On a beautiful Saturday in August, we arrived at the Port of Miami to board the Carnival Sunrise for her return to service sailing. We had already checked in online, uploaded our passports, Covid vaccination records (completed at least 2 weeks prior), Covid tests (done within 3 days of sailing) and filled out the required health questionnaire.
We were greeted by staff smiling ear to ear and welcoming us, everyone from the porters who took our luggage to the staffers who directed us into the terminal and the folks who checked us in. Masks were required in the terminal and while boarding. Because everyone had assigned boarding times, the lines were moving quickly and we moved through document check, temperature check and onto the ship. We were met by quite a fiesta! Staff in costumes, clapping and cheering – what a welcome!
Our rooms were not quite ready, so we set off to explore the ship and find lunch. First stop, check in for our muster station in the theater and then off to see the sights. If you have cruised before, you know the places where the action is are on the top decks, often called the Lido Deck and on the deck with the casino and shops.
We found lots to do besides eat and drink on the Lido Deck. Check this list out! Waterslides, pool, hot tubs, lots of chaise lounges to catch some sun plus a miniature golf course, a walking track, a ropes course, a pool table and foosball, and Waterworks waterpark area. There is a multipurpose court for volleyball, basketball and soccer. And if you want a little less activity, there is another pool and more hot tubs in the rear of the ship, and there are adults only serenity areas near the spa.
Did I mention the spa? We got great pedicures – Carnival red of course. There is also a gym, with stationary bikes, ellipticals, free weights, and machines.
Top it all off with a visit to the Thermal Suite – heated chaise lounges, steam rooms, saunas, showers and changing rooms.
But it IS a cruise after all, so we wandered around the Lido Deck and found lots of interesting places to grab a bite. Guy Fieri is well represented with Guy’s Burger Joint and the Pig & Anchor BBQ, both serving up excellent food, and truly one of the best burgers to be had anywhere, not just at sea. And then there is the Blue Iguana Cantina, preparing great Mexican food, and we had not even ventured into the Marketplace buffet, with the Lucky Bowl Asian noodle station and The Deli.
Many people ask a lot of questions about food service on ships. Yes, the buffets are still open. Some stations are served by cruise line staff and on the Sunrise, there were some where you could still serve yourself. We saw staff replacing all the tongs on the buffet line on a frequent basis, and tables and other surfaces were cleaned and sanitized almost continuously.
In the sit-down venues and bars, menus were provided via a QR code with hard copies readily available on request. Masks were required indoors at all times except when seated and eating or drinking.
The Sunrise has several specialty dining options. There is a separate fee for these venues. We tried the Italian restaurant, Cucina del Capitano, the Captain’s Kitchen, with recipes gathered over the years, literally from many of the captains’ families. Fresh made pasta, risotto, and delicious sauces paired nicely with the Italian wines.
Also not to be missed is Bonsai Sushi. Small, with modern Japanese atmosphere and offering lunch and dinner, priced a la carte. The sushi was top quality, very fresh. The Wagyu Kakuni, braised Wagyu beef short ribs with caramelized onions and teriyaki sauce on little rice cakes was heavenly – melt in your mouth goodness. We skipped dessert here, but the green tea cupcakes looked yummy… just sayin’.
And we haven’t even talked about the main dining rooms, Radiance and Sunshine, with singing maître d’s and dancing waitstaff. And there is pizza and soft serve ice cream available 24/7, if all that is not enough. Still hungry? Try 24 hour room service.
If you are cruising with children or teens, there are a lot of programs for kids. Some have been modified or discontinued due to the pandemic, so be sure to check the Carnival website for the most up to date information.
Camp Ocean is for the 2 to 11-year-old set, while the teens 15+ have Club O2. Young folks 12-14 have their own space, Circle C. There are also some Dr. Seuss at Sea themed events.
Well, you can start with the bars of which there are lot! The Red Frog Rum Bar and The Blue Iguana Tequila Bar on the Lido deck by the pool. Back inside you will find The Red Frog Pub with a huge selection of fine rums and cocktails and live music, the Alchemy Bar for some chemistry in a glass, and the Atrium bar for camaraderie and libations along with live music. There is also the Piano Bar, for good time singalong adult entertainment.
And for more entertainment options, there are full scale productions in the Liquid Lounge theater, comedy (family and adults only) in Punchliner, and then there is the nightclub and “Dive-In movies” under the stars by the pool, complete with popcorn. Check out the Skybox Sports Bar and the Casino bar, too. If you have any energy left, there is always duty-free shopping – fine jewelry, watches, Carnival souvenirs, liquor, accessories and apparel. If you are running low on energy, stop by the Cherry on Top candy store or the JavaBlue café.
We stopped at 2 ports – Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Bimini, Bahamas. But there was so much to tell you about the ship, I have run out of room so we will have to talk about those in another column. This must be why they call Carnival “The Fun Ships”!
In the meantime, you can visit my website, www.adventuresbypolly.com or follow me on Facebook at adventureswithpolly–cruise planners or find me on Twitter @PollyHemstock or Instagram @advwithpolly. You can email your questions or comments to [email protected] – let me help you plan your next stress-free vacation.
Polly Hemstock ACC is a franchise owner/travel consultant with Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. Polly has spent a lifetime cultivating her passion for food, wine, and travel. She is an avid traveler, retired chef/restaurateur, a Certified Specialist of Wine and is now a Certified Cruise Counsellor.
Polly retired to Florida from New England and came out of retirement to become a travel agent, inspired by years of cruising, much of it from Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale. She enjoys all types of food and wine, cooking and dining out. She started her food career as a food scientist, developing consumer food products for General Foods.
Polly obtained her culinary education at The New York Restaurant School and had a career as a chef and restaurant owner, followed by working as a sales representative for a gourmet food supplier and a wine distributor. While working in the wine industry, she traveled to the wine regions of California, Oregon, Argentina and Chile.
She has traveled extensively in the US including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as Canada, much of the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil, and the Mediterranean. Find Polly at AdventuresbyPolly.com or on Facebook at AdventuresbyPolly.com – Cruise Planners and Instagram @advbypolly.