PHOTO: A sunlit Carnival Sunshine steaming to her next port-of-call. (photo courtesy of Carnival Corporation & plc)
Carnival Cruise Line is staying put in South Carolina.The cruise liner is gearing up to homeport the Carnival Sunshine in Charleston. The newer and larger ship will replace the Carnival Ecstasy and depart from South Carolina year-round on four- and five-day voyages.
“With its convenient location and strong tourism appeal, Charleston is one of our most popular homeports and we’re delighted to build upon this success with the deployment of Carnival Sunshine,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a press release.
“Carnival Sunshine not only provides guests sailing from Charleston with a newer, larger ship with so much to see and do but also underscores our commitment to our year-round operations from this port.”
The 3,002-guest vessel boasts more elaborate amenities, including more than 550 staterooms with private balconies. Other grand features include a sizable WaterWorks aqua park and SportSquare recreation area, plus triple decker adults-only retreat complete with waterfall and pool.
“The decision by Carnival Cruise Line to homeport the Carnival Sunshine in Charleston is an important affirmation of their success and commitment to operations in Charleston,” added Jim Newsome, South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) president and CEO, in the release.
“SCPA’s cruise business is an important part of our maritime commerce mission and diversification of business segments. The Port succeeds through having world-class brands, such as Carnival Cruise Line, as its direct customers and looks forward to continuing this productive relationship.”
Approximately 220,000 passengers are expected to be carried onboard annually from the cruise port with each having a wide array of attractions to enjoy. The ship was dramatically converted from the Carnival Destiny in 2013 and now includes tons of dining and entertainment options ranging from the Havana Bar and Ji Ji Asian Kitchen to “Hasbro, The Game Show” and The Punchliner Comedy Club.
The ship’s new Charleston cruises will begin to set sail May 18, 2019. Four-day cruises will depart for Nassau. Five-day itineraries will head for Nassau and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.
Terry Thornton, Carnival’s SVP of Itinerary Planning told TravelPulse:
“We’ve been working on this for at least a couple of years. We knew that Charleston market was a fabulous market. We’ve known it for a very long time, and we knew that there was plenty of demand to support a newer and larger ship. Between 2016 and 2017, we actually operated 11 different cruises on the Carnival Sunshine from Charleston and we learned so many things about improving the guest experience and making all of the logistics work well. But also what we learned was they were really really popular.”
“They were very successful. The guest satisfaction ratings were very high, and so we knew we were onto a winner. So, it was time then to go ahead and bring the Carnival Sunshine to Charleston in May of ’19 and it brings so many things to the market that we haven’t had before.”
Of course, there’s still love for the older Fantasy-class vessel too.
“The Carnival Ecstasy that’s operating there now is a great ship,” said Thornton, “and it’s doing very very well. But this will allow us to evolve in Charleston so it will bring a whole host of new features to the Charleston market: Everything from the dining which will now have a fully-functioning Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, the BlueIguana Cantina and—a feature that people love across our fleet now—the Guy’s Burger Joint. Those are all going to be available on the Sunshine.
“It has a spectacular three-level Serenity adults-only section of the outdoor decks which people love. Families are really important to us in the Charleston market as they are across our fleet, and there’s so many things for the kids to do now: Everything from our really popular Dr. Seuss program to things we’re doing on all the outdoor decks now.
“But this has a really great water park. It has two large racing slides and the fully-functioning kids water park, and then we’ve just done a great job in terms of our children’s programming and so forth. So, it’s going to be really great for families.
“And one thing that the Carnival Ecstasy lacked that we really wanted to bring to the market were staterooms with private balconies,” continued Thornton. “We have a hundred of them on the Carnival Ecstasy, but we’re going to have over 500 of them on the Carnival Sunshine. So, it’s going to just provide that feature that people love today—you know the fact that having a private balcony is very popular today and people want to be in their stateroom with the great views of the sea while the ship’s at sea.”
Besides the regular sailings, there will also be a special 11-day Carnival Journeys cruise available onboard during December 3-14, 2019.
“It goes to these kinds of great places: St. Thomas, Aruba, Bonaire—so we’re all the way down in the really deep part of the southern Caribbean—Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay, which is our private island in the Bahamas. So, it’s just a very unique thing,” continued Thornton.
“We bring onboard a lot of the onboard programming and features that we used to do on our cruises back in time. We have the grand midnight buffet. We have the waiters with the white glove service at certain times. We call the daily program today the Fun Times. (Back in the day it was called Carnival Capers.) We’ve gone back to Carnival Capers. So, we bring back some of the features that we used to do a long time ago that our guests love and that still resonate with guests today, but it kind of has a throwback feel to it if you want to think about it that way.”