Thursday, October 29, 2009
Carnival Conquest Review 10.18.2009
Just The Facts:
October 18-October 24, 2009
Captain: Fancesco LaFauci
Cruise Director: Chris Jefferson
Hotel Director: Marvin Barrantes
Ports: Galveston - Key West - Freeport - Nassau - Galveston
Weather: Good all week
This is my 19th Carnival cruise and 9th time on the Conquest. I just sailed this same ship and itinerary last month so there will be a lot of comparisons. This review will not be as detailed as the previous. I am sailing with DW (dear Wife) and we also have cruise friends that we have sailed with several times on previous cruises on board.
We left the ranch at 6:15 a.m. and drove with only two stops to Galveston. Again we made good time and I realized that SH 6 now being almost 4 lane all the way has reduced the drive time by at least 15 minutes. Arriving early we dropped our bags at the cruise terminal before parking at EZ Cruise parking. I highly recommend EZ Cruise parking if you are driving to the port. We walked from EZ Cruise to the terminal located only a few blocks away and a very easy walk if you choose to do so. Debarkation was just finishing so it was not too crowded at all. We went to the security check point and then to the VIP check-in office. Things were going very smooth and there were no lines at all as there were last month. We started boarding about 11:30 am and I was at the lido deck buffet in the Cezzane dining room soon afterward. Although not the first I was the first through my line in the aft serving area and had the first slices of roast beef from that carving station. I also had to have a salad and a beef dish from the Mongolian Grill. DW brought dessert and she picked out the Dulce de Leche cheesecake that I enjoyed from the first day on the previous cruise. It's one of their best desserts. I wanted to drop my rolling luggage bag if possible before the cabins open at 1:30 and the Cabin Steward, Lito, had just finished so we could stay in the cabin if we wished and so we did. We have cabin 2465 one of the so called 'secret cabins' that is no longer much of a secret. I found a note taped under the bureau from a previous passenger, Lambie, who was on board for a few weeks in September and knew I would have this cabin. I actually fell asleep for a few minutes until I heard a loud bag at the door. Sure enough our bags were already delivered and it was just 1:30 p.m. I guess dropping them off early at the dock worked out well for that. We unpacked and rested until the muster drill that began just after 3:30 pm. Following muster we met our cruise friends and many of the Cruise Critic roll call group on the lido deck for sail away cocktails. We sailed just after the scheduled 4:00 pm time. We enjoyed a couple of “Funship Special” cocktails as per tradition. They also had the Fun Special Card available that gets you a bonus drink of the day. This has been an off and on again promotion. We explored the ship and checked our friends cabin on Panorama deck. We have the second seating for dinner at 8:15 and we are assigned the Monet dining room. I had requested a special table last month and they came through with the table right in the center of the dining room. Great location. For dinner I had the Tomato basil soup, the Sweet & Sour Shrimp, the Flat Iron Steak, and the Cream Brule for dessert. The Welcome Aboard Show was scheduled for 10:30 p.m. It featured the Carnival Conquest Singers & Dancers, CD Chris, and comedian Marc Ruben.
Day Two--Monday--Fun day at Sea
Awoke to a partly cloudy day and fair seas this morning. I enjoyed a good nights sleep, but it was a bit rocky during the night. I had breakfast in the Monet dining room, my personal standard 1st morning carnival breakfast of Eggs Benedict, side of bacon & hash browns, tomato juice, and grapefruit which were very good. We walked around the ship and then played team trivia at noon in Vincent's lounge. It was French day in the 'Tastes of Nations' section, but I had lunch at Sur Mer with our friends. I had the Bouillabaisse and fish & chips. After lunch the Cruise Critic roll call group had a Meet & Greet in Vincent's lounge. It's great to put faces to online screen names. At 2:30 they had a new trivia game called Invisible Movie Trivia where they show scenes from movies, but the actors are invisible. It was different. The rest of the day was cabin time with a nice nap included. It is the first elegant evening and they no longer have a Captains cocktail reception with complementary drinks, but offer $1 off cocktails at the promenade deck bars. The Captain was available for photographs for a set time. The main production show Point and Click was the primary entertainment this evening. For the elegant night dinner I had the Pumpkin Soup, Stuffed Mushrooms and the Seafood entrée consisting of lobster and jumbo shrimp. The lobster was very good, but an alternative choice would be the Duck or Roast Beef. I had the Cherries Jubilee for desert. We took a stroll around the ship and there were a lot of activities and photo stations. Marc Ruben had two late night comedy shows. The platinum guest gift was left in the cabin and it is again the picture frame. Tonight we changed ships time to one hour forward. I suspect they have had problems getting people back on board in Key West if they don't match the local time.
Day Three-Tuesday-Key West, Florida
It's a nice day today and the seas were again choppy overnight so there was some rolling in the bed. The breeze was very welcome and it was the best weather I have experienced in Key West. DW ordered room service and I had breakfast in the dining room: Tomato juice, Grapefruit, Omelet, Bacon, Hash Browns, and Toast. I enjoy the service in the dining room and DW enjoys a leisurely start to the day. We arrived in Key West early and debarked before 10:00 am. I had charged my GPS and cell phone overnight so were prepared for a day in town. We docked next to Mallory Square the prime spot for cruise ships as you can walk to town. The Carnival Imagination was docked at the Navy pier dock.
Those that already read my review from this cruise last month know we are pursuing some local family history in Key West. (You need to read that review first-if interested) Our goal this trip was to view the houses that Mr. Bagby, DW's grandfather, built here in 1939-1940. We knew from the newspaper article that they were on Ave E, but not the location. Our first stop was the Monroe County Courthouse, an interesting place itself as it has the largest Kapok Tree on the island. Also some very large Banyon trees there and in the area. They are very impressive. In the county clerks office we were able to research old warranty deeds and found many involving Mr. Bagby. By comparing the lots to the plats, they allowed us to view, we now knew the location of the six homes on what is now Eagle Avenue. After leaving the courthouse we went to the Monroe County Library and updated the researcher there who had help me the previous month. He also searched the Key West cemetery records for us as well and there is NO record of him being buried there although it is still a possibility. From the library we walked to the four bungalows on Packer street where Mr. Bagby lived and was found dead (at age 45) as DW had not seen this location as yet. From here to Eagle Avenue is well over two miles so we hired a taxi cab to take us to the far side of the island. We were able to see the homes and they were very nice for 1940, but have changed a lot since. The next order of business will be to order a death certificate from the State of Florida. I did not know they were not available from the county or I would have already requested one. We did learn some interesting information from the library and clerks office so our search/quest will continue. Although we have learned a lot, we still do not know where he is buried or what happened to the Key West properties and estate. (We did get some clues!)
We had the taxi return us to town and to Sippin' an Internet café for a mango smoothie and some Internet time. After refreshing we met our friends at the Schooner Wharf for a light lunch of cocktails and appetizers. They have live entertainment and we had the Shrimp & Chips, a mango Mojito and the local Sunset Ale. We stopped at Kermit's, a famous Key Lime pie shop for some pie & gifts. I learned that Kermit's has a WiFi setup so that is an alternative spot to use the laptop computer. After walking around the Bight area we stopped at Sloppy Joe's for a few beers and a Sloppy-Rita. Final stop before returning to the ship was Kelly's Caribbean Bar, my favorite bar in Key West. They have the best happy hour in Key West and we had spicy buffalo wings @ $4 a pound and reduced price drinks for happy hour. The ship sailed right on time at 6:00 pm and it was another wonderful day in Key West. After watching sail away, a wonderful fruit platter (special request) was delivered to the cabin as a Platinum guest benefit. The feature main show this evening was singer Ron Joseph who does Motown and soul music. I have seen the show so took a short nap before dinner. Dinner was one of the weaker menus. If one wanted to eat at The Point, this would be a good night. I had French Onion Soup, Shrimp cocktail, and Jerk flavored pork. I had the new Fig dessert and Strawberry Cheesecake. The waiters danced the Jai-ho, an Indian Bollywood dance that was very entertaining. This was the best part of dinner. Tonight they had a Mardi Gras deck party in the bars and on Lido deck, but after all the walking today and the beers and cocktails we retired early.
Day Four--Wednesday-Freeport, Bahamas
A very nice and again rocky nights sleep. It was fair weather with a nice breeze later becoming partly cloudy. DW again had room service and I went to the Monet dining room for breakfast. I had an omelet with the usual. This is to be our stay on the ship on port day although there were a lot of people with the same idea it seems. More stayed on board than usual perhaps due to several snorkel tours being canceled due to high winds. The aft pool was closed so we went to the Sun Pool on deck ten forward. It was fine as you had a very good view of the new Seaview Theater. At noon we had dishes from the Mongolian Grill. I had a nice mixture with pork & Szechwan and DW had an all vegetable dish. After lunch we had some nice cabin time watching two movies. We also had room service deliver sandwiches and chocolate cake. The room service menu is better and the selections were very good and tasty. The production show this evening was Lady Helevi, Enchantress of the Elements. It is a Carnival produced show featuring a Magician and the Conquest Dancers. The costumes were really unique and beautiful. This is a very visual show, the type of show with little dialogue that will be the future for cruises with a lot of international guests. Although very colorful it is not one of my favorites. We spent some time watching the various acts around the ship. I am very disappointed that there is only one American act on board. It seems very odd to have all these American tunes being performed and not an American anywhere to be found. Dinner was very good this evening, I had the Chicken Soup (very salty, but good), a Neptune seafood dish and the Grilled pork chop. One of the menu changes is that they now have two of my favorite desserts on the same night. The answer to that is you have both so I had a Tiramisu and the Bitter & Blanc. They were both excellent. The waiters again danced what seemed to be another Bollywood style dance. This was a good night to watch a movie on Lido deck on the new Seaview Theater system as our friends did, but we watched some of our favorite new comedy shows (Modern Family) on the cabin TV. This was a very relaxing day and enjoyable.
Day Five--Thursday-Nassau, Bahamas
Another good night sleep. We arrived by 7:00 am and docked at the Nassau piers. I had the Eggs Benedict breakfast in the Monet dining room while DW prepared for the day. We took a taxi (private $20) over to the Atlantis Resort about 10:00 am. I had been to Nassau several times since Atlantis opened, but I waited until DW was along as I knew she would want to tour the resort so it was the first visit for both of us. We started by viewing the Casino that has beautiful large blown glass sculptures. The main lobby is amazing as is the fountains, aquarium, beaches, marina, and lagoon. We enjoyed our $4 diet cokes on the grounds and then took a taxi ($8 sharing) back to downtown Nassau. We could see that the Carnival Pride was now docked next to the Conquest. We visited a few shops and the Straw Market making a few purchases. DW headed back to the ship and I spent some time in the internet café on Facebook. The Carnival Pride and Carnival Conquest did a small ship's horn exchange as the Conquest pulled away from the pier. I enjoy the sail away. The ship was decorated for Halloween this evening and they had several Halloween promotions, drink specials, and Halloween theme photo locations. There was a mojito drink special at the Casino Bar and since it's one of my favorite drinks I had to sample a couple. Tonight's main show was juggler Manuel Zuniga and comedian Marvin Todd. I have seen the juggler before but Marvin Todd was new to me. It was a good show. One of the best of the week. I had the fried shrimp appetizer and a green salad as well as a new entrée, a Petite Filet Mignon on a sliced pot roast. On the menu they call it a Filet Mignon on Short rib, but it was really a very tender pot roast style meat. It was excellent and I had to try another just to confirm. (they have had the filet previously, but not served on the other meat) DW said the Vegetable Lasagna was the best vegetarian dish she had ever had on Carnival. They had special Halloween desserts so we shared two different ones and they were good. After a long day in Nassau and a big meal we decided to retire early to the cabin and watch a movie.
Day Six-Friday-at Sea
Another good nights sleep. The sky is party cloudy but seas are smoother than they have been so far this week. I went to the Monet dining room for a good breakfast of Fried eggs, et al. I met our friends for coffee trivia in the morning and it was really about coffee. Never ever having a cup I was no help. We had some pool and deck time in the Stars pool. The Sky (aft) pool wasn’t open in the morning. I joined our trivia team, the Ritz Crackers, for the 3-day trivia competition at noon. It was fun although I scraped my knee in one of the events, it’s not all just questions. DW For lunch I went to the Mongolian Grill and had pork with Szechwan. After lunch I took a nice walk around the decks and watched some the Lido deck pool games and later watched a movie in the cabin. The main production show was Formidable. I have now seen it nine times, but still enjoy it. The Cancan dance is my favorite part of the show. There were some new sets and minor changes from the previous time I saw the show even from just last month. Dinner was good. I had the Shrimp Seafood entree as well as the Chateaubriand and Baked Alaska for dessert. After dinner DW went to the Lido deck movie at the Skyview Theater, unless they have a scheduled activity, they usually have two movies a night at 8:00 & 10:00.
Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea
Another good nights sleep. A beautiful day and calm seas. We gained our hour back in time as the ship is now back on central standard time. I had my final breakfast in the Monet dining room, the Eggs Benedict. The debarkation talk was held at 11:00 but it repeated over the TV continuously during the day. We had our final day of the big Trivia contest and we took second place. It was fun though. We had lunch in the Monet dining room for the only time and it is a good option. I had the Neptune Salad, a Hay & Straw pasta dish, and a Spice cake for dessert. We then hit the Chocolate Buffet in the Taste of Nations area of the Cezzane buffet for the Banana Fritters I discovered last month. Tasty. In the late afternoon I had a good cabin day with NCAA football, some computer work, filing in debarkation documents, and a nap. This is the third time I was able to watch my favorite football team on a cruise. Dinner this evening was again good, my choices were Crab Cake, Lobster Bisque, Prime Rib, and the Grand Mariner Soufflé for desert. The Prime Rib and Bisque were excellent. I didn't attend the Carnival Legends Show after dinner as I returned to the cabin to pack.
They had a 7:00 am meeting time for self-debarkation Platinum members. There was some delay and we didn’t leave until 7:15, but I was the FIRST person off. Being experience I knew the system and they did a great job of keeping line jumpers out of the debark area. We were through customs at 7:20 and at the truck by 7:30 am. It could not have gone smoother once off the ship. I filled the truck in Galveston as usual ($2.39 gal.) and was off the island by 7:45 am. We were home at 12:45 p.m. after picking up the dogs from the neighbors.
Ship / Crew
I have always thought that the Conquest is beautiful. The French impressionist and postimpressionist themes are wonderful. Try to see the video featuring Joe Farcus, the designer of the Conquest, on the ships TV while on board. The crew is very friendly and will greet you. The cabin steward and waiter will call you by name. The excellent table in the dining room allows a great view of the dining room. The new fabrics and chairs in the public areas stayed with the theme of the ship and the ship really looks wonderful. Having the extra sets of eyes I noted other new items since the dry-dock such as: Ceramic coffee cups, new wicker chairs, new chaise loungers, deep cleaning of the casino and Cezzane, new fabrics, and more.
The Cezanne Restaurant buffet food is good, but not great although the salads, fruit, and desserts are excellent. Paul's Deli was good, the Rueben sandwich is my favorite as well as the Turkey Wrap. PC's Wok has been replaced by the Mongolian Grill and is excellent. Sur Mer was good, my favorite item is the bouillabaisse. I did try the Sushi Bar this trip and it is unique and should be tried by guests. The Pizza Station was very good as was the Sky Grill both located on Lido deck aft. Room Service was very good and they have added several new sandwiches, the BLT's are great. The Monet Dining Room food is very good to excellent and much better than the buffet. They are still introducing some tweaks to the menu. No major entrée changes, but a few small ones. There are ice cream and yogurt machines in several locations on Lido deck. Drink prices have again gone up in cost but they have specials each day. The waiters do a few dances during the week and it is enjoyable especially the new dances. They no longer do the team game announcements in the dining room and leave that to the entertainment department as it should be. The cookies available on the buffet and room service are very good.
We have cabin 2465 on Main deck (deck 2). It is located far aft on starboard side and L-shaped with two large windows. It has also been known as a haunted cabin, but nothing mysterious this week. When I booked this cabin over a year ago it was a 1A, but is now classified a 6B. We have had this cabin before and booked it as it was a value cabin, but now as a 6B and the vibration/noise we won't be booking it again. The noise is primarily when the ship comes into port. There are better ‘secret’ cabins available. There is a mini bar, safe (card slide), two chairs, table, and lots of storage. The cabin was clean and was maintained by cabin steward Lito who did a good job during the week and did a good job with my ice. We did get a towel animal each night. A very short walk to the dining room as it’s directly below the Monet dining room.
Interesting / Unique
A great addition is a magician that will entertain you in the dining room at your table. The magician was wonderful and a good addition. The new (to me) Seaside Theater is wonderful. It look like it was always a part of the ship and not an add-on. They did a wonderful job during the last dry dock installing it. The movies at night were very popular.
Changes / Needs Improvement
Very disappointed that the Sky pool was closed for two days. That is the adult oriented pool and also in the non smoking area. Although smoking is only allowed in certain areas, there are people who THINK anywhere outside is fair game to smoke which it is not. Seems each time we settled near the Star pool a smoker would come and join you. The Sky pool being closed is a ‘big deal’ for many cruisers. I know some things can’t be helped and they did get it opened again on Friday afternoon. We did make use of the Stars pool and since there were very few kids on this cruise it was fine for two days.
Having now traveling on the new Eastern itinerary twice I can say I really don't care for it. The Western itinerary is much better in my opinion. I really like Key West, but the Bahamas I can live without. That being said and as I stated last month, it was another great and enjoyable cruise. It was fun to sail with friends and you really can not go wrong with the Carnival Conquest. Yes, you will have FUN on this Fun Ship especially on the regular itinerary--LOL.