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Looking Forward to my First Carnival Cruise in 16 Years

In just a few days I’m sailing on a ship I’ve toured but never sailed on, on a line I’ve not been on in a long time: Carnival Conquest. I’ll be posting videos from our three-night cruise, and sharing on social media, but here I want to talk a bit about why we picked this particular sailing and what we’re looking forward to checking out.  My motivation for this trip is a bit unusual compared to some of the other cruises we take.

Billy Wearing CCL Hat

First, I want to offer a confession and some transparency: it’s been nearly 16 years since I sailed one of the world’s most popular cruise lines, Carnival (by number of guests per year, they’re neck and neck with Royal Caribbean).  The gap isn’t intentional, to be clear.  Sure, I have lines I often prefer over others, but I love trying out various experiences, and in fact, I almost cruised with Carnival this past October on Carnival Mardi Gras.  The reason I didn’t sail then was one of the big reasons I’ve not sailed Carnival in general: WiFi.  I often work from cruise ships (read about working remotely from ships here), and that’s not something I suspect I’d be able to do from a Carnival ship.  

Laptop on Cruise Ship Balcony Table

So often I preach that every line has something they do better than others, and I already know a couple of those things on Carnival, but as someone who loves cruising and sharing my thoughts and advice on the subject, clearly some fresher first-hand experience is needed.

Why This Cruise?

This line, in general, to catch up on Carnival’s product (and, I’m confident, to have a fun time).  Why this particular sailing?  Carnival sails from South Florida all year long, so we always have the option.  Two reasons, mostly.  One of them is simply timing.  This sailing is over a weekend, it’s local, and it’s perfectly timed to allow us to cruise before semi-isolating and editing video in a dark room for weeks ahead of our group cruise in July (there’s still space, come join us).  So, it’s convenient, though I do wish this ship was still sailing from Port Everglades (about 35 minutes closer to us than Port Miami), like she was in 2019.

Carnival Conquest Pool Deck

The other reason?  This ship is very unusual.  The namesake of the Conquest class, this ship's decor is inspired by her original home port of New Orleans.  I’m sure in the coming days I’ll be going on about what makes this ship rather unique, but for now, just check out my post (with lots of pics) from the tour I took of her a few years back.  After this tour, Larissa told me that she really wanted to sail the ship.  She just found the design so different and over the top that she wanted to experience her at sea.  I wondered what it’d be like, but at the time she was sailing six and eight night cruises, which was more of a commitment than I was prepared for.

Carnival Conquest Atrium

What We'll Be Looking For on Carnival Conquest

There are going to be three big things I’m looking out for, aside from the aforementioned decor.  The first thing, of course, is what Carnival’s product is like.  When I last sailed them I was only 23 years old, didn’t have a cruise blog, was sailing with family, and importantly, Carnival was very different.  This was before their Fun Ship 2.0 project and so many things that make Carnival what it is today.  In fact, that last cruise was on Imagination, which was only about 11 years old, but compared to my experience touring the now 20 year old Conquest not long ago, Imagination felt like a much older and less-polished ship.  Even the deck looked like a ship from the early 90s.

Beyond generally getting to see what sailing Carnival is like these days, it’ll be impossible not to compare them to the competition.  This means the second thing we'll be looking for is an understanding of where this cruise fits in the landscape of three-night contemporary cruises.  I’ve recently sailed short Caribbean cruises on older Royal Caribbean (Mariner of the Seas) and NCL (Norwegian Sky) ships, and MSC (MSC Meraviglia) as well (though on a newer ship, as they don’t have any older tonnage in the US right now).  It’s important to compare apples to apples in this way, as even among contemporary lines, I’d not expect a week-long sailing on a new ship to compare to a three-night cruise on a ship that would almost be old enough to drink in the US.  

Mariner of the Seas

Lastly, I’ll be very interested to see how Carnival is handling staff shortages.  A couple weeks ago the line did something I admired them for; they came out and shared with guests that they were having trouble staffing ships.  They explained that they were closing one of their popular specialty restaurants to help cope with the challenge.  Other lines have also shared struggles with staffing, but Carnival sent emails, explained it on their site, and even had their brand ambassador talk about it.  I appreciate that transparency, and am happy to be a bit forgiving in these wild times, but I’m also hoping that staff shortages don't compromise the cruise experience too much.

Follow Along and Tell Me What You Think

Lately my goal on the site and YouTube channel is to bring you along virtually so you can get a feel for what it’s like to sail with me.  Be sure to follow along on social media, and, importantly, subscribe to our YouTube channel.  We tried out some daily vlogs with our recent sailings on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, Margaritaville at Sea Paradise, and Virgin VoyagesScarlet Lady, and we’ll stick with a similar format as we set sail on what might be the most unique looking ship we’ve ever enjoyed.  

Billy & Larissa Filming on Celebrity Apex

Let us know what you think about the ship, reach out with cruise questions, and tell me what you’d like to see more of.  Of course there is one thing better than watching, and that’s cruising with us.  You can find a list of our upcoming cruises here, including our hosted group cruise on Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady.