About Us: I am Aleah, 29 & my now husband is Michael, 33. I am a massage therapist/graphic artist and Michael works at Owens Corning. We were engaged for a year and a half and decided to get married aboard the Carnival Conquest. So this was a wedding/honeymoon cruise for us. Michael's parents joined us as well. More about the wedding in a bit.
Getting There: We are from Dallas/Ft. Worth area. As it is quite a drive, 5 hours, it's a straight shot. We drove because after you get to the airport early, fly, find luggage & get a cab to Galveston and all that you could have drove in about the same length of time. I am so glad we did. We stayed the night before the cruise at Ramada on 2300 Seawall. It was $99 per night with a great view and balcony. If you are staying the night before go eat at The Spot. Great food, reasonable price & a beautiful view on Seawall. I had a total of 29 people at my wedding and at The Spot that night and we all had a great time there.
Embarkation: I was married on Embarkation day so all my family and friends could be there. So needless to say it was kinda crazy. I was the very first person on the ship that day, lucky me. I saw Tito Jackson, from the Jackson 5 who was the second on board while we waited. This will mean nothing to anyone except future brides, you get to board first! Sadly, I will get the real experience of the process next cruise.
Wedding Aboard the Ship: Again this will mean nothing to anyone except future brides. I was greeted by the minister, Connie and the Wedding Experience coordinator, Janet as I walked up to the terminal. Everything is so rushed, I will probably forget a few details. We were walked into a VIP room, us and all attendants. We waited there about 20 minutes. Afterwards we were boarded and I was taken up to my cabin, 7367 Empress to get my dress on. My room was ready and beautiful. My Maid of Honor helped me and she was escorted to the chapel 15 minutes before they came and got me. I am glad I had those 15 minutes alone to collect myself. The wedding ceremony was wonderful and went without too many hitches. The ceremony is in the Gallery on deck 4. They started to play the wrong wedding march song. They played a Evanescence song instead but quickly fixed it. Kinda funny and broke the tension. Other than that the Carnival wedding photographer, Jason was all over us throughout the ceremony and made it seem like I was a celebrity, it took away from an intimate moment for us and my guests. After the ceremony we were held back for 15 minutes to get family photos and so on. Jason told my family and friends no more pictures were allowed in the chapel as they were copywrited. Everyone was bummed. I come to find out later that Monika Bajan, who is the special guest coordinator, wrote up several reports on his actions that day. He flat out lied. My guests were able to take photos but he wanted the money. He took no photos of any guests at the reception. After all that he still had the gumption to want $3,700 for his package of photos! We bought 7 photos from him and explained to him that his lie just cost him a lot of money. So the point here is keep taking photos just give them the courtesy of getting theirs first then everyone can come up and get what they need. The reception was held in Henri's Disco and was very beautiful. An hour and a half is not near long enough. Jason (the photographer) pulled Michael and I out the last 25 minutes of our reception to get portrait photos and I missed several of my guests leaving the ship. They had no choice to leave the ship as they were being herded off. I was really upset about that. Other than that all was very beautiful and better than I ever imagined. I would do it all over again exactly the same way, but demand that no photographer be present and have guests take all pictures. With cameras as they are today, they are just as good.
Dining: We were first seated in the Renoir Dining room at 8:30 upstairs. We asked Drago the Maitre D to please seat us with Michael's parents for dinner. He said there was nothing he could do. The next night Monika Bajan, the special guests coordinator asked if all was going well and we said yes but wished we could dine with the parents. She went straight up to Drago and we were seated no problem at all with the parents. I guess I have learned that being modest about the fact we were married on the ship was the wrong thing to do. Just tell them flat out and you get what you want. I just was not raised that way. The food was pretty good. I tried a lot of new things that I would never dream of paying for at home. Turns out it was all good. If you want more than one thing order it, you get it. The service was pretty good, had better. Note: We loved having 8:30 dining as it gives you time to unwind from ports and get ready but we were never out of the dining room before 10:00. The midnight buffets were not an option for us as we were still stuffed from dinner. The earlier seating did a lot more of that. Just something to think about. I will say we were tired of eating after day 4.
Entertainment: We only watched the last few minutes of one Vegas style show. It was okay. They are not all together. Either a 1/2 step too fast or too slow. I fell asleep. We went to the Newlywed game part 2. Really funny! The last night we went to the show and it was just okay as well. As Tito Jackson was on the ship they had a Jackson 5 tribute thing. They were okay but I fell asleep during that as well.
Ports: Montego Bay, Jamaica: Beautiful water here. We arrived at the pier and were immediately off to downtown to buy some gifts. Everyone worries here but, No Problem Mon! Just take a JUTA taxi and you will have no worries. We were offered marijuana at least 50 times, no joke. They all say, I have the best blaze on the whole island mon. You just have to simply tell them no and keep walking. Michael's parents were never approached. I guess our age is why we were asked so much. After shopping for about an hour we headed back to the ship for our excursion. We booked through Carnival here as we had no idea what to expect. We did the Catamaran Snorkel & Doctor's Cave Beach. We had a great time. We did notice as we were on the beach that EVERYONE in Jamaica has a hand in selling marijuana. The beach locals asking everyone to buy drugs go to the lifeguard stand and get the exchange and the security watches for police. We just found that to be the most comical thing about Jamaica. When we arrived in Grand Cayman Jamaica quickly declined to the bottom of our ports.
Grand Cayman: Absolutely without a doubt my favorite port! I have never been somewhere so beautiful that it actually depressed me when we left. You tender here. We were up bright and early and were on one of the first tender boats. I heard many people complaining about tenders and the time it takes. These are usually people who do not get up early. Not always, but usually. We waited in line about 20 minutes and we were off! There are no bargains on shopping here. We walked around for about an hour and shopped. We booked independently with Captain Marvin's Stingray and snorkel, which we highly recommend. We were shuttled to the boats and were off to snorkel. All the Carnival boats going here were so crowded and impersonal. We had about 10-15 on our boat. Carnival had about 100 per boat! There were two snorkel stops that were unbelievable! Then off to Stingray City. They are like cats that rub your legs. If all the women screaming would shut up I would have learned more. After the excursion we walked to Margaritaville. Whew is a margarita expensive! $11.50 US dollars each and they are not large at all! I told the bartender that at that price it better knock me on my butt. And it did! Then sadly back to the ship.
Cozumel, Mexico: We tendered here as well. Up early and no problems whatsoever. Our excursion was early so we waited on the pier for our guide. Again not knowing what to expect we booked with Carnival. We booked the Hideaway Powerboat and Beach Escape excursion. Fantastic fun! A two person 25 horsepower boat to a private island. We arrived there to find an authentic Mexican buffet waiting. We played volleyball, walked the beach and collected coral and shells. After the excursion we went shopping. We were on the hunt for cheap liquor! And did we find it. As we are Texas residents we are only allowed one bottle each back into the states. What a rip! All other states are allowed five per person. Went to Del Sol and bought a few things. We found a great place in downtown (a block off the beaten path) that had tables and chairs set up along the sidewalk and sold Corona for $1.00 each. What a deal. Needless to say, 7 Coronas each later we stumbled back to the ship. It was a blast.
Disembarkation: Again, we woke up early (6am) and did the self assist. Man am I glad we did. We made our way down to the lobby with our bags. They started letting us off at 7am. We went through customs in about 10 minutes all together (if I knew it was going to be that easy I would have brought back a lot more alcohol), shuttled to the cruise parking lot and on the road by 7:35! I will always do it this way. We heard of people in long lines, stuck on the ship until tag color is called and basically miserable until around 11:30 or later! If you can carry it do it yourself.
Overall: We had a great time on our first cruise. If you go into this type of vacation with the knowledge that something WILL go wrong you WILL have a better time. They are trying to please 3,000 people, and do a very good job. There are going to be times you have to wait for room service, stand in a line or two or basically not get something exactly when and how you think you should get it. That's life. Cruising is a blast and we have already booked this exact same cruise for our anniversary next year. Why would we do the same cruise? We had our camera stolen the last day of the cruise and I want my island pictures back. We booked the exact same room and will be celebrating on our wedding ship.
Tips: 1. If you have a balcony cabin bring a bungee cord to hold door open. 2. If you are planning to watch TV forget it, nothing worth watching. 3. Call your credit card companies and tell them you are going out of the country. They stop them sometimes if they suspect fraud. It happened and we had to survive off the cash we brought and our debit cards. Good news is we have no credit card bills to face, so it worked out. 4. Book independent excursions, not Carnival ones. They are a fraction of the cost and you have a better time. We lucked out, our Carnival excursions were not overcrowded, but some definitely were. 5. If you want to bring your own liquor you can get away with it, but pack it very well. If it breaks that will not be a good thing. 6. Tip a good waiter or waitress cash on the first day and they will hook you up all week. No further tip needed. 7. Remember these people are incredibly overworked and underpaid. Be nice to them, they are people too. We saw more than a few people being unbearably rude and down right mean to the crew and it was without a doubt uncalled for. 8. Don't over pack! I barely was able to do the self assist debarkation, I was lugging a wedding dress too. 9. If you smoke and have a balcony cabin do not stick your head outside of your ledge with a cigarette in your hand. My eyeball got a hot ash up under it, not fun! Live and learn. 10. Have a good time, it's your vacation!!!!!!!