Cruise Review

Carnival Conquest

January 31 – February 7, 2010

Please welcome my guest blogger, Robin Johnson, who reviews her recent cruise experience aboard the Carnival Conquest in true Arkansas style!  Here’s Robin …

 The Carnival Conquest was the second cruise for my husband, CJ, and I, but it was our first 7-night cruise. Our first cruise was just 4 nights, which wasn’t enough time to do everything that we wanted to do.  We decided to sail from Galveston, because it would be an easy drive from Arkansas, saving us the cost of flights.  With a group of 13 friends and family, we drove in four cars, sharing the cost of fuel to make it affordable for everyone. 

Our Arkansas winter was colder than usual, so we had to endure the cold before heading off for our tropical vacation. We decided to leave a day early and spend the night in the Galveston, so we would be fresh for our cruise. We arrived in Galveston around 7 pm Saturday night, so we really didn’t have a chance to experience the town. Of course we made the required stop at Walmart to pick up the various  odds and ends some in our group had forgotten.  We stayed our pre-cruise night at the Comfort Inn & Suites on the East Seawall which had received a nice makeover due to Hurricane Ike. The shuttle service was not good at all, and that was the main reason we chose to stay there, because we could park our cars there and receive complimentary shuttle service to the cruise terminal. They only had one van.  There were 13 of us with luggage, plus 15 or 20 other guests who were either sailing on the Carnival Conquest or the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas, plus the driver picked up even more guests from other hotels as well. Needless to say, he had to make a lot of trips, so we didn’t make it to the ship until  2 pm when everyone else was arriving, and the cruise terminal was very crowded. The line we waited in was outside in the cold. In the future, we will park our cars at the pier, or find a hotel with better shuttle service.

Once we got checked in to board the ship, we arrived at our first picture opportunity. I was already getting happy and had the biggest smile on my face.  Due to our later check-in time, we were able to go straight to our cabins. Our first cruise we had an oceanview cabin, but we decided to save some money and try an inside cabin this time. When we walked in, it seemed so small, but once we put away all of our luggage, it seemed to grow. We don’t mind having an inside cabin and if that makes it more affordable for us, then that’s what we will get.

The first thing we did on the beautiful Carnival Conquest was go find food!  We had a cheeseburger lunch at the Cezanne Restaurant, then headed to the top deck to say goodbye to Galveston.  The first night was for exploring and getting to know the ship. We chose the late dinner seating for this cruise, because, on our first cruise, there was so much to do we would almost miss dinner. Now Carnival offers anytime dining, so I think we may try that out on the next cruise. Everyone in our group wanted to eat so late, and you may want to see a show early or late, and there is no flexibility with assigned dining.

The first port was Jamaica. This was our first visit and we were unsure as to what we really wanted to do. Our group broke up and everyone did what they wanted to do. Some went on a Carnival excursion that included some sightseeing and shopping,  but seven of us decided to purchase a shuttle bracelet for $15 that would allow us to see Jamaica at our own pace.  You could get on and off the shuttle as many times as you wanted, because a new one showed up every 10 to 15 minutes. We went to Doc Cave Beach for a while, then strolled down the street for a little bit of shopping.  Of course, we stopped at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, where we danced, drank and took lots of pictures. We had a great time.

My husband and I ended up on a shuttle that took us around the town and showed us some of the history of Jamaica which we absolutely enjoyed. We definitely want to visit again, but we think we would like to stay at an all-inclusive resort where we could really enjoy the island. We did get to experience the pushiness of the shop owners trying to get you to purchase their things, but I didn’t buy anything that I didn’t want to buy.  We were cruising on a very limited budget this time, but even so we were able to enjoy our day in Jamaica. If you have the money then doing an excursion would be an awesome thing, but if not you can still have a good time.

The second port was Grand Cayman, where we negotiated the tour guide down from $20 to $10 per person. Our tour did not start until 11:30 am, so we spent a couple of hours strolling the streets and the shops near the pier, where we purchased some nice gifts to take back home.  We returned to our tour pick up spot and loaded on the bus and away we went.  We visited a beach, and we saw where the Governor lives. We made a stop at Dolphin Cove, where we were able to take some cool pictures of the dolphins and some of the people who were swimming with them. I decided that this would be something we would consider doing on my next trip here to Grand Cayman.  After the dolphins, we were taken to the Tortuga Rum Factory and Bakery. We tasted a vast array of different rums and rum cakes. I didn’t buy any rum, but I did purchase a small original rum cake. After that we went to Hell, wherewe bought some post cards and mailed them and took pictures of the rock formation behind the post office.  Our tour ended at a little rum shop at the port, where we tried a really tasty meat pie.

The third port took us to Cozumel. Here we just hopped in a taxi to shop downtown, where we could buy some inexpensive souvenir gifts and snap some more nice pictures. Along the way, we stopped at a beach, where my husband found a pretty big shell. We wrapped it up to carry home, but when we unpacked it at home, it smelled horrible, because there was something living inside! We thought we had gotten all the critters out, but we hadn’t. That was pretty funny for us, but sad for the critter.

On sea days we went to the casino, strolled the Promenade Deck, and ate. A few folks in our group took in the shows, and they especially commented how much they enjoyed the magic show and the Legends show.  Our group enjoyed dinner together in our assigned dining room, where we had good food and entertainment by our wait staff. We totally adored them.  We were full as ticks after eating all that good food, so CJ and I decided to enjoy movies on the big screen on the Lido Deck, where we checked out a couple of blankets and watched some great movies.  CJ and I decided to skip the late shows this timeand do things where we could just spend time together without the crowds. Movie night on deck was perfect for that.

All in all we enjoyed the Conquest and the ports we visited. The only frustrating thing was that hotel shuttle.  Our group waited an hour and a half for the hotel shuttle to come and pick us up after the cruise to take us to our cars. They never showed up to pick us up from the terminal. Our drivers decided to grab a cab to go pick up our cars and then come back and pick everyone else up along with our luggage.

But, now we’re home and planning our next cruise.  We’re sailing the Carnival Dream, 9/11 – 18/2010, roundtrip from Port Canaveral, visiting St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau.  Come sail with us, we’re going to have a blast!

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