Good morning to everyone, except those of you who didn’t tell me what I was missing out on by not going on a cruise! I recently returned from my first-ever cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine, and it was amazing! I had no clue there was so much fun to be had on a cruise ship! As I was preparing for my trip, I read several Carnival Sunshine cruise reviews. While they were quite helpful, I figured the blogosphere needed one more perspective. So, here we go.
Embarking on a cruise is like stepping into a world of endless possibilities. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or setting sail for the first time, this review will take you through the highlights of this unforgettable journey, from the main dining rooms to the calming seas of the Caribbean.
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What port does Carnival Sunshine sail from?
The Carnival Sunshine currently sails from Charleston, South Carolina, but its departure points can vary based on the specific cruise itinerary. Please note cruise itineraries and departure ports are subject to change. Always check the latest information on the official Carnival Cruise Line website or contact the cruise line directly for the most up-to-date details regarding the ship’s current sailings and embarkation ports.
Since I live in Alabama, my family decided to travel to Charleston a couple of days before our cruise. I’m so glad we did! This gave us the opportunity to explore beautiful Charleston. It also gave me peace of mind to be nearby since we were slated to board the ship at noon.
Which ports does the Carnival Sunshine visit?
The Carnival Sunshine visits several ports in the Caribbean. The itinerary is subject to change so be sure to check the Carnival website for the most up-to-date information.
Our cruise stopped in Nassau and Bimini.
First Impression of the Ship
For those cruisers familiar with Carnival Destiny, the revamped Carnival Sunshine offers a refreshing experience with a new name and upgraded features. At first glance, my impression of the Carnival Sunshine was it was big, but not as big as some other ships that I’ve seen. Here is an overview of things I noticed upon boarding the ship:
Efficient Check-In: The embarkation process is smooth and efficient. Carnival staff guided passengers through check-in procedures quickly and with a friendly demeanor. I was very shocked at how quickly they were able to board so many passengers.
Grand Entrance: The Carnival Sunshine makes a striking first impression. It has a vibrant exterior as you approach the embarkation area. I was also impressed with the beautiful atrium area.
Welcoming Atmosphere: The ship’s crew greeted guests with smiles and enthusiasm. It was a party from the moment we stepped on the Carnival Sunshine until the moment we debarked.
Main Dining Rooms: The main dining rooms had well-set tables, creating a sense of anticipation for the culinary delights to come.
Lively Public Areas: Public spaces like the Ocean Plaza and the Alchemy Bar exude a lively energy. They were ideal spots for socializing and enjoying the ship’s ambiance.
Diverse Dining Options: There was a good variety of dining options, from Guy’s Burger Joint to specialty restaurants like Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and Cucina del Capitano. We also liked the variety of the buffet and the late-night snack options. And I have to mention the unlimited ice cream! I definitely had more than my fair share of soft serve during our cruise.
Pool Deck: The Lido Deck was one of my favorite areas with the main pool, water slides, and access to the adults-only retreat area. There was also BlueIguana Cantina and BlueIguana Tequila Bar in that area.
Entertainment Everywhere: The ship buzzed with entertainment options. There was not a dull moment while we were aboard. From the Liquid Lounge and piano bar to the casino and the sports bar, everyone in my group had an enjoyable experience.
Cabin Comfort: Our guest room was cozy but comfortable. We chose a balcony room to enjoy the beautiful views for passengers to unwind after a day of exploration. Our kids had an interior room. It was compact but served its purpose.
Attention to Detail: Small details, such as the carefully crafted decor in specialty venues like the Red Frog Pub and Bonsai Sushi, reflect the ship’s commitment to creating memorable experiences.
Friendly Crew: The Carnival Sunshine’s crew members make a positive first impression. They were friendly, approachable, and willing to assist passengers with any inquiries.
Exciting Phone App: The Carnival Hub App serves as a handy guide while you’re sailing. It offers a glimpse into the exciting activities and events scheduled for the duration of the cruise. It also serves as an information hub and a convenient way to keep up with your on-board purchases.
Clean and Well-Maintained Spaces: Public spaces and cabins were clean and well-maintained.
My overall first impression: I could tell from the moment I boarded the ship that I was going to have a great time.
What are the dining options on the Sunshine?
As a first-time cruiser and a lover of food, one of the main thoughts in my head was, “What am I going to eat for the next five days?” Well, the Carnival Sunshine had no shortage of food options. This ship offers a diverse range of dining options to cater to various tastes and preferences. Here are some of the dining options you can find on board:
- Main Dining Rooms: The ship features two main dining rooms where guests can enjoy a variety of dishes in an elegant setting.
- Guy’s Burger Joint: A popular choice, Guy’s Burger Joint, created in collaboration with celebrity chef Guy Fieri, serves up delicious handcrafted burgers with a variety of toppings. I lost count of how many hamburgers I ate during the cruise.
- Cucina del Capitano: This Italian-themed restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. For lunch, dining at Cucina del Capitano is included in the price of your ticket. For dinner, however, it’s an extra cost.
- Ji Ji Asian Kitchen: For those craving Asian cuisine, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen provides a diverse menu featuring flavors from across Asia in a stylish setting. (Free for lunch, additional cost for dinner.)
- BlueIguana Cantina: A casual spot serving up fresh and flavorful Mexican cuisine, including tacos and burritos, often with a salsa bar for customizing your dishes.
- Bonsai Sushi: A specialty restaurant offering a selection of sushi and other Japanese-inspired dishes, perfect for those with a taste for seafood.
- RedFrog Pub: While known for its beverages, the RedFrog Pub also offers pub-style food with a laid-back atmosphere.
- Sea Day Brunch: Served in the main dining rooms, the Sea Day Brunch is a leisurely and delightful option for late-morning meals on sea days.
- Buffet: Casual buffet-style dining is available on the Sunshine, providing a wide array of options that meet the diverse tastes and needs of diners.
- Java Blue Cafe: If you’re on board and find yourself in need of a caffeine fix or a sweet treat, look no further than Java Blue Cafe.
- Dessert Stations: Various dessert stations are scattered throughout the ship, offering a tempting array of sweets and treats.
- Pizzeria del Capitano: This delicious pizzeria offers handmade pizzas all day and most of the night.
There was definitely no shortage of food options during the cruise. It was nice to have so many options throughout the trip.
What type of entertainment is available on a cruise?
Carnival Sunshine lives up to the cruise line’s reputation as the “Fun Ship”. There are so many things to do on the ship. From live music in the piano bar to Playlist Productions in the Liquid Lounge, there’s something for everyone. Comedy clubs, the Main Theater, and the EA Sports Bar add to the diverse entertainment landscape. Here is a quick snapshot of the entertainment on the ship:
- Playlist Productions: These high-energy musical productions feature talented singers and dancers, delivering captivating performances in the ship’s main theater, the Liquid Lounge. I caught several shows throughout the week.
- Live Music: Throughout the cruise, various live music acts can be found in different venues, including the piano bar, RedFrog Pub, the atrium, and other lounges. Genres ranged from jazz and country to contemporary and pop.
- Comedy Club: The Carnival Sunshine features a comedy club with both family-friendly and adults-only comedy shows.
- Piano Bar: Guests can enjoy the intimate setting of the piano bar, where a pianist entertains with sing-alongs and requests, creating a lively and interactive atmosphere.
- Sports Bar: Sports enthusiasts can catch their favorite games on large flat-screen TVs at the Sports Bar.
- RedFrog Pub: In addition to serving drinks, the RedFrog Pub hosts live music, trivia nights, and other entertainment events. It’s a great place for guests to relax and unwind.
- Nightclub and Dancing: The ship’s nightclub or dance venues offer opportunities for guests to hit the dance floor and enjoy music into the late hours of the evening.
- Dive-In Movies: Outdoor movie nights by the pool are a popular feature on the ship, allowing guests to enjoy blockbuster films under the stars.
- Deck Parties: The Sunshine hosted multiple themed deck parties during the week.
- Trivia and Game Shows: Scheduled trivia sessions and game shows gave guests the opportunity to showcase their knowledge, win prizes and have fun.
- Karaoke: Guests who love to sing and dance will love the organized karaoke events.
In addition to these activities, there are also pools and hot tubs available for swimming and relaxing. There’s also a basketball court, an arcade, ping pong and pool tables, a walking track, a ropes course, and so much more.
What did I love about Carnival Sunshine?
There were several things I loved about this cruise. Here are my top cruise highlights:
- Balcony: I loved having a cabin with a balcony. The balcony was a quiet space for me to escape when I needed to step away from all the fun. It was also a nice way to enjoy the sunrise and get some fresh air. I highly recommend getting a room with a balcony.
- Staff: The staff was very friendly and accommodating. I loved that the staff made the extra effort to learn names and preferences. Service was top-notch throughout the cruise.
- Dining venues: Overall, I enjoyed the food aboard the ship. Of course, some meals were better than others. Though we had dinner in the main dining room each night, the menu varied daily. It was also fun to get dressed up and eat with our family. We don’t get to do that as often now that our kids are adults.
- Guy’s burgers: These burgers were so good. I’m pretty sure I ate at least one burger every day I was on the ship.
- Entertainment: I faithfully checked my Carnival Hub app every morning to see the agenda for the day. I planned my schedule to include as much fun as I could pack in. I took a dance class, a towel-folding class, attended a game show, played bingo, pulled some slots in the casino, sang along at the piano bar, exercised in the gym, did a spa-tasting event, hung out in the library bar and so much more.
- Adults-only retreat: It was nice to have an area designated for adults. There was plenty of seating, a waterfall, and great views in the area.
What did I not love about Carnival Sunshine?
- Smoking: Smoking was allowed in the casino, which made it difficult to enjoy some areas of the ship. Even with smoking confined to certain areas, there were hints of smoke in other areas.
- Pool area: The pools on the Carnival Sunshine were small and crowded.
- Cabin size: While the cabins did provide ample space, I would have loved a bit more space.
- Kids: Hear me out. I love kids and I absolutely agree with kids being able to cruise and have a great time. In fact, there were kids in my cruise party. I did not, however, love that some parents were not adhering to rules regarding keeping kids out of the adult-only serenity area. I’m thankful for passengers who weren’t afraid to speak up and alert crew members.
- Internet: I had access to the premium internet package. It was very unreliable and spotty and rarely worked when I wanted to. (The positive side to the poor internet is that it forced me to be in the moment and enjoy the activities on the ship.)
More information about my Carnival Sunshine cruise
Specific itinerary details
There are several different itineraries for the Carnival Sunshine. Here is a sample itinerary for a 5-day cruise:
From getting on until 3:00pm- check in at your assigned muster station
3:30pm- Listen to the safety briefing announcement broadcast on all speakers
4:45pm- Sail Away Party on lido deck (Deck 9, poolside)
9:30pm- Welcome Aboard Show in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4 and 5
10:15pm- Rock the Promenade (an event that starts in the atrium on deck 3 with dancing and the DJ, ending in Ocean Plaza, deck 5, with the Sunshine Rock Band)
Sea Day 1- Elegant Night
9:30am- Morning Show in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4. Can also be watched on your stateroom tv, channel 14 or on the big screen poolside, deck 9
10:30am- Fun Aboard Fun Ashore Show in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4 (learn about all the fun aboard and fun ashore in this informative presentation. Also get a chance to win some prizes.)
12:00pm- Legend of Lido event on Deck 9 Pool Side (a competition-style event consisting of different rounds to find the ultimate Legend of the Lido Deck)
1:00pm- Seuss-A-Palooza Parade in Ocean Plaza, Deck 5 (a chance to make some noise and meet some new friends as we walk down the promenade chanting “Dr. Seuss is on the loose” into the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4) for story time
1:15pm – Seuss-A-Palooza Story-time, Liquid Lounge, Deck 4. (Hear a whimsical reading of Dr. Seuss’s classic book, Horton Hears a Who)
6:45pm and 8:45pm- Pre Show Selection for Studio VIP, Deck 5
7:00pm and 9:00pm- Doors open in the Liquid Lounge for 7:30 and 9:30 Showtime, Deck 4 and 5
7:15pm- Captains Welcome Toast in the Atrium, Deck 3
7:30pm and 9:30pm- Showtime- Studio VIP in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4 and 5
10:15pm- Motown Music Trivia Party in the Atrium Deck 3
Port Day 1- Could be first or second port day depending on cruise
Enjoy your day out in Port
7:00pm and 9:00pm- Doors open in the Liquid Lounge for 7:30 and 9:30 Showtime, Deck 4 and 5
7:30pm and 9:30pm- Showtime- Epic Rock in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4 and 5
10:30pm- 80’s Rock and Glow Party on Lido Poolside, Deck 9
Port Day 2 – Could be first or second port day depending on cruise
Enjoy your day out in Port
6:45pm- Deal or No Deal cards go on sale in Liquid Lounge, Deck 4
7:30pm- Deal or No Deal Game Show in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4 (just like the TV show, battle the banker and you could walk away with $1000. Audience members who have cards have a chance to win up to $5000)
9:30pm- Love and Marriage Show in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4
11:00pm- The Carnival Quest in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4
Sea Day 2
9:30am- Morning Show in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4. Can also be watched on your stateroom tv, channel 14 or on the big screen poolside, deck 9 (
10:30am- Debarkation Presentation in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4 (Learn about the process on exiting the Carnival Sunshine.)
11:15am- Military Appreciation Gathering in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4
12:30pm- Groove for St. Jude on Lido, Deck 9
1:15pm- Q & Awesome in Liquid Lounge, Deck 4
7:00pm- Doors Open for 7:30pm Showtime in the Liquid Lounge, Deck 4 and 5
7:30pm- Showtime- The World Works Here- Liquid Lounge Deck 4 and 5
8:30pm- 90’s Music Trivia Party in the Atrium, Deck 3 (Test your knowledge when jamming out to these 90’s hits)
Cost and value
The costs associated with a five-day cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine can vary based on several factors, including the time of booking, cabin category, departure port, and any additional expenses incurred during the cruise. Keep in mind that prices are subject to change. Check with Carnival Cruise line directly or visit their website for the most up-to-date information. Here are some general cost considerations:
- Base Fare:
- The base fare typically covers accommodations, meals in the main dining rooms, access to most entertainment options, and use of onboard facilities.
- Cabin Category:
- The type of cabin you choose significantly impacts the cost. Options may include interior cabins, ocean-view cabins, balcony cabins, and suites. Balcony cabins and suites generally cost more than interior cabins.
- Promotions and Discounts:
- Carnival Cruise Line often offers promotions and discounts, especially for early bookings. Keep an eye out for special deals, reduced deposits, or perks like onboard credit.
- Additional Fees and Taxes:
- There may be additional fees and taxes not included in the base fare. These can include port charges, government taxes, and fees imposed by the cruise line.
- Gratuities are typically charged per person, per day, to cover the service provided by the cruise staff. The amount can vary but is usually a set fee per guest.
- Onboard Expenses:
- Additional onboard expenses include optional dining at specialty restaurants, purchases at the onboard shops, spa treatments, shore excursions, alcoholic beverages, and any other optional activities.
- Travel to and from Departure Port:
- The cost of traveling to and from the departure port is not typically included in the cruise fare. Consider expenses such as flights, hotel stays (if arriving a day before embarkation), and ground transportation.
- Travel Insurance:
- While not mandatory, purchasing travel insurance is advisable to cover unforeseen circumstances. The cost of insurance depends on coverage levels and individual factors.
- Parking Fees:
- If you’re driving to the departure port, consider parking fees at or near the port. Some cruise terminals charge a daily parking fee.
- Wi-Fi and Communication:
- Access to the ship’s Wi-Fi and communication services may incur additional charges. Cruise lines often offer internet packages.
My family chose a five-day cruise. For us, that duration was just right: not too short, not too long. Our cruise duration gave us enough time to experience many of the dining options, participate in a variety of activities, explore port cities, and relax on the beach.
Cruises are generally considered family-friendly experiences and can offer a variety of activities and amenities suitable for passengers of all ages, making them an excellent choice for family vacations. The Carnival Sunshine was no exception. There were several things that made this a family-friendly experience for us:
- Diverse Activities: Cruises provide a diverse range of activities, including entertainment shows, kids’ clubs, sports facilities, swimming pools, and family-friendly excursions at ports of call.
- Kids’ Clubs and Programs: The Carnival Sunshine has a dedicated kids’ club and age-specific programs that offer supervised activities, games, and events for children. This allows parents some free time while ensuring kids have a fun and safe experience.
- Family-Friendly Entertainment: Onboard entertainment options included family-friendly shows, movies, and interactive performances suitable for all ages.
- Accommodations for Families: The ship offers a range of cabin options, including family cabins or suites with additional space and amenities to accommodate larger groups. Connecting cabins are also available on some ships.
- Adventure and Exploration: Families can explore different destinations together during shore excursions. Cruise itineraries often include family-friendly excursions that cater to a variety of interests.
- Opportunities for Bonding: Cruises offer a unique environment for families to bond. Shared experiences, whether exploring new destinations or participating in onboard activities, can create lasting memories.
- Themed Cruises: Some cruise lines offer themed cruises tailored to families, featuring characters, activities, and events related to popular movies, cartoons, or franchises.
Excursions and activities
The specific excursions available on the Carnival Sunshine can vary depending on the cruise itinerary and the ports of call visited. Carnival Cruise Line typically offers a variety of shore excursions to cater to different interests and preferences. Here are some common types of excursions you might find. Keep in mind that availability and options can change based on your cruise’s specific itinerary:
- Historical and Cultural Tours:
- Guided tours of historical sites, museums, and landmarks in the port cities.
- Beach and Water Activities:
- Snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, and other water-based activities at tropical destinations.
- Adventure Tours:
- Zip-lining, ATV tours, hiking, and other adventure activities for those seeking an adrenaline rush.
- Wildlife and Nature Exploration:
- Wildlife watching tours, nature walks, and visits to local parks or nature reserves.
- Culinary and Local Cuisine Experiences:
- Food and culinary tours, including tastings of local dishes and visits to markets.
- Shopping and City Exploration:
- Shopping excursions, city tours, and visits to local markets or shopping districts.
- Cruise Line Exclusive Experiences:
- Carnival may offer exclusive excursions or experiences, such as private beach retreats or VIP tours.
- Historical Site Visits:
- Visits to historical landmarks, ancient ruins, or world heritage sites.
- Boat Tours and Cruises:
- Catamaran cruises, boat tours, and sailing adventures exploring coastal areas.
- Relaxation and Spa Day Packages:
- Relaxing spa experiences or beach day packages for those seeking a more laid-back excursion.
- Cultural Performances:
- Attendance at local cultural performances, shows, or festivals.
- Family-Friendly Excursions:
- Activities suitable for families, such as aquarium visits, interactive museums, or family beach days.
- Outdoor Activities:
- Kayaking, paddleboarding, or other outdoor recreational activities.
We enjoyed our time aboard the Carnival Sunshine. It was a delightful adventure filled with unforgettable experiences.
The Carnival Sunshine truly lives up to its reputation as the “Fun Ship.” From the efficient check-in process to the grand entrance and the welcoming atmosphere, every detail seemed carefully designed to ensure a memorable experience.
The ship’s diverse dining options catered to every palate. My favorite was Guy’s Burger Joint. I was on a mission to try every burger on the menu while I was aboard the ship. Mission accomplished.
My favorite activities? The high-energy productions in the Liquid Lounge and relaxing in the serenity area.
While my plan is to explore other ships outside of Carnival Cruise Lines, I would definitely book the Sunshine again.