This is my wife's and my 2nd cruise. We cruised on Carnival Ecstasy same time last year. This cruise would provide two extra nights and one extra excursion.
Conquest is a relatively new ship, only 5 years old. It is still standing tall. Crew members could be seen cleaning, shining, and picking up after passengers without stop. They do a fine job. The ship is quite large and my wife and I, still newbies to cruising, took a day to get comfortable with routes to and from our stateroom to the various venues. Whomever chose the French artistic theme was a genius, as there are countless works of art that can be interwoven into the ship's public areas.
We are not too big into group activities, but we did review them on our stateroom television at night. The hairy chest competition looked fun for those that like that sort of thing. Bingo games are offered every night in the theater prior to shows and other events. That's a good activity for those that want to get a good seat for a show but don't want to wait around doing nothing for a half hour before showtime.
Our stateroom was cleaned twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. My wife loved the cute towel animals left by the steward each evening. We were particularly impressed by a large bird, a frigate bird we do believe, that was hanging over the desk in full flight!
We were not pleased with last year's shore excursions and tried to plan carefully. We made great choices this time! Here is the rundown:
Jamaica: I had done a TON of research on both this site and Trip Advisor. Based on what I had read I was very leery about Jamaica, especially Montego Bay. However, we did not want to take a 2 hour drive to Ocho Rios. So we took a gamble on the Sandals all inclusive resort in Montego Bay. It was only a 20 minute ride from the ship, it offered an open bar and all you could eat, plus over 5 hours on the beach. Some other reviewers claimed that the resort itself was somewhat dirty and poorly kept... WRONG! It was very nice and clean. Others complained that when the cruisers arrive the beach gets too crowded. I suppose this is possible, as we were there the 2nd week of August, a lull of the season. In any event there was plenty of space. Some complained about the jets taking off from the nearby airport. While jets do take off about once every 5 to 10 minutes I was not bothered by it at all, and they don't fly directly overhead. The beach itself was gorgeous! Fine sugar white sand, and crystal clear blue water. The water was nice and cool. One dude in a small boat was selling conch shells, but he had to remain outside the floating barrier ropes and he did not make a pest of himself. The food was very good and the drinks were wonderful, strong, and had great variety! For those that wanted to take a ride on a small sailboat the opportunity was there, as well as volleyball. The long time period in which you can relax on the beach was great. I HIGHLY recommend this excursion!
Grand Cayman: On the other hand, most cruise critics rave about Cayman. Personally I did not think it had as much character as Jamaica, and certainly wasn't as pretty. All I could think of was a gigantic outlet center located next to a beach. However, my wife and I made the best of it and chose to go to the Butterfly Farm/Sea Grape Beach Break. We drove about 10 minutes to the butterfly farm, a small enclosure covered with netting and featuring dozens of species of butterflies. It was very nice and we learned something about those creatures! Kids were stunned to see so many butterflies flitting about. The butterfly farm lasts about 40 minutes. From there we were taken to "Sea Grape Beach," a small beach nearby where you can swim, drink and eat grilled food. Very nice for families. After leaving the beach we still had a couple of hours to shop in the stores across from the dock. After shopping we ended our Cayman adventure at the Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville. GREAT margaritas and a lot of fun!
Cozumel: It was great to see how much Cozumel had recovered from the hurricane that wiped them out a few years ago. We chose to do the Dolphin Encounter at Chankanaab Park. Another good choice. We got to be in the water and pet a sweet dolphin for about 40 minutes, then enjoy the beach park for a couple of hours. We're not much fans for the crunchy sand in Cozumel, but the water was great. They do take several pictures of your encounter with the dolphin as well as a video DVD. Be prepared to pay though the nose if you want them ($15 per picture, $35 for the DVD.) And they WILL NOT barter down on the pictures. (This doesn't make sense to me. I offered $20 for two pictures. The man said no. Which means he tossed our pictures into the trash where he could have at least made 20 bucks.) We ended the day walking along the shops alongside the beach. (We also made a point to collect all free merchandise offered by various merchants on coupons we were given on board.) The shopkeepers, while aggressive, weren't too annoying. We ended our day in Cozumel at Carlos and Charlies. Very nice, but the margaritas were not as tasty as Margaritaville!
Dining: We ate in the Monet Dining Room every night but one, when we dined at The Point Supper Club. All diners were wonderful. Don't be shy to ask for whatever you want in as many quantities as you want!!! One night I ordered two broiled lobster tails, and they ended up bringing me a third! I love soups and appetizers, and I often ordered several of each. Dinner at The Point was very good. We recommend it be tried once. It's $30 per person plus gratuities. WARNING: They feed you like there is no tomorrow at The Point. Do not eat a large lunch!
Children's Clubs: We don;t have children but we're both teachers and like to talk to the kids we run into. I would always ask them how they were enjoying Camp Carnival, and without exception they raved about it.
Entertainment: The shows were good, with enjoyable dancing and singing. A bit corny, but this is a family ship.
In summary, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and plan to cruise on Carnival again next year.