Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Review--Conquest--October 15, 2006

Conquest--October 15-22, 2006

This was my eighth CCL cruise, fourth on Conquest, and fourth (total) solo. I was looking forward to this cruise as this was a Cruise Critic group cruise and I really wanted to meet many of the people who have been active on the C-C boards. The Saints & Sinners-II were a great group of people. Also having recently cruised the Conquest I will be skipping some of the shows and activities one would normally do on a cruise.

Day one-Embarkation-Checked web cam around 6:30 a.m. and saw the Conquest arrive in Galveston which is always a good sign for a smooth embarkation. I left beautiful Bosque county shortly afterward and arrived at EZ Cruise parking about 11:30 a.m. I usually walk, but used the shuttle this morning as it had been storming/raining. Arrived at terminal one just before noon. The lines were longer than normal for that time-IMHO, but ran very smoothly. No problems with check-in or security and I was on board just about 12:30. I did make note of the size of the carry on bags many were bringing aboard. Some were almost as large as the duffle I checked.

A Reuben sandwich hit the spot while waiting for the cabin areas to be opened. They had been allowing access to cabins at 1:00 but I think they are trying to push the time back as it was closer to 1:30 and the handouts now stated access at 2:00 p.m. I’m guessing they will gradually move the time back. Will not be easy for those hauling on those oversize carry on bags.

I always get my first funship special at lobby bar and did so again. Began meeting S&S-II people which was easy to do as most were wearing the S&S-II t-shirts. It will not be difficult to find someone to enjoy a drink with on this cruise. The first official meet was after muster drill at the Sky bar and I got to meet a large number of the S&S-II group. This will be a different experience from sailing with the primarily Texas folks I am used to sailing with out of Galveston. I have already met people from Pittsburgh, Boston, New York, and Canada. All very nice and folks we do not see in Bosque county.

We saw a lot of dolphins as we sailed away from Galveston harbor. The sea is rough as we have a front to sail through. The ship is really rocking. Especially compared to my most recent cruises.

The late dinner S&S group is seated in the same general area on level two of the Monet dining room. I am used to the 8:30 setting and this was the 8:00, but I’ll adjust. Dinner was good, but only standard CCL fare. Not near as good as Rhapsody or even the Ecstasy-IMHO. I had the same opinion in August. The shrimp cocktail appetizer was good, but the steak was only fair. In lieu of desert I had the cheese selection. New from even two months ago, the menu now reflects the alternative selections. i.e.- the items available every night. That’s good especially for inexperienced cruisers. Having had very little sleep the past two nights I skipped the S&S function and the Welcome Show and called it a evening.

Day Two-at sea. Slept very well. The ship is still rockin’ and rollin’ today. You certainly are getting your moneys worth as far as the ride goes. An “E’ ticket for sure.

I had my traditional first morning on board breakfast in the dining room. Tomato juice, grapefruit sections, eggs benedict, side of french toast, bacon, and milk. During breakfast I was able to visit with Zoltan, a waiter I have become friends with from previous cruises. Met in deck-3 lobby for the group S&S-II photo and later lunch in the dining room. Good day to visit with folks and also catch up on sleep. A nice late afternoon nap was wonderful. This is formal night. Attended the Captains reception which was extremely well/over attended. Retreat to bar in Henri’s disco and yes you could order a specialty drink. The bartender initially balked, but persistence (and later tips) won him over to very excellent service. I’ve met the crew so the frequent drinks in the overflow of Henri’s was a fine deal for me. Met someone who attended my high school-small world. Dinner was much better than previous night. The Pumpkin soup, Lobster and Tiramisu were very good. Spent some time in the Impressions Bar and Degas Lounge after dinner and enjoyed the drinks, entertainment and people watching very much.

Day Three-at sea. Slept very well. Sea is much calmer than yesterday, but still not calm. Enjoyed breakfast in the dining room. Casual morning and also had lunch in dining room. The Chicken Parmesan was very good. The return guest party held today was excellent, the best ever of the four I have attended on the Conquest. Dinner was good especially the starters: Escargot, Hearts of palm, and French onion soup. We had to detour to Grand Cayman to debark an ill passenger, the lights of 7-mile beach and Georgetown were visible during dinner. Tonight is mardi gras night and many in the S&S-II group fully participated.

Day Four-Montego Bay Jamaica. I was up early and had breakfast in the dining room. Most of the S&S-II group had planned to go to Sunset Beach, an all-inclusive resort near the pier. We were docked on time and since I was around early I went to Sunset Beach prior to rest of the group. Good place for swimming, and drinks & food were included in admission. Being solo it was nice to be a part of a larger group at a spot like Sunset Beach, it was fun, but I really think Doctors Cave Beach is a better choice for a beach day in MoBay. Dinner was very good and this was Bitter&Blanc night for desert. Having had too much sun I retired early. Seas calm during the night.

Day Five-Grand Cayman. Early breakfast in dining room. While most are busy getting off for their excursions I enjoy a couple of steams in the spa. Very nice and helping with the sunburn. Took a tender into Georgetown to purchase some liquor from Pirates Grotto and a hat from the recently opened Margaritavile. I returned to the ship in time for lunch, some Rueben sandwiches. This afternoon was a cocktail party for the S&S-II group was was quite fun. Dinner was good, especially the crab cake. Watched a movie on the TV and retread early.

Day Six-Cozumel, Mexico. Breakfast again in the dining room. We arrived in Cozumel about 9:00 a.m.. The fantastic news is that we were able to dock at the Langosta pier. I believe this is the first time that the Conquest has docked since last year and it sure beats tendering. Off to town to see Nelly at Mayan Pearl. She has a bracelet to repair for DW and another for me to pick up. I went to see Martin and got a haircut, then to the internet store to check e-mail and fantasy picks for the upcoming weekend. Next stop is Havana Club, which I believe now is going by the name Havana Blue. Since moving to their new location they emphasize jazz and blues and less of the salsa. Still great mojitos. Lunch at Panchos Backyard (thanks D&S) the chicken fajitas were great. Returned to Maya Pearl to pick up jewelry and some afternoon shopping before returning to the ship. Now that we are docked I get to enjoy one of my favorite Cozumel traditions: watching the inebriated and late pax rush to the ship at the end of the day. The Langosta pier is not as conducive to the viewing as the Puerto Maya pier, but close. The Norwegian Sun docked across the way added to the atmosphere. I was not disappointed. There were a lot returning with the “staggers & jags” and a few flashers for good measure. We sailed away about 6:00 p.m.

Dinner was again good. Best: Coquille St. Jacque and special halloween deserts decorated with ghosts, bats, pumpkins, etc. Something new for me was the halloween show after dinner. Ghost stories, games and a costume contest. Very interesting.

Day Seven-at Sea. Final dining room breakfast. I think everyone waited until last day as the dining room was packed for the first time for breakfast. A little business with the purser as Sail & Sign account on the TV doesn’t reflect an OBC although the pursers account does. They are very helpful at the pursers desk. Liquor was delivered to the cabins this morning. Lunch in the dining room, but still room for some BLT’s from room service in late afternoon. The final S&S-II cocktail reception was 4:30-5:30 and again fun. Final dinner was the best of the week. I had both the pork chop and Neptune Platter. Of course the Grand Marnier SoufflĂ© is great and tonight was exceptional.

Debarkation. Room service breakfast as a wake up call. Nice little refund check from CCL in my mailbox this morning as well. Also I elected to do self-assist as usual, but decided to let the gangways clear before leaving the cabin about 7:30. It went smooth all the way to customs. They had four lines for pax and three lines for crew. I’ve never seen that before, not sure what was up. They were in uniform without any bags. After getting through customs I WALKED over to EZ Cruise and was on the way. Stopped for gas ($1.92) and was across the bridge by 8:25.

Cabin: I had cabin 7345 which is a 1A, but a great inside midship location on deck 7. Perfect for a single or solo cruiser and large enough for three with the drop down bunk. The room is square, (most are rectangular) I like the additional room at the entry between the bathroom and closets. More room than many 4A’s-6A’s. Some of my new C-C friends have the two 1A’s on deck two which actually have picture windows. There are some 1A deals on Conquest if you know where to look. Cabin was very clean, much cleaner than our cabin on Conquest two months ago. This was one of the cruise were I rarely saw the cabin steward. Some have different styles. The cabin was always well kept and my requests via sticky note was always fulfilled.

Ship: The Conquest is a great ship and she still seems very well maintained and clean. All of the public rooms are beautiful. Read up on French impressionist artists before boarding. The Conquest also has a new Cruise Director, Mark Price, very good, but different without Todd.

Food: The food is good, deserts better, wait staff the best. Always plenty to eat and the wait staff is very good in the dining rooms and lido deck buffets.

Cruise Critic: I’ve already mentioned what a great group of people the Saints & Sinners-II people are and have been on the cruise. What a fun group. Do I think their presence has influenced the cruise: Yes. From my experience having sailed the Conquest four times the most noticeable difference was the return guests party. The Conquest staff went all-out IMHO with extra wait staff and as many refills of drinks as one could possibly want. Very smart move by the CD and staff. Most of the S&S-II group are loyal CCL guests and should be rewarded. I didn’t participate in all the S&S-II activities, especially the late night or some meetings at the port drinking establishments, but I don’t recover from the drink as I once could. The private cocktail parties were brilliant, especially the extra one scheduled. What a bargain. Numerous drinks for that $11.00 (That’s my Scots nature--always appreciate a value) I may have to reevaluate my no flying to a cruise rule and look at S&S-III. I also met two groups of people who read C-C for information yet never post nor are active. Just found that interesting.

Great Cruise, great people, good cabin, good food, I am a happy cruiser!!

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