My husband and I just returned from the 11/14/04 sailing of Carnival Conquest. This was our 8th cruise, and our 7th on Carnival (the other was on Princess). It was one of our best cruises yet.
We started by arriving at New Orleans two days early and stayed at Ashton's B&B on Esplanade. This was a very nice B&B and the food was excellent. Karma and Patrick were wonderful hosts. We stayed in the Charpantier room, which was quaint and had a beautiful bathroom with a whirlpool tub. After two days of running around New Orleans and marvelling at how many people are drunk by noon, we headed off to our cruise.
At 10:30 am, we took a taxi to the cruise terminal and were stuck in traffic for about 1/2 an hour (thankful that we were being charged a flat fee). We finally arrived at the cruise terminal and check-in was very easy. We then sat in the yellow chairs for about 45 minutes before boarding the ship.
The Conquest is a very nice, clean ship. I don't agree with other reviews that the ship is tacky; I think it's tastefully decorated. The only item I would change is the orange decor in the cabins--why does Carnival insist on orange bedspreads?! As other reviewers have stated, this ship is not laid out logically (for example, the Monet dining room in the middle of the ship prevents you from walking straight across deck 3); it takes some maneuvering at first to learn your way around. The Renoir dining room also has an entrance, I believe on deck 4, that is very small and congested. Other than that, we didn't run into long lines.
As I stated earlier, my husband and I are experienced cruisers. We have never been seasick on a cruise--until the Conquest. The first night out, we were in the piano bar as the ship headed down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. As we sat at the piano bar the ship was visibly listing in the rough waters--the barstools were moving as we sat on them and our drinks were sloshing somewhat. The next morning we both woke up feeling lousy. We had room service bring us Dramamine and by afternoon we felt much better. The ship's staff told us this cruise was much rougher than previous cruises. Just to be safe, we continued taking Dramamine throughout the cruise. Because of the rough waters the shows scheduled for that week were delayed twice.
My husband and I opted not to attend the various shows on the ship. We spent our evenings in the Blues Piano Bar, hosted by a very talented Jamie Mahn and equally entertaining bar staff Ming and Christina. This was a show in itself each night and it was a blast.
Our cabin was number 6252 (category 8A), and it was in disrepair when we checked it. The extra bed was hanging from the ceiling with a note not to touch it. The balcony door wouldn't lock, the vanity stool was missing, and the bathroom door wouldn't stay closed. All was remedied fairly quickly.
The food was very good in the dining room. The desserts, in my opinion, could stand some improvement. The food on the Lido deck was the usual fare--always room for improvement there. The pizza was great as was the food from the sandwich bar. Sur Mer (the seafood restaurant) was adequate--better than Long John Silvers.
The ports were wonderful. We took a shore excursion in each. In Montego Bay, we went to the Croydon Plantation, where we were treated to wonderful fresh fruits (pineapple, coconut, oranges, etc.) and fruit juice, as well as a very nice lunch of jerk chicken and fried plantains. In Grand Cayman we went snorkeling on the Reef and Wreck tour--a very nice dive with lots of fish to see (even a stingray). In Cozumel we went to Passion Island, which was worth every penny; the beach was beautiful, the staff were great, and the food was excellent (chicken, mahi mahi, fresh fruit, rice, chips and guacamole--oh, and an open bar).
When the time came for debarkation I was expecting it to be pretty smooth based on previous Carnival cruises. Unfortunately it seemed very slow and my deck was called last. I'm not sure how they determine who will leave, but they started on a top deck, worked their way down a few decks, then started at the bottom. We wound up leaving at around 11 am and the cruise terminal was a mess. Once you exit the ship you are left on your own (no Carnival personnel to direct you). Outside the terminal was a huge line for taxis. There were no signs directing you to the airport transfer buses. Traffic was backed up horribly. It took about 1/2 an hour to get out of the cruise terminal again.
One helpful item--we booked our airport transfer (one way) through Carnival for $23 per person. When we finally got to the bus, they were selling them for $10 per person. I'll keep this in mind for future cruises.
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. The Conquest is a wonderful ship and I highly recommend it. We will definitely continue sailing on Carnival for our future cruises.