We (4 adults and 2 teenage girls, 14 & 18)) left Houston on Saturday morning to drive to New Orleans. We arrived at our hotel, The Renaissance Arts (a Mariott hotel), Saturday afternoon. What a lovely hotel it is, and just a few blocks from the Julia Street Terminal. We did lots of sightseeing (the men mainly at Harrah's, spending more than the rest of us did shopping) and ate dinner at the Voodoo Garden in the Blues Cafe. Not such great food but lots of neat things to see.
The next morning after breakfast at the hotel (which was really good by the way), we drove to the terminal, arriving about 10:30am as the previous cruise passengers were leaving the parking lot and so we got right in with hardly a line! We got to park close also. We had so many bags that we had packed them on top of our Chevy Tahoe and wrapped them up good in plastic and then a plastic tarp (as we had had so much rain!) so it took us a while to get them all down and unwrapped. A nice porter helped the guys do this while we ladies directed them.
Upon entering the terminal, we only had a couple of people ahead of us in the fun pass line and so we quickly were served, got our sail and sign cards and were on our way to the waiting room! They let us board about 11:30 so we didn't have to wait long at all.
Our luggage was delivered to our rooms (we were on the lowest - Riviera deck - and our daughter and son-in-law and two granddaughters were on the 11th - Spa deck) a lot sooner than we expected tho one of our daughter's bags arrived after a wait.
We had noticed that though our tickets were all supposed to be linked (our son is our travel agent), my husband and I were showing a different dining room and a different seating time than the others. Our daughter and I went to the Maitre D' in the Monet Room (which is where all of us were supposed to be for the late seating). He was so gracious and said that for all of us just to come there at 8:15 and he would see that we were all put together. And, when we got there at 8:15, they had a great table for six all ready for us and he said that would be our table from then on.
When my husband and I got to our room that first night, the Hotel Director had put his card along with an ice bucket and bottle of champagne in there! What a surprise - and us on the lowest deck, with only a big window to make it great (which it certainly was). The next morning, we had another surprise which was put under our door. It was an invitation for the two of us to dine with the Captain that evening! I can't tell you how thrilling that was, only one other couple was invited and they didn't know why they were chosen either, but it was such a great event. My husband got a little ticked at me because that night was the lobster night but they also had prime rib which I adore so I ordered both entrees! he said the Captain probably thought I was a pig - but hey, who cares! They took a great photo of the captain with the four of us seated and all the first officers standing behind us. The captain autographed it for us and they delivered it to our cabin. One of those really neat freebies!
I had been reading all the reviews on Cruise Critic and some of them were just so awful about the Conquest (how cold the ship was, how bad it rolled and pitched, how bad the food was, how the entertainment stunk, how the shore excursions were horrible, etc.), that I fully expected to find something to be disappointed about. BUT THERE WAS NOTHING!!! The ship wasn't cold, you could hardly ever feel the movement, the food was some of the best I have eaten, we loved the shows, and the Stingray City excursion in Grand Cayman and the Dune Buggy/Snorkel trip in Cozumel were the most fun we have ever had!
We didn't take a tour in Montego Bay as our daughter came down with Shingles the first day at sea and since the ship's doctor didn't have the antiviral medicine she needed, he wrote a prescription that we would have to get filled in Montego Bay. Well, they tell you don't go downtown, stay with a tour, but we had to take a taxi and ask them to take us to a pharmacy downtown (we were very careful not to say 'drug store')! My husband has a black baseball cap with "U.S. Marshal" embroidered on it and I had made him wear it - he is 6 ft 4-1/2" tall and makes an impressive sight, especially with that hat on! haha No one at all approached any of us about drugs, one young man did come up to me as I was lagging behind and asked me 'Hey, Mon, is he really a US Marshal?" Of course I said yes and then he said "oh! don't tell him I am here, they are looking for me" and off he ran! We got a big kick out of that.
We shopped a little and then took a taxi to Doctor's Cave beach. That place is so beautiful and we all snorkeled and laid around in the water - then ate lunch at The Groovy Grouper there on the beach. They all got hamburgers and crab cakes and conch fitters (which were wonderful), but I couldn't be in Jamaica and not eat jerk chicken and rice and peas! It was wonderful too!
I have very curly hair and what I couldn't get over was that in Jamaica (on the beach remember) and Grand Cayman (right there on the water) and Cozumel (riding in a dune buggy and being on the beach), my hair did not frizz! The humidity was very low evidently - because my hair is like a hygrometer and sucks up that humidity wherever I am! I roll it to help straighten it out and it stayed the way I fixed it! Doesn't do that in Houston or New Orleans!
Anyway, I just want to assure everyone who reads this that no matter what cruise lines you have traveled on, and no matter how 'classless' you may think Carnival is, there is nothing in the world that can beat the vacation we just came back from. I applaud Carnival for making everything so much fun - even if we didn't participate in everything, we still loved watching some of the things on the tv that had occurred the day before, we loved shopping in the ship's stores, sitting on deck in the shade and eating and all the other things you do when you are on a week long vacation. We never got bored, never got insulted, never had any of the crew be less than just as friendly and nice as you could ever want.
I think that you get out of things what you put in them, and we were there to savor the time and enjoy a trip of a lifetime, and that is just what we got! I hope your cruise is every bit as wonderful as ours was.