We sailed very last minute on the Carnival Conquest because our scheduled trip to Europe had been canceled due to the Iceland Volcano! Long story, but we needed to make alternative plans for my daughter's 16th birthday. So, we made last minute reservations to sail with Conquest. We had an interior room on the Verandah deck. There were 3 of us which made for interesting sleeping arrangements. Our room had 2 twin beds and an upper fold down bed. This actually worked out better then I thought it might. The two girls I had with me are small in stature and loved having the upper bunk to sleep on.
We arrived in Galveston at 12:30 pm and parked at EZ Cruise. There was no hassel. I had bought our parking ticket on line ahead of time and saved 5 dollars. The shuttle to the terminal was very fast and the employees were very accommodating. They dropped us off at the terminal - 5 minutes away. Once there we gave our luggage to an attendant to put on the ship. All our paperwork was finished so we just went on in and waited in lines. We waited and waited and waited. Actually the total process was only about 1 1/2 hours - I have experienced longer lines on other cruises...this wasn't so bad.
Once on the ship we checked into our room and found we needed the upper bed brought down and the fridge unlocked. No problem, our cabin steward was great. Very helpful and kind.
We ate in the Lido and let the kids explore before we took off at 4. Everything was on time - great weather, smooth sailing.
All of the staff I encountered were extremely friendly - with exception to those in the customer care department. Not that they were "unfriendly" but anything I needed seemed an inconvenience to them. Almost as if they were guarded from the minute I walked up to ask a question. But other then that, our personal stewards were fantastic. They made my girls - 15 and 16 - feel extra special with each conversation. They called them by name, made special little favors for them, inquired about their days and learned their favorite drinks and deserts. On my daughter's birthday the waiter's sang the best rendition of "Happy Birthday" she has ever had. A very memorable experience!
Our ports of call: 1st stop was Montego Bay - I choose to not take the ships excursions but to travel on my own. I was comfortable with this since I had sailed before and been to these ports. We took a taxi to Doctor's Cave - a private beach. I would recommend you be prepared for the taxi ride. We were told that the larger taxi - holding 20 people would take us there for 5 dollars each. I boarded but we had to wait for the entire taxi to be filled before it would leave. This took about 25 minutes. Then when we were on our way, they wanted to give us an 1 hour tour of Montego Bay for only 20 dollars each! We had to stand our ground and demand them to take us to the beach. That was a bit unpleasant, but I guess to be expected. Once at the beach, the security guard was a little to friendly and the overall feeling was unpleasant. I was happy to get back to the safety of the ship.
2nd stop was Grand Cayman - we tendered to the port, which went very well. We were one of the last tenders so we didn't have to hurry up and wait to get off the boat. It was a relaxed morning. The port is full of shops, bars and restaurants. Everything was very clean. As far as shopping - you will pay more at this stop - if you are looking for the deals, wait until you get to Cozumel for your souvenirs.
3rd stop was Cozumel - without question, save your excursion money and take the day to spend it at Channkanub Park. 5 dollars a piece will get you there. The taxi's are VERY easy to get and very organized. The park is about 7 miles away - no problem to get there. Everything you would want can be done at Channkanub - beautiful snorkeling (they have rentals) awesome sandy beaches with grass huts for shade, very attentive beach waiters, clean bathrooms and lockers, swimming with the dolphins, a beautiful lagoon and garden, swimming pools...just an awesome day with lots of options in one park. Very reasonable entrance fee...you can also get a 2 dollar discount ticket on line. Their food and beverage service was outstanding.
Entertainment was great - although I attribute that to the cruise director John Heald, who left the ship after our cruise. He was fantastic and kept the audience laughing non stop - whenever he spoke, whether on stage or over the intercom...he was the best! The rest of the acts were mediocre. The band seemed less then interested in being on stage and the other acts could have used some updating.
The only down falls with this cruise: compared to the other lines, Carnvial is for sure the party scene. Hard to find a place to "rest" from the music and crowds. Smoke was really bad in the casino area and you must pass through it if you are going to go from front to back on the ship on deck 5. Non-alcoholic drinks are 2.35 a piece - you can get a card for 7 dollars a day per person, but factor that into your price. I don't like their gratuity system - I prefer to pay my stewards directly, so I know they are getting the tip. I had my automatic gratuity removed - not a problem, but I am not convinced that your specific waiters or stewards get your gratuity unless you pay them directly. Food was fair - nothing to get excited about. Nothing over the top and the menu's were very predictable. That was a little disappointing. Breakfast was always the same and the room service was very limited - not much more then a continental breakfast and deli sandwiches.
Our disembarkation went very smoothly - took about an hour to get through customs...really no problem. EZ Cruise was there to pick us up - we did not have to wait at all for them to bring us back to our car. They did not require a full van before they brought us back to the parking lot. Great service.
Overall - great cruise for the kids to experience. They had nothing else to compare it to. For me, Carnival is not the way to go.