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Detailed Photo Review of Carnival Sunshine 12-Night Mediterranean Cruise 9/8/13


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I just returned home from 17 fabulous days in Europe, and I wanted to take the time to share my experiences with all of you. Every night of the trip, I jotted down a few notes of what we did each day, so I plan to write that up as a journal style review, and I will include tons of photos along the way! Also, I will make all my posts in a larger purple bold font to make it easier to find my posts in case you don't want to read other peoples replies. But first, a little background info...


I am 31 and have cruised 3 times before (twice on Carnival, once on Celebrity- see my reviews below for details on those sailings) I started planning this cruise in December after returning home from my last cruise. I have always wanted to go to Italy, and I love cruising, so I decided to combine the two and take a Mediterranean cruise. I looked at the itineraries on several cruise lines, but found there was no deal as great as this itinerary. It was a 12-night cruise (which I liked because I wanted to make it worth spending over $1000 on airfare), and it started and ended in different ports (which was great because I could have a few extra days to explore those 2 cities). I also liked that it would be on a newly renovated ship, but several months after the inaugural cruise so all the kinks should be worked out. Here is the itinerary for the cruise: Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens, Izmir, Sicily, Naples, Rome, Florence, Marseille, and Barcelona.


The day before I planned to book the cruise, I called my mom to tell her about my plans. She has never been on a cruise before because my dad gets sea sick, so she invited herself to join me. The next day, we called Carnival and booked an inside cabin midship on deck 7. I was happy with that location, knowing the benefits of a centrally-located cabin 2 decks below Lido, 2-3 decks above the nightlife entertainment, and sandwiched between 2 cabin decks, but mom really wanted a window. We agreed to watch the prices and if an oceanview cabin became the same price as our inside cabin, we would switch. We booked early saver, and I checked for price drops nearly every day. That was in the last week of January.


Then the Triumph incident happened! While that was an unfortunate situation, and I felt badly for the passengers involved and all of the people who had to change their vacation plans during the repairs, I was thrilled at what it did for our cruise fare! By the end of March, we got $800 back off the original cruise price! Thank goodness we booked early saver!!


Around the same time, Carnival decided to extend the original 7-week dry dock transformation of the Destiny into the Sunshine in order to make more thorough upgrades to the ship's mechanics. This meant canceling Sunshine's first 2 sailings. I had originally joined the roll call for my sailing back in January, and up until this point, it was fairly quiet and had very few participants. We were still over a half a year away from our cruise, and were just starting to plan excursions. When the Sunshine cruises were cancelled, many of them decided to change to our sailing. All of a sudden, we had an extremely active roll call! These "Sunshine Castaways" as they called themselves were at a very different phase of their planning as they had already booked all of their excursions, and were ready to fly to Europe in 3 weeks. When they rebooked onto the September sailing, they needed to find new groups for their tours, so this was when I was able to set up my own tours.


I never take ship tours as I think they cost more money, see fewer sites, and are more crowded then the private tours. Instead, I prefer to research each port and find a private excursion company. I used Cruise Critic to find people to join me on each tour. I will go into the details of each tour when I get to the daily trip journal part of this review, but I will just briefly mention that I organized 3 tours with Rome in Limo for Naples, Rome, and Florence, and we joined tours organized by other roll call members for Athens, Izmir, and Messina. We decided to do Venice, Dubrovnik, Marseilles, and Barcelona on our own without formal tours.


We booked direct flights on Delta from JFK to Venice and home from Barcelona, and we upgraded to the economy comfort seats because we wanted a little more leg room and a power outlet. I guess that's it for the planning phase, so up next will be a little review of various aspects of the cruise :) Please let me know if you have any questions along the way!

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Thanks so much for sharing your experience! We just booked this ship for next spring Caribbean cruise. Bringing my in-laws along for their 50th wedding anniversary. I get along really well with both of them so I am looking forward to more pictures of the Sunshine to share with them!

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Welcome Home and I am looking forward to reading (and view pics) of your review now!!!
. hi Dana - Debbie from NY - glad to hear you and your mom had a safe journey home. I was on the same cruise as Dana and her mom Lonnie and it was fantastic. Very port intensive and only 2 sea days. Many wonderful memories. Saw none of the complaints that people have complained about. Food was great and the staff only knew to be nice and friendly. Never ran into anybody who was miserable!!!!!
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Thanks everyone for your replies :)


Before I get in to the day-to-day trip journal part of this review, I wanted to mention a few things about the cruise...


Itinerary- We definitely booked this cruise because of all the amazing ports it visits. Yes, it was a hectic, tiring 12 days, but it was an incredible experience to spend a few hours in each of these ports. The cruise started in Venice on a Sunday morning, but we didn't sail away until Monday afternoon, so that gave us a chance to enjoy a dinner and evening in Venice (plus, we flew in a day early so we ended up with 3 half days to explore this port!) Then, after 12 days in Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Italy, and France, we ended the cruise in Barcelona, where we stayed for 3 nights in a hotel, giving us tons of time to enjoy this fabulous city. I guess the only slight flaw in the itinerary is that our 2 sea days were both within the first week of the cruise, leaving us with 5 very hectic port days in a row at the end of the cruise (followed by 3 days of touring in Barcelona), so I would have appreciated it if one of those two sea days was later in the second half of the cruise, but that's really just a tiny flaw in an overall amazing itinerary!


Embarkation process in Venice- This went very smoothly. We arrived at the cruise terminal by 10:15am, checked in by 10:45am, and were on the ship by 11am! We did have to put our carry on bags through the x-ray machine (they actually made us do that every time we got back on the ship in Venice- Sunday morning during embarkation, Sunday night when we returned from exploring the city all day, and Monday afternoon before sail away), but no one seemed to care what we brought with us. We did not have a chance to stop at a grocery store for wine or liquor, but I doubt it would have been a problem if we did try to carry that on with us ;)


Cabin- We were in cabin 7192, which was midway between the forward and mid-ship elevators. The halls were generally quiet, and the location was very convenient to get to the other areas of the ship. The cabin had more than enough storage space, with 3 small dresser drawers, a cabinet with 2 shelves, and 3 closets to hang clothes. We also took advantage of the 2 shelves on either side of the mirror in the bathroom to store all our toiletries. There were two single plug American outlets (one below the vanity mirror and one behind the TV set) and 1 European outlet (which is where they plugged in our mini-fridge so we didn't have access to it). Since we were one of the first people to board the ship, we went straight to Guest Services and requested a mini-fridge for my mom's medicines. It was waiting for us when we got back to the cabin that night, and it was cold enough to safely store a few extra cups of yogurt and some drinks.

When we first arrived in the room, our beds were set up as 2 twin beds (as requested), but they were parallel to each other and took up nearly the entire floor space of the cabin. We asked our stewardess to move them so they were perpendicular to each other, which freed up a ton of floor space in the middle of the room. I highly recommend people to do this if they are sharing an inside cabin and don't want to sleep in one big bed. It was nice having the space to walk around and not trip over each other for 12 days!! Here are some pics of the cabin (I have two bathroom photos too, but have not uploaded them to my computer yet, so I'll post those later):










Steward- Our head stewardess was Yelena and she was great. She gave us extra towels and whatever else we asked for, and she even challenged me to a towel folding competition when she found out I went to the class on my previous cruise. She had a team of two or three girls working with her, and they were all fairly thorough. We did come back to the cabin a few times while they were cleaning, but other than that, we rarely saw any of them.


Food- I thought the food was very good on this cruise. I ate breakfast every morning up on Lido deck, and became a quick fan of the breakfast burritos. We ate dinner every night in the MDR, and the food was always hot and served as we ordered it. My mom has some major food allergies, and she was very concerned about eating on the ship. One of the things that impressed us most during the cruise was how Carnival handled this situation. There is a lady named Irena (I think she was an assistant maitre'd or something like that) who went over my mom's allergies with her on the second night of the cruise. We ate dinner in Venice on the first night of the cruise, and when we arrived in the MDR on the second night, Irena said she has been looking for us last night and couldn't find us! Then, every night after that, she brought over a copy of the following night's menu so my mom could pick out what she wanted to eat and the chef could prepare it without any of the unsafe ingredients. We found out that there is actually a separate chef who handles all special needs meals to make sure there is no cross-contamination. There were some nights that she and I ordered the same dish, but they looked totally different because hers was cooked without the things she is allergic to so it was safe for her to eat. Irena really went above and beyond to make sure my mom enjoyed every meal in the dining room (including brunch on the 2 sea days!).


Room Service- My mom doesn't function in the mornings without coffee, so she ordered room service every day. She put out the menu on the door each night with a 15 minute delivery window request, and the food arrived on time every day except the last morning (one day it even arrived 20 minutes early, so we weren't awake yet! oops!)


Lido Buffet-.When they renovated the ship, they designed the buffet in stations, so the same 6 or 7 dishes are available at a few different stations around the buffet. This was good and bad- It definitely helped limit the length of the lines, but I also thought that it limited the options available. Maybe it's just because I was eating breakfast there and there aren't as many options for breakfast foods, but I thought the selection was somewhat limited. There were bread stations with muffins, danishes, bagels, and things like that, there were hot food stations with powdered eggs, potatoes, sausage, and bacon (no bacon police!), and other stations for cereal and fruit. I never ate lunch of dinner up here, so I have no comment about the food selection or lines during those meals. One big disappointment was that they only have 2 omelette stations on the entire ship! They are both located all the way aft on Lido deck in the Havan Bar/JiJi/Cucina del Capitano section, but they always had long lines when I arrived there. On my last Carnival cruise, they set up many more omelette stations, so the ones in the aft were never crowded, but that was not the case on this cruise. Luckily, I developed an obsession with the breakfast burritos from Blue Iguana, so I ate there most mornings instead (and I also loved that I could get watermelon from their salsa bar!)


Weather- We got fairly lucky with our weather during this cruise. We had a few cloudy days in Venice, and short periods of rain in Dubrovnik and Pompeii, but it was dry and sunny the rest of the cruise. The temperatures ranged from the mid-90's in Athens and Izmir, to the mid-70's through all of Italy. Unfortunately, there were very high winds and rough seas the entire second week of the cruise, which left us stumbling around the ship like drunken fools (they even had to cancel the evening show on the last 2 nights because it was not safe for the dancers and prop control people to perform with the rough seas). The rough seas also forced the Captain to slow down the ship when sailing between Livorno and Marseilles, so we arrived in port 2 hours late. Luckily, we were not sea sick at all during the cruise, but I am sure there were others who were not as lucky.


Entertainment staff- The cruise director Noonan was great. He was funny and entertaining when he hosted the love and marriage show and other events. Lexi and Ben were also great as members of the entertainment staff, and they were also in charge of crowd control when we were getting off the ship each morning so we got to chat a lot with them. We went to the shows nearly every night, and generally enjoyed what we were watching (although there was one magician who was not very good, but I'll get to that later).


Comedians/Comedy lounge- The lounge they use for the comedy shows is fairly small for the number of guests on the ship. We arrived 15 minutes before the show one night, and had to sit on the tiny ledge of the windowsill because there were no other seats available. As a result, we never tried to go to another show because we didn't feel like dealing with the crowds, but friends told us that one show they went to only had about 5 people in the audience, so I guess it varies! The comedian we saw was just okay- he had a few funny jokes, and a few misses, but I guess that could be said of most comedians because it's a very subjective form of entertainment.


Stuff to do on the ship- Because this was such a port-intensive itinerary, we did not have many opportunities to explore the ship. The Fun Times offered limited daytime activities on port days (for obvious reasons), but did offer more options on the 2 sea days. We played several games of trivia (and even won a ship on a stick at one of the games!) As I just mentioned, we went to the show nearly every night, so that took up most of our evenings. My mom spent some time donating money to the casino, and I spent about 2 hours laying out on Serenity deck on the first sea day, and I also went to the piano bar one night, but other than that, we didn't really have a chance to explore much of what the ship offered. We woke up around 6:15am every morning, so we were ready for bed by 10-11pm every night, so I guess that also limited our time to explore the ship at night. I never made it to the disco, and we did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants so I cannot comment on that.


General condition of the ship- There was a lot of talk about problems on the Sunshine after her rapid renovation earlier this year. Our cabin was on deck 7, and we saw a bucket in our hallway to collect water from a dripping sprinkler nearly every day of the cruise (although I will note that the bucket was not always lined up to where the water dripped, so there was a bit of a water stain on the carpet sometimes). We also noticed some drips from the ceiling while waiting on deck 1 near the forward elevators/stairs to get off the ship. This by no means ruined our experience, but it is what it is. We also noticed that some of the exterior railings looked a bit rusty, as if they forgot to re-paint those areas during the drydock. Other than that, the ship looked beautiful! Although we only had an inside cabin, it definitely had new carpet, linens, cabinets, flat screen TV, and a renovated bathroom (with a HUGE shower compared to what I have had on previous cruise ships! haha) The public spaces on the ship all looked shiny and new, and I really enjoyed the more subdued color scheme and vibe of the ship. Even though I only spent a few hours actually laying out on Serenity deck, I loved that I could always see the pretty waterfall feature when walking around outside (like in the mornings during breakfast, or when I took photos of the port area after getting back on the ship in the afternoons). Overall, I really didn't have much to complain about with the ship, and I think Carnival did a great job with all the renovations.


I think that covers everything I wanted to mention about the ship. Up next, I will review what we did each day (but first, I have to finish sorting through my 3000 photos and upload everything onto my computer!!)

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Ok, folks... Sit back, relax, and enjoy the overly detailed and photo-filled review of 17 amazing days in Europe!


The journey began on Friday, September 6. Mom and I finished our packing and went for manicures that afternoon, then my dad drove us to the Delta International Terminal at JFK airport. We used curbside check in to drop off our big suitcases (whew! we were barely under the 50lbs per bag limit!), and made our way through the short line at security. Mom bought passes to the first class lounge, so we spent about an hour and a half in there enjoying some cocktails and snacks.




We got to our gate at the time they told us boarding should be starting, only to find out that our plane had not yet arrived. We were disappointed that we could have spent more time enjoying the first class lounge, but the plane arrived eventually. We couldn't afford first class seats with the fancy chairs that fold down flat like a bed, so we settled for upgrading to the "economy comfort" seats which gave us a few extra inches of leg room, priority boarding, and power outlets. The individual TVs were great as they allowed you to select whatever movie you wanted to watch. I had a bit of an Ann Hathaway marathon as I watched Les Miserables and the Devil Wears Prada. They gave us pillows and blankets, and they served complimentary wine and beer along with the standard beverage service. They also served 2 meals during the flight- dinner options were pasta, chicken, or a salad, and the breakfast was a veggie egg McMuffin.








The flight was fairly uneventful. Even though we took off an hour late, we still landed on time. We even had a great view of flying over the Alps!!




Flight Map:



Once we got to Venice, we had the best view of all... If you look very closely at the far end of the Grand Canal in this photo, you can see the Carnival Sunshine as she sailed into port on Saturday morning (as the previous cruise docked in Venice overnight on Saturday prior to us boarding on Sunday). It was amazing timing that our flight landed as our ship came into the port! I realize it is hard to tell from this photo, but as she sailed closer into view, I was so mesmerized and excited that I forgot to keep taking photos!



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Once we got off the plane, went through customs, and retrieved our suitcases, it was time to search for our car driver. We pre-booked with Sun Transfers based on their good recommendations on Cruise Critic. Unfortunately, it took us 45 minutes of frantic searching through all the signs to finally find our driver holding up a sign with our name on it! Had we not prepaid with our credit card, we probably would have given up and just taken as taxi haha When we got to his car, he told us that our bags were too big and we should have ordered a bigger car. This was very confusing to us, as we told them in our reservations that we each had one checked bag and one carry on bag (plus a backpack which went in our laps). He managed to fit the two big bags and one carry on into his trunk, and the other carry on bag sat in the front seat for the 15 minute drive into Mestre.


We used credit card points to book a room at the Hotel Plaza in Mestre. We decided that since we were only staying in the hotel for one night before the cruise, it was much more convenient to stay in Mestre so we could take a car from the airport to the hotel, and then another car from the hotel to the cruise port on Sunday morning. The idea of lugging two wheeled suitcases over all the bridges and on and off the boats in Venice was less than ideal! Hotel Plaza had many positive reviews both on Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor, and it lived up to those reviews in every way. The hotel was clean and modern, and conveniently located directly across the street from the train station to get into Venice. The one downside was that our AC did not work very well, but they promptly sent up a maintenance man to fix the problem. Here are a few photos of the hotel room:










After we unpacked and freshened up a bit (and I changed into shorts, as evidenced by my jeans laying on the bed in that photo haha), we set out to explore Murano and Burano. We knew it was important to do some sightseeing that afternoon so we wouldn't give in to the jetlag and throw off our sleep schedule, but we didn't want to do something as hectic as walking around St. Mark's Square. A nice long vaporetto ride across the lagoon and a leisurely stroll through Murano and Burano was just what we needed.


We bought our tickets for the train from the vendor on the platform (1.20 Euros per person, each way). The trains run every 10-15 minutes from 5:15am until 11:45pm, and the ride takes about 10 minutes to get from Mestre to Venice. Before boarding the train, be sure to validate your ticket in one of the yellow stamping machines in the station. Listen for a "thunk" and check to see that your ticket was stamped. Here is a photo from inside the train... notice how we were basically the only people on the train!



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