Monday, November 25, 2013

Carnival Sunshine Transatlantic Cruise

Carnival Sunshine soon after arrival in New Orleans

Carnival Sunshine Transatlantic Cruise Review

November 1-16, 2013

Just The Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Sunshine  1-16 November, 2013
Captain:  Giusseppe Giusa
Cruise Director:  Jamie Dee
Ports: Plama De Mallorca, Malaga, Las Palmas, Grand Turk
Weather:  Very good with smooth seas

This is my 37th Carnival cruise, 4th transatlantic, and 82nd overall cruise. I am traveling solo, but know many people on board.

I began my trip leaving the ranch at 4:30 am on Thursday (Oct 31) by driving to Waco for a 6:00 am flight to DFW airport.  I then took a morning flight to New York JFK airport to catch an afternoon transatlantic Delta flight arriving at 8:35 am (Nov1) in Barcelona Spain. After clearing customs and retrieving my checked bag I took a 10:15 am  Carnival shuttle to the cruise pier.  Check in was fairly smooth and I was on board and in my cabin at 11:35 am.  Nineteen hours of travel from home to ship cabin is a lot for my old bones, but it will be an easier return.

Day One--Friday--Barcelona--Embarkation
Oceanview Cabin
I have one of the newly installed cabins located on the Promenade deck aft, an interesting new location for passenger cabins on Carnival ships. This area is where the aft promenade showroom is located on all other Carnival ships (and used to be located on this ship) and it is very convenient to the new Red Frog Pub, Alchemy Bar and Ocean Plaza.   After dropping my bags I went upstairs to get a stir-fry in JiJi’s Asian grill (similar to the Mongolian Grill on other Carnival ships) from the new concept all enclosed Lido deck aft.  Located there is the Cucina de Capitano, JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, and the Havana Bar.  In addition to my wonderful bowl of made-to-order stir-fry I also sampled the Cuban sandwich from the Havana Bar.  All very good.  After the long travel experience I retired for a much needed sleep until near dinner time.  I appreciate that they do two Welcome Aboard Shows as I would not have made a late one, but the 7:00 pm show time was perfect.  Jamie Dee the cruise director is a very good host and I believe will become one of the top CD’s at Carnival.  I have late seating at 8:00 pm in the Sunset Dining Room one of two main dining rooms (MDR).  I’m used to set dining being in the aft MDR, but the Sunrise Dining Room is now reserved for Your-Time dining.  I do have a nice table with a very good group of people and the best Maitre‘D in the fleet with Ken Byrne so that makes up for the secondary dining room location.  Tonight for dinner I ordered: the Creme of Sun-ripened Tomato Soup, Fresh Green Salad, the Chicken a la Grecque entree, and two desserts: the Creme Brulee & the Black Forest Gateau Cake.  After dinner it was cabin time for much needed rest.

Day Two--Saturday--Palma De Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
Palms in front of Old Palace - Palma de Mallorca
Smooth seas overnight and I was up early for an excursion today.  At 6:45 am there are very few in the Havana Bar and I got a great made-to-order omelette from the omelette station.  I then met a group in the EA Sports Bar after 7:00 am for a private excursion.  Soon we were off the ship and boarded a nice coach for a Panoramic tour of Palma on our way to the Caves of Drach.  After driving and viewing the countryside we stopped in Manacor to see a display and history of Mallorcan Pearls, it was interesting and worth the visit.  We were soon off to our 10:45 tour of the Caves of Drach located on the eastern shore of the island.  The caves are very interesting with a large lake at the bottom.  Once you reach the lower chamber by pathway you take a seat and enjoy a concert performed by musicians in a boat on the lake.  Your then ferried in a row boat across the lake and after some new views along the path exit the cavern.  It was enjoyable.  After a quick San Miguel cerveza we boarded the bus for a drive through the very picturesque village and harbor of Porto Cristo and then the return to the city of Palma.  We had a nice guided tour of the outer castle walls, Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, and old town area before some free time.  The narrow streets and shoppes of the Arab section and the Cathedral doors were most interesting.  I found a great gelato shop and remembered the flavor Crema Catalona from previous trips to Barcelona...excellant.  We arrived back at the ship about 3:00 pm for a 4:00 pm sail away.  I tried my first Guy’s Burger upon return and was actually disappointed.  It was a very good Hamburger, but it was not a proper Guy’s.  It was not smashed out thin and cooked with a light crust, but a thicker meat patty.  Still better than what they used to have, but not a Guy’s.  I went to see Lance Montalto’s family comedy show at 6:00, he was very funny followed by a wonderful Alchemy Bar apĂ©ritif.   For dinner tonight I ordered:  the Hot & Sour Soup, baked Pene Pasta with Sausage, Roast Beef of Tenderloin, and the Passion Fruit Creme Brulee for dessert.  Another good dinner. The feature entertainer was juggler Neil Duinker, but I went to the Alchemy Bar for cocktails and then to the Comedy Club for the 11:00 show with Lance Montalto.  The comedy show was fantastic.  Following comedy I helped close the Piano Bar.  Seth the piano player is young and talented and people had a fun time.  I predict he will be the next Carnival Piano Bar 'Star'.  About 1:30 am I went up for pizza and they were actually busy at this late time and the pizza was very good.  After a very long day I retired to the cabin.

Day Three--Sunday—at Sea
Carnival Sunshine - Behind the waterfall
Smooth seas overnight and it was refreshing to sleep late this morning.  I didn’t get out until after 11:00 am and had a late breakfast in the Lido Marketplace.  As this was the first sea day I took a walk around the decks and explored new areas on the ship.  The Serenity Deck area is very large and was very busy.  The Waterworks looked like great fun, but it was not busy at all and it was a very nice and warm day.  I want to do the water slides but the staircases up to them look more challenging than the slide itself.  We’ll see.  At 1:00 pm I went to a nice private cocktail party for Facebook friends in the  piano bar.  It was the usual deal, unlimited drinks for an hour, and the servers were very good, enough for the 60+ in attendance.  After a nice buzz and enjoying good conversation it was back to the cabin about 2:30 pm and ordered BLT’s from room service as cabin time was the plan for the afternoon.  I made notes for the blog and enjoyed the BLT sandwiches, they really need to be ordered each cruise as the Carnival room service version is very good.  The feature show in the Liquid Lounge is Motor City a Playlist Production with the eight feature performers and great LCD stage backgrounds.  This is also Elegant/Captains night and passengers have the opportunity to meet and have photos taken with the Captain & Staff before dinner.  For dinner tonight I ordered: the White Mushrooms, Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara, Prime Rib, & Cherries Jubilee for dessert.  The mushrooms were not the large ones as usual, but very small portions, but everything else was very good.  Other options of course included the Broiled Maine Lobster or Seared Redfish.  I retired after dinner as Monday is another early day.

Day Four--Monday—Malaga, Spain
Mijas Pueblo - Fountain
Again smooth seas overnight.  I ordered a light room service breakfast as a wake up and it was delivered at the scheduled time.  Carnival room service is usually very consistent with service. I met our private excursion group at 7:30 am and soon we were off the ship and on our motor coach and away at 8:00 am on the way to Mijas for the day.  The guide pointed out several points of interest in Malaga and on our way along the Costa del Sol.  We drove briefly along the beach before heading up the mountain to the old Mijas Pueblo.  Our bus  parked at the visitors center and the guide gave us a tour of the quaint Virgin de la Pena chapel built in cave then a  walking tour of the old town.  All the houses and shoppes are white washed and built along the hill side in this town.  It’s a lovely town and the views of the Mediterranean Sea and coast are spectacular from here.  After our tour a small group of us spent our hour of free time at a restaurant with a panoramic view drinking some good San Miguel cervezas and using their Wifi.  It was then time to meet the rest of the excursion group for a Tapas lunch.  Family style we were served sangria wine, meatballs, cheese, shrimp, mushrooms, ham, potatoes, peas, and fresh bread.  It was an excellent meal.  A unique feature in this town is that the taxi’s are burros, a good choice considering the hilly nature of the streets.  We boarded tour bus and returned to the ship by 2:30 for our 3:00 pm departure.  I had a nice snooze upon return.  After my nap I had my first Thirsty Frog Red before dinner in the Red Frog Pub, it’s a very good beer.  Dinner was interesting tonight for a couple of reasons: 1) Half out table was eating in the steakhouse so we were joined by both comedians Lance Montalto & Joel Lindley & the Punchliner host Wally and 2) it was a completely new & unique menu.  I ordered: Chilled Borscht, Gravlaks, Farfalle Pasta with Artichokes & Arugula, and Roast Striploin with Popovers.  Other menu items included: Truffled Duck Livers, Green Asparagus & Mussels, Spring Chicken in Crawfish, Glazed Veal, and Roasted Fennel & Braised Leeks.  Interesting menu.  Comedy Magic with Thom Peterson was the feature entertainment in the theater this evening, but the real entertainment was the 10:00 pm Playlist Performers Feature in the Ocean Lounge.  The eight performers did numbers of their own choosing with the band. They were all good and I was able to hear it from a good seat in the Alchemy Bar.  We turn back our clocks for the first time tonight, an extra hour of sleep.

Day Five--Tuesday—at Sea
Carnival Sunshine - Alchemy Bar
Smooth seas overnight and I was up around 8:00ish so I went to the MDR for a nice full breakfast with friends I ran into at the deck five elevator.  (I’m really liking the deck 5 cabin location...everyone uses the promenade to traverse the length of the ship so you do see a lot of people)  After breakfast I made some notes then I actually took a nap, why not?  For an early lunch I had a salad from the Salad Bar on Promenade Deck, very nice.  It was now time for the Cocktail Seminar at The Alchemy Bar.  Daniel the bartender did a nice basic presentation and we sampled three small Alchemy cocktails in addition to receiving a coupon for a full cocktail later.  It was a two hour presentation and good fun.  Click here to see the Alchemy Bar menu. New friend Lance Moltanato did a Beatles show this afternoon and it was a full house as was the previous one he did on Sunday.  I went to Guy’s for a burger and it was much better than previous, these burgers were flattened better, but still needs more fire.  I got an ice creme for dessert and as I went through the Ocean Plaza saw some friends and Lance M and joined them for a while.  I really enjoyed getting to know Lance this cruise as I had several lunches and dinners with him as it happened to turn out.  He was always a favorite, more so now, and he is genuinely a nice and funny guy.  It was cabin time for the rest of the day to make some notes and have a Cabin Cocktail (Cuba Libre light).  Dinner was again interesting with some old and new items on the menu. I ordered an Iced Pineapple Salad with Watermelon, Spanakopita, Cannelloni Piemontese pasta, and Roast Prime Rib.  All very good.  After dinner you couldn’t get in to see the 9:45 comedy show as it was packed so only early dining guests would get a chance to attend.  I had a cocktail in the Alchemy Bar then ended up with friends coming so stayed for a few hours.  The Alchemy is kind of my neighborhood bar on ship since my cabin is just around the corner.  They had called for all passengers to turn in their passports before arriving in Las Palmas tomorrow.  Since it was now 1:00 am I went to Guest Services and avoided the long lines from earlier in day.  A Fun Day at sea.

Day Six--Wednesday--Las Palmas, Canary Islands
Cathedral Santana Veguetta - Las Palmas
A bit of higher seas overnight.  We are not scheduled to arrive in Las Palmas until 11:00 am and that is very unusual as the Magic arrived early and we are doing the same itinerary.  I went up to JiJi’s on Lido for a wonderful omelette with a side of Canadian Bacon and readied to meet for another private excursion.  Our group of about 28 debarked just before noon and it was very busy as the ship was half hour late arriving so everyone was debarking at once, but we got to the bus just after noon and head out of Las Palmas.  First stop was Arucas where we stopped at the very large Cathedral of Arucas and then the Arehucas Distillery and tasting room.  After driving through the mountains, the next stop was Teror one of the oldest towns in Gran Canaria with interesting houses, buildings, and streets.  I did have time for a local cerveza with friends in Pino Square before leaving.  Final stop was the Caldera de Bandama the site of an old volcano caldera and scenic overview of Las Palmas.  We returned to the ship by 4:00 to long lines of passengers waiting to board.  Once on ship I went straight to Guy’s for a burger then took some ice to the cabin for cabin time until dinner.  Dinner was perhaps the best of the cruise so far.  I ordered the Escargot, and two entrees: the Osobucco, and the Carnival Filet Mignon.  The osobucco and steak were great.  I had a very nice Apple Crum and a Pineapple dish for dessert. The feature entertainment this evening was Hasbro, the Game Show and we have new Comedy Show entertainers onboard: Tom Pepper and Gary Thompson. 

Day Seven--Thursday--at Sea
Carnival Sunshine - Epic Rock
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well...past 9:00am in fact.  Today they had the NEW Sea-day Brunch in the MDR.  New menus, new hours, and even new aprons for the servers.  I like the concept.  The Punchliner theme didn’t really work, but the menu was good so they saved the best and did away with the comedians and later start time.  Good job Carnival.  I had the Steak & Eggs and they were excellent.  I went on deck and lounged around the waterworks area and would have gone down the slide, but there was no attendant on this beautiful calm day.  Lunch from the JiJi’s Wok and it was very good as usual.  I had afternoon cabin time then went for a walk around decks, stopped for a Reuben Sandwich on the way back to the cabin.  I went a bit early to the Liquid Lounge and got a great seat for the Playlist Production Epic Rock 7:00 pm show.  This is a high energy rock show with great costumes, the full LCD background and with stage enhancements such as smoke, fog, & flames.  A very entertaining show.  Dinner tonight was good.  We had Chicken Wings for the table (2nd time) and I ordered: the Butternut Squash Soup, Pasta & Shrimp entree as a starter, the Pork Tenderloin and as I couldn’t decide on a dessert had the first three (Apple, Strawberry,& a Brulee) listed on the menu .  Might as well.  They had rock music in the Ocean Lounge this evening, I only listened for a while then cabin time.  We turned our clocks back one hour this evening.

Day Eight--Friday--at Sea
Singing Maitre'D Ken Byrne
Smooth seas overnight although a bit higher than yesterday.  I went to the MDR for breakfast and they have reverted to the standard breakfast menu, not the brunch so Eggs Benedict ordered this morning.  I went up to the Water Works and again the slides are closed and the seas are calm.  It’s a shame to spend so much money on the new design only for them to not be able to be used.  I was told that they are not holding enough water in the small pool at the end of the slide run.  After a walk about the ship I had some very good Chicken Schnitzel from the Lido Marketplace for lunch.  At 2:30 pm Ken Bryne, the long time Carnival Maitre’D did his first ever official Carnival show in the Liquid Lounge.  He had a packed house with people in the aisles and staircases.  He did a great show and received two standing ovations.  Carnival should have been doing this on all of the transatlantic cruises.  At 4:30 they hosted the Diamond Cocktail Party in the Limelight Lounge.  It was well attended by more than the 116 Diamonds on board.  This is the largest number of Diamonds ever on a single Carnival sailing.  CD Jamie introduced the Captain and senior staff and they served very nice h’orderves as well as your choice of complementary cocktails.  It was nice of Carnival to do this...thanks.  Following the party several gathered in the lobby bar until time for the feature show with David Knight, the hypnotist.  I’ve seen his show several times and it is entertaining.  Dinner was good, I ordered French Onion Soup, Pork Tenderloin, and Short Ribs.  Tonight was 1950’s theme music in the Ocean Plaza from 10:00 pm to late.  We also turned the clock back another hour.

Day Nine--Saturday--at Sea
Carnival Sunshine - Cherry on Top
I felt some rolling seas overnight.  I was up and had a very nice special omelette this morning.  I then met a friend to get some photos for my blog before going up to waterworks to check on the slides.  Not running and it actually looks as though they are shut down.  I now wonder if it’s a weight situation with the extra fuel on for the Atlantic crossing or problems with the NEW fresh water system for the Waterworks.  Not really right to promote it if it can’t be used.  I did something new this morning, I had my haircut in the Spa.  It was nice and they did a good job.  I just couldn’t wait until December to see my regular barber in Cozumel.  I watched the movie Lincoln on cabin TV, Daniel Day Lewis did a great job, but I thought the movie was slow.  I went to a kiosk and had my Sail&Sign account summery printed out for review.  The kiosks are great and saves time standing in line at Guest Services (GS).  I had Stir-fry from the JiJi’s Wok for lunch...always good.  There were a couple of college football games on TV as they picked up two television stations from San Juan and one in USVI.  So I was able to watch some Big 12 football during the day as I would do at home. Nice.  For dinner I’m doing a basic plan, I ordered a Salad, Pasta, the Prime Rib, and three desserts just for myself and the table to sample.  All were good too.  The feature show this evening was Seth, the piano bar entertainer.  He was very good and has a very bright future either with Carnival or wherever.  They also had a nice 10:00pm show in the Ocean Lounge by Justin, one of the Playlist entertainers.  We again moved our clocks back an hour at bedtime.

Day Ten--Sunday--at Sea
Carnival Sunshine - the Twister
Just enough seas to rock you to sleep, it’s been a very smooth cruise.  I went to the MDR for a nice full breakfast this morning.  I heard that the waterworks opened yesterday afternoon for two hours so I went up to check and the Waterworks was open.  Amazing what a few complaints to senior officers, on social media and JH’s Facebook page will get done.  I doubt we’ll know why they have kept it closed, but passengers were taking advantage this morning.  There are three slides, two for racing if you wish, but the  Carnival Sunshine Twister is the longest slide on any cruise ship and that is the one I tried a few times.  Lots of twists and two black out areas...exciting.  I’ll try to do this each day.  Another advantage of my cabin location is I can easily get a light snack from the Taste Bar around the corner, the Egg Drop soup today was good.  This is cocktail party day.  At 1:00 pm we had a Facebook Friends Cocktail Party in the Piano Bar, my drink of the party was mojitos.  Good Fun.  The next Party was the Carnival VIFP Party at 3:15, but I had time to have two slices of pizza from Pizzeria del Capitano between.  The VIFP Party, one of three that they held,  was the usual deal with the Carnival video and I did have a couple of FunShip Specials but that was my limit.  The Sunshine does not have a live orchestra so the DJ did the music from a booth on the stage.  A little different, but it worked fine.  The more I see Jamie the more I like her as a cruise director.  There are about 2725 passengers on this cruise, with 116 Diamond, 717 Platinum, and 1014 Gold thus the need for three parties.  As we get closer to North America we are getting more television so there were some NFL games on TV this afternoon, so I enjoyed some room service BLT’s and football.  I did the same at dinner tonight as last ordering just a basic Fruit appetizer, Arrabiata Pasta, Rib Eye Steak, and three desserts for the table to sample. Duck, Frog Legs, and Perch were other options.  Dinner was good especially the Pineapple Boat fruit selection.  After dinner they had a Caberet show in the Ocean Lounge with Chiara Castania one of the Playlist entertainers. She was great and they have done a great 10:00 pm show most every night.  The Dallas Cowboy vs. New Orleans Saints NFL game was also featured in the EA sports bar and cabin TV late this evening as we have a lot of pax from both places on this cruise to NOLA.  Very late game as we are still a few time zones east and I was actually asleep before the game ended.  We again changed our clock back an hour this evening.

Day Eleven--Monday--at Sea
Guy's Burger
Smooth seas again and I had a nice sleep.  This was a Sea Day Brunch day so I had long casual breakfast in the MDR.  I had the Hueavo Rancheros and they were very good.  I also tried the Banana Creme was very nice.  At 11:00 am (11/11/11) they made a special announcement concerning Veterans Day and had a moment of silence.  Very well done and this afternoon a big Veterans gathering and show in the theater.  It was a packed house and guests really enjoyed it.  This afternoon I had a nice Fiery Tomato Soup from the Taste Bar as a lunch snack while walking around the ship then retired to the cabin to read.  About 3:30 I went up to Guy’s Burgers and since they were not too busy I discussed with the manager the  fact that it’s not quite a true Guy’s Burger.  He said it was the meat, that they are still using the European supplier.  That makes sense as Guy’s requires a 70/30 mix so hopefully that will be corrected once in the USA.  No Waterworks today yet leaks and brief loss of water in Lido Marketplace area today (it’s just below the Waterworks)...who knows what’s going on?  Minor inconvenience and not disruptive to cruise though.  The feature show  this evening was another Playlist Production: Studio VIP.  A very good high energy show.  Too many fruit drinks on the cruise for me so I enjoyed a White Russian with friends in the lobby bar before dinner.  Tonight I ordered: a double Shrimp Cocktail, Spinach Crepe (not good), New York Strip Steak, and a Banana Split & White Bread Pudding Cake for dessert.  Disco and 1980's music was the theme in Ocean Plaza this evening.  Another nice sea day.  Clocks turned back again.

Day Twelve--Tuesday--at Sea
Again nice seas overnight.  I was up early and with six consecutive 25 hour days I have had plenty of sleep.  I read for a while then went early to the MDR for a very nice breakfast.  It’s another beautiful day and I had a walk on deck, no Waterworks, but there was enough to keep the sun worshipers busy.  There does seem to be plenty of deck chairs although there are chair hogs on board, I suspect it’s the high number of European passengers on board and the fact that while in the MDR I overheard some telling another group to take your time, they’ve covered a dozen chairs on Serenity deck.  I read until meeting a friend at Cucina del Capitano for lunch.  I had both a pasta and lasagne, they were very good.  Maitre’D Ken did an encore show in the Limelight Lounge this afternoon.  It was again very well received.   I’m really getting into my book so did more relaxing reading this afternoon and I went to the pre dinner feature show featuring Jerry Goodspeed the comedy ventriloquist.  He was very entertaining and is a Carnival regular feature.  Dinner was again good, but similar to previous night.  I ordered two Shrimp Cocktails, the seafood entree Zuppa di Pesce Cioppino, and the NY Sirloin Steak.  Late tonight was the Mexican Fiesta Party on deck.

Day Thirteen--Wednesday--Grand Turk
Grand Turk sunset
Calm seas overnight and I was up up early and did some reading.  I had a very nice Omelette with Canadian Bacon from the Lido Marketplace this morning as we arrived early into Grand Turk.  We are docked next to the Carnival Victory out of Miami and they are transferring some provisions to us this morning.  It’s a beautiful day with temperature in the mid 80’s and will get warmer.  I’m not in a rush to get off and pretty much had the ship to myself for a few hours.  I did some more reading then went up to get a great stir-fry from JiJi’s grill.  It was somewhat busy with crew as they are allowed to eat there on port days and it’s a popular spot with crew as well as passengers.  I left the ship about 1:00 pm and headed to Jack’s Shack.  Friends were already there so I got a lounger and hit the water strait away.  Wonderful.  Topher the JS dog was doing his thing playing with some kids on the beach.  I started with some Turk’s Head beers and signed on to the internet for the first time since leaving Barcelona.  It was a Beautiful day with a great beach, a great bar, good beer, so it was like a day in Paradise.  I was actually the last cruise passenger to leave making my way back just before our 5:30 boarding time.  In fact it was sunset, see photo at left (thanks Doug).  Tonight I went to the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse with a friend.  It was fantastic, I ordered Green Salad, Escargot, Ribeye Steak, and Fruit for dessert.  The escargot was prepared individually in pastry shells and assorted I have ever had.  After a wonderful day and meal I retired early this evening.

Day Fourteen--Thursday--at Sea
Rolling seas overnight, unusual that we made it across the Atlantic with smooth seas and get some bumps now that we are sailing the pseudo Caribbean.  We will be sailing just off the north coast of Cuba all day today.   It’s also the first day that we have had cloudy skies although it’s still warm although humid.  Today was the last of three Sea-day Buffets in the MDR so I went there for a nice Steak & Eggs breakfast.  The Veterans events they had Monday onboard inspired me to get into my book.  I finished it and I’m sorry to admit that it’s one of the few I have read cover to cover in several years.  The book is From Dogfight to Diplomacy a memoir of Donald MacDonnell of Glengarry.  He was a Spitfire pilot during the Battle of Britain and later a spy in the Soviet Union. While sailing the Carnival Legend last month I had promised Lady Glengarry that I would read it so I ordered it and I was lucky that it was delivered just a few days before leaving for this cruise. It was a very good read. I was fortunate to carry the Glengarry Chief banner for him at a ceremony in Glencoe Scotland years ago.  He actually showed me his ‘spy’ camera at the time.  A great man.  I timed lunch for just after 2:00 pm so there was not a long line at JiJi’s for another good stir-fry lunch.  I began a new book this afternoon and then met friends for cocktails in the Alchemy.  They added a new Alchemist bartender who joined the ship from the Carnival Victory in Grand Turk, so there are new faces on board including several Carnival Beards (executives) that came aboard as well.  I had dinner in JiJi’s Asian Grill this evening.  JiJi’s is Carnivals new premium Asian dining venue and the Carnival Sunshine is the first to have one so I did want to experience it firsthand.  The food was very good.  You pick from a choice of appetizers, an entree, side dishes, and a dessert.  I also ordered their specialty drink, a Green Tea Martini.  Lots of activity around the ship and another new comedian onboard.  We also set our clocks back for the final time this evening so we are now on CST the same as our destination New Orleans and home time in Texas.

Day Fifteen--Friday--at Sea
Carnival Sunshine - Serenity Pool
Seas were slight overnight and weather the same as Thursday- warm, cloudy & humid. I was actually up early, didn’t use our final 25 hours for additional sleep.  I went up to the omelette station for another great omelette then some Canadian bacon and fruit from the Lido Marketplace.  I set on deck for a while to people watch and I’ve started a new book- SOS Spirit of Survival about the family of four from California that was on the Costa Concordia when she sank in the Mediterranean Sea in January of last year.  I enjoyed lunch in the MDR for the first time today, I had a great Pasta dish and a Yankee Pot Roast.  I read after lunch for most of the afternoon although they repeated the excellent Playlist Performers Musical Feature at 2:30 pm.. This afternoon turned into the only really cloudy day and brief rain of the cruise.  We have been very fortunate. The 7:00 pm feature show was a New Orleans Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, that joined us in Grand Turk.  It was a good, but a loud show and old-timers were bailing fairly early.  Dinner was good, I ordered the Tom Ka Gai (soup), Farfalle Pasta with Turkey, Grilled Pork Steak, and Grand Manier Souffle for dessert.  I had not attended any of the late functions in the Havana Bar as yet and tonight they had Havana Fusion with Salsa Music, Mojitos & special drinks, Mombo dancing and more.  I finished my book then retired.  Another nice sea day.

Day Sixteen--Saturday--at Sea
Fair seas overnight in the Gulf of Mexico and I went to the Sunrise MDR for a nice full breakfast this morning.   I also started another book, This is Your Captain Speaking by Gavin MacLeod.  We approached the Mississippi River and entered about 11:00 am, it was great entering in day light hours and get a good view of it as it had always been dark on previous cruises.  Since I was on the upper open decks watching us sail upriver I decided to get a hotdog from Seadogs located on deck 11 aft, one of many lunch locations and one most passengers forget to enjoy.  We had our final Facebook Friends cocktail party in the Piano Bar at 1:00 pm and I spent the rest of the afternoon reading.  I did make a Guy’s Burger run followed with ice creme in the late afternoon.  Resting and reading as I know tomorrow will be a very busy day.  The feature show this evening was Thien Fu a comedy juggler, but I stayed in the cabin and read.  Final dinner was good, I ordered  the Sweet Potato Soup, Prime Rib, Planko Shrimp, and Bitter & Blanc for dessert.  After dinner they had a Bathrobe Farewell Party on deck, that was interesting and appropriate as most were now packed for debark on Sunday.

Day Seventeen--Sunday--Bonus Debut Day--New Orleans
Captain Giusa and Carnival Sunshine Godmother Lin Arison
Again smooth seas overnight and I slept well.  I had a nice MDR breakfast again, my final Eggs Benedict until my next cruise.  I do not have to leave the ship today as I received an invitation to attend the one day Debut and Naming Ceremony event for the Carnival Sunshine in New Orleans.  I do have to clear U.S. Customs though so I relaxed until they almost cleared the ship about 11:15 am.  I least I was able to exchange greetings with John Heald in the lobby from deck 3 to deck 4 as he boarded the ship.  Unfortunately there was a long slow line through baggage claim and customs, but I finally made it through about 12:30 pm.  Once I finally cleared I just went around the corner and up the escalators to where they were preparing guests for the days ceremonies.  By the time I got my new documents they began boarding the ship so I was back on about 1:20 pm.   I had stowed my big bag with friends so I retrieved that and went to my new cabin, number 8289, a balcony located on deck 8 about mid-ship.  Now for the important thing of the day other than the special ceremony: Open Bar.  I made it to the Alchemy Bar by the 2:00 pm opening and had the first drink they prepared, kind of fitting.  Daniel knew the ‘program’ and started me off slow with a few Aperol Spritzers.  Soon friends from the transatlantic cruise, friends in the press, event guests, and new passengers began arriving and soon a party was underway.  After a few regular Alchemy Bar cocktails a few of us went up to the Havana Bar for a late lunch.  They were serving their very good Cuban Sandwiches and there was no line in the nearby at JiJi’s Wok.  After mentioning to the bar manager that although I saw their daily drink specials each day I never actually had a cocktail from the Havana Bar in my previous 16 days.  He solved that with a tray of ALL the drink specials.  We had the Havana Especial, Mojitos, Papa Doble, Cuban Iced Tea, La Buena Vida, and Daiquiri Clasico.  The group of us used straws to sample before ordering our favorites.  Very interesting drinks and follow this LINK for the drink descriptions.  Dino the Sunshine Beverage Manager came by with his approval of our FUN idea.  The Carnival Sunshine naming ceremony was held in the packed Liquid Lounge and all the Carnival Senior Management were in attendance. Lin Arison who christened the original Carnival Destiny did it again and renamed her the Carnival Sunshine.  They had a very good preview of the ship for the guests, the Punchliner had four comedy shows, there was entertainment in all the venues, and they had two showings of the feature Playlist Productions show Epic Rock.  Jerry Cahill did an official welcome prior to both showings in the theater.  Dinner was in two open seatings in the Sunrise Restaurant. Basically the elegant night dinner was served: Prime Rib, Lobster, etc. with complementary wine.  Of course a final visit to Daniel in the Alchemy Bar was on the agenda.  The shows and previews, especially the Piano Bar and Red Frog Pub, went very late into the evening.  They even delivered a nice BLT sandwich in the wee hours of the morning.  THANK YOU Carnival for a wonderful day.

Debarkation--Monday--New Orleans
I had my final MDR full breakfast this morning and a Bloody Mary to start the day, both needed after a full FUN day on Sunday.  Since I cleared customs on Sunday all I had to do this morning was walk off the ship. Very simple. I left about 9:15 am and was able to share a taxi with two Carnival Corporation beards (Miami executives). Carnival even paid for the taxi...thanks again.  I had an early afternoon flight from New Orleans to DFW, then a commuter flight to Waco.  I had time to begin catching up on the internet with airport Wifi, but finally arrived in Waco and made the one hour drive back to Bosque County and the ranch.  Much easier than the trip to Barcelona at the beginning.

Ship / Cruise
Of course the Carnival Sunshine is the reincarnated Carnival Destiny.  She had an extended refit adding extended decks, new cabins, refurbishing, updates, and a NEW name.  Are there still a few kinks to work out?  Yes.  I saw the buckets catching water leaks on several occasions and other items that needed repair, but  it wasn't enough to effect the enjoyment of the cruise.  Also added to the Carnival Sunshine were all the 2.0 features such as a Red Frog Pub, Ocean Plaza, Waterworks, Guy’s Burger Joint, JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, and more.  I wonder if they did not try to do too much, they have a wide variety of venues, but most are smaller than one would expect on this size of ship.  The Liquid and Limelight lounges are much too small.  I really enjoyed the 7:00 pm start time for feature shows for late seating guests. They had a lot of Trivia sessions, Crafts, Lectures by Micky-Live, and activities to keep passengers busy during the crossing.  Weather also cooperated with lots of good deck time and deck activities available each day.  It was a very nice transatlantic crossing.

I had cabin 5335 one of the new cabins located aft on deck five. Basically a standard Carnival cabin with three closets, safe, drawers, mini-refrigerator, couch, a new style table, night stands, and queen/twin bed. This is the only Carnival ship with cabins located on the promenade deck.  Good location as deck 5 traffic goes from forward to aft and it’s next to Ocean Plaza.  First thing I noticed is that it is an adjoining cabin although it was not shown as one on the original deck plans.  I try to avoid adjoining as you usually lose your couch because of the door; however, the new design has the door opposite the bed so you do not lose any cabin space and I never heard my neighbors. After retuning I noticed that the newer revised deck plans do show this correctly.  The thermostat and cooling system worked very well, but I did bring my fan that helped with circulation.  Poor selection of movies on the cabin flat screen television and it is NOT interactive so you can not check your Sail & Sign account or check menus, etc.  I heard several opinions on various cabins during the course of the cruise and some had cooling or drainage problems, but mine was fine.  I know that the deck 6 cabins above the new Ocean Plaza are NOW very noisy...avoid these.  A few buckets in the passageways will probably be a fact of life on this ship until they trace down all the leaks, it’s a minor inconvenience and not disruptive to cruise life.

The crew were great.  Carnival has done a great job in training, it is noticeable, and the primary reason along with value to cruise on Carnival.  My MDR headwaiter Kaz was very professional and efficient. One of the best I have had.  The Alchemy bartender Daniel is now one of my all time favorites, but all were great.  Cruise Director Jamie Dee is a star and now #1 in my book.  She is energetic, professional, easy on the eyes, a great host, and all one needs in a CD.  I liked that she had a entertainment and highlights plan that was given at the beginning that outlined the 16-day cruise.

Overall I did not find the food as good as on the Carnival Legend last month.  As I mentioned in that review, Carnival food many times is ‘hit or miss’.  That was a hit, this cruise was good, but many times closer to a miss. MDR service was very good though.  I really liked all the breakfast options: MDR-regular, MDR-brunch, Blue Iguana, Lido Marketplace, Ocean Plaza, Havana Bar, and three omelette stations.  I liked the availability of Canadian Bacon too.  Lunch also has a lot of options.  I loved my two dinners in the the specialty locations: Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse and JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, well worth the additional charge.

Needs Improvement
  1. The venue for the Punchliner’s Comedy Club is much too small.  Once she begins her Caribbean sailings with 95% english speakers the demand for space  will be even greater.  
  2. It would be nice to have an interactive TV system so that you can check the status of your onboard account or something as simple as the dinner menu.  I doubt that is in the future though. 
  3. The Waterworks were advertised to be open from 9:00 to Sundown (or  5:00 pm) each  day in the FunTimes yet was only open a few days and only a few hours on those few days.  Weather was good so not a factor.  Don’t know the true problem.  The fresh water is nice, but if it’s the problem go back to salt water, not that big of a deal.
  4. The primary aft dining room should be for set time diners especially now that Your Time dining seems to have peaked and the majority of guests are now repeat and not first timers.
Cruise Highlights (for me)
  1. Meeting new friends and seeing previous cruise friends
  2. Carnival Crewmembers
  3. The Alchemy Bar
  4. Mijas Excursion
  5. Great Breakfast & Lunch options
The Carnival Sunshine is promoted as the only ship in the Carnival fleet with ALL the Funship 2.0 improvements.  True and they are very nice, but perhaps it was too ambitious as many of the venues are in my opinion too small to accommodate many guests.  Hopefully the variety of venues will spread demand...we will see.  She is a great choice as a 'sampler' or beginners cruise. I do believe the space/venue problems will become more acute once she sails the Caribbean itineraries. I will be back to back on the Sunshine for the John Heald Bloggers Cruise in February and that will be fun with the Snoozemates and other Blogger friends, but I really don’t see myself booking the Sunshine as a destination ship beyond that.  Too many other choices closer to my home ports in Texas. 

Did I have fun on this cruise?  You bet I did!!

~Thanks to ZydecoCruiser and other friends for photos~
(click on photos to see full size)

Epilogue:  I no more than posted this with my final comments when I actually booked the Carnival Sunshine again for 19 January 2014.  Goes to show that aggressive marketing works.  It my case it was the no solo supplement offer...that makes it a great value.  It is unusual though that the newest Carnival ship is already using promotions and discounted fares.