All Ages

Is a Carnival Sunshine Cruise Right for Your Next Family Vacation?

Carnival Sunshine; Courtesy of Carnival

Considering a cruise on the Carnival Sunshine? We’ve personally sailed on this popular cruise ship and can tell you everything you need to know before you book, from which Carnival Sunshine staterooms are best to which specialty restaurants are worth the extra splurge.

Carnival Sunshine; Courtesy of Carnival

Carnival Sunshine Renovations

If you previously cruised on the Carnival Destiny and are now climbing aboard the Sunshine, you may feel a slightly disorienting sense of coming home.

This is because in 2013, the former became the latter after a $155-million-dollar extreme makeover. The Sunshine was born anew after a refresh of the dining options, kids’ camp, spa, guestrooms and so much more.

In 2018, Carnival Sunshine went under the knife again, this time for a quick refresh that brought even more modernity and amenities to Carnival cruise passengers.

Carnival Sunshine Location

Where is Carnival Sunshine, you ask? Carnival Sunshine’s home address is the port of Charleston, South Carolina.

The Grand Suite on Carnival Sunshine; Courtesy of TripAdvisor

Carnival Sunshine Staterooms

All Carnival Sunshine staterooms offer the following:

  • Amenities: All Carnival Sunshine rooms make efficient use of space, and each one is furnished with a flat-screen TV (mounted up high with a swivel function), a phone, safe, and a pair of bathrobes.
  • Housekeeping: Twice daily housekeeping service means you’ll always have fresh, clean towels and well-made beds. Your steward will keep you stocked with ice and take care of any other wishes you may have. Be sure to have a conversation upon checking in and you’ll be in good hands for the duration of your cruise. The housekeeping button on your stateroom phone rings your steward’s cellphone directly so service is prompt and courteous.
  • Turndown Service: Turndown service at night includes the famous Carnival towel animals (keep an eye out for a precocious monkey hanging from the ceiling), sweets and a copy of the Fun Times newsletter outlining the next day’s activities, performances and more.

Carnival Sunshine Interior Staterooms
Windowless rooms may seem uncomfortable on paper, but when cruising, you tend to spend so little time in your cabin that it may not be an issue for you (especially when you factor in the greatly reduced cost of interior rooms). Know that inside cabins are on the smaller side, with either two twin beds oriented longways or side-by-side to convert into a one king bed. Interior rooms have closets, drawers and a private bathroom with a shower. They’re suitable for couples, but probably not for entire families. Connecting interior rooms are available for the most affordable family cruising option on the Sunshine, however.

Carnival Sunshine Ocean View Staterooms
Ocean View rooms are almost identical to Interior rooms, but offer a small picture window or portholes to gaze out upon the ocean or watch as the ship approaches dock. These rooms include two twin beds that can convert to a king bed, a sofa that converts to an additional bed, three closets, ample drawers and shelves, and a small bathroom with a shower.

Pro Tip: If you really want to be fancy on board the Sunshine but not pay balcony or suite prices, check out the Scenic Ocean View cabin with a floor-to-ceiling window looking out upon the sea. It’s stunning.

Carnival Sunshine Balcony Staterooms
These luxurious staterooms feature two twin beds that convert to a king bed, a bathroom with a shower and vanity area with a large mirror, and a sofa with a coffee table. The balconies have two chairs and a small table, and a childproof, high glass railing. Of course, you’ll want to supervise to make sure no one stands on the chairs or table!

As you’d expect, rooms with a balcony are more expensive than Interior and standard Ocean View rooms, but they’re worth the cost when traveling as a family because chances are, you might have a little one that needs a nap or falls asleep too early, causing you to cancel dinner plans. In a balcony room, there’s space for a big room service tray of food and ample elbowroom to enjoy it all.

Balconies come in slightly different sizes (standard, extended and premium), and some feature an ocean view, while others offer an obstructed view. There are different classes of balcony suites, with more space available if needed and a Cloud 9 Spa version with alternate decor (sea foam green instead of the Sunshine’s standard beige and blue).

Pro Tip: Look for a quad balcony room with a pull-down murphy trundle bed to sleep a total of 4 comfortably for a weeklong cruise.

Balcony rooms feature two 120-volt outlets and one 230-volt to charge your devices, located on the shelf near the phone next to the closets. Hidden beneath is a comfy ottoman.

Carnival Sunshine Suites
Suites on the Sunshine come in three varieties: Grand, Ocean and Cloud 9 Spa. Each is similar, with large balconies and enough space to have a small family dance party (something you certainly aren’t doing in any other stateroom category). In each suite, two twin beds convert to a king bed. Suites feature full bathrooms with showers, with whirlpool tubs in the Ocean and Cloud 9 Spa version. Suites have double sinks, as well as sofas, armchairs, coffee tables, walk-in dressing areas, vanity tables and two closets.

Carnival Sunshine waterslide; Courtesy of Carnival

Carnival Sunshine Activities

Make It With Michaels
Michaels Stores (yes, the same Michaels Stores you know and love on land) offers free arts and crafts to guests of the Carnival Sunshine. Projects range from DIY bracelets to photo frames, providing cruisers with unique, handmade souvenirs to take home.

Zumbini
Free, 30-minute Zumbini classes are a great way to let your toddlers burn off that excess energy during your Carnival Sunshine family vacation. On cruises of six days or longer, parent-child guided classes are offered at no additional charge.

Build-a-Bear Workshop at Sea
For an extra charge, kids (and kids at heart) can bring new stuffed animals to life at the Build-a-Bear Workshop. The best part? The proceeds benefit the kids of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital!

Musical Performances
Whether you prefer the sounds of Motown, a stellar vintage pop show with familiar tunes from past and present, spicy Latin dancing, movie music performed in a mesmerizing way, or an extravagant night of epic 80’s rock, the musical performances offered in the Carnival Sunshine Liquid Lounge are not to be missed. You’ll be transported back to your favorite time and place thanks to an invigorating mix of singing, dancing and hi-tech stage design.

Lip Sync Battle: Carnival
One of the most mesmerizing shows at sea, Lip Sync Battle is available for Sunshine guests to participate in or watch as a pair of their fellow passengers compete to see who can pretend to sing (but really dance) best! The event takes place at the end of the cruise.

Camp Carnival
Located on the top deck of the rear of the ship, the kids’ camp on the Sunshine provides children ages 2 to 11 with full days and nights of dance parties, video games, crafts and the opportunity to make new friends during their vacation at sea. All camp activities and dinners are free. Camp Carnival’s Night Owl program aboard the Carnival Sunshine gives kids the chance to stay up way past their usual bedtime for movies, dancing and more fun for a small fee ($6.75 per child, per hour, plus gratuities) while mom and dad enjoy grown-up activities at their leisure. Got a sleepy kiddo? Night Owls has a separate area away from the buzz for kids to drift off to dreamland.

Also located in the Camp Carnival area is Circle C, a youth program for kids ages 12 to 14, and Club 02, the onboard destination for older teens (15 to 17) to hang out and chill.

Pool and Hot Tubs
There’s one small, chilly pool in mid-ship and a pair of oft-crowded hot tubs, as well. But kids will probably have a much better time getting soaking wet in the splash zone and zipping down the three slides in the WaterWorks Water Park.

WaterWorks Water Park
Kids will love this water that dominates the profile view of the Carnival Sunshine. Go it solo on the 334 foot long Twister or have a race on the epic 235 feet long Speedway Splash side-by-side slides. Little ones will enjoy going down the purple Mini Racers slides again and again, as well as getting soaked in the SplashZone.

SportSquare
From a basketball court to shuffleboard and billiards to Ping-Pong, this active area has something for everyone on board the Sunshine, including a .1 mile track to get in an early morning run before the ship fully wakes up (only 31 laps for an at-sea 5K)!

Sky Course
Test your fear of heights and your physical limits on this ropes course high above the SportSquare. When you get a calm window of time to try the Sky Course, take advantage of it as this activity will close when the winds are too strong at sea.

Mini-Golf
This challenging 9-hole put-put course is at the very top of the Sunshine, encircling the iconic red, white and blue funnel. Colorful golf balls, putters for all sizes of golfers, and score cards are available on either side of the deck.

Hasbro, The Game Show
Happening on one evening each cruise, this hilarious live game show takes place in the Liquid Lounge and features full-size versions of Connect Four (played as basketball) and Simon Flash!, while Monopoly plays an important and fun part of the show as well. Answer trivia questions for a chance to be on stage!

Seuss at Sea
Young book lovers will go crazy for the Dr. Seuss character parade leaving from the Ocean Plaza and culminating with an on-stage interactive Cat In The Hat story time, led by your fabulous cruise director. Also available during your cruise are two seatings of a fantastically colorful Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast (for an additional fee of $5 per person).

The Punchliner Comedy Club
Early evening laughs are available every night for all-ages in the Limelight Lounge. Take your kids to their first stand-up comedy show while at sea on the Carnival Sunshine. The club is intimate and the queue starts to form as early as 30 minutes before showtime, so get there early for the best seats in the house.

Dive-In Movies
Nightly movies play on the 270-square-foot screen at mid-ship, so grab a lounge chair, a spot in a hot tub or a stool at the bar and enjoy cinema under the stars. If you don’t want to watch the movie from an angle along the side of the ship, stake your claim to a lounge chair (or hot tub seat) in the center of the ship at least 30 minutes before the opening credits begin to roll.

Video Arcade
This classic 24-hour den of beeps, bells and whistles will entertain kids of nearly any age. Whether Skee-Ball is your game or you prefer the nimble attacking challenge of Kung-Fu Panda, there’s an opportunity to collect digital ‘tickets’ to earn prizes like keychains, trinkets or brand new electronic devices (if you plan on spending a lot of time and money in the arcade).

Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Sunshine; Courtesy of TripAdvisor

Carnival Sunshine Restaurants

Room Service
Whether you crave breakfast in bed, a turkey club sandwich, a hot cup of tea, plates of chips and pretzels, or a piece of chocolate cake, Carnival Sunshine room service awaits your call, morning, noon, and night. Salads, sandwiches and sweets are available complimentary during the day, with special hot options available for an extra fee. Room service remains available at night, but fees apply after 10 p.m.

Carnival Sunshine Quick Bites

Technically still a part of the Lido Marketplace, the Sunshine has two “poolside” dining hot spots for quick and delicious eats:

  • Guy’s Burger Joint:Guy’s Burger Joint serves up over 1,000 burgers a day and lets hungry cruisers load ’em up with bacon, caramelized onions, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, BBQ sauce, ranch dressing and more at the toppings bar.
  • Blue Iguana Cantina:On the other side of the pool towel shack is BlueIguana Cantina, your onboard destination for burritos, tacos and other Mexican delights (at lunch and also during breakfast—huevos rancheros, anyone?).

Havana Bar
Still hungry? The Havana Bar offers tasty Latin-inspired finger food at lunchtime, like Cubano sandwiches and fresh pork empanadas.

Carnival Deli
The Carnival Deli” Added during the brief 2018 dry dock refurb, The Carnival Deli plates up classic sandwiches like pastrami on rye, grilled Reubens and roast turkey on crunchy country rolls with sides of pickles and slaw.

Bonsai Sushi
For a quieter quick-dining experience, look to Bonsai Sushi on deck 4 across from the steakhouse. The small room is awash in bamboo green and high-top tables, giving it a hip lounge vibe.

Carnival Sunshine Specialty Restaurants

As high class as any place you’d visit on land, the three specialty restaurants on the Carnival Sunshine, well, shine!

Cucina Del Capitano
If you want some of the fine Italian cuisine, there’s Cucina Del Capitano. Rates are $15 per adult, $5 for kids 11 and under, and free for allduring a design-your-own-pasta bar lunch.

Ji Ji Asian Kitchen
If you’d prefer a Far East meal to swoon over, make a reservation at Ji Ji Asian Kitchen. Rates are $15 per adultand $5 for kids 11 and under.

Fahrenheit 55
Fahrenheit 555 ($38 per adult, $12 for kids 11 and under) is as top notch a steakhouse as you’d find in Chicago or in midtown Manhattan (with an Award of Excellence wine list according to Wine Spectator). The creamy béarnaise sauce and succulent steamed lobster make for an extremely satisfying surf and turf experience.

The Chef’s Table
For a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at sea, book The Chef’s Table. This multicourse dinner is hosted by the Master Executive Chef, starts with cocktails and hors doeuvres, moves on to feature appetizers, entrees and desserts not on the regular menu, and includes a tour of the kitchen while in operation at the peak of dinner service! The Chef’s Table is priced like an excursion on land, and will deliver as many memories for you and your family.

Carnival Sunshine Extras

Gratuities
Instead of tipping your servers, bartenders and stateroom steward, Carnival Sunshine charges a one-time gratuity of $13.99 per person, per day for standard staterooms, and $15.99 per person, per day if booked in a suite. Note: Gratuities are not charged on children under 2.

Gratuities can be paid in advance, or they will be charged to your Sail & Sign account. Be sure to bring some small bills, too, to tip individual crew who go above and beyond to make your cruise extra special, including your stateroom steward.

Internet Access
It’s not as swift as your home Wi-Fi network, but if you need to work a bit, check email, post to Instagram, and send photos back to loved ones, Carnival’s onboard Internet access will suffice. Just don’t expect to stream Netflix or download new music while on the Sunshine. Social Wi-Fi internet plans start at $6.80 per day for access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat and other social media platforms. If you need full web access, the value plan will set you back $10.20 per day, while premium internet runs faster for $14.45 a day. All Wi-Fi plans are 15 percent cheaper when booked prior to the day of embarkation.

Carnival Hub App
The innovative Carnival Hub app allows families to communicate with each other through a closed messaging app (for a fee), and navigate the ship, menus, and entertainment schedules long before the daily Fun Times newsletter arrives.

Jeff Bogle lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with his wife, two daughters, and three cats. He is an award-winning photographer and respected travel journalist with bylines on Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, PBS, Esquire and more. Jeff (probably) spends too much time in England watching football and far too many hours plotting his family’s future travel adventures. Find Jeff on his own site, Out With the Kids

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