My family and I sailed on the 7/29/2007 of the Carnival Conquest. About us, I am a 39 year old male, my DW is a couple of years older, and we are traveling with our six year old daughter. We were also traveling with a group consisting of two other couples, and one other family of five.
SUMMARY: This is a long review. For those that do not want to read everything, we had a great cruise, with some problems thrown in. It was great traveling with friends which really added to the cruise experience. We loved being with a group. The food, entertainment, the ship, and our cabin were great. The shore excursion desk on the Conquest is horrible. I strongly advise you to avoid booking Carnival Shore Excursions (read our experience in the shore excursion section of this review). We had a great cruise and would gladly do it again, but would book our own shore excursions.
ARRIVAL & EMBARKATION: We left our home in Brenham, Texas around 8:00 a.m. on the morning of the cruise. We met up with 2 of the 3 other families that are traveling with us. We arrived Galveston at 10:15 a.m. we parked at Lighthouse Parking (pre-paid on the internet, $50). They treated us very nicely. We had a brief wait for the bus.
We entered the cruise terminal at around 10:45 a.m. When we entered, security checked our documents and sent us upstairs. They had just started boarding the wedding parties, guest with special needs, & VIP's. We waited in this line for about 20-25 minutes. Once they started our line, we made it through security, Sign & Sail, photos, and boarded the ship by noon. We were having lunch on the lido deck by 12:10. Our cabins were ready when we finished lunch. Note: if you arrive early, you can take great pictures of the ship before lots of people get onboard and block your shots.
THE SHIP: The ship is huge. There are some wonderfully beautiful areas of this ship, and then there are some areas that are a disappointment. The ship was very clean and was in great shape. They were constantly cleaning. The lido deck restaurant is very nicely decorated and well laid out. There were numerous food stations, buffets, drink and dessert stations, and lots of tables. We never once had trouble finding a table, nor were the lines ever impossibly long. I personally like the lobby with all of the art work and colorful features. The ships library is a disappointment. I have been on other Carnival ships that had stunning libraries. The Conquest library just seemed cheap and tacky. The Murano (sp?) Glass flower lamps that line the lobby and promenade are beautiful and fun to look at. The casino was a typical casino, nice but nothing special. I have read numerous complaints about the layout of this ship. I will admit that I studied the deck layouts in some detail, however, I found this ship simple to navigate and well laid out. The clubs and bars all had various special features that made them nice. I did not like the Degas Lounge. I am not exactly sure why, but it just seemed to dark, and just did not appeal to me. The sunflower atrium was nice and the large lit sunflower was pretty. The dining rooms were both exactly alike in dEcor, however I liked the Monet where we were assigned due to the large windows. I initially did not like the Toulouse Lautrec lounge, however as the week went by, I discovered I liked it more and more. It seemed to grow on us. Smoking was allowed in to many areas, it was not horrible, but I would like to see it more limited. Hopefully Carnival will consider following RCCL's lead on their smoking policy.
GYM/SPA: The gym was nice but was often crowded early in the morning and so it was hard to get a machine. One complaint here, the gym opens at 6:00 a.m., but the spa does not open until 8:00 a.m. therefore if you want a locker, you cannot get one until the spa opens. I did find a spa employee there early one morning who acted as if handing a key to me was a huge inconvenience. I did not receive a spa treatment (mainly because the prices were way to high), but a friend did and she said they were way to pushy trying to sell various products during the massage. Prices did get cheaper as the cruise week went by with various specials. Do not book ahead of time or you will pay to much.
OUR CABIN: We were in cabin 1031, a balcony cabin on the Promenade Deck, on the starboard side of the ship. We loved our cabin. It was great for the three of us. The layout was nice, the decorations were nicer than I had expected, and the bed was wonderful, on par with the Westin Hotel Heavenly Beds and other premium hotels. Our cabin steward (Mon) was awesome. He really took great care of us. The cabin was truly spotless when we arrived, and he kept it that way all week long. My only complaint about the cabin was the shower. We brought cloths pins, magnets, and did everything we could to keep from flooding the bathroom every time we took a shower. It still flooded. It seemed to drain slowly, and water ended up on the floor. Also, when people on this board mention there only one outlet in the cabin, they mean there is only ONE PLUG. The suggestions to bring a power strip saved us a lot of problems. Thanks to all who posted this suggestion.
THE FOOD: The food selection was vast. All of the buffets and lido deck locations were open including Sur Mer, the Chinese place, the sandwich place, and all desert counters. The food was fresh, well prepared, and well presented. I have read some complaints about this area, but my experience was good. It is a buffet, keep your expectations realistic and you will enjoy this area. The Gala Buffet and the Chocolate Buffet were very well presented and nicely laid out.
The dining room had great service. Our waiter (Alexjandro) and bus boy took great care of us. The food was very good, not 5 star, but very good. We were able to always find something good to eat. If my daughter did not appear to like her food, the waiter was always attentive and offered to bring her something else. Also, our Maitre'd, Joseph Anthony, was very visible, came around to the table, greeted us each evening as we entered the dining room, and was even visible in the Lido area several times. This is the most active and visible I have ever seen a Maitre'D.
THE POINT SUPPER CLUB: We dined at the point during the middle of the week. Awesome pretty much says it all. I did find the frequent comparison to a Ruth Chris Steak House to be wrong. The cooking styles and menu are very different. That is not to say it is bad, just different. The service was truly 5 Star, and the food was very well done. The amount of great food was stunning. The off menu items that kept showing up as "complements of the chef" were neat and very good. This is a "don't miss experience" and well worth the $30 per person charge. We dined with another couple who were traveling with us and had a great time. Great food, great company, great service, and a great environment, what more could you ask for.
ENTERTAINMENT: Overall the entertainment was very good. If you have sailed Carnival before, the entertainment will be familiar to you, and yes some of it can be a little corny, but it is still fun. There was always something going on, and there seemed to be something for everyone. The shows were generally very good. Point & Click was the best of the two production shows. Deja, the magician, was good but not great. Some of her tricks were obvious, bit again, we enjoyed most of her show (be realistic in your expectations). The juggler was great, and real laugh. Also the Mo Town show was a lot of fun. One of my favorite shows was the Carnival Legends show. Not only was the music good, but seeing fellow passengers dress up and perform was really fun. Some were awesome, and some were funny, but all were great in their on way. The Conquest Orchestra was awesome. It is worth going to the shows just to hear them play. They did a great great job.
CAMPCARNIVAL: I felt that overall CampCarnival did a good job. My daughter seemed to enjoy CampCarnival. A lot of the kids wanted to see more of Fun Ship Freddy than they did, but that was a minor complaint. One issue I did have is that there were times when they moved the camp about the ship and did not leave a notice telling you where they would be in case you wanted to check your child in. We are not one of those types of parents who simply want to drop our child off for the entire cruise. We enjoy having her with us, and letting her experience many things. However, during the times when we did need to drop her off, CampCarnival could be hard to find. Overall, this is a good program, but could use some improved communication with the parents. This program has won awards for Carnival and I can see why.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: This is where I had my biggest disappointment with Carnival. The cruise director (Mark Price, who we enjoyed) kept talking about how Carnival would be there for us (to protect us) in his shore excursion talks, but boy did they let us down.
In Jamaica, we decided to do our own thing. We took at taxi to Sunset Beach Resort, (which we could see from the balcony of our ship). The taxi only costs us $6 (make sure it has a red license plate). SunsetBeach was great. It was much cheaper than the excursions offered by the ship, and was all inclusive. Their water park was great, the food was good, and the beverage service was nice. The beaches were very nice, and the people were fun to be around. This is an older resort, but it appears they have added some very nice newer rooms onto the resort over time. This is a great beach excursion and much cheaper than the similar Carnival excursions ($100 vs. $300 with Carnival).
In Grand Cayman, we booked the Turtle Farm, Hell, and Sting Ray City Tour with Carnival. Our total group took this excursion and so there were 12 of us. Our bus driver was great and really informative. The Turtle farm was neat, but we were somewhat rushed. There was not much to see in Hell, but we can say we have been to Hell and back (haha). The real disappointment here was StingRayCity. They crowded about 3-4 bus loads of people onto this boat. It was way to crowded. The guys on the boat were nice, but you were packed in like sardines. This also meant that once you arrived at sting ray city, you were in a huge crowd that did not get lots of one on one time with the Sting Rays. The people that I talked with who booked independently said that their excursions were much better. I noticed a Captain Marvin's boat at the sandbar, there appeared to be about 15 people on board, and they appeared to be getting much more personal attention and paid about the same price we did.
In Cozumel, I had planned to Scuba Dive. I had seriously considered booking a dive through another company but in the end allowed myself to be intimidated about the ship not waiting if we did not make it back in time. BIG MISTAKE! I ended up booking a 12:30 p.m. dive through Carnival with Sand Dollar Sports. I showed my dive certification at the time I purchased the tickets and asked if I would need them the next day. I was told no. They instructed us to go to the end of the pier and wait. We did. No one was there and no one showed up. I went back to the ship and asked questions and no one seemed to be able to tell us where we needed to be. I finally discovered that we should have been at the beginning of the pier (shore side), not the end (which was written on our tickets). Upon arrival there we were told that we were late and that we did not have our dive cards which we were told we did not need. The person from Sand Dollar Sports was very rude and short with us. He took us over to Carnival’s Shore Excursion Assistant Manager. He informed me that he would only refund 75% of fee paid, despite the fact that Carnival was responsible for this problem. When I tried to talk to him he walked away from me. Needless to say I was VERY angry. I re-boarded the ship and of course no one from the shore excursion department was on the ship. I had to wait until 6:00 p.m. to talk to a manager. Upset is not the word for how I felt. Due to the incompetence of the Carnival Conquest shore excursion department, and the rude way we were treated by Sand Dollar Sports one of the things that should have been a major highlight our vacation is ruined. When I finally met with the Shore Excursion Manager, she was also very rude and patronizing, and would only return 75% of my money. She did promise me a letter to be delivered to my cabin with corporate shore excursion contact information, but of course it never arrived. I am disputing the remaining 25% that was not returned with the help of my credit card company. I have also contacted the Carnival Guest Relations Department. They seemed interested and gave me a reference number. The lady seemed to think that my 25% would be refunded. We eventually took a taxi($15) to Paradise Beach (very cheap, $9 per person) where we had a good time. They had lots of activities and a nice beach. There were rocks and swim shoes are needed here unless you have really tough feet.
My best advice is to NEVER USE SHIP EXCURSIONS. You can find and book better excursions on your own so that you will receive personal service and will not be treated like you are on a cattle car tour. Carnival will not protect you and your satisfaction is not guaranteed.
ENDING: This was a great cruise, not perfect, but still a great trip. If you are planning to cruise read everything you can on this board to prepare for the trip. There are truly some wise and experienced people who gave great advice that enhanced our trip. We are thankful for this board.