What can I say? What a cruise it was. It was my first one and the fourth for my wife (I'm 28 and she's 26). We had a blast. It was the week of Thanksgiving and we loved it. I guess I'll do a day-by-day breakdown and then make other comments at the end.
Sunday (embarkation): We arrived at the port around 11:00 in the morning. The drop off was a mess because there were still many, many people that just returned waiting for rides home. Once we got up to the drop off, we met a very friendly luggage handler. He was quite nice and led us to where we needed to go. I tipped him $5 ($1 per bag) and we entered the check-in terminal. Checking in was quick because we had done the "fun pass" online. The check in took about 5 minutes, if that much. Then, the infamous yellow chairs. I thought they were just an exaggerated myth, but let me tell you.........there were hundreds of them. We were among the first to board the ship. We waited in chairs of yellow for about 15 minutes then were directed to a picture-taking line (get used to these, there will be many of them on the cruise but there is absolutely NO obligation to buy any of them; you buy what you want to buy.....that's it).
On to the ship. We entered on deck 3 at the atrium. My first interior glimpse of the ship was tremendous. I looked up and up and up. This is a massive ship. Quite beautifully decorated I might add. Next order of business was to eat. It was noon when we actually got on board, so we were hungry. The buffet food was good, not great. We got a good window seat and watched the action on the pier. Next, it was time to get used to the ship. We walked all over it. DO THIS SO YOU CAN SEE WHERE EVERYTHING IS. It took about 1 1/2 hours to see the whole thing. Take pictures too. You may not have the time to later on. Our room was ready a little after 2 p.m. You'll know it's ready because your door will be propped open for you. Very nice room. It was just what we needed, although the bedspread could have been replaced due to a rip, but that was a very minor detail. THIS IS THE POINT WHERE YOU WANT TO BOOK ANY EXCURSIONS ON YOUR ROOM TELEVISION; THEY SELL OUT QUICK. I booked us 2 excursions through the ship as we were doing our own thing in Jamaica; more on that later. We had a copy of the Carnival Capers waiting for us as well. This is the daily bible of what's happening onboard and in port. (TIP: Bring a hi-liter with you to hi-lite the things you're going to do the next day, and don't forget to hi-lite meal times.)
We hung out in the room until about 5 p.m. because there was nothing else to do really. All of the pools were closed as were the shops, casino, etc. Our luggage arrived one or two pieces at a time, but it all showed up no later than 4:30 p.m. The life jacket drill happened around 5:30 p.m. This part isn't fun, but isn't all that big of a deal. You go, show your face, stand in a line for 10 minutes, then you're done! It's the worst part of the trip, and it's a piece of cake, but it has to be done by law.
Next, we went up on deck to watch the ship get underway. (TIP: Get a good viewing spot on the port side of the ship, because when the ship leaves, it turns around to head down river. Then, everyone that was watching the city is now watching nothing and heading over to find you with a great spot to watch the city of New Orleans pass by.) We enjoyed the cool breeze, the sight of the city and the fact that the vacation had begun. After a while, we went down to freshen up for dinner. While in our room, our steward arrived to introduce himself. Ivan (pronounced e-von) was his name. A shy, quiet guy who had just started being a steward. He was quite nice and did a great job. We loved the towel animals!
Dinner the first night was a little rough, and I'm not talking about the ship's movement. We had the late seating (8 p.m.) in the Monet dining room. We got a table for 2. Our waiter was slow and his assistant was never around to give us bread, fill our water, etc. We were worried. The food was good, not great. Then we went to the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge. Lounge nothing, this is a theater. It's huge! You almost forget you're on a cruise ship. We caught the welcome aboard show where we met Stewart Dunn, our cruise director. He gave lots of helpful information and we enjoyed his Australian accent as well. Go to this show if you have never cruised before. It's very informative. If you miss it, don't worry, it's played a lot on the television. After that show, we had a comedian. He was funny. Jokes were appropriate for all ages at this performance. Then it was time for bed. The bed was quite firm and took some getting used to.
(Man, I've typed a lot already!)
Monday (day at sea): We woke up and ate at the sit down breakfast in the Monet dining room. Good food, not great (again). We went to a music trivia game, which was fun, but kind of lame because it was based on the honors system. Basically, they played a music clip and everyone in the audience had to guess the artist and title. Then at the end, the right answers were given, then whoever had the most right answers was the winner. The winner gets a little plastic Conquest trophy. Woo-hoo! We didn't win. Right after that was the travel and adventure talk. Very informative also. Lots of information on the ports and all the excursions offered in each one. Not to miss, but it will be shown a lot on the television. We ate lunch at the buffet again and then it was time to relax. We went way up to deck 11. Very windy, but not many people. Quite relaxing though. We went back to the room around 5 p.m. to change for the first formal night.
Around 7 p.m. we went to deck 5 to take pictures. Like I said before, take all the pics you want. There is no obligation to buy any of them. There are several backdrops each night. On Tuesday and Friday nights there was an "old time" photo backdrop set up. They had costumes and everything! Then we went to the captain's cocktail party. Everyone is invited and FREE DRINKS are served. Then we went off to dinner. Service had improved, but we still weren't satisfied. Food was once again, good but not great. Then we went to catch the "Vegas-style" show. It was very good I thought. Lots of great dancing and singing. Show up at least 15 minutes early to get a good seat for this and all shows. Time for bed.
Tuesday (day at sea): We woke up and went to the buffet for breakfast. Good, not great. We hit the steam rooms in the spa (they're free to use for all guests) and then used the spa whirlpools (free also). Then we went back to the cabin to get towels and sunscreen and it was at this point that I called Eileen, a woman I had been exchanging e-mails with prior to the cruise. She and her family were on board and I told her about our dining issues. She said that they were at a table for 6, but two of the seats weren't assigned to anyone. She invited us to dine with them that evening and we did. In fact, we wound up talking to the maitre 'd about a permanent switch and he was happy to oblige our request (thanks Mick!). Dinner that night seemed better. Perhaps it was the much improved service we got. Our wait staff were Christina and Pia. They were quite friendly and welcomed us to the new table. The food that night was definitely great!
The port shopping talk was in the morning. Another one that's good to go to. Lots of information about where to shop and where NOT to shop as well as free stuff. (TIP: Get a good seat for this, I mean front row center. Many things are tossed into the crowd to whoever is the loudest and wildest. Free rum cakes and souvenirs to name a few.) During the day though we sunned ourselves and went to the galley tour. This is very interesting. You get to see chefs carving detailed things into ice and watermelon and you get to see just how big the galley is. This event draws a big crowd though, so be patient.
After dinner, we went to another show. A great female singer and a great male comedian. He was quite funny. We enjoyed both of them very much. Bed time.
Wednesday (Jamaica): We woke up and had room service delivered. Remember, room service is free. Just tip the person a buck or two for the effort. There are cards in the room for breakfast room service. Fill it out the night before and place it on the door handle outside. Then, like magic, you wake up to a knock at the door with food on the other side. Genius!!! We did the Sunset Beach Resort in Jamaica. THIS EXCURSION IS NOT THROUGH THE SHIP. Simply get off the ship, walk through the terminal, and tell the cab valets you want to go to Sunset Beach Resort. (TIP: Only take cabs with RED license plates. These are government regulated.) The cab ride should not cost more than $3 per person. We got the whole thing for $5. The resort is very close to where the ship docks. About Sunset Beach Resort; $20 per person admission fee gets you all the food, drinks and alcohol you can consume. Also included is use of non-motorized water crafts (kayaks, 2-person paddle boats, snorkeling gear, etc.) There is a private beach and 2 swimming pools as well. It's quite a deal and the employees at the resort are very friendly. We enjoyed our day very much there. We got back to the ship, and took a dip in the aft hot tub, then showered and got ready for dinner. (TIP: The aft hot tubs all the way in the back of the ship are adults only. No children are allowed in them. The crew members are very good at enforcing this rule. Also, it's probably the least crowded pool area on board back there.)
Food was very good, not good (ha ha). There were shows happening this night, but we were tired and had to get up very early the next morning for our excursion in Grand Cayman. We went to bed around 10 p.m.
Thursday (Grand Cayman): This was my favorite port. Don't ask why, it just had the greatest effect on me. The ship was anchored out, so there are tender crafts that take you to shore. It was here that we booked the beginner scuba diving excursion. ($120 per person.) This one is booked through the ship. If you do this one, eat a light breakfast. It's a very physical excursion. Oh, another thing, use the potty before you put on your wet suit. Nuff said on that. The excursion was great. Very polite people concerned only about your safety and your having a good time. You get a lecture first, then practice in a pool for about 45 minutes. Then, you're in the ocean for about 30 minutes going as deep as 40 feet. It was quite an experience. Bring your underwater cameras for this one. (TIP: If you do this excursion, bring $2 for a locker rental. No one will watch your belongings for you.)
After that, we walked up the road back to the shopping area. This is where we started the day because it's where the tender dropped us off. We went back to the ship, changed, ate, and went back on shore to shop. GET A RUM CAKE! GET A RUM CAKE! GET A RUM CAKE! They are too good. They are excellent. Great stuff. The Tortuga rum cake place isn't hard to miss. It looks like a little yellow house. Go in and get some free samples then pick out what you want to buy. Del-Sol is another cool shop. It's clothing and accessories, but they react really well in sunlight. Go there and you'll see what I mean. Then back to the ship for the second formal night. Very fitting that we were dressed night because it was Thanksgiving. Dinner was great because they had a turkey dinner on the menu that night. This was also the night of the second "Vegas-style" show. It wasn't as glitzy as the first one, but still, lots of good dancing and singing. We enjoyed ourselves. After that show, there was a comedian/ventriloquist. This was his "adult" show and it was pretty good. Bed time.
Friday (Cozumel): We woke up and it was raining. Not a good start, but it cleared up after a while. We had another excursion we were going on. This one was the dolphin encounter (NOT the dolphin swim). ($99 per person.) There are 2 differences between these two excursions. The encounter and the swim are the same exact thing, but with the swim, you ride on a dolphin's belly for about 15 seconds. That's it! The other difference is that the swim is $80 more per person than the excursion. We enjoyed the encounter very much. After the excursion, we did much shopping close to the dock where the ship was. There were many shops and many bargains to be made with the locals. We found some great deals. When you are walking back to the ship, walk through the hall of liquor. (That's what I call it.) There is booze as far as the eye can see and some are priced great. There are also many varieties of cigarettes and perfumes to choose from. Cozumel is a great port for shopping. Set aside the biggest chunk of spending money for this port.
Dinner this night was great again. I'm telling you, the servers made it better. We called it another early night because we were pooped out from a busy day.
Saturday (day at sea): Last full day, what a bummer. Don't let that get you down. It's not over yet by any means. We ate in the Monet dining room for breakfast again. Great stuff! There were too many things to do on board this day. We started with going to the photo gallery and buying the prints that we wanted to keep. DO THIS EARLY TO AVOID HEAVY CROWDS. Then we went to the debarkation talk. This is where you get all of the "getting off the ship" information. Very informative. Then, we ate, then we went to the art auction. I know, too expensive and all, but hey, who cares. You don't have to buy a thing. Plus, they give out free champagne. We watched people buy stuff for as much as $6,000. The cheapest thing went for $70. However, it was something neat to do. I've never been to an art auction.........until now. Next was the "Newlywed, not so Newlywed" game. Three couples married for different lengths of time being asked compatibility questions. Very funny and not to miss. We enjoyed it as we have only been married one year. Next we hit the hot tub (again). We were bummed though because it closed at 5 p.m. because the crew was beginning to "wrap it up."
Dinner on the last night was bittersweet. You knew it was the last, but it was quite a nice evening. We took many photos and had a nice time. (Eileen, if you're reading this, we enjoyed your company as well as your family's company.) Before that night's show, they raffled off a cruise for two. Tickets for the raffle were $20 for three tickets. We didn't win. The last show of the cruise was one of the best. It was the comedian/ventriloquist again and he was very funny. It was an all ages act, and he had us tearing up at the end. Great end to the night.
Sunday (debarkation): What can I say, it was a sad day. We didn't want to leave. We had to be out of the room by 8 a.m. We went up to the buffet and stuffed ourselves for the last time. Then waited for our color to be called to get off the ship. We exited the Conquest and sighed knowing that a great trip was over. Our luggage was found somewhat easily and we made our way out of the terminal to rendezvous with our transportation.
All in all, we had a fantastic time. True, there were a couple of glitches, but hey, who cares. Keep an open mind on your cruise. Remember, you're on vacation! Eat all you want at every meal; or don't. It's up to you. Do something that you've never done before. We went scuba diving, met a dolphin, and attended an art auction. Those are 3 things that neither my wife or I had ever done until we went on this cruise. Have fun. That's what it's all about. Go to the shows. Meet new people. Take lots of pictures. Forget about life for a while and pamper yourself. YOU ARE ON VACATION!!!
We would love to sail onboard the Conquest again. We had a great time. Thanks to Ivan our steward, Christina and Pia our wait staff, Stewart our cruise director, and all the staff and crew on board. Thanks for being friendly and attending to our needs. We're totally satisfied and hope to see you all again someday.
That's it I guess. It only took 2 hours to type up. I think I've covered everything, but I doubt I have. If you have any questions about the Conquest, please feel free to e-mail them to me. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy sails to you!!!