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Carnival Sunshine

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Carnival Sunshine is the result of a 2012 massive, $155 million, 49-day transformation that saw the former Carnival Destiny completely overhauled and renamed. The changes to the ship were not just cosmetic: Carnival replaced the elevators, air-conditioning units, electrical stations and laundry machines. 

Although Sunshine isn't a Dream-class ship, it does contain almost all of the elements found on Magic and Breeze, making it one of the most active Carnival ships out there: 20-minute standup comedy routines, 30-minute production shows, and fast-food sushi, burgers and burritos. The dining and drinking include a burger counter designed by spiky-haired Food Network personality Guy Fieri, a rolled-to-order Mexi-Cali burrito stop and a pair of Caribbean beach bars with mascots (RedFrog and BlueIguana) and booze specialities (rum and tequila, respectively).

To offset these temples to unhealthy eating, there are also two Asian restaurants onboard: Bonsai Sushi, a for-fee, sit-down Japanese restaurant, and Ji Ji, a truly outstanding restaurant offering pan-Asian cuisine.

The design throughout is also radically different from that found on the old Carnival ships, as former designer Joe Farcus' garish colour schemes give way to the more understated designs of Hamburg-based Partner Design. Colours are subtle, and the palette throughout -- from the main dining rooms to the corridors and cabins -- is distinctly muted. Certain areas -- the corridor on Deck 5 with Fahrenheit 555, the Piano Bar, Ocean Plaza and the main dining rooms -- could actually do with more decor, as they're so featureless.

What you come away with is the distinct feeling that there has been a quiet revolution going on, with a triumph of style over tack. In fact, there are certain areas of the ship, such as the Library Bar, Java Blue, Havana Bar, Fahrenheit 555 and Ji Ji, where you'd be hard-pressed to tell this was even a Carnival ship. 

Having said that, Sunshine still attracts Carnival's bread-and-butter passengers. They're the unpretentious, highly social, price-conscious cruisers out for organized fun. (The relentless emphasis on fun at all times is still ever-present onboard.)

Daytime: During the day, beachy or port-specific attire is the norm.

Evening: Carnival's evening dress code is typically "cruise casual," but on two nights during the voyage "cruise elegant" eveningwear is suggested. On cruise casual nights, the line recommends sport slacks, khakis, jeans (no cutoffs), long dress shorts and collared sports shirts for men, and casual dresses, casual skirts or trousers and blouses, summer dresses, capri pants, dress shorts and jeans (no cutoffs) for women. Cruise elegant dress means dress slacks, dress shirts and sports coats (suggested, not required) for men and cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses for women. Men might dress in suits and ties or tuxedos, while women might wear evening gowns.

Not permitted: Flip-flops, bathing suits, caps and men's sleeveless shirts are never permitted in the main dining room or speciality restaurants during dinner.

Carnival doesn't have the big-name Broadway shows that other lines have secured for their ships. Instead, it has opted to bring its own interpretation to the typical "journey-through-the-classics" cruise-ship revue shows.

Carnival made a pretty heavy investment in sound and lights for its shows on Breeze and has taken it a step further on Sunshine with an ultra-HD graphics package beamed onto a vast screen, which the performers use as a backdrop and part of their show. We watched Epic Rock, which included flames, cages, giant black wings, crumbling brick walls and exploding suns, beefing up the music (and at times almost swamping it, the graphics are so stunning).

The show was extraordinary. Scary, apocalyptic and whimsical all at the same time, we've never seen anything quite like it. And the music was pretty good, too (if you like hard rock).

There are four themed shows, which run about 30 to 40 minutes each: Latin Nights, Motor City, Epic Rock and Studio VIP.

"Hasbro, the Game Show," an interactive game show-themed show, appears on Sunshine. Classic board games like Connect 4 and Operation are adapted for the stage with lots of audience participation. It's fun, if you're prepared to get involved.

All these shows take place in the Liquid Lounge, which doubles as the main 800-seat Theater. Some logistical issues mean it doesn't quite work. Because the room was designed as a theatre and is two stories, it's impossible to create an intimate atmosphere, with D.J. and dance floor marooned in a vast space.

RedFrog Pub, a Caribbean-themed watering hole -- which has Carnival's own brew, ThirstyFrog Red -- also appears on Sunshine. There's an offshoot on the main pool deck, RedFrog Rum Bar, with BlueIguana Tequila Bar (another Carnival staple), opposite that. The Piano Bar entertains the crowd with sing-alongs, comedians and pianist performances. The Limelight Lounge also makes an appearance and doubles as the Punchliner Comedy Club.

The Library Bar is just off the Atrium, which would usually mean it would be competing with the noise from there, but sound-proofed doors give it a quiet, relaxing atmosphere. Self-serve wine dispensers allow you to sample six different wines for a fee. There's also a bar, which is staffed at night.

The port side of the Casino, which is relatively large, allows for smoking. It features all the usual machines and is connected to the Skybox Sports Bar.

Weirdly stationed at one end of the huge, open space that is now the Ocean Plaza, Alchemy Bar doesn't work on a couple of levels. The first and most important reason is that it's not its own room; it's just a space, and it has to compete -- unsuccessfully -- with the live bands in the centre of the room. Second, the design seems only half thought out. People in lab coats and a wood-panelled backdrop working in what is meant to resemble an "Olde Apothecary" needs to be followed through with the main bar -- which is just like any other bar on any other ship. The only cool thing about it is its backlit menus (which would be a whole lot cooler in a darker room). On the plus side, the Havana Bar is a really well-thought-out space that incorporates the two new speciality restaurants on either side, as well as the main bar itself.

The space itself is large -- the whole of Deck 5 aft -- with lots of different types of seating, some against the aft windows. In the middle is the bar, which serves some delicious for free Cuban nibbles during the day such as empanadas. In the evening, the Latin music is turned up and the lighting turned down; the two speciality restaurants are curtained off, and the bar begins to resemble more of what it's meant to be: a Cuban nightspot. Once the speciality restaurants have finished serving (from about 10.30 p.m.), the area behind the bar becomes a dance floor, with dancers busting some fine salsa and meringue moves until the early hours.

The Warehouse, just off the main lobby on Deck 5, features the latest video and arcade games and is mainly aimed at teens.

There are numerous shore excursions, including a handful of teen-only ones.

The headline-grabbing addition to Sunshine is Serenity, a triple-deck adults-only retreat, complete with hot tubs, cabanas, bars and a triple-height waterfall and plunge pool. It's by far the biggest adults-only area Carnival has on any of its ships. It's a gorgeous space and beautifully designed, from the triple-height waterfall and plunge pool to the cabanas and dozens of deck chairs. And, if you have no kids (or if they are safely being entertained in Camp Carnival), it's a wonderful spot to get away from it all. It never seems to get crowded and becomes quieter and calmer the farther up and toward the front you venture. Plus, unlike most other lines, Carnival levies no outrageous charges for the hire of cabanas: everything is free. It's not particularly well patrolled -- there are a couple of discreet signs stating "Over 21's Only" -- and there were a few kids who dared to venture in, but the majority were older.

Serenity overlooks the main Lido Deck, which features one pool that is way too small for the number of passengers onboard. It's set up like an amphitheatre (which makes sense, as it's where outdoor movies and TV shows are shown on a 270-square-foot screen over the pool), in tiered seating, peppered with hot tubs and rows and rows of blue loungers. The pool is flanked by the aforementioned quartet of branded bars and restaurants -- Guy's Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar.

The space doubles as the venue for evening deck parties and daytime entertainment offerings (like the best-mixed drink contest). A D.J. also regularly spins tracks overlooking this spot on sunny sea days. Behind him (on Deck 11) is one of two outdoor smoking areas (the other is on the outdoor port side of the Lobby Deck); it's been banned from every other bar and venue.

Look out for the surreal towel animal army that materializes on the sun deck one morning of each cruise. Even the most cynical cruiser will admire the whimsy.

One deck below Serenity is the Cloud 9 Spa (open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily). With 15 treatment rooms, this is one of the larger spas in the fleet, and it's run by Steiner. It has a Thermal Suite with sauna, steam room, tropical shower and heated stone loungers with lovely sea views, which are all available for a fee of $35 (free if you are in one of the Spa Cabins). Other treatments available include a DIY Scrub Experience, where you select an herbal blend and a "mixologist" creates a customized body scrub, and ZSpa, a teen spa program that offers a line of treatments designed specifically for 13- to 17-year-olds. Mother-daughter and father-son treatments are also available. Spa treatments include massages, facials and Botox. A 50-minute aroma stone massage is $159, one treatment of acupuncture $150; a 50-minute Couples' Villa Massage costs from $269 per couple.

The spa leads to the fitness centre, which offers all the latest cardio and weight-training equipment. The fitness centre serves as the location for a wide range of instructor-led exercise classes. Basic ones, such as stretching, are included in the cost of the cruise; Pilates, yoga, boot camp and spinning are $12 a class.

There is also a salon attached, offering cuts and men's grooming. Look for deals on port days, such as a free haircut ($35 value) thrown into a $95 "Gents Pamper Package."

At the aft of the ship lie WaterWorks and SportSquare. WaterWorks features 40 interactive water features, including the PowerDrencher, a 150-gallon tipping bucket, and five different slides, including the new racing-themed 235-foot Speedway Splash and a 334-foot-long and 47-foot-high Twister slide, the longest in the "Fun Ship" fleet. Passengers must be at least 42 inches tall to ride the slides. There is also a SplashZone for younger kids.

Sunshine's SportSquare includes a ropes course, mini-golf course, a basketball court, jogging track, table tennis, Foosball and pool tables. A running track (or Sky Track) goes around SportSquare and the basketball court, with seven laps equaling one mile.

The atrium -- the midship space that typically is one of Carnival's defining elements -- has soft orange decor with a stylish, shiny metal-ball centrepiece, overhanging the main bar. It's a triple-deck space, which is criss-crossed with stairways and flanked on one side by glass-fronted elevators.

Guest services, the shore excursion desk and a self-service kiosk to check your bill are located on the first deck of the atrium (Deck 3).

Decks 4 and 5, which overlook the Atrium, feature all the obligatory boutiques that sell jewellery, duty-free booze and cigarettes, clothes and branded items. Cherry on Top, an ultra-indulgent sweet shop, done up in candy-cane red and white, sells all manner of sweets and some branded souvenir items, tux rentals and flowers.

The Ocean Plaza is an open area where you'll find Alchemy Bar and Taste, which serves small selections of some of the dishes in the speciality restaurants (to tempt you to make a booking). In the centre is an ill-defined area, which is used for live music performances, but as Carnival has opened the whole area up, it means that the performance completely dominates the space.

The ubiquitous Park West auction house sells various pieces of art onboard in art auctions that take place in the lobby on Deck 2.

Every available bit of wall space seems to be taken up with pictures of passengers on Deck 4 of the Atrium space. This is Pixels Gallery, where you can buy a wildly overpriced pic of yourself and your loved ones. If you're looking for your own mug, a key card-activated facial-recognition system helps. Directly below is Dreams Studio, where you can set up a cheesy shot.

There are no self-service laundry facilities.

Carnival Sunshine has traded the traditional Internet cafe for bow-to-stern Wi-Fi at various "Fun Hubs" -- Web stations that are found in several public spaces around the ship. The Internet can only be purchased in packages. There is one Fun Hub beside Java Blue, which allows you to get your caffeine fix and surf, and another on the Lobby Deck. What's impressive is Carnival appears to have cracked the curse of onboard Wi-Fi; we found it quick and efficient. 

The ship's library, which doubles as the Library Bar, has a small selection of bestsellers and travel books, as well as a good selection of Hasbro-branded games (e.g. Monopoly and Battleship). All can be checked out with the help of a librarian (who doubles as the lobby bar bartender on Deck 3). Tabs on book borrowers are kept via their Sail and Sign cards.

There is a small medical facility on Deck 0.

--Updated by Erica Lamberg, Cruise Critic contributor

Dining options on Carnival Sunshine range from top-shelf winners to hit-or-miss choices, with the specialty dining venues a welcome break from the main dining room doldrums. Not only did we find the food to be hit or miss, we also found it repetitive.

Breakfast is offered in several spots on the ship including the Lido Marketplace Buffet, Sunrise Dining Room on sea days, BlueIguana Cantina, Havana Bar and a continental buffet near Ocean Plaza. Lunch is also available in multiple spots including the lunchtime only Mongolian Wok and Pasta Bar, Guy's Burger Joint, Havana Bar and BlueIguana Cantina. The Carnival Deli on Deck 9 is a reliable choice, too.

Cruisers with special dietary requests should let the cruise line know ahead of time or talk to the maitre d' in their assigned restaurant on embarkation day. Gluten-free bread is available in most of the dining venues.

Free Dining

Sunrise Dining Room (Decks 3 and 4) and Sunset Dining Room (Deck 3): Carnival Sunshine has two Main Dining Rooms: Sunrise Dining Room and Sunset Dining Room. Passengers with fixed-time, assigned-table seating (two seatings: 6 or 8:15 p.m.) dine in either Sunrise on Deck 4 or Sunset. Assigned dining times book up in advance so make your choice when you book, if you have a preference. Those with the flexible Your Time Dining (anytime between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m.) dine on Deck 3 of Sunrise; depending on when you arrive you might have to wait for a table. Both dining rooms offer two-tops, four-tops and larger tables.

As on all Carnival ships, during some meals, the waitstaff will sing and dance and parade around the dining room. It's fun to see your waitstaff performing.

Breakfast is served in Sunrise on sea days. It's a sit-down, full-service menu with open seating. The breakfast menu features standard morning items like pancakes, eggs any way you want, bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, and fresh fruit. A special sea day brunch is offered on select days and is a mix of breakfast items and lunch choices.

For dinner, both restaurants' dinner menus are the same.

Appetizers, which rotate throughout the cruise so you can have your favourite more than once, might include smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail, beef barley soup, seafood chowder or Caesar salad. Entrees can include glazed ham, blackened fish, Indian vegetarian, steak, braised beef brisket, vegetable lasagna and grilled chicken. As with appetizers, sides rotate throughout the cruise and might include ratatouille, seasoned vegetables, creamed spinach and bacon mac 'n cheese.

In addition to changing menu items, you'll also find the same four grill selections every night: salmon fillet, flat iron steak, chicken breast and pork chop. Also available every night are several steakhouse selections that carry a surcharge of $20 each. Choices are broiled Maine lobster tail, surf and turf, filet mignon and New York strip loin steak.

Desserts rotate as well, though the Carnival's noteworthy chocolate melting cake is always available, as is a selection of ice creams and sorbets.

Lido Marketplace (Deck 9): The ship's buffet, Lido Marketplace, has loads of seating, both in terms of quantity and variety (traditional two- to eight-seat tables by the windows, bar-style elevated tables) but despite this, finding indoor seating is sometimes a challenge -- especially at lunchtime and if you're with a larger party. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here.

It offers an impressive salad bar, Indian vegetarian options, a carving station, two soup choices, and a hot buffet with meat, fish, grains and vegetables.

Breakfast includes hot and cold items including cereal, fruit, yoghurt, scrambled eggs, pancakes, hash browns, cold cuts and an omelette station, among other traditional morning items. A second omelette station is also available in the Havana Bar area, but you could end up waiting 20 minutes.

For lunch and dinner, Lido Marketplace is divided into different areas. Comfort Kitchen, located near the entrance by the Lido Pool, offers a variety of American favourites including items like mac 'n cheese, chicken fingers, fried fish, meat stews and other comfort favourites. At the back of Lido Marketplace, you'll find the carving station as well as a section called (on a rotating basis) Caribbean Favorites, Italian Favorites and Good Eats. You'll find a small salad bar in each section.

The Carnival Deli is located in the back of Lido Marketplace. Choose from deli-style sandwiches like corned beef paninis, tuna wraps, turkey on rye or the ever-popular grilled cheese.

Both sides of the buffet have a Sweet Spot dessert station with a variety of cakes and cookies. There is also an ice cream machine.

Also on both sides of the buffet are self-pour beer taps with Bud Light and ThirstyFrog Red -- just swipe your card to activate the tap. Complimentary self-service beverage stations with lemonade, water, tea (iced and hot) and coffee are scattered throughout the Lido Marketplace, as well as near the aft pool outdoor seating area. At breakfast, the beverage choices are orange, apple and orange-passion fruit-guava cocktail juices.

Pizzeria del Capitano (Deck 9): Located at the back of the ship, this pizza joint offers individual-sized pizzas, all available free of charge 24 hours a day. Options include margherita, cheese, pepperoni and mushroom. Gluten-free pizza is available as well.

Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 9): Burger lovers flock to this poolside stop (the brainchild of TV chef Guy Fieri), which is surely Carnival's most popular eatery. Here, you can build your own burger or choose from five pre-designed burgers. Highlights for many are the Ringer, a cheeseburger with a giant onion ring on top; the Chilius Maximus, a beef patty with super melty cheese, an onion ring, donkey sauce and chili; and the Pig Patty, a combo of one beef patty and a second made of bacon, topped with cheese and donkey sauce. The burgers are served with trademark crispy fries and a nearby toppings bar offers fixings like lettuce, tomato, pickles, seasoned mushrooms and caramelized onions. Bring your patience with you as there are long lines during prime lunch hours, but lines moves fast. Veggie burgers are not advertised but are available upon request. Hours vary but generally, it's open from noon to 6 p.m.

BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 9): This poolside Mexican venue creates fish, chicken or beef tacos and shrimp, chicken or beef burritos every day for lunch. Or you can build your own taco with optional ingredients including all the favourites: black and refried beans, guacamole, cilantro-lime rice, diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce, roasted corn, cooked onions, sour cream, Monterey Jack cheese and pico de gallo. As if all that weren't enough, there's a salsa bar with even more toppings. BlueIguana Cantina is hopping for lunch, but breakfast is quiet and the scrambled egg burritos are scrumptious.

Mongolian Wok (Deck 9): Only offered for lunch, this free Asian noodle venue is located inside of JiJi Asian Kitchen. Mongolian Wok diners fill out a paper selecting a protein (chicken, pork, shrimp, beef), noodle choice and sauce (spicy Sichuan, Thai barbecue, black bean or soy), and then add extras.

The Pasta Bar (Deck 9): Located in Cucina del Capitano for lunch only, the pasta bar is a free spot for Italian food lovers to get a quick meal. Diners sit down and fill out a paper detailing what they want in their pasta. Choices begin with the pasta itself (linguini, penne, farfalle, gluten-free). Then pick from five sauces and a variety of ingredients that include grilled chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant and arugula, among others. Half-portions are also served.

Havana Bar (Deck 9): A small selection of breakfast and lunch items are available in the Havana Bar in the morning and afternoon. For breakfast, you'll find an omelette station, as well as fruit and some Cuban breakfast specialities. At lunch you might find empanadas, and rice and beans.

Sea Dogs (Deck 11): A hot dog-shaped cart within the SportSquare outdoor recreation area offers all-beef franks and traditional toppings.

Fee Dining

The Chef's Table (location varies); $95: The shining star of gourmet dining on Carnival Sunshine is The Chef's Table, an intimate multicourse dinner curated and hosted by the ship's Master Executive Chef. This VIP experience starts with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres for a select group of 14 to 16 people, followed by a tour to see the galley in operation. The evening concludes with an excellent full-service dinner of tasty appetizers, entrees and desserts not found on the regular dining menus. It's recommended to reserve early because this experience has limited seating and fills up fast. Reservations can be made at the ship's Guest Services desk.

Fahrenheit 555 (Deck 4); $38: Handsome wood tables highlighted by golden accents give Fahrenheit 555 a sophisticated and classic steakhouse feel. Open for dinner only, this venue is perfect for date night. Menu items include an impressive selection of aged beef steaks, lamb chops, lobster tail and grilled fish specialities, along with more than a dozen appetizer, salad, soup and side dish choices. Plus, the service here is impeccable.

Shake Spot (Deck 5); a la carte: Grab a cappuccino, espresso, hot chocolate or herbal tea. While here, indulge in delicious cookies, cupcakes, gelato, shakes and floats. Most items are priced under $10.

Bonsai Sushi (Deck 4); a la carte: Equally as popular as Guy's Burger Joint, this hot spot offers a stellar menu of sushi, sashimi and bento boxes, as well as cooked-to-order items like shrimp tempura, chicken katsu and various noodle bowls, all for under $12 a meal. There's also an option that allows diners to let the chef pick. This surprise meal is priced at $15 for one person and $22 for two and is a great way to try something you may not have considered for yourself.

Cherry on Top (Deck 5); a la carte: Primarily a spot for grab and go candy, young cruisers always leave this sweet spot with a smile.

RedFrog Pub & Brewery (Deck 5); a la carte: RedFrog Pub's bites include coconut shrimp, grouper fingers, firecracker Jamaican wings, Bahamian conch salad, Caribbean sliders, Jamaican jerk and pulled pork sandwiches. Most food items are priced less than $8.

Cucina del Capitano (Deck 9); $15 for adults, $5 for kids 12 and under: This venue is Italian done right. Red-and-white-checkered tablecloths set the stage for classic Italian staples including linguine and meatballs, spaghetti carbonara, chicken parmigiana and grilled shrimp with pasta, among other dishes inspired by the family recipes of Carnival's Italian captains and officers.

JiJi Asian Kitchen (Deck 9); $15 for adults, $5 for kids: Dining at JiJi is an experience where menu items from China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore and are shared family-style, giving everyone a chance to taste multiple appetizers, entrees and sides. For adventurous diners, give the spicy Kung Pao chicken a whirl or try the less-spicy sweet and sour shrimp dish. Save room for desserts and splurge on the crepes.

Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Main Dining Room); $6: Try this family-friendly breakfast experience with Dr. Seuss characters that interact with your children. Bright patterns decorate the table and showcases the fun and child-friendly menu items. The characters circulate the room allowing for special photo opportunities making this a meal to remember. Check the Fun Times daily program for exact dates during the sailing.

Room Service: In-cabin dining is available 24 hours a day, but free breakfast choices are all cold options (cereal, yoghurt, fruit and pastries). We found it convenient on early port days to use the door tag to order breakfast the night before to get an early start. Anytime options include free sandwiches like tuna, roast turkey, ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese and grilled Reuben, plus garden or Caesar salads and a market vegetable platter. For a small fee, you can select heartier choices like wings, chicken tenders, fried shrimp, chicken quesadillas, Philly cheesesteaks, pizza and french fries. All items incur a charge of $2 to $6 between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Although not required, it's a nice gesture to tip the room service delivery person a few dollars.

--Updated by Erica Lamberg, Cruise Critic contributor

Cabins on Carnival Sunshine are generally sized well and offer ample storage space. The colour scheme in the standard cabins is a bit dated and the carpets are worn but the layout remains functional.

Carnival Sunshine's cabin choices offer many configurations, with some capable of fitting two guests, while others can accommodate up to five people through various uses of sofa beds and ceiling pull-downs. The pulldown beds do have a weight restriction of 250 pounds. Also, for cruisers travelling together, Carnival Sunshine offers more than 200 connecting rooms, which sometimes permits sound through the connecting doors.

Standard inside, ocean-view and balcony cabins each feature two twin beds that form a king when combined. Cabins boast decent storage options, including couches with inset drawers, bedside tables with shelves, and closets. There are two 120-volt U.S.-style outlets and one Euro-style 230-volt outlet atop a small vanity in each cabin, under which you'll find an ottoman-style seat.

Flat-screen TVs are installed against the wall, and swivel so you can view them from the couch or bed. But note, unlike the TVs on most newer ships, they are not interactive. The channel options are limited to two or three news channels, cable options with sitcoms and a children's channel. During our sailing, there were no free movies shown on the movie channel.

Hidden behind each TV are two more U.S.-style outlets. Other in-cabin amenities include a safe, robes, a phone and a hair dryer (hidden away in a drawer by the vanity). The ship's higher-category cabins and suites have mini-bars.

The bathrooms are functional with an oddly placed outlet for razors, up above the mirror. Showers feature massaging heads and a clingy shower curtain that rarely contains the water. There are also large dispensers with generic shower gel and shampoo. Other bathroom amenities might include a shower cap, mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste and hand soaps.

In rooms with a balcony, you'll find a pair metal-and-plastic mesh chairs and a small table on the veranda. Balconies are a decent depth, and we were able to read comfortably while outside.

Interior: The 723 185-square-foot interior cabins are practical and meet the needs of a budget cruiser. There are a few interior rooms with one single bed and a pulldown bunk, and a handful of insides that can fit three people, through two twin beds and a pulldown bunk, and even fewer that can fit four people with two pulldown bunks. All insides come with a small desk and seat and a bathroom with shower. Two side-by-side closets offer limited storage space, particularly hanging space.

Oceanview: Standard ocean-view staterooms are 220 square feet, while the superior ocean-view is 280 square feet. With a window and a bit more room, cruisers can spread out and take advantage of more living space and comfort. Ocean-view cabins include a sofa, coffee table, desk with chair, bathroom with shower, closets with plenty of hanging space and a picture window. A handful of ocean views can fit three people by replacing the standard sofa with a sofa bed.

Balcony: Carnival Sunshine has several balcony configurations including standard, aft-extending, premium larger balcony and premium wraparound balcony cabins. Most will fit two to five people, depending on configuration. All have a sofa or sofa bed, coffee table, desk with seat and plenty of storage space for two to three adults with three side-by-side closets. All balcony cabins are 185 square feet, but the balcony size varies: 35 square feet for standard balcony cabins; 60 square feet for aft balcony cabins) and 75 square feet for premium, large balcony and premium wraparound balcony cabins. These last two differ only by location on the ship, with wraparound cabins located on the corner and premiums located just inside the corner.

Spa Cabins: Additionally, Sunshine has 92 Cloud 9 Spa cabins, which are clustered around the ship's spa. The spa is located on Deck 10, but the cabins span Decks 9, 10 and 11.

The accommodations, which come in a few versions -- 185-square-foot ocean-views and balconies (with 35-square-foot verandas) and 275-square-foot suites (with 65-square-foot verandas) -- are laid out exactly the same as other comparable non-spa cabins. The difference comes by way of design tweaks (green accents), proximity to the spa and special inclusions. Passengers in Cloud 9 accommodations get a range of Elemis toiletries, fee waivers for a trio of fitness classes and access to the spa's thermal suite, which features various tiled rooms with steam and dry heat.

Suites: Carnival Sunshine offers three suite options. An Ocean Suite with large balcony has 340 square feet, with the stateroom using 275 square feet and the balcony taking up 65 square feet. On top of everything you'll find in a balcony cabin, Ocean Suites add larger, separate sitting areas, two TVs, more closet space and bathrooms with tubs. The suites offer an ideal arrangement for families with children.

The 345-square-foot Grand Suites, which have 85-square-foot balconies, are each one big room with a larger L-shaped sofa and a large closet in a separate room adjoining the bathroom. The bathroom includes a vanity desk and sink. They're designed with marble-topped surfaces, full bathrooms with double-width shower-whirlpool tub combos, bidets, double sinks, marble flooring and mosaic tiles on the walls.

Carnival Sunshine's Captain's Suites, side-by-side at the front of the ship, come in at a hefty 500 square feet with 200-square-foot balconies. They are situated just above the bridge on Deck 9, have two rooms and two bathrooms, and are entirely glass-fronted. They also have walk-in closets and whirlpool tubs, as well as large sofas, which can fold down, so you can fit as many as five people in each.

Passengers staying in suites get VIP check-in.

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