We are 55 years old, and cruised with 3 other couples. This was our 5th cruise, and 2nd on the Conquest. We spent the night before sailing in Houston, which worked out well. It was fairly cold in Galveston at the start of the cruise, but it beat 12 degrees F that we left at home near St. Louis.
Boarding was fairly easy, we arrived at the terminal around 11:30 and were on board eating lunch about 12:15. We went straight to Sur Mer to enjoy the tasty fried oysters we remembered from our previous cruise.
Our stateroom was not accessible until 2:00PM, so we wandered around and became reaquainted with the ship. We sailed on the Miracle a year ago, which is long and narrow. I liked the open layout of the Conquest better, although it was confusing to get to the Monet dining room from our floor. It's best to go to the aft elevators and then down.
Our Steward, Celeo, was the nicest of any of our cruises, extremely gracious and accommodating. He did an excellent job keeping our room clean and stocked. Our bed was not very comfortable, which I found odd, as I thought Carnival had upgraded all their mattresses. We had an interior room one floor below the Lido deck, which was handy for the buffets and pools. The laundry was just a couple of doors down the hall which was also convenient. Interior rooms are nice for sleeping, but I like a balcony room better - although as chilly as the first 2 and final days were, it might have been a waste of money on this cruise. The first couple of days were fairly rough, and barf bags were placed near the elevators. Fortunately I've never gotten seasick, and really like the movement - you know you're at sea and not just at a resort.
Las Vegas style shows and acts in the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge were fun and entertaining.
The Filipino band Music in Motion was just phenomenal! The lead guitarist played Lynyrd Skynrd's "Free Bird" by request that blew us away! They were usually found in the Pissaro Lounge in the evening.
Our meals were even better than what I remembered, and all the staff we came in contact with were friendly and eager to please. I think that you can't go wrong with the Chef's special recommendations. The lobster we had the 1st formal night was sweet and tender. I particularly enjoyed the grouper, rack of lamb, chateaubriand, filet, and prime rib dinners. It was sad to see so many passengers disregard the dress code - some of them were dressed for a rodeo or worse, a campground. Many of the passengers were probably from Texas, but jeans and cowboy hats were not appropriate at the dinner table.
We had a problem with the spa staff which was disappointing. My husband won a free express shave at the spa debarkation drawing. He was given a scheduled time of 5:00 PM Wed., which was port day in Jamaica. He planned his day around making the appointment, and was angry when he arrived on time to find that someone had written it in the master schedule for 4:00PM. His appointment card clearly stated 5:00. No one on the staff seemed to care about making it right until he raised cain. We wondered if it was deliberate? If they're going to do free giveaways, then do it and honor the coupon without hesitation - the idea is if you try the services and like them, you'll likely buy more and/or tell others.
We did the Croyden Plantation tour booked with Carnival, as our previous stop in Jamaica left us wary of venturing on our own. It was definitely a low-key, easy excursion, with most of the guests being senior citizens. It was interesting and the included lunch was good. The bus ride through the hills to and from is not recommended for those who suffer from car sickness.
At Grand Cayman, we left the ship early and easily tendered to shore, where we headed straight down to Eden Rock for snorkeling. We brought our own equipment, but you can rent stuff at Paradise dive shop, as well as a locker for your things. The Tarpon were hanging around, waiting for handouts. It's a good economical spot to enjoy the clear water and many colorful fish. Farther out, about 30 - 40' deep. are many coral formations, close to where the cruise ships anchor.
I love Cozumel, although you have to ignore the pleading from shop owners as you walk around town. We booked a snorkel trip from shore with Blue Angel dive shop - highly recommended on TripAdvisor.com. It was a good boat and the guides were friendly and competent. The adjacent restaurant was good and the people very friendly. I stayed on Cozumel 7 years ago, and it was sad to see the damage left by hurricanes - the reefs looked like they were just scrubbed bare.
Final notes - we were supposed to dock in Galveston around 5:30 or 6 AM Sunday morning. Unfortunately, the port was closed due to fog. We weren't allowed to dock until close to 12:00PM, which caused us to miss our 12:20PM flight. The weather wasn't Carnival's fault, but the way they handled debarkation could have been better. Since we had an early flight and chose to self-carry our luggage off the ship, we were directed to wait on the 3rd floor Toulouse Lautrec Lounge until the ship was cleared. Un fortunately, people started coming to our location against orders, and clogged the aisles of the lounge. It would have been more smooth if Carnival had directed passengers to specific rows in the theater rather than the free-for-all it became. Some of the frustrated passengers became loud and abusive, which was very disturbing. The funny part was that the worst and most vocal were obviously old and probably retired, and likely didn't have to worry about getting to work the next day. It wasn't organized very well, and they should have a contingency plan in place that works for similar situations.
Will I cruise on Carnival again? Most likely. Will I depart from Galveston again? Probably not, as winter weather might be a big factor at the beginning and end of cruises here.