This was our first Carnival cruise, I had been on a Mediterranean cruise on a much smaller cruise line and my mom had been on an Alaskan cruise on Norwegian. I was a little worried about the 'party ship' reputation that Carnival has but we didn't find this to be the case really at all!! Maybe because it was way off-season or some people say it's because it was a 7 night cruise vs. 4 or 5 night that could have been the reason but whatever it was we were very glad, because we aren't really 'party' people!
We departed out of Galveston because my mom and sister live in Texas and were able to drive down and pick me up from the airport in Houston. I flew in the day before and we had a nice drive down. We stayed at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Galveston. They offered free parking for the duration of the cruise. This was a great deal for us because I got the room for free with my Marriott points so we didn't have to pay for the room or the parking. We got a cab to the cruise terminal, it was like $30 each way, but make sure you call them the night before, we called in the morning and they told us it would be 1-3 hours before they could come and get us!! :( But being picked up and dropped off at the terminal was the best, no waiting in long lines for parking or whatever!
The ship came in late that day due to fog so we couldn't even board until like 4pm or 5pm! But we spent a lovely afternoon on the Strand (cool place within walking distance from the terminal with lots of shops and restaurants), we were able to check in our luggage at the cruise terminal at noon and the enjoy our afternoon unencumbered.
Boarding was really quick once they started and we were in our cabin before dinner.
Our inside cabin was very small, but ultimately it was sufficient for sleeping and hanging out for short spells and just laughing hysterically!!! We don't live in the same state together so we just really enjoyed our time together!!
I was a little shocked at my situation with the 'upper bunk' but I couldn't make my 73 yr old mother or my sister who just turned 50 and has physical limitations climb up there!! It would have been better if there was some kind of cubby or shelf or something for my book and readers, etc. I ended up rigging up a little bag hanging from the railing to put my stuff in when I went to sleep, thank goodness there was a little light up there!
The storage was definitely adequate although the tip I got of bringing a hang over the door shoe holder to put smaller items like cameras, non-essential toiletries like brushes and hairdryers was really great as this saved from things seeming very crowded in the bathroom or on other counters.
The ship was fabulous, my mom is an artist so of course she loved the Monet and all the other 'artsy' decor.
The food was excellent in the dining room, dinner especially. Breakfast in the dining room, not as much. I tried the turkey bacon one day, YUCK! Don't do it! I really expected better. The buffet for breakfast was very good so we did that mainly. The one thing you don't want to miss on Carnival is the chocolate melting cake, it's just short of miraculous. I had it several times and they don't give you enough ice cream for the whole cake which really is a good thing because by the time you finish the ice cream you've had enough of the cake as well! And don't forget you can order as much of whatever, if you want to lobster tails you can order them, they might come out as full dinners each time, but go for it!!!
We never ate at any of the 'premium' restaurants that charge you extra and I don't really think we missed anything. We had a great bunch of folks at our dinner table so we always looked forward to joining them at dinner time!
The shows were only ok. They say they are 'vegas-style'. I have nothing to compare this too because I've never been to vegas but I think it means the showgirls show off their 'parts'!! I felt bad as we were at a show the first night there was one, it started at about 7:30 or 8pm and there was a family with kids around 10-15 or so in front of us, boys and girls. About 10-15 minutes into the show I saw them leave and I know it was because they didn't want their young boys being subjected to the show that appeared to be just about T's and A's... I didn't think they were outstanding dancers or singers, mildly entertaining. We went to a magic show one night, it was ok. The best show was the one where the people on the cruise dressed up and impersonated famous people, that was very funny and entertaining. But we found enough to do on the ship during the sea days and evenings that we didn't care much about the shows.
They did take a lot of good pictures that they then want you to purchase and it's hard not to because it's so fun to make a photo album of your great memories, and their fairly reasonable. If you wait until further into the cruise they start offering deals.
We signed up for spa services on the 1st night, again they were offering some deals, they were great. We did the one massage where they lower you down in this water bed thing after slopping you all up with some kind of mud and then cover you with an aluminum blanket and then this big heavy vinyl tarp thing. It was hot in there and it felt kind of like a tomb, I didn't care for it that much. They wanted to have me rinse off and then do it again but I didn't like it enough to do it again so I asked if they would do more massage and the woman offered to do the hot stone massage in place of the 2nd dunk, I selected that and it was WONDERFUL!!! Spa services are very pricey but definitely worth it!
I'm sure there's lots of stuff I'm forgetting to tell you but email me if you have specific questions. For debarkation we carried our own luggage off and I'm so glad we did because we were out of there in a very short amount of time, I had a plane to catch, and people who let the cruise remove their luggage seemed to be waiting around a long time or wandering around looking for their luggage.
Oh yeah, our room steward Manuel was WONDERFUL!!! He took such great care of us and was so very friendly. I didn't like the idea of the cruiseline telling me how much to include as a tip but these guys as well as the staff in the dining room (servers, not necessarily the maitre D who did nothing for us!) totally deserve what is recommended and more!!
Definitely recommend going on a carnival cruise! And the Conquest was an excellent first experience for us!