We sailed out of New Orleans on August 7th. My husband and I, our son (18), daughter (22) and her boyfriend (24)were traveling together. Flew in from Seattle on Saturday the 6th and stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott on Julia Street. The floor we were on was being remodeled and was horrible, rooms were ok. We were close enough to walk to the pier easily however and despite 7 suitcases between five of us arrived at the pier without difficulty at about 10:30. People were still coming off the ship but by 11:00 we were able to enter the check in area and hand over our baggage. We were on the ship by noon. Had to wait in the notorious yellow chairs but it is air conditioned and comfortable and not a big deal.
Once on the ship the buffet is open for a hearty lunch and our cabins were ready and luggage delivered by 3:00 or earlier.
Food -- The dining room staff was excellent. The food was ok but not fabulous. We have cruised with Holland previously and felt the food was better especially in the dining room. Pizza was good but there was often a line. Sandwiches at Paul's deli were excellent, rarely a line there. The Chinese food was also excellent. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries always available as was soft serve ice cream.
Cleanliness of ship -- I thought it was kept up quite well. I saw some dishes around but they were always picked up promptly. Some carpets in hallways had stains but they were constantly cleaning them. People can be real slobs sometimes, I think they do the best they can! Our cabin was maintained well.
Ports of call -- Jamaica was our least favorite. We went on the Appleton Rum Factory tour. It was good except for a 2 hour plus bus ride over very curving and dangerous roads. Had it not been for the skill of our driver I'm not sure we would have made it! Some people got sick on the bus ride. Do not do this tour if you are at all prone to motion sickness! Grand Cayman was our favorite, we booked a stingray and snorkel tour through Captain Marvin's. Excellent! The ship's boats were double deckers with perhaps 100 on board. Our boat had 10 of us with three crew, and it was cheaper than the ship's. I highly recommend Captain Marvin's. The stingrays were the highlight of our trip. Cozume -- We opted for the Tour of the ruins of Tulum. This meant we had to spend all of our time there on the tour but the ruins were spectacular. We did not get to do any shopping on Cozumel which we were disappointed about.
Entertainment -- The shows on the ship were not that great. We went to almost all of them. Be sure to attend the Captain's cocktail party, free drinks for a change! We played bingo once but felt the payoffs were not good. The Conquest has a large casino and we profited greatly at the blackjack tables. Slots were very tight.
We took a six pack of pop on board and didn't even drink it all. There is always juice, water, milk and chocolate milk, coffee, iced tea, and hot chocolate available for free. The drinks on board can be pricey but the shore excursions are really overpriced. I recommend booking with outside agencies whenever you can. Book so that you allow plenty of time to get back to the ship on time and with agencies that are recommended and you will save a lot of money and get away from the crowds.
Overall we had a great time. This is not an itinerary that allows for great shopping like the Eastern Caribbean does, but we enjoyed seeing different ports of call. Our children had fun too, but weren't into the partying too much so the activities were just ok for them.