This ship was built in 1996 as Carnival Destiny, but a major overhaul in 2013 made this nearly 20-year-old vessel shiny once more. If you sailed before the renovations, you probably won’t even recognize her — the line basically sawed the ship in half and revamped it. Gone are the loud, Vegas-style designs, which have been replaced with a more modern look and feel.
Best of all, Carnival Sunshine has the line’s food upgrades. On older ships, the buffets feel tired, we suspect the pizza is frozen, and the burgers at the grill are clearly preformed frozen patties. That’s not true on this ship, where the burgers at Guy's Burger Joint are ground fresh daily and the fish tacos and tortilla chips are fried before your eyes at BlueIguana Cantina. The revamped buffet also has a seriously good pizza spot, complete with a brick-lined oven, hand-torn basil, and sliced-to-order prosciutto. You’ll wait a little longer for your custom pie, but it’s so worth it.
What We Love
Casual Dining Got a Big Upgrade: Look for some of the best burgers at sea at Guy’s Burger Joint, and easily the best casual Mexican fare on any ship (at any price point) at BlueIguana Cantina, where you can dress your tacos, burritos, and nachos with sliced radishes, lime wedges, and salsa from the toppings bar. Best of all, BlueIguana serves awesome breakfast burritos in the morning, too.
Steakhouse: This classic steakhouse has such polished service and elegant plating, you may think you’ve boarded a luxury ship instead of a budget-friendly one. (Plus, the upcharge is a meager $35 per person.) Look for traditional steakhouse favorites, from lobster bisque laced with cognac to strip steaks, rib eyes, and filet mignons as well as proper sides such as creamed spinach and giant baked potatoes with all the fixings. End your meal with — what else? — a giant slab of cheesecake.
The Comedy Club: The evening starts with family-friendly comedy acts, and ends with a truly "blue" (read: raunchy but hilarious) late night set. Carnival has an ingenious system of moving comedians between ships in the Caribbean every few days, so you get to see a variety of entertainers.
Best Known For
Seuss at Sea: The fun Dr. Seuss-themed character breakfast on sea days includes visits from Thing 1 and Thing 2, plus — you guessed it — green eggs and ham and Cat in the Hat-inspired stacks of red velvet pancakes.
Serenity Lounge: This adults-only retreat gives grown-ups a quiet space to relax on upgraded wicker lounge chairs with cushy padding. The best part: the silence, a welcome change from the DJ-fueled main pool scene.
Skybox Sports Bar: This boisterous space — full of giant screens and comfy red bar stools — has a continuous ticker of scores, drawing a large crowd during peak football, baseball, and basketball seasons.
Waterslides: These big colorful slides are a big draw for tweens and teens on hot Caribbean sailings, when the plunge at the end may just be the "coolest" experience on board.
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Who It's Best For
Anyone on a Budget: Carnival Sunshine serves families, retirees, and couples equally well.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Cabins Don’t Have Bells and Whistles: Staterooms feel less updated than the public spaces and don’t have any of the cool new features you would expect to find on newer ships.
Sherri Eisenberg is the New York City-based editorial director of ShermansCruise.com.
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Carnival Sunshine at a Glance
- Line: Carnival Cruise Line
- Class: Destiny
- Number of Passengers: 3006
- Ship Size: Mega
- Launch Date: 1996
- Refurbish Date: 2013