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handbellplayer

A Royal Loyal Does Carnival – A Review

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Some background:  This was a family cruise to celebrate the high school graduation of our older granddaughter.  There were seven of us – Poppy and Nana (both 65), older son (41) and his daughter the graduate (18), younger son and his wife (late 30s) and their daughter (3).  We take an annual family vacation each year and gave the graduate her choice of destinations; she chose a cruise.  Poppy and Nana are Diamond on RCCL.  We last sailed on Carnival 20 years ago. (A bit of trivia – we sailed on Destiny, Sunshine’s former identity, when she was new, 25 years ago.)

 

We didn’t want to travel to FL with a three-year-old, so we started looking at Carnival Sunshine out of Charleston.  Five days seemed like a reasonable duration, so we booked it.  In order to make things easier with the little one, we did a couple of things – purchased FTTF and a villa at Half Moon Cay.  Both were good investments.

 

Due to the awesome help from folks on this board and a lot of research, I felt like I went into the trip well-prepared.  In general, I was pleasantly surprised by Carnival and Sunshine.  I will try to make some fair comparisons of the two lines.

 

Carnival pros:

 

The Hub app was really useful.  For $5/pp for the week, we got a chat feature which was really helpful ( I guess some RC ships have this, but we've not been on one).  Also, we all got acceptable internet for about $10 a day/pp, compared to RC price of $15.99 (I think)

 

A minor thing for some, but I enjoyed it - the shower was twice as big as a standard shower on RC.

 

The casual dining options were awesome - the burgers, pizza, and Mexican casual eateries were absolutely delicious.  Far and above the same foods on RC.

 

HMC is beautiful - soft sand and great swimming. Of course, the villa made it such a wonderful experience - I would highly recommend it for a group of our size or larger.  The food at the the island buffet sucked, just like it does on CocoCay and Labadee. 

 

I thought the dining room meals were slightly better - maybe because I was just happy to have new options.  They had a "port of call" option which was interesting.  I had shrimp and grits the first night and it was really good.  We had great service in the MDR, but it's the first time we've done traditional dining in a long time, so that may be the difference.  The waiters were wonderful, especially bringing out fruit, etc. to keep the little one satisfied.  I thought the desserts were better than the ones we've had recently on Royal.

 

The Serenity deck was amazing.  More beautiful than any Solarium I've been in.

 

Entertainment - (we didn't do any production shows) We've been very disappointed in the musical entertainment in smaller venues on RC recently.  It seemed like there were more pre-dinner music options on this ship.  We are big trivia people and there were lots of games and trivia events on this ship.  The cruise director's staff were very personable and enthusiastic. 

 

They have something called the Sea Day brunch - a really nice upgraded menu in the MDR that we tried the first sea day.

 

Dr. Seuss breakfast ($5/pp) was well done and the little one had a blast.

 

 

Carnival cons: 

 

The pool was ridiculously small for the number of people.  The little loved the little splash area in the water park area and the graduate liked the big waterslides and the ropes course.

 

Bar service - bar waiters were almost non-existent (only encountered a couple at the pool) and there was a shortage of bartenders everywhere.  It felt like it was a struggle to get every drink.

 

The ship was difficult to navigate - lots of areas you couldn't get to without going up or down a level (may just be Sunshine).

 

The casino was very smoky, especially the casino bar area and it seemed like you had to walk through it a lot to access other areas.

 

Even:

 

Standard buffet was very comparable.

Balcony cabin was comparable to a standard balcony on Royal.

Service was very good (other than the bar staff issue).

The ship was maintained well, much like an older Royal ship.

 

I don't think we'd sail on this particular ship and itinerary - we don't like short cruises.  But if we got a deal good enough to cover our free and D lounge drinks and had an interesting itinerary, I think we'd consider Carnival again.

 

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Glad you enjoyed it and congrats to the grad!  We are Diamond Plus on Royal but returning to Carnival for a 13 night Panama Canal cruise in late September.  Luckily, we got a great deal that more than makes up for the free Diamond drinks.  

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1 minute ago, lazydayz said:

Glad you enjoyed it and congrats to the grad!  We are Diamond Plus on Royal but returning to Carnival for a 13 night Panama Canal cruise in late September.  Luckily, we got a great deal that more than makes up for the free Diamond drinks.  

Isn't that the truth. We just became Diamond Plus and it is difficult to even look at other lines after that. But we are also looking at a Holland America cruise. The ports are just more interesting than Royal currently has available.

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28 minutes ago, handbellplayer said:

Some background:  This was a family cruise to celebrate the high school graduation of our older granddaughter.  There were seven of us – Poppy and Nana (both 65), older son (41) and his daughter the graduate (18), younger son and his wife (late 30s) and their daughter (3).  We take an annual family vacation each year and gave the graduate her choice of destinations; she chose a cruise.  Poppy and Nana are Diamond on RCCL.  We last sailed on Carnival 20 years ago. (A bit of trivia – we sailed on Destiny, Sunshine’s former identity, when she was new, 25 years ago.)

 

We didn’t want to travel to FL with a three-year-old, so we started looking at Carnival Sunshine out of Charleston.  Five days seemed like a reasonable duration, so we booked it.  In order to make things easier with the little one, we did a couple of things – purchased FTTF and a villa at Half Moon Cay.  Both were good investments.

 

Due to the awesome help from folks on this board and a lot of research, I felt like I went into the trip well-prepared.  In general, I was pleasantly surprised by Carnival and Sunshine.  I will try to make some fair comparisons of the two lines.

 

Carnival pros:

 

The Hub app was really useful.  For $5/pp for the week, we got a chat feature which was really helpful ( I guess some RC ships have this, but we've not been on one).  Also, we all got acceptable internet for about $10 a day/pp, compared to RC price of $15.99 (I think)

 

A minor thing for some, but I enjoyed it - the shower was twice as big as a standard shower on RC.

 

The casual dining options were awesome - the burgers, pizza, and Mexican casual eateries were absolutely delicious.  Far and above the same foods on RC.

 

HMC is beautiful - soft sand and great swimming. Of course, the villa made it such a wonderful experience - I would highly recommend it for a group of our size or larger.  The food at the the island buffet sucked, just like it does on CocoCay and Labadee. 

 

I thought the dining room meals were slightly better - maybe because I was just happy to have new options.  They had a "port of call" option which was interesting.  I had shrimp and grits the first night and it was really good.  We had great service in the MDR, but it's the first time we've done traditional dining in a long time, so that may be the difference.  The waiters were wonderful, especially bringing out fruit, etc. to keep the little one satisfied.  I thought the desserts were better than the ones we've had recently on Royal.

 

The Serenity deck was amazing.  More beautiful than any Solarium I've been in.

 

Entertainment - (we didn't do any production shows) We've been very disappointed in the musical entertainment in smaller venues on RC recently.  It seemed like there were more pre-dinner music options on this ship.  We are big trivia people and there were lots of games and trivia events on this ship.  The cruise director's staff were very personable and enthusiastic. 

 

They have something called the Sea Day brunch - a really nice upgraded menu in the MDR that we tried the first sea day.

 

Dr. Seuss breakfast ($5/pp) was well done and the little one had a blast.

 

 

Carnival cons: 

 

The pool was ridiculously small for the number of people.  The little loved the little splash area in the water park area and the graduate liked the big waterslides and the ropes course.

 

Bar service - bar waiters were almost non-existent (only encountered a couple at the pool) and there was a shortage of bartenders everywhere.  It felt like it was a struggle to get every drink.

 

The ship was difficult to navigate - lots of areas you couldn't get to without going up or down a level (may just be Sunshine).

 

The casino was very smoky, especially the casino bar area and it seemed like you had to walk through it a lot to access other areas.

 

Even:

 

Standard buffet was very comparable.

Balcony cabin was comparable to a standard balcony on Royal.

Service was very good (other than the bar staff issue).

The ship was maintained well, much like an older Royal ship.

 

I don't think we'd sail on this particular ship and itinerary - we don't like short cruises.  But if we got a deal good enough to cover our free and D lounge drinks and had an interesting itinerary, I think we'd consider Carnival again.

 

You give a comparison on the cabins. A balcony cabin would be the same as a OV cabin on other lines. However that is because the balcony takes up the extra sq.ft. If you had an OV cabin it is larger than any other cruise line.. 185 sq.ft. or smaller vs 220 sq.ft. on a larger Carnival ship. An additional 35 sq ft is considerable for a cabin. 20% larger.

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Posted (edited)

As Diamond Plus, you should consider Celebrity as your C&A level would translate to Elite, with some free drinks...EM

Edited by Essiesmom

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2 minutes ago, Essiesmom said:

As Diamond Plus, you should consider Celebrity as your C&A level would translate to Elite, with some free drinks...EM

We have sailed Celebrity in the past and had the Elite benefits.

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42 minutes ago, handbellplayer said:

The pool was ridiculously small for the number of people.  The little loved the little splash area in the water park area and the graduate liked the big waterslides and the ropes course.

 

Bar service - bar waiters were almost non-existent (only encountered a couple at the pool) and there was a shortage of bartenders everywhere.  It felt like it was a struggle to get every drink.

 

42 minutes ago, handbellplayer said:

The casino was very smoky, especially the casino bar area and it seemed like you had to walk through it a lot to access other areas.

 

I think a lot of people would agree with you on these as they are always the biggest complaints on Carnival ships.   I've always thought the pools super small so tend to avoid unless on port days.  Thinking back on bar service, the only places that there seems to be an abundance of waiters is in the pool area and comedy club.  Other places do seem to be a struggle unless you go to the bar itself.

 

I've never been on RC, but am glad to hear you think the food comparable or better.  Thanks for the quick comparison!  

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2 minutes ago, handbellplayer said:

We have sailed Celebrity in the past and had the Elite benefits.

We tried Celebrity as well. Didn't really use the Elite benefits as we had the drinks package and specialty restaurant deal as well. I like the vibe better on Carnival and Royal ships.

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Glad you had a good time. I believe the pros outweigh the cons. The size of the pools never bother me, but maybe that is because I've learned to mostly avoid them. I am sure I wouldn't hate having a better option!

 

I'm glad you enjoyed the food options. It always kills me to hear about the food elitism. When I first tried it, I had very low expectations, but it surged past my expectations. Sure you can find better, but why?

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Perhaps try a Havana area cabin on one of the newer ships if you decide to try Carnival again (some restrictions on kids, though, so if the 3 yr old goes it might make it more difficult). The pool is restricted to the guests of that area until 7 PM, so less crowded.

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1 hour ago, handbellplayer said:

The ship was difficult to navigate - lots of areas you couldn't get to without going up or down a level (may just be Sunshine).

 

The casino was very smoky, especially the casino bar area and it seemed like you had to walk through it a lot to access other areas.

 

 

The navigation issue is specific to the Sunshine.  In fact, I just won't sail on that ship again.  I found the navigation issues that irritating.

 

The need to walk through the casino to access other areas is not specific to the Sunshine, but is not an issue across the board on Carnival.  Fantasy class ship and the Sunshine are the only ones that I can think of where you simply cannot avoid the casino smoke.  I'm sure someone will chime in if there are others 🙂 

 

I'm glad you enjoyed your time!!

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Thank you for your review. I think you're right about the food seeming to be a little better on a new-to-you cruise line. I felt the same way when we cruise Royal after 20 cruises on Carnival.

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On 7/30/2019 at 3:35 PM, Schoifmom said:

 

The navigation issue is specific to the Sunshine.  In fact, I just won't sail on that ship again.  I found the navigation issues that irritating.

 

The need to walk through the casino to access other areas is not specific to the Sunshine, but is not an issue across the board on Carnival.  Fantasy class ship and the Sunshine are the only ones that I can think of where you simply cannot avoid the casino smoke.  I'm sure someone will chime in if there are others 🙂 

 

I'm glad you enjoyed your time!!

 

We've sailed on nine Carnival ships and every one of them, you had to walk past the casino to get around it.  All of the ships in the Sunshine and Conquest Class are the same layout.  The Horizon is even worse.

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1 hour ago, RWolver672 said:

 

We've sailed on nine Carnival ships and every one of them, you had to walk past the casino to get around it.  All of the ships in the Sunshine and Conquest Class are the same layout.  The Horizon is even worse.

I've only sailed on Fantasy Class ships, the Sunshine, and the Dream.  On the Dream, I was very well able to get anywhere I wanted without having to go through the casino.  Not at all on the others.

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Thanks for the thoughts. We just tried Royal for the first time ourselves after several sailing on CCL and definitely found them more similar than different.

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10 minutes ago, sparks1093 said:

Thanks for the thoughts. We just tried Royal for the first time ourselves after several sailing on CCL and definitely found them more similar than different.

I agree.  I too find them more similar than different.  I give the edge to Carnival.  I just think its truly the funship.

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I think on the Breeze I was able to go outside and get around the casino. Also agree about the waiters, I usually go to the bar to get a drink, and even then it's not very quick. The employees are great, there's just not enough to go around. A little worried what it's going to be like on the vista.

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On 7/30/2019 at 1:59 PM, handbellplayer said:

Some background:  This was a family cruise to celebrate the high school graduation of our older granddaughter.  There were seven of us – Poppy and Nana (both 65), older son (41) and his daughter the graduate (18), younger son and his wife (late 30s) and their daughter (3).  We take an annual family vacation each year and gave the graduate her choice of destinations; she chose a cruise.  Poppy and Nana are Diamond on RCCL.  We last sailed on Carnival 20 years ago. (A bit of trivia – we sailed on Destiny, Sunshine’s former identity, when she was new, 25 years ago.)

 

We didn’t want to travel to FL with a three-year-old, so we started looking at Carnival Sunshine out of Charleston.  Five days seemed like a reasonable duration, so we booked it.  In order to make things easier with the little one, we did a couple of things – purchased FTTF and a villa at Half Moon Cay.  Both were good investments.

 

Due to the awesome help from folks on this board and a lot of research, I felt like I went into the trip well-prepared.  In general, I was pleasantly surprised by Carnival and Sunshine.  I will try to make some fair comparisons of the two lines.

 

Carnival pros:

 

The Hub app was really useful.  For $5/pp for the week, we got a chat feature which was really helpful ( I guess some RC ships have this, but we've not been on one).  Also, we all got acceptable internet for about $10 a day/pp, compared to RC price of $15.99 (I think)

 

A minor thing for some, but I enjoyed it - the shower was twice as big as a standard shower on RC.

 

The casual dining options were awesome - the burgers, pizza, and Mexican casual eateries were absolutely delicious.  Far and above the same foods on RC.

 

HMC is beautiful - soft sand and great swimming. Of course, the villa made it such a wonderful experience - I would highly recommend it for a group of our size or larger.  The food at the the island buffet sucked, just like it does on CocoCay and Labadee. 

 

I thought the dining room meals were slightly better - maybe because I was just happy to have new options.  They had a "port of call" option which was interesting.  I had shrimp and grits the first night and it was really good.  We had great service in the MDR, but it's the first time we've done traditional dining in a long time, so that may be the difference.  The waiters were wonderful, especially bringing out fruit, etc. to keep the little one satisfied.  I thought the desserts were better than the ones we've had recently on Royal.

 

The Serenity deck was amazing.  More beautiful than any Solarium I've been in.

 

Entertainment - (we didn't do any production shows) We've been very disappointed in the musical entertainment in smaller venues on RC recently.  It seemed like there were more pre-dinner music options on this ship.  We are big trivia people and there were lots of games and trivia events on this ship.  The cruise director's staff were very personable and enthusiastic. 

 

They have something called the Sea Day brunch - a really nice upgraded menu in the MDR that we tried the first sea day.

 

Dr. Seuss breakfast ($5/pp) was well done and the little one had a blast.

 

 

Carnival cons: 

 

The pool was ridiculously small for the number of people.  The little loved the little splash area in the water park area and the graduate liked the big waterslides and the ropes course.

 

Bar service - bar waiters were almost non-existent (only encountered a couple at the pool) and there was a shortage of bartenders everywhere.  It felt like it was a struggle to get every drink.

 

The ship was difficult to navigate - lots of areas you couldn't get to without going up or down a level (may just be Sunshine).

 

The casino was very smoky, especially the casino bar area and it seemed like you had to walk through it a lot to access other areas.

 

Even:

 

Standard buffet was very comparable.

Balcony cabin was comparable to a standard balcony on Royal.

Service was very good (other than the bar staff issue).

The ship was maintained well, much like an older Royal ship.

 

I don't think we'd sail on this particular ship and itinerary - we don't like short cruises.  But if we got a deal good enough to cover our free and D lounge drinks and had an interesting itinerary, I think we'd consider Carnival again.

 

We're Diamond on RCL, Platinum on Carnival, and we'd agree with most of your review except for one thing, the buffet on Carnival is much better then RCL.

Other things we feel are different,,,

The Pizza and the sandwich station on Carnival is far better then what RCL offers.

Guy's is free, and you have to pay at Johnny Rockets.

Larger RCL ships have a better assortment of extra pay restaurants, and on the bigger ships their Broadway entertainment is better!

I don't think it'll be too difficult to find a cruise on Carnival that'll save you enough money to make up for the free Diamond drinks! 

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As Diamond level C&A members with 23 years of RCI cruises the Sunshine was also our first Carnival ship a couple of years ago. We agree with everything you said. Since that first Sunshine cruise we have been on one Royal cruise, five Carnival cruises, and one MSC cruise. We will be back on Sunshine in 22 days. There are many more similarities than differences between Royal and Carnival these days but we give the edge to Carnival. If huge ships with amusement parks and a hotel feel are your thing Royal does that better though. We like the size and layout of Carnival's vessels better but Royal ships seem to have a higher "build quality". All things considered we would choose Carnival. We are trying NCL next year to see how that goes.

 

Thanks to the OP for sharing. 

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1 hour ago, EBFURR said:

As Diamond level C&A members with 23 years of RCI cruises the Sunshine was also our first Carnival ship a couple of years ago. We agree with everything you said. Since that first Sunshine cruise we have been on one Royal cruise, five Carnival cruises, and one MSC cruise. We will be back on Sunshine in 22 days. There are many more similarities than differences between Royal and Carnival these days but we give the edge to Carnival. If huge ships with amusement parks and a hotel feel are your thing Royal does that better though. We like the size and layout of Carnival's vessels better but Royal ships seem to have a higher "build quality". All things considered we would choose Carnival. We are trying NCL next year to see how that goes.

 

Thanks to the OP for sharing. 

 

Interesting that you would choose Carnival when it sounds like you were loyal to RCCL for a long time.  Do you ever think you should have tried a Carnival ship earlier?  I have been on 29 cruises so far, everyone on Carnival. Once in awhile my wife and I talk about going on a different cruise line, especially when we see a ship in port like Celebrity Edge. However, we always fall back to sticking with Carnival since we know we will have a good time. I am sure one day we will try another cruise line, I just don’t know when that day will be here. 

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2 hours ago, EBFURR said:

As Diamond level C&A members with 23 years of RCI cruises the Sunshine was also our first Carnival ship a couple of years ago. We agree with everything you said. Since that first Sunshine cruise we have been on one Royal cruise, five Carnival cruises, and one MSC cruise. We will be back on Sunshine in 22 days. There are many more similarities than differences between Royal and Carnival these days but we give the edge to Carnival. If huge ships with amusement parks and a hotel feel are your thing Royal does that better though. We like the size and layout of Carnival's vessels better but Royal ships seem to have a higher "build quality". All things considered we would choose Carnival. We are trying NCL next year to see how that goes.

 

Thanks to the OP for sharing. 

Interesting post, thanks for sharing

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Thanks for sharing your cruise.  I have never been on the Sunshine but would love to sail from Charleston. 

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We tried a Celebrity after many Carnival cruises.  Nice, but not worth the extra $.  Biggest difference was the lack of "wild teens" on Celebrity.

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