This is my 6th cruise and first on Carnival. We chose this cruise because either the wife or I had been to Jamaica or the Cayman Islands, and a good price coupled with a Galveston departure (no plane connections) made it a good value.
We had heard rumors of the excessive party atmosphere on Carnival ships, so we planned the trip after school resumed to reduce the risk. Unfortunately, that is also the peak of Hurricane season, so we decided to play Hurricane Roulette on the Conquest.
The boat was late in arriving because of a medical emergency at the last port.
Galveston cruise terminal is not well suited to large cruise ships when the debarking/embarking of passengers overlap. It took 3.5 hours from arriving at the terminal to enter our room.
The ship is nice but it could use a little sprucing up in some areas (like rust around the balcony fixtures).
Food: Not as good as the other cruises I have taken, but still A LOT better than I would have eaten if I stayed home. The dining room had significantly better food than the buffet. On other Cruise lines there seemed to be less distinction between the two.
Room: Very nice and comfortable. This was our first balcony stateroom on a cruise, and future cruises will definitely include one. One thing we noticed was the Hot water with LOTS of pressure for a relaxing shower.
Service: Excellent service from all the staff. Hats off to them.
Excursions: See below
Internet: I MUST be connected to the net, so I can track my investments, and in this case I wanted to closely monitor the weather. We purchased the 240 minute block for about $85. There were many times when I could not get a connection at peak times, and response times were horrible when you do get connected. Hint: estimate the number of minutes you will need and double it. Also make sure your Pc is fully updated before you get on the ship to avoid downloading updates over the slow connection. Also build favorites at home for all the sites you think you night need (weather in port cities for example).
Entertainment: The Shows are pretty low rent. However, there are some very talented bands that play in different locations around the ship. We found one that we really liked and found ourselves planning our evenings to listen to a couple hours of their music.
Casino: I like to gamble, and the slots are typical cruise ship odds. Save your money and buy a lottery ticket (much better odds).
What I missed: Prior cruises had a dedicated TV channel that showed the location of the ship, weather and sea conditions, time to port, etc. One passenger brought his GPS so he could monitor the ships location. I will include my GPS as part of my standard Cruise gear.
What I will remember:
As we were leaving the Cayman Islands, A rainstorm just offshore dropped a waterspout within mile of the ship and I got some awesome photographs.
And unfortunately this:
Our Stateroom was on deck 6 about 1/3 from the stern on the Starboard/Right side. I always sit on our balcony as we leave/enter ports, and also view the sunrises and sunsets. The wife normally stays inside the cabin as we enter/leave ports. Thursday evening I forced her to join me on the balcony as we left Cozumel. She joined me about 6:15 PM and we were discussing what side of the city was east / West.
About 6:27 there was a scream from a balcony on the 8th deck about mid-ship. That general area had been pretty rowdy a couple of evenings, so we first assumed they were party screams. But the tone of the screams was different and continued hysterically. I heard a lady scream He is dead.
When we heard the screams, we looked up to see where they were coming from. Others nearby came out on their balconies in response to the noise, but none of us knew what happened.
The wife said she saw crew members in the Bridge running from side to side in a panic fashion..
About 6:36 the captain came on the emergency intercom (it has speakers in every room vs. the normal PA system which only has speakers in the hallway). The only words were Bravo Starboard. By this time it was obvious something was abnormal and it became clear someone was overboard when 2 life rings were thrown overboard at 6:32. (Actual time taken from the pictures I took).
3 minutes later at exactly 6:35 (the ship was still travelling about 12-15 knots) another life ring with a Smoking flare was thrown overboard from somewhere in the front of the ship.
I would estimate it was another 8-10 minutes before the ship slowed down enough to use the bow and stern thrusters to turn the ship around. I have never seen a ship turn that fast before.
After turning we started slowly moving back toward Cozumel.
At 6:50 the wife and I went up to deck 9 (open deck) so we would have sight access from both sides of the ship. I tried to use the stairs to go up another deck to the stern and was turned away by crew members.
I little further forward we were able to use the stairs to go to deck ten. All of the passengers were crowded off the Port side (left) railing.
The wife saw an officer on the right side talking to 4 people so she walked over to them. She waved me over and the crew member was interviewing two ladies that witnessed the event. The first may have been the lady that we heard scream. She was in her mid-forties and was shaking as she told the story. She was sitting on her balcony on deck 8 when the person dropped from a higher deck and hit the water face down. She said he never moved as the ship continued to speed past. Her husband was inside the Cabin and did see anything
The second lady (in her 20s) was laying in the sundeck area with another girlfriend and saw a man in his late 20s-early 30s climb up on the railing of deck 10 and jump overboard. She said there was a woman with him and she did nothing when he jumped. No scream. No reaction. By the time she got up and looked overboard he was gone.
Later, our steward said he heard the CLAP sound that body makes when it hits the water from a 90-100 ft height
We came back to our room about 7:00 pm
The PA intercom paged C*** M****** - room xxxx multiple times.
The cruise director came on the intercom at 7:15 and announced there was a person lost overboard and the ship was assisting in the search. By this time it was almost dark and we only saw 2 other small boats searching. They had no searchlights or any ability to see at night. No helicopters or other aircraft were present.
Another announcement at 8:00pm said the person had been identified and his companions and family had been notified.
After a total search time of about 1 hour, it was obvious our ship had stopped searching and we were resuming our return trip to Galveston. 30 minutes later, the Cruise director announced that our ship had been released from the search and we were free to resume our return trip. 3 Mexican law agency vessels would continue the search.
The regulations in Mexican waters are apparently MUCH different from international or US waters. We talked to a retired oil driller that owned his own business and drilled offshore wells. He said in International waters a boat or platform would not be released for at least 12 hours after a lost person/death report. In Mexico it is 60 minutes.
Another announcement at about 12:15pm Friday. The captain announced over the emergency PA system that the missing guest was still not found and 3 Mexican vessels were still searching. He also announced that our arrival in Galveston was delayed about 1 hour.