Dave Drier, Hotel Director on Carnival Conquest has no difficulty articulating the type of cruise experience that the officers and crew on Carnival Conquest seek to present.
“For us it is all about fun. We go right by our vision statement - - fun, memorable and affordable. So we try make sure there is plenty of fun. We try to have the amenities, the shows to keep the guests entertained the whole time, with good food at an affordable rate.”
This objective is in essence the same one that Ted Arison had when he founded Carnival Cruise Lines in the 1970s. “Carnival has never gone away from the Arison family-based [cruise experience] that was the whole concept of Carnival Cruise Lines. We try and put fun back in the vacation. The main focus is to have everyone leave with a smile.”
While the objective has not changed since the line was founded, the ships have evolved constantly. To this end, Carnival is in the process of adding a set of new features to its ships as they come in for their periodic dry dock refits. This program is known as Fun Ships 2.0.
“We have pretty much all the 2.0 [features] on here. “We don't have a designated Red Frog Pub, which should be coming the next time we do a dry dock. [Another] thing that we don't have on here is the Serenity Deck.”
When Conquest was in for her last rfit in late 2012, “they concetrated on getting the majority of the 2.0 features.”
Perhaps the biggest of these changes was the addition of the Playlist Production shows and the changes to the ship's theater that had to be made to accommodate those shows.
The Playlist Production shows are significantly different than previous production shows on the Carnival ships. For one thing, the cast is no longer composed of separate singers and dancers. Everyone does everything.
“There are four dancer-singers and four singer-dancers. Technically, they are more talented than the old casts because in the old casts you had two production singers and the rest did not sing at all.”
These shows are also different because traditional scenery has been banished from the stage. In their place are giant LED screens. This allows the performers interact with animated figures and to perform against backgrounds of vivid reality or fantastic imagery.
In addition, because the shows no longer involve physical scenery, the shows can be set up and torn down much more quickly. As a result, a show can be repeated at different times on different days rather than twice in the same night as in the past. “We try and give the option of when you want to see the shows.”
Another entertainment innovation was the conversion of the large aft lounge into the Punchliner's Comedy Club. Typically, Conquest will carry two stand-up comics who perform both family-friendly and adult R-rated shows.
“The comedy club is great. The only comment we get about that is that [some guests] think it should be in the main lounge. But it is a small unique gem. [Even the adult shows] are very calm compared to a nomral nightclub. If you go to a normal comedy club, they don't hold back anything whereas our guys are told to hold back a lot. Its very popular.”
The new features added under Fun Ship 2.0 also included a number of complimentary dining venues. “We try and add things that are not always extra charge to the guests.” For example, Guy's Burger Joint (Chef Guy Fiere's premium hamburgers) and a Blue Iguana Cantina, where you can design your own tacos and burritos, were added as complimentary venues.
Another addition was the complimentary Taste Bar where in the evenings guests can have appetizer size samples of various specialty dishes. On Conquest, this is an especially popular venue because of the impromtu performances by the three chefs who man the Taste Bar.
“The Taste Bar is fun and those guys make it fun. We are very unique in having them. When we look at the ship's rankings, [our] Taste Bar is always number one in the fleet because those guys are really fun. They make me want to taste it when I walk by.”
“We try to have some of the nice pay features as well.” While it is not unreasonable to conclude that Conquest will eventually have a Banzai Sushi and/or a Cucina del Capitan like some of her fleetmates, at this time, Conquest's only extra-tariff specialty restaurant is her steakhouse. “Our steakhouse for $35 is fantastic. Some guests don't realize that value because they have never been to a Ruth Crist's or a Smith and Wolenski's, in there a main course is going to be $40.”
Conquest also received some new drinking venues. These included the Alchemy Bar on the ship's indoor promenade and the contrasting poolside bars, the Red Frog Rum Bar and the Blue Iguana Tequilla Bar.
Cruise ship interview - - Carnival Cruise Lines - - Carnival Conquest - - Hotel Director