We are Kandace (22) and Jason (23) from Fort Worth, Texas. Each of us has been on one previous cruise - I to Canada on the Victory in 2004, and he to Alaska on Princess Cruise Lines in 2003. We got married on October 20th and boarded the Conquest on the 21st for our honeymoon. In order to do this, we spent our wedding night in Waco, which helped cut down on travel time on Sunday. We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard in Waco and it was lovely, complete with full breakfast buffet.
We used EZ Cruise parking, booked through their Web site to save $5. We showed them our receipt and they directed us to an area to drop off our bags. We parked the car and got on the shuttle that our bags had been loaded onto. A very short trip and we were at the cruise terminal. Contrary to what they say, you can show up earlier that the suggested time. The line was long, but moved fast. Having everything filled out and your documents in hand makes the process faster. Then you take your first (of many) photos with a tropical background and you wind up in the lobby of the ship, deck 3, where you take your picture for your Sail and Sign card and are free to go wherever.
We went to our room (1038, a port-side balcony) to put down our stuff and met Bing, our room steward from China. We left Bing a note on our mirror using sticky notes along with a tip, asking him to take care of us on our honeymoon. He certainly did. Every day he cleaned our room and every night he turned down the bed for us, leaving mints on the pillow and towel animals on the bed. I left him another note saying that we put stuff from the mini bar on the counter so we could have more room, and when we came back he had taken everything Carnival provided out so we could have the whole thing. It was nice because we brought some of our wedding cake, and were able to grab extra milks in the morning to have on hand whenever we wanted them.
A quick note about liquor: we brought multiple bottles (all plastic) in our checked luggage, each wrapped in a plastic Walmart bag, between layers of clothing, and had no problems. Remember to bring sodas and other mixers; a can of soda costs $1.75 and a can of Red Bull upwards of $4. I had to buy Red Bull in Grand Cayman so I wouldn't go broke!
We went up to the Lido where the buffet lunch was being served and had our first meal of the week. Then we met up with our roll call friends (a definite must!) and after a painless muster, were on our way.
We treated ourselves to a couple's massage that evening before dinner. Because we booked on the first day, we got a free exfoliation as well. They rubbed us down with a coarse goop from head to toe, and then we were shown to an extra large stall where we showered (together) to rinse completely off. Then came the hot stone massage. It was excellent and totally relaxing, not to mention a very sensual experience with my new husband. The whole experience was great, but if I could do it again I'd wait for a better deal (either by watching for specials or booking on a port day) because I don't know if it was $400 great! Just be careful not to wait too long in the week because the spa will fill up. Also, be wary of the sun because no matter how good a massage feels it will be ruined if you have a sunburn.
We had the late seating in the lower Renoir dining room. Table 159 with Michael from the Philippines and Luis from Peru. Both very nice, very personable, very funny. My favorite foods of the week were the steak with three peppercorn sauce, the salad with walnuts and bleu cheese, and the rum raisin cake. I was so excited to try the melting cake, and was extremely disappointed. I ordered it a second night to make sure it wasn't a fluke, and sadly it was worse than the first. We ate in the dining room every night but one, and enjoyed the dinner shows, though they were cheesy more than fabulous.
During the first two days at sea, we wandered around a bit. It seems as though most of the excitement happens in the middle of the afternoon, at least to us it did. That's when you have the water games on the Lido, when they did things like trivia and the Newlywed game, etc. Having been a dancer for years, I could only stomach 5 minutes of one of the Vegas-style shows, and that was enough for us. Unless you want to drink or gamble (which we did plenty of) bring along a book or a deck of cards. We watched several movies in our room, all of which we'd seen already. I really wanted to karaoke, as I had done it on my last cruise and it was the most fun activity I did. Sadly, karaoke is limited to two hours on a few evenings, and the timing coincides with those of us who had the late seating dinner. When we did make it down, it was crowded and the lists were full. You would think the activities like this that are consistently popular would be made into a bigger deal by Carnival, either by extending the time or moving it to a location that can accommodate more people. But we found enough to do to pass the time, and we really weren't there for the ship :) The male comedian was funny, but the female was funnier (both 18 and up shows.)
Monday was the first formal night. We got dolled up and went around to all the studios on the ship to have our portraits taken (no obligation to buy so go have fun!) We wound up buying two from the first night but be careful because you have to buy the 8x10 (at $21.99 apiece) before you can buy any of the other sizes. The rest of the week we brought our own camera and just took pictures of each other around the ship and with friends.
On Wednesday we were in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We elected to do the Canopy Adventure Tour booked through Carnival, as you can't book directly with the company if you are a cruise passenger. We got off the ship and walked through the terminal to a line of people all waiting for the same thing. We met Rodney, our driver who took us through the country into the rainforest, all while giving us history of the towns and pointing out neat things along the way. When we got to the location, we were all given harnesses and helmets, and went through a safety briefing. Then we were off, soaring through the air high above the ground! What a thrill to see Jamaica from a bird's eye angle. A word of warning: even a week later my legs still look awful due to all the mosquito bites I got that have since turned into bruises - and I did wear bug spray! So make sure you bathe in it because those suckers are vicious! After the tour was over we went back to the terminal to pick up a shot glass for our collection and to purchase rum cakes. The best prices we saw were in the MoBay cruise terminal so stock up! We also went to a liquor store and bought some Jamaican rum. Stuck it in our backpack and got on the ship. We were told by the guy at the X-ray machine to check our liquor in at another table nearby and we said ok but didn't stop and had no problems taking it right back to our room.
That night was the Mardi Gras party. Started out fun, but by the end it just seemed to drag on. Funny how any music that people don't know how to dance to becomes an opportunity to do the electric slide. We didn't stay until the end because we got bored and fed up that it just drug on.
Thursday morning when we were getting ready to go into Grand Cayman we got an announcement that due to bad weather coming in we had to be back earlier than anticipated. Luckily, the tour we booked through Captain Marvin's was within walking distance of the terminal. You have to tender to get on land, but we didn't encounter any trouble there. Less than a 5 minute trip across. Since we would be close on time when we were done, we did our shopping first for Red Bull/Dr. Pepper (only Mr. Pibb on the ship) and a shot glass. Once at Marvin's, we got on a bus and drove to the water where our guides Son and Glen took us to two snorkeling stops (Coral Gardens and Barrier Reef) and the Stingray City Sandbar to hobnob with the "locals." By booking through Marvin's we saved quite a bit of money and did the same things as the comparable Carnival tour, but with way less people. We made it back to the pier in time for the adjusted schedule and tendered back onto the boat. Easy breezy.
That night was the Halloween party, and even though the most costumes were found on kids, there were props set up everywhere that would be fun to take pictures with. Dessert in the dining room came in the shape of a ghost so that was really cute.
As anticipated, the weather that night was horrible. Pouring rain and a rocking ship in the middle of the open sea made for a crazy night with whistling winds outside our balcony. As for seasickness, get the pills from the purser's desk - I took two every morning when I first woke up, then went back to sleep and by the time I got going for the day I was fine. Lots of people wore the patch, but Carnival doesn't endorse it so I have no experience with it.
Friday we woke up to absolutely gorgeous weather in Cozumel. We had booked the Royal Dolphin Swim through Dolphin Discovery (the same company and excursion as Carnival uses, but way cheaper) and even though it wasn't until the afternoon, by booking the swim you get free admission into Chankanaab National Park, where the swim was held. So we took a cab to the park ($10 plus tip) and got our wristbands. We picked a spot under a hut that had some beach chairs and we rented snorkel equipment ($10 for flippers and mask, $5 for life vest.) The snorkeling was nowhere near as great as Grand Cayman - because of the storm that had come through, the water was still really choppy and everything was stirred up and murky. So we hung out on the beach, lounged around and had lunch and then it was time for the dolphins. We watched a quick intro video then practiced the different positions. We got to work with two dolphins, Itzamna and Chaac, and their trainer Edwin. We each got to pet them, hold them in our arms, kiss them, get kisses from them, get towed along by holding onto their fins and get pushed by them (like water skiing because you come up out of the water!) We also go to dance with them, sing with them, and have a splashing contest, and then they did some tricks for us. The whole time Dolphin Discovery has a photographer and a videographer taking memories, and at the end they show you the video and all your pictures and try to get you to buy expensive packages. We opted out of buying any because we had our water cameras and took our own pictures, but after getting our film developed, I wish we would have at least bought one photo of each of us. The quality of their photos is so much better that what we got. I still wouldn't buy the whole package or the DVD (really, how often are you going to watch it?) but it would be nice to have a really good quality image of us doing it since it was our honeymoon.
After the dolphins we caught a cab to the shopping center across from the pier ($10 + tip) so we could get another shot glass. We stopped in at Carlos and Charlie's and had a drink before heading back to the ship. I don't know if it was the alcohol or the exhaustion from the wedding catching up with us, but we fell asleep Friday night after getting back on the ship and pretty much slept until Saturday morning. Needless to say, this was the night we didn't make it to dinner.
Saturday was our last sea day and we did a little of everything. Hung out with friends that we'd made and spent some money in the casino. Watched our team (lose) in the sports bar and tried a bunch of different mixed drinks. The dinner show was cute and we took pictures with Michael and Luis. Wound up staying up way too late, closing down the casino and working on packing.
Sunday morning came way too early and promptly at 7 they started the debarkation process. We decided to do self-assist but didn't feel rushed or burdened. We had ordered room service to come between 7 and 8 so we were able to lounge around a little, finish packing and make sure we got everything. Then we took all our luggage (one big suitcase for all our clothes, one suitcase for shoes, one garment bag for formal clothes, a backpack and a carry-on duffel bag) back down to the lobby where we got right off the ship for the last time. Down a long ramp in the terminal and we were directed to a line for customs. Again, have your documents finished and in hand when you get to the counter. All we bought while in ports was the rum and shot glasses, so on our declarations form we put $30 in "gifts." They asked us if we had any liquor, we said no (even though we had both the rum we bought and the other liquor we didn't drink) and we were on our way, no security x-rays or anything. We met where we were told for EZ Cruise, loaded back onto the shuttle, got back to the lot where our cars were kept safe all week, and were at my parent's house in north Houston before 10:30am.
We had an absolute blast and are so excited to finally be married! We couldn't have picked a more perfect honeymoon, with a good combination of activity and relaxation. We will definitely cruise again but would like to try another itinerary to continue to broaden our cultural experiences.
If you have any questions please email me. I would love to help you have a good cruise and hopefully can provide some answers to questions you might have!
Last-minute tips: * Bring your own liquor. Get the plastic bottles and wrap them in shopping bags just in case they leak. Bring your own mixers and sodas. Ask for glasses and ice from the bar and make your own cocktails. * Bring different sized plastic bags. The night before a port, go to the deli to get sandwiches so you don't have to buy food in port. Or if you have time, get back on the ship for lunch before heading out for the afternoon. Why pay for food when you already did? (Note: some things, like Jamaican jerk, are worth buying locally for the experience.) Bags are also handy for wet clothing if you decide to change while in port. * Bring a power strip. You really do only get a single plug. Bring a clock or keep your cell phone nearby. You don't need an over the door bag for bathroom stuff - they are plenty of shelves. * Make some type of door decoration. Hardly anyone else does, so it's very easy to look for yours when going back to your room. * Make a calendar for the week and as you get the capers each night, look over it and write down the time and location of activities that interest you. That way you have an idea of what your day looks like without having to come back to the room after each thing and going "now what?" * Make friends. Join the roll call and get to know your fellow cruise mates. We had a pre-muster meet and greet and a private open-bar party and both were great to get to know others. Then when you walk by them on the ship you can say hi or maybe meet up and hang out together.