I love to travel and my boyfriend has always wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise, but thought a caribbean one might be better at first, that way any sea-sickness on his part might not ruin it totally for him.
We actually booked with Carnival rather than another line because they were the only one to actually call us after our information was filled out online. They offered us a deal including port fees, taxes, etc and said that since we were first timers, there was a possible upgrade included.
We left on a Sunday afternoon on the Carnival Conquest and everything was fine. We had a good time exploring the ship that first night and enjoyed the selections available for dinner. Unfortunately, during dinner, the boat started rocking. Apparently, we were following a small tropical disturbance. The rocking didn't stop for over 24 hours resulting in a lot of seasick people on board, my boyfriend included. He took medication for it, but it didn't help. I basically wound up walking around the ship by myself all day and going back to check on him every couple of hours. I really couldn't get into any of the activities of the day (ice carving, water wars, hairy chest contest) because I was so nervous and worried about him.
Our second day at sea was much calmer and therefore he was much better. We looked at the Carnival Capers to see what there was to do, and the only things we found that we might be interested in were the bingo games and the tour of the Galley. Bingo was okay. You do have to pay for cards (anywhere from $2 to $10 per card) and the games are VERY short. They play the variation where you may only need b's and O's to win, so only b's and o's are entered into the tub. It goes very quickly.
The Galley tour was nice, but also not as we expected. We were told that there would be many chef's on duty that we could watch as they prepared for that night's dinner. There were only 2 chef's on duty, one was a pastry chef and was making flowers and another was one of the head chef's who also did ice sculptures (there was a demo the day before on the lido deck).
Our first stop was Montego Bay, Jamaica and we had decided to take a tour of the Croydon Pineapple plantation. We did this to avoid the crowded markets (where we heard things could easily turn ugly) and the constant offers of drug deals. It worked. We had an interesting ride to and from the terminal through narrow, winding, mountain roads. Our driver and his helpers were very entertaining. The tour was nice. It offered an amazing view of the mountains and plenty of time to sample the various types of pineapples. Afterwards, we got a nice lunch of jerk chicken with rice and peas (actually kidney beans), fried plantain chips, and some blue mountain coffee. They actually had bags of blue mountain coffee on sale for about a third of what you can get it in the states, so we bought a couple of pounds. On our way back, we were told that if any of us were interested in going into downtown Montego Bay, to just stay on the shuttle and they would take us back for $8 per person (it's $12 for the shuttle via the cruise line). We went, expecting to be harassed and offered drugs... and it never happened. The people let us try on and hold clothing and other items we may be interested in, something we were told never happens in the shops that Carnival will send you to for shopping. In this, I blame Carnival. If there are nicer shops out there and they send you to the ones where you are constantly harassed anyway, then that is their fault just as much as the harassers fault.
Thursday was Grand Cayman and we were really looking forward to snorkeling. We had booked an excursion through a private company on the island after reading about it in numerous review on another site: Captain Marvin's. It's half the price of the ship's snorkeling/stingray excursion and you get to go to 3 spots instead of just 2. There were a lot of people on this one, but it was still worth it. There were more schools of fish at this site (which the cruise tours don't visit) than the barrier reef and stingray site (which the cruises often visit). It was beautiful. After this, we went to a nice spot right across from Carnival's tendering pier to eat. The name of the place was "Breezes" and it was a bit expensive (everything in GC is), but the food and drinks were great!! My one complaint about this stop was that after using US dollars in Jamaica, we weren't prepared to have to exchange to the CI in Grand Cayman. Carnival does a very poor job of informing it's passengers about what should be expected at the ports of call, probably because it would rather you stay like sheep and deviate from the excursions they offer. The same in Jamaica though. When driving through the mountains, people on the buses were not prepared for the level of poverty they witnessed in the mountains. You are not educated in any way on your port of call which I find to be very disappointing.
That night was another formal night, but we decided to go to the Pointe Supper Club for dinner. They do charge extra on formal night with a $30 per person fee rather than the usual $25, but it was well worth it. I've been to some wonderful steakhouses in Houston, but none of their Filet Mignon could honestly match this one. It was extremely tender and juicy and seasoned perfectly. Also, you'll find the chef likes to send complementary starters and desserts to you throughout the night, so be prepared to be well fed!
Friday was Cozumel. Once again, we were not told if we needed to exchange our dollars for peso's, but most places would give you the price in peso's and tell you what exchange rate they would use. We decided to do the horseback ride through the Mayan ruins. We were brought to a ranch on the south side of the island, given a quick riding lesson, and paired up with a horse compatible with our abilities. We saw caves and stone carvings and were basically told that much of their artifacts were bussed in and not found there. It was okay, until the end. I started to feel as if I was being held hostage. They found any and every reason to keep us at the ranch. A raffle for tequila, more free Corona's started to feel more like an excuse to have us look longer through the ranch's gift shops than to entertain us.
One other thing I was not prepared for in cozumel, everyone asks for a tip. Even in the restrooms, there is someone there to spritz your hands with soap and ask for a "big tip".
Before getting off the ship, we did some window shopping (jewelry is cheap there), bought some souvenir's at Cinqo Soles, and ate at Carlos and Charles'. The food there was supposedly more authentic mexican food, it was cheap and it was great!!
As for our onboard experience, shows were sporadic and when changes were made, they were delivered by word of mouth and no official announcement. Entertainment would change with no warning. You'd go to the piano bar for what was listed in the daily "Caper" and there would be no player there or bartender. Water wars, hairy chest contests, buckets of beer while laying by the pool, bingo, and an occasional band on the Lido were the only entertainment provided. The dance club was filled with private parties or parties for the kids on all of our nights at sea. Otherwise, there was no DJ present.
The room was small, but we weren't in it for the room so we didn't mind. We did have very noisy neighbors who obviously didn't realize we could hear everything they said. They were the worst part of our room. You really don't need to bring a razor with you or even toothpaste. They had free samples provided in the rooms, for both men and women, that lasted us the entire trip.
We dined in the Monet dining room. You can dine here for each meal if you choose. I only ate on the Lido deck for breakfast and that was only for the omelet line. You can get the same omelet in the Monet with more choices of sides or breads than are available on the Lido. In fact, I'd say that if someone chose to avoid the buffets and just eat in the dining rooms (and not order second and thirds), then it would be difficult to gain a lot of weight on this cruise!
Disembarking was easy. We did self-assist and had no problems. We were off the ship and in our car in under an hour.
Would I do a cruise again? This was my first and after we disembarked, I swore I would not. After a couple of days, I realize I would, but not with this line. There was no entertainment really or info given on the ports (other than where to pick up gifts at shops sponsored by Carnival). There is probably a line for everyone, but this one must not be for me. I was just very disappointed. The only highlight was dining at the Pointe, in the dining rooms, and our experiences on land.