A little bit about us. Family of 4, DW & I are in our late 30's, DS(9) ,DD(7), we are veteran Carnival and RCCL cruisers (with some NCL and X cruises for DW & I).
Our choices: Drove 11-12hrs to Galveston from Memphis, Stayed in the Hilton for 2 nights up front (park, shuttle and sail deal). Standard issue balcony cabin, deck six, way forward stbd with kids in room across the hall. Late seating table for 4 in aft dining room. Sunset Beach in Jamaica, Native Ways to Rays and Run Point in GC, AVIS Rental Car around Cozumel with long stops at Mexicalitos and Mr. Sanchos.
Let me get the very few negatives we encountered out of the way.
We always choose 2nd seating as this is the best time to enjoy the hot tubs, pools, and just about everything else on the sun deck. We love sunsets and sail-a-ways and do not like missing these things for dressing, eating, or waiting on line to see the captain. Unfortunately, Camp Carnival is totally geared to 1st seating the kids missed most of the things they wanted to do as they were scheduled when we were eating. They never got-into camp the same way they did on the Mariner OTS and Voyager OTS. The kids also missed getting a kids compass/capers on their beds at turn down so it was tough to build enthusiasm for a program that, at is core, was lackluster compared to Adventure Ocean on RCCL voyager class ships.
CD Todd (on his last Conquest Voyage after 2 years) was great, the ACDs and social hosts - not so much.
Room service variety and accuracy not on par with RCCL, X, or even NCL.
Most messed up boarding and disembarking of our 12 cruises. As reference, we've sailed out of NYC, Bayonne, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, Tampa, Miami, and LA.
That's it - just four beefs all week. And you could argue that at least 1/2 of the 4th beef (disembarking) has nothing to do with Carnival. (I do feel that Carnival could speed up the embarkation as: after waiting at security, then registration, and then photos, there was still a 15 minute wait to put your S&S card in the boarding/photo kiosk). Embarkation lines were crazy long in ports of call as well.
After an 11hr drive, our vacation started when we got to the Bolivar Ferry. This was a nice, free, way to end the drive. We had a great time in Galveston the Friday night (Rainforest Cafe) and Saturday (Landry's) before the cruise. While the brown beach water is nothing to write home about, it is warm and accessible. We did a fishing trip from pier 19 on Saturday that was very reasonable and fun. We watched the Ecstasy sail away during the fishing trip. We also saw more dolphins in Galveston bay than anywhere we've traveled. The staff at the Hilton is top notch and the location is great. Not sure I'd pay this premium again though, as the transfer was more trouble than its worth (by the time you tip the driver for 10 bags, you can take a cab and get there earlier and get away easier).
The first Hilton Shuttle got us there at peak time (12:00) so it took almost 2 hrs from curb to cabin. On the bright side, all 10 bags beet us to the cabin and we were unpacked by 2:30! All four of us were down the water slide by 2:45! The deck band was great and premium location deck chairs were available. We drank a couple of Funship Specials while the kids swam in the pool
And then the trip was over.At least it seemed that way.
Our weather was awesome.
The cabins were what we expected. The kids love having their own room and so do DW and I (we paid - at most - $150 extra for this). We probably should have taken a little more time and thought when we unpacked as we found ourselves constantly popping across the hall and back whenever we dressed for dinner. Power strip and extension cord is great tip. Kids had party lights in their room at night and we had power to charge the MP3 and listen to music on the Balcony. Got 2 extra key cards from the purser (and lanyards from the casino) so we could all get in both rooms.
We were hoping to sit with a family around our age for dinner but were given a table for 4 - it turned out great. Our waiter, Patrick - was by far - the best waiter we've had - anytime any place. His assistant was nice and the bar attendant was super nice to the kids, happily delivering them sodas on their card while we seldom ordered anything. Food was way better than RCCL - meat & pasta especially. Lobster was great too, 2nd tail was ordered without me asking and when he delivered it he asked if I'd like 3rd (who was I to argue?).
We hit all the shows except the blues show and talent show - wish they would do most of the late seating shows before dinner - makes for good dinner conversation. Point and Click was different from the usual fare and we appreciated the cleverness of the sets.
Repeat cruiser party was at a weird time - blew a hole in the middle of the 2nd sea day. We were very surprised Carnival has not updated the movie much since our last CCL cruise 3 years ago. Still, glad we went as the Drinks were potent and plentiful and Blood Power was awesome. Bloodpower also did the Mardi Gras Party and CD Todd Sang with them. Todd obviously loves his job and so he's fun to watch.
Thanks to everyone on these boards for the excellent references to Sunset Beach (Jamaica), Native Ways (Grand Cayman), and Mr. Sanchos (Cozumel). The three port days just blurred together and were perfect for a family vacation. The reviews posted on the ports of call board are better than anything I could post. I think Rum Point might be our favorite beach ever.
Oh, yeah& COZUMEL CAN NOW DOCK THREE SHIPS. THIS PAST FRIDAY CONQUEST DOCKED ON THE SEAWARD SIDE ON THE PIER IN TOWN (right next to Rhapsody). Issues between the local port authority and Carnival worked themselves out just in time for our arrival!
Our luck ran out with the weather on the last sea day. Had a couple good hours in the AM and rain the rest of the trip. Still, we had fun in the very nice Steam Rooms and Sauna, and saw the 2nd newlywed game. We were right over the bulbous bow and we enjoyed watching the beautiful shades of blue that ensued from the larger waves. We probably spent more time on our balcony this day than any other.Even though we had a long driving day ahead, we resolved to sleep and eat breakfast as late as we could. Our steward Ricky (who was also very good) suggested we hang out in the Cabin a bit longer after breakfast when we came back for our bags. We took his suggestion and watched TV for the first time all week. Debarkation didn't really start to suck until we go in to the terminal. Because of VIP and self assist, the whole color coded tag system is pretty much a free-for all.
Even so, we were back in our mini-van with fresh coffee heading home at 10:40, wondering where the heck the week went.
We'd do it again in a heartbeat!