Carnival Lines Carnival Conquest ReviewWestern Caribbean Mike
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Conquest
Sailing Date: July 9th, 2006
Carnival Cruise Lines
This cruise was a blast! All in all a
wonderful experience that far exceeded what we were expecting from Carnival.
This was only my second cruise—my first was on Windstar and I certainly realized
ahead of time that it would be an entirely different type of cruise.
Embarkation—We parked at a lot near the terminal. The cost was $50 for the whole week if you pre-paid online. Highly recommended, so do your research. We had dropped our bags with a porter at 1:30 and proceeded to park. We then walked to the ship as the line for the parking lot’s bus was really, really long. Carnival said not to arrive at the port prior to 1:30 and we followed that recommendation. I think we were the only ones who followed that advice, as we had to be numbers 3000-3004 in line. All moved quickly and we were on the ship within an hour. We found our way to our rooms to catch the end of the World Cup final. The ship’s staff was elated when Italy won as the Captain and his staff was Italian. When the game was over, it was time for the lifeboat drill. When that was over, we got a hot dog on the Lido Deck. We then went back to our rooms and our luggage was there. We then unpacked and got settled. All in all a very good first impression.
The Ship—the whole thing is decorated and named after French Impressionist Artists. A bit over the top; tacky in my opinion. Considering the amount of unsupervised hooliganism by the 1100 kids on this sailing, I can only imagine what this ship goes through week in and week out. It is very well maintained and very clean for the most part. The bathrooms could have been a bit cleaner and the lack of paper towels in lieu of hand dryers is annoying. The public spaces, decks, pools, dining rooms and bars are all impressive. The ship is huge and fun to explore.
Our Staterooms—we had two rooms on the Riviera Deck aft. We have three children and needed connecting rooms. There are a surprisingly small number of connecting rooms on the Conquest. One would think that there would be more with all the families on Carnival cruises. We would have preferred a higher deck, but nothing else connecting was available. The staterooms were surprisingly roomy and far exceeded my expectations. There was a lot of storage and the rooms never seemed cluttered or too small
Dining—we were at the 5:45 seating in the Monet dining room. There are two dining rooms and which you are assigned depends on the seating time you select. Both dining rooms are nearly identical and it makes no difference to which you are assigned. The food is OK and was probably innovative in 1982, but is really just OK. The whole service experience more than made up for the food. Our service team, Richard and Dexter were extraordinary. Both knew the kids’ preferences and ours by the second night. We definitely felt pampered and the leisurely, nearly two-hour dinner was something we looked forward to every night. The beverage steward, Sabina, was superb. She was a delight who wore the absolute best smile on the ship. We saw her late at night on a daily basis, as she was also a cocktail server in a bar. The staff is amazing and they are seen working morning, noon and night in various positions around the ship.
Lido Deck Dining—Buffets were, for the most part, mediocre. Breakfast was the same every day as was lunch. Long lines during peak times each day. By the end of the cruise we were eating in the Monet whenever we could. They had breakfast and lunch service from a menu. Again, we thoroughly enjoyed the service—much better than battling long buffet lines. The bright spot on Lido were the pizza, hot dogs, and burgers. All were top-notch and well utilized by our kids. There was also a window serving Chinese stir-fry and another serving deli sandwiches—both were excellent alternatives to the buffets. The soft serve ice cream was also a huge hit!
The Pointe—this is the Conquest’s supper club. You pay an extra $30 per person to dine here and it is worth every penny! The food is phenomenal, cooked perfectly, and presented as artfully as I have ever seen. Service is also extraordinary. My wife and I dined here alone on our last night. Had we dined in here earlier on the cruise, we would have gone again.
The Bars and Nightclubs—Were numerous and action packed. We hung out in the piano bar, Blues. It was a sing-along bar with a piano player names Brad Alexander. Very entertaining, but it took awhile to get the crowd going. Karaoke was good as well—they spend the week auditioning guests for the final show on Saturday night—Carnival Legends. There were a bunch of other bars as well and, of course all the pool bars. Drinks are strong, better quality and priced more reasonably than I expected.
The Casino—Smokey and nasty, just like Vegas. Looked large and bountiful in terms of offerings. Other than losing $5 on slots, we spent zero time in here.
The Lobby—very nice with piano music and an attractive bar. The purser’s desk was staffed with outstanding attendants.
Shows—Some great, some not so great. The comedy was really good; the magic show featuring “Deja” who was apparently flown in Vegas, was enjoyed by the kids. “Point and Click” was flat-out lame. Carnival Legends, the guest talent show was awesome—a great way to wrap-up an outstanding week. There were a couple nights we missed, so I can’t comment on all the shows. Todd, the cruise director emceed the shows and he is superb. He has to be the best Carnival has to be entrusted with their largest ship! He truly is outstanding!!!
Bingo—I was shocked at how often bingo is played on-board. We partook just once prior to a show as we are not big bingo players. Great people watching.
Art Auctions—Seemed incredibly random. This feature must be on every ship because it’s on the comment card at the end of the cruise. I can’t believe that this is so lucrative and popular on a Carnival cruise. It’s advertised constantly and there is a brochure included every night at turndown.
Coffee Bar—Alexandra from Bosnia was an absolutely exceptional barista. She was one of the nicest, most talkative members of the crew—a delight in every way! We drink Starbuck’s Coffee almost every day and the quality of these non-branded coffee drinks aboard Carnival were very, very good—well worth the nominal extra charge.
Pictures—I was shocked at how often they take your picture on the ship, at the ports, etc. If you want to buy a wallet size or 5x7 print, you first have to shell out $21.95 for the 8x10 that has already been developed. One picture was sufficient for us, as it seemed like a rip-off. If they got wise and sold 8x10 pictures for $10, they would probably sell ten times the photos—and they’re already produced!
Shopping on Board—Wait for the ports. The stuff on the ship is over-priced, as one would expect.
Camp Carnival—our two little ones participated daily and loved it! They have to be signed in and signed out a few times each day. This is not an all-day day care center, which is good. They go for a couple of hours in the morning, a few in the afternoon, and again in the evening until 10pm. They can go until 3am if you wish, but it costs extra past 10pm. On port days, they can spend all day if the parents have Carnival arranged excursions and they wish to leave the kids on the ship. We did our own thing on port days and the kids came with us. The Camp Carnival counselors are amazing and clearly love the kids. Signing in and out often involves waiting in line, as there is a process involved. The process is very, very secure. We had complete peace of mind leaving the kids in their care. An A+ in every way!!!
Selling—Carnival has the selling of extras down to a science. It seems overwhelming and unnecessary. It really gets old. From the art auctions, to the gift shop specials, to the books on everything from towel folding to Carnival Buffets—it’s too much. Shore excursions should be arranged through research on your own, as you will save a bundle. This aspect of the cruise was a turn-off.
Port #1 Jamaica—Through this website, we learned of a place in Montego Bay call the Sunset Beach Resort, an all-inclusive resort that offers day passes to cruise passengers. There were numerous pools, an awesome beach, lazy river, water slides, food and drinks, etc. All of this cost us $40 for the day per person. The similar Carnival excursion to an all-inclusive resort was $79. Sunset Beach was about 2 minutes from the ship—we had a great time and highly recommend this option. Food was OK and drinks were small and required constant trips to the bar, but it was well worth it. As for the Jamaican people, they are incredibly friendly. The one note of caution—they assume all Americans are rich and will attempt to take advantage of this. No matter what they say, what they are offering, from a coconut to a cab ride—be sure to establish up front what the charge will be. Bring American Dollars, enough for all the ports. I brought $100 and should have brought about $500. I was forced to use ATMs on the ship and in ports and the service charge was between $8 and $11. Most places, but not all, accept credit cards and with nebulous exchange rates for credit card transactions, I would have felt more comfortable using cash (everyone accepts American Dollars) for small, miscellaneous purchases.
Port #2 Grand Cayman—Beautiful water, friendly and expensive. Unless you are looking for a duty-free deal on a Rolex, don’t bother shopping. We didn’t do Stingray City and regret it. We elected to explore the port on our own and were back on the ship by noon. Tendering was easy as the ship arrives early and most people were off the ship before we finished breakfast.
Port #3 Cozumel—By far our favorite. Tendering was much lengthier as the ship arrives later. The process was more entailed and it took us about an hour, as the folks with Carnival excursions get off the ship first. We took a cab to a beach resort—Paradise Beach. The place was about 15 minutes away and was great. We rented jet skis and hung out for a while and then went back to town to do some shopping. The water on Cozumel is absolutely glorious! The number of shops is almost overwhelming so stay with the Carnival recommended shops, as they are good. Shopkeepers are pushy but friendly and very eager to show you their goods. It was really a lot of fun. We got back on the ship too early and decided to leave the little ones on the ship with our 14 year-old while we went back on the island for some more shopping and a drink. Tendering back on was a cinch compared to that first push off the ship. The island was clearly ravaged by Hurricane Wilma last year but has done a remarkable job getting things put back together.
Debarkation—Since we were on Riviera Aft, we were the last to be called. It took forever to get off the ship and it was past 1:00 by the time we got through customs. It was no big deal, as we didn’t have a plane to catch. Would have been quicker to do the self-assist. We would have done this if we didn’t have the kids with us. With all the luggage we had, this just wasn’t an option for us. If you are concerned about getting off quickly, the higher your deck, the sooner you are called.