I used to work as the Cruise Reporter for a UK travel magazine so I like to think that I’ve been on my fair share of ships and my knowledge of most cruise lines is usually adequate enough to help recommend those wanting to embark on their first holiday at sea.
However, when my fiancé and I booked to go onboard the Carnival Conquest, sailing across the Western Caribbean and stopping at 5 ports of call, I went onboard with no expectations or previous experience, as Carnival was one of the few ships I had never experienced.
We were sailing on one of Carnival’s slightly older ships, the Conquest, and although we definitely noticed this when we first boarded, this did not in any way make our experience any less enjoyable and exciting than if we were on one of the newer ships.
Read on to find out why our latest trip around the Western Caribbean with Carnival Cruises is now one of my all-time favourite holidays.
Itinerary & Excursions
In 2019-20, the Carnival Conquest departs from Miami for sailings in the Bahamas and the Caribbean. We were on the Western Caribbean Cruise, calling at the Grand Cayman, Mahogany Bay, Belize, and Cozumel.
Cruise lengths range from 2-5 days or 6-9 days and we were on board the Conquest for 6 nights – which definitely was not enough time for me!
When it came to excursions, we were spoilt for choice at each port of call. We love to explore every new destination we visit and being the adventurous type, the Conquest’s Western Caribbean itinerary was ideal for us.
We kicked the cruise off with a Fun Day At Sea, perfect to allow all passengers to get aquatinted with the ship, make some new friends and figure out our home for the next 6 days.
Our first port of call was Grand Cayman, with plenty of exciting excursions to choose from; home to the majestic Stingrays and other sea animals, most travellers book in early for a swim at Stingray City, perhaps pairing it with a dolphin or turtle swim, in the turquoise Cayman waters.
Next up was Honduras where we docked at Carnival’s very own private island, Mahogany Bay, Roatan. There’s plenty to keep everyone entertained on the island itself, such as the “magical flying beach chair”, clear bottom kayaking, snorkelling, swimming with dolphins and shopping. There are also perks for those that enjoy the VIP lifestyle with the option to rent your own beach cabana.
As we docked at Mahogany Bay for the longest amount of time, we opted to spend a few hours exploring the island, before departing on the BOSS Underwater Adventure excursion, where we were submerged into the crystal clear water in an underwater breathable scooter.
Our final two stops were Belize and Cozumel. In Belize, we had trouble deciding whether to opt for a Mayan Ruin excursion or snorkelling in the Belize Barrier Reef. We chose the water-based option, as we didn’t know when we would next be able to snorkel in water so beautiful.
Finishing off a week of exhilarating excursions, we topped it all off with a muddy ATV 4X4 jungle ride through the Cozumel jungle.
Staff & Service
From day 1 of our cruise, right up until our last goodbyes were said, we were made to feel like one big Carnival family.
Staff are extremely well trained, professional, warm and always on hand to help without being pushy. Our stateroom assistant greeted us by first names every day and made every element of our trip feel personal and special.
When it came to activities, these were all led by the Conquest’s exceptional Cruise Director Mat Seguin who is filled with energy, engaging and much-loved by all guests. He could be the biggest reason for the Conquest’s extra sparkle and charm.
When it came to dining, as with most cruises, we were seated at the same table every evening and seen to by the wonderful Aldin and Ksenia, our waiters, who were two of the most friendly and thoughtful staff members we came across.
Every inch of the ship is made complete by its outstanding staff members. We were lucky enough to spend an evening meeting all of the Conquest’s directors, senior team members and, of course, the exceptional Captain Renato Bendinelli, who later invited us for a private tour of the bridge – an experience we won’t be forgetting quickly.
Each team member we met was filled with knowledge and passion for their department and Carnival as a whole.
Amenities & Activities
The Conquest is made for those that want to create memories, laugh and have an absolute blast, it’s not for those that want a quiet area by the poolside to read – although there is the adults-only Sky Pool for this.
Every morning all passengers will receive a pamphlet through their door with details of the ship’s entertainment and activities for the day, allowing you to plan ahead. When the sun is out, most of the fun to be had is outside on the Lido Deck and the main swimming pool area. Here you’ll find contests of all sorts, dancing, singing and even an ice sculpting demo.
Indoors, there are plenty of seminars, cooking demonstrations, dance classes, trivia sessions, and bingo. There’s also mini-golf, a basketball court, table tennis, giant chess and a video arcade, which is open 24 hours.
By night, passengers can enjoy laugh out loud comedy at the Degas Lounge, which becomes the Punchliner Comedy Club, with a child-friendly and then an adults-only show. We became regulars here every night and were entertained by some of the funniest comedians we’ve ever come across.
One of the main sources of entertainment, of course, has to be the 1,400-seat Toulouse-Lautrec theatre. Decked out in red velvet seating, the theatre hosts a variety of incredible evening shows, performed by the talented cast of Playlist Productions, featuring song-and-dance routines, elaborate costumes, and incredible digital special effects. There’s also the popular family-orientated “Hasbro, the Game Show”, hosted by Cruise Director, Mat and perfect for those that love to get involved.
Elsewhere, there is the Tahiti Casino open every night and featuring a multitude of slot machines and electronic poker, along with blackjack, craps, roulette, Texas Hold’em and Let it Ride Poker.
Live music is also available every night in several areas of the ship and for those that want to boogey, there’s Henri’s Nightclub. At night, the main pool area also transforms into the ship’s outdoor cinema, with a new “dive-in” movie shown each evening on the big screen.
The Carnival Conquest first launched in 2002, with its latest refurb being in 2017. The ship can carry up to 2,980 passengers as well as 1,150 crew members.
The Conquest is all about having a good old time – it’s definitely the most fun I’ve ever had on a cruise ship – from Seuss at Sea to The Punchliner Comedy Club and fun dining features such as singing waiters in the main dining room every evening, there’s something for all members of the family to enjoy.
When we first boarded the ship, we quickly noticed the stunning 19th-century classic art theme that could be found in all areas onboard – a nod towards the works of great Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters, from illuminated Murano-glass flower sculptures adorning the ceilings to hand-painted replicas of Degas’ ballet studios and the primary colours and works of Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.
Rooms & Suites
We were very kindly upgraded to a balcony stateroom by the Conquest’s magnificent Hotel Director, Niksa Pelic, who we were lucky enough to spend some time with during our 6-night sail – a true credit to Carnival and the best of the best in his field.
Balcony staterooms are all designed for those that want to make the most of the views and feel one with the sea. We were able to make the very most out of our private balcony, especially at breakfast and sunset. The perfect way to wake up all of your senses and wind down before dinner and an evening of fun and excitement.
I have had the pleasure of staying at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world and I am not sure if any of them can top the Carnival Conquest when it comes to sleeping arrangements. Complete with high-thread-count linens, plush pillows, and large fluffy duvets. Each sleep was soft, sumptuous and left me understanding what those mean when they say a cruise ship is like a floating hotel room – in this case, a 5-star hotel room.
As on all Carnival ships, cabins are roomy and we never once felt tight for space or claustrophobic, as we have done on other cruise ships. Storage isn’t a problem either as Carnival have thought of space for all of your belongings.
A plus for families is a number of connecting staterooms in a variety of ocean-view and interior categories. Interior decor is made up of light-wood cabinetry, pastel colours, and mirrored accents. All rooms also have a small refrigerator, a personal safe, hairdryer, and bathrobes.
When it comes to complimentary dining options, Carnival does not disappoint. The Cezanne Restaurant on deck 9 was our go-to for breakfast and lunch on most days.
This is the ship’s buffet and located on the Lido Deck, offering a large salad bar and a huge variety of pasta, meat and fish options. At breakfast time, you’ll find the usual bacon, eggs, pancakes, and fruit.
As mentioned above, we were seated at the same table every evening for dinner, which was on the ground floor of the Renoir, the main formal dining room, with the Monet being the second formal dining option. The two-deck restaurants, named after famous impressionist painters, are the Conquest’s main dining rooms and passengers can choose from an early (6pm), late (8pm) or flexible (Your Time Dining) time slot.
Dinner menus are the same in both of the restaurants and change every day, with well-loved options to satisfy everyone. The main courses include grilled flat iron steak, Atlantic salmon, lobster tail and roasted prime rib. There are also plenty of vegetarian options. We never once found ourselves “bored” with the menu and every dish was cooked to perfection and of high quality.
Other complimentary dining options include the Carnival Deli, serving up deli-style wraps and sandwiches, Pizza Pirate, open 24 hours and the only place on the Conquest to grab a slice or a whole pizza. There’s also Guy’s Burger Joint, a burger-lover’s heaven, located on the Lido deck – here you can build your own or choose from five pre-built burger options. Lastly, there’s the BlueIguana Cantina, which we favoured for its jam-packed breakfast burritos, but others also love it for its tacos and burritos.
If you’re looking to splash the cash then I highly recommend an evening of luxury at the ship’s fine-dining spot, The Point Steakhouse. This is the perfect place for a special occasion or date night. The interior is luxurious and the dress code is elegant.
The service goes above and beyond and the food is sublime. The food and wine menu are both vast and feature a variety of steak and seafood options. If you have room, then I also highly recommend the “Art At The Table” dessert.