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CruzinScotty

Sunshine/Charleston parking/checkin process, dining app, any questions?

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Posted (edited)
I got home a few days ago from a 5 night cruise to Nassau and Half Moon Cay. Great cruise - calm seas and hot; but not sweltering for the Bahamas in June. Feel free to ask any questions you may have.
 
I didn't cruise in 2018, and had heard there were changes with the parking process in Charleston and that you could use the Carnival Hub app to make dining reservations for Your Time Dining. I only booked 8 weeks out and didn't have much time to research, so I thought I'd share my experience in case it helps others.
 
 
New Parking process: 
 
The separate stops to drop off luggage and pay for parking are now combined. This is an improvement and saves time. In the past, you could drop off your luggage early. I don't know if that is still the case. The next stop is parking your car. All parking is now outside. We were told the old warehouses were sold or otherwise being used. But, the closest one has been re-purposed into the new check-in area. You do have to walk there. If you have a handicapped plaque, it's still free and you park closer to the new check in area. I can see where someone said the new process is bad if you park in the regular parking area and arrive early. Instead of parking closest to check in; you are rewarded by parking the farthest away which means you have to walk the farthest. Towards the end of boarding this does make sense as they want people arriving later to have a shorter walk to the terminal to begin the check in process.
 
In the check-in terminal, you get in line and are directed to the next available attendant. FTTF, Platinum and Diamond have a separate line which serves as a "next in line" process like it did previously. You show your boarding pass and passport. You are done with the passport at this time. You do not get your cabin key at this time. Yes - this does speed up the process.Next, you get in line for a shuttle to the ship.
 
I'm 95% sure that near the handicapped parking is the new "drop off zone" for those shuttling in from hotels or otherwise not driving to the terminal as this is the only check-in area now. I don't know how one gets to this area, I wasn't looking for that signage, I suspect it was a separate entrance. 
 
Once you shuttle to the terminal; you only have  to go thru Security. They still have a separate FTTF, Platinum and Diamond line as before. Then, stop for an Embarkation photo if you wish. Otherwise, you go up one flight of stairs where they "ding you in" with the  tablet/scanners and you walk up the gangway onto the ship. 
 
This is my 4th time boarding in Charleston. 3 times on the Ecstasy; 1st on the Sunshine. There are a lot more people on the Sunshine (especially in June) and the process to board - arriving at the same time I usually do - took the same amount of time.  I found the changes to be an improvement.
 
If you are FTTF, Platinum or Diamond, your cabin will be ready and your key will be in a sealed envelope tucked above the room number as there are no mailboxes. 
 
The cabins are ready at 1:30 for everyone else - those keys were not out when we got to our cabin at noon. Use your Boarding Pass to purchase drinks before you can get in your cabin.
 
 
Debarkation: Charleston is unique in that is has a "silent boarding" - meaning no overhead announcements due to the proximity of the ship to residences. One improvement with the Sunshine over the Fantasy class is that they can make indoor only announcements in the Liquid Lounge, and a couple other locations I can't remember that they discuss at the Debarkation talk. Channel 14 also gives you up to date information and it is on the screen by the pool. 
 
We did carry off and as priority guests, our paperwork said to meet in the Sunset Dining Room at 0645. We got there at 0630 and didn't have to go in. We walked directly off the ship - they were still setting up - only one Customs agent was open. With no major purchaces or Customs Form to fill out, it took a few seconds. We were the 3rd and 4th people off the ship that needed to ride the shuttle back to their cars. Others may have gotten off earlier that had rides or hotels shuttles waiting for them. When you shuttle back; they have a new covered area where they drop you off. Helpful in extreme heat/cold or rain to at least gather your luggage before heading to your car.
 
When they get the new terminal built....someday.... the current parking area is right in front of that location. There will be no need to shuttle anywhere which will make it like other ports. Overall, I found the improvements since my last Charleston departure to be a nice improvement.
 
 
Your Time Dining App
 
On the Sunshine, Your Time Dining is in the aft/rear restaurant - Deck 3 of the Sunrise Dining Room. You previously had to get in line on Deck 5, near the Ocean Plaza to sign up for your table. Sometimes you would have to wait in that area before heading down to your table. Or, if you eat early; the line would start forming 30-45 minutes ahead of time. You still do this if you don't use the Carnival app - but I'm sure the wait times are much shorter.
 
We did use the app with great success. Whenever we were ready, often from our cabin, you just check in. You can select each member from your cabin or can eat separately if you choose. You can also add up to 8 people to the reservation. Every night - even Formal Night - the wait to get table confirmation was less than 10 minutes. Though I will admit that most nights we asked for our table at 5:30 - the dining room opens at 5:15. We like to eat early so we can enjoy the evening shows, etc.  It will show on your app when your table is ready and the table number. You show that when checking in and are escorted to your table.
 
With Anytime Dining, it was easy in the past to request the same wait staff if you liked them. There is an extra step when using the app. When you get your table assignment and head to the dining room; let the person checking you in (with the tablet) know you have a special request. They will send you to the counter where you tell them which waiter you want and they will change your table with no problems. We ate in the dining room 4 nights. We sat at 3 different tables, but all with the same wait staff.
 
For families with more than 8 people, I am guessing you do the same as we did when checking in. Check in with however many reservations you need. Tell them you have a special request and they will help you at the front desk. There were many, many large families on this cruise; so I know it can be done. One group had 3 large tables together.
 
Again, feel free to ask any questions about the ship or ports. 
 
 
 
Edited by CruzinScotty
typos

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Thanks for some great details! I am wondering if anyone who has been dropped off, rather than parking, can explain where we should arrive. We will be using Uber to get to the ship. We need to know where we should direct our driver so we can get our bags checked in. With the August heat, I would hate to have to personally lug our bags to check-in if we get dropped off in the wrong place. In addition, how big are the shuttles that get everyone to the ship? Are they vans or buses? Thanks in advance for the info!

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They have vans and buses. We were on a large bus going over. If your carry on is heavy or large, they will store it underneath.

 

Hopefully someone will see this that can better answer the drop off question. Though, if the Uber driver has to stop and ask for directions a time or two; it will be worth it. You don't want to be lugging luggage all over the port area. Especially in August.  🙂 

 

 

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I don't cruise until 2021 by then who knows what will change.thanks for the report.ill keep an eye out.

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For the main dining room was it the same American table menus that they hade for ecstasy? Thinking of doing jiji or steakhouse one (or two) nights but I haven’t seen posted menus for this ship in Charleston yet (I usually pick the night based on the dining room selection lol). 

 

Did serenity seem crowded? I’m going w a large group of adults in August who will most likely all want to be in serenity (i booked spa cabin so my pale self can have some breaks from the sun while still being close to the action)

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1 hour ago, swissh40 said:

For the main dining room was it the same American table menus that they hade for ecstasy? Thinking of doing jiji or steakhouse one (or two) nights but I haven’t seen posted menus for this ship in Charleston yet (I usually pick the night based on the dining room selection lol). 

 

Did serenity seem crowded? I’m going w a large group of adults in August who will most likely all want to be in serenity (i booked spa cabin so my pale self can have some breaks from the sun while still being close to the action)

 

It is still the American table; but the menus have changed a little. We thought about JiJi's; but never made it there. If you use the app; you can see the menus for the entire cruise the day you board if booking a specialty restaurant while on board works for you. It seems the first night's menu was the same; with the Port of Call entree for Charleston being shrimp and grits. I had them and they were very good.

 

A couple of menu changes: When Formal night took away lobster for 5 nights or less; they added scallops as an appetizer and duck as an entree. Both have been removed. They still have prime rib on Formal Night and replaced the scallops with a crab cake which was wonderful; if you like them. They also removed prime rib from the final night. If you are a beef eater - on the Every Day part of the menu, the Flat Iron Steak the last night is replaced with grilled beef tenderloin which was fabulous. For desserts, they took away the bread pudding. They still have WCMC every night and creme brulee on Formal Night. The Baked Alaska the last night is a HUGE improvement. It is much more like I'm used to in days gone by. Mostly ice cream with a real meringue and baked in the oven. 

 

If you eat at the buffet for lunch or dinner, there is a smaller selection. With more people; they have 4 smaller areas instead of 2 large ones. The appetizer/entree selection is still very nice; there is still a carving station. But, if you want veggies from the buffet - the only option is over at the salad bar.

 

On most ships, Serenity will be full. The fresh water pool is wonderful; but small - even by cruise ship standards! Serenity on the Sunshine is spread over 3 decks, with the middle deck having the most shaded seating. We were inside the first sea day. The 2nd sea day the winds were high, so the top and largest part of the Serenity deck was closed. Hopefully it will will all be open for your cruise.

 

Have fun!

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26 minutes ago, CruzinScotty said:

 

It is still the American table; but the menus have changed a little. We thought about JiJi's; but never made it there. If you use the app; you can see the menus for the entire cruise the day you board if booking a specialty restaurant while on board works for you. It seems the first night's menu was the same; with the Port of Call entree for Charleston being shrimp and grits. I had them and they were very good.

 

A couple of menu changes: When Formal night took away lobster for 5 nights or less; they added scallops as an appetizer and duck as an entree. Both have been removed. They still have prime rib on Formal Night and replaced the scallops with a crab cake which was wonderful; if you like them. They also removed prime rib from the final night. If you are a beef eater - on the Every Day part of the menu, the Flat Iron Steak the last night is replaced with grilled beef tenderloin which was fabulous. For desserts, they took away the bread pudding. They still have WCMC every night and creme brulee on Formal Night. The Baked Alaska the last night is a HUGE improvement. It is much more like I'm used to in days gone by. Mostly ice cream with a real meringue and baked in the oven. 

 

If you eat at the buffet for lunch or dinner, there is a smaller selection. With more people; they have 4 smaller areas instead of 2 large ones. The appetizer/entree selection is still very nice; there is still a carving station. But, if you want veggies from the buffet - the only option is over at the salad bar.

 

On most ships, Serenity will be full. The fresh water pool is wonderful; but small - even by cruise ship standards! Serenity on the Sunshine is spread over 3 decks, with the middle deck having the most shaded seating. We were inside the first sea day. The 2nd sea day the winds were high, so the top and largest part of the Serenity deck was closed. Hopefully it will will all be open for your cruise.

 

Have fun!

 

Thanks for your reply! Will definitely be using your food ordering advice! Forgot about the lobster going away on 5 day cruises (this is my first five day as I usually think 5 days are too short, but this is the cruise the group picked). Can’t wait to sail out in less than 2 months! 

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4 hours ago, swissh40 said:

 

Thanks for your reply! Will definitely be using your food ordering advice! Forgot about the lobster going away on 5 day cruises (this is my first five day as I usually think 5 days are too short, but this is the cruise the group picked). Can’t wait to sail out in less than 2 months! 

 

We did a 5 night on the Sunshine from Port Canaveral; it went to Half Moon Cay, Nassau and Freeport - to many ports for me. I like the 5 night from Charleston better. Have a sea day going down and coming back does make it feel a little longer. 

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Thanks for info; we have a large group sailing out of Charleston in April 2020 so this information will be extremely helpful.

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Noticed you said that the dining room was open at 5:15. Could you be seated that early?  Thank you for the tips about the new parking process. We are sailing to Bermuda the end of September out of chucktown. Have sailed 5 or 6 times out of Charleston but this will be our first on a large ship out of this port. 

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We sail the Sunshine Aug 24 and Sept 22 from Charleston, I can't wait. Thanks for this info, it is very helpful!

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Gettys84 said:

Noticed you said that the dining room was open at 5:15. Could you be seated that early?  Thank you for the tips about the new parking process. We are sailing to Bermuda the end of September out of chucktown. Have sailed 5 or 6 times out of Charleston but this will be our first on a large ship out of this port. 

 

The last two ships I was on - the Ecstasy and Magic - it seems Your Time Dining opened at 5:15 on Formal Night and 5:30 the other nights. But, it definitely is 5:15 - 9:15 all nights on the Sunshine now. We used the app to sign up for our table. You can't click to reserve your table until they are open. Formal night, I signed up at 5:30; but had checked about 5:20 (to see how long the wait time was) and could have reserved a table at that time.

 

If you have sailed out of Charleston before, you know how small the terminal at the ship is. It worked for the Fantasy and Ecstasy. The Sunshine had left from Charleston previously the years it made it's way up and back for the summer in New York; so I guess they had enough experience to know they needed more space if it was going to be every cruise for however long until the "dancing of the ships" occurs again. Though anything in the Conquest class or Sunshine class (with new Sunrise and soon to be Radiance) are the largest ships that can port in Charleston and all have a similar passenger load. Unless they have a lot of trouble filling the Sunshine; I don't see Charleston going back to a Fantasy class ship. (Though there are many things we love about that class.)

 

Have fun on your Bermuda cruise!

Edited by CruzinScotty
typo

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Thanks for the updated and very detailed information! We sail in Sept from Charleston. It has been a year or so since we’ve navigated through this port and terminal, so the info really helps! 😀

 

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I was on the Sunshine on June 15, we had a 12:00 check in time.  We arrived at the port an hour early and walked right through the line with no question.  We arrived about 1030 and we were on the boat at 11.    it was the easiest embarkation I have ever been though!  

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21 hours ago, CruzinScotty said:

 

The last two ships I was on - the Ecstasy and Magic - it seems Your Time Dining opened at 5:15 on Formal Night and 5:30 the other nights. But, it definitely is 5:15 - 9:15 all nights on the Sunshine now. We used the app to sign up for our table. You can't click to reserve your table until they are open. Formal night, I signed up at 5:30; but had checked about 5:20 (to see how long the wait time was) and could have reserved a table at that time.

 

If you have sailed out of Charleston before, you know how small the terminal at the ship is. It worked for the Fantasy and Ecstasy. The Sunshine had left from Charleston previously the years it made it's way up and back for the summer in New York; so I guess they had enough experience to know they needed more space if it was going to be every cruise for however long until the "dancing of the ships" occurs again. Though anything in the Conquest class or Sunshine class (with new Sunrise and soon to be Radiance) are the largest ships that can port in Charleston and all have a similar passenger load. Unless they have a lot of trouble filling the Sunshine; I don't see Charleston going back to a Fantasy class ship. (Though there are many things we love about that class.)

 

Have fun on your Bermuda cruise!

Thanks for the info!  We are very excited to go on a larger ship close to home.  We live 2 hours from the port so will be nice not driver for Port Canaveral.  We did a live review on the Horizon in April and it was a ton of fun so planning on doing that on our Sunshine Cruise!  We are spoiled by the Pasta bar for lunch, we wont sail a ship unless it has it now!  

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On 6/24/2019 at 4:13 PM, Fireman9302 said:

Thanks for info!

 

 

On 6/24/2019 at 4:22 PM, pirate4me2 said:

We sail the Sunshine Aug 24 and Sept 22 from Charleston, I can't wait. Thanks for this info, it is very helpful!

 

11 hours ago, 2Shoes2Go said:

Thanks for the updated and very detailed information! We sail in Sept from Charleston. It has been a year or so since we’ve navigated through this port and terminal, so the info really helps! 😀

 

 

I'm glad that some people sailing from Charleston have found this thread and found it helpful.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, cruisinmems said:

Do they abide by the check-in times, or is it a free-for-all?

 

2 hours ago, Swinjaney said:

I was on the Sunshine on June 15, we had a 12:00 check in time.  We arrived at the port an hour early and walked right through the line with no question.  We arrived about 1030 and we were on the boat at 11.    it was the easiest embarkation I have ever been though!  

 

We are platinum and booked late. The earliest check-in time was 1230; but we knew we wouldn't have a problem. In the past, Charleston hasn't had to enforce the check in time. They used to not start letting people park until they are ready for you to work your way thru the boarding process with no waiting; other than on the bus while it fills up.

 

Swinjaney; I'm glad to hear the times you mentioned. Our first time from Charleston; we arrived so early we could only drop off luggage and then had to leave the area and line back up outside the parking area until they were ready for everyone. It's nice to see you can arrive that early and know they have things working well. The last two times, we have left our house at 1030 and boarded the ship just before noon. I could tell that even in the handicapped parking there were quite a few people ahead of us; I just didn't know if they let you into the area but not let anyone past the luggage drop off/parking payment area and those people had to sit in their cars for a while like we had previously done. Next time, it sounds like I can easily leave my house at 1000 and get on the ship earlier. For me, the cruise starts when I sit down for lunch. We skip breakfast that day, so the earlier the better.   🙂

 

Edited by CruzinScotty
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2 hours ago, Gettys84 said:

Thanks for the info!  We are very excited to go on a larger ship close to home.  We live 2 hours from the port so will be nice not driver for Port Canaveral.  We did a live review on the Horizon in April and it was a ton of fun so planning on doing that on our Sunshine Cruise!  We are spoiled by the Pasta bar for lunch, we wont sail a ship unless it has it now!  

 

Glad I could help. When are you on the Sunshine; I want to look out for your live review. I like the Pasta bar as well; but didn't manage to get to it this time. That's one thing with the 5 nights with so many dining options; even at lunch: you can't do it all so it's best to just enjoy what you can and make plans for next time!  Enjoy your cruise.

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Glad I found this!  I'd been asking on the POC board about the new drop-off procedure.  I've sailed out of Charleston several times but not yet on Sunshine.  I sailed her on a 1-way sailing from Port Canaveral to San Juan (a Journeys sailing) and was rather surprised how much I liked the ship.  I'm on a 7-night to Bermuda in late October.  I'll be Diamond.  Woot!  Can't wait for my Carnival luggage tag gift! 😋

 

The pasta bar for lunch is one of my faves, too.  First had it on Sunshine, and then on Vista and Horizon.  I'm not much for regular buffets, so typically hit the deli, burrito place, or Guy's, but having the pasta option makes me happy.

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On ‎6‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 3:26 PM, mar214 said:

Thanks for some great details! I am wondering if anyone who has been dropped off, rather than parking, can explain where we should arrive. We will be using Uber to get to the ship. We need to know where we should direct our driver so we can get our bags checked in. With the August heat, I would hate to have to personally lug our bags to check-in if we get dropped off in the wrong place. In addition, how big are the shuttles that get everyone to the ship? Are they vans or buses? Thanks in advance for the info!

 

We used Uber in June when we went. There is a sign for parking at the first gate location. Our driver was using google maps and went past it to the 2nd gate that used to be used for that for the smaller ship. There were plenty of people around to direct him back to where we needed to be.  He was able to drive us right up to the luggage drop off spot.  If you plan to use Uber when you get back, we found it easier to walk out of the parking lot (there is a long sidewalk that goes past all the buses waiting to take people back to their cars) and order from there.  There were several private cabs waiting but they were quoting us $30 more than Uber.

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Bobocrusin-thanks so much for the feedback!!! Crusing from a new homeport for the first time can be confusing-especially when everyone else seems to know what they're doing!

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Thanks for this thread - I am looking at doing my 40th birthday on Sunshine out of Charleston in Jan 2021. Would be my 12th cruise but have never sailed Carnival before. This is a great thread, very encouraging, thank you!

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Thanks for the information - we've sailed out of Charleston on the Ecstasy several times, so it's good to know the process has changed : ))

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