Background: we are late 40's and we are cruise addicts. We have cruised 14 times, including HAL, Celebrity, NCL, RCI, and now Carnival. We like active excursions like scuba diving and ecotours. We get the cheap inside cabins so we can afford to cruise more often. This was our first Carnival cruise. We feel that this was overall a good cruise and a good value for the deeply discounted price. I would recommend it to active younger cruisers who like to party, first-time cruisers, and those who pinch pennies (like me). I would not recommend it for those who want an elegant ship, fine family entertainment, and fine dining.
Good: Embarkation/debarkation, cabins, food at the alternative locations (pizza, deli, grill, room service food).
Poor: Entertainment, ship dEcor, dining room.
Embarkation was fast and smooth. The port of New Orleans is great. Parking was expensive at $84 per week. Debarkation was smooth and quick; everyone was off by 1045 a.m. I was impressed with how efficiently they moved the 3000 passengers on and off the ship at all ports. Inside cabin was nice and roomy even for all our scuba gear. Cabin steward was good and room service food was good. Ship was fairly clean and well maintained. There are many hot-tubs, a water slide, nice fitness center, numerous clubs/bars, etc. The dEcor is mainly French Impressionist; I found it gaudy and tiresome. There was nothing "nautical" about the Conquest; it's more like a hotel than a ship.
Passengers were great. All ages represented. A good crowd; mostly from Louisiana/Texas and the south/mid-west. Very friendly and accommodating to fellow passengers and crew. Very few children but those that came seemed to have a good time; the kid's program has a pretty good reputation. Personally I would avoid taking young kids to the shows; they're boring and a little too risque for my tastes. Food was OK in both dining room and buffet. Not near as good as Celebrity or HAL, but overall fairly tasty and well presented. DINING ROOM: Lots of interesting selections, but steaks were never done right, fish was mediocre, and soups were not hot. Dining room service was friendly but slow and inaccurate. Dining room was far below HAL and Celebrity. In our dining room, the staff performed nightly "entertainment" by dancing on the tables; I found it loud and juvenile and it only interrupted my meal and our table conversation. BUFFET: Food was generally good with different selections each day for lunch. ALTERNATIVE DINING: excellent. Pizza was very good as was the deli and the grill. If you are happy with "fast-food"; this is your ship.
Entertainment was unimpressive, except for a very good cruise director who was the best entertainer on the ship. Production shows were gaudy and loud and uninteresting, and entertainment was a little on the risque side. Secondary entertainers like the juggler, singer, poolside band and the bar musicians were below average.
Tipping: Carnival automatically adds their "recommended" tip levels to your on-board account. First of all I feel tipping is a personal matter; secondly I feel the recommended levels are a bit too high. I cancelled the tip charge when I came aboard and then tipped the staff myself with cash in envelopes (at a little less than the recommended levels.
Montego Bay Jamaica was disappointing; they've over-fished the reefs and the waters there are nearly dead. My dive-master said the country does not enforce fishing rules and everything that moves is caught & eaten. The port at MoBay is somewhat run-down. Many of our fellow cruisers who went downtown said they were frequently hassled by panhandlers and peddlers. Jamaica is a beautiful nation run-down by economic and political problems. We will probably treat future stops there as "days at sea". Very sad, but reminds me how good it is to live in the USA.
Georgetown Grand Cayman. We shore-dived at Eden Rock dive center right next to the tender pier: beautiful coral grottos and lots of ocean life and clear warm water. I'm amazed at how quickly the ship moved all 3000 passengers ashore.
Cozumel: they were spectacular dives as always. I have dove here often and NEVER tire of it. Did 2-tank drift dive on Palancar reefs and walls. I can't imagine diving being better. 100ft+ visibility and tons of marine life and a mild current that makes drift diving effortless and fun.
Overall this cruise was fun and a good value. I'd do it again at a low price in a heartbeat. caribdiver firstname.lastname@example.org