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Conquest Eastern Caribbean Review 2/29-3/7, first time Carnival cruiser


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Just off the Conquest today after a really enjoyable week in the Eastern Caribbean, and wanted to jot down our experience for anyone else thinking of giving Carnival a try.  


This review almost didn’t happen because we almost didn’t get on. Multiple stories of cruise ships being turned away from ports/quarantined had put off my SO to the point she was all for cancelling. I argued that there had been no cases yet on Caribbean cruises and we shouldn’t throw $1400 away. The indecision lasted till 11am on embarkation day but eventually we got on with a large tub of Clorox wipes and disposable gloves, tried not to touch things and washed our hands thoroughly and often. (We were fine.) 

 

At the port we filled in the special health questionnaire and the mood at embarkation was nervous for sure. Through snatches of conversation I could tell that EVERYBODY was thinking about the coronavirus. As the week went on, the mood relaxed. 

 

Thinking of the worst case - being quarantined for 2 weeks in an interior cabin - we went to guest services on embarkation night to see if we could upgrade to a balcony for a price. They said the ship was full, so I guess like us, people didn’t want to throw money away. (Immediately after our cruise, Carnival updated their cancellation policy)

 

Anyway. I apologise if this is long winded. Some background: I was talked into a HAL Caribbean cruise in 2017 and realised that I was more excited about getting on this ship than any trip I’d ever booked before. Since then I have cruised with HAL again, MSC and Celebrity but the excitement of boarding a magnificent ship and waking up in a new place each day hasnt left me yet.

 

Why did we book Carnival this time? I will not lie - It was cheap. We needed a week of winter sun for less than $1000 each all in, and no hotel or resort we could find came close to that. My better half really isn’t a cruiser but when we saw a 7-day Carnival itinerary going to great-looking ports we’d never been to, for $450 (come on though cruise lines, let’s add on the $150 of govt fees/taxes and $100 of gratuities to the advertised price shall we) - so $700 all in - we took the plunge. 

 

Our expectations were not high. I mean, what can you expect for $450? I had read that Carnival was ‘The Walmart of the seas’ (Haha) and so we took in all the stories and were determined to enjoy the sun and beautiful ports even if there were drunken fights, shirtless guys in the restaurants and people sticking their fingers in the buffet. We did not expect exceptional food or service and since the cruise fare was so low, we were surely to be nickelled and dimed to within an inch of our lives, right? To this end, we each boarded with 12 cans of soda to have with meals. -Stickin’ it to the man! Yeah! 
 

More to follow as I remember it..

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Just off the Conquest today after a really enjoyable week in the Eastern Caribbean, and wanted to jot down our experience for anyone else thinking of giving Carnival a try.  


This review almost didn’t happen because we almost didn’t get on. Multiple stories of cruise ships being turned away from ports/quarantined had put off my SO to the point she was all for cancelling. I argued that there had been no cases yet on Caribbean cruises and we shouldn’t throw $1400 away. The indecision lasted till 11am on embarkation day but eventually we got on with a large tub of Clorox wipes and disposable gloves, tried not to touch things and washed our hands thoroughly and often. (We were fine.) 

 

At the port we filled in the special health questionnaire and the mood at embarkation was nervous for sure. Through snatches of conversation I could tell that EVERYBODY was thinking about the coronavirus. As the week went on, the mood relaxed. 

 

Thinking of the worst case - being quarantined for 2 weeks in an interior cabin - we went to guest services on embarkation night to see if we could upgrade to a balcony for a price. They said the ship was full, so I guess like us, people didn’t want to throw money away. (Immediately after our cruise, Carnival updated their cancellation policy)

 

Anyway. I apologise if this is long winded. Some background: I was talked into a HAL Caribbean cruise in 2017 and realised that I was more excited about getting on this ship than any trip I’d ever booked before. Since then I have cruised with HAL again, MSC and Celebrity but the excitement of boarding a magnificent ship and waking up in a new place each day hasnt left me yet.

 

Why did we book Carnival this time? I will not lie - It was cheap. We needed a week of winter sun for less than $1000 each all in, and no hotel or resort we could find came close to that. My better half really isn’t a cruiser but when we saw a 7-day Carnival itinerary going to great-looking ports we’d never been to, for $450 (come on though cruise lines, let’s add on the $150 of govt fees/taxes and $100 of gratuities to the advertised price shall we) - so $700 all in - we took the plunge. 

 

Our expectations were not high. I mean, what can you expect for $450? I had read that Carnival was ‘The Walmart of the seas’ (Haha) and so we took in all the stories and were determined to enjoy the sun and beautiful ports even if there were drunken fights, shirtless guys in the restaurants and people sticking their fingers in the buffet. We did not expect exceptional food or service and since the cruise fare was so low, we were surely to be nickelled and dimed to within an inch of our lives, right? To this end, we each boarded with 12 cans of soda to have with meals. -Stickin’ it to the man! Yeah! 
 

More to follow as I remember it..

I'm following because we were supposed to be on this cruise celebrating kicking cancer's ass. Well, life is funny and we had to cancel 4 days before the trip. Unfortunately we missed the cancel for any reason gift Carnival was throwing out by a week. I'm hoping you had a great time. Love Conquest Class ships.


Sent from my Lenovo TB-X304F using Tapatalk

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Hey we were on this cruise too and we're told it wasn't full at all.  There were like 250-500 fewer guests than usual I think they said.  Our dining room seating was never ever very full 

 

Oh and we witness a drunken fight the last night in the dining room.  Yikes 

Edited by HWC_Mom
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3 hours ago, JandPB said:

I'm following because we were supposed to be on this cruise celebrating kicking cancer's ass. Well, life is funny and we had to cancel 4 days before the trip. Unfortunately we missed the cancel for any reason gift Carnival was throwing out by a week. I'm hoping you had a great time. Love Conquest Class ships.


Sent from my Lenovo TB-X304F using Tapatalk
 

I’m sorry you had to cancel 😔 It’s a horrible decision to have to make!

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45 minutes ago, HWC_Mom said:

Hey we were on this cruise too and we're told it wasn't full at all.  There were like 250-500 fewer guests than usual I think they said.  Our dining room seating was never ever very full 

 

Oh and we witness a drunken fight the last night in the dining room.  Yikes 


Yikes about the drunken fight. 🙈 Our dining room was a model of good behaviour but maybe that’s because it was early dining!  

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Embarkation:

MDR was closed on embarkation day so we headed to the buffet. It was very busy but thanks to this forum we went to the little-known area upstairs from the buffet and it was nice and quiet. We wanted to drop our 12 packs of stickin it to the man! cans outside our door even if the room wasn’t ready till 1:30pm but the corridors to the rooms were actually blocked off so the stewards could work undisturbed. Fair enough. Miami was chilly that day so we kept our jeans on and were not tempted by the pools. Plus the main pool had loud music blasting which we didn’t care for. We were to realise this happens a lot on Carnival and it made us wonder if we were getting old. (We are 46 and 51 so not that old). Many guests were older than us and we wondered what they made of all the loud music or if they cared. 

 

At 1:30pm everyone could access their rooms and our luggage arrived shortly after. However, I was bummed to see that my ‘bomb proof’ (and expensive) North Face wheelie case had lost one of the plastic legs that help it stand upright. It had got ripped off between giving it up at the port and arriving at the room. Cue an unwanted trip to guest services - but they were very helpful. Within a few hours I had a letter outside the room on Carnival headed paper saying they’d pay for the repair if I sent an invoice, and I was happy with that.   

 

Our room:

We had interior cabin 1465, down the very back end of the lowest deck 1. It is literally the last cabin before you get to what we presume is the engine room. It was the cheapest of the cheap and we didn’t expect much, but we LOVED it. 

 

Firstly it was roomier than we expected, with plenty of storage space. Also being the very end room, we had no-one passing by outside after a night on the booze. A short walk to the aft elevator put us directly by our dining room and directly by the buffet. The flip side to that of course is that if we wanted to go anywhere else - guest services, excursion desk, serenity area, gangway in ports - we had to walk what felt like 3 football fields to the forward elevators. We did that walk a lot, but we were fine with it. 

 

Being by the engines, some have said 1465 is too noisy. Well L lives in a city where she hears sirens and drunks yelling all hours of the night. I live in a city where I have sirens, airliners landing from 4:30am and urban foxes which scream at each other in the night like someone being murdered in my backyard. Believe me, 95,000 horsepower by our heads is like a soothing lullaby. We slept like BABIES. I also fully intend to ask Carnival where I can get that mattress because I have never slept in one that comfortable ever. The darkness of the interior room helped too.  This is embarrassing to admit on a ‘fun ship’ but often we’d be in dreamland by 9pm. If you’re hoping for a review of any shows or bars, you may as well stop reading now because we attended 0 of those. Sorry!

 

The only slight issue we had was that the air conditioning didn’t get our room quite cool enough in the evening, so we went to sleep with our feet sticking out of the covers. Not a huge deal. Also during busy times like before dinner after everyone got back from the beach, the shower water wouldn’t get as hot as usual. Again not a big deal. 

 

Our room was cleaned once a day and we were fine with that. 

 

We would pick that room again in a heartbeat. One thing I would do differently though would be to bring a European adaptor. The room had only one set of 2 outlets; 1 US and 1 European. We had 2 iPhones, 2 iPads and 2 US Apple adaptors.  So we had to rotate charging each device in turn using the one US outlet. There was an outlet under the bed where the lamp was plugged in but this too was European, as were the outlets in the dining rooms etc. So if eg we came back to the ship for a quick lunch it wasn’t possible to give the phone a quick boost while eating. 

 

We had the phones with us a lot to take photos and use the excellent Carnival Hub app. It was great to be able to see the day’s activities and mark the ones we were interested in. An alert would then pop up 15 mins before it was about to start. It was also great to see the night’s menus, and the following morning’s breakfast hours, which varied daily according to arrival time in port. Through the app we were also able to see our account balances, ($0 for most of the trip since we were stickin it to the man) and we could have texted each other at sea for $5 but didn’t bother with this. 
 

General ship observations, ports to follow..

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Conquest class ships are my favorite.  Large enough and new enough (relatively speaking) to have some of the things I love like Guy's and Red Frog, but still small enough that the service is good and you still feel like you're on a ship instead of a large floating box.  Liberty is the prettiest!  I'm very much looking forward to your review!  I keep thinking I need to branch out, but my vacation dollars keep moving toward either land vacations or cheap Carnival getaways (thank you casino offers!)...nothing wrong with getting the most bang for your buck!

 

The joke in my house is..when you go to the Chinese restaurant and you're STARVING..you know you should branch out and try something new, but because you're starving, and you know you love it, you still order the same old sesame chicken.  It always hits the spot 😉

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37 minutes ago, DenaInWyo said:

Conquest class ships are my favorite.  Large enough and new enough (relatively speaking) to have some of the things I love like Guy's and Red Frog 


Many people seem to love these ships for the same reason. We did have a bit of ship envy when the brand new Norwegian Encore parked next to us in San Juan and we could see people zipping around a racetrack on top in go-karts. But yes the size of the Conquest is nice and I felt we got HUGE bang for our buck. The captain spoke of the ship with real affection when we went to the bridge during our Behind the Fun tour. 
 

And oh how good is Guys burger joint. We love that too. Can’t believe it’s free. 

Edited by kirtens
Forgot to add about guys
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There is something left on the smaller ships of charm and what cruising used to be back in the day, that's for sure.  It's just a tiny glimmer, but it's there.

We did a B2B on Vista a couple of years ago, when it was only about a year old.  In that entire 14 days I never managed to do the sky ride.  I just wasn't up for the minimum hour long wait.  The comedy club?  Show up an hour early if you want a seat.  It was NOT a bad cruise, by any means, but at the end of the two weeks, I was VERY ready to go home and not wait in line for my first cup of coffee.  We all came away feeling like it was (and this was just my family..so ymmv) just more people packed onto the same ship for a larger rake of money.  Conquest or smaller for us from now on.  Maaaaybe Dream class..the Magic wasn't bad for lines but the service was abysmal.  

 

I've spent/wasted enough money in the casino that I frequently get $100 pp balcony cabin offers (plus tax and grats, that comes to around $500 for two on sailings all the way up to 16 days..just depends on what cruises are on offer).  I can't even beat that with land vacations, by a mile.  I've currently got a UK obsession though, so I haven't been cruising much lately.  I am currently up so late because I am making my first batch of clotted cream.  It's turning out fabulously..just an hour to go till it comes out of the oven then I'll quit haunting these forums!

I am excited to see your perspective on the rest of your trip, and your further forays into sticking to the MAN 😄

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We got out of guest services just in time to see the sail away out of Miami at 3pm. I like the view of South Beach before we finally enter the open ocean, knowing a whole week of cruising lies ahead.  Along with the thrill of seeing the ship and getting on the ship, that is always an exciting moment. 
 

It was breezy in Miami and as soon as we got out into the ocean, the real wind hit us. I forget the speed but the ship was rocking and rolling quite a bit that night. Once again I was glad of our cabin location because down on deck 1 I felt we had less movement. We definitely felt it in the dining room. 
 

We had chosen early dining (6pm) in the Monet restaurant, deck 4 aft. Now before this cruise I was firmly a buffet person. On my first cruise I had tried the MDR at a shared table and found conversing for two hours with new people exhausting. I also saw no reason why a meal should take two hours when you could just take your plate to a buffet, try a little bit of everything and be done in 30 minutes. So I was unenthusiastic when L said let’s do the dining room. But it was REALLY good..for one thing our assigned table was a private table for 2 (phew), so the meal was totally comfortable. Also there was a wide selection of starters and mains:

(I circled what we had so I’d remember)

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The food was hotter and definitely to a higher standard than the buffet. Even the warm bread and whipped butter that came first was good. I also really liked the nightly ‘Food you always wanted to try but haven’t yet dared’ option. The cured salmon was pretty tame but later in the week we graduated to frogs’ legs and snails. 
 

Later in the cruise we did the ‘Behind the Fun’ tour (more about that later) and found that $320k of food was loaded onto the ship in Miami. That was probably for the crew as well but even assuming it was just for the passengers, that is just ~$100 per person for the week. Given the standard of food we had for breakfast, lunch and dinner I thought that was a culinary miracle, personally. 
 

Our serving team was Djoko, Nathaniel and Panan and they were great. If we liked an appetiser, we could ask for another and it always came quickly. Requests for changes, like no baked potato with the steak, came without fail. There was not one single mistake with our orders all week. 
 

At around 7:10 there would be the announcement of “Showtime!” where Budhi, a member of the serving team, would take the microphone and give the dining room a song, which a lot of the room would sing along to enthusiastically. Then there would be a synchronised dance on the tables and around the room, and a lot of guests joined in with that too. I thought this was awesome. This was not the stuffy dining experience I was expecting. 
 

I liked that it was OK to bring a soda can to the MDR and have it with dinner (the team would always offer us a glass), and that it was OK to wear jeans on the casual nights. Carnival’s relaxed style suited us really nicely in that regard. 
 

That first night I also had my first experience of the famous Carnival melting chocolate cake, which was pretty delicious. We ended up in the MDR every night of the cruise and I am now firmly a convert. 

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Day 2: Sea Day and Formal Night

The ‘should-we-shouldn’t-we’ coronavirus stress on embarkation day and our long day of work/travelling to Miami the day before really took it out of us and we were fast asleep by 9pm that first night. So of course we found ourselves at 6am the next day wide awake and decided to see how it was up top. We could feel the ship was still rocking. We emerged on deck 10 into gale force winds and staggered upwards to check out the mini golf. 

 

Surprisingly, no-one else was up there playing mini golf in gale force winds at 6:30am so we had the course to ourselves. The balls were lightweight - presumably to prevent someone taking a real swing and killing someone - and as soon as we put them on the tee and prepared to aim, they would roll away at speed. Many times they blew towards the hole of their own accord and we’d tap in for a hole in one.  Or it would go the other way and we would hit a good shot towards the hole, only to see the ball stop and be blown back towards us. We found all this hilarious. 

 

We were hungry but there was still half an hour before the breakfast buffet opened so we passed the time on the Serenity deck 12 in a clamshell which was somewhat sheltered from the wind.  There was still no-one else around. 

 

At the breakfast buffet we began to see other people. I like a good breakfast and was perfectly satisfied with the selection here. In particular the French toast was delicious. I was happy to see that it was properly soaked in egg mixture and not just 90% dry white bread with a little egg on the outside (yes I’m looking at you, Celebrity). Waffles and pancakes were disappointing by comparison. I saw the waffles were delivered ready-made, not sure about the pancakes. The fresh made waffles were something I particularly liked on HAL, but of course that is a completely different price point.  On a positive note, I loved the buttery scrambled eggs, and the bacon and sausage were good and tasty. 

 

Buffet food is never particularly hot, and the temperature in the Lido was always colder than the MDR. I made the amateur mistake of getting my food, then going back for coffee and syrup so by the time I made my way back to the table, most of it was cold.  Apart from one other day where we had to have an early breakfast before the Behind the Fun tour, we ate the rest of our breakfasts in the MDR. Essentially the same food but in more comfortable temperatures and served hotter. MDR also has some extra items such as toasted rye bread and toasted English muffins. 

 

A note about the coffee. I like a good, strong coffee in the morning and didn’t expect the free coffee to be good enough. (Based on experience on MSC and Celebrity). I was ready to pay for a decent coffee each morning and scoped out the locations of where I’d have to go to get one, because surely it would take forever to order one from a busy waiter (yes I’m looking at you again Celebrity) But no! The free coffee was perfectly fine. Of course there’s always a lottery when multiple jugs are filled from a coffee filter - the first jug will be strongest and so on - then it’s the luck of the draw which one comes to your table. But for the most part, it was a good strong, hot filter coffee and I never needed to purchase any at breakfast.  

 

With it blowing a gale outside and grey skies, this was the only day we did any organised shipboard activity. Usually we spent our time in a quiet area outside, or relaxing in the cabin. But today we joined the 10 am trivia. We did good, but not good enough to win the ship on a stick. One day..I will win a ship on a stick!

 

One thing that really surprised us was the casino on deck 5. We decided to check out the shops on that floor and ended up walking through the casino for the first and last time. It was full of cigarette smoke, there was no getting away from it and the smoke permeated to everything midship on that deck - the shopping area, and the lounge nearby. We avoided deck 5 after that. I don’t know if it’s the same on all ships. Maybe this is normal. 

 

At 11am we decided to check out the sea day brunch. I had seen people talking about the Chia seed pot and knew that L would love it. (She did - score).  It was 4 hours since breakfast so we decided to try breakfast number two – the intriguing skillet cake and 12 hour French toast.  both things were huge and far too sweet for us. We left most of it and actually it was all so over-sweet with all the maple butter etc I feel sickly just thinking about it. We realised that the brunch menu is not a substitute for the breakfast menu at all.  The Chia seed pot was a winner though. 

 

After that we needed to go lie down and before we knew it fell asleep with the lights on. It was a great nap. At about 2 pm we needed a snack to keep us going until dinner, and tried the pizza. It was SO GOOD. Okay MSC is an Italian line and also does 24-hour pizza but theirs was average compared to this. I couldn’t believe it was 24h a day and free. 

 

So here were two great things (pizza and breakfast coffee) that I would have willingly paid extra for and turned out to be free. The next day we would try Guy’s burger and realise that these were top notch too. And the fries! OMG that melty cheese.. this was when we realised that there was no need to stick it to the man because ‘the man’ really was not trying to stick it to us. The nickel and diming we had expected really was not happening. In fact we felt we were getting more than we paid for. 

 

We also liked the pork tacos from blue iguana and loved the selection of salsas and toppings - but pizza and Guys were our faves. I’m obsessed with tacos - the Episode of ‘Mexican Street Food’ where Mark Wiens does the taco tour of Mexico City is my fave - AND with finding great burgers, so all this is not praise given out lightly or often. 

 

I never saw anyone ordering from Seafood Shack or the sushi place. But we never hung around on the Lido deck for longer than it took us to inhale a burger or pizza so not sure if they were popular or not. 

 

That night was formal night, and we got dressed up. I have to say that if Carnival is the Walmart of the Seas it’s the nicest Walmart I’ve ever seen because people looked GREAT. The women went all out in beautiful elegant dresses and the men in shirts and jackets and ties. It seemed like everyone made the effort. 

 

The dinner was so delicious that night. We had fried oysters followed by the lobster tail. L gave me half of hers (she’s a keeper) and it was amazing with the melted butter. It brought to mind that scene in the book Goldfinger where Mr Du Pont takes James Bond to ‘Bill’s on the Beach’ for the sumptuous crab meal before asking him to figure out how Goldfinger is beating him at Canasta. The Creme brûlée afterwards was wonderful too. Probably one of the best meals of my life. Definitely no longer sticking it to the man now. In fact, Carnival did I pay you enough?? 
 

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Funny you said about the seafood shack.  It wasn't until the last day I saw a family with some food from there.  A gigantic plate of shrimp.  

 

As for the ship, I felt it was a bit tired.  It needs a renovation.  

 

Bushing, the singing waiter was a better singer than any of the paid entertainers I heard around the ship.  The piano bar guy was an amazing pianist but couldn't carry a tune, many of the main lobby performers couldn't either but Budhi was fantastic!!!!  

 

My son and I played shuffleboard in those winds.  It was hilarious but fun

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Day 3: Grand Turk

THIS was the port I was most excited about, as I had seen the pictures of the beautiful beach and clear turquoise water with the ship parked right there. 
 

We got into port on time at 8am and had a nice long stop till 4pm. I had cross-referenced at least three different websites and knew the Carnival Sensation was due to arrive one hour before us at 7am but there was no sign of her. She did eventually come steaming over the horizon after midday, I don’t know what happened there. 
 

In the end, it was not a great day for the beach. The wind was still very strong and the sun disappeared behind a thick layer of clouds soon after we docked. 😭 It made the occasional appearance through a small hole in the cloud but generally the day was overcast and windy. The beach would be AMAZING on a good day though. L snorkeled briefly by the pier on the left and saw many colourful fish. 
 

we walked 10 minutes along the beach towards Jack’s shack and laid a sarong on the sand. There wasn’t enough sun to justify paying for an umbrella, plus we thought we may want to move on and not stay in one place. We walked up and down the beach scoping out places for lunch and settled on the reef shark bar and Grill which did a tasting platter of conch fritters, breaded fish and fried chicken. A bit disappointing since there wasn’t any fish, it was replaced by more chicken without anything being said. 

 

We decided to see a bit of the island and got into one of the taxi vans to ’Downtown’, a few minutes away. We realised that the island must have gotten hit hard with recent hurricanes as downtown was a small collection of battered looking buildings that gave the impression of great economic hardship. And this is the island’s capital.. We stepped inside the museum shop however and found a great selection of antique style wall maps of the Caribbean. We bought a couple to frame on the wall at home. 


The taxi vans ran regularly back to the ship so we hopped on one and went back. I’d love to try Grand Turk again another day. 
 

That night’s dinner was flat iron steak for me and portobello mushroom for L. She said it was pretty good and my steak surpassed expectations. I tried the braised rabbit appetiser which was the ‘Food you always wanted to try but haven’t yet dared’. Small but very tasty. 

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30 minutes ago, HWC_Mom said:

As for the ship, I felt it was a bit tired.  It needs a renovation.  

 

I think so too. The decor in the dining rooms and public areas seems very dark and old fashioned. It doesn’t put me off but also doesn’t seem to match Carnival’s vibe. I read she is due for dry dock sept 2020. Wonder what they will do..

 

30 minutes ago, HWC_Mom said:

Bushing, the singing waiter was a better singer than any of the paid entertainers I heard around the ship.  The piano bar guy was an amazing pianist but couldn't carry a tune, many of the main lobby performers couldn't either but Budhi was fantastic!!!!  

 


He was a great singer! Really got people going too. 

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Day 4: San Juan

A nice leisurely stop since we didn’t get into port till 1pm, leaving at 9pm. This was also our first day of good weather, FINALLY! It was hot and the wind was finally gone. 
 

I was excited to see San Juan again, since a brief visit when starting a cruise here last year. L had never been. I thought it was a great stop, with a beautiful colourful old town, plenty of culture and local food but also beaches for those who wanted them. 
 

We spent the morning on deck, finally able to enjoy the weather but struggled to find somewhere cool and relaxing. The main pool area was blasting loud music. The aft pool also had music and was surrounded by windows so felt more like inside. The serenity area was full and there were no seats in the shade. We kind of moved around from place to place, never really settling. 
 

The drive into port was lovely and scenic. Once parked, we set off walking into the old town which was right there by the pier. So convenient. It was so hot! We walked up through the colourful streets of the old town, to the beautiful grassy expanse of the fort. From there back down to the town and along the promenade by the water. There was plenty to see in Old San Juan and we explored until getting back on the ship for dinner. We chose this option over eating in town because we just had to try the frogs legs! They were quite something. I thought they had the taste of fish and the texture of chicken. But they didn’t look nice (white flesh with stringy black..tendons?) and I don’t think I would order them again, though the sauce they were in was delicious. 
 

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L combined 2 mains - the flat iron steak with the baked tomato and said it was amazing. I had the seafood pasta which was ok and the popcorn pot de creme which was wonderful. We were exhausted from walking around in the sun all afternoon and fell asleep at 9pm again. I really think if we had late dining we would have fallen asleep in our dinner most nights. 
 

The Norwegian Encore (4000 people) was due at 5pm but showed up much earlier than that, like around 2-3pm. I don’t know why the websites I checked were so off this time!  The narrow streets and small shops of the town felt very crowded with two ships in port. 


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We found Grand Turk a little sad.  I understand why they might be turning away cruise ships though.  It's such a small island any kind of horrible virus would just run its course through the entire population. 

 

San Juan we had a terrible tour guide and ended up leaving the tour early.  She was aggressive and wouldn't let us ask any questions.  Two people left the tour before us and she made a snarky comment. It was clear they were a bit offended by her delivery.  We got so see some of the city though

 

Did you try any of the soups in the main dining room?  I'm not a soup person but kept liking the sound of them and they were all tremendous.  We're picky with food because I like to cook and make some nice meals.  But we were very pleased with all the meals on this cruise.  

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1 hour ago, HWC_Mom said:

Did you try any of the soups in the main dining room?  I'm not a soup person but kept liking the sound of them and they were all tremendous.  We're picky with food because I like to cook and make some nice meals.  But we were very pleased with all the meals on this cruise.  


The roasted tomato (very good) on the first night, and the onion and cheese on night 5 or 6 which was wonderful. I was curious about the cold peach and mango soups but didn’t try them as there was a good chance I wouldn’t like them and they’d go to waste. I was already having at least 2 Appetizers per night 🐷

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29 minutes ago, kirtens said:


The roasted tomato (very good) on the first night, and the onion and cheese on night 5 or 6 which was wonderful. I was curious about the cold peach and mango soups but didn’t try them as there was a good chance I wouldn’t like them and they’d go to waste. I was already having at least 2 Appetizers per night 🐷

I was the same about those soups.  I'm not sure I'd be a fan of fruit soup.  The meatball the first night and minestrone one evening was so good.  I also liked the beer and cheese one too 

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2 minutes ago, HWC_Mom said:

I was the same about those soups.  I'm not sure I'd be a fan of fruit soup.  The meatball the first night and minestrone one evening was so good.  I also liked the beer and cheese one too 

Those fruits are DELICIOUS! It's the perfect appetizer, IMO. Especially the chilled strawberry soup. Mango is good too. Try it, you'll like it!

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2 minutes ago, Joe817 said:

Those fruits are DELICIOUS! It's the perfect appetizer, IMO. Especially the chilled strawberry soup. Mango is good too. Try it, you'll like it!

I'm typically not a soup fan.  I will try a fruit soup eventually.  Just seems like dessert haha.  That could be a thing dessert soup 

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Day 5: St Thomas

We arrived on time at 7am and somehow the Norwegian Encore had beaten us there, despite being scheduled to arrive later. I gave up on the cruise schedules! The way into the port seemed very tricky to navigate and was definitely scenic. 
 

We were determined that this should be a good beach day, to make up for grand Turk. There are many beautiful beaches on the island but we wanted one that would be easy to get to and from on our own. We settled on Magens Bay, The main beach of the island. It was also the most popular but not crowded if you walked further along. We liked that there was a regular line of the island’s peculiar open sided taxis going between the ships and the beach and that it had bathrooms, changing rooms and a beach bar/restaurant. The $5 entrance fee also gave us peace from beach vendors. The fixed-time Carnival excursion was $37 or so but you could get a taxi to the beach for $8 each way plus the $5 entrance fee and stay as long as you wanted, so that’s what we did. 
 

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The beach was beautiful, it was already crowded when we arrived but we walked further down and found some shade and enjoyed swimming and walking along the white sand. Snorkelling was a waste of time - because of the powdery sand in the water there was nothing to see. But just being in the warm water was wonderful. 
 

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After a happy couple of hours we headed back to the ship for lunch. We only had to wait about five minutes for a taxi. We were glad of the open sides and the breeze as it was so hot. As the taxi climbed over the green hills, the views back down to the beach and then down to the ships from the taxi were fabulous. Lunch was a Plain Jane from Guy’s on the lido and that was also fabulous. 
 

After lunch we headed back out for a walk around the port. We found a US post office and posted the long cardboard tube of Caribbean maps we had bought in Grand Turk. Yay, because that did not fit in the suitcase. Apart from that, the shopping area seemed just like each of the other shopping areas in every port. Just then the Regal Princess turned up and we got on the ship to chill out and wait for sail away. It can’t have been easy sliding the ship out sideways between the Encore and the Regal Princess and then steering it through the channel out to sea but we did just that and just after 3pm we were underway. 
 

 

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Day 6: Amber Cove

I feel like there is a dud in most cruise itineraries and for us this was it. We didn’t see the attraction of sitting by a pool listening to constant blasting music and paying top dollar for Carnival food. 
 

Puerto Plata seemed like a cool cultural experience so we checked out the taxi fares and saw that it was $70 round trip. But in fact a taxi representative explained to us, the $70 included stops wherever we wanted and the driver would stay with us. Sweet! So we found our driver Carlos and asked him to take us to a cigar factory, the historic centre and a rum factory. 
 

The drive into Puerto Plata was eye-opening. The road was clogged with cars and many many motorbikes and no one seemed to be staying in any particular lane. Carlos explained that the motorbikes were Moto taxis and people used them to get around cheaply. Almost no one wore helmets. There were sometimes 3 on a bike and I watched as a young mom got on the back of one and held onto the driver with one arm and a baby with the other. Renting a car or scooter here to look around would have been insanity. I was grateful for Carlos. 
 

The cigar factory was an unprepossessing yellow and green building that lookEd like someone’s house. Once inside however, We saw piles of tobacco leaf, cigar makers hard at work and a whole room full of finished cigars ready for shipment to customers. We were given a tour by Gilbert the Belgian owner who was very funny. We bought a really nice box of cigars for L’s father. 
 

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After this we had a look around the historic Main Square which was beautiful, and a very welcome fresh coconut to drink for $1. Then onward to a fort. 

 

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Last stop was the Macorix rum factory. Rum tastes like nail varnish remover to me but L found it nice and interesting and she got to taste eight different types of rum.

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By the time we got back to Amber Cove the pool area had emptied out a lot so we went and sat in the evening sun for awhile. It was certainly pretty but I don’t know how people could sit and listen to that music all day. What did the older people do? Did they like it? Did they hate it and just stay on the ship or go shopping? I have no idea. The Carnival culture fit us in a lot of ways but the loud music in so many places did not. 

 

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We got back on the ship right before all the board, satisfied that we’d had a really good day. 
 

That evening was the second of the formal evenings, so again we dressed up and had a wonderful meal. I really liked the crab cake appetiser and the filet mignon main course melted in the mouth. The key lime mousse was really subtle and creamy too. 
 

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