This was our 3rd trip on the Conquest. The last one was about 2 years ago.
Booking: We were caught in the "mess" when Cruise Value Center went bankrupt. We learned about it on Cruise Critic. Everyone here was soooo helpful in providing guidance on how to get a refund and rebook. I can't say enough good about CC, our original Travel Agent from CVC, our credit card company, and Carnival. They all made the process as painless as possible. After a few anxious days, we were rebooked and ready to go, until we got to the port....
Embarkation: The Port of Galveston was "socked in" by fog on our departure date 1/4/09. The authorities closed the port and the ship didn't come in until about Noon. This caused long-lines of people getting on and off. We didn't get on the ship until after 6P and sailed 8 or 9P (it is all a blurrrr). Carnival did OK with the situation. However, there is no good way to manage a double-load of customers. Things went much better on our previous cruise.
I'm sure that passengers who were disembarking from the first cruise had major plane and connection problems. We drove, so we had no transportation problems.
Lesson Learned: Leave ample time (next day?) when arriving or departing by plane. Anything can happen, and probably will!
Parking: We parked at EZ Cruise. The folks there were great as usual. Of course, they (and every other lot in town) didn't have space for us until the cars from the previous cruise departed. We toured the island, got some lunch at the "Spot" and then had a long wait in line to park. We had a pre-paid reservation with EZ Cruise and we're glad we did!
Several other folks waited in line for a couple of hours only to find that they didn't have a reservation and there might not be space for them. Not sure if they finally got to park.
Lesson Learned: Pre-reserve your parking!
The Ship: I was surprised at what good shape the ship was in for being 2 weeks pre-drydock. The crew was constantly cleaning and things were in good overall repair.
Weather: The weather was predicted to be rainy. However, the entire cruise was partly cloudy/sunny with highs in the mid-80s. Just about 1 hour of rain in Grand Cayman. Perfect cruising weather!
Food and Dining: The food was well-prepared and presented. However, I do think that Carnival Corporate folks are cutting back on the overall cost of food and the quality is beginning to show. Again, the food wasn't bad, just not as good as it was on our last trip.
In particular, we had the "8 bite" lobsters, rather than the "10 or 12 bite" from before. They were also paired with a good quality and quantity of shrimp. I'm sure this kept the cost down, but seemed to cheapen the dinner experience.
Lesson Learned: You can always order another lobster or entree. No Problem Man!
I don't think that I saw more than a handful of Tuxes in the dining room on the 2 formal nights. Most men were in coat and tie and the women had nice outfits. Some were fancier and others were plainer. A collared golf-type shirt and dockers were fine for the other nights.
There are no "salty crunchy" snacks to be found. However, you can get potato chips from room service. One night we got 2 orders of them from room service (an nothing else). No Problem Man!
Shots, Slots, and Shows: We filled a thermos with Vodka and brought it onboard in our checked luggage along with several small cans of pineapple juice. No Problem Man!
The Casino seemed rather stingy. (duh!)
Entertainment in the showroom was good, as long as you don't expect an old time Vegas multi-million $$$ show.
Promises Kept: There was no problem with on-board credit for cabin price reductions that had been previously negotiated or for the fuel refund. It all was shown as a credit when we arrived. The fuel credit is a great way to cover the tips that are automatically added to your account.
Cabin steward and the dining room staff worked hard for us. We left them some extra $ on the last night of the cruise.
Jamaica: Canopy Tour. Had a blast! Unless you are going to Paradise Beach (near port), this is the one one port where I would recommend that you always go on a ship-sponsored tour. It is the last place where I would want to be stuck inland wearing nothing but a bathing suit, watching the ship pull away from the dock!!
Grand Cayman: You've got to do the stingray and snorkel tour at least once. I wouldn't do this trip through Carnival. We did the half-day tour with Capt. Marvin's. It was only $39, much less crowded than the ship tour, and probably the best value on GC. We then went to Margaritaville for a couple of hours. It is in very easy walking distance from the dock. Jimmy Buffet was touring the island and we missed him by about a half-hour Lesson Learned: Restaurant prices are in GC dollars. You will pay 25% more in US $. Everything in GC is expensive. However, the nachos at Margaritaville were ample for 2 of us.
Cozumel: Went to Mr Sanchos beach. Had good beach time. It is pay as you go and a lot of fun. DO NOT rent a scooter(very dangerous and I'm not a wimp). We took a cab for $15 each way. They also had wave runners, parasailing, horseback riding, ATVs, etc at Mr. Sanchos for extra $, but reasonable.
Flashin' The Cruise Director: I flashed the Cruise Director Ralph the Secret Cruise Critic Sign (See the Carnival Boards for Details)while he was on stage dong the port briefing. He looked surprised and immediately flashed it back to me. He was stunned that it was catching-on and seemed honored that he had created it!
Disembarking: It was a breeze. The ship arrived before 0630. They started allowing people off the ship about 0730. We self-assisted. We were on Deck 10 and among the first to depart. We used a porter once off the ship and were in the car and on our way home by 0830.
Lesson Learned: Self disembark if you can. Get a porter once in the Terminal.
That's all for now!