A little background: I am 39, having celebrated a birthday on the ship. My DH is 38. He has always wanted to cruise, being a boat person. I prefer Disney. We went to Disney last year, this year I finally relented and booked a cruise. Now, I can't decide what I want to do next year for my 40th! I LOVE CRUISING!!!
We loved this cruise. We had an aft balcony, and loved it! It gets a bit hot on the balcony in the sun, but it is very quiet and had little to no wind. It was wonderful seeing the wake of the ship, and the sounds were very relaxing. It was also awesome to see the ports dwindle in the distance as we left them. About the only negative thing I can say is that we missed a lot of sunrises, since we were heading east. Had some absolutely gorgeous sunsets tho! The cabin was nice, plenty of room to store our stuff. The DH and I each had our own closet and drawer, then we put the laundry bag in the closet where the safe is. Luckily, I learned the trick about storing all the luggage under the bed, so that really gave us plenty of space. We had a small couch, which usually just had stuff thrown on it with a small table. We took the table out on the balcony a few times when we got room service, since it is adjustable up and down. The bed was soooo comfortable, and the crack between the beds was hardly noticeable. Laying in bed at night with the rocking of the ship was wonderfully relaxing, and we both slept like babies! If I could get the house to stop rocking now, I'd be very happy! Our TV did have the interactive menu. It was nice to find our s&s account, but I really wish they would put the menus for the day on there. Our port days we went to dinner not knowing what was coming. Made the decisions a bit harder at the table.
And the food! OMG, nearly everything was awesome! We had a few things that left us going "ehhh." but the rest was awesome! Awesome enough that we each gained about 5 pounds! We had steaks, Prime Rib, Chateaubriand and Filet Mignon on a few occasions. The Dh said it was very good, and cooked to his liking. I prefer my steaks mooing for mercy, so found them a bit overcooked. I stuck with the chicken and stuff and found it very tasty! The chicken a la grecque and the chicken with mushroom pasta were yum-o. I didn't like the beef stroganoff, it was extremely salty, and the spinach and mushroom lasagna was gritty and cold. I was kind of bummed, since it sounded really good, but just didn't cut it. I had a few soups, including the strawberry bisque, cream of mushroom, french onion and cream of broccoli that were fantastic. My tablemates had the lobster bisque and said it was terrible. I'm not a fan of lobster, so I didn't try it. Tablemates said the lobster tail and shrimp was very good, but again, I passed. The WCMC was everything it was reputed to be, so yummy and delicious! The tiramisu and bitter and blanc were also very good. The only thing I was kind of bummed by was the creme brulee. Not very tasty, and a bit too soupy. For appetizers, we tried duck, which we both said was icky, and escargots, which we both loved. The fried mozzarella was delish, as were the ceasar salads and the chicken quesadilla. The dh had a tomato and mozzarella salad that reminded me of a capprese salad, but he said the tomatoes weren't really ripe. He did like the mozzarella tho, said it tasted a bit different than what he was used to. It does say buffalo mozzarella, so I'm assuming they use the real stuff, hence the taste difference. Some of the sides that come out with the entrees were unexpected, but ended up tasting very yummy. My favorite was the sesame eggplant, and the peas with cranberries, raisins and onions. The DH loved the sweet potato hash. I had one dish that was corn and peppers, but then they had olives in it too, so I ended up not eating that. The DH said it was OK, but he expected a bit more spice. I think he was looking for mexi-corn.
We ate breakfast in the DR most mornings. Loved the eggs benedict! We tried to be good, and ordered omelets made with egg-substitute one morning. The eggs were so greasy that we decided the regular eggs were probably better for us anyway! I didn't like the chicken sausage, but found the corned beef has was yum-o! Order more than one set of hash-browns! They come out as two little round potato cakes, and they just weren't enough. I ordered 2 every day after the first! The stewed bananas were possibly the best thing on the menu, I ordered them just as they were. They offered them with pancakes and waffles, but I asked for them separate and they came with no problem. If they had offered these for dessert, I would have eaten them then too, they were that good!
For lunch, we tried the DR once. I had the hay and straw, which was tasty but a bit greasy. The dh had Chinese Pepper Steak and said it was good. We just found we preferred the Lido for lunch, but preferred the DR for all our other meals. We had reubens a few times, and some stuff from the Hong Kong Noodle Company, which was awesome! We had burgers, hot dogs, minute steaks and chicken tenders the rest of the time. They have a Taste of the Nations set up, which is food from a specific country everyday. It was OK, we tried it a few times, but weren't super impressed. One day was Indian, then Mexican, then French and American. I missed a few, possibly Italian, but don't remember what they were. We did have room service a few times, the BLT's are super stuffed and very tasty. I always asked for mayo on mine. We didn't like the potato salad, and ended up getting pretzels with our sandwiches. I love pretzels, so I was very happy to see them offered. A nice change up from the deli, which put chips with all the sandwiches. We did have breakfast from room service twice, just bagels with cream cheese, fruit, croissant and milk and juice. Great for the 2 days we were off the boat early. Definitely preferred breakfast in the DR tho. You may have noticed we never went to the buffet, so I can't comment on it. The lines were always really long, and I saw where some people had their hands, so we skipped it.
Ports: We went to Cozumel, Grand Caymans, and Ocho Rios. After talking with cruisers from other ships, it sounds like we may have been the only ship to actually make all our ports! In Cozumel, the Fantasy was docked with us. They had missed both Jamaica and where ever else they were supposed to port. Cozumel was fun, we walked down to Punta Langosta from Puerta Maya, which perhaps was not the best decision we ever made. It wasn't dangerous, just lots of people asking us to take a taxi, rent a car, braid our hair. It ended up being a bit further than we thought, but the funny thing was, the closer we got, the farther away the people said it was. The first guy said it was about 3 miles, then we had walked about a half-mile and the next guy said it was 4 miles away! Made me laugh. We eventually got there and found our tour guide for Wild-Tours. I had made a mistake, and assumed the time was ship time, since that's what all my other tours said. I know, what do they say about assuming? We got there about 70 minutes early, but luckily they had room on the earlier tour and we headed out for that instead. It actually worked to our advantage, since we missed most of the safety lecture and pretty much got to hop right on the ATV's. We had a blast, but it is very dusty. There hadn't been much rain lately, otherwise it would be very muddy and that much more fun! We really enjoyed it, and relished the fact that we paid $33 a person less than what Carnival was charging for the same tour. We then bought our obligatory t-shirts for ourselves, our nieces and nephew and my sister, otherwise known as the dog-sitter. We also bought some vanilla, just in time for Thanksgiving baking!
In Grand Cayman, Carnival cancelled most of their tours due to the rough weather. Luckily, I had booked all our excursions independently, so we managed to make it to Stingray City. The Conquest was in port with us. We had to tender in, and ended up tendering away from the normal place, so we had a bit of a ride to town. However, we heard later that two other ships were turned away from the island and only our two ships were allowed to come in, so it made us feel twice as lucky! No one had been there for 4 days according to the guides, and the stingrays were very hungry. It was an absolutely amazing experience, even if we had to cut the Rum Point stop out. One of our tablemates was on the tour with us, and got a huge hickey on her butt from one of the stingrays! She said it was still tender the last night of the cruise! I thought that this was the most expensive port we were in, and spent more money on T-shirts here than in any other port. Just the shirts for the kids was almost twice what we spent in Cozumel for everyone! And then we found the Harley Shop, so got shirts from there for us. When we got back to the tender area, the line was ridiculous for the COnquest, but we pretty much hopped right back on and were back on the ship in no time. The Conquest people said they had been turned away from Jamaica the day before, since it was too rough. I hoped it wasn't still rough, since that's where we were heading next!
Ocho Rios was next, and we made it in with no problem. Another ship came in, I think the Coral Princess. That's all the ships I saw there that day. Our itinerary had been changed twice due to conflicts with Ocho Rios, but it seems to have worked itself out. We did the Dunn's River Falls and White River Tubing with Peat Taylor. I really enjoyed the Falls, although the vendors there are very pushy. Peat told us all what to do and say, and we made it without any problems. We did have a 6-year-old on the trip with us, and the guides were very good with her. The river tubing was also very fun, although I noticed there didn't seem to be much emphasis on safety. But we all made it and it was pretty exciting! We had been to Jamaica in 2005, so I think we may look for an itinerary without Jamaica next time. We had fun, and spent plenty of money, since we got rum and coffee here, but everything else was cheap. But the people are definitely pushy.
The Ship: I really liked the ship. I didn't find her tacky, but rather fun and exciting. She can be a bit confusing to navigate, and I still managed to get turned around up to the last day, but we really liked her. We found the "secret decks" and enjoyed some time there. The Rome Lounge never seemed full until the last night, and I really like the little tables in the seating area. We had dinner in the lower London room, and Paris was open for breakfast and lunch so we got to see both rooms. Paris is much bigger, seating about 350 more people than London. Our servers were Hengke and Siwa, and both were awesome! Hengke has been there for about 12 years, Siwa was very quiet, but very attentive. Didn't get to talk to her as much. We had some good luck in the casino, ended up walking out for the week about $75 up. Doesn't sound like much, but we played for hours and had fun. We are not gamblers by any account.
Parting thought: I have to admit, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this vacation at all. I still like Disney more, but I am really undecided about where to go next year. We had an awesome time, and could either relax or be entertained as much as we chose to do. All the staff we encountered were exceedingly friendly and mostly helpful. I did find a staff member who couldn't tell me where the piano bar was, he kept saying it was the lobby. I think it may have been a language thing, but it was pretty funny.Overall, we really had a great time, and have told all our friends they need to book cruises! The entertainment was fabulous, and the shows were top-notch. I didn't expect pyrotechnics on-board, and was surprised by them. Percy Cruz II was possibly the funniest comedian ever, and I just saw Bill Engvall! The magic show was good, the final trick didn't work, but they had just debuted the show that very night. Guess all the bugs weren't worked out. Overall, I was very happy with everything, and wouldn't hesitate to cruise again!