Take Two: Cruising on Carnival Sunshine

cruising on carnival sunshine

Persuaded by extremely cheap fares and a husband who really loved our first go at cruising, I decided to give it a second chance. Though I didn’t hate cruising the first time, I wasn’t a big fan. I decided to embrace this one fully and see if I, too, could fall in love with cruising. This time we’d be cruising on Carnival Sunshine.

Cruising Goals

Ahead of time I had full intentions of being a real joiner. I was going to line dance at lido deck parties and spend some time at the pool on the adults-only deck. I was going to take a book and spend leisurely afternoons in a lounge chair and go down the water slides. And, I decided, that I might even put aside my fear of heights to try the ropes course.

Cruising on the Carnival Sunshine, you can take on the high ropes course or use the colorful water slides. You can even take part in a life size game of chess.
It was a little windy for the ropes course.

I decided to hide some cruising ducks. Have you heard of this trend? In short, you purchase and tag little yellow rubber ducks and then hide them around the ship. The finder is then to post a photo on social media and tag you. They can then either re-hide or keep the duck.

A balcony room cruising on Carnival Sunshine out of Charleston, South Carolina.
It’s so much cheaper to get an interior room, but I caved and paid extra for a balcony. The Carnival Sunshine sails out of Charleston.

I purchased 50 little yellow rubber ducks on Amazon. I then tagged them and tucked them away in my suitcase for the trip.

Cruising Reality

As soon as I got on board I unpacked my little yellow ducks and set out to check off activities from my to-do list. But first, I figured I’d take a lap around the ship.

Sail away party on the Lido Deck cruising on Carnival Sunshine.
Line dancing on the Lido Deck during the sail away party.

It tuns out that I never quite made it to Bingo and didn’t do a single line dance. The line was too long for the slides and it always seemed too windy for the ropes course. The book that I brought to read was never opened and I didn’t spend any time relaxing on a deck chair with a big floppy hat.

A waterfall pool on Carnival Sunshine.
The Serenity Deck on board Carnival is called the Serenity Deck and is for 21 and over. The deck on Sunshine has a waterfall pool.

I happily hid the first ten or so ducks, seeking out the best hiding places on the ship. But, I’d purchased 50 and the novelty wore off well before I hid the last duck. I was excited when three people posted photos, but a little disappointed when 47 finders did not.

Leisure Time

Honestly, I don’t know what I did with most of my time on the ship. Most of my cruising goals went right out the window!

The Carnival Sunshine as viewed from the highest deck at the front of the ship. You can see the blue deck chairs, giant movie screen and the water slides at the back of the ship.
The Sunshine as viewed from the Serenity Deck at the front of the ship.

We spent some time in the casino. The girls and I learned to play roulette and David spent some time at the craps table. We won a little bit of money, but threw most of it away on the slot machines.

We ate breakfast and dinner in the main dining room. We had plenty of self serve ice cream cones. For some reason they just taste better on a cruise.

Burrito from the Blue Iguana onboard a Carnival cruise.
I love the Blue Iguana, mostly because I love salsa. Guy’s Burgers is delicious as well – especially when you cover your burger in salsa!

We enjoyed one evening having drinks in the piano bar. The pianist was a real entertainer and it was one of my favorite evenings.

I guess my advice for taking a cruise is to embrace the experience. If you are, like me, a traveler just appreciate the cruise for what it is. It will allow you to visit ports that you otherwise wouldn’t. You’ll be able to totally relax with no need to cook or clean or even decide where to go for dinner. You can participate as much or as little as you’d like.

Do Your Research

My advice remains that you should do your research ahead of time. There’s so much information out there. And some of the information is specific to your cruise line or even to your specific ship. The tips I read this time for cruising on Carnival Sunshine were very different from some of the tips for our first cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy. I would imagine the tips are even more unique between different cruise lines.

Watching videos ahead of time revealed many ship specific tips. We learned through videos that there’s a delicious barbecue buffet available on deck 5, but only on embarkation day. We found out that you want to visit the hibachi and Italian restaurants for lunch on the beginning of the cruise while everyone else is still lining up at the Blue Iguana or Guy’s Burgers. Then, toward the latter part of cruise when everyone has found out about those options, switch and grab a burger at Guy’s.

It was these same websites and videos that tipped us off to the “secret decks” at the front of decks 6 and 7. Here we had the whole area to ourselves and could peacefully stare out at the horizon.

The Carnival Sunshine docked at Bimini in the Bahamas.
At some ports, like Bimini and Freeport, the ship is able to dock. At others, like Princess Cays, you have to take a tender (think water taxi) to get off the ship. This can cause long waits, both directions.

You’ll need to do a search for your specific ship. But you can check out this one that we used. Check out the blogs and videos and take notes that will be relevant to your trip. 

My thoughts, then, after my second cruise are this. If you are lucky enough to travel, whether a grand adventure or a cruise or even a day trip across the state, be grateful. Enjoy the experience for what it is. Find things that you can appreciate and enjoy about the experience.

A Few Tips on Ports

Before you book your cruise, do a little research on the ports of call as well. There’s a lot of information out there both positive and negative and if you’re like me, these stops can make or break your trip.

Colorful cabanas on a beach in the Bahamas.
Lounge chairs are free and abundant. The cabanas do have a charge, but it’s totally worth it. For one thing, renting a cabana entitles you to be on the earliest tenders to the island.

On our first cruise we visited Freeport and Princess Cays. I wasn’t partial to Freeport, but some people are.

Then, cruising on Carnival Sunshine, we again went to Princess Cays and stopped at Bimini. Bimini is a newer port and relatively unspoiled. I loved it so much that I’ll do a separate post for our visit there.

Princess Cays

Princess Cays is a very nice spot if you’re looking for a nice beach day. It’s owned by Carnival and operated as a playground for the cruise line. You won’t experience any local culture, or for that matter any locals. The area is staffed by Carnival employees and food is offloaded from the boat as you arrive.

On the left is a picture of a hamburger and salad and on the right a photo of a Bahamas beach with blue water and blue skies in the distance.
On the left you can see the typical lunch provided at the complimentary buffet. On the right a view of the beautiful water.

On the other hand, you’ll have no worries. Chairs are provided and a buffet lunch is served in the middle of the island. The buffet lunch both times has consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers and standard picnic food.

Princess Cays Cabanas

One thing that I would highly recommend is renting a cabana. We’ve done this on both visits and it’s really a decent value. These are small, colorful sheds. They have air conditioning, a table and seating for four.

The Lido Deck and pool on a cruise ship after dark.
The Lido Deck after dark. Remember to look up at the night sky.

The price, on our cruise anyway, was just north of $200. While this may sound a little steep, I find it easy to justify. They throw in floats for two and snorkel gear for four. If we were to rent that, we’d be approaching the same price point. And with the cabana, we have a nice place to sit and eat our lunch. Oh, and I almost forgot, when you arrive at the cabana they have a spread including chips and salsa, fruit, veggies and your choice of drinks.

The ship's atrium on board the Carnival Sunshine.
The ship’s atrium. The decor is a bit of a throwback to the 70s or 80s.

If you plan on booking a cabana at Princess Cays, be sure to do so when you purchase your cruise because they sell out quickly. Then, when you get on the ship, go to the excursions counter to sign in. They will have you fill out paper work, including your choice of beverages. Ask them if you can select your cabana. Ask for number 6, 7 or 8. These are great locations, very private but not too far from the action.

FindingOhio and Beyond

We hope you’re enjoying FindingOhio and beyond with us. If you’re looking for adventures in the Buckeye state, be sure to check out our day trips section. There are plenty of things to do here in Ohio. If you’re looking beyond, we have a travels section where you can check out our more far-flung adventures. Looking for more cruise experiences? Check out this article on our first cruise, just two years ago.

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