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Sail Date: June 2005
This was our second cruise and our first with Carnival. My husband and myself were traveling with my parents and sister. We decided to try the Sensation out of New Orleans due to our close proximity to this port. Embarkation: We arrived ... Read More
This was our second cruise and our first with Carnival. My husband and myself were traveling with my parents and sister. We decided to try the Sensation out of New Orleans due to our close proximity to this port. Embarkation: We arrived at the port around 11:30. We had a difficult time locating the parking/unloading area. We drove in circles for quite some time and finally found it by following another luggage loaded truck that was lost too! After going through all the procedures we arrived on the ship around 1:00. Ship Experience: The ship was very clean. Someone was constantly cleaning some where on board. Our room was spacious and offered plenty of storage space. The only problem we had was with the ventilation in the bathroom. Our "vent" didn't seem to work and would often cause our cabin to be rather warm after taking showers. The Sensation has the new Carnival bedding. The duvet and pillows were very comfortable. I found the ship layout to be a bit confusing. It took me several days to locate all of the "hidden" areas and determine which floor I needed to go to. I noticed I wasn't the only one with this problem, several people commented on the elevator about not knowing where to go. I was worried about the movement that would be felt on the Sensation after reading several other reviews. We did feel a lot of movement during various parts of our cruise. It was especially noticeable on the Mississippi and when leaving Cozumel. Dining: We had late dinner seating. When we arrived on board we were assigned early seating and had to stand in line for 30+ minutes to have it changed (even though we had requested late). The food in the dining room was well presented and tasty. Some nights were a little better than others, but overall the dining room experience was well worth it. There was always something yummy available on board through the buffet, pizza, deli, or room service. We didn't go hungry. Ports: Our first stop was Calica which is not a very developed port. We went on the Tulum express excursion. It was extremely hot, and the mosquitoes were vicious! Our second stop was Cozumel which was wonderful. The weather was perfect, our beach break was relaxing, I just wish we could have stayed in port longer! Debark: Our vacation was wonderful until we got off the boat. We weren't prepared to stand in the New Orleans humidity for over an hour waiting on the buses to take us back to our parked car. This was the only negative area of our cruise that will make us rethink sailing from New Orleans. Carnival needs to rethink their contract with the parking company. Overall: Our family had a wonderful time on this cruise and made many happy memories. The Sensation is a good ship for her age and a great value for the price! It was a good ship for the first time cruisers in our group to get "addicted" to cruising with! I think our next cruise will be on a larger ship in a different port. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
I would like to start out by saying that we LOVED our cruise. This was my second and my husband's first time cruising. We were very skeptical due to the reviews we had read about the ship but were pleasantly surprised on how they were ... Read More
I would like to start out by saying that we LOVED our cruise. This was my second and my husband's first time cruising. We were very skeptical due to the reviews we had read about the ship but were pleasantly surprised on how they were wrong. Although the ship is dated and worn we managed to overlook those characteristics. We found the staff absolutely wonderful and friendly. The Maitre D', Peter, was fabulous and our room steward, Dora, was friendly and efficient. Each time we left our room and returned, it was clean. The only negative experience was w/ the Seaview Bar and Grill. The food was usually not the correct temperature- pastas were warm/main dishes were cold/desserts were always warm. The ice cream bar was awful. luckily, we are not huge soft serve fans. The Ecstasy dining room was nice. Although we did not like being crammed six people to a booth. Our waiter was nice, efficient, and by the end of the week knew all my likes and dislikes; he was great at recommending desserts. I don't think we would cruise back to Mexico because there was not enough time to do cultural tours. We did take an excursion to Chichen-Itza but the bus ride is extremely long and they stop at the local tourist trap where the refuse to barter with you. I would have much rather paid a taxi to drive us there, eat at a local restaurant, and shop with the locals. The tour itself was very thorough but we were behind schedule and therefore were not able to see all the ruins or walk around exploring. Our next stop was Cozumel which we did not like very much. It is a huge tourist trap. My husband and I love to bargain hunt...you wont find much of that there. Overall, we had a great time and are planning are next cruise on Carnival right now. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
We really enjoyed the dining options and experience on this cruise. Others said the food was too bland - and I understand their reasoning after tasting gumbo without any kick - but overall I thought everything was great. We came to rely on ... Read More
We really enjoyed the dining options and experience on this cruise. Others said the food was too bland - and I understand their reasoning after tasting gumbo without any kick - but overall I thought everything was great. We came to rely on our waiter in the Monet Dining Room, because his advice was always right on the mark. A sugar-free dessert was available every night, which I appreciated, but at least once it was terrible. Again - should have listened to the waiter. But WHEN it was terrible, he was happy to bring another option to replace it. The kids' programs were a major disappointment. The staff and their agendas couldn't seem to grab the attention of our kids. We were traveling with other families who also had kids, and none of the kids seemed to stick with the kids programs. That left the adults having more kid time than originally planned. The Las Vegas style entertainment put some of our party off, but my husband and I enjoyed it. The "adults only" routines late at night were not enjoyable, and we stopped attending. We never understood the attraction to bingo that other cruisers had, and gambling isn't our thing, so that cut out a big chunk of the amusements that the ship had to offer as well. The pools were small and filled with salt-water, which disappointed our kids - but they had never cruised before. Carnival's drink card system was a rip off and a bummer. My husband purchased one because he is a big Diet Coke fan, but he found that he was treated like a second-class citizen whenever he order one at a show. Those who purchased sodas got a glass and a full can, while he got a small glass, full of ice, with a couple of drinks of soda. The staff worked hard to keep all areas of the ship clean. Pools were scrubbed nightly. Our cabin steward did a great job twice a day and my husband wanted to take him home. Our kids loved the towel animals he left each night. There were a lot of excursions to choose from, and the cruise director did a good job at an on-board session in which he explained the options. We had planned to spend no money on these excursions, since there were four of us and the excursions cost between $25 and $80+ each. We ended up going out on our own during our morning in Jamaica - but the taxi system (waiting until the car was FULL) was a problem at first and the City Centre shopping was just a fenced duty-free area full of watches and jewelry that we had no interest in. We ended up at Margaritaville, which we found to be a haven. Later that day in Jamaica, we went on the 4x4 Safari, which we felt to be unsafe. The cruise line had overbooked our excursion, and the vendors spent quite a while trying to deal with that. The vehicles didn't seem safe, particularly when they were out on roads out of the city. I worried a lot about the risk I had brought upon my family. We did see some of the Jamaican countryside, but it just wasn't that great. Our relatives did the Pirate Ship excursion that morning in Jamaica, and they really enjoyed it. We ran into them at Margaritaville. They were traveling with 2 kids ages 14 and 18. At Grand Cayman, some of our family did the Stingray Tour and loved it. The rest did the 2-hour sightseeing trip and found it interesting - but there is an awful lot of devastation from the hurricane last year. We also had no problem walking around the port area and getting lunch there. At Cozumel, there is a small shopping area at Puerto Maya where the ship docks. This area is reportedly owned by Carnival, which we found interesting. I guess they are into controlling and profiting from the on-shore shopping of the passengers. We checked out all the shops, then took a $10 taxi to Chankaanab, a federal park just down the road. Entry to Chankanab is $12 per adult, less for children. The park is well kept and offers snorkeling and scuba and a beach, but the shore is rocky and you have to enter the water through a couple stairs. There is a diving platform just off shore. The kids enjoyed the snorkeling, but it would have been a good idea to bring our own snorkeling equipment - or at least our own tubes - rather than rely on the rented equipment. Drink vendors circulate among the beach chairs and there are sit-down open-air restaurants as well. Other members of our group did the Passion Island beach excursion with their small children and enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
Just got off the Conquest. Had mixed expectations due to the different message boards here. Most expectations were high, and most were met. Parking - Go with Machu Picchu Tours. The couple we rode with wanted to try parking on there own. ... Read More
Just got off the Conquest. Had mixed expectations due to the different message boards here. Most expectations were high, and most were met. Parking - Go with Machu Picchu Tours. The couple we rode with wanted to try parking on there own. Luckily I had printed out info from Machu's website and after they dropped us off to go find parking, they went to Macchu - not sure of spelling - sorry. Embarkation - easy - ate lunch on the ship. You can definitely get on early. Room Steward was good. He removed everything from the fridge and we put our own beverages in there. Beds are super hard - I was sore the whole time from sleeping on it. There are no pads to soften them according to "Ivor." Dining - Monet 8:00 seating. Food was GREAT!!! Creme Brulee is the best. Order two up front. Several nights I either ordered 2 starters or 2 entrees. No problem. Get what you want. Shrimp dishes and seafood dishes were always enjoyed. Food was plenty hot, soup was too. Flourless chocolate cake was very good - very rich. Cheesecake was not good at all to me. Had something wrapped in phyllo it was yummy too. Chocolate bar stinks!!!!! THe show "Formidable" should be forbidden. It was pointless. THe others were good. Montego Bay - Sunset Beach is the best!!! Paid our 20.00 and had all the drinks and food we could stand. The drive was less than 5 min by cab. We stayed there and relaxed all day long - no worries. Grand Cayman - Booked Stingray City tour through Capt. Bryan. Had the Hannibal - giant trimaran - it was the best boat we saw out there. We lucked out and got the hammock up front. Our guide was great, as was the trip. It was the most relaxing, as he put up the sails and we sailed for about 40 min to the sandbar, and then sailed back in. The town was super crowded since 10 or so ships had docked. Just got back in line to get on the ship after the excursion. Went down early to get a tender number. Got to port 45 min early - not much to do. Cozumel - Paradise Beach - Rocky and the water was brown from all the jetskis etc. It was relaxing, and the drinks were great, but probably would not go there again - very crowded - but of course it was Spring Break. No complaints about it, just would do something else next time. Disembarkation was a nightmare here. We had started disembarkation when the Valor came to dock, so they closed off the gangway and we had to wait at least an hour - in a crowded line - to get off the boat. Lots had missed their excursions or had them cut short. Many unhappy campers. All in all I have no complaints about the cruise. I gained 8 pounds - and I am a small (105lb) woman - so that tells you how much I enjoyed the dinners!! I felt the ship was a little too big for me - although there is always something to do. Funny how you do tend to run into some of the same faces everywhere, and then you can't find some others you are looking for. Workout room is very good - unfortunately I was only there on Monday when it rained. Drinks are overpriced and not worth the money. Take your own if you want to drink. That was not my priority, so I only tried the pina colada (good by cruise standards), a mudslide (very good - compared to the other), and one other something that was okay. They said there were over 1000 kids 18 and under. I only saw about 50 of them on a regular basis. They must have been the rebels who did not partake of the planned activities. Kids were generally not a problem. Misc: ship was clean, staff were friendly and smiled, said excuse me. etc. All in all a great trip, just feels like something was lacking - can't put my finger on it though. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
This was a very last minute cruise. Booked on Sunday and left on Saturday. I have been on 86 cruises so far so I guess I am a tough customer when it comes to my expectations. But one thing I learned many cruises ago, it is usually up to ... Read More
This was a very last minute cruise. Booked on Sunday and left on Saturday. I have been on 86 cruises so far so I guess I am a tough customer when it comes to my expectations. But one thing I learned many cruises ago, it is usually up to you whether you like it or not. I think that any cruise is a great way to spend some time away. Sure some are better than others but give me a day at sea and a deck chair and I am one happy guy. Port of New Orleans - I live in Pensacola so it was a short 3 hour drive to the port (ok - 2.5 hours - LOL). Please be aware that the parking lot adjacent to the pier is gone (construction site now). You have to park a few blocks away at a cost of $12 per day. Carnival had baggage check-in at the parking facility and offered bus shuttle to the pier. Be warned. The baggage check-in is fine. But one bus shows up every 10-15 minutes and it is a pushfest to get on. If it is a nice day, walk. Go around the convention center, up the stairs/escalator/elevator to Riverwalk, and out the side door. Embarkation - I learned a long time ago not to be in a rush to get on the ship. We went for a walk and had lunch. Got back to the pier about 2:30pm. Breezed right up to the check-in counter and we were onboard in less than 10 minutes. Ship - Well, this is typical Carnival. VERY busy interior. My travelling companion asked if the designer was on crack? The public rooms feature myriad colors - some that simply don't mix. But, it seems to suit the market. The hideous sculpture that was in the atrium has been replaced with the atrium bar now being installed in all Fantasy class ships. One question - does the ship really need another bar - there is one on every corner? My opinion - the ship needs one quiet place besides the poorly stocked library. There is no place - and I mean no place - inside or out - to go for some peace and quiet. That is unless you want to be a cabin hermit. Get ready to shout to have conversations. The ship was decorated in the early 90s. I am not sure purple and gold and pink and red and green and yellow and blue and black where ever this popular back then. Certainly not mixed all together with neon blue lighting to "set the mood". Food - Boy has Carnival really improved. The lido food was hot, tasty, and good (not extensive) selection. The evening offering in the Seaview was fantastic and we ate there every night. The bright red neon of the dining room was too much for us and the 5:45pm time we were assigned was just too early. 24 hour ice cream was a big hit with one of my party. The Seaview bistro only has 2 buffet lines but we never encountered a long wait. The burger and hot dogs outside by the pool were also tasty and rarely had any lines. Room service was prompt and the food was about what you'd expect. I do think the easy-bake-oven brownies need some attention. One frustration - the ice machines seemed to be having a bad week. One or more were broken every day. Tip - dilute the lemonade before drinking it. You will have a spasm behind your ears with the first sip and every orifice on your body will pucker. You've been warned. Entertainment - All in all - very good and very Carnival. Juggler, magician, singer, comedians, and HIGH energy production shows. The production shows were great (themes were a bit nebulous). The dancing was tight and the singing was actually first rate. Two words to describe the entertainment offered onboard - frenetic and LOUD. A walk down Sensation Boulevard is an assault on all your senses. You may find yourself drained by the stimuli. Certainly allow some time for the ringing in your ears to subside. Service - Didn't have any problems. Most of the staff was friendly and smiled. Efficient courtesy would sum it up. The usual snotty person at the pursers desk (do they have power or something?). A friend in an adjacent cabin had a shower head that spewed like a hose. Reported it and it was fixed promptly. Boy does Carnival need to replace the TVs in the cabins. Ours had a mysterious green hue to it. Maybe it was my damaged retinas from the ship's decor. Carnival now has duvets rather than bedspreads and I think they have upgraded the towels as they were soft and fluffy. Bed was comfy and pillow was wonderful. A goody basket of samples is in the bathroom and shampoo and conditioner is provided. Towel animals will greet you when you return in the evening. In yet another revenue generating move - you can purchase a book on how to make towel animals. Guess you can put that with the cruise video and never look at them again once you get home. Debarkation - HOOOORAAAAYYYY. No more waiting for your color to be called. The new process is if you have your own luggage, you can get off around 8am. Otherwise, at about 8:45am they give the signal that you can start getting off. We waited until about 920am. We were off the ship and on our way to the parking facility in less and 15 minutes. FANTASTIC !!!!! I think there might be people still waiting for the bus shuttle back to the parking garage - try to walk it if you can. Summary - Great cruise for active people looking for a Vegas type environment. Not for people wanting some peace and quiet. I had a great time and you will too if you go with the right mind. Carnival delivers what they promise and they don't try to be more than they are. For that, I say great job. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
Where to begin. Took this trip with family and some friends. We booked a night in the Maison St Charles hotel in downtown New Orleans. Not a 5 star hotel by any means, but they do store your car for you while on the cruise for only $5 a ... Read More
Where to begin. Took this trip with family and some friends. We booked a night in the Maison St Charles hotel in downtown New Orleans. Not a 5 star hotel by any means, but they do store your car for you while on the cruise for only $5 a night. They also take you in a limo to the ship, but the limo was on its last legs and too many people were signed up, meaning we waited over an hour after our show time before we even got in the limo. Then another 40 minutes to the ship, mostly waiting in traffic. But once we got to the port, things went smoothly....Carnival has the check in process down pretty well. Ran into one snag, though, we had requested a 6:15 p.m. dining time but were given a 5:45 time due to our cabin number (dining rooms are assigned by cabin). But the person checking us in didn't know this, so we didn't discover the reason until after we boarded. Days at sea were wonderful. The Spa/gym is the best we've seen, and the staff there was very friendly. We worked out almost daily, so a functional gym was important to us. All the equipment was state of the art and none of it was broken! We also took advantage of many of the Spa amenities, such as pedicures, facials, etc. They were all very good, but the staff is constantly pushing their high priced products on you, so politely decline and tell them you already have nice products! Our cabin steward was very friendly, but he didn't prepare the room very well the first night (we found candy wrappers and cigarette butts). After that he did a good job of keeping the room clean and turning up the bed at night (he didn't do it the first night). He also made fantastic looking animals out of towels every night! We ate in the Monet dining room at night, and usually had room service or went to the Lido deck for the buffet for the other meals. Although the service was good, we found the food, especially in the Monet, to be average at best. The deserts were consistently not very good, but the main courses normally were OK. The deli food, however, was always excellent, and we recommend you hit it at least 1-2 times during your trip. Ditto for the pizza parlor. We did some shopping on the ship, but found out prices/selections at the ports were usually better, especially for jewelry. Save your money for the ports, particularly Cozumel, where the jewelry prices seemed to be the best. The shows on the ship were OK, but be forewarned that the "Las Vegas" style shows are NOT appropriate for children. They don't go topless or anything, but the sexual innuendo will offend some people and it wasn't something we would want to expose our kids to. We had heard a lot of bad things about Jamaica, so we opted to go to the Sunset Beach Resort, which is about a mile from the ship dock(and a $5 per couple taxi ride, and they don't give you a price break if you share with a another couple, so take 2 cabs!). You pay a very reasonable $20 to use the resort all day long, and this price includes all the food (burgers, chicken, fries, etc) and drinks you can consume (although we found the alcoholic drinks to be pretty watered down). Grand Cayman was great. Before the cruise we opted to get away from the crowds and booked (over the internet) a tour with Geddes Hislop though Silver Thatch Excursions (google it to find the web site). Geddes was great. He charged about 1/3 what other "independent" tour operators charged and showed us the entire island except 7 mile beach (which we weren't interested in seeing). He specializes in ecological tours and will teach you a lot about the flora, fauna, and history of the island. And don't forget to ask him to tell you about the island's gene pool! Anyway, you will love this guy, who is down to earth and interested in you, not your money. Cozumel had the best shopping of the trip. Took a cab downtown and bought my wife a nice diamond/Tanzanite ring for less than 50% retail. Be careful of the vendors outside the dock, though. We were in one T-shirt shop and a seashell fell off the shelf when I just touched it (with my shirt), immediately the shop keeper came over and demanded I pay for it (which we did, as he had already started to dial his cell phone to call the police). Needless to say, I didn't buy anything (else) from that shop! Breakfast the last morning (Sunday) in the Monet was interesting. Seemed like the normal dining room staff was off, as we were served by people we had never seen before. Decided after about 5 minutes of bumbling service that they must have been in training, as their main goal was to get us served and out of there as quickly as possible. Also their demeanor wasn't the greatest, cracking jokes they thought were funny, but we didn't. As I said, interesting. Debarkation in New Orleans was pretty smooth. We were among the last off, and most of the luggage was picked up by the time we got to it. Highly recommend you engage a porter to take your luggage, as he will get a taxi for you, bypassing all the people standing in line on their own! Overall we enjoyed the cruise, but since we like to cruise out of New Orleans, will try another line (perhaps NCL) next time to see if they are better or worse than Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Background: We were on the Conquest on 1/9/2005. We are a family of two adults (mid 30's) and two children ages 4 and 2. We flew out of O'Hare International. We traveled with my parents and their best friends. New Orleans: We ... Read More
Background: We were on the Conquest on 1/9/2005. We are a family of two adults (mid 30's) and two children ages 4 and 2. We flew out of O'Hare International. We traveled with my parents and their best friends. New Orleans: We enjoyed our time in New Orleans. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel which was very nice. The staff was great. They called our room after we had been there about a ½ hour and told us to have a nice visit and to hit the button on the phone if we needed anything. If you have the money (my DF used his travel points) it is a very nice place to stay. We had a FANTASTIC meal at the Gumbo Shop. I would recommend this to anyone. We had a party of 6 adults and 2 kids, so we were able to sample from one another and each dish was excellent. The gumbo itself is especially A+. The hotel set up babysitting that night for our children and the sitter, Chendreka, was really nice. The kids loved her and I would recommend Dependable Kid Care to anyone. We adults went to K Paul's Louisiana Kitchen. WOW! Yummy, Yummy food. I personally had the Fillet and it was like butter. I had heard mixed reviews and am so glad we went. What a treat. We also went to Mothers the day we disembarked. Excellent Po Boys, very good service. They gave the kids free brownies and cookies and the servers do not accept tips. Very much worth the ½ hour wait. I would eat there again in a heartbeat. I must say that New Orleans smells like garbage. All of the garbage cans were overflowing. They streets constantly smelled like sewage/urine, or really good food. It was weird. It is unfortunate as the buildings are beautiful. There is a lot of street entertainment and also tarot card readers every five steps. Some of the street shows were interesting. It is just a bit unfortunate that there is such poverty around. The McDonalds we went into for the kids actually required a token to use the bathroom. There was a bum hanging out in the MCD who kept touching my children, shaking their hands. He sat by us while they ate their ice cream and then picked up some person's left over Happy Meal toy hat and PUT IT ON my son's head. I was livid!!! Gross! Now I had to sanitize their hands and my sons head!! Funny thing is, on the day we returned, we passed him on the street on the way to Mothers. Daughter was in the stroller and DH picked up son to avoid any more touching. He spotted us, walked over and started asking my son who the boss was. It was all kind of creepy. I do not know if we will visit NOLA again. Maybe just DH and I for some partying. It was just too dirty, which is sad because I really thought it was a place we would really love. I had Anne Rice novels in my head! Embarkation: Very easy. We arrived around 10:00 a.m. There was an issue getting there by taxi due to the construction. Our cabby was quite annoyed having to wait nearly a ½ hour to drop us off. Some cabs were zipping around to the left and our cabby stated that the last time he did that, he got a $75 ticket for dropping off in the pick up line! Once we did get out, there were a thousand people trying to leave. I think we arrived too early. We sat in the yellow chairs and they were not even accepting the new people yet. They did open up for us around 10:45 a.m. We were on the ship by 11:30ish. We went to our room to drop our luggage and went up to the lido to eat. All of our alcohol made it fine. We brought a wine, a champagne and water bottles with gin and vodka. The Ship: The ship is nice. The lobby is very pretty with a view of many floors. We went to our 4C cabin on the 6th floor and were a little shocked by the size. We have had a balcony for two in the past and an inside for four is small. We met our room steward and asked him to take the mattress off of the bunk and put it on the floor. His name was Wendal from St. Vincent and he was excellent. He moved around our room so that the kids could share a bed on the floor. The bunks that come out of the ceiling are not for kids under 6. When he was done making our bed a king, putting a mattress on the floor, removing the stuff from the fridge and giving us extra hangers, we gave him $10 bucks. What a trooper he was. Through out the week he made good friends with the kids. He made them smiley face cookies most nights. Every time the kids saw him they both chimed, "Hi Mister Wendal." He would smile and tell us how he missed his child. There is not a lot of open space on the ship. It felt a little closed off compared to our last experience. There is no deck in which you can walk the length of. They all go indoors at some point. We really enjoyed walking around the whole ship on the outside of the ship previously and were a little disappointed that it was not possible here. There were more windows than railings. It was a little hard on us as we were in an inside room this time around. The whole cruise was incredibly windy and it was just not possible to sit outside by the lobby on deck 3 or by the spa on deck 11. These areas were cyclones!! We had to sit around the pool where there is a lot of activity. We will definitely stick with a balcony from now on. We are used to Royal Caribbean, so it was a bit glitzy for us, but this is what we expected. I would warn against anyone staying on deck 6 forward. We could hear the show in our room. Every song, every laugh. Really consider where you are and look at what is above and below! Carnival does not do a good job of sound proofing rooms that are near loud public entertainment areas. First Two Days at Sea: Very nice, very relaxing. I loved lying in the sun. The kids enjoyed the camp. Everyone was happy. Formal night went well. The kids got to eat with the camp. It is nice to have two days at sea so that one can see the whole ship. DH comments that the running track was very nice, even nicer than our last cruise. MoBay: Sunset Beach was FABULOUS! The kids just ate up the ocean/beach experience, as did the adults. On our way to Sunset, our taxi driver asked us if we wanted to see Jamaica. We agreed that he would pick the 8 of us up at 2 p.m. and give us an hour tour. We talked him down to $5 per person excluding the two kids. It was an interesting tour. There is so much poverty in MoBay. I am glad we were at an all inclusive. The drinks at Sunset were strong and the food was good. That Jerk Chicken is crazy hot. We brought our own snorkel gear and the snorkeling was good out by the rock barrier. I would like to cruise to Ocho Rios, but will never do a land vacation in Jamaica. Note: We were told we did not have to take our ID's off the ship and the ship advised against it in MoBay, but, Sunset was not happy to take my travelers checks without a picture ID. They actually wanted to write down my driver's license number on the check. I was very uncomfortable with this. My mom had brought her license and they wrote her number down on the check. From what I understand, that is not standard practice and legally they could not deny the use of the check. Who knows...I certainly had no problem spending them at any other point on the cruise without a picture ID or DL#. Grand Cayman: When we got off the ship it was raining. We got soaked on the walk to Captain Marvin's. By the time we got on the boat to go to the sandbar, the sun was shining as it did for the rest of the day!!! The stingrays are awesome. The snorkeling at Coral Gardens was OK. Very good clarity, but not much to see. Note: While the Captain Marvin's crew was nice, the boat was outdated. You have to go over a bench and up and down a ladder with your fins on to get in and out. Other charters with the same number of passengers had boats that you just walk off the back of. I did hear that CM lost a boat or two in the hurricane, maybe this was an older boat? I am not sure. Cozumel: Our favorite port by far. The weather was an awesome 90 degrees. We went to Paradise Beach and met Tom. He is very nice. We had good conversation. There was a Northern wind our whole time in the Caribbean and it was really wreaking havoc on PB. There were large waves that were knocking the kids down (they did not care) and there was zero visibility for snorkeling. But...the sun was warm and the food was excellent. Great guacamole and great nachos. If we stop in Coz again, we would do a snorkeling adventure and then head on over to PB to finish out the day. We found some great deals at the vendors on the way back and got some necklaces for the kids and another carved mask for our wall. We bought a huge amount of vanilla for 12 bucks and also Khalua Especial for 14 in the duty free. Both were very good prices. Last Day at Sea: We were looking forward to our last day at sea as a day for lounging in the pools and the sun but woke to the cold and wind. To Camp Carnival the kids went and off to the spa were we. The spa pool/whirlpool is nice and hot (the pool area ones are lukewarm) and also coed. We relaxed there for a couple of hours. This was the second time I had been in the spa whirlpool when it was empty. I felt bad for the kids as they wanted to swim one last time, but that was not happening. Later we packed and had our last dinner. Our server was Iggy from Bali India and he gave us signed pictures of the Conquest and we bid one another farewell. That part is always so sad. Disembarkation: As luck would have it, we were the last people called!! We did not get off until 11:15. They did not start calling floors until 10 a.m. We missed our cemetery tour we had planned on taking, but did not pre book it just for that reason. Oh well. Not the end of the world. We dropped our luggage of at Rush It Courier Service and they took our bags to the airport for $5 a bag. The bags were all in fine condition when we picked them up. This service was very nice since we did not have to be at the airport until 4 p.m. We took the street car from the pier to the FQ and walked around Jackson Sq before heading to Mothers. Then we were off to the snow. MSY is a much smaller airport than ORD and it was nice to not have to deal with the hustle and bustle. The Weather: We will never leave from a cold port again. Nola was about 65/70. The first day at sea was 70 and the last day at sea was only 65. People were wearing jeans and long sleeves. It was depressing to only have four hot days out of seven. We LOVED leaving out of San Juan as it was HOT HOT HOT. From the time we flew in till we flew out, it was mid 80s. I really expect no less from the Caribbean except in times of storm. Lucky for us all three ports were pushing 85. I am nervous to go out of Miami now, and unless we are doing the Canada tour, we will never leave out of New York. Just seems like a waste when you really are looking forward to hot weather. The Food: Lukewarm. All of the food was served lukewarm. I do not know if it never got hot, or if it was delivered very slowly. We had heard over and over that the food is pretty bad and I would have to agree. It is average food. This really did not bother me. I do not expect much more out of a 3600 passenger ship. I was disappointed by the desserts. I had a very good carrot cake from the Lido dessert table on day three and good chocolate cake on the last night of dinner. Otherwise, none of the desserts were sweet. It was as if the ship had run out of sugar! We spoke with several others who agreed that the desserts left something to be wanted. Maybe it was just our week? I was disappointed. On the other hand our servers were great. I have previously mentioned Iggy. He made the kids Origami and played tricks with their napkins. The bar server always brought them a Sprite. We really enjoyed our time at dinner due to the staff. Room service was quite lacking. There was about 15 items to choose from. We were used to being able to order what ever breakfast/lunch/dinner was in the dining room, so this was disappointing. You could not even get an egg for breakfast!! Be prepared to get up really early on port days if you want more than a bread type item. You will have to go to Lido or dinning room. Camp Carnival: My kids really enjoyed Camp Carnival. Unfortunately, there were only 100 kids on the ship and only 14 were 2-5. They were in the playroom alone a lot. They did really enjoy it though with the pizza parties and crafts and temp tattoos. The counselors were very nice and caring. They always had a big smile and a new activity for the kids. They also gave away blue Camp Carnival backpacks wrapped as presents on the last day. The slumber party sitting is nice for nighttime fun. DH and I were able to go out and enjoy ourselves. Since it is sleepover type, my four year old did not sleep, but instead played. It was hard to wake him the next morning. Just a thought to keep in mind! The Show and Steve Cassel: The Conquest Dancer shows were terrible. Phat Cat was very funny in his comedies and the juggler Manuel Zuniga was fantastic! Steve Cassel is odd ... but he grows on you. He is also a very good juggler. We did not attend the marriage show or survivor type show, but my parents did and really enjoyed them. They also stated that the talent show was a blast. I wish we could have done these things, but it did not happen with the toddlers. Overall Pros and Cons: Pros -- Even though it is a large ship, we saw the same people over and over again. Makes it feel like home. Karaoke is a blast and is done every night. Each port has an ample amount of stuff to do so that you could revisit them on other cruises and not feel cheated. Ice cream/Frozen yogurt MANIA. Carnival has friendly down to earth people sailing its ships. I really loved the art. The ship has a lot of nice art in stairwells. The bathrooms were bigger than RCI. They really should consider getting glass doors for the shower like RCI has. The water on the floor is really annoying. The closet space was more than enough for four people. The professional pictures are really great. They are pricey at $19.99 for an 8x10, but hey, we were on vacation. I was very impressed with the photography. We were able to put whatever size cash deposit on our account. We only put down the $180 that we had allotted for ship spending. That was very nice since I read and was told by 800-Carnival that we would need $400 or $500 (reports varied). Also ... there are many stories about credit card holds and that it is $250 per activated card. We were told by the purser that the amount is $50 per person. We had already brought our cash with us though due to the varying reports. (We would have used our checking account but were told by Carnival online, Carnival 800# and members of CC, that at the start of our cruise, $500 would be held for two activated sign and sail accounts.) We really did have a wonderful vacation though some of it was lost to taking care of toddlers and their tantrums. I just was not blown away in any one category. I wish I had more to rave about. Cons: Orange bedspreads, pink trim, red carpet ... all in one room. WHY? Less than average food that is never hot. Bad desserts. Cold weather port = two cold days at sea. I had heard of all the places to eat ... Paul's Deli, Sur Mer, PC Wok ... etc. ... but, they are all just window counters around the Lido deck ... not actual restaurants with their own seating. On the Adventure of the Seas, Johnny Rockets and the Pizzeria were actual four walled restaurants with tables. I got a little sick of dining in the Lido. Even the Midnight Gala Buffet and the Chocolate Buffet was in the Lido! Come on ... doesn't that merit the use of a dining room? Not to keep comparing to the Adventure of the Seas ... but the AOS midnight buffet was in the main dining room. It was four times the size and you could take pictures of it from the third story. I felt like the lido was a huge cafeteria (albeit more nicely decorated). You cannot use a credit card for anything onboard. We made a cash account and were low at the end. We tried to purchase pictures and a frame with our credit card which we could do on RCI. They said no. Not even the shops accepted them. So ... we had to put our credit card on file, or not buy the items. I suppose it was easier for them, but harder for us. Thought for the Future: I think if we did Carnival again that we would do the Spirit class like the Miracle or something. We read a lot of complaints about cold food and a lack of open space and wonder if perhaps the Spirit Class would be more suitable to us. Most of our issues were with ship design and food. The Carnival dEcor really did not bother me much, but I did miss the awesome Promenade on RCI with all the shops and bars. The Conquest Promenade just did not match up. Same goes for entertainment. You just cannot run out of activities on the AOS. Rollerblading, rock wall climbing, ice staking, etc. ... I did not think I would miss these things, but I did. All in all we had a very relaxing escape from everyday life and I am thankful that we had the opportunity and the means to do that. Questions, fire away! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
Carnival Cruise Line-Conquest December 26, 2004 - January 2, 2005 My husband (56), sister (55), daughter (16) and I (51) decided to take a cruise over the Christmas holidays. My husband and I had sailed on three different cruise lines ... Read More
Carnival Cruise Line-Conquest December 26, 2004 - January 2, 2005 My husband (56), sister (55), daughter (16) and I (51) decided to take a cruise over the Christmas holidays. My husband and I had sailed on three different cruise lines (Holland America, Celebrity and Norwegian). My daughter sailed with us on Celebrity. My sister had never been on a cruise. Saturday, December 25, 2004, Christmas Day -- Our adventure started in Herndon, VA. We loaded up all 12 bags including carry-ons onto a mini-van taxi and took off for Dulles airport (5 miles away from home) at 6:30 a.m. Christmas morning. It was 19 degrees with clear skies. Little did we know that would be the best weather we'd see all day. We arrived at the airport and were surprised how quickly we checked in and got through security. We were directed to Gate G. I've flown out of Dulles Airport many times, but didn't know there was a Gate G. We walked for what seemed like a mile and finally found our transportation outside of the terminal. We had put our coats in the bags we checked to avoid having to carry them on board when we checked in, not knowing that we would be spending time outside in the 19 degree cold. The bus ride to the next terminal took longer than our taxi ride to the airport. We are lucky to say that our flight was on time. One lady we talked to had been at the airport for three days trying to get a flight home due to bad weather in the Midwest. Outside in the cold once again for a walk to our commuter plane. After a 30 minute delay due to the flight being overweight, we took off. We arrived in New Orleans about 11:00 a.m. to a real surprise. I went to rent a limo to take us to our hotel and was told they were shutting down due to snow, sleet and freezing rain. I went to the airport shuttle desk and almost had my tickets, when they were told to close because one of their shuttles was in an accident due to the bad weather. We were also told that the Interstate was closed. We finally found a taxi. Although a little reluctant to ride on icy roads, we climbed in. We found that it was sleeting, but the roads were just wet, not icy. We arrived at our hotel Le Pavilion on the corner of Poydras and Baronne in no time. Since there were four of us and it was Christmas day, I arranged for us to stay in the hotel's Oriental suite. It was lovely. The hotel is in the National Register of Historic Places and has a unique tradition of serving a nightcap of complimentary peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with hot chocolate or cold milk each evening in the lobby. Even though the weather was miserable and it was only 37 degrees, we decided to take a taxi to the French Quarter. Many of the restaurants and shops were closed, but we were surprised to find some open. We lunched on excellent fried catfish, oysters and mint juleps at Desire Oyster Bar in the Royal Sonesta Hotel. We went into a couple of shops, but decided to return to the hotel due to the weather. We had a wonderful Christmas dinner in our suite. The food at Le Pavilion was excellent and the service wonderful. The hotel staff was always pleasant and wanting to please, even though they were working on Christmas. Sunday, December 26, 2004 -- After a good night's sleep, we awoke to more pleasant weather. We were told that this was the first white Christmas in New Orleans in 50 years. We were also told that the temperature would rise to the 50's. We hopped a cab to Cafe De Monde for Cafe Au-Lait and beignets. Then on to Jackson Square for shopping and sight seeing. We decided to shop and sight see our way to Brennans for lunch. We had an excellent brunch of Zaseracs, Red Roosters, Bloody Marys, Turtle Soup, Eggs Husarde, crabmeat omelets, bananas foster and crepes Fitzgerald. We had to wait for about 30 minutes since we didn't have a reservation, but the food was well worth the wait. We also enjoyed our waiter, Calvin, who kept us entertained. Day 1 -- Carnival Conquest Cruise -- We returned to Le Pavilion where they graciously stored our luggage until we were ready to go to the port. We arrived at the port at 3:30 and were quickly boarded on the Carnival Conquest. We met with our first disappointment. We booked two balcony state rooms, requesting that they be next to each other. We found that they were 5 staterooms apart. Since the cruise was sold out there was no way to fix this mistake. Okay -- so we moved on. Our luggage arrived sporadically, but was all received by 6:30 p.m. We found that there was plenty of room for our clothes, shoes and toiletries, and we were able to store our bags under the bed. TV channel and movie selection seemed to be better than other cruises we had been on. The only thing we didn't like about the stateroom was our balcony door. We like to sleep with our balcony door open so we can listen to the sound of the ocean at night. Instead of the usual sliding glass doors, we had a door that opened out to the balcony. I fixed the problem by placing a trash can between the door and the door frame to keep it open. Dinner -- our next disappointment. We had late seating dining in the Monet dining room which is lovely. We were seated at a table for four. The dining staff was wonderful. Peter, our waiter, was very nice and attentive. Deep, our bar waiter, was very friendly and checked on us at the appropriate times. Xaing, our assistant waiter, was friendly and attentive as well. Unfortunately, our first dinner was not as nice as the staff. I'm going to say up front that gourmet cooking is a hobby of mine. I love to entertain, have theme parties, and pair food with drinks and wine. For appetizers, my husband had the wild mushroom soup, and the rest of us had the chicken sate. We found the appetizers to be pretty good. Next, for the salad course we had house salads with Blue cheese dressing. The dressing was thin and on the bitter side. For dinner, my husband had chicken ala Grecque. He said it was ok, but he would not order it again. My sister and daughter had a pasta dish with langoustines which were actually crayfish. My daughter didn't eat hers and my sister only ate part of hers. Both said they would not order it again. I had a certified Angus NY Strip steak. Even though it was cooked medium as ordered, there was an overabundance of fat surrounding the steak, it was dry, and had absolutely no flavor. We later discovered that patrons in the dining room used a lot of A1 Steak sauce that evening. Dessert was nothing to write home about either. We had chocolate cake which was very dry. The good news was the bread. They served a sun-dried tomato French bread which was excellent. Monday, December 27, 2004 -- Day 2 -- Carnival Conquest Cruise -- Day at Sea -- The next disappointment was breakfast in the dining room. I ordered Eggs Benedict. I've always thought that poached eggs were supposed to have firm whites and soft yolks. I've never before seen poached eggs with running whites and hard yolks before. I've got to ask them how they do it! The Hollandaise was tasteless. My sister loves Eggs Benedict, but after dinner the night before, she told me to order them first and if they were good, she'd order them the next time. Well, she won't be ordering Eggs Benedict. We signed up for our shore excursions when the desk opened at 10:00 a.m. You can also book excursions from the TV in your stateroom. We were disappointed to find that the submarine tour in Grand Cayman was cancelled due to damage from the hurricanes, but understood. We had no problem booking the other excursions we wanted. Next to the photo gallery. I like to tell the stories we get a kick out of. We chose our pictures and went to pay. I picked up a folder that they use to put your pictures in, just to look at it. The person working the desk snatched it out of my hand and put it back. We started laughing because it was a comical snatch. I signed for our purchase and when my sister asked me what her cost was, I picked up the receipt I had just signed to look. The desk person took it away from me and told me that my receipt was in the bag. We didn't want to be rude, so we waited until we walked away to crack up. Ask and you shall receive -- On anther funny note, I ordered a spicy Bloody Mary with extra lime. As I noticed the bartender add the sixth piece of lime to the side of my glass, I told her that was enough lime. When I took a sip of my spicy Bloody Mary, my lips almost fell off it was so hot. So, beware of what you ask for. Tell me, does lunch in the dining room from 12:00 to 2:00 mean that you can walk into the dining room up until 2:00, or does it mean that you receive poor service after 1:30? We got caught up in shopping and other things and didn't get to the dining room until 1:45. We were not the last customers to enter. When placing my order, the waiter asked if I wanted dessert. I said that I would decide at the end of my meal. He informed me that the kitchen was closing and that I would have to decide now. I decided. My husband, sister and I ordered a first and second course plus dessert. My husband's soup arrived immediately. My sister and I waited for our salad and sushi for 10 minutes. When it arrived, so did my husband's main course. Now is he supposed to let it sit there and get cold until we finish our first course and wait for our second course, or is he supposed to eat his second course as we eat our first? We told him to eat. I finished my sushi before my sister finished her salad, so therefore, I got my main course. I decided to wait, but my sister insisted that I eat. My husband's plate was cleared and his dessert arrived while my sister was eating her salad. This is getting to the point of rude. When the waiter tried to give me my dessert, I declined saying I would wait and have my dessert with my sister. Although the waiter was nice and friendly, I found this "hurry up and get out of here" behavior unacceptable. On a positive note, the food was very good, with the exception of the strawberry banana mousse which I can remember from my teenage years as being "whip and chill." That evening Carnival had a nice reception for all guests in the lounges. Unfortunately, my husband and I misunderstood where we were supposed to meet and ended up having cocktails at the same time together in different lounges. We finally hooked up at dinner. Once again the dining staff was wonderful and attentive. The food, )lobster tail and a Japanese dish) was excellent. The potato du jour was undercooked. Dessert was very good. One funny thing happened. My sister asked for more butter and it was delivered, only to be taken away again by another server saying that the butter was for a different table. We had to laugh at that one. Tomorrow, I want to sleep, read and watch TV, in that order. I may not get out of bed until dinner. Tuesday, December 28, 2004 -- Day 3 Carnival Conquest Cruise -- Day at Sea -- Since my sister and I are usually up before my husband and daughter, and we spent about an hour trying to find each other for coffee this morning, we've decided that we need a code to let each other know the other one is awake without disturbing the other two. We've decided to place notes in our mailboxes that read either up and in or up and out. We wanted to attend the "Shop Talk" session at 11:00, so once everyone was up we raced to a buffet breakfast. Then on to "Shop Talk" which was almost over because we forgot to set our watches back to Eastern Time which changed sometime during the night. What we did hear was beneficial and it's repeated on TV. Then we raced to the art auction. My daughter was a real winner when she bid on a Thomas Kincaid piece that was framed for $200. The only problem was that it was a "carry off" which means we carry it off the ship when we return to New Orleans. That was okay, we'd think about how we were going to get it back to Virginia later. She has a good eye for art and knows what she likes. Kincaid is getting more popular all the time. It's a great art collection start for her. We missed lunch due to the art auction, so opted for cheeseburgers and fries. My daughter and I then raced to Bingo where we lost $40.00. Oh well, win some, lose some. After that I lost $20 on the slots. Thank goodness my husband is still winning at Roulette. Oh, by the way, the desk clerk at the photo gallery was in a good mood today. The escargot appetizer at dinner was excellent. We also had chicken with stuffing, veal parmesan and jerk pork tenderloin, which was very good. The Motown show started with a juggler. (I hate juggling.) The show was mediocre. The singer took too much time setting up each song. So much for spending a day in bed. I didn't even get a nap today. Wednesday, December 29 -- Day 4 -- Carnival Conquest Cruise -- Montego Bay -- We went to City Central where you can have your own personal shopping assistant. Now, there's good news and bad news about a personal assistant. First of all, every personal shopping assistant wants to drag you into their shop, so if you let one latch on to you, you're less likely to be bothered by the others. However, they do want to show and sell you everything in the shop. The good news is that they will negotiate on prices. The shopping area is very small in comparison to other ports we've been in, but I understand that there are other shopping areas. The highlight of the day was Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. If you sit in the main room, it's very loud, but very entertaining. There's an obnoxious DJ who can't let a song play all the way through, but I suspect that's what he is supposed to do. We were entertained with guys chosen from the room singing and dancing to YMCA and a Michael Jackson wannabe who was actually very good. Then the people from the US were asked to stand for the National Anthem, which was actually Jimmy Buffet's song, Margaritaville. It was all fun and the margaritas, calamari and nachos were great. On the way back to the ship, we stopped in some of the portside shops. My husband bought me a gorgeous tropical flower arrangement for $10.00. I estimated that we would pay $40 - $50 for one like it at home. We found a great shop and made several purchases. We decided we would have been happy shopping there instead of Center City. Needless to say, after Margaritaville, we were ready for naps. We decided to go to the Martini Happy Hour. Carnival must have the smallest martini glasses in the world. I watched the bartender pour two shots into the shaker, but I swear it must have had a trap door because I don't see how he could get two shots into the little glasses. Anyway, they had a good selection of martinis at $4.95 each. We met people who had previously lived near us in Northern Virginia and had a wonderful time talking with them. We were looking forward to dinner since they were serving Beef Wellington. We started with a crab meat appetizer which was bland and tasteless. The Beef Wellington came either medium rare or medium well. It was good, but mine was rare in some areas and well done in others. Again, we were disappointed in dinner. Thursday, December 30 -- Day 5 -- Carnival Conquest Cruise -- Grand Cayman -- Since our excursion was cancelled, we decided to shop. The shopping was great. We lunched at Breezes by the Sea on hurricanes, conch fritters, shrimp and calamari. There were 8 ships in port, so it was very crowded. Getting back to the ship was an experience. We saw a line and asked if it was the line to the tender for the Conquest. We were sorry to hear that it was. We walked to the back of the line at 1:20 p.m. We made our way up to the terminal area, which was covered, just in time for a tropical rain shower to start. We stayed dry, but the people behind us didn't. We continued to the front of the line and missed the next tender by 4 people. After finally boarding an open tender, it started pouring, blowing and fog rolled in. Everyone was getting drenched and laughing about it. It was quite a scene. We finally boarded the ship at 2:15 p.m. wet, but happy. Off to another art auction. I have to stop doing this. I purchased 2 pieces and my daughter won a piece. I still don't know how we are going to get everything home, but once again I'll think about that later. There is a special if you sign up for their credit plan. You receive a free piece for signing up for the card and you receive a free piece if you charge something to the card. We are currently up to 3 purchased pieces, 2 free pieces, 1 winning piece and 4 of the small prints they hand out for attending the auction. We are looking forward to going the next auction on Saturday. Formal night tonight surprised us. We thought they would have formal night on New Year's Eve. We took two family portraits and on to dinner. I call it as I see it even if I'm wrong. So, I ordered the crab cake for an appetizer and I'm sure that it was the same crab appetizer from the night before only breaded and fried. The others had the broccoli cheese soup which was very good. We all had the chateaubriand which you could have either medium rare or medium well. Whatever happened to medium??? Anyway, I ordered mine medium rare which came medium well. The others opted for medium well which came well done and dry. I can't believe a chef would do that to such a beautiful cut of beef. Point & Click Las Vegas style show was ho hum. The singers and special effects were good. The theater was less than half full. Friday, December 31, 2004 -- Day 6 -- Carnival Conquest Cruise -- Cozumel, Mexico -- Shopping in Cozumel was great. Mexican vanilla and Kahlua were the best deals for me. My husband and daughter took the Mayan ruins excursion which they enjoyed. They were transported by ferry to Playa Del Carmen where they boarded a bus for a one-hour ride to Tulum. They were escorted through the walled Mayan city and given the history and significance of the site. My sister and I decided on the Mexican Cuisine Workshop and Tasting excursion. Our group of 15 were taken by taxi to the Playamia Grand Beach Park pavilion for our cooking experience. First up though, we got to walk through a small zoo with birds, monkeys, deer and even a crocodile. Upon entering the pavilion, we were offered tropical drinks, beer and wine. We were then met by Chef (I'm sorry to say that I've forgotten his name and misplaced his card), his assistant Luis, and our waiter Emilio. We chose our stations, which accommodated 4 people in groups of two. We cooked three courses including Mexican "sopes," Grouper with Mango Sauce and cookie stacked Rice Pudding. All the while, Emilio always refilled our drinks before they were empty. Luis was a riot, always cracking jokes and twirling his fire starter like a gun. We had a lot of fun and the food was good. Back to the ship for a little rest and to get ready for the New Year's Eve celebration. For dinner, my husband and I both had the Osso Bucu with Rice Milanese. The veal was very tender, but had a great deal of fat. The rice and sauce were excellent. The waiters sang Old Lange Syne after dinner. The evening celebration was on the Lido Deck at the pool area. There was dancing and lots of champagne. It was a fun time. Saturday, January 1, 2005 -- Happy New Year -- Day 7 -- Carnival Conquest Cruise -- At sea -- I woke up with a sore throat. Great! After breakfast, we made our final on board shopping purchases. Then, off to the final art auction. I was starting to feel lousy and since I wanted to go to tea with my daughter, I left the auction before it was over to go back to my cabin in lie down. When I got to my room, my key would not work. I couldn't find anyone, so I went to the Purser's office. After standing in line for 15 minutes, I was told they could not rekey my key without my husband's. Since I wasn't sure where he was, they told me they would send someone to my room to let me in. I went back to my room and waited, and waited, and waited. I decided to look for my husband in the casino. No luck, so I returned to the room to find him there. By this time it was almost tea time. He took our keys to have them rekeyed. When he returned, my daughter and I left for tea. Tea began at 3:30 and we arrived at 3:40. The waiter brought tea bags for us to choose from, but no one brought hot water. I saw people going up to the bar and getting hot water from carafes, so I asked if we were supposed to get our own water. The waiter then brought us water. By now, we had been there for 15 minutes. We saw that people were eating, but didn't see where the food was coming from, so again we asked a waiter if they were serving food. He motioned to another waiter to bring a cart to us, but she completely ignored him. A group of 6 people came in and sat down and automatically a cart of food appeared at their table. After they were served, I motioned to the lady with the cart. When she came to our table, I asked for tea sandwiches. I was told they were all gone. Now, I'm thinking I'm in a restaurant and tea just started 30 minutes ago. Why are there no tea sandwiches. So again, I told her we would like tea sandwiches. She huffed off and came back with two plates containing two cucumber sandwiches which she practically threw in front of us. She grabbed her cart and took off. I tried to ask her for a scone, but she was gone. At that point, we threw down our napkins and left. There is no excuse for this kind of service. As we left, I saw a member of the crew and asked where the complaint department was. She told me the Purser's office. She asked what happened and I told her about tea. She admitted that there had been a lot of complaints that day as well as all week. I decided not to stand in line at the Purser's office again. I went back to my stateroom and tried calling the information desk. Guess what? No answer. By then I was really feeling rotten, so I went to bed. By evening, I knew I wouldn't make it to dinner. We needed to collect our art, but I left it up to my husband and daughter to go without me. Our final and biggest disappointment! My daughter's Thomas Kincaid painting was not there. It had either been misplaced or stolen. She was devastated. They offered to give her another Kincaid for the same price, but it wouldn't be framed. She declined. They refunded her money. Sunday, January 2, 2005 -- Day 8 -- Carnival Conquest Cruise -- New Orleans -- We were the last group to be called for disembarkation, but once called went right through. We didn't even need to show our passports. Getting a taxi was a nightmare. We finally got to our hotel. If you have to be sick when traveling, it's good to be sick at a Ritz Carlton. The bed and pillows were so fluffy and comfortable. I slept for most of the afternoon. We had reservations for dinner at one of Emeril's restaurants, but the others didn't want to go without me, so we cancelled. They went to the dining room and I ordered room service. We stayed in and watched a movie. Monday, January 3, 2005 -- I woke up feeling better and wanting to go out and explore. By the time we got moving it was lunch time. We walked a few blocks to the French Quarter to Pat O'Briens. The French Quarter was packed due to the Sugar Bowl that was being played that evening. Pat O'Briens wasn't letting anyone under 21 in due to the crowds. We went to the Court of Two Sisters and had a nice buffet brunch. We walked around some, then back to the hotel and off to the airport and home. All in all, we had a good time. Would we cruise Carnival again? No. There were many little annoyances such as the public restrooms had no seat covers, tissues or hand towels. They only had hand dryers which I personally hate. The shopping area was very small for such a large ship. The omelet station was at the end of the buffet line, which caused backups. Bartenders looked right through you and went on to wait on someone else. As far as the crew, some were extremely nice and others seemed to be put out if you asked where the clean silverware was located. I'd been told that crews don't like holiday cruisers. Although, I don't know what would be different about holiday cruisers, maybe that rumor is true. The best entertainment we saw was Two's Company. We checked each day to see where they were performing so that we could listen to them. I would say that this is probably a good cruise for people with children, but if you are looking for pampering and fine dining look for another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
My DH and I (mid-thirties) went on our first cruise and our first vacation in quite some time on the Sensation on 10/23. I had done a lot of reading on this, as well as other sites to prepare for it We decided to arrive early and eat ... Read More
My DH and I (mid-thirties) went on our first cruise and our first vacation in quite some time on the Sensation on 10/23. I had done a lot of reading on this, as well as other sites to prepare for it We decided to arrive early and eat lunch on the ship. Parking was a hassle and expensive. No clear instructions on how to proceed in the garage. Tipped several baggage handlers trying to get the right group of fellows. Oh well, live and learn. Embarkation at the terminal was reasonable. We arrived at 11:00 in the terminal and were eating on the ship at 12:30. Not too bad. I will say that we were lucky to be one of the first in line as it did not seem to move very quickly after us. The ship was well kept and attractive. I liked the whole neon thing. We were in a very pleasant porthole room on the Empress deck (E8) and found it to be spacious, clean, and very pleasant. Our steward, Agus, was on top of his game and took good care of us. We didn't need the over the door shoe hanger as there was plenty of room for everything. The stick-up came in handy as there was an occasional faint sewer smell. No problem. The power strip was handy for curling irons. The ship was large enough to be impressive and small enough to navigate comfortably. We were quite happy with the ship itself. The first day at sea we spent a lot of time relaxing. The pools are not really useful for more than a dip to cool down on deck. You can't actually swim in them. The hot tubs outside were slightly above lukewarm but one of the tubs in the spa did quite nicely if you wanted to make people stew. The shops had a variety of items from toothpaste to fine jewelry. Some things were even reasonable, like the $10.00 watches. The spa prices were off the charts. I've had many of the spa services listed in many different areas of the country and I've never paid those kinds of prices for them. The good news is they offered very reasonable sales on the last afternoon of the cruise. The food in the dining room was very good! Our wait staff, Showtime and Fernando, took great care of us and made good suggestions. Always listen to the waiters! My favorite was the Beef Wellington. My husband liked the super tender pork chop. Most of the beef entrees were quite good. The pasta dishes were mediocre. The pumpkin soup was good as advertised by previous reviews. We often ordered several desserts. The shows were very entertaining. The female lead in the two Vegas style shows was phenomenal. Her male counterpart was mediocre at best. We had seen one of the comedians on the comedy channel. He was funny and did the R rated comedy show as well. DH says he was funny then, too. I was wiped out from the sun and had already hit the bed. Costa Maya: I don't think I would care to return here. I had done my homework and read about Majajual and decided that it would be a nice place. However, my hubby and I are from Pensacola, Florida, with its beautiful beaches (pre-Ivan, at least). The beach in Majajual was pretty but unimpressive. We aren't big drinkers (not teetotalers but don't structure our day around alcohol, either) and didn't want to sit around and drink. I did have a great massage for $20 bucks. It was one of the highlights of the trip. If I were to visit Costa Maya again, I would probably do an excursion, maybe to ruins. Cozumel: We were torn between Paradise Beach and Chankanaab, but decided on Chankanaab as a place to do more than just "beach". What a wonderful place. The snorkeling was very nice. We saw lots of colorful fish and swam inside several schools. We also saw barracuda. We had a wonderful time trying to find all of the sunken statues (we couldn't find them all). The botanical gardens were peaceful and interesting. The Mayan village came complete with a lovely lady who fed us Mayan food and explained their customs. She spoke some English, I spoke some Spanish so we managed to communicate quite a lot. The shopping was cheaper than in downtown (before haggling, even!). We did take a trip downtown for some shopping. We couldn't find Pancho's Backyard in town. No one could direct us to Calle 8. But we found it at the base of the port. The guacamole, salsa and chips were very good. The drinks were somewhat expensive, but good. I would definitely return to Cozumel and would definitely return to Chankanaab. The last day at sea there were many activities I had read raves about. We dutifully highlighted the Newlywed Game, the ice carving, the hairy chest contest and others. I think that people who enjoy drinking a lot on their vacation found these activities more amusing than I did. They were mildly amusing for a few minutes but there was quite a cheering squad for many of these activities and most of the audience and participators had obviously been drinking hard. In all fairness, we never made it to the Newlywed Game. I know I'm going to hear it about this, but I know people want an honest review. I had a great cruise and a great vacation. It was very relaxing, inexpensive, and interesting. However, I probably will not cruise again anytime soon. It was my (and DH) observation that the people who were really enjoying their cruise were the partiers. There was an awful lot of really hard drinking going on. Not that they were in any way, shape, or form getting in my way. But those were the people who seemed to be enjoying themselves the best. Also, DH and I were bored more frequently than we like. I know I'll hear the whole "your cruise is what you make it" line but if you aren't wasted, a lot of the activities were not all that interesting. To sum up, this was great for us because we really just needed to relax and not worry about anything. A little boredom did us good and the ship and food were terrific. We also met some nice people. After this, I think another type of vacation will be a better fit for us. I hope this review helps. P.S. Saw the Cruise Critic crew. They seemed to be having a blast! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Honesty is the best policy 17 in our group from 18 to 52 Embarkation: Get there early- we arrived at 10:30 a.m. and were able to enter the parking area as others were leaving--be persistent and they will let you in( slip them some extra ... Read More
Honesty is the best policy 17 in our group from 18 to 52 Embarkation: Get there early- we arrived at 10:30 a.m. and were able to enter the parking area as others were leaving--be persistent and they will let you in( slip them some extra cash and you are in!) You will be glad you parked in this lot. Arriving early allows you to board early and quickly--after we boarded within in an hour the lines were long and slow. Ship: Beautiful but boring days at sea. Carnival is still gearing the cruise the retired folks! Be prepared to sun bathe and read-we toured the ship and find little to do. Activities-boring again--immature games that entertained very few. Most did not participate. Health club is nice as is SPA-Spa is on the expensive side-- Entertainment: very very poor! Most of the entertainers are amateur at best--we were very disappointed. Dance clubs and night clubs had few people in them. It appeared everyone was waiting for port of calls. Cabin; we had a balcony--I would never book less. It gives you extra room though it feels like a travel trailer or motor home. The balcony is small but sufficient and gives the room a larger feel. Our steward was nice but needs to learn how to make a bed---Two beds shoved together to make a king or queen bed was very uncomfortable. Mattresses were worn out even though ship is only a year and half old. Fresh towels and lots of hot water was nice---small bathroom with small shower--one person only--bring your own shampoo-amenities on initial day only( what kind of deal is that?) Shore Excursions: Jamaica--skip them all or snorkel-- they should eliminate this port of call--nothing here Grand Cayman: Expensive shopping---another snorkel place or see the sting rays--nice trip but short time with sting rays and lots of people on the reef. Cozumel--best port, best shopping, best value--DO the Power Boat tour with Hideway beach--well worth the money!!!! Dining: Fair--what made it pleasurable was excellent wait staff. Skip the buffet lines unless you are a pig --we were disgusted on day one eating in the buffet when a large man was sweating profusely in line in front of us dripping all over the food--YUK! Take my advice eat all meals in the dining areas--Do try at least one night in the Point restaurant--more if you can afford it-- Overall Cruise--average at best--great ship, great staff, poor activities and average food. Value for Price--Good Email me if you have specific questions Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
This was our first Carnival cruise, but we had sailed on Royal Caribbean previously. First let me say that the ship is gorgeous (less than 2 years old) and feels very spacious - even our interior cabin was larger and nicer than similar ... Read More
This was our first Carnival cruise, but we had sailed on Royal Caribbean previously. First let me say that the ship is gorgeous (less than 2 years old) and feels very spacious - even our interior cabin was larger and nicer than similar cabins on RCCL. However, the staff aren't up to par with the nice accommodations. Rarely did we get a "hello" or smile when encountering or passing staff. By the 6th day of the cruise, many were downright rude and it was obvious they were ready to be rid of us!! This cruise has three "at sea" days and three port days. The first at sea day was okay, I was interested in laying by the pool, exploring the ship, spending time in the spa and with friends. By the second and third at sea days, I was getting a little bored. Carnival definitely needs more planned activities when half your time is spent at sea. I cannot speak much regarding ship-sponsored shore excursions, as we opted to book independently. I can say that going independently we paid 1/2 to 2/3 of the ship price for similar excursions. Most of the group that we travelled with (first-time cruisers) booked ship-sponsored excursions and were very pleased with all of them. Meals were pretty good, but not exceptional - not as good as on RCCL. The nighttime buffets were a joke. Yes, there was 24 hour pizza - I had read raves about it, but it did not live up to them. There were plenty of waiters making the rounds of the pool area to take drink orders. I had heard of Carnival's "party boat" reputation. I saw a mix of ages on this cruise, and did not encounter any more hard partying than on previous cruises. Overall, if this were someone's first cruise, I think they would come away very pleased with the experience. But if you've cruised with anyone else, you will realize what you're missing. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
I will start out by saying that I have been on 2 other cruises before this one. In 1990 I went on the S.S Norway - NCL, and in 2001 my husband and I went on Monarch of the Seas - Royal Caribbean. My comparison will be mostly between Royal ... Read More
I will start out by saying that I have been on 2 other cruises before this one. In 1990 I went on the S.S Norway - NCL, and in 2001 my husband and I went on Monarch of the Seas - Royal Caribbean. My comparison will be mostly between Royal and Carnival. Embarking the ship - This process was not as bad as I had read about. It was a little tedious. Filling out the FunPass ahead of time really helped the process go by quickly. First you go through the FunPass line, then you proceed to some tables where they give you your boarding pass. Then you sit in some yellow chairs until they call you to proceed to the next room to sit in more yellow chairs. Then your row is called and you get your picture taken and then finally board the ship. It really didn't take that long. Besides you're on vacation so what's the hurry right? The Food - I very much enjoyed all of the different choices where food was concerned. The main dining rooms had open seating for breakfast and lunch and then the main and late seating for dinner. We had the main sitting in the Renoir dining room - 6:15 P.M. The dining room was beautiful. This was an area where my husband and I noticed a difference. Our waiter and assistant waiter on Royal were very friendly and went out of their way to get to know us. They also knew after the first evening what we liked to drink and we didn't have to ask again after that. On the Conquest dinner seemed a little rushed and for the first few days our waiter and assistant waiter were all business. We joked with them and finally they warmed up to us. Your other choices for meals were: Restaurant Cezanne on deck 9 - Lido deck. This is a buffet and the food was very good here as well. They also have a 24 hour pizzeria, Paul's Deli, Sur Mer, Po's Wok, and the grille where you can get hamburgers and things of that nature. On Deck 5 - Promenade Deck - they had a Sushi Bar and Cafe Fans. Cafe Fans was like a Starbucks. They have great Iced mochaccino. I highly recommend Sur Mer for lunch. It is a fish and chips place and they had wonderful food. Over all the food was very good. The Entertainment - For us the entertainment was okay. We were not impressed with the Las Vegas style show that they had so we only saw the first one. It was Formidable. We enjoyed very much the R&B singer that they had. The passenger talent show was a riot. We went to their game show trivia and our friend won a bottle of champagne. We did not like the fact that they had bingo in the Toulouse Loutrec Lounge about 5 times or more a day. They used it as a filler. We expected more activities throughout the day. We also expected that since these are called "Fun Ships" there would be an extra amount of fun things to do. The Ports of Call - Montego Bay - We did not really like Montego Bay. Jamaica itself is a beautiful Island, but we don't prefer to be hassled on vacation. We booked the Highlights and Shopping Tour through the ship. We are glad that we did because we felt a little safer with guides. The excursion itself was okay but we enjoyed the guides. They took us to the main shops as well as to the craft market. My favorite part of shopping on vacation is seeing the local arts and crafts. However, the people in MoBay are very pushy and it gets very irritating. It is also irritating to have someone offer you marijuana every few feet. I wish there was something they could do about that. Grand Cayman - We booked an independent excursion through Captain Marvin's for the Stingray City Tour. Captain Marvin's was wonderful. They were very attentive and they made sure that everyone had a chance to pet and hold the stingrays. They gave us a reasonable amount of time to spend at the sandbar. I highly recommend using them. We also saved money. On the ship the Stingray City Tour is $49.00/person and through Captain Marvin's it is $34.00/person. Grand Cayman is also the place to buy rum if that's what you are looking for. Cozumel - I can't say enough about Cozumel. I love Mexico. I booked independently here as well. I swam with the Dolphins at Chankanaab Marine Park. I went directly through Dolphin Discovery. I did this for two reasons. One, it was cheaper and two, it books up quickly. Through the ship this excursion is $170.00/person. Through Dolphin Discovery it is $119.00/person plus the $12.00/person entrance fee into the park. The cab ride to the park was $10.00 each way. When you add it up it was still less. Swimming with the dolphins is quite and amazing experience and worth every penny. I recommend everyone to try this once in their lives. You can also snorkel there. You can rent snorkeling gear for $6.00 or $10.00 if you want a new mouthpiece. Overall Experience - We enjoyed our cruise. We were upgraded to an oceanview room and we probably won't get anything less the next time we cruise. We also found that we felt the rocking a lot less on the lower decks. We happened to be on deck one and you don't feel it as much. We are not against trying Carnival again however we want to try one of the newer Royal Caribbean ships. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
We were 3rd time cruisers (Carnival Inspiration - 1999, Disney Magic - 2002), 30's traveling with a 1 yr old & 4 yr old. We drove down from Chicago as my wife is not much of the flying type and we both enjoy driving. We booked our ... Read More
We were 3rd time cruisers (Carnival Inspiration - 1999, Disney Magic - 2002), 30's traveling with a 1 yr old & 4 yr old. We drove down from Chicago as my wife is not much of the flying type and we both enjoy driving. We booked our cruise with skyauction.com (great site) and paid about $1550 for the four of us. The room was small, but about what we expected (inside cabin on the Riviera deck; which if you get sea sick is where you want to be). The room was clean, and the steward (Sorvio from India) did a nice job to keep it clean; he wasn't much of a chatter, but was nice, just not helpful in answering questions... I'm not sure how great his english really was as it seemed that he didn't understand too well. All the same though he made some great towel animals and did keep the room clean, and did a fantastic job at doing stuff while we weren't around (enough said... this is a crap shoot on any cruise at who you are going to get and either way it was not going to have that big of an impact on our cruise; only the tip that we leave). Embarking... we arrived to find that the parking by the ship was full and had to park at a local garage for $12/ day (by the ship was $10). That was somewhat annoying but oh well... we dropped off the luggage and I took the car to the garage and hopped their free shuttle bus back to the ship. Then we waited in a fairly long line which only took about 15 minutes to get through. Once through that line we got to move to the next line which was for the welcome aboard family photo which took another 20 minutes or so... from their it was on to another line waiting to get onboard that took another 15 minutes or so... somewhat long, but it seems like this varied by the time of your arrival... ours was a bit later arriving around 1:45 pm (if you are traveling by car, I believe arriving around 11:30 will get you parking by the ship). We went upstairs and got some FOOD: The one thing I like about Carnival is that they make food VERY available, especially compared to the Disney Magic. The quality... well... it is OK. The one gripe I have about the Cezzane rest (which is their upstairs restaurant - buffet) is that they put the omelette stations at the end of the buffet line which made for some long waits or rude cutting for those that didn't want an omelette... I found that annoying; they should have either been off on the side like they were on the other 2 cruise we took; or put them at the beginning of the line. Dining room... we ate in the Monet for dinner and breakfast (after trying out the breakfasts in the Cezzane upstairs). The food was good there, our service was just OK... not great. However... our baby has food allergies and we needed to know the ingredients in the foods... Alyson the hostess was AWESOME! She made our experience that much more special and was VERY helpful in accommodating special meals for us. And this was actually a common experience for us... the staff was overall terrific... of course their were a few people here and there who looked like they had just been baptized in lemon juice... but overall they were fantastic and very helpful. One day for breakfast, I had both boys with me, and we had 3 waitresses waiting on us... and had the freshest food that day (they all loved our baby :-). Other than that... the food took too long to get and the water glasses just weren't filled often enough (as in it was filled once and you had to ask after that). I'm not sure if there is anything to this or not... but this was our first cruise where the cruiseline automatically deducts the tipping ($10 / day per person) from your sign & sail account... almost making the tips more of a right than something earned... I'm not sure... it could just depend on which staff you get because for breakfast the service level varied a great deal. Shows: they were OK... not great.. the Conquest Orchestra (which was led by John Piazza Jr who is leaving to go to the Carnival Glory) was great... they had a couple nites where they played big band music; which I love... but it was mostly an older crowd and not very well attended. The disney shows were certainly much better for the kids (I liked them a whole lot better too). The "magician" that they had named Deja was terrible... it was mostly illusions that she did with a lot of dancing. The Cruise Director: can't imagine they could find much worse (Stewart). Ports: We had read a lot of people saying to stay on the ship in Jamaica... I'm not sure if they went to a different port or not (we went to Montego Bay); but we had a fabulous time in Jamaica after almost taking their suggestion! We rented a personal tour guide for $30 / hour) and took about 2 hours to see the island. Our guide was fantastic and everyone on the island was very nice, and took NO for an answer the first time it was given... we've been to ports in the past where we'd wished we stayed on the ship and believe me... this wasn't it! We did get asked if we wanted to buy some weed though as did our dinner mates on their excursion which we found annoying (obviously we didn't buy any : - ). Grand Caymen: we went on the Nautilus submarines which was pretty fun (we bought absolutely NOTHING from the ship! Everything we did, we did on our own on land). The subs were $35 / person and $15 for our 4 yr old... 1 yr old was free. On the ship it would have been $47 per person for 3 of us & the little one free. Then we went to the Turtle Farm (and once again saved a bunch of money doing that ourselves) and had a really fun time there... you can pick up the turtles etc... Cozumel: This was the best island! We rented a jeep wrangler and did the island ourselves... can't imagine there is a better way to do this island! For insurance, baby seat & car it was $92 for the day. This island is FABULOUS! We drove around and went to the ruins (don't remember the name of them, it is not the Tulum ones... those you have to ferry too... these were good enough for us to get a flavor of what they are all about... we took a personal tour (not really recommended by us) guide... the other ruins are just bigger... it was personally more than enough for me). Then we went to Chankanaab which is a park that you can see / swim with the dolphins and apparently sometimes Sea Lions though that part was not in operation while we were there. Pricing there was actually not much cheaper than onboard the ship. If you go to their website in advance, you can apparently get good deals (we were disappointed by that... it is $10 per person to get in (kids were free) and then at LEAST $99 / per person to do anything at all with the dolphins... the dolphin swim was much cheaper than on the ship (by about $50 per person), the dolphin discovery was priced the same (but the ships would have provided transportation which we had already done... so in reality the ships was cheaper). The website for advanced reservations is http://www.dolphindiscovery.com/home.htm only had we known... They also have a beach here where you can snorkel from (but if you are really into snorkeling... just bring your gear; rent a car and drive around. There are so many areas from this island you can do that from! We had a lot of fun, and would like to stay on this island for a week sometime! The Ship: It was OK... it really didn't seem that much bigger than the other ships we were on... I think maybe they just have more rooms (which means more people - our cruise had 2900 on board, the ship holds 3500). It didn't seem overly crowded, but at times there were some long lines. We personally would rank this ship in 3rd place from our 3 cruises... I'm not sure the Inspiration today would still be better, but 5 years ago it was nice. Honestly though... at this point a ship is a ship; we don't get that big awe anymore in approaching them like the first time we cruised. The layout was not that great as mentioned by others... but I will say it is well marked so you can get around. The internet cafe we thought was easy to find (since it is so well marked) though it is tucked away. They charged an "activation" fee of about $4 to get the internet account going which was annoying but whatever... Obviously checking email on shore is always much cheaper, but after 2 days at sea.... I wanted to check my email... so my 3 minutes of doing so cost about $7. Overall... I was kinda disappointed by this ship (not the cruise... the ship). New Orleans was kinda cold (unseasonably so from talking to people) so the first day at sea and the last day at sea were both kinda cold... especially the last day! as in high 50's or low 60's... we're from Chicago (sub zero when we left) and we thought it was cold ;-). The cruise got VERY bumpy on the return trip home with sea conditions rated "Very Rough". My wife got a bit sea sick... I was fine, though glad we had our inside cabin near the mid ship. We didn't get as much sun as we would have liked since it was colder so leaving for the southern Caribbean this time of the year might have been better. (Forgot to mention the weather on the islands... all days were PERFECT! As well as the 2nd day at sea). Disembarking: It took about an hour for our color to get called which wasn't bad. Then it took maybe 15 to 20 minutes to get through the line after that. We got our luggage no problem, but here is where I made some mistakes out of ignorance! The "free" shuttle bus to the parking garage is quite small... so only a few peoples luggage is going to fit on it, and then only a few people (maybe 20). So it was recommended to us that I get the car and drive back... :@ It took me over an hour to do that! In retrospect, the BEST option is to take a cab for about $7 WITH your family and Luggage and NOT got back!!!! That took forever... so total time spent was 3 hours getting off from the first color call... this port is not a good port; way too small. Port Canaveral is MUCH nicer!!!! (we drove to that one as well). Conclusion: We had a fabulous time, made that way by great stops, terrific friendly staff and our wonderful dinner mates who I hope we can remain friends with for a long time to come! The ship was a ship, the seas got a bit rough, the food was plentiful.... I give it 3.5 to 4.0 stars. Email me with questions. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
Background: we are late 40's and we are cruise addicts. We have cruised 14 times, including HAL, Celebrity, NCL, RCI, and now Carnival. We like active excursions like scuba diving and ecotours. We get the cheap inside cabins so we can ... Read More
Background: we are late 40's and we are cruise addicts. We have cruised 14 times, including HAL, Celebrity, NCL, RCI, and now Carnival. We like active excursions like scuba diving and ecotours. We get the cheap inside cabins so we can afford to cruise more often. This was our first Carnival cruise. We feel that this was overall a good cruise and a good value for the deeply discounted price. I would recommend it to active younger cruisers who like to party, first-time cruisers, and those who pinch pennies (like me). I would not recommend it for those who want an elegant ship, fine family entertainment, and fine dining. Good: Embarkation/debarkation, cabins, food at the alternative locations (pizza, deli, grill, room service food). Poor: Entertainment, ship dEcor, dining room. Embarkation was fast and smooth. The port of New Orleans is great. Parking was expensive at $84 per week. Debarkation was smooth and quick; everyone was off by 1045 a.m. I was impressed with how efficiently they moved the 3000 passengers on and off the ship at all ports. Inside cabin was nice and roomy even for all our scuba gear. Cabin steward was good and room service food was good. Ship was fairly clean and well maintained. There are many hot-tubs, a water slide, nice fitness center, numerous clubs/bars, etc. The dEcor is mainly French Impressionist; I found it gaudy and tiresome. There was nothing "nautical" about the Conquest; it's more like a hotel than a ship. Passengers were great. All ages represented. A good crowd; mostly from Louisiana/Texas and the south/mid-west. Very friendly and accommodating to fellow passengers and crew. Very few children but those that came seemed to have a good time; the kid's program has a pretty good reputation. Personally I would avoid taking young kids to the shows; they're boring and a little too risque for my tastes. Food was OK in both dining room and buffet. Not near as good as Celebrity or HAL, but overall fairly tasty and well presented. DINING ROOM: Lots of interesting selections, but steaks were never done right, fish was mediocre, and soups were not hot. Dining room service was friendly but slow and inaccurate. Dining room was far below HAL and Celebrity. In our dining room, the staff performed nightly "entertainment" by dancing on the tables; I found it loud and juvenile and it only interrupted my meal and our table conversation. BUFFET: Food was generally good with different selections each day for lunch. ALTERNATIVE DINING: excellent. Pizza was very good as was the deli and the grill. If you are happy with "fast-food"; this is your ship. Entertainment was unimpressive, except for a very good cruise director who was the best entertainer on the ship. Production shows were gaudy and loud and uninteresting, and entertainment was a little on the risque side. Secondary entertainers like the juggler, singer, poolside band and the bar musicians were below average. Tipping: Carnival automatically adds their "recommended" tip levels to your on-board account. First of all I feel tipping is a personal matter; secondly I feel the recommended levels are a bit too high. I cancelled the tip charge when I came aboard and then tipped the staff myself with cash in envelopes (at a little less than the recommended levels. Montego Bay Jamaica was disappointing; they've over-fished the reefs and the waters there are nearly dead. My dive-master said the country does not enforce fishing rules and everything that moves is caught & eaten. The port at MoBay is somewhat run-down. Many of our fellow cruisers who went downtown said they were frequently hassled by panhandlers and peddlers. Jamaica is a beautiful nation run-down by economic and political problems. We will probably treat future stops there as "days at sea". Very sad, but reminds me how good it is to live in the USA. Georgetown Grand Cayman. We shore-dived at Eden Rock dive center right next to the tender pier: beautiful coral grottos and lots of ocean life and clear warm water. I'm amazed at how quickly the ship moved all 3000 passengers ashore. Cozumel: they were spectacular dives as always. I have dove here often and NEVER tire of it. Did 2-tank drift dive on Palancar reefs and walls. I can't imagine diving being better. 100ft+ visibility and tons of marine life and a mild current that makes drift diving effortless and fun. Overall this cruise was fun and a good value. I'd do it again at a low price in a heartbeat. caribdiver sailors@zigs.net Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
This was our second Carnival Cruise and our 4th cruise overall. I have used this board extensively over the past few months and it was very helpful. I am writing this review in hopes that it may help someone else pick the perfect vacation. ... Read More
This was our second Carnival Cruise and our 4th cruise overall. I have used this board extensively over the past few months and it was very helpful. I am writing this review in hopes that it may help someone else pick the perfect vacation. We are a group of 5, my husband and I in our late 30's and our three kids, 14 (girl), 12 (girl) and 8 (boy.) We are from Arizona so we began our vacation on Saturday by flying from PHX to New Orleans. I should start by saying how ridiculous NO is as a port city due to its complete lack of regard for tourists. I could not believe the cab fares (65$ from Airport to Hotel and $35 from Hotel to Port) the cab to the port was really ridiculous considering that the meter read $3.50 and it took no more than 5 minutes, but everything there is a flat rate. Only our last driver was pleasant but otherwise, know exactly where you are going to ensure fairness of quotes. If you are watching your budget, just be aware of these charges. We stayed in the Renaissance Arts hotel downtown and it was beautiful, the art work was amazing and I could have slept in that comfortable bed for days! We started our Sunday morning with breakfast downtown at Mother's. It was excellent, southern food. We then caught the trolly and rode it round trip to get a quick view of the highlights. Have correct change, as there is no change given. We then quickly made our way back to hotel and by now it was noon. We checked out an hopped in a cab for the short ride to the pier. We had completed the Fun Pass registration and had printed copies in hand and we were shuttled to the second line. The line was very slow and took about 40 minutes to get through. The Carnival rep at the end of the line was so slow that we spent at least 10-15 minutes with her reviewing everything that I had completed on the Fun Pass. Hopefully this process will get better soon. NOTE: Our tablemates had completed the paperwork and got through the entire line in 5 minutes, I am not sure why our experiences were different other than that the NO employees seem to be clueless. Other cruise lines that I have been on have been much more efficient. At that time I clearly explained that I did not want my daughters (who had their own room) to have charging privileges. She explained that she would not input a card number for them and that was that. We quickly got our Sign and Sail cards, our pictures and security check and then we were on board. I noticed that the ship seemed very clean. The decor is definitely new but way over the top in my opinion. I thought Disney and Princess had new ships that looked much more elegant. We went directly to our rooms and were surprised at how spacious they were. We couldn't believe how nice the storage space was and have a nice large window really made it nice. The girls were directly across the hall from us so we put our things down and headed for the Lido deck buffet. I am not a buffet person but I thought this was good. We ate there 3 more times during the week for breakfast and each time the food was good and the lines were fast. The iced tea and orange juice are good too. My son loved this place and ate here 4 nights with camp carnival. After lunch we walked the ship and checked out everything, spa, camp carnival, arcade, casino and pools. All seemed to be fine and well maintained. At this point, rather than give a blow by blow description of our entire trip, I will just share the basics. If you have other questions feel free to email me. Dining Room (monet): Food was better than expected, the desserts were divine but service was average. Always had to ask for water, iced tea and bread, always had to ask for refills when drinks were low. By the end this became very frustrating. Our tablemates were fantastic and we even did a private tour with them. I did not like the fact that at lunch we could not sit alone at a table for 5. Every time was asked to sit at a 6-top alone, they would make a big production and tell us how busy the ship was. UGH! Lunch was great food too but I was never impressed with any of the waitstaff. Ship: Pretty and clean but way too gaudy. They went a little crazy with the purple and gold leafing. Note: The ship is FREEZING, especially on decks 5 and 9, the monet room and the show lounge. Our room was so cold that we had the thermostat on high (heat) the entire time. I saw many people complaining but with no relief. I had to purchase 5 sweatshirts and two wraps just to stay warm so we looked like fools constantly taking them off for pictures. I had read that the ship was cold but I did not take it to heart. Please prepare yourself for this, otherwise it could ruin your nights on ship, especially if travelling with kids. Staff: Friendly if you are asking them about their area of expertise. If you ask anything else, they are clueless. This was disappointing. I wish that tipping was not added to your bill automatically, this would put the service back in the ship, otherwise they don't try very hard. Shows: they were really good, Deja, the magician was unreal. Stuart and Corey (hosts) were really great too. Don't miss the shows, especially the talent show, it was great. Carnival excels in nighttime show but other activities are rare or non-existent. Disney and Princess have perfected a full day of activities and I hope Carnival follows suit. During the day, if you don't like fighting for pool chairs you will find virtually nothing to do. Purser: I eventually had to stand in line at the pursers desk 3 times to get my daughters charge privileges revoked. Each time they told me that it was taken care of and each time I would explain to them that she was still able to charge. I was finally resolved by Wednesday and needless to say my daughter has quite a big arcade bill to repay. It is insane that they let kids charge arcade tokens to their sign and sail cards at will. It is also weird that no cash is accepted anywhere but the casino. Coffee: good but the the coffee bar was great. The barista from Croatia was really good and her service stood out. I visited her daily. Camp Carnival: Counselors were very enthusiastic during the orientation and my 8 year old loved the program. The older kids had lots of activities planned but my 12 year old found friends the first day and did her own thing the rest of the time. Our 14 year old hung with us (which is a first) and had a really good time too. I am not sure what they could do to interest this fickle age group. One concern is camp carnival dinners. The dinners are at 6pm, our monet seating was at 5:45. So our family would go to the Monet then I would take my son to the buffet on the lido deck to meet camp carnival, I walked him through the line then proceeded to the top of the stairs (tray in hand) to sign him in. Well, the counselors had blocked the top of the stairs with chairs and stood behind the chairs staring at their watches until EXACTLY 6pm. I kid you not. When I asked to set my tray down, saying that I would stay with my child until 6pm. I was told no. This was crazy and it happened 4 nights in a row! Once I got to the Monet at 6:10 (25 min late) our server was, miffed, but I didn't now what else to do. Carnival needs to align these times better. Progresso/Merida: we rented a van and drove to the ruins in DZbuilitan (sp?) it was great to go early and at our own pace. Once 10am hits, all the tours come and the place is packed. If you can bring your swimming suit do it, our kids loved the historic cenote (watering hole) and it was clear as could be. Costa Maya: nice, new port. We spent the day laying by the volleyball pool. Get there early to ensure that you get a nice chair with shade. Our tablemates tried to rent a jetski but that went sour so be careful. Cozumel: Wonderful. We went to the new beach club called paradise beach and it was unbelievable. We stayed for 7 hours just relaxing by the white sandy beach. Food and drinks were excellent, massages on the beach and lots of stuff for the kids. Really great,family atmosphere. Other: the beach towel process is a nightmare. They issue you 2 towels and then if you do not have them at the end of the cruise they charge you $22. At one point our steward took 1 towel out but never told us. I went insane looking for it. Once I saw him he said "oh, yeah I took it sorry!" Anyway, carnival needs to charge more for the trip and then just not be so anal about the towels. There were some very rowdy teen agers ( 16, 17 18) that "held court" right outside the casino and never moved the whole trip. Every time you passed they would make comments) loud) so by the end that got a little annoying. Casino was fun. Played the whole week with a 30$ investment and left with an additional 30$ (played blackjack and slots) One couple I saw complaining that the machines were voiding out their winnings. Not sure if it was just them or what. Overall I can not complain about this trip, it is a cruise for goodness sakes. I will probably not take Carnival again after experiencing Princess and Disney. We are trying RCCL in May. I don't want to sound rude, but the crowd is definitely different on Carnival and the service just wasn't there for us. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
This was only my second cruise and, overall, I was pleased. The ship is beautiful and spotless. The cabins were large enough and well organized. The food varied from good to very good with the exception of the desserts which were ... Read More
This was only my second cruise and, overall, I was pleased. The ship is beautiful and spotless. The cabins were large enough and well organized. The food varied from good to very good with the exception of the desserts which were definitely below par. Boarding went well and was quite organized. There were a lot of activities on the ship. The Cruise Director was amiable enough and definitely earned his salary. The room stewards were very polite and attentive without being obnoxious and we received exceptional service from them. Our waiters for dinner were efficient and pleasant, not as personable as on my first cruise. The wait staff in the other dining areas ran the gambit from courteous to downright rude. The Casino staff were outstanding. The gal that ran the Casino was the essence of how cruise employees should be. Fun, helpful and available for any questions. The shows were outstanding. They offered varied acts and had something for everyone. We enjoyed all of them. Now the unfortunate part. We were advised by the Cruise Director that due to bad weather we would be late arriving back in port and for those of us who wanted, we would be able to disembark with our luggage to save time. He made it appear as though Customs had granted us this privilege and it was a one time occurrence. We came to find out, much to our chagrin, that all Carnival ships now do this and it has become their standard policy. We were unlucky enough to be involved in the second week of this chaos. There was no order to the procedure. There were passengers from all decks crowding stairways and elevators, dragging voluminous amounts of luggage and converging on the only exit. People were stuck in elevators because there was no room for them when they reached the deck with the gangway. Once you exited the ship entering Customs came to a standstill because people were backed up due to a broken escalator, which, we came to find out, had also been broken the previous week. We waited in line for 1 1/2 hours to get off the ship. You could not change your mind and try to disembark at a later time because there was no way to turn around and go back to your cabin. In addition, they kept roping off areas which added to more congestion. People were tired, hot and angry. It was not a pleasant way to end the cruise. We walked out with VERY negative feelings and a belief Carnival was just using the passengers to lug off the luggage rather than the Carnival crew members. Hopefully this has already been corrected. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
Fall 2003 Conquest Review Cast: Me - Travelgrrl (Age 42) Daughter H (12) Son N (14) Daughter's friend M (12) Childhood friend JE (42) Her son JA (14) Newlwed sister L (40 - Birthday on cruise) Husband JO (36) Background: I ... Read More
Fall 2003 Conquest Review Cast: Me - Travelgrrl (Age 42) Daughter H (12) Son N (14) Daughter's friend M (12) Childhood friend JE (42) Her son JA (14) Newlwed sister L (40 - Birthday on cruise) Husband JO (36) Background: I first planned a Fall cruise for myself and my two kids - and invited my sister, who wished to also bring her boyfriend, so they decided to get their own cabin. We chose the Conquest because we wanted to depart from New Orleans, to explore the city My sister and her fiancE planned their small wedding to coincide with the cruise as their honeymoon, and they chose a balcony cabin (8A) so I got an inside (4C) to be across the hall from them. (Usually I choose the cheapest inside or outside cabin - practically guaranteeing being on the lowest deck - since I don't care one way or another about being on the higher decks.) Later I was able to upgrade to an outside cabin (6A) through Carnival's "Buy an Inside, Get on Outside" promotion. Eventually I also added our childhood friend and her son in an inside stateroom across the hall from us. So the party included myself; my son N, daughter H, and H's friend M. In the cabin across the hall: My childhood friend JE, her son JA. And the newlyweds, my sister L and her husband JO. So we were a big fun party of 8 - the largest I have traveled with! I booked the cabins through Cruise 411 and thought we got a great deal - the price was hundreds less than through Carnival or my local TA (I checked several times). They were very accommodating about getting me the upgrade, and lowered final payments (when the price dropped before final payment), and finally, cabin credits when the price dropped in the final days before the cruise. It was great to get the cabin credits, especially for the newlyweds, and also for my friend (JE) who was on a tight budget. On other cruises, I've generally sailed alone (with my kids or guests in one stateroom). This was harder to arrange (and harder to coordinate the movements of 7 others in three cabins!) But also more fun to have all of us together. We had our own table for dinner and we were always seated together when we went to the formal dining room for lunch, too. So we met fewer people than normal, but we were such a jolly party, I didn't miss it! Pre-Cruise: Friday, September 5, 2003: I picked up son N, daughter H, and daughter's friend M from school, drove the two hours to St. Paul to our Park and Fly Hotel - the Days Inn Eagan. It was nice, new and clean for $74 a night including parking for a week and shuttle to and from the airport. We dropped our 7 suitcases and 3 carry ons, then drove to the nearby Mall of America - my kids hadn't been there before. We had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, then shopped a little, and back to the hotel for a quick swim (no kids in the pool after 10:00 PM, and it was 9:30), then a little cable TV and bed. Early AM wakeup tomorrow! New Orleans: Saturday, September 6, 2003: I woke up at 5:00 AM (this is a vacation?), showered, woke the kids, arranged for the shuttle to take us to the airport a little early, loaded bags on the cart, got kids to the lobby, choked down a bagel, then shuttled to the airport. We checked in with Airtran no problem, and got rid of our cumbersome bags. We had cheap flights, but they were of course routed through Atlanta, Airtran's hub. But that worked out great for us because my sister and new brother-in-law were also flying Airtran so their Chicago to New Orleans flight bisected ours in Atlanta. We were able to meet them at the gate and fly together for the last leg of the trip. There was a little wierdness getting to our hotel, which I won't bore you with except to say: stick with a shuttle service like Airport Shuttle rather than a gypsy cab. But we finally made it! We had reserved rooms at the Avenue Plaza Hotel and Spa on St. Charles through Expedia and had no problem checking right in. The hotel staff and lobby were very nice and the rooms were fab - huge and with kitchens, 4 poster beds, very cool. We went up to the rooftop Jacuzzi (Great view of New Orleans' skyline) - I brought pistachio nuts, JO brought beer and wine - lovely! Soon enough, JE and JA met us (my childhood friend and her son) - they had driven from Missouri to New Orleans that day. I was thrilled that they made it nice and early so we could all head out to the French Quarter early that evening. We all headed out to the streetcar, which was right in front of the hotel - $1.25 per person, so $10 for the 8 of us; somebody paid for all of us out, and I paid for all of us back. The end of the line took us to Canal Street, where we disembarked and walked across to the French Quarter. We strolled around and looked for dinner. Usually I'd make a reservation in advance, but we didn't know what time JE and JA would arrive, so we were winging it. We settled on Court of the Two Sisters, where I had been for Sunday Brunch in December. I was a little worried to present ourselves at Reception: no reservation, 4 teens in tow, a couple of people in shorts. But they were nice and seated us right away in the long room adjacent to the Courtyard (so we could see and enjoy the twinkly lights and the fountain). Our waiter was very nice - he let us pore over the huge (and pricey!) menu - some of the kids ordered only an appetizer and dessert, some of us just an entree and some of us a complete 4 course dinner, so there ended up being plenty of food to share. The waiter kindly brought us extra (free) bowls of gumbo and later, (free) extra orders of bread pudding. JA ordered turtle soup, starting a week-long tradition of ordering the most wacky thing on each menu (especially because they have pet turtles at home!). We expected the soup to be a white, creamy based soup but it was dark instead. During dinner, I had gifts for the newlyweds, who had timed their (2nd) wedding to coincide with the cruise as their honeymoon. I had little Beanie Babies bride and groom bears for them, and also baseball hats that were stitched "Bride" in gold on white for L, and "Groom" in white on black for JO. After a lovely dinner, we walked down Bourbon Street which was plenty wild at 9:00 on a Saturday night - it was hard to keep the party of 8 together on the busy sidewalks. ("No dear, that's not a girl. That's a man dressed like a girl.") We did stop at one store and I bought a porcelain Limoges type box shaped like a little coffin with a little voodoo man inside. I was glad when we were safely back on the streetcar to the hotel! We were all tired - and out like a light! Embarkation: Sunday, September 7, 2003: New Brother-in-Law JO went back to Bourbon Street after the womenfolk and kids were tucked in - and was out late - but he was still up early enough to come to our room and romp on the beds and wake the teens up early the next day. JE and I walked down to the local Walgreens where she stocked up on sunscreen for the cruise, I got some moleskin (blisters already!) plus I found some cool fridge magnets and a patch for my jean jacket. (I have a jacket with patches from places I've visited: New Orleans, Paris, Florence, Bahamas, London, etc.) Some folks shop for diamonds and gold, but my favorite souvenirs tend to cost less than $5! Once all eight of us were ready we dropped off our many bags and checked out. We took the streetcar to Canal Street again, then walked to Jackson Square - kind of a longer walk than yesterday, and there was a little grumbling in the ranks - as it was hot and muggy. We made it to Cafe du Monde for breakfast - although N and JO stopped off for a Lucky Dog first! Beignets - Yum. Also, the fresh squeezed orange juice was to die for. I had envisioned trooping all over the French Quarter - seeing Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the Faulkner Alley, Cornstalk Fence, Royal Drug, etc., but no way - everyone was too tired and hot. So we toured Jackson Square and saw some of the artists nearby (but no street performers that are usually about), shopped at a cool toy store nearby then called it quits. At this point we were to switch off - Sister L and JO were heading to the port with JE and JA in their car and N, H, M and I were going to take a cab. So I hailed a cab to the hotel, then on the way I asked him if he'd take us to the port, too. Although he was in a hurry ( to pick up someone else from the port - a friend, I think) he agreed. The fare to the hotel and to idle while I picked up our bags was only $7, so I was happy that it was less than I'd budgeted to get to the hotel and port (since the hotel was pretty close to the dock so I figured only a few more $ would get us there). But as we left the hotel, the cabbie pointed out the flat rate from any hotel to the port was $7 per person (so $28 for the kids and I which seemed high since our hotel was pretty close to the port), but what the heck, it was clearly posted so OK. The other wacky thing was that his trunk would not hold all of our suitcases (it had other stuff in it too), so I held one suitcase on my lap and the cabbie left the trunk wide open. My 14 year old son N said "Sir, will our bags fall out?" and they guy was like "Don't you worry about that, son." Then we turned on Calliope - there was a line a zillion cars long waiting to come into the terminal (this was about noon). He tried to double back a different way, but ended up at the back of the queue anyway. It looked like it was going to be a loooong wait (which it was - an hour), so that flat rate for the cab started looking pretty fine! Even though I had a heavy suitcase on my lap, it was air conditioned and I was sitting, not standing, in line. At the curb, I paid the guy $40 ($7 fare to hotel + $28 to port + tip) which I'm fairly sure he kept himself since he had not been dispatched or called in either of our 2 legs - he had been on his way to pick up someone from the port the whole time. We had no problem finding a helpful porter (they have matching tropical print shirts on), who was very professional - checking to see if we had our cruise docs, our IDs, and that our suitcases were appropriately marked. I had $8 in tips folded and ready for him for our 7 bags - I like to be prepared and not have to fumble for tips - and it cracks me up how they are usually surprised to get tipped by a woman with kids in tow. Off we went to check in - fairly short lines, so no problem. But then we were referred to a huge waiting area with a sea of yellow chairs - where people were waiting to get on board. (Basically lined up but in seats.) A very authoritative lady kept order - Admitting new people and excusing other rows. Finally, we reached the other room, only to find ANOTHER sea of yellow chairs - people were waiting to get their photos taken and then finally, the mecca of the ship! It took an hour and a half from arriving at the terminal to getting on board, and that's not counting the hour in line in the cab. So getting to the terminal early is not necessarily the most efficient. The last time I sailed out of New Orleans (last December on RCI) we got right onboard after checkin - no yellow chairs - but it was later in the day. Since it was now past 1:30 we could go right to our room, where we flung down our carryons and went to lunch at the casual Cezanne restaurant. There's always a weird feeling of "I just grab whatever food I want?" during that first lunch, for some reason. But we overcame our shyness and had a dessert-intensive lunch. Back in our room, we called JA & JE's and L & JO's rooms but they were not there yet - not arriving for a long time. Seems they had to wait in that long car line two times - to drop off the bags and then to go and park (Which I don't think you actually have to do.) Our entry photo was in panel #3, and their's was in panel #17! I unpacked until they arrived, while the kids watched the second "Lord of the Rings" movie. We met our room steward, Kelvin (like the thermometer), who cheerfully agreed to my request to clear out the mini bar when he had a chance. (JE and L's room stewards were fussy about this - JE's outright said "No", and then "I'll have to ask my manager", and L's said "I'll just put the things on the outside of the fridge.") I wanted the space for our mini cans of pop, bottle of wine, and juice pouches. Our room was very nicely sized, (and JE's inner was the same size, too), we had no problem with four in a room. There were twin beds beneath the window, with the two nightstands in between. Rather than the pullman beds opening up over our heads, as in some staterooms, the couch was a full sized twin bed and the pullman lowered over it. This worked out well for us - since my son and I each had a twin and the girls had bunk beds, sort of separated from us. Once our entire group was on board the beautiful Conquest, we met up on the Lido Deck for a frosty drink, and I passed out door signs (a retro postcard where the girl is thinking "All I need is an umbrella in my drink"), ship diagrams showing the placement of all of our rooms, and cards with poems for L and JE. We met at ages 4 and 2 in Loves Park, Illinois in 1966 - so the poem was about that. (Meadowmart was the little shopping mall near our neighborhood) It was late in the summer of Sixty-Six, Our family moved to a home in the sticks. A little white house in tiny Loves Park Within a stone's throw of old Meadowmart. The first day there, who did we meet? The coolest young girl, right down the street. She was cute and tough as she could be, And the two little sisters soon became three. Years went by, and we girls grew up; After school, after boys, and all of that stuff. Though we moved farther, and farther apart We kept a place for the others, deep in our hearts. Now today we're together, after long last! Looking to the future, remembering the past. As we head on our journey, from land out to sea I'm glad we're together, my 'sisters' and me. I also had shell bracelets for all; three of one kind for the ladies, two more delicate ones for the girls, and three manly ones for the guys. (Bought them at end of summer clearance sales for a pittance.) There were tears all around and it was a very sweet moment! We met a little while later for dinner - all but JO who felt gross in his New Orleans dirty clothes, and didn't have his suitcases yet. We had early early seating in the Monet Dining Room at 5:45 - we wanted the Renoir Dining Room where early seating is at a more civilized 6:15 PM. But we had a lovely table to ourselves with a beautiful ocean view (usually we're tucked behind some waiter's station or something) so we were happy with the early early dining time. We met our servers - Jerry, who was older than most waiters I've had on cruises; and Angela (my first female server or steward!) who we seldom saw. I had chicken satay as an appetizer, skipped salad in favor of a fruit salad appetizer, and had tilapia for my entree. The fish was excellent! Carmelized custard for dessert - Yum! I was tired after dinner and planned to stay in - JE came over to chat and we sent the teens to the 411 Party, only to find out that we needed to officially sign them into the Teen Club (for the first visit). So we ventured out - me in glasses, for heaven's sakes, to sign them up. They rarely participated, except the boys, who were religious about the daily 5:00-6:00 free Playstation and XBox time. JE said "Let's get a drink" and even though I have a bit of a phobia about anyone seeing me in my glasses, we stopped for one. Just as I was telling JE that we were bound to run into L and JO (after having begged off for the night), here they came around a corner, looking very cute in their Bride and Groom hats. So we all went to Henri's for a drink - it was early so the disco was pretty empty. It is a very cool bar with dozens of video monitors on every surface: walls, dancefloor, sides of dancefloor and bar, etc. They play videos on the monitors, or else shots of everyone on the dance floor. A youngish woman was tearing up the place - Wooo hooing and running around on the dance floor, greeting everyone who came in. She was obviously tipsy and saying "This is what we came for!" Her dad was there, a little embarrassed, and when she announced to everyone "This is my Dad!!!!" we teased him by saying "You must be so proud!" The most hilarious part is that she asked my sister "Where are you guys from?" and when L said "Chicago", she was like "Wooooo!!! Chicago!!!" Then a few minutes later we moved to a different place at the bar (still overlooking the dance floor) and the girl came over and asked them again "Where are you from?" and was just as happy the second time. Then she was dancing around on the very cool dance floor, sort of dirty dancing alone and then luring girls to come dance with her. (Hey, it looked fun, but there I was with my glasses on, feeling too homely to dance!) Then they started pole dancing, and pretty soon she came over and asked my sister, in all seriousness, "Hey, where are you guys from?" and when she heard "Chicago", she was just as thrilled the third, as the first time. Complete blank slate. I about wet my pants, it was so funny. We ran into her the next day and yelled "Hey, Chicago!" and she smiled wanly (and hungoverly). I rounded up the kids and we went back to the room and went to bed. But one more funny thing happened before the night was out - at 2:00 AM I woke up to a CRASH - it was my 11 year old daughter dropping something off her top bunk (which was over the couch/bed, rather than over the primary twin beds). When I went to check, she had gotten out of bed, grabbed the cooler full of ice (and icy water) and carried it up the ladder to her bed, then dropped it once she was there. I was like "What in sam hill are you doing?" to which she replied "I was thirsty so I was getting some water." So I was saying all kinds of crabby mom things like "Just get a glass from the bathroom! You don't want to drink cooler water anyway! It's 2:00 in the morning!" Then I realized she had dumped the ice cold water and ice all over her friend, M, who was sleeping below. And poor M slept right through all of it! (Well, it HAD been a long day, first in New Orleans and then on the ship. One thing that never ceases to astound me about cruising is that you can go to bed the first or second night and think you've already had so many adventures, and you can't believe there are still 6 or 5 days left. Then in the wink of an eye, those days speed by and it's time to go!) It turned out that H was sleepwalking when she got out of bed and grabbed the cooler, and only woke up when it fell off the bed. So when I asked her what she was doing, the first thing that popped into her head was that she was trying to get a drink. We enjoyed telling M and N about it the next day - they both slept through it all. And nothing got ruined by the torrent of ice water! Monday, September 8, 2003 I woke up early and refreshed, so I got ready without waking the teens and went out for breakfast at the Cezanne. I brought an early birthday gift for my sister L and called her from one of the 'public' phones which are near every elevator bay. These phones are very handy in case you need to call your own room or someone else's when you're out and about the ship. So L left JO to sleep in and met me for breakfast. We never had trouble finding a table, unlike other ships where the Lido restaurant is often packed for breakfast. L enjoyed her gift, which was a fun retro looking beach bag filled with: a pair of flip flops, some sand diggers and castle molds, sun hat, beach cup, swim ring, water wallet, sunscreen, Sun-in, Chapstick with SPF, goggles, and a very wacky pair of pink glittery sunglasses. H had even thrown in a couple of "Finding Nemo" toys: a fish that giggled and one that made a whale sound. After breakfast, I went to L's room to check out her balcony (and wake up JO since he woke us up yesterday in New Orleans), then I left to read on deck for awhile. The kids eventually emerged to have pizza for breakfast, then we all went on the slide and swam. Eventually we put on some decent clothes and went to lunch in the formal dining room (also the Monet, I think?). Since there were 6 of us (2 were wandering around somewhere), we were seated together which was nice - sometimes I get a little tired of the forced conversations with people you meet only once for lunch. This was a fantastic meal - I had chilled avocado soup (OK) and then Mongolian beef salad (Fabulous!) and caramel custard (Yes! Yes!) After lunch, we went to the Lido Deck to find out the rules of the Ship Building Competition for later that week. (Rules: Build a ship out of something and see if it floats. End of rules.) Then I went to our room and made up the gift bags I had planned for our servers and room steward. I usually bring internationally usable phone cards and give the staff those along with part of their tip up front (on the first formal night, after I have everyone's name's straight and so on). This trip I decided to do something different - since I knew I'd be hauling a whole bunch of gifts for my sister for her wedding and 40th birthday, I decided to make up gift bags for our room steward, waiter and asst waiter. I bought the larger sized fancy gift bags from a dollar store (along with many of the items); I packed the bags in their flat state and then assembled them while on board. Some of the things I put in the bags: a flat calculator, a note pad, fancy pens, a tin of mints, some tropical Lifesavers, a nail clipper, small hand lotion and baby powder, a small bungee cord, little hooks that won't leave a mark on walls, Chapstick, etc. All of the things were tiny and suitable for using in a small stateroom. I added a Thank You card to each (with an extra $20 over the Sign and Sail tips - because I know they'd just as soon have the cold hard cash), signed by all of us in the room (and I added JE, JA, L & JO's names to the cards for our waiters). I left Kelvin's on one of the beds, where he couldn't miss it, with his card propped in front. We had to get all dolled up very early - because of our 5:45 dinner time, preceded by the Captain's Cocktail Party, plus I wanted to have photos taken of the teens before that. So we were in deep lipstick mode by 4:00. N got ready fast and disappeared for awhile, while the girls and I primped. H had a new long black dress, really more of a grown up dress than I would prefer for her age (though it was cut primly enough). I had bought it for her, intending to save it for a couple of years and she had tried it on before the trip and it fit so she begged and begged to bring it along. She looked lovely, but I'm in no hurry for her to look quite so grown up! Her friend M had a similarly beautiful sky blue prom dress and they both looked adorable. We had several photos taken and I bought more than I usually do - for I knew that M's parents would treasure the ones of her looking so lovely. We met up with L and JO, and the newlyweds looked GREAT! My sis had a long white and silver sparkly gown, her hubby had a nice black suit. I had a sparkly RED gown, very form fitting (roll out the control top hose!) but conservatively cut so I didn't feel too much like a trollop. I know from experience that it's best to arrive at the Captain Party 5 minutes early, rather than 20 minutes late, so we did so, and were rewarded with a nice round table between the band and the back bar. (We went to the back bar, but the party is held in all bars.) JE and JA soon arrived, too. I stuck to a couple glasses of Chardonnay off the waiter's tables, but L went to the bar for a blended Margarita and the kids got virgin Pina Coladas. (We tipped big, too.) The teens especially liked having the folks come around with trays of munchies! This is one aspect where Carnival beats RCI, in my opinion; at their Captain's Party there is no one circulating appetizers, and usually the bars are not opened for mixed drinks, only what is available off trays of pre-made drinks. Whatta life! Then it was off to dinner, and to hand out our gift bags. Angela was kind of like "Oh, whatever, thanks", but Jerry was really touched. Of course they were too busy to investigate them right away, so the bags were tucked away in favor of something more important - Dinner! I had prawns, a tropical fruit salad, and lobster, plus I ordered a steak on the side for several of us to split for Surf and Turf. Jerry brought extra lobster tails without us asking, then later brought an assortment of desserts: Flourless chocolate cake (Absolutely Wonderful), pear tart (a bit dry), tiramisu (smothered with custard, what more can I say?), and even a tray of petit fours. We had to roll out of the dining room, and even control top hose can't hide that amount of excess. The newlyweds went off to do what newlyweds do, and JE and I went to see "Formidible" at the Toulouse Latrec Lounge, which was good; energetic dancing, fab costumes, nice singing. (The kids were there too, in a different part of the theater.) We checked out L and JO's balcony, then went down to steerage to our cabins. Kelvin had left us a towel elephant, Conquest pins, and an invitation to the Repeater's Party. The kids were in early too so I was able to go to sleep without shepherding them in. Sweet dreams! Tuesday, September 9 - Sea Day One thing that Carnival (on Destiny and the Conquest) has that I like is a giant lighted map that shows the ship's planned itinerary; there are green lights going from the port of embarkation to the various islands, then looping back. As the cruise progresses, the lights turn red (the portion you have already traveled) so you can always get a feel for where the ship is located. Of course it's very sad on the last day to see all those red dots on the board and very few precious green ones left! Another thing I like about Carnival is there is a deck with cushy lounge chairs. Disney had it too, but not RCI ships. (Nota bene: I love RCI too, and there are aspects that I think THEY do better.) On the Conquest this is on deck 3, outside the Purser's Desk (and I think on the other side of the ship too). Always very quiet there; often in the evening I was the only one. The day was much like yesterday - I let the kids sleep, read and had breakfast alone, met up with others to swim and hang out on the pool deck, finally saw teens around noon. I was reading "Take the Cannoli" by political humorist Sarah Vowell. We had lunch in the dining room again, I had fruit salad then tender ribs. JE and I saw the ice carving demonstration, and I was the first person to guess what it was. (The clue was "The ice carver was a hopeless romantic" and I guessed "Love birds" - winning a cheesily nice Carnival trophy.) For some reason, the Past Guest Party was from 3:45 - 4:30 so we put on our dinner clothes very early, slurped down some yummy free drinks, then went to "Tribute to Broadway" at the Toulouse Latrec Lounge. I made the kids attend and they liked it; of course I loved all the songs from great Broadway musicals, sung by the ship's male vocalist. Then it was time for dinner! Will the partying ever stop? We changed places every night so that we could all have turns nearest the ocean view window seats. (The teens tended to stay to the other end of the table - can't imagine why they would want to avoid us!) I had prosciutto with melon, spinach salad with walnuts, and jerk pork with plantains. Our waiter Jerry came over to thank us for the gift bag and I swear he had tears in his eyes. He again brought us a major festival of desserts - all I remember is one was raspberry creme brulee - a combination of two of my very favorite foods. I can't remember what I did that night - never made it to the Lido party at 11:00, but the teens went to see "Goldmember" in the teen club at 10:30 PM. I remembered to order sandwiches from room service before bed, for a picnic lunch tomorrow. (Good room service lunch items: crudites, fruit salad, chips, turkey sandwiches, PBJ sandwiches, etc. Bring ziplocs.) Wednesday, September 10 - Montego Bay, Jamaica I was a little leery of Jamaica, since some from Cruise Critic were hassled there. But we took others' advice and went to Doctor's Cave Beach and had a great day. We brought a cooler with lunch, snorkels and beach bags so we were loaded down and ready for a beach day! We took a JUTA van; right off the ship there was an official with a clip board sorting people out where they wanted to go and confirming the prices. It was $4 each for a ride in the nice, new van to our beach - a fairly long ride through some scrubby areas, lots of slow paced looking construction, and past the Montego Bay Jail "3 meals a day, a place to stay, no wife to nag" It looked like a very scary place to be - for anyone considering flirting with purchasing any illegal substances while in port! The private beach cost $5 each admission, $5 per chair and beach umbrella; two umbrellas and four chairs were enough for our party of 8, since half of us were always in the water. I also rented snorkeling vests, but they were the life preserver kind, not proper inflatable snorkel vests, so they inched up on you when you were swimming. It was worth it though, to not have to worry about anyone drowning. The beach was beautiful! Turquoise water, white sand, decent snorkeling on a coral reef close to the beach. The drinks were kind of expensive, but since we had a picnic lunch, we offset that. I was relaxing in an inflatable circle I always bring ("water noodles") and my daughter swam up and crawled in it with me and said as we floated, she said "This is the life!" The two girls wanted to get their hair braided (but I knew from past experience that if they had their whole heads done it would be extremely time consuming), so we planned to just have a headband style done, with braids going back a couple of inches, then fixed with a bead, with the hair long in back. A member of the Drs. Cave Beach staff radioed for a hair braider, but when she came she led us slightly off property, under an embankment to do the braiding. (We were within eye contact of the rest of our party, so I felt fairly comfortable, but there were some rusty bits of concrete around, not very esthetically appealing.) She quoted $50 to do the headbands for the two girls, and I bargained her down to $30, figuring I'd give her $10 more as a tip. It took her awhile to do H's thick, fine hair, but M's thick wiry hair was pronounced "Much better for braiding". Both girls got to pick their bead color and she had very nice beads - each had a tiny rubber band threaded through it, rather than finishing the braids with tin foil, as some hair braiders do. When I gave her $40, with the extra $10 "For being so nice", she said "Bless you", and dug in her bag and gave each girl a hand made ankle bracelet. H's was lovely - little amethyst and tigers eye beads amongst the cheaper beads. Very, very kind. A big storm moved by, but didn't get us. The huge umbrellas nearly blew away, though, and the Dr. Cave staff were chasing them down the beach. We packed up our things and walked down to Margaritaville, shopping a little along the way. (I bought a Jamaica magnet and a patch that looked like the Jamaican flag and said "JAMAICA NO PROBLEM".) A few vendors called out but didn't hassle us - though my fluffy sized friend JE got a "Hey, sexy lady!" from one of the (women) vendors. Margaritaville was, like New Orleans, a little wild for the teens - My sister wanted to stop there and have a frozen Margarita, since that's her drink of choice, and her husband wanted to slide down their gigantic slide. I'm glad we chose Drs. Cave Beach for the main part of the day, because the water seemed deep (and with few people in it or supervising) compared with our nearby beach. So I was sucking down my frozen Marg like crazy, trying to finish so we could get going back to the ship, and gave myself a big ice cream headache! The music was pounding, people were dancing all around, and the next thing we knew, they started laying pretty girls across the bar, each one lying on her back between the legs of the girl behind her. A bartender came up and started pouring shots in their belly buttons and whipped cream on their tummies (though I think the girls thought THEY were getting a shot of alcohol), instead, another bartender crawled up over them, drinking the shots and snorking up the whipped cream and kissing the girls as he went. OK! Time to go! We took another JUTA cab, the bouncers at Margaritaville hailed one for us that took us back to the pier, no problem. However, we were dropped off in a little mall area and it took us awhile to figure out how to get on the ship. I did stop and buy the girls lovely two-piece sarong outfits - one had a halter top and wrap around pants, the other had a top and wrap around skirt. For some reason my VISA card was denied, so I paid cash. Never found out why. There were customs officers there to check your belongings before going back to the ship (not Carnival people, Jamaican officials). One lady had a beautiful bouquet of tropical flowers that she had bought for $10. She brought them on the ship with no hassle. So it looks as if you can bring flowers, but not 'weeds' on board! (However, that night I smelled all kinds of "interesting" smells in the corridor - obviously some people did indulge while ashore and brought some back - but our small town teens seemed oblivious to it.) We were starved so grabbed a late bite in the Cezanne Dining Room at 3:30 PM. The girls wore their pretty tropical outfits for dinner, and they dolled JE up - with special makeup, glitter gel, rhinestone barrettes, the works! We met on deck for the sailaway (with the exception of the newlyweds, who were going to The Point for dinner for L's 40th birthday). This was the only time my camera suffered from condensation - it was downright steamy up there and my photos turned out a little soft focus! The girls also had their photograph taken in front of a beach backdrop, which looked very real in the finished photo. They looked adorable with their braided headbands and island outfits. For dinner that night I had snowshoe crab cake, which was a pile of very minced up cold crab (or surimi or whatever), it wasn't what I expected. Instead of a salad I had mussels and shrimp appetizer which was served with a tomato sauce. For an entree I had tiger prawns in phyllo, which actually tasted like a pot pie - pretty bland, even the shrimp. But dessert was fab as usual (though we had to ward off Jerry from bringing us all of them again - after two nights of dessert mania) - I had brown and bitter, which was a dark custard with a dried sugared topping - but different from creme brulee. A strange thing happened after dinner: JE and I went to walk through the shops, while the three kids went back to our room (with JA following in a few minutes). In the 20 minutes it took JE and I to arrive back at my stateroom, the kids had arrived and were undoubtably noisily chatting, and our next door neighbors called Security! They didn't phone or knock on our door to ask the kids to pipe down - instead just called Security - and this was at 7:30 PM! My three kids were in the room, and JA had just walked in the door, when Security knocked. The kids said before they even had a chance to open the door, the security guards burst in the door and scared them half to death. N said the security guards came in and looked around the room suspiciously, as if they had expected to find a drunken adult party instead of a small group of young teens. When the security guards were satisfied that nothing was amiss, they left, but without apologizing for the interruption or misunderstanding. They did tell the kids that the neighbor didn't feel well, and that was why they complained about the noise. A few moments later, JE and I arrived back at the room and were shocked to hear the kids' story. This all took place well before 8:00 PM. The more I thought about it, the more upset I grew. To begin with, we are considerate cruisers - we don't speak loudly in the hall, we are quiet as mice in our stateroom after 10 PM, we don't save lounges on deck or seats at the theater, we wait until everyone is off the elevator before boarding, we give up seats to the elderly. N & H and M have been on other cruises (on RCI, Carnival and Disney), and know that the standards of behavior expected of them are a small price to pay for the luxury and relative freedom of a cruise, so I'm confident that when the kids said they were just talking and laughing normally, not jumping off beds or slamming into walls or anything, that they were telling the truth. (They are 12, 12, 14 & 14, so hardly little ones that are rambunctious.) Plus, the brief time elapsed between when the kids arrived at the room and when JE and I did (Less than half an hour) make it apparent that security was called at the very first peep of noise, as well as without the courtesy of a knock or phone call first. And - 7:30 PM! Carnival positions itself as "The Fun Ships", but it is hardly fun if one is not allowed to laugh in one's stateroom at 7:30 PM. Of course, I had been making sure it was quiet in our room by 10:00 each night (and we have been the victims of other people waking us up at 3 AM by having a wild party on other cruises) but 7:30 PM? And if our neighbors were truly ill, I felt sorry for them, unless they were sick because they had too many Margaritas at Margaritaville! Most troubling to me was that the teens said the security guards burst in before the kids had a chance to open the door - and also that they didn't apologize once they found out their visit was unwarranted. So I stewed about it that night, resolving to discuss it with Guest Relations in the morning. We did try to rally and enjoy the night - the kids went to a movie at Montmartre, the teen club, and JE and I had our photos taken with old fashioned clothes on. It was hilarious - she held a whip and I held a shotgun, and we had solemn expressions on our faces. A chubby guy who was walking by said "I want to do that" so he came over and changed into the dress that JE was taking off. He coyly posed in the scarlet dress (though the photos are printed in sepia tone), mugging away. JE said it was too bad he looked better in the dress than she did! Thursday, September 11 - Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island We waited until those with shore tours had left the ship, had a relaxing breakfast and prepared our picnic and beach bags before tendering in. I stopped at Guest Relations and asked to speak to someone about our previous night's brush with Security, and the Purser's staff person said she could take care of it. She jotted down a few notes and promised to get back to me about my concern. JE, the 4 kids and I went to Eden Rock, leaving the honeymooners to have a beach day for themselves. We walked to a few shops (JE was keen to stop and get the ship-advertised freebies), but it was hot and I wanted to get to a beach! The kids were a little tired too (they were able to sleep in on Sea Days but had been rousted the past 2 days), and H complained bitterly about having to carry the beach bag part of the way! Eden Rock was very cool - Just a tiny strip of sand with two rows of free lounge chairs, next to Paradise Point restaurant, and also a handy dive shop where I rented proper snorkeling vests. The snorkeling was GREAT, right off the beach is a coral reef, in fact you climb down a series of rocky stairs to get there. However, there was a current - and at one point, H and M and I were snorkeling and we looked up and we were far from the steps we entered from. We had to swim hard to get back and it scared me a little. Then we had our picnic lunch (buying drinks from the restaurant) and split up, with N and I going shopping at the new, but mostly empty, mall across the street while JE and the other kids stayed at Eden Rock and watched the stuff. (Then we switched and I watched the stuff.) I did buy a cool piece of artwork for $12 - a painted metal lizard that looks as if it's crawling up your wall. Also, N and I went into a small art gallery that had an exhibit that explored human rights violations in Cuba. Part of the installation was a plain white room where there was a Polaroid camera that you could use to take a photograph of yourself, and also a Sharpie marker where you could write your comments regarding the exhibit, and hang it on the wall. N thought I was a psycho art mother, but he grudgingly took my photo. We tried to be quiet, but the sound of the Polaroid camera going off sounded like a gunshot in the small gallery! They also had a tiny gift shop where I bought some Frida Kahlo magnets for a Christmas gift, and a metal airplane made in Vietnam from a Coke can. L collects Coke things, so I knew she would like it. Back on the ship, JE and I met L and JO in their room, to give her the Coke plane and to toast the sailaway with some champagne. When I scooted back to the room at 4:30 to take N's pants to the laundry room to iron them - lo and behold the crazy neighbors had struck again! This time, they pounded on the wall (at 4:30 PM), presumably to tell the kids to be quiet. H went over, and with aplomb far exceeding her 12 years, politely asked the couple that if they wanted us to be quiet, they only needed to come over and knock on the door and tell us so, rather than pound on the wall or worse, call Security. Apparently the two were godsmacked to have a mere slip of a girl so politely confront them and the woman just muttered "Well, be quiet". This was the first time any of us had seen them - they were a young couple, late 20's. When I got back to the room from ironing (right down the hall), I was flummoxed that now we were apparently to tiptoe around our room as early as 4:30 PM. That night was the second formal night. We minced around, getting ready, hushing each other. We celebrated L's birthday that night at dinner - I had a vintage Coke (and other advertisers) bank from Holland for her gift. I had shrimp cocktail and New England crab cakes and chateaubriand with bearnaise (and a bite of N's duck). We ordered an extra order of Indian food for all of us to share: chicken tikka masala with naan bread and basmati rice - yum! They forgot L's birthday cake, though, even though I reminded Jerry when we sat down. Instead I split a napolean and some cheesecake with JE. I thought the teens might not have seen enough shows this week, so I dragged them to "Point and Click" which we liked. They had virgin "Miami Vice" drinks - which are pretty - half pina colada and half strawberry daiquiri. JE and JA and I went to the late night comedy show, while the other teens went to a late movie at Montmartre. Friday, September 12, 2003 Cozumel I stopped back at the Purser's Desk to follow up on my original complaint, and the woman I spoke to (who was the same as yesterday) said that she had checked and that Security did not unlock the door themselves, as they do not carry stateroom keys with them. (The only thing we could figure out was that JA must have left the door a little ajar when he entered the room, a few minutes before Security knocked, and that they knocked and then shoved open the door before the kids had a chance to answer it.) She apologized for the interruption, but said that their policy was to investigate any noise complaint, no matter how early or silly. I explained my concern (updating them on the most recent interaction, where the neighbors were seeking silence at 4:30 PM), and she was sympathetic and stated that someone would get back to us. However, I had to pursue it myself - Carnival did not respond to my concern directly. But other things to think about - like a great beach day! We cabbed to Chankanaab, which was fantastic: thatched huts, lots of free lounges, drink service on the beach, great snorkeling, restaurants right there, great service and friendly people. There was a Mayan temple and gardens there too, but we didn't have time to check them out - wasn't sure if it was a real ruin or a reproduction. Will take the time next cruise to visit them. Truly Heaven on Earth! After two days of picnic lunches, we were tired of picnics and instead had lunch at their Laguna restaurant. Authentic Mexican food, very good. There were LOTS of bees around, though so we learned to stop up our Coke cans with napkins! Following a quick and cheap cab ride back, we shopped at the stores near the ship. (We also shopped at Chankanaab, where things were especially cheap.) One note: if you plan to shop at the Duty Free Mall (which is to your right as you come off the dock towards the other stores, wait to buy until you are ready to re-board the ship. You can't take your purchases into the island, and have to go directly from there to the ship. JO learned this the hard way, as he bought stuff on the way to Chankanaab, only to have to double back and go back to the ship with his booty before we left for the beach. What a great day! We came back and got ready for dinner - I had langostino salad (yum), french onion soup (double yum), and filet mignon. For dessert I had chocolate mille fulle, which looked like an ordinary muffin but tasted wonderful. After dinner, we went back to the room, and here is where Mom got to witness the neighbors in action for herself. We were just hanging out, nothing out of the ordinary, no raised voices, nothing. Security comes to the door. I answer, speak to them about the recurring problems we have been having through the week with the neighbors, and inform them that we have filed counter claims, as our vacation was starting to be ruined by the constant interruptions. The Security lady was sympathetic, but as said before, was required to respond to all complaints. While we were congenially speaking in the hall, the offending neighbors emerge. A chinless fellow (Jack Sprat), and his wife (several more chins than average), come out, ready for dinner. READY FOR DINNER? Meaning, that the two times they had called Security at 7:30, they were getting ready for their late seating dinner! My God, how quiet does one's environment have to be at that point in the day? Their dinner time was 7:45, so they were not napping or anything or the sort, fifteen minutes prior in either case, when they called Security. I (politely) challenged them to their faces - why we had to be quiet at 7:30 or 4:30 PM. Of course, they had no answer, and just huffed off to dinner. All week long we had been gathering materials to make our "Yellow Submarine" for the ship building competition - wood coffee stirrers for wood decking, paper umbrellas, bubble wrap to make the shoebox float, etc. It was also the one time all week I was confident we would be making noise in our cabin - with all 8 of us building the ship, the fun and commotion of a giant art project. It made me sit down and have a little cry, to think that I was afraid to hang out and have fun in my own cabin. But I sorted myself out, called my sister, and asked if we could come up to their balcony room to make the ship. Of course she said yes and we had a grand time, the kids brought pizza and pop and I brought the arts supplies we happened to have with us and things we had picked up on board the ship. All of the adults had very serious ideas of how the "Yellow Submarine" should look, from the steam coming out of the pipes to the wooden planking on the deck. The kids helped out, but mostly laughed at us! The girls had also made the four Beatles out of floam, which I had brought along to keep the kids busy on the plane or in the stateroom. Each Beatle looked a little different, although Ringo never did dry and was a little droopy about the waist! Saturday, September 13, 2003 Sea Day The kids slept in again, so JE and I hung out on deck, then checked out the hot tub in the workout center (very nice, with waterfall). The kids joined us for lunch - this time we got sandwiches at Paul's Deli (very, very good) and there was a chocolate buffet in the Windjammer so we pigged on a few desserts as we waited for the ship competition to begin. My sis L got on stage with our ship - which DID look wonderful, if I may say so. She and the British emcee chatted a bit about the Beatles on board the Yellow Submarine, and the emcee said it looked as if Ringo was a bit seasick over the side, since he was so droopy looking. There were a lot of laughs around. I figured we had the contest in the bag, if our boat actually floated! There was only one other competitor, which was a couple of apples laced together to form a boat. Initially, I doubted it would even float, though JE (former Brownie leader) said she had done an experiment with the girls and apples DO float. The cute part was, they had made little people out of grapes, with faces carved in and everything. So even though their ship was no where near as elaborate as ours, it was cute, too. Next was the launching of the ships. First ours - into the pool, where everyone was congregated around, with their legs in the water. Yes, it floated! Then everyone began churning the water with their legs, and it still floated! Finally they whipped the water into a torrent, and yes, the Yellow Submarine remained afloat, though by now Ringo looked positively seasick! ;-) The cute little apple boat also floated, and when the audience was to clap for the winners, it was declared a tie, and each team got a nice Carnival trophy (like the one I won before) and a couple of fancy winners medals. So each family ended up with prizes. Since it was our last day, we wanted to do as many fun things as possible, so we zoomed off to the Austin Powers dance class in the Toulouse Lautrec theater, followed by the Newlywed-and-Not-So-Newlywed Game. It was funny to see one in real life; I had previously only seen such cruise game shows on the TV before. For dinner, I had fruit salad with peach schnapps, creole gumbo soup, and shrimp newburg. I vowed to pack after dinner, and settled in. All week long, (with the exception of embarkation day, when the 2nd Lord of the Rings movie was on the TV), the offerings were really terrible. Usually you'll get a pretty decent sampling of second run movies, and I 've seen new stuff like "A Beautiful Mind" or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", or classics like "All About Eve" on cruises before, not to mention the transatlantic with H and M where the girls watched "Legally Blonde" and "The Princess Diaries" about 80 times. But on the Carnival's TV, these were grade Z movies, ones I had never heard of (straight to video types). Not that I go on cruises to watch TV! But when you are in your room for the night or else getting ready for dinner, sometimes it's nice to watch a movie. I learned why the quality was so poor, that final night, as I explored the extensive Pay Per View options available. Here were MANY second run films, all for a mere $10 fee. Hey, if that's the way it is, then we're in: we shelled out for "What a Girl Wants" which the 12 year olds liked, and I enjoyed for the fact that it featured Colin Firth, if nothing else. While we were watching the movie and I was packing, the Purser's Desk called, to follow up on the repeated interruptions courtesy of our intolerant neighbors and the Security folks. She asked if I received my letter of apology, and seemed confused when I told her none had arrived; then she checked and said "Oh, I guess we forgot to send one." I told her it hardly mattered, as the cruise was all but over, but that I would think twice before booking Carnival again due to the juxtaposition between their marketing as "The Fun Ships" and the fact we were forced to tiptoe around our cabin every day after 4:30 PM. She said "We want to make this up to you" and promised someone would contact me again before I got off the ship. Which no one did. All packed, and managed to remember to leave out clothes for all of us before setting the bags out in the hall for pickup. I went out on deck 3 to have a final smoke and a Coke (I only smoke on vacations, and boy is it fun then), and to check my voicemail messages, as we now had phone service since we were slowly chugging up the Mississippi. I had a couple message from news reporters from Minneapolis, covering a new development in a child abduction case for which I have been acting as a media liaison (for work). When I returned the calls, the reporters were shocked to hear I was on board a cruise ship, on the Mississippi! Sunday, September 14, 2003 Debarkation Day We had a final breakfast, then an easy debarkation. A nice labrador retriever was on hand to sniff everyone down to make sure they hadn't brought anything back from Jamaica (presumably the dog had already made the rounds of the suitcases, so that wouldn't work, either, in case anyone is toying with the idea of becoming an international smuggler). It took us awhile to find all of our suitcases, which has never happened before - usually they're all together in one place. But we managed to round them up, say goodbye to JE and JA, who were driving home to Missouri, and took a cab to the airport, where we met up with L and JO (who had gone on ahead). We shared the flight to Atlanta, whereupon they zoomed off to Chicago, and we waited the 4 hours 'til our connecting flight. (Which turned out to be six hours, due to a delay.) Therefore, we didn't get to Minneapolis until 11:30 PM, and then I had a 3 hour drive home to Duluth. (I know, I know, that's what I get for arranging such a cheapie flight - but when you're buying 4 tickets, it adds up!) The great part was: I was able to call the hotel shuttle while we waited for our bags, so they picked us up within 5 minutes of our arrival at the shuttle area, then they had freshly baked, warm cookies and milk ready for us at the hotel when we picked up the car. The kids popped right off to sleep, but I managed to stay awake for the long drive home. We were tucked in by 3 AM - and ready (?) for school and work the next morning! Conclusion: Really fun trip, our first with a large group Bringing similarly aged friends/family along makes for a special week for teens Great to re-unite with family and friends from childhood New Orleans is a great port to sail out of Hard to keep 8 people together in New Orleans and on islands Beautiful ship and nice staff Excellent food Irritating neighbors really ruined a lot of the week for us Read Less
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