Just a little background on the family first. Travelers included myself Anne Marie(32) Joe my husband(34) and my 2 sons Kyle(13) and Spencer(5). It is my 3rd cruise, Joe's second and the kids first. We flew direct from Houston TX to the Airport/pier at New Orleans.
We left on the morning of May 29th for an 11:50 am flight to New Orleans. We were all very excited as the kids had never been on a real vacation like this and it is really overwhelming for anyone the first time around. We arrived successfully and had booked a limo to pick us up as it was only 20 each way more than a cab! We were quite disappointed with the service from the driver when we arrived. Carrying 6 heavy bags of luggage and one carry on each...he had parked a considerable amount away and offered no assistance to help carry the bags. The car was dirty and lacked that flair that you expect taking a limo ride. Anyway...so now we are at the pier...one good thing is that limo's get to pull right up to where you go into the port and there are porters there waiting to help take your bags inside(for a tip of course...get used to that!) Anyone driving and parking , etc...good luck, the construction makes this port a nightmare. New Orleans itself (can only give an opinion from the airport to the pier) was dirty and smelly, but so is Newark, NJ where I used to live near the airport...I am sure there are nice places there, but I saw none.
Once inside the terminal which we arrived at about 1:15, it was not as insane as I thought it would be from reading others reviews. We had done the fast pass on line and went right up to our window and then got to sit in the first set of yellow chairs...10 minutes later, the second set of yellow chairs, 15-20 minutes later we were having our "get on the ship" photo taken which delays EVERYONE and they really should have at least 5 or more groups to take photos at the same time to move this along.
OK...now we are on the ship! The embarkation was pretty painless, even with 2 bickering children. The ship's decor was beautiful, traditional Carnival style, lots of marble, lots of shiny stuff, lots of neon etc. We went directly to our room and had 3 out of our 6 bags already.
We changed into more comfy clothes and went to the Lido deck to have lunch. It was great! The kids had items from the grill and we had the buffet. We went back to our room to see if our other bags had arrived and sure enough they were there so we got our suits on and decided to go for a swim. This was the first and only day we got a chair anywhere NEAR the pool and bar...I will get back to that disappointment later. After swimming and several drinks(already burning a hole through our sail and sign card...be careful folks, those drinks add up quickly!) Our waiter, Rolie, was VERY good along with his assistant Glen...very sweet funny guys who loved the kids. Dinner was wonderful!
Next was Camp Carnival. They had a ton of stuff and activities to keep our five year old entertained and we barely saw our 13 year old the whole cruise if that says anything. The only negative about the camp is that you need to revolve your schedule around the camp hours...like no camp from 12-2 and no camp from 5-7 (meal hours). They will take them to lunch and dinner but what does a 5 year old do for 2 hours in a buffet line??? The counselors were excellent and loved the kids dearly. Spencer couldn't wait to go back every day. The activities on board were a bit below par. Some of them were a lot of fun, others were not. There was definitely not enough activities to keep you busy for the duration of the time you were on the ship.
I don't count art auctions, shopping, picture taking or talks about excursions/islands...an activity. They need more things to do...every half hour to hour that cover many tastes...very disappointed.
Night-time activities were better. Our room Steward, Daniello,was excellent and proceeded to win employee of the month, well deserved, we will miss him a lot. Went out of his way for us.
The captain was extremely involved which was surprising...usually only see him once at the cocktail party but he was quite involved in a few things that were going on. Our room was nice, but really not big enough when traveling with 6+ suitcases and 2 children, very cramped even with a balcony. There was a problem with our balcony door which was fixed immediately when we called...big points. Spencer also got sick in the middle of the night on the 3rd day...housekeeping came and changed 2 beds at 3 am...BIG POINTS again. A nice tip was deserved.
Jamaica was excellent...beautiful weather and friendly people. We did not book any of our excursions through Carnival and were happy we didn't...take my advice...book on your own via the internet before you leave...save your money. Remember Carnival gets a chunk of what your are spending for your excursions...why not let the companies reap the whole benefit and you can save some money. We went to Sunset Beach Resort(recommended by cruise critics) and had a blast. 20.00 PP for adults and 10 pp for kids 12 and under. EVERYTHING is included, drinks, food, entertainment,beach, snorkeling, kayaking, windsailing, music...LOVED it. Watch out for the cabs...don't pay more than 3.00 PP for the cabs...ask ahead of time before you get in what the charge is...the place is only about 2 miles away.
Grand Cayman was disaster as far as weather...it rained all day. Luckily we booked our Stingray adventure with Captain Marvins (recommended by Cruise Critic members) and we were they only group who went out!Carnival cancelled all their excursions!This was AWESOME...highly recommended. There was only 12 of us on the boat as opposed to Carnival's 50 per boat and they had at least 5-7 of the same excursion. Trying to get a tender boat back was a nightmare,fights broke out, people were drenched, needs improvement in a huge way. Grand Cayman is still dealing with the effects of the hurricane that hit them so the island is not all it used to be...maybe in another 5-10 years it will be back to normal, massive devastation to the island.
Cozumel was WONDERFUL and would go back for a week stay...loved it. We did the Royal Dolphin swim in Chankanaab(sp?) park , again, outside of Carnival and were happy we did. If you book with Dolphin Discovery, you get admission to the park, the Royal Swim with the dolphins, a sea lion show (not impressive) and we got to swim with a sea lion...very cool, they are beautiful creatures scare the dolphins. We stayed on the beach there and did some snorkeling and had some lunch...the drinks are VERY strong here, no watering down at these places. Don't be scared of going on your own...all the cabs know where you want to go and they all know how to get you back to the ship. You will save buckets of money that you will need to pay your bill at the end of your cruise!
Over all we all had a good time but will not sail the Conquest line of ships again. They made the ships 20% larger, yes, but they also added 50% more people. Way too may people on this ship, everything was a line, everything was taken (deck chairs, seats for the buffet, shows) a few times we had to stand to watch a show. The staff was great as usual...be sure to go see Petra in the coffee shop.
Our last cruise was on the Pride and it was MUCH better as far as space and waiting lines etc. We have never sailed anything but Carnival because of the cost of a cruise but I think we will be expanding our horizons with our next cruise. For a first cruise, it is fine and I am sure you will have a fabulous time,but for those who enjoy their space a bit more...try a smaller ship or another cruise line.