Carnival LinesCarnival Conquest ReviewWestern Caribbean Lynda
Occupation:Financial Aid Director
Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Conquest
Sailing Date: July 23rd, 2006
Carnival Cruise Lines
Summary: Our family of four left for our cruise on the Carnival Conquest on July 23, 2006. My husband and I are in our 30s, and we have a 10 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. This was our 4th cruise, but our first on the Conquest. Our overall rating of the cruise is 10 out of 10! We had a wonderful time! I read a lot of reviews prior to our cruise, and they helped so much. However, I didn’t read many reviews written by people with kids near my children’s age so wanted to share our experience.
Embarkation: We live about 20 miles from Galveston, so were able to get a ride to and from the cruise terminal. (Parking seemed plentiful, just didn’t see a reason to leave our car there all week if we didn’t need to…) We arrived at the terminal around noon, and delivered our bags to a porter, who asked us to take anything with us we’d need before 5:00 pm. We didn’t need anything (we thought) other than what was in our carry-on bag so we proceeded inside. The security line and sail and sign lines looked really long, but moved along nicely. We were through both lines in approximately one hour. Then, we were sent to another line. The waiting area with chairs was full so they were lining up cruise passengers along the edges of the room. We waited here another half hour or so, and then finally began boarding the ship. (This line didn’t move too fast because of everyone stopping for their embarkation photos.) Overall not a terrible experience, but expect some waiting.
We’ve cruised before but this is the largest ship we’ve been on and we were impressed. We made our way around to the glass elevators and proceeded to the 8th level to see if our room was ready. (They told us to wait until 2:00pm, but it was about 1:45pm by this time so we decided to see if the room was ready and it was.) After stopping in our room, we left to grab lunch on the lido deck and explore the ship. Just a note here, we were offered a rum punch drink at least 4 times from the time we stepped on the ship until we set down to eat lunch. Finally, they twisted our arms – I figured if I’d drink one they’d quit harassing me! Really though, it was good and I didn’t mind too much… I was just surprised at how hard they were pushing these drinks.
Stateroom/Balcony: We were in Stateroom 8277 and really liked the location; it was forward, and about 5 or 6 rooms down from the elevators. We splurged and booked a balcony room and it was well worth it! We’ve had ocean view and inside cabins before and now we’re spoiled! To give an idea of the layout - our room had a nice size bathroom on the right when we walked in and three large closets on the left. Then, walking on into the room there were bunk beds to the right for the kids, and a desk/vanity with drawers, our mini-bar (we never asked for the key) the television, etc. to the left. And finally, past that on the right were the two twin beds pushed together to make a king size bed. And to the left, the door to the balcony. The room had a lot of storage – plenty for the four of us. The balcony was not huge, but roomy enough with two chairs and a little table. We had worried for months about the kids and the balcony, and whether they could fall overboard – not a problem. The balconies have a privacy wall between staterooms and the front of the balcony was glass, not rails of any kind. And, it was tall enough that it came up to the kid’s chests, so not like they could climb it, or fall over it or anything. I was relieved when I saw it because it looked very safe. Throughout the week our room steward kept everything very tidy, and delighted us with the usual towel animals and chocolates each evening.
Muster Drill: Hot, miserable pain in the rear. But, I realize it’s totally necessary. On other ships my muster station has been in one of the lounges, so it wasn’t so bad but on the Conquest we were outside on deck 4 and stood in lines about 4 people deep looking straight forward. It was hot outside and crowded and just not fun.
Dining Room: Our dinner was in the Monet dining room at 5:45 pm. Overall a good experience in this dining room. We missed dinner the first night because our bags didn’t make it to our room until 6:30 pm and so we were not dressed for dinner (small gripe with the late delivery of the bags). Other than that we had dinner in the Monet every night. Saw no need to try The Pointe Supper Club, though we heard it was delicious. Our waiter was very efficient, though not very talkative and was assisted by a lovely gal who made up for his “silence”. We were seated at a booth, and that was fine with us. We aren’t anti-social or anything, just enjoy not having to make small talk with other guests when dining with two tired children after a long day in port… The 5:45 seating seemed a little early to us, but a late seating would just be too late with the kids.
Shows: Some of the shows on board were great and some were just okay to us. We really liked the Welcome Aboard show with the ventriloquist, and the show with the comic hypnotist. The kids enjoyed Deja the magician (though we really did not) and we all thought the production show, Point and Click, was just okay. Some nights we were doing other things or just didn’t feel like a show so missed the production show, Formidable, the comedian Phat Cat, and the Guest Talent Show.
Casino: There is a nice casino on board, I guess, though we lost quite a bit of money here! I played slots and have never seen such tight machines. A couple times I hit $60 but spent so much more than that… My husband played blackjack and went up and down all week, finishing about $80 down. Even though we were losers overall, we did have some fun here. The dealers were all nice and very friendly.
Montego Bay: Since I’d read a lot of reviews prior to my cruise, I knew Montego Bay could be *interesting* if we didn’t plan our day wisely. So, we decided to go to the Sunset Beach resort. It was a short ride from the cruise terminal and cost $40 pp to get in for adults and $20 pp for kids. The resort is all inclusive, so included food, drinks, a small water park (pools, two waterslides, lazy river) and of course the beach, snorkeling, kayaks, etc. We had a great day here! We really liked the waterslides (even us grown-ups). Also, very pleased that it wasn’t crowded here at all. The lunch was good, we ate at the Grille outside and had jerk chicken, and some fried tortilla thing filled with beef (forget what they called it). The kids had grilled cheese and hot dogs, so everyone was pleased with their selection. The drinks are good, but served in tiny cups. I didn’t find them to be watered down or weak like I’d read. The kids ordered virgin pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris and thought that was cool. You can definitely spend the whole day here. We’d do it again in a minute!
Grand Cayman: This was a beautiful port! We booked an excursion through Captain Marvin’s (www.captainmarvins.com) to snorkel and visit the Stingray City Sandbar. We had a great time and were so glad we booked independently rather than through Carnival for this trip. We saw the Carnival sponsored group and it looked crowded. If you book with Captain Marvin’s you’ll be with no more than 24 people. When you get to Grand Cayman, walk a few blocks to your left and you’ll see Captain Marvin’s. After we checked in, we boarded an air-conditioned bus and had a brief tour of the island on our way to our boat. We got on our boat and traveled a short distance (15 minutes or so) to our snorkeling stop. The coral reef and fish here were amazing. Be sure to pick up an underwater camera for this trip before you leave home! After the snorkeling, we went to the Stingray City Sandbar where you could look down and see the stingrays. It was very neat! We jumped into the water (only about waist deep) and the stingrays rubbed right up against our legs. The guides told us that’s how they “make friends” with us. I’ll admit I thought it was creepy at first but then got used to it. They are very friendly animals! We got to pet them, hold them, have our pictures taken with them, feed them, etc. It was very cool and everyone should try this if they get the chance. It was reasonably priced, especially compared to the similar Carnival excursion. The price was $35 pp for my husband and I and $27.50 pp for our children.
Tendering in Grand Cayman: you need a tender ticket in Grand Cayman during the morning and those with a Carnival excursion get the first tickets. We booked our Captain Marvin’s trip for 10:45 so we wouldn’t be stressed about getting off the boat. By 9 or 9:30 tickets were no longer needed so we didn’t have any trouble with tendering here.
Cozumel: We’d been to Cozumel before on other cruises, so knew what to expect from this port. We decided to have a more laid back day here so didn’t book any excursions. Instead we shopped in the morning, then went back to the ship to change into our swimsuits and took a cab to Paradise Beach. Shopping here is fun, and the prices are very good. You can get some great bargains here! Paradise Beach is very nice and pretty, though it was a bit crowded. Our cab ride to and from the beach was about $14 each way. You can go to the beach for free, including chairs and umbrellas. But, if you want to use their “water toys” (water trampoline, water iceberg, floats, etc.) you can buy a wristband for $8. I thought this was reasonable, and we all got wristbands. They do have an employee who goes around in a kayak to make sure those using the “toys” have a wristband. I heard him tell a few people they needed a wristband to climb the iceberg, jump on the water trampoline, etc. and they were very nasty to the employee there. I couldn’t believe it! A note here, the water gets very deep very quickly at this beach. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable taking very small kids to this beach. My kids are older and are pretty good swimmers so I didn’t worry about them too much – mostly just floated around the iceberg watching them climb to the top and jump in the water. They loved it here! We had lunch before going to the beach so didn’t order from their menu, but did have a drink. My husband ordered a beer and got me a strawberry daiquiri and after he tipped the bartender he told my husband to take a drink of the daiquiri. He did, and the bartender took it back and added more rum. It was a very good daiquiri after that!
Tendering in Cozumel: In Cozumel the staff was passing out tender stickers on the lido deck. Just go grab a sticker, and head in for breakfast. They’ll call your sticker number in 30-45 minutes. Easy tendering here, too.
Camp Carnival: Camp Carnival does a great job keeping the kids on board entertained. There were 1100 kids on our cruise, and I swear you would have never known it! Kids attending Camp Carnival in the 9-11 group have the option to sign themselves in and out of activities. My kids really liked this idea, but I’m not ready for that. Call me overprotective, but the idea of my kids roaming the ship unsupervised just doesn’t sit well with me. So, when we completed the Camp Carnival registration I marked “No” that they could not sign themselves in and out. This prompted a Camp Carnival counselor to visit with me and talk me into letting them sign in and out. She said they could not take part in any of the planned scavenger hunts if I didn’t allow them to sign themselves in and out (which prompted the kids to beg me to allow it) and I reluctantly agreed. I just made the agreement with the kids that they were not to sign out unless we had predetermined that they could and that we had a meeting place. And, this worked out fine. The 9-11 year old Camp Carnival Caper is filled with fun activities and the kids enjoyed taking part in some of the activities. My advice here is to not overdo it – I gave each of my kids a different colored highlighter and let them highlight which activities looked good to them. This way they’re choosing what is fun for them and I’m not forcing them to go so I can do something different. On Friday night, there was a “Late Night Party” from 10 pm – 3 am. The cost was $26 per child, and $14 for an additional sibling. They planned a video arcade tournament, games, pizza and ice cream, PS2, etc. The kids had a great time at this party!
Other good things for kids: When the kids weren’t in Camp Carnival they liked the pools and the waterslide (when the line wasn’t too long). Also, the Conquest has a nice video arcade (though most games took 4 tokens). If you give your kids the privilege of charging to their sign and sail cards they will be able to get up to $20 in tokens per day on their card. We didn’t give our kids charging privilege but just in case you do… Last, there are a few channels on your room television that offer “family” movies. I know the kids watched the Chronicles of Narnia and Big Momma’s House 2 a couple times. Also, we did one pay per view movie at $8.99. I wish my kids weren’t such big TV watchers, but it’s how they wind down for bed, so I was glad for the options.
Disembarkation: We had too many bags to do self-assist debarkation, so packed up our bags and left them outside Saturday night. After the self-assist debarkation passengers were done, they began calling the different colored luggage tags to disembark. We got up Sunday and went to breakfast in the dining room around 8:30. After breakfast, we headed up to the video arcade and the kids played games until they called our luggage tag color. Our luggage tag was called around 10:00 I’d guess, and we found our luggage (this is a mad house), got through customs, found our ride, and were home by 11:45 am. Not too bad.
Needs Improvement: Just a few minor gripes: (1) Hair Dryers are in the rooms, but don’t have an on/off switch. Instead you have to hold down a “trigger”. It was just a pain to hold the hair dryer a particular way and hold that trigger and dry my hair…I missed my own hair dryer. (2) Lido deck lines – the food on lido deck is fine, but during peak times (i.e. breakfast) the lines are just ridiculous. Hard to really enjoy the breakfast buffet when you have to wait in line for 15 minutes then search for a clean table to sit down. A side note – the omelet line is long, but worth it! Yummy! (3) Photo prices – the Carnival photographers are everywhere and take great pictures. But, most are printed up as 8x10’s and cost $21.99 each. I don’t know about everyone else, but I just don’t need that many 8x10’s of myself and my family. If Carnival would print some smaller photos and price them reasonably, they’d make it up in volume! I bought two 8x10’s – and there were other nice photo’s there, but for me $44 was enough to spend on pictures. Also, due to the size of this ship and its 3,000+ passengers, the photo gallery is often a madhouse with people searching for their photos. Do yourself a favor and go to the photo gallery when you see a break in the madness.
Best kept secrets: Sur Mer restaurant – this is a seafood restaurant above the lido deck that has great bouillabaisse and awesome fish and chips. Never saw it crowded up here. If you don’t look for it you won’t find it with all the other offerings on lido (buffet, Chinese, deli, pizza, etc.).
Things to bring:
• Hair dryer – reason mentioned above
• Alarm clock – we thought we’d rely on our cell phone clocks but when we got out to sea our service switched to some international carrier and the times on our phones changed to something crazy…
• Bungee cord – if you have a balcony, bring a bungee cord to hold the door open – the sounds of the ocean are so soothing
• Booze – OK, Carnival says no alcoholic beverages, but we did sneak a few. We took a twelve pack of beer and a bottle of rum. It’s just nice to mix your own rum punch and have a drink on the balcony under the stars. (Hint: Fruit punch from Lido deck with a shot of rum = great rum punch.) And, our cabin steward seemed more than willing to keep our beer on ice for us.
• Electric strip – cabin has one outlet. We needed the strip for our cell phone charger, curling iron, digital camera charger, etc.
• Highlighters – handy to highlight activities you don’t want to miss in your Carnival Caper
Overall, we had a great time and I hope this review will be helpful! We liked this cruise so well I’m going to try to get a group together to do this cruise again in about 18 months!