This was our first experience with cruising so we went in with open minds although I tried to prepare as much as possible by reading the Cruise Critic boards and reading all of the wonderful hints and tips. I will try to be as detailed as possible on embarkation and debarkation as well as try to put in all of the things that I wanted to know. I hope that I don't leave anything out but we did so many things that it is hard to remember them all. My daughter went to Camp Carnival so I included a small review on that separately at the end. Just a note, we took ginger root capsules twice daily beginning a couple of days before our cruise and even with rough seas we didn't have a problem with sea sickness. I also included a small list of things that you shouldn't forget to pack at the end of the review.
Embarkation, Boarding and Sail Away
We arrived at the Galveston terminal at 9:30. Our luggage was promptly taken by a porter and we took the car to the EZCruise Parking lot (www.EZCruiseParking.com). It was a short 2 block walk back to the terminal. We took the escalator upstairs and sat in the two rows of chairs at 9:50. At 10:10 we were taken to the security screening section and on to check in where we received our sail and sign cards. We sat in the last row of the section of chairs to the far left (when facing them) as we had read to do from previous cruisers (Thank You). A gentleman told us that it would be approximately 2:00 PM before we could board. Several of our Cruise Critic group arrived and we had a wonderful time getting to know everyone. We had such a good time that another guest(Ron) and his wife came up and joined our party. At 12:15 the gentleman returned and advised that we would be boarding at 12:30. He returned at exactly 12:30 and our section was the first to board.
We promptly went up to the Lido deck (9) where a buffet lunch was waiting. We then spent some time exploring the ship and discovered the 24 hour pizza and ice cream. We checked our room at 1:45 and it was ready so we could leave our carry-on luggage. The room was well made and extremely clean with no smoke smell. We then took a tour of Spa Carnival and the Gym area. They were offering specials for those who took the tour.
We checked our room around 4:45 for our luggage and found that it had all been delivered so we were able to completely unpack before sail away. I was surprised at the amount of storage space that we had. There was enough room under the bed for our two suitcases, 2 hanging bags and carry-on luggage to be stored underneath. We were called for the life boat drill at approximately 5:20 and it went very quickly. I don't think we were there over 15 minutes or so. We went back up to the Lido deck for sail away. The ship began moving at 6:00 PM. We stayed on deck until we were into the Galveston channel. It was quite windy that night and a little cool.
We had 5:45 dinner so we missed the main dining room that night. We ate the buffet again with pizza for a snack. The pizza was very good although they only have a small selection but they also offer Caesar salads there which were quite good.
Since it was Halloween on Monday, the crew had created a haunted house for all of the guests. We had to wait in line but it was well worth the wait. I would consider it to be one of the best that I have seen.
They transformed the Montmarte teen lounge into a multiple scene haunted house. The decorations and costumes were great and the crew really portrayed their characters well. My personal favorite was Jason (Friday the 13th ). I am glad that we went that night because the next morning the Montmarte had been completely transformed back to its original state. I was amazed that they did all of that in one night.
Day 1 Fun Day At Sea -- The weather was beautiful for the first day. I began my day with a wonderfully relaxing facial in the spa. We then spent time around the pool and slide area before having lunch. We tried sandwiches from the deli and found that everything that we tried was good. The Hairy Chest Contest was hilarious and our new friend Ron was declared the winner. We met our Cruise Critic group at the Sky Bar for an afternoon of fun before heading to dinner. Dinner in the Monet dining room was very good with lobster and prime rib both offered. After dinner everyone changed into costumes for the grand Halloween party. There were lots of people who brought costumes and some were very original. The overall winner dressed as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. We again spent an evening with our Cruise Critic friends near the Sky Pool. The seas were quite rough so walking around became interesting. It was reported that seas were 12 ft+. It made me glad that we were on deck 1 midship. It wasn't bad in our cabin compared to the upper decks.
Day 2 Fun Day At Sea -- After a quick breakfast I started today off with a trip to the steam room and a nice relaxing soak in the jacuzzi and a nice long shower in the spa area. The port shopping talk with Neil the Super Shopper was this morning. He gave lots of tips on the three ports that we were visiting. For lunch we had sandwiches again from the deli accompanied by salads from the pizza place. We then spent the afternoon near the pools. There were lots of activities around the pool area with Battle of the Sexes and Survivor. All of the activities were great! There was also an art auction that afternoon. We again dined in the Monet dining room. I didn't care for the selection that night so our waiter ordered a Filet Mignon for me which was excellent. We then went to the first show of the cruise which was Formidable. It was a nice show with lots of dancing and singing. A very professional performance. The night ended with a relaxing time spent on deck 3.
Day 3 Montego Bay, Jamaica -- The weather was again beautiful in Jamaica. I made it up for the sunrise which shouldn't be missed. You can watch as the ship comes into port. The view of the island as you come in is beautiful. We had breakfast from the buffet before going onshore. We took a cab(JUTA) which took us to shops near Margaritaville to pick up a couple of souvenirs. The people there were quite pushy so as soon as we had a T-shirt we then walked the couple of blocks to Margaritaville. We had a table on the back deck with a wonderful view of the water and the Conquest in the distance. We had a great lunch and stayed for a couple of hours before heading back to the ship. We had dinner in the dining room and it was very good. Our servers were really great. We went to the magic show featuring Deja from Las Vegas. It was a great show, one not to be missed. She combined traditional magic with illusions. Another port tomorrow so we turned in early.
Day 4 Grand Cayman -- We woke up and went up on deck as Grand Cayman came into view. We watched as we came in and anchored just at sunrise. The tender boats were already out and waiting for the ship. We took an early tender into town but found out that most of the shops didn't open until 8:30 - 9:00. We walked around and found where our tour was leaving from and picked up a couple of souvenirs in one of the shops. We took the Stingray City tour with Captain Bryans on the Buccaneer. The weather was terrible and it was raining as we got ready to leave but they said the tour would go and it would clear up(They were wrong.). We arrived at Stingray City but it was crowded so they went to 2 spots to snorkel first. It was still raining and the waves were quite high so everyone came back to the boat quickly at each stop. We made it back to Stingray City and it was still crowded in my opinion. It was raining and the waves were high so I watched from onboard. The stingrays didn't disappoint and it was amazing to see how friendly they were. Since the weather was miserable we couldn't wait to get back to the Conquest. The last tender to the ship was at 3:00 so we didn't waste time getting in line. I am sure it would be a wonderful trip if the weather is good. We ordered room service which was delivered very quickly and was quite good. The show for the night was Point and Click but we didn't attend that one although my daughter did and said that it was very good and the music was great. We went to the buffet later for a light dinner, looked at photos and checked out the casino before heading to sit on the deck off the main lobby and relax. We had it to ourselves for over an hour before heading to bed.
Day 5 - Playa Del Carmen -- We got up early again and watched as the ship anchored off of Playa Del Carmen. It was again cloudy but not raining there. We were warned that this was the first time that a ship had anchored there and used tenders. We had a ship tour so we had to meet early to be taken down to the tenders. They were using the ferry's that normally run between Cozumel and Playa Del Carmen so they were very large although due to it being the first time it took longer for them to tie up to the ship so that we could board. We were the first ship to visit there since Hurricane Wilma hit so the people there were very glad to have visitors. The pier was damaged and the top was gone. There were areas of the pier where the concrete had been eaten away. They were very well organized though and had many signs and people to direct you to your tours. We took a bus trip to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum. It was a 45-50 minute drive and you could see the poor people there that were living in their damaged homes. Some were missing walls and roofs but still inhabited. It began to rain just as we came to Tulum. Our bus driver was prepared and had umbrellas for us to use. The ruins were very interesting and the guides were very well versed in the Mayan culture. We were there for a couple of hours before the bus trip back to the city. There was a large line for tenders when we returned so we didn't look at any of the shops there. The line sent slowly because of the problems with the tenders tying up to the ship. We finally made it back but too late for our dinner so we went to the buffet again. I was always able to find something good there and enjoyed it every time. The talent show was that night but we didn't attend. We spent some relaxing time with books on the decks off the main lobby.
Day 6 Fun Day At Sea -- We woke up late and had a nice breakfast by the Sky Pool overlooking the wake of the ship. It was one of my favorite places to sit. I spent some time in the steam room and in the jacuzzi in the Gym. Both are very good for relaxation. I then started on my packing. It is hard to believe that the week is over. The debarkation talk was at 11:00 so we attended it before heading to lunch. The chocolate buffet was today so we sampled lots of the chocolate goodies before spending some time in the sun on deck 11 with a nice drink and a good book. The afternoon went by quickly. We went to our last dinner in the Monet dining room and had a wonderful prime rib dinner. We then went back to our room to finish up our packing which took longer that I thought. We watched a movie that was offered and spent time reading on the deck off of the Main Lobby area. It was quiet there again.
Day 7 Debarkation -- We woke at 5:45 so that we could gather all of our luggage and be ready for self-assist debarkation which was scheduled to start around 6:15. They began to call decks promptly and we were to be the last deck called. We waited about 20 minutes or so before we headed to the lounge area to wait for our deck to be called. When we arrived there we were told that since we had all of our things we could debark immediately. It only took 40 minutes from the time that we stepped off the ship and onto the gangplank until we stepped out of the terminal. I was impressed with that time it took for customs as I expected it to take longer. Our shuttle from EZ Cruise Parking was waiting when we arrived at their loading area. By 8:30 we were in the car with all of our luggage.
It was a wonderful trip and I hate that we didn't have time to see everything and participate in all of the activities. The entire staff was great and everything exceeded my expectations from boarding to debarkation. The only thing that I thought could use improvement was the desserts that were offered on the buffet. They were not very good in my opinion. We ordered room service on several occasions and it was always delivered promptly within 15 minutes. The gift shop offered specials each day but had good sales on the last day at sea. You might find it to your advantage to wait until then to purchase something. The spa also offered specials on port days as well as the last day at sea at a considerable discount. I really didn't find smoke to be a problem in most parts of the ship. Only in the bars and casino area where you would expect that there would be smokers.
Camp Carnival -- My daughter who is 11 went to Camp Carnival on Monday morning. I don't think she thought that she would like it but she absolutely loved it! The counselors are great and had activities planned for their age group. They did very interesting scavenger hunts, crafts and art activities and played games. By the second day she didn't want to spend any time with us and hated it when the camp closed for the couple of hours each day for lunch. She even wanted to have dinner with them each evening instead of with us. They also offered 2 nights of late night parties for a small charge. They had pizza and played games until 3:30 am and a counselor would walk each of them to their rooms afterwards and insure that they made it in safely so that the parents could sleep. I think that this is the best program that Carnival offers. It really keeps the kids entertained and allows the parents a little free time as well as keeping the kids from bothering the other passengers. There were 450 kids onboard and I rarely saw any of them other than my own.
I am already looking forward to taking another cruise in the future!
Don't forget to pack:
Ginger Root Capsules for seasickness. An extension cord and a power strip ( only 1 plug in ) Clothespins - place them a few inches apart along the bottom of the shower curtain to keep it in place. A night light - especially for inside cabins as it is very dark. Ziploc Bags - I used them for different things. Large ones were good for packing wet shoes when we returned home. A post-it note pad and pen for leaving notes for the steward and each other. Lots of $1 and $5 bills for tips, taxis and bargaining in ports(they don't like to give change). An underwater camera First Aid Kit - I included cold/sinus medicine, Imodium, Tylenol, Band-Aids, etc. Whatever you might need as they were expensive onboard. A light jacket as the nights on deck and inside at night can be cool. Small packaged snacks for excursions. A small sewing kit and safety pins. We found that decorating our door made it easier to find so find some interesting things for that. I used a halloween garland around the door and it was highly visible. Scotch tape - for the decorations.