6 Essential Tips for Sailing on Carnival Sunshine

carnival sunshine cruise tips serenity retreat
The Serenity Retreat area on Carnival Sunshine. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Whether you’re considering a cruise on Carnival Sunshine or already booked, here are the best tips from our members for cruising aboard one of Carnival Cruise Line’s most popular ships.

1. Learn the layout as soon as you board the ship (or ahead of time).

carnival sunshine tips cruise layout
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the ship’s layout. Multiple members mentioned that the design can be confusing at times, and that almost no decks connect all the way from forward to aft. We suggest both looking at the deck plans online before your cruise, and then taking the time on embarkation day to walk around on every public deck (and the deck your cabin is on) to see what connects where. The sooner you get to know the ship, the smoother your sailing will be!

“Learn the boat layout ASAP. What decks will get you forward and aft.” - charlesvane

“If you like to lounge in the sun I would Recommend you check out all the decks on your first day to find areas you prefer.” - hackie

“Review of map of the ship. There are only two Decks that you can cross all the way across the ship without having to go up or down different floors to get where you need to go.” - EricaOliver21

“Learn the layout of the ship early on to prevent getting lost. The Sunshine is a very large ship and I spent a lot of time walking around lost because I got turned around on the ship." - MamaKey

“Find your way around quick, it can be very frustrating trying to get down to the lobby, or your dining area…” - tinadalonzo

"Get familiar with ship. Deck 5 is the only way to get from front to back. Have to go through casino smoke. Bad design." - geneholt

Tip: Want to have the deck plans handy on your cruise? Download our Ship Mate app, add your cruise to your profile and download it, and you’ll be able to access the ship’s deck plans even if you don’t have an internet connection.


2. Go to Cucina del Capitano and Ji Ji Asian Kitchen for lunch.

carnival sunshine cucina del capitano italian dining lunch
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Many Carnival cruisers still don’t realize that even though Cucina del Capitano and Ji Ji Asian Kitchen are specialty restaurants by night, they offer complimentary grub at lunchtime. Ji Ji becomes the Mongolian Wok at breakfast and lunch, offering a build-your-own bowl where you can choose your noodles, protein, vegetables, and sauce and then a chef stir-fries it up for you. At Cucina, the concept is similar. Passengers can pick their pasta, sauce, and a variety of toppings including veggies and meats.

“Lunch options are best on this ship with the Lido buffet extending all the way aft (Havana Bar, JiJi's and Italian restaurant. Having all the extra area along with Mongolian BBQ, Cuban food and Pasta adds to the choices and reduces the crowding.” - ronehall

“Take Advantage of speciality restaurants at beginning before others realize open for breakfast and lunch.” - WynRich

“Make sure you check out the free breakfast and lunch made to order in the to Specialty restaurants Italian and Asian they offer freshly made omelettes for breakfast and stir-fry and make your own pasta for lunch.” - Jcutepsycho

“Get to JiJi’s for omelettes or Mongolian stir-fry early! I had breakfast by 8am every morning & lunch by noon to avoid the crowds. It’s worth it though- the food is so much better than the buffet!” - axa116


3. Eat in the Havana Bar area (even if you’re grabbing food elsewhere).

carnival sunshine havana bar cuba lunch dining tips
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

On Carnival Sunshine, the Havana Bar, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, and Cucina del Capitano are all located adjacent to the lido buffet on deck 9 aft.  At breakfast, the Mongolian Wok side provides made-to-order omelettes, and plenty of our members made sure to recommend this fresh option. The Havana Bar also has a very small buffet-style station, serving Cuban cuisine both at breakfast and lunch.

Whether you take advantage of these two offerings or not though, we saw an overwhelming amount of reviewers suggest eating in the Havana Bar area, even if you just take in your food from the lido buffet. Many people don’t think to do that — making it less crowded, and the air conditioning is much more comfortable there for many passengers as opposed to the crowded buffet dining space. Plus, it has a beautiful sea view to boot.

“Eat in the Havana bar. It is cooler back there because most people don't know you can eat there. This is also where the egg stations are. You can get plain fried eggs you do not have to get an omelet. Most importantly, enjoy spending time with your family on vacation!” - Bama

“Sit in the Havana Bar if you are eating at the buffet. Also, the Italian and Orienal restaurants located in the Havana Bar area are free for lunch.” - BDRebel

“Take your food into the Havana Cafe for great, air-conditioned views while eating.” - 2020tammyj

“A quick piece of advice would be to utilize the Havana Bar area of the ship for buffet dining and drinks, it was never busy, had great views during the day, and fun music at night.” - tayafaith

“Go to the Havana Bar for breakfast....that is where the omelets to order are.” - retiredlabrat

"The Havana Bar area is beautiful, find it and eat your Lido meals there--quiet! Also--an omelette station is there until noon I believe--great stuff!"  - pianogal4

“The Havana Bar, (tucked in at the very back of the ship behind the Lido Marketplace) - a great find. Could usually find a seat there when the marketplace tables were full.” - staplesng


4. The lido deck gets crowded, so snag your spot early.

carnival sunshine tips lido deck pool
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

When Carnival Destiny was revamped and turned into Carnival Sunshine, over 100 cabins were added. Not only does that mean more passengers, it also means less public space. Some areas seem to fare just fine, such as the Serenity deck. However, other areas are often noticeably congested, and maybe none more than the ship’s central lido deck. Reviewers suggested getting up there early (and we mean early) in the morning to snag one of the coveted loungers where all of the action is happening. But we’d like to remind you that this does not mean you can set stuff down and then disappear for two hours. If you would like a prime spot on the pool deck, you need to actually stay and utilize it.

“Be prepared to have a hard time finding a chair on the open decks. There are too many people and not enough chairs!” - conquest1

“Get to the pool early on days at sea. You'll find that plenty of folks "reserve" chairs for themselves. Don't be afraid to talk with the staff if this is the case. They will remove the stuff and give you those chairs.” - jertlc

“Be prepared to have some difficulty finding a lounge chair on the upper decks on sea days." - JBarrcpa

“Pack your patience if you want to enjoy a drink near the pool.” - LydiaG

“Very crowded pool area. If you like a more quiet place to relax, try the back by the slide entrance on deck 10.” - Steveandtra

“If you want to sit on any lounge chair and catch some rays be sure to reserve your chair early.” - tomgina


5. Take advantage of the adults-only Serenity Retreat.

carnival sunshine serenity retreat adults tips
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Every Carnival ship has a Serenity Retreat, but the one on Sunshine is probably the best and most unique in the fleet. It’s actually spread out among three decks and overlooks the lido pool area, unlike most others in the fleet that overlook the wake at the ship’s aft. It includes the usual loungers, clamshells, hammocks, a full bar, and a whirlpool spa. What makes it extra special is a small circular pool that boasts a two-story cascading waterfall — no other Carnival ship has this feature. Members urged future Carnival Sunshine cruisers to take advantage of this child-free space and spend as much time there as they can, because it truly is the perfect afternoon sea day spot.

“The pool on the Serenity Deck is a MUST SEE! Do yourself a favor and hang out there.” - dannrab

“Enjoy quiet moments on the comfy lounges and hammocks located on the adults-only Serenity deck--one of Sunshine's best features.” - emerichcb

“Spend some time in the Adult only SERENITY pool area, it is the best place to take in all of the happenings on the LIDO deck and still be a part of the action.” - DnSThompson

“Enjoy the Serenity Deck. It’s the largest offering of the entire Carnival lineup with a waterfall too!” - Hizairness

“We had a wonderful time on this ship. Adults check out the serenity deck. It’s one of the best ones of all the ships I’ve been on. They have hammocks and various other specialty loungers. We spent a lot of time here!!” - Michele13

"Serenity Deck is a wonderful place to relax. Peaceful and quiet, great for reading or taking a nap even. Comfortable chairs, hammocks, clamshell chairs if it is breezy. Wonderful!!" - Judlah


READ MORE: The Best Adult-Only Areas on Cruise Ships


6. Get to evening shows early.

carnival sunshine tips liquid lounge theater
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Like the lido deck in the morning, you’ll want to arrive to evening productions and comedy shows well before the start time. It’s not just a matter of getting a good seat, either. Arrive late and you may not be able to get in at all. The Limelight Lounge is a multi-purpose space best known for hosting the Punchliner Comedy Club, and trust us when we say that they’re very popular — particularly the late-night, adults-only sets. Many Carnival cruisers think that the space is too small for these types of shows, and we’re inclined to agree. Sometimes, you can arrive 20-30 minutes early and still have trouble finding a seat that isn’t in the very back, or finding a seat at all. Crew will close the door after it reaches a certain capacity.

A common suggestion we see is for Carnival to move their comedy sets to the ship’s main theater, called the Liquid Lounge, even if it’s just for the adults-only shows. So far though, they continue to stick with the Limelight Lounge. And speaking of the main theater, you’ll want to arrive early to evening shows there, too. 

“Get to shows/ activities early if you want a good seat or a seat at all, especially the comedy shows.” - bearcub

“Be early to all activites, dining etc - not enough seating.” - sunshine2018

“Get to the theater early. People start lining up about 30 minutes before shows start, and then push and shove to get the good seats. About half of the seats are bad, so that you can't see half the show. From the balcony, the lights are in the way of the movie screens, which are used in some shows.” - Cruise2Often

“Comedy shows get full. Go early if possible.” - pereiraalzira


Other Notable Tips

carnival sunshine piano bar tips
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

"The Piano bar is a great place to joke around and drink and sing. Very entertaining and everyone can get involved in the fun." - Cruiser86626292

"Avoid deck 5 aft cabins if you don't want to walk through smoke everyday." - Privateer43

“Go to the very front of the ship on deck 6/7 on either side there will be a set of double doors that will lead you to the front of the ship right under the bridge. (Yes you are allowed to be there) great place for pictures and is never anyone else there.” - rainbowwkitten

"Pre cruise, you can buy a bottle of Booze from the Carnival Store, and it will be in your cabin when you get there. Not real cheep, but a great idea. We enjoy a drink on the Balcony in the evening." - RPACKWOO

"Shake Spot is the best place for a delicious shake (with or without alcohol) and desserts (Blue Velvet Cake!!!!)." - blackbootproduc

"On days that we had early excursions we planned ahead to order room service for breakfast so that we could get ready and leave quickly." - bbgreer



Join the discussion

Have you ever sailed Carnival Sunshine?

1 Comment

Posted by judedean

We were on the Sunshine from Sept. 14-22th 2019. I thought it was one of the worst cruise ship I have been on. The crew was great. The food was not good. The buffet was always crowded. They lined up to go around and around the buffet line. They were being told not to form a line but they thought they might not get something from every pan. It was almost funny to watch these people who acted like this was their last meal. You always had to hunt for a table that was in an air conditioned area. Chairs around the pool area were loaded down with stuff but not people. This was also true in the evenings when movies were being show. We were given a room for 3 people with a roll away bed. What happened to the futon or even a bed that would come down from the wall. We were jammed in a room that would have been crowded for 2 people. The entertainment was almost non existent. We watched one show and we had to sit beside the stage with no view of the performer. We watched the show on a monitor. The serenity deck was for 21 and older. Our granddaughter was 20 so we never checked it out. I would check out other cruise ships.

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