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Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Conquest

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Feb 21, 2017

Caribean

CARNIVAL IS A TERRIBLE COMPANY WITH TERRIBLE MORALS AND CUSTOMER SERVICE AND QUALITY CONTROL. TAKE CAUTION! The Carnival Conquest cruise was the worst experience of my life. This cruise was a nightmare and the customer service on the cruise ship and off was even worse. This was my second cruise, my first and last with Carnival. On the 4th day of our cruise, I paid $14 for a lobster BLT from the ‘Seafood Corner’. I was with fiancé,

who does not eat fish so I was the only one who had the sandwich. Not to mention newly engaged, he proposed a few days before we left on the cruise when we arrived on vacation in Fort Lauderdale. So the cruise was kind of a celebration, one that took a terrible turn. But back to the ‘Seafood Corner’. It took surprisingly long, especially since no one else was waiting for food. We were the only ones there. I ate the sandwich and fries and we went about our way to lay back out at the pool. The sun goes down and we went back to the room to get ready for dinner. While getting ready I became deathly sick: propel vomiting, shaking and sweating, lying in bed crying (when I wasn’t running to the bathroom to throw up). It was so bad my fiancé just sat out on the balcony for hours because he didn’t want to keep hearing me puke. This went on for 4 hours. I have never been so sick in my life. Once I gained enough strength and now furious that we missed dinner and all of the shows (this was the evening with the big shows that I was so looking forward to), I went down stairs to guest services to tell my story. Mid story about my food poising, ‘Serena’ corrects me and says ‘you mean ALLEGED food poisoning’. I lost it, after being sick for 4 hours only eating the food Carnival is giving me she is going to state either I’m lying or I just randomly became sick? If I did randomly become sick it was more likely of uncleanliness from the old cruise ship that I was on or it was food poisoning. And I know some might go to sun poisoning, but I am Italian and already have a very dark complexion and wasn’t near sun burnt (nor were we out in the sun all day), so sun poisoning was not the cause. So then Serena says first I need to call for medical, so she calls and I speak with them. They tell me that if I need medical it will be $250 to see a doctor because they were closed (I finished puking at 9pm), in addition to any tests and medicines being billed out of pocket. I almost laughed and said that I no longer needed medical; I threw up and was no fine. Anything that poisoned me is now out and the damage is already done. So I give the phone back to Serena and told her what they told me. She then tells me that since I ‘denied medical’ there is nothing else she can do for me. At this point you can imagine how upset I am becoming. All this girl had to say was ‘I am so sorry your sick, let me look into the food for you’. I mean she didn’t even have to admit guilt, but her showing some kind of sympathy would have been nice. I mean I don’t know how some doesn’t feel bad for someone claiming to be this sick, (I physically looked terrible) at least just on just a human level. It was just like I was an inconvenience to her. Now not only am I upset about being food poisoned but also how I am being treated. So I explain all of these points. I even told her that she could stop repeating the prewritten lines she memorized, that’s how inhuman this woman was. She then says that the best she can do is make a report to look into the food. She said she would send up the paperwork so I could file everything out and get a copy of the report and the contact information for corporate once I get back from the cruise. Even though I wasn't happy with this outcome since I saw it as just more work and inconvenience on my part for an injustice outside of my control, it was the only response I could get out of Serena. Day 5 comes and no paperwork. Late that night we received a voicemail in our room after we came back from dinner/shows late asking for Sal, my fiancé, to call the dinning manager back. The message was to make sure that Sal was feeling better. Nice right? After all that, no one could even get my name right. Not to mention a female was standing right in front of the women who made the report. Nonetheless, it was late, so I decided I would call back in the morning. Day 6 comes and I called dinning back. I told them I was returning the message from the dinning manager, gave them our room and contact information and was told he would call me back. We went about our day, came back to the room and we received a new room voicemail from Room Service/Hospitality checking in again on Sal to make sure that he was feeling okay and asking him to call him back so he could stop by our room. We also received 4 chocolate covered strawberries left at our door from this manager. Out of everyone I talked to, he was probably the nicest but still not very helpful. He arrives at the room and I tell him my story. When I told him that I was told there was nothing that could be done since I denied medical because I denied paying $250.00 to see a doctor after the fact, he even gave me a face (shocked). He kept apologizing and he told me he was taking off the lobster BLT: a whole $14 charge. I told him at that point, I had no intention on paying for the food that made me sick but thanked him anyways. He basically said there was nothing else he could do, but to tell the manager of the dinning hall we were assigned to and maybe he could do something at dinner. So we go to dinner, within a few minutes of sitting, the dinning manager comes over to check on Sal. I almost feel over, I said I was the one who was sick and that it just shows how bad the service here is that no one can even get the story right. At this point, every ‘manager’ that I am talking to is just making it worse and me more irritable and enjoying less and less of the whole vacation experience. The manager then states that I never called him back, almost like he was trying to make two wrongs make a right. I told him I did call him back, that maybe he should find more competent employees to relay messages. He apologies for everything and offers me a glass of wine. I declined, as I wasn’t drinking since I had to pack for deportation that evening and leave early in the morning. He says sorry and that he hopes we enjoy dinner. I enjoyed my dinner even more frustrated than I arrived. The next morning, on day 7 (deportation day), I return to guest services since I never received my report or the contact information for corporate. Serena failed me yet again. A ‘Samuel’ looks into my report for about 30 minutes before he gives me the card for Carnivals ‘Guest Care Department’ and says he updated the notes. I asked for a copy of the report or a number so I could have it for when I call. He tells me that there isn’t a number or a copy he can give me, that when I call they will be able to look it up. I still insisted I have at least something, because I wasn’t going to start all over after this already terrible experience. We argue about another 10 minutes, and I complain more. He says he will be back, after another 10 minutes he gives me a letter and signs it. I take the letter and leave upset yet again, not even reading it. I just wanted to get off of that terrible ship and continue my vacation. Once I return from the trip, I read the letter to find this: “We apologize for the inconvenience regarding your onboard issues with the liquor and beverage policy involving your two bottle of wine”. I then had the contact information for Carnival and my case reference number. I almost fell over. After days of complaining and being treated terribly, I had a letter about wine and Carnival still concerned about Sal (as that was still what corporate asked me, if Sal was okay)! I talk to the first lad from Guest Care and I have to tell the whole story over again, meanwhile waiting for her to ‘update her notes’. I even had to get a new case number under my name and not Sal’s and in a different category since it didn’t involve their wine policy. 30 more minutes wasted. She then tells me she will update the case and have someone call me back once the results on the food investigation have been conducted. This is now almost two weeks after my cruise. I insisted something be done now; I was done with this aggravation and mistreatment. She said she would she if something could be done and has to talk to her manager for confirmation. At this point, it sounded like some kind of justice would be had. 25 minutes more of a wait and she comes on to tell me there is nothing she can do. So I request I talk to her manager. I tell the story again (30 minutes) and express how I now have a food complaint and a customer service issue and she tells me again emotionless now that I am off of the cruise that there is nothing she can do. The best that could be done is for them to send a care package with wine to the room on my next cruise. I said I would NEVER cruise with Carnival again, that if that was the case they should have sent that on the horrible cruise I was just on. She said they should have done that but since they didn’t that there was nothing she could do. Funny how no one could do anything. When I was on the ship I was told only corporate could help me. At corporate I was told only the ship could help me. I was at there mercy believing them, only to be lied to and violated. I told her that I would be writing my disgust in a review anywhere I could post about Carnival and she said that was my right to do so. So I am utilizing that right. I normally don’t do things like this, but after everything I went to and how small I was made to feel, I think it is necessary. I was supposed to be celebrating my engagement and the whole trip I was aggravated and made to feel insignificant. I work hard for my money and treat my clients like how I would like to be treated. So how I was treated really upsets me. I don’t believe anyone should be treated like that, no matter how big of a company you are. All they had to do was just say ‘I’m so sorry your sick’, maybe give me a bottle of wine (I mean Barefoot is $12 in normal stores!) or maybe a credit to the casino (you know they would have made that back). I mean just something to show a courtesy or some human sympathy. But no, nothing, but lies, frustration and wasted time. All I can say is never again!

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Feb 19, 2017

Western Caribbean

OMG THIS WAS A HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE, LOUSY, ROTTEN CRUISE!!!! 1) My room steward would not quit coming into my room. Jose would knock and then immediately use his card to come in. It seemed he was definitely hoping to see something. 2) The food was awful. 3) service was lousy. NOW ARE YOU READY FOR THE REAL REVIEW?! THIS IS TOO CRAZY TO MAKE UP AND I AM STILL SEETHING! 4) I decide to escape everyone and all my stress at home and travel

solo. I get a beautiful balcony room, or at least I thought it would be. I put my things down, put on my bathing suit, and went to the whirlpool. This was all just after the safety briefing in the very beginning of the cruise. 5) Two very aged people, let's call them antiquated, were in the whirlpool. One was a drunken old one and her husband, a dirty old man making passes at me (he was old enough to be my great grandfather) 6) Jealous "grandma" decides to hurt me by telling the bartender I told her I was going to kill myself!! 1,000,000% absurdity! 7) Security immediately rushed me out of the whirlpool and locks me in my room with the security guard sitting at the foot of my bed and my balcony door locked so that I cannot "jump". For 18 hours the security guard sits in the room with me until I'm finally escorted to medical. 8) They insist I should be assessed for a fee of $125. Dr. Allah (sp?) who seems to have a very Dutch accent insisted I pay. I blatantly refused because this was the most ridiculous situation I had ever been in in my life. Angrily, she says she'll waive the fee but I have to sign paperwork or I cannot return to the ship. I signed the paperwork "blackmail". I ask if I can record the conversation so that her notes match what she actually says. She refuses and says there are chaperones in the room with us... I said yes but they work for carnival. If your intentions are good you will allow me to record our conversation. She still refused. 9) Finally the chief of staff comes in and security escorts me out and back to my room. For the first time since I boarded the ship in almost 24 hours they unlock the door and leave the room so I can rest. Just before I fall asleep I call guest services and I ask if I can please be put on a different ship at the next port. The guest services lady was very polite and said she would see what she could do. 10) I don't know how much time passes, but not very much because I was in a deep sleep. I wake up to several people in my room. They said you want to leave carnival? We know where we can take you. They pulled the covers off of me, opened my safe, and all of my contents were dumped into a suitcase. 11) I was then escorted off the ship in Cozumel to a very scary motel. I'm accustomed to resorts which are beautiful in Mexico. This was not one of them. I am then told I will be flown home the next morning. They book a ticket for the WRONG port five hours away from the port where my car is at and I embarked on the ship. 12) I am not given my airline ticket until the man who drove me to the airport handed it to me get in the car and drive away. United airlines basically said too bad too sad, there will be a $200 transfer fee plus another fee of some sort. Have you ever been so angry that you just didn't know what to do and stood there with your jaw on the ground in complete disbelief that you were even in the situation?? Since the service was so "great" on carnival conquest, I made sure to get the name so I can give them lots of credit in my reviews: Supervisor assistant chief security is named Laney. He is the one that made the decision to lock me up for 18 hours in my bedroom because I might injure myself since I "told the old lady I wanted to kill myself". Idiots! Elza was a security guard that was forced to sit in my room for all those hours until her shift change at 6 AM. I have nothing bad to say about her. She was nice to me and stuck having to do this job. Navi was the next security guard to stay with me until 11 AM when I was taken to medical to be psychologically assessed. She was OK. Nothing good or bad to say about her... She was just stuck with her job. I will never, ever trust Carnival again. Yes, these numbskulls were running the Carnival Conquest, but I never got to visit any port and any fool that's going to believe a drunken old lady just like that and ruin my entire vacation that cost $2000 that they are refusing to reimburse me for, is a business I never want to see again. I intend to file a lawsuit. Disgusting The only good part about the ship was my state room. Stupid and juvenile I never got to get off the ship for any excursions solo. I get a beautiful balcony room, or at least I thought it would be. I put my things down, put on my bathing suit, and went to the whirlpool. This was all just after the safety briefing in the very beginning of the cruise. 5) Two very aged people, let's call them antiquated, were in the whirlpool. One was a drunken old one and her husband, a dirty old man making passes at me (he was old enough to be my great grandfather) 6) Jealous "grandma" decides to hurt me by telling the bartender I told her I was going to kill myself!! 1,000,000% absurdity! 7) Security immediately rushed me out of the whirlpool and locks me in my room with the security guard sitting at the foot of my bed and my balcony door locked so that I cannot "jump". For 18 hours the security guard sits in the room with me until I'm finally escorted to medical. 8) They insist I should be assessed for a fee of $125. Dr. Allah (sp?) who seems to have a very Dutch accent insisted I pay. I blatantly refused because this was the most ridiculous situation I had ever been in in my life. Angrily, she says she'll waive the fee but I have to sign paperwork or I cannot return to the ship. I signed the paperwork "blackmail". I ask if I can record the conversation so that her notes match what she actually says. She refuses and says there are chaperones in the room with us... I said yes but they work for carnival. If your intentions are good you will allow me to record our conversation. She still refused. 9) Finally the chief of staff comes in and security escorts me out and back to my room. For the first time since I boarded the ship in almost 24 hours they unlock the door and leave the room so I can rest. Just before I fall asleep I call guest services and I ask if I can please be put on a different ship at the next port. The guest services lady was very polite and said she would see what she could do. 10) I don't know how much time passes, but not very much because I was in a deep sleep. I wake up to several people in my room. They said you want to leave carnival? We know where we can take you. They pulled the covers off of me, opened my safe, and all of my contents were dumped into a suitcase. 11) I was then escorted off the ship in Cozumel to a very scary motel. I'm accustomed to resorts which are beautiful in Mexico. This was not one of them. I am then told I will be flown home the next morning. They book a ticket for the WRONG port five hours away from the port where my car is at and I embarked on the ship. 12) I am not given my airline ticket until the man who drove me to the airport handed it to me get in the car and drive away. United airlines basically said too bad too sad, there will be a $200 transfer fee plus another fee of some sort. Have you ever been so angry that you just didn't know what to do and stood there with your jaw on the ground in complete disbelief that you were even in the situation?? Since the service was so "great" on carnival conquest, I made sure to get the name so I can give them lots of credit in my reviews: Supervisor assistant chief security is named Laney. He is the one that made the decision to lock me up for 18 hours in my bedroom because I might injure myself since I "told the old lady I wanted to kill myself". Idiots! Elza was a security guard that was forced to sit in my room for all those hours until her shift change at 6 AM. I have nothing bad to say about her. She was nice to me and stuck having to do this job. Navi was the next security guard to stay with me until 11 AM when I was taken to medical to be psychologically assessed. She was OK. Nothing good or bad to say about her... She was just stuck with her job. I will never, ever trust Carnival again. Yes, these numbskulls were running the Carnival Conquest, but I never got to visit any port and any fool that's going to believe a drunken old lady just like that and ruin my entire vacation that cost $2000 that they are refusing to reimburse me for, is a business I never want to see again. I intend to file a lawsuit.

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Aug 29, 2015

Southern Caribbean

I start all my reviews by saying any time spend vacationing with my family is always quality fun time. With this said, we encountered many issues with this particular ship that need immediate attention. Overall, our experience with the itinerary, service and entertainment was great, but the ship's condition, upkeep was not good. Embarkation was also not good. Buffet food was rapacious and lacking variety. The main dining room food was very

good with respect to taste and variety. Stateroom was well maintained but the it needs updating. We ran into several issues that were quickly addressed and resolved but the steward and guest services. Onboard activities is what you would expect from shows, games, dances, trivia, bingo to music and tributes. Don't miss taking an excursion in La Romana, Curacao and Aruba. We chose mainly tours that included a beach stop. Pros Ports The itinerary was great. We enjoyed all of the four ports visited, Turks and Caicos, La Romana, Curacao and Aruba. Service Cabin steward and main dining room service were great. Overall service was great as well. Guest services was prompt in address and resolving issue ( even though we would have preferred not to have encountered as many issues as we did). Food Buffet food was the same thing every single day lacking any variety. Entertainment Shows were very good including comedy shows. The cruise direct did a good job. Debarkation Long lines but sent smooth. Cons Airport check in was extremely slow. Transport from Miami airport to port everglades took over 2 hours ( includes wait time) Embarkation was chaotic and slow. The mandatory drill was late in taking place. In fact, it was conducted at the ship took off. It was disorganized. We had to stop over huge puddles of supposedly rain water to get to out muster station. The ship's overall condition is not good. At first glance it appears clean and well kept. To the crew's credit they do their very best but the ship is too old and warn. One can observe rust in many places, gook along buffet floor, grease spots in buffet, warn torn seats, dirty seats, chipped bathroom cabinets and chipped buffet tables, hand sanitizers empty most of the time, bad smells and the casino smoke smell is over whelming. Carnival needs to either dry dock this ship or sell it. I feel for the crew who appear to be doing their best despite appearing to be short staffed.

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Aug 14, 2015

Very disappointed in this ship.

This was my 5th cruise and my husband's 8th cruise. Unfortunately, I think this was the last Carnival ship that we will be going on. POOLS: The Conquest ship was old and outdated and the pools were WAY too small for the amount of people on board. We had 3 days at sea during our 8 day cruise and those days were honestly the worst. The main pool area was extremely loud with music and tons and tons of people. We are only 31 years old and the main

pool has been where we have spent most of our time in the past, but it was not relaxing AT ALL this time, so we decided to spend our days at the adult pool. That was obviously much quieter, however, the pool was just as crowded. There were times that my husband and I wanted to go into the pool but had to wait until a few people got out because there was literally no room. When we did go in, we had to keep our hands to our sides and kind of hop to an open area to stand in the water hoping not to touch anyone else. Because the pool was so crowded and it was so small, the water didn't seem to filter because there was no water flow. There was a film on the water (probably from everyone's sunscreen) that made you feel gross when you even went into the pool. My husband and I didn't even put our head underwater because it was that gross. Pool chairs: there are quite a few chairs, but they are right on top of each other, so be prepared to have to sit next to people you don't know. Also, the chairs are so close together that you have to crawl into the chair from the end of the chair; you can't step next to your chair to get in. FOOD: Breakfast Buffett: food was the exact same everyday. It included, cereal, bagels, bread, cheese/salami, honeydew and cantaloupe, eggs, potatoes, French toast, pancakes, sausage, and either eggs Benedict with ham or salmon. And there was an omelette station. Lunch: there is only one Buffet now (different from previous cruises). The buffet tended to have chicken, rice, fish, potatoes. Then in place of the old buffet options, there is now a burger joint which was good, a 24 hour pizza joint which was also good, a taco station, and a deli. The lunch area was very crowded even during off times because the ship was so full. There were a lot of staff members cleaning up the tables though which was nice. Dinner: we did late seating in the dining room which we have always done. 8:15 sounds late but it works well so that you can actually spend a lot of your day outside or on the islands without having to rush back to the ship to get ready before dinner. You can request your own table which was nice. The food in the dining room was good. It wasn't great; it was just okay or good. We used to love the dinners on previous cruises but this just wasn't the same. On precious cruises, you would have a waiter, a person serving water and bread, and then they would even have someone around to order wine or other drinks. This ship was definitely understaffed. We basically had 2 people serving us and they had to run around to about 20 other tables. They were friendly but you didn't get to know them at all because they were so incredibly busy. We also ordered wine and had it corked for the next day, and both times we had them do this, it was on our table the next day but they didn't have it chilling in a bucket. We asked them for a bucket but they forgot because they were so busy doing other things. We also had to pour our own refills, which was fine for us but it is just very different from the fine dining experience we used to have on cruises. They also used to serve you a piece of bread and then they would come back and give u another piece if you wanted some, but now some tables have baskets of bread, or in our section, the waitress would give us 2 or 3 pieces all at once. Again, it's not a big deal but we always looked forward to having a fine dining experience on the cruise and this wasn't really that. Another thing we weren't happy with was that when my husband would order more than one appetizer, they used to wait for you to finish one, but this time, they would bring them both at the same time and try to make room for it on our tiny table. The waiter also tried bringing me my dinner when I had just started eating my salad; this happened twice and I finally told him that I wasn't ready for my meal. One nice thing is they did have an appetizer every night under the section "did you ever try" and they offered unique foods like frog legs, ox tongue, alligator fritters, etc. Also, the menu had items that changed everyday but then it also had items that were available every night. We were disappointed to see that some of the items were an additional $20 charge. WIFI: We bought most expensive package for the week; I think it was around $100. My husband had to check and reply to emails for work so we needed to make sure he had access to at least that. Well, the wifi only worked for us twice during our entire trip, and even when it did work, it was extremely slow, and two of the emails that we thought went through, ending up failing. We requested our money back for the package except I told them that I would pay for the two days that it did kind of work to be fair and they did refund us for the other 6 days. ROOM: The room was outdated but it was pretty clean. The walls very very thin so it was noisy at times. We even heard the phone ringing from the room next to ours numerous times. We requested a fan from maintenance and that helped a lot. There was only one outlet in the entire room though including the bathroom so we had to continuously plug and unplug things including the hair dryer, camera battery, kindle, my husbands work phone, and the fan. I think the most annoying part was having to use the hair dryer in the middle of the room since there wasn't even a plug in the bathroom. PORTFOLIO- sail and sign card: You can no longer view your sail and sign card portfolio from your tv in your room. You can only access it from a kiosk or at the guest services desk so just be prepared to wait in long lines the last day or two of your cruise when everyone begins looking at the charges. ELEGANT PICTURES: they actually had about 12-15 different backdrops set up around the ship on elegant cruise nights which was nice because the lines were maybe only 15-20 people long so you could actually get your photo taken about 3 times in an hour or so which was pretty convenient. Overall, we had a nice time being on vacation but this ship was not the greatest and I would not recommend it to my family or friends. If we were to cruise again, we would not go with Carnival.

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Jun 6, 2015

South caribbean

Conquest- Worst ship in Carnival's fleet. Bad customer service, Bad entertainment, Ship in need of good cleaning. Food was good but NOT excellent. Basically the same food for lunch, sometimes food cold. Sometimes no cones for ice cream, sometimes no plastic glasses or no ice. Sometime watered down lemonade. Air conditioned was not working first day. Sink would not drain another day, Shower would not drain another day. Entertainment

was horrible. DJ music on Lido Deck too loud with horrible music. Where did the live music go???? Why Bingo in the middle of the day instead of before the evening boring entertainment. Where are the Vegas style shows, live people????? sea Day's are boring!!!!!!!!!! Stay away from Dominica. Took Carnival's tour in La Romana on the Basilica tour- but guide disappeared at the Basilica while we all waited for him to come back from who knows where. Have been on 20+ Carnival Cruise's and the Conquest is by far the worst cruise of all. Bad customer service from Guest services, Shore excursion desk people are not knowledgeable about tours they sell. We had your time dining and one night the service was horrible, first wait and wait for waiter, then super slow service then wait and wait for desert menu. After complaining the service got better. Food was good but not excellent. Jumbo shrimp was the size of a quarter??? Rolls were either cold or burned. On Lido deck for lunch the food was sometimes cold or basically the same every day. No place to sit for breakfast or lunch because tables are empty of people but full of dirty dishes. Sometimes no plastic glasses or ice. Sometime no cones for ice cream. When mentioned to staff there they acted like, So WHAT??? Entertainment was horrible, NO more Vegas style shows. NO more live music on Lido deck, just a terrible DJ play loud horrible music. Other entertainment was also horrible, like music by the Casino, or by Guest services. NO more samples in the Bathroom, No more chocolates on your pillow, No more live music. NO more Kathy Lee, No more "FUN". Just bad Customer Service from many staff members on the entire ship that needs a good maintenance and cleaning. By the way we are NOT picky people, but the ship was horrible all around. Again have cruised with Carnival some 20+ years. I hope this is NOT the new Carnival standard. Maybe just on the Conquest. So beware if you cruise on this ship. Good Luck!

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May 5, 2015

Key West

Room service, room steward with aide, and food services gets an A, however I have noticed a poorer quality of food served since I began cruising 20 years ago. The embarkation was not only a fiasco it was a nightmare.I noticed many very unhappy and some angry people during this process. I have not experienced this on other Carnival ships. It was a mess and took much longer than necessary. Quality of the food has noticeably diminished over my

years of cruising with Carnival. The steakhouse is well worth the money. Excellent cabin as was the steward and his help. We spent much time in the Casino and received a "drinks on Carnival"card while playing cards. I thought this a good gesture, however one particular waiter appeared to be the drink nazi and began limiting the "free drinks". Seems odd you earn this card yet a waiter can determine when you can use it. Other than this one waiter all of the casino staff were friendly and fun to be around. I planned my own shore activities and did not use those sold by Carnival. We had a great time and look forward to our next cruise with Carnival.I would like to comment on the promenade deck congestion that occurs nightly due to photographers crowding the passage way and limiting passage to one person at a time. I noted several people tripping on the photographic props and equipment. One photographer actually stuck a sign into the passing people, blocking their way and causing a human pileup behind them. I thought this rather unsafe and was surprised the ship's company would allow it to happen.

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By Lien_CR

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Dec 7, 2013

None

The slide was slow and the line was long. the pools were a bit too cold but the hot tub was amazing!!!!! The food was great but the waiters weren't all that friendly. It was great lots of space for clothes but just a bit tight for four people.

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Sep 2, 2013

Exotic Western Caribbean

This cruise convinced us that we don't need to look at other cruise lines. The cruise was NEARLY perfect in every way. The service on the ship and the friendliness of the staff, in its entirety, from the first day through the last could not have been better. There was a bit of sewage smell in the hallways a couple of times, though, it was temporary. The food was great throughout the cruise for all meals. The most impressive part of our dining

experience was the totally unexpected care for my need for a gluten free diet. I had expected to navigate the food choices on the ship very carefully to avoid a reaction...and I had resigned myself to eating fruit and salads throughout the cruise if need be. We went to dinner the first night and I asked my waiter about any items that may be gluten free. I was immediately visited by a young lady named Corina who explained that she would be taking care of my dietary needs throughout the remainder of the cruise. Each night after dinner, I would be shown the menu for the following night...and I could order ANYTHING on the menu...and it would be prepared gluten free by the chef. I was even able to eat dessert. I was also able to place orders for brunch, but I usually just had eggs and fruit. I never had to worry about what I was eating. What an invaluable service. Our waiters, Joaquim, Menino, and Getron, were wonderful, always friendly, always calling us by name, and always willing to engage us in conversation. There is nothing they could have done better. We had a port side balcony room...and from now on, we will always have a port side balcony. We were able to watch from our balcony as we docked and as passengers were filing back onto the ship -- and even watch the "late" ones running back to the ship so as not to be left behind. Our room stewards, Uno and Kholifa, were wonderful. Always smiling, always busy, but never too busy to stop to greet us or answer any questions. We would leave our room for brunch, and when we came back an hour later, our room was perfectly made. We would leave our room for dinner, and when we returned, the bed would be turned down, the room clean again and a towel animal waiting to have its picture taken for our album. There was always a variety of activities on board at all times of the day. The newsletter was our constant companion when we were looking for things to do. We particularly loved the movies playing on the lido deck each night. We sat in the lounge chairs eating popcorn watching movies a couple of nights. Other nights we attended the shows. The shows with audience involvement, which made passengers the stars of the shows, were particularly enjoyable. The entertainment/dance troupe was energetic. Perhaps not quite the best I have seen on cruise ships, but enjoyable nonetheless. The cruise director, Cory, was enthusiastic and a joy to listen to. Funny guy. We made the mistake of taking excursions in all our ports. They were all good, but we felt like we missed a lot by having to be on the excursions all day. Mahogany Bay -- Zipline Express Nice, fairly quick ziplining tour just a short walk from the ship. You really don't need to purchase this through Carnival, though. Anyone could just walk to it and purchase the tour just a short distance from the dock. Short enough to allow for some shopping afterward. Belize -- Land Rover Tour Included a river ride, VERY bumpy Land Rover tour...but that added to the adventure, a guided nature walk, walking cave tour, complimentary fruit/water/rum punch, and air conditioned bus ride. Overall, it was a good tour that really allowed us to see the beauty of Belize and experience the friendliness of the people. Cozumel -- Mayan Ruins of Tulum GREAT tour guide, Lili. We learned so much about Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen and the Mayan culture on this tour. The only drawback was the length of the tour took our entire day in Cozumel. I don't regret having taken the tour -- you really HAVE to visit the Mayan ruins; however, the next time we are in Cozumel, we will not be taking a tour at all. We have only positive thoughts about Carnival Cruise Lines after this cruise. They have gained a couple of very pleased, loyal customers. We will be cruising with them again as soon as possible.

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Sep 2, 2013

Exotic Western Caribbean

This cruise convinced us that we don't need to look at other cruise lines. The cruise was NEARLY perfect in every way. The service on the ship and the friendliness of the staff, in its entirety, from the first day through the last could not have been better. There was a bit of sewage smell in the hallways a couple of times, though, it was temporary. The food was great throughout the cruise for all meals. The most impressive part of our dining

experience was the totally unexpected care for my need for a gluten free diet. I had expected to navigate the food choices on the ship very carefully to avoid a reaction...and I had resigned myself to eating fruit and salads throughout the cruise if need be. We went to dinner the first night and I asked my waiter about any items that may be gluten free. I was immediately visited by a young lady named Corina who explained that she would be taking care of my dietary needs throughout the remainder of the cruise. Each night after dinner, I would be shown the menu for the following night...and I could order ANYTHING on the menu...and it would be prepared gluten free by the chef. I was even able to eat dessert. I was also able to place orders for brunch, but I usually just had eggs and fruit. I never had to worry about what I was eating. What an invaluable service. Our waiters, Joaquim, Menino, and Getron, were wonderful, always friendly, always calling us by name, and always willing to engage us in conversation. There is nothing they could have done better. We had a port side balcony room...and from now on, we will always have a port side balcony. We were able to watch from our balcony as we docked and as passengers were filing back onto the ship -- and even watch the "late" ones running back to the ship so as not to be left behind. Our room stewards, Uno and Kholifa, were wonderful. Always smiling, always busy, but never too busy to stop to greet us or answer any questions. We would leave our room for brunch, and when we came back an hour later, our room was perfectly made. We would leave our room for dinner, and when we returned, the bed would be turned down, the room clean again and a towel animal waiting to have its picture taken for our album. There was always a variety of activities on board at all times of the day. The newsletter was our constant companion when we were looking for things to do. We particularly loved the movies playing on the lido deck each night. We sat in the lounge chairs eating popcorn watching movies a couple of nights. Other nights we attended the shows. The shows with audience involvement, which made passengers the stars of the shows, were particularly enjoyable. The entertainment/dance troupe was energetic. Perhaps not quite the best I have seen on cruise ships, but enjoyable nonetheless. The cruise director, Cory, was enthusiastic and a joy to listen to. Funny guy. We made the mistake of taking excursions in all our ports. They were all good, but we felt like we missed a lot by having to be on the excursions all day. Mahogany Bay -- Zipline Express Nice, fairly quick ziplining tour just a short walk from the ship. You really don't need to purchase this through Carnival, though. Anyone could just walk to it and purchase the tour just a short distance from the dock. Short enough to allow for some shopping afterward. Belize -- Land Rover Tour Included a river ride, VERY bumpy Land Rover tour...but that added to the adventure, a guided nature walk, walking cave tour, complimentary fruit/water/rum punch, and air conditioned bus ride. Overall, it was a good tour that really allowed us to see the beauty of Belize and experience the friendliness of the people. Cozumel -- Mayan Ruins of Tulum GREAT tour guide, Lili. We learned so much about Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen and the Mayan culture on this tour. The only drawback was the length of the tour took our entire day in Cozumel. I don't regret having taken the tour -- you really HAVE to visit the Mayan ruins; however, the next time we are in Cozumel, we will not be taking a tour at all. We have only positive thoughts about Carnival Cruise Lines after this cruise. They have gained a couple of very pleased, loyal customers. We will be cruising with them again as soon as possible.

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Apr 13, 2013

Caribbean

This was our 3rd cruise, all with Carnival. All 3 have been EXCELLANT! We have been to almost all of the carribbean islands and mexico now. Great experience....we are now cruise junkies. Rooms and steward are great, Dinner Dining is 4 star quality, Shows are fabulous and lots to do at evry port of call. Dance venues could be better...need more adult areas to listen to music and dance. Need Serenity Lounge areas for adults only on each ship's sun decks.

Absolutely the best! Better than any land 4 star restaurant. The steward cleaned it everytime we left! They were ok....need more adults serenity areas and more adult dancing and music. Every excursion we took....on/off the ship booked was fun. We are cruise junkies!

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Feb 18, 2013

Relaxed

Very pleased with the cruise. I would certainly take the same ship, sit at the same table for dinner, and pick the same room. I would probably next time though try to change my destination to bypass Jamaica. Perhaps the exotic cruise which goes to Rotan, Belize, and Cozumel. Some people we met did a Dune Buggy tour in Jamaica and had a blast so perhaps the excursion makes or breaks the island. Breakfast and Lunch Buffett was just OK in my opinion.

The breakfast was the same every day and lunch changed but repeated half way through. The Omelet station was awesome. Very Tasty. The Cantina was Awesome for Breakfast and Lunch. Dinner every night in the Monet was some of the best food ever. We never missed the Dinner. All food was free with exception of the Steakhouse. It was $35 a person. As many Apps and Deserts as you want but only 1 main course. The food was good but not worth the up charge in my opinion. It was the only option for Surf and Turf so if you crave it, you have to go there as it is never on the menu for Dinner. We splurged a bit and got a balcony room. It was nice. I didn't feel cramped. It had plenty of room for our things. The bathroom was a touch small. 1 person could take a shower while the other got ready but definitely couldn't share it beyond that. You could easily hear the people next door and the hallway. The balcony was nice as it added light throughout the day and in the mornings so you knew it was daytime if you were sleeping in. Not sure I would splurge again on the balcony room as we didn't really use our balcony that much. They had a wide range of things to do. We never found ourselves board, but we did feel empty spots in the Casino so if you don't gamble; you may find holes in activities. The last day at sea was a bit empty. Not a whole lot going on plus it was a bit chilly out so staying in doors was essential so a more activity day there would have been better. Stay away from the Irie Mon Beach Party. First of all you are only there for about 4 hours to drink you feel. Second they only leave the food out for about 45 minutes to eat and then they put it all up. Third it was very crowded. Fourth they had 2 boats carrying about 60 passengers dock just after lunch which took up every more space, view of the ocean, and use of activities. Fifth the servers had attitudes and didn't want to server you. And lastly and most importantly, they ran out of beer. I would not recommend this excursion and not sure I would even go back to Jamaica. Don't miss the Mexican Cuisine Cooking and Tasting. You get off the boat and they force you to walk through this 100 yard 10 foot wide shop where you get hassled to buy everything and anything. Not cool Carnival. Then lots of shopping right there once out of the shoot. Short bus ride to our Cooking Class at Playa Mia. This place was Awesome. Huge facility. The cooking class was great. The beach was nice. The water park was fun. I would do this again every year. 1. Arriving in New Orleans: Our trip was the Sunday between Super Bowl Sunday and Fat Tuesday. Traffic was heavy getting down to the port but we only hit heavy traffic when we go near the Super Dome and took about 45 minutes to make it to the parking garage. I had heard people coming across the bridge took a few hours. 2. Parking: Very Simple. Paid the full $112 with a Credit Card, dropped off the bags as soon as you pull in, gave the man $5 for our 3 bags, and then parked at about 11:30am. (We got all 3 of our bags at different times. Last bag didn't arrive till about 7pm.) 3. Going through Security: Very much like an airport. Stood in-line waiting to get into the building for only 20 minutes. It was moving very quickly. 2 people at the door validating your cruise documents. Once in, up the escalators to Security. Everything through the x-ray, didn't have to take off our shoes. We had our soda, water, and wine in our carry-on so we were shuffled off to a check station where he shook the water to make sure it was really water and he cut open our 12pk of soda to make sure no hidden bottle under the first row, I heard of lots of people trying this. 4. Checking In: I know, it is a bit backwards vs an airport. Normally you check in, then through security, but not the case here. Stood in-line again for a while. Once to the desk, they setup our Sail and Sign account were we get Carnival Credit Cards, in a sense, and off to the waiting area where we get a boarding pass. It is about 12:30p at this point so only took an hour to get through security and get out account setup. 5. Boarding: Very fast process here. We were group 22 and they were on 9 when we showed up and only had to sit for about 30 minutes. You go through the ramp, they scan the card to note you are officially on-board, and off you go. 6. Layout of the Ship: We were on Deck 7-Aft. This was a great location. We were 2 decks down from the food, 2 decks up from the Casino and Clubs. Since the location was perfect, we took the stairs all the time. The lido party area could have been bigger. It did get a bit crowded on the at sea days as everyone wanted to lay out, drink, and listen to music. Otherwise, I saw nothing wrong with the ship. The lines never got to large, areas never got over populated (exception of the lido), and atmosphere was always great. 7. The Staff: They were Awesome. Not one complaint about any of them. We had Rodel for our waiter in the Monet and I wouldn't have traded him for anybody. Jose also helped in his area. The Casino staff was great. Remembered my name but I was there for at least an hour every day playing cards. Our Stateroom staff was friendly, always smiled and kept our room tip top shape. And there was always someone cleaning something. That ship was spotless. 8: The Bill: Before Dinner the last night, we went to pay our Bill. For 2 people, they charged us $80 per person for service, we played 1 game of Bingo at $30 a person so we already had $220 before any alcohol. My wife also bought $50 in pictures. That brings us to $270 with no alcohol. We are not big drinkers but were able to sneak in 3 bottles of liquor which we drank of and still turned in a bill of $599. Luckily I won at 3 Card Poker which paid our bill. That is still $230 in alcohol. Buckets of 4 beer were $20 and a specialty drink was $8.75. I feel they are a bit pricey on the alcohol but it's worth the money if you want to have extra fun. They did offer a Cheers card for $42.50 per person per day that we didn't participate in but if our 3 bottles wouldn't have made it, we might have partaken in that. You are looking at $300 a person for the week, and it is a requirement for everyone in your room to get it if 1 person does. 9. Leaving: There are 2 ways to leave the ship, by yourself or with assistance. If you leave by yourself, you get off first. If you want the assistance, they take your bags in the middle of the night and get them off the boat and have them waiting for you. We did the self assist. We were on Deck 7 and they started with Deck 1. Once they called Deck 2, next was 6 then 7, we made are way down to Deck 3 and was going to hang out in the Lounge near the lobby but the pushed is to the line to get off. Sweet! Quickly off the boat, through a very easy customs, and into the garage. We were on the road by 8:30am.

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Nov 17, 2012

Bahama Cruise

We have been cruising with Carnival Starting in 2008 for a total of 13 cruises. We like the informal friendly atmosphere that Carnival offers, but the food has always been below par. Until our November cruise to the Bahamas, the entertainment was good to very good. We were extremely disappointed in the entertainment this cruise. It appears that Carnival is making major cuts to save money. The ship was having engine problems and it appeared

that the Captain was less than honest with the passengers. After some bumping and grinding sounds the ship stopped in the middle of no where. After about 15 minutes the Captain announced that they were making routine test on the engines. Fact is, they were not making test, they were having problems. 13 Cruises ... and the MENU has been the same every time. While some Chefs season better than others, the food is below par. Breakfast is about the only meal we looked forward to. Usually skipped lunch, nothing really good, sometimes a sandwich. The last two evenings we just couldn't stand going back to the dining room. Just at a sandwich or pizza to get by till we could get off the ship. I don't believe any of these Chiefs are trained in American Cooking, and other than a few dishes, the food is poor. Examples ... Southern Fried Chicken ...Southern WHERE? Meat loaf?.. not like any I ever tasted. Bar B Q ...????? ha! The MENU needs REVISED and Chefs need to be U.S. trained .... not INDIA or WHEREVER. STATEROOM WAS VERY NICE .... HAD A PROBLEM WITH AC NOT WORKING, BUT WAS REPAIRED. The entertainment has really gone down hill on this cruise. A New Diva Show was introduced and we thought it was a JOKE. Full Orchestra is gone... only a combo .... fancy costumes gone .... lots of digital lighting introduced to replace stage sets and costumes .... it didn't work for us , and lots of other walked out. There were 8 performers in the show ... and at least half of the show was taken up with some silly crap involving two couples from the audience with some silly clothing design stuff. it came across as just a way to fill time to make it look like the show was almost an hour long. The digital lighting became annoying after awhile. LEGEND show ..GONE and replaced by a very poor replacement... VERY disappointed. Found the assistant Cruise Director to be silly and Arrogant. Didn't uses excursions Had it not been for several folks that we met on board .. which turned out to be lots of fun ... the trip would have been a total flop. Last year we went on 6 Cruise, this year 3. Based on this trip... we haven't planned a Carnival cruise .... we are considering changing to another Ship line.

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Jan 17, 2012

Grand Cayman Island

Beware cruisers! Rebecca with Parfait Weddings was supposed to plan my wedding in Grand Cayman. When our ship was unable to dock due to inclement weather, she kept more than $1000.00 in what she called "planning fees". Imagine what it would be like to know that your wedding day was unexpectedly cancelled and your wedding planner explains to you that you are still responsible for such a large sum of money. Please do not use this vendor. I plan to

share my experience with Parfait Weddings and Events with every cruise ratings web site and any other sites I can find. I hope no one has to relive the horror I felt on my wedding day.

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Aug 3, 2011

Western Caribbean

This was my 4th cruise, and my 3rd with Carnival. My husband and I went with another couple, and stayed in the largest category of suites. Check-in was great, as we did VIP, and skipped the horrible lines. Once onboard the ship, though, I was very disappointed. This was the worst cruise I've been on, and has turned me off of cruising, at least for awhile. The service on all points was dreadful, except room-service. Crew acted as if they could not

be bothered to help, or even smile. During meals in the dining room, I would order a side of veggies with every meal. Every single night it arrived after we had already finished dessert! It was difficult finding food to eat, even amongst the huge buffets, because the vegetables were underripe and overcooked. The baked goods were always stale and flavorless. The steakhouse, however, was amazing, but we did have to pay for that. Our stateroom was amazing, and amazingly kept. Our stewards were wonderful. Thank God we had a huge balcony, so we didn't have to deal with the crowds and smoke at the pools to get some fresh air. Because of terrible weather, we missed all but our last port of call. While "Donkey" (the assistant cruise director) and the cruise director came up with fun games to play, scavenger hunts, etc. The service at the help desk was dreadful. Often we didn't know what was happening, if we'd get refunds for excursions, etc. They were very overworked and put-upon, but several times I heard them yelling at customers. To be fair, they were getting yelled at alot, too. We didn't even bother going to shows, as they were so cheesy, and seemingly low-budget. We tried very hard to enjoy ourselves, and did a pretty good job, but it was a boring, cheap cruise. Making our experience worse were the other cruisers. This was obviously a budget cruise. We were in a large group of dancers and booked through a company, that's why we took this specific cruise, but from now on we will cruise out of Florida, and not scrimp, so we don't have to cruise with such a noisy bunch of first-time cruisers. Unless we decide to take our daughter (and baby on the way) on a Disney cruise, we will not be cruising again any time soon. It would be better to do an all-inclusive resort, or save your money and book a better cruise on a newer ship or better cruise line. Although this cruise is cheap, it was still not worth the money and was a waste of time. The ship is outdated, tacky, and the crew were unhappy and grumpy. Apparently this was the last cruise before their time off, but it was almost funny how all the crew were so awful.

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Apr 2, 2011

Western Carribean

This was our first cruise, and we had the best week of our lives on this boat until... it was time to go home. We had paid for the transfer service to make sure we got to the airport on time, so we could get home in time to pick up our kids. Well... that didn't go as planned. They didn't have a bus scheduled to go to IAH (bush intercontinental) so after about 2.5 hours of waiting in the hot sun on a sidewalk, the bus going to Hobby said they would

take us to the airport after they dropped off their Hobby passengers. Every one of us going to IAH MISSED OUR FLIGHTS! Couldn't get out of Houston until the next day, (Monday) so we then had to pay for a hotel, and a taxi the next morning to get to our plane. I called Carnival about this, and got NOWHERE. Still fighting with them to reimburse me for the transfer service for me and my husband, and the hotel. Also, we booked the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, and they gave me tickets for the Mayan lunch and beach excursion, and I thought it was the same because it said Mayan Ruins on the ticket. After we got back from the WRONG excursion, I went to the Guest Services desk, and the lady looked at my account, and said quietly "hmm, it shows you missed your excursion" I told her no, you sent me on the wrong one. Now, I wouldn't of cared so much except for the fact that the one I booked and already paid for was about $75 more a person, so I wanted my money back. She then back peddled and said, "no, you went to the right one". I printed out the excursions I bought when I booked them on Carnival's website. She then told me to call Carnival Customer Service when I got home and they would quickly reimburse me for that. Still haven't got my money back. They are "reviewing" it and will let me know what they decide on all these issues. They have been deciding since March 21st. The food was great. I was very surprised. There is a wide variety of food available, and you can get these bomb hamburgers 24 hours a day. (pizza too) They have different themed food on lido deck, and 24 hr room service, but don't expect to get it any time soon. One night, they never showed up! It was hard to get a hold of them, and sometimes they would just hang up on you. It's easier to go get a hamburger. Our stateroom was marvelous. We got the oceanview on deck 2. We had a huge window that we both could fit in to watch the waves and see when we were coming into port. The room was big. The bed was huge, and there were plenty of closet and drawer space. They come to "clean" your room every day and do a turndown service in the evening. They NEVER changed the bed sheets. EVER. People say there is lots to do, and I guess there is if you like every single thing they plan on the ship. They had halarious newlywed games, ball room dancing lessons, bingo, shows (do not take your kids to the vegas style shows) but our favorite was the comedy show. One guy was horrible and even walked off because he admitted he didn't have enough material to finish the show, but 2 of them were fantastic and had us cracking up, but those were the adult versions of the shows. There is shopping, if you want to pay out the hiney for it. Remember this.. this is not all inclusive at all. If you want to play bingo, it costs money, and its not cheap. $20 for ONE CARD. The jewelry is gorgeous, but cheap. They lie to you about what its worth. I had a stone fall out of my ring the 2nd day I had it. They did exchange it for another one right then, but after that, I was like "oh crap, we got ripped". Good luck on the swimming part. There are always too many people (mainly kids) in the pools or hot tubs to get in. The pools are so small they shouldn't be called pools. Montego Bay... wow... where do I start... I NEVER WANNA GO THERE EVER AGAIN! We went on the zipline tour, and that was marvelous, but after the tour, they took us to the shopping and beach area, where you have to pay to get into the beach. My husband got hounded to buy cocaine 4 times walking down the shoping area trying to get to the beach and I got bombarded by dudes trying to give me weed. I just kept walking and said no, but they don't care. We made it to the beach, and a guy jumps over this walk way bridge and literally threw a joint in my husbands lap, right in front of a P-O-L-I-C-E and says "just tip my boy" of course I have no idea what that meant and I yelled at him to come back and get it, he shook his head no, and jumped back over the bridge. At this point I'm freaking out! So we got up to get away from there, and he yelled at us to stop and said we owed him $10 for the joint, and I threw the thing at him and told him in not a nice way to go away. Well, after that, the cops followed us and posted up behind us at this beach. I was talking to a local and he explained the "tip my boy" thing. See.. the cops let you smoke if you give them money. I explained that where I'm from, that is felony bribery and possesion and I didn't want any part of it. We finally left the beach and was walking to the shop that the bus driver told us to go to so he could pick us up, and on our way there, we got offered coke, and shrums this time. The people like to touch you. The girls will grab your hair and ask to braid it, they will grab your arm if you try to walk off from their attempts to sell you drugs. They are aggressive and just plain stressful. Cops ride up and down in these bus like jeeps, in bulletproof vests, carrying machine guns. I see why. That in itself was like "omg" . If you go to Montego bay, get an all day excursion. DO NOT GO INTO THEIR TOWN. Grand Cayman was marvelous. We never got offered drugs, didn't get touched, and didn't see police with machine guns. We snorkeled the reef and shipwreck and it was great. The town is gorgeous, and the people are nice. They are richer than us, so remember this.. your money isn't worth as much as thiers. My husband and I got a quesidilia and a margarita in a cafe there and it cost us $32 bucks! I was pissed! But that was my only complaint. Cozumel was ok. The vendors there will chase you down to sell you something. I just kept firm with them. You can make deals pretty easily. Some vendors won't budge but just go to the next one and they will. If you get past the port Cozumel isn't so pretty. Broken down cars ever where, dirty, and looked desolate. You can tell your in Mexico. The fun part about this trip was that I was with my husband, disconnected from the world, and actually got to fall in love all over again. We made the best of it, and was happy we got to see these countries. We made friends with other couples on the boat, and you get to meet people from all over the world. That part is really cool. Overall, we had a good time. Some of it was stressful, but at least we did get home, and in one piece. lol

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Mar 28, 2011

beach vacation

Spring break is the most expensive time of the year to go, but don't expect it to be any better than going in January. The only thing I was happy with was our room steward took great care of us. Not one American works for the cruise line, although the CEO and owner is. They cut every corner possible to make every dollar and cent they can carve out of you. The buffet food was horrible. Great variety, but nothing had a single bit of good taste

to it. We even ate at the steakhouse, which was okay at best. The Russian woman who showed us the cuts of meat told us this long story about how good it was that was undoubtedly straight from a cue card. This was confirmed when she said the same exact thing to the table beside us. The Renoir dining room had food that was also just, okay, and my advice to you would be just to not go on the cruise, but if it's too late and you've already bought your tickets, I recommend you order at least two starters, and two entrees, because you will inevitably be disappointed. It was tiny, and there was only one wall outlet in the entire cabin. I recommend you bring a 3 to 1 adapter and an extension cord, although they are forbidden items. The worst they'll do is take them from you and then turn around and give them back when you get off the ship. The room was clean, and stayed that way thanks to our member of the housekeeping staff. He actually called us by name in passing throughout the entire cruise, which was impressive, but not enough to stand alone and make the cruise a success. Well, if you like comedians that aren't funny this is right up your alley. The spa is nice, but we middle class folks can't afford to go in there more than once. Couples massage ran $300. It was worth it. The pools and hot tubs stayed full from open to close, so don't expect to find a seat. If you're filthy stinkin' rich, by all means blow that money on a fun pre-planned activity. That's the beauty of being rich. You don't have to think for yourself anymore. If you are middle class folks, and want to have a good time, take a taxi ride to the nearest place where you can rent a moped or a car for less than $50 and make your own excursion. It's obvious that the beach runs along the edges, so don't go into town, and you'll find something fun to do at port, cheaply. I strongly recommend that you consider doing an all inclusive trip to Cozumel. Don't go on a cruise if you can avoid it. Don't ignore my advice until the point of no return, you will be severely disappointed. I love Mexico, but heads are being chopped off right now so stay away. People on Carnival sponsored shore excursions have been held up by the busload in Jamaica by the way. Let's recap: The food sucked. McDonald's is more appetite pleasing. The beer was marked up to about $7 each. Last time I checked, I wasn't going to a Bob Seger concert. The cheapest shots and/or mixed drinks were $5.50. If you plan on budgeting a couple thousand dollars just to drink, the food and the rest of the cruise may then be bearable. The only way to profit yourself, is not to go. If you have kids, and want them out of your hair for most of the day, well a cruise ship does provide day care so you can get trashed with your significant other, but the way I see it is if you have kids the trip should be centered around them and their good time, not your own. Honestly, the only way you could enjoy this trip would be if you were old as dirt, had no tastebuds, and a ton of money to throw around. If you enjoy bad food and entertainment, like to get drunk for a few hundred bucks and gamble away your money, then this is just the right place for you. I met people who had cruised on the same ship 8 or 10 times and I just can't believe it!!! The shows, the food, all the way down to the one and only song they have in the cigar bar, stays the same time and time again. Some people, let me tell ya!

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Mar 11, 2011

Bahamas

Carnival Conquest Feb 27-Mar 6, 2011 Nassau & Freeport, Bahamas & Key West, FL · Entertainment stank. Bad every nite except for one magician lady. She was good. Rest bad and “dancing class” was a joke (no room on a small stage and couldn’t see teacher. Also, she didn’t do any CW line dancing like any of us knew!) Teacher was from Bolivia or Venezuela, not familiar with Texas line dancing. · Lobby entertainment featured

singers who couldn’t stay on key. A “Sunday Smash” made it better. Good room for dancing, though. · Food: Lines were long in Cézanne buffet, food not too good except for breakfast—scrambled eggs, bacon, waffles, full-blown yogurt (not lite), omelets (the guy making them was really good). Monet dining—some nites were OK; others, the meat was tough, fish awful. Appetizers were wonderful! Desserts were always wonderful! The deli did have wonderful Reuben’s and fish n’ chips were good. I heard from friends that the pizza was good. Lines at breakfast were awful. · Drinks: WAY overpriced. $7.50 for regular mixed drink with plastic “souvenir glass.” $10 corkage fee if bring your own wine to dining room. Allowed to bring 1 bottle wine per person onboard. Steward sang same Elvis songs to everyone. · Activities: miniature golf free, spa and pool free, gym free. Charged $20 for bingo cards! Ridiculous! · Casino: No regulations, so machines calibrated in their favor. · Room service OK for us. We usually got our coffee and toast, croissants, fruit on time. Others said they were so late that they gave up and went to breakfast buffet. Have to tip. · Room Steward: Ours OK except for sink. Never seemed to clean away the toothpaste splatters. Important to me because I wear hard contact lens and have to fill sink with water. Leery of glasses having read lousy hotel reviews on national news. I always cleaned ours before use. Shower drain didn’t work well and had water on floor, which eventually went to another drain behind toilet, but still, floor wet. · Didn’t see free Bonine. They sold in shop. · Duty free—Perfume, etc. was about the same as Macy’s or Dillard’s, maybe a tad cheaper, but not enough to buy. Saved the Texas tax. Cigarettes were really cheap as no tax, etc. I bought 4 cartons for my dad. They had his brand. · Spa—lots of charges there if choose to get facial, etc. No bargain. · Excursions: OK, about like a Gray Line tour. Nothing spectacular and ALL people wanted a tip. · Most irritations: Nickel and dimed us to death for everything not included in their list of “free.” Every person wanted a tip. Got to where we didn’t get anything that was not listed as “free.” A real downer! Even on vacation! · AC—sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t. Got hot several nites. Heard crewmen running around one nite, trying to get AC fixed. · Bottom line: We were first time cruisers. We would NOT travel on Carnival Conquest (Galveston) in the future. We heard that the Alaska cruise with another cruise line was WAY much better, both in food, entertainment, and activities. This seemed to be the “economy” cruise line. They seem to charge for EVERYTHING extra beyond their freebies, which aren’t much! They didn’t seem to have much for kids (we didn’t have any young ones) besides the pool. They did have a section for kids onboard activities, but it didn’t seem fantastic for the little ones. My grandson would have been bored. Screeming kids at dinner in Monet dining room. Ugh. Buffet lines way long, overcrowded, claustrophobic. People rude. Food sometimes OK, sometimes not. Desserts always wonderful. Reuben and Fish n Chips good. Monet Dining at night had "iffy" quality. Stroganoff tough, Filet Mignon overcooked. Fish awful. Appetizers very good. Could get more than one. Room service was good for us. Always got on time, except once; one time they forgot spoons for coffee. Otherwise OK. Stateroom was OK, no problems except for daily cleaning of the sink. Toothpaste splatters never cleaned which was bad for me as I wear contacts and had to use sink. Shower did not drain well and always overflowed into overflow behind toilet. Kept wet. Lots of clean towels, had pool towels, robes. Bed always made up daily and turned down at night. Mints. We had balcony which was nice for sitting outside and looking at sights. Stank. Entertainment practically non-existent. Casino and bars smoky and in their favor (no regs). Pools & hot tubs always full. Dancing teacher tried to do on small stage, too many people, didn't seem to know how to do that. Our group thought awful. On deck, loud band always playing as they plied expensive drink sales. Lobby singers were the best and had plenty of room for dancing. Excursions OK, about like Gray Line with short stops and no time to really enjoy in entirety. Always rushed to get back on van. Saw some very intersting sites. They were worth it in Bahamas. We skipped in Key West as we had been there before. Would not recommend. Heard other cruises were much better. We were disappointed with whole experience.

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Feb 22, 2011

Carribean

This was my husband's and my first cruise! I have always wanted to go on one, but my husband never did. We recieved the trip as a gift. WE LOVED IT! We loved it so much, we booked the exact same cruise for July and we are taking our kids as well as some friends. We can't wait to get back on board! The food was good. I loved the night time dinning. The food in the dining room was incredible. I am forced to eat at many upscale hotels and

venues for different events at work. I can honestly say that this food was as good or many times better than what I have had around here! The buffet was typical. Some good, some bad. Always something you could find that you liked. The pizza was great and I ate daily at the seafood grill. Overall, the food ranked on a positive note for my husband and I. We didn't have a choice of a room as the trip was a gift. We worried that it would be small, confining and unbearable. We were suprised when we got there. The rooms are small, but all the storage space gives you room to hide the luggage and other items that can clutter up the room. I liked not having a window because that meant I could sleep whenever I wanted! I am a light sleeper and the sun wakes me up. I was going on this trip to relax and enjoy myself. Leaving the kids at home meant that I could sleep in if I wanted. We also had some really late nights. The lack of window allowed me to catch up on some missed sleep and stay relaxed the entire week. We actually enjoyed the size and location and never felt crowded or confined. Our room was an inside state room on deck 3. It was a perfect location for us and were never far from any of the coming and goings. We were also first to get off the boat which was a big plus as fog severly delayed our docking. We choose to book a similar room for the four of us on our July trip. We traveled in February so the onboard activites were not completely utilized. We used the spa which was great. My husband used the workout room (I was on VACATION) which he liked. The weather stayed chilly so we did not try the pools or water slide. However, it all looked great and fun! The clubs were good and we enjoyed sitting and listening to great music and comedy. My husband nor I gamble, so the casino was lost on us. We did enjoy several of the shows however one of the broadway shows was a waste of time. We played bingo, we attended the deck party, did the shows and even some of the Sodoku events. We never were at a loss for something to do! I really don't have anything to stay away from... except the cameras! I don't do pictures and neither does my husband. We both felt that we were being harassed by all the requests to take our pictures. By day two, I knew how the movie stars feel! I wanted to go Sean Penn on a few before the end of the week. Before you step on the boat and until the moment you get off, someone is hanging around with a camera wanting to get a shot. Some are great when you say no, others get pushy. I had to be rude to a few just to get them to leave me alone. The other tip is to make sure your bag tags are attached really well to your luggage. I secured one bag and one suitcase with the tag and a small piece of tape. Of course, the tags fell off! We were able to identify them from the other unknowns late on the first night so no harm done. It was our fault. I recommend taping them around the handles with packing tape! Other than that, it was all good! When we got this trip, my husband was less than happy about it. He does not like to be confined to any place and enjoys getting out and going. We often rent condo's for the week at many of the great beaches of Florida and some of the beaches in Texas. We drive because my husband likes to be "free" and travel. He did not see this as the right fit for his vacation needs. We were sending my son to England for a few weeks in the summer to train for soccer, so this would be our only vacation this year. However, his thoughts changed quite quickly after we sat sail. The size of the boat, the endless activities, the peacefulness of watching the sun go up or come down over a vast ocean with no land in site... it all provided us with a perfect trip. I also loved the fact that I got a vacation also. Usually, I am cleaning, cooking, planning the trip to the beach, packing, unpacking, washing clothes... I need a vacation from our vacations! But this was perfect. We didn't take our kids on this one but the whole time we looked around and realized how great this would be for the family. As I said before, we booked the same cruise for July 2011 and this time we are taking the kids. I even talked my best friend and her family into going! Second day on board is already scheduled as the "Girls Spa Day"! The excursions were great, enjoyed the Jamaican Beach Party (a little tooo much), and didn't feel the need to do any excursions on the next two stops. It was cheap to rent a taxi to take you to wherever you wanted and we enjoyed seeing some sites and relaxing at our own pace. Not sure what we will do on the next trip, but I am in no hurry to decide. The crew is great in helping us plan the excursions up until the night before or until they sale out. Lastly, I want to give my kudos to Carnival for the docking disaster! There was a heavy fog in Galvaston and Port Authority would not allow us to dock. We finally docked at around 3:00 pm! Carnival staff and crew provided food, beverages and entertainment up until the end. I felt so bad for the cabin crew and I cleaned up our room and stripped our beds for them... but that was just me feeling bad!

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Feb 2, 2011

Galveston

This was my first cruise. Evening dining was the best. It was more commercial than I realized. Loved Cayman Beach and Cozumel. Room was fine except no safety bars and I fell in the shower. I reported this to our room captain however no one ever showed concern or asked to fill out an incident report. I was quite bruised. If I had to vacation again I think I would just go to one place and spent a few days. It seemed like we were always in a

hurry. Evening dining was great. It was fine except the shower needs safety bars to hold on to. My fall that I reported still hurts. They were okay but too commercial. It seems like someone was always trying to sell something. I didn't go to shop. Especially for jewelry. Beaches were beautiful. Need more time there. First and probably last. I was happy not to get seasick however the fall I took in the shower is burnt into my memory. I enjoyed time with family and the beaches however there are other ways to vacation. First night movie was the posiden adventure???

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Jan 17, 2011

Western Caribbean

My husband and I love crusing. We taken 12 cruises and they were all good. This cruise was a little below average for us. The food on the breakfast and lunch buffet on the lido deck was good and there was a good variety. The busboys were very slow to cleanup and they were not very friendly. The sandwiches made at the sandwich bar were very tasty, especially the Ruben. The food served in the evening in the formal dining rooms was good but barely

warm. I have tasted better on other cruises in the past. Our service was good except for one night. Our room steward was great. He was very friendly and kept our room clean. The evening shows onboard were ok. The casino minimums at the tables were too high. The onboard shops were about average. We really enjoyed the night clubs on this cruise. The live bands/groups were great. There was one guy who sang solo. He tried to avoid him. Montego Bay, Jamaica is dangerous to be careful. Georgetown, Grand Cayman is beautiful and great for snorkeling. Cozumel, Mexico is great for snorkeling and shopping. This was the twelfth cruise for my husband and me. We have taken six cruises on Carnival, three on Norwegian, one on Royal Caribbean, one on Holland America and one on Princess. We booked using VacationsToGo.com. My husband and I discussed our room assignment Mary S on our speaker phone. We selected a room on deck 7. We gave Mary our charge card information for the deposit and we were told we would get an email confirmation in a few days. A week went by with no email so I called Mary. Mary said she remembered talking to us about a cabin on deck 3 but she made no reservations. Needless to say I was not happy. I contacted a manager, made another booking and requested an immediate email confirmation if he wanted my booking. I will definitely consider a different travel agency next time. On Sunday, embarking in Galveston was not as smooth as usual and the Carnival staff at the entrance to the terminal was rude. After we boarded, we got a bite to eat. The outside temperature was about 50 degrees and there was a light rain so no one was spending time at the main pool. We walked around outside under the covered areas until the muster drill. We did not need to bring our life jackets to the drill. That was a first. During the evening, we had a nice dinner then danced the night away with country and old rock-n-roll music. There were about three clubs open at any one time every night. We spent our first two full days at sea. We spent our days at the main pool area. Monday was a very windy day. The seas were four to seven feet and I do not think the ship’s stabilizers were in use. The water slide was closed. We had our first formal dinner. I ordered lobster and my husband ordered prime rib. They were both delicious. On Tuesday, the seas were about four feet. My husband was happy the water slide was open. Our dinner experience was not good. It took our waiter about 20 minutes to take our order. We waited 20 minutes for the appetizers, another 20 minutes for the salad and another 30 minutes for the main course. We spent two hours in the dining room, and we still did not get our order taken for desert so we left. We went to the main show. It was an average comedy act. Next, we enjoyed a Thriller dance class. Our first port stop was at Montego Bay, Jamaica. The sky was overcast as we docked. Soon after, the rain started and it rained all day. We were planning to take a short taxi ride to Doctor’s Cave beach/Breezes beach as we had done before but we changed our mind. Instead we did some shopping at the cruise terminal. Doctor’s Cave beach is a nice inexpensive and safe place to hang out. The taxi cost is $5 per person each way plus a tip. Be sure to take the JUTA government backed taxi (with a red tag on the windshield) because they are much safer. It cost $5 per person to enter the beach. If you want a chair, that cost an additional $5. If you want an umbrella, that cost $10. You can rent other equipment also (e.g. snorkel, jet skis, etc.). Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is only two blocks from Doctor’s Cave beach. At night, we had a nice dinner, watch the evening show then went dancing. Our second port stop was at Georgetown, Grand Cayman. This was a tendered port. When we arrived at the dock, we turned to the right and walked a few blocks to Paradise Beach. We paid $10 each to use their small beach area. We had our own snorkel equipment but they rent it as well. The water was very clear and we saw lots of beautiful fish. We tendered back to the ship for lunch and a shower. We wanted to do some shopping, so we tendered back to the island for a couple hours. Three years ago, we took a taxi to the far end of 7-mile beach. Six years ago, we swam with the stingrays. You have to do that once. We had our second formal dinner that night. We saw the evening show then went dancing. Our third port stop was at Cozumel. Our ship docked at this port. The dock was about four miles from the main market shopping area but there was a new shopping area at the new dock. We walked out of the shopping area and found someone to take us on a 2 1/2 hour snorkel trip. We made three great snorkel stops for a cost of $30 per person plus a tip. It would cost a little more for snorkel equipment. The ship’s snorkel excursion to the same places was almost three times that price. We went back to the ship for lunch and a shower, and then we shopping. You will find the best shopping prices in Cozumel. At night, we ate in the formal dining room then watched the comedy show. We spent our last full day at sea. We spent most of our day at the main pool area. We swam in the pool, used the water slide and hot tub. In the evening, we had a nice dinner and watch the evening show. When we arrived back in Galveston, we debarked the ship easily.

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By Judy_CR

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Dec 16, 2010

Eastern Carribean

We had a cold front passing through the Gulf the weekend we left, so the water was a little rough for me. But the Carnival Conquest is a large ship and overall handled the weather okay. The day of the cruise, boarding the ship was fairly easy. They seemed to have everything pretty well organized. Parking was a little tricky (the closest parking lot was not open). And we got there early. I was not impressed with the food or the desserts.

Especially the desserts. Nothing was fresh and the selection was slim at the buffet. At dinner in the Monet, it was okay. You would think the buffet would give you the "all you can eat experience", but the staff working in the food establishments seemed to monitor food pretty closely. I did enjoy the fish and chips food area and the pizza. But the pizza had a menu for your selection - but good luck in ordering what you want and how much you want. We paid for the Point Steak Restaurant experience, and it was worth it. We ate there the last night of cruise. Our stateroom was large enough for two adults. We had a balcony and it was nice. Bathroom was large also. Our statesman was very nice and attentive to our needs. We enjoyed the comedy club but not the nightly entertainment presented in the larger lounge. We enjoyed our excursions. Overall, the cruise was okay. Food and entertainment could be better. Much better.

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Nov 17, 2010

Caribbean

In brief, it was awful. Please see my full review paragraph for details. The food was laughably bad. But it matched the rest of the ship/crew/clientele in that way. Built right above a bar where a band played every evening, usually until midnight, at approximately 1000 decibels. Conversation was nearly impossible and the walls rattled from the staggering level of pure noise. I would call it music, but that would be an insult to musicians everywhere.

They matched the rest of the cruise...a major waste of time. The "family" shows, which were advertised that way at every opportunity, were in such poor taste that entire families got up and left the theater during performances. Note to Carnival Cruise Lines: Entertainment which involves mimicking homosexual acts on the stage is probably not the best bet for "family" cruises. Simply avoid this ship and cruise line like a plaque for best results. My family and I sailed on the Carnival Conquest out of Galveston, October 17-24, 2010. This was our fourth or fifth Carnival cruise and it was absolutely our last. From the very first contact we had at the terminal until we departed the ship back at Galveston, this was the worst cruise experience of our lives. The terminal agent could not be bothered to smile even one time at us, and basically mumbled at me so that I had to ask her to repeat every single question. Not only was she not friendly, she was slow. She also screwed up our booking so that Carnival was convinced we had 3 Spencer Coleses traveling with us. Our balcony suite was directly above a bar where a tone-deaf band played every evening at approximately 1000 decibels. When we asked to be moved or at least have the band turn it down a bit, we were basically told "too bad". We could not converse in our suite, it was that loud. The paintings on the walls shook and the bass caused the entire room to tremble. It was beyond ridiculous. The fact that any cruise professionals would put any human being in that room speaks volumes for that cruise line's care of their customers. Every employee on that ship, with the exception of our room steward and our waiter, was so rude that it was nearly not believable. They could not smile to save their lives, and if they needed something from a buffet line, they simply elbowed their way in and over you without a single word of apology or even an "excuse me". I could complain about the food being sub par, but that pales in comparison to every other experience on that ship. Our last Carnival cruise before this one was years ago and we swore then, NEVER AGAIN. But, as usual, you offered something extremely cheap and we, like fools, jumped at the chance for a balcony room. Our entire vacation was ruined and it was completely miserable as we could not even converse in our own suite. We also had the privilege of having neighbors who believed that since they got up at 7 a.m. each morning, everyone should get up at that time. They turned on their stereo as loud as they pleased AND opened their stateroom door every morning so that everyone could enjoy it with them. But that was nothing more than anything we should have expected, since the entire ship was filled with absolutely the most inconsiderate, rude and low-class people we have ever seen. But you get what you pay for, and that's exactly the clientele that you attract. We will be absolutely certain to go with any other cruise line in future, as long as it is not owned by or called Carnival. It was the biggest waste of money of our lives and we basically had 10 days stolen from us that we could have spent doing anything else. And ANYTHING else would have been better. You are the cheapest and it's obvious you don't pay your employees anything or they would care more about keeping customers happy. But when you are the cheapest cruise line, this is to be expected. With our experience, Carnival should have paid us, not the other way around. So thank you again for taking thousands from us and ensuring that the last cruise we would probably get to take with our parents and our children all together was a complete disaster.

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Nov 9, 2010

western Carib

Overall, the cruise was great! unbelievable value, so much included. So many choices for food; the buffets had something for everyone, as did the specialty eateries, such as the 'Mongolian buffet', the burger hut, the deli and of course, the fine evening dining. The room was fine; one of the few times I didn't have a balcony, and it was excellent; very dark, easy to sleep whenever you wanted. I loved the comedy shows, and went to all the

dance shows and most of the talent shows; swimming with the rays in cayman was excellent the trip was basically wonderful; very little hassles, takes a while to get on and off, but that's true with any cruise; this was a younger wilder crowd, many from Texas, which made it that much more friendly; our dining partners, two other couples, were super people and very friendly. All in all, the boat is clean, the folks running the show are friendly, and it was a great value. Not sure why there are so many negatives about cruising, perhaps expectations of some of my fellow cruisers are not realistic?

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Nov 4, 2010

western caribean

I thought the cabins were very narrow. The food was never hot and the same. They could vary the buffet and the breakfast in the dining room more. The halls were always lined with buckets of dirty, smelly water and vacuums!!! When you came out of your balcony cabin don't hit the buckets or vacuums. Too many pictures and waiters selling drinks. The shore excursion was not as described, some things we never saw!! The food was always lukewarm.

NOT GOOD!!! The breakfast menue in the dining room never changed and the buffet was just as bad. No one ever cleaned the tables in the buffet had to do it ourselves. Waiter always reached across my husband to put my plate down or to take it away!!! HOW RUDE!!! The inside was narrow and the balcony was small. It seemed the only activities were selling drinks and taking pictures!! Take one on your own- paid $200 to swim with dolphins and sting rays and you could have gotten it for $80 when you got off the ship!! Tour was not as described. NOT impressed with Carnival, have always used Princess and will continue to use Princess. Meals cold, food so-so. Always the same at the buffet and in the dining room for breakfast. One lunch in the ding room was very good-ONE. Waiter at dinner did not smile and reached across my husband when he wanted to put a plate in front of me or to remove it. Very RUDE!!! Too many drinks being pushed and too many pictures being taken.

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Oct 8, 2010

Jamaica

Me and two of my sisters went all over the age of 30 the ship is beautiful and huge the couple of gripes I had about the whole thing was our room was on the 8th deck which was under the Lido deck so all day and mostly night(they would clean the floors until all hours of the night) we would hear the chairs scraping across the floor!I mean so bad that I had to go and buy a pair of 14.00 ear plugs to sleep and that was after loosing sleep for 2 nights!Called

the desk to throw a fit or get moved into another room and they had none available so I was stuck in the room for 7 days 5 of them sleeping with ear plugs every night!!They did give us a 15 percent discount on our next cruise and 76.00 each guest for our trouble but just to let you know people check and make sure before you book your room that you are not under the LIDO deck!!Its not worth it!! The food was good the breakfast menu on the lido deck was the same every other day so not much of a variety but was good. The room was a balcony room and was very nice and clean! We had a blast onboard.

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Oct 8, 2010

Jamaica

Me and two of my sisters went all over the age of 30 the ship is beautiful and huge the couple of gripes I had about the whole thing was our room was on the 8th deck which was under the Lido deck so all day and mostly night(they would clean the floors until all hours of the night) we would hear the chairs scraping across the floor!I mean so bad that I had to go and buy a pair of 14.00 ear plugs to sleep and that was after loosing sleep for 2 nights!Called

the desk to throw a fit or get moved into another room and they had none available so I was stuck in the room for 7 days 5 of them sleeping with ear plugs everynight!!They did give us a 15 percent discount on our next cruise and 76.00 each guest for our trouble but just to let you know people check and make sure before you book your room that you are not under the LIDO deck!!Its not worth it!! The food was good the breakfast menu on the lido deck was the same everyother day so not much of a variety but was good. The room was a balcony room and was very nice and clean! We had a blast onboard.

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Sep 9, 2010

western carribean

This was my 6th cruise,the first on this ship I was pleased with all aspects of my cruise.If I had to do it over I would probally arrive earlier to the cruise terminal and use a different parking company There was a variety of places to eat on the conquest,there was something for every taste on any given night MMy room was not what I expected as there were 4 of us sharing a room I expected it to be larger but what was shown on the website was

not what we received the room had one queen bed and two fold down beds where on the website it showed two queen beds side by side. The room attendants were very good at keeping it clean I only went to the casino,comedy and karaoke shows and found them enjoyable Did not indulge The weather was wonderful although we went thru some rain at times,it was smoothe sailing the whole trip We arrived in Jamacia and I found the people to be friendly but not willing to bargain with you on prices for their merchandise. The Cayman Islands were also very expensive I paid 7.00 for a Bud Lite

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Jul 21, 2010

Bahamas

Very different from Royal Carribean- A smaller ship than we were used to Most of staff was friendly Had positive and negative things- Was easy to learn and get around the ship The dining room food was fair but The Point Steak House was excellent for $30 per person The other food area selections were not very good with the exception of fish and chips Very Clean and spacy with a Paio Geared toward the kids and not for adults no

Seven Days went by fast

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Jun 23, 2010

Eastern Carribean

This was my first cruise, and I was NOT impressed. The service was terrible and apparently their definition of "all inclusive" is different from mine. There were hidden fees for pretty much everything. I think they even had a charge for blinking. We went with a large group and they messed up our seating arrangement and made people move from tables and we STILL didn't get to sit together. And to top it all off we had to pay gratuity to a waiter who

was terrible. We sat with empty glasses for about 30 minutes and very rarely saw our waiter. I would not recommend this ship to ANYONE.

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May 10, 2010

Gulf of Mexico

We had a ball. The good points: Excellent food (especially the formal dining menu), clean state rooms, shows were pretty amazing (especially the magician lady from Venezuela), service was awesome, fitness/gym was great, and the staff overall was very friendly. Could have been better: The cost of a drink was comical ($6.00 and up), one big marketing machine that is worse than Disneyland, the Cruise Director was on the intercom way to much (it

was annoying after a while), and the shore excursions are very expensive (although I had fun on shore, the cost of the excursion did not match the value of what you get), and we ran into a few very unfriendly staff members (the purser's desk especially). But the good points far outweigh the bad ones. It was well worth the money overall and I will continue to cruise Carnival in the future. Lots and lots of food and overall all I would say it was excellent. The formal dinners are amazing and the waiters were very accomodating. Clean and roomy. Didn't care for the twin beds pushed together to make a king size bed. But overall I was very pleased. The after formal dining shows were pretty amazing. The dancers and singers were very good. The magician lady (Lady Helliva I think) was very good. Musicians were pretty good. The activities that the Cruise Directors organized were kind of corny, but fun. Jamaica - Is beautiful, but a little scary (poverty). The Sandals excursion in Jamaica is very nice, but expensive. Grand Cayman - Clean, chrystal clear water, and tons to do (go to Hell). Cozumel - Very nice overall. The Playa Mia excursion is nice. Great beach, good food, and bottomless drinks. Overall very pleasant. Nothing was so bad that I would never go again. Carnival Conquest is a beautiful ship with plenty to do aboard.

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By Deb_CR

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Mar 8, 2010

Western Caribbean

We were scheduled to stop in Grand Cayman Mar 4, 2010, but sailed by it when the captain announced that due to weather the port was closed and that they were unable to tender us in. A man was on the deck saying the port WAS open (he had called) and for everyone to go to customer service and complain. He was taken away by security. Three ships arrived in the port ahead of us: Celebrity Century @ 6:55 am, Costa Fortuna @ 7:30 am and Liberty of the

Seas @ 8:00 am. 8,878 people were tendered to shore and the Conquest couldn't? Closed port?! They cheerfully refunded us $20 each. Carnival does not need my repeat business!

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By Jeri_CR

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Mar 7, 2010

Western Caribbean

We live in Oklahoma and cruise out of Galveston because it is a drivable distance. We had been loyal RCCL cruisers for over 15 years; but were paying for our whole extended family(7 adults, toddler and a baby), so picked Carnival because of the price, and because of more cooperative service in any phone inquiries. I must say I was very impressed with the Conquest, and would choose it over RCCL's Voyager (their Galveston based ship) everytime.

Cabins were much bigger on the Conquest, with much better storage. While Voyager may be larger, our family thought the Conquest used their space much more efficiently; nothing ever seemed crowded. One example is my husband and I like to dance on cruises, and there were several lounge areas to dance on the Conquest, one being right outside the dining room! In contrast, the Voyager, the area of dancing was small, dark and hard to find. Service was also better on the Conquest, staff seemed to really want to please. I really felt we got good value for our money on the Conquest. We have been on 11 cruises, 4 different cruise lines. We thought the food on the Conquest was excellent; just as good, if not better, the more expensive cruise lines. Food was fresh, well seasoned, nutritious, with good variety. I liked the idea of "Carnival Classics," where there were some dishes you were able to order every day.I especially enjoyed the chocolate melting cake! Our stateroom on the Conquest was lovely, much larger than on the Voyager. Our family had 4 standard outside rooms on the 1st floor, near the front of the ship, and motion was very smooth. In fact, our cruise was delayed from leaving Galveston because of fog, on the scheduled night of departure the captain did not know when we would be able to leave. When I woke up in the morning, I assumed we were still at the dock because I could not feel any movement. Imagine my delight when I pulled open the curtains and discovered we were in the middle of the Gulf! We were most impressed with Camp Carnival. Our 2 year old granddaughter loved it, and couldn't wait to go back each day. She called it "Aunt Carnival!" Dance lessons were fun, and taught at a pace where you could actually follow and learn the dance steps. On RCCL, staff was determined to teach 2 dances in 30 minutes, no matter what anyone learned. Actually, since our goal was family time and we have been on several cruises, we did not join in with many scheduled activities. Our only criticism was the occasional off color jokes from cruise director or comedian, and the scanty outfits of dancers. They brought back to mind the old reputation of Carnival. But the end result was we just didn't go to shows, so were able to just enjoy playing cards or hanging out with family.. In Montego Bay, Doctors Cove is the best bet for a safe, lovely beach, but there is a charge to get in. Grand Cayman, 7 Mile Beach is lovely and clean. We had a great cruise and love the Conquest. Cruising is a great way for our family to get together. We usually take a family cruise out of Galveston every other year. Next time I will not hesitate to book the Conquest, won't even consider Voyager. Traveling with a toddler, a baby and three different families can be tricky, but the staff went out of their way to help us. When our beach towels got all mixed together in one room (instead of two per room, coming back on deck, all dirty towels ended up in our room.) There was no problem or question, cabin steward worked it out. In contrast, on Voyager, beach towels had to be checked in and counted out on the pool deck. Small point, but an example of difference in service and attitude.

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Feb 13, 2010

Western Caribbean

This was my first cruise and my boyfriend's 2nd cruise. We're both in our mid twenties. We had heard mixed things about Carnival and we liked the price and look of the ship and itinerary. We were very pleased overall with our trip, with the ports, excursions, the ship, and I would recommend the cruise line to anyone. Our favorite port was Jamaica and I wish that we could have spent more time at all of the ports because I felt that we didn't have enough

time to really see and experience all 3 ports. We would definitely go on another Carnival cruise. The food was very good. We ate breakfast and dinner in the buffet or grille almost every day and we ate dinner every night in the dining room. Our server was excellent and it was nice to be able to try as many appetizers and entrees as you wanted. The desserts we had were great too. The dining room staff were very accommodating and always wanted to cater to what you wanted. There were several times when we ordered several appetizers or entrees. Also, the dining room staff did song and dance routines most evenings that were very entertaining. Our stateroom was always clean and nice and our room steward did a great job but being on the 10th deck, we felt the ship move a lot and we would periodically hear loud bangs and noises (we never figured out what was making the noises) and it woke us up a lot and was annoying. This was our biggest complaint of the whole trip. We had a great time on-board going to karaoke, trivia, the deck games, etc. It was a lot of fun to watch and participate in. The evening shows were great, especially the magic show. We had a great time doing the Dolphin Swim and Dunn's Falls in Jamaica although we weren't aware that the excursion was an hour and a half drive both ways from our port. And we climbed the Dunn's falls which we wouldn't recommend for an older person who isn't steady on their feet. It's quite a ways up. In Grand Cayman, we did the Turtle Farm, Hell, and Stingray excursion. Hell is a total waste of time and a tourist trap, so don't bother seeing it. We didn't have as much time to see the turtles and snorkel with the stingrays which was amazing! If I could do it again, I would skip Hell completely and spend a lot more time at the turtle farm and with the stingrays. In Cozumel, we did the Sea Trek Helmet dive which was honestly pretty scary and we won't do it again. I felt very claustrophobic and didn't like it at all. It was uncomfortable and I was scared the whole time. I would recommend in general when booking excursions to not try and do too many things in one day. In Cayman we only had 30 minutes at the Turtle Farm and about 45 minutes snorkeling because we were on such a tight schedule. We had a wonderful time and it was a very relaxing, fun vacation. You can do as little or as much as you want to and Carnival has a lot to offer and the service was great. Be careful with the room you choose because it might be noisy like ours was and be careful picking excursions.

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By Taka_CR

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Sep 9, 2009

carribbean

It's always fun just to be on a cruise, but pick your ship wisely. Compared to a previous cruise with Royal Carribean, Carnival Conquest is at the bottom of the barrel in facilities like pool size, hot tubs, show venues, food quality, show quality, and customer friendliness. I found the ship hard to navigate. I never had a problem on Royal Carribean but found I couldn't go from my stateroom down to the 3rd floor for dinner the easy way. You had

to go to 5, then walk across the ship then catch the other elevators to 3. Also, the fanfare on Royal Carribean is so exciting form the moment you board. They have a great Bon Voyage party on top deck and a huge parade with lavish costumed staff, some on towering stilts, going down what is truely the "Promenade Deck". It really gets you into the spirit of the cruise!!! There was nothing on Conquest. I heard there might have been something on the Lido deck when we shoved off but we were stuck at the Lifeboat Drill that was mandatory and the last ones dismissed so by the time we got our lifejackets back to our room, the ship had already left the dock. The food was very repetitious, with poor presentation, and it was unimaginative. The buffet food was rarely good and for some reason the bacon, sausage, ham, etc. was placed on your plate for you if you requested the meat rather than being able to serve yourself. If you asked for the bacon and ham for example, you received a look like you were making a pig of yourself or they would look to a co-worker and make a face. Two workers actually laughed at another person in line in front of me and really upset them when he asked for some bacon. He got so mad he was confrontational back to the help about being laughed at for just asking for food he felt he had paid for. So I think they should allow people to serve themselves unless it is something that needs carving. There were a couple of good meals in the dining room along with good service; but the meals were sometimes questionable with a lot of gristle in the steaks or very small portions or most of the plate decorated with food garnishes that were not really meant to be eaten. The carrots with the steaks were basically uncooked. Shrimp cocktails sometimes came with 4 shrimps, or 3 or even 2. Many from our table would order 2 or 3 appetizers or 2 main entrees just so they wouldn't have to leave the dining room and go to the buffet line or order room service. Room service did have the only real cheesecake on board but not much in selection for meals. The other cheesecakes were more like jell-o. Breakfasts were pretty much the same thing over and over again. Royal Carribean always had large displays of melons carved into art pieces, ice scuptures, a very extravagant midnight buffet that they allowed an hour for just picture taking before allowing guests to partake of the food all displayed, sculpted, laid out in artistic fashion, including butter molded in mermaids, etc. I only saw one melon carved out for a display on the Conquest and the only ice sculpture was done on deck as a demonstration. Our room steward made a point to meet you and learn your name and did a good job except we always seemed to be going down somewhere to find ice because the ice in the metal ice buckets melted too fast. The steward did not provide any service at all the last night of the cruise. The dining staff was good. Very polite, knew our names, entertained us with their singing and dancing, always brought what we asked for very quickly. Staff at the buffet lines, grill, etc. were sometimes rude or made faces among themselves like they were making fun of the guests. The bar staff was extremely pushy. The photographers were sometimes too pushy. The shop employees never approached me to see if I needed help. Customer service is a laugh. We took a list of several complaints to customer service including an excursion being cut short to accomodate another couple on another Carnival ship also in port and we were told that if we wanted better service we needed to use a different cruise line and that the excursion times were only estimated times. Ours was cut an hour short for an excursion that cost $255 for each person so it wasn't like it was a little bit of money we had paid out for the adventure. I am not sure what the point of having Customer Service on that ship is. We also tried to get some information from them regarding the purchase guarantees that we were suppose to fill out the last night since the steward did not service our room and they sent my fiance back with several copies of a declaration form in spanish for the debarking into customs rather than the form we needed (we don't speak Spanish)! We had a balcony room on the Lido deck. We enjoyed the room and the balcony, no complaints. It is much the same on other cruise lines. The room could use more plug-ins. There is only one around the mirror and one in the bathroom. So if you want to plug up a cpap machine, alarm clock, etc., bring an extension cord and drap it across the room. Venues for some of the shows limited the number of guests that could attend the activities. The Degas lounge was used routinely for shows we wanted to attend but even arriving early, the seats were all taken and we were not able to stay for any of the shows presented there. The shows in the theatre were not our cup of tea. Didn't seem to make much sense and to be very honest we have much better entertainment in our hometown with theatre productions, big name ticket music shows, local thespians, and young dancers taking dance classes. My daughters' dance recitals were much more entertaining than the Conquest shows. Some of the smaller activities were very limited to the number of guests who could partake. For example: Royal Carribean would hold a Mr. Sexy leg contest and if they had 60 contestants who wanted to do it, fine, but for the Conquest Hairy Chest competition they only wanted 6 guys but did allow eight because they all came forward at once. The bingo games on board Royal Carribean were for longer periods of time, holding several games with the purchase of one set of cards. The one bingo game we played on Conquest cost $20 for 3 cards and they played 2 games; so it cost more to have less play time. If there were multiple bingos at once, they split the amount of the prize. The magic show was so so. Some of it was pretty simple tricks you see all the time. There were a couple of fairly newer tricks that you still have seen before but aren't too old. Some of the time you could see depending on where you sat when the lady magician exited the cage, etc. and how. We did enjoy the motown show and the comedian in the theater. Would like to have seen the rest of the show in the Degas lounge but couldn't as mentioned above because of limited space. Don't be bullied by the people leading the excursions. If you don't feel like you got the excursions you booked or are being short sided for time because of someone else's time schedule, speak up and tell them your time does not reflect the same as the other ships in dock and you want your full excursion as booked.

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Jul 28, 2009

Western Carribean

The Carnival Conquest adventure was superb! The staff, from the Officers to the Cabin Stewards were wonderful. We loved dining in the splendid supper club, The Point, on the 11th deck. There is a $30/person cover charge , plus your alcohol beverages or wine, which should be completely overlooked. This is an amazing 5-Star restaurant, with a very fine steak house menu, perfection in their presentations and service. Dinner will end up easily costing

$150 for the food alone or MORE, and worth every penny. The main dining room was also excellent. We even liked our table mates. I loved the ship's disco, the endless hours gazing at the beautiful waters, reading & talking. We didn't even leave the ship to go ashore. The cost of this excellent vacation for 7 days cannot be equalled anywhere. The room was beautiful. The steward made different "towel" animals everyday, which delighted us. There were way too many activities to enjoy in only 1 cruise. Our favorites were the 9-hole mini putting green + golf lessons and the 40,000 SF spa-salon-fitness center with a basketball court. The 2 salt-water pools, about 10 different jacuzzis were very nice as well. We were always occupied between those and the 22 bars, karaoke rooom, disco and casino

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Jul 17, 2009

Western Caribbean

We have been on 3 cruises. 2 Royal Caribbean and 1 Carnival. I have to say the first Royal Caribbean cruise we went on was our best. But our 2nd choice is the Conquest. We were a little put off at the very first arrival at the dock in Galveston. We waited in line to board for over 3 hours. We were dragging our luggage through this long line the entire time. (Royal Caribbean checks your luggage at the curb). The food was lacking on the first

night. It just seemed like we had a dark cloud over us that first day. All changed on the second day. The service at dinner was superb, the food was soooo much better and we started thoroughly enjoying our trip. The waterslide was awesome, the activities on board were grand, and the shows were Vegas quality shows. We have another cruise booked on Conquest and are anxiously waiting our departure date. If you take this cruise ship, you HAVE to try the Melted chocolate lava cake. If chocolate is a sin, we are DOOMED. We ordered it every night.

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Jul 16, 2009

Eastern Carribbean

Customer service has really gone downhill on this particualr ship. There is a great deal of apathy from the staff and senior management does a poor job in supervision and follow-up on complaints. Every day was marked with a problem to be dealt with. Room service personnel were surly and failed to retrive our order form until they were called. Three times my shower was clogged with one service person leaving the shower curtain draped across the toilet

and water on the floor. The cabin steward gave my spouse towels to clean the water herself and failed to tun our bed down on the first night. Ice was unavailable on one occassion and the staff did little to assist until a supervisor was summoned. Overall, the poor management made for a miserable experience on a daily basis The food is always good and I have never been disappointed in either the quality or the quantity. Our head waiter in the dining room was the lone bright spot on this dismal trip as he took the time to learn everyone's name at the table and doted on our tableguests, who were a group of special needs consumers. Poorly maintained by the steward who seemed unconcerned about cleanliness or satisfying customers. The attitude was that she would be compensated either way so who cares? Much the same cruise fare as on other ships, but the worst was the casino. There is an effort to discontinue coins and cash as this requires more staff so travelers checks were accepted at the tables, but if presented at the cashier's window, policy only allowed them to give you coins to feed the slots. Cash was strickly dispensed at the Purser's desk but nothing prevented a player from presenting a traveler's check at a table, getting chips, and then cashing the chips in for cash at the cashier's window. What an inane policy. Casnio staff was grumpy and not very friendly. Stay away from Jamica anything with high pressure sales tactics. Better sales could be found ashore for excursions rather than purchased on ship. A wasted vacation given the poor management. I wrote Carnival President Gerald Cahill who never answered my letter. No wonder the staff acts as they do. When senior management ignores customers, why shouldn't the immediate staff. Carnival repeat business will surely suffer for their indifference.

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By Fred_CR

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Jun 16, 2009

Jamaica

Overall, I enjoyed the cruise. Embarkation was a breeze, we got to the pier early ,about 11. We had to wait till 3 to get into our room. We spent this time grabing a bite at the buffet and getting to know the ship. BEWARE of the drinks they meet you with when you come onboard. They cost $8. There are NO free drinks. We had good weather the whole trip. Seas not over 4 ft. However, Jamaica was a bust. It was dirty and Drug infested with overbearing

vendors. We snorkeled at the public beach on our own, it was ok. Carnival should take Jamaica off their list, period. If I went back, I probably would not get off the ship. Caymans was great! We snorkeled the shipwreck and reef. Snorkeled at 7 Mile Beach on our own - great. Our stop at Cozemel was cancelled early on by Carnival due to swine flu. Out of the goodness of their heart, they gave us another " fun day at sea " . I would have liked to spend more time in Georgetown, or a different port, but Carnival , more or less, said "tough, we want you to spend your money on our ship". Leaving the boat is a nightmare. Try not to pack but one piece of luggage, if you carry off, you are going to have to deal with it. Carry off gets you off a lot faster, but we took too many pieces of luggage. The food was good. We ended up with late dining. Somehow that got screwed up and nobody would try to fix it. We tried months ago to change this. David and Ida were the best waiters I have ever had. The drink waiters on deck are way too pushy. We had a balcony room. It cost about $300 more but well worth it. We would order roomservice coffee the night before and sit outside and enjoy the sunrise. If you want to be outside away from the crowd, this is the way to go. There was plenty to do. I bought into the blackjack tourney for $20, and won $500. Lots of different music. I really enjoyed the giant outdoor movie screen. There were two movies a night. The mid ship Lido deck was terribly loud. We got to the back of the ship for more layed back lounging. Stay away from Hot Shot Shuttles in Jamaica! The first stop is the ghetto fleamarket. Don`t plan a lot of different activities off the ship. By the time you get on and off, you don`t have alot of time for these. Not a bad trip, but I will check around for my next one. I was totally pissed that Carnival did not try to make up for the stop in Cozemel. They notified us 3-4 weeks ahead of time. Plenty of time to make some other arrangements. Oh, they did refund $ 40 port charge. :-)

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By ASR_CR

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Apr 17, 2009

Western Caribbean

March 22-29 - Fun, great beaches, not cheap This was our 2nd cruise. I've written this mainly for anyone planning a 1st cruise vacation. We had an excellent time on the Carnival Conquest on its voyage from Galveston, Texas, to Montego Bay, Jamaica, then Grand Cayman, then Cozumel, Mexico. It was very relaxing and there were plenty of fun things to do if we wanted. While some reviewers have listed every dish they ate at every meal during their

cruise, I'll spare you that detail. I'm not even interested in what I ate, so I can't imagine you would be interested. I had heard some negative reviews about the food on Carnival compared to other cruise lines (i.e., it was a lower class vessel with food to match), so my expectations were fairly low. That first lunch was a little disappointing (both in terms of selection and my perception of the quality of the food). After that point, however, I was very satisfied with the food and I would say that overall, the food definitely exceeded my expectations. Of the three meals, I would give the buffet lunch food the lowest rating (compared to the buffet breakfast and the dining room dinners). But it still exceeded my expectation. We had lunch in the Cezanne buffet on three of the four non-port days. The only exception was the day we ate lunch at the pizza bar. Overall, the dinner food was excellent (in fact, it was above excellent). There was great selection (which changed every day) and the dining room staff were generally very pleasant to deal with. Our waiter was very personable, although he sometimes seemed to question our selections (e.g., "really?" and "are you sure?)." On most nights (and perhaps every night except the first), there was an interruption to the dinner while they played music and the waiters sang or danced. It seemed like an odd contrast to the formality of the room and I could take it or leave it. But I suppose some passengers enjoyed it, as a "fun" diversion. On Monday, we had breakfast in the dining room, but this was a mistake. The portions were small (see my tips below) and service in a full-service dining room is necessarily slower than getting food from the buffet. Every other day, we ate breakfast at the buffet in the Cezanne. My strongest endorsement in terms of food goes to the breakfast buffet. Scrambled eggs, pancakes or French toast, sausage, bacon, ham, cheese, oatmeal, grits, all the fruit you could want, cold cereal, toast, muffins, pastries. I'm still probably missing something. Yes, I think there was an omelette station. The food was plentiful, it looked good and there was a very wide selection. For some reason, you could not take your own bacon. You had to have it served to you by the buffet attendant. I never figured out why that was. It certainly wasn't for rationing because you had to specifically ask if you only wanted two or three pieces. Otherwise, you'd get seven or eight or more. I was very impressed with the quantity of storage room on board. There were far more cupboards and drawers than we could use. The bed seemed at least queen sized. The bathroom was naturally small with a shower and no tub, but we knew that going in. Overall, other than the severe lack of electrical outlets (see below), I was very impressed with the staterooms. In addition, it was very convenient having rooms on the 8th deck. It was just a deck below the 9th floor where the pools and buffet restaurant are. When we weren't in our cabin, or the dining room, we probably spent 80% of our ship-board time on the deck with the pools and restaurant. Monday night, we saw the song-and-dance show called "Point and Click". It was mildly entertaining, but wasn't anything I would have felt bad missing. It certainly is impressive that the cast/dancers are capable of doing the different shows. But it is a style of entertainment that really doesn't capture my attention or imagination. Thursday, we saw the song-and-dance show called "Formidable." My impressions were similar to those of "Point and Click." The singers / dancers were certainly talented, but the style of entertainment just didn't engage me. But it was fun enough and I had a good time. Information on ports of call - Similarly, if you are interested in information on the ports of call, you should do that research before you leave. I was very interested in the destinations we'd be visiting and did some research before we left. Personally, I find it a little rude to be a guest in a foreign country and not know basic things like their currency and value, who their political leader is, and a bit of history about how their country developed. Unfortunately, the cabins do not contain any such information (although you'll get a 220-page book about available shore excursions). Each evening, the ship provides you with a one-page sheet about the next day's activities. It may contain one paragraph about the destination, but it is unlikely to contain basic historical or other information. Do your research before you leave, print it out and bring it with you. Foreign currency - I believe the information from Carnival will tell you that vendors in each port accept US dollars. Not only do they "accept" US dollars, in fact they quote all their prices in US dollars. I found it odd to arrive at the terminal in Jamaica and to see posted prices for soda and bottled water in US dollars, rather than in Jamaican dollars with a conversion. I suppose they go out of their way to cater to the cruise ship tourists. Even in the Cayman Islands with its modern economy and strong currency, the shops charged my credit card directly in US dollars. Booking shore excursions - we booked both our shore excursions in advance through Carnival. Not having taken a cruise in more than fifteen years, we were reluctant to try to figure out those things on our own. Unlike most vacations, you don't really get a second chance if you make a mistake (i.e., you miss your ship when it sails). I'd recommend booking through Carnival unless you know what you're doing. On the other hand, if you're experienced, you can likely save hundreds of dollars by venturing out on your own. As for booking excursions in advance, we couldn't see any advantage to waiting and were a little worried that our preferred excursions might sell out. We did not find out one way or the other whether our excursions still could have been purchased on board. What time is it in port? - Every reference to time on board and in relation to Carnival-booked excursions is to what's called "ships time." Although the ship is theoretically passing through different time zones as it travels east and then west, for convenience, the ship maintains the time zone of the home port (i.e., central time, Galveston, TX). On our trip, ship's time and local time only differed in Cozumel. If you are booking your own excursions (and even if you are not), you should ensure you know what the ship's time is and not rely on the time provided by locals in port. Otherwise, you may make your way back to the dock to find that your ship has already left. Structure of review - I've divided this review into sections. The first section, like most reviews, sets out how each day went. The next sections are aimed at vacationers planning a first cruise. The first of those provides a list of items you might want to consider bringing with you on a cruise. The second provides tips on things to do, or to avoid, when on board. In the final section, I provide some general impressions about cruise vacations and make some specific suggestions about areas for improvement. For background, we are a family of four with a 14 year old daughter and an 11 year old son. My wife and I were on one previous cruise, although it was only three nights and was more than 15 years ago. As we live in a cold weather city (near Seattle, WA), our typical "big ticket" vacation would be going to Hawaii for ten days, which we had done three times in the last four years. The cruise week - We flew in to Houston on Saturday night and stayed at the Doubletree Hotel Houston Intercontinental Airport. I highly recommend this hotel for travellers coming in through IAH airport the day before. The shuttle service from the airport was very prompt (we arrived to a full shuttle, but only had to wait maybe five (and certainly less than 10) minutes for the next empty shuttle to arrive. The hotel was nearby, but I don't have any recollection of aircraft noise. There is fast food and a grocery store within a three-minute walk. The total cost, including all taxes, was $98 per room (we had two rooms). We had pre-booked a town car to pick us up at the hotel on Sunday at 11:00 am. It arrived on time and took us to Galveston for $109, plus a $25 tip. The drive took about an hour and dropped us off at the terminal. The terminal is very industrial looking and it took us a while to figure out where exactly to go. Crowds were milling about and we had been dropped nearer to the luggage porters than to the passenger entrance. We entered the terminal at about 12:20 pm and proceeded up into the terminal and into a first line where we had to put our bags through X-ray machines and walk through a metal detector. This was the only point where they would have screened for alcohol or soft drinks. See my comments below about how to circumvent the limitations in Carnival's beverage carry-on policies. The next line was a check of tickets and ID. One thing that hadn't been clear to me was what documentation I actually needed to (a) check in and, (b) check in quickly. When you book your trip, you're directed to Carnival's website to complete the "fun pass." The name implies that the end product is a "pass," which you will need to board when you arrive at check-in. I had printed out copies of the passes, as well as copies of the information that had to be entered to generate the pass. However, on arrival, the only thing required was the tickets that Carnival had subsequently mailed to us. We did not need any of the fun pass documents we created and it was never clear what the purpose of the "fun pass" requirement was. Also, I had been under the impression that check-in would be significantly swifter if the fun pass was completed in advance. The only savings appeared to be the time required to provide the information. The fact that I had pre-completed the fun pass didn't appear to get us into any quicker entry lane or allow us to by-pass any stage of the check-in. The next line was the line-up for a check-in agent to issue us our ship ID/room keys. There they took my credit card information (for on-board charges) and gave us our cardkeys and then sent us to the next holding area. In this part of the terminal, there are signs posted prohibiting the use of cameras. While I can see security reasons for prohibiting cameras in the security clearance area, there didn't seem to be any valid reason to prevent passengers from taking pictures or shooting video in this part of the terminal. I concluded that Carnival just doesn't want people to see pictures of how their "guests" are lined up and herded into holding pens during the check-in and boarding process. We missed an opportunity at this stage to jump ahead of the line. As you leave the check-in desk with your room keys, you'll be directed to a seating area with various sections. Passengers are held here and taken in groups, by section, to the next stage of the boarding process. When you arrive in this area, before you sit down, try to figure out which section was seated first and which section is just starting to be seated. If you can find a couple empty seats in the section that was seated first (even if it means dividing up your party within that section), take them. It will save you time because you'll be ushered to the next stage of boarding ahead of the next group. They don't monitor these seating sections particularly closely. The next stop was the boarding photo. Initially, I was annoyed because it appeared that the entire delay in boarding was so that they could take posed photos of every passenger or group before they boarded. These photos aren't free and they aren't cheap either. On exiting the photo area, we joined the line of passengers slowly ascending the gangway to the ship. This stage was probably 20 minutes long and it became clear that the photo station wasn't the bottleneck. We arrived on board and got to our deck at 1:22 pm - almost exactly an hour after we had entered the terminal. On the whole, the boarding process seemed slow and inefficient. However, I appreciate they need to process 2,000+ passengers and I couldn't see any obvious ways of doing it faster (other than having a bigger facility or more staff). We took our bags to our rooms (we had side-by-side cabins). As the cabin stewards had not yet finished preparing them (see my tip on this below), we left our luggage there and headed for the Cezanne (buffet) restaurant for lunch. After lunch we went back to our cabins and began unpacking We spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and walking around the ship. We had dinner Sunday night in the dining room. There are two formal dining rooms, the Monet and the Renoir. Seating was assigned and ours was at 6:00 in the Monet. When we walked in, it was not obvious how the seating worked, so we just wandered around looking at table numbers and soon found the table number that matched the table listed on our room key. It would have been a little more convenient if they had posted a floor plan, but it wasn't a big deal. Overall, the dinner food was excellent (in fact, it was above excellent). There was great selection (which changed every day) and the dining room staff were generally very pleasant to deal with. Our waiter was very personable, although he sometimes seemed to question our selections (e.g., "really"? and "are you sure?)." On most nights (and perhaps every night except the first), there was an interruption to the dinner while they played music and the waiters sang or danced. It seemed like an odd contrast to the formality of the room and I could take it or leave it, but I suppose some passengers enjoyed it as a "fun" diversion. Monday and Tuesday were days at sea as we made our way though the Gulf of Mexico toward Jamaica. Both days we found deck chairs near the mid-ship pool and stayed there most of the day. As I mention below in my "tips" section, it is a good idea to claim deck chairs early. It was sunny with cloudy periods and warm out of the breeze. But there was a bit of a wind and the ship effectively creates its own wind because it moves at 21-23 mph. At different times, different parts of the pool deck seemed to be in or out of the wind. Generally, the higher areas are exposed more to the wind. But it wasn't always the case that the higher deck areas were windier. On these days, we mostly stayed by the pool. I played some mini golf, shuffleboard and generally hung around with my kids. On Tuesday, I ran 10k on the "jogging track." You won't find a description or photo of this track on the website, but it is a 161 metre track on the top deck. Unfortunately, it is not well marked and it surrounds the mini-golf, shuffleboard, volleyball and basketball areas. Most passengers did not appreciate that they were wandering across the track so I was constantly dodging people and calling ahead to them to clear the track. It would have been nice if the ship had placed more prominent signs around the track reminding passengers to stay off it unless they were using it or quickly crossing it. Wednesday we arrived in Jamaica. It was fun watching the ship dock, although I suppose if you've seen it many times, it is something that stops being new and exciting after a while. With the exception of the early arrival on the last day of the cruise, the ship docked and departed on schedule. I was actually a little surprised at how close they were to the itinerary, but I guess they know exactly what they're doing as far as that goes. We had heard numerous reports about Jamaica that referenced safety and crime. It is not a wealthy country and I suspect that some tourists are put off by being exposed to poverty. In any event, because we didn't want to take any risks, we pre-booked an excursion through Carnival rather than trying to venture out on our own when we arrived. The tours in general are all well organized. You disembark and find the sign in the terminal building corresponding to your tour. We had booked the day at the Negril Beaches Resort. Interestingly, I had read a previous review that said the reviewer arrived in Jamaica and called the Ritz-Carlton to book a room for the day. This had sounded extremely snobby at the time. If you're going to Jamaica, what's the point getting a hotel room for the day at the Ritz? Couldn't you do that anywhere and, in any event, don't you want to go see some of Jamaica? And is it really good value for money to pay $200 for just a few hours? But when I look at it, what we ended up doing was not much different and somewhat more expensive. This excursion cost $456 for the four of us. It included an hour long drive in a bus to the resort, and then full use of the facilities there. We were told that the one-way cab ride would have been $100 (although I've since seen other information indicating that the cost of a return trip could probably be had for about $80), so assuming a day rate of $200, perhaps we were not better or worse off from a price standpoint. There may be other less expensive options like the Ritz nearer to Montego Bay, although it still seems to me that booking a hotel room at a property near the port defeats the purpose of going on a cruise. Our tour was excellent. The guide provided commentary and answered our questions during our drive. There is no real way in a six hour port call to even attempt to get to know what a country is really like. But I think by driving through the part of the country we saw, we got at least a bit of an idea. In addition, we had a chance to chat with the tour guide alone later on the beach at the resort. She let her guard down a bit (from the typical "show" that guides do for tourists) and talked about local politics, the economy, etc. It was very interesting to learn about her country and her way of life there. The resort was excellent, the food was good, the Red Stripe beer was included and we had a good time. We had to leave far sooner than we wanted and this became the theme for all the ports (i.e., we wished we could have stayed longer). This excursion wasn't particularly adventurous, but coming from a cold weather city, we were highly motivated to spend as much time as possible relaxing on the beach, in the blazing sun, during our port days. Re-boarding the ship was always easy. One thing that was never clear to me in advance was the extent to which you have to clear customs - either leaving or returning to the ship. We never had to show a passport and would generally just have to show our door key/security card) and never had to fill out customs declarations even though we were arriving on foreign soil. At Grand Cayman, we had to show a driver's license to get back into the dock area. I don't remember having to do this at the other two ports. On the three port days, we always left the ship more or less as soon as we could and always returned in the last hour before the ship was to depart. The only check we ever encountered (leaving or re-boarding) was the security check once we were back on board. They would put our bags through an x-ray machine and we would walk through a metal detector. I suspect that these were as much focussed on liquor control as on weapons and dangerous goods. I read a previous review from someone who said he always picked up a six pack of beer at each port and had no trouble getting them on. I can see how that would be true. If you were inclined to bring back liquor, I imagine you would have no problem taking a water bottle (particularly an opaque, sports-style bottle) ashore, filling it with wine or hard liquor and brining it back on board. There were no hand inspections and certainly no one opening bottles. Thursday, we awoke at 7:45 am to find that we had already arrived at Grand Cayman. The ship "anchors" rather than docking, but the "tendering" process to get to shore is quick and easy. It was probably a total of 20 minutes from the time we headed down to the lower deck to when we were standing on the dock. The dock area of Grand Cayman is very different from Jamaica. It is in a shopping area of the city and there are tourists and stores right there. Unlike Jamaica, where you are in a gated area and it looks a little dodgy on the outside, the port area of Grand Cayman is open, bustling with tourists and inviting. We had not made any plans for Grand Cayman in advance. Since we had pre-booked shore excursions for both Jamaica and Cozumel, we wanted the flexibility to do whatever we felt like at the time. We hired a mini-van/taxi to take us to seven-mile beach, which is really no more than a long walk away. We paid an average of $20 each way, but it was the only cost (other than lunch) that day and seemed like a bargain compared to the cost of getting to the resort in Jamaica (even though the actual drive was probably not much more than 10 minutes). We settled at a public access point near an open-air, bar-style restaurant called "The Reef Grill". There were public washrooms for changing and the beach was great. The weather was perfect, the water was turquoise and we had an excellent time. We had lunch at The Reef (total cost was about $60 for four, including a Cay Brew beer for me) and then took a minivan/cab back to the dock. There were probably a dozen vans waiting at the beach access, so you would have no problem getting transportation back to the ship. Once again, we really didn't want to leave, but we didn't want to miss our ship either. We got back to the dock in enough time to go into some of the shops and we bought some t-shirts, clothes and souvenirs for a total of $86. This was the only port where we had any opportunity to shop, so I was glad we could find what we were looking for. The tendering back was easy and we were on board in about 20 minutes of arriving at the dock. Excluding souvenirs, the total cost of this port stop was about $100 for the four of us. Friday, we arrived in Cozumel. We had booked the trip to the Mayan ruins at Tulum, which was the port activity I was most looking forward to on the trip. The cost of this tour was $308. The day was long on travel. We stepped off the ship just after 10:00 and found the sign for the Tulum excursion. We were quickly directed to the ferry that takes passengers back to the mainland (from the Island of Cozumel). The ferry was full and cast of by 10:30. The waters between Cozumel and the mainland were rough and are always so (we had been here once before). When we arrived on the mainland (at the resort town of Playa del Carmen) around 11:15, we were walked immediately to our bus, which was a modern motor coach. My references to the time of day are to "ship's time", not local time. This was the only port where the two were not the same. See my tip below about the importance of understanding the difference. The tour guide began the tour as we drove the hour or so toward Tulum. At about 12:15 We stopped at a tourist shop approximately 10 minutes out of Tulum. We were told the main purpose of this stop was to allow the group to use the restroom and that we would only be there about 15 minutes. But it became obvious that the tour company or the cruise line have an arrangement with this shop and the point was to have us buy souvenirs from the store. We were there about half an hour, which is consistent with the description of the excursion on Carnival's website. Unfortunately, this was time that ultimately came off our beach time at Tulum. We arrived at the site of the ruins around 1:00 and the guide continued his presentation as we walked toward the main part of the ruins. Once there, he gave an interesting 30-minute talk, although it focussed a little more on the Mayans and what happened to their civilization more so than it did on the details of the ruins themselves. At 1:35, he finished his talk and we were free to wander among the ruins and stop at the beach at the bottom of the cliff. Unfortunately, because of the need to be back to the ship on time, we only had about and hour and a half at the site and on the beach after the guide's presentation was over. Again, this is exactly how the excursion was advertised. We walked around a bit and took some pictures of the ruins, but we didn't have a lot of time to even look at all the main structures. We went down to the small beach and stayed about 30 minutes, where we ate our lunch of leftover breakfast food we had brought along (see "tips" below). At 3:00 pm, we headed back to the bus, and were actually a little late getting there on time for 3:15. The guide provided us with pre-packaged snack food and I bought a bottle of local beer from the bus driver (who was selling them out of a small cooler - for his own profit, I assumed). We drove back to Playa del Carmen and, arriving at about 4:15, were immediately ushered into line for the ferry over to Cozumel. This ride was even rougher than the first and along the way a window on the boat was smashed wide open (and one or two passengers were injured from flying glass) because the boat's side inflatable bumper (which was attached to the boat via a long rope) flew up because of the rough waves. On arriving at Cozumel, we only had a few minutes to board the Conquest for its scheduled departure. We considered stopping in one of the nearby shops, but we would have been very pressed for time and we didn't want to be late. Saturday was the last full day of the trip and was a sea day. We again claimed deck chairs by the pool very early. However, this day was a little windier and a little less sunny than the first two sea days and people were on and off hiding under their towels and putting on long sleeve shirts. I attended the disembarkation presentation, but didn't find it particularly informative, so it wasn't a great use of the limited time we had left. The cruise director spent as much time cracking jokes as he did providing information. They also had an awards ceremony for staff and the captain made a speech. But on the whole, I would have preferred to have stayed out on deck. Indeed, the most critical information (if there really was any) could have been printed and provided in a one-page briefing sheet. Sunday morning, we arrived in Galveston. The itinerary will tell you that the arrival time is 8:00, which may lead you to believe that you will probably disembark around 9:30 if things go quickly and you're in a hurry to get off. However, the ship actually arrived around 6:00 am and they made it fairly clear at the previous day's presentation that they wanted the passengers out of their rooms by 8:00. There are two ways to disembark. Either you can pack your suitcases the night before and leave them in the hall (in which case staff will collect them overnight and take them into the terminal for you to pick up after you leave the ship), or you can "self-assist", in which case you simply carry your own bags. The "self-assist" passengers were given priority to disembark (following any passengers with a short window to catch a flight), so we chose this option. Our deck was called just after 8:00 and we left our cabin and got in the short line to disembark at 8:40. We left via the gangway and arrived to the long customs line in the terminal. At this point, there was another opportunity to move through quickly. If you hired a porter, you would be directed to a shorter, faster customs line. Otherwise, you remained in a very long line with everyone else. This line is like a very long line at an airport check-in counter (or at a theme park ride), which means that every minute or so, you drag your bags forward 5 feet and stop. It seemed here that the port authorities could have lined people up in lanes and had them stay in their lane until it was called. This would have eliminated the need to have a slow line moving continuously. Eventually, we arrived at the customs officer's desk and we passed through with little trouble. We were outside the terminal about an hour after we left our cabin to disembark. Again, it seemed slow and inefficient at times, but I didn't see many alternatives for improvement that didn't involved more customs officers. I suppose if you really wanted to avoid the line and were prepared to leave the ship as soon as it was cleared by the port authorities, it wouldn't be too difficult to print up some fake airline documentation showing an early flight. That was all you needed to show the ship's staff to give you priority departure access. From there we took a taxi up to the car rental near Houston Hobby airport ($95 plus $15 tip), we visited the Houston Space Center, had dinner at Landry's Seafood House on the boardwalk in the town of Kemah and stayed the night at the Holiday Inn Express near Houston Hobby. While the staff at the Holiday Inn were fabulous, they have an inferior property and I would not recommend it as a place to stay. Tips - Before taking our cruise, I scoured the internet for tips on what to bring along or what to do to get the most out of the cruise. We maintain a very detailed packing list that is comprehensive enough to cover a simple business trip, a week camping in a tent or a ten-day vacation in Hawaii. What I was looking for were suggestions on what to bring specifically on a cruise that we might not have thought of on our own. I was also looking for tips on how to get the best value on the cruise, what pitfalls to avoid and what secrets to take advantage of. There wasn't much helpful on the web. There were typical generic packing lists (sunscreen, bathing suit). In addition, any "tips" I found on any travel-related sites seemed heavily weighted toward promoting cruises rather than being particularly useful. For example, when I read "tips" on what to wear in the dining room, those sites would be more along the style of "Why not have fun and wear a tuxedo?," rather than telling me what I really wanted to know, which was what I could get away with. Ultimately, I did find some tips that were useful, but nothing truly comprehensive. Here's a list of things we brought (and at least one thing we should have brought), along with an assessment of whether or not they were useful. Two bottles of champagne - The cruise lines don't want you to bring along your own liquor, purchased at a reasonable price. They want to be able to gouge you as a captive customer. However, Carnival does permit you to bring on two 750ml bottles of wine or champagne (but apparently no beer or hard liquor). We brought two bottles and it was one of the best moves we made. It ended up being the perfect amount for the three sea days and the evenings of the port days. I often mixed the champagne with the ship's delicious, free lemonade for refreshing cold drinks all day. Just remember to bring a couple temporary corks with you because you'll never get a champagne cork back inside the bottle once it is out! Two 12-can cartons of soda - Again, Carnival permits passengers to bring on a "reasonable" amount of soft drinks. As there were four of us, we didn't think that a six-pack each could be considered excessive. In an effort to make the soda last for the whole trip, we budgeted too frugally during the first portion of the cruise and ended up bringing some soda home with us. That may have been because the free lemonade was so good. With the soda and the champagne (and free lemonade), we did not have to purchase any beverages during the entire week. We did not see or hear of anyone having beverages seized at embarkation. While there were many stages to the boarding process, there was only one security screening and no other point where they did a manual search for beverages. I suspect that at the entry point, the screeners are more interested in weapons and dangerous items than they are looking for liquor. We also realized that we probably could have doubled our carry-on amounts simply by splitting up our party before going through security (i.e., I carry on two bottles and say they are for the both of us if anyone asks, and then a few passenger groups later, my wife carries on another two bottles). We probably could have each brought on two dozen cans of soda as well. Alternatively (or in addition), we could have placed two bottles into checked bags and two more into carry-on bags. There did not appear to be any system that coordinated and cross-checked the screenings of the checked bags with the carry-on bags. Soft-sided cooler - The six-pack cooler was very useful for the "sea days" when we were just sitting by the pool. We could keep our drinks cold with the ice available near the juice dispensers in the Cezanne restaurant. Water bottle - We took a sports-style water bottle, mainly because I thought they would object if we brought our bottle of champagne out on deck. I filled the sports bottle with champagne in the cabin and brought it out and left it on ice at the side of the pool. As I mentioned above, I think you could also use this type of sports bottle to transport liquor back on board from the ports of call. Duct tape - There are always uses for duct tape. We used it to tape the curtain to the wall at night (to keep the room darker in the early morning), to tape the phone cord to the floor (to avoid tripping over it), to secure the cork to the champagne bottle (they keep popping out) and in packing up some boxes before disembarking. Zip lock baggies - One of our excursions was the trip to Tulum from Cozumel. This is a six-hour excursion and lunch is not included (although a light snack is provided for the bus ride back). We were somewhat wary of purchasing food in Mexico because of the different food production and handling standards. Our solution was to bring our own food from the ship. We didn't want to bring any meat or cheese products, but we were able to bring a variety of muffins, bread products and even pancakes from the breakfast buffet. The only problem was that we also packed four bananas. As we left the ship in Cozumel, the security officer asked us not to take any fruit ashore. That would have been nice to know before we packed them because we would have brought more banana bread. I also suspect they just threw out the bananas we surrendered, rather than returning them to the buffet. Walkie-talkies - we brought along a pair of reasonably good Cobra walkie-talkies. I thought there might be a situation with our kids where we might want them to use them on board. It turned out that we never tried using them. I had read two earlier reviews where one recommended them and one said they didn't work very well on board. Wall map and GPS tracker - I brought a wall-sized map of the western Caribbean and a watch with GPS to track our progress (the watch provides coordinates of latitude and longitude). The ship has a large map on one of the decks. It shows the progress of the ship with a series of small bulbs that light up. However, it wasn't obvious to me whether it showed the actual route traveled, or merely the standard path of the cruise. There is also a TV channel that cycles through a variety of information, including a map, and the ship's coordinates, which did match what my GPS watch was telling me. We taped the map to the stateroom wall and a couple times a day I would plot our location using my GPS. There is a point on the way down to Jamaica that you pass within a few miles of the tip of Cuba, but because it is so flat, you wouldn't know it's there if you didn't know where and when to look. Power bar/extension cord - there is one outlet in the cabin (one single outlet, not a double) and one in the bathroom. There is no clock radio in the cabin, so if you want to know what time it is at night, bring your own (we brought an illuminated clock). You may want an extension cord, as well as a power bar, because the outlet is not conveniently located next to the bed. At various times we needed power just to keep various batteries charged (camera, video, cell phones, GPS watch). Bungee cords - Two sources suggested taking bungee cords, but I never found a use for them. One reviewer had suggested using them to keep the balcony door open, but our door had a "fixed open" position. I used it once to keep the main cabin door open, but there was a door stop that worked just as well. Hole punch & lanyard - I never had a problem keeping my (cabin) cardkey in my pocket, even in my swimming trunks. But depending on what you normally wear and if you have pockets, you may prefer to wear your room key around your neck. This was particularly useful for children and they punched holes in their keys to make them easier to clip on and wear. Wire hangers - I didn't bring hangers, but wish I had. The room came with 6 or 8 hangers - two of which were taken by the supplied bathrobes. Between my suit jacket and shirts for the dining room, I was running out of room. Your own hangers also give you flexibility because the supplied hangers are "hotel style" hangers that are fixed in place. Bottle opener - one reviewer said he was forced to buy a $15 Carnival bottle opener because he didn't bring one along. I brought one but didn't use it. I'm not sure what bottles he was opening. Obviously, if you bring wine, you'll need a corkscrew. Flashlight - I took one and never had an occasion when it might possibly have been useful. Here is a list of other tips you may find useful: Speak to a Carnival agent when booking - The agents are very good at picking out rooms. They can match you up to your needs. They know things like which rooms adjoin (and/or have attached balconies), where they are located (vis a vis elevators or other amenities that might be important to you). They will think of and point out things you haven't thought of (is your room directly below the floor of the disco?). Unless you know exactly what you're doing, I wouldn't suggest trying to book your room online on your own. Balcony, window or inside cabin - Of course this is largely a question of affordability. However, in terms of value for money, here are my thoughts. In planning our trip, we had considered everything from inside cabins to balcony staterooms. We had a family of four and ended up with adjacent balcony rooms. For us, part of the decision was cost. Because we were travelling a long distance (airfare, transfers, two nights of hotel accommodation), the difference in total cost between balcony and inside cabins was still a small portion of the overall trip cost. The cost of the cruise alone (including the standard gratuity, excluding on-board purchases and excursions) was $4,055. The cost of the entire trip (including transportation to Houston, two hotel nights, meals and other activities) was about $7,400. I've read reviews from travellers who report that they spend very little time inside the cabin and for them, a window or balcony is an unnecessary expense. I'm sure that's true for them. But I found there was enough time that we were in our rooms at the beginning of the day, end of the day, or just unwinding before dinner that the window (at a minimum) was invaluable. I don't think I would book an inside cabin, or even a cabin with a small porthole. It was a nice part of the trip to be able to see where you were going, not to mention being reminded what direction the ship was moving (to know how to get to the front or back of the ship), what the weather was, whether the sun was still up, etc. We spent some time sitting on the balcony almost every day, but if we'd been on a colder climate trip, I think the balcony would probably be a waste of money. It was also very convenient for us to go back and forth between cabins via the adjoining balconies, rather than having to go through the corridor and worry about taking card-keys or leaving the doors open (or ajar). Balcony - We really enjoyed our cabin's balcony (on the 8th deck) for the late-afternoon sun. However, for much of the ship, the 9th floor deck actually overhangs the 8th deck, which means that the sun has to be quite low before it actually hits our balcony. Because of the angle, the impact of this overhang is less on the 7th deck, so if you have a balcony on a lower floor, you are less likely to have the sun blocked by the 9th deck overhang. Of course, the whole point is moot depending on the position of the sun, which depends on the direction of travel and the exact time of the season (i.e., during our cruise, in early spring, the sun was still slightly south and therefore exposed to the starboard side of the ship on the way out and the port side (our side) on the way back. That said, the cruise route takes the ship below the Tropic of Cancer, so there will be some cruise weeks when the north side of the ship gets more sun than the south side (i.e., the opposite of what is always the case in North America). If you like to enjoy your balcony in the sun, consider the season and the direction of travel when booking your cabin. A Carnival booking agent can help sort this out for you. Multiple rooms - We called Carnival before booking solely to ask about booking two rooms (one for us and one for our kids). Basically, what I wanted to know was whether we could put our kids in one room and, if we did, would we have to maintain a facade throughout the whole cruise that there was an adult sleeping in each room. I believe their website implies that children can't be booked into a room on their own. The Carnival agent was completely upfront that there would be no problem if we put our kids in one room. The only thing they would do would be to book it on paper with one adult and one child in each room. However, we didn't have to spend the whole trip pretending that one of us was in each room. The only initial problem was that we realized that the room's access keys would only open the rooms they were assigned to. We went down to the service desk on the first day to ask them how we could access both rooms. We weren't yet brave enough to explain that we had two kids in one room and two adults in the other. We just said that our family had two rooms and we wanted to know how we could access each other's room. Their system couldn't seem to set the keys so that they accessed more than one room, but they did print us two spare cards, one to access each room. That solved our problem. Booking flights - I read one review that strongly cautioned against flying in on the day of departure. Common sense also suggests that flying out on the day of return might be similarly risky. I believe when you book your flight through Carnival, they will take some responsibility for ensuring you get to your destinations one way or another. However, if you book flights on your own, you don't want a delayed flight to cause you to miss your cruise (or miss your flight home because your ship was fogged in and couldn't dock on time). We booked our own flights (on points), so we arrived the night before (Saturday) and flew home the day after the cruise (Monday). Transfers from Houston - whether you are arriving directly from the airport or from a hotel in Houston, consider your options for transportation to Galveston. Carnival offered us seats on their shuttle bus at the cost of $40 per person, each way. However, because we were a party of four, it didn't make sense to us to pay $160 for a one hour bus ride. Taxi rides are about $100, depending on where you are coming from. I attempted to book a limo, but despite my best efforts to get a favorable rate (I emailed dozens of Houston limo companies for a quote), I wasn't offered anything lower than $175, all in. We opted for a town car for $109, excluding tip. The additional benefit compared to the Carnival shuttle bus was that the town car picked us up from our hotel, so we didn't have to pay for a taxi to take us from the hotel to the shuttle bus. Checking bags - I had read another review that explained that we were not required to check our bags when we arrived at the terminal. When passengers arrive, the vast majority (95%?) checked their bags with a porter (for a fee) and had the bags delivered to their cabin. Based on the recommendation of that review, we kept our bags and took them with us through the check-in procedure. Initially, I thought we were very clever because we wouldn't have to wait for our bags to be delivered. However, after dragging the bags through the various stages of the check-in for an hour, it seemed like more hassle than it was worth. When we arrived on board, we were able to take our bags to the cabin, unpack completely and do whatever we want. Even then, it still seemed like it had been more trouble than it was worth. However, bags were still being delivered to cabins well into the evening and I was very happy that we'd already been able to unpack. If you do check your bags, be thoughtful enough to remember to take any key items (e.g., drinks, bathing suit, toiletries) in a carry-on so that you're not stuck with just your street clothes for the first evening of the cruise. Accessing your room - I believe Carnival tells passengers they won't be able to access their cabin until 1:30 pm. When we arrived on our deck (with three suitcases and four backpacks) we were met with closed doors to the corridors containing the staterooms. There were also signs posted indicating that the rooms were not yet ready. If this happens, try the doors, you'll probably find one that is unlocked. You can proceed to your cabin and, even if it has not yet been made up, you can leave your bags and use the bathroom if you want. Once you are on your cabin deck, it is extremely unlikely that anyone will tell you to leave. These are the same staff who are relying on you to tip them at the end of the cruise so they are highly motivated to accommodate you. In our position, with all our luggage in our possession, I'm not sure what we would have done if we couldn't have accessed our cabin at that point. Getting around the ship - Rather than waiting for elevators, use the stairs, it's much faster - even if you're going up/down five decks. In addition, near the atrium/lobby, there are two separate sets of elevators (one is a regular bank, the other is the glass elevators). They share a common elevator waiting area. If you have to use the elevators here, hit both "up" or both "down" buttons for the two sets of elevators and take whichever one comes first. Fountain / soda cards - They will sell you a card that will allow you to have free soda for the whole trip. I believe the cost was about $5 per day (slightly less for children). Our initial plan was to buy two, then three, then one card for our party of four. Ultimately, once we got the two cases of soda on board, we decided we didn't need the soda card. One drawback to the card is that you can only use it at the bars. You still have to pay for soda in the formal restaurants, via room service, or if you have a pool-waiter take an order and deliver it to you. My daughter met friends who had cards and they didn't seem to have any problem sharing one card between multiple passengers. Kids' club - I highly recommend the kids' programs they have. I'm one to sign my kids up for programs just to get them out of my hair. One of the reasons I go on vacation is to spend time with my kids. The programs worked out great. Our kids signed up and attended the activities that interested them - basically checking themselves in and out as they pleased. They met people and made friends. They have different groups for different ages (15+, 12-14, 9-11, etc.). Both my kids were initially disappointed by the age groupings because they were at the old end of their groups (i.e., they'd rather be with older kids than younger kids). But they gave it a try and both of them found the activities very well suited to them. Kids 11 and older can check themselves in and out. Kids 10 and younger need to be checked in and out by a parent or other responsible adult. There is no charge for the regular activities. I believe there were charges for some activities that took place later than 10:00 pm. Reserving deck chairs - There are signs around the pools instructing passengers not to "reserve" deck chairs (i.e., arriving early, placing towels on chairs, leaving and coming back two hours later to claim them). Despite this, everyone does it. You might want to do the right thing and not do this, but you will be the only one. I'm generally one to follow rules that make sense (and this rule certainly does make sense), but it became obvious with a group of four that if we wanted four deck chairs together anywhere out of the wind and within sight of a pool, we'd need to "reserve" them early. Even though you're on vacation and may want to sleep in until 9 or 10, there will be hundreds of people up as early as 7:30, or even 6:30. If you have a large group, you'll probably need to reserve your chairs by 8:00. If you are just a couple, you might find something a little later. It also depends on the weather. Pools - There was a lot of deck area around the pools, but the swimmable pool space was really very small. You certainly couldn't swim laps anywhere. There is a giant "jumbotron" screen in the main pool area. It was fun going out at night and watching the late night movie (Indiana Jones, one night). I kind of wished they had played more of those reliable, action-adventure movies because the venue makes it a little difficult to pick up the audio at times. But the setting was perfect for those movies that you've seen before and are always fun to watch again. During they day, however, the big screen mostly played music videos. The small "nit" I have about this, however, was that they showed the video portion of the music videos without broadcasting the audio portion. Instead they had taped music playing over the pool's loudspeakers (when the live calypso/reggae band wasn't playing). I couldn't understand why they didn't just play the audio portion of the music videos they were showing on the huge screen. What is the point of showing a music video if you can't hear the music? Ship layout and amenity information - Research the ship and print out relevant information in advance. There is little or no information about the ship in the cabins. There is a binder with limited information in each room, but no detailed deck plans and no directions. This binder will tell you there is a burger bar and may mention what deck it is on, but it won't tell you where it is or what its hours of operations are. I was very surprised that I had far more access to information about the ship from home on carnival.com than I did when I was actually sitting in my stateroom. Dance shows - There a number of "song and dance" shows in the Toulouse-Latrec lounge. The costumes on the female performers were very revealing. Our waiter joked that "there is more skin at the pools on the Lido deck", but I'd actually disagree. It was all fine with me (and, I take it, consistent with what is typical for a Las Vegas style show-girl act), but it might make some parents uncomfortable if they have their children with them. Sports Bar - They have a small "sports bar" on board with a number of TVs. It was as full as it could get for one night during the NCAA basketball tournament when I peeked in. However, I had been hopeful that the bar might have access to sports programming other than what I could get on the TV in my own cabin. However, all they seemed to get were the same channels I had. I had hoped to catch at least part of a hockey game on Saturday night, but no luck. Laundry - Surprisingly, the laundry facilities were very reasonable, although fairly limited. I think there were only three washing machines on each deck. Laundry detergent was $1, the wash was $2 and the dryer was $2 (for 90 minutes!). They provide a laundry service one day where they will do a large bag of laundry for $15, but it was hard to justify the extra cost, especially considering you're on the ship so it's not like you're going anywhere that you can't monitor your wash load. Internet - there is a room containing maybe a dozen computers. I never had any problem finding one available. In fact, I think the busiest time I was there, there were three other people in the room. Unfortunately, the cost of access is very high. The first minute the first day you use it (i.e. and set up your access) costs $4.70. Each minute after costs $0.75. It may not seem like much, but when you spend 15 minutes checking sports scores and reading two emails and see that your bill for the session is $12, you think twice about doing it again. They have payment plans that started around $50. We spent $32 during the week for four sessions (lasting 16, 11, 6 and 4 minutes), so we never contemplated signing up for the more expensive plans. Carnival advertises that some of its ships had full wi fi access throughout the ship. I saw conflicting information about whether this service was available on the Conquest. Since we chose not to bring a laptop, I never found out. Although the Carnival website is unclear, I suspect this access is not free (i.e., you still have to pay the same fees, you just get the pleasure of doing it from the comfort of your own room). Meals - Don't bother eating breakfast in the dining room. We had breakfast in the dining room on the first morning. My wife ordered the waffles. She got (and I'm not making this up) a very fancy plate with exactly two quarter-pieces of a waffle. I'm not sure who got the other half waffle. It is a lot of trouble to go to the dining room to get a near-empty plate. I'm sure we could have ordered a second plate, but that's not really the point. Dessert - If I had a minor complaint about the buffet food in the Cezanne, it would be the lack of dessert foods. I like a piece of cake or pie or something after dinner, but there was no late night dessert buffet for after dinner. However, some time around 10:00 pm, I take it they would bring down leftover desserts from the Monet and Renoir. Sometimes they had them; sometimes they didn't. Or maybe we just missed them. But it was nice to find a chocolate melting cake at night! Tracking on-board expenses - at any time, you can check on the status of your on-board account through the menu options on your cabin's TV. When I discovered duplicate charges for the standard gratuity, I reported it to the service desk. However, they explained that the on-screen statement for the adults will include the charges for the children (the children's statements will just show their own charges). As a result, the amounts I was seeing were correct and I was not being double-charged. Our total charges for the trip (excluding the $280 gratuity, which we elected to leave on) were $94 ($32 for internet access, $22 for a photograph, $14 for a bottle of sunscreen, and $26 for one of the late-night kids programs that wasn't included in the fare). If you have a lot of charges (especially drinks), it is probably a good idea to check your account every day or every second day. Don't eat so much food - I realize (as I've mentioned above) that you've already paid for all the food you can possibly eat. But there is really no benefit to overeating. Just because there is enough food to fill three plates, doesn't mean you have to. I read a review from someone who said that you could order a meal in the dining room and if you decided you didn't like it, you could send it back and order a different meal. To me, that is just wasteful. Be adventurous, but choose carefully. If you order it, you should live with it. Similarly, I saw many people filling more plates of food than they could possibly consume and it clearly wasn't because they were getting plates for other passengers. Take only what you're planning to eat. If you're not going to eat it, don't take it. If you haven't taken enough from the buffet, you can always go back. Again, it is wasteful to take food you know you can't eat. Finally, as I said just off the top, don't eat it just because it's there. It's not healthy and does you no good just because it is a week-long, all-you-can eat buffet. Thoughts on cruise ship vacations - going on a cruise is a unique way to take a vacation. There are numerous advantages as well as disadvantages compared to more conventional vacations. This review may focus more on the negative, but it shouldn't detract from the fact that the overall experience on the Carnival Conquest was significantly positive. I would definitely take a cruise again, but I'm just as certain that it is unlikely that I would go on a cruise again in the next year or two (unless I found some screaming-great, less-than-half-price deal). We prefer to do different things, plus we like having the flexibility to set our own agenda. In addition, there were a few things about the cruise that struck me as odd or unfortunate. When you take a cruise, you are paying for a level of service that you don't necessarily want. There is no option for 3-3½ star service for 3-3½ star price. The cabin stewards provided great service. But you are paying for them to be in your room not once, but at least twice each day. They clean the room once, then they come in later and make a "towel animal". They stock the ice bucket with ice. That's great, but would you usually pay for that when you go on vacation? I appreciate that these staff are not paid a lot. But there is a cost to having someone make you a towel animal and fill your ice bucket each night. Similarly, you're paying for five star (ok, maybe four star) dining room service every night, whether you use it or not. If my family is on a regular vacation, how often do we choose to go to a restaurant as fancy and with service at the level of the ship's dining room? Probably zero or one time in a 10-day or two-week vacation. Of course, you have no obligation to eat any meals in the dining room, but psychologically, it is very difficult to pass up the four star meal that you've paid for, even if you'd rather have a burger or a slice of pizza. You've already paid for the dining room service, so it feels like a waste not to use it. In general, I just don't get the whole dining room thing with cruise ships. The dining room has a dress code - not just on formal nights. Again, if you're on a regular vacation, how often do you go to a restaurant that has a dress code? Again, the answer is probably zero or one time. Formal nights are even worse. This is the first and only time I've ever packed a jacket and a tie to go on vacation. And once again, you have no obligation to use the dining room. I just wonder why the formal dining room is the "rule," rather than the exception. The only alternatives are buffet or fast-food. And once again, those options are only available once you've already paid the fare that includes the four-star dining room service. Another thing I don't get is the cruise director. He was an enthusiastic and entertaining enough guy, but I read some reviews that mentioned that one entire cruise was much better because of such-and-such a cruise director instead of so-and-so. I can't imagine that the identity or personality of that employee would have any bearing on whether I enjoyed my vacation. He's the guy who introduces the shows and makes announcements over the P.A. system. Other than that ... I don't get it. The ship has all sorts of entertainment options. We attended two "song and dance" shows and a part of a "passenger participation" game show. My first impression was that there seemed to be a lot of entertainment options. Again, it's hard not to think that you're paying for it and I wondered whether the experience would have been any worse if there were fewer options. I don't think I really would have noticed if there had been no evening entertainment. But I suppose different people have different things that interest them (magician, piano bars, bingo, etc.). On the other hand, maybe people just want to be able to do something and it really doesn't matter too much what. And speaking of people, we found everyone (passengers and crew) to be friendly and courteous. I had read some reviews that complained about rude behavior, but I can't think of a single example during the whole trip. Most people seemed to keep to their own groups, but there were a few people here and there who seemed to enjoy socializing and it was nice to meet them. I have one pet peeve about the ship. When you go up and down staircases or in and out of elevators, or go through a maze of halls, bars, casino, etc, it is very easy to get turned around. A simple solution to keep people oriented on the ship (i.e., in terms of fore/aft and port/starboard) would be to have arrows posted on the walls prominently pointing to the front of the ship throughout the vessel. I don't know how many times I started off in one direction to find myself turned around and backtracking. Another more annoying thing was the constant "buy, buy, buy" message. From the moment you walk on deck, they try to sell you drinks. The first time a drink was thrust in front of me, I asked if it was free. Slowly, the roaming bar staff figure out who will and who won't buy drinks and eventually they leave you more or less alone. They are constantly taking your picture (at dinner, when you exit the dining room, when you board the ship, when you leave at each port). And the photos are not cheap. They are also constantly announcing sales at the on-board shops, trying to get you to put money down on a future cruise, etc. It's not hard to say no, you just would hope they'd give you a break at some point. I also thought it was odd that so little attention was paid to things like geography and the identity and history of the ports of call. On Monday night, I sat out on the top deck at night and watched as my GPS told me the point at which we passed into the tropics (we passed the Tropic of Cancer at 10:41 pm). I had half expected an announcement or at least a mention in the daily fact sheet. Similarly, I expected there to be more attention to, and information about the geographic and historical background to the countries we visited. There wasn't a single mention of the fact that we came within viewing distance of Cuba at 7:15 am Tuesday morning. I'm sure many passengers would have got up to see Cuba if they'd know. My sense was that the cruise line sort of treated the ports and geographic information like unnecessary details (i.e., it doesn't matter that we're in Jamaica and what its rich history is, what matters is that you sign up for the "Rum runner's excursion" for the low, low price of …). And sure, it was certainly not that difficult to do my own research in advance, but surely there must be enough passengers who actually care about where they're going to make it worthwhile for Carnival to do some basic research and print up the information for each cabin. The cabin staff were excellent and friendly, but another pet peeve of my mine was finding an ice machine. When we arrived, I searched unsuccessfully for an ice machine. We asked a cabin steward where we could get ice and he indicated he would have someone take care of it. However, I figured out later that he wasn't our cabin steward and it didn't get done. Eventually, after asking once or twice more, they did deliver ice. However, I really didn't need delivery, I just wanted to know where the ice machine was so I could go and get it myself. Eventually, I figured out that I could go into the restaurant and fill a container with ice from the dispensers there. But those dispensers were designed for cups, not large containers and it always seemed a little awkward to be using them. That said, for the rest of the trip, our ice container was generally stocked with ice by the cabin steward and after a couple days, we arrived back to our room to find a larger plastic bucket filled with ice (because there wasn't much room in the regular ice bucket for both the champagne bottle and the ice and at some point, my soft-sided cooler started leaking in the room). My greatest concern was that the cabin staff always seemed to act as if they thought that the passengers believed they were better than the employees. They would apologize for just about anything, including simply being in the corridors if you were passing by. It was very unsettling and I wonder whether this is something they feel is considered to be "good service," or whether this attitude is something they've learned from previous passengers. I would much prefer that the employees just treat the passengers like the regular people we are. As for the whole tipping experience, I remain someone who is not a fan. Given the captive customers and the standardized level of service, I would far rather the cruise ship advert.

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Nov 2, 2008

Carribean

This was the eleventh cruise for my husband and I. We have taken five cruises on Carnival, three on Norwegian, one on Royal Caribbean, one on Holland America and one on Princess. This cruise was very nice. The food on the breakfast and lunch buffet on the lido deck was good and there was a good variety. The food served in the evening in the formal dining rooms was good also. The lobster tail and prime rib were great. We had an inside room on

this cruise. Ivan, our room steward was great. He was very friendly, kept our room clean and answered every question we asked. He had better information than the purser's office on most ships. The onboard activities were average. We did not book excursions through Carnival as we are seasoned cruisers and can get excursions on our own. Embarking went well in Galveston. Going through security went quickly but we had to wait over an hour to board the ship. Our Conquest cruise was the first out of Galveston since Hurricane Ike. Cruisers from the week before were dropped off in Houston then the ship returned to Galveston to get us. The transition went pretty well. We took our luggage with us on board so we would not have to wait for it. We experienced our smoothest cruise ride on the Conquest. The waves were 4 to 18 inches high each day. We spent our first two full days at sea. We spent most of our day at the main pool area. We swam in the pool, used the water slide and hot tub. We played one round of 9-hole miniature golf on the top floor of the ship. We had our first formal dinner on the third night. Our first port stop was at Montego Bay, Jamaica. Our ship docked at this port. We took a short taxi ride to Doctor's Cave Beach/Breezes Beach. The taxi cost was $5 per person each way plus a tip. Be sure to take the JUTA government backed taxi (with a red tag on the windshield) because they are much safer. We did some snorkeling (with our equipment) and spent some time on beach. We saw coral and many fish. The $5 cost per person to enter the beach area was well worth the cost and the security was good. If you wanted a chair, that cost an additional $5. If you wanted an umbrella, that cost $10. You could rent other equipment also (e.g. snorkel, jet skis, etc). Before heading back to the ship, we shopped at some small stores between Doctor's Cave and Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville (only two blocks apart). I met some people on the boat that went to Dunns River Falls. That sounded fun. Carnival charged nearly $100 each for the excursion but the people we met did the falls for $35 each ($20 for the taxi and $15 for entrance to the falls). Our second port stop was at Georgetown, Grand Cayman. This was a tendered port. When we arrived at the dock, we turned left and walked about 3 miles to the nearest end of 7-mile beach. We enjoyed the beach. Next, we walked back to the dock, walked another 5 minutes passed the dock and went to Eden Rock/Paradise dive shop for snorkeling. The colorful fish were abundant. We paid $5 each to use the beach area and chairs. You can rent snorkel equipment for a small charge. Three years ago, we took a taxi to the far end of 7-mile beach. Six years ago, we swam with the stingrays. You have to do that once. We had our second formal dinner that night. Our third port stop was at Cozumel. Our ship docked at this port. The dock was brand new and had been in use for only three weeks. The dock was about four miles from the main market shopping area but there was a new shopping area at the new dock. We walked out of the new shopping area and found someone to take us on a 2 1/2 hour snorkel trip. We made three great snorkel stops for a cost of $30 per person. It would cost a little more for snorkel equipment. The ship's excursion was twice the price. We spent our last full day at sea. We spent most of our day at the main pool area. We swam in the pool, used the water slide and hot tub. When we arrived back in Galveston, we debarked the ship easily. The evening shows onboard were good. The theater was very roomy. Most of the shows were singing and/or dancing. The casino and onboard shops were about average. The clubs were less than average. There was a good band by the casino but the dancing area was in a hallway and too small at that. Another band was in another club but the music was not to our liking. Fewer than six cruisers were in that club when I peeked in on most nights. Some other clubs opened around 10:30. We love to dance rock and country and were disappointment with the clubs on most nights.

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Mar 20, 2008

Western Caribbean

This cruise was great. The boat was massive... so much to see and do. The cruise director Corey was so much fun. The shows were awesome. The casino was big and varied. The food was wonderful and so much of it. The only complaint about the food was it was a little fancy but that was the experience of the cruise. The rooms were bigger than Royal Caribbean. They also offered more excursions than royal Caribbean. Try the Beach Buggy Tour in

Cozumel... lots of fun. All in all it was a great cruise... much better than I expected.

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Mar 20, 2008

Western Caribbean

NEW ORLEANS: If you've never been to New Orleans before I recommend arriving a minimum of one day early. We stayed at the Landmark/Best Western. Due to Hurricane damage, they had problems with their roof leaking and mold in some rooms, but we all had rooms that were fine for our group. EMBARKATION: We walked into the cruise terminal to discover all the beautiful yellow chairs."Carnival's embarkation procedures was painless."

I'm not kidding! If you're organized the boarding process is a breeze. We walked right up to the counter for our sail and sign cards without any waiting. I had already done the fun pass online which sped up the process. This is where you present your passports, birth certificates, and photo ID and credit cards if you are going to use one. Then they take you to sit in the awesome yellow chairs. Then we were called to board the ship. We took our security/welcome aboard photo. It took us about 45 minutes to get on board and we arrived before noon. Just make sure to keep your ID handy and fill out your information before hand. We found out when we got to the terminal that our itinerary had changed (again due to hurricane damage, which we suspected all along, we just didnt know how), we had an extra day at sea instead of Grand Cayman and they gave us a credit on our sign and sail card $25 per person, and we stayed longer in Montego Bay (in at 9 out by 7) and Cozumel (in at 8 and out by 6). Our room was on the Riviera deck 1 very bottom. We had inside rooms, I dont think I would pay the extra for the oceanview as we weren't in our rooms very much. SUNDAY: Up to the Lido deck for the buffet. After we ate lunch, we went to see if our room was ready about 1:30 and it was. After the muster drill my girls and I headed to dinner in the Renoir dinning room. Folks, if you haven't been on a cruise before, don't be shy. Order several appetizers, several entrees and several desserts. You paid for it! Steve Cassel, our cruise director, was very entertaining. We sailed down the Mississippi river for what seemed like hours. Night fell and it seemed like we'd never get into the gulf. We kept seeing lights which we assumed were houses and buildings on land. Don't let this fool you. We found out on our return trip that the lights we were seeing weren't from land, but from Numerous Oil Rigs lined up like miniature cities for mile after mile. (Very interesting) MONDAY & TUESDAY: Sea days… I loved the sea days because you were able to relax and enjoy the vacation. They had various things to do for entertainment: game shows, bingo (always had bingo), hairy chest competition, casino, pools were open and of course the bars and food. !!! If you do not think you are going to buy any photos from the ship, think again. They are $20 for a 8X10 which is pretty expensive when you think about it at first, but when you think how much it would be to do on your own, it is not that bad. Just because you took the photo does not mean you have to buy it. WEDNESDAY: So glad to wake up and see the sunrise over Jamaica. Montego Bay looked beautiful. Also there were Rasta guys outside taking pictures with everyone getting off the ship. Upon arrival, we quickly realized it was not necessarily ready for visitors. For one, Margaritaville sustained lots of damage and was closed. They had temporarily made a make-shift Margaritaville at Doctor’s Cave,They have a little hut set up selling food and drinks and they have a shop to buy t-shirts and stuff. (we didn’t go there). We went to SUNSET BEACH RESORT. Took a Taxi from the port for $5.00 total. Upon arrival at the resort, I was a little surprised to see the armed guards outside at the gatehouse. They escort you into the hotel and see that you get checked in. Upon paying our $20.00, they put your S&S card in an envelope and hold it at the gate. This place was gorgeous! Well worth the money. We snorkeled, ate, drank and partied all day long. My 14 Yr old daughter was able to Kayak and wind surf at no extra charge and all in all have a blast. My 7 yr old just wanted to swim in the pool the whole time we were there. My self I indudged in a few of thier daquaris, also enjoyed the food ( the Jerk Chicken and grilled fish were heaven to me!). The food and entertainment were excellent. Highly recommend this place. But like any place take your normal precautions and use your judgment wisely. THURSDAY: Sea day….. fun, fun, & more fun on the ship. FRIDAY: Cozumel : We went to Paradise beach. Took a taxi that cost $12.00 for the three of us. Paradise beach was nice and being past the 1st of October they started charging for the use of the water toys, so the kids got wrist bands for $5 each to use the kayaks, water trampoline, iceberg, floats, and life jackets if needed, also they had snorkel equipment. There was someone right there renting wave runners ($55 for 30 minutes), parasailing ($55), boats taking people out snorkeling. They also had hair braiding and wraps, massages on the beach and those henna tattoes. We didnt have to pay for beach chairs or umbrellas. The food was pretty good and moderately priced and the margaritas were great! Myself I enjoyed the gulf breezes under my umbrella on my lounge chair, while being plied by drinks by Tom the manager (great guy to meet too!). I was amazed at how much this beach had to offer. This port city is absolutely brilliant. There's a ton of things to see and do. Every "Vice" can be satisfied in this city. And of course we had to make our annual trip to Fat Tuesday's by the dock to swing at the bar and soak up atmosphere and watch people before getting back on board. SATURDAY…. Seaday…. By this time most folks are worn out from the marathon they've just ran during their days in port. Trust me..you'll be worn out. Tropical Storm Matthew made for some interesting swaying by the Conquest. Carnival lost a few glasses I know as I could here them falling and breaking while sitting by the lobby bar. But most people made the most of it and looked at it as another adventure on the cruise to tell everyone at home about. DEBARKATION: We had dark brown luggage tags. The only complaint I had is that the whole luggage retrieval process is a bit unorganized. Mass chaos as several hundred folks hurriedly search for all of their bags in one big room. Oh well. Roll with it. WORTH NOTING & TRIP HIGHLIGHTS: Do not miss the entertainment on the Promenade Deck 5 near the Casino "Two's Company" Mary Ann Mendoza and Roger. They are awesome. It was so much fun to sit and listen to the music and watch the people!!! Also they are very personable and were jewels with my 7 yr old daughter, who loves to dance!!! Marc Rubben (comedian/ventriloquist) pulled a lady from the audience and he put a mask over her face and she pretended she was the dummy, that was hilarious. Adrian (Romainia) a photographer was great fun and very helpful....and was just a great guy to meet. Imade (Indonesia) a bartender at the lobby bar was super with my 7 yr old daughter and her friends, making my stay in smokers Siberia at the side of the lobby bar much less painless(LOL) FOOD: The food varies from day to day but it's still above average. Not great, but good. Hint: LISTEN TO YOUR WAITER. They really do know what the best selections are. Thank you Olivera (Croatia) and Angel her Asst. (Peru)!!! HENRI’S DISCO: This is a happening place after 10 p.m. Good music.. mix of 70’s, 80’s and a little new stuff. Great Disco music. Loads of fun… Great place to dance and burn off those calories eaten!!!!! BLUE’S BAR: Lots of fun! They have a piano sing-a-long that is great! TOULOUSE LOUNGE: (I think that’s how you spell it…. ). Always something going on in there. Game shows were fun to watch. ( The Magic Show is great and I really liked Point & Click…. The others were okay. The talent show was also great.) In closing I'd have to say the ship was always clean and the crew was extremely friendly. Great Vacation. Great Ship. Can’t wait to cruise again!!!!

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Oct 7, 2007

n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines Starting out, the embarkation was easy, no long wait.  Make sure you check-in on the computer, as this will save you time, also having a passport will save you time.  We did the self-assist getting off and had no trouble, everybody was very nice.  We were off the ship and back to the hotel on the beach in Galveston by 8:45am.  The ship was clean and for the most part everyone was nice.  We had trouble with

our shower draining and could not get them to fix it, asked our cabin steward 3 times and he said he would file a report to have it fixed, never got fixed. Also the remote for the TV didn't work very well, you use the TV to check you folio (Charge account and book excursion) so yes, the remote is important.  He (the room steward) did do a good job of cleaning our cabin!!!  Ports of Call, Cozumel was great!!  Easy getting off of ship.  We got off early before stores opened at 9:00am, a few were open but not main one's.  Water was beautiful!!  Everybody here,  for the most part, was very nice.  Easy getting back on ship--the pier where they dock is in the center of town.  Grand Cayman was great!!  We took a taxi (bus) to the beach, it was $4.00 ea. one way, very good deal!!  The beach was beautiful and lucky for us we got to see a sea turtle on the beach.  One word of advice is to go a little farther down the beach, don't get off at the first beach drop off.  The difference is $1.00 more each.  The beach looked nicer and cleaner, we walked down to the next location.  Another word of advice, if you plan to go to the beach, don't take a lot of cash of anything you would want to lock up because the locker's are not in a place that I would want to leave anything very important.  At the pier where you get off of the ship is a great place to shop. We felt very safe here, no worries. Jamaica is not a place that I ever plan to step one toe on everrrrrrrrrrrr again.  The island is beautiful but that is the only thing going for it.  The people are very pushy and leaving the port going through immigration was not very nice.  They treat you like you are stealing something?????????  We also booked an excursion through Carnival and found out that 3 weeks before one of the buses on that same excursion had been robbed by gun point and that is why the buses go so fast through the mountains.  We went to the Croydon Plantation and it was beautiful.  It stormed the entire time but we understand you can't control the weather.  However, you do need to know that on this excursion that the tour buses drive very fast and that the roads are barely wide enough for two small cars to pass on.  The buses also drove over two places in the road that had been washed out by water falls and going over one of them the back of the bus hit the bottom.  I do not recommend this especially if you get motion sickness.  They drive on the opposite side of the road than we do so you can only imagine going up into the mountains on those tiny roads sitting on the left hand side of the bus is not fun.  When you look down, you can't see the bottom in some places, and it was raining the entire time.  The people walking on the side of the road would not move out of the way, I can't believe we didn't take out a couple of them.  So, if you do anything here, just know that my 13 year old daughter was wishing that she was back in school this day and also feared for her life, now that should tell you something!!!!!!!!! Overall, yes I would cruise with Carnival and even on this ship again, It was great!!!!!!! Sheila Mississippi        

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Aug 26, 2007

Eastern Caribbean

Having sailed with Carnival in 2002 (aboard the Paradise), my husband and I were eagerly anticipating sailing with the company again on one of their newer ships--the Conquest. Unfortunately, the experience on the Conquest was not at all like what we'd anticipated. First, a preview: We're a family of 4--three of us have asthma/allergies. The ship does permit smoking; but we were assured by the booking

agent that ventilation was more than adequate and we'd "never notice the smoke." We were traveling with our children (age 2 and 8) and we'd booked a nice, large, ocean view cabin on the main deck. Our booking agent indicated we'd have a double bed, a day-bed/couch, and a fold down bunk. This was a 7-day cruise from Galveston TX to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We'd even prepaid tips/gratuities. All the bases were covered. General condition of the ship: Never let anyone tell you that you won't be bothered by smokers on board one of the vessels permitting cigarette/cigar smoking. We now know that's a little like telling someone not to worry about a little pee in a swimming pool. The ship's ventilation was horrible. Every nook and cranny on board reeked of cigarette/cigar smoke. Even in areas marked "no smoking," you couldn't escape the stench. Even our bed linens were impacted (cigarette burns in the decorative spread). We were also horribly inundated with sewage odors, garbage/sour food odors, and the musty smell of mold. Our "large" cabin measured about 10 x 12 or so. There was a lot of storage available; however, cabinets/drawers were difficult to open (no knobs--just these little leather loops that children can't manage at all and even we adults had difficult dealing with). The ship's not all that old, but most of the cabinet doors and counter tops had deep gouges and chips. We had loose tile in the bathroom. When we took a shower, water passed easily over the small ledge (no door--just a curtain) and generally soaked the floor. Light switches for the bath were outside the bathroom itself where little fingers could turn lights on and off very easily--while we were otherwise occupied in the facility. Frankly, you'd find nicer facilities in a Motel 6. In other areas of the ship, we found loose hand rails in elevators (including the handicapped elevator); uncapped metal handrails (sharp edges) in the halls; emergency equipment (hoses) stored in unsecured bench seating along passenger walkways; and hallway lighting in need of repair. Cleanliness: Everywhere we went on the ship we found trash/debris (even immediately after boarding when the ship should have been "clean"). The carpets in public areas were stained. Vacuums hadn't reached the two inches of carpet next to the walls. Tiled areas were sticky, etc. Cleaning (light and heavy) appeared to take place on a rather haphazard schedule, mostly during hours when passengers were extremely active in public areas (after 9:00 a.m.). Staff/crew milled around talking, generally ignoring obvious spills/messes until one or more passengers would say something. Then they'd find someone else to come clean the mess. Service: Having sailed with Carnival before we'd truly expected a very high level of service. On board the Paradise, we had someone looking after our every need/want. Our cabin steward, waiter, maitre d', etc. were constantly checking to see if we needed anything, if our cruise was enjoyable, if they could do something for us. Unfortunately, the service on board the Conquest did not in anyway compare to our prior experience. We saw our cabin steward once or twice the entire week. Rooms were touched up only once a day; and they had signs up indicating you should reuse your towels. We placed a call for assistance once and it took more than 10 minutes for the steward to respond (with a phone call--it was an additional 10 minutes before he showed up). Whatever you do, don't expect any sort of service/assistance in the "alternative dining areas." It's 100 percent self-service. You'd have much better service (and better food) if you ate at Luby's or Wyatt's Cafeteria (and the staff there would actually ask whether you needed drinks/napkins/silverware and clean up after patrons when they left the table--you won't find that in the Cezanne... you'll be lucky to simply find a clean table). In the Monet dining room, we had to deal with a Maitre d' constantly trying to seat someone else at our table. We'd booked this cruise back in February and had a table for four at the main seating with a gorgeous view of the ocean and weren't about to move--no matter how much the other passengers were willing to tip the Maitre d' or how often he insisted we'd been "mistakenly assigned" that table. We had to file a formal complaint to make him stop trying to get us to move. I will say our waiter in the Monet (Ilnyoma) was superb, though. He was friendly, outgoing, patient and absolutely wonderful with the children. Shop staff were unfriendly. Customers were not their top priority. You were lucky, if there were 4 staff in the main gift shop, to find 1 who was willing to ring up your purchase. Passengers at the jewelry counters faired better--larger purchases. Spa staff were friendly--only if you appeared willing to book a treatment. If you were just asking questions, they pointed to a table and advised you to take one of their handouts. If ever you need medical treatment on board, Carnival medical staff is good--and that holds true even on the Conquest. I came down ill on day 1, was able to access immediate medical care (tests, exam, and medication) without any waiting whatsoever. They took a thorough history, made recommendations and even provided documentation for follow up with my GP back on the mainland. Kudos to the medical staff! Food: People always tell you to expect to gain weight on your cruise. We did on the Paradise. But, we lost weight on the Conquest. As mentioned previously, you really will receive better service AND better food at a Luby's or Wyatt's Cafeteria. Even in the Monet, food choices were a little odd (menus rarely followed a theme completely from starter to desert) and most rather devoid of taste and flavor (think steamed, no salt). Portion sizes were off. They'd serve a huge 10 oz. New York strip steak (no seasoning at all) with an itty-bitty potato and less than half a cup of steamed veggies. Fresh only appeared on plates during the first couple of days of the trip. By the end of the trip, the chefs were repeating side dishes and opting for frozen veggies. In the Cezanne (the "alternative dining" area), we found hot foods served cold or barely warm (including chicken and fish); and cold foods served room temp or even somewhat warm (including eggs, sushi, milk, dairy). Its a terrific breeding ground for intestinal upset. Did we like anything about the cruise? Yes--the wide variety of trips/excursions available. Is there room for improvement? God, yes! All of these "problems" are easily fixable--but it takes trained and concerned staff to make things work. We left comment cards on a daily basis with information on the problems and tips for remediating the problems. We sincerely hope they follow up on these suggestions (and the suggestions of our fellow passengers). Do we have suggestions for future guests? Yes. Think twice before sailing on Carnival. If you're okay with self-service, not so great amenities, and a less-than-Motel 6 quality experience, go right on! Otherwise, you might want to think about another line. Unfortunately, CCL owns several of the main lines... Best of luck!

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By Bob_CR

  • New

Jul 1, 2007

n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines This was our first cruise and our four kids (12, 11, 10 and 2) accompanied us on it.  Overall we had a great time and would do it again. Boarding the ship This was a major source of concern for us.  We wondered how long we would have to wait in line and how the kids would handle it – especially the 2 year old!  We don’t have passports and were told we could use our birth certificates.  This is true

but we didn’t realize until the night before we were supposed to leave that I only have one issued by the hospital.  In a big panic we searched the Carnival website and others to see if this would suffice.  Universally we discovered that you have to have a birth certificate issued by the state and not one by a hospital and I would not be able to board the ship.  Further, since we didn’t purchase the travel insurance (for around $800) we were convinced we would not be getting a refund on our tickets.  My wife called Carnival’s 800 number and they told her I would not be allowed to board but we could go and try.  I then called Carnival and was told in no uncertain terms that I would not be allowed to board and that it was not Carnival’s decision – it was up to US Immigration.  We went to bed Saturday evening not knowing what we would do.  I called Carnival again at 4am in the morning and spoke to a nice lady who said she’d estimate my chances at 50-50.  With that information we began the 4-hour drive to Galveston.  When we got to the terminal I got in line with 2 kids while my wife waited with the 2 other kids and the luggage – we didn’t want to give our luggage if we weren’t going to be allowed to board the ship.  The line moved somewhat quickly but I could only focus on the birth certificate issue.  When we finally got to the front of the line (about 1.5 hours later) I was greeted by a Carnival employee and not a government employee.  I explained my situation and the man said “no problem!”  Relieved, I called my wife and told her to get in line and that we were good to go!  The hour and a half I waited for her and the other 2 kids didn’t seem like such a big deal this time!  We didn’t take any alcohol on board but I wish I had as I saw A LOT of people with cans of beer even the ship sells bottles!!  We did take a 12 pack of Diet Coke and had no problem with it.  Cabin We had adjoining cabins and they were a bit larger than we anticipated they would be but still not very big.  I would suggest bringing a few extra hangars as we only had 7 or 8 in each room and they went quick!  The beds were very comfortable and we were given LOTS of pillows.  We had a stateroom with a window but no balcony, as we didn’t feel that would be wise with a 2 year old.  The room attendants did a great job of keeping the rooms clean and organized – they do a tremendous job! Entertainment and Casino We went to 2 shows – Point and Click and a magic show.  Point and Click was so bad we left after 5 minutes.  We couldn’t stop laughing and just had to leave!  My wife and older kids went to the magic show and liked it – the outfits were a bit revealing for the kids but overall they seemed happy with it.  I hit the casino twice – won a couple of hundred dollars the first night on slots and then lost it back a few nights later on slots and also on blackjack.  It was fun and I was glad to at least break even.  The slots were VERY tight except for the first night.  I don’t know if this was planned or if I just used up all my good luck on Day 1! There were 3 pools on the Lido deck plus a very small kids pool on the 10th (?) deck.  The pools were not nearly as big as I thought they’d be and were generally pretty crowded.  The kid’s pool was a joke and we left after 5 minutes.  One nice feature on the pools was that they had a 2 or 3-foot wide shelf with maybe 6 inches of water around the edges.  It was nice to sit there and our 2-year could toddle around there.  They were very strict about not letting you have a beer or drink near the pool.  That was kind of annoying but I see the logic in it! Camp Carnival All four of our kids attended Camp Carnival.  Our 12 year old liked it very much as she basically roamed the ship with 3 or 4 kids she met there.  Our 10 and 11-year-old boys didn’t like it as much.  They would go to a few of the activities but had more fun hanging out with other kids outside of the Camp.  It was great for our 2-year old as we left him there while we did the excursions.  We didn’t utilize the babysitting but a number of guests did.  Camp Carnival probably didn’t live up to my expectations but I was glad they had it – especially for the 2-year old.  The kids absolutely loved the cruise! Dining We had the early seating in the Monet dining room but only went 3 nights including one of the formal dinners.  We were seated with another family with kids and enjoyed them quite a bit.  Carnival did a good job of grouping tables with people with common interests/situations.  It wasn’t awkward at all eating with them and we would have loved to seen more of them.  Our problem was the 5:45 seating didn’t really give us enough time to get to the room and cleaned up in time for dinner.  We ate at the buffet on the Lido deck for some dinners and all breakfasts.  The food was pretty good and the lines moved quickly.  The only issue we had was it seemed to be closed or in the process of closing when we would get there for dinner/late lunch.  The sandwich counter was good but always had a line.  The pizzeria was good and my kids loved that and the ice cream more than anything!  The room service was prompt but the menu was a little limited – no pizza or even hamburgers on it.  We purchased the soda cards for the kids and while it was over $100 for all 3 they were nice to have.  Beers were $4.50 plus 15% gratuity.  Be careful with the drink of the day or with ordering daiquiris or pina coladas.  They will try to sell you the souvenir glasses rather than just put it in a regular cup.  This can run up your tab pretty quickly! Excursions We didn’t take the kids off the boat in Jamaica as we’d heard some horror stories.  Instead, my wife and I went to Sandals.  The beach was beautiful and it was nice to get free drinks (well not exactly free as we paid $190 to go there!)  I would recommend it as being ok but I don’t think I’d do it again.  Not sure what I’d do in Jamaica. Grand Cayman was absolutely beautiful.  We did the Turtle Farm, Hell and Stingray tour.  The Turtle farm was quite impressive and the kids loved holding the turtles.  Hell wasn’t that big of a deal and we were only there about 10 minutes.  Swimming with the stingrays was awesome.  They are very friendly and the guides gave great support in the water and on the boat.  My older sons loved it but my daughter was back on the boat within 5 minutes!  We were somewhat hesitant about doing this but I would tell others to do it without a doubt.  Cozumel was fun, too.  We did the Deluxe Party and Snorkel trip.  The snorkeling was wonderful and the drinks on board the ship made it a pretty good value.  I would highly recommend this excursion, too. Ship Staff Everyone was very nice and accommodating, as you would imagine.  The only staff that weren’t the friendliest were the bar staff.  There were times when we’d stand at the bars for 5 minutes waiting for a drink even though it wasn’t at all busy.  They were nice but not as friendly or anxious to serve you as you may expect.  Not a huge hassle but I thought I’d mention it! My wife and daughter both went to the spa and had a great time.  It wasn’t cheap but was worth it for the enjoyment they got from it.  Debarkation We chose to do the self assist (meaning we carried all of our own bags off the ship) and got lucky when they called our deck (1) first.  We were in our car by 9am and the process went very smoothly.  The Customs people were even friendly and we had no problems. Overall We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and would definitely do it again – this time with a passport, which I’m told will be required in January 2008!  It was like anything else in life – not perfect but you get out of it what you put into it.  If you go to have a good time you will.  If you are looking to nit pick and be unhappy you can find something there, too!  My advice is to go looking to have a great time and see some wonderful places and understand there are 3,000 people on a ship so problems are bound to arise!        

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By Ozzy_CR

  • New

Apr 29, 2007

n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines I would like to start off by saying that the crew on the ship was wonderful. I recently went on my 3rd cruise and by far the Conquest is by far one of the best. As far as getting on the ship it was a relaxing time (VIP Skippers Club is the way to go) We were on the ship in about 20 min. Once on the ship everything was perfect. The Lido deck is where it was happing and I could smell those hamburgers a mile away.

The Captain gave out daily reports over the microphone when we were out to sea. I thought that was a nice feature to do. The staff was up and beyond perfect as far as keeping drinks at the ready while on the sun deck. I really enjoyed the service. The dining room staff in the formal dining room was a really pleasant evening. The food was plentiful and my tea glass never got below half full. Hats off to the staff in the dining room. The room stewards were on top of everything. My wife and I were going to dinner and I mentioned to my wife that I wish I had brought another pillow, and when we returned back to our state room I had not 1 but 2 pillows!!!!!) They have great hearing because when I told her that I saw no one in the hallway! As far as the ports I do have to say that Montego Bay is a interesting area. I strongly, very strongly, advise anybody going to this port to take only a Carnival excursion. While we were in Montego Bay we did the sail & snorkel We had to do that trip due to the fact that the Sandals excursion was cancelled adventure. It was alot of fun. We did hear that in Montego Bay 2 young boys 18yrs old went off on there own, That evening around 2 the ship was calling for somebody to come to the dock fast very fast. It turned out that the 2 boys bought some "Ganga" and had a good time until they got back to the ship and saw the guy they bought it from standing there with Carnival security. It turned out that the guy that the boys bought the good stuff from was a undercover cop. It was going to take $50,000 per boy to keep them from going to jail! So, be CAREFUL in Montego Bay. In Grand Cayman I had a good time, We all did. If you decide to take the Botswaina Sea Turtle Farm excursion there is a 20 extra charge if you want to swim in the lagoon beside the shark tank. That information is left out in the booking information. It even says snorkeling in the information for 49$ but it does cost extra. On the strip in Grand Cayman if you plan to shop take money. I ordered 1 bucket of beer at Margaritaville and it cost 35 dollars!!!!!!! Cozumel was as always a BLAST prices are great, water activity is perfect and you can get one heck of a tan!!!!!! I would have to say that Cozumel is a fun port. The main pier is now open and you can walk off the pier right into down town no more tenders in and no taxies!!!!!!!! Overall we had a great time everything on the ship was great I would do another cruise on the Conquest at the drop of a hat.      

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  • New

Apr 22, 2007

n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines My wife and I are fairly experienced cruisers with more than five cruises now in as many years, with this being the second aboard the Conquest. Our idea is to write a comprehensive review to help other cruisers decide whether this particular ship/itinerary would be a good fit. EMBARKATION: The Conquest, of course, is based in Galveston, Texas, and sails on a Sunday-Sunday itinerary. The Galveston Cruise Terminal

is terribly in need of updating and can be very frustrating but with a little preplanning the misery can be held to a minimum. For those driving in, the City of Galveston operates staffed, gated parking areas with shuttle buses - understand that you will have to drop off your luggage with the porters FIRST, then go to the parking lot and shuttle back. Several private companies have a similar arrangement but allow luggage on the shuttle bus which eliminates a bit of the running around. Either option will cost around $60. The last few cruises we have taken, we have driven into Galveston on Saturday and stayed in a favorite B&B (The Garden Inn). Very relaxing, we dont have to get up insanely early to make the five-hour drive, AND they include cruise parking in the room rate. Several of the major hotels in Galveston offer the same deal and is worth considering. We don't have a lot of guidance for those flying in since we are in Texas, but some of the people we've met aboard have used the commercial airport transfer companies and others have rented vehicles. You'll just have to do some research and see which is a better option. Anyway, we arrived at the terminal at 10:30am which in the past has caused some problems with the police officers directing traffic since there was a LOT of outgoing traffic around the terminal. We powered through, I dropped the wife and the luggage to find a porter, and was parked in the private B&B lot and back at the terminal by 11:00. *** A note on luggage: pack as little as you can. Ideally, keep the number of bags to the minimum so that your party will not need assistance in the Disembarkation process. More on that later. *** Your first stop after securing your luggage with a porter is an amusement-park-type roped line that will get you to the Carnival ticketing agent. Take advantage of the online boarding pass option at Carnival.com, it will speed the process once you get to the counter. At the time we got there it was not bad, and only took about 30 minutes to get to our ticket agent. She processed the credit card information and gave us our Sign & Sail cards (the onboard "everything card" that is both your cabin key and purchasing card for anything about the ship). They will put a $500 authorization hold on your credit card, or you can put up a cash deposit (the credit card authorization will be dropped on the last day of the cruise and you will be charged the actual amount due). Once past that, you will go through an airport style metal detector and be ushered into a larger holding area to await boarding. HINT: Sit all the way to the rear and all the way to the left if possible - that area will board first. Another 30 minutes and we started boarding. You will endure the first of many photo-ops on the way onto the ship. On this particular embarkation, the gangway was either not operating or the ship was berthed too far forward to use the normal gangplank so we ended up walking about 300 yards along a meandering path through the bowels of the terminal and boarded the small gangway onto Deck 0 which enters the crew and port disembarkation area of the ship. Normally, oncoming passengers enter on Deck 3 into the Lobby of the atrium so that newbies get the WOW factor of the nine-deck tall atrium, grand piano, etc. We didn't mind so much, but first-time cruisers really missed that part which is a real hook. The crew will tell you that the cabins are not ready, and to go to the buffet on the Lido deck until 1pm. Since our cabin was on Lido (Deck 9) we went straight to the cabin and found it was in fact ready. The cabin steward tried to protest it wasn't ready, but we stayed put for awhile and then went to the buffet for lunch. All in all, we were in our cabin between 12:00 and 12:30. Not bad. CABINS: The Conquest is made up of mostly balcony cabins, and that is what we had. Plenty of room for two people with ample storage. Bathroom has adequate shelf space for toiletries, and a decent stand-up shower space. Temperature in the cabin was very comfortable throughout the cruise. There is a small safe that operates using any card with a magnetic strip. Do NOT use your Sail & Sign card or any card you use regularly - the strip can be damaged. We take an old players-club card from a casino specifically for this purpose. You will find a news flyer on your bed called the Capers which lines out all of the activities for the day, and you will get one every night throughout your cruise. The TV has several channels dedicated to selling you things like the towels, robes, the bed and other cruises, but you will also get the major networks (satellite feed from Denver), two all-cartoon channels, and a couple of movie channels. The "Guest Movie" channels are very frustrating since they will occasionally just shut off before the movie ends. I would advise against buying any of the pay-per-view movies for that reason. WHAT IS INCLUDED WITH YOUR CRUISE, AND WHAT IS NOT: All of the food in the dining room, buffet, pizza, grilles, etc is included and you can absolutely eat until you are sick if you choose. Water, tea, standard coffee and punch/lemonade are included, BUT soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees and alcohol is NOT. You can purchase a 'Coke Card' ($38 I think, for an adult) which covers your soft drinks for the duration. That is supposed to be for one person, but we saw families passing the card around and getting their soft drinks one at a time. DINING: Your dinner assignment will be noted on your S&S card. There are two dining rooms (Monet and Renoir) which are both two-level. There is an early and late seating in each, and they are staggered between the two rooms. We had the latest seating (8:30pm) and had no trouble making the shows and activities, but if you would prefer a time other than what is on your card you can see the Maitre'd on the first afternoon and request the seating be changed. The food in the dining room ranges from very-good to excellent, with plenty of variety for any palate. Can't decide between two entrees? Get them both - absolutely no problem. The alternative dining selection is pretty varied. Many people opt for the Grand Buffet on the Lido Deck which will have some of the same selections from the dining rooms in a less formal setting. Also on the Lido Deck you will find Paul's Deli and PC's Wok which have variable hours you will find listed in the Capers. There are two stairways that lead up from the Cezanne Restaurant (Grand Buffet): one goes to The Point which is the for-fee reservations-required supper club, and the other goes up to a seafood station called Sur Mer. Excellent fish-n-chips. If you go aft on the Lido deck to the aft pool area, you will find The Grille (hamburgers/hot dogs) and the 24-hr Pizzeria. On the Promenade deck you will find a sushi station (free) in the evening, and a Starbucks-type specialty coffee bar ($). Breakfast and lunch are generally taken in the Cezanne, but you can eat in the dining room on an open-seating basis. You can review the daily menus by using the interactive MENU button on the TV remote in your cabin. Overall, we've had better entrees but the desserts are fantastic. Don't miss the chocolate melting cake. Best entrees are the lobster, filet mignon, and Chateaubriand. A WORD ABOUT FORMAL NIGHT: There are two formal nights and you will see a mix of about 15% tuxedos, 75% business attire, 10% casual. You CAN dress casual on formal nights in the dining room, but don't wear jeans, shorts or T-shirts. If that is a problem, you can always eat at the buffet. ENTERTAINMENT: The Toulouse Latrec Lounge - this is the three-level main showroom located forward of the atrium on Decks 3, 4 and 5. Aside from the production shows, this is where the cruise director does his informational talks, the super shopper tries to steer you into the tourist trap shops in port, and where above all the constant bingo games are held. The bingo games are a huge moneymaker for the ship - they are very popular and it is up to you if you want to participate. The cruise director talks are entertaining and informative, but keep in mind they are replayed throughout the cruise on your TV. The Conquest has two signature production shows: "Les Formidable" on the second night of your cruise, and "Point and Click" on Thursday night. Les Formidable is an award-winning show, and rightly so. Don't miss it. "Point and Click" made no sense to us and is perfectly shippable. Wednesday night you will have an illusionist calling herself "Dija: The Diva of Deception." Carnival will claim they flew her in from Las Vegas, but she has been doing that same show each and every week for at least two years. I know she seems to be mildly popular, but I will just say that if I could buy her for what she is worth and then sell her for what she THINKS she's worth, we could cruise every week. Friday night is a variety show with a very talented juggler and a comedian/ventriloquist named Mark Rubbens. Don't miss his early show, it is hilarious; the late-night R-rated show was not that funny in comparison. Monday night was a singer from New Orleans, don't remember his name, but the show was worth going to. Saturday night will be the Carnival Legends show, where guests who have auditioned at the karaoke bar throughout the week take part in a variety show featuring "Elvis," "Elton John," "Madonna," "Frank Sinatra," etc. VERY good show, and you will be surprised how well your fellow cruisemates can sing. The Casino - located on Deck 5, amidships. Keep in mind that this casino is NOT regulated by any gaming commission and it has no competition. Don't expect loose slots. There are a few table games including Three-Card Poker, traditional craps, traditional blackjack and some bizarre games like "Fun 21" and their version of face-up blackjack which have been modified to allow for a pretty huge house advantage and should be avoided like the plague. There is a Texas Hold'Em poker table with an electronic dealer. The first night is $2/$4, then $3/$6 for the duration. The table does have a house rake which is not advertised on the table but it appears to be a max $5/hand rake. Also bear in mind that your casino points will not transfer beyond this cruise, so don't expect to cash any rewards unless you gamble around $1000 (for your $10 reward). The Degas Lounge - Deck 5, aft. This is where the karaoke will be held in the evenings. Fun, but bring earplugs. The Blues Lounge - Deck 5, aft. This is the sing-along piano bar. On our first cruise on the Conquest, the piano was manned by 'Damian' and this was a happening' place. VERY entertaining. This time around, we had 'Tyrone' who not only did not know the words to any songs, he apparently could not read them either. Very miserable and this bar was basically deserted all cruise. Henri's Disco - Deck 5, aft. Adult dance club, mainly for the younger crowd. Alfred's Bar - Deck 4, aft. British themed pub and the only place on the ship that allows cigars. The internet cafe is located in a small room off of this bar. There are other public rooms, but they are rarely used. All in all, 3 out of 5 stars. Avoid Deck 4 around the atrium in the evenings. For some reason, they set up the 'Photo Gallery' in the walkways here and it can be hard to work your way through the crowd. Stay on Deck 5 and walk past the shops. You can enter the lounge on Deck 5 or take the forward elevators down to Deck 3 or Deck 4. SHORE EXCURSIONS: You can book excursions through Carnival before your cruise from the website or you can book on the ship. Many people book excursions on their own and find it much cheaper, but you take the risk of missing the ship if the tour comes back late. Happened to people in both Jamaica and Cozumel on this trip. We didn't book any excursions this trip which allowed up to sleep later on port days and go into the ports at our leisure. Then again, we've been to each of them before, so look through the excursions and see if anything catches your eye. DISEMBARKATION: If you brought too much luggage to carry off yourself, you will have to put your checked baggage outside your cabin Saturday evening where it will be collected and put off into the terminal baggage areas early Sunday morning. You will have to remain on the ship until your particular deck and luggage tag color are called. They disembark from the top decks down, so if you are on the lower decks it will be close to 11:00 Sunday morning before you get off. Then you will have to find your luggage which will be sorted into general areas based on your cabin location, then clear through customs. Long, frustrating process. If you were smart enough to only pack what you can carry off, you will be allowed to 'self-assist' and you will be getting off first. We were not only off the ship, but in our truck on the highway out of Galveston by 8:30am. I'll let you decide which is best for you. All things considered, a cruise vacation is still a very good value for your dollar. Carnival is a mainstream cruise line, and the Conquest is one of their flagships. Ideal for first time or casual cruisers, just be thoughtful about when you book. Summertime and spring break sees LOTS of unsupervised kids on the ship, but if you can go in late April both the temperatures and the kid-population will be much more tolerable.      

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  • New

Apr 22, 2007

n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines Our cruise experience on the Carnival Conquest was the best one yet! We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and would highly recommend them to others. Our ports of call were Montego Bay, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel, Mexico. We would highly recommend booking through Carnival as you get prompt, courteous service from a terrific rep, and if you cruise cost goes down before you sail, you will

get a refund of the difference! EMBARKATION: Try to have patience during this process, as the lines are very long. We got prepaid parking from the Port of Galveston website and got a $5 discount (from their website the price is $65 total for 7 days). We opted for this because of the 24 hours security on site. They provide only surface parking, so we drove up to the ship terminal, dropped off our luggage, and then we parked our car. To check in luggage, we followed the big ceiling sign, and we rolled it into a huge warehouse type building. It’s easy to just roll in there, and group it with the other luggage going on, and it will be delivered to your room that evening. Make sure your Carnival tags are on your luggage and your cabin number is CLEARLY printed. A bag was put in front of our friend’s door that belonged to 1394, but the 9 was not connected, so it was put at their 1344 door! You can lock your luggage. To get to the surface parking, keep going straight through to the end of the terminal; left at the end of the terminal road, then go right at the stop sign, and park in the lot that is open for you (for us it was Lot A). It’s near the big sewer plant. The signs are not that clear. Take a free shuttle bus back to the terminal. The first dinner night is casual wear to give us all time for our luggage to reach us. You can also bring as much amenities as you want in your carry on, there are no liquid restrictions as there are on airplanes. As we proceeded to check in, (also a big ceiling sign further down the terminal), we had our travel documents and Carnival ticket blue book examined at the head of the escalators. We then went up to where our carry on luggage was x-rayed. It was a long line but moved pretty fast. Then the U.S. Citizens were separated from the non U.S. Citizens. We had to wait in a very long line if you are a citizen as there are so many of us! This is where you need a lot of patience. Our friends who were with us, one was not a citizen, so that couple went together to the non-citizen line and breezed through! Here you submit your travel documents, the filled in sail and sign form that is in your blue ticket booklet, and your Fun Pass. It’s very important to fill in your fun pass online at the Carnival website before you go and bring a copy with you. The Fun Pass is documentation for your travel information. When you finally get to the counter, after submitted your 3 items, you will get your sail and sign card. This card is your room key, boarding pass, and charge card on the ship. Next you get into another line to get your embarkation photo taken, then onto the ship. When you get in on Deck 0, you have to slide you sail and sign card into a card slot (to check into the ship itself) and your photo will be taken. Whenever you get on and off the ship henceforth, you will have to slide your sail and sign card into the slot and hear the “ping” to make sure it worked! Here is a list of things you should bring: 1. Alarm Clock (as the rooms don’t have one) 2. Extra hangers (there are 7 hanger holders with 2 hangers each which are awkward to use) 3. Sun block/Suntan lotion (everyone seems to get quite red by the end of the cruise) 4. Cap, Sunglasses, anything to protect you from the sun 5. Strong insect repellent for Jamaica (Example “OFF”, I saw a lot of it there) 6. Hair Dryer (the one on the ship is not that strong) 7. Clothes pins to hang down on your shower curtains, they really help to keep the water in the shower stall, but a towel will be on the floor anyways to soak up the little bit of overflow. We didn’t have a problem with our showers, good pressure and temperatures. 8. Underwater Camera 9. Advil and digestive aids, as there will be some rocking, and you will eat a lot! 10. Sea sickness pills are recommend more than the patches because of the adverse side effects of the patches, according to the ship. There are provided free of cost on Deck 0, at the infirmary, in a big bucket right in front. They are 2 chewable tablets, last for 24 hours, and work wonderfully. My husband was not drowsy taking them. They are called Meclizine HCL, 25 mg dose. There is also a bucket of free aspirin at the same place. DAYS AT SEA: My husband forgot his suit jacket in the car, so we rented a tuxedo jacked for $40, which came in handy on the formal nights on Monday and Thursday nights. I also rented two-way walkie-talkies from the golf staff at the information desk for $39 for the entire cruise, which turned out to be a huge waste of money! It only worked once to reach my husband! In retrospect, I don’t think we needed them in the first place. The ship is huge, but if we weren’t in our room, we were either on Deck 9 (Lido), where all the 24 hour food/drinks are, or on Deck 5 (Promenade), where the casino, gift shops, top of the theater, and music lounges are. We got a dinner time of 8:30pm, which was nice for us to fit in our afternoon naps and relax after going out on the ports. We were seated at the Renoir dining room, and even though other cruise reviews say that Monet has the best views, due to our late dinning time it was too dark outside to see outside anyways! We thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience. The two dining rooms are visually the same, only difference in the view out. Excellent and prompt service was given. Our staterooms were cleaned twice a day, late morning after we got out and when we went to dinner, and the towel animals left for us were a nice touch. The shows were ok; Deja the Magician was terrific as was the juggler. The comedy could have been better. We were busy the entire time on the ship, so we didn’t go to all the shows. We had brought a movie to watch on the laptop and didn’t have a chance to watch it. By the way, bringing your laptop is really handy for uploading your digital pictures, as you will take a lot of them! In comparison to our 7-day Norwegian Cruise my husband and I took before, we didn’t have a bored moment on Carnival! You will get a list of activities in your stateroom the night before so it makes it easy to plan your next day. MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA: We were told to book an excursion for this port as walking around by yourself may be considered scary. There are some shops at the terminal, but not much. We weren’t approached by anyone trying to sell us drugs. We booked an excursion to YS Waterfalls with a-zjamaicaplanners.com. There was quite a long drive and once we got there, there wasn’t enough water in the river to do the tubing we wanted! The couple we were with decided to do the canopy zip lines, and my husband and I took in the sights. We were also taken to the Pelican bar, which is a restaurant surrounded by water. The boat ride, which was in a boat slightly bigger than a canoe, was scary, and once we got there at 1pm, there was no more food or the presence of the snorkeling gear we were promised! Our driver took us to a random restaurant where we had chicken curry and fried chicken with rice, which was very good. We got hit with a rainstorm on the way back and our driver rushed and got us back 20 minutes before the ship was scheduled to leave. The lesson to be learned is to book with Carnival as they check out the tours thoroughly and make sure you get what you pay for and have a good time. It is a bit more expensive, but at least you know you will be with a good group of people, where on this tour us 4 people were the only ones on it! GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS: You have to take a tender boat to this island; it takes a good hour, at least, to go in and also to get off of the island. Make sure you make it back to your ship in plenty of time, as it will leave without you! There were people chasing behind our ship as we were leaving, in a small boat, as they were late! There are a lot of shops right at the pier, a bit expensive, but fixed prices. We rented scooters and went to the Seven-Mile beach. The sea was very rough and the ocean floor quite rocky. We rented jet skis, which were awesome, especially with the rough waves. The snorkeling gear was a waste for us there because the sand was so stirred up you couldn’t see much and the waves kept slamming you back onto the shore anyways. I think snorkeling is better in Cozumel. There is a lot of opportunity for shopping here, even if on the expensive side, and this island is easy to get around because it is so small. We went to this terrific Indian restaurant called “Gateway to India” and had some very good food. COZUMEL, MEXICO: We learned our lesson from Jamaica and booked an Atlantis Submarine dive excursion through Carnival at the shore trips desk the night before. This sub goes 100 feet plus under water and went over coral reefs. We saw a nurse shark (really small one), and an eel. There were plenty of different types of fish and coral to see. There is another excursion I think is called “sub sea” excursion that goes only 4 feet under water. Make sure you book the right one. We really enjoyed this excursion, the staff was very friendly, and you got a professional picture (for $10) and drinks on the way back. They do provide a taxi to and from our ship. We went back to the pier area and did lot of shopping. We felt that the shopping was best at Cozumel, but it’s better to go to the large fixed rate stores. The small shops inflate their prices and then you have to bargain with them and in the end you may not be sure if you got a deal or not! Different small shops had different prices for the same items, which is confusing! You do need to shop around a bit to get a good deal, but there are some really nice, good variety, large stores, with A/C, right at the pier. Next time we would just go to the large fixed rate shops. We waited and did most of our shopping here. Internet rates are also cheap here. We paid $2 for an hour of decent dial up use. DISEMKARKATION: We had to wait a while for our deck number to be called. We opted for the self-assist, so we could take our luggage off ourselves since we had to drive back to Dallas. Our deck wasn’t called until around 9am, (Deck 1, Rivera), so my advice is to take your time to eat and relax in the morning. They seemed to tend to call the upper floors first as they probably have less rooms up there. This time we only had to wait in one line, in which they checked our travel documentation, asked what we had to declare, and then send us right out. There were free shuttles, from the Port of Galveston, with luggage storage areas right inside, so we did that to get to our parking lot. Getting of the ship was not bad, but it just took a long time for our deck to be called and it was frustrating because we were waiting from 7am to 9am in our rooms for the announcement that our deck could leave the ship. I think we might have been the last deck called! Self-assist is officially from 7am to 9am, but they called luggage tags colors off (from luggage that was put out the night before to pick up outside at the terminal) in between the self-assist passengers. Perhaps that was the cause of the delay, but they should have given us a better estimate of the time. They also said they were calling off random deck numbers, starting at 7am, so we waited 2 frustrating hours in our rooms. My recommendation is to take your luggage up to the Lido deck, relax, and wait for your floor to be called, and then go down to the 3rd floor, Lobby, forward, to leave the ship. Now we know! This was the best vacation we have ever taken!!! Carnival made the experience worthwhile. We had plenty to do and had lots of flexibility so we didn’t get bored at all. There are a good variety of things to do on board and we saw all ages of people. We felt that we needed 7 days to truly enjoy our experience. We were also glad we went with another couple and would recommend for others to go with other people besides just your spouse and yourself, if you can. The next cruise we take will definitely be with Carnival!      

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Feb 4, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Lines We arrived at Houston Hobby Airport on Saturday and used Galveston Limousine service for transportation to Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston. Nice place and pricey. Could probably have found a more reasonable place to stay for a night if I had done more research. The limo service/bus was roundtrip for $60 per person plus gratuity coming and going. At embarkation, Moody Gardens provided complimentary transportation

to the terminal around noon. People had told us to just drop our bags with the porter and then go to the "Strand" and come back at about 2pm. We decided against that and were on the boat in less than an hour. It was simple and efficient for us. No complaints. The weather in Galveston was chilly that day. We had a balcony room on Empress deck. On our previous cruise we had an inside stateroom so we were really looking forward to the balcony. Totally overrated!! I'm glad I was sailing on a buy one, guest free ticket or I would have been really disappointed in paying the extra cost for a balcony. It was too cool and wet the first couple of days to even use the balcony. After that it was covered in saltwater/salt crystals so we didn't even bother. It was nice though to look out while in port. I must tell you that we are very low maintenance people and generally aren't what you'd call whiners but we were disappointed in this cruise compared to the wonderful time we had on RCL Rhapsody in November 2005. In my opinion, there is no comparison with the food, the service, or the personalities. That said, what follows may sound like whining but it was just our experience. The first formal night, the seas had been rough that day and I didn't feel all that great but I did dress up. I remembered our formal night on Rhapsody and just being in awe of the gowns and tuxes and glamour of the whole thing! On the Conquest I didn't see that. We were booked to have the 5:45 seating but our S/S card said we were eating at 8:30! That was disturbing so Sunday afternoon we stood in line hoping to have it changed. The best the maitre' d said he could do would be 8:00 and put our name on a list if something earlier came open. I asked him how we would know and he said they would send a message to the room. We didn't dine in the dining room on Sunday night so when formal night came up, I called the purser's desk to see if it had been changed. They said it had...to 6:15! Oh, okay, we'll hurry and get ready. A few minutes later a card was pushed under the door! So we made it to formal night to dine on lobster. It was okay but the server had no personality at all which was disappointing after the fun we'd had with our staff on Rhapsody. They were efficient enough but in a way that made us feel rushed. The other dining was not that great. The buffet food was weird and I never sat down to warm food. Breakfast was the same everyday with the exception of alternating cold pancakes for cold French toast. We tried the buffet several times but ended up eating lots of hamburgers from the Grille and pizza. We didn't try the dining room for breakfast or lunch so I don't know how that food was. We skipped the second formal night. One night the dining room served filet mignon. I ordered my meat medium well. What I got was a misshapen piece of well-done beef that reminded me of a piece of chuck roast, only tougher. It wasn't like any filet mignon I've ever had. Another night we ordered the Neptune Platter which sounded really good in the description. What we got was a tortilla like bowl with a couple of pieces of greasy shrimp, a few pieces of calamari and a couple of greasy fish sticks. In our mind we were thinking of the Neptune Platter at Red Lobster!! Of course there were other choices but I don't know how they were. We did enjoy the lobster crab cakes, mushroom soup, shrimp cocktails and salads. The desserts were nothing to brag about. The cheesecake in the buffet is very bland. They have someone slice you sliver of it. I don't know why they so heavily guarded it since it was not that great! Entertainment on board: We liked the Newlywed Game and Battle of the Sexes. There was trivia in a bar somewhere everyday a couple of times a day. We bought internet time to keep up with our kids through email. Bingo was played a few times a day. We attended a couple of the shows and weren't impressed. Some of the comedy shows were late night that we didn't attend. Jamaica. My husband did the zip-line excursion and really liked it. He said he felt bad for some of the people that bought it because he didn't think they really knew what they were in for physically. The tour guides were entertaining and provided a lot of information about Jamaica. After his excursion we shopped. We grabbed a taxi to Margaritaville and wandered to a few shops within walking distance of that. We were not approached by anyone trying to sell us drugs! The merchants were more than willing to deal on anything, just seemed to want our business. One place we went into offered to let us make free long distance calls to the US. He had Vonage service. So we did!! Picked up some good deals on t-shirts and touristy stuff. Grand Cayman:  We chose the Island Tour only because we had already done the Stingray City excursion last time and this time wanted to see a little more of the island. Tendering was no problem. Our excursion was for around 10:30 so we went to the tender point around 9-9:30 without a ticket and got right on. Coming back was just as smooth. You must be sure to ask if a price is GC dollar or US dollar if you see a price tag that doesn't specify. If you don't, you might be surprised! We found that those merchants' prices are pretty much set and the ones we visited weren't willing to deal at all. The tour was nice. The driver had a great sense of humor and was full of funny stories. The turtle farm was a little boring but informative if you like that kind of thing. Hell was interesting and my friends got a kick out of the postcards I sent from there. Stamps are 25 cents each and postcards are sold in the little gift shop next door to the post office. The Tortuga Rum place sold their cakes for about the same price as on the boat. I don't know if the rum was any cheaper. Cozumel. We didn't do an excursion there. We rode the ferry to Playa Del Carmen. Beautiful but crowded beach right by the dock. Topless too if you want since we saw lots of topless men and a few women! We walked through the shopping area nearby but didn't venture any further than that. From what I saw, most of the stores all had pretty much the same stuff. There's an air conditioned McDonald's there too!! Keep that in mind if you find yourself needing to cool off! It was a $6 cab ride from the pier to the ferry. The ferry ride to PDC was $4 one way, make sure you have exact change. If you don't they'll give you pesos for change in return. We didn't think to purchase a roundtrip ticket so I don't know if it was cheaper or not. When we got ready to leave PDC we went to buy the return ticket and was told it would be $10 per person! I told the lady I had just bought one to get there for $4 and she said well, the 2pm ferry will be $4...this was at 12:30! I'd hazard a guess that maybe the even hour departures are discounted for some reason. The ship itself was okay. We walked different decks and found that some smelled strongly of urine or sewer. We don't know if there had been a problem or if it's always that way. Deck 7 seemed fine. Our stateroom was near a crew utility room so we never were able to sleep in because of the noise beginning by 7am where the stewards were pulling their work carts and vacuums out. Another thing that was so disturbing was the absolute total lack of respect fellow cruisers had in the hallways all hours of the night and early morning. They yelled, talked loudly, laughed, drunkenly cussed without even thinking that people were sleeping. The door to the stateroom seemed to offer no sound barrier whatsoever. They ought to post signs telling people to be a little more considerate. Since we are non-smokers, it was aggravating trying to navigate from one end of the ship to the other to get where we wanted to be because almost every pathway involved walking through a smoking area! Either the casino or to get to the internet cafe, it was a cigar smoking bar, or to remember which side of the ship outside was smoking or non-smoking. There's even a stinking bar next to the general store on the boat that the smell would knock you over just walking by. Do you think any of them has ever thought of offering a smoke free ship and cruise? Jeez, if you're not a smoker, being around it constantly while you're trying to enjoy yourself can be aggravating, not to mention that you get to stink the rest of the day after just trying to find an activity to do. Fortunately the main theater lounge and the dining rooms/buffet are smoke free. RCL set the standard for us since we only had it to compare this second cruise to. I know that we won't sail on the Conquest again and I doubt that I'll ever pay full price for balcony room. I'd only suggest sailing on this if it's your first cruise and you don't know any better and you get a great deal.      

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Dec 31, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines PARKING: This is confusing if you don’t know what to do, easy if you do. We drove up to the pier, dropped off luggage with the porters, then drove the car down the street to the parking lot, paid in full in advance ($10 per day,) and then took the free shuttle back to the pier. We arrived at 11:00 a.m., which I think was a perfect time. The line was already forming and only getting longer and longer behind us.

EMBARKATION: I had intended to carry onboard one small suitcase containing toiletries and clothing for the first night's dinner; but when I walked up, a Carnival representative told me it was too big to go through the x-ray scanner. I had measured it, and it was in fact just under the maximum measurements, but I checked it in with the porters anyway. We went through the security line (with metal detector and x-ray,) and then through a second line where we showed our cruise documents and identification. A hold was put on our debit card ($500 for two people for a 7 day cruise) and we were given a Sail & Sign card that would be used for all onboard purchases, our room key, and our boarding pass for every port. Then a photographer offered to take our picture, but I was carrying a shoulder bag, had cruise documents in both hands, and was trying to figure out where I was going. No thanks – we just walked past him and onto the ship. Once there, our Sail & Sign cards were scanned and our pictures were taken for the ship’s computer. CABIN: We chose a cabin on the Empress Deck so that we were not over the disco and not under the pool area. Good call – it was very quiet except for the occasional loud partier coming through the hall at 2:00 a.m. or the occasional kid stomping down the hall. We also chose an interior cabin near the center of the ship because I had heard that was the best place to be to avoid getting seasick. We packed motion sickness pills, but never took them and were never seasick at all. The room was quite large and very nice, and we really didn’t mind not having a window or balcony. We saved a good bit of money, and we saw the water ever day at every meal and anytime we were on deck (which was all the time.) Maybe next time we’ll get a view, but the interior cabin was perfectly acceptable to us. In the room, there were three armoire type closets – two with shelves and hanging bars (including six hangers each), one with all shelves. There was one electric outlet, but I recommend bringing an extension cord or a power strip to increase usage. There was a hair dryer in the room (though I heard you have to hold the button down as you use it,) and two nice sized beach towels that you can use on the ship and onshore (fresh ones will be delivered as you use them.) Maria, our cabin steward from Romania, dropped by during the first hour we were in our room, introduced herself, and chatted a bit. Her service all week was amazing – the room was always immaculate. We could hardly leave our room without coming back to a dried shower, fresh towels, clean glasses, mints on the bed, turn down service etc… (and of course, those infamous towel animals every night!) Over the course of the week, as we talked in the hallways, Maria became more of a friend to us than service personnel. She and her assistant were always very friendly and never intrusive at all. MUSTER DRILL: This was ridiculous. Around 4:00 p.m., we were told over the loudspeaker to get our lifejackets from our cabins and meet at our muster station. Having never cruised before, I was interested to hear what I needed to do in case of an emergency. However, passengers were standing around talking so loudly that I could not hear a thing that was being announced during the drill. I just memorized my surroundings and assumed that I would come back to that spot if the ship started to sink. DINING ROOM SERVICE: We had requested the very latest dinner seating (so as not to have to rush back from shore excursions,) but were assigned the earliest dinner seating at 5:45 p.m. I had read online that we should go immediately to the maitre d’ to have it changed, but we had been told at check in that Carnival would like us to honor the given time for the first night. We ended up keeping and enjoying the earlier time though because each night as we sat down for dinner we watched the sunset from the dining room windows. We ate in the dining room every night, and the service there was exceptional. The food was good (not outstanding, but not in any way bad.) I can now understand the online forum controversy regarding the food on the ship. One definitely would not go on this Carnival cruise for the culinary experience. If you are accustomed to eating at extravagant five-star restaurants, then Carnival’s food is probably going to seem below par to you. Otherwise, you will be fine. There are plenty of different types of good food (appetizers, salads, beef, seafood, vegetables, desserts galore, etc…) and you can eat as much of it as you want. ENTERTAINMENT: We saw comedian Tim Harkleroad do his family show and then went to the Degas Lounge to see the band Blood Power perform (www.bloodpowerband.com). This band has been hailed the best band in the entire Carnival fleet and I can see why. They are a group of brothers from the Philippines that do cover tunes from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. A lot of rocking, a lot of dancing, a really, really great time. WINE TASTING: The sommelier at The Point Supper Club steakhouse offered a wine tasting at noon for $10 per person. The restaurant was very nice, and the event was really enjoyable even for those who are not all that knowledgeable about choosing and drinking wines. The dress was casual, and two white wines and two reds were served. Then the sommelier discussed grapes, winemaking regions in France, and ways to hold, swirl, smell, taste, and think about wine. It was very educational as well as humorous and entertaining. A great way to experience The Point if you are not planning to pay to have dinner there. FORMAL NIGHT: Dinner was wonderful with prime rib and lobster. For dessert, my husband and I mixed my chocolate melting cake with his cherries jubilee. Oh, it was good. More people than I expected really dressed up for formal night and looked amazing, but clothing onboard is really all over the place. At one late night buffet, you could stand in one place and see people in shorts, sweatpants, khaki pants, mini-dresses, and formal gowns. Almost anything you want to wear is probably going to be acceptable. Of course, the dining room is dressier; but even so, women were in anything from short sundresses to long evening gowns. (And people get more and more casual as the week goes on.) ENTERTAINMENT: We went to the very nice Moulin Rouge-like Toulouse Lautrec lounge to see the “Formidable” show. It was mostly Vegas style, part Le Mis, part Cirque du Soleil. I have read people complaining online about the quality of Carnival’s shows, but I didn’t think the show was as bad as apparently some others have thought. It wasn’t on the level of a Vegas show, but it was entertaining. Singers Randi Adlesic and Rudy Lowe were very talented and entertaining. Tim Harkelroad’s adult midnight comedy show was very funny, though I would skip it if you are easily offended. We wanted to go dance in Henri’s disco, but it had been overrun with kids for the past two evenings. I thought it was a one time thing for New Year’s on night one; but now on night two, the little kids were gone, but the barely legal ones were still in there dancing to some strange music. POOL AREA: The day was very warm (as if the ship had suddenly run into summer,) so we sat by the pool. A few suggestions here: #1) Get there early if you want a lounge chair near the pool. The pool starts getting crowded around 10:00 or 11:00 a.m., and can be packed by noon. #2) Take a light swimsuit cover or something to cover yourself with in addition to your sunscreen if you burn easily. It was really nice to sit out by the pool, and we spent a lot of hours out there. ENTERTAINMENT: Carnival offers quite a good selection of daytime activities – bingo, a ship building challenge, hairy chest competition, etc. We went to the Newlywed/Not So Newlywed game and it was hilarious – the funniest show I saw onboard all week. The Conquest’s cruise director, Mark Price hosted and he was hilarious all week in addition to being very helpful and informative. Later in the evening, we participated in the Mardi Gras party where teams moved from lounge to lounge competing for points by dancing and singing. Who knew that my husband knew every single word to Margaritaville? One can definitely make some new discoveries on a Carnival cruise. After the longest conga line I’ve ever seen, the night ended on the pool deck with Blood Power rocking away and people dancing until way past midnight. Best party of the cruise. DOCTOR’S CAVE BEACH: I had read SO many online reviews of people saying SO many bad things about Montego Bay, that we made plans to go straight to the beach and come straight back to the ship. That turned out to be a shame. OK, yes these people are poorer than we, yes we were offered drugs, yes people were standing in the middle of the street trying to sell things (including one guy that looked like Flava Flav and had some sort of bicycle tire looking things around his neck and souvenirs draped all over his arms,) yes a little boy tried to ask for money from us, and yes we were offered taxis over and over and over. But so what? We said no – over and over and over. There were also so many good things about Montego Bay. You can see beautiful landscape before you even get off the ship. As soon as we walked out of the port, a man hooked us up with a taxi driver and we agreed on a price of $8.00 for him to take us to Doctor’s Cave Beach. He kept pressing us to let him take us on a tour, but since we had been warned about this online, we said no. He finally quit asking and drove us to the beach. On the way there, he and my husband got to talking about the island and the history, and it turned out that the taxi driver was really nice and very knowledgeable. As we got out of the taxi, we considered that it probably would’ve been a really good tour. We arrived at the very nice Doctor’s Cave Beach (www.doctorscavebathingclub.com) at about 10:00 a.m. We paid $5 per person to get in, $5 for an umbrella and $5 per chair. We were told to pick a spot and a guy brought the chairs and umbrella to us. We tipped the guy a couple of dollars and gave him a coin that my husband had found on the ground while we were standing there. It turned out to be, the guy said, “like a Jamaican five dollars.” He was happy. The place was really beautiful – mountains, lush greenery, soft cornmeal-like sand, and water a turquoise color that I had never seen before. From the beach, you can watch the commercial airliners coming in to land nearby about every half hour or so. Also from this beach, we could see many groups of people on many different shore excursions. People were on tour/party boats, on glass bottom boats, snorkeling, parasailing, learning to water ski, etc… It seemed like this would be a good place to have some fun water adventures. At Doctor’s Cave beach, there was a water trampoline and two restaurants very nearby and waiters with menus walking the beach taking orders. The prices seemed fair – we got two very large bottles of water for $2.00 each. We taxied back to the ship ($10,) ate lunch on the boat, took a nap on deck, and then watched over the side of the ship as a 20 person Jamaican marching band performed as the ship was ready to leave port. Our experience in Jamaica was very nice. GEORGETOWN/GRAND CAYMAN TENDERING: We knew that the ship would not be able to dock in Grand Cayman, and that we would have to take a tender from the ship to the shore. But, being our first cruise, we had no idea how that process worked. We had asked the purser the night before, and he had told us that people not going on a Carnival excursion should show up at the Toulouse Lautrec lounge at 7:00 a.m. to get a tender ticket which would determine which boat would take us to the shore. My husband asked, “So should we show up at 6:45?” “7:00 a.m.” he answered. So we showed up at 7:00 a.m., but the lounge was already crowded, and all the tickets for Tender 1 had been handed out. We were given two tickets (stickers to put on our shirts) for Tender 2 and told to wait. They called for those people going on shore excursions booked through Carnival and then for people with Tender 1 tickets, and then more people with Carnival shore excursions. An HOUR later, someone finally started chanting loudly, “TEN-DER TWO! TEN-DER TWO!” at which time they called for people with tickets for Tenders 2 and 3. It appeared that we had been forgotten during the wait. I think that if we had just taken our stickers and walked down to Deck Zero with the first group called, we probably would’ve been on shore an hour earlier. Oh well. PICTURES: Getting off the boat at Grand Cayman was like running into the paparazzi. In every port, upon exiting the ship, there are photographers (Carnival’s people, I guess) and people (‘characters’) dressed up ready to take a picture with you. In Jamaica, there was a man with dreadlocks wearing a hat of Jamaican flag colors; in Cozumel it was guys dressed up like Mayan warriors and women in colorful Mexican dresses. In Grand Cayman, there were people with parrots and I’m not sure what else because there were four aggressive photographers yelling for us to stop, and I was refusing pictures and trying to make my way through the crowd. Carnival offers some really great places to get your picture taken onboard; and these outdoor photo opportunities are great if you want your picture taken; but we didn’t, so it was a little irritating. SNORKELING AND STINGRAY CITY: We booked a snorkel and Stingray City tour with Captain Marvin’s (www.captainmarvins.com) and I highly recommend them as they were extremely professional and very pleasant. Their office is very easy to find and just a short walk from the pier. We made our reservation online before we left home; and when we arrived, everything was ready as planned. A shuttle took us to the boat, at which point we were seated, fitted with snorkel gear, and offered punch and water. Our particular group was honored to have been ushered to the snorkel site by Captain Marvin himself. He took the time to meet and shake hands with everyone on the lower deck of the boat and then we took off. When we got to the Coral Gardens, Baron, our guide, gave instructions on what to do and we prepared to get into the water. I had never been snorkeling before and had thought it would be pretty easy, but it took me a few minutes to get acclimated. For one thing, I had been looking forward for months to going to Stingray City, but when we pulled up to Coral Gardens and Baron announced that a stingray that they had named Frisbee (because it had no tail) was there swimming at the back of the boat, I got a little apprehensive about jumping in the water with it. So there I was, trying to get my mask adjusted and get off the boat with thirty people behind me who wanted to get off the boat into the choppy waters, and I was trying to remember to breathe though my mouth, and to not touch the coral, and to not kick the coral, and to not jump onto Frisbee! So, feeling rushed (self imposed,) I jumped in and got water up my snorkel and had to take about five minutes getting used to floating in the choppy waters, and used to breathing differently, and used to the idea of a stingray nearby. Finally, I relaxed and got my snorkel cleared, my face down, and my feet up; and it was AMAZING! I’d never seen fish like that - so many colors and shapes and sizes (some even a foot long or bigger.) There are so many and they swim so close that you think you can just reach out and grab one. Our second stop was the Barrier Reef and it was even more amazing. I definitely recommend this excursion. It was moderately physically demanding, but I think the key is to just relax, get used to breathing through your mouth, and take your time. Stingray City was also a blast. It was quite freaky at first, pulling up and seeing dozens and dozens of ominous black discs moving about in the water. And a little disconcerting as I slid into the water just as a four-foot stingray decided to come rub up against my leg. How do you prepare for that? But after a half hour in the water, I had “Emily” the stingray in my arms ‘hugging’ me and giving ME a kiss! So that was really fun and an experience I won’t forget. My husband had a blast also, fed a lot of the stingrays, and came back with a ‘hickey’ on his arm from where the stingray missed the food and sucked his forearm. Rachael, from VIP Productions (www.vipcayman.com) videotaped the excursion both onboard the boat and underwater. She was very kind and very fun and did an incredible job of shooting the video (which she showed to us on the television on the boat at the end of the day on the way back in.) (Tip: We are trained to smile when our picture is being taken, but doing so underwater causes water to get into your snorkel. So just wave at Rachael or show her a dive!) She takes the video back with her to add a soundtrack, but you can order a copy from her onboard for $60 each. The video quality seemed to be excellent; and if we’d had our kids with us (and I hadn’t smiled/choked every time she pointed the camera at me,) I’d definitely have ordered one. After the excursion, we were shuttled back to the Captain Marvin store/office right at the agreed time. The last tender from the pier back to the ship was scheduled to leave at 3:00 p.m., so we hit a few souvenir shops and then got back on the ship. We ate a late lunch on the ship and then took a nap in a shaded area by the back pool. CARNIVAL’S SERVICE PERSONNEL: I cannot even say how impressed I was by Carnival’s service staff. I had heard so many people complaining about them being pushy, but I didn’t feel that way at all. Of course there was wait staff constantly walking the pool and dining areas asking if people wanted drinks; but if you don’t want anything, all you have to say is no. And never did anyone ask me anything if I wasn’t making eye contact. It wasn’t like anyone ever woke me up from my poolside nap to ask me if I wanted something to drink. And their service was certainly required, as there were many people who were ordering drinks poolside or in the dining room. They were all always very pleasant to us. And here’s a tip: Carnival offers free tea, lemonade, fruit punch and apple juice; but the cups they give you to dink it in are small. It would be a benefit to either take a larger drinking container with you on the cruise or buy one of Carnival’s drinks in the larger plastic souvenir glass when you get on the boat and use that for the rest of the trip. ENTERTAINMENT: The Carnival dancers performed the musical show “Point and Click.” It was a “You’ve Got Mail” sort of story line about two people who fall in love online, and it was fast paced and very entertaining. Again, Randi Adlesic and Rudy Lowe did a wonderful job. After the show, we went by Alfred’s Lounge where the Battle of the Sexes was supposed to be getting started. Not much was going on in there yet, so we moved to Henri’s disco which was dead again, like most nights. We then watched some karaoke for a while in the quite busy Degas Lounge, and afterward the crowd moved next door to Vincent’s Lounge to see Blood Power perform again. Sometimes they sang the same songs, sometimes different ones; but whether the lead singer had his shirt hiked up singing Britney Spears, or his tie around his head singing Axel Rose, or his fingers on his nose singing Willie Nelson, they always put on a different show and it was always really, really good. We had planned to go to the late night comedy show to see Marc Rubben, but we were having such a great time dancing and hanging out with some new friends that we’d made, that we missed his show. After Blood Power was spent and their last set was over, we weren’t tired and roamed around and noticed that Henri’s was finally hopping – with adults. So we went in and though it was crowded with adults, no one was dancing. And I finally figured out why. The music was awful. So we hung out for a while and then went to bed. COZUMEL - RENTING A CAR: We decided to rent a car and drive around Cozumel, so I had called Carnival the day before we left to find out which of the three ports we would be arriving at. The representative told me Puerta Maya, so I made my car rental reservation at the Hertz office at Puerta Maya. So at dinner the night before docking, the maitre d’ announced that the captain had secured a place at the dock, so we would be able to walk off the boat instead of tendering in. Great – everyone’s happy. And I didn’t think anything of it – I’d never been there before or even cruised before. So I was quite surprised when we walked off the boat and started looking for the Hertz office only to see a big sign that said Punta Langosta. I told my husband, “I think we’re in the wrong place.” So we found a taxi and rode down to the other port ($6.00.) We rented a very small car for $23.00 plus another $23.00 in tax and port charges plus $39.00 for insurance, and we drove around touring the island. It was worth the money. We had thought about renting a moped scooter, but I am SO glad we didn’t. Not only are the streets downtown and near the ports crowded and narrow, but the drivers are quite aggressive. We have traveled to Latin American countries on occasions, and we live in a large city; so it wasn’t a problem for us in the car, but driving a scooter didn’t seem like a good idea. Not only that, but the highway loop around the island takes about an hour and a half to travel by car, and it seemed like it would take quite a bit longer by moped. And the highway on the eastern part of the island was quite bumpy and we saw several groups of people stopping to take a break. It just didn’t seem comfortable or particularly safe in traffic. The price for a small car was only a little more, so I was VERY glad we had rented the car. We had been planning to head back over to the calmer, white sand, west side of the island and go to either San Francisco Beach Club or Paradise Beach Club; but instead we opted to stay on the rougher, craggy eastern side because there were seven ships in port, and hardly any people on the eastern side. So we stopped at a little spot called Chen Rio, donned our swimsuits, and hit the water. I’d like to say that we played with the waves, but it was more like the waves played with us. The water on this side of the island has strong currents and a very strong undertow. I would not have brought small children here – the yellow and red warning flags were flying just down the way a bit. But we loved it. My husband bodysurfed, starting out in chest deep water and letting the waves spit him out on the sand. Then we just stood in the water and laughed as the waves came by and knocked us on our tails. Then we tried to stand still so the undertow wouldn’t carry us to Cuba. Dangerous? Yes. Stupid? Probably. Fun? Oh yeah!! LAST DAY ACTIVITIES: Four words – get a chair early. Pool was crowded by 10:00 a.m., packed by noon. At 11:00 a.m., the cruise director, Mark Price gave a disembarkation talk which was very informative for us since we had never cruised and weren’t sure what we needed to do to get off the ship. Again, Mark was very funny even when delivering some pretty dry information, and his disembarkation talk could’ve doubled as a comedy show. The show for the evening was the Carnival Legends show. Passengers had been auditioning in the karaoke lounges all week trying to get a spot singing in this show impersonating certain celebrity musicians (Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Garth Brooks, etc…) The quality of this show depends largely upon the quality of the singing talent of the passengers (although there are Carnival dancers and other singers to fill in the gaps.) Our show was worth seeing and many of the singers were very good. Leaving the theater, and determined to squeeze every bit of fun out of our cruise that we could, we caught one last Blood Power set; dancing slow to Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” and then rocking out one last time to “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Mmmm…a perfect ending. DISEMBARKATION: You can either let Carnival take your bags off the ship, or you can carry them off yourself. Either way, you wait until your floor and luggage tag color are called over the loudspeaker. We woke up at 6:00 a.m., got dressed, finished packing, and filled out our comment/survey card and customs form. We also checked over our Sail & Sign bill, which had been delivered to the little “mailbox” outside our cabin door. (Carnival removes the $500 debit card hold and then charges you for what you actually purchased during the week.) At 7:30 a.m., we took our suitcases, went down the elevator, walked through the lobby and off the ship (showing our Sail & Sign card for the last time on the way out,) walked through the immigration line, showed our U.S. passports, and walked out of the port. We took a shuttle to the parking lot (with our luggage) and were dropped off right by our car. By 8:00 a.m., we were pulling away from the drive-through window of the nearby McDonald’s and were on our way back home! We had an amazing time and can’t wait to cruise again!      

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Dec 31, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This was our second cruise. Our group consisted of myself and my husband, my best friend and her fiancée, and my best friend’s brother and his wife. My husband and I hadn’t gotten around to taking a honeymoon when we married in September 2005 so this was our honeymoon, along with the occasion of my best friend getting married on the Cayman Islands. We flew into Galveston from Dallas on Saturday night and

stayed at the San Luis Resort. Very beautiful hotel – we were a little frustrated because it took them three tries to get our room right. I do commend the hotel management for trying so hard. We’re really not picky – we just wanted what we had asked for when we booked the room. We used Galveston Limousine for transportation from Hobby to the hotel – great service. On Sunday morning, we arrived at the pier at 10:00 a.m. Our bags were immediately taken by a very friendly porter and we were led upstairs within a few minutes. By 12:30, we were on the Lido Deck, sipping the drink of the day and enjoying the lunch buffet. It was quite chilly upstairs and we were ready to get going and get closer to the Caribbean. We were in our stateroom by 2:30, and unpacked by 3:00. We were in Empress #7445, corner aft stateroom with a large balcony. Great room – loved the balcony. We had second seating (8:00 p.m.) in the Monet dining room. Dinner was very nice each night. The food was good – not phenomenal, but good. I will have to say that the service was a little different from what we experienced on our first cruise. Conversation with our server was almost nonexistent. I saw that he was very busy with other tables. I was just disappointed because we had really built up this part for our friends who had never cruised before. Each night, we had to wait 10-15 minutes for our drink orders to be taken. I missed the fun conversation we had with our server last time. Our group participated in a lot of the onboard activities (Hairy Chest Contest, Mardi Gras celebration) and we went to the evening shows. We really enjoyed all of it. The cruise director (Mark Price) was great – I wish I had his energy. He really knows how to work a crowd. Our shore excursions were fun. We did the Sandals resort in Montego Bay and the Dolphin Encounter in Cozumel. We did not book a shore excursion in Cayman because of our friend’s wedding so our day was planned our by the wedding coordinator (who did a great job). As I said, this is our second cruise and we’re already planning another one for May, probably back to the Eastern Caribbean. I’ve read hundreds of cruise reviews over the last few months because I wanted to be prepared for everything this time. I have to say that as I’ve read some of the reviews, I laughed out loud at some, and I was horrified at others. We are not complainers and we’re very easy to please. We work hard and just enjoy any time off – we make our own good time no matter where we go. But of course this review would not be complete without at least one complaint. I’m not even sure where it should be directed. We knew going during the holidays that there would be a lot of children. Well, there were over 1,000 kids. I’ve already raised my two daughters and they’re adults now. But if my daughters ever behaved the way I saw some of these children behave on this ship, I would have been humiliated. I was shocked at the apathy that some of these parents showed as their children ran all over the ship and consistently disobeyed and ignored their parents and any other adults. I was also shocked at the young teenagers I saw in Henri’s Disco smoking and drinking and the young children I saw running through the casino sticking their fingers in the slot machines trying to find coins. Who’s to blame – Carnival? The parents? I cast much of the blame on the parents – where were they as their children were behaving so obnoxiously? And I do feel that Carnival has a duty to enforce the drinking age and the gambling age on the ship. We did learn our lesson – our next cruise will be in early May, when all those sweet angels are still in school. All in all, we love Carnival Cruises and will continue to sail with them.      

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Dec 10, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This was our first cruise and we did it as a crowd! All the kids and grandkids - 16 of us total. I did a lot of research, read lots and lots of reviews in making the decision to pick this particular cruise. I have to say that there is always such a mixed review from people that either loved the cruise or hated it, that making a decision was not that easy! In the end I decided that you can never please everyone.

Eleven of us started our cruise with a long flight from Washington State. We arrived in Houston airport shortly after 6am. With the time changes we actually only had about 4 hours to snooze and not many of us were able to do that in such cramped quarters, and possibly because we were all just a bit excited too. Our daughter and her family drove from Arkansas so they met us at the ship terminal. We had to wait for a Coach to transport us to the ship from Houston International. We weren’t sure what time this would be since our tickets said the first coach would load around noon. After gathering our mountain of luggage there weren’t many options for eating. We did find that you could hoof it to a motel through a tunnel so we loaded up some carts with mountains of luggage and off we went to their café. We had run into two other people that were also waiting for the coach to the ship and they said they would let any Carnival employee know that we were there. We started eating from the buffet when low and behold here come the other people waiting for the bus and a Carnival worker. She was told us to enjoy our breakfast but to be back by 9am to catch the bus, YEAH! By this time we had cell phone communication with our other daughter driving and they were actually slightly ahead of us by this time. However with having to park and unload their luggage we again got a head of them in the lines at the terminal. This is probably the least fun part of the cruise when you have so many little children- the grandkids ranged from 8 months to 16 years old, with most of them in the 5-7 age range. Of course you have to remember that we had very little sleep so everyone was on the grumpy side. The lines are like the ones at Disneyland, you wander back and forth for what seems like miles, then you go through the scanners like the airport only to find yourself in another line. This is the line to get your sign and sail card, figure out your paying options etc and make sure that you have your picture ID and proof of ID (in our case a birth certificate- but I understand that Passports are required soon). Once you are through with this line there is yet another line. You get your boarding picture (one they will sell to you later- ours were a bit blurry eyed and not worth paying for), and then to get another picture that is put on your sign and sail card (but not visible to you). We were all thinking, YES, we finally made it, we can go to our rooms and rest. But unfortunately they were still making up the rooms, so we went to the Lido deck for buffet and then to scout out our ship. I think we were all pleasantly surprised by the size of our rooms. Our kids were all in connecting rooms to each other so their kids could play together. The two oldest boys had a room to themselves connected to a room of adults. Most of the rooms slept 4 with a couch bed and a bunk bed both adequate size for an adult to sleep on. They also provided a cute crib for our grandson that fit just right between the couch and bed. Our room had a couch and table with chair- the beds together to make a king bed and lots of storage and closet space. Suit cases fit under the bed. The bathroom was plenty big- had complimentary lotions, shavers, toothpaste etc. Our shower had shampoo and liquid soap to wash with. Of course these are things we packed and didn’t need to. There is also a hair dryer but you do have to hold the button down the entire time you are using it. We did bring a power strip and this is really a must if you are going to use curling irons, computers etc. We had a room with a port hole- this was good size and on warm days the kids like to grab a blanket and curl up next to the window. One day we saw flying fish from these port holes- lots and lots of flying fish. The first two days are at sea. The weather was warm but dreary and we did get some rain. I think that the cruise motion just became part of the day, you stop really noticing it after a while. One of our waiters mentioned that it was always a little choppier going out of Galveston and that is would get better. Second night was dress up night but time has a way of getting away from you and we had to really rush to get dressed and ready. We had early seating. The little ones were still catching up on sleep so of course once we got to dinner they fell asleep in their chairs. Our waiters were superb! They earn every penny of their tips and more. We had Irwin and Lamar from the Philippines. They were very attentive to our kids, always brought them color books and crayons and took their food orders first. My understanding is that these guys work 6 months on and have a couple months off and that their salary is from tips alone. They always had a smile; made sure we were apprised of the time changes, and on the nights they entertained us with song and dance they put their heart and soul into it. The food was always presented in style and was tasty. I know others said the food was mediocre at best but I found it to be wonderful. Maybe it is because we are just simple hard working people and appreciate things more easily. Every night there were various choices for starters, 3 soups, 2 salads choices and then choices or beef, pork, fish, and vegetarian foods for entrees. After all that a dessert menu was brought out, and here again, you had three or four new choices each night as well as some standard offerings. The kids menu was the same each night but they could chose from the main menu also if they wanted to. If you go hungry it is your own fault; there is food every hour of the day and night. A couple times I was so full at dinner I could eat very little but later when I did feel hungry I ordered a sandwich from room service- this is free. It does take and hour or so to arrive so you need to plan a head a little. Our shore Excursions were in Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We did not do any of the ship tours. We felt that with so many kids it would be best to just visit the beaches and shop. I would recommend that you either do a ship tour in Jamaica or just shop in the terminal at the pier. This place is not very safe and you will not get the same story twice from the locals. In the terminal I asked at information, how much it would cost to get a bus to town. She said it was $4 each way per person but that if we wanted a little tour and some shopping we could get a bus for $7 all day per person. We got on the bus but our driver, Bradley changed the ruled, and it became $20 a head. At the first shopping area I went up and told him we needed to get off the bus, as we could not afford that, he said “no problem”, he would do the kids for half price. I informed him we didn’t have that much money either- he basically blocked our way and said we would work it out, to go sit down. So we all traipsed back to our seats. He promised us several shopping stops, picture opportunities and a stop at Margaritaville and the beach. We actually got one photo stop, and three shopping stops. The bus was hot and everyone wanted to go back to the ship at that point. I tried to hand Bradley all the money we had at that point- about $150 for 16 of us (9 kids) and he was not happy. He started arguing with me about getting more. My grandson found another $10 in his wallet and someone else found another $10….and he did let us go but he was mumbling the whole time like he had been cheated. He also told us he would not take us to the market because the prices were inflated there due to the cruise ship getting a rake off from sales. The places he took us over charged my one daughter $10 and tried to keep the change from a $20 bill my grandson gave for a $5 item. I suspect the one that was getting a rake off here was Bradley. We got lots of warnings about this place including ones from Bradley about criminals and illegal things being sold. None of us have an interest in ever going back to this place. The folks in the shops are really pushy, to the point of grabbing you and hauling you over to look at things. They will dicker with you but then they expect you to buy. Our second stop was the Grand Caymans; this stop was every ones favorite. The day was sunny and warm, the water wonderfully clear and the prettiest blue color. Unfortunately you have to Tender in by boat to this spot so the day gets pretty short. We found a van driver who agreed to take us to the free beach (7-mile beach) for $3 a head each way. We gave him a time to pick us up and he was there 5 minutes early. The water here is wonderful to swim in. With a mask and snorkel you can see the fish underwater and they are all very colorful. The kids had the best time here. The sand is a beautiful white color. There are rest rooms and showers, so clean up is easy and all free. You can rent lounges, and masks and snorkels. We left enough time to do a little shopping- things are priced in CI so you have to know the exchange or use your credit card. Some really beautiful birds and interesting Iguana’s in the Margaritaville shopping area. Last stop was Cozumel. The day was dreary and rainy but we got a great van driver named Pedro. He showed us the sights and had lots of interesting information to share. He charged us $20 a head for the adults only. We went to the Mayan ruins, did a little shopping, went to the beach and had guacamole dip and chips to die for – soooo goood! The kids swam despite the overcast skies, the weather was warm enough. This would be a place worth coming back to and enjoying more of the local color. Had enough time to do a little shopping before heading back to the ship. The ship was able to dock here so no tenders to catch. The activity director Mark Price made sure we had lots of fun during our cruise. The shows were pretty good; we had a wild and crazy Madi Gras party. The ship is split up into to teams early in the cruise so it was red team against, white team, against blue team. Lots of yelling, dancing and fun. I didn’t see tons of drinking but I wasn’t looking for it and we aren’t big drinkers. This was actually just good clean fun. We learned to do several line dances together and old and young alike participated. The kids had their own party up at Camp Carnival, as they did several nights. Up until 10pm is free but later activities weren’t too bad at $6 an hour- the kids had a blast! On the last day they had a Christmas program that included some of the kids singing and all the kids joining the entertainment crew on stage. Mark read them Frosty the snowman and they had a bit of snow in the end of the show before Santa showed up to give each of the kids a toy and listen to their wish list. The captain even made an appearance for the show as well as many of the crew. The crew came down the aisles with candles and we all sang Silent Night. The captain reminded all that the crew were all away from their families for the holidays and that they enjoyed being included in these family activities. There is entertainment, dancing, and music for all ages at various parts of the ship. One should never be bored. We all tried our hand at gambling. Some of us came out a head and other broke even. I agree with what others have said about the machines being a little looser early on and tighten up toward the end of the cruise. You can do some shopping while out at sea- something’s did become cheaper toward the end of the cruise. Pictures are taken frequently and are for you to buy on deck 4- finding your self can be a trick. The ship itself is beautiful- lots to see. The kids enjoyed the big water slide, as did some of our bigger kids! The pools are salt water but fairly warm if you are in the sun. The hot tubs felt wonderful. I think the boys made it to the gym but I never did so I can’t comment on it. None of us used the spa though the prices do get cheaper and the temptation for a full body massage is really hard to pass up. Obviously we went to enjoy being a family together so didn’t participate in many of the ship board activities but there is something for everyone going on much of the time- you should never find yourself board. The TV’s in the rooms bring in many of the network stations and there is shipboard information going also as well as movies to rent etc. Our room steward and crew were great; we got different towel animals every evening. Our rooms were cleaned twice a day – I was always greeted by name by Steve our steward. He stopped and took time to show the kids how to make some of the towel animals and he made sure they each had a cookie every night. Our last day we got fogged out of Galveston so had to wait until the port was opened to make the final leg of our trip. We all woke up early thinking we needed to get off the ship early. Sleeping in might have been a better option as we had another long day ahead of us. When we finally did get into port those that had to catch early flights were let off first and then we went by decks – it was obvious that our deck was going to be last. So at some point we decided to go up to the Lido deck and sure enough they were serving lunch buffet. The process of getting off the ship isn’t too bad you have to find your luggage and get in line to go through customs but if your forms are filled out it isn't too horrible. The worst is the amount of luggage we all brought and trying to shove it along. Then we had to say good bye to our Arkansas family and head for our coach back to the airport. Luckily I had made a late flight so we had plenty of time. Actually we ended up with an hour wait when it was all said and done, which gave us time to eat. There are lots of things to spend money on during the cruise but one doesn’t have to spend money to have a good time. However if you want pictures, drinks, babysitting, gambling, souvenirs, movie rentals, shore excursions, videos, etc you will be forking out some extra $’s. It is easy to put things on your sign and sail card and it will add up. Still we did this trip on a shoe string after paying for the cruise and airfare so we kept our expenses to a minimum and left our extra in tips for the wonderful staff. I left my room steward his tips by adding dollars to all the towel animals he made us on the cruise and then lined them up on our couch. The cruise was all we had hoped for and more and we are all thinking about meeting up again in a couple years to do it again. The kids will be older then and it should be more fun. I don’t think we will do the same cruise, some would like to try Alaska next. All agreed this was a trip of a life time and not one soon forgotten by any of us.    

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Nov 26, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines Overall we had a great time, and felt this cruise was a very good value. The Conquest is a very well-run and well-maintained ship. This was a decent itinerary. (Background: my wife and I are in our early 50’s and this was our 19th cruise. We always get the least expensive inside cabins and we book our own shore excursions; we are scuba divers and like active excursions.) 1.Itinerary. OK itinerary with 2

fun stops (Grand Cayman and Cozumel). We feel Jamaica is a so-so port of call. - Montego Bay, Jamaica. Spent a beach day at Doctor’s Cave Beach; a nice clean private beach that was beautiful and reasonably priced. But there’s a problem: the Jamaican authorities check the cruise ship passengers before you get back on the ship; this creates a gigantic line to re-board the ship; the wait was over an hour….ridiculous. I probably won’t get off the ship the next time. (FYI we stopped diving in Jamaica years ago; their marine ecosystem is nearly ruined by over-fishing and pollution) - Georgetown Grand Cayman. Did a shore-dive with Eden Rock Dive Center. Very convenient, reasonably priced, and very near the tender pier. Great coral formations and lots of marine life within 200 yards of the dive shop; max depth of 50 feet, so lots of bottom time. - Cozumel. Did a 2-tank boat dive with “Dive with Martin”. As usual the diving was spectacular and the folks at the dive shop were great……safe, fun, and inexpensive. IMHO best dive shop in Cozumel. We dove Santa Rosa and Paradise Reefs….both wonderful. Glad to see the island (and the marine life) are recovering well from Wilma. Note: I’m very glad we had an 8p.m. seating….we were not rushed coming back from ports of call. 2. Crew/service. Excellent. Our cabin service and dining room service were truly outstanding. You will feel pampered. I think Carnival has really improved in this area. 3. Food. Overall, excellent. There were good beef and seafood options every night. Appetizers and desserts were so-so compared to other cruise lines. Breakfast and lunch buffets were so-so, but breakfast and lunch were excellent in the dining room. The deli and the grill were outstanding. The 24 hour pizza was OK. Room service was reliable and brought good coffee every morning on time. Note: there are two formal nights, but for those guys who like me HATE to dress up….a simple sports jacket, dockers, and old tie works just fine. 4.Entertainment. My wife is a musician and I depend on her for this evaluation. Entertainment was good. The singers/dancers were good. The classical musical group was excellent. The miscellaneous stage shows (comedy, magic) were pretty good. The evening shows are worth going to. 5. Cabins. Ours was clean, well-maintained, spacious. 6. Embarkation/Debarkation: Embarkation was poorly run (too big of a ship and too small of a port). We waited in line for almost two hours. We arrived at the pier just after noon; next time I would wait until 2 or 3 to board. Debarkation was a little better although I wouldn’t recommend a flight out of Houston before 11 a.m. Note: we arrived the day before departure and stayed at the Ramada Limited on Seawall. This motel was a bit run-down but reasonably clean, very convenient and reasonably priced. Free parking while cruising and an easy 30-minute from the pier. 7. The Ship. Well maintained, clean and in good repair. Good gym, with a fair amount of equipment, whirlpool, and saunas. Public areas were kept mostly clean. I wish the smoking areas were better enforced; had to move a few times to escape the stink of cigarette/cigar smoke. 8. Passengers. Very friendly passengers; mostly Texans and Midwesterners representing all ages including a fair number of well-behaved kids. The families we met liked the kids program. Feel free to email questions to Bill Grier at [email protected] Happy Cruising!    

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Nov 6, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines My family and I started cruising in 2004. We took two cruises from Galveston on the Ecstasy in 2004 and one on the Elation in 2005. This was our first time on the Conquest. It will not be our last. Embarkation: We tried to arrange were we would get on the ship about 2:00pm and beat the crowds. Unfortunately there was a situation on the ship the night before and the ship did not get into port until around 1:00pm.

Needless to say there was a huge line. Many people were upset, however the way I looked at it was. With guest and crew exceeding 4,000 people, accidents or problems are bound to happen. The ship’s Captain had to make up time and the seas were a little rough for the first day or so but then calmed down. The trip was very pleasant. My family and I enjoyed our wait staff and room steward immensely. Jamaica. As I have young children 6 & 9 and didn’t want to expose them to some of the more unpleasant activities, on the island, we chose to take them to Sunset Beach and Resort. They had a wonderful time as well as my wife and myself. There are many things to do and see. We recommend this location. Grand Cayman. I was simply blown away by the water and the whole atmosphere of this country. We chose after reading many reviews on this website to book our tours thru Captain Marvin. The location is only two blocks from the dock an easy walk. My Great Uncle and Aunt went with us on the first tour. This was the Hell, Rum Factory and Turtle Tour. Hell and the Rum Factory was ok, the turtle farm was out of this world. YOU MUST DO THIS. We then went on to the Stingray tour. The driver took my Aunt and Uncle not only back to the start of the tour, but then told them to stay on the van while the other passengers got off. He then drove them to the dock, so they didn’t have to walk as far, since they are 75 and 81. What a nice and thoughtful thing to do. The stingray tour was even better then the turtle farm. As I had grown up on the Texas Gulf Coast, I was taught the only good stingray was a dead one, and followed that philosophy. That is until now. We had a blast! One of the extra things is that a camera lady went with us and filmed everyone and then sent us copies of the DVD if you paid for it of course. It was well worth the money. Cozumel. We had been here before and always go to Paradise Beach. It was wonderful as always the staff is most helpful and the food and drinks are very good. We always recommend this beach. There are only two complaints that I had. 1. In Grand Caymans we were off the boat in less than 15 minutes. In Cozumel it took over 1 & ½ hours that is unacceptable. 2. While we were waiting to leave the ship, my Aunt and Uncle use wheelchairs for this, they had us wait on the far side of the ship in the Cigar Bar. Now I love cigars but having the elderly some with oxygen tanks, wait there was not the smartest thing. We will cruise with Carnival again!!!!      

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Oct 29, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines -Monday Night – Wednesday Morning- We flew into Jamaica around 3:30PM on Monday. After explaining to customs why we were there due to flight delays, we took an airport taxi to the resort Angie booked for us. It was called Sunset Beach Resort and Spa in Montego Bay. We had planned on going here when our ship came in to port on Wednesday anyway, so now we just got a little more time to enjoy it. The resort was

right next to the port where our ship would arrive Wednesday morning. We had a great time at the resort. It was all inclusive with 4 restaurants, 3 bars, and good entertainment. When I say all inclusive I mean it. When we arrived they said put away your wallet because everything is included. They will make you unlimited drinks as strong or as weak as you want them. They also have pop, water, juice, and ice cream machines everywhere, all free! Our room was beautiful, with a private balcony, large bathroom, and even 150 channels on the TV (incase you want to watch it before bed). It was like being on a cruise ship but with bigger better pools that are basically always open, beautiful beachfront at all times, more room to roam, no money hungry staff, free pool toys, use of paddle boats and kayaks, better food, and free drinks.  On Wednesday morning we got up early to see if we could see our ship coming into port. Sure enough around 6:45AM Emily spotted a small white dot over the horizon. As an hour went by the dot grew bigger and bigger then we could see the red stack of the ship. After about 45 minutes the ship ended up passing directly in front of our room which made for some cool pictures. That morning we went to breakfast and decided to go snorkeling in the ocean. We then swim in the resorts pool until checkout time at 11:00AM. We didn’t want to leave the resort, it was so much fun. It was funny being able to see the ship from the beach and pools we were swimming in that morning. As we were swimming we knew if we saw our ship start to leave we could use the paddle boat to catch it. Lol. -Wednesday 11/1/06- Once we checked out of the resort we took a taxi for the 2 minute drive to the port. After 20 minutes of going through customs and having to pay them to stay in Jamaica for more then 24 hours we were allowed to go to the next security checkpoint. As we headed to the metal detectors in the building a guy ran up to us and said he had to help carry our luggage to the ship. He put all our bags on a cart and took them to the ship for us. When we got there he said ok I need to be paid now. We were kind of shocked. Emily was going to give him a $3.00 tip before he said anything. The guy actually asked how much she had in her hand and when Emily said $3.00 he said that was not enough. He then said he needed $5.00. So instead of getting upset and starting a fight with this guy or tossing him into the water, we realized we were 1 foot away from boarding the ship that we have had such bad luck getting to; we paid the guy and entered the ship. Once onboard the security guard saw our bags and said “oh, you must be Brad and Emily, we were expecting you”. He had us go to the lobby on deck 3 to check in as they took our bags to our room. We again had to wait another 20 minutes to check in while they organized our paperwork. At least they removed the automatic tips for the days we missed. By this point I had about had it with the checking in processes after what we went through this week. If I would have had to check in one more time or do any kind of customs stuff I would have went crazy! Once we got our cards we went to our room to check it out. We then spent most of the day exploring the ship. For lunch Emily got her sandwich and I got a hamburger from the grille. At 7:30PM we went and saw the magic show and then went to the dinner at 8:30PM. We had late seating for dinner and liked it more then the earlier seating option we had on our last cruise. It was nice not needing to get ready until later. The dinner was great, we both had the steak. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very funny. Towards the end of dinner they surprised us with a heart shaped piece of cake with a candle in the middle. All the waiters came up to our table and started singing “Happy Honeymoon” to us. (Basically the birthday song but with “honeymoon” said instead) We never even told the waiter it was our honeymoon so we were surprised they knew. They made us kiss the entire time they were singing and said we couldn’t stop until they were done. During the song our waiter put a napkin in front of us for privacy. It was funny, we were laughing too hard to kiss. There must have been a lot of people on their honeymoon because they kept mentioning honeymoons and newlyweds. The Restaurant manager was great. He sang different songs for the entertainment part of the dinners every night. He was a great singer. The first night we were there he sang “Don’t rock the boat” and dedicated it to all the honeymooners. After dinner (like we did on our last cruise) we decided to take a nap with plans on going to the late comedy show after our nap. Well once again we slept through it and I didn’t wake up until the next morning. . -Our Room and the ship- Our room was nice. We were on the 10 floor with a balcony located towards the center of the ship on the right side (whatever boat term that means). We liked the room but it was not as nice as the balcony suite we were upgraded to on our last cruise (Carnival Triumph, May 21, 2005 also on cruise reviews) This room didn’t have a separate spot for Emily to get ready with all her makeup stuff. Also this bathroom was smaller and had a stupid shower setup. Emily and I basically flooded the bathroom each time one of us would take a shower. The shower had a small curtain that didn’t stop the water from coming out. The shower head arm also seamed broken as it kept falling and shooting water onto the bathroom floor. One time I walked in the bathroom and when Emily called me to put some towels down on the floor. I walked in to find about an inch deep of water over the entire bathroom floor, good thing Carnival gives you beach towels. The ship seamed a lot larger then the Carnival Triumph. It also had more dining choices. I also like that the grille had chicken breast sandwiches in addition to the hotdogs and hamburgers. This ship wasn’t as fancy as the Triumph was in the inside. Besides a little different setup in the pool and dining area, it had the same basic setup as the Triumph. -Thursday 11/2/06 Grand Cayman Islands- Thursday we went to the Grand Cayman Islands. his port didn’t have a pier so we had to take a tender to the shore. We had also paid for a shore excursion the night before to Seven Mile Beach with taxi. This included taxi to and from the beach, use of there chairs, and a drink. After the short ride in the smaller boat we had to stand with the rest of the people who signed up for the excursion for about 30 minutes before we could start loading the buses. Once on the beach we watched as everyone went to the closest spot and all stayed together. We kept walking and went as far away as we could from everyone else. The beach and water was beautiful. We tried to snorkel but the water was too stirred up to see clearly. We ended up swimming with our fins on for about 3 hours. After swimming we decided to get ready to head back to the port. When we were loading up the bus to go back a husband and wife were told they could not get on the bus until they finished their beer that they were obviously drinking a lot of that morning. During the time they were finishing up their beer, other people took the spot the wife had told the driver she needed to sit in because of her bad knee. The husband finished his beer and sat down on the bus but when the lady went to enter she started yelling at the driver because people had taken the seat she needed. Then her husband started yelling and jumped out of the bus and got in the driver's face. The driver looked like he was going to kill these people but instead he said talk to my manager as he got in the bus and drove away without the couple. The driver was telling all of us if he didn’t have a family to provide for he would have beat up the guy. It was so funny, we were all laughing. As far as the excursion goes if I could do it again I would just get a taxi and not paid for the excursion. It was not worth the cost, a taxi there and back would have been cheaper with less of a wait. The beach area was nice but on the way to this spot we saw other nice spots with no one else around. Once we were back at the port we walked around the town and purchased some souvenirs. We then got back on the ship early to insure we wouldn’t miss it again. Thursday Night we got ready for the formal dinner. We left our room around 7:00PM so we would have time to take pictures at all the photo areas. Dinner was great again. This time I ordered 2 steaks, very good. After I finished my meal the waiter dropped my knife down the back of my shirt as he was taking away my plate. It got a few spots of A1 sauce on it. He tried to clean it but the stain wouldn’t come out. The manager came up and took our room number down and told us to drop it off later at the front desk and they would have it cleaned. I got it back the next day as good as new. After dinner we changed and went to the magic show. I thought the show was great but Emily thought the show last year was better. Afterward, we went back to the room and went to bed. Around 2:00AM I woke up and decided to get some pizza and ice cream that I brought back to the room and ate on our balcony. It was good, but I’m glad it isn’t that easy to get pizza every night or I wouldn’t be able to fit in the room. -Friday 11/3/06 Cozumel Mexico- We arrived in Cozumel Mexico around 9:00AM. It started raining as we docked but stopped by the time we got off the boat. We didn’t sign up for any excursions but knew we wanted to go to the beach. We had a taxi driver take us to San Francisco Beach Club about 15 miles away from the port. The club only cost $5 per person and came with a chair and umbrella and beautiful beach front. We stayed for about 3.5 hours. I snorkeled for most of the time while Emily was relaxing and swimming. Before we left I saw a stingray in the water. I had Emily grab her snorkeling gear so she could see it as well (she wanted to see one all week and she finally did). It was white with brown spots. I took some pictures of it with the underwater camera. A little scary but cool. After snorkeling we decided to relax on the beach. We ordered some chips and salsa and watched people Para-sailing. Once we were done we had a taxi take us back to town. From there we walked though the town and went into all the shops. Emily had her picture taken with some of the local talent who were dressed up in costumes. It started raining but really didn’t bother us because we were inside the stores anyway. One store was giving away free samples of alcohol so I had a few test shots. Once back on the ship we walked around and went to the casino that evening. We decided not to go to the formal dinner and I ended up getting fish & chips from the fish bar on the boat, and Emily got a sandwich and some pizza. Ok so then I think I also had a hamburger, fries, pizza, and ice cream. -Saturday 11/4/06 Fun Day at Sea- We decided to play the slots in the casino and even play a little bingo during the day. We lost! The only thing we won was a raffle for a bottle of nice Champagne. Besides gambling we basically relaxed and just enjoyed the last day. It wasn’t raining but we had some rough waves that started a little before midnight the night before. The waves weren’t getting any better. The constant back and forth motion was starting to make us a little sea sick. I must say these boats don’t really move much and when I saw a smaller boat go by it was impressive how good our ship took the waves with all the technology it has. That being said, the small movement still is enough to get a person sick. After a nap, room service for some food, and some motion sickness pills, we were fine. -Saturday Night (last night)- Emily was tired so she decided to go to bed early. I wanted to catch the last show so I headed down to the lounge on the 4th floor around 10:30PM. The show was great and very funny. They were having a lot of technical issues, but it was a good show. One time the music stopped in the middle of a song. The person left the stage and then after a short wait he had to go back out and redo the song from the beginning. I decided to sneak out a few minutes before the show ended to beat the elevator rush. As I was getting on the elevator the boat seamed to be shaking a lot more then it had been. A man on the elevator said “you didn’t hear what happened?" I replied no. He then said that someone had fallen overboard and the ship was turning around to look for him. Once off the elevator I ran to my room to wake up Emily. At this point the ship was really moving and things were starting to tip over. We ran to our balcony and saw spot lights from the front of the ship aimed at the water. We left our room and decided to go to the front of the ship on the navigation deck that is outside and down a flight of stairs from our floor at the front of the ship. It had the best view because it sticks out past the side of the ship about 10 feet. On our way we had to hop over peoples bags. Most of the bags had tipped over when the ship turned. The ship had 2 spotlights panning the water looking for the person. The boat kept turning around and moving forward and backwards searching in different areas. Finally after about 20 minutes there was a page over the loud speaker for the guests staying in 3 different rooms in a row on the 6th floor. Another 10 minutes later another page for guest staying in the middle of the two rooms. Then another 10 minutes later the cruise director came on the speaker and said that the boat had turned around to do a search. Then another 10 minutes he said someone has fallen overboard and they will be doing a search. He then said be careful when the ship is moving around. In the distance ships were starting to surround us. I counted 15 ships. All kinds of boats were helping out. I saw 2 other cruise ships, fishing boats, barges, and freighters. Our ship lowered its main lifeboat that drove around searching for hours as our ship kept turning around and searching with the spotlights. After about an hour another Carnival ship came up right in front of us and started searching. We ended up going back to our room after about 2.5 hours and then watched from our balcony until we were too tired to stay awake any longer. After about 5 hours the ship took off, unsuccessful in the search. -Sunday 10/5/06- We spoke to other people the next morning who said helicopters and planes from the coast guard stated flying over towards the end of the search. No one from our ships crew said anything about what had happened. The cruise director came on the loud speaker at breakfast and talked about the debarkation changes because of the delay from the events last night. Anyone who had a flight out before 2:00PM (using the honor system) and didn’t put there bags out in the hall the night before were going to be allowed to get off the boat first. Luckily we still had our bags as we were able to get off sooner even though our flight wasn’t until 4:30PM. (They didn’t need to know that.) Even so, we arrived at the airport around 3:00PM so anyone who had an earlier flight probably missed it. Luckily it was a very fast debarkation, from the time we left our room we were directed to sit in the lounge for about 15 minutes and were on the bus pulling away from the port within about an hour. Overall it was a great honeymoon mixed with lots of stress and excitement! It will make for a great story to tell people in the future.  

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Oct 29, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines We sailed from Galveston on Oct. 29, 2006, on Carnival Conquest for a 7 day vacation to the Western Caribbean. This was our 17th cruise, 5th with Carnival, and 11th with that itinerary. From the moment we stepped on the ship until we stepped off, our group of six veteran cruisers were very disappointed in this ship. One of our friends is handicapped and uses a walker. Not one time during the whole cruise was

he offered any help by any one of the staff. On other ships there is staff waiting to help with food trays, luggage, and anything else needed. I use a CPAP machine to sleep and always ask the steward for an extension cord which has always been brought to our cabin in minutes. It was almost bed time before I could even find our cabin steward to ask about it and was then told I would need to go to the Purser’s Desk, make a $25 deposit, and pick up the cord. I can understand the deposit because I’m sure there are people who would help themselves to these cords but, my past cruising experience has been that the steward would bend over backwards to get it for me, whatever it took. We had pre-ordered a canapé tray and champagne and were told it would be in our cabin waiting for us when we boarded. We were looking forward to a little Bon Voyage party with our friends. When we got to the cabin about 1:30pm, the tray was not there so I called and was told it was on the way. After three more calls, and returning from dinner, it was still not there. We went to the Welcome Aboard show and when we returned to our room there was the dried out tray – at bed time. Long story short, it was returned and finally on Thursday we received a call that we would get credit for it. The champagne was delivered the next afternoon - a little late for a Bon Voyage party! This was the first day and everything went downhill from here. The service on this ship was less than par and the food was even more less than par. There are “Adult Only” hot tubs by the Sky Pool but none of the staff seem to be willing to enforce it. There may be one way I would go on Conquest again only because I love cruising so much and that is if someone came to me with a free ticket. I would love to give some kind of good report but, the only thing I can think of is that the beds, comforters, and pillows are wonderful. I also like the size of the cabins and bathrooms. My husband had to leave the ship in Grand Cayman for business reasons and that was another fiasco -  I won’t even go into because of space. Bottom line: Carnival again, maybe. Conquest again, no.  

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Oct 22, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines Schmidt We started this wonderful journey by driving to Houston on the Thursday before departing and stayed with friends in Sugarland. We was lucky enough to squeeze in some time to visit the Houston Space Center. This was a enjoyable experience for my my wife and I as we had never been there before. The tram tour was very informative to learn exactly how our NASA Astronauts train for upcoming missions and the

tests they perform in Space. Excellent value for the day events and it is very close to Galveston where we set sail aboard the Carnival Conquest for the second time in 2 years and celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary. The entire 7 days were complete bliss for both of us. Day One: We arrived to the cruise terminal approximately 30 minutes before we were told to be there but other guests had already arrived allot earlier and were standing in a line of approximately 400-700 people waiting till the golden hour of 1:30 pm. They sure are prompt about starting the Embarkation process. After the 1st long winding line we finally made it to the new metal detectors that have come from 9-11. Then we rapidly made our way to the next winding lanes of people waiting to see the check in desk representatives for Carnival. This was actually the fastest I have ever witnessed to check in as long as you follow the directions of having all your paperwork filled in before you get to the desk and have your proper ID's. After approximately 5 min we was on our way to the next line for the famous pre-boarding picture, then we was off the follow the winding gang plank platform up to the ship. There we had the last and final short line for boarding into the lobby area of the Conquest. We went to check our room and believe it or not but the room was already cleaned and prepared for us. This is where the surprise comes in as I had been sneaky and had Carnival decorate the entire cabin with "Happy Anniversary" decorations and several dozen roses for my beautiful wife along with Champagne and etched wine glasses for this special occasion. My wife was speechless and it was another successful surprise that I had pulled off again from 2 years earlier on the Conquest during the same time of year, but from the port of New Orleans vice Galveston. After getting freshened up we, were off to get a drink and EAT, Eat, Eat. Dinner that night was fabulous and we had the most wonderful waiters named Ardel and Ardana both from the Philippines. These 2 gentlemen definitely knew what they were doing and it made every evening a true pleasure to enjoy. My sincerest regards to them both. Well Done! This 1st night I did extremely well in the Tahiti Casino and won very nicely. This where we also met some of the nicest employees of the entire cruise. My favorite waitress was named Irene. She was extremely friendly and made me feel welcome win or lose. Her smile was so gentle and bright that you just fell in love with her, even though you know that was impossible. Remember, my wife was always with me and she made close friends too. The next 2 days were filled with everything you can imagine to keep one busy while out in the middle of the ocean. Our favorite activity was the Art Auctions, where we purchased several investment pieces by PeterMax and they had FREE Champagne which made it even more fun. On Wednesday we arrived Jamaica right on time and we departed the ship where we met our private tour guide Carolyn Barrett from Barrett Adventures. She is now a Jamaican citizen where she was originally American and married a Jamaican gentleman. She knew the island like the back of her hand and was very informative of all the island facts and need-to-know items to keep your shore excursion a safe one. We were never asked for a Tip or Gratuity. We started our day at YS Falls and then went on a river tubing adventure. Very safe and fun. We had the best guide one could ask for a wonderful Jamaican man named Damion. He knew exactly where to place your feet in the water at the falls so it was always safe to not fall and get hurt. We then got to swing on a rope tied to a large tree and drop into the pool under the falls. The water was cool but refreshing and a lot of pure fun. We then proceeded down the falls and came upon a clearing where there was a spring fed pool only 4 feet deep. So clear and beautiful it was beyond description. We were then led to the bank on the river from the falls down stream and boarded inner tube that had wood bottoms to avoid being injured while going over the small 2-3 foot rapids. The current was just fast enough to make it fun, but very safe. We floated for approximately 1 1/2 miles and then exited to the bank and were ferried back to the main office to shop and bargain. It is an insult not to try and haggle for a cheaper price and they respect you more for coming to a fair price. We then had lunch up the road at this cute little eatery and had the best Jerk Chicken I can remember having. Then it was off the the other side of island where the ship was docked for some more bargains shopping at a local store named Strawberry's where the manager named frank was very friendly and kind. Again my wife took over and haggled some fair prices for Shirts, Dresses, Bathing suits and Jamaican Rum. Hats off to my wonderful wife as she did it again and saved us a lot of money. We were then offered a free beer on the house for appreciation of coming to his store, and then we were on our way. Every day when we returned to the ship, it was very evident that the security was serious about the safety of all on the Carnival Conquest. There were ,ore metal detectors, pat searches, and baggage scanners of everything you brought back to the ship. Our Rum purchase was confiscated aboard the ship and then returned to us the day before we arrived back in Galveston. At exactly 6:00 pm the ship pulled away from the pier. Carnival is serious when they say be back on time or you will be left. Hopefully nobody missed the ship this year. Two years ago a Just Married couple was left in Jamaica because the wife left her purse back at a shore excursion and they went back to get her purse only to arrive back to an empty dock. They finally got back on board in Cozumel a few days later. They had to buy Airfare to catch up to us. Not a good way to start a life together, but at least they was together, just not the way they had planned. Thursday we arrived in Grand Cayman where we was very excited because two years ago Hurricane Ivan had destroyed all of the Cayman Islands and we were not allowed to come into Port. The ship anchored out and we rode Tenders into the shore. From here we had pre purchased the Seven Mile Beach resort Excursion. This was very nice when we arrive at the Colony Beach resort approx 2-3 miles down the road. It only costs $4 for each person each way. Here at the resort for the $23 that Carnival charges for the tickets you get admission, a beach chair, and free drink. All the activities on the beach are at a small costs to you. They have Wave runners, kayaks, paddle boats, snorkeling, jet boats (2 person), and Parasailing. My wife and I rented a Wave runner and had a BLAST. The attendant even gave us extra time because we were some of the first to arrive, and it was not busy yet. I drove 1st they I finally convinced my wife to try driving. So she reluctantly drove and then she was hooked. I had to almost beg for her to let me drive again. Next time we get separate Wave runners to avoid this, but it was great fun. We then rented a kayak and guess who got to do most of the paddling. My wife was so amazed to the beautiful blue water and crystal clear visibility. I think I pulled a muscle this day on the cruise as I was very sore that night. I then finally convinced her to try Parasailing. She was afraid but eventually gave in. When we got back to shore I could not keep up with her as she was so happy and enjoyed the whole experience. Definitely a GREAT Day in Paradise. We left a little early so to back at the ship on time and did some more excellent shopping for Duty Free items like Tequila and Tortuga Rum cake. Yum Yum... Thursday we arrived again on time in Cozumel, but this time it was raining lightly. But once we anchored out and the Tenders started to run the rain had stopped and off we went to explore. This time we booked the Mountain Bike and Snorkeling trip. Again this was very fun as we rode the bikes on a smooth road along the coast to a Seashore Park approx 5-7 miles which took about 25-30 minutes. We then changed and began snorkeling. The water was so blue and clear it was also beyond belief. Had a great time for about 3 hrs and then we rode our bikes back for some more time shopping for Duty Free gifts. Unfortunately I got sunburned real bad so my night was miserable. Our waiter on the ship recommended something I had never heard before because the ship had sold out of the Aloe Sunburn Lotions. His suggestion actually saved the rest of our cruise. He brought back this bowl of white cream and told me to try this. It was Sour Cream and after it had set in the refrigerator for approx 1-2 hrs my wife rubbed it on and it felt great and cold. The next I had no more pain and felt wonderful. Thank You Arnel from the upper floor of the Monet restaurant aboard the Conquest. The next two days were out at sea returning to Galveston. I almost tried to steal away for another cruise as we had such a wonderful time and actually won in the casino. That night my wife and I really hated all the smoking in the casino so we requested from the Pit Boss for a non-smoking Blackjack table and they came through with flying colors. This would be one of the areas that need improvement aboard the Conquest and that is a non-smoking section for us that do not smoke. It is their right to be able to smoke but not at my lungs' expense. Bravo to the Casino Host for such a kind gesture to make our cruise that much more enjoyable. Also they need to get more organized with the shows for early and late seating dinner guests. The late dinner guests kept coming to the early dinner times and prevented all of us the opportunity to see the great shows they have on board. The sail and sign cards have our dinner assignment on them they could use this to make sure only the proper guest attended the right show at the right time.  

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Oct 22, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This was the first cruise for both my husband and I, as well as for my mother, sister, and brother-in-law. My husband and I celebrated our 8th anniversary. We departed from the Galveston Port. My husband, mother, sister, and I are all from Alice, TX. My brother-in-law is from Dallas, TX. We all met in Galveston. Embarkation: We were dropped off at the terminal with our luggage while my husband parked the car in

the parking lot. There was a $70.00 fee for this parking. Our luggage was almost immediately picked up and checked in and we proceeded to get into a pretty long line. The line seemed to move at a steady pace, but there was never any end. We were in line for about 2hrs while we cleared security and then registered for our sail-n-sign card and room key, then finally made it onto the ship. Though the lines were long, everyone was very friendly and helpful. THE SHIP: The ship is so big and beautiful. As soon as we pulled into the terminal, we were all in awe at this magnificent site. It was a first for all of us and we were so excited to begin our journey. We had very high expectations. We read several reviews before our trip and were amazed at the very different opinions people had. We chose not to let any negative feedback influence us, so we came aboard with open minds. My husband and I got ourselves a room with a balcony since we were celebrating our anniversary. My mother, sister, and brother-in-law all had inside cabins. All the rooms were very clean and inviting, but I have to say that it is worth the extra money for the balcony. When I cruise again, it will be another balcony. The view is indescribable. You must see it for yourself. The rooms were very comfortable and cool. In fact, the entire ship was slightly chilly and I took a light sweater which came in very handy. It was very easy to forget you were on a ship with all the stairs, elevators, large dining rooms, casino, lounges, pools, gift shops, ect. The only thing that gave it away was the rocking back and forth the first night of sailing. The seas were rough. This can't be helped. Mother nature has a mind of her own. Several people had patches behind their ears (obviously cruised before) Luckily, I took my Dramamine and it helped very well. FOOD: If you starve on this trip, you have a serious problem. There is so much food throughout the entire day. We were assigned to the Monet dining room for the 5:45pm dinner. We were there the first night. Very impressive. The staff is wonderful. We were seated at our table with another family and all learned a little about each other while we dined. We were told the menu was different every night, but that ended up being our only night in the dining room. We really enjoyed it, but we didn't like having a scheduled dining and chose to go buffet which allowed more flexibility with our other activities. There is something for everyone. Hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, pizza, ice cream, sushi, and all the juice, tea, coffee, and water you can hold. Sodas and alcohol are extra. You can purchase a fountain card for 37.00 and get all of the soda you want for the entire cruise. It is good for only the person whose name is on the card. They only issue one soda per card. My husband and I shared a card and still had many sodas. There is no cash exchange on board. All shopping, bar drinks, excursions, ect. are charged to your sail-n-sign card. It is then charged to your credit card at the end of your cruise. You are able to keep tab of your spending with the television in your cabin. This is very convenient. ENTERTAINMENT: This cruise had an amazing cruise director. His name is Mark Price. Absolutely fantastic! The entire crew was fabulous. It is impossible to remember everyone's name. Adriana was our cabin steward and she was amazing. Always had a smile. This was the same of everyone. If they ever had a bad day, you would never know it. All nationalities were represented. One big family!! There is entertainment for everyone. Bingo, comedy (adult comedy after midnight), Las Vegas style shows, music, dancing, talent, karaoke, casino, contests, and more. If you get bored, then you have a problem. There are always the pools and hot tubs. PORTS: Our first stop was Montego Bay, Jamaica. We chose the Dunn's River Falls and Dolphin Cove. We took a bus for a 2hr ride into Ocho Rios for this trip. We had a tour guide for the trip. Her name was Sasha. She was informative and had a since of humor. The countryside was somewhat disturbing. There is so much poverty. Homes with no doors or windows. This is basically all we saw for the whole 2hrs on the torn up road. What a ride!! I was more motion sick than on the ship. The waterfall was beautiful. We climbed the 600ft waterfall along with hundreds of other tourists at the same time while holding hands forming a chain. The water was very cold, but we adjusted very quickly. The dolphin cove was nice, but could have done without it. The encounter or swim would have been better. We then had another 2hr drive back to the ship. We were approached twice with an offer for drugs. We were warned that there are many locals that are very pushy. Just say no. They will leave you alone. GRAND CAYMAN: This was our favorite port. The water is beautiful. Our ship was unable to dock due to the shallow port, so we took tendered ferries to land. This was not bad. We chose to take a private excursion with Captain Marvin's Stingray Feed and Snorkel. It was wonderful. I'd do it again. We did a little shopping, then back to the ferry to the ship. Don't miss your ferry. COZUMEL: Again, you must tender out to port. We went on the Caverns by Jeep and Beach tour. This was actually in Playa del Carmen and not Cozumel. We explored a cave and underground connote. We were able to swim in the crystal clear and very cold water of the cavern. We were then taken to the beach and served lunch. Excellent!! There was very little time to shop as we had to get the ferry boat back to the ship. DISEMBARKATION: This went faster than I had expected. We opted for the self-help leave. This is where you carry all of your own luggage off the ship. We were off by 0930am. We all enjoyed ourselves so much. We will be booking another cruise sometime in the future. I could go on and on, but everyone has their own opinion. Carnival Cruise Lines is an A+ in our book.  

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Sep 24, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines I first want to say that I truly enjoyed every moment of my cruise. I definitely recommend this cruise for those of you who are considering it. I am grateful to those who wrote the cruise reviews that helped me make my cruise a more enjoyable one. This review will be riddled with many recommendations of what to do to make your cruise more enjoyable. Before you book your cruise...research, research, research.

There are many things to consider before you make your reservation. The cruise line, the length of cruise, the departure port, the itinerary, the cost. I started my search by requesting brochures from all of the major cruise lines. I also asked my friends who had taken cruises what they recommended. You will find that people love to relive their cruises by telling you all about it. I took this particular cruise, in part, because it was suggested to me by a cousin and three co-workers. One friend even brought her pictures and told me exactly what to do in port. You are free to accept or reject any or all of their suggestions. But, it is a window into the type of vacation that you will have. My advice is to read cruise reviews on this and other cruises, ask your friends, read brochures, check with travel professionals, etc. Then, if you decide that you want to take the Carnival Conquest, book your reservation. I booked directly through Carnival with vacation planner Janis Boyd. You can reach her at (800) 819-3902 ext. 82333 or at [email protected] And, once you've booked your cruise, periodically check back to see if the cruise fares have been reduced. Carnival will gladly change you to the lower rate, but you have to contact them to do it. They will not automatically lower your cruise fare. When I took this cruise, it departed out of Galveston. I contacted the Galveston Island Convention and Visitor's Bureau (888) 425-4753 or www.galveston.com to request a brochure. It has information about activities, lodging, dining, etc. I understand that this cruise will soon be departing out of New Orleans again. You may contact the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitor's Bureau at (800) 672-6124 or www.neworleanscvb.com to request a brochure. When booking your cruise, I recommend that you book the best room that you can afford. You will enjoy the cruise if you are in an inside stateroom or in a Category 12 suite. I had a Category 11 suite and it was fantastic. On my previous cruise, I had a window room, which just doesn't compare. I enjoyed the private moments on the balcony enjoying the ocean breeze. Other amenities of this room would be a separate vanity and dressing area, you get a real bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, a television and VCR, and a separate sitting area. Also, my room, 7326, was on the port (left) side of the ship. I recommend that if you book a window or suite, you book a room on the port side because we could see Montego Bay, Georgetown, and Cozumel as we approached the islands. People seem to differ in opinion when it comes to purchasing cruise insurance. There are many different coverages offered by cruise lines and insurance companies. I recommend that you read what Tom Ogg has to say about it right on this website under cruise information. Click on the hyperlink “about insurance.” Now, you've got to get to Galveston. I flew into Houston Hobby Airport Friday on Southwest Airlines (800) 435-9792 or www.southwest.com. I recommend to everyone to arrive at your departure port at least one day prior to your cruise. It makes for a very easy embarkation. Also, I spent quite a bit of money on this cruise, and I did not want to risk not getting there. There are many things that can go wrong when you travel; blown tire, engine trouble, automobile accidents, weather events, late flights, cancelled flights, lost luggage, etc. Please, if you don't take any other advice that I give, do yourself a favor and get to Galveston at least a day ahead of time. You did not book this wonderful cruise to collect the insurance proceeds. Because we decided to stay in Galveston for 2 days prior to the cruise, I rented a car with Dollar Rental (888) 800-4000 or www.dollar.com. If you book with Dollar, make sure you check their online specials. Those really are some of their lowest rates. Now, Hertz and Enterprise both have locations in Galveston, but you cannot pick up a car at the airport and leave it in Galveston, or vice versa with either of these companies. So, my plan was to rent a car for the 2 days prior to the cruise, then return the vehicle to the airport and take a shuttle from the airport back to Galveston Island. DO NOT take Airport Shuttle America. To make a long story short, they had a new girl who made a reservation for us at 7 pm. Their last shuttle was at 6 pm, so when we arrived, the last shuttle had already departed. We complained to the owner of the service who took no responsibility for the mishap, even though he readily acknowledged that his employee did make our reservation. I filed a formal complaint with Houston Hobby Airport, and am still awaiting their response. I do recommend Galveston Limousine Service (800) 640-4826 http://www.galvestonlimousineservice.com/. They currently charge $60 round trip from the airport to Galveston. Please don't be fooled by the name! It is a shuttle service, not a limo service. Prior to the cruise, I stayed at the Hotel Galvez (800) 996-3426 www.wyndham.com prior to my cruise. It's a Wyndham Historic Hotel. It was fantastic, and I highly recommend it. The only problem that we had was that they tell you that they offer free shuttle service around the island. While we were there a couple got married at that hotel, and the bellhops were not available to shuttle us around. Then, the morning of the cruise, we wanted to go to early Mass, and was told that we could have a ride to Church, but not back to the hotel because they will begin shuttling people back and forth to the cruise terminal by the time Mass was over. All in all, the hotel did a great job trying to make us happy. They did after all shuttle us back from Mass. But, I did want to mention that just because the hotel may say that they have a free shuttle service, it is not always available when you need it. After the cruise, I spent one night at the Tremont House, another Wyndham Historic Hotel. I liked this hotel, but not as much as the Hotel Galvez. They are sister properties, so the amenities are similar. The Tremont House is about 1 block from the cruise terminal. If proximity is important to you, this is definitely the place to stay. The Hotel Galvez was almost 2 miles from the cruise terminal. So, now I've taken you through booking the cruise and arranging for lodging and transportation. Let's talk about what else you should do before you leave home. You should fill out your Fun Pass Check In http://www.carnival.com/, make a copy of it, and bring the copy with you. Also, you want to research the excursions at the ports of call. Reading the cruise reviews on this site will be very helpful for that. I recommend that you book your excursions online independent of Carnival. It will be less expensive, and arguably more enjoyable. Some people will recommend that you book your excursions through Carnival because if you do, they won't leave you in port. I booked all of my excursions independently and getting back to the ship was not an issue. In Mo Bay, I booked an excursion through Carolyn Barrett for the YS Falls and River Tubing (876) 382-6384 www.BarrettAdventures.com [email protected] I highly recommend this tour. Carolyn herself was our guide, and she has decades of experience in the tourism business. She is very informative, and a fantastic guide. She can speak to you about many varied topics, ranging from the bad Jamaican drivers to flowers that are indigenous to the area. On our tour there were a total of 6 in our group. It made for a great time because we had a more intimate experience. There was no BIG crowd all doing the same excursion. There was a rope to swing into the water, and we swam in the natural spring water. We also enjoyed lunch there, which was included in the cost of our tour. Carolyn also took us to Margaritaville so that we could enjoy some adult beverages. The cost of this tour was $80 per person, which is about half what you would pay doing Dunn's River Falls through Carnival. In Georgetown, Grand Cayman, I booked an excursion through Captain Marvin's 866-978-6364 [email protected] www.captainmarvins.com. I highly recommend this tour. We went snorkeling and then went to Stingray City. This time there were 8 people on our excursion. We got to the sites about an hour before the Carnival tour got to the exact same sites. And, the cost was $40 per person, about half of what I would have paid if I had booked it through Carnival. Once again, the tour guides were great, especially Captain Marvin's son Denver. They were very informative and gave us all sorts of information about the island. Now, I must also mention that if you book this tour, you have to walk about 2 blocks from the cruise terminal to their office. They want you there by 8:30 am. The ship will not dock in Grand Cayman. You have to take a tender to the island. In order to ensure that you get on the first tender, you have to get a tender ticket in the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge by 6:30 am. There will be a line that forms on the starboard (right) side of the showroom in the aisle. The line will form even prior to the Carnival employees entering the room. Make sure that you are among the first in line in order to get a ticket to get on the first tender. I cannot stress this enough if you decide to take this tour. Also, if there is more than one person in your party, each individual has to be present to get their own ticket. The tour ends fairly early so that you can eat lunch and explore Grand Cayman before returning to the ship on your own. Also note that Grand Cayman is expensive. Everything is about 25% more expensive than what you would expect to pay. In Cozumel, I tried to visit the Mayan Ruins in Tulum. This is not possible to do on your own because you have to tender to the island. That did not allow me time to catch the ferry to the mainland to go to Tulum. If you are interested in seeing Tulum, you have to book this tour through Carnival at this time. When the dock is rebuilt, then you may have the option of going on your own. But, I did grab a taxi for the entire day, which included a trip to the San Gervasio Ruins right there in Cozumel. They are not quite as impressive as Tulum, but it was still a sight to see. We went around the entire island, and at the end of the tour, we spent several hours at Paradise Beach. We ate lunch there and swam at the beach. There is a rock climbing wall and a trampoline there, which you may use for $8. Oh, and I almost forgot, the cost to rent the taxi for the day was $70 for 2. I skipped ahead a little. I want to talk about what to pack. · Unless you are a Cokeaholic, bring a 6 pack to last you for the week. I don't know about you, but I don't drink $44 worth of pop in a week. · Bring your own alcohol. I put in my checked bag. The porters brought it on. No problem. · Bring hats and sunglasses. · Bring an underwater camera. · Bring something warm to wear on the ship. They keep it quite cold. · Bring binoculars. · Bring Dramamine, especially if you've never cruised before. Better safe than sorry. · Pack a highlighter to highlight things you want to do in the Carnival Capers. That is a paper that they give you with daily, scheduled activities. · There are hair dryers in the rooms, but you have to hold down the trigger in order to use them. My girl doesn't like that kind. She was glad that she brought her own. · If you have a balcony room, bring a bungee cord to hold the door open. · Bring a power strip. There are several outlets in the suites, but only one in the other rooms. · Bring insect repellant. · Pack a small alarm clock. If you don't, it's not a big deal. They do have wake up calls. · I did not like the smell of the soap that Carnival provided. I was glad I brought my own. Embarkation was a breeze. I recommend that you get there early. I got there at about 11 am, and was on the ship by 12 o’clock noon. I did have the benefit of the VIP checkin because I stayed in a suite. But, from what I could see the lines were moving well. And even though they tell you that you can't go to your room until 2 pm, you can go earlier. I wish I had just gone as soon as I got on the ship to dump my carryon luggage. I opted for the late dinner. I did this because I didn't want to be rushed on the day of departure, and I didn't want to rush to dinner on the days in port. I ate at 8:30 pm in the Renoir restaurant. I recommend that if at all possible, you request the Monet restaurant. I was on the top floor of the Renoir, which is also the same deck as the lifeboats. So they keep the windows shut. If you eat at the Monet, then you are at the lower aft part of the ship. You will have magnificent views no matter where you sit in that restaurant. I won't go into much detail about the food because it is a matter of personal taste. I found the food to be adequate for the most part. It was neither the best nor the worst that I've ever had. I also opted for one night at the Point, the ship's upscale restaurant. I really enjoyed the food there. It's $30 per person more, but you won't get that same level of service for that amount of money anywhere else. It's a tremendous value. If you want to go to the Point, I recommend you make your reservation on the day you board the ship. We ate there on Tuesday night, which I thought was a great night for it because this was a "Fun Day at Sea." If you would like to purchase anything on the ship that you don't need right away, you should wait until later in the week. The ship is like Wal-Mart. The prices drop throughout the week. They have sales on different items in the stores and on the Spa packages. I won't comment much about the shows. Whether or not you enjoy them is also a matter of personal taste. If you want my opinion here goes: Phat Kat was funny. Deja, the magician was ok. They had a couple of talented singers, but mainly the shows were bad. Throughout the week, there were a lot of activities to keep you entertained. Remember you can do as much or as little as you want. If you just want to relax, I really recommend that you do it in the best place on the ship, the topless deck. Debarkation was not my favorite part of the vacation. They have to get a few thousand people off the ship in a hurry. Just try to be patient and have a positive attitude. If you can carry your own luggage off, then you may debark first. I was staying at a hotel that night, so I didn't try to rush off the ship. If you're flying out that day, consider booking a later flight to give yourself ample time to get off the ship. Once again, I had a fantastic time on this cruise. I sure hope that this review helps you to plan and enjoy your cruise. I most certainly did. If you have any questions that I can help you with, don't hesitate to email me at [email protected]  

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Sep 3, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This is my 7th cruise. I sailed with my husband, parents, and two other couples. We had a good time. I’d like to share the experience… We boarded in Galveston, which isn’t a pretty port by far, but is very convenient for us Texans (which most of the ship was full of). I was ecstatic about our cabin. I did my research for the perfect bang for my buck and got it in #7440. There are only 8 cabins like it

on the ship and if you like to lie on your private deck, its well worth it. Our deck was larger than the presidential suite my parents had. Speaking of, they were disappointed, not only in their cabin but also the VIP service it is suppose to buy. Other than getting through the embarkation line fast, there was no other quality feature. They have been on 14 cruises and report that you should be aware when buying a high-priced cabin on Carnival. It pales in comparison to other lines. That being said, we skipped out on muster (oops) and started our vacation. The days at sea were nice and the spa prices are noticeable lower than competitor cruise lines. My favorite day was Montego Bay, where I again, had done research and thanks to other reviewers found a fabulous resort called Sunset Beach Resort and Spa. For only $40pp you get use of all their amenities, unlimited drinks, and food. They had 3 gorgeous beaches, 4 fabulous pools, and plenty of layout seating. They have an area for kids as well. And… a nude beach. I was impressed. It was less than 5min from dock. Great find! The other two ports were Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We had been to them both before and did not do much on them. I went shopping for a specific perfume in Cozumel just to find the ship had it for a lower price. Back on the ship, I did notice that service (waiter, room steward, etc.) was not up to par with other lines. We were consistently the last table leaving the dining room (Monet). And found that most severs seemed ‘to want to be somewhere else’. That said, I found the casino staff wonderful. The only problem was that we noted this ship to have the tightest slot machines of any other. We weren’t getting a dime out of them. However, I will say that the highlight of the cruise was karaoke…and the Legends show. WOW! Yes, I auditioned and got to be a part of the show as Gloria Estefan. My family and I are all singers and we had the best time hanging out with the “fellow music lovers” each night. The karaoke host and dancers were all very sweet and accommodating. Suggestions: Do not try to bring DVDs (we tried that and the TVs’ are archaic and will not be compatible w/ DVD player), Bring your own drinks (b/c we saved much and my parents saved more…$1000 more), eat at Pointe Restaurant at least once, and if you do a massage, hold them to the entire time b/c they spend 15-20min trying to sell you more products/services under the guise of an “evaluation”. Overall, this is a reasonable ‘budget cruise’. Good for the price, but you will pay in service quality. I’m not sure if we will cruise Carnival anytime real soon, however the experience was not so bad that we will avoid it altogether. I hope you enjoy your next voyage. Safe sail’en!  

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Aug 6, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines We are a married couple, 33 and 24 years of age. We brought no kids. We have traveled a lot, but this was our first cruise. We researched cruises and prices online, and when we found what we were looking for; we contacted our local Great Southern Travel agency to set it up. Getting There Well, first of all, we drove down to Galveston from the Joplin, MO area in one day, 13 hours to be exact, and stayed at

the Super 8 motel in La Marque, TX. The hotel was not great…we had to change rooms our second night as the air conditioning broke, but it was cheap at $60 a night, and it was just off the highway and just a few miles from the port. Our stay in Galveston was pretty boring. We really did not think there was much to do for such a big city area. However, while visiting the sea wall, we did have the pleasure of eating at the local Saltgrass restaurant, and would highly suggest them. Embarking We got to the island early and drove around. We saw that people were getting in early, so did so ourselves. We started the process about noon, dropped of our luggage with a porter, and went to park in the provided parking, which was $10 a day ($70). There was cheaper parking available, but we knew this has security cameras and a regular police patrol. The shuttle brought us back to the Port Terminal, and it was pretty basic. Stand in line, go through a metal detector, stand in line some more, go to the main desk, set up the “Sail and Sign” Card and we were on the boat by 1:15pm (15 minutes before boarding was supposed to start). Room We had a Balcony Stateroom. There were 11 floors of living quarters; we were on the 8th floor on the right side of the boat, towards the front. We had a private balcony and could see the bridge from it. The room was wonderful. 2 beds put together to make a King sized bed. We had a down comforter and pillows. There was a big window to the balcony. We had a big couch, a big vanity, tons of closet space, a safe and wet bar. There was plenty of room for the 2 of us and our luggage. Our room steward, Archie, was wonderful. He brought us a bunch of extra pillows, ashtrays (Eric is a smoker), and kept us stocked on bottled water. He was also a joy to chat with. Dining First, I want to mention our waitress in the formal Dining room, The Renoir. We had late seating, and somehow managed to get a private table for two. We were right next to the waitress station, and Andari (Anne) was our waitress. She was simply wonderful. She was sweet, professional, and cute as could be. By the end of the cruise, she was like family, and we really hated to say goodbye. Food in the formal dining room was wonderful. Like everything else on the ship, it was all you can eat, just ask for seconds. If you don’t like anything on that night’s menu, you can always ask for steak or chicken. We do personally suggest you try the Bourbon Chicken, Eric’s personal favorite, and Danielle went nuts over the lobster tail. On the rest of the ship, we found 2 buffets, an oriental station, a pasta station, a fresh cut deli station, Sushi bar, coffee shops, a 24 hour pizza station, and a hamburger and hotdog station. All of it was good. Even the hotdogs were top quality! At the beginning of the cruise, they told us to eat everything that was not bolted down as we already paid for it. So we tried our best to do just that. All juice, standard coffee, and tea is free, however alcohol and soda does cost. We tried the room service, which is free, but did not try the upscale restaurant that costs more. We also suggest you take a moment for Tea Time at least once. Hot tea and pastries served in a temporarily non-smoking cigar bar, with live classical music. It is very enjoyable. Informative Every evening they would leave a small newspaper in our room with information on the following day’s activities, which was very useful in planning the next day’s activities. On a regular basis, they would have seminars for those that wished to attend, giving information on the activities, excursions, shopping and shopping tips, disembarking, etc. You were only uninformed if you chose to be. In the room, you could use an interactive menu to see charges and current bill for your “Sail and Sign” cards. Note: $10 a day, per guest, is automatically charged to your card from the beginning for gratuity which is distributed to all ship crew. We highly suggest extra cash tips to those you feel deserve it. Also, the charges of all the secondary card holders will all show on the primary card holders account information. Entertainment It is impossible to be bored on this cruise. From Broadway and Vegas style shows, to Comedians, from games, and interactive activities, there is always something to do. And there is, of course, the casino. The shows were pretty good, but we were more into the clubs. There is a Disco Club, a Karaoke bar, a rock bar, and our favorite, The Blues Club Piano Bar. Damian, the pianist/singer in the piano bar was simply amazing. He is truly talented, and a blast to hang out with. He was, by far, our favorite entertainer on the cruise. Drink prices are comparable to drinks in any bar on land. Eric’s favorite drink, the Banana Daiquiri (made best at the Casino Bar) was only $4.50 each. A 15% gratuity is added to all drink orders. Due to the activities, the constant photo stations, and even on ship shopping (we bought a beautiful sapphire ring on the ship), we never got the chance to swim while on ship, even though there was plenty of pools and hot tubs. There is just so much to do on this ship; you don’t have time to do it all! There is also the spa, where my wife won a free head, neck, and shoulder massage. There is no pressure to buy anywhere on the ship, and the sauna, steam room, and gym are free to use. Ports and Excursions Montego Bay, Jamaica This was a straight docking port, where we disembarked straight to land. Due to advice we found online, we chose not to do any excursions in Jamaica. Instead, we took a $4 (per person) cab ride to Sunset Beach, which turned out to be an excellent choice. This really should be an option offered by Carnival. For $40 (per person), far cheaper than any of the excursions, we were treated to access of an all inclusive resort right on the beach. His included unlimited food and booze, swimming, snorkeling gear, kayaks, a water park, all for the one price. Unfortunately, we could not find lockers for our belongings, but things were real safe there. We ended up spending most of the day at Sunset Beach, and then taking a cab ($5 each) to the Duty Free District to shop. If you are looking for rum, rum cakes, and coffee, we suggest you go to Karina’s. Free samples of everything and they are just sweet-hearts. Beware though, there will be people trying to sell you drugs. Don’t do it, most are cops, and we heard of several people being arrested for it. Also, the people are very aggressive trying to sell things. Sometimes you have to be firm to get them to leave you alone. Grand Cayman This was a tendering dock where we had to take smaller boats to the dock from the ship. This was our favorite port, it was also the cleanest and best maintained. In the morning we took the “Reef and Wreck Snorkel Tour”. This was wonderful, and took up the whole morning. First we went to a nice deep reef and snorkeled, and it was beautiful, then we got back on board the boat, and went to a wreck that was in the bay. This part was OK, but we would have rather spent more time at the reef, but the guides were wonderful. We had just enough time to grab a quick bite upstairs across the street from the tendering dock. In the afternoon, we took the “Stingray City Tour” We had a little rain going out, but no big deal. Once there, we had a blast swimming with, petting, holding, and even kissing the Stingray. This is a must do. After this, we had very little time to shop, and wish this was a port that we stayed at longer. From what we did see, some of the best shopping was here. Cozumel, Mexico This was also a tendering dock where we had to take smaller boats to the dock from the ship. We took the “Punta Sur Eco Park Mayan Ruin & Snorkel by Jeep Tour”. This took us through a protected park to a beautiful beach where we snorkeled and swam, to a partially buried Mayan ruin, and a beautifully restored Lighthouse, were we were served a free lunch. The park, which used to be a beautiful rain forest, had been nearly destroyed by a recent hurricane. This was a wonderful tour, but we would have liked to see the bigger Mayan Ruins and snorkeled more. After the excursion, we had about 2 hours to shop. Cozumel is much more expensive on their basic items than the rest of Mexico. But you can get some great deals on Jewelry, especially pearls, there. Disembarking This was the only headache of the whole cruise. We chose to do self assist where we carry our own luggage out, and we get to get off first. Good thing we did, as who knows when we would have finally gotten off. We were told that they would begin soon after 8am by floor, starting with the top. They finally got to our floor a little before 10am. We then waited in line for the sorriest security checkpoint I ever saw. No dogs, no searches, they took your word on what you declared…it was rather sad. We finally were at our car about 11:30am. We suggest you do as they say concerning the disembarking. One of the biggest problems was people coming down when it was not their turn and having to be sent back. Overall This was by far the best vacation we have ever had, and the first to far exceed any expectations we had. Other than the disembarkation, we have no complaints, and plenty of praise. Over 70 countries, and 60 languages were represented by the crew on this ship, and they were amazingly efficient. The teamwork involved had us in awe. Words cannot express our experience on this vacation, however we will say, thanks to this cruise, we are now addicted to cruises, and are already planning another one with Carnival.  

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Jul 23, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines Having never taken a cruise before I thought it would be a great relaxing vacation for me and my wife. We left our 2 yr old and 5 yr old with my parents on Sunday, and excitedly took the short drive to Galveston for a week long break. Our Carnival booking agent advised us to get there about 12:00pm and check in our luggage early. We arrived at 11:30, and spent the $70 to park for the week. After dropping off

our luggage, we stood in line for 2 hours to be checked in. When we got to the front we saw that there were 2 ticket agents checking people in. You would think that Carnival could afford a few more people to work the check-in counter. After getting through that line we were directed to another line to board the ship. This line at least moved a little faster. It only took us 30 to 45 minutes to get near the front. That’s when we discovered that this line was to have our pictures taken before boarding. While we were standing on our aching feet, the man who directed us to the line asked if anyone would like to bypass the picture and board the ship. As half the line behind us made a mad dash for the door of the boarding tunnel, we followed suit, only to discover that there was another long line in the tunnel. This line took another 30 to 45 minutes to get through. When we finally got on the ship, we were greeted inside the door by the staff holding trays filled with exotic looking drinks. My wife eye’s lit up as she asked for one thinking they were complimentary drinks to make up for the arduous boarding process. She was wrong. These were the drink specials for the day. Only $7.50 because they were in a commemorative plastic glass that you could keep…oh boy. We learned later that you could ask for the same drink in a regular glass for $3.50. We took her drink to the bar, so that I could get a 12oz Bud Light for $3.50 plus gratuities ($4.02). Do not confuse this gratuity with the $70 per person gratuity that will be put on your tab at the end of the trip. Oh, while we are talking about drinks, a warm 12oz soda was a little over $2.00 after gratuities. You can buy a soda card if you drink a lot of warm sodas. I prefer a cold soda poured over ice. On the second day I learned that they no longer stocked Bud Light in a 12oz can. Now they only had them in a 16oz aluminum bottle that can be purchased for $4.50 plus gratuities ($5.19). These cans don’t seem to get very cold in the inside even in an ice bucket, and they warm up before you can finish them. They also aren’t saving you much money. A 12 oz works out to $.33 per oz, and a 16oz works out to $.32 per oz. Although I prefer Bud Light, I switched to Miller Lite because they still had these in the 12oz can. After only 2 days of drinking beer, water, soda and what I call “girlie” drinks for my wife, at the pool, at dinner, and at the clubs, we were on pace for a $1000 bar tab. We started drinking more of the little cups of juice and water from the juice bar. We had our choice of orange, apple, and mango juice in the morning, in the afternoon they switched the mango juice for punch. The cups that they provide are about 4oz, so you have to make multiple trips. They obviously don’t want to encourage anyone to drink for free. The food was ok in the dining room, but our dinner partners were French Canadians who spoke little English. We only ate there twice as it was very uneasy sitting next to a family that seemed very nice, but you could only exchange a few awkward smiles with. We opted more for the buffet line which wasn’t that good. The pizza bar wasn’t bad, but there is only so much pepperoni pizza I can eat. Their variety of pizza wasn’t very good….no meet lovers, no plain sausage, no ham, and no plain cheese. If you wanted sausage you had to get it with onions and green peppers, or on some other strange pizza. The hamburgers and French fries were also not bad. We ate in both of these places quite a bit. The deli that was only open at certain times was very limited in their selections. I got the roast beef sandwich twice and it was alright the first time. The second time I ordered it, the roast beef was very red, so I dumped it, and went to the pizza bar. The seldom open Chinese food counter was very limited in their selections. I had the chicken kung pow. It wasn’t horrible, but I’ve had a lot better. The best food we had was in the ports. In Jamaica we had some pretty good nachos at Margarita Ville. In Cozumel, we found a beautiful beach with a quaint little beach bar where we risked eating some enchiladas. They were delicious, and we suffered no ill effects. We didn’t eat in Grand Cayman for a couple reasons: price and time. Getting on and off the ship was arduous. In Cozumel it took us 2 hours to get back on the ship. In Cozumel and Grand Cayman, we had to take a small boat back and forth to the ship. There was a lot of line waiting at both of these ports. Jamaica was the only port where the ship actually docked which made it a little easier to leave and return. The room was very nice. We paid $2,400 ($1,200 each) for me and my wife to have a balcony room. We sat on the balcony quite often because going out on the ship was ridiculously expensive. One night we saw 3 shooting stars. The sky was very clear and filled with stars. I thought it was rare to see a shooting star because I’ve never seen a sky like that. Ok, enough about the good stuff. Our room neighbors came with several friends and family. They made it very difficult to get any sleep. They would return to their cabin between 1am and 2am laughing and carrying on. The doors to the cabin must have been made of paper because we could hear everything. In the morning their kids were running up and down the hall yelling and screaming on their way to “Camp Carnival”. I don’t think we got more than 5 hours of sleep a night. I get 6 hours at home with my kids. Speaking of kids, this ship was filled with them. They were everywhere. Even in the adult’s only pool. The ice cream, pizza, and hamburger bars are next to the adult pool. The kids were all around it, and very often got in for a while before being chased off. Oh, and the adult pool is below the top deck, so there is no breeze. They didn't play any music around it either. The better pools were in the middle of the ship where all the kids were allowed to be. This is not a relaxing vacation for couples. It is definitely geared more towards family. Don’t let a booking agent tell you any different. In the end I estimate that we spent a total of about $4,000. I could have spent a lot less, went to one destination, and relaxed. Never again will I take a cruise.  

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Jul 23, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines Summary: Our family of four left for our cruise on the Carnival Conquest on July 23, 2006. My husband and I are in our 30s, and we have a 10 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. This was our 4th cruise, but our first on the Conquest. Our overall rating of the cruise is 10 out of 10! We had a wonderful time! I read a lot of reviews prior to our cruise, and they helped so much. However, I didn’t read many

reviews written by people with kids near my children’s age so wanted to share our experience. Embarkation: We live about 20 miles from Galveston, so were able to get a ride to and from the cruise terminal. (Parking seemed plentiful, just didn’t see a reason to leave our car there all week if we didn’t need to…) We arrived at the terminal around noon, and delivered our bags to a porter, who asked us to take anything with us we’d need before 5:00 pm. We didn’t need anything (we thought) other than what was in our carry-on bag so we proceeded inside. The security line and sail and sign lines looked really long, but moved along nicely. We were through both lines in approximately one hour. Then, we were sent to another line. The waiting area with chairs was full so they were lining up cruise passengers along the edges of the room. We waited here another half hour or so, and then finally began boarding the ship. (This line didn’t move too fast because of everyone stopping for their embarkation photos.) Overall not a terrible experience, but expect some waiting. We’ve cruised before but this is the largest ship we’ve been on and we were impressed. We made our way around to the glass elevators and proceeded to the 8th level to see if our room was ready. (They told us to wait until 2:00pm, but it was about 1:45pm by this time so we decided to see if the room was ready and it was.) After stopping in our room, we left to grab lunch on the lido deck and explore the ship. Just a note here, we were offered a rum punch drink at least 4 times from the time we stepped on the ship until we set down to eat lunch. Finally, they twisted our arms – I figured if I’d drink one they’d quit harassing me! Really though, it was good and I didn’t mind too much… I was just surprised at how hard they were pushing these drinks. Stateroom/Balcony: We were in Stateroom 8277 and really liked the location; it was forward, and about 5 or 6 rooms down from the elevators. We splurged and booked a balcony room and it was well worth it! We’ve had ocean view and inside cabins before and now we’re spoiled! To give an idea of the layout - our room had a nice size bathroom on the right when we walked in and three large closets on the left. Then, walking on into the room there were bunk beds to the right for the kids, and a desk/vanity with drawers, our mini-bar (we never asked for the key) the television, etc. to the left. And finally, past that on the right were the two twin beds pushed together to make a king size bed. And to the left, the door to the balcony. The room had a lot of storage – plenty for the four of us. The balcony was not huge, but roomy enough with two chairs and a little table. We had worried for months about the kids and the balcony, and whether they could fall overboard – not a problem. The balconies have a privacy wall between staterooms and the front of the balcony was glass, not rails of any kind. And, it was tall enough that it came up to the kid’s chests, so not like they could climb it, or fall over it or anything. I was relieved when I saw it because it looked very safe. Throughout the week our room steward kept everything very tidy, and delighted us with the usual towel animals and chocolates each evening. Muster Drill: Hot, miserable pain in the rear. But, I realize it’s totally necessary. On other ships my muster station has been in one of the lounges, so it wasn’t so bad but on the Conquest we were outside on deck 4 and stood in lines about 4 people deep looking straight forward. It was hot outside and crowded and just not fun. Dining Room: Our dinner was in the Monet dining room at 5:45 pm. Overall a good experience in this dining room. We missed dinner the first night because our bags didn’t make it to our room until 6:30 pm and so we were not dressed for dinner (small gripe with the late delivery of the bags). Other than that we had dinner in the Monet every night. Saw no need to try The Pointe Supper Club, though we heard it was delicious. Our waiter was very efficient, though not very talkative and was assisted by a lovely gal who made up for his “silence”. We were seated at a booth, and that was fine with us. We aren’t anti-social or anything, just enjoy not having to make small talk with other guests when dining with two tired children after a long day in port… The 5:45 seating seemed a little early to us, but a late seating would just be too late with the kids. Shows: Some of the shows on board were great and some were just okay to us. We really liked the Welcome Aboard show with the ventriloquist, and the show with the comic hypnotist. The kids enjoyed Deja the magician (though we really did not) and we all thought the production show, Point and Click, was just okay. Some nights we were doing other things or just didn’t feel like a show so missed the production show, Formidable, the comedian Phat Cat, and the Guest Talent Show. Casino: There is a nice casino on board, I guess, though we lost quite a bit of money here! I played slots and have never seen such tight machines. A couple times I hit $60 but spent so much more than that… My husband played blackjack and went up and down all week, finishing about $80 down. Even though we were losers overall, we did have some fun here. The dealers were all nice and very friendly. Montego Bay: Since I’d read a lot of reviews prior to my cruise, I knew Montego Bay could be *interesting* if we didn’t plan our day wisely. So, we decided to go to the Sunset Beach resort. It was a short ride from the cruise terminal and cost $40 pp to get in for adults and $20 pp for kids. The resort is all inclusive, so included food, drinks, a small water park (pools, two waterslides, lazy river) and of course the beach, snorkeling, kayaks, etc. We had a great day here! We really liked the waterslides (even us grown-ups). Also, very pleased that it wasn’t crowded here at all. The lunch was good, we ate at the Grille outside and had jerk chicken, and some fried tortilla thing filled with beef (forget what they called it). The kids had grilled cheese and hot dogs, so everyone was pleased with their selection. The drinks are good, but served in tiny cups. I didn’t find them to be watered down or weak like I’d read. The kids ordered virgin pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris and thought that was cool. You can definitely spend the whole day here. We’d do it again in a minute! Grand Cayman: This was a beautiful port! We booked an excursion through Captain Marvin’s (www.captainmarvins.com) to snorkel and visit the Stingray City Sandbar. We had a great time and were so glad we booked independently rather than through Carnival for this trip. We saw the Carnival sponsored group and it looked crowded. If you book with Captain Marvin’s you’ll be with no more than 24 people. When you get to Grand Cayman, walk a few blocks to your left and you’ll see Captain Marvin’s. After we checked in, we boarded an air-conditioned bus and had a brief tour of the island on our way to our boat. We got on our boat and traveled a short distance (15 minutes or so) to our snorkeling stop. The coral reef and fish here were amazing. Be sure to pick up an underwater camera for this trip before you leave home! After the snorkeling, we went to the Stingray City Sandbar where you could look down and see the stingrays. It was very neat! We jumped into the water (only about waist deep) and the stingrays rubbed right up against our legs. The guides told us that’s how they “make friends” with us. I’ll admit I thought it was creepy at first but then got used to it. They are very friendly animals! We got to pet them, hold them, have our pictures taken with them, feed them, etc. It was very cool and everyone should try this if they get the chance. It was reasonably priced, especially compared to the similar Carnival excursion. The price was $35 pp for my husband and I and $27.50 pp for our children. Tendering in Grand Cayman: you need a tender ticket in Grand Cayman during the morning and those with a Carnival excursion get the first tickets. We booked our Captain Marvin’s trip for 10:45 so we wouldn’t be stressed about getting off the boat. By 9 or 9:30 tickets were no longer needed so we didn’t have any trouble with tendering here. Cozumel: We’d been to Cozumel before on other cruises, so knew what to expect from this port. We decided to have a more laid back day here so didn’t book any excursions. Instead we shopped in the morning, then went back to the ship to change into our swimsuits and took a cab to Paradise Beach. Shopping here is fun, and the prices are very good. You can get some great bargains here! Paradise Beach is very nice and pretty, though it was a bit crowded. Our cab ride to and from the beach was about $14 each way. You can go to the beach for free, including chairs and umbrellas. But, if you want to use their “water toys” (water trampoline, water iceberg, floats, etc.) you can buy a wristband for $8. I thought this was reasonable, and we all got wristbands. They do have an employee who goes around in a kayak to make sure those using the “toys” have a wristband. I heard him tell a few people they needed a wristband to climb the iceberg, jump on the water trampoline, etc. and they were very nasty to the employee there. I couldn’t believe it! A note here, the water gets very deep very quickly at this beach. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable taking very small kids to this beach. My kids are older and are pretty good swimmers so I didn’t worry about them too much – mostly just floated around the iceberg watching them climb to the top and jump in the water. They loved it here! We had lunch before going to the beach so didn’t order from their menu, but did have a drink. My husband ordered a beer and got me a strawberry daiquiri and after he tipped the bartender he told my husband to take a drink of the daiquiri. He did, and the bartender took it back and added more rum. It was a very good daiquiri after that! Tendering in Cozumel: In Cozumel the staff was passing out tender stickers on the lido deck. Just go grab a sticker, and head in for breakfast. They’ll call your sticker number in 30-45 minutes. Easy tendering here, too. Camp Carnival: Camp Carnival does a great job keeping the kids on board entertained. There were 1100 kids on our cruise, and I swear you would have never known it! Kids attending Camp Carnival in the 9-11 group have the option to sign themselves in and out of activities. My kids really liked this idea, but I’m not ready for that. Call me overprotective, but the idea of my kids roaming the ship unsupervised just doesn’t sit well with me. So, when we completed the Camp Carnival registration I marked “No” that they could not sign themselves in and out. This prompted a Camp Carnival counselor to visit with me and talk me into letting them sign in and out. She said they could not take part in any of the planned scavenger hunts if I didn’t allow them to sign themselves in and out (which prompted the kids to beg me to allow it) and I reluctantly agreed. I just made the agreement with the kids that they were not to sign out unless we had predetermined that they could and that we had a meeting place. And, this worked out fine. The 9-11 year old Camp Carnival Caper is filled with fun activities and the kids enjoyed taking part in some of the activities. My advice here is to not overdo it – I gave each of my kids a different colored highlighter and let them highlight which activities looked good to them. This way they’re choosing what is fun for them and I’m not forcing them to go so I can do something different. On Friday night, there was a “Late Night Party” from 10 pm – 3 am. The cost was $26 per child, and $14 for an additional sibling. They planned a video arcade tournament, games, pizza and ice cream, PS2, etc. The kids had a great time at this party! Other good things for kids: When the kids weren’t in Camp Carnival they liked the pools and the waterslide (when the line wasn’t too long). Also, the Conquest has a nice video arcade (though most games took 4 tokens). If you give your kids the privilege of charging to their sign and sail cards they will be able to get up to $20 in tokens per day on their card. We didn’t give our kids charging privilege but just in case you do… Last, there are a few channels on your room television that offer “family” movies. I know the kids watched the Chronicles of Narnia and Big Momma’s House 2 a couple times. Also, we did one pay per view movie at $8.99. I wish my kids weren’t such big TV watchers, but it’s how they wind down for bed, so I was glad for the options. Disembarkation: We had too many bags to do self-assist debarkation, so packed up our bags and left them outside Saturday night. After the self-assist debarkation passengers were done, they began calling the different colored luggage tags to disembark. We got up Sunday and went to breakfast in the dining room around 8:30. After breakfast, we headed up to the video arcade and the kids played games until they called our luggage tag color. Our luggage tag was called around 10:00 I’d guess, and we found our luggage (this is a mad house), got through customs, found our ride, and were home by 11:45 am. Not too bad. Needs Improvement: Just a few minor gripes: (1) Hair Dryers are in the rooms, but don’t have an on/off switch. Instead you have to hold down a “trigger”. It was just a pain to hold the hair dryer a particular way and hold that trigger and dry my hair…I missed my own hair dryer. (2) Lido deck lines – the food on lido deck is fine, but during peak times (i.e. breakfast) the lines are just ridiculous. Hard to really enjoy the breakfast buffet when you have to wait in line for 15 minutes then search for a clean table to sit down. A side note – the omelet line is long, but worth it! Yummy! (3) Photo prices – the Carnival photographers are everywhere and take great pictures. But, most are printed up as 8x10’s and cost $21.99 each. I don’t know about everyone else, but I just don’t need that many 8x10’s of myself and my family. If Carnival would print some smaller photos and price them reasonably, they’d make it up in volume! I bought two 8x10’s – and there were other nice photo’s there, but for me $44 was enough to spend on pictures. Also, due to the size of this ship and its 3,000+ passengers, the photo gallery is often a madhouse with people searching for their photos. Do yourself a favor and go to the photo gallery when you see a break in the madness. Best kept secrets: Sur Mer restaurant – this is a seafood restaurant above the lido deck that has great bouillabaisse and awesome fish and chips. Never saw it crowded up here. If you don’t look for it you won’t find it with all the other offerings on lido (buffet, Chinese, deli, pizza, etc.). Things to bring: • Hair dryer – reason mentioned above • Alarm clock – we thought we’d rely on our cell phone clocks but when we got out to sea our service switched to some international carrier and the times on our phones changed to something crazy… • Bungee cord – if you have a balcony, bring a bungee cord to hold the door open – the sounds of the ocean are so soothing • Booze – OK, Carnival says no alcoholic beverages, but we did sneak a few. We took a twelve pack of beer and a bottle of rum. It’s just nice to mix your own rum punch and have a drink on the balcony under the stars. (Hint: Fruit punch from Lido deck with a shot of rum = great rum punch.) And, our cabin steward seemed more than willing to keep our beer on ice for us. • Electric strip – cabin has one outlet. We needed the strip for our cell phone charger, curling iron, digital camera charger, etc. • Highlighters – handy to highlight activities you don’t want to miss in your Carnival Caper Overall, we had a great time and I hope this review will be helpful! We liked this cruise so well I’m going to try to get a group together to do this cruise again in about 18 months!    

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Jul 9, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This cruise was a blast! All in all a wonderful experience that far exceeded what we were expecting from Carnival. This was only my second cruise—my first was on Windstar and I certainly realized ahead of time that it would be an entirely different type of cruise. Embarkation—We parked at a lot near the terminal. The cost was $50 for the whole week if you pre-paid online. Highly recommended, so do your research.

We had dropped our bags with a porter at 1:30 and proceeded to park. We then walked to the ship as the line for the parking lot’s bus was really, really long. Carnival said not to arrive at the port prior to 1:30 and we followed that recommendation. I think we were the only ones who followed that advice, as we had to be numbers 3000-3004 in line. All moved quickly and we were on the ship within an hour. We found our way to our rooms to catch the end of the World Cup final. The ship’s staff was elated when Italy won as the Captain and his staff was Italian. When the game was over, it was time for the lifeboat drill. When that was over, we got a hot dog on the Lido Deck. We then went back to our rooms and our luggage was there. We then unpacked and got settled. All in all a very good first impression. The Ship—the whole thing is decorated and named after French Impressionist Artists. A bit over the top; tacky in my opinion. Considering the amount of unsupervised hooliganism by the 1100 kids on this sailing, I can only imagine what this ship goes through week in and week out. It is very well maintained and very clean for the most part. The bathrooms could have been a bit cleaner and the lack of paper towels in lieu of hand dryers is annoying. The public spaces, decks, pools, dining rooms and bars are all impressive. The ship is huge and fun to explore. Our Staterooms—we had two rooms on the Riviera Deck aft. We have three children and needed connecting rooms. There are a surprisingly small number of connecting rooms on the Conquest. One would think that there would be more with all the families on Carnival cruises. We would have preferred a higher deck, but nothing else connecting was available. The staterooms were surprisingly roomy and far exceeded my expectations. There was a lot of storage and the rooms never seemed cluttered or too small Dining—we were at the 5:45 seating in the Monet dining room. There are two dining rooms and which you are assigned depends on the seating time you select. Both dining rooms are nearly identical and it makes no difference to which you are assigned. The food is OK and was probably innovative in 1982, but is really just OK. The whole service experience more than made up for the food. Our service team, Richard and Dexter were extraordinary. Both knew the kids’ preferences and ours by the second night. We definitely felt pampered and the leisurely, nearly two-hour dinner was something we looked forward to every night. The beverage steward, Sabina, was superb. She was a delight who wore the absolute best smile on the ship. We saw her late at night on a daily basis, as she was also a cocktail server in a bar. The staff is amazing and they are seen working morning, noon and night in various positions around the ship. Lido Deck Dining—Buffets were, for the most part, mediocre. Breakfast was the same every day as was lunch. Long lines during peak times each day. By the end of the cruise we were eating in the Monet whenever we could. They had breakfast and lunch service from a menu. Again, we thoroughly enjoyed the service—much better than battling long buffet lines. The bright spot on Lido were the pizza, hot dogs, and burgers. All were top-notch and well utilized by our kids. There was also a window serving Chinese stir-fry and another serving deli sandwiches—both were excellent alternatives to the buffets. The soft serve ice cream was also a huge hit! The Pointe—this is the Conquest’s supper club. You pay an extra $30 per person to dine here and it is worth every penny! The food is phenomenal, cooked perfectly, and presented as artfully as I have ever seen. Service is also extraordinary. My wife and I dined here alone on our last night. Had we dined in here earlier on the cruise, we would have gone again. The Bars and Nightclubs—Were numerous and action packed. We hung out in the piano bar, Blues. It was a sing-along bar with a piano player names Brad Alexander. Very entertaining, but it took awhile to get the crowd going. Karaoke was good as well—they spend the week auditioning guests for the final show on Saturday night—Carnival Legends. There were a bunch of other bars as well and, of course all the pool bars. Drinks are strong, better quality and priced more reasonably than I expected. The Casino—Smokey and nasty, just like Vegas. Looked large and bountiful in terms of offerings. Other than losing $5 on slots, we spent zero time in here. The Lobby—very nice with piano music and an attractive bar. The purser’s desk was staffed with outstanding attendants. Shows—Some great, some not so great. The comedy was really good; the magic show featuring “Deja” who was apparently flown in Vegas, was enjoyed by the kids. “Point and Click” was flat-out lame. Carnival Legends, the guest talent show was awesome—a great way to wrap-up an outstanding week. There were a couple nights we missed, so I can’t comment on all the shows. Todd, the cruise director emceed the shows and he is superb. He has to be the best Carnival has to be entrusted with their largest ship! He truly is outstanding!!! Bingo—I was shocked at how often bingo is played on-board. We partook just once prior to a show as we are not big bingo players. Great people watching. Art Auctions—Seemed incredibly random. This feature must be on every ship because it’s on the comment card at the end of the cruise. I can’t believe that this is so lucrative and popular on a Carnival cruise. It’s advertised constantly and there is a brochure included every night at turndown. Coffee Bar—Alexandra from Bosnia was an absolutely exceptional barista. She was one of the nicest, most talkative members of the crew—a delight in every way! We drink Starbuck’s Coffee almost every day and the quality of these non-branded coffee drinks aboard Carnival were very, very good—well worth the nominal extra charge. Pictures—I was shocked at how often they take your picture on the ship, at the ports, etc. If you want to buy a wallet size or 5x7 print, you first have to shell out $21.95 for the 8x10 that has already been developed. One picture was sufficient for us, as it seemed like a rip-off. If they got wise and sold 8x10 pictures for $10, they would probably sell ten times the photos—and they’re already produced! Shopping on Board—Wait for the ports. The stuff on the ship is over-priced, as one would expect. Camp Carnival—our two little ones participated daily and loved it! They have to be signed in and signed out a few times each day. This is not an all-day day care center, which is good. They go for a couple of hours in the morning, a few in the afternoon, and again in the evening until 10pm. They can go until 3am if you wish, but it costs extra past 10pm. On port days, they can spend all day if the parents have Carnival arranged excursions and they wish to leave the kids on the ship. We did our own thing on port days and the kids came with us. The Camp Carnival counselors are amazing and clearly love the kids. Signing in and out often involves waiting in line, as there is a process involved. The process is very, very secure. We had complete peace of mind leaving the kids in their care. An A+ in every way!!! Selling—Carnival has the selling of extras down to a science. It seems overwhelming and unnecessary. It really gets old. From the art auctions, to the gift shop specials, to the books on everything from towel folding to Carnival Buffets—it’s too much. Shore excursions should be arranged through research on your own, as you will save a bundle. This aspect of the cruise was a turn-off. Port #1 Jamaica—Through this website, we learned of a place in Montego Bay call the Sunset Beach Resort, an all-inclusive resort that offers day passes to cruise passengers. There were numerous pools, an awesome beach, lazy river, water slides, food and drinks, etc. All of this cost us $40 for the day per person. The similar Carnival excursion to an all-inclusive resort was $79. Sunset Beach was about 2 minutes from the ship—we had a great time and highly recommend this option. Food was OK and drinks were small and required constant trips to the bar, but it was well worth it. As for the Jamaican people, they are incredibly friendly. The one note of caution—they assume all Americans are rich and will attempt to take advantage of this. No matter what they say, what they are offering, from a coconut to a cab ride—be sure to establish up front what the charge will be. Bring American Dollars, enough for all the ports. I brought $100 and should have brought about $500. I was forced to use ATMs on the ship and in ports and the service charge was between $8 and $11. Most places, but not all, accept credit cards and with nebulous exchange rates for credit card transactions, I would have felt more comfortable using cash (everyone accepts American Dollars) for small, miscellaneous purchases. Port #2 Grand Cayman—Beautiful water, friendly and expensive. Unless you are looking for a duty-free deal on a Rolex, don’t bother shopping. We didn’t do Stingray City and regret it. We elected to explore the port on our own and were back on the ship by noon. Tendering was easy as the ship arrives early and most people were off the ship before we finished breakfast. Port #3 Cozumel—By far our favorite. Tendering was much lengthier as the ship arrives later. The process was more entailed and it took us about an hour, as the folks with Carnival excursions get off the ship first. We took a cab to a beach resort—Paradise Beach. The place was about 15 minutes away and was great. We rented jet skis and hung out for a while and then went back to town to do some shopping. The water on Cozumel is absolutely glorious! The number of shops is almost overwhelming so stay with the Carnival recommended shops, as they are good. Shopkeepers are pushy but friendly and very eager to show you their goods. It was really a lot of fun. We got back on the ship too early and decided to leave the little ones on the ship with our 14 year-old while we went back on the island for some more shopping and a drink. Tendering back on was a cinch compared to that first push off the ship. The island was clearly ravaged by Hurricane Wilma last year but has done a remarkable job getting things put back together. Debarkation—Since we were on Riviera Aft, we were the last to be called. It took forever to get off the ship and it was past 1:00 by the time we got through customs. It was no big deal, as we didn’t have a plane to catch. Would have been quicker to do the self-assist. We would have done this if we didn’t have the kids with us. With all the luggage we had, this just wasn’t an option for us. If you are concerned about getting off quickly, the higher your deck, the sooner you are called. Have fun!    

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Jul 2, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines The Conquest is in the largest class of ships that Carnival sails, and was put into operation in late 2002. The boat is has an Impressionist theme with a large impressionist medley mural in the atrium. Also, there are Monet, Renoir and Cezanne named dining rooms, and impressionist style prints all around the ship (including a Degas in the stateroom bathroom). While there are many more balcony staterooms on

this ship than other Carnival vessels, bigger is not always better -- they only times this cruise really disappointed (other than our cabin location on Deck 6) were due to the demands that feeding and pampering over 3000 guests puts on the Ship's systems. Whereas when I cruised before with Carnival I felt that the service was always exceptional, on this journey the service was polite but harried. The staff didn't have time for the attention to detail that was noteworthy on my previous Carnival cruise; while I tend to notice these small things more than most, the whole family was disappointed by the lack of towel animals (we got 3 towel animals over the course of the 7 day cruise). If you aren't familiar with towel animals, they are a cruise ship signature: when your room gets made up, the stewards will often twist clean towels into amusing animal shapes. Some practical notes: make sure you pre-register online (they call it "Fun-Pass" registration) -- it will save you time the day you sail. Also, the spa times and exercise classes fill up quick, so if you want to have a treatment or take a class you should book those on your first day aboard the boat. There's a card you can buy that will allow you unlimited soft drinks, which if you're a soda drinker is probably a good deal (we aren't, and we didn't but one). Shore excursions on a full cruise can fill up quickly -- you can book them before your cruise from the Carnival web site as long as you book them more than 7 days in advance. You should also research www.shoretrips.com as you can do most of the same excursions at discounted prices by cutting out Carnival as the middle man. Day 0: Travel to Galveston Traveling over 4th of July brings with it a host of issues that most travelers would not normally face; huge lines at the airport, peak hotel pricing, hotel unavailability, hot humid weather, capacity cruise shops, etc... We faced all of those but the worst part of our first travel day, which really was just about getting us near the cruise ship was the run-down hotel we stayed at in Galveston, The Days Inn. The place was dirty and smelled bad, it was next to the freeway, and it wasn't near anything interesting to walk to. If you're going to arrive early in Galveston for a cruise, I recommend staying pretty much anywhere but here. That said: for a family of four, we traveled by cab from the Houston Hobby airport to Galveston for $85 including tip (the shuttle service is $35 per person, so if you're two or fewer travelers, that's the better deal). Day 1: Embarkation Embarkation out of Galveston was a lot more painless than my previous cruise leaving out of Long Beach had been. Probably it was the benefit of experience; for starters, we arrived early at the cruise terminal: 12:30pm for a 1:30 embarkation start time. The Galveston cruise terminal has you waiting mostly indoors in an air conditioned warehouse-like space, which is a nice change from Long Beach's scorching outdoor lines. We were on the boat and in our cabin by 1:45pm, which allowed us to drop our bags and start the cruise a couple hours earlier than I had expected. Also, we were among the last out to the life boat drill, which made it much more bearable than I remembered from our previous cruise. However, the fun quickly stopped when a loud fanfare made me realize that our balcony room was situated right above the concert hall where some mediocre vegas-type show was blaring away -- and we could hear every note from our stateroom. Here's the thing about the Conquest: you pretty much want to be higher than deck six. If you're on deck six or below, you're almost guaranteed noise pollution in your room. And it's not just the fore part of Deck six where our room was -- if you're not over the theater, you're over the disco. Unfortunately, the cruise was completely full and they couldn't find another cabin for us, and while they sent me an apologetic letter on the 2nd day at sea, they didn't really have an answer to my complaint or offer any remediation. Bizarrely, the information desk seriously suggested that if I kept complaining that they might be more accommodating. Day 2: First Sea Day We had a nice family playtime at Camp Carnival with the children, and also some nice family swim time. I went down the water slide with my nephew and was happily surprised at how much fun it was (even though we waited over 15 minutes for our turns). I'm not really into the "loud music, drink until you're sunburned and silly" type of atmosphere that prevails on deck on Carnival ships, but I did my best to ignore it. It didn't really bother the rest of my family, and I'm sure some people would find it really enjoyable. The band at the Sun Deck in the afternoon was good, if too loud. I didn't order it, but at dinner several family members had the Lobster, which was quite good. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the duck. All in all the food at the Monet dining room is very good --- which is an impressive feat when you think of feeding 3000+ guests and 1500+ crew members. Day 3: Second Sea Day Carnival has a reputation for the best pizza at sea, but frankly it's mediocre, at least on the Conquest. They dress it up with pretty Italian names, but it's still just a cut above Domino's. The kids like it though, so we eat it. This evenings' entertainment was very good. There was a hypnotists/comedy act that had the audience in stitches, and after show, there was a surprisingly good Jazz trio playing in Alfred's lounge. My nephew and I played cards and listened to the music until late. Day 4: Montego Bay My in-laws did the "Dunns Falls and Dolphin Experience" excursion, which sounded like a blast although the Falls climb was very apparently very challenging. My daughter and I did the Coral Sea Submarine tour. This is a simple glass bottom boat for checking out the coral reefs. Unfortunately, you can't see well through the glass -- it's not like a diving mask. However, the crew was exceptionally friendly, and the snorkeling was good. Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville is a $4 shuttle from the cruise terminal, and a lot of the guests went there. It's basically like a cruise ship on land with food, alcohol, hot tubs, pools, a big waterslide, and two huge, fun-seeming ocean trampolines. For cigar aficionados, you can buy Cuban cigars in Montego Bay; in the cruise terminal there was a store with a humidor stocking one variety of Romeo y Julieta, a few types of Cohiba and some others I didn't recognize -- not a fantastic selection, but certainly the greatest hits. Day 5: Grand Cayman We had a huge lightning storm all night, and when my excursion to the stingray sandbar was scheduled to leave at 6:45 am, it was pouring rain and thundering, so we didn't go. Carnival politely refunded us, in spite of their no refund policy, which was nice. When it cleared up, I tendered to the Island with my family; other than some cute crabs on the rocks, the town is just a bunch of tourist shops and banks (i.e. "offshore banks"). We had a good smoothie at the Jail House, and I had a great cup of Cuban espresso at a Cuban Cigar shop. I don't remember the name of the place, but they had an excellent selection of Cuban cigars and cigar paraphernalia. Our in-laws enjoyed their rainy tour of the stingray sandbar and the turtle farm. Day 6: Cozumel The night after Grand Cayman we had another bad storm -- the next morning, a rumor went around that lightning had struck the ship twice during the storm and I believe it given the amount of lightning and thunder I observed. My wife likened the lightning-illuminated black seascape to images from "The Perfect Storm." In spite of that, Cozumel was our favorite day. It turned sunny and it was easy to find a nice beach to swim at: we took a $15 cab to Paradise Beach where there is no entrance fee and they have free chaise-lounges and sun umbrellas. You can rent kayaks and buy drinks, which is how they make their money (we had an excellent smoothie and some of the best tortilla chips I've had in my life) -- and the beach is fantastic: clear, warm water, and white sand. Day 7: Sea Day A nice sunny day; the kids had a good swim. We were pretty sick of hearing Rod Stewart and Sade out by the pool -- they played the same songs over and over, every day. Most of the family enjoyed the 'chocolate buffet,' although they all said that they liked the spectacle of all that chocolate more than the chocolate itself. I took a spinning class which was shorter and less challenging than the class I normally take at home -- but it was still a nice break in the day. I wasn't disappointed that it was our last day on the ship -- what with the loud nights, repetitive music and stormy weather, I think the whole family was looking forward to getting back home. Day 8: Debarkation Another disadvantage of being on deck six is that there are five decks that debark before you (11, 10, 9, 8, and 7). If you want to get off the boat quickly, I recommend only taking luggage that you can manage yourself (then you can take advantage of "self-assist" debarkation) -- if you have the staff unload your luggage to the port, you have to wait a lot longer both to get off the boat and to get through customs. Carnival runs a tight ship (pun intended). The crew works long hours with no breaks, for months at a time, and as we disembarked, they were already loading up the next set of passengers to run the voyage again. I think the ship could probably benefit from an occasional break for maintenance, and the crew could certainly use a holiday. All in all, I would recommend the Conquest for families interested in a Western Caribbean cruise, but with these caveats: don't go during high season (to avoid a full ship and difficult Galveston hotel bookings) and book a room above deck 6.  

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Jun 25, 2006

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Carnival SHOWS/ENTERTAINMENT: There is more to do that you can ever get around to doing. We did see the signature show in the main lounge, "Formidable" (say it in French - for mid DAH bluh), and rate it about a 7 on the Show-O-Meter. Maybe we sat too close, but we could see some holes in the dancers stockings and one actually had the sole flopping off the bottom of her shoe. The female lead singer was way too nasal, and the male was

way too show-tune. I think they've peaked. The comedy shows were good, even though we don't routinely stay up that late for the midnight R-rated show. One clinker: an illusionist called 'Deja' was the headliner after leaving Montego Bay. The cruise director billed her as having 'flown in from Las Vegas' for the show, which is hogwash because looking at other reviews this seems to be a standard booking for her. Also, judging from the caliber of her show if she is playing anywhere in Vegas it is the bus station. Horrible. Do yourself a favor, if you are thinking about taking the time to see 'Deja' find a maintenance closet and slap yourself in the groin with a hammer. Then go watch karaoke. Most of the rest is traditional cruise-ship: Newlywed Game, Guest Talent Show, Hairy Chest, Survivor, so on. We've seen all these on every other ship but since the guests are different it is always fun to watch. Bottom line: Average. ONBOARD SHOPS: Expensive. The only bargain here is the duty-free liquor. Even when they have their special sales, the merchandise can still be bought for that price stateside. Don't get caught up in the hype. Bottom line: Average. PORTS OF CALL: Your 'Super Shopper' is going to be having talks the day before each port as to which shops are 'recommended.' Understand that these stores have paid Carnival a fee to be 'recommended' and these recommendations are NOT based on any special value you might get. If you are all starry-eyed about the great deals you are going to find on everything from silver to hammocks, prepare for sticker shock. Montego Bay, Jamaica - We did the Appleton Rum Estate tour. This does involve about a 1 1/2 hour bus ride from Montego Bay, so if you are in ANY way susceptible to motion sickness PLEASE take something before you leave. Roads in the Jamaican mountain country are narrow, poorly maintained, and go up-down-right-left-180degree-back again worse than most theme park roller coasters. Once we got there, though, we went on a very informative tour of a working rum distillery and were treated to a nice Jamaican lunch and an OPEN BAR. Prices on rum to purchase were very reasonable as well. Georgetown, Grand Cayman - You will NOT find any bargains here. The "Super Shopper" will tell you there are, but there simply are not. Well, not true. You can find DECENT prices on new Rolex or Omega watches at Kirk Freeport. DO NOT plan on eating in a restaurant here, it is ungodly expensive. Go snorkeling, take advantage of the gorgeous beaches, but save your trinket money for somewhere else and eat on the ship. COZUMEL, Mexico - Again, same as above on 'recommended shops.' Please understand that silver is not mined on Cozumel. It is imported, marked up, and sold to tourists. It is also faked, and a stamp of '.925' does not mean its actually sterling. Use your head, if it is too good to be true.... you know. We did the Mexican Cuisine tour at the Playa Mia Beach Park. Great fun and a great lunch. All in all, we had a great vacation. The Conquest is a well done mega-liner, it sails well, and takes the average cruise-ship experience up just a small notch. My advice is to sail in April, as this June sailing was flat eat-up with teenagers thugging around the decks. Good choice for families, couples looking for an upscale romantic vacation should look elsewhere.  

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Jun 25, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This cruise was the best yet. We arrived Friday evening in Galveston and stayed at the Hilton (not worth the $250 per night). The Conquest is a beautiful ship and huge. Leaving at the same time was the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas. A smaller ship, but we hit all the same areas, except they went to either Ocho Rios or Negril, Jamaica. We arrived at the terminal at 11 AM, and had a porter handle our checked

luggage - as heavy as the bags were, it was worth it! The waiting game went for a while. If you have internet access, make sure you do your Fun Pass online before hand, as our line moved much quicker than the other line for those that hadn't completed that process yet for Homeland Security. We were finally onboard around 12:30 PM, and the boat drinks were flowing - bypass the fancy plastic souvenir cup unless you really want one or want to spend $7.25 (refills are at a reduced price). We were on Panorama Deck (10) with a balcony room (I will only have a balcony room from now on – it’s worth the price). Our cabin was ready when we got there, and could unpack at our leisure. Food and live music were on Lido deck, and of course more drinks being peddled. We had our breakfasts and lunches during the cruise at the Cezanne Restaurant (buffet) or from the grill at the rear of the ship (awesome burgers and hot dogs). The food at Cezanne was good – not spectacular, but satisfying. I’ve read previously that folks had problems with not having any deck chairs available or with people saving them. We didn’t encounter that at all. The only issue I had with the sunning areas around the main pool on Lido deck was the amount of kids running around unsupervised, and not in Camp Carnival. That’s when my girlfriend and I decided to go to the “Adults Only” deck for sunbathing. No crowds, no kids – just the occasional group of older teenagers or older men trying to check out any women that were topless. Whether or not a woman removes her top  (it’s optional), it’s the place to go if you want peace and relative quiet while tanning. The exercise facility was nice and clean. However, there were too many adults bringing their kids there (mornings after 7 AM) and letting them run unsupervised around the gym. There were also several treadmills and life cycles that were tagged out for repair. I understand it could be difficult to get a repairman on board during the Galveston stop, but maybe Carnival could have extra equipment staged at the port and swap broken equipment out during the stop. As a note, the entrance for the fitness center is in the Spa area. The doors for men and women’s locker rooms are not well marked. Men’s locker room is port (left), women’s starboard (right). I mentioned teenagers/kids earlier – Camp Carnival seems to keep them well occupied during the day, but towards evening and at night, they appear to get very bored, and start riding the elevators or climbing on the stacked deck chairs. In turn, they leave their ice cream bowls, drink glasses, etc in the elevators, and the staff has a bugger of a time keeping up with that. The casino is well kept and has plenty of different denomination machines for all budgets and during the first half of the cruise, the slots seemed to pay quite well, and then tightened up the last couple of days. We had late seating for dinner in Renoir at 8:30. The other three couples were delightful, and after a few glasses of wine/beer, everyone opened up well and we had a great time together. Martina, from the Czech Republic, was our server, and she was wonderful – very personable, and always smiling. We didn’t tip the Maitre de, as he didn’t impress me – he never once stopped by our table nor did he greet us at anytime when coming in. I did provide Martina a sizable tip our last night. The food was usually cooked/prepared to our liking and with the number of courses served, was always sufficient in serving size. The desserts were also very tasty and plenty of variety. You must try the ice cream at least once at dinner! Martina wouldn’t tell us who makes it, but it is incredible (especially the butter pecan!). NOTE: If you have a food allergy or sensitivity (my girlfriend has a wheat allergy), make sure you mention that when booking your cruise or at least 2-4 weeks before sailing so they can provide you with alternate menu items. My girlfriend discovered this allergy a couple of weeks prior, but I didn’t think about checking with Carnival in advance. The first 2 ½ days were at sea. First day was great – plenty of sun and activities – live music on Lido deck. The second full day, we encountered a storm and the ship handled it pretty well, but we did have a bit of roll here and there – but, the stabilizers were doing their job. The first port was Montego Bay. We didn’t do an excursion there, as I didn’t want to hassle with traversing Jamaica so we started with some shopping at the port. Don’t waste your time with the shops that are just outside the port (to the left as you disembark, outside the terminal building), as they were very pushy, and there were taxi drivers always around wanting to take us somewhere. There were some security guards that took care of that quickly (in that shopping area). There were some sellers that were allowed to come to the ship side of the terminal building, and set up tents with trinkets, shirts, etc – those were very nice folks and they do barter – contrary to what some folks have mentioned previously on this site. At the terminal, there are three “preferred/licensed” taxi companies. Outside the front doors of the terminal building, they have taxi coordinators there to have a taxi arranged for you. They ask where you’d like to go, and they quote the price to you. The unlicensed taxis aren’t allowed in to the front of the terminal – only the three “reputable/licensed” companies are. We went to Margaritaville – and that was $4 USD per person each way and we arraigned for our driver, Jonah (or Jonas), to pick us up in time to get back to the ship (4PM). At Margaritaville – avoid the “Jamaican Farewell”, as it is 98% alcohol and I had to get additional juice/ice in order to finish it so I could get to a mango daiquiri! I was surprised that “performers” were allowed into Margaritaville and perform for tips, and they aren’t shy about letting you know they expect tips! That is the subject of a separate email to Margaritaville. Do try the Key Lime Pie or the Mango Cheesecake! This is also the Margaritaville with the water slide and private swimming area. There were also a few party catamaran’s (excursions from our ship and RC Rhapsody of the Seas), that docked and let their folks off for a bit. When leaving Margaritaville, prepare to be besieged by cab drivers (we felt like a French fry surrounded by seagulls). When returning to the ship, you will have to pass through metal detectors that are very sensitive (picked up the foil in my cigarette pack), and anything hand carried has to be x-rayed. A word of warning – DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BRING DRUGS BACK TO THE SHIP! There were four people, two adults, and two 15/16 year old boys that tried that, and they were busted by the Jamaican Police. As best I could tell, none of them returned to the ship, and I can only assume they were arrested and jailed. The boys were handcuffed and in tears – although they did appear quite stoned, the reality of the situation showed on their faces, as well as their parents faces! In the port briefing on the ship, Todd (cruise director), does mention the issue of drugs – and the Jamaican authorities in an effort to clean up their image, has many undercover officers on the streets possibly targeting tourists, offering to sell them drugs – I don’t believe they have entrapment laws there, so you’ll be hosed if you attempt to buy! One of the men, his wife threw what appeared to be a credit card at her husband, and wished him luck getting home. Another suggestion, don’t be the one person that is holding up the ships departure, as those of us on the port side cabins will yell at you in your drunken state (re: man in red hat with bottle of Red Stripe in hand) to hurry up. It was a fairly quick run to Grand Cayman, and we tendered the next morning. We had booked the Island Tour and Stingray excursion through Carnival in advance (I prefer booking through the cruise line, since if the tour is late getting back, they’ll hold the ship). We tendered in early and there were several shops already open (around 8-8:30). There is a real coffee shop a couple of blocks to the right of the dock on the left – it’s almost a Starbucks! NOTE: The coffee shops on the ship are okay (Alexandra [Bosnia] is an excellent barista) – just not what I’m accustomed to stateside. And the coffee machines in the Cezanne Restaurant provide passable coffee at best, and since Americans love our coffee, they required almost constant attention by the attendants (refilling grounds and emptying old grounds) but, sometimes they all ran out at the same time. When we met back at the dock for our excursion, we had to walk about 2-3 blocks to get to the buses. We started with swimming with the stingrays. Awesome! They are more like spoiled cats than sea creatures. That took the bulk of the time since we spent about 45 minutes with them on the sand bar, and it was 30 minutes each way from another dock to the sand bar. The island is not that large, and you can see on the stingray side of the island damage from previous hurricanes – otherwise, you can’t tell on the leeward side of the island. The next stop was Hell – great place to visit – but we only had 15 minutes there to take pictures, shop a bit and mail post cards from Hell. After that was the green sea turtle farm. Excellent facility where they raise green sea turtles, both for the commercial turtle meat market, and others for eventual release back into the wild – but, once again, we only had about 30 minutes there – at least they do have a snack bar where you can get some turtle soup (yes, real turtle), water and sodas. Buy the Carnival 1.5L water bottle insulated carriers they sell on board. They come in quite handy and with the heat and humidity in Cayman and Cozumel, you need lots of water to stay hydrated. The dock at Cozumel is still out of commission so we had to tender. We did the Mayan Ruins at Tulum excursion. For that we caught a large tender ferry to Playa Del Carmen and a bus from there to Tulum. The tendering and bus ride to/from took three plus hours out of excursion time of the estimated 7 hours. There was no time for shopping in Playa Del Carmen – no great loss except any chance for t-shirts from Senior Frog’s or Carlos & Charley’s. En route to Tulum, the guide (Angel), gave a very informative and educational history of the Mayans from their earliest history to present day. We were impressed enough that we asked for his email address, so we could travel there again for a land based vacation, and get an all day tour of the area. We did get to stop and shop at a local shop that had free shots of locally made tequila (excellent!), and hand crafted obsidian art. Not inexpensive, but very nice – pay with your plastic and get an excellent exchange rate (~11.50 peso = $1USD). Once we arrived at the ruins, there were some small craft shops, and they weren’t too pushy trying to get you to buy something as I had experienced in 2003 in Cozumel. We spent quite some time at the ruins with Angel providing a lot of detail and additional history. Afterwards, there was time allotted to wonder the grounds at our leisure or go to the beach down below and swim. If you want to shoot video, there is a $3USD fee payable at the gate to get a “license” from the Mexican government to do so. I would also recommend paying the $2USD per person to ride the shuttle to/from the gate/ruins – one reason, it’s hot and humid – two, it saves about 15 minutes time each way. They did serve a complimentary light lunch and water or soda on the bus going back – and if you’re so inclined, Dos XX for $2USD each. Once back at Playa Del Carmen, there was no time for shopping, a brisk walk back to the dock and aboard the last ferry back to the ship. The last day at sea was rainy and dreary, so that killed any sunbathing. So it was the casino, gym and my girlfriend off to the spa for some type of detoxifying seaweed wrap. The last day, the spa has some nice discounts ~50% off. Debarkation at Galveston was uneventful. We didn’t do the self assist as we didn’t want to be rushed in getting off the ship and didn’t want to handle our heavy luggage. They finished getting the self assist folks off around 9 AM, and they started calling the rest of us around 9:30, and we were off the ship, had our bags and through customs by 10! Another note – for Texas residents, you are limited by Texas law to only 1 bottle/1 liter of alcohol brought into the state. Residents of other states can do the max of 4 bottles/liters. If you are a resident of another state, and you bring more than 4 duty free bottles into the states, you may have to pay duty on those additional bottles. In my experience, I’ve brought more than 4 back into the country before, declared them and didn’t get charged. It’s more costly for the government to collect the duty than what the duty is. I’m sure that if you try to bring a case back, they’ll want some $$$. Our cabin steward (he called himself Richard, but I believe he was Thai or Indonesian, so his actual name was something else), was always Johnny on the spot when needed, and his towel animal creations were great. We only went to a couple of shows, and those were quite good. Usually we went to Alfred’s Bar for cigars or the Jazz Bar as we didn’t prefer the disco scene. There are two formal nights – Monday and I think Thursday (could have been Friday – I’ve slept since then). On Monday night, they have the Captain’s reception. It was okay – very crowded, and the drinks tasted watered down, and the hors d’oeuvres very dry. And no one appeared to be enforcing the formal/semi-formal dress requirement. Monday night dinner is also for lobster lovers as it is one of the entrées. For those cruisers that have sailed Carnival before, there is also an afternoon reception (Tuesday – invitation only) for past Carnival customers. I went expecting a sales pitch for something, but there was none. The Captain along with Freddy Funship (mascot) greeted you coming in too. There was a live band, the cocktails weren’t watered down and the hors d’oeuvres were excellent! I thought that a nice touch for past customers. Overall, the cruise was fantastic! The crew was very friendly and always helpful. Even though we hit rain twice on at sea days (2d day out to Montego Bay and last day from Cozumel), the ship rode the swells very well. I didn’t notice anyone appearing green - although, many wore the patch. The biggest thing I could think that could be improved would be more time in each port. I know there is a schedule to keep, but an extra ½ hour to one hour wouldn’t impact the schedule greatly. I will sail Carnival again, and again, and again…..    

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Jun 11, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines The whole cruise was boring. There was nothing to do, except to eat and lay around the pools. The shows were just ok, can't be compared to Vegas. The Island was alright. Montego Bay was poor, nothing to see there. Grand Cayman was the same. Cozumel - there's a little fun shopping, but nothing I haven't seen before. The beach was nice though, I liked Paradise Beach there. Other than that, everything was just

alright, nothing exceptional. I like land vacations better, more choices. But if you like to sit around and do nothing and eat, this might be it for you.  

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Jun 11, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines   My husband and I just returned from our fourth cruise. Our third with Carnival. We sailed out of Galveston on June 11 on the Conquest. A beautiful ship. Embarkation went smoothly and didn't take long at all. We drove to the port, which was easy to find. We got there about 10:30 a.m. or so and we were on the ship just past noon. Debarkation, however, was not so easy. It was slow, slow, slow! All I can say

is that if it is possible at all to do the self-assist, do it. We have always been off any ship we ever went on by 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. We did not leave the port until after 12:30. We were on Upper Deck, which is deck 6. Our deck was not called until after 10:30 a.m. They were calling decks approximately every 30 minutes. This is unacceptable. Self-assist, however, were the first ones off. They started allowing them off at about 7:30 a.m. From now on we will always do the self-assist. We were welcomed aboard by being asked every 10 steps if we wanted a drink. They are way too pushy with the drinks. Carnival needs to tone it down. I have never noticed being so harassed with drink vendors on any other cruise. But, I guess at $7.25 a drink there's a lot of profit to be made. This drink push was only upon boarding. It was never a problem after that. We made our way to Lido Deck where they had food waiting for all the passengers. As always, the food on Carnival was very good. At about 1:00 we were in our room, a balcony, and we were loving it! This was our first balcony and we will never have anything else. It was our own private space to shut out the world. As we left the port we watched the dolphins, sea gulls and pelicans. Quite a sight and starting our cruise out just right. Two days at sea. We were in the casino some, went to some shows. The ventriloquist was only so-so. The best entertainment was going to the karaoke each night. No, we didn't join in, only spectators. The food was very good, as expected. We went to The Point on Wednesday. Both the food and the service were fabulous. Way too much food. I think that since you have to pay they think they have to offer very large portions. My husband got the filet mignon and I got the surf and turf. When it came to dessert we picked the chocolate one.... I say one, we thought only one, but when served we each got three big desserts! Way too much, but absolutely delicious. All of them. We rolled out of there. You sure couldn't do The Point every night! lol We ordered a bottle of wine and did not drink it all so they saved it for us and we drank it the next night at our table in the main dining room. We had wonderful tablemates! A good time every night! Every other cruise our server knew after being told once what we wanted to drink with our meal. Ours never remembered until the last night, aka, tip night! Just a small thing, and certainly didn't spoil anything. Just an observance. Montego Bay, Jamaica was our first stop. We did the Mountain Valley Rafting tour. It was fun and relaxing. We would recommend it. Went shopping in City Center after that. Had to get some of the wonderful Blue Mountain coffee. Folks, when they say don't buy drugs, they mean it! We heard that a group of 3-5 young men were caught. People told us a lot of cussing and 'it was planted' (yeah, right) being yelled. Also, a young kid, about 16, was caught. He was bawling his head off and Dad had him by the back of the neck and was not happy. Poor choices ruined their vacations. Don't let a poor choice ruin yours! Grand Cayman was next and we did not do a tour there. Just shopped around a bit. We did Stingray Swim last time. This is a must for everyone. An experience you will never forget. We were back on the boat early this trip. We should have booked a tour. Oh, well, we know for next time. Last port, Cozumel. We did the Sub-Ocean View tour. It was neat. Saw lots of things, including the dock under water that was destroyed by the hurricane. After that we went shopping. Cozumel is our favorite port. We do most of our shopping there. Best bargains and friendly people. We had a wonderful, relaxing vacation. Met a lot of nice people. Can't wait to go again!

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Jun 11, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines I traveled with a total of 18 people. I live in Houston so driving to Galveston was not a very long drive. Upon arriving at the cruise port.. you must drop off all your luggage and everybody gets off there. Then the driver goes and parks the car and then takes a bus back to the port. It took about 30 minutes before my Dad arrived back to the terminal. The line was very long but it was moving fast. Make sure you

use the luggage tags that come with your ticket. They are labeled and colored so that way luggage can get sent to your room ASAP. Leaving your car at the port is $10 per day. In our case it cost us $70 for the week. When we got to our room, our luggage was already at the front door. On the other hand, some of the other family members that traveled with us had not received theirs until about an hour later. The room we chose was a simple ocean view. There are about 5 decks with balconies. The next time I go on a cruise.. I will  get a balcony room! Well of course, if I paid for it.. in this case.. I did not. Anyways, the ship is HUGE! It took us about 3-4 days to get use to everything. FOOD AND DINING: I love breakfast food. On the ship, breakfast is pretty much all the same every day. For lunch, there is the buffet or open seating in one of the restaurants each day. Dinner was my favorite. meal of the day. Each day was a different menu. I would have to say all of the food was pretty much wonderful. Our waitress (I forgot her name) was OKAY. She seemed a bit rushed and was not much of a conversationalist. Since we had 18 people, we were split up into 3 tables. I was not very happy about that. The whole purpose would be to have dinner at the same table every night together but I guess I understand since we had so many people. There is a 24 hour buffet on the Lido deck and it was pretty much always pizza, hamburgers, and hotdogs. The pizzeria is pretty good when you have the munchies, well so is everything else. We did not buy a soda card, which we should have because it would have been cheaper that way. So I suggest everyone to buy one! ENTERTAINMENT: Todd is the cruise director. He is hilarious! I liked him a lot. The Vegas style show was so boring! I fell asleep and actually left in the middle of the show because it had no plot. It does although show allot of booty (if u know what I mean) when its suppose to be a family show. I didn't get it? But it did not bother me. The comedy shows though.. were hilarious! I loved them. I actually bought a CD from one of the comedians. There was always bingo. That was fun but I NEVER won.. and the bingo cards should be cheaper. All of the other shows are wonderful. Watch them all because that's all you can do! ROOM SERVICE: All the room service people are so polite! Our state room was cleaned twice a day. They would sometimes bring cookies for my little brother and any other kids that stayed in the room. They also fold towels into different kind of animals each night. That was cute. Don’t forget to bring the beach towels back after you use them, because they charge you like $30 per each towel if you forget. Montego Bay, Jamaica We did not book any excursions before the cruise. I highly suggest to do that before and not through Carnival because it’s twice as expensive. Jamaica is a very poor country. All the homes there have burglar bars, even the million dollar homes. It tells you that the crime rate there is probably high. As we go to Jamaica, we talked to a man with city tours in the Jamaica terminal. We started with a one hour city tour. Since we had 18 people we had a whole van to ourselves. It costs $6 per person. Our tour guide we very nice and outgoing. He took us on a short drive through downtown and it is crazy there. There are police officers walking around holding M4’s just waiting for something to happen. After the city tour, our driver took us to Sunset Beach Resort. I loved it there! For a door fee of $30 a person, you get unlimited food (there was a buffet) and drinks (which includes alcohol!!!!!) There was a beautiful beach and also water park and water equipment at no extra cost. The water was a clear blue. There was also live entertainment. The facility was very clean. I loved it there and I would definitely go back to this resort and stay for a whole week. The resort was also only about 15 minutes away from the cruise terminal, which gave us a little more time to spend there. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands The water here is absolutely beautiful. It is clear green. This island is probably the most expensive to live at and shop out of the 3 visited. We walked down the block from the terminal and went to Atlantis Submarine. We went on a clear glass bottom boat. It’s not as bad as it seems. I felt a little seasick by the time it was over though. But it was beautiful underwater. It was $40 a person. If you want to experience an actual underwater submarine, than its $100. I wish we would have done that because you can see so much more. Afterwards, we went on another city tour. This time it was boring because our tour guide was very monotone. We’re Vietnamese so our family was on a hunt for tropical fruits such as soursops, mangoes, lychee and etc. Our tour guide took us to a local grocery store such as your local Kroger's and showed us to the pineapple, bananas and papaya section. That was funny. After that, we visited a turtle farm (boring). The highlight of the trip was probably seeing one of John Gotti’s homes at Grand Cayman. (I’m into organized crime history) I would highly recommend to book an excursion at this island, or visit a private beach. The city overall is absolutely gorgeous. It looks like America! Cozumel, Mexico I had the most fun here. We did not waste any time here. We headed straight to Paradise Beach! It was awesome. The beach was so nice. There is no fee here unless you would like to use the water equipment (kayaking, water trampoline, water iceberg) and the fee is $8. They also offer hair braiding (which is more expensive there) and henna tattoos (cheaper than usual). The food there was also good. Maybe I was just really hungry because I had a lot of fun there. After we left the beach, our driver showed us some of the damage that Hurricane Wilma left behind. It’s a horrible site. Overall Each day we got to an island, it rained for about an hour right when we arrived. There needs to be more adult pools on the Conquest. Make sure you go to every Lido deck party because it was always fun. Henri’s Disco was so weak! Nobody ever dances there. They play the Cha Cha Slide song too often. They also need a new DJ because the DJ plays some really bad dance songs! Alcoholic drinks should be cheaper. Formal pictures are also expensive. $21.99 for each 8x10 picture. The camera guys are really nice and funny. The boat was rocky every other night. It was way too chilly in the casino! I loved everyone’s accents. If you love to eat and relax by the pool, a cruise is perfect for you.  

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May 21, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines EMBARKATION The moving of the Conquest from New Orleans to Galveston has put serious pressure on that port. Prior to this cruise we had sailed on 3 Carnival Cruises before, out of a variety of ports, as well as Princess and Disney and in all of our experiences we have never found a more disorganized or slow procedure to embark. I must state that we had a large group on this cruise 19 people, so that may have

added to some of our problems, but still you would think that the port would be better equipped to handle the cars as they pull up to off load luggage. From the time we pulled up in front of the dock, approximately noon for a 4:00 PM sailing, until we were able to park our cars in the long-term parking and return we must have wasted almost 2 hours. Once we got back to the pier the actual check in with Carnival was also longer than we had experienced before, but this is also their biggest ship so it is somewhat understandable. Once we actually made it on board, about 1 hour later, the ship crew were extremely accommodating, the welcome aboard atmosphere was festive and the drinks flowed, which helped given the fact that after waiting 3 hours in and out of 100 degree weather you can get a little irritable. CRUISE EXPERIENCE – We had booked the cruise directly through Carnival, something we generally do not do, and lucked out to have one of the nicest and most knowledgeable agents, Michael Meynarez, that I have ever encountered. Michael was so good in fact that 3 couples immediately booked another cruise from him for this Christmas when we returned and two of us booked Alaska for next year. He helped us with everything, including advising us on which cabins to take and why, he was absolutely right – we had the balconies in the rear of the ship that were oversized for the same price – all adjoining – what a party we had as we waited for our luggage to arrive and throughout the cruise. I pitied our room stewards. We thought that the first night seating was open for dinner but we were informed that it was according to your assigned times. We had specifically requested the 6:30 seating as we had some older relatives on the cruise that do not like to eat late. Mike had assured us that we were all together at two tables and that the time was taken care of. Unfortunately, when we looked at our Sail and Sign card, it was not and we had the late seating. I immediately went to the purser and was informed that there was nothing that she could do, but she would send a note to the maitre d’. We were told to go the late seating for that evening. After watching the ship depart from port and a little worried about changing dinner times because of our large numbers, we set off for dinner. The maitre d’ was incredible, he came up to our table said he knew of our problem and was working on something for us and would have an alternative for us delivered to our cabin the next day. One could not ask for more, and that set the mood for the rest of an incredible cruise. The ship has numerous bars, so depending on your age, we spanned 21 – 68, you could find a place to either relax or dance the night away. I have a horrible voice but a great desire to sing, so I spent most of my time with Diamond Jeff, who let my friend and I sing, by the casino lounge bar. Overall the onboard ship activities and the casino were a lot of fun. Given the large number of passengers it is often difficult to find a lounge chair by the pool unless you get out early, which was a negative for some of our group. The highlights of the activities were the Mardi-Gras party, the Karaoke contests for the last evening’s passenger talent show and the “Hairy-Chest Contest”- the later primarily because I won. The shows on the cruise were enjoyed by all, but not spectacular. I would have to say that Princess and Disney both have better evening entertainment. As with most Carnival ships the food was very good, but it is the wait staff and their antics that made ever meal a must-see event. We had 12 people on this cruise that had never been on a cruise before and they had a blast. In fact one couple was booked to go on Holland America three weeks later to Alaska and they thought that it would be more to their liking. Although they had plus and minuses comparing the ships when they returned, they commented on how they missed the fun in the evening dining room that we had with our wait staff. We did not go to the private restaurant but did do the wine tasting – it was worth the money, not so much for tasting the wines but for also getting additional insight about the various selections they have on the cruise for you to choose from. The cabin stewards not only have great personalities but also take care of your every need and with 8 cabins together that can be a lot. We had two different sets to cover all of our cabins and it seemed they had a little competition with the animal towels – it was fun. Formal night food is the best and be prepared for multiple photo opportunities. It seems that Carnival must have at least 30 photographers, because every time you turn around there is another possible backdrop to be filmed in front of. PORTS Jamaica – Most of the group did the Canopy Tour and loved it – highly recommended. A few of us did the horse back riding and actually booked from a private vendor. That was a mistake, in Jamaica stay with Carnival as we ended up with horses and at a barn that should have been put to rest years before. All in all in made for a lot of fun to discuss that evening at dinner Grand Cayman – Most of the group did a Stingray Tour – this we also booked from a private firm and here there was no problem, in fact I think it was a better experience because we did not have so many people on our boat and stayed out longer. The others did the butterfly farm from Carnival and seemed to have fun Cozumel – Here we split right down the middle – the young ones going on the helmet dive and the older ones doing the beach and cavern tour by jeep. The helmet dive was a resounding success; they all said they would do it again. The beach and cavern tour was very good although half of the group would have preferred to have less time driving and more time on the beach. In fact, many felt we made a mistake by not taking at least one day for a shore excursion that allowed time to visit the shops and actually lie and a beach and enjoy water sports. DISEMBARKING – Definitely do the self-assist carry your own luggage off, do not follow the Carnival system. I only thought we had had a problem when we arrived, it was nothing compared to getting off. Six of our members did the carry your own luggage off because of an early flight and they cleared customs by 8:30. Those of us that waited and we were on the 8th deck, so there were a number of decks still left to go, didn’t clear customs until almost noon.      

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May 21, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines What can I say but that Carnival Conquest was simply fantastic! Ok I am a native Houstonian and so for those traveling from Houston it is a short drive and then to find parking, which happened to be the only item I failed to research. We found a new company that competes with others and the city’s parking for a great rate of $55 for the 7 Days called Light House Parking. Anyway, we chose Carnival Conquest

after reading review after review over RC Rhapsody of the Seas and Princess Grand Princess which is also owned by Carnival, the main points were “Camp Carnival” for my son (2) and entertainment and activities for my wife and I (31) and mother-in-law (69) along with great reviews on food and cabin size as this was our first cruise and only had reviews to go by. WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED! After parking, we were dropped off at the Terminal and a porter takes your bags for you if you so choose. We arrived at about 3:15 in contrast to many who arrived much earlier, there were no lines going into the terminal that the Porter had mentioned earlier. We went upstairs and proceeded to get our carry-on scanned and the whole metal-detector bit, but after clearing that you go around the corner to find more lines although short to go check in via customs and Carnival staff. After that it is a short walk to getting on board where you stop once for pictures in an elaborate setup of a jungle theme where you stand in a certain place and have your picture taken. Then you go across the indoor terminal ramp that brings you to ship’s lobby level where you check in on the ship via your Sail & Sign card. Then it was to where ever you want to go. We chose to go to our room that is very spacious and clean and while we were on the bottom deck, the view is not disappointing at all. We were told our bags would be in the room shortly, and so we walked around a bit and heard the announcement for the lifeboat drill. My son completely freaked out and threw a fit. A carnival representative came by and took us out of the commotion so that our son could calm down and proceeded to instruct us on the drill away from the crowd. My son calmed down and many thanks to Carnival for that gesture. After the drill we went back to the room and found our bags and unpacked. After that we went to the top deck to watch the ship sail out of port which is nice as you pass the oil platforms many wave to the workers and they wave back which makes a fun experience with everyone cheering and one that my son enjoyed. Entertainment Shows: Cruise Director Todd Wittmer, is the best as all of his staff. All of the entertainers such as the Vegas dancers and singers are fantastic. I loved the Motown show and Phat Kat. Food & Dining: Is excellent, we ate at both Lido restaurants and the Dining Room. The Dinning Room waiters adapt to your preferences very quickly and make the whole dinning experience a joy. The Lido Deck restaurants do have lines at the main eating times, but the go by quickly as there are 4 major buffets plus a Deli and a Chinese Wok restaurant, 24 hour Pizzeria and hamburger/hot dog grill to distribute it all quite efficiently. As for Drinks, finding a waiter is never a problem and there are specials every day. Keep the glass and the refill is cheaper. Also Carnival has a few times where Alcohol is free for certain parties and times. Room Service: Was always a short wait and a great service to have especially for my mother-in-law who liked to relax in the room at night while my wife and I attended the nightlife activities. Camp Carnival: My son threw a fit the first 2 times but they are very good with children as my son warmed up and had a good time. If you have children and they are not used to being in a day care environment, Camp Carnival has beepers where they page you if you Child is not enjoying themselves but the staff does a great job at getting them to come around and enjoy themselves. Babysitting and leaving the little on the ship while out at a port excursion is a GREAT service. Camp Carnival for those with younger than 2 will not be allowed to participate in the normal activities but do allow a time where you must accompany them and use the facility toys and activity centers for a certain time during the day. As for costs, Camp Carnival only charges for babysitting past 10 pm at a low rate AND WILL DROP YOUR CHILD OFF to your cabin when requested as part of the service. Activities (not including main shows): We did not have enough time to do it all, but here are a few. Bingo, Carnival horse racing, Art Auctions, Karaoke (picks the best voted singers of popular stars that will sing in the main show on the last day when not just having fun), Ice sculpture contest, Carnival Survivor, Carnival Deal or no Deal, Hairy Chest contest (very funny), Austin Powers dance (my son loved), Tea Time A HUGE HIT for my mother-in-law (an English style Tea Time with your selection of Teas and pastries which are simply delicious), various lounges with different music styles from Classical to Pop to Hip Hop. Then there is the Water Slide that is very fun for a slide being on a Cruise Ship. This leads me to the pools that I found never crowded surprisingly, but then again there are many pools all over the place (all salt water). As a side note though, the deck for sun bathers does get crowded a bit at times Carnival Conquest did a great job controlling the college fraternity and sorority parties as I did not find overdrinking or very rude or out-of-control passengers as the bar tenders are good at cutting it off. It is a festive atmosphere but it is very enjoyable and pleasant while younger parties are going on, in other parts of the ship are other parties or gatherings catering to just about every style and we tried to attend them all, we enjoyed the piano bar and the aft lounge. Occasionally we took time for a quite stroll on the upper decks where we enjoyed watching in the distance other Cruise Ships sail by. There are also TV activates like personality tests and so on; again so much to do onboard and Carnival leaves a daily schedule for you to navigate it all. The Little details: Like drawing up your beds to the towel animals and the sanitization paper slips to use on the public bathroom handles are a nice touch. The staff is simply pleasant and willing to help you out. They are always cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning and it shows. The crew in our experience really tries to get to know you and whether it be a simple “hello” and a smile or mint chocolate over caramel when requested was a nice touch. I will say this though as a one negative detail or really a request. Carnival, in the public bathrooms, please install paper towels along with the hand dryer, I am not a hand dryer person and had to use toilet paper. Excursions: Jamaica: Ok at this port the day does not start as early as Grand Cayman but not as late as Cozumel, which is around 8:30. Then it is off to Deck 0 and off the ship where you can off the side of the line once off the ship have a picture taken with a Rastaman and then a short walk to the Jamaican terminal where signs are clearly labeled where the lines are for the respective excursion. We chose to go to the all-inclusive resort for about $79 per person and no charge for my son. We loaded up in a van and drove about 30 minutes and you take the high road there and the low road back to the ship, which goes past Margarittaville. The resort was very fun, water-slides and water park my son just loved. The drinks were good and not that watered down, but could do for some improvement. The food was American and I usually prefer to dry the local dishes and there were only a few. The resort has beach access that is private to the resort and you have a variety of water activities you can do there. I recommend getting an inner-tube as fast as possible and for the little ones bring the vest or arm inflatables as they are not provided at the resort. Then after lunch the tour then gets back in the van to go shopping at Halfmoon shopping center. This is a very nice and new looking center, we did not spend much time shopping but admiring the landscaping. Then back to the terminal, but on the walk there expect to be hounded by many, many shop keepers. Jamaica has this part mastered to a T, you follow a yellow line back to the terminal that winds in and around about 20 or so shops and vendors all hounding you. We simply cut across the center and found our own way back to the terminal. Once in the terminal you wait in line to get screened and then on the ship. Grand Cayman: The earliest morning, (I am not a morning person at all) 7:00 and we were tendered off the ship (taken by smaller boats to shore). Grand Cayman was VERY EXPENSIVE. But we elected to do the pirate show where kids and parents can have a great time. We were taken from shore to a very well done pirate ship. All of the crew where in character and very, very funny and they put the kids to work right away scrubbing the deck while pouring ocean water on them. After that, it is the parents turn where there are trials for “lies, lies, all lies” and the parents found guilty get a good cold soaking. During the trials the boat is navigating its way to a area where everyone will get to swim. After the swim, it is rum and punch time all the way back. It was a blast. After getting back we had a VERY EXPENSIVE lunch and the day was getting hotter so we decided to head back to the ship and take advantage of the water-slide while everyone was still on shore. Cozumel: The day starts around 9 and this was the best day weather wise, a lot cooler via the overcast clouds. Cozumel is also tendered, but the fairy boats are much bigger than Grand Cayman’s and air-conditioned on some of them. We did not book an excursion, so we left the ship at about 10:30. We decided to wing it as we have already been to Cozumel, however Cozumel while damaged by a past hurricane (this is the reason for the tender disembarkation, the docks are being repaired.) was very much improved and was pleasantly more enjoyable than are previous trip there. Like Jamaica but different there are more vendors trying to sell excursions than items when walking into to town and then of course the shop keepers in certain areas do their best to reel you in. We decided to snorkel. We spent all day in Cozumel and returned to the ship with about 30 mins to spare. This again was our first cruise and we cannot wait to go again, Carnival Conquest was simply a great vacation.  

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May 14, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines A total of 8 of my family went on this cruise. This is the fourth year my wife and I have cruised but the first, and last, on Carnival. Royal Caribbean is far better in numerous ways. Embarkation Routine. No problems to report. Luggage did seem to be delivered to the room rather quickly. We were immediately greeted, while unpacking, by our stateroom attendant. He was very friendly and helpful. Room This is

the first year that we have sailed and not had a balcony room. My wife and I shared an interior room on the 8th floor. Not ever cruising in an interior room we were not looking forward to what was in store but we were pleasantly surprised when we opened the door to discover a well sized room. Of course, it wasn't huge by any means but we could both maneuver about with ease and without bumping into each other too much. Bathroom was small, as expected. I was glad to find that there was a refrigerator in one of the "cheapo" rooms so we could store our water and gatorade that we had brought aboard. Luckily my wife brought hangers for our clothes because the closets had about 10 hangers total in them for your clothes. Not sure if you can request more but that just seemed kind of ridiculous. Overall we were pleased with the room (for being an interior room) and with the storage space offered. Ship The Conquest is huge. I don't think I actually ever got to see the complete ship. It was elegant and decorated well, but I have seen much better on Royal Caribbean ships. The brown micro fiber couches all appeared quite worn and in need of replacement to keep the elegant look of the ship. Overall it was ok. Entertainment The entertainment was average. Since we were cruising with family, we attended most of the after dinner shows. Most involved dancing and I'm not much into that sort of thing. It was ok I suppose but completely uninteresting to me. The comedy shows afterwards however, were hilarious and we all enjoyed them. We all enjoyed the Tahiti Casino and found the staff to be extremely friendly...from waitresses to dealers. We spent the majority of our daytime hours on the ship at the main pool on deck 9 - Lido Deck. It was crowded - as was the entire ship - but we enjoyed it nonetheless. There were plenty of wait staff around to keep you from getting up to get a drink. I would have liked to have tried the water slide out and also the basketball court however, they would shut them down early...everyday. On the final day out at sea my wife attempted to obtain a basketball from the sports desk by the pool at 5:05 pm. The girl advised my wife that she could not check out anything after 5 pm even when the sign on the desk said the hours were 9 am to 6 pm. This was only one of the minor things of which were posted but not followed. But I dismissed this and did not question the young lady. Staff Since I was already addressing some of the staff, I'll just go ahead and address the main reason I would not ever sail Carnival again. Our first day on the ship, my wife and I went to the hot tubs in the adult only area. After reading over the rules posted by the hot tubs, we began to enter, both carrying a beverage in a plastic cup (Carnival, for the most part, will not serve most beverages in glass bottles). Out of nowhere, a female security officer appeared and quickly advised my wife and I that we could not enter the hot tub area with any form of a beverage (didn't help that she was quite rude about it like we should have known better...made us both feel like we were little kids who had just got caught with our hand in the cookie jar). I exited the area and quickly read over the rules posted again. The rules did not state anything about not bringing a beverage into the hot tub area. The rules did state that you could not bring a glass container in the hot tub or pool area. My wife and I asked which portion of the posted rules we were violating and the security guard stated that we had glass containers of which were not allowed. I pointed out that the cups were plastic and were what had been provided when we purchased the drinks. The security guard advised that Carnival considers plastic to be glass and that furthermore, if any form of beverage was spilled in the hot tub, they would have to immediately drain it. Never heard of that (Royal Caribbean never had to do that) but we went on about our business even though we were wondering if this particular security guard knew what she was talking about as we had observed other individuals in the hot tub and pool areas with drinks. So we walked to the main pool area where there were also two hot tubs. There were plenty of people with drinks in the hot tub and around the edge of the pool. There were also two male security guards standing by one of the entrances in view of the pool area. I read over the rules of which said basically the same as the previous rules for the adult only hot tub and pool area except these rules said that children of which were in diapers or not potty-trained were not allowed. Hmmmm...these security guards didn’t seem to know about the no plastic (Carnival glass) rule…oh well it was time for dinner anyway. Our next problem, unfortunately again with security, was in the dance club Henri’s. My wife and I, and my sister-in-law and her boyfriend were in the club and the two ladies were dancing. Because they were wearing heels, they had both removed their shoes. A security guard removed them both from the dance floor telling them that they could not dance without their shoes on. I didn’t think anything of it as, in my mind, I could see another person getting stepped on or stepping on something that had spilled or broke and injuring themselves. Made sense until…right after my wife told me that she had to put her shoes back on, a new song came over the system and a group of several, bare-footed, young ladies entered the dance floor. I sat for a moment and then looked around for security. I saw one of the officers standing at the door. He wasn’t doing anything and appeared to be “looking over” the room itself. My sister-in-law then came over to my wife and me and says that she asked about the “no shoes” rule and was told that it was now ok to dance without shoes. At this time my wife had also went to ask at this time and returned saying that she was told that, despite the numerous people breaking the rules, the rule still stood. I asked both who they had asked and they pointed out the same security officer. It wasn’t a big deal to me at all but I did not want my wife or sister-in-law getting in trouble for dancing without their shoes on as everyone else was doing so I decide to ask the security guard so that the matter could be resolved. At this time, the security guard had walked to an area inside the club. I approached him; he was talking to another young man inside the club. I waited until the young man was through and then requested to ask a question. The security guard, of whom I found out later was named “Ravi”, looked at me for a moment and then walked off. Figuring that he possibly did not hear me as it was fairly loud inside the club and I had partially lost my voice, I tapped him on the shoulder after he turned around. I began asking him my question regarding shoes and he again looked at me as if I were stupid, turned around and began walking away. Confused, I attempted to make contact with him again. Well apparently this completely ticked him off for some reason. He turned around, put his finger about six inches from my nose and said, “GET OUT!” Whoa!! I was absolutely flabbergasted. I could not believe this. I had just been yelled at for trying to ask a question. I followed the security guard outside the main entrance/exit of the club and ascertained his name from his name badge. I then asked to see his supervisor. He stated that his supervisor was not available. I asked for the name of his supervisor and he asked why. He then began yelling at me that I had “disrespected” him and that he was not going to “take” that. Seeing that “Ravi” was pretty ticked off for whatever reason and knowing that this situation could only become worse (I didn’t want to get thrown in the “Brig” for “disrespecting” someone by asking a question on my vacation) I gathered the individuals I was with and traveled to the purser’s desk. There was a young lady on duty (I can’t recall her name) and I asked what I needed to do to complain on a security officer. She quickly went from friendly to panicked but not rude by any means. She made a few telephone calls and then told me that she was extremely sorry and that the security guard had possibly misunderstood what I was saying to him (if you have never cruised, most of the staff are foreign and some do not speak fluently in English). She advised me to return to Henri’s and that the security guard was going to apologize. Ok, no problem. We walk back up to Henri’s to be met outside by “Ravi” and three other security guards. “Ravi” immediately demanded to know my name and to see my identification as well as my Sign and Sail card. Although I quickly saw that he was hostile and angry, I asked why he needed such information. He responded that he needed it for his report. I asked report for what. He stated his report for “disrespecting him”. I told him that I had not disrespected him and that I was simply trying to ask a question. I then told him that I had gone to the purser’s desk and they had advised me to return for an apology. “Ravi” laughed as this was apparently amusing to him. At this point I am completely shocked by what is transpiring around me, and I attempt to identify with the guy and let him know that I am one of the “good guys”. I tell him that I am a police officer and he rudely says, “well good for you!” Know that this has turned from bad to worse, I again ask him who his supervisor is. He refuses to tell me. I tell him that I know everyone has a boss and that he and his attitude are completely unacceptable. We leave and I return to the pursuer’s desk alone (I directed everyone else to return to their stateroom). The young lady recognizes me. She was on the phone and from the conversation, talking about what had just happened. After ending her conversation and approaching me, I immediately tell her that I am sorry for all of this but that I did not know what was going on with this particular security guard. She asks me what happened and if he apologized. I tell her the story and she looks simply amazed. She then begins writing down everything that I tell her from start to finish. I am assured that I will be promptly contacted the following morning by the chief of security regarding the incident. I thanked her for her help and retired for the evening. The following day, a complete day at sea, I was not contacted at all about the matter. My wife wanted me to contact them but I did not since I was assured that I would be contacted about the matter. Next day we port in Jamaica. When leaving the ship, who happens to be the sole security guard at the door when leaving the ship, “Ravi”. I turn to my wife and tell her who is guarding the door and then we begin to exit the ship. “Ravi” immediately addresses me in a sarcastic tone asking me if I’m “better today”. I smiled and answered politely despite his condescending tone toward me. Next day…a message is left while we are out of the room from the chief of security. After getting the message at approximately 4 pm, I promptly go the purser’s desk. After waiting in a long line, I advise the person at the counter why I am there. They appear confused and begin frantically calling different extensions until it finally sounds from the conversation that they make contact with the right person. After about 5 minutes, I see a security guard approach the purser’s desk. I asked the young lady if this is the person I need to speak with and she is unsure. So, I ask the security guard. I determine this is the man to talk to and he escorts me to a small office on the same floor. He immediately begins to make excuses for “Ravi’s” behavior however he says that he wants to ensure that we have a good time and enjoy our cruise. I explain my complaint to him and that I wasn’t looking for gifts or comp’s on my room but simply for the guy to say that he was sorry. He asked if I minded if “Ravi” came into the office. I advised that I did not. After waiting approximately 10 minutes, “Ravi” arrived. The chief asked if “Ravi” knew me. At first he acted like he did not even though he had picked me out of a crowd of people leaving the ship the previous day. I reminded him…he then remembered. The chief advised “Ravi” that all I was seeking was an apology. “Ravi” refused and advised that I had disrespected him. He then began telling a completely different chain of events that what had actually transpired. I listened to him without interrupting. When he was through, I told the real story. “Ravi” tried to say that I used the “f” word toward him on several occasions inside the club and that I had came back after leaving to fight him. I told the chief that nothing like that had occurred and that I had been instructed to go back. I then explained to both of them that back home I supervised a shift of police officers and that I did not behave like “Ravi” had described...ever. I also explained that because I was a police officer I understood “Ravi’s” position and that I understood what he had to do. I told him that I wasn’t trying to throw that at him that night and had only been attempting to let him know that I was a “good guy” back home. “Ravi” began becoming loud and aggressive while in the midst of his chief in the office to the point that the chief told him “that’s enough”. I said at this point that this was not going to resolve anything and that I would just take my complaint elsewhere and higher up the chain of command. The chief then looked at “Ravi” and said, “he just wants an apology”. “Ravi” ducked his head and said that he was sorry. Never did he make eye contact with me after that point. Although still dissatisfied, I was ready to leave and put this behind me and enjoy my vacation. I left the office and returned to my cabin. I did not see “Ravi” again for the remainder of the cruise. I did however see others with drinks in the pool and plenty of kids, even babies, in the hot tubs and pools where it was posted that this was forbidden. One of the babies was in a diaper in the hot tub. A security guard approached the hot tub next to it (which was full of teens) and demanded that they exit the hot tub…they had various drinks with me of which I assumed were alcoholic beverages). Nothing was said about the baby in the potentially soiled diaper floating around in the hot tub. That’s just nasty. Was that long enough? I can not believe my experience aboard the Carnival Conquest. The security seems to pick on people when they feel like it and to make up the rules as they go along. Completely unacceptable. My wife and I spoke with others of whom expressed the same problems as we had experienced. If they are going to have rules post them and follow them. I suppose that’s enough on that. Food The food was ok. Not as good as Royal Caribbean. Our waiter, Vladimir, was absolutely wonderful. Lively and spirited, he ensured that all eight of us completely enjoyed our dining room experience every night. I will say that the pizza and hamburgers on CCL is better that what I have had on RCCL. I only ate at one of buffets once and it was mediocre at best, but edible and it did the trick. All in all, I did manage to enjoy the cruise despite my horrible experience at first. The cruise director, Todd, is a great asset to the Conquest – simply terrific. The general staff though, all seemed to not know the answer to questions and were more often than not, unable to direct you to the proper place to obtain the answers you were seeking. They were overall friendly though. I will say that CCL attempts to pack as many people on this ship as possible as it was quite crowded during dinner and at ports. Elevators were often useless because of such. CCL needs to work on their consistency and training of their employees. To me, Royal Caribbean is the way to go out of the two however; I would like to try as many different cruise lines as possible. Assuredly, this was my first and last Carnival Cruise.

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May 7, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This was the second Carnival Cruise that my husband and I went on. It was just as fun as the first one. We went on the Conquest out of Galveston on May 7th. We live about 45 minutes from Galveston so that in itself made it nice. We had a 3 friends go along with us and it was their first cruise. We arrived at the terminal about 12:00 and dropped our bags off and was in the terminal about 30 minutes before we

started going through the process to check in. The lines moved very quickly and we were on the ship in no time. Once we stepped foot on the ship after taking our picture for our sail an sign card, the party began. We dropped off our carry on bags in our room and made our way up to the Lido deck to eat lunch. After eating we walked around the ship until it was time for the life boat drill. After the drill it was time to set sail. We had the late seating dinner in the Renoir restaurant, our waiter and waitress we really fun! Our first full day at sea was a blast, we stayed out on the Lido deck from about 10am until it was time to dress for our first formal night, needless to say, we drank allot and didn't realize we were getting torched!! We missed the captain's party and were bummed about that but we did make it to dinner and had lobster. Being our second cruise, allot of the things were the same so we knew what to expect. The couple that went with us had never been on a cruise before so it was neat watching them get so excited about everything. Second day at sea: We couldn't lay out very long because we were so torched from the day before, we met a few people and hung out with them, walking around the ship, just hanging out. Montego Bay: We spent the day at the Breezes Resort. It was allot of fun, for $45 we had access to the resort for the day, all water activities, food, drinks....you name it. After about 5 hours on the beach, we walked around the "town" a little bit and shopped. That go kind of scary a time or two. Overall it was cool though, One thing I will say is that those people can't drive worth a flip!! They use two things in those van cabs that they drive....the gas and the horn! It was an experience. We were ready to get back on the boat. Grand Cayman: We did the Reef and Ray combo. It was pretty neat snorkeling with the stingrays and seeing the coral reef. The water was so pretty. It was like being in a swimming pool. After snorkeling, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe and ate lunch. It was crazy!! Three of us ate there and for 2 salads, a hamburger, 2 beers and tea it cost us $ 67. That was awful!! We couldn't believe it. It was good though. We walked around town and shopped a little while before it was time to get back on the ship and head for Cozumel. Cozumel: We booked the Beginners Scuba. It was okay, I was kind of afraid but it was ok. My husband loved it! After that, we went to Fat Tuesdays and ate lunch then went shopping. My favorite store was Del Sol. They have the great shirts. We actually ran out of money, went back to the ship to get more and then shopped more. We got back on the boat, ate and just relaxed. Cozumel was our favorite port. The people are nice there, but a bit pushy but it was okay with us, they just want money. The staff on on ship was so nice. We loved Todd, the director. He was so funny and could he sing!. He kept us laughing all the time. And he looks like Ryan Seacrest from a distance!! Boris was a really cool waiter and so was Paul. Everything we did on there was a blast. The Mari Gras Deck party was really cool. You couldn't move on the Lido deck but we loved every minute of it. We had so much fun on there and can't wait to go back. We are all booked to go again on the same cruise in November. It was a BLAST!!!!    

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May 7, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines My husband and I went on this cruise together. It was our first cruise. We had a great time and it was incredibly relaxing! Embarkation: We got to the pier around 2:00. There were a lot of people and the lines were long BUT if you got there early, around 12:00pm or so, the lines were really short. When we got to the pier we were greeted by a porter who took our bags and showed us where to go. We got in line,

we waited about an hour and then go to get aboard the ship. They take a little picture of you and give you your Sail & Sign cards which are also your room key and charge card. 2 Days At Sea: There was a TON to do and see. We spent these two days looking around the ship and getting lost! The ship is HUGE! They have tons of contests set up through out the 2 days at sea. They have casinos, bingo, shows, lounges, you name it! It's hard to get bored on the ship! We had an interior cabin at the aft (rear) of the ship. It was small but honestly, we weren't really in it more than to sleep and to get dressed. If you're celebrating a huge event (brithday or anniversary) then it'd probably be worth it to spring for a room with a window or balcony but we weren't in our room long enough to justify the cost of a room with a window! We had the early sitting for dinner (5:45) in the Monet dining room. The waitors were awesome! Our head waiter was Michael and his assistant was Edwin. They were absolutely wonderful! By the second day they knew what we liked to drink with dinner and what dressings we liked with our salads. They were absolutely fantastic! Jamaica: The ship was able to dock here so we didn't have to tender. We took the Black River Safari tour. It was about a hour bus ride to Black River. The roads are narrow and the people drive horribly. Jamaica is a beautiful place but the people are very poor. When we got to Black River we got on a Pontoon boat and saw crocidiles. Our guides showed us some exotic birds and fed the crocs. When we got back to Mongtego Bay we went to Margaritaville which was expensive! The people in Jamaica will do anything for money. The women try to braid your hair and the guys try to get you to take rides with them or offer drugs. It's a scary place. Grand Cayman Island: This was by far my favorite port! You have to tender here which means you get off of the Conquest and get on a small boat that takes you to the port. The water isn't deep enough for the conquest to be able to dock. Here we did a little shopping. The people were friendly but didn't bother the tourists like they do in Jamaica. All of the shops are along the pier so they're easily accessible and you don't have to take a taxi or shuttle. We went on the Hell, Turtle Farm, and Stingray City tour. Hell is just a gift shop and some fossilized coral. It's neat to go to but there's really not a lot there. The Turtle farm was very neat. Some of the turtles are HUGE and there's A LOT of them! The small ones you can touch and pick up to take photos with. The next stop was the Stingray Sandbar. It was incredible. The stingrays are very curious and very tame. They let you hold them and they swim around your legs. At first it's kind of scary but it's very neat to snorkel with them. They're very sweet creatures. Cozumel: Here you have to tender as well. Cozumel was very damaged by Hurricane Wilma so there's not a lot to see since they're rebuilding. We went on the highlights and shopping tour. We were taken to a beach called "The Look Out Point" and a little village called El Cedral. Here is a great place to buy mexican silver and coral. You can bargain with the shop owners for just about anything. Our tour guide was Gustavo and he was very knowledgeable about the island history and the best places to shop and eat. I would highly recommend eating at Pancho's Backyard. It is an amazing little mexican place that serves fabulous food and has GREAT margaritas! Also, Del Sol is a little shop that has some really neat merchandise and the little $1.00 stores are very neat as well! We booked all of our tours through Carnival. I would HIGHLY recommend this for Jamaica. Don't go out on your own there. I would rather pay more for a tour and be guaranteed not to be left and feel a little more safe. 1 Day At Sea: We just went to the shows and ate and were lazy the last day at sea. Disembarking: We didn't do the self-assist. We had our luggage taken out the night before and then waited on sunday for our floor to be called to disembark. I like to sleep in and stuff so that's why we waited. Our color (each deck had a different color) was called around 10:00 or so. We were off of the boat in about 15 minutes. Then we had to go through customs. Customs takes awhile. The lines are long and it's kind of a slow thing but it's not too bad! TIPS: Get small bills for the ports. I wouldn't recommend taking anything over a $20. Take lots of ones for tipping. Almost every where in ports ask for tips! Before you buy anything on the ship such as t-shirts and souveniers, wait till you get to the ports. They might have it cheaper. My husband got me a pink fossil wallet for Mother's Day and we found one on the ship for $55.00 but ultimately bought one in Grand Cayman at the Fossil shop for $43.00. The entertainment was fantastic. All of the shows were very entertaining. My favorites were the las Vegas style shows and the comedians. We had a really great time and plan on cruising Carnival again in the near future!

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Apr 23, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This was my first cruise. I took this trip with 5 other ladies. We had a blast! The ship was beautiful. We had an interior room on the 8th floor. I would not recommend squeezing 4 girls into one room (which is what we did). Two people fit in the interior rooms nicely. I have read several bad reviews about the ship’s service. I must say I did not encounter one rude employee on the ship in seven days. I spent

most of my days when we were at sea on the Lido deck and the service there was outstanding! Boris who is one of the many waiters on the Lido Deck was exceptional. The dining room service was great. Our two servers Victoria and Tanya were excellent. The food was okay. Ports Jamaica is definitely something to see. I didn’t realize how poor the people are there. We were not offered drugs like you read in most of the reviews. Although I would not doubt that it happens often. We hired a private tour company called Barrett Adventures. Our tour guide Chester was very nice. I would definitely recommend using Barrett Adventures. They took us places that were not crowded with cruise tourists which was nice. Make sure to book an excursion for Grand Cayman. We decided to just do some shopping there and it was a total bust. Many of the people on the ship recommended the sting ray tour and 8 mile beach. Cozumel was by far the best port! We did the sail snorkel and beach party excursion. They take you snorkeling, then you take a ride over to a private beach where they have kayaks, volley ball and other fun beach activities. It was so much fun. If I go to Cozumel again I will definitely do it again. Not an excursion for kiddos...as beer and margaritas are included. We met a lot of nice people and I would recommend this cruise to anyone. If you have any questions you can email me @ [email protected]

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Apr 9, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines Dueweke I just returned from my honeymoon voyage on the Carnival Conquest, and my husband and I had a wonderful time! The detailed reviews on this site have been incredibly helpful to us as we planned our vacation, so hopefully mine will do the same for you! This was my second cruise — my first being onboard the Caribbean Princess — so at the end I will briefly compare the two for anyone trying to decide which

cruiseline to use. EMBARKATION Embarkation went very smoothly. Of course, there was a line, but it seemed to move quickly. Our luggage was delivered promptly to our room before the ship set sail. Our stewardess, Olga, introduced ourselves soon after our arrival and made herself available if we needed anything. ROOM Our room was absolutely beautiful. Since it was our honeymoon, we sprung for a balcony, and it was worth it. We didn’t spend a ton of time out there, but it was nice to step outside for some private time whenever we felt like it. It also was a great place for us to take pictures from when we reached our ports. We had a couch and coffee table along with a long vanity and plenty of storage space. SHIP The ship is absolutely gorgeous. The entire vessel is decked out in paintings, bright floral light fixtures, murals, etc. The main midship elevators overlook the atrium and a huge, gorgeous mural, and every elevator had a painting on its ceiling. Our dining room, the Monet Restaurant, sported French décor, with dozens of metal Eiffel Towers and lily pad designs on the window shades and light fixtures. Most of the rooms were named after artists — the Renoir Restaurant, Vincent’s Bar, Henri’s Disco, etc. As I’ll elaborate more on later, we spent a great deal of time in the Blues Club, which was the piano bar. A bar counter surrounded the piano, and was decked out in piano keys. The décor was very, very cool, and very unique. DINING The food on board the Conquest was fabulous. We had the 5:45 p.m. seating in the Monet Restaurant, and our waiters were Vaida, from Lithuania, and Franciscus, from Indonesia. They were both very friendly and quickly learned what we liked (coffee with dessert, etc.) They were willing to provide advice on what courses were best if we asked, and didn’t bat an eye when we ordered two of some courses. ;) Carnival placed us with another young couple on their honeymoon, so we had a good time. Some people on this site have complained that they didn’t like the waiters’ singing and dancing each night, but we loved it! On the last night, they sang their own version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” We had a great time and dinner was always something to look forward to. We usually just ate lunch in the grill but once we ate in the dining room, and it was the best chicken parmigiana we’ve ever had! The breakfast buffet was pretty standard, but adequate. I felt the late night buffets were a little lacking. They were inconsistent, unlike the every night buffets on Princess…but I’ll get to that later. The pizzeria was excellent on the Conquest and the 24-hour self-serve ice cream was ideal for a sweet tooth like me! ENTERTAINMENT Unfortunately, I was exhausted after my wedding and all the work leading up to it so I fell asleep kind of early every night, much to my dismay. So I missed some of the comedians and other shows, but we heard they were good. We aren’t into the Las Vegas style shows, so we walked out of those, but if you’re into that sort of thing, I’m sure you’d enjoy them — they seemed very elaborate. Based on recommendations from people on this site, we went to the Carnival Legends show on the final night, and enjoyed it. Throughout the week, passengers auditioned to portray famous entertainers, and the result was worth it. The Garth Brooks impersonator was by far the best — he was a dead ringer for him and sounded fantastic! Some of the game show attempts were weak, but we did see some “Deal or No Deal” bingo, and that was entertaining. The Newlywed game also was hilarious. The cruise director, Todd, was very personable and was out singing with the band on Lido during a deck party one night. He had a great voice and was very enthusiastic; we thought he did a good job throughout the week trying to get people involved and keep everyone entertained. We also enjoyed the art auction, especially since Jason Betteridge (sp?) of Park-West was clearly so passionate about art and was excited to share that with everyone. Our FAVORITE entertainment, by far, was Brad Alexander in the piano bar. We went there every night that he was scheduled. He takes requests, plays a lot of Billy Joel, Elton John, and other great stuff. He’s very friendly and funny. We would absolutely recommend going to visit him during your cruise! Ask him to sing you the Canadian drinking song…and if you appreciate his playing, buy him his trademark Red Bull and Stoli! POOLS, ETC. Unlike on the Caribbean Princess, the pools on the Conquest were saltwater, but it wasn’t too noticeable. All of the pools were very nice and the water was pretty warm most of the time. I don’t want this to sound rude, but the main problem I had with the ship’s pools was that the one adult-only pool and two adult-only hot tubs were not enforced. I like children, but having none of my own yet and being on my honeymoon, sometimes I just wanted some peace and quiet, whether it be lounging in the pool without being cannonballed on or laying within a few yards of the pool without getting unexpectedly soaked. Some of the children were well-behaved, but others were constantly screeching and splashing, disturbing the childless adults nearby. There were three to four other pools on the ship, and I believe one of those was kids only, so there really was no reason for kids to commandeer the adults only pool as well. Like I said, I'm not trying to be rude, and I understand everyone is on board to have fun, but I enjoyed the fact that on the Caribbean Princess there was an adults only pool that was truly set aside for the adults. Enough said on that topic… Like I said, the pools and hot tubs were all very nice temperature and appearance-wise, and for people with families, there was a sizeable water slide that seemed to be very popular with the kids and teens. PORTS I’m glad that I read the reviews on this site, as they helped prepare me for what to expect at the ports. Our first port was Montego Bay, Jamaica. As others had mentioned, the salespeople are very aggressive, but at least we didn’t get offered drugs. The persistence of the salespeople reminded me of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. From reading this site and listening to the cruise director’s presentations, we knew to look for cabs with red license plates and the initials MAXI, JTA or JCAL. We ended up hiring one of these drivers, who had a red plate and a visible license tag on his shirt, to take us around the island for an hour for $25. We told him we just wanted to go someplace where we could take photos. It was nice; we had a private tour and it was inexpensive. Like seemingly everyone in the Caribbean, the guy drove like a crazy person but we arrived everywhere safely. Jamaica was one of those places we were glad to have seen, but probably would have no need to visit again. It definitely had an air of poverty about it. George Town, Grand Cayman, by contrast, was colorful and friendly seeming. The salespeople were very laid back. We did a lot of shopping there and got some great deals on beautiful Caribbean topax and tanzanite. We also did the sting ray tour, per the recommendation of nearly everyone we’d talked to about GC. I was excited but was really nervous once I saw how big they were! I was petrified that I would step on one of them and make them mad. I also was a little nervous when our guide told us that they have the sucking power of five industrial vacuums and could leave big “sting ray hickeys.” But they were gentle as could be. They swarmed around us and wove in and out of our legs, eager for the squid we had. It was very, very cool. However, if I had to do it again, I think I would book a tour with a private company instead of through Carnival. Everything was very chaotic, our tour took off late, and we hit major traffic coming back. We made it back to the pier area at around 2:40 p.m. and our last tender was supposed to be leaving at 3 p.m. No such luck, as there literally was a line wrapped halfway around downtown of people trying to re-embark. Also, it was such a mess that we almost got on the wrong Carnival ship because the lines were so disorganized. We were glad we got off the ship early to do shopping, since we wouldn’t have had time to do anything after the tour. In Cozumel, we wanted to do the dolphin swim but the main dolphin park was still closed due to the hurricanes and the make-up excursion was more expensive and farther away. So we signed up for the unlimited snorkel instead. It was nice to be in the water but we were disappointed in the snorkeling experience. There was no fish food there, so the fish couldn’t care less that we were there and stayed their distance. I’d recommend the shipwreck snorkel in St. Maarten much more…we did that last year and it was wonderful! Afterward we did some shopping and ate at Las Palmeras, taking advantage of the free margaritas advertised in the Carnival Capers newsletter. In all, we had fun at all of the ports, but would have liked more time in Grand Cayman and wished we could have done the main dolphin excursion at Cozumel. DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation was a nightmare, but really, how can it not be? Unfortunately, we made the poor choice of trying to carry all of our own luggage for the self-check out between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. instead of putting our bags outside the night before, due to some transportation arrangements we’d made for getting from Galveston to Houston. I would advise everyone to do the bags outside the door thing and just schedule later transportation. People were grumpy and downright rude, everyone was trying to “merge” into one line to exit, etc. etc. The casualties of our poor choice were two bottles of Cruzan Rum that fell and broke on our way our as we juggled our things. Put your bags outside the night before, relax on Lido with the breakfast buffet the last morning, and laugh as you watch all the others battle their way off! That’s what I plan on doing next time! ;) A WORD FOR THE MOTION SICK… I have a tendency to get extremely motion sick and, as on my last cruise, I got a prescription for Transderm patches to wear for the entire duration of our trip. I highly recommend this to anyone who gets queasy. We had some severely rough seas on two days and people were popping Dramamine left and right. The patches aren’t perfect, but they are very effective most of the time. You change them every three days and they stay on consistently behind your ear, even in the water. I spotted many people on both cruises wearing them. The only adverse side effects I noticed was dry eyes, which seemed to lessen after a few days. If you have never cruised but have a tendency to get motion sick in cars, planes, etc., I would strongly recommend asking your doctor for Transderm patches. You’re on vacation — you don’t want to be sick in your room the entire time! CARNIVAL CONQUEST VS. CARIBBEAN PRINCESS As promised, here’s my comparison between the Carnival Conquest and the Caribbean Princess. Some of this is a little repetitive but if you’re trying to decide between the two ships, I hope this might help give you an idea of each ship’s strengths and weaknesses. FOOD - Edge: Carnival On average, I would say the dinners on the Conquest were superior to those on Princess. Also, the pizzeria was far, far better and open 24 hours, and there was round-the-clock soft serve ice cream for free. However, it’s fair to note that the late night buffets on Princess were more consistent and better, and the desserts with dinner seemed to be better. Princess also had a few standards like cheesecake, steak and fettuccini alfredo that could be ordered every night for dinner if you didn’t like the unique options, which was a nice touch. SHORE EXCURSIONS - Edge: Princess Everything just seemed more organized. ENTERTAINMENT - Edge: Draw It’s hard for me to compare the entertainment, as for some reason I zonked out early nearly every night on the Conquest. As I mentioned, Brad Alexander’s Piano Bar on the Conquest was our favorite part of the cruise. But some of the entertainment on the Conquest, like their attempts at game shows, were flops. So, it’s really hard to say…but if you go on the Conquest, make sure you hit the Piano Bar! OVERALL DÉCOR – Edge: Draw Both ships are gorgeous in different ways. The Caribbean Princess is more understated elegance; the Carnival Conquest is in-your-face colorful. SERVICE – Edge: Carnival We had great service on both ships, but I have to say that I have to give the Conquest the slight edge on this one. Everyone was overwhelmingly friendly and went out of their way to accommodate you. We did “:anytime dining” on Princess, so we had different waiters each time. On Carnival, we dined in the Monet Restaurant every night and our wait staff, Vaida and Franciscus, learned what we liked and disliked. The stewards were sweet and helpful and we loved the towel animals. ;) POOLS/ADULT ACCOMMODATIONS – Edge: Princess As mentioned, no one enforced the adults only pool on the Conquest. Although there was a kids’ section, Camp Carnival, there were always children running around unsupervised, in and out of elevators, bumping into guests, etc. I know much of that is due to lack of parental attention, but it seemed like less of a problem on Princess. Also, the pools on Princess are freshwater, which is nice! And we enjoyed the outdoor movie screens. In all, both cruises were excellent and I would recommend either. Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have any questions about either ship! Our goal is to try every cruise line, so our hope is to hit Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas in 2007!

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Apr 2, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines face="Arial"> This was our 7th cruise and the second out of Galveston. We drive from Wichita to Houston, spend the night then drive to Galveston. Departure: We use EZCruise parking which costs $50 if you prepay via internet. They provide a secure parking place and transportation to and from the ship. Second time we used them. The ship was 3 hours late due a medical emergency after leaving Cozumel. We toured

the nearby Train Museum the kill some time. It is across the street from the parking lot. Boarding was delayed until 1:30 according to a Carnival rep. They filled the upper area of the terminal and we chose to stand in line and wait. Visiting with those in line passed the time. Actual boarding started at 1:15. It took about 15 minutes to work though the security part of the line. Have your documents and Sail And Sign info filled out this really speeds things up. Check-in took about 5-10 minutes to work through the line. After that a Boarding Picture and we are officially on vacation. Because of the delay there was a notice asking us to not go to our room until 3:00. It was now 2:00 so we went for food. Our room was ready at 3:00 as promised. Next was Muster Drill (life jacket). By 4:30 we were heading out of the harbor. 2 Days At Sea: Lots to do. There are Shows, various contests, casino, explore the ship, sleep & eat. The shows were all good and fun. May not be to the liking of all but we enjoyed the singing and dancing. They usually had Bingo before the shows with prizes of $100-500. There was also one Formal night in the Main restaurants. We had the Late seating (8:30) in the Renoir. Experience has taught us this is best. You can get a shower and a nap after touring for a day before you head to dinner. It's vacation why rush? Jamaica: Ship docked at port. We went on a tour to Croydon Plantation. Took an hour and a half driving up a winding road. Some people found it upsetting, it didn't bother me much. We learned about Pineapples and Coffee and other local crops. Tony and Winston did a great job. Very informative. Lunch was Jerk Chicken, local style black beans and rice, plantains and greens. I really enjoyed it as we were there to learn about the local culture, of course some complained. Some were disappointed as there was no Great Plantation House and some walking. Use the internet and check out Carnival's site, they give a lot of information about the tours. We have done the river rafting (more of a float - very slow and relaxing) before it was wonderful. Next time we will do a day at the beach. Wandering around Montego Bay town is not recommended. You will be repeatedly approached to purchase drugs even by cab drivers. Do an organized tour. There was a security scan getting back onboard, looking for guess what! But the line moved OK Grand Cayman Island: This is handled by Tenders as there is no dock large enough for the ship. You have to get a number if you are not on a Carnival tour. Carnival tours go first. Took us about 45 minutes to get off the ship and a 5 minute trip to the dock. We went online and hired a local tour instead of a Carnival one. We had a private driver, Gino, for the day. He was wonderful. He took us over almost the whole island. We toured allot of the areas destroyed by the hurricane 2 years ago. The island looks wonderful as almost every building has been repainted. The forests were destroyed as introduced plants could not tolerate salt water from the flooding. Gino took us to several beaches, Pedro (limestone cliffs to the sea) and Rum Point Beach. This is a great resort and we have been there before. We had it almost to ourselves for several hours. You can walk out into the bay for hundreds of yards as the water is only 8 feet at the deepest and mostly 3-5 feet. If you are lucky stingrays will come over to you as they are very friendly and curious. They are very safe. It is real kick to pet them as they swim by. Ginoe had us back to the ship in plenty of time. We paid $160 which is exactly what you would pay for a Carnival tour but I know we saw and did more and no crowds. Grand Cayman Island is very safe. Very little crime. Cozumel: Same thing here - no dock. It went away last year during the hurricane. Tendering took longer as some were going to the mainland with Carnival tours. They were huge and took forever to load. Took us over an hour to get off the ship. We had also hired a local tour, Advenuters Naturales. A young lady drove us over the whole island. We went shopping at Cedral (oldest city) and toured some small ruins. There is still a lot of damage from the hurricane last year and similar destruction of the forests. Some beaches no longer exist as the sand has been completely washed away. Still she found some great locations for us to swim and snorkel. She also supplied drinks at a local bar that was at the edge of civilization on a great beach. We had lunch at a local restaurant that is known for its marinated chicken. It was wonderful. Headed back to the ship. 1 Day At Sea: Shows and eating and sleeping. Disembarking: We did the Self Assist. this is where you take you own luggage off the ship. Carnival need to get this figured out. It is a great way to get off early but they call to many areas at one time. Elevators and stairs jammed up and the customs people only let so many through at a time. If Carnival spent a few minutes they could come up with a better way to let people out in smaller groups. As it was we were at breakfast at 6:30, in line at 7:20, of the ship by 8:05, at our car by 8:25 and on the road by 8:45. Regular baggage handling would not start until 9:00. Overall: Shopping in any port is interesting. You can go to Carnival Recommended Stores, they provide a map, or wander about. My wife got a beautiful silver necklace and pendant in Cedral this year. Last year we got a silver pendant in Cozumel for $40 after haggling, Carnival had a similar one in their shop for $120. They do have guarantees at the recommended shops. there are some very nice shops and several people go for the shopping. They all have similar tourist stuff. The food on the ship was great. There are several buffets on deck 9 (Lido Deck). There are 2 for typical American food 1 that does and International menu (different every day)2 more that do a mix. There is also a Burger and Hot Dog bar and a Pizza bar. There are also a lot of soft serve ice cream machines and a Sushi Bar. Selection was always good except there were no tropical fruits. Only grapefruit, oranges, honeydew, watermelon and cantaloupe. Also breakfast was pretty much the same every day except the alternated pancakes and French Toast. If you went to the Dinning room you had a bigger choice. Dinner in the dining room was also great. There were a lot of favorites (Lobster, Prime Rib, Fillet Mignon, Seafood) but also new thing to try. Pumpkin Soup, Escargot and others. Service was great in the restaurant. Our waiters Gerhome and Irwin were very good and a lot of fun. The ship is beautiful. Art is everywhere, keep looking around, even on the ceiling of the elevators. On the downside, and this is small and probably petty. But if you are the largest cruise line in the world and continually tell people how hard you work at every detail some odd things should not happen. Like changing the way Tender numbers are assigned at two ports on consecutive days. At Grand Cayman, simple, go to the lounge on deck 3 and get a number and wait to be called. At Cozumel, new rules, go to the other end of the ship on deck 9 at the stage get a number and wander around the ship until called. Except they did not call numbers over the entire ship. We never did hear any announcement. We found out from other passengers. Second - fact book in the room was for a different ship. ODD. Third - they should get someone to help them with their grammar on the daily newsletter. Your, You're and There, Their, They're. Some of it was comical, they seem to have no clue. Looks really non-professional. Fourth - You almost have to fight off bar help the first day as they are selling a special. We look forward to going again next year - well worth the effort. Carnival does do a good job for the masses. 3200 cruisers on board. There were 500 children but Camp Carnival makes them almost disappear for the week.

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Mar 26, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines Embarkation: Our embarkation wasn't too bad, considering the number of people that I was traveling with--10. It went pretty smooth and quick. Getting Settled: Getting settled was quite stressful, however. We switched a lot of things around (who was in which room, etc.) We had to switch room keys, but once that was all figured out, we were good to go. Day one: The first day of any cruise is always the most interesting.

We (Marysa, Maggie, Megan, Emily and I---friends of mine) wandered the ship. Day two: My roommates, Maggie and Emily, and I, woke up kind of late on day two. But we went to the pool and swam for a while. Then we went shopping around the little mall on deck 5. We also went to the the teen club that night and went dancing. It was a blast. We met a few friends. Day 3: Montego Bay, Jamaica! That was awesome. We all went to the beach and goofed around for a few hours. After that, we went to Margaritaville and shopped in the gift shop. The music was incredibly loud and the people were incredibly drunk. It was hilarious. Ethan, the 3 year old we were traveling with, found a lizard. He picked it up by the tail and swung it. No lizards for him for a while - haha. That night, we went hot-tubbing with a couple of friends. I met a guy there and he and I clicked. Unfortunately, he lives in New Mexico and I live in Idaho. Then after that, we went to the teen disco and hung out for a while. One of our new friends got up to join us at the Mardi Gras party by the pool on deck 8. When he got up, he hit his head and cracked it on a metal bar. At least 5 or 6 of us from the disco rushed him down to the infirmary. He ended up with stitches. Day four: Hell, Grand Cayman! Day four was awesome. We took a scenic taxi drive to the turtle farm. We got to look at and feed turtles. Then we got to hold them. It was a blast. After we ate lunch at a nearby cafe, we took a water taxi to Stingray City! OMG. That was so cool! We fed and handled stingrays. I recommend that to everyone. They aren't mean, they just go about their business. And they feel like Jell-O too! Day five: Cozumel, Mexico! I was sunburned from Grand Cayman, so I didn't get off the boat until about 2:00. But Emily, my Dad, and Emily's Dad shopped around in the city. Emily and I got these really neat bracelets for a good price too. Oh and I got bit by a parrot too. That was funny. Day six: Day six was pretty laid back, since there were no more ports. We had a fun time with our new friends, just wandering the ship and drinking pina coladas. Virgin, of course. Day seven: Saaaad day...we spent as much time as possible with our friends and had a good time with them. The last night at the disco was really sad, because I had to part with the guy that I met. All in all, it was my best cruise yet, and I owe it all to Carnival. If it weren't 12:30 a.m. and if I didn't have finals tomorrow, I would fill you in on every little detail, because what I told you here doesn't begin to cover the fun and excitement. The food was great, the service was awesome, and the ship was amazing. Our two waiters were Marek (who Maggie was in love with, btw) and Gideon. They were fun and they made us laugh, especially during the dancing in the dining room!

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Mar 26, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines All in all, it was a good vacation for our family. This review is LONG, but I wanted to give our unique review of the Carnival experience. Hope it provides good insight. Bon voyage! Embarkation: Our United flight, scheduled to arrive from Denver to IAH airport around noon, was delayed by 3 hours due to mechanical and weather issues. We nearly missed our embarkation. I, along with numerous other cruisers on the

same flight, called Carnival frequently, providing updates and pleading with them to delay embark time. Carnival customer service was a bit disorganized, and provided conflicting information to many of us. It almost felt like Carnival was unprepared for this type of problem. We booked our bus shuttle from the airport with Carnival, with the steep roundtrip price of $66 per person. Coach USA is the company that Carnival contracts their bus shuttle from IAH/HOB airports. I spoke with several others who used private shuttles or limos, and the price was much higher. Houston/Galveston really needs better shuttle options, as this is a big extra cost for cruisers. After much consternation, we found that Carnival had ensured that Coach USA buses were waiting for us. Carnival also delayed embarkation by about 2 hours. The plus side of the delay is that we were able to get through the boarding process in minutes. In hindsight, I would probably have gotten to Houston/Galveston a day early. This would probably have eased some of the stress….after all, it is a vacation. Or, another option would be to cruise out of Fort Lauderdale/Miami where you wouldn’t have to deal with distance/major extra costs of shuttles. Conquest: The boat is huge. It dwarfed the Carnival Ecstasy that I last cruised on. It took several days to get familiar with the layout. There are maps of the ship and its facilities available in the lobby. Getting from forward (front of ship) to aft (back of ship) isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes you can’t get straight through, or you have to go through smokey lounges, or go up and down stairs/elevators, etc. Get the map! The upper decks are the focal point on Days at Sea. Most people stake out chairs early in the morning. This is a real issue. Carnival has signs advising people not to reserve deck chairs, but no one follows this suggestion. We found ourselves on the starboard or port sides most times in areas with much fewer people and away from the action. This was probably preferable anyway. Carnival had a good mix of Americana: quite a few snowbirds, lots of young teens, and families galore. The amount of children probably doubled due to the spring break timeframe. We were initially in balcony room 6368. The room was spacious, and we had plenty of space for our stuff. We discovered after the first night that we were right above a disco….and we promptly notified the concierge. It took another couple of complaints, and they moved us to balcony room 8248. That resolved our noise issue, though we were sleep-deprived for several days. Crew: The staff was very accommodating and very friendly. Malcom was the cruise director, and he had ample energy. The “woo-hoo’s” did get a bit old. Our dining room staff worked very hard, and it really made you appreciate their efforts. We tipped everyone a little more than the recommended $10 per day. With the Carnival wait staff, you’ll never find an easier place on this planet to get a drink. They are everywhere. Port, Jamaica: I read many other reviews, and our family of 3 opted to do Sunset Beach Resort. The cruise terminal in Montego Bay is chaotic, with various strange people asking “where to”. Yet, it appeared that the Jamaican government has secured the area, and only allowed certain taxi companies to pick up tourists (primarily Juta). We herded into a van with a few other guests, and traveled about 5 minutes to the resort. While the food was very average, copious amounts of generic alcohol (and only Red Stripe beer), towels, and ample activities could be had for a $40 day pass. Children under 12 can get a day pass for $20. The resort has a really nice water park with 2 fun slides, lazy river, and swimming pools. There is also beach access with various water activities available. We lounged on the beach chairs by the beach, and then took advantage of the water park. This resort is excellent and safe for families. We were not hassled like I’ve experienced on other public beaches in the Caribbean. Don’t forget your plastic mugs, as they will fill them for you with your drink of choice. Otherwise, you’ll have to make multiple runs with their dixie-sized cups. After Sunset Beach, we went to the Carnival-recommended city center for some shopping before we got back on the ship. The shops are mostly Indian-owned, and the prices are not what I consider discount. The trip to/from city center revealed what most reviews have already pointed out: Jamaica is a poor country. I can understand why most people find this the least desirable port of call. Port, Grand Cayman: We chose to do the Stingray City/Island Tour with Carnival. We tried to book with Captain Marvins, but it was booked solid weeks before our trip. In GC, you must tender (get on a smaller boat from the cruise ship to get to the island). Since we booked through Carnival, we were guaranteed an early tender. The tour to the Turtle Farm was pretty cool. Hell was a tourist trap, but at least I can say I’ve been there ;-). We managed to get a slow boat out to the sandbar of Stingray City, probably taking 45 minutes. Once there, the waves were very active, and the boat flopped around, and hit another boat before anchoring. The first thing you notice is that there are hundreds of people in the same area. In my mind it doesn’t really matter who you book this trip through, they all go to the same spot, and there will always be a lot of people there. If you’re looking for an excursion away from the masses, this is not the trip for you. We were excited to see the Stingrays, but the constant slamming of waves into us made it a bit harrowing. My wife and son cannot swim very well, so I was not very relaxed keeping an eye on them. We did get our obligatory picture with the stingray that the crew managed to hold. I’m glad I did this excursion, as it was truly unique, but I would probably not do it again. We had enough time to check out Senor Frogs for lunch. One thing that is noted in all the reviews is how expensive it is in GC. Our lunch for 3 with one margarita cost about $70! Nonetheless, GC is beautiful, and I would definitely go back. Port, Cozumel: Once again, we were forced to tender to Cozumel. We had to wait in a long line on deck 9 that morning for tender tickets. Due to strong waves, the tendering took longer than expected. Once on the island, we jumped into a taxi with another family to the beach resort of Playa Mia (formerly Playa Sol). The cabbies are inflexible, and charged $5 per person for the 6 to 8 mile ride. The devastation from Hurricane Wilma was immense, and the island is still in disarray. Many buildings lay damaged, and the surrounding mangroves/forests are just devastated. I would not plan a vacation to Cozumel anytime in the near future. Playa Mia offered several entry choices, and we chose the basic package to get into the beach for about $12 per person. There are all-inclusive options that range in the $30 to $40 range. The beach was nice, and we were able to find open beach chairs. You have to rent umbrellas, and there is a constant flow of people coming around to offer massages, drinks, food, etc. We found the food bland at best, but the $3 beers did a little to make up for that. The servers are falling over themselves to get your drinks. They must really need that tip money due to the hurricane-related tourism loss. While this beach was fine for us, the Sunset Beach resort in Jamaica was much better. We went back to town for a little shopping before getting back on the ship. I considered the prices in Cozumel for food and souvenirs to be quite high, and definitely not the inexpensive “ol’ Mexico of yore”. Ship Activities: We took part in a couple of the bingo sessions ($10 per card, or $20 for 3). I also went to the casino a few times. They have all the standard games, and fairly low minimums. Drinks, of course, are NOT gratis. We saw a couple of the shows, including the comedy shows by Phat Kat and one of the ventriloquist, the magic act, and the juggler. They were fun, but unexceptional. Don’t expect NY or Vegas quality. Don’t know how telling, but the showgirls also double as workers on the ship. We went to a couple of the art auctions. Great place to get free champagne! We also saw the ice carving demonstration, newlywed game, trivia game, and Scene-It game. Went to Alfred’s Bar for some jazz, but the smoke was incessant. Camp Carnival/Kid’s Activities: Our son is 10, and he participated in some of the Camp Carnival events. For kids 9 through 11, parents have the option of allowing kids to check themselves in/out. At many activities, the ratio of kids/workers is overwhelming. Since our son is shy, he often got lost in the shuffle. He did enjoy the Camp Carnival slumber party event (10pm to 3am). It cost $26, but gave us an evening free. He was escorted back to the room after the event. The game room on the ship is extensive, and our son spent a lot of time (and money) here. We felt safe letting him go to the arcade alone. There is a great slide, and also a kids only pool and hot tub. There are several cartoon channels and also a kid’s movie channel on the cabin TV. The movies tended to be replayed over and over, however. Disembarkation: We were a couple hours late getting into Galveston, as a cruise ship passenger fell seriously ill and had to be transported off the ship the night before arriving in Galveston. Consequently, many more passengers got off using self-assist. Our deck was not called till about 12:30pm, and it took about an hour to get through Customs. The process of getting onto the Carnival-chartered Coach bus was pure chaos. Tempers were definitely flaring, as passengers tried to figure out which bus went where and which bus to board. I think they could really improve this process. Cruise Tips/Observations: * While Cruise lines tout cruises as an All-inclusive, they are far from that. There are lots of things that cost. The most obvious is the drinks. Most drinks will run about $5 to $7, and on top of that they automatically include a 15% gratuity. You can easily run up a bill doing this several times a day. Carnival automatically adds $10 gratuity per person/per day on your charge account. However, they also recommend tipping for room service, matre’de’, camp carnival workers, and others who provide good service. * We carried on a bottle of wine per Carnival allowance at debarkation (don’t forget the cork screw). You can also get free drinks at the Captain’s party, Multi-Carnival Cruisers party, and free champagne at the Art Auctions. Don’t miss out on those! We also brought on an 8 pack of coke, and a 6 pack of bottled water with no problems. * The food in the dining room (Monet) was probably our best meal each day. Don’t miss the Lobster on formal night. We found the food OK, but far from exceptional. Some meals were better than others. We also tried the Point, which cost $30 per person and had an optional Georges Blanc menu. The food here was a step up from the dining room, but I’ve had much better meals for less on the mainland. The burgers/pizza/buffet were all pretty standard. The coffee on-board is putrid. We ended up paying for espresso and cappuccinos on a few occasions. All to say, don’t cruise Carnival for a gourmet dining experience, but you’ll definitely find enough to satisfy. * You encounter smoke in many places. I love live music, but it was usually offered in smokey places. The casino is smokey as expected. I put on the comment card that Carnival should offer more lounges and bars that are smoke-free. In light of the recent fire aboard a Carnival-owned ship, maybe they will rethink the smoking policy completely. * My wife is pregnant. We expected to see a few other pregnant people, but were told there was only one other on board. We carried a doctor’s slip, but it was never required by crew members. All in all, I think a cruise is a great vacation for pregnant women. * Queen-size beds are actually two twins pushed together. Not home, but not bad. * While we had a balcony, we didn’t spend a lot of time there. Still, it was nice to step outside occasionally. We didn’t need a bungy cord as our door locked automatically when pushed all the way out. * Ship movement was not very noticeable on some days, and very noticeable on others. None of us got seasick, however, and none of used medicine or patches.

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Mar 19, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines face="Arial"> This cruise was the worst cruise I have ever taken. The cabin steward service was bad, the food was average and the orginization was non-existant. I was attacked by more venders trying to sell be something on the ship than on the shore. This was the K-mart of cruises.

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Mar 19, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines face="Arial"> Myself and 3 other guy friends decided to take a little spring break trip. so excited to get on the boat it didn’t bother me. If somebody is dropping you off, prepare to wait in traffic for a good half hour. Conquest: The boat was great. It was huge and we took the first day just looking around and trying to figure out where things where. The little maps at the elevators were used over and over.

It can be crowded at times but it never bothered any of us. We never got in the pools, we mostly sat in the sun and drank. The staff was good everywhere we went. I was a little disappointed that there were not many older girls. Everybody was 15-19 or 30-50 it seemed like. We felt like the only ones on the boat that were in our 20’s but that didn’t stop us from meeting some girls. Cabin: Interior room on the 8th floor. We were right near an elevator so that was awesome. Easy access to the pizza bar. The rooms were very spacious and for 2 guys it was all you could ask for. We were out till 4 or 5 each night so the only time we were in the cabin was to sleep a few hours or get ready. Im sure a window or balcony would be nice but like I said I was hardly in the room. Dining: We were in the Monet upper floor. When you get on the boat you should do everything in your power to ask if a young man by the name of Vanburn is on the boat. He is from Granada. This guy is good, I mean REAL good. We gave him a $200 tip the last night because he made our experience that much better. By night 2 he knew what we wanted to drink, what kind of salad we liked and our social security numbers?. He was funny, quick, and just a good guy. So if you can make sure and ask if Vanburn is on the boat and DEMAND you sit in his section. His nick name is “Spice”. The Monet room bartender was Mr. Atin and he was a great guy as well. Hard worker with a big smile. He is from Indonesia. We had a blast talking with him as well. Entertainment: We hit up one vegas show that was boring and I left earl. The Phat Cat comedy was good, but other than that I didn’t bother with it. We were 4 single guys socializing so we were in the dance rooms most the time. The piano bar was cool. I really liked karaoke each night. We had a great time making fun of people and socializing. The disco room was where it was AT! All the girls dance, and all the guys watch, so me and my friends took advantage of that. The casino was great as well. I only came out $10 ahead but had a great time doing it. The 3rd night I believe was the deck party. It was a BLAST. If you are single and like to dance make sure you get there. Girls are all dancing and again no guys are around. I think the entertainment was good but we entertained ourselves quit well. MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA: Off the boat quick, and wanted back on. Margaritaville was cool, but then we walked down the road to a beach and we thought we were going to get shot. I was honestly freaking out. We got offered weed over and over and over. Even when we were way out in the ocean. The water was nice though. Make sure you know what taxi you get in, some of them will take you off and do God knows what to you. The beach was the best part of the trip. The town is nasty. Grand Cayman: Off the boat rather quick. We used Capt. Marvins and went on the stingray excursion. Had a blast on this one. Met a few girls from another boat and got some good sun. They took good care of us. This took up most the day so back to the boat we went for a good nap. Cozumel: It was windy and rainy so we did a little shopping and walking around then headed back to the boat. It seriously took nearly 2 hours to get off the boat so by the time we were there we were a little burnt out. The city was cool, but all the shops are the same crap. We found one clothing store that had name brand stuff that was more expensive than back home! We got back to the ship early for another nap. Getting back on the boat took a good while also. Disembarkment: Make sure you self assist. We were up at 6, and off the boat by 7. Others that I met called me that night saying they were on the boat till nearly 11. The lines are long in self assist but they go fast. This was our first but not our last cruise. We want to do another one this summer with hopes that some college girls will be on the boat. We all still had the best time ever. We were sad to come home. My travel agent calls it the post cruise blues. If any college girl groups are going this summer please let me know :)

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Mar 19, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This was the best cruise I've ever been on. The ship was 2 hours late into port, this didn't bother us, especially when we heard why...Conquest has rescued I think (18) Cuban refugees from the wavy gulf. Cozumel nor grand Cayman would let the refugees disembark. so... When we got onboard in Galveston the Cubans were still onboard. They weren't let out of the crew area though, I don't think it would have bothered

me if they did, Other than this Embarkation was smooth! It was spring break, and there were TONS of teenagers, it didn't seem to bother us. Embarkation was great, long lines, but that's normal. The ship itself was clean, it looked brand new. Other ships I've been on are questionable about age...The food was great! Our cabin never seems to get messy, our steward was ON TOP OF IT! I cant stress enough how much that makes cruises better. The first night was rough and it make me kinda sick, so was the first day. I got used to it though. On the 2nd night I believe the ship we stopped around midnight, I was kinda nervous when I saw a coast guard boat about a football field away. Come to find out we were letting the Cubans off, were they were going to take them, I don't know...The next morning our cruise director came over the PA, and explained the entire situation, and what had taken plane the night before. CNN, CBS, and all those news channel talk like Carnival and other cruise lines HIDE things like this, I disagree.... Anyway, the 3rd day Jamaica: I liked it, it was very beautiful. Although the locals were annoying, rude, and greedy. 4th day Grand Cayman: Very nice, and clean, you could have eaten off the streets. Me and my wife and our kids did the Stingray City tour, it was great, the water was FREEZING! but its was worth it, even the money hahaha! We asked a local about how many ships a day are there, he say 6-10, we were there when there was 5 and it was considered a "slow day" wow! 5th day Cozumel: My favorite place, we went to Playa Mia beach, its a "all inclusive" meaning if u pay one price u can have open bar and buffet, this is an optional package though. Cozumel overall is pretty busy in the streets, especially now that the hurricane has construction going on a lot! The tendering in Cozumel took FOREVER!!! Conquest was the biggest ship in all the ports, which was kinda a cool feeling, especially for the kids, you could tell. Carnival so far has done nothing but satisfy us, all 4 of our cruises have been with them, and I have no "major" complaints.

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Mar 16, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines My husband and I just returned from our 1 year anniversary cruise aboard the Conquest. We had a wonderful time and would definitely sail on this ship again. Embarkation: This was a fairly smooth process. With my husband being a disabled vet, we were able to move through the same line as the VIP guests. We arrived at 12:30 and were on the ship and in our room by 1:45. I felt terrible for everyone else who had

to wait in the terrible lines for two and three hours. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean before. The whole process there takes less than 20 minutes. Rooms: Wow is all that we could think! After sailing on Royal Caribbean as well as smaller Carnival ships, we were presently surprised. We had a spa level (11th floor) ocean view family room. I would recommend this room to anyone as we did not have to pay extra and got floor to ceiling windows in our room. The view was great. I am one of the few people that are picky about my room, but even the bathroom was larger than on previous ships. My husband was even able to take a normal shower, which is not an easy task with him being 6ft 5 in. We had room to move around with a separate sofa, as well as a table and chairs. I was even able to put away all of my clothes in the spacious closets. (This came as a huge surprise to my husband who thought I brought my whole closet with me) previously reported. Carnival is known for its gaudy if not over the top decorations, but these were surprisingly understated. As usual, someone could always be found either painting or patching up the ship at any given time. Dining: We did the Point on the first formal night, which I was told was a huge mistake, but turned out to be a great experience. Take caution though, with a seven course meal, one bottle of good wine soon turns into three. With a $30 per person price tag, and three bottles of wine, you soon spend close to $200 on dinner. The presentation however can not be beat, and we really enjoyed ourselves. We had dinner every other night in the Renoir dining room. The food was good here too, but take my advice and go to the Point on one of the last nights, or you will find yourself comparing everything else to it. Service was exceptional as usual. Pools: As is always mentioned, the pools/hot tubs were way too crowded with children at all times. I was very lucky in spotting empty chairs every time I wanted to lay out, so this didn’t pose much of a problem. Ports: Grand Cayman was unbelievably beautiful, Cozumel was as pretty as ever, and Montego Bay is a nasty excuse for a port of call. I am terribly surprised that Carnival would even take the risk of allowing their passengers off the ship in this place. I would recommend never going there unless you are interested in buying drugs, seeing ragged women proposition themselves for food, or being begged into buying cheap souvenirs. I have heard from others that if you pay the taxi drivers at least $100 dollars, they would act as your body guard and chauffeur for the day. But when our driver tried to run over a 10 year old boy because the little boy attempted to wash the man’s car window, we decided we had seen enough. Overall though, our experience was one of a kind, and with the exception of Montego Bay, I would highly recommend the Conquest

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Mar 12, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines This was our third Carnival cruise and our fifth overall cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed sailing on the Conquest! Really nice crew and beautiful ship, they really had a lot to offer. EMBARKATION- Easy, once again. They keep 2500 people moving and we were on the ship in about 45 minutes. SHIP - A newer Carnival ship and I would put this in a very high class of overall beauty. It is extremely ornate and I just

loved the artwork in every room. Very clean and nicely kept. They were replacing carpet down one hall to keep up the nice look. Our room was HUGE for a cruise ship. We had a balcony room and it was extremely nice. Big bathroom with plenty of elbow room in the shower. I was very impressed with the room - extremely homelike. The dining room (Renoir) was equally wonderful and the food was just as you'd expect on Carnival - great! The service was great as were the waiters. The bars and bartenders were great as well, nothing to complain about. Common areas were plush and very cozy. This is an extremely decorated ship. CREW - I can't say enough about the crew. They were incredible. From the first person we saw in Galveston to the last person we saw in Galveston upon return they all went out of their way to help and serve us. This crew in particular picked up 29 Cuban refugees off the coast of Jamaica and they were taken care of on board. We were given constant updates as to the health of them and where the new passengers would be taken. It was neat to be able to witness this rescue and to see the heroicness of the crew. All the while maintaining a vacation atmosphere for the rest of the ship, the crew was heros to the people trying to escape to freedom. That should show how wonderful this crew is. The ship never skipped a beat on giving its passengers a vacation of a lifetime hitting all ports on schedule and keeping up a grand atmosphere on board. PORTS- Jamaica - Beautiful mountains, and blue blue ocean. The people here are very pushy, and sometimes try to sell things that shouldn't be sold. You really need to watch that here. Don't let your kids go onto the island alone - especially teens. We went to Negril beach and Margaritaville. It was beautiful, but again, you have to watch your safety here. Keep your little ones right with you. PORTS - Grand Cayman - Grand Cayman is our favorite. The most beautiful of water and the nicest of people. We normally enjoy the snorkeling here but this time we went early to Seven Mile Beach and since we went very early we had the beach to ourselves and it was so relaxing and beautiful. Go early if you can - it is well worth it! PORTS - Cozumel - Poor Cozumel with Wilma hitting last year it really shows - still a beautiful place, but the building are obviously hurt. Instead of the normal dock that is now destroyed, we took a ferry on to the mainland. WARNING - that ferry is very nice, as it looks like a 747 but it is extremely rocky and you will get sea sick on it. Take Bonine, or Dramamine - something to curb that. I would not drink a lot on Cozumel and then board that ferry to come back, it will make you very sick! The ferry ride is about 45 minutes long. In Cozumel we went to Puerta Aventuras to the Dolphin Discovery Resort for the Dolphin Encounter. WOW! Beautiful resort with a great staff and the sweetest Dolphins and other marine life. We really enjoyed this with our 10 year old. Don't miss out! OVERALL - Obviously we really had a great time on this cruise. No complaints at all on this trip. I do wish Carnival would not allow you to save seats on the Lido deck. It is horrible to come out on days at sea and try to get a chair. Good luck with this! I also wish that they would allow you to dine with just your family if you wish - Grand Princess does this and I enjoy that much more. It is a FAMILY vacation - not a trip to meet other people in my opinion. I will say that the head of the dining room placed us with other couples with children around the same ages so atleast they put forth effort into making it enjoyable dining. My husband got a sinus infection at one part of the trip and had to go to the infirmary. He was very pleased here as well with the doctor on board. This cruise was great and I advise anyone who wants to have a nice and fun cruise to go and enjoy it!

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Feb 5, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line I read so many of these reviews and they were so helpful that I had to post mine as soon as I returned. Overall this cruise was GREAT!! My friend and I went together - 2 women. Embarkation: The lines were long, but within 30 minutes we were on the ship. We moved continuously. Conquest: The ship was beautiful. It is definitely a city in a ship. The staff were continuously cleaning. All of the bathrooms I encountered

were clean. The carpets in the hallways were stained and need to be replaced, but I really didn't notice it. Do not book any spa treatments the 1st day...the prices continually drop as the week goes on. The 1st and last night of the cruise were a little rough - we felt movement, but never anything frightening and the crew kept us aware of the weather. We had a hard time finding deck chairs by the main pool. Alot were empty, but people would put thier clothes and bags on them. We made due though. The water slide was FUN. I am a kid at heart so I went down it A LOT!! Cabin: We had an interior cabin on the 7th deck. We never heard anything or were ever disturbed. We really like the room, the closets and the drawers allowed us to unpack and feel at home for the week. The bathroom was a nice size, our shower didn't drain effectively, but nothing major. We loved our room steward...he was friendly and talked to us and took care of all of my little requests quickly. The room was cleaned twice a day. Dining: Because we were so busy we only ate in the main dining room 2 nights, but both times the food was good and the service was great. We always ate breakfast on the Lido deck. It was average, but not bad. The grill and pizza were average to me. Anything that had grilled chicken thru out the boat was good. Room service has a chicken fajita wrap that was to die for. Overall, my only complaint was the fruit punch and lemonade needed to seriously be diluted...we always added water. It was drinking syrup without it. Entertainment: I thought that the staff were funny and personable. You could tell some stuff was rehearsed, but for the most part worked. As the week wore on we were tired and missed alot of the night shows. There was a Broadway show that was really good. And my favorite was the Carnival Legends show. Where the guests had auditioned to play performers such as Elvis, Garth Brooks, Aretha Franklin and others. The show turned out to be unforgettable. Especially since the performers auditioned in the karoke room and we spent alot of time there. Karaoke was fun, but I think the guests made it fun. Some people took it to serious others clowned around alot. We went to the disco a few nights and it had a nice crowd and we liked the D.J. That whole "block" of clubs and casinos was great to me. You could sit and people watch or get up and dance! I am not a big drinker, but I did partake in a few drinks and I can say it did not take many. The drinks gave you the bang for the buck!! MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA: We have been here twice before so we knew what to expect. After reading other reviews we booked an excursion to A-Z Jamaica Planners. http://www.a-zjamaicaplanners.com. They were great. Clive was our driver. The tour included a trip to Mayfield Falls and Margaritaville. Mayfield Falls were great, I thought they were better than Dunns River Falls because it was less crowded and less commercialized...the drive up the mountain is A LOT though. On the way down we asked Clive to take us to Aquasol beach. He dropped the other guests off shopping, picked up some lunch for us and then took us to the beach. On schedule 3 hours later he came back and picked us up. It was great. Carnival didn't have this tour and the prices for Carnival's tours were much more. I highly recommend them!! I was nervous about going thru the web to book the tour, but it all worked out fine. The line to get back on the boat was LONG!!! It took about an hour...it took less time at the other 2 ports where we tendered. Grand Cayman: Once again, I followed other reviewers suggestions and booked thru Captian Marvins. http://www.captainmarvins.com. Because of high winds we could not dock where originally scheduled. We docked on the other side of the island, but Captain Marvins was there to get us. We went out with the Stingrays. This was really interesting. Once again cheaper than Carnival's tour and we saw a boat of people from Carnival right next to ours. I highly recommend them. Cozumel: We rented a jeep and drove around the island. We went to a secluded beach...the best margaritas I have ever had!! But you can visibly tell the island has hurricane damage. I would recommend going to Playa da Mia beach. you pay to get on, but they have fixed it up. Once again we tendered, but we didn't wait more than 5 minutes. Carnival worked very hard with the tender boats to move than many people. Disembarkment: We decided to self assist because we missed our family and were ready to get home. The whole process took less than 30 minutes and if you can I recommend it. We didn't want to have to sit around and then search for our luggage. Overall, we had a great time. There was always something to and entertaining. I laughed a lot and this vacation was truly a great trip. I would recommend this boat and crew!! I hope this review helped people because so many other reviews help me!! Have a great trip!  

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Jan 15, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line size="2"> My husband (23), Mother-In-Law (42), Grandmother (Mimi, 62) and I (21) sailed on the Conquest January 15-22. We flew southwest from Dallas to Houston Hobby. From Hobby we took a taxi to Galveston. The taxi ride was about $85 (each way) for all four of us. This is the cheapest route if you have a group of four. Carnival charges $33/pp each way and the cheapest shuttle charged $30/pp one way or $50/pp round

trip. EMBARKATION: We arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:45ish. We had no problems finding a place for the taxi to drop us off or getting a porter. Once we were inside the terminal the entire process from entrance to boarding the ship was about thirty minutes! CONQUEST: The ship is Huge and beautiful. For the most part it was very clean. All of the public restrooms I went into were clean. In some of the hallways the carpets were stained and needed to be replaced. The ship was very cold, requiring a jacket or sweater, except in the cabin. During the day if we did not close our curtains the room would be very hot by the afternoon. We did notice a sewage odor mostly in the aft of the ship. The sea was rough during our cruise. Neither my husband nor my mother-in-law needed motion sickness medicine. However, Mimi and I did need it. There were plenty of deck chairs at anytime during the cruise, except for around the main pool during late morning and early afternoon. The gym was large with plenty of equipment and had a very nice view. If you are going to book a treatment at the spa, do not book at full price. Each day they had different specials at some point the treatment you want will be on special. TIP: if you go to the captain’s cocktail do not sit at the tables near the doors it takes forever for the servers to get to you because of the masses of people trying to get in. CARNIVAL VACATION CLUB: Soon after you get on the ship head to deck 9, Lido, and visit the Vacation Club stand. They will be handing out a limited number of free lanyards. If you make an appointment to listen to what they offer they will invited you to their private Mexican Mixer where they will be serving free margaritas, chips and salsa. If you are a person who likes to cruise and has the money for the Club it is a really good deal. CABIN: Our cabin was an ocean-view, Riviera Forward. For the most part it was quiet. The only time we were disturbed was on the Port days. The tender boats docked right under our room. They normally started getting ready to about an hour and a half before they started to tender which was normally while we were still sleeping. The bedding was comfortable, and the comforter was warm. Our steward did a good job. TIP: Bring an outlet strip because there is only one in the cabin and clothes pins to put at the bottom of the shower curtain to keep it weighed down. DINING: We never ate breakfast in the formal dining room. Breakfast on the Lido deck was good. Empty tables were always available. The Cezanne (Lido deck) restaurant had the buffet taste but was overall very satisfying, lots to choose from. However, the most of the desserts were very bland, and some were just bad. Only tried the Deli once, had a very good turkey sandwich. The grill had really good fries and burgers; my husband ate lunch here most of the time. The pizza was very good. The formal dining was wonderful. We had an awesome table in the very back and center of the Monet dinning room that was right next to a window. I never once had a meal I did not like. The crème Brule was to die for! Our waitress Natalia was very personable. It took her a few days to understand our humor but she soon caught on and by the end was making jokes with us. My husband was able to order two entrees when he wanted. We always had bread. After the first night there was always a plate of lemons for us. We really enjoyed dinner. ENTERTAINMENT: The crew did an excellent job in their duties. Malcolm and all his staff were entertaining, personable, and did an excellent job. The Shows were for the most part were good. There was a Vegas style and Broadway style show that were really good. One night they had a gentleman from New Orleans that sang, he was great. That was my favorite show. Did not see any of the comedy shows but heard that Happy Cole was good. PORTS OF CALL: MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA: We took a taxi straight to sunset beach. Taxi ride was $2/pp. Entrance to Sunset was $40/pp, all inclusive. To us it was well worth the money. The beach was clean and private. We were never once harassed here. They have a nice water park. You can use the kayak and paddle boats for free. They also have towels you can use. The drinks were ok. The food was good. If you can bring resort casual clothes with you and go eat in the restaurant. GRAND CAYMAN: Due to bad weather and swells we were unable to tender into Cayman. We were very disappointed because we were supposed to swim with the stingrays here. Carnival did refund the $25/pp port fee and the excursion money by the end of that day. COZUMEL: We had booked an excursion thru dolphin discovery for the royal swim at their Cozumel location but because of the hurricane that location was closed until sometime in February or March. The people at Dolphin Discovery were very nice and helped us decide what we were going to do. We could cancel or switch to the location near Playa Del Carman called Puerto Adventures. Since Playa is only a 45 min ferry ride from Cozumel we decided to switch. They did not once get irritated at us when we changed our reservations three times because Carnival couldn’t decide what time they wanted to arrive and leave Cozumel. Finally we opted for the 11am tour. However, Carnival had to tender everyone in because the pier is still being repaired and they give priority to guests with tours booked thru them. We had to be off the boat and on the 9 am ferry to Playa to make the 11am. Because Carnival lets off people with excursions with them first we did not make the 9am ferry, missed it by 10 minutes because people did not know how to exit a boat. We caught the 10am ferry ($10/pp each way) and were in Playa at 10:45 but then we had to take a 20 minute ride to Dolphin Discovery. Needless to say we were late, about 15 minutes late. Yet, the people at Dolphin Discovery were SO WONDERFUL they went ahead and took us at 11:20, since we could not do the 2pm slot and get back to the ship by 4. We were able to enjoy the full hour with Chaak and Alexis and their trainer Brenda. We had such a good time. This was well worth the money and was cheaper than carnival by $50 a person. Getting back to the ship was another hassle. We left Dolphin Discovery, around 1:15pm to take the 2 pm ferry back to Cozumel. When we got back to Playa we found out that there is not a 2pm ferry and the next one was at 3pm which would get us to Cozumel at 3:45 and if all went well that would leave us 15 min to get back to the ship (which is on the same pier). This cause much stress because a storm was coming and 15 minutes does not allow for any mistakes. Thankfully we made it back at 3:48 to find a HUGE line of people waiting to tender back. It took us over an hour to get a tender back to the boat. Heard rumors that it was because they had to stop tendering while the water was rough but don’t know it that is the real reason. Royal Caribbean was also tendering from our pier and they had no wait at all. Puerto Adventures and Playa were beautiful! TIPS: If you want to go to Playa beware of the ferry times and plan accordingly. If you want to do the Dolphin Discovery excursions wait till the one in Cozumel is open again. You just don’t have enough time do the excursions in Puerto Adventures. DISEMBARKATION: Because we had a lot of luggage we did not do the self-assist off the ship, but I would recommend it to those of you who are light packers. The night before I had called the pursers desk to make sure we could stay in our room and hear the decks being called. I was told we would be fine if we left our door open. We decided that we would get ready and go to breakfast around 8:45 and continue to wait there. At quarter to 8 our room steward told us we had to be out by 8:00. We decided later that she was trying to rush us out so she could clean the rooms because others were told by there stewards that waiting in the room was easiest. We eventually finished getting ready and were out by 8:15. Come to find out that was the same time everyone else decided to leave their cabins. All the elevators were full people who were stuck on them because the upper decks were full. The stairs were also full of people just standing still. Around 9 we finally were able to get an elevator we all fit on and we went to the Lido deck to eat breakfast and wait for our color to be called. There were very few people on this deck and breakfast was good. We of course were the last color to be called and we finally got off the ship around 11. After that it was smooth sailing. At 11:30 we were in a taxi on our way to the airport which was nightmare but I won’t get into that one. Overall, we had a lot of fun. I would choose this cruise again but I would wait until Cozumel’s pier is repaired.  

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Jan 8, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Review: My boyfriend and I just returned from our second Carnival cruise and I wanted to share our experiences. It was a great cruise! The cruise director, Todd Whittmer, is young, funny, and made the experience very enjoyable. The service we received by everyone on board was extremely friendly and efficient. We opted for a room with a balcony because of the great deal we got, and it was definitely worth the

extra money!! I will never cruise again without a balcony. It changed the entire experience. We brought along a bungee cord to tie the balcony door open and got the nice breeze off the water. It was really nice sleeping like that, because you could here the waves and smell the ocean; it was just a really great touch. The rooms are small, but I’ve heard that Carnival has notoriously larger staterooms than most other cruise lines. I thought the size was fine. The room was always spotless! The steward cleaned the room twice a day, and was very reliable. Every day we would go out in the afternoon and come back to a clean room. Then after dinner we would come back and the room would be re-cleaned and our bed turned down. It was like clockwork. Carnival upgraded their linens and towels and they are much nicer than before. The sheets were surprisingly very soft. The rest of the ship was also very clean. I thought it was beautiful. The décor is French Impressionism and all the rooms and lounges have a different theme. The ship is huge!! It will take a little bit of getting used to for those guests who have not sailed on a similar ship. We sailed on the Triumph two years ago and this ship was essentially the same setup. Carnival does a really good job with keeping the days at sea busy. We were never bored. There really is something for everyone to do. Carnival also does a great job with the kids. There were apparently around 1,000 children on board. I say “apparently” because I never would have guessed there were that many. The cruise director told us that on the last day. Camp Carnival! did a great job keeping the kids out of the way and giving them something fun to do. The Food I have read other cruise reviews about Carnival and have heard people say the food is mediocre. I thought it was incredible. The buffet food was even really good. We ate dinner every night in the formal dining room, so we never enjoyed the buffet-style dinner but the lunches were delicious every day. They have lots of fresh vegetables and toppings for salads and a variety of hot dishes. They choose a different theme every day. The Gala Buffet on the second formal night was really nice. The food was more gourmet than usual for a buffet-style dinner, but it was an opportunity to see some really neat stuff and to try some different foods. They also had a chocolate buffet on the last sea day during lunch time. They had every chocolate desert you could possibly think of, including milkshakes and pudding. The feed you constantly and there are always lots of choices. The formal dinners were my favorite. You get two waiters assigned to you for the entire trip. We opted for a private table so we could eat just the two of us every night, and I really enjoyed that. The waitress was phenomenal. Her name is Natalie and she is from Russia. Look for her if you go on this ship!! She is just an example of the great crew on this ship. I was completely shocked at the level of service we got from everyone. Back to the food...the meals were delicious. They had lobster one night, filet mignon, prime rib, different pasta dishes, different soups, etc. The deserts were also incredible. Our waitress brought us all the deserts each night so that we could try them all. There really wasn’t anything I did not like. The presentation was also quite attractive considering the food is mass-produced. We also decided to spend the extra $60 and eat at The Point Supper Club. It was a great experience! The wait staff was very friendly. The food was absolutely delicious and the presentation was beautiful. The chef even came over to us at the end of our meal and asked how everything was. I would guess that a meal like this would be much more expensive than $60 at a fancy New York restaurant. It is worth the extra money! The Pools The pools are small but there are three of them. The hot tubs are nice but always filled with people. They have one in the gym, and five others out on the decks. There are lounge chairs everywhere, so there was never a problem finding one. The Spa I had never been to a spa before and did not try it on my last cruise so this time I opted for the Spa Taster, which was a 25 minute facial and a 25 minute back massage. It was great! The spa staff is very friendly and helpful. They have a large variety of treatments, so there is something there for everyone. They also have a full service salon and barber right on board. I did not opt to use the salon, but I am really glad I treated myself to a spa session. The gym has all the equipment you would want a gym to have, and it is right at the front of the ship overlooking the water. They even have classes that you can take for $10 each. There was no extra charge to use the gym facilities (sauna, hot tub, equipment). They also have personal trainers on staff that will work with you for the week and give you a workout plan to take home with you. The Entertainment I thought the shows were great. I also thought the way they did the show times was great. On the Triumph there was an early show at around 8pm for those guests that opted for early dinner seating and a 10 or 10:30pm show for those who opted for the later seating. The Conquest featured a 7pm show for the late dinner seating and an 8:45 show for the early seating. I think this made a big difference. We would go to the show and then go straight to dinner. Then after dinner you had the whole rest of the night to see other things or do whatever you wanted. There were some nights like the guest talent show night and the first night welcome aboard talk where there was just one show time at 10pm for everyone. The second night was a Vegas style review show, and I really enjoyed it. The next night was a female magician, and she was good. I’d seen other magic shows before and liked this one much better. Then there was a Broadway style show, which was also very good. On three of the nights they also had a late-night R-rated comedian. They were all very funny. On the last night they did an R-rated Improve show which was the best show of the whole trip. It was a great way to say goodbye to the vacation. Embarkation and Debarkation Both processes were very efficient. I have nothing bad at all to say about either. It is an annoying process and they try really hard to make it as painless as possible. I think they did a good job. The Ports of Call First of all, we didn’t do any Carnival sponsored excursions. They did have a ton of options for excursions, but they are pretty pricey. Last cruise we did two excursions through Carnival. We spent a lot of money and were not impressed. This time we did online research to find our own excursions. Montego Bay, Jamaica We did not do any shopping at this port. We did not even venture into City Center at all. This was the day we chose to lay by the beach and relax. We went to the Sunset Beach Resort and Spa located just 5 minutes away from the port terminal. It was a $4 taxi ride for each way for the two of us. It was $40 per person for the whole day. That price gets you unlimited use of all their facilities, all food and alcohol included. It is a really nice place. We are actually considering just going back to stay there for a week. They have two nice pools, one which incorporates a lazy river and castle-like structure with two waterslides. I think it would be a great place to bring kids. The pool floats are also included and can be brought into the ocean water. There were tons of chairs up and down the beach, but no umbrellas. It was very pretty and the water was absolutely gorgeous. The one price also includes use of any water sport equipment. There are two restaurants which require actual clothing to go to, an outdoor walkup grill area serving delicious jerk chicken, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french fries, pizza, grilled cheese and hot dogs. My advice would be to stay away from the burgers. Everything else looked fine. Overall it was a lot of fun and it was nice to just relax, have a few drinks (that are not $7 a pop) and listen to some reggae music. Grand Cayman First of all, the cruise ships have to tender into the island. It takes away you’re your time on the island, but Carnival was extremely efficient with it. We did not have to wait at all for a tender, and we left the ship around 8 a.m. Cayman is an absolutely gorgeous island. We did the Stingray City tour but not through Carnival. We booked a private snorkeling and stingray tour through a company called Captain Marvins. They have a website with all the tour options and pricing. We found them through reading other cruise reviews and definitely recommend them to anyone else going to Cayman. For $40 a person we got transportation to and from Waterfront (about 2 blocks from the cruise terminal), snorkeling for about 25 minutes each at two different locations, and 25 minutes or so at the sand bar with the stingrays. It was an incredible experience. If you are going to Cayman, do it!! Our group was only about 20 people, and they provided all snorkel equipment and ice water and fruit punch on the boat. We did not shop here except for buying some Tortuga rum and rum cakes. The rum cakes are delicious. All four Tortuga Liquor Stores let you sample the different variations of the rum cakes; they are made right on the island. Everything else was extremely expensive on the island so we held off on the shopping. Cozumel, Mexico This is also an island where you have to tender in due to the damage from Hurricane Wilma this past summer. Again it was an efficient process. We got off the ship around 10 a.m. only waited about 10 minutes to get on a tender. I was amazed at how much progress the island has made in repairing the damage. The areas closest to the waterfront were beautiful. There is still a lot of visible damage. You will get haggled here. The shop owners shout at you as you walk by to come into the shops. Sometimes they will actually follow you down the street to get you to go in. Carnival does a pretty good job of scaring you into not purchasing items anywhere other then their “recommended stores.” I say to hell with that. I bought two very nice silver bracelets from stores nowhere near the list and they are real and I got very good prices. The shops nearest the waterfront and the ship recommended stores really do not bargain at all for prices. They know someone else will be in right behind you to buy what you will not. Go a few blocks inland and it will be a totally different experience. We ate at Casa Denis, a restaurant in Cozumel since 1945 and it was delicious. A great website I found if you are looking for info on Cozumel is www.cozumelmycozumel.com  . Also, www.wilmacozumel.com  had great information about what is open and what is damaged, etc. after the hurricane. It is constantly updated, so it is a good source. Overall, we were very sad to get off the ship and get back to reality. I would recommend to anyone going on this cruise. Thanks for listening.  

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Dec 25, 2005

n/a

Carnival Cruise Line This was my first cruise. I found the reviews here to be very helpful so I'm returning the favor. Being my first cruise, I went with very little expectations, which is always a good thing. I recommend finding a review from someone that matches your own profile because we all have different needs when it comes to vacations. For me, this was my girlfriend and myself. neither of us have kids and we're in our low

30's. we wanted a new experience where we could forget about work and relax and that's what we got. we are not the party type, but given a choice of family, party, or singles crowd, we would go with the party crowd. Being that we went over Christmas we paid a premium and I suspect there were more families with kids on this trip than on other sailing dates. The clientele on board your ship can greatly affect your experience. The ship is big enough so that you can easily slip away from undesirable activities and find something your style. smoking is allowed on board and especially bad in the casino and near the bars. the staff was very good. almost all were non US nationals. they were very polite and hard working. i don't envy the job they do, cleaning up after some people, so overall i have to give the staff a good rating. they always say hello in the halls. We had a balcony room - definitely the way to go. the rooms were small, but adequate. having a balcony made all the difference here. bring some bungee cords to hold the balcony door open and to secure the two single beds together - the queen size bed is just two single beds pushed together - not the most comforable bed and the sheets did not smell fresh. thanks to my girlfriend, we brought our own sheets and comforter so this was never an issue for us. there was a coin operated laundry nearby that was clean enough - we used that once during the trip. each nite you get a daily itinerary for the ship's events. this was very helpful. you can pick and choose any activity or just lounge around. The food in the main dining area was very good. talk to the maitre'd when you arrive and get a good table. we had a private table. for our trip, we wanted something private. if you sit with a big group, your food will come out slower than if you sit at a private table. the food at the buffet was okay, the crowds and the cafeteria feel to it ruined much of the experience for me, but given the number of people they had to serve, i'd say they did a good job. room service is slow and the choice is limited. plan ahead if you're going to use it - it's free so might as well. the shows on board were okay. i enjoyed one of the R rated comedian Happy Cole, but the second one (Phat Kat) we walked out on it was so bad - toilet humor is all I can say about that act. i have no problem with toilet humor if it's in a context that is funny, but fluctuating is not a punch line to me. the magic show was pretty good. Carnival has good taste in party music and it's hard not to enjoy yourself when there's a dance beat playing. in the main dining area, they would do a dance number where some of the waiters would stand on a small table. it was tasteful and not over the top as I had originally feared. we didn't take full advantage of the shore excursions so my review of them is limited. my one advice is to have a plan in Jamaica. it's a dirty port with nothing but tourist trap shops. Todd was our cruise director. this guy has more enthusiasm than Richard Simmons, except he wasn't annoying. We spent most of our time at the casino. this is a good place for beginner gamblers or people who may want to learn something about gambling. there were also plenty of seasoned gamblers. by the end of the trip, we knew all the blackjack dealers on a first name basis. Ways to save money and time: I should have put this first since it's the most helpful, but here's a list of ways you can avoid wasting money. 1. if you don't need soda, don't get the fountain card. juice, water, tea, and coffee are all included and soda is $2 a can if you want someone to serve you one. we didn't get the card and were glad that we didn't. 2. alcohol can be brought on board. we're not heavy drinkers and we were happy to purchase the bar drinks, but if you really need to drink than I'd suggest bringing some on board. drinks are about $6-7 for a small martini. 3. book your shore excursions in advance or don't book them at all. Carnival charges about double if you book your excursion on the boat. plus, many of the excursions involved spending several hours in a cramped bus - make sure you know what you're getting in to. Like I said above, Jamaica isn't the place to wander without a plan. Grand Cayman and Cozumel are nice. In Cozumel, we negotiated a snorkel trip for $25 each - that same trip was $44 if done through Carnival. I guess you pay a premium for the convenience and that can sometimes be worth it. 4. The $50 for the formal dinner at the point restaurant does not look worth it. the point restaurant is small and not every seat has a view of the ocean, much to my surprise. the main dining area is formal enough and the food is probably as good if not the same. 5. don't check your luggage. if you can, try to carry on all luggage. this will save you some time and space in your room. people that have all carry on luggage get priority when it comes time to leave. we each had an airline carry on suitcase and a bag/backpack and we were fine. the laundry mat on boards make it so you can wash half way and bring less clothes. if you check your bags you have to wait/pay a tip to the porter, etc. 6. pay the tips up front, this will ease your mind about tipping. the service is good enough that the staff will earn it. if you want to tip more, you can, but paying for the tip upfront eliminates having to worry about it. you will have to tip a baggage handler at the port since they are not part of the ship. overall it was a good trip and we had a blast. our next trip will not be with carnival simply because we want to try another line to compare it with this one. the ship felt a little crowded at times, but all you had to do is go to the top deck and look at the water. for any cruise ship - make sure you wash your hands a lot and stay healthy. your immune system will be bombarded being on a ship with this many people. the day we got back, both of us came down with a bad cold, even though i was careful it's impossible to avoid sometimes. getting sick on the boat could be very bad. We had calm waters and I hardly felt the ocean. we did not take any medication or the seasick patch, but I saw plenty of people wearing them. Galveston was the port we sailed from and we had no problems gettiing on board. the entire process took maybe 20 minutes. coming back, we were delayed 2 hours because the fog was so bad, they didn't let the ship come in. a lot of folks missed their flights so be aware of this possibility.

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Dec 25, 2005

n/a

Carnival Cruise Line Background Info My cruise aboard the Conquest was my second cruise, the first being on Holland America’s old Westerdam, from which I will draw a few comparisons. I traveled with my sister and mom and we had an outer room on the Main Deck. Initial Impressions Carnival was relatively efficient in getting everyone aboard the boat after a 1.5 hour drive to Galveston from Bush Int’l. Our room was in great

shape and comfortable, even having 3 people in one room. We encountered no problems in having our luggage delivered. The ship itself is very good-looking and clearly enormous. I found that the size was mainly due to the addition of cabins for passengers and crew, and not necessarily onboard amenities, so in general the ship felt a little bit crowded. This feeling was magnified at any time when everyone had to do the same thing at once e.g. boarding, disbarking, scavenging for food, finding a lounge chair on the deck. If you want to avoid lines and crowds, the only option is to go at off-peak hours. For instance, the food lines are not long at 1 am and by 4 pm you can certainly find a lounge chair on the deck. However, it is a real battle to get a lounge chair on the deck during the day. On a nice day at sea, every last one will be in use unless you get out a little bit early. The crowds were hands down the most obnoxious aspect of this ship. I would meet people one time and never see them again. I enjoy meeting people on trips and as such this did not suit me. On this particular cruise, a Christmas-New Years voyage, the masses were composed largely of families and couples. Basically, a lot of kids younger than me, a lot of adults older than me, and not too many that I could clearly define as college students. The crowd on the whole seemed driven towards partying and a good time and the programming on the ship catered well to this. Programming and Entertainment I’ll comment on what I can. There was perhaps too much programming to mention. All afternoon and into the night it is possible to find an activity or show with broad enough appeal to be enjoyable, be it learning a dance from a Carnival Conquest Dancer, playing high stakes BINGO, attending a dirty show, or singing along in karaoke. They are not joking when they call these fun ships. FOOD Food is particularly dear to my heart. This ship did pretty well considering the number of meals it had to serve daily. I can say that cruise food can be done better, as I experienced on the Westerdam, but this was definitely always in the 3-4 star range, varying from entrée to entrée. Some foods just lacked appeal or were bland, but others were all-stars. This is true for the buffets and the dining room. Ask your waiter in the dining room for recommendations and hope it is something you are willing to try. Watch out for the pasta. My college serves spaghetti on par with the Conquest, which isn’t saying much. For a 5-star meal, The Point is always an excellent choice and offers a much better wine selection than the main dining rooms. As for midnight buffets, go when they make a big deal about it. Otherwise don’t bother unless you have munchies. I would also like to complain about the availability of milk, spoons, and grapefruit spoons. Room service was punctual when ordered well-enough in advance. Stateroom I have already mentioned that I was pleased with the size and cleanliness of the stateroom. I would like briefly to mention the maintenance of the room. I was expecting the room to be serviced about 1 time per day and was pleasantly surprised to have that happen about 3 times per day. My expectations were certainly exceeded. Although, I probably should have used the “do not disturb” sign so the room attendants wouldn’t come knocking at the crack of dawn. Ports Our first port was Jamaica. I will describe it as rural Kentucky (I’m from KY) plopped on a tropical island. All the cars in yards, poverty, vagrant people, you could ever wish for. We took an excursion which led us by bus to Margaritaville on Negril Beach. It was a very nice beach and a worthy shore excursion. Within 5 minutes of being on this beach I had been offered an all-inclusive package of jet skis, parasailing, sailboat, and weed. The weed isn’t legal, but our tour guide explained how it has its place in Jamaica. Shopping in Jamaica wasn’t anything exceptional, but I can assure you that it is the cheapest on this itinerary. The next port was Grand Cayman. Again, beach excursion. The water here is amazingly clear. The beach is a little bit crowded, but still enjoyable. You get a drink included in this excursion. I would not recommend making it a Stingray lager. There is a lot of shopping on Grand Cayman, although not always cheap. One could feel the tourist premium being charged. Also, this is a busy port. In addition to the 3000 passengers on the Conquest, there were at least 3 other cruise vessels of very substantial size anchored, not docked, here. Conservatively, that amounts to 10,000 people in port. Crowded? The last port was Cozumel. After a 45 minute rocky ride in a 500 person ferry, we landed on Cozumel and took our bus to see Mayan ruins. Mayan ruins are cool in and of themselves, but this excursion was a bust. Basically, all you get for your money is transportation and the “opportunity to shop” at surprisingly overpriced Mexican shops. You don’t even get a brochure or see a signpost of information at the ruins. I wanted to buy a collector spoon. The storekeeper wanted to charge me $20. I said “No way, Jose” and left with no souvenirs. My favorite part of this trip was listening to the soap opera lives of two women as we returned to the ship in the large tender. Disembarkation This was really tedious. Way too many people wanted to leave at the same time. Oh, and the Port Authority of Galveston closed the harbor due to fog, and we arrived a good 4 hours late. I must suggest, don’t leave your baggage out in the hallway. Carry it off yourself. It is really easy AND you get off the boat before everyone else. No joke. If we had known that, we could have gotten off the boat early enough not to miss our flight and have to stay in Houston overnight. 3000 people, one exit. However, there was a Carnival rep at the airport to help us straighten that out with Northwest. Another tip: if flying, do the Air-sea agreement with Carnival and pay a little more. We didn’t have to pay any fees for booking a new flight because of that. Otherwise, hello $300 fine. Also, our $327 worth of cruise insurance paid for our $313.99 worth of expenses incurred due to the hotel, extra meals, and another day of parking at the airport. All things considered, this is a great boat for a family with young children or a large family gathering. Perhaps a non-Christmas cruise would yield more in the 20-30 age group. However, I personally found the boat too big and will definitely search for smaller ships in the future.  

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Dec 11, 2005

Western Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines We just returned from a trip on the Carnival Conquest, which sailed December 11, 2005. We had a good time. The first two days were a little cool, but gradually got warmer. The ship pools were chilly (72 degrees) and the hot tubs were lukewarm, both salt water. We traveled with our three children, ages 7, 5 and 1.5 years. Our biggest complaint was that with the span of ages of our children the only time at which

we could leave all of them at the same time was between 10 pm and 3 am. They were asleep well before then so we would have had to wake them to take them to the Camp Carnival. There was no time during the day for all three children to attend the camp at the same time. The older children could go from 9:45-12 pm. They did go on the days at sea and they had fun. The baby could go from 12-2 pm, when the older children could not go. We did have to pay the $6/hr for the time she was there. The older children could go back from 2-4pm. On shore days the baby could go from 9-noon, but there was no way we would have enough time on shore and be back by noon, so we didn’t try that. There was no option for in-room babysitting, which I know some other lines have. Also, children in diapers are not allowed in the pools or hot tubs on the ship. If it had been warmer that would have been a problem. In Montego Bay we spent the day at the Sunset Beach Resort. It was $40 adults and $20 children, under 2 years free. We took a short taxi ride there ($2/person), then checked in. The fee included use of all their facilities, towels, beach chairs, umbrellas, pool, all food and all drinks (alcoholic and non). It was a great day, esp. if you have young children!! It was right on the beach with plenty of chairs and umbrellas and the pools were very close. They had just opened a super water park (two huge water slides and a “river” that you could float around on tubes). They had multiple hot tubs too. The food was ok, but the drinks and facilities made it totally worth it!! The best day we had! In Grand Cayman we took a bus ($5/person) to 7 mile beach. It was a public beach. You had to rent chairs and umbrellas if you wanted them. We got one chair and umbrella since it seemed like we were hardly ever all sitting. The kids had fun. There was a bar with drinks and food. All a bit pricey, but pretty good quality. There was also a free moonwalk there. Not sure how long that stays. Cozumel was really hurting from the hurricane. The shopping area looked good, but there were only three beaches open. We hit San Francisco Beach, which was free. It was rainy that day, so we didn’t stay too long. People seemed very friendly and happy to have us there. Food was good. Chairs and umbrellas were free. There was a fresh water pool. They expected you to eat and drink. Even with the beach itself being free, the taxi ride was $15 each way and our lunch was around $60. There were two other beaches open that you had to pay $8 and $10/person. Those had water trampolines and rock climbing walls, both a decent swim from shore. The water at all three destinations was chilly, but beautiful. Overall it was a great time! The ship was nice. The crew was friendly. Our rooms were great (ocean view) Just wish we could have had a little alone time with the spouse!

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Dec 4, 2005

n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines ACCOMMODATION PRIOR TO SAILING: My husband and I drove down to Galveston the night before and stayed at the Moody Gardens Spa Resort. (highly recommended) I had the park'n'cruise package and everything was very easy. Had breakfast at their buffet which was very disappointing but everything else was great. The room was very clean and spacious. We parked the vehicle by the convention center and took the shuttle

to the port. 10 minute ride. Very convenient! EMBARKATION: Since we got on the ship around 1 pm everything went very fast. We had completed our fun passes so we immediately got on that lane. Security check also went fast and we were able to get on board in about 30 minutes. However the minute we stepped on the ship we didn't know whether we should check with the purser's desk if our room was ready. There was no one there to direct people but a lot of waitress to sell cruise specials cocktails. Later on we've seen two crew members greeting the passengers but make sure you do not ask questions to Krista. (Among all the crew members she was the only rude person we ever dealt with) THE ROOM: We had a room with a balcony. Worth every extra penny. Small balcony with two chairs (one was broken) and a small table (that was broken too) but we didn't mind it that much. It was great to see and hear the ocean. Our room was very clean. Spacious. A lot of closet space, drawers, enough space in the bathroom (at least for 2 people) very comfortable bed and nice feather pillows.. Our room steward Tanya was the sweetest person. She saved our life on the first day when we couldn't purchase any smokes until we started sailing so she offered us her pack and absolutely refused to take any money. (we made sure we paid her on the last day) She was overworked we could tell but kept a friendly attitude and smiling face. Twice a day she'd come and clean our room. I thought that this was too much actually. Carnival could definitely save some detergent and water (and the environment too) by not offering maid service twice a day. Most of the time we were out of the room anyway so there was no time to mess it up. Tanya and her assistance Almar were wonderful... Thank you for all you've done. THE ENTERTAINMENT: Although we haven't been to any of the shows I could tell that most people enjoyed them. I briefly watched the magic show which was good. THE SPA: We did the teeth whitening. This should be changed to teeth cleaning because it's not actually whitening until you buy their whitening product (another $100 to $245) after the cleaning. My husband and I did this both and I think it was a waste of $350. Plus our gums were sore for days. I haven't tried the massage there but I can tell you not to try it the first few days. As the time goes by it gets cheaper and cheaper. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Montego Bay-- My husband and I both thought that this place was a dump. Trash everywhere, locals walking around like zombies, traffic was scary. We booked the Negril Beach tour and it was a long bus ride to the beach. The guide on the bus kept making fun of the people for being scared about the traffic. I think couple times we almost had an accident and all she kept saying was No problem. And she made sure all passengers were repeating after her too. That annoyed me a lot. Montego Bay was a very tropical place, nice hills, nice pier, water but again locals completely trashed the place. Once on the beach we were offered "weed" by many people which was more annoying. Grand Cayman--We booked the Reef and Ray tour which consisted of swimming with stingrays for 15 minutes, 15 minutes snorkeling and almost 2 hours of boat ride with huge waves. Stingrays were a lot of fun and snorkeling was cool too but not enough time for the money we had paid. Also the restroom on the boat was absolutely made for kids. Small with no lights... COZUMEL--When we finally got fed up with paying so much for shore excursions thru Carnival when we could've got them for a lot cheaper we decided to go solo in Cozumel. We rented a jeep, drove on one half of the island since on the other half the roads were destroyed due to hurricane. I had to admire the locals there though. They were working hard trying to rebuild the island. Quite difference from Jamaican locals. We did shopping on the countryside which was a lot cheaper. Went to several beaches. Nice places, clean, great snorkeling at Playa palangar. Saw a lot of colorful fish, starfish and giant shells. Friendly people. Clean bathrooms and good food. The rental jeep cost was $45 and $25 for full coverage. No cost at the beach. THE DINING We were assigned to eat at Renoir for 8:30 pm. The first night I've tried the lobster which was almost like a sample portion with no side dishes. there were cracked shell pieces on the meat part. The only thing I liked was the dinner rolls. Fresh and delicious. I had to go upstairs to Lido deck for buffet since I was still hungry from our dinner. I don't believe I eat so much for someone who weighs 130 lbs but Renoir restaurant food was definitely not enough portions. However our waitress Claudia was wonderful. Very sweet lady. We went back to Renoir again for the second time just to spend time with Claudia, Gokhan and Mirelam. The sweetest people we ever met. If they were not there we wouldn't have had a second dinner there. THE SUPPER CLUB: This is the only place that offers the best food on the ship. There's a charge and you have to call to reserve a table as well dressing up but it was an experience we'll never forget. Great steak, great service, presentation and my most favorite part was the chocolate tart desert. I have traveled to many places and tried different cuisine but by far the best desert I have ever had in my life was this one. We had a lovely evening there. Wine selection was great. Quite atmosphere and lovely table settings. LIDO DECK BUFFETS: The most crowded, least variety and least cooked food ever. Several times my husband couldn't even touch the bacon or roast beef. They were definetely undercooked. Also this might be your place if you like runny scrambled eggs, hard as a rock french toast, and people who take forever just to get a pancake. I think the only thing I like was the croissant. THE ROOM SERVICE: The portions are sample size so when you order you need to make sure you order bunch of different things or place double orders. If you ever get a chance to meet with the person who takes the orders please do so. Her name is Shirin. She's Turkish. She's a sweetheart. We had a chance to meet her face to face since she was covering for someone else and she definetely made our trip enjoyable and fun. DISEMBARKATION: I thought this was well organized. They give you the chance to either take your bags and leave the ship early around 6:15 am or you can set your bags outside your door and wait to be called to leave. We did the second one since we were not in a hurry. It took about 1 hour altogether. The only annoying part was bunch of people cutting through the lines. PROS: Fountain card worth the $$$ Entertainment, music, information were very good. Clean and well stocked rooms. 24 room service at no charge. The point supper club. Enough lounge chairs on top deck. Informative announcements throughout the day. Informative flyers. Ability to review the folios on TV. Good selection of pay per view movies. Very friendly, hardworking, always smiling staff. Great duty free items. Enough bars. CONS: Awful food. Small portions, left over items, not good variety. Long waiting period to get off the tenders for shore excursions because they take everyone's picture as soon as you step outside. Overpriced shore excursions. Overpriced pictures. Overworked staff. (You'd see someone working at different parts of the ship all the time. Wondered if they ever got any time off. Especially the cabin stewards) Overpriced Internet service. OVERALL: The hightlight of our trip was to meet some of the staff. Shirin, Tanya, Gokhan, Mirelam were the best. They absolutely made our trip very enjoyable and comfortable. If for no reason we'd sail with Carnival again because of these people. Also even though we've never personally met with the cruise director Todd I can easily tell that he's a top notch guy. We went to see some of the shore excursion meetings and this guy was amazing. I think he had said he'd been working for Carnival for 6 years but each time he had given us information was like his first time. He always kept his sense of humor, patience and smiling face.Also on one of the nights he came up to Lido deck and sang couple songs. Everyone enjoyed that a lot. Good singer as well as a good entertainer. A brilliant addition to the company. My husband wants to sail with Royal Caribbean again next winter but we both agree that we wish to sail again with Carnival some other time just so that we can see our crew friends again. Special thanks to you all. YOU MADE OUR TRIP FUN...

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Dec 4, 2005

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Carnival Cruise Line My wife and I have cruised 14 times prior to booking our latest cruise with Carnival. We have heard from friends that Carnival was not up to par with RCI, Celebrity, and Princess but decided to give them a try. THE SHIP: The ship itself is one of the nicest afloat. THE ROOM: Our balcony room, deck 8, was one of the nicest rooms we have ever stayed in. It felt larger than it was due mainly to the design.

THE FOOD: The food was average at best. The only way one would rate it as above average is if they had never sailed with a premium cruise line. The waiter was great and we had no complaints with the service. ENTERTAINMENT: This was the biggest disappointment of the entire cruise. The entertainment each night, except for the juggler and comedian on the last night, was totally inept. The female magician was boring and I cannot believe that Carnival or anyone else would ever book her. The Carnival dancers were good but their routine "Formidable" was "R" rated. The references to homosexuals along with the "men?? dancers" baring their bottoms was distasteful and totally inappropriate. I would have been outraged if I had brought my grandchildren to the routine like I have done in the past. I have never witnessed anything like this on any other Premium Cruise Line. The other major complaint my wife and I had was the "Pep Rally" atmosphere that was in the Formal Dining Area each evening. The dining room was split up in three colors, RED, WHITE, and BLUE. We were asked to yell as loud as we could so our team would receive "points". After the conclusion of this juvenile event, we were then subjected to dancing on the food preparation tables by waitstaff and passengers (some of who were barefooted and sweating profusely). The food preparation table closest to our table was less than three feet away and all at our table lost their appetites after seeing sweat and hair fall on the table. This event takes place during your meal. I am not against having a good time but this type of activity belongs on the pool deck or somewhere else but not at the main dining room. Again, I have never witnessed anything like this on any other CruiseLine. CONCLUSION: This cruise was mediocore at best. I will NOT book a Carnival cruise again unless it is the only Cruise available.

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Dec 4, 2005

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Carnival Cruise Lines This was our second time to cruise and we had a great time. It was our wedding anniversary and we celebrated all week. The Conquest is a beautiful ship inside and out and well run by the captain and crew. The You will get your exercise just walking around and doing everything on board. The first two days at sea will give you time to relax and get into vacation mode. The ship does move around some. We had a

few storms during the night and had fun walking down the halls. There is always something to do and you will get a new event schedule each night delivered in your room for the next day. The Rooms: The rooms were very comfortable. We had a room on the 10th floor with a great view. The balcony was great. A chair would hold the door open so we could hear the ocean at night. From the 10th floor, you can walk right out on the pool deck and to the food buffets on the 9th floor. The Food: Do the nightly dining and you’ll get the best food. The buffet isn’t the best but will get you through the times your need to eat in a hurry. We had the late seating dinner in the Monet Dining Room (4th floor very back of the ship) which was the best of the two dining rooms. The waiters were very good. The Entertainment: We did most of the shows and found some better than the others. The Christmas show at the end was good. All the big shows are good. Great costumes and good dancers, not Las Vegas good, more like Branson. Lots to do including Bingo. The Bingo needs work. Only one game for the prize and it’s over. The comedy show was very funny. Don’t miss the Newlywed Game, it was the funniest of all the entertainment. Tour director Todd is great. The casino paid off for our friends. They won enough to pay for the trip. Embarkation: Getting on was easy. Pulled up and dropped off the luggage at the curb and parked the car ($70 for the week) and were boarded in 20 minutes total. Room was ready at 1:30pm and bags arrived at 3pm. Montego Bay: We went snorkeling and off to the beach (Carnival Catamaran, Snorkel, Doctor’s cave beach tour). The Carnival cruise tour package for the catamaran and snorkeling was crowded and shorter than advertised. Not a good deal. Best not to walk the streets unless in a group. We did some of the street shopping for carved turtles and fish, would have been too scary for my mom and her friends. Street vendors will ask double what they will take. A $20 item will sell for $10 or less. Margaritaville and shops around are a good place to go. Cab from the pier to Magaritaville is $4 per person. There are some duty free shopping at the pier (closed to the natives and very safe). The private beach deals are good for just relaxing and tanning. We snorkeled off the Doctor’s cave beach on our own. Not as scary as some reviews said but still a place to be careful. Probably not the best first stop for any cruise line. Grand Caymen: We did the Hell, Turtle farm, and Sting Ray tour with snorkels, don’t bring your fins, you won’t need them. It was very crowded but we found room and held several stingrays, lots of fun. Again the Carnival tour boat was a cattle call and very crowded. A comment on the Captain Marvin tour,,it was crowded also. Our boat had 30 passengers and Capt. Marvin had 24. The shopping is good here, not enough time with having to be back on the tenders by 3pm. Good deals on liquor. The stop at Hell and Turtle farm is short. The ride on the boat to the sting rays is about 30 minutes out and same amount back. You will spend around 45 minutes there. Cozumel: More good shopping. The island has a lot of damage but the shops just off the ship are in good shape. The pier is damaged so we had to tender in which made for another short day on shore. We went deep sea fishing first and had a wonderful time (only Carnival tour that was done well). Had only a couple of hours to shop before the last tender at 4pm. Fat Tuesday is a good place for drinks and Nachos. Rest rooms are very limited,,only at the restaurants. Debarkation: Since we were on the 10th floor, we got called first to leave the ship. Found our luggage and were through customs and in our car by 9:30 am. Note: the departure call was in the order of top floors first and lower floors last. Tips: If you want to have fun on this trip, be ready to party. There were a lot of grumpy people on the cruise that should have stayed at home. The rest of us had a great time. The hot tubs are salt water and very relaxing. Don’t buy the drink card. It’s $44 per card. Bring cokes with you and pick some up along the way in port. Take a couple of big insulated mugs along for ice and water from the buffet ( they supply little plastic cups). The buffet has tea, punch, lemonade, and apple juice all the time. Everything on the ship goes on the sail and sign card. The casino is the only place that you can us your cash on the ship. All your drinks, pictures, and gifts will be charged to your credit card. There are great tips in the other reviews from the seasoned travelers. The clothes pins for the shower curtain were a good idea. We had two good couples (past cruisers) to go with that kept us moving. If you buy liquor while in port, when you board the ship, the boarding security will take it from you and hold it until the last day. They deliver it to your room the last night on board. A small bottle did make it through security in our backpack for use in our room. Take advantage of the adults only hot tubs. Adults only sun deck on the very top deck in the middle of the ship. Bring a hat and sunglasses. We had a great time and look forward to going somewhere new. Go to have fun and forget about work. Any vacation is only as good as you make it.

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Nov 13, 2005

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Carnival Cruise Line My wife and I sailed on the Conquest Nov. 13-20, flying on Continental non-stop from Kansas City to Houston Intercontinental. Then we took the shuttle on to Galveston. We are both 48, this is our third cruise with Carnival. Originally, booked this flying Midwest to New Orleans, before Katrina made history. Continental provided an uneventful trip, unlike nightmare of flying American, on the previous cruise. The

next time I will drive to Galveston though-airfare to Houston is always more expensive. Arriving in Houston, I found the first area of improvement needed for Carnival. The two young men representing Carnival were sitting down, and difficult to see in a crowded terminal. Their Royal Caribbean counterparts, were always standing, moving, and displaying their Royal Caribbean placards, over their heads. Since these two men were the first contact points, they need to be more visible. EMBARKATION: Arriving at the cruise terminal is the next area of improvement needed-not by Carnival but, by the City of Galveston. Traffic control is very disorganized. We sat on our bus in front of the terminal for 30 minutes before unloading of luggage could begin. Many personal passenger vehicles pulled in front of buses that were being directed to park in that location. Simple separate queues of shuttle vehicles and personal vehicles would enhance this process. Porters were not directed in a logical manner, but those porters were efficient once they started unloading. Once inside the terminal, the entire process from entrance to boarding the ship was thirty minutes! That was the quickest and least painless yet. After reading previous reviews, I was pleasantly surprised how quick this went-well done on this point. As a note, Carnival’s online FunPass did nothing to speed the process-from now on - I fill out the FunPass sent with the mailed documents. CONQUEST: This is a large, beautiful ship; her crew was constantly cleaning, providing maintenance. Public restrooms were always cleaned or being cleaned. After the last cruise on the Victory, this was an area of concern. Other than one dirty carpet, she looked as she was on her maiden voyage. Walls were clean, railings were shiny and wood was spotlessly finished. My only complaints are Conquest is a cold ship and has indigestion. The temperatures in most public rooms, especially the Cezanne restaurant, required long sleeves. This lasted throughout the cruise. When we ate there, we usually sat outside as it was warmer. The other complaint, which subsided after day three, was the sewage odor. It appeared in unusual places, around the forward and aft elevators. Most noticeable, was on the journey down the hall to the Monet dining room. That tends to curb the appetite. Thankfully, it was not present in or near our cabin. The crew was very professional, but not overly personal. Aldo, our room steward, was exceptional, keeping our room spotless, while providing and warm smile and greeting. CABIN: Our cabin was the farthest forward inside cabin. Other than the occasional loud-mouth kids in the hall, it was pretty quiet. The bedding was most comfortable, and the comforter was thick and beyond warm. We had to turn down the air when using the comforter-or just sleep with the top sheet. Even during the last two days of rougher weather (which we had the last two days), only slight movement could be felt during the night. Don’t waste time and money on Bonine, Conquest is very smooth-unless it’s hurricane season. Also, bring an outlet strip-there’s only one in the cabin. Deck chairs were plenty anytime during the cruise, many were still stacked-another very pleasant surprise. The water slide was never crowded, nor was any of the pools or hot tubs. DINING: I’m not a picky diner and have always cruised with Carnival, so I knew what to expect. The Cezanne (Lido deck) restaurant needs some improvement, entrees tended to be repeated and bland. The desserts were very bland, sometimes barely edible. The Sur Mer (deck above the Cezanne) provided some tasty dishes. The Deli had some exceptional sandwiches, especially the Reuben. The grill provided good fries and decent meals; unfortunately the buns ruined the meal. Those buns should be relegated to skeet-shooting, unless a bun-steamer is installed in the future. As always, the pizza was outstanding – a long standing Carnival tradition lives on. The formal dining was usually very good; highlights were the prime rib and chateaubriand-among many others. Only one night did the entrees just not do anything for us. Above all, order the crème Brule when it is available-I’ve tasted none better! However, the breakfast meals were not as appetizing. Service in Lido deck the dining areas were friendly and efficient. Tables were cleaned often, and empty tables were always available. Service in the aft formal dining room was unusual. They were professional and efficient, but not too personable. We had difficulty getting recommendations on entrees. They also never remember each diner’s personal likes and dislikes (no coffee, only one roll, etc.)-this was a first for us. ENTERTAINMENT: I really have issue with Carnival in this area. The crew did an excellent job in their duties. Todd and all his staff were entertaining, personable, and did an excellent job convey their sincerity in their jobs. However, this cruise was unusual in the ship had two large groups being catered to-a jazz group and casino group. I understand (and rightfully so) that the jazz group had paid a premium to be provided some famous artists that they exclusively could enjoy. And the casino group also paid a premium for using the casino facilities. My problem was Carnival (office in Miami) which must have decided that the rest of the customers did not need entertainment. There was one Broadway-style show (and very good), the rest of the cruise consisted of adult comedy, poor comedy and a poor ventriloquist. The single show each night was also at 11pm. In addition, the late shows were usually crowded as the two large groups attended the late show. Past cruises provided an early Broadway style show and the adult or other comedy was at 11 pm. As a result of this, I will no longer be cruising with Carnival. I most certainly will confirm whether a specialty-theme group(s) is involved. PORTS OF CALL: Montego Bay, Jamaica, we toured the Croydon plantation, which was interesting, but not spectacular. We had planned to go on the canopy zip line, but at $110/pp, that was too expensive. Next time I will pay my $40/pp and go to Sunset Beach. I did feel safe on the Carnival tour, but I would not have gone on a “personal” tour here. The horror stories you’ve heard of the Cozumel taxi drivers-well, they’re rookies compared to the excursion bus drivers of Jamaica. Next was Grand Cayman, I felt very safe and at ease here, I would not hesitate to book an online personal excursion here. The organization at the terminal could use improvement and expansion here. Tenders were fast and efficient in passenger delivery. We did the stingray/turtle farm tour through Carnival, at $70/pp. It was well worth the money-and highlight of the excursions. There is still much at damage when Ivan went through in 2004, but the beaches and most of the excursions were good. Standing in chest deep water, two miles from the nearest shore, while playing or feeding the stingrays was amazing. Our last stop was originally in Cozumel, which changed to Playa Del Carmen, then back to Cozumel after we left Grand Cayman. I’m glad I didn’t book anything online here, as hurricane Gamma forced our early departure, before any tenders left for Cozumel. I can’t blame Carnival for that, but learned to get my beach excursion in earlier, the next time we follow this itinerary. From what I could see from the deck of the ship, Cozumel, (the tourist trap at least) was up and running. Much damage was visible in other areas. DISEMBARKATION: I can’t critique too much here. I had read all the horror stories on this, so we carried our bags off. Those using this option are first off the ship. That was only a 25 minute process-quick and painless-I recommend it if you have a few bags. Twenty minutes later, the shuttle departed from Houston. We changed our e-tickets at Houston and arrived back home four hours ahead of schedule. Overall, I think Conquest is a beautiful, well-maintained ship, with a good crew and staff. Being the largest in Carnival’s ship classes, she did not seem as crowded as the Victory was. Without the theme groups and Carnival HQ not providing enough entertainment, I would recommend this cruise in a heartbeat. I believe that the City of Galveston has improved their service area to the Conquest, and eliminated the growing pains first experienced when she moved from New Orleans. Now if they can get traffic control under control-Conquest should have an enjoyable stay there.

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Nov 13, 2005

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Carnival Cruise Line My wife and I sailed on the Conquest Nov. 13-20, flying on Continental non-stop from Kansas City to Houston Intercontinental. Then we took the shuttle on to Galveston. We are both 48, this is our third cruise with Carnival. Originally, booked this flying Midwest to New Orleans, before Katrina made history. Continental provided an uneventful trip, unlike nightmare of flying American, on the previous cruise. The

next time I will drive to Galveston though-airfare to Houston is always more expensive. Arriving in Houston, I found the first area of improvement needed for Carnival. The two young men representing Carnival were sitting down, and difficult to see in a crowded terminal. Their Royal Caribbean counterparts, were always standing, moving, and displaying their Royal Caribbean placards, over their heads. Since these two men were the first contact points, they need to be more visible. EMBARKATION: Arriving at the cruise terminal is the next area of improvement needed-not by Carnival but, by the City of Galveston. Traffic control is very disorganized. We sat on our bus in front of the terminal for 30 minutes before unloading of luggage could begin. Many personal passenger vehicles pulled in front of buses that were being directed to park in that location. Simple separate queues of shuttle vehicles and personal vehicles would enhance this process. Porters were not directed in a logical manner, but those porters were efficient once they started unloading. Once inside the terminal, the entire process from entrance to boarding the ship was thirty minutes! That was the quickest and least painless yet. After reading previous reviews, I was pleasantly surprised how quick this went-well done on this point. As a note, Carnival’s online FunPass did nothing to speed the process-from now on - I fill out the FunPass sent with the mailed documents. CONQUEST: This is a large, beautiful ship; her crew was constantly cleaning, providing maintenance. Public restrooms were always cleaned or being cleaned. After the last cruise on the Victory, this was an area of concern. Other than one dirty carpet, she looked as she was on her maiden voyage. Walls were clean, railings were shiny and wood was spotlessly finished. My only complaints are Conquest is a cold ship and has indigestion. The temperatures in most public rooms, especially the Cezanne restaurant, required long sleeves. This lasted throughout the cruise. When we ate there, we usually sat outside as it was warmer. The other complaint, which subsided after day three, was the sewage odor. It appeared in unusual places, around the forward and aft elevators. Most noticeable, was on the journey down the hall to the Monet dining room. That tends to curb the appetite. Thankfully, it was not present in or near our cabin. The crew was very professional, but not overly personal. Aldo, our room steward, was exceptional, keeping our room spotless, while providing and warm smile and greeting. CABIN: Our cabin was the farthest forward inside cabin. Other than the occasional loud-mouth kids in the hall, it was pretty quiet. The bedding was most comfortable, and the comforter was thick and beyond warm. We had to turn down the air when using the comforter-or just sleep with the top sheet. Even during the last two days of rougher weather (which we had the last two days), only slight movement could be felt during the night. Don’t waste time and money on Bonine, Conquest is very smooth-unless it’s hurricane season. Also, bring an outlet strip-there’s only one in the cabin. Deck chairs were plenty anytime during the cruise, many were still stacked-another very pleasant surprise. The water slide was never crowded, nor was any of the pools or hot tubs. DINING: I’m not a picky diner and have always cruised with Carnival, so I knew what to expect. The Cezanne (Lido deck) restaurant needs some improvement, entrees tended to be repeated and bland. The desserts were very bland, sometimes barely edible. The Sur Mer (deck above the Cezanne) provided some tasty dishes. The Deli had some exceptional sandwiches, especially the Reuben. The grill provided good fries and decent meals; unfortunately the buns ruined the meal. Those buns should be relegated to skeet-shooting, unless a bun-steamer is installed in the future. As always, the pizza was outstanding – a long standing Carnival tradition lives on.   The formal dining was usually very good; highlights were the prime rib and chateaubriand-among many others. Only one night did the entrees just not do anything for us. Above all, order the crème Brule when it is available-I’ve tasted none better! However, the breakfast meals were not as appetizing. Service in Lido deck the dining areas were friendly and efficient. Tables were cleaned often, and empty tables were always available. Service in the aft formal dining room was unusual. They were professional and efficient, but not too personable. We had difficulty getting recommendations on entrees. They also never remember each diner’s personal likes and dislikes (no coffee, only one roll, etc.)-this was a first for us. ENTERTAINMENT: I really have issue with Carnival in this area. The crew did an excellent job in their duties. Todd and all his staff were entertaining, personable, and did an excellent job convey their sincerity in their jobs. However, this cruise was unusual in the ship had two large groups being catered to-a jazz group and casino group. I understand (and rightfully so) that the jazz group had paid a premium to be provided some famous artists that they exclusively could enjoy. And the casino group also paid a premium for using the casino facilities. My problem was Carnival (office in Miami) which must have decided that the rest of the customers did not need entertainment. There was one Broadway-style show (and very good), the rest of the cruise consisted of adult comedy, poor comedy and a poor ventriloquist. The single show each night was also at 11pm. In addition, the late shows were usually crowded as the two large groups attended the late show. Past cruises provided an early Broadway style show and the adult or other comedy was at 11 pm. As a result of this, I will no longer be cruising with Carnival. I most certainly will confirm whether a specialty-theme group(s) is involved. PORTS OF CALL: Montego Bay, Jamaica, we toured the Croydon plantation, which was interesting, but not spectacular. We had planned to go on the canopy zip line, but at $110/pp, that was too expensive. Next time I will pay my $40/pp and go to Sunset Beach. I did feel safe on the Carnival tour, but I would not have gone on a “personal” tour here. The horror stories you’ve heard of the Cozumel taxi drivers-well, they’re rookies compared to the excursion bus drivers of Jamaica. Next was Grand Cayman, I felt very safe and at ease here, I would not hesitate to book an online personal excursion here. The organization at the terminal could use improvement and expansion here. Tenders were fast and efficient in passenger delivery. We did the stingray/turtle farm tour through Carnival, at $70/pp. It was well worth the money-and highlight of the excursions. There is still much at damage when Ivan went through in 2004, but the beaches and most of the excursions were good. Standing in chest deep water, two miles from the nearest shore, while playing or feeding the stingrays was amazing. Our last stop was originally in Cozumel, which changed to Playa Del Carmen, then back to Cozumel after we left Grand Cayman. I’m glad I didn’t book anything online here, as hurricane Gamma forced our early departure, before any tenders left for Cozumel. I can’t blame Carnival for that, but learned to get my beach excursion in earlier, the next time we follow this itinerary. From what I could see from the deck of the ship, Cozumel, (the tourist trap at least) was up and running. Much damage was visible in other areas. DISEMBARKATION: I can’t critique too much here. I had read all the horror stories on this, so we carried our bags off. Those using this option are first off the ship. That was only a 25 minute process-quick and painless-I recommend it if you have a few bags. Twenty minutes later, the shuttle departed from Houston. We changed our e-tickets at Houston and arrived back home four hours ahead of schedule. Overall, I think Conquest is a beautiful, well-maintained ship, with a good crew and staff. Being the largest in Carnival’s ship classes, she did not seem as crowded as the Victory was. Without the theme groups and Carnival HQ not providing enough entertainment, I would recommend this cruise in a heartbeat. I believe that the City of Galveston has improved their service area to the Conquest, and eliminated the growing pains first experienced when she moved from New Orleans. Now if they can get traffic control under control-Conquest should have an enjoyable stay there.

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Oct 23, 2005

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Carnival We departed from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, through Calgary, and on to Houston. The airport connection in Calgary was rushed, but do-able. Getting to Galveston from Houston was very easy. They have a Carnival desk in the arrivals area, and they take your voucher, give you a shuttle boarding card with a number and name, and say, wait in this area, when we call your bus name, take your bags, and follow us and it's just a short

walk out to the buses. We had what may be the best shuttle bus driver going. He said "folks, there's a lineup at the ship so we have lots of time, and so I'm going to go through Houston rather than around, and show you some highlights." How cool is that! We saw the various arenas where football and so on are played AND Minute Maid Park where the Houston Astros were about to play in their first ever World Series. We saw the George R. Brown Convention Centre, it's the biggest complex I've ever seen. It seems like it's as big in area as all of South Edmonton Common - tons of assembly halls, parking areas, catering buildings, etc. Downtown Houston is a big city, of course, with tons of skyscrapers, kind of looks like Calgary. The driver said that over the years, Houston has "acquired" 18 other smaller cities. So he said you can be in one city, and also still be in Houston city. Down the highway, past a couple smaller places, across the causeway to Galveston (my husband, being a sport, cheered me on as I tried to learn the lyrics to the old Glen Campbell song LOL).... All in all the drive is about an hour and 20 minutes. Then the wait at the terminal. Once we were on the ship at the Welcome Aboard Show, they said that Immigration had sealed the boat when it arrived that morning, to clear the crew, and it took longer than expected, and then the terminal staff closed all in-bound traffic to it for awhile. So the rows of buses sat outside the terminal for over an hour. None of the other bus drivers were willing to let passengers off to wander around while we waited, but ours was. The area has a Fisherman's Wharf, some restaurants, beachfront of course, a museum. It was nice to be able to look around while our bus crawled up the line. Dropped off our suitcases with the porter crew - they are amazingly organized and hardworking and some people are mean and don't tip them, but we sure did! Once we were in the terminal building, it was fast to get processed. Of course as previous guests we used the Skipper's Club, which was just a small office to the side of the lineup, with 2 desks and clerks, and within about 30 minutes we had our Sign & Sail Cards and were headed to the gangway. Conquest is one huge ship. Todd, the Cruise Director, again at the Welcome Aboard Show, said "I saw everyone as they cross the gangway into the ship. You're all like Forrest Gump 'It's a Big Boat, mmmhmm' " I am very excitable, and tired as we were, I couldn't help but shout YES and wave my arms once I was on the ship and on vacation. My husband is a tall guy, and painfully thin, and perpetually hungry. So he didn't want to waste time dropping off our backpacks in the stateroom, he wanted food. The first feeding of MANY. Off to Lido, and all week I have to say the food was tremendously good. Carnival does what it does very well, part of which is keeping people happy and having fun. Then to the room - VERY nice. (Empress deck, category 11). The twin beds were set up as a king-size so I tracked down our room steward, Leonardo (who is from Costa Rica) and asked him to make them up as twins, with one night table between them, and one night table between my bed and the closets. And left a $10 on the bed to say thanks for the extra work. He also opened up our mini bar for us so we could store yogurt and fruit and such in it. We just offloaded the pop cans to the bar shelf. That night we went to a lounge and watched the Karaoke singers - great fun, and had dinner with our table mates. We ended up at a table with a couple from north of New Orleans, they were very sweet and nice all week and we enjoyed every evening with them. Sunday night and Monday during the day till about supper time the seas were rough. Being at the front of the ship made the motion all the more noticable, that night around the ship people who had cruised 20 + times said it was the roughest they'd ever seen them. I went to the Information desk and they gave us some meds that helped the dizziness and nausea, and we kind of laid about, Rob eventually went up to the deck and had fresh air. By evening it was good though. Port of Call # 1 – Montego Bay, Jamaica Only two ports of call, which for us was fine, as we enjoyed the boat, the room, the balcony, the food, the lounges and disco and shows. We went to Montego Bay, to a place called Sunset Beach Resort, which charges cruise guests $40 each for a day using their pools and beach and all-inclusive food and drinks. Really not worth it, but it was rainy all day off and on, and it had covered areas that were still open to the air, so it was okay. Port of Call # 2 – Grand Cayman The next day in Grand Cayman was terrific. We went on an excursion to Seven Mile Beach, and it included a deck chair, one drink, an an umbrella for $23 per person. Played in the ocean all day, it was warm, beautiful, blue water, a terrific fun and relaxing day, talked with a fellow from Texas, who was interesting and funny. Thursday night on the ship they did a Rocky Horror Picture show interactive in the Degas Lounge. If you've ever been to one of these, you know how much fun it is, it was a hoot, and literally standing room only, the lounge was packed front to back and we all screamed and laughed and had a great time. In the afternoons on the boat they had matinee movies in the Degas Lounge. Two formal nights - which for us weren't a big deal, as it was just one other couple and us, we just enjoyed the food, conversation, the dining staff always does a little song/dance thing after the meal. The balcony was a terrific addition to our trip - it was big enough for three deck chairs and two little tables, with room enough to walk back and forth and look out, and in and out of the room for drinks or towels or sunscreen. We spent lots of time on the balcony reading and relaxing, visiting. The last night, Saturday, back up through the Gulf of Mexico, my husband was out on the balcony at night and stuck his head in the room and said "You have to come see this!" Ahead of us was Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas, lit up like a Christmas tree, pretty with tons of lights, just booting along. It was magical! Debarkation Debarkation went smoothly for us, as my husband is a Canadian citizen, and all non-U.S. citizens are assembled and processed and off the ship before other groups. I will cruise again, as will my husband, he slept better than he ever does at home, I think it is the rocking motion of the boat on water. The food was great. Lots to do, and some days he'd explore, and I'd go out by a pool and read and have drinks. The shipboard credits were a lot and between the two of us we only spent $45 above the credits Carnival provided. So it was a pretty affordable cruise. OH and I had the world's best strawberry cheesecake and a latte one day at the dessert Cafe Fans on the ship. So all in all we loved it, we're reading about other cruises and cruise lines and destinations, and we’re eager to plan our next get-away.

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Oct 23, 2005

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Carnival We live close to Galveston so the Conquests move from New Orleans was bittersweet. We were going to miss a night in the Big Easy but we didn’t have a 5 hour drive each way to the port. We stayed in Galveston on Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Beach Front. I booked the room for $100 and they allowed us to park our car there while we were on the cruise. This in itself saved us $70. The room was fine and even had a balcony

that we enjoyed. The hotel has a shuttle to and from the pier so that was a bonus and we signed up for a 1:30 departure. We were anxious to learn where the Conquest would take us as Hurricane Wilma was lingering over Cozumel. Sunday morning came and we slept in till about 10:30. I received a late checkout and we ate breakfast. We boarded the shuttle on time and were off to the pier. Upon arrival about 15 minutes later, our bags were unloaded and given to a porter and we found the line to the terminal. We then waited and waited and the line did not move. I found out that the guests getting off were delayed and their were travel agents on board getting a tour. I wasn’t happy to say the least. It was 2:20 PM and no one had been allowed to board. Finally about 2:40 the line started to move and we entered the terminal. About an hour later, (no yellow chairs) we were on the ship and headed to check out our cabin, #6388, Upper Deck, Balcony. Upon arrival our cabin was clean and very nice. On to the buffet where we had a good lunch. We then found out that we would not be going to Cozumel but still would visit Jamaica and Grand Caymen. We received a $25 credit each for missing Cozumel. (so generous) Once we were out in the Gulf of Mexico, the water was extremely rough and some people were clearly having trouble with it. I actually enjoy the rocking and my wife likes it as well. Helps us to sleep on that hard bed. Food: We were assigned to the Monet Dining room 8PM seating. The food on the ship was average to good. Better in the dining room but I didn’t have a bad meal the entire time. Some of the deserts were very good but others could use improvement. The pizza was excellent and the breakfast was always the same but good. (except the hash-brown things weren’t fit to eat. Overall the food compared to Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines that I have been on. We did dine at The Point supper club and I thought the $30 was well worth it. I had a 26oz Porterhouse that was possibly the best steak I have ever eaten. Flavorful and cooked to perfection. Weather: It was bad the first 5 days. Not much sun until the last two days at sea. It rained the entire time we were in Jamaica and the afternoon when we were in Grand Caymen. Shore Excursions: In Jamaica, we went to Sunset Beach and tried to make the best of it despite the rain. It was close to the ship and the cab was $8 with tip. Once we arrived, we were saddened to find the price had gone from $20 to $40 each. We tough the gateman might be trying to pad his pockets but when we reluctantly agreed, he took us to the front desk where we paid and they help on to our sign and sail cards. We ate hamburgers and jerk chicken at their grill as it was the only thing open yet. The hamburgers were so so but the jerk chicken was excellent. We had quite a few drinks but couldn’t catch a buzz but I’m glad the drinks were included. We laid out at the beach and then by the pool for a while until it was time to go back to the ship. You must remember, Sunset Beach resort is not first class like a hotel in Vegas would be. It’s a little run down and could be cleaner. Though at the old rate it was a bargain. I’m not so sure I would be back at $40 each. In Caymen, we did a two tank scuba dive that I booked through Carnival. It was a cattle boat operation with two many people on one boat. I would have booked it somewhere else, but I liked being first for the tenders. Overall the diving was good but I didn’t see as much marine life as I though I would have. I wonder if the previous hurricanes had something to do with it? After our dive we went to a restaurant near the pier, I think it was called Breezes. One of the dive masters recommended it and said his roommate was a waitress there. I had fish and chips, my wife had coconut shrimp (only 5 shrimp) and two beers We shared an appetizer. Total bill with 15% tip include was $65 US. Ouch. that meal was about $35 at home. Casino: The first 3 days I was on fire and could not loose. My wife did pretty well herself. The last 4 days we could not win anything. All in all, the casino bigger than most at sea and the dealers were friendly. The video poker was 7/5 JOB, nothing near full pay. They had one hold-em table and I was only able to get on it once. the waiting list was always long and when they did call a name, they gave that person 20 minutes before moving on to the next name. They only had the for three weeks so I guess they were trying to work some bugs out. Anyway, It was a 5/10 table and I played tight among lots of loose players. I only played two hands in about two hours and walked away up a c-note. Entertainment: The comedians were good, especially Phat-Kat. The “las Vegas style shows” were not. The dancers were never in sync with each other, maybe it was the rocking of the ship. The piano bar was nice but we were only their a short time. Since it was near Halloween, The showed the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” in one of the lounges. They even had some crew members dressed and participating. It was a great show. There were numerous other entertainment and they even had a haunted house. Crew: I found the crew to be outstanding. Everyone from our waiters, cabin steward and generally everyone we met was cheerful and helpful and seemed to be sincerely interested in me and my wife having a good time. Pool: The last two days, me and my wife enjoyed the topless sundeck despite the perverts. You guys know who you are and were not stupid, we know why your there pretending not to look. I bet your wives didn’t know where you were. Debarkation: Not too bad. As usual, customs took FOREVER on the fist two groups. Once they figure out carnival has its stuff together things pick up quickly. Once in the terminal we found our bags and were through customs within 20 minutes. Once outside, our shuttle to the hotel had just arrived! The dropped us off at our car and we were on our way home by 11:30 AM. All and all a great, relaxing trip. I already miss those naps everyday. the Conquest is a nice ship and the vacation is a great value.(Smuggle your own alcohol)

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Oct 16, 2005

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Carnival We sailed the Conquest on October 16th to October 23rd. (And by we I mean my best friend and myself). We were originally supposed to set out of New Orleans, but thanks to Hurricane Katrina our departure was changed to Galveston, TX. Fortunately Hurricane Rita did very little damage to that port. However I do feel cursed, in that while on our cruise, we were approached by Hurricane Wilma. Where I will be, the hurricanes will

go or they will follow. Our original itinerary was changed from Montego Bay, Grand Caymen and Cozumel (Wed-Fri) to Costa Maya, Cozumel and Progresso (Tues-Thurs). After the initial disappointment, we were happy to be safe and have good weather. This was our first cruise, so we don’t have much to compare it to, but have a WONDERFUL time!!! The Port: For those of us who were anticipating a New Orleans departure, Galveston was slightly disappointing. However, I was impressed with how well the port managed the parking and increase in guests (the Conquest is significantly larger than the Elation which normally sails out of Galveston). The porters snap up your bags very quickly – be sure to remember to tip! They are polite and informative for first timers. Our luggage arrived at our room in plenty of time for dinner – however we did have a late seating. We parked our car in Lot B, which was not really within walking distance to the port, so shuttles are readily available and very convenient. Embarkation: Before going on the cruise, I had heard horror stories about embarkation, and the dreaded “yellow chairs”. I still have no idea what they were talking about…we never saw, or sat in, yellow chairs. The whole process took about 30 minutes, from the security screening to boarding the ship. But please please fill out the FunPass ahead of time!! It only takes about 10 minutes, and it makes things go very smoothly, for all parties. Embarkation in Galveston, as well as New Orleans, begins at 1:30pm – please don’t expect to be allowed on before that time. Sometimes you can, but don’t bet on it. Understand that the ship arrived in port at 6am, and only has about 6 hours to clean and prepare for the next cruise! Staff and Crew: Nothing but raves for the staff and crew. Todd Wittmer was the cruise director. He’s ridiculously funny, very personable, always available, and not bad looking either! Poor guy must never sleep, and probably has a hidden IV caffeine drip, cause he is EVERYWHERE and is always happy and energetic! Same goes for the assistant C.D. Jen and the rest of the social staff. Overall we found the staff to be very understanding, pleasant and willing to help. Please be respectful to the staff! Treat them well and they will treat you even better (and I don’t mean by tipping, I mean with good manners). I saw and heard stories about guests being extremely rude to the staff, which, to me, is appalling. Throughout the week, we picked our favorites of the staff. Dining staff was great, our favorite bartender Vesna at Latour, and beautiful Boris on the Lido deck bringing us our “surprise” drinks. The staff, for the most part, are from all over the world, giving an awesome cultural atmosphere to the cruise. I raise my glass to the Captain Querllos for leading us out of the path of Wilma, and sailing us into great new ports and finding the sunny spots in the Gulf of Mexico. We didn’t lose any time or ports of call, and had really nice weather. I have a great tan to prove it! The around and look at the maps, you’ll be glad you did. You can’t go straight across from forward to aft on all floors, which can get tricky. By the end of the week, you’ll be an old pro, saying high to people in the lobbies that you’ve met throughout the week. I can’t say enough about the cleanliness of the ship. With almost no turnaround time between cruises, the crew does an incredible job. The staterooms are constantly clean. Hallways are vacuumed everyday. Spills are mopped up immediately. Dirty dishes lay unattended for 5 minutes at the most in the Cezanne restaurant. Gym equipment was never broken. I even saw them cleaning the outside of the ship while we were in port one day! The architecture and décor were beautiful – very standard of the impressionistic period. Everything is bright colorful. The hot tubs are fantastic, some are freshwater, some are salt water. The pools are small but never seemed that crowded – why swim in a pool when you can swim in blue water! Staterooms: We went the cheap route, and got the tiny room. I heard that once you go balcony, you never go back – so we didn’t want to spoil ourselves. Our room was very nice. We were on the main deck, forward. Very forward – as in two cabins from the front. Because of our front location, and the hurricane approaching, we definitely felt the rocking of the boat and waves crashing. Go through a travel agent if you get seasick easily (which we don’t) and secure a room in the middle. And because our room was deemed handicap accessible (we had one twin bed and a sofa bed), we had more room than most, much more than I anticipated. We had tons of closet space, storage under the regular bed, and more drawers under the sofa bed. There was also plenty of room for two high-maintenance women to spread their makeup and hair stuff all over. The bathroom was decent. There was a good amount of counter space, and shelves up both sides of the sink for toiletries. The shower was a typical standup shower, always had hot water, however, unless you are careful, you will get water EVERYWHERE, especially if the seas are rough and the ship is rocking. And, as you must know by now, the toilet flushing experience is one you won’t forget. The room we had wasn’t deluxe, but was exceeded expectations, especially for the little time we spent in it. Steward: We considered our steward and his team to be fantastic, and I heard from others that theirs were even better! He was very polite, got you what you needed (although we didn’t really ever have a need to request anything). And they put up with the mess we called our room! And you will absolutely fall in love with the towel animals! Gym/Jogging Track: The jogging track is fun, a little small though. You have to go around 10 times to complete a mile. On the days at sea, the one half of the track is nice and easy, but once you ‘round the bend, the wind hits you like a ton of bricks! It gave me an even better workout though. =) And some of the people who use the track lack a little bit of etiquette. But as the week wore on, fewer people chose to use the track. The gym was also smaller than your average gym, however, accommodated quite nicely the number of people who used it (which was not many). I never once had to wait for a machine, the entire gym was very clean, and the staff was very accessible and friendly. One tip: don’t use the treadmills facing the windows on a diagonal unless you have good balance! The treadmill was quite an experience on a moving ship! I do think, however, that they would have more of a turnout for the offered classes if they were held in a separate room, not a sectioned off part of the gym. I was one of the few people who managed to workout every day of the cruise. I guess most people take a vacation from that too. =) And I have to say it was necessary with the amount of food I ate! Spa/Salon: We took a spa/salon tour on the day of embarkation. What was offered seemed comparable to most other places – I had assumed that most services would be scaled down, but they weren’t! Pricing, of course, was expensive, but no worse than any mid-to-high end salon. We scheduled facials for one of our last days on the cruise, which I highly recommend, if you have $100+ to spend. It was so relaxing I almost fell asleep! They will give your recommendations on your skin, and offer you products to buy on ship. My recommended skin care regimen COULD have cost me $350, which I opted not to buy, nor did I feel pressure to buy. Camp Carnival: I don’t have any kids, so I don’t have too much to say about this. However, Todd informed us that there were 500 kids on board the ship. I think Camp Carnival must have been hiding most of them, because it didn’t seem like there were that many! And from what I could overhear, the kids seemed to love it, and make lots of friends. However, if you plan on spending some of your days on the Lido deck by the pool with the slide, be prepared for lots of kids, both big (adults) and small. Internet Café: Warning, its expensive! Besides, you’re on vacation….stay away from your email! We did need to check it twice, though, to make sure our one excursion not booked through Carnival was cancelled, and to inform our families that the hurricane had not swallowed us up. Photos: They are EVERYWHERE. Everywhere you turn, someone wants to take your picture. The great part is, you have no obligation to buy! So take as many as you can, and buy a couple. The photographers are all excellent, and really know what they are doing. The quality was amazing. They are expensive though, and you have to buy the 8x10 for $20 in most cases, before you can order additional smaller pictures. But I would definitely say one or two are worth it. Finding your pictures by the end of the week can be a bit dicey, but they are very well marked as to what/where they were taken. Days At Sea: Our lazy days at sea usually included room service for breakfast, followed by casually wondering up to the gym or the lido deck to lay out. The Lido deck does get crowded, but for the most part, chair saving was not too bad of a problem. The chairs by the pool and slide do go fast, though, as they are prime location, so get there before 11 if you are picky about where you sit. Carnival charges you $22 if you lose your beach towel, so unless you wasted packing room to bring your own, very few people leave their towels out, unattended. I read in one review about a lady who gave a one hour time limit. If the towel was still there (with no person attached to it) she would take the chair - I think that’s fair. Costa Maya: Since we only had a day to consider what excursion to do in Costa Maya, we opted to wing it, upon the advice of the bar staff. Since our port of call days were pushed up by a day, the Captain anticipated arriving in Costa Maya at 2pm, and leaving at 7pm, which was slightly disappointing. Much to our surprise, however, we docked around 11am and were off the ship no long thereafter! Costa Maya is absolutely breathtaking. We were told by Todd that Costa Maya today is what Cozumel was about 15 years ago. While the port itself is very “tourist-y”, the rest of the city is very rustic. At the port, there are the typical souvenir shops with somewhat pushy salesmen, and amphitheater with typical cultural entertainment, and fantastic swimup bar, and two restaurants with traditional Mexican food. There is also a “beach” with lounge chairs, however the coast is too rocky for swimming. So we took a cab ($5 round trip per person) to a small beach called Mahahual. After getting off the highway (a 10 minute trip) we took dirt roads to this sleepy little fishing village. Here there are some small bars, restaurants and shops. We picked lounge chairs on the beach ($3 for the day), and relaxed. The water was warm but refreshing and crystal clear, and the sun was shining, even with the hurricane coming! After a few hours and a few beers, we were ready to head back to the ship. Finding a cab back was easy as can be. I’m glad we were able to visit Costa Maya before it becomes too “tourist-y” – there was a good deal of development occurring near Mahahual. Cozumel: This would have to be one complaint I had about the ports of call. You have to get up so early!!! No worries though – if you’re on a lower deck, you will definitely be awakened by the docking process. =) We had intended on taking the Fiesta Boat Party excursion offered through Carnival. However, the boat was cancelled on account of choppy waters due to the hurricane. So we instead switched out excursion to the Playa Mia Beach Break (the original planned stop on the Fiesta Boat). All drinks were included. And for the trouble, we were reimbursed immediately for the Fiesta Boat, and not charged for the Beach Break, however it was $14 for a cab each way. Playa Mia was very nice. If you were on the Carnival Beach Break excursion, however, you had to go to a specific bar for your free drinks. Not a big deal – just pick a chair near it! The cups were small, but you could take two at a time, and there was staff constantly picking up empty cups. This was a little more structured than Costa Maya, since it was a beach resort, so you could also get rafts and kayaks for the water, or rent wave runners. There was a rock climbing wall, and some bungee cord thing, and some entertainment for the kids. Food at the bar was good too, and not overly expensive. The water was definitely a little rough because of the storm coming, but still warm and nearly turquoise in color! We took the cab back a little early, so we could spend some time at Fat Tuesdays. What a crazy place! We even made friends with some other people who were sailing on Carnival Miracle, who happened to be diverted to Cozumel that day as well. Progresso: I have to say, Progresso was a disappointment. While you do not have to tender in, the pier is about 2-3 miles long, and you are required to take a shuttle in. From what I heard, early in the morning (8-9am) there were about 5 or 6 free shuttles running, and the process was very smooth. We did not get off the boat until 10, and were supposed to be going on a kayaking tour, that met at “the end of the pier”. Our tickets did not clearly state the end of which pier it was (there were two connecting piers from the boat to Progresso – hence the length of the pier). We assumed it was the end of the second pier, and waited in line for the free shuttle. We waited for about 45 minutes (at this time there was only one or two shuttles running) only to find out that we were wrong about where to meet – our guide was to meet us right off the boat. That was our fault, we should not have assumed that we were right. I’m not sure whose fault the lack of shuttles were – Carnival’s or the port’s. However, there are cabs you can take, which are not too expensive. So if you go to Progresso, see a line for the shuttles, head all the way to the front of the line and take a cab! As it turns out, our kayak adventure was cancelled because of very strong tides. We found that out at the very second it started to rain (thank you Wilma!) so we just headed back to the boat, and found a bar. =) It cleared up not long after, so we spent the day on the Lido Deck. Formal Dining: We only went to the Monet Restaurant once for breakfast. It was very nice, same atmosphere as the Renoir, where we ate dinner every night at the late (8:30pm) seating. I can’t say enough about the food and the service! The courses were beautifully prepared and delicious every time! You would never have expected that the kitchen prepared 2-4 courses per person for 700-1200 guests per seating. There was a nice variety of choices every night, rarely, if ever, repeating. And if you wanted an appetizer and two salads, it was yours! Our head waiter, Sinisa, was very nice and charming (and easy on the eyes), and his assistant Valentina, was extremely attentive with water, bread etc. Almost every night the dining staff prepared some sort of entertainment, included singing and dancing on tables. It was a wonderful break before desert to let everything settle. Our table had so much fun at dinner, that all eight of us came back every night. For the most part, I did not notice any decrease in attendance at dinner throughout the week from anyone in our dining room. The formal nights were very fun – people wore anything from short dresses or button down shirts, to evening gowns and tuxes, so no one ever felt out of place. Informal Dining: It’s no wonder that all you do is eat on a cruise….there is food everywhere, all of the time! The breakfast buffet did not vary from morning to morning, but there is no surprise there. They offered pretty much anything you could want – French toast, pancakes, eggs, grits, meat, cereal, fresh fruit (the melon was superior every day), made to order omelet’s, etc. We didn’t eat often at the lunch buffet, because we were usually at port, or otherwise occupied. But when we did, we enjoyed it. Salad bar was very nice and fresh, the deli was excellent. And then there is room service – 24 hours a day. There is a list of what you can get, which is limited, but from what I understand, they will pretty much get you what you want within reason. You can even place a card on your door handle with a breakfast order, and they will deliver it at whatever time you request the next morning. Definitely be sure to visit the pizzeria at least once (we went almost once a day). It is delicious! Its open 24 hours a day, and is conveniently right next to the only bar (aside from the casino) that is open till 4am. Entertainment – Shows, etc.: I was satisfied with the first Vegas show (I heard the other one, which we missed, was better). I commend the dancers for not falling on a rocking ship! There were two comedy shows, both of which were great, Phat Cat was awesome! The guest talent show exceeded my expectations – but that probably changes depending on who the ‘talent’ is. The crew skit following the talent show is fantastic – not to be missed!!!! And the crew’s version of Whose Line is it Anyway had us in stitches! If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to note the time of the show. If it is a later show, it may not be appropriate for kids, especially the comedy shows. They are usually pretty good about warning if there will be some crude humor. Entertainment – Carnival Colors: Throughout the week, there is a competition among the guests. Every dining table is given a color (red, white or blue), and throughout the week, at certain events, games, etc. there is an opportunity for guests to win points for their team. At the end of the week, whoever has the most amount of point wins. What do you win? Nothing but bragging rights. But it’s a great way to meet people and is really entertaining. Mardi Gras night was probably my favorite. Your team goes around to three different bars, participates in karaoke, dance-offs, etc. and everyone ends up on the Lido deck for dancing and music. Todd, if your lucky, will even get up and sign with the band. He’s not half bad!! It’s a very festive atmosphere, and probably has even more significance if you’re traveling out of New Orleans. Entertainment – Bars: There are sooooo many, I don’t think we even hit them all. Some of our favorites were the Degas lounge, the Latour Wine and Martini Bar, the bar by the pizzeria. Henri’s the disco, could probably have been cool, but was overrun by bad dancers. =) The piano bar was great, especially if you like that type of entertainment. Alfreds really does smell like cigars. Tolousse was beautifully decorated and was very comfortable – and you could get bar service in your seat! We didn’t spend too much time at the lobby bar, except on the first day, to marvel at the 9 story lobby. I have to say, we didn’t spend too much time at the bars, we preferred to be somewhere where someone would serve us our drinks! Also, we were shocked at the price of the drinks. They were much cheaper than we anticipated! I had heard they were outrageous, but they were not at all. They were comparable to any regular bar, and sometimes even cheaper if you are used to bars in big cities. (This will only encourage you to drink more, though) Entertainment – Casino: I’m not a gambler, so we didn’t spend any time in the casino. It seemed very nice, not overly crowded, and those I talked to all seemed to have decent luck! It reminded me of an Atlantic City casino, but on a smaller scale. Debarkation: This was an absolute nightmare, which was odd, because I had not heard bad things about getting off the boat. We had an early flight, so we were put in the first group to debark. It seemed, however, that half of the ship had an early flight, and were all in this group, as well has half of the promenade deck. I want to say about a quarter of this ship was trying to get off at 8:15. I also overheard several people saying that they snuck into this first group to get off early, which I found completely inconsiderate. Needless to say, once we were off the boat, we had to find our luggage in this warehouse type building, get in another line, and go through customs. Galveston is not equipped to handle a ship the size of the Conquest, and it showed during the customs check. There were only 5 or 6 lines for US residents, non-US residents and crew. Two hours later, we were on the road, heading home. All in all, we had a FANTASTIC time, and are already planning our next cruise! (Probably the same exact cruise – not during hurricane season though!) One final thing to mention that I noticed no other reviews had mentioned – what I call “anti-motion sickness”. I didn’t get sick at all on the boat, however, for the next 2-3 days, I felt like the solid ground at home was moving!

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Oct 16, 2005

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Carnival I went on the Carnival Conquest on Oct. 16, 2005. This is my first cruise, but I have done a lot of traveling throughout the world even to third world countries like Angola. I was extremely unimpressed with my cruise experience that Carnival provided. I went when Hurricane Wilma was just forming. Carnival changed my port to Progesso, Cozumel, and Costa Maya which I can understand since no one can predict Mother Nature.

Embarkation: We went around 11:30 AM thinking we will be ahead of all the people. Wrong. The terminal was filled with people because they did not start letting people on the cruise ship until 1:00PM. Food: The food is pretty bad. I thought the quality of food on the Lido desk was worst than any food you can find in a mall’s food court. However, the food served at the main dining room was okay. Staff: The staff on Carnival was very rude and unhelpful. I got bumped by the staff many times and without any apologies. This is quite shocking as staffs in any hotel or even motel are much nicer than the Carnival staffs. One day at 11:30AM, we wanted some pizzas. We were the only one there. The pizza guy saw us waiting and just ignored us for 10 mins talking with another staff. I do not think this kind of service is acceptable at all. There were about three staffs that were extremely nice to us throughout the cruise and we definitely will call Carnival to praise on those individuals that made our cruise more bearable. Excursion: Please do not book any of your excursions with Carnival. You are told that Carnival do not want you to book outside the cruise ship due to any issue that might come up. However, they do not resolve issues when you run into problems with the excursion you book with them. I booked a Clear Kayak and Beach Break Tour excursion provided by Pelicanos Tours through Carnival. We were on shore getting ready to get on the Kayak when the tour operator told us to give them all non-waterproof cameras. My boyfriend took his camera from our zip-lock bag and gave it to the tour operator. We then all got in the clear kayak. We did not see any fish or reefs. All we saw was sand and grass. We also went against current and the wind which caused the kayaking to feel like an endurance test. Finally, we reached the beach. After hanging out on the beach for two- three hours, my boyfriend had to go to the restroom. This is when he noticed a lot of people were gathered around the restroom with their camera. He went over there and found out that the tour operators took all of our digital cameras in a non-waterproof bag on a jet ski and drop it in the sea. We went back on the ship and complained to Carnival. Their response is it is privately operated tour and they cannot do anything to help us at all. The excursion staff was rude and just argued with us. All we want is a disposable camera ($10) so we can take some picture on the rest of our tour and they refused to even provide it. How do we work with a tour operators from Costa Maya when we are on the cruise ship? Activities: All of the main shows were very disappointing. I thought they hired some Vegas rejects to perform the so called Vegas Style shows. The juggler was dropping rings and batons throughout the show. The magician was a joke. She messed up the first act and had to restart it. She was suppose to pop up on a stand but when it come time she was no where to be found. I was able to see all the secret pockets she had her stuff hidden in. The dancers were performing out of sync. The performances done by nonprofessionals were way better. Todd the cruise director was very funny and the newly wed game was a lot of fun. The last night they did an improv show (Who’s line is it anyway) and it was hilarious. The talent show was also very entertaining. Debarkation: We were told to sit around in the lounges until our color tag were called. After two hours of waiting, we were still on the first color tag. This is very uncoordinated and frustrating. The whole time Carnival blamed the Galveston custom people and process. Finally, they called our color and we went through custom within 20 mins. It is quite interesting as the custom process was much faster than they make it sound. Overall: I had a horrible time on the Carnival Conquest, majority due to the rude staff on the ship. I will not recommend anyone to go on this ship due to the nightmare that we experienced. I would not want anyone to have to argue with staff members during their vacation since we all know how hard it is to setup a vacation. I also talked with numerous people on the ship and about 2/3 of the people had a bad to terrible cruise.

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Oct 16, 2005

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Carnival This was my first cruise and I read a lot of reviews before cruising. I hope that this review will be helpful to someone deciding to cruise. Embarkation: My group arrived in Galveston about 11 am. We waited until 1pm for the bus to transport us to the ship. It seemed a bit unorganized but I decided to keep a positive attitude. We arrived at the ship and the check-in process went smooth (no yellow chairs). We were in line

to take our embarkation picture and were given a new itinerary due to Hurricane Wilma. We were disappointed, but we understood the change was for safety reasons. We, at this point, thought we would get some sort of credit but that never happened. Food: I was disappointed in the food. I thought the buffets were very limited and were repeated. I felt that they closed the buffet areas too early and you would have to walk the ship to find the buffet area that was open. I also was disappointed that you would have to walk around to find a drinking area that was open. Sometimes they would close all the buffet bars except one, but the juice fountains would be two buffet areas away. Way too much walking! The food in the main dining room was good and breakfast was always good. Staff: I don’t know if my expectations were too high, but I felt that overall, the staff was very rude. I don’t know if Carnival has a policy that employees must not talk to guests, but it was like pulling eye teeth to get our dining room waiter to talk to us the first two nights. He would not talk until after taking the order for dessert. Maybe they are worked too hard in order to give the little show performance during dinner. If this is the case, Carnival should cancel the dinner show so the wait staff can enjoy the guests. Our room steward was nice. I did not care for Todd, the cruise director. I only saw him introducing the shows. It felt to me like the crew had some bad news before our ship sailed and they were just going through the motions. Activities: The activities were o.k. I loved the first show Formidable. This was a very nice show. The others were mediocre. I liked the comedy from both comedians. The Hawaiian Mystery show was horrible. The Newlywed show was good as well as the talent show. The Motown review should have been performed by the audience. Excursions: We didn’t go to any excursions because most of our itinerary was cancelled. Progresso did not seem ready to handle tourists. And we had the Carnival Miracle ported with us, so this little island couldn’t handle one, let alone two, ships! Our group caught a taxi to Paradise Island in Cozumel and this was the best time I had on the entire cruise. Debarkation: Our group was the first color to be called for debarkation. It took us an hour to get off the ship. Once we were off the ship, customs went quick, about 15 minutes. Overall: I did not enjoy the cruise as I had anticipated. Most people that I was with told me that this cruise was not typical. They all felt the same way that I felt but promised me that this cruise was an exception to “cruising”. Therefore, I will give Carnival another try, but maybe on a smaller ship and I will definitely be writing Carnival directly.  

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Oct 16, 2005

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Carnival Introduction This was the first cruise for my wife and myself. Carnival seemed like a very popular cruise company and after talking to a friend who had sailed on the Carnival Conquest; we felt it was worth giving a try. We planned for over a year and loved this cruise review site. It helped us out tremendously. I promised myself that I would give a review when we returned. Here it is. Cruise Itinerary We were originally

scheduled to leave New Orleans, however our port was changed after Hurricane Rita made that impossible. Carnival chose Galveston as a temporary new site for the Conquest to sail from. Our itinerary was originally to visit Montego Bay in Jamaica, then go to Grand Cayman, and then stop at Cozmel. The day we set sail, Hurricane Wilma was emerging, and moving for Jamaica and Grand Cayman. The Captain came up with a new itinerary to keep us out of the Hurricane. We visited Costa Maya, Cozmel, and then Progresso. This made our cruise an all-Mexican port trip. Galveston has a very nice beach. The hotel we stayed in was right across from it, so we were able to enjoy the ocean before we set sail. The pier where the Conquest docks at is not so nice. In fact, it is very industrial and a little intimidating. The Port Authority and Police Department of Galveston are in charge of directing traffic and getting vacationers where they need to be. They did a horrible job. I asked three different police officers where I could park and which gate I should go to. All three of them rudely gave me different instructions. It was obvious that they were understaffed and the facility for embarkation and debarkation was to small for ships the size of the Conquest. I might add that Royal Caribbean was also using the pier the same time we were, which must have exhausted their resources even more so. Find your directions before hand for parking, and have your luggage ready for a quick drop off if you must drive through the loop in front of the pier. This is a mad traffic jam at times and you will want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Once parking was found, we were shuttled in and awaited a series of lines and sitting areas to be processed and allowed onto the ship. It took several hours, but everyone was in a good mood and quite patient with the staff running the operation. In fact, it was the Port Authority that seemed to be frazzled by the large numbers of accumulating vacationers. Disembarkation took 8 hrs to get off the ship. Be prepared to make arrangements for traveling. It is not a quick process. My advice, be patient and bring a book or something you can do while you wait. Being impatient will not make the process any quicker. Costa Maya Costa Maya was beautiful. The blue green waters looked like they were right out of the Corona beer commercials. The shopping center off the pier is perfect for people who really do not want to stray away from the boat. They even have a pool to swim in for free, as well as beach chairs. When you stray away from the pier, a darker side emerges. Costa Maya is still waiting to be built into a great tourist destination. The pier is about all they really have so far. Hotels and other structures are beginning to be built; however the people and their homes look very poor. The military presence made a fellow traveler mention flashbacks to Vietnam as we passed housing structures that resembled tin sheds as well as people walking down the road bare foot carrying Machetes. I don’t want to scare anyone away from this port. I thought it was the most beautiful of all the beaches I saw. I ended up at the Tequila Beach Resort for a mere $20. This included open bar and free food. The shuttle service was only $3 each way to get there and well worth it. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a nice beach to chill on for the day. Cozumel Cozumel was my least favorite port. The cabs and excursions were pricey. The vendors were very pushy and in your face. I felt this was a tourist trap. I would spend the day snorkeling and stay away from the shops if I had it to do over again. Progresso Progresso itself was pretty rundown looking and a bit scary. I would stroll off alone away from the major tourist areas. We took a bus trip to Merida, which was a large metropolitan city. The buildings and architecture were gorgeous. The city had a colonial Spanish feel to it. The downtown areas felt like Cozmel. They would harass you in hopes of selling you something, even if you said no repeatedly. We had a street vendor ask us four different times to purchase a fan. He was so high that he could not remember seeing us minutes before. I heard the Mayan ruin excursions were excellent as well with less of the aggravating vendors. The Ship and Crew The Carnival Conquest ship and crew were fantastic. The entertainment and accommodations were well worth the price. We had an interior room on the 2nd floor and we loved it. Make sure you bring an alarm clock. You will need one without windows. The cruise director Todd Wittmer was blasts to watch as he well lead the activities and guided guests through the week. The food was fantastic. Make sure you use your dinner reservations. The service is outstanding. Our server, Vechean and “O” from Thailand were the best I have ever seen. They recommended menu items, refilled drinks, and were overly entertaining. By far, the highlight of my trip was their company every evening. Conclusion The ship is well worth what you spend. Galveston and the Embarkation and Disembarkation can really put a downer on your trip. Stay away from Galveston if at all possible. They are just to small and unable to handle large cruise ships. Try other ports instead. Also, do not schedule a cruise during Hurricane season if you can avoid it. It really can mess with your trip, and is not worth the gamble.

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Oct 16, 2005

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Carnival Cruise Lines My husband and I went on our first and only cruise for our first wedding anniversary. It was the worst vacation experience we've ever had. I had always heard that the food is wonderful, and the wait staff is very efficient. Not only was the food horrible, but the service was as well. I actually lost weight. We went on a Caribbean cruise and never even stepped foot in the water. There were no public beaches at

the ports that people could use. We couldn't even get in one of the pools on the ship because there were so many people in them, and there was a disgusting film over the top of them. You couldn't get a chair anywhere near them either. Just because they say a cruise ship is one of the largest in the fleet, that isn't necessarily better. That just means they cram that many more people on the boat. There was a storm, so they cancelled all of our ports (Grand Cayman and Jamaica) except one. I realize that the storm was not in their control, but instead of taking us to ports that were comparable to the ones we were supposed to go to, they took us to ports that weren't even used as normal ports. Even the cruise director said that one of them, "sucks." By the time we realized we needed to sign up for different excursions, they were all booked. At the one port that stayed the same (Cozymel), our excursion was cancelled. The employees of the ship were not sympathetic, and one even went so far as to laugh at me when I asked why it was cancelled. One night there were very rough seas, and almost the whole boat was seasick. When my husband asked why the captain did not warn people so they could take measures to not be sick, the person at the main desk in the lobby said, "The captain didn't know it was going to be rough." If that's the case, how is that captain a captain? Even pilots can tell when there's going to be turbulence. Then they had fliers for couples' massages all over the ship. When we went to sign up for one, they said they only had one time slot available. We spent over $4,000 on this cruise, and we hated almost every minute of it. For that amount of money, we could have gone to a 5-star all-inclusive resort just about anywhere. The drinks were outrageously priced. The best part was getting off the ship. Even that process took 4 hours. When we got back, we sent emails and made phone calls to complain and the only person that responded offered us a "hospitality basket" on our next cruise. My husband refrained from telling them what they could do with that basket. Because of Carnival, I will never go on another cruise again.

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Oct 15, 2005

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Carnival Cruise Lines This cruise was originally booked to leave from New Orleans. With the Hurricane season pummeling the Gulf Coast and flooding the city, Galveston became the alternate port. Unfortunately, Hurricane Wilma chased the Conquest during our cruise and also affected our course making this an all Mexican port vacation. (Costa Maya, Cozmel, and Progresso) The Conquest is a wonderful ship. The staff friendly and service

immediate. The food was usually very good in the Monet dining room. Service was excellent there as well. Make a point to go to your assigned dining room. It's a wonderful experience. The buffets were just okay. Food occasionally seemed bland. Pizza station was usually under staffed and almost always required a 5-10 minute wait for one slice during peak hours. The rooms were quite surprising in comfort. We reserved a balcony and I must tell you, this is the only way to enjoy the full experience. It's your own ocean view, and you have it 24 hours a day. We ordered room service daily and enjoyed our breakfast on the balcony while the sun came up. Leaving and entering ports was also nice to enjoy from you room. Spend the extra money. You deserve it, and you will not regret it. After all, you are on vacation. The shows and entertainment vary for all different age groups. There is always something to do and see on this ship! The hard part is choosing between them all. My advice, remember you are on vacation and slow down. You can easily wear yourself out trying to do it all. Some shows, like the Vegas style musicals don't impress the younger crowds. However the adult comedy show with Phat Kat doesn't always work with seniors and retirees due to the profanity. Keep in mind, they provide a variety for everyone to enjoy something. Like the seasonal weather in Springfield, MO...if you don't like it, just wait a day and it will change completely. There is something for everyone. With things like Camp Carnival for kids, the full service spa for adults, and wonderful night spots for younger people, it's no wonder why Carnival is called the "Fun Ship". The only thing I could complain about is the city of Galveston and the embarkation/disembarkation process. It was a horrible experience trying to get on and especially off that ship. Sometimes taking people over 8hrs to get to their cars. It is a free for all to find your luggage amongst hundreds of suitcases and people and you will lose any relaxed feeling you may had before leaving Galveston. This is an unfortunate way to end or begin a vacation. Hopefully they will improve their capacity in this process in the near future. If you are thinking about this cruise, and live in the Midwest, I would highly recommend it. It was an addictive experience and one we will enjoy again.      

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Oct 9, 2005

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Carnival Cruise line Because of Katrina we boarded in Galveston. We went to Galveston the day before and spent the night at the Wyndham Galvez. Nice hotel across from the beach. They provided a shuttle to the ship and then from the ship back to the hotel since we stayed there a night after the cruise also. We didn't want to have to worry about rushing off the ship and getting to the airport. We had flown into Houston so we did not

have to worry about parking whilst on the ship. There are taxis available from Houston to Galveston , but we opted to rent a limo for about $20 more. Since we flew in the day before our cruise there was no shuttle available from Carnival. Two days at sea was okay. They provide entertainment and there was plenty of sunshine and deck chairs available. Montego Bay, Jamaica - We decided to just go to Sunset Beach for the day. The price is now $40 to get in and was a bit of a surprise. Free drinks and food are offered. There were plenty of lounges available and the water was nice. The armed guards were a little distracting though. We took a taxi to the approved market and wandered around the stores being hounded by quite a few people wanting to braid hair or just get their picture taken with you for a dollar. We got a Taxi from there to Margaritaville and enjoyed people watching. The taxi driver waited for us and got us back to the ship without being hounded by the locals again. Grand Cayman - We did the stingray city tour with Sotos cruises and had a wonderful time. It was cheaper than booking through Carnival and the were a lot less people on the boat with us. It was a lot of fun. It's surprising how much an adult stingray will weigh. They had some squid chopped up and gave it to us to feed the rays. After we were done with the stingray adventure we caught a Taxi to Hell. It is a small Post Office and three tourist shops in a little are called Hell. The Taxi driver was very nice and gave us a little tour of the island on the way back to the ship, showing us areas that were devastated by hurricane Ivan the year before. And some locations that have been rebuilt since. We had to tender into Grand Cayman and really didn't have any problem getting back to the ship. There were 6 or 7 ships in port that day, Two from Carnival, so you just had to make sure you were in the right line to get back to the right ship. Cozumel - We did book an onshore adventure through Carnival for this port. We did the jeep adventure to Paradise Island. Luckily we got paired with a younger couple (in their 20's) that didn't mind having fun driving the jeep. It had rained the night before so we had some good mud puddles to splash through. It wasn't a real gut-wrenching four wheeling outing but it was fun. paradise Island is the one where they filmed the Corona Beer commercials, and it's more beautiful in person. They had some jerk chicken and rice for the free lunch, jusice and soda was available. Beer, rum and tequila was also on tap for a couple bucks. We did a little shopping after we got back into town and found the people in the shops to be a little pushy and the items in the shops really not worth what you could buy it for. Staff - They were courteous and very friendly. Our room steward, Albert, was great. He was always available when we called for extra towels or more water. The staff at our tabl in the Monet resturant were great too. Anatta was always smiling and very attentative at our table. She was in the little production they did a couple nights after dinner and looked like she was really having fun. The room - We opted for the balcony and will never do without it again. We had a room on the very back of the ship so we had a good view and enjoyed relaxing on the balcony watching the moon rise from the ocean. We had read many reviews here before this cruise and remembered to take a foot long bungee cord to hold the door open so we could here the ocean. We also took an extension cord, since there is only one outlet in the room it came in handy for the curling iron and battery charger for the camera. Debarkation was a breeze since we were not in any hurry, we waited until they had to clean the room and then went and had a drink. by the time we walked off the boat our luggage was sitting all by itself and after getting a porter, it didn't take five minutes to get through customs. This is the second time we cruised with carnival and have enjoyed both times. We will definitely look at Carnival for our next cruise.

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Oct 9, 2005

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Carnival • Reviewed by Bob • Cruised with: • Family of 4 – 2 Adults & 2 Children 13 & 9 traveling with a family reunion group (total of 15 people) • First time cruiser (but 2 other family reunion members have cruised on 3 other lines 6+ times and concur with this review) • Departed from: Galveston, TX o (Temporary Port – relocated from New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina) GIST: Overall score- 9 out of 10. Definitely

recommend. Would sail on her again. Galveston Area • We stayed at the Best Western Beach Front Inn, located right on shoreline highway, 2 blocks east of 61st Street. • Not a bad place (I did not choose it, this is what the TA had booked for the 10 family members coming from MI & MN, so the rest of us tagged along) • I travel a lot and usually stay in Marriott/Hilton properties, so this hotel was a couple notches below what I am used to but for one night, it was tolerable. I wasn’t really going to be happy anyway because the fact that I could be staying for free at the Galveston Marriott on my rewards points was constantly nagging me ☺. Still, for $80 for a family of 4, including a substantial continental breakfast was not that bad. Overall I rate this place a 7 out of 10 – the fact that the beach is right across the road is a plus! • Dinner was at Tortugas Mexican Restaurant next door. Good food, great service, nuff said! 9 out of 10. Luggage Drop Off • Smooth as could be – we loaded everyone’s luggage (some 25+ pieces!!) into two rental SUVs and drove to pier 21 from the hotel to drop off the luggage at 1130 (the earliest we could drop off). • When we got there, it was a ZOO! People dropping off luggage and of course post-cruise luggage pickup was happening simultaneously! I just KNEW we were in for a real SNAFU… • SURPRISE! Very helpful security & police personnel directed us to the drop off point, and Carnival porters in colorful blue Hawaiian shirts came out to get our luggage. These guys were great and extremely efficient we were off-loaded and our luggage on it’s way in less than 3 min!! – do not forget to tip the porters the recommended $2 per bag they earn every penny! • Our luggage was waiting for us when we got to the stateroom (Upper deck) at 3:30 Embarkation • NOT so smooth as it could be…however, this is NOT Conquest’s homeport and this terminal is NOT really prepared for a ship the size of the Conquest! Add to this a security problem (see below) and under the circumstances, it went pretty well – all things considered. • Our group had split up the morning of the cruise with half of us wanting to brunch at the Rainforest café and the other half wanting to lounge around and eat seafood at the Fisherman’s Wharf (directly in view of the Conquest and right on the dock, next door to pier 21—what better place to start the Cruise!! – besides the drinks were cheaper at the Fisherman’s Wharf). • We finished lunch and got in line at the cruise terminal about 1:30PM and were wondering why the line was not moving at all??!! About that time, we got a call from the other half of our group asking where we were. We told them outside and they explained they were inside, up the escalator, and not through security, standing in a unmoving line for almost 2 hours!! It seems that there was an unaccounted person (crew or PAX, we never found out) and Carnival security had frozen embarkation until they sorted the problem out. • We started moving about 2:00PM and processed through security within 30 min. Then on to the Sail & Sign line… • Fun Pass? We Don’t Neeeed Noooo Steennkinnng Fun Pass!! o After harassing everyone to complete their fun passes on line (and taking the 20+ min to do so for MY family) I was both embarrassed AND pissed that it made absolutely ZIP difference! Everyone got in the same line and it took us about a hour to get through the S&S line. o Once at the S&S desk however, it took the woman only 3-5 min to get us on our way. Then it was on to the security cameras for our digital photos and then on to the FIRST (of many) money traps: the Embarkation Photo. o Carnival: The Fun Ship way to fleece folks • Somebody at Carnival corporate should be able to retire early as a millionaire: the person who thought up Cruise Photos & videos. • The good news: You can have as many of them taken as you want – for free! • The Better news: Carnival Photographers – even though they are production Photographers – are damn good at what they do! I mean that; I know, I have been professionally trained myself and still consider myself a very advanced photo/videographer • The Bad, Bad News…Carnival goes for the throat in its price scheme $19.99 for a 8x10 photo and $7.99 for a 6x9 – at the volume Carnival cranks out is highway robbery. They could do the same thing for ½ the price and probably make up the difference in volume purchases (I suspect that they only sell 10% or less – of what they print). • The Bad Bad Worse news…Like I said, these photographers are GOOD so yeah, our group spent a considerable sum on photos • OK…back to the review… o The final act that you perform that signals it is almost sailaway time is the Lifeboat drill…just go with the flow, take your camera and get a few photos. And remember, 10,000 people before you have worn that life vest and a goodly percentage of them could not resist blowing on the emergency whistle…do you really want YOUR lips on that thing? ☺ o Oh yeah…one other thing…there is a new activity called Carnival Colors – the ship is split into Red, White, and Blue groups and your group competes for points for the duration of the cruise. The grand finale and winners are announced Saturday night…this is a fun competition throughout the week – we enjoyed it a lot – especially since our team (RED TEAM ROCKS!!) won the competition! Our Stateroom • We were in 6335, Upper deck balcony slightly aft of the lobby elevators on the Starboard side. We chose this room just in case of rough seas because it was almost directly in the middle of the ship and decks. Glad we did this too because on Friday & Saturday we had to outrun tropical storm Wilma and we were ploughing through 12 ft seas! Some of our family members had centerline forward staterooms and got a bit seasick with the high sea states (it did get pretty rough on Saturday afternoon – I watched our balcony railing vary 2-3” above and below the horizon! • After experiencing a balcony, I can understand what others mean when they say they will NEVER go inboard again. Neither will I! Just the sheer joy of getting up in the middle of the night to use the head and then being able to look out – or GO out and sniff the sea breeze if more than enough reason for us to pay the extra money. For us it is worth it. Not EVEN going to talk about how COOL it is to have morning coffee on the balcony! • Our cabin steward was Snit and his assistant was Putv. When I met Snit, I informed him that there were a total of 4 cabins in the hall that contained my family & other family members. I also told him that this was our 25th anniversary and I did not want anything to run amiss…and tipped him a $20 ill up front. This was bread on the water! Snit and Putv could not do enough for us – extra candy for the kids – each got their own towel animal, fresh ice in our stateroom twice a day…and one of the two of them always seemed to be around inquiring if we needed anything. In my opinion, Cabin stewards get a 12 out of a scale of 10!! Superior Service! The Ship • We were told by the experienced cruisers in the family that this was one of the nicest ships they had ever been on. Clean (although the carpet is worn in spots here and there in the hallways) • I agree this was a wonderful ship – always something being cleaned by someone – at all hours of the day it seems! Carnival (actually, probably the Captain’s Influence) is doing a lot to maintain the ship in a high state of cleanliness. Easy 9 out of 10 here. The Atmosphere • It IS a fun ship – really! Really really!! For all ages (and our group spanned the range from 9 years to 88 years!) Everyone had fun, everyone was entertained, everyone enjoyed themselves – if not ALL the time at least 95% of the time – can’t ask more than that! The Crew • In a word, superior. CAPT Massimo Marino runs a smooth ship and it is obvious that his staff thrive under his management – too bad this was his last cruise for a while. A new Captain took over while CAPT Marino went on a well deserved vacation when we returned to port. • Everyone, from Todd Whittmer, the cruise director (who I suspect gets by on 30 min of sleep a night!), Kevin the pro shopper, Christopher Scaliotis the Hotel Director to Patrick, the golf pro were great. Everyone I mean EVERYONE was smiling and greeted you EVERY time – I mean looked you in the eye with a sincere smile and said Good Morning, can I help you – and meant it! To me this is a sure sign that senior management is doing a great job. • Our Servers – Margita, Head Server and Lindo, her assistant were fabulous. Within one day they knew the likes and dislikes of every one of the 15 people in our party. They even knew our names by the end of dinner the first night! • Speaking of our large party…a quick trip to the Matre ‘de’s desk on embarkation got everyone sitting at two tables (quite an accomplishment since we were scattered between 2 restaurants and 2 seating times!) • I cannot say enough about the food service or our servers…every meal exceeded expectations (and we took most our meals in the Monet) One night we had filet mignon and when I cut my steak and Margita saw that it was cooked medium well (I had ordered rare) she stopped me and got another…don’t know HOW, but the new entrée was in front of me in less than 3 min! • Oh yeah, the saw about ordering whatever you want and how ever much you want is true – Margita had no problem getting me two lobster tails – or putting some shrimp & scallops from the seafood platter as a side with my filet mignon • As with our cabin stewards, I rater our servers an easy 12 out of 10! Triple A+! Food • OH… MY… GOD! You WILL gain weight! Even though I went to the gym every day! We ate every night in the Monet and did not have a bad meal the whole trip. • Lido lunch dining was varied and extremely tasty. On 2 days we ate in the Monet for open seating lunch. Great food served in a more formal atmosphere. My son and I ate in a polo shirt & shorts – on the Lido, you can get away with a t-shirt and swimsuit + shoes (something that I am told is unheard of—and not permitted—on other cruise lines) • Sushi bar, pizza, fish & chips, one of the best tuna sandwiches I have ever had at the sandwich shoppe, and great Asian food at PK’s Wok – everything is good. Really! • Thursday’s Grand Midnight Buffet o Bring your camera AND your appetite!! Even though they do primarily canapés and other heavy hors’dourvs they are quite tasty and the cheese, butter & Ice sculptures are amazing! • Saturday’s Lunchtime Chocolate Buffet o If you are a chocoholic (as my wife is) skip lunch and just do it…it is awesome! Chocolate sushi, Chocolate Spaghetti, Chocolate Ducks & Hams – if they can dream it and make it out of Chocolate, they DO! • The Pointe Supper Club o What’s the Point? For $50 a couple? I think not. OK it would be worth it if you wanted lobster tail more than one night of the cruise, and I am sure it appeals to some – but it is not really my cup of tea. The idea of booking reservations did not even pop up on our radar. Spa Carnival • My wife treated me to a full body massage the 2nd night of our cruise as an anniversary present. Sadly, the massage was ruined by Camp Carnival, which is 1 deck DIRECTLY above where the massage treatment room was located. Apparently they were having a jumping contest on the night of my massage and I had to endure the thumping on jumping feet all during my treatment – Anekia, my therapist was very apologetic and I asked if something could be adjusted in the bill. She said she would speak to the manager but sadly enough come Sunday morning the sail & sign bill had no adjustments and the purser’s desk could do nothing because the spa was closed. • The massage was alright. We have a massage school here in Huntsville so we go frequently. To tell the truth, I experienced no difference between Anekia and the students at our local school. The spa is pricy too! $109.00 for a full body massage is about $50 more than what the local school charges…and don’t forget, gratuities are NOT included in the Spa Carnival price. • I am going to flunk Spa Carnival for a poor experience and what I believe to be extremely inflated prices. 3 out of 10 here folks – definitely F- Outbound “Fun Days At Sea” and Shows/Entertainment • 2 days to get into the vacation mode (OK, THAT took all of two minutes once we were on board!) All I can say here is if you can’t find anything to do it is your own damn fault! Activities are great, Todd is great, shows are great, more stuff than you have time to do is the only down side! • Island music during the day was provided by a Calypso Steel Drummer and Guitarist “Island Men” – very good music and really put you in the island mood ‘mon! So good in fact that I did not even use my iPod at all (except to store the HUNDREDS of photos we took) • The afternoon Murder Mystery is not to be missed – a GREAT break in the afternoon. I also recommend all first timers attend the shopping lecture – it is good information and I would up winning a bunch of stuff! • Speaking of winning, our family found the Casino to be fairly loose – Grandma won over $100 playing the nickel machines, my wife won the same on the quarter machine and I (feel like I) cleaned up in Blackjack…managed to walk away $400 to the good! - - It all balanced out though when we got our sail and sign bill on Sunday morning! • Shows & Entertainment easily rate a B+ - A- Ports of Call • First off, I am doubly convinced after seeing how Carnival packs folks on the tours that you are ALWAYS best off booking your own on the ‘net. Carnival tries to scare you (even during the Cruise) about how horrible it can be without the Carnival guarantee…um, well, perhaps but not in our experience. My only real concern was Grand Cayman since we were tendered there (Carnival tours go first and Carnival tells you up front that they can’t help folks who are not booked on Carnival tours if their tour starts before Carnival can tender you off the Conquest) • I found out the Tender secret though – and it is simple: Tender tickets are handed out (supposedly) at 7:00AM on Thurdsay. Be in the Toulous Lautrec Lounge NO LATER THAN 0645! Sit down in the down in the FRONT on the RIGHT side of the auditorium, and when Jenny (or whomever is the Assistant Cruise Director) starts handing out the Tender numbers, YOU will be first in line. EVERY MEMBER IN YOUR PARTY must have a number…I was able to get 6 tender numbers but Jenny shortly put that to a stop and said that they could only had out 1 sticker to a person…I beat feet outta there and found my family before she saw me. We were tender ticket #1 and got off the boat at 0730 – we were on shore at 0745 – plenty of time for our tour! • Montego Bay, Jamaica o As some of you know we had planned to visit Sunset beach and had been quoted $20 per person for a day entrance. When we got in the cab, our driver warned us that the price was now $40 – we thought he was trying to scam us, so the 8 of us stuck to our plan and went to the resort. ”Lion” our driver agreed to pick us up at 2:00PM so we could shop in the city and he was good at his word and was waiting for us at 2:00PM to pick us up. o Unfortunately, Lion was NOT scamming us and we were hit up for $40 per adult & $20 per kid. We were outraged and even spoke to one of the managers – no luck though it was either the new rate or nothing. So we ponied up o The water park – which is the supposed reason for the 100% price increase is pretty neat…but still not worth the cost IMHO. o OK it was not that bad It was indeed all you can eat sit down restaurant, and outside grill. Food was pretty good (not in the class of the Conquest by ALL means) but the Jerk was …WOOOHOOO HOT! And the other items on the buffet I am told was pretty good (I pigged on the Jerk!) o Sodas were free so I and my wife tanked up on cola. The kids got to have frozen non-alcoholic pina coladas & daiquiris. o Drinks are free and they will make as much as you want…in fact one of the other folks who got screwed on the entrance fee told me back at the boat that he kept going back and getting silver Tequila shots….and taking the glass and dumping it in a water bottle which he took back to the ship with him! glad to see someone got revenge o What has completely infuriated me however is when I got back to the boat and was talking to other people we had met we found out that they had talked to a manager and gotten the $20.00 per person rate – I wonder if a call to my credit card company can get their fraud unit in action? Any advise to me would be appreciated. Because of these problems – even thought the resort is pretty awesome – I certainly will not recommend you go there. Caveat Emptor! o If you have not been, consider booking a tour to Ochie Rios Falls – from the comments I heard on ship, this was a awesome tour. • Grand Cayman Island o If you are going to Stingray city remember this: CAPTAIN MARVIN’S. http://www.captainmarvins.com/ Write this down, remember it and use NO other guide service. These people are awesome!! We were in a party of 8 (4 of which were my family). There was a crew of 3 and Jody of Cayman Video Productions was our personal Videographer. We dove 1 reef and visited Stingray city and got impromptu tours of the fabulous homes along the island by this wonderful group of guys. I cannot say more good things about them – they took my completely terrified 9 year old daughter and worked personally with her until she was comfortable with the ‘rays (honey, nothing to fear – these are just big sea puppies!) In fact, I have a photo of my daughter riding on Jody’s back while he and another crew member got her de-stressed about the big rays (and some were truly BIG – one had a span of over 6’! o We were on the 0830 tour and one of the reason’s my daughter got scared is because the rays were HUNGERY (for the squid treats the crew brought along). They truly are a gentle creature and their vacuum-cleaner mouths feel weird as they suck the treats from your hand. Once the other tours got there and we were not mobbed by the rays, my daughter settled down and really enjoyed herself…she screamed in delight when Jon, a crewmember picket a ray up and it shot a stream of seawater at her! o Just as we were leaving the early morning Carnival boat arrived…all 2 decks worth of jam-packed tour boat – I would guess 100+ folks. No personal service, no holding rays for you to get a picture…no taking YOUR camera and taking shots of YOU kissing the rays (for good luck). We all had a great laugh as we motored away to the reef dive about the cattle car aspect of the Cruise Ship tour. o Oh yeah, the Carnival Price for Stingray City was $65.00 a head – we paid $35.00! o Dove at another reef for 45 min with the crew showing us all manner of marine life (crabs, golden Morey eels, and “Frisbee” a tailless stingray) Fruit juice and snacks on the way back, along with a nice impromptu tour of the costal homes rounded out a great morning! o Oh yeah, $55.00 bought you the personalized DVD ($45 for VHS) of the complete morning’s outing – now THIS was value (contrast it to $29.95 for the Carnival cruise travelog DVD that spans the whole week). o CAPT Marvin’s is a full service tour guide so we booked a $15.95 additional tour to Hell & the Turtle farm. Our bus driver also took us on different to & from routes so we could see more of the island. We had a great time at Hell (GRIN!) and the Turtle Farm, so I recommend you book this as well – the tour guides/bus drivers are great so make sure you put a little something in their hand when you get off the buss for the last time back at CAPT Marvin’s o We still had plenty of time to shop in Cayman before our tender left for the boat – this was a great day and HUGE contrast to the time we had in Jamaica. o Easily another A+ day & Tour! • Cozumel o Once again, expectations exceeded! We booked a family SCUBA/SNUBA & 2 reef dive in the Chakanaab National Park through http://cozumelcruiseexcursions.com/CozumelSnubaDivingExcursion.htm and had a GREAT time. As with the Cayman’s, it was the 4 of us and 2 other couples – 8 people total with 4 crew on the 40’ catamaran! What a deal!! We dove 3 reefs, and my wife and daughter did the snuba thing at one of the reefs and LOVED it! Once again, staff was friendly and fun to be around – we did some serious diving and some even more serious partying on the way back (The crew came around to each adult blowing whistles and beating on a drum with a tequila mixture and poured a shot down tour throat then shook your head to mix it up…it is a Cozumel tradition (or so we were told. They even got the kids in the act by going around to them and doing the same thing with Fruit Juice – the kids really appreciated being included and the care in which the crew took of my wife & daughter (both of which had never done any open water diving) was superior and indeed earned them a tip when we disembarked. o Again, much better value than the snorkeling trips sponsored by the boat – and a MUCH better crew-client ratio! We saw one of the cruise ship sponsored snorkel trips – 50 folks to 4 or so crew---ewwwwww! o Once again I will rate this day an A+ day as well Inbound “Fun Day At Sea” • It was a fun day at sea if you were a roller coaster junkie. We were in rough sea states from when we hit blue water from Cozumel, throughout the night and all day Saturday. I suspect that CAPT Massimo was trying to put as much distance between (then) Tropical Depression Wilma and the ship as possible. • None of my family (except the ones in the forward staterooms) had any problems sleeping or eating or getting around…although you DID develop sea legs! • Now, here is what was REALLY fun: getting in the swimming pools! With all the “motion in the ocean” the pools became mini wave pool – and I mean it! Some of the waves sloshed so hard they sent up spray. It was an absolute GAS getting in the pools – everyone in our family loved it! • Only bummer was they shut the water slide down at 1:30 due to high winds (30KTS across the bow) – I am not sure what the logic is for this though; the water slide is nestled in the open area of the Lido deck – seems like a pretty sheltered place to me. Anyhow, going down the slide with the ship rocking was almost as much fun as getting in the pools! Nightlife • I think my brother in law said it best when he declared Sunday morning at breakfast “There has been so much to do on this cruise that all I have had time for is an occasional nap!” He was right, the fun never stops! Here are a few of the more memorable evening stops: o The piano bar is hosted by Michael, an Englishman from Nottingham (you know—like Robin Hood?) Piano bar music is not typically my style, but this guy is a great comedian as well. My wife and I would up going back on another night he was so funny… My wife and I laughed so hard it hurt. Make sure to catch his act at least one of the nights. o I am a fan of smooth jazz as well and enjoyed the Christain Cowsill Trio o Bring earplugs for the disco…lots of fun if you like to dance but woo-hoo it is loud! But MAN is it ever fun!!! o Do you like Karaoke? Even if you do NOT, catch Mouna in the Degas Lounge. She is very funny and it can be hilarious watching folks make a fool….errrr sing their hearts out on stage  It gets best right around 10:00PM when folks have had a couple to work up their courage if you know what I mean ;-) o If you are a night owl but the disco is too loud, 11:30 on the Lido deck hey crank up “Music Forever” – this is the place where the 500 foot long conga line forms and EVERYONE does the Electric Slide o Phat Kat is a scream his shows were on Sun & Mon and he does a R Rated show as well (unless you are a total prude, tuck the kids in and DO NOT miss this show!) o The Carnival Dancers are not that bad – not as good as Vegas but worth a look. Their “Formidable” and “Point & Click” productions were very glitzy. o Guest talent show was just that…what do you expect I will say this though, there was a female vocalist I caught passing through Toulouse Lautrec that was very good! o The Ventriloquist, Marc Rubben (his web site is www.dummytalk.com) was a tie with Phat Kat as the best show on the cruise. He is a great performer and a hysterical comedian – do NOT miss his show! o The Juggeler Manuel Zuniga is pretty funny as well as talented not only a good juggler but cracks some pretty good jokes as well! o “Deja” the Magician was good too (although a David Copperfield she is not) We sat in the front row and we still could not figure out how she did some of the illusions. o Asad Mecci is a very talented hypnotist and I really feel sorry for the folks he got on stage – some of them will never live their experience down • Other entertainment o You really need to attend the formal afternoon tea at least once – if for no reason than to say you did. Just get dressed for a casual dinner early and go (the teas are held at 3:30 in the afternoon). If you like classical music, The Rainbow Trio is very good – they entertain not only at the Tea but will be playing when you Embark and in the later afternoons in the Lobby. o The Sports bar is a great place to hang out if you want to follow the Sat or Sun game…being a BIG Alabama fan, I was in the bar with my ‘bama shirt & hat on for the game on Saturday. When ‘bama pulled it off with a win with 3 sec on the clock the 8 or so of us ‘Bama fans had a GREAT time of it with the Ol Miss & Tennessee crowd!   Debarkation • Went smoother than I thought possible. They are getting their act together and getting to know the port I suspect. We were off the boat and in our rental car all too quickly • We had breakfast on the Lido deck, my son and I debarked to get the rental car and my wife and daughter got the other stuff through customs. All in all very smooth and the whole process took less than 3 hours. • Debarkation lesson learned: Snag a porter when you see him NOT when you need him! We were told that Porters would be available so I told my wife to just tip one $10 and no problem with the luggage…Problem is, all the savvy travelers grab a porter when they see him and hold on to him through customs and baggage loading. By the time my wife realized this, all the porters were gone!! She and my daughter had to schlep the majority of our bags through customs without my son’s or my help…we will know better next time. • In fact, if at all possible, debark self-assisted with ALL your luggage (do not set them out the night before). I think we will do this on our next Cruise….yes our NEXT Cruise…we are eyeing the Celebration out of Jacksonville for a 5-day cruise over Spring Break (How DUMB is this I wonder…?) If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected]  

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Oct 9, 2005

n/a

Carnival Cruise Lines My husband and I took our 2 daughters (7 & 9) on our family's first cruise. We chose the Conquest because it was supposed to depart from New Orleans which is the closest port to our hometown and because the Conquest is a large, new boat. Our departing port was changed to Galveston after Katrina. I want to provide a brief overview of the various aspects of the trip. Embarkation: We did not know what to expect

as this was our first cruise. The Carnival representatives that were herding the masses into the terminal were not very helpful. We waited in lines for hours without knowing exactly what we were waiting for. Signs or friendly representatives would have been helpful. Cabin: We had a wonderful balcony cabin on the Upper Deck, Port Side. It was awesome. We bungied the door open at night to hear the waves and feel the cool, ocean breeze. The room had two twin beds that we pushed together to make a king, a twin sofa, and a twin upper. The cabin was larger than I expected and had plenty of storage space. Public Spaces: The interior of the Conquest is gorgeous. It is decorated in a French Impressionist theme and it really is beautiful. There is a large casino, several bars, discos, dining rooms and a large theater were the nightly shows were held. On Board Activities: We were bored by the 2nd day. Don't get me wrong - there were plenty of "activities" going on, but we are a very adventurous, action-oriented family. Sitting on the Lido watching "Hairy Chest" contests is not our idea of fun. Food: Cafeteria quality at best. We were really disappointed with the food. We fully knew that there would be over 3,000 people aboard so we expected mass produced taste. However, the quality of the food was well below par. The one exception is The Point Supper Club. It costs $30 pp and it is well worth it. The Filet is to die for as are the desserts. It is a seven course meal that rivals anything we have had at Flemmings or Ruths Cris. We disliked the dining room food so much that we went to the buffet most nights or had pizza. The buffet lines were LONG and people acted as if there was no more food on board! The 24 hour self-serve ice cream was a life saver. Ports: In Jamaica, we spent the day at Sunset Beach Resort. It was a really nice all-inclusive with a new "water park." The "water park" is actually a really interesting flowing pool with great water slides. After our day at Sunset Beach we made the mistake of venturing into the City Centre for shopping. We were scared to death. My Police Officer husband was on the defensive and my children were pulled by the arms several times by ladies trying to braid their hair. It was not a pleasant experience and we could not wait to reboard the boat. Grand Cayman: Must do the Stingray City Tour. You don't have to book through Carnival. We paid $35 pp once we arrived on shore. It was awesome. We visited the rays for about 45 minutes and then snorkeled on a nearby reef. We all enjoyed it so much. One word of caution: restaurant prices are in C.I., not Dollars. We ended up paying $100 for LUNCH because we didn't realize that the menu was in C.I. Cozumel: LOVED IT! We went to Chankanaab National Park for the Dolphin Encounter and snorkeling. The Dolphin Encounter was absolutely fantastic. The snorkeling was great along the reef. The only drawback is that the excursion is a bit rushed. You only have about 1.5 hours to spend in the park after the Dolphin Encounter. We could have stayed all day touring the park. Staff: Most of the staff are from eastern Europe, India or Malaysia. We didn't find that anyone went out of their way to help us. Of course, if we asked for help we got it. Several times it seemed as if we were putting them out by asking a question. Overall, we were not impressed by the staff at all. Debarkation: Not as painful as getting on the boat. This took about 1 hour and went quite smoothly. You can choose to "Self-Assist" which means that you carry your own luggage off the boat. We did this so we could beat the crowds. Basically, they call your deck and you report to the gangway with your luggage and begin debarkation. If you choose the other option, you will leave your luggage outside your cabin the night before. On debarkation day, you have to wait on the boat until all of the "Self Assist" are off and until they call your deck. Self-Assist was well-worth the hassle of carrying 6 bags for 1 hour. Camp Carnival: Camp Carnival could have been really great if they were a little better at encouraging kids to participate and getting them excited about the activities. It was more of a babysitting service than a truly fun experience that the kids wanted to do. Overall: We decided that cruising is not for us. We prefer more adventure, friendly staff, less crowds, better food, more time to explore the ports, etc. (Aventura Spa Palace spoiled us).    

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Oct 2, 2005

n/a

Carnival Cruise Line This cruise was my husband’s first and my second on Carnival. This cruise was a “Welcome Home” gift because he had just gotten home from the desert. I would like to first commend Carnival on doing such a great job of keeping us updated on the going’s on of our cruise. It was originally out of New Orleans, which is why we chose it, however, as we all know the hurricane screwed that up. We ended up sailing

out of Galveston, which is where the Conquest is ported from now on. Beware of cruising this time of year, there can be itinerary changes because of hurricanes so be prepared for that. If you have changes Carnival is good about doing what they can to help. We got $100 shipboard credit for the port change. That came in handy when it was time to pay the Sail and Sign account. The All I can say about the ship is that it is HUGE!!! It has Carnival’s usual vibrant décor. There are several pools and hot tubs. The waterslide is fun even for adults. There are hot tubs at the back of the boat for adults only, if that is what you are looking for. The only draw back to the ship is that it is so big that you take the first couple of days to figure it all out. The Rooms: We had a balcony room on the Upper Deck (Deck 6). Definitely pay the extra for the balcony. It was wonderful. We would order room service (which is free, but remember to tip them they aren’t included in prepaid tips) and sit out there and just relax. We saw dolphins and flying fish as we were cruising by. The only bad part about the room was the location. If you chose a balcony, definitely upgrade to Deck 7. Deck 7 is located with rooms above and below you. We were right above the Degas Lounge and could here kareoke every night. The Food: My husband and I enjoyed the food. We ate in the dining room for just about every meal. It is mostly the same food as the buffet and you don’t have to wait in long lines to get it. You can order as much as you want so it may as well be a buffet too!!! We had the late seating dinner in the Monet Dining Room. Our waiters are the only reason we actually went to dinner every night. Benjamin of South Africa and Razvan of Romania were our waiters. We had our own table, which was awesome. Beware of the cocktailer, Boris from Czech Republic, he will get you to buy and buy and buy!! Very good at his job and not hard on the eyes either! The Entertainment: We didn’t do much of the onboard entertainment. They have lots for you to do but we were there to relax. We saw the comedy show and it was pretty funny. We enjoyed doing the daytime activities like Win, Lose, or Draw. We did Bingo twice….waste of $40 for 5 mins of time. The best entertainment is the Newlywed Game. This is HILARIOUS!! Make sure you go to Neil’s Smart Shopper talk. He gives away lots of free stuff. I got some free black pearls. Todd is a very good cruise director and fun to listen too. The casino was fun, we played but lost in there several times. Embarkation: This was so EASY!! We parked in the Dolphin parking lot for $50 for the week. They transported us and our luggage to the terminal. We walked directly up to the desk, checked in and boarded the ship after the welcome aboard pic of course. This took all of 10 mins and we were off to eat and see our room. Montego Bay: Sucks!! This place is dirty. We went on the white water rafting tour and booked it through Carnival at $99 per person. This was a blast until oops went down a waterfall and the boat turned over and we nearly drowned but hey mon no problem. The shopping sucks too, I would say don’t bother but if you are like me you have to see for yourself. Grand Caymen: We booked our excursion through Captain Marvin’s Watersports. We did the Sting Ray tour with snorkel. It was $39 per person. Way less than Carnival and way better cause they only allow 25 people per trip. The snorkeling was awesome. The tour guide has been feeding a nurse shark for several months so he got it to come out of the cave so we could all see it. The sting ray part was awesome too. I was a big chicken and on my husband’s back for the first part but eventually got off and held a sting ray. Just know those sting rays are HUGE!! They bring squid for you to feed the rays. I didn’t do that but my husband said it was like a vacuum sucking it out of your hand. The shopping is just the opposite here from Montego Bay. It is catered to tourists but we still didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without. www.captainmarvins.com Cozumel: The best port of them all. Again we didn’t book our excursion through Carnival and WE ARE SO GLAD!! We booked through Eagle Ray Divers. It cost $50 per person for 3 hours of snorkeling. This is a personal one on one tour. It was amazing. The tour guide took us to a shallow area to snorkel and told us the names of the fish we were seeing. He got a sea urchin out of a cave for us to see it. He also brought tortilla for the fish to eat….who would have ever thought. It was so awesome. There were hundreds of fish inches from our face. The pics of this are amazing. He took us to another snorkel site called the drop off. This was freaky looking. There was no bottom to the ocean!! Right off the port of Cozumel are lots of shops. Same junk as from the other two stops. The only thing we didn’t do that we wished we had was rent scooters. People looked like they were having so much fun. www.eagleraydivers.com Debarkation: We decided to take our own luggage off the ship and glad we did. We were back to our car by 8:45am and headed on the long road trip home. This is definitely the way to go if you only have a few bags. Tips: *Remember you are on vacation and so is everyone else and not everyone vacation’s the same way. *Don’t buy the Coke Card….Bring your own, it is allowed. *Beware of the spending on the Sail and Sign card….you can rack it up quick and not realize it cause this is the only method of payment on the ship. *The alcoholic drinks are worth the crazy prices. They are pretty strong. The first day get a “Fun Ship” drink and you will have fun on the ship. *Room Service comes quicker if you tip them atleast $1 per trip. *Go to the Captain’s Cocktail Party. FREE DRINKS and lots of them. *The toiletries in the room are free but the bottled water isn’t. *Order one of everything at dinner, when else can you try gourmet foods and not pay for them. We would definitely cruise Carnival again. Carnival Conquest again but only if it goes to other locations. Next year we are doing Carnival again but going on a ship that goes to the USVI.

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Sep 18, 2005

n/a

Carnival Cruise line Let me start by saying that this was our 1st Cruise. I had always thought of Cruises as something old or lazy people went on to do vacations because they either couldn’t plan it themselves or wanted to eat themselves silly. My expectation of Carnival was the bottom of the barrel of the cruise industry. But, the $399 per person for 7 days I saw advertised just looked too good. I had a stressful couple of months

at work and just wanted to get away and do something that would be easy and we could relax. My wife and I are well experienced travelers (Hawaii, Germany, Great Brittan, etc.) and we have wined, dined, and stayed in some REALLY nice places. With all that said let me give you a peek at the summary…oh my gosh, we had a really great time. Planning: I planned this trip about 3 weeks in advance and was drawn in by the $399 per person deal. We decided to upgrade for another $90 per person to an outside room. All of this was planned on the Elation out of Galveston. Then Katrina hit. I noticed immediately when Carnival leased the three ships to FIMA and canceled the Elations Cruise for September 18th. I immediately called Carnival and they said we could switch to the Conquest leaving the same day, now out of Galveston (See ya’ New Orleans…sorry). They increased the price some $150 or $175 per person, but were giving a $100 ship board credit per person. I looked at the extra $150 or so as a donation to Katrina Victims and told the booking agent from Carnival that I was very proud of them for helping out in that way (at the time I thought they had donated the three ships to the relief effort, oh well). She said that I was the nicest person that she had talked to about the situation all day. This had to help me because when we checked in to the ship we had received a free upgrade to a room with a balcony! Embarkation: This went relatively smoothly, about an hour from terminal arrival to walking on the ship. I dropped my wife off with the bags with a porter ( I tipped him 1.50 per bag) and went to park the car. I met her in line to check in and she said the bags were easy. Waiting in line took about 45 minutes, but people watching was fun. After that we didn’t even have to wait in the chairs, no line for pictures as we were going on the boat either. All in all, not bad. Our Room: The room was just the perfect size for us, and the balcony was a really nice surprise. We brought a LOT of luggage and it all got unpacked and the suitcases stored under the king size bed (two twins pushed together, big deal). We did the mandatory lifeboat drill next and walked around the lido deck and we began to sail. We headed back down to our room and popped one of our 2 approved bottles of wine that we could bring on board. We sat on the balcony calling everyone we knew on our cell phones while they still worked telling them how beautiful it was sailing out of Galveston Harbor. The Meals: We were originally assigned to the late seating (8:30) but we changed after the first night. After our reassign we were in the upper area of the Renoir (?) at 6:15. We got a 4 person booth that either the other couple never ate in the dining room or was empty, that was fine with us. The service was good, but not the best I’ve ever had. It was on par with going to a nice restaurant like Ruth’s Chris steakhouse. I was really impressed with the food. It had the old staples like NY strip steak and prime rib, but also nice different things like roast duck, jerk pork, and goose liver pate. We went to The Point supper club once and enjoyed it. The food was a little better quality than the main dining room and felt like a upscale steakhouse (think Morton’s of Chicago). The buffet for lunch was okay (think Luby’s), but it is a buffet for gosh sakes. If you want a nicer meal go to the Monet, it has open seating for lunch. We did both on different days and they both were very adequate and enjoyable. I have to admit, we did a cheeseburger on occasion around bedtime (12 pm or so) from the grill on the Lido deck and rolled back to our room to sleep off our booze and debauchery. Oh well, it was a vacation after all. Things to do around the ship: We did some of the activities and at other times we sat out on deck and sunned, swam and read novels. The gambling class on the first day at sea was nice. I got to gamble with the houses chips at blackjack, poker, etc and that was enough gambling for me. We enjoyed working out in the gym a couple of times but I wish the whirlpool in the gym had been open either time (it was broken). We went to several of the shows and enjoyed most. The comedian Fat Katt is not to be missed. All of his shows were great. The Broadway shows, well, at least the girls were wearing thongs, enough said. The Ports: I must say that I was never really very impressed with the actual ports of call. Jamaica was scary (if WE got offered drugs they must offer to everyone!). Grand Cayman was very difficult to get back on the ship. Cozumel was nice, they have done some nice development around the cruise ship terminal. Puerto Maya was just a strip mall for tourists. Basically going on a cruise ship is going to give you a very slanted view of anyplace. There is always a bunch of people lined up to take your money and sell you trinkets you don’t need. All places will seem very touristy when a cruise ship is in town so just remember that these are probably much nicer places to be if you could go again on your own. The Hurricane Almost forgot, Hurricane Rita came through as we were on Vacation. This resulted in the closing of Galveston Harbor for two days. Thus, Our 7 day trip became a 9 day with an extra stop in Puerto Maya. The ship was a little rough the 1st day, but after that it was fine. Carnival handled it like champs, they kept us pretty well informed and the extra two day were just as nice as the other 7 (no extra charge either). In Summary If you’ve never gone on a cruise…GO. It is a lot of fun. Carnival is just fine for my tastes (which are nice). I’d love to have a balcony on my next cruise, but the thought of paying so much extra for one when I might get one for free just hurts. Bring booze with you and you’ll save a decent amount of money, just hide it in your bags. Don’t take yourself to seriously, and have fun…you are on vacation!

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Jul 17, 2005

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Carnival Conquest 7 Day Western Caribbean Byron Mcneil This was our third Carnival cruise and probably our last! Carnival used to be the "Holiday Inn" of the industry, now it has become the "Motel Six"..........The July 17th sailing turned out to be a "cruise from Hell" for the 5 of us. The ports of call were made even more unpleasant because of 5 other cruise ships in port at the same time......You could hardly move in the shops.................Because

of hurricane Emily which passed thru the Yucatan on Monday, we didn't go to Jamaica (even tho other Carnival ships did) and they gave us a whopping $25 per person refund. In Grand Cayman, it poured rain the whole day and the excursion we had paid for should have been cancelled but was not........We went to "Stingray City" for about 15 minutes before the close lightning strikes caused most of us (but not all) back onto the boat.........this was a very dangerous situation......our boat even had metal fishing rigging sticking up all around the ship.......so far, Carnival has refused any refund for a trip cut short............Cozumel was more heavy rain with 10,000 people from 6 cruise ships all crowding into town to shop........... The food was generally very average with a couple of exceptions. The full ship had 3600 people onboard which was also a hassle......... NOT a very pleasant trip!!

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Jul 3, 2005

Western Caribbean

Cabin: 6288 (Upper Deck) Dates: Jul 3 – Jul 11, 2005 (Extended one extra day) This was our first cruise and I must say that we had a great time and were extremely impressed by the level of service by almost all of the crew members. NEW ORLEANS: My wife and I arrived in New Orleans a day early so we had the opportunity to explore downtown and the French Quarters somewhat. We ended up going to the Zoo, the aquarium, a little around

the French Quarters and a little at the Marketplace. Overall we thought New Orleans was dirty and not very appealing. The zoo and aquarium were fun but the French Quarters is not what I remember it being last time I was there about 15 years ago. It’s changed a lot, and for the worse I’m afraid to say. EMBARKATION: Sunday morning we got checked out of our hotel and went back over to the airport to get on our bus which would take us to the where the ship was docked. From the minute we got on the bus we felt we received superior service. I believe we were on the bus at around 10:30, pulled up to the dock around 11:00 and were on the ship by noon. It was not nearly the madhouse some people have reported it was. The porters took our baggage as soon as we got off the bus and then we went and stood in line inside the terminal. We were in the main line about 20 min’s and then were escorted to another much smaller line in a different area of the building. We saw the yellow chairs but never sat in them and in fact I don’t believe I saw anyone waiting in them at all. The second line was mainly for pictures so once we got through that section we were headed directly on board. SHIP IMPRESSIONS: This being our first cruise we have nothing to compare it to, but we thought the Conquest was a really beautiful ship with an easy layout that doesn’t take much to get use to. It was much larger than I had expected though. Deck 3, where you first get on the ship, is a large atrium with glass elevators. Carnival obviously wants to make a good first impression and I believe they succeeded. 1st DAY at SEA: Like so many others before us, we were told that our room would not be ready until about 2pm, so we ventured around the ship and started exploring once on board. We also got up to the Spa and received a small discount for booking two massages for later that night. (Nothing like starting a vacation off with a relaxing massage.) We purchased our fountain card, cost $44, which includes a carnival cup with lid. We took the advice of everyone here and only bought one and just shared the card rather than paying double. I’m sure we got our $44 worth out it. After walking around for a while we noticed it was almost 2pm so we went up the cabin to see if it was ready. And indeed it was. We met our steward John, who was a great guy and made us a towel animal every night when they turned down the bed, and was very accommodating to our needs, as few as they were. Our room was great. We had a balcony room and I’m glad we spent the extra money for it. We used it a lot. It’s a beautiful view out to the deep blue. The showers are a little small but it serves its purpose and is not a distraction to the overall experience. My wife and I were getting our massage when we pulled out of dock in New Orleans so we missed the turn around. Apparently this huge ship just spins around and then heads toward the sea. The people we spoke to that watched it said it was amazing how this huge ship could spin around like that in the Mississippi. We made it a point to attend the Welcome Aboard show in which we met our cruise director Todd and his assistant Malcom. What a great team. Todd did an excellent job and attended nearly every show and activity that we went to. We were set up for late seating (8:30pm) for dining and met our waiter Erich and his assistant Joseph in the Renoir dining room the first night. These guys were great. Friendly, funny, attentive, everything we could have asked for and more. The food in the dining room is spectacular. Absolutely no complaints at all. We ended the evening by going to Karaoke in the Degauss bar which started at 10pm. This was really fun. I don’t sing but my wife did several songs. The crowd was great and everyone really seemed to have a lot of fun. ACTIVITIES: My wife and I made it a point to try to go to as many activities as possible. We went to the Win Lose or Draw game, Horse Racing, Newlywed Game, the Vegas show, a Magic show featuring “Deja”, two or three comedy shows, (1 adult orientated), a juggler show, and a even a murder mystery show where some of the crew read from scripts and the guests had to try and determine who the murderer was based on the script and clues. All of these were great. We especially enjoyed the comedy shows and the Magic show. Some people have said that the Vegas style show wasn’t that good, but I thought it was well worth the time and very entertaining. Even though the activities seemed to be spread out a little, meaning you would normally have 2 or maybe even 3 hours between something going on, I believe Carnival did a great job providing enjoyable things to do while on board. PORTS OF CALL: Our first port was Jamaica. We had read a number of reviews so based on those we decided to spend most of the day at Sunset Beach. It’s an all inclusive private beach resort just about 5 minutes away from the dock via taxi. The resort cost per person is $20. Well worth it. All the food and alcohol are included and you can even snorkel or use the paddleboats at no extra cost. The water is extremely clear and very warm, so it’s really a great place to relax at. They also had 2 pools and a hot tub that you can use. We asked our taxi cab driver if he would come back and meet us at 12:30 to pick us up and take us downtown. At 12:30 he was exactly where he said he would be and drove us downtown for a little shopping. We didn’t want to stay long before going back to the ship so the cab driver just waited for us. I believe we ended up paying him a total of about $30 for driving us to 3 different places and then back to the dock. Not a bad deal really. We used everyone’s advice with the taxi as well and made sure we used the red license plate (certified) JUTA taxi service. Our next port of call was suppose to be Grand Cayman, but Hurricane Dennis was coming that way so we got the heck out of Jamaica and our captain took us directly to Cozumel. We arrived Thur. night at around 8pm, a day early and stayed until the normal time of Fri (6pm). In Cozumel we enjoyed some local food, a little shopping and the Dolphin Swim experience. The Dolphin excursion is a little pricey ($160 ea) but I thought it was well worth the money. You just can describe what its like to interact with the Dolphins and have the chance to actually swim around with them. With Dennis fast approaching U.S. landfall, our captain notified us that the delta had been closed and we would spend an extra day at sea. So he carefully set sail toward Galveston, with plenty of distance between us and the hurricane and sailed at about 6-7 kts so we stayed behind the storm. Once Dennis had made landfall we were approximately 45nm away from the delta of the Mississippi and they had re-opened it shortly there-after allowing entry back into the U.S. We arrived back in port in New Orleans at about 1 or 2am on Monday, Jul 11th. DISEMBARKATION: Carnival no longer uses the cabin call disembarkation, rather they use what they call a relaxed disembarkation which I felt was somewhat disorganized. At about 7am Todd announced that we could leave the ship. He mentioned that if you did not have urgent travel needs to stay aboard a little bit to allow those who did time to get off the ship making the lines smaller… I think almost everyone tried getting off the ship at 7 or a little after. Although it probably only took about 40 or 50 min’s to get off (getting our bags and going through customs) I felt a lot less relaxed about the process than I did with embarking. OVERALL: Overall, this was a great vacation and cruise. I felt a lot of confidence in our Captain with the Hurricanes around us and did not feel worried at anytime because of it. He made every effort to keep us informed of where it was and what his intentions were. We had a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone. We would definitely sail with Carnival again. Maybe next time we’ll get on the Eastern Caribbean cruise or maybe the Bahamas cruise.

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Jun 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

After months and months of planning, dreaming, reading and learning, the big day finally arrived for my wife, our 4 children and I to set sail. Before I get to the cruise, we traveled from Nashville, TN. to New Orleans on Saturday prior and stayed at the Maison St. Charles. We bought the Bon Voyage Package which included a night's stay, 7 days parking of our car and a limo ride to the cruise terminal. The hotel was great, the typical

New Orleans hotel with lots of wrought iron railings and patios. The kids enjoyed the pool and we all very much enjoyed breakfast at eh attached restaurant. My only issue was with the limo ride Sunday morning, when we arrived the valet told us we would be the second trip the next morning. When morning came, it seemed there were several of us who were told we were the second trip. We were all anxious to get to the ship which led to a testy few minutes while they sorted out when we all left. Once we were in the limo and headed to the port everything was looking up, and when we arrived, looking up we did. WOW, what a vessel. Everything I read did not prepare me for the Conquest. It was huge. A porter met us at the limo, took our luggage and $1 tip per bag and was gone. We headed for the first of several lines. The lines moved quickly and in about 15 minutes we were talking to our first Carnival employee. Check in went quickly and off we went to the oft mentioned yellow chairs. Within 10 minutes we were sent to the next room for our first of countless pictures, then up the concourse to the ship. We were immediately in awe of the size and beauty. Many people have written about the confusing deck designs and the challenge in walking from one end to the other, our 9 year by day 3 knew the boat like the back of his hand. Once you get used to your path from your cabin to the dining room or Camp Carnival, you have it made. We got two adjoining rooms and left the doors open the entire trip. It was a perfect arrangement for us. The kids climbed up the in the ocean view window and literally watched New Orleans go by. Our room steward was great, every time we left the room, he snuck in, picked up, cleaned and at night the towel animals were a nightly treat. Our four kids looked forward to the next creature out of the towel zoo. One night in particular, the steward made a monkey and hung it from the ceiling. He found great delight in hiding it from the kids, so did our kids. We had the early seating in the Monet dining room and we were again impressed by the service. Our waiter served us with lots of effort and energy even though we did not drink wine or mixed drinks. After the first night, he had a plate of lemons waiting for my iced tea when we arrived. The food was fancy for a simple palate like mine, too many goose live mousse's and duck slivers for my taste. That being said, the menu was diverse enough that I found plenty to eat each night and on several occasions had two entrees. The desserts were again complicated but delicious. The wife and I ate one night at the Point, the Carnival's supper club for an additional $30 per person charge. If the service in the main dining room was a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, at the Point it was easily an 11. It seemed we had 3 servers waiting for us hand and foot. The filet mignon I had was on the level of any prime steakhouse and the chocolate dessert came in the fanciest serving dishes I have ever seen. A highlight for us was the coffee bar and Petra. She was the barista who took incredible care of us. My wife is the only coffee fan but she made one of the best strawberry milkshakes I have ever had. By the end of the trip, Petra knew what flavor we all wanted and whether or not to put whipped cream on it. A general statement for the service on ship, excellent. Lastly concerning the ship, Camp Carnival was great. My two 9 years olds loved it to the point that we almost had to drag them to family times. Our 6 year old enjoyed it but preferred the pools above anything. Our 12 year old was almost a vapor, now you see her, now you don't. We are cruise fanatics now. Ports - Montego Bay, Jamaica - When we cruise again, if the boat stops at Jamaica, we will stay on board. We booked a Carnival excursion to Rose Hall beach for about $35 per head. The beach was beautiful but the people and the prices for food or cokes were outrageous. $13 for a hamburger and fries and $4 for a coke. Then on the way back the van stopped at a straw market and the vendors were pushy and obnoxious. Finally the van dropped us off where you had to walk through a strip mall type area and teh Jamaican women were grabbing my girls trying to braid there hair. It took multiple times telling them no, and then we were cussed. Jamaica will never see another dime of our money. Grand Caymans - Clean, organized - We booked an excursion through Captain Marvins directly (look up on internet) and went snorkeling and swimming with the stingrays. This was one of the neatest things I have ever done in my life. The guide for Captain Marvins held the rays and we had multiple pictures made with them. The first 5 minutes I was ready to walk on water, for the next 45 minutes it was phenomenal. Cozumel - we took a taxi to the Grand Shoppes and it was a waste of $14. Every shop we saw was also right at the port and the prices and people were better near the ship. Never felt comfortable on that strip. We did have an excellent Mexican meal right there at point looking out at more shades of blue water than I have ever seen. Disembarkation was quick, we were the first in line after the VIP's and were off the boat by 9 am. Taxi back to the Maison, loaded the van and headed home. Carnival's service was incredible, we will definitely cruise again. Do not hesitate to email any questions. God Bless

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Jun 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

Hello fellow cruisers, My wife and myself went on the Carnival Conquest. The ship is excellent. The night shows included 3 Las Vegas shows, 3 different comedy acts, and a guest talent show. They were all great. Dinner at night was also great, we had the friendliest waiter you could ask for, the service was great, the food was great. If your not sure what to get as a entree, then get two. They will bring you whatever you want. I guess

the only thing I was a little disappointed in were the pools. They are a little small. But they seem bigger when you get in. The breakfast buffet is awesome, they even have a guy fixing omelets to order. The lunch buffet was not quite as good, but they have a hamburger place, pizza place, and other things to eat. The entire staff is the friendliest people you can imagine. You don't need any cash on board you use your room key for any additional costs, like drinks and yes they include a 15% tip. Other things on board that are extra cost are pictures, they have guys that take pictures of you everywhere. You can also get your own pictures developed on the ship for 6.95 per 24 roll. So we got all of ours developed while on the ship. When we got home we were able to show our pictures. The ports of call were great, except Montego Bay. The beach we went to was awesume, Its called Doctors Cave. We took a taxi there from the ship, about 10 minutes away. You can see the ship from the beach, I liked that. The taxi ride was $4 U.S. each. To get on the beach was $5 , Umbellas were $5, Chairs were $3. The water does get deep fast, about 10 feet out from the shore you can't touch the bottom. The thing I didn't like about Montego Bay was the people. They are very pushy. They want you to buy whatever they are selling, including weed. Everybody we talked to there asked if you wanted some. But I will say this, once you tell them no, that's it they drop the subject. The taxi drivers drive very crazy so hold on , and go places in groups and do not go to the city. Grand Cayman was excellent. We went to stingray sandbar as a excursion. It was great, stingray about 5 feet wide come right up to you. Bring a underwater camera, you don't want to miss these pictures. Shopping there is very expensive, but they do have a lot of nice shops close to the ship. Cozumel was our favorite place. The water is the bluest of all. The shopping right by the ship is great too. You can get some great deals, for some reason most of the small carts selling hand made things, start there price at $50.00 but when you say, "are you crazy" they drop to $12.00. We did not book any excisions though the ship at Cozumel. We did book a discover scuba trip on the internet with Eagle Ray Divers. They offer a much better deal than what you can get from the ship. They also offer you a second dive at a reef wall, For only another $40.00. You do not have to be certified, they give you a class first, then you start in shallow water to go over the things you learned, then you go deeper. They will take you to about 40 feet, you can see over the reef wall that drops to about 1500 feet. It is really an awesome experience. I have to go do that again. The instructor, Antonio was great, he really makes you feel comfortable. One thing we really liked was they take a small group, only 4 of us. So he has a lot of time to spend with you individually. It is an experience of a lifetime. Look them up at eagleraydivers.com. Our overall experience on this trip was great. I am looking forward to doing it again. It is defiantly well worth the money for a cruise. Thank you, George

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Jun 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

My husband, 16 year old daughter, my daughters friend, and my 8 year old daughter all went on a cruise with the Carnival Conquest. Let me just tell you that last summer we went on a cruise on Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" and it was so much better! This cruise on the Carnival Conquest was downright AWFUL! We were going to do Royal Caribbean again because we liked it so much, but we did Carnival because it was cheaper!

Well, that will never happen again! Let me just tell you what was wrong with the Carnival Conquest and the cruise: The Ship Itself: Sure, the ship is well decorated. But every room you walk in you feel like you are in a casino! I'm talking bright, bold colors, dimmed lighting, neon and florescent lighting in every room you walk in! Then the ship was just too crowded! One morning, on a day at sea, we headed to the pool at about 9:30 a.m. EVERY deck chair was taken!! So we just had to throw our towels somewhere on the ground! And there was no room to swim in the pool! The problem was that late at night, after the pool was closed, people would set their towels on a deck chair, so that they could already have a chair in the morning! How ignorant! They are not supposed to do that, but the staff didn't even say anything! The ship wasn't that fun either! It got boring, there was just nothing to do on it! Food: Let me just tell you that the food was awful! It was almost unedible and we aren't picky eaters! Service: The service was actually okay, but the staff was rude! Ports of Call: They all sucked except Cozumel. They are so overated! Overall: Lets just say, you might want to consider a Royal Caribbean or Princess cruise. Don't waste your money on this one!

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Jun 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

The Carnival Conquest was my third cruise (the first being a RC cruise, and the second, the Fantasy) and by far the biggest and nicest. EMBARKATION: This process was not as slow-moving and annoying as I thought it would be or had been on the previous ships. We had 22 people in our group and still moved quickly through the few lines there were. THE SHIP: The ship was beautiful, and very inviting. I was especially looking forward to

our room being on the lido deck and being so close to the pools and buffet. The room was very accommodating and clean. It was very spacious considering how small the rooms were on the first cruise I went on. The ship was set up well, most of the entertainment was bunched together and the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge was very easy to find and also very beautiful. THE CREW: I have to include a section on the crew because they were extremely helpful and polite. Our cruise director was Todd Wittmer. He was my favorite cruise director of all the cruises I’ve been on. He was very involved with most of the activities and was hilarious in all the shows. The assistant cruise director was Malcolm. Malcolm was very entertaining and very involved also. Also, the social hosts were funny and did a great job in the activities that they hosted. And the karaoke host, Greg, was really entertaining. Also, our room steward did an excellent job, as well as, Emmanuel, at dinner. From the people at the gift shops and photo gallery, to the people at the buffet, they were all really helpful and I don’t care what any those bad reviews say, the service was EXCELLENT. ENTERTAINMENT: The shows onboard were really entertaining as were the activities (like the hairy chest contest). One of my favorite things was Karaoke with “Greg”. There was Karaoke mostly every night except Friday and I highly recommend it if you have a group of people with you. MONTEGO BAY: Montego Bay was one of the only disappointments on this cruise. I had pictured something totally different and when we got there it was very disappointing. We went to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and were very disappointed that it was so small and crowded. Overall, Montego Bay was just dirty and the a lot of the people were very rude and pushy. GRAND CAYMAN: I don’t have much to say about Grand Cayman, because I didn’t even get off the boat. I figured if it was anything like Montego Bay, I would just sleep in. However, I regret it now, because I hear it was really nice. COZUMEL: We just went to the beach and did some shopping in Cozumel, but it was really fun. The beach we went to was really nice and not too crowded. We also got to see a wedding on the beach. I really enjoyed the shopping, it was right at the port, so we didn’t have to go far. OVERALL: Overall, I LOVED this ship. I will definitely sail with Carnival again, no doubt about it. There were very few disappointments. I can’t wait till my next CARNIVAL CRUISE!!!!!!

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Jun 12, 2005

Western Caribbean

We drove from Oklahoma to New Orleans in about 12 hours. It really wasn’t that bad of a drive. We went right to our hotel, Maison St. Charles. It wasn’t all that special but it was nice. Clean rooms and clean courtyard. We ate at the Cheesecake place right down the street and it was very good. Todd Wittmer, the cruise director and his assistants, Sarah, Kevin and Malcolm were wonderful. They were all over the place. Todd is a great

director. I got to meet Phat Kat, one of the comedians. He was really nice too. Cannot remember our stewards name. We saw him two times the entire week. The first time was on Tuesday but he did a great job. He did unlock our mini bar and emptied it for us. Sunday – June 12th The limo picked us up at the hotel about 12:00 and took us straight to the pier. The second we got out of the car, we were walked into the door into long snake lines. It didn’t take long at all. The lines moved pretty quickly. Once you check in and get your sail-n-sign card, you are off to the yellow chairs. We sat there for about 15 minutes and then moved to another room filled with more yellow chairs. These chairs were right before you take your picture before you get on the ship. The second you walk onto the ship, you take your sail-n-sign picture. That didn’t take long at all. We were finally on board. The drill was pretty slow and boring but I guess you have to do it. Once that was over, we put the life jackets up and went up to deck 7. This is where the parents and grandparents had rooms. They were right next to each other and so they open their balcony doors to make it bigger. The grandparents had a corner room so it was really big. The entire family hung out on the balcony to sail away. Everyone left to go to their own rooms and get ready for dinner. We ate at 8:00 in the lower level of Monet Dining room. We were in the back by the window and it was pretty awesome. Our head waitress was Zuzanna. We had two tables between the 14 of us so the other table had a different head waiter. His name was Michael. They were both awesome. We had great service. Monday – June 13th We got up on our own time since this was a sea day. We ate at the buffet. That was just fine with us. The food was pretty good. We were at the pool the entire day. We ate pizza and ice cream a lot. They were both great. We went back to our room to get ready for the first formal night about 5:00. We had the lobster but it wasn’t anything to write home about. The appetizers and desserts were always good. We hung out at the casino a lot if we weren’t at a show. My husband and I were kinda using this as our honeymoon because we didn’t take one. Then his sister and husband had been married on the 12th. So at this dinner, they brought both of us a small dessert with a candle and sang to us. We had to kiss the entire song. It was fun. Tuesday – June 14th This was another sea day and not much going on. We pretty much did the same thing as Monday. Wednesday – June 15th This was Jamaica. We went to Sunset Beach and we are so glad we did. All 14 of us had a great time. We got our moneys worth. This day never got really hot. It was kinda over cast but it never rained. I took a nap on the chair by the pool. That’s how comfortable it way. Everyone was really nice and the food wasn’t that bad. We were surprise to how good it was. We headed back to the ship around 3:00 and did some shopping in the little mall at the port. It was really crowded and not much stuff. We got back on the ship about 4:00 with no line. It was very easy to get off and on the ship. Thursday – June 16th This was Grand Cayman day. They tell you that you have to have a tender number before 10:00 am but we went to get our number and they told us we didn’t need one any more because they were so ahead of schedule. This was about 8:15. Great job! We got right to the island and it was really hot already. My husband and I walked around the block and decided it was too hot so we went back to catch a cab to the beach. We went to the 7 mile beach. We went to Sea Grape Beach. It was nice and not to crowded. We rented some snorkel equipment and stayed for about 2-3 hours. It was really fun. We then went back to the shopping area and at lunch at Hard Rock Café. It was really crowded but some of our group was there so we sat with them. We did some shopping and went back to the boat about 30 minutes before the last tender. It was so easy getting off and on the ship. Dinner was another formal night. I finally got my DH to take some pictures with the cruise people. They turned out really good too. Friday – June 17th This was Cozumel day. We went to Corona Beach. It is a really rocky beach but it was good for snorkeling. There was a storm coming in so we decided to head back to the shopping area. Thank goodness we did because it came with it for about 15 minutes. Then it was gone and it was a pretty day again. We did major shopping here and it was fun. We went back to the ship and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. Saturday – June 18th This was the last day at sea. We slept in and went to breakfast when ever we got up. Did make any plans at all. We hung out by the pool and snaked around all day. We went back to our room about 3:00 because we were so tired and ready to get out of the sun. I started packing all our stuff. Don’t forget to leave something out to wear on Sunday. Got everything ready to go and took a nice nap. Went to dinner that night and had to say our goodbyes. We went to the casino again for a while. My DH and I went to the Lido Deck one last time to look over the side. It was pretty cool to see everything; you are already in the river by then. There were two cars parked with their lights on and when we went by they were honking and flashing their lights. I guess they didn’t have much going on that night. Sunday – June 19th Our group made plans to meet on the lido deck for breakfast around 8:30. We couldn’t go all the way to the 3rd deck so we waited by the casino on the 5th. The cleared the ship about 9:15 and we were off. We found our luggage fast and were looking for a cab. We got to vans to take all of us to the hotel. We were loaded and pulling out of the parking lot at 10:00 am. We made great timing. Getting of the ship was so easy. Didn’t have any problems what so ever. Food All together, the food was good. I never complained about the food. The bread was great. The appetizers and desserts were great. The pizza and the ice cream was wonderful. We ate a ton of that stuff. Zuzanna was one tables waitress and Michael was the other tables waiter. If you heard people yelling “Boomer Sooner”, those were our tables. Entertainment We went to a blues show which the guy could sing. He was awesome. We went to all the adult (late show) comedy shows. They were pretty good too. Casino We were here a lot. If you are at the craps table you need to make sure you have experienced dealers. There was one time a dealer was moved because he wasn’t doing things right and people weren’t getting paid (not good). Frank was great. He should be on the table a lot of the time. Pool This is probably the only thing we were disappointed with. They were tiny tiny tiny, way too many people to have such small pools. And yes, there were plenty of chair hogs. When we had chairs saved it was because they got up and was coming right back. Not the king to leave for hours. Angela and Sutomo were always there to serve us. They were awesome. They didn’t even need our card by the second day. If you find one of them, stick with them. They were always at the pool and at shows.

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Jun 12, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was the third cruise for my wife and me, all of them on Carnival. Our first two cruises were each five days long on the Imagination, which sailed out of Miami. Prior to this, we had always booked our cruises in late March/early April, but we chose to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversay on June 13 with a cruise. Neither of us had been to New Orleans before, which was another reason we chose to sail on the Conquest. In this

review I will cover seven major areas before closing with some final thoughts. EMBARKATION We spent June 10 and 11 in New Orleans at the Omni Royal on St Louis Street. According to the blue ticket book, embarkation was supposed to take place between 1:00 and 5:00 PM the afternoon of the 12th. We checked out of our hotel around 11:30 AM, and the doorman told us that he had already hailed several cabs that morning for people headed to the ship terminal. so by the time we got there, a sizeable line had already formed waiting to complete the initial checkin. The line moved fairly quickly, though, and we proceeded to be herded from room to room to wait in the famous yellow chairs that you have no doubt read about. Still, we were on the ship in just over an hour from the time we got out of our cab at the dock. To avoid the lines, you might want to come earlier in the morning or wait until 4:00 or 4:30, when most everyone has already boarded. ACCOMMODATIONS Our cabin was on Deck 10 (Panorama Deck). This was our first time having a cabin with a balcony, and we loved it. At night we usually propped the door open so we could hear the sound of the ship moving through the water. One day, I happened to see two dolphins swimming next to the ship directly below our balcony -- I am sorry that my wife did not get to see them. The cabin was a little larger than the ones we had booked in the past, and the bathroom was also larger. There were plenty of shelves in the bathroom for our toiletries and grooming items, which my wife really liked. Our room steward was named Mario, and though we seldom saw him, he was always nearby when I needed him. Twice I locked myself out of our cabin, and both times he seemed to magically appear and was happy to assist me. Our first day, we dumped a bunch of stuff in the cabin before going to eat, including my wallet, which contained a large amount of cash and travelers checks. While we were gone, Mario entered our room to fill our ice bucket. When we came back, my wallet was untouched, exactly where I had left it on top of the desk, next to the ice bucket. FOOD/DINING We ate breakfast and lunch on the Lido Deck and we were always satisfied with the variety and quality of the food served there. For breakfast, we learned to get in the omelet line first before getting in the faster moving lines for breakfast meats and pancakes or french toast. By doing this, all our food was still hot when we sat down to eat. One thing that seemed to be an unnecessary problem was getting coffee -- for some reason, a number of coffee stations were secured each morning for cleaning, and we joined several other people wandering around between dining rooms looking for a functioning station. I also noticed that only cartons of skim milk or chocolate milk were put out in the serving lines. Regular milk was availble by asking a person behind one of the serving counters, though it could be difficult to get their attention because they were usually busy. Everyday at lunch, one of the dining rooms featured the cuisine of a particular country, such as Greece, Japan, or India. Another dining room featured a Grand Buffet that was filled with more familiar food items. You could opt for freshly made deli-style sandwiches that were made to order, or get hamburgers and hot dogs and fries at the rear of the ship. Fresh pizza was available 24 hours a day, and there was a soft-serve ice cream machine on the Lido Deck where you could help yourself to a cone or dish of ice cream whenever you wanted. We ate the evening meal in the Renoir Dining Room. We had requested the early seating and asked to be placed at a large table. The first night, we were disappointed to discover that we had been placed at a table for two, tucked away behind a marble staircase. After dinner, we talked to the maitre'd, who explained that most of the large tables for the early seating were filled with parents and their small childer who had opted to get their kids fed at the early meal. He suggested that if we switched to the late seating that he could readily put us at a large table. We agreed to his suggestion, and it worked out better than we could have ever anticipated. The next night we were seated at a table with three other couples, who readily welcomed us like we were old friends. Every night, we were usually the last table to leave the dining room because we would linger over coffee following dessert, talking about all kinds of things. After our last meal together on the last night, we all stood and exchanged handshakes and hugs, and we were the only table to do so. The head waiter for our table was a gentleman from India named Davis, who served all his tables with a pleasant blend of charm, grace, and humor. He was always able to explain unfamiliar menu items and readily offered suggestions when asked to do so. He was assisted by a young woman whose name, unfortunately, I never learned. I can say that she was quietly efficient and anticipated our needs well. Wine service was available at the evening meals at prices I thought were very reasonable. My wife and I both agreed that the evening meals served on the Imagination were better than the ones we had on the Conquest -- seafood items had a tendency to taste fishy, as if they had been frozen for a long time. The beef entrees, such as the filet mignon and the chateaubriand were tough, though the prime rib was satisfactory. They served Beef Wellington one night, but we did not try it. One of the events that was much anticipated was the chocolate buffet that was served one day during the noon meal. The variety of cakes and truffles was spectacular to see, but did not always taste as good as they looked. The cakes were dry and heavy, but with a cup of coffee or a carton of milk, they were still a sinful indulgence! On our other cruises, we never saw the maitre'd after the first night, and consequently we never felt compelled to leave him a tip. The maitre'd of the Renoir was a Mr. Rade, who made it a point to circulate among all the tables each night to greet his diners and inquire as to how they were enjoying themselves. For this reason, and because he assisted us in changing our dining schedule, we left him an appropriate tip. ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT I think that my wife often thinks I have no sense of humor -- sometimes we watch comedians on TV at home, and I sit there with no response to a punch line that has her cracked up. Because of this cruise, she knows that this is no longer true. We attended the early show of Marc Rubben, and in just a few minutes he had everyone rolling in his/her seat! We is a very gifted ventriloquist who used four dummies (a cranky old man, a cool dude from Jamaica, a mid-eastern swami, and a redneck) in the course of his shows. His R-rated late night show was hilarious without being unduly raunchy, and it was refreshing to see a comedian who did not have to resort to that kind of humor to get a few laughs. Marc evidently performs on the Conquest regularly -- if you go to his website at dummytalk.com you can read the reviews of people who have seen his shows. WHATEVER YOU DO, IF HE IS LISTED TO PERFORM ON SHIP, DO NOT MISS HIM!!!!! Two other comedians performed during the cruise, and both were okay, but not great, so if you have something else to do, you won't miss a lot if you don't go. The Conquest dancers put on two major shows and did a great job. It is obvious that a great deal of money was spent on costumes and sets. The only thing I might suggest is that they shorten the shows just a bit, because the crowd seemed to get restless near the end. In the middle of the week a female magician performed, and although she was really very good, she did not seem to capture the crowd's enthusiasm. It may have been that people were beginning to get fatigued at that stage of the cruise and were too tired to be enthusiastic. Two things that we enjoy is going to karaoke and the piano bar, but the late dining schedule did not allow us to attend them. For some reason, karaoke was held only between 8 and 11 PM, while we were still eating. We made it to the piano bar the first night and were one of the first couples there. The room quickly filled, though, and everyone had a great time. The piano player was very good at working the crowd and got people to join in on the singalongs. EXCURSIONS In Montego Bay, we made the mistake of going on the Pirate Ship Cruise -- it was awful. In the booklet that Carnival has assembled that describes the various excursions in their ports of call, the Pirate Ship Cruise is hyped as a tour "in detail" of the Montego Bay coastline, followed by snorkeling and a trip to Jimmy Buffet's Magaritaville. On this ship, "tropical drinks" were to be served and reggae music was supposed to be provided on the cruise. Also, the book says that the Pirate ship for this excursion "was featured in the Walt Disney movie, Return to Treasure Island." To begin with, it is highly doubtful that the boat we took was featured in any kind of movie. Boarding the ship was not easy -- we had to step down about 20 inches off the side of the pier onto the top of a bumper-tire tied to the side of the pier. Next you had to wait as you judged the motion of the boat bobbing up and down in the water before stepping aboard. The boat was too small for the number of people on the "cruise." There were not enough seats to accommodate everyone, and most of us had to squeeze together on hatch covers. There was no safety railing around the deck except for a thin rope that was strung between poles that were about 30 inches tall. The only thing remotely resembling anything to do with pirates was a pathetic little Jolly Roger about the size of a handkerchief hanging in the rigging of the ship. The only drink we were served was watery looking Coke, and the reggae music was provided by a beat-up old boom box. Though it was supposed to be a CRUISE, it turned out to be nothing more than a snorkeling outing, for as soon as we cast off, we proceeded directly to the reef, which was only about a half-mile from the pier. Enroute, the CREW had to make some people get off the hatch cover where they were sitting to get to the swim fins and snorkel gear. Watching this was like watching a bunch of monkey trying to have sex with a football!! All the gear had been thrown haphazardly into the hold, and people were having all kinds of problems finding a matching pair of swim fins. One guy who wore a 10-and-a-half could find only one fin, and another guy ended up wearing one yellow fin and one blue fin. To get into the water, the snorkelers had to jump about 5 feet off the side of the boat. There were about six other people onboard besides my wife and me who did not snorkel, and we all talked about how we were led to believe that this was going to be a tour-type excursion, not just a snorkeling trip. There was nothing for us to do but sit on the shadeless deck, waiting for the snorkelers to reboard. There is more I can tell you about this fiasco, and if you are interested, email me and I will tell you about other things that happened that were totally wrong. I stronly urge all of you to NOT book this excursion! At Grand Cayman, we chose to do some shopping so we could find some things for our grandson, our daughter and her husband. We bought some liquor in the duty free shops there. In Grand Cayman, the stores in which you buy liquor are required to deliver your purchases to the ship -- you cannot carry them onto the ship yourself. We bought some liquor in a shop called Pirates Grotto, which is directly across the street from the gates on the pier. A word of caution -- the Pirates Grotto has a notorious reputation for taking your money and not delivering your purchases to the ship. We were fortunate, but if you do buy something there, make sure you pay for it with a credit card so that you can notify the card supplier of nondelivery and get your account credited. In Cozumel we went to Passion Island, and though it is truly a spectacular setting, it was not worth the $170 we paid. There was nothing to do there but play in the water, lay in the sun, eat, drink, or play volleyball or water balloon catch. Also, make sure you eat as soon as you get there -- we didn't, and by the time we went through the line, most of the food had been pretty well picked over, and they were not prompt in restocking the trays of food. Shade on the beach is scarce, but we were fortunate enough to get under a thatched-rood cabana hut. Make sure you take lots of sun screen!! At dinner that night, some of our table mates told us about a private beach they had gone to, where they paid only $12 each to enter, which included the use of the water equipment like snorkeling gear and paddle boats. They had to pay for their food and drinks, but they did not spend anything close to what we did to spend three hours on Passion Island! THE CARNIVAL VACATION CLUB We found an invitation in our cabin to attend a presentation of the Carnival Vacation Club (CVC). We thought at first that it was probably some land-based timeshare resorts that Carnival had expanded into, but it wasn't. In essence, it is a prepaid cruise program, which features four levels of participation (bronze, silver, gold, and platinum), and the amount you pay depends which level you are on. The money you pay amasses a number of points to an account, and for a specified amount of time you can book future cruises, each of which deducts points from your account. The number of points deducted depend on the time of year you sail and the accommodations you book for that cruise. As a member of the CVC you become one of their VIPs, which gives you extra benefits such as priority boarding and disembarking, welcome gifts delivered to your cabin or dining table such as chocolate covered strawberries and bottles of champagne. You are also invited to attend private parties thrown on the ship exclusively for CVXC members. During your membership, you can book 7 day stays at resorts throughout the US and in select countries for a flat administrative fee of $299, and you receive certificate for companion airfares (buy one, get one free). All members receive the same VIP privileges and benefits regardless of the level they join. Just for attending the briefing we got a certificate good for a 7 day stay at a resort in Mexico. Our appointment was with a representative named Aaron who went through the program with us and answered our questions as they arose. It was a no-pressure approach, and he told us to take a couple of days to talk it over. For us, it was a no-brainer. We knew that we were going to take more cruises in the future, and by joining the club we not only got the VIP benefits (which began immediately), but we will save money too! We were also told that we had three days after the cruise ended to change our minds should we choose to do so. The CVC is a relatively new program that is offered on only two other ships besides the Conquest, so stop in and talk to Aaron or his lovely wife -- if you enjoy cruising, we think that you too will join. DISEMBARKATION The last night on ship, you place your luggage in the hall outside your cabin, and it is taken to a large warehouse where it is grouped according to the color of the tag on you bags. Also, you will find a Customs form in your cabin on which you declare the duty free purchases you made outside the US. The members of the CVC VIP club all gathred at the Henri Disco on Deck 5, where pastries, juice, and coffee were available. When the ship was cleared for disembarking, we followed Aaron to deck 3. Here there seemed to be some mixup, because other people were getting off the ship at the same time as the VIP Club, who was supposed to get priority. It was easy to get through Customs -- we just handed our form to the lady as we walked by. We were then led into a warehouse where all the luggage with VIP tags were grouped -- this was another area that needs to be addressed because the bags were all lines up in several parallel rows, and you had to do a follow-the-leader sort of thing, snaking between rows as you searched for your bags. The rows were so close together that, when you did find one of your bags, you could not roll it to the end of the aisle and had to manhandle it. There was also confusion about where you could set your found luggage before you went to find other bags. Although there was a lot of open space in the warehouse, there were officials watching us whose job was to keep us confined to that area, so it was rather crowded. It was also hard to get to the porters who were supposed to take your bags to your cab or car. There has to be a better way to do this. When we did get to a porter, we were able to get outside and into a cab in just a few minutes. Just make sure you have plenty of $1 bills to tip all the people who will be handling your bags! FINAL THOUGHTS My wife and I both agree that cruises are fabulous vacations, and we love them. Except for a few things (Jamaica) we had a wonderful time on the Conquest. Because we are experienced cruisers, it is hard not to make comparisons with other cruises, and we wanted to mention the following minor items that could be improved: 1) Dining room food was generally good and well-presented, but the seafood and meat entrees were not up to par. 2) Ship cleanliness -- we know that it is a HUGE task to keep a ship the size of the Conquest looking great. However, early on the cruise we happened to see a beverage glass that was half-full of melted ice sitting on a ledge in one of the stairwells, and it was still there two days later before it was finally picked up. We also saw small garbage items suck as lime peels on the deck that were there for long periods of time before they were policed up. 3) The hot tubs were inoperative the entire length of the cruise because of some kind of mechanical upgrade that was underway. We and many other people were disappointed. There were several small children onboard, and they pretty much filled the swimming pools, which are small to begin with. As a result we did not get to use any of the ship's water recreational facilities, and we believe that we should get some type of credit from Carnival for this on a future cruise. 4) Excursions -- I again strongly recommend that you avoid the Pirate Ship Cruise in Montego Bay. Although Passion Island is beautiful, we were disappointed that there was not more to do there.

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Mar 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my second cruise with the previous cruise being on the Disney Magic. Checking in seemed to be about as painless as they could make it given the number of people boarding this ship and the regulations and whatnot involved. The stateroom was not as cramped as I expected and the room steward (Acmed <sp> from Indonesia) was excellent. He was friendly and accessible, and we never had a shortage of fresh towels or had any problem

with the room. Our assigned dining room was the Renoir dining room, and the food was good most of the time. Our head waitress (Claudia) was excellent and always greeted us with a smile. She was attentive to our kids and the adults in our party as well. The cruise director (Todd) made a good effort to keep fun activities going on for the adults most nights, although there seemed to be a gap in the activities for the kids. Our group consisted of four families with two teenagers (16 years old) and four kids between the ages of 10 and 12. The teenagers found things to do, but the younger kids had difficulty finding organized activities because they all seemed to cater to either kids older than they are, or kids much younger. The ports of call were fun, for the most part. In Montego Bay we took the Negril beach tour which drove us across the island to the west side to Negril Beach to spend the day at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. The food service at Margaritaville was not particularly friendly and was slow and the beach was extremely crowded. The bus ride there was like an amusement park ride. Cars and bikes and people would stop in the road wherever the mood struck them causing our bus driver to swerve and honk regularly. The tour guide we had (Carlene) was excellent and taught us some native Jamaican “Patua” language as well as the typical Jamaican sayings like “No problem mon” and “aire mon”. The kids especially liked the patua saying “you too labalaba” which Carlene told us meant you talk too much. The kids couldn’t wait to use that one on mom whenever they had a chance. The ride to Negril took us by some depressed areas of the island and gave us all a good idea of how depressed the economy is there. Carlene said the island had 20% unemployment, and a lot of the employment that was there was not steady and did not pay very well. Grand Cayman was a beautiful place despite the fact that Hurricane Ivan caused a lot of destruction there. Most buildings still had roofs damaged or partially repaired and the vegetation was nearly all blown over and brown. The water was absolutely beautiful though. We took the Stingray City tour where they take you to a sandbar about waist to chest deep and let you interact with schools of stingrays that swim up to you and want to be petted. My favorite part of that trip was the beginning when some of the women and children were squealing and freaking out when the stingrays first came up and rubbed against them. The tour guide caught a stingray and held it for us to take pictures with and touch. I recommend the Stingray City Tour highly! After the tour we went to Sea Grape Beach which is a public beach with lounge chairs and a beach bar and grill. The water was gorgeous there and it was MUCH less crowded than Margaritaville in Negril. My biggest compliant about Grand Cayman is that we were not allowed to stay long enough. I would like to go back there for an extended stay. Next we sailed to Cozumel. The stop started of VERY rough! We docked and lined up to disembark for our tour that started at 9:30am according to the tickets we bought from Carnival aboard ship. We stood in line in the stairwell with thousands of other passengers for more than an hour and a half waiting for them to let us off. Initially they blamed it on the Mexican authorities not giving them clearance, then after they began the disembarking process they stopped after only a few people had gotten off and told us they had to keep us on board while their sister ship, the Carnival Valor, docked. This infuriated most passengers board the Conquest! Carnival seemed VERY DISORGANIZED at this point holding up the disembarking of thousands of passengers aboard the Conquest after they had already been stuck in stairwells for more than an hour and a half to let their “sister ship” dock. We made it to our tour aboard the Fury Catamaran (I think the trip was called the snorkel and beach party tour) about two hours late. The tour operator assured us that the trip would not be cut short because of the disembarking fiasco. The Fury catamaran took us to an area that seemed to be only a hundred or so yards from a shopping area to snorkel and I wasn’t expected much from the snorkeling when we stopped there. We had kids with us and the snorkeling right there by the shopping area was better than I expected. It would not impress people that have snorkeled on reefs before, but it was great for the kids since most had not ever snorkeled before. There were schools of colorful fish and there was even some coral, sea urchins, and a couple of eels. After the snorkel, the Fury took us on a boat ride to a private beach for a “beach party”. The tour price included all the margaritas and beer you wanted from the time the snorkeling ended until the end of the trip. The beach had kayaks and floats for the kids to float on. There was a volleyball net, a beach bar and some other activities for an additional fee like horseback riding. The boat crew taught the kids to dance to the electric slide, the Macarena, and the YMCA and overall the trip was the most fun we had on the whole cruise. Overall the cruise was fun, but Carnival should work on this disembarking situation because it did put a damper on the stop in Cozumel and actually resulted in our not having as much time there as the ship’s itinerary promised.

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Mar 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

 Nina Tuck This was our first time to cruise. Selected Conquest due to it's location to our home, port stops and activities for our 2 teenage sons, 13 years and 17 years. Had a wonderful time and did not want to come home. Arrived in New Orleans and was directed to the Conquest parking lot. Sky caps took our bags and we boarded a shuttle bus to the port. Arrived around 12:30. There was a long line, but it moved quickly. Boarded

around 1:30. We booked adjourning rooms with windows. We were on deck 1. Very happy with our rooms. Located just 2 doors down from the elevators. We never heard the people beside us. In Jamaica we boarded a shuttle bus at the port and was taken to Doctor's Cave Beach. Our shuttle bus stayed with us the entire day. Our driver took a few people shopping and then back to the beach. $5 entrance fee and $5 to rent chairs and $5 for umbrellas. Beautiful beach with a reef for snorkeling. Waitresses served us drinks and food right on the beach. We walked right down the street to Margaretville. Bothered a little by people on the street, just told them no and kept walking. In Grand Cayman we did the Stingray City and snorkeling trip, Turtle Farm and Hell through Captain Marvins. Wonderful trips. Just make sure you get early tender tickets off the boat. Carnival excursions get first priority, but we arrived early and got off in plenty of time to make our 8:15 appointment at Captain Marvins. After our excursion we had a little while to hang out at the Hard Rock Cafe. In Cozumel we booked an afternoon snorkeling trip through Cancun Vista. We ate at a Mexican restaurant and shopped until time for our trip. Great fun!!! Our snorkeling trip was wonderful. Our guide was very knowledgeable and fluent in both English and Spanish. We enjoyed the fact that each place we visited was unique and different from the other ones. Our time on the boat was spent going to shows, all the different bars, enjoying the poolside games and eating, eating and eating. There were 1000 children 18 years and under on this cruise. Our children made many new friends and I was amazed at the good behavior I saw from the children. We look forward to cruising again with Carnival in the near future.  

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Feb 27, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was a first cruise for me and my husband and we loved it. We arrived in New Orleans from Colorado Springs, Colorado on Friday. We stayed at the Bienville House Hotel on Decatur Street right in the French Quarter so we could walk everywhere. It is a beautiful historic hotel right in the middle of antique shops, jazz clubs, great restaurants, museums, aquarium, IMAX theatre, shopping malls, Harrah’s Casino, trolley car lines and

the Gray Line Bus Tours. We took the Gray Line City Tour on Saturday and it was an excellent way to see the city (included was a stop at an above-ground cemetery and a drive through the Garden District). On Sunday, upon the advice of our bellman, we decided to let the crowds and traffic dissipate before boarding the ship so we had the hotel call us a taxi for 3:00 p.m. We’re glad we did; we checked in at the desk and in a small line walked right to the photo area and onto the ship. As they say in Jamaica, “No problem, mon.” By the way, they take a lot of photos of you during the cruise but you don’t have to buy them. As for the ship, the Conquest is huge and beautiful. Our room was on the sixth level, upper aft, at the back of the ship with a big balcony. The room was a lot larger than I thought it would be and had lots of storage space in the cabinets, closets and room for our suitcases under the bed. The bathroom is small but has everything you need and lots of shelves for storing your things. The beds and pillows were comfortable, although it did take a little getting used to since the bed is basically two beds pushed together. Watch that split down the middle! You have your own thermostat control so the air was always the way we liked it. There was a laundry facility down the hall with an iron but we brought along a small hand-held steamer and that worked perfectly for our needs. Our steward, Eduardo, and his assistant, Wiwin, were wonderful. Eduardo made the cute towel animals that are left on the bed each evening during turn-down service (with chocolates and the “Carnival Capers” newsletter which has everything you need to know about the next day’s destination and events) and our room was always clean and neat. We can’t thank them enough. The first two nights at sea took some getting used to. We thought the water was choppy and could feel it especially in bed at night but I eventually got used to it. My husband didn’t have any problems adjusting at all, but I did feel a little dizzy the first two days and was happy when I met two very nice women who said they had the same symptoms so I knew I wasn’t crazy. They had even asked to change their room thinking it might help but the ship was booked. I hope they got used to it as quickly as I did. Jamaica was beautiful and we did the Pirate Ship Cruise which took us along the coastline and stopped once for snorkeling and then again at a resort beach to relax. The weather was rainy and then sunny and rainy again. We had a really good time. In Grand Cayman we took the Grand Cayman Island Tour stopping at the Tortuga Rum Factory Store (I bought some yummy rum cakes there, and they let you sample them so you know what you’re getting, while my husband sampled the various rums), the town of Hell (where my husband bought a funny tee shirt that says “Grand Cayman-To Hell and Back”), the Turtle Farm which has tons of turtles and our driver even stopped at Seven Mile Beach for a view. When we got back to Georgetown we found a dockside restaurant and had lunch. The next day was Cozumel. We took the Sub-Ocean View boat tour and it was wonderful. The seats are four feet below the water and you look out the windows at the coral and fish. Great way to snorkel without getting wet! We even saw an Eagle Ray (we were all calling it a Sting Ray but our tour guide corrected us) and a lone Barracuda. Our guide told us this was unusual since big fish usually swim away when they hear the boat but these two stayed with us for a while and it was incredible to see them. After the sub tour we walked around the shops at port and had a delicious lunch at Pancho’s Backyard Restaurant where they served us a fishbowl margarita and a fishbowl Sangria and after a little more window shopping stopped in at Fat Tuesdays before returning to the ship. On board ship, we attended all the evening shows (comedy, magic, dancing/singing, big band orchestra, ventriloquist, juggling) and enjoyed all of it. The dancing and singing shows were our favorites and we appreciated all the hard work the dancers and singers must do to create such fabulous shows. We played Bingo a couple of times, went to the Casino (my husband loves Craps and won a little money), and danced at Henri’s Disco. There is a lot to do and the cruise director Todd and his staff were excellent in coordinating everything. There were pub crawls and trivia games, all kinds of music in the many different bars, lounges and the lobby, Karaoke, dance and exercise classes, the spa, etc. If you’re bored on this cruise you have no one to blame but yourself! Our dinner was the 5:45 p.m. seating in the Monet room. Every meal was wonderful. We never felt the need to have dinner in “The Point Supper Club” (which is a separate charge if you want to eat there) since the meals in the Monet were so good. Our servers, Lukas and Iputu, were so attentive and made dining there a real treat. There were two formal nights and it was fun to get dressed up. We also used the gym almost every day and it was very good. Walking or running on the treadmill did take a little getting used to when the ship rocked but it was all part of the fun of cruising. And with all the food on this ship you may want to consider working out even if you don’t normally do so. There is 24-hour pizza and ice cream, the Cezanne restaurant (which serves buffet), not to mention P.C.’s Wok, Paul’s Deli, steaks and burgers from The Grill, Sur Mer Seafood Delights, Sushi Bar and the Rotisserie. Oh yes, and don’t forget the dessert table! The Sail & Sign Card is your access key to your room and pays for anything you want to buy on the ship (alcoholic beverages, souvenirs from the shops, etc.). Everything is charged to your account if you have your account with a credit card deposit and a printout of your purchases is left under your door the Sunday morning of departure. As for the soda card, we did not get one as it was $38.50 for one card and we just don’t drink that much soda. You can still purchase a soda from the bar ($1.50 for a can, $2.50 for a 20-ounce bottle) if you get the craving. Ice tea, lemonade, apple juice and punch are free. For debarking, Carnival decided to try a relaxed departure for the first time. We were asked to wait along Promenade Deck 5 or Lido Deck 9 and just relax until they made the announcement that debarkation could begin. At that point, it was debark at your leisure, although they told us everyone had to disembark the ship no later than 10:00 a.m. That morning, we had breakfast at the Cezanne, returned to our room and collected our overnight bags (except for an overnight bag, they ask you to leave your luggage outside your room the night before between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. for pickup) and then sat on the Lido Deck until about 9:45 a.m. At that point, the biggest crowds were gone (debarking started around 9:00 a.m.) and we walked right off. We got to the terminal where they have your bags waiting under signs designating your room location, i.e., “Upper Aft”. We found our bags in about five minutes. There were a lot of people still there and when we left the terminal we found ourselves in a long line for a taxi. It took an hour to get through the line and into a taxi. If you’re going to the airport there are shuttle buses from this same location and if we had been going to the airport we would have done this. Many people chose not to; I don’t know why. The line was much quicker for the shuttle. Finally we got our taxi and returned to the Bienville House Hotel for one more day in New Orleans. And I’m glad we stayed one more day. We were both going through “cruise withdrawal” and needed the time to adjust to the real world again before going home! We returned to Colorado on Monday with so many great memories. In summary, we can only say that we thoroughly enjoyed our first cruise on Carnival’s Conquest. It was a wonderful, relaxing, fun trip with delicious food, friendly staff and beautiful islands to visit. We look forward to sailing again sometime in the future. Bon voyage!

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Feb 27, 2005

Western Caribbean

I must say first that I spent a lot of time on cruisereviews.com prior to our cruise and the information was so helpful! I hope my review will be as helpful to future Conquest cruisers. New Orleans My husband and I flew from Sacramento to New Orleans and arrived in the afternoon the day before the cruise in order to avoid any mishaps with lost luggage, flight delays, etc. We ate at a great restaurant in the French Quarter called

the Redfish Grille…pricey but definitely worth it! I normally don’t eat Oysters but their BBQ oysters were amazing. So was the signature Redfish plate. We stayed at The Lafayette Hotel just a few blocks outside the French Quarter and the accommodations were very nice and a bargain at $129.00 for a King Bed room. I searched for months for the right hotel but everything was either too expensive or required a two night stay. Embarkation We decided we wanted to get on the ship early and explore so we took a taxi to the pier at about 11:15 am. We did sit in a bit of traffic for about 20 minutes but most of it was due to the passengers still getting off the ship from the previous cruise. Our driver got us right in front and within 20 steps a porter had found us and loaded up our bags. We got in a line to check in at about 11:45. We had already completed our fun pass online so we were checked in quickly (about 10 minutes including wait time) and then it was off to the yellow chairs that every reviewer has talked about. We sat here til about 12:25 and then we were ushered to the photo line which went very quickly and then we were walking down the terminal to board. We were on board at 12:45pm. The Ship It is huge! So huge that even at the end of the cruise my husband found himself a little lost! We started exploring and checking out everything we could. My husband was in awe of the size of the ship. We were told not to go to our stateroom until 2:00pm so that the stewards could finish up the room cleaning. At 1:50pm we went to our room, 7363 on the Empress deck and it was ready. We splurged for a balcony room an it was worth it! The room was larger than I even expected and had plenty of room for storage (bags under the bed and three closets). Bathroom was also quite roomy. Days at Sea The first two days At Sea I worked out in the morning. I tried the jogging track the first day and the gym the second day…preferred the gym because it was difficult to walk at my pace on the track due to the amount of people at the time. Went to the gym about 9am the second day and there were only about 20 people in there…and machines were readily available. Very nice equipment! After working out it was off to breakfast and then out to find chairs and get some sun. The first day we were out on deck by 9:30am and lucked into some chairs on the third tier of the main pool area. Met some great people and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day. Husband went to the casino for a while and won some money…YEAH! The second day we didn’t get out to the deck until 11:00am so we found some chairs on a higher deck by the entrance to the water slide. It was quite windy that day but it helped since it was also quite hot. The water slide was so much fun! Everyone should try it at least once! Just remember that the pools and spas are salt water…or the ending will surprise you when you get a face full of salt water. Dining We had the early sitting (5:45pm) in the Monet dining room. The first night (Sunday) we were at a table for 4 and wanted a larger table to meet more people so we requested a change and were moved to a large table in the back of the ship the next night (Monday). It was right next to huge windows overlooking the water behind us. Talk about a view! There were 5 others at our table (from West Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and we ended up spending a majority of our time on board ship with two of them for the rest of the week. It’s always nice to walk away with new friends. The Cezanne buffet was good enough to satisfy our hunger. We ate there for breakfast the mornings at Sea and ordered continental room service the mornings in port. I highly recommend the fish and chips at Sur Mer (only open at lunch). The pizzeria is also very good (especially for a late night snack). We never hit the actual late night buffets. Onboard Entertainment Our cruise director was Todd Wittmer and he was wonderful as were the social hosts (Dan, Big Kev and Sarah). They were always announcing a new activity that was starting and it was so fun to watch people let loose and enjoy themselves. The Newlywed not so Newlywed game was a riot! Also enjoyed the poolside games and trivia contests. On the third night (Tuesday) they had a Mardi Gras party up on deck at midnight which was really fun. We were standing on an upper deck and ended up throwing beads into the crowd…what a great memory! We spent many nights in Vincents Lounge (karaoke bar). Never got up to sing but enjoyed watching others…some great…some not so great! Mariyah (cocktail waitress from Bulgaria) was such a sweetie! She took really good care of us and remembered our names after the first night…never had to ask for our sail and sign cards again. Also enjoyed the Blues Bar/piano bar, where Damian was amazing on piano. Actually stayed there til closing on our last night…wait a great time! Only went to one show in the Toulouse Latrec Lounge…the magic show which was okay…but these type of shows are not really our thing. Montego Bay Followed the advice of many previous reviewers and booked a tour with Carolyn Barrett and Barrett Adventures. We were supposed to go to YS Falls and go river tubing…but due to drought the river was too low so we went to YS Falls and Pelican Bar instead. This was an AMAZING day! She took us into the rural mountain areas and introduced us to some wonderful Jamaican families…really showed us the true culture of the island. She is a book of knowledge on the history and culture of Jamaica. We stopped and enjoyed fresh picked pineapple from a local family, ate jerk chicken (YUM!) and even stopped at a roadside stand to buy coconuts and drank the milk/water out of them. The entire tour was something I will never forget. I highly recommend Barrett Adventures to anyone heading to Jamaica. Website is www.barrettadventures.com. Grand Cayman My husband has wanted to scuba dive for years so we found a place pretty close to where the tenders docked. Abanks Dive Center treated him wonderfully! We were able to walk up without a reservation and he was in the water after about a 20 minute instruction period. He dove with the instructor and one other person for about 45 minutes and said it was the highlight of his entire trip. They went thru underwater caves and saw huge moray eels and barracuda among other things. He highly recommends this to anyone interested in getting a taste of scuba diving. While he was diving, I did a little shopping. Then we shopped together after he was done. Enjoyed tasting the various rums and ended up buying several bottle of different rums. Where else can you get a bottle of rum for $8.95? Grand Cayman was very busy! There were seven…yes seven…ships in port that day. Two Carnival, One Princess, Two Royal Caribbean, One Holland America and a Pullmantur. They said that normally there are only 4…boy was it crowded downtown. Cozumel Swam with the Dolphins! What an experience! Booked it independently thru Cozumel Insider for cheaper than it was thru the cruise. $125 per person and then we had to pay a $12 per person entrance fee to the park…completely worth it! Make sure to bring money for the cab rides if you do your own thing…most have cab drivers have plenty of change…but stick with $20 bills or lower to be safe. Did a little shopping and then headed to Carlos and Charlies..what a party! This place was hopping and it was a lot of fun. We were seated after about 10 minutes and had some fish tacos and strawberry daiquiris…after a few hours there we dragged ourselves out to a cab and headed back to Puerto Maya where the ship was docked. A little more shopping (tons of shops at the dock)…a few more drinks at Fat Tuesdays (right at the dock) and we were back on board. Debarkation We had a late flight so we booked a New Orleans City tour thru Carnival. We were on a coach bus by 9am and touring the city by 9:30am. Our cruise was the first time the Conquest used a “relaxed” debarkation procedure where people were allowed to get off as they pleased once general debarkation was announced. By that time we were already gone so I never heard how that went. I imagine there was a bit more chaos than when they call colored luggage tags for debarkation. Overall I would rate this cruise at the top of any of my vacations. The Conquest is a beautiful ship, the staff are first rate and the fun is readily available! Can’t wait for our next cruise!!!

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Feb 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my family’s fourth Cruise in the last two years and our first on Carnival (we’ve also enjoyed Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America). The kid’s winter recess and the necessity that I be in New Orleans for a convention on the afternoon of the 27th made cruising out of New Orleans a good option. We chose Carnival for its new boat, its reputation for being kid friendly, and the gym facilities. We had a good time

but doubt we will ever sail with Carnival again. Getting there- We flew into New Orleans airport the night before the cruise. Having read of the problems getting to the port we rented a one way car from Hertz picking up at the New Orleans airport and dropping off at the Hertz outlet on Convention Center Way. The weekend rate for this one way rental was far less than the cost of a shuttle ($36/day including taxes.) The drop off point is about 100 yards, but four long blocks, from the boat, as you need to walk around the convention center. (left from Hertz to Julia Street then cross the tracks and go right a block or enter the Convention Center at Hall C just south of the Hertz building and take the Skywalk across to the Cruise terminal.) Either way you will need bags with good rollers. There is also a shuttle from the garage at the Hertz terminal to the cruise terminal but the Hertz rep advised us that it was usually faster to walk. Lodging- We found a great two bedroom suite at the Homewood Suites on Travel Axe (a travel site consolidator) for $165 /. This hotel was about three blocks from the French Quarter and offered clean, spacious rooms, and free breakfast. In New Orleans- We got to New Orleans around 10:30p and immediately went for dinner. I recommend the Acme Oyster House on Iberville, near Bourbon. I’ve eaten there many times while on business and while the ambience is zip the food never disappoints (use the web cam at the bar to show the family you made it to New Orleans safely ) Especially good at Acme is the seafood gumbo, and the Louisiana raw oysters. The drawback to Acme is that there is always a line. Even at 11:00p we had to wait ten minutes to get in. Having finished dinner just after midnight on Saturday night we needed to brush Bourbon Street to get back to the hotel. This is not something I recommend for people with kids although for those without Saturday night on Bourbon Street needs to be seen to be believed. The next morning we had reservation at Mr. B’s for their 7 course jazz brunch (make reservations a week in advance) this is a top notch New Orleans experience and highly recommended. If you are arriving in New Orleans earlier or staying later I would recommend the Audubon Zoo for people with children, and Frenchman Street over Bourbon Street if you are looking for live music. (this is where the locals go). Boarding the Boat- Boarding the boat was disorganized. After showing our tickets to a Carnival agent we were shown a line to wait in. After 40 minutes we got to the counter we were told that we couldn’t check in there but needed to check in at the VIP Lounge, (where there was no line.), We got our Ship Cards we then waited in line another ten minutes for the mandatory “get on the boat photo op”. For those who have only cruised Carnival this is not standard procedure on all other lines. (it’s my vacation and if I want my picture taken I’ll stop). Once we passed the photo op station boarding the boat went smoothly. Ship- The ship is as nice as any we have sailed on. It is relatively new (three years old) well kept, with a French Impressionist décor. We had a class 11 room on the 7th floor port side, forward. The kids had a class 7 room across the hall. Our room was large, nicely appointed with a large king bed, plenty of closet space, and a whirlpool tub. The room had a safe, cable TV (with VCR), and a mini-bar that we did not use. The room had an ample balcony with four chairs and a small table. The location on the port side (even numbered rooms) was nice. The first day onboard you got to sit on the balcony before sailing and watch the ship traffic on the Mississippi. It was a good way to unwind before the start of the trip. I recommend rooms on the 7th and 8th decks. Most of the activities are on decks 9 and 10, with the dining rooms on decks 3 and 4. While on deck 7 you rarely had a long stair climb to get where we wanted to go.. Food- The food on Carnival was as good or better than any ship we have been on. The boat offers a wide assortment of food from buffets, to 24 hour pizza and sandwiches, to sit down meals, to room service. I was impressed the first night that when ordering the gazpacho that it was tasty and not “dumbed down” as it often is elsewhere The Indian head chef usually serves up two seafood, two meat, and a vegetarian or ethnic dish. The portions were not overwhelming giving you a chance to order extra appetizers or deserts if you wanted. Overall the food was better than expected. The boat has four sittings for dinner 6:00, 6:30, 8:00, 8:30. We had the 8:30 sitting so we did not need to rush in from ports. Knowing what I know now I would look for the 8:00 as it gives the kids the option to join programs that start at 9:00 or 9:30. Another high point was the added value supper club on the 10th floor. For an extra $25/person you are given a meal that might cost four times that in a big city restaurant. While not four stars, it is certainly worth it to send the kids for pizza one night and go upstairs, listen to the piano, and treat yourself. The only negative part of the dining experience was the absolutely outrageous pricing of the wine. Lesser California wines are sold for $40 a bottle while better wines were priced in the $150 - $250/ range. We brought four bottles from home, almost as an afterthought, and even after the $10 corkage fee were very glad we did. The food is good and if you want good wine, bring your own. Service- The service was friendly, good natured and perhaps a half a cut below that of lines that do not have mandatory gratuities. Nonetheless you will meet a lot of hard working people from almost every continent who do a good job taking care of you. Athletic Facilities- The facilities were good but overcrowded. The crowding abated after the first couple of days. as people got over their resolutions to lose weight while on the ship (fat chance). The gym had too few stair climbers, and elliptical trainers and too many cycles reserved for the poorly attended once a day pay spinning class. The gym had a very nice set of weight training machines. It also had a steam room and a sauna that with big glass windows looking out to sea. The jogging track was a disappointment as the boat has no circular promenade deck so walkers use the jogging deck, often presenting moving blockades. My wife was disappointed with the extra fee yoga and Pilate classes as she thought there was not adequate space in the gym to hold the class. She recommends bringing tapes for your VCR or waiting until later in the cruise after people have gotten frustrated before taking these classes. Kid’s Program- A real disappointment. There was an extra charge for parties $32/kid./party, that other lines seem to consider part of their program. The counselors attempted to enforce a strict age group limit on the activities. This was a problem as both of my kids were in the 12 – 14 group. My daughter who just turned 12 was often interested in the 9 to 11 activities and my son who turns 15 soon was interested in some 15 -16 year old activities, in both cases the counselors saw this as a breach of rules and an imposition. In either case there were far fewer activities than on other ships and the counselors seemed ill suited to their jobs. Ports- Jamaica- We tried to book a tubing trip through Bartlett Adventures. Thy emailed back that the drought in Jamaica was forcing the cancellation of most tubing tours. We then opted to go to the Sunset Beach Resort. ($2/person taxi ride from the boat) This was a very pleasurable experience as for $20/ ($10 for kids 12 and under) we got free use of their paddle boats, kayaks, snorkels, lunch, and all the drinks you wanted. The snorkeling was good, the beach was nice, the drinks were plentiful, and the staff was friendly. The kids played volleyball with other kids from the ship and kids staying at the resort. The snorkeling was unexpectedly good although I had too close an encounter with a black sea urchin. My wife insisted on walking the one mile back to the ship to get more exercise. I don’t recommend following in her footsteps. Pay for the cab. Grand Cayman- Got the Stingray City and Coral Reef tour from Nativeway Adventures ($30 adults, $25 twelve and under). Great tour, great vendor. The stingrays put on quite a show and the snorkeling was spectacular. The Nativeway boat only holds about 30 compared to about 180 on the cruise sponsored tour that cost 50% more. The small boat and smaller crowd made it easier to get up close to the stingrays.. The tour will drop you off on Seven Mile Beach on the way back to town. We were too sunburned from the day before to take advantage of this perk.. (Note this is a good day to order breakfast from room service. There is a line in the morning to tender off the island and people taking shore tours with Carnival have priority to tender first. With room service we beat the rush and were able to get ashore on the first tender. Cozumel- We were looking forward to doing the Mayan archeological site at Chichen Itza . After we’d booked we found that this tour was not offered on our cruise. We opted instead for the eco kayak, snorkel tour. The tour was booked through Carnival for $79/ . They took us to an aquatic National Park about 6 miles from the boat. The clear kayak was a little bit of a gimmick as the visibility through the plastic kayak was not much better than looking directly into the water. The snorkeling on the other hand was phenomenal. The tour gives you a couple of drinks, and a fruit plate afterwards. It was a memorable tour although a snorkeling only trip would have been just as good. That afternoon we went into town to walk around. We stopped at a restaurant on the square for some authentic Mexican food and a little shopping. We made it back to the boat by the 5:30 boarding time. Summary Three best values- Sunset Beach Club, Nativeway Stingray Tour, Carnival Supper Club Dinner Worst Values- Mondavi Chardonnay for $45/, large drink special for $6.25 (12oz when small is 9 oz. for $2.95, Internet connectivity for 75 cents a minute. Best Food off boat- Cerviche and Tequila in the main square in Cozumel, Jerk Jamaican Chicken at Sunset Beach Club, Tortuga Rum Cakes in the Cayman’s. Best Food on Boat- Custom omelets in the morning at the Cezanne Restaurant, the bouillabaisse at the Sur Mar (10th floor aft) for lunch, the supper club. Overall- Carnival offered a good boat, good food, and good destinations. However, more than any other line we’ve been on, Carnival focuses the energy of the staff on trying to derive additional revenue by selling “extras”. This sales effort is often at the expense of their core programs. (the boarding process, the daily bulletin which lists pages of extra’s but no listing of the kids program or the dinner menu, the lack of contests and activities, and the constant droning over the loudspeaker for the art auction, casino, the travel club, the teeth whitening program, etc.) Carnival should look at my bill and realize that I am going to buy “extras” without an abundance of encouragement. If they push too hard to hard sell people during their vacation it detracts from the cruise experience. If they promote added sales with little value it devalues their credibility. A lot of people commented that if they wanted an all day sales pitch they would have gone to see a timeshare presentation in Hawaii or Cabo. Jim Zaorski  

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Feb 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

The Conquest is a very good cruise to go on, I would recommend it to anyone. The first Port Of Call was Jamaica which we did the Waterfall tour which was fun but very crowded, apparently they put more cruise ships to stop in the same place. It was hard getting up the falls because you have to make a chain with everyone and walk up. Many people fell, didnt get injured to much but hurt. Also they took a long time to just get us on the

falls and it was kind of boring waiting The day of Grand Cayman all of the ocean excursions were cancelled due to rocky seas which meant the stingray one we signed up for was cancelled. We were disappointed and just went to a beach that ripped you off. The last port of call Cozumel was the best we did Passion Island Tour which was very fun. They have a short boat ride over to the island, the island is a private gorgeous island. They have a buffet with Mexican food and open bar included in the cost you pay per person. Then there are beach chairs, hammocks and beach games. I would highly recommend it. The overall activates on the ship were fun. We sat by the pool, played bingo, went to buffets. It was very fun. We didn't go into the teen clubs, and still had fun. The waiters were very entertaining because they put on shows every night and they knew us. The Disembarkment was crazy! The Mississippi river had a bunch of cargo ships go under and it was blocked off so we couldn't go into New Orleans port we had to go to a cargo port in Mississippi. When we arrived the last day it was amazing to see all the people who usually just see little cargo ships staring at this massive ship. They said it would be a while because everybody had to get back to New Orleans airport so they were arranging transportation. They hadn't called anything yet and it was almost 11 and we had a 2 o'clock flight, most people already missed their flights because we had to drive back to Louisiana (a little over an hour). We saw people getting off the boat and asked why we couldn't, it was hard to get through anywhere because everyone is frantically calling friends and family to tell them what is going on. The ship was very kind and gave us lunch and everything. We went down to the desk and told them we could still make our flight so they told us to go down to get off. It was a mad scene there the elevators were stuck down there and once you got off you had to run find your luggage, get on a bus and tell the driver to speed. It was about 12:30 and we were hoping we could make our flight We arrived in New Orleans at 1:30 and got off the bus ran in the airport and they wouldnt let us on the plane all seats were taken, Carnival had to put us up for a night and luckily we got a flight Monday, some people had to sleep at the airport and didn't get a flight until Wednesday. So I suggest getting a hotel no matter what to stay an extra night in case you miss your flight. Even though it was hard we still had tons of fun and i would recommend it for anyone who wants to relax and have a ton of fun

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Feb 13, 2005

Western Caribbean

Where to begin. Took this trip with family and some friends. We booked a night in the Maison St Charles hotel in downtown New Orleans. Not a 5 star hotel by any means, but they do store your car for you while on the cruise for only $5 a night. They also take you in a limo to the ship, but the limo was on its last legs and too many people were signed up, meaning we waited over an hour after our show time before we even got in the limo.

Then another 40 minutes to the ship, mostly waiting in traffic. But once we got to the port, things went smoothly....Carnival has the check in process down pretty well. Ran into one snag, though, we had requested a 6:15pm dining time but were given a 5:45 time due to our cabin number (dining rooms are assigned by cabin). But the person checking us in didn't know this, so we didn't discover the reason until after we boarded. Days at sea were wonderful. The Spa/gym is the best we've seen, and the staff there was very friendly. We worked out almost daily, so a functional gym was important to us. All the equipment was state of the art and none of it was broken! We also took advantage of many of the Spa amenities, such as pedicures, facials, etc. They were all very good, but the staff is constantly pushing their high priced products on you, so politely decline and tell them you already have nice products! Our cabin steward was very friendly, but he didn't prepare the room very well the first night (we found candy wrappers and cigarette butts). After that he did a good job of keeping the room clean and turning up the bed at night (he didn't do it the first night). He also made fantastic looking animals out of towels every night! We ate in the Monet dining room at night, and usually had room service or went to the Lido deck for the buffet for the other meals. Although the service was good, we found the food, especially in the Monet, to be average at best. The deserts were consistently not very good, but the main courses normally were OK. The deli food, however, was always excellent, and we recommend you hit it at least 1-2 times during your trip. Ditto for the pizza parlor. We did some shopping on the ship, but found out prices/selections at the ports were usually better, especially for jewelry. Save your money for the ports, particularly Cozumel, where the jewelry prices seemed to be the best. The shows on the ship were OK, but be forewarned that the "Las Vegas" style shows are NOT appropriate for children. They don't go topless or anything, but the sexual innuendo will offend some people and it wasn't something we would want to expose our kids to. We had heard a lot of bad things about Jamaica, so we opted to go to the Sunset Beach Resort, which is about a mile from the ship dock (and a $5 per couple taxi ride, and they don't give you a price break if you share with a another couple, so take 2 cabs!). You pay a very reasonable $20 to use the resort all day long, and this price includes all the food (burgers, chicken, fries, etc) and drinks you can consume (although we found the alcoholic drinks to be pretty watered down). Grand Cayman was great. Before the cruise we opted to get away from the crowds and booked (over the internet) a tour with Geddes Hislop though Silver Thatch Excursions (google it to find the web site). Geddes was great. He charged about 1/3 what other "independent" tour operators charged and showed us the entire island except 7 mile beach (which we weren't interested in seeing). He specializes in ecological tours and will teach you a lot about the flora, fauna, and history of the island. And don't forget to ask him to tell you about the island's gene pool! Anyway, you will love this guy, who is down to earth and interested in you, not your money. Cozumel had the best shopping of the trip. Took a cab downtown and bought my wife a nice diamond/tanzinite ring for less than 50% retail. Be careful of the vendors outside the dock, though. We were in one T-shirt shop and a seashell fell off the shelf when I just touched it (with my shirt), immediately the shop keeper came over and demanded I pay for it (which we did, as he had already started to dial his cell phone to call the police). Needless to say, I didn't buy anything (else) from that shop! Breakfast the last morning (Sunday) in the Monet was interesting. Seemed like the normal dining room staff was off, as we were served by people we had never seen before. Decided after about 5 minutes of bumbling service that they must have been in training, as their main goal was to get us served and out of there as quickly as possible. Also their demeanor wasn't the greatest, cracking jokes they thought were funny, but we didn't. As I said, interesting. Debarkation in New Orleans was pretty smooth. We were among the last off, and most of the luggage was picked up by the time we got to it. Highly recommend you engage a porter to take your luggage, as he will get a taxi for you, bypassing all the people standing in line on their own! Overall we enjoyed the cruise, but since we like to cruise out of New Orleans, will try another line (perhaps NCL) next time to see if they are better or worse than Carnival.

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Feb 13, 2005

Western Caribbean

A full review, complete with lots of photos can be found on my website here: http://www.anthonyandlexie.com/CarnivalConquestReview.asp Our Group (from Olive Branch, Mississippi): Anthony Jones, 27, 3rd Cruise Lexie Jones, 26, 4th Cruise Kevin Medlin, 26, 2nd Cruise Melissa Medlin, 27, 2nd Cruise Overall Cruise Rating: 4.5 stars Complete Cruise Photo Album: http://www.anthonyandlexie.com/PhotoGallery/gallery.asp?categoryid=20

I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to take another cruise, but since we had so much fun, I’ll be glad to take credit for that decision! After spending seven days onboard the M.S. Carnival Conquest, we were able to enjoy the Western Caribbean in all its glory, as well as soak up another cruise experience. This review will recap the highlights of our voyage and hopefully will be a useful resource for anyone who is considering or planning a trip on this vessel. Let me assure you that you won’t be disappointed! Traveling to New Orleans After a near disaster with our flight on our last cruise, we opted to drive down the day before for this trip. We loaded up the Tahoe on Saturday morning--loaded it *down* is probably a better description as we really needed a U-Haul. We honestly carried enough luggage to support a small third world country. Anyway, the drive took about 6.5 hours to reach New Orleans. We booked a room at the Quality Inn & Suites downtown through Hotels.com and got a decent rate. The hotel was ok, but nothing spectacular and there are probably better hotels that include a cruise package. Saturday night we hit Pat O’Brien's and strolled up and down Bourbon Street. This less than a week after Mardi Gras ended and I was amazed at how clean the city was (relatively speaking). We enjoyed a short evening and hit the bed early. Embarkation (getting to and on the ship): I’ve read a lot of horror stories about the New Orleans pier. It’s true, the port is under some major construction and that does cause some confusion. After eating breakfast, we drove down to get in a long line of traffic which seemed to be going to the pier. After sitting in that line for 30 minutes, we were told by a cop that we were in the wrong line (go figure) and that we needed to park on Annunciation Street. I had previously read that the Fulton Street garage was the best place to park, but we did as he said and it worked out quicker that way. This particular lot was not covered, but was fenced in and secured….cost was $84 for the entire week. A shuttle then took us to the pier to check in. After getting off the shuttle, everything was a blur. We flew through check in, security and the pre-boarding photo and less than 15 minutes later, we were on the ship. I was amazed at how efficient this process was—granted we arrived fairly early, but we were glad to be onboard by 12:30. Kudos to the Carnival staff and New Orleans port on this process. They really have their stuff together! On the Ship After walking onboard the ship, we immediately headed up to our rooms to check them out and drop off our carry on bags. We had rooms 8266 and 8268 on the Veranda deck, both with balconies. Very nice rooms and you can’t beat the location on the ship. Soon after, we headed up to the Lido deck for lunch where the ladies were quick to dive into the drinks of the day. The rest of the day was spent exploring the ship, unpacking and relaxing. Most of our bags were delivered to our rooms before we sailed. Our room steward was Joel from the Philippines, and he did a great job taking care of our messy room and leaving the famous towel animals for us each night. The Weather The weather on this cruise was near perfect. It was a bit cool and rained as we sailed out of New Orleans, but when we woke up the next day, it was sunny and warm and remained that way for the next 7 days. Great February weather! The seas were calm and nobody onboard looked seasick all week. Sea Days We had a total of 3 days at sea. The first two days,(Monday & Tuesday) were pretty lazy. We enjoyed hanging out on the sun decks and the ladies continued basking in the sun with their drinks of the day. There were quite a few activities taking place throughout the ship, but since we had seen most of them on our last cruise (they were basically the same things) we really spent more time being lazy and constantly grazing on the mass quantities of food. I do recommend participating or at least watching some of these activities if you’ve never seen them—they can be really entertaining! We did attend the previous cruisers party on Tuesday where Lexie won a dinner for two at the Point (the reservations only supper club). More on that later. Naturally, we would be the only rednecks dressed in bathing suits and t-shirts at this party while everyone else looked halfway respectable. After several drinks of the day, though, who cares, right? Onboard Entertainment We really didn’t go to a lot of the evening shows. The girls checked out one of the Vegas shows and almost fell asleep, so they left early (I was surprised by that). However, we did see Phat Kat, the R-Rated comedian at midnight and he was very funny. We also saw the juggling act of some Mexican guy who was very talented. The best entertainer, in our opinion, was a ventriloquist named Marc Rubben. This guy was great and had us rolling. He does both family and adult rated shows, and both were hilarious. If you get a chance to see him, treat yourself. You can view his website at www.dummytalk.com to find out when he’ll be back onboard. Steve Cassell was the Cruise Director and we found him to be a little “over the top”. Some seemed to enjoy him, but I think he tried too hard to be funny when he really wasn’t. Of course, we had John Heald a few years back and that set a very high standard that we’re accustomed to. Anyway, nothing we lost sleep over! Yes, there is a large Tahiti themed casino onboard this ship. I should know b/c I spent a little time here. :) Actually, I won enough money playing blackjack to pay for the sail and sign account damage that we did while onboard, so that made it all worthwhile. Most of the dealers were very friendly (with the exception of one jerk) and they made it fun. One piece of advice here—if you’ve never played a certain game, ASK how to play before sitting down. In fact, take some free lessons that they offer before you play. It’s for your own good and the good of others at your table. End of soapbox speech. Speaking of entertainment, the ladies made their own entertainment in Henri's disco. See what I mean by clicking here. Dining Food is everywhere. It surrounds you and pulls you in and you have no control over it. We ate enough pizza to put Papa John’s out of business. That was my favorite, although you can’t miss the steak sandwiches from the grill and of course, the ice cream machines every 15 feet on the ship. Hey, you’re on vacation. Jump in, give it hell, and go back to the gym next week. We always enjoy eating dinner at the main dining rooms at night. Our table was at the Renoir dining room at the 8:30 late seating. We like the late seating best because it gives us more time in port and we never miss any sail away’s. Plus, if you get hungry before then, there’s plenty of ‘appetizers’ around the ship. The food in the dining room was great every night. If you see two or three entrees you like, order all of them. We did this several nights and my personal favorites where the filet and lobster. Excellent! If you can’t find something you like, you have a problem. If the food is not good, it’s your fault for not ordering something else. The waiters are happy to do it! Our waiters, Janell from the Philippines and Leonardo from Panama were great. We also brought a bottle of wine to dinner almost every night and were never charged the $10 corkage fee. The smart waiters will let that slide, so feel free to bring some wine from home. Of course, they did their sing and dance routines most nights, and Lexie & Melissa enjoyed dancing along with them. All of this greatly contributed to the enjoyment of the cruise. As for the Point, we did eat there on the second formal night since Lexie won the gift certificate. In a nutshell, we were disappointed. We had heard the food was so much better here than the dining rooms, but we disagreed. It was nice atmosphere and the presentation of the food was amazing, but not great in terms of quality. My suggestion is that if you really enjoy the food in your dining room, don’t spend the $50 on the Point. It wasn’t horrible, but just not worth the extra $$$. Montego Bay, Jamaica Our first port of call was Montego Bay, Jamaica. We had read many negative reviews on this port, but heard that Sunset Beach Resort was the best place to go, so that’s what we did. We grabbed a cab from the pier to the resort ($3/person for cab) and for $20 per person per day, you get all your food, drinks and snorkeling covered. You just can't beat this deal. The beach was very pretty there were plenty of chairs and places to lay out on the beach. Kevin and I snorkeled here, which we enjoyed, but there's not a lot of great coral reefs or fish here. It still beats anything back home! We ate some great jerk chicken for lunch, relaxed in a Jacuzzi overlooking the beach and had some drinks. We spent about 4 enjoyable hours here. We had about 2 hours to burn before heading back to the ship, so we took another cab to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville. This place was crazy—lots of partying, dancing on tables, a few boobs here and there, and, well, you get the picture. It was a cool experience. Unfortunately, we were nearly out of cash at this point ($20 for ONE drink here will break you *fast*!) so we didn’t stay long. Took pictures, bought MORE T-shirts, grabbed another cab and headed back to the ship. A few notes on Jamaica. I understand why many people hate this stop. If we had gone onto the island not knowing what to do, we would have been aimlessly wandering around bad parts of town. Plan ahead before getting off the ship! Make no mistake--as you drive down the streets, people are standing in the MIDDLE of the road selling drugs and other junk. It’s a very poor looking place with trash burning and dope/crack heads walking around lost. The best advice is to go to a resort where these people are kept out and you’ll be safe. Leave your valuables on the ship and don’t carry a lot of cash! Also, another very important point in Jamaica: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER get into a cab unless it has a red license plate and the words “Juta” prominently displayed on the window. These are the only cabs regulated by the government and the others are shady and very pushy. We made this mistake on the first cab we got at the pier and he tried to convince us to go to some other public beaches. Also, once we got to Sunset Beach, he told us that he didn’t have any change. Yeah, right! We argued and argued and waited around until we finally got change from someone. They’re very pushy and stubborn and insist that you take their cabs—but wait around for a red-tag cab and you’ll be much better off. Overall, I’m glad we got off the ship as had a lot of fun, but it was our least favorite stop, and we have no desire to ever visit this island again. Grand Cayman Island We were all very excited about this stop as we’d heard many great reviews about the island. In stark contrast to Jamaica, Grand Cayman is a very clean and nice town. You don’t have dope heads and pushy street vendors here. Once we got off the tender, we walked in a few shops, and bought MORE T-Shirts and stuff. Beware prices here are much higher than other ports! Before taking this cruise, we booked an ind