Carnival LinesCarnival Conquest ReviewWestern Caribbean Frank Villani
Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Conquest
Sailing Date: May 21st, 2006
Carnival Cruise Lines
The moving of the Conquest from New Orleans to Galveston has put serious pressure on that port. Prior to this cruise we had sailed on 3 Carnival Cruises before, out of a variety of ports, as well as Princess and Disney and in all of our experiences we have never found a more disorganized or slow procedure to embark. I must state that we had a large group on this cruise 19 people, so that may have added to some of our problems, but still you would think that the port would be better equipped to handle the cars as they pull up to off load luggage. From the time we pulled up in front of the dock, approximately noon for a 4:00 PM sailing, until we were able to park our cars in the long-term parking and return we must have wasted almost 2 hours. Once we got back to the pier the actual check in with Carnival was also longer than we had experienced before, but this is also their biggest ship so it is somewhat understandable. Once we actually made it on board, about 1 hour later, the ship crew were extremely accommodating, the welcome aboard atmosphere was festive and the drinks flowed, which helped given the fact that after waiting 3 hours in and out of 100 degree weather you can get a little irritable.
CRUISE EXPERIENCE –
We had booked the cruise directly through Carnival, something we generally do not do, and lucked out to have one of the nicest and most knowledgeable agents, Michael Meynarez, that I have ever encountered. Michael was so good in fact that 3 couples immediately booked another cruise from him for this Christmas when we returned and two of us booked Alaska for next year. He helped us with everything, including advising us on which cabins to take and why, he was absolutely right – we had the balconies in the rear of the ship that were oversized for the same price – all adjoining – what a party we had as we waited for our luggage to arrive and throughout the cruise. I pitied our room stewards.
We thought that the first night seating was open for dinner but we were informed that it was according to your assigned times. We had specifically requested the 6:30 seating as we had some older relatives on the cruise that do not like to eat late. Mike had assured us that we were all together at two tables and that the time was taken care of. Unfortunately, when we looked at our Sail and Sign card, it was not and we had the late seating. I immediately went to the purser and was informed that there was nothing that she could do, but she would send a note to the maitre d’. We were told to go the late seating for that evening. After watching the ship depart from port and a little worried about changing dinner times because of our large numbers, we set off for dinner. The maitre d’ was incredible, he came up to our table said he knew of our problem and was working on something for us and would have an alternative for us delivered to our cabin the next day. One could not ask for more, and that set the mood for the rest of an incredible cruise. The ship has numerous bars, so depending on your age, we spanned 21 – 68, you could find a place to either relax or dance the night away. I have a horrible voice but a great desire to sing, so I spent most of my time with Diamond Jeff, who let my friend and I sing, by the casino lounge bar.
Overall the onboard ship activities and the casino were a lot of fun. Given the large number of passengers it is often difficult to find a lounge chair by the pool unless you get out early, which was a negative for some of our group. The highlights of the activities were the Mardi-Gras party, the Karaoke contests for the last evening’s passenger talent show and the “Hairy-Chest Contest”- the later primarily because I won. The shows on the cruise were enjoyed by all, but not spectacular. I would have to say that Princess and Disney both have better evening entertainment.
As with most Carnival ships the food was very good, but it is the wait staff and their antics that made ever meal a must-see event. We had 12 people on this cruise that had never been on a cruise before and they had a blast. In fact one couple was booked to go on Holland America three weeks later to Alaska and they thought that it would be more to their liking. Although they had plus and minuses comparing the ships when they returned, they commented on how they missed the fun in the evening dining room that we had with our wait staff. We did not go to the private restaurant but did do the wine tasting – it was worth the money, not so much for tasting the wines but for also getting additional insight about the various selections they have on the cruise for you to choose from.
The cabin stewards not only have great personalities but also take care of your every need and with 8 cabins together that can be a lot. We had two different sets to cover all of our cabins and it seemed they had a little competition with the animal towels – it was fun.
Formal night food is the best and be prepared for multiple photo opportunities. It seems that Carnival must have at least 30 photographers, because every time you turn around there is another possible backdrop to be filmed in front of.
Jamaica – Most of the group did the Canopy Tour and loved it – highly recommended. A few of us did the horse back riding and actually booked from a private vendor. That was a mistake, in Jamaica stay with Carnival as we ended up with horses and at a barn that should have been put to rest years before. All in all in made for a lot of fun to discuss that evening at dinner
Grand Cayman – Most of the group did a Stingray Tour – this we also booked from a private firm and here there was no problem, in fact I think it was a better experience because we did not have so many people on our boat and stayed out longer. The others did the butterfly farm from Carnival and seemed to have fun
Cozumel – Here we split right down the middle – the young ones going on the helmet dive and the older ones doing the beach and cavern tour by jeep. The helmet dive was a resounding success; they all said they would do it again. The beach and cavern tour was very good although half of the group would have preferred to have less time driving and more time on the beach. In fact, many felt we made a mistake by not taking at least one day for a shore excursion that allowed time to visit the shops and actually lie and a beach and enjoy water sports.
Definitely do the self-assist carry your own luggage off, do not follow the Carnival system. I only thought we had had a problem when we arrived, it was nothing compared to getting off. Six of our members did the carry your own luggage off because of an early flight and they cleared customs by 8:30. Those of us that waited and we were on the 8th deck, so there were a number of decks still left to go, didn’t clear customs until almost noon.