We got to Galveston the day before the cruise and stayed at Holiday Inn on the Beach. For $99 dollars we had a beach front room, free parking for the duration of the cruise and a free shuttle to and from the port. It was clean and convenient.
The night before the cruise we had a scare. Joyce, one of the ladies in our group (there were 12 of us, including 3 teenagers and a 9 y/o) saw our birth certificates and realized hers looked different. Hers had her feet on it. You guessed it, it was a hospital record not an official birth cert. I didn't think they would let her sail. When we got to the port at about noon, we went thru a 5 minute line and were processed. They didn't ask for my group (of four) to even show ID other than our fun-pass. They did ask Joyce for hers but when she said it was all she had for a birth certificate the Carnival rep said "No Problem" and escorted her straight to the picture area and let her go to the front of the line. Weird. Disaster averted. The rest of us were on board about 10 minutes later. Easiest embarkation I have ever been a part of!
We went to our room and met our room stewardess, Rasa. She was wonderful! One of the most visible stewards we have ever had. The teens thought her accent was cool and wanted a picture with her when we left. She spoke with us every day and always left a different towel creature. Once she did what looked like an Eskimo child, once a kung-fu bunny! The room was always immaculate and with four in a room, I'm sure that wasn't easy. She always made sure we had plenty of towels and ice.
We then went to eat lunch at Sur Mer. It took a little while to find it the first time but it was well worth it. Nice, fresh-tasting seafood.
The muster drill came next. It was relatively quick and easy. Not many whistle blowers .
We had most of our luggage by the time the drill was over and got all unpacked and organized. The over the door shoe rack was a great idea!! Kudos to whoever first had that thought. We kept phones, Gameboys, games, pens, notepads, cameras and tons of other stuff there and never had to search the room the what we wanted. A+ idea that I highly recommend to anyone not in a suite. We hooked our short Bungie cord to the balcony door and loved the sound of the waves and the breeze. We did not need a magnet to keep the AC running but as cool as it was most of the sea days, the AC wasn't running much anyway. **Note of warning--If you have your balcony bungied open and open the cabin door, any clothes on the balcony will go flying off!
That night we went to our 6:15 dinner in the Renoir. We loved it. It was the early dinner but not as early as the Monet (5:45 or 6 I think). We had two female servers Mire from Macedonia and Lesya from the Ukraine. They were quick and attentive. They encouraged us to have seconds or to have 2 choices any time we couldn't decide what to get. If we didn't like something they would notice and offer to replace it. Several nights we had audience participation dancing after the dinner. It was a good way to burn some of the calories we had just eaten. Even the teens enjoyed it! We never felt rushed, even when we were almost the last ones there. The girls took great care of the kids. They made sure the kids got their food first and so the parents had them settled and were ready to eat when their own food came. Very thoughtful. The food during the week was wonderful. The steaks were tender and juicy. Any night we wanted we could add a baked potato to our meals. Sometimes the sides were a little too gourmet for us. We are Okies after all! The soups as starters were the best. Delicious. Gumbo, lobster bisque, navy bean soup, strawberry soup, black bean soup--Yummmmm. The desserts were very nicely served and always very rich. Teramisu (sp?) had a wonderful cream on top, the bread pudding was the best I have ever had, creme brulee--what else is there to say??
The sea days were lots of fun but very windy. We had white caps on our drinks on the upper decks--no kidding! Malcolm was the cruise director for our week. He is a young guy from New York. He was funny and seemed to be having a good time. The only disappointment with the cruise staff was a minor one. The activities director -Mouna- was terrible. She was disorganized and erratic. She called herself Moody Mouna and she wasn't wrong.
The shows were fun. We hit most of them and never found them to be raunchy. My 13 y/o son was a bit embarrassed by the costumes but the older guys seemed pretty happy with them . The piano bar has a new guy-Brad. He is from Canada and is quite the musician. He had notebooks sitting out with all of the different songs that he has available for request and does a mean "Great Balls of Fire." Lots of fun sing alongs. Marc Rueben the Showtime ventriloquist/comedian was hilarious. Both of his shows were great. He also hung out at the Piano bar. Actually, all of the live music was wonderful. We had an independent group of Cajun Musicians on board (a 200 person group) and so the audience participation was probably better than normal. The deck music the southern guys/gals did was great.
Excursions: When we got to Montego bay, we went to Sunset Beach. Wonderful resort! We took a taxi/shuttle and paid $24 for the 12 of us to get there. The cabbie asked when we wanted him to take us back and was right there at 4 to take us to the ship. Very easy. The resort itself cost $40 for adults and teens and $20 for the kids. We got a towel voucher when we checked in and then just traded wet for dry when we needed to. The fee included towels, food, alcohol, soft-drinks, paddle boats, canoes, snorkel gear, ping-pong, water slides, a lazy river, several beautiful pools, lounge chairs on quiet, white-sand beaches, shopping, inner tubes. Basically everything you need to have an incredible day on the beach. The jerk chicken was spicy and tender. The fru-fru drinks packed a punch! They were definitely not watered down. They would make fruit smoothies for the teens or kids if asked. We got there about 8:30 am and left at 4pm. This was probably the best excursion I have ever had! Can't wait to go back.
We did not get to go ashore at Cayman. The port authority decided the current was too dangerous to allow tenders. Bummer. We did get a $25 per person room credit.
Since we didn't get to go to Cayman, we did another all inclusive at Cozumel. We had planned to just go ashore to shop a little but one of the families in our group booked a Carnival excursion to Playa Mia. It was about $75 per person and sounded a lot like Sunset Beach. We waited and just took a taxi to the same place and only paid $12 per person to get in and then a total of about $30 dollars in food and tips. It was very crowded and felt very commercial. If you want to do this for some reason, you are better off just going directly there. If you still want the all-inclusive it is $42 dollars. The basic for $12 seemed a much better bargain but then we didn't have any alcohol. If you planned to do much drinking you could probably drink the $30 per person fairly quickly. We did get an outdoor massage and it was nice. All in all, not an excursion I would recommend or repeat.
Poor Cozumel is so beat up. It looks like something out of a war movie. Trees down everywhere, rusting cars, broken buildings. Sigh. The good thing is that their attitude is in the right place. People smiling and working to re-build.
Other thoughts about the cruise--*Going to the spa for showers worked great for us. We were in 1064, just one deck down from the spa. They had plenty of hot water, shampoo and towels. That way we could all get ready for formal night at the same time. The hot tub in the spa was never crowded. We used it 4 or 5 times and often it was just the 2 of us.
*On days that you need to get a tender ticket go get 'em before breakfast and then eat and then go back and you should be ready to go. Tendering was the only time on the whole cruise that the Conquest felt crowded. They say don't leave the lounge once you have a number because if they call it and you aren't there you have to take a new number. Well, no loss there. If you have to get a new number you would have just been getting a number anyway. Take your chances and it may speed you up quite a bit.
*Don't forget room service! It was wonderful each morning to wake to fruit and coffee. Once everyone was up and at 'em we would still go down and have a regular seating at breakfast. Lovely BLT's from room service.
*Just a friendly reminder-if you are at the tables in the casino don't forget to tip your dealers when you are winning!
Well, that's all I can think of for now. The ship was beautiful, the staff was friendly and efficient, and the food was never-ending. Life is good.