Happy New Year - Time for a cruise!: Carnival Conquest Cruise Review by austinlw
Overall Member Rating
Happy New Year - Time for a cruise!
Destination: Western Caribbean
We live in Austin, so it's relatively easy and inexpensive to drive 4 hours to Galveston, park at EZ Cruise ($50 reserved online), and get on a big boat. This is our 3rd cruise out of Galveston (2004 Grand Princess and 2006 RC's Rhapsody).
Sunday Jan 6 - Left Austin at 7:15, arrived Galveston 11:15, parked at EZ Cruise - not many cars in the lot yet. Took shuttle to terminal. Line moved a little slow, but by 12:15 we were getting on the boat. Walked into atrium, immediately saw a nice lady with a tray full of umbrella drinks, purchased 2, and sat down on a comfy chair to enjoy them. We're finally here! Woo-hoo! Kept the souvenir glasses for future drink discount ($6.25 for souvenir glass w/drink, $3.75 afterward if you hand them your souvenir glass, which they replace with a new full souvenir glass - not a bad deal).
Walked around ship, ate a light lunch at the buffet, More found the spa and reserved a "traveler's special" massage for $79 each (scalp, neck & shoulders, feet and ankles) for 8AM the next morning. Cabin areas remained closed off until just before 2PM. When we arrived at our rooms, all luggage was already there - sweet!
After unpacking and resting, we continued to explore the ship. On Lido deck for sail away at 4. About 4:20 we pulled away about 50 yards, and then had to pull back up to the dock for another half hour to deal with some medical emergency. Finally just before 5 we were pulling out of there. Did the safety drill and it was time for our 5:45 dinner in the Monet dining room.
Our waitress was Valentina and assistant waiter was Deyan. We enjoyed them so much. They were both from Bulgaria. Valentina was a sweetheart with so much energy and a great personality. Deyan was low key with a dry sense of humor that I really got a kick out of. He would make a menu suggestion, then frown and shake his head disapprovingly or sigh disgustedly if you chose something else. I learned soon enough that he was usually right.
Overall the food was generally very good during the week, but it varied. Some dinners (Beef Wellington and Jerked Pork Loin in particular) were really outstanding but a couple of dinners were just pretty good, not great. The desserts were mostly very good, and like many others, I must put in my 2c about the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. OMG!!! It was so rich, about 2-3 spoonfuls was all either my wife or I could handle, but SOOOO GOOODDD!! Tiramisu was also another winner! Don't miss these 2. Food overall I thought was on a par with the food we had last winter on RC Rhapsody of the Seas, and dining room service as well.
We ate most breakfasts and lunches in the Monet dining room rather than at the buffet. The food was significantly fresher and better. I eat oatmeal almost every morning for cholesterol purposes. The buffet oatmeal was like soup. In the dining room, it was perfect. I complemented the oatmeal a few times with blueberry pancakes, which were freshly made in the dining room, as opposed to sitting out a while in the buffet.
We booked Friday night in the Point restaurant. 5 star quality food and service, but OMG! I was expecting "little" pretty food. It was BIG pretty food. It was so pretty we didn't want to mess it up, but we did, and it was incredible. But it was also VERY RICH and there was a lot of it. We ordered some side dishes because we wanted some veggies with our entrees. This was before we saw the entrees, which already had sides with them. By the time we were done with our entrees (surf and turf - lobster and filet mignon) and we received the dessert menus, I was begging for mercy. We could only eat about half of our food as it was (except for the filet, which was incredible). I asked the waitress if I had to order dessert. She said yes. OK. I ordered the citrus cheesecake, and my wife ordered some chocolate concoction that I can't remember the name of. OMG again!! My cheesecake was served in a wavy bowl that it was apparently cooked and chilled in. I could only stand to eat about 3 bites. It was SOOOO GOOOD, but it was SOOO RICH! My wife's dessert was in 3 dishes sitting on top of a long thin plate. She couldn't believe it! Who could eat all that after eating what we had already eaten? After this gorge-fest, I had to walk. We walked all over the ship, and up and down outside on deck 3 - both sides of the ship - all the while I was afraid at any minute I might be feeding the fish a recycled gourmet meal. Fortunately, no mishaps occurred and I was able to recover without needing a defibrillator.
So, in conclusion, I would certainly recommend the Point if you really appreciate great food and very attentive service, but you need to be very hungry to eat even half of what you are served. And bring a camera to take pictures of the food. You won't believe it.
The spa massages were very good. My wife and I felt very relaxed afterward. We had enjoyed a similar massage on RC Rhapsody. One thing I liked better about the RC massage was they totally relaxed you with soft soothing music and only spoke with quiet voices during the massage (if at all). It really put you in a very relaxed state. On Conquest there were conversations going on in the room and classic rock on the stereo. Didn't quite have the same melting effect.
On Tuesday and Saturday mornings I woke up and went to the gym first thing (around 7AM). The gym has decent equipment but not state of the art. The bicycles and elliptical were similar to the older equipment at our neighborhood Gold's Gym, so it was familiar to me. They also have the pilates exercise balls and some free weights. I was able to do a lot of the exercises I do regularly at home.
The first couple of days I ran up a pretty nice profit at the PokerPro electronic poker table, which allowed me to play the rest of the trip on (and lose) other people's money. I ended the trip up $240 at the poker table and up $60 after 2 sessions of blackjack. That basically paid for our dogs at the kennel when we got home, which I appreciated. I personally never contribute to cruise ship casino slots.
Ports: Montego Bay - We did the Catamaran Sail & Snorkel/Doctor's Cave Beach excursion ($57 each). The catamaran loaded just behind the Conquest, which made it really easy. The cat crew was very friendly. My wife and I each got foot massages with fresh aloe on the boat (for a tip). Snorkeling was fairly good, considering it was close to a sandy beach (Drs Cave Beach) by a big city. When the cat took us to shore we walked about 100 yds down the street to Margaritaville, where we sat on a deck looking at the beautiful water and each had 2 Jamaican Farewells (yum!) and split a jerk chicken wrap. Prices were more reasonable than I expected for a tourist trap. After an hour or so, we returned to the beach, where we walked around, took pictures, and took a quick dip before getting back on the boat for the ride back to the Conquest. Turned out to be a very nice pleasant shore excursion that I would recommend. Weather that day was gorgeous - warm and pleasant, not too hot (maybe upper 70's, around 80?). A beautiful day.
At dinner we heard that an accident in town had caused a terrible traffic jam with a bunch of people out in the street yelling at each other (Jamaican style problem resolution) that caused a number of the shore excursions to be delayed in getting back to the ship. I think everyone made it back, but it made my doubly glad that we did what we did and had a very relaxing day.
Grand Cayman - We worked our usual plan. Got off the ship very early and walked right over to the Eden Rock Dive Shop (about 100 yds to the right, just past the Paradise restaurant). Rented snorkel equipment and spent the morning snorkeling. Wifey saw a large barracuda, which got her pretty excited. GC has the clearest water I've seen anywhere. On the back side of the reef (about 100-200 yds offshore?), the bottom drops down to 50-60 feet and it's so clear you can see the small fish and even grains of sand on the bottom. Afterwards we took a cab to Royal Palms on 7 Mile Beach ($4 each) where we ate a mahi sandwich and drank a cold beer, then spent about an hour on one of the most gorgeous beaches on the planet before heading back to the ship.
Cozumel - Took a cab($10) from the pier to Chankanaab Park, about 5 miles. $16 pp entrance fee, but you can get a $2 off coupon at their website. Park is beautiful. Facilities are all rebuilt since the terrible hurricane 2 years ago. Grabbed a couple of chairs under a palapa and rented snorkel equipment. Water was beautiful and the sky was blue and almost cloudless. Doesn't get much better. Unfortunately the hurricane apparently seriously damaged a lot of the reef along the shore. We had been there 3 years ago and the variety of fish then was similar to Hawaii (amazing). Now there just aren't very many fish and the shoreline coral looks like it was covered over with sand. That was a real bummer. The park itself is really a great park and the water is stunningly beautiful, but it's now better for sitting in a chair under an umbrella sipping Tecate enjoying the view than for snorkeling. I know this now from firsthand experience because I did both.
Took a cab back to town and shopped and ate at Los Cinco Solis (several blocks north of the square) before heading back to the ship (with one more stop at a bar at the square on the way back - of course).
As for the ship itself, it is nicely decorated with a French Impressionist theme (which I personally like a lot). It was very clean and well maintained. My wife and I like Royal Caribbean ships better overall though, particularly the large open public rooms with giant windows.
Our cabin steward (Stan) made up our room several times a day, and kept it very neat - as good as any we've had.
Things we especially enjoyed on Conquest:
- Our servers, Valentina and Deyan, in the dining room. We had another server at breakfast one day (goes by Ovi) who was a real hoot. Really funny guy with a great bubbly sense of humor. - The cruise director Mark Price was probably the best cruise director we've had. Very energetic, funny, and talented. - The entertainment on the ship was very good overall, and the dancers in particular were outstanding! My favorite show was Formidable - a French-themed musical production. The music and choreography were great, The singing and dancing were really fine. I enjoyed it more than Jubilee in Las Vegas. It was great to have a very good live 6 piece band to provide the accompaniment. I found the production shows to be significantly better than any of the shows we saw on our 2 Royal Caribbean cruises. Warning though - if you are offended by suggestive content or somewhat revealing costumes (as an elderly lady we met at breakfast yesterday was), you have now been alerted to stay away. Wifey and I thought the shows were super!
Even though the ship arrived back at the dock in Galveston yesterday around 5:30 AM, it took until about 8:30 before the ship was cleared to start letting off passengers. Even at that it was very slow. We chose to carry our own bags off, which meant we could leave before the folks who checked their bags and left them outside their doors the night before. We were called to leave the ship about 9:45, but it took a good solid hour of waiting in a LONG line to get through the customs process. We toted our own luggage back to EZ Cruise, and drove out of the parking lot at 11AM. All I can say is plan accordingly, be patient, and try to carry your own luggage off if at all possible.
We are already thinking about a next cruise out of Galveston for next winter on RC Voyager of the Seas.
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