George and Sandy's 2012 Western Caribbean Cruise

Wednesday, October 17, 2012, about 1900 PDT, Torrance, CA

It's that time again. The extended family is going on another short cruise, this time to the Western Caribbean. We'll be on board the Carnival Conquest. See the link for details on the ship. Its about 10 years old and carries about 3000 passengers.


Day Date Port
Sunday Nov 11 New Orleans, LA
Monday Nov 12 At Sea
Tuesday Nov 13 At Sea
Wednesday Nov 14 Montego Bay, Jamaica
Thursday Nov 15 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Friday Nov 16 Cozumel, Mexico
Saturday Nov 17 At Sea
Sunday Nov 18 New Orleans, LA

Wednesday, November 7, 2012, about 2100 PST, Torrance, CA

We got checked in online today and we have our boarding passes. Our interior cabin is 1021 which is high and forward in the ship. If there are rough seas, this is the area that will rock and roll the most. However, it is also furthest away from the engines and near some of the food.

We are trying packing only carry on luggage this time, no suitcases. The plan is to carry as little as possible to avoid airline luggage fees and to see if we really can travel light. We'll do laundry a couple of times on the ship as I am carrying 4 days of clothing including what I will be wearing. I'll still have my standard backpack full of toys but at least the computer will be a little lighter, it is a new MacBook Air. However, considering the weight of all the other stuff, I am not sure I will be able to detect the 1.5 to 2 lbs less that the computer weighs.

Friday, November 9, 2012, about 0800 PST, LAX, Los Angeles, CA

After some hassle with not being able to check in online, we actually saw a real person who was able to issue our boarding passes in seconds. We are on United 504/US Air 6161 (operated by United). We made it to our gate only a few minutes before the scheduled boarding. Next stop is New Orleans.

Friday, November 9, 2012, about 1630 CST, Avenue Garden Hotel, New Orleans, LA

121109_2012_cruise_new_orleans_avenue_garden_hotel__hotel_0464.jpgOur flight was uneventful. We met up with Grandpa Charlie, Betty, Joan, AJ, John and Rachael at baggage claim. There flight had arrived a little before ours. The taxi ride was $14/head from the airport to the hotel.

The Avenue Garden Hotel is an old building on St. Charles Ave in the St. Charles district of New Orleans. However, it has been maintained well and is pretty nice.

121109_2012_cruise_new_orleans_avenue_garden_hotel__our_room_0467.jpgOur room is fairly large with a queen bed. I interrupted Sandy while taking an online test for her mapping class at Penn State so she appeared a little irritated. The room as about 100F when we got in because somebody had left the AC unit at full blast heat. It cooled down quickly when we got it set right.

121109_2012_cruise_new_orleans_avenue_garden_hotel__street_car_line0465.jpgThere is a streetcar line running down St Charles Avenue. It is clearly out of service now for track work. The line was put in more than 100 years ago and is one of the longest running streetcar lines in the country.

Right next to the hotel is the VooDoo BBQ which is where we are going for dinner.

The plan for the rest of the day is to rest. Tomorrow, there is some kind of tour in the plan but I have not been informed exactly what that plan actually is.

Friday, November 10, 2012, about 1900 CST, Avenue Garden Hotel, New Orleans, LA

There is a breakfast in the hotel so I had a bagel and grits. I am not feeling on top of the world due to getting over a cold and I still have congestion in my chest so it's going to be a low effort day. Sandy wants to go to the French Quarter which is about a mile from here. Since the streetcars are not running on the St. Charles Ave. line, we can take the bus or walk. It's a mile and a half to the middle of the French Quarter.

The cruise terminal is also about a mile and a half from here, but Joan has chartered a shuttle to take us there tomorrow.

121110_2012_cruise_new_orleans_canel_street_0470.jpgSandy, AJ and I walked about a mile north east to the end of the St. Charles Ave streetcar line at Canal Street. We expected to find the Canal Street trolly car running to the Mississippi Riverwalk but all that was running were busses on the line. There is yet another trolly along the riverwalk, but we figured it was not running either although we found out later that it was running.

121110_2012_cruise_new_orleans_burbon_street_0471.jpgInstead, we walked a block up Canal Street to Bourbon Street. Canal Street is one edge of the French Quarter. We walked northeast on Bourbon Street but I wasn't very impressed. It was mostly T&A clubs, bars, some with food, and trinket shops. We left Bourbon Street and walked a few blocks down in the direction of the River and the place got a little more sane.

121110_2012_cruise_new_orleans_jackson_square_0473.jpgJackson Square was surronded by artists selling paintings and crafts. There were fewer bars, more food and no T&A clubs. The gentleman on the horse is Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. He is big in these parts as he defeated the British at New Orleans in 1815.

At this point, I was pretty tired as I have been fighting off a cold and bronchitis. We walked back to the end of St. Charles Ave. and caught a city bus back to the hotel. I was so beat that I crashed for a couple of hours without even getting lunch. Sandy was also pretty beat, she slept until dinner. Dinner with the group was back at the VooDoo BBQ. Then Sandy and Betty settled down to study, I prepared updates to this page and the others settled into quiet activity.

Sunday, November 11, 2012, about 1700 CST, Carnival Conquest

121110_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_our_cabin_1021_0475.jpgAfter a shuttle ride to the cruise terminal and a fairly normal cruise ship check in, we got on the ship about noon. We got a buffet lunch on the Lido deck and they opened the rooms up for occupancy at 1230. This is our inside cabin, at deck 10 forward. Since we didn't bring much, it didn't take long to unpack.

121110_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_new_orleans_0476.jpgI went outside on deck 10. The big screen TV was playing an NFL game, Atlanta vs New Orleans and there were lots of fans there. The cruise terminal is right near downtown.

121110_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_mississippi_river_bridge_0477.jpgThe Mississippi River Bridge is just upstream from the ship. Hwy 90 goes across the river at this point. A tug is in a holding pattern with 8 barges across the river. It has been there since we got on the ship. We set sail at 1600.

We are near to SOME of the food, but the dining room is low and aft requiring a long walk to get there, Further, if we do it on deck 10, there are no elevators at the rear of the ship that reach to deck 10. Grandpa Charlie has trouble with stairs. To get there and avoid stairs, we must go down to decks 9 thru 6 and walk aft to the rear elevators and then go down to deck 3 from there. There are blockages in the form of the galleys and other stuff on decks 3 and 4. Deck 5 has the casino and while it goes through the casino reeks of cigarette smoke.

121110_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_interior_decor_0479.jpgThe ship is laid out similarly to the Carnival Splendor on which we cruised last year but some detail stuff has moved around. All the really major features are pretty much the same. The interior decor is much more subdued and darker than the Splendor, I like it much better.

We finally departed about an hour late and are on our way down the river to the ocean, a 6 hour trip.

Monday, November 12, 2012, about noon CST, Carnival Conquest At Sea

We got scheduled for a later dinner. Sandy and I prefer to eat early but the anytime dinning room is way overbooked and we couldn't get it changed. There is a dinner buffet that runs from 1800 or so, but it was pretty meager by cruise ship standards so we need to eat in the dining room. I had two dinners last night, both fairly light. After leaving the buffet hungry, we went to the formal dinner 2 hours later. To deal with this, we are shifting our schedule by 2 hours. We'll sleep late, get breakfast at about 1000, lunch at 1400 and dinner at 2015. Since neither of us plan to take any shore excursions, we can sleep late every day. This is easy in an inside cabin because it stays dark.

This morning, I did my formal ship exploration trying to find everything. I found some errors on the map that they gave us. This ship doesn't have a promenade deck like most ships. It only goes up and down each side so to walk, you just have to go back and forth down one side. Further, it is closed now, likely due to the winds which are pretty high. There is a jogging track around the funnel, but it is really exposed to the wind and it is a slippery surface.

Due to the amidships galley on decks 3 and 4, the passages fore and aft on those decks are blocked. We are on deck 10. To get to the dining room on deck 3, we have to go down to decks 6-9, walk aft and then go down further to deck 3. The aft elevators do not reach to deck 10. This is not a problem for most of us as there are stairs, but Grandpa Charlie does not do stairs anymore and Betty has a bum knee so she avoids them as well.

Monday, November 12, 2012, about 1800 CST, Carnival Conquest At Sea

Both Sandy and I have been under the weather up to this point. I've recovered from my cold. The bronchitis that I contracted as a result of the cold is fading but is not gone. The resulting cough is driving me nuts. I brought some cold capsules with me but their cough control capability is marginal. I bought a bottle of Vicks dry cough syrup on the ship. It works very well for 4 hours but I'm not supposed to use it more than 4 times a day so that it wears off before I can take more. Sandy has some sort of sinus infection that is giving her headaches. As a result, we've been keeping a low profile and sleeping a lot.

We woke from our naps to an alarm I set for 1400 to get our late lunch. Neither of us ate very much and we both slept more in the afternoon.

I perceive that the food on this ship is not as good or as varied as that we have found on other ships but it is ok. The breakfast I had this morning didn't sit all that well but after breakfast, I found the fruit bar. This is where I'll be going for breakfast on the rest of the cruise as my usual breakfast is some sort of fruit.

Tomorrow is another sea day. We should be rounding the west end of Cuba sometime tomorrow and altering our course to southeast from directly south to make our first port of call in Jamaica. Our plan there is to cruise around on foot looking for hats. I need another baseball cap type hat as the one I got in the British Virgin Islands about 5 years ago is getting pretty scuzzy. Sandy has some particular specs for a broad brimmed hat.

We also plan to find some sort of internet business in port. Sandy has some catch up to do on her on line Penn State class. I have some low value general internet catch up to do that is not practical to do on board as our internet rate is $0.64/minute. Rates at the in port internet shops have been around $2/hour in our past experience. A lot of the crew will spend time there as well.

It takes two to three minutes from the time I logon to the satellite internet to let Mac OS Mail upload any pending outgoing messages and download any new messages. While Mail is doing it's work, I use Fetch to upload any updates to this page. Fetch is usually done before Mail is, so when Mail finishes, I log off immediately. I then read my mail, compose any replies and then send them. Since I don't have an internet connection at that point, Mail saves them in it's outbox to be sent the next time I log in which will typically be the next day. Therefore email reply latency is a full day unless I log in again on the same day.

The sea has been fairly calm up to this point but occasionally we get a "bang" sound followed by a damped shaking oscillation lasting about 5 cycles at something less than 10 Hz. I think I have figured out what this is. There is some short period swell and the ship is pretty long so that it spans several periods of the swell. As the bow of the ship cuts through a swell, it hangs in the breeze a little. The ship does not rock downward at the bow because it is so long and is still supported by the other parts of the swell down it's length. When the bow rams into another swell, it hits pretty hard resulting in a "slap" that reverberates through the front part of the ship. I have not felt this anywhere else but near the bow.

The weather is pleasant, slightly warm and humid with broken clouds. There is a pretty strong wind on the exposed decks as we are moving pretty much into a headwind. On the upper decks, the net wind speed is greater than 30 knots as my pant legs flap in the wind. I have to remove my hat or it will blow off. I expect that the weather will remain pretty much the same for the rest of the trip with some changes in the wind as we change our direction of cruise. There were no tropical storms reported on the National Weather Service website as of yesterday morning.

The last half a dozen or so cruises that we have been on have been with the larger, 3000 passengers or so, ships. Both Sandy and I have determined that overall, we much prefer the smaller ships, 1500 passengers or less. Unfortunately, the cruise lines all seem to be adding only large ships, probably because they can make more money by hauling more passengers at a time. There are just too many people around all trying to do pretty much the same thing at the same time. There is lots on noise and commotion almost everywhere except in our cabin or in the Library. When a large ship reaches port, it disgorges 3000 folks into a typically small town and there is often more than one of these monsters in port at the same time. For the most part, the larger ships do not offer anything different than the smaller ships do. There are more dining rooms, more pools, more hot tubs and more deck chairs scattered about. The smaller ships typically do not have water slides, rock climbing walls or mini-golf courses, but these things are not a big draw for me. The Carnival ships do not even have a good walking course, just a short jogging loop set up high and exposed to the wind.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012, about 1900 CST, Carnival Conquest At Sea

Dinner last night was "elegant" night. Elegant dress on Carnival is a notch down from formal dress on other ships. Basically any kind of shirt with a collar, pants (but not jeans) and some kind of shoes that are not flip-flops will pass muster. On regular cruise casual nights, anything past a tank top and shorts works.

I had lobster tail and shrimp but since it was a small portion, I ordered the St. Louis style spare ribs which was substantial. I shared some with Sandy when she polished off her prime rib.

I'm slowly getting over the bronchitis but I am low on energy. After a breakfast of fruit and bacon I shot a round of solo mini-golf. I found that this is tough to do in a 30 knot wind. On the holes that tee off forward, the wind just blows the ball back off the tee. I shot a 28 for 9 holes. Par was listed but I didn't record it.

Sandy has holed up in a quiet area at the rear of the ship to study. I am going to take it easy for the day.

I went back to visit Sandy later and her father had moved inside. Sandy said she was hungry so we got hamburgers at the hamburger bar. It was pretty good as burgers go. We then went back to the cabin and I apparently passed out for awhile.

At around 1700 I wandered out for a snack and found that pretty much everything except the deli sandwich bar and the pizza stand was closed. I got a slice of pretty good pizza to tide me over until dinner. The pizza stand and room service are the only sources of food around the clock.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012, about 1300 CST, Montego Bay, Jamaica

121114_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_jamaica_map_0489.jpgThe ship pulled into Montego Bay in Jamaica this morning for our first port of call. We have no specific plans for this place except to find an internet shop. I asked our room stewart what the crew does and he said that there is a shop right at the pier.

Last night was pretty normal, we had dinner in the dining room but a couple of the kids bailed. I suspect that all three will bail before long.

I have been to Jamaica only once before but that was at Ocho Rios. Montego Bay is the other port of consequence.

121114_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_sandy_0487.jpgSince this is a port day, almost everybody got off the ship. Therefore I was able to get a good picture of the forward part of the ship from right under the big screen without the picture being filled with people. It is quite warm and humid here.

121114_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_0480.jpgMotengo bay is pretty spread out. The area around the port is clearly the high rent district. This is a sample.

121114_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_0483.jpgThere are few facilities at the port. There is a large rectangular port building with some shops and immigration and security. Next to it is this collection of buildings that is the Montego Freeport Shopping Centre. However note the lack of any people. This is because most of those buildings are empty. However, in one of them near the back is a bar with internet for $3/day.

121114_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_sandy_and_betty_at_internet_shop_0492.jpgSandy, Betty and I are satisfying our craving for connectivity. The data rate wss pretty poor, maybe 40 kByte/sec peak and less on average, but it is a lot cheaper than the ship. We can afford to do time consuming things and wait for them to happen.

There were several members of the crew there as well surfing and using VOIP to check in back home.

We got our fill of the internet and are back to the ship for lunch and to relax for the balance of the day. The ship sails at 1800.

Thursday, November 15, 2012, about 1100 CST, Carnival Conquest, Georgetown, Cayman Islands

121115_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_georgetown_cayman_islands_map_0493.jpgOur second port of call is at the Grand Cayman at the port of Georgetown. This was a British island and may still be. All the cars drive on the "wrong" side of the road.

121115_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_georgetown_cayman_islands_0497.jpg This island is like others in this part of the Caribbean in that it is low and flat. There is one spot that we can see, not in this photo, that rises maybe another 10 feet.

121115_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_georgetown_cayman_islands_tender_0498.jpgGeorgetown is a tender port but we are using the port tenders. Each of these holds 290 people at a shot. The water is very clear and the diving is probably excellent. I did dive here the last time we were here, it wasn't so clear then.

121115_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_georgetown_cayman_islands_pirate_ship_0503.jpgThis "pirate" ship passed by our ship. It continued on to the spot where there is sunken wreck that I dove to last time.

121115_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_georgetown_cayman_islands_carnival_conquest_0505.jpgFrom the dock, I was able to get a good shot of the Carnival Conquest. There are two other ships in port, the Neuw Amsterdam (Holland) and the Norwegian Pearl from NCL.

121115_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_georgetown_cayman_islands_george_0506.jpgI went ashore with Grandpa Charlie. First we had to run the gauntlet of tour operators and then a second gauntlet of taxi drivers as we exited the port area. Then we had to weave through the jewelry stores to find a single vendor cart. However, she had what I was looking for. I bought another cap for $5 so I could chuck my old groady one. He took my picture with a pirate statue.

Friday, November 16, 2012, about 1330 CST, Cozumel Mexico

121116_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_cozumel_puerto_maya_pier_map_0508.jpgOur last port of call is Cozumel, Mexico. This is nothing but a big sandbar filled with resorts. We are at Puerto Maya, the southernmost of three cruise ship piers. From what I could see, 8 cruise ships could tie up here at one time.

121116_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_cozumel_puerto_maya_pier_0510.jpgThe coastline is dotted with hotels and resorts. At each pier has a dedicated shopping area. These guys have the process of extracting tourist dollars down cold.

121116_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_cozumel_puerto_maya_pier_duty_free_shop_0516.jpgAt the root of the pier, there is a long thin duty free shop through which they require all passengers to walk to get either on or off the ship. At the foot of the pier, there is a thatched roof building which is a restaurant and bar with "free" WiFi. The deal is that you have to rent a table by buying something.

121116_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_cozumel_puerto_maya_pier_duty_free_shop_0512.jpgThe interior of the duty free shop was a mad house. When the bulk of the passengers were trying to get off the ship, we were trying to get back on after locating the WiFi. It was a struggle to work against the wind.

121116_2012_cruise_carnival_conquest_cozumel_puerto_maya_pier_sandy_at_work_0517.jpgSo we sat at Fat Tuesdays bar right next to the ocean (5 ft away) and surfed the internet for a couple of hours for 3 cans of soda ($9 total). We'll be heading back to the ship for lunch.

Saturday, November 17, 2012, about 1030 CST, Carnival Conquest At Sea

Today, we are at sea all day to return to New Orleans. The sea is rougher than it has been, there is perceptible ship movement. The winds are in excess of 30 knots across exposed decks. The jogging track on deck 11 is closed. On the way to breakfast, the wind caught my clip on sunglasses that were clipped to my had bill and flung them across the deck but I recovered them.

It is much cooler than it has been so far and there is chop and some whitecaps on the sea surface.

The chocolate melting cake challenge is game on, but this time AJ is challenging Sandy and he is one ahead. As of dinner last night, he has 5, Sandy has 4. This is far less than when Zack was challenging Sandy last year.

We'll be off the ship by 0900 tomorrow. The group hasn't yet decided how we will manage our flights tomorrow. Most of the group has flights that leave at 1800, Sandy and I leave at 1935. This leaves us at least 6 hours to get to the airport and we need to find something to do with that time. Waiting that long in an airport is not a really appealing option.

Saturday, November 17, 2012, about 2200 CST, Carnival Conquest At Sea

This will be the last entry in this log from the ship. We've returned from dinner and I am burning up the last few internet minutes we have left.

The ride was a little rough this afternoon as the sea was quite choppy. A cold low pressure system has come through and it is quite cold outside. Virtually everybody has moved indoors.

Our plan for tomorrow has finally gelled. Sandy and I would normally be called off a half hour before the rest of the group as we have no checked bags. However, we'll all wait together until the rest are called off and go off as a group, clear immigration and customs and then get two cabs to the airport. It ought to be $14 per head as it was coming in from the airport. We'll wait there until our flights. Sandy and I will have an estimated 8 hour layover at the airport, but at least there is free WiFi.

Sunday, November 18, 2012, about 1200 CST, New Orleans International Airport

We got off the ship without incident. When we exited the cruise terminal, we found a shuttle bus to the airport for $10/head. It got us there and we only had 8 hours to wait for our flight directly to LAX. There is free WiFi in the airport. It is very slow, maybe 20 KB/sec but at least it is steady. There are also charging jacks at some of the gate area seats to allow us to recharge our toys before we get on the plane. A few hours before our flight, I'll move over to one of those and charge up. In the meantime, the group of us has set up in a cafe across from the gate.

Sunday, November 18, 2012, about 2300 PST, Torrance, CA

inti_2012-03-16_54.jpgWe're home safe and sound. The only problem now is that Inti, our cat, is well and truly pissed. We saw her, but as soon as she realized that she had been seen, she hid away somewhere and won't come out even for kitty treats. We have no clue how long this will last.

Monday, November 19, 2012, about 1030 PST, Torrance, CA

It didn't last very long. After an hour of Inti moving in and out of the bedroom quietly, she hopped up on the bed for pets. She went back and forth between up to soak up all the petting she had missed during the past 10 days. By morning, all was normal again. I guess that now the trip is formally over.

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© 2012 George Schreyer
Created Oct 17, 2012
Last Updated November 18, 2012