Firstly I would like to tell you a little bit about us. I always find this is important as you read some reviews and wonder how old are these people? Are they married ? Do they have kids etc. ? I am a 37 year old male, my girlfriend is 42 and her son is 13. We live in Guernsey which is a very small Island to the south of the UK. I work in IT and my g/f is a teacher.
We had to fly from Guernsey to Gatwick Airport and stay in a hotel overnight. We then got a plane from Heathrow to Houston. We stayed in the Marriott Hotel at George Bush International Airport. I have to admit that I did not like it. It was too run down and dated for me. My g/f and her son liked it though.
This was our first cruise.
For some reason (I think it was weather) the ship docked in Galveston late which meant we had to stand around for about 3 hours in a queue to get on. I have to admit this really did get to me. I hate queues! I guess in this case it was just one of those things. It seems after reading other reviews that this was an unusual situation and embarkation is usually swift.
Once on board we were very impressed with how clean the ship is and how pleasant the staff were.
There was a big queue to get from level 3 (where you get embark) to our stateroom on level 8 which i suppose was to be expected. Once at sea we did find the lifts were a bit slow as loads of people were trying to use them but as we were on level 8 and spent most of our time on level 9 we used the stairs.
We had an interior stateroom which i would not do again. There was nothing wrong with the stateroom itself. The room was big enough for the 4 of us (just). It was always clean and I can't say a bad word about it. I don't like not seeing what the weather is like and if it is day or night etc. It certainly did not spoil the holiday its just one thing i would change next time. This was always going to be a learning curve.
The stateroom was very clean and our steward was very friendly on the odd occasion we did see him. We had amazing towel animals in the room when we got back in the evenings.
The heating/cooling was adjustable so it was easy to keep the right temperature in the room.
Dining in the evening was in the Renoir restaurant. We had to share a table with another family of 3 who were very pleasant. The 2 waiters Charlie and Sudi were excellent, they could not do enough for us. By the end of the night they knew all our names. Josh (girlfriends son) had a soda card (bought from one of the bars on the Lido Deck) and a waitress came to see him every evening to see what he wanted to drink. Again this was a very nice touch.
The food in the Renoir was excellent. There was always food on the menu that was kind of standard for want of a better word. Every day the menu changed but there were a pre set list of meals that were the same. I am a fussy eater and on one occasion there was something on the new part of the menu i did not like, it was OK though as i could fall back to the standard menu and eat something i did like.
The desserts were to die for, especially the melting chocolate cake.
After the main course the waiters and waitresses would do a dance or sing a song.
For breakfast we went do to the Monet restaurant at the aft of the ship on level 3. I have to admit the staff in here did not seem so polite. Maybe it was just me but i feel they were not as polite as the ones in the Renoir. They were not rude just not as friendly. The breakfast in here was nice in that you could order what you wanted and it arrived hot. On a couple of occasions we went to the lido deck and ate had breakfast up there in a buffet style. Our problem with the buffet is that for some reason the bacon appears to be rationed, you can't help yourself you have to ask the waiter. Also you can get an omelet made but if you already have you bacon and hash browns etc. then by the time you have got your omelet the rest of your food is cold. This does not happen in the Monet restaurant but it depends on what you want really. On the lido deck you get fresh air and a more casual atmosphere.
The pizza bar on the ship always seemed to be busy, that was due to the fact that the pizza's are excellent, worth the small wait.
The burger bar was also well worth queueing for.
The fun shops are OK. They are not one stop shops etc. they serve their function. From my point of view I don't care as I don't go on holiday to shop!
There was always something to do on the ship. The Carnival Capers told you what was coming up for the day so for the days at sea you could plan the night before what you would do the following day. There were things like laser tag, bingo, art exhibitions, comedy shows, spa's and pools, gym, shore excursion talks, sun bathing of course and loads of other stuff.
The shows in the evenings were organised so that the people eating in the first sitting would see the show later on in the evening and those of us eating later would see the show earlier. This is a good idea. The shows were in general good.
Smoking in the ship is disgusting! Part of the lido deck is covered (while still being open to the elements) and that is where the chimneys hand out. Why can't they go where there are fully outside. Also a couple of the bars seem to allow people to smoke in them. BEFORE anyone says don't go in those areas well you can't really not go to the Lido deck. While we did not stay in the smelly bars when people were smoking we still had to walk through them and smell them.
The casino was not an area where we spent too much time but as casinos go it was fine.
The Sushi bar was open in the late afternoon and early evening only, the food was excellent BUT it was rather a limited choice.
The photographers on board annoyed us. They are everywhere however if you say you don't want your photograph taken then they leave you alone. The same is true for the drinks waiters and waitresses on the lido deck, they wonder around trying to sell you more expensive drinks. If you say no they leave you alone. The secret here is to buy a drink form the bar and leave it visible on your table then they don't ask if you want a drink.
The price of drinks on the ship are very reasonable.
The ship has Ice Cream stations where you can get as much free ice cream as you like. Excellent ! There is also Ice Tea, lemonade and water stations along with Coffee, Hot Chocolate and Tea stations too.
One thing that is really impressive on the ship is that as soon as a mess is made there is a member of staff to clean up. The crew work really hard.
The SPA was somewhere my girlfriend wanted to go but it was very expensive so she ended up not going. The prices in the SPA do seem over the top compared to a land based massage etc.
The Gym was somewhere we thought we would probably not spend too much time but we did try! On the first day at 8am the gym was packed. You need to find a time later on in the day when it is slightly quieter.
At Grand Cayman we had to use tenders to get to shore. This all seemed really smooth too.
Josh (g/f's son) went to Carnival's circle C which is the kid's club but he did not go very often. He found that while many things were listed on the program they quite often did not happen. Also a lot of the activities were things like playing on games consoles! Well that's what he does all day and he did not want to do that on holiday too.
Disembarkation was slow. Actually getting off the ship was easy enough BUT it was the customs that slowed things up to a crawl. I know the US need to be careful etc. who they let into their country but they need to speed up the checks they do somehow.
We have booked another cruise for this Christmas and I can't wait.
The Carnival Conquest and its staff are a major asset to the Carnival empire.