Carnival Corp.'s New Ships Offer Two Different Worlds

 

Carnival Sunshine’s adult-only Serenity area
Carnival Sunshine’s three-deck Serenity area is an adult-only enclave where guests enjoy loungers and can order from the bar.

 

Having sailed on both the 3,600-passenger Royal Princess and the 3,006-passenger Carnival Sunshine this year, it’s clear how much Carnival Corp.’s brands reflect diversity. Princess Cruises, considered a premium line by many agents, launched its new ship in June. Carnival Sunshine, the former Carnival Destiny, re-emerged this summer as an almost new ship after a $155 million makeover by contemporary Carnival Cruise Lines

While these ships are from two different worlds, have different designs and features, and appeal to different audiences, here’s our first-hand look with some gleanings about both new products. 

The Atrium Factor: Royal Princess’ three-deck Grand Piazza spans the full ship’s beam and is 50 percent larger than other Princess ships’ atriums. More horizontal than vertical in feel, this classy atrium encompasses bars, lounger, dining or entertainment spots. Clients might head for the new Ocean Terrace seafood bar, enjoy a cup of java at International Café, order a fresh pie at Alfredo’s pizzeria, or savor the flavors of the new Gelato, which serves up Italian-style ice cream and crepes.

This vibrant hub of the ship was a magnet for guests, a place to meet up and people-watch. Kudos to Princess Cruises for moving the purser’s office and shore trip desk to an adjacent mini-piazza, giving Royal Princess’ Grand Piazza a more guest-centric feel. 

On Carnival Sunshine, the ship’s atrium is a vertical space, soaring nine decks. It has a more updated, lighter look than its previous incarnation, Carnival Destiny, yet bright ribbons of light still outline terraces and glass elevators. After all, this is a Fun Ship. The tower area now has attractive, cream-colored walls. Chandelier orb balls glow differently depending on the light scheme. A singer/guitarist often entertains from an upper terrace. 

Anchoring the atrium is a large circular orange bar on the lowest level. After a hot day exploring ashore, many guests plop here and order a fruity, colorful drink. Ringing the upper atrium levels are the photo displays and shop, the new Library Bar and a new black-and-red EA Sports Bar; a fun sports trivia contest is played out on the latter’s big video screens. An automatic kiosk adjacent allows guests to check a Sail & Sign account, print out a bill and make account payments without waiting in the purser’s desk line. 

The Alternative Dining Factor: Located in the Royal Princess’ mini-piazza, is Sabatini’s Trattoria, the line’s alternative Italian dining venue. One new feature is Sabatini’s huge wine tower containing Super Tuscan wines; the line has new tasting options. Sabatini’s is also now adjacent to Vines Wine Bar in the atrium, a smart location pairing. Cover charge is $25 per person. 

With rich wood appointments, Crown Grill is Royal Princess’ steak and seafood restaurant. Order the prime rib, ribeye steak or surf and turf. Our table went wild over three tasty flavoring salts—Hawaiian Black Salt, Smoked Applewood Salt or Himalayan Mountain Pink Salt. Cover charge is $25 per person.

 

Royal Princess’ Center Court
Royal Princess’ Center Court offers basketball, volleyball and tennis.

 

Not to be outdone, Carnival Sunshine has two first-rate alternative dining venues. For steak fans, Fahrenheit 555 has chic décor and delivers top beef and seafood choices. On a surf-and-turf combination, the beef was tender, the lobster cooked just right. Cover charge is $35 per person. 

What really stands out on Carnival Sunshine is a totally new evening dining venue—Ji Ji Asian Kitchen. It’s a must-do for guests who love Asian food. Guests choose from multiple regional cuisines, everything from Mongolian and Chinese to Vietnamese and Indonesian. (Read our complete Ji Ji review here) Cover charge is $12.

For a casual experience, Guy’s Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina are located outside on the pool deck and adjacent to the Lido Marketplace. Both are complimentary. Interestingly, on multiple days we strolled through the Lido to anecdotally tally who was eating what; one of every three or four plates had a Guy’s burger. Officially, Carnival says guests on average burn through 1,200 Guy’s Burgers a day on every ship. 

The Outdoor Factor: Royal Princess has the line’s largest top deck pool ever with a water-and-light show, an enhanced Movies Under the Stars screen, and the new SeaWalk. For the latter, enter if you dare as it’s a glass-enclosed, glass-floored, cantilevered walkway with views 128 feet straight down to the ocean. 

Another big outdoor enhancement is the ship’s larger Royal Princess Sanctuary. Guests relax away from the kids with an adults-only retreat pool and large, private VIP cabanas; spa services are available on deck. There is a flat fee charge of $15 per person for sanctuary entry during either the morning or afternoon period.

 

Sabatini’s Trattoria on Royal Princess
Sabatini’s Trattoria on Royal Princess is a sauve alternative Italian dining venue.

 

The ship’s large multi-deck Sports Complex has a wide, dual-lane track (one lane for running, another for walking) with exercise circuit equipment positioned along the track. Nearby, the Center Court offers basketball, volleyball and tennis. Guests also might swing the bat in a baseball batting cage, practice golf putting, play ping pong, bocce ball or croquet, or head for the laser shooting range (it’s popular, so advise clients to expect lines).

Given its name, it’s not surprising that Carnival Sunshine excels at the outdoor factor, with the fleet’s first three-deck Serenity area. This adult-only enclave is complimentary. Clients enjoy loungers or cabanas, can order from the bar, have great views and watch a large waterfall. A separate pool deck area for all guests including children has a big-screen outdoor TV. 

The brightly colored SportSquare is home to an extensive ropes course, running track, shuffleboard, basketball court, twister area and even a hot dog stand. Adjacent is WaterWorks, Carnival’s largest such facility with more than 40 interactive water splash features. 

Two guests might “race” each other on the dual 235-foot-long water slides; they can check their race times on the scoreboard. Thrill seekers will head for the enclosed, 334-foot-long Twister slide, while young kids love the 150-gallon bucket that fills up and dumps water on them. 

The Spa Factor: Royal Princess’ Lotus Spa has an attractive Relaxation Room with ocean views and new couples’ treatment villas. The Enclave is the star, though. It’s a thermal suite that’s triple the size of any other such facilities elsewhere within the Princess fleet. It features a large hydrotherapy pool with cascading rain shower, water-beds or stone loungers, and hot and cold rooms. 

Princess moved this spa lower in the ship and near the Grand Piazza, a convenience for guests seeking information. Also, many spa goers never look sea-ward during their treatment, and sometimes a low-light aura is required. So Princess saved the prime real estate up top for other activities. The line also split the fitness area away from the spa. It’s on Deck 17 with sea views. 

Over the next year, Carnival Sunshine guests are expected to indulge in 14,000-plus massages, have 7,000 facials, and participate in 1,500 personal fitness consultations in the Cloud 9 Spa. We liked the soothing aura of this spa and the inviting thermal lounge area with sea views. Carnival’s fitness room is adjacent and has ocean views.  

Royal Princess and Carnival Sunshine are both sailing in the Mediterranean, but will reposition this fall to Port Everglades, FL, and New Orleans, respectively; they will sail Caribbean voyages throughout the winter. Then Carnival Sunshine moves to Port Canaveral in central Florida while Royal Princess returns to Europe for the summer. 

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