Extensive Review of the Carnival Sunshine

Embarkation at Port Canaveral

This is the first time that I had priority embarkation at Port Canaveral.  We normally get to Port Canaveral at about the same time each cruise, and walk right into the terminal.  However, this time we stood in line outside for about 15 minutes, and then went into the terminal.

Embarkation was different this time.  Instead of being shown to an agent at the desk, they took our picture and checked our boarding pass as we walked in. They did this at the first check-in station at the door. It was much quicker because you didn’t have to wait in another line.

After that, since I had media priority embarkation for the first time, I wasn’t sure where to go.  We were shown to a nice lobby to wait. Then we found out that lobby was for Suite guests.  I went to ask someone else where to wait, and she escorted us to the Platinum Diamond waiting area upstairs.  Let’s just say that Suite guests have a much nicer lobby.  We didn’t have containers of water, and the ladies restroom stayed locked the entire time we were there. 

We sat there about 40 minutes until they called another group to tour the ship. I think it was travel agents and media.  After that they called the Diamond members, then the Platinum.  I waited a bit since I was neither, and then followed the end of the group in. 

My view on the embarkation was that this was not the smoothest or quickest that I’ve seen.  It may have been because the newscasters were around because the ship had listed the week before, and also had leaked a couple of weeks earlier. 

The Ship

On our cruise in early November, 2018, the ship sailed fine.  We had no technical problems that I was aware of, except that their computers went down a couple of times.  We had no listing of the ship, and I saw no water leaks anywhere.  There was rocking and rolling of the ship early in the cruise, but that’s normal.  I felt no shuddering of the ship.  We did leave port an hour late. The ship was clean everywhere that I saw.  The restrooms were kept clean, and the eating areas were kept clean.  Our Steward kept our cabin very clean.  There was a chemical smell in the hallway outside our cabin.  We never did figure out what it is, but the small didn’t get into our cabin.

Elevators

The elevators were always slow and full, especially the first day or two.  Maybe that’s because some of them were closed to get the luggage to the rooms.  After a couple of days it got easier to get an elevator.  They worked most of the time, although I did see one stopped and open towards the rear of the ship one day.  Also, deck one has a harder time getting an elevator for some reason.  Sometimes we just gave up and walked the stairs.

The Muster Drill

The Muster, or safety, Drill took place at around 4 pm the day we boarded the ship.  We didn’t want to get to the drill too early because the drill took place on deck four and we didn’t want to get smashed against the wall in the back of all the people standing there.  We decided to sit in the Limelight Lounge area until the drill started.  While there, we were told that anyone with a handicap or anyone who had trouble standing could stay in the Limelight Lounge during the drill.  I have a bad back, so we decided just to stay there.  It was much easier than waiting on the deck itself.  The drill didn’t seem terribly organized and took quite a while to finish. 

The Cruise Director

Michael “Mikey” Gibson is the Cruise Director as of early November, 2018.  He’s going to take a break in January, 2019, for a couple of months, and then come back to Sunshine for a while.  Mikey is from South Africa, and everyone thought that he was great.  He has a ton of energy, and tries to meet everyone on the ship at least once during the cruise.  We saw him greeting people everywhere we went.  I really enjoyed him, he is one of my favorite Cruise Directors.

The Atrium

Carnival Sunshine is a very nice ship.  Our first view of her was in the Atrium Lobby on deck three as we boarded.  Beautiful Lobby with one large glass lit ball with rays coming out of it all around it.  And then you had huge beads draped all over the area between the decks.  Under this area is the Atrium bar, which is the normal round bar area that you see on most Carnival Ships.  There are tables and chairs to relax on under the staircase area.  Decks four and five do not have the usual seating areas along the glass barricade where you can sit and watch the singers or DJ.  I did miss this.  I normally sit there quite often just relaxing and enjoying the music.  The Sunrise Restaurant is on one side of this area.

Ocean Plaza

Ocean Plaza on deck five is the first place we visited upon entering the ship.  Normally we’d head to the Lido deck, but we had heard that there would be a BBQ buffet at Ocean Plaza.  Ocean Plaza is right outside the casino area towards the back of the ship and near the Red Frog Pub.

The first day buffet in Ocean Plaza starts at noon, and is a small buffet.  There are plenty of tables, and the food is good.  It consisted of BBQ pork, beef, or chicken, along with potato salad or cole slaw.  They do have a lunch buffet every day there, but the food choice changes every day.  I didn’t find later in the cruise that they had enough to choose from.

At other times the Ocean Plaza area hosts singers or trivia.  It is also where you go to sign up for Your Time Dining each evening.  More on that later.

In the area also is a Computer Hub area, and a coffee / milkshake café, along with the Red Frog Pub.  Red Frog Pub has a foosball table in the back if you need something to do.

Casino

I can’t say much about the Casino.  We avoided it as much as possible.  I have an allergy to smoke, and the Casino is all smoking, with no non-smoking areas.  And the smoke smell would permeate other areas of the ship sometimes.  I don’t know how non-smokers can gamble on this ship.  It looked like a nice area, and someone from our Facebook group won some money.  It is hard to get through from the front to the back of the ship without going through the Casino.  You can take deck 4 through the Limelight Lounge, but sometimes it’s closed.

Internet

The internet on Carnival Sunshine is pretty horrible.  I had the media premium package, and it was incredibly slow.  There are no private computer hubs on the ship, but they do have a few stations with computers in the public areas.  The two computers in the Library would not work.  I found that the internet worked better on my phone, but I could not write my blog on my phone.  It would take me around two hours most days to write my blog and publish it.  I usually gave up on trying to open my Facebook page and get it to work.  It would open okay on my phone.  I was provided internet free of charge so I could blog from the ship, so I can’t really complain. 

Our Cabin

We were in cabin 1605. It’s an exterior window room on deck one.  It’s a pretty roomy cabin as ship cabins go.  It had a sofa, a table, and a bed., but it did not have a mini fridge.  There is a small TV, but not many decent channels. 

The bathroom was fairly roomy for a ship.  The shower is about twice as big as a normal ship shower.  However, the shower curtain is too short. The water would get all over the floor of the bathroom no matter what I tried.  There must be a better way.  The bathroom floor behind the toilet has a drain, but no one wants to dry the bathroom floor every time they take a shower.  There are four small glass shelves on the sides of the bathroom mirror, but no magnifying mirror.  It has the standard suction toilet. 

There is enough closet space for everything, although not as many shelves as some other ships.  It does have a safe.  You can store your luggage under your bed.  It also has three large drawers for storage, and a small cabinet.  It has a hair dryer in the top drawer. For me it had adequate power, but I have shorter hair. There is also an unlighted vanity mirror with a small stool in the bedroom.

The window is nice to have, although I prefer a balcony cabin. It doesn’t have a big ledge that you can sit on like on some other ships, but there was enough room to keep all of my towel animals on it.  The room Steward at this time is Myat from Myanmar, and he’s very good.  He makes towel animals every night and remembers your name.  You have a choice now to get room service in the morning, in the evening, or both.  We chose evening, but he did bring us ice early in the day.

The hallway outside the cabin had a chemical smell, but the smell didn’t get into the room.  You’ll be able to hear engine sounds inside the cabin.  You can also hear if others are making noise outside in the hall, but you can’t hear noise from other cabins.  It is an adjoining cabin.  You can hear noise from balconies above if people are moving the chairs around.

The Crew

The crew, from Mikey, the Cruise Director, to the room stewards, to the Maitre d’, the wait staff, and the food staff, are what put the Sunshine over the top!  We didn’t have any bad experiences with any of the crew, and they all seemed to go above and beyond.  If so many nationalities can get along so well on a cruise ship, why can’t the rest of the world?  I can’t say enough good about the crew!

Bars & Lounges

Not a lot that I can say about the bars and lounges because we didn’t spend a lot of time there.  The only one we visited was the Atrium bar on deck three.  We didn’t get to know them.  The service was a bit slow, but not overly so.  Everything was good.  We noticed that Red Frog Pub had game tables, such as Foosball, in the back area.  Looked like fun, and the Red Frog Pub is roomy.  There is a piano bar but we didn’t hear the music so I can’t comment on that.  There’s also a sports bar and a casino bar.  And of course you have your normal bars on the Lido deck around the pool and in the Serenity Deck area. 

Restaurants

Breakfast

We had breakfast / brunch in the Sunrise Dining Room in the rear of the ship on sea days.  (Deck Three)  This was our favorite place for breakfast because the selections were better.  And on most of the days, service was good.  My person favorite is the Huevos Rancheros, and my husband’s is the steak and eggs.  But they have a lot more choices than that.   I’ll include the Sea Day Brunch menu pdf below.

We also had breakfast in the Marketplace Buffet on Port days.  We would find a seat in the Havana Bar or JiJi’s Kitchen areas, since they always had open tables.  You can get fresh eggs and pastries right at the JiJi’s buffet area.  Marketplace Buffet also has a small breakfast buffet.  You can get your food there and bring it back to your table.  The selections on the buffet are limited to scrambled or hard boiled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, waffles, and French toast.  It seemed to be about the same every day.  The French toast is my favorite.  In other areas of the buffet you can find fruit, cereals, milk, and pastries. 

Drinks are coffee, decaf and regular, orange juice, and a mixed fruit juice.  Also, green or regular tea.

Lunch

We only had lunch in the Marketplace Buffet area on deck nine.  We tried a number of different selections.  All of the places that we ate lunch at were complimentary.

Guy’s Burgers

First we had Guy’s Burgers.  Let me tell you, Guy’s Burgers is my very favorite lunch venue on the ship.  I always get the Ringer Burger, but there are other selections.  They come with carnival style fries, which are delicious.  There is also a burger bar area where you can add onions, lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and different sauces to the burgers.  The BBQ sauce is delicious.  I had three Guy’s Burgers during the cruise.

Mongolian Wok

I had one Mongolian Wok grill meal on the ship, and I wasn’t impressed.  You grab a bowl and add the ingredients that you want in your meal.  You can get rice noodles, lo mein noodles, various vegetables, and meats.  Then the chef takes your ingredients and cooks them for you.  I normally get my Mongolian bbq meal with Teriaki sauce, but they didn’t have that.  They had black bean sauce, and two spicier sauces.  I got the middle spice sauce, and it had no flavor, just hot.  I really didn’t enjoy that meal much.  There are usually empty tables in this area.

Cucina Del Capitano

I had lunch at Cucina Del Capitano, the Italian Restaurant, only once.  You fill out a card with the selections you want, and then hand it to the hostess and it will be made to order.  There are various kinds of pasta, various sauces, and different meats to choose from.  You could also get a chef salad and bread along with your pasta.  I thought that the service was extremely slow at this venue.  There were others coming up and complaining because they had waited so long for their meal.  I waited at least 20 minutes for mine.  My husband had gone for pizza after I turned in my order, and gotten his fresh pizza well before I got my meal.

Once I got it, it was very good.  I had ordered penne pasta, marinara sauce, green peppers, and chicken strips.  The bread was also delicious.  I didn’t order a salad.

Havana Bar Area

You can get a small selection of Cuban food at the Havana Bar.  It is good, but not a lot to choose from.  Try the little coconut dumpling.  There are usually empty tables in this area, it’s a good place to sit.

Blue Iguana Cantina

I only got one lunch at the Blue Iguana Cantina. I decided to get a taco salad.  The salad is served in a tortilla bowl.  I added beef, chicken, lettuce, pico de gallo, pinto beans, and corn.  Then you can go to the toppings bar to add extras, like salsa.  I think that I made mine a bit too spicy for my taste, but that was my fault.  Other than that, it was good.

Ocean Plaza Area

We ate at the Ocean Plaza buffet on day one.  The buffet is very small and doesn’t have a lot of selections.  Day one was a good buffet because we avoided the crowds in the Marketplace buffet.  It was a BBQ buffet, and they only serve that on day one. It was very good. We tried eating there one more time, but the selection was way too small for what we wanted.  There are plenty of tables in the area, and they serve iced tea, lemonade, and water from a cart.

Marketplace Buffet

The Marketplace or Lido Buffet on Carnival Sunshine is very limited in choices.  It’s a very small area with four small buffet lines.  The same food is on each line.  Selections are limited, and different every day.  There is also a salad bar, a fruit bar, and a dessert bar.  The lines can get long.  We didn’t eat here often because of the small selection, although we would get our dessert there. Food was okay, but nothing special. Outside the Marketplace towards the pool, there is 24 hour ice cream and FroYo on each side.  The ice cream is better.  You can get it in a cone or in a cup.

The Deli

We only had one meal at the Deli.  It was the day we were in Aruba.  We came back late and didn’t feel like changing for the main dining room.  I had a meatball sandwich and he had a reuben.  Sides were cookies and egg/potato salad.  The sandwiches were okay.  My meatball could have used more sauce on it.  The salad was okay, but the cookies, salted chocolate chip cookie, were delicious!  They didn’t have fries when we were there.  The service was kind of disorganized and slow.  It wasn’t apparent where to order and where to pick up.  They were giving the wrong orders to the wrong people, and forgetting orders.  

Pizza

I didn’t have the pizza, but my husband ordered a fresh one with pepperoni.  He said it was very good.  I believe that you can get pizza 24/7.

Afternoon Tea

We ended up doing afternoon tea only one time.  Not a whole lot to say about it.  It’s in the Sunrise Restaurant, deck four.  You have a choice of green tea or regular tea.  Or you can bring your own tea or buy flavored teas.  They have a selection of small sandwiches or small cakes.  I had a cucumber sandwich, nothing to write home about it.  We didn’t stay long.

Dinner

We only ate dinner at the complimentary Main Dining Room.  We had Your Time Dining, so we were in the Sunrise Restaurant on the third floor.  Normally when we have Your Time Dining, we line up outside the restaurant and wait to get in.  They do this a lot differently on the Sunshine.  I think it’s because there’s not a lot of room to stand in line outside the restaurant.

On the Sunshine,  you go to the Ocean Plaza area on deck five near the Shake shop.  You stand in line there and the hostess gives you a seating assignment.  They give you the slip, and you take it back to the hostess at the Sunrise Dining Room on deck three.  You can request the same waiter and same table if you like them.  There are no guarantees though.  On two nights the computers went down but the hostess still managed to figure out where we wanted to be.  If you like a table I’d suggest remembering the table number so you can request it.  No one we talked to liked this new Your Time Dining system.  You really don’t wait in line any longer than usual though.  We always went early, but I think that they have pagers for those who come late and are waiting for a table.

The dining room is very nice, but maybe not as ornate as other ships.  We sat in the back near the windows.  Our servers were I Nyoman and I Made, and they did a very good job.  Service was fast, and they remembered our names each night.  They also remembered that we wanted iced tea each meal and brought it

Food was good.  Our favorite for the entire week was the Short Ribs. The Prime Rib is good, and also the Filet Mignon.  All of the appetizers that I had were good, and also the desserts.  I finally tried the Chocolate Melting cake with a side of peanut butter.  Pretty good.  On nights where I didn’t see anything I wanted, I ordered a banana split. 

We didn’t try any of the upcharge restaurants because the food is so good in the main dining room.  They all looked nice, but never looked crowded. 

Serenity deck

The Carnival Sunshine has a three layer Serenity Adults Only Deck.  The bottom layer has a small round pool, with a waterfall falling into it.  It also has a number of deck chairs, umbrellas, and palm trees. There is a restroom on this deck.  The second layer has clamshell chairs, deck chairs with stools, and small sofas under an overhang.  That was one of my favorite places to relax.  There is also a bar. 

The top layer has a number of pergolas with chairs or beds under them, and deck chairs in the sun, plus some umbrellas.  No hammocks. Also whirlpools.  It’s a large Serenity Deck area, but did remain pretty crowded and you had to get there early to get a chair.  People tended to put towels on the chairs to save them but then you never saw the people on the chairs.  I particularly like the waterfall dropping from the top Serenity deck to the small round pool below.  Very relaxing. 

Limelight Lounge

The Limelight Lounge is in the center of deck four.  If you want to get from one end of the ship to the other, and avoid the casino, you can often walk through the Limelight Lounge to get to the other side.  We only saw the comedy acts in the Punchliner Comedy Club, located in the Limelight Lounge.  There is a bar inside the lounge. 

The layout of the lounge is kind of strange.   Instead of putting the stage in the rear of the lounge, it’s right in the center.  This makes the good seating limited, and the rest awkward.  A number of seats are to the sides of the stage where you can’t see the stage.  To help with this, they’ve added TV screens to watch the show on.  Problem was, the screen kept going black and coming back on.  Very annoying. 

Entertainment

Punchliner Comedy Club

As I said, the Punchliner Comedy Club is inside the Limelight Lounge.  Get there early if you want a good seat.  You normally have to exit the lounge after the show and get in line again to get back in for the second show.  The lines got really long sometimes.  And good seating is limited. 

We had four different comedians during our cruise.  One thing that I didn’t like on the Sunshine was that the early comedy shows were not always family friendly.  We normally go to the early shows to avoid the language, but that was not the case.  If you try to avoid the R-rated shows, check the rating before you go in.  This won’t be a problem if you don’t mind the language.  Some of the comedians were funny, some weren’t.   It kind of depends on your sense of humor, I guess.

Liquid Lounge

The Liquid Lounge is the main theater on the Sunshine where they do all the headliner shows.  The group that we saw was leaving at the end of our cruise in early November and a new group was coming on.  I’m not sure if the shows will be staying the same or not.

It’s a nice theater, but kind of small.  I really didn’t like that they had individual chairs in front of the stage instead of the longer pews that you see in most ships.  I think that they could fit more people in with the longer seating.  We preferred to sit in the first row of the balcony because the view was much better from there.  Watch for poles, they can obstruct your view.  This theater isn’t as nice as on other Carnival ships I’ve cruised on.

The group that we had did a very good job.  Most days they had a production number in the evening, and they weren’t the same old shows that we’ve seen on other ships.  It was good to see something new.  Even the Welcome Aboard show had changed.  We weren’t sure that we wanted to go because we’d seen the show on so many ships already., so decided to go and slip out if it was the same.  We were glad that we stayed.  They also did the shore excursion and other shows in the theater. 

Ocean Plaza

Ocean Plaza has a small stage near Red Frog Pub where they have singers, trivia, bingo, and other shows.  We saw Mikey, the Cruise Director, do a Q&A session there.  Not a ton of seating so get there early.

Children’s areas

The ship has the normal children/teen areas, but we didn’t use the area or go in.  I didn’t want to be a creepy adult going through the kids area without kids.

Spa / Gym

I didn’t do much at the spa.  I did go for a Ladies’ pampering party, but there was no pampering, just mostly a sales pitch.  We got a few tiny samples of cleanser and lotion to put on our face and then they tried to sell us services.  If you want to find a discount on the services, this is for you.  If not, skip it.  It actually took place in a small glass-walled off are of the gym.  The spa also has the normal services, such as a beauty shop, a massage parlor, and saunas.  It didn’t seem very busy.  

The Gym is very small, and has the normal equipment.  Treadmills, bikes, weights, etc.  Not a lot of equipment, but it didn’t seem very busy.  You can watch the ocean as you exercise.

Pool area

The ship has one smallish pool on the Lido deck and a tiny pool in the Serenity area.  There is tiered seating with lounge chairs.  People do snatch them up and save them early though. I think there were two hot tubs.  There is also an area with to distribute towels, and some bar areas.  This is where the movie screen is located also.  They have nightly movies, along with popcorn. 

Play area

Carnival Sunshine has three water slides, one yellow twister slide, and two racer slides.  The area also has a miniature golf, a basketball court, and a ropes course. There is also a smaller children’s water play area.  The area didn’t seem very crowded, and there is seating with umbrellas.  We found it a relaxing place to sit.  There weren’t many kids on our cruise though, so it may get crowded at times.  

Deck Three

The outside decks on deck three are good for some quiet time and relaxation.  Deck three on one side of the Atrium area is a smoking area, the other side is non-smoking.   The smoking area is set up with chairs and ashtrays.  The other side has benches, lounge chairs, and chairs.  It’s a good place to go if you want to get away from people for a while.  It’s pretty quiet and not a lot of people go out there.

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