We boarded the Carnival Conquest on March 16, 2008 in Galveston after driving from Dallas, TX the same day. Our cabin number was 1383. We have both been on several cruises with several cruise lines. This was the smoothest boarding of them all. There was one wrinkle for us in the process. The suggested protocol for boarding is to drop off the passengers and luggage in one area, then the driver proceeds to remote parking. I took a duffel bag (that was to be checked) so that my wife would not have to deal with all the luggage. When the shuttle returns from remote parking, the presumption is that you have already dropped off all of the luggage except for your carry-aboard items so they drop you off a hundred yards from the luggage check-in area. Because of this misunderstanding, my wife and I had some trouble getting reconnected. Our bad. Lesson learned, leave all of your check-in luggage while you park the car. The travel partner taking care of the luggage will have plenty of time to deal with the luggage and then meet you at the shuttle drop off area in front of the main entrance.
I had traveled with Carnival in 1998 aboard the Jubilee for a 16 day cruise. The cruise itinerary was great but, the ship was awful. Carnival gave me a 25% discount coupon for use on future cruises. I sent it back saying no-way. Time heals wounds. We decided to give Carnival a try because this is a newer ship and it is so convenient to Dallas. Neither of us had been to Jamaica or the Cayman Islands, so the itinerary was enticing. We were both glad we did. Carnival Conquest exceeded our expectations in many way.
The winds in Galveston on departure day were gusting to around 25 mph. The waves were 6-8ft. A little bumpy. The Conquest was the most stable ship that I have been on. I don't know if it is the size or a stabilizer system but, whatever it is, it works. Carnival upgraded us from an interior cabin to an exterior cabin with a window. I presume this is because I have traveled with them before. We were on floor number one. The window gave us excellent up-close views of the churning ocean. The cabin was quite large with plenty of storage space. Our 12 year old son accompanied us and there was plenty of room. I am 6'4" and a big man. The shower space was tall enough and big enough! Big guys will understand how wonderful and rare that is.
We dined at the second seating(8:30pm) in the Renoir room. Our waiter was Anthony. Anthony was the best waiter of any cruise that we have been on. This is not to say that we haven't had some good ones, so I don't say that easily. The food on my previous Carnival experience was about as good as a Denny's. Carnival has come a long way. It is still not comparable to the finest restaurants but, that is not where their price-point is. They had a wonderful selection and some of the dishes were quite good by any standard. Anthony was very good about making recommendations. The red snapper and Mahi-Mahi were excellent. The Indian vegetarian dinner was fantastic. The best dessert was the Grand Marnier soufflE. I bought my wife a couple of surprises in the jewelry shop. Anthony helped me surprise her at dinner. I won't give the secrets away for husbands who might want to try the same thing. For those who want an upscale surf and turf dining experience, try the Point. It costs extra and reservations are required. I heard from other passengers that tried it and all reviews were very good. There are several buffets. We found the Sur la Mer on the second level of the Cezanne restaurant on the last day. The fried blue-point oysters were a hit. Try the deli and Sushi Bar as well.
The Casino is very nice. It is smoky like most casinos. The staff was great. The shows in the evening were really good. The opening night show was good. The Motown tribute was good. The magician was good. The costumes for this show were a little skimpy. The juggler was phenomenal! I would have never thought I would say that about a juggling act. The female comic was good. She has a late night show that I would have like to have seen but, it wasn't appropriate for a 12 year old. The children's program for 12 - 14 year olds was a little weak. The staff was nice. The activities just didn't appeal to our 12 year old.
A medical emergency required a helicopter evacuation of a passenger. This required the ship to back track and threw the schedule off. As a result we did not make it to Jamaica. We took a taxi to the Seven Mile beach on our own in the Cayman Islands. It was a pretty beach. Not much coral or sea life. The beach was crowded and hot without a lot of shade. I think I had my expectations too high. We took the 3-reef snorkel tour in Cozumel. The staff was great. The locations were poor. There reefs were paltry and there wasn't a lot of tropical sea life. I was expecting Palancar reef or something similar where I have snorkeled and scuba dived before in Cozumel. We stayed pretty close to the shore and the harbor areas. I have done better on Isla Mujeres (near Cancun) hiring a local boat in the market place to take me out snorkeling. The Cozumel excursion was disappointing because I know from personal experience that Cozumel has more to offer.
Disembarking was the best ever. Carnival has an option now to carry off your own luggage. You don't have to put it out the night before. They call your floor to disembark and you take it with you. We got up at 6:00am as the ship was docking. We had breakfast in the Monet dining room at 6:30am, got back to our room and rested for about 10 minutes, our deck was called and we were in the car headed back to Dallas by 8:40am. That is fantastic. Letting passengers carry out their own luggage saves everybody time and probably saves Carnival some money (which they need to pay for fuel).