May 2016 - 5 Night Bahamas (Charleston Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Sunshine
Background: This is my husband and I's second cruise, but first with our young kids.
BOOKING: Initially booked this cruise while on our last cruise to capture the on-board credits. The booking agent led us to believe we would receive $50 credit per person, so we excepted $250 total for our family of five. Nope, while onboard we were told it was just $100 for the whole cruise, not based on number of people. Then, we also transferred our booking to Delta Skymiiles Cruises (who we also had used previously) to capture extra bonuses such as airline miles and more onboard credit. Somehow, Delta Skymiles wriggled out of this promise and we only received the miles and there was nothing to be done while on board except to get over it. In the end, we ended up with much less credit then I had anticipated (and budgeted) for which was disappointing.
EMBARKATION: HORRIBLE!! Carnival's website says all cruise passengers enter through gate 2. We arrived right at 12:30 as stated on our boarding passes. My MIL dropped us off so we could just grab our stuff and go plus avoid paying for parking. About 25 to 30 other people stood outside gate 2. The gates opened and only allowed cars to go through. We stood at the gate for OVER AN HOUR with small children and all our luggage among several others who were also drop offs. Kept being told a shuttle was coming to get us, yet we could see all the shuttles about 50 feet away from us, through the gate filling up with people who had parked. It finally took someonefrom Carnival with a little bit of authority (and initiative) to drive up and see us all standing there and get on the phone to order we all be picked up immediately and taken around to the "right place". A place apparently not described as the correct place for drop off on the website.
CABIN: Spacious, clean, everything in good working order. Our three children loved the pullman bed and trundle bed set up. The grown ups got the king size bed. Didn't feel cramped at all. Plenty of closet space and drawers for our things. Loved having the window this time (we chose interior last time). Our steward Mohammed was fantastic! Always greeted our children and made them feel special.
FOOD: We did a repeat of the Chef's Table. Loved the chef but was teensy bit disappointed, it was repeat of the same menu we had last fall. Lido food was decent. Not blown away, but not bad. Iguana burrito bar was yummy, husband loved the Guy's burgers. Food in MDR was hit or miss as it was last time, but overall everything was good (again not superb, but better then most chain restaurants I've been to). Staff was attentive and super friendly with our kids.
STAFF: This ship just got out of a two week dry dock. Compared to our last cruise, we felt like the staff was not less friendly (in fact with our children, they were outgoing and accommodating), several just seemed "new", like most of the staff on our previous cruise were old pros and this staff were a lot of fresh on the job. Didn't make the service bad necessarily, just not as streamlined as we had experienced before. We wondered if they dry dock hiatus had anything to do with this.
CAMP CARNIVAL: SOOO nice. Two young ladies in particular went above and beyond to make our experience great. We have a 2, 3, and 9 year old and all had only good things to say about Camp. We were allowed to rent a double stroller from them which made rolling about Nassau and Freeport much easier. This staff is SO patient and accommodating. I told my husband, I was super impressed that never once was I made to feel like I was annoying them, bothering them, they were so keen to make me and the children happy and comfortable.
ENTERTAINMENT: We didn't get to do as much this cruise since we had the little kids. We did a few of the "dive in" movies which the children loved. We did the special Dr. Suess parade and story time on the second day and the Dr. Suess breakfast on the last day -- both major hits with the small children. We hit the candy store. We got some really great photos. (NOTE TO CARNIVAL: WHY do you print EVERY single pic taken and then so much paper and ink is wasted on a daily basis! Why not just have a kiosk where people can swipe their card, look up their photos, and check off the ones they want printed. Here's a thought, the money saved in paper/ink would help reduce overhead and you can charge less for your pictures!!!!)
OVERALL: Nice ship. I liked somethings about our previous ship better (Splendor) but there were several things the Sunshine had that were nice too. I think the Sunshine could use another pool or two. Perhaps a two foot wading pool for the younger children. We took ours in the hot tubs a few times just because it was chiller and there weren't big kids flailing about.