Carnival Sunshine Review and at Home in Port Canaveral

Carnival Sunshine Refurbished, Remodeled and Remarkable.

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When I first heard that Carnival Cruise Line was going to transform the nearly 20-year old Carnival Destiny into a totally new and contemporary ship, I had my doubts.

Multi-story Sunshine Atrium is a central meeting area and great people-watching hangout.
Multi-story Sunshine Atrium is a central meeting area and great people-watching hangout.

However, several weeks in drydock and $155 million dollars later, I am amazed at the end result. The Carnival Destiny, once the largest ship in the world, has entered the 21st century with a new name as the Carnival Sunshine and also with enhancements that span from accommodations and dining to live entertainment and waterpark thrills.

It’s all part of Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0 initiative to drastically spruce up their older and even their not-so-old ships. Which is exactly what they did to the Sunshine, née Destiny.

After the Carnival Destiny’s incredible makeover, name change, and a summer of Mediterranean cruises, the “new” Carnival Sunshine crossed the Atlantic in November 2013. The ship completed a winter season of 7-night Caribbean cruises from New Orleans and was relocated to the Sunshine State at Florida’s Port Canaveral in April 2014.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of days aboard the Carnival Sunshine on a two-night cruise from Port Canaveral to Freeport, Bahamas. Having recently sailed on their newest ship, the Carnival Breeze, I was curious to see how the Carnival Sunshine would compare.

My Carnival Sunshine review.

Massive Waterworks water park with 5 slides, 150 gallon dump bucket and more.
Carnival Waterworks massive water park with 5 slides, 150 gallon dump bucket and more.

First Impressions.
From the exterior, the ship appears the same as before. Until you look up. High in the sky, at the aft end of the ship on deck 10, is the Waterworks. A maze of five, colorful, intertwined and enclosed waterslides climb nearly three decks high, enough to rival any land-based aqua park. That’s just the beginning.

Past Carnival cruisers take note. Instead of the old too familiar Vegas-style glitz and neon, there’s a new subdued, contemporary look and feel from the moment you set foot onboard. This new attitude permeates the entire ship.

My balcony stateroom with twin beds.
My balcony stateroom with twin beds. Beds can also be configured as a king.

The Carnival Sunshine has all the usual stateroom categories: inside, oceanview, balcony and suite. From bunk-bed interior cabins to spacious grand suites, they’ve all been updated in fabric colors and decor.

Large enough shower stall so the curtain won't stick to you!
Large enough shower stall so the curtain won’t stick to you!

My balcony stateroom was located almost at the front of the ship, on deck 8. There’s a ton of storage space;  closets, cabinets, shelves and ample room under the bed to stow suitcases. The bathroom shower stall seemed larger than I remembered on previous Carnival ships.

Carnival's toiletry goodies.
Carnival’s toiletry goodies.

On the bathroom counter was Carnival’s signature little basket of assorted name-brand toiletries. The balcony itself was a nice size, equipped with two adjustable semi-reclining chairs and a mini table. The stateroom had a digital safe, hair-dryer-in-a-drawer, flat panel TV and good lighting throughout the room. Only thing missing was a full-length mirror and mini-bar/refrigerator. Note: the suites have mini-bars.

Entrance to Cloud 9 Spa. Check for port day discounts and special promotions.
Entrance to Cloud 9 Spa. Check for port day discounts and special promotions.

Staterooms are designed for every budget. Within each category there are various configurations of cabins. Spa-lovers can reserve a Spa Balcony stateroom located on either decks 9, 10 or 11 at the front of the ship, near the Cloud 9 Spa on deck 10. Guests in spa suites get Elemis-brand toiletries and complimentary use of the spa’s thermal suite. There are also several larger Grand and Oceanview suites, although they were all sold out on my short cruise so I couldn’t peek in for a photo.

It's the Lido Marketplace, on deck 9 at the aft of the ship. Pizzeria del Capitan is located here.
Cloud 9 Fitness Center on deck 10. This was enlarged to accommodate guests the 182 new cabins.

Dining and Bars.
Dining rooms remodeled and renamed? Yes. Everything food-related was either refurbished or brand new. The newest additions to Carnival include Pizzeria del Capitano, Shake Spot (non- and alcoholic shakes) and JavaBlue Café (located next to each other) and the Havana Bar serving complimentary Cuban snacks during the day. Don’t miss dining at my new favorite restaurant and totally worth the measly $12 cover charge – Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, Carnival’s first ever Asian restaurant. 

One of many appetizers at JiJi Asian Kitchen. The condiments are for the
One of many appetizers served at my new favorite restaurant, JiJi Asian Kitchen. The colorful condiments are for the Asian prawn crackers.
One of the best Asian restaurants at sea, JiJi Asian Kitchen is a melange of tastes and flavors from all across Asia.
One of the best Asian restaurants at sea, JiJi Asian Kitchen is a mélange of tastes & flavors from across Asia.

Another addition along the main “thoroughfare” (Ocean Plaza) is the Taste Bar. Meander over in the late afternoon for bite-sized portions of foods from the various specialty restaurants. My favorite? Nonna’s meatballs and sauce. AND…unbeknownst to most passengers, the Taste Bar is also open for breakfast; no lines, no wait.

Guy Fieri's signature burger bar. Yes, you can get one without meat, too. Don't forget the fries!
Guy Fieri’s signature burger bar. You can get one without meat, too. Don’t forget the fries! Photo: Carnival

Carnival also added their signature Fun Ship 2.0 dining venues. I’ll cave in once per cruise for a special Guy Fieri burger at Guy’s Burger Joint. It’s located poolside near the RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and BlueIguana Cantina, serving Mexican burritos and tacos. Inside on the Promenade Deck is the Alchemy Bar, the RedFrog Pub and EA Sports Bar.

Carnival’s steakhouse Fahrenheit 555, family-style Italian eatery Cucina del Capitano and Bonsai Sushi have been added as well. For guests looking for a little quiet and a cocktail or glass of wine, there’s the Library Bar, featuring self-serve wine dispensers and also has bartender service.

I didn’t list all of the bars…that could go on for a while. There are a total of 11 bars and lounges throughout the ship. Be sure to stop by the Alchemy Bar and try one of their signature cocktails.


Liquid Lounge. Probably because it
Liquid Lounge. Probably because it “flows” from a production theater into a nightclub when the chairs are removed from the dance floor!

What’s amazing on the Sunshine is the main theater, Liquid Lounge. Out with fixed seats on the center main floor, and in with removable cushioned chairs. Out with the third level balcony and in with 182 newly designed staterooms (they had to build them somewhere!)  But you’ll still find the main production shows here…and in a shortened version of about 30 minutes.

Afterwards, the dual-purpose Liquid Lounge transforms into a late-night disco. Chairs are hauled out of sight, the DJ takes the mic and the music pulsates until the wee hours.

For laughs, head over to the George Lopez Punchliner Comedy club. No, George Lopez isn’t on the ship of course, but his selection and overseeing of comedic talent prevails and leads to very funny stand-up shows.

Outdoor entertainment and adventurous fun can be found at the aft of the ship, at Waterworks and SportsSquare. Waterworks offers over three dozen water attractions including a huge bucket that dumps 150 gallons of water onto whomever dares to stand underneath it, every few minutes. There are the five twisty-turny waterslides including the longest slide in the Carnival fleet, the 47′ -high Twister.

The SportsSquare is interwoven beneath the waterslides. It's not as scary as it looks....or is it?
The SportsSquare is interwoven amid the twisting waterslides. It’s not as scary as it looks….or is it?

Over at the brightly colored SportsSquare, try the daring ropes course (I did not) or a benign game of mini-golf. There’s also a running track and basketball court and several tabletop games.

Lots of music and dancing on the sailaway for the Carnival Sunshine.
When there’s not music and dancing, there’s movies on the big screen at the Seaside Theater.

The Seaside Theater features outdoor movie on the big screen. At night, there are  complimentary bags of freshly-popped popcorn.

Carnival is moving in a new direction while at the same time, not alienating guests who have come to expect a certain level of onboard fun. While the interior colors are muted, the ambiance isn’t. Expect to cruise with guests who want to have fun, see the shows, dine at restaurants as good or better than some land-based places and soak up the sun on deck.

Three decks of the adults-only Serenity Retreat.
Three decks of the adults-only Serenity Retreat. Rendering photo: Carnival

I especially like the Carnival Sunshine’s three levels of adults-only quiet space at the Serenity Retreat. Great for those who want a little down time. With so many family-friendly onboard activities, Camp Carnival and the soon-to-be introduced Camp Ocean kids and teens programs, the Carnival Sunshine will attract families year-round. Plus, the port’s proximity to Disney, Universal and the Kennedy Space Center contribute to make the Carnival Sunshine as a perfect cruise vacation option for families.

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