This was our third cruise, all on Carnival. We traveled with our 14 year old son and another couple and their teenage daughter. It was their first cruise. I would have rated the first two cruises very highly, but felt that this one was average at best.
We drove to Houston the day before and stayed at the Baymont Inn, which none of us liked. The next morning we drove the short distance to Galveston. We parked at Ezcruise parking, which was convenient, cheap, secure and two blocks from the terminal.
Embarkation was easy enough. We arrived right at noon, there was a long line to get through security but it went quickly. A gentleman that must be Carnival's oldest employee received our documents, which I had completed prior to arrival, and while he squinted at them and repeatedly tried to scan this and that it seemed that other agents were able to get throngs of passengers through, but it wasn't a big deal.
The ship was huge and our cabin was a balcony on the Panorama deck. It was very nice and the decorations I had ordered were in place and looked good. Bing was our cabin steward, he was great. Several days into the cruise someone (perhaps my wife) broke a bottle of red wine in the center of the carpet, he was there immediately, told us not to worry and to "enjoy our dinner." When I came back it had been cleaned up, and I slipped him $20 in gratitude. I had visions of "Carpet Repair" appearing on my S&S account.
Some free advice: Do not select the second early seating. Our waiters, Sheila and Angela, were competent and friendly. The food was excellent the first night, and again on the second night, which was formal. It went downhill from there. I believe that at times the food we were given was left over from the first early seating 30 minutes earlier. This was particularly noticeable with beef dishes. On one occasion my son and I both ordered rare steaks, his was fresh and rare, mine had obviously sat around and gone from rare to medium and was cold as well. We all ordered the Chateau Briand one night, it was very well done and literally inedible, as in you could not cut it. There was also way to many beef dishes. The scallops in fennel sauce I was looking forward to was not on the menu. I had really enjoyed the food on my two previous cruises, but felt that it was generic at best on this one. The food on the Lido deck was ok, sometimes lacking. Pizza was excellent as always.
Apart from the food, I had one other complaint. I am far from being snooty, and my wife assures me that I dress like a slob. The ship was full of people with no cruise etiquette. It was 90% people that wore overalls to the dining room, jeans and t-shirts to dinner on formal nights, and generally gave the impression that they don't get out much. It would have been nice to see the dress code in the dining room loosely enforced. I saw almost no one in a tux or even a suit on formal night. It was amusing to look at the formal night photos and see what some folks consider their best clothes. Needless to say, the country singer was popular in the theater, but I had already left...
In that same vein, we were seated with to two elderly couples at the table to our left and two large families with their spawn on our right. The urchins, four or five in number, were never seated, ran amok, climbed the railings, etc. The elderly gentleman at the other table appeared to have suffered a stroke in the past, and asked the waiter if he would cut his meat. When one of the mothers at the first table saw this, she immediately insisted that the waiter (we unfortunately had the same wait staff) cut the children's meat for them, which she did with a smile. Of course, they never actually ate it, but the smaller pieces were easier to throw. And of course, I noted that they did not pass along an additional gratuity to either waiter.
On the first night the people across the hall were smoking marijuana, and I didn't care. It was a woman and her teenage son. How quaint. On the fourth or fifth day they were doing it again, except this time the smell was so strong that I could smell it in my cabin. I went to the purser's desk, and asked simply that they be asked to stop. Security beat me back upstairs, and I'm not sure what transpired but they were removing the young man from the cabin against his will.
The shows were good. The first production show with the dancers was excellent. I didn't think I would like that sort of thing, but I genuinely enjoyed it. The comedian wasn't funny. The ventriloquist was hilarious, we all thoroughly enjoyed it. We also like the juggler. The magician was lame, we left early. The talent show was hilarious as well. As I am convinced that the term "country music" is an oxymoron, I left that show almost immediately.
We went to the Sunset Beach resort in Jamaica, it was nice. $40 per person and a $2 taxi ride. It was fun watching the Jamaican police search people when you tried to get back on the ship. We observed 4 people being arrested for drug possession.
More free advice: Do not miss the Stingrays in Grand Cayman and do not use a Carnival shore tour. This cruise was the first that I did not buy my tours from Carnival, as I was always afraid of being left behind. This time, thanks to Cruisecritc, I used Captain Marvin's. This is the place to go. It is two blocks from the pier, half the price of Carnival and much, much better. The day that we arrived it was quite windy and all of the Carnival snorkeling tours had been cancelled, but Captain Marvin's had not. They explained that the tour operators for Carnival put 200 people on standing room only boats and so could not operate. We had 18 people on our boat with three guides. It was the best snorkeling I have ever done. The stingray sandbar was a once in a lifetime experience that is not to be missed. Everyone at Captain Marvin's was wonderful. They have a website. I would highly recommend them to anyone.
We have friends in Playa del Carmen, so we didn't do anything tourist-like there.
Our 14-year-old son was bored most of the time on sea days. I think he was either too old or too young for most of the activities. Debarkation too forever, as apparently everyone chose self-assist, and there was only one line to leave the ship. Every fourth person had some sort of problem and the machine wouldn't take his or her card. It was after 10:00 before we made it off the boat.
All things considered, I felt the cruise was mediocre at best. If you think that pressing your jeans means dressing up, then this is the cruise for you. If after you press your jeans you put on a shirt with buttons and a belt with your name on the back and a ball cap, cuz heck, it's a formal occasion, then this is the cruise for you.
I will definitely cruise with Carnival again, but probably not on the Conquest. I will never sail on any line from Galveston again.