Who are we? DH and I are in our late 50s. This was our 3rd Carnival cruise. I am a food, and wine addict and in the past year, a weight watcher (WW), of sorts. We cross-checked our reservations with 2 couples and shared the same dinner table. Thanks to the Cruise Critic (CC) website, we have developed some wonderful "fun at sea" relationships, since 2004. We travel with the "kitchen sink" and this trip was no different.
Public Rooms: with at least 13 nightclubs/lounges, bar hopping is fun with minimal walking; the ship's art work replicas are numerous. All frames on Impressionist Boulevard were well illuminated but one (naked women in park before the Latour bar). The ballerinas holding the balustrades of the staircases on each level are unique. The Degas Lounge includes of the artist's statues and illustrations. Don't miss the Gauguin sports bar with its wide screen TVs and several of Gauguin's Tahitians' illustrated on the table tops and wallpaper. The bamboo baseboards and the design of the upholstery add to the Polynesian flair. The Tahitian casino also contains replicas of sculptures and carvings several of Gauguin's illustrations. The Kiosk's backdrop is a nice mural and blends in well with its neighbor's totally different dEcor, the sushi bar. The atrium elevators provide a view of the murals and ceiling for at least 8 of the 13 decks. Do take atrium elevators instead of the others every chance you get if you want to enjoy the unique view. The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas. The gym is spacious and appears bigger than it is, surrounded by mirrors and windows and located forward of the spa. The equipment is state of the art. All but one treadmill and 2 Keiser machines were operational. There are several spinners, a machine to work each body part, elliptical, bikes and treadmills, free weights, medicine balls, mats, towels and disinfectant stray. Trainers are available for private training for $85 per session.
Crew Area: somehow, while I was touring to take pictures of the art work, I wound up in the crew area. I didn't see a warning to "keep out". The corridors were unadorned and the floor was vinyl. Some of the doors were marked "2 to a room". One more interesting door with a window allowed me to take a picture of a big container wrapped in saran wrap and labeled "Conquest USDA WASTE".
Casino Entertainment: a BMW is one of the winnings offered at 4 of several casino slots. Despite being so called "2 cent slots", the maximum (X90) must be inserted to win or $1.80 for each spin. The staff in the casino is courteous. The rules are strictly enforced. Our friend's 17 year old was kicked out for being underage. The Blues bar's entertainer Jason was excellent. Jimmy at the Casino bar is a 1 man band. His singing was good and got better, the more my friend slipped him those tequila shots. The captain's party was a nice event but does not offer the photo op with the captain, something we look forward to with RCCL. This is one occasion where Carnival really misses out on promotions. The video shown at the past guests party while most are walking out is an old one, and could use some revamping.
The food: With at least 8 restaurants, the choice of where and what to eat for lunch was not easy. I would book this ship again, just to have the opportunity to sample more of the menu at Sur Mer, and The Point. I was discouraged by the long lines at the buffet for the breakfast omelet and buffet lunch. I requested an egg beater omelet (heard they had those) and was offered an even better egg white omelet, with no fat. Cut up grapefruit, oranges, cantaloupe and honeydew were plentiful along with an assortment of cereals, muffins, croissants and the usual grits, scrambled eggs bacon and sausage. Coffee is not the best but tea and hot water are available. I usually carry my Folgers singles which I prefer to the mass produced brown liquid. The "Sushi Japanese" bar offered a different selection every night. We had early seating for dinner and didn't have the opportunity to sit and enjoy sushi and sake but on a couple of occasions, I took a plate back to our room and refrigerated it for next day. We had packed plenty of Ziplocs. At "Sur Mer", Chef Dinnu prepared a wonderful bouillabaisse. The fish broth was laced with a heavy dose of Pernod and included tilapia, scallops etc. served with a slice of garlic bread. The ahi tuna over melon was another pretty and tasteful light dish. "The Point" is an exceptional supper club with state of the art presentations. I observed the following here: 2 waiters were having an animated low voice conversation, when we first sat down. The sommelier's manners were immaculate. Johnny Walker red, is not available there, only Black. The chef sent "surprises" before and after dinner. Several different varieties of bread were offered, and served with 3 different types of whipped butter. All food is presented on white or glass plates/bowls to showcase the beautiful presentations. The escargots were served on a 12" square plate. When the waitress tossed the Caesar salad, her long sleeves "poured" into the salad bowl. The chateaubriand was perfect. The wasabi mashed potatoes belonged in a jar of school glue, however. The wine was delectable. The mushroom sauce reminded me of a topping I once had on a tournedos Rossini on the Bateau Mouche, in Paris, in 1969. Big beautiful plates, well decorated with great presentation at a standard table for 6 creates a problem with crowding; reduce the size of those big plates or increase the size of the tables (preferably the latter). The "tarte des demoiselles Tatin" was a disappointment. The apples were not caramelized. The top of the pie was "littered" with great tasting chocolate and caramelized hazelnuts, but masked the taste of the apples. I requested an extra that had to be authorized by a manager: I enjoyed a delectable Morbier and some Saint-AndrE cheeses. Someone in our group had a great chocolate desert, fluffy, light, creamy and delectable white and dark chocolate mousses. This was definitely a memorable meal despite the little imperfections. The Deli and Wok stations are just 2 little holes in the wall, it seems, but they can whip up some excellent sandwiches and Chinese food. I had a great Reuben at one and a sample of the fried tofu, salty fish and stir fried beef at the other. The chèvre and capriciosa pizzas at the pizzeria are the only 2 I sampled. The Caesar salad was great, if you like the taste of anchovies in your dressing. They just oozed of melted cheese on a wonderful crisp thin crust. The wait is 7 minutes for a fresh piece and well worth it. The grill was a favorite of DH's for the fries and hamburger. The midnight buffet is a work of art and just loaded with beautiful and wonderful food. I managed to stay up and sample several of the cakes and main courses. The daily lunch buffet was diversified with a different nation theme daily. On India day, I had to sample one of each and asked one of the staff from India to help me with the ingredients of what I was eating.
Dining in the Monet was a wonderful nightly entertaining feast. Our table was all the way aft, by a big window that was unfortunately lost in darkness. We never saw the wake since the ship had no outdoor lighting aft. On our first Carnival cruise, we also had a window and could clearly see the waves. We experienced a bit of vibration, more like a pleasant massage. Our 2 waiters were from Turkey, patient and humorous hard workers. We had the opportunity to meet a few waiters and bartenders. Ibrahim, Gokhan, Paul and Anak were from the 4 corners of the world and the cream of the crop. We never saw "Casper", the maitre d. Carnival now has the Chocolate Melting Cake on every night's menu. Ibrahim and Gokhan, knew what I liked as far as bread and coffee (cappuccino) and just brought the goods without asking. They not only served at the 2 dinner seatings every night but also cleaned plates at lunch at the sky bar and some days and the buffet. No autograph poster was offered on the last night as we've seen on other Carnival ships. A Conquest pin was left in our room though.
Stateroom: Our stateroom was on the Lido deck, cabin #9254. This balcony stateroom Cat. 8D was clean and had no nicks or cracks except in the lavatory. Our toilet quit flushing but was quickly fixed. Our safe quit locking and the door was changed within 3 hours of our call. A letter of apologies was delivered later because of the safe. We didn't complain about it and were surprised to get that letter. The door to the balcony wouldn't stay open. Bring a bungee cord if you want the door to remain open at night. The laundry room was right across from #9270. There are 2 washers, 4 dryers, an iron and ironing board. Cost of the wash and dry was $2 each. Soap, bounce, and softener are available. The ice machine area was not marked and behind a door that reads "Crew Only". I went searching for this facility that was supposed to be by cabins, 7411, 7334, 8425, 8346, 1120 but never found them, according to cruisedeckplans.com) I was able to zoom in from our balcony to the bridge and capture Captain Lubrano with foot on rail standing over the glass window in the floor. Shape and Men's Fitness Group: there were a couple of hundred folks (we had been told 900 erroneously but it sure might as well have been 900) that booked the Conquest as part of the "Shape and Men's Fitness" group. Every morning they were on the Lido deck, forward of the pool, doing exercise and blocking the area. The instructor used a microphone and amplifiers that were quite loud. It wasn't easy getting around them. My friend complained that the group monopolized the jogging track and the gym when she tried to use it. We were quite exasperated with having to maneuver around such a big group and wish they had not used such prominent areas of the ship for their group exercise. We didn't plan on having to dodge groups doing tai-chi, yoga, or stretching , every morning, and having to listen to the loud grating voice of the exercise drill sergeant instead of the calm sway of the ocean.
Smoking: I had heard complaints that this ship reeked of cigarette smoke. Some of the lounges do not allow smoking but that rule was not strictly enforced. Generally secondary smoke was not an issue with the exception of the casino. I saw one inconsiderate lady lounging at the Sky pool, mashing her cigarette down into the red vinyl to extinguish it. Alfred's bar, the casino and the Gauguin sports bar wreaked of cigarettes. I overheard one lady complain at the purser's desk that her room was unacceptable because of that nasty smell.
These were crowded most of the time. On the morning of the last day at sea, big sales start at 0900; the staff had warned us that the stores would be "as crowded as a Wal-Mart". The shelves were well stocked but often with just one item of a selected style. If you see something you want, I would get it right then. I wanted to get a pretty green scarf and saw it on a lady's head when we tendered in Cayman. There were no duplicates in the shop for me to buy later. We bought several of the reduced $10 shirts, on the last day, limited variety but plenty of different sizes. If you buy already wrapped breakables, open them and make sure they are intact. One glass dolphin was broken. Watch out for beaded necklaces and lanyards. My $8.95 red beaded lanyard broke and the beads wound up all over a staircase. Liquor purchased on board is delivered to the room the last day at sea, Saturday, except if purchased late Friday (I was allowed to keep it). There was not much diversity in the perfumes/colognes. I would wait and go to "La Perfumerie" in Cayman if nice fragrances are of interest. It is one of the "capered" recommended stores. Daily account: Sunday, at embarkation, we were dropped off at the pier and quickly found a porter to handle our bags. The pier was crowded but the line moved quickly. Security checkpoint was a breeze. We carried the 2 authorized bottles of wine with us. The bottle of Champagne was chilled and in a Specs special bottle holder, right on my shoulder. In no time, we were standing in front of a very humorous Carnival employee who gave us the drill about what name (first and middle) to use and what to take ashore: always use your first name, she said and not your middle name on all your documentation, i.e. if your name is Delford Bruce Smith, use Delford, not Bruce. Always take your passport (if you have one) with you ashore, this will allow you to board an aircraft back to the USA, should you miss the ship, she said. We didn't follow this advice and the passport stayed right in the safe. We just took our TDLs to have the necessary photo i.d. DH couldn't care less if he missed the ship and was not worried at all about finding his way back home! The gangway is a long one. I should have carried less in the carry-on on wheels. The ride uphill was not easy. Only carry the meds the money and the wine in the carry-on, next time. At last, we boarded and were greeted by smiling crew members. I asked for the deck plan. DH didn't. They were not handing these out freely. The next day, I went to get another at the purser's desk; they only had black and white photocopies. Get your deck plan when you first board. It was only 1230; we were asked to go enjoy lunch. Our stateroom would be ready at 1330, the greeting crew member said. Many were sitting in the lobby, just waiting. We went directly to the cabin, despite the directive to have lunch. Our stateroom was ready. Check your stateroom before going to lunch. It might save you the aggravation of having to drag the carry-ons with you. There was no electricity but we dropped off those bags, disinfected the room and popped open the champagne before proceeding to "Sur Mer". I had studied the ship's decks, restaurants and d lounges during the previous weeks, to make it easier to get around. If you learn your ship prior to boarding, it will save time and frustration. We were the only ones in the restaurant...perhaps this jewel had not been discovered yet since the location is out of the high traffic areas on the Panorama deck, aft. The dreaded drill was indeed right after sail away, at precisely 1630. A lady in her late 50s was standing beside me with her friend, when all of a sudden, she complained of feeling faint. I grabbed her right before she went down, loosened her clothing, removed the vest and comforted her. Needless to say I didn't get much out of that drill. I had suggested in writing to Carnival that the drill time be changed. There are several CC members who have commented on the poor timing.
The very informative CC boards had warned us that the Conquest was a hard ship to get around on. Despite our attempts to memorize the decks and public areas prior to the cruise, we were at least 10 minutes late to the dining room (first seating -1745- table #339 Monet) Sunday evening. Monday and Tuesday were "capered" as fun days at sea and indeed, they were.
Monday, we toured the ship with Carlos. He introduced himself as being from Mexico and joked that this explained his funny accent. When some laughed, he promptly remarked that his accent is no laughing matter. Possibly the most important piece of information we learned during this tour, is that decks 5 and 9 are the only 2 decks you can walk all the way forward to all the way aft. Carlos pointed out all the $$$ spending spots. A megaphone is in order for this tour. It was hard for Carlos to complete with the well amplified sound of the "drill sergeant" of the Shape and Men's Fitness group as he kept his "let's take up all the space on the Lido deck" exercise enthusiasts in motion. I fell asleep during the first 5 minutes of comedian Greg Ray's adult midnight show. The Toulouse Lautrec lounge is huge, and you can hardly see the stage on deck 3, if you sit on deck 5. I lost my sign and sail card that night and was given another, as soon as I reported it.
Tuesday, we enjoyed the sun on the Sky deck and 3 of us got a tattoo at the Sun pool. These come in all sizes and each color is charged separately. The tattoo disappeared quickly with sunscreen and oils. This was formal night complete with photo ops and tuxedoes. I entered the blackjack tournament and enjoyed dealer Benn's sense of humor. I went down the waterslide once and enjoyed picking up speed and coming to a stop on the slide, surprisingly, instead of in a pool. It is for adults as much as for children.
Wednesday, was port day in Montego Bay. After a good total body workout in the gym, we headed down to the gangway. A water cart was right in the middle of the staircase landing...couldn't miss him. Sunset Beach seemed a safe choice in Montego Bay. Many CC board members have labeled Jamaica as a country of unrest and unfriendly to the tourist. Some chose to stay on board during that day in port; our friends even wrote Carnival to request a port change after a group of tourists got hijacked on a bus to a banana plantation. A brief review of the goods available at the shops in the port gave us time to think about the souvenirs we would purchase later. We hopped in a recommended red license plate taxi; after the regulators of the 20 foot electrified fence let us out, we were on our way for a fun day at Sunset Beach. This all inclusive is a great deal. Bring your own glass though and avoid the ocean; the glasses are cheap/flimsy 6 oz of plastic. Our swimways were inflated. The beach front and water had a few big round transparent jelly fish. We saw a crab and a dying starfish too. We quickly moved to the water park with its 2 slides and numerous tubes to drift up and down the numerous "avenues" of the pool. A barbecue pit is set up at the pool and promises the best and hottest jerk chicken. The buffet dishes were also excellent. The wait staff was polite with the exception of one bartender.
Thursday, we tendered into Grand Cayman and walked to the Eden Rock Diving Center where we had booked a one tank scuba dive. There are actually 2 Eden Rock centers. The first one belongs to a different owner who "borrowed" the name of the scuba shop to drum up more business. With an upper respiratory problem, I couldn't dive but inflated my swimway and went for "a lazy man snorkel" while DH enjoyed the deep and came across beautiful fish, an eel and a turtle. Dragging all the gear on and off a tender is not easy. We then went on to Edward's drug store to get some cough syrup (other end of town, it seemed, from the long walk). We stopped by the Tortuga duty free and cake factory and sampled all the different rum cakes. These were great. I visited several stores and noticed prices were very high, compared to other islands. The black coral is beautiful and unique but also quite pricey. We went on to Margaritaville and stayed only for a minute: loud noises and screaming were too much for my congested head! I went on to purchase my favorite cologne at La Perfumerie while DH returned to the ship. Tonight was the past guest party in the Degas lounge. We enjoyed drinks, and the old yellowed out video played at each one of these events. It was also the 2nd formal night of the cruise.
Friday we docked at Punta Langosta, in Cozumel, beside the NCL Spirit. Our first stop was Mezcalitos. The "naked beach" was the reason. The waves are strong and swimming is out. Souvenirs are also pricey. We went on to Mr. Sanchos, a nice beach but a disappointment. Manchego cheese on the chicken enchilada turned out to be common cheddar. The chicken was scarce and the pico de gallo was a mound of unseasoned tomatoes. The waiter was abrupt. I will not be going back to this beach. Nachi Cocom, paradise beach, playa azul and dzul ha have much friendlier staff, better food and drink etc. We went parasailing next door and spent much longer than the promised 12 minutes in the air. We almost went in the water, though, after takeoff. We started losing altitude and dropped to about 20 feet before the driver of the boat gained enough speed to give us some height.
Saturday, our last day at sea was spent in the sun. When we went to sign up for the breast cancer, there were no t-shirts or pink bracelets left.
Sunday, at about 0530 a loud noise woke me up. It could have been the anchor dropping, since we stopped and waited several hours until the fog lifted. The port of Galveston was closed so our arrival was delayed until 1200. We didn't leave the ship until about 1500. We were allowed to stay in our staterooms until about 1300. Lunch was served and we were asked to proceed to the Lido deck until our debarkation at 1500. Customs was a breeze but finding a porter took at least 15 minutes.
What our friends had to say: Paul" The size of the ship was a bit intimidating at first, since this has been our biggest ship to sail on, but once we learned the layout, it was relatively easy. The crew was fantastic, as well as the Captain. The ports are the icing on the cake, but I do not sail for the ports, but only for the ship/cruise itself. I would love to sail on the Conquest again, since there are several areas that I never got around to. Lauren: "The crew was zestful and hospitable". Gina: "I love this ship! Beautiful ship with a somewhat difficult layout, but not enough to ruin a cruise! Fantastic crew as well as the Captain! I wish Carnival would allow a receiving line to meet the Captain as RCCL does. It would have been nice to have a personal picture with him. I have never had a bad cruise and never plan to! It was wonderful to have our cruise friends sailing with us; it only heightened our cruising experience! We could not have asked for better weather the whole week! I could do this itinerary forever!" Erinn: "This ship is very elaborate, compared to my first ship the Celebration. Staff overall were very friendly and courteous! I loved Jamaica! We had fantastic weather and Sunset Beach was more than I expected w/ awesome views. Since I am 21 now, it was nice to be able to do more on the ship, such as the casino. Jimmy, the Rock and Roll guy tells lame jokes, but is a wonderful singer and guitarist".