Iíd like to start by thanking Carnival for the steady flow of strong coffee! What a cruise!
We flew out to New Orleans on Saturday night and checked into the Ramada Limited in Metairie. They no longer have hourly shuttles to the French Quarters so we were stuck taking taxis. 9am Sunday morning we hopped on a taxi to the terminal. Tip #1, the taxiís MUST use the meter for any fares around town, except to the airport or Jazz Festivals, thatís the only time they can charge a flat rate. Most taxiís ďforgotĒ that law and it was a real fight to get the meter turned on. Also, if a taxi pulls up and sayís ďget in the front seatĒ, it probably means heís not supposed to be picking up in that city. There was NO line to check in at 9:30am and we were too early to board so we checked in then went to the River Walk Mall to do some shopping. I found that the people who DIDNíT have their fun pass have a shorter line! Go figure! The end of the River Walk mall borders the terminal so itís real close.
About 11am we decided to get in position to board the ship. By then, there was a long line. About 15 minutes in that line, to yellow chairs for 5 minutes, then another set of yellow chairs for another 5 minutes then itís through the photo spot, then security, then the ship. All in all it took about 40 minutes or less. Tip #2 Make sure you have all medicines and jewelry with you on your carryon! A suitcase was delivered to the wrong cabin and it was never returned. We talked to the lady who said her meds and jewelry were both in that suitcase. The first 3 days of her cruise were ruined!.
Finally! Weíre on the ship! We flew up to the Lido deck for some food and found our new home by the pool. We also met some other people who we spent a lot of sun time with. Roy, our bar waiter was excellent! He was always there when we needed a refill! Heís the reason I got so drunk before the ship ever set sail! Ok, it wasnít his fault I was drunk and sunburned on the first day.
Our cabin was on the Verandah deck 8. Cabin 8227 which was in the bow (front of the ship). Great spot since our hang out spot was the Sky Pool just one flight up on deck 9 (Lido). We didnít notice much movement at all in the cabin. There was a slight vibration and an occasional bump when we hit a deer or speed bump.
At about 6pm the Carnival Conquest set sail. Oh what a feeling! She makes a U-turn on the Mississippi river and you would swear that sheís too long for that. All was well and we were sailing on the river (something we didnít get to do last time). Tip # 3 This is a good time for the camera!
Even though the ship was completely sold out, there were always elevators handy and it never seemed too crowded. An occasional line at the buffet or hamburger grill quickly dwindled down. The breakfast buffet was a little disappointing after about the 3rd day. It was always the same. Although very good, I was hoping for a change. Lunch and dinner buffet changed every day. That was pretty nice. If you have small children, they may not enjoy the food as much. No mac ní cheese or grilled cheese on this cruise! Iím hoping Carnival will consider the toddlers and children in their future plans. My 9 year old would have starved on this ship as she is a picky eater. We only had dinner in the Monet once as weíre simple ďmeat and potatoesĒ kinda people. Dave said the lobster was tough and over cooked. My filet mignon was perfect.
Day 1 Ė at sea
It was straight to our new home by the pool with our new friends. Most of the day was spent lounging and drinking which I almost never do at home. Tip #4 Suntan lotion with 8 proof was not enough to keep me from burning! 30 proof worked fine.
Day 2 Ė at sea
This is the day that I really became fond of the coffee machines on the Lido deck. Tip #5 For those of you who like to drink coffee a lot, bring your own insulated travel mugs to keep it hotter longer. Those travel mugs also hold a lot more. I also found out that Tequila is not something I should drink on a regular basis. My poor stomach! Today was a relaxing day. We just muddled around the ship and enjoyed the shows. The midnight comedy at 11pm (I donít make this up) was Phat Kat. Heís pretty funny.
Day 3 Ė Montego Bay, Jamaica (Appleton Rum Factory tour Ė Carnival tour)
We booked the Appleton Estate Rum Factory tour through Carnival. Our last trip to Mo Bay was not a good one so we felt safer on a ship tour. A 2 hour white-knuckle ride into the forest was very interesting. Tip # 10 (sorry, just thought of it) If you brought empty zip lock type bags on the ship, you can grab snacks on the ships buffet to take with you onto long tours like this. I also brought a 6 pack of PowerAde which came in handy. The weather was awesome! At about 75 degrees with minor humidity, we were happy! Most of the people in the country were living in shacks although there was no trash. I didnít see ANY house cats. ALL of the children were in their spotless and pressed school uniforms. The Appleton factory is really big and beautiful. The tour itself was about Ĺ hour then they brought us back to the main ďhouseĒ for an awesome lunch. We got to sample rum and raw sugar cane. The 18 rum samples really helped alleviate the stress when it started pouring down rain and the shuttle driver was doing 50 down a windy mountain road, 4Ē off the back bumper of the guy in front of us. What a ride! The rain only lasted a couple of minutes then it was back to sunshine. The cruise terminal was super crowded by then. Tip #6 if you want any souvenirs and donít plan to go into town, get your shopping done first! We could hardly get into the stores as they were so crowded. EVERYBODY sayís ďletís wait so we donít have to carry it aroundĒ. It was like a hot dog stand at the super bowl! OH! Donít bother buying Rum at the Appleton Estate! Itís cheaper at most other places.
Day 4 Ė Grand Cayman Island (Sting Ray city Ė Captain Marvinís)
Once again we booked Captain Marvinís. We arrived at 9:15am for the 10am tour. The shuttle was ready for us early so we hopped on. The 10 minute ride proved to be very enlightening and heartbreaking. Hurricane Ivan really punched this tiny little island. Many, many doors and windows are still boarded up. Roofs are still ďmissingĒ and boats, covered in mud are being left for repairs or insurance fights. It was really sad to see all the devastation. A couple of boat docks were sideways with mast tips sticking out of the water (sunken sail boats still in the water). As a boat owner, and a human, my heart really goes out to these people who suffered. They said they had no where to hide. Some hotel owners donít plan to repair. They have opted to leave GC. Enough of the bad stuff. We boarded Capt.ís Jimmy (one of Captain Marvinís boats) and headed out. More devastation could be seen along the way as well as Iguanaís and an occasional sea turtle. Since the weather was so nice and the sea was so calm, they opted to give us a peak at the barrier reef. From the ocean side!! Fantastic! We were the only group on that side of the reef. The other 8 boats were on the inside. Yes, we got to snorkel! So much to see! Tip #7 donít forget to put suntan lotion on your behind! When youíre snorkeling, itís your backside that will be topside!
Day 5 Ė Cozumel Mexico (Swim with Sea Lions Ė Dolphin Discovery)
We arrived in Cozumel at 10am and took a taxi to Channakab park which is about 10 minutes away. Checked in and waited until it was our turn to swim with the Sea Lions. A man brought out a Macaw to take pictures with. I guess the bird wasnít interested so he flew away. Yip, gone. Ok, that was exciting. We put on our life jackets to get into 5í of water then the Sea Lions came out. Awesome! I have wanted to do this since I was a little girl. We were in a show type setting with seating just like a water show at the local zoo complete with a stage, speakers etc. This time, we werenít watching a show, we were in it! The Sea Lions did a few tricks. . Oops, there goes the Macaw up into the trees with his trainer right behind him! . . then they had the Sea Lions kiss each of us. Holly Cow! Their snout is so soft even with their whiskers. A professional photographer was on hand taking lots of pictures that they will sell you later. One of the Sea Lions wasnít in the mood to participate so she ignored the trainer and swam around. They finally had to get out the net. I wasnít sure what the net was for but apparently the Sea Lion knew the net well. She quickly got out of the water with her head down. The trainers seemed to love the Sea Lions as the trainers didnít get mad when they wouldnít listen. It seemed like just another spring day at the zoo. After we were done with the Sea Lions, we followed our friends to the dolphin swim as we were taking turns taking pictures of each other. The dolphin swim setting is completely different as itís out in the ocean, not a pool. They caged off part of the beach with docks, fences and individual enclosures. A total of 24 dolphins were jumping around, pulling and pushing people through the water. There goes the Macaw again. This time he had 6 little black birds chasing him. The bird trainer was just sitting on the planter waiting for him to come down. And you think you have a boring job!! We were allowed to go into the dolphin swim area to take pictures of our friends. After a few minutes of that, Iím glad we chose the sea lion swim. There were about 12 people to each dolphin. Only 5 people in our Sea Lion swim. Tip # 8 Donít forget your underwater camera for either of these activities! I should have brought my Cannon with the zoom lens too. Oh well. Before leaving we saw the Macaw sitting in a palm tree. The trainer told us that the little birds wonít let him come down. Itís happened before!
Before going back to the ship, I was forced to go shopping. Hee hee . . poor me! The guys decided that they had enough shopping so us girls took off. She had gone into a store while I checked out the goodies in one of those little gift carts. There were some crafty little goodies on that cart then I noticed a man behind me. He was watching me while talking on his cell phone. The man followed me around the cart, so I took an extra lap!!! Heíll thank me for that someday. After bargaining for a little gadget thing ($35 down to $15), his buddy sayís ďdonít forget my tipĒ. I said ďtip? For what?Ē. He said ďfor my cokeĒ. I told him that I donít do coke then his buddy (the one breathing heaving from chasing me) sayís that he wanted a dollar tip too! Iím not one to get scared and give them what they want in a crowed shopping area. I took another lap! Thatís just too much fun. They both followed me around the cart that time! The only tip he got was ďdonít mess with the white girl doing laps around Mexico!Ē.
There is a bar at the port in Cozumel. We found a bunch of the ship crew getting ďrelaxedĒ. It was great to see them having a good time. Ok, so we had some fun too.
Day 6 Ė at sea (the last full day of our vacation)
Ahh . . We get to sleep in! Ok, its 8am, thatís enough sleep. Ya donít wanna miss anything! Itís the last day and we plan to drink ourselves stupid! Weíre going to party like we are 20 again! Well, I did manage to get a load of laundry done after drinking a gallon of that famous ďkick you in the headĒ Carnival Coffee. We were so tired! It was nice to be able to relax. Most people around the ship were doing the same thing. We packed our suitcases so we didnít have to deal with it later. Tip #9 We brought 3 suit cases and a garment bag. Weíre leaving with 6 suit cases and a garment bag (he blames me for shopping too much, it canít be the 12 bottles of rum!). The trick is to start the trip with empty (yes, empty) duffle bags packed in your suit cases so you have a way to bring back all the goodies you bought in port. We also ran to pick up our pictures that we had developed on the ship. Iím bummed that they donít develop onto a disk. Iíll just scan them later I guess.
Tip #11 One bottle of 30 proof suntan spray wasnít enough for the two of us. The spray was great but the wind took some of it. Lotion would go further.
Tip #12 It gets pretty windy on the upper decks in the evenings. I donít wear hats normally but my hair kept whipping me in the face. I now wear hats! We also had to buy sweatshirts in the ship gift shop as we werenít planning for the cool temps (we did bring a heavier jacket but that was too much). Shopping again? Oh darn!
Day 7 Ė New Orleans
We decided to hang out on the ship for a while to let the crowd disperse. Finding luggage was easy since half of the warehouse was empty by then and we marked our luggage. There was a nice long line for taxiís out front and lots of Taxi Police (itís a good thing most of the people are gone already!). Getting a taxi without a porter was almost impossible. You really have to get your boxing gloves on for that fight. Porters get first pick of taxis. Tip #13 If you want a taxi right away, have a porter handle your luggage (donít forget to tip them).
After dropping off our luggage back at the Ramada Limited in Metairie, we took yet another taxi back down to the French Quarters. Lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp was excellent! I had heard bad reviews but decided to keep my mouth shut and try it. All 4 of us loved it!
Bourbon Street and a couple of the surrounding streets stink! All we could smell was sewer and vomit. At times the smell alone made me want to vomit. The weather was warm with a slight breeze. Thunderstorms forecasted for tomorrow night. We had to stop by. . I forgot the name. the place with the Beignets! Those are good! Donít inhale when you are taking a bite! They arenít shy with the powdered sugar! We decided to take a ride on one of the horse drawn carriages through town. . . until we saw the price! It was $60 for Ĺ hour or $120 for 1 hour. OUCH! Thatís ok, weíll walk! By now weíre feeling the affects of the drinks we got at Bubba Gump Shrimp. The sun is going down but itís still warm. My memory gets foggy right about here. I remember taking my sweatshirt off and grabbing a drink refill. The next morning I had a pile of beads on the table in our hotel room. Enough said! We had a great time.
This is our last day of vacation. Tomorrow, we have to be at the airport by 5:30am and I still donít have any Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for the kids! They wonít let me back in the house without those! Looking them up on the internet provided false results. There is no Krispy Kreme in New Orleans by Jacks Brewery. By now Iím getting rather frustrated as my mouth is watering for a fresh Krispy Kreme. Ok, weíll find another one later. We spent most of the day shopping around getting souvenirs for family and friends. Time to eat. It was unanimous, back to Bubba Gump Shrimp for a late lunch. No drinks this time! That southern fried chicken is the best! The shrimp in the bucket was a hit too.
Enough is enough. We were all ready to get back home as vacationing is a lot of work. Grabbing another taxi proved challenging since it was only about 4pm. Taxis were everywhere last night! 4 blocks later, we found a nice taxi driver from Egypt who knew of a Krispy Kreme by the hotel. His family is also addicted to those doughnuts. That proved to be the most expensive donuts weíve ever eaten! When the meter on the taxi is still running . . . you get the idea.
Day 8 Ė going home
Oh boy are we ready to go home! Itís 4:30am!
At around nooníish our flight lands in Oregon. It seems that the airline used our largest piece of luggage as the runway! The front was extremely dirty with tread marks on the back. Then we noticed that the plastic handle that you pull up is all bent up. Itís hammered! Iím not one to stress about things like that. No big deal. The gentleman said they can either send it in for repairs or he can give me $50 for it. Hmm . . Long story, short, I walked away with $100 ! Bonus! I didnít even make him do laps!