First of all, I just want to start by saying that we love our Cruise Critic roll call! The people that we met through CC have been wonderful and will be our lifelong friends. My advice to all who are reading this review and are not on a Roll Call—join now! You will meet some really wonderful people! Our CC friends really made our cruise special. We loved spending dinner with them, just recapping our day's events. Then, one of the guys would pull out the Capers and we would figure out what we were all going to do after dinner. We had so many evenings of karaoke and midnight buffets—it was the best! We love you guys and can't wait for our reunion cruise!
To make this easier on the eyes, I will break our review down by the daily event.
Harbor House and the Fish Tales Meet and Greet: Our family consists of myself (Lisa), my DH Jason, and our 7 y.o. son, Ethan. This was my fourth cruise (1st on Carnival), Jason's 2nd cruise, and Ethan's 1st. We booked this cruise as a college graduation present for myself, as well as a Christmas present for the three of us. We left Tulsa on Saturday the 22nd around 4 am and arrived at Harbor House about 1:30 pm. The trip was smooth and we loved the convenience of Harbor House. Side note about Harbor House for those who are thinking about staying at this lovely hotel: The staff at Harbor House was wonderful, the beds were very comfortable, and the continental breakfast was top-notch! They offered Bath and Body Works toiletries in the bathroom and Starbucks coffee in the room as well as in the continental breakfast area. The continental breakfast consisted of wonderful pastries, Starbucks coffee and Tazo tea selections, and cereal/oatmeal. The best part was that we walked to the pier on Sunday morning and the location of the hotel made embarkation and debarkation day so easy. We will definitely be staying at Harbor House again! We checked in to Harbor House and then decided to take a drive through Galveston. We stopped at Chili's for lunch and then took Ethan to the beach. It was his first time to go to the beach and he loved walking in the sand! That evening, we met up with our CC buddies and we all (26 of us) went to Fish Tales for dinner. Dinner was really great—Ethan and I shared the fish and chips and Jason got the pasta with BBQ shrimp—yum! The food was good, but like Kathy said earlier, the company was great! We turned in early that evening, ready to see the Conquest come in early Sunday morning. Boy, that was a sight to see! The Captain turned her around in the harbor, just as if she was a toy boat in the bathtub! The Conquest can turn on a dime and I could not get over how MASSIVE of a ship she is! We got dressed, had some breakfast at the hotel, and then checked out, ready for our adventure to begin...
Embarkation Day: After we dropped our bags off at the pier, we drove around for a bit. We spotted some CC friends and had some pre-cruise coffee at Starbucks. Around 11:45, we decided to get in line to board. Embarkation was a breeze! From the parking lot to the lobby of the Conquest took us about 45 minutes total. We stopped and visited with Kathy and Terry for a bit while our rooms were getting ready. At 1:30, our rooms were ready and we dropped our stuff, ready to hit the Lido buffet. Lunch was cheeseburgers from the Lido grille, along with some complimentary champagne. We spent the next few hours before dinner exploring the ship. The only hiccup in our cruise was that we were scheduled for 6:15 dining. My TA had linked our booking with Kathy and Terry, Larry and Sue, and Annie and Greg. As we all soon discovered, we were still sitting together for dinner, except dinner was at 5:45 instead of 6:15. We didn't mind as long as we were all sitting together and our waitress and asst. waiter definitely made to experience worthwhile. Erzsebet (or Elizabeth as she preferred to be called) was from Romania and her asst. was Jose from the Philippines. Both were exceptional and from the very first day, Elizabeth really doted on Ethan. She always gave him hugs, butterfly kisses and Eskimo kisses, and TONS of chocolate milk. As Kathy said, on the first night, she asked Ethan what he wanted to drink. He told her "Lots of chocolate milk". She said "How about a bucket?", to which his eyes just lit up and he emphatically said "YES!" From then on, Ethan got lots of chocolate milk and basically whatever else he wanted from her! Elizabeth really made our trip special because of her caring spirit and feisty sense of humor. After dinner, we signed Ethan up for Camp Carnival and turned in to bed before midnight, not before we ordered cookies and brownies from room service.
First Day at Sea and the Official 7 C's Cabin Crawl: We had coffee delivered to the room and sat on our balcony, enjoying the ocean and the warm weather. While the balcony was wonderful, I don't know if we used it enough to warrant the extra money spent on it. We tidied up the room for our cabin crawl viewing and met our wonderful room steward, Trishna, from Indonesia. He was great and always left us with a clean room and lots of towel animals. At 1:00, we met the 7 C er's in the Blues Lounge for our Cabin Crawl. For those who do not know what a Cabin Crawl is, it's basically where a large group of people travel from cabin to cabin, checking out the different categories that are on the ship. Those on the roll call decided to bring little gifts for everyone from each of our home states. Our gift was Eskimo Joe's/Oklahoma centennial cups. We ended the crawl in Larry and Sue's penthouse suite. Annie and I were jealous because their bathroom was the size of our respective staterooms and Larry and Sue had a bidet! Man, we really wanted one of those! We could've had the shiniest hineys on the Conquest! I believe that we fit about 13 people in their suite with room to spare. Dinner that night was wonderful—the Crème Brulee was to die for and the lobster was very good. Elizabeth knew that we all liked to eat and so she decided to bring us double entrees every night. After dinner, we went to Vincent's Bar for karaoke and candy canes ala Lenka. Lenka was the karaoke host in Vincent's and her accent was a mixture of Australian, Czech republic, and western. Sometimes she had more of a drawl than we did. Lenka was a great karaoke hostess but she was always trying to give out candy canes to each person who sang. After about the 3rd night of candy canes offers "Come on nowwww, get your candeeeeee caynessss!", we decided that we were going to take all the candy canes so that she could not offer anymore! Larry was ended up being quite the karaoke king, singing from such greats as Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.
Second Day at Sea, Christmas Day, and "The Secret Door": We started off the morning with a lot of breakfast and a lot of shopping. They are always running specials in the shops and this day was no exception. I bought several Christmas presents for those back home as well as a few items for myself. The remainder of the day was spent napping and eating, my two favorite cruise pastimes. That evening, we decided to go to karaoke on the Lido deck, followed by a visit to the 'Secret Door That Leads to the Secret Deck". This ended up being most hilarious because once we found the door, we snuck outside, being as quiet as possible. Well, I am not known for being quiet, and so the combination of my skirt flying up over my head, and the subsequent peals of howling laughter from myself, Jason, Annie, and Greg was enough to wake up those on the bridge and they turned the bridge lights on us. We tore out of there like our butts were on fire, laughing all the way. The Secret Door became our "Thing to Do" after an evening of karaoke and inevitably, the bridge lights would always come on.
Jamaica: We woke up to the Captain docking in Montego Bay. This was one stop that we had decided, after the Conquest excursion attack this summer, to not do anything on. Jason and I had picked up Ethan at Camp Carnival the previous evening and he was running a fever. So, with our lethargic child, we decided to at least go into the pier terminal and buy some Blue Mtn. Coffee. I was not impressed with what I saw of Jamaica. Even in the pier terminal, the people were rude and pushy. We bought a djembe drum for Ethan and some trinkets for Christmas presents and got back on the ship. Ethan had been complaining of dizziness and ear pain all morning and so I took him to the infirmary to get some swimmer's ear meds. I spent the rest of the afternoon with Ethan, playing mini golf and napping, while Jason and Larry hung out. Dinner was spent with Kathy and Terry as Annie, Greg, Larry, and Sue were enjoying an evening at the Point. It was this evening, that Kathy so affectionately described in her review, that Elizabeth made a little bed for Ethan in the dining room. He slept all through dinner and woke up to the congo line that was wrapped around the dining room. We missed karaoke that night and turned in early.
Grand Cayman, the Pirates who wear swim trunks, and the "Full Moon Dance Contest": Our excursion, the Cayman Pirate Adventure, was scheduled to leave at 8:00 am, which meant that we had to be in the Toulouse-Latrec lounge by 7 am. This made for a very early morning. Luckily, Ethan was feeling much better due to a good night's sleep, swimmer's ear meds, and ibuprofen. The Pirate Adventure consisted of: shooting at the Conquest and laughing at those who were on their balconies, having the kids scrub the deck with toothbrushes and rags, taking the pirates oath, and some poor guy who got doused with ice water. We stopped for a quick swim and the lead pirate Pete, proceeded to disrobe to his very trendy swim trunks. He wasn't bad on the eyes, either, but no Johnny Depp, if you ask me! We docked back at the pier and headed for some power shopping at the many stores in Grand Cayman. As a side note, if you like rum cakes or even rum, you must visit the Tortuga Rum Stores. Their prices are reasonable and they have samples of that fabulous rum cake! We bought several for Christmas presents and a few for ourselves. Jason and I went to the Point that evening and it was every bit as good as everyone says. Jason got the 24 ounce Porterhouse, which was about the size of his head, and I got the 9 oz. Filet. The crab cake was wonderful, the Caesar salad was prepared tableside, and the dessert was outstanding. Jason and I both ordered the chocolate dessert and enjoyed every bite! I believe that we had to roll out of there that evening. That evening, after dinner, karaoke, and "The Secret Door", we went to the "So You Think You Can Dance" contest. This was a riot! The line up consisted of several mid twenties guys and girls, a guy in his 40's, and a little man in his 70's, which we affectionately nicknamed "Grandpa". Grandpa had the hugest cheering section and could dance like nobody's business! We loved this guy! On the first round, a girl with a VERY short skirt starts her routine and proceeds to flash everyone in the disco. All we saw were two tanned butt cheeks! The crowd did a collective gasp until we realized that she was wearing a thong. The guys were going wild (naturally). However, it was Grandpa who won the coveted "Ship on a Stick" for his dance moves.
Cozumel and Nachi Cocom: We had booked our excursion online for Nachi Cocom. This little jewel was a wonderful highlight in our trip. From the pier, we caught a taxi and held on for dear life. If you have never experienced a Mexican taxi driver, well, you're lucky. They drive like maniacs and only leave (no exaggeration) 1 and 3/4 inches between them and the car in front. Definitely an experience that I don't want to repeat anytime soon! Nachi Cocom is located about 15 miles from the pier and I believe that we were there in 8 minutes flat. We spent the day by the beach, under our palapa (grass umbrella), sipping Pina Coladas and eating the most wonderful Mexican food! Their nachos and guacamole are outstanding! I took the most glorious nap after lunch (and a few Pina Coladas)—it was wonderful! That night Jason and Ethan turned in early and so I went with Larry and Sue, Annie and Greg, and Kathy and Terry to Bingo and the show. The comedian was really funny and hit the nail on the head about gas. I was laughing so hard at Mark Price's "Top 10 Stupidest Questions asked on a Cruise" that he sought me out in the audience. It was like Moses parting the Red Sea; all you could see was me, cackling so hard and my group leaning away from me. My favorite was the lady who called and said "I can't get out of my cabin! I'm locked in!" Mark: "Calm down ma'am, what seems to be the problem?" Lady: "I only have two doors in my cabin: one leads to the bathroom and the other has a Do Not Disturb sign on it!" Afterwards, we all went to have burgers and fries on the Lido deck.
Last day at sea: We met everyone for breakfast in the Monet dining room. The Eggs Benedict was really good and the Belgian waffles were suited to my taste. Afterwards, we waddled around the ship, stopping for bingo and towel animal folding. At 1:00, we met up with our CC buddies in Larry and Sue's suite and recapped the cruise highlights. The rest of the afternoon was spent having the Chocolate Buffet (and a little fish and chips from Sur Mer) and just hanging out with our friends. That evening at dinner was bittersweet. We were sad to leave our wonderful wait staff and we knew that we would be leaving the next day. We went to bingo and the Carnival Legends show after dinner, along with another midnight trip to the Sky Grille for fries!
Debarkation morning and the "Oh, your bags are at the bottom of Galveston Harbor": Jason, Ethan, and I woke early to see the ship pull in and turn around. It is just as magical being on the ship and watching as it was the previous Sunday morning from Harbor House. We were sad to be leaving our friends and ALL THAT FOOD! As Jason and I were packing our last few things, we kept hearing Kathy and Terry's names being called over the intercom. Since we were all meeting for breakfast on the Lido, we couldn't wait to find out the scoop. We left our cabin and went upstairs to wake up Larry and Sue and find Kathy and Terry. We eventually all caught up with each other in the CEzanne restaurant and the first thing out of Kathy's mouth is, "You might want to sit down for this" as she is laughing so hard that she is crying. Terry: "We knew that Lisa would get a kick out of this story." Kathy: "Our luggage has been involved in a bit of an accident." Terry: "Our luggage has gone overboard and is believed to be resting at the bottom of Galveston harbor." Lisa: "Oh, crap! Are YOU SERIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I must hand it to Kathy and Terry because they took it all in stride, even after they found out that it was Larry and Sue's luggage. Poor Larry and Sue—they are trying to replace everything that was lost, including Sue's perfect purple stapler!
I went in to this trip with a wonderful attitude and high expectations. However, I must say that Carnival has exceeded my expectations in every way. The food was superb, the ship was very clean (always someone cleaning!), and the staff was very friendly and accommodating (I never met a rude staff member—always "Merry Christmas" and "Hello, How are you?"). Camp Carnival was wonderful and Ethan really enjoyed his time there. There is always something to do on the Conquest—never a shortage of activities! But I believe that our wonderful friends made the trip outstanding. We love you guys and cannot wait to cruise with you all again!