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Review: Conquest 4th of July & Carnival Live w/ Trace Adkins B2B

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Greetings everyone!

 

I'm a little late with writing this review of my B2B cruise on the Conquest on 7/2/16 and 7/7/16, but I've been a little busy since getting back. My husband fell going down the ship's forward stairs on the second leg and ended up needing surgery when we got home. So, my time has been spent playing nurse while working from home at the same time. More on his injury later in the review.

 

But, despite this one set-back, we had an amazing time on this 9 day cruise! Our background: I'm 39 and work in Finance, and my husband is 48 and works in IT. We have a 19-year-old son from my first marriage that does not share my love of traveling, so he stayed home and enjoyed having the house to himself.

 

This was our 2nd (and technically 3rd) cruise. We went on our first one last year on the Dream and I have been addicted ever since. Actually, I was quite addicted before we even set foot on the Dream. And being able to read about cruises 24/7 on this board just feeds into my addiction. In a good way. :D

 

The itinerary for this trip was as follows:

 

7/1 Fly to Fort Lauderdale from Manchester, NH

7/2 Embark on the Conquest!

7/3 Nassau (Nassau Native Quest excursion through Carnival)

7/4 Half Moon Cay (rented a cabana)

7/5 Grand Turk (rented a poolside cabana)

7/6 Sea Day

7/7 Back in Fort Lauderdale and staying on the ship!

7/8 Nassau again for the Carnival Live w/ Trace Adkins concert (had VIP tickets)

7/9 Freeport (Freeport Kayak & Nature Experience excursion through Carnival)

7/10 Sea Day

7/11 Debarkation day (:() with a flight home at 4:05

 

Since this was only the second ship that I have ever been on, I spent some time comparing the Conquest to the Dream. So don't be surprised if I make many references to the Dream during this review, as this will also serve as a comparison of the Conquest to the Dream. I'll give you a little hint: I don't have a favorite. There were things that I liked about each ship.

 

We were scheduled to fly out the day before the cruise (I would never recommend doing it any other way), and that day happened to be on a Friday. I usually take the day before flying out off, but my current boss is a workaholic that tends to give me grief about taking a lot of days off at one, so I elected to not take Thursday off.

 

In hindsight, I regret doing that now, because it made packing quite hectic. I find packing stressful to begin with. I'm always paranoid that I'm going to forget something, despite always preparing a list. But having to rush to pack makes things much worse for me. In the end, I ended up only forgetting one thing: the cords for my cameras. Which proved to be a pretty horrible thing to forget (more on that later).

 

Saturday morning finally came and we were off for our mid-morning flight. We didn't have a nonstop flight, but it was direct, so we didn't have to change planes when stopping in Baltimore.

 

Here is a picture of my husband and I, ready to take off for our long awaited vacation!

 

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I normally hate pictures of myself, but I have noticed that I always look the happiest when I'm on a cruise, or on my way to a cruise. Hmm, I wonder why? :rolleyes:

 

After an uneventful flight, we called for our complimentary shuttle to Springhill Suites in Dania Beach. I had originally booked the Rodeway Inn, but after reading online that the restaurant that is attached to it got shut down 3 times in a 30 day period for failing a health inspection due to roaches, I decided to change to a different hotel. Springhill Suites proved to be a nice hotel for a very decent price (just over $100 for the one night). Here's a picture of our room:

 

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Note my luggage in the picture. See the print? I did tell you that I was addicted to cruising, right? ;)

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Another member of our party that I need to introduce you to is Cruise Bear. He also order goes by the name Teddy and Mr Bear. Yes, I am almost 40 years old and I sleep with a teddy bear. It's mostly because it's just comfortable (kind of like sleeping with a body pillow), but I also have him for sentimental reasons that I won't bore you with. Anyway, Cruise Bear settled into the hotel just nicely.

 

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Since we didn't get off the plane in BWI, we didn't have lunch and were quite starving. We decided to walk to a Dave & Busters, which we saw a sign for from the cab on the way over. The walk to the restaurant ended up being very long, and had we known how far it was we would have settled for the Chipotle right near the hotel since we were so tired. But, we ended up having a delicious meal there.

 

I was excited about trying my first Guy's burger the next day, I decided to get ready for the experience by having a deliciously fattening burger from D&B's. This particular one was topped with pulled pork. It was yummy!

 

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After dinner we did walk around the arcade part of Dave & Buster's (for those that have never been, it's a restaurant and a arcade), but were much too tired to play anything. We opted to just make the long walk back to the hotel and just relaxed for the night.

 

For those that have never stayed at Springhill Suites, this particular hotel offers a shuttle to the port for a small fee. It's not actually run by the hotel, but the company that runs it has a little booth in the lobby. When I walked up to the guy at the booth to inquire about price, departure times, etc, the guy was pretty rude and off-putting. I decided to forgo using their services and we ended up taking a cab to port instead for about $25. It worked out better because the shuttle wasn't scheduled to leave until 11:00 anyway, and I wanted to leave closer to 10:00 since we had FTTF.

 

One of the most exciting parts of a cruise, in my opinion, is seeing that first glimpse of the ship. I'll never forget seeing the Dream's whale tail peeking out from some buildings on the cab ride over to my first cruise. For this one, it was just as exciting. Here's a shot of the Conquest that I got from the cab as we pulled into port:

 

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My last cruise had embarked from Port of New Orleans, and I have to say, when comparing it to Port Everglades, the NOLA port is much, much better. This is from the standpoint of being someone with FTTF. The process for this is much, much better in NOLA.

 

For both cruises, we experienced delayed embarkations. On the last cruise, we didn't board until after 1:00. For this one, we wouldn't end up boarding until 12:45. What I heard it was because there were stragglers that they actually had to search for. If this is true, then I can't imagine how anyone could be so rude when there is literally hundreds of people waiting to board.

 

Anyway, the reason why the FTTF process is better in NOLA has to do with the way the terminal is setup. In NOLA, the FTTF's have long row of seats to sit in, and there is a person standing at the end making sure only FTTF's sit there. Also, once the call FTTF's to board, you end up boarding in order in which you sat down.

 

At Port Everglades, people without FTTF were sitting with us, which wasn't a big deal. But because embarkation was so delayed, and people were running out of places to sit, they were starting to stand right near the entrance.

 

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So when FTTF was finally called to board, those with FTTF standing near the entrance got to board before the people who had been sitting and waiting for almost two hours. Not a huge deal, I just thought it would have been nice if things were more organized.

 

Anyway, after boarding we headed straight to the Shore Excursions desk to reserve our cabana. I had already decided I wanted #15 since it was at the very end and I wanted to be away from the crowds. Fortunately it was still available, so we ordered our drinks for the cabana, and then were off to check out our room.

 

I had booked 6450, an L shaped balcony room, for both legs of the B2B. This room was fantastic! I would book it again in a heartbeat. We both agreed that the layout of the room was much better than the regular balcony rooms.

 

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I also loved the fact that we had two windows instead of one. It was nice to wake up to extra light in the morning.

 

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But the piece de resistance of the room is the long balcony, complete with a lounger:

 

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This ended up being my little piece of heaven on this ship. Since the Conquest doesn't have a Serenity deck, it was important for me to have a nice place to relax and read while on the cruise. When I booked this cruise, I was a little worried about the horror stories that I had read about kids on cruise ships during the summer months. I'm a mom myself, so I obviously don't dislike kids, but I am very old-fashioned and I have absolutely no patience for misbehaving kids.

 

The kids on this ship turned out to be no bother whatsoever. On our last cruise, which was the last week of October, there were basically no kids (I can count on one hand how many we saw during that cruise). For this one, there were obviously kids, but it didn't seem like there were as many as I had imagined. It really wasn't bad at all, and I would cruise during the summer months again.

 

But getting back to our balcony room, the nice thing about 6450 on the Conquest is that it is priced the same as the regular balconies. And being on deck 6 meant it was in the lowest class of balconies too. So I ended up getting a lot of price drops for the first leg (over $400 total). For the second cruise, I don't think I got any, but I ended up booking that one much later anyway.

 

After settling in, we went to explore the ship. Not that I didn't like the decor of the Dream, because I really did, but I LOVED the decor of the Conquest. It's the whole "French Impressionist" theme that is right up my alley. (Monet happens to be my favorite painter.) So it's no surprise that I loved the paintings covering the walls of the atrium.

 

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I am enjoying your review so far, and can't wait for more. Cruise Bear is just adorable, I hope he enjoyed himself. I know what you mean about that first glimpse of the ship. I will never forget that first peek at the first ship we cruised on, it was just such an amazing moment.

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My favorite thing to do on embarkation day, after dropping our things off into our room and having lunch is to explore the ship and take pictures. Here are some more pictures of the ship, which I think show off the beauty of Conquest's decor.

 

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The last time I wrote a review, I broke it up by each day. But what I found was that it's very hard to remember exactly what you did each day, after the fact. So I think I'm going to just break it up by the different ports, and also by other categories that I think are important.

 

The Ship Itself

 

As I already mentioned, I loved the way the Conquest is decorated. But, I like the layout of the Dream much better. I really hated the way the lido deck is set up on the Conquest. My husband and I are not ones to sit out on the lido during the day, but we do love watching the Dive-In movies.

 

I don't have a really good picture of the lido on the Conquest, as my forgetting-my-camera-cord debacle led to me losing a bunch of pictures by trying to upload pictures directly from the memory card to my tablet via a memory card reader, but this picture will illustrate what I don't like about the setup of the lido:

 

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Unless you are lucky enough to get one of the lounges on the bottom level, you end up having a bar blocking your view of the screen from all of the other loungers on the Conquest's many different levels of the lido. The Dream's lido is setup so that the loungers are all on one level, so you don't have these bars blocking your view.

 

Another feature that I liked better about the Dream is the fact that the promenade deck goes all the way around the ship. I missed being able to take nice long walks with my husband. Whoever designed that class of ship definitely made a huge improvement.

 

The Staff

 

Hands down, the staff on the Conquest were much friendlier on the Dream. Not that I ever thought that the staff on the Dream were rude or unfriendly, but I thought that the Conquest's staff took it one step further and were simply much more outgoing. I really liked that on embarkation day there were staff standing around the buffet area directing people around and playing crowd control. I thought that was a nice touch.

 

The Food

 

We had Your Time Dining (YTD) and ate in the Renoir MDR almost every night. We had no problem at all getting a table, and only once had to be given a pager. And we always got a "table for two." I say that in quotations, because most of you know that a table for two is usually only about an inch or two away from the next table, so it doesn't really feel like a private table. But we met some really nice people on the cruise. I like meeting new people, it's actually one of my favorite parts of cruising.

 

Guy's Burgers: I did think that the burger itself was as yummy as people rave about, but I have to ask, what is up with the buns?! I had one on embarkation day and the bun was so soggy that I had to ask for another bun. It was really gross. My theory is that they butter the buns, but they do so after they toast them. Which makes them soggy. I would be able to say that they are the best burgers ever if it weren't for the buns. They need better buns. Just my opinion. But, I did have my share of burgers throughout the cruise. I tried the pig patty, and the one with the big onion ring, but my favorite was just a plain cheeseburger with toppings from the bar. And the fries: delicious!

 

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Fish and Chips: I had the battered fish and really like it. I've read a lot of reviews where people have said they didn't care for it, but I thought it was good. And that's saying a lot considering I have lived in New England my whole life, and I know good fish.

 

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Blue Iguana Cantina: I tried the soft tacos one day, and got one each of the chicken, pork and fish. The only one I liked was the chicken. The fish one didn't taste like it was pieces of fish, just batter. And I didn't care for the seasoning on the pork.

 

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While the Dream did have a deli, I never had a chance to try it on my last cruise, so this time around I decided to get a grilled cheese one day, and also had some chicken tenders from the buffet. The chicken was ok, and the grilled cheese was yummy.

 

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Deserts: I have a huge sweet tooth, and the main reason I will never be able to survive a cruise without gaining weight is due to having dessert with lunch every day. I've found that the majority of the desserts offered in the buffet are really good. The bakers on the ships know what they are doing. For this cruise, I remembered to look for the cake pops on embarkation day that I missed with my last cruise. They were as good as everyone says they are. And the caramel cheesecake from the buffet is yummy. I tried the caramel cheesecake during the Sea Day brunch in the MDR this time around, but it wasn't even half as good as the lido version.

 

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MDR: I have so much food porn, but rather than spamming this who review with food porn pictures, I will post the highlights. I have to say all in all, the food was excellent. Not just good, but excellent.

 

When I was on the Dream, we had the old menus. For this cruise, it was the American Table.

 

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The only thing I missed with these new menus was no Bitter n Blanc, and no Spaghetti Carbonara. I don't know if the latter is simply because we were on 5-day and 4-day cruises, or if they really don't have Spaghetti Carbonara on the new menues, but I missed it.

 

But other than that, I liked the setup of the American table better. I enjoyed the no-tablecloths on non-elegant nights. It made elegant nights feel more special. And I loved that the water is left on the table since my husband and I drink a lot of water (we don't drink alcohol).

 

For appetizers, I mostly had salads. For some reason, this one was extra good. It was simple, with just lettuce, shaved carrots, radishes, and what they referred to as cheese croutons but were more like Cheez-its.

 

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I prefer to try new things, but one of my favorite appetizers on the Dream was the vegetable spring rolls. So I ordered them again on this cruise. What I like so much about them before was this spicy reddish-orange creamy sauce that came with it last time. This time it came with a sweet soy sauce on the side to dip it in. It was still good, but I liked the older version better. I'm assuming this change is due to the new menus.

 

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For the main dishes, one of my favorites was the BBQ beef brisket. I had read in someone else's review how good it was, so I had to try it. And it didn't disappoint. I'm not a huge red meat eater, and never order it in restaurants, but I really enjoyed this dish.

 

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My favorite entree of the cruise was off of the port of call menus, but I cannot remember which one. It was mahi mahi with coconut rice and a pineapple red pepper sauce. I have only had mahi mahi once and didn't like it, but decided to give it a shot. I'm glad I did, because this dish was incredible. The flavors worked perfectly together.

 

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For the MDR deserts, again, I enjoyed trying new deserts. One of the best off the new menus, in my opinion, is the buttered pot de creme.

 

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And while my husband and I missed the bitter n blanc (our favorite), an almost-substitute was the banana bread pudding that was served with warm white chocolate sauce on the side. We both ended up ordering it twice, once on the first leg of the B2B and again on the second leg.

 

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On this cruise, we decided to try the Steakhouse. Last time we had to forego trying it since we did the Behind the Fun tour and couldn't afford both. It did not disappoint. We had an early reservation (5:30) and the place was almost empty. I can't recall what night we went, but it was on the second leg of the B2B, and it wasn't embarkation day or the second day, yet they still offered us a free bottle of wine. I guess they weren't getting as much business as they had hoped, so were offering that special again. We don't drink, but took a bottle of red wine and left it in our cabin on the last day for the next guests in that room.

 

I really liked the detail in the plate that was on the table when we sat down, so I had to take a picture. It was very elegant.

 

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I didn't take a picture of it, but the rosemary bread they serve in the Steakhouse is delicious. It was served with butter, as well as two other options: a delicious olive oil, garlic and sun dried tomato mixture that I was addicted to, and other option that I didn't try because it was something that I didn't like. But that rosemary bread w/ the olive oil: out of this world!

 

From what I gather from other reviews, in the steakhouse, before they bring you your appetizer, the chef gives each person a little amuse bouche. My husband got some sort of raw beef thing that thank god he got, because I wouldn't have eaten it (I'm not that adventurous). I got some sort of cheddar potato soup that was delicious.

 

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For my salad, I had a wedge salad that was good, but nothing to rave about. It was just a salad after all. My appetizer was the french onion soup. On my last cruise, I had the MDR version and didn't care for it. I was hoping this would be better since it was the steakhouse, but it was only a tad better. I guess I'm just a french onion soup snob because I have had some really good versions in my lifetime.

 

As I mentioned before, I am not a red meat fan. And I really hate steak. I never eat it. But it's my husband's favorite, hence our visit to the steakhouse. I ended up getting the rosemary infused chicken. It was supposed to come with some sort of mushroom hash, but since I don't like mushrooms, I asked for it to be omitted. The chef decided to substitute mac n cheese instead. Which was an unusual choice, but let me tell you, that mac n cheese was good! Much better than what they serve in the MDR. Overall, it was a good dish. Not the best chicken I have ever had, but still delicious.

 

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For desert, being a chocoholic there was only one that I would consider: the chocolate sampler. My favorite of the four was the flourless chocolate cake, with the tiramisu being the runner up. I didn't care for the fruity one on the end (I don't remember what it was), and the chocolate "pudding" was good but not what I would call pudding. I discovered the same thing again one day when they had chocolate "pudding" in the MDR. I don't know why it's called pudding. Instead it takes like the thickest fudge you can imagine. Not a bad thing, but you really can't eat more than a couple bites. And this is coming from someone with a sweet tooth.

 

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Well, being a foodie, I could go on and on about food all night, but I have a lot of ports to write about, as well as the Carnival Live concert and the B2B process to review, so I will have to end the food review part of this review by saying that I give the food on the Conquest an A++. Overall, it was not just good but excellent.

 

Muster Drill

 

I have to step back a bit because I realized that I skipped over this part, and also sail away in general. For the muster drill on the Dream, we were in one of the dining rooms. For the Conquest, we were out by the life boats.

 

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For the first muster drill of this B2B, it was probably 100 degrees out in Fort Lauderdale and humid as heck. The first muster drill was organized and went by quickly, but at least one person fainted from the heat. My husband and I were in the very back, which was nice because we had a wall to lean against, but it was a little claustrophobic inducing.

 

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The second muster drill we attended was on a much cooler day, thankfully. Josh aka "Big Sexy" didn't use funny voices the way that Hennie on the Dream did, so it wasn't as entertaining. But it was fine. I just wish that people doing B2B's could get an exemption from having to attend the second one.

 

Sail Away

 

Our sail away for the first leg was fun in that we actually got to have a real sail away. On the Dream, it was pouring rain, and we were so late sailing away (after 7), that we were in dinner service and it was pitch black dark.

 

This time around, we got to see the sights as we pulled out of port. There are beautiful million dollar houses nearby, that's for sure!

 

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A frequent cruiser friend of my from work (who is also on this board), gave me a heads-up about the port cam that films the sail aways, so I made sure to check ours out on the port website, and sure enough, I found my husband and I!

 

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Carnival Spa

 

Before I start reviewing the ports and the concert, I want to touch briefly on the spa. After the first leg of the cruise my mani pedi wasn't holding up, so I booked a spa appointment for during the second sail away. First of all, it was ridiculously overpriced. I paid $155 for a shellac manicure and a pedicure that included a hot stone massage. The whole experience was nice and relaxing, and it felt like a good treat for myself, but I wouldn't pay that price again.

 

The manicurist, from Jamaica, wasn't overly friendly but at the same time, she wasn't pushy when it came to trying to sell me products. She did try to sell me something, but I simply told her I couldn't afford anything more, and she left it at that.

 

Nassau

 

I want to start off by saying I'm not sure why people hate this port so much. This was the first port on both legs of the B2B, so we were there twice. The first time around, we had a schedule Carnival excursion called Nassau Native Quest. The second time, I didn't schedule anything so we could have a lazy day and just go shopping after sleeping in. We were scheduled to be there until 10 pm because of the Trace Adkins concert, so we had no need to rush.

 

I quite like the shopping in Nassau. Lots of stores, as well as a huge straw market. I never felt unsafe walking around. I actually think Jamaica is much worst in that regards.

 

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The Nassau Native Quest excursion was meant to be sort of a Amazing Race meets Survivor type excursion, where you are competing against other teams on a scavenger hunt, followed by other games. This all occurred at a fort in Nassau.

 

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This excursion has some great reviews, and I went into it with high hopes. Honestly, it was just ok. The guide wasn't that upbeat, and the scavenger hunt was kind of boring. Maybe it was because it was such a hot day, I don't know.

 

After the games, they sat us down at tables and provided us with tastings of different foods, including conch fritters, and different teas and drinks.

 

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Much of this turned into a sales pitch because a lot of these items were things that they sold at the end of the tour.

 

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At the end of the day, I probably wouldn't recommend this excursion. I'm sure there are probably better ones to do in Nassau.

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Half Moon Cay

 

This was the one port that I was most looking forward to, and the reason I picked this particular cruise. On our last cruise, we experience some pretty rocky days due to Hurricane Patricia related storms in the gulf. This cruise has proved to be very calm in comparison. The only time I noticed any motion was the morning of HMC. I woke up to feeling the ship rocking. My heart sank, as I was sure that this meant that the seas would be too rough to tender to the island. I was up way before sunrise, and had quite awhile to wait and wonder what would happen.

 

Fortunately, rough seas or winds didn't end up being a problem. Let me tell you, seeing those tenders waiting to take everyone to this island was an awesome sight!

 

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Because we had a cabana rented, we got to be on the first tender of the day. We met in the theater along with people that had tickets for other excursions. We were the first group to be called. After tendering over, it was a little confusing for us first-timers to figure out what we needed to go to get to our cabana. We ended up getting in line at the excursion booth, and the lady took our ticket and directed us to a shuttle that would take us to our cabana.

 

Much to my surprise, cabana #15 ended up being my favorite color, purple! I just knew this was a good sign.

 

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I loved the location of our cabana. I'm not going to lie, it is far from everything. But, my husband and I don't drink alcohol, so we had no reason to need to be near the bars. And they provided so much food that we didn't even leave to go get lunch. We just ate what they provided.

 

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The day ended up being one of the best, most relaxing days in my life. We really were in paradise. The cabana, while expensive was so worth the money. We booked it at the $279 price, but got a package deal where we got 20% off for booking three excursions at once within 48 hours of booking the cruise. But you know what, I would still pay the $279 price even if I couldn't get the discount. It's money well spent, in my opinion.

 

The view from our cabana:

 

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It was nice to have lost of shade and a place to cool off. I also loved using the snorkel equipment provided. It was my first time snorkeling, and now I am hooked! Saw lots of little fish, a few crabs, and even a small sting ray that I didn't get a picture of, unfortunately.

 

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While many people probably wouldn't like being so far out from the "action" I truly enjoyed being more isolated than the other cabanas are. The beach near our cabana was almost entirely empty all day. It was like we had it all to ourselves.

 

Here's a shot looking down the beach, past all of the cabanas. Not many people ventured out this far.

 

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Well, I have to call it a night, but I will continue tomorrow with my review of Grand Turk, Freeport, the Carnival Live concert w/ Trace Adkins, and what our first B2B experience was like on the changeover day.

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Grand Turk

 

The last port on the first leg of this B2B was Grand Turk. When I booked this particular cruise, I did so because I wanted to visit HMC, but I knew full well from all of the reviews and comments here on this board that HMC is often missed. So I picked this cruise because it also went to Grand Turk, figuring if we missed HMC, we would still have one awesome beach day.

 

And Grand Turk sure didn't disappoint in that respect. I could see the gorgeous blue waters and soft beach sand from our balcony as we were pulling up to port that morning.

 

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We had a poolside cabana rented, so we got off the boat and made our way to Margaritaville. When we got there we asked an employee where to go to get our cabana key, and were directed to once place, only to then be directed to another place, and then learned that the original place was correct all along. You would think that their employees would have this straight since the rent cabanas every time a ship is in port, but oh well.

 

We were led to our cabana, #7:

 

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The cabana was nice. It was convenient to have a place to lock up our stuff, but I'm not sure it was all that necessary. Personally, I spent no time at all in the cabana. I don't know if it's because I'm a Scorpio and therefore a water sign, but I love water. I could literally spend all day in the water. My husband, on the other hand, was raised in the Bronx and never learned how to swim. He still doesn't know how to, and doesn't particularly care for it. He did spend some time in the water in HMC and again here in Grand Turk, but I think he appreciated having the cabana to come back to and read for awhile while I staying in the ocean. So in that respect, I guess it was worth the money.

 

This was the view of the Margaritaville pool from our cabana:

 

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In addition to being a water lover, I think I am also a water snob. I don't have a pool at home, and would love to have one, don't get me wrong. But being in a place like Grand Turk, with one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (at least that I have seen so far), I don't get why anyone would want to spend their time in a pool. We were the only ship in port that day (lucky us) and I would say the majority of the people from our ship seemed to be spending the day at the pool. Me, I would take crystal clear ocean water over a crowded pool any day.

 

Another thing that I don't get is that most of the people who were swimming in the ocean that day stayed near the pier, where there was lots of seaweed. You can see some of it in this photo:

 

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I had been scoping out a good place to swim while we were docking, and noticed if you walked further up the beach, towards Jack's Shack, the water was seaweed-free and gorgeous.

 

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In fact, the area between the roped off section near the dock and Jack's Shack was also as people-free as you see in that picture for the entire day. It was like I had the hole ocean to myself. It was heaven on earth.

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Grand Turk cont'd

 

Of course there was no way that I could visit Grand Turk and not visit the famous Jack's Shack and the even more famous Topher.

 

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Being the only ship in port, it didn't seem to get too crowded there that day. When we were walking towards the place, I knew we were almost there when I saw that familiar white dog...

 

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Topher really is a hoot. And the luckiest dog on the planet. He literally gets to live out his life in paradise. I wonder if it's a bad thing that I secretly want to trade lives with a dog? Oh well, we got to watch him do his famous "digging for clams" and watched while a girl was throwing him balls made of dirt, which he seemed to have so much fun with.

 

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For lunch, we decided to eat at Jack's Shack. I had the jerk chicken and my husband had fish. And we shared some fries. The meal was very expensive, but hey, I feel it's important sometimes to support local businesses.

 

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After spending the whole afternoon in the ocean while my husband spent his time reading in the cabana, I eventually had to make the sad walk back to the cabana to collect our things and head back to the ship. I took one last shot of the beach with the ship in the background. This shot again illustrates how empty the beach was that day.

 

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Would you mind telling me where you got your luggage? I've looked and looked for a piece like that. Love it

 

 

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Grand Turk cont'd

 

We locked up the cabana and proceeded to the check-in desk to retrieve my S&S card. You have to leave one with the associates at Margaritaville when you pick up your cabana key. It took quite awhile for them to finally figure out where it was. Again, you would think that they would be more knowledgeable given that we were not the first people who ever rented a cabana before. I just don't get it.

 

As we pulled away from port that day, I couldn't help to think that I want to book another cruise to HMC and Grand Turk again real soon. When I first because addicted to cruising, the idea of being able to visit lots of different places appealed to me the most. I remember thinking that I couldn't imagine going back to the same port over and over again. But with these two ports, I could see myself going back every year. So I may have to do some planning soon. ;)

 

Back in Port Everglades and staying on!

 

After a nice, relaxing day at sea, we were back in Port Everglades for the start of the 2nd leg of this B2B. We had instructions to meet in the lobby atrium at 10:30, but our room steward wanted to service the room earlier than that, so we decided to go down earlier.

 

When we got there, they had the atrium seats roped off, so we went to Guest Services to ask them where we should wait. They told us to just have a seat, and pointed to the roped off area. We hadn't been sitting down for more than 5 minutes when some young girl (a Carnival employee) came up to us and told us we couldn't sit there. So we explained to her that we were not getting off, and this is where GS told us to sit. She then proceeds to tell us that she's supposed to make sure that this area stays clear, so I tell her, "Fine, then just tell us where we are supposed to wait." She walks away and never comes back. Needless to say, this was the beginning of what seemed like a lot of confusion with the staff regarding what to do with B2Bers.

 

As it turned out there were only 6 people doing a B2B this time around: my husband and myself, a couple and their teenage daughter, and a man that elected to debark the ship and come back on later, so he wouldn't be present for the photo. I'm shading out the other three people out of respect for the fact that they might not want their photo on Cruise Critic.

 

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After taking the photo, they proceeded to pass out champagne, but my husband and I, as well as the teenage girl, asked if we could get something non-alcoholic. The waiter said yes, he would bring something else, but never did.

 

We proceeded to spend quite awhile waiting to be escorted off of the ship. Apparently on this sailing too, like the one before it, people were not in a rush to get off. Eventually a Carnival rep led us down to customs, where we had to wait awhile until the last of the passengers getting off of this sailing went through. Then she proceeded to lead us back to the ship, but confusion ensued when we were walking towards the way she told us to go, only to be told by some guy that we couldn't go that way. Eventually she caught back up with us and we back tracked the way she wanted us to go.

 

When we made our way back to the ship, and go to the atrium entrance, the priority passengers from this new sailing were already boarding. So much for being the first on the ship. We weren't even close to being first, which was a tad disappointing. I chalk this up to the fact that the whole process was very unorganized. It seemed like most of the staff had no idea what to do with us, which is surprising given that they must do this all of the time.

 

An interesting note about doing a 5-day and 4-day B2B: I had originally only booked the 5-day, but then had some regrets about booking a cruise that was less than 7 days. I was worried that it would seem too short, so when I discovered the 4 day after this cruise had a Trace Adkins concert, I decided to book that one too. It's funny, though, I remember thinking after the 5-day that it would have been enough. I talked to the husband of the other couple doing the B2B with us and he said the same thing. They have never done shorter than 7 days, and booked both cruises because of it, but he thought the 5-day would have been fine by itself. We both theorized it was because this cruise had two relaxing beach days where we had no excursions booked. Sometimes excursions can make you tired, whereas beach days are just pure relaxation and they make the time seem longer, in my opinion.

 

This time around we opted to skip the sail away, and as I mention previously, I spent the time before dinner getting a ridiculously overprice mani pedi in the spa.

 

Meanwhile, my husband had decided to spend some time in the arcade. Remember how I mentioned that I forgot my camera cables at home? I couldn't charge my waterproof camera because of it, and I was a little disappointed as I wanted to have it for the kayaking excursion we had coming up in Freeport.

 

Well, my husband saw that they had a charger-type cable as a prize in the arcade, so he spent the time "winning" it for me. $60 later he had the cable, only guess what? I wasn't the right cable. So we now have the most expensive tablet charger cable ever. Lol.

 

Next up...Carnival Live VIP experience with Trace Adkins.

Edited by bakersdozen12

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If you don't mind sharing, how much was the cabana at Margaritaville?

 

 

It was $134.99, but I was able to get 20% off for booking it as part of a bundle of three excursions within 48 hours of booking the cruise.

 

 

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Thanks for doing a review, I am loving your pictures. Can't wait to read about the concert and what you thought. I love HMC and Grand Turk, too.

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I love your review! My cousin was on her honeymoon on your last leg.

 

 

By any chance, does her husband own a bakery? We met a very lovely couple on their honeymoon one night. I know he owns a bakery and I thought she worked in Accounting. Just wondering if it was them.

 

Thanks for doing a review, I am loving your pictures. Can't wait to read about the concert and what you thought. I love HMC and Grand Turk, too.

 

 

I'm going to try to finish it either tonight or tomorrow. It's been a little rough getting back to reality with work since I work in Finance and it's year-end for us right now. And playing the roll of nurse to my husband, who is still recovery from his surgery, is making me exhausted.

 

The food at Jack's looked really good. Hard to decide. How much is expensive?

 

 

I can't remember the actual price, but it was between $30-$40 for my chicken, my husband's fish, an order of fries, a soda and a nonalcoholic pina colada. I just remember thinking that we could have saved a lot by just walking back to the ship to have lunch. But that would have required me to have to have gotten my S&S card back from the people at Margaritaville just to get back on the ship, and I didn't feel like going through the hassle.

 

 

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Enjoying your review. Love the photo of Topher jumping! I'm from the Bronx too but love the water - just got back from swimming in Lake Winnipesaukee NH!!! - how's that for coincidence? :)

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Time for me to finish this review! I'm so sorry that I have been MIA for the past two weeks. As I mentioned earlier, my husband was injured on the second leg of the B2B and had surgery when we got home, so I have been quite busy taking care of him, and was sick last weekend on top of it.

 

Anyway, on to the last couple parts of this review...

 

Carnival LIVE w/ Trace Adkins

 

The concert was scheduled in Nassau, and this would be the only port that was repeated on this B2B. I purposely didn't schedule an excursion this day so that we could sleep in, kind of making it another sea day. I love sea days because they are a great way to get R&R.

 

After a nice leisurely breakfast/lunch, we ventured out to do some shopping in Nassau. The nice thing about having a Carnival LIVE concert scheduled on your cruise is that you are in port really late. Since we were not scheduled to leave until 10 pm, we didn't have to worry about missing the ship, so we were able to shop without any worry.

 

Later that evening, we got dressed and showed up to Henri's Nightclub, as instructed on our VIP tickets. Here, we waited in line for our turn to get our pictures taken with Trace.

 

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I love country music, and I'm a big fan of Trace. And to all of the ladies out there: what a good looking guy he is in person! Seriously, he has a killer smile. :D

 

In researching whether it's worth buying the VIP tickets vs general admission ones, I did read that you really get no time with the singer, and that was definitely the case. First of all, we all had to use hand sanitizer before even approaching him. I'm not sure if this was just a requirement of Trace's, or if they always do this. But when it's your turn you only have time to basically shake his hand and get your picture taken. Then it's on to the next person.

 

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You don't have time to get an autograph, but they did give everyone an autograph picture of Trace. Which was a nice surprise because I didn't know that this was included with the VIP tickets. Unfortunately this picture would be partially to blame for my husband's injury, but more on that later.

 

Once we were done in Henri's, I noticed that not everyone was heading directly to the theater, giving us the opportunity to be one of the first in line, so we headed straight there. There were probably only about a dozen or so people ahead of us in line, so I knew we would get a good seat. With the VIP tickets, you get to sit in the first 5 or 6 rows, but it's still first come, first serve.

 

While waiting in line, my husband decided that he wanted to go back to the room to bring the autographed pictures. Now, I told him not to worry about it because they were going to start letting us in soon, and our room was at the very back of this ship so it's not a short walk, but he swore he would have time. Lesson to men everywhere: listen to your wife!

 

They started letting us in, and he still hadn't returned. I had no idea where he was, so I had to just go in without him. The first two rows were chairs that were set up in front of the normal seats in the theater. I decided to pass on sitting in those seats because I wanted a table for the drink that I had ordered while waiting in line (they had waiters come to take orders during the wait, which was nice). So I was technically in the third row.

 

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Carnival LIVE w/ Trace Adkins (and the injury) cont'd

 

My husband eventually ended up making it into the theater before the actual concert started, but he had to be brought in via a wheelchair by Carnival staff. Apparently in his haste to get back to the theater quickly (to prove me wrong) he fell down the forward stairs and injured his knee.

 

Now, had we known the extent of the injury, we wouldn't have even stayed for the concert. But the ship's doctor told him it was just a sprain. In reality, he tore his quad tendon completely off his knee and ended up having to have surgery to repair it a few days after we returned home from the cruise.

 

But, we did stay and we both thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Trace really puts on a good concert, and I was so close to the stage I was able to get some great pictures.

 

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Now, during these concerts, you are told no flash photography, videos or "professional" cameras. I would love to know exactly what they mean by the latter. I had my camera with my nice zoom lens with me, but only noticed one other person with the same. Everyone else was using their cell phones. So, I felt like I was doing something I wasn't supposed to do every time I took a picture, but, at the same time, no one said anything to me. So I have no idea.

 

I think this is probably my favorite picture I got of him because it really shows his great smile!

 

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In conclusion, while the VIP experience was good, I don't think that I would spend the $150 vs $30 again for VIP tickets. I'm just not sure if it added that much to the night. I think we would have had just as much fun with general admission tickets. And, perhaps my hubby wouldn't have gotten injured! But you can't change the past, so we just have to accept that this happened and move on.

 

On a related note, we never were charged for any of the care he received from the ship's doctor (which was minimal anyway, in my opinion, since they never even gave him an ace bandage for his "sprain"), but I did take a picture of the sign with the prices they do charge. I thought that some readers on this board might be interested to see what they do normally charge.

 

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Freeport

 

The next day was our last port of this cruise, Freeport. My husband and I had tickets for a Carnival excursion called Freeport Kayak and Nature Experience. Since my husband had been injured the day before, I figured him staying on the ship would be the better option. We were scheduled to meet in the theater at 8 am, the same time that the Shore Excursions desk opened. Since I had no idea if they would refund us for my ticket (I figured his wouldn't be a problem), I planned to just go alone while he got the money back for his ticket.

 

But apparently he had different plans and ended up going back to the ship's doctor to see if it would be ok to go on the excursion. Since the doctor was still insisting it was just a sprain, he was cleared, and much to my surprise, he ended up joining me in the theater ready for the excursion, albeit with a can to walk with.

 

The travel time to the mangrove forest where we would be kayaking was minimal. Maybe 30 minutes. Our tour guide's name was Lamont, and he was fantastic. Very knowledgeable, and patient. Not to mention very helpful to my husband the entire day, since he did have difficulty getting around with his cane and hurt knee.

 

Here's a picture of Lamont setting up the kayaks for us:

 

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Neither my husband nor I had ever kayaked before, but that was not a problem at all with this excursion. The water is very calm. Rather than showing us what to do before getting in the kayak, Lamont had us get in and practice in an open area of water. There's not too much to it anyway, it's mostly about teamwork and trying to make sure that you are paddling in sync with one another.

 

In the beginning of our journey the area was pretty wide and easy to navigate through.

 

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But as we continued on, it narrowed a lot. The mangrove trees were beautiful, but I'm not going to lie, they were difficult to navigate through. I think that it's probably impossible to make it all the way through without crashing into the trees. A lot of the time we were simply using the trees to push off of rather than paddling. But it was so much fun.

 

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The only part that was ever difficult was at the end, when you end up at the ocean. The current at that point is working against you, so you have to have good upper body strength. Which neither my husband nor I have. But we made it. The beach we ended up at is called Grand Lucayan beach and it's just gorgeous!

 

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Freeport cont'd

 

This excursion allows for plenty of time to go swimming at the beach, which is a nice plus in my opinion. Before swimming, they provided us with a decent lunch of make-your-own turkey or ham sandwiches, apples, cookies, lemonade and ice tea.

 

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If you read reviews about this excursion, you might read about the raccoons that some people had a lot of fun feeding. Unfortunately we were told by Lamont that they are no longer allowed to let the tourists feed the raccoons. This is because while the tour guides always instructed everyone to never try to touch the raccoons while doing so, someone didn't listen, did it anyway, and got bit in the process. Long story short, that person tried to make it seem like it was the tour guides fault he got bit, so Carnival told the tour company that they would drop them if they found out that people were still feeding the raccoons. So we couldn't.

 

Poor little guys, through. They obviously have no idea why they can no longer get a free lunch!

 

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After lunch I couldn't get in the water fast enough because my favorite thing to do on cruises is to go swimming in crystal clear blue water!

 

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This beach is very secluded. I don't know too much about it, but it seemed like it was only used by a few tours that included it in it's agenda. It doesn't seem to be a beach that people from the cruise ships flock to on their own. Here's a picture that I took looking at the beach from the water. As you can see, not very crowded at all.

 

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Freeport cont'd

 

On the way back to the bus that would take us back to the cruise ship, Lamont taught the group a lot about the mangrove forest. Since my husband was walking very slowly with his cane, he didn't want to hold up the group so we elected to walk ahead of everyone, thus missing being able to hear the nature part of this tour. But, the scenery was beautiful.

 

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There were a ton of fish in the water, but I can't recall what they were called.

 

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All in all, this was a fantastic excursion, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, and would recommend it to anyone. Actually, now that I have done it, every time I hear someone say that they won't even get off of the ship in Freeport, I can't help but think about what they are missing out. Freeport is actually a beautiful island. It's not a developed as other ports, but Lamont explained to us that Freeport simply doesn't want to become a huge tourist-type island. Which is why it doesn't have resorts and the like. But, I can't help but think that it's a good thing. If you venture out through an excursion such as this one, you get to see the natural beauty of this island.

 

Lamont continued to teach us about the island on the way back to the ship.

 

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At this point we only had one sea day left before having to fly home, and I was getting a tad worried as to how it would be for my husband to manage getting through the airport. Carnival was letting him use a cane, but I had no idea if they would let him take it home. We had mentioned this to Lamont, so he pointed us in the direction of a wood carver that sold canes. Not a souvenir we would normally get, but one that came in handy for the travel home.

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