My wife and I traveled with her mom and sister. We stayed two nights at the Hyatt French Quarter. It's a really nice hotel with a great location. Be sure to go to Emeril's (Emeril LaGasse's restaurant) the food is amazing. We enjoyed our stay in NOLA doing things like going to Cafe Du Monde for Beignets and walking down Bourbon St. at night.
Boarding the Carnival Conquest was a breeze if you get there early (around 11:00 am). The whole embarkation process took about 30 minutes. However, if you wait until later (like my wife's mom and sister did), it can take 2 hours to go through the embarkation process. The conquest is an absolutely beautiful ship, especially if you enjoy impressionist art. My wife and I have been on 13 cruises, and we both though this was the most beautiful (and I'm not even a fan of impressionism). The ship was also kept impeccably clean all the time.
Our cabin was tastefully decorated, comfortable and spacious by cruise ship standards (Carnival tends to have the biggest staterooms of the moderately prised cruise lines).
Dining was very good at the Renoir dining room mds ship (early seating), and the room is absolutely gorgeous with comfortable chairs (i have a severely bad back and found the chair to be supportive, yet just cushy enough. The food was quite good. The prime rib was very well prepared, the Thai Prawns very good, etc. The only qualm I have at all is that the menus are pretty much the same on all the Carnival ships we've been on the last three cruises. It's too bad there isn't more variety among ships, but the food is very tasty. The food at the buffets is also really good and there is lots of variety. A well-kept secret is the fish bar one deck up from the lido deck (where the buffets are served). If you like a bit of exotic seafood go there. The standard fish and chips are excellent, but there are also octopus, squid, ceviche, and other cocktails.
Service overall was really great. The crew and staff all work really hard and are very friendly. The people really deserve to be treated well as they get paid very little and do everything to make your cruise enjoyable and luxurious.
Another slight disappointment was the lack of activities on the ship. There were a few trivia contests and the requisite art auctions but not much else really. Carnival really seems to be cutting back on activities and activity staff probably to keep prices below those of competitors. We still had a good time, but we would have liked more variety and a greater number of activities on board.
The Carnival productions entertainment was of high quality. However, it was bit contemporary for our taste. There were very few stage sets and most of the backgrounds were electronically generated. It was kind of cool at first, but then it grew a bit old. Maybe we're just old folks and prefer the more traditional sets. Also, usually Carnival has the carnival dancers and a male and female singer. On this cruise, they had three male singers and three female singers, but they also did all the dancing. As a result, thought the dancing was good, it was not as high quality as when professional dancers (only) do the dancing. There were also a couple of decent comedians on board. On of the most entertaining things was the karaoke on board. Sure, it depends on the talent of the passengers, but there were some incredible singers that sang.
We visited three ports:
Key West is a really charming if touristy town. The houses form the early 20th century are just adorable, the people are friendly and easy going. Be sure to catch the Trolley (on your own, not through a Carnival excursion)...$20 buys you a day pass. You can get on and off as you wish, as many times as you want, and the driver acts as the tour guide giving you information (in a humorous way) of all the sights you pass and about the island in general. Be sure to see Hemingway's house and take the quick tour of it. As far as lunch goes, you can't beat Louie's Backyard near the southern most point of the U.S. The restaurant has a phenomenal view of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and the seafood is to die for. Have one of their signature sangrias too.
Freeport, Bahamas is a bit of a flat island that really isn't that attractive, but people are friendly. We went on an excursion to see the gardens. They are beautiful and the tour is interesting.
Nassau, Bahamas is pretty much like Freeeport...not that exciting. However a cruise on the bay between Nassau and Paradise islands is beautiful and you get to see the Atlantis resort along with celebrity-owned mansions from the water.
We had a really nice cruise despite some of the disappointments I've mentioned above.
Disembarkation on Carnival's end was very smooth, but once at the port of New Orleans, the customs line was long and moved slowly. They don't seem to have many customs officers working there. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get through the line after we picked up our baggage outside the ship. The transportation (bus) using Carnival transfers to the airport was very smooth.