This is my husband's and my second Carnival Cruise and our 2 kids, age 9 and 16, first cruise. Our first cruise was in 2004 aboard the Ecstasy. That was fun and the Conquest definitely kicked it up a notch. This cruise was sold out and we booked last minute so got expensive and bottom of the boat (literally) cabins. I was definitely concerned about this prior to boarding but luckily my worries melted away as we sailed away; the lower interior cabins weren't any different from the upper decks and as a matter of fact are now my fav as not any traffic down there. The ship's architechs get two enthusiastic thumbs up for designing a ship that didn't feel crowded even while holding 3k plus people.
EMBARKATION: It can be a breeze, as it was for us (arrive between 10am-11am, drop off ALL luggage and everyone in party except a driver to go park car, park car and driver take shuttle back to drop off point, give luggage to porters and make sure they're tagged, have ALL of your documents ready to board and then go to the Lido Deck and start the 1st of many rounds of too much eating!): OR, arrive late, be disorganized, get mad at everyone else because you're disorganized and finally get on the ship with a sour attitude and start off your trip on the wrong foot. **take a carry on bag with you of all your med's, swimsuit, maybe reading material and your clothes/shoes for the first nights dinner as your luggage may not arrive prior to your seating**
We checked our floor and our room was cleaned and ready by about 1:30pm. We settled in there, met our Steward Igor (he was great), read our Carnival Capers and began exploring. The mandatory muster to learn how we can save ourselves and others in the event of an emergency wasn't too long and the staff was more than patient with some of the folk that weren't taking it seriously enough.
Camp Carnival for the kids had their registration that evening and after signing our 9year old son up (gave him permission to sign himself in and out of activities) we hardly saw him any of the sea days until dinner. He was also a frequent patron of the pizza counter rear of the ship (ok, we were too!). Club O2 for our teen wasn't as good in terms of organized activities for the younger kids but after our 16year old finally shook her motion sickness and emerged from her "cave" as her darkened cabin became to be known she made friends and found stuff to do.
FOOD: I thought the Lido Deck (all the restaurants) actually served up some pretty good food considering we were all thousands strong grazing every day. The dining room food has come a long way from our last cruise and the selections were varied. I'm impressed on how the wait staff and kitchen stay so organized. Our waiter "Hill" was great and our kids loved him. Sur Mer, rear and upstairs is gone to for the fish and chips but the bouillabaisse (spelling?) is the real attraction. Alot of cruisers didn't even know that it's up there so finding a nice seat to sit down and eat and relax makes this the place to go with your food from downstairs as well. Also, we were going to get soda cards but the fruit punch was so good none of us wanted them.
The cruise director Wee Jimmy was entertaining, the shows were above average for a cruise, the casino was very good for a ship (stay away from the ...rip off!! LOL), the bars served up some pretty good drinks and the specials (not in the souvenir glass!) are a good deal. Even if not buying a Spa service, definitely go up there for the sauna, hot tub and gym facilities (free).
Ports: Missed Jamaica due to sick person needing airlift; while I was looking forward to climbing the falls and being treated poorly by the locals, MOST of us understood - the small commune of mutiny wanting, petition signing folk that harassed the poor captain for unknown restitution were hilarious! Especially the short strong guy that got himself and his poor kids kicked off in the Caymans with a 1way ticket back to TX....)the mutiny didn't work out too well I guess.
Caymans: LOVED IT. Small and now that I'm looking over our pic's the colors on the island are incredibly vibrant. We did 7mile beach and I booked the Stingray tour directly with Moby Dick tours via internet. Mark and his crew were great - I highly recommend him. We took the late tour and his driver just about put wings on our shuttle bus and got us back to port with just enough time to join the other 1,000 late running Conquest folk waiting to make it thru customs to our tender. Also, I left my money and id in the Tortuga Rum store next to the pier. An employee was walking up and down the conquest line with my dl looking for me to return it. I found her and she wouldn't even take a tip - The people are sooo nice there. Cozumel: always great. We did the ATV Beach Tour (again, booked directly thru Wild Tours, saved us almost $100 for the 4 of us); Wow, fun and filthy - literally, we threw away most of the clothes we wore on the tour. If you take it, make sure you have NO physical limitations and get the early tour as it will give you time to enjoy the beach rather than have to jump in the ocean and back out like we did.
Debarkation: Pack as light as possible so you can do self carry off the ship, saved us hrs. Even with the slowest Immigration agent in the world working our line we were in the car and driving away from port in no time.
If anyone would like any info or inside tips, feel free to email me. I highly recommend this cruise, a great trip if you live w/in a decent drive to Galveston.