CRUISERS: Me - 34yo, DH - 40yo, BIL - 50yo & his wife - 50yo
BACKGROUND: This is our second cruise, first on Conquest and first with a balcony. Our other cruise was on the Ecstasy in November 08 in an inside room. Our vacation purpose was to have some much needed adult only time, away from work, kids and everyday musts like cooking, cleaning, etc. We were game for anything thrown at us.
EMBARKATION: We left Waller, Texas via car around 9:45 am, arrived at lighthouse parking at 11:15 and were on the lido deck for lunch at 1:00. We did not have to wait long at all for our parking shuttle to the cruise terminal. The line for security and thus registration seemed intimidating, but it kept moving quickly. We never stopped moving for one second, nor did we ever have to sit anywhere. All the staff was friendly and welcoming. We headed down to our room at 1:30 and everything was ready. We did not receive our luggage until around 5pm. We thought that was a little too long.
MUSTER DRILL: This was smooth as well. Security checked all the rooms and everyone was made to go (our cruising partners tried to skip it). We did not have to wear life vests. Unfortunately, sail away occurred while we were at our muster stations and we missed it.
CABIN: 8C, 8420, Port Side aft, standard balcony room.
We LOVED our cabin. Our cabin was sandwiched between the empress and lido decks. We were directly below the sky bar and right around the corner from the aft elevators.
The location was so convenient for our most visited public areas - buffet on lido, adult only pool/whirlpool on lido, late dining in Monet DR, Degas lounge, piano bar and Henri's disco. These were all just an elevator ride away.
The only other places we visited, which involved actually walking, were the main forward lounge, lobby (afternoon activities), and casino (mid ship).
Notable positive features - LOTS of storage space - hanging racks, shelves, drawers, both in the room and bathroom. Our stuff was always able to be hid from sight. The location to public areas. Very spacious layout. Note - Balconies & ocean views have the couch with drawers for storage, but the inside rooms do not.
Notable negative features - although this would not keep me from staying in this room again, you could hear chair scrapping from the lido deck when your balcony door was open. Otherwise, I could not hear it. The sound did not prevent me from sleeping or wake me up too early. The bed was VERY uncomfortable, too hard. I found myself tossing and turning a lot. The lack of an actual shower door. The lack of TV channel variety for those times when you want to veg.
SERVICE STAFF AND FOOD:
Room steward - This was my biggest complaint of the cruise. It was downright terrible. Of course the typical things were done like pick up towels and make the bed, and remove dirty dishes, but that was it. First of all, we did not see our steward until 9pm that night because he was new and had to do paperwork. The fill in asked us to save questions for when he comes on. Our biggest "must do" was to keep our small cooler (my DH brought some soda) iced down and ice in our bucket fresh. My DH had to get ice every time he needed it. Even after we complained, the ice was still not taken care of. Then on the last night our robes were taken out of the rooms they say for inventory. It was 45 degrees outside and they refused to let us have them back. Although, our cruising partners had theirs still. We had housekeeping tips completely removed from our sail and sign.
Dining room - we had late dining in the Monet (aft dining room), table 353. Our waiter was Ivan. He was WONDERFUL. Definitely made up for our room steward. He was very interactive. This was his first time in the Conquest main dining room. He used to work in the Point Steakhouse. He made going to dinner wonderful. He always offered a suggestion for dinner and he was usually right about it being good.
I personally am able to attest for the Mahi Mahi, lobster, prime rib, salads, soups (potato & lobster bisque, tiramisu, warm chocolate melting cake, baked alaskan and diet apple pie. There were all REALLY REALLY wonderful. We missed out on the dining room twice because our ports of call made us tired, but we did make it on both formal nights, in which lobster was on the 1st and prime rib on the 2nd.
We never ate lunch in the dining room, but breakfast was wonderful. I had the eggs benedict. We did not much care for the bacon or sausage, unless it was in the omelet. Breakfast on debarkation day was horrid. The waitress never spoke a word and all of our orders were messed up.
lido dining - I mainly stuck with fresh omelets danish for breakfast, which were delicious. The deli had wonderful sandwiches (only available during lunch). The sides, which included self serve carrots, cauliflower or some kind of nasty coleslaw, were not good. I tried Sur Mer (only available during lunch on sea days) and it was WAY to greasy for my taste (fried seafood on deck 10). I never tried the burgers, pizza or wok (the wok is only available during lunch on sea days). My DH said the pizza was delicious. The drinks available without additional cost is water, tea, lemonade, and coffee. The water is not bottled, but is filtered. Juices are available in the dining room during breakfast. Note: the mugs and cups for your drinks are VERY small; bring your own spill proof coffee mug and water bottle. This will reduce frequent trips back to the lido deck fountains. Plus, I filled up my water bottle on port days and kept it in my backpack to keep me hydrated.
Room service - did breakfast every day which included danish, orange juice, coffee, skim milk. They always arrived within the given window. This was always my morning wake up call, since there were no alarm clocks.
I did a late night room service once (around 10:30). It arrived in around 20 minutes. The menu is really limited to a few salads, sandwiches, desserts, but they are good.
Bar staff - In my opinion the ones that meander through the crowd were always so pushy. I had the same one ask me about 5 times (each time was a no) if I wanted a refill. Otherwise the ones behind the bar were very attentive and quick. My favorite drink are the daily drinks of the day. That and the water from the lido deck is what I drink all the time.
PUBLIC AREAS: Areas we visited on our trip - Forward lounge (deck 3, 4, 5, but bar service only on 3) for the evening shows and daytime games (newlywed game), dance classes (Austin Power) and bingo.
Lobby (deck 3 forward, which extends up to deck 8) for daytime games and trivia (name that tune, bean bag toss, in the bag) and dance classes.
Degas lounge (deck 5, aft) for karaoke, games, farewell party, comedy shows
Piano bar (deck 5, aft) for nightly piano sing a longs (smoking allowed)
Alfreds bar (cigar bar deck 4 aft) during the day on sea days for team trivia; did not actually smoke cigars
Casino (deck 5 mid ship smoking allowed)
Sushi bar (deck 5 mid ship) between 5 and 8pm for free sushi
Sports bar (deck 5 mid ship) this place needs an upgrade of new TVs. They are horrible - some purple shades, green shades, some do not work, and some blink. (smoking allowed)
Lido (deck 9) for poolside fun...cant miss that hairy man chest contest...what a hoot. (smoking allowed mid ship on starboard side) Aft pool/whirlpool is adult only
All the public areas are well kept (except sports bar, see comment above) and well staffed. We loved the big screen up on the lido deck for nightly movies and daytime announcements.
There were many, many wonderful interactive trivia, games and activities on board. The entertainment staff consisting of Nate, Christian and Stitch were hilarious fun. The Cruise Director Chris Jefferson is so funny. There was plenty of both family and adult only activities including karaoke, comedy and games in the Degas lounge.
EXTRA INFO: The two formal nights are 1st sea day (Monday) and second port day (Thursday - Grand Cayman).
Captains cocktail reception on first formal night - takes place in the lobby with $1 off drinks. They are no longer free. Did not attend. Instead I was in the spa for a vacation relaxation treatment, which was wonderful!!!
Past guest party - second sea night (Tuesday) in the forward lounge 5:00 to 5:45pm. Free drinks and h'orderves. It is so crowded that it is hard to get your server to come back with more drinks. We tipped and were able to get a few at a time. It consisted of a film about where Carnival has gone, where it is now and what the future holds. Plus a drawing for a seating for two at the point.
Deck party - second sea night. Sorry, but I missed this one, but according to the fun ship video, looks like everyone had a good time.
Farewell fun - Degas lounge 5pm to 5:45 pm on last evening aboard. Free drinks. A small speech from cruise director, then lots of music and dancing. The director and entertainment staff circle the crowd for pictures.
DEBARKATION: We did self assist. Ship started calling deck 1 self assist around 8 am. We self disembarked when deck 8 was called. We went down to deck one via the aft elevator, with no wait at all. Then walked to forward stairs and walked down one level. No wait to get off and a very very minimal wait through customs. Lighthouse was waiting for us when we got there. We were in our car leaving lighthouse parking lot at 9:15 am.
This was a WONDERFUL CRUISE and I would go back, no questions asked. My most memorable moments are the cruise director and entertainment staff. My worst experiences were with the room steward and housekeeping.
We were docked in Puerta Maya beside the Valor and also in port were Freedom of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.
SHORE EXCURSION: Day at Nachi Cocom beach, which included all you can drink and a three course meal.
We disembarked the ship around 10:15 and headed straight to the taxis. The taxi ride for 4 of us was $15 and took approximately 15 minutes to arrive at the beach.
We took a group picture with hats. The pictures cost $12 each or 2 for $20. Since we were a group of 2 we each bought one.
The beach is wonderful with lots of palapas, a large covered restaurant, a swim up bar and whirlpool. The lounge chairs are spread apart and not packed in like sardines.
Other activities offered for a fee include parasailing, snorkeling at palancar reef, banana boat, waverunners, massages, etc.
Restrooms are immaculately clean. We were down the beach a ways from the pool, music and whirlpool so it was quite a hike to use the restroom. We actually enjoyed being down at the end. It was even quieter.
Our server was Manuel. He was wonderful. He hiked up and down that beach all day long with our drinks and food. They offered any and all drinks you could think of, including bottled water and nonalcoholic drinks.
The food was wonderful as well. We had guacamole with chips, nachos, cheese sticks, fajitas, shrimp cocktail and quesadillas. It was all wonderful and fresh.
We jumped in the whirlpool on our way out while waiting for a taxi. It was just right...not too cold or hot.
The cruise terminal had wonderful shopping, with numerous stores.
Note: the times on this review are in central time since our ship was on that time.
We we anchored beside Freedom of the Seas
SHORE EXCURSION: Rays Reef and Rum Point with Nativeway Watersports. This tour included lunch at Rum Point beach.
The stingray bar was closed due to high winds. All of the ships excursions involving snorkeling, stingray bar and parasailing was cancelled.
CRUISE TERMINAL: Excellent. Lots of souvenir shops to pick up your Grand Cayman treats - rum, rum cake, shirts, ornaments, etc.
The tenders departed from the mid and aft areas of the boat. We did wait, but not as long as I thought. We were required to meet with Nativeway by 8:20. We were in line for the tender boats at 7am and reached the Nativeway group by 7:50.
We left with our group promptly at 8:30 on an old SCHOOL BUS (YES, SCHOOL BUS) to the boat for the day. I thought this was so funny. The steering wheel was even on the left side (the correct side is the right side).
Due to the high winds and closures, our excursion was modified to include rum point and a snorkel stop with a hope to see a stingray.
The boat ride out was very bumpy, but the clear, turquoise water was amazing. We made it out to our snorkel stop. The water was about 10 foot deep. There happened to be a stingray hanging out in the area, so the group was able to hold it, pet it, feed it fish, kiss it and take pictures. We also did some snorkeling. I have pictures I took from the surface off my DH down at the bottom.
We left the snorkel stop and went to rum point beach for some lunch and down time. BEAUTIFUL!!! A must see!!! The food was delicious. I had a blackened mahi mahi sandwich with fries. Some other choices were fish and chips, conch fritters, mahi mahi wrap, and some salads. We had plenty of time to wander around the gift shop, rest on a lounge chair and take pictures. The restrooms are very clean. There is also waverunners available for rental.
We were brought back to the terminal with enough time for some shopping before catching the tender back to the ship. We had about an hour to shop.
Note: the times on this review are in central time since our ship was on that time.
SHORE EXCURSION: Carnival's CHUKKA CANOPY EXPERIENCE AND YS FALLS because it was the only one that offered both a zipline and falls experience. We were scared of going outside the ship for an excursion due to Jamaica's reputation. The excursion was all day long and included lunch.
CRUISE TERMINAL: Great selection of shops for quick souvenirs as you come back to the ship, which is what we were looking for. Anything from coffee and liquor to hats, bags, ornaments, shot glasses, etc.
The vendors inside were wonderful, but the vendors outside the building, next to the ship were VERY VERY pushy and grabby. I did not even stick around to look because of this. I hate that.
There was a band playing off the ship as we embarked for the day. They even played the USA national anthem. I thought that was very grateful!!
EXCURSION REVIEW: The bus ride is long, very long. About 2 hours of winding up narrow, steep, mountain roads and coming within inches of other drivers and the kids. It was scary. Our driver was great, but cannot speak for other drivers. The scenery and mountains is BEAUTIFUL! It really has a beautiful countryside.
The walls are beautiful! Not Dunn's River Falls big, but pretty just the same. There is a small area to get some food and drinks (including rum and beer) before heading to the falls. The zipling consists of 2 short zips, one at the beginning and one at the end and one large one about 750 feet, which takes you from the top of the falls and down to a platform at the base. It was SO MUCH FUN!!!! It is quite a hike up to the top to zip down, but sure is beautiful to look at the falls as you climb.
You have very little time to swim in the falls....about 30 minutes. Try the rope swing.
You then leave to go to another location for lunch on a hillside at a restaurant. Beautiful views. It is served buffet style. It consists of fried chicken, pork with a sauce, rice and coleslaw. The juice is so gross. The food is ok. We ate it simply because we were STARVING hungry.
Overall it was a fun, beautiful day. I would do it again and I would recommend it to someone.