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Hopep84

Sunshine Family Review, Nov 4-11

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Hi all! We just got back from our second cruise on the Sunshine, out of Charleston and to Amber Cove, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay. My husband and I have four kids (9, 7, almost 5 and almost 2) and I don't often see reviews with a focus on younger kids so I thought I would add my two cents. We didn't do any evening activities or shows and we don't drink or go to the casino, so if you are looking for any info on any of that - absolutely skip my review! Ha. We sailed with my parents, my mother in law, and my brother and sister laws and their two young girls.

 

This was our second time out of Charleston and our second time on the Sunshine. Last year we sort of had a nightmare check in process so we purchased faster to the fun this year. We left our house around 6 am and drove the 5 hrs to port with no problems. We made it quickly thru the maze and parked with no problem. We did get in the Faster to the Fun line but even the normal line was moving quickly. We were on board quickly and went straight to our rooms - 2314 and 2318. Last time we did not have connecting rooms and this time was so much better! We had the 3 big ones sleep in one room and used the big yellow couch pillows to prop the door between rooms open at all times. It was also fun having a window! We had no noise (last time we were on floor 7 and I swear our beds vibrated from noise from the Liquid Lounge) and I like being in the aft of the ship BC it was super easy just to walk up to floors to the dining room and ride the elevator straight up to the buffet. The only down side to the first day was that we had dressed a little too warmly and kept expecting our luggage to come (we did have Faster to the Fun after all!) But it didn't come until after dinner started, so sometime after 6.

 

Food wise, I was pretty happy with everything. We do love Guy's Burgers and also the little taco place beside it. My 7 yr old loves the pizza place. For breakfast, we always did the buffet and I LOVE the little English muffins with ham and a poached egg and sauce (Hollandaise maybe?). I had this everyday - even when they served it with salmon instead. I just got some ham from the salad bar and subbed it out. :) There is plenty of food that the kids will eat and I learned the last trip to grab extra boxes of cereal as a midday snack. (Just one a piece but you do get looks carrying out 4 boxes of Lucky Charms when the kids aren't with you ;)). For dinner we did do early reserved seating with the whole family in the dining room. I really enjoyed the Shrimp and grits (Charleston port menu) the lobster tail and the ricotta ravioli. There was one night that I didn't like anything on the menu so I ordered a veggie plate made of sides and entrees and I loved that too! Dinner was always about an hour and twenty minutes and they bring the kids food early, often before our appetizers even. I had bought paint by sticker books for the 3 big kids before and just passed them out after they ate and had a bag full of toys and books for the almost 2 year old. But I still had to take him out most evenings which is what I fully expected. :)

 

Okay I am going to go get some kids from school and will head on to the ports and Dr Suess stuff later. If anybody has any specific questions, feel free to ask!

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Your cruise must have been fun with your large and extended family! Will be following your review on ports.

 

 

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We had two sea days and were super ready to get off the boat in Amber Cove. We had gone back and forth several times on which excursion to book. I wanted to do something more educational with the older boys but knew the youngest would not be able to handle a long ride anywhere. Ultimately we decided to try the day pass to Ocean World. Our bus didn't leave till 11 so we spent some time in the pools at port. The pools were big and nice BUT it just felt crowded (another ship was in port with us) and we were ultimately happy we booked an excursion. They did have a nice kiddie area though and a zero entry pool, but again, it was just so crowded and loud.

 

The bus ride to Ocean World took maybe 10 minutes, so while we did get to see some of the countryside we didn't get to see much. It seemed quite poor but the scenery was absolutely beautiful. We also saw a lot of stray dogs that my 7 year was convinced were hyenas! :)

 

We went straight to the sea lion show and it was fun! It was a small venue and our kids were on the second row, quite close to the animals. They did a cute little show and while it wasn't Sea World quality it was certainly good enough and enjoyable for the kids. We ate lunch right afterward and the only choice was a 14 dollar buffet that had things like frozen pizza and hot dogs on it. Not good and way too expensive but we had to eat and feed the kids, so we did. ;p

 

The coolest part about Ocean World for the kids was that they had a fish tank you could actually snorkel in. It has quite a lot of fish in it (and some good sized ones!) and had fake rocks and a fake reef and also viewing areas for the rest of the family to peek thru at you. They absolutely loved it, and honestly my husband and I enjoyed it too. This was included with the price of your ticket and you could do it as many times as you wanted; the minimum age was 6. They had all the equipment there. I'm sure a real snorkeler person would find it lame, but we all loved it.

 

We also enjoyed the pools here. They had a kiddie pool and also a deeper pool but both were surrounded by fake rocks and had waterfalls etc. We were also consistently the only ones in the pool - which again was so nice compared to the port pools. There were lifeguards at both.

 

We also made it to the bird show but missed both the shark and dolphin shows. You can go into the bird exhibit and hold them and feed them but they kind of swarm you. I let my husband handle that. :)

 

My parents did an excursion that went into town and visited 7 different places and also had an authentic lunch. I know they visited a rum factory, a cigar factory, a chocolate place and maybe a church too? They really enjoyed it and came back with some yummy chocolate for us.

 

Bottom line - we had a great time at Ocean World and it was perfect for our kids. I would have loved to see more of the jungles and city around the port but at this point our littlest guy is not ready for that. Maybe next time! :)

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Grand Turk was next and as soon as I woke up, I could see beach! I wanted so badly to get out to that beach; I think I made my husband crazy and he finally suggested I just wake the kids up so we could get a move on already. Ha. We live in the mountains so we don't get to the beach too often (we do have a boat so we spend a lot of time on the lake and camping at the lake) but it's just not the same as the ocean!

 

We finally get everybody fed and made it off the boat by 8:30, but were promptly met with disappointment. There was a lot of seaweed in the water - a lot a lot. Of course, any beach can have seaweed at any point, and yes we were still so lucky to be on a cruise ship on Grand Turk! But, admittedly I was bummed. The kids did not care at all so we just put on a smiley face and tried to enjoy it but it was also overcast and kind of dreary. After about an hour we decided to go find the Margaritaville pools. This was better! They had a zero entry side so we took the kids there. The baby was fussy so I took him off to find a snack. We ended up getting a delicious strawberry-banana smoothie at a little place a bit down from Margaritaville. We sat and drank our smoothie and enjoyed the band who was playing in the square - they were actually quite good! During this time, my husband and dad took my older sons (one of whom is Jack!) down to the famed Jack's Shack to look for a Jack themed souvenir. No luck, but my parents returned later to eat lunch there and said it was quite good. The rest of us ate lunch at Margaritaville, which was good but pricey. We were just happy to have a reprieve from the buffet lunch though. :)

 

We did end up enjoying our day and probably the sea there is right back to being clear and beautiful but next time we will probably be booking an excursion of some kind. We only had about 5 hrs in port, so it worked out fine but this is our least favorite port of the 5 we have been to so far.

Edited by Hopep84

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Our last port was Half Moon Cay. I had read on here that this is many people's favorite port but I didn't put much stock in that. I mean, some of you don't like Guy's Burgers or the Carnival melting cake... ;) We did use our Faster to the Fun to be some of the first tendered. Of course the kids loved the tender! So fun! And you drive up thru a little channel between rock walls, and that was fun too. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the water was so blue that I almost couldn't believe it was naturally that color. The sand is white and it is just perfect. The roped off area to swim in was huge so even though there were a lot of us on the beach, it wasn't crowded feeling.

 

We did rent a little clamshell for some shade and it was nice to have when the baby fell asleep but we spent very little time in it. We spent almost the whole time in the water! My husband swam with each boy (separately) out to the rope and he went down to the bottom and guessed it was about 15 feet deep but said it was just as clear as close to shore. One of the older gentlemen a few chairs down from us had brought cereal and was feeding the fish, big silver and black ones. The kids got to snorkel and watch them but there wasn't much else to see, snorkel wise.

 

Lunch was provided by Carnival and it was good, and plentiful. It's served buffet style - grilled chicken and hamburgers and hot dogs and lots of normal sides and some unique ones too. It was good. The drink stations were always crowded though and the cups provided were like bathroom cups - the tiny ones. So lots of people needing refills = long lines.

 

They also had a cute little playground but who can spend time there with that beautiful ocean beckoning? We stayed on the beach until about 3, everybody had to be back on board at 4:30. I would have stayed all day if I could have.

 

My husband and I both agreed that we would absolutely do a 5 day cruise to Half Moon Cay - one day down, three nights moored there (is that the right word?!), and one day back. It is literally just beach but I think a lot of people cruise for the beaches! It's a great idea, yes? :) Sign me up!

 

Okay, more later - specifically on Dr Suess stuff and kid stuff. Thanks for reading my rambles so far!

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Hi There! We are sailing on the Sunshine in just 2 weeks, and I couldn't be more excited. I thought you might be the one who could answer a question for me since you just sailed on her. Is it true that the televisions in the cabins are not interactive? Meaning, you cannot check your Sail and Sign account, can't view the MDR dinners, etc.? I read this in a review, but I'm hoping the TV's were updated since the review was written. Thanks for your help.

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I do not think they are interactive. I didn't know any ships had that option so I didn't check for it but I certainly didn't see anything either. I could see my account balance (and itemized too!) On the Carnival app but we had to walk by the dining room to see menus. I do wish the menus were available on the app!

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Thanks for the review. I am sailing on Sunshine in December. I wish we were going to HMC. I once booked a cruise that went there and the port was canceled because of storm damage. Since then, I haven't found a cruise that worked out to go to HMC. Amber Cove this time which isn't a beach. Still, it's a cruise and I am on vacation so I make do. Ha!

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Okay so onto the Dr Seuss stuff and kid themed things. The first sea day, there was a Dr Seuss parade and storytime. This was very cute. Each kid got a musical instrument and most of the adults were given a large picture to hold. We marched down to the Liquid Lounge (thru the casino ) and Emma the cruise director (dressed as the Cat in the Hat) did a little presentation and read Horton Hears A Who. Several kids were picked from the audience to participate, including my 4 year old daughter Katherine. She was a monkey and they put a little belt with a tail on her. She loved it and was absolutely enamored with Emma the whole cruise. My two older boys did not come to this, but after seeing what it was - they would have enjoyed it too.

 

We also attended the Build A Bear workshop. I originally wasn't going to do this because the good Lord knows my kids don't need anymore stuffed animals but oh well. This, too, was well done. Emma and Ty the Money Guy were the main hosts and they called 3-4 families at a time. The other kids played games with Ty and Emma. There were probably about 12 different animals to choose from and they were $26 a piece (I believe. Between 25 and 30 for sure). They also had clothes to purchase for extra. There were a few adults without kids who built bears too!

 

The last sea day, we did the Dr. Seuss breakfast. This was actually our second time doing it and it is worth the $5 in my opinion. The menus and table settings are cute and fun and the food is themed as well. The waffles come with red and blue frosting in each square, the pancakes are dyed red etc etc. They also serve a parfait at the end. Our service here was excellent!

 

My husband and our 9 year old did the "Behind the Fun" tour while the rest of us were at the Dr. Seuss breakfast. They loved it! They got to see so many things and learn all kinds of interesting stuff. They especially liked seeing the galley, going below deck, and seeing the bridge. They met the captain and learned a bit about docking the ship (I don't know the correct terms). They felt it was definitely worth the cost.

 

We only tried the kids club twice. I felt like it was fine for my younger one (the 2-5) age group. There were lots of toys in there and she brought back some cute art projects. The older two were both in the same group and had fun the first day they went. The second day, I dropped one off before the other and by the time I brought the other one, I did not like the vibe. They were playing rap music and also had several girls playing a dance game where the animated girl on screen was scantily clad. I called my son over and he had been playing video games the whole time - which I just don't love. This was in the 6-8 group. So I pulled him and we weren't interested in trying again. :)

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So to pull it together, we had a great cruise! We are scheduled to go on the Dream next November, and that will be our first cruise NOT on the Sunshine. Ha. I hope we love it! My husband and I are also hoping to get away in April and do a 3 day cruise without the kids. We have definitely caught the cruising bug! Thanks for reading along :)

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So to pull it together, we had a great cruise! We are scheduled to go on the Dream next November, and that will be our first cruise NOT on the Sunshine. Ha. I hope we love it! My husband and I are also hoping to get away in April and do a 3 day cruise without the kids. We have definitely caught the cruising bug! Thanks for reading along :)

 

Thank you for your review. :) I, personally, loved the Dream so I hope you will do another review.

 

Half Moon Cay is truly as good, if not better, than everyone says. Sounds like all those hurricanes brought in a bunch of seaweed. Bummer!:(

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