Let me begin by saying it has been several years since we have chosen Carnival for our cruise vacations. Why? In 2007 I reached out to Carnival for a quote on a sailing for my family of 22 persons out of New York! Never got a reply! We eventually chose a cruise on NCL. A $25,000.00 cruise that Carnival didn't seem to think was worth calling me back about! My experience with NCL has been documented and, let's just say, we will not be aboard any of their ships in the future. That's a different review published here on Cruise Critic 5+ years ago!
Back to the Carnival Conquest.
We left NJ on 12-23-2012 at about 7:45AM and flew to New Orleans where we were met at the airport by a representative who was quite nice and she immediately got the two of us and our luggage to the "Transfer Station" around 11:00AM NOLA time. About a half hour later we were on a bus ride to the New Orleans Cruise Terminal. The driver ( I wish I remembered his name ) was a self appointed tour guide and "football analyst" along the way! A really nice person who made the trip both relaxing and somewhat comical as well.
The New Orleans Cruise Terminal experience was somewhat typical of any we have experienced over the years. No problems at all. We were checked in, given our key cards and waited about half an hour until we were able to board the Conquest. Again, all went well! It took less than an hour more and at about 12:00PM we were in our cabin with luggage arriving there in less than 20 minutes or so later.
Staeroom 9284, Lido Deck, is a balcony cabin on the Starboard side of the ship. Really quite close to the Lido Pool area and Cezzanne buffet as well as Guy's Burgers and a couple of bars and The Blue Iguana taco stand. I generally look for this location on any cruise since I love to just walk out and wander around and my darling other half usually prefers lounging with a book near the main pool area of any ship. It's also nice to be able to go for a cup of coffee, light breakfast, ice cream or a refreshing glass of lemonade without having to travel several decks by elevator or stairs. Well worth the nominal upgrade cost associated with this class of stateroom. The Lido area is also home to the "Seaside Theatre" which had something showing 24 hours a day. And, yes, they actually showed somewhat current movies in the evenings.
The stateroom itself was "tired" to put it nicely. Stained carpeting and couch. Chipped wood on the vanity and closets, which there were plenty of. Just a general lack of upkeep seemed to be the problem even though this ship was refurbished not that long ago.
We had chosen "Your Time Dining" which was restricted to the Renoir Dining Room, lower level. This presented no problem at all. Dining began at 5:45PM and there were no real lines any evening. We ate there 6 out of the 7 nights. Wait staff was excellent overall with special kudos to Rena's team. We were served by them on five occasions. Now, the little woman almost became actual friends with the bar waitress, Agata. This young lady from Poland had only been working aboard the Conquest for about 4 weeks. No prior cruise ship experience! But, believe us, you would never have known that. She was excellent!
The menu was lacking in any variety of selections and the food was not of the caliber once served on a Carnival ship. Something that had changed since our last cruises with Carnival. A downward trend in dining experience!
We will now take a look back at the shows we saw in the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge. Granted, we only went twice but it appeared that there were only three productions you could have seen. They just kept switching the show times around so that one was early and one was late each evening. The group of performers tried really hard to be as entertaining as they could be. Some were somewhat accomplished but, overall, the shows lacked any real appeal. The background sets were phenomenal.
We did attend the early "Family Friendly" comedy shows in the Degas Lounge "Punchliner Comedy Club". Two very excellent comedians that kept the audience laughing for the 30 or 40 minute shows they did. We never went to the later shows which were adult oriented. Probably just as good I would think!
The Conquest offers 24 hour pizza, soft drinks and ice cream. Some of this is available aft on Lido deck adjacent to the Sky Pool & Bar.
The "Fun Shops" are stocked nicely with a variety of toiletries, liquor selections, apparel and jewelry as well as many souvenirs.
Shore excursions are plentiful, as they are on any cruise. And just as pricey as always! There did seem to be a lack of coordination by the Carnival Excursion folks. They directed us one day to meet in The Toulouse Lautrec Lounge prior to them escorting us to the tenders that would bring us ashore in Grand Cayman. You guessed correctly if you thought that there would be no one there when we arrived. We found our own way to the proper deck and boarded one of the many tenders needed to bring people to land. In retrospect, all of the shore excursions were OK except for the outrageous pricing! But, in order to be assured you were not left in any port due to tardiness on your part, it is advisable to use the cruise line tours. The wife did get to do something she wanted to do for years. She rode a dolphin in Cozumel! That particular site was extremely professionally run!
Debarkation was a dream! We were off of the Conquest about 45 minutes prior to the scheduled time we were given. Quickly got our luggage and were through Customs and out to a cab within 20 minutes. We were staying in New Orleans at The Hilton Riverside Hotel, about 4 blocks and a 5 minute cab ride away. Arrived at the hotel around 10:00AM. Outstanding!
Carnival Cruise Lines did let us down on this vacation to some degree, but overall, the cruise went well with no disasters of any sort. Would we return to Carnival. Possibly! But future cruises may, perhaps, be with other cruise lines.