Everyone on this ship works incredibly hard and I don't in any way want to diminish the behind the scenes efforts that go into making a six-day cruise happen. But Carnival Conquest, hate to say it, you were fair to good on this cruise when just 3 months ago, our cruise on the Victory was great.
It's the little things and they add up. Your dining room staff works incredibly hard and that's where some management could help. The "team waiter" concept isn't working. Our table of four would faithfully show up for early seating at 605, we'd place an order at about 615 and we wouldn't see a main course until about 715. Drink guy didn't stop by our table until 635 and on 2 out of our 6 nights, I found it easier to leave the dining room, take the elevator up to the 9th floor and get a beer there and bring it back to the table! My wife explained why that was: he was justifiably more incented to accomodate the bigger tables of 10 or 12 because one trip to and from the bar netted him more in tips than the one beer would have at our table.
We rarely saw our waiters because they were working so hard accomodating too many tables. Again, don't want to diminish their efforts, but plates would remain on our table for a long time and water glasses wouldn't be filled unless we tried hard to flag someone down.
On recent Carnival cruises this year on the Glory and the Victory, we had a chance to chat and connect with our waiter/assistant waiter. Wasn't the case on this cruise as the whole dining room team seemed to be hustling just to serve dinner.
The tone seemed to be set when we boarded. The huge TV by the pool was set to a TV station that was broadcasting a country-music informercial. The TV reception was awful and kept fading in and out, and no one cared to either shut it off or fix it. And no one seemed to care that it was a random channel with random programming.
The entertainment, was previous reviewers have noted, was sparse. We went to a "family night" comedy show. The joke was apparently on me as I had to explain to my son what a circumcision was, as that was the punchline in the first joke at the family show. I'm no prude, I'm from New York City and I have a sense of humor. But a little sensitivity please when it's specifically billed as the "family" comedy show.
The decibel level at the mid-deck area by the pool when the band was playing was excruciatingly loud. Yes there is a quiet area at the back of the ship where people can go. But music and the TV can be loud without being at levels that were unbelievably loud. Again, I like a party as much as the next guy, but making it louder doesn't make it better!
Speaking of parties. There was only one deck party the whole cruise. What's up with that? And when the party did get going and we were all having fun, it suddenly ended at about midnight when the band began to play again. The dancing stopped and the crowded disappeared. Party over. You had a couple of hundred people dancing to some great tunes, why did it have to end?
There was just one big production number on the second night. Pretty typical stuff but it was enjoyable. Again don't want to downplay how hard the musicians, singers and dancers worked. They are a very talented group of people.
So those are the negatives. Ship is well maintained. Casino is smokey with some machines reserved specifically for smokers. I say ban the lot of them. Absolutely no smoking anywhere on board, and before you get to that point, toss them out of the casino and start there. You've banned smoking in the dining room and lounges so why not the casino?
Destinations on this cruise are kinda blah, but we had fun. You may find a lot to do in Costa Maya and Belize, we didn't. We took a town tour last time were were in Belize City and there is nothing going on there. Many people took the cave tour and rave about it. I didn't take it so can't offer an opinion. On a previous cruise (Premier, Big Red Boat!) we spent a delightful day at an island snorkeling. On this cruise we tendered into the port, left the kid at Camp Carnival (totally his choice) and walked around the port shops. In retrospect, one adult from our party should have remained on the ship just in case and we won't make that mistake again. Nothing bad happened, but hey, you never know!
Costa Maya was a relaxing day. We took a cab to the "downtown." A sleepy little runddown town. Actually can't call it runddown because it was never built up in the first place. Food and chairs on the beach and very friendly locals. We had guac, chips, snacks and a beer and enjoyed the warm water.
Cozumel is Cozumel. A great port, even if you never leave the pier area. We went to Playa Mia by ourselves. Taxi was about $15 each way; entrance to the beach as $16pp without drinks or food. Ship's package I believe was $39pp. Can't remember if that included transportation or not, but I think we saved a lot by doing it ourselves. Plenty of cabs going and coming back and really, really nice drivers.
Cabin was standard issue Carnival: functional, comfortable and well-maintained by the cabin guy.
People on this ship work very, very hard. Please reward them with something beyond the mandated tipping schedule if you feel they deserve it.
One additional tip. We stayed at the New Orleans Marriott ahead of boarding the ship at New Orleans. Cab ride for 4 of us was a total ripoff at $28 from Canal Street to the far end of the Riverwalk. Too far to walk with bags, but never, ever should be $28. But I was assured it was $7.00 per person, billed at a special event rate. Despite my request, driver wouldn't run the meter and insisted he was allowed to charge that. Just check before you hail the cab at the Marriott. It was a decent hotel and would stay there again.
Post-cruise we stayed at the Hilton Riverwalk, which would be about 10 minute walk through the mall and down a long flight of stairs with luggage. While it might be a pain it won't cost you $28 for a cab! Mother-in-law got smart on this one: she rode from the pier to the Hilton with all our cases for $10.00 and the rest of the family walked!
Finally, not sure if this was a Carnival issue, or a travel agent issue. But I typically always ask for a room away from the elevators because that's where crowds congregate. And I always like to get seated at a big table. We ended up right next to the elevator, maybe because our room was assigned at Carnival's discretion. And we ended up at a table for four, maybe because that was all there was available for early seating. Didn't complain but just mention it for you to look out for if these things are important to you.
Did we have a good time on the Conquest? Absolutely. But we didn't walk away saying "best cruise ever" and if this had been our first cruise on Carnival, I probably would have been very disappointed. (Or am I jaded after 8 previous cruises on Carnival?) I just feel this ship fell short of potential but don't want to fault any of the extremely hardworking employees. I think management needs to figure out what the mission is and how to tweak it!
All the best and enjoy your time at sea!