Carnival Conquest Cruise Review by Lefty Writer: Conquesting the Western Caribbean
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Conquesting the Western Caribbean
This is my third cruise, and the second on the Carnival Conquest. I was introduced to cruising on the Conquest in October of 2007, took a honeymoon cruise to Alaska in 2008, and returned to the Conquest this November (2009). Since I now have a "baseline" to compare to, I'm writing this review of our cruise. We had a total of 16 in our group, including 3 children under the age of 6. This was the first cruise for six of our group, and all of them have been bitten by the "cruise bug."
EMBARKATION: The Galveston cruise terminal has plenty of parking near by, with reasonable prices for the week. A brief search on the internet will reveal several parking lots with pricing for both the 3/4 day and 7 day cruise options. Having had recent knee surgery, my right knee was still in a brace for this cruise, and I used a cane as a balance aid. I am not "mobility limited" in any major way, but upon seeing me in this brace, the embarkation staff made sure I was fast-tracked through the More process. My wife and I were escorted through the security screening in just a few minutes, and led to the check in desk. At the check in desk, we were once again escorted through a shorter line to receive our Sail and Sign cards. We were through the entire process in about 15 minutes, bypassing the long lines. Being past guests, each staff member, upon seeing our past guest cards, greeted us with a "Welcome Back."
CRUISE: Once aboard, we helped the first timers in our group get settled and went to the Lido Deck for the lunch buffet. The lines were only moderately long, and we were able to find a table easily enough. One disappointment for me was the muster station (or "boat drill" in maritime parlance) drill. While I'm sure Carnival met the letter of the law, I felt this particular activity was a bit disorganized. On our first cruise on the Conquest in 2007, this drill was more organized. Our second cruise, on a sister line, was MUCH more organized and "formal." I would hope that should there be an actual emergency, first time cruisers would have a better idea of where to go and what to do.
Sea day activities were fun to watch and participate in. A new activity that was not on our last Conquest cruise was the mixology contest in which contestants created a cocktail of their own recipe. The winning recipe would then be featured as a daily special during the cruise.
While Carnival isn't known for their food, the dining was, overall, enjoyable. Their "Warm chocolate melting cake" is something that should be tried at least once. Several in our group, including me, had this for desert more than any other offered during the cruise. Our Maitre 'D, Ante, did a superb job preparing the dining team. Dining for lunch and breakfast could be a bit crowded at times, but the lines moved quickly enough that the wait wasn't enough to become annoying.
A recent addition to the Lido Deck is the large "Seaside Theatre" screen. Movies or sports, typically football, were shown nightly. While popcorn was available for the movie, it was somewhat disappointing to see that there was a $1.50 charge for this.
Cabin attendants were spot on, and our cabin was kept clean at all times. Our ice bucket was kept full, and this allowed us to keep a bottle of wine chilled throughout our cruise.
Our Cruise Director, Chris, was informative, but kept the PA announcements short and to the point.
Once nice feature of the Conquest is all the professional photographers. Each night on the Promenade Deck, there are multiple spots of varying backgrounds to have your pictures taken by a professional photographer. The best aspect of this service is that one can take as many photos as desired and not have to buy any that are not "just right."
DEBARKATION: The debarkation process was very organized and proceeded as swiftly as possible, given that 3,000 plus passengers had to leave the ship. The slow part was more on the cruise terminal side of things, and not Carnival's issue.
Overall, this was a fantastic cruise, and we have already placed a deposit for another Carnival cruise next year. Less
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Cabin review: 4C6428
6428, Upper Deck, port aft of the ship: Typical inside cabin, but may be a bit noisy at times due to the proximity of several clubs just one deck below.
Port and Shore Excursions
We happened upon a seaside restaurant/bar called the "No Name Beach Club" just a short walk from the main cruise terminal on our first cruise, so we made it a point to return for drinks and lunch. Apparently, this is also a popular spot for the ship crews, as part of the No Name's slogan is "For crew, by crew." This was proven to be the case, as we saw several of our own ship's crew drop by in their "civilian" clothes.
Souvenirs are plentiful, and with just a little comparative shopping, one can make many purchases without spending too much money.
There were two other cruise ships there, from Holland America Line and Royal Caribbean, but even with three large cruise ships visiting at the same time, the cruise terminal area didn't seem that crowded.
We didn't take any specific excursion, but rather enjoyed some souvenir shopping and geocaching in the area. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant, while a bit pricey, was a fun place for lunch.
I was first exposed to Del Sol's products during an Alaskan cruise last year. These shirts, caps, and even nail polish, change colors in sunlight. We found a Del Sol shop nearby and purchased several Grand Cayman specific shirts. I highly recommend any of these Del Sol products.
Appleton Estate Rum is manufactured exclusively in Jamaica, according to the tour guide, so it was a very fascinating tour to take. The ride from the cruise terminal to the Plantation was approximately 2 1/2 hours each way. Several of our group compared this ride to a roller coaster ride, in that there were many hair pin turns, and multiple "ups and downs" along the way. We traveled in a caravan of about 5 vans, and had a police escort there and back.
The tour itself started with a visit to the visitor's center for complimentary rum punch. A sample of raw sugar cane was also offered. The actual tour included a visit to the distillery as well as the ageing room and a display of older processing techniques. Lunch and a rum tasting session completed the tour.
Other than this excursion, we did not tour any other part of Montego Bay.