My family and I sailed on the Carnival Conquest out of Galveston on the 12th of November. We arrived at the port fairly early as we only had a three hour drive. I had arranged parking at the EZCruise Parking lot online. IT costs only $50 ... Read More
My family and I sailed on the Carnival Conquest out of Galveston on the 12th of November. We arrived at the port fairly early as we only had a three hour drive. I had arranged parking at the EZCruise Parking lot online. IT costs only $50 if you book online for a 7 day cruise. The parking facility is nice and very nearby. If the weather is nice, walk as it's only a block and a half from the ship.
Embarkation was easy and simple. It is obvious that Carnival has done this many times as they have it down to a science. I honestly don't know how they could make it any smoother. I believe we were inline for no more than 40 minutes to complete all the stations required. We knew, from past experience, that we would not have our luggage for awhile so we explored the ship. And what a ship it is. No matter how big it seems from the outside, it feels even bigger inside. Even with the almost 3000 people boarding, it didn't seem crowded as people fanned out in all directions. The only time I felt crowded was during the lifeboat drill and since we had experienced this before, we weren't surprised. Luckily we finished the drill and got up on deck 11 before we actually set sail. It is a wonderful feeling watching the dock recede and anticipating the joyous trip to come. A note here; Carnival has gotten smart realizing that no one had their luggage and so they declared it casual night at dinner.
We chose the early sitting so we could have more time after dinner for the shows. We were seated at the very aft portion of the dining room affording us a fantastic view of our wake and the receding lights from our dinner seats. Our Head Waiter was Oscar (from Columbia) and his helper was Debassis from India. What a great pair they made. Our service simply got better each night as they grew to know our likes and as we got comfortable with them. Our hats are off to both of them as they worked extremely hard to make our journey everything we hoped it would be. These folks work truly hard with months passing without a day off. Please make sure they know you appreciated their work at end of the cruise when it is tip time!!.
Food!! What else is a cruise if not food!. It was fantastic. The Lobster was huge and we simply had to ask for more and it appeared. The desserts were varied and awesome. I know we altered how much we ate so as to leave room for the goodies at the end of the meal.. And this was just the dining room. We tried pretty much all the food venues by the end of the cruise and they were all good. The buffet on the Lido deck is outstanding. We really liked the Omelette chef!! He made an art form out of making Omelettes. The sandwich shop was also great. I had a Pastrami on Rye and it was almost as good as I remember growing up in Chicago. We found the Fish and Chips place good as well. There was never a lack of good food at any time and it was all excellent.
Cabins!! We chose and inside cabin to save money and I must confess I was a little worried about size. As it turns out, there was no need to worry. While the cabins are by no mean spacious, they are a marvel of space and efficiency. We had no trouble unpacking all of our stuff and stowing the luggage. Over the course of the cruise we never felt crowded at all. The only complaint I have is we never knew what time of day or night it was since there is no outside light in there!! We will seriously consider an Ocean View or Balcony next time. We also had the opportunity to visit a Balcony Suite and I must say it was incredible. Expensive, but incredible.
2 Days at Sea. With the anticipation of the Ports of Call, I thought we would get antsy on our two days at sea but what it did was give us a chance to get our sea legs and explore the ship. We learned how to relax a bit!! The weather got progressively better and warmer as each day at sea progressed.
Jamaica! On Wednesday morning we awoke in port at Montego Bay Jamaica. We had selected the mini-submarine trip which didn't happen until later in the day so off we went to do some shopping. Note: the Shopping Specialist onboard really helped by steering us to safe places. So Mama got some nice (and well earned) blue Diamonds. A Taxi (only use the JUTA ones) was ready and waiting to take us to the shopping area for $4 per person. They were willing to take you on a personal tour of the island for a mere $20 per person. This included waiting for you to shop or go to the beach. We only wanted to shop so they dropped us off after a couple minute drive. Jamaica is one poor country. The shopping area is essentially cordoned off. We had a good time shopping except we were hit up very few seconds by folks wanting us to use their cab. If you politely tell them No there is no problem. We took another cab back to the ship with our goodies and then out again to get to our tour. The mini-sub was very nice. It took about 30 minutes to get to the coral area just off the coast from the major airport. Once there we cruised around while the crew told us about the coral and the fish we were seeing. After about an hour we were asked if we wanted to snorkel and so we did! The water was warm and clear and the gear was in fine shape. We snorkeled for about 30 minutes before heading back in. For the price, it was a good tour. Once back on the ship, we showered and came back up on deck 3 to watch the marching band perform for the ship. Many of us sent little cash gifts down to them and they seemed very appreciative. A few US dollars go along way in Jamaica. At sunset, off to the place we had most wanted to see, the Grand Caymans.
Grand Caymans!! Heaven on earth. What a gorgeous place. We quickly determined we would come back here and spend more time exploring and diving. I had booked a snorkel and Stingray City tour on the internet as I had heard such great things about Captain Marvins. Boy were those storied true. We met at their office on the waterfront and were taken in an air conditioned bus to the dock. There were maybe 30 of us in all. This was one of the reasons I booked with them as we wanted to be in a smaller group. Our skipper was Bruce and he took us quickly out about 4 miles to the Coral Gardens. On the way he and his crewmates explained what we would see and boy, were they right. At the Coral Gardens we dove into the pristine warm water and we marveled at the beautiful underwater scenes. There was only about 12 feet of water there but the underwater life was astounding. Fortunately I had an underwater camera so we can't wait to see what we got pictures of (anyone who has ever tried using one of these cameras under water knows exactly what I mean). After the Coral Gardens, off we went to the edge of the fringing reef. We were in 12 feet of water but 30 feet away the reef dropped off into the deep. Bruce warned us to stay on the shallow side and we did. While swimming along, I looked up and there was 4 ½ foot Barracuda right in front of me!! Awesome is the best word to describe that encounter. Off once more to the sandbar and we could hear the ladies screaming from a mile away. As we glided to a stop you could see the huge Stingrays gliding in from all over. And they were huge!! Off into the water we went (except for my lovely wife who wasn't too sure she wanted to meet the nice fishies!). The Stingrays came by a brushed up against our legs and they are the softest things I have ever felt. Incredible. My wife finally saw that the fish meant no harm so she came in with us!! One of the crew held a large female Stingray in his hands and let everyone pet the fish and give it a kiss on the snout! Then he would put the Stingray against our backs and the fish would give us a back rub with her fins. The crew member (I wish I remembered his name) held that same fish for over 30 minute and she (the fish) seemed to love every minute of it. I still cannot believe how social these creatures were. They seemed to genuinely enjoy the interactions with the humans. I'm also sure our feeding them helped hold their rapt attention. We had been waiting for this experience for months and it did not disappoint. There was a cameraman on board the boat and he made a DVD of our adventure. We purchased one and it arriver within the week. Can't wait to watch this one. Give Captain Marvin's a chance and see if you don't agree it is the experience of a life time. Capt. Marvin's has a web site so it is easy to book ahead of time and save a bunch of money vice Carnival. Sadly, time to leave the Caymans.
Cozumel. We really can't rate this port as we immediately took a launch over to Playa Del Carmen to begin a trip to the ruins of Tulum. Our tour guide, Raoul, was astonishing in his knowledge and willingness to make our trip the best. Lots of walking on this tour so dress lightly and wear good shoes. The ruins are very nice. Saw plenty of lizards sunning themselves on the rocks too. Back to sea!!
The last day at sea was really for wrapping up things. A word here about Carnival. I am sure you could be pampered more but we found this ship everything we had hoped it would be. If we had any concerns at all I think it would be the shows. They simply didn't seem up to those we had experienced before. The ventriloquist was very good but all the rest of the shows left us unfulfilled. These shows change often so maybe it will get better (and maybe it was just us!!). Our Cruise Director, Mark Price, was truly talented and helped make the trip a good one. Our hats are off to him as he seems to have limitless energy.
Debarkation. The best thing Carnival ever did was to institute Self-Help debarkation. If you can manage your own luggage, this is the way to go. We were off the ship, through customs and on our way back by 8:10 AM. Home by lunch time!!
All in all, we felt we got an awful lot for our money and I can say for sure we will be doing this again soon. I have no idea how one could get more for the money. Carnival ---- WELL DONE!!
Kenn and Karen Paulini Seguin, Texas Read Less