Day 1 – Barcelona, Spain. Prior to this sail, I had never been on a cruise before so I had to make sure I put any preconceived ideas to the back of my mind. Although aware that the cruise industry have been appealing to a different audience over more recent years, including families and younger couples – I must admit I still had my judgy pants hoiked to painful heights under my armpits as I was prepared to spend the next 3 days with the blue rinse brigade and cheery American families chanting Fun for All. All for Fun! (Carnival’s tagline for this cruise) every 5 minutes. Oh, how wrong I was! And so I will explain why...
Now, unlike when you arrive at your hotel on a land holiday and people are coming and going on a daily basis, everyone on a cruise of course arrives on the same day so there is a lot of people in the main lobby. Because of this I would advise to have a plan in mind of where you would like to head for the first couple of hours and the ship is absolutely huge so there’s no reason not to be able to find somewhere a bit less busy. Also, be prepared that you may not have your luggage delivered to your room straight away so if you have children then take some spare clothes/swimwear within your hand luggage so that they can head straight to the pool (towels are provide in the cabin), otherwise you may have a couple of hours wait to really start your holiday, and I’m sure that children would get a little frustrated either holed up in the cabin or sitting around the poolside without being able to get in the water. Please note that there is a safety demonstration where you must meet at your designated muster station (I’ve never heard of this type of station before but don’t think I will ever forget it). This usually happens around an hour before departing and you will be more than aware that this is happening, believe me. This isn’t like the safety announcement of a plane - don’t think you can have a cheeky nap whilst everyone else is pretending to listen, They Will Find You….
The dining experience was one of the particular stereotypes which I was really hoping would be broken and to my delight it was. There was no top table with everyone vying to sit with the captain and no formal dress code of cocktail dresses and suits, although a level of smartness is expected. We dined in the Sunset restaurant which was a very informal, relaxed affair with excellent food and a good choice of menu. After dinner we had cocktails at the Alchemy Bar which was one of the many choices of bars available, depending on whether you fancy beer at the Redfrog Pub or a quiet drink in the Library Bar. If you are going with children and would like to have any evening child free, there is a babysitting service available.
Day 2 – Marseille, France. There are many excursions to choose from to see the area including visiting a local winery in Chateauneuf, a visit to the local villages and learn about their history as well as spend the day in Provence. I chose to stay on board and try out the facilities which admittedly after the cocktails from the previous night mainly revolved laying poolside. There are a number of areas to choose from depending on whether you just want to relax and sunbathe or visit Cloud 9 Spa and let the children play on the waterslides or drop them off at Camp Carnival which offers tons of activities to keep them entertained. If you really want to relax then head to the Serenity Adult Only Retreat where the whirlpools and sun loungers are reserved for adults only. Once I’d had my relaxation by the pool I dolled myself up and trotted off for dinner which was served at Ji Ji Asia Kitchen. I am a big fan of Asian food and I wasn’t disappointed. The food is fantastic and served by great staff who were friendly and informative of everything that we were eating.
Day 3 - Livorno, Italy – This was the day of my excursion and I had pre-booked the Cinque Terre tour which was to visit three villages of Cinque Terre. This involved and early start and lots of walking so probably not one for families with very young children but certainly older children would enjoy this. The day involved many different modes of transport including boat and train. The villages were absolutely beautiful and if you haven’t visited Italy before then I would definitely recommend this as it’s a great way of seeing it and especially if you like coastal villages. Other excursions available in Livorno are visiting Tuscany and of course the Pisa and the leaning tower, which we managed to see on our way to Cinque Terre. Later in the evening when back on the ship we dined in Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse. If you’re a steak lover then you will be more than satisfied with the quality and choices of steaks. The evening was rounded off with a visit to the Piano bar which has a regular in house ‘Piano Man’ who is very entertaining and sings a variety of songs and takes request and there is a big focus on crowd participation but of course this is voluntary!
Overall, I am pleased to say that my preconceptions were very much shattered. It’s a great way to visit many different places in one holiday and with the luxury of not having to pack and unpack everytime you go somewhere new so perfect when travelling with children. There was a great atmosphere on the ship with everyone – staff and guests – being so friendly and a real sense of fun and enjoyment so Carnival Sunshine really does live up to its tagline of Fun for All and All for Fun. Yes, it’s quite American, a bit cheesy and probably goes against the British attitude of not quite being able to let go but, hey, you’re on a cruise and no-one’s ever going to see you again so just go with it!
I was invited on this press trip by Carnival UK and flew return with BA from Gatwick. The full 9 day cruise includes Sicily and Croatia.