A $155 million 75-day dry-dock endeavor in Italy brought 1996’s groundbreaking Carnival Destiny into the 21st century as Carnival Sunshine. The (nearly) new ship now features all of the popular Fun Ship 2.0 innovations--even the ones that newer ships with less usable public space weren’t able to get, like multiple alternative dining venues and a SportSquare with its own outdoor fitness center. The 3,006-passenger, 102,853-gross-ton ship also received some first-in-fleet additions, including a plunge pool for the 3-level Serenity adult deck.
This was the largest cruise ship renovation project in Carnival’s history, and it went well beyond cosmetic updates, with the addition of 182 new cabins and Carnival’s largest adults-only space. The décor was completely redone throughout, and the original theater was renovated and received new audio-visual tech.
With the addition of the new staterooms, there are now 1,503 cabins: 55 varied suites (Captain’s Suites, Grand Suites, Spa Suites and Ocean Suites); 508 Ocean View with Balcony; 308 Ocean View without Balcony; and 632 Interior Staterooms. The popular Ocean View with Balcony stateroom feels quite spacious for the category and includes bright new decor, a mid-size flat screen TV, sleek storage, and bathroom updates.
You could say that Carnival Sunshine offers the best of all Carnival dining concepts: the fast-casual favorites including BlueIguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint; the less common alternative restaurants like JiJi Asian Kitchen and Cucina del Capitano; and maxed-out versions of the Lido buffet (sandwiches, stir-fry and pizza counters to complement the main cafeteria setup) and formal dining rooms.
While much ado is made of the greasy-delicious burgers at Guy’s and the tacos (or breakfast burritos) in BlueIguana, it’s often the other specialty fast-casual stations around the buffet area that offer the most delicious surprises. Some regular Carnival cruisers recommend the brick oven pizza; others swear by the deli sandwiches. The omelet station adjacent to Havana Bar is a little-known secret and the line is worth the wait.
Of the alternative restaurants, JiJi Asian Kitchen is the standout because it’s only on one other ship (Vista) and it was unique among the fleet before that. Also, cruisers applaud the quality of the pan-Asian food, especially given the nominal $15 per person ($5 per child) surcharge.
Carnival’s steakhouse concept on this ship is Fahrenheit 555, and it is as sophisticated and modern as any venue in the fleet. The 4-course menu of prime beef and seafood is the same as other ships in fleet though, and so is the $35 per adult/$10 per child surcharge.
The main dining rooms are Sunrise and Sunset. Sunrise spans two levels and is dedicated to traditional dinner service, where guests pre-select their seating time and are assigned where to sit. Sunset somewhat accommodates flexible “Your Time Dining”; the ship has extra systems in place, like a check-in area and seating by numbers, to attempt at crowd control during peak dinner hours.
Bars and Lounges
While RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar always have a steady flow of customers thanks to their position flanking the Lido pool, Havana Bar is actually the fan favorite of the drinking establishments. It serves Caribbean cocktails, Cuban coffee, and a limited (but no-fee) selection of Cuban snacks and sweet treats.
Other bars onboard include RedFrog Pub, Alchemy cocktail lounge, a newly rebranded SKYBOX Sports Bar, and perhaps one of the great grownup innovations fleetwide: a Library Bar, where you can self-serve wines by the glass from an enomatic wine dispenser (like a tap).
One highly unusual quirk of Sunshine’s setup is that the main theater and the dance club are both in the same space: the Liquid Lounge. It’s small to be a main showroom on a Carnival ship: only 800 seats. However, it converts to an enormous disco.
Punchliner Comedy Club is a popular—perhaps over-popular--offering most nights of any given sailing. It takes place in the Limelight Lounge, where seating can be a challenge due to the layout and size of the room. Get there early!
Dive-in Movie Nights on the Lido Deck are a popular family-friendly evening pastime. This is the mid-ship outdoor entertainment hub, though, and at other times it’s the site of amped-up DJ dance parties and adult-oriented events (hairy chest contest anyone?).
Seadays on Sunshine are stupendous, and really demonstrate Carnival’s intention to serve up Fun for any sort of passenger. Not just to be a family-friendly ship, but to be a ship where grownups can do their thing, kids can have a blast doing theirs, and all the age groups can mingle during certain times.
Adults really get spoiled at the Serenity retreat—not just the largest in the fleet, but the only one featuring a waterfall and plunge pool. This is considered to be the prettiest element on the entire ship. The three-level area also boasts whirlpools and dedicated bars.
One of the few non-Dream class ships to have a Cloud 9 Spa, Sunshine provides yet another serene haven—although with this one you must either book a treatment or buy a day pass to enter. A lot of couples splurge on a Spa Cabin just so they can enjoy the facilities—and the quiet—whenever they like.
Now, for the loud areas: WaterWorks and the Lido pool probably vie for the title of “most noisy.” WaterWorks is where the screams of terrified glee originate, while the main pool deck is the source of DJ dance-off music and crowd cheering during contests. WaterWorks on this ship has five waterslides, which is more than even the Dream class ships can claim.
Seuss at Sea is Carnival’s popular partnership with the Seuss brand, and encompasses a number of different free activities like Seuss-a-palooza.
SportSquare is packed with all-ages activities, ranging from ping-pong to pool to Twister to miniature golf. The elevated ropes course is one level up from most of these activities. Tweens tend to love this activity and repeat it many times. Parents? Not so much…
The setup of this ship is different from others, and confuses people because many of the familiar and direct routes to venues are not available.
In addition to being a bit small for the crowds, the numerous obstructed viewing points in Limelight make it tough to get a good seat for Punchliner Comedy Club.
Most people agree that the flexible anytime dinner seating isn’t really operating on “Your Time,” since people have to wait in a holding area or go through multiple checkpoints before getting taken to a table.
The rooms don’t seem to have gone through as extensive of an update as the common areas, and old wear-and-tear is beginning to encroach on 2013’s renovations.
The pools, especially the main one on the Lido deck, are too small to provide decent swimming to all 3000 passengers.