Carnival Conquest 5/6/12-5/13/12 -- NOLA, Key West, Bahamas
NOTE: This is my second cruise. The first cruise was on March 19th with my family of four on the five-day cruise on The Elation out of NOLA (separate review for that 3/19 date). This cruise was just me and my husband, and we sailed on the Conquest for seven days. Most of my review will probably compare this experience with the first both in terms of the ship and amenities and the couple/family.
Stateroom. We had an Ocean View Room on the Main (second) deck. Our room was larger than the previous room on Elation (225 v. 185), and since it was just the two of us this time, it seemed even larger! The bathroom was also just slightly larger than our one previous experience, and we had plenty of closet and drawer space. This room had a couch (which could double as a bed, but did pull out) and a refrigerator stocked with mini-bar supplies. The room also had two built-in nightstands on either side of the bed (v. our room on The Elation which had none). We found our room ready and in order when we arrived. We did not have any bath robes, but a quick call to our steward remedied that. The service all week was impeccable.
Ports. This cruise went to Key West and the Bahamas (Freeport and Nassau).
We loved Key West. We walked to the Southernmost Point, had our photo made (there was a long line but people were being very good about self-managing), toured Hemingway's, walked down Duval (not shopping, so didn't care but just to see what was there), and ate at Conch Republic on the harbour, then Kermit's across the street for Key Lime Pie. Conch Republic was a good choice because it was open air on the harbour and after walking all morning, we were ready to be by the water again and have a couple of beers. We ate the conch fritters which just tasted like hush puppies with something else in them and split a fried Mahi Mahi sandwich. The first two beers we tried to order were not available. It was relaxing, and another customer gave me a coupon for buy a drink get one free, so we got one beer for free. It was nothing special, but it was a good atmosphere for that time in the day. We walked the pier and around the square after that. Key West is lush, calm, and welcoming.
Freeport didn't offer much in the actual port, and we weren't doing excursions this trip, so we just got off and walked around through the assembled market area.
In Nassau, we had two plans: walk to Junkanoo Beach, then return to the ship, clean up, eat lunch, and go back to sight-see and see the Queen's Staircase and something else my husband had found. Junkanoo Beach was about a fifteen minute brisk walk from the ship, and it was free. Some of the ship excursions actually were taking people to a public beach, so this seemed a no-brainer for trying. The beach was fine, clean, pretty, and I had no problem with it. There were vendors set up selling drinks and food in these little huts, and they were also renting chairs for $10 a day. We were only going to stay for a couple of hours at most, so we skipped it. There were two problems with this outing: the bathroom had five or six stalls, and a woman informed me that only one was in working order (the one she was in). I had noticed that outside the men's room, a self-installed attendant sat at the door, so I assumed the woman in the women's bathroom was also there for tips. The bathroom, then, really wasn't available. The other thing was that when my husband went to get a beer, a guy approached me, told me I was pretty, asked where I was from, and if I wanted to party. It was a public beach, and it was no big deal, but it left me feeling a bit off since I had been relaxing in my bathing suit with my eyes closed and had no idea some guy was hovering over me about to start talking to me.
The immediate area when you get off the ship is really busy. The taxi cab drivers are aggressive and loud. The street noise once you get through to downtown is very loud. The cars are loud, everyone was honking, and nobody was pedestrian-friendly. There was construction going on in places so that the sidewalks weren't easily navigated with many people. There wasn't much to see except jewelry shops (but I was not shopping at all). When we returned to sight-see, we got off the main downtown streets by about a block and suddenly found ourselves on a street with no tourists, nothing but a few random individual people and parking lots surrounded by chain link fences (lots for valets). I did not feel safe, so coupled with the previous experience of the guy on the beach, I didn't want to explore any further.
Bottom line: I did not like Nassau, and it's no surprise to me now why people pay inordinate amounts of money to go across the bridge to Atlantis.
Lido Deck. The ship has a three-tiered Lido deck with two pools, three hot tubs, and a terminal slide (I guess that's what you'd call it -- it just ended and didn't go into the pool). The tiered aspect was nice because there were rows of chairs where you could sit and people were not passing by. The seaside theater is here, and in the morning, they show the "morning show" on it. Concerts were usually shown around the noon hour, and every evening at 6 and 8, they had two movies, all of which were covered in the Fun Times.
Aft Pool / Sky Pool. The back of the ship has an adult-only pool behind the Cezanne on nine. This area has outdoor dining areas, pool, two hot tubs, lounging areas, a bar, and the ice cream. The steps lead up to ten on the very back where it was almost always easy to find a chair in the sun. The starboard side is smoking, so we often went on around to the port side which was not. This deck area was perfect if you wanted sun and shade. There is a similar area on the same deck forward, but there are ping pong tables there, so it's not quite as quiet.
The pool area in the back is also completely covered at night and was very quiet whenever we visited.
Main Dining Room. This ship has two main dining rooms: The Renoir and The Monet. We were assigned the Renoir for dinner, but The Monet is the one opened for open seating at breakfast and lunch, so we dined in both.
We were traveling as a couple this time, so I was thrilled when we were seated the first night, and we discovered we had a table for two. We did not request one, so it was an added bonus since we would rather talk just the two of us. It turned out that many more people opted for the MDR at breakfast and lunch than in our previous cruise, and we were seated with others during those times, so it was nice to have just the two of us at dinner. Both dining rooms have two floors, with the second as a perimeter overlooking the first. We were seated at a table just looking over the balcony. I liked this table because it was not close to the other diners (relatively speaking, I mean). The two-top tables that had a view on the first floor (deck three) right beside the water were also positioned right beside (maybe a foot apart) another two-top, so I was happy to trade the view for a bit more privacy.
We ate in the MDR every night for dinner except for the night that we ate at The Point Steakhouse. We enjoyed all of our food especially the lobster and shrimp, the filet, the chateaubriand, and all the soups.
Cezanne, etc. We only ate in this area a few times. I had a slice of pizza for a snack once (they also had calzones, and their pizzeria on 9 AFT was open 24 hours), the Mongolian Buffet (which I really liked last time), tried Sur Mer (fish on 10) but was not too impressed, the Caribbean once in the buffet (liked). We had sandwiches from the grill once. The chocolate buffet was served on the last sea day from 12-2:30, but it was so crowded when we went after lunch that I opted for beer calories that afternoon instead. They also had a late-night Mexican buffet / party Friday night; we didn't make it, but I heard there was a good turn-out and all OK. The layout of this open dining area was a bit more segmented than I recalled the Elation which made it seem not quite as crowded and overwhelming, but it was still very busy at peak times. Still, we always found somewhere to sit a bit out of the fray.
Prior Guest Party. I'd heard about this on the boards, but I didn't know how we would find out about it. The first full sea day, they put invitations on our bed. This was Elegant Night #1, so we were planning to dress up, and since we had 6 pm dining, and the invitation was for 5:00, we got ready early and went down. Long story short, we got so excited that we misread the invitation, and it was for Tuesday. (We noted many others going to the doors and looking at their invitations, so at least we weren't the only ones.) So on Tuesday, we went back down. This was a good deal. They served drinks and hor dourves in the main Toulouse lounge, so everyone just had a seat, and the waiters appeared immediately with trays of a variety of drinks and appetizers right behind. That was my kind of party: no standing in line or ordering from a bartender. They made some announcements, had some music, showed some historical Carnival clips, etc., and it was well worth the while. This was the night we were going to the Steakhouse instead of the MDR, and our reservations were at 6:30, so that just gave us another 45 minute window to return to the room and get ready. Thumbs up to the Past Guest Party.
Shows. I'm not big on the shows, but since we were on a seven-day cruise, I did my fair amount of research. I went into it deciding we'd see Paris, skip Point and Click, and open-minded about the rest. Paris was OK from the standpoint of -- well, it was just an hour, and look how hard they worked, and I recognized the dancers already as people I'd seen working (like at muster). The second show we went to was the magic show, Helliva (I think). It wound up being packed, and Camp Carnival had roped off a huge section which they then gave up right before it was starting. We tried to move to that section, lost our seats in the process (I thought the lady with the clipboard who was dressed like she worked in a daycare was one of their workers and hesitated when she and I reached the same seat -- but it turned out she just had her bingo card, so I should have taken the seat), and wound up sitting up higher to the side with a vantage point that let's just say gave us a little more insight into the "magic." I was glad we went because if we go this trip again with our teens, I think they would enjoy it; we'd just make sure to get a different seat. We did not see Point and Click or the juggler.
Quiet Places! The library on this ship was surprisingly much smaller than the one on The Elation. That had not turned out to be a quiet place really (board games going on), but I guess it's still always an option. The promenade had numerous quiet booths during the day as did the deserted lounges. Alfred's often had the piano music and was always quiet, but it was very COLD in there, and there was no view as it was interior. Outside the lobby / main atrium area on three, there were six random chaise lounges that were sometimes in use and sometimes not. Regardless, it was an extremely quiet place every time we visited it and worth just hanging out and even sitting on the deck if you want to look at the water down lower and don't have a balcony. (Speaking of which - OT - will definitely get one next time.) The very top forward had chairs that were permanent (not loungers), and that was often a quiet place, too.
Photos. I have some! I have lots. If you want to see anything in particular, let me know, and I'll try to post. I have not posted individual photos here before. Likewise, if anybody has any specific questions, please feel free to ask! I will probably be wanting to talk about this cruise until my next one. :)