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5/13-5/20 Carnival Conquest to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel Review w/ Pics

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INTRODUCTION & HELPFUL HINTS

 

My name is Whitney and I’m 24. I cruised with my husband Aaron who is also 24. We’re from Baton Rouge. This is our second cruise. Our first cruise was last summer on the Carnival Elation out of Mobile, Alabama. So, this was our first 7 day cruise and our first cruise out of New Orleans!

 

I want to start out with a big THANK YOU to everyone who answers questions on CC and those that have done reviews before me. I don’t often ask questions on the board, but I am always on the boards reading the answers to other poster’s questions. I love this community and the resources it provides to cruisers. I know that I got the most out of my cruise due to all the helpful hints and tips everyone shares.

 

While the Conquest isn’t one of the newest ships in the fleet, we still thought it was a beautiful ship! Overall, our vacation was awesome and we’re planning another cruise (next time with 30 of our nearest and dearest!). Here are the highs and lows of our trip:

 

Highs: All of our excursions, our BALCONY, the food, the service, the slide, the comedy shows, the magic show, casino, the steakhouse and the views.

 

Lows: The weather (although it wasn’t that bad), the air conditioner in our room, and the chair hogs (hate to complain about this, but it was super frustrating).

 

Tips: Get to the port early (best to do this by shuttle, I’ll explain!); bring a little cover/throw; bring a big insulated mug; bring a laundry bag or hamper; tip your steward early to get great service; eat in the MDR as often as possible; don’t try to do everything; go to the steakhouse!

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SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2012 – Vacation begins!

 

I didn’t take any pictures with our camera on this day, so I’ll keep it brief (I think reading these without pictures are so boring). We’re from Baton Rouge, which is about an hour north of New Orleans. Obviously, we could have driven down the morning of the cruise and avoided this day. We decided to stay a night in New Orleans the day before because we got a great deal from Stay123.com on the Holiday Inn Superdome which included parking for the week. We jumped at the chance for our vacation to begin a day early!

 

We love New Orleans, and I think it is a great port to cruise out of if you’re not familiar with the city. There is so much to do! We got to New Orleans just in time for lunch on Saturday. We headed straight to the French Quarter and went to eat at Deanies. This is a classic seafood restaurant and has great food. My husband got the seafood pizza (which was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten. Seriously, so so so good!). I got the crawfish etouffee and I was a little disappointed. The crawfish weren’t fresh and it was just not as good as I was expecting it to be.

 

Next, we headed to the WWII museum. This was mostly for my husband, but it really was so interesting. I was worried it would be a depressing beginning to our vacation, but it wasn’t. We spent a few hours strolling through all the exhibits. There are tons of videos, pictures, and artifacts. It was fascinating, and I’m not a history buff! We concluded our museum experience with the 4-D show Beyond all Boundaries. This was really cool!! A little scary at times, but overall one of the neatest things I’ve ever seen. Even if you don’t have enough time to go through the whole museum go see this. I don’t want to give any of the surprises away, but it is interactive and the experience really leaves an impression.

 

After the museum, we checked in to our hotel (the Holiday Inn Superdome). As I said earlier, we booked through stay123.com. I saw some positive reviews about this site on CC. I thought it may have been too good to be true since the rate we booked the hotel for was $45 less than what the published rate was on the Holiday Inn website (or any other website for that matter). I called the Holiday Inn Superdome and they confirmed it was not a scam. We booked and had no problems checking in. The hotel was perfect (if only it would have been walking distance to the French Quarter). Our room was updated and super clean. Our room overlooked the pool from our balcony. The room has a desk, a refrigerator, and a small sofa. The room included a free shuttle to the port.

 

For dinner, we went to Port of Call. This was a $10 cab ride from the hotel. I was so looking forward to this meal for both the food and the drinks. We live so close, but we had never eaten here. I made the mistake of ordering my hamburger medium, but it was practically raw. However, the potato and drinks were great! I ordered the Goombay punch and it was to die for! From the restaurant we walked two blocks to Bourbon street. We went to Pat O’s piano bar. This was a lot of fun! They have two piano players that sing and get the crowd involved. We were there for about 9:30 and we had to wait about 20 minutes to get into the actual piano bar. So be advised, if this is something you may want to do get there early or prepare to wait for a table (they won’t let you in without having a table). At about midnight we headed to the Cat’s Meow to watch Karaoke and dance. I had the best time at the Cat’s Meow and you shouldn’t miss it if you like to watch people sing and dance! We caught a cab right outside and it was another $10 ride back to the hotel.

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SUNDAY, MAY 13, 2012 – Embarkation Day

 

After a good night’s sleep we woke up at 7 a.m. to a beautiful day! We got dressed, then went downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast. We ate the buffet which was $12.99 per person. It was worth it! They had everything you could think of… eggs, grits, oatmeal, hashbrowns, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, cereal, fruit, etc.

 

The only complaint I had about the hotel was regarding the FREE shuttle (how many complaints can you really have about something that is free though really!? Haha). At check in, we were given the choice between a shuttle that would leave at 9:30 or 10:30. We chose 9:30 since we like to be one of the first people on the ship. We were told to be there early since the shuttle would be leaving at 9:30. When we lugged all our stuff downstairs at 9:10 we were the only people there. The shuttle driver took us to the bus and helped us load our luggage, but we were told we would have to wait for some time before we left. We ended up waiting about an hour before we left. This was fine, but I just wanted everyone to know that the shuttle is anything but “prompt.” Also, the shuttle is only free on the way there. It is an option to pay $15 to make a shuttle to return to the hotel, but you can take a cab for the same price and leave immediately without waiting on the shuttle.

 

The shuttle was such a good idea and made it worth it to stay at the hotel. We heard so many people complaining about the very long line to get into the parking garage for the cruise terminal. We were at the terminal for 10:15 and the line was so long! We heard there was only two people/lanes letting traffic into the garage. The shuttle just went around all the traffic so we were one of the first people into the terminal. We had no lines and it was so nice!

 

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At the terminal, check in is divided among the floors. You go to certain desks based on this. There you get your sign and sail card and your boarding zone number. Then you find a seat in the huge seating area. The purpose of the zoning is to keep people from getting backed up in the tunnel (not sure what it is called…) leading onto the boat since it isn’t well air conditioned.

 

View of the ship from the tunnel:

 

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Almost on the ship!

 

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Looking back on the tunnel:

 

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You walk into the third floor of the Conquest into the Atrium:

 

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People walking into the ship:

 

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We looked around the ship briefly and then headed to the lido deck for lunch. We bought a funship special on the way to the lido. These were great and I knew then the cruise experience had begun! Since we were one of the first people on the ship there were no lines or problems finding a table. We were so happy! All is right in the world:

 

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We ate and took a spa tour. The spa tour was super boring and I was so disappointed in the facilities we never booked a treatment for the week. I’d love to hear other people’s favorite treatments for the spa. We didn’t pack gym clothes, but after we walked through the gym I really wished we would have. Floor to ceiling windows of the forward of the ship would make for beautiful views while working out on the elliptical/ treadmill.

 

By the time this was over it was around 1:15. We thought we’d head toward our room and just hang out until 1:30. To our surprise the room was ready and one piece of our luggage was already at our door! We were actually able to be completely unpacked before the muster drill!!

 

We booked a midship balcony room on the empress deck – Room 7339. This is a great location, because it is two floors below the lido and two floors about the promenade deck. The only problem is that the elevators/stairs that are closest to the room don’t lead to the dining rooms on deck 3. Instead you have to walk to the forward or aft elevators/stairs to get to the dining rooms. This is not a big deal, but you just have to get used to it and remember this quirky feature of the layout of the ship. Here are the pictures of our room:

 

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Great review so far. I am doing the same cruise out of Galveston in September. Your review is great on what I should expect since this will be my first cruise ever. I look forward to the rest of the review. :)

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Thank you for posting the room picture . We have room 7384 in October. I am so looking forward to our first balcony room. Did you use it very much? I am loving your review so far.

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dreaminofcrusin -- You're going to love it! It's a great itinerary. We're debating between the Conquest again or the Magic out of Galveston next year.

 

jbh1993 -- We loved our balcony! Since the weather wasn't great our two sea days we used our balcony a ton. It was so nice to have private space to ourselves outside. After doing an oceanview on our first cruise we appreciated it so much. I'm not sure I could go back to a cruise without one now though! :D

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The muster drill began at 3:45. This is a miserable experience, but I know that once this is over it is all good from here. I always hear on CC to wait as long as you can before getting to the muster drill since it takes people so long to get to the muster station. I hate that advice. I just wish everyone would get there when they make the announcement. All they show you in how to buckle your life jacket and where to report. The process could take 10 minutes, but it takes 30 minutes at least since the last people stroll to the drill and hold everyone else up. Ugh, end of my rant. It was over before we knew it and we were free!!

 

We hung out on the deck for the sail away party and met friends that we hung out with for the rest of the cruise. Sailing down the Mississippi River was totally different than sailing away and immediately entering the Gulf. First of all, it is very curvy. You actually start out going downriver but in a northern direction until you go through a curve and it looks like you’re going back to New Orleans. Also, we heard lots of people in aft rooms on the lower decks really had trouble with the thrusters the first night. You could definitely feel more movement on the ship than normal.

 

You should make sure you get all the land views you can as you won’t see land until Wednesday morning. After our five day sailing, the first two sea days seemed to last forever. We were never bored though… just a long time on the ship. Relax on those days, because the end of the trip is busy with all the port days, then one relaxing day on the ship before the cruise is over.

 

We had anytime dining in the Renoir dining room. We went to dinner around 7:45 that night. It was the only night there was a line and it was out the door. We probably had to wait about 20 minutes to get a table. However, this was the one and only night. All the other nights we were seated immediately or waited less than five minutes.

 

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I tried to take some pictures of the food, but we often forgot or I forgot to take pictures before I began eating. That night my husband ordered chicken tenders for a starter with beef brisket as a main dish, and warm chocolate melting cake. I ordered the linguine with sausage as a starter and the sweet and sour shrimp as a main dish with crème brule for dessert. All of the above was wonderful! The noodles that come with the sweet and sour shrimp are really oniony as a warning. I’ll just insert food randomly… like here:

 

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Can't wait to read more too. We are taking this exact same cruise on the Conquest out of NOLA on July 8th.

 

I immediately tried to look for an alternative hotel with free parking and shuttle from your suggestion of stay123.com but results gave me "sold out". I already knew this would be the case since we've heard the Essence Music Festival will be going in full swing during the weekend the ship departs from NOLA. We've already made our reservations slightly out of town in Luling, La. That is the closest we could get because of the music festival going on.

 

Can't wait to read the rest of your review.

Sucks to be back to the real world now doesn't it?

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On the promenade deck, they have your itinerary illuminated on a board:

 

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Another view of the promenade deck on the first day (note: absolutely no crowds… I never understand why people feel like the huge ships are going to be packed with people everywhere they go):

 

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That night I really wanted to go see Super Star Live which is karaoke with a live band, but it just didn’t work out with dinner. We played a little bit in the casino after dinner, then went to the welcome aboard show.

Paul Santley was our cruise director and we loved him. It started with his positive attitude when we were boarding the ship, then in every show he was hilarious. Loved him! We went to bed early tonight after an exciting day!

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MONDAY, MAY 14, 2012 – Day at Sea

We woke up Monday morning to a cloudy day. We had the intention of going to eat breakfast in the MDR this morning, but it didn’t open until 8:00 a.m. and we wanted to make sure we were out on the Lido deck in time to snag a chair. The buffet was just as good and we ate and had plenty of options for our chair location. We set up shop and did this for a while:

 

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We were right next to the slide, but it was closed so there wasn’t a lot of traffic by our chairs. You can see some wear and tear of the ship in this picture though:

 

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View of the slide from our chair:

 

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I really, really wanted to hang out on the lido deck that day, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. It began to pour around 10. We had to pack all our stuff and give up our chairs. When the weather cleared up an hour and half later all the chairs were taken so we didn’t have a chair on the lido to watch the mixology contest and the hairy chest contest. Bummer :( We did find a chair on the far aft of the boat to lay out in.

 

That night was elegant night so we went to the room early to get dressed up. I love elegant night and getting dressed up. Here are some pictures of us over dinner:

 

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hassellcastle -- You're really going to love it! We had the best time. I've heard good things about that hotel actually. Like I said, the hotel shuttle for driving to the port is so worth it since you get to skip the big line. Be sure to let me know what you think about the hotel in Luling when you get back!

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Welcome Back! Thanks for taking the time to write your review. Thanks for posting photos too! Looks like you enjoyed your cruise!:)

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Great start, we did the Conquest out of Galveston two years ago and loved it!! Can't wait to hear the rest, we are big fans of all these ports.

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vegasmommy -- wasn't it great? We talked so highly about this cruise that all of our family is coming next summer! :D

 

vivavegas -- Just paying it forward! The only way I made it through the wait for our cruise was by reading every review I could get my hands on. I had to wait a week to get over my PCD (post cruise depression) so I could get to it!

 

dreaminofcrusin -- the pictures and reviews of the Magic make it seem amazing. I want to go on that ship so badly! I would be excited too! ;)

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Loving this review! Our first (and so far only) cruise was in a balcony on the Conquest doing the same itinerary - just out of Galveston. I'm having some serious nostalgia here. Can't wait for more!!

 

And LOVE the elegant night dress!

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Loving the review..keep it coming!! DH and I are doing the same itinerary on the Conquest in September for our 28th anniversary. Were booked in 7385 Balcony on Empress Deck. Looking for to the rest of your review:):)

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Lovin' this review as a preview for our cruise on the Conquest (same itinery! sp?) in August!

 

Looking forward to the rest! :)

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We of course ordered the shrimp cocktail and the lobster for dinner (so happy the shrimp cocktail is hopefully going to be an appetizer on the everyday menu again, we really missed that this year…):

 

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That night we hung out in the Degas Lounge for the comedy shows. We saw both Carl Faulkenberry and Darren Sanders. Both were funny, but I almost died in Darren Sanders’ show. I did have on pet peeve about the comedy shows. After every show they kick everyone out of the lounge for what they say is “cleaning.” I was told later when I complained to John Heald this is actually so that they can cycle people into and out of the lounge. It is chaos and I really wish they would just let people fill in the back if they don’t attend the first show rather than having people stand in the hallway and then literally running back to their seat and fighting with others who try to take their seat. Or better yet, put the comedy shows in a bigger location so everyone who wants to participate can:

 

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That night the show in the theater was Viola Paris. I’m not a huge fan of the singing and dancing shows, so we passed on this show to see the comedy shows.

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me-shel - Thanks for the compliment on my dress! I love it so much :)

 

yorkiemama64 - You're going to love it! Ah... just writing this review makes me want to go again (like tomorrow... haha). I don't know how I'm going to wait a whole year. :(

 

momof5k - You're getting closer and closer. I can't wait to book our next one so I have something for sure to look forward to. The Conquest is great and it was such a cool experience to sail down the Mississippi River!

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TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2012 – Day at Sea

 

Another day at sea… we got up early to get a seat on the lido. I was determined after yesterday that I would be able to lay out all day. However, we had overcast/rainy weather again. It was actually worse today, because it rained off and on all day and it never really got sunny. I really wished I had brought a little blanket to wrap up in as the towel just wasn't cutting it!

The lido deck was practically empty that morning (even no chair hogs!):

 

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The storm we sailed through all day:

 

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We just hung out on our balcony reading all day. I was so thankful for our balcony so we could enjoy being outside even though it was rainy. The water was still pretty from our balcony:

 

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The good news about the bad weather is that we went to the Monet Dining Room for lunch! Here is the sunflower atrium in the entrance to that MDR:

 

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We went to the Toulouse-Lautrec Lounge for the newlywed show and it was hilarious. This is probably my favorite thing to see out of everything on the cruise! As a bonus, we also got to witness a proposal at the beginning of the show that was SUPER sweet.

 

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Ceiling of the theater:

 

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That night we went to dinner, played (and won!) at blackjack in the casino, and then saw a comedy show. We went to bed early since the next day was our first port day and we wanted to be caught up on our sleep!

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