Carnival Conquest Entertainment
Conquest's offerings, from the Vegas-style revues in Toulouse-Lautrec theater (homages to Latin music, Mo-town and the British Invasion) to the classical pianist in the lobby's "Artist Bar," fit the "something for everyone" motto. It seems as if there's always something happening -- whether it's a country musician outside the casino to the Caribbean band on pool deck to big band sounds in the Degas lounge.
Activities tend toward the usual: art auctions, karaoke, "game show mania," ballroom dancing, comedians, bingo, bingo and more bingo. The cruise director offered daily talks on sea days, and he was so funny he even managed to make "sponsored shopping" entertaining.
The show lounge -- named after Moulin Rouge's Toulouse Lautrec -- is wildly whimsical. Encompassing three decks, Toulouse-Lautrec is the main performing venue and is basically busy -- literally and figuratively -- most times of the day and night. The decor is very bodaciously red and gold and inspired by the artist's sketchings from cabarets, brothels, theaters and the circus in Paris' bohemian Montmartre. Flanking the stage are repros of Moulin Rouge's famous windmills. One new evening offering (as of December 2012) is "Hasbro, the Game Show," an interactive event inspired by the TV show "Family Game Night." Think long-popular board games transformed into a 30-minute stage show with passenger participation.
That's the easy-to-find stuff. Off-the-beaten-track venues include one of our favorites, Alfred's. Tucked away on Deck 4, under the disco, it's a great place in the afternoon (where tea is served), and again before dinner for listening (and perhaps dancing) to jazz, torch songs and classical fare. The only negative there is the ventilation in this low-ceilinged room; cigar smoking is permitted and the smell never really goes away. Another lovely, peaceful and never crowded bar venue was at the Point Steakhouse. There's no surcharge just to have a drink at the bar, and it has a better than usual wine and malt scotch selection.
A handful of new bars were added in October 2012. Alchemy Bar is a vintage-themed cocktail "pharmacy" with a passenger participation element. Choose a drink from one of the light-up menus, or create your own by writing down what you'd like on one of the bar's "prescription pads." The new EA Sports Bar, with its video games, 16 46-inch flat-screen TV's and beer, is a serious at-sea man cave.
The popular Seaside Theater is found on Conquest's pool deck. Similar to that developed by Princess Cruises, the 270-square-ft. screen towers over the main pool and shows everything from sporting events to music videos to films. Nearby are the BlueIguana Tequila Bar and the RedFrog Rum Bar, which are designed similarly but focus on drinks with the respective liquors found in their names. Both venues, which were added in October 2012, are open day and night.
This is a ship that definitely gets revved-up as the night wears on. Highlights include midnight buffets (one of the few cruise lines to still offer them), R-rated comedy acts in the George Lopez branded comedy club, and frenetic dancing at Henri's disco.
The Polynesian world of post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin is re-created in the Tahiti Casino. Beams and columns of bamboo and wood, and cast thatch ceiling panels impart the feeling of a Tahitian village with colorful jungle-motif fabrics and rich wood tones add to the ambience.
Gauguin's Bar, Carnival Conquest's sports bar, carries on the Tahitian theme from the adjacent casino, but incorporates more wall murals of Gauguin's paintings. Henri's takes its theme from the exotic jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau. Muted reds, golds and greens dominate the fabrics and window treatments, while the carpet is a colorful, cartoon-like pattern of animals peeking from behind bright green leaves of grass.
Carnival Conquest Public Rooms
Navigating the public areas of Carnival Conquest is pretty straightforward. Deck 5 is a central place to meet and greet hosting, most of the main attractions such as the casino, Montmartre (the kids' disco), Henri's (the disco), an arcade and Latour (the wine bar). At the end is a cluster of nightclubs, including Blues, with Carnival's trademark sing-along piano bar; Degas, a second show-room; and Vincent's. Gauguin's Bar, right off the casino, is somewhat confusing; it's exotically decorated in the style of the artist's Tahiti period ... but it's easy to be distracted by the numerous television screens overhead blaring sports highlights.
The Promenade Deck is also home to the shops, all selling usual cruise fare from Carnival insignia-wear to a pretty huge selection of duty-free booze, perfume and jewelry. Cherry on Top, done up in candy-cane red and white, was added in October 2012. It sells all manner of sweets by the quarter pound in the "scoop it from a plastic box" fashion. (Individual boxes of Sweet Tarts, giant lollies and chocolate candy are on offer, too.) Tux rentals and flowers for purchase are also available there.
The atrium is beautiful. Dominated by the Artists' Lobby, there's a gorgeous hand-painted mural with numerous scenes from Impressionist masterpieces. Illuminated Murano glass pieces add color and whimsy. The Atelier Atrium spans 10 decks, topped with a huge skylight.
Even more of a hideaway (took three efforts to find it) is the ship's 24-hour Internet cafe. (There's also bow-to-stern Wi-fi.) There are six terminals. Pay-as-you go Internet is $0.75 a minute, but you can bring the cost down to $0.30 if you buy 1,000 minutes ($300). There is a $3.95 activation fee the first time you log on.
Other miscellany includes self-service launderettes. It's $3 for a wash, $2.75 for a dry and $1.50 for detergent. On Deck 4 there's the Gallery, which doubles as a meeting room and wedding venue. One underused room is the Salon, the highlight of which is a fireplace (fake of course). The photo gallery is huge and takes up much of the space around the atrium on Deck 4. There's a library but it's tiny and has only four bookcases -- hardly enough to serve a ship that carries more than 3,000 passengers, so plan to travel with your own reading material.
Carnival Conquest Spa & Fitness
For a ship this contemporary -- and this large -- the spa and fitness facility is a conundrum. It has all the atmosphere of a 1970's YMCA: low ceilings and thinner-than-tissue walls between treatment rooms. New here is a stand-alone boutique selling all manner of Steiner beauty and fitness products.
Oddly enough, the fitness facility is accessible only via mens and womens locker rooms so you must wind your way through narrow corridors, then a locker room filled with people, then another narrow corridor, to come out into the fitness part of the operation. There seemed at most times to be plenty of weight machines, a whole area devoted to spin cycling (extra fee for classes), and a workout area for aerobics and yoga. Men and women share access to the in-spa whirlpool -- which is actually kind of neat, set into a glassed-in nook that overlooks the workout room with a rock wall that's supposed to have a waterfall (it was broken on our cruise). There are
two whirlpools -- one's huge and one's average in size.
Men and women have their own dedicated sauna and steam rooms. A notable inclusion is a couples' massage room, the first in the Carnival fleet.
The Steiner-operated spa offers the usual treatments. Interesting note: At this facility there is a day-of-embarkation special that results in a 15 percent discount if you book your treatment for the cruise's first night. Also, beware: There were quite long lines of people waiting to make appointments the first two days. Our advice is to head to the spa as soon as possible after embarkation and make your choices then.
As with most Steiner spas, some fitness classes are free of charge while others, notably yoga and spin classes, have a $12 fee attached.
The pool deck is pretty expansive and it seems as if there's room for everyone. Multi-tiered, there was some chair-saving but not too much; partly because you have to sign out your towels and are responsible for returning them or are charged $22, people weren't too cavalier about leaving them around. There are two pools and three larger-than-usual whirlpools.
Just beyond the Cezanne Restaurant is the ship's covered pool, plus another two expansive whirlpools.
Above, there's a jogging track, a half-sized basketball court and a volleyball net. There's also a golf center where an onboard pro will help analyze your swing and sets up golf outings to island courses when in port.