Although our cruise departure was delayed because of a tropical storm in the Gulf, we still had a great time. New Orleans is one of our favorite cities so we were excited about having an extra day there. We left as planned on Saturday even though Carnival had emailed, called, and texted us two hours earlier about our cruise being delayed because of the weather. Our now two days in New Orleans were spent at the Marriot Residence Inn in Metairie. It was a nice, clean, comfortable hotel that is easy driving distance to everything. We spent quite a bit of time sightseeing and eating before coming back to enjoy the pool.
On embarkation day, we drove to Fulton Garage where we had already prepaid parking through their website. The garage is pretty close to the port. We chose uncovered parking and the attendant told us that we would have to drive all the way up to the top to park. There was a porter waiting on one of the lower floors to collect our luggage. He told us we would have to walk down a few levels in order to get to the elevators. We parked the car, found the elevators, and made our way down to front of the garage to catch the shuttle. The driver was very friendly. The cruise terminal itself is set up really awkwardly and the driver had to maneuver through some pretty narrow spaces. We made it to the terminal after a few near misses with large motor coaches and entered the building after unloading our luggage.
The embarkation process in New Orleans is pretty similar to what we experienced when we took the Elation out of Mobile. Everyone is assigned a zone and seated. When your zone number is called, you are allowed to get in line. There was a long wait but not as bad as Miami or Mobile. We boarded the ship, dropped off our luggage, and headed to the buffet for lunch. We are used to getting our luggage well before dinner. So, we were not surprised to see our bags already at the door when we got back to our cabin. Our largest suitcase was missing but we just assumed it would show up soon. Wrong. Dinner time came. No luggage. We went to dinner and came back, still no bag. I called Guest Services and was told to be patient, that is should show up by 9 pm.
After seeing the other passengers’ bags disappear from the hallway, we knew our bag was not going to turn up. I went down to Guest Services and was told that sometimes, it can take until midnight for all the bags to be delivered and I should check back in the morning. I walked away knowing that I had just been fed a load of crap. We woke up the next morning, still no suitcase. I went to Guest Services again and this time there was a new agent. She suggested that I check the room next to the counter. Sure enough, there was my bag. Apparently, someone broke the handle and the tag fell off. How long my bag had been there, I do not know. It would have been nice though if the lady that I talked to the night before had attempted to be helpful instead of continuously blowing me off. The agent who helped me find my suitcase reported the damage to a supervisor who came by our cabin to inspect the suitcase. She ended up just giving us a letter with the address to contact Carnival customer service. Other than our cabin steward and dining room staff, this was about the level of service we received for the duration of the cruise. There were some shining stars but, most of the time the crew just seemed too tired to be bothered.
Our first sea day started with the comedy brunch in the dining room. I was hoping for a full show but apparently, this is just a teaser for the comedy shows at night. The comedian only spoke for 5 minutes. Brunch was great though. I ordered the huevos y carne which is eggs served with filet mignon and potatoes. The coffee was exceptional. After dropping our little boy off at Camp Carnival, we headed to the gym. Our little boy loved Camp Carnival. We are careful to drop him off when there are activities on the scheduled that he will enjoy. We were also surprised to see a few Americans on the camp staff and a man. Every camp staff member we talked to was great and our little boy had several art projects to take home at the end of the cruise.
I really like the gym on the Conquest. They had upgraded treadmills and ellipticals and I was pleased to see that all the monitors on the machines were working. My only complaint with the gym is that the weight area is pretty small. I honestly think only 2 or 3 adults could comfortably work out in that area. There were also some gym rats on the ship’s staff that were holding some of the weights hostage for their own workout in the aerobics room. None of the people who needed to use those weights appreciated that. They even tried to take some of the weights that I was using without even asking me if I was finished with them. They were just really rude – not the kind of behavior that I expect from ship staff.
After exercising, we picked up our son and headed up to the Lido deck to find the kiddie pool. After searching in vain, we asked the pool attendant and he said there was no kiddie pool on the Conquest. This was disappointing after using the kiddie pool on the Valor (essentially the same ship) quite often. There is one main pool in the center of the Lido deck and apparently, that is where Carnival expects small kids to swim – with the throng of other adults and older kids on the ship. No thanks. Dinner in the dining room was OK. I absolutely hated our table seating. They stuck us back in a dark corner at a table for two. They added a third chair for our son. After our experience with the luggage, we decided that it just was not worth complaining about so we put up with it for the duration of the cruise.
I got the BBQ pork ribs which were edible but the sauce did not really taste like BBQ sauce. We had early seating so we headed to the 8:15 Divas theater show after dinner. The singers were very good but I really did not like some of the song selections. If you could only sing one Whitney Houston song, would you pick “Queen of the Night”? My husband put our little boy to bed while I went to the adults-only comedy show at 9:45. It was standing room only. Honestly, if you’re not in line before the prior event ends, don’t bother trying to go. If the events are this popular, why not have them in the theater instead of cramming everyone into a much smaller lounge? The Degas lounge is simply not big enough. I went up to the Lido deck after the comedy show to catch the Seaside Theater movie before turning in for the night.
Our day in Key West started with an early morning workout in the gym. Our plan for the day was the Key West Aquarium and a little shopping. We headed to the breakfast buffet after getting dressed so we could get off the ship right after eating. After the horrible buffet food on the Valor, I know what to avoid on the buffet. I stuck with fruit, French toast, eggs benedict, and tea instead of coffee. The coffee on the buffet is not as good as the coffee in the dining room. We got off the ship and had a great time at the Key West Aquarium, which I detail in my ports review. My phone battery had long since died and I had a number of emails to follow-up on so I stopped at the visitors’ center to ask where I could find free wi-fi to use my tablet. I was directed to the Starbucks which is about a half mile walk from the Aquarium. The wi-fi is indeed free but you have to ask the barista for the password. I guess this is their way of making sure people buy something instead of just hanging out using their wi-fi. We ate lunch while I responded to my emails and then headed back to the ship.
On the way back, we stopped at the Key Lime Pie Factory and got a slice of key lime pie. It was good but a little more tart than I like my pie. I also got a key lime pound cake for $10. It was OK but nothing I feel the need to buy again. We got back on the ship and headed to the Lido deck so our son could enjoy some time in the pool before it got super crowded. My husband went to the gym and I dropped our son off at Camp Carnival to head to the spa. I got a full body exfoliation and a blissful foot massage from Lilian – sheer heaven. Dinner was much more enjoyable than the night before. The smoked chicken quesadillas and the jerk pork were delicious.
Nassau was our next stop. Disembarkation was a hot mess. Communication was not this ship’s staff strong point. There was no announcement from the cruise director or written instructions given to the passengers the night before we arrived. Instead they set the elevators to not open the doors at deck 0. People are on the elevator pushing 0 to get off the ship and the elevator goes down to 0 and then goes right back up to 2. Now that I’m writing this, I think the same thing happened on the Valor and it was annoying then too. If that’s the process, fine. However, there is no excuse for not letting the passengers know in order to avoid confusion. We finally got off the ship and spent a nice relaxing day at Cable Beach. Dinner in the dining room was wonderful. I think I tried at least 3 entrees. I remember the filet mignon, short ribs, and lasagna were all delicious.
On our second sea day, we did some trivia, attended the future cruise talk, and had another great meal at the Punchliner comedy brunch. We enjoyed a nap before dinner and went to the family comedy show after dinner. This one was not nearly as crowded as the adults only comedy show. Our last sea day was spent with more of the same activities. I enjoyed more treatments at the spa but bought way too much product. I really enjoyed the sea days because we had so much time to get back to New Orleans that the ship felt like it was gliding. It was very relaxing. The ship was moving so slowly that the captain even stopped and turned around to investigate an abandoned boat. We usually don’t eat in the dining room on the last night because we focus on packing. We ate Guy’s Burgers for dinner instead. My husband really enjoyed the burgers there and still talks about them.
Debarkation was pretty straightforward. Although they try to rush you off the ship, we left our luggage in the cabin and enjoyed our usual leisurely debarkation breakfast before collecting our luggage, saying goodbye to our steward, and heading down to wait until our zone was called. Overall, we enjoyed this cruise and the upgrades on the Conquest are great. Cruising remains our family’s preferred way to take a vacation. As much as we love Carnival, the last two cruises have been a little lacking. So, we are branching out. Our next cruise is on Royal Caribbean.
We asked a guide at the pier how to get to the aquarium and she very helpfully told us it was within walking distance. She also handed us some coupons for a discount off the admission. We walked to the aquarium stopping to take pictures along the way. The aquarium is pretty small but has a good selection of animals. We saw sharks, sting rays, turtles, tropical fish, jellyfish, eels, sea horses, and much more. This is a great excursion for kids and our 4 year old loved it. The aquarium focuses heavily on conservation, education, and rescue and several of the animals have an associated story. There was a poor rescued sea turtle that was permanently tilted sideways because his shell was cracked and he had an injured flipper. They allowed the kids to touch the sharks if they wanted. The tour guide held the shark securely for safety reasons. I did my souvenir shopping in the attached gift shop. They had a great selection, reasonable prices, and the proceeds benefit the aquarium.
We spent the day in Nassau enjoying the sun and beach at the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort. We paid $20 for a cab to take us from the port to the hotel and paid $60 for 2 adult day passes which included the use of the beach, pool, and non-motorized beach activities. The front desk staff was very nice and decided not to charge us for our 4 year old. The beach was beautiful and the hotel was pristine. I would definitely consider staying here if I ever took a land vacation to Nassau. There was also a lifeguard on duty at the beach, which we really appreciated. There are people that roam around the beach to take your drink and food orders or you can just walk up to the bar. The offerings are pricey. We paid $9 and $12 for our mixed alcoholic drinks, $3 for a can of soda, and $8.75 for a small personal-sized pizza. The beach was not crowded and we enjoyed a nice relaxing day. I also learned the secret to enjoying Nassau – venture outside of the port area. There were cabs waiting in front of the hotel which made getting back to the port very simple.