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Carnival LinesCarnival Conquest ReviewWestern Caribbean Shawn Conley

Age: 32

Occupation:Real Estate Investor

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Conquest

Sailing Date: September 24th, 2006

Itinerary: n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines


I first want to say that I truly enjoyed every moment of my cruise. I definitely recommend this cruise for those of you who are considering it. I am grateful to those who wrote the cruise reviews that helped me make my cruise a more enjoyable one. This review will be riddled with many recommendations of what to do to make your cruise more enjoyable.

Before you book your cruise...research, research, research. There are many things to consider before you make your reservation. The cruise line, the length of cruise, the departure port, the itinerary, the cost. I started my search by requesting brochures from all of the major cruise lines. I also asked my friends who had taken cruises what they recommended. You will find that people love to relive their cruises by telling you all about it. I took this particular cruise, in part, because it was suggested to me by a cousin and three co-workers. One friend even brought her pictures and told me exactly what to do in port. You are free to accept or reject any or all of their suggestions. But, it is a window into the type of vacation that you will have. My advice is to read cruise reviews on this and other cruises, ask your friends, read brochures, check with travel professionals, etc. Then, if you decide that you want to take the Carnival Conquest, book your reservation. I booked directly through Carnival with vacation planner Janis Boyd. You can reach her at (800) 819-3902 ext. 82333 or at jboyd@carnival.com. And, once you've booked your cruise, periodically check back to see if the cruise fares have been reduced. Carnival will gladly change you to the lower rate, but you have to contact them to do it. They will not automatically lower your cruise fare.

When I took this cruise, it departed out of Galveston. I contacted the Galveston Island Convention and Visitor's Bureau (888) 425-4753 or www.galveston.com to request a brochure. It has information about activities, lodging, dining, etc. I understand that this cruise will soon be departing out of New Orleans again. You may contact the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitor's Bureau at (800) 672-6124 or www.neworleanscvb.com to request a brochure.

When booking your cruise, I recommend that you book the best room that you can afford. You will enjoy the cruise if you are in an inside stateroom or in a Category 12 suite. I had a Category 11 suite and it was fantastic. On my previous cruise, I had a window room, which just doesn't compare. I enjoyed the private moments on the balcony enjoying the ocean breeze. Other amenities of this room would be a separate vanity and dressing area, you get a real bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, a television and VCR, and a separate sitting area. Also, my room, 7326, was on the port (left) side of the ship. I recommend that if you book a window or suite, you book a room on the port side because we could see Montego Bay, Georgetown, and Cozumel as we approached the islands.

People seem to differ in opinion when it comes to purchasing cruise insurance. There are many different coverages offered by cruise lines and insurance companies. I recommend that you read what Tom Ogg has to say about it right on this website under cruise information. Click on the hyperlink “about insurance.”

Now, you've got to get to Galveston. I flew into Houston Hobby Airport Friday on Southwest Airlines (800) 435-9792 or www.southwest.com. I recommend to everyone to arrive at your departure port at least one day prior to your cruise. It makes for a very easy embarkation. Also, I spent quite a bit of money on this cruise, and I did not want to risk not getting there. There are many things that can go wrong when you travel; blown tire, engine trouble, automobile accidents, weather events, late flights, cancelled flights, lost luggage, etc. Please, if you don't take any other advice that I give, do yourself a favor and get to Galveston at least a day ahead of time. You did not book this wonderful cruise to collect the insurance proceeds. Because we decided to stay in Galveston for 2 days prior to the cruise, I rented a car with Dollar Rental (888) 800-4000 or www.dollar.com. If you book with Dollar, make sure you check their online specials. Those really are some of their lowest rates. Now, Hertz and Enterprise both have locations in Galveston, but you cannot pick up a car at the airport and leave it in Galveston, or vice versa with either of these companies. So, my plan was to rent a car for the 2 days prior to the cruise, then return the vehicle to the airport and take a shuttle from the airport back to Galveston Island. DO NOT take Airport Shuttle America. To make a long story short, they had a new girl who made a reservation for us at 7 pm. Their last shuttle was at 6 pm, so when we arrived, the last shuttle had already departed. We complained to the owner of the service who took no responsibility for the mishap, even though he readily acknowledged that his employee did make our reservation. I filed a formal complaint with Houston Hobby Airport, and am still awaiting their response. I do recommend Galveston Limousine Service (800) 640-4826 http://www.galvestonlimousineservice.com/. They currently charge $60 round trip from the airport to Galveston. Please don't be fooled by the name! It is a shuttle service, not a limo service.

Prior to the cruise, I stayed at the Hotel Galvez (800) 996-3426 www.wyndham.com prior to my cruise. It's a Wyndham Historic Hotel. It was fantastic, and I highly recommend it. The only problem that we had was that they tell you that they offer free shuttle service around the island. While we were there a couple got married at that hotel, and the bellhops were not available to shuttle us around. Then, the morning of the cruise, we wanted to go to early Mass, and was told that we could have a ride to Church, but not back to the hotel because they will begin shuttling people back and forth to the cruise terminal by the time Mass was over. All in all, the hotel did a great job trying to make us happy. They did after all shuttle us back from Mass. But, I did want to mention that just because the hotel may say that they have a free shuttle service, it is not always available when you need it. After the cruise, I spent one night at the Tremont House, another Wyndham Historic Hotel. I liked this hotel, but not as much as the Hotel Galvez. They are sister properties, so the amenities are similar. The Tremont House is about 1 block from the cruise terminal. If proximity is important to you, this is definitely the place to stay. The Hotel Galvez was almost 2 miles from the cruise terminal.

So, now I've taken you through booking the cruise and arranging for lodging and transportation. Let's talk about what else you should do before you leave home. You should fill out your Fun Pass Check In http://www.carnival.com/, make a copy of it, and bring the copy with you. Also, you want to research the excursions at the ports of call. Reading the cruise reviews on this site will be very helpful for that. I recommend that you book your excursions online independent of Carnival. It will be less expensive, and arguably more enjoyable. Some people will recommend that you book your excursions through Carnival because if you do, they won't leave you in port. I booked all of my excursions independently and getting back to the ship was not an issue.

In Mo Bay, I booked an excursion through Carolyn Barrett for the YS Falls and River Tubing (876) 382-6384 www.BarrettAdventures.com info@barrettadventures.com. I highly recommend this tour. Carolyn herself was our guide, and she has decades of experience in the tourism business. She is very informative, and a fantastic guide. She can speak to you about many varied topics, ranging from the bad Jamaican drivers to flowers that are indigenous to the area. On our tour there were a total of 6 in our group. It made for a great time because we had a more intimate experience. There was no BIG crowd all doing the same excursion. There was a rope to swing into the water, and we swam in the natural spring water. We also enjoyed lunch there, which was included in the cost of our tour. Carolyn also took us to Margaritaville so that we could enjoy some adult beverages. The cost of this tour was $80 per person, which is about half what you would pay doing Dunn's River Falls through Carnival.

In Georgetown, Grand Cayman, I booked an excursion through Captain Marvin's 866-978-6364 info@captainmarvins.com www.captainmarvins.com. I highly recommend this tour. We went snorkeling and then went to Stingray City. This time there were 8 people on our excursion. We got to the sites about an hour before the Carnival tour got to the exact same sites. And, the cost was $40 per person, about half of what I would have paid if I had booked it through Carnival. Once again, the tour guides were great, especially Captain Marvin's son Denver. They were very informative and gave us all sorts of information about the island. Now, I must also mention that if you book this tour, you have to walk about 2 blocks from the cruise terminal to their office. They want you there by 8:30 am. The ship will not dock in Grand Cayman. You have to take a tender to the island. In order to ensure that you get on the first tender, you have to get a tender ticket in the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge by 6:30 am. There will be a line that forms on the starboard (right) side of the showroom in the aisle. The line will form even prior to the Carnival employees entering the room. Make sure that you are among the first in line in order to get a ticket to get on the first tender. I cannot stress this enough if you decide to take this tour. Also, if there is more than one person in your party, each individual has to be present to get their own ticket. The tour ends fairly early so that you can eat lunch and explore Grand Cayman before returning to the ship on your own. Also note that Grand Cayman is expensive. Everything is about 25% more expensive than what you would expect to pay.

In Cozumel, I tried to visit the Mayan Ruins in Tulum. This is not possible to do on your own because you have to tender to the island. That did not allow me time to catch the ferry to the mainland to go to Tulum. If you are interested in seeing Tulum, you have to book this tour through Carnival at this time. When the dock is rebuilt, then you may have the option of going on your own. But, I did grab a taxi for the entire day, which included a trip to the San Gervasio Ruins right there in Cozumel. They are not quite as impressive as Tulum, but it was still a sight to see. We went around the entire island, and at the end of the tour, we spent several hours at Paradise Beach. We ate lunch there and swam at the beach. There is a rock climbing wall and a trampoline there, which you may use for $8. Oh, and I almost forgot, the cost to rent the taxi for the day was $70 for 2.

I skipped ahead a little. I want to talk about what to pack.
· Unless you are a Cokeaholic, bring a 6 pack to last you for the week. I don't know about you, but I don't drink $44 worth of pop in a week.
· Bring your own alcohol. I put in my checked bag. The porters brought it on. No problem.
· Bring hats and sunglasses.
· Bring an underwater camera.
· Bring something warm to wear on the ship. They keep it quite cold.
· Bring binoculars.
· Bring Dramamine, especially if you've never cruised before. Better safe than sorry.
· Pack a highlighter to highlight things you want to do in the Carnival Capers. That is a paper that they give you with daily, scheduled activities.
· There are hair dryers in the rooms, but you have to hold down the trigger in order to use them. My girl doesn't like that kind. She was glad that she brought her own.
· If you have a balcony room, bring a bungee cord to hold the door open.
· Bring a power strip. There are several outlets in the suites, but only one in the other rooms.
· Bring insect repellant.
· Pack a small alarm clock. If you don't, it's not a big deal. They do have wake up calls.
· I did not like the smell of the soap that Carnival provided. I was glad I brought my own.
Embarkation was a breeze. I recommend that you get there early. I got there at about 11 am, and was on the ship by 12 o’clock noon. I did have the benefit of the VIP checkin because I stayed in a suite. But, from what I could see the lines were moving well. And even though they tell you that you can't go to your room until 2 pm, you can go earlier. I wish I had just gone as soon as I got on the ship to dump my carryon luggage.

I opted for the late dinner. I did this because I didn't want to be rushed on the day of departure, and I didn't want to rush to dinner on the days in port. I ate at 8:30 pm in the Renoir restaurant. I recommend that if at all possible, you request the Monet restaurant. I was on the top floor of the Renoir, which is also the same deck as the lifeboats. So they keep the windows shut. If you eat at the Monet, then you are at the lower aft part of the ship. You will have magnificent views no matter where you sit in that restaurant. I won't go into much detail about the food because it is a matter of personal taste. I found the food to be adequate for the most part. It was neither the best nor the worst that I've ever had. I also opted for one night at the Point, the ship's upscale restaurant. I really enjoyed the food there. It's $30 per person more, but you won't get that same level of service for that amount of money anywhere else. It's a tremendous value. If you want to go to the Point, I recommend you make your reservation on the day you board the ship. We ate there on Tuesday night, which I thought was a great night for it because this was a "Fun Day at Sea."

If you would like to purchase anything on the ship that you don't need right away, you should wait until later in the week. The ship is like Wal-Mart. The prices drop throughout the week. They have sales on different items in the stores and on the Spa packages.

I won't comment much about the shows. Whether or not you enjoy them is also a matter of personal taste. If you want my opinion here goes: Phat Kat was funny. Deja, the magician was ok. They had a couple of talented singers, but mainly the shows were bad.

Throughout the week, there were a lot of activities to keep you entertained. Remember you can do as much or as little as you want. If you just want to relax, I really recommend that you do it in the best place on the ship, the topless deck.

Debarkation was not my favorite part of the vacation. They have to get a few thousand people off the ship in a hurry. Just try to be patient and have a positive attitude. If you can carry your own luggage off, then you may debark first. I was staying at a hotel that night, so I didn't try to rush off the ship. If you're flying out that day, consider booking a later flight to give yourself ample time to get off the ship.

Once again, I had a fantastic time on this cruise. I sure hope that this review helps you to plan and enjoy your cruise. I most certainly did. If you have any questions that I can help you with, don't hesitate to email me at sconley24@aol.com.




 

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