Have you ever thought about taking a cruise but wondered if it would be right for you? Does cruising conjure up images of stuffy nights in the cigar lounge on the Titanic and a menu full of food that might be too fancy for your taste? Yes, there are upscale, expensive cruise lines, but there are also plenty of ships that cater to everyday vacationers, both in price and experience.
When I recently sailed on the Carnival Sunshine, I was very pleased to see that it's a nice, laid-back experience for just about anyone, from singles to couples to families. The ship, which just got a $155 million makeover that pretty much turned it into a new vessel, is well appointed with areas for everyone, from a three deck adult retreat to water slides and a ropes course for the kids to a lively bar scene for those who like to party. The photos below highlight some of the ways in which a Carnival cruise in general, and the Sunshine in particular, offers a perfect introduction to cruising at a very reasonable price.
The Sunshine has all sorts of culinary offerings, including everything from steak and lobster to ethnic food like Italian and Asian cuisine to “didja” items for adventurous eaters. Through it all, you'll find comfort food in the main dining rooms and at venues around the ship. There's whole station at the buffet dedicated to comfort food items, and don't forget other options like the thick, juicy burgers at Guy's Burger Joint or the tasty, freshly made pizza. Most of the food is included in your cruise fare, although Ji Ji, Fahrenheit 555, and Cucina del Capitano have an upcharge.
Shows With Mass Appeal
The shows in the Liquid Lounge are specially designed to have mass appeal, and there's other onboard entertainment too. I only sailed on a two night cruise, so I only got to see one of them, “Epic Rock: A Rock Experience.” It's centered on 1970s and 1980s classic rock to draw the audience right in. The music is great, as are the effects that use the big screen on stage. Other shows include “Motor City,” which incorporates the 1960s Detroit sound, and “Studio VIP: A Total '70s Dance Experience.”
A Lively Bar Scene
Carnival's fleet is called the Fun Ships for a reason. You're greeted by the Sunshine Bar as soon as you step into the atrium. It's a great spot for a drink at any time, and I loved the wild party on the last night of the cruise. The Havana Bar was another great spot for a drink, music, and dancing, and the Red Frog Pub had an energetic vibe, complete with darts and game tables. There's even a Library Bar if you prefer to enjoy your cocktails in a quieter atmosphere. Those only scratch the surface of the many bars on board.
Yes, Carnival is a party cruise line, but as the facilities on the Sunshine show, it's also going directly for the family market. With entertainment like the Hasbro Game Show, age-specific kids' clubs, speedy water slides, swimming pools, and a ropes course, miniature golf, your youngsters and teens will always have something to do while you're off enjoying more adult pursuits.
Come on, admit it, you like to gamble. These days, most people live near some sort of legalized gambling, but it's still pretty exciting to play some slots or blackjack while you're out at sea. Just be warned that the casino is a rare spot where you can smoke indoors on the Sunshine, so you might not want to spend too much time there if you're sensitive to cigarette smoke.
Non-Threatening Spa Treatments
I'm an old hand at spa treatments. I don't think twice about stripping down and plopping on the table for a nice, relaxing massage. However, I've met many “spa virgins” who are very shy about getting a treatment. Cruise ship therapists are used to this and will do what it takes to make you comfortable. Better yet, if you just can't make the leap to a full body massage, or even a facial or pedicure, you can book a day in the thermal suite and enjoy the heated tile loungers with an ocean view, saunas, scented steam rooms, and special showers with colored lights. No undressing or turning body parts over to a therapist required.