Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Review--Majesty of the Seas--9.15.2008

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Majesty of the Seas Review 9.15.2008

Just The Facts:
Majesty of the Seas
September 15-September 19, 2008
September 19-September 22, 2008
Captain: Ole-Johan Gronhaug
Cruise Director: Jimmy Rhodes / Darren McColl
Ports: Miami-Nassau-CocoCay-Key West-Miami-CocoCay-Nassau-Miami
Weather: Good all week, hot during the day.

This is a 4-day and a 3-day B2B cruise that I will review as one cruise. I am doing these cruises as a solo and these are my 9th and 10th Royal Caribbean cruises. To be honest the primary reason for these cruises is to qualify as a Crown & Anchor Society Diamond member before our Voyager of the Seas cruise in January 2009. Of course I do plan on having some fun.

Day One--Monday--Embarkation
I could not get good air connections from Waco, so we left the ranch at 2:50 a.m. and drove to DFW airport arriving at 5:00 a.m. for a 6:00 a.m. flight. This will make for a very long day. I arrived in Miami about 9:45 a.m. and I was able to attach myself to a group of ladies who had arranged a shuttle to the port of Miami. Bottom line: I got a shuttle for $10, a very good deal. We arrived at the port early but they had just started taking the early arriving guests. They didn’t really have a VIP area, but give you a priority card that really does you no good whatsoever. Security and check-in went smooth. We were allowed to board about 11:35 a.m. ON BOARD: I went to the Windjammer and had roast beef and a nice salad from the buffet. The cabin was ready at 1:00 so I dropped off my backpack and explored the ship. My first Bahama Mama cocktail from the Schooner bar helped get into the sail away mood. I was at the pool bar at 3:00 to meet some of members of our online roll call group. I’ve never seen so many people in the pool on a debarkation day. No waste of vacation/cruise time on this ship. I tried to take a nap, but muster drill was held about 4:15 p.m. Sail away out of the port of Miami was great sailing between Miami and Miami Beach. I was debating purchasing a coke card since I did not bring any with me and finally decided to do so after we left Miami at least saving the sales tax on it. Diet Coke and less alcohol makes since since I have felt like I have may have picked up a ‘bug’. It started at the beginning of the day as upon take off from DFW airport I had a tooth ache due to the cabin pressure change. By afternoon I felt like I may be getting a sore throat. Oh no!, not again. The Welcome Aboard Show was at 7:45 pm for both dinner seatings. The CD is Jimmy Rhodes and the entertainment for the Welcome Show was comedian Rick Corso who was very funny and entertaining. I have late seating in the dining room as requested and a table with some Cruise Critic members. They have new menus in the dining room, I believe these came out September 1st and are fleet wide. The Vidalia onion tart and Tomatillo (spicy) soup were very good. I had the Prime Rib and Pork Tenderloin as entrees and Savrin for desert. By evening I know now that I do have a ‘bug’ or cold. This is always a fear for me as I know I have a low resistance to germs. Much too long of a day and very tired I retired right after dinner.

Day Two--Tuesday—Nassau, Bahamas
I slept very well and late this morning then went to the dining room for breakfast about 9:15 a.m. I had Eggs Benedict and they were very good. I am so used to a sea day on the first day that being in port so soon is a new experience. I only got off the ship and walked around in downtown Nassau to find a pharmacy in order to get some vitamins and sinus medicine. I hope that will take care of the toothache/headache. I was back on board the ship by noon and enjoyed a very nice swim in the pool. The two pools are large and separated into shallow and deep sections. There are quite a few people staying on board for a port day, but everyday is a port day. I had lunch in the dining room that is setup as the Brasserie 30 and all orders are cooked fresh to order. I ordered the steak sandwich and it was very good. They also had a salad bar and a pasta bar set up as a part of the Brasserie 30. The desserts at the Windjammer were excellent, so I had desert up there. I had some cabin time after lunch and I watched the movie Ironman. I had my first Room Service order in the afternoon of my favorite cheese & fruit plates. This was the formal attire night and The Captains Welcome party was this evening in the Theater. Also the Captains dinner which was one of the better meals. I ordered Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Beef, and the Grand Mariner soufflé for dessert. Best dinner of the cruise. The production show featuring the Singers and Dancer was Boogie Wonderland and it was a good show. I’m glad I rested during the day as the show was after dinner. Looks like I’m no longer a nightlife kind of guy, but the ‘bug’ doesn’t help.

Day Three--Wednesday--CocoCay
The Weather is again very nice. Very calm seas and fair winds. I slept very late, almost to 11:00 a.m. They still had one line in the Windjammer with breakfast so I had a light breakfast. I took a tender over to CocoCay about noon just to see the island. This is Royal Caribbean’s private island and the beaches and water are beautiful. They have all kinds of water sports available and it is a great place for a beach activities day. I tried the BBQ lunch served on the island of ribs and chicken. Not impressed at all with the food. I tendered back to the ship as I need a rest day and that is what I did all afternoon, nap and cabin time. I did visit the Schooner bar and the Viking Crown Lounge, but limiting myself to the coke card because of the ‘bug’. I attended the Crown & Anchor reception and did have a wine. It was the first time I had been in the Spectrum lounge, the location of the late evening disco. Dinner was good, but I might have been more pleased with something from the alternative menu. I had the Scallops, Chicken Marsala, and Tiramisù for dessert. I retired after dinner as I want to be fresh for Key West. Table mates participated in Quest which was held tonight.

Day Four--Thursday—Key West
It’s a cloudy and humid day. I do feel a bit better today as well. We were scheduled to arrive at 10:00 but I suspect they use that time to allow for immigration which everyone on the ship must go through upon arrival. We were docked well before 10:00 but it was well after before everyone was processed. I had breakfast (very good) in the dining room and took my time to allow lines to immigration to slack. It was a warm and humid day in Key West and did rain twice. I spent an hour during the morning rain in an internet bar catching up on news and fantasy sports. It was a great day in Key West, I had a nice snack of conch fritters at the Conch Republic and visited Pat Croce’s Pirate Soul museum. Also visited Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Sloppy Joes, Captain Tony’s, and had an excellent slice of Key Lime Pie at the Blonde Giraffe. Key West is by far my favorite port on this cruise. I returned to the ship about 4:00 p.m. I went up to deck seven (muster/lifeboat) to watch the late arrivals and the Majesty leaving Key West. The final production show was at 7:00 for second seating guests. It was Signed Sealed Delivered featuring the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. Dinner this evening was very good. I had the Caesar Salad, Onion Soup, Shrimp Cocktail, and NY Strip Steak with Key Lime Pie for desert. The service was excellent. I retired to the cabin and watched two movies. I don’t have to pack tonight as most are doing.

Day Five/One--Friday—Miami
This is my first B2B (on the same ship) and I’ve actually been looking forward to experiencing the port transition day. Fortunately I do have the same cabin and that makes it very easy. Also since I cleared immigration at Key West I don’t have to do that again in Miami. If anyone does these cruises as a B2B, be sure to do the four-day first. The debarkation announcements wake you early. I went to the Windjammer for breakfast and it was packed with everyone getting that last included meal before they leave the ship. Oddly the omelet station was not busy. I had my first Windjammer omelet and it was very good. I ate out on the Pool deck with a very nice view of Miami. I waited for it to clear somewhat before going to get my new SeaPass card and then headed for the Lido deck pools. I was the only one in the pool although I did have to change from one pool to another as they cleaned them. I took the rest of the morning relaxing on Lido and I basically had the entire ship to myself for several hours, I saw only one other B2B guest. They make an announcement to the crew about the upcoming cruise, i.e. the cruise ID number, the total number of guests, the number of children, the number of Crown & Anchor members, and the time they will begin boarding the new passengers. I went to the Windjammer at 11:30 and they had already begun boarding new guests. I again had a nice salad. The roast beef was not as good as I have had in other Windjammers. After lunch another dip in the pool and watched the new guests arrive. A fruit basket/plate was delivered to the cabin which I assume is for B2B passengers. I attended the muster drill and luckily I was told to go indoors and not outside on the deck. Much cooler inside. The weekend guests seem to be younger, consist of more locals, and in a party mood. The staff didn’t really need to encourage these passengers too much at sail away. They were in a party mood. I limited myself to only one sail away drink, a mojito, from Boleros. I went to the Welcome Aboard Show again featuring Rick Corso who was again very funny and entertaining. His show was a little different than the previous cruise. I again have late dinner and I have a better table location, a larger oval 6-top table again in the Starlight Dining Room. I had the garlic soup, the Angus beef from the alternative menu, and Tiramisu for dessert. The steak was excellent, the soup was fair, dessert very good.

Day Six/Two--Saturday--CocoCay
I slept well, but the ‘bug’ is still with me. Although better I have been eating and drinking in moderation and I am staying on board ship today. I had fruit from the Windjammer for breakfast and I then had a meeting with Sam, the RCI Loyalty Ambassador and booked one open NextCruise booking. I used both open ones that I had booking this B2B and it’s always good to have one or more on hand in case of a late booking. I went up to the Windjammer to fill my drink mug and they had just opened for lunch. I took advantage and had some Virginia baked ham from the carving station. DW would love the salads today as they had three different salad stations set up. This is much better than the buffet being offered on the island today-IMHO. It seemed like a slack time in the tendering process so I went down to security and had my photo taken for my SeaPass card. I don’t want to cause a delay when I visit Nassau tomorrow. I returned to the cabin and someone had sent me a special cheese plate from room service. The room service cheese and fruit plates are two of my favorite things about cruising Royal Caribbean and the Brie is my favorite of the cheeses. This plate delivered was a large slice of Brie and assorted fruits. It was special as someone went to the effort to discover my favorites OR they put things on the plate that didn’t need to be refrigerated & I would have it upon returning from the island. Either way, Thank You, I had it at the appropriate time. I purchased some internet minutes today. I have a very strong signal in my cabin for WiFi so that is convenient. I attended the Captains Reception in the Theater since I missed the previous one. Dinner was very good. I had Escargot, Lobster Bisque, Sea Bass, Sliced Beef, and the Grand Mariner soufflé for dessert. Starting to feel the ‘bug’ I retired after dinner.

Day Seven/Three—Sunday—Nassau
BUG: Woke up early this morning and half of my face is swollen. I’ll go see the medical department when they open at 9:00 a.m. This is my first visit to the ‘Doc’ on a cruise ship. Those that know me know I rarely see a doctor at any time so I am tired of the ‘bug’ and also the pain. The attendant takes your information and explains the routine and the charges ($108.00 on your SetSail Pass). The doctor is from eastern Europe and seems very nice. I had seen him introduced the previous night at the Captains Reception. He reviewed my information and examined me. He says the immediate problem is tooth related and not sinus although it seems I have a chronic sinus condition as well. Actually makes since. I’ve been assuming it’s my lack of resistance that usually gets to me on a cruise and it is probably a chronic condition that reoccurs due to cruising activities. Looks like fewer sail away drinks in my future. The ‘Doc’ prescribed some antibiotics and a pain killer, so hopefully that will take care of the ‘bug’ until I get home and in to see the dentist. NASSAU:I had some fruit in the Windjammer for breakfast and it is a late crowd and it is very busy. As mentioned the weekend cruisers seems to party late and sleep late. I went into Nassau and walked to the Straw Market although many stalls were closed as it was Sunday. They may have opened later in the day. I went over to the British Colonial Hotel now a nice Hilton hotel. I wonder if they regret building the modern facility as the old majestic wooden structure would be so unique now. I’ll save a trip to Atlantis until I return with DW on the Conquest next year. I returned to the ship in time for a late Windjammer lunch. I have been very impressed all week with the desserts in the Windjammer. Room Service delivered some chocolate covered strawberries so I’m guessing the cheese plate yesterday was also a part of the B2B benefits. They also delivered a note that my Everglades Excursion for debarkation day was canceled. I have a late flight and this would have been ideal as the final drop off is the Miami airport following the excursion. I will have to make new plans. Dinner was good. We had New York Strip steaks, probably the same ones being sold at the premium price. I also had the onion soup, shrimp cocktail and a banana crème desert. My wonderful table mates report that the late activities on board are great, including the Lido deck pool party & buffet, the disco, and the casino.

No room service on debarkation morning. I had some milk and snacks I had saved. Debarkation was OK, no better or worse than other ships. I rolled my own bag and didn’t check it the night before. I was able to again get a private shuttle from the port to the airport for $10. My flight is schedule very late but I went on to MIA and was able to catch a 10:15 a.m. flight and arrived at DFW about 12:45 p.m. local time. A shuttle to MIL’s and then telephone calls to the DW who is driving up from Bosque County and then the dentist. I have an appointment tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.. Believe it or not I started feeling better before we left for home so the drive was pleasant. We arrived back at the ranch before 6:00 p.m.

I am very impressed with the layout of this ship. It feels very spacious in the Centrum areas of decks 3-4-5. My HQ for the cruise was the Schooner Bar as it is so convenient to the cabin and a good place for my coke refills. Peter, Leo, & the others are good and entertaining bartenders. The Schooner bar is also non smoking as are most of the public areas now. Cabins are smaller overall on this ship compared to other ship and lines. The passageways are very narrow in the interior cabin areas. Overall a great ship and I was very impressed with the condition and public rooms on The Majesty of the Seas. For specific information on the ship visit the ships info website: http://www.royalcaribbean.com/findacruise/ships/class/ship/home.do?br=R&shipClassCode=SS&shipCode=MJ

The staff and crew are very good. The Entertainment staff seemed very motivated. They did change CD’s between cruises. In addition to the production shows, there was entertainment in the Centrum, Schooner Bar, Boleros, and the Disco. My waiters Vazley from India and Arturo from the Philippines were very good. I saw Christopher, our head waiter from a previous Rhapsody cruise working as the Windjammer manager. I only called maintenance once as the safe did not work and they came and repaired it (batteries) straight away. Also the first time I had visited ‘Doc’ and that went fine. Overall the crew was very friendly and many called me by name throughout the week.

I had cabin 5567 which is a small interior cabin. It is the smallest cabin I can recall ever having, perhaps something on the Norway 20 years ago was smaller. It is fine for me as a solo, but two people would be very crowded and storage a problem. The location however is excellent. It is just off the Deck Five Centrum, & the Schooner Bar and same deck as the theater. Also it’s just one deck above the Starlight dining room. My cabin Stewards name is Stewart. How convenient? This is the first cruise that I never received a mint or chocolate at turn-down. I guess this is another new policy as of September 1st. I did get towel animals most nights.

They have new menus in the main dining room, I believe these came out September 1st and are fleet wide. The new menu also features a $14.95 Chops quality steak each night. There is not a Chops premium restaurant on board so this may be a good option, but it’s possible that it ‘cheapens’ the rest of the entrees as being less than premium. Compass Deli is an area with soups, sandwiches, and salads, it is very nice and located on deck 12. There is also a Johnny Rockets onboard with hamburgers & malts on deck 12. My favorite room service items are the fruit plate and the cheese plate. They again did not disappoint. The cheese plate consists of five different cheeses and garnished with a few strawberries, walnuts, and dried apricots. It is served with water biscuits or saltines. The fruit plate has grapes, pineapple, kiwi, melon, strawberry, and orange slice. It is garnished with mint. Both are great. Lunch is only served in the dining room on Nassau days. All the bread selections are very good on board. The Windjammer buffet is also very good and better than many other lines. There are a few ice cream and yogurt machines.

New and Improved
This was the 1st RCI cruise that I have been on that offered fruit punch in the Windjammer. It had been limited to iced tea and lemonade on all others, I liked the new option. Also my favorite beer, Pilsner Urquell, was available in the Schooner Bar. Super, I hope this is fleet wide or at least on the Voyager of the Seas as that is my RCI 'home ship'. I've mentioned the dining room menus, they look good to me.

Needs Improvement
Really a very nice ship and very little improve. Disappointed that there was no college football coverage at all on Saturday. They showed soccer and repeats at that on ESPN international.

A SeaPass Story
Those of you who have cruised always know to have your SeaPass card ‘out’ and in your hand anytime upon entering or leaving the ship. Especially on initial embarkation you will show it three times or more including adding your security photo before you actually make it on the ship. This happened at embarkation on the first morning: There were a group of early arrivals who had been patiently waiting in line. In spite of numerous announcements about boarding and as the very first legitimate group of people approached the escalator when they called to board there were a few line jumpers who had just happened to walk up as the people who were waiting approached. Of course there was a security guard there to check and he asked to see your Sea Pass card. One particular line jumping clueless lady showed her cruise booklet, documents, everything but a SeaPass card. She and her husband were pulling large wheeled carry on bags and blocked entry for all of those who had arrived early and been patiently waiting while she searched. Security finally asked her to step aside to look for her card, which she did; however, she left her bags directly in front of the escalator entry, still blocking everyone. Finally, inside her purse, inside her wallet, inside her credit card holder, she found her card. Watching this process, I noticed that she returned her card to the same place. Finally the line was allowed to proceed and she lead the procession up the escalator. Of course at that point I had to make a comment, It was funny and it did make everyone smile. I find humor is usually the best way to handle that type situation, but I made a point to pass her before she again got to the next security point. Didn’t want to see the repeat.

I really enjoyed the cruise and met some very nice people including many Cruise Critic and CruiseMates members and I had excellent dinner table groups for both cruises. The weather was fantastic all week although hot during the day. I was somewhat limited by the ‘bug’, but will prepare myself better in future. I apologize for not being able to cover more activities in this review, I would have preferred to do more. Still, another great cruise! Hello Diamond!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Review--Carnival Conquest--8.31.2008

Conquest Review 8.31.2008

Just The Facts:
Carnival Conquest
August 31-September 6, 2008
Captain: Massimo Marino
Cruise Director: Jen Baxter
Hotel Director: Carlos Santos DeMelo
Ports: Galveston-Progreso Yucatan- Cozumel-Grand Cayman-Galveston
Weather: Very Good all week.

This is my twelfth Carnival cruise and third time as a Platinum status guest. This is also my 6th and DW’s 5th time on the Conquest. There has been the threat of hurricane Gustav all this week and has made planning and preparing different and interesting. I’m attending a 'Seminar at Sea' presented by Carnival on this voyage.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
We left the ranch at 5:30 a.m. that’s an hour earlier than normal due to possible problems from hurricane Gustav. We made a few brief stops including Waco, but the drive was very smooth and there was little traffic even in Houston. Approaching Galveston the traffic was heavy probably due to Labor Day weekend and beach traffic. The day was actually very nice. Since we arrived early we dropped our checked bags at the pier. We then parked at EZ Cruise Parking and walked over to the terminal. The new outdoor security check has been move indoors which is very nice for the early arrivals. There is a waiting room and then you are checked for ID before starting the check-in process. Once through security we used the VIP check-in and then to the waiting area. We were then informed of the itinerary change due to hurricane Gustav. We boarded about 11:45 and the entire process was very smooth. The VIP status certainly helps in this process.

ON BOARD: We proceed to the rear buffet area in the Cezanne on Lido deck and found a nice table. I was the first person through the buffet and enjoyed viewing the presentation of the food before the mass of guests converge on the buffet. I had roast beef from the carving station and grilled fish. The salads were very good. DW had a vegetarian sandwich from the deli, fruit and a salad. It was French day in the ‘Tastes of Nations’ section. It was all very good. We went to our cabin at the designated time of 1:30 and one bag arrived very soon afterward. We took a very nice hour long nap. Muster drill began about 3:30. Following muster drill we met the Cruise Critic roll-call group on deck 7 aft and enjoyed several “Funship Special” cocktails. It’s nice putting faces to screen names (more below). I attended a cocktail reception for my travel group before dinner and enjoyed some ‘melon balls’ a drink recommended by the cocktail server. They were interesting and tasty. We went to dinner at 8:15 and it was good. Our waiter is Lloyd from India. We have the same assistant waiter as our previous Conquest cruise. I had the shrimp cocktail and NY strip steak, it was good, but not great. I had the Black Forrest Gateau and the Cream Brule for dessert, both very good. DW had the Chocolate Melting Cake which is now available every evening. The assistant maître d' visited with us and made suggestions for vegetarian selections for DW. We told her we would be alternating between the dining room and the Cezanne this cruise. The Welcome Show was scheduled for later than I’ve ever experience at 10:30 p.m. They used to try to do this show between early and late dinner, but it was now following late sitting, at least on this cruise. It featured Marc Rubben who is one of our favorites and the Conquest C.D. with the Carnival Singers & Dancers. Since we have seen the show many times we passed and enjoyed the cabin and some sleep.

Day Two--at Sea
I enjoyed a very refreshing nights sleep. The ship rocked just enough to make it very nice; however, today the ship is rolling a lot, more than normal. It is probably best that they are taking the alternative route. As soon as we cleared Galveston we began sailing south-southwest towards Brownsville trying to get distance between the ship and hurricane Gustav. This morning we changed course and we are now sailing southeast towards the Yucatan. I had breakfast in the dining room, my personal standard 1st morning carnival breakfast of Eggs Benedict, which were very good. DW got fruit from the buffet and ate on the lido deck aft. We took a walk around the decks during the morning. They now sell future cruise booking on board the Conquest. I purchased two this morning. It is a good deal. We had lunch in the Cezzane Restaurant. It was French day in the ‘Tastes of Nations’ section. I did have a crêpe. From the regular buffet I had Virginia Baked ham from the carving station, light fried cod with tartar sauce, and a salad.

The Captains cocktail reception was before dinner and we met the captain then went directly to Henri’s Disco knowing it was the overflow for the Degas Lounge. We were the only ones in there for a while and enjoyed very personal service. Thank you Captain Massimo. This was one of two ‘elegant’ nights. Conforming to the new guidelines I left the suit at home and wore dress slacks with a dress shirt and blue blazer. We changed tables in dining room in order to consolidate tables within the travel group. We have a nice group at the table. Dinner was very good. DW had the stuffed mushrooms and an assorted fruit plate. I had the pumpkin soup, stuffed mushrooms, shrimp cocktail and the seafood entrée consisting of lobster and jumbo shrimp. The lobster was very good and the shrimp were excellent. I had the Cherries Jubilee for desert. People were really taking advantage of the lobby area this evening to dance. The late live band is a great new option especially for people who don’t really care for the disco type music in Henri’s in the evening. Good addition. The feature show was Ron Joseph who is a Vegas night-club style act. He is a regular on the Conquest and we have seen him several times and passed this cruise. I saw a friend I had cruised with on the Ecstasy on one of my solo cruises. It’s always nice seeing old cruise buddies. We passed on the midnight shows and retired to the cabin.

Day Three—Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico
Another very pleasant nights sleep. We arrived and docked early this morning. People were debarking before the 8:00 scheduled arrival time. I went up to the Cezanne for a custom ‘western’ omelet from the omelet station. Not crowded at 8:30 a.m. as it was after the early crowd and before the late people. We took advantage of the aft pool this morning and had it for ourselves for 30 minutes. People began arriving but we had an hour+ in the water to swim and later visit. It was Caribbean day in the ‘Tastes of Nations’ section featuring jerk chicken.

We took the free shuttle to town about noon. We stopped at the Mayan craft store run by Richard and purchased a few items for friends back home. It’s authentic crafts made by Mayans from Yucatan and Guatemala and a good place to get gifts. We went to Le Saint Bonnet and made that our HQ for the afternoon. We had a very nice table on the restaurant side and enjoyed a very nice breeze coming off of the Gulf of Mexico. We were joined by some new Cruise Critic roll-call friends so that made it very nice. We ordered a few drinks, lunch, and some great guacamole & pico de gallo. We also purchased items from various vendors who passed. The first mariachi to approach recognized us from previous trips so there was as many mariachi’s as we wanted for the afternoon. They had message tables set up on the bar side of the restaurant. The rate was $10 for 40 minutes. It was a very nice message and a great rate. Progreso is probably the pirated DVD capital of Latin America. Charges for a DVD run from $3.00-$4.00 on average per movie. We took the shuttle back to the ship and were onboard by 4:00 p.m. We watched sail away from the balcony and we left at the scheduled departure time of 5:00 p.m. Some very nice canapés were delivered to the cabin about 5:30 a part of the Platinum ‘Concierge Club’ guest program. We also received a stainless steel thermos as a gift.

As a break to the usual routine we had decided to eat in the Cezanne for dinner on the port days so this was our first night to do so. The salads are always good. They had Virginia ham again at the carving station, and a wide variety of desserts. There are a lot of people who eat in the Cezanne, as a confirmed dining room guy and a foodie it was many more than I expected. I really think that any-time dining is the future on Carnival, it just allows more flexibility for the guests. After dinner we strolled the promanade deck and listened to the group, Impromtwo, in Artists lobby. They were very good and there was a nice crowd. The production show this evening was Point & Click featuring the Carnival singers and Dancers. It is a good show and the theater was completely full. Having seen the show several times and no ‘good’ seats to be found we passed on attending and went to the cabin to watch one of the new movies we purchased in Progreso. We had a great day.

Day Four--Cozumel, Mexico
Another good nights sleep. The sea was calm and very nice as we sailed around the Yucatan peninsula and into the Caribbean. I was up early and could see the lights of Cancun as we passed. I had breakfast in the dining room and DW had room service on the balcony. We arrived and docked on time in Cozumel at the International pier. The Enchantment of the Seas came in and docked next to us. We took a swim in the aft pool while most passengers were scrambling to disembark. Since we were at the International pier we had to take a taxi into town, so we went all the way to the Forum Shops the location of one of out favorite spots, Havana Blue. We got a table upstairs overlooking the beautiful blue waters of the Strait of Cozumel and enjoyed mojitos prepared by Jorge our favorite bartender in Cozumel. A few mojito refills and some guacamole made for an enjoyable afternoon. We walked back towards the town square and I stopped at Antonio's for a haircut. It’s always good to see Martin, my barber. DW visited with our friend Nelly at her shop near the square. They have finally finished the reconstruction of the municipal building so all the temporary stalls have been removed. The square or zocalo now looks beautiful. The reconstruction of several of the side streets is also complete and all of central San Migel looks wonderful. We did stop at Mosricoz for some diet coke, margaritas, and mariachi’s. I was spotted by two of my favorite mariachi groups. They know I will always request a tune or two.

The ship was scheduled tom leave early from Cozumel. Much too early. We were back at the ship by 3:30 p.m and ordered BLT’s and a cheese sandwiches from room service. It was Mexican day in the ‘Tastes of Nations’ section, good choice. We went back to the dining room for dinner so our experiment with Cezanne for dinner only lasted one night. Dinner was good. I chose the tomato soup and two entrees: the Newburg style seafood and the grilled pork chop. I had two very good deserts: Tiramisù and the Bitter & Blanc. The feature show was Deja, The Diva of Deception. We were very tired after a big day in Cozumel so we skipped the shows and turned in to catch the end of the Sarah Palin speech at the RNC.

Day Five--Georgetown, Grand Caymans
Another good night sleep. We are traveling very slowly on our way to Georgetown. I had a very nice breakfast in the dining room. We arrived about 11:00 am. and anchored off shore as usual. The Freedom of the Seas is anchored very near us. DW enjoyed the aft pool this morning. We had a late lunch in the Cezanne and it was American day in the ‘Tastes of Nations’ section. There were tendering problems here with many passengers not getting ashore until well after 2:00 p.m. This was a good port to have our 'stay on the ship on a port day' tradition. I did make a quick trip over and back to Georgetown just to order some liquor but was back on the ship by 3:30 am. Our balcony was on the shady side of the ship and facing Georgetown so we had a great afternoon enjoying the views from the balcony. We were attacked by the ‘Jolly Roger’ pirate ship, saw a turtle swim to the surface below our balcony, watched several people snorkel near the harbor, and the tenders going back and forth from the Conquest to Georgetown. It was a very enjoyable afternoon. Dinner this evening was very good. I had the escargot, fruit plate, the chateaubriand, and Baked Alaska for desert. After dinner we went to the feature show. It was CD Jen and her Three Bears story. I had heard of her signature routine and it was funny. The comedian was Mark Hopkins, the first time I had ever seen him and he was very good, I enjoyed his show which included a lot of audience participation.

Day Six--at Sea
Another great nights sleep and the sea is very smooth this morning. I went to the Cezanne and had a nice omelet from the omelet station. Not busy at 8:00 a.m. at all. I attended a seminar by Carnival this morning from 9:00 a.m. – noon. DW enjoyed swimming at the aft pool and salad from the Cezanne. I had lunch at Sur Mer and the bouillabaisse and fish & chips were excellent. It was also Indian day in the ‘Tastes of Nations’ section. This afternoon we met friends in Alfredo’s for tea. It was nice with light snacks, sweets, an assortment of tea, and they also had chamber music. After tea we watched another of our ‘Progreso’ movies, SuperAgente86 de Pelicula. They delivered petit fours to the cabin that I assume are a part of the Concierge service for Platinum guests. Tonight was the second ‘Cruise Elegant Evening’ and dinner was very nice. I had Mushroom soup and two entrees: the Red Snapper and the Filet Mignon. The Red Snapper was absolutely fantastic, the best entrée served by far. I was very pleased with it.

The production show was Formidable which was written with the Conquest in mind. It is a series of French/Paris themed dance numbers and songs. My favorite dance is the cancan of course. This is the 6th time to see the show and it better than ever, much more of a ‘show girl’ production in addition to the dance and vocals. It had has a new dance team and the ‘screams’ in the cancan are back! It’s a long show, about an hour, but the best show on the Conquest and not to be missed. The very LAST Gala Buffet was held tonight in the Cezanne. It has been reduced in size over the past few years as fewer people have attended. Also a late ‘R’ show with Mark Hopkins which I heard was very good, so a lot of things this evening for those who are up late.

Day Seven--at Sea
Another great nights sleep perhaps the best of the cruise, but we were also up later the previous night. I went to the Cezanne for breakfast and had perfectly fried eggs from the omelet station. Yes they will do that as well. I had another seminar to attend from 9:00 a.m. – noon. I ate in the Monet dining room for lunch with friends. 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 fortunately was able to watch my alma mater play college football on TV. There were quite a few passengers wearing Oklahoma Sooners colors on board and in the sports bar. A Funship Special and your favorite football team on TV while watching the beautiful Gulf of Mexico pass by outside. It doesn’t get much better for a Saturday afternoon. The past guest party was this evening at 5:00-6:00 p.m. in the Toulouse-Lautrec Lounge. This is much later into the cruise than any other I have attended. Jen did a fun Carnival trivia game and they showed the same ‘history’ film just updated with the new Carnival CEO Gary Cahill. I sat upstairs and I did well with the tip your server strategy. We both attended the cocktail reception for my travel group held in Vincent’s Lounge from 7:00-8:00 p.m. Dinner was again good, my choices were Crab Cake, the Prime Rib, and the Grand Marnier Soufflé for desert. We did attend the Carnival Legends Show after dinner. It was very entertaining. We returned to the cabin to pack following the show.

We knew they would have priority debarkation for Platinum, but you have to meet at 6:45 a.m.. It’s the smoothest and fastest way though as you are escorted off the ship first. Well we were almost first. We were in customs just after 7:00 a.m. and we walked to EZ Cruise and were in the car by 7:30. Gasoline was $3.34 at my favorite Galveston service station, not bad considering. We were home just after 12:30 p.m.

Ship / Crew
The Conquest might be showing her 6 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 Joe Farcus, the designer of the Conquest, on the ships TV while onboard. The Conquest will be going into dry dock in January. The Crew is top notch. Always willing to help, we were always greeted by name many times.

We had cabin 6441 which is a standard balcony on the starboard side. It is near to the aft stairs/elevators so easy to get around. It was our first time on Upper deck and is fine, just above the Promenade deck. Our cabin steward, Marco was good and he kept our small cooler full of ice all week.

Paul’s Deli was great. DW’s favorite of all food on the ship was the vegetarian sandwich with arugula, mozzarella cheese, peppers, and pesto. The Reuben sandwich is also very good. The Cezanne buffet food is good, but not great although the salads and fruit are excellent. The dining room food is good to very good and much better than the buffet. There are ice cream and yogurt machines in three locations on Lido deck. I had very good luck with the omelet station and not a long wait for service (I did try to time it right). Sur Mer was very good. I do love the big round tables in the center of the dining room and try for an assignment there if possible.

Needs Improvement
The Carnival Capers were frequently wrong. It was more than the change in ports as it was consistently wrong. The TV menus still don’t match the actual menus in the dining room. Jen, bless her heart, is not among my favorite Cruise Directors, she seemed as though she would be more comfortable as the CD of the Black Pearl or as a serving wench in a nineteenth century port side Jamaican pub. Bless her heart.

Interesting / Unique
The Cruise Critic roll-call group was one of the most active groups I have been a part of before the cruise. It was very entertaining and I guess the challenge of the hurricane added to many more posts than usual. The meet up was well attended. Most wore beads, which made it easy to find the group. One never knows how the online groups will go once on board and this went well. It’s also nice to see the familiar faces from the meet up on board throughout the week. Great Group.

A newbie cruiser may not notice, but to me this cruise seemed to be a ‘half bubble off plum’ all week. The production shows were done in reverse order, the repeat guests party was on the last day, the second elegant night was off a day, and several other things. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I do think it somewhat effected the performance of crew and staff. That could be the reason for so many errors in the Capers and tendering problems. We’re on the Conquest again next month. Hopefully things will be a bit smoother. Overall, another great cruise. I have additional comments on the CruiseMates forums.