Carnival Conquest Review July 17- 24, 2005
I know that this review is long, but I really enjoyed reading all the information provided to me by reviews before I sailed. I just wanted to be able to help others make a well informed choice.
My husband and I decided on the Carnival Conquest because it sailed out of New Orleans, LA, it was Carnival's biggest ship and we thought we'd enjoy Carnival again (It had been 2 years) b/c we are in our 30's and they do have a young crowd. This was our 5th CCL cruise; we have been on the Tropicale, Celebration, Inspiration and Jubliee. We have also sailed with RCCL twice, the Splendour of the Seas and the Adventure of the Seas. We have enjoyed CCL in the past.
I also wanted to experience this ship for the fact that I have recently became an independent travel agent and most of the people from my home town that call me about cruising inquire about the ship and this sailing in particular. And, I thought, what better way to gain valuable info for customers than to experience it first hand. That way, I will know whether or not they would be happy with the ship or CCL.
New Orleans, LA
We arrived in New Orleans a day prior to the cruise. We stayed at the Hotel Maison DeVille, a very small old hotel in the French Quarter a half block off of the famous Bourbon Street. The hotel was definitely very "New Orleans". The experience is not to be missed while in the city, but I will not stay here again. The staff was friendly, the valet parking was good for $25 per night, and they had free internet access in the lobby, and complimentary croissant and Danish for breakfast. The location was very convenient; it was within walking distance to all the attractions in the French Quarter. The reason we will not stay again is due to the fact that we were not able to get any sleep. The hotel is very close to the bars on Bourbon and the music is so loud that it is heard in your room all night long. The bars do not close. The air conditioning in the room was not sufficient. It was hot and humid, the AC is a window unit that does not produce very cold air, and does not blow hard enough. We will choose a newer hotel next time, but it was worth the money we paid, just too hot!
We ate in New Orleans on Saturday night at The Court of Two Sister's; they have an entrance on Bourbon and one on Royal Ave. The restaurant is an outside lighted courtyard, very romantic. The food was very good and the menu offers a good selection of the famous New Orleans cuisine at reasonable prices. I would recommend the restaurant to anyone wanting to experience the city's famous dishes.
On Sunday morning, we left the hotel around 10AM to go to the Carnival Conquest parking lot near the pier. We arrived at the lot at 10:30AM; we parked the car, & got our luggage ready for the porters. I had to get the correct luggage tags from the porter b/c CCL had sent incorrect tags with my documents. I had made labels with our info on them to stick on the tags, to save the time. The porters came and took our luggage; it was loaded into a big truck. BEWARE!! No careful handling! We tipped the porter $10 for our 4 bags. We had to pay cash for the week's parking, it was $84. After paying and getting the luggage on its way, we went to a tent that was set up for you to wait in out of the sun. It was so hot!!! Buses were still unloading the passengers debarking. We waited in a short line (it was still early) until we were told by the bus drivers that we could board the bus to go to the pier, we were on the first bus from the lot and it was exactly 11AM. There were no CCL reps at the lot, only porters and bus drivers. We were dropped off outside the pier entrance, there were several hundred people still debarking the ship. We were allowed to go through the crowd and into the ship terminal. At the door, we had to show our boarding pass to the security guard.
Once inside the terminal, we were directed by CCL staff to the appropriate line, and handed a letter by CCL that informed us of a port change; the ship would not sail to Montego Bay, Jamaica due to Hurricane Emily. This was a safety hazard and the guest's safety must be ensured, so the port was canceled and we would be given a $25 credit per person on our sign and sail card. We went to the FUN PASS line; I had filled this out prior to arrival on the website for faster boarding. Once at the counter, we were asked for ID and our cruise Documents. I handed the lady our passports and docs. I asked if we were still going to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Cozumel was being destroyed by the hurricane that day! She said the captain would make the decision later, once the damage was assessed at the ports. A few minutes went by, with her entering data and then she said she needed our certified birth certificates and our credit card we were using for the sign and sail cards. I told her she had our passports, what did she need our birth certs for? She said we had to have those also. I had brought them, just in case!!! I was so glad that I did, b/c we thought you could travel anywhere with a passport! Who would have thought we'd need anything else!! Who knows...I'm just glad that I always prepare for the worst and take everything that I might need! She gave us all our docs back and told us we'd have to go to the Purser's Desk onboard to get our Sign and Sail Cards b/c they had not been printed out b/c I had switch our cabin since our original reservation was made. I had made the change a month prior to sailing, so I assume this was not enough time to get the cards remade.
We then proceeded to the room of yellow chairs that everyone talks about; it's now 11:30AM. People were saving seats for their family members who had gone to the restroom, there was a CCL lady screaming at them to move down and not save seats. Totally rude! Folks mostly ignored her; even other CCL employees were making fun of her, saying that she abused her power. We were on vacation, and she was terrible to CCL customers. We waited in this room until around noon, and then we were moved to another room of more chairs. We waited here about 10 minutes, and were told to get in the line for our embarkation picture. Then, you were off to the ship.
You enter the ship at deck 3, the Lobby Deck. We went immediately to the Purser's Desk on the same deck to get our Sign & Sail Cards. The line was only about 10 guests long, so this only took a few minutes. Once we had the cards, we had to go back to the ship's entrance and have our security picture made. This was how we'd be accounted for when exiting the ship at ports. Everyone else had it taken once you reached the ship entrance, but we had no card then, so we had to come back to this, we were allowed to cut in line to have this done.
We went up to check out our cabin first. We were an 8D, a balcony cabin on deck 9 Lido Deck, forward port side. The cabin was ready when we arrived at 12:30PM. The cabin was a lot bigger than we expected, it was as big as the suites we had in the past on CCL & RCCL, which were called mini-suites. The room itself was plenty large with lots of storage space, a mini-bar, big sofa, table, vanity mirror to set at to get ready. The hair dryer was in the top drawer on a cord that was not able to be moved from the area. Take your own, it has little power. The bathroom was small, but nice. The shower was very small, and you had a hard time keeping the shower curtain in the stall. If it was not tucked inside the shower just right, water would go all over the floor. This happened several times. The bathroom had plenty of storage for toiletries; shampoo and soap were in a dispenser in the shower. The soap was Lever 2000, the shampoo was not labeled. There was a basket of samples for your use that included toothpaste, razors, floss, lotion, etc...
The balcony was big enough for two people, but no more. It had two chairs and a small table. The panel's b/t the balconies did open, so you could share with your neighbor, if you liked. The balconies were somewhat private; you could see into the balconies beside you, but not very good. We could not see in the ones above or below us.
The noise on this deck was not bad. We were near the glass elevators. The self-service laundry ($2 wash & $2 to dry) was on this deck, buffet meals, the grill, deli, wok, ice cream, pizza, and the pools. It was a very good location; we made a good choice on this cabin. The room steward was very attentive to our needs. We were left towel animals almost every night, ice, extra hangers (There is only 6 in the closets), she returned our pool towels to the pool towel check out for us (You had to go to the towel stand and check out a towel for the pool with your card, and it had to be returned by 5PM), and she always left clean beach towels. They leave two beach towels in your room to take to the pool, but if you wanted more than one a piece to use, you had to go to the pool towel stand for another one.
The dining was just average for a cruise. On the Lido deck, there was the buffets with several lines with different choices available. They had a line called the "Taste of Nations", one day it was Italian, then Mexican, then Thai, then Caribbean, and so on. The last day it was the Chocolate Buffet. This was just one of the many buffet lines. They had other lines that consisted of traditional cruise fare. We did not eat at these buffets much. The food all tasted the same. They had a salad bar, fruit bar, dessert bar, coffee, tea, water, and juices too. I must admit that breakfast was the best meal. There were two omelet stations, you could get omelets or eggs cooked any way you liked and were good. They had lots of dry cereal, fruit, danishes, meats, eggs, pancakes, french toast, etc... and my favorite was the cinnamon rolls.
The grill served hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and french fries. Nothing spectacular.
Pizza and ice cream were available 24 hours a day. The pizza was very good. If the pizza you preferred was not on the line, they'd prepare it. The ice cream was great, as always.
We did not eat at the Wok, Deli, or Sur Mer.
The dining room food was better than expected. We ate in the Renoir. Greg was our waiter. We went every night, except one night at The Point. We were encouraged to try more than one of all the courses. Of course, we did not take advantage of this, and only ordered what we knew we'd eat. Our table was for 8 and the first night we had 6 , then the next two nights we had 4, then the last 4 nights of the cruise, we had just the two of us. We assume since we were the only ones dining that our waiter figured why not encourage us to try more than one thing...No one else assigned to our table was eating! My husband had two lobsters and always had the steak on the menu and then another entrEe. All the food was good, and prepared to our liking. We requested a baked potato one night when it wasn't on the menu and got it with no problem. The bar service in the dining room was excellent. The only disappointment in the dining room was the dessert; I had remembered them being much better. Although, the ice cream was really good. We did not go to the dining room for lunch or breakfast. We preferred the casual areas at that time of day. I will say that the dress code for the dining rooms was not enforced.
The Point was good. I had the Filet Mignon and my husband had the lobster. I could not tell the difference b/t this steak and the one from the dining room. The lobster was a 12oz and the ones in the dining were 6oz, the quality and the way it was prepared was the same. In the dining room, you could order two lobsters, so it was really nothing special. The dessert here was the highlight of the Point dining experience. But, the dessert was not worth the $30 pp we paid to dine. The service was also lacking. Overall, it was something we should have skipped. Just my opinion.
Cafe Fans on the Promenade Deck 5, had specialty coffees, tea, lattes, cappuccino, cakes, cookies, ice creams, chocolate covered strawberries. Very good quality desserts. I wish this was the case i the dining room. Cake was $2 a slice. Choc. strawberries were $2 for 3, or $1 each.
All the bars were adequate. The service on the pool deck was slow, but it was so many people. I also do not think the drinking age was enforced too well. It was suppose to be 21.
We attended both of the Las Vegas type shows with the CCL dancers and singers. Show times were at 7PM for late diners and 9PM for the early diners. This was the times everyday except for maybe one night when the late diners had a show after dinner at 10:30PM. The shows were good, lots of color and the dancing was some of the best that I have seen. The costumes were really creative. The dancers do wear thongs, so be prepared. The singers were average. This was very different from others shows we have seen at sea. Normally, the singers are professional quality.
The comedy shows, both the family and R Rated ones were funny. The funniest one was Mark Rueben. Phat Cat was also good. The R rated shows were very R rated!
The other nighttime shows were average. We had a Magician and a juggler.
The poolside entertainment consisted of the same games we have seen in the past on CCL. They had a Hairy Chest Contest, Survivor games, pool games, deck parties. The Mardi Gras party on Tuesday night was way too crowded. Too many folks onboard.
Other entertainment consisted of the Newly Wed Game show, a Murder Mystery Game, it was the first time it had been done, and it showed, it was a total disaster. There was a lady sleeping, her head kept bobbing back and forth. The game hosts and the participants could not quit laughing at her. Totally disrupted the show, but I have to admit, it was the funniest thing I have seen in awhile. She never knew anyone was watching! There was Bingo, raffles, art auctions (there were some good deals and nice art), disco parties, gym glasses, spa seminars, past guest parties, singles parties, and much more...
The Captains Welcome Party was nice with free drinks, although it was difficult to get a non-alcoholic beverage. It was held in the Degas lounge which was way too small for the crowds.
On the last night of the cruise at 11PM, the cruise staff, the Cruise Director, Todd along with Kevin, Sarah, Lucas, Greg and the comedian Mark Rueben performed an comedy show like "Who's Line is it anyway". This was very funny but very weird. I was shocked that the staff while on duty was allowed to act the way they did. They all seemed to be drunk & kept requesting more beers. I guess this enabled them to perform better than if they had been sober. It may have all been an act. They might have been pretending to be drunk! I do know that the show was funny, but very, very crude. The show was entertaining and a lot of folks attended, too many for the Degas lounge. We arrived early and still had trouble finding a seat. Too many folks on this cruise!
There are four pools. The Aft pool, that could be covered in bad weather, the mid-deck pool, and the forward pool. All of these were always crowded and getting a deck chair after 9AM was almost impossible. The rule No Chair Hogs was not enforced. We are early risers and were able to beat the crowds. The kid's pool was in the Camp Carnival area. We only seen it from a distance and it was very small. All pools were very small. One of the most disappointing things of the entire cruise was that the Jacuzzis were closed everyday due to technical upgrades.
I never went to the spa or used any of the services. My husband did have the Gentle Teeth Whitening treatment. It is guaranteed to whiten your teeth up to 10 times whiter. This did work and was painless. The spa did advertise many treatments and specials on port days.
The Ship Overall:
The biggest negative thing about the ship is that the public areas are too small for the number of passengers onboard. It was always a problem. CCL needs to reduce the number of passengers or add more shows to the line up to disperse the crowds.
The ship staff was very vague about the ports, the weather forecast, the shore excursions, etc... There was never a factual statement until the last minute. Never any remorse about mistakes. Like going to Cozumel too soon after the hurricane.
There were many "1st Timers" onboard and had it been my first time to sail on this particular sailing, I would never cruise again. Thank goodness, we have cruised several times and knew that this was a freak occurrence. We even told all the first timers we came across to not assume all cruises were this bad, b/c they were not, to give cruising another try and to avoid hurricane season if at all possible.
I know weather can not be avoided and it was our choice to sail during hurricane season, but CCL should have handled the situation better. Never once, were we told that they were sorry for not having better info. Decisions were made too late. We had one port canceled all together, another one that was so damaged by Hurricane Emily that the island had no power and the buildings were damaged. Can you imagine what the risk of infection was on that island, who had been without power for 4 days. They were in no shape to accept visitors. Why did we go there? Other CCL ships were rerouted to other destinations, why wasn't the Conquest? 90% of all shore tours were canceled, all you could do was shop at stores in the dark!
We were not offered anything by CCL! They chose to take us there, which could have been a safety issue. At least, we could have been given a discount on a future sailing. This might save their business with all the 1st timers, at least with a discount certificate they might sail with CCL again. I have a family trip planned on the Sensation for Thanksgiving, but after that,I don't think we'll go with CCL anymore.
This ship is geared to the younger crowd or the crowd who drinks a lot and enjoys crowded areas with lots of other people. This is not for us anymore, but could be enjoyed by diehard party goers. The service wasn't great and the line just isn't very plush. It's not really my idea of a vacation anymore. I like to be pampered, not fighting for chairs at the pool or the show lounges, or having to find a bar server to get a drink that comes 30 minutes later and then it's hot! I want to go on a line that cares about their customers, not just about the numbers.
We were unable to go to Jamaica due to Hurricane Emily, for our own safety. This could not be helped by CCL, but we did hear that other ships ported there. We received the letter from CCL upon entering the terminal at embarkation. The shore excursions that we had booked via the website was credited to our Sign & Sail account, as well as $25 pp for the missed port. I was not looking forward to the island anyway, so this wasn't true disappointment.
We love the island, but the weather was terrible. No fault to CCL on this one either! The Captain reported the weather to be sunny that say before! I guess the storm developed overnight.
We booked the ship's excursion to Stingray City at 7:30 AM. We had to meet at 6:45AM to board the tender to the island and we the first grp on the island. We met our tour guide on the pier, then we walked a few blocks to the buses to take us to meet our boat for Stingray City.
We could swim for about 45 minutes, then we went back for the bus to town. As soon as we got off the bus it started raining. We walked to an indoor/outdoor restaurant to eat. While eating, a storm blew in, and I mean a STORM! Made me very nervous.
We went shopping. It was miserable b/c it was raining. The rain slacked up about 1:30PM, so we decided we'd better try to catch the tender while the weather had improved. The ride back was uneventful...I was glad, b/c I have been on rockin' tenders in the past. I expected the worst, but we got lucky!! Many on our ship did not get that lucky. We heard later, that some even got caught in the tender during the STORM!!
The Captain said the weather would be partly cloudy, so much for that again. Rain! Rain!
This is one of my favorite ports, but we feel CCL should have made the decision to skip on the sailing. The island was in shambles. The only place on the island with power was the downtown shopping strip. We did not go there, but heard from others that it had a lot of damage. We shopped at the pier in the dark, they had no power. Some of the bigger shops had generators that allowed them to have some lights on, but mainly they had them to operate the computers systems for purchases.
The island had a lot of damage! The windows were blown out from most shops! And most roofs were damaged in some way.
The ship canceled most of the shore excursions too! The tour operators did not have the supplies or staff to function that soon after the hurricane. This was a huge disappointment for some. Ours was canceled and it was best, b/c it rained all day! We had booked the Passion Island excursion.
The island w/o power worried us. We felt like this was a huge safety concern and CCL should not have took us there. No apologies were given!!
I hope you can use my review. I do not intend to bash the cruise line, just give some honest information. I think that the evil culprit here was not the cruise line, but hurricane season. I have sailed twice before during the season and been very lucky and had great weather. I guess two out of three isn't too bad!
A bad day on vacation is better than a good day at work!!! We still had a good time!