Pre Cruise: We decided to drive in to NOLA on Friday night to give us all day Saturday to spend time in one of our favorite cities. We stayed at La Pavillion Downtown for the first time and I think we found a new favorite Hotel. Our regular B&B was booked but for the same price this was a fantastic old world historic hotel. Hit our usual dining favorites, Deanies, Oceana, Mothers and Port of call. My oldest son and I sat on the river and watched a RCI ship leave the port followed by the Elation (assissted by 2 tugs???) that added to the excitement. Slept in a little the next morning but when we checked the webcam the Conquest was there waiting on us.
The embarkation was the smoothest I have ever had. We had priority and we got Faster to the Fun. We drove the short distance to the terminal, paid our $112 dropped our luggage, parked and were in the terminal building and the VIP lounge in about 10 minutes. It took another 10 minutes or so to get the four of us checked in and off to the gangway. The line there was backed up about 15 minutes due to the security stop for another picture. Altogheather we were in our cabin less than an hour after walking out of our hotel room.
We had an Ocean suite on the Empress Deck forward on the port side. It was very nice and as pictured. It was just the right size for our family of four. The main bed was comfortable but actually I found that the sofa, when converted to a queen bed was even more comfortable. The sofa stayed a bed the entire cruise which gave me come concern at first but we were in the room enough lounging that it worked out better anyway. I have heard that if you ask they will make it back up to a sofa every day. I just did not see the point.
The rest of the ship was very nice and I appreciated the more understated decor of the conquest to some of her older sisters I have sailed. I found myself spending time nearly everywhere on the ship. If you are looking for a nearly deserted spot go to Alfreds bar on deck 4 between the two dining rooms. It takes a bit of looking but I rarely saw anyone in there. The promonade near the casino and some of the midship and aft stairwells did have a strong smoke smell, even for me as a smoker. The 2.0 upgrades to the cabins and lido deck made a big difference alothogh my wife and I miss "the funnel deck". The ship was spotless and very well kept. The hot tubs were HOT! Almost too much. They had the main pools and slide closed on the last sea day due to some issue but had them running by 3.
The food was always very good to fantastic in the MDR. My 7 y/a DS tried the escargot and loved it. Our waitstaff was fantastic and on 2 nights my kids loved being entertained by Ram the magician. The lido buffet was mediocre as usual. However, Guy's Burgers and everything I had at the Blue Iguana was really good. We all made lots of stops here. We did the Punchliner Brunch as many times as we could. If you are not in a hurry the breakfast is way better than the buffet. Service times varied in the MDR but were generally always very quick. One night we were there less than an hour. the only night we took a while we arrived a little late and I think got caught out of the rythm. We had dinner at the point Steakhouse once and the food and the venue are very good but not what I would call outstanding. Not up to par with any typical high end steakhouse but definately better than your neighborhood chain. To me the food in the MDR is good enough that it did not seem to be that much of a treat other than getting a better quality steak.
Amazing as always. The CD Gary Brierly gets a lot of mentions but I have to say the duo of Gary and his assistant George was over the top. They should definately be kept togeather as a team. We saw them everywhere and my 7 y/o would not stop talking about the funny things they did. Every crew member we encountered was fantastic and very friendly. My wife called guest services one day to report a strong paint smell in our room. Someone was in our room in less than 10 minutes investigating. We learned that they had been painting near a fresh air intake. They brought a fan to help clear the odor and checked in with us 2 more times later to make sure it had been resolved. My wife also called guest services once because she was scarred by an unruly passenger and security had it under controll in about 5 minutes. I cannot say enough about the crew. However, the bartender at the Alchemy Bar, Adrie, earned a spot as my all time favorite. That was the only place on the ship we ordered drinks at night. Partly becasue they should name every one of Adrie's concoctions "one and done" but mostly because on our first visit, Adrie found out that my wife was pregnant and went way out of her way to make her tasty "mocktails" every night. All I can say is be nice to Adrie and she will be very nice to you. ;).
We did the stay on the ship as an excursion in Jamaica and it was fantastic lounging around the deck all day on a nearly empty ship. We did get off for about a half hour to do some souvenier shopping. With the newly developed port at Falmouth taking nearly all the ships out of MoBay, it is really become a dump. There are a few shops in the terminal and only 4 our so left in the port shopping area. One of the ladies there told me they only get ships one day a week now. If you have the choice, skip Montego Bay altogeather or do a ship excursion.
The weather turned bad for Grand Cayman so we could not tender to Georgetown and went to an alternate anchorage. It was cold, rainy and windy all day but we decided to do some shopping there as well. The $50 investiment in FTTF paid for itself 4 times over getting on a tender. Went to Margaritaville and introduced the kids to Conch and they loved it. The drivers here are as bad as Jamaica. $5 a head gets you on a mini bus that they pack you in like sardines. Turned out it was a good thing as our driver on the way back hit the breaks to hard and crashed into some palm trees. No one was hurt as no one had any room to be jostled around.
Cozumel was fantastic as usual. Took a cab to Paradise Beach for $15 paid $2 a head to get in and about a $60 food and bev. tab and had a fantastic time. Sun, shade, ocean, pool, toys, whatever you want, they had it. Staff was very friendly and everything was super cheap. There is enough shopping in the new port that you really do not need to go to town unless you are a die hard haggler or bargain shopper. Had a really good late lunch there at Pancho's backyard before we left as well.
Very typical, lots of great people and some not so great ones. The stand out here is that there were 1,200 children on board! They seemed to manage it very well though. The biggest issue that the number of kids caused is that all the pools and all the hot tubs were absolutely teaming with children. This ship really needs a "Serenity Deck". Without one, I think it would have been wise to at least designate one pool and tub as adults only. It never really bothered me but I am going to guess that someones vacation was really impacted by not being able to make good use of the pool. The complainers we saw were, either inexperienced as to what to expect or just plain rude people. There was one gentleman that was either really drunk or really confused that was banging on peoples doors in the hallway one day. When my wife opened the door and stuck her head out to investigate he charged screaming at her and then pounded on the door prompting her to call security who responded in a matter of minutes. Sadly there was a "code brightstar" on the last day in what sounded like a crew area. Never found out what happened. Choggers did not have a chance on this cruise. The ship was so full that on sea days it looked like an apocalypse with all the prone bodies on deck and most of the chairs had people in them. The ship was near max capacity but there were still plenty of places to feel alone most of the time. The only tip or gripe I would add is that there were many people who moved loungers on deck from one area to another without regard to walkways. It was very difficult to safely walk around the lido pool and surrounding decks on sea days. A few times we got boxed in and had to search out alternate routes.
All in all it was an amazing trip on a fantastic ship with a tremendous crew. I would go again in a heartbeat.