd had the safe and shelves. There was plenty of storage and room for suitcases under the bed. TV had very limited channels including 2 movie channels and at least 2 channels for kids. You could not check your account on the TV, nor did it have menus, you could see menus on the hub app. You could also follow the days schedule on the app.
Lighting was excellent in the cabin. There is an outlet with two plugs at the vanity area. I took an extension cord so I could use my sound machine to drown out snoring! The temperature was comfortable most of the time, a few times it felt a little warm even though we kept the settings on the lowest setting. I will say if you like your room very cold, that is not happening. It was comfortable, but not cold. Keeping curtains closed when sun is on that side helps keep the room from getting too warm. Outside temps were 70’s (night I think) to high 90’s.
There is a hairdryer in the top drawer at the vanity, but difficult to use, so if you can, take your own. It is attached in the drawer and does not stretch far enough for you to use it adequately. I had to bend over to get it to my head and I am short. I could not see what I was doing as it would not stretch to the mirror. You also have to keep holding the button as you use it, or it cuts off. That is challenging too. It really was useless except maybe for drying, forget styling!
There was space for storage in the bathroom and the size of the shower was very good. We had hot water most of the time and the water pressure was good most of the time. I am sure when a lot of people are using at once, that changes.
Our cabin steward was Komang and he did a great job. We were given the option for morning, evening or both for room service, and we chose evening. I asked for ice to be brought nightly and he did that. We did not “see” him often but when we would return to our room, no matter what time we ate dinner, he had been there! He left awesome towel animals too. I try and keep the room straight, neat and clean, so didn’t leave a lot for him to do. We saw in some rooms as we’d pass by and I could not believe the mess people left. I do not feel it is their job to clean up behind us; but to clean bath as needed, leave fresh towels, empty trash, make the bed/turn down and ice. (though I sort of keep my bed made). Sad what some people expect. I always tip stateroom attendant extra because I know what they do is not easy.
Food was good, nothing exceptional but it has been that way since the extra fee restaurants came into being. The buffet was pretty much similar items for breakfast and lunch. Deli had some great sandwiches and they are open until 11:00pm. Guys Burgers is open until about 6:00pm and the Blue Iguana closes around 2:30 (tacos, salads and burritos). They had late night snacks at 11:30-1:00 in the buffet area, but I never went to see what was offered. The only option for 24 hours is pizza or room service. There is not a fee for room service (unless you order items with an extra cost). Of course, tip is appreciated. We found as many have said, the desserts look better than they are, including the cakes. They were good, just not exceptional or awe inspiring, no “wow” factor. Some had odd textures. I cannot speak for the extra fee restaurants as we did not eat at any, but they may have been better. I had beef tenderloin for one dinner in the dining room and it was very good, and I enjoyed the filet mignon steak and egg breakfast for brunch in the dining room. The chocolate melting cake was good, as it always is. The 24 ice cream machines were available as were lemonade, tea, coffee and water. I am not a big ice cream fan, so that didn’t appeal to me.
All of the staff in the dining room and other dining areas were very nice, friendly and helpful. I saw numerous times throughout the ship, not just at dining, but other times as well, anyone who needed assistance, staff were right there to help them. They were very accommodating. I went to guest services twice and staff were very friendly there as well, Also the excursion desk.
We had my time dining and used our Carnival Hub App to request a table. We went anywhere from 5:30-6:45 and never had more than a 10 minute wait. We would make the request on the app and it would tell us when our table was ready and gave the number. You walk in the dining room on deck 3 and the host has you seated. Only one night in the dining room did we wait what seemed a little longer for our food. Most nights, it was all very quick service.
You can pay $5.00 each and be able to chat with each other on the ship through the app if needed. My husband had the premium (2nd level) wifi and was able to receive and send texts, check email and get on the web and make and receive wifi calls, though Carnival does not state/guarantee that will be available. We could sign off one device and use another as needed. My husband is a workaholic and gets stressed if he cannot have access. Our phones with T-Mobile worked on princess Cays and Nassau without the wifi. Just remember when you return to the ship, to put it back on airplane mode. I do not think the ships wifi worked on Princess Cays.
I thought we’d be able to check our account on the app, but I was never able to do that. I did go to one of the 2 kiosks and printed out a statement to check our charges. If you have gift cards, you must go to guest services to load them to your account, it no longer works at the kiosks.
The production shows were good as well as the comedy club acts. Adam, the Cruise Director was very good, professional and entertaining. When I saw any of the entertainment staff, they were all very good, seemed to be having fun (though I know they are working, and it is a job and not as fun for them as the passengers) and did a great job.
Staff were always cleaning throughout the ship and nothing was ever amiss. It is an older ship, but kept in good condition. I never smelled any sewage odor. You could smell smoke on the decks near the casino and in the casino. We stayed out for that reason.
Lots of music and bar options. When out by pool areas, waiters came around often to ask if you needed anything. The same during shows.
Dress for the dining room, I know this is always a hot topic! On elegant nights, I saw shorts and jeans, as well as formal wear, so the full gamut. It doesn’t matter to me. We elected to skip the first elegant night because hubby did not feel like getting dressed. They had most of the same menu items in the buffet except for the lobster tails, which is OK with me as I am more of a shrimp person. I will say, the oysters were not what we in SC are used to and I could not eat them. The breading is totally different, but the oysters themselves were very strong for lack of a better word and almost fishy like and did not taste like oysters I have eaten elsewhere, including FL. I usually love fried oysters, but not those. For casual dining they do suggest no flip flops, but I saw men in those, after telling my hubby he had to wear closed toed shoes! Next time I won’t worry about it.
We did the “behind the Fun” tour and enjoyed it very much. It was the first time we have ever done one. It was conducted by Benn, who was getting off the ship same day as us for 2 months of vacation, and he did an excellent job. The tour was very informative and there were several surprises which I will not reveal, or they won’t be surprises for you! I will say there are photo ops and ladies, you may want to take that into consideration! You must wear closed toed shoes for this excursion and no skirts or bathing wear. You cannot take a camera or a cell phone on the tour. There is time for bathroom breaks and a short refreshment break. Though most of the 3.5 hours was walking (stairs as well) and standing, there were several times, where you could sit for a few minutes. Most of our crowd was 50+ and no one seemed to have any challenges. One exciting moment was when we were off the coast of Jacksonville, an air force jet flew over the ship. It was so close and cool to see, would have loved to have had a picture of that!
For pictures taken throughout the cruise, they are still posted in slots on the walls and you have hunt for yours. I never did find most of mine and figured we must have broken the camera! I did overhear a passenger chastising an employee for telling someone with him, that she could not take pictures, of the picture! I would think that is common sense, but the passenger was trying to make the employee feel bad for doing his job. Not cool. Just admit you’re wrong and move on.
We did the stingray excursion in Princess Cays and it was very good, especially for the price. I have swum with stingrays many years ago in Cayman Islands and loved it, but that was challenging because the water was almost neck high for me and lots of waves to keep navigating. For this excursion, the area with the rays is blocked off from the rest of the beach, but is right there when you get to the beach. You walk right in and the rays swim around all the way up to the shoreline. You have the opportunity to pet them, snorkel in the beach area with them and later, feed them and hold them. The handler was very good and has been with them for 3 years. She said when a storm comes, they let them out of the fenced area, but they always come back. My husband was hesitant to get in because of the Steve Ervin incident, but he became more comfortable and did get in with them, though he did not feed or hold one! He took lots of pictures for me. We were allowed to take our own pictures, which was very nice.
There were many lounge chairs on the beach (sun and shade) and float chairs to rent as well as many other things to rent. The stretch of beach is long, so keep walking and you will find a chair in an area you like. There was a nicer souvenir shop (takes the sign and sail card only) and straw market type booths as well as hair braiding offered. Bar service was good. Restrooms were limited, so don’t go at the last minute! Band played live music and that was nice. The lunch provided from the ship included hamburgers and hotdogs and was filling. They gave you very small cups for your drink though (lemonade, tea, water), like a bathroom sized dixie cup. People were busy cleaning up, not only the meal areas, but throughout the entire area. It was very clean there. The beach was calm but rocky, you do need water shoes! You must take tenders to the ship and we had no issues with those nor long lines. There was a small shallow pool in the kid’s playground area with lounge chairs. But the ocean was calm and little ones could sit right at shore. There were showers to wash off shoes, etc. but the stream of water was very limited and slow and they didn’t do much good.
We did the walking tour in Nassau since we had already been there 3 times, and also did not want a beach day after Princess Cays. It was a very nice and informative tour, our guide was David who was great. It was hot, but he provided us with an iced water bottle about half the way. He also had devices we used so we could all hear him no matter where he was in the group. Highly recommend for a short and informative tour, 1.5 hours.
We did not have trouble getting into any of the shows in the theater. It did get full for the love and marriage show, but by the way Adam talked, that was an anomaly, probably because we were in Nassau overnight and most stayed on the ship! For the comedy club, there are lines. The earlier you get there the better. We went about half an hour early and never had trouble getting seated. Once one show ends, everyone has to leave and if they want to attend the next show, they must go to the end of the already formed line. They did have staff at the door watching this. We preferred Jimmy Carroll as the comedian, but both comedians had long lines and full shows. The 18+ is not for kids for sure because mainly of the language.
I did not play bingo, I have no idea what the cards cost, but they did give away a cruise on Wednesday, $3000.00 on Thursday and $5000.00 on Friday.
There were less than 200 kids on our cruise, so the waterpark was not as crowded as it could be. I did see people on the ropes course. Numerous other outdoor sports options and mini golf.
The main pool is not very large, but this seems to be an issue on all ships. There is a smaller waterfall and shallow pool on the serenity deck for adults only. That area is also very nice if you can get a chair. I think the area had been enlarged since my 2016 cruise.
Embarkation was quick and easy, though because of the layout of the Charleston terminal, you do go to separate buildings, some walking, some riding a bus. There were no good signs for where we were to turn to park on embarkation day, despite there being good signs to the port itself. That is not Carnival’s fault of course and after turning around, we eventually found the way! You drive in and pay first, then drop your luggage, then go park. You walk to a building where you are checked in (it was quick) and then you go by bus (security reasons) to the ship where we went right on. The sign and sail cards are at your room when doors open at 1:30 (unless you have priority boarding, FTTF, etc. and get in your room early). It was about 12:30 when we got on.
For debarkation (silent), also easy. We had to be out of our rooms at 8:30 am and most are off the ship by 9:30am. If you are checking your luggage, you pick up tags the day before departure for early (8:30-9:00) or late departure (9:00-9:30). Your bags are left outside your door the last night on the ship. The departure times are shown on your TV and on the big screen at the pool area, etc. I wish this could be added to the app. Those taking all their luggage off themselves, can start departing much earlier. Announcements are not made because Charleston asked they not be, but this worked just fine. When our number was shown, we went down and walked right off, very quick. When you get into the customs building, you pick up your luggage and go through customs. This took us only about 5 minutes. We normally get a porter, who can get you through a fast porter line, but there weren’t any available and it worked out fast anyway and we saved some bucks! We walked out to the shuttle buses, which take you to the parking lot. We were leaving the parking lot by 9:50am (our number was shown at about 9:15am on the lido pool deck, so entire process took about 35 minutes). There are people to assist those who need it.
So, despite the oddities of the terminal (thanks to Charleston), the system works very well and was fast and efficient. I have waited much longer in fancier terminals! Efforts have been in the works to build a nicer terminal, but there are some in Charleston fighting that. I vote with someone who suggested moving up to North Charleston. It would be closer to the airport, less expensive hotels and the ship would sail under the Copper River Bridge! That would be a plus!
Love sailing out of Charleston because it is 2 hours from my home. Just wish we had more ship options and more itinerary options. But I am thankful Carnival does offer what they do, as a small group of Charlestonians holds up progress and makes cruising from there difficult.
Be glad to answer any questions I can. Overall and good cruise and plenty to do.