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southla

Just off the Conquest 2/13/05

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A little background on us: My DW and I are 32 and 38 respectively, and this is my 2nd, her 5th cruise. We live north of New Orleans and hope this review helps people make an informed decision on their next cruise vacation. We sailed out of New Orleans 2/13/05 on the Carnival Conquest and gathered many tips from the Cruise Critic website, so now it’s time to give something back.

 

 

 

Parking on Arrival:

 

Having sailed from New Orleans last April, and living only 60 miles north, we were well aware of the parking chaos at the port. The construction for the new parking garage has eliminated all parking at the dock for the next couple of years, according to our driver from Macchu Pichuu tours….the offsite location where we parked our car. This is a small tour operation that’s opened up part of their fenced, covered garage area for cruise passengers to pay n park. Their rates were $72 (cash only on arrival) for 7 days ($12 less than the Fulton Street Garage or Carnival lots), but I’ve since noticed on their website, that the price has risen to $79. They were great to work with but a little hard to find in the maze of streets that lie north of the cruise terminal. Due to a wrong turn, we didn’t arrive at the parking area until 12:10 pm, but it turned out to be a blessing. Apparently this is THE time to arrive, since most of the departing passengers and eager beavers had already cleared the area. Our driver said he knew of an area just outside the terminal doors where no one ever stops to let people off, and sure enough, we pulled up literally 30 feet from the doors, in front of all the full sized tour busses that were shuttling people from the Fulton Street garage. He helped unload our bags, and in less than a minute, a porter was there, taking our checked luggage (and tip), and then we were off to the maze.

 

 

 

Embarkation:

 

Arrival at the terminal was just after 12:30 and we were in line for 12:35. We read the paper they handed out concerning Norovirus precautions, and then entered the back and forth lines of “the maze” with our completed funpasses in hand. We were only in THAT line for about 10 minutes before being waved down to a friendly gate agent. In 5 minutes she had checked our ID’s and Birth Certificates, and filled out the credit card info for the sail and sign account. So we scribbled our signatures at the appropriate places, and off we went to…………the yellow chairs!!!! But luckily we got to walk right by them and hopped in a line of about 75 people waiting to have that wonderfully exciting (not) boarding picture taken. Just get me on the ship please!!! I wanted to bypass, but the DW loves her pictures, so we waited about 15 minutes in this line, had the picture made, and ventured through the security scanner. After that it was up the gangway, showing everyone that asked your ID and Sail and Sign (don’t put ‘em away folks), and finally on the ship at 1:15pm. So from Arrival at Macchu Pichuu to getting onboard was only about an hour. I loved it. First stop was at the table for the supper club to make a reservation for Tuesday night, and then up to our room to drop off our carryon luggage. We had room 8277 on the Verandah deck. We’d had a balcony in the past so new what to expect, and it was the same as last time, just reversed since we were on the starboard side this time instead of port.

 

 

 

 

 

Heading out of New Orleans was a little disappointing because of a chilly rain that was falling, but brighter skies were ahead we were sure. With the Conquest moving at 22kts there is always a breeze on deck, so the cool air we were running away from, kept us inside most of the night and some of the next day. But there’s always something to do.

 

 

 

The Cruise Director for our trip was Steve Cassel, and I must say he didn’t impress me much. He was corny in a Gomer Pyle sort of way, and reminded me of one of the Sesame Street characters, but I can’t remember which one. He had little or no interaction that I saw with guests away from the tour talks and emceeing shows that he did. I guess Corey Schmidt had spoiled me on our last cruise on the conquest…He was awesome. Steve was a talented juggler, and fiddle player, but too many corny jokes got annoying. Fortunately for future cruisers I hear Steve has moved on from the Conquest. Hope your new CD is a good one.

 

 

 

Overall the ship is beautiful, and yes at times a little frustrating to navigate (pun intended). On decks 3 and 4 you can’t go from front to back without walking through a restaurant, but during the day, they left the doors open so it usually wasn’t a problem…only after 5:30 when the first seating had started did you have to take the stairs. One thing we did notice on this trip was the amount of motion. Seas were only 2-4 ft at the worst, but there was a constant sway to the ship. I made a point of talking to Captain Massimo Marino outside the Captain’s party, as he was just standing around looking bored, and I asked him about using stabilizers. He said they don’t use them unless “absolutely necessary” and that they were not being used on our trip. I guess this reaffirms what I read elsewhere about the possibility of the captain getting a bonus based on reduced fuel consumption. Stabilizers cause drag which cause engines to work harder and burn more fuel…it all makes since now.

 

 

 

It’s a shame that these beautiful ships have turned into mass marketing vehicles for a myriad of Carnival products. From the Carnival Vacation club, to the Sea miles credit card, to the expensive Spa services, the tour talks, the shopping talk, and the Art Auction, you feel as if it’s a 24 hour telemarketing call …and your living in it!!! That was probably my biggest gripe out of the whole trip, being politely inundated with sales pitches for this or that. I know, I put myself in a position to hear some of them, but still, I should hear about the itinerary and what a relaxing vacation I’m about to have at the welcome aboard show, not how great of a deal the super shopper was going to get us on Black Coral. <stepping off of soap box now>.

 

 

 

Jamaica

 

Having been to Margaritaville before, we opted to try Sunset Beach after reading all the great reviews off of this website and many others. It was well worth it. For a 5 minute, $4 cab ride and a $20/person entrance, you get a ton of water sports, beach lounging, food and drinks (Alcoholic included). We even got to witness a wedding on the beach while at the resort so that was kind of neat. Bring your own mug and they’ll make your drinks up for you in that, instead of the dinky little plastic cups. One thing we didn’t find out until leaving, is that the drinks from the bar by the beach seemed to be a bit weaker than the one’s from the lobby bar. As we checked out for the day, we decided to get “one to go” and had a “nuts n berries” made in our 32 oz mugs at the lobby bar, and it was AWESOME. I can still taste that thing. We didn’t try the pool bar but I’d read they made good drinks there as well. At 2:30 our cab driver was waiting at the gate for us, and brought us right back to the ship. No Problem Mon!!

 

 

 

Grand Cayman

 

We were one of 7 ships anchored off shore in Grand Cayman. This made for a very interesting time at the tender port. Lots of hurry up and wait. Get on the tender, head to the port and wait for the double decker in front to unload. The photographers, who were slowing things up even more, compounded the wait. And then trying to elbow through the sea of humanity at the pier just to find some bare concrete…man, I was tired and it was only 10:30. DW and I decided to go snorkeling just behind a little restaurant to the right of the tender port…about a ½ mile walk. For $36 the two of us were outfitted with gear AND rented a small locker to put our stuff in while we were in the water. The water was cold when you first got in, but after a couple minutes you got used to it. There were fish everywhere, and if you had some food (which was sold at the rental shack) you would get swarmed with color. We snorkeled about a hour and a half, and during that time saw many fish in the clear water and the colors really popped when the sun came out from behind the clouds. There was even a small school of 4 ft Tarpon that kept cruising by…pretty amazing being so close to fish that put up such a fight on the end of a rod and reel. And again, this was all within sight of the Conquest behind us, and the street in front of us. Well worth not shelling out the $80 for a “sponsored” snorkel tour. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it had a small beach with chairs next to it, and the entryway to the water had a sign above with “Eden Rock” on it….you can’t miss it.

 

 

 

Cozumel

 

Got off the ship about 10:00 am and breezed right through the shops at the pier in search of a taxi. For those who’ve never been, the taxi’s are to the left and away from the pier. Prices for taxi rides are prominently posted for all to see. We headed to Paradise Beach on the recommendation of many Cruise Critic reviewers, and it was $13 one way. This is an awesome beach stop. You pay no entry fee to the bar/restaurant area or beach, but if you want to use a chair it’s $5/person. They give you an arm band to keep tabs on who has paid. Since DW explodes when in the sun, we didn’t lay out, but instead walked the beach to take some pictures, and then crashed at the bar to have a “Dirty Banana” and an awesome plate of Guacamole and chips. It was a fun place to hang out, the staff was polite and attentive, and the scenery was great. Your $5 also gets you use of a water trampoline, “iceberg” climbing rock floaty-thing, and water kayaks.

 

 

 

We then headed into town to go do some shopping, and after arguing with the cab driver that it didn’t cost $20 to get us from Paradise beach to the Forum shops, he settled for the $13 that we had been told was the price by our former cabbie, and the man at the taxi stand outside Paradise beach. I hate the haggling that goes on with the shopping in Cozumel, but others may like it. It just gets me frustrated because I know that they are trying to screw the customer from the get go. Anyway, after walking out of many shops “downtown” we ended up finding the identical ring my wife was looking for near the pier, for less than half the price asked in town. On our prior trip the pier area seemed more expensive…go figure.

 

 

 

Dining

 

OK…coming from Louisiana, we know good food….not just pretty food, but tasty food as well. And I’m sorry folks, but I was NOT impressed at all with the dining room foods. There was a great selection and an awesome “sounding” menu, but upon arrival about 50% of our selections were lukewarm at best and the rest had no real flavor. Maybe it’s just my uneducated palate, but I like some seasoning on my food. Now don’t get me wrong, the prime rib was tender, and some of the shrimp dishes were pretty good, but overall I’d give the dining room food a 6 out of 10. The entire “experience” was nice, especially since my DW and I had a table for 2 and we enjoyed being waited on every night, but it’s definitely nothing to write home about. I had these same feeling on the last trip we were on, but I figured maybe it was just a bad week. For a second time though, we had the same experience. This is just one person’s opinion, and mainly focused on the dining room. Our waiter “Ceasar Salad” and his assistant “James Bond” were great. They made a point of talking to us every night and inquiring about our day, etc., something that was lacking on our last cruise. They were also insistent upon bringing us extra food at every meal…always bring us “something to try”, like an order of prime rib to go with the shrimp..lol. We weren’t asking for it, it just showed up !! The Pizzeria and the Grill on deck 9 at the back of the ship were great, as was the 24hr softserve ice cream. The Omelets for breakfast were good, but the line was long and the breakfast buffet was just OK. However, that hot chocolate machine kicks butt !! The Chocolate buffet is overhyped, and frankly didn’t have anything that really appealed to me. I expect everything on it to be chocolate, but it’s far from it, and what is on it, just isn’t that tasty. The sweetness that you’d expect just wasn’t there for me.

 

 

 

The Point Supper Club

 

We went to the Point on Tuesday night expecting an “experience” due to other reviews we had read, and unfortunately I guess my expectations were too high. The service was awesome, and the food was great…presented in little dishes on top of other dishes, with twirly things and dollops of sauces artistically painted on the plates. It was an impressive sight. The Surf and turf was excellent with the lobster being MUCH better than what is served in the dining room. And who’d have though Pumpkin Ravioli could taste so good. But I’d read that there was live music and Dancing and the lights simulated going from twilight to dusk to night as the meal went on. Well, there was none of that during our visit. And the most disappointing thing of all, is that the dessert menu had been changed the week before. I was looking forward to the trio of Crème Brule but had to settle for cheesecake instead. Now this was one heck of a good cheescake mind you, so it made up for my disappointment. The wife had…you guessed it …chocolate, and from the look on her face it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’d do the Point again, but it was definitely worth it at least once.

 

 

 

Beverages

 

Drinks of the day started off great, but went down hill. Definitely get a couple the first day, they were strong and had a good flavor. I didn’t care for the ones we tried after that. At the Captains welcome aboard party and the past cruisers party, remember that you DON’T have to drink only those drinks that are passed around; head to the rear of the Degas Lounge and order drinks right from a bartender. She was more than happy to make frozen mudslides for me and the DW. We gave her a couple of dollars tip for her efforts. Some old guys next to us found out they could get Courvoisier, or was it Cognac?? … And must have drank a whole bottle.

 

 

 

Entertainment:

 

We went to FORMIDABLE on the first formal night mainly because we didn’t see it last go round, and it was OK. Flashy, and Las Vegas style…lots of feathers and skin. They could have left the “gay Paris” number out, but I guess the not so male dancers forced that one in. One thing I will encourage everyone to do, is track down a duo called Two’s Company that plays in various locations around the ship. This is a Philippino couple that can play. Mary sings and can nail Whitney Houston’s high notes, and Roger plays keyboards and runs the electronic sound gear. We discovered them one night around midnight playing to a near empty atrium. But word must have got out, because on Thursday, the second formal night, the lobby was packed to hear them. People were crowding the railings for 4 decks peering over wondering who that was belting out tunes from Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, and Gloria Estefan. Again I can’t reiterate enough, don’t miss these two.

 

 

 

Lost money at Bingo, and casino, but still had a good time. The not so newlywed game was hilarious, and the comedians were OK. Phat Cat has a great R rated show one night, as did Hugh McNaultey. The ventriloquist act was so-so, and we didn’t see the magic show. Steve Cassel did a juggling routine one night and it was impressive. That and his fiddle plying the night of the guest talent show were definitely the highlights of his participation on the cruise. The participants in the guest talent show were good as well. There is also a Motown show with Ron Joseph that’s pretty good. It was better on our first cruise because he goes out in the audience and sings to ladies, and on that cruise the crowd was “into it”. This time everyone was more reserved, and it brought the energy down a lot, but still a good singer.

 

 

 

Debarkation:

 

Getting of the ship was not too bad. Had to be out of room by 8:30 or so, and they called our color around 9. We were through customs by 9:15 am and searched for luggage for about 15 minutes. After that we ventured outside and called Macchu Picchu to come pick us up, and our driver was already at the terminal waiting. He was parked in nearly the same spot just outside the doors. We loaded up luggage, and 15 minutes later were back at our car. So by 10:15 or so we were on the road headed back to reality.

 

 

 

Comments:

 

Overall we had a great trip. There’s nothing like not having to cook or clean anything for an entire week. Not to mention being able to walk out on your balcony in a bathrobe as the sun is coming up and watch the islands come into view. Late nights out there with a bottle of Asti are pretty good too. For those worried about getting liquor on board, don’t be. Wrap it up, put it in your suitcase and it’ll meet you in the room. We had 4 bottles and they all made it safe and sound. The same goes for taking liquor off. I carried 4 bottles off in a plainly marked box from the gift shop, and there are no questions asked.

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Sounds like you had a great time!!!

Did you take any pictures?

Can't wait until 3/27..when we will be on the Conquest.

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Thanks for the review. Disappointing about the cruise director.

 

 

We are leaving for NOLA today. We're going to skip the supper club on the ship, I'd rather spend my eating cash in NOLA. Going to Jacques Imo, Maximo, Cafe Degas and Feelings. Will also hit Uglesich's and Mothers. Cafe Dumond, of course and the central grocery. I don't expect the ship's food to compare.

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southla- thanks so much for the review. We are staying in the same cabin in June. Balcony cabin #8277. Did you find the room convenient and was the balcony fairly private. Do you think you would choose the port side next time? Were you able to see the ports of call from you balcony or were they mostly on the port side? We were on the Conquest back in Sept 2004(ocean view on the Riviera deck) and I totally agree with you about the food and the CD. I was never totally impressed with the food, it was always just OK. I do not cruise for the food because we all know they are feeding over 3000 people every night but they sure could learn something about spices from their home port, NO. We are looking forward to the cruise in June an welcome any information you can offer about the room. We are also going to Sunset Beach Resort, and Paradise Beach, however we will be going to stingray city but going through one of the on line services.

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Just a few comments about the cruise. We also used Macchu Pichuu and felt it was wonderful. We also found it a little hard to find and recomended to them they get a larger sign. All were very friendly and the process was much easier than shuttling to a parking garage from the terminal. I called as we were leaving the ship and the van was waiting for us when we walked out of the terminal. There are a sister and brother who work there who are from Israel and they are an absolute delight.

 

Embarkation turned out to be much easier than I thought. My husband and I both use canes and as soon as we got in the line we were pulled out by a carnival representative and helped through the process. In retrospect, I now know that if I had notified Carnival beforehand they would have helped me out anyway. All were cordial and helpful.

 

I love the comparison of Steve Cassel to a Sesame Street character. He had a loveable goofy quality but I never saw him except on the TV. Guess we didn't hang out in the right places. We had sailed on the Conquest 2 years ago and saw all the shows so opted out.

 

As far as the constant sway of the ship-you are so right. I was seasick in the Mississippi-but only that night, however I did notice the constant motion. I thought it was because we were on the Panorama Aft but evidently it was evidenced everwhere.

 

Shipdays were wonderful and we didn't even go ashore in Georgetown. The ship was great that day. The hot tub was mine.

 

Jamaica, which had previously been my least favorite port, but thanks to Carolyn Barrett, it has now moved to number one. She is definitely the best tour guide I have ever encountered anywhere and will tailor your day to suit you. She is a fountain of knowledge about Carribbean history and Jamaica. Do not be afraid to take her tours-you will not regret it. I came away with a feeling of respect for the Jamaican people and their world. It was a peek into a world I had not seen and I am thankful for the experience.

 

Cozumel meant the Fiesta Party Boat (a Cozumel tradition for DH), and enjoyed it as always for the grand experience of people watching for which it is intended. If you go say hello to the slightly older gent who wanders the ship selling overpriced necklaces and such. Tell him the nurse said "HI"

 

The buffet did not seem as good as last time. Food was indeed lukewarm, and I mourn the loss of President's butter. The dining room was excellent.

 

Overall, it was a wonderful cruise. I came back relaxed and freckled. What else can you ask? Now we are busy planning our next but might branch out to another cruise line for the southern islands.

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Tncruiselover I will be looking forward to your review when you return. We are sailing in Oct and have cabin 8249..just a few doors from you. We also plan on going to Sunset beach and Paradise Beach ..we are doing stingray city through Captain Marvins I believe.

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I read that the ship has some movement. Was this just during the days at sea or was there much movement in the Mississippi on the way to the gulf?

Never having been out of New Orleans, how long does it take to get from the port at N.O. to the gulf?

Later

Thanks

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Thanks for the review DH and 2 DD sailing in June. Planning to spend 3 days pre-cruise in New Orleans. Any suggestions for don't miss greatly appreciated.:)

 

 

Elation 1998

 

Triumph 2001

 

Conquest 2005

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The movement of the ship, I thought, was pretty bad. I have heard so many different remarks about movement so I had dramamine with me but did not use it, except for last day, which was the worst. Most of the days we were gone, you could sit on the lido deck and look over the railing and watch the horizon dip back and forth. It was a strange feeling. We stayed on the Riviera deck and in the middle so we didn't feel it so badly at night. It took several days to get back to normal when we got home. It is also strange to weave back and forth when you walk. We did this on board all the time. So if this seems odd to anyone then the rumours about not using the stabalizers must be true, because we were always moving back and forth.

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We are sailing on the Conquest in March. We are also booked with Macchu Pichuu for parking. Can anyone tell me how much to tip the shuttle driver each way?

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Great review. When I sailed on her in December, i was trying to pin Steve Cassel to someone I recognized. You have hit the nail on the head. A total Gomer Pyle!!!:D

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Thanks for the great review. I can't wait till our March 27 journey as well. I believe it is about a 4 hour voyage down the river to get into the gulf. We are also going to sunset beach and paradise beach. We booked a stingray snorkel trip with Native Way in GC.

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southla- thanks so much for the review. We are staying in the same cabin in June. Balcony cabin #8277. Did you find the room convenient and was the balcony fairly private. Do you think you would choose the port side next time? Were you able to see the ports of call from you balcony or were they mostly on the port side? We were on the Conquest back in Sept 2004(ocean view on the Riviera deck) and I totally agree with you about the food and the CD. I was never totally impressed with the food, it was always just OK. I do not cruise for the food because we all know they are feeding over 3000 people every night but they sure could learn something about spices from their home port, NO. We are looking forward to the cruise in June an welcome any information you can offer about the room. We are also going to Sunset Beach Resort, and Paradise Beach, however we will be going to stingray city but going through one of the on line services.

 

TNCruiselover...

 

8277 is easily accessed from the elevators just behind the atrium(the glass elevators). Once on deck 8 it's only about 7 rooms from the elevator bay, but rest assured we heard no noise from people using the elevators. since the room is more forward on the ship it's close to the shops/photo gallery/ and the Tolouse Lautrec lounge where the main shows are. The balcony is great, but it's only private if your neighbors don't peek around the partition...lol. You can definitely hear anything "going on" next door, and in our case last year we were next to a group of party intensive folks who actually had 3 balconys with all the partitions opened between them. This time we had older and much quieter couples on either side of us and it was great.

 

AS for seeing ports from the balcony, it depends on how he parks it in Jamaica..in 2004 port side was away from dock, 2005 starboard was away from dock. I think it's because they test run the lifeboats from a particular side while in Montego Bay, so depend on which side is in need of the tests deterimines how they dock.

 

Grand Cayman you anchor out, so you can see the shore from either side. Cozumel both times the port side was against the dock, and this is awesome if your room is on that side. Watching the drunks from your balcony, stumble down the pier trying to reboard, is hilarious.

 

Sunset beach -- if the beach bar drinks seem weak, go try a "nut and berries" from the lobby bar, and at Paradise beach get a "dirty banana" !! Yumm

 

Enjoy your trip!!

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I read that the ship has some movement. Was this just during the days at sea or was there much movement in the Mississippi on the way to the gulf?

Never having been out of New Orleans, how long does it take to get from the port at N.O. to the gulf?

Later

Thanks

 

Most of the movement we felt was during the days at sea in the gulf. It wasn't as bad as a roller coaster at Disney ;) but it was definitely noticable. The runs between the islands weren't too bad. I think it takes 8 hrs to get from New Orleans to the the mouth of the Mississippi river.

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The movement of the ship, I thought, was pretty bad. I have heard so many different remarks about movement so I had dramamine with me but did not use it, except for last day, which was the worst. Most of the days we were gone, you could sit on the lido deck and look over the railing and watch the horizon dip back and forth. It was a strange feeling. We stayed on the Riviera deck and in the middle so we didn't feel it so badly at night. It took several days to get back to normal when we got home. It is also strange to weave back and forth when you walk. We did this on board all the time. So if this seems odd to anyone then the rumours about not using the stabalizers must be true, because we were always moving back and forth.

 

I'm glad it wasn't just my DW and I that had that "loopy" feeling for the couple of days after the trip. I guess this is what you get when cruising in the "winter".

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We are going on a cruise in April and would like some information on how to get a hold of Macchu Picchu Tours in New Orleans. A phone number or web site would be great. Thanks

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We are going on a cruise in April and would like some information on how to get a hold of Macchu Picchu Tours in New Orleans. A phone number or web site would be great. Thanks

 

Check 'em out at http://www.machupicchutours.com

 

Once on the webpage, click the tab that says "cruise ship services" for information on cruise parking. Looks like current price is $79 for a 7-day cruise. We paid $72 only 2 weeks ago. I guess word is getting out.

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southla- thanks so much for the review. We are staying in the same cabin in June. Balcony cabin #8277. Did you find the room convenient and was the balcony fairly private. Do you think you would choose the port side next time? Were you able to see the ports of call from you balcony or were they mostly on the port side? We were on the Conquest back in Sept 2004(ocean view on the Riviera deck) and I totally agree with you about the food and the CD. I was never totally impressed with the food, it was always just OK. I do not cruise for the food because we all know they are feeding over 3000 people every night but they sure could learn something about spices from their home port, NO. We are looking forward to the cruise in June an welcome any information you can offer about the room. We are also going to Sunset Beach Resort, and Paradise Beach, however we will be going to stingray city but going through one of the on line services.

 

My hubby and I are also booked on the Conquest in June and are first time cruisers. We would love to meet some other people going on the cruise! Any reccommendations for first-timers?

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Southla,

 

Thanks a bunch for the Machu Picchu tours information. That's one less thing I have to worry about before my cruise in April.

 

CatEngr

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We are sailing on the Conquest in March. We are also booked with Macchu Pichuu for parking. Can anyone tell me how much to tip the shuttle driver each way?
When we were there in January, I tipped the Macchu Pichuu driver $3 each time for the two of us. He seemed pleased.

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We were a party of four and tipped ten.

Also-just FYI-we went miles looking for a store to buy soda just before boarding and guess what is one block from Machu Picchu? A huge -very nice looking all brick Wal Mart. We laughed till we cried. A very handy thing to know. I don't remember the address, but if you download the map on the MP site it clearly shows a Walmart. Guess I should have looked closer.

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Southla- Thanks so much for the information. I thought I had made a big mistake not booking a cabin on the port side of the ship. I believe this cabin will be a great location, close to everything, very convenient. I certainly hope we do not end up with your first set of neighbors. I am all for a good time but when in my cabin I would like some peace and quiet and save the party time for the clubs and other public areas.

 

Did you really need a bungee cord for the balcony door?

Again, thanks so much. We can not wait until June. :D

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