This was our first cruise and really didn't know what to expect. Our party of 4 is comprised of some seasoned travelers, but only one had cruised before. I had heard good things and bad...so I went in with an open mind and expecting a good time.
First of all, we flew into Hobby the day before the cruise and rented a car. We stayed in the Baymont Suites in Galveston. Room was high priced on Saturday(173.00) but the good news is that we parked our rental car there (for free) while we were on the cruise. The shuttle from airport to terminal and back was the same price as a rental for the week and we had wheels to explore Galveston! For lunch on Saturday we drove to Jamaica Beach and ate at a little place called the Patty Shack. Great little diner, great food and atmosphere. Unbeknownst to us that night was the KAPPA beach party night so the beach strip down from the hotel was crowded with college kids and "pimped-out-rides". Although there were thousands of kids, heavy traffic and a definite 'police presence' there didn't seem to be any negative issues other than making it difficult to visit the restaurants there. A warning...restaurants close at 10pm in Galveston, so if your looking for a late dinner, you'll end up at Whataburger like us!
Sunday morning we had the continental breakfast at the hotel, and checked out to head to the terminal. We took a taxi as we were leaving our car there. It cost about $20 for the cab, but there were 6 of us in it. Not too bad. A porter was there for our luggage immediately and for $2 a bag we were relieved of them. We headed up-stairs and began the waiting process. We were in line (twice) and about two hours later we were boarding the ship. As soon as we boarded the ship we were offered (not so gently) drinks in souvenir cups ($7.25 ) and although I was rather put off by them being thrust into my hand, one sip and I was sold! These are also reusable for discounts on drinks throughout the cruise. So go ahead and get one.
Upon boarding, lunch is served in the buffet. Only food I didn't care for was the buffet lunches. Breakfast there was good though. Soon after lunch our room was ready and we were pleasantly surprised. Great room w/ balcony and the bed was actually sleepable. I was worried about it as most beds cause pain, but this one did not. Great soft, fluffy pillows, down comforters and very clean bedding! Nur our housekeeper was extraordinary! Our room was impeccably clean and he was so friendly and helpful. He had a female assistant whose name I didn't get, but she was wonderful too. Those towel animals are too cute and we took pictures of them all.
We enjoyed dinner in the Monet dining. We had Juan, Brian as wait staff and Gabriel from the bar. What a team. The nightly dancing was cute too! We had an early dinner and it was perfect. I did stress a little over the dress code prior to sailing, but realized that as long as you are not in "beach-wear" or blue-jeans it is acceptable. What did surprise me is what some people refer to as formal wear. We attended the formal night and the captain's reception on Tuesday. There was everything from evening gowns to sun-dresses. If your going to cruise on the Conquest, don't fret over formal night. Dress nicely and enjoy it. The band playing at the reception was really good too. The alcohol was free at the reception and the rum punch was delicious.
We ate at the Pointe Supper Club one night. $30 each is nominal for this outstanding dinner. Surprise your lovely with reservations. If it on an excursion night, just make a later reservation. Well worth it! Men must wear jackets in this dining room.
As for EXCURSIONS: We were torn between several excursions in Jamaica. We put off making our decision so long that the Sandals excursion was sold out. AND I AM SO GLAD. During the "shopping-talk" they passed out flyers and maps and on the map was an ad for the "HOT-SPOTS SHUTTLE". For $15 each, it is a jump-on/jump-off shuttle. We went to the mall, the craft market, margaritaville, and the beach. We ate Beef Patties and bought creme rum! To die for! Craig, our driver was a hoot. He gave us lots of little Jamaican tidbits and made sure that we got what we needed. After he dropped us at Doctor's Beach, he returned for us to take us back to the ship. Once back on the ship watch the dock. A band of boys play music and cruisers throw money off the ship to them. They are good too.
Grand Cayman: Here we took the Jolly Roger w/ Capt. Splash and it was a great source of information about the island. It is only an hour long and left us plenty of time to shop and go to the beach. This is not the place for T-shirts for the family as it is very expensive. Buy those in Jamaica and Cozumel. We ate at Breezes. WAY TO EXPENSIVE. Go off the main strip and try a 'not-so-commercial' place. Go to the Tortuga rum cake store. They let you sample the cakes and they are YUMMY. We bought the pineapple rum cake, 16 oz for about $14. When I priced them on-line yesterday, they sell for about $25....so they are well priced in Cayman. They have all different flavors. They also have the beef patties and ice cold sodas!
Cozumel was my favorite. We went on the beach buggy and snorkeling at Punta Sur excursion. Our Guides Eduardo and Gorge were the best. The buggies were fun to drive and we had a blast. We visited Mayan Temple Ruins and the crocodiles before heading to the beach. I had never snorkeled before and couldn't seem to get the hang of it. Eduardo wouldn't let me give up and soon I was doing it. These two guys were awesome. After snorkeling and seeing some great sea-life, they fed us. What we thought was just a snack was empanadas, flautas, nachos with salsa and some of the best guacamole I have ever had. Water and sodas and fresh fruit too. We swam some more, left and visited a lighthouse before taking the 35 minute drive back to the city where we shopped at the Taquileria for flavored tequilas. Another place with samples! When paying look on the counter, their $2 bottles of hot sauce are worth bringing home. Overall, I cannot say enough about this port. One warning: Sun screen is not good for ocean life so apply early so that it is soaked in before snorkeling. Don't skip it like I did.
Overall this cruise was fun and relaxing. The Carnival crew members were incredibly friendly and went beyond any expectations. They even remembered our names! These people work hard. Each port was fun and we felt safe at all times. There is no question whether we will cruise again. We are already talking about where we will go next year!