We're a couple age 41 on our first cruise and celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. My hubby's wonderful parents stayed with our four children so that we could cruise. THANKS, NANA & PAPA!!!!EMBARKATION: We saw this over & over again on CC website: get there early! We arrived @ 10:30 and were on the ship within the hour. We parked at EZ Cruise for $50 for the week (paid for online). BRING LOTS OF SMALL BILLS FOR CONTINUOUS TIPPING: porters, drivers on excursions, captains on excursions, steward, basically anyone who encounters you--this surprised us--says "tipping appreciated". Also, BRING A SHRINK-WRAPPED BOX OF BOTTLED WATER. Just tape a printed luggage tag on it. You'll need this water often.
Once on board, we headed directly for Sur Mer and upon tasting, knew we were going to enjoy to next 7 days. We had a good hour or so before our room was ready at 1-ish, so we explored the ship. We were often taken aback as to how beautiful the Conquest is. The attention to detail is amazing. Be sure to notice all the different light fixtures.
As were were sitting on deck waiting for the sail away, a couple sat next to us. We started conversing, and she realized that we were another CC couple who had been conversing via the roll call message boards. We'd planned online to meet after the muster drill, and here we were, on a ship of 3000 cruisers sitting side by side! We hung out with Judy and Rol all week; they were great!
Our cabin was an ocean view. We found it roomy enough and loved the fact that we unpacked only once. It's amazing how much storage is in such a small space. Then you put your luggage under the bed for the week!
THINGS NOT TO MISS: Karaoke (until the really bad singers monopolize it), Sunday night's "Welcome Aboard Show" (Ralph--AKA "Wee Jimmy"--the cruise director is HILARIOUS), Lido deck games, water slide, Marc Rubben (amazing ventriloquist), tea in Alfred's Bar (c'mon, we all need a little culture!), Manuel Zuniga (incredible juggler), Mark Hawkins (hilarious comic), eating in the dining rooms (do you really want buffet all the time?), pizza, sushi, "Music Motion" (this band played in the Degas Lounge most nights, and they are really good!)
THINGS WE COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Smoking(!), Thong-clad dancers (but they do warn about "suggestive wardrobe" tho parents let their kids go see the show anyway), Low ceilings (had to add that for my tall hubby who kept hitting his head--the dent in the doorframe at Alfred's Bar is his!), and snobby cruisers who treated the crew like trash.JAMAICA: We took the CC advice and hired an outside excursion through Barrett Adventures. We LOVED our day! Our driver and tour guide Deacon was wonderful. He picked us up at the pier, and we drove 1-1/2 hours up in the mountains to YS Falls. On the way, we learned history, saw many beautiful Jamaicans, and got a bit carsick. He patiently pulled over, so I could walk around and even asked a local if I could use her bathroom. The falls are lovely. Then we took a ride on the Black River. There, our boat captain came across a croc sunning herself. The captain called her over like you would a dog. She quickly swam over, and he shook her front leg! Amazing sight! After that we visited an art gallery. Deacon was a great driver, but we were still a bit nervous as the roads are very narrow; and folks are constantly walking or biking along the sides. The little school children were cute and smiled and waved. There are lots of honking horns, but in Jamaica we were told, this means, "Hello!" Jamaica is extremely beautiful! Google BARRETT ADVENTURES, and ask for Deacon. You will love it.
GRAND CAYMAN: Again, not wanting to pay the premium on the cruise tours, we went with Nativeways. For $60 pp, we went to Stingray City, snorkeling on the barrier reef, and had a delicious lunch at Rum Point Beach. This was our most relaxing day of the whole cruise. You cannot leave GC without seeing the Stingrays. Truly, it is incredible. My only complaint is that we did NOT want to leave when it was time. We also visited Hard Rock (to get gifts for our kids) and had a margarita at "Margaritaville" -- very over-priced and not really all that good. You cannot go wrong with Nativeways. They will have a photographer onboard (ours was George from Scotland) from whom you can buy photos (very good ones too) of you and the rays. This day was a DO NOT MISS!
COZUMEL: BE SURE TO VISIT WWW.COZUMELMYCOZUMEL. There is so much information. And it's how we came across "Cooking with Josephina" ($79 pp). For this day we walked to the mercado (tourists don't usually go here) where we met Josephina, bought our ingredients (we actually saw our fish's face before he was filleted), and did a little bit of shopping. We walked to her kitchen and prepared the meal. It was yummy! Among other things, we cooked red snapper, made refried beans, home-made tortilla, the best guacamole ever, and very yummy margaritas. Our only negative of the experience is that it was a hot day, and we had decided to walk to the mercado instead of taking a cab. We were tired and sweaty. And this being our first visit to Cozumel, we did not have time to see the beaches. However, we got to do something that no one else did.
DISEMBARKATION: We did self-assist and were in our car driving home by 8:30. The lines you'll see are fast-moving. If you don't want to do self-assist, then get a porter in the morning who will get your bags for you. Then, you can line up in the porter-only customs lines. Much faster, so we've heard.
ALL IN ALL: We had the best vacation and would do it again next week if we didn't miss our kids so much. We honestly found ourselves saying that we can't wait to take them on the next one. The crew was wonderful from the steward (cute little towel animals!) to the matri'D (funny jokes every night) to the waiter and assistant waiter. You will want for nearly nothing. When you consider the entertainment, food, and service, cruising is a tremendous value. [Just be careful about the Drinks of the Day as they taste yummy but can add up quickly!]
As I type this, I hear my hubby doing the dishes. Back to normalcy . . . Until our next cruise!