Background Information: This was our first cruise and the entire family agree, it's a wonderful vacation. We took our two girls with us and they continue to rave about the greatness of this trip.
Travel To Port of Embarkation: We drove from North Texas to Galveston. We elected to stay in the Woodlands, just north of Houston. From there it's about a 1 1/2 hour drive to Galveston. Got there about 3PM. Plenty of time to take my wife and daughters to the Woodlands Mall. Very nice. Stayed at the Drury Inn. Extremely nice place. Had a suite for only $84 per night. Easy drive the next Morning to Galveston.
Stateroom: We had a balcony, forward, on the Port side, Deck 10. Short walk to the open area of Deck 9 and the swimming pool, hot tubs, water slide, sunbathing, hamb. grill, pizza counter etc. My wife and I both commented how well we slept. Everything was so clean and so comfortable.
Dining: Our evening assigned dining area was the Monet Dining room. Two floors of dining with windows all around. We had the greatest waiters, Antonio and Buda. They made us feel like royalty. Their calmness and pleasant smiles really added to the relaxing atmosphere of this vacation. Well worth an additional tip. The food selection were more than enough each night. I usually tried at least two of the main entrees and sometimes three. The same with the desserts. Breakfast at the buffet was always good. Discovered the second morning you could get omelettes or just eggs cooked anyway you like at a special fry area. Fruits and cereals were in abundance also. We did use room service which was very quick and complete.
Service: If I haven't said it before all the service was excellent, from our room attendants, to waiters in the evening to Pursers, to Excursion assistance and cafeteria support staff. Just wonderful.
Entertainment: You won't run out of opportunities. We shared in a '60/'70s trivia game, enjoyed the scheduled shows in the Toulouse Latrec Theatre, and couldn't get away from the "One Man Band" Diamond Jeff in the Casino Bar area. He is a great entertainer and keeps it so much fun.
Shore Excursions: In Jamaica, I highly recommend simply taking a taxi to the Sunset Beach Resort. For $40 per person, you can snorkel, use paddle boats, or two person kayaks, eat as much as you want and also, drink as much as you want. There are three separate beautiful pools, a water slide and a lazy river tube float. Very nice and well worth the money. I don't recommend even wasting your time going to City Centre for shopping. Save the shopping for Cozumel.
In the Grand Cayman, it's swimming with the Stingrays. We booked on-line with Soto's. It saves you $10 per person. A three hour excursion starting at 9:30am. First stop, a beautiful coral reef with 10-12 feet of water. Excellent snorkeling. Then it's off to the Sandbar known as Stingray City. These are the most loving creatures. Make sure you hold one and let it swim right up to your face. For me, this area of 3-4 feet of water in the vast expanse of the ocean was just fabulous. Just walking around in the perfect temperature of the water with your feet in the softest sand imaginable was very relaxing.
Finally, it was Cozumel. We took the Hideaway speedboat excursion. What a blast. 3- 45 minutes of wavy speedboat driving to our own little Island resort. There we were treated to Chicken Fajitas, Cheese Quesadillas, Nachos, Pepsi or Water (Good Water). Sorry, no alcohol. After all you are driving. We had a whole hour to do as we pleased while on the Island. Swim, play beach volleyball, eat some more, catch a few winks under the beach umbrellas. Highly recommend this excursion. A bit pricey at $95 per person, but I felt as though we got our money's worth.
Disembarkation: This went fairly smoothly. Since we were on Deck Level 10, we were the first to Disembark with the folks on Deck 11. We began the process at about 9am and by 10am we were in our vehicle which we parked in the secure parking area for $70 for the week and we were headed for home, 5 hours away.
Summary: It took me until Tuesday of the next week to really realize how much fun and relaxation this cruise was. It was our first, but it's not our last. Next time we will know better how to relax even more. If you're looking for a first cruise suggestion, I recommend the Conquest. We had smooth seas and every day was full of sunshine. The sunrises and sunsets were beyond description in the open waters. Just a few words of caution. Take along a power strip or extension cord. There is only one 110 outlet in the cabin. We had a 5 position power strip and it worked just fine. If you don't have one, invest in a digital camera. Make sure you have cash on you at Cozumel, the street vendors are so much fun to bargain with and the 5 T-Shirts for $20 shops only take cash.