Carnival Dining Continues to Amaze

Ever since Carnival Cruise Lines implemented its new Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program in 2011, the cruise line has continued to roll out new dining options as each ship undergoes renovation. So when the invitation came to visit the Carnival Sunshine, I eagerly accepted so I could have a firsthand look at the ship’s latest offerings. At the risk of spoiling the outcome before I even begin, let me just say that I’m already awaiting my next opportunity to sail with Carnival so I can indulge my appetite once more.

Carnival dining - Ji Ji AsianSo, what’s so good about Carnival’s newest eateries? From what I can tell: everything. First, Carnival completely overhauled each dining space so you definitely are transported from “cruise ship” mode into “restaurant dining” mode. This goes a long way in setting the stage for the meal that is to come. Second, Carnival didn’t just choose a restaurant concept and set it up; instead, the cruise line took the time to hire the right culinary experts to research and develop the menus and the décor. The results are simply mouthwatering.

Ji Ji Asian Kitchen

At Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, guests are seated in an Asian-inspired restaurant filled with clean lines, warm colors and authentic touches like the Asian prayer rolls along the back wall. Even the menu was developed directly in the Pan-Asian region that inspired its dishes. In fact, when you look at the menu, you will see a map that shows where the menu items originated. For my dinner, I started with an appetizer of Jiaozi, or pot stickers, which were shrimp dumplings filled with pea shoots, radish and green apple salad. I followed with kung pao chicken, a spicy entrée of diced chicken seasoned with Sichuan peppercorns, chilies and cashews, and served with the lightest brown rice I’ve ever had. In fact, the entire meal set my taste buds to singing, and I have yet to get over my craving for seconds.

Carnival - Ji Ji AsianAt dinner, dining at Ji Ji Asian Kitchen does carry a reasonable fee of $12 per adult and $5 per child age 11 and younger. I highly recommend including this upcharge in your budget so you don’t miss it. For those who want to sample the cuisine before embarking on a paid meal, you can visit the restaurant at lunch and have the complimentary custom-made noodle dishes. Just choose your noodles, vegetables, spices and meats, and the chef will stir-fry it for you as you wait.


Cucina del Capitano

Fans of classic Italian fare will love Cucina del Capitano, a family-style restaurant concept that features “Italian-American dishes inspired by the recipes from our Italian captains’ and officers’ childhoods,” according to Carnival. What that means for you is rich, satisfying entrees like Carnival - Cucina del CapitanoNonna’s linguine & meatballs, spaghetti carbonara, and pollo parmigiana della cucina, or chicken parmigiana. And, remembering this is a “family-style restaurant,” all the portions are quite large, many enough to share or take leftovers back to your stateroom for a late-night snack.

Like Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, dinner at Cucina del Capitano also carries a reasonable fee of $12 per person. Again, I suggest including a meal at this restaurant in your vacation budget. And, also like Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, you can try out Cucina del Capitano for free during lunch. Select your noodles, sauce, protein and vegetables, and the chef will cook them to order for you. You also can choose Caesar salad and bread to accompany your main dish.

Carnival - BlueIguana CantinaBlueIguana Cantina

For another fresh, made-to-order lunch option, stop by BlueIguana Cantina. Here you’ll find soft tacos and burritos filled with chicken, beef or shrimp along with a selection of veggies, cheese and sauces. Think black beans, roasted corn, rice, lettuce and tomatoes, plus sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo. There’s also a salsa bar where you can further customize your tacos and burritos.


Carnival - Guys Burger JointGuy’s Burger Joint

If you want more traditional lunch fare, head to Guy’s Burger Joint for a fresh-grilled burger and hand-cut fries. From basic burgers to The Ringer that includes cheese, Guy’s Bourbon and Brown Sugar BBQ sauce, and a spicy onion ring, you’re sure to find a burger to satisfy your palate. At the condiment bar, you can take it to the next level with sautéed mushrooms, onions, bacon, pickles, mustard and ketchup, among other offerings.

Of course, these are just a small sampling of the great new dining options available as part of Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0 initiative. Bonsai Sushi, Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ, Shake Spot and Javablue Café are just a few of the additional culinary spots you can try on your next cruise. However, not all dining choices are available on every Carnival ship; therefore, be sure to explore each ship’s dining selections before booking if there’s one specific restaurant you want to try. After you do, come back and tell us which one was your favorite!

Disclosure: Karon dined in these Carnival restaurants as a guest of Carnival Cruise Lines. All opinions are her own. 


  1. thisgirlpaula says:

    Hi Karen, I know we talked not long ago about commenting on more sites so I decided to check yours :) Love this post. The food on a cruise is all amazing! And I agree…take the stairs when possible 😉

  2. Looks great!

  3. I usually enjoy different kind of foods! Good to know about the dining carnival in the cruise!

  4. It must be hard to always be coming up with new food innovations. Looks like Carnival is doing a great job!

  5. I haven’t been on a cruise in 6-7 years, but I’m always amazed by the food options. And I’m usually more active on the cruise with all the walking and events that it cancels out the calories.

  6. These all look so delicious. I’ve always heard great things about Carnival Dining, and I can see why. The Ji Ji Asian Kitchen is looking especially good tonight!

  7. I’m glad to read that Carnival has so many tasty options.

  8. I was already starving, which should have been a warning not to read this 😉 Looks delish! It’s so easy to gain weight on cruises if you’re not careful – haha I think our last one I came home with about 3 pounds after five days :-0

  9. I must be getting hungry, because that hamburger photo from Guy’s on the ship made me want to book a cruise just to introduce that juice yummy burger to my tummy. 😉

  10. It sounds like Carnival has made some wonderful improvements! I cruised with Carnival on my honeymoon 8 years ago, and while I really enjoyed the meals that I was offered, I did think there was room for improvement. It’s great that they are overhauling the dining spaces, too.

  11. We’ve never been on a cruise, but these pics are enticing me! It all looks (and sounds) delicious but that burger is calling my name!

  12. I love all the new options that are available on a cruise. As long as they keep my go-to dessert- the Chocolate Melting Cake. I’ve yet to find a need to replace its yummy goodness.

  13. We went on a Carnival Cruise earlier this year. I wish they would have had this selection on our cruise. It looks great. Can’t wait for our next cruise so I can try it out.

  14. Wow, we so need to go on a cruise now. We see the ships all the time on Gran Canaria. Maybe time to book one.

  15. jonathanmcmullen says:

    The food looks great! I really want to try that burger!

  16. Wow. We went on the four day cruise from LA last year and our boat didn’t have all of those fun restaurants. I will say in case you have gluten free readers, Carnival did a fabulous job managing our gluten allergy in their dining rooms.

    • Karon Warren says:

      That’s great to hear about the GF concerns. As for the other Carnival ships, the restaurants are coming through the fleet, although not every ship will have every dining option due to space constraints.

  17. Wow, that really looks good. I would probably would gain at least 10 pounds!

  18. I want to go on a cruise just for the food. i would gain so many pounds.

    • Karon Warren says:

      You could gain a lot of weight, Tara, but if you take the stairs whenever possible, you’ll burn up a lot of calories, too.

  19. This is from Carnival cruises ?? What have a been missing?!! I think I may have to plan a vacation now !

  20. Definitely looks like a better upgrade to me.

  21. Lots of choices! That’s great…

  22. What fun options!

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