NEW ORLEANS: My wife and I arrived in New Orleans a day early so we had the opportunity to explore downtown and the French Quarter somewhat. We ended up going to the Zoo, the aquarium, a little around the French Quarter and a little at the Marketplace.
Overall we thought New Orleans was dirty and not very appealing. The zoo and aquarium were fun but the French Quarters is not what I remember it being last time I was there about 15 years ago. It's changed a lot, and for the worse I'm afraid to say.
EMBARKATION: Sunday morning we got checked out of our hotel and went back over to the airport to get on our bus which would take us to the where the ship was docked. From the minute we got on the bus we felt we received superior service.
I believe we were on the bus at around 10:30, pulled up to the dock around 11:00 and were on the ship by noon. It was not nearly the madhouse some people have reported it was. The porters took our baggage as soon as we got off the bus and then we went and stood in line inside the terminal. We were in the main line about 20 min's and then were escorted to another much smaller line in a different area of the building. We saw the yellow chairs but never sat in them and in fact I don't believe I saw anyone waiting in them at all. The second line was mainly for pictures so once we got through that section we were headed directly on board.
SHIP IMPRESSIONS: This being our first cruise we have nothing to compare it to, but we thought the Conquest was a really beautiful ship with an easy layout that doesn't take much to get use to. It was much larger than I had expected though. Deck 3, where you first get on the ship, is a large atrium with glass elevators. Carnival obviously wants to make a good first impression and I believe they succeeded.
1st DAY at SEA: Like so many others before us, we were told that our room would not be ready until about 2 p.m., so we ventured around the ship and started exploring once on board. We also got up to the Spa and received a small discount for booking two massages for later that night. (Nothing like starting a vacation off with a relaxing massage.) We purchased our fountain card, cost $44, which includes a carnival cup with lid. We took the advice of everyone here and only bought one and just shared the card rather than paying double. I'm sure we got our $44 worth out it. After walking around for a while we noticed it was almost 2 p.m. so we went up the cabin to see if it was ready. And indeed it was. We met our steward John, who was a great guy and made us a towel animal every night when they turned down the bed, and was very accommodating to our needs, as few as they were.
Our room was great. We had a balcony room and I'm glad we spent the extra money for it. We used it a lot. It's a beautiful view out to the deep blue. The showers are a little small but it serves its purpose and is not a distraction to the overall experience.
My wife and I were getting our massage when we pulled out of dock in New Orleans so we missed the turn around. Apparently this huge ship just spins around and then heads toward the sea. The people we spoke to that watched it said it was amazing how this huge ship could spin around like that in the Mississippi.
We made it a point to attend the Welcome Aboard show in which we met our cruise director Todd and his assistant Malcom. What a great team. Todd did an excellent job and attended nearly every show and activity that we went to.
We were set up for late seating (8:30 p.m.) for dining and met our waiter Erich and his assistant Joseph in the Renoir dining room the first night. These guys were great. Friendly, funny, attentive, everything we could have asked for and more.
The food in the dining room is spectacular. Absolutely no complaints at all.
We ended the evening by going to Karaoke in the Degauss bar which started at 10 p.m. This was really fun. I don't sing but my wife did several songs. The crowd was great and everyone really seemed to have a lot of fun.
ACTIVITIES: My wife and I made it a point to try to go to as many activities as possible. We went to the Win Lose or Draw game, Horse Racing, Newlywed Game, the Vegas show, a Magic show featuring "Deja", two or three comedy shows, (1 adult orientated), a juggler show, and a even a murder mystery show where some of the crew read from scripts and the guests had to try and determine who the murderer was based on the script and clues.
All of these were great. We especially enjoyed the comedy shows and the Magic show. Some people have said that the Vegas style show wasn't that good, but I thought it was well worth the time and very entertaining.
Even though the activities seemed to be spread out a little, meaning you would normally have 2 or maybe even 3 hours between something going on, I believe Carnival did a great job providing enjoyable things to do while on board.
PORTS OF CALL: Our first port was Jamaica. We had read a number of reviews so based on those we decided to spend most of the day at Sunset Beach. It's an all inclusive private beach resort just about 5 minutes away from the dock via taxi. The resort cost per person is $20. Well worth it. All the food and alcohol are included and you can even snorkel or use the paddleboats at no extra cost.
The water is extremely clear and very warm, so it's really a great place to relax at. They also had 2 pools and a hot tub that you can use.
We asked our taxi cab driver if he would come back and meet us at 12:30 to pick us up and take us downtown. At 12:30 he was exactly where he said he would be and drove us downtown for a little shopping. We didn't want to stay long before going back to the ship so the cab driver just waited for us. I believe we ended up paying him a total of about $30 for driving us to 3 different places and then back to the dock. Not a bad deal really. We used everyone's advice with the taxi as well and made sure we used the red license plate (certified) JUTA taxi service.
Our next port of call was suppose to be Grand Cayman, but Hurricane Dennis was coming that way so we got the heck out of Jamaica and our captain took us directly to Cozumel. We arrived Thur. night at around 8 p.m., a day early and stayed until the normal time of Fri (6 p.m.).
In Cozumel we enjoyed some local food, a little shopping and the Dolphin Swim experience. The Dolphin excursion is a little pricey ($160 ea) but I thought it was well worth the money. You just can describe what its like to interact with the Dolphins and have the chance to actually swim around with them.
With Dennis fast approaching U.S. landfall, our captain notified us that the delta had been closed and we would spend an extra day at sea. So he carefully set sail toward Galveston, with plenty of distance between us and the hurricane and sailed at about 6-7 kts so we stayed behind the storm. Once Dennis had made landfall we were approximately 45nm away from the delta of the Mississippi and they had re-opened it shortly there-after allowing entry back into the U.S.
We arrived back in port in New Orleans at about 1 or 2 a.m. on Monday, Jul 11th.
DISEMBARKATION: Carnival no longer uses the cabin call disembarkation, rather they use what they call a relaxed disembarkation which I felt was somewhat disorganized. At about 7 a.m. Todd announced that we could leave the ship. He mentioned that if you did not have urgent travel needs to stay aboard a little bit to allow those who did time to get off the ship making the lines smaller... I think almost everyone tried getting off the ship at 7 or a little after.
Although it probably only took about 40 or 50 min's to get off (getting our bags and going through customs) I felt a lot less relaxed about the process than I did with embarking.
OVERALL: Overall, this was a great vacation and cruise. I felt a lot of confidence in our Captain with the Hurricanes around us and did not feel worried at anytime because of it. He made every effort to keep us informed of where it was and what his intentions were.
We had a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone.
We would definitely sail with Carnival again. Maybe next time we'll get on the Eastern Caribbean cruise or maybe the Bahama cruise.