My wife and kids normally sail Celebrity Cruises, but have tried RCCL, Princess and Carnival. We last sailed with Carnival on the Valor in 2008 I believe and were very pleased with the everything about the cruise. Believe it or not, the food and service on Valor was on par with Celebrity and the high end wines were even better. We finally made it back onto Carnival looking for the same experience, but things have changed dramatically.
Flew into New Orleans fairly early. We were checked and waiting to board by about 10:30am. They announced we could embark at about 11:30 and rooms would be ready about 12:30. This was pretty accurate.
As we grabbed a light lunch on the lido deck, we watched and listened to a lot of the passengers as we ate at the taco bar near the pool and immediately saw that the super low fares we had received had attracted all types or people. We figured this would be a good people watching cruise.
Nothing much to brag or complain about in the rooms. Typical cruise ship rooms.
Food selection in all eating areas was actually something that you could find in you local chain restaurants at home. Horrible service the first night and after switching tables we had fairly good service, but unlike other cruises, even on Carnival, the waiters and assistant waiters did not have the cohesion or coordination working together.
We went to the alternate steakhouse restaurant 2 nights because of this. It was fairly good, but they no longer had the live entertainment singing and playing music as they had on Valor. More cost cutting we were told.
If you love fine wine, you won't find the selections you had before either. On Valor, we had some very nicely priced high end wines. This time the wine list was very limited.
Conquest is not what I would consider one of the big mega-ships, but the lines made you think it was. At breakfast, the lido deck buffet restaurant had ridiculously long and slow lines. As with the waiter and assistant waiter problem, it just seemed like this ship didn't have a smooth process for moving people through the line. Our opinion was that this was due to lack of staff. Not sure if that was the true cause, but I had never been on a cruise where it took so long to get through a line in the buffet.
As my review summary states, you get what you pay for. In years past, you could get early bird or last minute deals for very low rates, but the rest of the time you had a higher rate . I check cruise prices frequently and I never saw the rates for this cruise go much higher or lower the several month we were waiting for our cruise. I have seen some other Carnival cruises like this. I would hate to think this is the case, but I have to wonder if Carnival in general, or just this ship out of this port, has adopted to policy of less for less in order to get more cruisers.