We just got back from sailing on the Conquest (1/29 -- 2/5). We discovered cruising in 2008 and absolutely loved our other 2 cruises on Princess. We're in our 50's and fairly active people. We only live about 3 hours away from New Orleans, so when the Conquest was repositioned to NOLA, my DH and I decided to give Carnival a try and gave this cruise to each other for Christmas. I read a lot about the similarities/differences between the 2 lines, but it seemed a lot of reviews on Carnival in general and the Conquest in particular were kind of hit or miss, so was sure hoping that Carnival would meet my expectations...and I'm glad to say that for the most part it did!
We drove in Sunday morning, parked at the Fulton Street Garage and shuttled to the terminal. Good deal for $12 a night. The cruise terminal is nice, but all in all embarkation was SLOW. I think we arrived there around 12:30, which is probably prime time, and while the lines didn't appear to be extremely long, they moved very slowly. Carnival really needs to open up more lines and have more staff devoted to the actual check-in process.
Upon entering the lobby of the ship, I couldn't help but compare and my first impression was that this area seemed rather small, much more crowded and just not as awe inspiring as what we were used to. On Princess, the staff greets you wearing dark jackets and white gloves and it just has an elegant feel to it. On Carnival, the staff wears knit polo shirts. Just a different vibe.
I guess we were in our stateroom about 2:00. We had a great room steward, Sri, who was always out and about and very attentive. The room was pretty much what we expected, and was comparable to Princess, but I definitely liked these beds/bedding much better.
The first night we went to the Point Steakhouse and had an excellent meal. My DH had the herb rubbed ribeye and I had the filet....both were YUM!! It was great to be able to sit back and relax after a fairly hectic day. It wasn't very crowded and yes, they do give you a free bottle of house wine. We left fat and happy.
By Wednesday, I started to shed some of my initial feelings that this cruise was going to be inferior to our Princess cruises and I'm going to try to list some of the positives that we found.
Dining: We had ATD and on the whole were pleased with our food and our service. I've read other reviews about the poor service in the Monet dining room and hate that these folks had bad experiences. For us, dining is a pretty big part of our overall cruise experience, and we thought the food for the most part was good, especially the jumbo prawns, beef wellington, short ribs, grilled mahi, panko crusted shrimp, tiramisu and of course the warm chocolate melting cake. Fortunately, we also found our service to be mostly efficient and pleasant. It was kind of cool to have singing waiters, even for us "anytime" diners and one particularly well built waiter would hop up on a serving platform every night and put on a show. He had some moves, so what's not to like about that??? The other dining options I liked were the sushi bar (it was extra on Princess). I loved getting my sushi and going to the very back of deck 10(where I spent a lot of time)in the evenings to hear the wake of the ship and watch the sunset. That became my "Happy Place". The fresh pizza was very good, the Ruebens were tasty, but have to say, I was really disappointed in the fried oysters at the Fish and Chips place. They were scrawny, greasy and all cornmeal...Yuck...hey but their ceviche was pretty good.
Entertainment: We loved the comedians, especially Cowboy Bill Martin and Ronnie Bullard. They had me in tears at their Adult shows. I liked how Carnival rotated 2 comedians out mid week and brought on 2 more. To us the comedy shows were a real highlight of the cruise. The Illusionist's show was lame in our opinion and we had no interest in the production shows. The house Showband played pretty good R&B and performed at the casino bar, the Past Guest Party and Farewell Party. Both of these parties had free flowing drinks, much to my surprise (loved the blue margaritas). I liked the layout of the Conquest where most of the clubs are in one area of the ship so you could easily go from one to another. The other bands we heard were soso. Loved the MUTS on Princess, but never got a chance to do this on Carnival since we stayed pretty busy with other stuff. All in all, Carnival really seemed to be a more "Fun" ship.
Fellow Passengers: We met some very nice people from all over. I have to say, however, that we saw lots more tattoos and backwards baseball caps on Carnival. Just sayin'....
Debarkation was bad. We were in one of the later groups and apparently they had gotten behind early on, so about 10:15 they called everybody left in one really big group, just to get us off the ship. Well, that resulted in a huge bottleneck in the terminal. We didn't get on the road until 12:30. Not at all happy with that part of things.
Anyway, I'm glad we tried Carnival and for the price and convenience will cruise with them again. Yep, even bought a Future Cruise Credit.