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Finfan97

Conquest Review (4/17-4/24) - Very Detailed

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Having picked up some great tips from this board, I want to return the favor by posting this review of our cruise on the Conquest (April 17-24). On the trip were my wife and I, our nanny and our 3 kids (5 ½ and close to 3 yr. old twins).

Embarkation

We flew in the day of departure and took a limo service to the airport. I would recommend the company we used, Asuperior (866-546-6259). They were reliable, and for a family with kids they were much cheaper ($60 + $5 tip) than a shuttle or taxi. We arrived at the port at about 3:00 and there was a large line of people waiting to board. The Carnival rep that handled our paperwork did not seem very knowledgeable and had a particularly hard time figuring out what do to with our nanny who is from Germany. After close to a half hour we finally got everything straightened out. Because we had young children in a stroller, the Carnival employees were very nice about getting us through the line very quickly and onto the rows of seats to wait for the embarkation picture. I think Carnival could do a better job concerning the picture. Rather than waiting another half hour to get our picture taken, I wish they would give people the opportunity to bypass the picture and board the ship more quickly. All in all it was a cumbersome process at best, but after more than an hour we made it onto the ship.

Our Cabins

We had adjoining inside cabins on the main deck. My wife and I were in one cabin, and our nanny and three kids were in the other. On the only other cruise we took (pre-kids) we had an outside cabin. Since we do not spend much time in the cabin, I did not feel it was worth the extra money to pay for two outside cabins. We did bring a night light for the kid’s cabin, and I brought a travel clock with an alarm. Although the cabins were not huge, I had realistic expectations of what to expect and was not disappointed with the cabins. The kids’ cabin had two bunk beds and my 5 ½ year old loved to climb the ladder and go onto his bed. Our room steward was Richard from Peru. He was very nice and did a good job taking care of our rooms. He left towel animals in our cabins each night while we were at dinner, and often left chocolate chip cookies for the kids.

Meals

We had the early seating (5:45) in the Monet Dining Room. Our wait team was Wora from Thailand and Joseph from the Philippines. They were very attentive to the kids and we had a good time every night. When they would dance around the room, they would often carry our two little guys with them. It seemed that our kids were the stars of the ship and wherever we went people seemed to recognize them (it also could be because they were frequently running down the hallways chasing each other). I thought the selection of food was very good. The lobster tails the first formal night were not quite as good as Maine lobster (we’re from New England), but enjoyable nonetheless. The appetizers were consistently above average, although the desserts were a little disappointing. The kid’s menu was very welcome because our older son could eat peanut butter and jelly practically every meal, and our twins loved the hot dogs, pizza and chicken nuggets. I know on the boards there was some question about this, but I ordered cappuccino with dessert every night and was never charged. I wore a suit for both formal nights, and would estimate that maybe 5% of the men wore tuxedos. This is a major change from our cruise 3 years ago where the majority of men seemed to wear tuxes.

Breakfast we probably had about half the time at the buffet and half the time in the open seating dining room. I’m a big breakfast person, and was never disappointed. At the buffet you could get eggs, pancakes, French toast, omelettes, bacon, hash browns, oatmeal, grits, cold cereal, juice and coffee. In the dining room they also had eggs benedict. For lunch while we were at sea we ate twice at the buffet and once in the dining room. The buffet had enough choices to satisfy almost anyone. We tried the pizza bar where the pizza was good and the chicken Caesar salad was excellent. My kids liked the hot dogs from the grill, and you can also get grilled chicken sandwiches. We did not try the deli or seafood stations, although there was always a line at the deli and people seemed to enjoy their sandwiches. The sushi bar was a little disappointing, as they typically only had cooked sushi.

Onboard activities

I went to the casino once, and had no problem getting a seat at the tables. I won about $15 playing blackjack, but gave back $10 of it very quickly at the slot machines. I did hear some people discuss their slot winnings. We spent part of every sea day at the pool. Although I did see some chair saving, we always were able to get chairs. My oldest son, as well as the adults, all loved the water slide, and we all spent time in the whirlpools. I actually went to the gym twice and found the equipment to be pretty good. My wife had spa treatments twice, and although it was pricy her only complaint was that they persistently tried to sell her expensive products. One disappointing experience for me occurred on Saturday, when I went to the sports bar to watch some of the NFL Draft. There was a group of 10-15 men that tried to get the draft on television and found the Carnival staff very unhelpful. After about 45 minutes we were finally told that Carnival did not get ESPN because they did not want to pay the licensing fees.

Entertainment

The cruise director, Todd, was pretty funny, and he seemed to have a good time with the guests. We didn’t do any of the pub crawls or other night entertainment with Todd, but he was a good emcee at the shows and was excellent giving the informational talks. We did not go to as many shows as we would have liked because we were usually exhausted by the end of the day. We did go to Formidables, which was okay, and saw Ron Joseph, a singer from New Orleans. He had an average voice but was a good entertainer and really got the crowd involved. We only saw part of Deja the magician’s show, and found it unimpressive. “Point and Click”, a so-called Las Vegas style show, was very odd. There are two featured singers on board, a man and woman, and this show was about a computer dating relationship between the two. However, the female vocalist (who we saw during Formidables and was pretty good) was apparently sick and rather than getting a replacement they used a tape recording of her voice. This made the show very hard to follow. We left before the show ended and it seemed they may have had a stand-in toward the end but possibly due to the circumstances this show was very weak. We wanted to go the show the last night which featured a comedian and a juggler, but we did not finish packing in time and missed the show (greatly disappointing our 5 ½ year old).

Ports:

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Based on the recommendations on this board, we went to Sunset Beach Resort. The taxi ride was $5 total (although the driver originally tried to charge us $2/person until being corrected by a supervisor). They charged us $20 for each adult, $10 for my 5 ½ year old and nothing for the twins). I highly recommend Sunset Beach. I more than got my moneys worth in Red Stripe beer and mixed drinks alone, and the food was good as well. The kids loved the beach and we also spent a lot of time at the pool. Make sure to ask at the desk for towel vouchers, and they will provide towels. We did have to pay about $25 for shovels, pails and other assorted beach toys for the kids. We brought our own snorkeling equipment, which my older son and I used at the beach. This was probably our most relaxing day of the vacation since we weren’t scrambling to do activities, and I spent most of the time in a beach or pool chair with a drink in my hand. It was easy to get a taxi back to the ship and re-boarding was not a problem. We talked to many other people who didn’t know about Sunset Beach and went into town and almost uniformly they indicated that they were hassled by locals selling drugs or begging for money, so I am very happy with our choice.

Grand Cayman

This is a tender port, so you need to get a ticket on the ship to get to the island. We were scheduled for an early tour so we met in the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge at about 7:30. We waited about 25 minutes for our ticket number to be called (they seemed to give priority to the people on the Carnival tours), but once they called our number it did not take long to get on the tender boat and get to Grand Cayman. We had previously reserved spaces for my wife, my oldest son and I for the 2-1/2 hour snorkeling trip to Stingray City Sandbar and Coral Gardens with Nativeway WaterSports ($30/adult, $20/child). Sharon was very helpful in the reservation process, although you need to be patient for her to respond to your e-mails. Overall, I was happy with Nativeway. My only complaint is that we were told to meet the Nativeway rep at 8:15, which we did, but we waited over an hour to actually begin our tour. I think the delay was so they could round up more customers. The tour guides were excellent. They helped people pet and feed the stingrays, and were especially nice to my son. Definitely remember to bring underwater cameras because there are some great photo opportunities. We spent about 45 minutes with the stingrays and then went to Coral Gardens to see the beautiful coral and colorful fish. As I previously mentioned, we brought our own snorkeling equipment but my wife and I did use their fins. I really enjoyed the stingrays and would have preferred spending the entire tour doing that instead of spending time at the Coral Gardens. When the stingrays brush against you, it feels like a dog or cat rubbing against you. It was also pretty awesome to see hundreds of stingrays swarming around you. My son was a little apprehensive at first, but with the tour guides help he warmed up to them and even fed a stingray. Many people also kissed them. They are very docile creatures and only sting if they feel threatened. According to the crew, they have never had anyone get stung, although you need to be careful when you feed the rays. They suck the squid out of your hand, and one woman got a little “stingray hickey” on her hand.

Because of the delay in starting the tour, we were unable to go to the turtle farm, which we thought our little guys would like. Instead, we ate lunch at a place close to the pier, Paradise Restaurant by the Sea. The food was very good, but not cheap. After lunch we did some shopping and found that Grand Cayman in general is not inexpensive. We bought some Tortuga rum cakes at the outlet store, and I since my Seiko watch was broken during the stingray swim I bought a Swatch watch for $60. The jewelry prices seemed to be approximately comparable to what we would pay in the U.S. (maybe the fact that it is duty free can lead to savings?). Tendering back onto the boat seemed to take a lot longer than in the morning.

Cozumel

We were very luck y with the weather during our entire trip, and Cozumel was the warmest island we visited. It was also the favorite port of all the adults in our group. We went to Chankanaab Park, which was a great place for young children ($10 cab ride + $1 tip). Among many other things, they have a zoo, and a children’s beach. We saw iguanas near the beach, and ate at a pretty reasonable restaurant right off of the beach. My wife and I did the Dolphin Royal Swim through Dolphin Discovery, which is located at the park. We purchased tickets through Cozumel Insider.com for $125 each. This was an experience that should not be missed! After a brief orientation video, we were split up into groups of six. We were then brought to an area with 2 trainers and 2 dolphins (we had Tatiche and Louis). We get to kiss a dolphin, lift it up, and pet them. The best part is when the 2 dolphins push you through the water by swimming against your feet. You feel like Superman flying though the air. Each dolphin also swims under one of your arms and carries you through the water. The session lasted about 35-40 minutes and was well worth it. We even bought a DVD of our experience (for $50) and t-shirts with the name of one of our dolphins on it ($15/each). After this we went shopping at the shopping area by the pier. I have heard you can get better deals by going into town, but we were running short on time and didn’t want to rush back to the ship. As in Grand Cayman, it didn’t seem that you could get great deals on jewelry here. I had read good things about Cinco de Soles but found it to have very touristy merchandise.We did get a good deal on Mexican blankets there – 3 for $12. At one of the stands in the shopping area we purchased a hand loomed cotton/linen runner for our dining room table. It was 120” and cost $50 which my wife felt was very reasonable. The liquor prices in the pier were probably the best of all the islands (we didn’t buy anything and did not compare against the prices on the ship). The lines to get back onto the ship was incredibly long so be prepared to wait awhile to re-board.

Camp Carnival

We were not overly impressed with the camp. We put the three kids in for parts of three days and my little guys did not love it. My older son did, but that’s mostly because they let him watch TV most of the time. That is not my idea of a camp! They did do face painting and some arts and crafts, but did not take the kids to the pool. Two of the counselors were pretty nice to the twins (so I tipped them at the end), but some of the staff I would describe as unfriendly and unhelpful. We also felt there should have been more activities for toddlers in the early evening. It seemed like there was a lot for teenagers to do, but no events for our children. They had a talent show for the kids on the last full day, and my 5 ½ year old sang Changes, the David Bowie song that he knows from Shrek 2. The audience seemed to especially like my son’s hip gyrations a la Elvis.

Disembarkation

This was somewhat of a nightmare. I felt that this process should have been much better organized than it was. We got up early and had a quick breakfast because our flight left at 12:50. When we went to the lobby, it was difficult telling where the lines began and where they ended. If you were not “VIP” or early departure (12:30 or earlier) the wait was interminable. Once we were off the ship we were shuffled into the warehouse area to find our luggage. Even though I had used colorful cable ties as locks and to help with identification (this was a very good suggestion and ribbons may have worked even better), it still took a little while to track down all our bags (they were not together). Despite all this, we were ready to be picked up by about 9:15. We asked our driver to give us a quick tour of New Orleans and loved the old row houses and the French Quarter. If my wife and I were traveling alone, we definitely would have stayed overnight in New Orleans the night before our cruise.

Overall

Despite some areas that could be improved, we all had a really good time. With the kids I wouldn’t describe it as a relaxing trip (I need a vacation to recover from my vacation), but the week flew by and we will all have lasting and wonderful memories. I tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but please let me know if anyone has any questions.

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Could I ask a favor please? I'd love to read your review since I'll be on the Conquest in July, but your type is teensy and hard to read. Could you use a larger/different font, please? You don't have to re-type or re-post. Just click the edit button and look at the font/size options.

 

Thanks,

 

Friday

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FridayEyes - I am unable to edit this post. If you are having difficulty reading this, perhaps you can cut and paste it into a word document and can then adjust the font type/size.

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Bless you, Laura! Thank you!

 

Finfan - thank you very much for the tip about the Dolphin encounter. :) I've been dithering over exactly which dolphin excursion to book for my son on our July cruise.

 

In your opinion, would it be appropriate for a fairly intrepid 5 yr old? Are non-paying relatives allowed to be close enough to take pictures, or are pictures available for additional purchase?

 

Thanks!

 

Friday

 

EDIT: I checked the website and the Royal swim is limited to ages 8 and up. We'll consider one of the other programs.

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We weren't sure if our 5 1/2 year old would appreciate the experience, so due to the cost we did not bring him along for the dolphin swim. I don't think they will allow relatives to be close enough to take pictures, but there is a photographer and videographer who record the entire experience. We ended up purchasing the DVD, but decided against the pictures (about $80 for 5 pictures). If you buy the DVD you should be able to print still pictures by using a computer.

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Hey Finfan, we were on the same cruise!

 

Not sure what happened to you in Caymans... I saw the Nativeway lady in the white beret lead a huge group of people across the street for an 8:30 tour. Did they not let you go with this group? Glad to hear that Tyler liked the stingrays.

 

Since you had the early dinner seating, your probably saw the later shows. We were in the late seating and our Formidables show was cancelled halfway through and the magic act had two interruptions/errors. For Point and Click, I know the lead female singer Robin was sick, but I think one of the dancers, Belle, sang for her instead. I believe that was her playing the part of the cleaning lady Mary, and she seemed to sing. The parts where you could hear singing but did not see the singers, I thought that was done on purpose because it was really a dance act set to the music.

I have to say that it is very generous of you to bring your nanny on your cruise. Many people would probably leave her at home and take care of the kids themselves, or leave the kids at home. You must be great to work for, she is very lucky.

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Thanks, blackwing. I wasn't sure what was happening with Point and Click, maybe because I was watching it with my three kids (both my boys fell asleep, but my daughter, like for most of the cruise, didn't want to miss anything). It did seem to me that during certain parts of the show the female lead should have been on the other end of the stage opposite the male lead. But maybe I just missed the point they were trying to make (it wouldn't be the first time). In Grand Cayman, I didn't see anyone in a white beret. We were the first people off the ship that were scheduled for the Nativeway tour and I saw a scruffy looking guy holding a Nativeway sign. Right away he told us the tour was delayed 1/2 hour (which turned into an hour). Other than the delay, I have no complaints with Nativeway.

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Finfan,

 

Did you go to the Point at anytime on your cruise? And also, what is a pub crawl?

 

Thanks for your review! We are on the Conquest in June...can't wait!

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Finfan,

 

Did you go to the Point at anytime on your cruise? And also, what is a pub crawl?

 

Thanks for your review! We are on the Conquest in June...can't wait!

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Thanks for your review. I am on the conquest 6/12 and have been checking periodically for newer reviews. I have 4 kids(16,15,15,10) so your information about there being plenty of teen activities eased my mind. I was considering going to Sunset Beach and your review helped me make up my mind. Thanks again for taking the time to post.

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Hammerman - Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to go to the Point, but we have heard good things about it. We also did not go on the pub crawl, but basically Todd leads people through various bars on the ship. I understand it goes well into the night and people seemed to have a really good time. In my younger days I probably would have joined in! :cool:

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