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suebee53

Notes from the Conquest 1/22/06

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[i’m going to follow cruisinwithkiddies’ excellent review format of her Jan 06 Conquest cruise]

 

GALVESTON: Thanks to the suggestion of this board, I had secured our parking at EZCruise. After dropping me and our luggage at the terminal, DH drove to EZCruise and walked back the three blocks, beating the shuttle by a long shot. This was about 1:30 and there were a LOT of people EVERYWHERE. (Not surprising: 3000 passengers. . .??!!)

 

EMBARKATION: I need a wheelchair for any place that requires a lot of walking or standing (that would include cruise ships!), so I was in my own chair as we entered the terminal. It was a great blessing to have Carnival employees attentive to me every step of the embarkation process. They made me feel like a VIP instead of a person in a wheelchair! I loved being escorted past various long lines. It’s the only up-side to having a handicap, but hey, I’ll take it! :)

 

THE SHIP AND OUR CABIN: It’s a mega-ship. It just is. Know that ahead of time. We talked to a couple of first-timers who said they probably wouldn’t cruise again because they don’t like big crowds. I don’t think it FELT like there were 3000 people on board (not counting crew!) because everything’s so spread out, but there you have it.

 

We had an inside cabin on the Panorama deck (10) that felt small but was really quite adequate. Just an amazing amount of storage space, no matter what Carnival ship you sail. I loved that. I was surprised that our refrigerator was locked when we got on board, but our cabin steward was happy to unlock it. (We had a bottle of wine in there later in the week, and by Saturday afternoon it was out on the counter and the fridge was locked again.) One thing worth mentioning: sometimes the toilet goes into what we called “delay mode”; you press the button and nothing happens for a period of time ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes, but then it flushes all by itself. I guess it remembers that you ordered a flush. :) Same thing happened in a public restroom one time. I don’t know if the “flush requests” get stacked up or what, but we just took it as a reminder that we were on vacation and needed to go at a slower pace.

 

DH and I love to read on our vacations, and we spent a good amount of time on the Lido deck at the very back of the ship where it was quieter and less windy than more forward places. The last day, to my chagrin, I found an absolutely awesome spot for reading or resting that was quiet, not windy, and extraordinarily peaceful. The Panorama deck (10), on the back half of the ship, has lounge chairs but almost no people. I will remember that for next time.

 

I brought my laptop to the pool and grill area of Lido to do some writing after breakfast several days, but could never find a place to plug it in (outside or inside) so I was limited to battery power. I was able to get wifi there, even though it wasn’t mentioned in the ship info as one of the places you could pick it up.

 

FOOD: Another couple we know decided to go on the same cruise a couple of weeks out, and requested the same table with us when they booked. It didn’t work, and we were assigned different seatings. By the time we went to the Monet dining room to request a seating change, it was too close to the muster drill and they said, “Just go to the assignment that’s on your card, and talk to the maitre d' after dinner.” So we did, and Alexandro was most gracious to accommodate us. We were making work for him, but he acted as if it were truly his pleasure. He was a joy all week, greeting us each evening as if we were the VIPs we were treated like during embarkation.

 

One night I was having trouble deciding between two entrees, so our waiter (Pingpong) brought me the one I finally decided on. . . and then, a minute later, placed the other one on the table as well with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. He would always make a recommendation or two to us, and one night he brought one of his suggestions unasked, saying, “Try this. . . you’ll really like it.” And he was right.

 

I had read about Sur Mer, the seafood station in Cezanne tucked away on deck 10, but never got a chance to check it out till the last day. I hadn’t missed anything, since a good number of the items they offer are things I really don’t care for, and it smelled very fishy. I went back downstairs and had a wonderful trout from the buffet.

 

PORTS: Jamaica--We blew most of our excursion budget on the White Witch golf course, but it wouldn’t be vacation for DH without golf. I did a lot of research on the various golf courses in MoBay, and to my amazement, the most economical way to go was through Carnival! He brought his own clubs (not a problem when porters are handling them till you need them), which cut down on the expense, and instead of lunch, only got a snack between the front 9 and the back 9. I was delighted to learn that my friend and I would be able to accompany our husbands and ride in their carts; we had to pay $35 at the golf course. That may set a record for the least amount of money spent on a Carnival excursion! It was jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and I’m soooo glad I was able to go, see the intense beauty of the course, and watch my husband golf. I loved every minute of it. I was really uncomfortable about the idea of being harassed by the Jamaican street and store vendors, so I was glad to be spared that experience.

 

In Grand Cayman, we were booked for the 9:30 Soto’s Stingray cruise, so we took the first tender off the ship. But we missed breakfast in our fear that we wouldn’t get off the ship in time, so we had a fabulous Caymanian breakfast across from the tender dock at a restaurant called Breezes as soon as it opened at 8:00. Soto’s was fantastic. There were only 16 passengers on the boat, and we got such personalized attention! I’m so glad we snorkeled at Coral Gardens, and we were the only boat there till a few minutes before we left. On the Stingray Sandbar, the photographer took excellent pictures of people holding the stingrays, kissing the stingrays (7 years of good luck! . . . Uh-huh.) and getting "stingray back massages" as the Soto’s guy held the rays up against people’s backs and they would flap and squirm. It was a great time, and the highlight of the whole week for us.

 

I asked the van driver to drop us off at the Hyatt, having been recommended to us, but they charge $35 for a daypass and we weren’t interested in paying. So we walked next door to the Beach Club Colony and for $5 a person, scored lounge chairs on the beach and got something cold to drink. There were sections for various cruise ships, but nobody cared that our towels said “Carnival” and everybody’s around us said “Royal Caribbean.” :) When we were ready to leave there was a shuttle out front that took us to the pier for $4 a person.

 

I hated to leave GC since I’ve vacationed there with girlfriends twice before and it truly deserves its nickname of “Jewel of the Caribbean.” I also appreciate it so much more right after Jamaica; it’s clean, it’s friendly, it’s more upscale, and the crime rate is amazingly low.

 

Cozumel: I had recently heard a good plan for bargaining: cut their offer in half and then subtract an additional 10% for your first counter-offer. It worked great. We planned to shop for a little jewelry (I LOVE Mexican silver) and then grab a taxi to Paradise Beach, but we had so much fun shopping and then sitting in an outdoor cantina enjoying the low low prices on Mexican beers and great guacamole and chips, that we decided it wouldn’t be worth it to do the beach this time, and headed back to the ship. There were very few people at the pool and we had some great reading and sunning time.

 

MUSICIANS: We didn’t care for the Vegas-style show, but we absolutely loved Ron Joseph (I think that was his name) who does R&B and Motown with some highly entertaining audience participation. That show had a LOT of energy and we laughed and clapped more than for anything else the rest of the week. The stage band is terrific, and they did a one-hour big-band concert where they invited people to come up on stage and dance. That was wonderful. A couple of the young Carnival dancers were up there dancing along with people considerably older, and it was great to see them watching the other dancers with admiration. We especially liked Brad Alexander, the new guy in the piano bar who also did cocktail music in the Lobby a number of times, played with the stage band for the big-band concert, rehearsed and then accompanied the talent show . . . and oh yeah, he also played in the piano bar. Very talented, very personable. This was his first week on board the Conquest, and I’m sure it was eye-opening for this Canadian performer to get a load of us Texans. We’re . . . uh. . . a different breed. (Big-haired blonde lady perched at the piano bar: “So where are you from?” “Toronto.” [quizzical look] “Toronto?” “It’s in Canada.” “Oh. Have you ever been to Tyler? We’re the rose capital of the world!”)

 

Larry Burroughs, head of the stage band, made the comment during the big-band concert that if we liked the live music, be sure to put that on our comment cards, since many other cruise lines are doing away with live musicians and going to recorded tracks as a cost-saving measure. It made me realize what a treasure it is to have good musicians, and a wide variety of them at that, available to us.

 

ONE FINAL COMMENT: The CD, Todd Wittmer, is a good guy but he speaks too fast. I cringed during his directions about the upcoming muster drill because he just rattled his way through it. Combined with the less-than-great acoustics over the PA system, many of us couldn’t understand what he was saying. Just like when flight attendants race through the safety talk, what is bo-ring to them can be life-or-death to passengers. . .especially first-time flyers or cruisers for whom everything is new and different. It can be frustrating and frightening to not be able to understand announcements like this. Many of his announcements over the PA system throughout the week were just too dang fast. (I did write a lengthy note on my comment card about this, asking him to consider how many guests have 40+ year-old ears, [and we baby-boomers are starting to lose our hearing after all that loud rock music!], which is further complicated by the fact that you can’t read a speaker’s lips over the PA system, so the visual component isn’t there. It was interesting to contrast the body language of people on the ship when he was doing his announcements, where many were not engaged with what he was saying. . . as opposed to when the captain got on the horn, and EVERYBODY did a statue imitation—just frozen, hanging on every word. Even with a heavy accent, we could understand what the captain was saying because he. . . slowed. . .down.)

 

Great week, great cruise, great memories. . . I am greatly thankful.

 

Sue

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That's it, one more great Conquest review and I'm gonna burst. Why, oh, why does 45 more days seem like an eternity!?!:confused:

 

Great post. Now to get some sleep and go to work tomorrow...<sigh>

 

rns

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That's it, one more great Conquest review and I'm gonna burst. Why, oh, why does 45 more days seem like an eternity!?!:confused:

 

Great post. Now to get some sleep and go to work tomorrow...<sigh>

 

rns

 

I know how your 45 days can seem shorter...I have 436 :(

 

EDIT:...actually...make that 440...*cries softly into pillow*

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That's it, one more great Conquest review and I'm gonna burst. Why, oh, why does 45 more days seem like an eternity!?!:

 

rns

 

I'll be boarding as you are leaving. can't wait!!

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Sue,

 

Thanks for the great review. We are so excited about cruising on this ship.

 

I like the idea about your DH dropping you and the luggage off and then walking back to the terminal. You said it was about 1:30; how bad were the lines?

 

Did you use the shuttle to get back to your car?

 

Gayle

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Sue,

 

Thanks for the review. We'll be on Sotos morning snorkling trip next week. Did you have any problems getting on the 1st tender with all of the other passengers (on Carnival excursions) getting off early as well?...think we could make it if we took a later one? Also, was Sotos right there when you got off?

 

Thanks!

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GayleR asked:

I like the idea about your DH dropping you and the luggage off and then walking back to the terminal. You said it was about 1:30; how bad were the lines?

 

Did you use the shuttle to get back to your car?

 

The lines were quite long upstairs in the terminal. It was a shock; we've always arrived quite early and were some of the first ones aboard. I don't know how to quantify it for you, but my guess is that there were 150-200 people in line at that time.

 

No, he didn't use the shuttle, he walked back to the car. It saved a LOT of time. It probably took all of 10 minutes. 15 max.

 

Winmo asked:

We'll be on Sotos morning snorkling trip next week. Did you have any problems getting on the 1st tender with all of the other passengers (on Carnival excursions) getting off early as well?...think we could make it if we took a later one? Also, was Sotos right there when you got off?

 

No problems at all getting on the first tender. They call you to the Toulouse Lautrec lounge (where the nighttime shows are) at 7:00 a.m. to get a sticker, and we all had "1" stickers on us. The tender was large enough, though, that people with "7" stickers were also getting on. If we had it to do over, we'd take a later tender. The tenders line up; as soon as one leaves, the next one slides into place.

 

Once ashore, we waited (about 20 minutes) for the restaurant to open at 8:00, and had a lovely breakfast on the balcony. I felt bad that I saw a white van, suspecting (correctly) that it was the Soto's van, in the designated parking lot at 8:30, while we were still eating. I thought we were supposed to meet them at 8:45, but I had left the hard copy of the Soto's email at home. They might have said 8:30 but I don't remember. There were a number of people waiting at the van for us, fortunately quite patiently and graciously. If we were later than requested, it still worked out, since according to my watch our 9:30 trip still departed about 9:27.

 

You will be so glad you went with Soto's. Be sure to take cash for the pictures and to tip the crew. They richly deserve it.

 

One final comment I forgot to include in my review, if anyone is still reading this:

 

Before the cruise, I had learned from Galveston.com that they have installed three phases of free wi-fi in the city, and one of them is on the Strand at 23rd Street. We had decided not to purchase any internet time on the ship to make sure it was a real vacation, but I wanted to process my accumulated emails on the drive home. So we have a rather peculiar but nonetheless fun end-of-cruise memory of leaving the terminal and driving to that intersection, pulling to the curb, and turning on our laptops. Our windows were down on that gorgeous day, the Conquest was two blocks dead ahead, and we could hear the two-toned "ding dong" that preceded a PA system announcement inviting the next batch of passengers to proceed to the Lobby deck to disembark. . . as we both downloaded a week's worth of email! Vacation time morphing into return-to-reality time.

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OK, Gayle, we'll be there in only 5 more weeks. That's not too bad is it??

 

Thanks for your review, Sue. I'm going to be sure and take notes so I can remember enough to write a review too (I hope). It's nice of you to take the time to share your experiences with those waiting anxiously for their turn.

 

I'm still trying to decide who to use in Cayman for the stingray thing. I know I want to do it (again), but need to get on the ball and make reservations.

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OK, Gayle, we'll be there in only 5 more weeks. That's not too bad is it??

 

Hey Marie! Nice to talk to you outside of the roll call. 35 days and counting!

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