I booked this cruise as a "Pack & Go" special. I'm guessing Carnival didn't think they could fill the ship with Hurricane Isaac approaching. I waited for the hurricane to pass and booked immediately. The special is for a gty inside and I was assigned my cabin fairly quickly which turned out to be a category 4J inside with window facing the observation deck all the way forward on Deck 7. It is designated as an accessible cabin but don't get any pictures of a huge cabin with room for a dance floor. It is very tight, irregularly shaped cabin with the beds head to head against the wall, so that they cannot be put together to make a king sized bed. Aside from the bed, the only place to sit is a tiny upholstered stool slid underneath the desk. On the other hand, it has a huge bathroom and being accessible, there is no step-up to enter. I called Carnival to request a change, since I had already stayed in the same cabin on another ship but they refused. Well, as they say, beggars can't be choosers.
I flew into New Orleans on the day of the cruise and arrived at 12:45 pm. I used Airport Shuttle to get to the ship. I don't recommend using them. You have to walk to a central pick-up point since there is only one for the entire airport. There already was a long line and the shuttle didn't show for another 20 minutes. I explained to the dispatcher that I needed to get to the ship a.s.a.p., since there is a boarding deadline. She allowed me to board the shuttle. However, the driver decided to make 3 stops at hotels before the cruise ship terminal instead of going directly. I did not arrive at the ship until almost 2:30pm. At least when you take the ship transfer you go directly to the ship and you won't have to handle your luggage once you get on the bus. The price is not much more than Airport Shuttle, so if you are one person I would go with the ship transfer. If you are more than one person I would take a taxi.
Arriving so late, check-in was a breeze. I didn't have my boarding pass or luggage tags but both this was not a problem. The luggage porter had blank tags and when I arrived at the terminal entrance the agent had the manifest and just compared my name on the list with the passport. As a VIFP Platinum member I was ushered over to the special check-in office and quickly received my Sail & Sign pass, again without having the boarding pass. As long as you fill out the form online, they will have the information. I'm not suggesting you do this, especially if there is more than one person in your party and you are checking in when there is a long line. But it's nice to know you won't miss your cruise if you don't have them.
Upon boarding the ship on Deck 3 by the lobby, I stopped at the dining room to request a table change. Since my cabin is all the way forward I wanted to relocate to the mid-ship dining room. This was done very quickly and I even got my own 2-top table on the 2nd level of the Renoir Dining Room. After dropping off my carry-on bag in my cabin and headed back to the Atrium and waited in the library for the safety drill. I felt there wasn't enough time to grab lunch before the drill and decided I would head over to the deli after the drill. The deli turned out to be a great place to be for sail-away since you're up high and there are picture windows for a great view. We departed NOLA and quickly sailed by Jackson Square, the French Market and further along the way down Old Man River, the Jackson Barracks with its manicured lawns and the Domino Sugar refinery which is still in operation despite its ghost town appearance The river curves so much that at one point we were heading back towards NOLA. I decided to continue sail away from a more comfortable spot and headed down to the outdoor promenade on Deck 3 and settled down on a lounger where I fell asleep. Upon waking up, I saw the most breathtaking sunset. The river looked spectacular as lights came up on the various ships tied up along the shore. One thing I observed both in New Orleans and along the river was that there were no visible signs that a hurricane had recently gone through. The clean-up after the storm was apparently quite efficient.
Since it was now totally dark outside I went back into the lobby and listened to a duo perform. The male keyboardist/vocalist was very good but the female vocalist had a very high-pitched, thin voice that I felt was a bit annoying. I found the same thing true about the ship band's vocalist. In fact, the entertainment on this ship was pretty poor. I liked the Latin band but that was about all. On my way to dinner I visited Guest Relations and requested a normal chair for my cabin since that stool would not do at all. I was told they would send one to the cabin. I made my way to the dining room and my first dinner was quite good. Once I had my wait team acquainted with my special requests (ice tea with lemon and Splenda served in a goblet, not a wine glass) they continued to make me happy throughout the cruise. I found the food to be very good at the beginning, and I had some of the best lobster I've eaten on a cruise on the first elegant night. But by the 4th night I found the food becoming more and more disappointing as it became apparent this was not about fine dining and more like what you would find on a diner menu. A lot of emphasis on comfort food and only a few "haute cuisine" items, such as escargot. The menu was more about fried chicken, meat loaf and banana splits.-a The Renoir Dining Room is looked after my maitre d' Enrico Schiappapietra (skyap-ah-pee-ay-trah) who was very friendly and stopped by every table every evening to make sure everyone was content.
Continuing on my food discussion, breakfast was always ordered from room service. I found myself sleeping in and missing the main dining room anyway. There was enough of an assortment of juices, fruits, cereals, baked goods, hot beverages to form a substantial breakfast. Smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese were all available. So was chocolate milk for the Special K cereal. The room service operator became very familiar with me and after a day or so would say chocolate milk immediately after I would say Special K. The only issue with room service is by the time the person filling the tray up got the office, there would be some screw ups. My favorite was getting the pot of coffee but no coffee mug. All was quickly corrected with a phone call. It's nice that breakfast was still available after 11 am and was even available on disembarkation morning so you don't have to go to the dining room or buffet with your carry-on luggage. I also used room service several times for lunch and although the offerings are limited was able to have an enjoyable meal. I count on using room service a lot so I made sure to have plenty of singles for tips.
I had lunch a few times at the buffet. The jerk chicken was excellent when we were in Montego Bay. I had gone up to the fish and chips counter but thanks to a very spiteful chef never got my full order in so I left and went back to the buffet. I ran into Enrico, the maitre d' and explained what happened at fish and chips. He suggested I ask one of the waiters to get my order if I decided I wanted to try it again. However, I never did bother. I also visited the lido buffet a few times for a nibble in the early evening since my dinner time was 8:15pm. They had a nice assortment of fresh fruit and cheeses. The honeydew melon was fantastic at the beginning of the cruise, but after a few days it became less and less good. I'm guessing they finished up the melons from the previous cruise on the first few days, and that melon was fully ripe. Once they started on the new shipment, the melon was not as ripe. Or else they just got some lousy melon.
After dinner, I just headed back to my cabin which I hadn't been in since I boarded the ship. The chair I requested was already delivered! My luggage had also arrived and my steward brought it into the cabin. I hadn't met him yet and he was already off duty. So I needed to wait until the next morning to meet him and also ask where he put the luggage mat which was set out on one of the beds when I arrived but was put away when he turned down the bed (it turned out to be underneath the bed). My bed was a bit narrow since I am used to having the two beds together, but I slept comfortably. The cabin temperature was fine and I don't recall needing to adjust the Thermostat. The proof would be that I never needed the blanket when I slept.
The first 2 sea days were very nice. The seas were calm. As I already mentioned, I slept late. After breakfast I would head to Deck 3 and get a lounger and enjoy the sea view as I listened to my iPod and/or read. Both days I had cocktail parties in the afternoon to attend. After the party on Day 1 I decided to try to swim since I figured the Lido Deck would be a zoo during the day. The Conquest is built in the same basic style Carnival used from Destiny where there is a very small mid-ship pool. Deck space is minimal due to the terraced-off area for loungers. Without the terraces, the deck would be huge, there could be larger pools (RCCL has 2 larger pools side by side on their Voyager class ships).
While we're on the subject of what I consider design flaws on the ship, there are just too many tight areas for a ship that has to accommodate so many people. Case in point would be the 2 columns that block the entrance to the 2nd floor of the Renoir Dining Room. This is part of the Atrium so there is just a narrow area going around it and most of it is taken up by the photo shop. In fact, columns are a major issue when it comes to the ship's theatre. The other issue would be the dead ends on the ship. You cannot get across Decks 3 and 4. People new to the ship's layout get confused easily on how they will make it to the aft dining room. The same holds true for the outdoor promenade which does not wrap around the ship. I cannot tell you how many people I would see walk back in anger after trying to do a complete circuit walk.
There are also small pools in the aft area of the Lido Deck which is supposed to be for adults only. This is where I made my way on Sea Day #1. However, the water was extremely shallow and it wasn't pleasant for swimming. On Sea Day #2 I switched to the pool situated on Deck 10 forward, below the spa, since I went to the steam room first. That pool was filled to the edge and swimming was much better. I decided that this would be my pool of choice. However, the next morning when we were docked in Montego Bay I returned and found the pool water just as shallow as the aft pool had been 2 days earlier. Unfortunately, I noticed my ear begin to ache and that ended my swimming for the rest of the cruise. I didn't bother getting off the ship since my beach and snorkeling plans were now ruined. I guess that's what I get for making a fuss about the pools. Luckily, there's no better place to recover than on board a cruise ship. My needs were taken care of in a very comfortable set-up. My cabin steward was great and we worked out a system where he wouldn't need to do much, except replace towels and ice, during his early shift and he could fix up the cabin when I was out in the evening for dinner. I also told him not to bother with towel animals as I no longer get a thrill from them and it's only extra work that's not appreciated.
Besides listening to the music on the ship I also attended the 2 stage shows (well, really only 1 Â½). The first one was a salute to Paris. It started off nice enough and was pretty close to resembling a Las Vegas Follies Bergere production. However, once they did the Can-Can, which maybe should have been the penultimate number, they seem to have run out of ideas and the show went downhill. The 2 lead vocalists were nothing to write home about either. What I also found funny is that most of the songs in the show were Paris-related but were American songs like Cole Porter's "I Love Paris." I suppose that's how American's relate to Paris so that's why those songs stood out the most.
The second production show had an internet dating theme and was just awful. I waited for a convenient pause and stood up to lead. I witnessed a mass exodus so I'm guessing everyone had the same idea (run while you can).
I didn't see any of the late night entertainment due to my ailment so I can't comment on any of that. I didn't buy anything so I can't comment on that as well. The only drinks I had were at the 2 cocktail parties I attended.
The weather and seas continued to cooperate for the entire cruise. Disembarkation was very easy. However, all disembarkation announcements come through to the cabins so even if you are planning on leaving late, you will be woken up very early. The only positive is you will make it to breakfast this way. I had no trouble getting off the ship or finding my luggage. I even got a $10. bargain rate to transfer back to the airport!
My final remarks will be devoted to what I consider the friendliest cruise staff at sea. I cannot tell you how great it felt that everyone (except for the rotten s.o.b. At fish and chips) were friendly. Even people who were not directly involved with me, such as cabin stewards on my floor, would say hello and even remember my name (or does that just mean they remember the trouble makers?). People make the cruise and the Conquest staff does its best to make it happen. To them I am truly thankful for making what could have been just an ordinary cruise into a memorable one.