Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Sunshine Review
Following a $155 million overhaul, Carnival Sunshine is marketed as a “new” ship, with a new name. But our inaugural sailing revealed a ship that was not ready for guests.
Located on Deck 10, just below the SportsSquare and WaterWorks areas, Camp Carnival is a multi-tiered kids program, divided by age: 2- to 5-year-olds, 6- to 8-year-olds, and 9- to 11-year-olds. Parents need to drop off and sign out children in the two younger groups; the older kids have sign-in and -out privileges at all times. The youngest group has an outdoor (enclosed) play area, though it was unfinished during our cruise. Age-appropriate activities were offered, such as face painting, Wii dancing and G-rated movies.
The age 6-8 group participated in magic shows, teddy bear crafting (additional fee required), talent shows and games. The age 9-11 group participated in scavenger hunts, karaoke, and learned towel folding. The facility was most days for an hour or two late afternoon, and babysitting services were offered from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., for $6.75 per hour, per child, plus 15-percent gratuity.
Circle C was the clubhouse for 12- to 14-year-olds—they were allowed to come and go without parental supervision. There was a dance floor and video games, and scheduled activities included Wii games, scavenger hunts, charades, dance class, pizza parties, etc. Club O2 is Carnival’s program for older teens—age 15-17. It was strictly a no-adults, no children retreat (supervised by one adult crewmember). Activities included theme dance parties, water fights, and karaoke shows.
The collection of Fun Shops flanks the central atrium on Deck 5. Among the offerings were resort wear clothing for men and women, watches, jewelry, a modest selection of perfume and cologne selection, along with Carnival Sunshine logo merchandize. There was also a shop with liquor and cigarettes at duty-free prices, and a candy shop called Cherry on Top. Sundries included sun block, pain and cold medications, etc. Overall, the selection didn’t vary much from what we see on other ships (much less at our ports of call), and it was not as extensive as we’ve seen on some big vessels.
On Deck 4, the Pixels Gallery offered the ship’s gang of photographers a place to display photos of guests. Portrait sessions could be scheduled. There was also a small shop selling a limited selection of camera batteries, memory cards, photo albums, as well as point-and-shoot style cameras from Olympus and Fujifilm.
On Deck 2, hidden behind the guest elevator shaft, was the Art Gallery. Art auctions were a staple activity on board.
Our inaugural cruise must have been unusually trying for the crew. Many basic functions were not working or not installed yet, so guest complaints were rife. Yet most crewmembers exhibited an upbeat attitude that managed to walk the fine line between merely acknowledging versus resolution of problems, when they could.
For the first two days of the cruise, a long, slow-moving line snaked down a hallway from the guest services desk at all hours. Our first wait to resolve cabin issues kept us in this line for 2 hours, 10 minutes. The desk seemed to have been staffed at the level for a normal cruise—a real miscalculation by headquarters that only exacerbated the complaints. Issues seemed to be inefficiently logged-in, which might be why some problems took days to resolve (yes, we waited in line two additional times to deal with problems).
On the third day of our cruise the captain released a letter to all guests offering a $150 credit, per cabin, for the inconveniences. Guest relations staff also provided additional credits—a percentage of the original cruise fare paid—on a case-by-case basis to those who experienced more extensive headaches.
The ship’s daily newsletter, Fun Times, landed in our cabin each evening. The layout of the newsletter wasn’t always conducive for easily identifying for what was going on at any given time. Some events were listed in an hour-by-hour schedule, but others—especially live music—were listed elsewhere. Still, there were plenty of booming P.A. announcements for shore excursions, art auctions and Bingo events by Sunshine’s Cruise Director (who never acknowledged the ship-wide problems taking place). All of these were loud enough in the corridors to be heard loud and clear within our cabin, even drowning out the sound on our TV.
The main Internet station was located next to JaveBlue Café. PCs were provided, and an attendant was often available for questions. There were also a couple Fun Hubs set up at other high-traffic areas of the ship (such as the lobby) where a couple computers were set up for guest use.
The WiFi was clunky the first couple days of our cruise, but thereafter ran pretty well—faster, in fact, than we’ve had on some other ships. The basic Internet usage plan was .75 per minute, plus a one-time $3.95 activation fee; this covered computers in the café as well as WiFi around the ship. There were various packages available that brought the per-minute price down to .64 per minute (45 minutes for $29), .49 per minute (120 minutes for $59), etc. There was a printer available, for .50 per page.
Carnival’s dress code is fairly informal, day and night. That said, “gym or basketball shorts, flip flops, bathing suit attire, cut-off jeans and men’s sleeveless shirts” are not allowed in the restaurants (presumably, though not explicitly, this policy is not in effect for the Lido Marketplace).
One or two nights of each cruise are designated as Elegant Evenings. In addition to the above, on these nights shorts, T-shirts, jeans, sportswear and baseball hats were not allowed in the restaurants. Jackets were not required for men.
Most Carnival ships have a formal shop renting tuxes for men; we didn’t find one open on Sunshine’s inaugural cruise, but it’s possible it was opened for subsequent cruises.
Sunshine has self-serve laundry rooms, with washers, dryers and an iron and ironing board. Each load is $3 for the wash, $3 for dry, and boxes of detergent were $1 each. Laundry service (but not dry cleaning) is available, at the usual inflated hotel prices.
General Health & Safety
While there were no apparent health issues during our cruise, we had safety concerns—mostly stemming from Carnival Sunshine’s renovation being incomplete at embarkation. Most of the ship’s unfinished areas were off-limits to guests, but at two outdoor staircases leading from Deck 10 down to Deck 9 an essential wooden plank was missing at the top step, causing a one-inch metal lip to be exposed. We observed multiple able-bodied guests stumble here, catching themselves before a fall; a temporary fix was not fashioned for this hazard until the third day of our cruise. Exposed ductwork, chemical smells and flooded carpets may or may not have posed safety issues, but these types of problems were rampant for the first few days of the cruise. Presumably, all of these issues have long since been resolved.
The muster drill was held just prior to sail-away. We were not required to bring life jackets from our cabin to the drill and roll call was not taken. Muster stations were located on deck 4.
A medical center is located on Deck 0, a level that otherwise has no guest facilities. The office was open from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, and 1 to 8 p.m. daily; the doctor was available during most of these hours.
Carnival Sunshine had several areas designated for smoking. This included the port side of Deck 3, the starboard side of Deck 10 near the outdoor stage area, and the port side of the casino, including the casino bar. Smoking was also allowed on guest balconies, though not for the spa cabins on decks 10 and higher. We were in an interior spa cabin, so balcony smoke didn’t affect us, and the only part of the ship that was excessively smoky was the casino.
For information on Carnival Cruise Lines’ tipping and service charge policy, see here.
For information on Carnival Cruise Lines’ alcohol policy, see here.
For information on Carnival Cruise Lines’ loyalty program, see here.
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