This was our family's second Spring Break cruise on the Conquest. Last year we sailed from New Orleans and this year from Miami. We had a great time last year and, if anything, this year was even better.
Embarkation: Easy, as we had a suite and boarded VIP. I always forget how chaotic the ports are until we get there. This year I had my 90-year-old Grandma with us (her first cruise), so I was very glad that we were VIP and the chaos was minimized. Miami isn't my favorite embarkation port, but we liked the hotel we stayed in: Comfort Suites Miami Airport North. They have a free shuttle to the port (on buses), as well as a free shuttle from the airport.
Ports: Nassau: Since we were with a large group this time, some with limited mobility, we didn't pre-plan any excursions. In Nassau, some of us walked to the Straw Market. There were a number of taxi/vans waiting with tours right outside the port and we'll probably try one of those next time. I think they were $20 a person, about half of what Carnival charges.
St. Thomas: We walked off the ship and there were open-air taxi's that were $20 per person. The tour around the island was about 2 hours and very good value for the money. We had a group of 8 and got one taxi all for ourselves which was fun. I think it's a great way to actually see St. Thomas, and I would definitely do it again.
San Juan: We walked off the ship and got a small bus tour. Again, I think it was $20.00, about 2 hours, and good value for the money. At the end of the tour, the driver offered to take us back to the ship or drop us off in Old San Juan. We opted for some shopping and it was an easy walk back to the ship.
Grand Turk: We signed up for a Catamaran Snorkeling Excursion through Carnival. We booked the early one so we'd have time afterwards to look around and possibly take a taxi into the town. We were supposed to meet at the theater by 11;15 for an 11:30 excursion. Unfortunately for some reason, all of the excursions were at least an hour late getting started. Carnival staff made several announcements about there being problems with "customs" and problems getting the tour operators "cleared" so the tours could begin. Frankly, it didn't make any sense at all and there was a lot of frustration about it, since we all know this wasn't Carnival's first day in port, nor was it the first day for the tour operators. I don't know what really happened and the excursion was a blast once it got going, but we didn't have enough time for anything but snorkeling. A shame, really! It reinforced my growing opinion that it's better to just get off the boat and do your own thing. We could have snorkeled on time and cheaper by booking our own excursion on shore. Lesson learned! Just one more note on Grand Turk snorkeling: This was my second time there, and I far prefer the catamarans to the regular boats. The catamarans have stairs that go into the water--if you're nervous about snorkeling at all, this is a much easier experience than just jumping in from the boats.
Sea Days: Always our favorite days on a cruise. This is the first year that we actually made it to the "Hairiest Chest Contest" and I have to tell you, as silly as it sounds and was, my husband and I laughed so hard at the antics that we were almost crying. It will be a "don't miss" for us from now on (and we're late 40's/early 50's).
Cheers Program: This is our 2nd year doing it, and I can't say we got our money's worth out of it. It's $49 a day for every one over 21 in the cabin. It cost us $800 (ouch!), and you have to remember that you will be off the boat a fair amount if you have a lot of ports. Fifteen drinks is a lot of drinks! We saw some very heavily inebriated people aboard--not a lot--but staff was having trouble dealing with some of them and I felt sorry for them. I don't think we'll purchase again.
Camp Carnival: One of the nicest things about our March 30 cruise is that, despite the fact that it was Spring Break and that Carnival "always sails full," I've never seen a less-crowded cruise. It was awesome, actually! We couldn't figure out where all the kids were?? No kids taking over the elevators, no kids running wild with their ice cream cones, no long lines at orientation--most of the time when I took my 7-year-old son to his group, there were only 5-10 kids in the club. Amazing! My 17-year-old said there were only 150 teens on the whole ship. Which never happens at Spring Break! Both of our sons had a BLAST!
Dining: We always do Your Time Dining and love not being held to a schedule. We had a group of 10 and never had a problem sitting together and never had to wait (we dine early, though--usually at 6:00 p.m.). This year we had the most wonderful dining staff--Ilguisti (Iggy), Lidia, and another lovely, lovely lady who unfortunately I can't recall the name of right now. We requested them every night and were lucky enough to get them every night but one. **Now a secret for those of you who like Indian food and are actually reading this review: There is an unpublished menu of Indian dishes that are available if you request them in advance--these are not the vegetarian dishes on the menu. These are real Indian dishes with meat, very hot and spicy, and delicious! We asked the first night about it, and from then on, Iggy brought us the Indian dish of the night, along with our regular entrees. It was wonderful!! These are dishes we don't get at home and everyone in our group enjoyed them immensely. For many, including my grandmother, it was their first experience of Indian food. I don't know why they don't put it on the regular menu because it is SO delicious. But now you know... ;-)
Entertainment: The theater shows are good, but could be better. They've cut back on a lot of their entertainers. I wish they'd consider bringing some Broadway style shows in and charging a cover charge for it, like other lines do. Instead, they've just cut back so much on the "free" shows, that we usually avoid unless there's nothing else to do. We really enjoyed some of the shipboard musicians, especially Grant.
The Conquest is awesome and this trip left us with such "Cruise Fever" that we are planning an "extra" cruise this summer!