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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

Celebrity Cruises' ZENITH
Baltimore to Bermuda
Sailing: October 20-27, 2001

by Linda Coffman

It wasn't exactly the cruise we planned, but Celebrity Cruises, the Port of Baltimore, and the crew of the Zenith all worked hard to make it a memorable one.

Zenith and Horizon dominate Hamilton's picturesque waterfront

Zenith (left) and Horizon dominate
 Hamilton's picturesque waterfront

Our documents indicated a 4 pm sailing from New York City, the world's most spectacular port to begin an ocean voyage. Unless you've been hiding in a cave you know that terrorists crashed two jumbo jets into the World Trade Center on September 11th and the New York City piers were pressed into service for the ensuing emergency rescue and clean-up operations.

Instead of a flight to New York and the gala Bon Voyage soirée in an elegant Manhattan eatery planned by our friends, Mel and I set out on a road trip to Baltimore. We aren't afraid to fly; it was just less stressful to pack up the car and go. Ten hours on I-20 and I-95 was broken up with side trips and an overnight stop in historic Williamsburg, Virginia.

This was to be a very special cruise for us for a number of reasons and one was awaiting our arrival in the hotel parking lot in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Andy was our welcoming committee and it was a delight to be greeted in a strange city by a familiar face--there's no feeling quite like it. We quickly located the rest of our small cruise group, all online friends from across the country. When Warren arrived a bit later, the party was complete! Andy and Warren weren't sailing with us, but we shared a festive dinner at Jimmy's Seafood Restaurant, a local favorite right near the Dundalk Pier. The crab cakes were nearly as exceptional as the company! It wasn't chic New York, but I was overwhelmed that my dear friends went to so much trouble to meet us.

On Our Way

After consulting the directions provided by the Dundalk Passenger Terminal, our group of nine cruising friends (Judi and Michael, Bob and Sheryl, Harry and Leona, John, and Mel and Linda) piled into three vehicles and our mini-caravan headed for the pier. Documents were required to enter the dock area and we were directed to "Shed 5" where the luggage was unloaded in orderly fashion. Bags were hefted by porters onto a conveyor to be x-rayed and our proffered tips were waved off with a smile and, "Not necessary, this is our job!" Wow! What a welcome!! Checked items immediately went into bins and we stepped aside with our carry-ons to await the arrival of our drivers. Secure parking was provided at a reasonable $5 per day (payable in advance) and a complimentary shuttle brought Mel, Michael, and Harry back to the Security check point. 

It was an efficient process and one that demonstrated careful planning. Crowding was kept at a minimum as porters directed arriving passengers to remain in their vehicles until their turn to unload. Inside the check-in area, the lines were short and we breezed through the procedure at the Captain's Club counter in record time.

On Board

Veterans of a Zenith cruise in 1999, we had no trouble finding cabin 1062, a Category 3 on Deck 10. Although staterooms were reportedly not "ready," we dropped off our carry-ons and gathered in Judi and Michael's suite for champagne and many toasts as their charming butler, Andrew, popped in and out. As luggage began arriving, everyone wandered off to unpack before meeting again--this time in the Fleet Bar for 6 PM sailaway festivities.

Although the port area is primarily commercial, we watched the lights of Baltimore fade into the distance. Zenith made her way through the Chesapeake Bay, finally reaching the open sea about 4 AM. I admit, I missed that milestone.

Michael's Club, one of Celebrity Cruises' signature features on the Zenith

Michael's Club

A cooperative Atlantic presented us with smooth seas and an enjoyable crossing to Bermuda. Due to our late departure on Saturday and the time it took to reach the open Atlantic, we didn't arrive in Bermuda until late afternoon on Monday. No matter! There was plenty to do on board, with a myriad of activities for those who wished to participate. We took advantage of the time to catch up with our friends and work toward our goal of total relaxation.

While exploring the Zenith, we noted numerous improvements since our earlier cruise. The addition of Michael's Club was a big hit with cigar aficionado Mel and the other smokers in our group. Cova Cafe quickly became a favorite spot to sip specialty coffees and treat ourselves to morning pastries and decadent afternoon chocolate treats. The art-deco Martini Bar was always crowded before dinner, but it was no problem being served their specialties from comfortable seats in the adjacent Rendez-vous Lounge. The Fleet Bar remains our lounge of choice and we met there for port departures and arrivals to take advantage of the panoramic views and forward-facing open deck. All ships should be designed with such an agreeable space.


Land ho! Our afternoon arrival meant not a lot available to do ashore, but we took advantage of the time to purchase our bus/ferry passes. The balcony of Flanagan's Pub was an agreeable spot to catch the activities on Hamilton's waterfront and sample a pint of local ale. Zenith is disadvantaged in that it has no balcony staterooms, but the second floor pubs overlooking Front Street are a pleasant alternative.

The Swizzle Inn is a 17th century Bermuda landmark

"Swizzle Inn & Swagger Out"

Big plans were afoot for Tuesday. The Swizzle Inn is a 17th century Bermuda landmark and you can't beat the Swizzle Burgers and Bermuda's national drink, the Rum Swizzle, which originated there. The Nos. 10 and 11 buses stop right out front (and Swizzle Inn is conveniently listed on the Public Transport Schedule). We had a great time and swaggered out full of good food and spirits.

On our bus ride back to Hamilton, Mel made a remark about crazy tourists and a delightful young schoolgirl responded, "Oh no, we enjoy your company." Judi remarked later, "That comment by the Whitney Institute Netball player really hit me. That attitude, which is displayed by most all Bermudans, is the reason that I love Bermuda and would gladly go back time and again!" I couldn't agree more.

The ferry provides a scenic view of Bermuda from the water

Even a simple ferry ride is a civilized 
treat in Bermuda

Although we've been on three Celebrity cruises to Bermuda, Mel and I just can't get enough of the island's scenic beauty, particularly as seen from the water. We took full advantage of our passes and rode the ferries several times just to sit back and take pleasure in the sights.

Zenith repositioned to St. George's on Wednesday and the beautiful day called for a late al fresco lunch at the waterfront Carriage House. My traditional Bermuda-style fish chowder was excellent--spicy and full of seafood. Our waiter described the scene when Norwegian Majesty snapped her mooring lines during a recent storm and headed right for the restaurants fronting Water Street. Scary!

Departure on Thursday was advanced several hours than earlier scheduled due to our Baltimore destination. Squeaking through the channel, local residents and St. George's Town Crier waved to us from the rocky shore and called out, "See you next year!" It was the end of Zenith's last Bermuda cruise of the season.

Despite our shortened time in Bermuda, we had lovely weather and a pleasurable stay. I am partial to revisiting favorite vacation spots and ports of call because I am comfortable in familiar surroundings. I always feel at home in Bermuda and I have the same feeling about the Zenith. Her mid-size (47,255 tons) and passenger capacity (1,375 double occupancy) contribute much to the cozy ambiance of an exclusive club.

What You WILL Find on Zenith:

  • Tasteful, understated decor, an elegant marble lobby, and exquisite artwork.
  • Spacious staterooms with generous storage, robes, hairdryer, and bathroom amenities. A carafe of ice water is a special touch.
  • Unobtrusive and professional service, including butlers to assist suite passengers.
  • Fine dining and creative presentation.
  • An improved casual buffet with omelet and pasta stations for breakfast and lunch and casual "bistro" style evening dining (by reservation only).
  • The "signature" features of Celebrity Cruises' newest vessels: Michael's Club, Cova Cafe, Martini Bar, a flower shop, and a scaled down version of the Aqua Spa.
  • Activities and entertainment to satisfy a wide range of tastes.
  • A well-run Youth Program, Children's Soda Drink cards, and in-cabin babysitting when staffing permits.
  • A traditional schedule of formal, informal, and casual dress evenings.

What You Will NOT Find on Zenith:

  • Glitz, flashing lights, and a multi-deck atrium.
  • Balconies.
  • Annoying announcements.
  • A self-service laundry.

In View of 9/11

No one in our small group considered canceling, although our travel plans underwent a dramatic change. I spoke to only one couple on the Zenith who attempted to postpone their cruise--an elderly couple from Long Island with more than 150 cruises to their credit. They weren't thrilled about embarking in Baltimore, but decided to take the bus transportation offered by Celebrity rather than forfeit their deposit.

For me, it was almost a relief to not sail from New York and pass the sadly diminished skyline. On board Zenith, we were reassured by the additional security measures we observed. All future cruise passengers should be prepared to show a picture ID along with their boarding pass, not only when reboarding vessels in port, but also before going ashore. 

There's no time like the present to get a passport, the best form of identification anyone can possess. In days gone by, only one American family member was required to appear at Customs on debarkation morning and only foreign nationals reported to Immigration. Every passenger now must appear before Customs and Immigration and no one leaves the vessel until everyone has cleared.

Local residents and St. George's Town Crier wave goodbye to the Zenith

"See you next year!"

And what about next year? Will Zenith and other cruise ships resume sailing to Bermuda from the Big Apple? Mr. Filippos Georgiou, Hotel Manager of Zenith feels 99% certain they will. He has enormous confidence in the American spirit and stated most emphatically, "Americans can do anything." That statement, along with the sparkle in his eyes and his generous smile, were enough to melt this cruiser's heart. 

A very special thank you to Captain Michail Margaritis, Hotel Manager Filippos Georgiou, Social Hostess Brenda Wallace, Guest Relations Manager Carl Vlaeminck, the officers and staff of Zenith, our hosts at the Swizzle Inn, and the citizens of Bermuda... we'll never forget your kindness during what was a stressful period for many of us. 

To the people and Port of Baltimore -- Well Done!

This review is dedicated to our hard-working travel agent, Mary Ann Rizzo... you were sorely missed!

Cruising to Bermuda

  • Beautiful Bermuda -- Pink sand and sparkling water.  A cruise is the ideal Bermuda get-away.
  • Bermuda -- Probably the most popular misconception about Bermuda is that it’s a Caribbean island.  It isn’t.
  • Zenith Review -- Our 1999 sailing.

Photos Courtesy Celebrity Cruises & Author's Collection
Copyright © 2001 Linda Coffman