Well we are just back from our Conquest Western Caribbean cruise April 17th to 24th. This is our 4th carnival cruise and 3rd on the Conquest. This is my opinion and perception of our cruise. Others may have a different opinion and perception so take this as it is intended.
Thumbs up: Overall we had a great time and a great cruise. I have learned a cruise is what you make it and if you don't let the little things bother you, you are so much better off. Although this is our 3rd time on the Conquest it has been a couple of years between our last one and this one. We flew in to Hobby the day before and got a motel close to the airport. The motel offered a free shuttle to and from Hobby and when I called the motel to be picked up it only took 5 minutes for them to arrive. They also took us back to Hobby as we purchased transfer tickets with carnival. Carnival transfer was easy to find and we were on the first shuttle to the port. Embarkation was a breeze as it has been on our other cruises. It was a minimal wait and we were on board by noon. We brought a bottle of wine in our carry on and Carnival never questioned it. After a good lunch at Sur Mer's we wondered around until about 1:15 when our cabin was ready, deck 7 aft balcony. We made our way to our room and were greeted by our cabin steward Lawrence. He was exceptional the entire cruise. The balcony was great and room clean and fresh. Muster took longer than usual since they did the entire muster drill in English and then in Spanish. Throughout the cruise they made both English and Spanish announcements. I did get a fun times delivered to my room that was printed in Spanish and it took me a good 30 minutes walking to the different areas of the ship that had fun times sitting out before I found one in English. The weather our entire cruise was outstanding and seas were calm for the entire week with just a little rockin on Friday. I sure sleep great on a cruise, rocking gently to sleep each night. We did not go to the shows since we already seen them twice so we just did other stuff instead. We had late seating in the dining room and the food was good. I think that the food although good, was not as good as on the other cruises. We did book another cruise while on board. We were already booked for an April 2012 cruise on the Magic doing this same itinerary. We went to the future cruise talk and found that the Magic was doing an "exotic" western itinerary in September 2012 to Rotan, Belize and Cozumel. We looked at the rates and they were cheaper than what we already booked for the April cruise and we never have done these ports so we canceled that one and booked one for September 16th 2012. The rates were good and they were offering a $100 on board credit if you booked while on the ship. We also purchased another future cruise certificate to use for another cruise. Overall it was a great cruise and a well needed time away from reality.
Thumbs down: Now the not so good. We have always had exceptional service from the waiters in the dining room. Although they were not horrible by no means, they were not as good as what we have had in the past. I guess the service we have always had set the bar pretty high and these guys just did not hit it Like I said it was not horrible but we had to ask for refills on our tea and water, ask several times for bread and the service seemed a little slow. I noticed that on our other cruises we had a head waiter and an assistant waiter. On this cruise we had 1 head waiter and 2 assistant waiters which I assume meant that they were working more tables between them. The entire dining room was this way. This was the first cruise where the maitre d' and dining room hostess came over to each table a couple of times during the cruise to speak to each and every guest. Like I mentioned above the food was good but probably not as good as what we have experienced in the past on Carnival. We did meet a great couple and their daughter from Cleveland who was in the balcony right next to us. We visited the entire cruise.
For me, the cruise director Paul Santley had the enthusiasm of a door knob. Announcements during the cruise were almost nonexistent and when they were made there was absolutely no excitement. For us a cruise director doesn't make or break a cruise but at least they normally put some excitement in the air to get you in the mood and pump you up for the activities. Not Paul.
We have had other aft balconies but this was the first time we found trash on our balcony every morning. There were always 4-8 cigarette butts, toothpicks and other trash that was showing up from someone throwing it over the railing. I don't know if this was coming from the balcony above us or from deck 10 but it was every morning. You could see that the cigarettes were still lite when they were thrown over as you could see the burn marks they left behind. This brings me to an unexpected visit from security. On Thursday we went to bed kind of early since I had a headache. A little after 11pm the cabin phone rang. My wife thinking something bad had happened at home since we did not know anyone on the cruise jumped up and answered it. She asked that I talk to the male caller since she could not understand a word of what he was saying. I got on the phone and no one was there. We went back to bed and then someone was pounding on our cabin door. I jumped up again and answered it to find 3 security officers, one who appeared to be some type of officer and 2 others. They asked me if everything was alright and I said yes and then he asked if we were throwing articles from our balcony. I said you got to be joking, we were sound asleep not to mention that we are no spring chickens anymore and outgrew that kind of behavior. I asked all of them if they wanted to come in and look and he said no he was sorry and walked off. Being startled from a sound sleep I went back to bed but the more I thought about it the madder I got. I went to the guest services deck the next morning and told the nice lady what had happened and asked to speak to the person (officer) who came to door. After a few minutes he arrived at the desk. Our neighbors on the balcony next to us were there also as they were having the same issues we had all week long. This was the same person who appeared to be in charge the night before. He said that he was sorry for awaking us but someone complained from below that a glass or cup was thrown on their balcony and they were going to all the aft cabins on deck 7 and 8. Don't know how true that was since neither guest on the side of us got an 11 pm wake up call.
There are always some great people you meet on a cruise and some well, not so great being downright rude. I found that on this cruise there were many, many more rude and downright nasty people than on other cruises. From people cutting in food lines to rushing the elevators as soon as the doors opened trapping the people inside from getting off to being just plain pigs. Again we try not to let stuff bother us but by the end of the cruise I just wanted to strangle some people.
Debarkation was a total cluster. I have never been on a cruise where debarkation was so disorganized and cyanotic. After arriving in Galveston we went to deck 5 to wait for our deck to be called. We did self-assist since we had to catch the transfer back to Hobby for our flight back home AND because we purchased some alcohol in ports and had to wait until 6:30 am the morning of debarkation to pick it up. I just don't get this as it limits anyone from doing what they call "relaxed" debarkation and setting your luggage out the night before. The cruise director called decks 2 and 8 first. As it has been in the past normally after about 15 minutes they call 2 more decks. After waiting about 40 minutes and no other decks being called and deck 5 clearing out I decided to head down. I don't know if people just do not understand or just don't care but I think everyone on the ship went to get off. The lobby deck was packed with people cutting in front of each other and pushing and shoving. I noticed tags from every deck as well as those with numbers who set their luggage out the night before trying to get off. After playing rugby to get off and once in the cruise terminal it was not much better. The lines serpentined back and forth and there had to be 1500 plus people in line. People were rushing over to get their luggage and then trying to cut in line to get off. It was about 9:10 by this time and I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. There was a man with a luggage cart who I learned was a porter asking anyone who wanted "express". I looked at another lady in line and asked her what "express" was and she said oh you will need to pay for that. I looked at the endless line and looked at the porter and yelled we will take express. He loaded our luggage on the cart and said Ok you guys need to keep up. We followed him past the hundreds and hundreds of people waiting in line for customs and he took us right to a customs line where the CBP agent was just standing there. I handed him my declaration and passports and after a few questions we were cleared. The porter rushed us to where Carnival transfer check in was, we checked in and he rushed us over to the bus, unloaded all of luggage and helped put it on the bus. The cost was tips only which I gladly paid. I think there are still people waiting in that line. We finally left the port about 10:15. Like I said a cruise is what you make it and despite the little setbacks and BS above we had a great time and enjoyed it, so much so we go again on the Conquest in October and on the Magic in 2012.