Just dropping this here until it gets posted in the review section:
Carnival Conquest, 1/30 – 2/6/05, New Orleans, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Perspective: 40-something couple married 25 years, sailing without our lovely children, on our 8th cruise, seven on Carnival and one on RCI. The only new port was Jamaica.
Air Transportation: We flew even though we could have driven from Little Rock to New Orleans, because we got a great deal on airfare through Delta. To get that great deal, though, we had to fly to port the day of the cruise and fly home a day after the cruise returned. Unfortunately, we sailed the weekend the ice storm hit Atlanta, and, believe it or not, our flight from Little Rock to New Orleans was routed through Atlanta. We were so busy packing our luggage; we didn’t notice the weather in Atlanta until the late news on Saturday night. We started calling Delta, but were on hold for over an hour. We finally went to bed, knowing there was time to decide the next day. The next morning, we were informed our plane was leaving on time with no problem, so we headed to the airport at 5:45 a.m. Our plane loaded on time, and the pilot said we would be leaving in just a few minutes at 7:10 a.m., and then we sat. Slight delay, he said. Then, he offered to let us deboard, because the delay was going to be at least until 8 a.m. Then, 8:30 a.m. We deboarded, but the gate agent assured us we would have plenty of time to make our connection, but reserved us seats on a later connection just in case. Then it was 9:30 a.m. We had to start driving now or risk missing the boat! We asked the gate agent to either re-route us through another city than Atlanta or give us our luggage. She said she couldn’t re-route us, so we asked for our luggage. Suddenly, she re-routed our flight through Dallas via American Airlines. Our flights then went without a hitch, luggage arrived perfectly, and we were in a taxi headed for the ship by 3:00 p.m.
Embarkation: Terminal personnel took our luggage and tip, as we headed to the Fun Pass line. We moved rapidly through the check-in procedure, as the Carnival agent welcomed us back to Carnival. Walked right on board, and even the photographers had abandoned their posts by then! Our luggage arrived at our cabin right before the muster drill. We usually wait a little while before going to the muster drill to avoid ending up on the back row behind lots of people. This time they started the muster drill very quickly and were well into it when we arrived only about ten minutes late. So, this is the least painful muster drill we’ve ever experienced.
Cabin: We booked an aft balcony cabin, which had an extended balcony at the encouragement of some friends and our PVP, Barbaro. The aft balcony was an interesting tiered community. When you walk out to the balcony rail, you see everyone else who is standing at their rails as well, so we greeted one another with a hello or wave each time. We were on the top Verandah balcony, and the folks in the Lido pizza area looked time on our balcony, so there was no privacy! Additionally, when people moved the chairs around in the Lido area, it sounded like thunder in our room. The good news is it was a sound from nature that could be ignored. The bad news is it happened fairly often, so a lower aft balcony would have avoided that noise factor. We felt a little more movement and engine shudders aft than we did in more forward cabins. Our room steward was Wasson or Watson, I’m not sure which. He greeted us as we came and went from our cabin and kept our cabin spotless.
Entertainment: The only show we saw was the Welcome Aboard Show, which was interesting. Phat Kat was the comedian, and he was very funny. A bad singer playing the guitar played in the Casino bar, and we saw some folks doing country line dancing in that area a few times. An Asian gal sang with an Asian guy on the keyboards in the Atrium lobby bar. They sang great “lovers” songs, which lots of couples danced with. They were both very talented, and I wondered if she was the gal who was on American Idol that worked for Carnival, but I never asked her. There was a good string quartet and good pianist. We didn’t make it into the piano bar, and there was some old guys playing the blues, which didn’t appeal to us, but others enjoyed. Our favorite bars were the Casino bar and the Lobby bar, and we only found the Sports bar (in the back of the Casino) the last night!
Jamaica: We booked an independent tour by Internet before our cruise to visit YS Falls and tube the river. Jamaica was in drought condition when we were there, so the river was too low to raft. YS Falls were lovely with no vendors whatsoever. The steps to the falls were very manageable. You could swim in the area around the falls, and lots of folks were having a blast rope swinging. They also had a man-made pool fed by the spring, where I floated on a tube in just to relax and cool off on after before leaving the YS Falls. It was almost a two-hour drive each way to get there, however! One of the couples we dined with spent a wonderful day at Sunset Beach, where we’ll go if we ever visit Jamaica again.
Grand Cayman’s: We booked a snorkeling excursion with Buccaneers by Internet before the cruise. We had no problem walking to and finding their location. The bus ride to the boat was easy. There were about 40 people on our boat. We went to the Stingray sandbar first. Most of us just stood in the water enjoying the stingrays, rather than snorkeling in waist deep water. Some kids were afraid of them. Then we visited the Coral Reef and an area known as the Aquarium, both nearby. Some folks snorkeled, while others stayed on the boat to sun and nap. As we sailed back to our bus, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were offered for a price. Nice day!
Cozumel: We caught a cab to Paradise Beach … a beautiful, beautiful day, where we only paid for drinks and eats. Chairs and umbrellas were plentiful, without a crowd. I had a drink in a pineapple, while Roger had a bucket of beer. He had a wonderful quesadilla, and I had delicious grilled shrimp. Tents were set up where you could buy a massage, hairbraiding, and souvenirs. I asked a gal if she would simply French braid my hair, and she agreed to do so for a very reasonable price. We ended the day in the bar/restaurant area having fun! This was our best day on the whole cruise!
Dining: We had the late seating at 8 pm in the Monet dining room. The first night we were assigned to a table for two. Since we really enjoy dining with others on cruises, we asked to be seated at a larger table. The next night we were moved to a 10-top, with Ron and Bonnie, Mark and Judy, Bill and Kathy, and Joan and Linda. We had a great time getting to know all these folks, and by the last couple of nights of our cruise, we were all meeting for drinks in the Alfred’s Bar just before going to dinner. Our dining room team was Walter and Paula. We also had dinner in the Point Supper Club on our second formal night, and it was wonderful food and service. (Formal nights are Monday and Thursday.) Sushi was available on the Promenade deck every night from 5 to 8 p.m., and we enjoyed that as a pre-dinner snack. Pizza was great – I like the margaretta, and Roger likes the goat cheese and mushroom. We had all our meals in the dining room, and we called everything else we ate “snacks”.
Spa/Gym: I booked a Frangipane Oil Ritual Thursday afternoon in the spa at a reduced port price. It was a wonderful massage and hair treatment, and my hair was soft and manageable for the rest of the cruise, and I was so relaxed. Wonderful treatment by Lydia! Roger and I made it the gym only a couple of times. He used the free weights, while I walked on the treadmill.
Art Auction: We attended every art auction, led by J.C. and Linda Skidmore, and the art director, Jamie. We enjoy these, picked up a couple of new pieces of art, and saw lots of other pieces to save for on our next cruise.
Deck Chairs: Deck chairs were available all the time on this cruise … a first!
Disembarkation: Luggage out the night before, so we simply waited for our color to be called. We had no problem locating our luggage and smoothly exiting the terminal. We immediately found ourselves in a very long, very disorganized taxi line. Mardi Gras parades were occurring, so the taxis didn’t want to go anywhere except the airport. So, if you said a hotel name, they simply walked away. A traffic cop asked us to step aside, promising to get a driver to take us. When they ran out of folks to run to the airport, they finally started agreeing to take the rest of us. I don’t know if this was just because of Mardi Gras, or whether it’s always this way, but I would probably book a limousine if I ever travel out of that terminal again.
Post Cruise Stay: We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn West Bank. The rooms have outside entrances, which I feel less safe in. We were easy walking distance to a Popeye’s, a Shoney’s, and a couple of other places like that. A Mardi Gras parade passed nearby. Every room in the Holiday Inn smelled like cleaning ammonia. The room was comfortable, but nothing special. I wanted to catch up on my emails, so I was disappointed that the hotel had no business center. We hung out in the hotel bar to watch the Super Bowl with several other travelers. The bar offered free snacks, so we had a great time!
Air Transportation Home: We caught a cab from our hotel early on Monday morning, and flew Delta to Atlanta with no problem. While deboarding that flight, my husband received a cell phone call of a medical emergency at home. We glanced at the departure monitor and found a flight boarding for Little Rock right then, so we ran to that gate. The gate agent quickly made arrangements to get us on board, and the plane took off as soon as we boarded, getting us home four hours earlier and within an hour of receiving that call. Our luggage arrived later that afternoon with our original flight with no problems. Thanks, Delta – that was wonderful customer service! We’ll remember that next time we book a flight!
Overall: We’d give this cruise a 9 out of 10 … a great cruise! Great service from the friendliest crew we’ve met since our Paradise cruises! The CD was funny in a corny kind of way. The nice thing about cruises is that each one is unique. We slept more on this cruise than every before, because that’s what we needed, so we missed out on many great activities. We saw the Camp Carnival kids in activities several times, and they seemed to be having a great time. One afternoon, we saw parents doing silly things, and they explained they were participating with their kids in a Camp Carnival activity … way to go, parents! The kids would literally run ahead of their parents to get to their activities. I hope this review helps you enjoy your Carnival Conquest cruise as much as we did. The first thing we do after returning from a cruise is to book our next cruise, so we’re joining some friends we made on past cruises to sail on the Carnival Glory on September 24, 2005. Hope some of you reading this review will come along, so we’ll have more friends still!
Pictures: When our pictures are developed in the next few days, I’ll post them at http://community.webshots.com/user/judyjbest
for your viewing pleasure.