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Carnival Lines Carnival Conquest Review Western Caribbean Cortney Dueweke

Age: 25

Occupation:Newspaper reporter

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Conquest

Sailing Date: April 9th, 2006

Itinerary: n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines
Dueweke

I just returned from my honeymoon voyage on the Carnival Conquest, and my husband and I had a wonderful time! The detailed reviews on this site have been incredibly helpful to us as we planned our vacation, so hopefully mine will do the same for you! This was my second cruise — my first being onboard the Caribbean Princess — so at the end I will briefly compare the two for anyone trying to decide which cruiseline to use.

EMBARKATION
Embarkation went very smoothly. Of course, there was a line, but it seemed to move quickly. Our luggage was delivered promptly to our room before the ship set sail. Our stewardess, Olga, introduced ourselves soon after our arrival and made herself available if we needed anything.

ROOM
Our room was absolutely beautiful. Since it was our honeymoon, we sprung for a balcony, and it was worth it. We didn’t spend a ton of time out there, but it was nice to step outside for some private time whenever we felt like it. It also was a great place for us to take pictures from when we reached our ports. We had a couch and coffee table along with a long vanity and plenty of storage space.

SHIP
The ship is absolutely gorgeous. The entire vessel is decked out in paintings, bright floral light fixtures, murals, etc. The main midship elevators overlook the atrium and a huge, gorgeous mural, and every elevator had a painting on its ceiling. Our dining room, the Monet Restaurant, sported French décor, with dozens of metal Eiffel Towers and lily pad designs on the window shades and light fixtures. Most of the rooms were named after artists — the Renoir Restaurant, Vincent’s Bar, Henri’s Disco, etc. As I’ll elaborate more on later, we spent a great deal of time in the Blues Club, which was the piano bar. A bar counter surrounded the piano, and was decked out in piano keys. The décor was very, very cool, and very unique.

DINING
The food on board the Conquest was fabulous. We had the 5:45 p.m. seating in the Monet Restaurant, and our waiters were Vaida, from Lithuania, and Franciscus, from Indonesia. They were both very friendly and quickly learned what we liked (coffee with dessert, etc.) They were willing to provide advice on what courses were best if we asked, and didn’t bat an eye when we ordered two of some courses. ;) Carnival placed us with another young couple on their honeymoon, so we had a good time. Some people on this site have complained that they didn’t like the waiters’ singing and dancing each night, but we loved it! On the last night, they sang their own version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” We had a great time and dinner was always something to look forward to. We usually just ate lunch in the grill but once we ate in the dining room, and it was the best chicken parmigiana we’ve ever had! The breakfast buffet was pretty standard, but adequate. I felt the late night buffets were a little lacking. They were inconsistent, unlike the every night buffets on Princess…but I’ll get to that later. The pizzeria was excellent on the Conquest and the 24-hour self-serve ice cream was ideal for a sweet tooth like me!

ENTERTAINMENT
Unfortunately, I was exhausted after my wedding and all the work leading up to it so I fell asleep kind of early every night, much to my dismay. So I missed some of the comedians and other shows, but we heard they were good. We aren’t into the Las Vegas style shows, so we walked out of those, but if you’re into that sort of thing, I’m sure you’d enjoy them — they seemed very elaborate. Based on recommendations from people on this site, we went to the Carnival Legends show on the final night, and enjoyed it. Throughout the week, passengers auditioned to portray famous entertainers, and the result was worth it. The Garth Brooks impersonator was by far the best — he was a dead ringer for him and sounded fantastic! Some of the game show attempts were weak, but we did see some “Deal or No Deal” bingo, and that was entertaining. The Newlywed game also was hilarious. The cruise director, Todd, was very personable and was out singing with the band on Lido during a deck party one night. He had a great voice and was very enthusiastic; we thought he did a good job throughout the week trying to get people involved and keep everyone entertained. We also enjoyed the art auction, especially since Jason Betteridge (sp?) of Park-West was clearly so passionate about art and was excited to share that with everyone. Our FAVORITE entertainment, by far, was Brad Alexander in the piano bar. We went there every night that he was scheduled. He takes requests, plays a lot of Billy Joel, Elton John, and other great stuff. He’s very friendly and funny. We would absolutely recommend going to visit him during your cruise! Ask him to sing you the Canadian drinking song…and if you appreciate his playing, buy him his trademark Red Bull and Stoli!

POOLS, ETC.
Unlike on the Caribbean Princess, the pools on the Conquest were saltwater, but it wasn’t too noticeable. All of the pools were very nice and the water was pretty warm most of the time. I don’t want this to sound rude, but the main problem I had with the ship’s pools was that the one adult-only pool and two adult-only hot tubs were not enforced. I like children, but having none of my own yet and being on my honeymoon, sometimes I just wanted some peace and quiet, whether it be lounging in the pool without being cannonballed on or laying within a few yards of the pool without getting unexpectedly soaked. Some of the children were well-behaved, but others were constantly screeching and splashing, disturbing the childless adults nearby. There were three to four other pools on the ship, and I believe one of those was kids only, so there really was no reason for kids to commandeer the adults only pool as well. Like I said, I'm not trying to be rude, and I understand everyone is on board to have fun, but I enjoyed the fact that on the Caribbean Princess there was an adults only pool that was truly set aside for the adults. Enough said on that topic… Like I said, the pools and hot tubs were all very nice temperature and appearance-wise, and for people with families, there was a sizeable water slide that seemed to be very popular with the kids and teens.

PORTS
I’m glad that I read the reviews on this site, as they helped prepare me for what to expect at the ports. Our first port was Montego Bay, Jamaica. As others had mentioned, the salespeople are very aggressive, but at least we didn’t get offered drugs. The persistence of the salespeople reminded me of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. From reading this site and listening to the cruise director’s presentations, we knew to look for cabs with red license plates and the initials MAXI, JTA or JCAL. We ended up hiring one of these drivers, who had a red plate and a visible license tag on his shirt, to take us around the island for an hour for $25. We told him we just wanted to go someplace where we could take photos. It was nice; we had a private tour and it was inexpensive. Like seemingly everyone in the Caribbean, the guy drove like a crazy person but we arrived everywhere safely. Jamaica was one of those places we were glad to have seen, but probably would have no need to visit again. It definitely had an air of poverty about it.

George Town, Grand Cayman, by contrast, was colorful and friendly seeming. The salespeople were very laid back. We did a lot of shopping there and got some great deals on beautiful Caribbean topax and tanzanite. We also did the sting ray tour, per the recommendation of nearly everyone we’d talked to about GC. I was excited but was really nervous once I saw how big they were! I was petrified that I would step on one of them and make them mad. I also was a little nervous when our guide told us that they have the sucking power of five industrial vacuums and could leave big “sting ray hickeys.” But they were gentle as could be. They swarmed around us and wove in and out of our legs, eager for the squid we had. It was very, very cool. However, if I had to do it again, I think I would book a tour with a private company instead of through Carnival. Everything was very chaotic, our tour took off late, and we hit major traffic coming back. We made it back to the pier area at around 2:40 p.m. and our last tender was supposed to be leaving at 3 p.m. No such luck, as there literally was a line wrapped halfway around downtown of people trying to re-embark. Also, it was such a mess that we almost got on the wrong Carnival ship because the lines were so disorganized. We were glad we got off the ship early to do shopping, since we wouldn’t have had time to do anything after the tour.

In Cozumel, we wanted to do the dolphin swim but the main dolphin park was still closed due to the hurricanes and the make-up excursion was more expensive and farther away. So we signed up for the unlimited snorkel instead. It was nice to be in the water but we were disappointed in the snorkeling experience. There was no fish food there, so the fish couldn’t care less that we were there and stayed their distance. I’d recommend the shipwreck snorkel in St. Maarten much more…we did that last year and it was wonderful! Afterward we did some shopping and ate at Las Palmeras, taking advantage of the free margaritas advertised in the Carnival Capers newsletter.

In all, we had fun at all of the ports, but would have liked more time in Grand Cayman and wished we could have done the main dolphin excursion at Cozumel.

DISEMBARKATION
Disembarkation was a nightmare, but really, how can it not be? Unfortunately, we made the poor choice of trying to carry all of our own luggage for the self-check out between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. instead of putting our bags outside the night before, due to some transportation arrangements we’d made for getting from Galveston to Houston. I would advise everyone to do the bags outside the door thing and just schedule later transportation. People were grumpy and downright rude, everyone was trying to “merge” into one line to exit, etc. etc. The casualties of our poor choice were two bottles of Cruzan Rum that fell and broke on our way our as we juggled our things. Put your bags outside the night before, relax on Lido with the breakfast buffet the last morning, and laugh as you watch all the others battle their way off! That’s what I plan on doing next time! ;)

A WORD FOR THE MOTION SICK…
I have a tendency to get extremely motion sick and, as on my last cruise, I got a prescription for Transderm patches to wear for the entire duration of our trip. I highly recommend this to anyone who gets queasy. We had some severely rough seas on two days and people were popping Dramamine left and right. The patches aren’t perfect, but they are very effective most of the time. You change them every three days and they stay on consistently behind your ear, even in the water. I spotted many people on both cruises wearing them. The only adverse side effects I noticed was dry eyes, which seemed to lessen after a few days. If you have never cruised but have a tendency to get motion sick in cars, planes, etc., I would strongly recommend asking your doctor for Transderm patches. You’re on vacation — you don’t want to be sick in your room the entire time!

CARNIVAL CONQUEST VS. CARIBBEAN PRINCESS
As promised, here’s my comparison between the Carnival Conquest and the Caribbean Princess. Some of this is a little repetitive but if you’re trying to decide between the two ships, I hope this might help give you an idea of each ship’s strengths and weaknesses.

FOOD - Edge: Carnival
On average, I would say the dinners on the Conquest were superior to those on Princess. Also, the pizzeria was far, far better and open 24 hours, and there was round-the-clock soft serve ice cream for free. However, it’s fair to note that the late night buffets on Princess were more consistent and better, and the desserts with dinner seemed to be better. Princess also had a few standards like cheesecake, steak and fettuccini alfredo that could be ordered every night for dinner if you didn’t like the unique options, which was a nice touch.

SHORE EXCURSIONS - Edge: Princess
Everything just seemed more organized.

ENTERTAINMENT - Edge: Draw
It’s hard for me to compare the entertainment, as for some reason I zonked out early nearly every night on the Conquest. As I mentioned, Brad Alexander’s Piano Bar on the Conquest was our favorite part of the cruise. But some of the entertainment on the Conquest, like their attempts at game shows, were flops. So, it’s really hard to say…but if you go on the Conquest, make sure you hit the Piano Bar!

OVERALL DÉCOR – Edge: Draw
Both ships are gorgeous in different ways. The Caribbean Princess is more understated elegance; the Carnival Conquest is in-your-face colorful.

SERVICE – Edge: Carnival
We had great service on both ships, but I have to say that I have to give the Conquest the slight edge on this one. Everyone was overwhelmingly friendly and went out of their way to accommodate you. We did “:anytime dining” on Princess, so we had different waiters each time. On Carnival, we dined in the Monet Restaurant every night and our wait staff, Vaida and Franciscus, learned what we liked and disliked. The stewards were sweet and helpful and we loved the towel animals. ;)

POOLS/ADULT ACCOMMODATIONS – Edge: Princess
As mentioned, no one enforced the adults only pool on the Conquest. Although there was a kids’ section, Camp Carnival, there were always children running around unsupervised, in and out of elevators, bumping into guests, etc. I know much of that is due to lack of parental attention, but it seemed like less of a problem on Princess. Also, the pools on Princess are freshwater, which is nice! And we enjoyed the outdoor movie screens.


In all, both cruises were excellent and I would recommend either. Feel free to email me at cortreporter@sbcglobal.net if you have any questions about either ship! Our goal is to try every cruise line, so our hope is to hit Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas in 2007!

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