3.5 stars rounded up
The entertainment in the main theater exceeded our expectations and the performance "Flick" was the best we have ever seen on a cruise. Lots of special effects made it a top-rate performance.
Dining staff, room steward, and cruise director were all first-rate and made us feel like they were genuinely happy to serve us.
I can't really complain that the ship is outdated and showing signs of wear (eg. upholstery in the theater is worn, torn) because I knew that before I booked it. Carnival acknowledges it too because Conquest is scheduled to be dry-docked in 2017 for renovations.
My biggest problem was the smoke. The centrally located casino (one of several designated smoking areas) on deck 5 has no ventilation so the smoke permeates the entire 5th deck. We were also forced to walk through the smoke to get to most things (shows, coffee bar, Club O2, piano bar, karaoke, arcade room, etc.). It's a huge turn-off for non-smokers and it was excessive.
Food in the main dining area was good, but not great like I remembered from past cruises. I believe the quality has gone down a bit since they started introducing the specialty dining options that require you to pay extra (eg. steakhouse). If the food was as good as it used to be, no one would visit the restaurants that are an uncharge. That said, the Sea Day brunches were excellent! Guy Fieri's burgers were a big hit as well. Very tasty.
Take a sweater! Indoor areas were chilly, especially in the dining room, spa, and library.
We did one of the very best excursions we've ever experienced on a cruise in Amber Cove, DR. The terracross adventure was first-rate with nice, new equipment and off-roading adventure. An unexpected bonus was the lunch and rum/beer/sodas included at the end that we didn't realize were included when we booked it.
Overall a very good vacation with our teenagers. Highly recommend Carnival for families as they have good programs for kids. They call themselves the "fun ships" for a reason. If you like drinking and partying, you will love Carnival.
Since our kids are about to head off to college, my husband and I will consider a different cruise line next time for a slightly calmer atmosphere.