This will be long so here is a quick breakdown of what follows for those who don't want to read the entire review:
Room: Suite was good, but balcony room better value for the money.
Ship: Clean and in very good shape.
Entertainment: Comedians, musicians and activities are excellent. Shows not so much.
Food: Buffet okay, main dining room good, other places really good except steakhouse, which is overrated and not worth the money.
Staff: Excellent as always.
Read on for a very wordy, poorly organized review:
We were on the Conquest for the Feb 10th Western Caribbean cruise. We are a married couple in our 30's. This was our third cruise with Carnival and our fifth overall. Our preference is RCCL but Carnival has some great deals on some appealing itineraries for us. We really enjoyed our time on the Conquest with a few complaints.
We had booked a balcony room but Carnival offered us a suite upgrade for about $500 less than they were advertising. My wife's birthday was that week so we decided to splurge. The room was really nice; plenty of room for two people to move about and a huge bathroom with a whirlpool tub and his/her sinks. The bed was very comfortable, we slept very well all week. But we would probably stick with a balcony room unless the suite was another good deal. We just aren't in our room that much to make it worthwhile. The other perk of the suite was priority boarding which was very smooth and easy. We were on board by noon and our room was ready by 12:30. We only saw our cabin steward twice the entire cruise but he was on top of everything. The entire crew was very good.
We had sailed on the Carnival Glory last year, which is an exact copy of the Conquest with a different decor. The one thing the Glory had that we missed on the Conquest was the Serenity adult deck area. The area is there but is unused. Why is that? There were lots of kids on this cruise and an adult only area would have been nice. With that said, we never had a problem finding a pair of loungers on the deck. Anyone who can't find open lounge chairs somewhere on deck isn't looking very hard.
We racked up sizable bar bills on previous cruises so we decided to try the Cheers program. It was definitely worth it overall. $50 a day for up to 15 drinks. I hit my 15 drink maximum on all three of the at sea days. They will still serve you after 15 if you aren't a hot mess but you will pay for it. Since price wasn't a factor, I was drinking higher end beers and whiskies along with some specialty drinks instead of my regular cheap Bud lights. My only complaint is that Carnival doesn't have an easy tracking system for how many drinks you have had. One night I was told I had hit my 15th but then later told they had miscounted a soda as an alcoholic drink so I could get one more. Why can't there just be an automated running number associated with my card? There should be a number on my receipt too so I know where I'm at.
Breakfast for us was always the burrito bar. We tried the buffet the first day but weren't very impressed. The burritos are made to order and use fresher ingredients. Lunch was either Guy's burgers, pizza, the deli or the burrito bar again . You can't go wrong with any of it and the lines were minimal. We did anytime dining in the Renoir dining room. The anytime thing is convenient but I think we are done with it. We missed the personal interaction of having a designated serving team. There was no rapport with the anytime servers. The food was mostly good with a few misses but if you don't like one thing just order something else. I always ordered 2 or 3 appetizers just to try different things. Cruises are the best time to try food you normally wouldn't. We never had a problem with cold food. The biggest disappointment was the steakhouse. My 18 ounce cowboy steak was 4 ounces of meat and 14 ounces of gristle. I sent it back and ordered a sirloin instead. The sirloin was fine, but there is really nothing special about it. They don't season their steaks and I know they aren't dry aged even though they claim they are. So really you're paying $35 a person for a big piece of cow thrown on high heat for a few minutes. And at the steakhouse you pay extra for additional entrees. Did I mention you can get as many flat iron steaks as you want in the dining room? And there is usually another beef dish each day like prime rib too. Just a total waste of money at the steakhouse. My only other issue is late night food, or lack thereof. After dinner, your choices for food are pizza and...pizza. A part of the buffet would open some nights and not others. Why not open Guy's Burgers or someplace after 10pm?
The entertainment was good overall but Carnival has obviously ceded the quality shows to the other cruise lines. NCL has things like Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil and RCCL has ice shows. Carnival has 8 performers doing song and dance numbers on skimpy sets. They had three different shows that varied by musical theme. There was "Divas", Motown and British Invasion. One of the singers was talented, but the overall the shows just weren't that good. We thought Divas was okay, Motown was weak enough that we left in the middle and we didn't bother with British Invasion. We enjoyed all of the comedians, especially the ventriloquist. There are family friendly shows and adult shows so pick the one that suits you and don't complain about the naughty words. The other musicians playing in the piano bar and cigar bar were friendly and engaging. We spent significant time in both. Gary the cruise director and his staff were very visible all over the ship running different activities. They put on a fun parade for Mardi Gras with make your own masks and bead throwing. We enjoyed the casino too. I don't trust their new automated blackjack tables. They don't explain the rules at all and since there is no regulation for maritime casinos they could be rigged. The regular blackjack was great though. There were a lot of new players at these tables. I almost spit my drink when a woman at my table wanted to stand on a 9!
The Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades are mostly experiments with branding. Some work and some don't. Guy's Burgers are as delicious as they are unhealthy! I had one nearly every day. The Blue Iguana burrito bar is equally good. The sports bar got upgraded to EA Sports Bar, which apparently means nicer seating and sports trivia every day. The comedy club is now the George Lopez Comedy Club which has the same comedians but now has an unfunny two minute video introduction by George Lopez. I really hope Carnival didn't pay a lot for that. Hasbro is sponsoring a game show that is pretty dull unless you are lucky enough to get on stage to play. We did enjoy the Alchemy Bar, which serves tasty drinks with fresh juices and some bartender flair. The drinks are $9 each but are covered by the Cheers program.
We didn't leave the ship in Montego Bay because every excursion that wasn't a beach visit involved over an hour drive. We have been to Jamaica before and didn't feel like facing the aggressive hawkers and cab drivers. Stingray City in Grand Cayman was awesome. Tendering in Grand Cayman was decidedly not awesome. We waited at least a half hour in line baking in the sun to get a tender back to the ship. Cozumel is one of our favorite ports. We did the Amazing Race excursion which we highly recommend. I was dubious about paying money to run around the town but it is really well organized and the locals are great with helping you. You see parts of Cozumel you just wouldn't see any other way. It's very safe and they give you a burner cell phone to call in case you get lost. We got lost enough that they called us to tell us to turn around!
Overall we had a great time on the cruise and would definitely cruise Carnival again at the right price. The few negatives were far outweighed by the positives. I suppose some people can't let one negative thing go without it affecting their entire vacation. I pity those people.