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Carnival ConquestCarnival Conquest Cruise Review
West Caribbean Itinerary
August 24-31, 2014

By Mary & Vincent Finelli

We have wanted to cruise on the Carnival Conquest for several years, since our old friend Captain Francesco La Fauci commanded her; however, her home-ports prior to this season had been either Galveston or New Orleans, not very convenient to us, living in South Florida. Now that the Conquest is sailing from Miami we booked this cruise hoping to sail with Capt. La Fauci, but we were disappointed when we learned that our friend had been transferred to the Carnival Legend. Instead, through a happy circumstance, we found on this ship another friendly acquaintance of ours, Captain Claudio Cupisti, whom we had met first on the Carnival Pride and then again on the Legend.

EMBARKATION
Since the departure was on Sunday, the trip from our house in Boca Raton to the port of Miami took only 45 minutes, arriving at 11:45 am. After leaving our luggage curbside, we proceeded on our motorized wheel chairs with a walker/rollator to the entrance for disabled passengers. After 15 minutes waiting for assistance, we were taken to the Captain’s Lounge where our check-in was done and then waited for another 30 minutes for assistance. It seems that those crew members assigned to aid the wheelchair passengers were not yet available or completely forgot about us! The actual boarding process was quick, but again we encountered an unnecessarily steep gangway, thus we had to fold away the wheelchair pedals in order to prevent getting stuck and/or breaking the pedals. Some liners have improved embarkation for wheel chairs by utilizing less steep gangways. We hope that Carnival will try soon to solve this problem. We were aboard and in our cabin by 1:15 pm.

This cruise for us was very pleasant; the itinerary was a familiar one and the Captain and crew warmly welcomed us aboard as VIFP. For us “Frequent Floaters” it is nice to enjoy the special attention and benefits offered by Carnival Cruise Lines. Thanks for a great cruise!

SHIP
Carnival Conquest is the first of its class built by Fincantieri Shipyard, Italy, Hull # 8057, with her inaugural cruise on October 15, 2002. Her cost was $500 million and she is registered in Panama. Her gross tonnage is 110,239 gt., her length is 952 ft. and beam of 115 ft., with her draft of only 27 ft. She sits high on the water, to say the least! Full capacity is 3756 passengers; officers and crew 1180, with a large percentage of navigational officers being Italian and the other cruise staff being international. There are 52 suites, 521 balcony cabins, 334 ocean view cabins and 577 inside cabins.

This is another ship designed by architect Joe Farcus, richly decorated, often with repetitive motifs. As far as we know, Joe Farcus has been the interior decorator of all the Carnival ships up until Carnival Magic in 2011. In 2012 Carnival Breeze was the first ship of this cruise line not decorated by Mr. Farcus.

The overall theme of French Impressionism is a stunning one carried throughout the entire ship. There is a plethora of artists and art works from this French period which Joe Farcus in his inimitable way has utilized all over the ship: From the panoramic elevators, located in the forward Atrium, can be admired 4-deck tall murals a collage derived from works by Gauquin, Renoir, Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, etc., etc. When Farcus selects a piece of art he employs it over and over, i.e. the blown glass flowers (Petunias?) utilized as light fixtures are all the way down Impressionist Boulevard. There are numerous copies of the little dancing girl, in the style of the Degas’ Petite Danseuse, standing guard at the staircases in pairs. Those small girls with their noses in the air and their feet in dancing position evoke French Impressionism; however, the repetition does not increase the interest of the public nor the appreciation of the art.

Deck 0. On this deck is located the Medical Center, the boarding of the Tenders and the Captain and officers’ private Dining Rooms. We have been there as guests of Capt. Cupisti, where we were treated to an enjoyable dinner of delicious food, fine company and excellent conversation.

Riviera Deck 1 and Main Deck 2. On these decks there are all just ocean view and inside cabins.

Lobby Deck 3. On this deck forward there is the spacious Toulouse Lautrec Main Lounge, which is in effect the Theater. Toward midship there are the Guest Services and Shore Excursion desks, and the Artists’ Lobby Bar. Then there is the lower level of the Renoir Restaurant. All the way aft is the Monet Restaurant, which cannot be accessed from this deck since a Galley is positioned between the two restaurants. In order to easily access the Monet Restaurant, one has go to Deck 5, walk toward the rear of the ship, take the aft elevators to Deck 3 to the restaurant.

Atlantic Deck 4. On this deck forward is the second level of Toulouse Lautrec Lounge, then there is the Studio Atrium with the Photo Gallery and the Painters’ Library. Midship is the Upper level of the Renoir Restaurant, toward aft there are the Internet Cafe’ and Alfred’s Bar. All the way aft is the upper level of the Monet Restaurant.

Promenade Deck 5. Forward is the third level of Toulouse Lautrec Lounge, where two small areas are reserved for wheelchair passengers. This theater has awkwardly placed poles which makes choosing seats comical! Just watch passengers taking a seat and then looking at the stage, realizing the poor choice, they start a new search: It is like watching the game of musical chairs which relieves the monotony of waiting for the show to start. Then there is the Studio Atrium with all the Fun Shops and the EA Sports Bar where we spent some time attempting to see on TV the first week of the US Tennis Open; however, the priority here was American Football and not Tennis. Midship there is the Tahiti Casino with its Impression Bar. Along on the starboard side there is Impressionist Boulevard, a nice promenade all the way to Club O2 and the Video Arcade, to Henri’s Dance Club, Alchemy Bar, Sunflower Atrium with Vincent’s Bar and Blues Piano Bar. All the way aft there is the beautiful Degas Aft Lounge.

Upper Deck 6. On this deck there are mostly balcony cabins and inside cabins and some ocean obstructed view.

Empress Deck 7. On this deck there are Grand Suites, Ocean Suites and Premium balcony cabins along with other balcony and inside cabins.

Verandah Deck 8. Forward is the Bridge and the rest of this deck has balcony and inside cabins.

Lido Deck 9. On this deck forward there are two Captain’s Suites, two Junior Suites and the rest are balcony and inside cabins. Midship there are two whirlpools and the Sun Pool with amphitheater like seats and reclining chairs facing a giant screen to watch movies,TV and other shows. Toward aft, starboard side is Guy’s Burger Joint, where passengers can get the best burgers at sea (Guy Fieri’s recipes), and port side there is the Blue Iguana Cantina, where they serve huge tacos made to order. Further aft there is the Grand Buffet, Restaurant Cezanne with many stations serving a large variety of food and drinks and two soft ice cream stations, one on port side and another on starboard, with continuous serving for 24 hrs. Nice for kids and a temptation for Vincent (diabetic). All the way aft there are the Sky Bar and the Pizza Pirate where they serve some very good pizza (try Vincent’s favorite pizza with prosciutto and arugula). There are also two whirlpools, the Sky Pool and open space for sunning and resting.

Panorama deck 10. Forward there are balcony and inside cabins. Toward midship there are the Star Pool and a whirlpool and the arrival of the water slide, along with seats and reclining chairs facing the large screen of the Seaside Theater. Midship is the up scale restaurant The Point Steakhouse. All the way aft there is Fish & Chips.

Spa Deck 11. This deck is separated in the forward section and the rear section. Forward there is the Carnival Spa with Salon, Sauna and Massage Rooms along with the Fitness Center. There are also balcony cabins. The aft section has the Sporting deck and the Jogging Track.

Sun Deck 12. This deck is also separated in the forward and the aft sections: Forward is Camp Carnival (for children and teens); Aft has the Mini Golf.

Sky deck 14. This deck has the water slide entrance.

This ship is like a lovely lady who has aged gracefully. She is pristine and not showing her 12 years of continuous service with many thousands of passengers.

CABIN
Our wheelchair accessible Ocean Suite #7228 is a very spacious suite with an L-shaped living area. When entering there is a short foyer where the wheel chairs can be parked easily. On the right there is a small ante room with a large lady’s vanity, a mirror and a bureau with 4 drawers and a hair dryer. Across there is a wall of lighted closets with sliding doors. Straight through there is a large bathroom with a Jacuzzi bathtub and shower, a bidet, and a granite counter with two sinks and 4 shelves for toiletries; an elegant bathroom!

Back in the foyer, on the left there is a huge buffet/credenza with mirror and granite counter top, two cabinets one for storage and the second contains the mini refrigerator. After there is a tan leather couch, which opens to bed for a third passenger; however, we could not use it, since it was too low for us with limited mobility. On the right there is another credenza with mirror, two cabinets for storage, then there are the TV, the safe and a bureau with 4 deep drawers. Finally there is a king-size bed (extra firm) with two night stands with Murano glass night lights (two others are in the central area). The whole wall behind the bed is covered with a large mirror, making the huge room look even bigger.

The outside wall has a series of draped windows and a door to the extra long balcony with 4 chairs (2 reclining) and two small tables for snacks or drinks. Our terrific steward Roque Fernandes also brought a reclining lounge from the pool area for Vincent. Thanks to Housekeeping Manager Jimroy Vaz for allowing Roque to do this and other efforts (such as replacing chairs with more comfortable ones, etc.) to make our cruise a memorable one. Vincent usually spends long hours on the balcony, relaxing/sleeping on the lounge, lulled by the sound of waves and the motion of the ship. The night between the 4th and 5th day he noticed that the ship was no longer sailing southward, but had turned north. He was puzzled and went back inside to check the navigation course on the TV channel. He was correct, the ship was going north. After 3 or 4 hours the ship stopped and several minutes later turned around and, at full speed, headed south toward Mahogany Bay. The morning after we learned that there was a medical emergency and it was necessary to bring the patient back to Belize, since in the next port there were not adequate medical facilities. Nice to know that the Captain of the ship cares so much for each and every passenger. Thank you, Captain!

The suite is beautifully decorated: the carpeting is a patterned red and beige with matching chairs and bedding covers. There are two impressionistic paintings. The furniture, the wooden columns and the elaborated cornices on the ceiling are in walnut wood. Nice touch of classic elegance!

FOOD & SERVICE
Service always filters down from the top and Capt. Cupisti is the consummate host: Elegant, friendly, alert and caring, all qualities that makes him a great “officer and a gentleman”. His staff is taking his lead and carrying it well. Hotel Director Jan Rusin makes sure that the passengers are all well attended and the service to be as good as it can be. Our suite was visited several times by Housekeeping Manager Jimroy Vaz who made sure we had all we needed for a happy cruise: A comfortable chair and foot rest, a reclining lounge for our balcony, etc. The ship’s officers were courteous and friendly, including the ones we met at the Captain’s table: Staff Capt. Salvatore Mangraviti, Chief Engineer Alessandro Mattera and Mary’s new dinner companion Staff Chief Engineer Vincenzo Criscuolo with whom she practiced her Italian while he worked on his English.

However, it is in the main dining room, in our case the upper level of the Renoir, where service reached the peak: Maitre D’ Dimitru greeted us every night by name and saw that everything went well. Although there are two dining options, one for dining “anytime” and the traditional other at fixed time and table every night, we preferred the traditional one. Our dinner was 6:00 pm at table #643 and our waiters were Deddy Riyatno and Dedy Wirawan, both of them were pleasant and efficient, they always anticipated our needs, the service was prompt and impeccable and we enjoyed every dinner.

The menu instituted about 2 years ago is still in place: The left side of this menu lists the always available dishes including some of the most popular ones, i.e. shrimp cocktail, Caesar Salad, steak, Salmon, etc. The right side lists the evening specials such as appetizers, soups, salads, with “Didja ever” courses of exotic items (alligator tail, frogs legs, escargot etc.) and a variety of main dishes (many types of pasta, meat, fish and vegetarian dishes). Mary’s best dish was the sweet and sour shrimp (panko crusted and light as feathers!), Vincent stands by the beef from the rare roast at the buffet, where we frequently found the lovely waitress Dewi (Dui?), assisting us. Thank you, Dewi for always being prompt to help us!

The food has definitely improved on Carnival ships, the desserts are down to a science: Chocolate melting cake (always available), N.Y. cheesecake, cream brulee, souffle, fruit sorbets, etc., all very delicious. The breads have also improved in flavor; however, they need to be cooked longer for crispiness. The dinner we enjoyed most was the one in the Captain’s private dining room, where we dined with Capt. Cupisti and his Officers. We had delicious food and pleasant conversations. We also thank Capt. Cupisti for inviting us the last day of cruising for tea on the Bridge, where we met courteous young officers Fabio and Michele.

ENTERTAINMENT
Cruise Director Mike Pack oversees the production shows which we found to be energetic and LOUD, but also entertaining. We preferred the “Welcome Aboard Show” which contained in the repertoire some beautiful Latin melodies. Around the ship we enjoyed guitarist Steven GB and the Indi Duo. This Duo sang some American favorite songs; however, their accent handed to the audience the best part of the performance: Figuring out just which particular song they were singing. Though they sounded nice!

PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Miami, Florida Depart 4:00pm
Day 2. Sea Day
Day 3. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm
Day 4. Belize Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm
Day 5. Mahogany Bay Arrive 8:00am Depart 6:00pm
Day 6. Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 4:00pm
Day 7. Sea Day
Day 8. Miami, Florida Arrive 8:00am

DEBARKATION
In a letter that we received in the cabin, the exact debarkation procedure was outlined in two options: The first option, “Self-Assist” begins at 7:30am with carry off your own luggage; the second option, “Relaxed Debarkation” indicated the meeting zones according to the numbers given to the passengers for the luggage tags. After breakfast in the restaurants or in the cabin, since room service was also available on debarkation day, the passengers would meet at the assigned zone (lounges), waiting in comfort until their number was called. Excellent procedure!

We went at 8:30am to the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge, where the passengers needing wheelchair assistance met. Since our number (#1 blue) was called first, we were assisted through luggage pick-up and then accompanied by a porter through customs and out of the terminal in less than 15 minutes. Shortly after, our son Enzo picked us up with our wheelchair accessible van and we were home by 10:00am.

CONCLUSION
This was our 12th cruise on Carnival Ships, thus we are Platinum members of the VIFP Club. Benefits include priority check-in, boarding and debarkation and, among others, a dedicated on board Guest Service phone number. We used this number to get some assistance in moving the walker/rollator from our suite to the Toulouse Lautrec Lounge (the meeting place for wheelchair assistance). We telephoned this number several times, the evening before debarkation and in the morning; we were promised some help, but it never came. After a long wait, we managed to slowly push the walker through the corridor to the elevators where we found a passenger who helped us. Too bad, the promise did not materialize! However, this was the only negative aspect of this cruise, everything else was great. We’ll cruise on Carnival ships again, we are looking forward to the Vista, but before this new ship will be launched in the year 2016, we expect to cruise again with our friends Capt. Cupisti and Capt. La Fauci. However, in the near future we have booked Norwegian Getaway, Caribbean Princess, and Independence of the Seas.

We have had many great cruises, some good ones, but never a bad one or a perfect one, thus we’ll keep cruising until we find the best cruise ever. Happy Cruising!

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines


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