Joined: 02/04/2016
Helpful Votes

About jbuch002


jbuch002's Past Cruises

Carnival Conquest

May 2017 - 4 Night Bahamas (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Conquest

At Least Carnival is Consistent.........

Not a fan of staggered embarkation. No one arrives at their assigned times. Everyone comes early filling the staging hall to maximum with many finding no seats. Our local transportation (our son who lives in Fort Lauderdale) had to be at work at 11:30 so, we got dropped off at 10:30. We had a 12:30 assigned slot so, obviously we expected to wait. The hall was filled within an hour. Boarding was delayed (I have no problem with that) until around 1p and went smoothly by groups/zones. People seemed respectful of their zones and that of others giving way when needed. I think Carnival is the only line that does this. My point is why bother. Did not use Faster to the Fun. The advantages are few  (can sit in a separate area -nothing special. Board in about the 3rd group - no big advantage for smaller ships as groups move quickly once boarding is underway. Is advantageous for Vista). 


Conquest is a very nice ship to the eyes, mine anyway. I like a shippy look. Lots of real woods, teak decks, darker nautical colors. Conquest is like that. The theme of French 18th century artists is carried nicely throughout the entire ship. I also like this size of the Conquest Class ships - not too big (Vista) or too small (Fantasy Class) ...... and the features: Funship 2.0.


All 5 ships in this class can have a confusing layout for newcomers. You can't walk all the way through on decks 3 and 4 making finding your assigned restaurant hard. Once you figure out how to do that, it's easy. Do some planning before you set out for dinner to avoid fumbling around getting there. 


One of the things I like about Carnival are the dining choices. Lots of different venues and I don't mind Carnivals very reasonable up charges on a comparative basis for specialty dining (Celebrity has gotten ridiculous). The food quality, variety and presentation is very good. On our 3 most recent Carnival cruises, table service in the MDRs has been excellent. On Conquest, and I don't know if this is a corporate initiative that is fleet wide, there is a team of 3 that will have several tables. Service was timely, not intrusive and fun. Staff work to connect with guests, something that is diminishing on other lines that have cut dinning room staff to the bare minimum.  


My experience with Carnival over the last decade reveals a concerted effort on the part of the company to improve that aspect of the customer's cruise experience. It's working! Besides it's size, this is one of the reasons Carnival is the most profitable cruise ship company in the world. It's reflective of the suits listening to what cruisers have to say about their products. Bravo.


The buffet on the Lido deck (9) is the usual cramped and crowded space that does not handle crowds well as is common with this class ship. Vista has another 3000 folks, is a 1/3 again bigger than Conquest and the buffet on that ship remains crowded. No lessons learned here. Still, the food is attractive and tasty with nice variety. Here's the secret: time your visits to the buffet a bit before they close for the breakfast or lunch serving. A plus: there's plenty of seating. Overall, the arrangement of the dining options on the Lido is very good.


BlueIguana Cantina on the pool deck 9: Gets busy, quick, fun and tasty. I get a little iffy about the condiments bar associated with this dining venue: too many dirty fingers touching stuff but that's just me. It's probably fine. 


Guy's Burgers: really good. Love the fries. A bit greasy overall. Bring your Tums and enjoy. 


Seafood Shack: well conceved; reasonable upcharge of $6 to $12 per plate. Nice option. Fish and chips and fried shrimp at $6 a good bet. The fryer oil is probably not hot enough (dishes tend to be a tad oily) but the whole thing works well. It's a fav of mine. I'm a bit of a fried seafood snob. The seafood is very good. Fresh catch fish deep fried or grilled is excellent. 


Steak House: on 6 Carnival cruises we've done this once  (Breeze). It was fabulous. 5 star service at $35 per head. Celebrity took the lead with specialty dining in the mid 90s. Since  then they've managed to ruin it with cost cutting. Murano, somewhat the equivalent, is now $75 per head. Millennium Class ships used to feature Ocean Liners of the golden age of cruising themed restaurants. They were huge favorites of ours but they've recently been phased out replacing them with the Tuscan grill. Not even close and at a comparable price they are not as good as Carnival's Steak House. Good on Carnival. A thought: you can pay a $20 upcharge in the MDR and get the same cuts of beef if you're hankering for a good steak. We got connected to our servers and table mates (traditional late seating, 4 top) and would not have paid the $70 to go specialty. Just my opinion. 


Didn't do the sushi thing. Can't comment and I do like sushi.


Over our nearly 20 years of cruising, I've gotten adept at fleshing out little differences in cabins within a class. First, we book OV cabins most of the time (special occasions may prompt a splurge)  to extend our annual cruise budget. You can find jewels within this cabin class by ship. The Conquest Class ship's aft cabins on deck 2 and 3 are spacious if you don't mind engine noise when docking or departing. I don't but that is me. It might bother some and the bigger space may not be worth the aggravation  (cabin 2474 - there are 4 of these on Conquest Class ships).  Another option are the OVs adjacent to the two Captain's suites. Huge picture windows - very nice. 


We are not pool people. Carnival to their detriment, has the smallest pools and most crowded pool decks of all the lines we've cruised on (6). The nice thing about the mid-sized Carnival fleet is that there are plenty of pool and water slide options. Depending on your desires, you should check this out before you book a ship. 


Shows and entertainment: our love is production shows. The two shows on this 4n cruise were excellent. Vocals and production quality was equal to anything in Vegas. We aren't Comedy club enthusiasts so can't comment. Our table mates: two married ladies in there 50s on a girls cruise, loved it. I've heard that from others. Something worth commenting on: the theaters on Conquest are well laid out with excellent site lines. Vista, supposedly bringing a more intimate show experience was just awful. Whoever thought out the theater design bombed completely. If you like big shows, stick with the Conquest Class ships or do some research on other classes. VIsta, In this regard, was disappointing. 


OK, so one of favorite aspects of Celebrity lines is the Martini Bar and the Flair Bartenders.  Carnival offers the Alchemy Bar. I liked it but I'm a classic martini guy. Don't care for sweet drinks or cucumber infused vodka. Celebrity tried to keep up with drinks like this in a specialty bar that failed stupendously. Anyway, the Bartenders at the Alchemy Bar were fun. Knowledgeable mixologists and the gal from Belarus knew exactly how to make classic martinis but regretted she didn't have some good Russian vodka. I drank Belvedere. Polish.


Fitness: we cruise to not only have some quality time together but to exercise together. Gyms on Conquest ships are more than 2x bigger than on Vista. We won't cruise that ship again because of that. We did every free class and I spin and did that 3X. The pay classes are $12 each. My wife refuses to pay that. The fitness instructor, from South Africa was excellent. Probably one of the best Steiner employees (the contractor providing this service on the majority of cruise lines) we've come across. 


Carnival culture or what the crowd your cruising with is like: familes, kids and fun. Carnival does a very good job with the fun thing. It's all over; it's a corporate goal and it permeates every Carnival cruise we've been on. I like it. Not every one will. That is because there are folks who cruise that over do the Fun with excessive alcohol consumption. I've seen these types on every line I've been on except maybe Oceania.  Celebrity, our go to line, has some of that too. A little bit more high brow, and less kids and family oriented, Celebrty has a differnt feel for us - each to his own (we are in our early 70s and retired. Our kids are our grand kids and we have cruised with them and Carnival over Disney, based on Price alone, was our pick). 


On drink packages: calculate your daily consumption and see if this works for you. Unlike Carnival, Celebrity havily markets and discounts it's drink packages and prices them in to their incentive programs. For us it works sometimes, not always. The drink packages on Carnival are similarly priced but don't work for us priced separately. At around $53 per day, I can't drink that much. Plan carefully. Mixed drinks start at around $7 bucks and go up from there. Beer is horribly over priced costing 7 bucks a pop. Whoa. If you like wine with dinner, call the Fun Shops pre cruise and get a wine package. Not only is it reasonably priced per bottle but you don't pay the 15% gratuity. Martinis are $10.50 and after all the charges will cost you $13 each. 


Overall, we enjoyed Conquest. Not commenting on ports? That's because this is not a port cruise. It's a true cruise cruise. Nassau is a bad city for tourists. We've been in and around it several times. Noting to see here. Half moon Cay is fun, nice beach, Pirates Bar is a cool place, literally, to hang out. It was over 100 degrees the day we were there. Beach is really nice ...... for those that like beaches. Water is beautiful and clear. If you don't have your Global Entry cards, get them. You can apply online. In both fort Lauderdale and Miami,  there are separate through lines for card holders. Quick customs processing is assured. I think we might have been the only passemgers using that line. Also, walk off with your luggage. Don't check it. For short cruises like this is, one medium sized bag should do it. Way quicker to walk off. You go first. Checked bag folks dont start off until after 9am.  We had a relaxed breakfast at around 6:30 am, went back to our cabin to get our bags adound 7:15 and walked right off. No wait, no lines. Ride to the airport? Use Uber or Lyft. 





Read Full Review »

Celebrity Millennium

January 2016 - 14 Night Indonesia (Singapore Roundtrip) Cruise on Celebrity Millennium

Celebrity Continues to Deliver ..........

...... the kind of X-cellent cruise experience we've come to expect. We did a B2B (01/03/16 and 01/17/16) to tally one full month aboard Celebrity Millennium. Overall, anything I might add to the review that detracts from the overall 5 Star rating I gave this cruise experience are minor nits.


Millennium is the oldest ship in Celebrity's fleet. It goes in for a major overhaul in April but will return to it's home port in Singapore from which the varied Asian itineraries it sails from the October to May time frame originate. So, it's old but Celebrity runs an excellent maintenance program but it's hard to make the older technologies work as well as the newer ones. This accounts for any of the downside of our experience.


When Celebrity introduced it's Solstice Class ships the medium range plan, ahead of the introduction of it's new H Class ships in 2018, they embarked on a plan to "Solticize" the Millennium class ships. My only nit about this is that in doing that, they ended up cramping the space of the Main Dinning Room, the Metropolitan, when they added Blue (Private dinning for Aqua Class) and most recently, Lumiere (for Suite Class).


I'm a bit put off by this sort of thing. One of the best parts of cruising for us is the dining experience, sitting with new people and getting to know them over the time frame of the cruise. In my view, that's become impaired by this approach. Our enjoyment of this has also been impaired by the implementation of Select Dining (in NCL's terms: Anytime Dining). My view is that if you want to sail on ships with a clear class structure, sail with Cunard. If you want to dine whenever, sail with NCL. I'm disappointed that Celebrity has tried to broaden it's appeal by mimicking what other lines are doing. In the past, I've viewed the best aspect of Celebrity Cruising as the feeling that you are experiencing an upscale vacation with a great guest demographic coupled with a welcoming, friendly, and family crew culture. That is still definitely present and it is the primary reason we keep going back to Celebrity, this our 32nd and 33rd Celebrity cruise. I just don't want this to slip away as Celebrity tries to remain competitive in a very competitive industry. I've made my views clear to them every opportunity I get to comment on it. Pretty sure they are listening.


The Asian itineraries are fantastic. You visit a wide range of ports in Asia and get to experience multiple Asian cultures. These include ports in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China (Honk Kong) and the Philippines. While you can do this using other modes of travel, cruising to these ports is ideal for us ..... all-inclusive and pack and unpack once!


Singapore, the originating port, is a fantastic city. It is safe, easy to navigate, spotlessly clean and has fantastic food, entertainment and cultural experiences. The Marina Bay Cruise Terminal is huge and marvelous like most buildings in Singapore. You can get a free tour. I would have liked to but never got around to it. Taxis are easy to get and since you spend a day in Singapore as part of some of the cruise itineraries, this is important. You're also about a 1/2 mile from an MRT station that's an easy walk. Not all the trains stop there so there can be a 30 minute wait but it is an important gateway to the city. Hotels can be pricy but for smart shoppers who take advantage of the competitiveness of this sector of the Singapore economy, you can find good deals at less than obvious hotel chains. I recommend these. We stayed at the M Hotel which is convenient to the MRT (light rail) and very near the Marina Bay Cruise Terminal, where Millennium is ported. Moderately priced in the low $100 USD range per night. There are also many Boutique Hotels offering interesting accommodations and good prices. The Majestic and the Wanderlust are two of them.


Avoid high end, touristy dinning. It is very expensive. There are literally thousands of clean, much more interesting places to eat in Singapore famous for Hawker stands/street food. Just do a Google search. I also have to mention it: MacDonalds. Gasp you say! Not so fast. Right down from the M Hotel on Anson Street, there is one of the coolest MacDonalds I've ever been in. Way different that in the good-'ol USA. Still features the same burgers and fries but the ordering process is hi-tech, much like you'd expect everything is in Asia.


Things to do in Singapore: Too numerous to mention them all but recommend Marina Bay Gardens (Gardens By the Bay), the Zoo, Singapore Botanic Gardens, The Hop-On-Hop Off Buses (originate at the Suntec Center) ....... this bus allows you to stop off at China Town and Little India to experience all the cool shopping there.


I could spend hours talking about the rest of the ports. I'll mention just one more: Ho Chi Min City, HCMC or Saigon. Especially if you are an American, make the effort to go there. Saigon is an interesting blend of Communist propaganda and booming entrepreneurialism. The Communists in Hanoi tried hard to implement a Soviet style system throughout Vietnam after the fall of the democratic Republic of South Vietnam in 1975. There was famine and desperation. 2.5 million Vietnamese fled the country. It was a miserable failure and produced a change in policy called Doi Moi in 1986, pretty much like Glasnost in Russia where there were expanded personal freedoms, less censorship and most importantly, capital markets and land ownership.  Saigon is a vibrant city with, at first appearance, little changed from it's French Colonial beginnings. Wide tree line boulevards, beautiful architecture and great food. Things to see are the Liberation Palace (the old residence and former command headquarters of the President of South Vietnam) and the War Remnants Museum. The later was moving if not filled with anti-American and anti-French propaganda.  Both well worth a visit. Also make sure you visit the Binh Tay market. Fascinating.


If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering about the rest of the ports or the reviews of the ship, the boarding process, cabins, ship's food and entertainment, all that. 



Read Full Review »

Badges (Learn More)

Points (View Leaderboard)

This Week

Recent Activity

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Conquest cruise review - At Least Carnival is Consistent.........

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Millennium cruise review - Celebrity Continues to Deliver ..........

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Millennium cruise review - Celebrity Continues to Deliver ..........

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Conquest cruise review - At Least Carnival is Consistent.........

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Millennium cruise review - Celebrity Continues to Deliver ..........

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Conquest cruise review - At Least Carnival is Consistent.........

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Millennium cruise review - Celebrity Continues to Deliver ..........

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Conquest cruise review - At Least Carnival is Consistent.........

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Conquest cruise review - At Least Carnival is Consistent.........

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Conquest cruise review - At Least Carnival is Consistent.........