Background information: my husband and I are 50/55 and this is our 16th cruise. We have sailed Carnival for 4 day cruises but have never sailed them for 7 days due to poor reports from friends and fellow cruisers. Our preferred lines have been Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Princess. We sailed with with a group of 22 from work.
I must admit Carnival has won me over. Our previous Carnival experience was okay as it was what one would expect from a 4 day cruise on an older ship. The Conquest is indeed a work of art. She is easy to navigate. Nearly all floors have continuous thoroughfares and the floor plan makes sense. Cabin size was comparable with that of the other cruise lines we've sailed. To their credit Carnival has a coin-op laundry on each floor complete with iron and ironing board. We did not need to use it but it was nice to know it was there.
Food was not as good as some of the other lines but was certainly acceptable. The wait staff was fine but I found it tedious that they did a performance/parade of some sort every night. I thought this took away from the few specials nights I've seen it done in the past, not to mention really pushing the staff and detracting from after-dinner/desert service. But most people seemed to enjoy it.
Entertainment was about par. There was an adult comic who was really raunchy - of course it was advertised as such and we knew what to expect but this guy was really over the line in the way he attacked certain patrons in the audience. The magicians were okay and the dancers were their usual splendid selves.
We unfortunately boarded in Gulfport and this is only a temporary situation but I would advise Carnival to not even dream of putting a ship into this port permanently without major investment into a dockside facility and the widening of the ship canal.
Ports of call were the traditional W. Carib. (Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel). We usually don't get off the ship in Jamaica but did do a mountain rafting excursion this time and I am pleased to say that Jamaica seems to have cleaned up its act somewhat. I was told the same by others in our situation. I still think Jamaica - at least Montego Bay - is an awful port of call but it does afford one a great day of peace and quiet aboard a deserted ship (if you've never stayed aboard on a port day I highly suggest it)
I highly suggest to anyone that they swim with the stingrays in Grand Cayman. We did it years ago and love having dinner conversation with those who have done it for the first time. It is indeed a MUST DO.
Cozumel is our old friend - we honeymooned there before it was "discovered". The two port facilities are quite nice and from a shopping standpoint do away with the need to go into San Miguel (but then, how would you go to Carlos and Charlies?). If you are only there to shop you can find most of what you need in a nice array of duty free shops.
Our thing to do is grab a cab for Chankanaab. It's a national marine partk. Everything you need is there . The cab is about $4, entrance into the park is $10 and you can rent snorkel equipment for $5. Scuba is also available. In the last few years they have added a swim the dolphins program. there are two nice open air restaurants where I have eaten without problems.
There is a shower facility that is clean but only has cold water so beware! The beach is lined with comgy chairs and umbrella- no extra charge. The beach is rocky so don't plan on playing in the surf. there are several areas designed for entering the water for snorkeling but it's not a surfy kinda place.
The Conquest was a delightful vacation. And don't miss the steam rooms and sauna - they have one wall that is ceiling to floor glass looking out over the ocean - what a treat.
No complaints. A pretty good deal for the special price we got and when it returns to New Orleans it will really be a treat for those who've never experienced the "City that Care Forgot"
Gloria Louisiana Native