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

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the update! You mentioned one flight of stairs....if you have someone in the group on a scooter and one in wheelchair ...do they have an elevator as well? I assume that would be the case...I am hoping it is all close by.

 

Edited by RS77471

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Just to add to this thread we're currently sailing on the Sunshine, so if anyone has any remaining unanswered questions feel free to throw them my way. All of the information provided previously in this thread was handy and useful. To add to it:

 

We elected to stay at a hotel that offered parking the night prior to departure. We stayed at the Cambria Hotel in Mt. Pleasant right off highway 17. I highly recommend them. It's a relatively new hotel- less than a year old. They had a nice fitness center, very comfortable beds, and the staff was very accommodating. It is located next to a bank with a Wal-Mart right across the road if you need any last minute items. It also has a decent restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch. They allow you to park there for the duration of the cruise, and give you two free Uber vouchers to use towards transportation to the Port. Because we have our 2 year old daughter with us and Uber doesn't do car seats we elected to use Charleston Electric Cab. They offer a flat $25 fee ride to the terminal ($40 with a car seat)

 

We left the hotel around 11:00am and arrived at the port around 11:30. Because we had FTTF we were able to zip through the check in process, get on the shuttles and go through security in no time at all. We were on the boat and having lunch shortly after noon. Do plan to check as much luggage as you can though. They have one "tour bus" style shuttle- the rest are all smaller buses similar to church buses so you have to sit with your carry-on luggage in your bags. 

 

Despite the reservations you can definitely tell the Sunshine is an older, remodeled boat vs the newer ships. Our previous cruise was on the "Dream" when it was relatively new, so I think that spoiled us. We're in an Aft Wrap around balcony cabin on deck 8. The balcony is great, but the cabin seems very cramped. The bathroom is especially small. The windows and balcony are very dirty and don't appear to have been washed in quite awhile. We did Any Time Dining, and have checked in both nights using the app so far. It works fantastic and we were able to walk straight to the dining room after checking in both nights. Obviously Lido deck is packed like most ships at breakfast/lunch times, so getting a table is a major headache. The food is excellent though. 

 

The Sunshine does offer Pizza Delivery via the hub app now- not sure if that was previously reported in this thread or not. If you want pizza that is the way to get it. After all these years I don't see why Carnival hasn't found a more efficient way to do their pizza. They take your order, then make your pizza. If the person in front of you decides they want more than one plate (half a pizza is a serving) then you are screwed and have to wait until the next batch is cooked. Happened to us twice now. they only have five pizza types. Why not just turn it into a buffet already and let people fend for themselves. 

 

The internet has worked well depending on the ship's position. We have the "Premium" plan and my wife and daughter have easily been able to Facetime both sets of grandparents throughout the trip. Sometimes it will bog down and not work at all, but if you try again a few minutes later it usually will work. 

 

The only annoying things so far have been: 

 

1. The dining room method of serving "kids plates". As I mentioned before our daughter is 2, and she is very good at meal times but when she is done eating she only has patience for so long. The first night they brought her entire plate with our appetizers and so she was done before dessert even came. The second night we asked if they could wait and bring her food with ours (because she was eating some of our appetizer anyway) but they still brought it the same way. 

 

2. Our cabin steward keeps unplugging the refrigerator/cooler in the room! We've got drinks in it and it is doing a really good job keeping them cold, but every day the steward unplugs it when he cleans the room! I have no idea why. Twice now we've gotten milk for our daughter at breakfast and put it in the cooler only to have to get more from room service because it was unplugged and the milk was back at room temperature. 

 

Again, if you have any questions about the process or the Sunshine not already covered by the other posts ask away!

 

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Thanks for the update.  I'm almost always in inside cabins and got pretty spoiled with the size of the insides on Fantasy-class ships (I think I have >40 nights on them).  When I was on Sunshine, the inside cabin did seem a bit smaller and since I was travelling with a friend and had the beds separated, I think I noticed that a little more.

 

I'll check out the Cambria.  I'm still debating where to stay.  My problem with staying in Mt Pleasant is the drive over the bridge to get there.  I suffer extreme anxiety on high bridges.

 

On 5-night sailings, I typically carry on all my bags (and usually wonder why by the time I finally reach the cabin!), but since my upcoming sailing is 7-nights, I'll check my larger case and sit with my small bag on my lap if I can't cram it under my long legs!  I'm also skipping the internet plan.  The pre-pay price has increased about 70% since I sailed <year ago and I have no pressing need to stay in touch with anyone, certainly not the office! 😉

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Lots of great info on the Port of Charleston.  This will be our first time cruising out of there.  We actually have never been to Charleston.   I am platinum and have only cruised out of Florida :0   So, your information is great.  Strange to think that I park in one spot and have to be shuttled to the ship.   Let's just hope i have patience.  I will be ready to get on the ship.

 

You have made me rethink my dining choice.  We usually have assigned dinning time when we travel with my family.  But since it is just the two of us this time, I am thinking about trying the any time dining.  We like to eat early so we can enjoy the shows or movies.  

Comparing the two assigned or anytime, does anytime go a little faster?  

 

This will be our first trip on the Sunshine as well.  Headed to Bermuda Sept 28 and doing my research now.  Any advice is great!!

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5 hours ago, NCTribeFan said:

I'll check out the Cambria.  I'm still debating where to stay.  My problem with staying in Mt Pleasant is the drive over the bridge to get there.  I suffer extreme anxiety on high bridges.

 

On 5-night sailings, I typically carry on all my bags (and usually wonder why by the time I finally reach the cabin!), but since my upcoming sailing is 7-nights, I'll check my larger case and sit with my small bag on my lap if I can't cram it under my long legs!  I'm also skipping the internet plan.  The pre-pay price has increased about 70% since I sailed <year ago and I have no pressing need to stay in touch with anyone, certainly not the office! 😉

 

I'm not really fond of the bridge either so that is why I stayed there and opted for the Taxi. The ride over the bridge bothered me, but not as much as if I had been driving. It was more economical too in our case. Parking at the port was a long line when we arrived and would have been $100. The entire hotel stay was only $160 something when I booked it, and again they were offering the parking and Uber vouchers. Had we not needed the taxi because of not wanting to lug a car seat onboard we really would've come out great. I like to travel with my own bags too. That was the one "bummer" of how Charleston is organized compared to other ports. You almost have to check larger bags to avoid having to try cram them in along the way. 

 

1 hour ago, hopelea said:

Lots of great info on the Port of Charleston.  This will be our first time cruising out of there.  We actually have never been to Charleston.   I am platinum and have only cruised out of Florida :0   So, your information is great.  Strange to think that I park in one spot and have to be shuttled to the ship.   Let's just hope i have patience.  I will be ready to get on the ship.

 

You have made me rethink my dining choice.  We usually have assigned dinning time when we travel with my family.  But since it is just the two of us this time, I am thinking about trying the any time dining.  We like to eat early so we can enjoy the shows or movies.  

Comparing the two assigned or anytime, does anytime go a little faster?  

 

This will be our first trip on the Sunshine as well.  Headed to Bermuda Sept 28 and doing my research now.  Any advice is great!!

 

If you like to eat early I think you will be very pleased with Your Time Dining. The dining room opens at 5:15 but I've found the check-in process usually opens up about 5:05-5:10 each evening on the app. Once you check in it will give you an estimated wait time, but typically by the time we make it down from our room to the elevator or stairs the phone is sending me an alert with a table assignment. Last night when we left things were pretty steady around 6:30ish, but people still were coming in without a long wait time. Trends seem to have changed with Your Time Dining. When we went on our first cruise many years ago it was relatively new and there was a long line each night when the dining room opened. Now it seems as though people eat much later than they use to. The earlier you go the emptier it is. On the opposite side last night my wife decided she wanted a sandwich so I went to the Deli on Lido at 8:30-9:00pm and the whole deck was still packed with people eating supper. 

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Today was our final port in Half Moon Cay. We were the only ship docking there today, which was nice. If you sign up for a Cabana or any type of excursion at Half Moon Cay they tell you to meet in the Liquid Lounge onboard at 7:45am the morning you arrive at HMC. From there they take you down a closed off set of staircases to Deck 0 and right onto the first two tenders going across to the Island. You basically have it to yourself for the first 45 minutes to an hour until the masses come in. We stayed until around lunchtime today and then returned to the boat so our daughter could take a nap. If you plan to eat the buffet there get to the line early. By noon today it was stretched halfway across the island. 

 

One note on connectivity. We have Verizon, and they offer a "Travel Pass" that allows you to pay $10 a day and use all the features of your regular calling plan (including up to half a gig of data) in the Bahamas. We had great coverage in Nassau yesterday and were surprised to find that they have added a cell phone tower in HMC as well. Both places were roaming through BTC (Bahamas Telephone company) 

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9 hours ago, hopelea said:

Lots of great info on the Port of Charleston.  This will be our first time cruising out of there.  We actually have never been to Charleston.   I am platinum and have only cruised out of Florida :0   So, your information is great.  Strange to think that I park in one spot and have to be shuttled to the ship.   Let's just hope i have patience.  I will be ready to get on the ship.

 

This will be our first trip on the Sunshine as well.  Headed to Bermuda Sept 28 and doing my research now.  Any advice is great!!

It all moves pretty quickly, no time really to get impatient, or that was my experience. You will be getting on when I get off from Bermuda! I hope you have some time to sightsee in Charleston! The shuttle is a short ride and it has to do with security, at least until they ever get to build a new terminal! I have actually stood in longer lines at other ports.

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Returned from our trip today... Another tip I will provide is to take the "arrival time" posted with a grain of salt. When we got on our cruise they told us our arrival time would be 8:00am in Charleston this morning. By the Disembarkation talk that time had been backed up to the first people leaving the ship at 6:45. If you're carrying your own luggage they'll ask all FTTF, Diamond, Platinum, and Suite Guests to meet in the Liquid Lounge by 6:45. We arrived at 6:40 and they were already heading people out the doors and off the ship. It was a super fast process. The trip back into Charleston was really rocky though. It woke all of us up in the wee morning hours. Getting into the port isn't the easiest navigation wise obviously. We actually docked about 4:00am this morning. The taxi driver told me that is typical- that it usually arrives between 4-5. The cruise director told everybody on board that the primary reason they get in so early is the water pressure is so low in Charleston that it makes it difficult to load the required amount of fresh water and get the ship back moving on time. We heard several workers complaining as we were coming off the ship that the pressure seemed worse than normal this morning. I think that is why our cruise departed so late last week. We didn't leave until closer to 7:00pm. 

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Just got back so I’ll add my 2cents. I was with a group of 12, 6 of which were first time cruisers. We all had fttf and was super worth it for us. If just two or 4 people that are efficient and show up on time then maybe fttf isn’t worth it, but when having to wait around and seeing the tender to half moon cay leave bc members of your group are late to the meet up spot, knowing they can skip the line and take the next tender with you was worth it in itself. 

 

Parking opened up at 10am and I was on the ship eating at 11:30, first in serenity pool at noon and had it for ourselves for about 30 minutes. 

 

6 of us went to the steakhouse and I am disappointed to say it wasn’t a good experience. I had done the steakhouse on the pride and was excited to go back. 2 of our group had just done royals steakhouse and this was their first time on carnival and the rest were first time cruisers. The room wasn’t packed but service had an attitude. On pride we could only order 1 entree, but if we wanted an app, soup, and salad that wasn’t a problem... in fact it was encouraged. Here we could only order 2 things total, but with the language barrier our server made things extra confusing (for example someone wanted 2 apps, no soup or salad and she kept saying only 1 app allowed and when they didn’t order a soup or salad she asked what else they wanted). If there has been a change or a max order per category I wish it was clearly on the menu. Food was ok, nothing great, which disappointed me as the pride food was fantastic (maybe they were having an off night). They also brought one member of our group a ladle instead of a spoon accidentally for the soup. As this person was a bit on the heavy side it provided some laughs, but was still rude even if an accident. I would not go back to the steakhouse based on this experience.

 

The following night 2 of us went to jijis, and that was amazing. Definitely worth the $15. We tried to get our group to go and ya to go a second time, but after the steakhouse no one wanted to spend more money on a specialty restaurant.  

 

We checked our bags for disembarkation and were told to meet at 7:45. We showed up at 7:40 and they had already released everyone so if you have checked priority tags you can probably get off before 7:45 (carrying off bags is at 6:45 I think). 

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Sorry, I lost track of this thread. I thought I was getting e-mail updates if someone posted on it. (scratches head). LOL

 

Anyways, I'm glad people have continued to find this information useful and others have continued to add to it.

 

As far as the buses are concerned: one time in Miami and also in Port Canaveral; the ship I was on left from one dock and returned to another. As a driver, the first time this happened, I was worried about it an everything was just fine. They had buses set up to return you to your car, just like Charleston uses for every cruise. It's something Carnival is used to and definitely in Charleston as they now have the system down as smoothly as possible.

 

 

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Thank you, again, for the good info! We’re leaving out tomorrow morning, from Charleston, and I reread this thread as a refresher. 😀❤️

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