My husband, mother-in-law, three kids ages 6, 5, & 3 and I cruised on the Conquest July 30 - August 6.
Embarking: We live in the Dallas area, so we just drove to Galveston the day of the cruise. With 3 small children, we thought it would be easier to get up early and drive than to have one extra night in a hotel with all of us. We left Dallas at around 7:00 am. The drive to Galveston was really easy. We got there around 12:30 pm and this included two bathroom breaks. We were traveling with 2 other families that also had small kids.
One of the other husbands had the idea to drop all of the wives and children off at the terminal, then go park. This was a horrible idea! We could not get in line for the boarding process without our entire group. We ended up having to wait over an hour for the guys to get back . It was very hard to keep 7 kids under the age of 7 occupied in the cruise terminal. I think it would have been a lot less stressful to have all stayed together and parked. We thought we had reservation with EZ Parking online. EZ Parking did not have record of our reservation, which was not a big deal, it only cost $5 more. Once the men got to the terminal, it only took about 30-45 minutes to get on the ship, which was about 2:00 pm.
On board the ship: We went straight to our rooms (adjoining cabins 2319 & 2323), which thankfully were ready. We were thoroughly impressed with our rooms. They were larger than we were expecting and had plenty of storage space. We had ocean view rooms. I was worried about a balcony room with the kids. These rooms were perfect. The kids spent a lot of time sitting at the window reading books or just looking out. I would highly recommend adjoining rooms to anyone in our situation.
After dropping off our stuff, we headed to the Lido deck for lunch. We then just looked around the ship until the muster drill. We were somewhat disappointed that they did not have any type of Bon Voyage celebration. Instead, the ship left while we were in the muster drill. Our luggage arrived around 4:30 pm, so we unpacked and got ready for dinner.
The Dining Room: Our dinner reservations were in the Renoir Dining Room at 6:15 pm. As I stated earlier, we were traveling with 2 other families for a total of 15 in our group. We had two tables of 8 right next to each other. We were the only tables that our servers, Ken & Alena had. We had wonderfully service and thought the food in the dining room was very good every night. I ordered one thing I did not like, but Ken quickly replaced it.
Our favorite thing the entire trip was the chocolate melting cake. (We asked for it with vanilla ice cream instead of what came with it.) We had the kids with us at dinner 4 of the nights and someone spilled every night. Ken & Alena were very sweet about it and took very good care of the kids. We ate breakfast and lunch in the dining room a couple of times and it was excellent as well.
Monday: We put the kids in Camp Carnival. We pre-registered them the night before. We were there at 9:00 am to check them in and there was a 10 minute line. The Camp Carnival staff was okay. No one seemed exceptional, but our kids enjoyed going there throughout the cruise. We got them out at 12:00 pm for lunch.
After lunch, we planned on all going swimming and using the water slide, however we could not find a chair. It seems a lot of people got there earlier and saved a spot. Only about half of them had anyone in them and the pools were not that crowded. We did let the kids ride on the water slide, but the line took 20 minutes (maybe that's where all of the people were!). We then went back to our room for our favorite activity, naptime. There is no better place to take a nap than on a ship!
That night was the first formal night. We did not make it to the Captain's Party. We were too busy taking as many family pictures as we could. After a wonderful dinner, we went to the show, but were extremely disappointed. We didn't realize that they brought the kids 6 and older from Camp Carnival to the show. The show was not really appropriate for our 6 year son. They costumes were a bit much (a lot of G-strings). We ended up leaving early and were able to check our son out of Camp Carnival at the show. They do not normally let you check them out, but he had been complaining the whole show, so they let us take him.
My mother-in-law was tired, so she watched the kids in our room and we enjoyed some adult time. We went dancing at Henry's Disco, which was a lot of fun. Then to the piano bar, which was fun, but not enough to make us want to go back. Then we went to the adult comedy show. While it was pretty funny, we quickly got bored. My friend and I left early. They guys did enjoy the show.
Tuesday: We learned to get to the pool early. We did not put the kids in Camp Carnival, instead went swimming. We got out to the pool around 9:30 am and had no problem finding plenty of chairs. We stayed out there until lunch time. We had lunch by the pool. We thought we would put the kids in Camp Carnival that afternoon, but it was only open from 2:00 pm until 3:30 pm. They closed early for a family scavenger hunt and ice cream eating contest. We did both of these with the kids and they had fun. Remember to bring along a red sock. That night we let the kids eat with Camp Carnival, which they only moderately enjoyed. They said they would prefer to stay with us for dinner. We enjoyed a nice adult's only dinner. The show that night was a Carnival singer. We did not go to the show, but could hear it through the open doors and I can tell you we did not miss anything!
Wednesday: After reading all of the reviews from this board, we decided to book our excursions on our own. My husband and his friend wanted to golf at least once on the trip. After doing a ton of research online, we decided to go Rose Hall Beach Resort. The guys had a 10:00 am tee time there and the rest of us spent the day at the resort. I would highly recommend this! The guys were worried about us having to take a cab without them to a resort, so this way we were all together. I think the guys spent around $150 total for golf, clubs and tips.
The all-inclusive resort was $50 for adults and $30 for kids. This included food, drinks, non-motorized water sports, towels and the pool, which had 2 water slides and a lazy river. This was by far the best excursion we had. It was very easy for me to keep track of the kids by myself. It was a very safe place. One of the other families in our group took my son on a catamaran that was included in the resort and they had a blast. My favorite part was the pool. The guys finished golfing around 2:00 pm and met up with us. We then boarded a van that was waiting for us at the resort. We negotiated at rate of $210 for 14 of us round trip for the van (this included our tip, so $15 per person). It was well work it. He then took us to do some shopping. We were back on the ship in plenty of time.
The Point: My husband and I went to the Point on Wednesday night just the two of us. It was amazing, truly a high point of our trip. The staff was extremely attentive. They said Wednesday was always their slowest night, but this cruise had been exceptionally slow. This was more than okay with us. We wanted a slow date night. We had a great conversation with 3 of the staff, which added to the wonderful experience. My husband and I had been taking ballroom dance lessons and were eager to dance. We could not find anywhere on the cruise that we could practice. The Point had live entertainment and a small dance floor. After dinner, we hit the dance floor. We were the only couple dancing, so the musicians played any and everything we asked. It was unforgettable. The staff told us we could come back any night we wanted to the bar or just to dance. We did not need to eat there to dance or drink at the bar.
Thursday: Thanks to more recommendations from this board, we booked a tour through Captain Marvin's. We did the bus tour and the Sting ray tour. We were suppose to check in at 8:45 am. We went to the lounge to get our tender tickets. The staff asked if our entire group was there, which they were not because we did not want to take all of the kids there to wait. Our room was just one floor down and not far from the lounge. They would not give us the tickets without the entire group being there. Once they all arrived (5 minutes) later, the staff said we only needed one person to collect all of the tickets. (Yes, this was the same person who would not give them to me 5 minutes before.)
Once we got on the tender boat, it was very quick to get to the island. Captain Marvin's is a very short walk from the pier. We were very glad we did the turtle farm, hell and island tour. The best part was the turtle farm The kids loved it! We got to the dock for the sting ray tour and were informed that Captain Marvin himself was taking us out. He is 92 years old! He was a real treat to be with. I guess he was the first one to take tours to the sting ray sandbar back in the '50s.
The first snorkel stop was tough with the kids. They were afraid of the rough water. My girls (5 & 3) were too afraid to get off the boat with the sting rays, but my son loved it. I was not afraid at all about the sting rays until our bus guide said they do in fact sting. He said if you get stung, you have to go to the hospital. This freaked me out a bit. I did not want them to brush up against me, but I did touch the one the guide held. After that tour, we got in line for the tender back. The line was really long and took 30 just to get on.
The tender boat we were on was huge. It took another 45 minutes just to unload at the ship. That night was the second formal night. After dinner, we went back to The Point for drinks and dancing with all of the adults in our group. We all had so much fun!
Friday: Again, we took the advice of others in on this board and went to Paradise Beach in Cozumel. We had to wait until after 10:30 am to get our tender. We were able to get a van for the 13 of us for $100 round trip. The van driver had a dvd of the island before and after the hurricane. It was amazing. He got us all set up at Paradise Beach, which was pretty crowded. We could only find chairs on the back row of chairs. We could not see the kids playing at the shore from our chairs. My husband, son and I paid the $8 for the wrist bands. My son went on the water trampoline once and did not like it. I never used any of the toys. My kids were really too young for them. I would not buy the wrist bands if we went back again.
All of the girls in our group got their hair braided. We paid $15 for half the hair. It looked really cute! Other than the hair braiding, our experience with Paradise Beach was just okay. We ordered food and drinks. The food got there about 30 minutes later without the drinks. Our waiter said the drinks would be coming and left. We had to track down 3 other waiters over the next 15 minutes just to get our drinks. It is bad enough eating Mexican food with nothing to drink, but add being in the sun all day without anything to drink. They finally came after the food was already cold. We were very disappointed with our service. Like I said, we tried to tell several servers about the problem, but no one seemed to care. With the beach being so crowded and our services not being good, we would probably not go back to Paradise Beach. After the beach, we went shopping. We found some good deals on touristy stuff. We all thought Cozumel was very clean and safe. I would go back to Cozumel.
Saturday: We got out to the pool early and got chairs right by the pool. They swam all morning. My husband and mother-in-law went to the disembark talk, while I stayed out with the kids. We had lunch in the dining room because the poolside dining was packed. This was the chocolate buffet day. We got right in at the dining room and had a great lunch. After lunch, we did go back to the chocolate buffet, but I did not think it was worth the 45 minute wait and I am a chocolate lover!
That night we went to the Carnival Legends show and it was great! It was the best show of the cruise. Some of the singers were awesome, some were horrible (one even forgot all of the lines), but it is a lot of fun!
Sunday: We did the self assist check out. We got to the lounge by 7:00 am. It looked like a line was forming from the front door back towards the stage. We hauled all of our luggage to the stage area only to find out there was no line. We could have waited anywhere. Once the disembarking started, it did not take very long at all. We were through customs and back in our car around 8:15 am.
Overall, this was a great trip to take with kids. My 3 year old asks me everyday when we are going back on our cruise boat. We will definitely do it again!