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Charleston + Carnival = One Convenient Cruise

Sometimes you just have to get away. Turquoise waters and blue skies beckon. However, a Caribbean vacation might seem difficult to pull off on short notice. Not so!

For Carolinians, a Caribbean escape is but a quick road trip to Charleston, South Carolina. The Port of Charleston cruise ship terminal, to be exact. From there, you can board Carnival Sunshine for a quick four-, five- or six-night getaway to the Bahamas. Varied itineraries include stops in Nassau and Freeport, as well as Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays, the cruise line’s private islands.

Opt for a longer vacation with a seven- or 10-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary that can include stops to Nassau, Bermuda, Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia or St. Thomas. From snorkeling and parasailing adventures to rainforest and historical island tours, there’s an excursion to fit every cruiser.

 

Carnival Sunshine in the Port of Charleston
Carnival Sunshine in the Port of Charleston

 

Ship Intel

My family enjoyed a long weekend on one of Sunshine’s four-night sailings. We’d cruised on other Carnival ships, but it was our first time on the 3,002-passenger Sunshine.

The ship was first introduced in 1996 as Carnival Destiny. Fun fact: at the time, it was the largest ship in the world! It underwent a $155-million-dollar bow-to-stern makeover in 2013. The ship was renamed Sunshine and boasted new Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades like more dining venues (hello, Guy’s Burger Joint!), spa enhancements and a revamped kids’ camp. Another refresh in 2018 provided menu upgrades, increased amenities and other improvements.

Additional Sunshine features include the three-story adults-only Serenity retreat, WaterWorks waterpark, Skybox Sports Bar, an onboard ropes course and more.

 

Burger and fries from Guy's Burger Joint
Burger from Guy’s Burger Joint

 

You won’t go hungry on Sunshine. From 24-hour pizza to crazy good burgers and fries at Guy’s Burger Joint (and everything in between), there’s something to suit every palate. Specialty dining options aboard Sunshine include Cucina del Capitano, Steakhouse, The Chef’s Table and JiJi Asian Kitchen.

Our meal at JiJi Asian Kitchen was divine. The menu consists of dishes from various Asian regions like the Philippines, Mongolia, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia. The chef created vegan versions of the kung pao and sweet and sour chicken (as well as appetizers and a dessert) for my daughter and me. Everyone was completely sated, and we fondly recall that meal often!

 

 

Favorite Things

Shorter cruises with fewer ports of call create great opportunities to experience more of the ship and the activities on offer. With any Carnival cruise we take, we rarely miss nightly shows in the Liquid Lounge, numerous trivia games or comedy acts in Punchliner Comedy Club. This cruise was no exception.

 

Performers onboard the Carnival Sunshine
Onboard entertainment

 

I splurged for a deep tissue bamboo massage at Cloud 9 Spa on our first day. As with many cruise lines, you receive a discount if you book your treatment when you board. The massage was pure bliss, and promptly activated my “vacation mode” setting.

The Alchemy Bar is one of our favorite spots on the ship. It’s perfectly situated at the heart of Ocean Plaza, which is a hub of activity — trivia games, karaoke and a steady stream of people passing through. You can people watch over a cocktail expertly crafted by one of Alchemy Bar’s amiable mixologists. Choose a refreshing drink from the menu, or let your mix-master create a drink especially tailored to your tastes.

Our one stop was at Carnival Cruise Lines’ private resort, Princess Cays, which is situated on the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas. Guests can rent a private beach bungalow or grab a lounger and relax for the day, or enjoy one of the island excursions on offer. You can also peruse Bahamian-made souvenirs at one of the shops and nosh on a BBQ lunch. Insider tip: When you disembark the tender boat, walk right as far as you can go. You’ll find it to be a little less crowded.

If you’re ready for a Caribbean escape, contact your local AAA Travel Agent and book your cruise today! Call 800-374-2865 for details about specials, itineraries and more!

(Go Magazine March/April 2020)

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