Friday, June 27, 2014

Carnival Triumph Cruise Review

 Carnival Triumph

Cruise Review 6/21/2014

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Triumph
Captain:  Allesandro Iemmi
Cruise Director:  Mike Pack
Ports: Galveston-Progreso-Cozumel-Galveston

This is my 45th Carnival cruise, the 4th time on the Carnival Triumph, and 92nd cruise overall.  I am cruising as a solo.

Saturday / Embarkation / Day 1
Galveston Harbor
I awoke early and was on the road about 6:10 am arriving at EZ Cruise Parking just after 10:30 am and was shuttled over to the ship straightaway.  I decided to carry my bag with me through check-in and not leave it with a porter.  I was checked in at the VIFP priority check-in area by 11:00 and it was not busy at all.  I’m the only Diamond guest and I guess there are few Platinums and FTTF’s. After a short wait we were escorted to the ship and I was in my cabin by 11:30.  It was smooth process.  After dropping my large bag I went straight to the Lido buffet for lunch before it got too busy.  There is no Mongolian Grill on Triumph so I had some Roast Beef, Chicken Tenders, and Fried Fish.  The Mustard Sauce for the chicken tenders was very good, but no tartar sauce for the fish.  The Blueberry Cobbler at the Desert Station was very good.  When I returned to the cabin a Housekeeping Supervisor was inspecting it.  Very efficient, although it looked good to me she’s requesting a deep cleaning.  Thanks.  I set up my cabin since I have my bag and spent some time on the internet using my mobile hotspot.  I also purchased an Excursion on the cabin television, I really like the interactive TV systems.  Since I’m the only Diamond guest I called Guest Services and made them a proposal: in lieu of a cocktail party, breakfast, or bridge tour with the Captain, I would be happy with a few cocktail vouchers for the Alchemy Bar.  That would save the Captain an hour of his busy schedule and I’m happy with that…they readily agreed.  Very soon afterward Jennifer from GS delivered the vouchers.  Wow nice guest services already provided from two departments.  I was headed to see the Matre’D about my dining room table (why would they seat the only Diamond guest upstairs on level two?) when I noticed that the Alchemy Bar was open.  Milos is still one of the bartenders so it was good to visit with him again.  Alexandrea who I just saw on the Freedom is server.  Unfortunately they are limited on the liquor they can use until we get 12 miles out to sea and because of TABC taxes they restrict the type of alcohol available to the bars.  Boat/Safety Drill was held about 4:00 pm.  Safety drill went smooth and very soon the Triumph was sailing from the port of Galveston on her way into the Gulf.   I did not see the usual escort of dolphins, but the Pelicans were more active than I have ever seen them.  Lots of them diving and catching fish, especially near harbor entry.  I enjoyed watching the sail away and very glad I got a balcony cabin.  I tried to take a wee nap, but at least rested.  The Welcome Show was scheduled for 7:30, but I have seen it previously so I went to the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs and used my Diamond guest drink vouchers  I met the other Alchemist, Marko, and had a nice time.  The Alchemy Bar is not near as busy as I am used to and I guess it is because with summer sailings there are more children taking berths & parents with children so fewer martini fans on board than a fall or winter cruise. I did not check nor change my dining table prior to going to the Paris dining room (MDR) and thought I would at least see it…worst table location on the ship.  I went to see the Kris the Matre’D and Ms. Natasha actually recognized me and immediately moved me to a better table on main floor. Natasha is a sweetheart and I was very courteous about the situation, but I am amazed that the ONLY Diamond guest on the ship is assigned the absolutely worst table in the MDR.  They blamed it on Miami, I will follow through on that. For dinner tonight I ordered: the Escargot, Gazpacho, the Lasagne Bolognese (as starter), Chicken a la Grecque entree (grilled Chicken over Pasta), and the Black Forrest Gateau for dessert.  Dinner was good and the service from head waiter David was excellent. Following dinner I wanted to go to the double headliner comedy show @ 11:00 pm with both Lester Bibbs and John Wessling, but I was so tired I retired after dinner. I will see them later this cruise.

Sunday / Fun day at Sea / Day 2
Milos and Marko  'Ziveli'
Very smooth seas overnight and an enjoyable long nights sleep. The excursion ticket I purchased on the interactive TV system yesterday was delivered under my door this morning. I was off to the Paris dining room for breakfast about 9:30 am. for the Sea Day Brunch and ordered a Bloody Mary, the Fruit Plate, and Steak & Eggs.  After breakfast I played some trivia and bought the Cheers   (almost unlimited liquor) Card  at the Casino bar.  I went to Guest Services and deposited some cash to my ship board account and stayed at the Lobby for for a few Bellinni morning cocktails.  I could use my toast Noroc as one of the bartenders was from Romania.  They delivered a plate of chocolate goodies for Elegant night and it’s great when you get them early in the day.  I watched some World Cup soccer on cabin TV and took a much needed nap.  For a late lunch I went up to Lido deck for a great Guy’s Burger and Fries and the decks were packed with guests.  At 4:00 pm it was time for the Alchemy Bar opening and I stopped by for an afternoon cocktail about 4:30ish, then back to the cabin to prep for the evening.  I went a little early to see the production show Wonderful World and got a nice 3rd row center seat. The show features the Carnival Triumph dancers and singers and highlights music from around the world. There were songs or dances from: France, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Africa, Spain and more. It is a fantastic show with full cast of singers and dancers and full LIVE orchestra. The Can-Can was my favorite dance and Con Te Parte my favorite song.  I later visited with the female feature singer at the Alchemy Bar and complemented her on the song, she says it’s the one song she is a bit nervous to sing, but she does a wonderful rendition.  Elegant night dinner was good, I ordered: the Stuffed White Mushrooms, Pumpkin Soup, Farfalle Pasta with Turkey, Prime Rib, and the Cherries Jubilee for dessert.  Other good options were:  Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Alligator Fritters, Lobster Tail, or Pork Spare Ribs. Then it was off to the Punchliner Comedy Club to see comedian John Wessling, a very funny and entertaining show.  I also tried the Punchliner cocktail, why not with my Cheers program, but really not my ‘cup of tea’.  Finally to the Alchemy for a Deal Closer (or two) before turning in for the night.  The Platinum gift was delivered tonight: a Carnival Logo insulated coffee mug.

Monday / Progreso, Mexico / Day 3
Pyramid of the Soothsayer - Uxmal Mexico
Calm seas overnight and I slept very well but had to get up early for my excursion.  I ordered a light breakfast from room service as my wake up call and it was delivered about 7:00 am.  I have been to the Yucatan many times over the years, but have never been to the Mayan ruins of Uxmal so I booked the Carnival Uxmal & Haceienda Ochill excursion ($85.99 pp).  We met at 8:00 am in the Rome theater and were on our way just about 8:30.  It was about a 1.5 hour drive to Uxmal and the guide explained a lot about the Mayan culture on the way.  Uxmal is very impressive site, we saw: the Pyramid of the Soothsayer, the Nun’s Quadrangle, the Ball Court, the Palace of the Governor, the House of the Turtles, and more.  I was also interested in the local tree that was sacred to the local Mayan, as I have two of them hidden on my ranch (the ranch also sets on a limestone cap at the same elevation)  I will clean out the cedar growing around them when I return as the tree is beautiful if allowed to get sunshine and grow.  I also saw a very interesting blue bird with a long unique tail, the guide said they call it a Motmot bird that I later confirmed (click on link).  We were at the Uxmal site a total of about 1.5 hours and then proceeded to Hacienda Ochill a restored sisal plantation & production facility.  It is a beautifully landscaped site and we were served a very nice light Mayan luncheon. We were at the Hacienda an hour total before boarding the bus for the return to Progreso. I admit after this tour, my old legs and bum knee were in some pain. We arrived back at the pier an hour before sailing and boarding was smooth, I had expected lines.  I was told later by an ship officer and he said a record number, almost 1/3 of guests stayed on board. If you read my last review for a call here I stayed on board my last visit.  I was back in time to have a plain Guy’s Burger with fries, a very good late snack, then to the cabin to clean up from the hot day in the Yucatan. After some cabin time I went to the Alchemy Bar for a cocktail and people watching.  It was now dinner time and this evening I ordered Shrimp Cocktails, the Farfalla Pasta in Alfredo Sauce with Turkey, the Grilled Red Snapper, the Breaded Shrimp & Fries, and a Banana Split & Tiramisu for dessert.  Of course an Alchemy Bar nightcap: the Deal Closer before retiring.

Tuesday / Cozumel, Mexico / Day 4
Woody's - San Miguel, Cozumel
After being rocked to sleep overnight as we entered the Caribbean, we arrived early at the Puerto Maya pier and were docked before the scheduled 9:00 am arrival. We are docked next to the Carnival Dream and the Navigator of the Seas  and Carnival Legend are docked at the International Pier, the only four ships in Cozumel.  It will be a very hot and humid day in Cozumel.  I was in no rush as I have no big plans and I had a MDR breakfast this morning of Eggs Benedict with side of bacon, corned beef hash, and potatoes.  I left the ship about 10:00 and shared a taxi into San Miguel ($4 my share).  I went straight to Antonio’s Barber Shop and I got a haircut from my friend Martin ($7+).  He also told me the location of Similaries, the generic pharmacy, that sell prescription drugs at a huge discount, but the pharmacy next door Y&R matched the prices of the items I needed.  Next stop is Woody’s Bar & Grill to use their fast WiFi and have a few diet cokes and some Guacamole & Chips.  They had live music today at Woody’s, that’s new for day time and I don’t know if that will be a regular feature, but it was nice, Too soon it was off to the ship as it sails at 4:00 pm. My first stop was on deck 9 for a Guy’s burger and diet coke then to the cabin to clean up and cool off.  The VIFP party was held at 5:00 in the Club Rio Lounge for Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Guests.  Mike did a good job presenting the film, introducing the senior staff, and the ‘Live’ music by the show band was fantastic.  I sat with table mates near the front and since I knew I was the only Diamond guest I knew I would be senior guest.  I had my photo taken with the staff and surprise-surprise it was delivered to my cabin that evening.  I had already made a deal with the Guest Services Manager (GSM) for no special Diamond event so I was very pleasantly surprised when Captain Iemmi and some staff surprised me at my ‘hangout’ the Alchemy Bar for an aperitif. I think they knew I was always there at that time and I was very honored by their extra effort and attention.  I really enjoyed visiting with the Captain and also GSM Stephen who I discovered is a fellow Scotsman.  The Housekeeping Ops Manager, Beverage Ops Manager, Hotel Manager, & CD Mike were also there…very impressive. Thanks Carnival.  For dinner tonight I had Lobster Bisque, Penne Siciliana Pasta (as starter), Panko crusted Shrimp, the Chateaubriand, and Grand Marnier Souffle for dessert.  Stephen (GSM) sent a wee dram of Glen Morangie to my table…Slainte & thanks.  Tonight at 11:00 was the cabaret show A Kiss Good Night a fantastic show if you can get a seat.  After a final nightcap at the Alchemy Bar it was time for me to retire.  A great day.

Wednesday / Fun day at Sea / Day 5
Carnival Triumph theme decor
A calm night at sea.  The plan for the day is to do as little as possible, I feel like I may have a bug since I have a sore throat, and I suspect it may the fresh mango slices I purchased from a Mayan lady outside Uxmal.  I should have known better than to do that since my immune system is still not 100% since my rare tropical disease  (schistosomiasis) incident last year.  About 9:15 am I went to the MDR and I had my favorite Sea Day Brunch breakfast this morning: Fruit Plate, Steak & Eggs, and a side of Bacon & Corned Beef Hash. It was excellent. I returned to the cabin just to rest and update this review.  I had a nice nap and then went up to get a Guy’s Burger about 3:00 pm for late lunch. I spent some time on deck drinking a few ‘boat drinks’ and the frozen concoctions did feel good on my throat.  I saw the Variety Music with Ashby performance in the Lobby Bar, he was very good, not to be missed.  It was now 7:00 so I attended the final Production Show: The Big Easy. It was a very good show with a lot of costume changes and featured many songs associated with New Orleans.  Final dinner was good, I ordered the French Onion Soup, Penne Marisco as a starter, and the Veal Parmesan.  For dessert I had a Banana Split.  After dinner a final Deal Closer from Alchemy before turning in for the evening.

Thursday  /  Debarkation
I awoke at 6:30 and began packing soon afterward, it was obvious we would not arrive early, but probably closer to the 8:30 published arrival.  I had half a banana for breakfast and went down to the designated meet point for Diamond & Platinum guests in the London MDR by 8:00 am.  It was not busy there at all similar to embark and we were the first to leave the ship about 8:20 am. I was through US. Customs by 8:35 and at EZ Cruise parking by 8:50 am.  I always walk back to the car as by the time you walk to the shuttle pick up you could be 1/3 the way to the lot itself.  Much faster to walk. The only two slight hiccups were: I used a birth certificate as I have my passport submitted for renewal and that can take longer and I had to have my truck jumped due to weak battery.  Neither took long since I was among the first at Customs and I was first by far at the EZ Cruise parking lot.  I stopped for gas ($3.38) at Raceway next to the bridge and was off the island at 9:08 am.  I met the DD and DW in Waco for lunch about 12:30 pm then following had a new battery & windshield wipers installed.  Home at the ranch about 4:30 pm.

I have cabin 7397 a balcony located near the aft elevators on starboard side on deck 7.  A fair location, but I only booked the week of the cruise so good location for such a late booking. The cabin has a swipe type safe, twin/queen beds, no refrigerator (OK by me rarely use them), Three-section closet, Three Drawers,  Cabinet (new) with three shelves, Two Electrical Outlets (rare) on long Counter/Dresser, Bottle Opener, Medicine Cabinet, Small Table, Small Stool at Dresser, and nice Flat Screen TV with interactive features.  The cabin steward George was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice chest filled.  What is nice is that they seem to have eliminated the problem with door slammers on the balcony doors.  The doors are adjusted so that the returns hold the door very well, you may even have to physically close them yourself, but a much better option than the door slamming.  Whoever was the Ship Engineer that solved this problem needs to go fleet wide. I actually have a friend who no longer books balconies, only ocean view cabins (OV’s) because of the annoying door slammers.

Both Main Dining Rooms are very nice especially the Paris Dining room.  The new Blue Iguana for burritos and Guy’s Burgers are excellent.  The buffet food is pretty standard, but the desserts are good.  The MDR food is IMHO just adequate, but I had a nice location and the waiters were good.  No Mongolian Grill, but they have Chopsticks, an Asian specialty spot.  Love the new Alchemy Bar and the Lobby bar is very nice.  Thirsty Frog beer is available in the Red Frog Rum bar, EA Sports bar, and Lobby bars.  If guests want the full entertainment experience, then the Triumph may be the ship for you.  They have a large 9 member ship orchestra, 12+ production dancers, and two excellent feature singers.  Also very good bands and solo performers. 

The entire ship crew were very friendly, they can make the cruise more enjoyable. Waiters and Cabin stewards were very good.  Favorites this cruise were David my headwaiter; Milos, Marko, & Alexandrea in the Alchemy Bar; and MDR hostess Natasha.  The Ship Officers were fantastic…they really seem to enjoy their work and are very friendly.

I do NOT normally cruise in the summer primarily for two reasons: Children and Pricing.  If school is not in session pricing is 25-40% higher than other months and of course there are lots of children and teens using 3rd & 4th berths in cabins.  Experienced cruisers such as myself usually avoid the summer; however, one can actually survive and enjoy a summer cruise.  Here are four recommendations:  Balcony-you must have a balcony so that you will have your own private space.  Forget about deck space and swimming pools, they will be packed.  On this cruise the aft pool was the teen pool and the main lido pool was families and small children.  Dining-late set time dining will be your best bet, fewer children. Also if you really want some sun & deck time you can go out about 6:00 pm when many go to early dinner.  Alchemy Bar-already one of my favorite places, the fact that they do not serve soda keeps the kids away.  Casino-I’m not usually a gambler, but I did spend some time in the casino this cruise, it’s kid free.

The Senior Staff surprising me at the Alchemy Bar was ‘over the moon’.
Alchemy Bar and staff.
Uxmal Excursion
MDR and Cabin Service.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Carnival Sunshine Review

Carnival Sunshine Review

May 30 - June 6, 2014

Just The Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Sunshine
Ship Captain: Isidoro Renda
Cruise Director: Jamie Dee
Ports: Port Canaveral, Aruba, Curaçao, Grand Turk
Weather:  Good

I won a Travel Agent contest last fall and this was a ‘freebie’ cruise for me.  At the time of winning I picked the longest available cruise at the time and it was this 8-day cruise on the Carnival Sunshine. This is my 5th cruise on the new Carnival Sunshine, 44th Carnival Cruise, and 91st cruise overall.  I am cruising as a solo and do have some good cruise friends on board.

Day Zero—Thursday—Travel

Since I have such an early flight on Saturday morning to Orlando from DFW airport I chose to drive up to the DFW Metroplex and take advantage of the Stay & Fly program at a LaQuinta Inn.  My rate was for one night accommodation and parking was $115+taxes, very fair I thought.  I left the ranch about 6:00 pm, late to avoid traffic and arrived about 8:30 pm.  My room was very nice.

Day One—Friday—Travel--Port Everglades—Embarkation

Port Canaveral, Florida
I had a 4:30 am wake up call to catch the 5:00 am shuttle to the airport since my boarding time was 7:00 am. (I thought the 6:00 shuttle would cut it too close.) It was a very easy security and bag check-in that early at DFW and I was at my gate by 6:00 am.  Complementary WiFi at DFW so the wait was fine.  My flight was great since I had an upgrade to 1st Class. To avoid bad weather we flew over Houston and Galveston Island then SE across the Gulf  arriving in Orlando just a little late about 11:30 am EST.  I met my friends who had flown in the evening before in the baggage claim area. A little concern when my bag wasn’t on the baggage belt, but it turned out my bag had taken an even earlier flight and was in the baggage office. No harm though as we had to wait for the Carnival shuttle bus that left about 12:15 pm.  It was about 55 minutes to the port and since we were behind the early crowd check in was very easy and we were on the ship by 1:30.  We were all familiar with the ship having just sailed on a B2B on the Sunshine earlier this year so we agreed to drop our bags and meet in the Havana Bar area for lunch.  My cabin is in my favorite area on deck 8 aft and next to the aft elevators.  I dropped my carry on bag and only had to go up one flight of stairs to the Havana Bar.  Surprisingly the lines for the Mongolian Grill were short so that was my choice for a very good lunch.  After lunch we went in search of the Steakhouse display and made reservations for dinner there this evening.  A subsequent  stroll down Promenade deck led to the pleasant surprise of seeing the Alchemy Bar open early.  We stopped and met the new Alchemist Gabriel and I had a welcome aboard Quick Fix cocktail.  Soon Miro the other Alchemist we have known for many cruises arrived and we were having so much FUN we almost got caught up in the Boat Drill.  I went to my cabin and met my Cabin Steward Dika and he had already placed my bag in the cabin.  Very soon we had cast off and began our sail away from Port Canaveral.  I made a quick telephone call home before we lost service then watched us sail through the port into the Atlantic. This is my first cruise from this port and overall impression is good.  I then began to unpack and settle into my cabin. The cabin is a standard Carnival balcony on starboard side and very comfortable especially for a solo.  The Welcome Show was at 7:30 pm in the Liquid Lounge, but knowing I could watch it later on cabin TV, I met my friends at the Alchemy for aperitifs and Gabriel fixed a special spicy cocktail that was very unique, I know a splash of jalapeño infused vodka was involved.  We had 8:30 reservations in the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse.  I ordered: the Escargot Bourguignon, the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, and the Broiled Prime New York Strip Loin Steak.  All were very good.  For dessert the three of us shared: the Cheesecake with Hazelnut Biscuit, Caramelized Washington Apples, and the Chocolate Sampler.  On the first TWO nights in the steakhouse they include a bottle of wine for the table.  A very nice evening.

Day Two—Saturday--Fun Day at Sea

Atrium Bar - Carnival Sunshine
Smooth seas and partly cloudy skies this morning and I enjoyed my 9+ hours of restful sleep. About 9:15 am I went down to Sunrise Dining Room (MDR) for the Sea-Day Brunch.  I ordered the featured Steak & Eggs and they were very good this morning.  The MDR was very busy and I thought that was unusual since there are more breakfast locations and choices on the Sunshine than any ship in the fleet. Guests will discover the other alternatives.  After breakfast I went to the lobby bar and purchased the Cheers Cocktail Program.  Since the Alchemy Bar is so fun and the fact this cruise is a freebie I thought I would splurge for it…so another Bloody Mary and some people watching from the lobby bar.  I went up to the Serenity Deck and it was packed, but a sudden small rain shower cleared the area for a new round of guests.  I enjoyed a soda and ginger ale at the Serenity Deck Bar (soft drinks are included in the Cheers program) and did some more people watching.  I had cabin time in the afternoon and began my notes for this review. They delivered some Elegant Night sweets to the cabin that were nice to have early in the day.  I met my friends at the Alchemy Bar at 6:30 and both the Bar and Ocean Plaza were packed.  We were fortunate to get a seat, but did so and enjoyed some wonderful cocktails by our Alchemists until dinner.  The reason that the Promenade area was packed with guests is that they have started a new program that you have to check in at a table on the Promenade Deck to get a table assignment for Your Time dining.  IMHO it was an disjointed mess:  Stand in line to make a reservation on Promenade, then wait to be called back to the table on Promenade, then receive a ticket with table assignment, then go down to the MDR to again stand in a long line to be seated.  We requested a table in center of the MDR as we knew the waiters and said we would wait as long as it takes to get that location.  Of course we were assigned a table completely away from that location, in fact, furthest away from the kitchen in a poor location. Very frustrating since we had gone to that much trouble.  That being said, George, our waiter (from Romania), was very good and provided great service.  I ordered The White Stuffed Mushrooms, Spaghetti Carbonara (as a starter), the Choice Prime Rib, and Banana Split for dessert.    After dinner it was to the Alchemy for a nightcap.  I had a Miro special Cherry Kiss and then a Deal Closer before retiring.

Day Three--Sunday—Fun Day at Sea

Red Frog Pub - Carnival Sunshine
A little rolling during the night and clear skies.  I went to the Sunrise MDR again for the Sea Day Buffet and had a Bloody Mary cocktail, Fruit Plate, a side of Bacon, and the Huevos Rancheros .  During breakfast the ship temporally lost power, but only for a few (10+) minutes.  Both the Captain and Jamie made announcements. When I returned to the cabin I left a message for the Matre’D hoping to get some help with dinner assignments.  I went to look at the shoppes and I had a diet coke and nice visit at the lobby bar with Ting and Feby who were working there on three of my previous Sunshine cruises. I stopped by the Taste Bar and got a very nice salad for lunch that I took to my cabin and ate on the balcony.  After a little TV time, I went by the Red Frog Pub (RFP) for a Banks beer then took a walk on deck and found it was packed everywhere on Lido and Serenity decks. Guests were enjoying the warm weather, there were many more people on decks than I ever saw on a NOLA sailing. I met our friends early  in the Alchemy so that we could check our dining arrangements when they opened on Lido deck.  Ante did arrange for use to get a table with I Gusti in the MDR; however, we would have to go to dinner early to guarantee it.  I don’t recall ever eating this early on a cruise, I can see why some request a table by the window, I’m used to it being dark when I dine.  The good news is that we have a very nice table location with a great waiter we know very well. They even assembled the old wait team from our recent B2B on Sunshine for photos.  After dinner we went to the Alchemy Bar for cocktails and the ‘regulars’ were all there so FUN times. We attempted to see the 9:15 Comedy show going 15 minutes early, but it was already full.  The venues are so small on the Sunshine and I refuse to stand in a line for 45 minutes to see a 30 minute comedy show.  The Motor City production show was also tonight at 9:15, a good show, but I’ve seen it a few times so I got a good bar seat location in the lobby to watch Jamie’s Mardi Gras Party.  Great fun and worth it just to see Jamie do the splits on the lobby bar.  Being used to late dinner it was a different experience this evening. 

Day Four—Monday—Aruba

Trolley in Oranjestad, Aruba
Seas were rolling a bit and cloudy skies this morning. I  went up to Lido to get a very nice Western omelette from the omelette station for breakfast.  Also a side of potatoes and bacon and still no bacon police on the Sunshine.  All was great.  I had cabin time this morning and prepared a bag of laundry to be sent out, complementary laundry is one of the better perks for Platinum and Diamond guests.  We docked about 12:15 and they opened the gangway about 12:45, a little before the scheduled 1:00 pm time.  I went up to the Mongolian Grill to get lunch about 1:00, the Mongolian is one of my favorites and not too busy on a port day.  I met my friends and we left the ship about 2:00 pm.  You debark right in the town of Oranjestad so the town is easily walkable.  Aruba has very nice beaches and locals were offering 2 hour island tours for $20 pp.  We chose to walk around the town and first stop was a small unique bar on the harbor for a pitcher of Heinekin beer.  We came across the local trolly car and rode it for a little tour of the city.  We then stopped at a bar called Mojitos for some of the local beer and use their Wifi.  Oranjestad seems to be in a restoration process with many buildings being remodeled, there can be a combination of nice properties, derelict buildings, and restorations all in the same block.  On any cruise call in Aruba, I would recommend a beach day or tour, you could skip the city except for a quick souvenir stop.  We returned to the ship about 6:00 and it was straight to the shower to clean up from a hot sticky day.  I went up to the Alchemy about 7:30 for an aperitif then to dinner about 8:00 pm.  Very slow in the MDR since we are actually still in port until 10:00 pm and we had our center table even though it was late, it did start filling up with late comers though.  I ordered the Tom Ka Gai (soup), Faralle Pasta with Turkey (as a starter), Beef Stroganoff and Bitter & Blanc and Tiramasi for dessert.  Other entree options were: Assorted Seafood Newburg Style, Baised Lamb, Fillet of Atlantic Salmon, and Black Bean & Vegetable Enchiladas.   After dinner it was a FUN night in the Alchemy Bar, the regulars were there and the Alchemists were concocting very unique cocktails.  It was 1:00 am before returning to the cabin.

Day Five—Tuesday—Curaçao

Willemstad, Curaçao
Windy weather and choppy seas overnight.  I slept very well and we were already docked when I  awoke about 9:00 am.  I relaxed then went up to the Lido to get breakfast from the Blue Iguana burrito bar.  About 10:15 I met my friends at the Lobby Bar for our adventure into town.  We are docked at the outer Mega Pier just a short walk into town through the Renascence Center and Fort Rif.  The town of Willemstad is a beautiful and clean city with unique old Dutch architecture.  We crossed the historic wooden swinging bridge into the old town that certainly has a European feel about it and looked around at the shoppes making our way to the Fish Market and outdoor fruit market.  Willemstad, Curaçao also has community Wifi so you can use the internet most everywhere, we stopped at a very nice outdoor restaurant, Eetcafe de Buren, located at one of the squares for a few beers and to update our email.  Good timing, I was able to live IM the wife back at the ranch, guess she has a rattlesnake problem, always something exciting happening there.  We looked around more of the old town on the way back to the wooden bridge and the ship.  I would certainly recommend any cruise call in Curacao as a ‘city’ day in Willemstad. Upon return to the ship a Guy’s Burger and diet Coke really tasted good.  I returned to the cabin to clean up and a little rest.  We had sail away about 4:00 and the ship had to really fight the high wind to get off the pier…interesting.  They had the VIFP party at 4:45 and I just popped in for a few minutes, but was able to speak with Jamie Dee for the first time, she really is a big asset to Carnival as one of the best Cruise Directors in the fleet.  No one is more energetic than Jamie.  It was off to the Alchemy Bar for an aperitif cocktail and meet my friends for dinner.  We asked for Senvile as our waiter and were assigned a very nice booth with both a view through the aft windows and also the main part of the MDR.  I like it, eating earlier is growing on me.  Senvile was our head waiter for our B2B in February and he really took care of us this evening…we had much more food than we ordered including:  two double Shrimp Cocktails, Wild Mushroom Creme Soup, Grilled Red Snapper Fillet, Panko Crusted Shrimp, and Petite Filet Mignon & Braised Boneless Short-Rib with Pumpkin Pie for dessert.  A lot to eat and I was actually ready to retire after all that, but the Alchemy was calling.  The feature show was magician Bobby Borgia, very entertaining, but I have seen him several times so direct to deck five.  Much quieter at the Alchemy this evening so after visiting with a few bar regulars, Miro, Gabriel, and Kunyakorn it was off to the cabin for sleep.

Day Six—Wednesday—Fun Day at Sea
Winsu - I Gusti - Senvile & Happy Guests
Somewhat smooth seas overnight, and a cloudy humid sea day.  I had a good 9+ hour nights sleep.  I went to the MDR for the Sea Day brunch and again had the Steak & Eggs, a great breakfast.  I went to Guest Services to place some cash in my Sign & Sail account and stopped at the lobby bar for a diet coke.  Knowing I was an Alchemy Bar fan they brought out a list of martinis that they did there.  I decided to go retro again and had a Brandy Alexander.  By now Trivia had started and some new friends were there so we became a team for three sets of trivia:  80’s Pop icons, Carnival Cruise Lines, & 90’s music. We did very well, it was an interesting and fun way to spend the day and I also got to see others from the FB roll call page.  It was almost 4:00 by the time I got back to the aft promenade deck and my friends had just finished the Martini classes at the Alchemy bar, so a congratulatory cocktail with the new graduates.  This is the second elegant night so it was time to prepare for dinner.  We requested and got a very nice 4-top table again with Senvile.  I ordered:  the Escargot, Shrimp Cocktails, the Chateaubriand with Sauce Bearnaise (also horseradish), and Baked Alaska for dessert.  I had to excuse myself as I was late for the Diamond Guest reception that began at 7:30 pm in Piano Bar 88. There are 22 Diamond Guests on this sailing and we enjoyed nice hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.  I met Captain Isidoro Renda who was the staff Captain previously on the Carnival Sunshine, a very nice man from Sicily.  I also didn’t waste the opportunity to let the hotel director know my opinion on the Your Time dining situation.  He did say that ‘beards’ (executives) from Miami were coming on board to review that very situation.  For Example: tonight the line to get a ticket for the MDR went from the Taste Bar to the casino by 5:20 so at least they started issuing them a little early.  Then when we were later in the MDR the line to be seated went from the MDR entry to the elevators, not a good system overall.  Following dinner I enjoyed an after-dinner cocktail at the Alchemy Bar then I returned to Piano Bar 88 as I had heard good things about the piano player and I’m so glad I did…she is wonderful.  Sing-a-long Piano with Sonjia is her gig on the ship.  I highly recommend an evening in the Piano Bar if you have the opportunity to see her.  A final nightcap and I retired to listen to some music in the cabin before retiring.

Day Seven—Thursday--Grand Turk

JiJi's Mongolian Grill available for lunch
Smooth seas overnight and nice partly cloudy weather in Grand Turk.  We were already docked when I awoke about 7:30 am.  I’m in no rush as I usually get off in this port after lunch since the only real option here is a beach day. I had a nice omelet from the omelet station and took it to the Blue Iguana for some fresh pico de gallo.  Visited with old and new friends as it seems many have the same idea about no rush to debark.  I had cabin  and balcony time this morning and watched the Carnival Glory dock next to us.  At noon I went up to get a nice Mongolian Grill, a bit busy since crew eat there on port days, but really the time to eat without a long waiting line.  With it being overcast and me still nursing a bad knee I’ve decided to just stay on board this afternoon.  Some reading and relaxation with a visit to the Red Frog Pub for a cocktail.  The RFP was a great location for watching the action on the beach below and I swear I could see Topher on the Jack’s Shack beach.  We sailed away as scheduled at 4:00 pm and my balcony is pier side with the Carnival Glory opposite, always cool to hear the ships horn and farewells from ship to ship. Tonight we ate later getting our four top table with Senville about 8:15 pm, close to our usual dining time for cruises.  Tonight I ordered:  two Shrimp Cocktails, Potage Saint Germain (Pea Soup), Barbecued Cornish Game Hen, Grilled NY Sirloin Steak, and Bread Pudding Cake with Ice Creme for dessert.  A very good meal and after only one Deal Closer from the Alchemy it was time for me to retire.

 Day Eight—Friday--Fun Day at Sea
Serenity Pool - Carnival Sunshine
Partly cloudy and occasional showers in the area, but over all a nice day.  I was up early and had a nice omelet in the Havana Bar then went to the Excursion desk to many queries about the Space Center tour with airport drop off.  I have a late flight on Saturday.  I met my friends for in the Lobby Bar then we went to the final Sea Day Brunch in the Sunrise Dining Room, I ordered a Bloody Mary, the wonderful Flaming Tomatoes Soup, the Hey Pork Chop, and Banana Creme Pie for dessert. More of lunch for me and it was very good.  I still have all the magazines I brought along so I read this afternoon and enjoyed the balcony.  A nice easy relaxing afternoon. I did go to the Lobby bar to hear Guitar Music with Adam and enjoy a cocktail. Time for an aperitif then our final dinner of the cruise.  We ate about 8:00ish with Senior Head Waiter Senvile and for dinner tonight I ordered the New England Crab Cake, the Prime Rib, Panko Crusted Jumbo Shrimp, and Grand Mainer Souffle. Very good dinner.  Tonight is probably the best Production Show: Epic Rock.  All four Playlist Production shows on the Carnival Sunshine are very entertaining.  Final nightcap and good-byes at the Alchemy before retiring.  It was my goal to reach the limit on my Cheers program today since I had not come close and I did make that goal.  Time to retire to the cabin.

Debarkation — Saturday—Port Canaveral, Florida

We were docked early this morning and I was up early enough to go to the MDR for a nice breakfast this morning.  I’m doing self debark and I think more than half the ship is as well.  I had to go by Guest Services this morning to have two laundry charges removed, but I got to visit CD Jamie as she was doing a thorough job with announcing the debarkation.  Amazing that she can take the time for guests even when in the middle of such a job.  I was off the ship, through Customs, and on a Airport shuttle by 9:30 am.  Pretty smooth actually and Port Canaveral had three ships this morning.  I was too early to check bags for my 4:50 pm flight so a nice lunch and internet time.  I did get another 1st Class upgrade that made the flight very nice.  We arrived at D/FW about 7:30 CST and I had just a short wait for my shuttle.  A two hour drive and I was at the ranch about 10:00 pm.

Complete Redesign: May 2013 - formerly the Carnival Destiny (1996)
Passenger Capacity: 3,002 | Onboard Crew: 1040  |  Length: 892 feet
Gross Tonnage: 102,853 tons  | Cruising Speed: 22.5 knots
Always kept very clean and ship shape.  Largest Serenity Deck in the fleet, Great water works area, Multiple food venues including Guy’s Burgers, and updated public areas.

Crew / Staff
All the crew and staff were very efficient and professional.  My cabin stewards did a great job.  My head waiters & staff were wonderful and very professional.  I have never been greeted by name more by a wider variety of staff and crew than I was on this cruise.  Some may have remembered me from previous cruises, but many are new to the ship.  I know Carnival is emphasizing this, but this ship is truly amazing.

I had cabin 8299 a category 8D balcony located right at the aft elevator and stairwell on deck 8.  I like this location as your only one deck below the Lido buffet for food, ice, drinks, etc..  It’s a standard Carnival balcony cabin with: a three section wardrobe, full couch, punch code safe, Flat screen TV, hair dryer, and small stool for desk/vanity.  The bathroom door opens inward that can take space away.  They installed a new digital thermostat while on the cruise, not sure how much of an improvement that will be, but to me, it got warm during the night.

Dining Rooms

There have already been three changes to assigned dining on this ship. First it was in the Sunset MDR (Europe & Transatlantic), then the Sunrise MDR (from NOLA), and now back into the Sunset.   I have already mentioned the current jumbled mess:  Stand in line to make a reservation on Promenade, then wait to be called back to the table on Promenade, then receive a ticket with table assignment, then go down to the MDR to again stand in a long line to be seated.  I suspect they require check in on Promenade because after arrival in New Orleans and before they moved the assigned to Sunrise, many guests actually just ignored the assignments and seated themselves taking over the Sunrise dining room.  Worst night is first formal night by far and It did seem to get somewhat better the later in the cruise, but primarily because many people gave up on the system.  The beard (executive) who authorized the two-top tables in Sunrise needs to admit the mistake and make the change.  I know Your-Time dining was becoming very popular at that time, but that trend has now peaked.  The food on Carnival ships is usually good to very good and this cruise was typical.  Guy’s Burgers, Mongolian Grill, and Room Service was very good to excellent.  The entire MDR service team was excellent and wait service was wonderful everywhere on ship.


As mentioned this is my 5th cruise on Sunshine so I didn't do a lot of activities or go to many shows, please read all 5 reviews for a wider perspective of this ship.  The Freedom cruises I just took from Fort Lauderdale was a mixture of guests from across the US and Florida, this cruise was very much a Florida resident value cruise.  Just my observation and somewhat a generalization, but they tend to concentrate on cruise basics: the sun decks, the casino, and the MDR for most meals.   They didn’t tend to take advantage of all the alternatives offered on the Sunshine and it was very crowded in the three venues mentioned.  Very crowded.  This was my 5th cruise on the Sunshine, but I doubt I return, at least not until they change the Dining Room assignments.

Cruise Highlights:

Carnival Sunshine Officers, Staff, & Crew
Sunrise MDR service: Senior Head Waiter Senvile, Head waiter I Gusti, &  Wisnu
Alchemy Bar & staff: Miro, Gabriel, & Kunyakorn
The port of Curacao
Mongolian Grill  (JiJi's)
Pastelitos de Guayaba y Queso from the Havana Bar

The End

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Carnival Sunshine - June 2014


 Carnival Sunshine Alchemy Bar

Great Alchemy team on Carnival Sunshine of Miro and Gabriel.
Kunyakorn very good bar back.  (she's in video)

Here's video of Gabriel pouring 12 drinks on Thursday.

Review will follow soon.......