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Copyright © 1995-2005 
Linda Coffman


June 18, 2005

by Mike Kauffman

My wife and I cruised on the June 18, 2005 sailing of the Celebrity Zenith to Bermuda. This was our seventh cruise overall, and the second on Celebrity. We last cruised on Celebrity in 2001 on the Galaxy. We have also cruised on Carnival (twice), NCL (twice), and Royal Caribbean. 

We cruised out of Port Bayonne, NJ. Our very reasonable cruise fare included round trip bus transportation from Harrisburg, PA. The bus left Harrisburg at 8:30 in the morning and stopped in Reading, PA to pick up additional passengers. We arrived at the port by 1:00 pm. Check in was very easy, with no lines in the terminal at that time, and we were on the ship within a few minutes. We were escorted to our cabin with a cold mimosa and went to the Windsurf cafe for lunch. Our luggage was delivered within 90 minutes or our arrival. 

We really enjoyed the Zenith. It is a smaller ship (47,000 tons) than most of the cruise lines are using today and it is also an older ship, having entered service in 1992. However, we knew both of these aspects beforehand. The smaller size is a blessing. Even though 1300 passengers were on the cruise, the ship never seemed crowded. It is an easy walk from one end of the ship to the other. Because of its smaller size, the ship can fit into ports in Bermuda that the larger ships cannot.

The sailing to and from Bermuda was very smooth. The Atlantic Ocean was a calm as a lake, with no waves whatsoever.

We booked an inside guarantee room and were assigned cabin 4130 on the fourth deck. The room had two twin beds which converted into a comfortable king bed. The room also had two bunk beds, which remained closed for the week. The bathroom was the standard cruise ship bathroom, with plenty of shelving for storing toiletries. Our cabin attendant was very good and efficient. Cold water and ice were replenished at least twice per day. Towels were exchanged each morning and evening, and any special requests were honored. The cabin had sufficient storage and closet space for the two of us. A safe with a combination lock was located in the one closet. 

Overall, we were disappointed with the food in the main dining room, the Caravelle Restaurant. When we last cruised on Celebrity, we felt the food was excellent. However, we feel the food quality has declined when compared to 2001. I had a few fish and veal dishes where the entrees were very bland. I was also disappointed in the menu selections. There were a few nights when nothing on the menu appealed to us. We ordered a spinach lasagna from the Vegetarian menu one night, when nothing on the main menu looked promising. 

The beef dishes (filet mignon, sirloin steak, beef tournedos, NY Strip Steak) were very good, but each one was very similar to the other. Lobster tail was served on the second formal night, and everyone who had it said it was excellent. While I don’t eat dessert, the others at our table felt the desserts were very good.

We ate in the main dining room each night. We also had three lunches in the dining room during the week, and felt that the lunches in the dining room were superior to the dinners, both in variety and quality. 

The service in the main dining room was outstanding. Our waiter, Alin from Romania, and his assistant, Cruz from India, were the best we have experienced on any of our cruises. 

For the first time, we selected second seating, which we really enjoyed. We could stay at the beaches until 6:00 or so, and not have to worry about rushing back to the ship in order to make the main seating. We were seated at a table for eight, and our table mates from New Jersey and Massachusetts greatly added to our dining enjoyment.

We had the unexpected privilege of being invited to dine at the Captain’s table on the second formal night. There were five couples plus the staff captain at the table. We met in a reserved corner of the Rendez-Vous Lounge, where drink orders were taken. We stayed in the lounge chatting among ourselves for 15 minutes or so until the captain arrived. After introductions to the captain, we were paraded into the dining room, which by then was full. Prior to dinner a group photo was taken by one of the ship’s photographers. The photo was delivered to our cabin the next day. The ladies at the table received a long-stem rose from the captain. Red and white wine was served, with a sommelier standing to refill the wine glasses. The dining room Maitre D’s were our wait staff for the evening, and the service for the night was exceptional. The entire experience was very memorable.

The meals in the Windsurf Cafe were typical casual dining. We ate four of our lunches and all but one breakfast in this area or the adjacent Outdoor Grill. The breakfasts would include several items served buffet style, a small array of fresh fruits, and hot and cold cereals. There were also stations for fresh omelets or eggs, including Egg Beaters, and waffles. Lunch choices included a few hot items (including pizza and pasta), plus a choice of salads and fruit. The Outdoor Grill offered hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries for lunch. Service in the cafe area was good. Waiters were available to help find seating or to carry your tray. Tables were bussed in a prompt manner. Someone was usually around for coffee refills. 

Note: The documentation that we received from Celebrity prior to the cruise indicated there would be two formal nights, two informal nights and three casual nights. Actually, there were the two formal nights and five casual nights. No informal nights were held. I brought an extra sport coat and shirts for the informal nights and never removed them from the cabin’s closet.

Entertainment on this cruise was OK, but not great. The shows in the main theater ranged from good to excellent, but the nightly entertainment in the lounges left a lot to be desired. 

Three production shows were presented in the main theater during the week. We felt two of the shows (a collection of Broadway musicals and hits from the 60’s) were first rate. The singers and dancers were all very, very talented.

Other shows in the main theater featured the magician Bob Trunell on one night. He was outstanding. Two nights showcased a comedian, Joe Mulligan, who was hilarious. He did a stand up routine to open his first show, and then proceeded to move into a musical set, where he would improvise songs, based on someone’s hometown and occupation. He would ask to the audience for the type of music to use for the songs. These ranged from polka to heavy metal to opera. His second show of the week was solely the improvised music. One night featured David McLaine, who may have been a talented singer, but we did not like his selection of music (Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, etc). 

The ship also had music nightly in the Rendez-Vous Lounge, Rainbow Room, Cova Cafe, and Fleet Lounge. The ship’s party band was Equinox. They played most nights in the Rainbow Room and several afternoons by the pool deck. We felt this band was weak. The singers did not have strong voices. When we did stop in the Rainbow Room in the evening, it was never very crowded.

Perhaps the best kept secret on the Zenith is the Fleet Lounge, which is located at the front of the ship on Deck 11. This is a beautiful lounge, with large windows in the front and on the sides. The seating is very comfortable. Several times during the week, the Los Amigos Trio played before and after dinner. This is a group of three Filipino men. The first time or two that we heard them, we were pretty neutral on whether we liked them or not. But as the week wore on, we liked them more and more.

The Karen and Carl Duo played often in the Rendez-Vous lounge. This group did covers of songs from the 40’s to the 70’s and 80’s. They were very popular, although we did not like the style of music that they played. A talented pianist, Johnny Manhattan, played nightly in the Cova Cafe. He played classical music by memory, without the benefit of any sheet music.

The itinerary was the highlight of the cruise, and the reason we went on the cruise in the first place. We have wanted to see Bermuda for some time now and a cruise is definitely the most economical way to visit the island. The scenery on the island is stunning and the beaches are very picturesque.

Our first stop was Hamilton, which is the capital of Bermuda. The ship docks right along the main street of the city. The bus and ferry stops are within a block or two of the ship. There is a shopping district across the street from the ship.

We stayed in Hamilton for two days. Each day, we would explore the city or the region in the morning and head to the beach in the afternoon. The first day, we walked all over Hamilton in the morning and took the bus to Warrick Bay Beach in the afternoon. The staff at the visitor’s center in Hamilton recommended Warrick Bay for the snorkeling. Warrick Bay was very primitive, with only one stand renting snorkeling equipment and selling drinks and snacks from out of a portable cooler. The snorkeling was very good and the beach itself was deserted, with only 20 or 30 others at the beach. There were paths to secluded areas of the bay, where you could be in total privacy if you wanted. There were also caves and overhangs to escape the sun. 

The next day, while still docked in Hamilton, we took the ferry in the morning to the Somerset Bridge, which is billed as the “smallest drawbridge in the world”. The opening is only 18 inches wide, to allow the masts of sailboats to pass thru. From the drawbridge, we walked to a lighthouse, only to find that the observation deck was closed for repairs. We then caught a bus to the Naval Dockyards, which is where the Royal Caribbean ship Grandeur of the Seas was docked. This is the only pier in Bermuda that accommodates the larger ships. The Dockyard area has a small shopping facility, a restaurant or two and a seasonal snorkeling park. After an hour or so at the Dockyards, we caught the ferry back to Hamilton. We then took the bus to Horseshoe Bay, which is one of the more famous and popular beaches in Bermuda. The facilities here were quite extensive, with rest rooms and showers, a snack bar, and a full rental concession. The beach here was very crowed, as the Celebrity Horizon was now docked in Hamilton, along with the Zenith. We did not arrive at Horseshoe Bay until mid-afternoon. By then the crowds had started to thin out, and by the time we left around 6:00, there were only a few people left on the beach.

We purchased the three day bus and ferry pass for $28 each while in Hamilton. However, we only used it for the two days we were docked in Hamilton. Since bus service is very limited in St. George’s, due to the narrow streets, a two day pass would have been sufficient and would have cost $20 each.

On Wednesday morning, we made the quick transfer from Hamilton to our second port, St. George’s. We liked St. George’s more than Hamilton. St. George’s is a very quaint village, with cobblestone streets and lots of interesting history and architecture to look at. The PBS show, This Old House, did a renovation in St. George’s during the 2004 season, and we were able to find the location, with directions provided by the visitor’s center. 

Tobacco Bay Beach is a 20 minute walk (with a few hills) from the cruise ship, and is a very nice beach. Taxis are available if you want to avoid the walk. We went there on Wednesday afternoon, again after the crowd started to thin our and stayed until early evening. This also is a full service beach with rentals and a snack bar.

On Thursday, morning we booked a last minute excursion thru the ship on the Rising Sun Catamaran. This was an excellent three and one-half hour trip on a 60 foot catamaran. There were only 20 or so from the cruise ship on the excursion and we had plenty of room to spread out. The destination for the catamaran was Turtle Bay, which is only accessible by boat. We had the entire beach to ourselves for the 90 minutes the catamaran was anchored there. While at the bay, we were able to snorkel over sea turtle nests (we saw several of varying sizes), snorkel over reefs or use the sea kayaks. All of the snorkel gear and kayaks were provided by the catamaran. On the return trip, the sails were hoisted and we enjoyed a leisurely sail back to the cruise ship with complementary rum swizzles and soft drinks.

I spent Thursday afternoon walking back to Tobacco Bay and around St. George’s for photos. The ship left St. George’s for the trip back to New Jersey about 4:00 on Thursday afternoon, arriving back at Bayonne on Saturday morning.

Despite our disappointment with the food, this was an excellent cruise, and we would take the exact cruise again and recommend it to others. Our main purpose in taking this cruise was to visit Bermuda. We knew going in that the Zenith was an older and smaller ship. Bermuda is beautiful, and cruising is a great way to visit the island.

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