My travel agent's advice for Carnival of "set your expectations low so you won't be disappointed" didn't work for the Conquest because I simply couldn't have set me expectations low enough!
Our kids really wanted to cruise during Christmas break, and our options were very limited by the school schedule. The Conquest had what seemed to be the best itinerary for our dates, so we took our chances. We previously cruised on the Carnival Freedom, a sister ship, in the Mediterranean, and that turned out to be a pleasant surprise. No such luck on the Conquest.
The cabins will make you think of a run-down Holiday Inn. The food quality resembles Denny's. Add to that management that couldn't operate a Dairy Queen, and you have the Conquest.
In fairness, there were some good points...our cabin steward was outstanding, the public areas of the ship were satisfactory, and the shows were actually pretty good.
What really ruined this cruise was the crew, as a whole. Poor attitudes prevailed, and you sensed that the crew (even the ship's officers) had no interest in being on the boat or serving customers. The formal dining room staff serving our table was abysmal...incredibly slow, hard to find if you needed something, and they messed up orders repeatedly. The food was sometimes cold when it finally got to our table, and even when it was hot, it was usually sub-par. Carnival's signature chocolate melting cake arrived un-melted on two occasions. We finally abandoned the dining room after a few days and ate in the buffet, but it wasn't really better except for not having to wait for food. Food quality was of course the same, but most tables were routinely covered with dirty dishes. When the wait staff did clean a table, whatever was on the table top ended up on the chairs. They didn't even bother trying getting it on the floor, much less pick it up. Restaurant management was rarely seen.
An even bigger disappointment was Carnival's failure to handle the logistics of getting passengers in/out of ports at Belize and Progreso (see my reviews for these ports).
Overall, the kids had an OK time, which is good since the trip was really for them. However, even they recognized that Carnival is sub-par. We have cruised on Celebrity, Princess and RCCL from many ports around the world, and our previous Carnival experience in Europe was actually pretty good. Maybe other Carnival ships are better, but people we met in ports who were traveling on the Dream and the Magic with a similar cruising history to ours had similarly negative comments about both ships. The fact that there was no guest satisfaction survey for departing passengers said it all...Carnival doesn't care about your cruising experience. You won't find us on Carnival again.