41 Carnival Sunshine Tips and Secrets

One of my many favorite things about compiling this collection of Carnival Sunshine tips is that it proved to be a true labor of love.

Over the span of years, I’ve spent over 60 days so far on this ship. I have had the pleasure of introducing her to others, who came to appreciate her as much as I have.

That’s because, despite being one of the aged ships in Carnival’s current fleet, the Sunshine has its very unique features amongst other Carnival ships.

carnival sunshine sailaway
Carnival Sunshine leaving Port Canaveral.

Hard as it is to believe when it was first introduced back in 1996, Sunshine (formerly known as the Carnival Destiny at that time) was the largest cruise ship in the world.

For the sake of comparison, she weighed in at approximately 100,000 gross registered tons… Currently, the Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship, with a stunning 250,800 gross registered tons.

carnival destiny exterior
The Carnival Victory, left, and sister ship Carnival Destiny, right, depart New York on their respective itineraries. Photo by Andy Newman/CCL

In 2012, the Destiny underwent a massive $155 million transformation, emerging as the Carnival Sunshine.

Although born as the first of the Destiny class, the ship would, after the name change, be considered the first and only member of the Sunshine class. And when Carnival rolled out the Fun Ship 2.0 features, Sunshine was the very first to receive them.

If you’re getting the impression that this ship holds a special place in my heart, you would most definitely be right. So obviously, I want you to enjoy your time on the Sunshine as much as I have.

With that in mind, here are some tips, tricks, and pointers that may serve as your cruise guide on this distinctive Carnival ship. However, this ship has a few unique features that you may find quite the same with other Carnival vessels.

1. There are “secret” staterooms on board.

Booking a cruise involves making several big decisions, one of which is choosing the type of stateroom. Carnival Sunshine has a variety of staterooms that are highly sought after by experienced cruisers.

The staterooms classified as 4J/4K are technically considered interiors, but they come equipped with a picture window, albeit with partially obstructed views.

The 6J/6K categories are forward-facing oceanview staterooms with floor-to-ceiling windows that sell out months in advance.

2. Deck three has some of the best “quiet spots” on board.

carnival sunshine deck 3
Watching the sunset from deck three on Carnival Sunshine.

There are times when we want to socialize with the crowd by the pool and when we want to read a book or admire the ocean.

Personally, when I want some peace and quiet, I head to deck three. On both the port and starboard sides of the deck, there are comfortable chairs that allow you to get closer to the ocean.

However, keep in mind that smoking is allowed only on the port side (that’s the left side), so if you’re a non-smoker, it’s best to stick to the starboard (right) side.

3. The atrium is wonderfully old-school.

Carnival Sunshine atrium
Sunshine Atrium on Carnival Sunshine.

Newer Carnival ships, such as the Vista and Horizon, come equipped with modern amenities, including amazing LED dreamscape funnels. However, I have a personal preference for the atrium on the Sunshine, which has a vintage feel with glass elevators and decor that is slightly quirky.

Additionally, I’ve observed that some of the most cordial bartenders work in this area, possibly due to the high volume of passengers that pass through here eventually.

Read More: 10 Tips for Carnival Cruise Line

4. Havana Bar is a perfect lunch spot.

This space has something of a split personality… in the best way possible. It comes alive at night with people dancing, drinking, and having a good time. But it’s a fantastic spot to enjoy your lunch during the day.

“Havana Bar is the best-kept secret on the Sunshine,” one reader told me. “It’s usually day four before most people realize that’s where the omelet station is. Oh, and you can get Cafe Con Leche!”

Located just outside the Lido marketplace, the Havana Bar has tons of extra seating, which comes in handy when both JiJi Asian Kitchen and Cucina del Capitano are closed.

5. Take your time getting to the sea day brunch.

Mac and cheese at Sea Day brunch on Carnival Sunshine.

Don’t get me wrong: You definitely should not miss the seaday brunch, no matter which Carnival ship you’re sailing on.

But go ahead, dawdle. People who get there early will wind up standing in line waiting for the doors to open, and it takes a while for all those folks to be seated.

Meanwhile, maybe it’s my bias toward this ship showing, but there’s something special about brunch on the Sunshine. Maybe it’s because I’m not usually in the main dining room during the daytime, so having daylight streaming through the windows makes it feel like an entirely different venue.

Oh, here’s another tip… think of it as a bonus: If you want to sit alone, just let the hostess know when you’re checking in.

Their default setting seems to be seating people in groups, but unless it’s ridiculously crowded, they’ll usually be able to accommodate your request.

6. You can get a free bottle of wine in the steakhouse.

Traditionally, fewer decide to have dinner in the steakhouse on the first night than any other night of a trip. For some people, it’s because they worry their luggage might not arrive in time.

Others figure they’ll be exhausted and want something simple that first night. And for many, they save the steakhouse for that special, final night’s dinner.

So, as an incentive to get people into the restaurant on embarkation day, Carnival offers a free bottle of wine. The steakhouse is already a great deal at $35 per person, but when you throw in a bottle of wine… It is an offer too good to pass up.

READ MORE: 7 Reasons To Dine In Carnival’s Steakhouse 

7. JiJi Asian Kitchen and Cucina Del Capitano are definitely worth the price.

Jiji Asian Kitchen pork belly
Pork Belly in JiJi’s Asian Kitchen.

I understand that many people avoid specialty restaurants, assuming that there are plenty of free options available. However, skipping these two places would be a real mistake.

Each costs only $18 per person, and while they offer wildly different experiences, they have one thing in common: really good food. JiJi Asian Kitchen has a limited but perfectly curated menu.

At the same time, Cucina features exactly what you’d expect to find in an Italian restaurant (although I’m still puzzled as to why they took the tiramisu and cannoli off the dessert menu).

I have dined at Cucina multiple times, and each time, I left feeling incredibly full. It ruined my plan of enjoying the nightlife on the ship because all I wanted to do was head back to my stateroom and fall into a food coma.

8. JiJi and Cucina also offer killer lunches… which are free.

If you don’t want to splurge to eat dinner at these restaurants, you can grab a complimentary lunch at both.

JiJi has a Mongolian Wok station set up, where you pick the ingredients and the chef cooks it up, while Cucina offers lasagna, pasta, salad, and bread.

Be warned: Both venues get packed at lunchtime, so plan accordingly. Also, be warned that once you try these places for lunch, you’ll definitely want to come back for dinner.

9. Hit the water park on a port day.

WaterWorks on Carnival Sunshine.

Carnival carries more families than any other cruise line in the world. And that means they also carry more kids.

So if you want to hit the waterpark in general — and the racing slides in particular — without waiting in lines, your best options will be to go early in the morning, closer to the time when the features will be closing, or while the ship is in port.

10. The Serenity pool is unlike any other in the Carnival fleet.

Serenity pool carnival sunshine
The Serenity Pool on Carnival Sunshine.

The Serenity deck on the Sunshine ship is truly remarkable. The deck features a stunning waterfall that stretches across its entire length. One of the best parts of this deck is that the entire area, including the pool, is free from children.

The pool, though not massive, is still enjoyable, and it has one unique feature – it is the only freshwater pool on any of the Carnival cruise ships.

11. Serenity can be whatever you want it to be.

The Serenity deck is unique in the sense that it has a split personality, which is a good thing. Its vastness spanning three decks allows you to tailor your Serenity experience to your liking. Part of the Serenity area offers a view of the Lido deck, where you can hear all the music and fun around the pool.

However, if you prefer a more peaceful experience, you can simply move up to the next deck and head towards the front of the ship.

There, you will find plenty of comfortable loungers and clamshells, completely isolated from the party atmosphere of the Lido deck.

The Serenity deck is unique in the sense that it has a split personality, which is a good thing. Its vastness spanning three decks allows you to tailor your Serenity experience to your liking. Part of the Serenity area offers a view of the Lido deck, where you can hear all the music and fun happening around the pool.

However, if you prefer a more peaceful experience, you can simply move up to the next deck and head towards the front of the ship.

There, you will find plenty of comfortable loungers and clamshells, completely isolated from the party atmosphere of the Lido deck.

12. Arrive early for the adult comedy shows.

Many Carnival ships, including the ones with the Limelight Lounge theater setup, have poles that may obstruct your view during shows. To secure the best seats, you will need to arrive early and queue up outside the theater.

Generally, the doors open around 30 minutes before the show starts. I understand that waiting in line during your vacation is not ideal, but for the right performer, it can be well worth it.

13. You don’t have to sit in a bad seat.

If you happen to arrive late at the Limelight and find that the only seats available are not great, don’t worry. You can still sit at one of the tables located to the far left or right of the stage.

Although you won’t be able to see the stage itself, there are TV screens that broadcast the performance. While the screens are not perfect, they are a better alternative than sitting behind a pole and missing out on the show.

14. Alchemy Bar is the perfect spot for pre-dinner drinks.

Alchemy Bar located in Ocean Plaza on Carnival Sunshine.

When it comes to Carnival Sunshine, Ocean Plaza is like that four-way intersection in the middle of a small town. Sooner or later, everyone winds up passing through.

So what better place to meet for pre-dinner drinks and a little people-watching than the Alchemy Bar, which is perfectly situated at the heart of Ocean Plaza? The handmade cocktails here are delicious, and they’re covered by the CHEERS! package.

This is not, however, the place for beer drinkers. Never fear because the RedFrog Pub is also located right off Ocean Plaza.

Read More: Review Alchemy Bar on Carnival

15. Grab breakfast (and coffee) away from the madness of the buffet.

Speaking of Ocean Plaza, this is also the place to be if you want to grab a decent breakfast without sitting down in a restaurant or diving into the madness that can be breakfast at the Lido Deck Marketplace.

Here, they have a nice little buffet set up with eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, cereal, and coffee.

And if you want espresso, the Java Cafe is only a few steps away. Rarely is this breakfast area crowded… mainly because a whole lot of people don’t know about it.

16. Ocean Plaza also features a limited lunch selection.

Ocean Plaza Barbecue

You can also avoid the buffet at lunchtime by coming to Ocean Plaza for a bite to eat. It’s not a huge selection, but it’s always tasty. For example, on embarkation day, they usually set up an Old Fashioned Barbeque station.

Is it as good as what you’ll find at the Pig & Anchor on Carnival Horizon? No, but it’ll definitely satisfy your hunger.

17. Catch a movie while hanging out in a hot tub.

Every night, there will be a Dive-In movie playing on the Lido deck’s ginormous screen. The selection is usually pretty decent and can feature some surprisingly recent hits.

My favorite movie-viewing spot? From one of the hot tubs, several of which are located in prime viewing spots.

18. The movies make a great date night!

Carnival Sunshine Dive in
Dive In movies on Lido deck of Carnival Sunshine.

While I enjoy watching the Dive-In Movies from a hot tub, most folks pull up a lounger. Crew members will come around offering blankets and free popcorn, which makes this evening beneath the stars a great opportunity to snuggle with the one you love.

Want to make a full-blown date night out of it? Time dinner — whether in one of the specialty restaurants or the main dining room — so that you can wander from your meal to a lounger and end the evening under a beautiful sky.

19. Time your buffet visits, especially lunch.

The buffet on the Carnival Sunshine is pretty well designed, but let’s face it: Any buffet on any ship can be a nightmare during peak hours. The best time to hit the Lido Deck Marketplace is after 1 p.m. Before that, especially on sea days, it’s a zoo.

Or avoid it altogether by hitting one of the places we mentioned earlier, including Ocean Plaza, Cucina, or JiJi.

20. Visit the casino early in the morning to (sort of) avoid the smoke.

Cruise ship casinos get smokey — that’s just a fact of life on the high seas. It’s going to be pretty much impossible to avoid the smell of smoke while in the casino, but there are ways to lessen its impact.

For one thing, pick machines or tables that are as far away as possible from the Casino Bar, which is where a lot of smokers congregate.

Look for the non-smoking section (or non-smoking tables), but keep in mind that as it’s an open-air casino and they aren’t in a separate area, this isn’t going to make a huge difference.

Another suggestion is to hit the casino as early as possible since there tend to be far fewer smokers around during the first few hours of the day.

21. Arrive at Liquid Lounge early.

carnival sunshine liquid lounge
A production show in the Liquid Lounge on Carnival Sunshine.

The key to getting good seats? Arrive early. Guests who arrive late often find themselves with those dreaded obstructed-view seats. On the Carnival Sunshine, you enter the theater from either deck four or deck five.

Keep a close eye on your Fun Times guide so you can see what production show is playing and at what time. It’s worth noting that there’s a nice bar with plenty of seating on deck four of the Liquid Lounge.

22. BlueIguana Cantina serves a mean breakfast.

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who think the words “breakfast” and “burrito” don’t belong in the same sentence and those who jump-start their day by grabbing one at BlueIguana.

I’ll admit, they’re a little too heavy for me, but if you like a hearty breakfast (or need to store up some energy for that active shore excursion), this will definitely hit the spot.

23. Don’t count on the internet being as good as home.

While some of the newer ships have better internet, that’s definitely not the case on the Carnival Sunshine.

If you’re looking to post photos to Facebook or tell everyone on Twitter about your awesome trip (#JealousMuch?), you’ll be fine.

But if you’re hoping to binge-watch the latest Netflix series, good luck. As you might expect, the internet will be faster early in the morning or late at night when fewer people are trying to access it.

24. The RedFrog Pub has a snack you will become addicted to.

RedFrog Pub on Carnival Sunshine.

While there are a few ships in the Carnival fleet that serve food in their versions of the RedFrog Pub, Carnival Sunshine isn’t one of them.

But if you’re looking for something to nosh on, ask the bartender for some wasabi peas. Then prepare to eat a lot of them because those suckers are addictive as heck. Better still, they’re free.

25. Deck three is a great location, stateroom-wise.

If you want an affordable and centrally-located cabin, see what’s available on deck three.

Here, you’ll be right off the main atrium, just a quick flight up to the theater, and two flights up to the main promenade on the ship. Deck three also has outside access with plenty of loungers and chairs.

26. Your business card will come in handy.

carnival sunshine interior room
Interior room on Carnival Sunshine.

Sure, it’s always good to have a business card on you in case you have the opportunity to do a little networking. But more importantly, you’ll want one for your stateroom.

See, the cabins onboard Carnival Sunshine are energy-efficient rooms, meaning that in order for your lights and electrical outlets to work, you have to have your keycard in the door.

On some newer cruise ships, only your keycard will work. But on Carnival Sunshine, a business card will do the trick. (And as someone who has, on more than one occasion, walked out of the room only to realize — just as the door clicks shut — that my keycard is still in that activate-the-lights slot, this is very good news.)

27. Yes, the ship has laundry facilities… and you should avoid them.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do laundry during your cruise. On the contrary, it’s great that the Carnival Sunshine still has self-serve laundry facilities, given that fewer and fewer ships these days do.

I’m suggesting you avoid booking a stateroom near them. Between the slamming doors, as people enter and leave and people talking loudly (to be heard over the dryers) in the room itself, this area can be pretty noisy.

They aren’t listed on most deck plans, so you might have to call Carnival or ask a travel professional to help you steer clear of cabins around the laundry rooms.

28. Serenity towels are nice… but do you really want to “buy” one?

The towels on the Serenity deck are big and fluffy and great to wrap yourself in… which is probably why they make you sign them out. If you fail to return the towel, you’ll find a $22 charge on your Sail & Sign card.

29. If there are restaurants on your “must-do” list, plan for them.

Shrimp Burrito BlueIguana Cantina
Shrimp Burrito at BlueIguana Cantina.

You know the old saying: Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. If you’ve got a restaurant that you absolutely, positively must eat at while on board the Carnival Sunshine, make a reservation.

A reader recently told me about how they’d been looking forward to dining at the steakhouse all week… only to find out on the last day that the place was booked solid.

30. Not every elevator goes where you want it to.

Nearly everyone learns this lesson the hard way: There are only two elevators that actually go to decks 11, 12, and 14 in the Serenity area. On the plus side, if you wind up having to take a lot of stairs, you’ll burn off some of those extra buffet calories.

31. Scout out the accessible bathrooms in advance.

The good news: There are plenty of accessible bathrooms on the Carnival Sunshine. The bad news? That’s only useful if you know where they are. If you have mobility issues, make sure to check out the deck plans of the ship in advance.

The stalls in the general-use bathrooms are definitely too narrow to navigate if you have a scooter or a wheelchair.

Rather than go back to your room every time you need to use the restroom, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the layout so you can save yourself some time and trouble.

32. You can bring your own wine.


You wouldn’t believe how many people assume they can’t bring their favorite bottle of wine on board… and later get very upset after finding out they could have.

Here’s the deal: You are allowed to bring two bottles of wine per stateroom. Yes, there is a $15 “corkage” fee per bottle, but we’ve found that it’s pretty loosely enforced (plus, you can avoid the fee by just drinking the wine in your cabin).

Want to bring four bottles of wine? You didn’t hear it from us, but we’ve been told the best way to do so is by putting two bottles in your bag, two in your travel partner’s… and then going through separate security lines.

33. The only way to beat the chair hogs is by staking your claim early.

carnival sunshine lido deck
Lido Deck

The good news: There are a lot of deck chairs on the Carnival Sunshine, and they’re spread out in numerous locations.

The bad news: chair hogs continue to be a real thing that we can’t seem to get rid of. (Maybe someone should start a GoFundMe page dedicated to the eradication of this pesky species.)

Even the Serenity deck is not immune to their presence. And while I’ve heard reports of (and even occasionally seen) attendants removing abandoned belongings, the best way to beat chair hogs at their own game is by getting up early, heading to the pool, and enjoying your day.

34. The RedFrog Pub’s Happy Hour is (forgive the pun) hoppin’. 

carnival sunshine redfrog pub
RedFrog Pub on Carnival Sunshine.

Just about every day, this popular watering hole has some kind of Happy Hour special. It’s not like they’re giving drinks away, but if you can save a little on drinks you were going to consume anyway, why not, right? Keep an eye on the Fun Times for drink specials that might pop up here and elsewhere on the ship.

35. There are some fun games waiting to be played in the pub.

Since you’re going to be hitting the Pub for Happy Hour, why not play a few games, such as tabletop shuffleboard?

And sometimes, the Pub plays host to Beer Pong tournaments, which are a total blast. And who doesn’t want to have bragging rights to having won the Beer Pong tournament on their cruise?

36. The Behind the Fun Tour is a must for cruise ship fans.

Want to go through some of those doors marked “Crew Members Only”? Then this is definitely the tour for you. It offers a glimpse behind the scenes into what makes a cruise ship tick.

During the 2.5-hour tour, you’ll see areas like the navigation bridge, engine control room, and other spots that are generally off-limits to passengers.

The tour is usually offered on sea days and is only available to a limited number of guests. Check the Fun Times or ask Guest Services for details.

37. Give yourself time to get where you need to go.

You’d be surprised how many first-time cruisers wind up being late to everything from dinner reservations to shows because they don’t give themselves enough time to get from their stateroom to the venue.

Remember to factor in things like crowded elevators, shopping spouses (“Oh, I just want to stop in here for a quick sec.”) and getting turned around on occasion.

38. Consider signing up for the Chef’s Table.

Seabass was one of the entrees served at the Chef Table on Carnival Sunshine.

If you’re a foodie (or are traveling with one), this is a must. From the galley tour (during which you’re offered several delicious appetizers and taught how to make a signature dessert) to the incredible meal (I lost track of how many courses we were served) and wine pairings, this is an evening you won’t forget.

Read More: 5 Reasons to Experience the Chef’s Table

39. Buyer, beware.

At least once during your cruise, there will be a very big sale. The way it is promoted, you will think it’s a combination of Macy’s on Black Friday and a Going Out Of Business sale at Filene’s Basement. What it really is a great chance to get some cheap souvenirs for the folks back home.

Need a Carnival-branded T-shirt for Uncle Billy? This is the time and place to pick it up. But exercise caution when it comes to stuff like jewelry and watches.

Mama was right when she said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I once bought a watch that seemed pretty great… until it stopped working a month later.

40. Guy’s Burger Joint is really as good as they say.

Plain Jane Burger at Guy’s Burger Joint.

Listen, I hear you. I once was one of you, muttering, “It’s just a dang burger. What’s all the excitement about?” And then I tried one.

Technically, I should say I tried two, because the moment the first one was gone, I ordered another.

I don’t know what’s in them and probably don’t want to know. What I do know that just sitting here writing about them makes me realize I need one ASAP.

41. Bring singles for tipping… and spread them around generously.

Luggage in the pick up area.

When I arrive at the pier and hand my luggage over to a porter, that man or woman gets a tip. (Take care of the porters, and they will take care of you. Stiff the porters, and your bag may be put on Carnival Liberty instead of Carnival Sunshine.)

And from that point forward, the entire time I’m on board, I hand out dollar bills like a drunk guy at a strip bar.

I know that one of the reasons I’ve had so many amazing experiences on the Carnival Sunshine is thanks to the hard-working crew who make the magic happen.

That’s why you will never, ever see me lining up at Guest Services to ask that they remove the automatic gratuities from my bill. And I’m going to believe, true or not, that you wouldn’t be caught dead doing that either.

Read More: 7 Confessions of a Cruise Baggage Handler

These are some of the Carnival Sunshine tips that I’ve gathered over the last five years of sailing Sunshine. Do you have any to share? Feel free to leave them below to be included in the article.

Carnival Sunshine Stateroom Video


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