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Picture Review of SUNSHINE and Western Caribbean Ports of Call

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This year we sailed the SUNSHINE to COZUMEL, ROATAN, BELIZE, and COSTA MAYA. I give this cruise a 4 out of 5 stars. We had a great time, no one was ever bored, loved the comedy shows, and managed to avoid the infamous dinner crowds.

 

This is my 6th or 7th detailed cruise review on Cruise Critic, and the one that almost wasn’t. I’ll admit, I am getting a little lazy and after a few reviews, they are start sounding the same in my head. Regardless, I enjoy reading others’ reviews on here, so I will do my part and share some of my experience…

 

We are a family of 4 with a 12 year old daughter and 14 year old son. This cruise was our 8th with Carnival. We have also taken 2 cruises on Royal Caribbean and 1 on Norwegian. We cruise primarily for the ports of call, and then go for the cruise line which offers the best value and fun activities and entertainment. So, typically we cruise Carnival. We cruise every January and love the escape from the cold snowy mountains of Virginia. I am truly a frugal value shopper and spend significant time researching to get the best deal. Later in the review I will provide some of my money saving deals from this trip. I will also scan in the Funtimes and Circle C schedule (12-14 year olds). And of course, I will provide details and photos of our shore excursions, including underwater snorkeling photos and a visit to an orphanage.

 

Pre-cruise we booked the Radisson by the Port, which included free parking for the week and free shuttle for 2. There was an additional cost for shuttling my children. The hotel was fine and the pool was very nice. I called and signed up for the first shuttle bus weeks prior to the cruise, only to find out at check-in that they did not have a record of this. A little birdy on our shuttle said “they always lose” this information. It didn’t matter anyway, and my name was jotted down for the first shuttle at check-in. We were scheduled for 10:30, but they were running early, so we actually left the hotel at 10:15 – WOO HOOO – excited to this vacation started.

 

Against my better frugal judgment, I had purchased the Faster to the Fun pass for $50. We were checked in at the port ay 10:40 and were onboard at 11:25. Honestly, this was no faster than our typically boarding. In fact, we were on the shuttle with another couple from Virginia who did not purchase Faster to the Fun. They checked in at another line and went the other direction. We saw them on the ship less than 10 minutes after we boarded! We rushed to the Red Frog Pub in hopes of being the first there and receive free drinks. Buzz. There were at least 3 other groups that beat us. So, we headed to our cabin to drop off our carry-ons and see if our luggage was there. Nope. No luggage. We headed to the back of the Lido to eat lunch in a quiet area at the pasta bar. My daughter and I had packed our tennis shoes in our luggage (thinking FTTF would be fast) and needed them to do the ropes course. We really wanted to try the ropes course before sailing. We checked the cabin a few times before sail away, and no luggage. We didn’t get the luggage until we returned from the muster drill. So far, FTTF had not provided any benefit.

 

The Sunshine is decorated unlike a traditional Carnival ship. It is much more toned down. The sports court, Serenity, comedy club, and waterworks are awesome! If these amenities are super important to you, then it will be easier to overlook the less pleasurable aspects of the ship. Personally, I really liked the ship. I had researched enough beforehand to learn how to avoid the crowds and wait time for dinner and shows.

 

 

Time for some eye candy photos...

 

Waterworks:

 

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Sports Court:

 

My daughter and I did the ropes course. I do not like heights, but I love a challenge. At one point, I actually hugged (for dear life) a pole at one of the bases. The wind was atrocious! In fact, it really was, and the attendant came to my base and measured the wind speed. It was too windy for safety, and he immediately closed the course behind me.

 

 

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My daughter cheering encouraging:

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Since the winds were so high, the attendant followed along to offer assistance, if needed. Later in the week, we saw a few kids "fall" off the rope and dangle, and had to have the attendant help them back up.

 

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Nice aft seating area behind the waterworks:

 

 

 

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Serenity:

 

This ship has the largest and nicest adult-only area than any ship I have been on. It is spread out onto three separate decks. I am not your typically Serenity guest, as I only utilize this space during the early morning hours with my coffee following my morning walk. I love to relax in the comfy clam chairs and hammocks and quietly take in the scents and sounds of the ocean. I thoroughly enjoy the nearly-desolate decks under the peaceful rising sun. The Serenity is on the forward decks on the Sunshine, and I really missed having an aft view, typically of other class Carnival ships. There's no place like AFT!

 

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More Sports Court:

 

There are so many things to keep the young (and young at heart) busy at the sports court: basketball, foosball, corn hole, mini golf, shuffleboard, checkers, chess, billiards, Twister, ping pong, etc. And on Sea Days, there is a little hotdog stand to grab a quick bite without interrupting play.

 

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Excited to see the rest of this review. We will be sailing Western on the Sunshine in April.

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Our cabin, 3127, was a 4J, Interior with Picture Window (obstructed views), located on the Lobby Deck. I chose this cabin for a few reasons: 1) interior cabin price with a window, 2) cabin is 220 s.f. compared to the 185 s.f. interior and balcony cabins, 3) it was a newly added cabin and therefore had a mini fridge, 4) ability to place deck chairs outside of cabin window for a simulated "balcony", and 5) convenient location off the lobby. This cabin would have been perfect had we not heard occasional footsteps/rolling above. It wasn't really loud and we sleep with a fan running, so this was not a big deal for us. I would book this cabin area again.

 

 

 

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There is a small, unstocked, refrigerator in the lower cabinet:

 

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Thermostat in cabin (by the way, we never had an issue with being either hot or cold on the ship).

 

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I really loved the view from our not-so-obstructed view, and having the outside deck to lounge on while the family was getting ready for dinner. I would pull a couple of lounge chairs right up to our window and relax on my "balcony". Usually there was no one else out on the deck at this end. When everyone was ready for dinner, they would tap on the window to get my attention. As I said earlier, I am frugal, and this is the closest I have been to having a balcony cabin.

 

Our view in Roatan:

 

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The deck outside our cabin. There is an uncomfortable bench, however, a lounge chair is preferable and can be had. Notice the smaller tender boats are hanging above and do not obstruct the view.

 

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Outside on Deck 3 (Lobby). The 4J cabins are all the way down to the end.

 

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Great review!!!! :D:D

She's on our list. LOVE that Serenity area, too!!!

 

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Pictures are beautiful.

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COZUMEL:

 

I’ll take a break from my review of the ship and switch to our first port of call. We had been to Cozumel three times before and had been to Chankanaab, Paradise Beach, and Mr, Sanchos (not all-inclusive side). The order listed above is how I would rank the three based on our family time and experience there. Picture reviews of Paradise Beach and Mr. Sanchos can be found in the links in my signature, if interested.

 

I had always wanted to see Punta Sur Ecological Park and the other side of the island. The Carnival Jeep tours were soo expensive and reviews indicated they were somewhat crowded. I researched CC, Tripadvisor, and the web to find a Jeep tour titled “Private Cozumel Jeep Tour” by “Cozumel Cruise Excursions”. The tour was just for our family and we could pick any stops we wanted, stay as long as we like, AND, it was $130 cheaper than the Carnival caravan-style structured Jeep tour. We chose to snorkel, visit Punta Sur, and go topless along the eastern coast (easy now, the Jeep was topless), and swim and eat on the eastern coast.

 

Prior to the cruise, the tour company sent us an email with detailed directions to their meeting place. It was about a 15 minute walk from the ship to get out of the port and to the meeting place at the front of a store. They do not have their own facility, but we easily found our tour guide, Carlos. Carlos was very friendly and spoke English fluently and clearly.

 

Here is our ride for the day. I started off driving and loved the stick shift. It had been years since I drove one.

 

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Our first stop was snorkeling at Playa Uvas, about 10 minutes from the port. There is free wifi here, as well as a bar area. The restroom facilities were very clean. The snorkeling equipment was included in the cost our tour. I have become some what of a snorkeling snob, and say the snorkeling here was "ehh': barely worth it. Others who have not snorkeled much may think it is a nice experience, though.

 

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And or course, Europeans:

 

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COZUMEL CONTINUED:

 

 

More Playa Uvas: Since we had all snorkeled numerous times, we told Carlos that we did not need him to go out with us. He told us the path to take and the safe boundaries to avoid the current. There were other tour groups out snorkeling, so the path was pretty obvious.

 

 

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Sadly, this is mostly what we saw:

 

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We snorkeled for about 45 minutes and then rested on the beach. The kids were thrilled to have wifi and to be able to check in back home. Since it was pretty early in the morning, we did not want any drinks from the bar.

 

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Thanks for the wonderful pics - especially of the 4J cabin on Deck 3. Not many around, so it's nice to be able to see these rooms.

Edited by cruizinisthebest

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Thanks for the wonderful pics - especially of the 4J cabin on Deck 3. Not many around, so it's nice to be able to see these rooms.

 

I found very little info on the 4Js prior to our cruise. I always plan to report back on CC regarding the questions I had prior to the cruise and could not find answers to. I really liked the 4J cabin. The couch and pull down bunk area are a high priority when we travel with the kids in the cabin.

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COZUMEL CONTINUED:

 

Leaving Playa Uvas:

 

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Next up on the Jeep tour is Punta Sur Eco Park. The entrance fee to the Park was also included in our tour. My son is an avid nature and animal lover, so seeing a salt water crocodile was top on the list.

 

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Lookout tower and deck at the saltwater lagoon:

 

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Love this review, normally if I have to admit I skim through reviews and look at pics. But love your review. Cant wait to read more, we'll be sailing on the sunshine n 59 more days!

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COZUMEL CONTINUED:

 

 

Finally, we see some wildlife! See the crocodile in on the left and the pink spoonbill birds on the right? I beleive if we had more time we could have seen dinner time.

 

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Happy that we saw a crocodile, we head out to a small ruins, snack shack, coast, and resting area.

 

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I wish I could stroll around in my swimsuit with the confidence of a European! Someday after my tummy tuck maybe! :p

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I wish I could stroll around in my swimsuit with the confidence of a European! Someday after my tummy tuck maybe! :p

 

No tummy tuck required! My kids get icked out by speedos, so it has become a game to discretely and naively get each other to "Look". I try to set up a photos of the kids with an unbeknownst European photo bombing. I was not successful on this trip. Just some of the silly games we play as a family.

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