This was my second Cruise. I (40) traveled with my husband (43), two daughters (19, 18) and my best friend (39) and her husband (45). My hubby and I had sailed with Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody. It was very hard not to compare the two. This was a celebration of sorts for my daughter finishing their first year of college.
Since living only 4 hours away from the port. We drove to Galveston. We used EZparking. Have parked there for 2 cruises and never had a problem. You can save $5 by signing up online. My husband dropped all us women off at the pier about 1pm with the luggage and went to park the car. There were plenty of porters to take your luggage. They are very helpful and very quick. It took about 45 minutes for the men to get back to the pier.
Once inside the lines were long, but moved. Through the security line, and then another line to check in. There were two lines. One for fast pass and one without. We had filled out fast pass, but that was the longer line. There was an employee there that said we could go through either line. Since the without fastpass was shorter, we chose that one. It was about a 30 minute wait and then we were on the long walk to board. We had a quite a few carry on items, so this seemed further than it actually was.
Once on board we went straight to our cabins. Was very surprised to see our luggage already there. Our cabins were very nice. Small but had lots of storage. One complaint, when using the vanity, it was hard to get to the closets or bathroom. Seems like my husband and I were always in each other's way. The last cabin we had on Royal Caribbean the vanity was on the other side of the room, so it seemed like it worked better for us.
After we had been in the cabin, our steward came by to say "Hi". Rasa was great. She was always around, Never had a problem finding her. The cabin was always in great shape.
We had three balcony cabins that were side by side. We were able to have the partitions opened up. This made it great. It was a great to have a huge deck area. Balconies are the only way to travel.
The ship was huge. It took a while to find my way around. But once I had the hang of it, it was easy. Spent most of my time on the Lido and Promenade. Loved the casino. It was large. Also loved the shopping on board.
FOOD:The food on board was ok. Nothing I was ever really excited about. In my opinion, Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody has them beat hands down. The dining room was average. The wait staff was great. One complaint, if you didn't see anything on the menu, there was were no standing basics to order. On Rhapsody, there always had a steak or chicken on the menu. Not on Conquest. My oldest daughter is a very picky eater, and many nights ate very little. They do have a kids menu, so if you do have picky eater with you, ask for the kids menu.
The buffet was nothing outstanding. The best food on the whole ship was the pizza and hamburgers at the Sky pool. When you go to the buffet, just keep going to the back until you find the pool. The pizza is on one side, and burgers and hot dogs are on the other. It is a great snack place.
Room service was ok. My picky eater loved the chocolate cake. It always arrived with 20 minutes.
ENTERTAINMENT: Our dinner seating was the second seating, so that made most of the nights late for the shows. Made the first night show. It was cute. Todd is a great entertainer. He can really think on his feet. The ventriloquist was really funny. My husband made it to the X-rated show and said it was hilarious. That was about all the shows we made it to. Somehow we always ended up in the casino.
JAMAICA: We had decided to go to Sunset beach. This place is so great. $40 per person and well worth it. The day we were there it was stormy and it cut our day short. But we had several hours of sun and were able to snorkel and use the water park. The food is good and the drinks are very strong. We didn't venture into the town. There are a few gift shops at the dock. The guys yelling through the fence was scary enough. There are two shopping areas. The first is very secure and the people are not overly pushy. The shops that look like round huts are very different. The people are very pushy and wants you to buy all kinds of things. we were offered marijuana and hair braids. We saw a few young men (probably 18-21) being detained at the port. Todd told us later during the Debarkation show, that a few of our fellow passengers were detained in Jamaica and were not going home anytime soon. So please think twice about trying to get anything home. It really is not worth it.
GRAND CAYMAN: This it the one stop all of our group was looking forward to. We work up early to be ready to go for the tenders when Todd announced that the Caymans were canceled. It was said that the weather and seas were too rough for the tenders. I understand that need for safety, but how Carnival handled it, was terrible. It was a raining again. (It had rained every day since we had left Galveston). Todd had said there would be extra things to do. The big highlight of the day was the being able to watch the Movie "Hitch". Todd made it out like they were doing something special for us, but showing a movie that has been out for awhile. After walking around the ship that morning, everyone was complaining and grumbling. By Noon, the Captain had given everyone onboard a $25 credit. That helped some with the complaining, but the whole situation was not handled very well. One of our waiters said that this always happens and this was nothing new. Seems like Carnival would have a "Plan B" for the rain days and when the ports are closed. They really could work on this problem.
COZUMEL: This poor city was really hit hard by Wilma. But they are really making a great comeback. The tender here were not bad. The tender boats can hold a lot of people, so it goes really fast. Mexico is a great place to shop. You can really bargain. Don't settle for the first price. We ate at some place right at the dock. It was ok, but really expensive. Can't even remember the name of it. After lunch my husband and I went to Paradise Beach. It was about a $10 cab ride out. It was $8 to use the equipment. We just wanted to snorkel. The snorkeling was ok, but nothing to write home about. Chankanaab had much better snorkeling, but they were still closed. We didn't do any food or drinks at paradise, so can't comment on that aspect.
DEBARKATION: This was a total nightmare. We had a funeral that we had to get home to, so we decided to do the self assist. We were down on deck 3 by 6:45. People were trying to form a line. There was no one from Carnival to direct. So people were cutting and no one was real sure were we were even suppose to line up at. Carnival people just keep coming through telling us to clear the aisle. By 7:30 the theater was filling up. Of course to get to the end of the line, you had to go through the whole line. This was a real nightmare, because everyone had their luggage with them. By the time they finally started to unload the ship, it was around 8am. There was two lines coming out of the theater. Of course the line I was in had been there longer and we ended up at the back of the line. Also in the same area is a line for the pursers desk. So it was really unorganized. No one from Carnival had a clue about what was going one. When someone did happen to walk past, they didn't know what was going on. By the time we were getting close to the gangway, they had already started to call the infamous colors. There was one guy who thought that gave him the right to go to the front of the line. He started to cut and everyone was looking, I finally mentioned to him that the end of the line ended in the theater. I had been sitting in line for over 1.5 hours. Carnival really needs to address this problem. It makes for a very frustrating end to a vacation.
One thing that did help, once on shore, we had passports so we were able to get through customs much easier. If you are on the fence about getting a passport, do it. Makes clearing customs a breeze. We were finally on the road about 9:30.
Overall the cruise was just ok. If I had to do it all over again, I would go with Royal Caribbean in a heartbeat. Carnival is very much of a party ship. I am not much a drinker, and this ship is a drinker's paradise. There were tons of college age kids and high schoolers onboard, and they did get rowdy at times. Things were much more relaxed compared to the Rhapsody. I even saw one kid wearing shorts in the dining room at night. You would never see that on the Rhapsody. Go for the Conquest if you looking for that party atmosphere.