This was my first time on the Conquest after having sailed on the Glory a couple years ago. The ships were so much alike that I had no trouble navigating around the decks because I remembered a lot of the layout from the Glory. The big difference between them was the decor. Of which I thought the Conquest was just lovely. All the artwork everywhere was very nice. Not over-the-top like the Glory had a tendency to feel like at times. We got the feeling that we arrived at the port about the same time 3/4 of the other passengers on the ship did. Lines wound around and around and ... We would finish with one to find ourselves getting in another winding one. The lines went pretty smoothly thou, and, we tried to make the most of it. We felt sorry for the teenage boy who was carrying what looked like a 36-count pack of bottled water. He got his workout that day lifting it, setting it down, shifting shoulders, etc.
Once on the ship (about 1 1/2 hours later) we found the room ready and my luggage at the door. My mom and sister had to wait about another hour or more before theirs came. One of my sister's luggage tags had gotten stuck on my luggage, ripped off and therefore was missing in action without a tag. She had to wait until evening to go down to the room near customer services where they keep lost pieces of luggage. After putting things away we headed to the Lido deck for lunch. A nice buffet style meal with a nice selection of food. We set sail on time and enjoyed watching the ship turn around and head down the Mississippi River. From our port-side balcony we were able to see downtown New Orleans, St. Louis Cathedral and the rest of the city pass by on a chilly but sunshiny day. We didn't realize how long it takes to make it to the Gulf from New Orleans. It was nearly 10:00pm before we finally saw the oil rigs on the gulf waters and knew we had left the river. Dinner that night was wonderful. We met 3 of our table mates (the fourth tablemate joined us the next night) and thoroughly enjoyed their company the rest of the cruise. I figured we would have to share a table since there were only 3 of us. And I will admit I was a bit apprehensive about having to "make conversation" every night. But our table mates were a total delight from the word go. We would even meet up with them off and on throughout the week and share other meals with them as well. I looked forward to our dining time each night.
Monday and Tuesday were sea days. The water was choppy and the top decks were closed both days due to high winds. But at least it was sunny. And the temperatures were getting into the 80's. On Sunday, especially in the evening, we wore jackets on the balcony and were still chilled. I thought the ship provided an adequate number of activities. We enjoyed the musical trivia games (never came close but once to winning the ship-on-a-stick)However, my sister finally won a ship with the 60-second challenge game doing the hola hoop. Thought the first nights song and dance show in the lovely Toulouse Theater was a great show. Talented people for sure. Our cruise director was Paul and I thought he did a great job. Loved his accent and enjoyed his personality. Food was above average both nights in the beautiful Monet Dining Room. Our waiters were spot-on and super friendly. A couple times they would bring a second entre to one of us and told us that we just had to give this a try. We never left dinner hungry. In fact, I had to "suffer through" dessert a couple times.
Our cabin "girl" was a wonderful young lady named Tanja (sp?). She would always greet us whenever she saw us with a smile and say each of our names. And ask us how our day was going. Our last towel "animal" was actually a heart with our always welcomed after dinner mints setting inside it. We placed a nice tip for her inside the heart the morning we left our room to disembark and hoped she would be the one to find it. We left a note for her as well. She made our stay a pleasant one indeed.
Wednesday was Jamaica. Another sunny, mid-80's and humid day. We toke the ship sponsored Croydon Plantation excursion. We had to wait in the large port building where most of the tours were meeting. Fans were all they had to circulate the air in there (no AC) and the fan above us was off. I was ready to move out of there. Welcome to the tropics. This was no fault of Croydon, and the lady from there said how embarrished she was, but the buses they hire to drive us up there only sent 3 of the 8 buses. So we were part of the group that had an almost hour long wait to get going. At least we did get on a bus sooner then some of the others did. So the AC felt pretty good. The drive up there was spent with our delightful guide telling us about the island, MoBay and the people. The island had a lot of what we would classify as poverty, but, it had a lot of character to it. I know many people say they would rather skip the port altogether, however, I enjoy seeing a new country and learning about it through the eyes of its people. Yes, the road up there was narrow and bumpy as others have reported. But, we survived and in one piece. Our driver, James, knew how to drive the roads. The plantation was beautiful. Our guide Winston was fun and told us more about fruits, coffee, bees, politics, etc then I could ever begin to put down in this review. The pace was a bit slow for me as I usually enjoy more 'adventurous' side trips. But, most of the people, including my mom, where older and we needed to not overdo it for them. I thought it was great that the plantation had a nurse right there on site. Unfortuniately, she was needed when an older gentleman didn't see a raised curb of cement and fell hard on the concrete and hit his head hard enough to start bleeding. It looked like they sent him back down to MoBay in an SUV. We were told that he was going to be okay. They gave us many samples of pineapple and other fruits. Ginger Beer, and pineapple juice made from boiling and squeezing the outer peel of the pineapple. Amazingly good! Even though the pace was slower as I mentioned earlier then I would have liked. It gave me a lot of time to take pictures as I enjoy photography very much. We had time back at the port shops to get a little shopping done and back on the ship to watch the band perform on the dock and watch the ship leave port to a beautiful sunset.
Thursday was another sunny and warm day. We tendered early to meet up with Shirley from Cayman Safari tours. It is a private tour that my sister found from reading Cruise Critic. We loved this tour. We traveled with 2 other couples that were staying on a resort on the island. Mom rode shotgun with Shirley upfront, and the 6 of us rode in back of the open-sided canvas topped jeep. She toke us to the north side of the island away from 7-mile beach. There were 6 ships in port that day, but, where we went you would never know it. Shirley is a multi-generation Caymanian and was full of information and stories. Hurricane Ivan stories - oh my gosh. I can't imagine living through that. Pedro St. James was are first stop. Good place to start since the history of the island is thick there. Next was the botanical gardens. Amazing plant life there and we even were lucky enough to see 5-6 blue iguanas. Then she drove us over to Rum Point for a short stop. Long enough to grab a drink at the bar and get pictures or just relax at the beautiful beach. Then it was on up to the furthest tip of the island where Shirley drove us to a usually never viewed ocean front piece of vista. (Your secret is safe with us Shirley). It was time for lunch at Vivinne's. If you get the chance, you have to go there. This 70 year old woman who just plan loves to cook and does so out of her kitchen and we eat in her "backyard" on tables and overlooking the ocean and a shipwreck out on the reef. Delicious food. Shirley had us back to the port in plenty of time to shop and tender back out to the ship. A great day finished off with a great meal in the Monet.
Friday was Nachi Cocum in Cozumel. It was easy enough to get a taxi and we were there in about 15 minutes. It was very relaxing and the food was good. The weather was sunny and warm again. The other time we were in Cozumel we went to Playa Palancar. It is not an all-inclusive like Nachi, but, they do have a good restaurant there. I don't think I drank and ate enough to make Nachi worth it for me. And I personally liked the secluded feel to the beach over in Playa better. But, don't get me wrong, Nachi was wonderful too. Just comparing. We were suppose to all be aboard the ship by 4:30 as the ship was to leave at 5:00. At 4:30, the both lines to the ship were still very long and we knew there was no way we were leaving on time. Then, we still were waiting with the gangways down at 5:10 when a large group of people casually made their way down the dock. They were in no hurry, so we assumed they were on a cruise-sponsored excursion. But, there was one lady that kept pacing the dock and looking back towards the shop area. She never boarded the ship and finally at 5:25 or so they pulled the gangways in and we backed away leaving her to walk back to the shop area. We heard a woman's name being paged over and over, so we assumed that someone might have been left behind.
Saturday was a sea day and uneventful. More trivia and shows and relaxing. Saturday after our early dining time we came back to a view of thick fog out our balcony door. I mean thick. We couldn't begin to see the front of the ship from our room. You could hear fog horns from our ship as well as others somewhere out there in the fog all night long. As we had been continuously seeing updates on the capsized cruise ship over in Italy throughout the past week, this foggy event had us all feeling a bit uneasy. We knew we had several hours to wind our way up the Mississippi River with other boats to meet up with. But, we woke up to finding ourselves docked and fog thinned out a lot now. Disembarkment was long. We were number 14, and thank heavens we had our 2 free deck of cards from the ship to play about an hour and half worth of games at the casino bar (you cannot wait in your room) before we finally heard our number called. We decided that the thing that was the worst about the wait was that the ship played their "theme song" over the speakers over and over and over. The entire time we were on board the past seven days, they played a wide range of songs and that was really nice. But, the one time we had to set and had nothing else to do but listen to the speakers to wait for our numbers to be called, this is when they stopped that music and repeated the same song for hours. Augh. Oh well. If that is the worst thing I can think of that happened on this trip - well, then I guess we had a great time.
I look forward to traveling with the Conquest and out of New Orleans again.