Sunday, September 23, 2007

Review--The Conquest--September 16, 2007

Conquest Review 9.16.2007

Just The Facts
Carnival Conquest
September 16-September 23, 2007
Captain: Massimo Marino
Cruise Director: Butch Begovich
Ports: Galveston-MoBay, Jamaica-Grand Cayman-Cozumel-Galveston
Weather: Very Good all week.

This is my tenth Carnival cruise and first time as a Platinum status guest. This is also my 5th and DW’s 4th time on the Conquest. We are traveling with our neighbors and also Cruise Critic friends, both of whom we have traveled with before.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
We left the ranch at 6:30 a.m. and had an easy drive to Galveston stopping for breakfast at Ama’s in Hearne, Texas. We arrived about 11:35 a.m. so dropped the passengers and luggage at the pier and took the car to EZ Cruise parking. WALKED back to the pier from EZ Cruise which is much easier than waiting for the shuttle. The Conquest was an hour late in arriving this morning so there was more confusion than usual for our noonish arrival. There was a pre security line before even entering the building which was new to me. It also added to the confusion, but once we got into the building we were able to take advantage of the VIP boarding. We only waited a few minutes and a VIP clerk checked in our party of six very quickly. We were able to bypass long lines at check in and proceed to the ship. Very easy considering the long lines and the VIP status paid dividends with embarkation.

We had “Funship Special” cocktails in the Artists Lobby Bar lobby and visited with our friends. A visit to the Maitre'd got our party of six at a banquette table in the Renoir dining room. We then headed to the Cezanne buffets on Lido deck for lunch.

Our cabin was ready at 1:30 so we dropped off our bags and soon our checked bags arrived. Not sure if the VIP tags helped, but it did seem quick considering the confusion at the pier. It’s great to be unpacked and settled early. We sailed at 4:00 p.m. and we had a little party on our balcony until muster drill. Our C-C group met following muster drill and had we had prearranged to wear mardi gras beads so it was easy to see many of our online friends. I wore my Cruise Critic t-shirt as well. It’s nice putting faces to screen names. A very good C-C turn out for the Conquest.

We went to dinner at 8:30 and it was good. Our waiter is Winston from India. I had the shrimp cocktail and NY strip steak which was very good. I had the Black Forrest Gateau and the Cream Brule for dessert, both good. DW had the Chocolate Melting Cake which is available every evening now.

The Welcome Aboard Show was at 10:30 pm for both Tastings. The CD is Butch from Minnesota. My first experience with him. He had a great routine involving a few gentlemen passengers and dancing. It was very funny. I have seen Marc Rubben several times and he did not disappoint. The girl he picked for his ‘honeymoon’ routine was the best I have seen. She was very animated and Marc made it very funny.

Day Two--at Sea
I had breakfast in the dining room, the standard carnival breakfast of Eggs Benedict, which were fine. DW got fruit from the buffet and ate on the balcony. I met DF’s Mo & Jerry for Trivia in the morning. Lunch at Sur Mer. The bouillabaisse and fish&chips are very good. Another round of trivia and ‘name that tune’ in the afternoon. Rest, relaxation, and a nap the rest of the day. Our friends hosted a little sunset cocktail party on their extended balcony which is the mirror image of ours on deck eight. The Captains cocktail reception was before dinner and we were able to get good seats and the servers were very generous with the cocktails. Thank you Captain Massimo. We moved our entire table to an eight-top along the wall and it is better than the banquet table we had the previous night. Our new head waiter is Nicholas from the Philippines. This was the first formal night and Lobster was the entree of choice. The best dish was the stuffed mushrooms served as a starter. The pumpkin soup was also good as was the Cherries Jubilee for desert. The feature production show is Formidable which is a French/Paris theme show with a lot of costume changes and dance numbers. My favorite dance is the cancan of course. This is the 4th time to see the show and it better with more female dancers, much more of a ‘show girl’ production in addition to the dance and vocals. It’s a long show, about an hour. The show fits the theme and decor of the Conquest very well. We turned in as it was a long day for us old timers.

Day Three--at Sea
I was up early to I went up to the Cezanne for a custom ‘western’ omelet from the omelet station. Did well at TV theme show music trivia, 24 of 25, but someone got 25 so not a winner. Played some other trivia and had lunch in the Cezanne. We played one more game of trivia after lunch and finally had luck go our way and a 16 of 20 won us a ship on a stick and Carnival medal. As platinum guests we took advantage of the private Galley tour this afternoon. It was interesting to see the kitchen and get an idea of how the waiters get the food to all the tables during dinner. I attended the past guest reception which was very full. They had two receptions as there are a lot of past guests. We had another cocktail & canap├ęs balcony ‘sundown’ party which made us a bit late for the Ron Joseph show. The show was before dinner for late seating guests. Dinner was good, but the highlight was having a cake delivered for our anniversary couple which was accompanied by the “Happy Versery song” sung by the waiters.

Day Four--Montego Bay, Jamaica
Went to Cezanne for an omelet early this morning, It was empty at same time yesterday, sea day, but it was packed with people eating breakfast and anxious to get off in early in Jamaica. Arrived, on time at the pier, 8:00 a.m.. We took our time, swimming in the pool, and debarked at about 10:00 am. W e took a taxi ($4.00 pp) to Doctors Cave beach. We met DF’s already there and went snorkeling from a glass bottom boat ($10-15 pp) for a while just off the beach. The place to hang at Doctors Cave is the Groovy Grouper. We really enjoyed the live band, red stripe beers, and lunch. It was a very enjoyable day. We took a water taxi back to the ship for just a bit more than a taxi cab would have cost. We could get a great view of Montego Bay from the water and actually avoided a delay at customs by this route. DW had stayed aboard ship and enjoyed the solarium pool. I also enjoyed the late afternoon in the Solarium and the ‘yellow bird’ cocktail was better than the one I had at the GG. A late thunderstorm caused them to close the roof, but it did cool off the weather and was pleasant from the balcony for balance of day. Enjoyed the sail away with a rainbow over Montego Bay. The show was comedian Ronnie Bullard and the cruise staff (If I Were Not Upon the Sea). Dinner was good, I had the Tomato Soup, grilled Pork Chop. and the Bitter & Blanc.

Day Five--Georgetown, Grand Caymans
We arrived about 7:00 am. and are anchored off shore as usual. The Freedom of the Seas is anchored very close to us. In fact I can pick up their WiFi better than from on our ship. We have no plans for Grand Cayman as we have been here many times and thought we would enjoy the ship today. We did make a quick trip over and back to Georgetown to order some liquor but was back on the ship by 10:30 am. We had lunch in the Cezanne, played golf on the new Putt-Putt course located at the stack, went down the water slide for the first time in five cruises, DW watched a big screen movie in the Degas lounge, and just enjoyed the day on board. We sailed just before 4:00 pm and we had a great view of Grand Cayman from the aft balcony as we sailed away. I tried the Poker Pro table in the casino. It only takes a few hands to learn the system and it is faster than a live dealer. They delivered petite-fours to the cabin as part of the Platinum status. We skipped the feature show, Point & Click as we have seen it several times. Dinner was good, I had the chateaubriand, and DW had the best vegetarian dish of the cruise which was the princess vegetables entree. This was the second formal night.

Day Six--Cozumel, Mexico
I had another omelet from Cezanne which was very good. We arrived and docked on time in Cozumel at Puerto Langosta pier. The Caribbean Princess was docked next to us. Everyone in our group was kind of on their own today. One played golf, two for snorkeling, two for shopping and myself off to town. I first went to Antonio's for a haircut, but they were closed so I spent an hour next door at the internet cafe ($1 for an hour). Barber still not open so I went to the Mayan Pearl where I found DW visiting with our friend Nelly, the owner. I went down the Malecon to the Forum shops, to go to Havana Blue. It was busy as a ships tour was there for the folkloric show. I had a mojito and before I could order another DW & DF show up so we get a table on the patio overlooking the water. Very relaxing and the water is beautiful so we stayed for more mojitos. The girls were going to shop so I was just going to head back towards the ship, but fortunately did check Antonio’s one more time. Bingo, they were open. Martin has been cutting my hair for two years and I really needed a haircut so for me, a big deal. (Note: There is only one barber in my county and a haircut is not easy where I live). He did a great job. I was heading back to the ship, but stopped for a few DosXX on the square. Several more cervezas, margaritas, and mariachis and two hours disappeared. We had prearranged to met our DF’s on deck three above the gangway for sail away. This is one of our favorite Cozumel activities. It was not as rowdy as usual for a Cozumel crowd, but it did begin to rain so that dampened or sobered up the late comers. Dinner was again good. I chose the filet mignon. Very tired after a big day in Cozumel so we skipped the shows and turned in.

Day Seven--at Sea
Tried to sleep in a bit this morning, then another omelet from the Cezanne for breakfast. Casual morning and then met our party for lunch in the Monet Dining Room. It was my best lunch of the cruise, but only time I had eaten in the dining room. I had the Neptune Chef Salad and the Pepper Steak. I had cabin time after lunch and watched some College football on TV. I spent a little time on the poker table, but absolutely no luck there all cruise. Dinner was again good, my choices were Escargot, Crab Cake, a two Neptune Platters. We did attend the Carnival Legends Show. I have to admit we had always skipped this show, but we did attend since we knew one person from our roll call performing. This show was GREAT. Very glad we attended and won’t miss it again.

I knew they would have priority debarkation for Platinum guests, but I was surprised that they have a priority for the self-debarkation as well. You have to meet at 6:45 a.m., but you are escorted off the ship. We were the 2nd couple off the ship.

The Conquest might be showing her 5 years, but the crew is always repairing and updating. The ship was very clean and you would always see staff cleaning during the day and night. I have always thought that the Conquest is beautiful. The French impressionist theme is wonderful. Try to see the video featuring the designer of the Conquest on the ships TV while onboard.

We had cabin 8457 which is an aft with the larger extended balcony. There are public aft stairs/elevators so it‘s not a long walk to the elevator/stairs. Close to the Cezanne restaurant which is very nice. The advantage of this cabin is the larger balcony and we used it this voyage. There is noise from the chairs being moved above us on lido deck, but not too bad. Our cabin steward was great and kept our small cooler full of ice all week.

I can not say enough about our Maitre d' Sudhir Nair. Not only did he give us a tour of the Galley, but he arranged a better table for our group and called us by name on may occasions. By far the best we have ever had on Carnival. All the staff and crew seemed very accommodating.

The best addition to the menu is the Stuffed Mushrooms. They were served on 1st formal night and are excellent. The Cezanne buffet food is good, but not great. The dining room food is better. There are ice creme and yogurt machines in three locations on Lido deck. I had very good luck with the omelet station, all very good and not a long wait for service (I did try to time it right).

Needs Improvement
Although the Capers indicate that the sports bar would be open for Sunday football, it was not. A lot of Cowboy fans decked out in their jerseys were very disappointed. The menu listed on the ship TV is NOT necessarily what will be the actual menu. The menus were updated, but not the TV listing.

Interesting / Unique
This was a unique cruise in that there was a running joke throughout the week concerning “Tuesday” which began at the Welcome Show. The inside joke was a unifier among the passengers. It was a 'you had to be there' deal, but very funny.

Although our 5th cruise on The Conquest it was one of the best as it was great to be cruising with friends. We have done most of the activities, but there are still a few we have not been able to do, so another future Conquest cruise may be in the future.

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