When reading a review, it is important to remember that all reviewers are not created equal. We all see things differently and have our own criteria for grading. If we all felt the same way and looked at things the same life would be pretty boring. This was the third cruise for my wife and I. All on Carnival. Last year we went for 3 days on the Fascination and 5 days on the Holiday. We had a great time on both of those trips, which led to the 7-day Conquest cruise. I don't get bent out of shape very easily and will not let petty things ruin a much-deserved vacation. I'm not perfect, therefore, I don't expect others to be perfect. That said, here is a review of my October 12, 2003 cruise on the Carnival Conquest.
Embarkation: We are fortunate and have a friend who lives in New Orleans on the West Bank. We parked our car at his place and he dropped us off at the pier at 11:15. We went past the long line of cars waiting to park and he let us off at the curb. They had just finished unloading everyone from the previous cruise and a skycap took our luggage right away. We went inside and checked right in. It was still too early to board so they directed us to an area to sit and wait for boarding. We sat down and discovered we were sitting next to Gimper and his darling wife. (See above) We were shuffled to another room and again had to wait for a short time. We had to wait less than an hour before boarding and it was painless. We brought 10 bottles of wine in our carry-on luggage and they checked each bottle and said nothing. So far, so good.
Our cabin: We booked an 8e on the Panorama deck. The cabin was spacious and bright. The balcony large enough for two people and the bathroom was clean and well designed. We never had a flooded floor and that is even with 2 people in the shower on occasion. The Panorama deck is very quiet and secluded. There are not a lot of cabins up here so you are not walking down endless passageways to get to your cabin. Our cabin steward was Javier and he kept the room spotless and our wine chilled. If we needed anything, he provided it. If you are looking for somewhere to save money on your cruise, look elsewhere. Get the balcony! It is so nice to sit out there in the morning or evening and just chill. We saw sea turtles, flying fish and some beautiful sunsets. We also saw Leonard running to catch the ship in Cozumel.
The ship: The Conquest is classy. That's the best way to describe it. It is both opulent and subdued depending upon where you are. The crew is always cleaning and it shows. It's very impressive. I'll try to give a rundown of the decks.
Deck 0 This is where you get on and off in port. Not much else to say. I think this is also where medical is.
Deck 1 Never visited.
Deck 2 Friends had a cabin here in the very back of the ship. We walked from our cabin in the front of the ship to visit them. Took 2 days. We took a cab back. Lots of cabins down here.
Deck 3 The main lobby. Gorgeous. The atrium is impressive. Lines for the purser would get long at times so plan your visit there accordingly. The Renior dining room is on deck 3 and 4 forward and the Monet is on deck 3 and 4 aft.
Deck 4 Photos. Lots and lots of photos. Here is my opinion of the photos. If you want them buy them if not don't. If you don't want them to take a photo of you just say no thanks. On the way off the ship in port, just walk around them. They won't chase you down and force the photo on you. They do take some darn good photos though. I should know. I'm a photographer and hate having my picture taken. We did buy some formal shots and one of the informal dining room shots. Alfreds lounge and the internet cafe are also on this deck. Alfreds is one of the subdued areas I mentioned earlier.
Deck 5 The Promenade is here. Everything is located on deck 5 it seems. It tends to get a little crowded in the evenings but it's nothing you can't handle. The shops are here, and they could use a little better selection of goods. The casino is here, the video poker pay tables are horrible. 6-5 jacks or better for all denominations. (Some will know what this means.) Slots were quiet but the table games seemed to be okay. It's a good diversion for a while but we didn't plan on winning much. Jill is the casino host and she is a trip. You definitely have to find her just to say hello. Most of the clubs are also on deck 5. We didn't spend a lot of time in the clubs but they were well done. There is just about something for everyone. Cafe Fans is also on this deck. They serve decadent desserts and specialty coffees for a small fee.
Deck 6 Cabins
Deck 7 Cabins
Deck 8 Cabins
Deck 9 Lido deck. The buffet lines tend to get long at meal time. Go Figure. There are so many options to eat that you shouldn't have to wait in line for a buffet unless you want to. If you choose to, then don't complain. That said, there is one thing Carnival can do to help the buffet lines in the morning. Create a separate station for the omelets. This is why the lines are so long. People are waiting for the custom omelets to be made. If they were to move this to it's own station there would be far shorter lines. The grill was good, the pizza was great, PC Woks was very good and Pauls was fantastic. Sur Mer was one level up and was also very good. The pools are also on this deck.
Deck 10 The Point. This is the alternative dining room. It is worth the $25 per person charge to have white glove service and excellent food. Our meal for 4 lasted 3 hours. If you want specifics about menu items just ask. Gentlemen need to wear a jacket. I didn't think that included me but the wife said it did.
Deck 11 The spa. Great variety of equipment and a very attentive staff. This is where we worked out most of the time. I tried running the track around the funnel, but that got old real quick. Going down wind was okay but making the turn and heading back into the wind was murder. My wife took the yoga classes and loved them.
Deck 12 Camp Carnival. Didn't use it.
I'm sure I missed some stuff but hell, I'm still distraught over having to go back to work. The ship was great, the crew was all friendly and professional and if you don't like cruising on the Conquest your momma must have dropped you on your head when you was a baby. Here are some general comments:
There were a lot of kids on board. A number of Alabama and Florida schools were out for fall break this week. The kids were not a problem for us. We have kids (6 between us) but this was a second honeymoon and we never noticed a loud or unruly child. They didn't hog the elevators or the hot tubs as far as we saw.
Corey Schmidt was the cruise director and he was a blast. We talked to him off stage and he was as warm then as he was on stage.
The food and service were exceptional across the board. Our wait team consisted of Cenk and Lina. Cenk was very quiet, he didn't sing or dance, but he was very professional. Lina is a sweetheart and will make a wonderful head waiter/waitress. We were told that we would have to pay a cork fee for each bottle of wine that we brought into the dining room to be opened. We told Cenk that this was not a problem and were sure that the wine service would be worth $10 a bottle. He didn't charge us that first night so we tipped him $10 and thanked him for the service and there was never a mention of the cork fee again. We did get charged for the two bottles we brought to the Point for dinner though.
Ports: Montego Bay. We booked a private tour with Peat Taylor. We decided at the last minute that we didn't want to got all the way to Ocho Rios so we did the Rose Hall great house and Beach Club. Both were very nice. After that we spent a couple of hours at Margaritaville before heading back to the ship. Keith was our driver and drove very slowly. He was fine but we probably could have hired someone in Montego Bay cheaper. He had to come over from Ocho Rios to do the tour. We never felt unsafe and were not offered drugs. Jamaica is what you make of it. Hire a private guide and get out and see the country. Rose Hall beach Club was beautiful. The water was crystal clear and very warm. Red Stripe cost $4.00 a bottle and they had some good jerk chicken. We could have spent all day there.
Grand Cayman. We booked the Sting Ray City/Snorkel tour with Native Way. $25 a person, 18 people on the boat and outstanding guides. This is the way to go. We saw a dozen other boats packed with people on them and felt like we had the best deal. This should not be missed.
Cozumel. The weather was a little threatening when we got off the ship so we took a cab into town and shopped. We had lunch at Palmeras and it was very good. We were hoping to snorkel at Chankanab but we never got the chance. Next time for sure.
Debarkation: We were the last ones called. No problem. We had breakfast, sat in the lounge and read. So we got off the ship at 10:30 instead of 8:30, big deal. On the plus side we had no problem finding our luggage. The customs dog didn't sneeze when we passed by so they never found that extra bottle of rum. Getting a cab was probably the low point of the whole week. The drivers almost got into a fist fight to not take us. It seems that they don't like couples, they would prefer larger groups. (More money.)
If you've made it this far, thanks for taking the time. This turned out a lot longer than I ever would have thought. The cruise was what we expected and then some. Our expectations were pretty high when we got on board and I can honestly say that we are glad we went and would cruise the Conquest again in a heartbeat. When I filled out the comment card at the end of the cruise I wanted to find some things that I felt Carnival could improve upon. I could only come up with the omelet station. I tried hard to give them some meaningful criticism but I couldn't find anything else. Look for problems and you will find them. Go with an open mind, and you'll have the time of your life. We had a wonderful time meeting all the Ccer's and their families and would cruise with any of them again. These boards are a great resource but they also serve another purpose. That is to get people together with like interests. It was fun meeting up with the people we spent months planning with.