Since we do most of our cruising from South Florida, it was a real treat to depart from New York. There’s nothing quite like sailing past its iconic skyline and feeling the pride of seeing the Statue of Liberty standing tall in the harbor. The photos and selfies were coming fast and furious, even when a driving rain hit as we left the dock.
From stem to stern, the $200 million Carnival spent transforming Triumph into Sunrise is evident, and money well spent. Sunrise, at just over 100,000 tons, accommodates almost 2,800 guests and over a 1,000 crew. The Caribbean-influenced decor is warm and welcoming. And unless you pack your whole closet, you’ll find ample room for your clothes and travel items in the staterooms, which is a big deal when it’s your home away from home for the better part of a week.
For sure, there are areas of the ship that feel a little claustrophobic (the Steakhouse, for example), and some passengers told us they had difficulty finding their way around. If you do have a phobia about tight spaces, you might want to be last to disembark the ship. People were wall-to-wall in the stairwells and the area outside the elevators.
The addition of all the new restaurants and venues was no doubt a challenge to the designers. The lines can be daunting at times, especially late night when everyone is craving omelets and pizza. We tried room service, and they were swamped as well, taking an hour for our order to arrive.
We loved Bermuda. What’s not to like about shimmering pink sand washed by aquamarine waters? If you spend some time in Hamilton, the capital of this British territory, go to the Birdcage, a bar on the top floor of the tourism office near the ferry. The views are great and so is the ambience. But bring lots of money — Bermuda is expensive. Gas is $9 a gallon and bread $6 a loaf. Located almost 800 miles from New York, virtually everything has to be imported.
Four full days is not enough time to experience everything Sunrise offers, but provided us lots of great memories. Here are a few closing observations:
- Get and Use Carnival HUB. This handy little app from Carnival is like having all the daily schedules and more in your pocket. Available for both IOS and Android phones, you can store events in your daily planner, reserve restaurants and even view menus. You can also actviate Chat with your friends and family onboard for an extra charge. We used it to make our anytime dining reservations and it worked like a champ. Aside from the app, Carnival incorporates a lot of personalization, greeting you by name on your TV screen and in printed promos delivered to your room. In today’s hi-tech world, just try and be anonymous.
- Shunning the Casino. Normally on a cruise, we always allocate a certain amount of money to lose in the casino slot machines. We consider it part of our onboard entertainment. But we had to pass this time around because Carnival allows smoking throughout the casino. Sorry, the smoke is just too much for us. Like the airports, there should be a special, sealed off room for the smokers to indulge themselves without infringing on the rest of the non-smoking world.
- Universal Drink Menus. We loved our Polaris cocktail from the Steakhouse, so much so we tried to order it at other bars on Sunrise. No dice. We learned it’s the signature drink at the Steakhouse and because the space is too small to accomodate a bar, you can’t just order a drink there. Suggestion: Train the bar staff throughout the ship to make all the drinks, regardless of location.
- Anytime Dining. We choose this option and it worked great. You decide when you want to have dinner, between 5:15 and 9:15. We entered our chosen time in the app and our table in the Sunshine Restaurant was ready in less than 10 minutes. If you choose a designated time, you’ll dine in Radiance Restaurant.
- Cold Spots. The A/C on the ship works great — sometimes, too great. You literally needed a coat in Sunshine for the evening meals, and there are other places around the ship where it can get frigid. With thousands of bodies circulating, it’s no doubt a challenge to regulate. Just keep a wrap or sweater handy.
- Customer Service Kudos. It merits mention again: Carnival does a great job with customer service. The staff is almost uniformly smiling and friendly. Even Guest Services, which can be a nightmare on many ships, operated smoothly and efficiently. They even solved my problem while I was still in line. That’s what I’m talking about.
- The Sporting Life. We saw lots of young people trying the ropes course and playing basketball at the SkyCourt. While I didn’t get to the big water slide or hit the jogging track, there are plenty of options to satisfy your inner athlete.
- Serenity Now. One area we appreciate on Carnival ships is Serenity, an adults-only retreat on the upper decks where you can grab a cabana, relax on a lounger or soak in the hot tub. We could all use a little more serenity in our lives.
- If you have children, Carnival offers plenty for the younger set, including Camp Ocean and Club O2, as well as a partnership with Dr. Suess. You can also get pampered at the Cloud 9 Spa, or as most guests do, grab a spot near one of the pools on Deck 9 and sunbathe.
Overall, Sunrise is a great choice for a vacation getaway. The Fun Ship works hard to deliver on their “Fun” promise, but like any kind of travel, it’s mostly what you make it. Sunrise just gives you a lot to work with.
Carnival Sunrise will continue sailing from New York through mid-October on a series of four- to 14-day voyages before returning to Norfolk in October for two six-day cruises. Afterwards, she will reposition to Fort Lauderdale for four- and five-day cruises beginning Oct. 28.
Photos and story from Gerry Barker.