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Carnival Sunshine 8 Day Picture Review with Funtimes, Menus and much more!

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Carnival Sunshine- 8 day Southern Caribbean- September 11, 2015



Aruba, Curacao and Grand Turk

 

Hello everyone! Thanks for coming along to see what the Carnival Sunshine has to offer. This will be my first attempt at a review on Cruise Critic so I hope to cover as many topics as possible. My name is Sean and I’m in my mid 20’s from upstate New York. This review will range from the Fun Times, to their inserts, as well as a detailed review of Cucina Del Capitano, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and Fahrenheit 555. I’ll focus on what the ship itself has to offer as well as mini guides to get you started in each of the ports (Aruba, Curacao and Grand Turk). So let's jump right into it with a little background on the Sunshine itself.

 

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Background on the Sunshine

 

The Carnival Sunshine was born as the Carnival Destiny and began sailing in 1996. At the time, she was the largest ship in the world weighing in at over 100,000 tons. However, in 2013 the Carnival Destiny went through a major renovation costing over $150,000,000 and resulted in the Carnival Sunshine. Until the launch of the Vista next year, she is currently the only ship in the fleet to offer all the 2.0 upgrades, ranging from Guys Burgers to Waterworks and Sports Square. She also features the largest serenity deck with a gorgeous waterfall. The Sunshine features a great memory wall to the Destiny which is located on deck 9 between the atrium elevators and the lido pool. I’ll have some pictures of this later on. If you ever get a chance to sail, I highly recommend checking it out as you pass by.

 

Pre planning

 

I guess we can begin in the fall of 2014. I had just returned from sailing on the Carnival Glory with some friends (including my friend Matt who will be joining me for this cruise) and was experiencing the post-cruise blues. I always find the best way to get over these blues is to begin planning your next cruise. But where to begin? I wanted something exotic and far away from home. Sailing out of San Juan would be great but, still being a somewhat inexperienced cruiser, I doubted my ability to efficiently plan a 7 day cruise with the majority being port days. I also really prefer an 8 day cruise over a 7 day. That extra day makes a world of difference to me. So I began looking at either southern or western Caribbean as the destination. Going south would get me that extra day, bumping me from a 7 day cruise to an 8 day and it would also achieve my goal of being far from home. So, without much more thought, I decided to head south. But why the Sunshine?

 

Well, to start, Southern Caribbean Cruises are not that popular. My only choices to choose from were the Conquest, Breeze and Sunshine. Because the Conquest and the Breeze sail from Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, respectively, they are able to fit another port of call into their itinerary (La Romana). That was a huge plus to me. Because the Sunshine sails from Port Canaveral it would be three ports, but there were also some draw backs of course. The Conquest lacks a serenity area which I absolutely love. The Sunshine has 3 great decks of serenity; plus having sailed on the Glory, a Conquest class ship, I wanted to try a somewhat new layout. So for those two reasons, I crossed the Conquest off the list. Now the Breeze. Like I said earlier, I would have been able to get an extra day in port, and the Breeze was newer and bigger than the Sunshine with some great onboard experiences, but there was one problem: the only sailing that would work would be the sailing that returned on Halloween. I didn’t really want to be away for that holiday. So even with the lack of La Romana, the Sunshine seemed to be a good choice.

 

The Sunshine also brought on the Disney World factor. Sailing from Port Canaveral meant I would be able to stop at Disney World for a couple of days prior to the cruise. To give some back story, I had originally sailed on the Splendor in the Spring of 2014 and stopped at Port Canaveral. With not much to do in the actual port, I decided to venture out on my own and go to Magic Kingdom. I had not been in many many years and by just going for a short day again resparked my interest. In fact it did so much I decided to skip a cruise this past Winter and just visit the parks for the week. But even after that vacation, I still wanted more Disney. The Sunshine meant I could go to Disney again, as well as travel to exotic locations and have a superb Serenity deck. So it was decided; 8 days to Aruba, Curacao and Grand Turk leaving Port Canaveral on September 11th. The cruise was booked and there were 201 days to go.

 

 

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Now the planning was in full swing. Which stateroom to choose? What to do in port? Would I try one, two or all three of the specialty restaurants? I was so unsure. Along the way I found so much conflicting information about the Sunshine as a ship as well. It ranged from mini bars only being in suite staterooms to only “Your Time Dining” guests being allowed to eat in the Sunrise Restaurant (both not true, by the way). I wanted someplace where I could find solid information about someone who had actually cruised on the ship and not just what someone had heard or read. I also wanted to book the speciality restaurants ahead of time and I wanted to know how family style worked at Cucina and Ji Ji when just two people would be dining (I can tell you right now…not that well (more on that later)). On top of that, information was not as populous on Aruba and Curacao.

 

When I had sailed into Nassau for the first time I felt as if I knew the city like my home town from all the different pictures and reviews on Cruise Critic. But it wasn’t like that for Aruba or Curacao. When I exit the ship, do I head right or left to reach downtown (in both ports, once you exit the terminal, head right.)? I knew the answer was out there but I had to do some serious digging and forum searching. With all the haste and uncertainty, I had decided very early on in the pre-planning process that I was going to write a review. I wanted one place people could go to get the answers to some of the most basic questions about cruising. In addition, I knew there would be some heightened interest in the Sunshine as she would be sailing from four new home ports in the upcoming months.

 

 

Stateroom Selection

 

For some reason this is one of my favorite parts of the booking process. I really enjoy checking out stateroom pictures as well as trying to find the best location on the ship. I knew I wanted a balcony for this cruise for two reasons. One reason was because of the problem with over crowding and the lack of deck chairs that I had repeatedly read about. Another reason was because of the amount of sea days. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but there is a slight chance Aruba would be missed due to high winds. Aruba day could very well turn into another sea day. I felt a balcony for this cruise was a must. There were still bowling alley balconies at my time of booking as well as almost all of the aft balconies. It was a toss up and I didn’t really prefer one over the over. I ended up booking the bowling alley balcony and for no real reason. I continued to do research on the Sunshine and found two pieces of info that sparked my interest. One was the breakfast buffet at the taste bar. Each morning for a few hours, the Taste Bar in the aft of deck 5 serves breakfast. Lines were minimal or non existent and also very quiet. I thought it would be a great spot to either enjoy breakfast in the adjacent Ocean Plaza or even bring back to the balcony. Only problem is, I was two decks away with my balcony on deck 7. Another interesting fact that I had discovered was only certain staterooms contained a minifridge/bar. Not that it was needed by any means, but it would be nice to have. It was a real undertaking to find what staterooms contained those fridges and which ones didn’t. After ample research, I determined all aft balconies on deck 5 contained the fridges.

 

I guess now would be a good time to show the chart I had created to sort out which staterooms did indeed have the mini fridges. To sum the chart up quickly, all suites contain fridges, as well as cabins added during the Destiny to Sunshine transformation. Other than that, a minifridge being in your stateroom as a standard feature would be few and far between. Not even all Spa Staterooms contain one.

 

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Alright, so now that that is out of the way and the fact that I had become enticed by the Taste Bar breakfast and the newly added cabin with a minfridge, I decided to switch rooms. It was a great decision and I loved cabin 5342. I will go into greater detail as the review progresses. But for now, I felt the switch was a great move on my part for just a minimal amount of extra money.

 

Rating System

 

So now that the background is all covered, we are just about ready to focus on the cruise review itself. I’m going to do something a little different in the rating scale. I hope the review carries along like a story of what happened on each day with key events being highlighted. However, I also want to focus on what I feel are popular aspects of the cruise. At the end of the review, I will rate each of the categories below out of 100%. Here is where it may get weird for some of you: even though every category scored is out of 100%, some categories will weigh more heavily on the final average of the cruise vacation than others. For example, the food aspect of the cruise is scored out of 100 and then that category is weighed 20% against the final average. Venues on board are also scored out of 100 but only affect the final average by 10%. So here is how the rating will go:

 

Food = 20%

Entertainment = 15%

Service =15%

Decor and ambiance = 10%

Venues = 10%

Onboard activities = 10%

Cabin = 10%

Ports = 5%

Pay for extra’s = 5%

 

I hope its not too confusing. Just think about it as if you were in school. Your final exam weighs 10% of your final grade but your quizzes throughout the whole year affect your final average by 25%. Amongst other categories the percentages in the end must total 100%.

 

As the food and dining portion are my favorite part of the cruise, I weighed this portion the heaviest. Ports is only at 5% because Carnival has no control over most of the ports. I have the option to book directly with Carnival or venture out on my own. Pay for extra’s will also only weigh in at 5%. Although they are nice, most people do not partake in them and by no means are they a necessity of a cruise. Everything else is weighed fairly similarly.

 

So without further ado, lets begin the review. I’ll skip Disney World since that has no bearing on the cruise vacation itself, and we can begin at Orlando Airport where we picked up the rental car to head to port.

Edited by Seany527

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The next two sheets were waiting for us on the counter of the stateroom. The first sheet is the welcome back letter. At the bottom contains a tear off section for the free Gold member drink to any bar after 5pm on the last day of the cruise.

 

The next sheet is welcoming us on as Faster to the Fun guests.

 

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This is Carnival's new Wifi package options. We did not use the internet for the majority of the cruise. We did however purchase it on the last day to check in for our return flight home.

 

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The last two sheets represent an itinerary of all night time events that were going to be held throughout the cruise.

 

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And these are the inserts that accompany the inside of the Fun Times.

 

Remember folks...Carnival charges no sitting fees;)

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The Room Service Menu.

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Really looking forward to your review, you are off to a great start! We will be on next August sailing out of New York and I am having mixed feelings based on what I have read so far from other reviews. Is it really as crowded as I have been reading? How was the serenity deck chair situation? Thanks for all your information.

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Excellent start to your review!!:D:D

Cannot wait to read more.

Still debating on Sunshine next year from NYC, or stay on Magic from PC.

 

Waiting patiently for more...:D

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Great review so far. We sailed on the Sunshine when she moved from New Orleans to Port Canaveral. She's a great ship. We sail on her Halloween next month or 34 days. So cannot wait to be back on her.

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Thanks everyone! I'll keep it coming.

 

Really looking forward to your review, you are off to a great start! We will be on next August sailing out of New York and I am having mixed feelings based on what I have read so far from other reviews. Is it really as crowded as I have been reading? How was the serenity deck chair situation? Thanks for all your information.

 

It did feel a little crowed at times, especially when trying to walk past areas where people would gather (drink stations, ice cream stations, sales outside of the fun shops).

 

Serenity was kinda annoying early on in the cruise but it got better as the days progressed. I'll cover it all as the review goes on.

 

The Sunshine has a lot to offer and some aspects you won't find on any other Carnival ship. Having to wait for a few extra seconds to get through a congested hallway is truly not a big deal at all.

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I thought there were some items now being charged on the room service menu but I didn't see any. Am I not remembering right or is it only certain ships?

 

Great review. We are on her again for a 21 day B2B soon. Great refresher. Can't wait.

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I thought there were some items now being charged on the room service menu but I didn't see any. Am I not remembering right or is it only certain ships?

 

Great review. We are on her again for a 21 day B2B soon. Great refresher. Can't wait.

 

It's only on a small amount of ships and the Sunshine is not one of them. I know the Pride is one, but I forget the others.

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Having been dropped off at the airport, we made the short walk to the Alamo station inside. Checkout was flawless. I had pre-booked online and was in and out in less than 5 minutes. No one pestered me to add an additional driver, insurance, or even to pre-pay for gas. It really was a nice process. From there, we chose the car we wanted and were on the way to the port by 8:30. We stopped quickly at a Publix to purchase wine and canned soda.

 

Traffic was minimal and we arrived in Cape Canaveral around 10am. From here we had two options: we could either drop the bags directly off with the porter and then return the rental car, or we could head straight to Alamo in Cape Canaveral and bring our luggage with us. We elected to go with the first option. It actually worked out well that way, too. The port was somewhat busy and we waited about 15 minutes before we were able to drive up and hand our bags to the porter. Once we had finished with that, we drove to Alamo in Cape Canaveral, returned the car to the gentleman outside (don’t go inside to return the car) and waited about 15 mins for the shuttle to arrive. At that point, we boarded the shuttle and were dropped off at the port for 10:40. The cruise portion of the vacation was now officially underway.

 

On our first Carnival cruise, Carnival touted how great “Faster to the fun” is. I was completely new to cruising and Carnival had enticed me with priority boarding, a special line at guest services and priority tendering, among many other things. It sounded like a good deal for only $50 and I was sold. Now, just an additional three cruises later, I will only sail with Faster to the Fun. It's not necessarily that the value is even that great or that it offers something that will widely affect my vacation. Now, I just look at it as a security blanket, and I don’t really know why. Regardless, this cruise was no different and FttF was purchased. With that being said, now having arrived at port, we walked directly to the first representative bypassing a pretty long line. She pointed us to the security check point, who then pointed us to the priority check out counter. But lets just say, I didn’t feel like a priority member. I wish I could remember the woman’s name who checked us in. It very well could have been her first day at Carnival. She was not even sure what Faster to the Fun was and sent us to another Carnival rep who sent us back to her. It was a somewhat long process. Faster to the Fun members were called as we were being checked in and we boarded right before 11am.

 

As today was the September 11th anniversary, an American Flag was hung in the atrium. I took a quick photo of the atrium and then headed directly to our cabin.

 

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Each of our prior three cruises, our room was ready when we boarded since we purchased FTTF. However, this time, our room was not yet ready; it was dirty and had just begun the cleaning process. I was bummed because I intended to take pictures of the cabin right away before all of our luggage made its way in. We decided we’d leave our carry-ons and head up to Lido to grab lunch. The lido is located on deck 9. As the Destiny, the aft of deck 9 featured an adult pool. On the Sunshine, deck 9 was transformed. The pool was removed and 3 separate restaurants were added. The Havana Bar, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and Cuciana Del Capitano. There weren’t many people on the ship yet and I headed for Ji Ji for the Mongolian Wok, one of my favorite dining options that Carnival offers. During lunch time Ji Ji serves made to order stir fry free of charge. At night, it switches to a pay restaurant for $15.00. A detailed review of the dinner portion will come later in the review, however, here is the Mongolian Wok set-up.

 

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For some reason Mongolian Wok never has broccoli every time I visit so, if possible, I will take broccoli from the regular buffet line and add it to my bowl here. However, even the Lido rarely had broccoli available.

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Now choose your add-ins

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Yum

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Hi Sean! I am really enjoying your detailed review. Your pictures are beautiful. May I ask what kind of camera you used? I also want to ask a favor. Can I possibly use your first picture of the ship to design my Tervis cup for my next Sunshine Cruise? It is my retirement cruise, so I would like a special cup. Here is one I made for my last breeze cruise. Thanks in advance if it is ok.

 

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Edited by INCHARGE

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Today, the line was fortunately non-existent (which is rare here) and I was able to take my time in choosing my options. Ji Ji is right outside of The Havana Bar, which offers a small Cuban-themed buffet at lunch time. There were about 4 or 5 options here each day.

 

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Matt decided to try to the create-your-own pasta at Cucina Del Capitano at this time (Cucina, like Ji Ji switches to a pay restaurant at night). Again, there was no wait as there weren’t many people on the ship yet. At Cucina, you check off your options on a sheet of paper, hand it to the hostess and receive a pager that vibrates and flashes when your food is done (exactly like a pager you receive at a restaurant with a wait). It is efficient and allows you to grab other food or drinks while your food is being prepared. You also have the option to add a caesar salad and bread to your order, which is a nice touch. The meal is prepared fresh and served hot and always proved to be tasty.

 

 

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The bread was basic, but the caesar salad was very good. Next, we decided to check out the Lido buffet to see what they had to offer. I was happy to find chicken fingers with honey mustard dressing, which turned out to be very good and also a staple at the Lido buffet, as they had it for lunch every single day. The lido buffet or as it’s called on the Sunshine, the Lido Marketplace, proved to be something really special. Let me explain. On some older Carnival Ships the buffet is just one long line. If you want a salad you wait in the line. If you only want a slice of turkey from the carving station you wait in the same line behind the person preparing their salad. With the Lido Marketplace, the buffet is broken up into sections. One line for tossed salads, cold pasta salads and deli meats- another section for warm entree type items, and so on. Dessert items have their own section too. I'll have some pictures of this as we progress to the ship tour.

 

Breakfast is the same way; broken up into stations. This may be a little tedious for some people, but if you do want an omelet to go with your breakfast you will have to head to Ji Ji or Cucina to get that.

 

All in all, from what I noticed lines were very short whether it be at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Even at the pizza parlor, Pizzeria del Capitano- very rarely did I see people standing and waiting just to place an order. Several times when walking by I noticed pizza already made, just waiting to be eaten. So, with all that being said and the lines being some of the shortest I have ever seen on a cruise, the Lido buffet area was packed. The hallways are narrow when trying to walk from the Lido Pool to the buffet and finding a table proved to be difficult throughout the cruise. Your safest bet will always be to head to the aft of deck 9. There is plenty of open seating as well as two drink stations on each side.

 

 

Up next, the Stateroom Tour!

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Hi Sean! I am really enjoying your detailed review. Your pictures are beautiful. May I ask what kind of camera you used?

 

Hello :) Thank you so much. I use the Olympus Stylus Tough TG‑3. It's actually an underwater camera. I have no experience taking pictures and don't have a clue how to edit a photo, so the camera really does all the work for me. It's great for beginners.

 

I just purchased the fisheye lens before this cruise to try to get some cool angle shots as well.

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