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Jim and Joyce McLeod

Age: 45

Occupation:Senior Principal Engineer

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Zenith

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: New York - Hamilton, Bermuda - St. Georges,

We had planned this trip for approximately a year. I'd visited Bermuda twice while in the Navy, and always enjoyed it.

Our original intent was to cruise with Royal Caribbean, but they didn't have any quad cabins available for Bermuda (we were planning to travel with two teen-agers). Our travel agent (Best Cruises) recommended checking with Celebrity, which I believe has the same owners as Royal Caribbean (Carnival seems to own most of the other cruise lines).

Upon checking, we found that the Zenith did in fact have quad cabins available. It occurred to me that I had seen the Zenith in Bermuda when she was brand-new during my previous visits there in the early '90s.

For a change of pace, we took AMTRAK from the metro DC area to New York, and spent an extra night before the cruise in Manhattan. We saw Cats, and took the obligatory trip up the Empire State Building.

At noon on the departure day, we joined the masses at the pier, waiting for our opportunity to board. We were actually among the first because we arrived early, and were processed with reasonable efficiency. Once we boarded the Zenith, we were escorted to our stateroom by an enthusiastic crewman who explained every feature of our stateroom... perhaps a bit too much detail, but with a pleasant manner. Our stateroom had ample storage, and while only 172 square feet, was well-designed and appointed. We were on the third passenger deck, starboard side, near the aft elevator. Our baggage arrived promptly, and as we unpacked we had an excellent view from our window of the teeming masses still lined up to check in.

My intention had been to check in as early as possible to maximize our time aboard, and before we got underway, we had explored most of the ship and were comfortably settled when the Zenith and the Horizon (the Zenith's sister ship, which followed a similar itinerary to Bermuda) cast off and steamed south in the Hudson River.

Just prior to departure, the ship conducted a mandatory lifeboat drill... the ship's PA was not used again until we disembarked a week later.

I have a lot of experience at sea, but most of it was on ships painted haze grey. Watching New York sink over the horizon as the Hudson's brown waters gave way to the deep blue Atlantic was a memorable experience that brought back memories.

We quickly found that the Zenith had offered more activities than we could possibly keep up with - and even though there were only 18 children aboard (including our two), an activities program was established for them, and offered activities geared for pre-teens and teens. The disco was available to the kids until 11:00 p.m. each night, and Megan and Alex quickly became regulars there.

We found the ship's entertainment to be very good, and enjoyed some excellent acts. The food was superb, and our waiters quickly learned everyone's names and their tastes. Similarly, our stewards provided exceptional service.

Many photo opportunities exist on a cruise ship, and the Zenith is no exception. On formal nights, free sittings are offered. The developed photos are displayed in the photo shop. A sign in the photo shop asked patrons to take photos that they wanted to purchase AND photos that they did not want to purchase to the counter, presumably so that more room can be made for the next round of photos to be displayed. Our photographer appeared shocked and taken aback when we returned a set of portraits that we did not want to purchase, so from that point on, we didn't try to return any. Unfortunately, the portraits were all apparently taken with a 35mm camera, and the quality didn't seem to warrant the high price. Still, we purchased over $100 worth, because they do make great souvenirs and memories.

All things considered, if you only have one awkward moment during an entire week, you've had a pretty good week. We were delighted to be aboard, and basked in the generally exceptional service that we were provided. Without exception, the waiters/waitresses, stewards, and bartenders were very helpful and friendly.

The Zenith had just finished a refit prior to the 2000 season, and a minor amount of refurbishing was taking place while we were aboard - but most of the work took place at night and we were not inconvenienced by it at any time.

Bermuda was great (as always), we took two shore excursions arranged by the ship. One was a glass-bottom boat exploration and snorkeling trip to the reefs west-northwest of Hamilton, and the other was another glass-bottom boat exploration near St. Georges. We had an opportunity to explore a reef, saw sea turtles, and explored an old fort.

I recommend taking the ferry from Hamilton to the Royal Navy Dockyard... the views are incredible, and the Frog & Onion has tasty fish & chips!

In St. Georges, go skinny dipping on the Skinny Dipper - a speedboat configured to pull a parasail. Everyone gets dipped in the water at the end of the ride... the ladies get their ankles wet, I had an opportunity to wash my hair! And Jeremy was quite a hit with the ladies!

Entering St. Georges is a happy experience, with the town cryer standing on the rocks greeting the ship. Leaving isn't quite so pleasant, because it's almost over. A tourist with a Mid-Western accent stood on the rocks shouting "...and stay out!" as we steamed away.

We encountered moderate winds and perhaps eight-foot seas after leaving Bermuda. Our stateroom, as I noted earlier, was in the aft 1/3 of the ship. This is far enough aft to be free of most of the ship's movement, yet far enough forward and high enough to be free of the ship's machinery sounds. The aft cabins on the lower decks pick up a lot of vibration and noise from the ship's screws. Best of all, the dining room, not a disco, was over our cabin! (Always check out what's above and below you before committing to a stateroom!)

The entertainment that night was surprisingly sure-footed. The passengers entering the ship's showroom were performing the 'synchronized lurch' as the Zenith plowed through the seas, but the dancers showed absolutely no effects from the ship's movement. That was an amazing feat.

The trip ended all too quickly. We had signed up for Celebrity's Captain's Club, which provides special discounts and privileged boarding and disembarking, so we had special baggage tags that allowed us to be among the first off the ship.

However, once we returned to New York, we weren't very eager to leave... and spent a few extra moments onboard before facing the city once more.

While the Zenith can accommodate approximately 1600 passengers, after boarding you have no sense of being crowded. The ship has so many potential destinations that it is never difficult to find a private place.

We have a cruise with Carnival planned in June, it will be interesting to compare the two lines. At this point, we are already looking forward to our next Celebrity cruise, which will probably be a Trans-Atlantic crossing on the Millennium.

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