Carnival Sunshine Review - A family travel review of Carnival's 9-day eastern Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral, FL
The following Carnival Sunshine review is a 100% authentic, 100% real review. Dadtography.com editor Daniel and family paid for this family vacation entirely on their own. Dadtography.com was not provided compensation in any way for this review.
All photos and videos in this review are Dadtography.com originals. Please don't use our photos without permission.
Traveling as a family can be a great way for the family to come together and experience new destinations together. My family and I decided to book a spring break cruise together in 2018. We wanted to do a longer cruise aboard a Carnival ship, so we decided on a 9-day Eastern Caribbean sailing on the Carnival Sunshine.
This Carnival Sunshine review is after our most recent 2018 sailing, and includes a lot of photo and video from our trip. Come along with us as we explore the ship, the ports of call and our adventure as a family in 2018.
Spring Break 2018 - A Carnival Sunshine Review
One day late last year, not long after hurricanes Maria and Irma ravaged islands in the Caribbean, we decided to book a family vacation. The timing was a bit odd, at first. We were looking at visiting locations that had just experienced devastation that many of us saw, from afar, on the news and in photos.
There was something about the Caribbean that called me, though. I wanted to visit and see for myself, how San Juan, Puerto Rico, was doing. I wanted to see the island of St. Maarten close-up, and speak to some of the people that live there and went through the storm.
So on a whim, one night in November of 2017, we booked an 8-night / 9-day cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine. It would end up being the best family vacation we've ever had.
Here are a few more of our Carnival Sunshine family cruise videos:
Carnival Sunshine Cruise Review Contents
This is a pretty thorough review, so we've created a topic menu if you want to skip to a specific section of the review. Here's what this review of our Carnival Sunshine Cruise out of Port Canaveral, FL will cover.
Cruise Itinerary Map
See a map view of the ports of call on this cruise.
More detail on the ports of call visited on this sailing.
Video Tour Slideshow
See a video showing a photo tour of the Carnival Sunshine.
Review of the Ship
See an overview and vital stats on the Carnival Sunshine.
Sunshine Cabin Review
We review our interior cabin (stateroom) on the ship.
Pool & Waterslides
We spent a lot of time at the pool and waterslide.
Explore "FunShip" features on board the Carnival Sunshine.
"Serenity" decks are Carnival's nod to parents looking for quiet.
Sunshine Staff Review
Here are some thoughts about the Carnival Sunshine cruise staff.
Food & Dining
Learn more about our dining experiences onboard.
Ship Photo Gallery
Check out a ton of photos from the Carnival Sunshine.
Overall review of the cruise with a category break-down.
Carnival Sunshine Cruise Map of Our Ports-of-Call
I really do love the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, but for some reason, I don't get to see them very often. Most of the family cruises that we've been on so far have been Western Caribbean and Mexico.
I was really excited to be returning to the island of St. Maarten especially. I had visited the island a lifetime ago (16 years, give or take) and Grand Turk, San Juan and St. Kitts would all be new destinations for me and my family.
Where did the Carnival Sunshine port?
- Friday - Leave Port Canaveral
- Saturday - Day at Sea
- Sunday - Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
- Monday - San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Tuesday -St. Kitts, British Virgin Islands
- Wednesday - St. Maarten (Dutch)
- Thursday - Day at Sea
- Friday - Day at Sea
- Saturday - Return to Port
Port Canaveral is my favorite cruise ship port in the US to-date. I've sailed out of there, Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades) and Miami, so far and I definitely prefer Port Canaveral. It truly is a customer-friendly gateway to major consumer markets and leisure destinations.
It's a new port, with great parking, it's easy to navigate and it's not a huge hassle that you have to endure before you begin your journey. Strategically located on the east coast of central Florida, just 40 minutes or so east of Orlando. Port Canaveral is convenient for anyone living in or visiting central Florida.
We Enjoyed Our Interior Stateroom on the Carnival Sunshine
Overall, the staterooms on the Sunshine appear to be in good to very good condition. The renovation from 2013 was a few years ago, but the rooms are still in good shape, from what we experienced.
The interior staterooms aren't the largest, but you likely know that already going into an interior room. You don't stay in an inside cabin for the size of the room.
Comparing the inside stateroom on the Sunshine to other ships and cruise lines I've sailed on, it was slightly larger than the room on the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas, and about the same size as the comparable room on the Carnival Liberty.
Inside cabins aren't for everyone, that's for sure. If you're not a fan of tight spaces or if "personal space" is an issue for you, I don't recommend sailing more than two people per inside cabin. Moving around inside the room can be an issue, but the biggest challenge will be where to store all of our luggage, clothing and personal items (hint: under the bed).
Overall, we enjoyed our stay on the Sunshine in the inside cabin. It wasn't spacious, but it was a great value and allowed us to spend the money we saved on other activities and purchases and that's exactly what we wanted!
The Pool is Pretty Typical but the Slides Are Awesome!
That pretty much sums it up from my perspective - the main Lido deck pool is pretty typical for a Carnival ship. There's a single pool accessible to all on the ship (ie: to children) on the Lido deck (deck 9). On the Sunshine, this pool is called the "Beach Pool".
The Beach Pool on Lido deck isn't very large, it's salt water, as opposed to chlorine (most pools are salt) and it's not heated. It was very rare to see an adult inside the Beach Pool for the most part. The pool was full of kids when it was busy, but I suspect that's partly because they are the only ones able to tolerate the colder temperatures of the water.
In addition to the Lido deck pool, there's also an adults-only pool on deck 11 Serenity. The "Serenity" areas on the Carnival Sunshine span multiple decks, from deck 11 up to deck 14. Deck 11 has a pool only for adults and deck 14 has a hot tub only for adults as well.
The water slides and WaterWorks are another story entirely, though. They are absolutely awesome on the Carnival Sunshine and "worth the price of admission" especially if you're traveling with children on your trip.
Carnival Sunshine Cruise Ship Staff Review
We're going to split this portion of the review up into a few different sections, based on our first-hand experience with the various staff on board the ship.
It first must be said that we have a new appreciation of the hard work that cruise ship staff put in after our recent behind-the-scenes tour aboard a cruise ship. There are so many staff that work tirelessly behind the scenes and get very little credit for their work. Their efforts should be acknowledged.
How are the stateroom staff on Carnival Sunshine?
As with any service related role, your experience may vary when it comes to the staff on a cruise ship. One of the most consistent interactions is with the staff that maintains your stateroom.
They are the ones that greet you every morning when you wake and welcome you back each evening when you return. Oh, and they're also the ones that create those cute towel animals most of the time as well. Their role in your experience is very important.
Our cabin steward's name was Rigoberto. I remembered him by name, even to this day. Rigoberto was very pleasant and clearly hard-working. He did a lot for us on our sailing and we were sure to leave him a tip at the end of our vacation. Rigoberto should be commended for his work.
How are the dining room staff on Carnival Sunshine?
We've started sailing most of our recent cruises using the "Your Time Dining" feature. This allows us to go to dinner anytime we please, within a pretty wide window from around 5:30pm to as late as 9 or 9:30pm.
That said, when on "Your Time Dining", it's much more difficult to make a connection with the dining room staff, because you typically don't have the same service team from one evening to the next.
That said, we had a very hit and miss experience with the dining room staff. On the first night of the sailing in the dining room, it was clear to us that most of our service crew were new and inexperienced. Service was slow and almost klutzy. They were very uncoordinated.
Subsequent evenings varied from night to night. We had an excellent dining experience on "formal night" because the staff at the table we were placed were clearly experienced at and skilled in serving and table service.
None of the dining room staff were ever rude or had poor attitudes; the service just varied greatly because the teams that provided service to us changed from sitting to sitting.
Carnival Sunshine's Restaurant and Food Review
Cruise ship dining and food is probably one of the most hotly debated topics in cruise travel today. There's no single opinion or answer to whether the food is good or bad because the experience can vary from one ship to another, from one cruise line to another, and even from one restaurant to another.
Food on cruise ships is not a standard experience. It all varies, and your experience may vary as well. The below information represents our own personal experience from our sailing aboard the Carnival Sunshine. For a full list of dining options on board the Sunshine, you can check out this page on Carnival's website where you can filter by ship availability.
The Lido Restaurant buffet available on the Carnival Sunshine during our sailing was decent, but I found it to be very repetitive on this sailing and didn't provide a lot of variety.
I was hoping more options and variety would be made available in the Lido Restaurant as the days and ports changed, but for the most part, it did not. The food stayed almost identical from day-to-day, absent most port-themed dining options you may come to enjoy.
The Lido Restaurant Buffet is safe if you have picky eaters you're traveling with, but if you're looking to change things up, it's probably best to dine elsewhere on the Sunshine.
Carnival Sunshine - Spring Break Family Cruise Photo Gallery
Click any photo below to view a larger version.
Pool Deck Day at Sea - Carnival Sunshine Ship
Calm Caribbean Waters - Carnival Sunshine Ship
Serenity Deck View of the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Serenity Deck covered loungers aboard the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Serenity Deck pool looking down aboard the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Top of the Carnival Sunshine ship while in port at Grand Turk
Serenity Deck hot tub on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Serenity Deck empty bar on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Empty Serenity Deck on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Iconic ship's whale tail smoke stack and pool deck on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
An empty pool deck on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Active pool on a partly cloudy day at sea on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Vast ocean meets the deck on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Carnival Sunshine whale tail on a partly cloudy day
Busy deck on a sunny day at sea on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Carnival Sunshine wooden bench on deck 3
Deck 3 outside on the Carnival Sunshine Ship on a day at sea
Children and parents getting ready for the Dr Seuss parade on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Sunshine Casino on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Looking down on the main deck bar on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Looking down on the main deck bar on the Carnival Sunshine Ship - 2
Looking down on the main deck bar on the Carnival Sunshine Ship - 3
Kids in the pool on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
DJ spinning on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Evening pool deck on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Looking up - whale tail smoke stack on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Deck 10 smoking section on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Looking up at SkyCourse - ropes course on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Looking up at SkyCourse and water slide on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Oversize chess game on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SportSquare portal windows on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SkyGreens mini golf on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Looking down on the SportsSquare on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SkyGreens competition on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SportSquare activities on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SportSquare deck looking down on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SportSquare kids playing billiards on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SportSquare kids playing billiards on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Water slides on the Carnival Sunshine
Back of the ship water slides on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SportSquare in Port Canaveral on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Ropes course and whale tail smoke stack on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Back of the ship in Port Canaveral aboard the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SkyCourse ropes course is lots of fun on the Carnival Sunshine
Winding water slides on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
Looking up at the water slide tower on the Carnival Sunshine Ship
In room thermostat on the Carnival Sunshine
Lido Restaurant salad bar on the Carnival Sunshine Spring 2018
Lido Restaurant main bar on the Carnival Sunshine Spring 2018
Soft serve self serve on the Carnival Sunshine Spring 2018
Serenity Deck looking serene on the Carnival Sunshine Spring 2018
Serenity Deck at night in port at San Juan - Carnival Sunshine
Looking over Carnival Sunshine from Serenity Deck at night in San Juan
Looking over Carnival Sunshine from Serenity Deck at night in San Juan
A relaxing hammock on Serenity Deck on board the Carnival Sunshine Spring 2018
Beautiful sky view from Serenity Deck on the Carnival Sunshine Spring 2018
Carnival Sunshine whale tail at sunset in San Juan Spring 2018
Cloudy sunset in port in San Juan on the Carnival Sunshine Spring 2018
Elevator Lobby - Carnival Sunshine Spring 2018
Carnival Sunshine Cruise Review - Final Thoughts
Our spring break sailing aboard the Carnival Sunshine has been our favorite family cruise vacation to-date. The ship isn't perfect, but it's very nice, with so many activities to do for the kids.
The Serenity Deck areas of the ship are great for parents that just want to relax away from the noise of the ship (and their kids).
The food was above average in most of our experiences and the service was very good in almost every aspect of our experience - from the cabin steward, to the Lido deck staff, to the dining room staff, we appreciate all of the cruise ship staff that make our vacations possible.
We would highly recommend any family with children in the teens to younger range to consider sailing aboard the Carnival Sunshine. There's something for everyone, the eastern Caribbean itinerary is absolutely excellent and the value just can't be beat!
Carnival Sunshine 9-Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Food - Restaurants & Bars8.0/10
For the Kids9.5/10
- Awesome water slides at the WaterWorks
- Great SportsSquare Activities
- Fantastic ports of call in the eastern Caribbean
- Lots of space in the Serenity decks
- Best value for family travel
- Hit-or-miss dining room service
- Small inside cabin
- Entertainment venues aren't all that impressive
- Lack of variety on the Lido Restaurant buffet