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Celebrity LinesZenith Review5 day Western CaribbeanMarilyn Sears

Age: 54

Occupation:Psychotherapist

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Zenith

Sailing Date: April 3rd, 2006

Itinerary: NOT FOUND

Celebrity Cruise Lines
Zenith Cruise Review
5 day Western Caribbean

Marilyn Sears
This was our first cruise on Celebrity - first cruise on a Premium cruise line. We are used to the bigger, and for the most part, newer ships. However, we were pleasantly surprised at the feeling that you get on this ship. The crew and staff are so friendly and that seems to have a contagious effect on other passengers. While I have seen numerous cruisers who liked to complain about anything and everything on previous cruises, I didn't see or hear one complaint on this ship - except that it was too hot on deck on one of the sea days!

Embarkation:
We came prepared with our Express Passes already printed, and although we arrived a little early, we were on board within 5-10 minutes - even including having the pre-cruise photo. People who didn't print their documents took longer, but I didn't wait around to compare! We packed light, and so were able to carry on all of our luggage. Although we were told that rooms wouldn't be ready until 1:00, we were able to drop our luggage off, and tour the ship. One note - we always fly in the day before, and we followed that guideline this time. However, we flew into Ft. Lauderdale, then paid a cab $78 to take us to our hotel in Miami!! Celebrity will do the transfer for $20/pp. If you fly into Ft. Lauderdale - stay there for the night, have the hotel take you back to the airport, and meet up with Celebrity's transfer bus!

The Although this is an older ship, and she is showing some signs of age (the teak decking is the most obviously aged), the ship is clean, newly painted when we sailed, and nicely appointed. Although the bedspreads are somewhat worn, the blankets are merino wool (not cotton)and the linens are fresh. There was no "towel art", but Peter Rodriguez did fold our extra blanket creatively some nights.

The elevators don't always go all the way to the 11th deck, which we thought was a little strange. But we usually try to take the stairs most of the time to work off the extra calories we'll consume.

This ship does not have the elaborate central gallery that is evident on some ships. However, all of the business offices and the bank are centrally located and easy to find. There are, of course the usual gamit of shops - from jewelry to logo apparel and gifts, to providing that sunscreen or toothbrush you may have forgotten at home.

The ship has several bars and the obligatory casino. There is also a small video game room - but we never saw anyone using it. The library and card room were well used on our cruise. We took a board game to our room and no one said anything - but we later learned that you are not supposed to take them to your room - oops. It stayed in our room for the duration of the cruise.

The pools on this ship are smaller than we are used to seeing. But since there are fewer guests, the pools didn't look overcrowded. There was always a spot in one of the hot tubs when we wanted to use them. There was no shortage of deck lounges if people were considerate and didn't leave their towel to save it - leaving it for 2 hrs at a time! This is not the cruise line's fault - just people.

Our cabin was an outside cabin on deck 4. We were really afraid that engine noise would bother us - or even that there would be vibration when coming into port. We only experienced minor vibration once, and engine noise was not a problem for us. I would much rather stay closer to sea level, because motion is not a problem here as it can be on the higher decks - something to do with center of gravity or something like that. I do like to have an outside or even a balcony cabin - love to watch the ocean and the sky.

The ship's dining facilities are spotless. We ate in the main dining room for dinner every night, and found that we could maintain a conversation with our tablemates without having to raise our voices. However, when everyone came to the surrounding tables, it was a little awkward - a tight squeeze for the wait staff to get between tables without asking one or both parties to scoot closer to the table. When we asked if we could come a little early and move our table a little bit closer to the serving station, we were told that the tables were bolted down. Probably a good idea in rough seas, but placement wasn't ideal. Please understand - this is almost a non-issue, and really didn't affect our enjoyment of dinner!

The Celebrity Showcase Lounge was one of the nicer we have been in. Maybe because they don't have to seat so many, it makes it easier to have good views of the show for all who are attending. We always found a seat, and we could always see whatever was happening without a support pillar blocking the view!

Dining:

Apparently one of the main reasons people cruise is for the dining experience. If that is your object you probably won't be disappointed. You should understand that Chef Michel Roux (sp?) believes in preparing good food, but not going all out for the exotic. That said, the variety was okay. The veal was truly delicious, and only once did someone complain about her steak being a little tough. When Cesar heard this, he immediately tried to replace the steak, but she was okay with it as it was. The best variety was in the appetizers - and the presentation was always lovely. There was usually one cold soup and two hot. Two salads to choose from, although I was somewhat disappointed in the dressing choices. Pretty humdrum. The seafood was delicious, without fail. On the one night when I didn't see anything appealing, Cesar brought me a New York steak. Desserts were good, but not always above average. However, on the last night, we had a chocolate mousse torte with ice cream. The ice cream was so delectable that we wished we had eaten it every night! Cherries jubilee and bananas foster were really good - don't miss them.

Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room are less formal, although no jeans are allowed. We ate breakfast once and never had lunch in the dining room. We did take advantage of room service, and the menu was not as limited as you sometimes see.

We enjoyed both the plaza grill, and the Windsurfer cafe (buffet with a pizza and pasta station, as well as fresh sushi in the evening). Breakfast here, and enjoy the belgian waffles! You can also have an omelet cooked to order. The selection on the regular buffet is really good, we thought. They have theme days when they serve mexican, etc.

Staff:

Without fail, we found the crew and staff exceptional. The cruise director Jeff was very personable - even when he was up until 6 a.m. the night of the midnight buffet, he was helping at the gangway in Georgetown, and cheerful as usual.

The shopping consultant was a beautiful young woman from Israel. She was so helpful! She went ashore in Georgetown, and was available for anyone who had questions about a purchase, whether it be gemstones or watches. For inexperienced or naive shoppers, her advice was invaluable! She also ensured that when a merchant advertised something, they delivered. We were extremely pleased with her advice on where to shop while ashore - we purchased table linens and some black coral and ammolite in addition to fun gifts at Del Sol that change color in sunlight.

Whenever I approached the guest relations desk with a problem or a question, it was always handled promptly and willingly. Even the bank personnel were cheerfully making change for people to use for tips. On a shorter cruise, you cannot add tips to your seapass account - you have to use cash. This complicates the process a little, but it wasn't the nightmare I feared it would be, because in addition to the bank, you could go into the casino and make a cash advance on your card.

Wherever you went on the ship, staff smiled and were helpful and polite. On some ships we have cruised, staff can appear disgruntled or tired - maybe just preoccupied. Not so here. We almost never saw Peter, our cabin steward. However, we always had clean towels and ice - we drink a lot of water, but it was never a problem. It was always filled for us, and there was fresh ice at all times. If we napped during the day, our bed was re-made when we returned! The only problem was a little dust along the molding, where the vacuum wouldn't reach - it would have to be done by hand, and it wasn't. Otherwise, the room was always clean. It should be noted that the bathroom does show it's age. The tile in the shower has some mildew staining, but not like I have seen in some older hotels. For her age, the ship is maintained very well.

Shore Excursions:

Unfortunately, we had booked a sail on the clipper ship Liberty, in Key West. This excursion was cancelled, because not enough people signed up for it. We were disappointed, but Celebrity refunded our tickets immediately. Instead, we walked down Whitehead to the Lighthouse, and were not disappointed with the museum and the climb to the top of the lighthouse. The view was nice, although it is not a very tall lighthouse. The museum is meant to show what life was like for the lighthouse keepers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was informative and interesting. We then went to Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum. Some of the exhibits are a definite don't believe it - come on, a chicken who survived 18 months after being decapitated? Yeah, right. But many of the exhibits are meant to expose frauds from the past - like P.T. Barnum's "mermaid", which he admitted on his deathbed was a clever combination of a monkey skeleton with that of a fish. This is an okay museum, but not a "Must See" for us. We have visited the Pirate and Maritime History museums in the past, and if you haven't seen those they are a good bet. Also in Key West, you can visit Hemingway's home, Audubon's home, and the original Pan Am headquarters (which is an over-priced bar now.)

In Georgetown, the shopping is fantastic. But here we also visited the butterfly farm, and the guide was so knowledgeable. She was Dutch, but spoke very passable English, and made the trip memorable. We also took the Nautilus semi-sub. Although you will want to take the Atlantis if you really want to experience a submarine, the Nautilus will take you past a couple of shipwrecks, and our tour saw a squid and the usual parrot fish, sargeant major, and tarpin in addition to other reef dwellers. I would recommend this tour if you are afraid to take the Atlantis. Stingray City is also a good bet if you have never interacted with them - it's an experience you won't forget.

Disembarkation:

Because we had to fly out of Ft. Lauderdale, we were supposed to be off the ship at 8:45. We met in the lounge, and then waited until 9:10. However, once we were called it was a very simple process to pass through immigration. Celebrity personnel were waiting to help you find the correct bus or taxi (we didn't make the same mistake twice - we took the bus back to Ft. Lauderdale!) However, once at the airport, it was too early for us to check in, so they made us sit around waiting to check in. The airport doesn't have sufficient seating and so people were forced to sit on the floor with their luggage around them, their children fussing and irritable, etc. There must be a better way to handle this situation for tired parents and kids. What a frustrating end to a lovely, relaxing vacation!

Summary:

We liked the intimate atmosphere of this ship. The service was unbeatable, and we felt it was an excellent value for the money. We liked it so well that we cancelled the cruise we had booked on Vision of the Seas, and will be doing the Mexican Riviera on a Celebrity ship!

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