We decided to take our first cruise during spring break (March 11-19). My family included my husband, son (16) and his friend (16). I had concerns about whether i would enjoy a cruise or not - too crowded? bad food? seasickness? - but we all had a great time and would do it again!!! Here's a quick rundown:
Embarkation: was easy. Arrived about 11, were on the ship by noon. Check in was smooth; however, one problem - they confiscated our cooler. They said it was over the size limit (even tho we saw people with much larger carry-ons, carts, etc that went through). So we had to scramble to put all the cokes, waters, juices and mixers in our other carry-on bags. Next time - we'll take less with us (we ended the week with drinks left over).
Public Spaces: i was really impressed with how clean everything was. Yes, some of the decor is a little dated but that's ok. It was pretty, and it was clean!
Cabins: we booked a balcony on the panorama deck (1006); our boys were in 1004 across the hall, with an ocean view. Their room and bathroom were much larger than ours because that room is also designated as handicap accessible - they loved it! Our cabin was fine - small, but also very clean, plenty of storage. We loved having the balcony (i won't sail without one!) which we used a lot. Sitting on the balcony in the mornings with my coffee, a cigarette and a book was heaven.
Dining: The food was perfectly fine. Some great, some average. We had dinners most nights in the Renoir dining room (late seating), most of those meals were really good. But, it did take a while (especially if you waited for dessert) so a couple of nights we chose to skip the dining room and ate somewhere else. The buffet was, well, a buffet. Some good, mostly just ok food. The fish & chips upstairs was good; the grill serving burgers, hotdogs, etc. was good; the sushi bar was good. Since we all gained a few pounds on this cruise, it's hard to complain about the food!!!
Entertainment: We saw a couple of the adult comedy shows; they were pretty funny and raunchy (definitely not for kids!). We didn't sit through any of the main shows in the big theater. Heard some good live music, and enjoyed watching karaoke one night. We spent some time in the casino. Not a lot, but enought time to win some money and then give it back the last day!
Excursions: day one - Jamaica: we did a private tour to the Jamaica Adventure Canopy Zipline Tour. That was a lot of fun! After the tour, our tour guide offered to take us to a place for lunch, then shopping, then drop us at MargarittaVille for an hour before taking us back to the ship. If you do this zipline tour, i would not recommend going with them in the afternoon. They charged us an additional $10 per person (so $40 for my group) and if we had gone back to the ship we could have taken the hop on/hop off bus over to shop for much less. Plus, the place they took us to shop was probably a friend of theirs, and i didn't think they had very good deals at all!
Day two: Grand Cayman: we did a private tour with Captain Marvins - this was awesome! We snorkeled, dove for conch, swam with stingrays, then went to a private beach club for lunch. Everything was beautiful, this was a great day!This was the day that we tendered from our ship to the shore in smaller boats - we walked right on with no difficulty both ways.
Day three: Cozumel: we did a Carnival Excursion to Isla Passion on the speed boats. Also a great day!!!! Fun on the speed boats, the island was beautiful and not crowded at all. The food and drinks were included. Back to the port with a little time to shop before getting back on the ship.
For our teenagers: i think the O2 club was ok. They met some people there, but then they didn't really do much with the club the rest of the week. They didn't seem to have that many activities that were engaging to them. But both boys had a great week - they used the spa to work out every day, they ate a LOT, they hung out with new friends at the pool or hot tub, one night they watched a movie on deck.
For other first time cruisers: i read a lot of reviews before we went, trying to figure out everything, and they were such a great help! So, here are a few of my observations for you:
first, relax! It's really not that complicated - once you get on board you'll figure it all out!!!
what to take: i'm glad we had the bungie cord (for the balcony door) and the power strip (not enough outlets in the room). Wish we had remembered: binoculars! Things we took that we didn't need: first aid kit, all the clothes and shoes (we probably had a suitcase-full between us that didn't get touched) 4 different seasickness remedies!! I took some oversized mugs (to carry drinks around on the ship) and honestly - after the first day i quit using these. for one - i didn't want to have to keep up with them. And if we were out and about on the ship and we wanted a drink - we just bought one. Reality is - you're on a cruise, you're having fun, so order that $8 drink and enjoy! I'm sure other people will disagree with this - but, i would have saved us a lot of trouble hauling all those drinks to the cabin, and packing the cups, if i had just taken a few things on and bought the rest. That's what i'll do next time!
It was a really relaxing week. We were so lucky with the perfect weather. I never felt crowded, or that we couldn't do something because there were too many people. I loved the variety of all the different activities available, but no pressure at all to participate in them if all we wanted to do was relax on our balcony.We will definitely plan another cruise in the future, and would strongly consider Carnival again and the Conquest too!