Cruising Adventures on the Carnival Sunshine
This past summer I took my teen on a travel experience of a lifetime. He and I ventured on a Mediterranean adventure with Carnival Cruise Lines as guest of the Carnival Sunshine.
We flew out to Barcelona (you can read about our visit in Riding High In Barcelona) and made stops in Marseille, where we took a tour to the sleepy beach town of Bandol and the prettiest town in France, Castellet.
Shores of Bandol, France
Early morning in Marseille, France
We had a port stop in Livorno, where we were able to take a tour to the leaning tower of Pisa.
We followed that up with a stop at Civitavecchia, where we took a tour to Rome (read more about our adventure there in Exploring Rome with a Pocket Full of Pennies). Then Napoli where we had one of the best Napolitano pizzas ever and ventured to Sorrento.
We walked through Messina and found a lovely beach to cool off at (read more in Speechless in Messina, Italy). We picked up a few words in Croatian while touring the walls of Dubrovnik.
And we spent a very hot day, our last day, in Venice (read more in Getting Lost in Venice).
Quite a bit of territory covered, right? It was, needless to say, a fabulous itinerary. But I have to also point out that I enjoyed the cruise ship itself and all it had to offer guests. I can’t say that I am an avid cruiser and this is really only the second cruise I have ever been on. My first cruise experience was average.
The Carnival Sunshine however, was a completely different experience than my first time around for many reasons which should be considered when thinking about whether or not a cruise vacation is right for you.
First of all, the Carnival Sunshine is a completely revamped ship. A lot of details, from cabin to restaurants and other public areas, have been either refurbished or completely redesigned to not only modernize and brighten the overall look and feel of the ship, but also to expand it and open it up. The outdoor pool area has also been expanded to include a more modern and sexier adult-only section, and though the entire outdoor area gets really crowded on sea days, during other times and at nights, it’s a great place to socialize and relax.
I was also really impressed with the all-inclusive dining options on the ship as well as the dining area. It was sunny and flowed nicely, and I never felt overcrowded. The food choice was also better than one would expect the all-inclusive option to be. The private dining was top-notch, really worth a try, and the extra cost. We had an opportunity to dine at Farenheit 555 Steakhouse which was delicious, but our all time favorite restaurant was Ji Ji Asian Kitchen. Another favorite spot was the piano bar (though the ship has several bars to choose from to fit your mood). I was also really impressed with the level of service and the friendliness of the staff no matter where I chose to dine or spend my time.
Overall, the cruising experience on the Carnival Sunshine and the various activities on board – from the lives shows to the fun activities – really made me feel more at ease about cruising as a vacation option, even with the kids in tow.
I did learn a few lessons along the way, specifically when it comes to booking tours. Excursions are always offered on board for port stops. We found out that we didn’t need to pay for tours at every port, that some times the ship offers a less expensive shuttle service into town or that sometimes you can just walk off the ship and tour on your own. Depending on the kind of traveler you are, this might be something to look into before deciding whether to book excursion tours, which can be pricey and add up quickly when traveling with a larger group. Research sites such as Trip Advisor or ask a travel agent for information before doing so.
We also learned that it’s important to reserve exclusive dining as soon as you get on board as sometimes these get filled quickly, especially on sea days.
Lastly, though the ships offer Internet service on board, it is not cheap! This is the perfect time to pack a book and plan to disconnect. You will definitely not be able to manage a working vacation on a cruise, which I found out quickly and came to accept as a really wonderful thing.
The Carnival Sunshine won’t be cruising along the Mediterranean longer. Starting November 2013 through April 2014, she will be offering 7-day cruises out of New Orléans. After that, she will be sailing out of Port Canaveral. My hope is that Carnival, which I really enjoyed as an overall cruise brand, decides to offer similar options to the one we went on. It was definitely my favorite travel itinerary by sea and the fun memories my son and I created during this trip will stay with us forever. We want to thank Carnival Cruise Lines and the crew on the Carnival Sunshine for their hospitality, impeccable service, and the unforgettable journey.
Disclosure: My teen and I were guests on the Carnival Cruise Sunshine during their Mediterranean voyage. All opinions expressed here are my own.