September 2013 - Carnival Sunshine to Europe - Mediterranean
This was a great itinerary - unbeatable in most regards. Weather cooperated most of the time and overall there was great value for the dollar spent. Port excursions were also excellent - I always take the cruise ship excursions and I have never been disappointed. A few excursions were cancelled (none of mine) and that was disappointing for those affected.
Barcelona is amazing. I visited the Cinque Terre in Livorno and that was amazing. Rome and Naples are always spectacular. Dubrovnik was a special treat - a very beautiful port. Venice is ideal, even in the rain, as a very special destination. Messina in Sicily was also great and I had a trip to Mt. Etna that I really enjoyed. I kind of forgot Monaco - it is interesting but having been there before I had nothing new to see or do.
The Carnival Sunshine was ok. It had a lot of hype but I found that some of it was a bit over the top. The new bars were just bars with a new theme. The Fahrenheit 555 Steakhourse is a huge success. I had the best meal there ever and ther service was unbelievalbe. For a small fee, I had a great time. I highly recommend it. JiJi's Asian Kitchen and Cuchina del Capîtano were similary wonderful. Guy's Burger Joint was nothing to write home about - the old burger stations were fine and the fries in the new Guy's Burger Joint are seasoned so much that at times they were inedible. Guy's was nothing special.
The new shows were great - more of them and quite a good variety. The piano bar moved to a special venue - not sure why.
Not sure if removing 25% of the regular dining space was ideal. The Sunset Dining Room was reduced to half its size and was the only dining room with fixed time dining. However, I realize that I like fixed seating and that any time dining is the new trend. Also, the wait staff had more tables to handle in the dining room which made it a bit of an ordeal for them and service levels dropped a bit. However, the staff all worked very hard.
I did not use the exercise or amusement facilities but they were pretty spectacular. Also, I had a great spa experience with a relaxing massage. But the price was not so relaxing.
Faster to the Fun was a wonderful investment. I am Gold, with a ways to go to Platinum, so early boarding and expedited touring was great.
Overall the ship was still being retrofitted. For several days there were buckets in the hall ways collecting water that was leaking. I would think that after all this time. the retro fit would have been complete. However, it is obvious that a refit the size of the Sunshine refit had surprises for all involved that were not predictable.
Overall this cruise met all of my expecrtations. Carnival is trying hard to overcome the bad PR of recent months and needs to work harder. Small improvements mean a lot to people. Also, the staff on the ship were amazing, as always. Remember to tip well when you are on a cruise if the service is good - those people work hard and are not paid much. We have the privilege of cruising - the least we can do is reward them for making our cruise enjoyable.
I had a great time and will continue to cruise Carnival loyally. However, I am sad that there are no boats in Europe next year. I like longer cruises and to keep its clients Carnival will need to offer more than the standard Carribean cruises. More special cruises on top of repositioning cruises would be fun.