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Sail Date: May 2000
Had a great time.......Got the largest suite on the boat which I'd highly recommend as only the suites have a balcony which comes in handy if you want to smoke or sunbathe in the nude.... Yes, they have have an area designated for ... Read More
Had a great time.......Got the largest suite on the boat which I'd highly recommend as only the suites have a balcony which comes in handy if you want to smoke or sunbathe in the nude.... Yes, they have have an area designated for topless on the boat, but it's on the top deck and you'd encounter less wind on Mt. Everest.....I think they cater to Americans as there are more rules as to where and when you can smoke, go naked or whatever....I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't ban the thong and started having church on Sunday trying to cater to most the crazed out Americans onboard walking around with bibles trying to save everyone... Didn't take the kids, but all those who did said they had a great time in Kids camp.... Same with the dolphins in Cozumel, I highly recommend this and also got an excellent report on the ATV adventure riding thru the jungle from the friends we made at the diner table....said it was a blast...but be prepared to get dirty!!! Did self debarkation,,,,,was a breeze....(travel light)....Was luck in the Casino and the disco was rocking, with the exception of one night when they played rap music all night long.... An gonna try another cruise line next time....hopefully one with more of an European attitude as both my wife and I like to sunbathe naked with is impossible on the sundeck of Carnival......also we don't enjoy being herded over to the corners of the boat to smoke....... Enjoy Read Less
Sail Date: July 2002
This was our 2nd cruise and a late 13yr anniversary for us. Getting there: We drove to New Orleans from the Dallas/Ft.Worth area and stayed the night in a hotel. Embarkation: We took a brief walking tour of New Orleans. I recommend ... Read More
This was our 2nd cruise and a late 13yr anniversary for us. Getting there: We drove to New Orleans from the Dallas/Ft.Worth area and stayed the night in a hotel. Embarkation: We took a brief walking tour of New Orleans. I recommend checking in before doing this. The warehouse where we sat to wait for embarkation and check-in was extremely hot and crowded. Things got a little better when we got to a place where we could sit to wait, but it took maybe 40 minutes for the whole process. It did seem like a long time in the heat. When we finally got onboard, we wanted to put money on our shipboard credit card and get it activated. Everyone had the same idea. Several terminals for doing this were unmanned while we continued to wait for over an hour. People in line began to grumble. I finally got up the courage to ask if they could open up some unmanned terminals. I found a guy in a carnival coat who turned out to be one of the activity directors. I explained that we had been waiting for over an hour and his response was a sarcastic, "And???...." Maybe he wasn't the person to ask, but he could have at least directed me to someone who could help or at least explain why my request could not be fulfilled. Things improved after this. Cabins: We were on the Riviera deck. Only crew were below us. Still our room seemed large with a large shower and closet. We had a porthole. I was very happy with our cabin. It was kept immaculately. My only complaint is that you can't seem to get a real bed for two. They push two beds together and bridge them with a foam pad or something. Not the same as a bed for two. Food: Awesome breakfast, I'm a creature of habit, so I had my daily french toast, bacon, and scrambled eggs in the cafe at the rear of the ship. We always ate outside on the deck out of the wind, but with the Caribbean sun and sea as our view. The food other than breakfast in the "cafe" (I forgot the name) is fair to good. Sometimes there is a wait for breakfast in the morning or for pizza. We usually got lunch poolside. The burgers were great. The drinks were awesome. The best food was dinner. I especially remember the filet mignon and the best carrot cake I have ever had, ever (that's saying something). Breakfast was nice in the dining room also, but kind of a stuffy formal feel so early in the day. It's better to get out and enjoy the sun and fresh air. Snack food in the bars was the same choice everywhere (ad nauseam). Best snack choices were poolside followed by the cafe. Entertainment: Above average. The entertainers do a good job of putting on a happy face and performing well, but if you talk to them for any length of time you'll find most are not happy. Apparently, pay, leave time, and living conditions are not what most of the crew and entertainers envisioned when they signed on. The comedian was best suited to our tastes, and was so popular, I only got an obstructed view from just outside the doorway. We came late and only happened upon that show. Both comedians were very funny and popular. Next, we enjoyed the karaoke, though this seemed to be dominated by the rowdy recent high school grads from rivaling Alabama and Oklahoma. It was crowded, but fun. We spent quite a lot of time in a bar area in the thoroughfare between the casino and the disco where a singer/piano player was set up playing James Taylor type 70's music along with music from other genres and eras that fit in. He was fantastic. Though he confessed to feeling like a "human jukebox" going through the motions. The guy in the actual piano bar was bitter about not being let off the ship at every port. He grumbled between songs and made it clear that he was quitting as soon as possible. He was o.k., but gave off a negative vibe. The broadway style shows were great, some better than others. Some a bit cheesy with a Vegas flare. Fit the casino style lounges. Poolside reggae band was just the right mood for relaxing by the pool and watching the participation games the activities people set up. Mock game shows were also very entertaining. They should have kept these and karaoke going nonstop. Bingo was available, but we didn't play. Service: Other than the rude activities director, everyone was unbelievable, down to the last detail. We never went without any request or waited long for anything. Everyone was friendly and accommodating. This seems amazing to me considering that they are so underpaid and overworked. My husband and I began to feel we were on a slave ship of sorts. We were discretely told that the cooks (who get no tips) were paid only $300/month. Below decks, the living conditions for crew are crowded, noisy, and unfriendly. International cultures sometimes clashing. For the public, this is imperceptible. We got the chance to speak openly with some of the crew. Our cabin steward should be given an award for patience. Though we never had a complaint about our cabin, the drunken spoiled brat teen two doors down was whining loudly that she wanted this poor guy (who was busy trying to get the entire deck's luggage off the ship) to make her a towel animal because she messed hers up. He did it, but not before calmly smiling and speaking a few words (in an African dialect) to his co-worker. I turned to him, smiled sympathetically, and said, "I bet you're glad she doesn't understand your language." He and his co-worker about fell over laughing. He was tipped generously. Ports of Call/Excursions: Our first port of call was JAMAICA. Jamaica is a poor country. This is obvious when you see Montego Bay port and the countryside. We chose the Dunn's River Falls climb in Ocho Rios. If you do this. Make sure you wear your suit under your clothes. I never really got a chance to change and went in denim shorts. This tour was neat, our driver "didn't waste time" and the guide was informative and friendly. The trip was a little rushed. We got off the bus, were herded up the falls, hand in hand. If someone slipped, it was up to the people holding their hands to help them up. A few times the guys who kept the herd moving up the falls lent a hand. 3/4 the way up, they push you down in the water (sitting) and snap your picture. Then they herd you up to the top. It's done. I kind of longed to jump into the Caribbean at the beach at the foot of the falls. I thought surely there would be a chance to do that, but no. At the top, you are shown your photos for sale, then you have the opportunity to go through a shopping village on the way to the parking lot. We were greeted at the gate by a man who led us directly to his booth where we were guilted into buying something. This happened twice more before we escaped the "village". My husband began to stress and said to me, "I cannot support the whole Jamaican economy single-handedly, let's get out of here." His opinion was that the shopkeepers were pushier in Jamaica than anywhere he'd ever been, including Thailand and Mexico. I was fascinated by the British colonial holdovers juxtaposed by the Jamaican culture. Notably, the British traffic turnarounds with pigs roaming free on them. Livestock ran free everywhere. Cows in the road, goats sunning themselves on raised burial plots. There seemed to be a sting running where government officials undercover would sell marijuana to cruise passengers, then tip the customs agents off as to who was carrying. We ran into a fellow passenger (youth group minister) who was being continually pestered to buy marijuana. The guy asked if he could join us, so maybe the guy would leave him alone. Back onboard, another couple told us they got a day pass at one of the resorts. Beach time, pool time, drinks included. Nobody pestering you. I had no idea you could do that. We wished we had known. We plan on doing that in Cancun this year. Next port was CAYMAN ISLANDS. Gorgeous. We chose the island tour which included the sea turtle farm, the Tortuga rum cake factory, the town of Hell, and the highlight of our entire vacation: Stingray City. The turtle farm was cool. My favorite part was plucking the baby turtles out of the water for a closer look. We didn't stay here long, but it was fun. I could have done without the rum cake factory. Hell was a funny little stopover. A sign on a church lawn points the way to Hell (away from the church, "Turn or burn, baby!"). Just a gift shop and outcropping of coral turned black that has a hellish appearance. Cute little photo op. You can buy postcards in the gift shop that say Greetings from Hell, Wish you were here. Kinda funny. All the t-shirts are puns along the same lines. The cashier takes great joy in shouting, "Who in Hell's next?" Last, Stingray City was not to be believed. Never would I imagine how friendly and fearless, and gentle stingrays are with humans. Feeding them is kinda like putting a kleenex in a vacuum hose. They are so graceful and will let you pet them. One of the crew even briefly lifted a stingray up for us so we could see the underside. (It looks like a smiling face.) We could stand on the soft sandbar, or snorkel, or just swim to the bottom with our masks on. Incredible experience. Bring your underwater camera. We ate lunch on the patio of a little restaurant after some shopping. The view was unforgettable. We grabbed a real estate magazine on the way back to the boat. That's how much we loved this place. It's a playground for the rich, though. My husband described it as "Santa Barbara on steroids." Next time, we'll skip shopping, the turtle farm and the rum cake factory. We'll go straight to Stingray City and spend the rest of the time on a public beach. There are no private beaches in the Cayman Islands, but they all appeared to be immaculate, beautiful and fairly empty. Next stop, COZUMEL/TULUM: This was an enjoyable stop. A boat took us from the ship to Playa Del Carmen where we were escorted to a bus that took us to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Lots of walking from the front gate and at the site. Wear comfortable shoes, bring money for cold drinks, you'll want one for the tour and one after. The tour was interesting and informative, but wear your suit under your clothes again. There is the most beautiful beach I have ever seen over the cliff that ruins sit atop. There are no amenities here, but you'll wish you had more time. If the Mayan history doesn't interest you very much, you may want to ditch the tour and head for the path under the arch at the far south (right) of the site. Take a gander at the vista below before you do. Get your camera ready, it's a Kodak moment. This is the place I picture most when I need to de-stress or clear my thoughts. It's that good. After the bus ride back (air conditioning, Pepsi, Sol Beer) we were ferried back to Cozumel where I did some shopping while my husband found a bar for a beer or two (It was very hot.) The owner was an American who came on vacation and didn't want to leave. We had margaritas, chips and guacamole on a nice little patio where we were serenaded by 3 mariachis playing for tips. Caught a taxi-van back to the ship. It was depressing as hell to watch the crystal Caribbean waters slowly change to muddy brown as we approached the Mississippi delta. Debarkation was quick and painless, with crew joking that they could sneak you back on for a bribe. Sigh. Public Spaces: Way above average, but in an over the top Viva Las Vegas kind of way. I really liked the piano bar and the casino for decor. Every part of the ship was decorated, nothing was bland. I did wish the disco was a little bigger. The 70's piano guy could have easily been on a stage that wasn't being used instead of a busy thoroughfare. Debarkation: July 2003 we stayed in the Tulum area at Bahia Principe Akumal for a week instead of taking a cruise. You can read my review of this on TripAdvisor.com. For July 2004 we will be taking a "Texaribbean" cruise, (4 ports out of Houston: Cozumel, Honduras, Belize, and Cancun.) I'll try to post a review then. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
We are a family of three from Connecticut, my wife and I are mid-40's and our son Brian is 16 years old. This was our fifth cruise, second with Carnival. We had never sailed on a newer ship and we were not disappointed. Embarkation ... Read More
We are a family of three from Connecticut, my wife and I are mid-40's and our son Brian is 16 years old. This was our fifth cruise, second with Carnival. We had never sailed on a newer ship and we were not disappointed. Embarkation day - We flew into New Orleans the morning of the cruise, which meant we had to get up at three in the morning eastern time to get to the airport for our 6:30 a.m. flight. We arrived in New Orleans at 10:30 a.m. and took a cab to the pier. The cab fare was $12 per person flat rate and the ride only took a half hour. We were dropped off at the pier by 11:30 a.m. and as we walked into the building they were just opening up the counters to sign in. There was no line and we were able to sign in at the counter and then walk over to pick up our sign and sail card within a few minutes. Since we had arrived so early, we decided to let the porters take all of our luggage including our carry-on (big mistake). After waiting about twenty minutes they started to let groups on board. We were the second group and we were on board the ship shortly after noon. They told us that the room would not be ready until 2:00, so we went to grab a bite to eat and then explored the ship. The ship is laid out in such a way, that you don't get the feeling that there are over 2,500 passengers on board. We went to see if our room was ready and if the luggage had arrived. With our four previous cruises, the luggage arrived within two hours of boarding the ship, so we never thought there would be a problem waiting for our bags to arrive. Exhausted, we went to the cabin and ended up taking a nap while waiting for the luggage which did not arrive until we returned from our early seating dinner (8 hours after boarding). Now we know that we will bring our carry-on with a change of dining clothes on board with us. For dinner, we were assigned to the Renoir early sitting at a table for 12 people. We met our dining companions, a family of three from Louisiana and a family of six from California. After dinner, we went back to the cabin and found that our luggage had arrived. We quickly unpacked and went off to the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge for the trivia quiz game and welcome aboard show. We won the trivia game based on general knowledge and received the coveted 24 ct gold plated plastic ship on a stick (We had won two the previous Carnival cruise). The lounge is huge, with a wrap-around balcony, and there only a few bad seats with poles in front of them. The welcome aboard show was hosted by Steve Cassel, the cruise director. I thought he was very funny with his dry British humor. They had a comedian, Thomas Brown, close the show. Thomas Brown is very funny, unfortunately we had seen him on the Carnival Sensation three years ago and his act was the same word for word. But, we still laughed as he had three gentlemen come up on stage and worked out a song routine with them. Day two - This was a sea day, we started the day going to the music trivia game that started at 10:00 a.m. (why do they have thinking games starting at 10:00 a.m.?). We almost won that contest. Our son went off to explore the ship while I went off to find the running track. It is on deck eleven aft and the track is on the small size. It takes ten laps to run a mile. The sports deck also has an enclosed basketball court, golf driving area, and volleyball court. After putting in four miles, I returned to the cabin to shower and then my wife and I went to the gym and spa. The gym overlooks the front of the ship and is found by walking through the spa. The gym is well equipped with a large variety of equipment. But the reason we went there was to use the spa pool and whirlpool that is located in the center of the gym. We found that it was never crowded and it is inside, so there would not be a sun factor (my wife cant sit in the sun). For lunch we went to the lido deck buffet area. It is enclosed and air-conditioned with a variety of foods available. Besides the usual salads and prepared foods, they have a Chinese Wok station, sandwich station, and Sur Mer for fresh fish dishes. They had a Captain's welcome aboard cocktail party at 5:00 before the main sitting dining. They had waiters walking around with finger foods and mixed cocktails. My wife and I are beer drinkers and the waiters brought us draft beers when we requested them. They were very accommodating. After dinner, we went to the big lounge for the song and dance show called "Formidable". If you like Vegas style shows, you would enjoy this show. The two singers, Kathy Vepley & Jason French had terrific voices. We decided before the cruise that my wife and I would stay up late to see the midnight shows since our son was old enough to explore the ship and stay out late with kids he met on board. Before the midnight show, we checked out the various lounges to listen to the live music acts. There are plenty to choose from, although the bigger bands tended to play country style music the majority of the time (possibly due to the large number of passengers from Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana?). The midnight show was the comedian Thomas Brown again and he was very funny. The midnight shows are adults only shows and they asked that anyone under 18 please leave the lounge. Day three - Another sea day, we slept in after staying up late and missed the 10:00 a.m. trivia contest (on the Sensation, the trivia games were in the late afternoon by the pool). We did the same routine for the afternoon and then went to a private reception for repeat Carnival cruisers. We were disappointed when after a brief speech by the cruise director, they had a raffle with only one prize, a dinner for two in the reservations only dining room called the Point. On Norwegian cruise ships, the repeat customers have several prizes including a seven day cruise for two. After dinner, went to see the main show in the lounge which had the cruise director, Steve Cassel perform his juggling act (very good) and then had a singer, Melinda Chatman sing a variety of songs (she was so-so). There was a late night Lido deck party with the best live band on the ship, the Mickey Utley band. Our son went with some friends he met and said that it was a fun time. Day four - Montego Bay, Jamaica. We decided before the cruise that we would not take excursions. After 4 cruises, pretty much every island is the same and why should we have to get up at 6 in the morning to rush off the ship when we could sleep in and have the ship to ourselves. The Conquest was the only ship in port that day. In the morning, I ran my miles under a beautiful sunny sky and then met the family to have lunch before walking off the boat to check out the shops at the terminal at the dock. By this time, the skies had darkened and it was raining slightly. After buying our traditional amount of cheap tee shirts and a small steel drum for our son, we walked back to the ship for a very relaxing afternoon by the aft pool. Since it was raining, they had covered the pool area with the retractable cover. We spent the rest of the afternoon, using the whirlpools, swimming in the pool, and lounging poolside with a bucket of cold beers and soda. After dinner, the main show was an illusionist called "Deja". Her act was just O.K., but the music and dancers made the show fun to watch. The midnight show was the comedian, Ronnie Bullard and he was hilarious. Day five - Grand Cayman. Again, we slept in, had breakfast, and then took the tender to do some quick shopping. We stopped at the Hard Rock for a few tees and while my family checked some other shops, I went to the AT&T office to visit their internet cafe. They only charged 25 cents per minute with a five minute minimum versus the ships charge of 55 cents a minute and a $3.95 initial setup fee. The weather was same as Jamaica, a sunny morning with a rainy afternoon. There were several other ships in port that day, the Carnival Paradise, RCCL Voyager of the Seas, and RCCL Rhapsody of the Seas. We spent the rest of the afternoon poolside. Five days and my wife has yet to put on sun screen lotion! The main act after dinner was a song and dance show was loosely based on "Sleeping in Seattle" called "Point & Click". We really enjoyed the show. The midnight show had comedienne Diane Ford. We have seen her several times on HBO. She was very funny. Day six - Cozumel. After sleeping in, I went up to run and found that we were docked right next the Grand Princess and near the two same Royal Caribbean ships that were at the Grand Cayman, Voyager of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas. In the distance, I saw another Carnival ship (probably the Paradise). They had several shops along the pier which we checked out after our brunch. Then we went back to the ship for another relaxing afternoon poolside. This was the only day my wife had to use sun screen. After dinner, we went to the lounge after visiting the casino. We lost $20 in a slot machine and then watched people play blackjack. I was tempted to play until the dealer hit 21 six times in a row. The show for the evening was the guest talent show. Everyone was singing. Some were better than others, but the crowd gave each of them a big applause for going up on stage and trying their best. It was a fun evening. Day seven - Final Sea day. We were able to get up and make the 10:00 a.m. trivia game which was about commercial slogans. We tied for first place with two other couples and won our second ship on a stick for the cruise. I stayed to listen to the debarkation information since we had an early morning flight and wanted to know how to get priority tags to get off the ship early. Steve Cassel gave a funny talk adding some humor to the half hour talk with examples of stupid questions he has heard from passengers (Does this elevator go to the front of the ship?). All I had to do was go to the purser's desk with our plane tickets and they gave us VIP luggage tags. The weather was same as Jamaica, a sunny morning with rain in the afternoon. They had the cover over the aft pool, but since everyone was on the ship, it was very crowded so decided to pass on spending the afternoon poolside. Instead, we went to the Newlywed Not-So Newlywed Game which was very funny and clean. We then went back to the cabin to pack up our luggage before dinner. Before dinner, we went to Alfred's bar to listen to some live Jazz music which was very good. After dinner, we went to the big lounge to listen to big band music, play Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, horse racing, win a cruise bingo, and then watch the final show of the cruise. It had comedienne Diane Ford and comedian/magician TC Tahoe. They were both very funny. After the show, we packed the final items and put out our luggage before going to sleep. Debarkation - New Orleans. We got up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready and head up for breakfast before going to the big lounge by 7:30 a.m. for the VIP debarkation call. They announced that we could go off the ship by 8:15 a.m. and we found our luggage, grabbed a cab, and arrived at the airport by 9:00 a.m. for an 11:30 a.m. flight. Food - Overall the quality was good. There was something for everybody. One night I tried the Sushi bar, but it was only open between 5 and 8 in the early evening which is right around dinner time. The sushi was very good and I wished they had it open for lunch instead of the evening. We did not try the Point, the reservations only dining room. We could not see the point of paying extra to eat on this ship. There was enough good food to be had in the various dining rooms. My son loved the 24 hour pizzeria/grill. Drinks - You could find iced tea, lemonade, coffee, and hot tea 24 hours a day. In the morning they had orange juice and grapefruit juice as well. We are beer drinkers and they had a large selection although you had to ask for a cold beer if you wanted it cold. Some of the cans were on the warm side. My son bought the soda card for $23 which gave him unlimited soda at all of the bars, lounges, and dining rooms. Cabin - We had an inside cabin on the Empress deck aft. We were two decks below the lido deck for outside activities and 2 decks over the promenade deck for the lounges and shops. The room had two upper berths that came down from the ceiling each evening. The cabin is 185 square feet and when we arrived, we found that they had the twin beds arranged side by side in the middle of the room with little walking space between each and the outer walls. We moved the two beds to the outer walls to give us a 3 foot space for walking around while getting ready for dinner and the like. The desk has a built in hair dryer found in the drawer. There is a safe in the room as well as a refrigerator stocked as an honor bar if you ask the steward. They also gave us two Carnival robes to use for the length of the cruise. They also provided large Carnival beach towels which were washed every day after use. You could buy new robes and/or towels to bring home if you desired. (The towels were $22 and the robes were, I think, $39?). If you lost a towel, you were charged the $22 and there are no towels to be found poolside. Misc. - Our dining room staff of Niyom and Kanjanaporn were terrific. They were both from Thailand and Niyom is about to get married to another crew member. Petty thing - You could tell that the designer of the ship never exercised. They did not have a water fountain on the sports deck for the runners or basketball/volleyball players. You had to go down two decks to the lido deck to get a drink. Overall, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable cruise. The ship is beautiful and well designed. There are several places to go and be by yourself. The lounge area by the purser's desk was usually quiet. The outer deck walkway on deck three was rarely used. We found out that at the forward end of the empress and verandah deck you could go onto the walkway that overlooked the bow of the ship. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
We have just returned from our 12th cruise. (9th with Carnival). The Conquest is absolutely beautiful! A bit larger than we like, but well laid out. Our cabin was directly beneath the galley and it sounded like there was a bowling ... Read More
We have just returned from our 12th cruise. (9th with Carnival). The Conquest is absolutely beautiful! A bit larger than we like, but well laid out. Our cabin was directly beneath the galley and it sounded like there was a bowling tournament going on at about 2:00 am every night. That was my fault because I booked a cabin without doing enough research. Enough about that. I did the tour to Tulum while we were docked in Cozumel, another big mistake. It took 1 1/2 hours just to reach Playa Del Carmen on the ferry, then a 30 min. bus ride( not counting a twenty minute tourist trap stop). We finally arrived at the ruins, only to be told that we only had 20 minutes to spend there! Naturally we had to repeat this process to return to the ship. Never again! We did the highlights in Montego Bay, and were disappointed there as well. We had been in Grand Cayman before, so we just did a little shopping. Also, I long for the days when we handed our gratuities to 'our' service people directly. I think that made ALL the difference in our service. The entertainment was very good. The food fair. Over all it was a good trip, but not one I would take again. 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
Sail Date: October 2003
When reading a review, it is important to remember that all reviewers are not created equal. We all see things differently and have our own criteria for grading. If we all felt the same way and looked at things the same life would be ... Read More
When reading a review, it is important to remember that all reviewers are not created equal. We all see things differently and have our own criteria for grading. If we all felt the same way and looked at things the same life would be pretty boring. This was the third cruise for my wife and I. All on Carnival. Last year we went for 3 days on the Fascination and 5 days on the Holiday. We had a great time on both of those trips, which led to the 7-day Conquest cruise. I don't get bent out of shape very easily and will not let petty things ruin a much-deserved vacation. I'm not perfect, therefore, I don't expect others to be perfect. That said, here is a review of my October 12, 2003 cruise on the Carnival Conquest. Embarkation: We are fortunate and have a friend who lives in New Orleans on the West Bank. We parked our car at his place and he dropped us off at the pier at 11:15. We went past the long line of cars waiting to park and he let us off at the curb. They had just finished unloading everyone from the previous cruise and a skycap took our luggage right away. We went inside and checked right in. It was still too early to board so they directed us to an area to sit and wait for boarding. We sat down and discovered we were sitting next to Gimper and his darling wife. (See above) We were shuffled to another room and again had to wait for a short time. We had to wait less than an hour before boarding and it was painless. We brought 10 bottles of wine in our carry-on luggage and they checked each bottle and said nothing. So far, so good. Our cabin: We booked an 8e on the Panorama deck. The cabin was spacious and bright. The balcony large enough for two people and the bathroom was clean and well designed. We never had a flooded floor and that is even with 2 people in the shower on occasion. The Panorama deck is very quiet and secluded. There are not a lot of cabins up here so you are not walking down endless passageways to get to your cabin. Our cabin steward was Javier and he kept the room spotless and our wine chilled. If we needed anything, he provided it. If you are looking for somewhere to save money on your cruise, look elsewhere. Get the balcony! It is so nice to sit out there in the morning or evening and just chill. We saw sea turtles, flying fish and some beautiful sunsets. We also saw Leonard running to catch the ship in Cozumel. The ship: The Conquest is classy. That's the best way to describe it. It is both opulent and subdued depending upon where you are. The crew is always cleaning and it shows. It's very impressive. I'll try to give a rundown of the decks. Deck 0 This is where you get on and off in port. Not much else to say. I think this is also where medical is. Deck 1 Never visited. Deck 2 Friends had a cabin here in the very back of the ship. We walked from our cabin in the front of the ship to visit them. Took 2 days. We took a cab back. Lots of cabins down here. Deck 3 The main lobby. Gorgeous. The atrium is impressive. Lines for the purser would get long at times so plan your visit there accordingly. The Renior dining room is on deck 3 and 4 forward and the Monet is on deck 3 and 4 aft. Deck 4 Photos. Lots and lots of photos. Here is my opinion of the photos. If you want them buy them if not don't. If you don't want them to take a photo of you just say no thanks. On the way off the ship in port, just walk around them. They won't chase you down and force the photo on you. They do take some darn good photos though. I should know. I'm a photographer and hate having my picture taken. We did buy some formal shots and one of the informal dining room shots. Alfreds lounge and the internet cafe are also on this deck. Alfreds is one of the subdued areas I mentioned earlier. Deck 5 The Promenade is here. Everything is located on deck 5 it seems. It tends to get a little crowded in the evenings but it's nothing you can't handle. The shops are here, and they could use a little better selection of goods. The casino is here, the video poker pay tables are horrible. 6-5 jacks or better for all denominations. (Some will know what this means.) Slots were quiet but the table games seemed to be okay. It's a good diversion for a while but we didn't plan on winning much. Jill is the casino host and she is a trip. You definitely have to find her just to say hello. Most of the clubs are also on deck 5. We didn't spend a lot of time in the clubs but they were well done. There is just about something for everyone. Cafe Fans is also on this deck. They serve decadent desserts and specialty coffees for a small fee. Deck 6 Cabins Deck 7 Cabins Deck 8 Cabins Deck 9 Lido deck. The buffet lines tend to get long at meal time. Go Figure. There are so many options to eat that you shouldn't have to wait in line for a buffet unless you want to. If you choose to, then don't complain. That said, there is one thing Carnival can do to help the buffet lines in the morning. Create a separate station for the omelets. This is why the lines are so long. People are waiting for the custom omelets to be made. If they were to move this to it's own station there would be far shorter lines. The grill was good, the pizza was great, PC Woks was very good and Pauls was fantastic. Sur Mer was one level up and was also very good. The pools are also on this deck. Deck 10 The Point. This is the alternative dining room. It is worth the $25 per person charge to have white glove service and excellent food. Our meal for 4 lasted 3 hours. If you want specifics about menu items just ask. Gentlemen need to wear a jacket. I didn't think that included me but the wife said it did. Deck 11 The spa. Great variety of equipment and a very attentive staff. This is where we worked out most of the time. I tried running the track around the funnel, but that got old real quick. Going down wind was okay but making the turn and heading back into the wind was murder. My wife took the yoga classes and loved them. Deck 12 Camp Carnival. Didn't use it. I'm sure I missed some stuff but hell, I'm still distraught over having to go back to work. The ship was great, the crew was all friendly and professional and if you don't like cruising on the Conquest your momma must have dropped you on your head when you was a baby. Here are some general comments: There were a lot of kids on board. A number of Alabama and Florida schools were out for fall break this week. The kids were not a problem for us. We have kids (6 between us) but this was a second honeymoon and we never noticed a loud or unruly child. They didn't hog the elevators or the hot tubs as far as we saw. Corey Schmidt was the cruise director and he was a blast. We talked to him off stage and he was as warm then as he was on stage. The food and service were exceptional across the board. Our wait team consisted of Cenk and Lina. Cenk was very quiet, he didn't sing or dance, but he was very professional. Lina is a sweetheart and will make a wonderful head waiter/waitress. We were told that we would have to pay a cork fee for each bottle of wine that we brought into the dining room to be opened. We told Cenk that this was not a problem and were sure that the wine service would be worth $10 a bottle. He didn't charge us that first night so we tipped him $10 and thanked him for the service and there was never a mention of the cork fee again. We did get charged for the two bottles we brought to the Point for dinner though. Ports: Montego Bay. We booked a private tour with Peat Taylor. We decided at the last minute that we didn't want to got all the way to Ocho Rios so we did the Rose Hall great house and Beach Club. Both were very nice. After that we spent a couple of hours at Margaritaville before heading back to the ship. Keith was our driver and drove very slowly. He was fine but we probably could have hired someone in Montego Bay cheaper. He had to come over from Ocho Rios to do the tour. We never felt unsafe and were not offered drugs. Jamaica is what you make of it. Hire a private guide and get out and see the country. Rose Hall beach Club was beautiful. The water was crystal clear and very warm. Red Stripe cost $4.00 a bottle and they had some good jerk chicken. We could have spent all day there. Grand Cayman. We booked the Sting Ray City/Snorkel tour with Native Way. $25 a person, 18 people on the boat and outstanding guides. This is the way to go. We saw a dozen other boats packed with people on them and felt like we had the best deal. This should not be missed. Cozumel. The weather was a little threatening when we got off the ship so we took a cab into town and shopped. We had lunch at Palmeras and it was very good. We were hoping to snorkel at Chankanab but we never got the chance. Next time for sure. Debarkation: We were the last ones called. No problem. We had breakfast, sat in the lounge and read. So we got off the ship at 10:30 instead of 8:30, big deal. On the plus side we had no problem finding our luggage. The customs dog didn't sneeze when we passed by so they never found that extra bottle of rum. Getting a cab was probably the low point of the whole week. The drivers almost got into a fist fight to not take us. It seems that they don't like couples, they would prefer larger groups. (More money.) If you've made it this far, thanks for taking the time. This turned out a lot longer than I ever would have thought. The cruise was what we expected and then some. Our expectations were pretty high when we got on board and I can honestly say that we are glad we went and would cruise the Conquest again in a heartbeat. When I filled out the comment card at the end of the cruise I wanted to find some things that I felt Carnival could improve upon. I could only come up with the omelet station. I tried hard to give them some meaningful criticism but I couldn't find anything else. Look for problems and you will find them. Go with an open mind, and you'll have the time of your life. We had a wonderful time meeting all the Ccer's and their families and would cruise with any of them again. These boards are a great resource but they also serve another purpose. That is to get people together with like interests. It was fun meeting up with the people we spent months planning with. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
 The Travellers: Cathy & Jay - about 50ish (he's older, I'm younger) Granddaughters: Andrea, age 10 Emily, age 8 I won't bore you with all the details of our trip to New Orleans, but have to share one small story. On ... Read More
 The Travellers: Cathy & Jay - about 50ish (he's older, I'm younger) Granddaughters: Andrea, age 10 Emily, age 8 I won't bore you with all the details of our trip to New Orleans, but have to share one small story. On Friday night we were driving to Memphis to stay with my dad for the night. The sunset was spectacular, like nothing we've seen in a while. Emily loves sunsets, and always stops what she's doing to take it all in. She asked me "Grandma, how do you think God makes the sky that color?" I told her I really didn't know. She thought a minute and asked "Do you think those are God's clothes we're seeing? Is that what He's wearing?" We arrived in New Orleans on Saturday evening, and checked in to our room at the Hilton Riverwalk. We were guests of Harrah's casino, and were able to park in their garage for free for the duration of the cruise. Nice savings. Since we were traveling with young children, we knew that we didn't belong on Bourbon Street or in any of the 'hot spots' around town. We took them for dinner to Mospero's - Emily was adventurous and had some of everything. Andrea stuck to her burger and fries. The food was good, the atmosphere was very family oriented. By the time we finished dinner it was after 9:00 p.m., and we had some cranky, tired girls on our hands. They had spent the day in a car driving from Memphis to New Orleans and all they wanted to do was swim in the hotel pool. We walked back to the Hilton and enjoyed the people and scenery ... "wow, grandma, those are REAL palm trees!" I stopped by Harrah's to make a donation while Jay and the girls continued to the hotel. I'm usually the first to rise, so I snuck out of the room about 7:00 a.m. There she was, in all her glory: The Carnival Conquest. Waiting for us. Shimmering in the morning sunrise. Back to the room, where Andrea was awake. She and I walked down to the Riverwalk area and found Cafe du Monde open and serving beignets and cafe au lait. Great way to start the morning. Andrea loved her beignets, and we bought a few to take back to Emily and Grandpa. Finally the lazy ones got up ... after much coaxing and a promise of beignets in bed. A stroll the length of the Riverwalk showed just how close we were to the pier. The girls were so excited they were doing cartwheels !!!! Spent some time looking at the shops in the Riverwalk Mall ... the girls were much too excited to do anything but ask every 5 minutes "Can we get on the ship yet?" They didn't want to leave Riverwalk because they could keep an eye on "their" ship. Now, on to the important stuff. Since there were four of us, we had quite a bit of luggage. Taxi fares are high in New Orleans - it would have been $10 a person to go from the Hilton to the pier. So, we loaded the luggage and me in a taxi, and Jay and the girls walked the few blocks, while I waited at the pier for them with the luggage. The usual porter talk of "now here is where you tip me $1 a bag" and we were into the line to enter the terminal. It seemed looooooooooong, but it moved quickly. Every few feet someone handed us a piece of paper to read - information about carry on baggage, what to do when you got on the ship, etc. All the Carnival employees that morning were smiling and welcoming. A quick double-check of paperwork to make sure I had everyone's identification (always have to check at the last minute!). The lines inside filled the roped off areas. There were two sections, and we moved down to the second section. Passed the time in line talking to our fellow cruisers. Before we knew it we were at the desk signing in. Computers were moving slowly, but check-in only took a few minutes. Right from there to pick up our sign and sail cards. Followed the crowd to the next room, where we showed ID once again and were asked to sit in rows of chairs. Once all the rows were filled we were up and moving into the next room, where we stood in another line. (What is it with these people and lines??) Embarkation photos by the Carnival staff in front of a fake New Orleans background. Then we were on to the security checkpoint. My husband's belt set off their buzzers, so he had to remove that ... once we got through the detectors he had to stop to put his belt back on as security tried to herd us along ... "keep moving, please, keeping moving." Jay laughed and said "I have to put my belt on ... otherwise my pants will fall down and NOBODY wants to see that." The security guard chuckled, and let us step aside so he could get his belt on. Up the escalators, where we could see the ship. On one of the balconies was a young couple locked in a passionate embrace. My granddaughters said "ooooooo, grandma, look at that !!!! I bet they don't know we can see them." Everyone on the escalator laughed, and started cheering the couple on ... Once on the ship we went directly to our cabin to drop off our heavy carry on bags and found several of our suitcases already waiting for us outside the door. This was less than an hour after we left them with our $1-a-bag-porter. We decided to quickly unpack some things or our stateroom would fill to the brim with suitcases. We were on the Main Deck Forward, inside quad room 2295. Our cabin steward knocked on the door about 5 minutes later to introduce himself - his name was Renaldo and we was very friendly and always smiling. Our request to unlock and empty the refrigerator was met with a big smile and "certainly, right away. I will have it done while you are at dinner this evening." And he did. Presto. Our quad room worked well for us. The girls enjoyed the upper bunks with their own lights, climbing the ladders, and that they could see the television from bed !!! One of the lower beds could not see television when the upper berths were lowered. With the berths lowered, the room felt quite crowded, but when raised the room opened up quite a bit. We had gone with the over-the-bathroom door shoe holder, and it sure came in handy. All our essentials fit quite nicely in there, with room to spare. Our closet contained 4 bathrobes, so for those who want to know, YES, interior cabins come with bathrobes on the Conquest. The hairdryer was in a dresser drawer, and wasn't very powerful. If you have more than three strands of hair on your head, I would suggest bringing your own hair dryer from home. The shower had two dispensers: one for shampoo and one for body gel. I would have preferred one for shampoo and one for conditioner (because we forgot ours!). The usual butt-hugging shower curtain did little to keep the water contained inside the shower, especially when the girls were taking their showers. We were on one of the Past Guest Reunion cruises, and our Cabin Steward quickly delivered our bag of goodies. We were surprised to find four of everything in the nice waterproof bag. (The girls were not past cruisers!). The towels, T-shirts and key chains were a big hit. The girls slept in their T-shirts every night. The bag was used for beach trips, and to carry home some wonderful gifts they received. We were quickly up on deck, cell phone in hand. The girls were STARVING. As we headed back to the Lido Deck buffet, a charming man came up to me and said "Are you mommacathy? Do I know you from Cruise Critic?" It was Selucrey, and he had already found quite a few Cruise Critic folks and they were at the bar with drinks in hand. It was a great way to start the cruise! We couldn't stick around long, because the STARVING girls kept tugging at my sleeve ... With just beignets for breakfast, they were ready for some food. I don't remember what we ate, but I'm sure there was pizza involved. "Our Table" became the one next to the pizza counter for the duration of the week. If we were looking for each other, we always knew to look there !!! The sail away was exciting. We called Andrea & Emily's mommy on the cellphone, and she was watching the web cam at the Port of New Orleans' website ... The girls jumped up and down and waved - and mommy was SURE she saw us ... :wink: Lifeboat drill was uneventful. Then we were off to our 6:15 dinner. Our dinner companions also were traveling with two children, about the same age as ours. The two older girls hit it off from the first moment, and were inseparable the entire cruise. The other two weren't compatible - ours was an 8 year old girl, theirs was a 7 year old boy, need I say more? I think there were cooties involved somehow. My only disappointment was that our tablemates weren't into the dining room experience. First formal night the woman wore a skirt, cotton top and flip flops. We were in formal wear and had done our hair, had photos taken, and were using our best grown up manners. They were more the shorts and t-shirts people. Didn't spoil the cruise, but it did detract a bit from the festive feeling we had created ... Even Andrea noticed. She had wanted to have a formal picture taken with her new best friend, but whispered to grandpa "I can't have a formal picture taken with her, I'm all dressed up and she's not and that wouldn't look very good." Our servers were Martin and his assistant, Veronica. Martin was from Honduras and Veronica was from Peru. Emily has been learning Spanish in school, and the first evening she said "Buenos dias" to Veronica - well that started her daily Spanish lessons from Veronica, even if we saw her on the Lido deck, she would speak simple phrases to Emily and encourage her to give her answers in Spanish. Every evening she came and got the girls to dance with the dancing waiters. They laughed and danced and paraded around the dining room. The last night of the cruise, an elderly woman we had been speaking to, who sat across the aisle from us at dinner came over and complimented us on the girls' behavior, and asked to take a picture of them. The kids all ordered every evening from the adult menu ... Martin was quite surprised that our girls liked their steaks medium rare. He would serve them first, then carefully cut their steaks, always joking "Now, do I get the first bite??" The bar waitress was very attentive. The girls like Shirley Temples, and every evening she made sure their Shirley Temples were waiting for them at the table when they arrived. They were very impressed. Our first adventure was to attend the Camp Carnival sign-up and family party. We were dancing in Henri's Disco. Lots of interaction and silly games. Funship Freddy came by to dance with us. That's got to be one hot costume to be wearing in the Caribbean! Made new friends and had a great time. I've kept copies of all the Camp Carnival daily activity sheets and hope to scan them some day soon. The counselors were great, the activities were very age appropriate. The 10 year old was old enough to sign herself in and out of Camp Carnival, but I had to sign the 8 year old in and out. She was a little jealous of her sister's freedom, but I could see that the size of the ship was a little overwhelming for her ... and 10 year old sisters don't always take good care of their 8 year old sisters, so I was glad she had to be signed in and out. One evening my husband and I had a "date" and we were able to sign a permission slip for our dinner companions to sign Emily in and out for us. That meant we could go to dinner at the Point (more to come on that) and not have to worry about timing. The first two days were days at sea. Relaxed by the pool. Ate too much. Made our donations at the casino. I'm a 3 card poker player, and met some fun folks playing cards. Those sea days become a blur, and it's hard to remember what happened when, and we don't even drink! We ate all our breakfast and lunch meals on the Lido deck. The kids could have kids fare and were happy with that. Our only complaint was the situation of the omelette station - it is at the end of the line, and holds everything up. Even if you don't want an omelette, you are held up by the people ahead of you who do, because where they have to stand blocks all the other food. There are generally 4 or more food lines open at a time, so we would look around for the shortest one. The food at Sur Mer was very good, as was the Sushi. On Tuesday Selucrey (Dan) from the Cruise Critic boards and his wife stopped by our cabin to deliver "little" gifts they had for the girls ... my goodness!!! "Little" must mean something else in Louisiana, because they sure weren't little gifts! Each girl received a huge Mardi Gras bear, and a bag filled with beads and treasures. What generous people! On Tuesday evening we had to make a stop in Grand Cayman to drop off a man who was ill ... rumor was that it was a heart attack. I had met his wife, and she only told me that he was "very ill." Wednesday morning, Jamaica We were up early, up to the Lido Deck for breakfast. We had made arrangements with another couple to meet up and make our own tour. Off the ship we found a JUTA taxi driver and negotiated a five hour tour for $100. His name was Garry, and I have his information if anyone wants a great tour guide of Jamaica. We drove all over Montego Bay. One of our stops was the Richmon Hotel for a great view. One of the couples I had met playing cards in the casino were there - getting married. Their witnesses were there to take video, but were instead walking the bride down the aisle, so I took up their video camera and videotaped the wedding. The bride was gorgeous, her flowers were provided by the hotel and were breathtaking. A german shepherd wandered in and out of the gazebo, becoming part of the wedding party - but I don't think bride and groom even noticed. We went to a place called "Scotchie's" for jerk pork and chicken and the best sweet potatoes you'll ever taste. The kids looked at the menu and said "Grandma, we can't afford to eat here, a chicken costs $600 !!!!" We had to explain that was $600 Jamaican dollars, and it was very cheap in American dollars and they could eat anything they wanted. We recommend it highly, but suggest you have Jamaican money before you get there - their exchange rate isn't very good. It was our second time there, and we found out the first time! Emily asked Garry (our guide) if he knew somewhere she could get her hair braided. He picked up his cell phone and made a quick call. In 5 minutes we were at a little shop where Emily's hair was quickly braided by two delightful women who talked to her the whole time. They put extra braids in and refused payment for them, they were a gift to Emily. By having Garry with us we were never approached by people begging or offering "smoke." He made sure everyone knew we were HIS people, and not to be bothered. He explained things to the kids and pointed out sugar cane growing, animals and plants. Thursday morning, Grand Cayman We had an early morning excursion booked with Nativeway Watersports, and had to be off on one of the first tender boats. We immediately found the Nativeway sign, and were told to meet in 30 minutes, so we walked across the street and looked around at the shops. Our excursion with Nativeway was a trip to Stingray City and a coral reef to snorkel. The water was pretty rough that morning, and about half the passengers on our boat got seasick, my husband included. I'm not a very strong swimmer, and was wearing a vest - still had trouble staying above water. I'd end up head down, feet up in the air. It was too much for the girls. This was their first time to even SEE the ocean, so it was a lot to take in. They really wanted to see the stingrays, but the water was too high and the swells too big for them. Emily finally let our boat operator carry her out, where she petted and held a Stingray. She was very happy. At the coral reef, again we were faced with high swells. The girls sat on the rear deck of the boat and let their feet dangle down. Emily even got in the water, holding on to the ladder and paddling around, but wouldn't wear a snorkel mask. I would highly recommend Nativeway. Our guides were kind and patient, especially with the children. One of them would dive off the side of the boat, pick up a stingray and bring it close enough for the kids to pet. Their price was $25 a person, US. We had lunch at Paradise, not too expensive. Poor Emily had developed a cold sore, and we were in search of something for that. In Jamaica they wanted $6 for a tube of medicated chapstick. We found Carmex for $1.29 in Grand Cayman. Friday morning, Cozumel This is one of my favorite places. We had breakfast, got off the ship and took a taxi directly to Chankanaab. This time the girls weren't as afraid. There is an area with very shallow water, where you can almost walk right out into the ocean, with sandy beach and lounge chairs. The entrance to the park was $10 US for adults, children 10 and under were free. We rented snorkel gear from them for about $6 a person. My husband has leg problems, and can't swim because of them, so I was the one taking the girls out. Andrea went first, and wasn't timid. She wanted me to hold on to her life vest, but she had her face in the water, looking down the entire time. She had her underwater camera and took lots of pictures. Emily took some coaxing, but once she got there she was excited. I had her look back to see how far she had gone ... she took one look and then just plopped her snorkel mask right back in the water. They spent a few more hours swimming around, having a grand time. My husband had promised to buy me a Mexican fire opal this time for my birthday/anniversary gift ... we weren't finding them at the shops by the pier, so the girls (they were tired and hungry and crabby by this time) and I got on the ship and he took a taxi downtown to shop. Of course, right after he left, I went in a shop and found a ring ... but I think he got a much better deal by going downtown. Andrea went straight to the pool ... Emily took a little power nap with me. Friday evening The first thing we had done as we boarded the ship was make reservations at the Point for Friday night, which was our wedding anniversary. It was quite an experience... of course it starts out with my husband losing his sail and sign card, and calling from the Point to have new ones issued. Seated at the table next to us was a couple I had spent a good deal of time at the casino with - and they were witnesses at the wedding in Jamaica. We ended up sharing a table with them, and had a delightful evening. Carnival has tried very hard to make the Point a five-star dining experience. They ALMOST have it right ... just a few things need to be tweaked. The first thing is the chairs. They either need more padding, or they just need to get different chairs. All four of us found them very uncomfortable to sit in, and they cut the circulation off on the back of our legs. The windows are covered with blinds, so there is no romantic ocean view while dining. We peeked out the windows, and there wasn't even a view, just cleaning equipment storage. There is also no bathroom in the Point, you have to leave the restaurant and go down a floor. I had the surf & turf, which was broiled lobster & filet, both done to perfection. The Lobster Bisque is probably the best I've ever had. My husband had the porterhouse, which was cooked exactly the way he ordered. The servers were not quite as attentive as they could have been. Their recitation of the menu was memorized and very rote, not much excitement. They could not describe ingredients in dishes to us or explain preparation. The presentation of the food was very "artistic" ... big white plates with little dabs of this and that. It was a delightful evening, the food was well above that in the dining room, but the Point just misses the mark, in our opinion. The girls had Camp Carnival parties that evening - Emily's went until midnight and Andrea's went to 3:30 a.m. They were very happy with their experience, but slept until 11:00 the next day! Saturday was our last sea day. We spent most of it by the pool. I believe that was the Chocolate buffet day ... which was MARVELOUS. My thoughts, especially for those traveling with kids: If you're traveling with kids, Camp Carnival is SUPERB. By the second day the counselors knew each child by name, recognized the parents, knew who were siblings. By the second day the kids knew their way around the ship better than we did. I've thought I should have only packed each girl 5 swimsuits and 2 dresses. I think they wore their swimsuits more than they wore anything. Make sure any flip flops are broken in ... blisters on vacation aren't fun. The only medication I needed was cold sore medication, and it was the only thing I forgot to bring!! Save a few "underwater camera" photos for the kids to take pictures of their friends around the pool. And buy your underwater cameras at Walmart before you leave home, they're half the price you'll find on the ship or in the islands. The over-the-door holder saves a lot of precious space. Bring your own blow dryer for hair ... the ones in the cabins aren't nearly strong enough. The music on the Lido deck is repetitious. The same series of songs played over and over and over. Security WILL talk to people acting inappropriately, especially quickly during the 12-2 "family swim time" without prompting from guests. There are whirlpools on the Lido deck where children ARE allowed, if accompanied by an adult. Only the AFT whirlpool is for adults-only. We made sure the girls followed this rule. The whirlpool just under the slide is COLD. Very COLD. The others were nice & warm. The slide is a big hit. If you're an adult, lying down will make you go down much faster than sitting up. We purchased drink cards for the kids, and they never had a problem at any of the bars getting a soft drink. The servers were very polite to them and waited on them promptly. I was looking down at the lobby bar one afternoon, and there sat 8 year old Emily, sipping a Coke, and having a chat with the bartender and a young couple. Everyone was laughing and having a good time. The girls really enjoyed formal nights. We went to each and every photograph station to have our pictures taken, and picked the very best of them to purchase. If you have any questions, you can email me at heidemca@webster.edu Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
We recently returned from a 7 night aboard the Conquest. I had concerns about the ship being so large that we would be lost in a mob of people, but was pleasantly surprised. The ship itself is beautiful. Our balcony cabin was very nice. ... Read More
We recently returned from a 7 night aboard the Conquest. I had concerns about the ship being so large that we would be lost in a mob of people, but was pleasantly surprised. The ship itself is beautiful. Our balcony cabin was very nice. We took a 12 year old along with us and we had plenty of room. Cabin was midship so access to everything was convenient. This was my 7th cruise and both my husband and I believe that the food on the Conquest was outstanding and by far the best we have had while sailing. There were many dining options when we did not want to go to the dining room. Our waiters were excellent and our room was cleaned by the steward very well each day. Our cabin was QUIET! We were very pleased by this. Our last cruise we went up and extra deck. There was a lot of noise overhead from the lido. They ran the carts back and forth to the galley. The 7th deck was an excellent choice. I also think the cabins on the Conquest are insulated better than previous ships we have been on. We only visited three ports on this cruise. I was very disappointed in Jamaica. We were at Montego Bay. I probably would not go there or take a tour there again. Grand Cayman was delightful. Beautiful and clean. We snorkeled with the Stingrays and visited the Turtle Farm. What a great choice. A very nice tour. Cozumel has changed immensely since I was there 10 years ago. Such a large docking area. Last time we anchored and had to tender in. There was great shopping there and the area was very pretty. All in all our Conquest cruise was delightful. I would tell anyone thinking of this ship to DO IT!! 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: November 2003
We just returned from our 25th anniversary cruise aboard the Conquest. We loved the ship and the people were very nice. Embarkation: Having the Skipper's Club, we checked in and were on the ship within 15 minutes. That was the end ... Read More
We just returned from our 25th anniversary cruise aboard the Conquest. We loved the ship and the people were very nice. Embarkation: Having the Skipper's Club, we checked in and were on the ship within 15 minutes. That was the end of the Skipper's Club perks. Having a suite and paying a substantial amount of money we expected a bit more. Cabin: Huge with a bathtub. We had a room right above the bridge and had a view out over the bridge as well as on the side. Plenty of storage and a nice room stewardess, Tatiana. Food: If you can afford to go to the Point - GO! The food and the service were impeccable. The food in the dining room was hit and miss. The only good thing was that if we didn't like something, we could always get something else. Entertainment: Saw some of the entertainment and enjoyed what we saw. Had late seating and had trouble staying awake for shows at 10:30 and midnight. Public Rooms: Went to a few of the clubs and they were fine. Didn't find the smoke too bad. Only spent a little time in the Casino, but again it wasn't too smokey. Albert's tended to be the one with the most smoke, but that was where the cigar smokers were. Shore Excursions: Happy we booked them through the ship. We did pay a bit more, but always felt secure in who we were going with and where we were going. If you can afford it, definitely SWIM WITH THE DOLPHINS in Cozumel. Well worth the experience. Fitness and Recreation: Didn't work out very much, but only gained 2 pounds. Facilities seemed nice and clean. Value for Price: As we spend extra for a suite - we did expect to get a little more for our money. Nothing extra though. They could have thrown in dinner at the Point or VIP disembarkation. However, I blame that on my travel agent, who didn't even send us a bottle of wine or anything. Last time I'll be using them. We had a wonderful time overall and would recommend the Conquest. Just don't spend the extra money - you don't get anything more than a bathtub for the extra money. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
My husband arranged this cruise for our 7th Anniversary. We have sailed on Carnival ships in the past and are going on our next cruise with Carnival in March of 2004. So we hope our review is helpful to those planning their first, or next, ... Read More
My husband arranged this cruise for our 7th Anniversary. We have sailed on Carnival ships in the past and are going on our next cruise with Carnival in March of 2004. So we hope our review is helpful to those planning their first, or next, cruise:) Our Cabin: we went all out with a Category 11 suite, complete with balcony and a jacuzzi bath tub! Cabin was huge and went beyond our expectations!!:))) We were able to board the ship easily, being we were part of the Skipper's Club. We got to bypass the long lines in the New Orleans cruise ship terminal. If you book a category 11 or 12 cabin, you get this added benefit:) The Ship - the Conquest is huge and beautiful! It was kept extremely clean and the paintings and art work through out the ship were amazing! My husband especially loved the water slide up on the Lido deck! If the weather had been better, we would have spent most of our time at the pool and slide! The Crew - the crew can make or break your sailing experience and we can say that this crew was amazing! We have a lot of people on board to thank for the great time we had! First, thanks to Nigel for tracking down our luggage (which American Airlines left behind in Texas!!). He stayed on top of it all for us! Our bags arrived on a later flight and he made sure they were transported to the ship and delivered to the cabin for us! He literally saved our cruise for us, as all we had were the clothes on our back! Jordan, our Cabin Steward was the BEST!! Our room was always clean and the towel animals made our nights! Everything from a stingray and snowman right up to a monkey hanging off our balcony door!! Jordan was always smiling and was always happy to help with whatever he could! Waiter & Assistant Waiter - wish we would have gotten their names!! We had main seating in the Monet Dining Room and these two great guys took the best care of us! Even though they work 12 to 14 hours per day, with seldom a day off, they still greeted us and everyone with the largest smiles and the sunniest of personalities! Cruise Director - while Corey is the cruise director (and he and his trained birds are nice) I have to tell you that Stuart, from Australia, easily won our hearts hands down!! His sense of humor kept us all in stitches and his grin is the best one we have seen! He was always around when you needed him and his smile and laugh were contagious!!! Our vote is for Stuart to be head Cruise Director!!!:) Point Supper Club - this supper club costs extra (around 25. per person) but is well worth it! The attention you get there is unmatched and the quality of food is wonderful!! Food - ok, speaking of food, every single place we ate at on board was Wonderful!!! Whether it was the formal dining room, the lido deck buffet, the deli, the point supper club, etc, we thoroughly enjoyed all the meals and desserts!!! Complaint - one on board complaint for us was the fact that, when you use the soda fountain card, you are looked down on by some of the wait staff in the lounge and some of the bar areas. We found ourselves completely ignored by one woman in the lounge (I believe her name was Tiahana). Once she knew you would be using your soda fountain card, she would steer clear of you. They need to work on some of the attitudes concerning this. Other complaint - we had to visit the infirmary once and, while the doctor was good, the staff behind the reception desk was not. They were cold towards everyone and offered no help, even to a woman who was limping back to the doctors area. No wheelchair or assistance was offered to her at all. Ok, on to the ports and shore tours! Montego Bay - skip it. Awful place, not the friendliest of people down town. A lot of people on the cruise were disappointed with this port. Also, do NOT waste your money on the so called Pirate Ship Cruise there as it turned out to be a small boat that might hold 15 people but they were trying to jam 35 or more people on to it. The only thing that even makes it a so called "Pirate ship" is the cheap tiny plastic pirate flag tied to one of the ropes on it! We got a full refund back on this tour as we refused to take it. We spent the rest of the day on board the ship at the pool and water slide. Grand Cayman - Loved it!!! Take the Turtle Farm / Hell / Stingray Sandbar tour early in the morning!! Our driver was Elizabeth and she was fantastic!!! We got to hold turtles at the turtle farm, sent post cards back to our family and friends from Hell and the stingray sandbar was amazing!!! Water was only about 4 feet deep there so, if like me, you can't swim well, don't worry!! You can still enjoy yourself there!! We got to hold stingrays, kiss them and even got back rubs from them as well!! Bought a great video of the trip, showing us in the water with everyone else, and it was well worth the price!!! Cozumel - Love Cozumel!! Our shore tour left a lot to be desired though. We went on the Mexican Folklore Show & shopping tour. Starts off with being dropped downtown for half an hour of looking around. You then meet in the Havana Club for a free drink. We found out they don't like it when you order diet sodas!! Then we all went in to a small room that felt like it had no air conditioning in it at all. Show was extremely long, no breaks in it for restroom visits so many people were running out of there near the end to go. They give you a voucher to use to get a cab back to the ship, as we docked at Porta Maya and need taxi ride back. The cab drivers do NOT like those vouchers. We actually had to pay double just to get one to take us back to the ship! Next time we will skip this tour and just grab our own cab to downtown and back to the ship! Shopping in downtown Cozumel is great!! Lots of excellent deals there, if you know where to look! Viva Mexico and Fiesta are great places to start! Del Sol has awesome color changing items! Looks black and white or clear until sun hits them and then they come alive with colors!! We ate lunch at Panchos Back Yard and, while it looks tiny from the street, it opens up to a huge patio once inside!! Food was great and service was good. Prices were about the same as we find at a Mexican Restaurant back home. Bottom Line - While we would sail on the Conquest again, we would NOT sail on her end of November to beginning of December as the weather was bad and the water was extremely rough! The Fascination, out of Miami, still remains our number one most favorite Carnival ship to cruise on!:) We would return to Grand Cayman and Cozumel in a heart beat but we will never return to Montego Bay. All in all, our cruise was wonderful, thanks to Nigel, Jordan, our waiter and assistant waiter and huge thanks to Stuart!!!!:)))))) Stuart, if you are reading this, you will remember me as being the Belly Dancer (who had lost 68 pounds) in the Guest Talent Show on Friday, Dec. 5, 2003! YOU made me feel so wonderful the entire cruise!! Thank you!!!!:))) Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
We walked to the cruise terminal from our hotel, pullmans in tow. The one comment we can offer about the cruise terminal is that THERE ARE NO SIGNS. We crossed the railroad tracks and figured terminal 1 was where we wanted to be. Wrong!! ... Read More
We walked to the cruise terminal from our hotel, pullmans in tow. The one comment we can offer about the cruise terminal is that THERE ARE NO SIGNS. We crossed the railroad tracks and figured terminal 1 was where we wanted to be. Wrong!! It was for the Norwegian Dream. We and lots of other folks ended up walking down that long service road to the other end of the terminal. We fought our way against the crowds pouring out. We asked the rep. where the "skippers club" check-in was and were directed to an office in the back. We were the only ones there at that time. What could be easier? Not waiting in lines was fantastic! We went outside after getting our sail and sign cards, and it was a while before the sea caps finished unloading the previous guests luggage. We returned to the embarkation lounge at 12:30 as directed, were escorted to the final waiting are and were placed in row1. Around 12:40 they started the embarkation. We were right behind the physically challenged passengers, but ended up beating them onto the ship since they had to wait for the elevator. I'll have to say the security is quite vigilant! When we stepped onto the ship, we were bowled over. The studio atrium is big and beautiful. We immediately knew this cruise was going to be lots of fun! We made our way up to the Lido deck since we had all received papers saying cabins weren't going to ready until 2. It was very strange because we were the first ones on the ship and no one else was around. We had a bite to eat at the Cezanne restaurant and watched luggage and provisions being loaded. By the time we finished lunch, the place was beginning to get busy. People were beginning to get in a festive mood with the band playing on Lido deck. After lunch we decided to see if our cabin was ready. Our cabin and all the neighboring cabins still had the doors wedged open. We did go in and found the cabin ready to occupy. Most of the items we ordered from the Bon Voyage service were already there, with the exception of the drink coupons and 1 bottle of wine. The category 12 cabin was big and luxurious. The bathroom was huge, and I knew I'd enjoy the jacuzzi tub. The champagnes we had ordered were all iced down, so we grabbed one and headed for the balcony. It was nice to relax and enjoy the beautiful river view. We knew we were going to be very happy calling this ship home for the next week!!! After muster drill we dropped our life jackets off in the cabin and then headed for the Monet restaurant. We had 4 tablemates that we enjoyed very much. Our waiter Norman was fantastic. He bent over backwards to accommodate our every wish. The food was very nice, and our missing drink coupons and bottle of Pinot Noir were delivered to our table by a very nice young lady. Heading to the casino I played for a bit and found the dollar machines to be very tight. Going through $100 dollars took just a few minutes. I found the nickel slots to be looser and at times played for a couple of hours on $20. It's a nice way to pass the time, but the payouts on nickel machines are not something anyone's going to cash in unless you happened to hit 2000 or more. Food: We read many positive and negative remarks about the food on this ship. We were never disappointed with the dining room or the Cezanne restaurant! The seafood station Sur-Mer was excellent. We went to the Point one night... it was the best steak and lobster I've ever eaten. Carnival gets our vote of confidence on their food. Ports: We stayed on the ship at Montego Bay. It was the best time to enjoy the pools, hot-tubs and waterslide which was a blast! Lie down if you want to really go fast!! Grand Cayman was nice, but we were disappointed with the Colony Beach Club. We should have done the Stingray City tour or the Atlantis submarine. In Cozumel we wanted to mainly shop which we did at the duty free shops in port. I have seen Tulum before and didn't want to do that again. Chankanaab might have been a nice thing to do. It was fun seeing the Grand Princess. Some passengers on the Grand Princess arrived back late from their shore excursion. The gangway had already been pulled and folks on both ships were out on their balconies cheering them on. The worst part of our Cozumel visit was leaving! The weather was absolutely perfect, and the prospect of heading north didn't appeal to us. oh well. Ship: We loved the Conquest. The ship was full, but never really felt so. It was like a luxury hotel. The shows were good. We enjoyed Corey's magic show with those beautiful birds. On a final note as much as we loved our category 12 on the Conquest, the only perk is the size of the room. I booked a 10 night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Sun Princess over Thanksgiving 2004, and for the same per day cost got a larger (683 square feet) suite on the back of the ship. The perks include complimentary mini-bar (stocked once), complimentary laundry and dry cleaning, complimentary floral arrangement, daily in-suite afternoon tea, deluxe canapes deliver daily, free internet access, extended room service menu, welcome glass of champagne, luggage unpacking/packing service, personal shore excursion reservations, luxury bathrobes, towels and bathroom amenities, plus a butler. Not bad for the same price per day, huh? Just something to think about! Happy Cruising!!! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
We have been on 5 cruises in the past 3 years including RCI and Celebrity. This was our first Carnival cruise and we were excited to try this line. Our travel agent{who has since been fired}, said that Carnival was right up there with ... Read More
We have been on 5 cruises in the past 3 years including RCI and Celebrity. This was our first Carnival cruise and we were excited to try this line. Our travel agent{who has since been fired}, said that Carnival was right up there with RCI. Well she was wrong. the room.. we always book a suite and when we got to our room we could not believe how small it was and dirty. I went to the pursers office and waited in a long line to make sure they had put us in the right room. He said this was a great cabin and we should be happy with it. Well we weren't but we said we aren't in the room that much so let's not worry. The RCI suites have curtains so 1 person can sleep and not be disturbed, and are much larger. They also have concierge service. Carnival has none. The people in the cabin next to us were the loudest drunkest people I have ever heard. Our room steward was grouchy and complained about his job everyday. Whenever we asked for anything we were treated as though we had better appreciate it if we got it. On the last morning our room steward came into our room at 6:45 am and told us to get up because he had to make the bed. We told him to leave as we were not even out of bed yet. All of the staff had bad attitudes and the service was poor at best. The food on the ship was horrible and thrown at you. I think we ate dinner every night in about 35 minutes. The supper club, extra charge, was very nice and the food much better. Even breakfast was bad. They cooked the eggs in oil and everything they served was greasy. I could go on and on but I would not recommend Carnival to anyone. There isn't enough of a price difference between Carnival and the other mainstream cruise lines to warrant such a difference in service and food. 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: December 2003
Carnival Conquest: Sail Date: 12/7/03 Cassy & Larry Epps Our cruise was fantastic!! This was our first cruise and well exceeded our expectations. We arrived in New Orleans on Thursday, December 4 and to our surprise it was cold! We ... Read More
Carnival Conquest: Sail Date: 12/7/03 Cassy & Larry Epps Our cruise was fantastic!! This was our first cruise and well exceeded our expectations. We arrived in New Orleans on Thursday, December 4 and to our surprise it was cold! We walked all over Bourbon Street looking for winter wear. We finally walked over to Canal street and found some sweat shirts-my husband Larry even bought a hat! We love the architecture of NOLA. We bar hopped like teenagers and listened to jazz music and ate raw oysters everyday at the Desire restaurant (green awnings-part of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. The line to Acme Oyster bar was too long. When we discovered Desire-we were hooked. Kentrell opened up the biggest and the freshest oysters! We loved it. We met a great couple-Ken & Cindy from Wisconsin in a NOLA grocery store-we mentioned that we were going on a cruise. I kept telling my husband Larry-they seemed so nice-I hope we meet them on the boat. He said that would be impossible-3000 people on the boat. The next couple of days in NOLA was spent walking around that town. What a fun place. Embarkation: very smooth. We had no idea just how large the boat was. We had a surly taxi driver who complained all the way to the pier. Thank God we came- early. We went on line, presented our tickets & proof of citizenship, Larry checked our luggage with a porter, then we went to another line to collect our sign & sail cards. Then we went to another holding room where we had to sit in bright yellow chairs. Guess who saddled up right next to us? Ken & Cindy!! That was the icing!! We knew instinctively that we would be friends. They are such a funny, warm and kind couple. We are blessed to know them-they made our trip even more enjoyable. When you first get on the boat-you will be amazed at the level of detail and care Carnival took with their design of this fabulous ship. We were awestruck. The atrium was bedecked with pretty Christmas dEcor and we four sat at the bar and just watched all the people come on board. It was great seeing their reaction to the atrium. There was a lovely quartet playing light classical music. We walked around a bit-still dazed by the grandeur of the boat. We found our rooms. And I was in for a surprise-it was very spacious and had so much room for storage. I had selected an aft balcony for our first trip. That was probably one of the best decisions I made. Our cabin was on the Veranda Deck and we were sandwiched between two really nice couples-Sparky & Jane on our left and Bob & Connie on our right. What a wealth of information and fun! Our location was ideal. The wake from the boat is calming and the breeze delightful! I unpacked, and our room steward made his way to us-a dignified man from Indonesia. His name was Vatachara-not sure of the spelling. I must say that our room was kept spotless. Anytime we walked away from our room-we returned to find it immaculate. Fresh towels, bed made, cute towel creatures, fresh ice cubes. We were so pleased, we tipped him in addition to the amount on the sign and sail card. We met a lot of interesting crewmembers. We asked them about their countries, what bought them here on this boat and when do they get to go home. I now know how to say hello and thank you in Romania, Latvian, Indonesian and a host of other languages! The days at sea were a whirlwind of activities. I enjoyed Cory our cruise director. He was funny and his birds were amazing. I have read other reviews from folks who said that his jokes are repeats-but for us they were brand new. The Lautrec Lounge was very nicely laid out but get there early to get a good seat for the shows. The Las Vegas Style shows were nicely done although appealing to older guests. Henri's Disco was a blast. We went every night and the DJ was great!! We did not expect good music but was surprised. We love 80's night-we are children of New Wave & Disco. The food was better than I expected. The Point was a great experience. The service was exceptional and the food was excellent-well worth the additional expense. Even the Lido deck lines were not bad and their food was surprisingly tasty. Well seasoned and a nice variety. Room service selections were very limited but it was nice to get a pot of hot coffee to our room and drink it on our verandah. The dining room selections were well portioned and tasty. Some stuff a little too chichi even for us New Yorkers (we now live in Maryland but we are from Long Island, New York). The service was quick, polite and professional. Our waiter was Bernardo- handsome but of little words. Our table mates: Tim & Angie and Cliff & Canna were funny & friendly and made dinner a much awaited experience. The sandwich and grill areas were also decent. The pizza was also pretty good. Food was everywhere. The shore excursions were fabulous. Jamaica-was an experience. We were pressured to purchase things but our time simply did not allow us to browse. We hopped on a bus-very nice bus driver and our bus mates were very kind in letting us tag along. One of them-Jean, appeared on the Talent Show with her sisters. We went to the Dunn's River Falls-pretty park but they really grab you when you go through the exit. We docked 2.5 hours away from this excursion and were fearful of missing our ride back to the boat. I understand the level of poverty there and I have a lot of Jamaican friends and I was born in a Caribbean island. But I was not in a mood to get insulted and I don't owe anybody anything. We were polite and said no-thanks-we are in a rush to get back to our ride. I couldn't wait to get back on the boat because I would have been in a fight and my husband would have had to bail me out. Our bus driver took us to a little bar that sold t-shirts and we spent a nice amount there. We just made it to our boat. Cayman Islands (our favorite) was a different story. It's obvious that the standard of living there is much higher-hence the lack of a hard sell. We are going back there for sure for a week. The Stingray & Coral Reef excursion was awesome. I squealed and laughed my head off! It was expensive-but to me, I'd rather pay more and be left in peace. The people were very nice. I would have liked to stay longer. Cozumel was a fun and pretty island. They bugged you a little but did not give you a hard time if you said no thank you. We took a cab to ChanKannab Park-great fun snorkeling, good margaritas and fresh salsa. We then took a cab back to Carlos & Charlie's for the obligatory mind numbing tequila shot experience. That was loads of fun. I had fried shrimp there and it was very good. We did a little shopping-just T-shirts for our daughter. She's a soccer player and when I showed her soccer pictures to the store owner, he gave me a nice discount! Embarkation-we waited until the last minute to leave our rooms. That was a good idea. We strolled out the boat, found our luggage; found a porter then got into hell on the dock. What a disorganized crazy pier! They did a lousy job of organizing this process. Its not the ship's fault. When we finally found a cab-he was surly too! Fights were breaking out on the pier. It would have been funny-but seeing those tired looking parents and their wide-eyed kids was sort of sad. We met up with Ken & Cindy and hung out with them before we flew back to Maryland. This was by far the best trip we have ever had. The boat was wondrous, the service was polite, we made new friends, the food was plentiful and the activities were numerous. We sampled everything. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me! Cass Read Less
We just returned from the Conquest sailing May 30th thru June 6th. First and foremost I would like to thank everyone on this board for their input and helpful information. My family and I (Husband and myself 40yrs old/ 15 yr old girl and ... Read More
We just returned from the Conquest sailing May 30th thru June 6th. First and foremost I would like to thank everyone on this board for their input and helpful information. My family and I (Husband and myself 40yrs old/ 15 yr old girl and 17 yr old girl) had the most wonderful vacation ever! You must know that we are fairly seasoned travelers. We have been abroad with the kids twice and all over this country. A cruise was not really high on our list. But after my girlfriend sailed on the Conquest in December, then again in February, and had such a wonderful time, we decided to book the cruise. Best decision we've made in a long time! Here's my review - I know it's long but I liked reading everyone's detailed review. Embarkation: Smooth, everyone courteous. Arrived @ 1:30pm but despite the long lines, we were in our rooms (which were ready) by 2:30pm. Rooms: We had two. Both on Empress Deck - Balcony (for husband and I ) and Interior right across the hall for the girls. Loved the big balcony room. It was very special to have breakfast delivered every morning and to sip coffee leisurely on the balcony. Both rooms were very clean and well appointed. Plenty of storage in both rooms. Someone on this board recommended that we bring a small gift for the room steward, which we did. The bags consisted of t-shirts from my business in the French Quarter, New Orleans spices, prepaid calling cards, note cards and pralines. Our steward, Emam was very grateful and our rooms never lacked for anything. Our Carnival beach towels were replaced every day and our complimentary bathroom samples were replenished as well. Dining: Being from New Orleans in the food industry, it really takes a lot to impress me. However, we found the food very good (Monet dining room, Pizza, Paul's deli) to excellent (The Point Supper Club). Our wait staff was the best. Always attentive and very friendly. We found out early on to ask what our waiter would recommend as the best choice for the evening. We always took his recommendations and were never disappointed. We loved the formal nights! It's not too often that we're all in formal attire so that was special. We ate at the Supper Club one night. For a small fee($25.00 per person) it really shouldn't be missed. The wine list was much better than the dining room. We took the advice of the Sommelier and were very pleased. The food was excellent and very well presented. Dessert was incredible. The chef sent out samplings of appetizers and dessert assortments - nice touch. Entertainment: Games were fun (Trivia, Newlywed, etc.). Magic show was OK. Vegas style Show - Yuk! My girls were actually drifting off to sleep during that show... I didn't blame them. Excursions: Jamaica - I had heard that this was a bad stop. But we loved it! Everyone was very friendly. Husband played golf at White Witch w/ Tyler the golf pro. He reported that the course was beautiful, difficult and well maintained. The girls and I hired a taxi driver to accompany us for the day. We went to Margaritaville and ended up staying 2 hours. The food was good and the girls loved the craziness and the trampolines. Then the taxi driver took us to Aqua Sol where we rented jet skis and went extreme tubing behind a power boat - great fun. Then we went shopping. No problems to report whatsoever. Just a good time had by all. Grand Cayman: Wow! I had heard from so many people on this board about the stingrays. I am so glad we went. It truly is an incredible experience. We took the Stingray Sandbar tour. It was so much fun! Loved the Captain and his mate. The water was SO blue and the stingrays were like big soft dogs. They loved being petted, fed and held. My 15 yr old was carrying one around for about 30 minutes. She kept reaching up to give my daughter a kiss on the chin! Sweet! We went shopping afterwards and found great deals right there by the terminal. Cozumel: Our favorite port! We took the Catamaran / Snorkel tour. The catamaran was big and beautiful. The Captain and the crew were hilarious. Snorkeling itself was lovely but a little crowded. After that we went to a private beach. My 17 yr old and I relaxed on rafts and scouted for shells. Both girls went kayaking. My husband and 15 yr old started a volleyball game that turned into a volleyball tournament. Great fun! The ride back on the catamaran was filled with great music, dancing and margaritas flowing. After this we took a taxi to Carlos and Charlie's for lunch. This is not a place for young kids. We knew this (we had been before), but thought that with our girls growing up with Mardi Gras and the French Quarter, they wouldn't be shocked by too much. It turned out to be pretty tame and fun. The food was very good. We got great pictures at the bar and with the wait staff. Before we left we had a list of teenagers who wanted Carlos and Charlie's and Senor Frog t-shirts. So, we headed around the corner to Senor Frog's and filled up our bags with t-shirts. We had also heard that we could get some good deals on diamonds. This was not the case. No great bargains here. But, we did end up buying a lovely pair of earrings the last night on the ship for about 70% off. Spa - Fabulous therapists, but very expensive. My husband and I had the couples massage and thoroughly enjoyed it. We liked it so much that we went back for foot massages, scalp massages and facials. The girls were a little jealous, so we booked them a couple's massage. They loved it. Although the therapists were great, I felt that the spa itself was not what I am accustomed to. No lush waiting room with cold cucumber water, no changing rooms, hair dryers or lotions. It was also a little noisy. Even with these small disappointments, it was a treat to get pampered and relaxed while we were at sea. Debarkation - Just as smooth as embarkation. Had our luggage outside our doors by 10:00 on Saturday night. We waited in our rooms until 8:30 am then brought our carryons down to breakfast. About the same time we were finishing, they called our color. We were walking in our house by 10:30 am. Final thoughts - I can't wait to do this again. Our entire family had a spectacular time. The girls loved to teen area and the freedom. We all loved our family time together, but also that the girls had so many people to hang out, and places to go that it gave my husband and I alone with each other. It was really like a second honeymoon. I loved this vacation. We are all now officially CRUISE ADDICTS!!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
This was without a doubt the worst cruise we have ever been on. The ship was beautiful, but the service and attitude of the crew was awful. We had booked out flight trough Carnival and they put us on Delta, for whatever reason that ... Read More
This was without a doubt the worst cruise we have ever been on. The ship was beautiful, but the service and attitude of the crew was awful. We had booked out flight trough Carnival and they put us on Delta, for whatever reason that particular plane was delayed leaving for over three hours for an "FAA inspection", by the time we finally left we had missed our connecting flight to New Orleans out of Atlanta. Delta did put us on a later flight which we made by the skin of our teeth, however our luggage did not make it. This would normally not have been a problem, except this particular cruise had the first of two "fun days" at sea so we did not make port until Wednesday. When we went to the purser's desk to explain our situation, they gave us a T shirt and suggested we shop in the ships store. Their attitude was one of complete disinterest and we found that to be true throughout the cruise. Needless to say, you can imagine the prices. When we finally got to our first stop on Wednesday, we were told we would have to go ashore and get our own bags and they wouldn't send anyone to help us. We found the luggage in an open terminal in Montego Bay, unguarded and all of the luggage had been gone through, with things missing from each. We went through local customs and tried to find someone from the ship to help us get the luggage on board, but no one would help. We managed to struggle five very heavy bags up the gangway and were told they would all have to be x-rayed again and we would have to lift them up and put them on the conveyor belt. By this time we were exhausted and angry, one of the bags was too big to fit through the x ray and we were told they were not going to let us bring it on board. At that point, we threw a fit and finally a ships officer came by, helped us with the bags to be x rayed and helped is to get the luggage to our staterooms. He told us that if the pursers desk had just notified him, he would have had someone help us from the beginning. Our stateroom was an outside stateroom on the first deck, when we boarded in New Orleans, we heard a banging sound like someone was beating on a pipe with a hammer, we ignored it thinking it would stop once we were at sea, but this noise persisted throughout the cruise. When we called, just one of many people who called and complained about the noise, we were told by the pursers deck to try ear plugs. On Thursday of the cruise, the purser's desk called and said they had another room for us, but it would be a downgrade. I didn't think anything could be worst than the one we had, but I was apparently wrong and I declined to take the change. From the first day of the cruise, when we went to the purser's desk about our luggage to the end of the cruise, I found that the people working aty the purser's desk were uniformly rude, uncaring, and unhelpful. I have documented the cruise and tried to send the letter to Carnival Cruise Line hoping, that someone there would pay attention to the complaints, but so far I have sent three certified return receipt requested letters and can get no one at Carnival to sign for them. I have been on many cruises, two of which were on other Carnival ships and those ships were wonderful, but if this cruise on the Conquest had been my first cruise it would have been my last. If the people at the purser's desk, at the beginning of the cruise had just had a little sympathy, said they understood our problems, and acted like they cared how we felt it would have made all the difference in the world. We had booked a total of four cabins, as this cruise was with our family to celebrate our 40th Anniversary. My husband felt so bad about the way this cruise had gone that we booked another cruise in July on the Caribbean Princes and plan on celebrating out Anniversary late, but with a cruise line that at least cares about how you feel. I would never recommend Carnival Cruise Line to anyone and have gone out of my way to let all our friends know about our cruise and tell them to go on any cruise but a Carnival Cruise. 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: February 2004
This was our first cruise and we were directed by our Travel agent to travel with Carnival. We chose the cruise that we thought would be a great choice for our family. We left New Orleans Feb 1st 2004 to travel to the West Caribbean. We ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we were directed by our Travel agent to travel with Carnival. We chose the cruise that we thought would be a great choice for our family. We left New Orleans Feb 1st 2004 to travel to the West Caribbean. We were a little disappointed on the temperature in New Orleans when we arrived. It was 53 degrees. But coming from MN and the -50 degrees with the windchill the week before it was warm enough. We were very impressed with the organization of the Carnival cruise line. We were amazed at how they can get 4,000+ people on a ship in the amount of time they did. No hassles or wait as long as you had everything handy and filled out ahead of time. The cruise was awesome. We traveled with our two children ages 10 and 7. The boys really enjoyed the Camp Carnival activities and the staff. Our youngest wanted to spend every moment with the Camp Carnival group. The employees throughout the ship were very accommodating to children. We had a great steward who kept us comfortable. We met a wonderful wait staff also who made our trip very enjoyable. His name was Ming. If you get the chance to meet him you will LOVE him. Our wait staff at dinner was also a treat. Ryan and Ni were the ultimate. They were always friendly and very informative. We did a lot of activities on the ship and also just relaxed in the sun. It was everything that we thought it should be. We will definitely be making Carnival Cruise our yearly vacation. Leaving the ship was a sad day for us knowing that getting back to reality was not what we wanted this soon. The organization of getting off the ship was again very organized. The only bad thing that happened on our cruise was that the last day I discovered I had lost the diamond out of my wedding ring set. The jeweler told me that the salt water can clean the ring and cause the diamond to loosen if your prongs are not maintained. (a little pointer for the ladies.) Again we will definitely be going back again (not soon enough). Robin and Gary Wedrickas Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
THIS WAS TRULY A CRUISE FROM HELL! To start off, the ship is very poorly designed! To get from the front of the ship to the back is a feat! You have to go up the elevator two floors then back down because one of the dining rooms is ... Read More
THIS WAS TRULY A CRUISE FROM HELL! To start off, the ship is very poorly designed! To get from the front of the ship to the back is a feat! You have to go up the elevator two floors then back down because one of the dining rooms is located in the midship and you cannot go through on decks 3 and 4. Everyone was going crazy trying to get around! This was our 8th cruise, so we are familiar with how to get around on ships, but not this one! On the second day, we had a sewer backup on the forth deck. Sewage smell was everywhere that there were floor drains, including the staterooms. Water gurgled in the drains all night!They shampooed the carpets, but the smell was terrible. They tried to cover the smell with vinegar! Well you know what that smelled like! It filtered through many staterooms throughout the whole ship! I am sure this was a health hazard! The service was horrible, too. It appears the this ship is severely under-staffed. The tables on the Lido Deck were not cleared so that people could sit down and have lunch. If you wanted a clean table, you cleaned it yourself! Bar service was not too good either. Most times, we went to the bars and got out own drinks. Not enough waitstaff. Our waiter in the formal dining room was also poor. He was getting off the ship after this cruise to go home on a six week break and his displeasure with the ship was obvious. Our silverware was never changed between courses...he just pushed it off of our plates to the table for the next course. We had to ask for water....and no bar service in the dining room either. We brought our own drinks in from the bars or we didn't have any! The food was so-so. We have had much better! The entertainment was fair. The crew bragged about being rated #1 for their entertainment.....I question that rating! The pools were very small, and the slide was closed most of the time because of wind conditions, so the kids were disappointed. Montego Bay was not a good port. We have been to Ochos Rios and it is much better. We were told this ship is the only one that docks in Montego Bay...I see why! Grand Cayman and Cozumel are Ok. In Cozumel, you have to take a taxi to the main shopping district. This was our eighth cruise, but our first on Carnival. It was truly a "CRUISE FROM HELL"! We will never cruise Carnival again...it was not the "Fun Ship" it brags to be. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
First I would like to ask Carnival to change their slogan to "the ANTI-FUN SHIP". There were some nice things about our cruise week, but this review will only focus on the reasons why me and most of my 83 fellow cruisers will not ... Read More
First I would like to ask Carnival to change their slogan to "the ANTI-FUN SHIP". There were some nice things about our cruise week, but this review will only focus on the reasons why me and most of my 83 fellow cruisers will not return to Carnival. EVER. We are a group of 84 people from all around the country. Our group has cruised together for 10 years now. Every year was with Carnival except last year most of the group sailed on Celebrity. It was decided that we should be on Carnival for the 10th year. That was a big mistake. We have had a lot of fun on Carnival in the past but this year was completely the opposite. We purchased, as a group, for $19,000, an open bar card which was supposed to have no unreasonable restrictions. A week before the cruise, we received notice of the "restrictions". They included, $5.75 drink limit - anything over you must pay for the drink on your room charge, no souvenir glasses so you have get your drinks in these tiny little 8-10oz plastic cups and each drink was exactly measured - no floaters, no mini bar usage in your room, no room service drinks, if you want wine with dinner you must drink the ones chosen by carnival for the group weather you like them or not, and so on and so on. I paid for a balcony but if I want to enjoy a cocktail there, I have to get dressed and go find a bar somewhere and cart it back myself. When I went to the bar and the bartenders noticed that we had open bar, it was like we were invisible. I figured out that they weren't tipped on each drink but the staff were all tipped on the package. So they didn't feel like they need to work for us anymore. The often ignored us and even avoided us when they saw us coming. That all changed when we started spreading around some cash. On the first night I went to the pool bar to get 2 glasses of wine for my wife and I to have in our room while we got ready for dinner. I ordered 2 chardonnay's. I was told that there is only one white wine that I can get on our plan and they don't have any. I had to make a scene and get them to call a supervisor so they could give me a substitute. Then I spilled one trying to open my door so I had to go through it all over again. The next day, some of us wanted to sip our drinks in the adult only hot tub. There was a security guard standing across the pool from the tub just waiting to bust someone. Well, he waited until you got into the tub nice and comfy, then he walks right past the kids snorkeling IN the adult hot tub to tell us that we can't drink in the tub. We then pointed out to him that the rules only state that you can't have glass in the tub, nothing about drinking in the tub. 1/2 hour later we had 4 security guards there debating the whole thing. They finally gave up. Then 2 security guards arrived at my cabin and ordered me to remove the American and fire dept. flags that I had hanging INSIDE of my balcony. (The room steward must have ratted me out.) God forbid I show a little patriotism. In Grand Caymen they cancelled our stingray excursion saying it was due to rough seas. But, as soon as you get on shore there are people selling you the same thing and they said there was no cancellations today. I'm sure the reason it was cancelled was that there were 6 cruise ships in port and they didn't have the resources to handle it. The dining room service steadily declined over the week. By the last few dinners we had to pour our own wine and they stopped replacing the used silverware between courses. The food slipped a bit too. The ships Photographers set up right in the middle of the walkways in some areas. They gave you major attitude when you tried to walk through and there was no way to go around. There is so much to complain about that I could go on for days, but I think you get it. I couldn't wait to go back to work where I get less abuse. Do yourself a favor and don't bother with carnival. Spend a little extra on Royal Caribbean and you wont regret it. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
My wife and I are around 40 yrs old and travelled without children - for those looking for a romantic vacation like us - we recommend stay away from the conquest. The ship public areas and facilities are far too small for the 3000 ... Read More
My wife and I are around 40 yrs old and travelled without children - for those looking for a romantic vacation like us - we recommend stay away from the conquest. The ship public areas and facilities are far too small for the 3000 passengers they pack onboard. This ship is the same length as the spirit class ships which only hold 2000 passengers. We always had to hunt and circle to find empty loungers around the pool - one time i even untied a stack of loungers and broke them down so we could have a seat. Children run wild and free around the pool decks, the hot tubs are more like kid stew than kid soup. Essentially all of the bars are on deck 5 - these bars are no larger than on the 1500 passenger holiday. My experience on our four cruises is that karaoke has the highest attendance. The conquest has karaoke in a bar that according to my wife is the size of the kitchen and living room in our 2000 sq ft house - i seriously doubt there is seating for 100 people in this bar. There is no room for the nighttime special parties that are planned like the mardi gras parade which ends up in the hall way at the casino - i guess the conquest staff planned for only 20 of the 3000 passengers to show up. We were never able to find decent seats in the main lounge for the shows even though we went 15 minutes before start time The food in the lido restaurant (except breakfast which was ok) was awful. The lines were long at all the food service stations and at least one each of the coffee, tea and ice cream machines was always out of service which lengthened the lines even more. Our cabin was directly above the subwoofers in the main lounge - the vibrations were so strong it was painful. Unless you want to be in a big crowd and stand in lines, stay away from the conquest. Carnival could do alot to ease the crowded situation by improving their event schedules and better controlling the free roaming of children - we saw 9-10 year old boys on the topless deck I think a lot of people like us use these reviews to pick the best ship for their needs - As i've said before we've been on 3 previous cruises and this ship was by far the most crowded in the public areas. The ship appearance was fine - but we did occasionally smell raw sewage walking around the ship. The room steward and waiter were very good but we never had anyone from carnival ask us if we were enjoying our stay while on the ship. This is not the ship for people like us who want to get out of your stateroom, enjoy activities around the ship, dance and enjoy some relaxing time - it's just too crowded. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
This is my third Carnival Cruise, first cruise with my children, 2 and 4 years old. We were five families, with two to four children each. WHAT A MISTAKE!!!!!!! NOT FOR CHILDREN!!!!!!!! The worst thing about our trip was the Camp ... Read More
This is my third Carnival Cruise, first cruise with my children, 2 and 4 years old. We were five families, with two to four children each. WHAT A MISTAKE!!!!!!! NOT FOR CHILDREN!!!!!!!! The worst thing about our trip was the Camp Carnival. I stopped asking my children if they wanted to go because I felt like they were being forced to go, instead of wanting to go. There was no planned activities for the 2 to 5 year old group. They had no pool or water activities at all, which, I ASSUMED there would be. It was basically a boring day care situation. The older groups seemed to like the camp, but, they could sign themselves in and out when they wanted, so they weren't trapped when it was boring for them. I wanted my children to have so much fun they would never forget it. When I looked into the cruise and read about Camp Carnival, I expected the program to intensify their vacation, instead, I found it was designed for parents to unload their children for "baby sitting". Their schedule was also annoying. It was made to suit them and not the passengers. One of the families with us had been on a Disney Cruise. They constantly spoke of how Disney entertains and welcomes children. Carnival "puts up" with children. My mistake, I know. Next time I will go Disney. The service on the Conquest was good but seemed understaffed. I felt sorry for the workers, they were overworked. There were lines for everything. They were all very nice and never complained. I saw two shows. One was with birds, which my children enjoyed, and the other was so bad we walked out. It was based on France, with singing and dancing. After that I couldn't bear to go to anymore. Our group had the most fun on the islands. On Montego Bay, we went to a all-inclusive hotel/beach, paid $20.00/adult and $10.00/child ($2.00/each way cab), and everything was included! Food, drinks, beach, chairs, pools, paddle boats, and kayaks. It was worth it. Grand Cayman was a little disappointing. OUR FAULT! We were trying to get an excursion for our group (not through Carnival), and they were only going to give us a couple of kids free. Take my advice, book individually. You'll end up getting more kids free that way. It was $35.00/person and about 2 1/2 hours to swim with the stingrays. Cozumel was surprising. It is much more commercialized since the last time I was there, which means more expensive than I remember. We also went to a beach on this island. It was $14.00 one way in a cab, and $10.00/adult to use the beach. Here you paid for everything. Jet ski was $50.00/half hour. It was still fun, the kids loved playing in the sand. My sister-in-law got food poisoning though. We probably should have went to a hotel beach, being that we were in Mexico! Ask some of the staff where they go, usually it's a pretty smart move. Embarkment and debarkment were good. Parking our car in their lot took forever, so if you can park at your hotel and get a shuttle, it would be well worth it! I could go on, but, I'm sick of complaining! I wouldn't go back on the Conquest if it was free! Carnival......not so much fun. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
Carnival Conquest 3/24-3/21 I have found these CC boards to be very helpful, so this long review is my attempt to give a little back. I traveled as part of a family of 4 adults, a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old. New Orleans We arrived ... Read More
Carnival Conquest 3/24-3/21 I have found these CC boards to be very helpful, so this long review is my attempt to give a little back. I traveled as part of a family of 4 adults, a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old. New Orleans We arrived in New Orleans Saturday morning for our Sunday departure, and stayed at the Maison St. Charles Hotel. I highly recommend this hotel. They have a "Bon Voyage" package for cruisers that is a very good deal. The package is $97 per night, plus $12 per night for valet parking. The best part is that they take you to the port on the morning of your cruise in a limo. You can leave your car with them and they only charge $5 per night for parking for the duration of the cruise. The car is in a locked lot with a high fence and very secure. I loved this hotel. It is by far the best hotel I have ever stayed at for less than $100 per night. The valet/bell guys were all very friendly and very helpful and the hotel has a great, relaxed vibe, with a lounge and game room, a pool and a beautiful New Orleans style courtyard. It is also directly across the street from a St. Charles Streetcar stop, so you don't need a car to get down to the quarter. Highly recommended. http://www.maisonstcharles.com/ Embarkation Not too bad. They move you from section to section, so it doesn't seem like you are waiting as long as you are. Either the funpass registration doesn't do anything, or everyone pre-registers, because it looked to me like we were all in the same line. We were eager, so we got to the port about 11:45 and were on the ship by about 12:30. Official boarding was not until 3:00. They handed us a flyer that said our stateroom would not be ready until 2:00, but we went up to check and it was ready to go. The Conquest This is a beautiful ship. I was especially impressed with the public areas. There are a ton of bars and lounges everywhere you look. The casino is large and nice. There are two dining rooms, the Monet and the Renoir, but I don't know if there is any real difference between the two. Passengers are assigned a room, a table number and a seating time. This is all listed on the sign and sail card that you pick up when you board. The Monet has 5:45 and 8:00 seatings and the Renoir has 6:15 and 8:30 seatings. If you are travelling with a group, check before you go to make sure you are all seated together. It is not easy to change if you end up assigned to different tables. The food was generally good and several items were better than I expected. This is not 5-star gourmet cuisine, but it is good and there are a lot of choices. The Lido buffet has multiple serving lines, and there is a pizza station, a deli sandwich station and 2 hamburger/hot dog grill stations, but the lines were pretty long at all of them at peak times. We sailed on Spring Break and I heard that the ship was completely full. I believed it when I saw the lines at lunch. The better choice is the open seating in the Monet dining room at lunch. You can get seated right away with no waiting, and you don't have to dress for lunch. For dinner, there are two formal nights, and the rest are "resort casual." I saw a couple of tuxes on formal nights, but mostly men wore dark suits. Most men wore khakis and sports shirts on the casual nights, but quite a few wore jeans and nice shirts. I did see two guys in the dining room in jeans on one formal night, but at least they didn't wear their baseball caps during dinner that night. We had a quad balcony cabin on Deck 9 to share between 2 adults and the 2 kids. It worked out better than I expected. The cabin had lots of storage space and we were able to get everything put away and the suitcases under the bed. In addition to the queen bed, there was a daybed/couch that the steward made into a twin at night. Above that was a Murphy bed that pulls down out of the ceiling. The steward put it up out of the way during the day, and pulled it down and made up the bed at night. This worked out great for our kids and they took turns sleeping in the Murphy. The non-quad deck 9 cabins are exactly the same except that there is no Murphy bed and the couch stays a couch at night. The ship has 2 separate pool areas. The main sun pool has multiple levels of sun decks filled with row after row of lounge chairs. The waterslide was fun and had surprisingly short lines most of the time. The sky pool has a smaller sunning area and has a retractable roof for bad weather. The kids' activities were very well done. Everything is broken into age groups, and for age 8 and under, it works kind of like a day care. The parents drop them off at Camp Carnival and pick them up whenever they want. They have a list of scheduled activities throughout the day. The older kids are given an age-specific itinerary that lists all of the week's activities. They can pick and choose to attend whatever activities they want. Age 9-11 must sign themselves in and out of the activities, and 12+ don't have to sign in at all. The entertainment didn't knock me out, but everyone's taste varies. We went to a Vegas production show and I guess it was OK, just not for me. We also went to a show that opened with the cruise director's bird act (yes, you read that correctly) and then a soul/r&b review. The bird act was OK, but a little goofy. My kids liked it. The singers were both good, and I enjoyed the review. We also went to guest talent night. I don't think there were any budding superstars here, but it looked like they were having fun. Montego Bay We booked the Cool Waters Party Tour through A-Z Jamaica Planners. ($90 per person) We were met inside the port terminal building by Reyn, holding a sign with my name on it. Our group of 6 joined another group of 15 and got into a bus headed into the mountains. The ride is about an hour and much of it goes up very narrow and very winding roads. We arrived at Mayfield falls and walked down a steep hill into the camp area. Reyn turned us over to a guide, Dennis, and waited for us. If you do this trip, you must have aquasocks or other good water shoes. You are going to spend an hour or two wading in a river. Don't wear tennis shoes or sandals. Strip down to your swimsuit and leave everything else behind in a locker ($1 for individual or $5 for a group). If you have a waterproof camera, take it. If you have a regular camera, your guide will have a waterproof bag to carry it in, and you can get it out whenever you want to take a picture. You do not need sunscreen for the river; it is completely shaded over. But you will walk back in open ground, so you might want to put a tube of sunscreen in your guide's bag as well. The river was a lot of fun. There are no tall, dramatic falls; this is not Dunn's River. Instead, there are a series of small waterfalls and natural pools where you can swim and play. It is not physically challenging, unless you have a significant disability. The guides are very good about helping people over the rough spots. Dennis was remarkably patient, and we tipped him well. After about 1-1/2 to 2 hours in the river, we hiked back to the bus (uphill most of the way) and drove back into town. We boarded a trimiran, a small flat boat that idled out into the bay. The crew served us a plate lunch and had an open bar. We stopped at a snorkel site on a reef near Margaritaville and snorkeled for about 30 minutes. It was OK, but nothing spectacular. We got back on the boat and cruised over to Margaritaville. Now we were so far behind schedule that the captain told us we only had 10 minutes before we had to get back on the boat. It was just enough time for the kids and I to go down the waterslide once and bounce on the trampoline a couple of times. The boat took us right back to the port and we walked on the ship. In summary, I recommend A-Z and would use them again, but there really isn't enough time to do this trip right. You would be better off just booking the trip to Mayfield Falls and then going to Margaritaville yourself after you got back to town. Skip the trimiran. http://www.a-zjamaicaplanners.com/cruisetours.htm http://www.mayfieldfalls-jamaica.com/ http://www.margaritavillecaribbean.com/h/locations_montego_bay.html Grand Cayman We booked a half-day snorkel and stingray sandbar trip with Captain Marvin's. ($39 per person.) Wow, what a difference a couple of years makes. My wife and I took this same trip in August of 2002 and loved it so much we couldn't wait to go back with the family. This time, it was still good, and I still recommend Captain Marvin's, but it was CROWDED. You have to take a tender into Grand Cayman, but this is no big deal. We had plenty of time to walk over to Captain Marvin's storefront and still arrived almost an hour early. They loaded us on a bus and took us over to their dock where we got on the boat. They have 2 or 3 boats, and the one we took held about 25-30 people. Captain Marvin himself drove, and he is 88 years old! The boat stops at 2 sites for snorkeling. The water and sea life are very good, but at both stops there were lots of other boats right next to us. Two years ago, we saw no one else. The third site is the stingray sandbar. This is really something not to miss, but there were dozens of boats with hundreds of people anchored on the sandbar. We had to wait about 20 minutes before we could find a place to anchor. Finally we got off, and we had a ball. Again, we had a very patient and very helpful guide. I hope the crowd was indicative of Spring Break and not reflective of what this is like the rest of the year. Either way, if you haven't done this yet, you need to do it once. http://www.captainmarvins.com/ Cozumel We did not book anything in advance and our group split up after we got off the ship. The Conquest docked at the Puerta Maya port and we walked through a looong duty free store that sells mostly the same things that are sold on the ship. Then we entered a small shopping plaza built just for the cruise terminal. If you want to shop, this is not the place to do it. Instead, get a cab and head into town. My half of our group took a taxi down to Chankanaab Park. The taxi is a flat $10 per cab and takes about 5-10 minutes to get there. Admission at the park is $12 per person. Chankanaab is smaller than I thought. It has a very nice beach and a very nice snorkeling reef, but there really isn't much to the rest of the park. You can bring your own snorkel stuff and just jump in, or you can rent it on the beach. I think the cost is about $5-6. There is also a dolphin show, and a swim with dolphins attraction, but we didn't do that. I am the only diver in my group, so I went by myself for a dive. For an experienced diver, there is nothing spectacular at Chankanaab Park, but it is worth doing once. There are 4 palapa diving huts right on the beach. I just walked up to one and started asking questions. It couldn't be any simpler. For $40 they gave me a BC, a weight belt, a pair of fins and a full tank. I brought my own mask and snorkel. I strapped everything on right there and walked with the divemaster down to the shore. We walked down the stairs into the water and went right in amidst the snorkelers, just the two of us. From there, he led me over a long coral reef at only 20-25 feet deep. Eventually, we made it to a cave system. This was pretty cool. We swam in and out of the multiple cave entrances and found some huge fish just hanging out in one of the caves. After we left the cave, we swam over the sand flat to the famous statue of Jesus for a couple of photo ops. More pictures at the Mayan statue and then back to the shore. Total bottom time, about 45 min. Max depth: about 25 feet. I had never done a shore dive like this, so it was well worth the $40 to me, but I won't do it again. My guide told me I could get another tank and go out again for only $16 more, but I passed. http://www.cozguide.net/chankan.html In summary, the Conquest is a great ship. We were very happy with the accommodations and the level of service on board. Things were a little crowed at times, but it may not be as bad at other times. I also enjoyed all 3 ports and highly recommend future travelers to do some homework and plan excursions before you get on the ship. It makes for more fun and a lot less worry about what to do in port. Let me know if you have any questions while the trip is still fresh in my memory. Read Less
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