Carnival Conquest 2/24/13 Western Caribbean Review and Pictures

After a 2+-year hiatus, I’m returning to my blog to document our recent cruise to the Caribbean. Last night was a trip down memory lane as I read every post of this blog from beginning to end. It’s neat to see all the cool things I’d mostly forgotten. It’s also sad to realize all the major events that were barely documented if at all: our 1st cruise (2 years before I started this blog), our trips to London, Lanzarote, Melilla and our Alaska cruise are some of the things barely mentioned here. We used to keep a separate website for our family travels, but after the boys we found out no one wanted to look at us. That site has become a woefully out-of-date photo gallery of our boys. The old photos are still with us in storage, along with the original descriptions we wrote back then. I’m going to have to unzip that file one day and read through it all. In any event, I’m mostly posting the same things here as my Cruise Critic review. I wanted it here too so that I can read it over the years. The CC thread is here.

I’m starting this tonight to make myself finally review last week’s cruise before I forget everything. While you’re waiting for me to post more, check out my video and pictures of the Captain’s Suite in this post I sort-of hijacked: I won’t duplicate those pictures here but might write more about the cabin, who knows?

For starters, an introduction:

My wife and I first cruised the week of 9/11 on the RCCL Voyager of the Seas in the Caribbean. Our second cruise was on the Orient Crown Odyssey in the Mediterranean. By 2006 we had one son but family babysitting was nearby so we left him for our last hurrah and did a HAL Statendam Alaska cruisetour. Son #2 had his humble beginnings on that ship, if you get my drift.

As you can see, we haven’t cruised a ton, but we’ve experienced a good range of cruise lines and destinations in our few experiences. In 2012 I retired from the Air Force after 24 years and really wanted to celebrate with a cruise, but as I didn’t have a follow-on job at the time it seemed foolish. I managed to land a good job and became eligible for vacation in Jan 2013. Feb 23 happened to be my wife’s 40th birthday, which made it seem like a good time to celebrate her, my retirement and my new job all at once.

Our boys are now 8 and 5. Our 5 yo has Down Syndrome and operates at about a 2.5-3 yo level while still wearing diapers. Both boys are good flyers, having returned from Turkey as well as other flights with no troubles . However, flying 4 people anywhere costs almost as much as a cruise.

All these facts led me to start the following search: a cruise within driving distance of Arkansas, with a Caribbean tour near Feb 23, with a respected children’s program, that would change our DS/DS’s diapers. Up until recently our in-laws lived in Louisiana, which led me to start my search there.

It didn’t take long to discover our only option was Carnival thanks to DS5. As I read the policies, RCCL requires all kids to be toilet trained, while NCL specifies they do not change diapers at any age. Carnival advertised they happily change diapers, although they reserved the right to refuse if the child is too large. We didn’t plan to park our boys in Camp Carnival the entire cruise, but we knew going in we wanted the full-day Tulum excursion. NCL and Carnival both had cruises out of New Orleans that weekend, but due to diapers Carnival was the only real option for us.

I originally booked an OS, 7248, in order to give us at least a bit of room when all 4 were in the cabin. After booking, I started researching more luxurious options for a potential future anniversary cruise and determined the Captain’s Suite to be Carnival’s most exclusive room. Coincidentally, shortly after deciding I’d like a CS “someday,” the upsell fairy called and I decided to splurge on 9202.

That, friends, is what passes for a “brief” intro from me. I’m eventually copying these posts to my blog where all the pics are hosted: I started that blog to document our 2003 cruise experience and it morphed into an on-again, off-again place for me to post random musings. It has been way more off than on. Anyway, I’m signing off for now. The real review should start tomorrow.