Itinerary: New York, Boston MA, Portland ME, Saint John NB, Halifax NS, New York

September 26 - October 1, 2016

Review of ship/cruise

GENERAL: This was a 7 day New England/Canada cruise on the Carnival Sunshine. We sailed from New York with two ports in US and two in Canada and back to New York. I went with my sister. We booked flights to get us into La Guardia, NY about the same time. My flight from Cincinnati was on time and so was hers from Chicago. That went very smoothly. Although getting into Manhattan was a mess. It was rush hour and on top of it the President was in NY at the time. Traffic was held up a bit but we did get to see his motorcade go past us. You never see it on TV but an ambulance follows behind.

We spent two nights in New York. We visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum. It was very tastefully and respectfully done and very moving. We also saw the play CATS on Broadway.

Ship: The Carnival Sunshine is a larger ship and you could definitely tell it was at capacity by the service. I have never waited in so many lines on a cruise ship before. But if you don't mind lines, it is a nice ship. It was clean and even though one of their older ones, it was kept up well. I saw reviews that disputed this but that might be before their refurbishment. We had a suite which entitled us to priority check-in as well as priority going ashore and disembarkation. However, the dock check-in was the only place we actually received it. We were in a separate lounge where you could sit down until your name was called. After check-in we were able to board the ship but we could not go to our room until 1:30pm. (Again, priority was supposed to let us go right to our room).

The Lifeboat drill was a joke at the beginning, different crew members told us conflicting information about where to go. At least we didn't have to wear our life jackets. And the maps of the ship both paper given at check-in and the Carnival HUB (smartphone app) did not show where the stations were. I think this is a SERIOUS FLAW. When you need the information the most, how do you find it. I brought this up to several crew members.

One advantage to sailing while school is in session - there were very few children. Although the ship does have facilities for children such as a club, water slide and mini golf. The average age on this cruise was in the senior citizen range (which includes me).

Carnival offers a "Faster to the Fun" program where you can pay extra for priority treatment. They get priority after suites and their platinum members. However, considering the (lack of) priority we got, I can't image it would be worth it.

SUITE: The suite was very nice with a separate dressing room, lots of closet space, and bath robes provided for on board use. It also was clean and well maintained. The verandah had 4 lounge chairs. Our cabin steward was pleasant, friendly and efficient.

We had our towel animals each night. A different animal/sea creature each day. My favorite was the dog.

FOOD: We had open seating for dinner so we would meet more people. It is a strange process on this ship, you have to go to a check-in desk on a different deck and they give you a slip and tell you which dining room to go to. The line at the check-in desk was very long the first night but wasn't bad the remainder of the trip. There were 3 alternative restaurants. We ate at the Asian restaurant twice and loved it although the second time we ordered entrees that were a little too spicy. The Italian restaurant had good calamari but the entree was so big it could feed 2 and their tiramisu was different but good. We never tried the steakhouse as it was a pricey $35 per person.

The buffet was typical of all cruises. It was always crowded and service people seemed more intent on keeping the stations clean than helping guests. You were also confused as to which side the line started on since there were plates at both ends. So you had people going both ways! While we were having lunch one day a guy cleaned our table twice. I'm not sure why he couldn't wait until we were done. In the buffet area was a pizza counter (not good) and a deli (very good). There was a burger bar by the pool which my sister loved and they had a huge topping counter. One of the lower decks had a small area for a continental breakfast and light lunch. The ship also had a coffee bar and shake/ice cream float counter (extra charge). And there were many bars throughout the ship. Surprisingly none of the 3 dining rooms were open for lunch so you could not get a nice sit down meal. We ate in town two of the days.

Overall the food was good but nothing spectacular. Dinners were rather average and seemed to lack seasoning. Desserts were not inspiring. And the dining room wait staff never offered after dinner coffee. They seemed more intent on the little show they put on, singing and dancing, which we could have taken for one night but not several.

ENTERTAINMENT: First, if we did not have the Carnival app which showed what was happening each day I'm not sure we would know what to do. The little flyer they left in our room did not have much detail. You got more information on their art gallery and auctions. And even when you asked someone you didn't get a lot of info. For example, my sister wanted to know about the slot tournament in the casino and couldn't find anyone who could tell her how it worked. The shows in the main lounge were mostly just music reviews of different genres although there was a hypnotist show one night that looked phony. We went to the smaller comedy club in the evening. All but one of the comedians was fantastic.

ITINERARY: In all ports we took a 2-3 hour bus tour of the city. Boston and Portland were interesting and left us time for shopping. The first day started out poorly with lack of information on the pier as to where to meet. But that was sorted out. In Saint John New Brunswick we thought we were going to see some lighthouses but only got to one and couldn't even go inside. The gift shop was so tiny that with the many busses of people you couldn't get in. We did have time for some shopping and lunch near the port.

Halifax was a bust. We were told to meet in the dining room, which was the meeting place for all the tours that left in the morning. An announcement was made that only people with booked tours should be there. We were escorted off the ship and as we were in this massive line we talked to people who were not on tours. The ship didn't enforce that which caused many tours to leave late. It took an hour to get off the ship. And since out tour left late, we were given only 30 minutes in Peggy's Cove instead of an hour so they could get back for the afternoon tour. There were 4 big ships in port that day, and dozens of busses at the cove. The shops couldn't handle the crowd so browsing and buying anything was a chore (not to mention the lines to the bathrooms). Our ship was docked away from the main terminal so we didn't even have shops at the pier. Then the ship had a problem. When we got back we stood in line for over an hour to get back on. We found out there was some power outage earlier and something happened to the computer system. They had to write our names/stateroom down on paper since our cards would not scan. Of course they only had one person doing this.

When we got back to our cabin we took pictures. The line grew bigger as each afternoon bus returned. About 6:00 (when we were supposed to have departed) they opened another line. I can't imagine why they didn't do that earlier. At one point there had to be over 400 people in line.

They did apologize to us later and assured us we wouldn't have any problem getting off in New York.

SUMMARY: As with everything, you get what you pay for. We opted to sail Carnival because it was less expensive. In the past I have sailed primarily Holland America. Like hotel chains, there are vast differences. Carnival is more along the lines of a Holiday Inn. Holland America is more of a Hilton. We met a lot of people who loved Carnival. Aside from the long lines and problems in Halifax it was a pleasant cruise. But that's why Carnival (parent company) owns so many cruise lines: Holland America, Costa, Cunard, Seaborn, and more. They offer something for everyone.