Embarkation: The jazz festival was going on in New Orleans when we arrived on April 30, one day before the cruise, so hotels were hard to come by. We stayed at the Days Inn in Kenner, right by the airport and about 20 minutes from the pier on a good traffic day. All I will say about this particular Days Inn is that it was cheap, and that's good! On Sunday, we arrived at the pier at 10:15, and we were on the ship by about 12:30. I would suggest getting there early as we did or waiting until 2 or 3 PM. Our cab driver told us that from about 11:00 - 2:30-3 is complete chaos, with long waits just to get to the Julia Street pier entrance. It's true that everyone waits, but I was much happier waiting inside the cool terminal building rather than in a hot cab. OK, we walked in and waited (yellow chairs) for about an hour and then were allowed to check in at about 11:15. Check in was very quick, (we did the Fun Pass online) and we were then ushered to another set of yellow chairs. I have to say it was very orderly and the first to arrive (we were among this group) were the first to leave this area. They went by rows. We waited there about another hour, and then were sent to yet ANOTHER set of yellow chairs! At this point handicapped people were allowed to board, and then we went. What held this process up were the embarkation photos. I'm sure many wouldn't agree with me on this, but these embarkation photos are a bad idea. You will get your picture taken A LOT anyway, and these just slow up the embarkation process. We were lucky to be relatively up front and able to skip that particular photo. So, all in all, it took a little over 2 hours to board.
The Ship: Once you get your Sail and Sign card you may leave the ship. We went up to Lido deck first to get lunch and then got off the ship for awhile to walk along Riverwalk. It was great, and we'd wished we hadn't eaten because they had so much stuff that looked so good! We were back on the ship by about 3:30. This ship is huge! I was not really impressed with the dEcor, but it didn't affect my good time! On the first and last days of cruising, the Lido buffet area seemed packed to me, but things settled down in between. I KNOW why everyone was in there on the last day...the chocolate buffet...WOW! The Lido pool areas were pretty crowded on sea days but not too bad, and there was always deck 3 or the balcony of our room if we wanted to be crowd-free. Todd Wittmer, the cruise director, was great. He sure earns his paycheck!
The Room: We had a balcony room for the first time, and it was fantastic! The room itself was very nice, with more than ample storage space for everything we had. Our room steward got off to a slow start, but things improved by day 2. We were in room 6285 on Upper Deck, very close to the glass elevators. Noise levels were very low. We did hear other passengers talking the halls from time to time but that is to be expected almost anywhere on the ship I would imagine.
The Food: We were on another cruise last August (not Carnival) and dinners were a 2 to 2 ½ hour marathon, and the food was truly not worth the wait. On Conquest, dinners in the dining room were a much better experience. Our waiter and his team were perfection. The service was efficient but we didn't feel rushed. The longest dinner was about 1 ½ hours, not bad at all. My husband had been glad we had another option to the dining room (Lido dinner buffet), but we ended up eating in the dining room most nights since it was such a pleasant experience on this cruise. We were in the Monet dining room, table 331, right by the aft windows. We lucked out with that location, very nice. We ate breakfasts and lunches on Lido deck, and the buffets were consistently excellent, especially desserts. YUM! I also liked the pizza, and deli sandwiches…oh, and the fish and chips were great, too! Suffice it to say I gained five pounds on this cruise and loved every minute of it! Ooops, forgot room service, did that too, and they were never late and never wrong. I'm still closing my eyes and picturing myself sipping coffee on the balcony at sunrise.
Shore Excursions: We didn't take any. We've been in Jamaica twice already and also have been to Grand Cayman. If you do excursions in Cayman, Make sure Stingray City is one of them. That is so much fun! In Cozumel, we took a cab downtown and walked around for awhile, but that's about it. We were really on this cruise for the ship and the sailing, and this ship did not disappoint. It was a great time!
We had a relatively early flight out of New Orleans and were allowed to be among the first group to leave the ship. We arrived at the lounge area at 7:45. At 8:15, they let us go and we breezed out of the terminal by 8:30! Hopped a cab and were at the airport by 9:00. We were absolutely amazed at how quick and painless that process was!