This was my first experience on Carnival, and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.
Embarkation went very well considering there were 3,400 passengers on board. We stayed at the Quality Hotel in Metairie, LA. The hotel was a total dive, but they do offer free shuttle service to and from the airport as well as the French Quarter (very near the cruise terminal).
We opted for an inside room due to cost, and while the room was small, it was very functional with plenty of storage. Our cabin steward was very good.
Our first two days were spent at sea. The Conquest offers generous deck space and we never had to search for a lounge chair. 3 pools are available and as many hot tubs. There is also a waterslide from deck 12 down to 9. The kids loved it! Our 2 children (4 and 7) attended many of the Camp Carnival activities. They really enjoyed Camp Carnival and built friendships with children their own age. The staff of Camp Carnival was very professional and organized, offering a broad range of age-appropriate activities.
Our first stop was Montego Bay, Jamaica. Since we were traveling with children we chose not to get off the ship, left us with the ship virtually to ourselves. I got off for about an hour to buy a few pounds of coffee and Jamaican spices with no problems. However, I talked with several couples that did not have a good experience.
Our next stop was Georgetown, Cayman Islands. This stop was beautiful and the people were wonderful. We had been to Cayman about six years ago and absolutely fell in love with the beaches. However, Hurricane Ivan really devastated this island gem. We took a taxi to Sea Grapes on Seven-Mile Beach. Cost for the taxi was $4 per person and $20 for two lounge chairs and an umbrella. The facilities at Sea Grapes was very nice and clean and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. The whole thing cost about $50.
The next day we went to Cozumel, Mexico. We felt very comfortable getting around and like Cayman, the locals were very friendly and helpful. We chose to take a taxi ($12 each way) to Chankanaab, which is best known for snorkeling and swimming with the dolphins. It is a large park with nice facilities and beautiful gardens. Admission is $12 /adults and $6/children. This includes lounge chairs and umbrellas. If you want a big sand beach, this is not the place to go, but the snorkeling is great and they had lots of places for the kids to explore. We ended the day eating a nice lunch park at the pier at Poncho's
The food was much better than I expected it to be and we found a good variety, even for the kids. The service in the main dining room was outstanding. The shows were good, but were not appropriate for children. The ship is decorated in eccentric Carnival style, a little much compared to other ships I have sailed with Celebrity and RCCL.
Debarkation was a little slower than expected, but it wasn’t too bad. We had an early flight, so we were able to debark with the VIP group. Finding our bags in the terminal was chaotic, but we were in a taxi headed to the airport within minutes of finding our luggage.
The Conquest is a very large ship with lots of people. Lines in the Lido restaurant were long at times, but they did offer lots of choices in addition to the typical buffets; deli sandwiches, fish and chips, chinese, pizza and grill.
I never thought I would say this, but I would sail on Carnival again. While I prefer Celebrity or RCCL, I found Carnival to be of exceptional value and a great option if you want to take your kids along.