In September, I Took The Carnival Sunshine Cruise Ship For An 8 Day Eastern Caribbean Vacation. Was It Wheelchair Accessible Travel Ready? See My Pros and Cons Before Booking Your Next Trip.
Carnival Sunshine Cruise – Wheelchair Accessible Travel
Back in August, I told you I had planned my first Cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine. Because I’m disabled, I need wheelchair accessible travel options. I’m back today with an update on my trip and how the Carnival Sunshine ship scored when it comes to wheelchair accessible travel.
Let’s start with the cabin itself. Since everything we need to do centers around having a room big enough to accommodate not only my wheelchair but myself, my husband, Ethan (9yrs old) and all our belongings. The wheelchair accessible cabins have a queen sized bed and a pull down ‘bunk’ directly above the bed on each side.
4 people can sleep in this cabin. I have a manual chair for size reference. By design, cruise ship cabins are not super large or roomy. However, I found there was plenty of room for my wheelchair to move about between the bed and the storage compartments directly across. You don’t spend much time other than sleeping in there and I didn’t have any issues with the space at all. I did get a chance to peek in non-accessible cabins and they were nearly identical. If you have a large power chair, you may find it a bit cramped and will probably be doing a few 3 point turns to get in and out.
Let’s face it, if the bathroom isn’t handicap accessible, then it wouldn’t matter what the rest of the ship had to offer, right? I was pleasantly surprised at just how much room there really was! Living in Las Vegas, the state with more hotel rooms than bedrooms, I am used to large and incredibly accessible bathrooms. The Carnival Sunshine could give most casinos at home a run for their money on this one!
I had absolutely no problems getting in, but also moving about with ample room to turn around. A power chair would also fit nicely! The shower was perfectly designed as well! It has a pull down bench seat and no divider other than the drain which made bathing super easy! Plenty of grab bars and the fold down shower-head was nice to see included. And, after a day in the sand on the beach, it was awesome to not have to worry about that. The wheelchair accessible bathrooms scored big for me on the Carnival Sunshine for sure!
Getting around the ship as a whole was really pretty easy. They have 4 banks of elevators on each deck in various places to get from level to level. It was fun trying to figure out how to get from place to place since everything is scattered throughout the huge ship. It’s absolutely beautiful too. This specific ship had over $155 million in renovations recently and it shows. The photo above shows the main level bar. Off to either side are doors that take you outside to either sit or walk along the decks. I found it difficult to get out by myself. Crossing the threshold of all doorways are a bit steep, which I could have managed but there is also a ‘ledge’ of sorts that you have to cross-over. If you can imagine having to do a wheelie while going down a slope holding a heavy door…. I asked why the need for such a ‘ledge’ and they explained that sometimes at sea it can be very windy. It prevents the doors from flying open. Safety. It obviously has to come first even before handicap accessible options while at sea. Just something to know that able bodied travelers wouldn’t even notice.
There is of course a casino on board the Carnival Sunshine as well. While much smaller than the ones here at home, it was set up pretty similar. I didn’t spend a lot of time playing because I can do that at home but I found it really easy to get around in. We actually used it as a short-cut to get from one part of the ship to one of the dining areas. It was easier for me than going the long way around. If you can resist the temptation to drop some $$ every time, I’d recommend that as a handicap accessible route. It’s also one of the only places you can smoke if you’re a smoker.
Since we had Ethan with us, we spent a lot of time by the water-slides. There are 3 slides with a mini-golf area in the middle. Unfortunately, this area was not wheelchair accessible. Again, by design, most water-slides anywhere you’d go wouldn’t be. I grabbed a deck chair and laid in the sun while he enjoyed the water fun. It’s a great area for kids as well as adults! They have plenty of lifeguards and the lines were surprisingly not long and moved quick. He had a blast! I mean, how can you not when you’re literally in such a gorgeous spot in the middle of the ocean riding water-slides!?
The pool. I have to be honest, this is where I was a bit let down. For such a huge ship, the pool itself is quite small. Like, really small. The area surrounding the pool is packed with deck chairs, as it should be, but it made it incredibly hard for me to get close. My chair did not fit between the rows of chairs unless we physically moved them. Which is difficult to do when they have people on them. For those who can transfer easily like myself, it would have been nice to get to do that, but the area was usually pretty packed. Over all, I’d say this area is not very wheelchair accessible.
If we got there while it hadn’t yet filled with people, I was able to grab a deck chair in the shade and watch Ethan play. He made some friends on-board and it seemed to be an unspoken rule that this pool was where the kids all came to hang out. I did get in a lot of much overdue reading time! So that was really nice. Because the pool was so small it made it easy to keep an eye on him but difficult for any real ‘swimming’ by anyone.
However, the very top level has an ‘adults only’ area. There is a small pool with hot tub and a large open area surrounding the deck chairs. Up here I was able to get around easily. Very wheelchair accessible as you can see. Both manual and power chairs can access this spot. And, it was quieter, not a single “Marco Polo” was heard.
There is no chance of going hungry on the Carnival Sunshine! 24/7 food of every kind is available. The main dining room was easy to get around in and since you sit at the same table every time you go in, they knew to move the chair away to make room for my wheelchair. There are many specialty restaurants scattered throughout the ship as well. They aren’t open 24/7 and require a reservation, but I found them all fairly wheelchair accessible. Our favorite spot to eat by far was Guy’s Burger Joint. It’s located right by the pool area but back far away enough from all the deck chairs that getting to it was a breeze.
Ethan is a huge Guy fan and watches him on TV all the time. So, to be able to go and grab a delicious burger any time you want was pretty awesome. I think we probably ate enough the first two days to meet a few month’s worth. My poor waistline suffered there. But I give it props for being very wheelchair accessible! Both manual and power chairs fit perfectly.
Over all, we had an amazing time! So much fun and so many things to see and do on board for both kids and adults. Having talked with friends and family who cruise often both on Carnival and other lines, I’d love to compare the different ships and different lines. There’s obviously pro’s and con’s to each ship, each line and each destination. I’d give the Carnival Sunshine a pretty decent rating for wheelchair accessible travel overall. Having not been on any other cruise ships, I don’t have anything to compare it to. And that my friends is what I call ‘bucket list goals’. Take some time exploring the different ships and seeing which exactly is best for your vacation needs. Some day…
You can find out more about the Carnival Sunshine, along with deck plans to help in planning a trip with wheelchair accessible options or other disability needs, all on-board experiences, and itineraries at Carnival.com!
Disclosure: I received complimentary passage on the Carnival Sunshine.