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Carnival Cruise Lines’ recent extreme transformation of Carnival Destiny into Carnival Sunshine has left the ship feeling much more like Carnival Magic and Carnival Breeze. The 3,006-passenger vessel’s $155 million makeover changed not just the ship itself but the spirit of the cruise experience.
Entertainment is served in short, snappy sessions, with three polished production shows in the Palladium Show Lounge. Fast-paced comedy shows take place in the Punchliner Comedy Club, featuring up-and-coming talent brought in by comedian George Lopez.
The intense, fast entertainment pairs well with the dozens of food and drink possibilities that include a wonderful burrito bar, uber-burgers contrived by Guy Fieri of Food Network fame, a 24-hour pizza bar serving made-to-order choices and Carnival’s own Red Frog beer.
Bonsai Sushi, which also has a home on Magic and Breeze, features top-notch combination dishes, and the Asian eatery, JiJi, appearing for the first time on Carnival is a home run. At JiJi, each table has a designated “director” who helps diners navigate through Pan-Asian appetizers, main dishes and sides. A steal at $12, the food is excellent, abundant and served to be shared. The presentation is gorgeous and, with selections from vegetarian to pork and beef, there’s something for any taste. JiJi and Cucina del Capitano, a new Italian restaurant, had ample seating and breakfast offerings. So even when the buffet filled up, there was plenty of space for a quiet meal.
Less quiet is the Punchliner Comedy Brunch on days at sea. It’s a rough ride for the comedians, who have to perform over hungry and sometimes hungover guests. There was a lot of unplanned laughter as passengers tried to explain to their international servers what some of the jokes meant.
The overall atmosphere of Sunshine has a decidedly Caribbean flavor, from the tequilas at Blue Iguana to the rums at the Red Frog. The tropical touch is echoed in the public area and stateroom decor. Like Magic and Breeze, Sunshine has become more subtle in color than Destiny’s former flamboyant Joe Farcus designs.
There’s nothing restrained about the new WaterWorks water park, however. Its three adrenaline-rush water slides have excited cruisers lining up to conquer the 334-foot-long Twister. They shrieked all the way down the water slide, and bystanders cheered those trying out the dual racing slides. A gentle water play area caters to the younger cruisers, who squeal and scatter under the 150-gallon dump bucket. Above the ship, the suspended ropes course had plenty of participants.
At the opposite end of the the ship is Serenity, the complimentary adult retreat with a pool, a whirlpool and seductive, cushioned chaise lounges and chairs. Tell your clients to try to capture one of the circular two-person lounges. I’m a sucker for the sight and sound of a waterfall, and Serenity has a beautiful one with fabulous views.
In the evenings, popular movies are shown on the poolside 270-square-foot, high-tech LED screen. Movies at the Seaside Theatre were very popular with teens on our cruise. Alternatively, Sunshine’s Liquid Lounge nightclub rocks well into the night. It’s great fun for all, except for the cruisers in the staterooms just above the club on Deck 6 who complained abut the heavy bass.
All these activities mean that passengers are spread out, and there is no feeling of overcrowding even though Carnival added 182 staterooms to Sunshine. The clever and flexible use of space sends guests throughout the ship for meals, relaxation and entertainment. There were so many different things happening all over the ship that there were no long lines.
Sunshine sails in November from Europe to New Orleans, where she will offer weeklong roundtrip itineraries until April. She will then join Carnival Liberty in cruising from Port Canaveral on five-, seven- and eight-day Bahamas and Caribbean cruises.