Recently Lt. Dan and I went on a Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise Line. Let me tell you all about it!
Lt. Dan and I have traveled quite a bit over the last few years, however neither of us had ever been on a cruise ship before, and we hadn’t been on a “grown up trip” without our kids in over 5 years.
It was time. We needed a romantic getaway to unwind and reconnect, and felt a cruise might be the perfect opportunity.
Our 8 day cruise left Cape Canaveral Florida heading to Saint Maarten, Saint Kitts, San Juan Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk, with two days at sea on the way to the first island, and one day at sea on the way back.
Although I had never been on a cruise, I had certain expectations based on stories from friends… Expectations like fabulous night time entertainment including comedians, shows and live music, plus excursions at port, and lots of time to lay in the sun.
What I didn’t necessarily expect was great food.
Over the years I have heard mixed reviews on cruise ship dining. Some people say cruise ship food is terrible. Some people think it’s opulent and delicious. I’ve even heard mixed messages on whether there is too much food or too little food available, depending on the cruise line.
Since this was my first time cruising, I can’t really compare Carnival to other cruise lines. But I can tell about our experience… and it was really really good!
Carnival is known for being an affordable cruise line with lots of fun options for both couples and families. In fact, they are considered the world’s most popular cruise line with 24 ships operating over 1800 voyages a year. You can find great deals on Carnival Cruises to destinations all over the world.
Many of the ships (like the Carnival Sunshine) are maxed out with pools, shopping areas, mini golf, clubs, a lavish spa, gym, waterpark, casino, wine bar, piano bar, and sports bar.
On top of all this, we were thrilled to discover Carnival Cruises are a great option for foodies, with all sorts of wonderful options to make your culinary experience truly special.
Cruising for Foodies
On the Carnival Sunshine, you can find tasty comfort food and healthy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the main dining halls and the market place. Dinner is served in the Sunset Restaurant with some long-standing options as well as nightly specials.
I fell in love with the Indian curry. So much so, I ordered it twice!
On sea days you can enjoy brunch in the Sunrise Restaurant. We had bagels with smoked salmon, huevos rancheros, fresh made popovers, and the “Funny French Toast” coated in Fruit Loops.
The Sunshine’s lido deck offers a Guy’s Burger Joint with fabulous burgers and fries for lunch and early dinner. Dan and I could not believe how good the burgers and fries were. In fact, we kept comparing them to some of our favorite burger joints and felt they held their own pretty well.
Blue Iguana Cantina is also on the lido deck with fresh breakfast burritos, as well as tacos and burritos as lunch. I’m a sucker for fresh hot tortillas made to order. Plus, the salsa bar gives you the option of loading up your tacos just how you like them.
At lunch you can find a made-to-order Asian wok bar, an Italian pasta bar, and Cuban snacks if you’re looking for something a little different.
The Carnival Sunshine offers 24 hour room service and a pizza bar that is also open 24 hours a day, so there is always something to snack on, no matter when you decide to eat.
Although many dining options are included in the price of your cruise, there are some specialty restaurants that will make your culinary experience even more exciting.
Here Are the Highlights:
JiJi Asian Kitchen ($15 per person)
JiJi offers flavors from all over Asia served in a fun and creative way. The staff does an impeccable job with presentation. Dinner is offered for one price that includes an appetizer selection, dinner, and dessert. We especially loved the Peppered Beef, Wide Noodles, and Jade Shrimp Dumplings. (And it was so delicious we ate here twice!)
Cucina Del Capitano ($15 per person)
Cucina serves up Italian comfort food in a cozy atmosphere. The name signifies that all the dishes are inspired by the families of the Italian captains aboard the Sunshine. Again, appetizers, dinner, and dessert are included for one price. We were crazy over the Arancini risotto ball appetizer, the decadent creamy Spaghetti Carbonara, and Sorbetto Al Limone (lemon sorbet) dessert.
The tiramisu is pretty spectacular as well!
Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse ($35 per person)
The Sunshine’s premier steakhouse restaurant offers the appeal of the classic upscale American steakhouse with a few surprises. Appetizers, dinner, and dessert are included for one price. I had the ahi tuna tartare, surf and turf with half a grilled lobster and a fillet, and the chocolate sampler dessert. Divine!
Order your favorite sushi bar items a la carte! The miso soup and spicy tuna roll were a real hit.
Creamy milkshakes and coffee drinks to satisfy your sugar or caffeine cravings.
The Chef’s Table Experience
Take a tour of the ship’s galley, then dine on an amazing feast with multiple courses in a private dining room. This culinary encounter will give you taste after taste of the very best the chefs have to offer.
Just look at some of these dishes!
Other places to check out…
A festive bar with cuban inspired snacks!
Try a wide selection of microbrew beers and Carribbean cocktails! Plus, live music and island-inspired snacks.
Inventive craft cocktails are served each night at the Alchemy Bar. Gather around the bar and watch the Mixologists work their magic.
For a special treat, sign up for the Mixologist Class and learn to make your own craft cocktails at home.
Just in case you think all we did on our cruise is eat and drink, I have proof we did in fact port at four gorgeous islands. *wink*
There are many excursions offered at each stop like private beach trips, snorkeling and scuba diving, deep sea fishing trips, culinary tours and more. Or you can just hop off the ship and make your own fun.
We loved watching the planes fly in over Saint Maarten.
On Saint Kitts we took a catamaran ride and went snorkeling by a sunken ship.
In Puerto Rico we walked the streets of Old Town San Juan to the historic forts, then hunted down a local café to try mofongo, a regional plantain dish.
On Grand Turk we took a taxi to quiet Pillory Beach and floated in the crystal aqua water for hours.
It was such an amazing getaway!
Dan and I will definitely cruise again. Especially with Carnival Cruise Line, because we loved the endless activities and entertainment, and could not believe the quality of the food.
Although we wanted (and needed) a couples retreat, I think next time we’ll take the kids with us.
I hate that they missed all the fun!
Our Top Cruise Planning Tips:
Make sure to research your cruise ship before booking your trip. Some of the smaller ships (that only go on 2-4 day cruises) don’t have as many entertainment and specialty dining options. I’m sure the food they offer is just as good, but we loved all the variety on the Carnival Sunshine.
Plan to visit at least 2-3 of the specialty restaurants. They are so good guys! We never had a bad meal on the Carnival Sunshine, but the upgraded dining experiences really made me feel like we were celebrating.
Visit the Taste Bar. If you aren’t sure if you’re interested in the special dining options, you can visit the Taste Bar each day to sample some of the restaurant favorites (complementary) to help you make up your mind on where to eat.
Upgrade to a stateroom with a balcony. At first, I thought it wouldn’t matter whether we had a balcony or not. After all, I wasn’t planning on spending a lot of time in my room. Yet it was so nice to open up the doors and let the fresh ocean air into the room. Every time we got back on the ship after a port day, we’d head up to our room before dinner and hang out on the balcony as the ship pulled away from the pier. It’s also a private and romantic place to watch the sunset.
Check out the spa specials. Each day the spa offers discounts and specials on their services. You might get a killer deal on a couples massage or seaweed wrap… Or both!
Catch every sunset. Stand on your balcony or the deck and take in nature’s dramatic, yet serene, light show.
Get in the water. You’re on a ship. On the ocean. Then on an island. It’s only natural to put your toes in the gentle waves. Instead of just walking around the port shops, take advantage of at least one of the ocean excursions the cruise ship has to offer. We absolutely loved our catamaran and snorkeling trip.
Wear a watch. Set your watch to the ship’s time and keep it on your wrist on port days. If you are on a Carnival excursion, the guides will make sure to get you back on the ship with time to spare. However, if you explore the island on your own, keep careful track of time.
The ship will leave without you if you don’t show up when it’s time to leave the port.
Now get out there!
Disclosure: Carnival Cruises hosted us on this trip. I was not required to write about our experience. We had a marvelous time, so I wanted to share it. All opinions are our own.