Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Carnival Conquest Review Part 1

I hope everyone has had a chance to watch the short video in the previous post so that you will understand the perspective from which I am writing this review from.  This part of the review will cover our most recent 7 night cruise aboard the Carnival Conquest and will discuss our pre-cruise hotel, the port of embarkation, and our stateroom. 

Pre-cruise Hotel:

We drove to the pier from our home in Missouri and spent the night in Galveston at the Four Points by Sheraton on Seawall Boulevard overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  This hotel is brand new.  The rooms were comfortable and very clean.  The hotel is conveniently located within about 5-10 minutes of the pier.  I have read some reviews where someone was complaining of the price of sodas and snacks at the hotel.  For Pete’s is a hotel!  Since when is anything like that ever cheap at a hotel?  The hotel itself is close to fast food venues if someone is looking for cheaper food options so  I say that the cost issue is not really an issue at all.

The only thing that I hope they consider is some form of pre-cruise package including transfers to the pier.  It was not an issue for us since we drove down, but for others, they will have to call a cab to get from the hotel to the pier.

Port of Embarkation:

This cruise left out of the Port of Galveston.  We arrived at the pier at approximately 11:40am and dropped off our bags with one of the porters and then proceeded to park the car in the open air parking lot (lot B) which is about a quarter mile from the pier itself.  A shuttle bus runs every few minutes between the pier and the parking areas and we were back at the pier within 10 minutes or so.  The lines to get through security were getting quite long.  They only had 2 security areas open for general boarding which was creating quite a bottle neck.  Luckily we were considered VIP guests since we were staying in one of Carnival’s suite categories and we were escorted to a much shorter security line.  Once through security, we were then led to a nice quiet room where a Carnival employee was waiting to officially check us in.  This  again was due to the fact that we had VIP priority check in status.  Checking in was a breeze and we were quickly led up the gangway to the ship.  It took less than an hour from the time we dropped off the luggage, parked the car, checked in and were finally walking onboard the ship.  You could choose to park closer in one of the valet parking lots, but be prepared to pay for that convenience and service.  I can’t say enough about the benefit of having the VIP status.  I estimate that it saved us at least 30 minutes or more by not having to stand and wait in the security line for general boarding.  I am not sure why the only had 2 security scanners open with the amount of people trying to get through.  Out of 6 cruises, that was the longest security line I had seen to date.

The Port of Galveston, in general, is an easy port to get to and is close to several hotel and eating venues.  The only other issue or warning I will make about the port is concerning flying into Houston versus driving to the pier.  Both of Houston’s major airports are at least 45 minutes from the pier (assuming no traffic issues) and transfers can be quite costly so just be aware and plan/budget accordingly.  Driving to the pier was a breeze.  I give the port a “B” grade. 

Our Stateroom:
As I mentioned, we were staying in one of the suite categories.  We were in an OS category on deck 7 (Empress) and our stateroom number was 7273.  We were a little more forward than what we had been on previous cruises, but conveniently located to main lobby stairs and elevator.  The stateroom was GREAT!  It had a nice little entry way with hardwood flooring and a cozy seating area with a couch, small table and chair.   It had granite counter tops and crown molding throughout.  There was an abundance of storage and I mean an abundance.  Lots of room to hang clothes and tons of drawers to  keep everything else out of sight and neatly organized.  The bathroom had 2 sinks and an actual whirlpool bathtub/shower combo and a separate vanity area.  The balcony was large and came with 3 reclining chairs and a small table.

Tip:  when choosing a stateroom, make sure you know what is below or above you.  Deck 7 is sandwiched in between 2 other decks filled with nothing but staterooms which makes it a very quiet deck.  We never heard any of our neighbors next to us nor above or below us.  The only time we heard anyone was if they were out on their balcony where noise seemed to travel much further. 

We spent a lot more of our time in our stateroom than we did on any of our prior cruises.  It was a nice retreat away from some of the noise and people onboard (I will get to that in another post).  One of our sea days was very windy up on deck and we found out that our balcony was big enough for 2 adults to recline our chairs and enjoy the sunshine out of the wind.  If you ever have a chance to upgrade to a OS or GS suite category, do it.  Don’t listen to those who try to say that there is not much difference between a regular balcony stateroom and one of the suites.  That is simply not true. I give our stateroom an A+ grade.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I will be discussing the ship itself and the various food venues.

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