This was my 11th cruise, 7th with Carnival. It sure was nice to be back!! I travelled with my partner Josh my Mother, and her best friend.
We started the trip on Thursday the 25th of September. I am not one who likes to fly, so whenever we can drive, we do! I am willing to drive to the Galveston Area, and the southern California area, anything else and we would fly. Well, the trip started off rocky, we were about 70 miles out of town and on our way, when my Mother realized she left her Passport! UGH. So we turned around and went back for it, which added a total of 2.5 hours to an already long 16 hour trip. We made it to the Hotel in Channelview the afternoon before the cruise ( after a one night stay at a family members home in east Texas ) and decided to pretty much rest that evening after dinner. The next morning while my Mother went through her ever so long ritual of getting ready, Josh & I decided to go for some Starbucks, and find our way to the terminal, so we could head straight there with no problems, once the others were ready. The GPS unit could not find the address, but that is ok it new to take us to Port blvd, and we found our way from there. It was 8am-ish, and the Conquest was docking. Good sign, we will get onboard right away once we arrive... or so I thought!
We left the hotel about 10:30 am as it was about a 20 minute drive to the port. We pulled in, and dropped off our luggage with a porter that was friendly, and fast... definitely deserved the $2 per bag that we tipped. We then pulled around and parked the car. It was $70 and we parked near the very back in the grass. I was under the impression that this was quite a ways from the terminal, but it really was not far to walk at all. We made our way to the terminal, through security and checked in, all within about 15 minutes, and it was about 11:30am at this point. I looked up and still saw people coming off the ship. Uh oh! We found a seat and sat while watching people still come off the ship till around 1:30 - 2:00pm. We heard rumors then, and now, as to why the ship was so delayed debarking, however I just chalked it up to the first time debarking and embarking 3000+ guests at a new port. No big deal! We made it on board about 2:30ish, and made our way to our cabins.
We booked this cruise in April of 2007, as we wanted to have the 2462 & 2465 cabins that were then listed as category 1A's! WOW they were worth it. The arrangement of the cabin was different than other pics I have seen on Cruise Critic, and in my opinion much better now. We all decided to get some lunch, so headed up to the Aft grill since Josh had been looking forward to freshly grilled burgers, unlike the pre-made sit around for a while, ones that we experienced on our last two cruises. (Oh and by the way I should mention that everywhere we went for the first couple days, we were comparing this to previous CCL cruises, and our last two cruises which were RCCL.) The food was as expected, perfect! After eating we explored the ship, my Mothers friend was a first time cruiser, and was in awe the entire time. Josh & I went and purchased the Soda card each, as we do not drink much alcohol. Before we knew it, it was time for the Muster Drill, which went really quick, and then the Conquest began to pull away from the dock. We took some pictures, and then headed to the dining room!
We had a table for 4, in the Monet Dining room. Our Waiter was Ronnie, and his assistant was Germaine. They were both great, however Ronnie was FANTASTIC!! This is where the first problem started. The bar waiter came by and asked if we wanted something to drink. Josh & I ordered a Coke, he then rolled his eyes, and brought them back about 30 minutes later. ( more on this later ) The meal was excellent, and I already knew that my opinion that CCL had a far superior dining experience over RCCL, still held true. We were glad to see that Cappuccino was still complimentary after dinner, unlike with the last couple cruises with RCCL. ( it's the small things ) So we headed off for the Toulouse-Lautrec for the Welcome Aboard show, had a seat and was promptly asked if we wanted a drink. Again, we asked for a Coke, and again we waited until 5 minutes before the show let out. Others around us were ordering after us and receiving their beverages quickly. I already knew I had to address this, but for now we would wait until tomorrow. We headed to our cabin, as I was tired and looking forward to sleeping on the Carnival Comfort Beds. Here is where we found problem number two! The two twins had indentations in the middle of each of them, sort of like a big body impression in the mattress. This turned out to not be comfortable at all. Needless to say, we fell asleep anyway, and were looking forward to our first full day at sea.
We awoke after a not so restful night sleep, and wanted to shower and head up to the Lido for some breakfast. Problem number 3... No hot water! We managed with the barely warm water, got dressed, called maintenance to have it fixed and headed out the door. We did not see our room steward, but our neighbors' room steward was in the hall, and we explained about the bed, and asked if he could let our steward know that we would like to see if the mattress could be flipped tonight. He said he would.. good enough for us! We headed up to the Lido buffet, and the first thing I noticed was the incredibly long lines. Well we toughed it out, found a seat, and ate. We discussed that based on today only, that RCCL had a much better layout in the buffet areas, as not to have these really long lines. That is ok, we will try the dining room tomorrow for breakfast. Josh & I had needed to go to the shops to find some chap stick that I left in the car, and we ended up buying our liquor at this time as well. We purchased four bottles of Cruzan Rum for $20, which will last us 6 to 8 months. LOL! Our first activity of the cruise was the Slot Tourney....$20 for a possible $500, sounds like fun to me. Three of us waited for our turns, and with not qualifying, waited in the adjacent Gauguin's Bar where we could smoke, have a drink or two, and just chit chat while being able to look out at the sea, while waiting for the wildcard drawing. This bar was small, so Josh & I just went to the bar to get soda ourselves, we thought there is no way this could be a problem.... We were wrong! The bartender came up and asked if we wanted a drink, we both said a Coke and showed our cards. He went to the other side of the bar to get the glasses where someone else had just walked up. The bartender asked this guy if he would like something to drink, and the guy ordered two drinks. The bartender put down our glasses, and proceeded to make the drinks for the other guy first, then made it back to us with our Cokes almost ten minutes later. At this point, I was starting to get irritated! Anyway, we did not make the wildcard drawing, went off and had a good lunch, and just hung around the ship for the rest of the day until Dinner. Tonight was formal/elegant night, Josh & I wore dark suits, (I am not a tux person) my mother and her friend both wore pant suits. After sitting down the bar waiter came by, took the order from tables around us, looked right at us, and passed by. Now, I was mad! We placed our order, and thought he might return. After him not returning by the main entrEe, I decided I had enough and wanted to address this now. I proceeded to the entrance where the Asst. Maitre' D was, and explained what had been happening all over the ship, and thought that maybe he could at least help while we were in the dining room. He said he would take care of it, although I was not convinced...but that quickly went away. After returning to the table the Asst. Maitre' D stopped by with a different bar waiter. He introduced him as his friend and that he would take care of us while in the dining room. He took our order, and quickly brought back two glasses of Coke, and left each can. Within 15 minutes, he returned to check on us, as did the original bar waiter. I assume he was spoken to, as the original bar waiter kept checking on us every 10-15 minutes bringing Coke by the cans for the rest of the cruise, while in the dining room. I should mention here, that this is where we no longer had problems ANYWHERE on the ship with getting our soda order. The bartenders now seemed quick to order, and return with the beverage from here on out. Problem solved!
After dinner we went to the production show, "Formidable" which was excellent, and blew away the best shows (if there was such a thing) that we had seen on RCCL. We then went to the late night, "R" rated, comedy show which was quite funny. There was no room to sit for Josh & I, but we still enjoyed the show, and the time flew by.
We retired to the cabin, and I noticed that the bed was not flipped. We looked under it and it appeared that the steward placed thick folds of towels to try and help with the sagging. We thought " Well let's try it and see!" We decided to take a shower, and I asked Josh to check the mail box thingy outside our cabin to see if someone came to fix the water. Sure enough, there was an apology letter stating the water temperature had been turned down on the previous cruise due to a request by the previous guests, and they had returned it to normal temperature. We took a shower, and it was as hot as we needed it. Problem Solved!
We awoke with little sleep due to the beds, called my Mothers cabin to make sure they were ready for breakfast, and headed out to their cabin to walk up with them. On the way to their cabin, we ran into our steward, and explained that we noticed he tried to help us, but the beds were still sagging really badly, and that we were not sleeping well. We then asked him if he minded flipping them, and he said "No, I will talk to my boss, and we will have brand new mattresses for you, tonight!" I thought WOW.. ok that is great. We thanked him, and continued to my Mothers room, and up to breakfast. Another WOW, as we will never eat Lido breakfast on any ship again! The Dining room was more relaxed, and the food was VERY good. We ate breakfast here the rest of the cruise.
Today we decided would be a relaxing day. The only thing we were interested in all day was the Marriage show at 3:30, so we just hung out on the ship! I must say that this day is the day that I had the most ice cream cones in one day. UGH they were so good, I probably had 20+ of them throughout the cruise. We attended the marriage show which was hilarious, especially the couple that was married 64 years. We finished the night at dinner, as we wanted to be rested for Montego Bay, in the morning. When we returned to the cabin, sure enough... brand new beds, which were WONDERFUL! We slept well for the rest of the cruise. Problem Solved! (Notice a trend? Staff solved all of our issues with just a simple request... I LOVE Carnival.)
We arrived in Montego Bay on time at 9am, and we were off the ship and at Sunset Beach by 10am. ( $3 taxi per person ) Sunset Beach was a $40 cover per person, which allowed us the use of the private beach, all the beach toys, the water park, and unlimited food & beverage. Hint: If this is your only beach stop when visiting Montego Bay, you need not bring the beach towels from the ship, as they provide them to you, as well as changing rooms, at Sunset Beach. I wish we had known that LOL! We headed to the beach, where we found some chairs, and proceeded to the paddle boats. This was funny, as once we were in them we were no more than 25 yards out, turned around and came back. I told the guy that was checking out the equipment, that it was too much work for vacation LOL, and that is when he said "Yeah Mon, that is why there is no time limit, everyone brings them right back." LMAO!! I went back to lay on the chair, while my Mother & Josh went out in a Kayak. They really enjoyed this and spent a good half hour out there. At this point we had been on the beach for about 90 minutes, and it looked like it was going to rain, perfect time to go have lunch! The food was just ok, but the drinks were good. After eating the rain let up, and we headed to the water park, where we convinced my mother to go down the water slide. She was nervous, but once at the bottom demanded to go again LOL. We had fun! The rain started again and we headed for the exit, so we could get a little shopping done near the pier. After shopping for about an hour, it was 5pm and we boarded. The ship departed about 6:15 I believe, but I am not sure if it was due to stragglers or not!
Tonight was the night that the Magic show "Lady Hellevie" was scheduled. This show had been pumped as being the first time shown on any ship, not sure if it was accurate, but we really didn't care. We decided to sit in the balcony port side, closest to the stage to have a good view. Well, we had a GREAT view.. so good that we could see "how it all was done" LOL, nevertheless a good show, and a good time! We really wanted to go to the Midnight "R" rated game show, but we had 8am tours the next morning, and needed to be on the tender at 7:15am, so we skipped it. I am sure it was great! Then again... So was the mattress!!
In Grand Cayman, we had wanted to book JUST the Stingray City tour, but when we booked online it was sold out, so we chose Stingray City & Rum Point Beach tour, It was $57 per person. After unloading from the tender I noticed that the Freedom of the Seas was pulling in. She is big & beautiful, and I would love to sail her someday. Anyway, after waiting about 20 minutes we were directed to our bus, and headed over to the boat that would take us out to Stingray City. I remember my first time at Stingray City, I was nervous to get in the water, and was hoping that my Mother would not have a problem with this being her first time. She was nervous at first, but with some coaching from me, she got in and loved every minute of it. We took some good pictures, and each got to "hold" a Stingray under the water. Again, something I will never forget. The rain started as we were heading to Rum Point Beach, but was over by the time the 20 minute ride ended. The beach was VERY nice, and we pretty much had it to ourselves (those on the excursion) with the exception of about 10 other people. We had fun in the water, laid around in hammocks, and then had a fantastic meal! This is a great spot, and the next time we are in Grand Cayman, we are going to make a day out of this beach.
One thing that I thought was funny, as we were eating I saw another couple at a table diagonal from us. The guy was SO familiar to me that I could not stop trying to figure it out. I finally said to him (also to keep him from thinking I just liked to stare at people) "You look really familiar to me," He asked where I was from, to which I replied Colorado, and he said nope, must be mistaken as he is from Maryland. Well, it was still bugging me, because I knew I had seen him before! (not on current cruise either) More started coming back to me as we were packing up and ready to head back to our little boat, and I asked "Have you ever been on the Serenade," to which his wife replied "YES", and from there we determined that we were both on the Serenade of the Seas a year earlier to Hawaii. They were there on the Freedom of the Seas.... Small world!
Anyway, we headed back on our small boat to the other side of the sound, while it was pouring rain, and there was nowhere for Josh & I to sit. We stood, and held on to the bar at the top of the boat for 45 minutes, and was never so thankful to see land. LOL! We did some shopping near the pier where I picked up FOUR of those HUGE 33oz Tortuga Rum Cakes for only $30. After that I was nearly spent and ready to return to the ship. The Tender ride was short, and we made it back in time to shower, and head up on deck for sail away.
We skipped dinner in the dining room tonight, grabbed some pizza (yummy) and headed to the casino. We spent about $60 bucks, which lasted us for a good 5 hours... but unfortunately we lost track of time and missed the show "Point & Click" AND the "R" Rated marriage show. UGH!! Oh well, we still had the Legends show to look forward to. After some Ice cream and coffee, we headed down to bed, knowing that we would get a little more sleep tonight since we were not going to arrive in Cozumel until 10am. AHHH the beds were GREAT!
This being Josh & I's fifth time to Cozumel, we were not sure what we wanted to do. I know my Mother wanted to shop, but I was really not in the mood for that. We docked at Punta Langosta, where my Mother was in awe at all the shops...I told her that she should venture north as well for the better deals. So at about 10:30, we agreed that Mom & her friend would go shopping, and Josh and I would meet her back in front of Carlos & Charlie's at 2:30pm. Josh & I were not sure what we wanted to do. The other four times we had been here, we rented a Jeep and went around the island. However, after reading some horror stories on Cruise Critic about the Police in Mexico, we decided not to press our luck. Standing at a Taxi Cab stand, we picked Paradise Beach. We had never been there before, and hoped it was decent. We arrived at Paradise Beach, and right away I could tell that I liked the place! A waiter helped us locate a couple chairs in the shade, with a good view of the beach. We ordered a bucket of beer, a Miami Vice, and some Paradise Nachos! YUM! This place was clean everywhere, including the restrooms. Also, locals were not permitted to sell their goods on this beach, so no one bothered us. There were a lot of things to do here, there was a water trampoline, water rock wall, wave runner rentals, Parasailing, and massages all available right here! We have decided that when we return, we will be spending the entire day here next time.
On the way back to the pier and Carlos & Charlie's the cab driver slowed near Puerto Maya so that I could take a peek at the progress. This is going to be much better than the previous port area, and I cannot wait to see it completed. Also, he slowed so that I could get a picture of the Freedom OTS & the International Pier. (I was drooling again) Once back at C&C's, Josh & I ordered what we always do, the ribs, and the nachos. (so predictable) Josh also tried a drink called the Ticket to fly, which he loved, and I admit tasted pretty good. The food was great and so was the loud, happy, carefree atmosphere...which we love so much. It was getting to be about 4:15, and we had to be on board by 5:30, so Josh & I headed back to the ship, (not before snagging two Tee's at a "on the way" shop) while Mom did some more shopping with her friend in the port area. The Conquest set sail pretty close to on time, and this is where I realized the Cruise was almost over. We went to dinner, had a fantastic meal, complete with the fastest soda service I have ever seen. LOL!
Josh & I decided to go to the Casino and play a little. We took $40 bucks in, and played at our favorite slots for the next 6 hours, and still walked about with $40! Not bad for a night of entertainment, however we missed the Main & Late "R" show of Marc Rubben! ACK!!! Oh well, we went up to the Lido deck for a couple smokes, coffee & Ice cream, then headed back to the cabin to turn in.
We allowed ourselves to sleep in this day, but only until 9:30, as we wanted to make it to the dining room for breakfast, which was perfect as usual! We decided after breakfast we wanted to go pack everything to make sure we could all handle self assist debarkation. So by 12:30 everything was packed except what we were wearing, and what we needed for the next morning. Everything looked like a "go" for self assist...we each had a rolling suit case, and some sort of bag that would fit on top. Mom & her friend decided to go to the shops, and wander the ship...Josh & I decided to take our $40 back to the casino.
There was no way that I would have thought that $20 each would last us from about 1pm until 2:30 in the morning... BUT it did. I MISSED the Legends show, and I really wanted to see that. However, we really did enjoy the evening in the Casino and walked out with $1200.00 from a combination of Let it Ride, Caribbean Stud & 3 card poker. (We each pulled a straight flush twice on 3 card WOO HOO) That money paid for the cruise, the sail & sign, and most of what we spent in port. This actually turned into an almost free vacation! We did not eat in the dining room, but we went down about 6:15 because we wanted to give the Asst. Maitre' D a little something for making sure that we were taken care of in regards to the soda card, and also dropped a little extra off for our cabin steward. The new beds were above and beyond! In regards to tips, I have to say that I do not like the fact that CCL puts the $70 on the first day, I would prefer them add it on the last day! It's really not a big deal I guess, but I felt like I was offering gratuities before I received any service. I really like how RCCL does it, by giving a form to fill out and sign at the end of the cruise, and then the tips are added to the onboard account. Oh well, it does not make or break anything.
We headed down to the room at 2:30 dreading the fact that we would be getting up in just 6 hours. I set a wake-up call for 8:40, but it never had the chance of going off as I was awoken by Ralph (cruise director) announcing that the ship was clear, and that those with early flights could debark. Well I knew it would not be long until self assist was called, so I jumped up, woke Josh, called Mom and told them to be ready. We walked around, picked them up and walked all the way to the forward stairwell. Right as we were stepping to the top they called the first set of self assist (deck 11, which was not us, but Ralph saw us and said to go ahead and go since we were ready) and we walked right off the ship! We were in the car and on the road at 9:27!!! That was the fastest debarkation ever!
Overall this was a great cruise!! I missed a lot of the shows and we did not get to participate in much on board, but I really had a great time! Josh & I both said that we want to go back on the Conquest just to check out everything that we missed this time. The only negative I have with this ship (Destiny, Triumph or Conquest class ship) is the layout. The whole deck 3 & 4 thing really does not bother me, what does bother me is how crowded the buffet area & how poorly laid out the main pool area was. (Crowded & no flow) This is why the Fantasy Class is still my favorite class of ship with Carnival, and I hope to sail aboard one of them again.
A few comparisons that at least Josh and myself agree on; Carnival has: *Better food & selection *Better Service (We were both called by names many times, never on RCCL) *Better Cabins *WAY better Cruise Directors! (RCCL's were really a joke, I could not tell you who they were and I do not think they made me laugh even once)
Royal Caribbean has: *Better layout in the buffet & pool areas *Awesome looking ships that I must see (Voyager, Freedom, Oasis) *Better option for tipping, after services received. (my opinion)
Even with the differences I mentioned, I think that they are more alike than different..that includes the guest demographics!