Transportation We flew into Houston (from Denver) the night before the cruise departure to avoid rushing around at airports and the port terminal. I found a transfer shuttle from IAH to our hotel in Galveston, through Texas Cruise Ship shuttle (http://www.cruiseshipshuttle.com/). LJ was prompt in picking us up; extremely helpful in informing us on how to find him once we landed and gave us a nice driving/talk tour of Houston. LJ's service was easy, relaxing and a personalized service of transportation. We had the shuttle/bus to ourselves and LJ gave us some tips on where to eat in Galveston.
We used the transportation, provided by Carnival to take us from the ship back to the airport. We got on the bus around 10:15am and then did not actually leave until 12:45. The bus had to wait until it was completely full before it would leave. Our flight was not until 3pm but we also had to stop at Hobby Airport first. This did not leave us with much time, seeing as that day was meant to be the busiest day of the year. I would not use their provided transportation again, not worth the time wasted and money.
Embarkation - We (27/f and 28m) were traveling with my Mother(65)/Father(72) In Law and brother-in-law (15). We arrived at the terminal about 10:45am and began waiting. As soon as the staff began letting people through, we were taken to the head of the line, due to my mother and father in-laws, being disabled (knee replacement and difficulty standing for long periods of time). We rushed through the Non-citizen check-in easily and then began boarding. Overall, it still took us 2hrs to board, much quicker than our last 3 cruises.
Since we were some of the first on the sip, we could not get to our rooms straight away, so we headed up to the Lido deck and had lunch. The buffet was good but seemed to be the exact same food that we had on previous ships (Carnival Victory and Legend). I did not mind too much, as I found the food to be ok. I don't think the Conquest had the same variety of food as the previous Carnival ships, but we liked the grill and pizza. Plus, how can you NOT love the continuous supply of ICE CREAM!
Staterooms - After cruising on Royal Caribbean and having an inside room, we decided NEVER to do that again. So, all three cruises on Carnival we've had a balcony stateroom. To us, this is worth the extra money. Despite the signs on the balcony door that the A/C is on, we left the balcony door open some nights and heard the lovely ocean sounds. Along with these refreshing sounds also came the drunken cries of the party folks, screaming babies and just generally loud chatter. Some of the staff told us that there were a record number of kids (700+) on this cruise (I assume because it was the Thanksgiving Holiday) and they all seemed to enjoy running up and down the hallways banging on doors. To be honest, the only time I saw Security was getting on and off the ship. Parents (obviously) should be responsible for their children but at the same time, they are on vacation too, therefore the security should step in, when needed.
The bathroom came with a complimentary gift basket, if you will, with toothpaste, razors, packets of Emergen-C and tanning lotion.
The Housekeeping staff were friendly and our rooms well kept. Although, the last 2 Carnival cruises, the rooms seemed to be cleaned as soon as we stepped out the door. This time, we came back, several times to an unmade bed/room. But they were cleaned twice a day and we had those cute little towel animals. I wish the staterooms had the name cards of the person in charge of cleaning our room, as I never got this name. And every time I passed him, I couldn't see the name on his nametag. I should have just asked him again but didn't, thus felt rude anytime I needed something and didn't call him by name.
The Dining Rooms - We dined in the Monet and the service was great. Our wait staff were friendly, accommodating and most of all FUN! Our 2nd waiter, Pande, seemed to find us up in the Cezanne buffet dining every morning and would offer to get us drinks etc. How nice!
The food (again) seemed to be the same exact menu as the other ships. The food was good, except for the Thanksgiving dinner, which sadly I found inedible. The Pumpkin pie was horrible. Other than that evening, the food was excellent and my husband enjoyed the fact that he could order two entrees. We could have done without some of the dining room entertainment as it really interrupted our conversations.
The Sun Decks - The reason we choose not to cruise with Royal Caribbean is non-existence of an Adult Deck. I am all about choices and like the choice to sun bathe with the top optional. Now, here is my MAJOR complaint about the Conquest. The bad layout of the decks. The multi-tiered sun decks were a pain to begin with and to top it off, the steps up to the Adults Only was access by going through the netted volleyball/basketball courts. Of course, this is where all the kids hang out and then are curious about what's up those steps to the Adults Only. The Adult Only deck was NOT MONITORED AT ALL, thus many a child peered up and giggled at the ladies sunbathing topless. This was highly annoying and intrusive. I called once to have security come up and tell the kids/teens they were not allowed up there. The only person that showed up was someone from the bar staff and he did nothing. Throughout the cruise, this was a constant annoyance and did not feel it was my (or any other guest) to monitor this deck.
Another complaint, which isn't Carnival's fault entirely, is the cell phone service. Yes! My mobile phone worked throughout the entire cruise (except while at the port of calls) and received great reception. Now, on my mobile it showed Roaming & ok, so it's going to just be the roaming fee from my cell phone provider. WRONG. I felt that Carnival should have stated earlier somewhere (in the Capers/Blue Books/notices) that this is INTERNATIONAL ROAMING. I did not find this out until the 4th day. Now, after using my mobile for 30 mins, I am being charged for $2.49 a min. Considerable less then the in-room phones at 6.99 a minute. I would have been much more careful in using my mobile had I known the price.
Spa and Exercise Room We felt the spa/hair salon was very overpriced but this was expected. We both had massages which were great but after the already high price and tip, we should have saved that money and gotten an upgraded stateroom! We did not like the layout of the gym, as you had to walk through the changing rooms to get to it. Also, we usually like to use the hot tub in the gym area, but the Conquest gym's hot tub was tiny. It could only hold 4 people and there was lap pool next to it, which was quite warm but not the same. The staff in the Spa and gym were friendly but as soon as it got busy, they were quite frazzled. This is to be expected in other circumstances, but surely they go through this same thing each week and should be used to it.
Entertainment - This being my 4th cruise, I sort of knew what to expect. It was the same usual type shows, although I thought a bit more risque than previous ships. I only made it to one of the Adult Comedy shows and was not really all that impressed. I went to the show on the 2nd day of the cruise and that was it. My husband spent most of his time in Casino and did not seem to have any major complaints.
Shore Excursions Jamaica we booked ourselves on the Original Canopy Tour through Carnival. We pre-booked, when we booked our cruise, which was nice, as we didn't have to deal with the shore excursions desk or trying to find an available tour. The zip lines were fun and the staff and guides were awesome! They gave us a terrifying/fun/crazy ride from the port to the canopy (thought we might die a few times on the drive). The zip lines through the canopy provided us with a good view of the rainforest and really was just a lot of fun. We would definitely do this again.
Grand Cayman We were unable to tender due to the apparently bad weather. We did not think it was that bad but we aren't the ones making the decision! Carnival gave all guests a $25 credit to their S&S cards, to compensate. We were really looking forward to going back to Grand Cayman and were disappointed. We recognized that this was NOT Carnival's fault.
Cozumel We took the Adventure Park/Zip Line/Rock climbing excursion and decided it was NOT worth the money. The climbing walls were fun, but the beach was a joke. It was about 300 feet wide, rocky and not very accessible. The free drink contained no alcohol and not worth the time waiting to get it. We were able to leave early and the staff got us a taxi back. We spent the rest of the day walking around the shops, which all sell the same exact stuff and not worth the haggling. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and just wandered. At least it was warm and sunny!
Debarkation We did not use the self-assist, as we had too many bags. Getting off was fairly easy, our deck was called about 9:30 and we luckily flew through finding our bags and Customs. No major issues this trip. I felt it was pretty organized and we did not encounter any long queue times.
Overall, really not our best cruise. This is due to the weather mostly, but again, this is not Carnival's fault. Also, we just were not as impressed as we were in previous cruises. The ship is lovely (and huge!) and did have some good activities and food!