Carnival Conquest Cruise Review by Darshan1: 2nd Conquest Cruise a Good Time
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2nd Conquest Cruise a Good Time
This was our second time on the Conquest, and the crew seemed nearly entirely different, but the ship seemed just as nice. One thing that seemed different this cruise was the ratio of elderly people to young people. There were a vast quantity of senior citizens, so much so that the young woman running O2, the disco for teenagers, must have been bored out of her mind. (So keep in mind: If you want a cruise out of Galveston with very few kids - the first week in February appears to be a good idea.) We did have some very nice dinner companions (a young woman and her mother) and we met a number of gay men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s at the "Friends of Dorothy" gatherings at a quiet wine bar. This cruise went to Key West and I think that made it much more attractive to GLBT cruisers than a cruise that heads for Jamaica.
Our room was quite nice. Spacious for a cruise ship cabin, clean and well-lit. The deck below us (Deck 1 - Riviera) seemed to smell a bit bad so I would bring an More air freshener for the room. Neither housekeeping staff nor wait staff were quite as friendly as on any previous cruises, but it was still more than good enough. They seemed to be a bit more rushed and overworked than usual. They still did a fine job. The food in the dining room was good as usual, especially their fish dishes and cold soups. Their Lido cafeteria was variable - some days having some very nice options and others not so much. We tried The Point, their premium steakhouse, and I kind of liked it, but not entirely. I'm not comfortable with fancy restaurants, and I felt very comfortable with the friendly staff. Also, the view out the windows was very nice. The food was not fantastic though. I had filet mignon with peppercorn sauce which was fairly good. The Portobello mushroom seemed overly doused in vinegar and the cheesecake, while HUGE, wasn't especially delicious. I can't remember complaining about presentation before the caesar salad was in such an odd bowl (halfway between a gravy boat and a wide-mouthed flower vase) that it was nearly impossible to eat. What I could manage was tasty though. DBF enjoyed his food very much, and I liked it well enough that I think it would be fun to try a premium restaurant again.
The entertainment staff was mostly fine as in the past. BUT, there was one dealer in the casino for blackjack who needs to be fired. I'm not going to mention his name here, but more than once he tried to swipe chips when the player had won and he didn't even apologize. Last year, the casino staff seemed really good about making sure the guests had fun, so the casino this year was something of a disappointment.
There were a few changes. There was no disembarkation talk. That was surprising, but it seemed like disembarkation went extremely smoothly anyhow. There were no comment cards as they are now online. That's fine for us, but I imagine a lot of the octogenarians on the ship might not have e-mail. They no longer seem to have Park West art auctions, and I thought those were fun.
One extra-good note: Winaya, the bartender at the Latour Wine Bar was very sweet and made sure we met other passengers. Our cruise was better because of him, and we noticed a lot of the senior crew enjoy their late night free time there so it's a good place for some enjoyable conversation.
The ship: still in good shape, too big for older passengers who have mobility issues and the new ship coming to Galveston will be bigger.
The staff: professional and friendly, mostly not remarkable, but quite good. The photographers were less pushy than in the past although the staff at the photo sales counter were still a bit much.
The sailing: Of all the ships I've been on, this has been by far the least rocky. A very good ship for those afraid of sea sickness. We sailed in December and February which are calmer months in the Caribbean. The Gulf of Mexico seems to be a little rockier, but not bad at all.
The entertainment: a lot of options. Some of the shows were very good including Lady Hellevi, an illusionist and aerialist. Lots of karaoke, lots of trivia.
The weather/ports: great weather every day except the last sea day. Not too hot in the Bahamas. It seems like everyone complains that the time in Key West is too short, and I agree although I think we picked the right ship as the other two boats got in later and left earlier.
The shops: good staff, a larger selection of jewelry that was both tasteful and not outrageously expensive. From previous experiences, their cheap watches are a waste of money. Less
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Cabin review: Carnival Conquest Oceanview Main 2331
pretty quiet location, great view, ample closet space for two people, not too far from elevators, clean, well lit, mostly good Wi Fi signal. The TV didn't function perfectly as it wouldn't allow us to view our folio charges, but the front desk was very helpful with providing printouts.
Port and Shore Excursions
We took a bus tour to Garden of the Groves which was listed in Frommers as possibly the best tourist attraction in the Bahamas (which I don't think includes activities like beach-going or snorkeling, just attractions). While it is very lovely, it wasn't spectacular. Perhaps the first week of February is not its peak period. Our tour guide was Jessica, and she was very informative and easy to understand. Tourists interested in the uses of plants and "bush medicine" will enjoy this tour quite a bit. There were also some good photo opportunities for a number of pretty flowers, pools and waterfalls, and a number of ducks and other birds that seem fairly used to being approached and photographed. These birds are semi-tame, but there are some wild birds during certain months that apparently make this destination popular with birdwatchers. One bonus to this attraction is a small number of shops carrying a number of items that are authentically made in the Bahamas including jams and jellies made from the plants found in the garden (soaps as well), some Bahamian art, and some handicrafts. Of course, if you want a shot glass or a key chain they have those as well. (note: watch out for hornets at the outdoor restaurant at the garden. Food is okay, but I probably would just not eat there at all.)
The tour then took us to Port Lucaya where we could walk about five or ten minutes to a beach, relax at a bar or restaurant or shop. Like in Nassau, the shopkeepers were friendly without being pushy. They did offer some discounts on jewelry if we paid cash, and we found some nice, inexpensive pieces. There was a small section behind the main shopping area where there were some wooden stalls and that area reminded me of the craft market in Montego Bay, Jamaica where merchants were quite aggressive, but it was still nowhere near as bad.
One other thing to note: Freeport and Grand Bahama island, surprisingly, did not look as tropical as Nassau/New Providence Island nor other islands further south. Sure, there are some palm trees, but the most prevalent tree is an unusual pine tree with a small tuft of needles at the top. I think our driver called the trees "Caribbean pines." Perhaps not as pretty as lush palm groves, but unusual and interesting.
Oh, our bus driver Leroy (aka "Sweet Pea") was very friendly and a bit funny. However, he was quite boring although my friend suspected that was the fault of Freeport and not Leroy as he thinks there just wasn't anything to say. Still it's probably better to not say anything than to mention an insurance office or a car dealership when there's nothing unusual about them. I think he could have focused a bit more on the history of the Bahamas and Freeport, mentioned just a few of the more interesting buildings and sites (there was a famous golf course, for example) and that would have been sufficient. However, even though he was animated and friendly, the yawn-worthy information he gave us about Freeport actually made me think of the place as more skip-able than I previously imagined. Still, we had a good time at the garden and shopping in Port Lucaya.
Shopping in port for souvenirs was much better than I anticipated. We did not go to the straw market, but we did go to some jewelry and souvenir stores. The shopkeepers were friendly without being overly pushy. There weren't many (maybe one?) characters who looked at all shady and we did note that security seemed ample and alert. One thing fellow passengers noted was that in the stores (as opposed to craft markets) Bahamian shopkeepers seemed less inclined to bargain or lower prices than in Jamaica or Cozumel, but they were polite about it, and I think the lack of an air of desperation will probably make shopping more pleasant for a lot of tourists even if prices are a tiny bit higher.
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