Breakfast and Serenity
Waking up on our first sea day, the Carnival Sunshine had finally out distanced the waves and rain bands pushed by Tropical Storm Nestor. The previous evening had seen us reeling, and put me to bed far earlier than I had expected. Eventually, we let the waves rock us to sleep, and by the time we awoke, the skies and seas were calm. Outside our balcony door the sun was just beginning to light the Eastern sky. So with the action cam capturing a timelapse video on the sunrise, Dawn and I did a walking tour of the ship. We took a little video with the intention of getting more, but all of the walking made us hungry so we cut it short and went to get ourselves some grub. Consequently, I completely missed getting video of the Havana Bar area.
The Sunshine offers a multitude of breakfast options. We quit filming right before we got to the Havana Bar area, and didn’t realize they were getting ready to open the omelette stations. Instead, Dawn went through the buffet line and loaded up on eggs, bacon and the other goodies, while I opted for a breakfast burrito from the Blue Iguana Cantina. Our plan for the day was to hit the serenity deck early and enjoy the sun for a bit, then maybe hit Sea Day Brunch, before eventually meeting our group from Facebook.
The layout of the Serenity Deck is very well executed, and there is ample space to lay back and relax. We were able to snag prime seating and the temperatures had already climbed into the upper 70’s. The poolside deck chairs go pretty quickly, but it didn’t really feel that crowded. Arranged in a semi-circle facing the waterfall, every other lounger has a table for your drink, and there are also umbrellas for those wanting a little less sun.
The Serenity Bar was just up the stairs facing the adults-only hot tub looking aft toward the whale tail. With the Serenity Deck in the middle of the ship, the Sunshine is set up for both fun, and relaxation. Swinging hammocks, clamshell beds, loungers, four top tables with chairs, or stools along the bar allow you to relax without the kiddos running amok. The 11th deck overlooks the main pool area on the lido deck, so you could enjoy the fun without being in the middle of it. At night you could even catch the movies on the big screen.
From our location, the bars on the lido deck were a short stroll down, or you could go up a flight of stairs to the bar on 12. In my opinion, the bar staff at the Serenity Bar were by far the worst on the ship. I am not sure why, but they seemed more put off by service than any other staff we met. There were plenty of servers roaming around, so you didn’t have to deal with the gang at the bar, as long as you timed your drinks right and were patient. I could also slip down and visit my buddy Octavius at the tequila bar. Either way, we stayed refreshed.
The Meet and Greet
In the months leading up to this trip we had joined a Facebook Group for the sailing. I was somehow volunteered to setup a Meet and Greet event with prizes from Carnival Cruise Line’s Brand Ambassador, John Heald. John has a FB page and if you are into cruising you should be following it. He gives insight to the industry in a hilarious manner. His self deprecating humor is sharp and he throws in plenty of “Dad jokes”. Once a Cruise Director himself, he is now the Head Cruise Director for the fleet and they could not have a better person rowing the boat. I had made a couple of requests of him previously, so I hoped he would be able to come thru again for us on this trip.
Now, I had promised some prizes from Carnival, but since I could not guarantee them anything, I went to the Jim Beam Distillery here in Bourbon Country before we left and got some shot glasses and a t-shirt to give away. I never had to worry. John came through in, a big way and set us up with 45 minutes in the Limelight Lounge. Trevor, the Sunshine’s Entertainment Director also delivered four prizes of Champagne with a solid gold plastic ship on a stick to be given away. So now we had that and two shot glasses to hand out…? What about the t-shirt you ask? Wellll, Dawn decided she liked it too much to give it away.
We gave the rest of the booty to the great folks who came to meet us, by drawing sail and sign cards out of a hat. Like every cruise, we made some great new friends and will be cruising with a few of them again come January 2022. Back on the Sunshine and this time for a ten day Journeys Cruise through the Eastern Caribbean.
Cabin 11020 – Cloud 9 Spa Cabin
In and effort to be frugal, I constantly check our rates against offers Carnival posts throughout the year. Occasionally a price will come along that’s a little better than what we have booked, and sometimes the only difference is the amount of the deposit (making up the difference between a $50 and $250 deposit). So when I noticed a sale that would actually bump us up to the spa cabins and still lower our fare, I thought it would be a good time to try out the Cloud 9 accommodations.
The spa balcony cabins are the same size as the other balcony cabins, but are decorated with a bit more aqua, and a few more pillows. We took a spa tour, and tried the Thermal Suites once, but we didn’t really take advantage of any of the other perks that were included, as we spent more of our time outdoors. The Thermal Suites can cost as much as $150 per week for a couple, so it was nice to get to try them out for free. I had booked Dawn’s spa appointments far in advance with a discount code, so they didn’t have much more to offer us. I don’t foresee booking a spa cabin again, but we aren’t really aroma therapy types. It is perfect for people that enjoy the spa more than the sun.
The stateroom location, however, was awesome. The door at the end of our hallway led out to the adults only Serenity Deck and pool. We were always able to secure the seats we wanted. Being served frozen libations, while the waterfall roars in the background makes for a perfect day at sea. The Sunshine is the only ship in the fleet with this experience, so if you get a chance to sail on her, you will definitely want to get a seat early.
A couple of decks down and heading aft you’ll find Guy’s Burgers, the Blue Iguana Cantina, and the Lido Marketplace Buffet. The deli and pizzeria are found here along with all the buffet foods you could imagine. Further back, the Havana Bar is flanked by Cucina Del Capitano and JiJis Asian Kitchen. So we were close to all of the lunch options, four different bars, the spa and the Serenity Deck. The mid ship elevators were also nearby so when we did go down to the lower decks, we had plenty of elevators to choose from. Tip: If staying on 11, go down to 10 to catch an elevator. 8 cars stop on 10, only 2 go to the higher decks.
Speaking of Spa Day, I will have a Burger
After the meet and greet Dawn had her mani/pedi scheduled. My brother and his wife were already being groomed and painted, so they hadn’t met us down in the lounge. My sister in law was still feeling a little green, so after checking on them, Dawn and I headed down to find a green apple. Crew members swear by this remedy for sea sickness and it is rumored to provide instant relief. With none to be found, I simply asked a staff member if they could help. He of course went out of his way and grabbed two from the ship’s stores as there were none on display. Once again, over the top service from Carnival!
Back at the spa, I dropped the apple off, and then left my wife to be pampered for a couple of hours. I headed out to do some exploring on my own, and planned to make my traditional casino contribution. Butch and Colleen had made the meet up, but were currently nowhere to be found. I think maybe they were taking a little nap, but they wouldn’t fess up to it. I made my way down to the Promenade deck where I promptly ran into a sampler buffet. So, I grabbed a bite to eat and sat at the Ocean Plaza watching the Spooky Dance Class.
After my chicken nuggets and pot roast appetizer, I decided I could use something more substantial and headed up to Guy’s Burgers for a real treat. A winner every time, the Straight Up with my choice of toppings at the bar is fantastic. This is a great burger on sea or shore, and I doubt you will find a fresher toppings bar on land. There are always two lines at Guys, but everyone lines up on the left. Skip that, go right and make them envious, while you walk past them to dress your buns.
There are always plenty of places to sit on sea days. Even with a crowded ship, tables and booths turn over pretty quickly, and Carnival’s amazing staff make sure they stay bused clean and sanitary. However, take your time and find a spot out of the sun, with a breeze. There are spaces where the air just stands still and on the side facing the sun, those get heated up very quickly.
Java Blue and Mikey too
Like Jules Winnfield after having a tasty burger, I like something to wash it down (Pulp Fiction drop in for those that don’t dig it) . The Java Blue Cafe serves specialty coffees and more. It was the more I lined up for – in the way of an adult milkshake, spiked and delicious! The Shake Spot Menu offers the SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY – Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Caramel Syrup and Vanilla Ice Cream – and I knew I had to have one the second I saw it. Over the days ahead I would eventually try all 5 of the other spiked shakes, and not find one that would disappoint me. I mean seriously, it’s a spiked milkshake, don’t act surprised.
While I was waiting in line, a very friendly fellow stopped by and asked how everyone was doing. It took me a second to register, but it was the Cruise Director, Mikey. This guy had a HUGE personality, but came across so genuinely humble that at first, I didn’t recognize him. I love watching these folks interact with the crowds, and understand fully just how hard that can be from my days in the service industry. He obliged my request for a selfie, which would seem weird anywhere but a cruise ship, but he was agreeable and I did my thing. Definitely another Carnival All-Star on a roster full of them. NOTE: If you get a chance to cruise with Mikey, you better bring your energy!!!
First Sea Day = Elegant Night
The first Elegant Night of the cruise always falls on the first sea day. It gives us a chance to dust off the finery and spruce ourselves up a little bit, and it is the primary reason I schedule Dawn’s spa appointment for Day 1 at Sea. To have her pampered in the spa perfectly sets the mood for the more formal night ahead. I usually shave, and smell pretty good, so I clean up ok too.
This would also be our first test of the Your Time Dining option. I checked into dinner on the HUB APP and our table was ready by the time we walked down to the 3rd level. If you want convenience and flexibility, this is a great option. In fact, I have switched some of our future sailings over so that we can decide when we want to eat, instead of being tied to a certain time and station. Our service was spot on as usual and we still made new friends at dinner.
A fantastic couple named Jimmy and Kristen were seated just after us, and we immediately hit it off. They were from South Carolina, but had some great advice on where to go when we would later visit Asheville, NC. Every time we saw them the rest of the week, they were always smiling and having fun! Great people always do. Unfortunately we forgot to exchange contact information and we lost contact. We decided that sooner or later we would get business cards to give our new friends so that they could reach us after we get home.
After Dinner Drinks and Photos on the Promenade
If you have been keeping up, then you know that a favorite cruise activity of ours is getting professional pictures made. The Pixels Staff sets up photo ops nightly on the 3rd, 4th and 5th Decks. We roam from backdrop to backdrop, and thought we had pretty much mastered the poses. Unfortunately, when we have tried to do the same pics at home, they never turn out the same. We have some fantastic pictures from every trip we have taken and it is always fun sorting through all the different shots to find ourselves.
As we meandered from stop to stop, and bar to bar, there were plenty of things to do and see. The Alchemy Bar is never a bad idea, so I try and get all my cocktails there when it is open. Their Moscow Mule is better than anywhere else on the ship. We also stopped by the casino bar to check out the action, and found some more of our new friends. When we finally made it to the front of the ship, we stopped in for a bit of the stage show production, but due to technical difficulties, there was a delay. We decided instead to head up to our cabin, and change back into more comfy clothes for a stroll on the deck.
Being at sea is a feeling like no other. The fresh saltwater hanging on the breeze, mixed with the sound of the ship cutting the waves at night, is something you simply won’t find at your hotel. Walking along the lanai, with the moonlight’s silver reflection on the open water, is a perfect backdrop for a lovers stroll. Dawn and I made our way up to the Serenity Deck to see the waterfall at night and it was mesmerizing. The area was absolutely tranquil, but if you wanted you could turn and watch the movie on the Dive-In Movie screen. I was shocked by how few folks would take advantage of this spot at night, but there is just so much to do. I think FOMO keeps people on the go constantly and some things just get missed. You could take the same ship and itinerary three times and take three entirely different cruises. It is all up to you how you make and take your fun!
We will be back with how we spent our time at our three ports of call in the next installment. Until then, we will be making new packing lists and getting ready for our upcoming cruise on the Carnival Breeze. We are about seven weeks out at the time of writing this, so we will be slowly prepping and planning until we get on the road. Thanks for stopping by! Check back soon for more from the Traveling Bradburys!