This was our second trip on the Conquest. We loved it the first time and wanted to go on it again. We love the ship and the Itinerary. So, any negatives listed in this review are just minor observances, not "trip-ruining" horrors. Galveston We drove to Galveston from New Orleans, taking the Bolivar ferry to cross the bay. The ferry is free and the wait was not long, so it was a fun bonus - a little cruise before the big one. We stayed at the Baymont Inn on 63rd, just off of Seawall, for around $93. It's located just behind the Golden Corral. It seems like it should be easier to find than it was (the street sign is small and hard to notice). The Baymont seems very new, very clean and it is Smoke-Free. The rooms were nice, new and clean, and had balconies. There was free wi-fi. The baymont also offers free cruise parking, even if you only stay one night (prior to the cruise). We ate dinner at Salsa's which was good. The avocado / jalapeno cream salsa was excellent Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel about 10:30, the front desk called a taxi for us which only took about 5 minutes to arrive. The trip to the terminal was about 10 minutes long and cost $17.50. Embarkation Arriving at the terminal, we gave our bags (4) to one of the porters, tipping them $10 for taking care of us - and then we didn't see them again until we were on board. Checking-in was easy, and except for the hour we waited in line, it was painless. (the hour wait was ok because we made some new friends in line). All our paperwork was in order and we went directly to the obligatory photo shoot, then up the ramp and onto the ship. This was much easier than our last time on the conquest (out of New Orleans) and MUCH MUCH easier than the RCCL Navigator of the Seas out of Miami (where we waited in line for 3 hours). Once on the ship, we tried to go to our room but it was still being cleaned, so we headed towards the buffet, got some lunch and waited. We tried to find a place that was showing the Saints game, but it wasn't on, and the sports bar on-board wasn't open. Cabin Cabin 9250 - Lido deck, port side, forward, with balcony. Nice room. Seems smaller than our window room we had previously on the conquest. But, it's still great and the balcony is amazing. The bed wasn't uncomfortable at all, and we had TONS of room for storage. The Lido deck cabins are high on the ship, located between two floors of cabins, so no noise from discos or from lounge chairs scraping across the deck. First Dinner We were seated in the Renoit dining room for late dinner. Our table was 182, right in the middle of the room. For some reason, they chose to stick 9 people at our table, which was clearly only designed for 6. We were squished together in a most uncomfortable fashion, which felt a bit odd, but also made dining awkward. Meanwhile there were other tables with only 2 people or 4 people seated, with plenty of open spaces. Now before I go further, I was a waiter for 4 years and while I have high expectations, I also have lots of forgiveness with wait staff, knowing what they deal with. That said, dinner the first night was a bit disappointing. Our Head Waiter was Glen, who seemed angry, unhappy, ill or something. He was disinterested and put-off by our questions or requests. On past cruises, our waiters have gotten to know us, our names, and have talked at length with us. Glen was different. Several people asked for drinks (tea, coffee, cokes) and never got them, even after asking twice. After our appetizers and salad were finished, we watched as Glen delivered our dinner plates (covered) to one of the large "table stands" the waiters use, then he disappeared. He was gone for over ten minutes while our food sat there getting cold. Then when he returned, he attended to another table, and finally began serving us our entrees. I'm not sure what he was doing, perhaps trying to look at his paper and figure who got what. But by the time the last person was served, the first person served had already finished. That's how long it took. The portions were small, which didn't really bother me, but it bothered everyone else. I ordered the sweet and sour shrimp, and there were only 4 shrimp. Didn't seem like an entrEe to me. I ordered coffee which never arrived, even after asking a second time. So, after fifteen minutes of waiting, and seeing that everyone else in the restaurant had finished dessert (and we hadn't even ordered ours yet) - we left. Wandered around the ship a bit, then back to the cabin for the night. The Ship The Conquest looks as good as it did when we were on it three years ago. The ship was very clean and did not look worn, especially considering up to 3600 people are on it every week. Our favorite spots were Alfreds, our balcony, the forward balconies (decks 6,7,9 and 10). Food The dining room meals were good, but minimal. The buffet was not bad, we ate there a lot (I tried to eat lots of salads). The grill and pizzeria were great, especially late. The late night grill was great too. Most mornings we had breakfast delivered (via the form you leave on your door the night before). It was great to sit on the balcony and eat and have coffee. Entertainment / Activities §Ice carving demonstration was amazing, especially considering the man carved a really cool dragon in only 20 minutes! §"The Formidable" - I'm certain I saw this on our cruise in 2004, only it's been updated. IT was pretty good and the dancers were better than before. It was "suggestive" which doesn't bother me because it's a Vegas style show. What bothered me was the suggestive male/female choreography, the female spread eagle crotch shots - and don't forget the whole male prostitute part of the show ( why it's called "gay" Paris). It was unnecessary and lewd. But that's just my opinion. §Point and Click - again, I'm pretty sure we had seen this before. It was not great, a cute idea filled in with lots of fluff.
The Capers listed jazz music in Alfred's Bar from 10:30 - 1am, but it wasn't happening. We were looking forward to it as Alfred's is our favorite spot and we love jazz. §Did the ship Galley Tour (again) which is fascinating. The kitchen is so huge, and clean. It's amazing § Ron Joseph (The Soul Man of Bourbon Street). This was a very good show and had some great audience help and participation. §Mardi Gras Party, which was really just a roaming pep rally. Still, it was fun. Ports Montego Bay, Jamaica. Stayed on the ship. It's nice to have the entire ship to ourselves while everyone is on shore. I wandered the ship taking some pictures you simply can't take when the place is full of people. Saw an amazing lightning storm off our port stern just before dinner. People were lined up on the lobby deck checking it out. Grand Cayman: Shopping and Exploring. Bought plenty of rum cake and other souvenirs. Cozumel: Shopping and exploring. Bought some jewelry and souvenirs.
Debarkation = Nightmare
The seemed to herd everyone off the ship as quickly as possible, only to wait in an absurdly long line to go through customs. From the time they called our "zone" to the time we got to customs was right at two hours, most of that trying to carry all our luggage. If I had been smart I would have done the self-assist debarkation, or at least gotten a porter (who would have taken us out). There were no bathrooms, no water, just an incredibly long line snaking through the terminal, while people constantly cut-in line.
Overall, we really loved the cruise, the ship, the staff and the ports. We truly enjoyed every part of the entire vacation, save for one issue: (please don't flame me)
I seem much more apt to notice smoke this time around on the conquest. When on the balcony, I was always smelling smoke. Three cabins forward of ours had smokers and their smoke always hovered on our balcony. The people above, below and aft of us also smoked. Does everyone smoke??? The lobby / atrium and casino areas wreak of stale smoke, much worse than I remember, and that smoke floats upward and fills all the decks above. If you wanted to look at your photos, it smelled like smoke. If you wanted to shop, it smelled like smoke. Of course the Promenade wreaked of smoke. Three times we got on the elevator and someone was smoking, and when I said something they acted like I was being a jerk.. And our cabin smelled of stale smoke, even the headboard smelled like old smoke. I don't care that people smoke. Nor do I suggest that the Conquest be a non-smoking ship. But they could add air filtration systems in the smoking areas so that everyone is not forced to smell it. Smoking in the lobby is not a great idea in that the smoke floats upward to almost all decks of the ship. Non-smoking rooms would be nice. Perhaps have a smoking and non-smoking side of the ship. Or, make the aft of the ship smoking. The smoke was prominent and suffocating, especially on the Lido deck where our cabin was (all the smoke floated up to the Lido deck). It did not ruin our cruise by any means, but it definitely made it less pleasurable. We will most likely not cruise with carnival gain, if all their cruises are this smoky.