We drove from beautiful Mustang, OK to Galveston the day before the Conquest was set to sail. This was our first "big" family vacation with my DW, DD, 6 years old and DS, 3 years old. Traveling along in another car were our friends and their 6 year old daughter. We stayed at the Hilton along the beach in Galveston. The accommodations were nice though it was a bit unusual for all 4 of us to sleep in the same room. One nice thing about the Hilton is that we could leave our car in their parking lot during the cruise for no extra charge. We had the 11:30 shuttle from the hotel to the pier. So we waited along with 20 or so other passengers for the hotel shuttle busses. I followed the shuttle bus to the long term parking lot located behind another hotel, about a ten minute drive away, then joined my family on the shuttle for the trip to the pier.
Embarkation: My wife & I had been on 3 other cruises together previously, with Holland America, Princess and NCL and we have never spent nearly as much time standing in line to board. We stood in line outside the terminal for over an hour. When we finally made it inside and up the escalator we were disappointed to see the line stretching out through 2 more large rooms before we could reach the check in desk. All in all it took us almost 3 hours to get on board the ship. Way too long!
Staterooms: We booked 2 adjoining staterooms that were located aft on Deck 1. It was nice having 2 bathrooms and the extra space for our family of 4. I thought the rooms were nice, about average for what we were used to. The kids liked being able to sit in the windows and look out. Armando, our steward was fantastic. He was very nice and friendly. The kids loved it when he would leave chocolate chip cookies for them on their beds. It turned out that our cabins were directly under the aft thrusters, which you could definitely feel whenever the ship was docking or departing. But our kids managed to sleep through it so it wasn't a major inconvenience.
Food: I'm not a picky eater so I thought the food was just fine. I think the buffets could have offered a bit more variety. Breakfast was pretty much the same thing every day with alternating pancakes and French toast. I did enjoy having a made to order omelet each and every day. I had heard raves about Sur Mer and being a fish lover I was eager to try it. I didn't like the fried fish so much-too much breading. But the fried oysters were terrific. We ate several nights in the Monet restaurant. We had a nice table in the back with a great ocean view. The service and food were both pretty good thought the portions were a bit on the smallish side. But with the overabundance of food available throughout the ship 24-7, it was hard to complain.
The ship; I've heard people say that they had trouble getting around the ship, but we didn't have any difficulty. I just nabbed a ship map at the purser's shortly after we boarded and had no problem getting around.
Kids Club: Our kids had a great time at the Carnival Kids Club. My 3 year old son was a bit reluctant at first, but soon he was asking to go. Seems like they always had plenty of activities. The kids went a couple of times during the morning and afternoon hours, but they spent the majority of their time there in the evenings. That was a great opportunity for the grown ups to have some adult time.
Ports of Call: Montego Bay- My wife and I did the jungle canopy zipline adventure with Chukka tours. There was about an hour drive each way to get to the site, but it was interesting to see the everyday life going on around us during the drive. The ziplines were a blast, but I only wish there could have been more of them. There were 6 ziplines all told, but 2 of them were very short. The last line was definitely the best- over 1000 feet long. Good times. Grand Cayman Island- No excursion for us today. The family and I just hopped a bus for the ride to 7 Mile Beach. We had a great time just playing in the crystal waters. The kids had a ball digging in the sand and hunting for seashells. Cozumel- We decided to get away from the crowds and rent a Jeep for the day. Definitely a good call. For about $60 we got to drive all around the island and stop wherever we wanted. Had a good time driving on the windward side, stopping occasionally along a deserted beach to get our feet wet in the big waves. Ended our day at Carlos & Charlie's with a swim in the ocean and some cold drinks.
Disembarkation: Again another seemingly endless wait in a seemingly endless line. But this time it was even more tedious due to the fact that we had to schlep all of our luggage along with us through the turning, twisting line. Not too much fun especially with kids. Next time I'll be sure to nab one of the porters which seems to earn you the right to go to the front of the line. Live & learn...
All in all we had a great time and learned a lot about traveling as a family. I would sail with Carnival again.