We sailed on the Carnival Conquest from New Orleans on April 22, 2012 for a 7 day trip to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. We had a great time. I'll go into further detail for each point:
BEFORE THE CRUISE
I highly recommend that anyone from out of town look into the Quality Inn and Suites in Gretna. They have a park-n-cruise special that was $129+tax. For the $129, you got a nice room, two drink passes to their bar, a hot breakfast, a free shuttle to the Algiers ferry until 9pm, free parking for the duration of your cruise, and a free shuttle to and from the port for the cruise. It was an amazing deal. We arrived at the hotel at 3pm. We were checked in quickly. The front desk clerk gave me a gift bag with a bottled water and bag of chips JUST for being a Choice Privileges member (it's free, sign up to gain points for free hotels!). She also gave us all of the information we needed on where to park our car for the week of the cruise, free drink tickets, and signed us up for a shuttle ride to the port the next morning. After settling into our room, we took advantage of the FREE shuttle to the ferry. The ferry is cool. Pedestrians ride free and it takes you straight to the aquarium, which is walking distance to the French Quarter. We went for a walk to the French Quarter, had a wonderful dinner, and took a stroll through Jackson Square. The next morning, we boarded the shuttle at our scheduled time (10am) and went straight to the terminal. It was so convenient. On debarkation day, the shuttle was there waiting on us at 7:30am as we got off the ship. Perfect.
We arrived at the port at about 10:20am. We of course had to wait to get onboard because we were there pretty early, but other than that there were no problems. It went really smoothly.
We booked an oceanview a few months ago with CruiseVacationOutlet.com. They are really cool because it is the SAME exact price that you pay Carnival, except depending on how much your rate is, you get an onboard credit! Our onboard credit was $100. Anyway, we originally booked an oceanview, but I was checking the prices a few days before my cruise and I saw that they had dropped drastically, so I called my agent at Cruise Vacation Outlet, and she was able to upgrade us to a balcony room for only $40. Amazing. We loved our balcony room. We will never be able to cruise without one now. The room was very large. It had a pull out sofa, king size bed, three large closets, and an adequate bathroom. There were only two things. One: if you need an outlet next to the bed, bring an extension cord. My fiance has a CPAP machine and the cord didn't reach. We had to borrow one from Guest Services. They put a $25 charge on his account until it was returned. It was just a hassle... Also bring a splitter. There is only ONE outlet. Two: the TV kinda sucked. It was an old tube TV with a bad screen. They really should update them. The room was obviously kept very clean and tidy by our cabin steward.
This was my 5th Carnival cruise, and until now the food has always been pretty much the same. But this cruise I kinda started thinking that their quality is slipping. We ate most breakfasts in the main dining room. We ate most lunches on the Lido (try Fish and Chips on Deck 10 right above the Lido). We ate most dinners in the main dining room. We had Anytime Dining, which worked out really well. We usually do Early dining, but I liked not having to drop everything at 6pm to go eat. There was never any wait, and they also honored our requests for a table for two without blinking an eye. I think the room service menu needs a little updating, though. After five years, it hasn't changed at all.
We've been to Cozumel several times before. This time we decided to check out Chanakaab. We booked early online to save. We paid $39 for admission to the park, lunch, and snorkeling. We also got to see the manatees, dolphins, and an excellent sea lion show. The sea lions were our favorite part. After the awesome show, they sat us on a bench and the sea lion "kissed" me on the cheek for a picture. It was $15 and totally worth it! Snorkeling was alright. Not the best, but enjoyable enough. The lunch was eh.
We booked our on excursion with Captain Marvin's. It was $35/each. We were taken by shuttle to the boat and went out to Sting Ray City. It was really cool. We got to swim with the rays, kiss them, etc. They had a camera guy taking pictures of everything. He would put them on a CD for $45, which is pretty steep. Normally I wouldn't have paid that much, but I left my own waterproof camera on the boat and didn't want to not have any pictures at all. The second stop was snorkeling at a reef. It was beautiful. They threw food into the water to attract the most beautiful fish. There were even rays swimming towards the bottom. Very nice. On the way back to shore, one of the crewmen had cleaned and prepared some conch he had gathered from the bottom. It was delicious. I highly recommend Captain Marvin's. I know if this is your first cruise your gut tells you to book through Carnival, but let me warn you....you will pay three times as much and be crammed shoulder to shoulder on a rickety boat with 70 people. This actually happened. The people jampacked on this boat pull up to sting ray city with us and there were so many kids and people it was ridiculous. One of the women told me they had booked through Carnival and paid $150. Our really nice boat only had 20-30 people.
In Jamaica, we kinda did our own thing. No excursion or event, really. We got on a taxi to go to Margaritaville when the driver offered us the full days use of his bus for $20/person. Those not interested were let off at Margaritaville. The rest of us continued on. We got a tour of the city, taken to some cool unique spots, shopping, and more. For lunch he took us to this little hole in the wall looking place called Scotchies. It was amazing jerk chicken and pork. So amazing.
Overall, the cruise was pretty amazing. We had a great time, met some cool people, and enjoyed our vacation. Also, if you haven't before, check out CruiseLineRooms.com. Your stateroom may have actually pictures posted! If it isn't, you will at least be able to see similar rooms. I find that the website gives a better idea of what your room will be like than the pictures on Carnival's website.