Sail date 7-22-07. I will start by saying I unfortunately did not find Cruise Critic until after our cruise. If I knew then what I know now! We are a 1st time cruising family of 5, hubby & I mid 40's, 2 girls 17 & 6, son is 12. We chose the Conquest due to location. We flew Sun from Midland to Hobby arriving at 9:45am where friends picked us up and took us to Galveston. Keeping in mind our "rookie" status we chose to get a bite of lunch before going to the ship. BIG mistake. Arriving at the ship at 12:30 we were greeted by extremely long lines. We checked our bags with a porter and waited! Finally around 3pm we boarded the ship, at which point we instantly forgot about the long hot lines we had just encountered. We were in awe at the beauty of this huge ship!
CABINS: Main deck, inside 2466, king w/2 fold down bunks, us and 6 year old took this cabin, worked out perfect with extra fold down bed for storing luggage, 2 older kids in 2468, 2 twins beds, they loved having their own cabin. We did have to go to Purser's desk (another long line)to change Sail & Sign cards around, as we had to switch the cabins since we wanted the 6 y/o with us. Made sure kids did not have charging privileges too, not that we don't trust them, haha! Our cabin steward was great, room was always clean and kids loved the animals and chocolates on their pillows! Never had shower problems like some have experienced.
SAFETY DRILL: Hot and crowded and somewhat unorganized, nobody seemed to know where to go and when to go. We were in Muster Station H. They put an armband on the 6 year old, she wasn't real thrilled about having to leave it on the entire cruise, but we explained to her it was important.
DINING: Kids loved the pizza, burgers and hotdogs.We purchased Fountain Cards for each of them. It was well worth it, SAVE your receipts, my son lost his card 3 times, they replaced it for free with your receipt. We ate the buffet at breakfast, we thought the food was good, liked the many choices. Dinner was the highlight of our trip. We told the big kids that no matter what you be ready for dinner by 5:45 each day, we ate at 6:15. Our waitstaff was incredible, Alex from Romania and her assistant Inengah from Indonesia took wonderful care of us. Called us by name the 2nd night knew what the kids liked and didn't like, and also got the kids to venture out and try new things. The food was awesome and it was good quality family time, especially on Sea days as we did not see much of the older kids. By the last night my son who would not dance was up dancing with Alex. We all got teary-eyed saying our goodbyes. Oh, and we really enjoyed formal nights, it was fun getting all dressed up, that doesn't happen often in this family. My son also enjoyed Room Service, he thought he was hot stuff. I only ordered beer from room service, they very prompt.
CAMP CARNIVAL: We took the 6 year old to Camp Carnival in the mornings on Sea days. We were very impressed with the staff, everyone was so nice and seemed very attentive to the children. She loved it. Her afternoons were spent with Mom and Dad at the pool. Evenings after dinner she put her jammies on and went back to Camp Carnival for the Slumber Party. The staff always told us she did more slumber than party, she was always the 1st to fall asleep, she wore herself out on the waterslide! We thought $6 hr after 10pm was very reasonable and it was nice for hubby and I to be able to do our own thing and not have to worry about her. She came home with lots of goodies, tshirt, backpack, sandart, etc.. Our son didn't do much with Camp Carnival, he made a new friend and they spent most of their time at the pool. The 17 year old pretty much did her own thing too.
ACTIVITIES: We went to some of the shows after dinner. I thought they were good, hubby would rather have been in the casino, which we did spend lots of time in there too. I didn't have much luck on slots but did okay at blackjack, came home with a little bit and had lots of fun. We enjoyed chilling in the late afternoons at the Casino Bar, we found all the bartenders there to be very friendly, and entertaining. I spent lots of time lounging at the pool sipping on lots of "special" drinks with little umbrellas in them, speaking of which if the number of umbrellas I came home with is any indication of alcohol consumption, all I can say is WOW!
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We purchased all of our excursions from Carnival, via the TV in our cabin since the Excursion desk seemed to always be closed, and the few times it was open the lines were long with only 1 person working. We did not have any problems, our tickets were quickly delivered to our cabin and charged to our Sail & Sign card. In Jamaica we took the 2 hour trek (which we had no idea it was gonna be that far)to Ocho Rios for the Dunn's River Falls. Our bus ride was quite entertaining, we had Bad Bad Leroy Brown, according to him, the best bus driver in Jamaica, scared the pee diddly squat outta me! My little girl threw up, thank god I had her plastic Dora beach bag. The Falls were beautiful, but extremely crowded. We also went to the Bamboo Beach Club for lunch and beach time. It was beautiful, white sand, blue water, just gorgeous. Lunch was okay, just not enough of it. I didn't care for the rum punch, it had a weird taste to me. My 17 year old wanted to get her hair braided and since they would not let the ladies do it there on the private beach they were doing it at a hotel behind us. Our guide told us it was safe to go over there, so we did. They also talked me into getting mine done too. It was kind of cool, I didn't have to mess with my hair the rest of the cruise. I'll never do it again though cuz it is very damaging to your hair, or at least it was to mine, and a little uncomfortable on the head while sleeping. The bus ride back to MoBay was a lot of fun, we had some teenage girls who serenaded us all the way back, they were quite good too. Didn't seem like it took as long, and no throwing up this time! In Grand Cayman we went to the Turtle Farm, Hell and StingRay City. Swimming with the stingrays scared the pee diddly squat outta me!! I had to get back on the boat, everyone else thought it was great. Turtle farm was okay, the kids enjoyed holding the turtles. Hell was different, and HOT! In Cozumel hubby took the 17 year old parasailing while me and the other 2 shopped, then he took the 12 year old Snubaing while we shopped some more. We ate lunch at Carlos & Charlies, it was very loud, food not that good. I was glad it wasn't that crowded when we were in there cuz I wasn't too keen on the little one being in there. Not a kid place, and she does not like loud noise. After lunch I took the little one and went back to the ship while hubby shopped with the other 2. It was really easy getting on and off the ship in Cozumel. Tendering in the Caymans was kind of a hassle and another long hot line. Getting off in Jamaica was easy but getting back on was a pain, another long hot line. Seeing the little marching band was entertaining. We donated a few bucks, how can you not. All in all we enjoyed our shore excursions.
DEBARKATION: We went to the debarkation meeting the last day and after hearing about more long hot lines we decided to do self assist, even though we had a lot of luggage with the 2 bigger kids we were able to handle it all. We got really lucky, we were one of the first ones called,it was before 8am. we used the stairs instead of elevators, got right off the ship, waited about 30 minutes to get through customs and we were outside waiting on our friends to pick us up at 8:30. We had told our friends not to be there before 10am so had to wait a little while for them. To sum it all up, we had an awesome time, quite pleased with everything and will absolutely do it again. In fact we sail June 1, 2008 on the Conquest again. The kids can't wait. What we will do different this time: We are getting balcony rooms, will be on the Verandah Deck 8297 & 8301. We will get to the ship a lot earlier. We will pack a carry on bag with bathing suits, did not do that this time, and take more bathing suits and less clothes. Will take a lot less cash, did not know you used your Sail & Sign card for everything on the ship. Will NOT leave my husbands side in Jamaica ever again. After reading what has happened to some other cruisers, it scared the pee diddly squat outta me that my daughter and I walked around by ourselves. I will not book all day Shore Excursions, we did not have much time for shopping at all, except in Cozumel. I will also book from other parties besides through the ship, as I have read it is a lot cheaper. We probably spent about $1400 on Shore Excursions. I will take goggles for the kids, they complained about the salt water. I will take some thinner beach towels for Shore Excursions, the Carnival towels are wonderful, but very thick and heavy to carry around all day. I will take a battery alarm clock.
I wish I had found this board before our cruise, but I'm glad I have it now and hope it helps someone else in the future.