A couple of weeks ago, my little family and I boarded the beautiful (and totally made over) Carnival Sunshine. The Carnival Sunshine is a complete and utterly transformed ship from it’s original status as the Destiny. A massive undertaking, the Destiny spent only a few short weeks (about 15!) being gutted, redesigned, built on to, reworked and redecorated before being majestically launched as one of the brand new Carnival 2.0 ships, and let me tell you, it was just fantastic.
As a regular cruiser, and a frequent Carnival guest, I’ve had plenty of ships to compare the Sunshine to. Bigger ships, smaller ships, the Sunshine falls right in the middle, but has everything the brand new superliners are including. Everything from a massive waterpark on the top of the ship, to delectable fine dining outlets, to a ropes course, a spa, plenty of night spots, a state of the art gym, a kids camp, and so much more.
Of course, being a food blogger, it was important for me to get to try all of the different foods, and I’m just going to go on record here and state that this cruise totally made me change the way I feel about cruise dining.
Let me tell you why.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore the main dining rooms on board. You know, where you sit at your same table, each and every night, with a waiter who knows you immediately, serves you exactly what you want, and there is not request taken lightly. Yes, I love that. And the menu there is certainly spot on. But because the main dining rooms are the MAIN dining rooms, and feeding over 3000 people every night is a big deal, there’s really only so much play a fine chef can have over the menu…he wants to keep it delicious and special, but he needs to make it crowd friendly.
In the specialty dining options, he’s got a lot more flexibility. he can go bigger. Go bolder. And it is amazing.
One such dining option on the Sunshine is the Chef’s Table. This meal is the cream of the crop – the best you can get on the ship. Limited to only 12 guests per evening (and only twice total, per cruise, I believe) the modest upcharge to be sequestered in this amazing venue is so worth it. A trip to the galley with the chef, with a few truly original hors d’oeuvres served there (butterscotch white chocolate bacon? Wow.) and then a full 7 courses in a private room.
A multitude of chefs and staff are there to greet your every whim, and the meal goes by like a dream. The small plates are all a feast for your eyes as well, and garnished perfectly. I can’t say I had a favorite course, though, and this is odd for me to say as I am not a huge seafood lover, but the crab stack course made me ask for the recipe. And guess what? I got it. Someday I hope I will be brave enough to actually make it!
Another great option is Fahrenheit 555, the Sunshine’s steakhouse. Giant portion of aged beef are the specialty here, as well as the infamous sky high 14 ounce slices of cheesecake (I’m not exaggerating, it’s 14 ounces). But don’t miss the macaroni and cheese, wither – it’s delicious and oh so creamy. Again, there’s an upcharge, but it is far less than you’d pay to dine out at any steakhouse chain, and ridiculously better. Some guests opt to dine there multiple times during their cruise week…I can’t blame them.
Something I adored about the layout of dining on the Sunshine is to be found on the Lido deck. If you have cruised at all, you know that the Lido is the typical spot to find your buffet meals and pools. On the Sunshine, they’ve fashioned out two incredible outlets that transition from fast lunch options by day into fine dining options by night. Ji Ji, an Asian restaurant, serves a Mongolian Style grill during lunch (it was always packed!) and then in the evening, it becomes a quiet, inventive ala carte experience. Order everything (you can!) and share. The menu is inspired by many Asian countries, and we had nothing that wasn’t top notch.
On the other side of the ship from Ji Ji is the Italian venue. During lunch, Cucina del Capitano serves made to order pastas (again, packed because it is a crowd favorite) and at night becomes a romantic affair from the menu. Inspired by many of the Carnival Captains own favorite family recipes, this dining outlet is very, very good. Large portions, great flavors, and something for everyone. We had a wonderful meal here!
Also on the Lido deck was the standard buffet for lunch, but honestly, we skipped that most days in favor of either the thin crust made to order pizzas, or a cool burger joint…Guy’s Burger Joint – yeah, THAT GUY. Guy Fieri. Several different styles of burgers to choose from, and a build your own topping bar. The burgers were huge, surrounded by garlic buttered buns, and a pile of French fries. Always a great option for lunch!
Of course, there is always the main dining room. We were seated in the Sunset Dining Room, and loved our wait staff. They kept us in great shape, tended to the kids, danced, sang, and never left us wanting for anything at all. On sea days, we had amazing brunches here (eggs bene, Fruit Loop French toast, pork chops, filet and eggs – you name it!), and at night we had lobster and prime rib. What more can you ask for?
If you’ve never cruised, you should. The value is there – you simply can not dine like this on land for what you pay for a cruise. The hotel is a moving with you – no need to pack and unpack – the staff takes such great care of you, it’s great for families (especially ones who don’t really like each other) and kids? Kids love it. Free babysitting until 10pm? Yes, please. Free room service? Sign me up.
If you ever have any questions about the Sunshine, or Carnival, or cruising in general, PLEASE let me know. I’ve been on lots, and I do love them. I especially love them now that I have a family, and Seven really enjoys meeting the other kids on board, playing, and getting to see so much of the world. And again, the value…on many dates you can take a family of 3 (like mine) on a 7 night cruise, with everything paid for – no surprises! – for $1500 or less. Oftentimes closer to $1000-$1200 is you watch the specials. So, around $200 a day for ALL of that. A hotel room at the beach will cost more than that, and you still have to eat.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve had a sip or two of the Kool-Aid – but I made the Kool-Aid and I do love it! Come sail with me?
Again, ask questions. I’d love to help you out!
Disclaimer: I was an invited guest on the Sunshine, along with a small blogger/media group. All thoughts and opinions are my own.