I sailed on the Carnival Conquest out of Galveston on February 24. Cruising with me were a friend and my parents, both of whom are in their mid 80's. We left Dallas early Sunday morning, because others who had done this cruise assured me that we would arrive in plenty of time (and we did), but for a perpetual worrier like me, I think driving down the night before would be money well spent for the peace of mind.
If you are parking in the Port of Galveston parking lot, check their on-line site. They give free parking to disabled vets and Purple Heart recipients. My dad received a Purple Heart in World War II, so the free parking was a nice perk.
Lines at check in went very quickly. Everyone was polite and friendly, and once we got on board we went to the Lido deck for a quick snack to hold us until dinner. We had access to our rooms almost immediately. We had an inside cabin, which was surprisingly roomy. If you travel with clothes that need to be hung up, you better bring your own hangers because there were only 2 in each closet in the cabin. After the lifeboat drill we spent some time looking around the ship, and then dressed for the early sitting for dinner. For those of you who like a glass of wine before dinner, Carnival allows you to bring one bottle of wine or champagne on board at the port of embarkation.
I had some serious concerns about food. The last time I cruised on Carnival was nearly 20 years ago, and I thought the food was only adequate. I was pleasantly surprised by the food in the dining room. The main courses and desserts never disappointed. I am a beef eater, and the steaks and prime rib were cooked exactly as I asked for them (medium rare). There was a nice variety on the first course, but the salad course was pretty limited offering just a lettuce and tomato variety or a ceasar salad each night, although one night they did a excellent Greek salad. For lunch we tried all of the various offerings, except for the Cezanne. Every one was very good; the food was hot and fresh. I personally never ate at the Lido buffet for lunch, but others in my party did and said the food was good. For breakfast we ate in the Lido buffet everyday except one. There was plenty of fresh fruit, and there were more omelet stations than I have seen on other ships, so there was never a long wait for an omelet.
We only went to two of the shows, the Welcome Aboard Show with Greg Ray, who was an excellent comedian, and the Motown Show with Jerome Dabney, who was excellent. I usually go to a show almost every night while I am on a cruise, but Carnival chose to do only a 10:30 show several nights, which I felt limited my options.
We did not book excursions in the ports due to my parents' age and physical limitations. Perhaps if we could have booked an excursion to get away from Montego Bay, it would have been a better experience. We booked the on and off shuttle bus which leaves from the terminal in Jamaica. For $15 you get a wrist bracelet and can get on and off of the shuttle all day long. It makes 5 stops: a beach, 2 crafts markets, the main shopping area, and Margaritaville. We went to the main shopping area, where the pressure to buy is really intense. People follow you from store to store and do not want to take no for an answer. We then went to Margaritaville for lunch. It was jammed, and the food was only mediocre, but the real attraction there is the people watching We loved Grand Cayman. We could not anchor in the area where the ship is usually met by the tenders since the seas were running high. We anchored about 8 miles from the downtown area and were tendered into an alternate area. We paid $5 for a round trip bus ride into town. The town had great shopping, and we really enjoyed our time there. There were several internet cafes where we could access our e-mail at prices far below those offered on the ship.
The last port was Cozumel, and again we just shopped. There is a duty free shop at the end of the pier where the ship docks, and after comparison shopping we found that their prices were excellent.
Finally we arrived back in Galveston. Disembarkation was great as long as you took advantage of the carry-off option, which allows you to disembark early if you can carry off all of your own luggage. I took advantage of the carry-off option and went to pick up the car. I was off by about 9:45. It was nearly 11:30 when the rest of my party was able to clear customs and get off of the boat.
All in all it was a great cruise, good weather, friendly waiters and cabin stewards, good food and beautiful ports. I'm already searching for my next destination!