Overall, our cruise on the Carnival Conquest was disappointing, at best. My husband and I were on the first cruise after Hurricane Ike - sailing away for our honeymoon. I had cruised before (7 years ago on the Disney Magic) although this was the first cruise for my husband. I was not expecting Carnival to live up to the glory of Disney, however almost every aspect of this cruise fell way below both our expectations.
The embarkation process went smoothly, which was surprising since this was the first time going out of the Bayport terminal. We received our luggage relatively early, too. Things were looking up, until we began exploring the ship. I was shocked to learn the Conquest is less than 7 years old. It appears much older and is in major need of refurbishing. The carpets are worn, the dEcor is tacky and dated, the whole ship stinks of cigarette smoke, exterior decks are rusty and in need of some TLC, and everything is dirty. You could hardly find a pool lounge chair without bird droppings or cigarette ash covering it. Forget about sitting down outside without first inspecting the surface you will be touching! This included our stateroom balcony...dirty, dirty, dirty!
The layout of this ship is completely inconvenient. If you are in the Monet dining room for dinner, you are forced to traverse the entire length of deck 5 (which takes you past the sub-par shopping stores and the casino). This ship has at least 9 rooms dedicated to a different themed bar/lounge. Many seemed empty at all times and were wasted space that could have been dedicated to actual entertainment options. Entertainment on the ship was lame and the few "good" shows were overcrowded. You had to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to get a seat or you were left standing. The Welcome Aboard show was terrible - I don't know how Carnival can compare their shows to a Las Vegas style revue (this is what it says on their website). Maybe the crew rehearsal schedule had been disrupted by the hurricane, but their effort seemed more like a high school pep rally skit.
The food options were fairly miserable also. Stay away from the buffet on the Lido deck! My husband and I nicknamed this the "Golden Corral". It was truly awful. You can get a decent sandwich if you are willing to wait out the lines at Paul's Deli however we preferred to either skip lunch or take the extra time to be seated in the dining room. Meals in the dining room were not bad - usually the food options were decent and the meals were good (except for a few tough steaks). We tried one night at The Point Supper Club and found it was a nice change of pace although dinner lasted almost 3 hours and cost an additional $30 per person. Also, we thought the restaurant might have some amazing views but found the window curtains were kept drawn due to the fact that the restaurant overlooks one of the pool decks. Food at the Point was much better than in the dining room; however we agreed the experience on whole was not worth all the extra time and money.
Our nightly waiter in the Monet dining room was pretty good although he never called us by name and we are certain he only knew a few words in English. We never ever saw the dining room maître d' until the last night when he was waiting out front for his tip envelopes. The wait staff made a laughable attempt at entertainment each night at dinner by dancing to cheesy music for a couple of minutes. Really, it was embarrassing seeing grown men gyrate to Ricky Martin songs.
We treated ourselves to two couples massage treatments and took a massage class in the spa onboard. The first massage experience was good but during the second we were disappointed the therapists spent so much time pushing their overpriced spa products. It was really hit or miss. Two of the massage therapists were excellent and professional and the other two we encountered seemed untrained and substandard. Take some time to enjoy one or two spa treatments, but do not waste a ton of money there.
We found only a few staff members aboard the ship to be helpful or even friendly. We enjoyed our stateroom steward and two of the massage therapists in the spa. Other staff members were either indifferent or self absorbed. On days in port, many crew members were given a few hours off in the afternoons. They roamed around the passenger guest areas like teenagers taking over a mall. I'm sorry, but I don't appreciate spending 15 minutes in line for a sandwich only to find out the three people in line in front of me are crew members who are enjoying the guest food instead of the crew mess hall. Additionally, none of the crew members who were aware my husband and I were on our honeymoon made any attempt to acknowledge this fact. Nothing extra was ever offered to us, and while I did not expect special treatment (I'm sure hundreds of guests claim to be honeymooning) we were rarely even offered simple congratulations. We also had to make two annoying trips to the purser's desk to clear up a problem with our "sail and sign account" that was attributed to sailing out of Bayport instead of Galveston and the staff was unapologetic.
One night a woman was "lost" and paged MANY times over the loudspeakers of the entire ship. I do not know what time the pages started, but it was the middle of the night and the unanswered pages went on until 5:30am until it was announced the crew would be making a room-by-room search for the missing guest. Less than an hour later it was announced the missing passenger was found. We later learned from our stateroom steward that she was inebriated and had gone to the stateroom of another male passenger. Certainly this could not have been the first time something like this has happened on a cruise and I doubt it was entirely necessary to keep almost 3,000 people awake all night long because of one drunken passenger.
Shore excursions - we took advantage of the excursion opportunities at every stop. On Jamaica we did the jungle zip-line adventure and I highly recommend this, but bring good bug spray!! Grand Cayman was our favorite stop by far. We did the kayak safari and snorkel and it was fabulous. We would love to return to Cayman some day. At the stop in Cozumel, we did the Tulum Mayan ruin tour, and it was interesting but far too touristy. You'll need the bug spray again if you choose this tour. It took ALL DAY and was not really worth the time or price we paid.
The debarkation process was absolutely horrible. It took hours to get off the ship (even though we carried our own luggage off) and the customs officers were very rude. It was probably a struggle for them to return to an unfamiliar port; however I have never before found it so frustrating to return to my own country!
I knew prior to our trip that Carnival was the budget version of cruise lines, however I expected more. We chose this vacation based on the itinerary offered, and I wish I had conducted more research. I will never again choose a Carnival vacation. If you love to smoke heavily, drink heavily, and enjoy gambling and bingo, perhaps you will enjoy your vacation on the Conquest. If you are looking for something more romantic or more family oriented, I would advise spending some extra bucks with a different cruise line.