This is my long-winded review of the Carnival Conquest's 2-night cruise to nowehere on 11-19-02. This was an agent pre-inaugural cruise, so it featured open bar, seminars, and the naming ceremony, so some items may vary.
After a 20 or so minute ride to the Julia Street Cruise Terminal, we got our first glimpse of the MASSIVE Conquest. There was no question she was larger than the Victory, though the structure and shape were quite similar. We lucked out in arriving at the perfect time, ahead of the crowds. We heard that later in the day the line wound well outside the terminal and past the ship, but we were able to stroll right into the building, past a raucous band playing New Orleans inspired Zydeco music and a table full of free bowls of various Cajun delicacies. Staff from the terminal were putting shiny, colorful Mardi Gras beads around everyone's neck as we entered-- Carnival is really playing up this New Orleans thing! We were in the initial line for about 20 minutes, and were then given a postcard-sized paper with a Mardi Gras mask and beads pictured on it, reading "MONET RESTAURANT - MAIN SITTING." Very cute. Then, it was onto the next room, where staff was handing out more food and giving away goodie bags from the New Orleans visitors bureau. We were herded into a large warehouse type-room, where we sat in chairs and were sent onto the ship by rows-- all the while, a local chef was handing out crawfish etoufee. Meanwhile, they were holding the grand naming ceremony, pulling the cloth off the "CARNIVAL CONQUEST" on the bow-- a great moment. All in all, about an hour and quite festive and painless.
Upon stepping onboard, the usual Carnival-induced "WOW" took over.... The Studio Atrium is similar to the Victory's, except for the fact that the staircases on the far side simply go from left to right in a diagonal pattern, unlike the Victory's, which come up from either side and meet in the middle of each level. Minor detail, but a difference nonetheless. We headed to our rooms, and this cruise being open bar, we began the brutal yet insanely fun "Conquest Pub Crawl."
THE STUDIO ATRIUM:
The Studio is the hub of the ship, and pretty much gives you an idea of what you have in store elsewhere. A dull (in shade, not excitement level) gold trim with a white checkerboard-type trellis covering it trims the edges on the staircases as well as every wall and ceiling edge-- often times, this trim itself is in a checkered pattern, and within the open boxes it forms, vibrant replications of thousands of impressionist paintings fill the space. This happens throughout the ship (even on elevator ceilings and tabletops of some lounges), and because of this, the Conquest really doesn't have one or two central colors (though oak and gold come to mind). The lobby bar is very long and often busy, and the top of the bar is a real winner -- It's simply a long black marble bar, but every few feet is a glass circle with a different colored flower image beneath, backlight glowing through it. >From above, the colorful glass flowers, all identical save their color, look very attractive and distinctive. The chairs sitting throughout the lobby area are very uniquely shaped (quite throne-like), and are made of a gold-like frame with etchings and great detail in the frame itself, and a cream colored cushion and back with gold accents. As for the flowers, similarly colored flowers show up around the rim on the atrium and staircases, each a different color, and each with a pair of lights in the middle, accenting the color in the glass "petals." On the huge vertical wall spanning eight decks, a MASSIVE amalgam of various artists and famous works fills the wall, like every painting you've ever imagined splashed together and eight stories tall. This work also spans down underneath to the half-ceiling above the atrium (like the Destiny class) as well as to the walls along the side. The dome atop the atrium is clear glass, unlike the tinted domes of the Spirit-class. There is also a large dance floor and elevated stage, where a WONDERFUL classical trio played regularly.
Fun Note: In Four different locations in the Conquest's atrium (as well as in various other locations onboard), there are ultra-modern flat screen televisions, that serve as interactive touchscreen guides to the ship. You can access deck plans, port of call info, ship tours, and info on the entire CCL fleet, all with the touch of a hand.
GAUGUIN'S BAR/TAHITI CASINO:
Located on the atrium and just off the casino (like the sports bars on Destiny-class), Gauguin's can be hard to find and overlooked. From it's exterior, with it's bamboo door frames and dark green's, Gauguin's exudes Tahiti. Once inside, the bar is similar to the Victory's Aegean Bar with the tabletop slot machines and large plasma TV's behind the bar, but is larger and unique in it's design. The ceiling is covered by a checkerboard pattern of bamboo logs, but behind these logs, the ceiling is a deep black, with small pinpoints of light created by small tivoli bulbs, twinkling and dissolving in and out like the Tahitian night sky. The barstools and table legs are totem poles, and everything else in the bar adds to the Tahitian fantasyland this room creates. It spills next door into the Tahiti Casino-- undoubedtly the largest casino I've been in, bamboo, straw, and totem poles fill the room, adding to the undeniably Tahitian feel. The twinkling night sky continues into this room as well. The Tahiti never opened the first night (as we were cruising slowly down the Mississippi), but was quite active from there on out.
THE PROMENADE (Impressions Bar, Kiosk, etc.):
The promenade was mostly identical to that of the Destiny class, save a Kiosk area (a large plasma screen behind a desk with info and touchscreen monitors) that went mostly unused on this trip, a dual entrance to Montmartre (the teen center), a large sushi bar, and a different design on the coffee/pastries bar. The flowers from the atrium take on a new life here, with large copper stems behind them now, sprouting up the walls and across the ceilings, with the colorful buds lit up at the end. These flowers are all over the promenade, up the walls, hanging from the ceilings, everywhere. There seemed to be a lot more seating along the window side of the promenade with oversized plush chocolate sofas and large chairs, flanking tables with glass tops and copper "stem" legs, along with the same backlit flowers as the atrium bar. There is a larger area between the Impressions Bar (promenade bar, "Trident Bar" on the Victory) and the casino than on the Destiny class, and this space was used to set up a mini-serving line each night, with small items such as quiche, lobster wrapped in fillo dough with caviar, meat dumplings, cajun sausage, and snow crab legs. The Welcome Aboard cocktail party took place throughout this deck, with many serving stations and people mingling throughout. At night, energy was VERY high on the promenade.
BLUES PIANO BAR:
This Bar is an identical design to the Destiny class, with the rotating piano in the center, surrounded by the circular bar with piano keys across it. The room is mostly-- surprise-- BLUE, with all sorts of colorful designs and shapes running up the walls, chairs, piano itself, and pillars. The designs all come together into some bizarre abstract work on the ceiling. This room was VERY popular in the mid-evenings, with rowdy singalongs, great people watching, and prompt bar service despite the lack of a walk-up bar. Large picture windows across the wall allowed us to watch the Conquest sail past the lights of the Mississippi as perfect strangers belted out "Margaritaville," "Piano Man," and "Crocodile Rock" while drinking their drinks and enjoying themselves more than they had in a while. This room was plain FUN.
Just across the Sunflower Atrium from Blues, Vincent's was a beautiful if underused spot on the Conquest. Named for Van Gogh, this bar is full of sunflowers of all sizes and shapes, and the walls are curved and the glass frosted in a very modern manner. Though the primary colors here and yellow and black, a giant glass and marble "bloom" of countless colors stands behind the bar, and the seating is simple and colorful, in a Dick Tracy primary colors kind of way. We had a few here, but not many others joined us. If I'm right, however, this will be the karaoke bar on regular cruises, and will be packed to the rafters.
The three-level Sunflower Atrium. located all the way aft, is quite stunning. The same bronze trim with the while trellis surrounds the edges, with a MASSIVE glass and mosaic Sunflower sculpture suspending in the middle, spanning all three decks. This work is always brightly lit from inside, and is quite impressive to behold. On the ceiling of this atrium, another massive impressionist painting medley with a blue background (like in The Studio) commands attention from any level, and is surrounded by smaller specific works around the edges.
The Conquest's dance club is done up in a jungle motif, with grass and vines painted on the bar, edges of the dance floor, and up the barstools. Lots of greens and blacks. Henri's was always the last place up and going into the wee hours, and as late as I stayed up, I was never able to close this place down-- it's quite a spot! It IS smaller than on the Destiny class, as it lacks that back part that wraps around the back-- on this ship, the massive teen center (we'll get there, hang on!) takes up that space. Other than that, it's very similar with the walls full of televisions, sunken dance floor, and huge window into the aft staircase.
The REASON Henri's is smaller than other CCL discos is because of the MASSIVE teen center, the largest I'd seen on any ship. Montmartre actually has two major entrances onto the promenade, both beautifully done up to look like homefronts or storefronts on a French countryside, with shutters, arched doorways, windowsills, etc. Inside, there's a full lounge-like sitting area, huge circular bar (stocked with any and all non-alcoholic beverages but just like a real bar in any other way), lighted dance floor, wall of televisions, and the largest game room I've seen at sea. Four air hockey tables under blacklight, all the latest arcade games and simulators, plus some old classics. The whole area is done up to look like a French back alley/underground scene. Exposed brick and mortar in spots on the wall, colorful faux graffiti, posters, etc. If you have kids in this age range, the Conquest would be an ideal choice, thanks to Montmartre alone-- I've never seen a teen-dedicated facility this large located in prime real estate right along Promenade Deck, leaving teens feeling like they're first class citizens.
The wine & caviar bar on the Conquest, it's located across from Henri's, in the same location as the Destiny-class. It's got the same configuration, with the two large circular bars outside one another, and the very detailed decor, with etched glass, gold trimmings, and large oversized wine bottles serving as mini-pillars, lit from the inside. This is a great place to enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine, with it's own atmosphere but still right in the middle of the promenade, providing some great people watching.
CAFE FANS -
The coffee bar on the Conquest, it's smaller in size than on the Destiny class, but better laid out. Here, designer coffees, espressos, cappuccinos, pastries, the famous CCL chocolate covered strawberries, cakes, and pies can be had. It's done in the style of a stand on a French sidewalk, with a small curved oak wall with bronze trim encasing the cases of food and coffee options.
SUSHI JAPONAISE -
This is a permanent and full-service sushi bar, unlike what we've seen Carnival try before. It's decorated in Japanese style, with Asian prints, fans, masks, and samurai artifacts behind the bar. Sushi is available during certain hours during the day, and almost all night every night. There's a much wider selection than I've seen before on ships, and they make the rolls large and fresh. It was nice during the cocktail parties (held throughout promenade deck) to be able to work fresh sushi in with your other cocktails and delicacies. They were always very prompt, kept the wait to a minimum, and were very friendly.
CEZANNE RESTAURANT (and ALL the choices for SERIOUS EATING) --
The Lido restaurant onboard the Conquest had some distinct changes from the Destiny class. For starters, it's longer -- instead of just the two large grand buffet lines like on that class, there are two MORE lines towards the back of the room. During lunch and dinner/late night buffets, the regular lines serve as the traditional grand buffet, while the aft lines serve as a "theme" buffet, such as French or Italian. The choices are just beginning - there's a salad station, a fruits and veggies only vegetarian station, stations with made to order dishes (omelettes in the morning, pastas, etc. in the evening), a full breads and desserts bar-- then we get serious. There's P.C.'s Wok, a walk-up window on the port side wall of Cezanne serving fresh stir fry, egg rolls, sesame chicken, thai soups, etc.-- all sorts of fresh Asian dishes, all very good and made when you order. On the opposite side, there's Paul's, the Conquest's Deli, serving fresh hot ruebens, pastrami sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, and all sorts of other deli staples, all of which resulted in just about my favorite spot onboard! Here's where it changes up a bit more from previous CCL ships -- instead of just an upstairs area with more seating for the Cezanne, you'll walk up those central stairs behind the dessert station and find Sur Mer, a long buffet-style eatery serving seafood of all kinds -- lobster salad, lobster rolls, fish & chips (all of which were great), and all sorts of other stuff. This is a first, and it's kind of out of the way, so make sure you take the time to find it!
Also up near Sur Mer is The Point, the Conquest's reservations only supper club. I wasn't able to try it on this short cruise, but I've heard from serious cruisers who have done everything there is to do that it's as good as any meal you'll ever have at sea or on land, and is well worth the extra charge. Nothing but HUGE raves about The Point.
If that's not enough, outside of Cezanne on the midships pool side, there are two more scaled down buffet lines offering standard lunch fare poolside. by the aft pool, there's the Sky Grille, with the famous minute steaks, steak sandwiches, burgers, fries, and dogs, all better than standard shipboard stuff. Across from the Sky, there's the Pizzeria, open 24 hours with the usual selection of Carnival pizzas. Unlike on the Victory, all the choices of designer pizzas were always available, regardless of time. There are more dining options on the Conquest than any ship I've seen.
MONET AND RENOIR RESTAURANTS --
Both rooms were very well done, and are almost identical. Full-size portraits in ornate frames line the walls of each room, and pink/blue/green lighting and effects are sprinkled throughout the room, creating a very pleasant atmosphere. In the Monet, the frosted glass partitions between booths and the railings of the second level are held in place by bronze replicas of the Eiffel Tower. Food and service here were both wonderful, with revised menus than what the other ships have been offering, including some of the usual favorites, but also some entirely new dishes, like a lobster-potato soup that was out of this world.
TOULOUSE-LAUTREC LOUNGE --
The main showlounge, T-L is three stories tall and has all the technical bells and whistles. Flanked on either side by large working windmills and tributes to the Moulin Rouge, the room is mostly done in reds with a large domed mulit-colored glass ceiling. Each table (and there are hundreds) has a small impressionist painting on the top, and there are dancing girls (can-can style) painted all over the walls. These same girls, in sculpture form, hold up railings on staircases ship-wide, like the seahorses on the Victory. Entertainment takes advantage of all the technical advances, with effects, massive set changes, etc.. The second show, "Point and Click", garnered a standing ovation from even skeptical travel agents, and was one of the best shows I've seen at sea.
DEGAS LOUNGE/ALFRED's BAR --
The aft lounge, home to the past guests party, midnight comedians, etc. It's very subdued, done in darker colors with paintings on the hardwood walls. Very dimly lit and simply done, with ample seating and a long full bar at the back.
Alfred's is located a bit out of the way, below the disco like on the Destiny class. They have, however, done a better job of sound insulation. Alfred's is a gorgeous room, with a large dance floor, beautiful painting on the wall behind the bar, glass cases along the walls, and all sorts of gorgeous, subdued artwork. This room serves as the cigar bar, and has a long menu of Cigars available for purchase, as well as fine brandies and cognacs.
The oceanview cabins are VERY spacious, feature some nice decor touches, and are noticeably larger than the inside cabins, unlike previous CCL ships. One nice feature is small little mailbox-type containers outside each room, which are surprisingly attractive and serve their purpose well. This ship was REMARKABLY smooth, and there were times we couldn't even tell we were moving. Even in the aft