May 2014 - Carnival Sunshine to Caribbean - Southern
Prior to this cruise, my husband and I were ready to forever write off Carnival as an option for us. The past two cruises were sub-par; terrible food, overworked and unhappy staff, classless guests (someone actually gang-tagged the hallways) and safety concerns. (Re: Safety Concerns- There was a major fire in the room across from ours and the staff, in an effort to keep things hush-hush, didn't notify us or any of the other cabins. Instead, they closed us in with the fire containment doors and when I approached Guest Services, they claimed they knew nothing. The Officer I spoke with told me it was no big deal, yet I saw the flames coming out of the room and witnessed them discretely stripping the room down to the bare walls.)
We booked the Sunshine with significant reservations (no pun intended) but it was a great deal for a great itenerary- a balcony room for an eight-night Southern Caribbean cruise for $700 a person- so we decided we would give Carnival one more chance. We thoroughly loved it and would go again right now, if we could.
The new, understated decor is much needed and much appreciated. Good riddance to that garish, purple, yellow, teal and orange palette and the decor that looked like it had been dreamed up by Liberace on acid.
The food was the best we've had on any cruise ship or cruise line. Guy's Burgers were wonderful, as were the buffets and main dining selections. I never had one thing I didn't like, and I am picky, picky, picky when it comes to good food! The only negative was the wait time for anytime dining. Waits were usually 30-40 minutes, however they gave us beepers and had us wait in the lounge by the tasting bar, so it really wasn't all that bad.
Many people commented on the ship being "chopped up", but we loved the smaller, more intimate spaces. It gave people more options as to where and how they spent their time. Unlike the older ship layouts, with those giant lounges that were only used once or twice for art auctions, or Friends of Bill W., guests were USING the spaces. Scratch that- they were ENJOYING the spaces! All the little bars and pubs and smaller lounges were always nearly full! People seemed to be having a lot more fun on this ship.
As for the entertainment, at any given time there were plenty of options for guests of all ages and preferences. Karaoke, a comedy show, a family game show, the musical performances, trivia, and more. Karaoke was packed, with no shortage of singers- many of whom were quite good- but everyone was enjoying themselves. The two comedians I saw were both very funny and I regret that I didn't get the chance to see the heavy-set lady from SC again. The family gameshow was cute and all ages seemed to really enjoy it- we did! This ship seems to focus on guests being the show or a big part of the show, instead of the passive, Broadway musical-type performances. Be aware that the singing/dancing shows are decidedly smaller and simpler. There was only five or six performers, and they are second-rate talent. High schoolers could do a better job, but bless their hearts, they tried.
The Serinity decks are fabulous and very popular! Comfy, padded lounges and no screaming kids or hairy chest contests. (In fact I didn't see any of those rediculous, pool-side games on this cruise.) The pool is small, but it had a waterfall and sun-shelf around the perimeter, so you could lay in the water while working on your tan. The capacity for the adult pool is only 17 people, but I counted over 40 at one time, so obviously, they need to make it bigger on future ships.
We loved this cruise. It felt more personal and intimate than any other Carnival cruise we've been on. More importantly, it felt more sophisticated and classy, and Carnival needed to be classed-up a little.
Carnival, you're moving in the right direction. You have redeemed yourselves. Please keep up the great work!