We cruised out of Galveston on the Conquest last Sunday. It was spring break for many Texas schools so the ship was very full. We traveled with another couple and four kids between us. My two boys are 9 and 13. This is our fifth cruise and the kid's third.
My husband and I traveled on Carnival Celebration without the kids a few years back and were not impressed at all. It was a five day cruise and had the feel of a party barge. After traveling on several other lines and researching, we decided to give Carnival another try this year. Boy am I glad we did.
Embarkation was a little slow due to bad weather last Sunday (the ship was late getting in). We were delayed a few hours, but finally got on board by 2pm. Everyone we met on staff during embarkation were helpful and polite.
Once on board, we were very impressed with the Conquest's atrium and the beauty of the ship overall. Many people on CC referred to the decor as garish, but I thought it was really cool and the impressionist theme was fun and unique. We got the soda cards for the kids and went off to our room. Our luggage arrived by 4pm.
We were in room 6335 midship with a balcony. After being sick on our last cruise with an aft room, we decided to try midship. I am pleased to say that I did great all week...no motion sickness at all! I kept taking Dramamine and Ginger tablets, but I think the size of the ship and the location of the room really helped too. Even when other parts of the ship were rocking, our room felt stable.
Our room steward Criz was very efficient but not overly friendly. He was always happy to help though and was pleasant throughout the cruise. Our room was smaller than our junior suite on RCL, but had lots of storage. We found the robes in the rooms, the sample basket and the nice linens to be great touches. Our bed was very comfortable and we spent many quiet evenings on our balcony, which was completely covered and right over the ocean. Even though we had people on either side it still felt pretty private.
Our dinner was in the Monet dining room. When booking we requested that we be seated with our friends, but discovered the first night a mistake was made and another family named Johnson had been seated with our friends. The maitre'd was very apologetic and happily spoke to the "wrong" Johnsons and they graciously agreed to switch tables.
I must say that of all our cruises the assistant maitre'd we had this time was the best. He came by our table each night and made it a point to talk to all of the kids. He seemed to genuinely enjoy talking to the guests. In the past, on other lines it seemed we only saw him on the first and last night of the cruise or if there was a problem.
Our server Carolina was absolutely adorable... very friendly and so kind to the kids. She brought my son Matt two banana splits each night after she saw how much he loved them the first night. My oldest son loved the cappuccino and she made sure he had one after dinner each night. Our food was always good and served hot.
In general I found the food to be some of the best we have ever had, particularly the lobster and crab cakes and some of the pasta dishes. I will say though that I was not a big fan of the melting cake...too much sauce and not enough cake like some others have stated before. Each night I found formal dining to be a very pleasant surprise. We also enjoyed the music and wait staff entertainment each night. I know some have complained that it is cheesy, but our kids loved it and we thought the whole thing was fun. Most of the servers seemed to be enjoying it too.
The food in the Cezanne casual restaurant was good as well. I particularly loved the salads and the fish and chips. The pizza was great and my boys ate there constantly. I also enjoyed the grill by the pool which had really good hot dogs, onion rings and made to order cheese burgers. Again I must say that the food in general was better or at least as good as the other lines we have cruised and we were very happy with the quality. And unlike some reviews I have read regarding the Conquest, I found all those in food service to be friendly and very helpful.
We ordered room service several times and found it to be good as well. Unlike some have complained, we found the service to be prompt and a few times we got the food within 15 minutes.
We had great weather all week and spent a lot of time on the Lido deck by the pool. The boys all loved the ping pong tables, golf, volleyball and basketball courts. They played any time they could. They did that in place of the kids program most days. Since it was spring break, there were lots of kids everywhere, but they were well behaved and I never saw any getting out of hand...even the college kids. I found them funny and quite entertaining, especially when the frat boys tried to impress the girls on deck. The only negative was they drank all the Foster's beer which my husband and I love! We never felt crowded and could always find chairs if we looked hard enough.
Regarding the bar service in general I was very happy. They were there to offer but never seemed pushy. That was a very different experience than our last RCL and our last Carnival trip. On those trips I felt pushed constantly to buy drinks and sometimes they were down right rude to my kids when they tried to use their soda cards. We never saw that on the Conquest.
Our cruise director "Wee Jimmy" was so funny and seemed to love being with the guests. He had such a self deprecating humor that was so refreshing, some of our other CD's have seemed so unapproachable and sort of snobby. My husband had fun with him when he went up on stage during the first night's show, Wee Jimmy named him "Big Daddy" since he is 6'8. He really set a fun family oriented tone for the rest of the crew and made some of the boring stuff like the disembarkation talk really enjoyable.
We went to all of the shows and unlike some who have reviewed on these boards, we found the dancers to be quite talented, enthusiastic and very professional even when compared to shows we have seen in Las Vegas. We were not expecting much and we were very pleasantly surprised. Compared to other cruises, we thought the Conquest shows were great, especially the comedians, the Vegas style shows and the Legends closing talent show. The dancers seemed to really be enjoying themselves and they were fun to interact with throughout the cruise during dance lessons, etc. The sets were very elaborate as well as the costumes and I personally loved the Moulin Rouge theme of the showroom and didn't find a bad seat in the place.
The ports of call were great too. We were a little worried about MOBay after some of the posts here, but we had a great day at Sunset Beach, got a cab easily too the resort and back. We felt safe and the kids loved the pools and water park. The food was good and the drinks were even better. The only time we were a little unnerved was when we were getting back on board and were separated, girls in one line, boys in the other. Just like some have said on here, the guys were searched thoroughly, but none in our group found it to be crossing the line and it was a male who was doing the searching. My husband was approached to buy drugs right before we got in the resort, but he just said no and it was not an issue. I would not recommend going off on your own at this port, but in our experience, the people in Ocho Rios and MObay for the most part have been friendly and welcoming.
At Grand Cayman we had the best excursion we have ever taken. We took the Rays and snorkeling trip with Captain Bryan on the Buccaneer catamaran. It was awesome! The weather was perfect, the water was clear, the staff was helpful and they gave us great individual attention. We had less than 20 on board. We each got to hold and kiss the rays, and got lots of pictures. They did not push the pictures they took on us. It was the first time we have ever snorkeled and we loved it. We went to 2 reefs and the fish were amazing. The timing was great too because the tour didn't start until 10:30, so we didn't have to worry about rushing off the ship. We had breakfast before we left and were back in plenty of time to get back on and have a late lunch. I would highly recommend this tour.
In Cozumel, we were going to go to Paradise, but we chose to just shop instead. Most of us were a bit tired and sunburned so another beach day didn't sound too appealing (Don't use the spray sunscreen...we did and we all suffered from sunburns, I guess the lotion works better). We shopped for a few hour and got some great duty free stuff and cool henna tattoos.
Other onboard entertainment we enjoyed were the bands and the karaoke. We especially liked the band in the main atrium after dinner. We danced a lot in there.
All in all this was one of, if not the best cruise we have ever had. There was a great mix of people, ages, class etc. Most that we saw were following dress code and we saw some in tuxes and others more dressed down for formal night. There were lots of families, couples, singles, and those we met were friendly and fun to talk to. Unlike our last Carnival cruise we saw no drunken or inappropriate behavior by any of the passengers. There were a few loud talkers and a few rednecks, but hey...variety is the spice of life even on a cruise.
We thought the color competition idea was fun, and we found that each day we could do as much or as little as we wanted to. We found the Conquest to be a great blend of the elegance that we loved on Princess, with the fun we had on RCL, and then when you throw in the interesting decor it was a pleasure to spend time on this ship.
The only thing we would change next time would be to have a later dining time, 5:45 was way too early. I think 8:00 would have been better and felt less rushed. Another negative, was that our kids over 9 were not overly impressed with the kids program and they much preferred to go off on their own, whereas on RCL we could not get them out of the program. The programming for the middle ages 9-15 seemed to be in the words of our kids, "too babyish".
And last but definitely not least...we did not see any of the negative or negligent "day after" attitude that we have experienced on other ships. Usually on the last day most of the staff barely make eye contact, but we found the service in the dining room for breakfast to be just as professional and courteous as the night before...including the assistant maitre'd who came up and thanked us again for cruising with them. Disembarkation was fairly organized and the staff was helpful and friendly.
One of the hints for next time I would give is when your zone is called and you actually get to the terminal to collect your bags...send one of your group to claim the bags while one of you get in the porter line. That would have saved us about 30 minutes.
We will definitely sail the Conquest again and would recommend this cruise to anyone who likes to have fun, loves French impressionist art, great food and a good value.