My husband (47) and I (48) were on the 10/22 sailing of the Conquest. First cruise for him, second for me. We flew into Houston the day before and used pre-arranged shuttle service to Galveston. We stayed at the Hotel Galvez and had a fun evening in Galveston on Saturday night.
We attended a wedding on the ship on the 22nd so our early embarkation was a breeze. Our room was ready by mid-afternoon and our bags arrived, one at a time, over the course of the next five hours.
Our balcony room, forward on the Lido deck, was great. It would be hard to cruise again without a balcony. I was initially concerned that a room on this deck may be noisy (pools, restaurants, lots of traffic) but that was not a problem and it was actually quite convenient being so close to the pools and open decks.
In general, this ship's layout is rather confusing, having to go up and down to go around a two-level dining room placed mid-ship. A floor plan of the 3rd, 4th and 5th decks would be helpful when navigating to the lounges, shops and lobby areas. The casino is placed in such a way that you must pass along it (no walls) and all of its smokiness to get to the lounges and even to the teen area on the 5th deck.
SERVICE/FOOD Service ranged from excellent (our cabin steward, Ana) to just so-so (dining room server). We skipped out on dinner in the dining room three nights (including the second 'formal' night) to eat on the Lido deck. The pizza is excellent, however it sometimes takes 20-30 minutes to get a slice -- we never seemed to be there when the pizza was ready. We only ate breakfast in the dining room two mornings -- the closing time varied from day to day --but the Lido buffet was fine. I finally found the Sur-Mer (seafood) at a time that it was open on the last day and it was very good. It would seem that Carnival would note that looong lines for a certain items mean "demand" and could work to meet their customer's desire.
PORTS We took the Canopy Tour while in Jamaica. Zip lines from mountainside to tree stands and over the river. It was great and I'd recommend this trip. It does involve some hiking while wearing the harness and gear and it was hot. A couple "Jamaican Farewells" at Margaritaville made for a very relaxing end to the day before we caught a taxi back to the pier.
In Grand Cayman we spent some time at Seven-Mile Beach, then had lunch (rather pricey at $77 USD for a sandwich, a salad and two drinks) before heading back to the ship.
We were on a "tender" week in Cozumel. It was after noon before our ticket number was called so we were glad we hadn't tried to book a tour. We shopped and had a lunch ($11 for two plates of tacos, chips and salsa, and 3 diet Cokes).
ENTERTAINMENT The shows on board were fine, but certainly not Las Vegas-style entertainment as with my previous cruise experience. We enjoyed the lounges with instrumental music. The karaoke was fun the few times we caught it. With late dinner seating, karaoke was usually over by the time we finished dinner.
GOING HOME Debarkation went smoothly. We had planned to use self-assist but changed our minds and set out our large bags at the last minute. We were in no hurry as our flight from Houston did not leave until 4:30 pm. We were still off the ship and on the shuttle to Houston Hobby by 10:30 am. A cancelled flight at DFW gave us a bonus night in Dallas and then it was back to central Iowa on Monday morning.
We'll certainly cruise again although I'll probably try a different line next trip. Since we have to travel to get to ANY port our options are open. I imagine the waters out of Miami are usually smoother than the Gulf. A doctor-prescribed patch or Bonine is definitely recommended for this itinerary!