This is my first cruise, but I have done a lot of traveling throughout the world even to third world countries like Angola. I was extremely unimpressed with my cruise experience that Carnival provided. I went when Hurricane Wilma was just forming. Carnival changed my port to Progesso, Cozumel, and Costa Maya which I can understand since no one can predict Mother Nature.
Embrakation: We went around 11:30 AM thinking we will be ahead of all the people. Wrong. The terminal was filled with people because they did not start letting people on the cruise ship until 1:00PM.
Food: The food is pretty bad. I thought the quality of food on the Lido desk was worst than any food you can find in a mall’s food court. However, the food served at the main dining room was okay.
Staff: The staff on Carnival was very rude and unhelpful. I got bumped by the staff many times and without any apologies. This is quite shocking as staffs in any hotel or even motel are much nicer than the Carnival staffs. One day at 11:30AM, we wanted some pizzas. We were the only one there.The pizza guy saw us waiting and just ignored us for 10 mins talking with another staff. I do not think this kind of service is acceptable at all. There were about three staffs that were extremely nice to us throughout the cruise and we definitely will call Carnival to praise on those individuals that made our cruise more bearable.
Excursion: Please do not book any of your excursions with Carnival. You are told that Carnival do not want you to book outside the cruise ship due to any issue that might come up. However, they do not resolve issues when you run into problems with the excursion you book with them. I booked a Clear Kayak and Beach Break Tour excursion provided by Pelicanos Tours through Carnival. We were on shore getting ready to get on the Kayak when the tour operator told us to give them all non-waterproof cameras. My boyfriend took his camera from our zip-lock bag and gave it to the tour operator. We then all got in the clear kayak. We did not see any fish or reefs. All we saw was sand and grass. We also went against current and the wind which caused the kayaking to feel like an endurance test. Finally, we reached the beach. After hanging out on the beach for two- three hours, my boyfriend had to go to the restroom. This is when he noticed a lot of people were gathered around the restroom with their camera. He went over there and found out that the tour operators took all of our digital cameras in a non-waterproof bag on a jet ski and drop it in the sea. We went back on the ship and complained to Carnival. Their response is it is privately operated tour and they cannot do anything to help us at all. The excursion staff was rude and just argued with us. All we want is a disposable camera ($10) so we can take some picture on the rest of our tour and they refused to even provide it. How do we work with a tour operators from Costa Maya when we are on the cruise ship?
Activities: All of the main shows were very disappointing. I thought they hired some Vegas rejects to perform the so called Vegas Style shows. The juggler was dropping rings and batons throughout the show. The magician was a joke. She messed up the first act and had to restart it. She was suppose to pop up on a stand but when it come time she was no where to be found. I was able to see all the secret pockets she had her stuff hidden in. The dancers were performing out of sync. The performances done by nonprofessionals were way better. Todd the cruise director was very funny and the newly wed game was a lot of fun. The last night they did an improv show (Who’s line is it anyway) and it was hilarious. The talent show was also very entertaining.
Debrakation: We were told to sit around in the lounges until our color tag were called. After two hours of waiting, we were still on the first color tag. This is very uncoordinated and frustrating. The whole time Carnival blamed the Galveston custom people and process. Finally, they called our color and we went through custom within 20 mins. It is quite interesting as the custom process was much faster than they make it sound.
Overall: I had a horrible time on the Carnival Conquest, majority due to the rude staff on the ship. I will not recommend anyone to go on this ship due to the nightmare that we experienced. I would not want anyone to have to argue with staff members during their vacation since we all know how hard it is to setup a vacation. I also talked with numerous people on the ship and about 2/3 of the people had a bad to terrible cruise.
After planning our honeymoon trip with a couple days in New Orleans, we were a bit disappointed when the cruise was moved to Galveston, but we certainly understood the reason after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. We flew in to Houston (IAH) the night before and stayed at the airport Marriott, which was nice and VERY convenient because it's right in the airport complex on the inter-concourse railway.
Transfers went perfectly and we were on the ship within 20 minutes of arrival at the port.
We found the ship to be much nicer than other Carnival ships with rosewood in and around all the elevators and tasteful colors in our cabin.
The entertainment was fun and high-energy and Todd the cruise director kept things going in a fun and orderly way. One night they showed the Rocky Horror Picture Show with all the usual crowd interaction - another night they did a hilarious improv show called "Cruise Line is it Anyway?" (I have not laughed that hard in years!)
We found the food to be good, but not spectacular, even the buffet food was pretty good as we had many meals there.
We did allthe usual shore excursions and found them to be great. Make sure you climb Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica - but don't miss swimming with Stingrays in Grand Cayman! What a fun thing! These creatures may look scary, but they are as gentle and curious as house cats - I even got to pick one up and hold it.
In Cozumel, we did something I would never miss if I travel there again. We took a shore excursion to a gourmet cooking class at Playa Mia. Led by Chef Javier, we each cooked our own meal of black bean tortilla, grouper filet in a mango-chile pepper sauce, and rice pudding tower - it was FANTASTIC! If you have the chance - make sure you take this excursion!!!
We had a great time on the cruise - but the disembarkation was a lengthy and disorderly chore - something that is sure to get better as the port becomes more used to servicing a ship this huge.
In all - it was a great trip which we would surely do again!
We sailed on the Conquest after our cruise on the Elation was cancelled when it became a floating home for emergency responders in New Orleans. We had booked the Elation cruise because it went to Progresso, Mexico, a port we very much wanted to visit. Even though the Conquest itinerary went to Jamaica instead we took this substitute because it sailed the same date for the same period of time. Carnival gave us each a $100 shipboard credit for our trouble. We were pleased to discover two days before sailing that we had been upgraded to a veranda cabin. Embarkation went smoothly and we were on the ship in less than an hour. Luggage was delivered promptly.
Throughout the cruise (with a single exception) the staff shipboard was excellent. The ship’s decor was minimalist. The theme was centered on French painters and the reproductions of their works seemed to be the quality Woolworth carried in my youth. There were no flowers except small bud vases with two or three pompon mums on the dining room tables. The housekeeping staff was very good and the dining room service was also fine. We alsofound the entertainment to be of good quality.
We had not sailed Carnival before. From reviews we read we believed the line was attempting to shed its party-time image. According to reviews one way they’ve done this is by improving the quality of the food. We found the dining on the ship to be to be of quality in all venues. Given the size of the ship (3700 passenger capacity) they handled the food thing very well.
The problem we experienced was with our fellow passengers. My wife described them as raucous. They were loud and generally more ill mannered than we have experienced on previous cruises. Carnival did not enforce the dress code at all. Even though the ship’s publications cautioned against it, shorts and tee shirts were worn in the dining room for dinner on casual nights. Jeans were in evidence at dinner on formal nights. Men without shirts were common in the casual dining venues. As we waited in line for debarkation, a fellow passenger complained about women’s immodest dress. I am not used to children practically diving between my legs as I try to exit an elevator when they wish to enter.
The single experience of bad crew service was as we were waiting to depart Cozumel. A guest in a neighboring cabin began to raise a ruckus. We couldn’t tell if it was a fight but were concerned and asked security to investigate. They did and left. The fracus began again almost immediately. When I called the purser’s desk to request security again I was told they weren’t fighting, implying since there wasn’t an assault I shouldn’t be concerned! I suggested that whatever they were doing, hollering and banging walls was something we shouldn’t have to tolerate. Security came again and calmed them and then came to our cabin. The security officer reported that the man in the next cabin was drunk and wanted to get fresh air. His companions didn’t want him on the veranda, apparently concerned he’d do a half-gainer onto the concrete wharf below. So Carnival was going to supply him with a fan! I still wonder if he was drunk when he boarded from Cozumel why they let him board or if he got that drunk on the ship why they didn’t stop serving him.
The final straw was debarkation. It was five hours from the time we left our cabin until we boarded the Carnival arranged bus to the airport. Most of our fellow passengers on the bus had missed their flights. Carnival’s excuse is that the port of Galveston is new to this ship and not set up to handle this size passenger load. They blame everything on the government. First the government had nothing to do with us standing on the curb with our luggage, in a block long line for over half an hour looking at empty buses we weren’t permitted to board. Second, the government doesn’t book the ship. Carnival should restrict its passenger load to what the port can handle. If they can’t do that they should sail the Conquest out of Miami or another port that can handle the ship. The bottom line is that while there were many good things about this cruise the negatives outweighed them and we probably won’t sail Carnival again.
Pre-Cruise: My wife and I elected to drive to New Orleans since there were no direct flights from Little Rock. Now both Delta and Southwest offer direct flights. Just our luck!!
We stayed at the Maison St. Charles. It's $89 per night, but they park your car for only $5/day while you are gone. Ask for the Bon Voyage Special. They will also take you to the port at no charge. Bourbon St. was a blast. There were many bars offering 3 for 1 drink specials. There were a lot of people on Bourbon St. but it was never uncomfortable.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port sometime between 12 and 12:30. We were on the boat on later than 1. All the lines were moving very quickly. The ship was beautiful. Everything was clean and the decor was unbelievable.
We took a tour of the spa when we got on the boat. It was very good, but their prices were a little high. They start offering spa packages at cheaper prices later in the week.
Then we went down to the pool and had a few drinks. Don't forget to pack yourbathing suit in your carry-on since your luggage will not make it to your room until later in the afternoon.
Cabin: We were in cabin 8459 at the back of the ship. This was my 3rd cruise, and I had never had a balcony room before. I'll never stay in anything but a balcony room from now on!!! The view was wonderful.
There was only one real complaint that we had. I had ordered a bottle of wine to be delivered to our room so we could sit out on the balcony and have a glass of wine as we were leaving New Orleans. We finally got it on our last night of the cruise.
Dining: We ate in the dining room for 4 of the evenings. It was good. No where near spectacular, but definitely well above average. The portions were small, but you could order as many items as you wanted. The steaks were good cuts of meat, but they always seemed to be overcooked. The lobster was very good, though. The desserts were good. The last night I had the Grand Marnier Soufflé, and it was wonderful. I usually went to the Sushi bar before dinner so I didn't really try the appetizers except the escargot and I've had better.
For lunch we ate at either the Cezanne buffet or the hamburger/hot dog grill. Both were better than expected. I think the buffet was the same food they served in the dining room, but you didn't have to wait for someone to bring it to you. They also had Chinese food and a sandwich deli that we never got around to trying.
For breakfast we went to the Cezanne buffet every morning only because room service only had continental breakfast. The breakfast buffet was also very good. Bacon, eggs, sausage, toast, fruit, cereal, etc. You could also get a homemade omelet.
Pools: We spent the at sea days at the pool. Get there early because all the chairs seem to be taken by about 10:00. At about 1:00 every day they would do different things, i.e. cruise ship survivor, hairy chest contest, trivia, synchronized swimming. Those were fun to watch. If you are going to sit and drink beer by the pool, go ahead and get the bucket of beer. It will save you $.50 per beer, plus, if you don't drink them all, you can always put them in the frig in your room.
Entertainment: The entertainment on the boat was great. The cruise director, Stuart, was the best. His high energy put everyone in a good mood. There were 2 comedians on the ship that were both very funny. We went to the karaoke bar a few times. It was very good. They also had slot and bingo tournaments everyday. We went to the piano bar one night and it was exceptionally awful. Not the kind of piano bar we are used to. I think the only songs he knew were Margaritaville and Chuck Berry's Ding-a-ling. Henri's disco was fun also. Just try to leave before it closes if you want to get an early start the next day.
Jamaica: Taxis: I don't know who is pushing the JUTA taxis, but I found them to be a rip off. We took a JUTA taxi from Sunset Beach to Margaritaville and it was $15. Back to the boat we took a JCAL or MAXI (I can't remember which), and it was only $8. Sunset Beach is only 2 blocks from the boat. So I'm not sure what the other $7 was for.
Sunset beach was fun. They have snorkeling, kayaks, paddle boats, 2 pools, massages ($1/minute) etc. They also had a dang good bar, and they don't water your drinks down. We stayed for about 3-4 hours. Then, we took our $15 cab ride to Margaritaville. This place was a blast. Good music, good food, and good drinks. A lot of people having a good time. We stayed for about 3 hours, but not before we spent $50 in the gift shop.
Grand Cayman: Grand Cayman was absolutely beautiful. We went on the See and Sea tour. We went to see the sea turtles, went to Hell & mailed some postcards, and went on a semi-submarine tour. It was very nice not to have to exert any energy after closing Henri's the night before. After our excursion we went to the Hard Rock Cafe and ate. It was very good food. Then we walked around to see all things hanging on the walls. Again, we spent another $50 in the gift shop.
Cozumel: This is the place to buy liquor. The duty free shop is right where you get off the boat. I got a .750 ml of Tanqueray and Absolut and a 1.75ml of Crown Royal, again, spending my usual $50. At the end of the pier they have an outside mall. This is where we found most of the deals on the trip. Plus, you don't have people clawing at you like in Jamaica. There was one place, Miro, which had all t-shirts for only $5. This cut my usual $50 in half. It is right next to Fat Tuesday's.
We then went on a Sail, Snorkel and Beach Party excursion. This was a blast. We sailed out on a Catamaran, snorkeled for about 45 minutes, and then went to a private beach for about 1 hour. The best thing about it is that all the drinks are free when you get on the catamaran. They do have an $8 buffet when you get to the island, so eat before you go because you will be hungry before you get back to the boat.
Debarkation: This was a joke. We got off the boat about 9:00. We went through "customs," had our luggage and were in a cab at 9:05. I guess "Customs" was the name of the dog that sniffed everyone as they got off the boat. No one asked for our passports or if we had declared anything, which was a good thing since we were over our limit on alcohol (which is 1 bottle per person). We were back at the hotel and on the highway at 9:25.
Overview: This was absolutely the nicest ship I have been on. We will definitely sail on the Conquest again. If you decide to take this cruise, go by the Sports Bar and tell Francisco the bartender that Donald Marion from Little Rock said hello!!
I thought I would write this review as these message boards really helped me answer a lot of questions etc. We sailed on the Carnival Conquest out of New Orleans on April 3 to April 10, 2005.
Embarkation: Arrived in New Orleans at about 10:30 am and parked the vehicle in the open fenced in parking area and rode the shuttle to the terminal. Then grabbed a taxi and headed to Bourbon Street to check out the sights. We then boarded the ship at about 3:00 pm or so. The port did seem to be a little more crowded at this time of the day verses when we were there at about 11:00 am. We did have to wait in the dreaded yellow chairs, but the time went pretty fast. We probably waited a total of about 30 minutes. Our first impression of the ship was wonderful. Very beautiful and clean.
Cabin: We booked on the upper deck room #6358 with a balcony. This was a very good location and close to the elevators/steps, which was handy! (especially to the casino 1 deck down!) Did not hear any noise from theelevators at night. Our room was very spacious and enough storage for all of our things. Our room steward Jose was very nice and kept the room clean. We enjoyed the use of our balcony and would cruise with one again!
Entertainment: There are so many things to do on the ship to keep a person busy! They have a lot of activities during the day around the main pool like survivor, harry chest contest etc. We did not get involved with any of these, but people were having fun with it. Instead we just did a lot of relaxing by the pool and watched. There are also a few good informative programs during the day about where the best place to shop is, shore excursions, what to expect on each island etc. We did not go to any of these as they do eventually play this on your cabin TV if you missed this particular program. The only shows that we went to were the late night comedians. They were pretty good. Phat Kat was pretty funny, but did not really enjoy the vantrilliquist comedian. We did not make it to the other shows, but heard that they were good. We also made it to the piano bar on the last night of the cruise, and that was fun. We did a lot of gambling in the casino at night, but had no luck there. There was a band by the casino that played every night, but the singing kind of sucked. There is so much to do (or so little if you want to) that I can't remember everything!
Dinning. We had late seating in the Monet dinning room. (8:00pm) We ate in the dinning room mostly at night. Formal nights were especially good! Our waiter Andrew was very pleasant. We did eat there one morning for breakfast, but it was basically the same as the buffet only it took longer. We also ate all of our lunches at the Cezanne buffet dining, pizza place, deli or the grill. Very good food and have no complaints about any! We did not do the "point", but I guess it is worth every cent. Also, on Thursday night, they have the midnight buffet where they sculpt all of the food into things. This was very neat and you have the opportunity to take pictures of the food before you eat it.
Jamaica: We decided to go to Sunset Beach as we have read many good things about this place on the boards. We took a "JUTA" taxicab to Sunset Beach and got there about 9:30 am. Our driver Dennis was very kind. He was our taxi driver for the day. Sunset Beach was very nice for paying only $20.00 per person for all you can eat and drink. We just hung out by the beach and relaxed. There are water activities that you can do and I think you can snorkel there too. When you check in, don't forget to ask for towel vouchers to get a towel at the hotel instead of bringing your own. Just make sure that you return them when you are done. The pools and hot tubs were nice and the swim up bar was fun. The food was very good. They had jerk chicken, hotdogs, burgers, fries etc. Drinks were also good, but bring a big mug as they only put drinks in small plastic cups and that way you don't have to go for refills every two minutes! We left there about 2:00 pm and headed over to Margarittaville. This was a fun place. My husband went down the water slide. He said it was a blast! Very fast, I guess. We only ordered drinks here as we had eaten at Sunset Beach. So I don't know how the food was there, but it looked pricey! When we stepped outside from Margarittaville, people were all over us wanting us to buy drugs, get hair braided etc. A no thank you usually shut them up then. We found our taxi driver and we headed back to the ship at about 3:15 pm as we wanted to do some shopping at the pier. I would recommend only doing shopping in the building that you have to walk through to get to the taxis. The other ones through the fence, the people there were really pushy! Overall, we had a great relaxing day in Jamaica and it is a beautiful island. But I don't know if I will ever go back there.
Grand Cayman: Woke up early and had room service bring us breakfast as this was an early port day. Then we headed down to the main lounge to get a tender "sticker". We had no problem getting off the ship as we did not have a "carnival" sponsored tour, so we had to get a tender sticker instead. Not a problem. We had the Stingray Sandbar/snorkel tour booked with Captain Bryan on the Hannibal. Excellent tour! We found the place with no problems as they had given us directions. We waited for a while and then boarded a bus and they took us to the catarmaran. Very nice and relaxing ride out to Stingray Sandbar. I was real leary about doing this tour, but it is a "must do" tour. I am not a very good swimmer but did fine. It is amazing to see all of the stingrays come to your boat when you dock. They made sure that all who wanted to hold and touch a stingray got a chance. I was scared at first but glad I did it. Once in a lifetime thing! They also videotaped the stingray adventure and the snorkeling and our friends ordered the DVD and are going to burn us a copy. Even the photographer said that was ok to do. So we just split the cost with our friends! I did not snorkel and my husband tried, but the water was kind of rough and water was going down his tube etc. Our friends had snorkeled before and did it, but they said that they never snorkeled in that rough of water before. I wished I would have practiced with the breathing etc. before hand, then I would have been more comfortable to try it. Oh well, next time. Then we had a little time before boarding the ship to shop. This is a very beautiful island, but you can still see hurricane damage, which is so sad.
Cozumel: Here we decided to grab a taxi to Paradise Beach, which was about 10 minutes from the pier. Make sure you ask the taxi driver how much BEFORE you get into the taxi. It cost about $14.00 a cab ride to the beach, which isn't bad. We just hung out at the beach and had the famous pineapple drinks and chip n salsa. Very good! My husband decided he wanted to parasail and the beach next door was offering that. $55.00 to do it. I just hung out at the beach and ended up getting my hair braided for $20.00. The beach next door (San Fransisco) was cheaper on the braiding, so I got it done there (but the workers there were more pushy). Then we just relaxed some more and then split a chicken strip dinner. This was also very good. The beach is very nice and clean and I would recommend it to anyone. People were friendly and the restrooms were clean! You can also buy a $5.00 wristband to use all of the water toys, iceburg, trampoline etc. but we did not do this. An awesome relaxing day at a beautiful beach. We then headed back to the pier to do some shopping before we got back on the ship. Taxis were plentiful at Paradise beach for your return ride.
Disembarkation: The Conquest was trying a new way to disembark. They do not call off any tags by color. You just disembark when you are ready (after the ship clears customs). I thought it went pretty smoothly. The lines move very quickly. We were out with our luggage within 20 minutes at the most. Our vehicle was parked about 1 mile away in the open gated parking lot. Instead of waiting for a shuttle bus (which would have taken probably 2 hours by the time we got to our vehicle) we walked to the parking lot. This saved us a lot of time as we had a long drive ahead of us and wanted to get on the road as quickly as possible.
Overall: The ship is in great condition and is very pretty. I would sail on this ship in a heartbeat. We had a wonderful time on this vacation and are eager to get back onto another "fun" ship!
This was our first time to cruise. We selected the Carnival Conquest due to its location to our home, port stops and activities available for my husband and I and our 2 teenage sons. We all had a wonderful time and were not ready to return to the "real world".
We drove to New Orleans and were directed to the Conquest parking lot. Sky caps took our bags and we quickly boarded a shuttle bus to the port. We arrived at the port around 12:30. There was a long line inside, but it moved very quickly. We boarded the ship around 1:30.
We booked adjoining rooms with windows. We were on deck 1. Our rooms were plenty big with good storage. We were just a few doors down from the elevators. We never heard the people in the room beside us, and rarely heard any one go down the hall. We carried Cobra 2 way radios which worked all over the ship. (even from our staterooms)
In Jamaica we boarded a shuttle bus at the port and were taken to Doctor's Cave Beach. Our bus and driver stayed with us the entire day.Our driver took a few people shopping and then brought them to the beach. The beach was beautiful with a reef for snorkeling. The entrance fee was $5 and there were similar fees for chairs, umbrellas and snorkeling equipment. A waitress served us lunch and drinks right on the beach. We walked down the street to Margaritaville and did a little shopping on the way back.
In Grand Cayman we did the Stingray City and snorkeling trip, Turtle Farm and Hell through Captain Marvins. Had a great time. Especially loved the stingrays.Captain Marvins is cheaper than booking through Carnival. There are also less people on their boats. Make sure you get early tender tickets if you have an early appointment. Carnival excursions get first priority. We arrived early and got off in plenty of time to make our 8:15 appointment at Captain Marvins. (It was within walking distance of the port.) After our excursion we had a little time to hang out at the Hard Rock Cafe. We did have to wait in a very long line to catch a tender back to the ship.
In Cozumel we booked an afternoon snorkeling trip through Cancun Vista. We ate at a Mexican restaurant and shopped until time for our trip. Great fun!!!!!! We enjoyed haggling over prices...Our snorkeling trip was a lot of fun. The crew was very friendly and our guide was very knowledgeable. Directions were given in both Spanish and English.
One of the things we enjoyed most about this cruise was that each place we visited was unique and different. Our time on the boat was spent going to shows, playing bingo, visiting the casino, (I won $1002.00 playing nickel slots. I had only played $2.00 when I won!!)enjoying the different games, visiting the different bars, and eating, eating, and eating.
If there was a downside to anything, it was the mess when we came back to New Orleans. I had warned my family beforehand, so we were prepared. After finding our luggage a skycap took it to the curb for us. He suggested my husband take a shuttle back to the parking lot while my children and I stay with the luggage. It took my husband an hour to get to the parking lot, get our car and then get back in the line to come back to the port to get us. I still think that was better than us trying to get all our luggage on a shuttle with all the other people.
There were 1000 children 18 years and under on the cruise. Our children made many new friends and I was amazed at the good behavior I saw from the children. We look forward to cruising again with Carnival in the near future.
We went as a group of 15. A mix of older adults to college students both married and single. The boat was nice but during spring break it was crowded. We have sailed with Carnival before on Springbreak and throughly enjoyed ourselves. We were on the verandah deck scattered from midship to the rear. The beds slept great. My room attendent was below average, but my college age boys attendent was fabulous. He would greet all 15 in the hall way by name. We had the 6:15 dining in the Renoir. As always the service and food was fabulous. We had a great cruise director Todd. The shows were top notch. When in Jamaica, I suggest the 4x4 excursion or sunset beach. Don't miss the stingrays in Grand Caymans. I'm not sure you can go wrong in Cozumel whatever you choose.
Down side of going on Springbreak if your looking for adult time is:
There were approximatley 1000 children aboard many just turned lose by there parents to run wild. I actually overheard a parent comment that they couldn't get there 7 year old to leave them alone for very long butby next year he would be all over this ship like his older sister(9).
Out of 7 days at sea I only found an open deck chair one day. They say people can't save them but they do the crew do nothing about it. You could not get in a pool or hot tub for the children playing, including the adult only.
Loved the ship hated all the unattended children and parents who thought this was a week of babysitting for everyone but them.
Perspective: 40-something couple married 25 years, sailing without our lovely children, on our 8th cruise, seven on Carnival and one on RCI. The only new port was Jamaica.
Air Transportation: We flew even though we could have driven from Little Rock to New Orleans, because we got a great deal on airfare through Delta. To get that great deal, though, we had to fly to port the day of the cruise and fly home a day after the cruise returned. Unfortunately, we sailed the weekend the ice storm hit Atlanta, and, believe it or not, our flight from Little Rock to New Orleans was routed through Atlanta. We were so busy packing our luggage; we didn't notice the weather in Atlanta until the late news on Saturday night. We started calling Delta, but were on hold for over an hour. We finally went to bed, knowing there was time to decide the next day. The next morning, we were informed our plane was leaving on time with no problem, so we headed to the airport at 5:45 a.m. Our plane loaded on time, and the pilot said we would be leavingin just a few minutes at 7:10 a.m., and then we sat. Slight delay, he said. Then, he offered to let us deboard, because the delay was going to be at least until 8 a.m. Then, 8:30 a.m. We deboarded, but the gate agent assured us we would have plenty of time to make our connection, but reserved us seats on a later connection just in case. Then it was 9:30 a.m. We had to start driving now or risk missing the boat! We asked the gate agent to either re-route us through another city than Atlanta or give us our luggage. She said she couldn't re-route us, so we asked for our luggage. Suddenly, she re-routed our flight through Dallas via American Airlines. Our flights then went without a hitch, luggage arrived perfectly, and we were in a taxi headed for the ship by 3:00 p.m.
Embarkation: Terminal personnel took our luggage and tip, as we headed to the Fun Pass line. We moved rapidly through the check-in procedure, as the Carnival agent welcomed us back to Carnival. Walked right on board, and even the photographers had abandoned their posts by then! Our luggage arrived at our cabin right before the muster drill. We usually wait a little while before going to the muster drill to avoid ending up on the back row behind lots of people. This time they started the muster drill very quickly and were well into it when we arrived only about ten minutes late. So, this is the least painful muster drill we've ever experienced.
Cabin: We booked an aft balcony cabin, which had an extended balcony at the encouragement of some friends and our PVP, Barbaro. The aft balcony was an interesting tiered community. When you walk out to the balcony rail, you see everyone else who is standing at their rails as well, so we greeted one another with a hello or wave each time. We were on the top Verandah balcony, and the folks in the Lido pizza area looked time on our balcony, so there was no privacy! Additionally, when people moved the chairs around in the Lido area, it sounded like thunder in our room. The good news is it was a sound from nature that could be ignored. The bad news is it happened fairly often, so a lower aft balcony would have avoided that noise factor. We felt a little more movement and engine shudders aft than we did in more forward cabins. Our room steward was Wasson or Watson, I'm not sure which. He greeted us as we came and went from our cabin and kept our cabin spotless.
Entertainment: The only show we saw was the Welcome Aboard Show, which was interesting. Phat Kat was the comedian, and he was very funny. A bad singer playing the guitar played in the Casino bar, and we saw some folks doing country line dancing in that area a few times. An Asian gal sang with an Asian guy on the keyboards in the Atrium lobby bar. They sang great "lovers" songs, which lots of couples danced with. They were both very talented, and I wondered if she was the gal who was on American Idol that worked for Carnival, but I never asked her. There was a good string quartet and good pianist. We didn't make it into the piano bar, and there was some old guys playing the blues, which didn't appeal to us, but others enjoyed. Our favorite bars were the Casino bar and the Lobby bar, and we only found the Sports bar (in the back of the Casino) the last night!
Jamaica: We booked an independent tour by Internet before our cruise to visit YS Falls and tube the river. Jamaica was in drought condition when we were there, so the river was too low to raft. YS Falls were lovely with no vendors whatsoever. The steps to the falls were very manageable. You could swim in the area around the falls, and lots of folks were having a blast rope swinging. They also had a man-made pool fed by the spring, where I floated on a tube in just to relax and cool off on after before leaving the YS Falls. It was almost a two-hour drive each way to get there, however! One of the couples we dined with spent a wonderful day at Sunset Beach, where we'll go if we ever visit Jamaica again.
Grand Cayman's: We booked a snorkeling excursion with Buccaneers by Internet before the cruise. We had no problem walking to and finding their location. The bus ride to the boat was easy. There were about 40 people on our boat. We went to the Stingray sandbar first. Most of us just stood in the water enjoying the stingrays, rather than snorkeling in waist deep water. Some kids were afraid of them. Then we visited the Coral Reef and an area known as the Aquarium, both nearby. Some folks snorkeled, while others stayed on the boat to sun and nap. As we sailed back to our bus, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were offered for a price. Nice day!
Cozumel: We caught a cab to Paradise Beach . a beautiful, beautiful day, where we only paid for drinks and eats. Chairs and umbrellas were plentiful, without a crowd. I had a drink in a pineapple, while Roger had a bucket of beer. He had a wonderful quesadilla, and I had delicious grilled shrimp. Tents were set up where you could buy a massage, hairbraiding, and souvenirs. I asked a gal if she would simply French braid my hair, and she agreed to do so for a very reasonable price. We ended the day in the bar/restaurant area having fun! This was our best day on the whole cruise!
Dining: We had the late seating at 8 pm in the Monet dining room. The first night we were assigned to a table for two. Since we really enjoy dining with others on cruises, we asked to be seated at a larger table. The next night we were moved to a 10-top, with Ron and Bonnie, Mark and Judy, Bill and Kathy, and Joan and Linda. We had a great time getting to know all these folks, and by the last couple of nights of our cruise, we were all meeting for drinks in the Alfred's Bar just before going to dinner. Our dining room team was Walter and Paula. We also had dinner in the Point Supper Club on our second formal night, and it was wonderful food and service. (Formal nights are Monday and Thursday.) Sushi was available on the Promenade deck every night from 5 to 8 p.m., and we enjoyed that as a pre-dinner snack. Pizza was great - I like the margaretta, and Roger likes the goat cheese and mushroom. We had all our meals in the dining room, and we called everything else we ate "snacks".
Spa/Gym: I booked a Frangipane Oil Ritual Thursday afternoon in the spa at a reduced port price. It was a wonderful massage and hair treatment, and my hair was soft and manageable for the rest of the cruise, and I was so relaxed. Wonderful treatment by Lydia! Roger and I made it the gym only a couple of times. He used the free weights, while I walked on the treadmill.
Art Auction: We attended every art auction, led by J.C. and Linda Skidmore, and the art director, Jamie. We enjoy these, picked up a couple of new pieces of art, and saw lots of other pieces to save for on our next cruise.
Deck Chairs: Deck chairs were available all the time on this cruise . a first!
Disembarkation: Luggage out the night before, so we simply waited for our color to be called. We had no problem locating our luggage and smoothly exiting the terminal. We immediately found ourselves in a very long, very disorganized taxi line. Mardi Gras parades were occurring, so the taxis didn't want to go anywhere except the airport. So, if you said a hotel name, they simply walked away. A traffic cop asked us to step aside, promising to get a driver to take us. When they ran out of folks to run to the airport, they finally started agreeing to take the rest of us. I don't know if this was just because of Mardi Gras, or whether it's always this way, but I would probably book a limousine if I ever travel out of that terminal again.
Post Cruise Stay: We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn West Bank. The rooms have outside entrances, which I feel less safe in. We were easy walking distance to a Popeye's, a Shoney's, and a couple of other places like that. A Mardi Gras parade passed nearby. Every room in the Holiday Inn smelled like cleaning ammonia. The room was comfortable, but nothing special. I wanted to catch up on my emails, so I was disappointed that the hotel had no business center. We hung out in the hotel bar to watch the Super Bowl with several other travelers. The bar offered free snacks, so we had a great time!
Air Transportation Home: We caught a cab from our hotel early on Monday morning, and flew Delta to Atlanta with no problem. While deboarding that flight, my husband received a cell phone call of a medical emergency at home. We glanced at the departure monitor and found a flight boarding for Little Rock right then, so we ran to that gate. The gate agent quickly made arrangements to get us on board, and the plane took off as soon as we boarded, getting us home four hours earlier and within an hour of receiving that call. Our luggage arrived later that afternoon with our original flight with no problems. Thanks, Delta - that was wonderful customer service! We'll remember that next time we book a flight!
Overall: We'd give this cruise a 9 out of 10 . a great cruise! Great service from the friendliest crew we've met since our Paradise cruises! The CD was funny in a corny kind of way. The nice thing about cruises is that each one is unique. We slept more on this cruise than every before, because that's what we needed, so we missed out on many great activities. We saw the Camp Carnival kids in activities several times, and they seemed to be having a great time. One afternoon, we saw parents doing silly things, and they explained they were participating with their kids in a Camp Carnival activity . way to go, parents! The kids would literally run ahead of their parents to get to their activities. I hope this review helps you enjoy your Carnival Conquest cruise as much as we did. The first thing we do after returning from a cruise is to book our next cruise, so we're joining some friends we made on past cruises to sail on the Carnival Glory on September 24, 2005. Hope some of you reading this review will come along, so we'll have more friends still!
Pictures: When our pictures are developed in the next few days, I'll post them at http://community.webshots.com/user/judyjbest for your viewing pleasure.
This is intended to be an exhaustive review of mine and my wife's trip to New Orleans and our first cruise on the Carnival Conquest. Hopefully you will find the information helpful. Before our trip I scoured the internet message boards and read many a trip and ship review in order to plan our vacation. This is my chance to give back to the community. This review will be by day of the trip and will conclude with some general comments on New Orleans and the Conquest. Please post or email any questions you have and I will try to answer them as best I can. Let me say that New Orleans is a fantastic city and that we had a blast on the Conquest. I can give an unequivocal recommendation for the Conquest.
04/23/05 Saturday - Departure from Home and Arrival in New Orleans
We live near Little Rock, Arkansas and decided to drive to New Orleans the day before our cruise started. I was able to book the Hyatt Regency in the Central Business District for $60.00 using Priceline. The drive to New Orleans was pleasant and uneventful, taking about6.5 hours. Our route was Hwy. 65 to Tallulah, LA; I-20 to Jackson, MS; and I-55 to New Orleans, LA.
We arrived in downtown New Orleans around 12:30. My first priority was to find cheap parking for the day near the Hyatt. I was able to find FREE street parking on Loyola in front of the entrance to the mall that is attached to the Hyatt. The meters on the surrounding streets (and I believe in this entire area) are turned off on the weekend so don't pay for parking if you don't have to.
Check-in time was listed for 3:00 but I was able to check-in at 1:15 with no problem. There was no mention of my booking through Priceline and I was able to use my Gold Passport card. I requested a king size bed, but they were out of them. We were given a corner room with two double beds. The hotel was clean and had employees readily available and happy to assist. Our room was clean, of good size, and had no substantive problems. The door did appear a little tattered.
We did not explore or examine any of the amenities of the hotel. Room service included a 20% gratuity and a $3.50 delivery fee. The hotel was running a free shuttle to the French Quarter which we took advantage of. The shuttle ran every 30 minutes and made two stops: Harrah's casino and Jackson Brewery. Benches are available outside the hotel for waiting for the shuttle. We were told by the driver that the last pick-up would be 11:00 p.m. from Jackson Brewery. The shuttle was 20 minutes late for the 10:00 p.m. pickup.
After taking the shuttle to Jackson Brewery, we spent the day and night exploring the French Quarter. The Pat O' Brien's on the river was not open but we did enjoy drinks at the piano bar in the original Pat O's. I did not like how Pat O's charged you for the souvenir glass with each drink. To get your money back you had to turn in the glass to the bartender. This seemed a little tacky to me for a place with so much history and name recognition. We ate dinner at The Gumbo Shop. The bread was terrible and the local beer we ordered on draft came in a small glass. The food came quickly (maybe a little too quick, why was it ready so soon?), was of a fair portion, but was bland. I had a combination platter and my wife had the Jambalaya. The total bill was around $35. This place was not worth the expense.
We spent most of the night bar hopping on Bourbon St. There were live bands at a lot of the bars and I would suggest stopping by at a few until you find one you like. I would also ask for the drink prices before ordering as they vary widely from bar to bar. My wife ordered a Miller Lite at one of the bars and I almost blew my top when the waitress brought the receipt back and it was $6.00!!
04/24/05 Sunday - Embarkation
We awoke Sunday with excitement to board the Conquest. I was a little nervous about parking as I had recently read a post on the internet that parking was no longer available in the Fulton Street Garage. We drove to the Fulton St. Garage (the entrance is located on Convention Center Blvd close to the cruise ship terminal, there is a sign that says "Official Cruise Ship Parking") and the attendant asked us which cruise we were taking. When we told her the Conquest, we were given directions to a different parking spot. Unfortunately, I just drove off without even asking the reason. The parking lot we were directed to is off of Melpomene street. There was a sign that read "Conquest Parking Only".
The price was $12/day and was payable in cash or by credit card. There were porters available to take your luggage and load it on trucks. Shuttle buses ran from the parking lot to the cruise ship terminal. There are no cell phones or photos allowed in the terminal. We were at the terminal by 12:30 and on the ship around 1:30. The liquor I placed in cough medicine bottles in my checked luggage made it and no problems were raised with the two bottles of wine we put into our carry on luggage.
Our room was ready and the Lido deck buffet was open when we boarded. I had booked an Inside Guarantee with Cruise Quick and was assigned room 8402 on the Verandah deck (deck 8). This room was near the stairs and provided easy access to the Sky Pool and buffet areas. We enjoyed walking around the ship and enjoyed the sail away from the New Orleans port. A free liquor tasting was offered the first night at the shops on the Promenade deck (deck five). The liquor was four or five different rums offered in mini-shots. You could ask for as many mini-shots as you wanted. I thought this was a great offer by Carnival. I also enjoyed my steak that night at dinner and was impressed Carnival actually cooked it medium rare.
We did have two problems the first night. I had requested seating for two but the Maitre' D sat another couple with us. They had requested to sit with their friends who were on the cruise with them, but for some strange reason the Maitre' D insisted they sit with us that first night. We made the best of the situation, but the other couple was obviously upset. They managed to get it straightened out and were able to sit with their friends the remainder of the cruise. The other problem involved room service. My wife requested an additional blanket at 10:40 and was told to expect delivery by 11:00. We waited until 11:15 and called again. The employees apologized and promised prompt delivery. We called again at 11:30 and finally received the blanket at 11:35.
04/25/05 - 04/26/05 Monday - Tuesday - Days at Sea
The days at sea were very relaxing and it was fun both exploring the ship and being lazy. Carnival offers tons of activities for people who want to stay busy, but the ship also offers peace and quiet for those wanting to just relax. At dinner, our head waiter was really pushing wines on us until I politely but firmly let him know we did not want to order wine with dinner for the entire cruise. It was obvious Carnival was trying to introduce people to wine which made it all the more confusing to me that they were charging for the wine tasting at the Point Supper Club. Carnival would end up selling much more wine if they offered a free wine tasting seminar similar to every winery I have ever visited; instead they were charging $8.00 for the chance to try four different wines. That is not a very good way to introduce people to wine.
We enjoyed the "Formidale" Las Vegas style show. I considered it an adult show and it is probably a little risqué for young children. The Captain's Cocktail Party was also great. We went to the Degas Lounge for the party and enjoyed the live band and free drinks. I congratulate Carnival for not watering down the free drinks. I had a glass of red wine, two whisky sours, and two Manhattans. The waitress was actually bringing us free drinks without us having to ask for them. I believe free drinks were also being served at the Blues Bar and Henri's Disco during the party.
We were usually able to snag deck chairs next to the Sky Pool before 10:00 a.m. After 10:00 a.m. the deck chairs went quick at both the Sky Pool and the Main Pool. There was rampant deck chair saving with the usual saving technique being the use of a beach towel. I would also like to note that I found Carnival employees to be friendly and to go out of their way to not bother you. On Tuesday night our room steward went out of his way to snag us two wine glasses and he even opened our bottle of wine for us. I rewarded him for his attention with a cash tip. He also made the towel animals for us.
The pizza at the Sky Pizzeria was very good. The De Chevre (goat cheese and mushroom) was especially good. We also enjoyed hamburgers from the Sky Grill. The cooks always accepted our orders with a smile and did everything they could to please. I enjoyed the prime rib at dinner, but the lobster was not very good. Our waiter remembered how I liked my steak cooked and immediately suggested medium rare for the prime rib.
04/27/05 Wednesday - Montego Bay
Disembarking here was a little bit of a free-for-all with people crowding the stairs and multiple lines forming. It is also hectic at the terminal in Montego Bay. When you step out of the terminal, there are dispatchers and people in uniform asking where you want to go. Shuttles and taxis are everywhere. Please be aware that the dispatchers will try to put you in non-JUTA shuttles. There is another acronym, something like JCATRL (?) on some of the shuttles. The dispatcher tried to convince me this shuttle was OK and was licensed and regulated by the Jamaican government. That may be true, but all the advice I received was to only use a JUTA vehicle. When I asked the driver the fare per person to Sunset Beach he quoted me $5 per person. When I was finally able to secure a JUTA shuttle the fare was $2 per person to Sunset Beach. Be firm and demand a JUTA shuttle.
Sunset Beach was awesome. It was $20 per person for a day pass and the front desk will take your sail and sign card. We were at the beach by 9:30 and there were several beach umbrellas still available. The beach here was beautiful with a nice view of the ocean and a distant ridge. The bar opens at 10:00 a.m. and is right off the beach. There are also two pools in which you can swim up to the bar. Drinks from the bar are very strong and you can order as many as you want. There is also a walk-up grill that offers hamburgers, hot dogs, jerk chicken, and French fries. If you like to drink and you like the beach, go to Sunset Beach. When you are ready to leave, the front desk will page a shuttle for you and the driver will retrieve your sign and sail card from the security stand.
Unfortunately, an incident occurred in Jamaica that delayed the ship and delayed our arrival in Grand Cayman. A storm hit Jamaica in the afternoon and a mud slide delayed a Carnival Dunn's River Falls tour. At 5:00, Todd, the Cruise Director made an announcement that we would be delayed 30 minutes. No other announcement was made and of course rumors were rampant when we were still sitting in Montego Bay at 10:30. There is no excuse for Carnival not providing updates after it became obvious the first announcement was wrong. However, I do commend Carnival for standing behind excursions they sponsor. The entire time we sat in Montego Bay the casino and shops were closed. Carnival kept their word and waited for the passengers to make it back even though they probably lost a significant amount of revenue for the night. It definitely made me think twice about booking excursions on my own that take you a significant distance from the ship. We enjoyed the tribute to Motown show.
That night at dinner I attempted to order a steak because nothing on the menu attracted me. Our head waiter told me steak was not available and I had to order off the menu. This was very disappointing as I had read you could order steak any night.
04/28/05 Thursday - Grand Cayman
We arrived in Grand Cayman late, sometime around 10:00 a.m.. Carnival canceled all excursions before 11:00 a.m. and we missed our Sting Ray excursion booked with Soto's Cruises. It was also pouring down raining when we tendered. Needless to say, Grand Cayman started off bad. However, Todd suggested people try Eden Rock snorkeling since it was close to the dock and we were short on time. We walked to Eden Rock after the rain and had a great time snorkeling. It was a little crowded but there were lots of colorful fish. The snorkeling equipment was $12.00 per person. We both thought that the snorkeling made up for a rather bad start to the day. We bought a shirt at Hard Rock Café.
We had a blast that night on the ship. Carnival was offering a happy hour on beer from 5:30 - 8:30. Most beer was $2.50 during this time. I was a little disappointed that Carnival only had Budweiser and Heineken on draft. We went to the karaoke bar and to Henri's Disco and had fun at both. As the night wore on, Henri's Disco got a little crazy with drinking and dancing. We didn't mind this  I think the magic show with Deja was this night; we left from it early as I thought it was boring.
04/29/05 Friday - Cozumel
For Cozumel, I had pre-booked the Mayan Ruins excursion at Tulum through Carnival. The tickets were delivered to our stateroom on Tuesday. There will be a person holding a sign on the pier to let you know where to go. The ferry ride across to the mainland of Mexico was very rough. Several people became sick and my wife said she will not take a ferry like that again. When you arrive in Playa del Carman there will be tour guides who will split the passengers into groups for the tours.
We followed our tour guide to a bus and were each given a complimentary sack lunch that contained a banana, two muffins, and some crackers. On the road to Tulum, we stopped for about thirty minutes at a shop where you could take a free mini-shot of tequila. The prices were fairly high and the merchant would not haggle (we got $3 off of a $48 purchase). The Mayan ruins at Tulum were fascinating. We were handed off to another tour guide for the tour of the ruins and our original tour guide waited for us at the Subway outside of the ruins. Be aware that this tour has a few hidden costs: tip to main tour guide, tip to Mayan ruins' tour guide, and $2/person shuttle from outside of ruins to entrance to ruins. We had about two hours to explore the ruins on our own. It was very hot but I think the ruins are worth seeing one time.
We arrived back at Cozumel at 5:15 so we had no time to shop or explore Cozumel. That night we hung out at the Degas Lounge and listened to the band. I had Rigatoni at dinner which was good and my wife had Red Snapper which she reported was not good.
04/30/05 Saturday - Day at Sea
We had another enjoyable, lazy day at sea on Saturday. We ate lunch at Sur Mers and had fish-n-chips, fried oysters, and a seafood soup. We both thought Sure Mers was pretty good and a nice change-up from the buffet and dining room. That night I ordered wine glasses from room service and they arrived promptly. The server also opened the bottle of wine. We enjoyed the juggling and comedy show that night.
05/01/05 Sunday - Disembarkation
I did not find much trouble with the self disembarkation. We sat at the buffet and relaxed waiting for the customs clearance. There were two lines on the lobby deck (deck 3) and they both moved rapidly. After finding our luggage we proceeded out of the terminal where a crowd of people was forming. There are three "lines": the airport line, the taxi/private pick-up line, and the shuttle-to-parking line. It was really a mess with a lot of people not knowing what to do. Luckily someone with the shuttle company or parking company pointed us out and directed us to a shuttle to the parking. I was at my truck by 10:45.
We stayed the night at the Park Plaza which I had booked on Priceline for $55. The hotel is old but looks as if it has been recently remodeled. The walls are fairly thin and noises easily traveled through them. I did like the location of the hotel and a street car line runs in front of it. There was no mention of Priceline and I was able to check-in at 2:00. I parked at a lot north of the hotel on Canal for $12. We purchased all day tickets for the street cars and enjoyed touring the city on them. We ate in the French Quarter at Café Marespo near the river. They were cheap, had $1 beer and daiquiris, and the food was decent. I would recommend this place if you are looking for a decent meal around $20.
New Orleans is a great city to cruise out of. There is plenty to do for everyone, from people looking for tours, to history, to partying. The Carnival Conquest was also a great time. Carnival staff was friendly and didn't bother us. I did not think there was too much "selling" of products. The buffet food was better than expected, with the dinners and desserts being a slight disappointment. The pizza, hamburgers, and sushi were great. We also enjoyed most of the shows we went to and Carnival provided lots of activities for the sea days. Things I didn't like: drink prices too high, no steak available, and the fixed dinner time. Overall I give New Orleans a 9/10 and the Carnival Conquest an 8/10.