Thursday, March 6, 2014

Carnival Sunshine Cruise Review

 Carnival Sunshine Cruise Review

February 23, 2014

Just The Facts
Ship:  Carnival Sunshine
Ship Captain: Roberto Leotta   
Cruise Director: Butch Begovich
Ports: New Orleans, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Weather:  Good all week

This is my 41st Carnival cruise, 4th time on the Carnival Sunshine, and 87th cruise overall. I am cruising with my dear wife (DW) and eight good friends.  This is the second week of a Back-to-Back (B2B) cruise.  For those reading this review for information on the Carnival Sunshine please read all my previous reviews on her as after sailing her so many times I will not be attending all the various shows or events this week as one would do on a cruise on a lesser known ship.  I will have by the conclusion of this cruise eaten at all the food venues, visited all the bars, and participated in most all ship activities. 

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
First in Red Frog
The weather is rainy in NOLA, but an easy Embarkation Day as we are already on the ship. We moved from deck 8 to deck 5 between 9:00-10:00 am. this morning then met the other B2B guests in the lobby.  Embarkation is very smooth today and this is as early as I can remember a B2B ‘walk off-walk on’.  We were back on the ship just after 10:30 so it was a rush to the Red Frog Pub for the ‘first’ free beers.  We did make it first and it was the first time I was ever able to beat other guests even though doing a B2B as usually we are not first to board the ship, but it was very smooth this morning and it worked for us.  The group also gathered for the first tube of Thirsty Frog Red beer.  A good start for the second week of the cruise.  We then all went up to the Havana Bar to eat lunch and since it was rainy outside there were many more people in there than usual, but the lines were not bad for the Mongolian Grill.  I had a great bowl and DW had pasta from the Cucina del Capitano.  We then returned to the cabin to finish unpacking.  The great news is that we have the same cabin steward, Antonio, as I had for 16 days on the Sunshine Transatlantic and he is excellent.  We tried to take some bags to our car, but they would not allow us to leave because they were under weather sailing conditions and could be forced to leave at any time.  That’s fine is is foggy outside.  Since we are on deck 5 and so close to the Alchemy I was able to get a proper Cherry Kiss cocktail from Miro before they closed for the safety drill.  Boat Drill was about 3:40 pm somewhat earlier than last week, and we sailed away earlier about 4:00pm just as a window of sunshine appeared.  I hope all the passengers made it on board.  We went to a FUN sail away party for our group on deck 7.  It was dark when we sailed last week so the views from the balcony were nice and interesting due to patches of remaining fog.  We went to the Alchemy for an aperitif then to dinner.  Matre’D Ken assigned us the 12-top Captain’s Table in the front of the dining room for our group. Thanks Ken, it’s good to have us ALL at one table.  It is again the traditional Carnival menu items tonight and I had the Linguine & Sausage as a starter, Gazpacho, Heart of Lettuce Salad, the Tilapia entree, and Creme Brûlée for dessert.  We passed on the Welcome Show with Butch and retired early, A fun and easy first day.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea
Carnival Sunshine Alchemy Bar - Cornelius, Ioana, Miro
Very calm in the Gulf of Mexico and I had a very good nights sleep.  A very nice and sunny day.  I got DW a nice breakfast in bed in lieu of room service since the Ocean Plaza taste bar is so near our cabin.  I then returned and had a nice breakfast there myself including: French Toast, Prosciutto, Cheese, Bacon, Potatoes, Eggs, and more.  We then walked around deck and the Serenity Deck was packed as was the Lido and Sports decks.  We saw our group in the Havana Bar and we visited and all went down to Ocean Plaza to purchase a future cruise at the future cruise desk.  We stayed there to visit and played a trivia game of identifying celebrity photos.  We had 36 of 40 but lost by one.  Since the lunch items were now being served at the Taste Bar on Ocean Plaza most all had a nice salad.  The girls all signed up for the 1:30 Martini Classes in the Alchemy Bar with Miro.  The guys went to the Red Frog for a tube of Thirsty Frog and by accident ended up listening to the afternoon Karaoke. So it was an Ocean Plaza day for everyone.  About 4:00 I went up to get a Guy’s Burger and soon almost all my friends had come by for one as well…we do think alike.  We sailed into a rain cloud and there was a waterspout along side the ship for a good while. Interesting and another first at sea.  The group met at the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs and some fun with the Alchemists.  Tonight was the Captains elegant night and dinner was excellent, I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, White Stuffed Mushrooms, Prime Rib with Baked Potato, and Cherries Jubilee for desert.  At our table we sat with the girls on one side and the boys on the other and the men all wore our matching black shirts and the previous night our matching red shirts, it was amazing how many guests came by and mentioned what a fun group we seemed to be…and of course we are a FUN group.  After dinner a cocktail from the Alchemy Bar as we listened to the Swamp Thang Band in the Ocean Plaza perform their Mo-Town set, then finished the evening in the Havana Bar listening to Latin music. 

Day Three--Tuesday—at Sea
Mongolian Grill
Another good nights sleep and smooth seas as we entered the Caribbean this beautiful morning. I had breakfast in the Ocean Plaza again then took breakfast to DW in the cabin.  I had a few bookings for the future cruise rep so met him at 10:00 then went up to the Havana Bar and saw most of the group up there.  At noon I had the Mongolian Grill for lunch and they were doing a different preparation system with two cooks at each station.  Mine had a bit more water than usual (perhaps also new), but it was really good.  Cabin time in the afternoon watching some classic television shows and updating my review.  We had another of our Snoozemates  parties at 4:00 in one of the large deck 8 cabins…lots of fun.  The Captain had a Diamond Guest Cocktail Party at 7:00 pm in the Piano Bar.  There are 16 Diamonds on board and the Senior Staff also attended.  We had very nice h’orderves prepared by Bonsai Sushi and I liked the sushi and vegetable rolls very much.  It was a very nice gathering and I appreciate the effort from the Carnival Sunshine senior staff. It feels very personal when the Captain called me by name and Caroline calls DW by the name she uses and not her official ‘cruise’ name, it shows genuine involvement with the guests.  Thanks Captain, Caroline, and Carnival.  It was now time for dinner and it was very good this evening.  I ordered the French Onion Soup, Pasta, and the Beef Short Rib entree.  We skipped desert in order to get prime seats at the Lobby Bar for the big Mardi Gras Party in the lobby area.  Guests came in Mardi Gras gear and Cornelius and Mr.T did a bartender flair show, but I have to say that Cruise Director Butch adds so much to this event when he dances around the bar.  I really can not imagine a future MG party without Butch as the host.  Following we went to the Havana Bar, but found the music from the Ocean Plaza and the Swamp Thang Band much better.  A FUN sea day on the Sunshine!

Day Four— Wednesday—Montego Bay, Jamaica
Pirate Night in MDR
Calm seas and a very good nights sleep.  I slept a little late (for me) and watched us dock on the
ship’s TV cameras.  I got DW a breakfast plate from Ocean Plaza then I went to the Sunrise MDR for a hearty breakfast.  I had Melon, three Fried Eggs, Corned Beef Hash, Hash Browns, Bacon, Ham, and Leche Caliente. Very good.  No one in the group had specific plans for the day.  DW and the girls went to Serenity Deck and enjoyed the ship with most of the guests off the ship.  I went off the ship and to the little village next to the port to Partners Restaurant & Bar.  They have unlimited WiFi for $3 (charging an extra $2) so I spent four hours there updating emails and doing a little work.  I also enjoyed a Red Stripe and some very good Jerk Chicken.  I was back on board about 2:30 and had cabin time ordering an excellent BLT from room service.  It’s Pirate Night for our group and we had a party from sail away until dinner.  All dressed as a pirate or in pirate theme.  We had the interest of many in the MDR especially with our table location at the entry. For dinner I ordered two Shrimp Cocktails, the  Bowtie Pasta with Turkey, the Pork Steak entree, and Tiramisu for dessert.  It was now time for my late cocktail from the Alchemy Bar, Ioana prepared a special Cherry flavored cocktail for me, it was very good.  Another great day on the Carnival Sunshine.

Day Five—Thursday—Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Cucina del Capitano
Another good nights sleep and calm seas.  We arrived and anchored off Grand Cayman before 7:00 am this morning.  I slept in as we have no plans for the day on shore.  MDR was open & closed early so I went to Havana Bar for a nice omelet and ate with some our group.  We only have one going ashore today for a dive excursion.  The girls have a Pajama Party planned for the day, they locked themselves in one of the suites with a supply of goodies for the day.  It was cabin time for me until noon when I had a Cucina del Capitano lunch.  The guys met at the Red Frog Rum Bar at 1:00 pm for a tube of beer.  I also had the Mango Magic…very nice cocktail.  A nice lazy afternoon on board ship.  We sailed about 4:00 pm and the VIFP Party was held at 4:30 in the Liquid Lounge.  Butch, the CD, did a good job keeping the party exciting. There were 16 Diamond Guests on board and two of our group were the senior guests on board.  We had excellent bar service from servers we have been using for two weeks+.  The party continued on to Ocean Plaza until we had to get ready for our 8:15 dinner. For dinner tonight I ordered the Pasta, Escargot, Seafood Platter, and Chateaubriand.  For dessert it was Baked Alaska and a Fruit Plate as Ken sang again for us tonight and the wait team did the song: What Does the Fox Say?  I did not need an evening cocktail and retired early for some cabin time before retiring.

Day Six--Friday--Cozumel, Mexico

Woody's Bar in Cozumel
A bright sunny day as we approach Cozumel.  We have the later 10:00 am arrival today so time for some early morning activities.  I got the DW a breakfast plate from the Ocean Plaza then went to the Sunrise MDR for a nice breakfast: Melon, Eggs Benedict, Bacon, Corned Beef Hash & Leche Caliente.  Then I met our group up at the Havana Bar.  We are docked next to the Carnival Magic, and the Navigator of the Seas is nearby, two of our favorite ships.  There are six total docked in Cozumel today.  DW and I left the ship about 10:40 am and took a taxi ($8) to San Miguel and went to Woody’s.  Soon we were joined by the others in the group and ended up spending the entire day at Woody's.  We started with Bloody Mary’s and Nelly brought me a nice large birthday Margarita that started the day off very well.  I've been able to celebrate several days the past two weeks!  It was warm and humid, but we had a nice rainstorm about 1:30 pm and after retreating to the interior rooms,  then had very nice pleasent weather for the rest of the day.  We had a great day at Woody’s enjoying: WiFi, Cocktails, Cervezas, Margaritas, Guacamole, shopping, and FUN.  About 3:30pm we got a taxi-van for 9 ($20) and all returned to the Puerto Maya pier and I was soon on the ship eating a Guy’s burger.  I had some cabin time and later most met at the Alchemy for the Friday Martini Tasting (4 different small ones - $16--see video at bottom).  I skipped the sampler and had a Curative Peach cocktail.  Dinner was good, I ordered the Lasagna (as a starter), two Shrimp Cocktails, Petit Filet Mignon / Short Rib combination entree and Butter Pecan Ice Creme for dessert.  I really suspect that I had a Flat Iron and not a filet.  As a Texan we don’t consider a Flat Iron a ‘real’ steak.  Some went to Punchliners, others the casino, and more to the Alchemy.  Another FUN day.

Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea

Havana Bar on Carnival Sunshine
I had a very good restful nights sleep and it’s a beautiful day with smooth seas.  I had a light breakfast in the Ocean Plaza then met our friends in the Havana Bar (photo left). The Havana Bar has been a great meeting location for our group especially with most cabins nearby.   At 11:00 am we all met for the Sea Day Brunch in the MDR as we did the previous Saturday.  I had the Steak & Eggs and the steak was excellent, much better than the steak at dinner the night before.  Most used their drink vouchers for Bloody Marys’, thanks again to Ken for arranging the large table for brunch.  After brunch I reviewed my ship account, they have two kiosks that will print your statement for you and save a trip to Guest Services.  Unfortunately they do not have an interactive TV system.  I had cabin time this afternoon and was updating email and online with the final minutes I have left on my small internet package (120 Minutes for $59.00 ($0.49/min)).  After a bit of work in the cabin we went to the Alchemy Bar for an early aperitif at the 4:00 pm opening.  We attended the 7:15 pm production show: Epic Rock, the best show of the week.  Dinner was very good, they prepared an encore of Carnival’s signature disk: Speghetti Carbonara for the table.  Tonight  I ordered two Shrimp Cocktails, Sweet Potato Soup, and the Panko Crusted Jumbo Shrimp. For dessert I had the Grand Marnier Souffle.  Following dinner I went to my favorite bar, The Alchemy, for two wonderful Deal Closers.  Since we are well in the Mississippi River I had wifi from my personal hotspot so checked some late email and arrange some items to pack for the following morning.

We arrived back in NOLA very early.  I was up early as I had not really started packing. I began to pack about 6:00 am and at 7:00 am headed to deck three.  We just arrived at the VIP staging area in the Sunset Dining Room when they started the VIP debark.  They had the casual inspection at Customs and I was soon to the elevator and at 5A our parking area and in the new car by 7:40 am.  There was again a light mist so the indoor parking did come in very handy.  We were soon on Interstate 10 heading to Texas.  Between the large statue of Sam Houston on I-45 and Huntsville the temperature dropped from 75° to 45° within 3 miles.  We later ran into a freak ice storm near Mexia about 3:00 pm so spent the night there at the new Holiday Inn Express.  It was actually very nice, we had a great king room, pizza, and watched the Oscars on TV.  It took us 1.5 hours to get twenty miles and beyond the ice when leaving the next morning, but where at the ranch by 1:00 pm on Monday.

Crew / Staff
What an excellent week we had with the crew.  Our wait team in the MDR, Senvile, I Gusti, and Wisnu, are the best I have ever had as a team on Carnival. Both the new team and previous weeks team were all giving us a lot of attention during this week.  Then to be reunited with Antonio my cabin steward from the Sunshine transatlantic was great.  He is one of the best ever as well.  He always kept our cooler full of ice and our cabin spotless.  I was able to again meet many ships officers through the Diamond reception. The bartenders were all great.  Bar servers all very good. Ken Byrne as always is awesome as both singer and Matre’D. The future cruise representative, Hai, was very efficient.  Of course the Alchemy crew of Ioana, Miro, and Cornelius were outstanding.  Video below: Ioana pouring for the ladies!

Food / Drink
I found the food overall to be good. The Pastelitos de Guayaba y Queso from the Havana Bar at breakfast were great. In fact all breakfast venues are very good.  The waiters brought 3-4 cheese plates for dinner every night…excellent touch.

We had cabin 5317 a category 4D interior on deck 5.  I love the location and as mentioned I have the same cabin steward that I had on the 16-day transatlantic cruise.  I had fears that the cabin would feel very small, but hopeful as well since it’s a ‘new’ cabin. As it turned out I was very pleased.  It has plenty of room since it has no couch or table and we didn’t miss the couch but could have used the table.  The cabin has a very comfortable twin/queen bed, refrigerator, full length mirror, two bed side tables with lamps, push button safe, three section wardrobe with shelves, sconce lighting at vanity, stool at vanity, standard small bathroom.  It’s really just fine and I’m glad we didn’t upgrade.

Cruise Highlights

Sailing with Snoozemates
MDR wait team of: Senvile, I Gusti, &  Wisnu
Diamond Cocktail Party
Alchemy Bar & team
Pastelitos de Guayaba y Queso from the Havana Bar

Another FUN cruise with Good Friends!!




Thanks to John J, Kaye G, & Zydeco for photos

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